Chapter XIX 19
Immediately after Col. Hartley's gallant excursion into the Indian territory, and victory at Sheshequin, his Excellency, George Washington, formed the design of sending a powerful force into the heart of the Six Nations, at once to chastise them for their cruelty, and by laying waste their settlements, to dislodge them from their position, so dangerously near to the American frontier. It was resolved to carry the war into their own country, and if possible to force the savages back to Niagara. Having for centuries, not only inhabited the headwaters of the Susquehanna, the Delaware and Mohawk; on the delightful borders of the lesser lakes; and westward to the beautiful Genesee, a perfect Indian Paradise; but time out of mind having established within those limits the council fire at Onondaga, where the "That" that exercise power and dominion over vassal nations; it could not be doubted that every impulse of a lofty ambition-the manner, but not less active principle of revenge-the natural love of home and country, which warms with ardor over the savage breasts, all sustained by the policy and power of England, would arouse the enemy to the most determined resistance. To send a force fully adequate to the object to be accomplished, was obviously the only effective, and consequently the most economical policy. An invasion during the winter had been proposed, but was wisely relinquished.
Preparatory to a summer campaign, General Hand, then at Minisink, by order from his Excellency, addressed a series of inquiries to Col. Zubulon Butler, in command at Wyoming, embracing every point on which information could be desirable. The distance and route to the nearest Indian settlements; their position and extent; facilities of obtaining subsistence; means of transportation in boats up the Susquehanna, etc. In his reply, Col. Butler takes pleasure in expressing his particular obligations to Lieut. John Jenkins, whose through knowledge, and judicious observations upon the subject, were of eminent service.
A letter from Col. Patterson, dated at Northumberland in March 1779, to Col. Butler, throws light upon other measures adopted to obtain correct information. "Mr. Lemmon," says Col. P., "goes to your posts, to wait the return, and take into his care Gershom Hicks, who is not to be examined or searched until he goes before his Excellency General Washington. I enclose you his Excellency's letter. Be careful that your people, who are out on duty, or fatigue, receive Hicks, who may appear painted, and in a canoe. His regimentals I have sent by Mr. Lemmon." We cannot withhold the remark, that the duties of Washington, embracing generally all the civil, as well as military affairs of the country, and descending to the minutest details of every expedition, would seem to have been great and perplexing, beyond human power to perform. A frame of iron, and mind of steel, would appear to have been requisite for the mere labor. But when to this is added his views, comprehensive, liberal, and accurate; his through knowledge of human nature; his profound wisdom and spotless patriotism, the whole warp and woof of his soul being composed of devotion to his country, without one single threat of selfishness or personal ambition, it is impossible to look upon the great and good man, without reverently believing that he was specially raised up, and imbibed with wisdom and strength from above, to rescue a nation from bondage, and establish freedom and America.
Savage hate, instead of being satiated by the sufferings of Wyoming, seemed, like the tiger that his tasted human blood, to be aroused to inappeasable fury.
The chief part of Col. Hartley's regiment having been withdrawn, Col. Butler was left in command of the fort at Wilkes-Barre, with only about 100 men. That vigilant officer, respectfully, but with spirit remonstrated with General Hand, who returned for answer, that the power did not rest with him to remedy the evil.
In December of the preceding year several murders are recorded in our last letter as having been perpetrated. Scarcely 60 days of repose had been allowed to Wyoming even amid the cold and storms of winter. In March bands of savages began to make their appearance, as if, from the contiguity of their towns, an incursion into the valley, instead of being a toil, was but a pleasure party. On the 21st of the month, unapprised of danger, Josiah Rogers and Capt. James Bidlack, both aged man, were crossing the flats, on their way to Plymouth. Springing from their covert, the savages failed in an attempt to seize the bridles of their horses. A race ensued of intense interest. The girth of Capt. Bidlack's saddle breaking, he was thrown and made prisoner. Several bullets perforated the clothes of Mr. Rogers, who happily escaped the painful captivity of his companion, whose misfortune was doubly distressing to his family, as his son James had fallen in the battle. A large number were seen advancing over the Kingston flats, toward a block-house erected on that side of the river, and in full view from the Wilkes-Barre fort. The boldness of their advance showed confidence in their strength, and left no doubt that they were informed of the feeble state of the garrison. Plunder appeared to be their object, for while a small portion acted as a guard, the remainder, dividing into small parties, began to drive off all the horses and cattle they could find. Col. Butler immediately detached 25 men to the aid of those in the block-house. A charge was made on the enemy, who retreated, keeping in a respectful distance, evidently intending to draw the detachment into an ambuscade. On approaching the woods, a larger portion was discovered, which rendered a retreat prudent; whereupon the enemy advanced. A smart skirmish ensued, several men were wounded, but none mortally. Our people had to suffer the deep mortification of seeing 60 head of cattle, and 20 horses carried away by the marauding horde, without the power (from the most ill-advised policy) of either protection or chastisement.
