History From America's Most Famous Valleys
of Tryon County;
Border Warfare of New York,
During the Revolution.
By William W. Campbell
New York; Printed and Published by J. & J. Harper 1831
"Sad was the year; by proud oppression driven,
When transatlantic Liberty arose;
Not in the sunshine and the smile of heaven,
But wrapt in whirlwinds and begirt with woes;
Amidst the strife of fratricidal foes
Her birth star was the light of burning plains;
Her baptism is the weight of blood that flows
From kindred hearts -- the blood of British veins;
And famine tracks her steps and pestilential pains."
It has been mentioned in a preceding chapter, that the inhabitants of Cherry Valley signed the association early in the summer of 1775. Their Committee met with the Committee of the County, and were connected with the transactions of that summer. It was stated in the account which has been given of the early settlement of Cherry Valley, that its inhabitants were very strict in their observances. The following letter was written by the committee, and is in confirmation of that statement.
Valley, June 9th, 1775.
"We received yours of yesterday relative to the meeting of the Committee on Sunday, which surprised us not a little, inasmuch, as it seems not to be on any alarming circumstance; which, if it as, we should readily attend. But as that does not appear to us to be the case, we think it is very improper; for unless the necessity of the Committee sitting, superexceed the duties to be performed in attending the public worship of God, we think it ought to be put off till another day; and therefore we conclude not to give our attendance at this time, unless you adjourn the sitting of the Committee till Monday morning: and in that case, we will give our attendance as early as you please. But otherwise, we do not allow ourselves to be cut short of attending on the public worship; except the case be so necessitous as to exceed sacrifice. We conclude with wishing success to the common cause, and subscribe ourselves the free born sons of liberty.
"If you proceed to sit on the Sabbath, please to read this letter to the Committee, which we think will sufficiently assign our reasons for not attending." This letter was sent to the County Committee.
During the early part of the summer of 1776, Capt. Robert M'Kean of Cherry Valley raised a company of rangers, who were stationed at that place. As this settlement was the principal one to the south of the Mohawk, it was much exposed to incursions of the Indians in that direction. The Indians had their paths from Oquago along up the main streams flowing into the eastern branch of the Susquehanna. From thence they passed through the low indentations to the Mohawk. One of these passes was through Cherry Valley. Every movement of the Indians about Oquago was calculated, therefore, to excite their fears. Orders having been given for the removal of Capt. M'Kean's Company, the following letter was written to the Committee, in the name of the inhabitants, by the Rev. Mr. Dunlop, under date of June 3d, 1776.
We, the inhabitants of Cherry Valley, being assembled yesterday at a public town meeting, and among other things taking the present critical situation of affairs into consideration, looked upon ourselves, and the neighborhood around us, Springfield and Newtown-Martin, as a frontier, lying very open and unguarded,and very exposed to the enemy, in case an Indian was should break out, or any party of the enemy should take it into their heads to come down upon us; and that it would be absolutely necessary, to have a party of men stationed here among us, in order to keep a sharp look out, and to scout all around our frontiers; lest at any time we be taken by surprise. And therefore, have appointed me to write to you, to lay this matter warmly before the Committee, and earnestly to impress them with the absolute necessity of the thing, and to beg of them, that if Capt. M'Kean and his company be removed from this place, that they would be pleased to send some others in his stead; that we may not lie altogether naked and exposed to the assaults of the enemy."
The committee not being able to comply with this request, on the 1st of July, several of the inhabitants drew up and signed the following petition.
"To the Honorable members of the Provincial congress of New York.
The Humble Petition of the Inhabitants of Cherry Valley, Newton-Martin, and Springfield, in the County of Tryon, Humbly showeth:
That we the aforesaid Inhabitants, from the most authentic intelligence we have received rom our missionaries and Inidan friends, learn that we are in imminent danger of being cut off by the savages, our enemies, whom we understand are bribed by Sir John Johnson and Col. buter to execute the same.
Know also, Honorable Gentlemen, that the spirit of our inhabitants has been such for the American cause, that out of the small and scattered bounds of Cherry Valley, and Newtown-Martin, no less than thirty-three has turned out for immediate service,a nd good of their country, and thereby left us in a defenseless condition.
