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The Iroquois or Six Nations
Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Canada,Native American | No Comments
None of the Indian nations of the United States have occupied a more important place in our national history, than the renowned confederacy, which forms the subject of our present consideration.
Various New England tribes were reduced to a disgraceful tribute to the imperious Mohags, Mawhawks, Mohawks or Maquas; the great nation of Powhatan stood in awe of the warlike Massawomekes; and those associated in this powerful league had become a terror to all against whom they had lifted up their arms. They were called Iroquois by the French, who found their head-quarters on the St. Lawrence, where Montreal now stands, at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Their native appellation was Aganuschioni (variously spelt and translated), and they were divided originally into five tribes. These were the Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Cayugas, the Onondagas and the Senecas. The Tuscaroras, from the south, were afterwards united with them, and formed the sixth nation. Each tribe was subdivided into classes, distinguished by the “totems,” or symbols of the tortoise, the bear, the wolf, the beaver, the deer, the falcon, the plover, and the crane.
Some very singular usages were connected with this classification. Among other things, marriage was prohibited between individuals bearing the same totem, a restriction, which operated strongly to extend the ties of family connection. Each of the nations was divided in the same manner and the distinctive badge gave its bearer peculiar privileges among those of his own class, when away from home.
The first military exploits recorded of the Iroquois, with the exception of native tradition, are their battles with the Adirondacks, in which they were engaged when first known by the French. Becoming skilled in war, and being of a bold, adventurous spirit, after finally defeating the Adirondacks, the five nations extended their conquests to the south and west. The Mohawks, although not the most numerous portion of the united tribes, furnished the fiercest and most redoubted warriors. To give an idea of the estimation in which they were held by the Indians of New England, we cite the following account, given by Gookin, in his historical collections, written in 1674, of the first of the tribe with whom the eastern colonists held any intercourse.
“These Maquas are given to rapine and spoil; and had for several years been in hostility with our neighbor Indians, as the Massachusetts, Pautuckets, &c., &c. And, in truth, they were, in time of war, so great a terror to all the Indians before named, though ours were far more in number than they, the appearance of four or five Maquas in the woods, would frighten them from their habitations and cornfields, and reduce many of them to get together in forts.” In September, of 1665, “there were five Mawhawks or Maquas, all stout and lusty young men, and well armed, that came into one John Taylor’s house, in Cambridge, in the afternoon. They were seen to come out from a swamp not far from the house.” Each had a gun, pistol, hatchet, and long knife, and “the people of the house perceived that their speech was different from our neighbor Indians; for these Maquas speak hollow and through the throat, more than our Indians; and their language is understood but by very few of our neighbor Indians.”
It seems these Mohawks came with the intention of being apprehended, that they might see the ways of the English, and display, at the same time, their own courage and daring. They made no resistance when a party came to seize them, but, “at their being imprisoned, and their being loaden with irons, they did not appear daunted or dejected: but as the manner of those Indians is, they sang night and day, when they were awake.”
On being brought before the court at Boston, they disavowed any evil intent towards the English, saying that they were come to avenge themselves upon their Indian enemies. ” They were told that it was inhumanity, and more like wolves than men to travel and wander so far from home merely to kill and destroy men, women, and children, for they could get no riches of our Indians, who were very poor, and to do this in a secret skulking manner, lying in ambush, thickets, and swamps, by the way side, and so killing people in a base and ignoble manner,” &c. “To these things they made answer shortly: It was their trade of life: they were bred up by their ancestors to act in this way towards their enemies.
All the Indians, in the vicinity of Boston, were eager that these captives should be put to death, but the court adopted the wiser policy of sending them home in safety, with presents and a letter to their sachem, cautioning him against allowing any of his people to make war against the peaceable Indians under the protection of the English.
About the middle of the seventeenth century, the Iroquois, having annihilated the powerful nation of the Eries, occupied no small portion of that vast extent of country, lying between the St. Lawrence and the great lakes, and the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. They even extended their hostile incursions far south and west of these great boundaries. The present state of New York contained their principal establishments, and the picturesque river and lakes upon which they dwelt, still perpetuate the names of the confederate tribes. These people held intercourse with the whites, of a very different nature from that which characterized the reduction and humiliation of the unfortunate natives of New England. Placed as they were between powerful colonies of contending European nations; their favor courted upon terms of equality by emissaries from either party; the authority of their chiefs acknowledged, and the solemnity of their councils respected by the whites; and conscious of proud superiority over all surrounding native tribes, it might well be expected that they would entertain the highest sense of their national importance.
No American tribe ever produced such an array of renowned warriors and orators as those immortalized in the history of the Six Nations. Such a regular system of federal government, where the chief-men, of each member of the league met in one grand council, to sustain the interests of their tribe, or enforce the views of their constituents upon subjects of state policy, in matters of vital importance to the whole nation, elicited all the powers of rude native eloquence. Never in the history of the world has the stirring effect of accomplished oratory been more strikingly displayed than in the councils of these untaught sages. The speeches of Logan, Red-Jacket, and others, fortunately preserved, have been long considered masterpieces of forcible declamation.
The address of Garangula, or Grand Gueule, to the Canadian governor, M. de la Barre, has been often transcribed, but is so strikingly characteristic of Indian style, that we must find place for at least a portion of it. About the year 1684, the French, being at peace with the Iroquois, took the opportunity to strengthen and enlarge their dominions by fortifying and adding to their posts upon the western waters. In carrying out this purpose, they sent large supplies of ammunition to their Indian allies; tribes hostile to the confederacy. The Iroquois took prompt measures to check this transfer of means for their destruction, and the French governor, angry at their interference, determined to humble them by a decisive campaign. He collected a strong force at Cadaraqui fort; but, a sickness breaking out among his troops, he was obliged to give over, or delay the prosecution of his purpose. He there fore procured a meeting with the old Onondaga sachem, and other Indian deputies at Kaihoage, on Lake Ontario, for a conference. He commenced by recapitulating the injuries received from the Five Nations, by the plunder of French traders, and, after demanding ample satisfaction, threatened the destruction of the nation, if his claims were disregarded. He also falsely asserted that the governor of New York had received orders from the English court to assist the French army in the proposed invasion.
The old chief, undisturbed by these menaces, having taken two or three turns about the apartment, stood before the governor, and, after a courteous and formal prologue, addressed him as follows: (we cite from Drake s Book of the North American Indians) “Yonondio; you must have believed, when you left Quebeck, that the sun had burnt up all the forests which render our country inaccessible to the French, or that the lakes had so far overflown the banks, that they had surrounded our castles, and that it was impossible for us to get out of them. Yes, surely you must have dreamt so, and the curiosity of seeing so great a wonder has brought you so far. Now you are undeceived, since that I, and the warriors here present, are come to as sure you that the Senecas, Cayugas, Onondagas, Oneidas, and Mohawks are yet alive. I thank you in their name, for bringing back into their country the calumet, which your predecessor received from their hands. It was happy for you that you left under ground that murdering hatchet that has been so often dyed in the blood of the French.
“Hear, Yonondio; I do not sleep; I have my eyes open; and the sun which enlightens me, discovers to me a great captain, at the head of a company of soldiers, who speaks as if he were dreaming. He says that he only came to the lake to smoke on the great calumet with the Onondagas. But Grangula says, that he sees the contrary j that it was to knock them on the head if sickness had not weakened the arms of the French. I see Yonondio raving in a camp of sick men, whose lives the Great Spirit has saved by inflicting this sickness upon them.
“Hear, Yonondio; our women had taken their clubs, our children and old men had carried their bows and arrows into the heart of your camp, if our warriors had not disarmed them, and kept them back when your messenger, Akouessan, came to our castles. It is done, and I have said it.
“Hear, Yonondio; we plundered none of the French, but those that carried arms, powder and ball to the Twightwies and Chictaghicks, because those arms might have cost us our lives. Herein we follow the example of the Jesuits, who break all the kegs of rum brought to our castles, lest the drunken Indians should knock them on the head. Our warriors have not beaver enough to pay for all those arms that they have taken, and our old men are not afraid of the war. This belt preserves my words.”
The orator continued in the same strain, asserting the independence and freedom of his nation, and giving substantial reasons for knocking the Twightwies and Chictaghicks on the head. He concluded by magnanimously offering a present of beaver to the governor, and by inviting all the company present to an entertainment. At the end of each important section of a speech, it was usual for the speaker to proffer a belt of wampum, to be kept in perpetual memory of that portion of his oration, a circumstance explanatory of the concluding words of the above quotation.
Some fanciful tales of a supernatural origin from the heart of a mountain; of a migration to the eastern sea board; and of a subsequent return to the country of lakes and rivers where they finally settled, comprise most that is noticeable in the native traditions of the Six Nations, prior to the grand confederation. Many of the ancient fortifications, the remains of which are still visible through the state of New York, were said to have been built for defense while the tribes were disjoined, and hostile to each other.
The period when it was finally concluded to adjust all differences, and to enter into a league of mutual protection and defense, is altogether uncertain. The most distinguished authors who have given the subject their attention, incline to the opinion that this took place within less than a century anterior to the English colonization in the east. Whatever may have been the precise time of the new organization, its results were, as we have seen, brilliant in the extreme. None of the ruder nations of Eastern America have ever displayed such, a combination of qualities that command respect as those of whom we are now treating. The nature of the league was decidedly democratic; arbitrary power was lodged in the hands of no ruler, nor was any tribe allowed to exercise discretional authority over another. A singular unanimity was generally observable in their councils; the rights and opinions of minorities were respected; and, in no instance, were measures adopted which met the sanction of but a bare majority.
We are told that for a long period before the revolution, the Iroquois chiefs and orators held up their own confederation as an example for the imitation of the English colonies.
Each tribe had one principal sachem, who, with an undefined number of associates, took his post in the great councils of the nation. A grave and decent deliberation was seen in all their assemblies, forming a striking contrast to the trickery and chicane, or noisy misrule too often visible in the legislative halls of enlightened modern nations.
The Mohawks were esteemed the oldest of the tribes, and, as they were always the most noted in warlike trans actions, one of their sachems usually occupied the position of commander-in-chief of the active forces of the united people. The settlement of this tribe was in eastern New York, upon the Mohawk River, and along the shores of the Hudson. From their villages, in these districts, their war parties ravaged or subdued the feebler nations at the east and south, and their favor was only obtained by tribute and submission.
Next in order, proceeding westward dwelt the Oneidas, whose central locality, supplying the place of a state capital for the national council, was the celebrated Oneida stone. This mass of rock, crowning the summit of a hill, which commands a beautiful view of the valley, is still pointed out in the town of Stockbridge, about fifteen or twenty miles south-east of the Oneida lake. This tribe is supposed to have been the last of the Five Nations to have adopted a separate name and government, in early ages, prior to the grand union. It produced bold and enterprising warriors, who extended their excursions far to the south, and by some of whom the sixth tribe the Tuscaroras was first conducted northward.
