The following sketch of the services of the late Timothy Murphy in the border warfare of the Revolution, were kindly furnished the author, and although in some respects they deviate from what he conceives to be truth, in the main he has ascertained them to be correct.
Timothy Murphy, the hero of this narrative, was born in the town of Minisink, in the county of Sussex and State of New Jersey, in the year 1751. His parents emigrated to this country from Ireland, and settled in New Jersey some years previous to the commencement of the French and Indian war; where they remained until the year 1757; they then removed to the State of Pennsylvania. Of his history previous to the commencement of the Revolution, we know but little, and have not been able to collect anything that will in the least interest the reader. He had very little or no education, except such as was obtained from the pure study of nature.
In the year 1776, when at the age of twenty-four, he enlisted in the United States service under Col. Morgan, the well known 'old waggoner,' as the British used to term him. In the year 1778, he was engaged in the battle of Monmouth in New Jersey, and escaped unhurt. After the battle of Monmouth, two companies, detachments from Morgan's riflemen, were sent to the northward under the command of Captain Long, to which Murphy was attached. After the battle of Saratoga and capture of Burgoyne, they were ordered to old Schoharie, where the Indians and tories were murdering and carrying off in concert captives to Canada.
The first service on which Murphy was sent, was in connection with a small body of riflemen under command of Capt. Long, to take dead or alive a person strongly suspected of toryism, living on the Charlotte river, by the name of Service, who was not only torified in principle, but was an active agent of the British in aiding, victualing and secreting the enemies of the Revolution. When they arrived at his dwelling, they silently surrounded it, gathering closer and closer, till at length two or three made bold to enter the room in which he was, before they were discovered: Service instantly stepped out of the door with them, when he was informed that they had orders to take him to the forts at Schoharie. He appeared at first somewhat alarmed, and strenuously objected to the proposal, pleading innocence and rendering many other excuses, but in the meanwhile was evidently working his way along from the door to a heap of chips lying between Murphy and one Ellison, a companion of his. The reason of his approaching the chips so cautiously, now appeared obvious, for on coming to the spot, he seized instantly a broad-axe and made a most desperate stroke at Murphy, which, however, by his keen vigilance was eluded, and the fruitless attempt rolled back in vengeance upon its author: - Murphy stepped back, drew his faithful rifle to his face - a flash, a groan, and he lay weltering in his own blood, with the axe in his hand, a victim of that retributive justice which watched over the fortunes of the Revolution. They returned, not a little elated, with the scalp of the notorious Service, to the forts at Schoharie, where Murphy and his company remained during the winter, engaged at times in small parties of scouts, and at others stationed at the forts.
Murphy's skill in the desultory war which the Indians carried on, gave him so high a reputation, that though not nominally the commander, he usually directed all the movements of the scouts that were sent out, and on many important occasions, as the reader in the course of this work will perceive, the commanding officers found it dangerous to neglect his advice. His double barreled rifle; his skill as a marksman, and his fleetness either in retreat or pursuit, made him an object both of dread and vengeance to the Indians. He fought them in their own way and with their own weapons. Sometimes habited in the dress of the Indian, with his face painted, he would pass among them, making important discoveries as to their strength and designs, without detection. He early learned to speak the Indian language, which of course was of great service to him.
During the succeeding winter, the Indians were continually on the alert. They generally formed themselves into small parties, and a particular portion of country was assigned to a party of Indians for their direct destruction. At that time the German flats, or that portion of country lying on either side of the Mohawk between Utica and Schenectady, was their more immediate sphere of action. Murphy, together with a small party of riflemen, were ordered to that part of the country to watch, and to prevent if possible, the destruction of human life, and devastation of property, then so rapidly being made by the inhuman savages.
It was on this occasion that Murphy and two other individuals had strayed from the main party to which they were attached, and were rambling about among the woods and brush, studying the plans and watching the movements of the Indians. They had not been long separated from the main party, when they discovered a number of Indians skulking about among the weeds and brush, apparently watching the movements of Murphy and his companions. They had proceeded but a short distance farther when they saw two Indians sitting upon the trunk of a masterly oak, with their backs toward them; they immediately fired, each brought his man,and then ran back to join the main party. The report of the guns, and the death of their fellows, roused the revengeful blood of the savages, and they were almost instantly surrounded by a large body of them. They fought like heroes, but were overpowered in numbers by the bloodthirsty demons, who as it seemed had at that moment risen from the very bowels of the earth. At length Murphy saw his associates fall one after another till there were but a few left; at this period Murphy made a rush to pass the Indians, and himself and six others succeeded. Murphy ran with all possible speed, but the weeds and brush through which he had to pass, prevented in a measure his progress; however, by jumping up and over the weeds, and being very expert in running, he easily outstripped all the Indians, except one, whom he turned to shoot several times, but believing his gun unloaded, he determined to reserve his fire for the last exigency. Murphy succeeded in eluding the vigilance of the Indian, and secreted himself in a very dense collection of weeds, and there lay until the Indians came up and stood some distance from him. The Indian that first pursued him, now bent forward, and pointing in the direction in which he lay, exclaimed to his companions "kong gwa," which in English, means, "that way." Murphy jumped up and ran as fast as his limbs would carry him: the Indians fired several times at him, but with no effect: he finally succeeded in getting entirely out of their view, and being, from fatigue, unable to proceed farther, he secreted himself behind a large log. The Indians came up to very near him, but supposing him to have passed on, they turned and went back. There was one circumstance that happened during the heat of the affray, at which, though surrounded by the dead and the dying, and with not much hope of a better fate, Murphy, as himself states could not refrain from laughing. It appears that there were among the Indians a negro, and an Irishman on the other side: - the paddy was chasing the poor negro with a long butcher knife, and every now and then making a desperate thrust at the most sensitive part of the poor fellow's seat of honor. Murphy afterward inquired of the paddy, why he wished to kill the unarmed black; "because," he said, "the davlish naggar had no business to run afore me."
The next spring, Long's riflemen, to which Murphy was still attached, had orders to move under Colonel Butler, in connection with other troops, in all amounting to seven hundred, to Springfield, at the head of Otsego lake, where they were to await the arrival of Gen. George Clinton, and the troops expected with him, all of whom when there concentrated, were to pass down the Susquehanna, and form a junction with General Sullivan at Tioga Point. The object of this arrangement was the destruction of the Indian tribes on the Chemung and Genesee rivers; who had so often been employed in small parties by the policy of the British Government to distress in a predatory manner the inhabitants of the frontiers; the leader of whom was Brant, so renowned for his warlike achievements in this part of our country, and who was alike notorious for his humane treatment to many of his prisoners, as well as his barbarity and savage discipline, in inflicting the most cruel tortures on them, in their expiring agonies. While encamped at some place unknown near the Chemung river, and previous to their joining the main army, Murphy obtained leave for himself and three others, by name Follok, Tufts, and Joe Evans, to go out on a scout to the Chemung. They started in the morning of a fine July day; they traveled until four in the afternoon, at which time they arrived upon the lofty banks that overlooked the Chemung river. Making no discoveries, and finding nothing to interest them during their travel, and being somewhat fatigued, they determined to encamp for the night, and accordingly preparations were made. The scene was passing fair. A little in advance and directly in front of them, rolled the Chemung river in all the pride and loveliness of nature; a little to the left and still beyond the river, was a vacant field, on which were scattered a number of cattle feeding upon the wild luxuriance of nature, which at some day had been the object of cultivation by beings equally as rude as Nature herself. They had not been long upon this proud eminence, ere they espied three Indians towing a canoe up the rapids; one standing in the canoe steering it, one on the shore tugging away at a rope, and the other using a pole to keep the boat off the shore. No sooner were they observed, than Murphy turned to his companions and said: "I've a notion to try the one standing in the canoe," and suiting the action to the word, he drew up and fired , - the distance being somewhat great, he had no expectation of doing effect, but to their utter astonishment he reeled and fell backward over into the river. The other two Indians let loose the rope, dropped the pole, and fled to the woods, not even looking behind to see from whence proceeded the bullet that proved so fatal to their companion.
