The Reverend Mr. David Craft
BRADFORD COUNTY DURING THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR.
THE location of its territory made this county the theatre of important events and movements during the struggle of the nation for its existence. As has been stated, about seventy-five families were settled along the river from Wyalusing to Towanda, while above were the Indian villages of Sheshequin and Tioga. The latter became the place of rendezvous for hostile bands of British soldiers, Tories, and Indians, who, following the Susquehanna, or the great war-path which skirted its eastern bank, made their incursions upon Wyoming; or taking the Sheshequin path, fell like a thunder-bolt upon the inhabitants of the West Branch. It was along these same routes that detachments of American soldiers pursued the merciless invaders, or in greater force carried devastation and destruction into the country of the enemy. Hardly a month was allowed to pass, from the beginning to the close of the Revolutionary war, that these hills did not echo the yells of the savage warrior or the tread of the American soldier.
At a town-meeting held March 2, 1774, the town of Westmoreland was divided into eight districts, of which "Exeter, Providence, and all the lands west and north of the town-line, be one district, by the name of the North District." At another meeting, held June 27, of the same year, votes were passed "to form themselves into companies in a military way," each district to form a company. The rankling jealousy which always existed between those holding adverse titles now culminated into an open rupture. The Pennsylvanians were mostly settled along the river above Exeter. These refused to join the company and train under Yankee officers, for which offense they were declared enemies, fined and imprisoned; and as they persisted in this course, were branded as Tories, and traitors to their country. These violent proceedings doubtless served to alienate the feelings of this class from the patriots and affiliate them with the opposite party.
The people of Wyoming took an early and conspicuous part on the side of Congress in opposing the encroachments attempted by the British government. At a meeting of the inhabitants of Westmoreland, held by adjournment Aug. 8, 1775, after expressing their determination to support the cause of American freedom, declare that they "do consent to and acquiesce in the late proceedings and advice of the Continental Congress, and do rejoice that those measures are adopted, and so universally received throughout the continent; and in conformity to the eleventh article of the association, we do now appoint a committee to attentively observe the conduct of all persons within this town, touching the rules and regulations prescribed by the honourable Continental Congress, and will unanimously join our brethren in America in the common cause of defending our liberty.
"Voted, That Mr. John Jenkins, Joseph Sluman, Esq., Nathan Denison, Esq., Mr. Obadiah Gore, Jr., and Lieut. William Buck be chosen a committee of correspondence for the town of Westmoreland.
"Voted, That Jonathan Finch, Mr. Anderson Dana, Capt. McKarrachan, Mr. Caleb Spencer, Capt. Samuel Ransom, Lieut. George Dorrance, Mr. Asahel Buck, Mr. Stephen Harding, Mr. John Jenkins, Jr., Mr. Barilla Tyler, Jr., Mr. Elijah Witer, Mr. Nathan Kingsley, Mr. John Secord, and Mr. Robert Carr be chosen a committee of inspection for ye town of Westmoreland."
Thus, at the very outset, did our people join hands with Wyoming in their first pledge to the cause of American liberty. Miner remarks (page 189): "The proceedings of this meeting cast the die for Wyoming. Her people girded their loins for the contest against British oppression, and immediately commenced putting themselves in condition to meet the shock of battle."
No sooner had the news of the battles of Concord and Lexington reached these distant settlements than active preparations began to be made to participate in the conflict, and Lieut. Obadiah Gore, with about twenty or thirty others, having enlisted in the New York line under Capt. Weisner, hastened to the field of battle. At a town-meeting held at Wilkes-Barre, Aug. 23, 1776, it was
"Resolved, That two companies on the Continental establishment be raised in the town of Westmoreland, and stationed in proper places for the defense of the inhabitants of said town and parts adjacent till further orders of Congress, the commissioned officers of the said two companies to be immediately appointed by Congress."
To this call quite a number of our people responded. Simon Spalding leased his plantation at Standing Stone; the Wellses, father and son, left their home at Wyalusing, as did Ambrose Gaylord, Justus Gaylord, Jr., Ludd Gaylord (the latter a mere boy), Stephen Skiff, and others, and enlisted. A number of others at once returned to Wyoming, where they could be ready to engage in any military movements that should be set on foot. The two Wyoming companies were organized by the appointment, by Congress, of Robert Durkee and Samuel Ransom to be captains, James Wells and Perin Ross first lieutenants, Asahel Buck and Simon Spalding second lieutenants, Herman Swift and Matthias Hollenback ensigns, were mustered into service Sept. 17, 1776, and were known as the First and Second Independent Companies of Wyoming.
In October following, an act was passed by the Connecticut assembly for raising, in the town of Westmoreland, a company, of which Solomon Strong was appointed captain, Obadiah Gore, Jr., and John Jenkins, Jr., lieutenants, to be a part of the 24th Regiment of Connecticut militia. About twenty men were raised, of whom John Jamison was appointed lieutenant, who marched away and joined the Connecticut line. In addition to these were the train-bands in each of the eight districts provided for by the resolution of March 2, 1774, which were united, and formed the 24th Regiment of Connecticut militia, commanded by Col. Nathan Dennison. George Dorrance was the lieutenant-colonel, and John Garrett major.
On the 12th of December Congress ordered the two Wyoming companies to join the army of Washington, then on its retreat from the disastrous engagements about New York. This order was promptly obeyed.
At the town-meeting held Aug. 24, 1776, it was voted to erect suitable forts for the protection of the inhabitants. Old Forty fort was enlarged and strengthened, and others were built at Plymouth, Hanover, Wilkes-Barre, and Pittston, and it was contemplated to establish one at Wyalusing.
The old animosities between the Pennsylvania and Connecticut settlers broke out afresh. Mr. Miner says, "There had come in strange families of interlopers from Minisink, from Westchester, N. Y., from Kinderhook, and the Mohawk, neither connected with Pennsylvania nor Connecticut, between whom and the old settlers there was neither sympathy in feeling nor community of interests,---Wintermoots, Van Gorders, and Van Alstines.* A path of communication was opened by the disaffected between New York and Niagara, to strike the Susquehanna twenty miles above Wilkes-Barre. Some of those new and unwelcome settlers soon made their sentiments known, and disclosed their hostility to the American cause, while others for the time remained quiet, though subsequent events showed the purpose of their emigration to the Susquehanna."
* In a note to Col. Stone’s History of Wyoming, p. 201, is the following: "Among the papers of Col. Zebulon Butler Mr. Miner has discovered a document labeled ‘A list of Tories who joined the Indians.’ There are sixty-one names on the list, but of these there were but three New England men. Most of them were transient persons, or laborers, or men who had gone to Wyoming as hunters and trappers. Six are of one family,---the Wintermoots; four were named Secord; three were Pawlings; three Larraways and four Van Alstynes. It is not believed that there were more than twenty or twenty-five Tory families. Nine of them were from the Mohawk valley, who were probably sent thither by the Johnsons to poison the settlement, of possible, or as spies. Four of them were from Kinderhook; six from the county of Westchester (N.Y.). The Wintermoots were from Minisink. There were not ten Tory families who had resided ten years in Wyoming." I have not succeeded in finding a copy of this paper. It was possibly burned in W. P. Miner’s printing-office. Of the names mentioned, all but the Wintermoots were residents of Bradford County, viz.: the Pawlings at Wyalusing, the Van Alstynes at Standing Stone, the Larraways at Wysox, and the Secords at Athens.
Another source of uneasiness was the conduct of the Indians. At the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, they had engaged to observe a perfect neutrality. But it was known that Colonel Guy Johnson, a British Indian agent, had held a treaty with them at Oswego, whereupon Colonel Butler, commanding the 24th Regiment, sent a messenger among them to ascertain their intentions. A chief returned with the messenger, and, at a conference held at Wyoming, he, on the behalf of the Six Nations, declared they were for peace, but wished to hold a council at Wyoming.
Another deputation visited Wyoming in September, and renewed the request for a council, and informed the authorities that they did not wish forts built up the river, adding, "A fort at Wyalusing will block up our new-made, wide, and smooth road, and again make us strangers to one another."
At the beginning of the next year, another delegation visited the settlements. Under date of Jan. 9, 1777, the committee of Westmoreland write to the committee of Easton, in which they state that the bearers are a part of a large body of the Six Nations who, at a treaty that day held at Wyoming, expressed their friendship for the United States, and that a body of about two hundred men, women, and children were on their way desirous of holding a treaty at Easton. Whether this treaty was ever held I have been unable to learn. At the same time William Dunn and Abel Reese petitioned Congress for liberty to enlist two companies of Indians into the army of the United States.
Aside from these preparations and movements, which, for the most part, were confined to Wyoming, everything remained quiet on the Susquehanna. There were rumors that some of the disaffected people were acting as spies, and attempting to stir up the Indians to engage in the war; that the settlers under the Pennsylvania title were engaging the savages as allies to drive out the Connecticut people; that the Indians had, notwithstanding their professions of friendship, committed acts of hostility; but the year 1776 closed without any hostile movement in the valley, the Indians disclaiming any intention of engaging in the war, and the disaffected being two few in number successfully to make any hostile demonstration.
In the spring of 1777, the Tories, who were settled along the river from Tunkhannock to Tioga, began to exhibit signs of uneasiness and activity. The few Indians who had continued to live in the white settlements on friendly terms were more insolent, and finally withdrew to the Indian towns. Gen. Burgoyne was marching with a strong force from Canada, by way of Lake Champlain, to effect a junction with Gen. Clinton, at New York, and thus cut the colonies asunder. A strong detachment of the British army had invested Fort Schuyler. British Indian agents, hope of plunder, and reward for scalps had induced the Indians to violate their pledge of neutrality and engage in the British interest. Some from this valley joined the forces of St. Leger, but the results of the campaign proving disastrous, they returned in the fall and took the Freeman’s oath. They continued, however, in cordial sympathy with the enemy, and only awaited a favorable opportunity to give them their active support.
The Indians now began to engage in acts of open hostility against the Whigs. Mr. James Sutton, a Quaker, and John Jenkins made a journey to Queen Esther’s flats to procure the release of Mr. Ingersoll, who had been carried into captivity. The visitors were courteously treated by the queen, and invited to share her hospitality. She told them she was opposed to the war, and wished the Indians to live at peace with the white people. Says Mr. Peck, "In the course of the evening a company of Indians came before the house, and seating themselves upon a log, began to sing the war-song. The old queen went out to them, and was engaged in an earnest conversation with them for a long time. When she came in she frankly told her gests that the Indians were determined to waylay and kill them, adding, with great emphasis, ‘I can do nothing with them. Now,’ said she, ‘You lie down until I call you.’ They did so, and when all was still in the town she called them, and then said, ‘You must go down the river. Go down the bank, take my canoe, and paddle it without noise. Lift the paddles up edgewise so as to make no splash in the water, and you may get out of reach before the war-party find out which way you have gone.’ They slipped off and found the canoe, which the queen had particularly described, scrupulously followed her directions, and found their way home in safety."
