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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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 33 of 192)
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Stanwi.x, which was invested the same evening. The enemy Having
stopped up a narrow river, called Wood Ci^eck, by cutting bf trees
across it for about twenty miles, along which' our artillery ,'provisionp,
and baggage were to pass, which passage to cut open required a num-
ber of men, as well as cutting a road through th^ woods for twenty-
five miles to bring up the artillery, stores, etc., that were'tinmediately
wanted, which weakened our small arms greatly. ■ - . .

"The 3d, 4th, and 5th, the Indiahs surrotindedthe'Fort, and fired
from behind logs and risrhg grounds at the garrison wherever they
had an object, which prevented them from working on the fortifica-
tions in the day. The oth, in the afterhobn, accounts were brought
by Indians, sent by Joseph's sisfer from Canajohurie, that- a body of
rebels were on their march, and would be within ton or twelve miles
of our camp by night. A detachment of about 400" Indians T^a^
ordered to reconnoitre the enemy. Sir John Johnson asked leave to
join his company of light infantry and head the TrhOle, which was
granted. Colonel Butler and other Indian officers were' ordered with
the Indians.

" The rebels having an imperfect account of the number of Ihdiana
that joined us (being upward of SOO), not thinking them by one-
fourth as itiany, and being sure as to our strength and artillery
(which we learned' by prisoners), that they knevr it from their emis-
saries before we left Canada. They therefdre, on the 6th', marched
on, to the number of upwards of 800, with Security and'carelessness.

** When within six miles of the fort, they were waylaid by our parly^
surprised, briskly attacked, and, after a little resistanee, repulsed
and defeated,- leaving upwards of 500 killed on ^the spot; 'a'mohg
whifeh were their principiil officers and ringleaders; their general
was shot through the knee, and a few days afterward died of' an

" We lost Captains Hare and Wilson of the Indians, Lieutenant
McDonald of Sir John's regiment, two or three privates; and. thirty-
two Indians, among which were several ^Seiiekh chrefB,killed.' Cop-
tain Wiitts, Lieutenant Singleton, of Sir John's regiment, and thirty-
tnree Indians wounded.

"During the action, when the garrison found the Indians* ca;mp
(who went out ngainst their reinforcemenfi) empty^ they boldly sallied
diit, with three hundred men and two field-pieces, and to6k away the
Indians' packs, wit^h their clothes, wampum, and silver work, 'they
having gone in their shirts as naked to action ;' and when they found
a party advancing from our camp they returned with their spoil,
taking with 'them Lieutenant ^Singleton and a- private of Sir Jbhu'a
regiment, who lay wounded in the Indian camp. '

" The disappointment was rather greater to the Indians than their
loss, for they had nothing to cover themselves at night, 'or against
the weather, nnd nothing irl our camp to supply thein till X got to

" After this defeat, and having got part of our artillery up, some

J The junction of the Oswego; Oneida, and Senetfa Kiver?.



eohom shells wore thrown into the fort, and u, few shots fired. A
flng then wns pent with nn nccount of the disaster of their intended
relief, and the garrison was summoned to surrender prisoners of war,
to be marched down the eountry, leaving baggage, &q., behiiid, to
satisfy the Indians for their losses.

"The rebels, knowing their strength in garrison as well as fortifi-
cation, and the insufficiency of our field-pieces to hurt them, and
apprehensive of being massacred by the Indians for the losses sus-
tained in the action, they rejected the summons, and said they were
determined to hold out to the last extremity.

" The siege then was carried on with as much vigor aa possible for
nineteen days, but to no purpose. Sir John Johnson proposed to
follow the blow given to the reinforcements (who were chiefly Mohawk
River people), to march down the country with about two hundred
men, and I intended joining him with a sufficient body of Indians;
but the Brigadier said he could not spare the men, and disapproved
of it. The inhabitants in general were rendy {as we afterwards
learned) to submit and come }n. A flag ihen was sent to invite the
inhabitants to submit and be forgiven, and, assurance given to pre-
vent the Indians from being outrageous; but the commanding officer
of the German Flats hearing of it, seized the flag, consisting of En-
sign Butler, of the Eighth Regiment, ten soldiprs, and three Indian?,
and took them up as spies. A few days after General Arnpld, com-
ing with some cannon and a reinforcement, made the inhabitants
return tp their obedience. The Indians, finding that our besieging
the fort was of no effect, our troops but few, a reinforcement, as was
reported, of fifteen hundred or two thouFand men, with field-pieces,
by the Tvay, began to be dispirited, and fell off by" degrees, The
chiefs advised the Brigadier to retreat to Oswego, and ge.t better
artillery from ifiagara, and more men, and so return and renew the
siege; to which the Brigadier agreed, and accordingly retreated on
the twenty-second of August.*

