Lossing's Field Book of the Revolution, Vol. I., Chapter X.







Departure from Ogdensburgh. – The St. Lawrence and the Thousand Islands. – Kingston. – Fort Frontenac. – Its Capture by Colonel Bradstreet. – His Life. – Bradstreet’s Officers. – Lake Ontario. – Oswego. – Expedition of Frontenac. – Fort built by Governor Burnet. – Fort Niagara. – Description of Burnet’s Fort. – Erection of other Fortifications. – Fort Ontario. – Shirley’s Expedition against Niagara. – Remains of the "New Fort." – Shirley’s Preparations at Albany. – Montcalm’s Approach to Oswego. – Attack on the Works. – Surrender of the Forts and Garrison to Montcalm. – His Courtesy. – Destruction of the Forts. – St. Leger. – Mrs. Grant. – Willett’s Attempt to Capture Fort Oswego. – Oswego in 1798. – Attack upon Oswego in 1814. – Fort Oswego. – Result of the Battle in 1814. – Oswego at Present. – Major Cochran. – Dr. John Cochran. – Attempted Abduction of General Schuyler by Waltermeyer. – Alarm of the Family. – Narrow Escape of an Infant. – Robbery of General Schuyler’s House. – Retreat of the Marauders. – Abduction of other Patriots. – Mrs. Cochran. – Departure from Oswego. – The Genesee River. – Storm on the Lake. – Sea-sickness. – Fort Niagara. – Attack on Fort Niagara. – Stratagem of the French. – Traditions respecting the Fort. – A Refuge for Tories and Indians. –The Niagara River. – Events there of the War of 1812. – American Militia. – Brock’s Death. – His Monument. – Arrival at Niagara. – Falls Village. – View from Goat Island. – Biddle’s Tower. – Sublime Voyage in the "Maid of the Mist." – Buckingham’s Lines. – Voyage of the Maid of the Mist. – Romantic Marriage. – The Suspension Bridge. – Departure from the Falls. – A Day upon the Rail-Road. – Syracuse. – Early History of that Region. – The French. – Stratagem of a young Frenchman. – Escape of the French. – Early Explorations. – Monumental Stone. – Silver-bottomed Lake. – Rome. – Site of Fort Stanwix. – Forts Newport and Ball. – The Portage and Canal. – The Mohawk Valley. – Sir William Johnson and his Associates. – Effect of Political Movements upon the People. – Formation of Parties. – Violence of Loyalists. – Assault upon Jacob Sammons. – Caughnawaga Church. – Meeting at Cherry Valley. – John Johnson. – Attempted Removal of Mr. Kirkland. – Hostile Movements of the Johnsons. – Indian Councils. – Rev. Samuel Kirkland. – Alarm of the People of the Mohawk Valley. – Sir John Johnson and Highlanders. – Orders to General Schuyler. – Disarming of the Tories at Johnson Hall. – Perfidy of Sir John Johnson. – His Flight. – Royal Greens. – Repairs of Fort Stanwix. – Brant at Oghkwaga. – His hostile Movements. – Expeditions of Herkimer and of Colonel Harper. – Conference with Brant. – His Frankness. – Herkimer’s precautionary Measures. – Haughty Bearing of Brant. – Breaking up of the Council. – Grand Council at Oswego. – Seduction of the Indians. – Their Coalescence with the Whites.


"Billows! there’s not a wave! the waters spread

One broad, unbroken mirror; all around
Is hush’d to silence - silence so profound
That a bird’s carol, or an arrow sped
Into the distance, would, like ’larum-bell,
Jar the deep stillness and dissolve the spell."


A calm, sweetly consonant with ideas of Sabbath rest, was upon the main, the islands, and the river, and all the day long not a breath of air rippled the silent-flowing but mighty St. Lawrence. We passed the morning [August 13, 1848.] in alternately viewing the ever-changing scene as our vessel sped toward Ontario, and in perusing Burke’s "Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful." I never read that charming production with so much pleasure as then, for illustrative examples were on every side. And when, toward noon, our course was among the Thousand Islands, the propriety of his citation of the stars as an example, by their number and confusion, of the cause of the idea of sublimity was forcibly illustrated. "The apparent disorder," he says, "augments the grandeur, for the appearance of care is highly contrary to our idea of magnificence." So with these islands. They fill the St. Lawrence through nearly sixty miles of its course, commencing fifteen miles below Kingston, and vary in size from a few yards to eighteen miles in length. Some are mere syenite rocks, bearing sufficient alluvium to produce cedar, spruce, and pine shrubs, which seldom grow to the dignity of a tree; while others were beautifully fringed with luxuriant grass and shaded by lofty trees. A few of the larger are inhabited and cultivated. They are twelve hundred and twenty-seven in number. Viewed separately, they present nothing remarkable; but scattered, as they are, so profusely and in such disorder over the bosom of the river, their features constantly changing as we made our rapid way among them, an idea of magnificence and sublimity involuntarily possessed the mind, and wooed our attention from the tuition of books to that of nature.

We reached Kingston, Upper Canada, at about four o’clock, where we remained until nearly sunset. This is a large and flourishing town, at the lower end of Lake Ontario, and its commercial position is valuable and important. It stands near the site of old Fort Frontenac, and is now a British military post. It seems strongly fortified, and completely commands, by its military works, the entrance of the St. Lawrence from Ontario. A strong bomb-proof round tower stands upon Cedar Island, just below the city. Similar structures guard the portals of Fort Henry, the open space between the city and the fort, and one is a huge sentinel in the harbor, directly in front of the magnificent market-house that fronts upon the quay. They are mounted with cannon, and the hollow buttresses are pierced for musketry. A flourishing Indian settlement, called Candaragui, was upon the site of Kingston when first discovered by the French, and traces of the builder’s art, evidently older than the fortifications of the whites, have been discovered. I was informed by a resident at Kingston, whom I met at Quebec, that while excavating to form a terrace near his residence, a few months previous, his workmen struck the stump of a tree three feet in diameter, and, upon removing it, a stone wall, regularly laid, was found beneath it.

This spot, known as Fort Frontenac, was a place of much importance during the inter-colonial wars of the last century. It was first a fur trading and missionary station of the Quebec colony. In 1673, Count Louis Frontenac, governor of Canada, erected a fort there and gave it his own name, and for eighty years it was one of the strongest military posts in America. It was from this point that Father Marquette (under the patronage of Frontenac) and other missionaries took their final departure for explorations in the Far West, and here provisions and stores were kept to supply other military and religious establishments upon the great lakes. Fort Frontenac remained in possession of the French until 1758, when Colonel Bradstreet, 1 with a detachment of men, chiefly provincials of New York and New England, captured it. After the disastrous defeat of Abercrombie at Ticonderoga, Colonel Bradstreet solicited and obtained permission to undertake that expedition. He traversed the wilderness to Oswego, where he embarked in three vessels already prepared for him, descended the lake, and suddenly appeared before Frontenac. The weak garrison, overwhelmed by numbers, surrendered without resistance. The commander of the fort was exchanged for Colonel Peter Schuyler, then a prisoner in Canada.

Leaving a small garrison to keep the post, Bradstreet and his troops returned and aided in building Fort Stanwix, upon the Mohawk, at the portage between that river and Wood Creek, a tributary of Oneida Lake. Among his officers were, Colonel Charles Clinton, of Ulster county, New York; Major Nathaniel Woodhull, who fell on Long Island in 1776 and Goosen Van Schaick, of Albany, and Lieutenant Marinus Willett, of New York, who were afterward colonels in the New York Revolutionary line. 2

We did not land at Kingston, for the tarrying time of the boat was uncertain. It was nearly sunset when we left, and we passed the southern extremity of Gage Island just in time to see its last rays sparkling upon the tree-tops on Amherst Island, in the far distance. Ontario, like the St. Lawrence, was unruffled, and the evening voyage between Kingston and Sackett’s Harbor was exceedingly pleasant, rendered so chiefly by a cool breeze, cushioned seats, agreeable company, and the anticipations of meeting dear friends at Oswego the next morning. We landed there a little after daybreak, and tarried three days before starting for the "Niagara frontier."

Oswego is beautifully situated upon Lake Ontario, on each side of the Onondaga or Oswego River, a large and rapid stream, through which flow the waters of eight considerable lakes in the interior of New York – the Canandagua, Crooked, Seneca, Cayuga, Owasco, Skaneateles, Onondaga, and Oneida, with their numerous little tributaries – and drains a surface of four thousand five hundred square miles. Beautifully significant are the Indian names of Oswego and Ontario – rapid water and pretty lake – for the river comes foaming down broad rapids several miles before it expands into the harbor and mingles its flood with the blue waters of Ontario. Its hydraulic power, its commercial position relative to Canada and the great West of our own dominion, and the healthfulness of its climate, mark out Oswego for a busy and populous city. These advantages of locality were early perceived by the English, and were probably not entirely overlooked by the French. But military occupation, for the purpose of spreading wide the overshadowing wings of empire, through the two-fold influences of religion and traffic, seemed to be the chief design of the French in planting small colonies at commanding points.

As early as July, 1696, Frontenac, governor of Canada, fitted out an expedition to attack the Five Nations in New York, 3 and Oswego was made his place of rendezvous. There he built a small stockade fort on the west side of the river, and then proceeded with fifty men into the interior as far as the Onondaga Valley. The Indians fled before him, but upon the shore of Onondaga Lake, near the present Salina, they left their emblem of defiance – two bundles of rushes suspended from a branch. The governor returned to Oswego, and sailed for Fort Frontenac, without accomplishing any good for himself or harm to the Indians, except burning their dwellings when they fled from them. Three years previously, Frontenac, by another route, fell upon the Indians on the Mohawk, near Schenectady, slew many, and took about three hundred prisoners.

These expeditions seemed to be a part of the grand scheme of the French to confine the English, now pushing into the wilderness in all directions, to the Atlantic sea-board; but their forts on the lakes and upon the Ohio, and their extensive alliances with Indian tribes, could not repress the spirit of adventure and love of gain which marked their southern neighbors. The great confederacy of the FIVE NATIONS of New York remained for a long time the fast friends and allies of the English, none but the Caughnawagas, as the French Jesuits termed their converts of the confederacy, lifting the hatchet against them. Protected by these friendly savages, trading posts were founded, and these in turn became military establishments. In 1722, Governor Burnet, of New York (son of the celebrated English bishop of that name), established a trading house at Oswego. His object seemed to be political rather than commercial, for he desired to gain a foothold there, and thus, in a measure, command Lake Ontario. He had been advised by the Board of Trade, after the treaty of Utrecht in 1713, "to extend with caution the English settlements as far as possible, as there was no probability of obtaining an arrangement of general boundaries." Acting under this advice and the promptings of his own clear judgment, he planted the English standard, for the first time, upon the great lakes, and, in spite of the remonstrances of the French and the murmurings of the Oneidas and Senecas (who disliked to see fortresses rising in their neighborhood), he built and armed, at his own expense, a small fort at Oswego in 1727. The French, in the mean while, had strongly fortified their trading post at the mouth of the Niagara River, and thus outflanked the English so far as the lake was concerned. Beauharnois, the governor of Canada, ordered Burnet to desist. Burnet defied, the Frenchman threatened, but, after blustering for a while, the latter, as a countervailing measure, took possession of Crown Point and built Fort St. Frederic there. From that time until 1755, the English had undisturbed possession of Burnet’s fort, and kept it garrisoned by a lieutenant and twenty-five men.

