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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
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html


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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

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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

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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,
Soiengarahta, called King Hendrick, in 1755, at the battle of Lake George. Little Abraham, who succeeded him in authority, was a man of excellent sense and fine talents, but exclusively a civilian, and possessing no reputation as a warrior. The institutions of the Iroquois were guarded by many rules and regulations, prescribed by their councils and customs; but they were, nevertheless, of a democratic character, and, under the sway of popular opinion, recognised and rewarded great talent and bravery. In 1776, no one could compete with Brant in these qualifications. In addition to his natural physical and mental energy, he had been well educated in early life, could read fluently, and was a ready writer. Raised within the purlieus of the Hall of Sir William Johnson, he never dreamed of questioning the fact, that Great Britain was, beyond all other nations, powerful, strong, and wise, and must prevail.

Brant's hatred of the Americans assimilated to that of Attila for the Romans.

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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
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html
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