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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
OHIO was the first of those talismanic names which, dating back as early as 1750, in the days of Franklin and Washington, influenced the spread of the American population over the entire West. But the country so attractive to a civilized people was in possession of fierce savage tribes, who flitted through the wilderness like the genii of Arabic fable, acknowledging neither the laws of God, nor those of man. England was the first to teach to such of these western tribes as hovered around her colonies, the principles of industry, arts, and letters, and the incalculable advantages of the habits of civilization over barbarism. She was the first also, by the aid of her fleets and armies, to bring these savage hordes to effectual terms; and, adopting their own figurative style, to make them aware that the plow was superior to the tomahawk. She exercised a just supervision over a wide and exposed frontier, through the medium of lines of forts and agencies, and re-established, on better principles, the fur trade, that powerful stimulus to energetic action among the Indians, which has had a much greater influence on the early and middle ages of their history, than anything else. But, after effecting this object by a lavish expenditure of blood and treasure, and after having compelled the savages to acknowledge the British sway, this power would seem to have only been acquired by Britain, and strengthened, that it might be wielded against the Americans; for, after controlling this Indian influence during the brief period of fifteen years, it was directed against the colonies by the mother country, and
proved, if not one of the most potent, at least one of the most inhuman and cruel auxiliaries of a despotic government, in its efforts to coerce and crush a brave and liberty-loving people.
To ascertain the precise strength of this Indian force, had been an object with the British government after the conquest of Canada, and it also became a point of much moment to the colonies on the breaking out of the Revolution. The results of the efforts made by the British authorities to determine their numbers, have just been stated. The first reliable estimates obtained by the colonies, were made under the auspices of the War Department, while the government was located at Philadelphia. The elements of the following schedule are extant in the handwriting of Mr. Madison. 352
It is evident, from scanning these details, that access had been obtained to persons conversant with the locations and population of the Indian tribes. Compared to the wild general estimates of Bouquet, made in 1764, they present a schedule evincing judgment and a commendable approach to accuracy. If the strength of some tribes is overrated, others are correspondingly underrated, leaving the average of the Indian force that could, by any probability, be brought into the field, very near the true standard. The Sioux, for instance, might, with a much nearer approach to accuracy, have been rated at 10,000, but there was no probability that more than 500 warriors could, under the most favorable circumstances, have been brought into action. In fact, it is believed that not a man of that stock ever drew a bow against the Americans, unless it be possible that one or two stray warriors of their ethnological connection, the Winnebagoes, can be conjectured to have wandered to Wyoming, or Stanwix. The Iroquois Six Nations are enumerated as having 350 warriors less than they are rated in the estimate of Sir William Johnson, made in 1763, which probably a little more than underrates their actual decline in thirteen years, under the combined influence of trade and alcohol. The Chippewas are over-estimated at 5000 men, on a limited area, and without tracing their scattered bands over a very wide and remote field. The enumeration of the Menomonies, who occupied the present area of Wisconsin, is also, under any circumstances, in excess; but this very nomadic people were in the habit of hunting over an extended territory on the upper Mississippi, where they were accompanied by their intimate associates, the Sauks, who have no place in the estimate. The Foxes, the Kickapoos, and their allies, the Mascotins, the aggregate population of which three tribes is computed at 2950, in Johnson's tables, are also entirely left out in this estimate, so that what was overrated on the one hand, was, with a considerable approach to accuracy, counterbalanced on the other. Nor is it probable, as Mr.
Madison has stated, in a note attached to the estimate, 353 that his aggregate of 12,430 warriors was above the truth, or that this force was employed in the contest. It has been estimated that the number of fighting men employed by Great Britain during the war, was 770. 354
Congress, after its primary organization, placed the subject of the Indian intercourse in the hands of commissioners, under the direction of the Secretary of War. The trust was an arduous one, perpetually fluctuating in its aspects, and requiring great knowledge of the Indian character, as well as an accurate conception of the geographical features and natural resources of the country. It was evident, from the first, that the Six Nations would side with the mother country, from whom it was earnestly desired to detach them, and to persuade them to remain neuter in the contest. This was the policy prescribed by Washington, and was urged upon them by Mr. Samuel Kirkland, who resided among the Oneidas. He was charged personally by the President, to impress upon them the importance of pursuing a neutral line of policy; for then, no matter which party proved triumphant, the Indian interests would not receive injury; but if they were involved in the struggle, their interests would be likely to suffer. This reasoning prevailed with the Oneidas and Christian Indians under the energetic and popular chief, Skenandoah. A part of the Tuscaroras also sided with the Americans.
The ancient tribe of Mohicans of the Housatonic, whose history has been impressed upon popular memory by their long residence at Stockbridge, Mass., had been for a long period classed among the followers of the gospel; but, as the martial spirit of the era aroused all their warrior feelings, they enlisted themselves on the side of the colonies, and furnished an efficient company of spies and flankers for the American army. Directing the view to the west, there was but little encouragement in the prospect. The Delawares, who had finally abandoned central Pennsylvania, in 1749, influenced thereto partially by annoyance at the continued encroachments of the settlers, but more by fear of the Iroquois tomahawk, 355 were arrayed in opposition to the colonies.
The Shawnees, who claim a remote southern origin, appear to have divided in their primary emigration to the north; a part of the tribe pursuing the route within the range of the Alleghanies, to the territory of the Lenno Lenapi, or Delawares, directly north, and a part descending the Kenawha, to the Ohio valley, whence they ascended the Scioto river to Chillicothe, which became their western centre. Others located themselves a little below the influx of the Wabash, at a spot hence called Shawneetown.
There is a circumstance of much interest connected with the history of this tribe. According to the account of the Mohican chief, Metoxon, 356 that tribe was originally
connected with the Delawares, but being a restless and quarrelsome people, had involved themselves in inextricable troubles while in the south, and, in the chief's language, had returned to sit again between the feet of their grandfather.
Those of the tribe who had reached their closely ethnological affiliated relatives, the Delawares, had either preceded the latter, or accompanied them, across the Alleghanies.
That portion of the Senecas, and of other tribes of the Iroquois, who had emigrated west, or who possibly held a footing there from remote times, were called Mingoes. 357 They were regarded as generally taking part with the western Indians in their hostilities. When Washington visited their chief, Tanacharisson, at Logstown, in 1753, this sachem expressed himself as being friendly to the Virginians; and it is believed that this particular branch of them were not included among those who formed the ambuscade against General Braddock, three years subsequently.
Of the Chippewas, Ottowas, Mississagies, and other Algonquin nations, embraced in the preceding estimate, it is not known, or believed, that any of them were friendly to the American cause. They had been firm friends of the French, but, after the offence which has been mentioned, they transferred their allegiance to the British. It requires to be noticed, however, that, being more remote from the scene of conflict than any other tribe, if we except the Mississagies of Canada, there was only one point from which they might or could have been employed against the Americans, viz: from the central location of Fort Niagara, which was officially visited by the western tribes, even from Michilimackinac and Lake Superior. 358 Sir William Johnson died in 1774, about the time of the occurrence of the tea riot in Boston. The title and office descended to his son John, whose hall, at Johnstown, having been taken during the following year by the revolutionists, and himself placed on his parole, he fled to Canada, carrying with him the Mohawk tribe. Subsequently, Fort Niagara became the seat of the royal influence, where marauding, plundering, and
Chapter II. Unfriendly State of Feeling, and Erroneous Opinions of the Tribes, During the Contest.
THE 770 tomahawks, and the like number of scalping-knives, which, agreeably to the estimate, 360 the British Indians could wield, in this war with the colonies, were actively employed on the frontier settlers of New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. The savages were incited to greater activity in their bloody deeds by rewards paid for the scalps of the unfortunate victims, thus establishing a certain relation between dollars and blood. For a handful of energetic but undisciplined militia to oppose a powerful nation on the seaboard, possessing, as she did, every means of offence that ships and armies could furnish, was a great and hazardous undertaking; but to encounter the Indians at the same time, on the frontiers, required a skilful policy. There was a two-fold enemy to cope with. It had occupied England, with all her influence and political tact, backed by all her means, a period of fifteen years to wean the affections of the tribes from the French, and to attach them to the British crown. All this the colonies now attempted to undo. The Indians were told that the colonies had taken up the mace, and had begun to wield the sovereignty against the mother country; that it was a contest of son against father. By the British party, the Americans were represented as being weak in numbers, as well as impoverished in finances, and that their generals and leaders were destined to pay the forfeit of their rebellion on the gallows. The Indian, being no casuist, no statesman, no judge of the justice, or of the rights of nations, thought that the oldest, the strongest, and the wisest, should prevail; and, therefore, he resolved to fight on the side of Britain. Fifteen years had elapsed, after the fall of Canada, before the English were enabled to secure the friendship of the Indians, and to cement their interests: it was, consequently, impossible to effect a sudden rupture between them. They neither understood nor appreciated the principles involved in the contest, which was represented to them, by those whose interest it was to do so, as a family quarrel between a father and a son; and, so far as we can collate their expressed opinions, they contended that the father was in the right. But, whether in the right or wrong, they believed the British to be
the strongest, the most wealthy, and the most willing and able to benefit them. The Americans, it was urged, would be very likely to trench upon their rights by locating themselves upon their lands; though the Indians had need of but little for the purpose of cultivation, which they regarded as one of the heresies of civilization. They merely required the domain, that on it might be raised deer, bears, and beaver, which animals the migrations from the Atlantic shores, already beginning to cross the Alleghanies, would drive away. They lived on the flesh of these animals, and, by the sale of the skins and furs, they procured all else that was necessary to their subsistence. This was a popular strain, on which their speakers could dilate. They had frequently spoken to Warrahiagey on the subject, 361 and opposed the concessions of lands on the banks of the rivers flowing into the Atlantic, made to the colonists by the British governors. They asserted that these patented lands were theirs, and had never been sold. 362 It was an old theme, which had now been invested with renewed vitality.
The Indian mode of warfare gives them an advantage over mercenary troops, as their fierce and loud screams and whoops seem to presage immediate destruction. But this is a delusion; a hundred Indians, scattered through a forest, might, by their noise, be thought a thousand, such is the celerity of their movements, and the piercing shrillness of their screams and sassaguons. 363 To a people in the habit of making use of similes, they appear to partake of the character of the wolves of their own forest and prairie; for they not only intimidate by their howls, but, no matter who starts and wounds the animal, they all come in for a share of the spoils, and riot on the plunder of the weak, the exhausted, and the defenceless. Though they occasionally commit murder only for the purpose of securing success in an assault, yet they seem to gather rage in proportion as the prey is weak, when they rival their prototypes in wild cruelty, and in their appetite for blood. Such were their distinguishing traits at Ulster, at Oriskany, at Cherry Valley, and Wyoming.