On the 23rd, the savages and Tories, finding that their strength had been discovered, in an ambush was hopeless, boldly developed themselves, and showed by their numbers that this was in truth, a second invasion. 250 warriors, in a semicircle, approached the Wilkes-Barre fort, as if with intent to carry it by storm. A brisk fire was opened upon them, the four pounder being brought to bear. After peace, it was ascertained that the Indian Chief who led the charge was killed by a cannon ball. What further loss they sustained is not known, but they were repulsed, not, however, until they had made themselves masters of 51 head of cattle, 10 horses, and burnt three barns containing hay and grain, and two houses. A heavy snow fell on the 24th. Smoke from Indian fires, where they encamped at night, or burnt some houses or barn, left by accident or caprice the preceding campaign, continued to mark their presence and route until the 28th. When these disgraceful and distressing particulars were communicated by Col. Butler to the Board of War, one of the members said hastily, in presence of the messenger:-"It is impossible-it can’t be so!" So fatal was the folly or delusion, that Wyoming, on the very borders of the Six Nations of warriors, needed no defense. On learning their remarks of the gentleman, with the spirit of a soldier Col. Butler immediately wrote-"that no officer who properly regarded his own honor, would, without the slightest evidence, call in question the honor of a brother soldier."
The gallant defense of his father's house, by Sergeant Thomas Williams, deserves to be specially recorded. An officer in Capt. Spalding's company, he was now stationed in the Valley. Within 80 rods of the fort, and supposed to be within its protection, lived Mr. Thaddeus Williams, originally of Fairfield County, Connecticut. On the day the fort was attacked, a party of Indians made an assault on the house. The father, sick and confined to his bed, was unable to lend any assistance. Sgt. Williams, and a brother, quite young, were the only persons capable of offering the least resistance. Twice the Indians rushed up to the door, and attempted in vain, to force an entrance. Several balls were fired into the house through openings in the logs, one of which severely wounded the sick father. All this was accompanied by horrid yells, as if demons had visited the upper air. Having lost a brother the preceding fall, and belonging himself to the Army, Mr. Williams knew his state depended on his own coolness and encourage. He could hope nothing from their mercy. He had to guns, one of which the lad loaded while he fired the other. Watching his time, and taking careful aim, one of the Indians fell, and was dragged away. Redoubling their shouts the Indians returned with brands of fire, but another discharge, which wounded their leader, finally repelled them, leading Sgt. Williams victor, and his aged father and mother, rescued from death.
The savages it was supposed had retired with their booty, but although the utmost caution was exercised, no vigilance could effectually guard every point from danger. A band of 20 Indians suddenly returned, and on the Kingston side of the river, in sight from the Wilkes-Barre fort, in broad daylight, murdered three valuable citizens; Mr. Elihu Williams, Lieut. Buck, and Mr. Stephen Pettebone. Frederick Follett, who was with them, fell pierced by seven wounds from a spear, and with the others was scalped, and left for dead. Instantly a detachment of men was sent over; the Indians had fled. Follett, weltering in blood, gave signs of life, and was taken to the fort. Dr. William Hooker Smith, on examining his wounds, said, that while everything should be done that kindness and skill could suggest, he regarded his recovery as hopeless. Yet he did recover. One spear thrust had penetrated his stomach, so that its contents came out at his side. Mr. Follett lived many years, and removed to Ohio, where he left a large family. Dr. Smith gained great credit for restoring Follett to health and usefulness.
Reinforced by a German Regiment of about 300 men, Col. Butler was enabled, not only to defend his position, but to clear the open portions of the Valley, of his cruel and insolent visitors; but small parties of Indians still hovered around Wyoming, like wolves around a sheepfold. They waylaid the passages to the mountains, and occasionally exhibited extraordinary instances of courage and audacity.