In the morning they proceeded up the river for some miles, but finding slight traces of Indians and discovering none, they crossed over the river, wheeled about, and commenced their march for the encampment, then about thirty miles distant: they had proceeded on their backward course until they arrived opposite the place where the scene just related was enacted the day before, where they discovered at a distance a boy apparently fifteen or sixteen years of age, in pursuit of cattle. They hailed him, but he fled, Murphy at the same time pursuing; he very easily overtook, and secured him prisoner: they then proceeded several miles into the woods, lit a fire, and prepared for the night's repose: - the boy, whose hands were tied behind, was placed between Murphy and Tufts. Sometime in the night Murphy awoke, and on raising up, he discovered the boy, his rifle and moccasins among the missing. He instantly sprang upon his feet, and gave the Indian war whoop, which, by the by, he mimicked to perfection, to arouse his companions. Murphy, not a little aggravated at the loss of his rifle, moccasins and prisoner, and feeling himself chagrined at being duped by a boy of but fifteen years of age, immediately proposed that they should proceed in search of him; but his companions, knowing the result if he persisted in so rash an undertaking, persuaded him to abandon it. What was to be done! Murphy was without shoes or moccasins wherewith to cover his already tender feet, made so by his continual travel - But that benign Providence who never fails to provide for emergencies, had upon this all important occasion, more than blessed Follok with a pair of leather breeches, which, as soon as discovered, were sacrificed to the unmerciful treatment of Murphy's jack-knife. His moccasins completed, they commenced in the morning their homeward course. When they arrived at the encampment, Murphy was thus accosted by an officer: " Murphy, where the devil is your rifle:" he made no reply - the rebuke was too much for his naturally proud spirit to withstand, and he again determined to solicit for himself and companions the privilege of going in search of the lost rifle; which being granted, they commenced pursuit. The next day, about the same hour, and upon nearly the same spot of ground, they saw the identical boy driving cattle as before: they followed on in the rear until they observed him to enter an obscure hut in a remote part of the wilderness - they immediately entered the hut, where were some old women, and more than all, the wished-for rifle. They took the boy once more and proceeded on their way back; when about five miles on their return, they met a man on horseback, whom after some close quizzing they likewise took prisoner. While crossing the river, he threw himself intentionally into it; but on Murphy's drawing his rifle to his face, and threatening to shoot him through, he was glad to make for the shore.
They finally arrived safe at the encampment with their prisoners and lost rifle, when in a few days they joined the main army of Sullivan, which numbered in all about five thousand, and then proceeded west, burning and laying waste all the Indian settlements in their reach. After an absence of six months and enduring many hardships and privations, Murphy and his company returned to the forts at Schoharie.
There is one circumstance that transpired during his campaign to the west, which we cannot omit to mention. When near what is now called Canandaigua lake, Murphy, with a company of some twenty other robust fellows, was dispatched round the upper end of the lake to destroy a small Indian village which was rapidly increasing. After destroying the village, and on their return to the main army, they found themselves almost instantaneously surrounded by a body of Indians more than double their number, and led by the celebrated Brant. What was to be done? Murphy, knowing Brant, and judging what must be their inevitable fate if they fell into his hands said to his companions, "we must fight or die." The war whoop was given, and the savages rushed forward, making the woods ring with their yells, as if the very lightings from heaven had burst their bounds, and were spreading their deathlike gleams upon our little band. They returned every attack with spirit and coolness, and with as much effect as their situation would admit. Murphy saw his companions fall one after the other until there were but five left; the contest not diminishing in the least in fury. At one moment all hopes of escape seemed shut out, at the next prospects would brighten for an instant. Their courage never for a moment forsook them; they struggled with desperation; death and the diabolical infliction of savage torture stared them in the face, and they determined to sell their lives as dearly as possible. At this juncture, four of the party made a rush to pass the Indians; the savages immediately ran before them to prevent their escape, which left a vacancy behind, in which direction Murphy ran with the fleetness of a deer: he gained rapidly on them until nearly exhausted, when coming to a brush fence, that stood at the top of a bank which descended to a fosse, he jumped over and secreted himself directly under the fence; the Indians came up, and one of them stood upon the fence directly above him gazing around (Murphy watching his eyes through the brush of which the fence was composed,) for some minutes, when the Indian went back. As soon as sufficiently rested he proceeded on his course to the army, which he reached after encamping one night without fire or a particle of food. His companions doubtless were all sacrificed to the bloody tomahawk, as Murphy never heard any thing of them to the day of his death.
Soon after, he returned to Schoharie, where he was greeted with joy and exultation by every patriot of his country. The women felt themselves secure under his protection. The men, knowing his superiority and skill in tracing and ferreting out the Indians on all occasions, submitted to his judgment and command; and finally, where there seemed to be a general panic previous to his return, there was a sudden change as if by magic at beholding the noble and fearless countenance of Tim Murphy. Nor were the Indians less surprised at finding their daring opposer crossing their trails, and frustrating their plans. They fled at his approach, trembled lest his bullet should find from a secret covert a hiding place in their breast, and feared, perhaps, that his spirit would haunt them in an evil hour.
Soon after our hero came to Schoharie with the detachment of Morgan's riflemen, he obtained permission to go on a scout through the delightful vale of Fulton. It was in the spring, and all nature was waking from the icy lethargy of winter. The Oneistagrawa was shaded with various hues as the sun was dancing on its brow The snow had melted on the plain below, yet small banks might be seen at intervals, which he eyed with apparent suspicion. Now he gazed on the adjacent mountain, now on the vale around, as he passed leisurely along. He advanced until he arrived where his sons Jacob and Peter now reside, when his attention was arrested by
with a milk-pail on her arm. He stood perfectly still and saw her pass towards a barn where cattle were feeding. She stepped off with all the poetry of motion imaginable. How unlike the mincing step of coquetry! Like Milton's Eve,
Her dress was exceedingly plain, and which was admirably calculated for the exhibition of her exquisitely chiseled form to the best advantage. A handkerchief white as her lily hand was tied loosely over her head. Her hair did not hang in ringlets - by no means - but was carefully and neatly done up. Neither was her waist girted small as a city belle's, but was a proper size, or to be more specific, an armful! Her eyes were not diamonds, nor were her teeth pearl; yet we defy all Christendom to produce a brighter pair of eyes or a finer set of teeth than were possessed by Miss Peggy Feeck. In short, she was not such a girl as would make fifty lovers commit suicide and after all die an old maid, but was one whom you would love for her artless innocence and real beauty. As Walcott justly observes:
As Murphy approached he thought almost audibly, "J---s, what a swate creature!" and slowly advancing, he bade her "Gude morning," and they were soon in familiar talk. Reader, what do you think they talked about? Not about the weather - nor about Such-a-one's courting such-another - nor about each other's appearance - nor about love - or any such trash. But they conversed like persons of common sense, on subjects of some importance. Her conversation pleased him extremely, and time passed with unusual velocity, until she arose to return, when she very politely invited him to walk along and take breakfast, which request he as politely accepted. A hearty breakfast was prepared in the true Dutch style, and after indulging some chat with the "old folks" (which was somewhat difficult, as they had but a partial knowledge of English, and he less of Dutch), he departed, not, however, without a request to "call again."