The Onondagas occupied the country between the Oneida and Cayuga lakes. According to some theories, all the other tribes were derived from this, and certain it is that the civil ruler of the confederacy was always from Onondaga, and here was ever the grand central council-fire. Monarchs of the tribe were said to have reigned, in regular succession, from the first period of its nationality to the time of European colonization.
In near proximity to each other, upon the beautiful lakes, which still bear their name, were settled the Cayugas and Senecas. The last mentioned tribe has always been by far the most numerous of those united by the league.
The Tuscaroras were, by their own account, a branch from the original stock of the Iroquois. Migrating first to the west, and thence southeasterly, they had finally settled upon the Neuse and Tar rivers, in North Carolina. Surrounded by hostile Indians, who proved unable to cope with the interlopers, these warlike people maintained their position until early in the eighteenth century. They then endeavored to exterminate the English colonists of their vicinity. On an appointed day, (September 22, 1711,) divided in small parties, they entered the villages of the whites, in a manner intended to ward off suspicion, and attempted a general massacre. Other coast Indians were involved in the conspiracy.
One hundred and thirty whites are said to have perished on that day; but so far from being a successful blow against the advance of the colonies, the plot only arouse a spirit of retaliation, which resulted in the expulsion of the tribe. With the assistance of forces from South Carolina and Virginia, the war was carried on vigorously; and in March of 1713, the main fort of the Tuscaroras, upon Tar River, to which they had retreated, was stormed by Colonel Moore, and eight hundred prisoners were taken.
Being now reduced to submission, such of the tribe as remained in Carolina yielded to the requirements and regulations of their conquerors. The major portion moved to New York, and formed the sixth nation of the Iroquois. They were established in the immediate neighborhood of the Oneidas.
Many strange legends of early warfare between the Iroquois and distant tribes at the south and west have been preserved. The particulars of some of these narratives can be relied upon, while others are evidently exaggerated and distorted in the tradition. At the south, the most famous of their opponents were the great nation of the Delaware, the Cherokees, and the ancient tribe from whom our principal chain of mountains derive a name. They always claimed that the Lenni Lenape, or Delawares, were a conquered people, and assumed the haughtiness of superiors in all their conferences and dealings with them. No hostilities took place between the two nations after European settlements were established in the country.
The Cherokee war gave rather an opportunity for displays of individual energy and daring, than for any decisive exhibition of national power. The distance to be traversed was so great, that it was never undertaken by any large body of warriors. Small parties, who could make their way unperceived into the heart of the enemies country, and retire as stealthily with their trophies of scalps, frequently sought such opportunity of proving their hardihood. One of the stories told of these early exploits, is that of the Seneca warrior, Hiadeoni. He is said to have started alone on a warpath, and to have penetrated the country of the Cherokees, supported by such provisions as he could pro cure on the route, and a little parched corn, which he carried with him when he set out.
Prowling about the enemies villages, he managed to dispatch two men and to secure their scalps. He then started on his return, and, late in the evening, killed and scalped a young man whom he saw coming out of a retired wigwam. The hut appeared to be empty, and he could not resist the temptation to enter it in search of plunder; especially that he might satisfy his craving for tobacco.
While there, the young man s mother entered the wigwam, and, mistaking Hiadeoni, who had thrown himself upon the bed, for her son, told him that she was going away for the night. The weary Seneca, seduced by the ease of a long unaccustomed couch, fell into a sound slumber, from which he was only awakened by the old woman s return in the morning. Taking advantage of a moment when she had left the hut, to slip out, he made the best of his way northward, but the alarm had been given, and it was only by his great swiftness that he escaped. He carried the three scalps in triumph to his own people.
Many similar legends are preserved among the Indians, of the bravery and determined spirit of revenge in which their forefathers gloried. One of those which has been given with the greatest particularity, is the noted expedition of the Adirondack chief Piskaret and his four associates. In the long and bloody war between that tribe and the Five Nations, the latter had attained the ascendancy by a series of victories, and the five warriors alluded to undertook to wipe away the disgrace of defeat. Proceeding up the Sorel, in a single canoe, they fell in with five boatloads of the enemy, and immediately commenced their death-song, as if escape were impossible and resistance useless. As the Iroquois approached, a sudden discharge from the Adirondack muskets, which were loaded with small chain-shot, destroyed the frail birch-bark canoes of their opponents. At such a disadvantage, the Iroquois were easily knocked on the head as they floundered in the water: as many as could be safely secured were taken alive, and tortured to death at their captors leisure. None of Piskaret s companions would accompany him upon a second warpath which he proposed. They had acquired glory enough, and were content to remain in the enjoyment of a well-earned reputation, without undergoing further hardships and danger. The bold chief therefore started alone for the heart of the enemies country. Using every precaution for concealment and deception known to savages; reversing his snowshoes to mislead a pursuing party as to the direction he had taken; and carefully choosing a route where it would be difficult to track him, he reached one of the Iroquois towns. Lying closely concealed during the day, he stole into the wigwams of his enemies on two successive nights, and murdered and scalped the sleeping occupants. The third night a guard was stationed at every lodge, but Piskaret, stealthily waiting an opportunity, knocked one of the watchmen on the head, and fled, hotly pursued by a party from the village. His speed was superior to that of any Indian of his time, and, through the whole day, he kept just sufficiently in advance of his pursuers to excite them to their utmost exertions. At night, they lay down to rest, and, wearied with the day s toil, the whole party fell asleep. Piskaret, perceiving this, silently killed and scalped every man of them, and carried home his trophies in safety.
The Iroquois were generally at enmity with the French, and, within a few years after the futile attempt on the part of De la Barre, which we have mentioned in a preceding chapter, scenes of frightful cruelty and bloodshed were enacted on both sides. The confederacy was then, as long afterwards, in the English interest, and the conquered Huron, or Wyandot, whom they had driven far west ward, naturally espoused the cause of the French. Having, however, no cause for ill will against the English, except as being allies of their foes, the Huron were not unwilling to hold intercourse with them for purposes of profitable traffic.
A strange piece of duplicity, conducted with true Indian cunning by Adario, or the Rat, sachem of the Dinondadies, a Wyandot tribe, was the immediate cause of hostilities. He left his head-quarters, at Michilimackinac, with one hundred warriors, whether with intent to make an incursion upon the Iroquois, or merely upon a sort of scout, to keep himself informed of the movements of the con tending parties, does not appear. He stopped at the French fort of Cadaraqui, and learned from the officer in command that a peace was about to be concluded between the French and Iroquois; deputies for which purpose were even then on their way from the Six Nations to Montreal.
Nothing could be more distasteful to the Rat than a treaty of this character, and he promptly determined to create a breach between the negotiating parties. He there fore lay in wait for the ambassadors; fell upon them; and took all who were not slain in the conflict prisoners. He pretended, in discourse with these captives, that he was acting under the direction of the French authorities, and when the astonished deputies made answer that they were bound upon peaceful embassy, in accordance with the invitation of the French, he assumed all the appearance of astonishment and indignation at being made an instrument for so treacherous an act. He immediately set his prisoners at liberty, gave them arms, and advised them to rouse Mp their people to avenge such foul injustice.
By this, and other equally artful management, Adario stirred up the most uncontrollable rage in the minds of the Iroquois against the French, and a long and disastrous war followed. It was in vain that the Canadian governor attempted to explain the true state of affairs. The Iroquois ever held the French in suspicion, and would not be disabused. They invaded Canada with an irresistible force. We have no record of any period in the history of America in which the arms of the natives were so successful. Twelve hundred warriors passed over to the island upon which Montreal is situated, and laid waste the country. Nearly a thousand of the French are said to have been slain or reserved for death by fire and torture. Neither age nor sex proved any protection, and the scenes described surpass in horror any thing before or since experienced by the whites at the hands of the Indians.
The war continued for years, and the name of Black Kattle, the most noted war-chief of the leagued nations, became a word of terror. He fought successfully against superior numbers of the French; and it is astonishing to read of the trifling loss, which his bands sustained in many of their most desperate engagements.
The great orator of the nation, at this period, was named Decanisora; he appeared more preeminently than any other in all the public negotiations of the tribe, and was one of the deputies who were duped by the subtle contrivance of Adario.
We have already mentioned that the Six Nations generally favored the English, and that between them and the French, feelings of the bitterest animosity prevailed. The recollection of the scenes which attended the sack of Montreal must constantly have strengthened this hatred on the part of the Canadians, while, on the other hand, the Indians could point to acts of equal atrocity and cold-blooded cruelty exercised towards some of their own number when taken captive. Meanwhile, the English agents were assiduous in cultivating the friendship of the powerful con federacy whose sagacity and good faith in council, and whose strength in battle, had been so thoroughly tested. In the year 1710, three Iroquois and two Mohegan sachems were invited to visit the English court, and they sailed for England accordingly. The greatest interest was felt by high and low in their appearance and demeanor. They were royally accoutred, and presented to Queen Anne with courtly ceremony. The authenticity of the set speeches recorded as having been delivered by them on this occasion, has been shrewdly called in question. The Spectator, of April 27th, 1711, in a letter written to show how the absurdities of English society might strike a foreigner, gives a sort of diary as having been written by one of these sachems. The article opens thus: “When the four Indian Kings were in this country, about a twelvemonth ago, I often mixed with the rabble, and followed them a whole day together, being wonderfully struck with the sight of every thing that is new or uncommon.” The writer particularizes “our good brother E. Tow O. Koam, king of the Rivers,” and speaks of “the kings of Granajah (Canajoharie) and of the Six Nations.” This latter appellation, as observed by Mr. Drake, seems to call in question the correctness of the date usually assigned to the event of the annexation of the Tuscaroras.
During the long and bloody wars between the English and French, the Six Nations were continually involved in hostilities, occupying, as they did, a position between the contending parties. To describe all the part they took in these transactions, would be to give a history of the war. This is far from our purpose to undertake, and, in bringing down events to the period of the American Revolution, we shall bestow but a passing notice upon some of the more prominent incidents in which the Iroquois, as a nation, or distinguished individuals of their tribe, bore a conspicuous part.