Maj. Powell, commanding 200 men of a Regiment, which had been much reduced by losses in the battle of Germantown, having been ordered to Wyoming, arrived at Bear Creek, about 10 miles from the fort, on the night of the 19th of April. Deeming themselves out of danger from a surprise by the Indians, orders were given that officers and men should dress in their best apparel, their arms being newly burnished, and everything be put in order to appear respectably on entering the Valley. As was the fashion of the day, the officers wearing ruffles, were also powdered. The music, partaking in the excitement of the hour, played their liveliest strains as the party advanced. Deer were reported to have been seen by the Vanguard, when Capt. Davis, and Lieut. Jones, armed with rifles, immediately hastens forward. Near the summit of the second mountain, by the Laurel Run, and about four miles from the fort, a fire was opened upon them by the Indians in ambush, by which Capt. Davis, Lieut. Jones, a corporal by the name of Butler, and three men under his command, fell. Maj. Powell, not far in the rear, hastened forward at a moment when an Indian, with surprising audacity, had seized a woman, the wife of one of the soldiers who had fallen, and was dragging her from the path, into the thicket. A soldier in the act to fire, was stopped by Maj. Powell, but the woman escaped. The major, it was thought, lost the self possession so indispensable to a soldier, and his command thrown into confusion, retreated in disorder. Uncertain as to the power, though to fatally assured of the prowess of his enemy, Maj. Powell undoubtedly experienced a degree of fear, which the force of the enemy disclosed, or probably present, did not warrant; and seems scarcely to have remembered that he still commanded nearly 200 veterans soldiers. Dispatching his surgeon, who volunteered for the occasion, and John Halstead, a soldier of Capt. Spalding's company, who had met him, and acted as guide to Col. Butler, the German battalion was immediately called to arms, and marched to the mountain, to escort Maj. P. and his men to the Valley.
Maj. Powell, having leave to resign, soon left the Army.
During the spring and early part of summer, vigorous preparations had been making for the contemplated invasion of the Indian country. A brigade from New York, under the command of General James Clinton, had wintered on the Mohawk. The Brigades commanded by Maxwell, Hand and Poor, with Col. Proctor's Regiment of artillery, and a battalion of Morgan's riflemen, under the command of Maj. Parr, were ordered to rendezvous at Wyoming:-Maj. Gen. John Sullivan, of New Hampshire, being appointed to the supreme command.
All the early part of the season, was a time of high excitement in the Valley. The German battalion, and Maj. Powell's command had arrived in April. In May, one Regiment came in from York County, Pennsylvania another Regiment from New Hampshire, and another company commanded by Capt. John Paul Schotts.
On the 26th of May, the 3rd Jersey Regiment reached Easton, where the First Jersey Regiment, two regiments from New Hampshire, and Col. Proctor's artillery, were already assembled. A strong detachment was sent forward to open a passage for the artillery, who cut the way from Stroudsburg, crossing the Lehigh four miles above Stoddartsville, which is ever since been known as Sullivan's road, and is still occasionally traveled. While at Easton, two soldiers of Col. Hubley’s regiment were executed for marauding; and two other men were arrested, and condemn to death for endeavoring to persuade soldiers to desert; one of them was pardoned, the other who had been a Lieut. in the militia, was placed in irons to be moved with the Army.
On the 18th of June the troops left Easton, and encamped at Wind Gap, near Heller's-19th, at Larner’s, on the Pocono-20th at Chouder’s camp-21st, at Fatigue camp-22nd, at Sullivan's camp, at Great Meadows, seven miles from the Valley, and on the 23rd, arrived at Wyoming. The whole army was encamped on the river flats, below Wilkes-Barre, a portion of them occupying old Fort Durkee. Here on the first day of July, was executed the Lieut. of militia, condemned at Easton, the first, and only instance of capital punishment, ever witnessed within the limits of Luzerne County.
Boats having been provided on the lower waters of the Susquehanna for that purpose, a large fleet arrived on the 24th, loaded with provisions and military stores. The artillery thundered, and the music and sweeter strains sounded a joyous welcome.
Not a single movement of importance had escaped the observation of the vigilant and alert Indian Council, and their British allies. The number and aim of the American Army were perfectly comprehended and it strength known to be too powerful, successfully to be encountered by any force in their power to combine. A system of tactics, devised with skill, and executed with intrepid boldness, was entered upon, with the hope of distracting the attention of Gen. Sullivan, dividing his army, and thwarting the great object of the campaign. During the month of July, attacks were made by strong bodies of Indians and British, on the right and left of the American Army. The first attack was upon Freeland’s Fort, 15 miles from Northumberland, up the west branch of the Susquehanna. 250 men, of whom 80 were British troops, commanded by Capt. McDonald, the rest Indians, led by Hiokoto, a veteran brave of the Seneca tribe, appeared before the stockade, and demanded its surrender. The means of defence being wholly inadequate, and fair terms of capitulation being offered, the garrison capitulated. Gordon states, that contrary to Indian usage, the women and children, were suffered to retire into the settlements. Policy would obviously dictate some restraint on their savage ferocity, for their own women and children, it was quite probable, would soon be at the mercy of the Americans.
