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 69

History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 69: Johnson's Great Raid.

[This information is from Vol. II, pp. 1009-1048 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]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 68 | ahead to: Chapter 70

1780 — Johnson's great Schoharie and Mohawk invasion — October 18, Attack on Middle Schoharie Fort — Tim Murphy repulses Johnson's army — October 19, Battles of Stone Arabia and Klock's Field — Van Rensselaer's inefficiency — Enemy escapes — Fort Plain named Fort Rensselaer — Fort Plain blockhouse built — Fort Willett begun.

In the fall of 1780 an invading force under Sir John Johnson, Joseph Brant and the Seneca chief Cornplanter, ravaged the Schoharie and Mohawk valleys. The battles of Stone Arabia and Klock's Field were fought and the enemy escaped, after a defeat at the latter place. They would have been crushed or captured by the pursuing American force had it not been for the complete inefficiency of the militia commander, Gen. Robert Van Rensselaer. Practically every town of Montgomery County was concerned in this campaign, either being the scene of ravages by Johnson or the march of and battles of the patriot force. The object of this Tory and Indian raid, like all others, was to destroy completely the houses, barns and crops of all the Whigs along the Schoharie and Mohawk. By destroying or plundering the country of all supplies the enemy hoped to weaken the resistance of the frontier. This raid was particularly destructive to the Schoharie country. It followed within six months of Johnson's Johnstown raid and within three months of Brant's terrible Fort Plain foray of August 2, 1780. Thus did blow after blow fall upon the suffering but valiant people of the Mohawk.

At Unadilla, Brant and Cornplanter, with their Indians, joined Johnson and his force, which consisted of three companies of the Royal Greens, one company of German Yagers, 200 of Butler's rangers, a company of British regulars and a party of Indians. The total force must have approximated 800 men or more. Sir John and his army came from Montreal, by way of Oswego, bringing with them two small mortars and a brass three-pounder, mounted on legs instead of wheels and so called a "grasshopper". This artillery was mounted on pack horses.

The plan of the raiders was, upon reaching the Schoharie, to pass the upper of the three small forts on that stream, by night and unobserved; to destroy the settlements between there and the Middle Fort and attack the latter in the morning. This plan was carried out October 16, the homes of all but Tories being burned. The Middle Fort was bombarded without effect and the enemy then moved down the Schoharie to Fort Hunter, making a feeble attack on the Lower Fort by the way.

[Map of the Schoharie and Mohawk Valleys, Showing the Route Traversed by Col. Sir John Johnson in His Raid Of October, 1780.]

All buildings and hay stacks belonging to Whigs were burned and their cattle and horses appropriated. One hundred thousand bushels of grain were thus destroyed and (says Beers [i.e., F. W. Beers, History of Montgomery and Fulton Counties, New York]) nearly 100 settlers were murdered. The Whigs were so roused over the destruction of their property that, after the enemy disappeared, they fired the buildings and crops of their Tory neighbors, which had been spared, and the ruin along the Schoharie was thus complete. Frothingham's (in Beers History) figures of the killed, in the Schoharie-Mohawk raid, seem to be overdrawn, even if those slain in the battle of Stone Arabia are included. Perhaps 75 American soldiers and settlers, killed by Johnson on October 17, 18 and 19, would be nearer the correct number.

Every Tory along the Schoharie frontier had knowledge of Johnson's projected invasion. A majority of them were ready to unite with the invaders, regardless of their former oaths of patriot allegiance. They were, as everywhere else, assured of sharing in the sale of the property of the Whigs, in case of British success. In addition to this, the Schoharie Tories had the inducement of pay for military service, all booty taken from the "rebels" and most of them were ready to take scalps — men's, women's and children's — at $8, or more, per scalp.

The news of the threatened invasion by Johnson's band soon came to the ears of the patriot leaders and commanders along the Schoharie River, and preparations were made to meet it. The following account of Johnson's raid along the Schoharie is from [Ellsworth] Vrooman's "Schoharie Valley Lore":

Each fort was well supplied with all necessaries with the exception of gunpowder at the Middle Fort. The day of Johnson's arrival was the 17th day of October, 1780. Sir John Johnson, son of Sir William, the builder of Johnson Hall, near Johnstown, N. Y., who, just before the war started, sided with the English and moved to Canada, collected at Lachine, near Montreal, Canada, 800 British troops to make preparations for destroying Schoharie and the Mohawk valleys. They ascended the St. Lawrence to Lake Ontario, and Oswego, and from this point crossed the country to the Susquehanna River, where they were joined by a large party of Tories and Indians under the famous warrior, Joseph Brant, who had marched from Niagara to join Johnson at this place. Tradition says several hundred of the Indians who left Niagara with Brant returned, owing to a quarrel. Johnson's object in making this long journey so late in the season was to ravage the beautiful valleys, when the crops of the farmers were secured and could be burned and, if possible, to capture and destroy the three Schoharie forts. Sir John had with him two small mortars and a brass three-pounder, called a grasshopper from the circumstances of its being mounted upon iron legs instead of wheels. These pieces of ordnance were transported through the woods on pack horses. Every soldier and every Indian was provided with eighty rounds of ammunition.

The Indians never breathed more fiercely for vengeance than at this time and they went forth upon the warpath with a determination that nothing should impede their march or prevent their depredations.

From Charlotte River, the eastern branch of the Susquehanna, the enemy proceeded toward the Schoharie, and, passing down Panther Creek, arrived near its shore on the evening of October 16th, and encamped just above Panther Mountain, on the west side of the river, near the upper end of Vrooman's Land.

A few days previous to this Colonel Vrooman had sent Marcus Bellinger, the supervisor, to Albany to procure a wagon load of ammunition, in anticipation of such an event. Bellinger was detained in the city from some cause, but arrived in safety at the Lower Fort, on the evening of the 16th.

Colonel Johnson intended to resume his march sufficiently early on the morning of the 17th to pass the Upper Fort, situated about three miles from his encampment, unobserved, and arriving at the Middle Fort just at daylight, surprise and capture it; supposing, with every good reason, that the possession of it would soon cause the surrender of the other two more feebly garrisoned. The enemy passing along the bank of the river, crossed it nearly opposite, and not one-third of a mile distant from the Upper Fort. Owing to some unknown delay, the troops were not in motion as early as they had intended, and the rear of the army was yet upon the bank of the river when Peter Feeck, who had started to go after cows just as the day began to dawn, discovered it and notified a sentinel, who discharged his musket. The troops were instantly called out and Captain Hager, its brave commander, ordered the gun to be fired to give warning to the Middle Fort, which was quickly answered by the other forts. As the boom of the gun echoed down the romantic valley, it was immediately answered by the Middle Fort. Again was the stillness broken by the reverberation. Nearly with lightning speed it aroused the inmates of the old stone fort, who in turn made the hills answer back, "We are ready!"

Capt. Jacob Hager and Joseph Harper, both men of acknowledged courage, with two companies of troops, numbering, it is believed, less than one hundred men, were in this fort at the time. The command of the garrison devolved upon Captain Hager, the senior officer, who sent a party of volunteers to the river early in the morning. Among them were Henry Hager, his son, Lawrence Bouck and Isaac Vrooman. They saw several of the enemy on the opposite shore, and crossed the river to capture an Indian who lagged behind his fellows. As they approached him he fired upon them, the ball striking the powder horn of Vrooman. When they drew up to fire, he sprang behind a tree, which received three of the bullets discharged at him. He then fled, abandoning his horse, a poor black mare, with a heavy pack on, which, with a sore back, was taken to the fort.

The Middle Fort was the headquarters during the war, and usually the residence of the principal commandant of all three.

The Middle Fort, at the time of Johnson's 1780 raid, was under the command of Major Woolsey, a Continental officer, unfitted for the important duties of the station he held, who is said to have been a broken officer before he went to Schoharie. Colonel Vrooman was fortunately in the fort, as were Lieutenant-Colonel Zielie and Maj. Thomas Ecker, officers belonging to his regiment. The fort was garrisoned by about two hundred Continental troops, or nine months men, as then called, and between one and two hundred militia.

Some of the citizens and soldiers were already up at the Middle Fort, and, hearing the alarm gun of the fort above, the drums were quickly beating to arms. Livingston, an officer of the artillery, was looking for a flint and steel to respond to the evidence of danger when Susannah Vrooman ran to the house and brought him a live coal, with which the gun was instantly fired. The voice of a brass nine-pounder was thrice responded to from the Lower Fort and war's thunder rolled along the valley. The discharge of the alarm guns at the forts became the signal for the foe to apply the incendiary torch, which was accordingly done to the buildings of Frederick Mattice. This was the first of the beacon lights seen at the Middle Fort that day, the number of which from building, barracks of grain and stacks of hay viewed at that place was estimated by an eye-witness at three hundred. An invasion having been anticipated, the citizens lodged at the several garrisons, and, because the movement of the hostiles commenced thus early, no individuals were found in their dwellings except such as were tinctured with royalty, or chose to brave the coming danger to save their property.

A strong northwest wind continued to blow throughout the day and served to fan the flames of destruction. The weather was also exceedingly cold and snow in squalls almost constantly filled the air. Major Ecker called volunteers soon after daylight, and nineteen bold spirits left the fort with him to learn the cause of alarm, just as the fire of Mattice's buildings was discovered. As the wind then blew almost a gale, the soldiers left their hats and substituted handkerchiefs tied closely about their heads. The head of Timothy Murphy was adorned by the one that had concealed the pretty neck of his young bride, placed there by her own trembling hands; the head of Bartholomew C. Vrooman with that of Susannah Vrooman, his intended (to whom he was married about two weeks later), and those of others by shawls of friends or lovers. Major Ecker, among whose followers were Lieut. Martinus Zielie, Sergeant Lloyd, Murphy Elerson, Hoever Vrooman, Richard Henderson, Peter Van Slyck, Wilbur, Joachim Folluck, Adam Shell, Tufts and Leek, proceeded from the fort in the direction of the present village of Middleburgh, and fell in with the enemy's advance not far from the site of the brick church. Murphy was on the extreme right toward the river. Ecker's men now fired upon the enemy from behind a board fence, some of them several times. From his position Murphy discovered that the enemy was extending his right to cut off their retreat to the fort and communicated the fact to Major Eckert, who instantly ordered the retreat. Murphy, although he had the greatest distance to run, was the last man who left the field. He remained at the fence until he obtained a fair extra shot, when he also fled to the fort. Hundreds of the balls were fired within gunshot of the volunteers, and several boards in the fence from which Murphy fled were literally riddled by bullets, and yet not one of the party were wounded. Most of the volunteers were riflemen and wore short linen coats, through which several of the enemy's shots passed, as also they did through other parts of their dress.

