The following incident transpired in the spring of 1780, in the Mohawk valley. The facts were related to the author by John S. Quackenboss, and Isaac Covenhoven, the later one of the actors:
George Cuck, a tory who had become somewhat notorious from his having been engaged with the enemy at Oriskany, Cherry-Valley, and elsewhere, entered the valley of the Mohawk late in the fall of 1779, with the view of obtaining the scalps of Capt. Jacob Gardiner, and his Lieut. Abraham D. Quackenboss,(father of John S.,) for which the enemy had offered a large bounty. Cuck was seen several times in the fall, and on one occasion, while sitting upon a rail fence, was fired upon by Abraham Covenhoven, a former whig neighbor. The ball entered the rail upon which he sat, and he escaped. As nothing more was seen of him after that event, it was generally supposed he had returned to Canada. At this period, a tory by the name of John Van Zuyler, resided in a small dwelling which stood in a then retired spot, a few rods south of the present residence of Maj. James Winne, in the town of Glen. Van Zuyler had three daughters, and although he lived some distance from neighbors, and a dense forest intervened between his residence and the river settlements, several miles distant, the young whigs would occasionally visit his girls. Tory girls, I must presume, sometimes made agreeable sparks, or sparkers, especially in sugar time.
James Cromwell, a young man who lived near the Mohawk, went out one pleasant summer evening in month of March, to see one of Van Zuyler's daughters. Most of the settlers then made maple sugar, and Cromwell, found his fair Dulcinea, boiling sap in the sugar bush. While they were sparking it, the term for courting in the country, the girl, perhaps thinking her name would soon be Mrs. Cromwell, became very confiding and communicative. She told her beau that the tory Cuck, was at their house. Cromwell at first appeared incredulous - "he is surely there," said she, "and when any one visits the house, he is secreted under the floor." The report of his having been seen in the fall instantly recurred to his mind, and from the earnestness of the girl, he believed her story. Perhaps Cromwell was aware that the girl when with him was inclined to be whiggish - be that as it may, he resolved instantly to set about ascertaining the truth or falsehood of the information. In a very short time he complained of being made suddenly ill, from eating too much sugar. The girl whose sympathy was aroused, thinking from his motions that he was badly griped, finally consented to let him go home and sugar off alone. Away went Cromwell pressing his hands upon his bowels, and groaning fearfully until he was out of sight and hearing of his paramour, when the pains left him. Taking a direct course through the woods, he reached the dwelling of Capt. Jacob Gardinier, some four miles below his own, and within the present village of Fultonville, about 12 o'clock at night, and calling him up, told him what he had heard. Capt. Gardinier sent immediately to his Lieut. Quackenboss, to select a dozen stout hearted men and meet them as soon as possible at his house. The lieutenant enquired what business was on hand -- the messenger replied --"Capt. Gardinier said I should tell you that there was a black bear to be caught." In a short time the requisite number of whigs had assembled, and the captain, taking his lieutenant aside, told him the duty he had to perform. He declined going himself on account of ill health, and entrusted the enterprise to his lieutenant. He directed him to proceed with the utmost caution, as the foe was no doubt armed, and as his name was a terror in the valley, to kill him at all hazards. the party well armed, set off on the mission.
The snow yet on the ground was crusted so hard, that it bore them, and having the advantage of a bright moon-light night, they marched rapidly forward. Halting a quarter of a mile from Van Zuyler's house, the lieutenant struck up a fire, and as his men gathered round an ignited stump, he addressed them nearly as follows: "My brave lads! It is said the villian Cuck, is in yonder house, secreted beneath the floor. The object of our visit is to destroy him. He is a bold and desperate fellow- -doubtless well armed, and in all probability some of us must fall by his hand. Those of you, therefore, who decline engaging in so dangerous an undertaking, are now at liberty to return home." "We are ready to follow where you dare to lead!" was the response of one and all. It is yet to early, said the lieutenant, and while they were waiting for the return of the day, the plan of attack was agreed upon. At the stump was assembled Lieut. Quackenboss, Isaac and Abraham Covenhoven, twin brothers, John Ogden, Jacob Collier, Abraham J., and Peter J. Quackenboss, Martin Gardinier, James Cormwell, Gilbert Van Alstyne, Nicholas, son of Capt. Gardinier, a sergeant, Henry Thompson, and Nicholas Quackenboss, also a sergeant. It was agreed that the party should separate and approach the house in different directions, so as not to excite suspicion. The appearance of a light in the dwelling was the signal for moving forward, and selecting Ogden, Collier, and Abraham J. Quackenboss to follow him, the lieutenant led directly to the house. As the approached it, a large watch dog met them with his yelping, which caused the opening of a little wooden slide over a loophole for observation, by a member of the family; but seeing only four persons, the inmates supposed they were sugar-makers. On reaching the door and finding it fastened, the soldiers instantly forced it- the family, as may be supposed, were thrown into confusion by the unexpected entrance of armed men. "What do you want here ?" demanded Van Zuyler. "The tory George Cuck!" was the lieutenant's reply. Van Zuyler declared that the object of their search was not in his house. The three daughters had already gone to the sugar-works, and their father expressed to Lieut. Quackenboss, his wish to go there too. He was permitted to go, but thinking it possible that Cuck might also have gone there, several men then approaching the house, were ordered to keep an eye on his movement. Abraham Covenhoven was one of the second party who entered the house. There was a dark stairway which led to an upper room, in which it was thought the object of their search might be secreted. Covenhoven was in the act of ascending the stairs with his gun aimed upward, and ready to fire, as Abraham J. Quackenboss, drew a large chest from the wall on one side of the room, disclosing the object of their search. Discharging a pistol at Nicholas Gardinier, the tory sprang out before Quackenboss, who was so surprised that he stood like a statue, exclaiming, "dunder! dunder! dunder!" The wary lieutenant was on his guard, and as Cuck leaped upon the floor from a little cellar hole, made on purpose for his secretion, he sent a bullet through his head, carrying with it the eye opposite. He fell upon one knee, when the lieutenant ordered the two comrades beside him to fire. Ogden did so, sending a bullet through his breast, and as he sank to the floor, Collien placing the muzzle of his gun near his head, blew out his brains. Thus ended the life of a man, who, in an evil hour, had resolved to imbrue his hands in the blood of his former neighbors and countrymen.
When the first gun was fired. Covenhoven said the report was so loud and unexpected that he supposed it fired by Cuck himself, and came near falling down stairs. Had the party not divided into several squads, the peep from the slide window would have betrayed the object of their visit, and more than one would doubtless have fallen before the villain had been slain, for he had two loaded guns in the house, and a brace of well charged pistols, only one of which he had taken into his kennel. They also found belonging to him, a complete Indian's dress, and two small bags of parched corn and maple sugar, pounded fine and mixed together, an Indian dish, called by the Dutch quitcheraw - intended as food for a long journey.
After his death, it was ascertained that Cuck had entered the valley late in the fall- that he had been concealed at the house of his kindred spirit, who pretended neutrality in the contest, whose retired situation favored the plans of his guest, and was watching a favorable opportunity to secure the scalps mentioned, and return to canada. The making of maple sugar he had supposed would favor his intentions, as an enemy was unlooked for so early in the season, and the persons whose scalps he sought, would probably expose themselves in the woods. He had intended, if possible, to secure both scalps in one day, and by a hasty flight, pursue the nearest route to Canada. As the time of sugar making had arrived, it is probable his enterprise was on the eve of being consummated; but the goddess of liberty, spread her wings in his path, and defeated his hellish intentions.
Van Zuyler was made a prisoner by the party, and lodged in the jail at Johnstown; from whence he was removed not long after to Albany. When they were returning home with Van Zuyler in custody, as the approached the sugar bush of Evert Van Epps, near the present village of Fultonville, one of them, putting on the Indian dress of Cuck, (which, with the guns and pistols were taken home as trophies,) approached the sugar makers as an enemy, which occasioned a precipitate retreat. The fugitives were called back by others of the party, when a rope being provided, their prisoner was drawn up to the limb of a tree several times by the neck; but as he had been guilty of no known crime, except that of harboring Cuck, although suspected of burning Covenhoven's barn in the fall, his life was spared and he was disposed of as before stated. Cuck was a native of Tryon county, and was born not many miles from where he died.
On the 2d day of April, 1780, a scout of fourteen individuals, commanded by Lieut. Alexander Harper, (not Col. John Harper as stated by some writers,) were sent from the Schoharie forts by Col. Vrooman into the vicinity of Harpersfield, to keep an eye on the conduct of certain suspected persons living near the head waters of the Delaware, and if possible to make a quantity of maple sugar. The party were surprised after being there a few days, by a body of Indians and tories under Josph Bryant, and hurried off to Canada. The scout consisted of Lt. Harper, Freegift Patchin,1 Isaac Patchin his brother, Ezra Thorp, Lt. Henry Thorp, Thomas Henry, afterwards major, and his brother James Henry, Cornelius Teabout, one Stevens and five others. About the time they arrived at their place of destination, a heavy snow fell, and not anticipating the approach of a foe, they began their sugar manufacture. The preceding winter has justly been designated in the annals of mercury as the cold winter, and the spring was very backward. They were busily engaged in sugar making -- which can only be done while the weather thaws in the day time and freezes in the night -- from the time of their arrival until the 7th, when they were surprised by forty-three Indians and seven tories.