Here an old lady remarked, with a knowing twist of the head, that Murphy frequently passed in that direction as he went on a scout. Whether he went to see the romantic scenery of that region, or in pursuit of Indians, or to see
we leave for the prolific imagination of the reader to determine. At length her parents, considering his visits rather too frequent, directed her to inform him peremptorily that they were not acceptable. But little were they aware of the moral courage and determination of a girl in the vigor of youth, who has fixed her love. Byron told the truth when he says:
"The tree Rent from its forest root of years, the river Dammed from its fountain; the child from the knee And breast maternal, weaned at once forever, Would wither less than these two torn apart - Alas, there is no instinct like the heart."
What could she do? Should he be sacrificed to the avarice and cupidity of parents? No!
She informed him, with alternate sobs and tears, of her parents' resolution. Murphy was thunderstruck; not a word was spoken for some moments, when, after making a single request that they should meet again at a time and place specified, he hastily departed. As he was returning toward the fort, he reflected; why this unkind prohibition? At length the thought struck him - it was because he was poor!
Time passed with a heavy step. Murphy endeavored to calm his feelings by continued action, and engaged in numerous skirmishes with invariable success; yet his downcast eyes in the midst of triumph, indicated that something was wrong. Alas, how true the exclamation of the poet:
At last the night of their meeting arrived, and seating himself beneath a spacious oak, he patiently waited to perceive the object of his pursuit. A faint light was glimmering through a window. At length that was extinguished; moments then seemed hours, as he sat reclining against the oak. He waited half an hour longer, when the window was softly raised and his "lady love" peeped through, and on recognizing him, beckoned for him to approach. After a serious consultation, they came to the determination of being united by
They agreed to meet at the same place a few days afterward Murphy returned to the fort with a weight of lead from his heart. He consulted confidentially with one of the officers, who applauded his gal-antry, and afterward gave permission to go "any distance" in pursuit of a Domine. He accordingly went on the appointed evening in pursuit of his bride, and after a short time, she escaped through the window in her best petticoat and short-gown; and after she was seated behind him, they departed as rapidly as convenient for the fort, where they arrived about day-break. They were received by the garrison with three cheers which made the welkin ring. Murphy walked into the fort, escorting his prize, with as much pride as he would half a dozen captive Indians. The girls all kissed sweet Peggy, the women admired her courage, and the men all declared she would make a good soldier! But time was not to be lost; for already they might be pursued by the avaricious father. They soon departed, in company with a William Bouck and a lady, in pursuit of a minister. They arrived at Duanesburgh in the afternoon, where Domine Johnson finished
They then returned to the fort, when they were again cheered by the soldiers.
The next day her father came to the fort, and with a long face inquired for his daughter; but finding he was" a day after the fair," he adopted, like a man of sense, the motto that "discretion is the better part of valor," and surrendered this best prize ever captured by man! Making true what Virgil sang two thousand years ago: Omnia vincit amor; et nos cedamus amori. Or as Dryden freely translates it:
In the fall of 1780, the enemy, about 800 strong, under Sir John Johnston, made preparations for destroying the valleys of Schoharie and the Mohawk. The forces, consisting of British regulars, loyalists, tories and Indians, assembled on the Tioga, and marched thence up along the eastern branch of the Susquehanna, and crossed thence to Schoharie. On the 16th of October they encamped about four miles above the upper fort. It was their intention to pass the upper fort in the night, and to attack the middle fort1 at day-break ; as it was expected that the upper fort would be the first object of attack, they hoped to surprise the middle fort by this unexpected movement. Sir John had ordered his troops to be put in motion at four in the morning; but from some mistake it was five before they began their march; consequently, the rear guard was discovered by the sentinels of the upper fort, and the alarm-gun was fired, which was quickly answered from the other forts, and twenty riflemen, under the supervision of Murphy, were sent out from the middle fort to watch the motions of the enemy; they soon fell in with an advanced party, and retreated back. At the firing of the settlement, houses, barns, and stacks of hay were burned, and cattle, sheep, and horses, were killed or driven away.
The Indians, being in advance of the regular forces, were the first to approach the fort. Murphy, whose eye was ever watching the enemy, had stationed himself in a ditch a few rods south of the fort, that he might, unperceived, the better view the movements of the enemy. The Indians approached to within about eighty yards of the fort, when Murphy fired upon them; and as he arose the second time to fire, a bullet struck within two inches of his face, and glanced over his head, throwing dirt in his eyes. He then ran into the fort, not, however, without bringing to the ground another Indian.
About 8 o'clock the enemy commenced a regular attack on the fort, which was returned with effect from the garrison. The regular troops fired a few cannon shot, and threw a number of shells, one of which burst in the air above the fort, doing no injury; another entered, and burst in the upper loft of the fort, doing no other mischief than destroying a quantity of bedding and nearly frightening to death a little Frenchman who had fled to the chamber for protection, and came running down stairs, at the same time exclaiming, " de diable pe among de fedders." The interior of the fort was several times on fire, but was as often extinguished by the exertions of the women. The Indians retreated behind a row of willow trees, and kept up a constant fire, but at too great a distance to do effect. In the fort, all was gloom and despondency; the garrison only amounted to 150 regular troops, and about 100 militia. Their ammunition was nearly exhausted - to attempt to defend the fort, appeared to be madness; to surrender, was to deliver up themselves, their wives and children, to immediate death, or at least to a long captivity. Major Wolsey, who commanded the fort, was inclined to surrender on the first appearance of the enemy, but was prevented by the officers of the militia, who resolved to defend the fort or to die in the contest. Wolsey's presence of mind forsook him in the hour of danger; he concealed himself at first with the women and children in the house, and when driven out by the ridicule of his new associates, he crawled round the entrenchments on his hands and knees, amid the jeers and bravos of the militia, who felt their courage revive as their laughter was excited by the cowardice of the Major. In the times of extreme danger, everything which has a tendency to destroy reflection by exciting risibility has a good effect.
