Samuel W Durant.

History of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers online

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us in the way to heaven." He also alluded to the subject
of some domestic trouble which his people had experienced
with the inhabitants of Albany, and charged them with
taking lands which they had no right to. He requested
the " Twelve Colonies" to restore these lands to the Indians,
and said, in the words of a true prophet, " If you refuse to
do this, we shall look upon the prospect as bad ; for if you
conquer, you will take us by the arm and pull us all off."
In view of the treatment which this band of Mohawks re-
ceived from General Sullivan in 1779, the utterances of the
chief seemed an intuitive anticipation of the future, which
in the days of Jeremiah would have been called the "spirit
of prophecy."

Tiahogwando, an Oneida chief, made a speech upon the
bitter controver,sy then existing between the States of
Pennsylvania and Connecticut, respecting the lands on the
Susquehanna, claiming that the lands in controversy were
originally the property of the Indians which they had con-
veyed as a free gift to William Penn, because the Great
Spirit would not allow them to be sold.

The commissioners replied, on the 1st of September, in a
conciliatory spirit, and acceding to most of the requests of
the Indians. To the desire of the Indians that some one
be appointed to keep the council-fire burning at Albany,
they replied that General Schuyler and Jlr. Douw had been
selected for that purpose. This finished the council so far
as the colonies were concerned. Some unfinished business
with the Albany committee was arranged on the 2d of Sep-
tember, at which time the subjects of Colonel Guy John-
son's council at Oswego, and some matters touching the
title to certain lands in the vicinity of Ticonderoga, were
discussed ; Little Abraham being the speaker on behalf of
the Indian,s. The council (which was the last general one
ever held at Albany) closed with the distribution of presents
among the Indians, who departed well pleased with their
treatment'.t

The good feelings with which the Indians separated for
their several homes were most unfortunately turned to the
" gall of bitterness" by a malignant fever, which soon after
appeared among them, and became a destructive epidemic.
A large number died, and the Schoharie canton, in par-



f For the full text of this treaty see ap[)endi.\ to vol. i. of Colonel
Stone's Lifu of Brant.



HISTORY OF ONEIDA COUNTY, NEW YORK.



83



tioular, was almost depopulated. Those who survived ac-
cepted the only explanation which the savages could invent,
and which, even among the enlightened white population
of to-day, is still a current belief, that the Great Spirit was
angry with them for not taking up arms for the Idng, and
the Schoharie tribe soon after followed their brethren to
Canada. In the subsequent invasions of the Mohawk and
other valleys, these Schoharie Indians were the most cruel
and revengeful of all the savage bands.

After all that eould be done to make a success of the
Albany council it was substantially a failure, for only the
Oneidas and the lower clan of the Mohaickn attended.
The attempt to keep the savages quiet in the midst of war,
even if desii-ed by both belligerents, proved abortive, as
must always be the case where they are sufficiently strong
to have any weight in the contest.

During the year 1775, matters wore so evenly balanced
between the " Whigs" and " Tories" of New York, that it
was by no means certain upon which side the colony would
range itself.

William Tryon, the Royal Governor, had been first ap-
pointed Governor of the colony July 9, 1771, and had
served until April, 177-1:, when he was succeeded by Cad-
wallader Culden, the Lieutenant-Governor, wlio filled the
office until Jane 28, 1775, when Tryon was recalled from
North Carolina, whither he had been ordered, and a second
time appointed Governor of New York. He was very pop-
ular in the colony, and used every endeavor to hold it in
the interests of the home government. Aiding and abet-
ting him was the commander of the "Asia," a powerful ship-
of-war, which was anchored in the stream with hpr broad-
side on the city. The commander had threatened to de-
stroy the town if any attempt was made by the provincials
under General Charles Lee, who was approaching from the
east at the head of an army, to take possession of it. Dis-
affection and toryism were everywhere rife, and even the
halls of Congress were not exempt from their influence.
Intrigue was at work, and it was discovered by a secret
correspondence that the British Government was preparing
to send a formidable fleet and army up the Hudson, with
the design to occupy both New York and Albany.

Sir John Johnson, at the Baronial Hall, was a constant
object of suspicion, and it was quite probable that a definite
knowledge of the plans of the British commanders had
caused him to remain, while his brother-in-law and so many
others had fled to Canada. He also had a numerous ten-
antry, and they were kept armed and held in readiness in
case of any emergency. These tenantry were mostly Scotch
Catholics, and all Loj-alists, notwithstanding their attempt
thirty years before to revolutionize Scotland under Charles
Edward.

