Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

Annals of Tryon County;
or, the
Border Warfare of New York,
During the Revolution.
By William W. Campbell
New York; Printed and Published by J. & J. Harper 1831

Chapter VI.

"But, go and rouse your warriors."

The atrocities, of which the Indians were guilty at Wyoming, and along the frontiers of New York drew the attention of the Congress and Commander in chief to the situation of that section of country. Major Gen. Sullivan was ordered to march into the Indian territory, to lay waste their settlements,and destroy their grain; thus visiting upon them some of the inconveniences and hardships attendant upon their mode of warfare. The western and southern parts of New York were the places to his destination.

On the fist of May, 1779, the 2d and 4th New York regiments left their camp near the Hudson, and passing through Warwarsing, arrived upon the Delaware the 9th. They crossed the Delaware, and passed down the west side to Easton, at which place their stores were collected. From thence, they marched toward Wyoming, where they arrived the 17th of June. The delay was occasioned by the great labor required to open a road through woods and over an almost impassable swamp, extending many miles; Gen. Sullivan arrived with the main army on the 24th. On the 31st of July, the army left Wyoming for the Indian settlements. The stores and artillery were conveyed up the Susquehanna in 150 boats. "The boats formed a beautiful appearance as they moved in order from their moorings, and as they passed the fort, received a grand salute, which was returned by the loud cheers of the boatmen. The whole scene formed a military display, surpassing any which had ever been exhibited at Wyoming,and was well calculated, to form a powerful impression upon the minds of those lurking parties of savages, which still continued to range upon the mountains, from which all their movements were visible for many miles." On the 11th, they arrived at Tioga, and encamped in the forks of the river. On the 12th, a detachment was sent forward to Chemung, 12 miles distant, where they were attacked by a body of Indians and lost 7 men killed and wounded. The next day, having burned the town, they returned to Tioga. About a mile and a quarter above the junction of the Tioga and Susquehanna, these rivers approach each other to within a stone's throw. Here a fort was built, called Fort Sullivan, while the army lay, on what might almost be called the island below.

In this situation, Gen. Sullivan awaited the arrival of Gen. James Clinton. This officer, with the 1st and 3d New York regiments, passed up the Mohawk to Canajoharie, where he arrived early in the Spring. An expedition was sent out from there by Gen. Clinton, against the Onondaga Indians. The detachment consisted of six companies of New York troops, one of Pennsylvania, one of Massachusetts, and one of rifles, amounting in the whole to five hundred and four, rank and file. Col. Van Schaick of the first regiment of the New York line had the command, and was accompanied by Lieut. Col. Willet, and Major Cochran, of the 3d regiment. They rendezvoused at Fort Schuyler, and from thence began their march. The whole settlement of the Onondagas, consisting of about fifty houses, and a large quantity of grain, were destroyed. They took 37 prisoners, and killed between 20 and 30 warriors. About one hundred muskets were taken. On their return, they met a small party of Indians, who fired on them, but were soon driven back by the corps of riflemen under Lieut. Evans. They returned to Fort Schuyler in five days and a half from the time of their march from thence: the whole distance going and returning was one hundred and eighty miles.

<--Otsego Lake, east side.

Gen Clinton commenced opening a road from Canajoharie to the had of Otsego Lake, distant about 20 miles, and one of the principal sources of the eastern branch of the Susquehanna. This was effected with great labor; his boats were carried across on wagons. It was midsummer, before Gen. Clinton found himself with his army and baggage, at the head of the lake, upon which he had launched his boats. This is a beautiful little lake about nine miles long,and varies in breadth from one to three miles. Its elevation is 1193 feet, and it is almost surrounded by high land. The water is deep and clear, which is said to be the meaning of its Indian name. The scenery from many points is very picturesque and wild."Tall rocks and tufted knolls, their face
Could on the dark blue mirror trace."

And it has not been unaptly compared to the romantic lakes, for which Scotland is so much celebrated. At this time, save in one or two places, no mark of civilization was visible; and though "Each boatman bending to his oar, With measured sweep the burthen bore," they could not but gaze at times with delight, upon the natural beauties which surrounded them.