Joseph Brant, Thayendanagea, (as he usually signed himself,) was born in the year 1742. It has been a matter much disputed whether he was a half-breed, or of pure Indian descent, and also whether he was entitled to the dignity of a chief by birth, or rose to it by his own exertions. His biographer, Stone, pronounces him to have been the son of “Tehowaghwengaraghkwin, a full-blooded Mohawk, of the Wolf tribe.” His parents resided in the valley of the Mohawk, but were upon an expedition to the Ohio River when Joseph was born. Young Brant was early taken under the patronage of Sir William Johnson, the English colonial agent for Indian affairs, under whose command he gained his first knowledge and experience of military affairs. Many have expressed the opinion that Brant was a son of Sir William; but we can account for their mutual interest in each other s welfare upon other grounds than those of natural affection. Sir William Johnson was idolized by the whole Mohawk tribe for the favor and respect, which he had shown them, and for his princely hospitality. With the family of Brant he was more closely connected by a union with Molly, a sister of Joseph’s, who lived with him as a mistress until his death.
In the year 1755, Brant, then but thirteen years of age, took part with his tribe in the battle at Lake George, where the French, under Baron Dieskaru, were defeated by Sir William Johnson and his forces. Old king Hendrick or Soi-en-ga-rah-ta, the noted sachem of the Mo hawks, perished on this occasion. Hendrick was nearly seventy years of age, but years had not diminished his energy or courage. Historians vie with each other in the praises which they bestow upon the eloquence, bravery, and integrity of this old chief. He was intimate with his distinguished English commander, and it was between them that the amusing contention of dreams occurred, that has been so often narrated. With the Iroquois a dream was held to import verity, insomuch that it must be fulfilled if practicable. Sir William (then general) Johnson had displayed some splendid and costly uniforms before the eyes of his admiring guests, at one of his munificent entertainments. Old Hendrick came to him one morning, shortly afterwards, and gravely affirmed that he had dreamed of receiving one of these gorgeous suits as a present. The general instantly presented it to him, but took the opportunity to retaliate by dreaming of the cession of three thousand acres of valuable land. The sachem was not backward in carrying out his own principles, but at the same time avowed his intention of dreaming no more with one whose dreams were so hard.
To return to young Brant: after accompanying his patron in further campaigns of the bloody French war, he was placed by him, together with several other young Indians, at an institution in Lebanon, Connecticut, called the Moor School, after its founder, to receive an English education. This was about the year 1760. After attaining some proficiency in the first rudiments of literature, which he after wards turned to good account, Brant left the seminary, and again engaged in a life -of active warfare. He was employed in the war with Pontiac and the Ottawa, but the particulars of his services are not handed down to us. In 1765, we find him married, and settled in his own house at the Mohawk valley. Here he spent a quiet and peaceful life for some years, acting as interpreter in negotiations between his people and the whites, and lending his aid to the efforts of the missionaries who were engaged in the work of teaching and converting the Indians. Those who visited his house spoke in high terms of his kindness and hospitality.
On the death of Sir William Johnson, in June 1774, his son-in-law, Colonel Guy Johnson, held his office as Indian agent; while his son and heir, Sir John Johnson, succeeded to the paternal estates. Colonel Guy continued the favor shown by his father to Brant, and appointed him his secretary.
In the spring of this same year a war commenced, the causes of which have been variously represented, but whose consequences were truly disastrous. We allude to the scenes in western Virginia and Pennsylvania, so intimately connected with the names of Logan and Cresap. Colonel Michael Cresap has been, for many years, held up to public odium by nearly every historian, as the cruel and wanton murderer, whose unscrupulous conduct was the sole or principal cause of the bloody Indian war of which we are now to speak, and which is still spoken, of as Cresap’s war. On the other hand, some recent investigations, made public by Mr. Brantz Mayer, of Baltimore, in an address delivered before the Maryland Historical Society, seems to remove no little portion of this responsibility from the shoulders of Cresap, or at least prove that the acts with which his name has been so long associated were not directly attributable to him. He is shown to have been a prudent and cautious man, who exerted his influence to restrain the reckless adventurers under his command from wanton outrages upon the Indians. We shall not attempt to decide upon the question as to how far he was blamable, but give, in few words, the circumstances, which brought about hostilities.
Logan was the son of Shikellimus, a Cayuga chief, who had removed to the banks of the Susquehanna, and ruled over those of the Iroquois who had settled in that vicinity. Logan himself had attained authority farther to the westward, upon the Ohio, in the Shawanese country. He had ever been of a peaceful disposition, and friendly to the whites.
A party of land-hunters, who had chosen Cresap as their leader, are said to have committed the first direct acts of hostility, in retaliation for a supposed theft of some of their horses. We are told that they fell upon and treacherously murdered several of a party of Indians whom they fell in with, on the bank of the Ohio, below the spot where Wheeling now stands, and that among the slain were some relatives of Logan. With the next rupture, Cresap had certainly no connection. It occurred at a white settlement, thirty or forty miles farther up the river. Two men, named Greathouse and Tomlinson, were the principal leaders in the affair. They had ascertained that the Indians, then encamped on the other side of the river, intended an attack upon the place, in retaliation for the murders committed by Cresap s men. Finding, on examination, that the Indians were too numerous to be safely assaulted in their camp, Greathouse opened a communication with them, and invited them to come and drink and feast at his house. A party of armed whites lay concealed in a separate apartment, and when the Indians became intoxicated, slaughtered the whole number, of both sexes, sparing only one child. A brother and sister of Logan were among the slain. Mr. Mayer s account (in which the scene is laid at the house of “Baker instead of Greathouse,) is as follows:
“The evening before the tragedy, a squaw came over to Baker s, and aroused the attention of the inmates by her tears and manifest distress. For a long time she refused to disclose the cause of her sorrow, but at last, when left alone with Baker s wife, confessed that the Indians had resolved to kill the white woman and her family the next day; but as she loved her, and did not wish to see her slain, she had crossed the river to divulge the plot, so as to enable her friend to escape.” Next day four unarmed Indians, with three squaws and a child, came over to Baker s house, where twenty-one men were concealed, in anticipation of attack, as above mentioned. The party became intoxicated, and Logan’s brother was insulting and abusive: at the same time canoes filled with painted and armed warriors were seen starting from the opposite shore; upon which the massacre commenced as above stated. After this savage murder of women and unarmed men, the whites left the house, and, firing upon the canoes, prevented their landing.
These occurrences, with the death of the old Delaware chief, Bald Eagle, who was causelessly murdered, scalped, and set adrift down the river in his canoe, and the murder of the Shawanees sachem, Silver Heels, brought down the vengeance of the aggrieved parties upon the devoted settlements.
The ensuing summer witnessed terrible scenes of surprise and massacre, the chief mover in which was the injured Logan. Stirred as he was by revenge, the natural kindness of his heart was shown in his disposition towards captives, whom, in various instances, he favored and saved from Indian cruelties.
The hostile tribes were those of the Iroquois who dwelt in the western country, the Shawanees, the Delawares, the Iowas, and other nations of the west. Indecisive skirmishes occupied the summer, and not until the 10th of October was any general engagement brought about. On that day a battle was fought at Point Pleasant, where the Great Kanawha empties into the Ohio, between the combined forces of the Indians, and the Virginia troops, under Colonel Andrew Lewis. Lord Dunmore, governor of Virginia, was to cooperate by a movement upon the other bank of the river, but did not actually take any part in the contest.
The Indians numbered probably over a thousand, and were led by Logan and the great warrior Cornstock. Never had the natives fought more desperately, or made a stand against European troops with more determined firm ness. They had prepared a sort of breast-work, behind which they maintained their position, in spite of the repeated charges of the whites, until night. They were at last driven from their works by a company detached to fall upon their rear, and, crossing the Ohio, the survivors re treated westward.
At Chilicothe, on the Sciota, the chiefs held a grand consultation; and their principal warrior, Cornstock, seeing that the rest were determined upon no certain plan of proceeding, expressed his own intention of concluding a peace, lie accordingly sought Lord Dunmore, who was approaching the camp on the Sciota, and brought about a series of conferences, whereby hostilities were for the time stayed.
Logan would take no part in these negotiations; he is reported to have said that “he was yet like a mad dog; his bristles were up, and were not yet quite fallen; but the good talk then going forward might allay them.” A messenger was sent by Lord Dunmore to strive to appease him, and it was upon that occasion that the Indian chief delivered himself of those eloquent expressions that have attained such a world-wide celebrity. He walked into the woods with Gibson, who had been sent to visit him, and, seating himself upon a log, “burst into tears,” and gave utterance to his feelings in these words, as they were written down and reported at the time:
“I appeal to any white man to say if ever he entered Logan’s cabin hungry, and he gave him not meat; if ever he came cold and naked, and he clothed him not? During the course of the last long and bloody war, Logan remained idle in his camp, an advocate for peace. Such was my love for the whites, that my countrymen pointed as I passed, and said, “Logan is the friend of the white man! I had even thought to have lived with you, but for the in juries of one man. Colonel Cresap, the last spring, in cold blood and unprovoked, murdered all the relations of Logan, not even sparing my women and children. There runs not a drop of my blood in the veins of any living creature. This called on me for revenge. I have sought it. I have killed many. I have fully glutted my vengeance. For my country, I rejoice at the beams of peace; but do not harbor a thought that mine is the joy of fear. Logan never felt fear. He will not turn on his heel to save his life. Who is there to mourn for Logan? Not one!”
The subsequent history of this renowned warrior is soon told. He led a wandering, intemperate life for several years, and took part in the wars at the west in 1779 and 1780. He is described as having become melancholy and wretched in the extreme, and as being deprived of the full use of his reason by the pernicious habit of indulging in strong drink. He came to his death in the latter year under singular circumstances. He had, as he supposed, killed his wife during a fit of intoxication, and fled from Detroit, where he had been present at an Indian council, to evade the punishment awarded by the native code. On his way towards Sandusky, he fell in with a large party of Indians, among whom was a relative of his, named Tod-kah-dohs, and whom he took to be the one appointed to avenge the murder. According to Mr. Mayer’s account, “rashly bursting forth into frantic passion, he exclaimed, that the whole party should fall beneath his weapons. Tod-kah-dohs, seeing their danger, and observing that Logan was well armed, told his companions that their only safety was in getting the advantage of the desperate man by prompt action. Whilst leaping from his horse, to execute his dreadful threat, Tod-kah-dohs levelled a shot gun within a few feet of the savage, and killed him on the spot.”
It may well be supposed the whole of the Iroquois tribe should have been roused to indignation by the occurrence, which we have described, and in which some of their own brethren had borne so conspicuous a part. We are told that this was the case with all of them except the Oneidas, and that disaffection towards the colonies had become general among the western tribes.