The repulse of St. Leger, the surrender of Burgoyne, and promises made to the Indians still further increased their hostility to the Americans. In addition to this, several deserters from the American army about this time came to reside at Tioga Point and Sheshequin. Prominent among these were Parshall Terry, Jr., Thomas Hill, and Thomas Green, the two former having enlisted in Ransom’s company at Wyoming. After the company joined Washington’s army, Terry, who was a spirited young man, stopped on the march to fix his shoe. His captain ordered him to fall in and go on. Some words passed; the captain struck Terry with his sword, and Terry knocked the captain down. Knowing well the penalty which would be inflicted for this breach of military law, he deserted, came to Wyoming, where he married Amy Stevens; but receiving no sympathy from his own relatives, who were all decided and active Whigs, he retired to Sheshequin, joined Butler’s Royal Greens, was promoted to a lieutenancy, became an active partisan during the war, after which he retired to Canada, where he was honored with several important offices under the British government, and was subsequently drowned by breaking through the ice. Of Thomas Hill, Elisha Harding gives the following account: "Thomas Hill deserted from the same company (Ransom’s), joined Butler’s Rangers, and was down with them (at the battle of Wyoming); who, after the war, lived with the Indians until they left the waters of the Susquehanna. He still remained on the Chemung, until he became old and unable to maintain himself. He was then maintained by the town. I saw him in the poor-house under the care of one of my old friends, Capt. Joseph Leonard." Tom Green, as he was usually called by the people here, belonged to a respectable Whig family, who were settled at Binghamton before the Revolutionary war, and subsequently removed to the West Branch. He was a most bitter and virulent Royalist. These men having joined the British forces at Niagara, at once began to stir up the Indians to acts of hostility against the Whigs on the upper waters of the Susquehanna, and became leaders in their forays.
In addition, the old feuds between the Connecticut and Pennsylvania settlers operated strongly towards inducing the latter, the weaker party, to take the opposite side in the contest. It was a well-understood matter at the time that by far the larger part of those in this county, who were interested in the Pennsylvania claim, were for this reason in sympathy with the enemy, from whom they sought assistance to expel the Yankee intruders. In the petition of Alexander Patterson, presented to the legislature of this State in 1804, reviewing this period of Wyoming history he says,---
"In the year 1776 there were a number of inhabitants, settlers on the northeast branch of the Susquehanna near Wyalusing, under Pennsylvania title. Among these were two brothers by the name of Pawling, of a respectable family from the county of Montgomery, who paid a thousand pounds in gold and silver for their farm at Wyalusing unto Job Gillaway, a useful and well-informed Indian, who had obtained a grant for said land from the late proprietors of the State. Among the settlers were Messrs. Depue, Secord, Vander Lippe, and many other wealthy farmers. The Yankees at Wyoming being more numerous, and though at the distance of sixty miles, insisted that the Pennsylvania settlers should come to Wyoming and train and associate under Yankee officers of their own appointment. As may be supposed, the proposals were very obnoxious to the inhabitants of Pennsylvania, and very properly refused, alleging that they would associate by themselves, and would not be commanded by intruders, who had so repeatedly sacked the well-disposed inhabitants of Pennsylvania, and at that time bid defiance to its laws and jurisdiction. This gave a pretext for the Yankees calling them Tories. They, therefore, went in force and tied the Pennsylvania settlers, and brought them to Wyoming with all their movables, and confined them in a log house until the Indians who lived in the neighborhood of Wyalusing and loved the Pennsylvanians, and at that time were well affected toward the United States, some of whom were in our army,---those Indians came to Wyoming and requested that the Pennsylvania people should be released from confinement. After some altercation, and upon the Indians declaring they would complain to Congress, they were released. And then on their return, without property, were ambushed and fired upon by the Yankees. The event of all this was that the Pennsylvania people were so harassed by the intruders that they were driven to seek an asylum with the Indians, and at length retired to Niagara for protection. It was well known at that time, on the frontiers of Northampton and Northumberland, that the conduct of those Yankees occasioned the secession of the Five Nations from the United States. As was natural to imagine, those Pennsylvania settlers who had been so cruelly robbed of their property would endeavor to regain it. Their address and moving complaints induced Joseph Brandt, a well-known Indian chief, and Col. Butler, superintendent of Indian affairs, to come with them to Wyoming, with a number of Indians, for the recovery of their goods and chattels."
Then follows his account of the battle of Wyoming, in perfect keeping with this inveterate opposer of the Yankees. The evidence from other sources is conclusive that this difficulty about land titles was one of the causes which induced some, at least, to go over to the enemy, and was one of the causes which led the Indians to begin hostilities against the people of this valley.
The people at Wyoming becoming convinced that some of the inhabitants here, if they had not already taken up arms in the British interest, were using all their influence to raise a force against the Susquehanna settlements, and were acting as spies and informers for the enemy, determined to rid themselves of these troublesome neighbors. Accordingly, Samuel Gordon, a surveyor of the Susquehanna company, and intimately acquainted with the country and the people residing here, at his own suggestion, was sent up by the committee of inspection to discover the haunts of the active Tories, return to Wyalusing, where he was to meet Lieut. Jenkins with an adequate force, and secure the capture of those who were found to be most active in their opposition to the Whigs. For some reason, not explained, Jenkins failed to meet Gordon with the promised force at the time appointed. Meanwhile, the Tories, becoming acquainted with his movements, assembled in force, took Gordon and a number of others prisoners. Who these were, or how long they were kept in captivity, is not related in the memorial of Mr. Gordon, dated May 3, 1778, to the assembly of Connecticut, in which these facts are recited. This was probably the first act of open hostility which was committed in this county during the Revolutionary war.
It was probably about this time (the exact dates cannot now be ascertained) that Rudolph Fox, of Towanda, was captured. Both parties were released the same year. The latter part of November or first of December, Lieut. Jenkins, while on a tour of inspection up the river, was also captured between Wyalusing and Standing Stone, carried to Canada, and escaped after a captivity of about six months.
On Dec. 6, 1777, a party of twenty Indians and refugees, under an Indian captain by the name of Hopkins and his lieutenant Terry, plundered the house of Mr. Fitzgerald at Standing Stone, drove off his cattle, sheep, and horses, and took him with them as far as Wysox.
On Dec. 10, 1777, Col. Nathan Denison, commanding the Twenty-fourth regiment of the Connecticut militia, sent a detachment of eleven men, under the command of Lieut. Asa Stevens, who came up as far as Meshoppen and took five suspected persons prisoners, but deeming their force insufficient to advance further, returned to Wyoming. On hearing their report, Col. Denison, Dec. 20, sent up a larger force consisting of one captain, five subalterns, seven sergeants, five corporals, and ninety-three rank and file, in all one hundred and eleven men, under the command of Lieut.-Col. Dorrance, who marched up the river as far as Sheshequin. A prominent Indian chief, whom the English called Hopkins, who had received from the British government a captain’s commission, and was then residing at the foot of New Sheshequin (the old Gore place), it was reported, was keeping several prominent Tories. The soldiers were directed not to molest the Indians, but hoping to capture some of these white people, a party entered Hopkins’ house, made him prisoner, and commenced their search for the persons they were seeking. Hopkins, attempting to escape, was shot through the body by Rufus Baldwin, who was placed to guard him. Hopkins, however, recovered, and was present at the battle of Wyoming. This was the first blood shed in this valley in the Revolutionary contest.
The results of this expedition are thus stated in the memorial of Col. Denison to the Connecticut assembly, dated January, 1778: "The men marched up the river about eighty miles, and took sundry Tories, and happily contented the Tioga Indians and entirely disbanded the conspirators." Unfortunately, this Indian contentment was not of long duration. At the following session the assembly resolved "that *Richmond Berry, Philip Buck, Thomas Silk, *Edward Hicks, *Edward Hicks, Jr., John Young, *Jacob Bowman, Adam Bowman, Jr., *Jacob Bruner, John Henry Short, *Henry Hover, Nicholas Phelps, Nicholas Phelps, Jr., John Phelps, *Jacob Anguish, *George Kentner, Frederick Frank, who were taken in arms against the United States by the militia of Westmoreland, and sent to the deputy commissary-general of prisoners of this State, are ordered to be received and treated as prisoners of war, provided that nothing in the aforesaid order shall be construed to excuse said prisoners from any treasonable offense against the laws of other States." Those in the above list marked with a * are known to have resided in this county. About the same date is a bill of Isaac Underwood against the committee of inspection of Westmoreland for boarding and tending Hicks and Waldreck in jail for eight days. It may be here remarked that in one way or other these men were released in time to engage in the battle of Wyoming.
Thus the year 1777 ended in darkness and gloom and anxious foreboding to the few Whig families which remained here. On the very borders of the Indian country, within a day’s journey of the Indian towns Tioga and Sheshequin, surrounded by parties inimical to their interests, and who regarded them as intruders, sixty miles distant from the Wyoming settlements, unprotected and defenseless, and yet exposed to danger on every side; when they retired for the night thinking that before the morning dawned they might be awakened by savage yells, or when they left their homes they might find them in flames on their return; that every family gathering might be the last, the new year’s greetings were uttered under lively anticipations of distress and sorrow.
The year 1778 commenced with renewed acts of depredation upon the settlements. In January a party captured Lemuel Fitch, of Standing Stone, the first settler in the township, took him to Niagara, and thence to Canada, where he died in captivity.
In February a party of Indians led by Terry and Green came to Wyalusing in the midst of a severe snow-storm, which fell the 12th and 13th of the month, and remained secreted in the old Indian town until the morning of the 14th, when they apprehended Amos York, as he was riding to the town on an errand, plundered his house, drove off his stock, and with much cruelty took Mr. York with them as prisoner. In the early part of March, Nathan Kingsley, a neighbor of Mr. York, was also captured, and taken to Niagara, and thus the entire Wyalusing settlement was swept off; every Whig family had either removed or the men been captured.
In the month of March, as soon as the ice had gone out of the river, a party consisting of 150 men, under Lieut.-Col. Dorrance, came up the river, for the purpose of moving down the Whig families and their effects which remained here. Constructing a raft of the timbers of the old Moravian church and some of the other buildings, they removed the effects of Messrs. York and Kingsley which had escaped the savages, and the family of Benjamin Eaton, who still remained at Ingham’s, in Wilmot, and one Tory family whose name is not given. At Vander Lippe’s they found some of the family of Mrs. York, and at Meshoppen the family of Fitzgerald. These were taken on board, and all were transported to Wyoming. In this party were Capt. Aholiab Buck, Jonathan Terry, and Christopher Hurlbut. The two latter have given accounts of this expedition, and were subsequently residents of the county.
Old Mr. Van Valkenburg and his three daughters, and the family of his two sons-in-law, the Stropes, had always treated the Indians with great kindness. Coming from the west of the Hudson, they were strangers to the Connecticut settlers farther down the river, and for some time were unmolested. Indeed, they hoped that by kind treatment to their savage neighbors they would be spared from the distresses inflicted upon the Whigs below them. But their fears were aroused by the intimation of a friendly Indian, and immediately Sebastian Strope set out for Wyoming for assistance to remove his family down. He had scarcely gotten out of sight of his house, on the 20th of May, when a band of thirteen Indians took the whole family prisoners, burned their house, drove off their stock, sent the men to Niagara, but kept the women and children at various places until the termination of the war. This was the first instance in which women and children were disturbed by the enemy in their attacks upon the settlers of this valley. Mr. Fox was again taken by this party, but contrived to make his escape a little above Towanda.
There may be a sort of monotony in these stories of the sufferings of these early pioneers into this then wilderness, but to the thoughtful reader they tell a story of fortitude, of patience, and of sacrifice which has but few parallels in even the frontier history of the country. There were, as nearly as can now be ascertained, thirty-eight Whig families living in the county in the autumn of 1776. Of these seven enlisted in the two independent companies, besides some eight or ten who belonged to the company of militia. Seven men and the women and children of the Van Valkenburg family were captured; seven were killed by the enemy; one died in captivity, and another immediately after his release; property was destroyed or driven off to the amount of thousands of dollars, houses burned, homes broken up, families separated, and the entire settlements swept away. Of all of our Pennsylvania frontiers we were the first to feel the bitterness of the conflict, and to suffer from the merciless grasp of the enemy. The calamities which befell Wyoming have been recounted in song and in history, but they were not a whit greater, in proportion to the number of her people, than those endured by the few Whig families scattered along the Susquehanna through Bradford County. In those "times which tried men’s souls" our people stood as a barrier between the enemy and the more populous districts, and not until they were swept away could the horde of rangers, refugees, Tories, and Indians plan and execute their fell designs upon Wyoming.
