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首页 » 英文名人传记 » Lives of Famous Indian Chiefs » CHAPTER VII.
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This remarkable man was born on the banks of the Ohio in 1742. His father, who bore the unpronounceable and unspellable name of Tehowaghwengaraghkwin, was a subordinate chief of the Wolf totem or clan of the Mohawk tribe.
There were two other rival clans among the Mohawks, known as the Tortoise or Turtle, and the Bear, while among the entire Iroquois confederation there were eight, the other five being the Crane, Snipe, Hawk, Beaver and Deer clans.
The following interesting legend is told of the ancestors of our hero. The scene is laid at what is known as the Little Falls of the Mohawk:
"Long ago, when the river was broader and the falls more lofty, a feud arose between two young chiefs of the respective clans of the Mohawk nation, the Wolf and the Tortoise. A maiden of the Bear totem was the cause of the feud, as maidens often are. She was loved by both the young chiefs, and for a time she so coquetted that each thought himself beloved by her in return. Her father was a stern old warrior and loved his child tenderly. Both chiefs had fought the Mingoes and Mohegans by his side, and the bravery of each entitled him to the hand of the maiden. Her affections were at length stirred by the more earnest importunities of the Wolf, and she promised to become his bride. This decision reached the ears of the Tortoise, and the embers of jealousy, which disturbed both while unaccepted suitors, burst into a flame of ungenerous revenge in the bosom of the disappointed lover. He determined to possess the coveted treasure before the Wolf should take her to his wigwam. With well-dissembled acquiescence in her choice, and expressions of warm friendship for herself and her affianced, he allayed all suspicions, and the maiden rambled with him in the moonlight upon the banks of the river when her affianced was away, unconscious of danger. The day approached for the maiden to go to the wigwam of her lord. The Tortoise was with her alone in a secluded nook upon the brink of the river. His light canoe was near and he proposed a voyage to a beautiful little island in the stream, where the fire-flies sparkled and the whippoorwill chanted its evening serenade. They launched, but, instead of paddling for the island, the Tortoise turned his prow toward the cataract. Like an arrow they sped down the swift current, while the young chief, with vigorous arm, paddled for the western shore. Skilful as with the bow and hatchet, he steered his canoe to the mouth of the cavern, then upon the water's brink, seized the affrighted maiden, and leaped ashore, at the same moment securing his canoe by a strong green withe. The cave was dry, a soft bed of the skins of beasts was spread, and abundance of provision was there stored. At the top of the cave, far above the maiden's reach, an opening revealed a passage through the fissures to the rocks above. It was known only to the Tortoise; and there he kept the maiden many months, until her affianced gave her up as lost to him forever. At length, while hunting on the southern hills in flowery May, the Wolf saw the canoe at the mouth of the cave. It solved the question in his mind. The evening was clear, and the full moon shone brightly. He waited until midnight, when, with an arm as strong and skill as accurate as his rival's, he steered his canoe to the mouth of the cavern, which was lighted up by the moon. By its light he saw the perfidious Tortoise sleeping peacefully by the side of his unwilling bride. The Wolf smote the Tortoise, but the wound was slight. The awakened warrior, unable to grasp his hatchet in the dark, bounded through the opening at the top of the cavern and closed it with a heavy stone. The lovers embraced in momentary joy. It was brief, for a fearful doom seemed to await them. The Tortoise would return with force, and they had to make choice of death by the hatchet of the rival chief, or the waters of the cataract. The latter was their choice, and, in affectionate embrace, they sat in their canoe and made the fearful leap. The frail vessel struck propitiously upon the boiling waters, and, unharmed, passed over the gulf below. Down the broad stream they glided, and far away, upon the margin of the lower lake, they lived and loved for two generations, and saw their children's children go out to the battle and the chase. In the line of their descent tradition avers, came Brant, the Mohawk sachem, the strong Wolf of his nation."
It is said that Brant's Indian name, Thay-en-da-ne-gea, signifies a bundle of sticks, or, in other words, strength. Joseph Brant, in company with two older brothers, fought his first battle at Lake George, under the famous chief, King Hendrick.
It may be interesting to recall the fact that it was from this noted chief that Sir William Johnson obtained a choice tract of land on the Mohawk, in the following manner. The sachem, being at the baronet's house, saw a richly embroidered coat and coveted it. The next morning he said to Sir William, "Brother, me dream last night." "Indeed," answered Sir William, "what did my red brother dream?" "Me dream that coat be mine." "It is yours," said the shrewd baronet. Not long afterward Sir William visited the sachem, and he, too, had a dream. "Brother," he said, "I dreamed last night." "What did my pale-faced brother dream?" asked Hendrick. "I dreamed that this tract of land was mine," describing a square bounded on the south by the Mohawk, on the east by Canada creek, and north and west by objects equally well known. Hendrick was astonished. He saw the enormity of the request, for it embraced nearly a hundred thousand acres, but he was not to be outdone in generosity. He sat thoughtfully for a moment, and then said, "Brother, the land is yours, but you must not dream again." The title was confirmed by the British government, and the tract was called the Royal Grant. Thus did Sir William Johnson become, next to the Penns, and Lord Fairfax, the largest landholder in the colonies.
Brant's father died in the Ohio country and his mother returned to Canajoharie, on the Mohawk, with the two younger children—Mary, or Mollie, as she was usually called, and Joseph.
By traffic with the Indians for furs, Sir William Johnson acquired a large fortune. He erected two splendid and spacious buildings, which he called the "Castle" and "Hall," respectively, occupying one in winter, the other in summer.
Four or five years after he built the castle, the wife of Colonel Johnson, as he was then called, a plain, fair-haired German girl of humble lineage, died, leaving her husband one boy, John, and two baby daughters. One day the widower attended a muster of the county militia.