Colonel Johnson had given an order to his troops to spare the churches in Schoharie, but the Dutch church in Middleburgh was burned. It is said to have been set on fire by William Crysler, a Tory, owing to a grudge he had against some of its members. But Brant lingered behind over at the village at the heart of Weiser Dorf, where they applied the torch. With blanched and determined faces, the dwellers in the valley saw the flames lay in ashes their homes, and in the midst their revered home of God erected by their toil nearly fifty years before. The enemy, crossing the flats obliquely, passed the fort near the hill east and halted on a small eminence nearly north of it in the orchard of Peter Becker. At this time many of the Indians were scattered over the flats, engaged in the work of destruction. As the enemy were proceeding toward the hill east of the fort, Lansing, a captain of the Albany militia, sallied forth in that direction, followed by a party of volunteers, and met the advance, with which he exchanged several shots. Elerson stated that at this time he was behind a stump fence, near the woods beyond his comrades, when he observed an officer in a red coat advance from the British ranks, at whom he discharged his rifle. He saw the enemy's guns leveled at him and instantly fled to the fort. He supposed that seven hundred fired at him in his flight, yet he escaped from them untouched. The fence from which he ran, like that which had concealed Murphy just before, was completely peppered with bullets. Captain Miller, who commanded a company of Calaverack [Claverack?] militia then in the fort, called to Elerson's wife to see her husband run. Colonel Vrooman, as Elerson was informed, watched his flight with intense anxiety. A shot sent among the British troops from the brass cannon which they were firing on Elerson caused some confusion among Johnson's Greens. There was a small gate on the east side, through which Captain Lansing and his men entered.

Colonel Johnson now arranged his two small mortars and brass three-pounders. The carriage for the cannon was carried in parts and screwed together. They were made ready to fire, at the stand he had taken in Becker's orchard, and a cannonading and bombardment commenced while a constant firing was kept up with small arms, but generally at too great a distance for the latter to take effect. Three shells were well thrown by the enemy from this position at the fort, and many cannon shot were fired, but with less precision, the most of them passing entirely over the destined object. The first shell sung in the air like a pigeon and exploded directly over the house. As its fragments fell over the roof, Mrs. Richtmyer, an old lady then in the upper room, who had been an invalid and unable to rise from her bed for a long time, was so frightened that she sprang from it and went below, surviving the effect but a short time. The second shot fell within the pickets near the well and, while the fuse was burning off and the ball dancing in a mud hole, every one had time to gain a respectful distance, and it scattered its fragments without injuring any one. The third shell fell through the roof of the main building and lodged on a pile of feather beds in the chamber, which were deposited in several chests of bedding. It exploded, tearing the beds to pieces, but doing little other mischief, except that of frightening almost to death Christian Richard, an old bachelor, who chanced to be in that room. The explosion completely filled the room with feathers and, groping his way downstairs, Richard made his appearance below, where many of the women and children were, covered with feathers and spitting feathers from his mouth, which sudden fear had caused him to open too widely for such atmosphere. When asked what had happened, he replied in low Dutch, "I think de diable be among de fedders." The beds were set on fire, but were easily extinguished, as water had been provided for such emergencies.

After firing had continued for some time by the enemy, it suddenly ceased and a white flag was seen to leave the British ranks and advance toward the fort. The flag bearer was accompanied on the right by an officer in a green uniform, and on his left by a fifer playing Yankee Doodle. When the flag was discovered approaching, Major Woolsey, whose blood was foreign to the soil of Schoharie and who was not fighting for his valley, his home and family, a most inefficient officer, and by some represented as the most miserable of poltroons, gave orders to have it admitted, but not another officer in the fort, to their credit be it said, was in favor of its admission, and Murphy and Elerson, who conjectured what the fate might be, should the enemy learn the actual strength of the garrison and proceed in the capture, determined that before the flag should enter the fort, one or the other would shoot Woolsey himself. As the flag drew near Murphy fired upon it, not with the intention of killing its bearer, or either of his companions, as is generally supposed, but to say in effect, "Approach any nearer and you are a dead man." The trio with the flag halted, turned and marched back to their former station.

When Murphy fired on the flag Major Woolsey was not present, having visited his quarters to prepare to enforce submission to his command, for soon after he returned, pistol in hand, and demanded who had dared disobey his orders? "I fired on the flag," said Murphy. Major Woolsey then threatened the brave soldier with instant death if he repeated the act, and the latter who believed the willingness of the commandant to admit the flag, procured with cowardice alone, retorted with warmth, "Sooner than see that flag enter this fort, will I see a bullet enter your heart." Seeing an evident disposition in all the officers present to sustain Murphy, for they had rallied round him to a man, not for the desire to see just commands violated, but to defend the fort at all hazards, the major walked toward the house. By this time the flag attended as before had again advanced and Major Woolsey had not proceeded two rods when Murphy fired again and its bearer turned about again and retired.

During this parley, the firing on both sides had ceased, with the exception stated, and was not resumed until after Colonel Johnson from his great desire to get a flag into the fort, despatched it by a messenger a third time. They had not proceeded as far as the first, however, when a third bullet from Murphy's rifle passed over their heads, saying to this effect, "Thus far, not farther." They returned to the ranks and the firing was then resumed.

Major Woolsey, after the spar with Murphy, entered the dwelling where the women and children were confined, but their jeers savored too much of satire, he left their presence and sought safety elsewhere. The cellar under the kitchen part of the dwelling was occupied as a magazine, and Colonel Vrooman, to conceal the deficiency of powder, brought it himself when wanted, and returned to his men, exclaiming as he gave them the necessary article, "Fire away my brave lads, we have plenty of ammunition." As more powder was wanted Colonel Vrooman laid down his sword and went to get it. Near the cellar door he encountered Major Woolsey, who had just left the presence of the women, as may be supposed, not in a very good humor. "Major Woolsey! is this your place?" interrogated the brave colonel, "who are placed here to defend this fort?"

He replied, half dead through fear, "Colonel Vrooman, the men will not obey me, and I give up the command to you." At that moment a cannon shot struck the house and fell harmless at their feet. The colonel instantly caught it up, and playfully extended it to the major, with the simple exclamation, "Send it back to them." With perfect indifference the coward replied, "That I think would be s————n work." The fire of the Dutch captain was instantly ignited at the indifference and filthy expression of the commandant, and speaking in his usually quick manner, he rejoined, "Major Woolsey! Had I my sword I would run it through you."

At this change of officers unanimous joy pervaded the whole fort.

And even the women smiled to behold the portly figure of Colonel Vrooman stalking about the fort, directing and encouraging the soldiers in his melodious Low Dutch tones. The troops were gratified to learn that the command of the fort was surrendered to him and obeyed orders with alacrity. More than once when he went for the powder, as he afterward confessed, did his hair rise on his head not from the fear of the enemy, but lest the small supply of ammunition should be completely exhausted and the foe, becoming conscious of it, storm their works. The firing of shells was not renewed by the enemy, and the discharge of the grape and round shot was continued only at intervals from the fort, as the supply of powder would not warrant its constant use. Valuable assistance was given to the defenders by the women; that glorious example of colonial womanhood, Sarah Vrooman (known to her friends as 'Angeltie' and in history as 'Angelica'), as the bullets grew scarce, took bullet mold and iron spoon and went to her father's barrack amid the noise and confusion and molded a fresh supply to replenish the bullet pouches.

Her equally glorious neighbor, Susannah, wife of Bartholomew Vrooman, saw her moment of service, as Livingston, the gunner, was delayed in finding his flint to fire the nine-pounder, she hastened to the stockade, brought a live coal and laid it on the fuse and the message of gun echoed from hill to hill, while the rude music of fife and drum rose from the fort.

Destruction was to be seen at this period of the siege, scattered over the flats in almost every direction. The garrison was, so to speak, too weak to make a bold sortie, but many small parties were sent out during the day to harass the enemy and save, if possible, the large barn belonging to John Becker which stood almost in the direction of Colonel Johnson's position, around which clustered several hay and grain stacks. As several Indians were seen approaching the barn, a party from the fort went to meet them. Several shots were exchanged and Sergeant Cooper of Albany received a wound in one leg, and was instantly borne off by two of his comrades to the fort, but while proceeding thither he received a ball through his body, of which his carriers were unconscious. As they entered the fort, Susannah Vrooman inquired where Cooper was wounded. The reply was, "In the leg." She remarked that he bled from the body, and on laying him down it was ascertained that he had received a wound there, of which he soon after died.

About this time several volunteers entered the fort, who had been pursued by the enemy. Miss Vrooman stood near the entrance in an exposed position, and Samuel Reynolds, as he entered said to her, "Susannah, get away from here or you will be shot!" The words were scarcely uttered before a ball entered his own head, of which wound he died nine days later. He was from New Jersey, was a likely soldier and died lamented. Jeremiah Loucks was also wounded in one arm, and Tufts slightly in the head, the latter while entering the fort, who, with the two mortally wounded, were all that were injured belonging to the Middle Fort. The wounded were properly attended by Dr. John King, the settled physician at that place, who acted as surgeon during the war.

