This page conforms to the XHTML standard and uses style sheets. If your browser doesn't support these, you may not see the page as designed, but all the text is still accessible to you.


Bringing the heritage of Schenectady County, New York to the world since 1996

You are here: Home » Resources » MVGW Home » Chapter 64

History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 64: 1777, Aug. 2-22, Siege of Fort Stanwix.

[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 850-884 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

Contents | Biographies | Illustrations | Maps | Portraits

Go back to: Chapter 63 | ahead to: Chapter 65

Account of the march of St. Leger's army from Oswego to Fort Stanwix and investment of the fort, by Col. Daniel Claus — Narrative of Lieutenant Colonel Marinus Willett — Diary of William Colbraith, a soldier of the garrison, from April 17 to August 22, 1777 — Making and raising of America's first battle flag — Thrilling incidents of the siege — Relief by Gen. Arnold's American brigade, August 23, 1777.

The following description of the investment and siege of Fort Stanwix by 1200 English, Tory and German troops, and Indians, under the command of Col. Barry St. Leger, is taken from "Oneida County" [i.e., Our County and Its People; a Descriptive Work on Oneida County, New York] by Daniel E. Wager. Judge Wager was a distinguished citizen of Rome and probably is the historical writer who is best informed as to the exact positions of the British camp and of the movements connected with the siege of Fort Stanwix.

Judge Wager's account follows, omitting quotations, for the sake of added clearness:

* * * * *

This chapter embodies an account of events which, in their results, more vitally affected the destiny of this county (Oneida) and of the nation than any others in their history. The territory embraced in this county was, more than a century ago, the theater of passing events which then and there practically decided the question whether the thirteen American colonies, then struggling for independence, were to continue as dependencies of Great Britain, or were to become the first and probably the only republic on this continent. Within this territory the battle was fought and won which practically settled that question; hence it is fair to assume that the student of local history will desire to be informed in detail of each step in the progress of events which gave this county of ours [Oneida] such paramount historica1 interest.

In a former chapter is outlined the plan of the British for their campaign of 1777. With the Burgoyne movement up Lakes Champlain and George, across the country to the Hudson and down that stream until the army met its fate on the field of Saratoga, this chapter has very little to do. But the expedition of St. Leger from La Chine, near Montreal, up the St. Lawrence to Lake Ontario, and thence to Oneida Lake and Wood Creek to Fort Stanwix, with the purpose of meeting Burgoyne at Albany, is of the greatest local importance and historical interest.

Sir John Johnson was with this expedition, and a copy of his Orderly Book is before the writer. This Orderly Book was captured by Colonel Willett when he made his sortie at the siege of Fort Stanwix. The troops to accompany the expedition were of the 8th regiment and of the 34th, each of 100 men, Sir John Johnson's regiment, 133, and, as was intended 342 Hanau Chasseurs. In the Orderly Book, date of June 20, 1777, is this order:

"Forty-eight batteaux to be delivered to the Royal Regiment (8th), 45 felling axes, and 3 broad axes; 75 felling axes and 2 broad axes to the 34th regiment. The 8th regiment to take 440 barrels of provisions, allowing 10 bbls. each for 44 batteaus; the rum or brandy to be put for security in the officer's boats. The 8th reg't to be completed with 14 days provisions, commencing Saturday, June 21st."

On the 21st is this order:

"Forty boats to contain 400 bbls of provisions, and 7 of rum; the remainder to be left at St. Leger's quarters."

Lieutenant-Colonel St. Leger was to command and accompany this expedition, and Sir John Johnson and Colonel Claus, his brother-in-law, subordinates. Colonel Claus, under date of October 16, 1777, after the expedition was over, wrote to the home government as follows:

"On the 23d of June I set out from La Chine near Montreal. The Brigadier was getting the artillery boats ready to take in 2 sixes, two 3's, and four coharon (being our artillery for the expedition) was to follow the day after, and proceeded for an island destined for our rendezvous in the entrance of Lake Ontario, called Buck (Carleton) Island, in company with Sir John Johnson and his regiment. In my way thither I collected a body of 150 Missagues (a Huron Clan of Indians) and six nation of Indians. The foregoing Indians the Brigadier intended should accompany him on an Alert to Fort Stanwix by a short cut thro' the woods from the mouth of the Salmon River, about 20 miles from Oswego, in order to surprise the garrison, and take it with small arms. Between 60 and 70 leagues from Montreal, the reconnoitering party I sent to Fort Stanwix returned and met me with five prisoners (one lieutenant) and four scalps, having defeated a working party of 16 rebels as they were cutting sods toward repairing and finishing the old fort, which is garrisoned by upward of 600 men — the repairs far advanced and the rebels expecting us, and were acquainted with our strength and route. The Brig. was about 15 leagues in our rear; on reaching Buck island, he admitted our artillery was insufficient, if the rebels intended to defend themselves in their fort. Here he had opportunity of sending for a better train of artillery, he was, however still on the alert. We arrived at Buck Island July 8th."

This expedition remained at Buck Island until the 19th of July. On the 17th an order appears on Sir John's Orderly Book for forty days' provisions for 500 men, by which it is argued by the British authorities that not more than 500 men, Indians and all, were with St. Leger until he reached Oswego, where an addition of Indians was made to his force. On the 18th of July the Orderly Book had the following entry:

"The 8th and 34th regiments will receive 10 boats each for their men and 20 days provisions; the officers allowed a proper portion for their baggage on their way to Oswego. The corps of Canadians will move at same time and carry 20 days provisions to shut any possibility of want of provisions from delay, etc. The artillery to carry 20 days provisions for their own detachment. The artillery, the chasseurs, officers and Rangers of the Indian department and Canadians, to hold themselves in readiness to embark at four in the morning, to-morrow."

There is a hiatus in the Orderly Book from the above date until after Oswego was reached and passed, and until July 31st, when Oswego Falls (Fulton, Oswego county) was passed and the troops ready to proceed in boats up the Oswego River. The letter of October 16, 1777, from Colonel Claus, is continued as follows:

"The Brigadier [St. Leger] set out from Buck Island July 19, for Salmon river, I having been ordered to proceed to Oswego with Sir John's regiment and a company of chasseurs, lately arrived, there to convene and prepare the Indians to join the Brigadier at Fort Stanwix. I reached Oswego July 23d, and there found Brant, who informed me that his party of 300 Indians would be there the next day; and that having been more than two months upon service, were destitute of necessaries, ammunition and some arms. July 24th I received an express from St. Leger at Salmon River to repair there with what arms and vermillion I had, and wished I would come prepared for a march thro' the woods. I had no arms nor vermillion, but I prepared to go upon the march, and was ready to set off when Brant came to my tent and told me, that as no person was there to take care of the Indians with him, he apprehended that in case I should leave them, they would become disgusted and disperse, which might prevent the rest of the six nations to assemble, and be hurtful to the expedition, and begged I would first represent these circumstances to the Brig. by letter. The Brig. had mentioned by letter to me, that my going was chiefly intended to quiet the Indians with him, who were very drunk and riotous; Capt. Tice, the messenger, informed me that the Brig. had ordered a quart of rum apiece, which made them beastly drunk, and in which case, it is not in the power of man to quiet them; so I mentioned these suggestions to him of Brant; upon which, and finding the Indians disapproved of my going, the Brig, came away from Salmon river, and arrived at Oswego the next day, with the companies of the 8th and 34th regiments and about 250 Indians.

On the 26th of July the expedition left Oswego with the purpose of meeting at Three River Point such other Indians as were expected to join. On the 31st, after reaching Oswego Falls, around which it required three days to transport the baggage and guns, the following entry was made in the Orderly Book:

"The detachment of the Royal artillery, and the company of Canadians are to take in their loading immediately; each Capt. boat to carry four bbls. — 10 lieut. boats five bbls. each, private boats six each, and to hold themselves in readiness to embark at 2 P. M."

There is no entry in the Orderly Book after the above date.

After leaving Oswego St. Leger sent in advance a small detachment of thirty men of the regular troops under Colonel Bird (who was killed in the battle of Oriskany), to proceed to Fort Stanwix, cut the communications of the garrison with their friends down the valley, and capture the supply boats then on their way to the fort with supplies. From the diary of Colonel Bird, which was captured by Colonel Willett on his sortie from the fort, as detailed later on, the following entries are taken. Colonel Bird evidently expected an ambuscade.

"Tuesday, July 29, 1777: After going two miles and no savages coming up, waited two hours for them. Sixteen Senecas arriving proceeded to Three Rivers; waited there two hours; 70 or 80 Indians came up; they had stolen two oxen from the droves of the army, and would not advance, but stayed to feast. I advanced seven miles farther without them — in all 19 miles.

"Wed., July 30: Set off next morning at six, having waited for the savages till that time, tho' none arrived. Ordered the boats to keep 70 rods behind each other — half of the men keeping arms in their hands, while the others rowed; ordered that if any of the boats were fired upon, the men should jump ashore. Rowed all night, encamped at Nine Mile Point, probably Bernhard's Bay.