The Tories now had almost entire possession of the county. Only the family of Mr. Fox remained, and he, alarmed for his own safety and that of his family, was making preparations to leave as soon as possible. The object in thus capturing and driving off the Whigs from these upper settlements was first in the interest of some of the Pennsylvania claimants, in order that they might have unquestioned possession of the land to which they deemed themselves to have a lawful title; second, to carry consternation and distress to those who were politically opposed to them, for these people, being without arms, could not be considered as in armed resistance to the British crown; but the especial object was that no tidings of their contemplated movements against Wyoming should be carried to the settlements below, and, therefore, they determined to remove every family which was known to be in friendly communication with them.
The preparations for the invasion of the frontiers now were commenced with great activity under the direction of John Butler, a major in the British army. A few British Provincials from Fort Niagara, and a number of Tories from the upper waters of the Susquehanna and the valley of the Mohawk, together to the number of about 300 or 400, assembled at Tioga Point early in June. To divert the Americans from the real point of attack, a force of Indians under the renowned Joseph Brant made a descent upon Cherry valley; but alarmed by what he deemed war-like preparations, but which were only the boys practicing military drill in sport, he beat a hasty retreat. In the meanwhile another force under Gucingeracton, a noted Seneca chief, carried devastation to the upper and scattered settlements on the West Branch. Other parties were engaged in constructing canoes at Newtown (Elmira) and Tioga for the descent of the forces down the Susquehanna. These being completed, the various marauding parties assembled at Tioga. The combined invading force has been variously estimated at from 800 to 1100 men. Major Butler, in his report to Lieut.-Col. Bolton, puts his own force of rangers and Indians at about 500, but this is doubtless considerably below the number under his command. While at Tioga, a few days were spent in feasting, at which every Indian warrior devoured a portion of roasted dog flesh, singing war-songs, and engaging in war-dances. These over, the party, with faces bedaubed with paint, embarked in their canoes, sang their war-song, and set out on their journey to Wyoming.
While these events were transpiring at Tioga, frequent rumors and alarms had been afloat through the lower settlements. Indian scouts had been discovered below Tunkhannock, and some families had been attacked. It was not, however, until the return of Mr. Jenkins from his captivity, a few days before the battle, June 2, that the inhabitants were certainly assured of the meditated attack upon them. Efforts were at once made to put the settlements in as good a posture for defense as possible. The inhabitants were at once assembled at their respective forts, the militia companies were notified to be in constant readiness, expresses were sent to Congress praying for the return of the Wyoming companies to defend their homes and firesides, scouts were kept on the alert up the river to watch the movements of the enemy; with fearful anxiety, but with undaunted courage, the people were putting forth all their energy to repel the invading foe. Alarm succeeded alarm, and a deepening gloom was settling down upon the northern horizon.
To conceal his movements and guard against surprise, the British commander sent small parties down the river, who sometimes attacked the American scouts. On the 12th of June, William Crooks and Asa Budd, both formerly of Bradford County, were fired on; Crooks was killed, Budd escaped. He was the first man killed in the Susquehanna valley in the Revolutionary war.
June 17, a party of six men in two canoes landed a few miles below Tunkhannock. On ascending the bank they saw an armed force of Tories and Indians running towards them, who fired on them, killing Miner Robbins and wounding Joel Phelps. Elijah, a brother of Joel and brother-in-law of Robbins, was in the attacking party.
The latter part of June the invading force came down in their canoes as far as the mouth of Bowman’s creek, where they left their boats, detached two or three large parties, who followed the river, while the main body kept behind the mountains and thus escaped observation from the Wyoming scouts. Unfortunately, the plan succeeded but too well.
On the 30th of June a party from Jenkins’ fort (present West Pittston) went up into Exeter to hoe some corn; were betrayed by four Tories, two of whom were Michael Showers and Frederick Angar, to the Indians, who assailed them just as they were leaving work, killing three and taking two prisoners.
On this same evening a party of the enemy, led by one of the Wintermoots, obtained entrance to their fort, and the next day, July 1, about noon, the whole force of the enemy took possession of this fort, whose gate stood open to receive them. The next day Butler sent a message to Fort Jenkins, about a mile above Wintermoot’s, demanding its surrender. Hopeless of successful resistance, the six or eight who comprised the entire force of this fort made honorable capitulation.
On the afternoon of this day, Col. Nathan Denison, commanding the militia at Wyoming, apprehending an immediate attack upon the Kingston settlement, hastened dispatches to the several companies to assemble at the Forty fort without delay. During the forenoon of the next day, July 3, two companies from Wilkes-Barre, commanded by Captains James Bidlack, Jr., and Rezin Geer, the company from Plymouth commanded by Capt. Asaph Whittlesy, the Hanover company commanded by Capt. Lazarus Stewart, the Kingston company under command of Capt. Aholiab Buck, and a company under Capt. Dettrick Hewitt, assembled at Forty fort. Besides these were several officers of the Independent companies, who, on learning the imminent danger that threatened, resigned their commissions and hastened home. Among these were Captains Durkee and Ransom, Lieutenants Perin Ross and James Wells. Col. Zebulon Butler was also home on furlough. Capt. John Franklin’s company from Huntington and Salem, and the companies of Lackawanna, were not able to reach Kingston in time to participate in the engagement. Capt. Blanchard was compelled to remain at Pittston, because the enemy had taken possession of all the boats belonging to the settlement. The whole force assembled at the Forty fort, says Col. Franklin, did not exceed 300 men. Of this little band, Col. Zebulon Butler, at their special request, took command, Col. Denison, Lieut.-Col. Dorrance, and Major John Garret serving as his aids.
In the forenoon, Major Butler sent a message to Forty fort demanding its surrender. At a council of war it was unanimously agreed to reject the demand. Then the question was raised whether to make an immediate attack upon the enemy, or await in the fort a few days for reinforcements. Here a wide diversity of opinion was manifested. Butler, Denison, and others were in favor of delay. Franklin’s company would be in before night. Lieut. Timothy Pierce had just arrived from Spalding’s company bringing word that this company would reach Wyoming in two days, and other troops might arrive, which would nearly double their present force. Time was needed to discover the real force of the enemy, to organize the army, and for the excitement to subside. To this delay Stewart was vehemently opposed. He treated the fears of the others as visionary, accused those who opposed him of cowardice, declared that his company alone could whip the whole force of the enemy, and finally threatened that unless the attack were made that day he would lead his Hanover boys home. Butler yielded, and the impetuous Stewart prevailed.
Between two and three o’clock the little army was paraded before the fort, and marched out in the order of battle, Capt. Hewitt’s company on the right, and Capt. Whittlesy’s on the left. A mere handful of old men, with two or three who had been disabled from the scouting of the past few days, were left to guard the fort, and protect the women and children.
It will be borne in mind that Forty fort stood on the west bank of the river, about a mile above Kingston village, upon a gravelly ridge, which extends up to West Pittston. Between this ridge and the river is a low alluvial plain, varying from a few rods to more than a mile in width. On the west of this ridge, towards the mountains, is a strip of low and, in many places, marshy ground, which, at the time of the battle, was covered with a dense growth of alders and white birches; the ridge was covered with pitch pine. About half way between Forty fort and Wyoming, Abraham’s creek cuts this ridge transversely. The path of the army lay along the crest of this ridge, nearly where the present carriage-road runs.
Arriving at Abraham’s creek, about three miles from Wintermoot’s, the army halted, and it was proposed to await here the attack of the enemy; but discovering the smoke of Wintermoot’s and Jenkins’ forts, which the British commander had ordered to be fired for the purpose of deceiving our people into the idea that he was retreating, the men could not be restrained, but pushed on to meet the enemy.
The Wintermoot fort stood upon a slight rise of ground, on the eastern edge of the ridge, about one and a half miles above the Wyoming monument. At the foot of this hill Major Butler had posted his troops, the Tories and regulars on the left in a line across the ridge, his Indian allies on the right, at right angles to the others. Here concealed, they awaited the approach of the American army.
Our forces unsuspectingly marched into the trap which had been set for them. When within about three hundred yards of the British line they deployed, began firing, advancing at each volley. The British line began to waver, but just at this moment the savages rushed from their lurking places, and with great fury attacked in flank and rear the companies on our left. In the confusion an order to fall back was mistaken for a retreat. Panic ensued. The retreat became a rout. In less than half an hour from the time the first shot was fired the field was covered with flying fugitives pursued by the yelling savages. Less than half the number who that fatal afternoon marched from Forty fort ever lived to return. That night was a night of horrors. Of all those who were taken prisoners or wounded but five were saved alive. Major Butler reported 227 scalps taken. He adds, "The Indians were so exasperated with their loss last year, near Fort Stanwix, that it was with the greatest difficulty that I could save the lives of these few." He congratulated his masters that their inhuman butchers had not massacred the women and children; "that not a single person has been hurt of the inhabitants but such as were in arms. To those, indeed, the Indians gave no quarter." The sickening details of that massacre have been so often told that they will not here be repeated. In one of the scouting-parties up the river, of which William Dalton, afterwards of Wyalusing, was one, a son of Queen Esther was killed. Though mortally wounded, he had strength to raise his rifle, fired, and wounded Dalton in the knee. The death of her son inflamed all the Indian blood of the haughty queen. She raged over the field of battle like a demon, torturing the wounded and murdering the captives. At one place sixteen captives had been brought together and placed in a circle around a rock, since appropriately called "Bloody Rock." Each was held to his place by two stalwart Indian warriors. The queen, standing in the centre, with some sort of ceremony, passed around the ring until she came to her victim, when he was dragged forward, and his brains dashed out with the death-maul in the hands of this fury. William Buck, a nephew of Capt. Buck, a flaxen-haired boy, not being held tightly, frightened at the sight, ran, crying, when he was pursued and overtaken by two of the savages, who began to lead him back, when one, coming up behind, cleft his skull with a tomahawk. While this was going on, Lebbeus Hammond and Joseph Elliott, both subsequently residents of this county, by a concerted movement, threw off their captors, sprang from the fatal ring; Elliott ran towards the river, Hammond for the woods. Elliott plunged into the water, and, being an expert swimmer, reached the eastern bank in safety, but the Indians who had followed him wounded him in the shoulder. Daniel Brown speaks of his coming into Wilkes-Barre fort early in the evening with no clothing but his pants, and covered with blood. Hammond was pursued by four or five Indians, but being fleet as a deer readily out-stripped them for a time. Seizing a pine knot while running, he determined he would not be recaptured without a struggle. Turning squarely from the path, he concealed himself behind a tree; his pursuers lost sight of him, gave up the chase, and returned to their horrid work of torture and slaughter. Hammond reached Forty fort next morning.
Neither the exact number on either side engaged, nor the number slain, can be known. Major Butler reported his force of rangers and Indians at 500. Col. Franklin and others give it from 800 to 1000, which is probably nearer the truth. He also reports his losses as one Indian killed, two rangers and eight Indians wounded. But the prisoners surrendered at Jenkins’ fort said that the morning after the battle all the shovels in the place were put in requisition, and at least 80 were buried in the swamp. The American forces are estimated from 300 to 400. Col. H. B. Wright had an interview with Samuel Finch, one of the survivors of the battle, who said that he, Finch, with another soldier, was stationed at the gateway of the fort to count the men as they passed out, and that including the regulars and militia, there were 484 men. As to the number slain, Major Butler says the Indians brought in 227 scalps. In Col. Franklin’s journal, he says that near 300 men fell a sacrifice to Indian barbarity. Subsequently he made out a list with great care, which contains 158 names. Mr. Miner took great pains to collect all the names that any of the survivors could remember, and reckons 153, while Stewart Pearce, whose list contains 164 names, is larger than either. Of these Capt. Aholiab Buck, Lieut. James Wells, James Budd, Samuel Cole, William Dunn, Joseph Staples, and Parker Wilson had been residents of Bradford County. Among the survivors were Sebastian Strope, William Hayek, Justus Gaylord, and perhaps one or two others.*
* A much more detailed account of the battle had been written, but as the whole subject will be exhaustively discussed at the centennial anniversary, just enough is given to show the part Bradford County men took in it.
