PICTORIAL FIELD BOOK OF THE REVOLUTION.
BY BENSON J. LOSSING
Changes in the Mohawk Country. – Present Aspect of the Mohawk Valley. – Fultonville. – Fonda. – Caughnawaga. – John Butler’s Residence. – Johnstown. – An Octogenarian. – Biography of Butler. – Johnson Hall. – Its Stair-case and Brant’s Hatchet Marks. – Progress of Western New York. – Only Baronial Hall in the United States. – Sir William Johnson and his Wives. – The Dutch Girl. – Molly Brant. – Sir William Johnson’s Diploma. – His Amusements and sudden Death. – Flight of Sir John. – His Invasion of the Valley in 1780. – Capture of the Sammons Family. – Cruelties and Crimes of the Invaders. – Johnson’s Retreat. – Recovery of his Negro and Plate. – Pursuit of Johnson. – Incursion of Ross and Butler. – Action of Willett. – Battle at Johnstown. – Adventures of the Sammonses. – Retreat of Ross and Butler. – Fight on West Canada Creek. – Death of Walter Butler. – Last Battle near the Mohawk. – Return to Fultonville. – The Sammons House. – Local Historians. – The departed Heroes. – The Kane House. – Dutch Magistrate and Yankee Peddler. – Currytown. – Jacob Dievendorff. – Indian Method of Scalping. – Attack on Currytown. – The Captives. – Expedition under Captain Gross. – Battle at New Dorlach, now Sharon Springs. – Death of Captain M‘Kean. – The Currytown Prisoners. – Dievendorff. – Sharon Springs. – Analysis of the Waters. – Arrival at Cherry Valley. – Judge Campbell and his Residence. – His Captivity. – Movements of Brant. – Brant deceived by Boys. – Death of Lieutenant Wormwood. – Shrewdness of Sitz. – "Brant’s Rock." – Morning Scene near Cherry Valley. – Light. – Departure for Albany. – Woodworth’s Battle. – Descent of Tories upon "Shell’s Bush." – Shell’s Block-house. – Capture of M‘Donald. – Luther’s Hymn. – Death of Shell and his Son. – Cessation of Hostilities. – Departure from Fort Plain. – Albany. – Hendrick Hudson. – Early History of Albany. – Fort Orange. – First Stone House. – The Church. – The Portrait of Hudson. – Kalm’s Description of Albany. – Its Incorporation. – Destruction of Schenectady. – Colonial Convention. – Walter Wilie. – Proceedings of the Colonial Convention. – Names of the Delegates. – Plan of Union submitted by Franklin. – Early Patriotism of Massachusetts. – Albany in the Revolution. – General Schuyler’s Mansion. – Return to New York.
The earth all light and loveliness, in summer’s golden hours,
Smiles, in her bridal vesture clad, and crown’d with festal flowers;
So radiantly beautiful, so like to heaven above,
We scarce can deem more fair that world of perfect bliss and love.
Look now abroad – another race has fill’d
Who that has passed along the Valley of the Mohawk, near the close of a day in summer, has not been deeply impressed with the singular beauty of the scene? or who, that has traversed the uplands that skirt this fruitful garden, and stretch away to other valleys, and mingle with the loftier hills or fertile intervales within the borders of ancient Tryon county, is not filled with wonder while contemplating the changes that have been wrought there within a life span? When the terrible drama which we have been considering was performed, almost the whole country was covered with the primeval forest. Clearings were frequent along the Mohawk River, and cultivation was assiduous in producing the blessings of abundance and general prosperity; but the southern portions of Herkimer and Montgomery, and all of Schoharie and Otsego, down to the remote settlement of Unadilla, were a wilderness, except where a few thriving settlements were growing upon the water courses. The traveler, as he views the "field joined to field" in the Mohawk Valley, all covered with waving grain, green pastures, or bending fruit-trees, inclosing, in their arms of plenty, elegant mansions; or watches the vast stream of inland commerce that rolls by upon the Erie Canal; or the villages of people that almost hourly sweep along its margin after the vapor steed; or rides over the adjacent hill-country north and south, enlivened by villages and rich in cultivation, can hardly realize the fact that here, seventy years ago, the wild Indian was joint possessor of the soil with the hardy settlers, and that the light of civilization was as scattered and feeble, and for a while as evanescent and fleeting in these broad solitudes, as is the sparkle of the fire-fly on a summer evening. Yet such is the wonderful truth; and as I passed down the canal at the close of the day, from Fort Plain to Fultonville, surrounded with the activity, opulence, and beauty of the Mohawk Valley, I could not, while contrasting this peacefulness and progress with the discord and social inertia of other lands, repress the feelings of the Pharisee.
Fultonville is sixteen miles below Fort Plain, and it was long after dark when I arrived there[August 24, 1848.]. Early on the following morning I procured a conveyance to visit old Caughnawaga and Johnstown, north of the Mohawk. A gentleman of leisure and intelligence, residing at Fultonville, kindly offered to accompany me, and his familiarity with the history and localities of the neighborhood, and freedom of communication, made my morning’s ride pleasant and profitable. Fultonville is upon the canal, and may be called the port of the village of Fonda, which lies upon the rail-road, on the northern verge of the valley. The Mohawk cleaves the center of the plain between the two villages, and is spanned by a fine covered bridge. Fonda and Caughnawaga (now Mohawk) lie in close embrace. The former has all the freshness of infancy, while the latter, with its gray old church, has a matronly gravity in its appearance. It is only about half a mile eastward from its blooming daughter, at the foot of the hills over which winds the eastern fork of the road from Johnstown.
THE BUTLER HOUSE.
On a commanding eminence, about a mile north of Fonda, we came to the house where Colonel John Butler resided,1 which is believed to be the oldest dwelling in that section, and coeval with Caughnawaga Church. It overlooks the Mohawk Valley on the south, and commands an extensive prospect of a fine agricultural country in every direction. It is now owned by a Mr. Wilson, and is often visited by the curious, who are as frequently attracted by the eminently infamous as by the eminently good. It is a fair specimen of the middling class of houses of that period. The posts stand directly upon the stone foundation, without sleepers, and there are no plaster walls or ceilings in the house, the sides of the rooms being lined with pine boards. The bricks of the chimney are the small, imported kind which distinguished many of the edifices in the old states, that were constructed about a century ago.
The village of Johnstown, which was included in the town of Caughnawaga, organized in 1798, lies pleasantly in the bosom and along the slope of an intervale, about four miles north of Fonda.2 I met there a venerable citizen, John Yost, eighty years of age, who had been a resident of the vicinity from his birth. He was often dandled on the knee of Sir William Johnson, and has a clear recollection of the appearance of the baronet and the circumstances of his death. His father was an adherent of the Whig cause, and instructed him early in the principles of the Revolution. He was several times employed by Colonel Willett as an express to carry dispatches from Fort Plain to Tripe’s Hill and other points in the valley, his extreme youth guarding him from suspicion. He was still an active man when I saw him [August, 1848.], and his bodily health promised him the honors of a centenarian.
NORTH FRONT OF JOHNSON HALL.
Johnson Hall, the residence of Sir William and Sir John Johnson,3 is situated upon a gentle eminence, about three fourths of a mile northward of the court-house in the village, and near the state road to Black River. This was probably the finest mansion in the province, out of the city of New York, at the time of its erection, about the year 1760. The hall, or main building, is of wood, and double clap-boarded in a manner to represent blocks of stone. Its exterior dimensions are forty feet wide, sixty feet long, and two stories high. The detached wings, built for flanking block-houses, are of stone. The walls of these are very thick, and near the eaves they are pierced for musketry. The entrance passage, which extends entirely through the house, is fifteen feet wide, from which rises a broad stair-case, with heavy mahogany balustrades, to the second story. The rail of this balustrade is scarred by hatchet blows at regular intervals of about a foot, from the top to the bottom, and tradition avers that it was done by the hands of Brant when he fled from the hall with Sir John Johnson, in 1776, to protect the house from the torch of marauding savages, for he asserted that such a token would be understood and respected by them.
The rooms in both stories are large and lofty, and the sides are handsomely wainscoted with pine panels and carved work, all of which is carefully preserved in its original form by Mr. Eleazer Wells, the present proprietor. He has been acquainted with the house for fifty years, and within that time one of the rooms has been neither painted nor papered.4 The paper hangings upon it have been there that length of time, and are doubtless the same that were first put upon the wall by the baronet. Every thing of the kind is well preserved, and the visitor is gratified by a view, in its original aspect, of the only baronial hall in the United States.
Here Sir William lived in all the elegance and comparative power of an English baron of the Middle Ages. He had many servants and retainers, "wives and concubines, sons and daughters of different colors."5 His hall was his castle, and around it, beyond the wings, a heavy stone breast-work, about twelve feet high, was thrown up. Invested with the power and influence of an Indian agent of his government in its transactions with the confederated Six Nations, possessed of a fine person and dignity of manners, and of a certain style of oratory that pleased the Indians, he acquired an ascendency over the tribes never before held by a white man. When, in 1760, General Amherst embarked at Oswego on his expedition to Canada, Sir William brought to him, at that place, one thousand Indian warriors of the Six Nations, which was the largest number that had ever been seen in arms at one time in the cause of England. He made confidants of many of the chiefs, and to them he was in the habit of giving a diploma, testifying to their good conduct. One of these is in the possession of the New York Historical Society, a copy of which, with the vignette, is given in the note. 6 His house was the resort of the sachems of the Six Nations for counsel and for trade, and there the presents sent out by his government were annually distributed to the Indians. On these occasions he amused himself and gratified his guests by fetes and games, many of which were highly ludicrous. 7 Young Indians and squaws were often seen running foot-races or wrestling for trinkets, and feats of astonishing agility were frequently performed by the Indians of both sexes.