In the year 1775, when difficulties between the American colonies and the old country were rife, and the prospect of a long and desperate contention kept the minds of all in fear and anxiety, it was felt to be necessary on the part of the Americans, and politic on the part of the English, to use every endeavor to secure the services of the Six Nations. The remembrance of their noble patron, Sir William Johnson, caused the Mohawks and many others of the confederacy to adhere firmly to his son-in-law and successor, Guy Johnson, and when he fled westward to the lakes, to avoid the danger of capture by the Americans, Brant and the principal warriors of the tribe accompanied him. A great meeting was held by them, to discuss the policy, which they should pursue; after which, Johnson and his chiefs proceeded to Montreal, followed by a strong body of Indian warriors. Sir Guy Carleton encouraged the Iroquois sachems to accept commissions under the king, and, what with his promises, their attachment to the John son family, and the remembrance of old pledges, they were thoroughly confirmed in their purpose of taking a decided stand in favor of the royal cause.
The efforts of the Americans proved less successful. By the aid of a Mr. Kirkland, missionary to the Oneidas, the favor of that tribe was greatly conciliated. His efforts were assisted by the influence of the Indians of Stock-bridge, a town in western Massachusetts. These were the remains of various celebrated tribes, which had long ceased to maintain a separate national existence. The principal portion of them were descendants of the ancient Moheakannuk, Mohicans, or River Indians, who dwelt on the banks of the Hudson in the early times of American colonization; but with them were associated many of the Narragansetts and Pequots, from Rhode Island and Connecticut. They were entirely under the influence of the Americans, and favorable to their cause.
A very touching incident of private history, connected with this collection of dismembered tribes after their removal westward, has been immortalized in the beautiful poetical legend by Bryant, entitled “Monument Mountain.” The mountain stands in Great Barrington, (western Massachusetts,) overlooking the rich and picturesque valley of the Housatonic. The following note is appended to the poem. “Until within a few years past, small parties of that tribe used to arrive, from their settlement, in the western part of the state of New York, on visits to Stockbridge, the place of their nativity and former residence. A young woman, belonging to one of these parties, related to a friend of the author the story on which the poem of Monument Mountain is founded. An Indian girl had formed an attachment for her cousin, which, according to the customs of the tribe, was unlawful. She was, in consequence, seized with a deep melancholy, and resolved to destroy herself. In company with a female friend, she repaired to the mountain, decked out for the occasion in all her ornaments, and after passing the day on the summit, in singing, with her companion, the traditional songs of her nation, she threw herself headlong from the rock, and was killed.”
“Here the friends sat them down,
And sang all day old songs of love and death,
And decked the poor wan victim’s hair with flowers,
And prayed that safe and swift might be her way
To the calm world of sunshine, where no grief
Makes the heart heavy, and the eyelids red.”
A conical pile of stones marks the spot where she was buried, on the southern slope of the mountain.
The regular successor to old king Hendric, among the Mohawks, was Little Abraham, a chief well disposed to wards the Americans, and who remained in the Mohawk valley when Johnson and his followers fled to Canada.. He appears to have possessed but little authority during the subsequent difficulties, and Brant, by a sort of universal consent among those in the English interest^ obtained the position of principal chief. He was commissioned as a captain in the British army, and, in the fall of 1775, sailed to England, to hold personal conference with the officers of government.
He was an object of much curiosity at London, and attracted the attention of persons of high rank and great celebrity. His court dress was a brilliant equipment modeled upon the fashions of his own race; but ordinarily he appeared in the usual citizen s dress of the time.
Confirmed in his loyalty to the English crown, Brant returned to America in the ensuing spring. He was secretly landed at some spot near New York, and made the best of his way to Canada. The journey was fraught with danger to such a traveler, through a disturbed and excited community, but the native sagacity and watchfulness of the Indian enabled our chief to avoid them.
Brant was gladly received, and the services of his war like Mohawks were promptly called into requisition. He led his people at the affair of “the Cedars,” which terminated so disastrously for the American interests. We can not minutely follow his movements, nor those of the several Iroquois tribes, for a considerable period subsequent to these events. Those were stirring times, and in the momentous detail of the birth of American independence, it is not always easy to follow out any private history.
Colonel Stone, in his life of Brant, gives us the following speech, as coming, at the beginning of the ensuing year, from the chiefs of the Oneida to Colonel Elmore, commandant at fort Schuyler. He does not attempt to ex plain the full import of it:
“Fort Schuyler, Jan. 19th, 1777. ” Speech of the Oneida Chiefs to Colonel Elmore. ”
Brother: “We are sent here by the Oneida chiefs, in conjunction with the Onondagas. They arrived at our village yesterday. They gave us the melancholy news that the grand council fire at Onondaga was extinguished. We have lost, out of their town, by death, ninety, whom are three principal sachems. We, the remaining part of the Onondagas, do now inform our brethren that there is no longer a council-fire at the capital of the Six Nations. However, we are determined to use our feeble endeavors to support peace through the confederate nations. But let this be kept in mind, that the council-fire is extinguished. It is of importance to our well being, that this be immediately communicated to General Schuyler, and also to our brothers the Mohawks. In order to effect this, we deposit this belt with Tekeyanedonhotte, Colonel Elmore, commander at Fort Schuyler, who is sent here by General Schuyler to transact all matters relative to peace. We therefore request him to forward this intelligence, in the first place to General Herkimer, desiring him to communicate it to the Mohawk Castle near to him, and then to Major Fonda, requesting him to immediately communicate it to the lower castle of the Mohawks. Let the belt then be forwarded to General Schuyler, that he may know that our council-fire is extinguished, and can no longer burn.”
Towards the close of the winter of 1777, it was found that the Indians were collecting in force at Oghkwaga, on the Susquehanna, and the fears of the colonial population of the vicinity were justly excited, although no open demonstrations of hostility had been made by them. In the course of the spring, Brant and his followers proceeded across the country, from Canada to Oghkwaga. He had disagreed with his superior, Guy Johnson. The whites were in great doubt as to what course this renowned chief would take in the struggle then going forward, but he seemed only to occupy himself in collecting and disciplining his warriors. It was afterwards ascertained that he was the leader of a party of Indians who threatened the little fortification at Cherry Valley, in the month of May.
The only blood shed upon the occasion was that of Lieutenant Wormwood, a young officer whom the Indians waylaid and shot, as he was leaving the place, accompanied by a single companion, bearing dispatches. Brant is said to have scalped him with his own hand. The Indian chief was deceived as to the strength of the place, by the duplicity of the dispatches, and by the circumstance that a number of boys were going through military evolutions at the settlement, whom he mistook, in the distance, for soldiers. He therefore retired without making any further demonstration.
In June, he visited Unadilla, on the small river of the same name, which empties into the Susquehanna, forming the boundary between Otsego and Chenango counties. His purpose was to procure provisions, which were per force furnished him; as he avowed his intention to take them by violence, if necessary. At a conference held, at this time, with some of the authorities, Brant expressed himself decidedly in favor of the royal cause, alluding to the old covenants and treaties which his nation had in former times entered into with the king, and complaining of ill-treatment received at the hands of the colonists.
Shortly after, during this same month, General Herkimer, of the American militia, took a strong force with him, and started for Brant s head-quarters, whether with intention of attacking him, or merely to treat upon terms of equality, hardly appears.
Brant was very cautious of trusting himself in the enemies hands. He did not show himself for a week after Herkimer s arrival, and when he finally appeared, and consented to a conference, he was accompanied and defended by five hundred Indian warriors. Every precaution was taken against treachery; the meeting was held at a temporary building erected midway between the two encampments, and the respective parties were to assemble at the spot unarmed. The Indian chief took with him a guard of about forty warriors, and was accompanied by one Captain Bull, of the English party, and by his nephew, William Johnson, a son of Molly Brant by Sir William.
General Herkimer had long been on terms of friendship with Brant, before the troubles arose between England and the American colonies, and he vainly hoped to be able to influence and persuade him into complaisance towards the new government. Thayendanegea was suspicious, and looked with an evil eye upon the hostile array of troops, shrewdly questioning the necessity for such preparations for a mere meeting of conference. He fully confirmed the supposition that he was determined to support the king, and evinced a proud dependence upon the power and courage of his own tribe.
The parley terminated most unsatisfactorily, and another appointment was made. We are sorry to record an in stance of such unpardonable treachery as Herkimer is said to have planned at this juncture. One of his men, Joseph Waggoner, affirmed that the general privately exhorted him to arrange matters so that Brant and his three principal associates might be assassinated when they should present themselves at the place of meeting. The Indian chief, when he came to the council, kept a large body of his warriors within call, so that the design, even if it had been seriously entertained by Waggoner, could not be safely carried out.
Brant counseled the general to go quietly home, as he could not but perceive how much he was out-numbered if his intent was hostile. He disavowed any present inimical design. Herkimer accordingly took his departure, and Brant, not long after, marched his warriors to the British place of rendezvous, at Oswego. Here a great council was held with the Indian tribes by English emissaries, who enlarged upon the ingratitude and rebellious spirit of the provinces, and compared the power and wealth of their own monarch with the poverty of the Americans.
Abundance of finery and warlike implements were spread before the greedy eyes of the warriors, and they were told that “the king was rich and powerful, both in money and subjects. His rum was as plenty as the water in Lake Ontario, and his men as numerous as the sands upon its shore; and the Indians were assured that, if they would assist in the war, and persevere in their friendship for the king until its close, they should never want for goods or money.”
The bargain was struck accordingly, and each warrior who pledged himself to the royal cause received, as earnest of future favors, a suit of clothes, a brass kettle, a tomahawk, a scalping-knife, and a supply of ammunition, besides a small present in money. The sagacity and enterprise of the chief, whose power was now almost universally submitted to by those of the Six Nations that favored the cause of the king, rendered the alliance a formidable one.
The gloomy prospects of the colonies, disheartened as they were by reverses and pecuniary distress, grew tenfold darker at the apprehension of such a bloody and cruel border warfare as they might now anticipate. Exaggerated tales were everywhere circulated of the extent of Indian depredations and cruelties. There was, indeed, sufficient foundation in truth for the greatest apprehension and distress. It is clue to many of the British commanding officers to say that they bitterly regretted the association of their party with a horde of murderous savages, over whose acts they could exercise no control, when out of their immediate influence. Burgoyne refused to pay the expected bounty for scalps, to the intense disgust of his Indian forces; and, to the remonstrance on the part of the American general, against the permission of the bloody scenes which were continually enacting, he returned an eloquent disclaimer of participation in or encouragement of such acts.
