Frederick Haldimand, British Governor of Canada, had been justifiably upset with last October's surrender of Maj. Gen. Charles Cornwallis to George Washington at Yorktown. There was no doubt that the war was going badly for the British in the East, and he felt that it behooved him to prove to His Majesty George III that the Americans did not hold the upper hand everywhere. That proof, he felt, lay in the triumphs the Indians had been having on the frontier, all the way from North Carolina to the Great Lakes, particularly in the remote regions of New York and down the Allegheny and Ohio rivers for their entire lengths. The Indians had shown themselves to be excellent allies who hated their American foes with boundless intensity. If King George could be convinced to throw even more strength of arms, munitions and supplies to these Indians, there was little doubt in Haldimand's mind that in a very short time the Americans could be ousted everywhere west of the Alleghenies.
One way the Canadian governor hoped to show what great effect the Indian warfare was having on the frontier was to ship to England the substantial lots of scalps that the Indians had taken, which they had turned in at Detroit and other frontier posts. For these, of course, they had been paid handsomely. With that in mind, shortly after the defeat of Cornwallis, Haldemand dispatched orders to these posts to send in their lots of scalps without delay. He was especially interested in those that would be forthcoming from the Iroquois, who were still carrying the war forward in the valleys of the Mohawk and Allegheny, because they would represent tangible proof of the falsity of the American claim that Gen. John Sullivan's 1770 campaign against the Iroquois had utterly destroyed the Six Nations (Iroquois League) -- especially the Senecas.
Detroit, beyond doubt, had the greatest accumulation of these grisly trophies of frontier war -- bales and boxes of them, in fact -- but similar quantities had been building at other posts and collection points, such as Presque Isle and Fort Niagara.
Now, in accordance with those orders, the first of these scalp shipments -- eight large oilskin-wrapped bundles -- had just been prepared by one of the Royal Indian agents for transport to Gov. Haldimand with the following letter:
January 3d, 1782
May it please Your Excellency,
At the request of the Seneca Chiefs, I herewith send to Your Excellency, under the care of James Boyd, eight packages of scalps, cured, dried, hooped and painted with the Indian triumphal marks, of which the following is invoice and explanation:
No. 1. Containing 43 scalps of Congress Soldiers, killed in different skirmishes; these are stretched on black hoops 4 inches in diameter; the side of the skin painted red, with a small black spot to note their being killed by bullets. Also, 62 of farmers killed in their homes; the hoops painted red, the skin painted brown, and marked with a hoe, a dark circle all around to indicate their being surprised at night, and a black hatchet in the middle, signifying their being killed with that weapon.
No. 2. Containing 98 of farmers killed in their houses; hoops red, figure of a hoe mark their profession, great white circle and sun to show they were surprised in the daytime; a little red foot to show they stood upon their defence, and died fighting for their lives and families.
No. 3. Containing 97 of farmers; hoops green, to show they were killed in the fields; a large white circle with a little red mark on it for the sun, to show it was in the daytime, black bullet mark on some, the hatchet on others.
No. 4. Containing 102 of farmers, mixed of several of the marks above, only 18 marked with a little yellow flame, to denote their being prisoners burned alive after being scalped, their nails pulled out by the roots, and other torments; one of these latter was supposed to be an American clergyman, his hands being fixed to the hoop of his scalp. Most of the farmers appear, by the hair, to be young or middle-aged men, there being but 67 very grey heads among them all; which made service more essential.
No. 5. Containing 88 scalps of women, hair braided in the Indian fashion to show they were mothers, hoops blue, skin yellow ground with little red tadpoles to represent, by way of triumph, the tears of grief occasioned to their relations; a black scalping knife or hatchet at the bottom, to mark their being killed by these instruments; 17 others, very grey, black hoops, plain brown color, no marks by the short club or casse-tete, to show they were knocked down dead, or had their brains beat out.
No. 6. Containing 193 boy's [sic] scalps of various ages, small green hoops, whitish ground on the skin, with red tears in the middle, and black marks, knife, hatchet, or club as their death happened.
No. 7. Containing 211 girls [sic] scalps of various ages, small green hoops, white ground, tears, hatchet, club, scalping knife, Ec.
No. 8. This package is a mixture of all the varieties above mentioned, to the number of 122, with a box of birch bark containing 29 little infant's [sic] scalps of various sizes, small white hoops, white ground, no tears, and only a little black knife in the middle, to show they were ripped out of the mother's [sic] bellies.
[The total number of scalps in this shipment was 911.]
Although no signature was appended to the letter written to Gov. Haldimand, the handwriting and other clues seem to indicate it was penned by Col. Guy Johnson, British superintendent of Indian affairs and nephew of the late Sir William Johnson. It also undermines the denials by the British, then and later, that they were offering the Indians rewards for scalps and that those Indians wer specifically ordered not to scalp women and children.
[The above was taken from a book titled, "That Dark and Bloody River," by Allan W. Eckert]