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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house, thanked him for coming so far to see him, and re-
marked that he might some day return the compliment.

^ Manuscript statement of Joseph Waggoner.



90



HISTORY OF ONEIDA COUNTY, NEW YORK.



He said he would now go back to his village, and promised
the general that for the present the Indians would not begin
hostilities. He requested that Rev. Mr. Stewart, the Eng-
lish missionary at Fort Hunter, and the wife of Colonel
Rutler might be permitted to retire to Canada ; to which
requests Herkimer assented, though the last was not com-
plied with. A dozen heads of cattle were then presented
to the Indians, which they slaughtered immediately. The
parties then separated, Brant turning proudly away and
disappearing in the forest, while Herkimer struck his tents
and marched back to the Mohawk, to meet in a few weeks
amid the thunder of battle on the bloody field of Oriskany.

In speaking of the breaking up of this conference. Colonel
Stone says, quoting from "Annals of Tryon County,"
" Thus terminated this most singular conference. It was
early in July, and the morning was remarkably clear and
beautiful. But the echo of the war-whoop had scarcely
died away, before tlie heavens became black, and a violent
storm obliged each party to seek the nearest shelter. Men
less superstitious than many of the unlettered yeomen, who,
leaning upon their arms, were witnesses of the events of
this day, could not fail in after-times to look back upon
the tempest, if not as an omen, at least as an emblem of
those bloody massacres with which these Indians and their
associates afterwards visited the inhabitants of this unfor-
tunate frontier."

Immediately succeeding this conference, which was the last
held with the hostile MohaicJcs, Biant lefl the Susquehanna
with his warriors, and hastened to Oswego, where he joined
Colonels John Butler and Sir John Johnson, who were
then concentrating at that point the Tories and refugees
from all parts of the State. A council was also called by
the oflScers of the British Indian Department, who invited
the savages to assemble and " eat the flesh and drink the
blood of a Bostonian," meaning, according to an English
interpretation, the roasting of an ox and a grand banquet,
with plenty of liquors.

When the council had assembled the British commission-
ers opened the business by informing the chiefs that the
object of the meeting was to enlist the Indians in the ser-
vice of the king against the colonies, who were attempting
to rob him of the fairest portion of his dominions. At
first the Indians pointed to their treaties at German Flatts
and Albany, and declared their intention of abiding in good
faith by the terms of those treaties ; but the commissioners
ridiculed the idea of the colonies being able to maintain
themselves against the tremendous power of the govern-
ment, and by tempting bribes of pay and emoluments, and
plenty of rum and gewgaws distributed among them, they
at length prevailed upon them to conclude a treaty whereby
they agreed to take up arms and fight for the crown until
the rebels were subdued.

At the close of this treaty, according to Stone, each In-
dian was presented with a suit of clothes, a brass kettle, a
gun, a tomahawk and scalping-knife, a quantity of ammu-
nition, a piece of gold, and the promise of a hovnty vpon
every scalp he should hrvig in.

From the date of this treaty the MohuwJc chieftain was
the acknowledged leader of that portion of the Six Nations
which adhered to the English interest, and doubtless exerted



a most powerful influence in the councils of the British and
loyalist oflicers. Uniting the native cunning, and, to a cer-
tain extent, the ferocity, of the savage with the cultivation
and knowledge of the white man, he was well qualified to
lead the dusky warriors of the " Forest Cantons" not only
in their stealthy and destructive inroads among the peaceful
settlements of the Mohawk, the Susquehanna, and the Scho-
harie Kill, but in the van of the deadly conflicts with the
militia and trained soldiers of the colonies.

His first hostile demonstration within the colony of New
York was supposed to have been made in May preceding
his interview with General Herkimer, in the vicinity of
Cherry Valley.

This place was first settled in 1739, by emigrants from
Ireland and New Hampshire. In consequence of its fron-
tier exposure a force had been stationed for its protection
in 1763 ; but no military works were erected, and at the
opening of the Revolution it was without defense. While
Brant was collecting his foi'ces at Oquaga, the house of
Colonel Samuel Campbell was inclosed with a breastwork of
logs and earth, and the dwelling „nd out-buildings put in
as good a state of defense as possible. In the latter part of
May, Brant had conceived the pi eject of making a descent
upon the place for the purpose of destroying or making cap-
tives the principal citizens who were prominent in their
opposition to the acts of the British government, and active
in supporting the colonies.

