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History of Wyoming
Charles Miner
1845

 

History of Wyoming, by Charles Miner, in a series of letters, this son William Penn Miner, Esq

Letter XI

Our letter commences with the opening year, and we find ourselves at the beginning of 1771, in the midst of the Pennimite and Yankee war, already of two full years duration. At the close of 1770, we have recorded the Captain Stewart and his followers descended like a whirlwind on the garrison left by Capt. Ogden, expelled them from the valley, and held undivided sway over Wyoming.

On learning the fact of the arrest and violent release of Stewart, together with his subsequent descent and victory upon the disputed lands, a new warrant was issued by Judge Willing for his apprehension, and a larger sum offered as a bounty for his capture and safe delivery in prison. Peter Hacklein, Esq. was now sheriff of Northampton, in place of Jennings, who has figured so conspicuously in our preceding pages, and with whom we cannot part without the prooffer of our testimony to his merits as a vigilant and enterprising officer, who performed his whole duty as a faithful magistrate of Pennsylvania.

Captain Amos Ogden was again placed at the head of the military, and acted as before, the undisputed leader of the expedition although ostensibly under the direction of the civil magistrate: he was accompanied by a brother, Nathan Ogden. So far as we can learn, his first campaign, probably a young man whose ambition was aroused by the gathering laurels around his brother’s brow; and he too would seek reputation in the stirring scenes of the Wyoming contest.

So vigorous had been the efforts on the part of the proprietary government, that in less than 30 days from the expulsion of the Pennsylvania party, although in the depth of winter, a force of more than 100 men was displayed before Fort Durkee. But as a prudent officer, Ogden directed his first efforts to provide shelter and defense for his men. His old position at Mill Creek, was not only in ashes, but too far from his enemy. Such was his courage, he could not be brought to near them. Ground was broken and a fortification commenced on the bank of the river, 60 rods above Fort Durkee, at which his force wrought with such spirit, that in three or four days it was inhabitable. The baggage being secured, and a tolerable defense from a sudden attack prepared, Sheriff Hacklein, as civil officer, proceeded to Fort Durkee, declared his name and character, and demanded the surrender of the fortress, and all persons within it, in the name of the authorities of Pennsylvania. Captain Stewart's men were all in their quarters, not intending to attack were ready to repel aggression; Stewart himself, with four or five trusty friends, stood on the battlements prepared to answer. To the summons he replied:-"That he had taken possession in the name and behalf of the colony of Connecticut, in whose jurisdiction they were; and in that name, and by that authority he would defend it." Doubtless, the use of the name of Connecticut was unwarranted and improper; for so far, that colony was, officially, uncommitted in the civil war, although in fact almost all the members of the government, in their individual capacity, were exerting their utmost influence to forward the interest of the Susquehanna Company, of which they were component parts, and shareholders. But the use of the name imparted consideration to the Yankee cause, and therefore it was boldly exercised.

Sheriff Hecklein withdrew, and every nerve was exerted to finish the defenses of four Wyoming, (for so was the new fortress named,) and to prepare for a vigorous prosecution of the war.

On the 20th of January 1771, Captain Amos Ogden, drew out in armed array, and accompanied by his brother Nathan, marched forth to attempt the reduction of Fort Durkee. Stewart and his men were ready. Two more daring leaders never met. To part without a battle appeared improbable, and blood seemed destined again to flow in this unhappy contest. A preemptory demand was made for the surrender of the Fort, and as peremptorily refused; when Ogden opened fire, which was promptly returned. At the first volley, several of Ogden's men fell, and among the number, Nathan was mortally wounded by his side. Of the deceased, we know nothing, except that he was brother to as gallant and noble a spirit as ever gained laurels or gathered cyprus on a tented field. Amos, peradventure had persuaded him to leave his peaceful home, and engage in the expedition. In the bitterness of his grief, in the spirit, though not the words of David, we may conceive him explaining in pathetic strain:-"My brother,! Oh, my brother! Would to God I had died for thee." Little could our sympathies affect the survivor-less, could our regrets avail the dead; but every feeling breast will heave a sigh of pity for the living, and the eye shed a tear of unaffected sorrow for the fate of him who fell. It was the fortune of war. It was in fair open fight. He had chosen his lot. If his mother wept, so too wept many mothers for the loss of sons in this sharply contested conflict. Their bones rest together; they repose, side-by-side, on the lovely fields their valor sought to win.-Piece to their gallant shades!