A large population of those who resided in the districts more immediately exposed, were driven from their dwellings by the fear of Indian cruelties. During Burgoyne s advance, an incident occurred which excited the strongest emotions of horror and indignation throughout the country. We allude to the well-known tale of the murder of Miss Jane McCrea. Few incidents have attracted more notice in the whole course of Indian warfare than this, and few have been reported in so variant and distorted a style. Miss McCrea was the daughter of a gentleman of New Jersey, and was residing, at the period of our present narrative, with her brother John, near Fort Edward, upon the Hudson, within a few miles of Saratoga. Her family was of the royal party, and she was herself engaged to marry a young officer by the name of Jones, then on duty in Burgoyne’s army.
The promised husband commissioned a few Indians to go to the young lady’s dwelling, and escort her thence to the British camp. Against the urgent entreaties of her friends, she put herself under the protection of these uncertain messengers, and started for the encampment. Her lover, anxious that his errand should be faithfully performed, dispatched a second party to join the convoy. The two companies met a short distance from Fort Edward, and were proceeding together when they were attacked by a party of Americans. “At the close of the skirmish,” says Stone, “the body of Miss McCrea was found among the slain tomahawked, scalped, and tied to a pine-tree, yet standing by the side of the spring, as a monument of the bloody transaction. The name of the young lady is inscribed on the tree, the trunk of which is thickly scarred with the bullets it received in the skirmish. It also bears the date 1777.” He cites further from Silliman: “Tradition reports that the Indians divided the scalp, and that each party carried half of it to the agonized lover.”
The account usually received of the manner in which her death was brought about is, that the chiefs of the two Indian companies, quarrelling as to which should receive the reward (a barrel of rum) promised by Jones, one of them, to end the dispute, buried his tomahawk in the head of their charge.
During this month, (July,) General Barry St. Leger marched from Oswego, with nearly two thousand whites and Indians the latter led by Thayendanegea to the investiture of Fort Stanwix. This stronghold of the provincial party occupied the spot where Rome now stands, in Oneida county, near the headwaters of the Mohawk. The post was afterwards called Fort Schuyler. The forces of St. Leger beset the fort on the 3d of August.
The most interesting event connected with the part taken by the Indians in this siege, is the bloody battle of Oriskany. The brave old soldier, General Herkimer, with from eight hundred to a thousand militia and volunteers, hastened to relieve the garrison as soon as the news of St. Leger s design was brought. Unfortunately, the English commander obtained information of the approach of reinforcements in sufficient season to prepare an ambuscade at a spot the most disadvantageous possible for the advancing troops. Where a marshy ravine, over which the path of the American army was carried by a causeway, partially enclosed a dry and level tract, Brant and his warriors, with a body of English troops, lay concealed. Before Herkimer and his men were aware of danger, the main portion of their number was completely surrounded, and cut off from the baggage and rear-guard.
Broken and disordered by the murderous and unexpected fire of the enemy, the Americans met with terrible loss. Retreat was out of the question, and gradually, encouraged by the exhortations of their brave commander, who, although severely wounded, sat supported by a tree, coolly issuing his orders, they formed defensive circles. Such scenes of desperate hand-to-hand fighting as ensued have seldom been recorded. The destruction on both sides was great, more than two hundred of the Americans being killed on the spot. Both parties laid claim to a victory; but it appears sufficiently certain that the Indians were dispersed, while the provincial militia held their ground. The purpose of the advance was, indeed, defeated, except so far as it gave opportunity for a successful sally from the fort, in which the British were driven from their encampment, and a great quantity of valuable booty was obtained.
One who passed the spot where the battle of Oriskany was fought, a few days afterwards, writes: ” I beheld the most shocking sight I had ever witnessed. The Indians and white men were mingled with one another, just as they had been left when death had first completed his work. Many bodies had also been torn to pieces by wild beasts.” The veteran commander of the provincials died in consequence of the wound he had received. The loss experienced by the Mohawks and others of the Six Nations who took part in the engagement, was long remembered and lamented by their tribes.
Notwithstanding the reverses that followed; the discomfiture of the English; the growing power and confidence of the Americans; and the long and eloquent appeal of mingled warning and conciliation communicated to them by Congress, all of the Six Nations except the Oneidas and the Tuscaroras remained, at the close of the year, fast friends of the king. The poverty of the colonies prohibited that display of rewards which the loyalists could proffer, and constant intimacy enabled the politic officers of the crown to sway the ignorant minds of the Indians, and to teach them to look upon their white countrymen as an unprincipled people, engaged in a hopeless as well as causeless rebellion.
The year 1778 opened unfavorably for American influence over the border savages. Johnson and Butler, aided by Joseph Brant, in behalf of the crown, had been unwearied in their efforts to win over the Indians of the west to their master s cause. In vain was a council called by the provincial congress for the purpose of making one more effort to induce the Six Nations to adopt a neutral policy. An incomplete deputation, from all the tribes except the Senecas, did indeed assemble at Johnstown, in Tryon County, during the month of March, the result of which meeting only strengthened the conviction that nothing but enmity was to be looked for on the part of the great body of the nation. There was too great reason to fear that the Indians of the far west were successfully dealt with by emissaries on the part of the loyalists.
Brant returned to his old quarters at Oghkwaga, and its vicinity, and lent himself heart and soul to the work of harassing and plundering the colonists. Although, as the chief of his nation, no small portion of the enormities committed by the Indian predatory bands, was attributed to his direct influence, it is due to Brant to say, that few among his companions-in-arms showed an equal regard for the laws of humanity. Many an instance is recorded of his interference, even in the heat of conflict, to stay the hand uplifted against the feeble and helpless. He was, it is true, a fierce partisan warrior, and, in one of his letters, avowed his intent to fight the cruel rebels,” as well as he could; but he seldom, if ever, evinced that savage cruelty towards a conquered foe which disgraced his Indian and white associates.
While the war lasted, there was no rest or safety for the inhabitants of that extensive district bordering on the enemies country from Saratoga, south-westward to the Susquehanna. Brant commenced operations in person, by an attack on Springfield, a small place at the head of Otsego Lake. He drove off or took prisoners all the men, and assembling the women and children for safety, burned all the town except the house where they were collected. He then retired, offering them no injury.
In the latter part of June, a descent was planned upon the settlements in the valley of Wyoming, upon the Susquehanna, in the north-eastern part of Pennsylvania. Some three hundred British regulars and Tory volunteers, accompanied by about five hundred of their Indian allies, marched from Niagara. They were led by Colonel John Butler. It has been a commonly received opinion that Brant was the chief under whom the Indian portion of the army was mustered, but it is now believed that he had as little share in this campaign as in many other scenes of blood long coupled with his name. There is no proof that he was present at any of the scenes that we are about to relate.
No portion of the whole history of the revolution has been so distorted in the narration as that connected with the laying waste of the valley of Wyoming. No two ac counts seem to agree, and historians have striven to outdo each other in the violence of their expressions of indignation at cruelties and horrors which existed only in their own imaginations, or which came to them embellished with all the exaggeration incident to reports arising amid scenes of excitement and bloodshed.
Wyoming had, for many years, been the scene of the bitterest hostility between the settlers under the Connecticut grant and those from Pennsylvania. Although these warlike operations were upon a small scale, they were con ducted with great vindictiveness and treachery. Blood was frequently shed; and, as either party obtained the ascendency, small favor was shown to their opponents, who were generally driven from their homes in hopeless destitution. We cannot go into a history of these early trans actions, and only mention them as explanatory of the feelings of savage animosity, which were exhibited between neighbors, and even members of the same families, who had espoused opposite interests in the revolutionary contest.
As John Butler and his forces entered the north-western portion of the valley, having descended the Susquehanna upon rafts, the inhabitants of the several towns made the best preparations in their power to resist the invasion. Colonel Zebulon Butler was in command of a company of regular continental troops, and with about three hundred of the militia, collected in the valley, he marched on the 3d of July, to check, and, if possible, disperse the invaders. It was intended to take the enemy by surprise at their encampment, (at Fort Wintermoot,) but the vigilance of the Indian sentinels betrayed the advancing forces. They found the royalists drawn up, and ready to give them battle. Their line was extended from the river, on their left, to a marsh, beyond, which rose the mountain range which bounded the valley. The Indian warriors were stationed at the right by the borders of the swamp.
The whole line was simultaneously attacked by the provincials, as they came up. Colonel Dennison, who commanded the left wing of the American army, perceiving that a strong body of the Indians had forced their way through the marsh, and were about to attack him in the rear, gave an order to fall back, that his troops might not be surrounded. This command was mistaken for an order to retreat, and the result was a complete rout and a disorderly flight. The Indians, now completely in their element, fell upon the helpless stragglers with tomahawk and knife. About fifty of the Americans are said to have escaped by swimming the river, or by clambering the mountains, and concealing themselves in the forest: the rest all perished upon the field.
Most of the inhabitants of the valley sought safety from the victorious army in flight. Those who remained betook themselves to Fort Wyoming. On the next day, July 4th, the British colonel approached the fort, and demanded an unconditional surrender. A capitulation was finally agreed upon, by the terms of which the occupiers of lands in the valley were to be protected in the peaceable enjoyment of their property. Colonel Zebulon Butler and the remnant of his regulars had made their escape, and it was agreed, by the officer remaining in command, that the fort should be demolished. The result, however, was the almost en tire destruction of the settlement. The rapacity of the undisciplined Indian forces, tempted by the opportunity for plunder, could not be restrained; and the long-cherished rancor of partisan enmity between fellow-countrymen had full opportunity to satiate itself.
The rich and highly-cultivated farms were laid waste, and their unfortunate proprietors, flying from their burning homes, were reduced to the greatest extremities. Many are said to have perished in the wilderness, whither they had fled for safety. From the tales of the wretched out casts who were dispersed over the country, as published at the time, many incidents have been copied into modern histories, which we know to be false or grossly exaggerated. War is every way an enormous evil, and when carried on by an ignorant and barbarous people, to whom the refinements of so-called civilized warfare are unknown, must necessarily involve scenes of terror and desolation; but at the time of which we are now speaking, the greatest atrocities appear to have been committed by whites. We will give a single incident as illustrative of the spirit of the times. Several of the loyalists had pursued some fugitives of the provincial militia to an island in the river. One of these being ferreted out from his place of concealment, recognized his own brother among the enemy, and, falling upon his knees, begged humbly for his life. The greeting and response of the unnatural brother are thus re corded: “So it is you, is it?” “All this is mighty fine, but you are a damned rebel.” Saying which, he deliberately levelled his rifle, and shot him dead upon the spot.
At the north, Brant and his Indians continued to be a source of terror and annoyance. Besides many minor depredations, they burned and plundered the rich and thriving settlement of the German Flatts, upon the upper waters of the Mohawk. The inhabitants had sufficient notice of the attack to be able to secure themselves in the neighboring forts, but they could do nothing to preserve their homes, or to save the fruits of a summer s toil from plunder or destruction. This injury was retaliated by the invasion of the noted establishments of the Indian chief at Oghkwaga and Unadilla. A party of friendly Oneidas lent themselves to this service, and succeeded in bringing off some booty and prisoners. A more important inroad was made by Colonel William Butler, with a Pennsylvania regiment. He entered the towns of Unadilla and Oghkwaga, and, finding them deserted by the Indians, burned and destroyed the buildings, together with large stores of provision intended for winter use.