Nicholas Sloughter, who acquired the reputation of a good soldier, had a very sick child in the fort and, as he was leaving it with a party of volunteers under Murphy, was told that his child appeared to be dying and he had better remain. "I can do the child no good," was his reply. "My duty is to protect the living as well as the dying." Before his return he and Murphy took a prisoner, dressed in a green uniform, who gave his name as Benjamin Butts. He was a New England man who had been made prisoner some time before and, while in Canada, had enlisted in the British service as a ranger, to embrace an opportunity to desert. He returned home soon after. Elerson had command of a few rangers during the day, one of whom, John Wilbur, fell in with a Tory catching a horse, and asked him to what party he belonged. He replied, "The Indian party," and instantly received a bullet from Wilbur's rifle. He took off the man's scalp, and as he entered the fort with it in his hand, Major Woolsey said he ought to have his scalp taken off. This man and another shot during the day were supposed to be Indians at the time, but proved to be Tories from the vicinity of Albany.

While Elerson was out with his party, he saw an Indian approaching the stack at the barn near the fort, at whom he fired. The warrior ran off towards the woods east of the barn. In the following spring a dead Indian was discovered in that direction by Bill, a slave owned by John Becker, while getting firewood. He was found sitting with his back against a tree, having his gun between his knees and resting his arms. His eyes had been dug out, as supposed, by birds. This Indian was thought to have been the one fired on by Elerson.

Colonel Johnson remained with the regular troops near the Middle Fort until his destructives had effectually demolished every species of property they could possibly in that vicinity, when he moved out of the valley about 3 o'clock in that afternoon. After the enemy were out of sight, Major Woolsey ordered several apple trees near to be cut down and brought around the fort, fearing the enemy might return and attempt to storm the works. He left Schoharie the next day and was never seen again in that valley.

A later meeting of Colonel Vrooman with Major Woolsey is thus mentioned in the now rare history of Schoharie:

"On his return to the Middle Fort Colonel Vrooman found himself once more its lawful commander, Major Woolsey having taken French leave during his absence. Colonel Vrooman was often from home on public business during the winter months of the war; and sometimes after the destruction of Schoharie — being a member of State Legislature — he went to Poughkeepsie, where it was about to convene. Among other members, Colonel Vrooman was an invited guest at an evening party. On his arrival at the place of mirth almost the first person that caught his eye was Major Woolsey. He laid off his loose clothing and very soon after sought an interview with his military friend; but to his surprise he had left the house; nor did he reappear again that night. Recollecting their last interview near the magazine, he possibly did not care about meeting the Dutch Colonel."

At the Middle Fort the loss of the garrison in this affair was only one killed, two wounded, one mortally. It is not known what loss the enemy sustained, or why they retreated so hastily. The true, and most probable cause was the determined spirit of the resistance manifested in firing upon the flag, leading them to suppose the defense could be obstinate.

Johnson's troops had been so long in the valley that ample time was gained to get everything in readiness at the Lower Fort, for its defense. Several barrels of water were provided to extinguish the church, which contained the women and children, should it be set on fire. The magazine which was thus liberally supplied, was kept beneath the pulpit in the church, and was under the charge of Dr. George Werth, a physician, settled in that vicinity, who acted as surgeon.

There were then in the Lower Fort a company of Normanskill militia, Company One of the valley and several associate exempts, who were self-mustered men, above military age, numbering at least one hundred and fifty soldiers and about one-half as many women of the surrounding neighborhood.

[The Colonel Peter Vrooman Memorial]

The Stone Fort was under the direct command of Colonel Peter Vrooman. On that day the Colonel was at the Middle Fort and there being no regular officer above captain, the command devolved on Major Jacob Becker, whose cool intrepidity, together with that of Mrs. Synder [Snyder?], wife of Captain Synder, inspired all with marked courage. The greatest consternation prevailed. Scouts were sent up the valley. Reports came back that the invaders numbered thousands under command of Johnson, Brant and Cornplanter, and ruthless destruction was being made in burning all buildings, hay stacks and slaughter of all animals.

Early in the morning of the 17th, Major Becker, then in command of the Lower Fort, knowing the lack of powder at the Middle Fort, sent two men, each with a bag containing the necessary article on his back, to that garrison. Hearing the alarm guns of the Upper Fort and the response of the other two, they increased their speed and fortunately arrived at their destination just as the enemy invested that post and were delayed there during the day. Mattice Ball and Marcus Bellenger were the names of these men.

As may be supposed, the most intense anxiety was felt at the Upper Fort and, as soon as the firing began at the Middle Fort, Captain Hager gave orders that, in case the enemy appeared before the fort, the women and children should go in a long cellar under the Feeck house while preparations were in progress to resist an attack, should it be made. Mary Hagidorn, a buxom lass of goodly proportions who partook of the spirit which animated her brothers and who heard the cellar order with other feelings than of fear, stepped up to the commandant and thus addressed him: "Captain, I shall not go in that cellar. Should the enemy come, I will take a spear which I can use as well as any man and help defend the fort." Captain Hager was gratified to find a soldier where he little expected one and, admiring her fearless spirit, he replied: "Then take a spear, Mary, and be ready at the pickets to repel an attack." She did take a spear, nor was it discarded until the danger was past. As soon as the firing ceased, the second time at the fort below, Captain Hager dispatched Ensign Peter Swart, William Zimmer and Joseph Evans to learn whether their worst fears were to be realized — whether the British cross had taken the place of freedom's stars. On their return with the report that all was safe, the valley rang with huzzahs for the American flag.

Jacob Van Dyck, Anthony Brontner and Barney Cadugeny were dispatched by Major Becker to ascertain the result of the firing at the forts above. Arriving at the house of Jacob J. Lawyer, they found his wife and a wench at home preparing to bake. At the home of Hendrick Shafer, the females were also at home, where they saw food upon the table. The women of those families chose to brave the dangers of the day, to save their dwellings from general conflagration. The scout proceeded as far as Bellinger's and saw the British troops about a mile distant. Near this place they met the advance of the enemy and were pursued by seven Indians led by Seth's Henry. They were fired upon and balls struck near them. A ball striking the fence by Cadugeny's side threw a splinter into his arm. He called to his companions that he was wounded, and near the residence of Peter Richtmyer, Van Dyck drew the splinter from his arm, telling him he was not hurt much, which he could hardly believe. Gaining upon the Indians, who had halted to reload their pieces, Cadugeny took occasion, as the latter were out of sight, to conceal himself in a hollow stump — near which they passed without discovering him.

When the firing ceased in the Middle Fort for the flag to advance, the inmates of the fort were apprehensive it had been taken and Major Becker dispatched other scouts, consisting of George Snyder, Jacob Enders, John Van Wart, and John Hutt, to ascertain whether the fort had been captured. The second scouting party met the first near where Storm Becker resided and joined it in flight. They were hotly pursued and were obliged to scatter. Enders and Snyder were together and, as the enemy were leveling volley of balls at them, they sprang behind a rock, against which several of the leaden messengers spent their force. Enders, who was fleet as an antelope, often took trees to favor the flight of his less speedy companions, which always treed the enemy. Van Dyck struck off into the woods east of the residence of Jacob Shafer, again struck the flats below, and then ran to a neighboring cornfield, where he hoped to lie concealed until, under friendly mantle of night, he could make good his escape. In this, however, he was disappointed, for the Indians suddenly stumbled upon him, he was forced to jump up and fly. He expected to be shot dead, but such was the confusion of the Indians at the unexpected apparition that he had time to bound away like a wild deer and put several feet between him and the savages before they recovered from their astonishment. Glancing his eye over his shoulder, he found himself closely pursued by an Indian with raised tomahawk. Too near to turn and fire, he could only trust to his fleetness of foot (in which he excelled) to gain on his pursuer sufficiently to use his rifle. The opportunity soon came. A brush fence stood in his path. This he leaped at a bound, wheeled and when the Indian, standing on top of the fence, presented a fair target, he fired and killed him. Then, throwing his rifle in the bushes, he plunged into the river, amid a shower of bullets sent after him by the rest of his pursuers who had now come up but which he avoided by diving, he struck out for the opposite shore. When in the middle of the stream, he perceived that another savage was following him in the water. His first impulse was to turn and drown him by diving and catching him by the feet — a feat which he jocularly called playing "leap frog" — but observing that his opponent carried a spear, he gave up this design and gained the shore. Picking up some stones, he waded back into the river prepared to give his foe a warm reception. The latter, however, feared to "measure swords" with an adversary, turned and swam back. Running a few yards up the river behind a ridge which concealed him from sight, he sank down into a marshy spring. While thus hidden, an Indian came up to where he lay but, not dreaming of his proximity passed on his way and left him unharmed. Here he remained until long after dark, not daring to venture out lest some stray Indian should chance to discover him, went down to the river, which he again swam, and soon made his way back to the fort, which he reached more dead than alive, owing to the cold and having been in the water.

Van Wart (who is said to have put on his go-to-meeting hat before the start) had observed on his way several apple pies just taken from the oven at Lawyer's, and not having had any breakfast, declared his intention of having some pies on his return. He was warned not to stop, but disregarding the caution of his companions as the enemy was not in sight, halted. While he was eating at Westholft, a German school teacher who had been teaching school the preceding summer in Ingold's barn near by, opened the door and exclaimed: "Here they come," as a party of Indians arrived at the house. In the act of jumping from a back window he was fired upon in the front and rear, the enemy already having surrounded the house. He was instantly dispatched and his body much mutilated. He was a Low Dutchman, born near Albany; was a cooper by trade, and had resided nine years in the Ingold family, near where he was shot.

As the Indians entered Lawyer's dwelling, one of them raised a tomahawk to strike the schoolmaster, but Mrs. Lawyer seized his arm and arrested the fatal blow. She pleaded for his life and it was spared, adding another evidence to the influence of women. Brett, an old female slave, was considered a lawful prize, and was taken along a little distance, but was finally permitted to return. The men were at work near the river, on the flats, and were fired upon by the enemy from some clumps of bushes near by. A laborer was killed, but Mr. Lawyer fled across the river and escaped.

