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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make the portage to the head of Otsego Lake, from which
it was to descend the Susquehanna to Tioga, where it would
form a junction with the main body, and the consolidated
forces would then move into the fertile country of the Cayu-
gas and Senecas, where Sullivan was instructed by General
Washington to make a complete destruction of everything
belonging to the Indians.

The history of this campaign is only partially connected
with that of Oneida County, but it so intimately concerns
the region of Central and Western New York, and withal
had so close a connection with operations affecting the val-
ley of the Mohawk, that a brief synopsis is included in this
work, in order to give our readers a better understanding of
the chain of events which makes up the history of the
Revolutionary war in this region.

General Clinton received his instructions from General
Sullivan on the 2d of June, and his operations were pushed
with so much energy that on the 16th he was at Canajo-
harie, ready to move towards the head-waters of the Susque-
hanna. The movements were substantially aided by his
brother, the efficient Governor of New York.

Bateaux were provided at Schenectady and taken up the
river to Canajoharie, and from thence transported over the
portage to Otsego Lake. Fort Schuyler was freshly pro-
visioned for any emergency, and every possible preparation
made for a successful campaign. The bateaux altogether
numbered 220, and were successfully carried over the port-
age, each boat requiring four horses to haul it over the hills.
Provisions and stores fur a three months' supply were also
taken over in the same manner, and on the 30th of June
everything was in readiness for a move down the Susque-
hanna River. Colonel Willctt was with General Clinton's
command, and the latter, in a letter to General Schuyler,
spoke in the highest terms of the efficient services rendered
by him, as also of the alacrity with which the inhabitants
had rallied to his standard.

During these preliminary movements two spies were cap-
tured, tried, condemned, and executed. They were a Lieu-
tenant Hare, of the British service, and a Tory sergeant,
named Newberry, and were at the head of a band of 60
Seneca warriors, who were to harass the country around
Cherry Valley, Schoharie, and Fort Schuyler.

It seems to have been the intention of General Sullivan
to employ the Oneidas in this expedition, and he gave in-
structions to General Clinton to enlist as many as possible,
though the latter was opposed to the scheme. At that
. time Rev. Mr. Kirkland had been summoned to Albany for
consultation. He had also been appointed chaplain to Sul-
livan's army, which he joined in Pennsylvania. In his ab-
sence the business of negotiating with the Oneidas was con-
fided to Mr. James Dean, who was a resident among them,
and had a thorough knowledge of their language. He
was at the time the regular interpreter employed at Fort

At first everything went on smoothly ; the Oneidas vol-
unteered almost to a man, and the clan of the Onondagas
who adhered to the Americans were also desirous of enlist-
in" with them. Everything looked so promising that, on
the 26th of June, Clinton wrote to Sullivan that Mr. Dean
would join him at the head of Otsego Lake with the Oneida
warriors on the following Saturday.

In the midst of these favorable proceedings the Indians
received an address from General Haldimand, which reached
Fort Schuyler on the 22d of June, and produced a sudden
change in their feelings, rendering it very uncertain whether
they would adhere to their resolution of joining Sullivan's
army. Mr. Dean wrote that he hoped to obtain the co-op-
eration of at least a part of them. The arrangement with
them was that in case the Canadian Indians were let loose
upon them, as threatened, the garrison at Fort Schuyler
would not only assist them, but their women and children
should find shelter in the fort.

The following is the address of General Haldimand, be-
fore alluded to. It was written in the Iroquois language,
and translated by Mr. Dean :

"Brothers: Be very attentive to what I, Ashanegown, the great
' King of England's representative in Canada, am going to say. By
this strin"^ of wampum I shake you by the hand to rouse you, that
you may seriously reflect upon my words. A string of Kaiiipiim.

