HISTORY OF

SARATOGA COUNTY, NEW YORK.

by NATHANIEL BARTLETT SYLVESTER

1878

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CHAPTER XVII.

THE NORTHERN INVASION OF 1780.

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After the surrender of Gen. Burgoyne and his army on the heights of Saratoga on the 17th day of October, 1777, the tide of war swept over other and distant fields, and no event of much importance occurred in the county of Saratoga until what is known in history as the Northern Invasion of 1780.

This invasion was intended by the British authorities to be one of considerable import. It was hoped that, with some aid from Canadian militia, assisted by the Indians, the many disaffected persons still left in the valleys of the Hudson and Mohawk would join the royal cause, and, in the absence of so many fighting men in other fields remote from their homes, much might be done towards bringing back the country to its allegiance. Early in the summer of 1780 the American authorities at Albany had intimations of this invasion. But nothing definite could be learned, and the summer passing away without any warlike demonstrations except a raid or two in the valley of the Mohawk, it was thought that when the frosts of autumn had come no further danger might be looked for from that quarter.

But the blow at length came when least expected, and spent its force in the raid on the young settlement of Ballston. {We are indebted to Judge George G. Scott of Ballston Spa, whose ancestors were among the sufferers in this raid, for much of this chapter. See his historical address of July 4, 1876. See also Hough's Northern Invasion of 1780.}

In the early part of October of 1780 an expedition was sent from Canada, by way of Lake Champlain, under command of Major Carleton. Arriving at Bulwagga bay, which forms the west shore of Crown Point, they landed the two hundred men there which formed the Ballston party. This detachment was made up in part of Sir John Johnson's corps, partly of some rangers, among whom were some refugees from the Ballston settlement, and partly of some Mohawk Indians, headed by their war-chief, "Capt. John." This motley company was under the command of Capt. Munro, who had, before the war, been a trader at Schenectady, and had had much to do with the early settlement of Saratoga County.

The object of this part of the expedition was to attack Schenectady, but if that experiment, upon reconnoitring, should be deemed hazardous, then to make a descent upon the Ballston settlement. The orders to Munro were to plunder, destroy property, and take prisoners, but not to kill unless attacked or resisted, or to prevent escapes.

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I. - THE ATTACK ON FORT ANNE AND FORT GEORGE.

After leaving the detachment of two hundred men, under Capt. Munro, at Bulwagga bay, the main body, under Maj. Carleton, consisting of about eight hundred men, proceeded up Lake Champlain, and landing at South bay, moved forward rapidly to Fort Anne, where they arrived on the 10th of October. On demand the fort was surrendered to Carleton, then burned, and the garrison made prisoners. They then, with their prisoners, marched across to Fort George, where they arrived on the 11th of October. After a short skirmish outside of the fort, between Gage's hill and Bloody pond, in which the enemy were successful, and a brief investment of the fort, our troops surrendered themselves as prisoners of war, and the fort was destroyed. Maj. Carleton, with his forces and prisoners, thereupon returned to his vessels on Lake Champlain.

It will thus be seen that the main part of the expedition effected little. While the British forces were in the vicinity of Fort Anne and Lake George, Maj. Carleton sent out numerous scouting and marauding parties into the neighboring villages of Sandy Hill, Fort Edward, and others lying along the Hudson. These lawless parties committed so many depredations on the defenseless inhabitants, and burned so many dwellings, that that year is called to this day among their descendants "the year of the great burning."

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II. - THE RAID UPON BALLSTON.

After landing at Bulwagga bay, the party under Munro took the old Indian trail which led down through the eastern part of the old Adirondack wilderness, in the valley of the Schroon river, past the foot of Crane's mountain, and crossing the Sacondaga, passed through Greenfield into the northwest corner of what is now the town of Milton, where they encamped and remained several days. While here they remained concealed in the forest, no one in the neighborhood dreaming of their presence except some Tories, to whom they had made themselves known, and who supplied them with provisions. Having learned through their scouts that it would be unsafe to make an attempt on Schenectady, and that the "fort" in Ballston had just been garrisoned by about two hundred militiamen, chiefly from the former place, they concluded to advance no farther than Col. Gordon's.