A party sent from Northumberland, two succor the garrison at Freeland’s, were brought to action with a superior force, when two officers, Captains Hawkins and Boon, with 14 other men, were killed and scalped. The victorious enemy advanced towards Northumberland, with the addition of an hundred men, whom they had kept in reserve, creating in Fort Augusta, and all the neighboring settlements, the utmost alarm.
The same wake of the invasion by Hiokoto and McDonald, Brandt, the dreaded Thayendenegen, with a party of warriors, fell upon the Minisink settlement, in Orange County, New York, killing several of the inhabitants, and making other prisoners. Ten houses, 12 barns and two mills, were consumed by fire. About 150 militia from Goshen in the neighborhood, marched in pursuit. The wary Brandt, cunning as he was brave, saw in their hasty advance, victims to his superior prowess. The rarely failing expedient of exchanging a round or two, and then retreating as if driven back, and thus leading the too confident enemy into an ambuscade, was successfully resorted to, and it is melancholy to relate, that more than an hundred were left dead on the field. An attack followed on the Connecticut settlement on the Lackawaxen, within the town of Westmoreland, which was broken up, several lives lost, and a number of persons taken prisoners. Brandt returned from this expedition, with trifling loss on his own part, and having nearly double as many scalps and prisoners as he mustered warriors. Thus, messenger after messenger, express following express, came into Gen. Sullivan, from the east and southwest, from his right and from his left, announcing invasion, massacre, and conflagration, all around him. Fixed in his purpose, pursuing his settled policy, he detached not a man from his main body, but gave immediate orders, that the artillery should be placed in the boats, and every preparation made for immediate departure.
Details are necessary to give the reader a just idea of the imprudent boldness of these savage warriors. Three thousand men were encamped at Wyoming; yet on the 28th of July, a messenger came in haste from Shawnee, a mile or two from the tents, desiring the presence of Dr. Ellmore, the Indians having shot a man, both in his side and thigh.
From some cause, left unexplained, a large number of the German battalion had become disaffected and deserted. The deserters were arrested, and 29 tried by a court-martial were condemned to die. After being held sometime in confinement, being penitent, they united in a petition that their lives might be spared. A board of officers, over which Gen. Poor presided, on inquiry, recommended them to mercy; and the settlement and Army were gratified with a pardon of the whole, who returned cheerfully to duty, and conducted themselves, thenceforward, with unexceptional propriety.
On the evening of the 28th, Col. Reed arrived with 90 wagons loaded with stores, and on Sunday the 31st of July, the whole camp was in commotion, in obedience to marching orders.
The artillery being destined to proceed by water, having been placed on board, the command was confided to Col. Proctor. An hundred and 20 boats following in line, with sufficient space between to avoid accidents, most have extended nearly two miles. The army that marched by land, consisting
1st. Of the brigade of Gen. Poor, composed, besides others, of the two regiments from New Hampshire, and one from Massachusetts-the latter under the orders of Col. Dearborn.
2nd. A brigade from New Jersey, of which the first, second and third regiments, from that state, composed a part; General Maxwell.
3d. The Pennsylvania brigade, commanded by Gen. Hand, which among others included the regiments of Col. Richard Butler, Col. Hubley, and Col. Hartley, and the German battalion, (or regiment, as it is sometimes termed by the ancient people and old writers.)
4th. A strong detachment from Morgan's Rifle Corps, in command of Major Parr, in which were engrafted for the expedition a number of expert riflemen from Wyoming.
5th. Capt. Spalding's Westmoreland Independent Company.
6th. Capt. Schott’s Company of Riflemen.
