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See Also: Schenectady in the Revolutionary War

A History of Schenectady During the Revolution:
Chapter XI: The Plan for the Campaign of 1777. Further Activities of Indian and Tory. The Schenectady Committee Establishes a Watch. The Difficulties of Procuring Wagons and Men.

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[This information is from pp. 64-70 of A History of Schenectady During the Revolution by Willis T. Hanson, Jr. (Brattleboro, VT: E. L. Hildreth & Co., 1916). It is in the Schenectady Collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at Schdy R 974.744 H25, and copies are also available for borrowing.]

During the winter (1776-1777) General John Burgoyne, who had been serving under General Carleton, sailed for England to lay before the Ministry a plan of campaign for the following year, the easily successful ccomplishment of which he confidently believed would end the war. The plan as proposed and accepted was for the main British army to move southward up Lake Champlain; a second army under Lieutenant-Colonel Barry St. Leger to move eastward by way of Oswego down the Mohawk, and a third force under Sir Henry Clinton to move northward up the Hudson — the three forces concentrating on Albany. Thus a division of the Colonies would be effected and from their central position the combined British forces could easily crush in turn each isolated section.

The effect on the Indians of the withdrawal of the American forces from Canada had been very soon apparent. (1) General Schuyler, redoubling his efforts to hold them in a position of neutrality, had in July (1776) called a council (2) at German Flats, the outcome of which was on the whole satisfactory, or enough so to cause him to feel (3) that although he could count for active support upon none save the Oneidas, the Indians would not engage against the colonists.

General Schuyler's hopes were, however, not to be realized, for with the coming of spring came news of matters that were transpiring of dire import to the settlers of the Valley. Joseph Brant had joined a rapidly increasing body of Indians at Oghwaga, where the British flag had been raised, leaving little doubt as to their probable course of action. (4)

Throughout Cherry Valley the alarm spread rapidly, nor were the rumors of Indian and Tory raids confined to that section alone, for on April 11, word (5) was brought to the Schenectady Committee that a number of Tories residing in the vicinity of Clifton Park had left to join a band of Indians and that they were "to come to destroy the people that lived thereabout in about three days time." For the apprehension of the enemy and the protection of the patriots Colonel Wemple was applied to for a detail of militia, while to the Ballston and Albany Committees were dispatched letters asking that they forward detachments to meet the Schenectady militia at Wilson's Mill, Ballston, at noon of the following day. These letters contained a further admonition that they "be sure and not take a man but what was a friend to the States." (6)

With the necessity of increased diligence the Committee of Safety at Schenectady determined upon the establishment of a regular watch, (7) and on April 13 the following resolution was therefore passed: (8) "that all persons in this Town, above the Age of sixteen years, shall watch, and that their be a watch Established of One Officer & Eleven men, that such watch begins at 9 O Clock, in the Evening & Continues Till Daylight Next Morning, that the persons ordered to watch be warned by the Town Major Appointed for that Purpose, & that the said Town Major attends the watch Every Evening at Ten O Clock to see if they all Appear, & Take an Account of all persons not attending the watch, which List he is to give in to the Chairman of this Committee & such Person or Persons so Neglecting of if warned shall forfit a fine not Exceeding Twelve pence which shall be recovered by a Warrent of the Chairman of this Committee."

At the meeting on the nineteenth the following rules and orders covering the watch were issued: (9)

At this same meeting it was further resolved:

that the town wach be very delegent in apprehending all Negroes that may be found to run on the Street after ten OClock that if they take any of them up to confine them in the wach house till next morning and then their owners may releas them on paying three Shillings to the watch for Each Negro or Els they are to receive thirty Lashes on their naked back and also that the said wach be very Delegent in apprehending such places that Negroes may be combined together and take them in Confiniment and inflict the above punishment on them, and the owner of such house where such Negroes may be found together Shall pay a fine of forty Shillings to the Officer of the wach, which fine Shall be recovered by warrent from the Chairman of this or any future Committee.