John Ingold, who dwelt where his son and namesake now reside (1832), was in the fort that day with all his family, except Anthony Witner, his stepfather. As a hostile invasion was expected, the present John Ingold, then a lad fourteen years old, went the evening before without a wagon to take old Mr. Witner to the fort, but he declined going, and said he chose to stay and defend his home. He had given his grandson an old gun which was then at the fort; this he requested to have sent him in the morning. The Ingold dwelling was burned and, as parts of two skeletons were found in the ruins, it was thought that a plunderer had been killed by Mr. Witner before his death. The remains of the latter were identified by his silver knee buckles.

The firing at Middleburgh was heard in Cobleskill, ten miles distant, and Lawrence Lawyer and Henry Schaeffer proceeded toward Schoharie to learn the cause. Arriving on the hills near, they caught a view of the general conflagration and they unexpectedly fell in with a party of Indians, but escaped their notice by the timely movement of several cattle in the woods close by, which directed the enemy from their concealment. The two men remained secreted until the Indians had retired, when they hastened back to Cobleskill to warn the citizens of their danger.

The enemy appeared upon the scene. There stood firm and determined, Major Jacob Becker, Captain Jacob Snyder of Co. One, Captain Peter Snyder of the associate exempts, Captain Christian Strubach, Ensign John Enders, Sergts. Johannes Rickard and John Schuyler, Corps. Peter Zimmer and David Lawyer, Privates Cornelius Eckerson, Jacob Enders, Johannes Enders, Peter Sidwick, Adam Zimmer, Philip Merkle, Philip Berg, Peter Schoolcraft, Jacob Enders, Teunis Kneiskern, Johannes Ingold, Sr., Frank Otto, Carl Cramer, Abraham Berg, Barant Struback, George Hilts, Lambert Lawyer, Johannes Werth, Peter Mann, Jr., Marcus Schaffer, John Schaffer, Jacob Mann, John Low, Jacob Schell, Jacob Kneiskern, William Enders, George Snyder, John Van Wart, John Hutt, Hendricus Schaffer, George Werth, Jacob Van Dyke, Nicholas Werner, John Merckley, George Mereness and many more [at the Lower Schoharie Fort].

Captain Strubach was in command of the southwest blockhouse with a brass gun, supposed to be a twelve-pound piece. Captain Snyder was in command of the tower of the church, which at that time had a steeple nearly twenty feet high on its top with a space at its base inside the railing of three or four feet on each side, with John Ingold, Sr., John Kneiskern, Nicholas Werner, John Schell, Jacob Becker, John Enders, Jacob Van Dyke. Major Becker had command of the southeast blockhouse, upon which the Indians made an attack.

A number of fearless women are said to have stood ready at the pickets, armed with spears, pitchforks and poles, when the enemy appeared in sight.

To the right they appeared on the bank of the stream, tall, athletic men in red and green, their gilted regalia and polished steel and accoutrements flashing in the bright sun; to the left, with wild demoniac glee, hundreds of savages — headed by the dreaded Brant — brandishing the flaming torch over the homes, and, with tomahawk and scalping knife, seeking to satisfy their brutish spirit of hate and revenge.

Those at the fort proved to be true men and women fired with patriotic valor, whiskey and gunpowder.

It was in those days believed that copious libations of whiskey or rum and gunpowder would dispel all fear in battle and give strength and courage to the soldiers. In the excitement to prepare for the enemy Madam Snyder began her work.

Pailful after pailful she mixed and carried to the men in the blockhouse within the fort, in the belfry and along the pickets, cheering by voice and cup. It is said that many of the men's hands trembled so that they could scarcely hold the cup. The occasion demanded any action that would arouse the valor, the strength, energy, in the men to strike for home and freedom.

She was equal to the occasion. A heroine in war, she was a Naomi in the neighborhood, in the church, and among the poor she was charity personified. And ages yet to come will do her reverence.

Traditions say the women were less excited than the men and stood at each post as helpers.

The enemy approached the Lower Fort in a body, about four o'clock p. m., and were saluted with a small cannon mounted without the palisades, charged with grape and canister shot. Col. Johnson raised a spy glass as the gun was drawn out, and lowering his glass, said to his men, "It is only a grasshopper; march on." It was supposed to have done fearful execution, as many of the enemy fell, but to the surprise of the Americans, they arose and advanced, having fallen only to let the shot pass over them.

Johnson employed a six-pound brass gun. At this time it was supposed by the men in the tower, from the ease which the gun was carried and the manner of its transportation in a wagon, to be a "peeled log" placed with design to frighten the inmates of the fort to surrender. This is the only evidence we have of the ill effects of Madame Snyder's whiskey and gunpowder. Upon the advance of the Indians, Ensign Wm. Enders, John Kneiskern and Hendricus Schaeffer drew a small gun from the southeast blockhouse and kept the savages at bay for a while, but their numbers were too great and closing upon them from two sides, the gun could not be used to an advantage, and they were forced to retreat to the fort.

It flashed twice when Johnson applied the flint to his gun and the Americans were more confirmed in their opinion that the foe was playing possum but the third attempt was followed by the peal of war's thunders. Three shots were fired from this position. The first ball struck the wall and was broken into pieces; the second went through one side of the wall of the church and lodged in a heavy rafter on the opposite side. The shock jarred the whole building. The third was planted in the purline plate in the rear of the building. The hole made by its entrance is still visible. During the year 1830 a new roof was put on the Old Stone Fort by Mr. Clark and the cannon ball lodged in the plate in 1780 was taken out and presented to John Gebhardt of Schoharie, and the one from the rafter to P. M. Snyder, a son of Mrs. Captain Snyder, as a souvenir of the day she, by her valor, placed her name in the catalogue of American heroines.

The Indians advanced to the opposite side of Fox's Creek and entered the mill there standing. While supplying themselves with flour and meal they were discovered by Mr. and Mrs. Eckerson. They ran to the fort and were soon followed by a negro in their employ. The Indians gave chase and captured him but the guns of the picket guards covered the Eckersons and they escaped. Upon reaching the fort, Mrs. Eckerson stationed herself at the circular window in the tower and while watching the movements of the Indians and expecting every minute to see the flames destroy her home, an Indian fired and sent a bullet in the casement only an inch from her head. The oak timbers placed as breastworks in the tower were filled with bullets on the west and north sides. The Johnson Greens kept near the stream and stationed themselves near the present railroad bridge, while the Indians crept behind the elm trees on the bank of the creek north of it and lodged three rifle balls in the steeple just above the men's heads. The first two were not buried sufficiently deep to remain but fell upon the deck, one of which was taken up by John Kneiskern, who found it too hot to be retained. By removing part of the railing, a rifle was brought to bear upon the foe. As they showed their faces to try a fourth shot, a marksman planted a bullet in the tree near them when they decamped in hot haste. The enemy made but a short stay near the lower fort. Brant, after burning the tavern and outbuildings of Jacob Snyder and those of some other citizens along Fox's Creek, came into the River Road a few rods northwest of the Brick House in the fork of the Albany Road and was there joined by the Regulars under Johnson who made a little show of giving another salute but a shower of rifle balls from the fort tower with several successive and well discharged rounds of grape-shot from the blockhouse of the northeast corner of the enclosure, caused him to move down the valley. No casualty occurred within the fort upon that day. After attacking the fort for one and a half hours, the enemy moved down the valley, destroying everything in their route. After the enemy began to move down the valley, Jacob Enders left the fort to hang upon his rear. Discovering an Indian, he followed him along the creek. toward the river until he got a shot at him. He had a large pack and over one shoulder hung a goose he had killed recently. When Enders fired, the Indian fell upon his knees and dropped his pack and goose. Then, springing upon his feet, he set off at a moderate trot towards the river. Enders pursued until the Indian turned and raised his rifle on him, when he halted to load and the enemy without firing ran off again. After pursuing until he was exposed to the fire of the others of the enemy, Enders gave over the chase. On arriving where the Indian had left the pack and goose, he found John Rickard, a fellow soldier, had seen the spoils abandoned from his position in the blockhouse, had been there and had taken them to the fort. Enders claimed them but Rickard would not give them up or part of them. The pack contained eight pairs of new moccasins. The enemy were followed by a number of patriots until they encamped for the night west of the village cemetery near Sloansville. A strong guard was sent out in all directions that night in fear of the Indians returning. The remainder of the fort had a jubilation and in their hilarity wandered up the valley with Captain Strubeck at their head and finished the work of destruction by burning the dwellings and all outbuildings that the Indians had left out of respect to the political sympathies of the owners. Only the Lutheran Church parsonage and the residence of Hendricus Schaeffer remained on the morning of the 19th. There were few families in the neighborhood who were deep-dyed Tories, but in the absence of any royal force they were pretended patriots. When McDonald attempted his raid in 1777 they were with him but, not being successful, they returned to their homes and took the oath of allegiance and became penitent, to all appearances, until Johnson's invasion; then, out of deference to their oaths, they retired to the west side of the Schoharie River and witnessed the destruction of property. Their property Captain Strubeck and company laid in waste and, as the morning of the 19th dawned, homes in ashes were but smoldering brands to mark the same spot, the storehouses that but the day before were bursting with plenty were but heaps of flaky cinders; horses and cattle had been ruthlessly butchered, in fact the accumulation of years swept away. The following day Colonel Vrooman collected all the troops that dared to be spared from the forts and followed the enemy to the Mohawk. Upon arriving there they were united with the force of Robert Van Rensselaer, whose disloyalty or cowardice restrained his army from gaining complete victory over the invaders near Stone Arabia where Colonel Brown fell. Van Rensselaer's conduct upon that mission was, and should have been, a subject of censure as, by his dilatory maneuvers, the murderous clan was privileged to pass off to their rendezvous to gloat over their deeds and enjoy their spoils and be encouraged to again invade the happy and prosperous homes of struggling patriots. On the day following the invasion of Schoharie Valley, while the soldiers were skirmishing in the rear of Johnson's force, a party of Indians and Tories led by Seth's Henry, a Schoharie Indian, and Philip Chrysler, a brother of Adam Chrysler, appeared along the Westkill in the present town of Seward and bathing their hands in the blood of Michael Murphy, his niece Catharine, besides two boys, they burned several buildings and led into captivity several inoffensive persons and passed off to follow the Charlotte trail to Niagara. It was estimated that 100,000 bushels of wheat were that day destroyed.