Taking with them the lifeless body, and the three wounded men, the besieging party withdrew unmolested by the garrison, and slowly retraced their melancholy way to their own fortifications.

Irritated as the proprietary government already was known to be against Captain Stewart; exasperated as, from recent events, they would assuredly become, Captain Stewart wisely thought, that a free foot on the mountains would be safer for him, and better for his friends, than confinement within the limits of the wooden fortress, however spiritedly defended. In the night following the battle, taking with him 20 or 30 trusty followers, he abandoned Fort Durkee, leaving about 20 persons, least obnoxious to the vengeance of the enemy. With the break of morning, his retreat was known to Captain Ogden, who, forthwith, took possession of the Fort, and as was the invariable custom, sent the garrison to jail, at Easton; Sheriff Hacklein returning with them in charge. This, the reader will observe, was the fifth total expulsion of the Yankees.

An additional reward of 300 pounds was now offered for the arrest of Stewart, and the governor in his communication to the assembly, represented the killing of Nathan Ogden, as a treacherous murder, demanding prompt and condign punishment.

Captain Ogden now devoted himself insidiously to rendering Fort Wyoming impregnable, so far as his means would admit, to any force the Yankees could muster to assail it. February and March passed away without the slightest interruption, or even note of alarm. Too to be again so caught, Ogden this time, less assured that his conquest was safe, had remained with his men, to defend what they had purchased at, to him, a price of dear. It was well, though in vain, he did so, for early in April Captain Zubulon Butler, with Captain Stewart as an assistant, accompanied by an hundred and fifty armed men, entered the valley, and forthwith laid vigorous siege to Fort Wyoming. Three redoubts were thrown up, one on the opposite side of the river, chiefly with a view to cut off all access to water;-one on the river bank, between forts Durkee and Wyoming; the other one on the hill, known ever since and as "The Redoubt," by the canal basin, at the upper part of the town of Wilkes-Barre. The cannon, which had been carefully hid by the Yankees, too precious to be exposed to capture by a sortie, was placed on this elevation, and with skillful gunners, would have completely commanded Ogden's position. But distance and want of skill rendered it in a very slight degree effective

Among the new body of emigrants, were two of the Gore family, from Norwich, (whose names will fill a bright and bloody page in our subsequent annals.) Obadiah Gore, Esq. the father, and Daniel Gore his son, blacksmiths by trade, full of ardor, and replete with the Yankee ingenuity. They conceived the design of adding to the ordinance, a new cannon. A large pepperage log that was fashioned, bored, and then hooped from breach to muzzle with stout bands of iron.-painted black, with a red mouth, and mounted on a wagon;-its appearance at least it was sufficiently formidable. The first discharge excited at once admiration and hope among its friends. Reloaded, a heavier charge was driven home that a corresponding execution might be produced,-the cannon split, and so terrible was the explosion that one of the iron bands, thrown 1000 feet across the Susquehanna, was afterwards found in the willows on the river shore.