"On our arrival at Oswego, the twenty-sixth, and examining into
the state of the troops' necessaries, the men were without shoes and
other things, which only could be got at Montreal, the Brigadier at
the same time having received a letter from General Burgoyne to join
him, either by a- march through the woods back of Tryon County
(which was impracticable) or the way he came. He adopted the
latter on account of procuring necessaries for the men. The Indians
were as much as possible reconciled to this resolution, with a promise
that they should be copvened as soon as Col. Putlcr could return
from Montreal with some necessaries for tbem. There being Indian
traders at Oswego, I s:vw myself under a necessity to clothe these
Indians that lost their packs by the rebels at Fort Stanwix, which
mfiide them return home contented.

*' Thus has an expedition miscarried merely for want of timely
and gofd intelligence. For it is impossible to believe that, bad the
Brigadier St. Legcr known the real state of the fort and garri&on of
Fort Stanwix, he could possibly have proceeded from Montreal with-
out a sufficient train of artillery and his full complement of tro(»ps.
And yet, by whnt I find, very large sums have been expended nn
account of government at Niagara upon the Indians thcee two years
past, anif tbey at the same time kept inactive; whereas, had those
presents been properly applied, the Six Nations might not only pre-
ycfit Fort Stanwix from being re-established, but even let not a rebel
come near it or keep it up, — it being almost in the heart of their
country, and they with rcluctanoe saw the Crown erect u. fort there
last war. All the good done by the expedition wa?, the ringleaders
O-nd principal men of the rebels of Tryon County were put out of
the way; but had we succeeded, it must be of vast good effect to the
northerly operationii, and its miscarrying, I apprehend, to my deep
Qoncern, to be the reverse."

The following interesting account of St. Leger's expedi-
tion was published in the "British Annual Register" for
1777, and is copied from the Oriskany Centennial volume.
It gives a view of the subject taken from another stand-,

** St. Leger's attempt upon Fort Stanwix (now named by the Amer-
icans Fort Schuyler) wiis, sooji after its commencement, favored by

*■ Col. Claus' ((eseription of matters in the valley is a curious eom-
ineptary op the fpolhqrdipess of the propositiop of Sir J'ohn Johnson
to march throygji it \Fith ^ small pEvrty,

a success so signal as would, in other cases and » more fortunate
season, have been decisive as to the fate of a stronger and more impor-
tant fortress. General Herkimer, a leading man of that country, was
marching at the head of eight or nine hundred of the Tryon County
militia, with a convoy of provisions, to the relief of the fort, St.
Leger, well aware of the danger of being attacked in his trenches,
and of withstanding the whole weight of the garrison in some jiar-
ticular and probably weak point at the same instant, judiciously de-
tached Sir John Johnson, with some regulars, the whole or part of
his own regiment, and the savages, to lie in ambush in the woods and
interrupt the enemy upon their march.

"It should seem, by the conduct of the militia and their leader,
that they were not only totally ignorant of military duties, but that
they had never heard by report of the nature of an Indian war, or of
that peculiar service in the woods to which, from its nature and situ-
ation, this country was at all times liable. Without examination of
their ground, without a reconnoitering or flanking party, they plunged
blindly into the trap that was laid for thoir destruction. Being thrown
into a sudden and inevitable disorder by a near and heavy fire on
almost all sides, it was completed by the Indians, who, instantly
pursuing their fire, rushed in upon their broker) ranks and made a
mostdreadful slaughter amongst them with their spears and hatchets.
Notwithstanding their want of conduct the militia showed no want
of courage in their deplorable situation. Iij the midst of such ex-
treme danger and so bloody an execution, rendered still more terri-
ble by the horrid appearance and demeanor of the principal actors,
they re-collected themselves so far as to recover an advantageous
ground, which enabled them after to maintain a sort of running
fight, by which about one-third of their number was preserved.