Martial law was proclaimed in the place, and all the male
inhabitants of proper age were enrolled and made subject
to military duty. A juvenile company was also organ-
ized, and drilled with wooden substitutes for more deadly
weapons. Upon the very day on which Brant approached
the place these boys, or cadets, were drilling in front of
Colonel Campbell's house, and were mistaken by the chief-
tain for a veritable company of soldiers ; and, conceiving
the place to be well prepared for him, he contented himself
with lying in anibu.sh on the road leading from Cherry
Valley to the Mohawk, at a point where a small creek
tumbles through a darksome glen overhung by evergreens.*
The ravine is said to be 150 feet deep.

On the morning of the same day a promising young man.
Lieutenant Wormwood, had been dispatched from Palatine
with the information that Colonel Klock's regiment of militia
would come to the defense of Cherry Valley on the follow-
ing day. On his return to the Mohawk in the afternoon,
accompanied by one Peter Sitz, he was fired upon and
killed, and Sitz was taken prisoner at the ravine before
mentioned.

It is said that the gallant young ofl5cer was scalped by the
chief's own hand, who mistook him for an officer of the
Continental army, and that when he saw who he was he
greatly lamented his death.f The dispatches in duplicats,
which Sitz bore upon his person, and of which the dupli-
cate was worded purpo.sely to deceive any enemy into whose,
hands they might fall, were the cause of misleading Brant
as to the strength of the fortifications at Colonel Camp-
bell's (for Sitz had managed to destroy or hide the genuine

* The fall of this place was called by the Indians Te-ka-ha-ra-Ka.
f They h.id been acquaintances and friends. [Annals of Tryon
County.]



HISTORY OF ONEIDA COUNTY, NEW YORK.



91



papers), and he accordingly drew off his forces and retired
from the valley. Colonel Klook arrived the next day and
relieved the place. The remains of the young ofiScer were
secured by his friends, who found them where he had
fallen, and buried amid the mourning of the whole region,
for he was greatly esteemed.



CHAPTER X.

BUBGOYNE'S CAMPAIGM'.

St. Lcgor's Expedition — Statistics of his Force — Correspondence —
Colonel Gansevoort, General Schuyler — Incidents at Fort Stanwix
— Reinforcements and Supplies — The Flag — Roster of Officers —
The Oncidas — Herkimer's Proclamation — The Gathering — St. Le-
ger invests the Fort.

When the first collision occuiTed between the king's
troops and a few of the colonial militia there is little doubt
but the British government looked upon it as something
like a street mob on election day, a thing to be cleared away
by a few companies of troops ; and even after the battle of
Bunker Hill they congratulated themselves that the dis-
affected inhabitants of New England had learned a lesson
which would bring them to their senses and speedily pro-
duce a reaction among them and thus end the troubles.
But when thirty thousand men from all parts of the colo-
nies environed Boston with strong lines and frowning bat-
teries, and the rebels had captured Lake Champlain with
all its fortresses and even assumed the bold offeusive and
invaded Canada, — then it is quite probable the ministry
awakened to the actual possibilities of the situation.

The campaign in Canada during the season of 1776
was vigorously prosecuted by Sir Guy Carleton and other
competent officers, and after a desperate struggle the Pro-
vincial army was compelled to fall back within its own ter-
ritory. But notwithstanding the successes of the British
arms and the ravages of disease, the Americans stubbornly
clung to Ticonderoga and the south end of Lake Cham-
plain, and the British generals saw that another more im-
portant campaign was to be directed against them before
they were completely crippled.

After the evacuation of Boston the British army, largely
reinforced, had occupied New York City and the adjacent
country on Long Island and in New Jersey, after defeating
the Americans on the 27th of August; and they had, late
in the season of 1776, occupied a portion of the Hudson
River works ; but the American army under Washington
was still considerable, and the British commanders realized
that the operations of 1775 and 1776 had done very little
towards subduing the rebellion.