OSWEGO IN 1755. 4

I am indebted to E. W. Clarke, Esq., of Oswego, for much local information concerning that city and neighborhood. He kindly permitted me to use the manuscript of a lecture delivered by him before a literary society there, and from it I gleaned a description of the trading-house and fort erected by Governor Burnet. It was situated on the west side of the river, directly on the bank of the lake, and forty feet above the water. The bank, composed of rock and hard-pan, was almost perpendicular. The building was of stone, and about ninety feet square. The eastern end was circular. It was provided with port-holes and a deep well. The ascent to it from the south was a flight of stone steps (see engraving), the remains of which have been visible within a few years. The earth embankments of the fort, with its ditch and palisades, were about two hundred feet west of the building, upon higher ground, and traces of these might be seen until the late growth of the city obliterated them. The bluff on which the trading-house and fort rested has been leveled in filling in the basin, for the construction of wharves.


While Braddock was making his fatal march against Fort Duquesne, at the junction of the Ohio and Monongahela, in 1755, Governor Shirley, of Massachusetts, with a force of about one thousand five hundred men, composed of provincials and Indians, was on the march from Albany to Oswego, for the purpose of making attacks simultaneously upon Niagara and Frontenac. His march through the wilderness was perilous and fatiguing, and when he arrived at Oswego in August [1755.], his troops were reduced by sickness, and dispirited by the intelligence of Braddock’s defeat. But Shirley, who succeeded Braddock in the chief command, was not disheartened. He strengthened Oswego by erecting two other forts; one westward of old Fort Oswego, called New Fort, one hundred and seventy feet square, with bastions and a rampart of earth and stones; and another on the opposite side of the basin, four hundred and seventy yards distant from the old fort. The east fortification, called Fort Ontario, was built of logs from twenty to thirty inches in diameter. It was eight hundred feet in circumference, and its outer walls were fourteen feet high. Around it was a ditch fourteen feet wide and ten deep, and within were barracks for three hundred men. It was intended to mount sixteen pieces of cannon. This fort was on a commanding site, the perpendicular bank being higher than that upon the west side. 6

Shirley built vessels and made other great preparations at Oswego to proceed against Niagara. He constructed and equipped a sloop and schooner of sixty tons each, two row-galleys of twenty tons each, and eight whale-boats, each capable of carrying sixteen men. His views were promptly seconded by the New York Assembly. That body had already voted eight thousand pounds toward the enlistment of two thousand men in Connecticut, and raised four hundred men of their own in addition to their eight hundred then in the field. Shirley was also directed to complete the forts, and prepare for building one or more vessels of a large class, to mount ten six pounders besides swivels, two more row-galleys, and one hundred whale-boats. But heavy rains delayed his embarkation so long, that winter approached, and he abandoned the expedition against Niagara. He left seven hundred men in garrison at Oswego, and returned to Albany, where the remainder of his troops were disbanded. Additional fortifications, to complete the works, were made to the fort on the west side of the river, and stronger outworks were added to Fort Ontario.


The remains of the ramparts and ditches of the New Fort are now quite prominent at the junction of Montcalm and Van Buren Streets. The annexed engraving is a view of the appearance of these remains when I visited them [August, 1848.]. The view is from Montcalm Street, looking north, toward the lake. The mounds and ditch were covered with a green sward; and decayed stumps of trees, three feet in diameter, were upon the former. The fort had been abandoned about ninety years (for Fort Ontario became the main fortification after 1758), and, therefore, those large trees must have been produced within that time.

Shirley made vigorous preparations at Albany to re-enforce Oswego, the following spring [1756.], for the Marquis de Montcalm, an enterprising and experienced commander, was governor of Canada, and offensive operations on the part of the French were certainly expected. Colonel Bradstreet was appointed commissary general, and, aided by Captain (afterward General) Philip Schuyler, forwarded large quantities of provisions to Oswego. William Alexander, afterward Lord Sterling, of the Revolutionary army, was Shirley’s secretary. Early in the spring an army of seven thousand men, under General Winslow, was at Albany, waiting the arrival of the commander-in-chief, Lord Loudon. His procrastination, which defeated all the plans for the season’s campaign, was fatal in this instance. He did not arrive until late in the summer. In the mean while the French, about five thousand in number, under the Marquis de Montcalm, came up the lake from Fort Frontenac, and landed stealthily behind a heavily-wooded cape (now called Four-mile Point), a few miles below Oswego. Montcalm was there nearly two days before the fact was known to the garrison. He had thirty pieces of heavy artillery, and was about commencing a march through the forest, to take Fort Ontario by surprise, when he was discovered by the English. Colonel Mercer, the commandant of the garrison, ordered a brigantine to cruise eastward, and prevent any attempt of the enemy to approach the fort by water. The next day a heavy gale drove the brigantine ashore, and while she was thus disabled, the French transported their cannon, unmolested, to within two miles of the fort. One or two other small vessels were sent out to annoy them [August 11.], but the heavy guns of the French drove them back to the harbor. The enemy pressed steadily forward through the woods, and toward noon of the same day invested the fort with thirty-two pieces of cannon, ranging from twelve to eighteen pounders, several large brass pounders and hoyets, and about five thousand men, one half of whom were Canadians and Indians. Some of this artillery was taken from the English when Braddock was defeated [July 9, 1755.]. The garrison, under Colonel Mercer, numbered only one thousand four hundred, and a large portion of these were withdrawn to the fort on the west side of the river, to strengthen it, and to place the river between Mercer’s main body and the enemy. The French began the assault with small arms, which were answered by the guns of Fort Ontario, and bombs from the small fort on the other side of the basin. Finding an open assault dangerous, Montcalm commenced approaching by parallels during the night, and the next day [August 12.] he began another brisk fire with small arms. On the day following he opened a battery of cannons within sixty yards of the fort. As soon as Colonel Mercer perceived this, he sent word to the garrison, consisting of three hundred and seventy men, to destroy their cannon, ammunition, and provisions, and retreat to the west side. This they effected without the loss of a man. During the night of the 13th the enemy were employed, in the face of a destructive cannonade, in erecting a heavy battery to play upon the fort. On the morning of the 14th they had finished their battery of twelve heavy guns, and under its cover two thousand five hundred Canadians and Indians crossed the river in three divisions. Colonel Mercer was killed during this movement, and the command devolved upon Colonel Littlehales. The enemy had a mortar battery in readiness by ten o’clock, and their forces were so disposed that all the works of defense were completely enfiladed. At the same time, the regulars, under the immediate command of Montcalm, were preparing to cross to the attack. Colonel Littlehales called a council of war, and, it being agreed that a defense was no longer practicable, a chamade, or parley, was beaten by the drums of the fort, and the firing ceased on both sides. Two officers were sent to the French general to inquire upon what terms he would accept a surrender. He sent back a polite and generous answer, remarking, at the same, time that the English were an enemy to be esteemed, and that none but a brave nation would have thought of defending so weak a place so long. 7 The fort, the whole garrison, one hundred and twenty cannons, fourteen mortars, a large quantity of ammunition and stores, and quite a respectable fleet in the harbor, were the spoils of victory. The forts were dismantled, the prisoners were placed on transports for Frontenac, and, without leaving a garrison behind, the whole military armament went down the lake, and left Oswego solitary and desolate.

The destruction of the forts was a stroke of policy on the part of Montcalm. They had been a continual eyesore to the Six Nations, for they had reason to suspect that, if the English became strong enough, their fortifications would be used as instruments to enslave the tribes. This act of Montcalm was highly approved by the Indians, and caused them to assume a position of neutrality toward the belligerent Europeans. This was what Montcalm desired, and he gained far more power by destroying the forts than he would by garrisoning them. French emissaries were sent among the Indians, and by their blandishments, and in consequence of their successes, they seduced four of the tribes wholly from the British interest. These were the Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas.

The following year [1757.] English troops again took possession of Fort Ontario, and partially restored it to its former strength, and in 1759 it was rebuilt on a larger scale. They also erected a small stockade fort near the Oswego Falls, and built Fort Stanwix, on the Mohawk [1758.]. Thus, in a military point of view, Oswego remained until our war for independence broke out. 8

This post was rather too remote for active operations, during the first years of the war, to attract the serious attention of either party, and the fort was garrisoned by only a few men until the summer of 1777, when St. Leger, with seven hundred Rangers, detached from the army of Burgoyne at St. John’s, on the Sorel, made this his place of rendezvous preparatory to his incursion into the Valley of the Mohawk. Here he was joined by Sir John Johnson and Colonel Daniel Claus, with nearly seven hundred Indians, under Brant, and four hundred regular troops. Here a war feast was given, and, certain of success, the party, in high spirits, departed to invest Fort Stanwix. A different scene was exhibited a few weeks later at Oswego. St. Leger, foiled, and his troops utterly routed, came hastening back in all the terror and confusion of a retreat, the victors in hot pursuit. His Indian allies, greatly alarmed, were scattered over the vast forests, and a mere remnant of his army, without arms, half naked, and nearly starved, followed him to Fort Ontario, whence he fled to Montreal. The details of the siege of Fort Stanwix will be given hereafter.

There was no engagement at Oswego during the Revolution. Just at the close of the war, Washington conceived the design of securing Fort Ontario, and sent an expedition thither under the command of Colonel Marinus Willett, who had been an efficient officer in the Mohawk Valley from the time of the siege of Fort Stanwix. Preliminary articles of peace had been signed in November previous, but as the terms were not definitely agreed upon, it was the policy of the commander-in-chief to be prepared for the reopening of hostilities, and, therefore, until the settlement was finally made, in September, 1783, by the signing of the definitive treaty, his vigilance was unrelaxed. This enterprise was undertaken in mid-winter. Willett assembled his troops at Fort Herkimer, on the German Flats, and on the 9th of February [1783.] crossed the Oneida Lake on the ice, and reached Oswego Falls the next morning. Not being strong enough in numbers to attempt a siege or an open assault, he there prepared scaling-ladders, and determined to surprise the garrison that night. A deep snow lay upon the ground, and the weather was so intensely cold that one of the soldiers was frozen to death. A young Oneida Indian acted as guide, but the snow and the darkness caused him to lose his way. At daylight they found themselves in sight of the fort, and soon afterward they discovered three wood-choppers near. Two of them were captured, but the third escaped to the fort and gave the alarm. Willett and his party immediately retreated, and thus ended the expedition. 9 In 1796 this post, with all others upon the frontier, was given up by the English to the United States.


From a drawing by Dewitt, surveyor general.

A prize, in the shape of public stores deposited at the Oswego Falls, attracted the attention of the British in 1814, and a fleet, bearing three thousand men, appeared before the town on the 5th of September. Fort Oswego, lying nearer the shore of the lake than old Fort Ontario, on the same side of the harbor, was quite dilapidated, and the little garrison had small means of defense. They had only six cannons, and three of these had lost their trunnions. As soon as the sail of the enemy appeared, information was sent to Captain Woolsey, of the navy, then at the village on the west side of the river, and to the neighboring militia. Four large ships, three brigs, and a number of gun and other boats appeared, about seven miles distant, at dawn on the morning of the 5th of September [1814.]. The Americans prepared a battery on the shore, and gave the enemy such a warm reception, while approaching in boats to land, that they returned to their ships. Early on the morning of the 6th the fleet came within cannon-shot of the works, and for three hours kept up a discharge of grape and heavy balls against the fort and batteries. 11 The troops finally effected a landing, and the little band of Americans, not exceeding three hundred in number, after maintaining their ground as long as possible, withdrew into the rear of the fort, and halted within four hundred yards of it. After fighting about half an hour, they marched toward the falls, to defend the stores, destroying the bridges in their rear. The British burned the barracks, and, after spiking some of the guns, evacuated the fort, and retired to their ships at three o’clock on the morning of the 7th. The loss of the Americans was six killed, thirty-eight wounded, and twenty-five missing. The enemy lost, in killed, wounded, drowned, and missing, two hundred and thirty-five. 12 They returned on the 9th, and sent a flag into the village, to inform the people of their intention to land a large force and capture the stores; but, being informed that the bridges were destroyed and the stores removed, the fleet weighed anchor and returned to Kingston.


