Franklin B[enjamin] Hough.

The northern invasion of October, 1780; a series of papers relating to the expeditions from Canada under Sir John Johnson and others against the frontiers of New York, which were supposed to have connections with Arnold's treason: online

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Online LibraryFranklin B[enjamin] HoughThe northern invasion of October, 1780; a series of papers relating to the expeditions from Canada under Sir John Johnson and others against the frontiers of New York, which were supposed to have connections with Arnold's treason: → online text (page 1 of 14)
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Bradford Club Series.



NOR Til E 1{ N I N Y A s T O N



d)e jfrontters of il?etu gorft








x I-: ^^' y o w k





Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 18G0,
By John B. Moreau,


In the Clerk's Office of the District Conrt of the United States
for the Southern District of New York.





No. I. — Papers concerning the Attack on

Hatfield and Deerfield . . . 1859

" II. — The Croakers I860

" III. — The Operations of the French Fleet

UNDER Count De Grasse . . . 18G4

"■ IV. — Anthology of New Netherland . 18G5

" V. — Narratives of the Career of .

De Soto in Florida .... 1866
" VI. — Northern Invasion .... 18GG

EXTRA number.

Memorial of John Allan . . - . . 18G4


Under this desigaatiou, a few gentlemen, interested in the
study of American History and Literature, propose occasionally
to print limited editions of such manuscripts and scarce
pamphlets as may be deemed of value towards illustrating these
subjects. They will seek to obtain for this purpose unpublished
journals or correspondence containing matter worthy of record,
and which may not properly be included in the Historical
Collections or Documentary Histories of the several States.
Such unpretending contemporary chronicles often throw
precious light upon the motives of action and the imperfectly
narrated events of bygone days ; perhaps briefly touched upon
in dry official documents.

The Club may also issue fac-similes of curious manuscripts,
or documents worthy of notice, which, like the printed issues,
will bear its imprint.

" These are the
Registers, the chronicles of the age
They were written in, and speak the truth of History
Better than a hundred of your printed
Communications.'' — Shakerli/ Marmi/ons Antiquary.

William Bradford — the first New York Printer — whose
name the Club has adopted, came to this country in 1G82,


and established his Press in the neighbox-hood of Phihidelphia.
In 1693 he removed to this City — was appointed Royal
Printer — and set up his Press "at the Sign of the Bible."
For upwards of thirty years he was the only I^rinter in the
Province, and in 1725 published our first Newspaper — The
New York Gazette. He conducted this paper until 1743 when
he retired from business. He died in May, 1752, and was
described, in an obituary notice of the day, as " a man ol' great
sobriety and industry, a real friend to the poor and needy, and
kind and aflFable to all." He was buried in Trinity Church
Yard, by the side of the wife of his youth ; and the loving
affection of relatives and friends reared a simple and unosten-
tatious Monument to his memory.



Introduction, 17

Letter from Colonel Bellinger, Sept. 1, 1780, 65

Letter from Colonel Van Scliaick to Governor Clinton, Sept. 6,

1780, G7

Letter from Lieutenant Colonel Jansen to Governor Clinton,

Sept. 18, 1780, C9

Letter from Governor Clinton to Lieutenant Colonel Jansen,

Sept. 18, 1780, 69

Letter from Governor Clinton to Lieutenant Colonel Newkirk,

Sept. 18, 1780, 70

Letter from Lieutenant Colonel Jansen to Governor Clinton,

Sept. 19, 1780, 71

Letter from Governor Clinton to Colonel Pawling, Sept. 21,

1780, 73

Letter from Colonel J. Newkirk to Governor Clinton, Sept. 23,

1780, 73

Letter from Governor Clinton to General Washington, Sept. 1,

1780, 74

Letter from General Robert Van Rensselaer to Governor Clin-
ton, Sept. 4, 1780, 76

Letter from Colonel Patterson and others, to Governor Clinton,

Sept. 11, 1780, 77

Letter from Governor Clinton to persons in Cumberland county,

Sept. 16, 1780, 78

Letter from Colonel G. Van Schaick to Governor Clinton, Sept.

12,1780, 79

Letter from Governor Clinton to Colonel G. Van Schaick, Sept.

14, 1780, 81




Extract from Uiriiiglon'sUmjal G(tzeUe, Sept. 33, 1780, 81

Letter from Governor C'linton to General Schuyler, Oct. 3, 1780, 83

Letter from citizens of Tryon county to Governor Clinton, Oct.
3, 1780, 83

Petition from citizens of Tryon county, Oct. 6, 1780, 85

Letter from Governor Clinton to Colonel Klock, Oct. 11, 1780, 87

Letter from Stephen Lush to Governor Clinton, Oct. 13, 1780,. . 89

Articles of capitulation of Fort George, 93

Letter from Colonel W. Malcom to General Van Rensselaer, Oct.