In connection with this we might say that General Washington well knew the value that the Schoharie Valley represented as the following from a letter sent by him on November 7, 1780, to Congress indicates:

"The destruction of grain was so great as to threaten the most alarming consequences, in respect to the forming of magazines for the public service at the north. But for that event, the settlement of Schoharie, alone, would have delivered eighty thousand bushels of grain."

There were also destroyed hundreds of tons of hay that were stored in barns, barracks and stacks for the coming winter.

* * * * *

Leaving his camp, at present Sloansville, on the morning of October 18, 1780, Johnson and his raiders passed on down through the lower Schoharie Valley, killing and burning as they marched. They entered that part of the lower course of the Schoharie River which flows through present Montgomery County for a distance of about ten miles, airline distance. Johnson buried one mortar he had been using and his shells in a little "Vlaie" (natural meadow) in the town of Charleston. In 1857 some of these shells were plowed up. The Schoharie militia, under Col. Vrooman, followed Johnson's course toward the Mohawk, during which march the enemy took several prisoners and continued the looting and burning of houses and barns. Johnson and Brant gave Fort Hunter a wide berth, passing that fortification at a distance of half a mile. Here a Tory named Schremling was scalped and killed (his political leanings not being known) and a number of women and children of the Schremling, Young and Martin families were captured.

Here Johnson's raid along the Schoharie ended and he then began his devastation of the Mohawk for a distance of 26 miles westward.

An Indian and Tory detachment crossed the Mohawk to plunder and ravage the north side, while the main body continued westward through the town of Glen, on the south side highway, to a point, in the town of Root, a little east of the Nose, known on the Erie Canal as the Willow Basin, and there encamped for the night. Nearly all the buildings on both sides along the Mohawk were burned and plundered from Fort Hunter to the Nose. On this march British regulars guarded the prisoners to prevent the Indians from murdering them. A little captive girl of ten years, Magdalena Martin, was taken up by Walter Butler and rode in front of him on his horse. The evening being very bitter, Butler let the little maid put her cold hands in his fur-lined pockets and thus they journeyed to the camping ground. One of the raiders asked Butler what he was going to do with the pretty girl. "Make a wife of her," was his quick reply. This small Revolutionary captive became the wife of Matthias Becker and the mother of ten children. She died in Fort Plain, at the home of her son-in-law, William A. Haslett, in 1862, in her 93rd year. So closely are we unknowingly linked with the past that there may be those who read this page who personally knew this old lady, who, as a little girl, rode with Butler and warmed her hands in his pockets on a chilly October night over a century and a quarter ago. And such a strange and wayward thing is the nature of man that we look with wonder at the picture of this Tory murderer of women and little ones cuddling a small rebel child to keep her from the cold.

The next morning at the Nose, learning that a force of Albany and Schenectady militia were coming after him, Johnson allowed Mrs. Martin and her children to return home, with the exception of her 14-year-old son.

News of the raid had reached Albany and the Schenectady and Albany militia quickly assembled and proceeded with great speed up the Mohawk to attack Johnson's men. Gen. Robert Van Rensselaer of Claverack, commanded the pursuit and he was accompanied by Gov. Clinton. On the evening of the 18th they encamped in the present town of Florida. From there Van Rensselaer sent word to Col. Brown at Fort Paris and to Fort Plain (probably directed to Col. John Harper). Brown was ordered to attack the enemy in the front the next morning, while Van Rensselaer's army fell on their rear.

On September 11, 1780, according to a state report, Col. Brown, at Fort Paris, had 276 men under him, and Col. John Harper (supposedly at Fort Plain then) commanded 146, and there were but 455 men to guard the frontier in the Canajoharie-Palatine districts. These troops were then under the command of Brigadier-General Robert Van Rensselaer. When Brown attacked Johnson at Stone Arabia he had but 150 American militiamen with him and it is probable the balance of the patriot force (then located at three posts) in this neighborhood were left to guard the forts or were on duty elsewhere. The Fort Plain soldiers joined Van Rensselaer's force as later noted. The valley people, warned of the enemy's approach, gathered in the local forts for safety and there were few or no casualties among them after Johnson left Fort Hunter on his march westward.

On the morning of October 19, 1780, Johnson's army crossed the Mohawk at Keator's rift (near Sprakers) and headed for Stone Arabia, leaving a guard of 40 men at the ford. At almost the same time Col. Brown paraded his men, to the number of 150 and sallied forth from Fort Paris to meet the enemy. The American commander, mounted on a small black horse, marched straight for the approaching foe. He passed Fort Keyser, where he was joined by a few militiamen, and met Johnson's army in an open field about two miles east by north of Palatine Bridge. Capt. Casselman advised Col. Brown, considering the overwhelming force and protected position of the enemy, to keep the Americans covered by a fence. Without his usual caution, Brown ordered an advance into the open, where his men were subjected to a heavy fire. The militia returned the fire, fought gallantly and stood their ground, although many of their number were being killed and wounded. Seeing he was being outflanked by the Indians, at about ten in the morning, Col. Brown ordered a retreat, at which time he was struck down by a musket ball through the heart. The pursuit of the enemy made it impossible for his men to bear off their commander's body and it was scalped and stripped of everything except a ruffled shirt. Thirty Americans were killed and the remainder fled, some north into the forest and some south toward the Mohawk and Van Rensselaer's army. Two of the Stone Arabia men took refuge in Judge Jacob Eacker's house and put up a defense until the Indians fired the building, after which the savages stood around and laughed at the shrieks of their burning victims. The enemy's loss was probably less than that of the Americans on this field.

The British regulars passed Fort Keyser without firing a shot. Capt. John Zielie, with six militiamen and two aged farmers, were at the portholes, with muskets cocked and hats filled with cartridges at their sides, but held their fire for fear of an attack which would mean annihilation. When the enemy were out of sight four of the militiamen from this post set out for the field of battle, found Col. Brown's body and bore it back in their arms to Fort Keyser.

The Tories, British and Indians after this ravaged, plundered and burned all through the Stone Arabia district, among other buildings, burning both the Reformed and Lutheran churches. Few of the inhabitants were killed or captured, as all had taken refuge in the forts or in the woods. After the burning and plundering, Johnson collected his men by bugle calls and the blowing of tin horns and pursued his way westward toward the Mohawk.

On the morning of the 19th, Gen. Van Rensselaer started his pursuit, from his Florida campground, at moonrise. He reached Fort Hunter before daybreak and was there joined by the Schoharie militia. Van Rensselaer came up to Keator's rift, shortly after Johnson had crossed. It was probably here that his force was joined by Col. Harper, Capt. McKean with 80 men (probably from Fort Plain) and a body of Oneida Indians under their principal chief, Louis Atayataroughta, who had been commissioned a lieutenant-colonel by congress. Col. Harper, probably then in command at Fort Plain (as S. L. Frey locates him there in September), was in chief command of the Oneidas. Van Rensselaer's army was now double that of Johnson's. Here the American commander halted, perhaps deterred from crossing the ford by the small rear guard of the enemy which was stationed on the opposite bank. The firing at the Stone Arabia field, two miles distant, was plainly heard and here came fugitives fleeing from the defeated force, bringing news of the rout and of the killing of Col. Brown. One of Brown's men, a militia officer named Van Allen, promptly reported to Gen. Van Rensselaer, with an account of the action, and asked the latter if he was not going to cross the river and engage the enemy. The general replied that he did not know the fording place well enough. He was told that the ford was easy and Van Allen offered to act as pilot. Thereupon Capt. McKean's company and the Oneidas crossed the river. Instead of supporting this advance party, in his promised cooperation with Col. Brown's men, it then being near noontime, Gen. Van Rensselaer now accompanied Col. Dubois to Fort Plain to dine with Gov. Clinton.

Gen. Van Rensselaer, after leaving Keator's Rift, ordered the company of Lieut. Driscoll and his artillery to Fort Plain, possibly anticipating an attack by Johnson in that quarter. He tried the ford opposite Fort Frey but found it impassable and ordered his men to cross at Walrath's ferry at Fort Plain. They, however, made the passage of the Mohawk at Ehle's rift, near what was later Ver Planck's and is now called Nellis' island. They stopped at the house of Adam Countryman on the Canajoharie side and here turned into the road which led to the ford, which existed in the river prior to the barge canal operations. This was later the Ver Planck, later the Nellis farm and now (1925) the Chawgo farm. Here the American troops began the passage of the Mohawk while their general was wasting valuable time in a lengthy dinner at "Fort Plain or Rensselaer."

Let us now take up the story as told by Thomas Sammons, a young militiaman from present Sammonsville, northwest of present Fonda. He wrote his part in the pursuit and this valuable personal document is now a part of the Sammons papers in the possession of that family.

Thomas Sammons gathered a great deal of Mohawk valley Revolutionary history at first hand and he well deserves the title of our first valley historian. He was a congressman from old Montgomery county, a member of the well known Sammons family (his father was the pioneer, Sampson Sammons) of the town of Mohawk, Montgomery county. Col. Simeon Sammons, of the 115th New York Volunteer Regiment, was the son of Thomas Sammons.

