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Delaware County NY Genealogy and History Site



HISTORY of DELAWARE COUNTY

by Jay Gould - 1856


CHAPTER V.

St. Leger Cowley -- Contention between himself and a tory -- Dispute settled by his wife -- Capture of Cowley and Sawyer on the West Branch -- Indian sports- -Journey of the captives toward Niagara -- Murder of their captors -- Pursued by the Indians -- Miraculous escape -- Narrowly escape starvation in the wilderness -- Arrival at a frontier settlement in Pennsylvania -- Recruit and return to Schoharie -- Procure a company of troops to aid in the removal of their families -- First grist-mill on the West Branch -- Death of Cowley -- Indian Revenge -- Murder of McKee family -- Capture of Miss Anne McKee -- Compelled to run the gauntlet -- Fort Niagara -- Retaliatory expedition to the Indian territory -- General Sullivan appointed to command -- Detachment under Clinton -- March down the Susquehanna -- Union of Clinton and Sullivan near Tioga Point- -Complete annihilation of Indian settlements -- Expedition of Sullivan an expedition of Discovery -- Minisink an ancient Indian settlement -- Massacre of the inhabitants -- Battle of the Delaware -- Defeat of the inhabitants -- List of the killed -- Burial services performed in 1820 -- Statement of Benjamin Whitaker -- General outlines of the campaign of 1779.

Among the early pioneers who settled on the West Branch of the Delaware river, was St. Leger Cowley, a native of Ireland, who removed from Albany with his family and located himself below the site of the present flourishing village of Bloomville, and not far from the south corner of the town of Kortright. After the commencement of the Revolution the few whigs (as those persons who dared to disown the king were called,) living in the valley of the Delaware, became, as it were, isolated from even what historians have termed the frontier of New York. They were few in number, and beyond the reach of any definite tidings of the victories and reverses of the respective armies. The flying reports which reached their ears, were principally those which had been industriously circulated by the tories and Indians, and consequently they scrupled to believe them. And what rendered their situation still more precarious, was the fact that the valley in which they lived, was, during the Revolutionary war, a principal thoroughfare by which warlike parties traversed their way to the Schoharie settlements on missions of plunder and destruction.1

These expeditions were usually accompanied by tories, who were the more unprincipled of the two, and much more given to plundering from those they knew or even suspected guilty of the crime called "Democracy;" 2 and frequently they took upon themselves the responsibility of plunder, unaccompanied by their less savage allies.

One day, when the wife of St. Leger Cowley -- a strong, resolute woman, from the "Emerald Isle," -- came into the house, from which she had been absent but a short time, she found a tory blackened, so as to appear as an Indian, contending with her husband about a pair of breeches, which the former had taken from a chest, and was grasping with both hands, while her husband was holding on to another part of the garment with a grasp equally firm. Having learned the cause of the contention, and thinking it a game which could be better played by three persons -- even though the third were a woman -- she, by a sudden movement, took the "bone of contention" from their hands, and seizing a wooden poker which was standing by the fire-place, threatened to use it on the tory's head, at the same time suiting the gesture to the word in such a manner as to warn him of the necessity of beating a hasty retreat.

Notwithstanding the dangers to which the settlers were exposed, a number of them remained on the Delaware until 1779. In the spring or early part of the summer3 of that year, Cowley, accompanied by his eldest son, Jonathan, a lad some twelve or thirteen years of age, had been to the house of Isaac Sawyer, another whig, then living a short distance below the present village of Hobart. On their return, having arrived near home, the father walking, and the son riding on horseback, they were surprised and captured by four Schoharie Indians, Ham Henry, Seth Henry, Adam, a sister's son, and Nicholas, also a relative. Immediately after their capture the Indians fastened a military feather (which they had doubtless procured from the hat of a fallen soldier in battle,) to the front of the boy's cap, and sent him on ahead, while they and their prisoner followed. The family of Cowley, who were anxiously looking for his return, seeing the lad approaching alone on horseback with a military ornament so conspicuous, were filled with apprehensions. They were, however, kept but a short time in suspense, for soon the father made his appearance accompanied by his captors.

The Indians offered no kind of violence to any of the family, but amused themselves by shooting their fowls, exclaiming, "pidgee! pidgee!" One of them shot at a churn which was standing out of doors partly filled with water, and expressed his gratification by laughing heartily to see the water gush out of the hole made by his rifle ball. After a short time spent apparently in high glee, one of their number was left to guard the prisoner, while the others went up the river to capture Sawyer. It was night when the Indians arrived at his house, and being unapprehensive of danger, and unprepared for defense, they took him with little difficulty. The next morning the Indians returned with their captive, when, contrary to the usual custom, they left the women and the children, and took only the men away with them as prisoners.

