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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 25: 1690 — Massacre and Burning of Schenectady.

[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 380-399 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. Some images have been relocated to the area in the text where they are discussed. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Go back to: Chapter 24 | ahead to: Chapter 26

French and Indian raiding party burn Schenectady and massacre its inhabitants, Saturday night, February 8, 1690 — One of three expeditions sent against the English colonial frontiers, by Frontenac — The palisades gates left open and unguarded — Sixty settlers killed and twenty-seven captured — Midnight ride of Symon Schermerhoorn to Albany — Adam Vrooman's heroic defense of his home — Many lives spared through the intercession of Captain Johannes Sanders Glen of Scotia — Some survivors remain and start rebuilding — Letter by M. de Monseignat to Madame Maintenon, describing the raid and massacre — List of killed and prisoners.

On the night of Saturday, February 8th, 1690, a war party of Canadian French and Indians burned Schenectady, massacred sixty of its people and carried twenty-seven of them into captivity. This gory beginning of King William's War in the Province of New York constitutes one of the most terrible chapters of early State history.

The French governors of Canada had many times advocated the conquest of New York. In 1689, DeCallieres, the governor of Montreal, wrote to France a detailed plan for the invasion of the province. Louis XIV was impressed by this project, which was made in great detail. Accordingly, he sent Count De Frontenac to carry out the great scheme and furnished him with instructions fully as complete in their scope as the plan suggested by DeCallieres. Louis, however, gave the touch of a true despot when he added to the military plan one involving the expatriation of practically all the 18,000 people of New York, who were to be sent out of the colony into those adjoining. Even the New York Catholics were to be considered not above suspicion. By the side of the grandiose plans of Louis XIV for the elimination of the people of New York, the later expulsion of the French from Acadia was a small affair.

Sixteen hundred French soldiers were ordered to Chedabucto Harbor in Acadie. The project was for Frontenac to invade New York by way of the Richelieu River and Lake Champlain in cooperation with the force which was to operate from Acadia. This plan of campaign was, in a general way, similar to that made by Burgoyne for the reduction of New York in 1777. The troop ships were late in starting, and when they reached Chedabucto the season was too far gone to start the grand project of conquest. Frontenac was a man of action and he realized that something must be done to restore the prestige of New France, so recently devastated and laid low by the Iroquois invasion of 1689. Accordingly, the wily French viceroy launched three midwinter expeditions against the frontiers of the English colonies. The first war party went from Montreal against Albany, but the weakness of the troop made its leaders change their objective from Albany to Schenectady, or Corlaer, as they called the latter village, in honor of Van Curler, its founder. Here the Canadian invaders burned the town and massacred its people, as related later. The second party went from Three Rivers into New Hampshire and fell upon the sleeping village of Salmon Falls, where it slaughtered and burned much as the first party did at Schenectady. The third Canadian French and Indian party from Quebec now joined the second and together they attacked the New England fort at Casco Bay. The defenders made a strong resistance, but finally surrendered when promised protection from the savages. The pledge was not kept, and Portneuf, the French commander, handed over his captives to the scalping knives and tortures of his barbarian allies. This foul deed forms one of the several black stains on the military records of the usually gallant commanders of New France. The atrocities of Frontenac's border warfare impressed the Indians and the wavering northwestern tribes hastened to ally themselves with the strong "Old Man of Canada". By contrast, the English colonists were filled with horror at these unspeakable barbarities of a supposedly civilized people who waged as savage a war as their red allies. The Americans swore vengeance, resolving to unite and crush the common enemy. The colonists never conducted hostilities in the manner of these expeditions of Frontenac and they realized that two peoples, with such differing ideas of humanity, could not long endure upon the same continent.

The ambitious scheme of the Great Louis for conquest and empire dwindled into these three barbaric forays of De Frontenac. The grand plan to invade New York ended in the screams of dying women and the groans of tortured men on the remote frontiers of New York and New England.

The midwinter foray of the Canadian war party which went against Schenectady involved great hardships and was a remarkable military feat of arms, aside from the brutal and barbarous warfare practiced by the French as well as by their Indian allies. The march was made on foot over forest trails and frozen lakes covered with two feet of snow. The men were laden with heavy packs, holding ammunition and provisions, and the journey of 300 miles was made in the bitterest cold of the northern midwinter. There were no houses, other than an occasional hunter's temporary hut, between Saratoga and the scattered homes of the French habitants of the St. Lawrence. Camp had to be made in the open and the hardy rangers and redmen slept under the bright stars of the winter nights or in the whirling snows of the wilderness storms.