" Brothers : It is now about four years since the Bostonians began to
rise and rebel against their Father, the King of England, since which
time you have taken a different part from the rest of the Five Nations,



your confederates, and have likowise deserted from the King's oause,
through the deceitful machinations and snares of the rebels, who in-
timidated you with their numerous armies, hy which means you became
bewildered, and forgot all your engagements with, and former oare and
favor from, the great King of England, your Father. You also soon
forgot the frequent bad usage, and continued eneroaohments of the
Americans upon the Indian lands throughout the Continent. I say,
therefore, that at the breaking out of these troubles you firmly declared
to observe a strict neutrality in the dispute, and made your declaration
known to Sir Guy Carleton, my predecessor, who much approved of
it, provided you were in earnest. I have hitherto strictly observed
and examined your conduct, and find that you did not adhere to
your assertion, although I could trace no reason on the side of the
government, as welt as the Indians, why you should act so treacher-
ous and double a part, by which means we, not mistrusting your fidel-
ity, have had many losses among the King's subjects and the Five
Nations, your friends and connections; and finding you, besides, proud
and haughty on the occasion, as if you gloried in your perfidy, doubt-
less in sure confidence, as if your friends, the rebels, were getting the
better at last; and,' captivated witli that pleasing opinion of yours,
you have presumed twice during the course of last winter to send im-
pertinent and daring messages to the Five Nations, as if you meant to
pick a quaiTcl with them. In consequence of this, your daring and
insolent behavior, I must insist upon, by this belt of wampum, that
you declare yourselves, immediately on the receipt of this my speech
and message, whether you mean to persist in your daring and insult-
ing course, and still intend to act as you hitherto have done, treacher-
ously, under the cloak of neutrality, or whether you will accept of this,
my last offer of reuniting and reconciling yourselves with your own
tribes, the Five Nations. Do not imagine that the King has hitherto
treated the rebels and their adherents with so much mildness and in-
dulgence out of any apprehensions of their strength, or gaining the
better. No, by no means. For you will find that, in case you slight
or disregard this my last offer of peace, I shall soon convince you that
I have such a number of Indian allies to let loose upon you as will
instantly convince you of your folly when too late, as I have hardly
been able to restrain them from falling upon you for some time past.
I must therefore once more repeat to you that this is my last and final
message to you, and that you do not hesitate or put off giving me your
direct and decisive declaration of peace or war, that in case of the lat-
ter (knowing that there are still some of your nation who are friends
to the King and the Five Nations) I may give them timely warning
to sejjarate themselves from you.

" Brothers : Let me lastly convince you of the deceit and dissimula-
tion of your rebel brethren. General Schuyler, Parson Kirkland, and
others. Have they not told you in the beginning of the rebellion that
thoy wanted not your assistance, and to have your blood si^ilt; and
you likewise declared that you would not join them, but remain
neuter? Have either of you stuck to your word ? No! you basely
broke it, and seemed from the beginning to be of mutual hostile senti-
ments against the King and his allies, and soon after manifested it by
your actions. What confirms me in this opinion, and proves your
deceitful and treacherous dispositions, is your behavior during the
course of the laat war, when you likewise acted a double part in clan-
destinely joining and carrying intelligence to the French in this
country, which I myself am a witness to, and also was told of it by
your friend, the late Sir William Johnson, who, notwithstanding your
base behavior upon promising that you would be true and faithful for
the future, forgave you and received you into favor again, advising
you to be more prudent and honest in time to come, and frequently
after that loaded you with the king's bounty and favor. But he was
no sooner dead than you ungratefully forgot his good advice and
benefactions, and, in opposition to his family and Indian friends, and
everything that is sacred, adopted the cause of rebels and enemies to
your King, your late patron, Sir AVilliam Johnson, and your own
confederacy and connections. TheSe are facts, brothers, that, unless
you are lost to every sense of feeling, cannot but recall in you a mofrt
hearty repentance and deep remorse for your past vile actions. The

"Fked. Haldimand."

While General Clinton was lying at the foot of Otsego
Lake he received u letter from General Schuyler, announ-
cing important news from Canada, brought by a spy who

had been sent to obtain information of the cneTiij*s move-
ments. He stated that a force consisting of 450 regular
troops, 100 Tories, and 30 Indians, had left Montreal on
the 18th of June, to assist the Five Nations in repelling
Sullivan. Also that they were to be joined by half of Sir
John Johnson's regiment, and a part of the garrison of

Mr. Dean joined the army on the 5th of July, with 35
One'tda warriors. They did not come, however, to serve
in the expedition, but merely to explain their situation
since receiving General Haldimand's letter.