We therefore, your humble Petitioners, Humbly pray you would forthwith take this our deplorable and distressed state and condition, under your immediate consideration, and meditate some speedy relief for us, before it be too late; especially, as the inhabitants of the old England district, and Unadilla, are daily flying in to our settlements, so that we shall immediately, in all appearance, become an open, defenseless, and unguarded frontier, and very much exposed to the insults of the enemy, especially scalping parties: and are at present, without either ammunition or men, any way sufficient to defend ourselves: and unless you, gentlemen, that can help us, will help us, by sending ammunition to the inhabitants,and a sufficient number of men, such as you may think proper, to guard our frontiers, we must expect to fall victims to the rage and fury of our merciless enemies. And therefore, must once more beg you may take this our deplorable circumstances under your consideration, and send us immediate relief, and your Petitioners shall ever pray."
This petition was signed by Samuel Dunlop, Samuel Campbell, James Scott, Robert Wells, James Richey, James Moore, Samuel Clyde. Their request was now granted, and a company of rangers under Capt. Winn was ordered here.
Those persons who had held commissions, or who were exempt from military duty in consequence of being above 60 years of age, formed themselves into a company to protect themselves and families. The spirit of disaffection found its way into settlement, and several went to the enemy during the campaign of 1777. No fortification had yet been erected. Brant, during the summer of 1777,had collected a considerable number of warriors at Oquago, His visit to Unadilla, as before stated, excited the fears of the inhabitants, and they deemed it necessary that some more efficient steps should be taken, to prepare for a defense, in case they should be attacked. The house of col. Samuel Campbell, being the largest, and situated on elevated ground, was selected as the best place for a fortification. A rude embankment of logs and earth was thrown up, enclosing the house and tow large barns. The inhabitants of the surrounding country assembled there, carrying with them such of their effects as were most valuable. The doors were doubled, strong window shutters were provided, and the whole rendered bullet proof. Two small block houses were erected within the enclosure. Military law was enforced, and no person was suffered to come into, or leave the settlement, without permission. They remained in this situation during most of the summer, and in the fall returned to their respective habitations. They obeyed the call of Gen. Herkimer, but, being detained, did not arrive until after the action. Lieut. Col. Campbell, and Major, afterward Col. Clyde, were the only persons from Cherry valley in the battle of Oriskany. They were next in command to Col. Cox, and at the close of that unfortunate contest led off the remains of his brave regiment.
In the spring of 1778, when Gen. LaFayette was at Johnstown, Col. Campbell and Mr. Wilson waited upon him, and represented the exposed situation of Cherry Valley. After examining its location on a map which they furnished him, he directed a fort to be built there. It was considered an object of great importance to keep the inhabitants of the frontiers at their homes, as by moving in they would necessarily create great confusion, and would expose to sudden inroads of the enemy places of greater importance. For this reason, small forts were erected, and military posts were maintained along the frontier, wherever it was found practicable.
A fort was subsequently erected in pursuance of the directions of Gen. LaFayette. Early in the spring, the inhabitants returned to their old quarters, where they remained until it was completed. Many of the inhabitants of Unadilla and other towns came in. As all the exercises and sport were of a military nature, the younger boys, in imitation of their elders, formed themselves into a company. Those who were acquainted with military evolutions, instructed them. Armed with wooden guns, they paraded with all the pride of soldiers. It was a fine pleasant morning toward the latter part of May, that these miniature soldiers sallied out, and paraded upon the green east of the house. That morning, Brant, having come up from Oquago with a party of his men, had posted them upon the hill about a mile farther east; and concealed by the thick woods which covered it, was looking down upon the little fortification. His intention, as afterward explained by a Tory who accompanied him, was to make an attack the following night, and either to kill, or carry away prisoners, some of the principal persons, and especially the Committee. This sagacious warrior was deceived when he saw this little company of boys. Looking down from an elevation, and the view being obstructed by the trees, he supposed them to be men. Turning round to his followers he remarked -- "Col. Campbell has got his house well guarded I perceive." During the day, he ascertained that the inhabitants were in garrison, but that no militia or soldiers from abroad were there. Wishing to gain definite information, as to the force, and the preparations for defense, he moved his party to a place near the main road leading to the Mohawk river, about two miles to the north. Here he lay in wait behind a large rock.