The Schenectady massacre forms one of the most revolting chapters of early American history, as well as of the border wars, which raged along the Hudson and the Mohawk valleys during the following century. Not only did this atrocity cause untold suffering and sorrow, but it put back the material progress of Schenectady and its district so that it was ten years before the section had regained the position it had occupied before this hideous night of blood and fire.

The Canadian war party numbered 114 Frenchmen, eighty Indians from the Sault (Caughnawaga on the St. Lawrence), and sixteen Algonquin Indians. The expedition was commanded by Lemoine de Saint Helene and Lieut. D'Aillebout de Mantet. The enemy started southward from Montreal January 17, 1690, and after untold hardships came within sight of Schenectady at eleven o'clock on the night of Saturday, February 8, 1690. The Caughnawaga Indians were former Mohawks who had been converted by the French Jesuit priests, whom we have previously seen laboring in their missions along the Mohawk River. They were headed by the Great Kryn, otherwise known as the Great Mohawk, the conqueror of the Mohicans at Kinquariones in 1669.

Pearson summarizes the Schenectady massacre as follows. His terms, east and west, are general designations, not corresponding exactly to those of the compass.

"The village at this time lay mainly west of Ferry Street and was stockaded with palisades of pine logs ten feet high. It had at least two gates, one at the north end of Church Street opening out to the highway (Front Street) which led to the eastward to Niskayuna. Another was located at the south end of Church at State, opening out to Mill Lane and the Flats and the Albany Road (State Street).

"The only dwellings outside the stockade were built on the northerly side of State Street, extending as far southeast as Lang gang (Centre Street). It is said there were 80 good houses in the village and a population of 400 souls, both numbers doubtless being exaggerated.

"In the northerly angle of the village on the Binne Kil (near corner Washington and Front Streets) was a double stockaded fort (or block house) garrisoned by a detachment of 24 men of Capt. Jonathan Bull's Connecticut company under the command of Lieut. Talmadge. Thus fortified and garrisoned, the inhabitants should have repelled any ordinary attack or at least held the enemy at bay until succor could reach them from Albany.

"The destruction of the place was occasioned by divided counsels and a fatal apathy. The whole Province was then divided into two factions — the Leislerians and the Anti-Leislerians — the short hairs and swallow-tails. Divided feelings and counsels ran so high at Albany and Schenectady as to counteract the sense of self preservation. Both parties were determined to rule, neither was strong enough to take the lead.

"On the fatal night of Feb. 8th, the 'Noche triste' of the ill-fated village, the inhabitants went to rest with their gates open and no guard set. They trusted that the Indians who had gone out as scouts to Lake George would forewarn them of the enemy's approach. The French marched upon the village from the north, crossed the river on the ice and divided their men into two companies with the intention of entering the town, one by the north or Church Street gate, the other by the south or State Street gate. The latter entrance, being in a measure, covered by the dwellings on the street, could not be found. Both companies, therefore, entered by the north gate and separating spread themselves throughout the village, five or six before each house. At the signal agreed upon, a simultaneous assault was made upon each dwelling and, before the terror-stricken inhabitants could seize their arms, the savages were upon them. Resistance was in vain. Within two hours, 60 of the people were slaughtered without distinction of age or sex."

A number of the townspeople escaped, during the fury of the attack, and hid in the woods or made their way over the Albany Road to Albany. Some had suffered wounds by the enemy and others had their hands and feet frozen in this terrible sixteen-mile night journey through the snow and bitter cold.

"Capt. Sander Glen's family and relatives, with their habitations and other property, on account of former kindness shown to captive Frenchmen, were spared by express order of the Governor of Canada.

"The utter helplessness of the inhabitants to offer resistance is shown by the fact that only two of the enemy were killed and one severely wounded. The plucky fight made by Adam Vrooman and his family comes down to us by tradition. His house stood on the west corner of Front and Church Streets [at the point now marked by a tablet commemorating the massacre]. By keeping up a brisk fire from his dwelling he kept the enemy at bay and extorted a promise from the French commander to spare his life."

In line with Frontenac's policy of alienating the Mohawks and Iroquois from the English cause, orders had evidently been given the French commanders to spare all the Mohawks met with on this raid. Accordingly, twenty of that tribe, who were in the town on the night of the massacre, were spared, one evidently having been killed in the first fury of the attack. The French not only did not harm the Mohawks, but spared certain people who were their particular friends, as well as some of the "houses where ye Maquase lay at". Some sixty old people, women and children had their lives spared, after the first fury of the slaughter.