Sir William’s death was sudden[1774.], and was by some ascribed to poison, voluntarily taken by him, and by others to apoplexy, induced by over-excitement. His possessions, which, with his offices and titles, passed into the hands of his son, did not long remain undisturbed, but were abandoned, as we have seen, in 1776, and were afterward sold to strangers under an act of attainder and confiscation passed by the Legislature of New York.
Sir John, as we have already noted, fled to Canada, where he received a colonel’s commission. The sequestration of his immense landed property inspired him with feelings of implacable revenge, which were manifested by his terrible visitations to the settlements in Tryon county. One of these was chiefly for the purpose of recovering the plate and other valuables belonging to the baronet, which had been buried near Johnson Hall. The events of this incursion were as follows:
About midnight on Sunday, the 21st of May, 1780, Sir John, with a force of five hundred Tories and Indians, who had penetrated the country from Crown Point to the Sacondaga River, appeared at Johnson Hall without being seen by any but his friends. His forces were divided into two detachments, and between midnight and dawn he began to devastate the settlement by burning every building, except those which belonged to Tories. One division was sent around in an easterly course, so as to strike the Mohawk at Tripes Hill,8 below Caughnawaga, whence it was ordered to proceed up the valley, destroy Caughnawaga, and form a junction with the other division at the mouth of Cayudutta Creek. This march was performed; many dwellings were burned and several lives were sacrificed. Sir John, in the mean while, at the head of one division, proceeded through the village of Johnstown unobserved by the sentinels at the small picketed fort there, and before daylight was at the Hall, once his own, where he secured two prisoners. On his way to join the other division upon the Cayudutta, he came to the residence of Sampson Sammons, who was, with his whole family, among the most active and intrepid patriots in Tryon county. Sir John had always respected Mr. Sammons, and still held him in high estimation, but he was determined to carry him and his family away prisoners, if possible, and thus lessen the number of his more influential enemies in the Mohawk Valley. It was not yet light when a Tory, named Sunderland, with a resolute band, surrounded the house of Sammons, and the first intimation the family had of danger was the arrest of Thomas, the younger of three sons, as he stepped out of the door to observe the weather. 9 The father and three sons were made prisoners, but the females of the family were left undisturbed, after the house was plundered of every thing valuable. The marauders then marched with their prisoners to the mouth of the Cayudutta, and both divisions went up the valley, burning, plundering, and murdering. A venerable old man, named David Fonda, was killed and scalped by an Indian party attached to the expedition, and in its march of a few miles nine aged men, four of them upward of eighty years old, were murdered. Returning to Caughnawaga, the torch was applied, and every building, except the church, was laid in ashes. From Caughnawaga they proceeded to Johnstown 10 by way of the Sammonses, on whose premises every building was burned, and the females, bereft of their protectors and helpers, were left houseless and almost naked. Seven horses that were in the stables were taken away, and that happy family of the morning were utterly destitute at evening.
Toward sunset Johnson perceived that the militia of the neighborhood were gathering, under the direction of Colonel John Harper, and resolved to decamp. Several Loyalists had joined him, and he succeeded in obtaining possession of twenty negro slaves whom he had left behind at the time of his flight, in the spring of 1776. Among these was the faithful negro who buried his chests of plate. With his prisoners, slaves, and much booty, he directed his course toward the Sacondaga[May 22, 1780.]. The inhabitants seemed so completely taken by surprise, and were so panic-stricken by the suddenness and fierceness of the invasion, that he was unmolested in his retreating march, and reached St. John’s, on the Sorel, in safety. The captives were sent to Chambly, twelve miles distant, and confined in the fortress there. 11
Governor Clinton was at Kingston, Ulster county, when intelligence of this invasion reached him. He repaired immediately to Albany, and sent such forces, composed of militia and volunteers, as he could raise, to overtake and intercept the invaders. One division, commanded by the governor in person, pushed forward to Lakes George and Champlain, and at Ticonderoga was joined by a body of militia from the New Hampshire Grants. At the same time Colonel Van Schaick, with eight hundred militia, pursued the enemy by way of Johnstown. But Sir John was far beyond the reach of pursuers, and too cautious to take a route so well known as that of the lakes. He kept upon the Indian paths through the wilderness west of the Adirondack Mountains, and escaped. This was the last visit made by Johnson to the Mohawk Valley during the war, but his friends invaded the settlement the following year, and near Johnson Hall a pretty severe battle took place.
On the 24th of October, 1781, Major Ross and Walter Butler, at the head of about one thousand troops, consisting of regulars, Indians, and Tories, approached the settlement so stealthily that they reached Warren Bush (not far from the place where Sir Peter Warren made his first settlement, and the place of residence of Sir William Johnson on his arrival in America) without their approach being suspected. The settlement was broken into so suddenly that the people had no chance for escape. Many were killed, and their houses plundered and destroyed. As soon as Colonel Willett, then stationed at Fort Rensselaer, was informed of this incursion, he marched with about four hundred men for Fort Hunter, on the Mohawk. Colonel Rowley, of Massachusetts, with a part of his force, consisting of Tryon county militia, was sent round to fall upon the enemy in the rear, while Willett should attack them in front. The belligerents met a short distance above Johnson Hall, and a battle immediately ensued. The militia under Willett soon gave way, and fled in great confusion to the stone church in the village; and the enemy would have had an easy victory, had not Rowley emerged from the woods at that moment, and fallen upon their rear. It was then nearly four o’clock in the afternoon, and the fight was kept up with bravery on both sides until dark, when the enemy retreated, or rather fled, in great disorder, to the woods. During the engagement, and while Rowley was keeping the enemy at bay, Willett succeeded in rallying the militia, who returned to the fight. The Americans lost about forty killed and wounded. The enemy had about the same number killed, and fifty made prisoners.
The enemy continued their retreat westward nearly all the night after the battle, and early in the morning Willett started in pursuit. He halted at Stone Arabia, and sent forward a detachment of troops to make forced marches to Oneida Lake, where, he was informed, the enemy had left their boats, for the purpose of destroying them. In the mean while he pressed onward with the main force to the German Flats, where he learned that the advanced party had returned without accomplishing their errand. From a scouting party he also learned that the enemy had taken a northerly course, along the West Canada Creek. With about four hundred of his choicest men, he started in pursuit, in the face of a driving snow-storm. He encamped that night[October 29.] in a thick wood upon the Royal Grant, 12 and sent out a scouting party, under Jacob Sammons, to search for the enemy. Sammons discovered their forces a few miles in advance of the Americans, and, after reconnoitering their camp, communicated the fact to Willett that they were well armed with bayonets. That officer deferred his meditated night attack upon them, and continued his pursuit early in the morning, but the enemy were as quick on foot as he. In the afternoon he came up with a lagging party of Indians, and a brisk but short skirmish ensued. Some of the Indians were killed, some taken prisoners, and others escaped. Willett kept upon the enemy’s trail along the creek, and toward evening came up with the main body at a place called Jerseyfield, on the northeastern side of Canada Creek. A running fight ensued; the Indians became terrified, and retreated across the stream at a ford, where Walter Butler, who was their leader, attempted to rally them. A brisk fire was kept up across the creek by both parties for some time, and Butler, who was watching the fight from behind a tree, was shot in the head by an Oneida, who knew him and took deliberate aim. His troops thereupon fled in confusion. The Oneida bounded across the creek, and found his victim not dead, but writhing in great agony. The Tory cried out, "Save me! Save me! Give me quarters!" while the tomahawk of the warrior glittered over his head. "Me give you Sherry Falley quarters!" shouted the Indian, and buried his hatchet in the head of his enemy. He took his scalp, and, with the rest of the Oneidas, continued the pursuit of the flying host. The body of Butler was left to the beasts and birds, without burial, for charity toward one so blood-stained had no dwelling place in the bosoms of his foes. The place where he fell is still called Butler’s Ford. The pursuit was kept up until evening, when Willett, completely successful by entirely routing and dispersing the enemy, wheeled his victorious little army, and returned to Fort Dayton in triumph. 13 This was the closing scene of the bloody drama performed in the Valley of the Mohawk during the Revolution, a tragedy terrible in every aspect; and we, who are dwelling in the midst of peace and abundance, and so far removed, in point of time, from the events, that hardly an actor is living to tell us of scenes that seem almost fabulous, can not properly estimate the degree of moral and physical courage, long suffering, patient endurance, and hopeful vigilance which the people of that day exhibited. It was a terrible ordeal for the patriots. Like the three holy men of Babylon, they passed through a "fiery furnace heated one seven times more than it was wont to be," yet they came out unscathed – "neither were their coats changed nor the smell of fire had passed on them." We are yet to visit Currytown, Sharon Springs, and Cherry Valley, and note some incidents of the civil war, reserved for record here, and then we shall leave old Tryon county, with the pleasant anticipations of the "homeward-bound."