The "fort," as it was called, stood on the southwest cornet of the square, at the red meeting-house, which was then nearly completed. The fort was constructed of oak logs, with loop-holes for musketry, and surrounded with pickets.

The massacre at Cherry Valley, {See Judge Scott's address.} and the more recent Indian barbarities in the Mohawk valley, had excited the worst apprehensions of the Ballston inhabitants, who had for two or three months previous been expecting an invasion of the enemy. Some of them had frequently abandoned their dwellings at night, taking with them their most valuable effects, and lodged in the woods; but as no danger appeared, their vigilance relaxed, and they slept in their dwelling.

Col. James Gordon, then the commanding officer of a regiment of militia, arrived home October 13 from Poughkeepsie, where he had attended, as a member of the Legislature, at an extra session convened by Gov. Clinton, which adjourned October 10. His residence was on the Middle Line road, upon the farm now owned by Henry Wiswall, Jr., and his capture was deemed of considerable importance. Some of the escaped Tories, who had been brought back by him three years previous, had not forgiven him, and one of them, in communication with Munro, informed him of Gordon's arrival. In the evening of October 16 the enemy came to a halt at the dwelling of one James McDonald, a Tory living at the first four corners west of what has since been known as the Court-house hill. McDonald piloted the party through the woods to the rear of Gordon's house. Gordon was awakened by the breaking of the windows of his sleeping-room by bayonets thrust through them. He sprang from his bed, in which were his wife and little daughter, and partly dressing himself went into the hall, which was by this time filled with the enemy. As he opened the door a gigantic savage raised his tomahawk, and as the blow was descending upon Gordon's head the arm of the savage was caught by an officer. At this moment the brass clock, which stood in the corner of the hall, struck twelve, whereupon an Indian shattered it into pieces with his tomahawk, exclaiming," You never speak again!" A scene of indiscriminate plunder then ensued, which was chiefly carried on by the squaws who accompanied the party, and were the most heavily laden with the spoils. The Indians attempted to fire the house and barn, but were prevented. Besides Gordon, Jack Calbraith and John Parlow, servants, and Nero, Jacob, and Ann, three negro slaves, were carried off as prisoners.

As they proceeded towards the main road, where Gordon's miller - Isaac Stow - lived, he came running towards them, exclaiming "Col. Gordon, save yourself! the Indians!" He turned and ran a short distance, when he was intercepted by an Indian, who pierced him in the aide with his spontoon, and Stow fell. The Indian then dispatched him with his tomahawk and took off his scalp.

In the mean time, a party had proceeded to the house of Capt. Collins, across the Mourning Kill. They broke open his door and captured him and his female slave. His son - Mannasseh - escaped through an upper window and ran to the fort, a mile and a half distant, and gave the alarm. The enemy then proceeded up the Middle Line road and made prisoners of Thomas Barnum, John Davis, Elisha Benedict and his three sons, - Caleb, Elias, and Felix, - and Dublin, his slave, - Edward A. Watrous, Paul Pierson and his son John, a boy, John Higby and his son Lewis, George Kennedy, Jabez Patchin, Josiah Hollister, Ebenezer Sprague and his sons John and Elijah, Thomas Kennedy, Enoch Wood, and one Palmatier, living near what is now known as Milton Centre, and who was the last one taken. But one man lived north of Palmatier. Being a Tory, he was unmolested. Several houses and barns were burned.

Between Higby's and George Kennedy's, about fifty under the command of Lieut. Fraser, a refugee from the vicinity of Burnt Hills, left the main body and advanced to the dwelling of George Scott. Aroused from sleep by the violent barking of his watch-dog, he, with his musket in his hand, opened the door and saw the column advancing in the moonlight. He heard some one exclaim, "Scott, throw down your gun, or you are a dead man!" Not hastening to obey, he was felled to the floor by three tomahawks simultaneously thrown at him by Indians of the party, who rushed up to take his scalp. They were prevented by Fraser and Sergeant Springsteed, another refugee and formerly Scott's hired man, who, with their swords, kept the savages at bay. The party pillaged the house and left Scott, as they believed, in a dying condition, - so they informed Colonel Gordon, his brother-in-law, but he recovered.