"Thursday, July 31st: With 27 Senecas and nine Hurons, joined Mr. Nair's party. Many savages being with us, we proceeded to Wood Creek, a march of 15 miles.

"Friday, Aug. 1st: The savages hinted an intention to send parties to Fort Stanwix, but to proceed no farther in a body. I called a council of the Chiefs, and told them of my orders to go to the fort, and if they would not go with me, I should take the white men and go; the Hurons said they would go with me. The Senecas said it was their way to proceed with caution. I told them I would wait until next morning at daybreak, and then certainly go. They said they would send out large scouts to prepare the way; accordingly 18 or 20 set off this evening."

The Indians were very insubordinate and intractable, demonstrating the embarrassment that often arose in attempting to employ them with regular troops. It was owing to the acts of the Indians that Colonel Bird was prevented from reaching the fort in time to intercept and capture the supply boats * * *. On Saturday, the 2nd of August, Colonel Bird reached the fort and immediately wrote back to St. Leger, who had arrived at Nine Mile Point. He wrote that no savages would advance with him, except two of the Six Nations. "Twelve Hurons came up two or three hours after I had left; those with the scout of fifteen, I mentioned in my last, are sufficient to invest Fort Stanwix, if you favor me so far as not to order me to the contrary." St. Leger at once replied as follows:

"You will observe that I will have nothing but an investment of the fort; and to enable you to do it with greater effect, I send Brant with his Indians to re-enforce you; and in case the enemy observing the discretion and judgment with which it is made, should offer to capitulate, you are to tell them, you are sure I am well disposed to listen to them. I leave here at 11 this A. M. and shall reach the entrance to Wood Creek (15 miles) early in the afternoon."

The foregoing extract indicates how confident St. Leger was of success and how little he realized the terrible earnestness of the garrison and of the colonies. Not unlikely he had heard so much from the tory leaders of the imbecility and cowardice of the "rebels" and of their willingness to lay down their arms and join the king's troops, if they dared, he expected to capture the fort without firing a gun.

After St. Leger left Oswego, the expedition was "shadowed" all the way to Wood Creek by friendly runners from the Oneidas, who kept the garrison daily and almost hourly advised of the progress of the advancing foe. When Wood Creek was reached the enemy found the channel completely blocked by trees fallen into it by orders of Colonel Gansevoort. A hundred and fifty of the garrison were fourteen days in cutting down those trees, thus forcing St. Leger's troops to travel through the forest by an Indian path. In his report of the expedition St. Leger says that it took 110 of his men nine days to clear Wood Creek of the trees and that before he could get his cannon and munitions, with seven days' provisions, from Oneida Lake to the fort, he had to cut a road through the woods sixteen miles long, and that it took two days to do this.

On Saturday, August 2d, the fort was formally invested by Colonel Bird and by Brant, who had been sent in advance of the main body. On Sunday forenoon following, St. Leger and the remainder of the forces reached the site of Fort Bull at the lower landing of Wood Creek. At that point the troops formed in line and marched to the upper landing, the site of the old U. S. Arsenal. From that point to the fort was an open plain in full view of the soldiers on the rampart. The first heard by the garrison was martial music and then the columns appeared in sight. The garrison was paraded on the ramparts to watch the coming of the enemy. Onward they marched, deploying as they approached, while the Indians spread themselves out on the flanks, with feathers fluttering in their head-gear and tomahawks glistening in their hands, their yells at times drowning the sound of the bugle and the drum. The bright scarlet uniforms of the regulars, taken out fresh that morning, the banners and flags waving in the air as the march proceeded, the shimmer of the rifles in the sun and the precision of the military tread of the trained were all calculated to strike terror to the hearts of the garrison. But the spectacle had a contrary effect. They knew that they need not expect mercy at the hands of the invaders, and that they must defend to the last extremity the fort entrusted to their charge. The garrison watched in silence the oncoming of the foe. Not a gun was fired, not a shout of defiance was heard, and stillness reigned. It was Sabbath, and the silence of the garrison compared with the solemnity of the day. The men on the ramparts were intent upon counting the number of the besiegers. A flag of truce was sent into the fort by St. Leger demanding surrender, which was promptly refused. The 4th and 5th of August were occupied by St. Leger in cutting out a road and getting his cannon from Oneida Lake. On Monday, the 4th, active hostilities began. During that day and the next Indians concealed themselves behind stumps and trees to pick off those who were on the ramparts making repairs. Both evenings were passed by the Indians in spreading themselves through the woods, crossing the river and encircling the fort, making the nights hideous with their yells. It was uncertain what would be attempted in the dead of night by the savages in their greed for scalps, and hence the garrison took no rest. St. Leger established his headquarters on the eminence now occupied by St. Peter's church, 600 yards northeast of the fort, and there he planted his cannon, with which he intended to drive out the garrison or batter down the walls of the fortification.

Over the brow of the hill, where the batteries were placed, the camps and tents of St. Leger were located, within easy distance of the cool spring of water which then and for half a century thereafter gushed forth from the hillside and formed the small stream that flowed past and near the fort; this stream has passed into history as "Spring Brook." Following down the Mohawk and near the bend in the river below where the railroad bridge [in 1896] crosses it, Sir John Johnson with his tories and chasseurs was posted, while, between that encampment and the fort and on both sides of the river, Brant and his Indians were located with license to roam at will through the woods surrounding the fort. A part of St. Leger's troops were encamped on Wood Creek near the site of the United States Arsenal. It will thus be seen how effectually the garrison was surrounded by the implacable and savage enemy.

On the evening of Tuesday, August 5, the sentinels on the ramparts observed that a large body of the Indians and some of Sir John's forces were moving in the direction of Oriskany along the edge of the woods, and early the next morning other men from Brant's and Sir John's camps were seen hurrying eastward. The cause of these movements was involved in mystery to the garrison.

The foregoing from "Wager's History of Oneida County" [i.e., Our county and its people: a descriptive work on Oneida County, New York] covers the investment of Fort Stanwix on August 2nd, 1777, and its siege up to the day of the battle of Oriskany, Wednesday, August 6th, 1777. The battle of Oriskany is described in an earlier chapter, while the siege is given in full in "Willett's Narrative" and the very interesting "Diary of William Colbraith," which follow.

* * * * *

Willett's Narrative of the Siege of Fort Stanwix.

Under Chapter V of "Willett's Narrative," with its heading "Siege of Fort Stanwix," Col. Willett's son gives the following account which is among the most valuable documents we possess in relation to the Oriskany campaign and the defense of Fort Stanwix. Rev. William M. Willett compiled this account from written and oral descriptions given him by his father. Major Colbraith's diary, written at the time of the siege, and Willett's narrative are the two most interesting personal relations, of which we have knowledge, regarding this epochal struggle for possession of this frontier fortress.

Early in 1777 Colonel Willett was assigned to the command of the 5th New York Regiment, which was placed in garrison at Fort Constitution, near present Bear Mountain Station. On March 22d, 1777, Colonel Willett received an express from General McDougall, in command at Peekskill, saying that a British force had landed there and were burning and destroying property. Willett immediately set out with his command, sailed across the Hudson and joined McDougall. The latter seems to have been possessed of undue caution, to put it mildly, and refused to attack the enemy. After begging for a long time, Colonel Willett received permission to attack the British. In a fierce bayonet charge, the New York soldiers drove the British back to the shore and aboard their boats.

"Willett's Narrative," relative to the siege of Fort Stanwix and Colonel Willett's prominent part therein, follows:

The day after the hasty departure of the enemy from Peekskill, Colonel Willett returned with his troops to Fort Constitution, where he remained until the 18th of May, employed in disciplining his recruits. Having been ordered to remove to Fort Stanwix, he set out for Albany with his regiment on board of three sloops. He reached there on the 21st. From Albany he went to Schenectady and from there to Fort Stanwix; but from the number of loaded batteaux they had to take with them, they did not reach the fort until the 29th.

Upon Colonel Willett's arrival at Fort Stanwix, of which Colonel Gansevoort was the commandant and himself the second in command, the fort was in a weak and untenable state. The fort, built where the village of Rome now stands, about half a mile from the Erie Canal, was considered, at that early period, the principal key to the whole of the Mohawk country. It had been built, as we have seen, by General Stanwix, in the year 1758. It was a square fort, with four bastions, surrounded by a ditch of considerable width and depth, with a covert way and a glacis around three of its angles; the other being sufficiently secured by low and marshy ground. In front of the gate there had been a drawbridge covered by a salient angle, raised in front of it on the glacis. In the center of the ditch, a row of perpendicular pickets had been erected, with rows of horizontal pickets fixed around the ramparts under the embrasures. But, since the conclusion of the French War, the fort had fallen into decay, the ditch was filled up, the pickets had rotted and fallen down.