Sammons's account of Johnson's great raid and the battles of Stone Arabia and Klock's Field, near present St. Johnsville, follow, taking up his narrative at Ehle's rift:

"In the meantime Gen. Van Rensselaer was on the south side of the river in the morning when he came opposite the forty men Johnson had left to guard the fording place; halted but made no attempt to cross the river. Van Rensselaer had with him a number of field pieces. William Harper rode to the banks of the river, was fired at by one of the enemy to whom he took off his hat, and returned on a walk. Van Rensselaer still remaining on the south side marched west when opposite to where Col. Brown had engaged Sir John the firing was distinctly heard as also the war-whoops of the Canada Indians. Van Rensselaer, about 11 o'clock a. m., halted opposite to Peter Ehle's [in present Nelliston village], three miles below where the Garoga creek enters into the Mohawk river. A few of Brown's men at this place came running to the river and, jumping in, forded to the south side. As they came to the bank Van Rensselaer enquired of them where they came from. One, Samuel Van Alter, a militia officer, answered:

"'Escaped out of Brown's battle.'

"'How has it gone?'

"'Col. Brown is killed with many of his men. Are you not agoing there?'

"'I am not acquainted with the fording place,' was Van Rensselaer's reply.

"He was answered that it was not difficult. Van Rensselaer then asked Van Alter if he could go before, who, though tired, said he could.

"Col. Louis Dubois at this moment rode up to Gen. Van Rensselaer who instantly mounted his horse and, as was understood, went to Fort Plain to take dinner with Col. Dubois. Col. Lewe and Capt. McKean marched the Indians and volunteers through the river to the north side, expecting Gen. Van Rensselaer would do the same. Van Rensselaer's baggage wagons were now driven into the river into a line and stopped, reaching most of the way across the river; his men then commenced crossing in a single line by getting on the back part of the first wagon, crossing over it, walking on the tongue between the horses, and thus to the next wagon and so on until they came to the end of the wagons; they then got into the river and forded to the north bank. In this manner they continued crossing until four o'clock in the afternoon when Gen. Van Rensselaer returned just as the last man was over. When Gen. Van Rensselaer came to the south bank Col. Louis shook his sword at him and called him a Tory and when he came to the north bank he was addressed by William Harper who thought by this unnecessary delay too great a sacrifice of property and lives had been made. Col. Louis Dubois marched his regiment of state troops into the river and crossed in a few minutes; the cannons were all left on the south side of the river.

"Gen. Van Rensselaer now appeared in much haste and, being assisted by Major Van Benschoten and Col. Dubois, the men were formed into three divisions, except the Oneida Indians and the volunteers under McKean, who continued by themselves without any regular order.

"Gen. Van Rensselaer marched two of his divisions on the flat ground and the third under command of Col. Dubois some distance above the road in the woods. The volunteers of McKean and the Oneida Indians, under command of Col. Louis [the friendly Oneida chieftain] were directly opposed to the Canadian Indians and Yagers. Sir John stood fast and Gen. Van Rensselaer advanced firing at a distance. The Canada Indians gave the war whoop and were answered by the Oneidas; they rushed simultaneously forward until near together. Col. Dubois had no one to oppose him. Some of his men came to the assistance of the Oneidas and volunteers. They then advanced upon the Canada Indians and Yagers who fled with greatest precipitancy crossing the road and running in the rear of Sir John's men on the flats to cover themselves. This was all the fighting that was done, for, as Johnson saw his Indians and Yagers running, he fled with them, leaving his men, crossed the river and escaped as fast as they could.

"It was now near evening. Major Van Benschoten of Col. Dubois' division was hastening to Gen. Van Rensselaer to request orders to fall upon the rear of the enemy. At this moment when Sir John had fled from his own men and they were thrown into perfect confusion, Gen. Van Rensselaer marched his three divisions to the road and, turning east, traveled back three miles to Foxe's Fort [at Palatine Church], where he encamped for the night. Col. Louis and Capt. McKean did not obey orders but remained that night in buildings that were near. After dark some of the Tryon county militia who lead volunteered, as also some of the Indians, took some prisoners, a number of knapsacks, guns and the field piece.

"Johnson's Greens, finding their commander had deserted them, broke their ranks and hid in a cornfield and the regulars for some time remained in their ranks without doing anything and finally went in pursuit of their officer.

"The following morning Col. Louis and McKean crossed the river to pursue the enemy. Between 8 and 9 o'clock Gen. Van Rensselaer came back upon the battleground. While McKean was waiting for Gen. Van Rensselaer to cross the river one of his volunteers [Thomas Sammons], hearing there were some prisoners in a small picket fort near by, called Fort Windecker, went to it where an Indian was shot the evening before trying to look into it. On going in he found nine prisoners and one of them he knew and had been a near Tory neighbor. On asking him how he got there he said he was ashamed to tell him. The volunteer's statement was as follows:

"'I went into Windecker's to see the prisoners, and spoke to the prisoners, one of them having been a near neighbor of my father [by name] Peter Cass. He also informed me they had concealed themselves in a corn field till after dark before they crossed the river. I am satisfied if McKean and Louis had us, the volunteers and Indians, immediately out in pursuit of the enemy after Van Rensselaer's retreat they would have taken two or three hundred prisoners without much difficulty. How strange it is that such men as Dubois and Van Benschoten obeyed orders. [Said Cass]: Last night after the battle we crossed the river; it was dark; we heard the word 'lay down your arms.' Some of us did so; we were taken and nine of us marched into this little fort. Seven militia took nine of us prisoners out the rear of about 300 of Johnson's Greens, who were running promiscuously through one another. I thought Van Rensselaer's whole army was in our rear. Why did you not take us prisoners yesterday after Sir John ran off with his Indians and left us? We wanted to surrender.'"

"Sir John with the Indians and Yagers, thinking the rest of his forces had been taken prisoners, under cover of the woods, directed his course for the Onondaga Lake, where his boats had been concealed. Those he left behind after crossing the river, continued on the main road west until Herkimer, where, avoiding the fort, took to the woods and overtook Sir John before he reached Oneida.

"Gen. Van Rensselaer, having crossed to the south side, pursued in the direction of the enemy until he reached [Fort] Herkimer, where he was met by Gov. Clinton. He accompanied Van Rensselaer but did not assume the command. Col. Louis and Capt. McKean, being in the advance, received positive orders from Gen. Van Rensselaer to advance with all possible dispatch, overtake and engage Johnson's men and that he would close in the rear and support him. Col. Louis and McKean advanced and the next morning, coming where the trails of Sir John's Indians and his men that followed him met, they halted, knowing that they were some distance in advance of Gen. Van Rensselaer, until he should come nearer. A few were sent forward to reconnoitre. Col. Dubois came to bring orders from Gen. Van Rensselaer ordering McKean and Col. Louis to hasten forward, engage the enemy and assuring them of support. McKean and Louis hastened forward and soon came where the enemy had just decamped leaving their fires burning. The volunteers were anxious to engage, but the Oneidas for the first time hesitated. Col. Louis shook his head and, pointing in the direction of Gen. Van Rensselaer, refused to advance until he should come near. There was a halt for some time when a Doctor Allen came up stating that Gen. Van Rensselaer was returning and was at least four miles distant and if he had not overtaken them there would not have gone farther for he [Allen] was just on the point of going back.

"The night previous Gen. Van Rensselaer sent an express to Fort Stanwix ordering Capt. Vrooman to precede Johnson with 100 men and burn the boats which had been left at Onondaga Lake. Captain Vrooman immediately set out as directed. When he came to Oneida one of his men pretended to be sick and was left there. His object in staying was to inform Sir John of Capt. Vrooman's intention, which he did. Sir John soon came up with this wicked informer and, knowing the deplorable situation in which he would be left should his boats be burned, immediately sent forward his Indians and Butler's rangers with all possible despatch. At Caughnawaga [not the Montgomery county Caughnawaga, or Fonda, but a place of the same name in the Oneida country] they overtook Capt. Vrooman and came upon him when eating dinner, taking him and all his men prisoners without firing a gun. Sir John then proceeded unmolested on his return, which after much fatigue, he with difficulty effected, having lost about 100 of his men killed and taken prisoners.

"The news that Dr. Allen brought Capt. McKean and Col. Louis, who then had about 160 militia and Indians, caused them to retreat as fast. as they could; overtook Gen. Van Rensselaer at Herkimer and encamped that night in the woods. The Tryon county militia were dismissed and the Oneida Indians returned to Schenectady, where they removed some time previous, and remained there until peace was declared. [They] were always ready in rendering many profitable services in repelling the frequent and destructive incursions of the enemy.

"Gen. Van Rensselaer returned and dismissed his men at Schenectady, Albany and Claverack, where they had been enrolled. It is here proper to add that when Sir John marched up the south side of the Mohawk river Gen. Van Rensselaer was very near to him, Sir John passing Van Epps' just before dark and Van Rensselaer encamping there, just after Sir John occupied the greater part of the night in going six miles, the river separating him from a large portion of his men; burning a great many buildings, destroying property and plundering and laying waste the country in the very face of Gen. Van Rensselaer. Sir John's men were tired with their long marches and laboring under knapsacks heavily laden with provisions and plunder, whereas Gen. Van Rensselaer's were fresh troops and unburdened. The delay of Gen. Van Rensselaer, his orders to Col. Brown, those to Capt. McKean and Col. Louis as also those to Capt. Vrooman, could not have been given in any way in which they would have more assisted Sir John, either in effecting his retreat or doing injury to the country. * * *

"When my father's buildings were burned and my brothers taken prisoners the pain that I received was not as great as this conduct on the part of Gen. Robert Van Rensselaer.

"With regard to the battle on Klock's farm and the facts stated in the annexed papers, I would say that I joined with Capt. McKean as a volunteer and met Gen. Van Rensselaer on the south side of the river, opposite Caughnawaga, early in the morning [of October 19, 1780, the day of the battle of Stone Arabia, in the morning, and of Klock's Field, in the evening]; of my own knowledge know most of the facts to be as they are stated; stayed with the volunteers after the battle, and had the conversation with one of the prisoners in Windecker fort as is stated; was with Capt. McKean when he had orders to advance and overtake Sir John, and a short time after saw Dr. Allen who came to inquire as to why Van Rensselaer was returning. With regard to the route of Sir John Johnson, that [is] from those of his own party who are now living and men of undoubted veracity.

