SARATOGA COUNTY, NEW YORK.
by NATHANIEL BARTLETT SYLVESTER
FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR OF 1689-90.
I. - THE INVASION OF MONTREAL OF 1689.
AFTER the return of Tracy's expedition of 1666, there was comparative peace in the old wilderness for a period of more than twenty years. But at length, owing to the mistaken policy of Governor Denonville, the war broke out afresh, and the old northern valley again became the scene of untold horrors.
All colonies are sometimes unfortunate in their governors: and the dominion of New France was not an exception to the rule. In the manner in which some of the early Canadian governors treated the Iroquois of central New York, can easily be traced the persistent enmity of these savages to the French, and their unshaken friendship for the English colonists of the Atlantic slope.
Previous to 1689 Governor Denonville had for a long time been on unfriendly terms with the Iroquois. In that year he committed warlike depredations upon their hunting-parties near the upper lakes. In the mean time, Governor Dongan, of New York, was the warm friend and ally of the Iroquois.
Governor Dongan's wrath was kindled anew when he heard that the French had invaded the country of the Senecas, seized English traders on the lakes, and built a fort at Niagara. He at once summoned the Five Nations to meet him at Albany. He told the assembled chiefs that their late troubles had fallen upon them because they had held councils with the French without asking his leave; and he forbade them to do so again, and told them that, as subjects of King James, they must make no further treaty with the French except with his consent. He enjoined them to receive no more French Jesuits into their towns, and to call home their countrymen whom these fathers had converted and enticed to Cachnawaga. "Obey my commands," said the governor, "for that is the only way to eat well and sleep well, without fear or disturbance." The Iroquois seemed to assent to all this; their orators said, "We will fight the French as long as a man is left."
Then arose a long controversy between Governor Dongan and Governor Denonville in reference to the Iroquois. Governor Dongan took the responsibility of protecting the Iroquois upon his own shoulders. At length James II. consented to own the Iroquois as his subjects, and ordered Dongan to protect them.
This declaration of royalty was a great relief to Dongan. He now pursued more vigorous measures against the French. So the controversy ran on year after year between the two governors until the fall of 1689, when the Iroquois struck a blow which came upon the French like the crash of a thunderbolt.
During the latter part of July they assembled their warriors and started on the war-path. Taking their bark canoes, they paddled down the Mohawk, passed the old city of Schenectady, and landed at the mouth of Eel-Place creek, on the right bank of the river. Here they found a large corn-field planted by William Apple and his associates, who were inhabitants of Schenectady. Halting for a few days, they feasted upon the green corn in the ear, destroying the whole field. In after-years what is now known as "Apple patent" grew out of this circumstance. Leaving the Mohawk, they then followed up the creek to the carrying-place which leads across into Ballston lake. At the lake they again took to their canoes, and sped across its water. It was a splendid warlike pageant for these now quietly sleeping waters. The Iroquois were fully fifteen hundred strong, the fiercest warriors of the New World, painted and plumed for the war-path. They reached the outlet of the lake near what is now known as East Line.
Again taking their canoes from the water, they carried them over the land into the "Mourning Kill." From the "Mourning Kill" they descended into the valley of the Kay-ad-ros-se-ra river; down the Kay-ad-ros-se-ra they sped into the Kay-ad-ros-se-ra, now Saratoga, lake. Across its tranquil waters they passed in savage array, presenting a striking contrast with our modern regattas, and, entering the Fishkill, were soon upon the waters of the Hudson. Proceeding up to the great carrying-place, at what is now Fort Edward, they passed over it into Wood creek, and thence down into Lake Champlain.
On the 5th of August, 1689, a violent hail-storm burst over Lake St. Louis, an expansion of the St. Lawrence a little above Montreal. Concealed by the tempest and the darkness, these fifteen hundred warriors landed at La Chine, and posted themselves in silence about the houses of the sleeping settlers, then screeched the war-whoop, and began the most frightful massacre in Canadian history. Men, women, and children were butchered indiscriminately, and the houses reduced to ashes. In the neighborhood were three stockaded forts, end an encampment of two hundred regulars were at the distance of three miles. At four o'clock in the morning, the troops in this encampment heard a cannon-shot from one of the forts. Soon after they were under arms they saw a man running towards them, just escaped from the Indian butchery. He told his story, and passed on with the news to Montreal, about six miles distant. Within a short time thereafter, there came in several fugitives one after another, each telling his tale of the frightful massacre. The commander of the troops at once ordered them to march. When they had advanced toward La Chine they found the houses still burning, and the bodies of the inmates strewn among them, or hanging from the stakes where they had been tortured. The Iroquois, they learned, had been encamped a mile and a half farther on, behind a tract of forest. Advancing towards the Iroquois sword in hand at the head of his men, the daring commander entered the forest; but, at that moment, a voice from the rear commanded a halt. It was that of the Chevalier De Vandreuil, just come from Montreal, with positive orders from Denonville to run no risks and stand solely on the defensive. On the next day eighty men from some of the forts attempted to join them; but the Iroquois intercepted the unfortunate detachment and cut them to pieces in full sight of the forts. All were killed except Le Moyne, De Longeuil, and a few others, who escaped within the gates of the two forts.