The engineer who had been employed to repair the fortifications was a French gentleman, but was wholly incompetent to his task. Instead of repairing the works after the manner of their original construction, which could easily have been done, — for, though in a state of decay, the principal outlines of the old fort were still sufficiently visible — the engineer sent out large parties to procure logs from a swamp. Having ordered them to be drawn near the fort, he began to erect them in the covert way, and not in the center of the ditch, where they had formerly been placed. After having, with much labour, procured the logs, it appeared that each log was seven feet longer than was necessary; the logs being seventeen feet in length when the pickets that were to be made of them only required ten feet. This blunder of the engineer, together with the general remissness he showed at so critical a moment, led Colonel Willett to suggest to Colonel Gansevoort the propriety of discharging him from the office he filled. Colonel Gansevoort, however, from the circumstance that the engineer had been appointed by the commander-in-chief of the northern department, General Schuyler, to superintend the fortifications, was reluctant to take this step.

The fortifications consequently continued to go on under the superintendence of the engineer. The barracks were repaired within the fort, and a large and commodious building, intended for that purpose, was erected a little beyond the foot of the glacis. But all these works were of secondary importance; indeed the barrack, out of the fort at the foot of the glacis, could be of no use in case of investment, but rather an injury. And so it actually proved; for the enemy set fire to this very building at a time when the wind, blowing fresh towards the fort, occasioned considerable inconvenience to the garrison. In the meanwhile, little was done to strengthen the fort, though there was every reason to expect the instant arrival of the enemy.

The anxiety of Colonel Willett, arising from a conviction of the incompetency of the engineer in connection with the critical state of the fort, led him closely to inspect the progress of the fortifications. The engineer had begun to erect a salient angle to cover the gate with two embrasures in it. He was also engaged in erecting pickets along the covert way. The pickets were placed about three feet from the parapet of the glacis. Two of them were framed together with cross pieces and formed a kind of port-hole, which was intended to be placed opposite the embrasures. But it soon appeared, from the manner in which the pickets were ranged, that the port holes, formed of pickets with cross pieces, would come opposite the neck of the embrasures. By this means, the salient angle would be rendered wholly useless. Colonel Willett, at an early stage of the work, noticed the error, but thought it best to let the engineer take his own course, until the line of pickets should be carried to that part of the salient angle, where they would be opposite to the embrasures. When the engineer reached this part of his work, his ignorance would be without the least covering; and yet he never discovered his error until the pickets were erected opposite the neck of the embrasures. Then, for the first time, he saw that all his labour in erecting the salient angle had been in vain; and that it could not be used without first knocking away the neck of the embrasures. The case being stated to Colonel Gansevoort, he directed Colonel Willett to arrest the engineer, which was accordingly done. He was permitted to repair to headquarters, a letter, at the same time, being sent to General Schuyler assigning the reasons of the arrest.

It was not until some time in the month of July that this step was taken. Information had already been received that the enemy was advancing toward the garrison. Scouts of Indians, belonging to the enemy, had been frequently discovered in the vicinity of the fort. The approach of the enemy and the prowling scouts of Indians had rendered it necessary to issue orders forbidding the garrison to go any distance from the fort or to fire any guns, which had previously been allowed, pigeons being very abundant in the neighboring woods.

Notwithstanding these orders and the precautions that were taken, Captain Gregg, whose story is so familiar and who belonged to Colonel Willett's regiment, taking with him one of his corporals, proceeded about two miles from the fort; when, supposing his gun would not be heard, he commenced shooting pigeons; but, being soon discovered by a scout from the enemy's Indians, both himself and his corporal were shot and tomahawked. Not far from the place where they were shot, two men were fishing, whose attention was attracted by the significant motions of a dog, who, running towards them, began to bark; he then ran back towards that part of the woods from whence he had issued, still continuing to bark and looking back as if entreating them to follow. The singular behavior of this faithful and affectionate animal induced the men to follow him and, by this means, they were led to the spot where Captain Gregg and the corporal lay weltering in their gore. Alarmed by so bloody and unexpected a spectacle, they hurried to the fort, and, having told what they had seen, a party was immediately sent out to bring in the bodies of the unfortunate men. The corporal was dead, but signs of life were still seen in the captain. His case was, however, extremely critical; as he had received a shot which entered his side, ran along near the middle of the back, passing near the spinal bone, just beyond which it went out. He had also been struck with a tomahawk on the head, when he was scalped. Doctor Woodruff, the surgeon of the regiment, dressed his wounds; and the unremitting attention which he paid him, after a few days, removed the most alarming symptoms, so that hopes began to be entertained that the captain would yet survive the terrible disaster. In about three weeks he was pronounced out of danger; and, as the enemy was expected in the course of a fortnight, it was thought expedient that Captain Gregg, with the rest of the sick and other ineffective persons, should be removed to Schenectady. The captain arrived safe at Schenectady, was restored to health, and remained in the service to the end of the war. He lived several years after the peace.

Captain Gregg recollected every circumstance of the transaction, and related it afterwards with great composure. It appears that, upon receiving the shot, he fell, and, seeing the Indian running towards him, he lay perfectly still, with the intention of leading the Indian to think that he was dead; and when the Indian proceeded to scalp him, giving him at the same time a cut with his tomahawk on the upper side of his forehead, such was his fortitude through the whole of this trying scene as to show no signs of life. Shortly after the Indian left him, he looked around and, seeing the corporal lying at a short distance from him, he crawled up to him. He then took his watch out of his pocket to observe the hour of the day. Discovering after awhile that the corporal was dead, he laid his head on the body and continued in that position until he was taken up and conveyed to the fort.

The disaster of Captain Gregg caused a greater degree of circumspection to be used in venturing at a distance from the fort unguarded. Sunday, the 3rd of July, being a very warm clear day, as Colonel Willett lay resting in his room about noon, three guns, fired in quick succession, gave him warning that there were Indians near. He ran to the gate of the fort and, on reaching the parapet of the glacis, saw a sentinel running toward the edge of it, and, at a short distance from him, a girl also running, holding in her hand a small basket. On their coming nearer, he saw blood running down the breast of the little girl, who, as he afterwards learned, with two other girls, had been picking blackberries not two hundred yards from the foot of the glacis, when they were fired at by the Indians. Upon going to the spot, Colonel Willett found the two other girls killed and scalped. One of the girls that was killed was the daughter of a man who had served many years in the British artillery. He had been stationed as one of the guard at this fort for several years. As he was considerably advanced in life and infirm, he received a discharge with a recommendation to a Chelsea hospital. But, as he had been indulged with the privilege of cultivating a piece of ground and allowed the use of a small house to live in, he preferred living where he was to returning to his native country and enjoying the benefits to which his services entitled him. The girl who had made her escape had been shot through the upper part of her shoulder; the wound proved to be slight and she soon recovered.

A great degree of interest now began to be felt throughout the garrison. Indians were constantly hovering around them, and they soon became so numerous that strong guards were sent out to protect parties that left the fort. About the middle of July, one of these parties was attacked, several killed and wounded and the officer who commanded was taken prisoner. The enemy were instantly pursued, but without success. The condition of the fort rendered it improper to send out strong scouting parties, as every moment of time was required to prepare for defense,

The engineer having been dismissed, greater diligence than ever was necessary to put the fort in proper state of defense. Accordingly, officers, as well as men, exerted themselves with the utmost assiduity and the work went on very rapidly. By the first of August the wall around the whole of the fort was repaired, the parapets were nearly raised and embrasures made on three of the bastions, horizontal pickets fixed around the covert way. The gate and the bridge were also made secure, though the time had been too short to make any material alteration in the salient angle, so as to derive any benefit from it. The garrison had just finished laying the horizontal pickets at night, as the enemy invested the fort the next day [August 2nd, 1777]; but at the time of the arrival of the enemy, none of the parapets had been completed. It was necessary, therefore, to finish these after the fort was regularly invested and, as the men engaged in work at them were unavoidably exposed, they became marks for the enemy's rifles, so that several of them were killed. The engineer had neglected to build a magazine, though he knew that there was no secure place for the ammunition. The garrison, in order to remedy this difficulty, took the seven spare feet which were left of the pickets, in consequence of the mistake of the engineer as to their length, and, having framed them so as to form a square inclosure, the whole was placed within the body of one of the bastions and, being covered with earth, formed a safe deposit for the powder.

On the last day of July advice was received that a number of batteaux, loaded with ammunition and provisions intended for the garrison, were on their way under a guard of two hundred men. As the very safety of the fort depended in a great measure upon their safe arrival, a detachment of one hundred men was sent out in order to assist them in case of need. These boats arrived about 5 o'clock p. m. on the second day of August, and the stores were immediately conveyed into the fort. At the instant the last loads arrived, the enemy appeared, on the edge of the wood near where the boats lay, and the captain who commanded them, remaining behind after the rest left, was taken prisoner.

The fort had never been supplied with a flag. The necessity of having one had, upon the arrival of the enemy, taxed the invention of the garrison a little and a decent one was soon contrived. The white stripes were cut out of ammunition shirts; the blue out of the camlet cloak taken from the enemy at Peekskill; while the red stripes were made of different pieces of stuff procured from one and another of the garrison. [The flag was raised on the southwest bastion on August 3, 1777.]

