Robert Tomes.

Battles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) online

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those of Europe : the host and hostess sit
at table with you, and do the honors of a
comfortable meal ; and, on going away,
you pay your bill without higgling. When
one does not wish to go to an inn, there
are country-houses where the title of a
good American is a sufficient passport to
all those civilities paid in Europe to one s

Receiving everywhere a flattering wel
come, the young Lafayette goes on joy
ously from South to North Carolina, and
thence through Virginia to Maryland and
Pennsylvania. On reaching Philadelphia,
where Congress was assembled, he sub
mits his letters to Mr. Lovell, the chair
man of the committee of foreign affairs,

The next day, Lafayette presents himself
at the hall of Congress, where Mr. Lovell
comes out to meet him, with the discour
aging intelligence that, as Congress had
been embarrassed with the applications
of so many foreigners, there was but little
chance of his success. The young mar
quis, however, was not to be driven away
by such a rebuff: so he immediately wrote
to the president of Congress, asking per
mission to serve in the American army,
on these two conditions : that he should
receive no pay, and that he should act as
a volunteer. These terms were so differ
ent from those asked by the crowd of for
eign military adventurers, that they were
at once accepted ; and the youthful La
fayette, not yet twenty years of age, was
appointed major-general in the American

His encouraging reception by Wash
ington, added to the success of his final
application to Congress, greatly inspirited
Lafayette, and he became eager for ser
vice. His horses and equipage were im
mediately sent to the camp at German-
town ; and he availed himself of the com-
mander-in-chief s invitation, and became,
as it were, a member of his family. On
the very next day after making his ac
quaintance at the dinner-party, Washing
ton invited him to ride out with him, to
inspect the fortifications on the Delaware.
These courtesies flattered the marquis,
but did not satisfy his desires. He did
not seem to understand the honorary na
ture of his major-generalship, and expect
ed the rank to be accompanied by a com
mand. It is true he has said," writes
Washington, " that he is young and inex-


[PART n.

perienced, but at the same time has al
ways accompanied it with a hint that, so
soon as I shall think him fit for the com
mand of a division, he shall be ready to
enter upon the duties of it, and in the
meantime has offered his services for a
smaller command ; to which I may add,
that he has actually applied to me, by
direction, he says, from Mr. Hancock, for
commissions for his two aids-de-camp."
Washington was perplexed by the perti
nacity of the young and ardent French
man, and asked for instructions from Con
gress. That body replied that Lafayette s
appointment was only honorary, and that
Washington was at liberty to use his own
judgment in regard to the bestowal of a
command. The young marquis was ac
cordingly left for the present in the en
joyment only of the rank of a major-gen
eral, while he served in the army as a

Lafayette is described as being at this
early period nearly six feet high, large
but not corpulent, and not very elegant
in person, his shoulders being broad and
high. His features were irregular, his
forehead remarkably high, his nose large
and long ; his eyebrows projected promi
nently over his eyes, which were full of
fire, and of a hazel color. He spoke but
few words of broken English/ 11

Baron DE KALB, who came over from
France with Lafayette, was also (though
subsequently to the appointment of the
marquis) made a major-general. The ser
vices of most of the other French officers,
howeveiyvvho accompanied them,were not
accepted, and they returned home.

* Timelier.

Another distinguished foreigner soon
presented himself at the headquarters of
the command er-in-chief. " Count Pulaski,
of Poland, an officer famous throughout
Europe for his bravery and conduct in
defence of the liberties of his country
against the three great invading powers
of Russia, Austria, and Prussia, will have
the honor of delivering this into your ex
cellency s hands," were the words of Doc
tor Franklin, in the letter written by him
at Paris to Washington, introducing the
illustrious Pole.