So unlooked for was the approach of an enemy, and so complete was their surprise, that the Americans did not fire a gun. Two of them were shot down, and eleven more, who were in the sugar bush, surrendered themselves prisoners. Poor Stevens, who was on that day sick in bed, and unable to proceed with the prisoners, was killed and scalped in cold blood. Brant, on recognizing Harper, approached him. "Harper!" said he, " I am sorry to find you here!" "Why" -- asked the latter. "Because" replied he, "I must kill you, although we were once school mates!" The ostensible object of Brant's mission had been, to lay waste the Schoharie settlements. Confronting Harper, with his eyes keenly fixed upon him, he enquired-- "Are there any troops at Schoharie?" Harper's anxiety for the settlers promoted the ready answer-- "Yes, three hundred continental troops from the eastward, arrived at the forts but three days since." The intelligence -- false, although the occasion justified it -- was unwelcome to the great chief, whose countenance indicated disappointment. The eleven prisoners were then pinioned, and secured in a hog-pen. Several tories were stationed to guard them during the night, among whom was one Beacraft, a notorious villain, as his after conduct will show.
The Indians built a large fire near, and were in consultation for a long time, about what disposition should be made with the prisoners. Harper could understand much of their dialect, and overheard several of the Indians and tories urging the death of the prisoners, as they did not consider the enterprise sufficiently accomplished. The opinion of Brant, which was that the party return immediately to Niagara, finally prevailed. Often during the night, while an awful suspense was hanging over the fate of the prisoners, would Beacraft comfort them with this and similar salutations -- "You d--d rebels! you'll all be in hell before morning."
Lieut. Harper discovered, while the enemy were consulting the preceding evening, that his word was doubted by many of the party, and early in the morning he was ordered before an Indian council consisting of Brant and five other chiefs. He was told that his story about the arrival of troops at Schoharie was unbelieved. The question as to its truth was again asked, while the auditors --tomahawk in hand -- awaited the answer. Harper, whose countenance indicated scorn at having his word thus doubted, replied that what he had before told them was true, and that if they any longer doubted it, they should go there, and have their doubts removed. Not a muscle of the brave man's countenance indicated fear or prevarication, and full credit was then given to the statement. Fortunate would it be if every falsehood was as productive of good, for that alone prevented the destroyers from entering the Schoharie valley, when it was feebly garrisoned, and where they intended to strike the effectual blow in revenge of the injuries done them the year before, by the armies under Van Schaick and Sullivan.
The rest of the prisoners were now let out of the pig-stye, when Brant told them in English that the intended destination of the party was Schoharie, which he had been informed was but feebly garrisoned --that his followers were much disappointed at being obliged thus to return -- that it had been with difficulty he and his chiefs had restrained the desire of their comrades too kill the prisoners and proceed to the Schoharie valley -- that if they would accompany him to Niagara, they should be treated as prisoners of war, and fare as did their captors. The latter expressed a willingness to proceed. They were compelled to carry the heavy packs of the Indians, filled with plunder taken at the destruction of Harpersfield but a few days before, and all set forward for Canada. They were still bound, and as the snow was several feet deep, they at first found it very difficult to keep up with the Indians, who were provided with snow-shoes. Some ten or fifteen miles from the place of capture, the party halted at a grist-mill upon the Delaware river, owned by a tory. This royalist told Brant he might better have taken more scalps and less prisoners; and his daughters, sensitive creatures, even urged the more generous chieftain to kill his prisoners then, lest they might return at some future day and injure their family. The enemy obtained of this tory about three bushels of shelled corn, which was also put upon the backs of the prisoners, and they resumed their march. They had proceeded but a few miles down the river, when they met Samuel Clockstone, a tory well known to Brant and most of the prisoners. When Brant made known to him the intended expedition, and its termination from what Lieut Harper had told him, Clockstone replied "depend upon it, there are no troops at Schoharie - I have heard of none." With uplifted tomahawk Brant approached Harper, who was confronted by Clockstone. "Why have you lied to me?", asked the Indian, with passion depicted in every feature and gesture. Harper, apprised of what the tory had said, in his reply, thus addressed the latter. "I have been to the forts but four days since, the troops had then arrived, and if Capt. Brant disbelieves me, he does so at his peril." Noble, generous hearted fellow, thus to peril his own life to save the lives of others. He had alone visited the forts after the party were at the sugar- bush, which Clockstone happened to know, and the latter admitted that possibly troops had arrived. Brant was now satisfied that his prisoner had not deceived him, and the march was resumed.
In the vicinity of Harpersfield the Indians made prisoners an aged man named Brown, and two little boys -- his grandsons. On the day after the party met Clockstone, as the traveling was very bad, Brown, having also a heavy pack to carry, found himself unable to keep up with the company, and begged permission of his captors to return; telling them that he was too old to take any part in the war, and could not injure the King's cause. On his making this request, the party halted and the old gentleman's pack was taken from him. Knowing the Indian character, he read his fate in the expressive gestures of his silent masters, and told his grandsons, in a low voice, that they would never see him again, for the Indians were going to kill him. He took an affecting leave of the boys and was then compelled to fall in the rear, where he was left in the charge of an Indian, whose face, painted black, denoted him as being the executioner for the party. In a short time this Indian overtook his comrades with the hairless scalp of the murdered prisoner, hanging at the end of his gun.
The party proceeded down the Delaware river to the Cookhouse flats, from whence they directed their course to Oquago. Constructing rafts, they floated down the Susquehanna to the mouth of the Chemung. The prisoners were unbound when on the raft, but rebound on leaving it.
The Indians, capable of enduring more fatigue than their prisoners on a scanty supply of food -- being provided with snow-shoes, and having little baggage to carry, would probably have wearied out most of the prisoners, whose bodies, like that of poor Brown, would have been left to feast wild beasts, and their bones, like his, to bleach upon the mountains, had not Brant providentially fallen ill of fever and ague, which compelled the party for a time to lay by every other day on his account. They had been journeying about a fortnight, and were approaching a warmer latitude, when a rattlesnake, which had left its den in a warm spot, was killed, and soup made of it, a free use of which effected a cure for the invalid.
The corn obtained near the head of the Delaware, was equally distributed among the whole party, by an allowance of about two handfuls a day, which was counted out by the berry to deal justice. This is a noble trait of the Indian character. He never grudgingly gives a scanty allowance to his prisoner, and satiates his own appetite, but shares equally his last morsel with him. The corn was boiled in small kettles carried by the Indians preparatory to eating.
While in the vicinity of Tioga-Point, the prisoners came near being sacrificed, to gratify the savage disposition to revenge, even on the innocent, an injury done to a friend. While the Indians were on their way down the Chemung, Brant detached ten of his warriors, mostly Senecas, to a place called Minisink,2 an old frontier settlement on the borders of New York and Pennsylvania, in the hope of making prisoners and plunder. They arrived in due time at the place of destination, and succeeded in obtaining several scalps and five prisoners, three men and two small children. The following particulars of their capture and escape, I find in a note subjoined to Treat's Oration, delivered at Geneseo in 1841, on exhuminng the remains of Lieut. Boyd and his command.
"The father of Major Van Campen was thrust through with a spear; and whilst the red warrior was, with his foot on the breast of his victim, endeavoring to extricate his spear, another savage had dashed out the brains of Moses Van Campen's brother with a tomahawk, and was aiming a blow at Moses' head. He seized the Indian's arm, and arrested the descending blow. Whilst thus engaged, his father's murderer thrust his spear at his side. But he avoided the weapon, being only slightly wounded. At this moment the chief interfered, and his life was spared.
"After several days' march, the party of Senecas above mentioned, arrived near Tioga point, with Lieut. (now Major)Van Campen; a Dutchman by the name of Pence; Pike, a robust Yankee; and two small children. During the day, these prisoners marched with the party, bearing the baggage; and at the evening halt, were made to carry the wood for the fires.
"Van Campen had, for some time, urged upon the two men, prisoners with him, to make an attempt to escape during the night, by tomahawking the Indians whilst sleeping. He depicted to them the horrors of a long captivity, and of the agonizing tortures to which they would probably be subjected. His companions, however, were at first alarmed at the danger of a contest with ten warriors. During the afternoon preceding the eventful night of their delivery, he succeeded in persuading them to join him in the meditated blow, before they crossed the river and their retreat was thereby cut off. He advised them to remove the Indians' rifles; and with the head of the tomahawks, dash out their brains; for if the edges of the weapon were used, the time required to extricate the hatchet after each blow, would prove a dangerous delay. He was over-ruled by his comrades; and after some discussion among them, that plan was adopted, which was finally acted upon.