The two hundred men who guarded the batteaux were commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Mellon of Colonel Weston's [Wesson's] regiment [at Fort Dayton]. This reinforcement increased the number of the garrison to about seven hundred and fifty men, including officers and artificers. Upon examination, it appeared that they had provisions sufficient to support the garrison six weeks, but the ammunition was so scanty as to allow, for six weeks, only nine cannon to be fired per day. It was therefore necessary to use the cannon as little as possible. Of musket cartridges they had a sufficient quantity.

A flag came from the enemy the morning after their arrival. From this it was ascertained that the troops investing the fort were commanded by the British colonel, St. Leger, accompanied by Sir John Johnson. The flag left with the garrison one of Burgoyne's pompous declarations.

Very early on the morning of the 4th a brisk fire from rifles was commenced by the Indians, who, by concealing themselves behind the stumps of trees and other covers, considerably annoyed the men who were employed in raising the parapets. Several of them were wounded. Marksmen were immediately placed, in different parts of the fortification, to return the fire as opportunities might offer. The greater part of the 5th was spent by both parties in nearly the same manner, with the addition of a few shells thrown by the enemy from five-inch royals, several of which came within the fort, and some into the barracks. On the evening of this day, soon after it was dark, the Indians, who were at least one thousand in number, spread themselves through the woods and commenced a terrible yelling, which was continued at intervals the greater part of the night.

While the fort was thus invested, General Herkimer made an ineffectual attempt to relieve it. The General, having collected with all possible dispatch one thousand Tryon County militia, set out upon this expedition, having previously sent an express to Colonel Gansevoort informing him of his intention. This express was brought by two men, who reached the fort in safety about 10 o'clock on the morning of the 6th of August. The letter which the General sent was dated the night before. Upon the receipt of this letter, agreeably to the directions of General Herkimer, cannon were fired as a signal to let him know that the express he had sent had reached the fort in safety. Arrangements were immediately made to effect a diversion in favor of General Herkimer by a sally upon the enemy's camp. Accordingly, two hundred men were ordered on parade for this purpose and placed, by Colonel Gansevoort, under the command of Colonel Willett; but a heavy shower of rain coming up at that moment delayed the sally near an hour.

General Herkimer * * * advanced prematurely upon the enemy. * * * The General was a brave and resolute man; his troops were composed of Germans and Low Dutch and amongst them were the principal men of the county. They were enthusiastic in the cause they were endeavoring to support, impatient of delay and under little subordination. They urged and finally prevailed on the General to commence his march long before he could have expected the signal and, of course, before a diversion could be made in his favor from the fort. The enemy, who were informed of his approach, had marched and taken possession of a commanding situation about half way between their camp and the place where he lay. The want of judgment in forming their line of march was another unfortunate circumstance for the General and his troops, in consequence of which, when they fell into the ambuscade laid for them, they were not in a condition to support each other. The militia in the rear (for the line of march was so scattered as to extend a mile in length) showed but little courage; indeed, many of them began early to make their escape.

Suddenly and unexpectedly attacked by the enemy, the General, with a number of brave men, formed themselves in a circle and defended themselves with great gallantry. There were a variety of instances in which much personal courage was shown; in some cases attacks were made with tomahawks by the militia, as well as by the Indians, and with equal effect. The courage of the greater part of the militia was such as clearly showed that if they had been sufficiently compact and under such direction as to have been prepared to support each other, they would have been an overmatch for the enemy; but the loose manner in which they marched and the want of precaution produced such sudden confusion as could not be remedied.

The action continued until the shower of rain commenced, when the enemy withdrew and gave time for those brave men who remained on the field to collect their wounded, with whom they returned unmolested to the settlements.

As to the sally from the fort, it was completely successful. In addition to the two hundred men placed under Colonel Willett's command, mentioned before, fifty more were added to guard a light iron three-pounder, which increased his number to two hundred and fifty men. The cannon was mounted on a traveling carriage. With these troops and this piece of mounted cannon, as soon as the rain ceased, Colonel Willett lost not a moment in sallying forth from the gate of the fort. As the enemy's sentries were directly in sight of the fort, his movements were necessarily very rapid. The enemy's sentries were driven in and their advanced guard attacked before they had time to form their troops. Sir John Johnson, whose regiment was not over two hundred yards distant from the advance guard, and who himself, it being very warm, was in his tent with his coat off, had not time to put it on before his camp was forced. So sudden and rapid was the attack that the enemy had not time to form so as to make any opposition to the torrent that poured in upon them. Flight, therefore, was their only resource. Adjoining the camp of Sir John Johnson was that of the Indians. This also was soon taken; so that a very few minutes put Colonel Willett in possession of both these encampments. Sir John with his troops took to the river and the Indians fled into the woods. The troops under Colonel Willett had fair firing at the enemy as they were crossing the river.

The quantity of camp equipage, clothing, blankets and stores which Colonel Willett found in the two camps rendered it necessary to hasten a messenger to the fort and have the wagons sent, seven of which were stored in the fort, with horses. These wagons were each three times loaded, while Colonel Willett and his men remained in the camps of the enemy. Among other articles they found five British flags, the baggage of Sir John Johnson, with all his papers, the baggage of a number of other officers, with memoranda, journals and orderly books, containing all the information which could be desired.

Colonel Willett, on returning to the fort, found Colonel St. Leger stationed with such force as he could collect opposite the landing on the other side of the river, not more than sixty yards from the direction in which he was marching, with the intention of intercepting him. Colonel Willett's position, however, enabled him to form his troops so as to present him with a full fire in his front while, at the same time, he was enfiladed by the fire of a small field-piece; and, though Colonel St. Leger was sufficiently spirited in returning his fire, it was so wild as to be altogether without effect. Colonel Willett returned in triumph to the fort without having lost a single man.

Upon his return the five flags taken from the enemy were hoisted on the flagstaff under the Continental flag, when all of the troops in the garrison, having mounted the parapets, gave three as hearty cheers as perhaps were ever given by the same number of men.

Several prisoners were brought into the fort, among whom was a Mr. Singleton, a lieutenant of the light infantry company of Sir John Johnson's regiment. A few Indians and some troops were found dead in their camps, and, no doubt, several were killed in crossing the river. Upon the whole, the enterprise was successful beyond Colonel Willett's most sanguine hopes. The loss of the enemy was, undoubtedly, great. Many of the articles taken from them were much wanted by the garrison. The happy result of this sally appeared to inspire the garrison with an enthusiastic assurance of complete conquest over their enemies.

The success with which the sortie from the fort was attended added to the loss the enemy, and especially the Indians, had sustained in the action with General Herkimer, created considerable uneasiness in the enemy's camp. The afternoon of the next day, the beating of the chamade and the appearance of a white flag, was followed with a request that Colonel Butler, who commanded the Indians, with two other officers, might enter the fort, with a message to the commanding officer. Permission having been granted, they were conducted blindfolded into the fort and received by Colonel Gansevoort in his dining room. The windows of the room were shut and candles lighted; a table also was spread, covered with crackers, cheese and wine. Three chairs, placed at one end of the table, were occupied by Colonel Butler and the two other officers who had come with him; at the other end, Colonel Gansevoort, Colonel Mellen and Colonel Willett were seated. Seats were also placed around the table for as many officers as could be accommodated, while the rest of the room was nearly filled with officers of the garrison, indiscriminately, it being desirable that the officers in general should be witnesses to all that might take place. After passing round the wine, with a few commonplace compliments, Major Ancrom, one of the messengers, with a very grave, stiff air and a countenance full of importance, spoke in nearly the following words:

"I am directed by Colonel St. Leger, the officer who commands the army now investing the garrison, to inform the commandant, that the colonel has, with much difficulty, prevailed on the Indians to agree, that if the garrison, without further resistance, shall be delivered up, with the public stores belonging to it, to the investing army, the officers and soldiers shall have all their baggage and private property secured to them. And in order that the garrison may have a sufficient pledge to this effect, Colonel Butler accompanies me to assure them, that not a hair of the head of any one of them shall be hurt." (Here turning to Colonel Butler, he said, "That, I think was the expression they made use of, was it not"? — to which the Colonel answered, "Yes".) "I am likewise directed to remind the commandant, that the defeat of General Herkimer must deprive the garrison of all hopes of relief, especially as General Burgoyne is now in Albany; so that, sooner or later, the fort must fall into our hands. Colonel St. Leger, from an earnest desire to prevent further bloodshed, hopes these terms will not be refused; as in this case, it will be out of his power to make them again. It was with great difficulty the Indians consented to the present arrangement, as it will deprive them of that plunder which they always calculate upon, on similar occasions. Should, then, the present terms be rejected, it will be out of the power of the Colonel to restrain the Indians, who are very numerous, and much exasperated, not only from plundering the property, but destroying the lives of, probably the greater part of the garrison. Indeed the Indians are so exceedingly provoked, and mortified by the losses they have sustained, in the late actions, having had several of the favourite chiefs killed, that they threaten, and the Colonel, if the present arrangements should not be entered into, will not be able to prevent them from executing their threats, to march down the country, and destroy the settlement, with its inhabitants. In this case, not only men, but women and children will experience the sad effects of their vengeance. These considerations, it is ardently hoped, will produce a proper effect, and induce the commandant, by complying with the terms now offered, to save himself from future regret, when it will be too late."

