Samuel W Durant.

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

. (page 31 of 192)
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all prisoners.

Major Butler Wiis in the midst of a speech to the people
assembled, when an officer in the Continental uniform
stepped in, and, tapping the speaker on the shoulder, very
quietly informed him that he was a prisoner. Butler's
astonishment was beyond description ; but there was no
escape, and the whole party was marched to Fort Dayton,
and imprisoned under close guard.

Upon the arrival of General Arnold he ordered a court-
martial convened, which tried .Major Butler as a spy.
Colonel Willett officiated as judge advocate, and Butler
was oiinvictod and sentenced to death ; but upon the inter-
cession of a number of officers who had known him before
the war, when a law student at Albany, a reprieve was
granted, and he was sent to Albany and imprisoned until
the following spring. When the Marquis de La Fayette
assumed command of the northern department, it is said
the friends of Butler interceded and begged for a, miti-
gated form of imprisonment on account of ill health, which
request was granted, and ho was removed to a private house
and kept under guard ; but from which he managed to
escape, — some accounts say through treachery, — and fled
to the British lines. His subsequent career in arms was
anything but an honorable one, and his death such as
might have been expected.



« Colonel Dan. Clans, in his account of tho campaign, calls Walter
Butler an ensign. We use the title by which be is generally known.



CHAPTER XI L

HELIEF OF FOHT STANWIX.

Arnold's Expedition — His Counter-Proclamation — A ritne-de-gnen-'; —
Hon Yost Schuyler — Panic in St. Leger's Army — Interesting
Documents — Supplementary — Roster of Oriskany — Poem.

lusiEDIATELY upon receiving information of the battle
of Oriskany and the failure of Herkimer to relieve Fort
Stanwix, General Schuyler, who was yet in command of
the Northern army, ordered Generals Larned and Arnold,
with the Massachusetts brigade and the First New York
Regiment, to march to the relief of the fort. Orders had
also been sent to various officers by Governor Clinton,
among others to the veteran General Israel Putnam, then
in command at Peekskill, as the following letter shows :

"Peck's Kill, Aug. 14, 1777.

"Dear Sir, — Received yours of the 1-ith inst. In consequence of
it, and former orders received from General Washington, have or-
dered Colonel Cortlandt's and Colonel Livingston's regiments to
march immeiiately to the northward to the relief of Fort Schuyler,
or as you shall see lit to direct tlicm.

"I wish tbein a speedy and safe arrival, and you most successful
enterprise against those worse than infernals. With great respect,
I am your obedient humble servant,

"Israel Putnam."

" To His Excellency, GovEn.-ion Clintos."

The following is a copy of a letter from Governor George
Clinton, relating to matters at that time, copied from the
ori"inal, in the State LiV -ary at Albany, and published in the
Oriskany Centennial V lume ;

" Albany, August 22, 1777.

" General Harchhcimf dead of his wounds. His leg was taken
off and he survived it bi a few hours. General Arnold, with his



116



HISTORY OF ONEIDA COUNTY, NEW YORK.



purty, is nt Fovt Dayton. About 100 of the militia of Tryon County
are with him. T have issued my positive orders to the officers com-
manding the respective regiments there to detach one-half to join
General Arnold's army. Colonels Cortlandt's and Livingston's regi-
ments marched this evening for his further reinforcement.

"The enemy in that quarter having acquired a considerable acces-
sion of numbers from Indians and Tories, the above measures were
rendered necessary. The garrison, however, by very late accounts,
are high in spirits and well provided, and I have no doubt we shall,
in a few days, receive the most agreeable intelligence from that quar-
ter. From the Oncnfat and Tuttcnrorftv, whose chieftains are now
with General Arnold, we have the fullest assurance of assistanco, but
have nothing to expect from any other tribes of the Six Nations, until
our successors intimidate them into friendship. Since the affair at
Bennington the scalping business seems to have ceased."