'' At evening, the savages, according to their custom, lighted their fires, and bound the arms of the captives behind their backs. They then cut two forked stakes for each side of the fire, and placed between them (resting on the forks) two poles, against which they could lean their rifles. During the evening meal, one of the savages, after sharpening a stick on which to roast his meat, laid down his knife in the grass, near the feet of Van Campen, who saw it, and so turned his feet as to cover it, hoping the Indian would forget it before going to rest. After the meal was finished, the ten Indians having first examined their prisoners to ascertian if they were fast bound, lay to sleep. Five were on each side of the fire- their heads under the poles, and his rifle standing at the head of each, ready to be grasped at the instant.
'' About midnight, Van Campen sat up and looked around, to learn if all were asleep. Their loud snoring told him the hour to strike had arrived. He then, with his feet drew the knife within reach of his pinioned hands. Rising cautiously, he roused his companions. Pence cut the bands from Van Campen's arms, and the latter then cut loose his two comrades. There had been a slight fall of snow, which had frozen among the leaves, and rendered every footstep fearfully audible. But they succeeded in removing all the rifles to a tree at a short distance from the fire, without awaking one of the warriors. During the afternoon, several of the rifles had been discharged in killing a deer, and, through forgetfulness, left unloaded. The plan proposed was, that Pence, who was an excellent marksman, should lie down on the left of one row of Indians, with three rifles; and, at the given signal, fire. They supposed the same ball would pass through at least two savages. In the mean time, Van Campen should tomahawk three of those on the other side and Pike, two. Then there would be but three Indians remaining, and each of the captives was to fasten on his foe - Van Campen and Pike with their tomahawks, and Pence with one of the undischarged rifles. Fortunately, for their saftey, Pence had taken the two unloaded rifles.
''All things being ready, Van Campen's tomahawk dashed out the brains of one of the Indians at a single blow; but Pence's rifle snapped without discharging. At the noise, one of the two assigned to Pike's charge, with a sudden " ugh! " extended his hand for his rifle. Pike's heart failing him at this awful crisis: he crouched to the ground and stirred not. But Van Campen saw the Indian starting to his feet; and, as quick as thought, drove the tomahawk through his head. Just as the fifth blow of Van Campen had despatched the last savage on his side of fire, Pence tried the third rifle, and the ball passed through the heads of four. The fifth on that side, John Mohawk, bounded to his feet, and rushed towards the rifles. Van Campen darted between him and the tree, and Mohawk turned in flight. Van Campben pursued him, and drove the tomahawk through his shoulder. Mohawk immediately grappled his adversary; and, in the struggle, both fell -- Van Campen undermost. Each knew his life depended on the firmness of his grasp; and they clung to each other with unrelaxed nerve, and writhed to break free. Van Campen lay under the wounded shoulder, and was almost suffocated with the Indian's blood which streamed over his face. He eagerly stretched his hand around Mohawk's body to reach the knife of the latter; for the tomahawk had fallen from his hand in the struggle. But as they fell, the Indian's belt had been twisted around his body, and the knife was beyond his reach. At length they break away, and both spring to their feet. Mohawk's arms had been round Van Campen's neck, and the arm of the latter over the back of the former. As they gained their feet, Van Campen seized the tomahawk and pursued the again retreating Indian. His first impulse was to hurl the hatchet at his foe; but he saw at once the imprudence of the course. If it missed its object, it would be turned in a moment against his own life; and he therefore gave over the pursuit, and one alone of the ten Senecas escaped.
"On returning to his comrades, he found Pike on his knees begging of his life, and Pence standing over him with loaded rifle ready to fire. Pence answered V.C.'s inquiry into his conduct, by saying, "De tam yankee bee's a cowart, and I must kill um." With difficulty Van Campen prevailed upon the Dutchman to spare the frightened and dastardly Pike. They then scalped their victims; and, taking their rifles, set forward with the two boys, on their return home, which they reached in safety. Among the scalps which were strung to the belt of one of the warriors, were those of Van Campen's father and brother.
Mohawk, the sachem who had escaped from Van Campen, was occupying a little hut near Tioga Point, where the Minisink party were to await Brant's arrival, endeavoring to cure his wound, when he returned with his prisoners. As the party under Brant drew near that place, the war whoop was sounded, and was soon answered by a pitiful howl -- the death yell of the lone Indian. The party halted in mute astonishment, when the Indian, with the nine pairs of mocasons, taken from the feet of his dead comrades, came forward and related the adventures of himself and friends, and the terrible disaster that had overtaken them. Instantly, the whole band under Brant seemed transformed to so many devils incarnate, gathering round their prisoners with frantic gestures, and cutting the air with their weapons of death. At this critical moment, when the fate of the prisoners seemed inevitable from the known rule of Indian warfare, Mohawk threw himself into the midst of the circle, and made a signal for silence. This Indian knew most of the prisoners, having lived about Schoharie before the war. He told his attentive auditors, that the prisoners were not the men who had killed his friends, and that to take the lives of innocent men to revenge the guilt of others, could not be right: he therefore desired them to spare their lives. The storm of passion which seemed ready but a moment before to overwhelm the prisoners, now yielded to the influence of reason, and the tomahawks of the savages were returned to their girdles.
The company again moved forward, the prisoners grateful to the Almighty for their deliverance from such obvious perils. On arriving near Newtown, the whole party, Indians as well as prisoners, were on the point of starvation, when an unusual number of wolf-tracks arrested their attention. They led to the half-devoured carcase of a dead horse, supposed to have been a pack horse, left by accident the fall before by the army under Gen. Sullivan. The under side of the animal, frozen, and buried in snow, was found in a good state of preservation. It was instantly cut up, and equally distributed, even to the fleshless bones, among the whole party. Fires were built -- the meat cooked -- and the nearly famished travelers feasted upon the remains of this horse, with far more satisfaction than would the epicure upon his most dainty meats.
In the present county of Steuben, the prisoners saw the "Painted Post," which had been erected by the Indians, to commemorate some signal battle fought upon the spot. Leaving the route of Sullivan on the Chemung, they proceeded farther north. On their journey, the tories, Beacraft, 3 and Barney Cane, boasted of the acts of cruelty each had then perpetrated during the war. The party descended to the Genesee river nearly famished, and there met a company of Indians that had arrived to make preparations to plant corn. The latter had brought with them from Niagara, a fine looking horse, which Brant instantly ordered killed, and distributed to his again starving men and prisoners. No part of the animal, not even the intestines were suffered to be lost. They roasted the meat, using white ashes as a substitute for salt. They also found upon the Genesee flats, small ground nuts, which they roasted and ate with their horse flesh.
From this place, Brant sent forward a runner to Niagara, a distance of eighty miles, to announce the result of his expedition, the number of prisoners, and their character. Brant was in possession of a secret which he kept in his own breast, that doubtless operated as an incentive for him to save the life of Lieut. Harper and his men. Among the prisoners taken at the massacre of Cherry-Valley, in the fall of 1778, was Miss Jane Moore, whose mother was a sister of Harper. Not long after her arrival at Niagara, she was courted, and became the wife of Capt. Powel, a British officer of merit.4
Brant suggested to his runner to the fort, that Capt. Powel should send the warriors from both Indian camps contiguous, down the lake to the Nine Mile Landing - there to await his arrival with the prisoners. Having obtained permission from Col. Butler to do so, Powel gave the Indians a quantity of rum to aid, as they supposed, in their celebration, and away they went. The danger Brant justly apprehended, was, from the impossibility of restraining the violent acts of many of the Indians, while the prisoners were running the gantlet, knowing that relations of the Minisink party would be present burning with revenge, and all were smarting under the chastisement they had received the preceding year. He knew that no act, however atrocious, would be considered by many of his warriors, too severe to inflict at this time on the prisoners. That Harper was a relative of Mrs. Powel, Brant concealed from every individual of his party.
Four days after the messenger had been sent forward, they arrived near Niagara, when the tories began to tantalize the prisoners, by telling them that in all probability few of them would survive running the gantlet. On arriving at the first encampment the prisoners were as happily disappointed to find that the lines through which they were to pass were composed of old women and children, who would not be likely to inflict much injury, as were the tories to find the revengeful warriors all absent. Most of the prisoners escaped with little injury, except Freegift Patchin. He was approached by an old squaw, who, as she exclaimed "poor shild," gave him a terrible blow upon the head. As the prisoners drew near the second encampment, they were gratified to perceive that, through the policy of Capt. Powel, a regiment of British troops was thrown into parallel lines to protect them. When Patchin had arrived within a few rods of the gateway, an Indian boy ran up and gave him a blow on the forehead with a hatchet, which had nearly proven fatal. A soldier standing by, snatched the weapon from the hand of the young savage and threw it into the lake. The unexpected meeting of Harper with friends among the enemies of his country, was no doubt very gratifying.