We returned to Fultonville, from our excursion to Johnstown, by the western road, and passed the premises formerly owned by Sampson Sammons, near the winding Cayadutta. The house, which was built upon the foundation of the one destroyed by the miscreants under Johnson, has a venerable appearance; but the trailing vines that cover its porch, and the air of comfort that surrounds it, hide all indications of the desolation of former times. We arrived at Fultonville in time to dine, and there I spent an hour pleasantly and profitably with Jeptha R. Simms, Esq., the author of a "History of Schoharie County and the Border Wars of New York," a work of much local and general interest, and a valuable companion to Campbell’s "Annals of Tryon County." It is greatly to be lamented that men like Campbell and Simms, and Miner, of Wyoming, who gathered a large proportion of the facts concerning the Revolution from the lips of those who participated in its trials, have not been found in every section of our old thirteen states equally industrious and patriotic. It is now too late, for the men of the Revolution are mostly in the grave. I have found but few, very few, still alive and sufficiently vigorous to tell the tales of their experience with perspicuity; and a hundred times, in the course of my pilgrimage to the grounds where
Discord raised its trumpet notes
And carnage beat its horrid drum,
have my inquiries for living patriots of that war been answered with "Five years ago Captain A. was living;" or "three years ago Major B. died;" or "last autumn Mother C. was buried;" all of whom were full of the unwritten history of the Revolution. But they are gone, and much of the story of our struggle for independence is buried with them. They are gone, but not forgotten:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . "They need
No statue or inscription to reveal
Their greatness. It is round them; and the joy
With which their children tread the hallow’d ground
That holds their venerated bones, the peace
That smiles on all they fought for, and the wealth
That clothes the land they rescued – these, though mute,
As feeling ever is when deepest – these
Are monuments more lasting than the faces
Rear’d to the kings and demi-gods of old."
THE KANE HOUSE.
I returned to Fort Plain, by rail-road, toward evening, and the next morning, accompanied by the friend with whom we were sojourning, I started for Currytown.14 We went by the way of Canajoharie, a pleasant little village on the canal, opposite Palatine, and thence over the rugged hills southward. On our way to Canajoharie we passed an old stone house which was erected before the Revolution, and was used soon afterward by the brothers Kane, then the most extensive traders west of Albany. An anecdote is related in connection with the Kanes, which illustrates the proverbial shrewdness of Yankees, and the confiding nature of the old stock of Mohawk Valley Dutchmen. A peddler (who was of course a Yankee) was arrested for the offense of traveling on the Sabbath, contrary to law, and taken before a Dutch justice near Caughnawaga. The peddler pleaded the urgency of his business. At first the Dutchman was inexorable, but at length, on the payment to him of a small sum, agreed to furnish the Yankee with a written permit to travel on. The justice, not being expert with the pen, requested the peddler to write the "pass." He wrote a draft upon the Kanes for fifty dollars, which the unsuspecting Dutchman signed. The draft was presented and duly honored, and the Yankee went on his way rejoicing. A few days afterward the justice was called upon to pay the amount of the draft. The thing was a mystery, and it was a long time before he could comprehend it. All at once light broke in upon the matter, and the victim exclaimed, vehemently, in broken English, "Eh, yah! I understhands it now. Tish mine writin’, and dat ish de tam Yankee pass!" He paid the money and resigned his office, feeling that it was safer to deal in corn and butter with honest neighbors, than in law with Yankee interlopers.
We reached Currytown, a small village nearly four miles south of Canajoharie, at about noon. The principal object of my visit there was to see the venerable Jacob Dievendorff,15 who, with his family, was among the sufferers when that settlement was destroyed by Indians and Tories in July, 1781. Accompanied by his son-in-law (Dr. Snow, of Currytown), we found the old patriot busily engaged in his barn, threshing grain; and, although nearly eighty years of age, he seemed almost as vigorous and active as most men are at sixty. His sight and hearing are somewhat defective, but his intellect, as exhibited by his clear remembrance of the circumstances of his early life, had lost but little of its strength. He is one of the largest land-holders in Montgomery county, owning one thousand fertile acres, lying in a single tract where the scenes of his sufferings in early life occurred. In an orchard, a short distance from his dwelling, the house was still standing [August, 1848.], which was stockaded and used as a fort. It is fast decaying, but the venerable owner allows time alone to work its destruction, and will not suffer a board to be taken from it. The occurrences here have already been recorded, by Campbell and Simms, as related to them long ago by Mr. Dievendorff and others, and from these details I gather the following facts, adding such matters of interest as were communicated to me by Mr. Dievendorff himself and his near neighbor, the venerable John Keller.
On the 9th of July, 1781, nearly five hundred Indians, and a few Loyalists, commanded by a Tory named Doxstader, attacked and destroyed the settlement of Currytown, murdered several of the inhabitants, and carried others away prisoners. The house of Henry Lewis (represented in the engraving) was picketed and used for a fort.16 The settlers, unsuspicious of danger, were generally at work in their fields when the enemy fell upon them. It was toward noon when they emerged stealthily from the forest, and with torch and tomahawk commenced the work of destruction. Among the sufferers were the Dievendorffs, Kellers, Myerses, Bellingers, Tanners, and Lewises. On the first alarm, those nearest the fort fled thitherward, and those more remote sought shelter in the woods. Jacob Dievendorff, the father of the subject of our sketch, escaped. His son Frederic was overtaken, tomahawked, and scalped, on his way to the fort, 17 and Frederic’s brother Jacob, then a lad eleven years old, was made prisoner. A negro named Jacob, two lads named Bellinger, Mary Miller, a little girl ten or twelve years old, Jacob Myers and his son, and two others, were captured. The Indians then plundered and burned all the dwellings but the fort and one belonging to a Tory, in all about twelve, and either killed or drove away most of the cattle and horses in the neighborhood. When the work of destruction was finished, the enemy started off in the direction of New Dorlach, or Turlock (now Sharon) with their prisoners and booty.
Colonel Willett was at Fort Plain when Currytown was attacked. On the previous day he had sent out a scout of thirty or forty men, under Captain Gross, to patrol the country for the two-fold purpose of procuring forage and watching the movements of the enemy. They went in the direction of New Dorlach, and, when near the present Sharon Springs, discovered a portion of the camp of the enemy in a cedar swamp.18 Intelligence of this fact reached Willett at the moment when a dense smoke, indicating the firing of a village, was seen from Fort Plain, in the direction of Currytown. Captain Robert M‘Kean, with sixteen levies, was ordered to that place, with instructions to assemble as many of the militia on the way as possible. With his usual celerity, that officer arrived at the settlement in time to assist in extinguishing the flames of some of the buildings yet unconsumed. Colonel Willett, in the mean time, was active in collecting the militia. Presuming that the enemy would occupy the same encampment that night, and being joined during the day by the forces under M‘Kean and Gross, he determined to make an attack upon them at midnight, while they were asleep. His whole strength did not exceed one hundred and fifty effective men, while the enemy’s force, as he afterward learned, consisted of more than double that number. The night was dark and lowering, and the dense forest that surrounded the swamp encampment of the enemy was penetrated only by a bridle path. His guide became bewildered, and it was six o’clock in the morning before he came in sight of the enemy, who, warned of his approach, had taken a more advantageous position. From this position it was desirable to draw them, and for that purpose Willett sent forward a detachment from the main body, which he had stationed in crescent form on a ridge now seen on the south side of the turnpike, opposite the swamp, who fired upon the Indians and then retreated. The stratagem succeeded, for the Indians pursued them, and were met by Willett, advancing with one hundred men. M‘Kean was left with a reserve in the rear, and fell furiously upon the flank of the enemy. A desperate fight for a short time ensued, when the Indians broke and fled, but kept up a fire from behind trees and rocks. Willett and his men, understanding their desultory warfare, pursued them with bullet and bayonet, until they relinquished the fight, and fled precipitately down their war-path toward the Susquehanna, leaving their camp and all their plunder behind. They left forty dead upon the field. The American loss was five killed, and nine wounded and missing. The brave M‘Kean was mortally wounded, and died at Fort Plain a few days after the return of the expedition to that post. I was informed by Mr. Lipe, at Fort Plain, that the body of the captain was buried near the block-house, and that the fort was afterward called Fort M‘Kean, in honor of the deceased soldier.