The Dutch and Gorman inhabitants were mostly Whigs,
and their committee executed their authority vigorously
and diligently. The inhabitants were organized and en-
rolled as militia, and every preparation was made to meet
any emergency which might arise.

Among tlie Tory inhabitants was Alexander White, the
sheriff, by appointment of the Governor, who had rendered
himself obnoxious by dispersing a band of Whigs, and cut-
ting down their liberty pole at German Flatts. Like nearly



all the Crown officers, he was bitterly loyal, and the com-
mittee finally deposed him and procured the appointment
of Colonel John Frey, a stanch Whig, in his place.

White, upon one occasion, had arrested a Whig, by the
name of John Fonda, and thrown him into prison; where-
upon Sampson Sanimons had rallied about fifty of his
friends and taken him out by force. From the prison they
then proceeded to the dwelling of the sheriff, and demanded
his instant surrender. White put his head out from a
second-story window, while the crowd were standing at his
front door, and recognizing the leader, said, " Is that you,
Sammons ?" " Yes," was the prompt reply ; whereupon
White fired his pistol at Sammons, but happily missed his
aim, the ball lodging in the door-sill. This is said to have
been the first hostile shot fired in the war of the , Revolu-
tion west of the Hudson. The men accompanying Sam-
mons were all armed, and they immediately returned the
fire, but without any further damage to the sheriff than a
slight graze across the breast. The doors of the dwelling
were at once assaulted and burst in, and White would have
been a prisoner in a few minutes, when the report of a gun
at Johnson Hall arrested the party's attention, and knowing
well that Sir John could bring several hundred men at
once against them, they desisted and left the ground. They
assembled soon after at Caughnawaga, from whence they
sent a deputation to wait on Sir John Johnson and demand
the surrender of the sheiiff, which demand was, of course,
not acceded to.

After White's dismissal by the committee he was re-
commissioned by Governor Tryon, but the committee would
not allow him to enter upon the duties of his office. The
popular indignation ran so high against him that he fled
towards Canada, but was pursued and brought back to
Albany and imprisoned. He was soon after released on
parole, and very prudently left the country.

In regard to Sir John Johnson, mutters were rapidly
approaching a crisis. On the 7th of September the com-
mittee wrote the following letter to the Provincial Congress
of New York :

''There is a great number oT proved ensinlcs against onr associa-
tion and regulations thereof, proceeding in and !ib>ut Johnstown and
Kingsborough, under the direction and order of Sir Joliii Johnson,
being Highlanders, amounting to 200 men, according to intelligence.
We are daily scandalized by them, provoked and threatened, and we
must surely e,\pect a havoc of them upon our families if we should
be required and called elsewiiere for the defense of our country's
cause. The people on our side are not willing that the Cotuuiittee
should proceed so indulgently any longer. We have great suspicions,
and are almost assured that Sir John has a continual correspondence
with Colonel Guy Johnson and his party."

It was afterwards ascertained that a correspondence was
kept up by means of Indian runners, who conveyed letters
in the heads of their tomahawks and in their personal orna-
ments.

On the 26th of October the committee wrote the following
letter to Sir John :

Tbvon Cou.vty Committee Cramdbr, Oct. 26, 1775.
"lIoNoii vBLE Sir, — As we find particular reason to be convinced of
your opinion in the questions hereafter expressed, we request that
you'll oblige us with your sentiments thereupon in a few lines by our
messengers the bearers hereof, — Messrs. Ebenezer Cox, James McMas-
ter, and John J. Klock, members of our Committee. We wish to know



84



HISTORY OF ONEIDA COUNTY, NEW YORK.



whether you will allow the inhnbitnnts of Johnstown nnd Kings-
borough to form IhetnFclres iuto companies, nccording to the regula-
tions of our Continentiil Congress, for the defense of our country's
cause; nnd whether your Honour would be ready iiimself to give his
personal assistance to the same purpose: also, whether you pretend
a prerogative to our County Court-house and gaol, and would hinder
or interru]it the Committee making use of the same to our want and
service in the common cause.

" Wc do not doubt you will comply with our reasonable request,
and thereby oblige." etc.