At a conference with the general, held on the same day,
they made the following statements :

"Brother: We suppose you imagine we have come here in order
to attend you upon your expedition, but we are sorry to inform you
that our situation is such as will not admit of it.

" Brother : From intelligence which we may depend upon, we have
reason to believe that the Six Nations mean to embrace the opportunity
of our absence in order to destroy our castles; these accounts we have
by spies from among them, and we know that a considerable body of
them are now collected at Cayuga for that purpose, waiting in expecta-
tion of our warriors leaving the castle to joiii you.

"Brother: It was our intention to have joined you upon your in-
tended route, and hope you will not think hard of it that we do not;
but such is our present danger, that in case we leave our castle it must
be cut off, as a large party of the enemy are waiting for that purpose.

"Brother: This is a time of danger with us. Our brethren, the
Americans, have always promised us assistance for our protection when-
ever we stand in need of it; we therefore request that, agreeable to
these promises, we may have some troops sent to our assistance in this
time of great danger. Should you send a body of troops to our assist-
ance and protection, and the enemy attack U5, and we should have the
fortune to beat them, we will, with those troops, pursue them, and join
you down in their country ; or if they should n-jt make an attack u|ion
our castle in a short time, we will march through their castles until we
join you." A belt.

To this Speech General Clinton made the following reply :

" Brethren : Our present expedition is intended to chastise those
nations who have broken their faith with us and joined our enemies.
The force we have is quite sufficient for that purpose. Our route is
planned in the great council of this country. It is not my desire that
the whole of your warriors should leave their castles. I have given a
general invitation to our brethren the Oneidae, the 3'nHciroran, and
such OnoiidiKjuH as may have entered into friendship with us. In
order to give all our Indian friends an equal chance of evincing their
spirit and determination to partake of our fortune, I am entirely satis-
fied that such only should join me as think proper. It is not for want
of warriors that I have given you this invitation, but that every war-
rior who is a friend to these United States may have an equal oppor-
tunity of punishing the enemies of our country.

" As your situation is such as causes you to suppose your castles in
danger of being destroyed by your enemies in case of your absence, I
by no means desire that more of your warriors should leave your
castles than your councils think proper to permit.

" As yet, I am fully persuaded that all our enemies of the Six Nations
will find too much to do at home to suffer any of their warriors to go
abroad to do mischief. If you should be satisfied after a little while
that your castles are out of danger, and the whole or any part of your
warriors think proper to come to us, I shall be glad to see you; and in
the mean time perhaps you may be as serviceable where you are as if
you were with us.

" I shall immediately give orders to the officer commanding at Fort
Schuyler to send some troops to your ciistle, and write to Colonel Van
Schaick, who commands in my absence, to afford you every assistance
in his power, as I am not authorized to order any of the troops now
.with me on any other command, being directed by our great chief
and warrior to proceed with the whole of thei>e troops on the present

An order was soon afler issued by Clinton for the com-
manding officer at Fort Schuyler to detach thirty or forty



men to the Oneida castles, to be used and recalled as cir-
cumstances might make necessary. With this understanding
ten of the warriors returned to their people, and the re-
maining twenty-five accompanied the ti-oops. It is said,
however, that they subsequently all deserted but two of
the meaner sort.

During the time that Sullivan's army was gathering and
preparing for the grand movement, the Mnliawk chieftain,
Brant, was not idle. He had collected a force of about 300,
consisting principally of Indians, with a few Tories, for the
purpose of watching Sullivan's advance, and of harassing
his detached parties ; but that general's movements were
so dilatory that the chief determined to make a diversion,
and, if possible, draw off a poi-tion of Sullivan's force. He
accordingly, with a small but select baud, fell upon the set-
tlement of Minisink, located in the western part of what is
now Orange County. The noted Count Pulaski, afterwards
fatally wounded in an attack upon Savannah, had been sta-
tioned at this place with a battalion of cavalry during the
preceding winter, but in February had been ordered to join
the army of General Lincoln, in the South.