The Indians were greatly exasperated at this heavy loss, and it was not difficult for the English to excite them to prompt exertions for revenge. The Senecas were discovered to be in arms, and assuming a hostile attitude very shortly after these events; and one of their chiefs, “The Great Tree,” who had been spending the summer with the Americans, and had associated during that time upon friendly terms with General Washington, had now re turned to his people with altered demeanor and purposes. Reports had been circulated among the Indians of this and other tribes that the Americans were planning an invasion of their country.
Early in November, (1778,) the younger Butler, Walter, led a force of seven hundred men from Niagara to attack the settlement at Cherry- Valley. The majority of the party consisted of Indians under the command of Thayendanegea. The place of their destination, a beautiful and prosperous village, not far from Otsego Lake, was defended by a fortification garrisoned by troops under Colonel Ichabod Alden. The commander received intimation, from an Oneida messenger, of the dangerous position of the place, but, being incredulous, or supposing that there was abundance of time for preparation, he was in no condition for resistance when the blow fell. The inhabitants, instead of seeking the protection of the fort, were scattered among their several habitations.
The Indian savages made the first onslaught, and throwing aside all restraint, massacred men, women and children indiscriminately. Many of the Tories belonging to the party are said to have shown a spirit of ferocity equal to that of the worst of barbarians. The officer in command, Walter N. Butler, repeatedly asserted, in after communications, that he used his best endeavors to stay the destruction of the helpless children and females, and there is no doubt but that Brant s inclinations turned in the same direction. Specific instances are reported in which the Mohawk chief interfered, and successfully, to arrest the murderous tomahawk. According to their account, the Indians were exasperated at their losses at Oghkwaga and Unadilla, and, becoming heated with the excitement of the attack, were in complete disorder, and in no degree amenable to discipline. Wherever the blame lay, the result was terrible: about fifty soldiers and inhabitants fell by the tomahawk, among the latter of whom the larger portion consisted of women and children. The whole village was burned to the ground, and the rich stores of provisions were destroyed. Thirty or forty prisoners were taken, but of these, the women and children, with a few exceptions, were shortly after set at liberty, as unable to endure the march.
Mrs. Campbell, one of those who was retained as a hostage, because of the prominent part taken by her husband in the American cause, has given very interesting descriptions of Indian ceremonies and manner of life.
The Onondagas, throughout these campaigns, while, as a tribe, they did not openly profess themselves inimical to the Americans, were individually concerned in no small number of the forays and scalping expeditions whereby the border country was harassed. In April, of 1779, it was determined to destroy their settlements, and Colonel Van Schaick, with a “sufficient force, was dispatched for the purpose. He was ordered utterly to lay waste the whole of their towns; to destroy all their cattle and property; and to take as many prisoners as possible. He did not succeed in surprising the Indians, as he had purposed; their scouts carried intelligence of his advance in season for most of them to escape to the woods; but their improvements and dwellings were left undefended, at the mercy of the assailants. The colonel obeyed his orders to the letter, and left nothing but blackened ruins behind him in his progress through the Indian villages. The dwellings, the horses, cattle, and stored provisions of the unfortunate tribe were all destroyed, and the Americans returned to their quarters, without the loss of a man, taking with them thirty-three prisoners. About twelve of the Onondagas were killed during the expedition.
The friendly Oneidas were closely connected with this tribe, and they felt and expressed a natural sympathy with their misfortunes. The Onondagas were greatly exasperated, and their war parties continued to hover around the border settlements, ever ready to take advantage of any unwariness on the part of the whites.
In the months of July and August, of this year, (1779,) Brant signalized himself by various successful expeditions. He plundered and destroyed the little town of Minisink, near the Delaware river, in Orange county, New York, and defeated a body of the militia who undertook to follow his trail, in hopes of recovering the booty he had secured, and of avenging the ruin he had caused. Some interesting incidents are recorded as connected with this battle. So skillfully did the Mohawk chief anticipate and oppose the movements of his pursuers, that he secured an advantage in position, which gave him a signal victory. A large proportion of the whites were slain. We are told that, after the battle, Brant saw a wounded officer lying upon the field, in a hopeless condition, but retaining sufficient strength to converse. Unwilling to leave the unfortunate man to be torn in pieces by wolves, who would be sure to collect as night came on, he determined, from motives of humanity, to dispatch him. He therefore commenced a conversation with him, and, watching his opportunity, put an end to his sufferings unawares, by a blow of the tomahawk.
On this, as on most other occasions in which the Mohawk chief was engaged in active hostilities, the most contradictory reports have been recorded concerning his conduct and demeanor. The leader is generally compelled to bear the blame of all the excesses committed by his followers, and it is no easy task, at this distance of time, to decide upon the truth of many tales reported under circumstances of confusion and excitement.
While the events which we have just described were transpiring, preparations were going on for a more formidable invasion of the Indian Territory than had before been attempted by the Americans. The annoyance of an uncertain border warfare had become so intolerable that it was deemed necessary to put a stop to it by the entire destruction of the Iroquois towns and settlements. In pursuance of a resolution of Congress, the commander-in-chief, General Washington, made arrangements, in the spring of 1779, to send a large force into the heart of the enemies country, with directions to burn and destroy all their towns; to lay waste their fields and orchards; to take as many prisoners as practicable; and, in a word, to do the enemy all the injury possible. The command of the expedition was bestowed upon General Sullivan, who was directed to ascend the Susquehanna, with troops from Pennsylvania, and to form a junction with the northern forces at Tioga, near the mouth of the Chemung. The detachment from the north, under General Clinton, consisting of fifteen hundred men, marched from Canajoharie, on the Mohawk, for Otsego Lake, (from which flows the Susquehanna) about the middle of June. They carried with them, over-land, two hundred bateaux, in which to descend the river to Tioga.
It was intended that Clinton should take with him a body of Oneida warriors, but this purpose was frustrated by the efforts of General Haldimand, on behalf of the king of Great Britain. This officer sent a letter, written in their own tongue, to the Oneidas, upbraiding them with the breach of ancient treaties, and threatening, if they presumed to engage in open warfare against the royalists, to let loose upon them such a horde of his Indian allies as should utterly destroy them. The effect of this epistle was to keep the Oneida warriors, with very few exceptions, at home, that they might be in readiness to guard their families and homesteads from the threatened invasion.
Owing to delays at the south, Clinton did not receive orders to remove from Otsego until August. He had, in the mean time, dammed the outlet of the lake, so that a great body of water had accumulated. When his troops were embarked, the obstruction was removed, and, aided by the unusual flow, the flotilla swept rapidly and smoothly down the stream. On the 2d of August the meeting at Tioga was affected. Five thousand men, well armed and provisioned, were now concentrated, and ready to pour upon the devoted towns of the hostile Iroquois.
The attempt to keep the expedition a secret from the enemy would have been utterly useless, from the length of time required for the preparatory movements. The campaign was anticipated, but no adequate force was pro vided to resist the American army. The only battle which took place was at Newtown on the bank of the Chemung, near the present town of Elmira. Here a force, variously estimated at from eight to fifteen hundred, and consisting of Indians under Thayendanegea, and whites commanded by the two Butlers, and by Sir John and Guy Johnson, was advantageously entrenched.
A brave and obstinate resistance was made to the advance of the Americans, but superior numbers prevailed, and the enemy was driven across the river, after suffering considerable loss. This was the only attempt of any importance that was made to defend the country from ravage and destruction. Pursuing his course westward, General Sullivan obeyed his orders to the letter. Every where the well-built towns and nourishing corn-fields of the con federate nations were reduced to utter ruin. These Indian tribes had made no little advance in the arts of civilization. The Mohawks had mostly fled to Canada in the early times of the revolution, but others of the Iroquois, particularly the Cayugas and Senecas, had continued to cultivate their fields and maintain possession of the homes of their fore fathers. Immense orchards of apple and other fruit-trees were growing luxuriantly around their habitations, but all fell beneath the axe of the destroyers. The movement of so large a body of troops was necessarily slow, and as no precautions were taken to conceal their operations, the Indians were every where enabled to escape to the woods. It must have been with feelings of the bitterest rage and despair that they saw the labor of so many years rendered useless, and thought of the coming winter, which must over take them, a wandering and destitute people, who must perish, or rely for aid upon their Canadian allies.
The whole month of September was spent in the work of destruction. The course of the march, after the battle of Newtown, was first to Catharine s Town, near the head of Seneca Lake; thence to Kanadaseagea, the principal town of the Senecas; to Canandagua; and to Genesee, which was the farthest point reached at the westward. From Sullivan s account: “The town of Genesee contained one hundred and twenty-eight houses, mostly large and very elegant. It was beautifully situated, almost encircled with a clear flat extending a number of miles; over which, extensive fields of corn were waving, together with every kind of vegetable that could be conceived.”
“The entire army,” says Stone, ” was immediately engaged in destroying it, and the axe and the torch soon transformed the whole of that beautiful region from the character of a garden to a scene of drear and sickening desolation. Forty Indian towns were destroyed. Corn, gathered and ungathered, to the amount of one hundred and sixty thousand bushels, shared the same fate; their fruit trees were cut down; and the Indians were hunted like wild beasts, till neither house, nor fruit tree, nor field of corn, nor inhabitant, remained in the whole country.”
In a suffering and destitute condition, the scattered tribes of the Iroquois were driven to seek protection and sup port during the hard winter that succeeded their overthrow from the English at their posts in the vicinity of Niagara. Nothing could now be expected at their hands, by the Americans, but acts of vindictive retaliation. Brant led his warriors, in pursuance of Haldimand s ominous prediction, against the settlements of the Oneidas, and reduced them to a condition as desolate as that of the habitations of his allies. The whole tribe was compelled to fly to the eastward, and seek shelter and support from the provincials.