To courage no way inferior to that of Ogden, the Connecticut party, and Captain Butler, had a commander, skilled in the arts of war by long service, and so thorough was the investment, and so closely pressed, that not a man could venture out for food, fuel, or water, without being met by a volley from one of the redoubts. The garrison, containing nearly an hundred soles, soon felt the pressure of actual want, (for all were placed on short allowance,) and the dread of approaching famine. Husbanding his resources however, in the most prudent manner, and in the darkness and stillness of night bringing out from the river sufficient water to last through the day, Ogden determined to hold out to the last extremity. But without aid, time must exhaust his provisions, and then to surrender would be inevitable. The descend of Captain Butler had been made with such a secrecy and celerity that not the slightest notice of his approach had been received, and instantly the Fort had been so completely surrounded, no messenger could be dispatched to the proprietary government, which was entirely ignorant of the recent events which had transpired at Wyoming, and the relief demanded by the critical state of the garrison. To convey intelligence to headquarters opened the only avenue of hope, and Ogden, as the achievement demanded the utmost boldness, promptitude in wisdom, determined to be himself the messenger. The deed alone was sufficient to immortalize any man, and stamp his name with the title of hero. A little past midnight on the 12th of July, when all was quiet, one of the Yankee sentinels saw something floating on the river having a very suspicious appearance. A shot awakened attention, and directed the eyes of every other sentinel to the spot. A volley was poured in, but producing no apparent effect: the thing still floating gently with the current the firing was suspended, while the "wonder grew" what the object could be. Captain Ogden had tied his clothes in a bundle, and fastened his hat to the top; to this was connected a string of several yards in length which he fastened to his arm. Letting himself noiselessly into the water, swimming on his back so deeply as only to allow his lips to breathe-the whole movement demanding the most extraordinary skill and self possession, he floated down, drawing the bundle after him. As he had calculated, this being the only objects apparent, drew the fire of his foes. He escaped unhurt, and when out of danger dressed himself in his drenched clothing and hat, perforated with bullets, and with the speed of the roebuck was in the city on the third day, having accomplished 120 miles through a most rough and inhospitable wilderness. The services of that man, we are sure, have never been justly appreciated, and we fear have not been fairly rewarded.

Instantly the whole city was in commotion. 300 pounds were drawn from the public treasury to raise recruits. Captain Dick was hastened forward, Ogden in company, with a strong convoy of provisions. Captain Morris and his company was directed to follow with the least possible delay. Col. Asher Clayton, a veteran of the French war, who was to have the chief command, (nominally, we presume, for it cannot be imagined Ogden would be superseded,) was ordered with a strong force to hasten his March. Captain Ledlie was put in requisition to follow with as much expedition as circumstances would admit.

In the meantime, while this apparently overpowering storm was gathering for his destruction, Captain Butler pushed on the siege, and with true Yankee Providence, directed that at the same time the labors of the field should not be intermitted; and the flats, though with imperfect cultivation, from their extreme fertility, presented a waving sea of luxuriant Indian corn, and other summer fruits, a valuable possession or prize, as either party should be ultimately victorious. Hurrying forward with about thirty men, and a number of pack horses, loaded with ammunition and provisions, Captain Dick, on the last of July, descended into the valley. Nothing escaped the vigilance or sagacity of Captain Butler. Ogden’s escape was soon known, and his speedy return with aid was not for a moment doubted. Sentinels were placed in proper positions to detect the approach of a hostile party. Every movement of Captain Dick was carefully watched. An ambush was laid in the most promising ground near the Fort. Taking livf so far from being desired, we sincerely deprecated, but to secure the provisions was an object of the first importance, and if the escort could be thrown into the Fort, to help eat up the scanty remnant that was left, the garrison must so much the sooner capitulate; besides it was far better to have the enemy cooped up in the fortress, than free to make attacks on the rear. Captains Dick and Ogden, with about 20 other man, found refuge in the Fort, while their pack horses, and most of their loading, became a prize to Captain Butler, who had the satisfaction of seeing his well laid plans succeed to his utmost wishes.

When the sad news of the discomfiture of Captain Dick reached Philadelphia, men were seen running in every direction in "hot haste." Another 300 pounds were drawn from the treasury. New recruits were put in requisition. Ledlie was hurried on to overtake Clayton and Morris, and the greatest consternation reigned among the friends of the proprietary government. Not so the people. With few exceptions, those who had no direct interest in the lands, began to look on, at least with in difference, and many with favor to the Connecticut party. To this cause was to be ascribed the extreme difficulty of raising a sufficient force at once, to put an end to the contest.