At the time of the attack, the Indians had placed most of their prisoners on the horses which they had stolen from Currytown, and each was well guarded. When they were about to retreat before Willett, fearing the recapture of the prisoners, and the consequent loss of scalps, the savages began to murder and scalp them. Young Dievendorff (my informant) leaped from his horse, and, running toward the swamp, was pursued, knocked down by a blow of a tomahawk upon his shoulder, scalped, and left for dead. Willett did not bury his slain, but a detachment of militia, under Colonel Veeder, who repaired to the field after the battle, entombed them, and fortunately discovered and proceeded to bury the bodies of the prisoners who were murdered and scalped near the camp. Young Dievendorff, who was stunned and insensible, was seen struggling among the leaves; and his bloody face being mistaken for that of an Indian, one of the soldiers leveled his musket to shoot him. A fellow-soldier, perceiving his mistake, knocked up his piece and saved the lad’s life. He was taken to Fort Plain, and, being placed under the care of Dr. Faught, a German physician, of Stone Arabia, was restored to health. It was five years, however, before his head was perfectly healed; and when I saw him (August, 1848), it had the tender appearance and feeling of a wound recently healed. He is still living (1849), in the midst of the settlement of Currytown, which soon arose from its ashes, and is a living monument of savage cruelty and the sufferings of the martyrs for American liberty.19
Toward evening we left Currytown for Cherry Valley, by the way of Sharon Springs. The road lay through a beautiful, though very hilly, country. From the summits of some of the eminences over which we passed the views were truly magnificent. Looking down into the Canajoharie Valley from the top of its eastern slope, it appeared like a vast enameled basin, having its concavity garnished with pictures of rolling intervales, broad cultivated fields, green groves, bright streams, villages, and neat farm-houses in abundance; and its distant rim on its northern verge seemed beautifully embossed with wooded hills, rising one above another in profuse outlines far away beyond the Mohawk. We reached the Springs toward sunset, passing the Pavilion on the way.20 They are in a broad ravine, and along the margin of a hill; and near them the little village of Sharon has grown up. 21 Our stay was brief – just long enough to have a lost shoe replaced by another upon our horse, and to visit the famous fountains – for, having none of the "ills which flesh is heir to" of sufficient malignity to require the infliction of sulphureted or chalybeate draughts, we were glad to escape to the hills and vales less suggestive of Tophet and the Valley of Hinnom. How any but invalids, who find the waters less nauseous than the allopathic doses of the shops, and, consequently, are happier than at home, can spend a "season" there, within smelling distance of the gaseous fountains, and call the sojourn pleasure, is a question that can only be solved by Fashion, the shrewd alchemist in whose alembic common miseries are transmuted into conventional happiness. The sulphureted hydrogen does not infect the Pavilion, I believe, and a summer residence there secures the enjoyment of pure air and delightful drives and walks in the midst of a lovely hill country.
It was quite dark when we reached Cherry Valley, eight miles west of Sharon Springs.22 This village lies imbosomed within lofty hills, open only on the southwest, in the direction of the Susquehanna, and as we approached it along the margin of the mountain on its eastern border, the lights sparkling below us, like stars reflected from a lake, gave us the first indication of its presence. In the course of the evening we called upon the Honorable James S. Campbell, who, at the time of the destruction of the settlement in 1778, was a child six years of age. He is the son of Colonel Samuel Campbell, already mentioned, and father of the Honorable William W. Campbell, of New York city, the author of the Annals of Tryon County, so frequently cited. With his mother and family, he was carried into captivity. He has a clear recollection of events in the Indian country while he was a captive, his arrival and stay at Niagara, his subsequent sojourn in Canada, and the final reunion of the family after an absence and separation of two years. 23 His residence, a handsome modern structure, is upon the site of the old family mansion, which was stockaded and used as a fort at the time of the invasion. The doors and window-shutters were made bullet-proof, and the two barns that were included within the ramparts were strengthened.
MANSION OF JUDGE CAMPBELL.24
In a former chapter we have noticed that Brant’s first hostile movement, after his return from Canada and establishment of his head-quarters at Oghkwaga, was an attempt to cut off the settlement of Cherry Valley, or, at least, to make captive the members of the active Committee of Correspondence. It was a sunny morning, toward the close of May[1777.], when Brant and his warriors cautiously moved up to the brow of the lofty hill on the east side of the town, to reconnoiter the settlement at their feet. He was astonished and chagrined on seeing a fortification where he supposed all was weak and defenseless, and greater was his disappointment when quite a large and well-armed garrison appeared upon the esplanade in front of Colonel Campbell’s house. These soldiers were not as formidable as the sachem supposed, for they were only half-grown boys, who, full of the martial spirit of the times, had formed themselves into companies, and, armed with wooden guns and swords, had regular drills each day. It was such a display, on the morning in question, that attracted Brant’s attention. His vision being somewhat obstructed by the trees and shrubs in which he was concealed, he mistook the boys for full-grown soldiers, and, considering an attack dangerous, moved his party to a hiding-place at the foot of the Tekaharawa Falls, in a deep ravine north of the village, near the road leading to the Mohawk. 25 In that deep, rocky glen, "where the whole scene was shadowy and almost dark even at mid-day," his warriors were concealed, while Brant and two or three followers hid themselves in ambush behind a large rock by the road side, for the purpose of obtaining such information as might fall in his way.
On the morning of that day, Lieutenant Wormwood, a promising young officer of Palatine, had been sent from Fort Plain to Cherry Valley with the information, for the committee at the latter place, that a military force might be expected there the next day. His noble bearing and rich velvet dress attracted a good deal of attention at the village; and when, toward evening, he started to return, accompanied by Peter Sitz, the bearer of some dispatches, the people, in admiration, looked after him until he disappeared beyond the hill. On leaving, he had cast down his portmanteau, saying, "I shall be back for it in the morning." But he never returned. As the two patriots galloped along the margin of the Tekaharawa Glen, they were hailed, but, instead of answering, they put spurs to their horses. The warriors in ambush arose and fired a volley upon them. The lieutenant fell, and Brant, rushing out from his concealment, scalped him with his own hands. Sitz was captured, and his dispatches fell into the hands of Brant. Fortunately they were double, and Sitz had the presence of mind to destroy the genuine and deliver the fictitious to the sachem. Deceived by these dispatches concerning the strength of Cherry Valley, Brant withdrew to Cobelskill, and thence to Oghkawaga, and the settlement was saved from destruction at that time.26 Its subsequent fate is recorded in a previous chapter.
DISTANT VIEW OF CHERRY VALLEY.
Judge Campbell kindly offered to accompany us in the morning to "Brant’s Rock."27 Having engaged to be back at Fort Plain in time the next day to take the cars for Albany at two o’clock, and the distance from the "rock" being twelve miles, over a rough and hilly road, an early start was necessary, for I wished to make a sketch of the village and valley, as also of the rock. At early dawn, the light not being sufficient to perceive the outline of distant objects, I stood upon the high ridge north of the village which divides the head waters of the eastern branch of the Susquehanna from the tributaries of the Mohawk. As the pale light in the east grew ruddy, a magnificent panorama was revealed on every side; and as the stars faded away, and trees, and fields, and hills, and the quiet village arose from the gloom; and the sun’s first rays burst over the eastern hills into the valley, lighting it up with sudden splendor, while the swelling chorus of birds and the hum of insects broke the stillness and the perfumes of flowers arose from the dewy grass like sweet incense, the delighted spirit seemed to hear a voice in the quivering light, saying,
"From the quicken’d womb of the primal gloom
On the north the Valley of the Canajoharie stretches away to the Mohawk, twelve miles distant, whose course was marked by a white line of mist that skirted the more remote hills; and on the south Cherry Valley extends down among the mountains toward the Susquehanna proper, and formed the easy war-path to the settlement at its head, from Oghkwaga and Unadilla. From the bosom of the ridge whereon I stood spring the head waters of the eastern branch of the Susquehanna and those of Canajoharie. I had finished the sketch here given before the sun was fairly above the tree-tops, and, while the mist yet hovered over the Tehakawara, we were at Brant’s Rock, within the sound of the tiny cascades. There we parted from Judge Campbell, and hastened on toward Fort Plain, where we arrived in time to breakfast, and to take the morning train for Albany. Before leaving, let us take a parting glance at the Revolutionary history of the Mohawk Valley, for we may not have another opportunity.
Soon after the irruption of Dockstader, or Doxstader, into the Currytown and New Dorlach settlements, a party of Tories and Indians made a descent upon Palatine, under the conduct of a son of Colonel Jacob Klock. They were betrayed by one of their number, and fled to the woods for safety, without accomplishing any mischief. At the German Flats and in that vicinity several spirited rencounters took place between the enemy and the patriot militia. One of them was marked by great bravery on the part of Captain Solomon Woodworth, and a small company of rangers which he had organized. He marched from Fort Dayton to the Royal Grant for the purpose of observation. On the way he fell in with an Indian ambush. Without warning, his little band was surrounded by savages, who made the forest ring with the war-whoop. One of the most desperate and bloody engagements of the war ensued. Woodworth and a large number of his rangers were slain, and the victorious Indians took several of them prisoners. Only fifteen escaped.
