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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Seymour said, —

"We owe it to the kindness of a lady, the granddaughter of the
heroic Gansevoort, that the interest of this occasion ha^ been heightened
by the exhibition of the banner which was just displayed. As I have
stated, he left it as an heir-loom to his descendants. It now belongs to
his granddaughter, Mrs. Abraham Lansing, of Albany. We could
not ask her to surrender it even for a short time into our hands, for wo
felt that no one of the lineage of Colonel Gansevoort would surrender
a flag. The effort to get him to do that was unsuccessfully tried by St.
Leger, although he had an army to enforce his demands. We there-
fore urged her to honor us by her presence at this time, and to bring
with her, as its guardian, the banner which has just been exhibited. I
know I express the feelings of this assemblage when I say that, in
complying with our request, she has conferred upon us a favor which
will long bo remembered in the valley of the Mohawk. In behalf of
this assembly, I thank her for her kindness, and for her presence on
this oooasion,"

The afternoon exercises at the main or west stand were
opened at a quarter of three o'clock p.m., by the Old Utica
Band, after which a large nurliber of letters were read from
distinguished persons who had been invited but who were
unable to attend, among whom were President Hayes, Vice-



President Wheeler, Secretary Evarfs, General W. T. Sher-
man, through his aide-de-camp, Major Whipple, ex-Secre-
tary Fish, ex-Governor Dix, General McClellan, William
CuHen Bryant, General Sigel, Hon. S. S. Cox, Governor
Robinson, Benson J. Lossing, ex-Governor Morgan, Bay-
ard Taylor, Adjutant-General Townsend, Hon. Sidney
Breese, Alfred B. Street, President Brown, of Hamilton
College, President Potter, of Union College, Thomas Dunn
English, and others.

The regular speaking of the day was opened by Lieuten-
ant-Governor Dorsheimer, who made a short address, taking
for his subject " The Nationality of Oriskany,'' which he
handled in a happy manner. Hon. W. J. Bacon followed
with a comparison of " Oriskany and Thermopylae," in his
happiest vein ; and next succeeding him came Hon. Ellis
ri. Roberts, who delivered the historical address, entitled,
"Battle op Oriskany: Its Pl.\.cb in History."
This was the most important effort of the day, and fully
justified the expectations of the people, who had been
promised a rare historical treat. Mr. Roberts had evi-
dently studied his subject thoroughly from the standpoint
of every writer of prominence, American or foreign ; and
the result was a gathering together of more information
upon the battle of Oriskany, and the siege of Fort Stanwix,
than ever before attempted by a single writer. The ad-
dress involved a thorough sifting and comparing of an im-
mense amount of material, and an exhaustive essay upon
every phase of the subject. It was treated in a masterly
and impartial manner, and the orator is entitled to the
lasting gratitude of the people of the Mohawk Valley for
placing before them the most complete and reliable history
of the two great events under consideration.

This valuable contribution to the standard history of our
country can be found entire in the " Centennial Volume
Commemorative of the Battle of Oriskany,'' published at
the office of the Utica Herald, in March, 1878. Tlie vol-
ume also contains all the speeches and addresses made upon
that interesting occasion, together with poems, letters, and
much additional matter, which want of space forbids us
from transferring to the pages of this work.

Short addresses were made by Major Douglass Campbell,
Hon. Philo White, Hon. Clarkson N. Potter, Chancellor
E. 0. Haven, of the Syracuse University, Samuel Earl,
Esq., and M. M. Jones, Esq., each upon an appropriate
subject ; and two meritorious poems were also read : one
from the pen of Rev. C. D. Helmer, D.D. ; the other by
General J. Watts Depeyster.

The day will long be remembered by the inhabitants of
the beautiful valley of the Mohawk.



AJarins in the Viillejs of the Hudson and Mohawk— The Six Nations
and Congress— Lifavette— Treaty with Prance— Trouble at Foit
Schuyler — Raids into the Mohawk Valley— Destruction of Indian
Towns— The Cherry Valley Massacre.

The battles of Oriskany and Bennington, and the repulse
of St. Leger from before Fort Stanwix, hastened the failure
of the main expedition under Burgoyne. The people of

New York and New England, elated with the wonderful
success attending the American arms, now flocked in great
numbers to the standard of General Gates.*

Two obstinate battles were fought between the armies on
the 19th of September and 7th of October, with results
highly encouraging to the Americans, and correspondingly
depressing to the enemy.