Scarcely a feature of old Oswego is left. The little hamlet of the Revolution and the tiny village of 1814 have grown into a flourishing city. Heavy stone piers, built by the United States government, guard the harbor from storms, and a strong fortification protects it from enemies. Lake commerce enlivens the mart, and a canal and rail-road daily pour their freights of goods and travel into its lap.

While in Oswego I visited the venerable Major Cochran and his excellent lady, the daughter of General Philip Schuyler. Major Cochran was then nearly eighty years old, and feeble in bodily health, but his mind was active and vigorous. His father was Dr. John Cochran, 14 the surgeon general of the Middle Department of the Revolutionary army; and himself was a member of Congress during the administration of the elder Adams. 15 His family relationship and position made him acquainted with all the general officers of the Revolution, and his reminiscences afforded me much pleasure and instruction during my brief visit. He has since gone down into the grave, and thus the men of that generation, like the sands of an hour-glass, fall into their resting-place. His lady, many years his junior, was the youngest and favorite daughter of General Schuyler. She was his traveling companion during his old age, and constantly enjoyed the advantages of the refined society by which he was surrounded. When her mother departed from earth, she was his companion and solace, and was at his bedside, to minister to his wants, in the hour of death. 16 Although the stirring scenes of the Revolution were passed before the years of her infancy were numbered, her intercourse with the great and honorable of that generation, during her youth and early womanhood, brought facts and circumstances to her vigorous mind so forcibly, that their impressions are as vivid and truthful as if made by actual observation. She related many interesting circumstances in the life of her father, and among them that of an attempted abduction of his person in 1781.

At the time in question, General Schuyler was residing in the suburbs of Albany, having left the army and engaged in the civil service of his country. Notwithstanding his comparatively obscure position, his aid and counsel were constantly sought, in both military and civil transactions, and he was considered by the enemy one of the prominent obstacles in the way of their success. He was then charged by Washington with the duty of intercepting all communications between General Haldimand in Canada and Clinton in New York. For some time the Tories in the neighborhood of Albany had been employed in capturing prominent citizens and carrying them off to Canada, for the purpose of exchange. Such an attempt was made upon Colonel Gansevoort, and now a bold project was conceived to carry off General Schuyler. John Waltermeyer, a bold partisan and colleague of the notorious Joe Bettys, was employed for the purpose. Accompanied by a gang of Tories, Canadians, and Indians, he repaired to the neighborhood of Albany, but, uncertain how well General Schuyler might be guarded, he lurked among the pine shrubbery in the vicinity eight or ten days. He seized a Dutch laborer, and learned from him the exact position of affairs at Schuyler’s house, after which he extorted an oath of secrecy from the man and let him go. The Dutchman seems to have made a mental reservation, for he immediately gave information of the fact to General Schuyler. A Loyalist, who was the general’s personal friend, and cognizant of Waltermeyer’s design, also warned him. In consequence of the recent abductions, the general kept a guard of six men constantly on duty, three by day and three by night, and after these warnings they and his family were on the alert.

At the close of a sultry day [August, 1781.], the general and his family were sitting in the front hall. The servants were dispersed about the premises. The three guards relieved for the night were asleep in the basement room, and the three on duty, oppressed by the heat, were lying upon the cool grass in the garden. A servant announced to the general that a stranger desired to speak to him at the back gate. The stranger’s errand was at once comprehended. The doors of the house were immediately shut and close barred. The family were hastily collected in an upper room, and the general ran to his bed-chamber for his arms. From the window he saw the house surrounded by armed men. For the purpose of arousing the sentinels upon the grass, and perchance to alarm the town, he fired a pistol from the window. The assailants burst open the doors, and at that moment Mrs. Schuyler perceived that, in the confusion and alarm of the retreat from the hall, her infant child, a few months old, had been left in the cradle in the nursery below. Parental love subdued all fear, and she was flying to the rescue of her child, when the general interposed and prevented her. But her third daughter 17 instantly rushed down the two flights of stairs, snatched the still sleeping infant from the cradle, and bore it off safely. One of the miscreants hurled a sharp tomahawk at her as she left the room, but it effected no other harm than a slight injury to her dress, within a few inches of the infant’s head. As she ascended a private stair-case she met Waltermeyer, who, supposing her to be a servant, exclaimed, " Wench, wench, where is your master?" With great presence of mind, she replied, "Gone to alarm the town." The Tory’s followers were then in the dining-room, plundering it of the plate and other valuables, and he called them together for consultation. At that moment the general threw up a window, and, as if speaking to numbers, called out, in a loud voice, "Come on, my brave fellows, surround the house and secure the villains, who are plundering." The assailants made a precipitate retreat, carrying with them the three guards that were in the house, and a large quantity of silver plate. They made their way to Ballstown by daybreak, where they took General Gordon a prisoner from his bed, and with their booty returned to Canada. 18 The bursting open of the doors of General Schuyler’s house aroused the sleeping guards in the cellar, who rushed up to the back hall, where they had left their arms, but they were gone. Mrs. Church, 19 another daughter of General Schuyler, who was there at the time, without the slightest suspicion that they might be wanted, caused the arms to be removed a short time before the attack, on account of apprehended injury to her little son, whom she found playing with them. The guards had no other weapon but their brawny fists, and these they used manfully until overpowered. They were taken to Canada, and when they were exchanged, the general gave them each a farm, in Saratoga county. Their names were John Tubbs, John Corlies, and John Ward.

Mrs. Cochran was the infant rescued by her intrepid sister. The incident is one of deep interest, and shows the state of constant alarm and danger in which the people lived at that day, particularly those whose position made them conspicuous. Mrs. Cochran kindly complied with my solicitation for a likeness of herself to accompany the narrative here given.

It was my intention to go directly from Oswego to Rome, by the plank road that traverses the old war-paths of the last century between those points, for the region westward is quite barren of incident connected with the Revolution. Old Fort Niagara, at the mouth of the Niagara River, was a place of rendezvous for Tories and Indians while preparing for marauding excursions on the borders of civilization in New York, or when they returned with prisoners and scalps. Beyond this it offered no attractions, for hardly a remnant of its former material is left. But having been joined at Oswego by another member of my family, who, with my traveling companion, was anxious to see the great cataract, and desirous myself to look again upon that wonder of the New World, I changed my course, and on a stormy morning [August 17,1848.], with a strong north wind awakening the billows of Ontario, we left Oswego for Lewiston in the steamer Cataract, commanded by the same excellent Van Cleve whose vessel got a little entangled, ten years before, in the affair at Wind-mill Point, near Ogdensburgh. The lake was very rough, and nearly all on board turned their thoughts inwardly, conversing but little until we entered the Genesee River in the afternoon. Many lost the breakfast they had paid for, and others, by commendable abstinence and economy, saved the price of dinner by shunning it altogether.

The scenery upon the tortuous course of the Genesee is very picturesque. The stream is deep and narrow, and its precipitous shores are heavily wooded. The voyage terminated three fourths of a mile below the Lower Falls of the Genesee, and five miles from Ontario. Here is the port of Rochester. The city lies upon the plains at the Upper Falls, two miles distant. Our boat remained there until toward evening, and, the rain having abated, I strolled up the winding carriage-way as far as the Lower Falls. This road is cut in the precipitous bank of the river, presenting overhanging cliffs, high and rugged, on one side, and on the other steep precipices going down more than a hundred feet below to the sluggish bed of the stream. Every thing about the falls is broken and confused. The stream, the rocks, the hills, and trees are all commingled in chaotic grandeur, varying in lineament at each step, and defying every attempt to detect a feature of regularity. There sandstone may be seen in every stage of formation, from the loose soil to shale, and slate-like lamina, and the solid stratified rock. The painter and the geologist are well rewarded for a visit to the Lower Falls of the Genesee.

We descended the river toward evening. Heavy clouds were rolling over the lake; and the white caps that sparkled upon its bosom, and the spray that dashed furiously over the unfinished stone pier at the mouth of the river, betokened a night of tempest and gloom. The wind had increased almost to a gale upon the lake while we had been quietly lying in the sheltering arms of the Genesee. Premonitions of sea-sickness alarmed my prudence, and by its wise direction I slipped into my berth before eight o’clock, and slept soundly until aroused by the porter’s bell, a little before daybreak, at Lewiston Landing. The rain continued, though falling gently. We groped our way up the slippery road to the cars, and, shivering in the damp air, took seats for Niagara, fully resolved to give the bland invitation of the "lake route" a contemptuous refusal on our return eastward. It may be very pleasant on a calm day or a moonlight night, but our experience made us all averse to the aquatic journey.

We passed from Ontario into the Niagara River, seven miles below Lewiston, while slumbering, and, consequently, I have nothing to say of Fort Niagara from personal observation. We will turn to veritable history for the record, and borrow the outlines of an illustration from another pencil.

In 1679, during the administration of Frontenac, a French officer named De Salle inclosed a small spot in palisades at the mouth of the Niagara River, and in 1725, two years before Governor Burnet built his fort at Oswego, a strong fortification was erected there. It was captured by the British, under Sir William Johnson, in 1759. The forces, chiefly provincials, that were sent against the fort were commanded by General Prideaux, who sailed from Oswego, and landed near the mouth of the river in July [July 7, 1759. {original text has July 7, 1757.}]. He at once opened his batteries upon the fortress, but was soon killed by the bursting of a gun. The command then devolved upon Johnson. An army of French regulars, twelve hundred strong, drawn chiefly from western posts, and accompanied by an equal number of Indians, marching to the relief of the garrison, were totally routed by Johnson, and a large part of them made prisoners. The siege had then continued more than a fortnight, and the beleaguered garrison, despairing of succor, surrendered the next day [July 23, 1759.]. In addition to the ammunition and stores that fell into their hands, the strong fort itself was an important acquisition for the English. Within its dungeons were found instruments for executions or murders and the ears of the English received many horrid tales from the captive Indians of atrocities committed there during French rule.


It is said that the mess-house, a strong building still standing within the fort, was built by the French by stratagem. The Indians were opposed to the erection of any thing that appeared like a fortress. The French troops were kindly received by the savages, and obtained their consent to build a wigwam. They then induced the Indians to engage in an extensive hunt with some French officers, and when they returned the walls were so far advanced that they might defy the savages if they should attack them. It grew into a large fort, with bastions and ravelins, ditches and pickets, curtains and counter-scarp, covered way, draw-bridge, raking batteries, stone towers, bakery, blacksmith shop, mess-house, barracks, laboratory, magazine, and a chapel with a dial over its door to mark the progress of the hours. It covered about eight acres. A few rods from the barrier-gate was a burial-ground, over the portal of which was painted, in large letters, REST. The dungeon of the mess-house, called the black-hole, was a strong, dark, and dismal place, and in one corner of the room was fixed an apparatus for strangling those whom the despotic officers chose to kill. The walls were profusely inscribed with French names and mementoes in that language, and the letters and emblems were many of them so well executed as to prove that some of the victims were not of common stamp. When, in June, 1812, an attack upon the fort by the English was momentarily expected, a merchant, residing near the fort, deposited some valuable articles in the dungeon. He went there one night with a light, and discovered his own family name upon the walls. Like other ruins, it has its local legends. The headless trunk of a French officer has been seen sitting on the margin of the well in the dungeon; and large sums of money have been buried there, and their localities pointed out by fingers visible only to money-diggers. 21

During the American Revolution "it was the headquarters," says De Veaux, "of all that was barbarous, unrelenting, and cruel. There were congregated the leaders and chiefs of those bands of murderers and miscreants who carried death and destruction into the remote American settlements. There civilized Europe reveled with savage America, and ladies of education and refinement mingled in the society of those whose only distinction was to wield the bloody tomahawk and the scalping-knife. There the squaws of the forests were raised to eminence, and the most unholy unions between them and officers of the highest rank smiled upon and countenanced. There, in their strong-hold, like a nest of vultures, securely, for seven years, they sallied forth and preyed upon the distant settlements of the Mohawk and Susquehanna Valleys. It was the depôt of their plunder: there they planned their forays, and there they returned to feast, until the time of action came again."