Count CASIMIR PULASKI, in the rebellion
against King Stanislaus Augustus, of Po
land (who, as a creature of the empress
Catharine II., was upheld on the throne
against the wishes of the nation), had al
ready given proof of his devotion to lib
erty. His father had sacrificed his life in
the same cause, and the son succeeded
him as the leader of the insurgents ; but,
failing to gather a sufficient force to re
sist the efforts of Russia, in conjunction
with the Polish king, to subdue his coun
try, young Pulaski determined to possess
himself of the person of Stanislaus, and
compel him to head the people in their
struggle for independence. Accordingly,
Pulaski, with thirty-nine bold associates,
entered Warsaw, seized the king, and were
carrying him off, when the guard came
up and rescued the royal prisoner. Pu-
laski s meager force of patriots was soon
after beaten by the combined armies of
Russia and Prussia, and he himself forced
to fly from the country. He subsequent
ly joined the Turks, in whose service he
fought against his old enemies the Rus
sians. When the war was over, Pulaski



went to Paris, where he met Franklin, by
whom, on his resolving to go to America,
he was commended, as we have seen, to

The commander-in-chief proposed that
Pulaski should have the command of the
cavalry, in which hitherto there had been
no officer of higher rank than colonel.
GeneralJosephReed had been offered the
appointment, but had declined. Washing
ton recommended Pulaski for the com
mand, saying to the president of Congress :
" This gentleman, we are told, has been,

like us, engaged in defending the liberty
and independence of his country, and has
sacrificed his fortune to his zeal for those
objects. He derives from hence a title
to our respect, that ought to operate in
his favor, as far as the good of the ser
vice will permit."

Count Pulaski was raised to the rank
of brigadier-general by Congress, and, af
ter the battle of the Brandywine, given
the command of the cavalry, in accord
ance with the suggestion made by the


Burgoyne s Progress. General Schuyler moves his Camp to Fort Miller. Alarm of the Country. Schuyler rebukes the
Cowards. His Efforts for Defence. Burgoyne rallies the Savages. Unchecked Ferocity. Story of Jane M Crea.

Burgoyne horrified. Impotent Attempt to punish the Murderers. The Effect of the Tragedy upon the Country.

Burgoyne pushes on to Fort Edward. The Americans retire to Stilhvater. The British besiege Fort Stanwix. A
Summons unheeded. Peter Gansevoort in Command. Old Herkitner to the Rescue. A Struggle. A Fratricidal
Fight. The Patriots in Possession of the Field. Death of Herkimer. Schuyler sends Relief to the Patriots on the


GENERAL BURGOYNE continued his
toilsome march toward the Hudson,
and so slow was his progress, that he did
not reach Fort Anne till the end of July,
On his approach, General Schuyler aban
doned his position at Moses creek, and
moved down the Hudson to Fort Miller.
The inhabitants of the country were still
in great alarm, and fled from their houses
and their farms, abandoning to the enemy
their flocks and ripening harvests as ths
British advanced. The people even in
Albany were panic-stricken, and called
upon Schuyler for protection. Vexed at
their unmanly fears, Schuyler strove to

inspire them with greater fortitude. " Is
it," he writes, " becoming rational beings,
when a misfortune has happened to them,
to despond and not to counteract the evil ?
Surely not; and, if the militia would do
their duty, we should soon make the en
emy repent their ever having come into
the country, and retreat with infinitely
more loss than we have experienced ; but
if the militia will sit still, folding their
arms, and not make use of those exer
tions which God has put in their power
to make use of for their own defence, they
certainly will become the victims of an
enemy whose very mercies are cruelty."




General Schuyler in the meantime was
unwearied in his efforts to bring all the
resources of the country to bear in its de
fence. He wrote the most pressing let
ters to the governors of New England, to
,he committees of safety, and to Washing
ton, asking for reinforcements. From the
commander-in-chief he soon received the
encouraging response that he would de
spatch General Lincoln, of Massachusetts,
to use his great influence in calling out
the militia of New England ; and Colonel
Morgan, with his riflemen, to protect the
country against the barbarous Indian al
lies of the British.

General Burgoyne had gathered to
gether a large force of Indian warriors.
To those which he had brought with him
from Canada were now added the Otta-
w r as and allied tribes. It was supposed
by the British government that these sav
ages would terrify the country, and such
had been its object in employing them.
Burgoyne, naturally a humane person,
had hoped to keep the cruel instincts of
the Indians in check by the exercise of
military discipline, and the influence of
the French-Canadians who led them on.
These wild denizens of the forest fully
served the purpose designed of inspiring
terror, but it was soon found impractica
ble to keep them within the constraints
of civilized warfare. A tragic incident
now occured, which proved how useless
had been Burgoyne s attempt to tame the
ferocity of his Indian allies. The British
army had reached Fort Anne, and was
preparing to move on to Fort Edward.
The Americans had retired with their
main body, leaving a rear-guard at the

fort, ready to evacuate it on the approach
of the enemy in force.