Another affair occurred at a settlement called Shell’s Bush, about five miles north of Herkimer village, which deserves a passing notice. A wealthy German named John Christian Shell, or Schell, had built a block-house of his own, two stories high, the upper one projecting so as to allow the inmates to fire perpendicularly upon the assailants.28 One sultry afternoon in August, while the people were generally in their fields, Donald M‘Donald, one of the Scotch refugees from Johnstown, with a party of sixty Indians and Tories, made a descent upon Shell’s Bush. The inhabitants mostly fled to Fort Dayton, but Shell and his family took refuge in his block-house. He and two of his sons (he had eight in all) were at work in the field. The two sons were captured, but the father and his other boys, who were near, reached the block-house in safety. It was finally besieged, but the assailants were kept at a respectful distance by the garrison. Shell’s wife loaded the muskets, while her husband and sons discharged them with sure aim. M‘Donald tried to burn the blockhouse, but was unsuccessful. He at length procured a crow-bar, ran up to the door, and attempted to force it. Shell fired upon him, and so wounded him in the leg that he fell. Instantly the beleaguered patriot opened the door and pulled the Scotchman within, a prisoner. He was well supplied with cartridges, and these he was obliged to surrender to his captors. The battle ceased for a time. Shell knew the enemy would not attempt to burn his castle while their leader was a prisoner within it, and, taking advantage of the lull in the battle, he went into the second story, and composedly sang the favorite hymn of Luther amid the perils that surrounded him in his controversies with the pope. 29 But the respite was short. The enemy, maddened at the loss of several of their number killed, and their commander a prisoner, rushed up to the block-house, and five of them thrust the muzzles of their pieces through the loop-holes. Mrs. Shell seized an ax, and, with well-directed blows, ruined every musket by bending the barrels. At the same time Shell and his sons kept up a brisk fire, which drove the enemy off. At twilight he went to the upper story and called out to his wife, in a loud voice, informing her that Captain Small was approaching from Fort Dayton with succor. In a few minutes, with louder voice, he exclaimed, "Captain Small, march your company round upon this side of the house. Captain Getman, you had better wheel your men off to the left, and come upon that side." This was a successful stratagem. There were no troops approaching, but the enemy, deceived by the trick, fled to the woods. M‘Donald was taken to Fort Dayton the next day, where his leg was amputated, but the blood flowed so freely that he died in a few hours. 30 The two sons of Shell were carried into Canada, and they asserted that nine of the wounded enemy died on the way. Their loss on the ground was eleven killed and six wounded, while not one of the defenders of the block-house was injured. Soon after this event Shell was fired upon by some Indians, while at work in his field with his boys. He was severely wounded, and one of his boys was killed. The old man was taken to the fort, where he died of his wound. 31
During this summer[1781.] the Tories and Indians went down upon Warwasing and other portions of the frontier settlements of Ulster and Orange counties. These expeditions will be elsewhere considered. 31a The irruption of Ross and Butler into the Johnstown settlement in October, and their repulse by Colonel Willett, have been related. With that transaction closed the hostilities in Tryon county for the year, and the surrender of Cornwallis and his whole army at Yorktown, in Virginia [October 19, 1781.], so dispirited the Loyalists that they made no further demonstrations, by armed parties, against the settlements. Attempts, some of them successful, were made to carry off prominent citizens. 32 The Indians still hung around the borders of the settlements in small parties during 1782, but they accomplished little beyond producing alarms and causing general uneasiness. Peace ensued, the hostile savages retired to the wilderness, a few of the refugee Tories, tame and submissive, returned, and the Mohawk Valley soon smiled with the abundance produced by peaceful industry.
We left Fort Plain toward noon, and reached Albany in time to depart for New York the same evening. Columns of smoke were yet rising from the smouldering ruins of a large portion of the business part of the city lying near the river, south of State Street; and the piers along the basin, black and bare, exhibited a mournful contrast to the air of busy activity that enlivened them when we passed through the place a few weeks before. I have been in Albany many times; let us take a seat upon the promenade deck of the Isaac Newton, for the evening is pleasant, and, as we glide down the Hudson, chat a while about the Dutch city and its associations, and its sister settlement Schenectady, and thus close our FIRST TOUR AMONG THE SCENES OF THE REVOLUTION.
The site of Albany was an Indian settlement, chiefly of the Mohawk tribes, long before Hendrick Hudson sailed up the North River. It was called Scagh-negh-ta-da, a word signifying the end of the pine woods, or beyond the pine woods. Such, and equally appropriate, was also the name of a settlement on the Mohawk, at the lower end of the valley, which still retains the appellation, though a little Anglicised in orthography, being spelled Schenectady. From the account given in Juet’s Journal, published in the third volume of Purchas’s Pilgrimages, of Hudson’s voyage up the river, it is supposed that he proceeded in his vessel (the Half Moon) as far as the present site of Albany, and perhaps as high as Troy.34 But he left no colony there, and the principal fruit of his voyage, which he carried back to the Old World, was intelligence of the discovery of a noble river, navigable one hundred and sixty miles, and passing through the most fertile and romantic region imaginable. This discovery was made early in the autumn of 1609. As soon as the intelligence reached the Dutch East India Company, they sent out men to establish trading posts in the country [1610.]. These traders ascended the river and built a block-house on the north point of Boyd’s Island, a little below Albany; and it may be said that in 1612 Albany was founded, for in that year the first permanent trading post was established there. Next to Jamestown, in Virginia, it was the earliest European settlement within the thirteen original colonies. A temporary fort was erected in 1614, and the place was named, by the Dutch, Beaverwyck, or Beaver town, from the circumstance that great numbers of beavers were found there. A fortification, called Fort Orange, was built in 1623. 35 The town retained its original name until 1664, when the New Netherlands (as the country upon the Hudson was called) passed into the hands of the English. It then received the name of Albany, one of the titles of James, duke of York, the brother of Charles II., afterward King James II. of England.
The first permanent settlement that was made at Albany (the traders resorting thither only in the autumn and winter) was in 1626, and from that time until 1736 many respectable Dutch families came over and established themselves there and in the vicinity. Among them occur the names of Quackenboss, Lansing, Bleecker, Van Ness, Pruyn, Van Wart, Wendell, Van Eps, and Van Rensselaer, names familiar to the readers of our history, and their descendants are numerous among us. The first stone building, except the fort, was erected at Albany in 1647, on which occasion "eight ankers" (one hundred and twenty-eight gallons) of brandy were consumed.36 About this time the little village of Beaverwyck was stockaded with strong wooden pickets or palisades, the remains of which were visible until 1812. The government was a military despotism, and so rigorous were the laws that quite a number of settlers left it and established themselves upon the present site of Schenectady, about one hundred years since. A small church was erected in 1655, and the Dutch East India Company sent a bell and a pulpit for it [1657.], about the time when its first pastor, Rev. Gideon Schaats, sailed for Beaverwyck. It became too small for the congregation, and in 1715 a new and larger edifice was erected on its site. This stood about ninety-two years, in the open area formed by the angle of State, Market, and Court Streets.
Albany had become a considerable town when Kalm visited it in 1749. He says the people all spoke Dutch. The houses stood with the gable ends toward the streets, and the water gutters at the eaves, projecting far over the streets, were a great annoyance to the people. The cattle, having free range, kept the streets dirty. The people were very social, and the spacious stoops, or porches, were always filled at evening, in summer, with neighbors mingling in chit-chat. They knew nothing of stoves; their chimneys were almost as broad as their houses; and the people made wampum, a kind of shell on strings, used as money, to sell to Indians and traders.37 They were very cleanly in their houses; were frugal in their diet, and integrity was a prevailing virtue. Their servants were chiefly negroes. In 1777, according to Dr. Thatcher (Military Journal, p. 91), Albany contained "three hundred houses, chiefly in the Gothic style, the gable ends to the streets." He mentions the "ancient stone church," and also "a decent edifice called City Hall, which accommodates generally their assembly and courts of justice." It also had "a spacious hospital," erected during the French war. It was incorporated a city in 1686, and was made the capital of the state soon after the Revolution.
Albany was an important place, in a military point of view, from the close of the seventeenth century until the hostilities, then begun between the English and French colonies, ceased in 1763. It was the place where councils with the Indians were held, and whence expeditions took their departure for the wilderness beyond. It never became a prey to French conquest, though often threatened. In the depth of the winter of 1690 a party of two hundred Frenchmen and Canadians, and fifty Indians, chiefly Caughnawaga Mohawks, sent out by Frontenac, menaced Albany. They fell upon Schenectady at midnight[February 8, 1691.], massacred and made captive the inhabitants, and laid the town in ashes. Sixty-three persons were murdered and twenty-seven carried into captivity. The church and sixty-three houses were burned. A few persons escaped to Albany, traveling almost twenty miles in the snow, with no other covering than their night-clothes. Twenty-five of them lost their limbs in consequence of their being frozen on the way. Schenectady, like Albany, was stockaded, having two entrance gates. These were forced open by the enemy, and the first intimation the inhabitants had of danger was the bursting in of their doors. 38 Informed that Albany was strongly garrisoned, the marauders, thinking it not prudent to attack it, turned their faces toward Canada with their prisoners and booty. The settlement suffered some during the French and Indian war, but it was rather too near the strong post of Albany to invite frequent visits from the enemy. It is said that Schenectady was the principal seat of the Mohawks before the confederacy of the five Iroquois nations was formed.
One of the most prominent events that occurred at Albany, which has a remote connection with our Revolution, was the convention of colonial delegates held there in 1754. For a long time the necessity for a closer political union on the part of the English colonies had been felt. They had a common enemy in the French, who were making encroachments upon every interior frontier, but the sectional feelings of the several colonies often prevented that harmony of action in the raising of money and troops for the general service which proper efficiency required. It was also evident that the Indians, particularly the Six Nations of New York, were becoming alienated from the English, by the influence of French emissaries among them, and a grand council, in which the several English colonies might be represented, was thought not only expedient, but highly necessary. Lord Holderness, the English Secretary of State, accordingly addressed a circular letter to all the colonies, proposing a convention, at Albany, of committees from the several colonial assemblies, the chief design of which was proclaimed to be the renewal of treaties with the Six Nations. Seven of the colonies, namely, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, responded to the call, and the convention assembled at Albany, in the old City Hall, on the 19th of June, 1754.39 James Delancy was chosen president of the convention. The chiefs of the Six Nations were in full attendance, their principal speaker being Hendrick, the sachem afterward killed near Lake George while in the service of the English. The proceedings were opened by a speech to the Indians from Delancy; and while the treaty was in progress, the convention was invited, by the Massachusetts delegates, to consider whether the union of the colonies, for mutual defense, was not, under existing circumstances, desirable. The General Court of Massachusetts had empowered its representatives to enter into articles of union and confederation. The suggestion was favorably received, and a committee, consisting of one member from each colony, was appointed. 40 Several plans were proposed. Dr. Franklin, whose fertile mind had conceived the necessity of union, and matured a plan before he went to Albany, now offered an outline in writing, which was adopted in committee, and reported to the convention. The subject was debated "hand in hand," as Franklin observes, "with the Indian business daily," for twelve consecutive days, and finally the report, substantially as drawn by him, was adopted, the Connecticut delegates alone dissenting. 41 It was submitted to the Board of Trade, but that body did not approve of it or recommend it to the king, while the colonial assemblies were dissatisfied with it. "The assemblies did not adopt it," says Franklin, "as they all thought there was too much prerogative in it, and in England it was judged to have too much of the democratic." The Board of Trade had already proposed a plan of their own – a grand assembly of colonial governors and certain select members of their several councils, with power to draw on the British treasury, the sums thus drawn to be reimbursed by taxes imposed on the colonies by the British Parliament. This did not suit the colonists at all, and Massachusetts specially instructed her agent in England "to oppose every thing that shall have the remotest tendency to raise a revenue in America for any public uses or services of government." This was the first proposition to tax the colonies without their consent, and thus early we find Massachusetts raising her voice as fearlessly against it as she did twenty years afterward, when her boldness drew down upon her the vengeance of the British government.