The enemy crossed the Kayadrossera, at what is now Milton Centre, about daylight, and soon came to a halt. Each prisoner was placed between two of the enemy in Indian file. Their hands were tied, some of them were barefooted, and most of them but partly dressed. George Kennedy was lame from a cut in his foot, and had no clothing but a sheet. Munro thereupon addressed his men. He said he expected they would be pursued, and that on discovering the first sign of a pursuit, even the firing of a gun, each man must kill his prisoner. In this order the march was resumed; the prisoners expecting that the troops from the fort would overtake them, and that each moment would be their last. Another source of apprehension was that some Indian would fall back and fire his gun for the purpose of having the order carried into execution, - a reward for scalps having been offered. For this inhuman order, Munro was afterwards dismissed from the service.

The first man in front of Gordon was a British regular, a German, who was next behind Capt. Collins and had charge of him. Gordon was the prisoner of a ferocious savage immediately in his rear. He heard the soldier say to Capt. Collins, "I have been through the late war in Europe, and in many battles, but I never before have heard such a bloody order as this. I can kill in the heat of battle, but not in cold blood. You need not fear me, for I will not obey the order. But the Indian in charge of Gordon is thirsting for his blood, and the moment a gun is fired Gordon is a dead man."

On arriving at the foot of the Kayadrossera mountain, they halted for breakfast, and slaughtered the sheep and cattle which they had driven along on their retreat. In the afternoon they struck the trail up the mountain by which they had descended, and halted for the night about two miles beyond Lake Desolation. Munro here discharged Ebenezer Sprague and Paul Pierson, both old men, together with John Pierson and George Kennedy. Gordon had privately, by some means, sent back a message, advising that all attempts at a rescue should be abandoned. The messenger met Capt. Stephen Ball with a detachment of militia from the fort, at what has since been known as Milton meeting-house, and they returned. The enemy, with their prisoners, on the 24th day of October, arrived at Bulwagga bay, and there, joining Carleton's party, they all proceeded down the lake to St. John's and thence to Montreal. The prisoners were at first lodged in the Recollet convent, and afterwards confined in a jail. Gordon was bailed in the sum of 3000 by James Ellice, with whom he had formerly been connected in business in Schenectady. After a few months, for what reason he never knew, he, alone of all the prisoners, was removed to Quebec and kept there in prison for about two years, when he was transferred to the Isle of Orleans.

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III.- JOE BETTYS.

In May, 1781, the notorious Joe Bettys, {See Judge Scott's address.} with the aid of about thirty refugees under his command, made a raid into the Ballston district and captured Consider Chard, Uri Tracy, Ephraim Tracy, Samuel Nash, and Samuel Patchin. They were all taken to Canada excepting Nash: who escaped near Lake Desolation. At the same time Epenetus White, Captain Rumsey, two brothers named Banta, and some others on the east side of Long lake, were taken by a Tory officer named Waltermeyer, and marched off to Canada.

When Gordon was removed to the Isle of Orleans he there found White, Higby, Enoch Wood, the two Bantas, and other Ballston prisoners. They contrived to escape from the island by means of a fisherman's boat, and landing on the right bank of the river, they made their way into the wilderness. Their provisions soon gave out, and for several days they subsisted upon nothing but berries and a species of mussel found in the streams. Arriving at the head-waters of the St. John, they, with their hatchets, constructed a rude craft, upon which they floated down the river for a considerable distance, and then struck across to Passamaquoddy bay. This was in 1783, and there they learned for the first time that hostilities had ceased. They proceeded to Halifax, and were brought from thence to Boston by a cartel.

Nero, one of Munro's prisoners, after his capture, had attempted to escape. A few rods south of the north line of the "Five-mile square," where James Allison now lives, he suddenly broke from the ranks, and sprang headlong down a ravine. His head coming in contact with a sapling, he was retaken. At Montreal he was sold to Capt. Laws, a British officer. The other slaves captured by Munro were also sold. In a short time, Nero and Capt. Benedict's "boy" Dublin contrived to escape. They came by the west shore of Lake Champlain to Ticonderoga, and there swam across the lake, and found their way to Richmond, Mass. There they remained until the close of the war, when they returned to Ballston, and voluntarily surrendered themselves respectively to their former owner.