The outlet of this lake is narrow. Gen. Clinton, having passed his boats through, caused a dam to be thrown across. The lake was raised several feet. A party was sent forward to clear the river of drift wood; when ready to move, the dam was broken up, and the boats glided swiftly down with the current. (The word "Otsego" is said by some to be formed from the Indian term of salutation, "O Sago;" and a large rock is shown at the south end of this lake, near which, it is said, in early times, the Indians met in council, and when that term was frequently used--By others, it is said to mean "clear deep water;" which is at least a very appropriate meaning. At the south end of this lake is situated the beautiful and flourishing village of Cooperstown, over whose early history so much interest has been thrown by Mr. Cooper, in his tale of the Pioneers.)

The few scattered inhabitants along the river below fled, not being able to account for the rapid rise of the river. At Tioga, the water flowed back up the western branch.

On the 22d day of August, this division arrived at Tioga, and joined the main army. The whole force now under Gen. Sullivan, consisted of Gens. Hand, Clinton, Maxwell, and Poor's brigades of infantry, Proctor's artillery, and a corps of riflemen, in all between four and five thousand men.

On the 26th, this army, formidable indeed, if the numbers of the enemy be considered, moved from Tioga up the river of that name in excellent order. Their progress was necessarily slow, and every precaution was taken to guard against surprise. Large flanking parties were kept out on each side, and a corps of light troops was thrown forward.

On the 28, they destroyed the settlements and grain at Chemung, twelve miles distant from Tioga, and on the morning of the 29th, about 10 o'clock, fell in with the enemy near Newtown, and a short distance from the mouth of Butler's Creek. They were under the Butlers and Brant, and were in number about six hundred Indians, and tow hundred Tories. After some reconnoitering and skirmishing, the enemy retreated behind their breastwork, and made a spirited resistance. They were soon driven from their position by the artillery. In mean time, Gens. Clinton and Poor's brigades filed off to the right,and Gen. Hand's light troops to the left, to gain the enemy's rear, where the land was high. Had this been effected, the enemy could not have escaped; but the movement is said to have been discovered by Brant, who ordered an immediate retreat. Nine Indians were left dead upon the field; their wounded, they carried off. The Americans lost in killed three; thirty-four were wounded, among whom was Major Titcomb, Capt. Clayes, and Lieut M'Colley, the latter of whom died of his wounds. Two prisoners were taken, who gave information as to the force of the enemy.

This was the only stand made by the Indians. When it was first announced, that an army was marching into their country, the Indians laughed at their supposed folly, believing it impossible for a regular army to traverse the wilderness such a distance, and to drive them from their fastnesses.

The following is extracted from the manuscript Journal of an Officer:

Aug. 29. "This night encamped on the field of action.

30. Remained on the ground; large detachments sent off this morning to destroy the corn, beans &c. about this place, which was not half destroyed, This evening sent off our wounded, heavy artillery,and wagons, in boats, down the river to Tioga: these boats brought forward such stores as could not be laded on pack horses. This day put on half allowance.

31st. Decamped at 8 o'clock; marched over mountainous ground until we arrived at the forks of New town; there entered on a low bottom; crossed the Cayuga branch, and encamped on a pine plain--much good land about Newtown. Here we left the Tioga branch to our left.

Sept 1st. Decamped early in the morning; after marching about three miles, entered a swamp eight or nine miles across; roads very bad,and no pasture here. The army made a forced march,and arrived that night at dark in Catherine's Town. The cattle and most part of the pack horses, together with our brigade (Clinton's) lay that night in the swamp, without pack or baggage. From this town the enemy seemed to have made a very precipitate retreat.

2d. About 3 o'clock came up with the army at the town, and encamped.

3d. Destroyed it, together with the corn, beans, &c. and decamped at 8 o'clock in the morning; after marching three miles, fell in on the east side of the Seneca lake: this lake runs north and south about thirty-six miles in length, and between two and three miles across. At 2 o'clock passed Apple-tree Town, situated on the banks of the lake. This day marched eleven miles over high, though level ground, timbered chiefly with white oak, and encamped in the woods.

4th. Marched twelve miles from last encampment; passed several narrow defiles, and encamped in the woods beside the lake. This day and yesterday passed several cornfields and scattering houses, which we destroyed as we passed along. The Cayuga lake runs the same direction with this lake, and is about ten or twelve miles distant: land tolerably good.

5th. Decamped in the morning, and about 12 o'clock arrived at Kandaia, a fine town, lying about half a mile from the lake: here we found a great plenty of old apple-trees; it evidently appears to be an old inhabited town; their houses are large and elegant; some beautifully painted; their tombs likewise, , especially of their chief warriors, are beautifully painted boxes, which they build over the grave, of planks hewn out of timber.