" The loss was supposed to be on their side about four hundred
killed and about half that number prisoners. It was thought of the
greater consequence, as almost all those who were considered the
principal leaders and instigators of rebellion in that country wcro
now destroyed. The triumph and exultation were accordingly great,
and all opposition from the militia in that country was supposed to
be at an end. The circumstance of old neighborhood and pergonal
knowledge between many of the parties, in the present rage and
animosity of faction, could by no means be favorable to the exten-
sion of mercy, even supposing that it might otherwise have been
practiced with prudence and safety, at a time when the power of
the Indians was rather prevalent, and their rage was implacable.
For, according to their computation and ideas of loss, the savages
had purchased their victory exceeding dearly, thirty-three of their
number having been slain and twenty-nine wounded, among whom
were f=everal of their principal leaders and of their most distin-
guished and favorite warriors. The loss accordingly rendered them
so discontented, intractable, anct ferocious that the service was
greatly aff'ected by their ill disposition. The unhappy prisoners were,
however, its first object, most of whom they inhumanly butchered in
cold blood. The New Yorkers, rangers, and other troops were not
without loss in this action.

"On tho day, and probably during the time, of this engagement
the garrison, having received intelligence of the approach of their
friends, endeavored to make a diversion in their favor by a vigorous
and well-conducted sally, under the direction of Colonel Willett,
their second in comm.and. Willett condncted his business with abil-
ity and spirit. He did considerable mischief in the camp, brought
ofi'some trophies, no inconsiderable spoil, some of which consisted in
articles that were greatly wanted, a few prisoners, and retired with
little or no loss. Ue afterwards undertook, in company with another
officer, a. much more perilous expedition. They passed by night
through the besiegers' works, and, in contempt of the danger and
cruelty of the savages, made their way for fifty miles through path-
less woods and unexplored morasses, in order to raise the country
and bring relief to the fort. Such an action demands the praise even
of an enemy.

" Colonel St. Leger left po means untried to profit of his victory by
intimidating the garrison. He sent verbal and written messages,
stating their hopeless situation, the utter destruction of their friends,
tho impossibility of their obtaining relief, as General Burgoyne, after
destroying everything in his power, was now at Albany receiving tho
submission of the adjoining counties, and by prodigiously magnify-
ing his own force. He represented that, in this state of things, if
throug^i an incorrigible obstinacy they should continue a hopeless
ftnd frviitless clefcnsg, tjie^ ^ould, according to the practice of most



civilized nations, bo cut off from all conditions nnd every hope of
mercy. But ho was particularly direct upon the pains he had taken
in softening the rage of the Indians in their late loss, and obtaining
from them security that, in case of an immediate surrender of the
fort, every man of the garrison should be spared, while on the other
hand they declared, with the most bitter execrations, that if they
met with any further resistance they would not only massacre the
garrison, but that every man, woman, and child in the Mohawk Val-
ley would necessarily, and however against his will, fall sacrifices to
the fury of the savages. This point he SE|,id he pressed entirely on
the score of humanity. He promised on his part, in Case of an im-
mediate surrender, every attention which a humane and generous
enemy could give.

"The governor, Colonel Gansevoort, behaved with great firmness.
He replied that he had been intrusted with the charge of that garri-
son by the United States of America; that he would defend the trust
committed to his care at every hazard and to the utmost extremity ;
and that he should not at all concern himself about any consequences
that attended the discharge of his duty. It was shrewdly remarked
in the fort that half the pains would not have been taken to display
the force immediately without, or the success at a distance, if they
bore any proportion at all to the magnitude in which tbcy were rep-

"The British commander was much disappointed in the state of
the forL It was stronger, in better condition, and much better de-
fended than he expected. After great labor in his approaches, he
found his artillery deficient, being insufficient in weight to make any
considenible impression. The only remedy was to bring his ap-
proaches so near that they must take effect, which he set about with
the greatest diligence.

"In the mean time the Indians continued sullen and intractable.
Their late losses might have been cured by certain advantages, but
the misfortune was they had yet got no plunder, and their prospect
of getting any seemed to grow every day fainter. It is the peculiar
characteristic of that people to exhibit, in certain inslances, degrees
of courage and. perseverance which shock reason and credibility, and
to portray in others the greatest irresolution and timidity, with a.
total want of that constancy which might enable them for any length
of time to struggle with difficulty.