13, 1780, 93

Letter from General Van Rensselaer to Governor Clinton, Oct.

13,1780, 94

Reply of Governor Clinton to General Van Rensselaer, Oct. 14,

1786, 95

Account of the attack upon Forts Ann and George, from Holt's

Journal, Oct. 16, 1780, 95

Letter from Governor Clinton to General Greene, Oct. 14, 1780, 96
Letter from Governor Clinton to General Washington, Oct. 14,

1780, 97

Letter from Captain Sherwood to Colonel Henry Livingston,

Oct. 17, 1780, 99

Letter from General Heath to Governor Clinton, Oct. 17, 1780, 101
Letter from Lieutenant Colonel Veeder to Henry Glen, Oct. 17,

1780, 103

Letter from General Robert Van Rensselaer to Governor Clin-
ton, Oct. 18, 1780, 103

Letter from Governor Clinton to General Schuyler, Oct. 18, 1780, 105
Letter from Lieutenant Colonel Barent I. Staats to Governor

CUnton, Oct. 18, 1780, 106

Letter from Major J. Lansing to Governor Clinton, Oct. 18,

1780, 107

Letter from Governor Clinton to General Washington, Oct. 18,

1780, 108

Letter from Governor Chittenden of Vermont to Governor

Clinton, Oct. 18, 1780, Ill

Letter from Isaac Stoutenburgh to Governor Clinton, Oct. 19,

1780 112


Letter from General Ten Broeck to Governor Clinton, Oct. 10,

1780, 113

Letter from General Ten Broeck to Governor Clinton, Oct.

19, [1780], 114

Letter from General Van Rensselaer to Governor Clinton, [Oct.

19,1780], 115

Letter from Sampson Dyckman to Governor Clinton, [Oct.

19, 1780], 117

Letter from General Robert Van Rensselaer to Governor Clin-
ton, [Oct. 19, 1780], 117

Letter from Colonel Lewis Dubois to General Van Rensselaer,

[Oct. 20, 1780], 118

Letter from Colonel Lewis Dubois to Governor Clinton, [Oct.

20, 1780], 119

Warrant for impressing cattle and flour, 120

A return of ordnance and stores taken from the British Army

commanded by Sir John Johnson, Oct. 19, 1780, 121

Notice of Northern Invasion from Loudon's Paper, Oct. 19, 1780, 121-

Letter from General Schuyler to Governor Clinton, Oct. 20, 1780, 123

Letter from Governor Clinton to General Schuyler, Oct. 26, 1780, 125

Letter from Governor Clinton to Colonel Klock, Oct. 23, 1780, 126

Letter from Governor Clinton to Colonel Bellinger, Oct. 23, 1780, 126

Order for garrisoning Frontier Posts, Oct. 23, 1780, 127

Letter from Colonel Alexander Webster to Governor Clinton,

Oct. 24, 1780, 128

Extract of a letter from Captain Jonathan Lawrence, Junior, to

Colonel Samuel Drake, Oct. 24, 1780, 129

Memorial from the Inhabitants of Schenectady, Oct. 24, 1780,. . 131
Letter from Governor Clinton to Ebenezer Russell, Oct. 26, 1780, 132
Letter from Governor Haldimand of Canada, with lists of casual-
ties, Oct. 25, 1780, 133

Address of the Maj-or and Common Council of Albany to Go-
vernor Clinton, Oct. 26, 1780, 137

Reply of Governor Clinton to the foregoing address, 139

Marching orders of Colonel Weissenfels, Oct. 26, 1780, 140

Letter from General Schuyler to Governor Clinton, Oct. 27,

1780 140


Letter from General Ten Broeck to Governor Clinton, Oct. 29,

1780, 142

Letter from Colonel Lewis Van Woert to General Ten Broeck,
Oct. 28, 1780, 142

Letter from Governor Clinton to James Duane, Oct. 29, 1780,. 143

Letter from Governor Clinton to General Heatli, Oct. 30, 1780, 147
Letter from General Ten Broeck to Governor Clinton, Oct. 30,

1780, 1,50

Letter from Governor Clinton to General Washington, Oct. 30,
1780, 151

Letter from Governor Clinton to General Washington, Oct. 31,

1780, •. 157

Letter from General Washington to Governor Clinton, Novem-
ber [5], 1780, 159

Proceedings of a Court of Inquiry upon the conduct of General

Robert Van Rensselaer, March, 1781, 164

Memorial of the Supervisors of Tryon County, 209

Tabular Summaiy of Casualties in Tryon County, 215

Index, 217


Few regions have presented more frequent or more tragic examples
of the horrors of war than did the Mohawk valley during the
American Revolution. The settlements extending in a narrow strip
up into the wilderness, more than fifty miles beyond the general
outline of the frontiers, were exposed on every side and at all times
to an attack of the enemy, who, favored by long lines of water
communication, could approach from the north, west or south, strike
at the most exposed points, and retire before pursuit could be made.