To conciliate the tribes, therefore, became the cherished policy of the revolted Colonies. The Americans represented to them that they were not parties to the contest, and that, no matter who succeeded, they could only be subordinates. They were, therefore, counselled to neutrality, which, however, required a stretch of ratiocination beyond their ability. The Indian character is formed by war; war is the high path to honor and renown; and, even those tribes which had professed their belief in the truths of Christianity, could not be restrained, or but partially, from taking up the tomahawk.
The Mohicans, of Stockbridge, ranged themselves on the side of the Americans, and performed good service, as scouts, throughout the contest. The Oneidas did the same. The voice of the popular chief, Skenandoah, 364 was heard in favor of the rising colonies; and the watchful attention and quick eye of Attatea, known as Colonel Louis, carefully noted the approach of evil footsteps during the great struggle of 1777, and gave every
day the most reliable information of the march and position of the enemy. 365 The residue of the Six Nations acted the part of fierce foes along the frontiers. The Shawnees and Delawares were also cruel enemies. Their fealty to the British cause it was asserted, was further cemented by a promise, that their allies would stand by them, and never consent to a peace which did not make the Ohio river the boundary of the colonies.
Fortunately for the cause of humanity, the great battles of the Revolution were fought on the open plains and cultivated parts of the country, which, being denuded of forests, were unfavorable to the employment of Indian auxiliaries. The battles of Concord and Bunker Hill, Guilford, Long Island, White Plains, Saratoga, Monmouth, Trenton, Camden, King's Mountain, the Cowpens, Brandywine, Germantown, and Yorktown, were the great features of the conflict. But, wherever a detached column was marched through forests, or occupied an isolated fort, the war-cry resounded, and the details of the war give evidence that there were other and more dreaded enemies to be encountered than the sword and the bayonet, the cannon and the bomb.
The superior military skill and success of the Iroquois gave them a prominent position in Indian warfare. At the period of the Revolution, circumstances had placed them under the sway of the noted and energetic chief, Thyendanagea, more familiarly known as Joseph Brant. We have perused the speculations of an ingenuous and ready writer, 366 who labors to prove that Brant was, by the regular line of descent, a Mohawk chieftain. It is, however, undoubted, that he was not the son of a chief, and that, agreeably to the Iroquois laws of descent, he could not be a chief if the son of a chief, the right of inheritance being exclusively vested in the female line. 367 Brant was, in fact, a self-made man, owing his position to his own native energy, talents, and education. The Mohawks had lost their last and greatest sachem,
Brant's hatred of the Americans assimilated to that of Attila for the Romans.
Chapter III. Contests in Which the Indian Force was Engaged. Invasion of St. Leger, with the Combined Iroquois.
SIR WILLIAM JOHNSON died suddenly, from the effects of an attack of apoplexy, in the year 1774, at a time when reflecting minds deemed a speedy rupture between the colonies and the British crown inevitable. This gentleman had been forty years in rising to that position in Indian affairs which left him no rival or peer in America. During about twenty years of this period, he had been the official head of that department in America, so commissioned by the crown, and acknowledged by all the commanding generals. Intimately acquainted with the mental characteristics, the wants, the wishes, and the fears of the Indians, he had, as it were, with one hand wielded the power of government, in keeping them in order and subjection to the laws, and, with the other, exercised the duties of a Mentor, in teaching them how to promote their own best interests. No man, in the whole scope of our colonial history, can be at all compared to him. He had a presentiment of his death. 368 He disappeared from the scene of action at a critical period, when, to employ an Indian allegory, two thunder-clouds, black with anger, seemed rushing into conflict, leaving no one of sufficient capacity to cope with or control the storm. Great Britain had lavished on him the highest honors, and he was held in the highest respect by the Indians.
Those who have investigated the proceedings and the character of Sir John Johnson, of Guy Johnson, his deputy, of Colonel Claus, and of the various subordinates, who thenceforth controlled the direction of Indian affairs, have arrived at the conclusion, that this important interest was managed in a bad way, if their object was to serve the crown. The encouragement of murders and massacres was well calculated to arouse the deepest hostility of the colonists, and to cement them in the closest bonds of unity against the oppression of the British yoke. Numbers of persons, previously lukewarm in their cause, were driven to take an active part in the contest by deeds of blood and Indian atrocity. The several conferences, held in the office of the British Indian Department,
during the years '75 and '76, proved the incapacity of Sir William's successors to control great events. The Six Nations were, as a body, the friends of the British, and did not like to see their officials, in public councils, and by public letters to committees and corporations, palliating or denying acts which they had secretly approved, and had stimulated them to perform.
When, in the year 1776, Sir John's residence, at Johnstown, was surrounded and captured by the militia, under General Schuyler, the Highlanders disarmed, and himself liberated on parole, he manifested his lack of honorable principles by breaking his parole, and fleeing to Canada. Guy Johnson, the Deputy Superintendent, and his subordinates, tampered with the authorities, and became involved in inextricable difficulties, thereby evincing more confidence in the justice of the contest than sound discretion or devotion to the best interests of the Mohawks. The jarring elements of that period could not be pacified by duplicity, and Sir John fled with the Indians, first to Fort Stanwix, then to Oswego, and, finally, to Niagara, which became the active headquarters of the Indian superintendency, and the rendezvous for their marauding and
The colonial public was, at this time, in a furor of excitement, the people impelling their local governments to vigorous action. The error of the British government, from first to last, was its rigid adherence to the rights of sovereignty, conceding nothing itself, but demanding from the colonies the most unqualified submission. It was ready to forgive and pardon; but never to redress grievances while possessing the power to coerce. The policy adopted at St. James's palace, was carried out at Johnson Hall, and at every intermediate point; the British maxim being, that the weak must submit to the strong, and that might makes right. No sooner had the Mohawks, Tuscaroras, Onondagas, and Cayugas migrated to western New York with the fugitive Indian Department, and rallied, with the powerful Senecas, around their superintendent, in Fort Niagara, than efforts were made to induce the Iroquois to attack the border settlements. During a conference with the Indians at Oswego, Guy Johnson had excited them to take up the hatchet against the Americans, by inviting them to come and drink the blood of an American, and feast on his roasted body. This, although but an Indian figure of speech for an invitation to a feast of an ordinary character, furnished a formidable weapon to the Revolutionists, who construed its meaning literally, and represented that functionary as a monster of cruelty, in thus rousing these savages to action. 369
The first incursion of this kind was, the expedition of Colonel St. Leger against the inhabitants of the Mohawk valley. It is not our purpose to notice all the occurrences of a long and bloody war, extending through a period of seven years, in which the Indians were employed; or even to describe at length the principal events. The objects
of this rapid survey do not admit of it. But we may infer, from the circumstances previously mentioned, what was the character of the contest then impending.
The year 1777 has been made ever memorable by the expedition of General Burgoyne, whose coming was heralded by a threat to march through the country, and crush it at a blow. A fine and well-appointed army of 10,000 men, indeed, appeared to be sufficient to make the people quail; but it was accompanied by hordes of the long-separated, but now reconciled, Algonquins and Iroquois, who ranged over the country, not as auxiliaries on the field of battle, but to destroy the quiet of domestic life by their devastations, and to chill the heart's blood of the colonists by their atrocities. The fate of Miss Jane M'Crea may serve as an incident to illustrate the singular barbarity of this warfare, and its effects on the popular mind.
Simultaneously with the invasion of the north-eastern borders of New York by Burgoyne, St. Leger, accompanied by a compact body of regulars, a park of artillery, and a large number of Indians, under Sir John Johnson, entered it from the west. He left Oswego with a total force of 1700 men, Indians included; the latter consisting chiefly of Senecas, Tuscaroras, Mississagies, an Algonquin tribe, nearly identical with the Chippewas, from the northern end of Lake Ontario, and of fugitive Mohawks, from the Mohawk valley, under Thyendanagea, or Brant, who now began to take a more active part in the contest. In his youth he had been a pupil at Dr. Wheelock's school, was employed as an interpreter and translator at the missionary station at Fort Hunter, and also as an under-secretary at Johnson Hall. As the active and influential brother of the Indian wife of Sir William, he had been constantly rising in the esteem of his people, until he assumed the position of popular leader; he must thenceforth be considered as the hero of the Iroquois. He combined, with great personal activity and a fine manly figure, a good common education, undoubted bravery, and an intimate acquaintance with the manners and customs of civilization; and, what was of still more importance to his success, he possessed a thorough knowledge of the geographical features, and population of the Mohawk valley and its environs, together with a good idea of their power, disposition and resources. He was thus by no means a feeble enemy. Although lacking that comprehensive judgment which was necessary to form an estimate of the true character of the contest, and the unflinching nerve and decision requisite for the control of events, yet he was, after the death of Sir William, fully equal in these particulars to Sir John Johnson, and the other managers of British Indian affairs. But he possessed, in perfection, all the subtlety, subterfuge, art, and, when he grasped the tomahawk in active war, all the cruelty, of the forest savage.
St. Leger pursued his route up the Oswego river to the junction of the Seneca and Oneida, at Three River Point; thence up the Oneida river, through the lake of that name, along Wood Creek and across the portage, to Fort Stanwix, on the Mohawk.
As he progressed, his forces were augmented by the Cayugas and the Onondagas. Fort Stanwix was the only point at which there was any probability this invading force would be stopped; and this fortification was not only in a dilapidated condition, but was garrisoned by only 400 State troops, which force was subsequently increased to some 700. The enemy entertained no doubt that the fort would surrender at discretion, and, as the formal array deployed before the eyes of the garrison, column after column, with banners flashing in the sun, followed by battalions of light artillery, and hordes of Indians, the Americans experienced a feeling similar to that which moved David, when he laid aside his armor and stepped down into the valley to meet Goliath.