"Thomas Sammons."

Thomas Sammons was engaged in a number of valley Revolutionary military movements. He was in the battle of Oriskany in 1777 and, in 1780, was with the militia under Col. Wemple when it marched to the relief of Fort Plain at the time of Brant's raid about that post. Sammons was also in the Johnstown battle in 1781, where he captured a British prisoner at the end of the action and brought him in to the Johnstown jail, where he, Sammons, counted 37 British prisoners taken on that day.

* * * * *

This American army, under Van Rensselaer, was one of the largest yet concentrated in the valley and was only excelled in numbers by that of Clinton which had encamped at Canajoharie the year before, with the exception of the force of 3,000 men under Gen. Schuyler, who disarmed Sir John Johnson at Johnstown in 1776, when no battle was fought. The force that took the field on both sides at Klock's Field was the largest which arrayed itself for battle on any one Revolutionary field in the Mohawk country. About the same numbers were here engaged as at Oriskany (2,500), but at the action near present St. Johnsville the clash took place on one battleground while Oriskany consisted of two fights several miles apart — the bloody struggle in the ravine and Willett's destructive sally from Fort Stanwix. Van Rensselaer's army had accomplished practically nothing and, moreover, had sat supinely by while Brown's heroic band was being scattered by the enemy. And all this lost opportunity and disgraceful record was due to the incapacity or cowardice of a general totally unfitted for military command. It was left for Willett, a year later, to show how effectively the valley Americans, when properly led, could beat off the Canadian invaders.

Time after time, up to the day of the Stone Arabia battle, the local patriot soldiers had attempted to grapple with their savage white and red invaders, only to see them slip away on each occasion, unharmed and unpunished. Now, after the enemy had been cornered at Klock's Field and could have been easily destroyed or captured, they had been practically given their liberty by Van Rensselaer.

The valley militia had flocked to the American standard, eager to strike a fatal blow at their hated foes. The patriot population and soldiers of the Mohawk must have been indeed disheartened, discouraged and disgusted at this fiasco of a campaign, which initially had promised complete American success.

Van Rensselaer's conduct was the worst display of inefficiency or cowardice seen in the valley, and perhaps anywhere, during the Revolution. An opportunity was lost of crushing completely the raiders and probably preventing future bloodshed and loss in the valley. Van Rensselaer was subsequently court-martialed at Albany for his conduct but was acquitted, largely on account of his wealth and social position, it is said.

There was much scurrilous intrigue, dissension, bickering and petty jealousy among certain cliques of so-called patriots. The real American Revolutionary fighters were compelled to combat these vicious forces from within as well as the enemy. The acquittal of Van Rensselaer is an evidence that all Americans were not actuated by high-minded patriotism and strict justice, during the War for Independence.

Had the Continental Revolutionary forces been composed exclusively of men like Washington and Willett the conflict would have ended within a year or two in complete American success. Not only did such patriots have to fight the early battles with raw, undisciplined and frequently unreliable troops, but they had to constantly combat an insidious Tory influence among the people and the effect of such inefficiency as that exemplified in Van Rensselaer and men of his ilk.

* * * * *

At this time, and until its discontinuance as an army post, the Minden fort was known both as Fort Plain and Fort Rensselaer, the latter being its official title, conferred upon it probably by Van Rensselaer himself; Fort Plain evidently being its popular name and the one which survived until a later date.

In S. L. Frey's article on Fort Rensselaer (Fort Plain) published in the (Fort Plain) Mohawk Valley Register of March 6, 1912, he says: "Gen. Van Rensselaer * * * was appointed to the command of some of the posts in this section in the summer of 1780, — Fort Paris, Fort Plank, Fort Clyde, Fort Windecker, Fort Plain and others. His headquarters were at Fort Plain. In the fall of that year he wrote to Gov. Clinton from Fort Plain, dating his letter 'Fort Rensselaer, Sept. 4, 1780'. This is the first time the name appears."

Van Rensselaer evidently gave his name to his headquarters post on his arrival there in the summer of 1780, which may have been in August after the Minden raid. At the time of the Stone Arabia battle, Col. John Harper was in command of Fort Plain (under Gen. Van Rensselaer, of course).

In the courtmartial of Gen. Van Rensselaer the designation "Fort Plane or Rensselaer" is frequently used in the testimony of the witnesses. In this evidence appears the names of the following as having been engaged in the valley military operations of the time of the Stone Arabia battle: Col. Dubois, Col. Harper, Major Lewis R. Morris, Col. Samuel Clyde (who commanded a company of Tryon county militia), Lieut. Driscoll and Col. Lewis.

* * * * *

The number of Oneidas engaged in the foregoing military operations is given as 200 warriors by one authority and 80 by another, the smaller figure probably being nearer the truth. During part, at least, of the war this tribe lived in, about and under the protection of Schenectady their main Oneida Castle having been burned early in 1780. The Oneidas were generally loyal to the American cause and did good service for the patriots on several occasions — notably the campaign treated in this chapter, at Oriskany and at West Canada creek. As previously stated Col. John Harper was in command of these Indians, taking rank over their native chief.

* * * *

After the Stone Arabia battle, some 25 or 30 Americans were buried in an open trench near Fort Paris. The situation is believed to have been a few rods southeast of the present schoolhouse. John Klock drew the bodies of Brown's men thither on a sled although there was no snow on the ground. They were buried side by side in the clothes in which they fell. Some others who were slain were interred elsewhere.

Colonel Brown was buried in the Stone Arabia Reformed Church graveyard. Some of the Americans killed on this field were New England men, although local militiamen were also engaged. The loss of the enemy probably did not exceed half of the 25 or 30 patriots supposed to have been slain. On the anniversary of Col. John Brown's death in 1836, a monument was erected over his grave by his son, Henry Brown, of Berkshire, Mass., bearing the following inscription: "In memory of Col. John Brown, who was killed in battle on the 19th day of October, 1780, at Palatine, in the county of Montgomery. Age 36." This event was made a great occasion and was largely attended, veterans of the Stone Arabia battle being present. It is mentioned in a later chapter dealing with its period in Palatine.

* * * * *

Col. John Brown was born in Sandersfield, Mass., in 1744. He was graduated at Yale college in 1771 and studied law. He commenced practise at Caughnawaga (Fonda) and was appointed King's attorney. He soon went to Pittsfield, Mass., where he became active in the patriot cause and in 1775 went to Canada on a mission to try to get the people there to join the American cause. He was elected to congress in 1775 but joined Allen and Arnold's expedition against Ticonderoga. He was at Fort Chambly and Quebec. In 1776 he was commissioned lieutenant-colonel. In 1777 he commanded the expedition against Ticonderoga and soon after left the service on account of his detestation of Arnold. Three years before the latter became a traitor Brown published a hand bill in which he denounced Arnold as a traitor and concluded: "Money is this man's god, and to get enough of it he would sacrifice his country." This was published in Albany in the winter of 1776-7, while Arnold was quartered there. Arnold was greatly excited over it and called Brown a scoundrel and threatened to kick him on sight. Brown heard of this and the next day, by invitation, went to a dinner to which Arnold also came. The latter was standing with his back to the fire when Brown entered the door, and they met face to face. Brown said: "I understand, sir, that you have said you would kick me; I now present myself to give you an opportunity to put your threat into execution." Arnold made no reply. Brown then said: "Sir, you are a dirty scoundrel." Arnold was silent and Brown left the room, after apologizing to the gentlemen present for his intrusion. Col. Brown, after he left the army, was occasionally in the Massachusetts service. In the fall of 1780, with many of the Berkshire militia, he marched up the Mohawk River, his force to be used for defense as required.

In the Burgoyne campaign of 1777, Col. Brown led an American raiding party which got in the rear of Burgoyne's army after the first battle of Bemis Heights (Sept. 19) and destroyed stores and defeated British outposts around Fort Ticonderoga. Brown then sailed up Lake George and attempted to capture Burgoyne's depot of supplies on Diamond Island near the head of the lake. The British guard made such a valiant defense that Brown's party was repulsed.

Brown is said to have been a man of medium height, of fine military bearing and with dark eyes. He generally wore spectacles. His courage was proverbial among his men and in the Stone Arabia action seems to have run into recklessness, although, soldier that he was, he probably figured on holding the enemy at any cost until Van Rensselaer's large force could come up and, falling on the rear, crush them completely, which could have been readily accomplished by a skilful and determined commander. Col. Brown was immensely popular with his troops — with the militiamen from the valley as well as with the soldiers he commanded who were from his own state of Massachusetts.

* * * * *

Governor George Clinton visited Fort Plain on at least two known occasions. The first was during the Klock's Field operations and the second was when he accompanied Washington through the Mohawk valley in 1783. Clinton was a brother of Gen. James Clinton and an uncle of Dewitt Clinton, later the famous "canal Governor." He was born in Ulster County in 1739. In 1768 he was elected to the Colonial legislature, and was a member of the Continental congress in 1775. He was appointed a brigadier in the United States army in 1776, and during the whole war was active in military affairs in New York. In April, 1777, he was elected governor and continued so for eighteen years. He was president of the convention assembled at Poughkeepsie to consider the federal constitution in 1788. He was again chosen governor of the state in 1801, and in 1804. Afterward he was elected vice president of the United States and continued in that office until his death in Washington in 1812, aged 73 years.