With the approbation of Colonel Gansevoort, Colonel Willett made the following reply. Looking the important major full in the face, he observed, "Do I understand you, Sir? I think you say, that you come from a British colonel, who is commander of the army that invests this fort; and by your uniform, you appear to be an officer in the British service. You have made a long speech on the occasion of your visit, which, stript of all its superfluities, amounts to this, that you come from a British colonel, to the commandant of this garrison, to tell him, that if he does not deliver up the garrison into the hands of your Colonel, he will send his Indians to murder our women and children. You will please to reflect, sir, that their blood will be on your head, not on ours. We are doing our duty: this garrison is committed to our charge, and we will take care of it. After you get out of it, you may turn round and look at its outside, but never expect to come in again, unless you come a prisoner. I consider the message you have brought, a degrading one for a British officer to send, and by no means reputable for a British officer to carry. For my own part, I declare, before I would consent to deliver this garrison to such a murdering set as your army, by your own account, consists of, I would suffer my body to be filled with splinters, and set on fire, as you know has at times been practised, by such hordes of women and children killers, as belong to your army."

The manner in which the message of Colonel St. Leger was received, together with the resolution of Colonel Gansevoort to come to no terms with the enemy, was re-echoed with applause by all the officers of the garrison who were present. Several of them pertinently remarked, that in their opinion, half the pains would have not been taken to induce them to surrender, if the enemy had not cause to fear that they should fail in their attempt.

Colonel St. Leger's deputation, seeing no likelihood of their terms being acceded to, asked permission for the surgeon, who accompanied their flag, to visit such of their wounded prisoners as had been taken in the sortie. This was granted; and while the British surgeon, in company with Mr. Woodruff, the surgeon of the garrison, was visiting the wounded, Major Ancrom proposed a cessation of arms for three days. As the garrison had more reasons to fear the want of ammunition than provisions, this proposition was agreed to: soon after which the flag returned to their camp, and the troops of the garrison enjoyed a brief interval of tranquility and ease.

The relief of the fort being still an object of the utmost importance, and no doubt remaining on the minds of any, but that General Herkimer had been defeated, it was thought advisable to make another effort for the purpose; and the militia of Tryon County, having formerly expressed a particular attachment to Col. Willett, it was the general opinion that if he could shew himself among them, it might have the effect of inspiriting them with fresh resolution, and leading them a second time to exert themselves to raise the siege. Influenced by these considerations Col. Willett agreed to make the hazardous attempt to reach the settlements down the river.

Accordingly, about 10 o'clock on the night of the 10th of August, Col. Willett left the fort, accompanied by Major Stockwell, whom he selected for the purpose, as he was a good hunter, and was well acquainted with the Indian method of travelling in the wilderness. They passed privately through the sally port of the fort, and proceeding silently along the marsh, they reached the river, which they crossed by crawling over a log unperceived by the enemy's sentinels, who were not many yards from them. Having thus happily succeeded in crossing the river without being discovered, they advanced cautiously into a swampy wood, where they soon found themselves enveloped in darkness as to be unable to keep a straight course. While in a state of uncertainty as to the safest step for them to take, they were alarmed by the barking of a dog, at no great distance from them. Knowing that the Indians, after their camp had been broken up on the other side of the river, had removed it to this side, they thought it most advisable to remain where they were, until they should have light sufficient to direct their course. Placing themselves therefore against a large tree, they stood perfectly quiet for several hours. At length perceiving the morning star, they again set out, but instead of proceeding in a direct line to reach the settlement, they took nearly a northerly direction, which after a few miles brought them again to the river. With the intention of concealing their route, in case their tracks should be discovered, they stepped in and out of the river several times, crossing occasionally to the opposite side, until reaching a spot where they could completely conceal their track by stepping on stones, they left the river, took a north course for a few hours, and then travelled east until night, without making a single stop. As it was necessary for them to be encumbered as little as possible, they had left the fort with no other weapon but a spear for each, eight feet in length, which was intended to serve as a staff as well as a weapon of defence. They had taken no baggage or blanket; and all the provision they had with them consisted of a few crackers and cheese, which they had put in their pockets, together with a quart canteen of spirits. Having halted for the night, they refreshed themselves with such provision as they had: after which their situation being too perilous to think of kindling a fire, they lay down to sleep wrapped in each other's arms. Though it was then the height of summer, yet the night was so cold, as, together with hard traveling the day before, and sleeping on the ground without any covering, made them feel very stiff when they arose the next morning. Colonel Willett had so severe a rheumatic attack in one of his knees, as to cause a limp in his walk for several hours. Setting out once more, they directed their course farther to the south, and about 9 o'clock came to an opening in the woods, occasioned by a windfall. In this opening, among the fallen trees, they found a forest of raspberries and blackberries, quite ripe, which afforded them a most delicious and refreshing repast. Though the day was very warm, yet, deriving new vigour from their banquet of berries, they proceeded expeditiously toward the settlement, where they arrived at three o'clock, having travelled in this time about fifty miles. On arriving at Fort Dayton, a small stockade fort at the German Flats, they received a hearty welcome from Colonel Weston, who was stationed there with his regiment. From Colonel Weston, Colonel Willett obtained the agreeable intelligence that General Learnard had been ordered by General Schuyler to march with his brigade of Massachusetts troops (which had been stationed on Van Schaick's Island, about ten miles above Albany), to the relief of the fort.

Having rested that night at Fort Dayton, Colonel Willett, still accompanied by Major Stockwell, set out on horseback early next morning to meet these troops, which they had the satisfaction of doing the very same night. Having been informed by General Learnard, that the troops intended for the relief of the fort, were to be commanded by General Arnold, who was at Albany, Colonel Willett proceeded next day to that place. Here he learned from General Arnold, that the first New York regiment was also on its march to join Learnard's brigade. The day following, Colonel Willett accompanied General Arnold to join the troops, and in two days arrived at Fort Dayton, where the whole force intended for the relief of the fort was assembled.

During Colonel Willett's absence from Fort Dayton, Lieutenant Walter Butler, with six or eight soldiers, and eight or ten Indians, had been taken prisoners. They had been surprised at the house of a Mr. Shoemaker, about two miles from Fort Dayton, the evening previous to General Arnold's and Colonel Willett's arrival at that place. Mr. Shoemaker was one of the King of England's justices of the peace, and being known by Mr. Butler to be disaffected to the congressional government, he had prevailed upon him to assemble as many of the timid and disaffected inhabitants at his house as he could collect, with the intention of endeavoring to persuade them to join the army of Colonel St. Leger. Colonel Weston, having received information of what was going on, detached a party of soldiers, with orders to surround the house, and take the whole of them prisoners. This was promptly done, Mr. Butler being at the time in the midst of his harangue.

General Arnold having ordered a court-martial, of which he appointed Colonel Willett judge advocate, in order to try Mr. Butler as a spy from the enemy, the court found him guilty, and sentenced him to die; which sentence was approved of by General Arnold, and ordered to be put in execution the succeeding morning: but a number of officers belonging to the First New York regiment, petitioning to have him respited, the general granted their petition, and Butler was sent to Albany. He escaped from this place the winter following, and became afterwards a severe scourge to the inhabitants of these frontiers.

Shortly after this, the news of the approach of General Arnold to relieve the fort having reached the enemy, the Indians being already extremely disaffected, in consequence of the ill success of the siege, and Colonel St. Leger, finding that the mulish obstinancy, as he termed it in a letter written to General Burgoyne, of the garrison, could not readily be overcome, on the 22nd of August, the siege was suddenly abandoned, after it had been carried on twenty days.

Throughout the whole of the siege, Colonel St. Leger, certainly made every effort in his power to render it successful. Having sent after Colonel Willett's departure, to Colonel Gansevoort, a written summons to surrender, which he found unavailing as his message by Major Ancrom, he commenced approaching by sap, and had formed two parallels, the second of which brought him near the edge of the glacis, but the fire of the musketry from the covert way, rendered his further progress very difficult; besides, his ordnance was not sufficiently heavy to make any impression from the battery which had been erected. The only way in which he could annoy the garrison, was with his shells, and this was so trifling as to afford him but a poor prospect of success. It appears that he made large calculations upon intimidating the garrison with threats; and perhaps his expectations were the more sanguine, as Ticonderoga had been but a little time before abandoned, upon the approach of General Burgoyne.

The unexpected and hasty retreat of Colonel St. Leger, and his host of Indians, accompanied by Sir John Johnson, whose influence among the settlers along the Mohawk river, it was supposed, would procure considerable reinforcements, defeated all the calculations that had been made in the event of the success of St. Leger, which was hardly doubted. Great, indeed, was the disappointment and mortification, when, instead of Colonel St. Leger taking the fort, and, by this means, obtaining possession of the Mohawk country, as well as effecting a junction with General Burgoyne, he was obliged to retreat, wholly baffled in all his designs.