Under this state of aflfairs it was resolved to make a series
of grand military and naval movements. Two formidable
expeditions were fitted up in Canada; the principal one
under General Sir John Burgoyne, consisting of a picked
army of about eight thousand British and German veterans
and Canadian troops, with a splendid train of brass field
guns, and a powerful naval force on Lake Champlain, the
whole supplemented by a formidable Indian force, was to
move early in the season of 1777 up the valley of Lake
Champlain to Skenesborough, now Whitehall, and thence



via Wood Creek to the valley of the Hudson. Another
formidable force was to move up the St. Lawrence, across
Lake Ontario to Oswego ; thence up the Oswego River, and
over Oneida Lake, upon Fort Staiiwix ; and thence down the
valley to join Burgoyne at Albany. A third movement
was to be made by Sir Henry Clinton'with a strong army
and fleet up the Hudson River, reducing the fortifications
by the way, and finally meeting with the two first named
armies at Albany ; thus cutting New England off from
communication with the more southern colonies.

A fourth movement was arranged by Sir William Howe,
with 16,000 men and a powerful naval squadron, against
Philadelphia and the Middle States. With all these plans
successfully carried out, the British government believed
the rebellion would quickly collapse. They were certainly
well-arranged movements, and but for the stubborn resist-
ance of the ill-armed and half-starved colonial militia would
have proved fatal at that time to the hopes of the Ameri-
cans. One of these formidable expeditions only succeeded.
Owing to the weakness of the army under Washington, Sir
William Howe was enabled to take possession of Philadel-
phia and find winter quarters for his army, though the
American commander gave him severe battle at Brandy-
wine and Germantown.

The principal interest to the people of Oneida County
centres in St. Leger's campaign, but a glance at the move-
ments of Bui'goyne's army is necessary to a full understand-
ing of the situation. For a long time the Americans were
uncertain where the army concentrating in Canada was
destined to strike. The New England people believed that
Boston was the objective point, and the retreat of Sir Guy
Carleton from the valley of Lake Champlain in the autumn
of the preceding year led the people to doubt very much
whether any serious movement was intended in that quar-
ter. The British commanders and even the home govern-
ment industriously cultivated this error on the part of
Congress and the American commanders, and the result
was that only a small force was placed at the disposal of
General Schuyler, who had been again assigned to the com-
mand of the northern department, while Washington was
compelled to remain simply on the watch in New Jersey,
prepared for any sudden movement of Sir William Howe.

But in the course of the month of June the real designs
of the enemy were developed. The following item is from
the " Life and Correspondence of Washington," by Sparks,
copied from Stone :

" A person fiom Canada, arrested as a spy, and brought
before General Schuyler, stated on his examination ' that
the British forces were approaching St. Johns, and were
to advance through Lake Champlain, under General Bur-
goyne ; and also that a detachment of British troops, Cana-
dians, and Indians was to penetrate the country by way of
Oswego and the valley of the Mohawk. He added many
particulars respecting the strength and arrangements of the
British army, which turned out in the end to be nearly
accurate, but of which no intelligence had before been
obtained, or by many anticipated.' "

Burgoyne entered Lake Champlain in June, and pushed
on with celerity for Ticonderoga, which was still held by
the Americans, and fondly believed by many to be nearly



92



HISTOKY OF ONEIDA COUNTY, NEW YORK.



impregnable. It was occupied by General Artbur St. Clair,
with a force variously estimated, but probably not exceed-
ing 2500 men, and many of these badly armed and provided.
Burgoyne reached Crown Point on the 21st of June,
and appeared before Ticonderoga on the 2d of July. On
Tiis way up the lake he had prepared a stirring manifesto,
which was scattered through the country, setting forth the
irresistible power which he was leading against them, and
calling on the people at once to renounce their errors and
submit to the king.

Ticonderoga was strongly fortiBed with a single excep-
tion, — Sugar Loaf Hill, or Mt. Defiance, which commanded
all the surrounding heights, but which the American engi-
neers had foolishly deemed inaccessible. This point the
British at once seized, and erected batteries thereon.

The moment this movement was ■ discovered it became
apparent that the American works were untenable. A
council of war on the 5th of July unanimously decided
upon an evacuation, which was effected on the 6th. The
British pursued vigorously, and overtaking the rear of the
Americans, heavy fighting occurred near Skenesborough
and Fort Anne, and the left rear of St. Clair's army, which
had retreated by way of Hubbardton in Vermont, under
command of Colonel Seth Wai'uer, was attacked on the
morning of the 7th of July by the British advance under
General Fraser, and forced to fly sfter a desperate and
bloody action, in which the " Green Mountain Boys"
greatly distinguished themselves. Every obstacle was
overcome by the English army, and in a few days Burgoyne
was at Fort Edward on the Hudson.

