SARATOGA COUNTY, NEW YORK.
by NATHANIEL BARTLETT SYLVESTER
THE NORTHERN INVASION OF 1693 - A BATTLE IN SARATOGA.
In the month of January, 1693, Count de Frontenac, governor of Canada, dispatched a force from Montreal with orders to invest and destroy the Mohawk castles, and commit as great ravages as possible around Fort Orange.
This expedition was under the command of De Manteth Courtemanche and La Nuoe. All the Canadian mission Indians were invited to join it, - the Iroquois of the Saut and mountain; Abenakis, froth the Chaudiere; Hurons, from Lorette; and Algonquins, from Three Rivers. A hundred regular soldiers were added, and a large band of Canadian voyageurs. The whole force mustered six hundred and twenty-five men. They left Chambly at the end of January, and pushed southward on snow-shoes. Their way was over the ice of Lake Champlain, and so on to the Mohawk country. At night, in squads of twelve or more, they bivouacked in the forest; they dug away the snow in a circle and covered the bare earth with hemlock boughs, built a fire in the middle, and sat around it. It was sixteen days before they reached the two lower Mohawk towns, which were a quarter of a league apart. They surrounded one town on the night of the 16th of February, and waited in silence till the voices within were hushed, when they attacked the place, capturing all the inhabitants without resistance. They then marched to the next town, reached it at evening, and hid in the neighboring woods. Through all the early evening they heard the whoops and songs of the warriors within who were dancing the war-dance. The Mohawks had posted no sentinels; and one of the French Indians, scaling the palisade, opened the gate to his comrades. The fight was short but bloody. Twenty or thirty Mohawks were killed, and nearly three hundred captured, chiefly women and children. After burning the last Mohawk town the French and their Indian allies began their retreat, encumbered with a long train of prisoners. It was the intent of the French to push on to Schenectady and Albany, but they were overruled by the Indian chiefs, who represented that the number of the prisoners was so great they would prevent them from making any farther advances. In the mean time the whole country had become alarmed. Lieut. John Schuyler and fifty-five horse marched from Albany to Schenectady. These were quickly followed by Major Schuyler, who sent out scouts to watch the enemy's movements. The English crossed the Mohawk, started in pursuit of the enemy with two hundred and seventy-three men, marched twelve miles, and encamped. At one o'clock the next morning they broke camp and marched till six o'clock A.M., when they were advised that the Canadians were eight miles distant. At four o'clock P.M. the English forces marched to a place near Tribes hill, where the invaders had remained the night before. On Tuesday, the 15th, they received a reinforcement of Mohawks, who had come down from the upper country, and they marched about ten miles to a place near Galway, where they halted and sent spies to discover the enemy. On Thursday, the 17th, they marched in the morning to the place where the French had previously encamped, near Greenfield Centre. Two miles farther on they learned, through a Christian Indian boy, that the French were then within three miles. They then marched and encamped within a mile of the enemy, where the French had built a fort, Indian fashion, near what is now known as the Stiles' tavern, in Wilton, on the eastern border of the Palmerton mountains. The English soon appeared before the fortified camp of the French. The forest at once rang with the war-whoops of the savages, and the English Indians set at work to intrench themselves with felled trees. The French and the Indian allies sallied to dislodge them. The attack was fierce and the resistance equally so. With the French, a priest of the Mission of the Mountain, named Gay, was in the thick of the fight; and, when he saw his neophytes run, he threw himself before them, crying, "What are you afraid of? We are fighting with infidels, who have nothing human but the shape. Have you forgotten that the Holy Virgin is our leader and our protector, and that you are subjects of the King of France, whose name makes all Europe tremble?" Three times the French renewed the attack in vain. They then gave over the attempt and lay quietly behind their barricade of trees. So did their English opponents also. The morning was dark and dreary; a drifting snow-storm filled the air. The English were out of provisions and in a starving condition. The Indians, however, did not want for food, having resources unknown to their white friends. Schuyler was invited to taste some broth which they had prepared, but his appetite was spoiled when he saw them ladle a man's hand out of the kettle. The Indians were making their breakfast on the bodies of the dead Frenchmen.
All through the next night the hostile bands watched each other behind their sylvan ramparts. In the morning an Indian deserter told the English commander that the French were packing their baggage. They had retreated under cover of the snow-storm. Schuyler ordered his men to follow, but they had fasted three days and refused to go. The next morning some provisions arrived from Albany. Five biscuits were served out to each man, and the pursuit began. By great efforts they nearly overtook the fugitives, who now sent word back that if the English made an attack all the prisoners should be put to death. On hearing this the Indians under Schuyler refused to continue the chase.
When the French reached the Hudson, they found to their dismay that the ice was breaking up and drifting down the stream. Happily for them, a large sheet of it had become wedged at the bend of the river, that formed a temporary bridge, over which they crossed and pushed up to Lake George. Before the English arrived at the river the ice-bridge had again floated away, and the pursuit was ended. Thus was fought on the soil of Saratoga County, within six miles of Saratoga Springs, one of the sanguinary contests of the old wilderness warfare.
The battle is said to have been on the plain which lies to the northwest of Stiles' tavern. This region of the country was afterwards occupied by the Palmerton Indians. The peace of Ryswyck was declared two years after, in 1695, and for fourteen years thereafter, and until what is known as Queen Anne's war broke out, there was peace in the old wilderness.
Transcribed from the original text and html prepared by Bill Carr, last updated 2/7/00.
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