On arriving at the fort, the prisoners were brought before several British officers, among whom sat Col. John Butler as presiding officer. The colonel put several abusive questions to the prisoners, and addressing Freegift Patchin, who stood nearest his seat, he asked him "if he did not think that by and by his Indians would compel a general surrender of the Yankees?" Smarting under his wounds, he replied that "he did not wish to answer for fear of giving offence." The unfeeling officer insisted on an answer, and the young American, whose patriotic blood was rising to fever heat, replied--"If I must answer you, it is to say, No--you might as well think to empty the adjoining lake of its waters with a bucket, as attempt to conquer the Yankees in that manner." Butler flew into a passion, called Patchin "a d--d rebel" for giving him such an insolent reply, and ordered him out of his sight. At this instant, a generous hearted British officer interfered. Said he to Col. B., "the lad is not to blame for answering your question, which you pressed to an answer: he has no doubt answered it candidly, according to his judgement." Extending a glass of wine to Patchin, whose spirit he admired--"Here, my poor fellow," said he, "take this glass of wine and drink it." Such unexpected kindness received his grateful remembrance. The examination of the prisoners having ended, Mrs. Nancy Bundy,5 who was also a prisoner at the time, prepared as speedily as possible, a soup made of proper materials for them.
The captors received as their reward for the delivery of the Schoharie party eight dollars per head. This it is believed was the stipulated reward for American scalps or prisoners, to be paid for by Co. John Butler, 6 the British agent for that business, during the war: but it was often the case that the delivery of a committee-man's scalp or his person, or that of an officer or noted soldier, entitled the possessor to a larger sum. From Niagara, the prisoners, except Harper, were sent from post to post, and finally lodged in prison at Chamblee. Here they remained in irons nearly two years, suffering most acutely for the necessaries of life. Free. Patchin was reduced to such a state, as to be unable to rise from the floor without the aid of one of the Thorps.
Doctor Pendergrass, a physician who had the care of the prisoners, totally neglected to require into their real condition, the consequence was that some of them became objects of loathing, even to themselves. Of the latter number was Free. Patchin. A worthy physician at length succeeded Pendergrass in his station, and the sufferings of the prisoners was at once mitigated. On his first visit to the prisoners confined in the room with the Patchins, Steele, the commanding officer of the fort, accompanied him. The doctor proceeded to examine the prisoners singly. Ashamed of being seen, Free. Patchin was occupying the darkest corner of the room, and had thrown an old blanket around him, to hid his naked limbs. The doctor at length approached him. "Well, my lad," he asked, "what is the matter with you?" "Nothing, sir," was the reply. "Then get upon your feet," added the doctor. "I cannot do it," replied Patchin. The former then thrust the end of his cane under the blanket and removed it, discovering his pitiful condition. The doctor possessed a humane heart, and his sympathy for the prisoner was instantly aroused. Turning to Steele, with a look that denoted surprise and anger, he demanded to know why this prisoner had been so cruelly neglected, ordering his shackles instantly removed. The language and treatment of this medical officer was so unexpected, and so different from what he had previously experienced, that Patchin could not refrain from weeping like a child. With proper treatment his health was soon improved.
From Chamblee the prisoners were taken to Rebel Island where they remained until peace was proclaimed. From that place they were sent to Quebec, via Montreal, and put on board of a cartel ship bound for Boston: where they arrived nearly three years after their capture. Gen. Patchin was married after the war, and settled in Blenheim, Schoharie county, where he resided until the close of his life. His widow assured the writer, that Mr. Patchin's constitution received a shock while a prisoner, from which he never entirely recovered.
A large body of the enemy having been seen in the latter part of March, in the vicinity of Putnam's creek, as stated in a letter from Co. Van Schaick, of Albany, to Col. Fisher, the former recommended sending a reasonable force to the Sacandaga blockhouse. Co. Fisher accordingly despatched to that post one-third of his regiment, and ordered Lieut. Col. Veeder to repair thither, and take the command. The remainder of the regiment was ordered out, and stationed at Fort Johnson and other commanding points near the Mohawk, until the 1st of April, and then dispersed. The enemy, however, had lingered about the settlements, as the following letter will show:
Caughnawaga, 3d April, 1780
"Sir--On Tuesday night last, the block-house [at Sacandaga] was attacked by a scouting party of Indians, to the number of seven, as near as could be ascertained, [proved to be five] and endeavored to set it on fire in two different places, which they would have effected had it not been for the activity of one brave man who lived there, named Solomon Woodworth, who, although alone, sallied out and extinguished the fire. Whilst he was doing it, five shots were fired at him, one of which only touched him. On his return into the house he fired at them, one of whom he wounded in the thigh, on which the rest fled and took the wounded Indian with them. The reason of the block-house being without men at that time, was through the neglect of one of the militia officers, which I have taken notice of already in a particular manner. I immediately sent out a party after them, who returned without success for the want of snow shoes. Seven volunteer [six, as stated in a subsequent letter] turned out on last Thursday, and came up with them on Saturday about 12 o'clock, when five of the Indians fired upon my men, and the whole missed, upon which the brave volunteers run up and fired upon them with buck-shot and wounded every one of them, took, and killed the whole, and brought in all their packs and guns without ever receiving the least hurt. This intelligence I just received from Co. Veeder, by express from the block-house, where commands sixty men.
"You'll please order up some rum and ammunition for the use of my regiment of militia, being very necessary as the men are daily scouting. Your commands at any time shall be punctually obeyed, by
"Your most humble servant,
"FREDERICK FISHER, Colonel.
"Col. Goshen Van Schaick--sent by express."
In a letter from Co. Fisher to Col. Van Schaick, dated April 13th, the names of the volunteers in the above enterprise are given, and are as follows: Solomon Woodworth, John Eikler, Peter Pruyn, David Putnam, Rulf Vores, and Joseph Mayall. The Indians were overtaken and killed about forty miles north of Sacandaga.
At this period of the war, Marcus Bellinger was supervisor, and William Dietz, a Justice of the Peace for Schoharie. Agreeable to an act of Congress, passed Feb. 12, 1780, assessors were appointed in the frontier districts to ascertain, as nearly as possible, how much grain each family might need for its consumption, that the remainder of the stock might be in readiness for their less provident neighbors or the army. Bellinger gave written certificates to the requisite quantity for each family in his district, and Dietz gave written permits to such as had not a supply, to draw one.
The following particulars were narrated to the author in 1841, by Moses Nelson, then a resident of Otsego county. He stated, that on the morning Cherry-Valley was destroyed, in the fall of 1778, he, then in his 14th year, was at the fort; that when the alarm was given of the enemy's approach, he ran home--some half a mile distant--and, with his mother, then a widow with whom he was living, fled to Lady hill, east of the village; where they remained concealed until the enemy had left. Nelson had four half-brothers at the time, older than himself, who were all in the service of their country. In the month of March following, he enlisted in the bateau service, for a term of ten months, on the Hudson river, rendezvousing at Fishkill. After the time of his enlistment expired, he again returned to Cherry-Valley, and was living with his mother at that place, where a few daring spirits still continued their residence, when, on the 24th of April, 1780, a party of seventy-nine hostile Indians and two tories, broke in upon the settlement. One of the latter, named Bowman, a former resident of the Mohawk valley, was the leader of the band. They had previously been to the vicinity of the Mohawk, where they had made several prisoners; and passing along Bowman's creek--called at its outlet the Canajoharie creek--they captured several more, among whom were two persons named Young. This party killed eight individuals and took fourteen prisoners in this expedition, among the former was the mother of my informant, whose bloody scalp he was compelled to see torn off, and borne off as a trophy.
This band of furies consisted of warriors from various tribes; and among the number were two Stockbridge Indians, one of whom claimed Nelson as his prisoner. The route pursued by the enemy, after completing the work of destruction at that doomed place, was down the Cherry-Valley creek: and from Otsego lake, down the Susquehanna to the Tioga, and thence westward via the Genesee flats to Niagara.
The enemy while returning to Canada, separated into small parties, the better to procure the means of subsistence. The two Stockbridge Indians with whom he journeyed, made a canoe from a bass-wood tree, in which, with their prisoner, they floated down the Susquehanna. At Indian villages, the party usually assembled. At two of those, Nelson had to run the gantlet, but he escaped with little injury. One of the prisoners, an aged man, who ran with a heavy pack on his back, was nearly killed. When Nelson was about to run, his master, who was called Capt. David, took off his pack to give him a fair chance for his life; and on one occasion placed himself at the entrance of a wigwam to which the prisoners were to flee, to witness the feat. Owing to his fleetness, he was not much injured. Said his master as he approached the goal, you did run well. Many of the party--and among the number was his master David, tarried nearly two weeks to plant corn, in the Genesee valley--at which time he was sent forward with David's brother to Niagara, where he arrived after a journey of eighteen days from his captivity.