The party encamped the first night a short distance below Delhi; at which place the Indians, assisted by their willing captives, constructed a rude raft, on which they all floated down the Delaware, a distance of about forty miles, to a place well known in those early times as the Cook-house, (now Deposit village,) where they intersected the Oquago trail, leading toward the Susquehanna. From the Cook-house they resumed their journey by land to Fort Niagara, the place of their destination.

The prisoners were far from being ignorant of Indian character, and to conceal their original design -- which was to escape the first favorable opportunity -- would intimate by signs as well as they could (they were unable to converse with the Indians in either the Dutch or Indian language,) that they would rather proceed with their captors than return to the settlements they had left; and they avoided conversing together as much as possible, lest it should excite the suspicions of the Indians, one or more of whom were always watching their movements. They had already proceeded eleven days on their journey without seeing a favorable opportunity of making their escape -- the last ray of hope seemed to have sped -- they had followed the blind Indian trail -- had traversed hill and dale -- crossed large streams, and were already far beyond any white settlement -- all the horrors of a long captivity seemed inevitably their fate; the extremely dangerous feat of running the gauntlet, was presented vividly to their imagination, with its long files of hideously painted Indians ranged on either side, through which the life-race lay. Death seemed preferable to such a scene, and they mentally resolved to make one bold effort to escape, or die in the attempt.

On the eventful night of the eleventh day's captivity, the party encamped near Tioga Point. The captives, on such occasions were ordered to make the preparations for building a large fire, (which they ignited in those matchless days by the aid of a large tinder-box,) and also to cut and carry to the encampment a supply of fuel for the night. As they had only one axe, which had been taken from Cowley's at the time of the capture, one would cut, while the other carried it to the spot where it was to be used. "While Cowley was cutting and Sawyer waiting for an armful, the latter took from his pocket a newspaper and pretended to be reading its contents to his fellow, instead of which, however, he was proposing a plan for regaining their liberty." -- Simms' History of Schoharie.

A quarter of venison that had been shot that afternoon was rudely roasted, and eaten without the wholesome seasoning of salt and pepper, when they all laid down to sleep -- a prisoner between two Indians; and the latter of whom were soon wrapped in deep slumber. After waiting till near midnight the mutual signal was given, when the two friends cautiously arose. They shook the priming from the guns of their captors, and removed the remaining implements of death beyond the observation of the savages, then returning, Sawyer, with the tomahawk of Ham Henry -- who was thought the most desperate of the four -- took his station beside its owner, while Cowley with an axe, placed himself beside another sleeping Indian. The fire afforded sufficient light for the captives to make sure of their victims. At a given signal the blows fell fatal upon two -- the tomahawk sank deep into the brain of its owner, but unfortunately, Sawyer drew the handle from the weapon, in attempting to free it from the skull of the savage. The first one struck by Cowley was killed, but the blows which sent two to their final reckonings, awoke their fellows, who instantly sprang to their feet. As Seth Henry arose he received a blow, which he partially warded off by raising his arm, but his shoulder was laid open, and he fell back stunned. The fourth, as he arose, received a heavy blow on his back; he was pursued and fled into a swamp near by, where he died. The two men returned to the fire, and were resolving on what course to pursue, when Seth Henry, who had recovered, and feigned himself dead for some time to embrace a favorable opportunity, sprang upon his feet, dashed through the fire, caught up his rifle, leveled and snapped it at his foes, then ran into the forest and disappeared. -- Simms' History of Schoharie.

The liberated captives were now masters of the bloody field, and once more free; but after such an exciting scene, no sleep came to their eyes during the remainder of the night. Their first precaution was to arm themselves with the implements of their fallen foes. They took each a gun, a tomahawk and a scalping-knife, together with all the remaining ammunition, and thus equipped, they anxiously awaited the approach of day. At last the luminous orb raised his head from behind the eastern hills, and its rays peering through the overhanging branches of the forest trees, revealed to their eyes more fully the reality of the sad spectacle, and gave the signal for the commencement of their march.

They conjectured, and with truth, that the escaped savage would communicate the fearful tidings of the massacre of his comrades to the nearest Indians, and that they would be immediately pursued. Deeming it unsafe, therefore, to follow the same trail they had lately passed over, they boldly struck out into the forest in a south-easternly direction, knowing that sooner or later, that course would lead to the settlements of the whites. They had not proceeded many miles on their journey when the sound of the piercing "war-whoop" saluted their ears, and once during that afternoon, from an elevation they descried a company of Indians in the valley below. They encamped at night without food and without any fire, lest its glaring light should betoken to their foes the place of their concealment -- they secreted themselves by crawling under the side of a huge bass-wood tree, which had been blown down, and covered themselves with leaves, which effectually concealed their persons from observation. They had been in this situation but a short time, when an Indian approached and seated himself on the identical log beneath which they lay concealed, and immediately gave a piercing "whoop". The two friends deeming themselves discovered, now gave up all hopes of escape, and prepared to die. Immediately the savage Indians, who had been scouting the woods in different directions, assembled and seated themselves in a row on the log. They were ignorant of the substance of this Indian council, but heard one of the party, who spoke English in broken accents, propose to build a fire against the log and encamp for the night; but shortly after the party left, following the back track, having given up all hopes of finding them in that direction.