During the Revolution, and particularly after the British took possession of New York city, Albany was the focus of revolutionary power in the state. There the Committee of Safety had its sittings; and, after the destruction of the forts in the Highlands, and the burning of Esopus (Kingston)[1777.], it was generally the head-quarters of the military and civil officers in the Northern Department. There the captive officers of Burgoyne’s invading army were hospitably entertained by General Schuyler and his family at their spacious mansion, then "half a mile below the town." The house is still standing, at the head of Schuyler Street, a little west of South Pearl Street, upon an eminence some thirty feet high in front, and completely imbosomed in trees and shrubbery. Within it the Baroness Reidesel was entertained, and there occurred those events mentioned by her and Chastellux, which I have noticed in a preceding chapter (pages 91 and 92). It was the scene, also, of the attempted abduction of the general by the Tory, Waltemeyer, when he robbed the patriot of his plate in 1781, mentioned on page 223. There La Fayette, Steuben, Rochambeau, and other foreign officers of eminence were entertained, and there the noblest of the land, as well as distinguished travelers from abroad, were frequent guests during the life of the owner; and its doors were opened as freely when the voice of poverty pleaded for assistance as when the great claimed hospitality and courtesy.
We arrived in New York on the morning of the 1st of September. The air was cool and bracing, the day was fine, and the lately-deserted streets and shops were thronged with mingled citizens and strangers plunged as deeply in the maze of business as if no forgetfulness of the leger and till had occurred while babbling brooks and shady groves wooed them to Nature’s worship. There I rested a few days, preparatory to a visit to the beautiful valley
"On Susquehanna’s side, fair Wyoming!"
SIGNATURE OF COLONEL JOHN BUTLER.
1 John Butler was one of the leading Tories of Tryon county during the whole war of the Revolution. Before the war he was in close official connection with Sir William Johnson, and, after his death, with his son and nephew, Sir John and Guy Johnson. When he fled with the Johnsons to Canada, his family were left behind, and were subsequently held as hostages by the Americans, and finally exchanged for the wife and children of Colonel Samuel Campbell, of Cherry Valley. He was active in the predatory warfare that so long distressed Tryon county, and commanded the eleven hundred men who desolated Wyoming in 1778. He was among those who opposed the progress of Sullivan in the Indian country in 1779, and accompanied Sir John Johnson in his destructive march through the Schoharie and Mohawk settlements in 1780. After the war he went to Canada, where he resided until his death, which occurred about the year 1800. His property upon the Mohawk, by an act of the Legislature of New York, was confiscated; but he was amply rewarded by the British government for his infamous services in its behalf. He succeeded Guy Johnson as Indian agent, with a salary of $2000 per annum, and was granted a pension, as a military officer, of $1000 more. Like his son Walter, he was detested for his cruelties by the more honorable British officers; and, after the massacre at Wyoming, Sir Frederic Haldimand, then Governor of Canada, sent word to him that he did not wish to see him. It is but justice to Colonel Butler to say, that he was far more humane than his son Walter, and that his personal deeds at Wyoming were not so heinous as the common accounts have made them. These will be considered whenthe attack upon that settlement shall receive a more particular notice.
2 The old jail in the village was standing when I was there, in August, 1848. It was built in 1762, and was consumed by fire on the 8th of September, 1849.
SIGNATURE OF SIR JOHN JOHNSON.
3 John Johnson was the son of Sir William Johnson by his first wife. He was born in 1742, and succeeded his father in his title and estates in 1774. He was not as popular as his father, being less social and less acquainted with human nature. His official relations to the parent government, and his known opposition to the rebellious movements of the colonies, caused him to be strictly watched, and, as we have noted in the text, not without just cause. Expelled from his estate, his property confiscated, his family in exile, he became an uncompromising enemy of the republicans, and until the close of the war his influence was exerted against the patriots.
Soon after the close of the war Sir John went to England, and, on returning in 1785, settled in Canada. He was appointed superintendent and inspector general of Indian affairs in North America, and for several years he was a member of the legislative council of Canada. To compensate him for his losses, the British government made him several grants of lands. He died at the house of his daughter, Mrs. Bowes, at Montreal, in 1830, aged 88 years. His son, Sir Adam Gordon Johnson, succeeded him in his title.
4 In that room Mr. Wells was married in 1807, the house then belonging to his mother-in-law. Mr. Wells related to me a fact which illustrates the wonderful progress of Western New York in population and wealth within half a century. About the time of his marriage he went west, with the intention of purchasing a farm in the Genesee country, always so celebrated for its fertility. Among other places, he visited the site of the present large city of Rochester. Then a solitary cabin was there. The land was offered to him for two dollars an acre, but it seemed too wet for his purpose, and he refused to buy. "Had I purchased then," said Mr. Wells, "it might have made me a millionaire, although such a result is by no means certain, for the original owner of all the land where Utica now stands was a tenant, and his descendants still are tenants, of other proprietors of the soil there." The prize within the reach of the person to whom he alluded was allowed, through lack of prudence and forecast, to slip through his fingers, and not a rood of all the acres of Utica is now his own.
5 Sir William is said to have been the father of a hundred children, chiefly by native mothers, who were young squaws, or the wives of Indians who thought it an honor to have them intimate with the distinguished king’s agent. He availed himself of a custom which Colden says was then prevalent among the Six Nations. "They carried their hospitality so far as to allow distinguished strangers," he says, "the choice of a young squaw from among the prettiest in the neighborhood, washed clean and dressed in her best apparel, as a companion during his sojourn with them." Sir William had two wives, although they were not made so until they had lived long with the baronet. Simms says, on the authority of well-authenticated tradition, that his first wife was a young German girl, who, according to the custom of the times, had been sold to a man named Phillips, living in the Mohawk Valley, to pay her passage money to the captain of the emigrant ship in which she came to this country. She was a handsome girl, and attracted considerable attention. A neighbor of Sir William, who had heard him express a determination never to marry, asked him why he did not get the pretty German girl for a housekeeper. He replied, ‘I will." Not long afterward the neighbor called at Phillips’s, and inquired where the High Dutch girl was. Phillips replied, "Johnson, that tamned Irishman, came tother day and offered me five pounds for her, threatening to horsewhip me and steal her if I would not sell her. I thought five pounds petter than a flogging, and took it, and he’s got the gal." She was the mother of Sir John Johnson, and of two daughters, who became the wives respectively of Guy Johnson and Daniel Claus.* When she was upon her death-bed, Sir William was married to her in order to legitimate her children. After her death her place was supplied by Molly Brant, sister of the Mohawk sachem, by whom he had several children. Toward the close of his life, Sir William married her in order to legitimate her children also, and her descendants are now some of the most respectable people in Upper Canada. Sir William’s first interview and acquaintance with her, as related by Mr. Stone (Note, Life of Brant, i., 387), have considerable romance. She was a very sprightly and beautiful girl, about sixteen, when he first saw her at a militia muster. One of the field officers, riding upon a fine horse, came near her, and, "by way of banter, she asked permission to mount behind. Not supposing she could perform the exploit, he said she might. At the word, she leaped upon the crupper with the agility of a gazelle. The horse sprang off at full speed, and, clinging to the officer, her blanket flying and her dark hair streaming in the wind, she flew about the parade-ground as swift as an arrow. The baronet, who was a witness of the spectacle, admiring the spirit of the young squaw, and becoming enamored of her person, took her home as his wife." According to Indian customs, this act made her really his wife, and in all her relations of wife and mother she was very exemplary.
* These two daughters, who were left by their dying mother to the care of a friend, were educated almost in solitude. That friend was the widow of an officer who was killed in battle, and, retiring from the world, devoted her whole time to the care of these children. They were carefully instructed in religious duties, and in various kinds of needle-work, but were themselves kept entirely from society. At the age of sixteen they had never seen a lady, except their mother and her friend, or a gentleman, except Sir William, who visited their room daily. Their dress was not conformed to the fashions, but always consisted of wrappers of finest chintz over green silk petticoats. Their hair, which was long and beautiful, was tied behind with a simple band of ribbon. After their marriage they soon acquired the habits of society, and made excellent wives.
6 "By the Honorable Sir William Johnson, Bart., His Majesty’s sole Agent and Superintendant of Indian Affairs for the Northern Department of North America, Colonel of the Six United Nations, their Allies and Dependants, &c, &c.