The enemy, perceiving that their shot and shells did little or no execution, formed under shelter of a small building near the fort, and prepared to carry the works by assault. While the preparations were making, a flag was seen to approach the fort; all seemed inclined to admit it, when Murphy and Bartholomew Vrooman, who suspected that it was only an artifice to learn the actual strength of the garrison, and aware that for them at least there was no safety in capitulation, fired upon the flag. The flag retired and some soldiers were ordered to arrest Murphy; but so great was his popularity among the soldiers, that no one dared to obey. The flag approached a second time and was a second time driven back by Murphy and his adherents. A white flag was then ordered to be raised in the fort, but Murphy threatened with instant death any one who should obey. The enemy sent a flag a third time, and on Murphy's turning to fire upon it, Wolsey presented his pistol and threatened to shoot him if he did; but not in the least intimidated by the major's threat, Murphy very deliberately raised his rifle, and pointing it towards him firmly replied, "I will die before they shall have me prisoner." Maj. Wolsey then retired to his room, where he remained until Col. Vrooman was dispatched in search of him. He was found covered up in bed, trembling like a leaf. Col. Vrooman accosted him: "Was you sent here to sneak away so, when we are attacked by the Tories and Indians? and do you mean to give up the fort to these bloody rascals?" To which Maj. Wolsey made no reply, but consented to yield up the command to Col. Vrooman. At this change of officers, unanimous joy pervaded the whole fort. And even the women smiled to behold the portly figure of Col. Vrooman stalking about the fort - directing and encouraging the soldiers in his melodious Low Dutch tones.
The British officers now held a council of war, and after a short consultation withdrew; and then proceeded down the Schoharie creek, burning and destroying everything that lay in their way.
Soon after Gen. Johnston departed towards the Lower Fort, Murphy followed in his rear and secured prisoner a man by the name of Benjamin Buttons.
The loss of the garrison in this affair was only one killed and two wounded, one mortally. It is not known what loss the enemy sustained, or why they retreated so hastily. The true, and most probable cause was the determined spirit of resistance manifested in firing upon the flag, leading them to suppose the defense could be obstinate. The tory leaders, satiated with blood, may have been unwilling to act over the tragedies of Wyoming and Cherry Valley.
A small body of men then left the Middle Fort under Col. Vrooman, and by a circuitous route reached the Lower Fort, just as the tories and Indians were passing where the village of Schoharie now stands. Several buildings which were there erected, were burned to the ground. When they arrived at the Lower Fort, they showed little disposition to attack it, although its garrison did not amount to 100. They separated into two divisions, the regular troops marching along the bank of the creek, and the Indians filing off a quarter of a mile to the east of the fort. The regulars fired a few cannon shot without effect, one only lodging in the corner of the church. - The Indians and tories, in preparing a small brass cannon, received a brisk and deadly fire from the fort, which so frightened them that they sunk their cannon in a morass, and marched to where the road now runs, where they were joined by the regulars. They then fired a few shots with small arms, and the Indians approached near enough to throw their bullets into the tower of the church, where some marksmen had been stationed. A discharge of grape drove them back, and passing over the Fox creek, they set fire to a house and grist-mill, after which they proceeded to Fort Hunter.
The beautiful valley of the Schoharie creek presented a scene of devastation, on the night of the 17th October, not easily described. Houses, barns, and numerous stacks of hay and grain were consumed; domestic animals lay dead everywhere over the fields; a few buildings belonging to the tories had been spared, but Murphy, among others, sallying out, set fire to them in revenge. After the burning of Schoharie, this settlement ceased to be so much an object of tory vengeance, and during the year's 1781 and 1782, though there were frequent alarms, little damage was done by the enemy.
The savages appeared once in Cobleskill, burned a few buildings, killed one man and carried off five prisoners; but the body of the inhabitants had taken refuge in a fort which they had built on their return from Schoharie, in 1781, and were safe.
Soon after Sir John Johnston passed through Schoharie, Murphy and his three friends, Follok, Tufts and Evans, went over the hills of Summit. Murphy, by some mishap, strayed from the rest and wandering in the woods, he at length saw an Indian skinning a deer, which he had recently killed. Murphy being unperceived, took him and shot the Indian through the head, who reeling fell beside the deer. He then ran up, took off the Indian's scalp, and laying him over a log, placed the deer's skin over him in such a manner as to make it appear at a short distance like a large deer. This was scarcely done before he heard a rustling in the leaves a few rods off; as quick as thought, he crawled among the bushes and thick weeds near, where he could see distinctly three Indians moving their heads about, as if doubtful of what had the appearance of a deer. Finally, one of them fired at the supposed deer, and rushing up, what was their chagrin at discovering they had shot one of their own fellows! They gave several doleful yells to call others, and stood grinding their teeth and gesticulating wildly. Murphy, fearing that they might discover him soon, or that others might arrive, concluded it best to shoot one, and hazard a running fight with the other two. He accordingly fired, brought down his man - and rushed behind a very large tree. Before they had recovered from their panic, he discharged his other rifle barrel and mortally wounded a second. The only remaining Indian fired; the ball passed through the bark of one side of the tree, within a few inches of Murphy's face. The Indian then seized a rifle from one who was rolling and howling over the ground. By this time Murphy had reloaded his rifle, and both of them sprang behind trees some fifty yards apart. The moment one looked out, the rifle of the other was raised, and the head immediately drawn back. At last Murphy put his hat on the end of his ramrod, and pushed it slowly to the side of the tree. The Indian immediately fired - his ball passed through the center of the hat. The hat was then dropped, when the Indian rushed up with hatchet and scalping knife. Murphy fired - he staggered a few paces forward, and fell down dead. The Indian was very large and powerful, and Murphy being exceedingly angry, skinned his legs, and drew the skin over his stockings. He then went in pursuit of his companions. He was unable to find them, and about 10 o'clock at night he stopped, and kindled a fire on the side of a little rivulet, where he roasted a small piece of the deer, which he had carried in his pocket. He had also a small biscuit, which he ate with his meat. After his repast, he procured water from the brook with which he extinguished the fire. He proceeded on a quarter of a mile further; he crept in among the limbs of a tree, that apparently had fallen a few days before. In the morning, he advanced several miles, when he was unexpectedly surrounded by a large body of Indians, who had followed in his trail. He shot down two, who were on the side in which he wished to fly. Several of the Indians fired, and as he afterward often remarked, the balls whistled by him. He ran with the utmost velocity, and after leaving them far behind, he managed to reload his rifle as he ran. But the skin of the Indian having shrunk, began to gall his legs, whereupon, he took his hunting knife and ripped it off. Yet his legs were so galled that his speed was greatly retarded, and he had not advanced more than two miles more, before a dozen Indians were in view. 'Twas then that his courage began to forsake him; faint and tired, he was ready to sink upon the ground. "We've got you at last!" exclaimed one, and coming up, struck him a blow over the shoulders with the end of his musket. It was then that Murphy,
and turning indignantly around, he dashed his brains out at a blow. The others came up yelling like wolves sure of their prey. Murphy again plunged with his gun and the Indian's, into the woods; but finding himself unable to run, he stopped abruptly behind a tree and discharged his own, and the Indian's gun. On his firing the second time, their superstitious fears began to rise, but when he fired the third time, they were confirmed in their suspicions of his being leagued with the Wicked Spirit, to destroy them, and believing that he could shoot all day, they immediately decamped with all speed. He did not stop for a scalp, but slowly wended his way toward the fort, where he arrived in safety.