The result of the battle being known, distress and panic pervaded the settlements. Every family was in mourning for some of its members slain. Women were running to and fro, wringing their hands and crying, "Oh, my husband, my father, my brother!" while with the surviving men able to bear arms all was indecision. At first it was thought best to assemble all the settlements at the Forty fort, and there defend the women and children to the last extremity, but on account of the scarcity of provisions in the fort this was found to be impracticable. It was finally determined to surrender on as honorable terms as could be made with the victorious enemy. During the night Col. Butler and the few Continental soldiers went over to Wilkes-Barre. The next morning Col. Dennison, in company with Rev. Jacob Johnson, Zerah Beach, Esq., and one or two others, repaired under flag of truce to the headquarters of Major Butler, where terms of honorable capitulation were agreed upon. The military stores were to be delivered up, private property was to be preserved to its owners, and the inhabitants were to remain undisturbed in their homes on condition of their not again taking up arms during the war.
These conditions were ruthlessly violated. No sooner had the fort surrendered than the Indians began to possess themselves of whatever pleased their fancy. Men and women were stripped of their wearing apparel, cattle and horses were driven off, the houses burned, and the whole valley was given over to destruction. The British commander was utterly unable to enforce his commands or check the marauding bands of his own army in their work of plunder and devastation. The ludicrous was mingled with the sad. The savages, decked out with the stolen finery of the defenseless inhabitants, and attempting to imitate the manners of the whites, provoked a smile even amid the sadness and desolation they had caused. Queen Esther was as prominent here as she had been in the slaughter of the night before. Col. Franklin relates that as he marched out with Col. Denison to introduce the victors through the gate of the fort, "Queen Esther, with all the impudence of an infernal being, turned to Col. Denison, and says, ‘Well, Col. Den-ni-son, you make me promise to bring more Indians. Here, see (turning her hand back), I bring all these.’ Col. J. Butler observed to her that women should be seen and not heard." Later in the day she was seen riding astride a stolen horse, on a stolen side-saddle placed with the hind end forward, with seven bonnets one upon the other on her head, with all the clothing she could contrive to get on, and over all a scarlet riding-cloak, stolen from Mrs. Shoemaker, carrying in her hand a string of scalps freshly taken from the slaughtered friends of those who were the witnesses of her savage pride and the sufferers from her brutality.
Meanwhile the people were fleeing from the settlements in every direction. As many as could find boats or canoes escaped down the river. As they reported the destruction of Wyoming at Sunbury, the people there joined in the flight, and stopped not until they reached Paxton, where they received aid and sympathy from the generous Scotch-Irish who formed that settlement. Others went on foot, or with such conveyances as they could get, some to Easton, but the most to Stroudsburg. From these places of comparative safety they made their way as best they could to their eastern homes. In this dreary march over the mountains, without provision or clothing, in constant fear of pursuing savages, with no bed but the earth, and no covering but the stars, their sufferings would have been much greater but for the thoughtful aid the then ensign Hollenback. He, gathering what food could be found at Wilkes-Barre, hastened on to supply the wants of the most needy, and then, without a moment’s delay, pushed on to where Capt. Spalding* was encamped, urging forward the men and their stores for the support and help of the famishing fugitives. As it was, many perished, some from hunger, fatigue, and exposure, some from sickness, and others, wandering in quest of whortleberries for food, were lost in the forests and never found.
* D. Williams Patterson, of Newark Valley, N.Y., furnished the Hist. Mag. the following "Roll of Capt. Spalding’s company, which was formed under the order of Congress of June 23, 1778, uniting the remains of the two independent companies of Wyoming, originally commanded by Captains Durkee and Ransom, who were all of Westmoreland, Conn."
Simon Spalding, captain
John Jenkins, lieutenant
Thomas McCluer, sergeant
Peregrene Gardner, corporal
Jeremiah Clemans, corporal
Frederick Eveland, corporal
Thomas Baldwin, corporal
Thomas Neill, corporal
Mason F. Alden, corporal
Thomas Williams, corporal
Rufus Lawrence, corporal
John Hutchinson, corporal
Geo. Palmer Ransom,
Nathan Stark (erased),
Mr. Miner says the whole number in the company was 88; the following are some of the remaining 19: Luke Swetland, Isaac Harding, Josiah Fell, William Conover, John Worden, and Thomas Parks, leaving thirteen to be accounted for.
A few had determined to remain at the fort at all hazards, and demand protection from the British commander. Among these were the families of Parshall Terry, the elder, and Uriah Terry; but, Major Butler having left the valley, the Indians had destroyed all the food remaining, and they after a few days were compelled to join the fugitives.
The papers relating to this campaign, including the muster-rolls of Major Butler’s forces, were destroyed by the burning of the government house in Canada, about thirty years ago; so that neither the exact numbers nor the persons who composed his army can now be had. The Indian Hopkins, of Sheshequin, was in it; so was Hendrick, from Wyalusing, the latter showing great kindness to the Budd family, to whom he offered his protection. William Pawling was holding a captain’s commission, Parshall Terry, Jr., and Jesse Pawling were lieutenants, and Benjamin Pawling was a quartermaster among the Royal Greens. Elisha Harding mentions, among others who were in the British forces, Michael Showers, Jacob Angar, Thomas Hill, Jacob Anguish, George Kentner, Simmons, Frank, Secords, Brown, and some others.
The story of the battle and massacre of Wyoming spread rapidly through the country, and created a profound sensation both here and in Europe. It was at once determined by Washington and the board of war to send a strong force into the Indian country, which should thoroughly chastise them for their atrocities, and teach them a wholesome fear of the Americans. A considerable force of the militia was immediately called out and ordered to report at Sunbury. These were to be joined by Spalding’s company, then at Wyoming, whither a few of the fugitives had returned, in hope of gathering the ripened harvests, and by a detachment from New York at Tioga Point, the whole to be under command of Col. Thomas Hartley, of the Pennsylvania line.
Various causes contributed to delay the assembling of this force. By the 18th of September no more than two hundred were mustered at Muncy, the place of rendezvous. Of these, one hundred and thirty were from Wyoming, under Capt. Spalding, of whom sixty were from the Eleventh Pennsylvania Regiment who had been sent to reinforce the Wyoming garrison, fifty-eight were of the independent company, and twelve were volunteers from among the settlers who had returned, a small force being left to protect the settlement.
Small as the number was, Hartley decided to set out for Tioga. Early in the morning of the 21st this handful of men, with one hundred rounds of ammunition and twelve days’ provisions, started by the Sheshequin path for Tioga, a distance of about seventy miles through an unbroken wilderness. Their way lay across swamps, over mountains, through narrow defiles, and along steep precipices where the troops not infrequently had to crawl on their hands and knees. The Lycoming, along which the path lay, swollen by the heavy autumn rains which had recently fallen, they were compelled to wade or swim upwards of twenty times. Hartley well says, "I cannot help observing that, I imagine, the difficulties in crossing the Alps, or passing up the Kennipeck, could not have been greater than those our men experienced for the time." For four days this dreary march continued, and, though their clothing was constantly saturated with water, and themselves, chilled with the cold, compelled to sleep on the wet ground without covering, and, for fear of being discovered by the enemy, without fire, yet not a murmur or complaint escaped the lips of these brave men.
On the evening of the 25th they encamped within the confines of our county. Although at several places along their route they had discovered traces of the murdering parties of the Indians, yet it was not until the morning of the 26th that any of them were met. The army had now reached the vicinity of the present village of Canton, when the advance party of nineteen fell in with an equal number of Indians approaching them. Our men fired. The leader, an important Indian chieftain, fell, and was scalped; the rest fled.
About the neighborhood of Le Roy they discovered where about seventy warriors had encamped the night before, but apprised by the fugitives from the recent encounter of the approach of Hartley, they joined in the flight.
The detachment now pressed forward with all speed, hoping to take the savages and Tories lurking about Sheshequin by surprise. This place they reached the same evening. But the enemy had been apprised of their coming by one of the Van Alstynes, who had deserted from Capt. Spalding’s company at Wyoming. They nevertheless rescued from the Indians fifteen prisoners, and retook quite a number of cattle, and considerable other property which had been captured at Wyoming. Here it was found that Col. Morgan, who was to have joined Hartley’s forces at this point, had not been heard from; therefore, sending a small force to Tioga, at whose approach the savages precipitately fled, they burnt that and Queen Esther’s town, and returned to Sheshequin, where they encamped on the evening of the 27th.
The situation of this little band of two hundred men was perilous in the extreme. They were in the midst of the Indian country, eighty miles from the American settlements, with bands of hostile Indians skulking on their flanks and rear, Maj. Butler and his four hundred Royal Greens only ten miles distant, their ammunition nearly exhausted, and only one day’s provision remaining in their haversacks. The boldness of the movement and the rapidity of the march had led the enemy to greatly overestimate the strength of the force, and given them no time to rally for defense. But their weakness had been discovered, and bands of Indians and rangers were hastily gathering for their destruction. Nothing but a rapid retreat could avail them. Early the next morning, the 28th, they crossed the river, and following the Indian trail, at eleven o’clock at night they reached Wyalusing, a distance of more than thirty miles, worn down with fatigue, and lame from exposures and accidents. Here they were obliged to halt until near noon to cook some beef, now their only food.
When ready to take up again their march, but one hundred and twenty were able to fall into line; the remainder, disabled by lameness and exhaustion, were placed either upon the pack-horses, or in the canoes taken at Tioga and Sheshequin. Hitherto the rapidity of the march had enabled Hartley to keep in advance of any considerable force which might be pursuing him, but the necessary halt at Wyalusing had given time for the enemy to come up with him, and it therefore became necessary to march with more circumspection. Fifteen men, under a competent officer, formed the advance-guard; these men were followed by the pack-horses and the cattle they had collected. Seventy men, in three divisions, of which the first was from Hartley’s regiment under command of Capt. Stoddart, the second under Capt. Spalding, and the third under Capt. Murrow, came next, while thirty picked men and five runners formed the rear. Flanking-parties were also arranged, but could not be used on account of the difficulty of the ground and the fatigue of the men. The seventeen mounted men were distributed between the front and rear.
In this order the little army set out from Wyalusing, but had hardly left their camping-ground before an attack was made on their front, and on ascending the hill immediately below, another attack was made, but both of these were readily repulsed. Reaching Indian Hill, just on the lower edge of this country, a heavy onset was made on the left flank and rear by a large body of the enemy. The rear-guard gave way, and Capt. Spalding was ordered to its support. While they engaged the enemy, the first and third divisions gained a knoll which overlooked and flanked the enemy, a small party was sent to gain the rear, while those in the boats, hearing the firing, hastily landed and came up from below. Thus from all sides an advance was made with great noise and shouting upon the savages, who, thinking they were about to be surrounded, fled in haste, leaving ten of their number dead on the ground. Hartley’s loss was four killed and ten wounded.
This was the last encounter of Hartley with the Indians, and he reached Wyoming Oct. 1. The enemy, however, followed, and remained for some time lurking about, stealing cattle and horses, and killing or capturing small parties who ventured any distance from the fort.
Colonel Franklin, who was in this expedition as captain of the Wyoming militia, says, "The troops retook a great number of the Wyoming cattle and horses, and other property, and returned with their booty about the 1st of October, though they met with many hazardous skirmishes on the expedition, with the loss of several lives. Several Indians were killed in the different skirmishes.