To this letter Sir John replied :

" That, as to embodying his tenants, he never did or should forbid
them; but they might save themselves further trouble, as he know
his tenants would not consent. Concerning himself, sooner than lift
his band against his king, or sign any association, be would suffer
his head to be cut off. As to the court-bouse and gaol, he would not
deny the use of it for the purpose for which it was built, but that
tbey wore his property until he should be refunded £700. He further
said be bad been infoi med that two-thirds of Can.ajuharrie and Ger-
man Flatts people had been forced to sign the association.""^

Copies of the committee's proceedino;s were forwarded to
Congress, and by that body in the main approved ; but it
was recommended that to avoid difficulty, the committee
should procure some other building for the purpose of hold-
ing meetings, and for jail purposes. The advice was fol-
lowed, and some of the prisoners were sent to Albany and
Hartford for safe keeping.

During the winter of 1775—76 the fears of the people
were again excited by the preparations which Sir John made
to fortify " Johnson Hall." The report was circulated that
when the fortifications should be completed, they would be
garrisoned by 300 Indians, in addition to his own men, and
from thence they would sally out and ravage the surrounding
country.

" General Schuyler had been kept informed of these opera-
tions, and it was finally determined to take active measures
to prevent their consummation. Accordingly, in January,
1776, the general, accompanied by General Ten Broeck,
Colonel Varick, and others, with a small detachment of
soldiers, visited Tryon County. General Herkimer imme-
diately called out the militia, who wore paraded on the ice
in the Mohawk River. The rendezvous was at Major
Fonda's, a few miles from Johnson Hall. Major Fonda was
dispatched as a messenger to Sir John. Correspondence
was opened, and Sir John finally surrendered himself a
prisoner, and his tenants and dependents were disarmed.
Sir John was sent to Fishkill, where he was liberated on
parole. These proceedings relieved the fears of the inhabi-
tants during the remainder of the winter."

In the May following, however, Sir John violated his
parole and removed to Canada with a large number of his
tenants. " Sir William would have frowned with indigna-
tion upon this unmanly and disgraceful conduct of his
son."'|" A correspondence succeeded this movement of
Sir John, between the New York Congress and General
Washington, touching the advisability of an exchange for
the baronet, but there is no evidence that any further steps
were taken in the matter. His property, which was valu-
able, was confiscated by Congress and sold under direction
of the comiuittee. During the war he commanded a regi-
ment of refugees, or royalists, known along the border as



'■' Campbell's Aunals of Tryon County.



t Stone.



"Johnson's Greens,'' probably from the color of their uni-
form. This body of men and their degenerate leader will
again appear on the stage of action in the course of this
work.

The first delegates from Tryon County to the Provincial
Congress of New York were John Morlett and John
Moore. Afterwards William Wills, Benjamin Newkirk,
Volkert Veeder, and William Harper were appointed. The
latter two were for a long time members of the State Com-
mittee of Safety. In the spring of 177G a new committee
was elected, of which John Frey was chosen chairman.

" At a meeting held in May, it was unanimously resolved
to instruct the delegates from Tryon County in the Pro-
vincial Congress to vote for the entire independence of the
colonies. The Declaration of Independence which soon
followed was hailed by them with great joy, and they were
willing to maintain it 'with their lives and fortunes.' "

The opening events of the war had been propitious for
the Americans. Immediately after the collision between the
king's troops and the Blassachusetts militia, at Lexington
and Concord, various military operations were set on foot.
Colonel Ethan Allen, acting under the authority of the
New Hampshire Grants, as the State of Vermont was then
called, and Colonel Benedict Arnold, commissioned by the
Provincial Assembly of Connecticut; 'haTl, ti»keij- posses.siour
of Ticonderoga on the 10th of May, 1775 ; Colonel Set!h
Warner captured Crown Point, and Arnold had proceeded
down the lake as far as St. John's, where he captured a
sloop-of-war by surprise. Skenesborough, now Whitehall,
had been taken, and thus in a few weeks, without the loss
of a man on the side of the colonists. Lake Champlain,
with all its fortresses and immense stores, fell into the
hands of the Americans. , i , , ,