At the meeting of the Committee on April 24 a letter (11) was received from the Albany Committee requesting the furnishing of twenty wagons for service between Albany and Lake George, and a detail of forty-four men for garrison duty. Steps were immediately taken to comply with the request, and after having conferred with the field officers present at the meeting Colonel Wemple ordered the men allotted for duty warned to appear properly equipped at his home the next morning at eight o'clock. The matter of collecting wagons, however, presented difficulties which were not to be overcome and of this the Albany Committee was at once thus advised: (12)

In regard of the Weagons you requested us to send, we had received a Letter from Col. Lewis A few Days before Desiring our assistance in Procuring a Number of wagons out of our Distract, as they were much wanted we accordingly tryed all in our Power to git waggons, but the season of the year being such at Present that our waggoners (as they Chiefly all Raise their own Grain) cant Possibly Leave home. We made shift to git Eleven on Promising they should only do one trip to Lake George and then Return home again. We Accordingly sent them to Col. Lewis acquainting him of our Promise to said Waggoners. On Receiving your Letter we made another Tryal true the hole Distract thinking that by warning the Militia to go on Duty, it would induce Several Rather to go with a waggon than on other Duty, but have not been able to git more than five Waggons which we now send Down. If they will not anser the Present Demand from our Distract then we Expect your further advice in this mater.

In answer to the summons for service but twenty-two men, including officers, appeared as ordered. These immediately set out, to be followed later by eight more, who, because they lived out of town, had received no proper warning.

The fact that so many had failed to obey their orders was at once reported to the Committee by Colonel Wemple. It was thereupon resolved (13) "that those person that [had] neglected to appear, having been duly [warned should] be emedeately fined for ten Shillings Each And be warned again to appear at the Captains Dore on monday [at] 8 OClock in the morning acquipt to go on garison duty as before and if they or any of them [neglected] to appear then they [should] be fined for twenty Shillings Each and ordered again to appear the same day [at] One OClock in the afternoon which if they [neglected] again they [were] to be Sent to Close Confiniment."

The threats of fines and of close confinement seem to have availed little, for on the twenty-eighth the Committee decided (14) that inasmuch as "it [appeared] that those people that [had] refused to go on Duty [could not] be made willing by fining them, and [that as they had] no proper president before [them] what Should be done ... further," it was best that the matter be placed before the Albany Committee for their advice.

The detachment that had set out marched under Lieutenant Van Slyck to Albany, to Saratoga, where they joined some four hundred of the Vermont militia under Colonel Seth Warner, thence to Jessups Patent by way of Fort Edward. (15) The object of the expedition was to capture one John Morrell, a Tory who was busily engaged in enlisting men for the British cause, and to disperse a considerable number of Tories who had already gathered and there erected a blockhouse. (16) When the American troops arrived they found that the enemy had scattered the day before, but not until they had destroyed their fortifications. (17)

Notes

  1. "Our misfortunes in Canada have made them [the Indians] somewhat assuming," wrote Schuyler to John Trumbull on July 31. Trumbull Papers, XXV, 109.
  2. On July 11 the Albany Committee sent a request to the Committee at Schenectady that "they furnish as many of their Troop of Horse as possible to join General Schuyler," who was to set off on the morrow for German Flats. The Minutes of the Albany Committee of Safety.
  3. Trumbull Papers, XXV, 109-113.
  4. Francis Whiting Halsey, The Old New York Frontier.
  5. The Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Safety.
  6. Ibid.
  7. This was by virtue of a resolve of the Continental Congress of August 22, 1775. On November 2, 1778, a state law required the establishment of a regular watch in certain counties, of which Albany was one. In the city of Albany and town of Schenectady clergymen alone were exempted from service.
  8. The Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Safety.
  9. Ibid.
  10. This was probably the old Dutch Church which stood at the intersection of State, Church and Water Streets and which, after the new church was erected, was turned into a guard- and watchhouse and so used for many years.
  11. The Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Safety.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Pension Office Records, Frederick Weller S 14816; Bartholomew Schermerhorn S 17078.
  16. Pension Office Records, Cornelius Williams W 18456; Christopher Ward.
  17. Pension Office Records, Christopher Ward.

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See Also: Schenectady in the Revolutionary War

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