A short distance from this, the road wound along near the top of a ledge of rocks, forming a precipice an hundred and fifty feet high. It was shaded by evergreens, and was dark even at midday. Its wildness was increased by the dashing of a small stream which fell over this precipice, called by the Indians the falls of the Tekaharawa. That day, Lieut. Wormwood (Wormuth) came up from the Mohawk river, and informed the garrison, that Col. Klock would arrive the next day, with a part of his regiment of militia. It was almost night when he started to return, accompanied by Peter Sitz, the bearer of some dispatches. Throwing down his portmanteau, he mounted his horse, saying, he should not need it until his return on the morrow with his company. The fine personal appearance of this young officer, who was clad in a rich suit of ash-colored velvet, attracted much attention during his stay, and many persons remained at the door looking at the horsemen, until they were hid by the hill over which they passed. The clattering of hoofs had scarcely died away upon the ear, when the report of a volley of musketry was heard. Soon after, Wormwood's horse returned. The saddle was covered with blood, which excited fears as to his fate, but too well founded. A part went out that evening, but could make no discoveries. The next morning the body was found behind the rock before mentioned. They had arrived near the rock, when they were hailed and ordered to stop. Disregarding the order, they put spurs to their horses and endeavored to pass. The Indians immediately fired. Wormwood was wounded and fell from his horse, when Brant rushing out, tomahawked him with his own hand. They had been personal friends before the war, and Brant is said to have lamented his death; at the time he supposed him to be a continental officer. Sitz's horse was killed,and he himself taken prisoner. The dispatches which he carried, were double. He had presence of mind to destroy the paper containing the true account of the garrison, and to give Brant the other. Brant retired without doing any other injury. The next day, Col. Klock arrived,and the father of Wormwood, who had been immediately apprised of the death of his son. He was a wealthy man living in Palatine district, and this was his only son. His feelings as he bent over the dead an mutilated body were excruciating, and when in the agony of his soul, he cried out, "Brant, cruel, cruel, Brant!" tears started in many an eye which scarcely knew how to weep.
On account of their exposure to sudden attacks of scalping parties, the inhabitants joined together and went round over over the different farms. Some stood as sentinels, while others labored. This course was not peculiar to this place; it was adopted along the whole frontier. William M'Kown, then a lad about 14 years of age, related the following interview which he had this summer with Brant. Contrary to custom, he was sent out alone to cure some hay. Wile engaged in raking,he heard someone walking behind him, and turning round, perceived an Indian very near him. He raised his rake to defend himself, when the Indian addressing him in English, said, "do not be afraid, young man, I shall not hurt you." He then inquired where Mr. Foster (a Tory) lived. Having directed him, M'Kown inquired if he knew him, to which the Indian replied -- "I am partially acquainted with him, having once seen him at the Halfway Creek," (meaning Bowman's Creek, half way between Cherry Valley and the Mohawk River.) The Indian then inquired of M'Kown his name. "You are a son of Mr. M'Kown who lives in the northeast part of the town I suppose; I know your father very well. He lives neighbor to Capt. M'Kean; I know M'Kean very well, and a fine fellow he is too." This free, familiar conversation induced M'Kown to inquire of the Indian his name. After a moment's hesitation, he answered, "My name is Brant." "What! Captain Brant?" "No, I am a cousin of his." An arch smile played over his dark features, as eh gave his reply; then turning he directed his course toward Fosters'. It was Joseph Brant himself, who afterward gave the same account. M'Kown immediately informed the garrison, and a party went directly to Foster's; but he was not there, and Foster denied having seen him.
In June of this summer, Brant came up with a party, and burned Springfield, carrying away several prisoners. He collected together the women and children into one house, and there left them uninjured -- an example which was not always followed by his allies. About the same time, it was reported that he was fortifying at Unadilla, and that great numbers of Indians and Tories were collecting around him. A reward was offered to any person or persons who would gain any satisfactory information relative to his proceedings there. Capt. M'Kean, who was at this time in Cherry Valley, offered to go as a volunteer, provided he should be accompanied by five others. The complement was soon made up. They arrived the first night at the house of a Mr. Sleeper, a Quaker, who lived in the town of Laurens, a distance of some twenty-five miles from Cherry Valley. Sleeper informed them, that Brant had been at his house that day with fifty men, and would return there that night. He advised them to leave, as they would be killed or taken in the event of his return. M'Kean looked round upon the house with the eye of a soldier; observing that it was built strong, and of logs, he remarked -- "Your house, friend Sleeper, shall be my fort tonight, I have with me five good marksmen, and I am not myself deficient in that qualification of a soldier." Sleeper remonstrated, saying, "He wished to remain neutral -- that he would be involved in difficulty, and in the end would lose his property, probably his life." M'Kean finally withdrew, and took possession of a vacant house a mile or two distant. It was on this, or another scout a short time afterward, that M'Kean wrote a letter to Brant, and fastening it in a stick, placed the stick in an Indian path. He blamed him for his predatory warfare,and challenged him to meet him, either in single combat, or with an equal number of men, adding, that if he would come to Cherry Valley,and have a fair fight, they would change him from a Brant into a Goose. He received this challenge, as appears by a letter written soon after, to Parcifer Carr, a Tory, living in Edmeston. The following is an exact transcript of it.