''Whilst the commander was carrying on his operations with the
utmost industry the Indians received a flying report that Arnold was
coming with IflOO men to relieve the fort. The commander endeavored
to reassure them, by promising to lead them himself, to bring all his
best troops into action, and by taking their leaders out to mark a
field of battle, and the flattery of consulting them upon the intended
plans of operation. Whilst he was thus endeavoring to soothe their
temper, and to revive their flagging spirits, other scouts arrived
with intelligence, probably contrived in part by themselves, which
first doubled and afterwards trebled the number of the enemy, with
the comforting addition that Burgoyne's army was entirely cut to

"The colonel returned to camp, and called a council of their
chiefs, hoping that by the influence which kSlr John Johnson and
Superintendents Claua and Butler had over thera, they might still
be induced to make a stand. He was disappointed. A part of the
Indians decamped whilst the council was sitting, and the remainder
threatened peremptorily to abandon him if he did n6t immediately

"The retreat was of course precipitate, or it was rather, in plain
terms, flight, attended with disagreeable circumstances. The tents,
with most of the artillery, fell into the hands of the garrison. It
appears by the colonel's own account that he was as apprehensive of
danger from the fury of his savage allies as he could be from the re-
sentment of his American enemies. It also appears, from the same
authority, that the Mc^HOHmjoeB, a nation of savages to the west,
plundered several of the boats belonging to the army.

" By the Amerie in accounts, which are in part confirmed. by others,
it is said that they o'j ed the officers of their baggage and of every
other article to which tl ey took any liking, and the army in general
of their provisions. They also say that, a few miles' distance from
the camp, they first stripped of their arms and afterwards murdered
with their own bayonets, all those British, German, and American
soldiers who, from any inability to keep up, fear, or any other cause,
were separated from the main body,

" The state of the f:ict with respect to the intended relief of the

fort is, that Arnold had advanced by the way of Half Moon up the
Mohawk River with 2000 men for that purp"sc; and that for the
greater expedition he had quitted the main body, and arrived by
forced marches through the woods, with a detachment of 900, at the
fort, on the twenty-fourth, in the evening, two days aXVev the siege
had been raised. So that upoh the whole the intraetableness of the
Indians, with their watchful apprehension of danger, probably saved
them from a chastisement which would not have been tenderly

"Nothing could have beon more untoward in the present situa-
tion of affairs than the unfortunate issue of this expedition. The
Americans represented this and the affair at Bennington as ^rcat
and glorious vietories. Nothing could excel their exultation anJ
confidence. Gansevoort and Willett, with General Stark and Colonel
Warner, who had commanded at Bennington, were ranked among
those who were considered as the saviors of their country. The
northern militia began now to look high and to forget all dis-
tinctions between themselves and regular troops. As this coa-
iidence, opinion, and pride increased, the apprehensions of General
Burgoyne's army of course declined, until it soon came to he talked
of with indifference and contempt, and even its fortune to be pub-
licly prognosticated."

"'The History of the Civil War in America, by an Officer in the
British Army,' Captain Hali, London, 17S0, says, p. 397: 'The re-
treat of Colonel St. Leger inspired the enemy with fresh ardor, and,
as they had now no longer anything to fear on the Mohawk River,
a numerous and hardy militia from that country immediately joined
their army in the neighborhood of Albany, which now advanced and
took post near Stillwater, where they were also joined by a body of
troops under Arnold, who had, in fact, been detached to the relief of
Fort Stanwix, though he was at a great distance when the^ues^e of
the garrison succeeded in saving the place.'

"'Botta's History of the United States' declares specifically: 'The
successes of the Americans under the walls of Fort Schuyler (Stan-
wix), besides having inspired the militia, produced also the other
happy effect of enabling them, relieved from the fear of invasion in
the country upon the Mohawk, to unite all their forces against the
army of Burgoyno.'

" In the * History of the War with Atacrlca, France, and Spain,' by
John Andrews, LL.D. (London, 17S6}, vol. ii. p. 402, the case is thus
stated: 'The failure of the expedition against Fort Stanwix, to-
gether with the defeat at Bennington, were very severe blows to the
British interest in those parts. They animated the Americans to a
surprising degree. They began now confidently to promise them-
selves that General Burgoyue himself would share the same fate as
his officers.'