At one time Murphy, and a small body of riflemen were dispatched to destroy an Indian and tory village near Unadilla. After a laborious march through marshes, and over mountains, in which they endured innumerable privations, they arrived in sight of the village, which lay in a beautiful valley. They remained on the mountain until midnight, when they advanced slowly and cautiously. Luckily most of the Indians were absent, and after a warm contest, in which clubs, fists, feet and tomahawks, were used by the old Indians, squaws, and papooses, and were resented by the riflemen, with fists, feet, and the end of their guns, the village was reduced to ashes. They had not returned far, before they were attacked by the Indians, and most of them destroyed. Murphy, who was in advance of the rest, ran some distance and crawled into a large hollow log that lay near a small stream. He had not remained there long before he heard the voices of Indians, and as they came nearer, found to his amazement, they were going to encamp there. They came up, and one of them, perceiving the cavity of the log, stooped down, but seeing a spider's web hanging over the aperture, (which luckily Murphy had not displaced,) he took no pains to examine further. They then built a fire beside the log, in which he was; after which they lay down to sleep, with their feet toward the fire. Murphy lay quietly until they began to snore, when he crawled softly to a split in the log, and looking through, observed eight Indians, laying with their rifles beside them: while one sat with his tomahawk and scalping knife, in his belt, to keep watch. Murphy drew himself back to his former position, concluded it most expedient to remain where he was for the time being. His position was by no means an enviable one, as ever and anon his olfactories were saluted with a discharge of light artillery, and the log was so burned, that he could see the Indians through the holes made by the fire. Early in the morning, one of the Indians, (who was dressed in English style,) went down to the stream, and bent over to drink, until his coat flaps fell over his back. Murphy saw him through the end of the log, and being irritated by the heat, and having the end of his rifle in that direction, he fired: the Indian fell headlong into the water. The other Indians fled precipitately, when Murphy backed out of the log, scalped the Indian, and running as fast as his feet would carry him, escaped.
Just before the battle of Saratoga, he went out of the American camp, and having ascertained the British countersign, he went into one of their camps, and seeing an officer writing, alone, he whispered to him, (pointing to his hunting- knife,) that if he spoke a word he would make daylight shine through him. The officer, not having sword or pistols near, reluctantly marched before him to the American camp.
At the last battle at Saratoga, in which both armies were engaged, Murphy was, as he states, within five feet of Arnold, when he passed over the fortification, sword in hand. Murphy ascribed, to the day of his death, the chief honor of Burgoyne's defeat to General Arnold, and believed Arnold would never have betrayed his country, had he received the honors which he so richly merited.
At Unadilla, he also went into a fort, several years afterward, where he made important discoveries of the strength of the enemy.
As Murphy was passing toward Summit, in company with Follok, (a half- blood,) who generally acted as his pilot, he saw four Indians, headed by a tory, with scalps hanging on their bayonets. They crawled through a swail; and as they came within plain view, they saw on the bayonet of the tory, what appeared to be the scalp of a woman. They moved carefully, but at last one of them, stepping on a limb of a tree, which made a creaking, three of the Indians fired before them. They both aimed at the tory, who fell, when they escaped by running.
On another occasion, as himself, Follok, Tufts and Evans, were passing through the woods, they saw ten or twelve Canadians, marching toward them, in Indian file, with what appeared to be muskets on their shoulders. The four secreted themselves until the Canadians got between them, when what appeared to be guns, were mere clubs of black birch. They all arose simultaneously, and presenting, ordered them to surrender. Being unarmed, (except with hunting knives,) they complied, and very demurely walked to the American camp.
Soon after Murphy came to Schoharie, he went on a hunting and scouting excursion, and as he was returning, late in the evening, he saw several men setting fire to an outhouse of a building near the Schoharie river. When he arrived within half a mile of the place, he saw several tories standing at the corner of the house, and one peeping in the window. After a short time the inmates were aroused, and a man, a negro, and two boys, came rushing out of doors to extinguish the fire. The tories then hid behind the fence, excepting one, more resolute than the rest, who fired, most probably at the man, but hit one of the boys, who fell, and was carried into the house by the mother who had been alarmed by his cries. This aroused the vengeance of Murphy, who stood on his knees behind a stump, and laying his rifle over the stump, he shot the tory to the very heart. The others, on seeing him fall, and hearing the report in an unexpected direction, scampered away. Murphy then walked up, and was hailed by the inhabitants with tears of joy. No sleep was enjoyed by them that night. In the morning, the tory killed was found to be no less a person than _____, who had pretended to be a Whig. Verily, he received the reward of his treachery! The next day the family removed to the fort, where the boy recovered in a short time from his wounds.
Shortly after the war, a Fourth of July was celebrated, at a tavern near Gallupville, which Murphy attended. In the evening they commenced drinking healths, and after several patriotic toasts were offered, a tory gave, in ridicule, "A health to George III. " This Murphy determined not to suffer with impunity, and rising, as the tory walked toward the door, he pitched him headlong from the stoop. The tory picked himself up, and left for Canada, or some other country, as he was never heard of afterwards.
Just before the conclusion of the war, as Murphy was at labor in clearing a piece of woodland, he saw a tall Indian approaching him from the woods, with a rifle on his shoulder. As he came nearer, a belt might be seen around his waist, in which were a tomahawk and scalping-knife, that were partially concealed by a large blanket thrown over his shoulders.
"Which way are you travelling?" asked Murphy.
"Don't know," said the Indian.
"Where do you live?" inquired Murphy.
"There," returned the Indian, (pointing toward Canada,)
"and where do you live?"
"Do you know old Murphy?" was the next question.
"Well - well - yes! " was the response.
"Where does he live?"
"Away off-yonder," (pointing in a wrong direction,) "but what do you want of him?"
"Oh, nothing," said the Indian, apparently embarrassed.
"Murphy was a wicked old devil."
"Yes," said the Indian; "he kill my brother - he kill Indian - he scalp Indian. They say he witch - he shoot without loading - Indian no hit him - he kill good many Indian - but he no kill me - I kill him." Murphy's blood began to boil, but he concealed his excitement as much as possible, and remarked:
"You've a very good rifle there."
"Did you ever shoot at a mark?"
"Oh, yes - do you shoot at mark?"
"Well, suppose we try," said Murphy.
The Indian then ran off some distance, and putting up a mark against a stump,
"You shoot first," said the Indian.
"No, no," said Murphy, "you shoot first."
The Indian then shot, and to the astonishment of Murphy, pierced the center of the mark. The rifle was then reloaded, and on Murphy's receiving it, he bounded back, exclaiming, "I am Murphy!" The savage gave a yell that reverberated through the hills, and drawing his hunting-knife, sprang toward Murphy; but ere he reached him a ball from the rifle entered his breast.
In stature, Murphy was about five feet six inches, with an eye that would kindle and flash like the very lightning, when excited. He was exceedingly quick in all his motions, and possessed an iron frame that nothing, apparently, could affect. And what is very remarkable, his body was never wounded or scarred during the whole war.
He had nine children by his first wife, and was married again in 1812 or 1813, to Miss Mary Robertson, by whom he had four children. Soon after this marriage, he removed to Charlotteville, in Schoharie county, where he remained until a short time before his death, when he moved back to Fulton. He had suffered many years from an obstinate cancer on his neck, which finally terminated his existence in 1818, in the 67th year of his age. He was a good and charitable neighbor but inveterate to his enemies. He detested the very name of tory, and if possible, with more acrimony than that of Indian; and took the greatest delight in relating the feats and adventures in which he participated; saying that he was resolved to kill himself rather than be taken a prisoner, knowing that they would inflict on him the most inhuman tortures. He repeatedly declined holding civil office, considering it would infringe on his natural independence; he always refused promotion during the war, on the ground that it would confine him to one fort, and frequently prevent his joining scouting parties. In his pecuniary transactions he was perfectly honest, and liberal to the indigent. That he had faults, we are not disposed to deny; but his greatest errors were in furtherance of what he conceived to be the best interests of his country, rather than from any selfish or sinster designs. Those who knew him, speak most in his praise. And it is to be hoped, that it will be long ere the citizens of Schoharie and Delaware, will forget the name of Murphy.