Under the same date Governor Clinton addressed the fol-
lowing letter to the several colonels in Ti'yon County :

"Headquarters, IIvlp Moox, 22d August, 1777.
"Sir, — While I have the highest sense of the loyalty, valor, and
bravery of the militia of Tryon Cfiunty, manifested in the victory
gained by them under the command of their late worthy General Her-
kimer, for which, as the chief magistrate of the free and independent
State of New York, they have my most hearty thanks, it gives me
the greatest puin to be informed that any diflfieulty should arise in
their joining the army under General Ai-nold, and thereby enabling
him to fiuish the war in that quarter, by raising the siege of^ Fort
Schuyler, and destroying the enemy's army in that quarter, and re-
storing pe.nce and safety (o the inhabitants of Tryon County. Their
noble exertions against the common enemy have already gained thcra
the greatest honor, and their perseverance will secure them peace and
safety. In both I am greatly interested, and it is my duty and I
hereby most positively order that you immediately join General Ar-
nold with one-half your regiment completely armed, equipt, and ac-
coutred, and march under his command to the relief of Fort Schuyler.
As soon as the service will admit General Arnold will dismiss you.
If any are hardy enougli to refuse to obey your orders given in con-
sequence of this, you are immediately to report the names of the sanio
to General Arnold, who will transmit the same to me, that they may
be dealt with with the utmost rigor of the law.
" I am your obedient servant,

" George Clintox."

Arnold pushed on with the advance of the force as far
as Fort Dayton, where he encamped to await the arrival
of General Lamed with the baggage and heavy stores.
Colonel Willett accompanied him.

From the German Flatts, on the 21st, Arnold wrote to
General Gates, stating that from the best information he
could obtain, St. Leger's force was much superior to his,
and also inclosed the minutes of a council of war, and de-
sired the general to send him a reinrorcement of 1000 light
troops. On the 22d he wrote to Colonel Gansevoort a
letter, from which the following is an extract:

"I have been retarded by the badness of the roads, waiting for
some baggage and ammunition, and for the militia, who did not tui-n
out with that spirit which I expected. They are now joining me in
great numbers. A few days*vill relieve you."'^

As a counterblast to the address of Colonels Johnson,
Claus, aud Butler, General Arnold, on his arrival at Fort
Dayton, issued the following characteristic proclamation :

" % Ihe fhni. Benedict Arxolp, E«q., 2 f((jor- General and commaiider-
in-e.hief nf the aninj of the United i^tutcs of Amrrlca un the Mahuiok
Rirer.

"Whereas, a certain Barry St. Lcgor, a Brigudicr-Geoer.al in the
service of George of Great Britain, at the head of a banditti of rob-
bers, murderers, and traitors, composed of savages of America and
more savage Britons (among whom are the noted Sir John Johnson,

» Stone's Life of Brant.



John Butler, and Daniel Claus), have lately appeared on the frontiers
of this State, and have threatened ruin and destruction to all the in-
habitants of the United Sta'es. They have also, by artiiice and mis-
representation, induced many of the ignorant and unwary subjects of
these States to forfeit their allegiance to the same, and join with them
in their atrocious crimes and parties of treachery and parricide.

"Humanity to those poor deluded wretches, ■who are hastening
blindfold to destruction, induces me to offer them and all others con-
cerned (whether Savages, Germans, Americans, or Britons) Pardon,
provided they do, within ten days from the date hereof, come in and
lay down their arms, sue for protection, and swear allegiance to the
United States of America.

" But if, still blind to their own interest and safety, they obstin.Ttcly
persist in their wicked courses, determined to draw on themselves the
just vengeance of heaven and of this exasperated country, they must
expect no mercy from either.

" B. AitNOLD, JM.-G.

" Given under my hand, Headquarters, German Flats, 20th August,
1777."

During these operations St. Leger was pushing the siege
with all the means at his command; but he soon found
that his battering train was wholly inadequate to the task,
as all the effect it had upon the works was merely to throw
up now and then a little dust. He annoyed the garrison
somewhat by throwing shells ; but the utmost he could do
gave no promise of an early surrender of the place. De-
termined to succeed, however, he now began a series of
regular approaches on the plain to the north of the works,
and by the 20th had made such progress that it seemed
probable he would accomplish his purpose ; but the nearer
he came the closer and more troublesome grew the fire of
the garrison from the covered way. When his parallels
had advanced within one hundred and fifty yards of the
northwest bastion, it is said that a spirit of discontent
began to be apparent among certain officers of the garrison.

Ignorant of the fate of Colonel Willett and his com-
panion, and knowing nothing of reinforcements gathering
for their relief, it is not to be wondered at that, with the
prospect of possible starvation or death at the hands of the
savage horde yelling around their beleaguered fortress, the
more timid should have at length begun to consider what
was best to be done, and even to whisper of a capitulation
upon St. Leger's terms. But whatever may have been the
thoughts of his subordinates, the brave commander had no
intention of surrendering his command to the bloodthirsty
enemy.