The next day they resumed their course, and the same afternoon Sawyer ventured to shoot a buck, a piece of which they immediately roasted to satisfy the urgent demands of hunger; and at last, after several days' fatiguing travel, during which Cowley was at times light-headed, they emerged into a frontier settlement near Minisink, where they found friends, and procured assistance, as soon as sufficiently recovered, to return to Schoharie, where they were received with exclamations of joyful surprise.

From Schoharie, Cowley went to Albany with a letter to Governor Clinton, and obtained a company of forty men, who returned with him to the Delaware, to remove their families to a place of greater security. They removed first to Schoharie, thence to Albany, and afterward crossed the river to Greenbush, where they resided several years. About 1792, he came back to the Delaware near its source, and erected the first grist-mill on that stream, about a quarter of a mile below where the Catskill Turnpike crosses the Delaware. He also purchased a saw-mill situated about half a mile below Lake Ulsayantho. In 1794, he removed his family from Greenbush into a house which he had recently erected near his grist-mill, and where he resided till his death, which took place in 1797.4

It is a prominent trait of Indian character, to measure out revenge for wrongs, whether real or imaginary: it is indeed a custom they venerate -- a vital part of their religion; and many of the fatal examples on record of Indian barbarity and cruelty are attributable to this same source. And accordingly it is presumed that a party of Indians were sent out to revenge the lives of their three brethren who were sacrificed, as the price of Cowley and Sawyer's freedom. Shortly after the families of those men had been removed to Schoharie, a party of Indians came up the Delaware, and proceeding to near Hobart, followed up a small stream, the outlet of Odell's Lake, where they had been informed a whig by the name of McKee was living, but who had that day gone to Schoharie to learn the news and procure some flour for his family.

It was a dark and dismal night when the war-whoop sounded the death-knell of the inhabitants of that peaceful dwelling. The members of the family rushed out of the house to escape, if possible, the certain doom which awaited them should they remain within. As Mrs. McKee rushed from the house with an infant in her arms, and attempted to reach an out-door cellar, she was shot down. The remainder of the family were butchered and thrown into the flames, with the exception of a girl about 16 years of age. She fled to a swamp near by and concealed her person under a log, and while she thought herself secure from all harm, she ventured to raise her head to look toward the burning buildings, when she saw an Indian of large stature approaching her, wielding a firebrand in one hand and a large knife, smeared with blood, in the other. She immediately sprang from her hiding-place, and with outstretched arms approached the hideous savage and threw herself at his feet. That bold act saved her life. She was led back by her captor to the burning buildings, and putting several pairs of stockings on her feet, they then resumed their course to Fort Niagara.

What must have been the agony, think you, reader, of the husband and father, when the next day he returned, to behold his happy home a heap of ruins, beneath which he found the charred and mangled remains of his family. There was at this time a small fort at Harpersfield, garrisoned by only eight or ten men. By their assistance he collected the remains of the dead, and buried them all in one rude box.

Priest, in his narrative of the captivity of Schermerhorn, and while speaking of his running the gauntlet near Fort Niagara, says: "This dreadful race was also run by a Miss Anne McKee, who was taken prisoner in the town of Harpersfield, New York, during the Revolution, by the Mohawk Indians under Brant. She was a young Scotch girl, who during the journey suffered incredibly from hunger, the want of clothes, and other privations. When she came to Fort Niagara, the squaws insisted that she should run the race, in order that the pale-faced squaw might take a blow from the same sex of another nation than her's. It was a grievous sight to see a slender girl, weak from hunger, and worn down with the horrors and privations of a four hundred miles' journey through the woods, by night and day, compelled at the end to run this race of shame and suffering. Her head was bare, and her hair tangled into mats, her feet naked and bleeding from wounds, all her clothes torn to rags during her march -- one would have thought the heart-rendering sight would have moved the savages. She wept not, for all her tears had been shed -- she stared around upon the grinning multitude in hopeless amazement and fixed despair, while she glanced mournfully at the fort which lay at the end of the race. The signal was given, which was a yell, when she immediately started off as fast as she could, while the squaws laid on their whips with all their might; thus venting their malice and envy upon the hated white woman. She reached the fort in almost a dying condition, being beaten and cut in the most dreadful manner, as her person had been so much exposed on account of the want of clothing to protect her. She was at length allowed to go to her friends -- some Scotch people then living in Canada -- and after the war she returned to the States."