If we bear in mind that the hostile parties who infested this region
were often made up of those who had been former inhabitants of the
valley, or at least were always led by those who had been forced from
their homes by the events of the war, and were inflamed with the
fiercest revenge against their former neighbors, whom they often
found enjoying the property from which they had been driven, we
may well infer that this partizan warfare would be active, unrelenting
and cruel.

The events of this period upon the western frontiers of New York
could never be forgotten by the survivors or their descendants, and
most of the traditions gathered from the aged witnesses, or received
at second hand from their accounts, have passed into written nar-
ratives, and claim credit as history. Although founded upon facts,


and in tlic main correct, as to tiiiR-, place and circumstances, many of
these narratives are warped ])y prejudice or inflamed by passion, and
none of tliem can claim the merit of presenting the motives which
actuated those who controlled the military movements of the
occasion, the information upon which they acted, or the difficulties
they had to overcome.

The sufferers from an incursion of the enemy could see that no relief
came, although timely application had been made ; but they could
not know the reasons that prevented. They knew that the enemy
had escaped Avith impunity, and might very bitterly complain of the
result, which, under all the circumstances, absolutely could not be

This reflection has often occurred to the editor of this volume in
looking through the public records of the revolution. But, perhaps,
in none of these are the generalh' received accounts, and the
inferences derived therefrom, more widely different from truth than
those relating to the invasions from Canada in the autumn of 1780,
in which the enemy's main body, under Sir John Johnson, after
sweeping through the Schoharie and Mohawk valleys, destroying
every thing left by former invasions and not guarded by force, eluded
pursuit, and returned with comparatively small loss to Canada. The
official documents relating to this invasion were found so full and
ample, that it was thought advisable to collect and preserve them
together, to the end that history might stand corrected, so far as it
related to these events, although at variance with every statement
hitherto published concerning them.

In arranging these papers, attention has been paid to connection of
subjects rather than to strict order of time, and the documents have
been used without abridgment, although sometimes relating to


subjects not connected with the prmcipal events in view. It was
not deemed necessary to extend the series by including the papers
relating to excliange of prisoners, and other subjects incidentally
resulting from the invasion described ; but it is believed enough will
be found to justify the conclusion that no charge of inetficiency,
cowardice or intentional wrong can be properly laid against those
acting under the authority of the state upon that occasion.


Gov. Clinton to Gen. Washington, Oct. 17, 1780.



Washington to President of Congress, Oct. 21, 1780.


The invasion of the Indian settlements upon the
Genesee by General Sullivan, in the autumn of 1779,
occasioned great distress among the natives, who were
driven to seek shelter at Fort Magara. The destruction
had been sweeping, and the miseries which followed,
during the hard winter of 1779-80 were severe; but
although crops and settlements were laid waste, most
of the Indian warriors escaped, and very naturally
soon began to meditate plans of revenge. The villages
of the Oneida tribe friendly to the Americans, were
menaced during the winter, and while the snow yet
lay deep in the forests, and the streams were bridged
withice, the warparties of Brant and Butler began active
hostilities, along the whole northern and western fron-
tiers of ISTew York. These incursions, although not
accompanied by scenes of butchery, like those perpe-
trated at "Wyoming and Cherry Yalley, were still
marked with incidents of thrilling terror, and were
attended with great loss of property ; many prisoners
were led into captivity, many lives were sacrificed, and


the greatest alarm was spread tliroughout the border

The first of their hostile parties appeared on the 15th
of March, 1780, at Eeimensnyder's Bush, four miles
north of the Little Falls, where they took Captain John
Keyser, his two sons and two other prisoners, killed
one man, burned the captain's house, killed his stock,
and left his wife and babes destitute. A body of militia
was called out, but from want of snow shoes could not
pursue. The party was reported about fifty in number,
chiefly tories disguised as Indians, and from their tracks
they appeared to haye come from the country of the
Five ISTations. It was strongly suspected, that some
unfriendly Oneidas had been privy to this movement,
and had harbored the party.^

