The History of New York State
Book XI, Chapter II
Part XI

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

German Flatts went the same way on September 17. This was a comparatively large village nearly opposite the mouth of West Canada Creek, the settlement being on both sides of the Mohawk River, Fort Herkimer on the south and Fort Dayton on the north. German Flats had been anticipating attack, but did not know Brant was so near until one of the scouts sent out returned just in time to enable the settlers to take refuge in the forts. A mixed force of Tories and Indians fired every unprotected building next morning. Not a structure for ten miles along the river was left standing; the whole territory was laid bare, and all live stock driven off, though the Indians did not attempt to attack the forts. The militia gathered, but the marauders were by this time beyond reach. In retaliation, the militia went as far as Unadilla Valley and destroyed the house of some Tories. The Indians had their main rendezvous at Oghwaga on the Susquehanna, but they were especially active from Unadilla. On September 20 a small column of Scotch-Irish militia under Col. William Butler (not by the way of the notorious Butler family) and four companies of Morgan's Riflemen were sent out to scatter them, if possible. Their scouts reported hat 300 of the enemy were at Unadilla, 400 at Oghwaga, and another force at Tioga Point. Butler's force consisted of 500 men. They destroyed the Indian town at Oghwaga, and another Indian town at Cunahunta on the Susquehanna. On October 10, he began the burning of Unadilla, completing the destruction next day.

But the elusive Indians, though discomfited, wee no beaten. On November 11 another blow was struck by Tories and Indians. Cherry Valley had a population of sixty families. They were protected by a fort and a body of Continental troops under Col. Iichabod Alden. Although the settlers had had several warning that an attack might be expected, Alden did not think it necessary to gather them in the fort. Scouts were sent out, but were captured. Suddenly, early in the morning of the 11th, the Indians attacked, under cover of a blizzard. Some of the soldiers were sleeping in the village. Colonel Alden himself was tomahawked on his way to the post. Forty-three men, women and children were massacred. "Mothers were slaughtered while endeavoring to protect their children. Little babes were ruthlessly murdered. The horrors of the massacre pass the power of description. " #31 It is said that the attacking force numbered 700. . The Indians were mostly of the Seneca nation, and although Brant, the Mohawk Chieftain was with them, he had no part in this fiendishness. He protested against such savagery to Walter Butler, who commanded the Tory company; but Butler "would listen to no appeals of the more humane Brant for mercy on the innocent and helpless," and Brant had no authority over the Senecas. Several attempts were made to take the fort, but it withstood all attacks. However, the carnage outside the post ought to have been bloody enough to satisfy the most fiendish Tory and the wildest Indian.

These forays could not be permitted to continue. New York was indeed standing at arms more vigilantly now than at any time since the outreaching of war. "No one knew where the Tories and Indians would strike next." The Continental Congress also had its attention drawn to the peril. The descent of a force of almost 1,00 Tories and Indians upon the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania in July had yielded 200 scalps for the savages, and a might of horror for the few settlers who escaped. So the Continental and State authorities resolved to send into the Iroquois territory several columns large enough to put an end to such inhuman raids. One expedition, led by Colonels Van Schaick and Willett, left Fort Stanwix (Schuyler) in April, 1779. By way of Wood Creek and Oneida Lake, they passed through the Onondaga country. The Indians fled at their approach, but their villages and stores were destroyed. A large expeditionary force was commanded by General Sullivan. He advanced from the south, through the Wyoming Valley to Tioga Point. There, on August 22, Sullivan was joined by Gen. James Clinton and a column of New Yorkers. They had come by way of Otsego Lake and the Susquehanna Valley. Sullivan now had in his army 3,000 Continentals and the 1,600 brought by Gen. James Clinton. Butler opposed them at Newtown (Elmira) with a force of about 1,600 Tories and Indians. They enemy were in strong fortifications, but after a desperate struggle, they were stormed. The enemy did not again stand against Sullivan. He laid waste the India villages as far north as the "Great Chenesee (Genesee) Town." This was the largest Indian town they had come to. It consisted of about 100 houses. There they found a white woman who had been carried away from Wyoming in the previous year. She told Sullivan that "Butler and Brant with the Toryes & Indians" had gone "in a great hurry" to Niagara. There the Indians were destined to remain during the next winter, drawing their sustenance from the British through Johnson. They could not return to their towns, for the Iroquois country had been made a waste by Sullivan. The Senecas were "completely humbled and broken up," writes Major Norris, #32 "and they never as a nation resumed their ancient seats along the Genesee." In October, Sullivan's Army returned to its starting point, Easton, Pennsylvania. Earlier in the same year, July 19, 1779, Brant, with another band of Indians, raided Minnisink, in Orange County. There was no massacre, the Indian chieftain being content in burning the place. However, he did ambush a detachment that was sent in pursuit, killing forty-five.