7th. A company at Wyoming militia, chiefly riflemen, under the command of Capt. John Franklin; the whole under the orders of Major-General Sullivan. As chief guide, the General reposed on the skill of Lieut. John Jenkins. The whole force consisted of about 3500 men; and in taking up the line from Wilkes-Barre, the following was the prescribed order of march, to be adhered to as nearly as the extremely broken country, narrow defiles, and rugged roads would permit, until General Clinton should be met at Tioga point. "The light color," says the journal of a brigade chaplin, "which, agreeable to general orders, were to march in three columns, were, by Gen. hand, arranged as follows:-
Eleventh Pennsylvania regiment, and Capt. Spalding’s Independent Company advanced by platoon from the center of the line formed by them, and constituted a column to proceed on the main road. The German Regiment, and Capt. Schott's independent Corps from the right of said regiment formed a column, and marched on the right of the eleventh, etc., having their right flank covered by one-third of the light infantry, of the eleventh, and Schott's riflemen in Indian file. Two-thirds of the light infantry from the eleventh, and Capt. Spalding's riflemen marched in Indian file on the left of the column, to cover its left flank, and answer the purpose of a third column. Each column and flanking party had proportions to their strength respectively, a small party advanced in front. The same order to be observed, if possible, until our arrival at Tioga point." 2000 pack horses and attended the army. Col. Zubulon Butler was left with as many men as he deemed the circumstances to require, for the protection of Wyoming.
At 9 of the clock, everything being in readiness, the fleet left their moorings, saluting the fort as they passed, with 13 cannon. The honor was returned in the best style by the four pounder.
The army marching up on the east side, and extending more than a mile, now shut out, by hill or wood, from the site of the boats, and now coming near the bank, and in full view, colors waved from each squadron of the advancing fleet; colors floated on the breeze from every column of the army; the rolling drums, the ear piercing fifes, bands of music on board and on shore, pouring forth martial and patriotic airs, filled the valley with the concord of sweet and inspiring strains. Hill answered to hill, mountain echo to mountain. Here was all the pomp, and pride and circumstance of glorious war. The scene presented, was, in the highest degree, grand and sublime! But hark! How changed those notes! As the fleet approached Monockasy Island, a portion of the battleground, the music struck a solemn dirge, in honor of the Patriot dead. Then followed a moment of silence, when the whole proceeded in business order, to the accomplishment of the great object of the expedition.
The army encamped, the first night, on the large flat at the confluence of the Susquehanna and Lackawanna; on the 5th at Wyalusing; on the nineth, at Queen Esther's Plains, (Sheshequin,) and on the eleventh, reached Tioga point, having to wade the Susquehanna, deep to their armpits-their cartridge boxes born aloft on their bayonets. Here they encamped, being still in the town of Westmoreland. On the march, two soldiers died suddenly, and one of Col. Proctor's men was wounded. A number of cattle, and several pack horses were precipitated from narrow defiles down the mountains and dashed to pieces on the river bank.
General James Clinton, who had wintered on the Mohawk, had advanced to the head of the Susquehanna River, at Otsego Lake, and had there built 200 batteaux. Having dammed up the outlet, he prepared an artificial fresh, on which he was wafted down an hundred miles. On the 22nd of August, escorted by Gen. Poor, who had advanced to meet him with a detachment from his brigade, the arrival of General Clinton was welcomed by a salvo of artillery.
In the meantime the Indians had discovered themselves on several points; attacked some of our small parties, and taken the scalps of a sergeant and two or three men. On the 25th of August, a Captain of the New Hampshire troops was accidentally killed.
At Tioga point, a strong stockade was erected, into which all the stores, not absolutely needed, were placed. Two or three cannon were mounted. Convenient arrangements were made for the sick, and the fort left in charge of Capt. Shreive, of the Second Jersey Regiment, having 250 men under his command.
On the 29th of August, having passed beyond the river mountains, and attained a comparatively open country, the Army took up their line of March in this order.
Gen. Hand’s brigade, in front, and 8 columns.
Gen. Poor’s brigade on the right, in eight columns, flanked by a strong body of light troops.
Gen. Maxwell's brigade on the left, in eight columns, flanked by light troops.
Gen. Clinton's brigade, in eight columns, in the rear.
Col. Proctor's artillery in the center, flanked on the right and left by double files of pack-horses, which separated his command from Poor, and Maxwell's brigades.
The only important stand made by the enemy was below Newtown, 18 miles above Tioga Point, on the Tioga, (or Chemung) River. Col. John Butler, Capt. Walter Butler, (his son,) the two Johnsons, Grey, and McDonald, commanded the British and Tories. Brandt, (Thayendenegea, the terrible,) was at the head of the combined Indian warriors of the six nations. Their numbers having been variously estimated, from 1500 to 2000 fighting men.