The shores of Niagara River, from Erie to Ontario, abound in historic associations connected with the military operations on that frontier during the war of 1812. The battles of Chippewa, Lundy’s Lane, Queenston, and Fort Erie occurred in this vicinity; but these events are so irrelevant to our subject, that we must give them but brief incidental notice as we happen to pass by their localities.

Fort Niagara was feebly garrisoned by the Americans, and on the 19th of December, 1813, a British force of twelve hundred men crossed the river and took it by surprise. The garrison consisted of three hundred and seventy men. The commanding officer was absent, the gates were open and unguarded, and the fortress, strong as it was, became an easy prey to the enemy. Sixty-five of the garrison were killed, and twenty-seven pieces of ordnance and a large quantity of military stores were the spoils of victory for the British.

It was broad daylight when our train moved from Lewiston, and across the Niagara, on the Canada shore, the heights of Queenston, surmounted by Brock’s monument, were in full view. The battle that renders this towering slope so famous occurred on the 13th of October, 1812. The Americans were commanded by the late General Stephen Van Rensselaer, the British by General Sir James Brock. The former were about twenty-five hundred strong; the latter numbered about the same, besides a horde of Chippewa Indians. The British were strongly posted upon the heights. At four o’clock on the morning of the 13th [1812.] about six hundred Americans, under Colonel Solomon Van Rensselaer and Lieutenant-colonel Christie, crossed over in boats to dislodge the enemy. The passage was made in the face of a destructive fire, and the brave Americans rushed impetuously up the acclivity and attacked the first battery, captured it, and soon stood victorious upon the height from which they had driven the enemy. General Brock endeavored, in person, to rally his scattered troops, and was fatally wounded while leading them to the charge. 22 Dismayed when they saw their leader fall, they fled in great confusion. At this time Colonel Scott, 23 with a re-enforcement of six hundred men, regulars and volunteers, crossed over; and the enemy was also re-enforced by troops from Fort George, and five hundred Chippewa Indians. The strife was fierce for a long time. The British, re-enforced, far outnumbered the Americans, and the militia remaining at Lewiston could not be induced to cross over to support their friends in the combat. Overwhelming numbers closed in upon the Americans, and, after fighting eleven hours, they were obliged to surrender. The American loss was about ninety killed and nine hundred wounded, missing, and prisoners. The behavior of many of our militia on this occasion was extremely disgraceful. Taking advantage of the darkness when they crossed in the morning, they hid themselves in the clefts of the rocks and clumps of bushes near the shore, where they remained while the fighting ones were periling life upon the heights above. The cowards were dragged out from their hiding-places by the legs, by the British soldiers, after the surrender.

The rail-road cars from Lewiston to the Falls ascend in their course an inclined plane that winds up what is evidently the ancient southern shore of Lake Ontario. Deposits of pebbles at the foot of the ridge, and many other facts connected with this physical feature of the country from Niagara to Oswego, prove conclusively, to the mind of the close observer, that this was the shore of Ontario before the great convulsion took place which formed the Falls of Niagara. We leave what questions upon this point remain open, to be settled by wiser minds, and hasten on to the Falls. We caught a few glimpses of the green waters from the windows of the car, and in a few minutes were in the midst of the tumult of porters at the village, more clamorous for our ears than the dull roar of the cataract near by. The fasting upon the lake and the early morning ride had given us a glorious appetite for breakfast, and as soon as it was appeased we sallied out, guide-book in hand, to see the celebrities. These have been described a thousand times. Poets, painters, travelers, historians, philosophers, and penny-a-liners have vied with each other in magnifying this wonder, and as I can not (if I would) "add one cubit to its stature" for the credulous, a thought concerning its sublimity and beauty for the romantic, a hue to the high coloring of others for the sentimental, or a new fact or theory for the philosophical, I shall pass among the lions in almost perfect silence, and speedily leave the excitements of this fashionable resort for the more quiet grandeur and beauty of the Mohawk Valley, once the "dark and bloody ground," but now a paradise of fertility, repose, and peace.

We crossed the whirling rapids and made the circuit of Goat Island. In this route all the remarkable points of the great cataract are brought to view. From the Hog’s Back, at the lower end of the island, there is a fine prospect of the river below, and the distant Canada shore beyond. The almost invisible Suspension Bridge, like a thread in air, was seen two miles distant; and beneath us, through the mist of the American Fall, glorious with rainbow hues, the little steam-boat, the "Maid of the Mist," came breasting the powerful current. We looked down from our lofty eyrie (literally, in the clouds), through the mist veil, upon her deck, and her passengers appeared like Lilliputians in a tiny skiff. From the southern side of the island we had a noble view of the Horse-shoe Fall, over which pours the greater portion of the Niagara River. The water is estimated to be twenty feet deep upon the crown of the cataract. Biddle’s Tower is a fine observatory, overlooking, on one side, the boiling abyss below the fall, and standing apparently in the midst of the rushing waters as they hurry down the rapids above. We spent two hours upon the verge of the floods, in the shadows of the lofty trees that cover the island, but these scenes were tame compared with what we beheld from the "Maid of the Mist" toward noon. We rode nearly to the Suspension Bridge, and, walking down a winding road cleft in the rocks, reached the brink of the river at the head of the great rapids above the whirlpool. There we embarked on the little steam-boat, and moved up the river to the cataract. As we approached the American Fall, all retreated into the cabins, and, the windows being closed, we were soon enveloped in spray. It was a sight indescribably grand. As we looked up, the waters seemed to be pouring from the clouds. A feeling of awe, allied to that of worship, pervaded us, and all were silent until the avalanche of waters was passed. The beautiful lines of Brainerd came vividly up from the shrine of memory, and aided my thoughts in seeking appropriate language:

"It would seem

As if God poured thee from his ‘hollow hand,’
And hung his bow upon thine awful front,
And spoke in that loud voice which seemed to him
Who dwelt in Patmos for his Savior’s sake,
‘The sound of many waters,’ and had bade
The flood to chronicle the ages back,
And notch his cent’ries in the eternal rocks.

Deep calleth unto deep. And what are we
That hear the question of that voice sublime?
Or what are all the notes that ever rung
From war’s vain trumpet, by thy thundering side?
Yea, what is all the riot man can make
In his short life to thy unceasing roar?
And yet, bold babbler, what art thou to Him
Who drowned the world, and heaped the waters far
Above its loftiest mountains? a light wave
That breaks and whispers of its Maker’s might."

Beautifully has Buckingham expressed the reverential thoughts which fill the mind and part the lips for utterance in that majestic presence:

"Hail! sovereign of the world of floods! whose majesty and might
First dazzles – then enraptures – then o’erawes the aching sight;
The pomp of kings and emperors in every clime and zone
Grow dim beneath the splendors of thy glorious watery throne.

"No fleets can stop thy progress, no armies bid thee stay,
But onward, onward, onward thy march still holds its way;
The rising mist that veils thee, as thine herald, goes before,
And the music that proclaims thee is the thundering cataract’s roar.

"Thy reign is of the ancient days, thy scepter from on high –
Thy birth was when the distant stars first lit the gloomy sky;
The sun, the moon, and all the orbs that shine upon thee now,
Beheld the wreath of glory which first bound thy infant brow!"

Our little boat, after sweeping around as near the great Horse-shoe Fall as prudence would allow, touched a moment at the landing on the Canada side, and then returned to her moorings. We felt relieved when we stood again on land, for there is some peril in the voyage; yet the wonderful scene yields a full compensation for the risk. It affords an opportunity to exhibit courage more sensibly than the foolish periling of life in clambering over the slippery rocks under the Falls, and sentiment has here some chance for respectable display. The week previous to our visit a young couple, with a parson, took passage in the "Maid of the Mist," and, when enveloped in the spray of the cataract, were united in wedlock. What an altar before which to make nuptial vows! Can they ever forget the solemn promises there made, or be unfaithful to the pledge there sealed?


We visited the whirlpool, and that wonder of art, the Suspension Bridge, before returning to the village. The former is at the elbow of the Niagara River, two and a half miles below the cataract, and should never be left unseen by the visitor at the Falls. The Suspension Bridge spans the river near the head of the rapids above the whirlpool. The present structure is only the scaffolding for constructing the one intended for the passage of a train of rail-road cars. Numerous foot-passengers were upon it, and a coach and horses, with driver and two passengers, crossed it while we were there. The light structure bent beneath the weight like thin ice under the skater, yet the passage is considered perfectly safe. I visited it again toward evening, and made the accompanying sketch to illustrate the method of its construction and its relative position to the Falls. 25 To attempt to sketch the Falls truthfully is vain. They have never yet been portrayed in their grandeur, and never can be. A picture can not convey an idea of their magnificence to the eye. They must be seen to be known. Art utterly fails in attempts to transfer their features to canvas, and degrades nature by its puny efforts. In their motion consists their great sublimity, and the painter might as well attempt to delineate the whirlwind as to depict Niagara in its glory.

We left Niagara early on Saturday morning [August 19, 1848.], stopped in Buffalo just long enough to go from one rail-way station to another, and reached Syracuse at about eight in the evening, a distance of two hundred miles. That day’s journey seems more like a dream than reality, for hills and valleys, woods and meadows, hamlets and villages, lakes and rivers, the puff of the engine, the rattle of the train, men, women, and children in serried ranks, are all mingled in confusion in the kaleidescope of memory, and nothing but a map or a Traveler’s Guide-book can unravel the tangled skein of localities that was spun out in that rapid journey of fourteen hours. We remember the broad Niagara, the dark Erie with white sails upon its bosom, the stately houses and busy streets of Buffalo, the long reaches of flat, new country, dotted with stumps, from Buffalo to Attica and beyond, the stirring mart of Rochester, the fields, and orchards, and groves of lofty trees that seemed waltzing by us, the beautiful villages of Canandaigua and Geneva, the falls of the Seneca, the long bridge of Cayuga, the strong prison and beautiful dwellings of Auburn, and the golden sunset and cool breeze that charmed us as we approached Syracuse. In that flourishing city of the recent wilderness we passed a quiet Sabbath with some friends, and the next morning I journeyed to Rome.

Although a quarter of a century has scarcely passed since Syracuse was a village of mean huts, 26 it has a history connected with European civilization more than two hundred years old. At Salina, now a portion of the city of Syracuse, where the principal salt-wells are, the French, under the Sieur Dupuys, an officer of the garrison at Quebec, made a settlement as early as 1655. The Onondaga tribe then had their villages in the valley, a few miles from Syracuse, and a good understanding prevailed between them and the new-comers. The jealousy of the Mohawks was aroused, and they attempted to cut off the colonists while on their way up the St. Lawrence. They, however, reached their destination in safety, and upon the borders of the Onondaga Lake they reared dwellings and prepared for a permanent colony. But the uneasiness of the Indian tribes soon manifested itself in hostile preparations, and in the winter of 1658 Dupuys was informed that large parties of Mohawks, Oneidas, and even Onondagas, were arming. Unable to procure assistance in time from Quebec, he succeeded, by stratagem, in constructing some bateaux and escaping with the whole colony secretly down the river to Oswego, and thence to Montreal.