Finding it impossible to advance any farther towards
Albany, Burgoyne made a desperate effort to retreat to Lake
Champlain ; but the American forces, now nearly treble his
own, had completely surrounded him and taken possession
of all the passes in his rear, and on the 17th of October
the whole British army was compelled to surrender pris-
oners of war.

The rejoicing throughout the land was universal, and the
belief was general that this great victory oyer a veteran
army would ere long result in the independence of the
country and the closing of the war. Though the glory of
this grand result was enjoyed by General Gates as the cen-
tral figure in the play, it was nevertheless almost exclusively
owing to the excellent preparations made by General Schuy-
ler that the joyful result was accomplished. The sudden
collapse of Gates in the Southern campaign, and his part
in the intrigue to supplant the commander-in-chief, soon
satisfied the American people that his talents and abilities
had been greatly overestimated ; and from, that day to this
there has been a settled conviction that the. honors of the
brilliant campaign of 1777 belonged to General Philip
Schuyler and his gallant companions in arms.

The capture of Burgoyne and the retreat of St. Leger
did not, however, entirely relieve the frontiers of New York
fiom occasional alarm. The Johnsons, Butlers, Colonel
Clans, and the Mohawk chieftain were still in the field
plotting mischief to the colonists and watching every oppor-
tunity to harass and destroy. Attempts were made by the
Tories to assassinate several of the leading men of the
Wliigs, among them Mr. John Taylor, a member of the
Albany Council of Safety, and General Schuyler.

Early in the autumn information came from th« Oneida
Indians that a formidable force of Tories and Indians, under
Johnson and Butler, was gathering at Oswego, and that an
attack would be made upon five of the most prominent set-
tlements lying west of Schenectady.

Scouting parties of the enemy appeared about the same
time upon the Saeondaga River north of Johnstown. In
the latter part of 0.;tober an express arrived at the Cana-
joharie Castle with the intelligence that within a few days
Sir John Johnson would concentrate at Oswego six hundred
regular troops and a large number of Indians, of whom, the
messenger stated, he had succeeded in enlisting twenty-two
nations. A belt was to be sent to the Oneidas, and if they
refused to take up arms for the king they were to be the
first attacked. These facts were communicated to General
Schuyler, by a letter, on the 25tb of October, which also
announced the flight, to the ranks of the enemy, of Hon-

* The commanders of the Northern army had been repeatedly
changed. Ou the 25th of March, (Jates had superseded Schuyler;
on the 22d of May, Schuyler had superseded Gates ; and again, on the
19th of August, Gates had superseded Schuyler. The latter remained
with the army until after Burgoyne's surrender.



Yost Scliujler and a dozen or inore of his neighbors from
Pall Hill and vicinity. A strong appeal for an additional
force to defend the vallpy was madej with the assurance
that in, the event of receiving no further assistance t^he in-
habitants would be compelled to throw themselves on the
mercy of the enemy. ;

But notwithstanding this alarm nothing serious occurred-
during the remainder of 1777. , ,

Another a,ttepipt was made by Congress to win over the
Six Nations. A remarkably able address was drawn up,
adopted, and delivered to them. But against the lavish,
presents of the British government and the influence of
Thayeudanegea no impression could be made, except so far
as the Oneidas and Tuscaroras were concerned, who re-
mained true, to- their former friendship.

On the 15th day of Novemberj 1777, " Articles of Con-
federation and Perpetual Union" between the thirteen colo-
nies were adopted by Congress, and on the 22d of the same
month it. was, resolved that all negotiations between the
Unite,d States and Great Britain, except upon the basis of
the independence of the colonies, should be rejected ; and,
itwas further resplved that no conference should be held
with any commissioners or other agents of Great Britain,,
unlessy ag a preliminary measure thereto, the fleets and
armies, of the letter should be withdrawn.

; Ne.W3 pf Burgoyive's surrender reached France in De-
cember, and was received, by the French people with as
hearty demonstrations, of joy as if it had been a victoi-y of
their own. , ,

This great event determined the French government to
openly,, espouse, the cause of the Americans, and, on the 6lh
of February, 1778, a treaty was signed between the two
nations, by which France pledged herself to aid and assist
the cplonies to a, successful isisue in their struggle for inde-
pendenca ,

The news pf this important event reached the United
States late in, the spring. It was communicated to the
army on (he 7th of May, and caused unbounded joy.

