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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 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
scalping, depicted in the plate presented herewith, 377 and the indiscriminate slaughter of both sexes, are the most horrid traits of savage life. None but a weak and bigoted prince, counselled by a short-sighted and narrow-minded premier, 378 would have adopted this system as a part of the extraneous means of reducing the colonies to subjection. The Indians could never be relied on by British generals, or employed for any other purpose than that of covering their flanks, and imparting to the contest a more bitter and vindictive character. If the latter was the object sought, the end was fully answered. The men of the present generation have not forgotten the acts of fiendish cruelty perpetrated by the class of Revolutionary tories.

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

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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

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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.

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"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

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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.

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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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