"To __________ WHEREAS, I have received repeated proofs of your attachment to his Britannic Majesty’s Interests and Zeal for his service, upon sundry occasions, more particularly __________. I do therefor give you this public Testimonial thereof, as a proof of his Majesty’s Esteem and Approbation, Declaring you, the said __________, to be a __________ of your __________, and recommending it to all his Majesty’s Subjects and faithful Indian Allies to Treat and Consider you upon all occasions agreeable to your character, station, and services _________. GIVEN under my hand and seal at Arms, at Johnson Hall, the _____ day of __________, 17__
"By command of Sir W. Johnson."
7 Among the amusements invented by Sir William were foot-races, in which the competitors had meal-bags drawn up over their legs and tied under their arms; a hog, with its tail greased, would be offered as a prize to the one that should catch it by that extremity; a half pound of tea was a prize offered to the one who could make the wryest face; a bladder of Scotch snuff to the greatest scold of two old women; and children might be seen exploring pools of muddy water, into which the baronet had cast several pennies. – Simms, 121.
8 At this place lived Garret Putnam, a very active Whig, and his house was the first one assailed. Unknown to the invaders, Putnam had rented his house to two Englishmen named Gort and Platto, stanch Tories. The assailants broke into the house, scalped the two men, who had not time to reveal their characters, and it was not until daylight that they discovered their victims to be their own friends instead of Putnam and his son, as they had supposed.
9 Thomas Sammons, who was then a lad, lived until within a few years, and furnished much of the interesting matter concerning this irruption of Sir John, to the author of the Life of Brant, from whose pages I have gleaned much of the narrative here given. Mr. Sammons was a representative in Congress from 1803 to 1807, and again from 1809 to 1813.
10 I have before mentioned that the silver plate and other valuable articles belonging to Johnson were buried by a faithful slave. When the Hall and other property were taken possession of by the Tryon county Committee, under the act of sequestration, the elder of Mr. Sammon’s sons became the lessee, and the purchaser of the slave William, who had buried the plate. This slave Sir John found at the Hall, and while he tarried there for several hours on the day in question, the negro, assisted by four soldiers, disinterred the plate, which filled two barrels. It was then distributed among forty soldiers, who placed it in their knapsacks, the quarter-master making a memorandum of the name of each with the article of plate intrusted to him, and in this way it was carried safely to Montreal.
Johnson Hall, with seven hundred acres of land, had been sold by the commissioners to James Caldwell, of Albany, for $30,000, the payment to be made in public securities. To show the real value of such securities – in other words, the state of public credit of the colonies about 1779, it may be mentioned that Mr. Caldwell immediately resold the property for $7000, $23,000 less on paper than he gave for it, and then made money by the operation. He had bought the securities for a trifle, and received hard cash from the man who purchased from him.
11 While halting on the day after leaving Johnstown, the elder Mr. Sammons requested a personal interview with Sir John, which was granted. He asked to be released, but the baronet hesitated. The old man then recurred to former times, when he and Sir John were friends and neighbors. "See what you have done, Sir John," he said. "You have taken myself and my sons prisoners, burned my dwelling to ashes, and left the helpless members of my family with no covering but the heavens above, and no prospect but desolation around them. Did we treat you in this manner when you were in the power of the Tryon county Committee? Do you remember when we were consulted by General Schuyler, and you agreed to surrender your arms? Do you not remember that you then agreed to remain neutral, and that upon that condition General Schuyler left you at liberty on your parole? Those conditions you violated. You went off to Canada; enrolled yourself in the service of the king; raised a regiment of the disaffected, who abandoned their country with you; and you have now returned to wage a cruel war against us, by burning our dwellings and robbing us of our property. I was your friend in the Committee of Safety, and exerted my self to save your person from injury. And how am I requited? Your Indians have murdered and scalped old Mr. Fonda, at the age of eighty years, a man who, I have heard your father say, was like a father to him when he settled in Johnstown and Kingsborough. You can not succeed, Sir John, in such a warfare, and you will never enjoy your property more!" The appeal had its effect. The baronet made no reply, but the old gentleman was set at liberty, and a span of his horses was restored to him. A Tory, named Doxstader (whom we shall soon meet again at Currytown), was seen upon one of the old man’s horses. and refused to give him up. After the war he returned to the neighborhood, when Mr. Sammons had him arrested, and he was obliged to pay the full value of the animal.
The two elder sons of Mr. Sammons, Frederic and Jacob, were taken to Canada. At Chambly they concerted a plan for escape by the prisoners rising upon the garrison, but the majority of them were too weak-hearted to attempt it. The brothers, however, succeeded in making their escape a few days afterward, and the narrative of their separate adventures, before they reached their homes, forms a wonderful page in the volume of romance. It may be found in detail in the second volume of Stone’s Lift of Brant. Jacob, after a toilsome journey from St. John’s to Pittstown, in Vermont, through the trackless wilderness, reached Schenectady in safety, a few weeks after his capture, where he found his wife and children. But Frederic was recaptured, and it was nearly two years before he returned. His adventures in making his escape from an island among the St. Lawrence rapids, above Montreal, and his subsequent travel through the wilderness from the St. Lawrence to the Mohawk, with a fellow-prisoner, partake of all the stirring character of the most exciting legendary fiction. Almost naked, and with matted hair, they entered the streets of Schenectady, a wonder and a terror to the inhabitants at first, but, when known, they were the objects of profound regard. A strange but well-attested fact is related in connection with the return of Frederic. After the destruction of his property upon the Mohawk, the elder Sammons and his family returned to Marbletown, in Ulster county, whence they had emigrated. On the morning after his arrival at Schenectady, Frederic dispatched a letter to his father, by the hand of an officer on his way to Philadelphia. He left it at the house of Mr. Levi De Witt, five miles distant from Mr. Sammons’s. On the night when the letter was left there, Jacob dreamed that his brother Frederic was living, and that a letter, announcing the fact, was at Mr. De Witt’s. The dream was twice repeated, and the next morning he related it to the family. They had long given Frederic up as lost, and laughed at Jacob for his belief in the teachings of dreams. Jacob firmly believed that such a letter was at De Witt’s, and thither he repaired and inquired for it. He was told that no such letter was there, but urged a more thorough search, when it was found behind a barrel, where it had accidentally fallen. Jacob requested Mr. De Witt to open the letter and examine it, while he should recite its contents. It was done, and the dreamer repeated it word for word! Frederic lived to a good old age, enjoying the esteem and confidence of his fellow-citizens. He was chosen an elector of President and Vice-president in 1837.
12 The Royal Grant, it will be remembered, was the tract of land which Sir William Johnson shrewdly procured from Hendrick, the Mohawk sachem, by outwitting him in a game of dreaming. –See page 106.
13 The sufferings of the retreating army must have been many and acute. The weather was cold, and in their hasty flight many of them had cast away their blankets, to make their progress more speedy. The loss of the Americans in this pursuit was only one man; that of the enemy is not known. It must have been very great. Colonel Willett, in his dispatch to Governor Clinton, observed, "The fields of Johnstown, the brooks and rivers, the hills and mountains, the deep and gloomy marshes through which they had to pass, they only could tell; and perhaps the officers who detached them on the expedition."
14 The name is derived from William Curry, the patentee of the lands in that settlement.
15 I here present a portrait of Mr. Dievendorff, which he kindly allowed me to make while he sat upon a half bushel in his barn. Also, a sketch of the back of his head, showing its appearance where the scalp was taken off. The building is a view of the one referred to in the text as the Currytown fort, now standing in Mr. Dievendorff’s orchard. The method used by the Indians in scalping is probably not generally known. I was told by Mr. Dievendorff and others familiar with the horrid practice that the scalping-knife was a weapon not unlike, in appearance, the bowie-knife of the present day. The victim was usually stunned or killed by a blow from the tomahawk. Sometimes only a portion of the scalp (as was the case with Mr. Dievendorff) was taken from the crown and back part of the head, but more frequently the whole scalp was removed. With the dexterity of a surgeon, the Indian placed the point of his knife at the roots of the hair on the forehead, and made a circular incision around the head. If the hair was short, he would raise a lappet of the skin, take hold with his teeth, and tear it instantly from the skull. If long, such as the hair of females, he would twist it around his hand, and, by a sudden jerk, bare the skull. The scalps were then tanned with the hair on, and often marked in such a manner that the owners could tell when and where they were severally obtained, and whether they belonged to men or women. When Major Rogers, in 1759, destroyed the chief village of the St. Francis Indians, he found there a vast quantity of scalps, many of them comically painted in hieroglyphics. They were all stretched on small hoops.
16 Mr. Dievendorff told me that on one occasion the fort was attacked by a party of Indians. There were several women, but only one man, in the fort. The savages approached stealthily along a ravine, a little north of the fort, and were about to make an assault upon the frail fortification, when they were saluted with a warm fire from it. There were several muskets in it, which the women loaded as fast as the man could fire; and so rapid were the discharges, that the Indians, supposing quite a large garrison to be present, fled to the woods. The remains of the building are still scarred by many bullet marks.
17 He was not killed, but lay several hours insensible, when he was picked up by his uncle, Mr. Keller, who carried him into the fort. He recovered, and lived several years, when he was killed by the falling of a tree.
18 A part of this swamp may still be seen on the north side of the western turnpike, about two miles east of the springs.