General Schuyler had been assigrie'd tb th'e iommnndof
the northern army, which was moving against the Canadas,
but was obliged by sickness to resign it to General Richard
Montgomery, who prosecuted the campaign with great vigor
and astonishing success. St. John's, Chambly, and Montreal
were taken in rapid succession, and Sir Guy Carleton was
forced to flee down the St. Lawrence in an open boat with
muffled oars. Montgomery followed to Quebec, where his
small army was reinforced by the half-starved column of
900 men which Arnold had led from the head-waters of
the Kennebec through an unbroken wilderness over the
mountains and down the Chaudiere to the banks of the
St. Lawrence. Sir Guy Carleton was fortifying Quebec
to the utmost of his ability, and preparing for the worst.
But sickness had decimated the little army of Montgomery,
and his light guns were not able to make any impression
on the strong walls of the great fortress. A council of war
was called, and an assault determined upon, which was
made on the .31st day of Deceinber, 1775, and terminated
disastrously to the American arms, who lost their gallant
commander, and many killed and taken prisoners.

In June, 1775, occurred the battle of Bunker Hill, and
soon after Washington had taken command of the hastily-
collected army and closely besieged the British in Boston,
which Sir William Howe was compelled to evacuate on the
17th of March, 1776. The British army and 2000 refu-
gees at first proceeded to Halifax, N. S., but subsequently



HISTOKY OF ONETDA COUNTY, NEW YORK.



the army was concentrated against the city of New York,
where Washington also established his headquartera

With the opening of spring Sir Guy Carleton was rein-
forced by a British squadron and a hirge land force, and
immediately took the offensive against Arnold, who had
remained in front of Quebec through the winter, but who
was now obliged to retreat before the greatly superior num-
bers of the enemy. Sickness and disaster forced the Amer-
icans to give up all their conquests of the preceding year,
and the approach of winter found everything again in pos-
session of the British army. Arnold had battled manfully
on Lake Champlain, but the fortunes of war were against
him, and all hope of holding the Canadas was abandoned.
Arnold had been relieved of the chief command at Quebec by
General Thomas, who had subsequently died of smallpox at
the mouth of the Sorel River. This loathsome disease
continued its ravages until the army was completely deci-
mated, and its destructive effects were greatly increased by
a villainous Dr. Barker, who, it is said, purposely propa-
gated it.

In June, 1776, G-ates was assigned to the command of the
northern army, greatly to the injury of General Schuyler
and to the disgust of many of the officers and men. Colonel
Peter Gansevoort, then a lieutenant-colonel in Colonel Van
Schaick's regiment, felt himself so much aggrieved by the
general's haughty and imperious conduct towards him that
he wrote Gates a most spirited letter, threatening to resign
the command of Fort George, with General Schuyler's
permission.

At the close of 177C matters were gloomy in the extreme,
and the generous treatment of those Americans who fell
into the hands of Sir Guy Carleton not only prevented any
aid or assistance from the Canadians, but caused many of
the Americans to take a discouraging view of the situation,
and even induced numbers to desert the cause. General
Schuyler repeatedly complained of the frequent desertions,
which threatened to break up the army.

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.

The great event of the year 1776, and indeed of the
eighteenth century, was the American Declaration of In-
dependence, which was solemnly adopted by the Continental
Congress on the 4th of July. This bold measure at once
settled the question. The colonies were no longer fighting
for their rights under the British Crown, but contending
for a place among the nations of the earth. By this dec-
laration they severed themselves from the mother-country,
and established a definite line of policy. The soundness of
their reasoning, and the masterly manner in which their
claims to recognition were set forth, produced a profound
impression among the courts of Europe, and they one after
another recognized their rights as belligerents, and France,
in 1778, concluded a treaty offensive and defensive with the
gallant people, which materially aided in establishing their
independence. Having thus, like Cortez, burned their ships
behind them, there was no alternative but to gird them-
selves for the dubious conflict and defend their principles
henceforth to a successful issue.

At this very time Great Britain was making herculean
efforts to crush the colonies at one powerful blow. Not



content with the use of the blood and treasure of their
own kingdom, the government entered into negotiations
with some of the minor princes of the German States to
furnish 17,000 troops for a stipulated sum per head. To
these were added 25,000 British troops, under competent
commanders, the whole supplemented and supported by the
most powerful navy in the world. But this formidable dis-
play did not discourage the colonists. They gathered
strength and filled up their armies, though destitute of
almost everything which the prosecution of a great war
requires, except patriotism. The clergy, almost to a man,
gave their voices for the cause, and sermons were preached
all over the broad land, from Maine to Georgia, urging the
people to continued atid determined resistance ; and not a
few cast aside their vestments and donned the " buff and
blue,'' like Muhlenburg and Trumbull and Gano, and did
heroic battle in the ranks.