"The 3d of August was a day of deep scenic interest, and revealed a military pageant, which made a striking impression. It was a calm and beautiful morning when the enemy took up their line of march from Wood Creek. The intervening ground was an open plain of wide extent, most elevated towards its central and southern edge. Gansevoort's men were paraded on the ramparts looking in the direction whence the Oneida sachem had told them the enemy would appear. Music soon was heard; the scarlet color of their uniforms next showed itself. They had taken their standards from their cases that morning, and as color after color came into view, and they unfurled them to the breeze, an intense degree of interest was felt, but scarcely a word, uttered. To many of the men who had newly enlisted, the scene was novel. Some of them had served the year before under Montgomery; others in the movements at Ticonderoga and Crown Point under St. Clair. Some veterans dated their service in prior wars, under Sir William Johnson, Prideaux, and Bradstreet; there were others who were mere lads of seventeen. The Indians, spreading out on the flanks, gave the scene an air of Asiatic gorgeousness, mixed with terror; for their loud yells were heard above the British drum and bugle. The whole display, the exactitude of the order of march, the glitter of banners, the numbers present, and the impending danger of the contest, were designed for effect upon the American garrison. Not a gun was, however, fired; the panorama was gazed at in silence." 370
Never was an investment more complete. The artillery deployed on the south, and took up their position within cannon-shot. The Royal Greens and Loyalists, under Sir John, lined one bank of the Mohawk, the shores and woods being occupied by Brant and his myrmidons. Every avenue was watched by the Indians. Death was the penalty of every attempt to venture a distance of over 200 yards from the works. Many atrocities were committed by the Indians on officers, men, and even on children, who were captured outside the pickets. The sentinels soon became expert in watching for every cannon fired, and by a warning cry announced the coming of shot or shell. It became evident that the calibre of the enemy's guns was too light to make an
impression on the fort, but they made up in diligence what they lacked in power. Sometimes a shell exploded in the hospital, scattering destruction around; and occasionally a man was shot down on the ramparts, or on the esplanade. The garrison had not sufficient ammunition to return a brisk fire; but there was one thing they never lacked a heroic determination to defend the work at all hazards. The striped flag, which had been hastily made, partly out of a camblet cloak, 371 was duly hoisted and lowered every morning and evening, with the firing of the gun that marked the reveille and the close of day. There was not a heart that quailed; they well knew that, in addition to the ordinary casualties of war, if the garrison was taken, the Indians would perpetrate the most inhuman massacre. The fort was bravely defended by Colonel Gansevoort, with a corps of new recruits and militia, veterans, whose intrepidity, firmness, and military endurance had been previously tested.
Chapter IV. Ambuscade and Battle of Oriskany.
THE siege of Fort Stanwix had continued but three or four days, when an American scout entered it, with the intelligence that General Herkimer, at the head of an army of militia, was on his way to relieve it.
Consternation had paralyzed the inhabitants of the Mohawk valley while the danger was yet distant, but the peril seemed to diminish the moment it came near. A desire for security compelled men to take up arms. If Fort Stanwix fell, the Mohawk valley would be swept with fire and sword; and General Herkimer, who commanded the militia, issued his proclamation, summoning them to arms. Three regiments, the entire strength of the valley, promptly responding, followed that determined prototype of Blucher to Oriskany, which was distant but a few miles from the fort.
Brant, who figured as the leader of the Iroquois, had called into requisition all his local knowledge of the route, and all the peculiar art of the Indians in war, that he might decoy General Herkimer and his army into an ambuscade. The system of tactics pursued by the Indians is, not to engage in a battle in compact ranks, but to seek to screen themselves, either under the darkness of night, or through the intervention of forests; and if in this way a good assault can be made, their courage sometimes becomes equal to a contest in very open order, or even to a charge on the field of battle. 372 But, in this instance, the chief evidently only sought to serve on the flanks, and to fall on the Americans unawares, or at a disadvantage. Such is the Indian idea of military triumph. General Herkimer reached the valley of the Oriskany, August 6, at ten o'clock in the morning. The crossing at this stream was surrounded by low grounds, traversed by a causeway, and beyond it were elevated plateaus, covered with forests, which overlooked it. The Americans saw nothing to excite suspicion. Herkimer had entered this pass, and two regiments had descended into the valley, but his vanguard
had not reached the opposite elevation, when a heavy fire was suddenly poured in from all sides, accompanied by horrid yells, and the pass in his rear was immediately closed by the enemy. He was completely entrapped in an ambuscade, and for a few moments there was nothing but confusion and panic; the men fell thickly, and the army was threatened with utter annihilation; but they flew to the encounter like tigers; patriot and tory grappled with each other in deadly struggle. The dark eye of the Indian flashed with delight at the prospect of revelling in human blood, and the tory sought to immolate his late neighbor, who had espoused the hated cause of the Revolution. General Herkimer was wounded, and fell from his horse early in the action; a ball had pierced his leg below the knee, and killed his horse under him. His men were falling thickly around him; Colonel Cox was killed, and the yells of the savages resounded in every direction; but yet the firmness and composure of the General were undisturbed. His saddle was placed near a tree, and he was seated on it, his back being supported by the tree. Here he issued his orders; and drawing from his pocket his tobacco-box, and lighting his pipe, he smoked calmly while the battle raged around. After some forty-five minutes had elapsed, the men began to fight in small circles a movement worthy of notice, since it was the only mode of contending successfully with the surrounding enemy. From this time, the Americans gained ground. A slight cessation in the firing was taken advantage of by the enemy, who ordered a charge. Bayonets were crossed, and a desperate struggle ensued, which was arrested by a sudden and heavy shower of rain, which fell in a massive sheet during one entire hour. The combatants were thus separated. Herkimer's men then, under his direction, chose a more advantageous position, and formed in a large circle. They were, from the first, as expert as the Indians in firing from behind trees; but the latter, as soon as they saw the smoke of the discharge, ran up and tomahawked the soldier before he could reload. The Americans then placed two men behind each tree, and after one fired, the other was ready to shoot down the advancing savage. The fire of the militia becoming more effective, the enemy began to give way, when Major Watts came on the ground, with another detachment of the Royal Greens, chiefly composed of fugitive tories, and the fight was renewed with greater vigor than before. The contending parties sprang at each other from the lines with the fury of enraged tigers, charging with bayonets, and striking at each other with clubbed muskets.
A diversion was now made which became the turning point in the contest. One of Herkimer's scouts having reached the fort with the news of his position, its commander immediately resolved to make a sally for the relief of the army. The troops were paraded in a square, and the intelligence communicated to them. Colonel Willett then descended to the esplanade and addressed the men in a patriotic manner, concluding with the words: "As many of you as feel willing to follow me in an attack, and are not afraid to die for liberty, will shoulder your arms, and step out ONE PACE in
front." 373 Two hundred men volunteered almost at the same moment; and fifty more, with a three-pounder, were soon after added to the force. The rain storm, which came up suddenly, hindered their immediate march, but as soon as it ceased they issued from the sally-port at a brisk pace, and, rushing down upon the camp of Sir John, carried it at the point of the bayonet, drove the enemy through the Mohawk, and captured all their camp equipage and public stores, at the same time killing a large number. Colonel Willett then turned his arms against the Mohawk camp, and swept through it. The sound of this rapid and severe firing arrested the attention of the belligerants, after the cessation of the rain. By a change of caps with a company of men, whose dress in this respect resembled that of the Americans, Major Watts attempted to palm off on the patriots a detachment of his troops as an American reinforcement; but the subterfuge being quickly discovered, the fight was resumed with bitter enmity. The Indian exclamation of Oonah! was at length heard, and the enemy retired, leaving Herkimer in possession of the field. Those who have most minutely described this battle, relate instances of personal heroism which would not disgrace the Iliad. 374
The Indians, who had suffered severely, fought with great desperation. One hundred of their number lay dead, thirty-six of whom, comprising several chiefs, were Senecas, 375 who had been present in the greatest numbers. The fighting had become desultory, when suddenly the Senecas, who feared the arrival of American reinforcements, shouted their word for retreat, and commenced to move off, followed by the loyalists; whilst the reviving shouts, and more spirited firing of Herkimer's men, resounded in every direction. Thus ended one of the most severely-contested battles of the Revolution. It was, in reality, a victory for the Americans, and not a defeat, as it has been usually called, for they were left in undisputed possession of the field, which was not visited again by the enemy, either white or red. The victors constructed forty or fifty litters, on which they conveyed the wounded to their homes. Among the number was General Herkimer, who reached in safety his own house, where he died, about ten days after the battle, from the result of an unskilful amputation of his leg.
Chapter V. Termination of the Siege of Fort Stanwix.
THE siege of Fort Stanwix was prosecuted during sixteen days after the 1777 battle of Oriskany. There appearing to be no further prospect of relief from the militia, it was resolved to send information of the condition of the fortress to the commandant of the army at Saratoga. Colonel Willet volunteered, with a single companion, to undertake this perilous duty. Creeping through the closely-guarded Indian lines, at night, he picked his way through woods and unfrequented paths to Fort Dayton (now Herkimer), whence he proceeded to Saratoga. General Schuyler immediately ordered Arnold, with a detachment of 900 men, and two pieces of artillery, to march to its relief. But before this force reached its destination, an apparently trivial circumstance caused St. Leger to break up his encampment, and suddenly retreat. Among a company of tories who had been captured, one night, in an unlawful assembly at Little Falls, was one Hon Yost, a Mohawk half-breed, who had, with others, including the noted Butler, been condemned to death by a court-martial. When Arnold arrived at Fort Dayton, the mother of this man, who was a simpleton, but on this account regarded with more favor by the Indians, besought him, with piteous supplications, to avert his doom. Arnold was at first inexorable; but eventually said, that if Hon Yost would, in glowing terms, announce his approach, in St. Leger's camp before Fort Stanwix, he would grant him a reprieve from the gallows. The event proved Arnold's sagacity. Hon Yost represented to St. Leger that he had narrowly escaped, and had been hotly pursued; in proof of which assertion he exhibited his coat, that he had hung up, fired at, and perforated with bullet-holes. He exaggerated the force of Arnold's detachment in every particular, and, as he spoke Mohawk fluently, he advised the whole Indian force to fly instantly. A perfect panic prevailed. The morning after his arrival, which was the 22d of August, the men on the ramparts of the fort beheld, with surprise, a sudden movement in the enemy's camp. Not only were the Indians in full retreat, but also St. Leger, Sir John Johnson, and Brant, with all their host of Indians and tories. The tents were left standing, and the whole train of artillery, including the mortars, was abandoned. The following day General Arnold marched into the fort, with General Larned of the Massachusetts line, and was
received with salutes and huzzas. During twenty-one days had the siege been closely maintained, and as closely contested. The firmness and endurance of the garrison excited admiration throughout the country, and imparted new spirits to the friends of the Revolution, who had been so recently depressed by Burgoyne's invasion. It was the first of a series of victories, beginning in the most gloomy period of the contest, the year 1777. When the smoke of the Revolution cleared away, and memory reverted back to the times that tried men's souls, the site of this fort was named, and has since been called, ROME, 376 in allusion to the bravery of its defence.
This triumph was followed, in October, by the surrender of Burgoyne. Early the following year, on the 6th of February, France joined the colonies, entering into a treaty of amity, commerce, and alliance with them, and, from this moment, the success of the patriots was no longer problematical.
Chapter VI. Policy of Employing the Indians in War.
No contest which occurred during the struggle of the Revolution, was of so much importance to a wide extent of country, as that of Fort Stanwix, in which the Indians were relied on by the British as auxiliaries, and possessed in reality so much power to control the result. It is doubtful if, of the 1700 men, announced at Oswego as comprising the besieging force, more than 1000 were regular troops. Of these, the royalists, commanded by Sir John Johnson, formed one regiment; while the Senecas, the Mississagies, from the northern shores of Lake Ontario, the fugitive Mohawks, under Brant, and the Cayugas and Onondagas, should not be estimated at less than 700 warriors. A patriot, present at that siege, who was likewise a close observer on the frontiers throughout the war, has asserted that, in rancor and cruelty, a rabid royalist was equal to two ordinary Indians; for, while he was actuated by the same general spirit of revenge, he possessed an intimate knowledge of neighborhoods and families, which he attacked in the assumed guise of a savage.