Another dramatic feature of the many wild and jangled events of this bloody night was the ride of Symon Schermerhorn to Albany. In the midst of the bloody furor of the first attack, he fought his way through the raiders, who killed his son and his three Negro slaves. Mounting his horse, Schermerhorn rode through the river gate amid a hail of bullets, one of which wounded him in the thigh and also wounded his horse. Through two feet of snow and great drifts, Schermerhorn galloped over the River road to Niskayuna, warning the settlers on his way. After covering over thirty miles, in a six-hour ride in the bitter cold of the February night, Symon reached Albany with his dreadful message. His horse fell dead at the city gateway and Schermerhorn fainted from exhaustion and his wound. Albany's excitement, when this blood-stained messenger appeared, can well be imagined.

Capt. Johannes Glen prepared to defend his Scotia house with the aid of his Negro slaves and some Indians. Kryn, the Mohawk chief, and a French officer went alone across the river on the ice and told Glen that he was safe because of the many kindnesses he and his wife had shown French captives. The raiders not only spared Glen's house and family, but they went with him to the stricken town and gave up to him such captives and their possessions as he claimed to be his kin. "The Indians grumbled that Glen's kinsfolk were astonishingly numerous." Through the Captain's pleadings many lives and several houses were thus saved. It is said that the French officers ate breakfast at Glen's from a round mahogany table now in the possession of the Glen-Sanders family in their Scotia mansion.

It was a tragic Sunday that dawned upon the stricken village. The butchery was ended and the French set guards. While some of the red and white savages slept the sleep of exhaustion, others busied themselves looting the houses and packing the spoils upon the backs of the settlers' horses. After that all the houses and barns, save a few, were set on fire and the blood-stained raiders filed eastward from the burning town, with their pack train of booty and line of dejected prisoners. The little band of survivors stood helpless around their flaming dwellings, while some wept and wailed over the gory corpses of those who, a few hours before, had been their living loved ones. Even the Mohawks were shocked at the slaughter and destruction done by the enemy. The work of thirty years of human industry went blazing skyward and the night of that far off midwinter Sunday closed over the blackened ruin of what had once been the busy, thriving and comfortable little village of Schenectady.

The French began their retreat at eleven o'clock. They took with them twenty-seven prisoners, men and boys, and fifty of the settlers' horses, which served them in the double stead of pack animals and of food when their provisions ran out on the terrible winter march of over 250 miles. Had it not been for this traveling meat supply the raiders would have perished of starvation or would have been overtaken and destroyed by the force which went out in pursuit from Schenectady. Nineteen Frenchmen were killed or captured on this retreat by the war party of 140 Mohawks and fifty Albany militiamen, part of whom followed the enemy to the gates of Montreal. The pursuit could not overtake the main body because the raiders hitched their captured horses to sleds and so outdistanced their pursuers over the ice of Lake Champlain. The pursuing Mohawks and militia cut off several parties of stragglers and, in one skirmish, killed six Frenchmen. The Mohawks brought back the thirteen captured Frenchmen to their castles along our river, where the victims suffered a terrible retribution by being tortured and burned.

The foregoing gives a summary of the massacre and burning of Schenectady. The following documents of the time give the details of this woeful but dramatic chapter of early Mohawk Valley history.

* * * * *

An old Dutch Bible of the Glen-Sanders family has the following account of the massacre, written at the time in Holland Dutch by a son or daughter of Captain Glen.

"1690. tusschen de 8 & 9 Februarie is de droovige mort gedaan hereop Schenectady by de Franse en haar Wildes: — alles verdes treurt en Verbrant * * * op 5 huysen naer maer; maer op Schotieage neen quaet gedaen by akpresse order van haer governeur, Voor het goet doet myn grootvader mynvader en Oem aan een gevange paep priest & verscheiden anderen gevangen gedaen hadde in de oorlogh tussche onse Wildet & de Franse."

Following is a translation:

"1690 — between February 8 and 9 the regrettable murder has been committed here at Schenectady by the French and their savages; everything destroyed and burned * * * but for five houses; but in Scotia no harm was done by the express order of their Governor. For the good my grandfather, my father and uncle did to a captured papist priest and several other prisoners in the war between our savages and the French."

"Schotieage" is Scotia. The writer's "grootvader" (grandfather) was Alexander Lindsay Glen, known to the Hollanders of Schenectady as Sander Leenderste Glen. "Mynvader" was the writer's father, Capt. Johannes Glen, and his "oem" (uncle) was Sander Glen. The "good" these Glens did the French priest and other prisoners consisted in assisting them to escape or in saving them from torture, as related in prior chapters.