On the north side of the Tioga River, where there is a bend forming almost a right angle, on a steep gravelly bank, the enemy had thrown up a breastwork, extending nearly half a mile in length, north towards the hills, and here preparations were carefully made for a decisive battle. Their right and rear were guarded by the stream, their left only exposed; but on the neighboring heights on their left flank, strong bodies of their sharpshooters were stationed. To mask their works, pine shrubs had been cut, and stuck up in front, as if still growing. The road ran to the foot of the gravel hill, on which they had fortified, then turning to the right, following a small brook in a line parallel with the breastwork, so that, had the army marched on without discovering their position, the whole left would have been exposed to a raking fire on the flank. Some skirmishing had previously taken place, and several men had fallen. Fortunately Major Parr, in advance with his riflemen, discovered the Indian line of defense, and gave immediate notice to the advancing columns. Gen. Hand forthwith formed the light infantry in the wood, about 80 rods from the enemy, and waited until the other columns should come up.
Gen. Sullivan promptly gave orders to Gen. Poor, to scale the hills on his right, rouse the Indians from their lurking places, who, he did not doubt, were there in force, at the bayonets point, and pressing on with spirit, giving them no time to shelter themselves behind trees, and then to fall on the left flank and rear of the enemy. Proctor, with his artillery, took up a position to render his shot and shells most effective, and played with great vivacity. Parr, with the whole rifle Corps, was actively engaged. Spalding and Franklin with the Wyoming troops were in the thickest of the fight. Gen. Hand led his light infantry to the assault with the greatest gallantry. Clinton and Maxwell were held in impatient, though prudent, reserve. The enemy contested the ground with determined resolution, until the active and decisive movement of Poor cleared the hills, and unveiled their flank to his now descending and impetuous attack, when they fled with precipitation. The true Indian character was now exhibited. Cunning in expedient-patient under every privation in advancing on an enemy-impetuous and terrible in attack-over-bearing, insolent and cruel in victory-so, when defeated, broken spirit, (like the tiger when he has missed his prey,) cowering almost into cowardice, for a time no power can rally them. The victory was decisive. No serious attempt was afterwards made to check the advance of the army. About 30 men fell in the battle. How many of the Indians, could not be known; as it is felt to be among them, a most sacred duty to carry off their dead, and conceal the number of the slain. Capt. Franklin, of the Wyoming volunteers, received a ball in his shoulder, and several from his, Spalding's and Schott’s companies, were wounded.
Not a moment of delay was allowed. Being now in the Indian country, hundreds of fields, teaming with corn, beans, and other vegetables, were laid waste with rigid severity. Every house, hut, and wigwam, was consumed. Cultivated in rude Indian fashion for centuries, orchards abounded, and near a town, between the Seneca and Cayuga Lakes, there were 1500 peach trees, bending under ripe, and ripening fruit; all were cut down. The besom of destruction swept, if with regret and pity, still with firm hand, through all of their fair fields and fertile plains. Deeply were they made to drink of the bitter chalice they had so often forced remorselessly to the lips of the frontiers settlers within their reach. Some idea of the extent of country inhabited by the Indians, the number of their towns, and the great quantity of produce to be destroyed, maybe formed, when it is stated that an army of 4000 men were employed, without a day’s (except indispensable) remission, from the 29th of August, until the 28th of September, in accomplishing the work of destruction. The furthest northwest extent of Gen. Sullivan's advance, was to Genesee Castle, at the large flats on the beautiful river of that name. Two or three incidents that occurred on the march have too much interest to be omitted. At Kanadia, on the fifth of September, Mr. Lucas Swetland, one of the most respectable citizens of Wyoming, who had been taken prisoner of the previous year, was relieved from captivity. At Canandaigua, on the seventh, a white child was found, indeed an orphan, without knowledge of its parents. We regret our inability to record its fate. A few days after, a woman who had been taken at Wyoming, came into the army, with a child in her arms of seven or eight months old. Her name we have not been able to learn. One old squaw, too old to be removed, was the only human being belonging to the enemy left by them, so totally was their country deserted. But it most melancholy occurrence demands a more particular narration.