Near Fort Edward lived a Mrs. M- Neil,
who, being a royalist in sentiment and a
kinswoman of General Fraser, remained,
awaiting without alarm the approach of
the British troops, while most of the in
habitants were flying. With Mrs. M-Neil
there lingered one, however, who, though
belonging to an American family, did net
share in the anxious alarms of her coun
trymen. This was Jane M Crea, the daugh
ter of a Scotch Presbyterian clergyman,
of New Jersey. Her father was dead, and
she had gone to live with a brother resi
ding near Fort Edward, but who, as he
was a patriot, had abandoned his home
on the approach of the enemy, and fled
to Albany. He strove to persuade his
sister to accompany him, but without sue
cess. He wrote to her again and again,
to entreat her to join him, but she still
lingered behind. She was now a guest
of Mrs. M Neil, and, like that lady, fear
lessly awaited the approach of the Brit
ish, for she knew that she had one among
them who would protect her to the ut
most of his power. This was her lover.

In the neighborhood of her brother s
home at Fort Edward there lived a youth
of the name of David Jones. He and
Jane M Crea became lovers, and were be
trothed. His family, however, were loy
alists, while hers were wings ; and, when
war broke out, a separation took place.
Young Jones volunteered to serve in the
royal army, and, leaving his betrothed at
the home of her patriot brother, went to
Canada, where he received the king s com-
mission as a lieutenant. Having joined



Burgoyne, he was now marching, with the
division under General Fraser, toward his
former home, and with eager expectation
of meeting his beloved.

As rumors reached MissM Crea s broth
er, at Albany, of the advance of the ene
my, and of the terror with which their
savage allies were filling the whole coun
try, he sent a peremptory command to
his sister to go down to him. She finally
though reluctantly consented, and pre
pared to leave, in company with several
families, in a large batteau, which w r as
about to sail. On the morning of the day
proposed for departure, the whole region
was suddenly alarmed by the intelligence
that some of Burgoyne s Indians were
prowling in the neighborhood.

The home of Mrs. M Neil was one of
the most exposed, and the household was
soon thrown into great consternation by
a negro-boy, who came running in, cry
ing that the Indians were close by, and
then scampered away to the fort. Before
the people in the house could hide them
selves, the savages had entered. Seizing
Mrs. McNeil and Miss M Crea, the Indians
dividing into t\vo parties, each with a
prize bore them off toward Burgoyne s
camp. Those who had charge of Miss
M Crea had not gone far, when they halt
ed at a spring. Here the Indians quar
relled among themselves for the posses
sion of their captive. All their savage
ferocity was aroused ; and one, in his wild
rage, settled the dispute by killing the
poor girl. They then tomahawked her,
and bore her scalp as a trophy to the
British camp. :i:

* Wilkinson.

This is the commonly-received account
of the tragic event. There are, however,
other versions of the sad story. Every
annalist has his own. One tells us that
the fatal shot came from the Americans
at Fort Edward, who, observing the In
dians escaping with their prize, fired at
them, and unfortunately killed the fair
captive, whereupon the savages immedi
ately scalped her. Another reports that
the Indians had been hired by Lieutenant
Jones to bring his betrothed to the British
camp, and that in their quarrel for the re
ward (a keg of rum) they tomahawked
her. This is the more popular version ;
but, as it was solemnly denied by Jones
himself, who asserted his entire ignorance
of the affair until he beheld the reeking
scalp of the victim, it should no longer
be accepted.

Burgoyne was no less horrified than
every other civilized being at this act of
savage ferocity. He determined, more
over, to punish the murderer. A council
of his Indians was called, and a demand
made upon them for the surrender of the
criminal. This, however, greatly angered
the savages, for he who had done the cruel
deed was a chief. Burgoyne would, not
withstanding, have still persisted, had not
those who were supposed to be more fa
miliar with the Indian character, together
with some of his officers (fearful lest the
savages might become so indignant as to
abandon the British alliance), persuaded
him no longer to urge his demand.

