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
Vengeance striding from his grisly den,
With fell impatience grinds his iron teeth;
And Massacre, unbidden, cloys his famine,
And quaffs the blood of nations."
We will not return to the valley of the Mohawk, which we left with the retreat of St. Leger,and the close of the campaign of 1777.
During the fall and following year, Indian scouts infested the country around Fort Schuyler, and the western settlements, cutting off supplies and massacring the inhabitants and soldiers, when small parties of the latter happened to pass beyond the limits of the fort.
The following narrative is given by Dr. Dwight. "In the autumn, when the siege of Fort Stanwix was raised, the following occurrence took place here. Capt. Greg, one of the American officers, left in the garrison, went out one afternoon with a corporal belonging to the same corps, to shoot pigeons. When the day was far advanced, Greg, knowing that the savages were at times prowling round the fort, determined to return. At that moment a small flock of pigeons alighted upon a tree in that vicinity. The corporal proposed to try a shot at them; and having approached sufficiently near, was in the act of elevating his piece toward the pigeons, when the report of two muskets, discharged by unknown hands, at a small distance was heard: the same instant, Greg saw his companion fall, and felt himself badly wounded in the side. He tired to stand, but speedily fell, and in a moment perceived a huge Indian taking long strides toward him with a tomahawk in his hand. The savage struck him several blows on the head, drew his knife, cut a circle through the skin from his forehead to the crown, and then drew off the scalp with his teeth.
At the approach of the savage, Greg had counterfeited the appearance of being dead, with as much address as he could use, and succeeded so far, as to persuade his butcher that he was really dead; otherwise measures still more effectual would have been employed to dispatch him. It is hardly necessary to observe, that the pain produced by these wounds was intense and dreadful; those on the head were, however, far the most excruciating; although that in his side was believed by him to be mortal. The savages having finished their bloody business, withdrew.
As soon as they were fairly gone, Greg, who had seen his companion fall, determined, if possible, to make his way to the spot where he lay; from a persuasion that if he could place his head upon the corporals' body, it would in some degree relieve his excessive anguish. Accordingly he made an effort to rise, and having with great difficulty succeeded, immediately fell. He was not only weak and distressed, but had been deprived of the power of self-command by the blows of the tomahawk. Strongly prompted, however, by this little hope of mitigating his sufferings, he made a second attempt, and again fell. After several unsuccessful efforts, he finally regained possession of his feet; and staggering slowly through the forest, he at length reached the spot where the corporal lay. The Indian, who had marked him for his prey, took a surer aim than his fellow, and killed him outright. Greg found him lifeless and scalped. With some difficulty he laid his own head upon the body of his companion, and, as he had hoped, found considerable relief from this position. And, as he had hoped, found considerable relief from this position.
While he was enjoying this little comfort he met with trouble from a new quarter. A small dog which belonged to him, and had accompanied him in his hunting, but to which he had been hitherto inattentive, now came up to him in apparent agony, and leaping around him in a variety of involuntary motions, yelped, whined, and cried in a unusual manner to the no small molestation of his master. Greg was not in a situation to bear the disturbance even of affection. He tried in every way which he could think of to force the dog from him, but he tried in vain. At length, wearied by his cries and agitations, and not knowing how to put an end to them, he addressed the animal as if he had been a rational being. If you wish so much to help me, go and call some one to my relief. At these words the creature instantly left him, and ran through the forest at full speed, to the great comfort of his master, who now hoped to die quietly.