6th. Decamped at noon,and marched about three miles, when we encamped on the edge of the lake. Land timbered with white and black oak, and very good, the ground naturally descending with an easy descent towards the lake.

7th. This day passed the north end or outlet of the lake, about one mile in length. The lake on our left, and a morass through which no one could pass on our right. Arrived at sundown at the northwest corner of the lake, where we destroyed a town and some corn, and proceeded on to Kanadaseago, the capital of the Senecas, where we arrived at 8 o'clock at night. This town lies on a level spot of ground about one mile and a half north from the lake, and consisted of about sixty houses, and great plenty of apple and peach trees. The enemy, in their retreat from this place, left a white child, about four years old, and some horses and cows, &c.

8th. The army employed this day in destroying the corn, beans, &c., at this place, of which there was a great quantity. The riflemen were detached this morning to destroy Kashanguash, about eight miles south. This morning a captain and 50 men detached to the garrison at Tioga with all the sick and lame, and such others as could not proceed with us to Chennessee.

9th. Marched nine miles.

10th. Decamped early in the morning, and about 2 o'clock, fell in with a small lake on our left, at the outlet of which lies the town Kanandagua, consisting of upwards of twenty houses, which we set fire to, and decamped. This town, from the appearance of the buildings, seems to have been inhabited by white people; some houses have very neat chimneys, which the Indians have not, but build a fire in the center, around which they gather.

11th. Decamped this morning earlier than usual, to reach the next settlement. Hanneyaye, where we arrived in season and encamped. The country from Kanadaseago, excepting this day, is exceedingly level, and soil very good; this day crossed several mountains, between which lie find rich valleys. This town lies at the head of a small lake, in a fine rich valley, consisting of 13 or 14 good houses, and neatly built. Here we likewise found great quantity of corn, beans, &c.

12th. Decamped this morning at eleven o'clock; detained by a heavy rain: marched over a rough country; passed another small lake, called Konnyoughejough, and arrived within two miles of Adjuton, and encamped in the woods. The sick, lame, and some stores were left with a detachment under the command of Capt. Cummings, who took post in one of the block houses.

13th. Decamped this morning at 5 o'clock; marched to the town, where we were employed in destroying the corn, &c. until noon; from this place Lieut. Boyd, of the rifle corps, was detached with fifteen or twenty men to reconnoiter the next town, seven miles distant. Killed and scalped two Indians in the town. On his return, found his retreat cut off, and surrounded by five or six hundred savages; defended himself until his men were all cut off but himself and one more, when he surrendered; whom we afterward found in the Chennessee castle, tortured in a most cruel manner." He was the first prisoner taken by the enemy, although they had used all their arts to obtain one, in order to learn the number and destination of the army. One of the party under. Lieut. Boyd, was Hanyerry, and Oneida Indian, who had distinguished himself in the Oriskany battle; he exhibited great courage, and being an excellent marksman, did great execution; his conduct had not passed unnoticed by the hostile Indians; and now, when in their power, he was literally hewn to pieces by them. Lieut. Boyd was taken before Col. Butler, and being examined, was, according to Col. Butler's statement, sent forward with a guard to Niagara; where, passing through Genesee village, an old Indian rushed out and tomahawked him.

"The same day, 13th encamped that night on Gathtsegwarohaare, where we found the enemy paraded before the town, and seemed determined to fight us. Clinton's brigade filed off to the right to gain the enemy's read, which could not be effected; but they retreated in a very precipitate manner.

14th. This morning the whole army paraded at gun-firing, which was half past three in the morning; lay on our arms until sunrise, expecting an attack from the enemy. At 6 o'clock detached large parties to destroy the corn about this place. At 10 the army passed a branch of the Chenessee river, and entered on the Chenessee Flatts." These flatts extended along the borders of the Genessee river, about twenty miles in length, and four in breadth, with a rich soil producing grass near then feet high. Scarcely a tree was to be seen over the whole extent. Modern curiosity and enterprise had not then rendered familiar the mighty valleys and prairies of the west; and officers, and soldiers, gazed alike with surprise and admiration upon this garden of our State. The army, as it emerged from the woods, and as company after company filed off and formed upon the plain, presented a highly animating, and imposing spectacle. "This river in a high freshet overflows most part of this extensive plain, as appears from several large trunks of trees scattered on the same. After fording the river, raised a considerable hill, timbered chiefly with white oak, and entered on another flatt on which stands the capital of the Chenessee, consisting of upwards of one hundred and twenty houses, and vast quantities of corn, beans pumpkins, potatoes, &c. Encamped this evening around the town.