Among the veterans of the American Revolution, were two noble and brave spirits, whose thrilling stories were deeply impressed on my mind when a boy. Unconnected with the army called to protect the settlements in a confined interior; their names were not entered upon the public roll, and have not appeared upon the historic page. Their services and fame were known, and highly appreciated by those around them, and their memories are still held in high veneration in my native neighborhood, where their bones lie beneath the clods of the valley. Their names were Harper and Murphy, the latter an Irishman. They were among the pioneers who settled at the head of the Delaware river, which rises from a fountain of pure water; called by the Indians Utstayantho. Around this lake is a small valley, then central rendezvous of the savage tribes, whose walks extended from the Mohawk in the north, far down the Delaware, Lackawaxen, Lackawana and the Susquehanna in the south. It was an isolated spot surrounded by mountains and hills, covered with lofty pines, and a variety of evergreens. Its scenery was romantic and beautiful; formed by nature for a retreat such as the rude children of the forest suppose the Great spirit delights to dwell in. For a long time the lords of the forest built their council fires in the amphitheatre of Utstayantho. There they manufactured their stone pots, their flint arrow-points and their bows. There they smoked the pipe of peace, performed the terrific war dance, and tortured their unfortunate prisoners. There, too, many of their bravest warriors fell, beneath the avenging hand of the enraged inhabitants. There (says the author,) I first drew my vital breath, there I grew up to manhood, there I have ploughed up the bones of those who were slightly buried, and there I have often listened to the following narratives:
At the commencement of the American Revolution the Indian tribes in that section of country, were influenced by two tories, Brant and McDonald, to enlist in favor of the British. Their tomahawks and scalping-knives were soon bathed in the blood of mothers and infants, as well as in that of husbands and fathers. In the spring of 1777 they murdered several families and took a number of prisoners. Among them were Harper and Murphy. As these were the leading men of the settlement, it was decided to take them down the Delaware about 60 miles to an Indian station called Oquago, now Deposit. They were put in charge of eleven warriors, who started with their victims pinoned and bound. The second night, fatigued with their march, they all lay down before a fire, and the savages were soon soundly asleep. A supply of rum during the day and a hearty drink as they stretched themselves out to sleep, rendered their stupor more complete than it otherwise would have been. This opportunity could not pass unimproved by such men as Harper and Murphy. Although closely wedged between the Indians, they arose with such caution as not to awake them. They soon released each other from the bark thongs, with which their arms were bound, and hesitated for a moment, whether to flee or attempt to dispatch the cruel foe. They soon decided upon the latter, removed the arms to some distance, and with tomahawk in hand, commenced the work of death. Each blow was sure and deep - a messenger of death. So profound was their sleep, and so rapid the work of death, that eight of the eleven were dispatched before the other three awoke. While attempting to rise upon their feet, two of them met the deadly blow of two champions, and fell dead beneath their own weapons. One alone escaped and fled to Oquago to relate the doleful tidings. The two heroes each took a gun and the all ammunition, secreted the other guns, and with some parched corn and dried venison, guided by the polar star, commenced their journey back, keeping near the river until daylight, when they took the ridge to avoid meeting Indians, and in the evening reached a small settlement within ten miles of home. They were there met with joy unspeakable, as the news of their capture had already reached that place, and with most as much surprise as if they had arisen from the dead.
When taken by the Indians, Murphy and Harper were in the woods, making maple sugar, and knew not that their families had just been murdered by the brutal savages. Imagine, you who are husbands and fathers, the bitter anguish of their souls, when informed that their wives and children had been butchered by a party of Indians, led on by the tory Brant. The day following, most of the men left the block-house, and escorted them home, there to behold a scene, too awful for reflection, too horrible for description, too painful for humanity. Murphy had two children, one two years old; the other three months. The eldest had fled under the bed, and been pulled out far enough to be tomahawked and scalped, and then left. The mother, a beautiful woman of about twenty-two, seemed not to have attempted an escape, as her hands and arms were much cut, and she lay in the back of the room. She had received three blows on the head with a tomahawk, one of which penetrated the brain. Her cranium was literally bare. Across her lifeless body, lay her lovely babe, smiling in death. It had been finished by a single blow, and was not mutilated. The tears of sympathy flowed from all but Murphy; he stood silent, with dry and glaring eyes, immovably fixed upon the companion of his youth, and the pledges of their love. Dark and awful was the storm that gathered in the bosom of Murphy. At length he took his murdered infant in his arms, and with a firm and desperate resolve, swore to be avenged or die, and sealed that vow by a kiss upon the cold cheek of the lifeless infant. How well that vow was kept, the history of his after life tells. A rude grave was then prepared, lined with bark, in place of a coffin, and the mournful duties of sepulchre closed the bloody scene. The children were placed in the arms of the mother, upon that bosom that had so often nourished them.
They then proceeded to the dwelling of Mr. Harper, and found it empty. His wife was an amiable young lady, only nineteen years of age, with an infant at her breast. She had attempted to escape to the woods, and was overtaken a few rods from the house, where she and her babe had been murdered, and their bodies had been subsequently torn to pieces by wolves or some other wild animals. This scene was more heart-rending than the other. The husband wrung his hands in anguish, as his friends deposited the scattered fragments beneath the clods of the valley. Harper also resolved to subdue the foe; but his was not that maniac revenge of Murphy. His resolution was equally firm as the other, but his designs more expansive. A block- house was immediately erected, to which the surviving settlers all removed. This done, immediate measures were taken to meet the attack which they expected from the Indians, to avenge the death of those Indians who had been killed by Harper and Murphy. Murphy returned to Schoharie to obtain assistance from the fort, and Harper went to Albany and obtained a captain's commission, authorizing him to organize a company from the contiguous settlement. Col. Hager, who commanded the fort at Schoharie, immediately accompanied Murphy, with ninety men, to Ustayantho: when in the narrows, about two miles east of that place, the advance guard returned hastily, having met a large body of warriors, fresh painted, advancing furiously.
One of the guard, a brother of the Colonel, had been so closely pursued as to receive a wound in the shoulder from a tomahawk, when suddenly turning around, he plunged his bayonet through the body of the Indian. Mr. Hager afterward pointed out to me the precise spot, (says the historian,) where it occurred, being at the junction of two small streams that empty into the lake. The Colonel immediately formed his men in order of battle. Pausing a while for the approach of the enemy, and hearing nothing from them, Murphy was dispatched with five men to reconnoitre their position, followed with the main body about forty rods in the rear. When passing out of the narrows, within half a mile of the lake, three of the enemy were seen retreating, one of whom fell beneath the unerring aim of the enraged Irishman. This was the signal for the Colonel to rush on, and in a few minutes he was engaged with the whole savage force. Murphy took his station behind a large pine tree, within twelve rods of the Indians, who lay in a ravine directly before him. For a moment they directed their whole fire to that point, and pierced the tree with more than fifty balls, many of which I cut out after I was old enough to use an axe. In front, Murphy discovered the very savage who escaped from him and Harper to Oquago. He drew up his rifle, and called the savage by name, who gave a terrific whoop, and fell lifeless to the ground, another victim to the unerring aim of the Indian Killer. At that moment, a charge was ordered. With the force of an avalanche the men rushed on, and in less than three minutes the Indians took to flight. A part of them, with Bennett, fled down the Delaware, and a part down the Charlotte, a stream that empties into the Susquehanna. Four of Colonel Hager's men were killed, and about thirty of Brant's allies. Harper left the fort in charge of a small force; the Colonel proposed to return, and buried his dead in one common grave, (on the peak of a round bluff near the lake,) whose bones I assisted in removing to a more proper place of repose, about forty years ago. The account of this battle, I had from Col. Hager, as well as from several of his men.