* * * * *

In the fall of 1780 and the spring of 1781 the fortification of Fort Plain was strengthened by the erection of a strong blockhouse. It was situated about a hundred yards from the fort, commanding the steep northern side of the plateau on which both blockhouse and fort stood. The construction was of pine timber, 8x14 inches, dovetailed at the ends, and Thomas Morrel of Schenectady, father of Judge Abram Morrel of Johnstown, superintended its erection. It was octagonal in shape and three stories in height, the second projecting five feet over the first, and the third five feet over the second, with portholes for cannon on the first floor, and for musketry on all its surfaces; with holes in projecting floors for small arms, so as to fire down upon a closely approaching foe. The first story is said to have been 30 feet in diameter, the second 40 and the third 50, making it look top heavy for a gale of wind. It mounted several cannon for signal guns and defense — one of which was a twelve-pounder — on the first floor. It stood upon a gentle elevation of several feet. This defense was not palisaded, but a ditch or dry moat several feet deep extended around it. The land upon which both defenses stood was owned by Johannes Lipe during the Revolution. It is said it was built under the supervision of a French engineer employed by Col. Gansevoort. The latter, by order of Gen. Clinton, had repaired to Fort Plain to take charge of a quantity of stores destined for Fort Stanwix, just prior to Brant's Minden raid of August 2, as we have seen. It was probably at this time its erection was planned. Ramparts of logs were thrown up around the defenses at the time of the blockhouse erection. Some little time after this, doubts were expressed as to its being cannon-ball proof. A trial was made with a six-pounder placed at a proper distance. Its ball passed entirely through the blockhouse, crossed a broad ravine and buried itself in a hill on which the old parsonage stood, an eighth of a mile distant. This proved the inefficiency of the building, and its strength was increased by lining it with heavy planks. In order to form a protection against hot shot for the magazine, the garrison stationed there in 1782 commenced throwing up a bank of earth around the blockhouse. Rumors of peace and quiet that then prevailed in the valley, caused the work to cease. A representation of this blockhouse constitutes the seal of the village of Fort Plain. It was as much a part of the defensive works of Fort Plain as the stockaded fort and was of a more picturesque appearance and so was chosen for the seal.

Fort Willett was begun in the fall of 1780 and finished in the spring of 1781.

* * * * *

There are extant few records of the garrisons which tenanted Fort Plain, for ten years or more, and also those of its adjoining posts. Some have been preserved by Simms and the gist of a few are here given:

In the summer of 1780, Captain Putman's company of rangers from Fort Plain started for Fort Herkimer. They stopped for the night at Fort Windecker and Cobus Mabee of Fairfield, was put on picket duty for the night outside the post. About midnight the guard saw a savage stealing up behind a rail fence. He deftly slipped his hat and coat over a stump and dropped down behind a nearby log and waited. The Indian came very near and at a short distance fired at the dummy man, drew his tomahawk and rushed up. But before he could sink it in the stump, Mabee shot him dead. The garrison, half dressed, rushed to arms and found their comrade had bagged a remarkably large Indian. As showing the crudity of the times, it is said the corpse lay unburied near the fort for some time and was made the butt of Indian play by the boys of Fort Windecker.

In the summer of 1780 the enemy was reported to be in the vicinity of Otsego Lake and Capt. Putman led his company of rangers from Fort Plain to the lake, accompanied by a company of militia under Maj. Coapman, a Jerseyman. The route was from Fort Plain to Cherry Valley and from there to Otsego Lake. Finding no signs of an enemy a return march was made to Cherry Valley and from there to the Mohawk. On the way back an argument arose as to relative physical superiority of the rangers or scouts and the militia. To prove which was the better set of men, a race was proposed to Garlock's tavern on Bowman (Canajoharie) Creek. Major Coapman and Captain Putman were both heavy men and did not last long in the race of five or six miles, which soon started between the two rival companies. Putman's scouts were victorious and three of them, John Eikler, Jacob Shew and Isaac Quackenboss (a "lean man") distanced the militiamen and reached Garlock's pretty well played out. The soldiers were strung along the highway for miles in this run. "After the men had all assembled at the tavern, taken refreshments and the bill had been footed by Major Coapman, the party returned leisurely and in order to Fort Plain." It is a significant comment on the hardihood of the Revolutionary soldiers that they should find excitement in a five-mile run over a rough highway carrying their guns and packs.

Under date of April 3, 1780, Col. Fisher writes to Col. Goshen Van Schaick to order "some rum and ammunition for my regiment of militia [then stationed mostly in the Mohawk valley posts from Fort Johnson westward], being very necessary as the men are daily scouting."

On July 4, 1780, the hated Tory Adam Crysler with a band of raiders captured eight persons at New Dorlach in the present town of Sharon, Schoharie County. During and after the Revolution, Crysler was as much hated and as much of a scourge along the Schoharie and its tributaries as Walter Butler was in the Mohawk Valley section.

Elias Krepp, an old bachelor, was the miller of the grist mill erected by Sir William Johnson, in the then Tilleborough at the now village of Ephratah. In 1780 a party of raiders burned the mill and took Krepp to Canada. After the war he returned and, with George Getman, went to the ruined mill and, from its walls, removed several hundred dollars in gold and silver which he had there hidden for safety.

* * * * *

The chief national events of the year 1780 are summarized as follows: 1780, May 12, capture of Charleston, S. C., by British; 1780, August 16, American army under Gates defeated at Camden, S. C.; 1780, Sept. 23, capture of Major Andre of the British army by three Continental soldiers, Paulding, Williams and Van Wart, and subsequent disclosure of Arnold's treason, following his flight from his post at West Point on the Hudson.

* * * * *

Timothy Murphy, who "fired the bullet which was the turning point of the Revolution," is revealed by consulting the following authorities on the events of the Revolution: Campbell's "History of Tryon County," [i.e., William W. Campbell, Annals of Tryon County; or, The Border Warfare of New York, During the Revolution] Simms' "History of Schoharie County," Doty's "History of Livingston County," [i.e., Lockwood Lyon Doty, A History of Livingston County, New York] Lossing's "Field Book of the American Revolution," Volume I, [i.e., Benson John Lossing, Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution] and Colonel W. L. Stone's "History of the Battle of Saratoga." [probably William Leete Stone, Visits to the Saratoga Battle-grounds, 178-1880]

Murphy was one of that band of frontiersmen from the Shenandoah Valley who composed the celebrated rifle corps commanded by Colonel Daniel Morgan of Virginia. This gallant aggregation of fighting men wore upon their breasts the motto "Liberty or Death." Lossing says: "A large proportion of them were Irishmen, who were not very agreeable to the New Englanders." The men attracted much attention throughout the Revolutionary struggle and on account of their sure and deadly aim they became a terror to the British.

Wonderful stories of their exploits went to England and one of the riflemen who was carried there a prisoner was gazed at as a great curiosity.

In describing the battle of Bemis Heights on September 19, 1777, Lossing says:

"It was evident that the fate of the battle rested upon Fraser, and this the keen eye and sure judgment of Morgan perceived. Calling a file of his best men around him, he said, as he pointed towards the British right:

"'That gallant officer is General Fraser. I admire and honor him, but it is necessary he should die; victory for the enemy depends on him. Take station in that clump of bushes and do your duty.'

"Within five minutes Fraser fell mortally wounded. The rifleman who killed General Fraser was Timothy Murphy. He took sure aim from a small tree in which he was posted and saw Fraser fall on the discharge of his rifle.

The ubiquitous Murphy is again mentioned as a participant in the battle of Monmouth, and his heroic part in the expedition of General Sullivan through central and western New York and especially in defense of the fort at Middleburgh in October, 1780, reads like a chapter from a romantic novel.

He is described as a man of handsome features, of great muscular power, fleet of foot and wary as an Indian. While he was not a man of any education he was possessed of a strong intellect and had much influence over his associates. His skill in the desultory warfare with the Indians gave him so high a reputation that, though not nominally the commander, he usually directed all the movements of the scouts that were sent out, and on many important occasions the commanding officers found it dangerous to neglect his advice.

He used a double barreled rifle, which was something of a curiosity in those days, and the Indians, seeing him fire twice without stopping to reload, supposed he could fire as often as he pleased in the same manner, and they usually fled in terror when they learned that the dreaded Murphy was in their immediate neighborhood. A volume could be written about the exploits of this gallant Revolutionary soldier. He died at Schoharie in 1818.

Murphy married Peggy Feeck, a girl of Holland Dutch descent, and daughter of Johannes Feeck, whose dwelling stood inside the Upper Fort, near present Fultonham.

[Photo: The Timothy Murphy Monument in the Middleburgh Cemetery.]

A monument to Tim Murphy stands in the Middleburgh Cemetery. It consists of a tall tablet set in a base. On one side is a striking bas relief of Murphy, in his deerskin uniform as one of Morgan's Riflemen, which he and the detachment of Morgan's men wore on service on the Schoharie and at other points in the Mohawk Valley. On the reverse side of the tablet is the inscription:

"To the memory of Timothy Murphy, patriot, soldier, scout, citizen, who served in Morgan's rifle corps, fought at Saratoga and Monmouth and whose bravery repelled the attack of the British and their Indian allies upon the Middle Fort, October 17, 1780, and saved the Colonists of the Schoharie Valley. 1751-1818."

The final figures on the monument are those of Murphy's birth and death. This memorial was unveiled, with impressive ceremonies on Oct. 17, 1910, the 130th anniversary of the attack on the Middle Fort, during Johnson's raid, which Tim Murphy and his trusty rifle, repulsed almost single-handed.

[Photo: Vroomansland, from the Top of Mt. Onistagrawa, Middleburgh, N. Y.]

Murphy settled in the Schoharie Valley, in the John Feeck house in the Upper Fort. He is one of the several great scouts, who served on the Schoharie and Mohawk rivers during the Revolution. Others were Colonel Willett, Lieutenant Stockwell, Captain Demuth, John Adam Helmer, John Adam Hartmann and others. David Williams, who helped capture Major Andre, was another ranger who settled after the Revolution alongg the Schoharie, in 1806 and whose remains are buried in the cemetery at the Old Stone Fort at Schoharie.

See "Life and Adventures of Timothy Murphy" (1912) by Paul B. Mattice.

* * * * *

Go to top of page | back to: Chapter 68 | ahead to: Chapter 70

You are here: Home » Resources » MVGW Home » Chapter 69 updated March 30, 2015

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