As one of the Stockbridge Indians was an excellent hunter, Nelson did not suffer for the want of provisions, such as they were. The party, on their start from Cherry-Valley, took along several hogs and sheep, which were killed and then roasted whole, after burning off the hair and wool. On his arrival at Niagara, Nelson was told by his master that he was adopted as an Indian, and was at liberty to hunt, fish or enlist into the British service. Not long after this he was sold into the forester service of the enemy, the duties of which were "to procure wood, water, &c., for the garrison, and do the boating;" being attached to what was called the Indian department. He was sent on one occasion with a party to Buffalo. He was for a while, with several other captives whose situation was like his own, in the employ of Col. John Butler. More than a year of his captivity was spent in the vicinity of Niagara.
In the spring of 1782, when the enemy set about rebuilding Fort Oswego, three officers, Capt. Nellis, Lieut. James Hare, and Ensign Robert Nellis, a son of the captain, all of the forester service, had charge of the Indians there employed. Nelson and two other lads, also prisoners, accompanied this party, which was conveyed in a sloop, as waiters. About one hundred persons were employed in rebuilding this fortress, which occupied most of the season. The winter following, Nelson remained at this fort, and was in it when Col. Willet advanced with a body of troops in February, 1783, with the intention of taking it by surprise. The enterprise is said to have proved abortive in consequence of Co. Willet's guide, who was an Oneida Indian, having lost his way in the night when within only a few miles of the fort. The men were illy provided for their return--certain victory having been anticipated, and their sufferings were, in consequence, very severe. This enterprise was undertaken, says Col. Stone, agreeably to the orders of Gen. Washington; but it certainly added no laurels to the chaplet of the brave Willett.
Col. Willett, possibly, may not have known that Fort Oswego had been so strongly fitted up the preceding year, and consequently the difficulties he had to encounter before its capture--be that as it may, the probability is, that had the attack been made, the impossibility of scaling the walls, would have frustrated the design, with the loss of many brave men. The fort was surrounded by a deep moat, in the centre of which were planted heavy pickets. From the lower part of the walls projected downward and outward, another row of pickets. A draw-bridge enabled the inmates to pass out and in, which was drawn up and secured to the wall every night, and the corners were built out so that mounted cannon commanded the trenches. Two of Willett's men, badly frozen, entered the fort in the morning, surrendering themselves prisoners, from whom the garrison learned the object of the enterprise. The ladders prepared by Willett to scale the walls, were left on his return, and a party of British soldiers went and brought them in. The longest of them," said Nelson, "when placed against the walls inside the pickets, reached only about two thirds of the way to the top." The post was strongly garrisoned, and it was the opinion of Mr. N. that the accident or treachery which misled the troops, was most providential, tending to save Col. Willett from defeat, and most of his men from certain death.
While Nelson was with the two Indians on his way from Cherry-Valley to Niagara, David, his owner, afterwards told him that the other Indian wanted to kill him. He said he replied to his brother--"You must first kill me, then you will have two scalps and be a big man." On their route to Canada, they passed the body of a white man, who had been killed by some other party.
Peace was proclaimed in the spring of 1783, and Nelson, with many other prisoners--none however, who were taken when he was--returned home via Ticonderoga and Fort Edward. Previous to his return he visited Montreal, where he was paid for labor done in the British service the year before.
Several times in April, of this year, the Mohawk river settlements were alarmed by anticipated invasions, but those alarms died away and were not renewed until near the middle of May. The following correspondence addressed to "Col;. Fisher,. At Caughnawaga," gives the earliest reliable testimony of the enemy's approach.
"Fort Paris, May 15th, 1780.
"Sir--I have intelligence which I believe is very certain, that the enemy are on their way, and will attack in four different places in this county within a few days. I hope you will exert yourself to discover them, and make every possible preparation to defeat their design.
"It is expected that they will come by the way of Sacandaga.
"I am your hble servt.
"JACOB KLOCK, Col."
Bearing the same date, Col. Fisher received an anonymous letter written at Caughnawage, stating that an invasion of the enemy under Sir John Johnson was hourly expected, adding as a corroborating circumstance, that a number of his near neighbors, five of whom were named, had gone away the night before to join the invaders. The writer added, that he had written some days previous what he suspected, and that the enemy would be very strong.
Among the Fisher papers on this subject I also find the following:
Schenectada, 17th May, 1780.
"Dear Sir--Just this moment returned from Albany, Col. Van Schaick has requested of me to write to you, requesting you to send me by the bearer, Sergt. Carkeright, an account of all the persons that have gone to the enemy from your county, with their names, which request I wish you to comply with; also let me know if any thing of the alarm has turned up.
"I am, dear sir, your friend,
Nothing more was heard of the enemy until Sunday night the 21st of May, when Sir John Johnson, at the head of about five hundred troops, British, Indians and tories, entered the Johnstown settlements from the expected northern route. The objects of the invasion doubtless were, the recovery of property concealed on his leaving the country, the murder of certain whig partizans, the plunder of their dwellings, and the capture of several individuals as prisoners: intending, by the execution of part of the enterprize, to terrify his former neighbors.
About midnight the destructives arrived in the north east part of the town, from which several of the tories had disappeared the day before, to meet and conduct their kindred spirits to the dwellings of their patriotic neighbors: for when Johnson was censured for the murder of those men, he replied that "their tory neighbors and not himself were blameable for those acts." A party of the enemy proceeded directly to the house of Lodowick Putman, an honest Dutchman, living two miles and a half from the court house. Putman had three sons and two daughters. On the night the enemy broke into his house, two of his sons were fortunately gone sparking a few miles distant. Old Mr. Putman, who was a whig of the times, and his son Aaron who was at home, were taken from their beds, murdered, and scalped. While the Indians were plundering the house and pulling down clothing from hooks along the wall, Mrs. Putman snatched several articles of female apparel, such as gowns, petticoats, & c. from the hands of a large Indian, telling him that such and such things she must and would have for her daughter. The fierce looking savage, whom few women of the present day would care to meet, much less to contend with, offered some resistance to her gaining several garments, and they jerked each other about the room; but seeing her determination to possess them, he finally yielded to her entreaties and prowess, and with a sullen "Umph!" Let go his hold. After the enemy had been gone sometime from the house, Mrs. Putman and her daughter Hannah, afterwards the wife of Jacob Shew, Esq., leaving the mangled remains of their murdered friends, proceeded to the Johnstown fort, where they arrived about sun-rise. The jail was palisaded, and, with several block-houses built within the inclosure, constituted the Johnstown fort.
At this period, one of Putman's daughters was married to Amasa Stevens, also a whig, living in the neighborhood. While some of the enemy were at Putman's, another party approached the dwelling of Stevens, and forcing the doors and windows, entered it from different directions at the same instant. Poor Stevens was also dragged from his bed, and compelled to leave his house. Mrs. Stevens, in the act of leaving the bed, desired a stout savage, or a painted tory, as she afterwards supposed, not to allow the Indians to hurt her husband. He forced her back upon the bed with her terrified children, a boy, named after his grandfather, two and a half years old, and an infant daughter named Clarissa, telling her she should not be hurt. A few rods from the house Stevens was murdered, scalped and hung upon the garden fence. After the enemy had left the dwelling, Mrs. Stevens looked out to see if she could discover any one about the premises. She had supposed her husband taken by them into captivity; but seeing in the uncertain star-light the almost naked form of a man leaning upon the fence, she readily imagined it to be that of her husband. In a tremulous voice she several times called "Amasa! Amasa!" but receiving no answer she ran to the fence. God only knows what her mental agony was, on arriving there and finding her husband stiffening in death. With almost supernatural strength she took down the body and bore it into the dwelling, (which, with Putman's, had been spared the incendiary torch from motives of policy,) and depositing it, sprinkled with the scalding tears of blighted affection, she snatched the two pledges of her early love and sought safety in flight to the fort; where she found her surviving relatives.
The amorous Putman brothers set out on their return home towards day-light, from what is now called Sammons' Hollow, and discovering the light of the burning buildings at Tribes' Hill, they hastily directed their steps to the fort, meeting at the gate-way their mourning relatives.
Stevens had just finished planting when murdered, and the next week purposed to have journeyed eastward with his family. The Putmans were killed on the farm now owned and occupied by Col. Archibald McIntyre. They were both buried in one grave in a single rough box; and while their neighbors were performing the act of burial, they were once alarmed by the supposed approach of the enemy and left the grave, but soon returned and filled it. --Clarissa, relict of Joseph Leach, and daughter of Amasa Stevens.