The next year brought Sir John Johnson and Brant again into the field. In May they led a strong force of British regulars, New York Tories and Indians of the Mohawk nation along the Great Warpath from Canada. Crossing Lake Champlain, they reached the colonial stronghold of the Johnson family. At Johnstown, after burning Tribe's Hill and Caughnawaga settlements, the Baron made the old family homestead his headquarters while his men collected the family treasure which he had hidden before taking flight in 1776. With the treasure they returned to Canada safely. In October of 1780, Johnson came again, with a force of 600 men, his route being by way of Oswego across county to the Susquehanna Valley, where he was joined by a force of Mohawks under Brant and Cornplanter. They devastated the Schoharie Valley, besieged the fort at Middleburg, and carried their depredation northward. From Fort Hunter, in the same month, Johnson ravaged the Mohawk Valley. AT Stone Arabia a small garrison force under Captain John Brown came out of their stockade,, known as Fort Paris, to engage Johnson. Brown expected General Van Rensselaer to cooperate, but Van Rensselaer was late, and Colonel Brown and almost all of his men were killed. Van Rensselaer engaged the enemy at St. Johnsville, and dispersed them, but was not quick enough in following up the victory, so Johnson escaped. The militia followed the vindictive Tory leader as far as Fort Herkimer, but Johnson's force reached their boats and managed to get away to Oswego without further loss.

The Indians, under Brant, swept into the Mohawk country again, at intervals, in 1781. Colonel Willett engaged another band of Tories and their red allies at Darlagh, in Schoharie County. In October, another mixed enemy force under Ross and Butler suddenly attacked Johnstown. The raiders numbered about a thousand men, and a most stubborn engagement ensued. Colonel Willett, however, beat them off , and pursued them as far as Fort Dayton. The most important outcome of that engagement was that Walter Butler, the cruelest Tory leader of the border was among the slain. "No other event of the Revolution caused such joy in the Mohawk Valley as the death of Walter Butler. It is difficult to appreciate the terror, horror and hatred that his mere name inspired," writes Sherman Williams. #33

The war was then to all intents over, in every field. Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown a few days before the fighting at Johnstown. The Iroquois country was, however, a region of unrest for another year or so. Still, the settlers endured it; they had lived so long in the presence of danger that a little longer did not matter much. It is said that in the "sparcely settled territory of the country of Tryon along" 12,000 farms were abandoned, 380 women widowed, and 2,00 children left fatherless by the border warfare. #34

If we separate this border warfare from what might be called the legitimate warfare-- that between Americans and British, it might said that the only operation of any magnitude in New York after the surrender of Burgoyne was that which brought "Mad Anthony: (General) Wayne to Stony Point in July, 1779. A British force from New York City had captured the American garrison at that place below the Highlands on May 30, 1779. On July 16th, General Wayne retook the post at the point of the bayonet, in "one of the most brilliant operations of the war." At a cost of only fifteen killed, Wayne at Stony Point killed sixty-three and captured 543 British.