19 The little girl (Mary Miller) was found scalped, but alive, and was taken, with the lad Dievendorff, toward Fort Plain. She was very weak when found, and on taking a draught of cold water, just before reaching the fort, instantly expired.
20 The Pavilion is a very large hotel, situated upon one of the loftiest summits in the neighborhood, and commanding a magnificent view of the country. It was erected in 1836 by a New York company, and is filled with invalids and other visitors during the summer.
21 The Sharon Sulphur Springs have been celebrated for their medical properties many years, and are said to be equal in efficacy to those in Virginia. An analysis of the waters, made by Dr. Chilton, of New York, gives the following result:
Sulphate of magnesia
Sulphate of lime
Chlorid of sodium
Chlorid of magnesium
Hydro-sulphate of sodium plus Hydro-sulphate of calcium
Sulphureted hydrogen gas
There is a chalybeate spring in the neighborhood. The whole region abounds in fossils, and is an interesting place for the geologist.
22 Cherry Valley derived its name, according to Campbell, from the following circumstance: "Mr. Dunlop [the venerable pastor whose family suffered at the time of the massacre in 1778], engaged in writing some letters, inquired of Mr. Lindesay [the original proprietor of the soil] where he should date them, who proposed the name of a town in Scotland. Mr. Dunlop, pointing to the fine wild cherry-trees and to the valley, replied, ‘Let us give our place an appropriate name, and call it Cherry Valley,’ which was readily agreed to." – Annals of Tryon County.
23 The children of Mrs. Campbell were all restored to her at Niagara, except this one. In June, 1780, she was sent to Montreal, and there she was joined by her missing boy. He had been with a tribe of the Mohawks, and had forgotten his own language; but he remembered his mother, and expressed his joy at seeing her, in the Indian language. Honorable William Campbell, late surveyor general of New York, was her son. She lived until 1836, being then 93 years of age She was the last survivor of the Revolutionary women in the region of the head waters of the Susquehanna.
24 This pleasant dwelling is upon the northern verge of the town, on the road leading from Cherry Valley to the Mohawk. The sketch was taken from the road.
25 The Tekaharawa is the western branch of the Canajoharie or Bowman’s Creek, which falls into the Mohawk at Canajoharie, opposite Palatine.
26 Campbell’s Annals.
27 This rock, which is about four feet high, lies in a field on the left of the road leading from Cherry Valley to the Mohawk, about a mile and a half north of the residence of Judge Campbell. It is a fossiliferous mass, composed chiefly of shells. Behind this rock the body of Lieutenant Wormwood, lifeless and the head scalped, was found by the villagers, who had heard the firing on the previous evening. Judge Campbell, who accompanied us to the spot, pointed out the stump of a large tree by the road side, as the place where Lieutenant Wormwood fell. The tree was pierced by many bullets, and Judge Campbell had extracted several of them when a boy.
28 At that time there were no less than twenty forts, so called, between Schenectady and Fort Schuyler. They were generally strong dwellings stockaded, and so arranged that fifteen or twenty families might find protection in each.
29 The following is a literal translation of the hymn, made for the author of the Life of Brant by Professor Bokum, of Harvard University. It is from a German hymn book published in 1741.
30 M‘Donald wore a silver-mounted tomahawk, which Shell took from him. Its handle exhibited thirty-two scalp notches, the tally of horrid deeds in imitation of his Indian associates.
31 Stone’s Life of Brant.
31a TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE – I find no further reference in The Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution to action in the western part of Orange and Ulster counties during 1781. Several Revolutionary time-lines posted on the internet reference an action at Warwarsing on August 22, 1781 but provide no further information. Stone, in his Life of Brant (vol. ii., pages 167-170), mentions " . . . the descent of Captain Cauldwell, from Niagara, upon the border of Ulster County, at the head of about four hundred Indians and Tories." WDC, 05/13/01.
32 The most prominent Tories engaged in this business were Bettys and Waltermeyer. We have noticed in another chapterthe attempt of the latter to abduct General Schuyler. Among the prisoners thus made by these two miscreants, from Ballston, were Samuel Nash, Joseph Chaird, Uri Tracy, Samuel Patchin, Epenetus White, John Fulmer, and two brothers named Bontas. They were all taken to Canada, and, after being roughly treated, were either exchanged, or became free at the conclusion of the war.
33 This picture is copied from a painting said to be from life, now in the possession of the Corporation of the city of New York, and hanging in the "Governor’s Room," in the City Hall. It was in the old Stadt House, and was in existence in Governor Stuyvesant’s time.
34 Henry or Hendrick Hudson was a native of England. While seeking a northwest passage to Japan and China, he explored the coasts of Greenland and Labrador in 1607-8. After returning to England from a second voyage, he went to Holland and entered the service of the Dutch East India Company, who fitted out the Half Moon for him to pursue his discoveries. It was during this voyage that he sailed up the river which bears his name. The next year (1610) he was sent out by an association of gentlemen, and in that voyage discovered the great bay at the north called Hudson’s Bay, where he wintered. In the spring of 1611 he endeavored to complete his discoveries, but, his provisions failing, he was obliged to relinquish the attempt and make his way homeward. Going out of the straits from the bay, he threatened to set one or two of his mutinous crew on shore. These, joined by others, entered his cabin at night, pinioned his arms behind him, and with his sons, and seven of the sick and most infirm on board, he was put into a shallop and set adrift. He was never heard of afterward.
35 Eight curious pieces of ordnance were mounted upon the ramparts of Fort Orange, called by the Dutch, according to Vander Kempt, stien-gestucken, or stone pieces, because they were loaded with stone instead of iron balls. These cannon were formed of long stout iron bars laid longitudinally, and bound with iron hoops. Their caliber was immense. The fort does not seem to have been a very strong work, for in 1639 a complaint was made to the Dutch governor that the fort was in a state of miserable decay, and that the "hogs had destroyed a part of it."
36 Letter of the commissary, De la Montagnie, to the Dutch governor of New Amsterdam (New York).
37 Wampum is made of the thick and blue part of sea clam-shells. The thin covering of this part being split off, a hole is drilled in it, and the form is produced and the pieces made smooth by a grindstone. The form is that of the cylindrical glass beads called bugles. When finished, they are strung upon small hempen cords about a foot long. In the manufacture of wampum, from six to ten strings are considered a day’s work. A considerable quantity is manufactured at the present day in Bergen county, New Jersey.
38 Walter Wilie, who was one of a party sent from Albany to Schenectady as soon as the intelligence reached that place of the destruction of the town, wrote a ballad, in the style of Chevy Chase, in which the circumstances are related in detail. He says of his ballad, "The which I did compose last night in the space of one hour, and am now writing, the morning of Friday, June 12th, 1690." He closes it with,
"And here I end the long ballad,
39 The following are the names of the commissioners from the several states:
New York. – James Delancy, Joseph Murray, William Johnson, John Chambers, William Smith.
Massachusetts. – Samuel Welles, John Chandler, Thomas Hutchinson, Oliver Partridge, John Worthington.
New Hampshire. – Theodore Atkinson, Richard Wibird, Mesheck Weare, Henry Sherburne.
Connecticut. – William Pitkin, Roger Wolcott, Elisha Williams.
Rhode Island. – Stephen Hopkins, Martin Howard.
Pennsylvania. – John Penn, Benjamin Franklin, Richard Peters, Isaac Norris.
Maryland. – Benjamin Tasker,* Benjamin Barnes. †
* This name is differently spelled by different writers. Pitkin, in his text (vol. i, p. 142), writes it Trasker, and in the list of delegates in his appendix (429) it is Trasher.
† Williams, in his Statesman’s Manual, has it Abraham instead of Benjamin. I have followed Pitkin.
40 The committee consisted of Hutchinson of Massachusetts, Atkinson of New Hampshire, Pitkin of Connecticut, Hopkins of Rhode Island, Smith of New York, Franklin of Pennsylvania, and Tasker of Maryland.
41 The plan proposed a grand council of forty-eight members – seven from Virginia, seven from Massachusetts, six from Pennsylvania, five from Connecticut, four each from New York, Maryland, and the two Carolinas, three from New Jersey, and two each from New Hampshire and Rhode Island. The number of forty-eight was to remain fixed, no colony to have more than seven nor less than two members; but the apportionment to vary within those limits, with the rates of contribution. This council was to have the general management of civil and military affairs. It was to have control of the armies, the apportionment of men and money, and to enact general laws, in conformity with the British Constitution, and not in contravention of statutes passed by the imperial Parliament. It was to have for its head a president general, appointed by the crown, to possess a negative or veto power on all acts of the council, and to have, with the advice of the council, the appointment of all military officers and the entire management of Indian affairs. Civil officers were to be appointed by the council, with the consent of the president. – Pitkin, i., 143. It is remarkable how near this plan, submitted by Franklin, is the basis of our Federal Constitution. Coxe, of New Jersey, who was Speaker of the Assembly of that province, proposed a similar plan in his "Carolana" in 1722, and William Penn, seeing the advantage of union, made a similar proposition as early as 1700. – Hildreth, ii., 444.
42 This view is from Schuyler Street. The edifice is of brick, having a closed octagonal porch or vestibule in front. It was built by Mrs. Schuyler while her husband was in England in 1760-1. The old family mansion, large and highly ornamented, in the Dutch style, stood nearly upon the site of the present City Hall, between State and Washington Streets. It was taken down in 1800.
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