The startling massacres that had been perpetrated the year before in the beautiful and peaceful valley of Wyoming and at Cherry Valley, as well as the almost numberless tragedies similar to the one related above -- hardly a week passing but the ears of the public were startled by the tale of cruel murder committed upon the peaceful frontier settler -- these, and other important considerations, at last induced Congress to send a sufficient army into their territory to at least cripple the movements of the enemy in future, if not to bring them to terms of peace. The command of this expedition was entrusted to Major General Sullivan. More effectually to carry out the designs of Congress, and to prevent any premature attacks, by clearing the country of the numerous parties of savages who were continually prowling in the secure recesses of the forest bordering on the frontiers, ready to spring out when a favorable opportunity presented itself, and surprise and capture their victims, and thereby to restore the faltering confidence of the settlers along the frontiers, it was determined to march in two divisions, and unite in the midst of the Indian territory at Tioga Point.

General Sullivan, who commanded the southern division, marched from the Hudson through Warwarsing, in Ulster County, crossing the Delaware, and following it down to Easton, and from thence, by a tedious route across the mountains, to Wyoming, then a desolate and deserted place. From Wyoming they conveyed their artillery and stores up the Susquehanna in 150 batteaux to Tioga Point, where they disembarked their baggage, and awaited the arrival of the division under Clinton, which did not come up with them until nearly half a month afterwards.

Gen. James Clinton, with the 1st and 3rd New York regiments, passed up the Mohawk to Canajoharie, from which place a detachment of five hundred troops, under the command of Col. Van Schaick, was sent out to destroy some villages of the Onondagas. They took in his expedition 37 prisoners, and nearly as many were killed of the enemy.5

They were obliged to open a road from Canajoharie to Lake Otsego, 6 a distance of twenty miles, for the conveyance of their baggage, at which place they launched their boats upon the placid waters of that beautiful lake, and passed to its outlet, a distance of nine miles. The outlet of this lake proved a formidable obstacle to the egress of their loaded boats, as it was both too shallow and too narrow to permit them to pass out; but the fertile genius of Clinton was equal to every emergency. He ordered a dam to be thrown across the outlet, and when the surface of the lake had risen about three feet, the dam was broken, and the boats passed down with apparent ease to the deeper waters of the Susquehanna. They joined the main army of Gen. Sullivan of Tioga Point, on the 22nd of August. While awaiting the approach of Clinton, Gen. Sullivan had erected a fort, after whom it took its name, "Fort Sullivan."

Our limits, even were it directly our province, will not permit us to follow this army through the entire campaign. The subject has already been the theme of numerous historians,7 orators and poets, who have bestowed upon it time and ardent labor -- they wrote, too, when at least a precious few of the aged veterans of that campaign were yet survivors of its dangers and hardships -- but who, now, after a lapse of over seventy years, have all been gathered to that "bourne from which no traveller returns," -- their tongues are lifeless and silent -- their voices hushed -- and the countenances which would glow with animation when they dwelt upon those scenes, and in imagination,

"Fought their battles o'er again,"

will be seen by us no more for ever. Suffice it to say that this expedition had the desired effect of crippling the future operations of the Six Nations against the Colonies -- but it did not entirely silence them, as will be seen from the perusal of the succeeding chapter, although its successful termination went far toward raising the desponding spirits of the whigs, and restoring their drooping confidence in the final success of our arms.

One of the most exposed of the frontier settlements during the campaign of 1779, was Minisink, an ancient settlement on the Delaware River. Count Pulaski had been stationed there with an armed force until the February preceding, when he had been ordered to South Carolina, thus leaving the settlement without any defence. Of this fact the Indians were aware, and accordingly Brant, on the 20th of July, made a descent upon it with a large body of Indians and tories.

An interesting and valuable work, entitled the "Pioneers of the Delaware", has afforded us the following interesting account of the attack and massacre of this settlement, and the battle of the Delaware, fought two days afterward. - "This attack was begun before day-light, and so silently and stealthily did the crafty Mohawk chief approach his victims, that several families were cut off before an alarm was made. The first intimation which the community received that the savages were upon them was the discovery that several houses were in flames. Dismay and confusion seized upon those who had escaped the first onslaught. They were altogether unprepared to defend themselves. They were without leaders and scattered over a considerable area, although, it is to be presumed they were not altogether unarmed. The first movement many of them made was to flee to the woods with their wives and children, thus leaving the enemy to plunder them of their property, or destroy it, as they preferred.8 A few of the inhabitants gathered into the block- houses, which were not assaulted.