July, 9, 1778.
" I understand by the Indians that was at your house last week, the one Smith lives near with you, has a little more corn to spare. I should be much obliged to you, if you would be so kind as to try to get as much corn as Smith can spared; he has sent me five skipples already, of which I am much obliged to him, and will see him paid, and would be very glad if you could spare one or two your men, to join us, especially Elias. I would be glad to see him,and I wish you could sent me as many guns you have, as I know you have no use for them, if you any; as I mean now to fight the cruel rebels as well as I can: whatever you will able to sent'd me, you must sent'd by the bearer.
I am your sincere friend and humble ser't.
To Mr. Carr. JOSEPH BRANT.
"P. S. I heard that Cherry Valley people is very bold, and intended to make nothing of us; they called us wild geese, but I know the contrary.
M'Kean returned along the Susquehanna river, having succeeded in taking two prisoners. He was pursued by the Indians, and narrowly escaped being taken. When he returned to Cherry Valley, Capt. Ballard had arrived with a detachment of 100 men, being a part of Col. Aldens. Continental regiment. Col. Alden arrived a day or two after with the remainder of the regiment. Stockades had been placed around the church by the militia and rangers. Col. Alden immediately took possession of his little fortress. This was an eastern regiment,and few of the officers or soldiers were conversant with the Indian mode of fighting. Col. Gansevoort solicited this post when Col. Alden was ordered here; at the head of the brave regiment he commanded at Fort Schuyler, he would doubtless have given the enemy a different reception on the 11th of November following.
It was in July of this year, that Col. John Butler and Brant, at the head of 800 Indians and rangers, made an incursion into the beautiful valley of Wyoming, and ravaged and laid waste its flourishing settlements. (NO, this is incorrect. Brant wasn't in the area at the time and in fact was in England. ajberry) A great number of the inhabitants were killed,and the most wanton acts of barbarity were committed. (See Appendix--Note H.) The destruction of Wyoming produced a thrill through all the states, and especially along the frontiers similarly exposed. Butler returned to Niagara, and Brant to his stations about Unadilla and Oquago. Brant continued about the branches of the Susquehanna until fall. Early in October Mr. Dean, the Indian interpreter and agent, wrote Major Robert Cochran, commanding at Fort Schuyler, the following letter.
"As the Seneca Chief, called the Great Tree, who was all the summer past with General Washington, returned through Oneida, he gave our friends there the most solemn assurances, that upon his arrival in this country he would exert his utmost influence, to dispose his tribe to peace and friendship with the United States,and that should his attempts prove unsuccessful, he would immediately leave his nation,and join the Oneidas with his friends and adherents. A long time having elapsed, without hearing from the Great Tree, the Oneidas, a few days since, dispatched a runner to him, desiring an account of his success. The express returned yesterday with the following intelligence,which the sachems immediately forwarded to me by three of their warriors; namely, that upon his arrival in the Seneca country, he found that whole people in arms, and the two villages Kanadaseago and Jessessee, where he was, crowded with their warriors, who were all collected from the remote settlements. That upon the Great Tree's first arrival, appearances seemed to promise him success, but that a rumor being circulated, that the Americans were about to invade them, they had all flown to arms. The Great Tree was there, and determined to chastise the enemy that dared presume to think of penetrating their country.
"That they are to be joined by all the Indians as far as the Onondagas, a small party of which tribe has gone to meet them; and likewise by those of the several settlements upon the branches of the Susquehanna. That the Senecas were to march the eighth,and the others the ninth instant. That the whole party were to rendezvous at Kanakals, a place situated on that branch of the Susquehanna, called Tioga branch,and from thence were to proceed against the frontiers of Pennsylvania or the Jerseys; our Oneida friends rely on the authenticity of the above intelligence,and beg that it may not be neglected."
On the 6th of November, the following letter was sent from Fort Schuyler to Col. Alden.
"We were just now informed by an Oneida Indian, that yesterday on Onondaga Indian arrived at their Castle, from one of the branches of the Susquehanna, called the Tioga. That he was present at a great meeting of Indians and Tories at that place, and their result was, to attack Cherry Valley, and that young Butler was to head the Tories. I send you this information, that you may be on your guard."