• In the beginning of 1778, Congress resolved to make one
more effort, to conciliate the Six Nations,, and on the 2d of
February resolutions were passed directing that a council
should be held at Johnstown. Congress appointed General
Schuyler and'Vulkert P. Douw commLssionera, and re-
quested Governor Clinton, of New York, to designate a
special oomniissiflner to be present, and James Duane was
accordingly appointed.

It was intended to hold the council between the 15th and
20th of February, but the Indianswere so dilatory in ar-
riving that proceedings werp not commenced until the 9th
of March.

,. It is not certain that General Schuyler attended this
council; but the Marquis de Lafayette, who was then
temporarily in comimmd of the Northern Department, ac-
companied Mr. Duane to Johnstown and was present during
the negotiations.

It is said that over 700 Indians were on the ground, in-
cluding Oneidas, Tuscaroras, Onundagas, a few Mohawhs,
and three or four Cuyngas ; but not a single individual
froQl the most powerful nation of the Confederacy, the

Instead of sending delegates they sent a message affecting
great surprise " that while our tomahawks were sticking in
their lieadp, their wounds bleeding, and their eyes streaming;
with tears for the loss of their fi'iends at German Flats,*
the commissioners should think of inviting them to a
treaty!" , ,

The proceedings were opened on the part of Congress by
an address, which, while conciliatory in its tone, nevertheless
took firm ground against the treacherous course pursued by
four of the Six Nations, and threatened in case they did
not lay down tlie hatchet and refrain from further acts of
violence, the heavy hand of war should be visited upon,
them to the utmost, and in every part of their land.

The Oneidas and Tuscaroras were highly commendec^
for the course they had taken, and assured of friendship
and protection.

Characteristic speeches were made by chiefs of the Onon-.
daga and Oneida nations, in which the former charged all
the blame upon the. young men, and the influence of Colonel
Butler and olhers. ■ ,

An Oneida chief made an eloquent speech in behalf of
his own nation and the Tuscaroras, ia the course of which
he lamented the degeneracy of the hostile tribes, and pic-
tured their certain destruction. He declared the unalterable,
resolution of his, people to hold fast to the covenant chain
between them and the United States, and expressed their,
desire, to have the government erect a fortress, for their

The council closed without any satisfactory result, and it
was apparent that nothing but hostility was:to,be expected-
from the -Senecas, Cai/iigas, and Mohawks ; and the Onon-
dagas, though they made many professions, were evidently
playing a double game. In order, as far as possible, to con-
ciliate the Indiansj the commissioners were authorized by.
Congress to open a trading establishment at Fort Schuyler,
and appropriated for that purpose ten thousand dollars.

Lafayette, in accordance with the wish of the Indians,,
directed a fort to be erected in the Oneida country; and
upon the representations of Colonel Campbell and others,
forts were ordered to bo built at Cherry Valley and

The emissaries of the Johnsons were lurking everywhere
watching the movements of the \Yhigs, and stirring up the
Tory, elements; and during the council at Johnstown a
nephew of Sir Guy Carleton was in the neighborhood, Ef-.
forts ^yere made for his capture, and the following letter from
Lafiiyette to Colonel Gansevoort shows the interest which
the marquis took in. the matter :

"JoiiNSTOwx, ihe 9rt. n/ Mch., 17T8.
"Sir, — As the taking of Colonel CiivletoD is of the gn-atest im-
portance, I wish you would use every exertion in your power to have
him apprehended. I have desired Colonel Livingston, who knows him,
to let you have any intelligence he can give, and join to them those
I have got by one other spy, about the dress and ffgure of Carleton.
You may send as many parties as you please, and everywhere you'll
think proper, and do every convenient thing for discovering him. I
dare say he knows we are after him, and has nothing in view but to
escape; which I beg you to prevent by all means. You may promise
in my name, ftfty gnineatt, hard moury, besides any money Iheycan
find about Carleton, to 'any party of soldiers or Indians who will

* Meaning Oriskany.



bring him alive. As over}' one Itnowa dow wliat wo send for, there is
no inconvenience to scatter in the country wiiat reward is {troraiaed,
in order to stimulate the Indians.

" I have the honor to be, Sir,

" Your most obedient servant,
" The Mqs. he Lapavettk."
" Col. (Jansevooht,

'* Cunimandinff Fort Scjiui/ler,''

The precautions taken for the capture of Carleton were
fruitless, for he was not taken. Lafayette remained in
command of the Northern Department until the middle of
April, when he returned to headquarters, and Gates again
resumed command.