But here the career of victory, which had been thus far
unchecked by a reverse, terminated. The melancholy fate
of Miss Jane McCrea had roused the entire country, and
the militia were flocking to the standard of Schuyler from
all directions. The movements of the British army were
delayed by the necessity of constructing roads and clearing
Wood Creek, which had been blocked up by the retreating
Americans, and the troubles of General Burgoyne now
began in earnest.

Leaving the British commander in the encircling toils, we
will proceed to consider another branch of this campaign,
having for its object the conquest of Fort Stanwix and the
Mobawk Valley.

The forces placed under command of Colonel Barry
St. Leger* were designated in London, as appears by the
following extract from an oSicial letter from Lord George
Germaine to Governor Sir Guy Carleton, dated at White-
hall, 26th of March, 1777, taken from the " State of the
Expedition from Canada," published in London, 1780, by
General Burgoyne. We copy from the Oriskany Centen-
nial volume:

* Colonel Barry St. Leger entered the army as ensign in the 28th
Regiment of Foot, April 27, 1756. Came to America in 1757. He
was present at the siege and capture of Louisburg^ in 1758, and
served as captain under Wolfe, during the operations around Quebec,
in 1759. Was appointed brigade major in July, 1760. Major of the
95th Regiment, Sept. 16, 1760; promoted lieutenant-colonel in May,
1772, and placed in command of the 34th Kegimcnt of Foot in May,
1775. Commanded the expedition against Fort Stanwi.^, as acting
brigadier-general, in 1777, and died in 1789, without having acquired
any special distinction in his profession. [Doc. Hist., viii. 714.]



" With a view of quelling the rebellion as quickly ad possible, it ip
become highly necessary that the most speedy junction of the two
armies should he effected, and therefore, as the security and good
government of Canada absolutely require your presence there, it ia
the king's determination to leave about 3000 men under your com-
mand, and to employ the remainder of your army upon two expedi-
tions, the one under the command of Lientenant-General Burgoyne,
who is to force his way to Albany, and the other under command of
Lieutenant-Colonel St. Leger, who is to make a diversion on the
Mohawk River.

" As this plan cannot be advantageously executed without the
assistance of Canadians and Indians, His Majesty strongly recom-
mends it to your care to furnish both expeditions with good and suffi-
cient bodies of these men ; and I am happy in knowing that your
influence among them is so great, there can be no room to apprehend
that you will find it difficult to fulfill His Majesty's expectations. . . .

" It is the king's further pleasure that you put under command of
Colonel St. Leger :

Detachments from the 8th Regiment 100

Detachments from the 34th Regiment 100

Sir John Johnson's Regiment of New York-j- 133

llanau Chasseurs 342

675

Together with a sufficient number of Indians and Canadians, and
after having furnished him with proper artillery, stores, provisions,
and every other necessary article for his expedition, and secured to
him every assistance in your power to afford and procure, you are to
give him orders to proceed forthwith to, and down, the Mohawk
River to Albany, and put himself under the command of Sir William
Howe.

"I shall write to Sir William Howe from hence by the first packet,
but you will nevertheless endeavor to give him the earliest intelli-
gence of this measure, and also direct Lieutenant-General Burgoyne
and Lieutenant-Colonel St. Leger to neglect no opportunity of doing
the same, that they may receive instructions from Sir William Howe.
You will at the same time inform them that until they shall have
received orders from Sir William Howe, it is His Majesty's pleasure
that they act as exigencies may require, and in such manner as they
shall judge most proper for making an impression on the rebels and
bringing them to obedience; but that in so doing they must never
lose view of their intended junctions with Sir William Howe as their
principal objects.

"In case Lieutenant-General Burgoyne or Lieutenant-Colonel St.
Leger should happen to die, or be rendered, through illness, incapa-
ble of executing these great trusts, you are to nominate to their re-
spective commands such officer or officers as you shall think best
qualified to supply the place of those whom His Majesty has, in bis
wisdom, at present appoluted to conduct these expeditions."