The siege was now pushed with redoubled vigor; Col. Clayton, with strong reinforcements being expected, every hour's delay was pregnant with danger, that the chief objects of the campaign, on the point of being clutched, would be snatched from his grasp. To starve out the garrison without bloodshed, had been the humane purpose of Captain Butler, but more efficient action, in this estimate of duty, had been requisite. Blood began to flow. Several of the garrison were wounded. The gallant Ogden received a rifle ball in his left arm near the shoulder, and nearly fainting, reposed on the breast of Lieut. William Redyard, when a bullet struck the latter, and he fell lifeless upon the ground. A negotiation entered into on the 14th of August, was soon concluded by articles of capitulation, by which the Fort was surrendered. Col. Clayton, captains Dick and Morris, with Captain Ogden, and all the Pennsylvania troops, were forthwith to withdraw from Wyoming. Mr. Gordon states the terms of capitulation to have been, "that 23 men might leave the Fort armed, and with the remainder unarmed, may proceed unmolested to their respective habitations; that the men having families might abide on the debatable land for two weeks, and might remove their effects without interruption, and that the sick and wounded might retain their nurses, and have leave to send for a physician." Signed on behalf of the Yankees by

Zebulon Butler,

Lazarus Stewart,

John Smith,

On the part of the proprietary government by

Asher Clayton,

Joseph Morris,

John Dick.

An anecdote is mentioned by Gordon so characteristic of the chivalry of Captain Butler, that we cannot doubt its correctness. That he offered to determine the rights of the respective claimants by a contest of thirty men to be selected by each party. Had not Amos Ogden been wounded, his spirit would have bounded with joy to the contest. Captain Ledlie, who was on his march, met the retiring array of his discomfited friends, from whom he received an accession of eight or ten men, best acquainted with the valley, to act as guides, and as he was not included in the capitulation, continued his advance and took up a position on the mountain, intending to remain until he should receive orders to retreat, or a powerful reinforcement should be sent to his support. In the meantime he guarded the passes most frequented by the emigrating Yankees, who apprised of his position, evaded his sentinels, and every day added to the number of the Connecticut settlers. This great victory, achieved over a superior force with a sacrifice, comparatively so inconsiderable, established an entire confidence in the ultimate success of the Yankee cause; and Captain Butler was hailed as a savior of Wyoming. His name was now a host, and multitudes flocked to the valley under protection of his standard.

Foiled in every attempt to establish a post on the disputed lands; becoming, daily, more and more unpopular as the difficulties with Great Britain and the colonies increased, the proprietary government ordered the return of Captain Ledlie, and left the Susquehanna Company in undisturbed possession of the ground, who forthwith proceeded with all practical celerity to increase their settlements, and consolidate their power.

Thus closes the first Pennimite and Yankee war. Commencing in January 1769, it had continued, with what variety of incident, and alteration of success, the reader is apprized, to Sept. 1771-a period of nearly three years.

Judging, and probably not without truth, from the boldness and confidence of the proceedings of the intruding Yankees, that they were encouraged and sustained by the government of Connecticut, Mr. Hamilton, president of counsel, on abandoning all military demonstrations, opened a correspondence with Gov. Trumbull, upon the subject. In a letter, dated October 4, 1771, after detailing the events that had transpired at Susquehanna, he proceeds:-

"As the people concerned in these violent and hostile measures, profess to act under the authority of your government, and I have made a capitulation expressly on behalf of the government, I have thought it proper and expedient to send a messager to your honor, on purpose to know, with certainty, whether they have proceeded in any sort under your countenance or authority, or that of your assembly, and as this must be a matter within your knowledge, I make no doubt but you will dispatch the express with a speedy answer."

In reply, Captain Trumbull thus cautiously and ingeniously expresses himself.

"New Haven, October 14, 1771.

"The persons concerned in those transactions have no order and no direction from me, or from the General Assembly of the colony, for their proceeding under this occasion, and I am very confident that the General Assembly, friends as they ever have been toward peace and good order, will never countenance any violent, much less hostile measures, in vindicating the right which the Susquehanna Company suppose they have to the lands in that part of the country within the limits of the charter of this colony."

The reader will, particularly, note the concluding line, in which the assumption is absolute, that the part of the "country is within the limits of the charter of Connecticut." Such an official declaration at the time was well calculated to encourage new emigrations, and strengthen the hands of the settlers.

Gov. Trumbull then proceeds to say, that each of the contending parties, it is understood, charged on the other the commencement of violence, of which he was not a proper judge. Here for the present, negotiations ended, to be renewed as will appear, a few years after, at a more propitious period.

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