Six days later, about one hundred Indians from
Canada, with three tories from Ballston and Tryon,
surprised a small post at Skeenesborough, captured its
little garrison of thirteen men, killed and scalped a
man and his wife, burnt several buildings, and retired
down the lake on the ice, by the way they came.^

On the 3d of April, a party of tories and Indians
said to be sixty in number returned to Eeimensnyder's
Bush, burnt a mill, and carried oS nineteen prisoners
from that settlement northward into Canada. On the
same day, a block-house on the Sacondaga, north of

1 Clinton Papers, No. 2,751.

«LeUer of Gen. Abraham Han'Qvo&ck.— Clinton Pupers^o?,. 2,758,


Johnstown, was attacked by a party of seven Indians,
who attempted to set it on fire, hut were prevented by the
activity and boldness of one man, its sole occupant,^ who
extinguished the fire and severely wounded one of the
number. When they had retired, he rallied six others,
pursued and killed the whole of the invading party.

On the 7th of April, Brant with a small party of
tories and Indians, on their way to surprise Schoharie,
came upon a few men under Capt. Alexander Harper,
engaged in making maple sugar at Harpersfield.
Three of the number were killed, and eleven or twelve
taken prisoners to Niagara.^ It is said that Brant was
dissuaded from his first design of striking at Schoharie,
by the fictitious declarations of Captain Harper, that
large reinforcements had arrived at that place. On
this expedition. Brant detached a small party which
fell upon the Minisink settlement, and brought off
several prisoners.

Simultaneous with these events, intelligence was
brought to the commander-in-chief, of preparations by
the enemy, in the collection of munitions, horses, ves-
sels and boats, which seemed to indicate an intention
of operating in force against the American posts on
the Hudson.

These events occurring at so early a period, seemed to

' Solomon Woodward.

^ CampbeWs Tryon County, 1st ed., 159 : Stone's Life of Brant, ii, 56 :
Slmms's Sclwharie County, 325. Captain Harper remained a captive till
November 28, 1782.


indicate a troublesome and dangerous summer on tlie
frontiers. The minds of tlie inhabitants were filled
with the most gloomy apprehensions, and Colonel
Yates in writing from Palatine upon the Mohawk,
intimated, that unless a number of troops sufficient to
protect the settlements could be sent up, very few of
the inhabitants in that section would remain.

" The country," said he, " is very extensive, and lies
open on all sides to the inroads of the savages. I need
not describe to you the distresses of such as are obliged
to abandon their habitations, and the consequent dis-
tress and inconvenience of such as they fly to for refuge,
besides the preventing of which, the crops now in the
ground, and those to be put in, must (I should rather say
ought to) be saved, or there will be famine to those who
are now residing here. I have every opportunity to con-
vince myself, that people have bread for no longer than
the ensuing harvest. Indeed too many have not that." ^

These inroads upon the frontiers, called for active
measures for the public safety. Guards were stationed
at various points on the upper Mohawk, and the militia
were ordered to keep themselves in readiness to march
at a minute's warning, upon a given signal.

' Clinton Papers, No. 2,751. Col. Christopher P. Yates, the writer of
the above, was a leading patriot of Tryon county, and chairman of the
committee of correspondence at the beginning of the war. He served
as a captain and afterward as a colonel of militia, and was the first
county clerk under state appointment. He represented Montgomery
county in assembly five years, and died on his farm three miles west of
Canajoharic, and a mile from the river, Jan. 21, 1814, at the age of
65 years.


Before further tracing the events of 1780, we will
briefly describe the extent of the settlements in Albany
and Tryon counties, and the defenses then existing for
their protection.

The Mohawk valley, at the beginning of the revolu-
tion, had a population of about ten thousand, scattered
along in a narrow belt as far west as the present town
of German Flatts, in Herkimer county. ISTorthAvard,
the settlements extended to a short distance beyond
Johnstown. Towards the south, they had reached
the head waters of the Susquehanna, and in the valley
of the Schoharie creek, to about seven miles beyond
Middleburgh. ]N^orthward of Albany, they were thinly
scattered over the southern and eastern portions of the
present county of Saratoga, and in Washington (then
Charlotte) county, to Skeenesborough, now Whitehall.
Small settlements had been commenced on the western
shores of Lake Champlain, and considerable, yet widely
scattered improvements had been made in Cumberland
county, then claimed by I^ew York, but now included
in Vermont. At the beginning of hostilities, many of
the inhabitants decided to support the royal cause,
especially among the Scotch settlers near Johnstown,
although loyalists were found in almost every district
in the colony.