Relying implicitly upon the good faith and promised friendship of the Indians, Dupuys had neglected to preserve his canoes. To construct new ones in view of the Indians would advertise them of his intentions, and bring their hatchets upon the settlement at once. He therefore had small bateaux made in the garret of the Jesuit’s house, and kept them concealed when finished. A young Frenchman had been adopted into the family of a chief, and had acquired great influence over the tribe. By their customs an adopted son had all the privileges of a son by birth. When Dupuys had a sufficient number of bateaux finished, this young man went to his foster-father, and in a solemn manner related that he had dreamed, the previous night, that he was at a feast, where the guests ate and drank every thing that was set before them. He then asked the old chief to permit him to make such a feast for the tribe. The request was granted, and the feast was spread. Many Frenchmen were present, and with horns, drums, and trumpets, they kept a continual uproar. The French, in the mean while, were diligently embarking and loading their bateaux, unobserved by the feasting savages. At length the guests, who had been eating and drinking for hours, ceased gormandizing, to take some repose. The young Frenchman commenced playing upon a guitar, and in a few minutes every red man was in a profound slumber. He then joined his companions, and before morning the whole colony were far on their way toward Oswego. Late the next day the Indians stood wondering at the silence that prevailed in the dwellings of the whites, and when, at evening, having seen no signs of human life through the day, they ventured to break open the fastened dwellings, they were greatly astonished at finding every Frenchman gone; and greater was their perplexity in divining the means by which they escaped, being entirely ignorant of their having any vessels. 27

Ten years afterward another French colony settled in what now is called Pompey, about fourteen miles from Syracuse, and for three years it prospered, and many converts were made to the Catholic faith from the Onondaga tribe. A company of Spaniards, having been informed of a lake whose bottom was covered with brilliant scales like silver, arrived there, and in a short time the animosities of the respective adventurers caused them to accuse each other to the Indians of foul designs upon the tribes. The Onondagas believed both parties, and determined to rid themselves of such troublesome neighbors. Assisted by the Oneidas and Cayugas, they fell upon the colony on All-Saints’ day, 1669, and every Frenchman and Spaniard was massacred. 28


Evidences of much earlier visits by Europeans have been found in the vicinity, among which was a sepulchral stone that was exhumed near Pompey Hill. It was of an oblong figure, being fourteen inches long by twelve wide, and about eight inches in thickness In the center of the surface was a figure of a tree, and a serpent climbing it; and upon each side of the tree was an inscription as seen in the cut: Leo X., De Vix, 1520. L. S. † Ç." This inscription may be thus translated: "Leo X., by the grace of God; sixth year of his pontificate, 1520." The letters L. S. were doubtless the initials of the one to whose memory the stone was set up. The cross denoted that he was a Roman Catholic, but the meaning of the inverted U is not so clear. It has been supposed that the stone was carved on the spot by a friend of the deceased, who may have been one of several French or Spanish adventurers that found their way hither from Florida, which was discovered by the Spaniards in 1502. They were amused and excited by stories of a lake far in the north, whose bottom was lined with silver, and this was sufficient to cause them to peril every thing in searching it out. De Soto’s historian speaks, in the course of his narrative of the adventures of that commander in the interior of America, of extreme cold at a place called by the natives Saquechama. It is supposed that this name and Susquehanna are synonymous appellations for the country in Central New York, and that the silver-bottomed lake was the Onondaga, the flakes and crystals of salt which cover its bottom giving it the appearance of silver. 29

We have already noticed the expedition of the French, under Frontenac, as far as the Onondaga Valley. From that time nothing but Indian feuds disturbed the repose that rested upon Onondaga Lake and the beautiful country around, until business enterprise within the present century began its warfare upon the forests and the rich soil.


I arrived at Rome, upon the Mohawk, toward noon. It is a pleasant village, and stands upon the site of old Fort Stanwix, on the western verge of the historical ground of the Mohawk Valley. Here was the outpost of active operations in this direction, and here was enacted one of the most desperate defenses of a fortress that occurred during our struggle for independence. The village, in its rapid growth, has overspread the site of the fortification, and now not a vestige of antiquity remains, except a large elm-tree by the house of Alvah Mudge, Esq., which stood within the southwest angle of the fort. Mr. Mudge kindly pointed out to me the area comprehended within the fort, and the portion of the village seen in the picture covers that area. The mason-work in the foreground is a part of the first lock of the Black River Canal, at present an unproductive work. The large building in the center of the picture is the mansion of John Striker, Esq., president of the Rome Bank, and stands near the site of the northeast angle of the fort. The whole view is only a few rods northwest of the Mohawk River, and a mile eastward of Wood Creek, the main inlet of Oneida Lake. Here was a portage of a mile, and the only interruption of water communication between Schenectady and Oswego. This inconvenience was obviated by the construction of a canal between the Mohawk and Wood Creek, in 1797.

Fort Stanwix was built in 1758, under the direction of General Stanwix, after the defeat of Abercrombie at Ticonderoga. It was a strong square fortification, having bomb-proof bastions, a glacis, covered way, and a well-picketed ditch around the ramparts. Its position was important in a military point of view, for it commanded the portage between the Mohawk and Wood Creek, and was a key to communication between the Mohawk Valley and Lake Ontario. Other, but smaller, fortifications were erected in the vicinity. Fort Newport, on Wood Creek, and Fort Ball, about half way across the portage, formed a part of the military works there, and afforded not only a strong post of resistance to French aggression in that direction, but also a powerful protection to the Indian trade. The works cost the British and Colonial government two hundred and sixty-six thousand four hundred dollars, yet when the Revolution broke out the fort and its outposts were in ruins.

From the commencement of hostilities the Mohawk Valley was a theater of great activity, and all through the eventful years of the contest it suffered dreadfully from the effects of partisan warfare. Every rood of ground was trodden by hostile parties, and for seven years the fierce Indian, and the ofttimes more ferocious Tory, kept the people in continual alarm, spreading death and desolation over that fair portion of our land. So frequent and sanguinary were the stealthy midnight attacks or open daylight struggles, that Tryon county 30 obtained the appropriate appellation of "the dark and bloody ground," and, long after peace blessed the land, its forests were traversed with fear and distrust. Here was the seat of Sir William Johnson, 31 agent for the British government in its transactions with the SIX NATIONS. He was shrewd, cunning, and licentious, having little respect for the laws of God or man, and observed them only so far as compliance was conducive to his personal interest. By presents, conformity in dress and manners, and other appliances, he obtained almost unbounded influence over the tribes of the valley, and at his beck a thousand armed warriors would rush to the field. He died before the events of our Revolution brought his vast influence over the Indians into play, in active measures against the patriots. Yet his mantle of power and moral sway fell, in a great degree, upon his son, Sir John Johnson, who succeeded to his title, office, and estates. The latter, his cousin Guy Johnson, Thayendanegea (Brant) the Mohawk sachem, Daniel Claus, and the Butlers were the leading spirits of loyalty in Tryon county, and the actors and abettors of scenes that darken the blackest page in the history of our race. These will be noticed hereafter. For the present we will confine our thoughts to the most prominent local events immediately antecedent to the siege of Fort Stanwix, or Schuyler, upon the site of which, at Rome, we are standing.

The excitement of the Stamp Act [1765.] reached even the quiet valley of the Mohawk, and implanted there the seeds of rebellion, and the people were eager listeners while the conflict of power and principle was going on upon the sea-board, during the ten years preceding the organization of the Continental army [1775.]. The meeting of the general Continental Congress caused opinions to take a definite shape and expression, and in the autumn of that year the demarkation line between patriots and Loyalists was distinctly drawn among the people of this inland district.

In the spring of 1775, just before the second Congress assembled at Philadelphia, at a court holden at Johnstown, the Loyalists made a demonstration against the proceedings of the National Council, by drawing up and obtaining signatures to a declaration disapproving of the acts of that body in the preceding autumn. This proceeding of the Tories aroused the indignation of the Whigs, who composed a considerable majority of the whites in Tryon county. Committees were appointed and public meetings were called in every district in the county. The first was held at the house of John Veeder, in Caughnawaga, 32 where patriotic speeches were made, and a liberty pole, a most offensive object to the eyes of the Loyalists, was erected. Before this was accomplished, Sir John Johnson, accompanied by Colonel Claus, Guy Johnson, and Colonel John Butler, with a large number of their retainers, armed with swords and pistols, arrived upon the ground and interrupted the proceedings. Guy Johnson mounted a high stoop near the old church and harangued the people.


He expatiated upon the strength of the king and government, and the folly of opposing the authority of the crown. He had not a conciliatory word for the people, but denounced their proceedings in virulent and abusive language, so irritating, that Jacob Sammons, a leader among the Whigs, could no longer restrain himself, but boldly pronounced the speaker a liar and a villain. Johnson leaped from his tribune and seized Sammons by the throat; one of his party felled the patriot to the ground by a blow from a loaded whip-handle, and then bestrode his body. When Sammons recovered from the momentary stupor, he hurled the fellow from him, and, springing upon his feet, stripped off his coat and prepared to fight, when he was again knocked down. Most of his Whig friends had fled in alarm, and he was carried to his father’s house, "bearing upon his body the first scars of the Revolutionary contest in the county of Tryon." 34

A spirited Whig meeting was held soon afterward, in Cherry Valley, where the conduct of the Tories at Johnstown was strongly condemned; but in the Palatine district and other places the threats and the known strength of the Johnsons and their friends intimidated the Whigs for a while.

In the mean time, Colonel Johnson fortified the baronial hall by planting swivels around it. He paraded the militia, armed the Scotch Highlanders (who lived in the vicinity of Johnstown, and were Roman Catholics), and by similar acts, hostile to the popular movement, the suspicions of the Whigs were confirmed that he was preparing for the suppression of all patriot demonstrations in the county, and was inciting the Indians to join the enemies of liberty as soon as actual hostilities should commence. 35 Another circumstance confirmed these suspicions. Brant was the secretary of Colonel Guy Johnson, the superintendent of Indian affairs after the death of Sir William, and his activity in visiting the tribes and holding secret conferences with the sachems was unceasing. Suddenly his former friendly intercourse with Mr. Kirkland, the faithful Christian missionary, was broken off in 1774, and, at Brant’s instigation, an Oneida chief preferred charges against the pious minister to Guy Johnson, and asked for his removal. It was well known that Mr. Kirkland was a Whig, 36 and this movement of the wily sachem could not be misinterpreted. But the Oneida nation rallied in support of the minister, and his removal was for a time delayed.


During the summer of 1775 the Johnsons were very active in winning the Six Nations from their promises of neutrality in the coming contest. 38 A council of the Mohawks was held at Guy Park in May [1775.], which was attended by delegates from the Albany and the Tryon county Committees. Little Abraham, brother of the famous Hendrick who was killed near Lake George, was the principal chief of the Mohawks, and their best speaker on the occasion. Guy Johnson, the Indian agent, was in attendance at the council, but the result was unsatisfactory to both parties. The delegates, cognizant of the disaffection and bad faith of the Indians, could not rely upon their present promises and Guy Johnson, alarmed by the events at Lexington and Concord, and by intimations which he had received that his person was in danger of seizure by order of the General Congress, broke up the council abruptly, and immediately directed the assembling of another at the Upper Castle, on the German Flats, whither himself and family, attended by a large retinue of Mohawks, at once repaired. But this council was not held, and Johnson, with his family and the Indians, pushed on to Fort Stanwix. His sojourn there was brief, and he moved on to Ontario, far beyond the verge of civilization. Brant and the Butlers attended him, and there a large council was held, composed chiefly of Cayugas and Senecas.