Dividing his forces, Col. Johnson sent part of them, mostly Indians and tories, to Tribes' Hill; under the direction, as believed of Henry and William Bowen, two brothers who had formerly lived in that vicinity and removed with the Johnsons to Canada. These destructives were to fall upon the Mohawk river settlements at the Hill, and proceed up its flats, while Johnson led the remainder in person by a western route to Caughnawage, the appointed place for them to unite. The Bowens led their followers through Albany Bush, a tory settlement in the eastern part of the town, where, of course, no one was molested, and directed their steps to the dwelling of Capt. Garret Putman, a noted whig. Putman, who had a son named Victor, also a whig, had been ordered to Fort Hunter but a few days before, and had removed his family thither; renting his house to William Gault, an old English gardener who had resided in Cherry-Valley before its destruction, and Thomas Plateau, also an Englishman. Without knowing that the Putman house had changed occupants, the enemy surrounded it, forced an entrance, and tomahawked and scalped its inmates. The house was then pillaged and set on fire, and its plunderers knew not until next day, that they had obtained the scalps of two tories. In the morning, Gault, who was near eighty years old, was discovered alive outside the dwelling, and was taken across the river to Fort Hunter, where wounds were properly drest, but he soon after died.
Among the early settlers in the Mohawk valley was Harman Visscher, who died before the Revolution, leaving an aged widow, three sons, Frederick a colonel7 of militia, John a captain, and Harman; and two sisters, Margaret and Rebecca. Frederick the elder brother, who was born on the 22d of February, 1741; was married and resided a little distance below the paternal dwelling, which stood nearly on the site of the present residence of the Hon. Jesse D. De Graff. The other Fisher brothers were unmarried, and, with their mother and sisters, lived at the homestead. The Fisher family was one of much influence, and warmly advocated the popular cause. The following anecdote will show the position of the elder brother, at an early period of the contest. Soon after the difficulties commenced at Boston, a meeting of the citizens along the Mohawk valley was called at Tribes' Hill, on which occasion Col. John Butler was present, and harrangued the multitude on the duties of subjects to their sovereign, &c., and then proposed a test for his bearers, some three hundred in number. Having formed a line, he desired those who were willing to oppose the king, to remain standing, and those who favored royal pretensions to advance a few paces forward. The result was, Frederick Fisher stood alone, as the only avowed opposer of the British government.--David, his son.
A few days before the invasion of Johnson, a bateau from Schenectada was seen opposite Col. Fisher's, taking in his most valuable effects; and his neighbors, living along the south side of the river, among whom was Nicholas Quackenboss, crossed over to learn the cause of his removal. On his arrival, the neighbor enquired of Col. Fisher if an enemy was expected, that he was thus preparing to move his family and effects? The colonel replied that he knew of no hostile movement unknown to his neighbors. After a little conversation of the kind, and when about to recross the river, said Quackenboss, clenching his fist in a threatening manner and addressing him playfully in Low Dutch, "ah, colonel! If you know something of the enemy and don't let us know it, I hope you'll be the first one scalped!" Having sent his family to Schenectada, Col. Fisher went to the homestead, thinking himself and brothers would be the better able to defend themselves, if attacked by an enemy.
On Sunday evening, about eight o'clock, Captain Walter Vrooman, of Guilderland, arrived at the Fisher dwelling with a company of eighty men, on his way to the Johntown fort. He had intended to quarter his men over night at Fisher's, for their own comfort and the safety of the family; but the colonel, observing that himself and brothers could probably defend the house if attacked, forwarded the troops to Johntown, knowing that that place was feebly garrisoned.
After the murder of Gault and Plateau, the enemy proceeded up the river to the dwelling of Capt. Henry Hansen, which stood where John Fisher now resides.8 On reaching the dwelling of Hansen, who was an American captain, the enemy forced an entrance - and taking him from his bed they murdered and scalped him. His sons, Victor and John I., then at home were captured. Margaret, a daughter, was hurried out of the house by an Indian, who told her it was on fire. She asked him to aid her in carrying out the bed on which she had been sleeping, and he did so. Depositing it in an old Indian hut near by, and learning that her mother was still in the burning building, finding access through the door too dangerous, she broke a window in her room and called to her. As may be supposed, the old lady was greatly terrified and bewildered at first; but recovering, she groped her way to the window, and was helped out by her daughter, who assisted her to the hut - from whence, after day light she was conveyed to a place of safety. The enemy made no female scalps or captives at this time, and offered indignities to but few of the sex. In the garret of Hansen's dwelling was a keg of power, which exploded with terrific effect.
Proceeding west along the river, the enemy next halted at the dwelling of Barney Hansen, which stood where Benj. R. Jenkins now lives. Hansen, who chanced to be from home, had a son about ten years of age, who was then going to school at Fort Hunter. On Saturday evening preceding the invasion, Peter, a son of Cornelius Putman, of Ca-daugh-ri-ty,9 about the same age as young Hansen, went home with the latter, crossing the river in a boat, to tarry with him over Sunday. The lads slept in a bunk, which, on retiring to rest on Sunday night, was drawn before the outside door; and the first intimation of the family had of the enemy's proximity, was their heavy blows upon the door with an axe, just before daylight, sending the splinter's upon the boys' bed, causing them to bury their heads beneath the bedding. An entrance was quickly forced, and the house plundered. The boys were led out by two Indians, and claimed as prisoners, but owing to the earnest entreaties of Mrs. Hansen that they might be left, a British officer interfered, saying that they were to young too endure the journey: they were then liberated. This house was built and owned by Joseph Clement, a tory, who was supposed to have been present; consequently, it was not burned.
From the house of Barney Hansen, the enemy proceeded to that of Col. Fisher, where Adam Zielie now resides, and where, too, they were disappointed in not finding any of the family: plundering and setting it on fire, they hastened onward to the Fisher homestead, where they arrived just at daylight. Among the plunder made at Hansen's, was the clothing of young Putman, and as the Indians threw away such articles as they considered useless, he followed them at a distance, recovering and putting on his apparel as fast as rejected. He obtained the last of it near the dwelling of Col. Fisher - entering which he discovered it to be on fire. Looking for pails he found several which the enemy had broken, but a further search discovered a tub of sour milk: this he drew near the fire, and throwing it on the flames, with his hands extinguished them - not, however, until a large hole had been burned entirely through the floor. This house was consumed in October following.
About twenty of the enemy first arrived at the old Fisher place, and attempted to force an entrance by cutting in the door, but being fired upon from a window by the intrepid inmates, they retreated round a corner of the house, nearly three hundred in number, arrived soon after and joined in the attack. The brothers defended the house for some length of time after the enemy gained entrance below, and a melee followed in the stairway, on their attempting to ascend. Several balls were fired up through the floor, - the lower room not being plastered over head, which the brothers avoided by standing over the large timbers which supported it. At this period the sisters escaped from the cellar-kitchen, and fled to the woods not far distant. They were met in their flight by a party of savages, who snatched from the head of one, a bonnet; and from the bosom of the other a neckerchief - but were allowed to escape unhurt. Mrs. Fisher, about to follow her daughters from the house, was stricken down at the door by a blow on the head from the butt of a musket, and left without being scalped.
The brothers returned the fire of their assailants for a while with spirit, but getting out of ammunition their castle was no longer tenable; and Harman, jumping from a back window, attempted to escape by flight. In the act of leaping a garden fence, a few rods from the house, he was shot, and there killed and scalped. As the enemy ascended the stairs, Col. Fisher discharged a pistol he held in his hand, and calling for quarters, threw it behind him in token of submission. An Indian, running up, struck him a blow on the head with a tomahawk, which brought him to the floor. He fell upon his face, and the Indian took two crown scalps from his head, which no doubt entitled him to a double reward, then giving him a gash in the back of the neck, he turned him and attempted to cut his throat, which was only prevented by his cravat, the knife penetrating just through the skin. His brother, Capt. Fisher, as the enemy ascended the stairs, retreated to one corner of the room, in which was a quantity of peas, that he might there repel his assailants. An Indian, seeing him armed with a sword, hurled a tomahawk at his head, which brought him down. He was then killed outright, scalped as he lay upon the grain, and there left. The house was plundered, and then set on fire, (as stated by Wm. Bowen, who returned after the war,) with a chemical match, conveyed upon the roof by an arrow.