After the retreat of the enemy, Colonel Willett passed several months in comparative inactivity. Colonel Gansevoort, having gone to Albany, the command of the fort devolved on him. He improved this interval, in completing the works, and disciplining the troops. Toward the last of September, Colonel Gansevoort, having returned to the fort, Colonel Willett set out to visit his family at Fishkill, where he arrived, on the very day on which Fort Montgomery was taken. During this visit, he was not inactive, but assisted in the defence of that part of the country against the enemy, who, having obtained the entire possession of the Hudson river, threatened the inhabitants along its banks, at every point. After this, he visited the grand army, under the immediate command of General Washington, which he found encamped at White Marsh, about twelve miles from Philadelphia. It was late in January before he returned to the fort, where he continued until the following June [1778].

The following note will be found on page 53 of Willett's Narrative concerning General Herkimer who was mortally wounded at the battle of Oriskany.

Among the wounded was the gallant general himself, who received a shot in one of his legs, about six inches below the knee, which fractured the bone very badly. Col. Willett saw the wound dressed about two weeks after he received it. The leg itself was afterward amputated. Col. Willett called to see the general soon after the operation. He was sitting up in bed with a pipe in his mouth, smoking and talking in fine spirits. Early the next morning, however, he learned that the general had died in the night, having bled to death. Such was the unfortunate end of this brave man.

* * * * *

Diary of William Colbraith.

The following diary of William Colbraith, a soldier of the garrison before and during the siege of Fort Stanwix, is one of the most important papers connected with the Burgoyne campaign of 1777, and it is also one of the most interesting and valuable personal documents connected with the entire Revolutionary war. No feature of the entire eight years of conflict has more interesting personal narratives and descriptions connected with it than the Oriskany campaign and the siege of Fort Stanwix. William Colbraith settled at Fort Stanwix (Rome) after the war and he was sheriff of Herkimer county and later Oneida county. Colbraith's Journal follows without quotation marks:

* * * * *

1777 — Journal of the Most material occurrences preceding the siege of Fort Schuyler (formerly Fort Stanwix) with an account of that siege, etc.

April 17th. — A detachment of Colonel Gansevoort's regiment, under command of Major Cochran, arrived to reinforce Colonel Elmore, who was stationed there.

May 3d. — Colonel Gansevoort arrived and took command of the garrison agreeable to instructions.

May 10th. — Colonel Elmore's regiment march for Albany.

May 28th. — The remainder of the regiment under the command of Colonel Willett arrived here from Fort Constitution, who informed Colonel Gansevoort that by order of Major Gen. Gates he had relieved Fort Dayton, (then in charge of Lieutenant Colonel Livingston,) with one captain, two subalterns, two sergeants, one drum and fife and forty rank and file of his detachment. Some Oneida Indians arrived here with a flag from Canada, who informed the Colonel that they had been to Caughnawaga [Canada] to request them not to take up the hatchet in favor of Great Britain and gave him assurance of that tribe being much inclined to keep the peace, that had for so long a time subsisted between them and their American brethren, and that some of the sachems would be here in eight days on their way for Albany to treat on this subject. And also, as they were going to Canada they met the enemy on their march from thence to Oswego, being destined for this place, and after the treaty was over, which Sir John Johnson was to hold with the Indians in that country at Oswego, we might hourly expect them.

June 25th. — Capt. Grigg, with Corporal Maddeson of his company, being between the Forts Newport and Bull, about 1 1/4 miles from Fort Schuyler, were attacked by a party of Indians who wounded and tomahawked them and scalped them. The captain was alive when found, but the corporal dead.

July 3d. — Ensign Sporr, being in command of seven men cutting sods for the fort at Fort Newport, were attacked by a party of Indians, who killed and scalped one, wounded and scalped another, and took the ensign and four men prisoners.

July 19th. — Capt. Grigg, being much recovered of his wounds, set off for Albany.

July 19th. — Same day arrived Captain Swartwout, Lieutenants Diefendorf, Ball, Welch, McClellan, Bowen, Ostrander and Colbreath and Ensign Denniston, with a number of recruits for the regiment.

July 26th. — The sachems of Caughnawaga arrived here with a flag agreeable to the intelligence received from the Oneida Indians. A party of one hundred of the garrison went to guard a number of the militia sent to obstruct Wood creek by falling trees from either side into the creek.

July 27th. — Three girls belonging to the inhabitants, being about two hundred yards from our out-sentinels, were fired on by a party of Indians, two of whom were killed and scalped, the other wounded in two places, neither of them dangerous. The party returned who had been to stop the creek.

July 28th. — The Colonel sent off those women which belonged to the garrison which have children, with whom went the man that was scalped, the girl that was wounded yesterday and sick in the hospital.

July 30th. — An Indian arrived express from the Oneida castle with a belt of wampum and a letter from the sachems of Caughnawaga and the Six Nations, in which letter they assured us they were determined to be at peace with the American brethren; that the enemy were at the Three Rivers and two detachments were to set off before the main body; one body of eight would be sent to take prisoners, and another of 130 to cut off communication on the Mohawk river. Major Badlam arrived with 150 men of Colonel Weston's regiment from Fort Dayton; with him came Captain Dewitt and his party who had been left at Fort Dayton by Colonel Willett, the whole making to the garrison a reinforcement of about 200 men. Mr. Hansen, commissary of this garrison, arrived and acquainted us that seven bateaux, loaded with ammunition and provisions, were on their way for this place. The letter and belt was agreeable to the request of the Indians, sent down by express to the several committees on the Mohawk river.

Aug. 1st. — Three Oneida Indians came express from their castle informing us that they had seen three strange Indians, who told them that there were 100 more at the Royal Black House, and that they were to march for this place. Supposing them to be a party sent to cut off communications, the colonel detached 100 men under command of Captain Benschoten and three subalterns to meet the bateaux that were hourly expected in order to reinforce the guard sent with them from Fort Dayton.

Aug. 2d. — Four bateaux arrived, being those the party went to meet, having a guard of 100 men of Col. Weston's regiment from Fort Dayton, under the command of Lieut. Col. Mallon of that regiment. The lading being brought safe into the fort, guard marched in, when our sentinels on the southwest bastion discovered the enemy's fires in the woods near Fort Newport, upon which the troops ran to their respective alarm posts; at this time we discovered some men running from the landing toward the garrison. On their coming they informed us that the bateaux men who had staid behind when the guard marched into the fort had been fired on by the enemy at the landing, that two of them were wounded, the master of the bateaux taken prisoner, and one man missing.

Aug. 3d. — Early this morning a Continental flag made by the officers of Colonel Gansevoort's regiment, was hoisted and a cannon leveled at the enemy's camp was fired on the occasion. A small party was sent to the landing to see if the enemy had destroyed any of our bateaux last night. This party found the bateaux man that was missing, wounded through the brain, stabbed in the right breast and scalped. He was alive when found and brought to the garrison, but died shortly after. The bateaux lay at the landing no ways damaged. About 3 o'clock this afternoon the enemy showed themselves to the garrison on all sides, carried off some hay from a field near the garrison, at which a flag brought by Captain Tice came into the fort with a proffer of protection if the garrison would surrender, which was rejected with disdain.

Aug. 4th. — A continual firing of small arms was this day kept up by the enemy's Indians, who advanced within gunshot of the fort, in small parties under cover of bushes, weeds and potatoes in the garden. Colonel Mellon and his party of 100 men, who came from Fort Dayton as a guard to the bateaux, was to have returned this day, but we were now beseiged and all communication cut off for the present. The firing ended with the close of the day, we having one man killed and six wounded. This night we sent out a party and brought 27 stacks of hay into the trench and set a barn and house on fire belonging to Mr. Roof.

Aug. 5th. — A continual firing was kept up by the savages. One of our men was shot dead on the northeast bastion. The enemy set fire to the new barracks standing about 100 yards from this fort, between four and five o'clock this afternoon.