Tliayendanegea was never idle. Early in the spring of
1778 he returned to his old haunts on the Susquehanna, —
UnadiHa and Oquago. From these points active operations
were carried on, and the whole frontier was in continual
alarm from Saratoga westward to the German Flats, and
thence southward to the Susquehanna, and eastward to the
Hudson. There is no proof that Brant was guilty of un-
necessary barbarity; on the contrary, there is much evideilce
to show that beyond the ordinary operations of war he not
only did not go, but that be softened its asperities as far as
lay in his power;

The following incident related by Colonel Stone is char-
acteristic of the chieftain :

" A lad in Schoharie County (then Tryon), named William
McKown, while engaged in raking hay alone in a meadow,
happening to turn around, perceived an Indian very near
him. Startled at his perilous situation, he raised his rake
for defense, but his fears were instantly dissipated by the
savage, who said, ' Do not be afraid, young man, I shall
not hurt you.' He then inquired of the youth for the
residence of a loyalist named Foster. The lad gave him
the proper direction, and inquired of the Indian whether
he knew Mr. Foster? 'I am partially acquainted with
him,' was the reply ; 'having once seen hltn at the Half-
way Creek.'* The Indian then inquired the lad's name,
and, having been informed, he added, ' You are a son of
Captain McKown, who lives in the northeast part of the
town, I suppose. I know your father very well ; he lives
neighbor to Captain McKean. I know McKean very well,
and a very fine fellow he is, too.' Emboldened by the
familiar discourse of the Indian, the lad ventured to ask
his name in turn. Hesitating a moment, his rather unwel-
come visitor replied, ' My name is Brant.' ' What! Cap-
tain Brant ?' eagerly demanded the youth. ' No, I am a
cousin of his,' was the rejoinder, but accompanied by a
Smile and a look that plainly disclosed the transparent de-
ception. It was none other than the terrible Tliayendane-
gea himself.

" The first movement of Brant in the season of 1778
was upon the settlement of Springfield, a small town at
the head of Otsego Lake, lying directly west of Cherry
Valley about ten miles. Those of the men who did not
fly were taken prisoners. The chieftain then burned the
entire settlement, with the exception of a single house, into
which he collected all the women and children, and left
them uninjured. ''f

" Bowman's Creek, half-way between Cherry Valley and the Mo-
hawk River,
■j" Stone.

Raids were of frequent occurrence during this season,
and a noted engagement took place on the 2d of July, on
the Cobleskill, between- a party of regular troops and
Schoharie militia, numbering 52 men, and a body of In-
dians, amounting to 450 by their own accounts. The
troops were defeated, with a loss of 2i killed and missing.
The loss of the Indians was not known. The memorable
expedition against Wyoming, and the complete dcstrubtion
of that colony, took place iu July of this year. Brant was
not engaged in that affair. Colonel John Butler com-
manded the expedition.

The news of the alliance of France with the colonies
caused the British to concentrate their forces at New York.
Sir Henry Clinton- evacuated Philadelphia on the 18th" of
June, and began his march across New Jersey. W;ishing-
ton immediately put his army in motion in pursuit, and on
the 28th of June broui;ht Sir Henry to battle at Monmouth
Court-House, in a well-contested actionj which terminated
at night-fall to the decided advantage of. the Americans,
notwithstanding General Lee's pusillanimous conduct.

The American army slept on their arms, Washington
intending to renew the attack in the morning; but the
British commander made a hasty and rapid retreat during
the night and reached New York in safety.

Colonel Gansevoort continued in command of Fort Stan-
wix' during the season of 1778, having little else to do
than watch the motions of the enemy at Oswego and on
the St. Lawrence. The garrison was considerably harassed'
by predatory parties of the enemy.. •• "

The following incident is related in a letter from Major
Robert Cochran (in temporary command of the post) to
Colonel Gansevoort, dated Sept. 8, 1778 :