The policy of employing savages at all in war, admits of no defence. The act of
It is not designed to enter into a minute detail of the occasions, other than the one just described, when the Indians were employed, either as flankers of their armies, in separate expeditions, or, as the accompaniment of a small nucleus of British or royalist provincial troops.
From the beginning of the contest, Congress had made strenuous efforts to persuade
the Indian tribes to remain neutral. Commissioners were entrusted with the management of Indian affairs in the North and South. Active and influential men were delegated to visit the savages in their own country, and instructed to reason with them on the subject. These visits were repeated in the years SEVENTY-FIVE, SEVENTY-SIX, and SEVENTY-SEVEN, with what partial effects has been seen; the Oneidas and their guests and allies, the Tuscaroras and Mohicans, who had long previously acknowledged the good results of Christian teaching, being the only tribes which acquiesced. There was some reason to expect that the Shawnees and Delawares would preserve a neutral position; the object was not one to be relinquished, so long as a hope of success remained. The defeat the Indians had suffered at Fort Stanwix, appeared to open the way for another formal conciliatory effort. With this view, on the 3d of December, 379 the Committee on Indian Affairs reported the following address, which, while couched in terms suited to the comprehension of the Indians, at the same time, appeals to their ancient pride and best interests, reviewing the grounds of controversy between the two powers; and presenting, in a proper light, the principles by which they should be guided:
"BROTHERS OF THE SIX NATIONS: The great council of the United States now call for your attention. Open your ears that you may hear, and your hearts that you may understand.
"When the people on the other side of the great water, without any cause, sought our destruction, and sent over their ships and their warriors to fight against us, and to take away our possessions, you might reasonably have expected us to ask for your assistance. If we are enslaved, you cannot be free. For our strength is greater than yours. If they would not spare their brothers, of the same flesh and blood, would they spare you? If they burn our houses, and ravage our lands, could yours be secure?
"But we acted on very different principles. Far from desiring you to hazard your lives in our quarrel, we advised you to remain still in ease, and at peace. We even entreated you to remain neuter: and, under the shade of your trees, and by the side of your streams, to smoke your pipe in safety and contentment. Though pressed by our enemies, and when their ships obstructed our supplies of arms, and powder, and clothing, we were not unmindful of your wants. Of what was necessary for our own use, we cheerfully spared you a part. More we should have done, had it been in our power.
"CAYUGAS, SENECAS, TUSCARORAS, AND MOHAWKS: Open your ears and hear our complaints. Why have you listened to the voice of our enemies? Why have you suffered Sir John Johnson and Butler to mislead you? Why have you assisted General St. Leger and his warriors from the other side of the great waters, by giving them a free passage through your country to annoy us; which both you and we solemnly
promised should not be defiled with blood? Why have you suffered so many of your nations to join them in their cruel purpose? Is this a suitable return for our love and kindness, or did you suspect that we were too weak or too cowardly to defend our country, and join our enemies that you might come in for a share of the plunder? What has been gained by this unprovoked treachery? what but shame and disgrace! Your foolish warriors and their new allies have been defeated and driven back in every quarter; and many of them justly paid the price of their rashness with their lives. Sorry are we to find that our ancient chain of union, heretofore so strong and bright, should be broken by such poor and weak instruments as Sir John Johnson and Butler, who dare not show their faces among their countrymen; and by St. Leger, a stranger, whom you never knew! What has become of the spirit, the wisdom, and the justice of your nations? Is it possible that you should barter away your ancient glory, and break through the most solemn treaties for a few blankets, or a little rurn or powder? That trifles such as these should prove any temptation to you to cut down the strong tree of friendship, by our common ancestors planted in the deep bowels of the earth, at Onondaga, your central council-fire! That tree which has been watered and nourished by their children until the branches had almost reached the skies! As well might we have expected that the mole should overturn the vast mountains of the Alleghany, or that the birds of the air should drink up the waters of Ontario!
"CAYUGAS, SENECAS, ONONDAGAS, AND MOHAWKS: Look into your hearts, and be attentive. Much are you to blame, and greatly have you wronged us. Be wise in time. Be sorry, and mend your faults. The great council, though the blood of our friends, who fell by your tomahawks at the German Flatts, cries aloud against you, will yet be patient. We do not desire to destroy you. Long have we been at peace; and it is still our wish to bury the hatchet, and wipe away the blood which some of you have so unjustly shed. Till time should be no more, we wish to smoke with you the calumet of friendship around your central fire at Onondaga. But, Brothers, mark well what we now tell you. Let it sink deep as the bottom of the sea, and never be forgotten by you or your children. If ever again you take up the hatchet to strike us if you join our enemies in battle or council if you give them intelligence, or encourage or permit them to pass through your country, to molest or hurt any of our people we shall look on you as our enemies, and treat you as the worst of enemies, who, under a cloak of friendship, cover your bad designs, and, like the concealed adder, only wait for an opportunity to wound us when we are most unprepared.
"BROTHERS: Believe us who never deceive. If, after all our good counsel, and all our care to prevent it, we must take up the hatchet, the blood to be shed will lie heavy on your heads. The hand of the thirteen United States is not short. It will reach to the farthest extent of the country of the Six Nations; and, while we have right on our side, the good Spirit, whom we serve, will enable us to punish you, and put it out of your power to do us farther mischief.
"ONEIDAS AND TUSCARORAS: Hearken to what we have to say to you in particular. It rejoices our hearts that we have no reason to reproach you in common with the rest of the Six Nations. We have experienced your love, strong as the oak, and your fidelity, unchangeable as truth. You have kept fast hold of the ancient covenant chain, and preserved it free from rust and decay, and bright as silver. Like brave men, for glory you despised danger; you stood forth in the cause of your friends, and ventured your lives in our battles. While the sun and moon continue to give light to the world, we shall love and respect you. As our trusty friends, we shall protect you, and shall, at all times, consider your welfare as our own.
"BROTHERS OF THE SIX NATIONS: Open your ears, and listen attentively. It is long ago that we explained to you our quarrel with the people on the other side of the great water. Remember that our cause is just; you and your forefathers have long seen us allied to those people in friendship. By our labor and industry, they flourished like the trees of the forest, and became exceedingly rich and proud. At length, nothing would satisfy them, unless, like slaves, we would give them the power over our whole substance. Because we would not yield to such shameful bondage, they took up the hatchet. You have seen them covering our coasts with their ships, and a part of our country with their warriors; but you have not seen us dismayed; on the contrary, you know that we have stood firm, like rocks, and fought like men who deserved to be free. You know that we have defeated St. Leger, and conquered Burgoyne and all their warriors. Our chief men and our warriors are now fighting against the rest of our enemies, and we trust that the Great Spirit will soon put them in our power, or enable us to drive them all far beyond the great waters.
"BROTHERS: Believe us, that they feel their own weakness, and that they are unable to subdue the thirteen United States. Else, why have they not left our Indian brethren in peace, as they first promised and we wished to have done? Why have they endeavored, by cunning speeches, by falsehood and misrepresentations, by strong drink and presents, to embitter the minds and darken the understandings of all our Indian friends on this great continent, from the north to the south, and to engage them to take up the hatchet against us without any provocation? The Cherokees, like some of you, were prevailed upon to strike our people. We carried the war into their country, and fought them. They saw their error, they repented, and we forgave them. The United States are kind and merciful, and wish for peace with all the world. We have, therefore, renewed our ancient covenant chain with their nation.
"BROTHERS: The Shawanese and Delawares give us daily proofs of their good disposition and their attachment to us, and are ready to assist us against all our enemies. The Chickasaws are among the number of our faithful friends. And the Choctaws, though remote from us, have refused to listen to the persuasions of our enemies, rejected all their offers of corruption, and continue peaceable. The Creeks are also our steady friends. Oboylaco, their great chief, and the rest of their sachems and
warriors, as the strongest mark of their sincere friendship, have presented the great council with an emblem of peace. They have desired that these tokens might be shown to the Six Nations and their allies, to convince them that the Creeks are at peace with the United States. We have therefore directed our commissioners to deliver them into your hands. Let them be seen by all the nations in your alliance, and preserved in your central council-house at Onondaga.
"BROTHERS OF THE SIX NATIONS: Hearken to our counsel. Let us who are born on the same great continent love one another. Our interest is the same, and we ought to be one people, always ready to assist and serve each other. What are the people who belong to the other side of the great waters to either of us? They never come here for our sakes, but to gratify their own pride and avarice. Their business now is to kill and destroy our inhabitants, to lay waste our houses and farms. The day, we trust, will soon arrive, when we shall be rid of them forever. Now is the time to hasten and secure this happy event. Let us, then, from this moment, join hand and heart in the defence of our common country. Let us rise as one man, and drive away our cruel oppressors. Henceforward let none be able to separate us. If any of our people injure you, acquaint us of it, and you may depend upon full satisfaction. If any of yours hurt us, be you ready to repair the wrong or punish the aggressor. Above all, shut your ears against liars and deceivers, who, like false meteors, strive to lead you astray, and to set us at variance. Believe no evil of us till you have taken pains to discover the truth. Our council-fire always burns clear and bright in Pennsylvania. 380 Our commissioners and agents are near your country. We shall not be blinded by false reports or false appearances." 381
This overture produced no change in the policy of the Indians; in public councils, as well as in private, their ears were filled with reasonings and persuasions of a very different character. Ever judging from mere appearances, and from what was tangible and visible, they were impressed with the power, means, and ability of the British Government to subdue the colonies. They contrasted their resources with those of the Thirteen States, struggling, as it were, in the grasp of a giant; and from that comparison, drew the conclusion that, however courageous and resolute the colonists were in battle, they were few in numbers, and lacking in means. It being a cardinal principle with the Indians to adhere to the strongest party, they remained unmoved by arguments which they hardly understood, and refused to believe.
Chapter VII. Progress of the Revoloution, as Affected by the Aboriginal Tribes. Massacres of Wyonming, Cherry Valley, and Ulster.