On the 13th of September, Lieut. Boyd of the rifle corps, was directed to take five or six men, with a friendly Indian as a guide, and to advance toward the Genesee to reconnoiter. Numbers volunteering, he marched out at the head of 24 men; too few if battle was intended; too many if secrecy celerity were prime requisites of the enterprise. Striking Little Castle, on the Genesee River, he surprised killed and scalped two Indians. On his return, Boyd was surrounded by a strong detachment of the enemy, who killed 14 of his men, and took him and a soldier prisoners, eight men only escaping. The next day the army accelerated their march, with the hope of releasing Lieut. Boyd. On arriving at the Genesee Castle, his remains and those of the other prisoner were found, surrounded by all the horrid evidence of savage barbarity. The torture fires were yet burning. Flaming pine nuts had been thrust into their flesh, their fingernails pulled out, their tongues cut off, and their heads severed from their bodies. It is said that Boyd was brought before Col. Butler, who examined him, Boyd being on one knee, a warrior on each side firmly grasping his arms, a third at his back, with tomahawk raised. What is scene for a limner! "How many has Sullivan? "I cannot give you any information, sir." "Boyd, life is sweet, you had better answer me." "Duty forbids, and I would not if life depended on the word-but Col. Butler, I know the issue, my doom is fixed." Another version of the pharaoh omits the interview, and relates that Boyd was stabbed in the abdomen, an intestine drawn out and tied to a tree, around which the sufferer was driven. Both maybe true. That a prisoner should be taken before Butler for examination is quite probable.
"While Sullivan" (we copy Marshall) "laid waste the county on the Susquehanna, another expedition under Col. Brodhead was carried on from Pittsburgh up the Allegheny, across Mingo, Munsey, and Seneca tribes. At the head of between six and seven hundred men, he advanced 200 miles up the river, and destroyed the villages and cornfields on its head branches. Here too the Indians were unable to resist the invading army. After one unsuccessful skirmish, they abandoned their villages to a destruction that was inevitable, and sought for personal safety in the woods."
The army withdrew to Tioga point on the 29th September, and in the evening Capt. Shreeve gave an entertainment to the officers, in the best style in his power, the pleasure of which was heightened by learning the particulars of the surprise and capture of Stony Point by the gallant Wayne.
Gen. Sullivan gave his troops three days of rest, and October 4th marched to Standing Stone bottom. On the fifth the whole army, including the New York brigade, under General Clinton, except those who took charge of the pack horses, embarked on board the boats, and were wafted, with hearts elate, down that crystal stream, cheered alternately by songs and music; for rigid discipline was, on an occasion so joyous, temporarily relaxed.
Col. Zubulon Butler at Wyoming, having been apprised of their approach, welcomed them with a salute, and on the eighth, gave an entertainment, more sumptuous and profuse than the valley had ever before witnessed. Vension and wild turkey smoked upon the board, and Gen. Sullivan, in fine spirits, imparted animation to the feast. Delaying only until the 10th, the army marched, and arrived in Easton on the 15th. On the 17th of October, a day of Thanksgiving was held, and a sermon preached by the Rev. Dr. Evans, of General Poor’s brigade, when the several detachments of the victorious little army separated, taking up new positions assigned by his Excellency the commander-in-chief.
Throughout the whole campaign, the conduct of Gen. Sullivan was distinguished by courage, energy and skill. Unfortunately, soon after taking the command at Wyoming, in general orders, he animadverted with severity upon the board of war, who had resisted what they deemed unreasonable demands for provisions, forage, stores, and means of transportation. Sept. 1st, 1779, in the Continental Congress, "a letter was read, and dated August 31st, from the Board of War, enclosing a copy of general orders issued to the troops under his command, by Maj. Gen. John Sullivan, reflecting upon the Board, and read representing that the characters of the Board are made free with in Gen. Sullivan's army, who, being under a deception, censure the board with great bitterness; and, thereupon, requests Congress to appoint a committee to examine into their conduct, etc.."
October 14th-on motion of Mr. Gerry: "Resolved, that the thanks of Congress be given to his Excellency General Washington, for directing, and to Maj. Gen. Sullivan, and the brave officers and soldiers under his command, for effectually conducting an important expedition, against such of the Indian nations, as encouraged by the councils, and conducted by the officers of his Britannic Majesty, had perfidiously waged an unprovoked and cruel war against these United States; laid waste many of their defenseless towns, and with savage barbarity slaughtered the inhabitants thereof."
A second resolution proposes to set apart a day of general Thanksgiving, which shows the importance attached to Sullivan's eminent success.
Still the voice of censure from the Board of war, and their partisans in Congress, was reiterated and loud.
On the 13th of November, a letter was read from General Sullivan, dated the 9th, "requesting leave, on account of ill health, to retire from the service." Whereupon a motion was made by Mr. Gerry, "that the resignation of Maj. Gen. Sullivan be not accepted, but that he have leave to retire from the service, as long as he shall judge it expedient for the recovery of his help." This motion, instead of being adopted, was referred to a committee, on whose report to Congress, on the 30th November, "resolved, that Congress have a just sense of the services and abilities of Maj. Gen. Sullivan, and greatly regret the indisposition which derives them of so gallant an officer; that as Gen. Sullivan’s health not permit his continuance in the American army, his resignation be accepted."