'• This morning Benjamin Acker, of Captain De Witt's
company, who was out in the meadow, was killed and scalped
by a party of Indians, who were seen and fired at by the
sentinel near Brodack's house. I heard the firing in my
room, and ran to the officer of the guard to know what was
the matter. I was informed that a party of Indians had
fired upon one of our men who had gone to catch a horse,
and that he had either been killed or taken .prisoner. I
ordered Captain Bleecker to go out immediately, with the
guard just parading, to see if he could find him dead or
alive. They found Acker lying dead. He was scalped,
and a weapon about two feet and a half long, like this"
(here Major Cochran gave a drawing of the instrument, n
war club, with a blade like the spear of a lance, inserted in
the side near the upper end of it), " lying near himj This
lance-head had been stuck several times in his body. It is
supposed to have been left behind on purpose, as there were
several marks on it, denoting the number of persons killed
and scalps taken by means of it.''J

Weary of the comparative inaction, Lieutenant-Colonel
Willett, and other subordinate officersof the garrison, made
efforts to have their regiment transferred to active service
in the field, but without success, though, as heretofore
shown, both Gan.sevoort and Willett were absent on leave,
and the latter probibly never returned to duty at Fort

X Stone.



" Ta the early part of July, Lieutenant McClellan, an
active and efficient officer, was sent with a small party to
destroy the buildings and public works at Oswego, which,
it was ascertained, were not at that moment in possession
of the enemy."

The object was easily accomplished, and everything de-
stroyed which was combustible. The only occupants found
were a woman and her children and a lad about fourteen
years of age. The woman with her family and furniture
were placed in an outbuilding, and a sufficient supply of
provisions was left with her. The boy was brought away
as a prisoner, and furnished important information concern-
ing the movements of the enemy.*

But the marauding parties of the enemy did not consti-
tute the only difficulty with which the commander of Fort
Stanwix had to deal. A new trouble broke out in the
latter part of the summer of 1778, caused partly by disaf-
fection because of the monotonous life of the frontier, and
partly by the machinations of emissaries in the employ and
pay of Sir Henry Clinton, then in command of New York.
Notwithstanding the location of the fortress on the extreme
frontier, the British commander found means to introduce
a spy within its walls, who came in the character of a re-
cruit. The name of this emissary was Samuel Geake. He
was one of the American soldiers who had been captured
during the preceding year and held a prisoner in New
York. Another prisoner was Major Hammell, formerly
brigade major in General James Clinton's command, who
had been taken at the capture of Fort Montgomery by the

These two men had been won over by English gold, and
were sent on their treacherous and dangerous missions by
Sir Henry Clinton.

Hamniell was sent out to enlist men among the inhabit-
ants along the Hudson, and was promised the colonelcy of
the new regiment if he succeeded in his designs. Geake
was instructed by Sir Henry to enlist in some organization
which would take him to Fort Stanwix, of which he was
to obtain accurate information, and also to stir up all the
disaffection possible among the officers and men. He was
then to spike all the guns of the fort and desert to the
British with as many companions as he could persuade to
join him. His reward for all these services was to be a
lieutenant's commission in the British service.

We copy the following interesting summary of this epi-
sode in the history of Fort Stanwix from Stone, who ob-
tained his information from various official papers and doc-
uments :

" Geake accompanied Hammell to Poughkeepaie, where, in further-
ance of his iniquitouB designs, he enlisted in Captain Abraham Swart-
wout's company,f and was transferred to Fort Schuyler (Stanwix), to
join Colonel Gansevoort's regiment; into which place, for specific ob-
jects, he was instructed to insinuate himself by an aide-de-camp of Sir
Henry Clinton. After HammcU's arrest, Colonel Varick wrote to
Ganse\'oort, putting him on his guard as to the character of Geake.
A sergeant, named Kartele, wa* employed by Colonel Gansevoort to
ingratiate himself in Geake's confidence, and, if possible, ascertain his
true character and penetrate his designs. The commission was suc-

* Letter from Colonel Gansevoort to General Stnrk, July 10. [Stone.]
■f Captain Swailwout had been with Colonel Gansevoort at the siege

of Fort Stanwix, and furnished the camlet cloak used in making the

famous flag, heretofore spoken of.

cegsfully executed by the sergeant, and the whole circumstances o.
Hammell*^ employment by the enemy, and his own, were elicited.
Geake was thereupon arrested, but not until he had made great prog-
ress in his designs, and was on the eve of desertion, for the purpose of
joining the British army in Philadelphia,

" He was tried by a court-martial, made a full confession, and, with his
confederates, was sentenced' to death. J The sentence was not carried
into execution against Geake, not only beaause the constitution of the

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 36 of 192)