Indeed, he had made up his mind fully that, if reduced
to extremities, he would head his men in a desperate assault
upon the besiegers' lines tmd cut his way through, or perish
in the attempt. But the gallant officer was saved from
making this desperate move ; for suddenly on the 22d of
August, without a sign or word indicating a disposition to
abandon the siege, the whole of St. Leger's force broke up
their camps, and departed with such precipitation that they
left their tents standing and a oon.siderable amount of bag-
gage and camp-equipage scattered over the ground, together
with the larger portion of their artillery. The joy of the
garrison was great, though they knew nothing of the causes
which brought about the welcome denouement.

On the 22d, xVrnold, learning that St. Leger had pushed
his parallels very near the garrison, and fearing the place
might fall before General Larned could come up, deter-
mined to move rapidly forward aud hazard a battle rather
' than see the garrison sacrificed. He accordingly put his



HISTORY OF ONEIDA COUNTY, NEW YORK.



117



column in motion on the morning of the 23d, and had
proceeded about ten miles, when he was met by an express
from Colonel Gansevoort with the welcome intelligence that
the siege was raised.

The cause and account of this sudden flight upon the
part of St. Leger are thus given in Colonel Stone's " Life
of Brant" :

"Among the party of Tories and Indians captured at
Shoemaker's under Lieutenant Butler was a singular being
named Hon-Yost Schuyler. His place of residence was
near the Little Falls, where bis mother and a brother
named Nicholas were then residing. Hon-Yost Schuyler
was one of the coarsest and most ignorant men in the
valley, appearing scarce half removed from idiocy ; and
yet there was no small shave of shrewdness in his character.
Living upon the extreme border of civilization, bis a.sso-
ciations bad been more with the Indians than the whites ;
and tradition avers tliat they regarded him with that mys-
terious reverence and awe with which they are inspired by
foots and lunatics.

" Thus situated and thus constituted, Hon-Yost bad par-
tially attached himself to the royalist cause, though, prob-
ably, like the ' cow-buys' of Westchester, he really cared
little which party he served or plundered, and had he been
the captor of the unfortunate Andre would have balanced
probabilities as to the best way of turning the prize to ac-
count. Be these things, however, as they may, Hon-Yost
was captured, with Walter Butler, and, like bim, was tried
for his life, adjudged guilty, and condemned to death. His
mother and brother, hearing of Ids situation, hastened to
Fort D.iyton and implored Gjneral Arnold to spare his life.
The old woman strongly resembled the gypsy in her char-
acter, and the eloquence and pathos with which she pleaded
for the life of her son were long remembered in the un-
written history of the Mohawk Valley.

" Arnold was for a time inexorable, and the woman be-
came almost frantic with grief and pa-ssion on account of
her wayward son. Nicholas, likewi.se, exerted himself to
the utmost in behalf of his brother. At length General
Arnold proposed terras upon which bis life should be spared.
The conditions were that Hun-Yost should hasten to Fort
Schuyler, and .so alarm the camp of St. Leger as to induce
him to raise the siege and fly. The convict-traitor accepted
the proposition, and bis mother offered herself as a hastage
for the faithful performance of bis commission. Arnold,
however, declined receiving the woman as a hostage, pre-
ferring and insisting that Nicholas should be retained for
that purpose. To this the latter readily assented, declaring
that he was perfectly willing to pledge his life that lion-
Yost would fulfill his engagement to the utmost. Nicholas
was, therefore, placed in confinement, while Hon-Y'ost de-
parted for the camp of St. Leger, having made arrange-
ments with one of the Onnida Indians, friendly to the
Americans, to aid him in the enterprise. Before his de-
parture several shots were fired through Schuyler's clothes,
that he might appear to have had a narrow escape, and
the Oneida Indian, by taking a circuitous route to Fort
Schuyler, was to fall into the enemy's camp from another
direction and aid Hon-Yost in creating the panic desired.
"The emissary first presented him.self among the In-