The dog made his way directly to three men belonging to the garrison, who were fishing at the distance of a mile from the scene of this tragedy; as soon as he came up to them, he began to cry in the same afflicting manner,and advancing near them, turned and went slowly back toward the point where his master lay, keeping his eye continually on the men; all this he repeated several times. At length one of the men observed to his companions, that there was something very extraordinary in the actions of the dog, and that in his opinion they ought to find out the cause; his companions were of the same mind, and they immediately set out with an intention to follow the animal whither he should lead them. After they had pursued him some distance, and found nothing, they became discouraged. The sun had set, and the forest was dangerous; they therefore determined to return. The moment the dog saw them wheel about, he began to cry with increased violence, and coming up to the men, took hold of the skirts of their coats with his teeth, and attempted to pull them toward the point to which he had before directed their course. When they stopped again, he leaned his back against the back of their legs, as if endeavoring to push them onward to his master. Astonished at this conduct of the dog, they agreed, after a little deliberation, to follow him until he should stop. The animal directed them directly to his master. They found him still living, and after burying the corporal as well they could, they carried Greg to the fort; here his wounds were dressed with the utmost care, and such assistance was rendered to him as proved the means of restoring him to perfect health. "This story," says the Doctor, "I received from Captain Edward Buckley, who received the account from Greg a few days before."
In the spring of 1778, Lafayette was stationed at Albany; in March he went up to Johnstown, from which place he wrote to Col. Gansevoort a letter, dated March 6th, 1778. This letter was enclosed in a letter from Col. Livingston of the same date, of which the following is an extract.
"Enclosed you have a letter from Major Gen. Marquis De Lafayette, relative to Col. Carleton, nephew to Gen. Carleton, who has for some time been in this part of the country as a spy. The general apprehends he has taken his route by the way of Oswego, and begs you'll send out such parties as you may judge necessary for apprehending him." The following is the letter of Lafayette.
"As the taking of Col. Carleton is of the greatest importance, I wish you would try every means in your power to have him apprehended. I have desired Col. Livingston, who knows him, to let you have any intelligence he can give, and join to them those I have got by a Tory about the dress and figure of Carleton. You may send as many parties as you please, and every where you'll think proper, and do every convenient thing for discovering him. I dare say he knows that we are after him, and has nothing in view but to escape, which I beg you to prevent by all means. You may promise, in my name, fifty guineas hard money, besides all money, &c. they can find about Carleton, to any party of soldiers or Indians who will bring him alive. As every one knows now what we send for, there is no inconvenience to scatter them in the country, which reward is promised in order to stimulate the Indians.
I have the honor to be, Sir,
You most obedient servant,
The Marquis DeLafayette."
Col. Carleton, it is believed, was not apprehended.
The Indians and Tories found employment in the destruction of Wyoming and Cherry Valley; and the valley of the Mohawk, with the exception of an incursion into the German Flatts, was unmolested during the summer of 1778. The following letter was written by Major Robert Cochran, then commanding at Fort Schuyler, to Col. Gansevoort, dated
"Fort Schuyler, Sept. 18th 1778.
"Since my last, the sachems and warriors of the Oneida and Tuscarora nations, with Col. Lewee, arrived at this fort, with a formal speech from both nations. They informed me of their great uneasiness in regard to the matter of scalping, which had so lately happened about this fort, and were sorry any suspicions should be entertained that they had the least knowledge of any thing being intended against any body here; that they had from the beginning of the present dispute declined acting against us; that they had been used well at first by Col. Dayton, then by Col. Elmore; afterward Col. Gansevoort came to this fort, a native of Albany, from whom we expected much, as the commissioners of Indian affairs noticed him in particular; but we are sorry he has not noticed us much for some time past; we are sorry you neglect us now; when your affairs were in a worse situation you courted us and our interest; but now you are prosperous you don't know us; you know we are one, that we have made an agreement with Gen. Schuyler and the other commissioners, that we would be friendly, and not strike the axle at each other.
The next morning I answered them as follows: 'That I was glad to see them here, and that I had taken particular notice of all they had said; and further, that we were inclined to give them assurance of our friendly dispositions to them, and were sorry that any assurance of our friendly dispositions to them, and were sorry that any uneasiness should arise in their minds; and in regard to what some bad soldiers might say, that they would not regard it, as all societies have their bad people among them.'