Thayendanegea was ever ready and watchful for opportunity to harass and weaken the American posts, or to plunder their unprotected villages. Passing over his minor exploits and adventures, of which many strikingly characteristic anecdotes are preserved, we come to his irruption into the Mohawk valley, in August of 1780. He managed, at this time, to circulate a report among the settlers in the valley, that he was meditating an attack upon Forts Plain and Schuyler, for the purpose of getting pos session of the stores collected at those posts. The militia of the valley hastened to defend the threatened points, leaving their villages a prey to the cunning Mohawk. He carefully avoided the reinforcements on their way to the forts, and fell upon Canajoharie
His course was marked by the entire destruction of houses, provisions, and crops; of every thing indeed that could not be profitably carried away. No barbarities were permitted upon the persons of the defenseless women and children, but a large number of them were borne away into captivity. Brant effected his retreat unmolested; his men laden with plunder, and driving before them the valuable herds of the white settlers. Accounts, published shortly after the transaction, represent that the whole number of houses and barns burnt in this invasion, at Canajoharie, Schoharie, and Norman s Kill, was one hundred and forty; and that twenty-four persons were killed, and seventy-three made captives. The mind is little impressed by such bare enumeration, unless the imagination be excited to fill up the outline. No language could express the amount of misery and terrible anxiety which such an inroad must have caused. To the distracting uncertainty respecting the fate of their wives and children, prisoners in the hands of a barbarous and exasperated enemy, was added the mortification of a consciousness, on the part of the provincial militia, that they had been duped. They had left their defenseless homes to be ravaged by the enemy, while they were busying themselves in the defense of a fortified post, against which no attack had been meditated.
The invasion of the Mohawk valley by Sir John Johnson, in October of this year (1780), was productive of results still more extensively disastrous. The Indians connected with the expedition were led by Brant, and by the great Seneca warrior, Corn-Planter. This chief was a half-breed, being a son of a white trader, named O Bail, and a Seneca squaw. During this campaign, he took old O’Bail prisoner. Making himself known to his father, Corn-Planter enlarged upon his own position and consequence, offering the old man his choice, whether he would live in ease and plenty among his son s followers, or return to the settlements of the whites. O’Bail preferred the latter course, and was escorted accordingly to a place of safety. We shall speak further of this noted warrior, in describing his successful rival, the great orator Red-Jacket.
The usual horrors attendant upon Indian warfare marked this campaign of Johnson s: but we are not without evidence that the principal leader of the savages was inclined to no cruelty further than that necessarily incident to the Indian mode of conducting hostilities. On one occasion, he sent one of his runners to return a young infant that had been carried off with other captives and plunder. The messenger delivered a letter from Brant, directed “to the commanding officer of the rebel army,” in which the Mohawk chief avers that ” whatever others might do,” he made no war upon women and children. He mentioned the two Butlers, and other Tory partisans, as being “more savage than the savages themselves.”
The Indians of the Six Nations, engaged in the royal cause, made Niagara their winter head-quarters. Thence their scouts and war parties continued to molest the border country through the ensuing spring and summer, but no very important engagement took place until October (1781). On the 24th of that month, the inhabitants of the country south of the Mohawk, near the mouth of Schoharie creek, were astonished by the unexpected inroad of an overwhelming force of the enemy. The army, under the command of Major Ross, amounted to nearly a thousand men, including Indians. They had made their way from Buck s Island, in the St. Lawrence, to Oswego, and thence, by Oneida Lake, to the Mohawk valley, so suddenly and secretly; that no news of their approach had pre ceded them.
The invaders commenced the usual course of ravage and destruction, but their success was but of short duration. They were disastrously routed and put to flight by the provincials, under Colonel Willet, aided by a body of Oneida warriors. The notorious Walter N. Butler perished during the last engagement with the Americans. He was shot and scalped by an Oneida Indian.
This was the last important procedure connected with the war of the revolution, in which the Iroquois bore a part. They proved, throughout the contest, most dangerous and efficient allies, rendering an immense extent of the richest and most beautiful portion of the state of New York unsafe for the Americans.
After the conclusion of peace and the recognition of the independence of the United States, arrangements were made between the British government and those of the Six Nations who still wished to reside under the jurisdiction of the parent country, to secure them an asylum in Canada. Thayendanegea was the principal negotiator on the part of the Indians, and, at his instance, the country bordering on Grand River, which empties into Lake Erie, about thirty miles westward from Buffalo, was granted by the crown to “the Mohawks, and others of the Six Nations, who had either lost their possessions in the war, or wished to retire from them to the British.” They were to be secured in the possession of a tract extending six miles in breadth, on each side of the river, from its mouth to its source.
The course to be taken by the United States respecting the Iroquois resident within their limits, was a subject which led to much discussion and dissension. A conference was finally held at Fort Stanwix, between deputies from all the six tribes and United States commissioners; and, after much violent debate, in which the celebrated Red-Jacket took a prominent part, it was settled that the Indians should cede to the government all jurisdiction over lands in eastern New York, and confine themselves to a district specified at the west. All prisoners were to be delivered up, and several hostages were given to secure performance of their stipulations on the part of the Six Nations.
Many of the Indians were greatly dissatisfied with this treaty. Red Jacket (in opposition to Corn-Planter) strenuously advocated a continuance of hostilities. His speech at Fort Stanwix upon the subject gained him a wide reputation for oratory. Brant, who was then about starting for England to push the claims of his tribe for remuneration for their losses in the war, postponed his embarkation., and wrote a letter of remonstrance to Colonel Monroe, complaining especially of the retention of one of his relatives, a Captain Aaron Hill, as one of the hostages.
The Mohawk chief did not lay aside his purpose of visiting the royal court in his people s behalf. He arrived in England in the month of December 1785, and never was ambassador received with more nattering attention. His intelligence and dignity, together with the remembrance of his long and faithful services, commended him to all. He was feted by the nobility and gentry; his acquaintance was sought by the most learned and celebrated dignitaries of the age; and the native shrewdness evinced in his speeches and remarks drew forth universal applause. His attempt to awaken an interest at court, in favor of the claims of his nation, was successful; and a royal order was obtained for the indemnity of those whose losses had been specified, and for an examination of further demands.
In the United States, Indian affairs continued unsettled, and ominous prospects of future disturbance on the western frontier called for wise and cautious action. A great council was held in December, 1786, by many tribes of Indians, among whom the Six Nations were the most prominent, at Huron village, not far from the mouth of Detroit River. The object was to concert some general plan of resistance to encroachments upon their lands by the inhabitants of the United States. It is said that an unfriendly feeling towards the new government was promoted by English officials in their communications with the Indians, in reference to the retention, by the crown, of Oswego, Detroit, Niagara, and other posts.
For many years, subsequent to the peace with England, bloody skirmishes, and scenes of plunder and rapine, kept the western border in continual distress; and when the United States undertook the reduction of the hostile tribes in 1790 and 91, it was found that the feeling of disaffection on the part of the red men was indeed extensive. Upon the occasion of St. Glair s disastrous defeat by the Miami and their associates, under the renowned chief, Little Turtle, it is asserted by the biographer of Brant that the old Mohawk warrior and the warlike tribe to which he belonged bore a conspicuous part.
No man, born of a savage stock, has ever associated with the enlightened and intelligent upon terms of greater equality than did Thayendanegea. While he retained all his partiality for his own people, and never lost sight of their interests, he fully appreciated the advantages of education and civilization. A long life, spent for the most part amid scenes of strife and danger, in which the whole powers of his active mind and body seemed called forth by the stirring scenes in which he mingled, did not unfit him for the pursuits of literature and the arts of peace. He was indefatigable in his endeavors to elevate the social position of his tribe, and devoted no little time and attention to the translation of scriptural and other works into the Mohawk tongue, for their benefit. His earlier specimens of composition, which have been preserved, are, as might be expected, rudely and imperfectly expressed, but they evince great shrewdness and intelligence. The productions of his latter years are strikingly forcible and elegant.
We cannot go into a detail of the tedious and somewhat obscure negotiations with the American government in which the chief of the Six Nations took part in behalf of his people, nor chronicle the events of private interest and domestic troubles, which disturbed his declining years. The old warrior died in November, 1807, at the age of sixty-four.
In the war of 1812, the Mohawks, under John Brant, son and successor of Thayendanegea, took the part of their old friends and allies, the English, and did good service in various engagements upon the northern frontier.
In the early part of the nineteenth century, few names stand more prominent in Indian annals than that of the Seneca chief and orator, Saguoaha, or Red-Jacket. We hear of him, indeed, in much earlier times, as opposed to Brant, at the time of Sullivan s campaign. The Mohawk chief always regarded him with contempt and dislike, speaking of him as an arrant coward, and a man of words merely. Saguoaha held the whites generally in suspicion, and his great effort appears ever to have been for the preservation of his nation s independence and individuality.
We have already mentioned the part, which he took at the treaty of Fort Stanwix, and his opposition to the cession by his nation of their eastern lands. Corn- Planter or O’Bail, who favored the proposal, was high in authority at that time among the Senecas; but Red-Jacket, more by his eloquence and sagacity in council than by any warlike achievements, was gradually supplanting him. Corn-Planter was a veteran warrior, and had fought in former times against the English, in behalf of the French. He is said to have been attached to the French and Indian army, upon the occasion of Braddock s defeat, in 1755. He could ill brook the rivalry of a young man, noted for no warlike achievements, and only prominent among his people by virtue of his natural gift of eloquence. To check, therefore, this advance of the young orator, O’Bail endeavored to work upon the credulity of his people by announcing his brother as a prophet, and, for a time, succeeded in exciting their reverence and superstitious fears. Red- Jacket, however, in open council, eloquently pro claimed him an impostor, and harangued the tribe with such power and effect as to create a complete diversion in his own favor. He was chosen chief of his tribe, and exercised, from that time forth, a control over his numerous followers seldom surpassed by any Indian ruler. He was a steady opposer of Christianity, holding the missionaries who endeavored to effect the conversion of the Six Nations, in great suspicion. As a specimen of his style of oratory, we will give some extracts of Saguoaha s speeches upon these religious questions, as they are to be found in Thatcher s Indian Biography. It must be observed that, with characteristic obstinacy, the speaker would never use the English language, but communicated his remarks by means of an interpreter, so that due allowance must be made for the change in style and loss of force almost al ways attendant upon a translation.
At a Seneca council in May, 1811, held at Buffalo Creek, he answered a missionary from New York, substantially as follows: “Brother! we listened to the talk you delivered us from the Council of Black-Coats in New York. We have fully considered your talk, and the offers you have made us. We now return our answer, which we wish you also to understand. In making up our minds, we have looked back to remember what has been done in our days, and what our fathers have told us was done in old times.
“Brother! Great numbers of Black-Coats have been among the Indians. With sweet voices and smiling faces, they offered to teach them the religion of the white people. Our brethren in the East listened to them. They turned from the religion of their fathers, and took up the religion of the white people. What good has it done? Are they more friendly one to another than we are? No, brother! They are a divided people; we are united. They quarrel about religion; we live in love and friendship. Besides, they drink strong waters. And they have learned how to cheat, and how to practice all the other vices of the white people, without imitating their virtues. Brother! If you wish us well, keep away; do not disturb us.