On the night of the 19th, 2()th of July, Brant took the
town completely by surprise, destroyed all the buildings,
killed a number of the people, and retreated towards his
main body with considerable spoil and a few prisoners. At
the first knowledge of the affair the militia, to tlie number of
149 men, were hastily collected, and started in pursuit. The
wily Muhaick lured them on and into an ambuscade, where
he turned upon them with his whole foice and completely
cut them to pieces, only 30 escaping with their lives. The
slaughter of prominent officers of that region was greater
in proportion to numbers engaged than at Oriskany. This
battle took place at a point near the Delaware River, and
not far from the fording-place at the mouth of the Lacka-
waxen Creek. From this point Brant made a rapid move-
ment into the Mohawk Valley, where he made a few prisoners,
and soon after joined the British, Tories, and Indians, under
the Butlers and Johnsons, who wore preparing to oppose
Sullivan's advance.

A most remarkable project was put in operation and suc-
cessfully carried out by General Clinton while lying at the
foot of Otsego Lake waiting on the movements of General
Sullivan. The outlet of this lake, which forms the main
branch of the Susqueiianna Rivor, is but a small stream,
and capable only of floating canoes. General Clinton had
with him for transportation purposes, as has been seen,
upwards of 200 bateaux, a species of boat, when loaded,
requiring considerable depth of water.

The problem of General Clinton was how to get these
bateaux in the easiest possible manner down this stream to
its junction with the large branches which unite with it
from the north and west. But he was equal to the emer-
gency, and adopted a perfectly original plan, which is
worthy to be recorded with the great feat performed by
Lieutenant-Colonel Bailey in extricating Admiral Porter's
fleet from the shallows of Red River during the War of
the Rebellion.

Clinton constructed a dam at the outlet which raised the
waters of the lake several feet ; and when orders were re-
ceived for a forward movement, on the 9th of August, the

dam was cut away, and the whole flotilla sailed down the
stream on a majestic flood, which swept the entire valley
and astonished the Indians beyond measure. Their grow-
ing corn was all destroyed, and they looked upon it as a di-
rect visitation from the Great Spirit. It was at the dryest
season of the year, and the savages, knowing nothing of the
cause of the terrible flood, naturally attributed it to supernat-
ural causes.

Clinton's force formed a junction with Sullivan on the
22d of August, at Tioga. The army now amounted to 5000
men, consisting of the brigades of Generals Clinton, Hand,
Poor, and Maxwell, the artillery under Proctor, and a small
independent corps of riflemen.

The expedition had been so long in progress that the
enemy had a minute knowledge of its strength and objectSj
and had made the best possible preparations to meet it. No
attempt was made to attack it on the march, however, until
its arrival at Newtown, now the city of Elmira, in Chemung
County, in front of which the enemy had constructed very
strong lines covering Sullivan's line of march. Why they
did not fall upon Clinton's brigade before its junction with
the main army is certainly inexplicable, unles.s they were at
that time unprepared ; for, most assuredly, if they could
not check the advance of one brigade, and even put it to a.
disastrous rout, they could not hope to beat the consoli-
dated army.

The utmost circumspection was observed in moving up
the Chemung River to guard against surprise. On the
morning of the 29th of August the enemy's line was dis-
covered, and dispositions were at once made to dislodge
them. Their strength was estimated by Sullivan and his
officers at 1500 men, while the enemy stated it at 800 to
850. They admitted, however, that there were in addition
to the British and Tory troops Six Nations of Indians, be-
sides the Senccas, engaged in the battle. Brant was at the
head of the Indians and made a gallant fight, but after u,
long contest the enemy were routed, and fled in the utmost
disorder. The losses in Sullivan's army, considering the
obstinate defense, were very small, amounting to only 5 or
6 killed and from 40 to 50 wounded. The loss of the
enemy was not known, but from the number of dead found
on and near the field, and other unmistakable signs of
slaughter, it must have been severe. The small loss of the
Americans was no doubt principally owing to the fact that the
enemy occupied high ground, and, as is invariably the case,
fired too high. This principle has been repeatedly illus-
trated, and it is well understood among military men that
so fiir as mere firing is concerned the party occupying high
rround have no advantage. The assaults upon Lookout
Mountain and Mission Ridge, at Chattanooga, are cases in

The army remained on the field until the 31st. From
this point all the heavy and surplus baggage, and the ar-
tillery, excepting four brass three-pounders and a small
howitzer, were sent back. The army was placed upon short
allowance, and virtually became a flying column stripped to
rapid marching trim. t.,? ,•

On the 31st it moved in the direction of Catherine's
town near the head of Seneca Lake, the residence of the
notorious Catherine Montour.