IT does not coincide with the plan of the present work, to describe in detail the scenes of Indian outrage and massacre which marked the Revolutionary contest; the object being, to present a condensation of facts. The character of the Indians did not appear in any new light; as the war advanced, they swept over the country like a pestilence; frequently, like infuriated tigers, springing across the borders, and spreading death and devastation where domestic happiness had previously reigned. Any hope that might have been entertained of mollifying their hatred, proved to be a delusion. The Iroquois, who were the principal actors in this murderous warfare, were, in nearly every instance, led on by their hero chieftain, Brant. Sometimes, however, parties of the various tribes of Algonquin lineage, from the West, were in the practice of visiting the then temporary headquarters of the British Indian Department at Fort Niagara. At this place, most of the war-parties were formed, supplied, and equipped. Thither they also returned to report their success; bringing their prisoners with them, to pass through the terrible ordeal of the gauntlet; and there, likewise, they received the rewards for the scalps they had taken.
It was at Niagara that the plan of the incursion into the Valley of Wyoming originated. Towards the close of June, 382 Colonel John Butler, the commanding officer of that post, ordered 300 men, principally loyalists, to set out on an expedition to the Susquehanna, accompanied by a body of about 500 Indians, of diverse tribes. Arriving at Tioga point, they embarked in floats, or on rafts, and reached the scene of conflict on the first day of July. After much countermarching and manoeuvring, they succeeded in surrounding and defeating a body of 400 militia, of whom only 60 escaped the rifle, the tomahawk, and the scalping-knife. The following day, this marauding force appeared before Fort Wyoming, then containing only a small garrison, but crowded with fugitive women and children. The American commandant agreed to the prescribed terms of a capitulation; but, either because he could not, or did not, comply with them,
they were basely violated. It was then believed, and it has since been frequently asserted, that Brant led the Indians on this occasion; but it is doubtful whether he was actually present, though he probably approved of the movement, if he was not the original instigator of it. 383 This chief was known to cherish such a deadly hatred of the revolutionists, and had been so frequently connected with the incursions, and midnight massacres perpetrated on the frontiers, that, in the popular estimation, no injustice has been done to his bad reputation, in the use which has been made of his name by the poet, Campbell. 384 A melancholy catalogue, indeed, would be a detail of the enterprises in which Brant was the leader and principal actor. Though the voice of cotemporary history might be stifled, regarding his conduct as the leader of the massacre in Cherry Valley, yet his sanguinary attacks upon Saratoga, German Flatts, Unadilla, and Schoharie, as well as the murder of the wounded Colonel Wisner, 385 and the inhuman butchery of the wounded at Ulster, will, during all future time, serve to prove that he hovered around the frontiers of New York and Pennsylvania, like the genius of Evil, with the enraged Acwinoshioni 386 in his train. If the responsibility for acts committed depends upon the cultivated moral perceptions of the individual, then the great partisan Mohawk will have much more to answer for than his kindred generally, as he not only received a scholastic and religious education, but was for a long time domiciliated in the family of Sir William Johnson, in which he officiated as an assistant-secretary, 387 and there became familiar with the maxims and usages of refined society in the colonies.
Chapter VIII. Congress Authorizes Movements to Check the Hostility of the Western Indians.
ALTHOUGH the Iroquois formed, as it were, the "tenth legion," of the hostile Indians employed in the war, yet the western savages had, from the beginning, evinced their hostility, and were implicated, to a greater or less extent, in the contest against the colonies. This was more especially the position of the important tribes of the Delawares and Shawnees, then occupying the present area of the State of Ohio. These tribes had originally emigrated west of the Alleghanies with embittered feelings against the English colonists generally. They had accepted the treaty of peace offered them, in rather a vaunting spirit, by Colonel Bradstreet, on Lake Erie, in 1764; but subsequently renewed their hostile inroads, and, in the autumn of the same year, on the banks of the Muskingum, again submitted to the army under Colonel Bouquet, delivering up, as a test of their sincerity, a very large number of prisoners, men, women, and children. 388
The Delawares had not held a definite political position for a long period, even from the middle of the eighteenth century. They were supposed to be in league with the French, and it was an erroneous policy in Count Zinzendorf and the Moravian Brethren, not to set the colonies right on this subject, laboring, as they did, from their advent in 1740, for the benefit of the Delawares, and knowing that there was a suspicion resting on them of being favorable to the French interests. This was the cause of the expulsion of this tribe from Chicomico, in southern New York, in 1744, 389 and of their removal to the Susquehanna. It was likewise the occasion of their ultimate flight westward to the banks of the Muskingum, and of the unfortunate massacre of their people at Gnadenhutten. But though the proclivities of the Delawares were uncertain, those of the Shawnees were not; they assumed an openly hostile attitude. The latter tribe had, at an early period, been inimical to the English colonies; but, being vanquished, they had transferred their hatred to the Americans the moment the revolutionary contest commenced. In 1755, 390 they were the most bitter assailants of Braddock; in
1758, 391 they massacred the garrison of Sybert's fort on the Potomac; they had, from the year 1763, most strenuously opposed the settlement of Kentucky; they had, in 1764, taken the most prominent part in resisting the expedition of Lord Dunmore; and, according to the best local authorities, 392 between the years 1770 and 1779, the activity and bitter hostility of this celebrated tribe converted the left banks of the Ohio, along the borders of Pennsylvania and Virginia, into an aceldema. Brave and dauntless, but vacillating, their ruling passion was a love of war, blood, and plunder. Tradition affirms that, in ancient times, they had fought their way from Florida to Lake Erie, and desperately did they oppose the advance of the Anglo-Saxon race into the Ohio valley. Their central location was at Chillicothe, on the Scioto river which appears to have been, from a period long antecedent, a metropolis of Indian power. Their influence controlled the entire valley, and they lived on strict terms of amity with the Delawares, the Mingoes, or Ohio Iroquois, the Hurons, Ottowas, Chippewas, and Miamies.
The Ohio valley, with its beautiful scenery, its genial climate, and its exuberant fertility, had been, from its earliest discovery, a subject of contention between the Indians and the white race. Red men had, originally, fought for it, as is proved by its antiquities, and the whites succeeded to the controversy. The feet of Washington trod its soil as early as 1753, when the charter of George II. was granted for its occupancy. Although the primary object of its exploration, and of the commissioners and armies which crossed the Alleghanies, and entered its borders, was the furtherance of governmental policy, yet it is very evident that there were aboriginal minds of sufficient penetration to foresee, that the acquisition of the territory, and the spread of the arts and commerce of civilized life, were the ultimate ends in view. This may readily be perceived in the harangues of Pontiac to the tribes of the north-west, in the year 1763; of Tenuskund, at Wyoming, and of Buckangaheela, at Kaskaskia. Every movement of the whites towards the west was regarded, by thinking Indian minds, as having the same object in view.
Prior to the expedition of M'Intosh, a friendly Delaware chief, Koquathaheelon, or White Eyes, had used his influence to prevent the tribes from raising the hatchet; but an opposite influence was exercised by Captain Pipe, and the nation became divided. Such was the state of affairs among the Delawares, in the spring of 1778. About this time, three noted loyalists, M'Kee, Elliot, and Girty, fled from Fort Pitt to the Delawares, and used their utmost efforts against the American cause. Captain Pipe was so much influenced by their counsel, that, in a large assemblage of warriors, he concluded a harangue by declaring "every one an enemy who refused to fight the Americans, and that all such ought to be put to death." Koquathaheelon boldly opposed him, denounced the policy, and sent a formal message to the Scioto, warning the Indians
against the counsels of the fugitives, Girty and M'Kee. This, for a while, had the effect of keeping the Delawares neutral; but the tribe finally decided to raise the hatchet against the struggling colonies.
Both the Delawares and Shawnees were greatly influenced in their councils by the Wyandots of Sandusky, a reflective, clear-minded people, who had once been at the head of the Iroquois, while that nation resided on the Kanawaga, 393 and still held a kind of umpirage in western Indian councils. It was against the local residence of this tribe, at Sandusky, that General M'Intosh was directed to proceed. He had, during the spring, with a small force of regulars and militia, descended the Ohio, from Fort Pitt to the Beaver river, where he erected, on a commanding position, a fort called M'Intosh. It intercepted Indians ascending or descending the Ohio, as well as interior marauding parties, who reached the river at this point. The force assigned him for the expedition against Sandusky was 1000 men. But, such were the delays in organizing it, and in marching through a wilderness to the Tuscarawas, that, after reaching its banks, he there constructed a fort, called Laurens, and, garrisoning it, returned to Fort Pitt.
Chapter IX. Virginia Sends an Expedition Against the Western Indians, and Conquers Southern Illinois.
THE erection of Forts M'Intosh and Laurens, on the banks of the Beaver and the Tuscarawas rivers, demonstrated to the Indians that they would be held accountable for their actions. But a more important military movement, one which has had a permanent and predominant influence on the history of the West, was originated in the year 1778. Western Virginia having suffered dreadfully from the inroads of the Shawnees, Delawares, and Mingoes, General George Rogers Clarke was commissioned by the State authorities to invade the country of the Illinois. His enterprise, courage, and tact, would not have been derogatory to a Hannibal. He descended the western slope of the Alleghanies by the River Kenawha, which was his point of rendezvous, with a force not exceeding 200 men. The fort, at this point, was then invested by Indians, whom he successfully routed, with the loss of only one man. His next object of attack was Kaskaskia, from which he was separated by a wilderness of 1000 miles in extent. But he had a force of picked men, whom no lack of means could discourage, and whose heroic ardor no opposition of natural impediments could dampen. Descending the Ohio to its falls, he erected a small fort on Corn Island, in their vicinity, which he garrisoned with a few men, and then continued his course down the river to within sixty miles of its mouth, where he landed his men, and, with only four days' provisions, commenced his march across the wilderness to the Illinois country. He was six days in reaching Kaskaskia, during two of which his little army was destitute of provisions. Reaching the town at midnight, and finding the garrison and inhabitants asleep, he carried it by surprise, taking the commandant, Rocheblave, prisoner, whom he immediately sent under guard to Richmond, together with important letters and papers, implicating persons in power. The fort was found to be sufficiently strong to have been defended against a force of one thousand men. The following day, finding horses in the vicinity, General Clarke mounted about thirty of his men, under Captain Bowman, and sent them against the upper towns on the banks of the Mississippi. They took possession of the French towns and villages, as high up as Cahokia; and, in the course of three days thereafter, no less than 300 of the French inhabitants took the oath of allegiance to the American government. Leaving a
garrison at Kaskaskia, General Clarke then proceeded across the country to Vincennes, on the Wabash, which he also surprised and captured. This post was in the heart of the Miami country, which had been the seat of French trade, and had, according to Mr. Law, 394 been established as a mission in 1710. Its importance was so much felt by Governor Hamilton, of Detroit, that he suddenly mustered a force, and recaptured the place. General Clarke, who was at Point Pleasant, on hearing of this, although it was then winter, determined to retake the post, and, with a resolute party of men, who, during their march, frequently waded through water breast high, executed his purpose; also making Hamilton prisoner. This man was a rough, bad-tempered, and cruel officer, who had excited the ire of the Indians by his malignancy. 395
The effect of these movements on the mass of the Indians was more important in a political view than it appeared to be. Kaskaskia and Vincennes had been mere outposts to Detroit, which was a depot for the prisoners taken by the Indians, and where they received the rewards for the scalps they brought in.