"The inhabitants were much pleased to see their property, such as cattle, horses, and other effects, brought back from the savages, but as greatly disappointed to see the whole sold at auction or vendue, for the use of the troops, as it was said that no advantage could account to the owners unless they should become the highest bidders."
On receiving the report of this expedition, the supreme executive council of this State ordered "That the unanimous thanks of council be given to Col. Thomas Hartley for the brave and prudent conduct in covering the northwestern frontiers of this State, and repelling the savages and other enemies; and that he be requested to inform the officers and men who have been under his command that this council is highly sensible of the difficulties and hardships of the duty which they have performed, and the courage and zeal which they have shown during the last campaign."
The results of this expedition were valuable. It taught the Indians that blows could be given as well as taken, and compelled the abandonment of Tioga and Sheshequin as places of permanent occupation. These towns were never rebuilt by the Indians. It demonstrated the practicability of sending a strong force into the Indian country, who should visit upon the savages the devastation they had committed upon others, and what would be required to give efficiency to such offensive movements.
Congress had resolved to fit out an expedition to the Indian country, which should break up their settlements, and so chastise the Iroquois nations that, if possible, they might be restrained from committing further outrages upon the border. In the month of October, 1778, Congress referred the matter to George Clinton, governor of New York, and Generals Schuyler and Hand, who reported that the season was far too advanced to prosecute successfully an enterprise of such magnitude. It was decided by Congress that the campaigns of 1779 should be largely on the defensive, and Washington determined that during this lull in the active prosecution of the war would be a favorable time to strike a heavy blow upon the savage tribes of the Six Nations. The plan of the campaign was in great measure confided to Gen. Hand, who had previously made the subject a matter of special study. In March he ordered Mr. Jenkins, the surveyor of the Susquehanna company, and well acquainted with the geography of the country along which it was designed the expedition should pass, to repair to headquarters, for the purpose of communicating such information as he had to General Washington.
The details having been arranged, the chief command of the expedition was given to Maj.-Gen. John Sullivan, of New Hampshire, who was directed to repair to Easton, where the main body of troops was ordered to be assembled. The letter of instructions accompanying the appointment detailed with great exactness the objects to be accomplished and the means to be used. With reiterated emphasis Washington directed the total and complete destruction of the settlements, crops, and plantations of the enemy, so "that the country may not be merely overrun but destroyed," and this in the most effectual manner; that the army was to advance with noise and shouting, and the frequent firing of cannon, that the Indians might be both terrified by the force and made to suffer by the devastation of the invading army. It need hardly be added that these instructions were carried out to the letter.
In the months of April and May the German battalion, consisting of two hundred men, under the command of Maj. Powell, one regiment from York Co., Pa., commanded by Col. Adam Hubley, and a New Hampshire regiment, arrived at Wyoming. Col. Zebulon Butler and Capt. John P. Schots (Sharts is the recent spelling), each with a small force, were already there.
On June 18, Gen. Sullivan left Easton with two New Jersey and two New Hampshire regiments and Col. Proctor’s artillery, and in five days reached Wyoming. Delays and misunderstandings had characterized the movements of this expedition from the first. The officers of the Jersey regiment hesitated to obey marching orders, on account of the backwardness of the legislature of that State to arrange their compensation on the basis of the greatly depreciated currency. This being fully arranged, the board of war deemed the requisitions of Sullivan extravagant, and Congress reluctantly granted such supplies as by them were regarded essential. It was alleged by some that this tardiness on the part of Congress was induced by the secret opposition of the Pennsylvania delegation, who feared the enterprise might further the subsequent occupation of Wyoming by the New England people. On reaching Wyoming, Sullivan found his supplies deficient in both quantity and quality.*
* Col. Doty’s History of Livingston Co., N. Y., p. 158.
"Not a pound of salted meat remaining was fit to eat, and in other departments contractors had equally wronged the public service. Sullivan says that more than a third of his men were without a shirt to their backs. Many of the cattle furnished him were too poor to walk, and some were even unable to stand. Of the fourteen hundred horses provided, fully fifty were worn out and unable to travel farther than a single day’s march beyond the Chemung river, where they were abandoned and ordered to be shot. The Indians afterwards gathered the heads of these slaughtered animals, and arranged them beside the trail. From this circumstance the locality derived its present name of Horseheads."
Here, for nearly six weeks, Sullivan was busily engaged in collecting supplies, boats, and pack-horses, and in organizing and drilling his army.
The boats, one hundred and twenty in number, were loaded with provisions, the heavy artillery, consisting of six four-pounders and two howitzers, and other military stores, and the fleet placed in command of Col. Proctor. The pack-horses, of which there were about fifteen hundred, carried the camp equipage and daily rations. About one o’clock in the afternoon of July 31, the whole army was put in motion for its march to Tioga. The force, as it marched from Wyoming, consisted, besides Col. Thomas Proctor’s artillery regiment, of three brigades. The light troops, composed of Hubley’s and the German regiments, with those commanded by Col. Richard Butler and Col. Hartley, and Schots’ and Spalding’s independent companies, and a company of volunteers from Wyoming, commanded by Capt. John Franklin, all under the command of Brig.-Gen. Edward Hand, formed the vanguard of the army, and usually marched from a mile to a mile and a half in front of the main body. Brig.-Gen. William Maxwell, commanding the New Jersey brigade, composed of the First Regiment under Col. Matthias Ogden, the Second under Col. Israel Shreve, and the Third under Col. Elias Dayton, with Col. Oliver Spencer’s regiment, formed the right division; the left, under command of Brig.-Gen. Enoch Poor, was composed of the regiments commanded by Colonels Cilley, Reed, Scammel, and Courtlandt, New Hampshire and Massachusetts troops.
Col. Zebulon Butler, with a small force, was left in command at Wyoming. Gen. Sullivan was now in command of about three thousand men. July 22, there were reported fit for duty, brigadier-generals, 3; colonels, 7; lieutenant-colonels, 6; majors, 8; captains, 48; chaplains, 3; surgeons, 10; drum-majors, 8; fife-majors, 3; drummers and fifers, 131; rank and file, 2312; total, 2539. Lieut. John Jenkins acted as chief guide, assisted by Richard Fitzgerald, and perhaps some others, while Mr. Benjamin Lodge surveyed the entire route of the army.
On Aug. 4 the army reached Black Walnut, and encamped on the abandoned plantations of Frederick Vander Lippe and Mr. Williamson. They were now so far advanced into the Indian country that an attack was expected to be made at any time. Additional precautions were now taken to guard against surprise; the soldiers were ordered to march with loaded muskets, the cannon mounted on the boats to be shotted, and the advance line to proceed with great circumspection. The troops were directed to march in close order, and with the greatest front possible.
The next day the weather was beautiful. As the army emerged from the thick woods and came upon the crest of the Browntown mountain, the landscape presented a picture of great beauty. At their feet, the Susquehanna winding among the hills and shimmering in the light of the declining sun; about three miles below, but in plain sight, the little fleet was toiling up against the current; while farther on, nearly as far as the eye could reach, hill rose above hill, "circling round like the seats of some vast amphitheatre," forming a scene which called forth expressions of surprise and wonder from the wearied soldiers as they sat down for a moment’s rest on their fatiguing march.
In the evening the army encamped at Wyalusing: the main body, with the boats, near the old Indian town; Gen. Hand’s brigade a mile and a quarter farther up. There is a tradition that Gen. Hand’s marquee stood on the little rise of ground a few rods east of the Kingsley House, while his troops were encamped across the gravel ridge from that point to where the Welles’ residence now is. The old Indian town had been destroyed. In the spring of 1778, the white people had taken the timbers of the church and some of the largest houses to construct a raft on which to move down the families then living here, and in the autumn of that year Hartley had burned the remaining ones. The beautiful meadows, covered with their rich carpet of English grass, afforded a pleasant encampment for the tired troops, and grand pasturage for the horses and cattle.
The army left a man at Vander Lippe’s, too sick to travel. During the day one of the boatmen fell overboard and was drowned, and in the evening, Martin Johnson, a Jersey sergeant, "died after marching all day." The next day a party went back to Vander Lippe’s to look after the sick man, found him dead, and brought up his body and buried him with Sergeant Johnson, near the Kingsley House.
The next day the army remained in its encampment, and the troops spent the day in resting from their fatigues, bathing in the river, washing their clothes, and cooking rations to last them until they should reach Tioga.
Saturday the 7th of August, a severe rain-storm came on, which compelled them to remain another day at Wyalusing. Towards evening the weather cleared, and a general inspection of all the troops took place on the banks of the river.
What strange changes a few years will sometimes witness! A short time before, these woods were vocal with the sounds of busy industry, and ringing with the music of the Christianized Indians as they sang their Delaware hymns. Scarcely had the echoes of these plaintive melodies died away ere these hills were rattling with the shrill war-whoop of the marauding savage, and now they are answering back the shrill call of the bugle, the martial music of fife and drum, or trembling with the echoing thunders of the deep-mouthed cannon.
Early on Sunday morning the army again took up its line of march. The path followed nearly the line of the old stage-road, and the greater part of the distance was out of sight of the river. A succession of high, steep hills made the journey a difficult one. Gen. Hand was able to reach Wysocking and encamp on the Strope farm, near the mouth of the creek, while the main body got only as far as Standing Stone, and encamped on the farms of Mr. Fitzgerald and Capt. Spalding. The boatmen had met on this day’s trip unusual difficulties. The river swollen by the recent rains, the numerous rifts and rapids, and the greater distance of the crooked stream made this a day of great hardship, and it was late in the night ere the whole fleet was drawn up along the flank of the army and the evening gun announced that the day’s work was completed. Just opposite the commanding general’s headquarters was the great stone, standing on the farther bank of the river, which gives the name to the place. At the command of Sullivan a solid shot was fired from the morning gun, which broke off its uppermost corner, leaving the imprint a story for future generations.
Gen. Hand had learned from his scouts of the existence of a newly-built Indian village called Newtychaning, consisting of twenty-eight finished log houses and six others in process of building, on the opposite side of the river, near the mouth of Sugar creek, which had been built in the spring, but was now abandoned. On their passage up the next day a company from Col. Proctor’s men landed and burned the town. This was the first opportunity afforded the army to engage in the work of destruction which it was their mission to carry on. This day, Monday, the path left the river at Wysox creek, striking the Little Wysox near the Hinman place, thence behind the hills opposite Towanda to the small stream which flows into the river above the Narrows, when it passed over the high hill opposite the mouth of Sugar creek, where, being so narrow along the steep face of the hill, it took the name of Breakneck. Three of the cattle tumbled down the hill, and were killed in the fall. One of the boats loaded with flour was lost this evening just as they were coming to land. It was nearly nine o’clock before the troops reached the place of their encampment on the Indian meadows of the present Sheshequin. This place was called by some of the men Sullivan’s farms. Gen. Sullivan himself dated his orders at "Shawanee." Here the army rested one day, waiting for the boats to come up, cooking provision, while some of the officers, under a proper escort, ascended the hill overlooking the junction of the two rivers and reconnoitred the place of the old Tioga.
On Wednesday, Aug. 11, the army was again put in motion. After marching up the river about a mile the troops forded to the right bank. The Second New Jersey and the Second New York crossing first, were deployed to cover the passage of the remainder of the forces. The water at this place was nearly to the armpits, and the current quite rapid. The troops entered the river in several files, each man grasping the one before him in order to steady himself against the force of the stream; and, to keep dry their ammunition, their cartouch-boxes were slung upon their bayonets high above their heads. But little more than an hour was spent in transferring the whole army across the stream. They landed a little below Queen Esther’s town, which Hartley had burned the preceding October. Marching two miles farther, they forded the Tioga branch, and went into camp, not far from noon, on the beautiful plain where the borough of Athens is now situated. This evening Gen. Sullivan dispatched Capt. Cummings, Lieut. Jenkins, Capt. John Franklin, and six men from the Second New Jersey Regiment to reconnoitre the Indian town of Chemung, about twelve miles up the Tioga and near the place which now bears that name, where it was supposed was a considerable force of the enemy; the army meanwhile being employed in clearing off the ground, burning the brush huts which the Indians had erected after the destruction of the town by Hartley, and preparing for their encampment.