Aug. 6th. — This morning the Indians were seen going off from around the garrison towards the landing; as they withdrew we had not much firing. Being uneasy lest the Tories should report that the enemy had taken the fort, Lieut. Diefendorf was ordered to get ready to set off for Albany this evening to inform General Schuyler of our situation, but between nine and ten this morning three militia men arrived here with a letter from General Harkeman wherein he writes that he had arrived at Orisco with 1,000 militia, in order to relieve the garrison and open communication, which was then entirely blocked up, and that if the colonel should hear a firing of small arms, desired he would send a party from the garrison to reinforce him. General Harkeman desired that the colonel would fire three cannon, if the three men got safe into the fort with his letter, which was done and followed three cheers by the whole garrison. According to General Harkeman's request the colonel detached two hundred men and one field piece under command of Lieut. Col. Willett with orders to proceed down the road to meet the General's party; having marched half a mile, they came upon an encampment of the enemy which they totally routed, and plundered them of as much baggage as the soldiers could carry. Their loss is supposed to be between fifteen and twenty killed. The number of wounded, who got off, is unknown. They took four prisoners, three of whom were wounded, and Mr. Singleton of Montreal, who says he is a lieutenant, without the loss of one man killed or wounded. Our party returned immediately and brought in a number of blankets, brass kettles, powder and ball, a variety of clothes and Indian trinkets and hard cash, together with four scalps the Indians had lately taken, being entirely fresh and left in their camp. Two of the scalps taken are supposed to be those of the girls, being neatly dressed and the hair plaited. A bundle of letters was found in the enemy's camp, which had been sent by one Luke Cassidy for this garrison, who it is supposed is either killed or taken; the letters were not broke open. Four colours were also taken, and immediately hoisted on our flagstaff under the Continental flag, as trophies of victory. By our prisoners we learn that the enemy are 1210 strong, 250 British regulars, that they are all arrived and have with them two six pounders, two three pounders and four royals. We also learn that they were attacked by our militia on this side of Orisco, that they drove the militia back, killed some and took several prisoners, but the enemy had many killed, and among them one Stephen Watts of New York. Our party found among the enemy a Tory named Harkeman, brother to the General. He belonged to the German Flats. One of General Harkeman's militia came in here this evening and gave an account of the militia being drove back by the enemy, that in the battle he hid himself in the mud and grass, and that General Harkeman and a number of regular officers and Indians passed him in conversation. (This was a lie.) One of the prisoners we took today died of his wounds this evening.

Aug. 7th. — Very little firing to-day. At 11 o'clock this evening the enemy came near the fort, called to our sentinels, telling them to come out again with fixed bayonets, and they would give us satisfaction for yesterday's work: after which they fired four small cannon at the fort. We laughed at them and they returned to rest. The four militia men who came in yesterday went off about 12 o'clock this night. Two men deserted from us to the enemy this night.

Aug. 8th. — The enemy threw some shells at us to-day, but did no damage, and in order to return the compliment, they were saluted with a few balls from our cannon. About 5 o'clock this evening Colonel Butler, with a British captain and a doctor from the enemy, came to the garrison with a flag, whose message from Gen. St. Leger was that the Indians, having lost some of their chiefs in a skirmish with our party that sallied out on the 6th inst., were determined to go down the Mohawk River and destroy the women and children, also that they would kill every man in the garrison when they got in; that Gen. St. Leger had held a council with them for two days in order to prevent them, but all to no purpose, unless we would surrender. The general therefore, as an act of humanity, and to prevent the effusion of blood, begged we would deliver up the fort, and promised if we did, not a hair of our heads should be hurt. A letter also came by them (as they say) from Mr. Fry and Colonel Bellinger, whom they took in the fray with the militia, begging us to surrender, telling us our communication was cut off, that the enemy had a large parcel of fine troops, and an excellent park of artillery, and further, that they expected General Burgoyne was in Albany, and could see no hopes of our having any succor, as the militia had many killed and taken. The answer to the general's tender and compassioned (?) letter was deferred until to-morrow morning at 9 o'clock, and a cessation of arms agreed to by both parties till then. Late this evening a party was sent to get water for the garrison, with a guard. One of the guards deserted from us, but left his firelock behind. One of our sentinels fired at him but missed him. Our guard heard the enemy's sentinels challenge him twice and fire on him. Colonel Willett and Lieutenant Stockwell went out of the garrison at one o'clock in the morning on a secret expedition.

Aug. 9th. — Agreeable to the proposals of yesterday, between Colonel Gansevoort and Brigadier General St. Leger, a flag was sent out to him requesting him to send his demand in writing and the Colonel would send him an answer, which request he agreed to. The demands in writing was the same in substance with that verbally delivered yesterday by Colonel Butler, to which the Colonel returned for answer: That he was determined to defend the fort in favor of the United States to the last extremity. Upon receiving the answer hostilities again commenced by a number of shot and small arms on their side which were not suffered with impunity on ours. This day the Colonel ordered all the provisions to be brought upon the parade for fear of shells setting fire to the barracks and destroying it; also all the public papers and money in the hands of Mr. Hansen and the papers in the hands of Mr. Van Veghten belonging to the paymaster to be lodged in the bomb-proof in the S. W. bastion. The enemy began to bombard us at half past ten this evening and continued till daylight; their shells were very well directed. They killed one man and wounded another, both of our regiment. None killed or wounded through the day. This day the enemy kept out of sight, except one or two who appeared about their battery doing nothing. About three o'clock this afternoon three or four of them were seen running across a field near the garrison and setting fire to some cocks of hay standing there which soon consumed them. This maneuver of the enemy led us to believe that the enemy's intention was to deceive us to imagine thereby that they were going off and put us off our guard and induce us to send out parties which they might fall on, and thereby diminish our strength, knowing us to be too many for them. Was this their scheme, they fell far short of their conjecture. Some of our officers imagined they were going off or they would not destroy the hay, it being out of our reach and much wanted by them for their troops to lay on, as it is certain they have nothing to shelter themselves from the weather except their blankets which they make tents of.

Fearing they meant to lull us to sleep and storm us in the night, the Colonel ordered the guard and piquet doubled and the troops to lay on their arms. Between twelve and one o'clock tonight they bombard us and continues till daylight. This night's work did us no other damage than breaking the thigh of a young man, an inhabitant. This unfortunate young man was brought up in the same family with one of the girls that was killed and scalped on the 27th, and whose scalps we have now in the fort. They were remarkably industrious and faithful, both orphans and were by consent of their former master to have been married very soon. The young man died of his wound.

Aug. 11th. — This day the enemy having observed that we brought water from the creek altered its course so that it became dry. This would have done us much damage had we not been able to open two wells in the garrison which with one we had already proved a sufficient supply. The enemy kept out of sight and no firing from them of any kind. They were seen by our sentinels drawing near the landing, by which we imagine a reinforcement is coming to our relief. At twelve o'clock a shower of rain coming up the Colonel ordered a fatigue party to turn out with a subaltern's guard to bring in some barrels of lime, a number of boards and some timber lying at the foot of the glacis. Which they effected without having a shot fired at them. The enemy was seen to muster in the road below the landing while our men were out. At sundown they gave us some shot and shells from their battery. At midnight they sent four shells, but a thunder shower coming up at that instant they left off. The night being very dark and excessive raining till day, the Colonel ordered the troops to their alarm posts lest the enemy should attempt to surprise.

Aug. 12th. — The enemy kept out of sight all day and no firing from them till noon, when they gave us some shot and shells, without doing any damage. We imagined the enemy drew their forces in the daytime between us and Orisko, as we have not seen them so plenty these two or three days as we are used to do; neither do they trouble us all night, which gave our troops an opportunity of resting.

Aug. 13th. — The enemy were very peaceable all day till towards night, when they cannonaded and bombarded for two hours, during which time a shell broke a soldier's leg belonging to Colonel Mellon's detachment.

Aug. 14th. — Toward evening they were again at their old play, cannonading and bombarding us. A shell bursting slightly wounded one of Colonel Mellon's men in the head. No other damage was done. One of Captain Gregg's company, Colonel Gansevoort's regiment, deserted his post to the enemy. He was placed on the outside picket and deserted between ten and twelve o'clock at night.

Aug. 15th. — At 5 o'clock this morning the enemy threw two shells at us. Did no damage. The number of shells they have thrown at us is 137. The enemy were very troublesome with their small arms this afternoon, by which we had one man of our regiment and one of Colonel Mellon's detachment slightly wounded. In the evening they threw their shells at us and slightly wounded a woman and one of Captain Savage's artillerymen.

Aug. 16th. — This morning the enemy threw some shells horizontally at our works, but fell short. One of those shells falling on the parade killed a man of Colonel Mellon's detachment. They continued to throw them all day and some part of the night, but did no further damage. A party of our men were ordered out this evening to bring in wood for the garrison, and being discovered by some skulking Indians near the garrison, gave the alarm to the rest. They advanced near where our men were at work, but luckily our men had been called in before they came nigh enough to do any mischief. They finding our men had got in began a most hideous shout. A cannon being fired at them they departed. The regular's drums were heard beating to arms after the cannon was fired. We suppose they expected us to sally out again upon them with a field-piece. At midnight they threw three shells at us, but did no damage.

Aug. 17th. — The enemy were quiet all day and night; neither a shot or shell was fired at us during the twenty-four hours, although we fired several cannon at them.

Aug. 18th. — This morning one of our regiment was slightly wounded in the cheek by a musquet ball. A black flag or coat was seen in enemy's bomb battery.

Aug. 19th. — The enemy threw some shells at us near noon. They were busy in their trench all day. At night they struck their trench towards the point of our northwest bastion, and by daylight had got within 150 yards of the ditch. We fired some grape shot at them now and then all night. At every shot we fired they threw shells at us but did no damage. At midnight the colonel sent out one of his regiment and one of Colonel Mellon's detachment to meet Colonel Willett if possible, whom we expected was on his way to this place with a reinforcement, to make him acquainted with the enemy's maneuvers on the southwest side of the fort, that he might govern his attack accordingly.