To which they replied: 'They would not regard what the soldiers should say, but would apply to the head when occasion might require.' I fed them plentifully, and gave them drink also, which I thought was best at present for the public service; and they went off greatly satisfied."
Sometime in the summer of 1778 the enemy made an incursion into the western part of the County, and destroyed the settlements of German Flatts. This fine, fertile section of country was laid waster. About one hundred homes were burned, a few persons were killed and taken, but most of the inhabitants escaped.
Early in the spring of 1779, as before stated, General Clinton, with two regiments of the New York line, moved up the Mohawk, and encamped at Canajoharie. During this summer also, little mischief was done in the valley of the Mohawk. In the spring of 1780, the Indians again made their appearance, infuriated rather than humbled, by the destruction of their villages and grain the previous summer.
General Clinton gave the following orders to Colonel Gansevoort, dated,
June 6, 1780
"You will proceed with your regiment as soon as possible to Fort Plank, where you will find a quantity of provisions, destined for the use of the garrison at Fort Schuyler, which you will take into your charge, and escort to that post.
"As the enemy are said to be out in force on the Mohawk river, it is absolutely necessary that you should pay the strictest attention to prevent a surprise; and in case of attack, to defend the stores to the last extremity; the present situation of the garrison points out the absolute necessity of this caution.
"You will receive a supply of provisions before you march, for the use of your troops, to the end that you may not make use of that destined for the garrison. If you should fall short, you must impress from the inhabitants, avoiding every degree of irregularity."
Brant, sagacious, and generally successful where he directed, had caused a rumor to be circulated that he intended to capture the batteaux, in order to divert attention from other points of attack. This plan succeeded in August following; when, on account of a similar report, the militia of Canajoharie were ordered out to guard a number of batteaux to Fort Schuyler. Brant made a circuit through the woods, and coming in the rear of them, laid waste the whole country around Canajoharie.
"The following account of this movement is given by Col. Samuel Clyde, in a letter to Go. George Clinton, dated
August 6th, 1780.
"I here send you an account of the fate of our district. On the second day of this inst. Joseph Brant, at the head of about four or five hundred Indians and Tories, broke in upon the settlements, and laid the best part of the district in ashes, and killed sixteen of the inhabitants that we have found; took between fifty and sixty prisoners, mostly women and children, twelve of whom they have sent back. They have killed and drove away with them upwards of three hundred head of cattle and horses; have burnt fifty-three swelling houses, besides some out houses, and as many barns, one very elegant church, and one grist mill, and two small forts that the women fled out of. They have burnt all the inhabitants' weapons and implements for husbandry, so that they are left in a miserable condition. They have nothing left to support themselves but what grain they have growing, and that they cannot get saved for want of tools to work with, and very few to be got here."
"This affair happened at a very unfortunate hour, when all the militia of the County were called up to Fort Schuyler to guard nine batteaux about half laden. It was said the enemy intended to take them on their passing to Fort Schuyler. There was scarce a man left, that was able to go. It seems that everything conspired for our destruction in this quarter; one whole district almost destroyed, and the best regiment of militia in the County rendered unable to help themselves or the public. This I refer you to Gen. Rensselaer for the truth of.
"This spring when we found that we were not likely to get any assistance, and knew that we were not able to withstand the enemy, we were obliged to work and build ourselves forts for our defense, which we had nearly completed, and could have had our lives and effects secure, had we got liberty to have made use of them. But that must not be, we must turn out of them; not that we have anything against assisting the general to open the communication to Fort Schuyler, but still doubted what has happened while we were gone. But it was still insisted on, that there was no danger when we were all out; that in my opinion there never has been such a blunder committed in the County since the war commenced, nor the militia so much put out; and to send generals here without men, is like sending a man to the woods to chop without an axe. I am sensible had the general had sufficient men, that he would have been able to have given satisfaction both to the public and inhabitants here."