dians, who were in a very suitable state of mind to be
wrought upon by exactly such a personage. They had been
moody and dLssatisfied ever since the battle of Oriskany, —
neither the success nor the plunder promised them had been
won, and they had previously received some vague and in-
definite intelligence respecting the approach of Arnold.
They had likewise just been holding a pow-wow, or were
actually convened in one, for the purpose of consulting
the Manitto touching the dubious enterprise in which they
were engaged, when Hon-Yost arrived. Knowing their
character well, be communicated his intelligence to them in
the most mysterious and imposing manner. Pointing to
his riddled garments, he proved to them how narrow had
been bis escape from the approaching army of the rebels.
When asked the number of troops that Arnold was leading
against them, he shook his head mysteriously and pointed
upward to the leaves of the trees. The reports spread rap-
idly througli the camps, and, reaching the ears of the com-
mander, Hon-Yo.st was sent for to the tent of St. Leger
himself Hero bo was interrogated, and gave information
that General Arnold, with 2000 men, was so near that he
would be upon them within twenty-four hours. He gave
St. Leger a pitiable narrative of his captivity, trial, and
condemnation to the gallovvs. It was while on his way to
execution, as he alleged, that, finding himself not very
closely guarded, ho touk an opportunity to effect bis escape,
thinking, at the worst, that he could only die, and it would
be as well to be shot as hanged. A shower of ballets had
indeed been let fly at bim, but fortunately had only wounded
bis clothes, as the general might see.

Meantime the Oneida messenger arrived with a belt, and
confirmed to the Indians all that Schuyler had affirmed,
adding that the Americans had no desire to injure the In-
dians, and wei-e intent orjly upon attacking the British
troops and rangers. While making his way to the camp
of the besiegers, the ingenious Oneida had fallen in with
some two or three straggling Indians of bis acquaintance,
to whom he communicated lii.s business, and whose assistance
in furthering the design he engaged. These sagacious fel-
lows dropped into the Indian camp at various points, and
threw out alarming suggestions, shaking their heads mys-
teriously, and insinuating that n bird had brought them in-
telligence of great moment. They spoke of warriors in
great numbers advancing rapidly upon them, and used every
indirect method of infusing a panic into the minds of the
listeners who gathered around them.

" The Indians presently began to give signs of decamping,
and St. Leger essayed in vain to reassure them. He con-
vened a council of their chiefs, hoping that by the influence
of Sir John Johnson and Colonels Glaus and Butler, be
should still be able to retain them. Other reports, of a yet
mure terrifying tendency, getting afloat, not only among the
Indians but in the other camps, the former declared that
' the pow-wow said they must go,' and a portion of them
touk their departure before the council broke up. The re-
sult was a general and precipitate flight. It has been stated
that in the commencement of the retreat the Indians made
themselves merry at the expense of their white allies, by
raising a shout, that the Americans were upon them, and
then laughing at the groundless terror thus created.



118



HISTORY OP ONEIDA COUNTY, NEW YOKK.



" According to the account derived by Gordon from the
Rev. Mr. Kirkland, an altercation took place between Col-
onel St. Leger and Sir John Johnson, the former reproach-
ing the latter with the defection of the Indians, while the
baronet charged his commander with but an indifferent
prosecution of the siege.

" It was in the gray of twilight, when a couple of sachems,
standing upon a little eminence not far in the rear, and over-
hearing the interchange of sharp words between them, put
an end to the unpleasant colloquy by raising the shout,
' The!/ are coming! they are coming !' Both St. Leger and
Sir John re-commenced their retreat with all possible expe-
dition upon hearing such an alarm. Their troops were
equally nimble of foot on the occasion, throwing away their
knapsacks and arms, and disencumbering themselves of
every hindrance to the quickstep, while the Indians, enjoy-
ing the panic and confusion, repeated the joke by the way
until they arriv^;d at Oneida Lake. It is believed, however,
that it was not the Americans alone of whom St. L^ger
began to stand in fear, being quite as apprehensive of dan-
ger from his own dusky allies as he was of the approaching
army of Arnold. There is British authority for stating
that the Indians actually plundered several of the boats
belonging to their own army, robbing the officers of what-
soever tliey liked. Within a few miles of the camp, they
iirst stripped off the arms, and afterwards murdered, with
their own bayonets, all those British, German, and Ameri-
can soldiers who were separated from the main body.