About three o’clock in the afternoon of the next day the scout returned with the information that the Indians were moving away with all speed. All the able-bodied troops were at once mustered and ordered to take a supply of ammunition and one day’s rations, to be ready to march early in the evening. At ten o’clock the troops were put in motion, Gen. Hand in advance, followed by Gen. Poor’s brigade, with Gen. Maxwell’s, under command of Col. Drayton, in the rear; Gen. Maxwell remaining in command of the camp. The march was an exceedingly difficult one, on account of the darkness of the night and a couple of narrow defiles which must be passed, so that at daybreak but half of the journey had been accomplished. The remaining half was made on the run, and the town was reached about sunrise. The enemy had evacuated the place and carried away the most of their goods, a few deer- and bear-skins and some trifling trinkets only being left behind. The town "consisted of about forty houses, built chiefly with split and hewn timber, covered with bark and some other rough materials, without chimneys or floors. There were two larger houses, which, from some extraordinary rude decorations, we took to be public buildings. … In what we supposed to be a chapel was found indeed an idol, which might well enough be worshiped without a breach of the second commandment on account of its likeness to anything in heaven or earth.* About sunrise the general gave orders for the town to be illuminated, and accordingly we had a glorious bonfire." (Capt. James Norris’ Journal of the Sullivan Campaign.)
* A part of this journal was published in the Portsmouth (N. H.) Journal, Sept. 16, 1843, which, by leaving out about two pages of the original MS., makes this idol found in Queen Esther’s palace, which was burned by Hartley nearly a year before. The dates ought to have corrected the mistake. Mr. Miner quotes this without observing the blunder, and seeks to account for the existence of the idol on the ground of Queen Esther’s supposed French descent.
Gen. Hand was ordered to push forward with the light troops, in the hope that he might overtake the flying fugitives. When he had advanced about a mile and a half he was fired upon by a party of about fifty, hidden in the bushes, killing six soldiers and wounding as many more, with Capt. Carbury and Adjt. Huston, both of Col. Hubley’s regiment, which was in advance, and Capt. John Franklin, who was severely wounded in the shoulder. On both sides of the river were large fields of corn, potatoes, beans, pumpkins, squashes, and watermelons. After gathering as much of these as could be carried, the rest were destroyed. While doing this, Gen. Poor’s brigade was fired upon by a party from across the river; one man was killed and three wounded. Having completed the destruction of the crops the army marched back to Tioga; which they reached about sunset, thoroughly exhausted by the labors of the last twenty-four hours. The dead were brought back, and buried in the evening with military honors.
Apprehending no danger from the Indians in the immediate vicinity of the camp, the herdsmen separated into small parties, for the purpose of securing better pasturage for the horses and cattle. A party of five or six had gone on the west side of the Tioga for this purpose, when, in the afternoon of the 16th, they were suddenly attacked by a band of Indians. Jabez Elliott was killed and scalped, two others killed, and one missing, and the enemy succeeded in killing one ox and driving off several horses.
It was the plan of Washington that the army should advance into the Iroquois territory in three divisions: the right by the way of the Mohawk, the centre by the Susquehanna, and the left by the Alleghany. General Broadhead, who was in command at Pittsburgh, was to take command of the left or western division. Leaving Pittsburgh in August, with six hundred men, he destroyed several Indian towns on the Allegheny and other tributaries of the Ohio, when it was found that the difficulty of keeping open communications between this and other divisions of the expedition would render co-operation impracticable, and this part of the plan had to be abandoned.
General James Clinton’s division, which consisted of four regiments, under command of Colonels Gansevort, Dubois, Alden, Weisenfels, numbering altogether about fifteen hundred men, had wintered on the Mohawk. About the middle of June he commenced transporting his army and military stores to the head of Lake Otsego, where two hundred and fifty boats were built for the transportation of his stores to Tioga, where he was to form a junction with the other division, under the immediate command of Sullivan.
On the 16th of August, Sullivan ordered a detachment of nine hundred men,* under the command of General Poor, to move up the Susquehanna until they met Clinton. The detachment began its march at 11 o’clock A.M., and reached Mauckatoewangum the first night. From this place Sergeants Chapman and Justus Gaylord were sent forward to inform Clinton of the approaching escort. The sergeants, however, lost the path, and after wandering about in the woods for a number of days, returned to camp nearly famished with hunger. On the evening of the 17th the detachment encamped at Owego, and on the 18th at Choconut. As they were going into their encampment, they were greeted with the report of Clinton’s evening gun.
* The following is the detail---Jersey brigade: 2 colonels, 1 lieutenant-colonel, 1 major, 9 captains, 12 lieutenants, 18 sergeants, 18 corporals, 3 drummers, 3 fifers, and 360 privates. Poor’s brigade: 1 colonel, 1 lieutenant-colonel, 2 majors, 9 captains, 12 lieutenants, 18 sergeants, 18 corporals, 3 drummers, 3 fifers, and 335 privates. Hand’s brigade: 4 captains, 8 lieutenants, 12 sergeants, 12 corporals, 2 drummers, 2 fifers, and 215 privates. Total number of officers and men, 1084.
Clinton’s command had lain in comparative idleness at Lake Otsego, since the middle of June, awaiting orders from Sullivan. To guard against low water, which usually occurs in the latter part of summer, a dam was built at the outlet of the lake, and its waters held in reserve. On the 9th of August the stores were placed on board the boats, each of which was guided by three men, the dam was cut away, and the loaded fleet floated gracefully out of the lake, and hurried down the swollen stream. The troops marched near the bank of the river. On the 13th they reached Unadilla, on the 15th Acquaga, where they expected to be met by a Pennsylvania regiment, for whom they waited all day, and at 9 o’clock the two parties met, and reached Owego the same evening, where they laid by all day on account of a heavy rain. At noon, on the 22d, they reached Tioga in the midst of a drenching storm, where they were welcomed with salvos of artillery, and escorted into camp by Proctor’s military band.
The whole army now numbered about five thousand men. It was the largest and the most imposing military force ever gathered on the soil of Bradford County, as the expedition was the most remarkable undertaken during the Revolutionary war.
Sullivan had determined to make Tioga the base of supplies for his army while in the Indian country. For this purpose he set about constructing a fortification of considerable strength, and for a number of days the soldiers were busily employed in cutting logs for the work. In a letter of Capt. John Shreve, son of the colonel, and who commanded a company in his father’s regiment, he says, "After remaining here a few days, Colonel Shreve was ordered, with a detachment, to build a stockade fort, at a place about two or three miles up the two rivers, Susquehanna and Chemung, where they passed each other within about one hundred yards. I was left with this detachment. The fort was called Fort Sullivan. Nearly four square, about ninety yards one way, and a little under the other way. By digging a trench two and a half feet deep, and placing upright logs about twelve feet high, in the trench, leaving two or three gateways."
The location of this "fort" was near, and a little above, the public square in the borough of Athens, its sides diagonally to the banks of the rivers, with a strong block-house standing in each angle of the intrenchment. It was a very secure defense against any force it was known the enemy could bring against it. The boats were brought up and secured near by.
Immediately on the arrival of Clinton, preparations for an advance were rapidly made. Tents were cut up and made into bags, so that flour, salted meat, and even ammunition could be carried on the backs of pack-horses; all unnecessary baggage was stored with the garrison, the army reorganized, the order of march detailed, and at eleven o’clock in the morning of the 26th of August began its forward movement into the country of the enemy. Nothing of note occurred until the 29th, except the great difficulty of transporting artillery and military stores through such a wilderness. On the morning of this day, when about four miles west of Chemung, a formidable breastwork of logs and fallen trees, very advantageously situated, was discovered.
A large creek ran in front of the intrenchment, the Chemung (Tioga) river was on their right, a high, steep mountain on their left, and a newly-built settlement, called Newtown (present Elmira), in their rear. When the army had arrived within about three hundred yards of the works, the rifle corps began to engage the enemy, for the purpose of withdrawing his attention from the general movements of the troops. General Hand’s brigade was ordered to cover the artillery; General Poor, supported by General Clinton, to take a circuitous march and gain the top of the hill on the enemy’s left; and General Maxwell’s brigade to be held in reserve. Owing to the difficulty of the ground, General Poor did not gain the position assigned him before the fire was opened in front. The force of the enemy was variously estimated from eight hundred to fifteen hundred men; of these there were two hundred British regulars and American loyalists, under the command of Major John and Walter Butler, and the remainder Indians, under Brant. At the second discharge of the artillery, the Indians took to their heels in perfect consternation. In vain their leaders urged and besought them to halt and return their fire. They could think of nothing but escape from the big guns, whose balls were plowing up the earth under their feet and crashing through the trees above their heads. In their retreat they fell in with General Poor, and here a sharp engagement ensued. Poor ordered his men to advance with fixed bayonets, and the enemy fled before him like frightened deer. Reaching the top of the hill, his men poured a volley at the flying foe and the fight was over.
Col. Reid’s regiment, which was on the left of Poor’s brigade, suffered the most severely. Major Titcomb, Capt. Clays, and Lieut. McCauly were wounded, the latter died that night; one sergeant and three private soldiers were killed, and thirty-three were wounded.
Of the Indians twelve scalps were taken, but the number of killed and wounded could not be ascertained. One Tory and one negro were captured. A small force was sent in pursuit of the flying foe, but so precipitate was their retreat that the pursuing party could not come up with them, and abandoned the pursuit.
The next day was spent in destroying the crops, which were abundant. Everything was laid waste. The Tories who were living with the Indians had assisted them in building good log houses, and in planting their crops. Large clearings had been made about their settlements, and several thousand acres of corn were planted, from which it was expected that supplies could be drawn not only for the sustenance of the cultivators, but for the subsistence of the British troops stationed on the border.
From Newtown Sullivan sent back his heavy artillery, for which he wisely judged there would be no further use, and which proved a great incumbrance to the march, retaining only four brass three-pounders and a small howitzer. The wounded, and all who for any reason were unfit for active duty, went by boats to Tioga.
At the evening parade, he proposed to his army that they should draw only half-rations of flour and salted meat, making up the balance from the productions of the country. This was readily and cheerfully accepted by every regiment. No want, however, was occasioned among the troops, the great quantities of corn, beans, squashes, and potatoes found all along the line of march affording an abundant supply of provisions.
The movements of the army in the State of New York it is not designed minutely to follow.* Passing through French Catherine’s town, near the south point of Seneca lake,
* In Doty’s History of Livingston Co., N. Y., is a very full and vivid account of the movements of the expedition in the central part of New York.
the route lay on the east side of the lake, thence into the valley of the Genesee river, where they arrived the 14th of September. Here nearly two days were spent in destroying the crops, burning houses, cutting down orchards, and devastating the country. From this point various detachments were sent out to overrun all the neighboring country. One of these, under Col. Gansevort, passed through the central part of the State, down the Mohawk to Albany, others down the Cayuga lake, down the west side of the Seneca, while the main body of the army set out on its return, by the same way it had advanced, on the afternoon of the 15th of September, and on the 24th arrived at Fort Reid, near Newtown. This had been appointed as the place of rendezvous for the various detachments sent out from the Genesee, and the army remained here until the 29th. In the meanwhile parties were sent up the Tioga and its branches to the distance of thirty miles, for the purpose of destroying any villages or crops which might be found there.