James Swartwout, whose father and brothers were killed the preceeding year, as stated in the note, again escaped narrowly. He was in a blacksmith's shop with a negro, when he discovered the Indians close at hand. He at once crept up the chimney of the shop, while the negro remained below, not fearing the savages, and knowing probably that they would not harm him. When the Indians entered they commenced throwing things about the premises and selecting such as they fancied. Finally, one of them went to the bellows and began to blow the fire at a rate which proved very uncomfortable to Swartwout, who was nearly strangled with the smoke and fumes of the burning charcoal, and had great difficulty in retaining his place in the chimney. The Indian became weary of the sport after a little, or was induced by the negro to go at something else. After they had gone off, Swartwout came down from his uncomfortable quarters and escaped.

A man named Roolif Cuddeback was pursued some distance into the woods by an Indian, and found it impossible to outstrip his pursuer. When nearly overtaken, he stopped suddenly, and the Indian hurled a tomahawk at him, which hitting a bush, missed its mark. Cuddeback at once grappled with the supple savage, and they had a furious battle with the weapons of nature. Both struggled for a knife which was in the Indian's belt, and which finally fell to the ground. Neither could safely stoop to pick it up, and so they resumed their struggle for life or death in the natural way. Cuddeback was the most athletic of the two; but the savage had besmeared his limbs and body with grease, so that he could slip from Cuddeback's hands whenever the latter laid hold of him. Cuddeback, however, gave the red-skin such a buffeting that, after a while he was glad to beat a retreat. It is said that he never recovered from the rough handling he received from the white man, but died subsequently from the injuries inflicted by Cuddeback. The latter escaped.

Eager, in his history of Orange County, says, that "The savages visited the school- house, and threatened to exterminate one generation of the settlers at a blow. Jeremiah Van Auken was the teacher, and they took him from the house, conveyed him about a half a mile, and then killed him. Some of the boys in the school were cleft with the tomahawk, others fled to the woods for concealment from their bloody assailants, while the little girls stood by the slain body of their teacher, bewildered and horror-struck, not knowing their own fate, whether death or captivity. While they were standing in this pitiful condition, a strong, muscular Indian suddenly came along, and with a brush dashed some black paint across their aprons, bidding them "hold up the mark when they saw an Indian coming, and it would save them;" and with the yell of a savage plunged into the woods and disappeared. This was Brant, and the little daughters of the settlers were safe. The Indians, as they passed along and ran from place to place, saw the black mark, and left the children undisturbed. The happy thought like a flash of lightning, entered the minds of these little sisters, and suggested that they could use the mark to save their brothers. The scattered boys were quickly assembled, and the girls threw their aprons over the cloths of the boys, and stamped the black impression upon their outer garments. They, in turn, held up the palladium of safety as the Indians passed and repassed; and these children were thus saved from injury and death, to the unexpected joy of their parents."

Col. Stone, in his life of Brant, says: - "No sooner had the fugitives from Minisink arrived at Goshen with the intelligence, than Dr. Tustin, the colonel of the local militia, issued orders to the officers of his command to meet him at Minisink on the following day, with as many volunteers as they could raise. The order was promptly obeyed, and a body of one hundred and forty-nine men, including many of the principal men of the county, met their colonel at the designated rendezvous, at the time appointed. A council of war was held, to determine upon the expediency of a pursuit. Colonel Tustin was himself opposed to the proposition with so feeble a command, and with the certainty, if they overtook the enemy, of being obliged to encounter an officer, combining, with his acknowledged prowess, so much of subtlety as characterized the movements of the Mohawk chief. His force, moreover, was supposed to be greatly superior to theirs in numbers, and to include many tories, as well acquainted with the country as themselves. The colonel therefore preferred waiting for the reinforcements, which would be sure to arrive, the more especially, as the volunteers already with him were but ill provided with arms and ammunition. Others, however, were for immediate pursuit; they affected to hold the Indians in contempt, insisted that they would not fight, and maintained that a re-capture of the plunder they had taken, would be an easy achievement. Town-meeting counsels in the conduct of war, are not always the wisest, as will appear in the sequel. The majority of Tustin's command were evidently determined to pursue the enemy, but their deliberations were cut short by Major Meeker, who mounted his horse, flourished his sword, and vauntingly called out, ' Let the brave men follow me, the cowards may stay behind!" It may readily be supposed that such an appeal to an excited multitude, would decide the question, as it did. The line of march was immediately taken up, and after proceeding seventeen miles the same evening, they encamped for the night. On the morning of the 22nd, they were joined by a small reinforcement under Colonel Hathorn, of the Warwick regiment, who as the senior of Col. Tustin, took the command. When they had advanced a few miles to Half-way brook, they came upon the Indian encampment of the preceding night, and another council was held there. Colonels Hathorn, Tustin, and others, whose valor was governed by prudence, were opposed to advancing further, as the number of Indian fires and the extent of the ground they had occupied, removed all doubt as the superiority of their numbers. A scene similar to that which had broken up the former council was acted at this place, and with the same result. The voice of prudence was compelled to yield to that of bravado."