Joe Bettys, to whom allusion has been made, was the son of respectable parents residing in the Ballston district. His father, Joseph Bettys, during and subsequent to the war, kept a tavern below what is known as the Delavan farm, upon the farm now occupied by Mr. Lewis Trites. The old man's gravestone may be seen in the cemetery at Burnt Hills. The career of Joseph Bettys, Jr., is an important item in the early history of Ballston. His name, for several years towards the close of the war, was a terror to its inhabitants. The following account of Bettys is mostly compiled from Simms' "Border Wars," and a statement of Col. John Ball:

Col. Ball, a son of Rev. Eliphalet Ball, as early as 1776, held a lieutenant's commission in a regiment of New York forces commanded by Col. Wynkoop. Being acquainted with Bettys, and knowing him to be bold, athletic, and intelligent in an uncommon degree, he succeeded in enlisting him as a sergeant. Bettys was soon reduced to the ranks by reason of some insolence to an officer, who, as he alleged, had wantonly abused him. To save him to the cause, Ball procured him a sergeantcy in the fleet commanded by Gen. Arnold on Lake Champlain, in 1776. Bettys was in the desperate fight between the British and American fleets on the lakes, and being a skillful seaman, was of signal service during the contest. He fought until every commissioned officer on board of his vessel was killed or wounded, and then himself assumed command, and continued to fight with such reckless courage that Gen. Waterbury, who was second in command under Arnold, perceiving that the vessel was likely to sink, was obliged to order Bettys and the remnant of the crew on board of his own vessel.

He stationed him on the quarter-deck by his side, and gave orders through him, until the vessel having become disabled, and the crew nearly all killed, Gen. Waterbury wounded, and only two officers left, the colors were struck, and the remnant made prisoners. They were soon discharged on their parole. Gen. Waterbury afterwards informed the Rev. Mr. Ball that he never saw a man behave with such deliberate desperation as did Bettys on that occasion, and that the shrewdness of his management was equal to his courage.

For some reason his gallant services were not recognized to his satisfaction, and this neglect his proud spirit and ungovernable temper could not brook. He afterwards went to Canada, joined the loyalists, and receiving an ensign's commission in the British army, became a spy, and proved himself a most dangerous and subtle enemy. He was at length captured and sentenced to be hung at West Point, but the entreaties of his aged parents, and the solicitations of influential Whigs, induced Gen. Washington to pardon him. But it was ill-directed clemency. He was more vindictive than ever, and the Whigs in this part of the State, and especially in Ballston, soon had occasion to regret the lenity they had unfortunately caused to be extended to him. He recruited soldiers for the king in our very midst, planned and guided many of the raids from the north, and was at the same time in the employment of the king's officers as a most faithful and successful messenger and cunning and intelligent spy. There had been many attempts to apprehend him, but he eluded them all.

In the early spring of 1782, in the present town of Clifton Park, about a mile west of Jonesville, one Jacob Fulmer was engaged in making maple-sugar in the woods, and after remaining there as usual overnight, was relieved in the morning by his daughter while he went to his breakfast. The morning was very foggy, and she, without being observed, saw a man upon snow-shoes, bearing a pack and a gun, pass near by and proceed toward the house of a widow named Hawkins. This house was upon the farm now belonging to L. W. Crosby. The girl immediately informed her father, who at once suspected the stranger might be Bettys. Calling upon two of his neighbors, Perkins and Corey, and all being well armed, they stealthily approached the house, and suddenly burst open the door. They discovered Bettys, with his back towards them, eating his breakfast, with his rifle by his side. He seized it, but not having taken the precaution to undo the deer-skin cover that protected the lock, was unable to discharge it. They seized him and tied him securely. He asked leave to smoke, and was partially unbound to afford him the opportunity. He went to the fireplace to light his pipe, and took something out of his tobacco-box and threw it into the fire. Corey noticed this and immediately snatched it out with a handful of coals. It was a small leaden box about the eighth of an inch in thickness, and contained a paper in cipher, which afterwards proved to be a dispatch to the British commander in New York, and also contained an order on the mayor of New York for 30 sterling, in case the dispatch should be safely delivered. Bettys begged for leave to burn the papers, and offered one hundred guineas for the privilege, but his captors refused. He then despairingly said, "I am a dead man." He was taken to Albany, tried by a court-martial, and convicted and hung as a spy, to the great relief of the Whigs in this section of the State.

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