15th. This morning the whole army paraded, at 6 o'clock, to destroy the corn, &c. about this place, which could be done no other way but by gathering the corn in the houses, and setting fire to them. Here we likewise found a great quantity of corn gathered in houses by the savages. At 3 o'clock in the afternoon we completed the destruction of this place; recrossed the Chemesse river,and encamped on the flatts about half a mile north of Gathtsegwarohare. This morning a woman, taken prisoner at Wyoming last year, came in to us at the Chenessee castle.

16th. This morning, after destroying the corn, &c. on the southeast corner of the flatts, recrossed the branch of the Chenessee river on logs: this river is about one dozen paces wide, with very high banks, and the current hardly perceivable. At ten o'clock, passed the last mentioned town, lying on the banks of this branch, and encamped this night at Adjuton.

17th. Decamped early in the morning, and arrived in good season at Hanneyaye, where we encamped this night; found our stores, &c. as we left them.

18th. Decamped, and left Hanneyaye with great difficulty; the horses left at this post having strayed so far from the village, and could not be found; consequently many packs would have been left on the ground, had not those officers entitled to ride dismounted, of which Gen. Sullivan was one. This day we met three Oneida Indians with dispatches for Gen. Sullivan. They informed us the city of New York was laid in ashes, and evacuated. Arrived at Kanandagua some time before night; passed the outlet of the lake, and encamped about one mile from the outlet. This town lies about a fourth of a mile from a small lake, I suppose of the same name.

19th. Decamped this morning early, proceeded on our way to Kanadaseago, where we encamped a little before sunset.

20th. Remained encamped until 2 o'clock, when we decamped and passed the outlet of the Seneca lake, and encamped about one mile from the outlet. This morning detached Col. Butler (Col. Zebulon Butler of Wyoming) with the rifle corps, and five hundred men, to the Cayuga lake to destroy the settlements there. Col. Gansevoort detached at the same time with one hundred men to Fort Schuyler.

21st. Decamped in the morning, passed Kandaia, and encamped about two miles above. This morning detached Lieut. Col. Dearborn, with two hundred men to destroy the corn and settlements along the south side of Cayuga lake.

22d. Decamped early in the morning, passed several defiles, and encamped within seven miles of Catherine's Town.

23d. Decamped and marched about four miles southeast of Catherine's Town, at the edge of the swamp, and encamped.

24th. Passed the swamp, so much dreaded for its badness, without any difficulty, and arrived at the forks of Newtown, where Capt. Reid, with a detachment of tow hundred men, had thrown up a breastwork to guard some stores and cattle brought forward from Tioga for the army in case of necessity. Saluted by thirteen rounds of cannon from the breastwork on our arrival, which number we returned from our artillery.

25th. This morning the small arms of the whole army were discharged; at 5 o'clock the whole were drawn up in one line, with a field piece on the right of each brigade, to fire a feu-de-joy; first, 13 rounds of cannon; second a running fire of musketry from right to left, which was repeated twice; five oxen were killed on this joyous occasion -- one delivered to each brigade, and one to the artillery and staff.

This was done in consequence of Spain declaring war against Great Britain.

26th. Remained encamped. Col. Dearborn's detachment arrived.

27th. Encamped.

28th. Col. Butler with his detachment arrived, having destroyed a vast quantity of corn, beans, apple trees, & c. on the east side of the Cayuga lake, and burnt three towns, among which was the capital of the Cayuga tribe. This day Colonels Cortland and Dayton detached with large detachments to destroy corn; the former taking his route up the Tioga branch, to which place he was detached the day before, and destroyed large fields of corn; and the latter taking his route downwards, and destroyed such as the army left undestroyed in going up.

29th. Decamped this morning at 8 o'clock; passed the Cayuga branch,and encamped at old Chemung, three miles below new Chemung. This day forded the Tioga twice.

30th. Decamped this morning, 7 o'clock; arrived at Fort Sullivan about 1 o'clock; saluted from the fort by 13 cannon, which number was returned from our artillery; after which we passed the fort,and encamped on our old ground in the forks of the river."