Thus far no positive acts of hostility had been committed by Guy Johnson and his friends, yet his design to alienate the Indians and prepare them for war upon the patriots was undoubted. His hasty departure with his family to the wilderness, accompanied by a large train of Mohawk warriors, and the holding a grand council in the midst of the fierce Cayugas and Senecas, greatly alarmed the people of the lower valley, 39 inasmuch as his reply to a letter from the Provincial Congress of New York, which he wrote [July 8, 1775.] from the council-room in the wilderness, glowed with sentiments of loyalty. It was, moreover, positively asserted that he was collecting a large body of savages on that remote frontier, to fall upon the inhabitants of the valley, and this belief was strengthened by the fact that Sir John Johnson, who held a commission of brigadier general of militia, remained at Johnson Hall, then fortified and surrounded by a large body of Loyalists. The alarmed patriots appealed to the Committee of Safety at Albany for protection, and every preparation was made to avert the threatened disaster. Guy Johnson, however, did not return to the valley, but went to Oswego, where he called another council, and then, accompanied by a large number of chiefs and warriors of the Six Nations, among whom was Brant, departed for Canada. He descended the St. Lawrence to Montreal, where he met Sir Guy Carleton and Sir Frederic Haldimand, then governor of Canada, with whom the Indians entered into a formal agreement to take up arms for the king. 40 These were the Indians who appeared against the Americans at St. John’s, on the Sorel, and who, in connection with some Caughnawagas, made the terrible massacre of Major Sherburne’s corps at the Cedars in the following spring, noticed in a previous chapter.

These movements of the Johnsons and their friends, the strengthening of Johnson Hall, the military organization of the Scotch Highlanders in the vicinity, the increasing alienation of the Indians, the boldness of the Tories, and the continual alarm of the people of Tryon county, caused the General Congress, in December, 1775, to take active measures in that direction. The Dutch and Germans in the Mohawk Valley, Schoharie, Cherry Valley, and, indeed, in all parts of that extensive country, were ardent Whigs; and the Highlanders, with the retainers of the Johnsons and their friends, composed the bulk of the Tory population, except a few desperate men who looked for plunder and reward. Had these alone been inimical to the patriots, there would have been little alarm; but the country swarmed with Indians, who were hourly becoming more and more hostile to the Whigs, through the influence of the Johnsons and their powerful ally, Joseph Brant. It was also reported that military stores were collected at Johnson Hall, and that three hundred Indians were ready to fall upon the whites when Sir John Johnson should give the signal. Congress, therefore, ordered General Schuyler (who had returned to Albany from Lake Champlain, on account of ill health) to take such measures as he should think proper to seize the military stores, to apprehend the Tory leaders, and to disarm the loyal inhabitants. He had no troops at command, but, aided by the Albany Committee of Safety, he soon mustered seven hundred men and marched to Schenectady. The Mohawks of the "Lower Castle" (near Amsterdam), with Little Abraham at their head, had not been seduced by Brant and Johnson, but kept to their promise to remain neutral. To preserve their good-will, Schuyler sent to them a messenger (Mr. Bleecker, the Indian interpreter, then residing at Albany) with a belt, informing them of the object of his expedition [January 15, 1776.]. They were not pleased with the idea of invasion, and a deputation was sent to the general to persuade him to desist. He conferred with them at Schenectady, satisfied them of his good intentions and the necessity of the movement, and then marched on as far as Guy Park. He dispatched a letter [January 16.] at the same time to Sir John Johnson, requesting a personal interview with him. They met at Guy Park in a friendly way, and General Schuyler proposed terms by which the matter might be settled without bloodshed. He demanded the immediate surrender of all arms, ammunition, and stores in the possession of Johnson, the delivery to him of all the arms and military accouterments held by the Tories and Indians, and Sir John’s parole of honor not to act inimically to the patriot cause. Sir John asked twenty-four hours for consideration. His reply was unsatisfactory, and Schuyler marched [January 18.] on to Caughnawaga, within four miles of Johnstown. The militia had turned out with alacrity, and his force of seven hundred men had increased to three thousand. Sir John, alarmed, acceded to all the terms proposed by General Schuyler, and the next day that officer proceeded to Johnson Hall, where arms and other munitions of war were surrendered by the baronet. About three hundred Scotchmen also delivered up their arms. Colonel (afterward General) Herkimer was empowered to complete the disarming of the Tories, and General Schuyler and his forces marched back to Albany.

It soon afterward became evident that what Sir John had promised when constrained by fear would not be performed when the cause of that fear was removed. He violated his parole of honor, and the Highlanders began to be as bold as ever in their opposition to the Whigs. Congress thought it dangerous to allow Johnson his liberty, and directed Schuyler to seize his person, and to proceed vigorously against the Highianders in his interest. Colonel Dayton was intrusted with the command of an expedition for the purpose, and in May [1776.] he proceeded to Johnstown. The baronet had friends among the Loyalists in Albany, by whom he was timely informed of the intentions of Congress. His most valuable articles were put in an iron chest and buried in his garden 41 when he heard of Dayton’s approach, and, hastily collecting a large number of his Scotch tenants and other Tories, he fled to the woods by the way of the Sacandaga, where it is supposed they were met by Indians sent from Canada to escort them thither. 42 Amid perils and hardships of every kind, they traversed the wilderness between the head waters of the Hudson and the St. Lawrence, and, after nineteen days’ wanderings, arrived at Montreal. Sir John was immediately commissioned a colonel in the British service, raised two battalions of Loyalists called the Johnson Greens, and became one of the bitterest and most implacable enemies of the Americans that appeared during the war. He afterward, as we shall observe, scourged the Mohawk Valley with fire and sword, and spread death and desolation among the frontier settlements even so far south as the Valley of Wyoming.

After the flight of Johnson and the Tories, Tryon county enjoyed a short season of repose, and nothing of importance occurred during the remainder of 1776 and the winter of 1777. Yet the people did not relax their vigilance. The Declaration of Independence was received by them with great joy, but they clearly perceived that much was yet to be done to support that declaration. Congress, too, saw the importance of defending the Northern and Western frontiers of New York from the incursions of the enemy and their savage allies. The fortresses on Lake Champlain were already in their possession, and General Schuyler was ordered to repair and strengthen old Fort Stanwix, then in ruins, and to erect other fortifications, if necessary, along the Mohawk River. Colonel Dayton was charged with the duty of repairing Fort Stanwix, with the assistance of the Tryon county militia, but he seems to have made little progress, for it was not complete when, in the summer of the next year [1777.], it was invested by St. Leger. He named the new fortress Fort Schuyler, in honor of the commanding general of the Northern Department, and by that appellation it was known through the remainder of the war. 43

In the course of the spring of 1777, Brant came from Canada, and appeared among the Mohawks at Oghkwaga, 44 or Oquaca, with a large body of warriors. He had not yet committed any act of hostility within the borders of New York, nor was his presence at the Cedars known in the Mohawk Valley. Yet none doubted his hostile intentions, and his presence gave much uneasiness to the patriots, while the Tories became bolder and more insolent. In June his intentions became more manifest, when he ascended the Susquehanna, from Oghkwaga to Unadilla, with about eighty of his warriors, and requested an interview with the Rev. Mr. Johnstone, of the "Johnstone Settlement." He declared that his object was to procure food for his famished people, and gave the whites to understand that, if provisions were not furnished, the Indians would take them by force. Mr. Johnstone sounded Brant concerning his future intentions, and the chief, without reserve, told him that he had made a covenant with the king, and was not inclined to break it. The people supplied him with food, but the marauders, not satisfied, drove off a large number of cattle, sheep, and swine. As soon as the Indians had departed, not feeling safe in their remote settlement, the whites abandoned it, and took refuge in Cherry Valley. Some families in the neighborhood of Unadilla fled to the German Flats, and others to Esopus and Newburgh, on the Hudson River.

As the Indian forces were constantly augmenting at Oghkwaga, it was determined by General Schuyler and his officers, in council, that Herkimer (now a brigadier) should repair thither and obtain an interview with Brant. Herkimer took with him three hundred Tryon county militia, and invited Brant to meet him at Unadilla. This the chief agreed to. In the mean while, Colonel Van Schaick marched with one hundred and fifty men as far as Cherry Valley, and General Schuyler held himself in readiness to repair to Unadilla if his presence should be needed. These precautions seemed necessary, for they knew not what might be the disposition of Brant.

It was a week after Herkimer arrived at Unadilla before Brant made his appearance. He came accompanied by five hundred warriors. He dispatched a runner to Herkimer to inquire the object of his visit. 45 Herkimer replied that he came to see and converse with his brother, Captain Brant. "And all these men wish to converse with the chief too?" asked the quick-witted messenger. He returned to Brant and communicated the reply. The parties were encamped within two miles of each other, and the whole assemblage made an imposing display. By mutual agreement, their arms were to be left in their respective encampments. The preliminaries being arranged, Brant and about forty warriors appeared upon the skirt of a distant wood, and the parties met in an open field. A circle was formed, and the two commanders, with attendants, entered it for conference. After exchanging a few words, Brant asked Herkimer the object of his visit. He made the same reply as to the messenger. "And all these have come on a friendly visit too?" said the chief. "All want to see the poor Indians. It is very kind," he added, while his lip curled with a sarcastic smile. After a while the conversation became animated, and finally the chief, being pressed by direct questions concerning his intentions, firmly replied, "That the Indians were in concert with the king, as their fathers had been; that the king’s belts were yet lodged with them, and they could not violate their pledge; that General Herkimer and his followers had joined the Boston people against their sovereign; that, although the Boston people were resolute, the king would humble them; that General Schuyler was very smart on the Indians at the treaty of German Flats, but, at the same time, was not able to afford the smallest article of clothing; and, finally, that the Indians had formerly made war on the white people when they were all united, and, as they were now divided, the Indians were not frightened." He also told General Herkimer that a war-path had been opened across the country to Esopus, for the Tories of Ulster and Orange to join them. The conference ended then, with an agreement to meet the next morning at nine o’clock, the respective forces to remain encamped as they were. 46

During the conference, some remarks made by Colonel Cox greatly irritated the sachem, and on his signal to his warriors, who were near, they ran to their encampment, raised the shrill war-hoop, and returned with their rifles. In the mean while the chief became pacified, and the warriors were kept at a proper distance. Herkimer, however, fearful that Brant’s pacific appearance might be feigned, prepared to act with decision on the following morning. He charged an active young soldier, named Wagner, with the duty of shooting Brant, if any hostile movement should appear on the part of the chief. Wagner was to select two assistants, who were to shoot the two attendants of Brant at the same time. He chose Abraham and George Herkimer, nephews of the general, and the three stood by the side of Herkimer the next morning. There was no necessity for their services, and, haply, no blood was shed on the occasion. Mr. Stone seems to have mistaken Herkimer’s precaution, in this instance, for premeditated perfidy, and says that, had the intent been perpetrated, the stain upon the character of the provincials would have been such that "all the waters of the Mohawk could not have washed it away." Mr. Wagner was yet living at Fort Plain when I visited that place in 1848, and I have his own authority for saying that the arrangement was only a precautionary one, for which Herkimer deserved praise. Mr. Stone gives his version upon "the written authority of Joseph Wagner himself." Simms has declared, in his "History of Schoharie County," and repeated in conversation with myself, that Wagner told him he never furnished a MS. account of the affair to any one. Here is some mistake in the matter, but the honorable character of General Herkimer forbids the idea of his having meditated the least perfidy.