We have already given an account of the ravages of Sir John Johnson in the fall of 1780, along the valley of the Schoharie creek. The day after the burning of Schoharie, that is, the 19th of October, he burned Caughnawaga. Col. Fisher, residing near this place, after defending himself in his house, with two brothers, both of whom were killed, fled from it, and was pursued and overtaken by the Indians. They tomahawked and scalped him, and left him, as they supposed, dead. The next day he was found by a monument of Indian barbarity.
From Caughnawaga, Johnson passed up on the north side of the Mohawk ravaging and burning every thing in his course. Gen. Van Rensselaer, who had been apprised of his movements, collected the militia from Claverack and Schenectady, and pursued him. From Caughnawaga, Gen. Van Rensselaer wrote to Col. Brown, commanding at Stone Arabia, with a small force of 130 men stationed in a fort there, to turn out and check the advance of the enemy, and he would support him from the rear. Col. Brown obeyed the orders, but owing to some delay of Gen. Van Rensselaer's, was not supported by him. He fell, fighting manfully at the head of his little band, with 30 or 40 of his followers. The rest, unable to oppose any longer a force so much superior, retreated.
Sir John Johnson settled at Fox's mills, about eight miles above Fort Plan, (or as it is not called Fort Plain) and two miles below the upper Mohawk castle. On the north side on a flat, partly surrounded by a bend of the river, he posted his regiment of regulars and Tories. A small breastwork was thrown across the neck of land. The Indians occupied a tract of elevated land to the north, and in the immediate vicinity, which was covered with a thick growth of shrub oak. In this position Sir John awaited the approach of Gen. Van Rensselaer, who was joined by the Canajoharie militia and the Tories from Fort Plain under Col. Du Bois. (Note: The author misplaces this battle a bit! The Battle of Klock's Field place at St. Johnsville which is about five miles from Fort Plain. Map of Sir John Johnson's Raids. ajberry) After a slight skirmish, the Indians were driven from their position, and fled up the river to the fording place, near the castle, where they crossed, and directed their course toward the Susquehanna. Sir John's troops made a more effective resistance, though they were almost exhausted by the forced marches which they had made and the labors they had performed. The attack had been commenced late in the day. Though it was conducted with considerable spirit, night came on before the works of Sir John were carried. In this situation Gen. Van Rensselaer ordered his troops to fall back a mile and encamp. Many of the militia were enraged on account of this order, and refused to obey it. They remained during most of the night, and took several prisoners, who informed them that the enemy were on the point of offering to capitulate, when Gen. Van Rensselaer ordered his troops to fall back. A detachment of the Canajoharie militia under Col. Clyde took one of their field pieces during the night.
On the following morning, when Gen. Van Rensselaer advanced with his troops, the enemy had entirely disappeared. They had left their ground, and retreated up the river and retreated up the river a short distance, and then crossed to the south. The river was deep and rapid where it formed the bend, which would have ensured Gen. Van Rensselaer a complete victory had he prosecuted his attack with more vigor. A detachment was sent in pursuit, who discovered in the trail of the enemy, evidence of the extreme state to which they were reduced by hunger and fatigue. The whole country on the north side of the river, from Caughnawaga to Stone Arabia, and Palatine, had been devastated--which, with the ravages of Brant on the south side of the river, in the previous August, almost completed the destruction of the Mohawk settlements.
If here and there a little settlement escaped their ravages, each were like an oasis in the desert, affording temporary shelter and protection, and, like them, liable to be destroyed or buried up by the next whirlwind which should sweep over the land.
But these incursions of the enemy were not made without loss on their part. The militia, hastily collected, hung upon their rear, and often attacked them, and checked and diverted their course; and there were instances of individual resistance-- of men standing between between the enemy and their wives and children, upon whose scalps the Indians might well have painted the little red foot, (See Appendix--Notes I. K.) indicating that they fell fighting bravely in their defense.
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