The best detailed description of the Schenectady massacre and the burning of the town is contained in "An account of the most remarkable occurrences in Canada from the departure of the vessels, from the month of November 1689, to the month of November 1690. By Mons. De Monseignat, Comptroller General of the Marine in Canada." This was written to Madame De Maintenon, the morganatic wife of Louis XIV. It is found in Vol. I, page 297, "Documentary History of New York" (edition of 1849). M. De Monseignat's translated description follows:

"The orders received by M. le Comte (de Frontenac) to commence hostilities against New England and New York, which had declared for the Prince of Orange, afforded him considerable pleasure, and were very necessary for the country. He allowed no more time to elapse before carrying them into execution than was required to send off some despatches to France — immediately after which he determined to organize three different detachments, to attack those rebels at all points at the same moment, and to punish them at various places for having afforded protection to our enemies, the Mohawks. The first party was to rendezvous at Montreal, and proceed towards Orange [Albany]; the second at Three Rivers, and to make a descent on New York at some place between Boston and Orange; and the third was to depart from Quebec, and gain the seaboard between Boston and Pentagouet verging toward Acadia. They all succeeded perfectly well and I shall communicate to you the details. * * * The detachment which formed at Montreal, may have been composed of about two hundred and ten men, namely: eighty savages from the Sault (Caughnawaga) and from La Montagne; sixteen Algonquins; and the remainder Frenchmen — all under the command of the Sieur Le Moyne de Sainte Helene, and Lieutenant Daillebout de Mantet, both of whom are Canadians. The Sieurs le Moyne d' Iberville and Repentigny de Montesson commanded under these. The best qualified Frenchmen were, the Sieurs le Bonrepos and de La Brosse, Calvinist officers, the Sieur la Moyne de Blainville, Le Bert du Chene, and la Marque de Montigny, who all served as volunteers. * * *

"After having marched for the course of five or six days, they called a council to determine the route they should follow and the point they should attack.

"The Indians demanded of the French what was their intention. Messieurs de Saint Helene and Mantet replied that they had left in the hope of attacking Orange [Albany], if possible, as it is the Capital of New York and a place of considerable importance, though they had no orders to that effect, but generally to act according as they should judge on the spot of their chances of success, without running too much risk. This appeared to the savages somewhat rash. They represented the difficulties and weakness of the party for so bold an undertaking. There was even one among them who, his mind filled with the disasters which he had witnessed last year, enquired of our Frenchmen, 'since when had they become so desperate?' In reply to their raillery, 'twas answered that it was our intention, now, to regain the honor of which our misfortunes had deprived us, and the sole means to accomplish that was to carry Orange, or to perish in so glorious an enterprise.

"As the Indians, who had an intimate acquaintance with the localities, and more experience than the French, could not be brought to agree with the latter, it was determined to postpone coming to a conclusion until the party should arrive at the spot where the two routes separate — the one leading to Orange [Albany] and the other to Corlaer [Schenectady]. In the course of the journey, which occupied eight days, the Frenchmen judged proper to diverge towards Corlaer, according to the advice of the Indians; and this road was taken without calling a new council. Nine days elapsed before they arrived, having experienced inconceivable difficulties, and having been obliged to march up to their knees in water, and to break the ice with their feet in order to find a solid footing.

"They arrived within two leagues of Corlaer about four o'clock in the evening, and were harangued by the great Mohawk chief [Kryn] of the Iroquois from the Sault [Caughnawaga on the St. Lawrence above Montreal]. He urged all to perform their duty, and to lose all recollections of their fatigue, in the hope of taking ample revenge for the injuries they had received from the Iroquois at the solicitation of the English, and of washing them out in the blood of the traitors. This savage was without contradiction the most considerable of his tribe — an honest man — as full of spirit, prudence and generosity as it was possible, and capable, at the same time, of the grandest undertakings. Shortly after, four Squaws were discovered in a wigwam who gave every information necessary for the attack on the town. The fire found in their hut served to warm those who were benumbed, and they continued their route, having previously detached Giguieres, a Canadian, with nine Indians, on the lookout. They discovered no one, and returned to join the main body within one league of Corlaer.

"At eleven of the clock that night, they came within sight of the town, resolved to defer the assault until two o'clock of the morning. But the excessive cold admitted of no further delay.

"The town of Corlaer [Schenectady] forms a sort of oblong with only two gates — one opposite the road we had taken; the other leading to Orange [Albany], which is only six leagues distant. Messieurs de Sainte Helene and de Mantet were to enter the first which the squaws pointed out, and which in fact was found wide open. Messieurs d'Iberville and de Montesson took the left with another detachment, in order to make them masters of that leading to Orange. But they could not discover it and returned to join the remainder of the party. A profound silence was everywhere observed, until the two commanders, who separated at their entrance into the town for the purpose of encircling it, had met at the other extremity.