The town of Kan-aw-a-ho-lee, situated at the confluence
of the Tioga and Conhocton Rivers, and containing about
twenty houses, was burned on the march. Large corn-
fields were also destroyed in the valley of the Tioga by a
detachment of riflemen under Colonel Dayton.

The army made a most laborious march from the Che-
mung to Catherine's town, and had the enemy displayed
their wonted prowess and sagacity it might have been
badly harassed by the way. But they seemed to be com-
pletely demoralized and attempted nothing.

Disappointed in the expected support of the Oneidas,
Sullivan di.spatched one of those who remained with the
army to carry to the Oneida castles an account of the battle
of Newtown, and to tell them that he expected their war-
riors to join him immediately. The messenger did not
return until near the close of the campaign, when he ex-
plained the reasons for their not joining him. They had
mustered their warriors and seventy of them had set out,
when they met their brother, Conowaga, coming from the
army, who informed them that the general was then at
Kanasadngea, and had men enough, " only wanting a few
good guides."

In consequence of this information the Oneida warriors
had returned home, sending by him an address in which
they interceded fur one clan of the Cayugas, which, they
claimed, had always been friendly to the Americans.

The general I'eplied, commending them for their fidelity
to the United States, but expressing surprise that they
should intercede in behalf of any portion of the Cayugas,
who had been always hostile, and he assured them that the
Cayugas should be chastised.

The brigade of General Clinton, which had been sepa-
rated from the main body for several days, rejoined the army
on the 2d of September.

The work of destruction was begun in earnest on the
3d, when Catherine's town was entirely destroyed, with all
the orchards and corn-fields. The place consisted of thirty
very good houses. It is said that some of the oSicers re-
monstrated against the wanton destruction of fruit-trees, as
a business altogether discreditable to a soldier ; but their
savage warfare against the borders was remembered this
time with feelings of revenge, and nothing was spared. It
i.s said that Sullivan made this remark, when objections
were raised against such wanton destruction, " The In-
dians shall see that there is malice enough in our hearts to
destroy everything that contributes to their support."*

The army pushed on rapidly through the enemy's
country, destroying everything in its path, including all the
villages, crops, stock, and orchards of the Cayvga and
Seneca nations. The evidences of wealth and a high de-
gree of civilization found throughout the entire Indian re-
gion, and especially in the beautiful valley of the Genesee,
were surprising to those who had supposed the Six Nations
but a race of savages. Their dwellings were comfortable
and commodious, and their cultivated fields and orchards
extensive and fruitful. The amount of property destroyed
was enormous. Forty Indian towns, the largest containing
one hundred and twenty-eight houses, were burned ; and,

* Gordon.

by a careful estimate, corn — gathered and in the field — to
the amount of one hundred and sixty-eight thousand bushels
was destroyed. The orchards were so extensive that fifteen
hundred trees were cut down in a single one.

The army began its return march on the 16th of Sep-
tember, and on the 20th crossed the outlet of Seneca Lake,
at which point a detachment of five hundred men, under
Colonel Zebulon Butler (of Wyoming memory), was sent
to destroy the Cayuga towns on its eastern shore, and at
the same time Lieutenant-Colonel Dearborn was detached,
at the head of two hundred men, to accomplish a like work
on the western shore. Colonel Dearborn destroyed six
towns, and rejoined the army on the 26th ; and Colonel
Butler, after destroying three villages, including the Cayuga
capital, returned on the 28th. During the same time
Colonels Van Cortlandt and Dayton had performed suuilar
services in the valley of the Tioga River. The entire army
reached Tioga on the 30th of September. It was the orig-

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 39 of 192)