To this letter Col. Alden returned the following answer:
Valley, Nov. 8th, 1778.
"Received yours of the 6th inst. by express, informing me of the intelligence you obtained by one of the Oneida Indians of a large body of the enemy, who were collected on the Susquehanna, and were destined to attack this place. I am much obliged to you for your information, and am,
Sir, your very humble serv't.
P. S. Gen. Hand is now here, arrived at this place the day before yesterday, will return soon to Albany."
Capt. Walter Butler, son of Col. John Butler, who when to Canada in 1775, with Guy Johnson returned early in this summer to Tryon County, where he was taken prisoner, and confined in Albany gaol. Being sick, or pretending to be so, he was removed to a private house in the city, and a sentinel was placed over him. In conjunction with the family, who were secretly disaffected, he succeeded in intoxicating the sentinel. A horse was provided for him, and he escaped and went to Niagara, and joined his father. He here procured from him the command of a part of his regiment, called "Butler Rangers," together with permission to employ the forces under Brant. Although it was late in the season, he determined to make an incursion into the county, to avenge the wrongs which he supposed himself to have suffered by his imprisonment. (It was through his agency, doubtless, that the Senecas were roused up, as detailed in the letter of Mr. Dean.) On his way he met Brant, who was returning to winter quarters at Niagara. Brant was displeased, in being thus placed under Walter Butler, but was finally prevailed upon to return with him. Their united forces were five hundred Indians, and two hundred rangers.
The inhabitants, many of whom had left in the summer, in consequence of the repeated attacks of the Indians upon the frontiers, had now returned to their homes, thinking the season so far advanced, that no danger need be apprehended. On the information above being given to Col. Alden, they requested permission to remove into the fort, or at least to deposit their most valuable property there. Both requests were denied by Col. Alden. He replied, that it would be a temptation to his soldiers to plunder; that the report was probably unfounded; that ti was only an Indian story, and that he would keep out scouts, who would apprise them in season to secure themselves, in case of real danger. Scouts were accordingly sent out, to traverse the country in every direction. The scout sent down the Susquehanna kindled up a fire on the night of the 9th, and all very foolishly lay down to sleep. The fire was discovered by the enemy, and a little before daylight on the morning of the 10th, they were all surrounded and taken.
On the night of the 10th, the enemy encamped on the top of a hill thickly covered with evergreens, about a mile southwest from the fort. On the morning of the 11th the enemy moved from his encampment toward the fort. They had learned from the scout which they had taken, that the officers of the garrison lodged in different private houses out of the fort; their forces were so disposed that a party should surround every house in which an officer lodged nearly at the same time, while the main body would attack the fort. During the night the snow fell several inches. In the morning it turned to rain, and the atmosphere was thick and hazy. The whole settlement thought themselves secure. The assurances of Col. Alden had in a considerable degree quieted their fears. Everything favored the approach of the enemy undiscovered. Col. Alden and Lieut. Col. Stacia, with a small guard, lodged at Mr. Wells's. A Mr. Hamble was coming up that morning from this house several miles below, on horseback; when a short distance from Mr. Wells's house he was fired upon and wounded by the Indians. He rode in great haste to inform Col. Alden of their approach, and then hastened to the fort. Still incredulous, and believing them to be only a straggling party, he ordered the guard to be called in. The delay of a few minutes gave the Indians time to arrive. The rangers had stopped to examine their firelocks, the powder in which having been wet with the rain. The Indians improving this opportunity rushed by. The advance body was composed principally of Senecas, at that time the wildest and most ferocious of the Six Nations. Col. Alden made his escape from the house, and was pursued down the hill, toward the fort, by an Indian; when challenged to surrender, he peremptorily refused so to do; several times he turned round and snapped his pistol at the Indian; the latter, after pursuing some distance, threw his tomahawk, and struck him on the head, and then rushing up, scalped him. He thus "was one of the first victims of this most criminal neglect of duty." Lieut. Col. Stacia was taken prisoner. The guard were all killed or taken.