Leaving the progress of the distructives for a time, let us follow the fortunes of Col. Fisher. After the enemy had left, his consciousness returned, and as soon as strength would allow, he ascertained that his brother John was dead. From a window he discovered that the house was on fire, which no doubt quickened his exertions: Descending, he found his mother near the door, faint from the blow dealt upon her head, and too weak to render him any assistance. With no little effort the colonel succeeded in removing the body of his brother out of the house, and then assisted his mother, who was seated in a chair,10 the bottom of which had already caught fire, to a place of safety; and having carried out a bed, he laid down upon it, at a little distance from the house, in a state of exhaustion. Tom, a black slave, belonging to Adam Zielie, was the first neighbor to arrive at Fisher's. He inquired of the colonel what he should do for him? Fisher could not speak, but signified by signs his desire for water. Tom ran down to the Da-de-nos-ca-ra,11 a brook running through a ravine a little distance east of the house, and filling his old hat, the only substitute for a vessel at hand, he soon returned with it; a drink of which restored the wounded patriot to consciousness and speech. His neighbor, Joseph Clement, arrived at Fisher's while the colonel lay upon the bed, and on being asked by Tom Zielie what they should do for him, unblushingly replied in Low Dutch, "Laat de vervlukten rabble starven!" Let the cursed rebel die!
Tom, who possessed a feeling heart, was not to be suaded from his Samaritan kindness, by the icy coldness of his tory neighbor, and instantly set about relieving the suffering man's condition. Uriah Bowen arrived about the time Tom returned with the water, and assisted in removing the dead and wounded farther from the burning building. Col. Fisher directed Tom to harness a span of colts, then in a pasture near, (which, as the morning was very foggy, had escaped the notice of the enemy,) before a wagon, and take him to the river at David Putman's. The colts were soon harnessed, when the bodies of the murdered brothers, and those of Col. Fisher and his mother, were put into the wagon, (the two latter upon the bed,) and it moved forward. The noise of the wagon was heard by the girls, who came from their concealment to learn the fate of the family, and join the mournful group. When the wagon arrived near the bank of the river, several tories were present, who refused to assist in carrying the Fishers down the bank to the canoe, whereupon Tom took the colts by their heads, and led them down the bank; and what was then considered remarkable, they went as steadily as old horses, although never before harnessed. The family were taken into a boat and carried across the river to Ephraim Wemple's, where every attention was paid them. When a person is scalped, the skin falls upon the face so as to disfigure the countenance; but on its being drawn up on the crown of the head, the resumes its natural look; such was the case with Col. Fisher, as stated by an eye witness.
Seeing the necessity of his having proper medical attention, Col. Fisher's friends on the south side of the river, sent him forward in the canoe by trusty persons, to Schenectada, where he arrived just at dark the same day of his misfortune. There he received the medical attendance of Doctors Mead of that place, Stringer, of Albany, and two surgeons, belonging to the U. S. army. His case was for some time a critical one, and he did not recover as was anticipated; but on turning him over, the reason why he did not was obvious. The wound inflicted by the scalping knife in the back of the neck, had escaped the observation of his attendants, and the flies getting into it, and depositing their larva, had rendered it an offensive sore, but on its being properly dressed, the patient recovered rapidly. At the time Col. Fisher received his wounds, Nicholas Quackenboss previously mentioned, happened to be at Albany, purchasing fish and other necessaries, and on learning that his neighbor was at Schenectada, called, on his way home, to see him. On inquiring of Fisher how he did, the latter, placing his hand on his wounded head, replied in Dutch, "Well, Nicholas, you've had your wish!" The reader must not suppose, from what took place between Fisher and Quackenboss, at the two interviews named, that the former at the time of removing his family, was in possession of any intelligence of the enemy unknown to his neighbors. It was then notorious in the valley that an invasion was to be apprehended.
Several attempts were made to capture Col. Fisher during the war, which proved abortive. After he recovered, he gave the faithful negro12 who had treated him so kindly when suffering under the wounds of the enemy, a valuable horse. Gov. George Clinton, as a partial reward for his sufferings and losses in the war, appointed Col. Fisher a brigadier general; but refusing to equip himself, his commission, which was dated February 6, 1787, was succeeded on the 7th of March following, by his appointment of first judge of the Montgomery county common pleas.
After the war was over, a party of Indians on their way to Albany halted a day or two at Caughnawaga, among whom was the one who had tomahawked and scalped Col. Fisher, in 1780, leaving him for dead. This Indian could not credit the fact of his being still alive, as he said he had himself cut his throat; and was desirous of having ocular demonstration of his existence, and possibly would have been gratified by the family, but information having reached the ears of the colonel that his tormentor was in the valley, a spirit of revenge fired his breast, and himself and John Stoner, then living with him, who, in the murder of his father, had some reason for not kindly greeting those sons of the forest; having prepared several loaded guns, the friends of the family very properly warned the Indian and his fellows, not to pass the house within rifle shot distance; which hint was duly taken, and serious consequences thus avoided. Judge Fisher - a living monument of savage warfare - was an active and useful citizen of the Mohawk valley for many years, and died of a complaint in the head - caused, as was supposed, by the loss of his scalp, on the 9th day of June, 1809. His widow, whose maiden name was Gazena De Graff, died in 1815.
Some years after the Revolution, Judge Fisher, or Visscher, as it is now written by several of the family, to whom the homestead reverted on the death of his brothers, erected a substantial brick dwelling over the ashes of his birth place, where he spent the evening of his days amid, the associations of youthful pleasure and manly suffering. This desirable farm residence, a view of which is shown in the plate opposite, (below)
is pleasantly situated on the rise of ground in the town of Mohawk, several miles east of Fonda, Montgomery county. It is given the Indian name of the adjoining creek, in the hope of preserving that name. Between the house and the river, which it fronts, may be seen the Mohawk turnpike, and the track of the Utica and Schenectada railroad. The place is now owned and occupied by Mr. De Graff, who married a grand-daughter of its former patriotic proprietor.
From this digression, let us return to the war-path of the enemy. They captured three negroes and a wench belonging to the Fisher family; burnt Fisher's barn, and in it, as supposed, their own dead, killed by the brothers; from whence they proceeded to the dwelling of Barney Wemple, a little farther up the river - which was rifled and burnt with the out-buildings attached. Wemple had sent a slave, before daylight, to catch horse, who, hearing the firing, and discovering the light of the burning buildings down the valley, ran to the house and gave the appalling intelligence that a sleepless foe was near. Thus alarmed, the family fled, almost naked, into a small swamp, just in time to escape the tomahawk. Wemple erected a dwelling on the site of his former one, soon after it was burnt, which shared a similar fate during Johnson's invasion of the valley the following October. In their course up the river, the enemy also burnt the out-buildings of Peter Conyne, the dwelling of John Wemple, and possibly one or two others. Arriving at Caughnawaga, the destruction of property was renewed. Douw Fonda, who removed from Schenectada and settled at that place, about the year 1751, (the same year in which Harman Fisher settled below,) was an aged widower, and resided, at the time of which I am writing, with a few domestics, in a large stone dwelling with wings, which stood on the flats between the present turnpike and the river, a few rods east of the road now leading to the bridge. It had been the intention of the citizens to fortify this dwelling, and it was partially surrounded by strong pickets. Fonda's three sons, John,13 Jelles, and Adam, also good whigs, were living in the neighborhood.
Jelles Fonda14 resided a short distance below the Caughnawaga church, owning a large dwelling and store, which stood where C. Hempsted now resides. At the time of this invasion, he was absent on public business. About a week previous, he sent part of his family and effects in a bateau to Schenectada, to which place they were accompanied by the wife and children of John Fonda. The wife of Major Fonda and her son Douw, were at home, however, on that morning. Hearing the firing at Fisher's, and discovering the light of the burning buildings below, Mrs. Fonda and her son fled to the river near, where there was a ferry. Remaining in the ferry-boat, she sent Douw to get two horses, and being gone some time, her fears were excited lest he had been captured. As her apprehensions for her son's safety increased, she called him repeatedly by name. He returned with the horses and they began to cross the river, but had hardly reached its centre, when several of the enemy, attracted to the spot by her voice, arrived on the bank they had left. A Volley of balls passed over the boat without injuring its inmates, and leaving it upon the south shore, they mounted their horses, and directed their course towards Schenectada, where they safely arrived in due time.
Adam Fonda, at the time of Johnson's invasion, resided near the Cayadutta creek, where Douw Fonda now does. Arriving at Adam Fonda's, the enemy made him a prisoner, and fired his dwelling. Margaret, (Peggy, as she was called,) the widow of Barney Wemple, lived near Fonda, and where Mina Wemple now lives, at which place she then kept a public house. The enemy making her son, Mina, a prisoner, locked her up in her own dwelling and set it on fire. From an upper window, she made the valley echo to her cries of murder and help, which brought some one to her relief. Her voice arrested the attention of John Fonda, who sent one of his slaves round the knoll which formerly stood west of the Fonda Hotel, to learn the cause of alarm; but hardly had the slave returned, before the enemy's advance from both parties was there also, making Fonda a prisoner, and burning his dwelling.