It was the opinion of some of the officers, that the best way to attack the enemy was to fall upon them at night, while they were encamped and asleep. This project was discussed at the council, but was finally abandoned, because it was thought that in the confusion and uncertainty of a night attack, the Americans should be as apt to destroy each other as to kill the Indians.

"Captain Tyler, who had some knowledge of the woods, was sent forward at the head of a small scouting party, to follow the trial of the Indians, and to ascertain, if possible, their movements, since it was evident that they could not be far in advance. The captain had proceeded but a short distance before he fell from the fire of an unseen enemy. This circumstance occasioned considerable alarm, but the volunteers nevertheless pressed eagerly forward, and it was not long before they emerged upon the hills of the Delaware, in full view of that river, upon the eastern bank of which, at the distance of three-fourths of a mile, the Indians were seen deliberately marching in the direction of a fording-place, near the mouth of the Lackawana. This discovery was made at about nine o'clock in the morning. The intention of Brant to cross at the fording-place was evident, and it was afterward ascertained that his booty had already been sent thither in advance.

"The determination was immediately formed by Colonel Hathorn to intercept the enemy at the fording-place, for which purpose instant dispositions were made; but owing to intervening woods and hills, the opposing bodies soon lost sight of each other, and an adroit movement on the part of Brant, gave him an advantage which it was impossible for the Americans to regain. Anticipating the design of Hathorn, the moment the Americans were out of sight Brant wheeled to the right, and by threading a ravine across which Hathorn had passed, threw himself into the rear, by which means he was enabled to select his ground for a battle and form an ambuscade. Disappointed in not finding the enemy, the Americans were brought to a stand, when the enemy disclosed themselves partially in a quarter altogether unexpected."9

The first shot was fired upon an Indian, who, as the Americans came to the bank of the river, was crossing the Delaware with a portion of the booty, and who was mounted on a horse he had stolen in Minisink. He fell upon the neck of the horse, but managed to keep his place in the saddle until he had reached the opposite bank, and joined such of his friends as had crossed before him. It is said that he died from his wounds not long afterward.

The belligerents soon engaged in deadly conflict; when, above the yelling and whooping of the savages, the hurrahs of the whites, and the report of fire-arms, Brant was heard - in a voice which was never forgotten by those who were present - commanding all who were on the opposite side of the river with the plunder, to return. They at once dashed into the Delaware, and soon fell upon the rear of the Americans, who were thus completely surrounded and hemmed in, except about one-third of their number, whom Brant in the early part of the engagement, had contrived to cut off from the main body. The enemy were several times greater in number than the Americans, who were ultimately driven in and confided to about an acre of ground.

"Being short of ammunition, Hathorn's orders, in imitation of those of Putnam, at Bunker's Hill, were strict, that no man should fire until very sure that his powder would not be lost. The battle commenced about eleven o'clock in the morning, and was maintained until the going down of the sun; both parties fighting after the Indian fashion - every man for himself - and the whole keeping up an irregular fire from behind rocks and trees, as best they could."10

The militia were completely cut off from water, and suffered greatly during the day from thirst. About sunset their ammunition gave out, and the survivors attempted to escape by breaking through the circle of bloodthirsty savages, but were many of them cut down.

"Doctor Tustin was engaged behind a cliff of rocks in dressing the wounded, when the retreat commenced. There were seventeen disabled men under his care at the moment, whose cries for protection and mercy were of the most moving description. The Indians fell upon them, however, and they all, together with the doctor, perished under the tomahawk. Among the slain were many of the first citizens of Goshen; and of the whole number that went forth only thirty returned to tell the melancholy story. Several of the fugitives were shot, while attempting to escape by swimming across the Delaware."

One of the militia who escaped, was so exhausted he could not run far; he followed in the direction his friends had gone, till he could go no farther; he then he got out of the path, near which he remained some time. In a little while he saw the Indians, one after another, running in the direction the whites had taken; none of them looked towards the place where he was, until a very powerful Indian discovered him. The Indian's eye no sooner rested upon him, than the white man fired his last shot and fled; the Indian did not follow, and it was supposed he was killed or badly wounded. The name of the white man, we believe, was Cuddeback.