A dispatch announcing that Spain had recognized the independence of the United States was read in general orders on the evening of the 24th, and the following day was spent in rejoicing; oxen were killed, whisky drank, toasts proposed. The troops paraded, cannon roared, and musketry rattled, until the woods rang with the shouts and songs of the men, and the joyful notes of the martial music.
Two hundred and fifty men, properly officered, exclusive of the invalids and boatmen, were left as a garrison at Fort Sullivan, under the command of Col. Shreve, under whose care were placed the women and servants, the baggage, in short, everything which it was deemed would be a hindrance to the rapid march of the army.
The first object of Col. Shreve was to strengthen his fortifications so that they would be secure against any attack the enemy might bring against him. In order to husband his stores, all women who were not expressly left in care of their husbands’ baggage were sent to Wyoming, and the boatmen were hastened to Wyoming to bring up a new cargo of supplies for the returning army. For about a fortnight he was busy in attending to the wants of the sick and wounded in the hospitals, keeping his camp in good condition, and securing supplies.
Sept. 14, he ordered a detachment of one hundred men, one three-pounder cannon, to proceed in twenty boats, manned with one hundred boatmen, all under command of Capt. Reid, to proceed to Newtown, and there construct a small fortification for the relief of the army on its return. To this were transferred supplies of flour, cattle, and spirits for the use of the troops.
Such had been the diligence, energy, and forethought exhibited by Col. Shreve, that in general orders "the commander-in-chief returns his most sincere thanks to Col. Shreve and his garrison, for their industry and attention to the safety and comfort of the army while absent, and the very prudent steps which he pursued to render the situation of the army comfortable on its return."
The army returned to Tioga Oct. 1, having lost in this remarkable expedition less than fifty men. The second was spent as a day of general rejoicing. Says one of the journalists of this campaign, "Joy beamed in every countenance." They had accomplished with great success the object of the expedition, and were now out of the woods and on the great highway to civilization. On the third, the fort was destroyed, and the next day the army marched as far as Wysox. From this place all the troops, except what were necessary to drive the pack-horses and cattle, were embarked on boats, and reached Wyoming on the 7th of October, where, after a test of three days, they set out for Easton, to join the main army.
Numerous incidents have been related by the various journalists* of this campaign; only one or two can be mentioned. At Canadia, Luke Swetland was found, who had been
* The author has found that at least nineteen daily diaries were kept by officers connected with this expedition, copies of fourteen of which are in his possession.
captured by the Indians at Nanticoke, in August, 1778. In the Genesee valley, Mrs. Lester and her child, who had been captured by the Indians at Nanticoke, in August, 1778. In the Genesee valley, Mrs. Lester and her child, who had been captured at Wyoming the November previous, came into the camp. Mrs. Lester afterwards became the second wife of Capt. Roswell Franklin, subsequently a resident of this county.
Lieut. Boyd, of one of the New York regiments, was sent forward with a party of twenty-five men, to reconnoitre the principal town on the Genesee; when on his return, he was ambushed, fourteen of his men were killed, himself and one of his men captured and put to death by the Indians. Boyd was made to suffer most cruel tortures.
The result of this campaign was the breaking up of the power of the Iroquois confederacy. Owing to the loss of their crops, and the destruction of their dwellings, the Indians were compelled to go to the British post at Niagara. The winter proved to be one of unusual severity. Snow fell to a great depth, and the cold was intense. Unable to hunt, they remained through the winter cooped up in barracks, and compelled to eat salted provisions, they died in great numbers from scurvy and other camp diseases. Their losses in battle had been comparatively small, but by sickness enormous. Of the survivors some returned to their ancient seats, others remained in Canada. Small parties continued to come down as far as Wyoming, and commit atrocities upon the settlers, but the nations were never after able to organize any large force of warriors.
Gen. Sullivan and his army received the thanks of congress for the efficient manner in which he had conducted the campaign, and a day of thanksgiving was appointed for his victory over the savages. At the beginning of the campaign, Sullivan had been chagrined that his requisitions were ignored, and that congress had so tardily and scantily supplied him with the stores and equipments which had been promised. In general orders as well as in private conversation, he had severely criticized the conduct of the board of war, which had produced alienation of feeling; and when, at the close of the campaign, he asked leave to resign in order to recruit his health, which had been impaired by the exposures and fatigues of the expedition, it was readily granted, and he left forever the service.*
* I had intended to have given a much more detailed account of this campaign, but want of space compelled me to limit the account to those events which occurred within our country or on its immediate borders. A history of the Sullivan campaign is a desideratum in our historical literature.
As the fugitives from the battle of Wyoming began to return to their homes, for the purpose of securing the crops which had escaped the devastation of the Indians, they were organized into a militia company under the command of Capt. John Franklin, in which Roswell Franklin was first lieutenant, Daniel Gore second lieutenant; and there were four sergeants, three corporals, and sixty-four privates on the muster-roll on the 1st of May, 1780. This company was almost constantly on duty.*
* CAPT. JOHN FRANKLIN’S COMPANY.---A pay-roll of the Company of militia commanded by Capt. John Franklin, in the service of the United States, at the post of Wyoming, for the months, viz., from 30th of April to 4th of May, 1780.
John Franklin, captain
Roswell Franklin, first lieutenant
Daniel Gore, second lieutenant
Daniel Ingersol, sergeant
Asa Chapman, sergeant
Henry Barney, sergeant
Christo. Hurlbut, sergeant
James Sutton, corporal
Wm. Jackson, corporal
Andrew Blanchard, corporal
Ishmael Bennett, Jr.
John Hurlbut, Jr.
Roswell Franklin, Jr.
E. Sale Roberts, Jr.
Besides taking part in the expeditions under Hartley and Sullivan, they were employed in watching the Indian paths and bringing back to the settlements reports of any signs of the approach of hostile Indians, of defending the settlers against the attacks of marauding bands of savages, or pursuing those parties for the purpose of recovering the prisoners and plunder they had taken.
In the latter part of March, 1780, a party of forty or fifty Indians came down the river, and when near Wyoming separated into four or five bands, for the purpose of striking the settlements at as many different points. March 27, one of these parties captured Thomas Bennett and his son, near Kingston, and took them to the woods, where they found Lebbeus Hammond, who, it will be remembered, made his escape from his captors at the battle of Wyoming. The party started for Tioga, and reached Meshoppen on the evening of the 28th. While here the prisoners formed a plan of escape. Seizing a favorable opportunity, they rose upon their captors, four of whom were slain, another wounded, and only one escaped unhurt. "The evening of the 30th the captive victims came in with five rifles, a silver-mounted hanger, and several spears and blankets as trophies of their brilliant exploit."---Miner, p. 279.
March 27 a band of ten Indians---one doubtless of the larger party---made their appearance in Hanover, and shot and killed Asa Upson. On the day following one man was killed and another taken prisoner near Nanticoke. On the 29th, they passed over the river, near Fish island, found Jonah Rogers, a boy, then fourteen years of age, whom they took and went down the river to Fishing creek, and on the following day took Moses Van Campen, a young, athletic man, killed and scalped his father, brother, and uncle. On the same day they captured a lad named Pence, about eighteen years of age. From Fishing creek they passed northerly through Huntington, where they fell in with a scout of four men, under Franklin; two of the scouts were wounded, but all made their escape. In the southern part of what is now Lehman township, Luzerne county, they found Abraham Pike and his wife making sugar. Here they stayed overnight. In the morning they took Pike and his wife prisoners. Wrapping up a child of Mrs. Pike’s in a blanket, they tossed it on the roof of the sugar-cabin, and hastened on with their prisoners. After traveling a few miles they halted, painted Mrs. Pike, saying, "joggo, squaw,"---go home, woman. She returned to the cabin, got her child, fled to the settlement, and gave the alarm; but the Indians were beyond reach.
Pike was a deserter from the British army, under whose flag he had fought at the battle of Bunker Hill. An Irishman by birth, and full of the idea of liberty, he had made his escape and volunteered in the American army, where he served for two years, and then came to the Susquehanna. His situation was, therefore, a critical one, and led him to hazard any danger rather than fall into the hands of the British authorities, by whom he would be held as not only guilty of desertion but of fighting against the British flag.
The course of the capturing party lay across the mountains to the river, near Tunkhannock, where they crossed and proceeded on their way up the east side. When they reached Meshoppen, where Bennett and Hammond had liberated themselves a few days before, the prisoners observed that their captors were much excited. They scanned the ground closely, and talked rapidly between themselves, with fierce gesticulations. On the night of the 3d of April they encamped under a large elm on the Strope farm, near the bank of the river and the mouth of the Wysox creek. They were now on the border of the Indian country, and, deeming themselves safe from pursuit, relaxed somewhat their watchfulness of their prisoners, and all lay down to sleep, five Indians on each side of the captives. The prisoners were all tightly bound except Rogers, whom the chief took in his arms and covered with his blanket. Col. H. B. Wright gives the following as substantially the narrative of Rogers:
"In the afternoon of the day before we reached the place of encampment we came to a stream. I was tired and fatigued with the journey; my feet were sore, and I was just able to proceed. Pike told the chief of the gang that he would carry me over on his shoulders. The old chief in a gruff voice said, ‘Well.’ Pike whispered in my ear as we were crossing the stream, ‘Jonah, don’t close your eyes to-night. When they sleep take the knife from the chief and cut the cords with which I am bound.’ I was the only one of the prisoners who was not bound, and every night the old chief took me under his blanket. The nights were raw and cold, and though protected in this way I thought I should perish. This much of the project was communicated to the other prisoners by Pike. Towards nightfall they halted, kindled a fire, partook of their evening meal, and were soon stretched on the ground. In a few minutes the old chief was asleep, and in the course of half an hour the savages were all snoring, but he knew his friends were awake from the occasional half suppressed cough:
"Pike was the nearest to me, and not over two feet in distance. It was a terrific effort for me to make up my mind to perform my part of the business, for I knew that instant death would be the penalty in case of a failure. But as the time passed on, and the snoring of the savages grew louder, my courage seemed to gather new strength. I had noticed that when the old chief lay down the knife in his belt was on the side next to me. I peered out from under the blanket, and I saw the embers of the fire still aglow, and a partial light of the moon. I also saw the hands of Pike elevated. I thought the time had come, and these two hours of suspense I had passed were more terrible than all the rest of my life put together. I cautiously drew the knife from the scabbard in the chief’s belt, and creeping noiselessly out from under the blanket, I passed over to Pike and severed the cords from his hands.
"All was the silence of death save the gurgling noise made by the savages in their sleep. Pike cut the cords that bound the other prisoners. We were now all upon our feet. The first thing was to remove the guns of the Indians, the work for us to do was to be done with tomahawks and knives. The guns were carefully removed out of sight, and each of us had a tomahawk. Van Campen placed himself near the old chief, and Pike over another. I was too young for the encounter, and stood aloof. I saw the tomahawks of Pike and Van Campen flash in the dim light of the half-smouldering flames, the next moment the crash of two terrible blows; these were followed in quick succession, when seven of the ten arose in a state of momentary stupefaction and bewilderment, and then came the hand-to-hand conflict in the contest for life. But though our enemy were without arms they were not disposed to yield. Pence, however, seizing one of the guns, fired and brought down his man, making four killed and two of them dangerously wounded; they fled, with a terrific yell, on the report of the gun. As they were retreating Van Campen hurled his tomahawk, which buried itself in the shoulders of one of the retreating foe. And this Indian, with a terrible scar in his shoulder-blade, I saw years afterwards, and who acknowledged that he got the wound upon this occasion."