"General Burgoyno, in a letter to Lord Gcrmaine, dated Camp
near Saratoga, Aug. 20, 1777, says: 'I am afraid the expectations of
Sir J. Johnson greatly fail in the rising of the country. On this
side I find daily reason to doubt the sincerity of the resolution of
the professing loyalists. I have about 400, but not half of them
armed, who may be depended upon; the rest are trimmers, merely
actuated by interest. The great bulk of the country is undoubtedly
with the Congress, in principle and zeal, and their measures are
executed with a secrecy and dispatch that are not to be equaled.'"

The general, in his defense, produces the following as
conclusive argument in his own behalf:

" The circumstances of the action at Bennington established a yet
more melancholy conviction of the fallacy of any dependence upon
supposed friends. The noble lord has said that ' I never despaired
of the campjiign before the affair at Bennington ; that I had no doubt
of gaining Albany in as short time as the army fin due condition of
supply) could accomplish the march.' I acknowledge the truth of the
assertions in their fullest extent; all my letters at the time show it. I
will go further, and in one sense apply with the noble lord the epithet
'fatal' to the affair of Bennington. The knowledge I acquired of the pro-
fessors of loyalty was ' fatal,' and put an end to every expectation from
enterprise unsustained by dint of force. It would have been excess of
frenzy to have trusted for sustenance to the plentiful region of Albany.
Had the march thither been unopposed, the enemy, finding the British
army unsupplied, would only have had to compel the Tories to drive
the cattle and destroy the corn, and the capitulation of Albany instead
of Saratof'a must have followed. Would the Tories have risen ? Why



did tliQy not rise around Alb:iny and below when they found Kr. Gates*
army incrcixam^ by sepiiratc and distinct parties, from remote distances?
Thjcy ^Y.e;:e better .qus^lified by their situation to, catch the favorable
moment than I was to atjvis? it- AVhy did they not rise in that popu-
lous and, as .supposed, wiell-affectcd district — the German Flats— at the^
ti^l,e St. LegQr was before Fort Stanwis ? A critical insurrection from
any one ; point to create diversion wouljj probably secured, the
Bupcess of the campaign. But to revert to the reasons against a rapid
march after the aftair of Bennington. It was then also known that, by
thjE false ijitijlligence respecting the strength of Fort Stanwix, the in-
famous behavior of the Indians, and the wapt of the promised co-
opertition of the loyal inhabitants, St. Legcr had been obliged to retreat.
The first plausible paotiyc in favor of hazardous haste, the facilitating
his descent of the Mohawk, was at an end,"*


The subjoined affidavit and fragment of a poem by Dr.
Youuglove, surgeon in General Herkimer's army, and who
was taken pnsoner. are curiosities in their way, and, while
probably overdrawn, are worth perusal, as giving yet another
phase of this interesting subject.

"The fury and. cruelty of the Indians and Tories," after
the battle of Oriskany, may be learned by the following
affidavit, the original of which is in the office of the Secre-
tary of State. The high standing of Dr. Younglove, who
died a few years since (written in 1S31) in the city of Hud-
son, is a safficieiit voucher for its truth.

" Moses Younglove, surgcin of General Herkimer's brigade of mili-
tia, dcposcth and saith, that being in the battle of said militia above
Oriskany, on the Gth of August last, toward the close of said battle he
BurrendereJ himself a, prisoner to a savage, who immediately gave him
up tj a serge:int of Sir John Johnson's regiment; soon after which a
lieutenant in the Indian department came up in company with several
other Tories, when sfiid Mr. Grinnis, by name, drew his tomahawk at
this deponent, and with deal of persuasion was hardly prevailed on to
spaj-e his life, lie then pUmdcred him of his watch, buckles, spurs,
etc., and other -Tories following his exfimple, stripped him almost naked
with a grc.vt many threats, while they wcrp stripping and massacreing
prisoners on every side. That this deponent on being brought before
Mr. Butler, Sr., whp demanded of him what he was fighting for; to
which this deponent an.'^wered, ' he fought for the liberty that God and

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 33 of 192)