The effect upon the Delaware Nation of the operations during this year, of which Fort Pitt was the centre, was to promote the conclusion of a treaty of peace, which was signed, on the 17th of September, 1778. 396 by the chiefs Koquathaheelon, or White Eyes, Pipe, and Kellbuck, before Generals Andrew and Thomas Lewis. This was the first of a long list of treaties with the Indian tribes, in which the nations, when pressed by war, sometimes made a virtue of necessity, and conceded points which, on some occasions, the want of popular support, and again, the lack of power in their governments, did not enable them to comply with, although the aboriginal delegates who gave their assent to them did so with full integrity of purpose. It is certain that the Delaware Nation was soon after engaged in hostilities against the United States; for, besides the recognition of this fact by the treaty of Fort M'Intosh, dated June 21st, 1785, 397 a supplementary article to that treaty provided that the chiefs Kelelamand, White Eyes, and one or two other persons of note, who took up the hatchet for the United States, should be received back into the Delaware Nation, and reinstated in all their original rights, without any prejudice.
Chapter X. Subtlety of the Indians Investigating Port Laurens.
FORT LAURENS, erected on the Tuscarawas in 1778, by General M'Intosh, at the terminus of his march against Sandusky, was left in command of Colonel Gibson, with a garrison of 150 men. It was the custom of the garrison to put bells on their horses, and send them out to graze in the vicinity, where they were visited and looked after. This being observed by the Indians who infested the surrounding forests, they stole all the animals, first removing the bells from their necks, which they retained. Selecting a spot suitable for an ambuscade, the bells were tied to the stalks of stout weeds, or flexible twigs, and the Indians, lying down on the ground, carefully shook them, so as to simulate the noise they would make while the horses were cropping grass. The ruse succeeded. Of a party of sixteen men, sent to catch the animals, which were supposed to have strayed, fourteen were shot dead, and the other two taken prisoners; one of whom returned after the termination of the war, but his comrade was never more heard of. Flushed with the success of this manoeuvre, the entire body of Indians, towards evening, marched across the prairie, in full view of the garrison, but at a safe distance Eight hundred and forty warriors were counted from one of the bastions, painted and feathered for war, and appearing to make this display as a challenge to combat. They then crossed the Tuscarawas, and encamped on an elevated site, within view of the fort, where they remained for several weeks, watching the garrison. While located at this spot, they affected to keep up a good understanding with the officers of the fort, through one of those speaking go-betweens, whom we shall call HI-OK-A-TO, who have been so fruitful of mischief in our military history. At length, their resources failing, they sent word that, if a barrel of flour was supplied to them, they would, on the following day, submit proposals of peace. The flour being duly delivered, the whole gang immediately decamped, removing to some part of the forest where so considerable a body could readily obtain subsistence.
It has ever been a fatal mistake, to put trust in Indian fidelity under such circumstances. A party of spies were left by the Indians in the woods. As the supplies of the garrison began to diminish, the invalids, amounting to ten or a dozen men, were
sent to Fort M'Intosh, under an escort of fifteen men, commanded by Colonel Clark, of the line. This party had proceeded but two miles, when they were suddenly surrounded by the Indians, and all killed except four; one of whom, a captain, succeeded in effecting his escape to the fort.
The garrison now experienced severe suffering from hunger, the fort being in a remote position, which could be supplied only by the aid of trains of pack-horses, convoyed through the wilderness by expensive escorts. Fortunately, General M'Intosh arrived with supplies, and 700 men; but the joy produced by his arrival well nigh proved a fatal misfortune, as the salute of musketry fired from the ramparts caused a stampede among the horses of the pack-trains, which, running affrighted through the forest, scattered their burdens, of provisions and flour, on the ground. When M'Intosh departed from the fort, he left Major Vernon in command, who, being finally reduced to great straits, and finding himself surrounded by a powerful and treacherous enemy, and occupying a post which could not be maintained, abandoned the fort, and returned with his command to Fort M'Intosh. These transactions furnish material for a good commentary on the treaty of Fort Pitt, concluded on the 17th of the preceding September. The Delawares, who signed this treaty, occupied the entire Muskingum valley, of which the Tuscarawas is a branch, and, being generally under the sway of the Wyandots of Sandusky, had, in fact, no power to carry out, even if they possessed the authority to conclude, such a treaty.
The erection of Fort Laurens was, in truth, a monument of the failure of the military expedition against Detroit, projected with so much ceremony at that time; and its abandonment may be regarded as an admission of the uselessness of the position as a check upon the Indians.
While these movements were going forward on the Tuscarawas, and in the forests surrounding Fort Laurens, the Indians perpetrated a series of most heart-rending murders along the borders of the Monongahela. 398 A recital of these atrocities would only serve to prove that no trust could be placed in any public avowal of friendship by the savages, whether professed in conferences or by formal treaties.
Chapter XI. Battle of Minnisink.
THE frequency and severity of the attacks made by the Iroquois on the frontiers of New York and Pennsylvania, induced the Americans to make a sudden descent, during this year, on the Onondagas. The execution of this enterprise was committed to Colonel Van Schaick, by General James Clinton, the commanding officer in that district. Five hundred and fifty-eight men, accompanied by Lieutenant-Colonel Willett, and furnished with every necessary supply, embarked in thirty batteaux, on Wood Creek, west of the Fort Stanwix summit, and passing rapidly through Oneida lake and river, landed, during the night, at the site of old Fort Brewington, whence they pressed swiftly forward, using every precaution to prevent an alarm. The surprise would have been complete, but for the capture of a warrior near the castle. As it was, however, thirty-three warriors were killed, and the rest fled in the utmost consternation, leaving behind them all their stores, arms, and provisions. The castle and village were burned, and the country devastated within a circuit of ten miles. The army then returned to Fort Stanwix, or Schuyler, without the loss of a man.
It is doubtful whether such retributive measures are attended by any resulting advantages. The Onondagas determining to retaliate, Brant placed himself at the head of 300 warriors of that, and other tribes, who attacked Schoharie and its environs, which had so frequently, since the commencement of the Revolution, been the scene of every species of Indian outrage; the property of the inhabitants plundered, their houses burned, and themselves murdered and scalped. It appeared as if the Mohawk Indians, and their beau ideal, Brant, could never forgive the sturdy patriotism of the people of that valley.
Palatine, in the Mohawk valley, was, at the same time, attacked by parties of Indians from the Canada border, and many persons killed; but no event which occurred during this year, made so deep an impression on the public mind, as the battle and massacre at Minnisink, a fertile island in the Delaware river, which had long been the camping and council-ground of the Lenapi, and of the southern Indians, in their progress to the Hudson valley, by way of the Wallkill. Few places have better claims to antiquity, than the town of Minnisink, or "The Place of the Island."
Having reached the vicinity of this town on the night of July 19, with sixty warriors
and twenty-seven tories, disguised as Indians, Brant attacked it while the inhabitants were asleep, burned two dwelling-houses, twelve barns, a small stockade-fort, and two mills, killed several of the inhabitants, took others prisoners, and then ravaged the surrounding farms, driving off the cattle and horses. When intelligence of this outrage reached Goshen, the excitement became intense. A militia force of 149 men instantly marched from Orange county, in pursuit, and overtook the enemy on the second day. The advantage was on the side of Brant, who, by marching through a narrow ravine, placed his force in a strong position. The contest was long and desperately maintained, during which Brant received a ball through his girdle. The battle raged from eleven o'clock in the morning until sunset, when the ammunition of the Orange county men failed. They had lost 102 men; and seventeen, who were wounded, were placed under the care of a surgeon, behind a rocky point. The Indians rushed upon these unfortunate men like infuriated tigers, and tomahawked them all, notwithstanding their appeals for mercy. Brant, himself, "the monster, Brant," 399 sunk his tomahawk in the head of Colonel Wisner, one of the wounded. Only thirty men escaped to relate the fate of their comrades.
It is probable that this atrocity was one of the immediate causes of the expedition under General Sullivan, which marched against the Iroquois cantons during the following year.
While these events were occurring in New York, a body of 200 Indians and 100 refugee royalists, under the command of M'Donald, appeared on the borders of Northampton county, Pennsylvania, where they burned many houses, and committed several murders. A few days subsequently, they invested Freeland's fort, on the Susquehanna, the garrison of which was too weak to defend the works, which had served principally as a shelter for women and children, while the men were attending to the duties which they owed their country. Captain Hawkins Boon, who, with thirty men, was stationed in the vicinity, marched to the relief of the fort; but, finding that it had been surrendered, he valiantly attacked the besiegers, and was killed, together with eighteen of his men. This affair happened about the same time as the tragic events of Minnisink.
There were some contemporaneous movements in the West, which deserve attention. The feud between the Virginians and Shawnees still raged as fiercely as ever. In July, Colonel Bowman, who had served under Clark, led a force of 160 men against the Shawnees at Chillicothe. Although he took them by surprise, they fought bravely during several hours, and finally compelled him to retreat. The Shawnees pursued him thirty miles, with augmented numbers, and forced him to a second engagement. This fight having continued two hours with no advantage to the patriots, Colonel Harrod proposed to mount a number of men on horses, and make a cavalry charge. The suggestion was adopted, and succeeded admirably. The Indians fought with great desperation; but, being finally routed, they fled.
Chapter XII. Formal Expedition Against the Iroquois Cantons.
THE war had now continued nearly five years, and the operations of the British army during that period, north, south, east, and west, had proved a severe tax on the military resources and strength of the country. But these sacrifices to patriotism and high principles were considered as nothing, compared to the sufferings caused by the savage auxiliaries of the British armies, who were utter strangers to the laws of humanity. The Americans bitterly reproached their foes for paying their Indian allies a price for the scalps they took; but whether the censure was most justly deserved by the employer or the employee, is a question for casuists to decide. Whether the coveted prize, for which the savage watched around private dwellings night and day, was
It was the opinion of Washington, that the cheapest and most effectual mode of opposing the Indians, was to carry the war into their country. 401 These tribes, nurtured in the secret recesses of the forest, were thoroughly acquainted with every avenue through their depths, and thence pounced upon the unguarded settlements when least expected; but, like the nimble fox, they fled back to their lairs in the wilderness before an effective military force could be concentrated to pursue them. By these inroads, Washington observes, the Indians had everything to gain, and but very little to lose; whereas the very reverse would be the case, if their towns and retreats were visited with the calamities of war.