"There was one (Major Wood,) who, during the battle, saved himself by means which Brant said were dishonorable. By some process or other, though not a Freemason, he had acquired a knowledge of the master mason's grand hailing signal of distress; and having been informed that Brant was a member of the brotherhood, he gave the mystic sign. Faithful to his pledge, the chieftain interposed and saved his life. Discovering the imposture afterward, he was very indignant. Still he spared his life, and the prisoner ultimately returned to his friends after a long captivity."

There is another reason given why Wood's life was spared by Brant. Eager says, that the "sign" was accidentally made by him, and that further, "on the evening after the battle, when Brant was about to tie him lest he should escape, Wood remonstrated, and said he was a gentleman, and promised not to escape. They did not tie him, but directed him to lie down between two Indians, who informed him that if he attempted to escape they would tomahawk him. The blanket on which he slept caught fire during the night, and he dared not move from his position to extinguish it, lest he should experience the reality of the threat, and be tomahawked. At last the fire reached his feet, and he kicked it out. The blanket belonged to Brant, and Wood was harshly treated by him ever after; and when asked the reason of his conduct, he said 'D__n you, you burnt my blanket.' Wood resided in the county for many years, and was a very respectable citizen.

"But we are of opinion, from all the circumstances of the case, and the character of Wood, that he was not a Freemason; and from the reason of the enmity of Brant, as expressed in the above anecdote, that Wood was innocent of any fraud upon Brant, and that the suggestion was a slander."

Among the killed was Moses Thomas, second son of the gentleman of that name who was murdered by the savages at the block-house in Cochecton. He was slain by a tory named Case Cole.11 For forty-three years the bones of these victims of warfare were permitted to bleach upon the bleak hill-side where the battle took place. But one attempt had been made to gather and bury them - and that was made by the widows of the slain - of whom there were thirty-three in the Presbyterian congregation of Goshen. They set out for the battleground on horseback; but finding the intervening country too rough and broken for them to proceed, they hired a man to perform the pious duty, who proved unfaithful to the trust, and never returned. In 1820, the remains of these martyrs of freedom were gathered together and deposited in the burying-ground at Goshen, with appropriate ceremonies. A suitable monument was erected over them, and their names inscribed on it in the following manner; -


INSCRIPTIONS ON THE MONUMENT IN THE CHURCH-YARD AT GOSHEN.

                    North Side

Benjamin Tustin, Col.,        Gabriel Winser, Esq.,
Barahil Tyler, Capt.,         Stephen Mead,
Ephraim Mastin, Ens.,         Benjamin Vail, Capt.,
Nathaniel Fish, Adj.,         John Wood, Lieut.,
John Duncan, Capt.,           Nathaniel Terwilliger,
Samuel Jones, Capt.,          John Lockwood,
John Little, Capt.,           Ephraim Ferguson.
Ephraim Middaugh, Ens.,

                    West Side

Roger Townsend,               Joseph Norris,
Samuel Knapp,                 Gilbert S. Vail,
James Knapp,                  Joel Decker,
Benjamin Bennett,             Abram Shepherd,
William Barker,                     Shepherd,
Jacob Dunning,                Nathan Wade,
Jonathan Pierce,              Simon Wait,
James Little,                       Talmage.

                    South Side.

John Carpenter,               Gamaliel Bailey,
David Barney,                 Moses Thomas,
Jonathan Haskill,             Eleazer Owens,
Abram Williams,               Adam Embler,
James Morher,                 Samuel Little,
Isaac Ward,                   Benjamin Dunning,
Baltus Ninpos,                Daniel Reid.

                    East Side.

     Erected by the Inhabitants of Orange County,
                   July 22d, 1822.
     Sacred to the memory of forty-four of their
            Fellow-citizens, who fell at
       The Battle of Minisink, July 22d, 1779

The battle of the Delaware was unquestionably one of the hardest fought conflicts during the Revolutionary war; and Brant afterward informed Squire Whitaker, 12 that when the Americans gave the order to retreat, he had just resolved to give the same order; and had the soldiers retained their position a few moments longer, they would have been left in possession of the field.

Some slight idea of the fruit of this fight may be gathered from the following statement of Benjamin Whitaker, an aged pioneer of this county, who still lives in the valley of the Delaware, two miles below Deposit.

"I had two uncles in the battle of the Delaware, at Cedar Falls. One of them, Benjamin 13 was wounded, and becoming sick and faint from loss of blood, he eluded the vigilance of the watchful enemy, and secreted himself in the crevice of an impeding ledge of rocks, where he succeeded in stanching the blood by tow from his cartridge-box, and binding up the wound with a handkerchief, joined eagerly in the fight. The other was John, who mingled in the hottest of the fight, and, strange to say, was almost the only person who escaped uninjured, although he received nine bullet-holes through his hat and clothes."