Montreal was stricken to the earth with terror. But no attack was made either on the town or any of the forts, and the inhabitants, such as could reach them, were safe; while the Iroquois held undisputed possession of the open country, burned all the houses and barns over an extent of nine miles, and roamed in small parties, pillaging and scalping, over more than twenty miles more. They encountered no opposition nor met with any loss. Charlevoix says that the invaders remained in the neighborhood of Montreal till the middle of October; whether this be so or not, their stay was strangely long. At length, when ready to return, they recrossed Lake St. Louis in a body, giving ninety yells, showing thereby that they had ninety prisoners of war. As they passed the forts they shouted, "Onontio, you have deceived us, and now we have deceived you!" Towards evening they encamped on the farther side of the river, and began to torture and devour their prisoners. On that miserable night groups of persons, stupefied and speechless, stood gazing from the Canadian shore at the lights that gleamed along the shore of Chateaugay, where their friends, wives, parents, or children were agonizing in the fires of the Iroquois, and where scenes were enacted of indescribable and nameless horror.
Under this terrible calamity Canada lay benumbed and bewildered; but this was not all. James II., of England, the friend and ally of France, had been driven from England, and William of Orange had seized his vacant throne. There was now war between England and France. The French not only had to contend against the Iroquois, but now the British colonies, strong and populous, were about to attack them. But Denonville was recalled, and in October sailed for France. His successor was Count de Frontenac.
II. - THE BURNING OF SCHENECTADY, IN 1690.
No event in the long and bloody warfare of the old wilderness possesses a more tragic interest than the sacking and burning of Schenectady in the dead of winter, in the year 1690. Instead of opposing the Iroquois, his former allies, Frontenac attempted to reclaim them. He resolved, therefore, to take the offensive, not only against the Iroquois, but also against the English, and to strike a few rapid, sharp blows that he might teach both his friends and foes that Onontio was still alive. He formed three war-parties of picked men, - one at Montreal, one at Three Rivers, and one at Quebec; the first to strike at Albany, the second New Hampshire, and the third Maine. That, of Montreal against Albany was first ready. It consisted of two hundred men, of whom ninety-six were converted Indians, from the missions near Montreal.
D'Aillebout de Mantet and Le Moyne de Sainte-Helene, the brave son of Charles Le Moyne, had the chief command; they were supported by the brothers Le Moyne D'Iberville and Le Moyne De Bienville, with Repentigny de Monttesson, Le Ber Du Chesne, and other of the Canadian noblesse.
They began their march in the depth of winter, on snowshoes, each soldier with the hood of his blanket drawn over his head, a gun in his mittened hand, a knife, a hatchet, a tobacco-pouch at his belt, and a pack on his shoulders. They dragged their blankets and provisions over the snow on Indian sledges. Thus they went on across the St. Lawrence up the Richelieu and the frozen Lake Champlain, and then stopped to hold a council. Frontenac had left the precise point of attack discretionary with the leaders, and the men had thus far been ignorant of their destination. The Indians demanded to know it. Mantet and Sainte-Helene replied that they were going to Albany. The Indians objected - "How long is it," asked one of them, "since the French grew so bold?" The commanders answered that, to regain the honor of which their late misfortunes had robbed them, the French would take Albany or die in the attempt. After eight days they reached the Hudson, and found the place, at what is now Schuylerville, where two paths diverged, the one for Albany and the other for Schenectady; they all without further words took the latter trail. There was a partial thaw, and they waded knee-deep through the half-melted snow, and the mingled ice, mud, and water of the gloomy swamps. So painful and slow was their progress that it was nine days more before they reached a point two leagues from Schenectady. By this time the weather had changed again, and a cold, gusty snow-storm pelted them. At four o'clock in the afternoon of the 8th of February the scouts found an Indian hut, and in it were four Iroquois squaws, whom they captured. There was a fire in the wigwam, and the shivering Canadians crowded about it and warmed themselves over its blaze. The chief Indian, called by the Dutch "Kryn," harangued his followers, and exhorted them to wash out their wrongs in blood. They then advanced again, and about dark reached the river Mohawk, a little above the village. Their purpose had been to postpone the attack until two o'clock in the morning; but such was the inclemency of the weather that they were forced to move on or perish. Guided by the frightened squaws, they crossed the Mohawk on the ice. About eleven o'clock they saw through the storm the snow-covered palisades of the devoted village. Such was their distress that some of them afterwards said that they would all have surrendered if an enemy had appeared.