" Thus wore the threats of savage vengeance sent by
Colonel St. Leger to the garrison in some degree wreaked
upon his own army. Hon- Yost Schuyler accompanied the
flying host to the estuary of Wood Creek, where he deserted,
threading his way back to Fort Schuyler the same evening,
imparting to Colonel G.msevoort his first information of the
advance of Arnold. From Fort Schuyler Hon- Yost pro-
ceeded back to the German Flatts. On presenting hlm.self
at Fort Dayton, his brother was discharged, to the inex-
pressible joy of his mother and their relatives. But he
proved a Tory in grain, and embraced the first opportunity
subsequently presented, which was in October, of running
away to the enemy, with several of his neighbors, and at^
taehing himself to the forces of Sir John Johnson."*

Upon receipt of Colonel Gansevoort's dispatch announcing
the retreat of the enemy, Arnold sent forward a detachment
of 900 men to make a rapid pursuit of the enemy, but
Colonel Gansevoort had anticipated him, and the column
from the fort returned with a number of prisoners and great
quantities of spoiLf

General Arnold arrived at the fort in person on the 21:th
of August, and was received with a salute from its guns
and a royal welcome at the hands of its brave defenders.

St. Leger had received orders from General Burgoyne to
join him by a forced march through the country to the
north of the Blohawk, but this w;is found wholly impracti-
cable, and he hastened with his shattered forces to O-^wego,
and thence to Montreal. From the latter place he pro-

® At the close of the war Hon-Yo:jt returned to the Mohawk Val-
ley ,^and resided there until his death, about 1818-20.

f Among other articles captured was the desk of St. Leger, contaiu-
ing many of his private papers.



ceeded up Luke Champlain to Tioonderoga, with the view
of joining General Burgoyne, but that commander was al-
ready involved in impenetrable toils, and he proceeded no
farther, and probably soon after returned to Canada. Gen-
eral Arnold marched his army to Stillwater, where it took
part in the operations against Burgoyne.

Shortly after the retreat of St. Legor, finding there was
no enemy between the fort and Oswego, and knowing that
a second expedition was not likely to penetrate the country
for some time to come. Colonel Gansevoort improved the
opportunity to visit his friends at Albany and Kingston,
where the State government had recently been organized.
His reception was exceedingly cordial and flattering, as the
following address, made to the soldiers of the garrison of
Fort Stanwix after his return, indicates. It is from Stone's
" Life of Brant," and was copied from the original among
the colonel's papers. It bore the indorsement, — " A la-
conic address to my fellow-officers and soldiers after our
success at Fort Stanwix."

"I should be wanting in justice to you if I did not give some tes-
timony of your good conduct during the time you have been in this
garrison, and especially while we were besieged by the enemy. Be-
lieve me, that I am impressed with a proper sense of the bt.'havior by
which you have done essential service to your country, and acquired
immortal honor to yourselves. Nothing can equal the pleasure I have
experienced since my absence in hearing and receiving the public
approbation of our country for our services, which is, and must be, to
every soldier a full, ample compensation for the same. Permit me
to congratulate you upon the success of the American arms, both to
the Southward and Northward.-

" Every day terminates with victory to America, and I make not
the least doubt but in this campaign we shall effectually ebtablish the
Independence of the United States, and thereby secure to ourselves
the rights and liberties for which we have so nobly stood forth."

The services of Colonel Gansevoort were not forgotten
either by Congress or his own State, for he was shortly
after promoted to the rank of brigadier-general in the
State line, and Congress rewarded his gallantry with a
colonel's commission in the United States army.

These, of course, took him from his regiment, and on the
occasion of his leaving his officers drew up and presented
him with the following address, signed by twenty-six of the
field and line officers :

"Honored Srn, — From a just sense of that conduct which has
hitherto been so conspicuously shown to advance the Third New
York Regiment to honor and public notice, we congratulate you that
those characteristics which so eminently point out the gentleman and
soldier have by your personal bravery been deservedly noticed by
our bleeding country. Although we rejoice at your promotion, yet
we cannot but regret the loss of so worthy a patron. That the pros-
perity which has crowned your conduct with victory may still be
continued, is the sincere wish and prayer of, honored sir, your most
obedient and very bumble servants."

The colonel made the following reply :

"GbN'TLEMf.x, — Your polite address on my promotion merits my
sincerest thanks. Gratitude, I hope, shall never be wanting in me
to the Third New York Regiment, who have, by their firmness and
discipline, been the chief authors of my promotion. Therefore, gen-
tlemen, please to accept my warmest wishes for the prosperity of the
corps, that all their virtuous endeavors in the defen.se of their bleed-



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 31 of 192)