In the mean time Captain Harper was returning by the way of Cherry Valley, deeming that the safest route. As he was crossing the hills west of the white settlements on the Delaware, he came suddenly in contact with a party of fifteen Indians, who had been at the recent battle. To flee he knew would be certain death; he therefore advanced boldly, gave them his hand, and succeeded in making them believe that he was their friend. Their leader he knew well, but, fortunately, he was not recognized in turn. He learned from them, their disasters at the lake, and learned that they were on their way to a white settlement on the Susquehanna, probably for the purpose of murder. He then shook hands with them, and hastened to a settlement a few miles distant, where a number of armed men were making maple sugar. Supposing that the savages would encamp at the foot of the hill, on the bank of Schenevus creek, the Captain had no trouble in persuading them to accompanying him in pursuit of the savages he had met. With two days' provision, they immediately started in pursuit, and just before day the next morning gained the top of the hill above the Indian encampment. Capt. H. and his men descended, forded the creek, succeeded in taking away the guns of the enemy without awaking them, and took the whole of them prisoners, and safely lodged them in a fort, a few miles distant. Learning from them that they had left a party of nineteen in the Charlotte valley, Capt. Harper and his men determined to pursue them. They replenished their provisions, commenced their march, and on the second day struck on a fresh Indian trail. They advanced rapidly, and toward evening heard the report of a gun at some distance in the forest. They then halted to refresh them and wait until the savage foes should encamp for the night. Soon after dark the Captain and his men advanced with the utmost caution, and in about an hour discovered their encampment. Hours glided slowly away, and yet several of the red men did not lie down. At length all but one appeared to be asleep. A slow and cautious advance was soon commenced. Every man was instructed in case the Indians aroused, to take his station behind a tree, and not to fire until the enemy came near enough to reach them with the muzzle of his gun. They all examined the priming of their guns and fixed their bayonets securely. A deep silence pervaded the dense forest of hemlock and pine. Not a breeze was perceptible, not a leaf was moving on the trees. The moments were full of suspense and deep anxiety. The recent murder of his wife and babe nerved the Captain for the combat. Courage, fearless and strong, nerved every man to death or victory. They drew nearer and nearer. The quick ear of the wakeful savage soon caught the sound of their foot-steps on the dry leaves. A piercing war whoop startled all upon their feet.
They seized the arms and stood ready for action; for a moment no motion agitated the parties, but the beating heart, and the purple current rushing through their veins, with a tenfold velocity. At length the savages commenced a slow and cautious movement towards the Captain and his men. They were between the fire and the avengers of blood, each of whom marked his victim. Sure and deadly was the aim. Twelve of the warriors fell at the first fire, and three were mortally wounded. The whites advanced and surrounded the survivors. A short and desperate conflict ensued; the nineteen savages were all in a few moments locked in the embrace of death.
The Captain and four of his men were wounded, but not dangerously. This tragedy was ended about 1'oclock in the morning. Exasperated by these misfortunes, the fiendish Brant collected about 300 savage warriors, and made a descent on the fort in Schoharie. It was too strongly fortified to be taken by this force; but there were not men enough to make a sally. Learning their situation, Captain Harper disguised himself, mounted a horse, and started for Albany to obtain aid. He passed through the midst of the enemy as a tory by the name of Rose. In the evening he stopped at a public house for refreshment, where were several men whose appearance was suspicious. He went into another room and locked the door. Shortly after, four tories, one of whom had recognized him, demanded entrance. He cocked his pistols, drew his sword, opened the door, and inquired their business. When informed they wished him, he coolly remarked: "Pass that door, and you are dead men." He received no further molestation at the house, but was fired at soon after he resumed his journey, but was not injured. On his arrival at head-quarters, the commander dispatched a squadron of mounted men, who rode all night. The first intimation received in the fort of any assistance, was a furious attack on the enemy by the cavalry, just as the day dawned. - The troops in the garrison immediately made a sally; the rout was complete, the slaughter of the Indians dreadful, many of them plunging into the stream, reddening its waters with blood. Harpersfield was named in honor of this said Harper, who resided in this town during the Revolution, and enjoyed the esteem and respect of all, for his valuable services in the Revolution. Harpersfield in Ohio was settled by his descendants, and named after him.
We will now return to Murphy. From the time of the battle of Utsayantho, (Harpersfield,) he commenced fighting on his own hook. His thirst for revenge knew no bounds. He was a man of great muscular power, near six feet in height, of an iron constitution, and swifter on foot than any one that ever pursued him. He obtained a double-barrelled rifle of the best kind. He carried the tomahawk and scalping-knife he took on the night he and Captain Harper killed the ten Indians, and could use them all as skilfully as any Mohawk. He soon became a terror to the red men. His many miraculous escapes and bold exploits led them to believe that he was protected by the Great Spirit. He hovered around them like a vulture; many of their braves fell beneath his brawny arm. He spent most of his time in the woods alone, seeking his hated foe. He never hesitated to attack a party of three Indians, and not unfrequently dispatched the whole. His courage was as cool as his revenge was direful. Such was Murphy, a revenging foe of the red man - with a warm heart for his friends.
The next day after the battle at the lake, he prepared himself, and pursued a party of Indians that retreated down the Delaware. On the 2d night, he came in sight of their encampment, and by the light of the fire, counted twenty-seven warriors, some of whom were evidently wounded. He determined to wait until all was quiet, and make their number less by one. This he effected about midnight, and retreated without being pursued, as the night was quite dark. He followed this party until he dispatched six of their number, when he returned to his friends, who received him with joyful hearts, fearing he had fallen into the hands of his butchering foe. They entreated him to desist from such exposure to danger, but all in vain. He rested under an oath, and most fearfully did he perform it. He desired no angel's tear to blot it from the record; he held his life in his hands, but put upon it a high prize.