The story of the murder, however, was
everywhere told with an exaggerated ac
count of the complicity of the British, and
served to inflame the feelings of the whole




country against them. " The story," says
Lossin;, " went abroad with all its horrid


embellishments; and the blood of Jane
M Crea pleaded eloquently for revenge.
Burke, in the exercise of his glowing elo
quence, used the story with powerful ef
fect in the British house of commons, and
made the dreadful tale familiar to the ear
throughout Europe." Burgoyne s civil
ized notions of justice, moreover, so far
disagreed with the sentiments of his sav
age allies, that they became discontented,
and deserted him so rapidly, that he was
soon left with but few Indians in camp.

General Burgoyne now reached Fort
Edward, while the Americans continued
to re tire farther down the Hudson, moving
first to Saratoga, and thence to Stillwater.
The British commander in the meantime
halted, to await the arrival of
General Phillips, with the artil
lery and baggage, and to receive intelli
gence from the detachment of the army
sent under Colonel St. Leger to make a
diversion by the way of Oswego, and with
whom it was intended to form a junction
at Albany.

Word soon came that St. Leger was
investing Fort Stanvvix (or Schuyler, as
it had been lately called) situated at the
head of navigation on the Mohawk river.
Colonel Peter Gansevoort, of Albany, who
had served under Montgomery at Quebec,
commanded the post, with a garrison of
seven hundred and fifty regular troops
from Massachusetts and New York. The
fort had been built during the French
War, and was of considerable strength,
but had been allowed to decay. The
Americans, however, had lately repaired

Aug. 3.

Aiiff, 4.

it, though not in such a manner as to
make its defences complete.

Colonel St. Leger now threatened the
post with a large and very miscellaneous
force, composed of nearly seventeen hun
dred men in all, among whom there were
a few British, Hessians, Canadians, and
American loyalists, while the majority
were Indian warriors, under Brant, the
Mohawk chief, and Sir John Johnson.

On the 3d of August, St. Leger sent in
a flag, with a summons to surrender, and
a copy of a pompous proclamation which
he had spread over the country. The
garrison took no notice of either, but re
solved upon defending their post. On
the next day, the English com
mander commenced the siege by
throwing a few bombs, and sending out
parties of Indians to approach close to
the fort, and, under cover of the trees, to
pick off those at work on the parapets ;
while at night the savages were ordered
to keep up a wild howl, with the view of
frightening the garrison.

Although the country had been panic-
stricken by the advance of the enemy,
the aged Herkimer, general of the militia
of Tryon county, had succeeded by great
efforts in gathering eight hundred men,
with whom he had marched to Oriskany,
within eight miles of the fort. He now
sent to inform Colonel Gansevoort of his
approach, and to request him to signify
the arrival of his messenger by firiii"-

o / 3

three guns. On hearing these signals,
General Herkimer proposed to force his
way through St. Leger s troops, to the be
sieged garrison. As the enemy were on
the alert, and had surrounded the fort,


with the view of cutting off its commu
nication with the neighboring country,
the messenger had great difficulty in
reaching Gansevoort. He finally succeed
ed by wading through a swamp supposed
by the enemy to be impassable, but only
after a long delay ; for, although he had
started in the night, with the hope of de
livering his message before morning, he
did not arrive until ten o clock the next

Old Herkimer, in the meanwhile, re
mained at Oriskany with his militia, anx
iously awaiting the discharge of the three
guns, which were to be the signal for his
advance. His men chafed at the delay,
and their officers, sharing in their impa
tience, urged Herkimer to press on. The
veteran, with true Dutch phlegm, smoked
his pipe-, and did not heed their importu
nities. At last, two of his officers (Colo
nels Cox and Paris), irritated by the ob
stinate prudence of their cautious com
mander, lost all self-control, and in their
anger charged Herkimer with cowardice
and treason. The fact that he had a broth
er and other relatives in the ranks of the
enemy appeared to give some show of
probability to the accusation. The old
man, however, was true as steel, and, con
scious of his integrity, calmly replied, " I
am placed over you as a father and a
guardian, and shall not lead you into dif
ficulties from which I may not be able to
extricate you." His officers,notwithstand-
ing, persisted in their ungenerous taunts,
when Herkimer yielded, and gave the or
der to advance; but he took care to tell
those who were so anxious to press for
ward, and were so boastful of their cour-

age, that they would probably be the first
to run at the sight of the enemy.