Conformably to these views, the year 1779 witnessed the march of the well-organized army of General Sullivan into the heart of the country occupied by the Iroquois
confederacy. Sullivan had gallantly aided Washington in the capture of Trenton, and was selected for this service after mature consideration. 402 His entire force consisted of two divisions, one of which, under General James Clinton, marched from central New York northwardly through the Mohawk valley, and the other, from Pennsylvania, ascended the Susquehanna. Clinton, with five brigades, proceeded with great rapidity across the country from Canajoharie, his point d'appui on the Mohawk, to Otsego lake, carrying with him 220 batteaux, all his stores, artillery, and a full supply of provisions. From this point, he followed the outlet of the lake into the Susquehanna, joining General Sullivan and the Pennsylvania troops at Tioga Point. Their total force amounted to 5000 men. After the delays incident to the collection and regulation of such a body of troops, the army proceeded up the river, late in August, and ascended the Chemung branch to Newtown, at present called Elmira. The enemy, anticipating the movement, had prepared to oppose the army by erecting a breastwork across a peninsula, in front of the place of landing, thus occupying a formidable position. Brant commanded the Iroquois, mustering 550 warriors, who were supported by 200 regular British troops and rangers, under Colonel John Butler, Sir John Johnson, and some of the other noted royalist commanders of that period. This force was so disposed among the adjoining hills, and screened by brush, thickets and logs, as to be entirely concealed. The army landed on the 29th of August, and the enemy's position was discovered by the advance guard, under Colonel Poor, at eleven o'clock in the morning. General Hand immediately formed the light infantry in a wood, within 400 yards of the Indian breastwork, where he remained until the rest of the troops came up. While these movements were in progress, small parties of Indians sallied from their entrenchments, and began a desultory firing, as suddenly retreating when attacked, and making the woods resound with their savage yells. Their intention evidently was, to induce the belief that they were present in very great numbers, and were the only force to be encountered. Judging truly that the hill on his right was occupied by the Indians, Sullivan ordered Colonel Poor, with his brigade, to attempt its ascent, and to endeavor to turn the enemy's left flank, while the artillery, supported by the main body of the army, attacked them in front. Both orders were promptly executed. The ascent being gained, the Americans poured in their fire, while the enemy, for two hours, withstood a heavy fire directly in front. Both the Indians and their allies fought manfully; but the Americans pressed on with great determination. Every tree, rock, and thicket sheltered an enemy, who sent forth his deadly messengers. The Indians yielded slowly, and, as it were, inch by inch; being frequently driven from their shelter at the point of the bayonet. Such obstinacy had not been paralleled since the battle of Oriskany. Brant, the moving and animating spirit of the Indians, urged on the warriors with his voice; and their incessant yells almost drowned the
noise of the conflict, until the quickly-succeeding and regular reverberations of the artillery overpowered all other sounds. It was remarked by an officer, who was present, that the roar of this cannonade was most commanding and "elegant." The Indians still maintained their ground in front, though the tremendous fire from Colonel Poor's brigade had so terribly thinned their flank, that a reinforcement of a battalion of rangers was ordered up to sustain it. In vain did the enemy contest the ground from point to point, endeavoring to maintain a position; this officer at length ascended the hill, and attacked them in flank, which decided the fortunes of the day. Observing that they were in danger of being surrounded, the yell of retreat was sounded by the Indians, and red and white men, impelled by one impulse, precipitately fled across the Chemung river, abandoning their works, their packs, provisions, and a quantity of arms. The action had been protracted, and, on their part, sanguinary. Contrary to the Indian custom, some of their warriors who had fallen were left on the battle-field, and others were found hastily buried by the way. The American loss was but six killed and fifty wounded.
This battle, as subsequent events proved, decided the result of the campaign. It vindicated the opinion of Washington, that the Indians must be encountered in their own country; and, as aboriginal history proves, it effectually destroyed the Iroquois confederacy.
The results of the campaign may be easily demonstrated. The Indians, having fled in a panic, never stopped until they reached the head of Seneca Lake; whence they scattered to their respective villages. They did not rally, as they might have done, and oppose Sullivan's forces at defiles on the route. The American army pursued them vigorously, with four brass three-pounders and their entire disposable force. They encamped at Catherine's Town on the 2d of September, and began to burn and destroy villages, corn-fields, and orchards in the surrounding country, continuing their devastations through the Genesee country and the Genesee valley. On the 7th of the month, the army crossed the outlet of Seneca Lake, and moved forward to the capital of that tribe, Kanadaseagea, now Geneva. 403 This place contained about sixty houses, surrounded with gardens, orchards of apple and peach trees, and luxuriant corn-fields. Butler, the commandant of the defeated rangers, had endeavored to induce the Senecas to rally here, but in vain. They fled, abandoning everything; and the torch and destroying axe of their foes were employed to level every tenement and living fruit-tree to the ground.
From this point the army proceeded to Canandaigua, where they found twenty-three large and "elegant" houses, mostly frame, together with very extensive fields of corn, all of which were destroyed. The next point of note in the march was Honeoye, a village containing ten houses, which were burnt. Here a small post was established,
as a depot. As General Sullivan advanced towards the valley of the Genesee, the Indians determined again to oppose him; and having organized their forces, presented themselves in battle array between Honeoye and Canesus Lake. They attacked the advance-guard in mistake, supposing it to be the entire force; but having seen it fall back on the main army, they did not await the approach of the latter. In this affray they took a friendly Oneida prisoner, who was inhumanly butchered by a malignant chief, named Little Beard. At this time, also, occurred the dreadful tragedy which befell Lieutenant Boyd, who, going out with twenty-six men, to reconnoitre Little Beard's town, was captured, and most inhumanly tortured, notwithstanding his appeal to Brant as a Masonic brother. 404
The army moved forward to the flats of the Genesee, where the Indians made a show of resistance. General Clinton immediately prepared to attack and surround them, by extending his flanks; but, observing the object of his movement, they retreated. The army then crossed the Genesee, to the principal town of the Indians, containing 128 houses, which were burned, and the surrounding fields destroyed. It was these fertile fields which had furnished the savages with the means of carrying on their predatory and murderous expeditions. General Sullivan had been instructed to make them feel the strength of the American arms, with the bitterness of domestic desolation; for which purpose, detachments were sent out at every suitable point, to lay waste their fields, cut down their orchards, destroy their villages, and cripple them in their means. In carrying out these orders, not less than forty Indian towns were burned; and the tourist, who, after the lapse of seventy years, visits the ruins caused by these acts of military vengeance, is forcibly reminded of the spirit of destruction which descended upon the Indian villages and orchards. Having accomplished the object of the expedition, the army recrossed the Genesee on the 16th of September, passed the outlet of the Seneca Lake on the 20th, reached the original rendezvous at Tioga on the 30th, and within a fortnight returned to their respective points of departure.
Chapter XIII. The Indians Continue Their Inroads on the Western and Northern Frontiers.
TOWARD the close of this year, a detachment of seventy men from the Kentucky district of Virginia, under Major Rodgers, was surprised by the Shawnees, while ascending the Ohio river. On approaching the mouth of the Licking river, they discovered a few hostile Indians standing on a sand-bar, whilst a canoe was being propelled towards them, as if its occupants desired to hold friendly intercourse. Rodgers, who was on the alert, immediately made his boat fast to the shore, and went in pursuit of the Indians he had seen. They proved to be only a decoy to lead him into an ambuscade. The moment he landed and commenced an assault on the small party, an overwhelming number of the enemy issued from their concealment, poured in a heavy and deadly fire, and then rushed forward with their tomahawks, instantly killing Rodgers and forty-five of his men. The remainder fled towards the boat, but the Indians had anticipated them by its capture. Retreat being thus cut off, they faced the foe, and fought desperately as long as daylight lasted, when a small number succeeded in escaping, and finally reached Harrisburg. The details of the escape of Benham, who was shot through the hips on this occasion, possess a thrillingly romantic interest. 405
The expedition of Sullivan against the Iroquois proved so destructive to them, that they were compelled to seek food and shelter from the British authorities at Niagara. The adherence to the American cause, of the Oneidas and Tuscaroras, living on their lands, had occasioned ill feelings to be entertained by the Iroquois against them. Every persuasion had been used in vain to induce them to join the royal standard. Their conduct at Oriskany, and their hospitality to the missionary Kirkland, had been the subject of sharp remonstrances by Guy Johnson, who peremptorily ordered Kirkland to leave the country. Although but few of these tribes joined General Clinton's division in the Genesee campaign, and those only as guides, yet, when the Senecas captured the faithful guide, Honyerry, at Boyd's defeat, in their rage they literally hewed him in pieces. General Haldiman, of Canada, had, in
a special, written message, threatened vengeance on the Oneida tribes for deserting, as he termed it, the British cause, and thus forgetting the wise counsels of their old and respected, but deceased friend, Sir William Johnson. 406 This purpose, notwithstanding the severity of the winter, he executed, with the assistance of Brant and a force of tories. Suddenly attacking the village of Oneida castle, they drove the Indians from this ancient seat, burned their dwellings, their church, and their school-house, and destroyed their corn, as well as every means of subsistence. The Oneidas fled to the Lower Mohawk, where they were protected and supported during the rest of the war.
In the month of May, Sir John Johnson entered Johnstown, with 500 regulars, a detachment of his own regiment of Royal Greens, and about 200 Indians and tories. Marching from the direction of Crown Point, through the woods to the Sacandaga, they entered the valley of the Mohawk at midnight, entirely unheralded. This foray was one of the most indefensible and shocking transactions of the whole war. The Indians roved from house to house, murdering the inhabitants, plundering, destroying, and burning their property. Among the number of those slain by the savages were four octogenarians, whose locks were silvered by age, including the patriot Fonda, of the Mohawk valley. Cattle and sheep were driven off, and horses stolen from their stalls. Sir John recovered the plate which had been buried in his cellars in 1776, and then retraced his steps to Canada, after having left a lasting mark of his vengeance on the home and familiar scenes of his childhood, and the country of his youth, notwithstanding his father had there risen to power and greatness from an obscure original, and that his bones were there buried. The Mohawk valley had been subjected to the two-fold vengeance of the Indians and the tories, who rivalled each other in their deeds of cruelty and vandalism, until it presented as denuded an appearance as a swept threshing-floor. The flail of warfare had beaten out everything but that sturdy patriotism, which increased in strength in proportion to the magnitude of its trials. This attack was conducted in a stealthy and silent manner. No patriotic drum had sounded the call to arms. The enemy advanced with the noiseless tread of the tiger, and returned to their haunts with the tiger's reward blood and plunder.
Some allowance must be made for the complicity of the aborigines in this predatory warfare, on account of their ignorance, and their natural lack of humane feelings. This will not, however, apply to men educated in the principles of civilization. Even Thyendanagea, the typhoon of the Revolution, found industrious apologists for the greatest of his enormities; 407 and we have, certainly, high authority for the palliation of crime in those who know not what they do. But nothing can excuse the conduct of those who perpetrate crimes, with a clear moral perception of the enormity of their deeds.