Senecas, who first arrived at the house with some Tories, commenced an indiscriminate
massacre of the family, and before the rangers arrived, had barbarously murdered
them all, including Robert Wells, his mother, and wife, and four children,
his brother and sister John and Jane, with three domestics. Of this interesting
and excellent family, not one escaped, except the late John Wells of New York
city. His father had left him in Schenectady the previous summer with an aunt,
that he might attend the grammar school there. He might almost have exclaimed
with Logan, that not a drop of his blood ran in the veins of any human being;
or as it was been beautifully expressed by an eminent English poet,
They "left of all my tribe
Nor man, nor child, nor thing of living birth,
No! not the dog, that watched my household hearth,
Escaped, -- that 'morn' of blood upon our plains
All perished! I alone am left on earth!
To whom nor relative nor blood remains,
No! not a kindred drop that runs in human veins."
A Tory boasted that he killed Mr. Wells while at prayer. The melancholy fate of Jane Wells, deserved a more particular notice. She was a young lady, not distinguished for her personal beauty, but endeared to the friends by her amiable disposition, and her Christian charities. One "in whom the friendless found a friend," and to whom the poor would always say, "God speed thee." She fled from the house to a pile of wood near by, behind which she endeavored to screen herself. Here she was pursued by an Indian, who, as he approached, deliberately wiped his bloody knife upon his leggins,and then placed it in its sheath; then drawing his tomahawk, he seized her by the arm; she possessed some knowledge of the Indian language, and remonstrated, and supplicated, though in vain. Peter Smith, a Tory, who had formerly been a domestic in Mr. Wells's family, now interposed, saying she was his sister, and desiring him to spare her life. He shook his tomahawk at him in defiance, and then turning rround, with one blow smote her to the earth. John Wells, Esq. at this time deceased, and the father of Robert Wells, had been one of the judges of the courts of Tryon County; in that capacity, ans as one fo the justices of the quorum, he had been on intimate terms with Sir William Johnson and family, who frequently visited at this house,and also with Col. John Butler, likewise a judge. The family were not active either for or against the country; they wished to remain neutral, so far as they could, in such turbulent times; they always performed military duty, when called out to defend the country. Col. John Butler, in a conversation relative to them, remarked -- "I would have gone miles on my hands and knees to have saved that family, and why my sons did not do it, God only knows."
Another party of Indians surrounded the house of the Rev. Samuel Dunlop, whom we have frequently had occasion to mention, as the pioneer in education in western New York, His wife was immediately killed. The old gentleman and his daughter were preserved by Little Aaron, A chief of the Oquago branch of the Mohawks. Mrs. Wells was also a daughter of Mr. Dunlop; Little Aaron led him out from the house, tottering with age, and stood beside him to protect him. An Indian passing by, pulled his hat from his head, and ran away with it; the Chief pursued him, and regained it; on his return, another Indian had carried away his wig: the rain was falling upon his bare head, while his whole system, shook like an aspen, under the combined influence of age, fear, and cold. He was released a few days after; but the shock was too violent; he died about a year after: his death was hastened by his misfortunes, though he could have born up but a few years longer under the increasing infirmities of old age.
A Mr. Mitchell, who was in his field, beheld a party of Indians approaching; he could not gain his house, and was obliged to flee to the woods. Here he evaded pursuit and escaped. A melancholy spectacle presented itself on his return -- it was the corpses of his wise and four children. His house had been plundered and set on fire. He extinguished the fire, and by examination found life still exiting in one of his children, a little girl then or twelve years of age. He raised her up and placed her in the door, and was bending over her when he saw another party approaching. He had barely time to hide himself behind a long fence near by, before they were at the house. From his hiding place, he beheld an infamous Tory by the name of Newbury, extinguish the little spark of life which remained in his child, with a blow of his hatchet. The next day, without a single human being to assist him, he carried the remains of his family down to the fort on a sled, and there the soldiers aided him in depositing them in a common grave. Retributive justice sometimes follows close upon the heels of crime. The Tory was arrested, as a spy, the following summer, by order of Gen. James Clinton, when he lay with his army at Canajoharie, on the Mohawk river. Mr. Mitchell was called to prove this act. He was found guilty by a court martial, and with a companion suffered an ignominious death.
Extract from a letter from Gen. James to Mrs. Clinton, dated July 6th, 1779.
"I have nothing further to acquaint you of, except that we apprehended a certain Lieut. Henry Hare, and a Sergt. Newbury, both of col. Butler's Regiment, who confessed that they left the Seneca country with sixty-three Indians and two white men, which divided themselves in three parties; one party was to attack Schoharie, another party Cherry Valley and the Mohawk river, and the other party to skulk about Fort Schuyler and the upper part of the Mohawk river, to take prisoners or scalps. I had them tried by a general court martial for spies, who sentenced them both to be hanged, which was done accordingly at Canajoharie, to the satisfaction of all the inhabitants of that place, that were friends to their country, as they were known to be very active in almost all the murders that were committed on these frontiers. They were inhabitants of Tryon County, had each a wife and several children, who came to see them and beg their lives."