“Brother! We do not worship the Great Spirit as the white people do, but we believe that the forms of worship are indifferent to the Great Spirit. It is the homage of sincere hearts that pleases him, and we worship him in that manner.”
After arguing the matter a little more at length, and expressing a decided preference for the “talk” of Mr. Granger, an Indian agent, and for that of the emissaries of the Society of Friends, the orator concluded:
Brother! For these reasons we cannot receive your offers. We have other things to do, and beg you to make your mind easy, without troubling us, lest our heads should be too much loaded, and by and by burst.” Red-Jacket remained, through life, consistent with the ground first taken by him upon religious and political questions. To the clergy he was ever courteous and civil, and appears to have been ready to hold argument with them upon their creed. In conversation with one of the cloth, he is said to have strenuously denied any responsibility on the part of the red men for the death of Christ. “Brother,” said he, “if you white people murdered “the Savior” make it up yourselves. We had nothing to do with it. If he had come among us, we should have treated him better.”
In the war of 1812, the Senecas espoused the American interests, and, Brant s assertions to the contrary not with standing, their chief, with his subordinates Farmer’s Brother, Little Billy, Pollard, Black Snake, Young O’Bail, (a son of Corn-Planter,) and others gained honorable notice for courage and activity from the commanding officers of the army to which they were attached. It is still more pleasing to reflect that these Indians readily conformed to the more human usages of modern warfare. General Boyd reported that, “the bravery and humanity of the Indians were equally conspicuous.”
In his old age, Red-Jacket became very intemperate, and in so many instances conducted himself in a manner unbecoming the dignity of a chief, that his opponents, the Christian portion of the tribe, succeeded in passing a resolution, in council, for his deposition. This was effected in September, of the year 1827, and a formal written proclamation of the charges said to be substantiated against him, was promulgated. The old chief immediately bestirred himself to obtain a revocation of this decree. He caused a grand council of the Six Nations to be held, and, with all his former fire and energy, made answer to his accusers. After enumerating and ridiculing the charges against him, (many of them really trifling,) he proceeded to speak of his long-continued services and care for his people: “I feel sorry for my nation,” said he; “when I am gone to the other worlds, when the Great Spirit calls me away, who among my people can take my place? Many years have I guided the nation.”
The eloquence of the speaker, and a remembrance of his faithful zeal for the welfare of his tribe, produced their due effect: he was fully restored to his former position and authority. During the latter years of his life, Red-Jacket resided at the Seneca settlement, in the vicinity of Buffalo. He made several visits to the Eastern cities, where his appearance always attracted much interest and attention. A traveler who visited the Seneca country a few years before the death of the old chief (which took place in January, 1830,) speaks of his residence and appearance in the following terms: “My path grew more and more in distinct, until its windings were only intimated by the smoothness of the turf, which often left me in perplexity, till it at last brought me to the view of the abode of the-chief. He had penetrated, like a wild beast, into the deepest recesses of the forest, almost beyond the power of a white man to trace him. A wild beast! but I found him in a calm, contemplative mood, and surrounded by a cheerful family. Old and young, collected about the door of the log hut where he was seated, seemed to regard him with affection; and an infant, which one of the females held in her arms, received his caresses with smiles. It was a striking scene a chief! Yet some of his inferiors, who cultivate the soil in other parts of the Seneca lands, had abundant fields and well-filled store-houses, while he was poor, but bore his privations with apparent equanimity. If he had power, he did not exert it; if he had passions, they were quiescent; if he had suffered injuries, they were buried in his breast. His looks, his motions, his attitudes, had that cast of superiority which convinced me that, whether justly or not, he considered no man his superior in understanding. He appeared to regard himself as the only one of his nation who retained the feelings and opinions of his ancestors, and to pride himself in preserving them.” Halleck’s address to “Red-Jacket, on looking at his portrait, by Wier,” although not in all respects strictly accordant with facts, contains a beautiful summary of Indian characteristics. The poem concludes as follows:
” The monarch mind, the mystery of commanding,
The birth-hour gift, the art Napoleon,
Of winning, fettering, molding, wielding, banding
The hearts of millions, till they move as one;
Thou hast it. At thy bidding men have crowded
The road to death as to a festival;
And minstrels, at their sepulchers, have shrouded
With banner-folds of glory the dark pall.
Who will believe? Not I for in deceiving
Lies the dear charm of life s delightful dream;
I cannot spare the luxury of believing
That all things beautiful are what they seem.
Who will believe that, with a smile whose blessing
Would, like the patriarch’s, soothe a dying hour,
With voice as low, as gentle and caressing,
As e’er won maiden s lip in moonlit bower;
With look like patient Job s, eschewing evil;
With motions graceful as a bird s in air;
Thou art, in sober truth, the veriest devil
That e’er clinched fingers in a captive s hair!
That in thy breast there springs a poison fountain,
Deadlier than that where bathes the Upas tree;
And in thy wrath, a nursing cat-o -mountain
Is calm as a babe s sleep, compared with thee!
And underneath that face, like Summer Ocean s,
Its lip as moveless, and its cheek as clear,
Slumbers a whirlwind of the heart s emotions
Love, hatred, pride, hope, sorrow, all save fear.
Love, for thy land, as if she were thy daughter,
Her pipe in peace, her tomahawk in wars;
Hatred of missionaries and cold water:
Pride in thy rifle-trophies, and thy scars;
Hope that thy wrongs may be by the Great Spirit
Remembered and revenged when thou art gone;
Sorrow that none are left thee to inherit
Thy name, thy fame, thy passions, and thy throne!”
The information contained in this chapter is drawn from Mr. Schoolcraft s abstracts and statistics, presented in his “Notes on the Iroquois.”
In taking the census, ordered by the New York legislature in 1845, and procuring statistics of the agricultural operations of the Iroquois, the author informs us that great objection was made by the Indians to what they considered an officious intermeddling in their affairs. Their suspicions were excited by the novelty of the requisition, and the matter was discussed at great length in their councils. They could not persuade themselves that the government should take such a step from any of the motives urged by those to whom the business was entrusted. It appeared to them most probable that the measure was but a preliminary step to the laying a tax upon their property, and they consequently opposed continual obstacles to a satisfactory completion of the duty assigned. The entire population of the Six Nations, about the middle of the eighteenth century, was computed at six or eight thousand. By other calculations, made a few years later, at the period of the American Revolution, it was supposed to exceed nine thousand.
Conscious as we are of the many causes constantly operating to reduce the numbers of the Indian population; it is a matter of no less surprise than satisfaction to learn that there has been no very material decrease in the Iroquois nation since the extension of civilization over their ancient country. It is pleasing to reflect that some portion of the strange race that formerly held undisturbed possession of the wilds of America, should be preserved to show what advance they are, as a people, capable of making, when aided by the light of civilization.
The tribes of the ancient confederacy are widely scattered. The larger portion of the Oneidas are settled upon a reservation in the vicinity of Green Bay, Wisconsin: smaller villages of the tribe are situated farther southward, near Winnebago Lake. The number of these emigrants was stated in 1844 to be seven hundred a nd twenty-two. The Senecas who have moved westward, were put down at about two hundred and thirty. Fifty-one of the last-mentioned tribe, were resident at Corn-Planter s settlement in Pennsylvania.
The Mohawks, Cayugas, and others on Grand River, in Canada, probably number over two thousand. “We now come to the more certain statistics of the New York census, given as follows, by Mr. Schoolcraft:
St. Regis Canton, 260
He estimates the whole nation, in Canada and the United States, at nearly seven thousand. He supposes, and it would seem very justly, that there has been a period, within the last century, at which their numbers were reduced much below those presented by recent returns; “and that, for some years past, and since they have been well lodged and clothed, and subsisted by their own labor, and been exempted from the diseases and casualties incident to savage life, and the empire of the forest, their population has re covered, and is now on the increase.”
Many satisfactory evidences of thrift and good management, in the shape of saw-mills, school-houses, public buildings, and well-kept farms, appear in the Indian settlements of New York. Nothing seems so conducive to the welfare of this species of our population as a dependence upon their own resources, where the means of advantageous labor are supplied them. The evils of the annuity system, and of the custom of farming out their lands to the whites by the Indians, have been fully and eloquently set forth. The first of these practices has the effect to bring a horde of unprincipled sharpers about the place where the yearly payment is made, who, by the temptations of useless finery, and, far worse, by the offer of the red-man s greatest bane, intoxicating liquors, render the assistance of the government oft-times rather a curse than a blessing. The latter usage is productive of evil by its encouragement of idleness, and by strengthening that sense of pride and self-importance, which distinguishes the race. Where the change in the face of the country, and the introduction of domestic animals have rendered the chase no longer necessary or profitable, the Indian still prefers ranging the woods with his clog and gun, to the endurance of what he esteems servile labor.
Striking exceptions to the above remarks are to be seen in the conduct and employments of many inhabitants of Indian villages in New York. Good husbandry is evident in the management of their farms, and artisans of no mean skill are frequently met with. Some of these Indians, who have turned their attention to the art of working in silver, are said to produce very beautiful specimens of ornamental work, especially in the in-laying of gun-stocks, handles to tomahawks, &c.
A portion of the Senecas, settled upon the Alleghany, occupied themselves in rafting and boating upon the river, and others are engaged in the lake navigation. There seems, indeed, to be no want of bodily or mental capacity in the North American Indian, for the successful pursuit of nearly every trade, profession, and occupation, followed by the whites.
One most beneficial reformation has taken place among some of the Iroquois, in a movement, which, if universally encouraged, would do more to regenerate the red-men, than all other influences combined. We allude to the introduction and formation of temperance societies.
The returns of agricultural products given, at the time of taking the census before-mentioned, in 1845, are extremely gratifying, and may well convince us of the steady and hopeful advance made by the New York Indians in self-reliance and honest industry.
Communications from the missionaries, engaged in the instruction and religious guidance of the Indians dwelling on the different reservations, bear witness to the docility and aptness of their pupils. The Rev. Asher Bliss, in a letter, published in the appendix to Mr. Schoolcraft s notes, observes: “As to the capacity of Indian children for improvement, my own impression is, that there is no essential difference between them and white children.” Of the influence of the Christian religion upon the worldly prosperity of the people among whom he was stationed, (the Senecas of the Cataraugus reservation,) Mr. Bliss speaks enthusiastically. He contrasts “the framed houses and barns, the horses, cattle, sheep and hogs, the acres of improved land; the wagons, buggies and sleighs; the clocks, watches, and various productions of agriculture,” with the destitution and poverty of former times, and exclaims, naturally enough, “What an astonishing change!”
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