Again they met, and the haughty chief – haughty because conscious of strength – as he entered the circle, addressed General Herkimer, and said, "I have five hundred warriors with me, armed and ready for battle. You are in my power, but, as we have been friends and neighbors, I will not take advantage of you." He then gave the signal, and all his warriors, painted in the hideous colors that distinguished them when going into battle, burst from the surrounding forest, gave the war-hoop, and discharged their rifles in the air. Brant coolly advised the general to go back to his house, thanked him for his courtesy on the occasion, expressed a hope that he might one day return the compliment, and then turned proudly upon his heel and disappeared in the shadowy forest. "It was early in July, and the morning was remarkably clear and beautiful. But the echo of the war-hoop had scarcely died away before the heavens became black, and a violent storm obliged each party to seek the nearest shelter. Men less superstitious than many of the unlettered yeomen, who, leaning upon their arms, were witnesses of the events of this day, could not fail, in aftertimes, to look back upon the tempest, if not as an omen, at least as an emblem, of those bloody massacres with which these Indians and their associates subsequently visited the inhabitants of this unfortunate frontier." 47

A few days after this conference, Brant withdrew his warriors from the Susquehanna and joined Sir John Johnson and Colonel John Butler, who were collecting a large body of Tories and refugees at Oswego, preparatory to a descent upon the Mohawk and Schoharie settlements. There Guy Johnson and other officers of the British Indian Department summoned a grand council of the Six Nations. They were invited to assemble "to eat the flesh and drink the blood of a Bostonian" – in other words, to feast on the occasion of a proposed treaty of alliance against the patriots, whom the savages denominated Bostonians, for the reason that Boston was the focus of the rebellion. There was a pretty full attendance at the council, but a large portion of the sachems adhered faithfully to their covenant of neutrality made with General Schuyler, until the appeals of the British commissioners to their avarice overcame their sense of honor. The commissioners represented the people of the king to be numerous as the forest leaves, and rich in every possession, while those of the colonies were exhibited as few and poor; that the armies of the king would soon subdue the rebels, and make them still weaker and poorer; that the rum of the king was as abundant as Lake Ontario; and that if the Indians would become his allies during the war, they should never want for goods or money. Tawdry articles, such as scarlet clothes, beads, and trinkets, were then displayed and presented to the Indians, which pleased them greatly, and they concluded an alliance by binding themselves to take up the hatchet against the patriots, and to continue their warfare until the latter were subdued. To each Indian were then presented a brass kettle, a suit of clothes, a gun, a tomahawk and scalping-knife, a piece of gold, a quantity of ammunition, and a promise of a bounty upon every scalp he should bring in. 48 Thayendanegea (Brant) was thenceforth the acknowledged grand sachem of the Six Nations, and soon afterward commenced his terrible career in the midst of our border settlements. 49

We have thus glanced at the most important events that took place in the Mohawk Valley and adjacent districts prior to the attack of St. Leger upon Fort Stanwix, or Schuyler (as it will hereafter be called), which mark the progress of the Revolution there, before Brant and his more savage white associates brightened the tomahawk and musket, and bared the knife, in avowed alliance with the enemies of liberty. Volumes might be, and, indeed, have been, written in giving details of the stirring events in Tryon county during our Revolutionary struggle. 50 To these the reader is referred for local particulars, while we consider transactions there of more prominent and general interest.



1 John Bradstreet was a native of England. He was Lieutenant-governor of St. John’s, Newfoundland, in 1746, and ten years afterward accompanied the expeditions against the French on the frontier of New York. In 1756 he was commissary general, and engaged in keeping up a communication between Albany and Oswego. He had charge of boats that carried provisions, and so much were they annoyed by the Indians in the French service, while passing down the Onondaga or Oswego River, that it required a great deal of skill and bravery to defend them. A small stockade fort near the site of the present village of Rome was cut off by the enemy, and they were obliged to depend upon their own power, in the open forest, for protection. He had a severe engagement near the margin of Oneida Lake, with a large war party of savages, but gained a victory, leaving nearly two hundred of the enemy dead upon the field. His own loss was about thirty. His capture of Fort Frontenac, in 1758, put into the possession of the English the fort, nine armed vessels, forty pieces of cannon, a vast quantity of provisions and stores, and one hundred and ten prisoners. In the summer of 1764 he was employed against the Indians on the borders of Ontario, and at Presque Isle he compelled the Delawares, Shawnees, and other tribes to agree to terms of peace. He was appointed major general in 1772, and died at New York, October 21st, 1774.

2 The captains of the New York troops engaged in this expedition were, Jonathan Ogden, of West Chester; Peter Dubois, of New York; Samuel Bladgely and William Humphrey, of Dutchess; Daniel Wright and Richard Howlet, of Queens; Thomas Arrowsmith, of Richmond; Ebenezer Seely, of Ulster; and Peter Yates and Goosen Van Schaick, of Albany.

3 The name of the Confederation of the Five Nations was changed to that of Six Nations when it was joined by the Tuscaroras of Carolina in 1714.

4 This view is looking north toward the lake. It is a reduced copy of the frontispiece to Smith’s History of New York, first edition, London, 1757, and represents the encampment of Shirley there at that time.

5 There are but few traces left of old Fort Ontario. The light-house that stood upon the bluff between the old fort and the present Fort Oswego is removed, and another substantial one is erected upon the left pier, in front of the harbor. The city, on the east, is now fast crowding upon the ravelins of Fort Oswego.

6 Smith’s History of New York; Clarke’s MS.

7 His note to Colonel Littlehales was as follows: "The Marquis of Montcalm, army and field marshal, commander-in-chief of his most Christian majesty’s troops, is ready to receive a capitulation upon the most honorable conditions, surrendering to him all the forts. They shall be shown all the regard the politest nation can show. I send an aid-de-camp on my part, viz., Mons. de Bougainville, captain of dragoons; they need only send the capitulation to be signed. I require an answer by noon. I have kept Mr. Drake for a hostage.


"August 14, 1756."

8 Mrs. Grant, of Edinburgh, Scotland, in her "Memoirs of an American Lady," gives a charming picture of the scenery about Oswego in 1761-2. She was then a child, and resided there with her father; and her book presents all the vividness of a child’s impressions. She noted, in particular, a feature in the forest scenery which now delights the sojourner upon the southern shores of Lake Ontario – the sudden bursting forth of leaves and flowers in the spring. Major Duncan, who was in command of the fort at that time, was a gentleman of taste, and, in addition to a large and well-cultivated garden, he had a bowling green and other pleasure grounds. These were the delight of the author of the "Memoirs," whose pleasing pictures may be found in chapters xliv. to xlvii. inclusive.

9 Clarke’s MS.

10 This view is from the west side of the river, near the site of the present United States Hotel.

11 I visited Fort Oswego, which is now a strong and admirably appointed fortification. A small garrison is usually stationed there, but at the time of my visit the fort was vacated by troops and left in charge of a sergeant (Mr. Brown), whose courtesy made our little party feel as much at home amid the equipments of war as if we were veritable soldiers and our ladies attachés of the camp. He gave me a four-pound cannon-ball, which was fired into the fort from the British ship Wolfe, the only ship engaged in the action, on the morning of the 6th of September, 1814. It bears the rude anchor mark of British ordnance shot, and was labeled by the sergeant, "A present from John Bull to Uncle Sam."

12 Letter of Commodore Chauncy to the Secretary of the Navy.

13 This view is from the top of the United States Hotel, looking east-northeast. It was hastily sketched during the approach of a thunder-storm, and the "huge herald drops" came down just as I traced the distant water-line of the lake. The objects by the figure in the foreground are the balustrade and chimney of the hotel, now (1848) a summer boarding-house for strangers. The first height beyond the water on the right is the point on which stands Fort Oswego. The land in the far distance, on the same side, is Four-mile Point, behind which Montcalm landed his forces. On the left is seen the light-house upon one of the stone piers, and beyond it spread out the waters of Lake Ontario.

14 Dr. Cochran was born in Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1730. His father came from the north of Ireland. He studied medicine at Lancaster, and served as surgeon’s mate in the hospital department during the French and Indian war. At the close of that contest he settled in Albany, and married Gertrude, the only sister of General Schuyler. He entered the Revolutionary army, and in the spring of 1777 Washington appointed him surgeon general of the Middle Department, and in October, 1781, director general of the hospitals of the United States. He removed to New York after the peace, and his eminent services were not forgotten by Washington, who nominated him commissioner of loans for that state. He died at Palatine, Montgomery county, April 6th, 1807, aged 76.

15 Circumstances connected with his election are rather amusing. A vessel was to be lanched upon (I think) Seneca Lake, at Geneva, and, it being an unusual event, people came from afar to see it. The young folks gathered there, determined to have a dance at night. A fiddle was procured, but a fiddler was wanting. Young Cochran was an amateur performer, and his services were demanded on the occasion. He gratified the joyous company, and at the supper-table one of the gentlemen remarked, in commendation of his talents, that he was "fit for Congress." The hint was favorably received by the company, the matter was "talked up," and he was nominated and elected a representative in Congress for the district then comprising the whole state of New York west of Schenectady. He always claimed to have fiddled himself into Congress.

16 Grief for the loss of his wife, and the melancholy circumstances connected with the death of his son-in-law, General Alexander Hamilton, weighed heavily upon his spirits. His death was hastened by exposure and fatigue while accompanying two French dukes over the battle-ground of Saratoga. He was taken ill there, and never recovered.

17 Margaret, afterward the first wife of the late venerated General Van Rensselaer (the patroon) of Albany.

18 Major Cochran related to me an incident connected with the booty in question. Among the plundered articles was a silver soup tureen. He was at Washington city at the time of the inauguration of Harrison, in 1841, and while in the rotunda of the Capitol, viewing Trumbull’s picture of the surrender of Burgoyne, a stranger at his elbow inquired, "Who is that fine-looking man in the group, in citizen’s dress?" "General Schuyler" replied Major Cochran. "General Schuyler!" repeated the stranger. "Why, I ate soup not long since, at Belleville, in Canada, from a tureen that was carried off from his house by some Tories in the Revolution." This was the first and only trace the family ever had of the plundered articles.

19 She was the wife of John B. Church, Esq., an English gentleman, who was a contractor for the French army in America under Rochambeau. He returned to England, and was afterward a member of Parliament.

20 This is copied from one published in Barber and Howe’s "Historical Collections of New York." They copied it from an engraving published during the war of 1812. It gives the appearance of the locality at that time. The view is from the west side of the Niagara River, near the light-house. The fort is on the east side (the right of the picture), at the mouth of the river. The steam-boat seen in the distance is out on Lake Ontario.

21 See De Veaux’s Niagara Falls.

22 General Brock was lieutenant governor of Upper Canada. The Legislature of that province caused a monument to be erected to his memory, on the heights near the spot where he fell. It is in a position so elevated, that it may be seen at different points nearly fifty miles distant. The monument is constructed of freestone. The base, which covers the vault wherein lie the remains of General Brock and his aid, Lieutenant-colonel John M‘Donald (who was killed in the same action), is twenty feet square. The shaft rises one hundred and twenty-six feet from the ground. A miscreant named Lett attempted to destroy it by gunpowder on the night of the 17th of April, 1840. The keystone over the door was thrown out, and the shaft was cracked nearly two thirds of its height.

23 Now Major-general Scott, of the United States army. The present General Wool was a captain, and commanded a company in the action.

24 This view, looking up the river, comprises about one half the bridge, a portion of the bank on the Canada side on the right, the American shore on the left, and a part of the Falls, seen under the bridge, in the extreme distance.

25 The bridge from pier to pier is eight hundred feet long. Its breadth is eight feet. The whole bridge is suspended upon eight cables, four on each side, which pass over towers fifty-four feet high, built of heavy timbers. The towers for the large bridge will be of solid masonry eighty feet high. Each cable is eleven hundred and sixty feet long, and composed of seventy-two number ten iron wires, around which is wrapped small wire three times boiled in linseed oil, which anneals it, and gives it a coat that can not be injured by exposure to the weather, and preserves the wire from rust. The cables, after passing over the piers on the banks, are fast anchored in masonry fifty feet back of them. The suspenders are composed of eight wires each, and are placed four and a half feet apart. The bridge is two hundred feet above the water.