The village was oblong in form and inclosed by a palisade, which had two gates, one towards Albany and the other towards the Mohawks. There was a block-house near the eastern gate, occupied by eight or nine Connecticut militiamen, under Lieutenant Talmadge. There were also about twenty or thirty Mohawks in the place, on a visit. The Dutch inhabitants were in a state of discord. The revolution in England had produced a revolution in New York. The demagogue, Jacob Leisler, had got possession of Fort William, and was endeavoring to master the whole colony. Albany was in the hands of the anti-Leisler, or Conservative party, represented in convention, of which Peter Schuyler was the chief. The Dutch of Schenectady for the most part favored Leisler, but their magistrate, John Sander Glen, stood fast for the Albany convention; for this the villagers had threatened to kill him. Talmadge and his militia were under orders from Albany, and, therefore, like Glen, they were under the popular ban. In vain had the magistrate and Talmadge entreated the people to stand on their guard. They turned the advice to ridicule, and left their gates open, and placed there, it is said, a snow image as mock sentinel. There had been some festivity during the evening; but it was now over, and the primitive villagers, fathers, mothers, children, and infants, lay buried in unbroken sleep. Before the open western gate, with its mock sentinel of snow, its blind and dumb warder, stood the French and Indians.
The assailants were now formed into two bands, Sainte-Helene leading the one and Mantet the other. They passed through the gate together in dead silence. One turned to the right and the other to the left, and they filed around the village between the palisades and the houses, till the two leaders met at the farther end. Thus the place was completely surrounded. The signal was then given; they all screeched the war-whoop together, burst in the doors with hatchets, and fell to their work. The villagers, roused by the infernal din, leaped from their beds. For some it was but a nightmare of fright and horror, ended by the blow of the tomahawk. Others were less fortunate. Neither children nor women were spared. "No pen can write, and no tongue express," wrote Schuyler, "the cruelties that were committed." At the block-house, Talmadge and his men made a stubborn fight, but the doors were at length forced in, the defenders killed or taken, and the building set on fire. Adam Vrooman, one of the villagers, saw his wife shot and his child brained against the doorposts, but he fought so desperately that the assailants promised him his life. Orders had been given to spare Peter Tassemaker, the minister. He was hacked to pieces and his house burned. A few fortunate ones fled towards Albany in the storm to seek shelter. Sixty persons were killed outright, of whom thirty-eight were men and boys, ten were women, and twelve were children. The number captured, it appears, was between eighty and ninety. The thirty Mohawks in the town were treated with great kindness by the victors, who declared that they had no quarrel with them, but only with the Dutch and English. For two hours this terrible massacre and pillage continued; then the prisoners were secured, sentinels posted, and the men told to rest and refresh themselves. In the morning a small party crossed the river to the house of Glen, which stood on a rising ground, at what is now called Scotia. Glen had prepared to defend himself; but the French told him not to fear, for they had orders not to hurt a chicken of his. After requiring them to lay down their arms, he allowed them to enter. Glen had on several occasions saved the lives of the French, and owing him therefore a debt of gratitude, they took this means of repaying it. He was now led before the crowd of prisoners and told that not only were his own life and property safe, but that all of his kindred should be spared. So many claimed relationship with Glen that the Indians observed "that everybody seemed to be his relation." Fire was now set to all the buildings except one in which a French officer lay wounded, another belonging to Glen, and three or four more which he begged the victors to spare. At noon Schenectady was in ashes. The French and Indians then withdrew, laden with booty. Dragging their sledges with thirty or forty horses, which were captured, twenty-seven men and boys were driven prisoners into the forest. About sixty old men, women, and children were left behind, without injury by the victors. Only two of the invaders had been killed.
The French and Indians returned across the territory of Saratoga County, in the order in which they came, pursued by the English troops. They were overtaken near Lake Champlain, and a few prisoners taken. Before reaching Montreal, they came near starving, such was the inclemency of the season and the difficulties of the journey.
III. - FITZ JOHN WINTHROP'S EXPEDITION OF 1690.
The first American Congress was held on the 1st of May, 1690, in the fort at New York. It was agreed that while the fleet should attack Quebec the army should proceed by way of Lake Champlain to Montreal and thus effect the conquest of Canada.
