NIU Libraries Digitization Projects
Lincoln/Net Prairie Fire Illinois During the Civil War Illinois During the Gilded Age Mark Twain's Mississippi Back to Digitization Projects Contact Us
BACK

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


Previous section

Next section

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

-- 313 --

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

-- 314 --

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

-- 315 --

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.

-- 316 --

Previous section

Next section


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
Powered by PhiloLogic