Their relative number was not large, but their fami-
lies often remained in the country, a burden upon
society, and objects of constant suspicion and jealousy
with those friendly to the American cause. They


harbored tlie enemies' spies, procured information,
and secretly favored Ms movements as opportunities
offered. Those who had fled to the enemy to bear
arms for the king, proved the most dangerous and
vindictive of partizans, being thoroughly acquainted
with the topography of the country, and familiar with
every road and stream and valley, that would favor the
movements of an invading party, or of a lurking foe.

The invasion of General Burgoyne, from the north,
and repeated inroads upon the Mohawk frontiers, had
entirely broken up the feeble beginnings upon Lake
Champlain, and the thri^dng settlements of Cherry
Valley, I^ewtown-Martin, Springfield, Harpersfield,
and Andrustown, southward of the INIohawk. Over
six hundred persons from Tryon county alone, had
gone off to the enemy, and hundreds of forms all
around the borders of civilization, were abandoned
by their owners, or destroyed by the enemy, leaving
dreary solitudes in places that had lately been enli-
vened by industry, and with here and there a heap of
rubbish to mark the site of what had been a home.

During the French and Indian wars, fortifications
had been erected at various points along the frontiers,
and the troubles of the revolution led to the construc-
tion of stockades around dwellings at numerous places
throughout the country, for sheltering of the inhabitants
in times of danger.

The number of these outposts having led to a greater
distribution of the troops available for their defense


than was thouglit desirable, the board of war, about
the middle of March, decided to break up several
minor stations, including those at Schenectady, Scho-
harie, Johnstown, Fort Plank, Oneida Castle, Half
Moon Point, New City, Saratoga, Fort Edward,
and Skeenesborough. The events upon the frontiers,
already noticed, induced Governor Clinton to retain
some of those at Skeenesborough, Fort Plank, Her-
kimer, Schoharie, and Fort Edward.

Fort Schuyler, on the site of the present village of
Rome, was then the most important post on the
frontier, and of sufficient strength to resist a large
force.^ During a part of the summer of 1780, it was
garrisoned b^^ Colonel Van Schaick of the Continental
troops, but early in September, he was ordered to
join the grand army, and Major Hughes was left in
command. It was the frontier post on the jSIohawk,
and nearly thirt}'- miles beyond the settlements. Fort
Herkimer on the south bank of the Mohawk, opposite
the mouth of West Canada creek, and Fort Dayton in
the present "\dllage of Herkimer, were then garrisoned
by small bodies of troops. At the former, a company
of fifteen men had been stationed during the winter
under Lieutenant John Smith, for the protection of
military stores. Their time had expired in April, and
they were clamoring for their discharge. Fort Plain,

1 A return of artillery at Fort Schujier, made November 23, 1780,
showed that there were then 23 cannon and G mortars, mostly iron
pieces and mounted for garrison use.


half a mile west of the present village of that
name, and Fort Hunter, east of the Schoharie creek,
near its confluence with the Mohawk, were works that
could oppose a hand attack. In the Schoharie settle-
ments there were three small forts, and on the northern
frontier there were forts with feeble garrisons at Lake
George, Fort Ann, Skeenesborough, Fort Edward, and
a few other points. Some of these were mere block-
houses, others were old works in partial ruin, and
none of them of sufficient strength to resist a vigorous

The territorial divisions of Albany and Try on coun-
ties as they existed in 1780, will be understood by
reference to the accompanying map.^

The militia of that portion of the state not in the
power of the enemy, was organized into forty-five
regiments, of which seventeen were in Albany, one in
Charlotte, one in Cumberland, eight in Dutchess, three
in Orange, five in Tryon, four in Ulster, and six in
Westchester counties. Of these, two were composed
wholly of exempts, and in addition to the regimental
organizations above enumerated, there were twenty-
five companies of associated exempts, whose officers
had received commissions from the state council of
appointment. The militia were only called out as
occasional alarms or invasions made it necessaiy, the

1 The colonial act dividing Albany and Tryon counties into dis-
tricts, was passed March 22d, 1773, and amended March 8, 1773, by
changing the names of the districts as given in the map.


duty of guarding the advanced posts, being chiefly
entrusted to detachments from the Continental army,

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryFranklin B[enjamin] HoughThe northern invasion of October, 1780; a series of papers relating to the expeditions from Canada under Sir John Johnson and others against the frontiers of New York, which were supposed to have connections with Arnold's treason: → online text (page 1 of 14)