The command of this expedition was given to Fitz John Winthrop, of Connecticut. He was commissioned a major-general in the service, being already a member of the council of Governor Andros. On the 14th of July of this year General Winthrop set out from Hartford with some troops, and was seven days marching through the almost impassable wilderness before he reached Albany, on the Hudson. He had been preceded by two companies under Captains Johnson and Fitch. "At Albany," says Winthrop, "I found the design against Canada poorly contrived and prosecuted, all things confused and in no readiness to march, and everybody full of idle projects about it."
The expedition consisted of four hundred troops from New York, one hundred and thirty-five men, being three companies, from Connecticut, thirty River Indians, and one hundred and fifty Mohawks. A sorry array compared to the thousands who, sixty-eight years after, swept up the Hudson through Lake George, under Abercrombie and Lord Howe, to find "glory and a grave" at Ticonderoga On the 30th of July the New England troops and the Indians moved up four miles and encamped on the flats of Watervliet. On the 1st of August Winthrop's expedition reached Stillwater, where they encamped for the night. The next morning Winthrop took up the line of march for Saratoga, now Schuylerville, where there was a block-house and some Dutch soldiers. At this place he found the recorder of Albany, Mr. Wessells, and a company of principal gentlemen, volunteers from that city. Here he got letters from Major Peter Schuyler, the mayor of Albany, who had already gone up the river before him with the Dutch troops, to the effect that he, Major Schuyler, who was situated at the second carrying-place, now Fort Miller, was making canoes for the army. "Thus far," Winthrop says, "the way was good; only four great wading rivers, only one of them dangerous for horse and man."
On the 4th of August the provisions were divided; to each soldier was given thirty-five cakes of bread, besides pork, and Winthrop moved up eight miles to Fort Miller; the Dutch soldiers carrying up their supplies in their bark canoes, and the Connecticut troops carrying them on horses. "Here," says Winthrop, "the water passeth so violently, by reason of the great falls and rocks, that canoes cannot pass; so they were forced to carry their provisions and canoes on their backs a pretty ways to a passable part of the river." This point was then known as "the Little Carrying-Place." On the 5th of August the soldiers marched about eight miles to "The Great Carrying-Place," taking their provisions on their horses, the Dutch having already gone up the river in their canoes. On the 6th of August the little army marched over the "Great Carrying-Place" twelve miles, to the forks on Wood creek, since called Fort Ann. The way was through a continuous swamp covered with tall white-pine trees. On the 7th of August, General Winthrop sent back thirty horses to Saratoga, under command of Ensign Thomilson, for provisions, On the same day the .general passed down Wood creek with two files of musketeers, flanked by the Indians under Captain Stanton, to the Hautkill, now Whitehall, where he encamped with Major Schuyler and the Mohawk captains, on the north side of Wood creek. On the 9th of August the general received information through Captain Johnson, who had been sent to Albany some days previous for provisions, that the western Indians whom he expected to meet at the Isle La Motte, near the north end of Lake Champlain, had not left their country on account of the smallpox breaking out among them. The expression the Indians used was "that the great God had stopped their way." The smallpox had also broken out in the army under Winthrop, and seriously reduced the available force. The French claimed that of this expedition four hundred Indians and two hundred English died of the smallpox.
While at Hautkill, Major Schuyler sent forward Captain Sanders Glen, - the same who had been spared at the Schenectady massacre, - with a company of twenty-eight men and five Indians. At Ticonderoga Glen erected on the 5th of August some stone breastworks, and waited for the expedition to come up; but it was found that the time was so far spent that bark would not peel, and therefore no more canoes could be built that season. It was further ascertained that the commissaries at Albany could forward no further supplies of provisions. On the 15th of August a council of war was held, and it was resolved to return with the army to Albany. Thus ended the first expedition against Canada undertaken by the English colonists. Captain John Schuyler, however, proceeded on down Lake Champlain, on his first expedition against the French at La Prairie. When the troops, on their return, reached Wood creek, Lieutenant Hubbell died of the smallpox; he was buried there with much ceremony. All the forts above Saratoga, with the stores and boats, were burned. Winthrop's army reached Greenbush, opposite Albany, on the 20th of August, having been absent just three weeks.
Transcribed from the original text and html prepared by Bill Carr, last updated 2/7/00.
Please provide me with any feedback you may have concerning errors in the transcription or any supplementary information concerning the email@example.com
Copyright ©1999,2000 Bill Carr and Heritage Hunters of Saratoga County
All Rights Reserved.