We quote this narrative at length, because it agrees with all contemporary accounts. After the death of his companions, Mr. Van Campen, in a published memorial to congress, asked for remuneration for his sufferings and services, made himself the hero of the occasion, and branded Pike as an arrant coward. But this was so different from the known character of Pike, and the story differed so materially from the accounts given by others of the party, that it has never gained credence among those who have written the history of Wyoming. Mr. Miner remarks, "There was honor enough for all. No nobler deed was performed during the Revolutionary war."
After scalping the dead and recovering the scalps the Indians had taken, making a hasty raft, the party descended the river, and reached Wyoming on April 5. They took as a booty twelve guns and thirty blankets, besides tomahawks, spears, etc.
Mrs. Whittaker (Jane Strope) says that Pike often visited her father after the war, and she frequently heard him relate the particulars of this exploit, and not only point out the tree,---which was standing many years after,---but describe where the party lay, where they placed the guns, and, in short, point out the identical spot where each act was performed. "April 4," Franklin says, "Pike, Van Campen, and company returned. Made their escape at Wysox the 1st. Killed three and took all their arms, etc."
In the early part of June of this year (1780), Franklin, with five men, was on a scout above Wyoming. Reaching Tunkhannock, they discovered fresh tracks in the path, and pursued the trail with all possible speed. When on the mountain now known as York’s Narrows, they heard a report of a gun in the valley below them, and Franklin exclaimed to his men, "Now, boys, we’ll have them! They don’t expect us or they wouldn’t be shooting." It was now late in the afternoon, and it was determined to follow the trail carefully until they came to the camp, and take the party by surprise. In a short time they discovered a smoke about a mile back of where Mr. Lanning now lives, in Wysox, and, cautiously making their way up to it, they found the party sitting around the fire dressing a duck they had killed on the way, and to consist of four white men who were on their way from New York to Niagara, evidently as bearers of dispatches for the British forces. Seizing a favorable opportunity, they captured the whole party, but one of them subsequently made his escape. "They took," says Miner, according to the language of the day, "a fine lot of plunder, valued at £46 18s. 11d. Capt. Franklin and Sergeant Baldwin each shared a silver watch, several pocket compasses, silver buttons, and sleeve-buttons. A scarlet broadcloth coat, several gold-pieces, and a beautiful spy-glass, attest the consequence of the prisoners. Col. Z. Butler purchased the spy-glass from the victors, estimated at three guineas, hard money." This spy-glass was subsequently purchased by Judge Gore, and is now in the possession of Major W. H. H. Gore, of Sheshequin.
Under date of June 9, Franklin says, "Took prisoners at Wysox." Col. John Jenkins has the following memoranda: "June 10, A party of our men brought in three Tories whom they took at Wysox. These men set out from New York with the intention of traveling through the country to Niagara. Their names were Jacob Bowman and his son, Adam, and Henry Hoover. Philip Buck was in their company, but he made his escape when the others were taken. July 11, Bowman, Hoover, and Sergeant Leaders were sent to headquarters for trial. Adam Bowman was exchanged for Elisha Harvey, who had been captured by a band of Indians in December, 1780."
The venerable Burr Ridgeway, deceased, said that Col. Franklin was at his house in Wysox in 1805, and, after relating the occurrence, took out of his pocket a large silver watch, saying, "I took that from the pocket of one of the number." About a year after the above was related to me by Col. Franklin, Cyrus H. Brookins, a blacksmith, who lived near the place where the capture was made, plowed up a large, straight sword, which was supposed to have belonged to one of the party. I called at Brookins’ shop and saw the sword. The blade was nearly devoured by rust, but the brass hilt and guard were in a good state of preservation.
On Saturday, Sept. 2 (1780), Franklin, in company with Sergeant James Wells, William Terry, and Richard Halstead, set out for Tioga. Arriving at this place, they found where quite a large party of the enemy had recently encamped. Under date of September 6, Franklin says, "See two Indians at Tioga, and chased them to Chemung." Returning to Tioga, they found a canoe, and reached Wyoming in safety on the 10th.
Roswell Franklin, of Hanover, had been an active patriot, and, for some reason, seems to have been selected as an object to be peculiarly harassed by the Indians. On the 7th of September, 1781, they captured his son, Roswell, and nephew, Arnold Franklin (whose father had been killed in the Wyoming battle), burned his grain-stacks, and stole his horses, and a few months before had killed his eldest son, Joseph.
At midday, on Sunday, April 7, 1782, Mrs. Franklin sent one of her daughters, Susanna, a girl eleven years of age, to the spring near by for water, with which to prepare their noonday meal. Stooping down to dip the water, she was seized by a party of Indians, and told to keep still. Mr. Franklin was absent looking for some swine which had strayed away. The family, surprised at the delay of the little girl in not returning, began to fear that some accident had befallen her. They were not left long in suspense. In a few minutes eight stalwart Indians rushed into the house, took the remainder of the family, and started for the mountains. The captives were Mrs. Franklin, her daughter Olive, aged thirteen; Susanna; Stephen, four years of age; and Ichabod, a year and a half.
The party took an unfrequented path until they got beyond the settlements, and, as they supposed, beyond danger of pursuit. On the second day’s journey they were joined by five more Indians, making thirteen in all. They moved slowly and with great caution. One night, after they had encamped at the foot of a hill, one of the Indians, who could talk English, said to Mrs. Franklin, "Rebels up there," pointing to the top of the hill.
Mr. Franklin returned to his home in a short time after the Indians had left. A brief examination of the premises convinced him who were the depredators, and hastening to Wilkes-Barre, aroused the people to start in pursuit. The captives heard the alarm-gun at the fort giving the people notice of danger. Several parties were at once organized to overtake, if possible, the retreating foe. One of these was under the direction of Sergeant Thomas Baldwin, with Joseph Elliott second in command. The others of this party were John Swift (afterwards a general, slain on the Niagara frontier in the War of 1812), Oliver Bennett, Watson Baldwin, Gideon Dudley, -------- Cook, and -------- Taylor, eight persons all told.
This party struck across the hills back of Meshoppen, and reached Wyalusing by a short route. Here they became convinced they were in advance of the Indian force and their captives, but went on for the purpose of selecting more advantageous ground for attack. Reaching the Frenchtown mountains about opposite Asylum, they erected a slight fortification of fallen trees, and concealed it with green bushes, and here awaited the approach of their foes. They remained here nearly two days, until they had begun to think their wary enemy had escaped them, but finally determined to remain one day longer.
The Indians were compelled to proceed slowly on account of the children in the party. On Friday night they rested near the present Frenchtown depot. They were without food, and the children were crying with hunger. They caught a few small fish, which they boiled, and gave the prisoners the water to drink. The next morning they were slow about starting. In the narrative of the daughter, Olive, she says, "The Indians seemed to know not what to do." They went on their way moderately, and before noon came to a halt. After resting a while, the Indians began to look carefully around, and peep through the oak-bushes which covered the hill. Mrs. Franklin thought they were looking for deer, and that the deer were not far off.
Soon a shot was fired and then another. Mrs. Franklin and her family were compelled to lie down between the combatants, where they could hear the whistling of the bullets, and hear the shouts of the men,---the white men derisively calling the Indians "copperheads," and they returning the taunt by calling the others "rebels." Dudley fired the first shot, and the foremost savage fell. While in the act of reloading his musket he was wounded in the arm. A fierce and desperate strife ensued. Each party fought behind cover of trees, and the whites had the additional advantage of their slight breastwork. Taylor shot another Indian, a medicine man, and rushed up to take his scalp, but in the operation broke his knife. Two Indians started to take him, of which he was apprised by his companions, when he cut off the Indian’s head, and made his escape.
The Indians then attempted to gain the hill above where the whites were posted, but were driven back, with the loss of one or two killed. The fighting was kept up for several hours with great desperation. Swift had gone out in the morning to hunt, the party of white people being out of provisions. Coming up he was warned to be on his guard or the Indians would shoot him; to which he replied, if there were any Indians there he would have a shot at them if he had to follow them to the Genesee. Opportunity was soon afforded. An Indian, in his eagerness to hear the talk and learn the cause of the new excitement in the white people’s ranks, stepped beyond the cover of the tree, and was shot by Swift, who immediately rushed up with reckless daring and rent off his scalp.
Mrs. Franklin, anxious to know whether her husband was among the rescuing party, raised herself up on her elbow to look. Her daughter, Susannah, seeing an Indian approach, urged her mother to lie down. In a moment the Indian shot, the bullet striking Mrs. Franklin between the shoulders. She fell back, and in a moment expired. The family then supposed they would all be murdered, but Joseph Elliott, being in a position where he saw the murder of Mrs. Franklin, creeping along the trunk of a fallen tree got sufficiently near to shoot the Indian while reloading his gun. Mr. Elliott says, "While lying here" (behind the tree where he had shot the Indian), "I heard a rustling in the bushes. In a moment I drew up my gun to shoot, when I observed it was the children coming towards me. I first thought an Indian was using them as a cover for an attack upon us, but soon found they were alone. I called to them to run as hard as they could, and in a minute they were with me." The daughter Olive says, "I got up, took my brother Stephen on my back, and spoke to my sister to run along the path before me, which she readily did. We started, and seemed to be getting along well enough, when somebody shouted after us. ‘There,’ said my sister, ‘I told you the Indians would be after us and catch us again.’ Once more we heard a man call out to us. I listened, and knew his voice. He spoke with all his might, and said, ‘Run, you dear souls, run!’ We flew to meet them." The Indians fled. Not another shot was fired. The white people, however, remained behind their cover until near sunset, fearing an ambush. They then ventured down to where the Indians had fought, and where were the bodies of those who had been slain, their packs, etc., which had been left behind.
When it is remembered that for more than four hours this contest was waged between seven white men and thirteen Indians,---Swift reaching his party only at the close of the fight,---we can appreciate the truth of Mr. Miner’s remark, that in no engagement during the whole Revolutionary war was there shown more obstinate pluck, or more determined bravery, than in this conflict over the family of Roswell Franklin, in the wilds of Bradford County. The whites had the advantage of position, being on the crest of the hill; while the Indians were superior in numbers, in the ratio of two to one. The whites had two wounded, viz., Dudley, who received a wound in the shoulder, and Oliver Bennett, who had his arm broken. The Indians lost five or six killed, and at least two wounded.
Having buried Mrs. Franklin as decently as circumstances would permit, they at once began to make preparations for their return. In the narrative of the daughter Olive, before quoted, she says, "Our friends having found the tomahawks of the Indians along with their packs, went immediately to cutting dry poles to make a raft, on which to float down the river. They soon accomplished their object, got upon their frail bark, taking us kindly with them, and dropped silently down the stream…. At the dawn of day we came to Wyalusing island. It was just a week since we were taken prisoners…. We lay by a whole day at this place, not daring to go forward, lest we should be discovered by our enemies, who might be lurking near the shore, and could single us out and shoot us down at their leisure. We still had sixty miles to go before we could reach the habitations of our friends, and we were nearly in a state of starvation. One biscuit only remained, and our friends were really afraid that the younger children would die for want of food…. On Sabbath morning some one of the party shot a duck, and before night a wild turkey. The same day they found an old canoe at the island, and said they would send the wounded man and the children down the river in that. They cleaned the sand and stuff out of it, and we set sail again in the evening. They spread a blanket on the bottom for the children to lie on. As the canoe leaked, we had plenty of water, and that cold enough too, to lie in. In the morning, one of the men was sent on with the wounded man in the canoe, and we were taken on board the raft, where we continued until we reached Wilkes-Barre, which was on Wednesday."
The youngest child of Mrs. Franklin was caught up by an Indian at the close of the fight, placed upon his shoulders, and carried into the wilderness; it was never heard of after. Its fate always remained a mystery.
This was the last important act of the war in this valley. Scouting-parties continued to pass up and down the river until the close of the war, but I have learned of no incident connected with them worthy of record.