The party which surrounded the house of Col. Campbell, took Mrs. Campbell and four children prisoners. Mr. Campbell was absent from home, but hastened there on the first alarm, which was a cannon fired at the fort. He arrived only in time to witness the destruction of his property, and not even to learn the fate of his family; their lives were spared, but spared for a long an dreadful captivity.
Many others were killed; some few escaped to the Mohawk river, and the remainder were made prisoners. Thirty two of the inhabitants, principally women and children, were killed, and sixteen continental soldiers. The terror of the scene was increased by the conflagration of all the houses and out houses in the settlement; the barn were many of them filled with hay and grain. He who fled to the mountains, saw as he looked back the destruction of his house and of that little all which he had labored for years to accumulate. When the enemy approached on the morning of the 11th, Mrs. Clyde, the wife of Col. Clyde, collecting together her children, fled into the woods. During that day and the following night, she lay with her children, on of whom was an infant, gathered around her, and concealed under a large log. As we have before mentioned, it was a cold, rainy day, and the storm continued through the night. She could hear the yells of the savages as they triumphed in their work of death; several of them passed near where she lay, and one so near, that the butt of his gun trailed upon the log which covered her. At the intercession of her husband, who was in the fort, a party sallied out the following morning, and at the risk of their lives, brought her and her children into the fort; they were drenched with the rain, and stiffened with the cold; but they all survived. Mrs. Clyde, at the time of her flight, had missed her eldest daughter, about ten years of age, and supposed she had gained the fort; then she arrived at the fort on the morning of the 12th, this daughter appeared in the neighboring field. When she saw the sentinels, who had wrapped themselves in blankets, she supposed them to be Indians, and again fled to the woods; she was followed, and brought back to the anxious mother. When fleeing from the house she had separated from the rest of the family, and had lain concealed alone, until her appearance in the field. The sufferings of such a child, in such a night, thinly clad, alone in the woods, must have been of the most excruciating nature.
Some generous acts were performed by Brant, which in justice to him, ought to be mentioned. On the day of the massacre, he inquired of some of the prisoners, where his friend, Capt. M'Kean, was. They informed him, that he had probably gone to the Mohawk river with his family. "He sent me a challenge once," said Brant, "I have now come to accept it. He is a fine soldier thus to retreat." They answered, "Capt. M'Kean would not turn his back upon an enemy, when there was any probability of success." "I know it; he is a brave man, and I would have given more to have taken him, than any other man in Cherry Valley, but I would not have hurt a hair of his head."
In a house which he entered, he found a woman engaged in her usual business. "Are you thus engaged, while all your neighbors are murdered around you?" said Brant. "We are king's people," she replied. "That plea will not avail you today. They have murdered Mr. Wells's family, who were as dear to me as my own." "There is one Joseph Brant; if he is with the Indians he will save us." "I am Joseph Brant; but I have not the command, and I know not that I can save you; but I will do what is in my power." While speaking, several Senecas were observed approaching the house: "Get into bed and feign yourself sick" said Brant, hastily. When the Senecas came in, he told them there were no persons there, but a sick woman and her children, and besought them to leave the house; which, after a short conversation they accordingly did. As soon as they were out of sight, Brant went to the end of the house, and gave a long shrill yell; soon after, a small band of Mohawks were seen crossing the adjoining field with great speed. As they came up, he addressed them -- "Where is your paint? here, put my mark upon this woman and her children." As soon as it was done, he added, "You are now probably safe." It may be observed here, that this was a general custom: each tribe had its mark, by which they and their prisoners were designated; most of the other prisoners were thus marked. It was an evidence that they were taken, or claimed by some particular tribe, or individual -- and woe to that person upon whom no captor had put his mark.
Brant, jealous of his character, always said, that in the councils, he had urged the Indians to be humane, and not to injure the women and children. Where he had the exclusive command, this was in some degree effected. Col. Butler alleged, that Brant secretly incited the Indians in this massacre, in order to stigmatize his son, who had superseded him in command. Others said, that he was humane, in order to contract his own conduct with that of Walter Butler. Brant stoutly denied both charged, and appealed to his conduct in Springfield and other places.