He then replenished his knapsack and started for the hills bordering on the Mohawk river. On the 2nd day he arrived at a settlement of whites, who were much distressed for the loss of one of their number a few hours before. Early in the morning, a young lady had ventured outside the block-house to milk a cow, when four savages suddenly sprang upon her, and dragged her to the woods. Her cries were heard, her frantic friends could see her struggles, but dared not venture out, as all the men who were able, had left a few days previous for the northern army, among whom were her father, two brothers, and a young officer, to whom she was engaged to be married in a short time. Her mother was overwhelmed with grief, and gave up her child as lost. She fancied her expiring beneath the ruthless hand of the barbarians, perhaps writhing under the agonies of a slow fire, surrounded by demons in human shape, drowning her cries with their savage yells. No other heart beat higher or warmer for woman, than did that of Murphy. Like a knight of chivalry he darted off in pursuit. It was then ten o'clock; four hours had elapsed since the capture. He soon found the trail, and advanced rapidly. About five o'clock, when on the top of a bold hill, he discovered the party in the valley below. The fair captive was still alive, but expected that night would close her career forever. Her anticipated happiness had faded away; she thought an awful fate was about to seal her doom. She said in her heart, farewell father, mother, brother, lover, friends, resigned herself to God, and became abstracted from the world. The images of her fond parents, her dear brothers, and of him, with whose soul hers had sweetly mingled, all passed in review before her imagination. She could only hope to meet them in heaven.
The encampment for the night was soon arranged by the red men, during which, Murphy approached as near as prudence would admit, before the mantle of night should cover him, determined that if they attempted any violence to the young lady, he would immediately rush upon them. With an eagle eye he watched every motion. They built a large fire, prepared their last supper, and about ten o'clock tied the hands and feet of their prisoner to two poles, and were soon in a profound sleep. For a few minutes she struggled, but soon found she was unable to extricate herself. Her bosom heaved with sighs, her eyes rolled wildly in their sockets; she seemed already on the torturing rack. Our knight was so near, he could see all this by the light of the fire. It was too much for him to endure. He drew his knife from its scabbard, and advanced with slow and cautious steps. He was soon discovered by the young lady, and motioned her to keep silence. He unbound and removed her and the guns to some distance, and enjoined her to keep silent, and if he became overpowered, to flee for her life; for he had determined to kill his hated foes, or perish in the attempt. With his tomahawk in one hand, and his knife in the other, he returned. Waiting a few moments for their sleep to become more sound, he approached their muscular frames. He plunged his knife into the hearts of three, - the fourth awoke, aimed a blow at Murphy with his tomahawk, which he parried, and cleft the head of the savage to the brain. As the Indian arose, the heroic girl, instead of making her escape, seized a gun and rushed to the aid of her deliverer. But the work was done, and the heroic knight stood contemplating with a species of maniac delight, the quivering bodies, expiring in the agonies of death. The liberated captive now gazed on the stranger. To her, all was inexplicable mystery. In a few words he explained the whole matter, and assured her of his protection back to her habitation. She lifted her hands and eyes to heaven and exclaimed, "May God reward my benefactor!" A flood of tears choked further utterance, she clasped his hands in gratitude, and invoked her God to command the richest blessings of heaven to rest upon him. That was the happiest moment of Murphy's life. His pleasure was purer and nobler, than if he had gained a crown or conquered a world.
The Rubicon passed, he took the blankets, which had not been unpacked, and persuaded his fair charge to take a little rest, which she much needed, after the trying scenes she had passed through on that gloomy day. Although sleep came not to her on that memorable night, she felt refreshed when the day dawned. The sun arose in all the beauty of a June morning; not a cloud obscured the sky. They started for the block-house, following the track, where they arrived about three in the afternoon. No one knew that the gallant Murphy had gone in pursuit of the captured girl. He had listened to their story the morning previous, with apparent indifference, without making any reply; concealing his design, fearing it might prove an entire failure. He was half suspected of being a tory, and in league with the savages, who had abducted the young girl. He was a stranger, of whose business and distinction they knew nothing. Under such peculiar circumstances, their feelings can be but faintly conceived, much less described. It was a scene of thrilling interest, calculated to awaken the finest feelings of the human heart, the loftiest tones of unalloyed gratitude. The next morning he left them, under a shower of invoked blessings and benedictions, and proceeded to his place of destination.
He arrived safely in the neighborhood of the Mohawk river, where he killed several of the red men, and narrowly escaped being killed himself. As he was lying in ambush he discovered an Indian, who from his actions he believed to be alone, and at once shot him. Instantly two brawny warriors rushed upon him with uplifted tomahawks. One he brought to the ground, from the contents of the barrel of his rifle; the other advanced and aimed a blow at his head, which he warded off, and plunged his knife to the heart of the savage.
He at once retreated to the fort at Schoharie, for fear he might in turn be ambushed. From thence he again returned to his friends at the block-house, and found them in great distress. About two hours previous to his arrival two men, who were at work in the corn-field, had been taken by a party of Indians. The number of savages was not known; there were but five remaining at the place with them. Murphy commenced an immediate but cautious pursuit. Early in the evening they discovered the fire of their encampment, and discovered eight warriors who were preparing a war dance, and to wreak their vengeance upon their unhappy captives. As their preparations increased, Murphy and his comrades drew nearer. The prisoners were bound to a tree, around them faggots were placed, for the fire was to cap the climax of the festivity of the savages. Dreadful must have been the sufferings of the victims, now beyond the reach of hope, and about to be tortured by a slow fire. The firing of the faggots was made the signal of attack. At length the blazing torch was raised, the heroic party rushed upon the Indians, placed the muzzles of their guns to their heads, and blew them into fragments. Six of them were instantly killed, and the next moment the spirits of the other two joined their companions, in their journey through the air. The deliverance of the captives was unexpected, as it was joyful and soul-cheering. Of such thrilling scenes, nothing but experience can convey a correct idea, or draw a faithful picture. On the next day the party reached the block-house, where high-beating hearts and convulsed bosoms were awaiting the result of the bold expedition. With open arms and joyful hearts the wives embraced their husbands, a flood of tears spake the feelings of their enraptured souls, with an eloquence unknown to words. Murphy was the hero, who richly merited and warmly received the gratitude of all. In the same manner this enraged Irishman, who was known by the cognomen of Indian-killer, continued to harass and murder the Indians, until they were driven from their ancient haunts. To relate all his wonderful exploits would require a volume. He had many hair-breadth escapes, was never taken prisoner, but once with Harper, nor dangerously wounded. He was much dreaded and feared by the Indians. He had a great desire to wreak his vengeance on Brant. But that murderous tory always remained with the main force, and cautiously avoided danger. For the Indian warrior, Murphy had no sympathy. The squaws and papooses he never molested, nor would he stoop to sacrifice any but their fighting men. To the day of his death, he indulged in feelings of the most direful revenge toward the natives of the forest.
At the restoration of peace, Murphy married and settled in Schoharie, but, in a few years after that period, he lived on the Charlotte, bordering on Harpersfield, and remained there until his death, which is about twelve miles, as Judson says, from Utsayantho, or Harpersfield, where the battle was fought, which place he often revisited, until prevented by old age. It was there, that I often listened to his stories. That ground had been enriched by the blood and moistened by the tears of hundreds. During the Revolution three pitched battles were fought there between the whites and Indians, the last of which was so disastrous to the red men, that they abandoned that ground to their enemy, the whites. In that beautiful valley, now improved by cultivation, Murphy always appeared animated, and would "fight his battles over again." The scenes of past life, with all their dreadful and thrilling interest, would rush upon his memory, and often have I seen the big tears chasing each other rapidly down the furrows of his war-worn cheeks. He lived to the age of about seventy-five, beloved and esteemed by all, when his brave spirit took its final leave of this world of vicissitudes and changes. His bones moulder in Schoharie, near where the old fort stood, and not a stone is reared to tell the inquisitive stranger where they lie.