"The signal of attack was given Indian fashion, and the entire force rushed on simultaneously. M. de Mantet placed himself at the head of a detachment and reached a small fort where the garrison was under arms. The gate was burst in after a good deal of difficulty, the whole set on fire and all who defended the place slaughtered.

"The sack of the town began a moment before the attack on the fort. Few houses made any resistance. M. de Montigny discovered some which he attempted to carry, sword in hand, having tried the musket in vain. He received two thrusts of a spear — one in the body and the other in the arm. But M. de Saint Helene, having come to his aid effected an entrance and put every one who defended the place to the sword. The Massacre lasted two hours. The remainder of the night was spent in placing sentinels and taking some repose.

"The house of the Minister was ordered to be saved so as to take him alive to obtain information from him; but, as it was not known, it was not spared any more than the others. He was slain and his papers burnt before he could be recognized.

"At daybreak, some men were sent to the dwelling of M. Coudre [Captain Johannes Glen] who was the major of the place. He was not willing to surrender and began to put himself on the defensive with his servants and some Indians; but, as it was resolved not to do him any harm, in consequence of the good treatment that the French had formerly experienced at his hands, M. d'Iberville and the great Mohawk proceeded thither alone, promised him quarter for himself, his people and his property, whereupon he laid down his arms on parole, entertaining them in his fort and returned with them to see the commandants of the town.

"In order to occupy the savages, who would otherwise have taken to drink and thus rendered themselves unable for defence, the houses had already been set on fire. None were spared but one house belonging to Coudre [Glen] and that of a widow [Bratt] who had six children whither M. de Montigny had been carried when wounded. All the rest were consumed. The lives of between fifty and sixty persons, were spared, old men, women and children, they having escaped the first fury of the attack. Some twenty Mohawks were also spared, in order to show them that it was the English and not they against whom the grudge was entertained. The loss in houses, cattle, and grain amounts to more than four hundred thousand livres. There were upwards of eighty well built and well furnished houses in the town.

"The return march commenced with thirty prisoners. The wounded, who were to be carried, and the plunder, with which all the Indians and some Frenchmen were loaded, caused considerable inconvenience. Fifty good horses were brought away. Sixteen only of these reached Montreal. The remainder were killed for food on the road.

"Sixty leagues from Corlaer the Indians began to hunt, and, the French, not being able to wait for them, being short of provisions, continued their route, having detached Messieurs d'Iberville and Du Chesne with two savages before them to Montreal. On the same day, some Frenchmen, who doubtless were very much fatigued, lost their way. Fearful that they should be obliged to keep up with the main body and believing themselves in safety having eighty Indians in their rear, they were found missing from the camp. They were waited for the next day until eleven o'clock, but in vain and no account has since been received of them.

"Two hours after, forty men more left the main body without acquainting their commander, continued their route by themselves, and arrived within two leagues of Montreal one day ahead, so that there were not more than fifty or sixty men together. The evening on which they should have arrived at Montreal, being extremely fatigued from fasting and bad roads, the rear fell away from M. de Saint Helene, who was in front with an Indian guide, and who could not find a place suitable for camping nearer than three or four leagues of the spot where he expected to halt. He was not rejoined by M. de Mantet and the others until far advanced in the night. Seven have not been found. Next day on parade, about ten o'clock in the forenoon, a soldier arrived who announced that they had been attacked by fourteen or fifteen savages and that six [Frenchmen] had been killed. The party proceeded, somewhat afflicted by this accident, and arrived at Montreal at 3 o'clock p. m.

"Such, Madame, is the account of what passed at the taking of Corlaer. The French lost twenty-one men, namely four Indians and seventeen Frenchmen. Only one Indian and one Frenchman were killed at the capture of the town. The others were lost on the road."

An interesting account of the massacre from the American side is that contained in a book in the office of the county clerk of Albany County, entitled "Mortgages B." It gives the following account of Schermerhorn's arrival at Albany, with the news of the massacre and burning of Schenectady:

"Albany, ye 9th day of February 1690
Die Sabbathi

"This morning, about 5 o'clock ye alarm was brought here by Symon Schermerhoorn who was shott threw his Thigh yt ye french and Indians had murthered the people of Skinnechtady; haveing got into ye Towne about 11 or 12 a Clock there being no Watch Kept (ye Inhabitants being so negligent & Refractory) and yt he had much a doe to Escape they being very numerous. They fyred severall times at him at last throw his Thigh and wounded his horse and was come over Cantagione (Niskayuna) to bring ye news. * * *

"Severall ye People haveing Escaped ye Cruelty of ye french and there Indians came Running here & told us ye Village was a fyre and yt they had much a doe to Ecape for all ye streets were full of french and Indians & yt many People were murthered and yt ye enemy were marching hither which news was Continually Confirmed till afternoon. * * *