On the 3d of October the fort was demolished, and the army returned by way of Wyoming to Easton, where it arrived the 15th. The whole distance from Easton to the Genessee castle, by the route of the army, was two hundred and eighty miles. The loss of men sustained in his expedition, considering the fatigue and exposure, was very inconsiderable -- not more than forty in the whole were killed or died from sickness. It is noted in the journal, that on the 20th of September, Col. Gansevoort was detached with a party of one hundred men to Fort Schuyler. The following were Gen. Sullivan's instructions to him:


"You are to take command of a chosen party, draughted from the army, and proceed by the shortest route to the Mohawk castle, destroy it, and capture, if possible, all the Indians that may be there. The upper castle being inhabited by the Onheskas, you are to spare,and treat them as friends. Such necessary marks of civility and attention you will show them as may engage a continuance of their friendship, and give evidence to our pacific disposition towards them.

Whatever prisoners may fall into your hands, you are to proceed with to Albany, and collect the baggage of the several regiments from which your party were draughted, and proceed with all possible expedition to head quarters. You are by no means to leave any of the prisoners at Albany, unless particularly directed by Gen. Washington or Congress.

As your route will be through the Oneida country, you are to take particular care that your men do not offer the inhabitants the least insult; and if by accident any damage should be done, you are to make reparation, for which I shall stand accountable. From your zeal, activity, and prudence, I trust every precaution will be taken to execute these orders to the advantage and honor of the United State."

The following is Col. Gansevoort's account of the manner in which he had executed his commission.

"Agreeable to my orders, I proceeded by the shortest route to the lower Mohawk castle, passing through the Tuscarora and Oneida castles, where every mark of hospitality and friendship was shown the party. I had the pleasure to find, that not the least damage nor insult was offered any of the inhabitants.

"On the 25th, I arrived at Fort Schuyler, where, refreshing my party, I proceeded down the river, and on the 29th effectually surprised the lower Mohawk castle, making prisoners of every Indian inhabitant. -- They then occupied but four houses. I was preparing, agreeable to my orders, to destroy them, but was interrupted by the inhabitants of the frontiers, who have been lately driven from their settlements by the savages, praying that they might have liberty to enter into the Mohawks' houses, whilst they could procure other habitations; and well knowing those persons to have lately lost their al, humanity tempted me in this particular, to act in some degree contrary to orders, although I could not but be confident of your approbation; especially when you are informed, that this castle is in the heart of our settlements, and abounding with every necessary; so that it is remarked, that these Indians live much better than most of the Mohawk river farmers--their houses were very well furnished with all necessary household utensils, great plenty of grain, several horses, cows, and wagons; of all which I have an inventory, leaving them in the care of Major Newkirk, of that place, who distributed the refugees in the several houses. Such being the situation, I did not allow the party to plunder at all. The prisoners arrived at Albany, on the 2d inst. and were closely secured in the fort."

These prisoners, it is believed, were set at liberty, and restored to their possession, as would follow from the facts stated in the letter of Gen. Schuyler, President of the board of commissioners for Indian affairs.

"Dear Sir,

"Having perused Gen. Sullivan's orders to you respecting the Indians of the lower Mohawk castle and their property, I conceive they are founded on misinformation given to that gentleman; these Indians have peaceably remained there under the sanction of the public faith repeatedly given them by the commissioners of Indian affairs, on condition of peaceable demeanor; this contract they have not violated to our knowledge. It is there fore incumbent on us, as servants of the public, to keep the public faith inviolate; and we therefore entreat you to postpone the sending the Indians from hence until the pleasure of his excellency Gen. Washington can be obtained, and a letter is already dispatched to him on the occasion, and in which we have mentioned this application to you."

The country of the Onondagas, the Cayugas, and the Senecas, the three western tribes, was completely overrun and laid waste. To a person reading the foregoing journal, it may seem that too much severity was exercised in the burning of the Indians' towns, and that corn, &c. was wantonly destroyed: but it must be borne in mind, that this was not a bare retaliatory measure, though as such it might have been justified by the previous conduct of the Indians: their towns were their retreats,and from thence they made incursions into settlements: driven back to Niagara, and rendered dependent upon the English for supplies of provisions, they would necessarily be much crippled in their future operations. Though, as we shall see, this campaign did not put a stop to the ravages of the Indians, yet they never recovered from the severe chastisement which they received.

A part only of the Indians ever returned to their old settlements, from which they were driven; some of them obtained permission to locate in the extreme western part of the state; during the following winter, 1779-1780, they remained in and about Fort Niagara. Provision were scarce: those they received were salt, a kind to which the Indians were unaccustomed. They took the scurvy and died in great numbers. The winter was unusually cold, which increased the difficulties of their situation.

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