A double tragedy of he Hudson was the involvement of Benedict Arnold and Major Andre in the attempt of the former, then commandant at West Point, to deliver that post to the British. The disgrace of Arnold and the hanging of Andre are notorious incidents of personal history so widely known that further reference here need not be made. Washington regretted that he could not pardon Andre, but he felt very bitterly the deflection of Arnold, and stove hard to ring him to an American gallows. "Andre," said Washington, "paid his penalty with the spirit to be expected from a man of such merit and so brave an officer. As to Arnold, he has no heart . . . Everybody is surprised to see that he is not yet swinging on a gibbet." To his death, twenty years later in a land where , but for this one traitorous act, he would have been numbered among the greatest American heroes.

After the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown on October 19, 1781, hostilities ceased, but American and her allies were not freed from anxiety for very many months. Indeed, there came moments when it seemed that warfare would be resumed in America. I t was continuing elsewhere, and generally in England's favor. At sea, Great Britain gained several cheering victories after Yorktown. England's prospects brightened under the Whig government of Rockingham, Richmond and Fox--not by the efforts of her statesmen and politicians, but by those of her gallant soldiers and sailors. For three years Gibraltar gad defied all Spanish and French efforts to capture it;' the hopes of France in the Indies had crumbled when the Mahrattas faltered and made peace: Admirals Hood Rodney trapped the French admiral who had been of such conspicuous service to America at Yorktown; after a desperate engagement lasting ten hours, Admiral de Grasse had to strike his colors and lose his fleet. In September, 1782, the grand attack of the combined allied fleets before Gibraltar had ended in such damage to themselves that they were hardly able to make even a feeble effort to prevent Admiral Howe from revictualing the impregnable fortress for the third time, under their very eyes. The chances of peace seemed to be fading away. Benjamin Franklin summed up the British situation thus: "They are incapable of continuing the war and too proud to make peace." Of course, he was thinking most of the situation in America, where undoubtedly the colonies were now strong enough to meet and defeat any further military effort by the embarrassed mother-country. Washington was confident on this point, but as usual was pessimistic of diplomatic success. He looked suspiciously on all peace negotiations. He only saw England's "political duplicity and perfidity" shaping itself into an endeavor to split the allies. Still, he was not especially uneasy as to America's future, but he meant to stay on guard. "At any rate," he added, "whatever be the enemy's intentions, our watchfulness and our efforts, so far from languishing, should become more vigorous than ever."

France was apprehensive. She wished the allies to preserve a solid diplomatic front and negotiate as one, if at all. America's destiny, however, was in the hands of some very shrewd diplomats--men who were not inclined to "cut off their noses to spite their faces.' John Dams, Benjamin Franklin and John Jay were as long-headed and far-seeing as any trio of diplomats that England could pout forward. These discerning Americans, while unshakable on the point of independence, were willing to deliberate with England on other points of difference. John jay was perhaps the shrewdest of the three; he saw what Franklin could not--that the treaty should be between the Unites States, not the thirteen colonies, and England. This pointed the future of American in the right direction, though many years were to pass before the United States took constitutional form.

The prospect of peace brightened after the death of the Marquis of Rockingham. The new Whig cabinet of England then reorganized, including Lord Shelbourne as premier, and William Pitt, the second son of the greater Pitt. American was the first to come to terms with Britain. Acting "with stealthy precipitation," as France viewed it, the American negotiators signed preliminary articles with England on November 30, 1782, "thus abandoning France," write Guizot, "to the dangers of being isolated in negotiations or in arms." This was far from the wish of Franklin and his associates; they had no intention of leaving France in jeopardy, but the could not jeopardize the future of their own country, by ignoring opportunities of favorable peace that developed for America.

In a speech from the throne, at the opening of the English Parliament on December 5, 1782, King George II made it known that he had offered to recognize the independence of the American colonies. "In thus admitting the separation from the crown of this kingdom, I have scarified all my desires to the wishes and opinion of my people," he aid. "I humbly pray Almighty God that Great Britain may not feel the evils which may flow from so important a dismemberment of its empire, and that America may be a stranger to the calamities which have before now proved to the mother-country that monarchy is inseparable from the benefits of constitutional liberty. Religion, language, interests, affections may still form a bond of union between two countries, and I will spare no pains or attention to promote it." "I was the last man in England to consent to the independence of America." said King George to John Adams, America's first minister at the Court of St. James. "I will now be the last in the world to sanction any violation of it."