"Some horse men sent out to Discover ye Enemies force and there march but were forced to Return ye snow being so Deep yet some were sent out again who got thither. Lawrence ye Indian with ye Maquase yt were in Towne were sent out also to Skinnechtady to Dispatch posts to ye Maquase Castles for all ye Indians to come downe, but unhappily sad Indians comeing to Skinnechtady were so much amazed to see so many People murthered and Destroyed that they omitted ye sending up to ye Maquase Castles according to there Engagement While ye Enemy was at N. Scotia a man came to Ensign Joh: Sander Glen and said he would goe to ye Maquase Castles and warn ye Maquase to come downe who was ordered to goe in all haste but comeing to ye Upper Plantations went for fear along with some of ye oyr Inhabitants into ye Woods and never went to ye Maquase Castles, this night we gott a letter from Skinnechtady Informing us yt ye Enemy yt had done yt mischieffe there were about one hundred and fifty or 200 men but that there were 1400 men in all. One army for Albany & anoyr for Sopus (Kingston) which hindered much ye marching of any force out of ye Citty fearing yt ye enemy might watch such an opportunity."

On February 10th, the Albany Convention, of which Captain Bull was a member, issued orders to the Captain to go to Schenectady with a detachment of soldiers to bury the dead and render what aid he could and, if possible, to join what Mohawks would go out and pursue the enemy. Fifty Albany militiamen and 150 Mohawks formed the pursuing party, which left Schenectady about February 12th. The Americans and Indians nearly caught up with the enemy, who escaped by hitching their captured horses to sleds on Lake Champlain and thus outdistanced the pursuers, who had been previously gaining rapidly upon them. The following old Albany record tells of this pursuit:

"Albany ye 22 day of february 1690.

"Symon Van Ness and Andries Barents who went out ye first with ye Maquaese returning told; they had Pursued ye Enemy to ye great Lake & would have overtaken them had they not been spyed by some of ye Enemy Indians that went out to looke for 2 Negroe boys, yt were Runn away from them, & yt ye Indians & Christians were all Tyred when they came to ye Croune Point neer ye Lake; some went further till they came to where ye Ise was Smoth; where the french had with horses that they carried from Skinnechtady & Skeets and Yse Spurrs, made all the way they could over ye Lake in so much that our People could gain nothing upon them; whereas at first they went 2 of there days journeys in one; nevertheless Laurence ye Maquase and about 140 Mohogs are gone in Pursuite of them, & will follow them quite to Canida."

The subsequent encounter, between the parties of French stragglers and this pursuing war party, is told in a letter from Mr. Van Cortlandt to Sir Edmond Andros, as follows:

"About 150 Indians and 50 young men off Albany followed the French overtook them upon the lake killed some and tooke 15 Frenchmen, which the Indians [Mohawks] have killed in their castles; the french Indians have killed eight or ten people at Conestagione [Niskayuna], which has made the whole country in an alarm, and the people leave their plantations. Most of the Albany Wood men are att New Yorke. Arent Schuyler went with eight Indians to Chambly, killed 2 and took 1 Frenchman prisoner."

The Schenectady massacre was the subject of important correspondence between the two political factions in the Province of New York — the Leislerites and the Anti-Leislerites — and leading officials of the American Colonies and England. Concerning it, Leisler wrote to Maryland, to Governor Bradstreet of Boston, to the Governor of the Barbadoes and the Bishop of Salisbury. Of the Anti-Leislerites, Mr. Van Cortlandt wrote to Sir Edmund Andros, and Mr. Livingston to Captain Nicholson.

Frontenac's savage warfare was the subject of discussion in London as well as in the towns of the American Colonies, while the butchery of the "heretics" of Schenectady was a matter of congratulation in the court circles of France.

As the Albany people were at odds with the Leisler government of New York, they turned to the strong colony of Massachusetts in their peril and distress. Peter Schuyler, mayor of Albany, and Justices Wessels and Van Rensselaer, on February 15, 1690, addressed Governor Bradstreet and his Council. Their letter described the massacre of Schenectady and the attitude of the Mohawks regarding it and ended with an appeal for all the English colonies to unite and crush Canada. What the Mohawks had to say on the subject was most interesting. In this regard, the letter runs as follows:

"As soon as the Maquase of ye first and 2d Castle came downe and see ye Ruins of Shinnechtady were Verry much griev'd The 2 Principall Captns said to Mr Wessels and some oyr gent. yt were sent from Albany to Dispatch ye Christians and Indians away in Pursute of ye french. 'Now you see your Blood spilt, and this is ye beginning of ye miseries if not suddenly Prevented. Therefore write to all them that are in Covenant with us Vizt. New England, Virginia and all ye English Plantaçons of America to make all Readinesse to master Canida early in the Spring with Great Shipps Else you can not live in Peace You say ye King is a great king, and you are very numerous here in this Country farr above ye french you are so But now is the time to show it, else ye more you are ye greater shame it is to suffer ye french to be master; and then we and all the 5 nations yes all ye farr nations must acknowledge ym for a great People and master of ye french if you now Subdue it. But hitherto we see ye french are the Souldiers they have been at ye northwest and killed ye English there; They have killed ye Indians at ye Sinnekes Country and now they come here and kill ye Dutch * * * * They are Victorious wherever they goe. Them of N. England have told us they would Destroy Canida, we have much Depended upon there great Promises since we know they are Potent Enough to doe it, & now we know there is open warr. If we are but assured yt ye English would minde theree Interest now and make Ready against ye spring we would keep them in alarm, we must goe hand in hand and Destroy the french, we hope yt ye Governr with men is come which you have often told us off. You told us also yt ye king of England was so Potent that he had Blokt up the french havens; yet ye french govr is come & we hear nothing of yours. In ye mean time we goe out now with Sixty Maquase of ye first & 2d Castle 25 River Indians Besides ye Christians and above 100 men of ye 3d Castle are comeing to morrow, we will Pursue ye Enemy and doubt not but to overtake them too; and Rescue ye Prisoners."

This was but the beginning of a number of instances, during the ensuing seventy years, when the Mohawks used words of wisdom in counseling with the Americans of New York Province and their English governors with regard to the military policy of the Province against the French on the St. Lawrence. The next seventy-five years forms an amazing record of division, jealousy and inefficiency on the part of the English Colonies which is almost unparalleled in history. Only the smallness of New France and her armies prevented the conquest of America from the English. The French were everywhere aggressive and spread their empire and their influence from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico. The people of the English Colonies clung to the Atlantic seacoast and shuddered at the prospect of French invasion, although they outnumbered the Canadians twenty to one. It is a wonder that the English retained the alliance of the Iroquois, during this long period of time, when their inefficiency and disunion was so plainly evident. Only the numbers and wealth of the Americans saved them, together with the fidelity of the Mohawks, who we have just witnessed beginning their waste of wisdom on a people with whom unpreparedness has always been a national vice.

On February 27, 1690, the Governor and Council of Massachusetts at Boston, replied to "ors of the 15th instant bringing the sad and Solemn News of the desolation of Schinectedy, and the barbarous cruelties exercised towards the people of that place." The New Englanders bewailed the divisions which made the Schenectady horror possible and expressed their determination to be always ready to unite against the common enemy. On the same day they wrote a letter to Captain Bull, commanding the Connecticut company at Albany, in which they said: "The Lord inspire you and the Citizens with the Courage, Prudence and Unanimity, as not to think of deserting so important and defensible a Post as Albany is; the hinge upon which in a great measure the weight of our present New England affairs doth turn." They were also much concerned over the allegiance of the Five Nations and appreciative of the news sent them by the Albany Convention.

In the previous speech of the Mohawk chief to the Albany Convention we have seen how he spoke of "all ye English Plantaçons of America."

This speech and this correspondence is interesting as showing that the name "America" was already in use as a generic term covering all the English Colonies of the Atlantic Coast. In the letter to Captain Bull, Governor Bradstreet says that "The America, a ship of near two hundred Tunns is near ready to sail for London." The name "America" was not only in use at this and earlier periods, but the American idea had already taken root in the Colonies and, in spite of their divisions, the majority of the people felt themselves one land and one nation, to a very large degree.

When the history of these remarkable years of dangerous disunion in America is plainly written it will probably be found that the politicians, as always, were largely responsible for a state of Colonial affairs most dangerous to this American idea of unity. In fact, American independence would not have been won when it was won, had not the American people learned the principles and necessity of union in the bitter lessons of the Great French War of 1754-60. It was the French who taught America the principle of union by barbarities such as that of Schenectady. The tale of the horrors of Schenectady, Salmon Falls and Casco Bay was spread throughout "America" and the Colonists of every race vowed vengeance and the destruction of the French. The Schenectady massacre and similar incursions and the resultant frequent union of counsel and union of arms of the American Colonists against the French taught the Americans that "in Union there is Strength", and that, without union, "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" were impossible. Many of the subsequent events, which are seemingly unrelated, were in reality and unwittingly actual steps toward American independence and should be considered as such. Schenectady's massacre was one of these, as it gave the Americans of the Colonies the desire to unite against a common enemy, while the details of the horrors of the massacre only made the feeling of brotherhood the stronger. Strange as it may seem, it took nearly three-quarters of a century of bitter lessons similar to those of Schenectady to make this desire for union effective. The Schenectady massacre has generally been historically considered in the light of a local catastrophe, but it was, in reality, the first bitter lesson in the need of union and of united Colonies, and it attracted notice in London and Paris as well as in America. Our valley also furnished a strong object lesson in the necessity for American union which was constantly before the eyes of the Colonists and which was frequently a subject of discussion by our Colonial forefathers. This was the Iroquois Confederacy or the League of Five Nations, which the traditions of all the New York Iroquois agree was formed or inaugurated here along the Mohawk. As the Mohawks originally created the Confederacy, so were they its strongest exponents, and as they were the neighbors of the Dutch and English authorities of Albany, they became the most influential object lesson to the American Colonists of the successful results of a union of different bodies of people with a common national heritage. The example of the Five Nations had a great influence upon the creation of the United States of America — a historical fact which is now generally acknowledged.