The campaign of 1779 was principally, on the part of the Americans, of a defensive character; this mode of operation being the least expensive - an important consideration in the then crippled state of the finances. The belligerent operations were carried on during the year in three different quarters; the forces of Washington and Clinton in the north; the British troops sent south to subjugate the Carolinas and Georgia; while the marine of England and France were contending fiercely upon the high seas. The tide of war in the north was marked by various reverses to the American arms. The British had captured the forts at Verplanck and Stony Point, which latter place, however, was shortly after gallantly retaken by the brave General Wayne. The infamous Governor Tryon, with six thousand troops, had made a predatory incursion into Connecticut. His course was marked alike by devastation and blood. Fairfield and Norwalk were laid waste, and his forces were about to fall upon New London, which would have shared the same fate, had it not been for the timely check of Clinton, who ordered Tryon to another quarter. These, together with the expedition of General Sullivan, formed the principal features of the foregoing campaign.

End of Chapter

FOOTNOTES

  1. I am indebted to the manuscript kindly furnished me by Asahel Cowley, Esq., a highly respectable citizen, and a descendant of St. Leger, mentioned in the context, for most of the above information. He resides in Stamford, Delaware County.

  2. Quoted from the inscription on the tombstone, in the Harpersfield burying-ground, to the memory of Thomas and John Hendrey, who sacrificed their lives and property to the common cause of liberty. See more fully the capture of Colonel Harper and his party at Harpersfield, April 8th, 1780.

  3. Simm's History of Schoharie gives the date as "early in the spring," and as I have usually found his statements correct, I think it more than probable this was the time.

  4. Simms' History gives the place of Cowley's death, as Albany, which is doubtless ascribable to the inaccuracy of his informant. Sawyer died many years afterward at Williamston, Mass.

  5. Annals of Tryon County.

  6. The word Otsego is thought to be a compound which conveys the idea of a spot at which the meetings of the Indians are held. There is a small rock near the outlet of the lake called the "Otsego Rock," at which precise point the savages, according to an early tradition of the county, were accustomed to give each other the rendezvous. In confirmation of these traditions, arrow-heads, stone hatchets, and other memorials of Indian usages, were found in great abundance by the first settlers in the vicinity of the village of Cooperstown.--Chronicles of Cooperstown.

  7. For more particular accounts of Sullivan's campaign, see Annals of Tryon County, Simms' History of Schoharie, Stone'x s Border Wars, Delafield's History of Seneca County, and also an interesting little volume entitled Sullivan's Revolutionary Campaign in Weston, N.Y.

  8. Brant made more than one descent upon Minisink. On the 13th of October, 1778, he invaded Peeupack, and the neighboring settlements, with about one hundred followers, and murdered several of the settlers. The alarm was given in time for most of the inhabitants of flee to the block-houses, of which there were three; one known as Fort Gummer, another as Fort Dewitt, and the third as Fort Depuy. All who were caught out of the block-houses were murdered. They were pursued through fields and woods and shot or tomahawked. A young man named Swartwout, attempted to escape by swimming in the Neversink. Just as he gained the opposite side he was shot. Three of his brothers and his father were killed. One of the brothers reached a block- house near by and escaped. In Fort Gumaer there were but nine men, and the commander, whose name was Cuddeback, caused the women to put on men's clothes and parade around the fort with their husbands, sons and brothers, when the Indians first made their appearance and were at such a distance that they could not detect the ruse. The natives, in consequence of this stratagem, passed by the block-house at such a distance that the few shots which were fired at them were harmless. Fort Dewitt was not attacked, and the other fort was unoccupied. Most of the barns in the neighborhood were burnt and the cattle driven off. It is probable that count Pulaski was stationed there but a few weeks or months at most.

  9. Stone's Life of Brant.

  10. Stone's Life of Brant.

  11. Moses Thomas, second, enlisted during the early part of the war, and was with the army some time at West Point and Newburgh. Becoming dissatisfied with his officers, he hired a substitute, and returned to his family, who were in Minisink. When Brant fell upon that point, Thomas volunteered, and was killed, as stated. His widow married a man named Nathan Chapman, and they removed to the valley of Wyoming, where he was murdered by the Indians. Chapman, and a Mr. Jamison, were in company, on horseback, when some savages, who were in ambush, fired upon them. Jamison fell dead, and his companion, who was mortally wounded, clung to his horse until he reached a house, where he soon after died. Mrs. Chapman subsequently married a Mr. Jesse Drake. Her descendants are among the most respectable inhabitants of Cochecton.

  12. Squire Whitaker was one of the earliest settlers in the western part of the county. He had lost all of his property at the massacre of Wyoming, and barely escaped with his family to Orange County, where he remained until the declaration of peace, when he removed to Delaware County, in 1785.

  13. Benjamin afterward lived at Deposit

Index to History of Delaware County by Jay Gould

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