America brought her allies into the preliminaries of general peace signed at Paris January 20, 1783, Jay joining Franklin and Adams in these negotiations. At Franklin's request, the New York jurist drafted the article of peace between the thirteen United States of America and Great Britain; and this treaty was concluded on September 3, of that year. If France came out of the war exhausted, she at least had the satisfaction of knowing that her national prestige was much stronger than after the Seven Years (French and Indian) War.. Moreover, her association with democratic America was to ultimately bring France inestimable benefit; the spreading of democratic principles in France. With .America as the pattern, was soon to rejuvenate that ancient nation. Spain was not quite satisfied. She was uneasy, apprehensive. She was confirmed in her conquest in Florida, but had to realize that next to her in North America now lay a new nation of most disturbingly colossal potentialities. Writing to his King, the Spanish ambassador pictured the gloomy future. "This federal republic is born a pigmy," he wrote. "A day will come when it will be a giant; even a colossus formidable to these countries. Liberty of conscience and the facility for establishing a new population on immense lands, as well as the advantages of the new government, will draw thither farmers and artisans from all the nations. In a few years we shall watch with grief the tyrannical existence of the same colonies." #35 Holland, who had taken sides with American, had lost considerably during the war; but by the treaty of peace all her possessions except one, were returned to her. American, of course emerged vest of all. Washington "saw opening before them a career that might lead them to become a great people, equally happy and respected."

The signing of the definitive treaty of peace between the north country and her thirteen United States, her former colonies but not through Jay's insistence recognized as sovereign States, was made known to the American public, by action of the Continental Congress, on October 18, 1783. On November 2d it was promulgated to the army by General Washington, from his headquarters at Rocky Hill, near Princeton, New Jersey. On November 25th the American army took formal possession of New York City, which for seven years had been the British military capital in America. As the rear guard of he British troops boarded barges at the Battery and went off to transports, on that day the advance guard of an American column--consisting of New York and New England Continental veterans and a New York troop of militia--began to march into the city from McGowan's Pass (Central Park). With steady step and soldierly bearing these bronzed weather-beaten veterans , this "Old guard of that patriot army which has won peace," passed down the Bowery, through Chatham to Pearl, down Wall Street and on to their destination in front of the historic Cape's Tavern. Thousands of joyous citizens lined the way, cheering them on. Just as joyously was the main column received, as it proceeded confidently , with jaunty step, down Broadway to Fort George. After a little delay "the glorious Stars and Stripes were flung to the breeze and saluted with thirteen guns and three times three from the throats of American freemen." #36

It was a memorable homecoming, though the rejoicing might not have been so general but for one circumstance. New York City had been the refuge of Loyalists during the War. White the British were in possession, it seemed as though only Tories peopled the city. there were some Patriots, of course, but there were very many Loyalists; and the latter had had free rein, while the former had had to keep this sentiments well under cover. Nor it seemed as though the city only contained Patriots--not by a quick change of sentiment, but by the wholesale exodus of the Tories. When it was known that peace would undoubtedly come with America triumphant, the Tories were panic-stricken. They begged Sir guy Carleton--who had succeeded to the British command--to protect them. As early as June of that year, he had sent 2,4272 Loyalists our of New York , settling them in Nova Scotia; and the remainder left with him on November 25. On November 28, Sir guy reported to his government that "his Majesty's troops an such of the Loyalists as chose to emigrate were , on the 25th inst., withdrawn from the City of New York in good order, and embarked without the smallest circumstance of irregularity or misbehavior of any kind." So a disturbing element has been almost entirely removed from the population, and Patriots might now carry on their ebullitions of joy without feat of friction.