Scarcely had Sir John Johnson and his myrmidons returned in safety to Canada, than
the nefarious business of plunder, murder, and arson, was resumed in the Schoharie valley, which had ever been deemed one of the richest agricultural regions in the vicinity of the Mohawk. From the year 1712, the period of its first settlement by Europeans, it had been celebrated for the beauty and fertility of its lands, and the rich abundance of its cereals; the crops of which, during the year 1780, had been more than ordinarily profuse.
The troops designed for this foray, and collected at La Chine, were landed at Oswego, and marched across the country to the Susquehanna. They consisted of three companies of Royal Greens, 200 rangers, a company of yagers, armed with short rifles, and the effective force of the Mohawks. They were joined at Tioga by the Senecas, under Cornplanter. The whole force has been estimated to number from 800 to 1500 men, with three pieces of artillery; each man was supplied with eighty rounds of ammunition. Sir John commanded the regulars, and Brant the Iroquois. Their appearance in the Schoharie valley was heralded by the smoke of burning dwellings, barns, and haystacks, and by the wild tumult of savage warfare. Three small stockaded forts were erected in the valley, which were but feebly garrisoned, and rather destitute of ammunition. The principal attack was made on the central fort, but the resolution of its garrison, weak though it was, supplied the place of military skill. A flag of truce, sent forward by the enemy, with a summons to surrender, was fired upon; which act appeared to be conclusive evidence to the marauders that every preparation had been made to give them a warm reception. The enemy ravaged the entire valley with fire and sword. Families were murdered; the houses, barns, and church burned; cattle and horses 408 driven off; while the air resounded with the screams and war-whoops of the savages. Of wheat alone, 80,000 bushels were estimated to have been destroyed; 409 100 persons were killed, some of them in the most cruel manner; and many were carried into captivity. Brant was the ruling spirit among the Indians. The enemy, after committing all the devastation possible, sped on to the Mohawk valley, where his operations embraced a still wider range. On reaching their destination, the forces of Sir John were augmented by trained parties of loyalists; and the march through the valley became a scene of rapine and plunder, the forces being divided, one portion taking the north, and the other the south side of the river, thus leaving no part of the doomed section unvisited, or free from the ruthless inroads of the Indians.
While the northern Indians were thus kept employed in plundering and destroying the frontier settlements, those at the south also required to be restrained. In 1781, the Cherokees again became restive, and made incursions into South Carolina. General
Pickens mustered a body of 400 horsemen, advanced rapidly into their country, sword in hand, killed forty Indians, and destroyed thirteen of their towns. Even the speed and decision of Montgomery was excelled. The Indians could not withstand the terrible onset of the cavalry, who charged them with their sabres, but fled in consternation, and immediately sued for peace.
The years 1780 and 1781 were characterized by these inroads, which could always be traced to the machinations of the tories, whose chief object was to make the patriots of the Revolution suffer, not only all the evils of civilized, but also all the horrors of savage, warfare. But the Revolution could not be suppressed by acts of savage vengeance, to which the barbarian allies of British despotism were impelled by the Indian prophet at his midnight orgies, by unwise counsels in high places, or by the desire of winning the price offered for deeds of blood and cruelty. Civilization might assume the garb of barbarism, and urge on savage minds, really less cruel than their own, to the commission of horrible atrocities; but every act of this kind only incited the colonies to make a more protracted and effective resistance. The motives for entering into this contest were well-grounded, and the people had a firm and true appreciation of its cost and consequences. Every patriot who fell, whether by the scalping-knife, or by the sword, was but an additional evidence of that strength of purpose and devotion to liberty, which could not be subdued. His demise, it is true, abstracted one from the numerical force; but this loss resulted in a gain of two to the principles avowed by his compatriots.
Chapter XIV. Fate of the Delawares who Adopted the Moravian Faith, and Emigrated West.
BEFORE the close of this year, it became evident to every one except the Indians, who neither understood nor studied cause and effect, that the chances of ultimate success preponderated in favor of the colonies; but, after the surrender of Cornwallis, this surmise became an absolute certainty. To every one but this infatuated race, it was apparent that the struggle had been maintained at the cost of national exertions, which even the British crown could not maintain; and the words of Lord Chatham were regarded in England as but little less than the words of inspiration.
While the negotiations preliminary to the formation of a treaty of peace were in progress, there existed a state of Indian excitement on the frontiers, which made it the duty of every settler to deem his log-cabin a castle, and constitute his wife and children the custodians of an armory. The Lowlands of Scotland were never more completely devastated by the raids of their fierce neighbors, the Celts, than were the unfortunate frontiers of Virginia by the tomahawk. 410 These details are, however, the appropriate theme of local history: our attention is required by another topic.
The Mohicans, and their relatives, the Delawares, were at an early period benefited by the benevolent labors of the Moravian Brethren. Unfortunately, as we have previously mentioned, this excellent society, even for twenty years before the conquest of Canada, had held the reputation of being politically identified with the French; and still more unfortunately for the peace of the Delawares, this preference was alleged to have been transferred to the British crown after the conquest. There does not appear to be a particle of reliable evidence of either the former or the latter preference; but the populace had formed this opinion while the Delawares lived east of the Alleghanies, and the impression became still stronger after they migrated to the Ohio valley. Although these Delaware converts resided permanently in towns located on the Muskingum, they were peremptorily ordered, by the Indians in the British interest, encouraged thereto by the local authorities, to abandon their habitations, and remove to
Sandusky and Detroit; under the evident apprehension that these converts would imbibe American sentiments. It was very manifest that they neither engaged in war nor were ever encouraged thereto by their teachers; but expressly the contrary. 411 The Munsees, a Delaware tribe, however, took refuge on the River Thames, in Canada, and the so called "Christian Indians," pure Delawares, of the Moravian persuasion, did the same. This appears to have been the result of political necessity; and if originally at the solicitation, or through the counsel of men in authority, that motive soon ceased to have much effect. In 1735, the "Christian Indians" migrated through the Straits of Michilimackinac, to rejoin their parental tribe in the West. 412 Some of the Munsees had previously united with the Stockbridges at Green Bay, in Wisconsin, and others followed them. The majority of the Delawares in the West were enemies to the Americans; which made it the more easy to convey the impression that the Muskingum Delawares were also inimical.
But, however the question of political preference of the Moravian Delawares may be decided, it is certain that, in 1782, the common opinion among the people of western Virginia and Pennsylvania was, that they were strongly in the British interest. Nothing short of this could have justified if anything could be alleged, even at that excited period, in palliation of that action the expedition of Williamson against the Muskingum towns. It was to no purpose that the hardy forester was told that these Delawares were taught and professed the Christian doctrine of non-resistance, and peace toward all men. A majority of them had no faith in such a doctrine, and the rest could not realize the fact that an Indian, whose natural element was war, whose very nature was subterfuge, subtlety, and duplicity, could subscribe to the doctrines of peace and good-will, without danger of relapsing into his original condition at the sight of blood, or the sound of a rifle.
It happened that some hostile Indians from Sandusky made an incursion into the settlements on the Monongahela, committing a series of most shocking murders. Infuriated at these outrages, a body of 100 or 200 men, all mounted and equipped, set out from the Monongahela, under command of Colonel D. Williamson, in quest of the murderers. They directed their march to the settlements of Salem and Gnadenhutten, on the Muskingum. The vicinity of the latter place was reached after two days' march; and on the morning of the following day, the party divided into three sections, entering the town simultaneously at different points. They found the Indians laboring peaceably and unsuspiciously in the fields, gathering up their bundles preparatory to their return to Sandusky. A message from the commander at Pittsburg had apprized them of the march of Williamson's force, and warned them to be on their guard; but, conscious of their innocence, no alarm had been excited by this intelligence. Williamson
approached the settlement with friendly professions, proposed to the Indians a plan of deliverance from their oppressors, the Wyandots, of Sandusky, and induced them to deliver up their arms, axes, and working implements, as well as to collect at a place of rendezvous, preparatory to a proposed march to Pittsburg. At this rendezvous they found themselves completely in the power of their enemies, who began to treat them roughly; but resistance or flight were now alike impossible. They were next accused of horse-stealing, and other acts of which they were entirely guiltless. It was then determined, in a council composed of Williamson's followers, to decide their fate. He paraded his men in line, and then put the question, "Whether they should be sent to Pittsburg, or shot," requesting those who were in favor of their removal to step in front. The majority condemned them to death: sixteen or eighteen decided in favor of mercy. The Delawares, whose fate had thus been summarily decided, knelt down, prayed, and sung a hymn, whilst a consultation was being held as to the mode of putting them to death. Not an imploring word was uttered, nor a tear shed. They submitted silently to their fate, and were successively struck down with a mallet. Ninety unarmed Indians were thus slain. Sixty-two of the number were adults, one of them a woman, and the remaining thirty-four children. The demoniacal troop then returned to their homes, giving plausible but false reasons for the atrocities committed, which were inserted in the newspapers. 413
Chapter XV. The Creeks Make a Midnight Attack on the American Camp, Near Savannah, Under Command of General Wayne.
THE last blow which the Indians inflicted upon the regular troops of the colonies, was dealt by the Creeks of Georgia. As the contest was progressing to its close, the troops of both parties moved towards the South. During the occupation of Savannah, General Wayne was encamped with an army about five miles from that city, engaged in watching the motions of the enemy. Guristersigo, a distinguished Creek leader of western Georgia, projected a secret expedition against the resolute hero of Stony Point, who anticipated no danger from an Indian foe, distant from him nearly the entire breadth of Georgia. The Indian chief, undiscovered, reached a point near the object of attack before daybreak, on the 24th of June.
General Wayne, who was a cautious and watchful officer, had been on the alert against the enemy from Savannah, whence he expected an attack; and his men, who had been harassed by severe duty, slept on their arms on the night of the 23d, so as to be ready for action. They were suddenly aroused at midnight by the war-whoop, and the warriors of Guristersigo attacked them with such fury, and in such numbers, that the troops seemed to be unable to withstand their onset. General Wayne and Colonel Posey, who had lain down in the General's tent, instantly arose, and proceeded to the scene; the latter leading his regiment of infantry to the charge, thereby restoring confidence and order in the line. General Wayne, at the same time, charged at the head of the cavalry, who cut down the naked warriors with their broadswords, and, by turning their flank, put them to flight. The Creeks fought with desperation, and none with greater courage than Guristersigo, who, by his voice and example, gave animation to his men, seventeen of whom fell around him. He continued to fight with heroic desperation, until he finally fell, pierced with two bayonet wounds, and one from the thrust of an esponton. Many of the Indians were killed by the bayonets of the troops, and the loss on both sides was very considerable. The Creeks never rallied after the fall of their chief, and gave the army no further trouble. 414
Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html