On motion of Mr. Livingston, "Resolved, that the President be requested to return the thanks of Congress to Maj. Gen. Sullivan for his past services."
Thus was the gallant veteran politely bowed out. Imprudent in expression he may have been, but his meritorious services should have caused a few hasty words to be overlooked, and he should have been generously retained in his command.
It may well be regarded as one of the most extraordinary instances of healthfulness on record, that this army, exceeding 3000 men, (not including General Clinton's brigade) during the summer and autumn, in battle, by accident and sickness, should have suffered so inconsiderable loss. Marshall says: "the object of the expedition being accomplished, Sullivan returned to Easton, Pennsylvania, having lost only forty men, by sickness and the enemy."
"After the return of General Sullivan," says Mr. Chapman, "several parties of the Indians, stimulated by revenge for the losses they had sustained, continued to range among the mountains of Wyoming, in thirst of vengeance upon the white people, and occasionally caught and tortured, in the most cruel manner, any defenseless individuals that came in their way"
This paragraph, and a statement of the affair at Nescopeck, with a party under Lieut. Myers was cut off, is all that Mr. C. records of Indian depredations after 1779.
Even that excellent, and generally accurate work, the "American Encyclopedia," so late as 1840, speaking of Sullivan's expedition against the Indians, says, "By this one blow and end was put to their incursions and cruelties."
It will be seen from our annals of the three succeeding years, 1780, 1781, 1782, that, instead of "the danger of the Indian wars being in a great measure removed, the inhabitants returned in great numbers to their possessions at Wyoming, where their settlements again flourished," that, in fact, those three years were rife with Indian invasions, and that Wyoming was almost one continued scene of plunder and captivity-murder, conflagration and woe.
The civil transactions of the year afford few materials for history. The settlers who remained, or returned after the massacre, were generally gathered under the protection of the fort at Wilkes-Barre. A mill on the borders of Hanover and Newport, was guarded by a few men, and three or four families ventured to reside in its vicinity. The civil organization was preserved by Col. Denison, and half a dozen citizens. At a town meeting held April ye 12, 1779, Giles Slocum, Christopher Hurlbut, Daniel Ingersoll, Asa Chapman and Joel Strong, were admitted freemen, and took the oath of fidelity to Connecticut; Col. Nathan Denison, and Deacon John Hurlbut were chosen members of assembly, to meet at Hartford the following May.
On the 6th of December, 1779, (the army having returned victorious, the enemy chastised, and it was hoped effectually broken and dispersed, hope and confidence being restored,) a town meeting was legally warned, and holden in the town of Westmoreland. Since April 1778, near two years, the entries had been brief, and imperfectly made in the old records, as if with trembling hand and broken heart. Now the record is full, bold, and beautifully written.
Col. Nathan Denison was chosen moderator.
Obadiah Gore, town clerk, for the ensuing year. Selectmen, a Town Treasurer, Constables, Surveyors of Highways, Fence-viewers, Listers, (Assessors) a Tax Collector, key-keeper, Brander of Horses, and School Committee, were appointed. The special confidence reposed in Col. Denison, may be inferred from his being not only chosen moderator, but treasurer, selectman, and one of the school committee. He was member of Assembly, Justice of the Peace, and Judge of the Court.
The names of James Nesbitt and John Phillips appear among the officers, and are now especially noticed, because April 14, 1843, as I now write, 64 years having elapsed since that town meeting, they still live, respected for their usefulness, and beloved for their virtues.
A single incident remains to be noted. Mrs. Bidlack, the mother of Capt. James Bidlack, who was slain in the massacre, applied for the release of her son Benjamin, (now the Rev. Benjamin Bidlack,) who was in the army, he being needed at home for her protection and support. The following neat letter, beautifully written, came to Col. Butler, in reply to her petition.
"War office, Nov. 1st, 1779.
Sir,-The Board have received Mehitible Bidlack's representation of her case, in your certificate thereon, and much as they are inclined to alleviate the distresses of those who have suffered by the war, they cannot grant her petition for the discharge of her son. Her reasons, though very good, are such as thousands can plead, and to admit them as sufficien, would be to depopulate the army.
I am Sir, with respect,
Your very obedient servant,
Benjamin Stodert, secretary.