Just as New York City had been the military capital of the British forces, so it was to be the center of American military and civil activities. Washington was in the city, though only for a brief period. His military task was done. Eight long years of responsibility, with his life as well as that of his country depending upon the issue, had been heroically borne. Now the tension was over, the struggle won, he could now cast aside his uniform and give his thought to the civil affairs of the young nation. On December 4, 1783, he took a last loving leave of his comrades-in-arms, the farewell taking place in Fraunces' Tavern, New York City. It was a memorable leave-taking, a fitting ringing down of the curtain upon the dramatic scenes of the eight tragic years of war. Colonel Tallmadge, one of his favorite officers, describes the finale in words of love, admiration, and esteem. He writes:

We had been assembled but a few moments when His Excellency entered the room. His emotion, too strong to be concealed, seemed to be reciprocated by every officer present. After partaking of a slight refreshment in almost breathless silence, the General filled his glass with wine, and turning to the officers, said: "With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honourable." After the officers had taken a glass of wine, the general added: "I cannot come to each of you, but shall feel obliged if each of you will come and take me by the hand." General Know, being nearest to him, turned to the Commander-in-Chief, who , suffused in tears, was incapable of utterance, but grasped his hand, when they embraced each other in silence. In the same affectionate meaner, every officer in the room marched up to, kissed, and parted with his General-in-Chief. Such a scene of sorrow and weeping, I had never before witnessed, and I hope I may never be called upon to witness again. not a word was uttered to break the solemn silence that prevailed, or to interrupt the tenderness of the interesting scene. The simple thought that we were about to part from the man who had conducted us through a long and bloody war and under whose conduct the glory and independence of our country had been achieved, and that we should see his face no more in this world, seemed to me utterly insupportable. But the time of separation had come, and , waving his hand to his grieving children around him, he walked silently on to Whitehall, where a barge was in waiting. WE all followed in mournful silence to the wharf, where a prodigious crowd had assembled to witness the departure of the man who, under God, had been the great instrument in establishing the glory and independence of these Untied States. AS soon as he was seated, the bare put of into the river, and, when out in the stream, our great and beloved general waved his hat, and bade us a silent adieu."

So departed the greatest of Americans from the Greatest of American cities--and from the State which, next to Massachusetts, had done more than any other to help him through the dark, dismal , yet glorious years of the desperate, uncertain struggle for personal freedom and national independence. In point of population, New York City at that time stood eighth among the thirteen revolting colonies. Yet she has sent more soldiers into the armies of the great Washington than any other state, except Massachusetts, which was he most populous. By one account, #37 New York Province and State had furnished 51,979 men for the forces o the Revolution. By the latest State tabulation, #38 the total is given as 43,645, and it is believed that "this number is probably approximately correct." although for "various reasons it is impossible to give and absolutely correct total." She pauperized herself in providing the sinews of war during the eight years of war. In selling produce to the United States for paper money, New York patriots alone lost approximately $5,000,000; and although they had endured so many terrible years of war, rather than pay taxes imposed upon them by a British Parliament in which they had no representation, they heroically bore the sacrifices that wee necessary to meet the financial needs of the province a determined by their own Legislature. The kind of patriotism that can uncomplainingly meet the call for $20,000,000 at a time when poverty stared most men in the face "cannot easily be visualized, but deserves the warmest praise. #39 Incessantly fighting--for a principle, not for material gain-- the patriots of New York held resolutely on, steadfast, true, unswerving, and determined, on to the victorious end, meeting manfully a more terrifying warfare than any other State was called upon to face. "From 1775 to 1783 the people of New York were in perpetual fear of attacks by the British navy, British armies, the Loyalists, and, worst of all, by the relentless Indians. "In no other State were the Loyalists and Indians so active in waging guerrilla warfare and in frontier massacres,' and no other State had it chief city and only seaport continuously cutting off all communication by water and threatening an invasion of the interior by water as well as by land. Wherever New Yorkers looked for eight years, they faced death, devastation, turmoil. "Out of the 308 battles and engagements of the Revolution, ninety-two or nearly two-third, took place on New York soil." #40 yet they held on--and, what is more, maintained orderly responsible government in the midst of this maelstrom of war. Well might New York be pleased with her standing on the books of the Revolution that founded a great republic.

 

The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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