From this letter it would appear that neither the king
nor his ministers had any doubts as to the sufliciency of the
respective armies or the ultimate success of their operations ;
and Lord Germaine knew or thought so little of Fort Stan-
wix that it is not even mentioned as an impediment to the
march of St. Leger down the valley. Sir Guy Carleton
supposed the fort to be only a stockade garrisoned by about
sixty soldiers.J

How many Canadians joined St. Leger's forces we have
no means of knowing,§ but it is probable that the most of
these were with Burgoyne's army. The total of his forces,
after the whole were collected at Oswego and Three Rivers,
at which points Colonel John Butler from Niagara and
Tliay-en-dan-e-gea with the warriors of the Six Nations
joined the expedition, ia stated by Colonel Stone at 1700,
not probably including boatmen and wagon-drivers.|| The

f Familiarly known as "Johnson's Greens."
\ Colonel Claus' letter to Secretary Knox, at London.
§ Certain accounts say that there was one company of Canadians.
II Some accounts state that 2000 Canadians were with the expedi-
tion as axemen, but this was no doubt an exaggeration.



HISTORY OF ONEIDA COUNTY, NEW YORK.



93



Indian forces' undei' the great Mohawk chief included a band
of 150 Mfssrtsagoes, or Misisagey Indians, and numbered
altogether from 800 to 1000. The field and siege guns,
according to Colonel Claus' statement to Sfecretary Knox,
were two six-pounders, two three-pounders; and four co-
horns, the latter a sort of 'siege-piece long since gone out of
use. Why St. Leger should have depended on guns of
such- small calibre does not appear. He probably under-
estimated the strength of the works as well as that of the
garrison.

The order of march of St. Leger's army was captured
among his papera, and has been reproduced in Stone's '■ Life
of Brant." The order of march for an army on paper and
-its actual movements over hills and through swamps, val-
leys, and rapines are two things, as any one conversant with
the movements of armies in the field well understands.
The order is followed as nearly as the topography of the
country and other circumstances will permit. Subjoined is
the plan of St. Leger's march.*




Rear



Guard.



• From the print in Stone's Life of Brant.



The following description of the order of march is from
Colonel Stone's " Life of Brant" : " The advance of the
main body, it will be seen, was formed of Indians marching
in five columns ; that is, in single files, at large distances
from each other, and 460 paces in front of the line. From
these columns of Indians files were stretched at a distance
often paces from each other, forming a line of communica-
tion with the advance guard of the line, which was 100
paces in front of the column. The right and left flanks were
covered by Indians at lUO paces, forming likewise lines of
communication with the main body. The King's Regi-
ment moved from the left by Indian file, while the Thirty-
fourth moved in the same order from the right. Tlie rear-
guard was formed of regular troops; while the advance
guard, composed of 60 marksmen detached from Sir John
Johnson's regiment of Royal Greens, was led by Sir John's
brother-in-law, Captain (Major ?) Watts. Each corps was
likewise directed to have ten chosen marksmen in difi'erent
parts of its line, in case of attack to be pushed forward to
any given point as circumstances might require."

From all these precautions we learn that the commander
of this expedition appreciated the possibilities that might
overtake him, and like a good general covered his troops at
all times from sudden surprise.

Leaving St. Leger's army on the move from Oswego
towards Fort Stanwix, let us go back a little and look at
the situation on the side of the Americans.

At the commencement of the year, as we have seen, Col-
onel Elmore, of the State service, was in command of Fort
Stanwix. His term expired in April, and Colonel Peter
Gansevoort,"!" also of the State service, was directed to suc-
ceed him, by an order from General Gates, on the 26th of
the month. On his arrival, Colonel Gansevoort found that
notwithstanding the labors of Colonel Dayton the year pre-
ceding, the works were in no condition for defense, and were,
in fact, almost untenable. The colonel had but a small num-
ber of men, and with the certainty of an early attack by a
large force of the enemy from the west, his situation was
anything but agreeable.

On the 18th of May Colonel Marinus WillettJ was or-
dered to join the garrison with his regiment. He arrived
at the fort on the 29th of the month. A better selection
of officers to hold this important post could not possibly
have been made. Colonel Gansevoort had seen service
under Montgomery, where he won his colonel's commission,
and his military experience had peculiarly fitted him for the
position assigned him. He evidently came of a family whose
blood had no tinge of cowardice, and could remain cool and
determined in the midst of dangers and death. Colonel
Willett had served in the French war and knew the In-



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 24 of 192)