26 In 1820 the late William L. Stone visited Syracuse in company with Mr. Forman, one of the earliest and most industrious friends of the Erie Canal. "I lodged for the night," says Mr. Stone, "at a miserable tavern, thronged by a company of salt-boilers from Salina, forming a group of about as rough-looking specimens of humanity as I had ever seen. Their wild visages, beards thick and long, and matted hair even now rise up in dark, distant, and picturesque effect before me. I passed a restless night, disturbed by strange fancies, as I yet well remember. It was in October, and a flurry of snow during the night had rendered the morning aspect of the country more dreary than the evening before. The few houses I have already described, standing upon low and almost marshy ground, and surrounded by trees and entangled thickets, presented a very uninviting scene. ‘Mr. Forman,’ said I, ‘do you call this a village? It would make an owl weep to fly over it.’ ‘Never mind,’ said he, in reply, ‘you will live to see it a city yet’ " Mr. Stone did, indeed, live to see it a city in size, when he wrote the above in 1840, and it is now a city in fact, with mayor and aldermen, noble stores and dwellings, and a population of some 14,000.

Judge Forman was one of the projectors of the Erie Canal, and the founder of Syracuse. He died at Rutherfordton, North Carolina, on the 4th of August, 1849, aged 72 years.

27 See extracts from a MS. history of Onondaga county, by Rev. J. W. Adams, of Syracuse, quoted in the historical Collections of New York, p. 398.

28 Dewitt Clinton’s Memoir on the Antiquities of Western New York.

29 See Clinton’s Memoir, &c.; also, Sandford’s Aborigines, note on page 114. The crystals of salt on the bottom of the lake, into which the salt springs flow, were, like the scales of mica discovered on the eastern coast by Gosnold and his party, mistaken for laminæ of silver. There are not many salt springs near the surface, but under the marshes that surround Onondaga Lake, and beneath the lake itself, there seems to lie a vast salt lake, and shafts are sunken from the surface above into it. The water or brine is pumped up from these shafts or wells, and vast quantities of salt are manufactured annually in the neighborhood of Syracuse. A great number of men find employment there, and the state derives a handsome revenue from the works.

30 Tryon county then included all the colonial settlements in New York west and southwest of Schenectady. It was taken from Albany county in 1772, and named in honor of William Tryon, then governor of the province. The name was changed to Montgomery in 1784. The county buildings were at Johnstown, where was the residence of Sir William Johnson (still standing).

31 Sir William Johnson was born in Ireland, about the year 1714. He was a nephew of Sir Peter Warren, the commodore who was distinguished in the attack on Louisburgh, Cape Breton, 1745. Sir Peter married a lady (Miss Watts) in New York, purchased large tracts of land upon the Mohawk, and about 1734 young Johnson was induced to come to America and take charge of his uncle’s affairs in that quarter. He learned the Indian language, adopted their manners, and, by fair trade and conciliatory conduct, won their friendship and esteem. He built a large stone mansion on the Mohawk, about three miles west of Amsterdam, where he resided twenty years previous to the erection of Johnson Hall at Johnstown.


It was fortified, and was called Fort Johnson. It is still standing, a substantial specimen of the domestic architecture of that period. In 1755 he commanded a force intended to invest Crown Point. He was attacked by Dieskau at the head of Lake George, where he came off victorious. For this he was made major general and a knight. He commanded the assault upon Niagara, after the death of Prideaux, and was successful there. He was never given credit for great military skill or personal bravery, and was more expert in intriguing with Indian warriors, and sending them to the field, than in leading disciplined troops boldly into action. He died at Johnson Hall (Johnstown) on the 11th of July, 1774, aged 60 years.

32 Caughnawaga is the ancient name of the Indian village that stood a little eastward of the present village of Fonda. Its name signifies coffin, and was given to the place in consequence of there being in the Mohawk, opposite the village, a black stone (still to be seen) resembling a coffin, and projecting above the surface at low water. – Historical Collections of New York. p. 281.

33 This old church, now (1848) known as the Fonda Academy, under the management of Rev. Douw Van Olinda, is about half a mile east of the court-house, in the village of Fonda. It is a stone edifice, and was erected in 1763 by voluntary contributions. Sir William Johnson contributed liberally. Its first pastor was Thomas Romayne, who was succeeded in 1795 by Abraham Van Horn, one of the earliest graduates of King’s (now Columbia) College, in the city of New York. He was from Kingston, Ulster county, and remained its pastor until 1840. During his ministry he united in marriage 1500 couples. The church was without a bell until the confiscated property of Sir John Johnson was sold in the Revolution, when the dinner-bell of his father was purchased and hung in the steeple. The bell weighs a little more than one hundred pounds, and bears the following inscription: "S. R. William Johnson, baronet, 1774. Made by Miller and Ross, in Eliz. Town." – Simms’s Schoharie County, &c.

Over the door of the church is a stone tablet, with this inscription in Dutch: "Komt laett ons op gaen tot den Bergh des Heeren, to den huyse des godes Jacobs, op dat hy ons leere van syne wegen, en dat wy wandel in syne paden." English, "Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord; to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths."

34 Stone’s Life of Brant, i., 53.

35 See letter of the Palatine Committee to the Committee of Safety at Albany, dated May 18th, 1775.

36 Samuel Kirkland was son of the pious minister, Daniel Kirkland, of Norwich, Connecticut. He learned the language of the Mohawks, was ordained a missionary to the Indians at Lebanon in 1766, and removed his wife to the Oneida Castle in 1769. The next spring he removed to the house of his friend, General Herkimer, near Little Falls, where his twin children were born, one of whom was the late Dr. Kirkland, president of Harvard College. The very air of Norwich seemed to give the vitality of freedom to its sons, and Mr. Kirkland early imbibed those patriotic principles which distinguished him through life. His attachment to the republican cause was well known, and, after the battles of Lexington and Concord, the provincial Congress of Massachusetts, desirous of securing either the friendship or neutrality of the Six Nations, sent a letter to him inclosing an address to the Indians, and requesting him to use his influence in obtaining the ends in view. Mr. Kirkland succeeded in securing the attachment of the Oneidas to the patriot cause, and continued his religious labors among them during the war, when the other tribes, through the influence of Brant and the Johnsons, had taken up arms for the king. He officiated as chaplain to the American forces in the vicinity of his labors, and accompanied Sullivan in his expedition in 1779. The state of New York, in consideration of his patriotic services, gave him the lands of the "Kirkland patent," in the town of Kirkland. After 40 years’ service for his God and country, he fell asleep at Paris, Oneida county, on the 28th of March, 1808, in the 67th year of his age.

37 This was the residence of Guy Johnson, and is still standing, on the north side of the Mohawk, about a mile from the village of Amsterdam, in Montgomery county. It is substantially built of stone, and may stand a century yet. Embowered in trees, it is a beautiful summer residence.

38 General Schuyler had held a conference with the chiefs of the SIX NATIONS during the previous winter, and, setting before them the nature of the quarrel that had led to hostile movements, received from them solemn promises that they would remain neutral.

39 On the 11th of July, Colonel Herkimer wrote from Canajoharie to the Palatine Committee, that he had received credible intelligence that morning that Johnson was ready to march back upon the settlement with a body of 800 or 900 Indians, and that his point of attack would be just below the Little Falls. This intelligence proved to be untrue.

40 British historians assert that General Carleton was averse to the employment of the savages against the Americans. Mr. Stone, in his Life of Brant, quotes from a speech of that chief, wherein the reverse is asserted. The British commanders never failed to employ Indians in warfare, when their services could be obtained. Their feelings of humanity doubtless revolted when coalescing with the savages of the forest to butcher their brethren, but with them principle too often yielded to expediency in that unrighteous war.

41 Sir John had a faithful black slave, to whom he intrusted the duty of burying his iron chest. Colonel Volkert Veeder bought the slave when Johnson Hall was sold, but he would never tell where the treasure was concealed. Sir John visited the Mohawk Valley in 1780, recovered his slave, and by his directions found the iron chest. – Simms.

42 This is inferred from a sentence in one of Brant’s speeches, quoted by Mr. Stone, as follows: "We then went in a body to a town then in possession of the enemy, and rescued Sir John Johnson, bringing him fearlessly through the streets." Brant and Guy Johnson were both in England at that time.

Lady Johnson was conveyed to Albany, and there kept for some time, as a sort of hostage for the good conduct of her husband. Among the articles left in Johnson Hall was the family Bible of Sir William. When the confiscated property was sold, the Bible was bought by John Taylor, who was afterward Lieutenant-governor of New York. Perceiving that it contained the family record of the Johnsons, Mr. Taylor wrote to Sir John, offering its restoration. A rude messenger was sent for the Bible. "I have come for Sir William’s Bible," he said, "and there are the four guineas which it cost." The man was asked what message Sir John had sent. He replied, "Pay four guineas and take the book." – Stone’s Life of Brant. ii., 145.

43 This change in the name of the fort, from Stanwix to Schuyler, produced some confusion, for there was already an old fort at Utica called Fort Schuyler, so named in honor of Colonel Peter Schuyler, a commander of provincial troops in the war with the French and Indians.

44 Toward the close of the winter of 1777 a large gathering of Indians was held at Oghkwaga. The Provincial Congress of New York dispatched thither Colonel John Harper, of Harpersfield, to ascertain their intentions. He arrived on the 27th of February, and was well received by the Indians. They expressed their sorrow for the troubles that afflicted Tryon county, and gave every assurance of their pacific dispositions. Colonel Harper believed them, and gave them a feast by roasting an ox. It was afterward discovered that all their friendship was feigned; their professions of peaceful intentions were gross hypocrisy. A few weeks subsequently, while taking a circuit alone through the woods near the head waters of the Susquehanna, Harper met some Indians, who exchanged salutations with him. He recognized one of them as Peter, an Indian whom he had seen at Oghkwaga, but they did not know him. His great-coat covered his uniform, and he feigning to be a Tory, they told him they were on their way to cut off the Johnstone settlement on the east shore of the Susquehanna, near Unadilla. Colonel Harper hastened back to Harpersfield, collected fifteen stout and brave men, and with them gave chase to the marauders. In the course of the following night they came upon the Indians in the valley of Charlotte River. It was almost daylight when their waning fires were discovered. The savages were in a profound slumber. Their arms were silently removed, and then each man of Harper’s party, selecting his victim, sprang upon him, and before he was fairly awake the savage found himself fast bound with cords which the whites had brought with them. It was a bolder achievement than if the red men had been killed, and nobler because bloodless. When the day dawned, and the Indians saw their captors, Peter exclaimed, "Ugh! Colonel Harper! Why didn’t I know you yesterday ?" They were taken to Albany and surrendered into the hands of the Committee of Safety.

45 The real object of the conference is not known. It is supposed that, as Herkimer and Brant had been near neighbors and intimate friends, the former hoped, in a personal interview, to persuade the chief to join the patriots, or, at least, to remain neutral. It is also supposed that he went to demand restitution for the cattle, sheep, and swine of which the savages had plundered the Johnstone and Unadilla settlements.

46 Campbell’s Annals of Tryon County.

47 Campbell’s Annals of Tryon County.

48 See Life of Mary Jemison. This pamphlet was written in 1823, and published by James D. Bemis, of Canandaigua, New York. She was taken a captive near Fort Duquesne (now Pittsburgh) when a child, and was reared among the Indians. She married a chief, and became an Indian in every particular, except birth. At the council here spoken of she was present with her husband. Her death occurred at the age of 89. She says that the brass kettles mentioned in the text were in use among the Seneca Indians as late as 1823, when her narrative was printed.

49 Soon after Brant joined the Indians at Oghkwaga, he made a hostile movement against the settlement of Cherry Valley. He hovered around that hamlet for some days, but did not attack it. Of this a detailed account will be given hereafter.

50 The most voluminous are Campbell’s Annals of Tryon County, Stone’s Life of Brant, and Simms’s Schoharie County and Border Wars of New York.



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