During the summer of 1776 Tryon County was com-
paratively quiet. The inhabitants were, to some extent,
organized, armed, and drilled, and scouts and parties of
rangers were kept on the borders to give timely notice of
the approach of an enemy. Among the commanders of
ranger companies were Captains Robert McKean and Winn,
the latter of whom was stationed for some time with his
company at Cherry Valley.

POllTIFICATIONS IN THE MOHAWK VALLEY.

At the beginning of the war there were the following
fortifications in the valley of the Mohawk, all more or less
dilapidated, and some entirely in ruins : Fort Stanwix, at
the carrying-place, which had been built near the former
sites of Forts Craven and Williams, by General John
Stanwix, in the year 17.')8, and named in his honor; old
Fort Schuyler, on the present site of Utiea, an inferior
work, and never regularly garrisoned ; Fort Dayton, prob-
ably erected by Colonel Dayton, near the site of the present
court-house in Herkimer village ; Fort Herkimer, on the
south bank of the Mohawk, opposite the mouth of West
Canada Creek ; Fort Canajoharie ;* old Fort Plain, in the
town of Minden, Montgomery County, built by a French
engineer during the war of 1755-60, which was an im-
mense three-story block-house, each story overlapping the
one below ; and Fort Hunter, at the mouth of Selioharie
Creek, built in 1711, and abandoned after the French war.
There were also three fortifications, most likely block-houses,
built in the town of Minden during the Revolution, and
named Fort Plank, Fort Clyde, and Fort Willett, in honor
of prominent men. Schenectady was also fortified and
garrisoned. " Johnson Hall" was fortified by Sir John
Johnson, but abandoned in 1775. The islands at the
mouth of the Mohawk were fortified during Burgoyne's
campaign, and Queen Anne's Chapel, in the town of
Florida, was inclosed with a stockade, which had a few
light guns mounted. There were probably in addition to
these quite a number of the mansions of the wealthy class
also fortified to resist the savages.

In the early part of the season of 1776, Colonel Van

-^ This fort is called by Colonel Willett, in u, letter to General
Washington, July 6, 1781, Fort Rensselaer. — Narrative, page 77.



86



HISTORY OF ONEIDA COUNTY-, NEW YORK.



Schaick w;is stationed with a body of regular troops at
Johnstown, and Colonel Dayton* at the German Fliittg
with a similar force.

The attention of the Continental Congress was early
called to the importance of Fort Stanwix, though it was
beyond the settlements of the valley. It had long been
considered the key of the western country, and whichever
belligerent occupied it would be master of the great route
from Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence, and the West, to the
Hudson River. Washington had at an early period pointed
out to General Schuyler the necessity of repairing and gar-
risoning this work; and in the course of the season Con-
gress directed Schuyler to put it in a state of defense,
together with other works in the valley.

Colonel Dayton was directed to take command of Fort
Stanwix, and the militia of Tryon County were called out
to assist iti- repairing the work. It is stated that the origi-
nal cost of the fort, as constructed by General Stanwix, was
$266,400, but this was quite probably an exaggeration, as
it was wholly constructed of earth and timber."}" It was,
however, an extensive work for an inland frontier fortress,
and Colonel Dayton appears to have made slow progress in
the labor of repairing it. To this officer is given the credit
of changing the name to Fort Schuyler in honor of the com-
mander of the northern army. By this name it was known
through the war. It appears that Colonel Dayton was su-
perseded some time in 1776, by Colonel Elmore of the
State service, for the latter was in command on the first of
January following.

The events of the year 1776 had been various. The
American army, after the evacuation of Boston, had been
rapidly concentrated in New York, whither the British army
and fleet had followed in the months of June and July.

Both the British fleet and army had been powerfully re-
inforced by Admiral Parker and Sir Henry Clinton from
the south, and Lord Howe, brother .of Sir William, from
Halifax, and the total land force now amounted to 24,000
men, including a division of Hessians under General Kni-



Online LibrarySamuel W DurantHistory of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 22 of 192)