These observations upon the national influence of the Schenectady massacre are pertinent here, because these same general ideas were subjects of discussion among the American Colonists following this baptism of blood in the Mohawk Valley, which ushered in the ten years of King William's War in America.

Following the Schenectady massacre, New England and New York prepared for vengeance against Canada, with the usual futile results, which will be noted later.

* * * * *

The days following the burning of Schenectady were not only most tragic for the survivors, but they were vitally important to the future history of our Mohawk Valley.

The Schenectady settlers who were spared at or who escaped from the massacre probably did not exceed one hundred people. About fifty of these remained or returned at once to the sites of their homes among the smoldering ruins. These courageous survivors found shelter in the two houses which had been spared, as well as in Glen's house and barns in Scotia, and, probably, in huts hastily made from the debris. It was a matter of debate as to whether Schenectady should be rebuilt or the exposed settlement should be abandoned. The braver spirit won out and the Mohawks gave encouragement to the plan to remain and fight it out. A spokesman of a Mohawk delegation addressed a council of the leading men of Albany and Schenectady at Albany on February 25, 1690. The "whole house" he speaks of refers to the Iroquois Long House, a figurative term for the League of Five Nations. The Mohawks guarded the eastern gate of this Long House, while the Senecas guarded the western. The Mohawk orator spoke, in part, as follows, in the interpreted language of the old account:

"Brethren: — Wee are sory and Extreamly grieved for ye murther Lately Committed by ye french upon our Brethren of Shinnectady wee Esteem this evill as if done to ourselfs being all in one Covenant chain * * * *

"We Lament and Condole the death of so many of our brethren so basely murthered at Shinnectady, we cannot accompt it a great victory for itt is done by way of Deceit.

"Brethren: — Doe not be discouraged this is butt a beginning of ye Warr we are strong enough the whole house have there Eyes fixed upon yrs and they only stay your motion and will bee ready to doe whatever shall be resolved upon by our Brethren. * * *

"Wee Recommend ye brethren to keep good watch and if any Enemies come take care yt messengers be more speedily sent to us than lately was done we would not advise ye brethren quite to desert Shinnectady but to make a fort there. The Enemy would be too glorious to see it quite desolate and yr Towne is not well fortifyed ye Stockades are so short ye Indians can jump over them like a dogg."

It is probable that these Mohawk words had their influence on the decision of the settlers to rebuild Schenectady, which work was immediately begun and which subject is covered in the next chapter. Even if the majority of the pioneers had decided to abandon the town, it is probable that some of the more intrepid of the people (such as Glen) would have remained and continued the settlement, as well as some of the braver farmers in the Mohawk River district west of Schenectady, which had been untouched by this foray. However, many former settlers, who escaped the massacre, deserted the place and moved elsewhere. Schenectady had suffered a blow from which it took her ten years to recover.

* * * * *

The following is a record of the people who were killed or taken prisoner in the Schenectady massacre, taken from the Documentary History of New York (1849), Vol. I, page 304.

List of Ye People Kild and Destroyed

By ye French of Canida and there Indians at Skinnechtady twenty-miles to ye westward of Albany between Saturday and Sunday ye 9th day of February, 1690.

In all 60

Lyst of ye persones which ye French and there Indians have taken prisoners att Skinnechtady and caried to Canida ye 9th day of February 1690:

In all 27

According to the above figures of the garrison of 24 Connecticut soldiers, only four were killed and three taken prisoner. The other seventeen men must have escaped from the town during the turmoil of the massacre, as did a number of the citizens.

The succeeding chapter relates to the rebuilding of Schenectady and its history as well as that of the lower Mohawk Valley, during the period from the massacre in 1690 to the end of King William's War in 1697 and the beginning of Queen Anne's War in 1701.

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