Whatever may have been the motives and conduct of Brant, it will not wipe away the stain from the character of Walter Butler. The night previous to the massacre, some of his rangers, who were acquainted in Cherry Valley, requested permission to go secretly into the settlement, and apprise his and their friends of their approach, that they might escape the fury of the Indians. Thus he peremptorily refused, saying that there were so many families connected, that the one would inform the others, and all would escapt. He thus sacrificed his friends, for the sake of punishing his enemies.
Several attacks were made during the day upon the fort, but without success. The Indians were poor troops when a fortress was to be taken; -- besides, the enemy had no artillery. They rushed up and fought with considerable courage, but were driven back without much loss on either sides. Col. Alden's regiment numbered between two and three hundred men -- a number not great enough to make a successful sortie against the enemy, with a force more than double their own.
The principal part of the enemy, with the prisoners, between thirty and forty, including several of the officers of the garrison, encamped the first night in the valley, about two miles south of the fort. To the prisoners it was a night of wretchedness, never to be forgotten. A large fire was kindled, around which they were collected, with no shelter, not even in most cases an outer garment, to protect them from the storm. There might be seen the old, and infirm, and the middle aged of both sexed, and the "Shivering childhood, houseless, but for a mothers' arms, couchless but for a mothers' breast. Around them at a short distance on every side, gleamed the watch fires of the savages, who were engaged in examining the distributing their plunder, and whose countenances were a still more fiendlike aspect, as soon indistinctly, through a hazy November atmosphere. Close by their encampment, if such it might be called, the land rose abruptly into a high hill thickly studded with dark frowning hemlocks. A lurid glare of light from the watch fires below, played upon their tops, contrasting strongly their dark foliage, with the naked branches of the other forest trees, and rendering still more appalling, the whoop of some straggling Indian, as it broke the silence of the thicket beneath. Along up the valley, they caught occasional glimpses of the ruins of their dwellings, as some sudden gust of wind, or falling timber, awoke into new life the decaying flame. An uncertain fate awaited them. If they augured from the scenes which they had that day witnessed, it was death. Their minds were filled with fearful forebodings, -- a secret fear, which one dare not whisper to his fellow, that they might be reserved, as the victims for a more deliberate, and dreadful torture.
The morning broke upon a sleepless group; they did not, they could, not close their eyes in sleep; they were early divided into small companies, and placed under different parties of the enemy, and in this manner commenced their journey down the Cherry Valley Creek.
On the morning of the second day, the prisoners were called together, and it was decided to send back the women and children, a decision which kindled up hope and life anew in their bosoms. This was accordingly done; but Mrs. Campbell and her four children, and Mrs. Moore and her children, whose husbands had been active partisans, were retained. It was at the same time told to them, that they must accompany their captors to the land of the Senecas. The fist day of their journey, Mrs. Cannon, the mother of Mrs. Campbell, being unable to travel, on account of her age, was killed by her side, and the same Indian drove her along with his uplifted and bloody hatchet, threatening her with the same fate, if she should be unable to proceed on the journey, with the speed which he required. She carried in her arms a child aged eighteen months. The following day she was placed under the care of an Indian advanced in life, and who, during the remainder of the journey, was very humane.
They passed down the Susquehanna to its junction with the Tioga, thence up the Tioga to near its source, and thence across to the head of Seneca lake, and along down the eastern border of the lake, to the Indian castle and village of Kanadaseago, a few miles from the present flourishing and beautiful village of Geneva. The whole distance was between tow and three hundred miles. Here they arrived the last of November. Here all their children were taken from them, not even excepting the infant,and given to different families and tribes of Indians. We shall have occasion to continue somewhat of their history in a future chapter.
The day following the massacre, that is, the 12th, a party of Indians returned, and prowled about for a short time. That day, two hundred militia arrived from the Mohawk river, and the straggling parties of Indians dispersed. The mangled remains of those who had been killed, were brought in; and received as decent an internment, as circumstances would permit. The most wanton acts of cruelty had been committed, but the detail is too horrible, and I will not pursue it further. The whole settlement exhibited and aspect of entire and complete desolation. The cocks crew from the tops of the forest trees, and the dogs howled through the fields and woods. The inhabitants who escaped, with the prisoners who were set at liberty, abandoned the settlement. The garrison was kept until the following summer, when the fort was also abandoned, and the regiment joined the troops of Gen. James Clinton, when on their way to join the army of Gen. Sullivan.
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