Aug. 20th. — This morning one of Colonel Mellon's men was wounded by a musquet ball. The enemy could work but little this day at their trench, it being so nigh that our small arms, as well as our cannon shot, was too hot for them. In the evening they began their trench again and worked all night at it, under fire of our cannon and small arms, but did not approach any nearer.

Aug. 21st. — At two o'clock this morning a party was sent out to bring in firewood, who brought in a great quantity undiscovered. They cannonaded and bombarded by turns all night. A man of our regiment deserted this evening. This morning we discovered that the enemy approach nearer to us and had begun a bomb battery, where they left off yesterday morning. The artilleryman who was wounded in the knee with a musquet ball died on the 4th inst. of his wounds. One of Colonel Mellon's men and the lad belonging to the inhabitants died likewise of their wounds. The enemy kept working all day in their trench though not so close as last night. No firing from their batteries. This day our guard kept a constant fire at those at work in the trench, and in the evening twelve of the best marksmen were picked out to harass them when at work in the night, which galled them so much that their Indians were sent for to draw off our attention, who advanced near the fort, which caused a general alarm, by which a heavy and continued firing was kept up for near two hours, during which their cannon and mortars were playing on us very briskly, in which interim we had a man of the artillery wounded and a woman big with child wounded in the thigh. A corporal and three privates deserted this evening of our regiment.

Aug. 22d. — This morning the enemy bombarded very smartly. The sergeant-major and two privates were wounded. At noon a deserter came to us, whose examination was: that the enemy had news in the camp that Burgoyne's army was entirely routed and that three thousand men were coming up to reinforce us, and further that the enemy was retreating with great precipitation, and that he with another was conveying off one Lieut. Anderson's chest, when he had made his escape, and that most of the baggage was gone. Upon which the commanding officer ordered all the cannon bearing on their works to fire several rounds to see whether they would return it, which partly confirmed the report of the deserter. Some time after four men came in and reported the same, and that they had left part of their baggage. Upon which the colonel ordered fifty men and two wagons under command of Captain Jansen to go to their camps, where they killed two Indians and took four prisoners; one of them was an Indian. After they had loaded the wagons with what baggage they could carry, they returned, but night coming on, they could not return to fetch what baggage was still left in their camp. At night, two men came in: one of them was assisting the first deserter in carrying off Lieutenant Anderson's chest, the other John (Han) Yost Schuyler, who informed the commanding officer that he was taken prisoner at the German Flats and confined at Fort Dayton five days. That General Arnold had sent him to General St. Leger, commander of the King's troop, to inform him that 2,000 militia were on the march for this place to reinforce the garrison, that he had informed General St. Leger of it and in consequence of which he ordered his troops to strike their tents and pack up. And further, after he had done his errand, he hid himself in the woods till night, and coming across the above men they came in together. He likewise informed us that near seventeen Indians were at Fort Newport quite drunk; upon which the colonel ordered a party of men under the command of Major Cochran to go and take them, who in about an hour returned and informed the colonel he had been there and did not find any, and that he went to Wood creek and found eight new bateaux, which the enemy had left behind. While they were out, the woman that was wounded with a shell last night was brought to bed in our southwest bomb-proof, of a daughter. She and the child are like to do well, with the blessing of God. Our blockade ended, and the garrison once more at liberty to walk about and take the free air we had for twenty-one days been deprived of. At twelve o'clock this night the commanding officer sent off three of his regiment to inform General Arnold of the precipitate retreat of the enemy. A deserter came in who said he had just left the enemy's cohorts below Wood creek bridge.

Aug. 23d. — This morning the colonel sent out a party under the command of Major Cochran to take them, who returned with three prisoners and four cohorns and some baggage, and reported there were seventeen bateaux lying there. Another party was sent to the enemy's north camp to bring in the rest of the baggage left by us last night, consisting of ammunition, camp equipage and entrenching tools. Another party was sent to the enemy's southeast camp, who brought in fifteen wagons, a three-pound field-piece carriage with all its apparatus. Most of the wagon wheels were cut to pieces, as were the wheels of the carriage. Several scouts were sent out to-day, one of whom took a German prisoner, who reported that the Indians had, when they got about ten miles from this fort, fallen on the scattering Tories, took their arms from, and stabbed them with their own bayonets. And that for fear of said Indians, he and nine more German soldiers took to the woods. The rest are not yet found. Their design was not to come to the fort, as Butler and Johnson told them, when orders were given to retreat, that those who fell into our hand would be hanged immediately. Another scout proceeded to Canada creek, found a carriage for a six-pounder and three boxes of cannon shot, which they brought in. This afternoon the Honorable Major General Arnold arrived here with near a thousand men. They were saluted with a discharge of powder from our mortars, formerly the enemy's, and all the cannon from the bastions, amounting in the whole to thirteen, attended with three cheers from the troops on the bastions.

* * * * *

Here is an incident of the defense of Fort Stanwix, of a time probably after the Oriskany battle, from Judge Pomeroy Jones's "Annals [and Recollections] of Oneida County": "A sentinel, posted on the northwest bastion of the fort, was shot with a rifle while walking his stated rounds in the gray of the morning; the next morning the second met the same fate, on the same post; the crack of the rifle was heard but from whence it came, none could conjecture, and the alarm being given, no enemy could be discovered. Of course, on the third night this station was dreaded as being certain death and the soldier to whose lot it fell, quailed and hung back; but, to the surprise of the whole guard, a comrade offered to take his place and was accepted. Towards morning, the substitute sentinel drove a stake into the ground at the spot where his predecessors had been shot, on which he placed his hat and watch coat and with the help of a cord and a well stuffed knapsack, he soon had a very good apology for a portly soldier, who stood to the life at 'support arms', with his trusty shining musket. Having thus posted his 'man of straw', he quietly sat down behind the parapet closely watching through an embrasure for coming events. At early dawn, the well known report of the same rifle was heard, and the column of smoke ascending from the thick top of a black oak tree some 30 or 40 rods distant, showed the whereabouts of the marksman. The sergeant of the guard was soon on the spot and the commandant notified that the perch of the sharpshooter had been discovered. A four pounder was quickly loaded with canister and grape, and the sound of this morning gun boomed over the hill and dale in the distance, immediately succeeded by a shout from the garrison, as they beheld one of Britain's red allies tumbling head foremost from the tree top. On examining the counterfeit sentinel, the holes through the various folds of the knapsack were more than circumstantial evidence that the aim was most sure, and that, had the owner stood in its place, he would have followed to his account those who had preceded him there. It is hardly necessary to add that the sentinels on the northwest bastion were not afterwards molested."

* * * * *

After the raising of the siege of Fort Stanwix, by Arnold's American Army, supplies were sent westward to the fort. Provisions and military supplies had run low during the three weeks' siege and the garrison was in need of food, ammunition and many other war-time necessities. There were a number of Mohawk Valley soldiers in the garrison of Fort Stanwix. When the enemy ran away, several women, wives of the Valley defenders, decided to visit the fort. A drove of beef cattle was sent to the frontier post at about this time to furnish much needed provender for the garrison of 700 men. A number of Valley women, who wished to visit their husbands in the fort, joined this supply train, riding westward on horseback. Probably others went with other supply trains. This particular supply train is known through one of those examples of simple humor, which characterize much of the Mohawk Valley Revolutionary anecdotal records. It was told to Pomeroy Jones, the author of "Annals [and Recollections] of Oneida County", in 1850 by Nicholas Harter, a Revolutionary veteran, then 90 years old. Harter was one of the pioneer settlers of Utica — members of the Weaver, Reall, Damoth and Harter families, who settled Deerfield Corners (North Utica) in 1773 and who resettled there in the spring of 1784. As a boy of 17, Harter was at River ford in present Utica, when the train of cattle came up. The drivers were on foot, while the women from the settlement who were going to see their warrior spouses at the fort, were riding horses. "Upon arriving at the fording place in the Mohawk at the point named, and as one of the women was descending the steep bank to the river, a brawny Dutchman, who did not wish to wet his feet, jumped upon the horse's back behind the woman. The horse, offended either on account of this unceremonious accession to his load or else the reverse order in which his cargo was arranged, sprang forward and, by a well-directed effort, threw the Dutchman into the center of the stream, while the woman landed in safety."

As the account of the siege of Fort Stanwix shows, there were a number of settlers about the fort who took refuge there, on the approach of the enemy. One of the girls who were killed and scalped, was engaged to one of the young settlers, who was killed in the fort by an enemy shell, a double tragedy offering a theme for a touching love story. One of the settler's wives, who was struck by a shell, and severely wounded, gave birth to a child. These incidents are recounted in Colbraith's diary. Both mother and child evidently survived the siege. Besides the women and children from the adjoining farms, who sought refuge in the fort, there were evidently several soldiers' wives in the Fort Stanwix, during the siege.

* * * * *

Go to top of page | back to: Chapter 63 | ahead to: Chapter 65

You are here: Home » Resources » MVGW Home » Chapter 64 updated March 30, 2015

Copyright 2015 Schenectady Digital History Archive — a service of the Schenectady County Public Library