Colonel St. Leger had received intelli
gence of General Herkimer s approach,
and sent out Major Watts, with a party
of Johnson s Greens, Colonel Butler with
his Rangers, and a considerable body of
Indians under Brant, to oppose it. Colo
nel Gansevoort had observed from the
first this movement of the enemy, but
was unconscious of its object, until Her
kimer s messenger arrived, when it be
came obvious that St. Leger s object was
to cut off the old veteran s party. Gnnse-
voort immediately fired the three signal-
guns, and ordered out a detachment of
two hundred men drawn from his own
and Wessen s regiments, with a single iron
three-pounder, to make an attack upon the
position occupied by Sir John Johnson s
division, which had been weakened by
the detachment sent off against Herki

Lieutenant-Colonel Willett, a veteran
Long-islander, who had served in the
French Wars, and like Gansevoort fought
under Montgomery at Quebec, had charge
of this enterprise. Willett drew up his
men and prepared to make a sortie from
the fort, when the rain fell in torrents,
and prevented his departure. It proved,
however, but a summer shower, and after
a short delay he was able to sally out.
Willett s charge upon Sir John Johnson s
"Royal Greens" and Indian allies was so
impetuous, that the advanced guard was
pushed in upon the encampment, and the
whole force driven in confusion from its
ground. Sir John was so taken by sur
prise, that he had no time to put on his



[PART n.

regimental coat, and, thus unaccoutred,
strove to rail} 7 his troops. His efforts,
however, were unavailing, and he and his
Royal Greens were forced to cross the
river and seek refuge in St. Leger s camp
on the opposite bank, while the Indians
fled in all directions through the surround
ing forests. A large quantity of stores,
live British flags, and the papers and bag
gage of Sir John Johnson, fell into the
hands of Willett, who had not lost a sin
gle man in the enterprise. On his return
to the fort, the English flags were hoisted
beneath the American standard ; and his
men, mounting the ramparts, gave three
loud hurrahs.

Herkimer moved on. in no complacent
humor; and his undisciplined militia, shar
ing in the contentions of their officers,
followed him with little order or caution.
The enemy, in the meanwhile, had pre
pared an ambuscade. Across the road
by which Herkimer was advancing there
was a ravine, through which he would be
obliged to march. The enemy, on reach
ing this, posted their few regulars in the
front, toward the fort, and concealed the
Indians in the thick wood on each side of
the road. The latter were ordered to let
the Americans pass through the ravine,
and only attack them when they had
pushed on in the struggle with the small
party of British in front. In this manner
it was intended to surround Herkimer s
force, and completely hem it in front,
flank, and rear.

The Americans came on carelessly and
without suspicion. Their main body had
got fairly into the ravine, followed by the
baggage-wagons, while the rear-guard was

still some distance behind on the road,
when suddenly the Indians, too impatient
to wait for orders, shouted their terrible
war-whoop, and rushed impetuously from
their cover down upon Herkimer and his
men. The rear-guard immediately turned
and fled, leaving those in advance to bear
the whole brunt of the attack. General
Herkimer was brought down at the first
fire, by a musket-ball which killed his
horse, and shattered his own leg near the
knee. The brave old man, however, re
fused to be carried from the field, and or
dered his men to bear him to the foot of
a beech-tree near by, where, sitting on
his saddle, and calmly lighting his pipe,
he remained, giving orders.

The fight continued for more than an
hour with great spirit, when the enemy
strove to settle the engagement with a
charge of the bayonet. The Americans,
however, formed in circles, by which they
were enabled to present a front to their
assailants from all sides, and keep them
off by their effective musketry. The day
had been cloudy and unsettled, and now
came a heavy rain, with thunder the
same shower which, as we have seen, de
layed Willett s sortie from the fort. The
storm for awhile put an end to the strug
gle, and both parties sought a cover in
the woods.

During this temporary lull, the Ameri
cans shifted their ground, and determined
to change their manoeuvres. The savages
had been observed to await the discharge
of the muskets, and then rush upon each
man of the scattered troops while he was
separated from his fellows, and tomahawk
him. To guard against this, it was re-



solved by the Americans to post them
selves, two together, behind the trees, so

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 66 of 126)