The eastern party, on arriving at the dwelling of Maj. Fonda, plundered and set it on fire. There were then few goods in his store; but his dwelling contained some rare furniture for that period, among which was a musical clock, that at certain hours performed three several tunes. The Indians would have saved this house for the great respect they had for its owner, but their more than savage allies, the tories, insisted on its destruction. As the devouring element was consuming the dwelling, the clock began to perform, and the Indians, in numbers, gathered round in mute astonishment, to listen to its melody. They supposed it the voice of a spirit, which they may have thought was pleased with them for the manner in which they were serving tyranny. Of the plunder made at this dwelling, was a large circular mirror, which a citizen in concealment saw, first in the hands of a squaw, but it being a source of envy it soon passed into the hands of a stout Indian - not however without a severe struggle on her part. The Indians were extravagantly fond of mirrors, and it is not unlikely this costly one was broken in pieces and divided between them. Among the furniture destroyed in the house, was a marble table on which stood the statue of an Indian, whose head rested on a pivot, which, from the slightest motion was continually -
When the alarm first reached the family of Douw Fonda, Penelope Grant, a Scotch girl living with him, to whom the old gentleman was much attracted, urged him to accompany her to the hill whither the Romeyn family were fleeing; but the old patriot had become childish, and seizing his gun he exclaimed - "Penelope, do you stay here with me - I will fight for you to the last drop of blood!" Finding persuasion of no avail, she left him to his fate, which was indeed a lamentable one; for soon the enemy arrived, and he was led out by a Mohawk Indian, known as One Armed Peter (he having lost an arm) toward the bank of the river, where he was tomahawked and scalped. As he was led from the house, he was observed by John Hansen, a prisoner, to have some kind of a book and a cane in his hand. His murderer had often partaken of his hospitality, having lived for many years in his neighborhood. When afterwards reproved for this murder, he replied that as it was the intention of the enemy to kill him, he thought he might as well get the bounty for his scalp as any one else! Mr. Fonda had long been a warm personal friend of Sir William Johnson, and it is said that Sir John much regretted his death, and censured the murderer. This Indian, Peter, was the murderer of Capt. Hansen, on the same morning. With the plunder made at Douw Fonda's were four male slaves and one female, who were all taken to Canada. Several other slaves were of the plunder made in the neighborhood, and doubtless became incorporated with the Canada Indians.15
An incident of no little interest is related by an eye witness from the hill, as having occurred in this vicinity on the morning of this invasion. A little distance in advance of the enemy, a man was seen in a wagon which contained several barrels, urging his horses forward. Despairing of making his escape with the wagon, he abandoned it, and mounting one of his horses he drove to the river, into which they plunged and swam across with him in safety. On reaching the wagon, the barrels were soon found to contain rum, which had been destined to one of the frontier forts. Knocking in the head of a cask, the Indians were beginning to drink and gather round with shouts of merriment, when a British officer dressed in green came up, and with a tomahawk hacked the barrels in pieces, causing the liquor to run upon the ground, to the mortification of his tawny associates, who dispersed with evident displeasure. - Mrs. Penelope Forges. Her maiden name was Grant.
The enemy, led by Col. Johnson in person, on their way to Caughnawaga, plundered and burned the dwellings of James Davis, one Van Brochlin and Sampson Sammons. - Mrs. John Fonda. Sammons with his sons, Jacob, Frederick and Thomas, were captured, but himself and youngest son, Thomas, were set at liberty: the other two were carried to Canada. For an account of their sufferings, see Life of Brant.
Cornelius Smith, who lived two miles west of Major Fonda, on the morning of Johnson's invasion, was going to mill,16 and called just after daylight at Johannes Veeder's. The latter was then at Schenectada, but his son, Simon, (afterwards a judge of Montgomery county,) who resided with him, was at home, and had arisen. On his way to Veeder's, Smith had discovered the smoke of the Sammons dwelling, but being unable to account for it, continued his journey, and was captured just below. Mr. Veeder, who had accompanied Smith toward the road from hearing the discharge of musketry down the valley, soon after his neighbor was out of sight, beheld to his surprise a party of Indians approaching him from that direction; upon which he ran to his house, (which stood a little distance above the present village of Fonda, where a namesake now resides,) pursed by them. He alarmed his family, which consisted of Gilbert Van Deusen, Henry Vrooman, a lame man, and James Terwilleger, a German; and several women and slaves. The three men snatched each a gun and fled from a back door, Vrooman with his boots in his hand; and as Veeder, minus a hat, was following them with a gun in each hand, the enemy opened the front door. They leveled their guns but did not fire, supposing, possibly, that he would be intimidated and surrender himself a prisoner. As Veeder left the house, the women fled down cellar for safety. The fugitives had to pass a board fence a few rods from the house, and as Veeder was leaping it, several of the enemy fired on him, three of their balls passing through the board beneath him. One of his comrades drew up to return the fire, but Veeder, fearing it might endanger the safety of the women, would not permit him to. The house was then plundered, and after removing the women from the cellar, an act, I suppose, of an Indian acquaintance, the house was fired, and with it several out buildings. The dwellings of Abraham Veeder, Col. Volkert Veeder, that of Smith already named, and those of two of the Vroomans, situated above, also shared a similar fate, and became a heap of ruins. - Volkert, a son of Simon Veeder.
At this period, George Eacker resided where Jacob F. Dockstader now does, just below the Nose. Having discovered the fire of the burning buildings down the valley, he sent his family into the woods on the adjoining mountain, but remained himself to secure some of his effects. While thus busily engaged, several of the enemy arrived and made him prisoner. As they began to plunder his house, they sent him into the cellar to procure them food. On entering it, he discovered an outside door ajar; passing which, he fled for the woods. As they thought his stay protracted, the Indians entered the cellar, and had the mortification to see their late prisoner climbing the hill, beyond the reach of their guns. Finding his family, he led them to a place of greater security in the forest, where they remained until the present danger was past, and their buildings reduced to ashes. - David Eacker, first judge of Montgomery county at his death.
The enemy proceeded at this time as far west as the Nose, destroying a new dwelling, ashery, &c., just then erected by Major Jelles Fonda. - Mrs. John Fonda.
When Sir John Johnson removed from Johnstown to Canada, a faithful slave owned by him, buried, after he had left, his most valuable papers and a large quantity of silver coin, in an iron chest, in the garden, at Johnson Hall. Among the confiscated property of Sir John sold at auction, was this very slave. He was bought by Col. Volkert Veeder, and no persuasion could induce him to reveal any secrets of his former master. This slave was recovered by Johnson on the morning of his invasion; and returned to the Hall with his first owner, he disinterred the iron chest, and the contents were obtained. Some of the papers, from having been several years in the ground, were almost destroyed. This slave, although well treated by Col. Veeder, was glad of an opportunity to join Col. Johnson, (who had made him a confidant,) and accompany him to Canada. - Mrs. Fonda.
Several boys were captured along the river, who were liberated at Johnson Hall, and returned home, among whom were James Romeyn, and Mina Wemple. The latter, hearing the proposition made by Sir John, to allow the boys to return, who was rather larger than any of the others, stepped in among them saying, me too! me too! and was finally permitted to accompany them off; and returned to the ashes of her inn, to console his mother. Thomas Sammons, Abraham Veeder, and John Fonda, (and possibly some others) were also permitted, on certain conditions, to return home; the latter, and his brother Adam, casting lots to see which should be retained a prisoner. The captives thus liberated, were given a pass, by Col. Johnson, lest they might meet some of the enemy, and be retaken. They had not proceeded far when Veeder, (who was a brother of Col. Volkert Veeder,) halted, to read his pass. "Well," said his companion, Fonda, in Low Dutch, "you may stop here to read your pass, if you choose, but I prefer reading mine when out of danger of them red devils of Sir John's." - Evert Yates.
Colonels Harper and Volkert Veeder, collected, as speedily as possible, the scattered militia of Tryon county, to pursue the invaders, but being too weak successfully to give them battle, they were permitted, almost unmolested, to escape with their booty to Canada. John J. Hanson, captured at Tribes' Hill, after journeying with the enemy two days, effected his escape, and arrived half-starved, at the dwelling of a German, living back of Stone Arabia, who supplied him with food, and he reached Fort Hunter in safety. - Mrs. Evert Yates.
"Brant had lived with his wife for some time previous, according to the Indian custom, without marriage; but now insisted that the marriage ceremony should be performed. This was accordingly done by Col. Butler, who was still considered a magistrate. After the war he removed with his nation to Canada. There he was employed in transacting important business for his tribe. He went out to England after the war, and was honorably received there."--Memoirs of Dr. Wheelock---see N.Y. Hist. Coll.
Joseph Brant died on the 24th November, 1807, at his residence near the head of Lake Ontario, in the 65th year of his age. Not long before that event, the British government refused, for the first time, to confirm a sale of lands made by that chief, which mortified him very much. The sale was afterwards confirmed, at which he was so much elated, that he got into a frolick, that is said to have laid the foundation for his sickness, and resulted in his death. The wife of Brant, who was very dignified in her appearance, would not converse in English before strangers, notwithstanding she could speak it fluently.