As an officer came riding by on a prancing steed, a bright-eyed, red-cheeked Indian girl of sixteen, a real beauty, with her white teeth, long, flowing black hair, and a form of rare symmetry and grace, laughingly bantered him for a ride. The officer told her she might jump on if she could. Quick as a flash the agile girl leaped up on the horse behind the gallant rider, and clinging to him, her hair and ribbons blowing wildly in the breeze, rode round and round on the flying steed before the applauding crowd.
One man took more than ordinary interest in the incident. It was the susceptible and lonely widower. That night Mollie Brant, Joseph's sister, who was the dusky beauty, went home with the baronet to Johnson Castle, becoming thenceforth the mistress alike of it and its proprietor. The motherless daughters were assigned apartments of their own, where they lived in complete seclusion under the care of a devoted friend of their mother, an officer's widow. Their time was occupied with needlework or study. Their library consisted of the Bible and prayer-book, Rollin's "Ancient History," and a few English novels of the period. A game of chess, a walk in the park, or a drive along the river road, constituted their only amusements. At the age of sixteen they had never seen a lady other than their governess. Occasionally some gentleman visitor came to Johnson Hall. This served to break the monotony for the lonely girls, to whom such a guest was always presented. They married early, and their father built for them two elegant stone residences a few miles from the castle.
Far different from this conventual life of the two daughters was that led below stairs by their father. From the first, Sir William acquired great influence over the warriors of the far-famed Six Nations or Iroquois Confederation. The negotiations of the British Government with these Indians were all carried on through him. The castle was his storehouse, where large supplies of guns, ammunition and trinkets were kept for trade. Around the castle were clusters of cabins for the accommodation of Indians who came to traffic.
Sir William also kept a bounteous table open to every comer. The Indians would visit him day and night, sleeping in the halls, on the steps or in the cabins, as suited their fancy, and faring on their host's sumptuous provision for days at a time. The natural genius of the baronet for controlling the restless red men was greatly aided by his questionable alliance with Mollie Brant. She was immensely popular, possessed a shrewd intelligence, and acquired great influence over her people. Sir William, moreover, by this alliance, for he married her near the close of his life in order to make her children legitimate, won the hearts of the warriors. His castle, to which they were always glad to come, was considered the splendid establishment of one of their own people. The Indians formally adopted the baronet into the Mohawk nation; they then gave him an Indian name and made him a war-chief.
Brant is said to have taken that name from the fact that after the death of his father, the mother married an Indian who went by the name of Brant among the English. Thay-en-da-ne-gea would naturally be called by the surname of his stepfather. At first he was known as Brant's Joseph, afterward Joseph Brant.
Women are often designing, and use their influence over men for their own purposes. It is natural to find that "Miss Mollie Brant" made use of her influence over Sir William to further the interests of her brother Joseph. As he was an unusually intelligent lad he soon became the recipient of Sir William's bounty, and was sent by him to school at Lebanon, Connecticut. This school was taught by Rev. Eleazer Wheelock. In Dr. Wheelock's letters to Sir William Johnson, Joseph Brant is frequently well spoken of, as "Joseph and the rest of the boys are well, studious and diligent"; "Joseph is indeed an excellent youth."
He was employed by the baronet to assist in his duties as Indian commissioner. He acted as interpreter, and was often sent on long journeys, to the wild Indians of the West. In this work he early exhibited rare diplomatic ability. Moreover, Brant took great interest in things spiritual, and aided materially in translating portions of the Bible, the prayer-book and ritual, into the Mohawk tongue.
At the time of Sir William Johnson's death. Brant was a powerful Mohawk sachem. John Johnson, the only son of Sir William, inherited the title and much of the wealth; while Guy Johnson, Sir William's son-in-law, became Indian Commissioner, with Joseph Brant as his private secretary.
Meanwhile the Revolution was approaching. New York constantly protested her loyalty, but still claimed her liberty. Political discussion became loud and heated. The people found themselves ranged into two hostile parties. The great majority were patriots. They believed in the colonies having justice, come what would. These were the Whigs. But there was also a minority party who retained their old attachment to England, who justified the home government, and abused the Whigs. They were the Conservatives, or Tories. The one demanded a change—a reform. The other replied, "Let well enough alone; peace! peace! when there was no peace."
These party dissensions reached the Mohawk valley, where a majority of the people were enthusiastic Whigs. The Johnsons, however, were Tories. Property and aristocracy are conservative. The Johnsons were very wealthy and cared nothing for the tax on tea. What was it to them if troops were quartered in Boston? It cost them nothing. So they wanted things to continue as they were.
Brant had now become, by the exigencies of war, by his connection with the Johnsons, and by his own superior mind and gift for leadership, the most powerful and influential of the Iroquois war-chiefs.
Before the Americans were yet sure whether Brant would take up the tomahawk against them, his old school-master was asked to write to him on the subject.
President Wheelock accordingly wrote Brant a very long letter, using every argument in favor of the colonists that he thought would have weight with an Indian. Brant answered with Indian wit that he very well remembered the happy hours he had spent under the Doctor's roof, and he especially remembered the family prayers, and, above all, how his school-master used to pray "that they might be able to live as good subjects, to fear God and honor the King."
Meantime the American successes in Canada were, for a time, very influential with the Indians on the American border, many of whom took sides with the colonies. It is possible that Brant, too, felt the power of success and wavered a little at this critical time, though he always denied it. In speaking of this period long afterward, Brant said: "When I joined the English in the beginning of the war, it was purely on account of my forefathers' engagements with the King. I always looked on these engagements, or covenants between the King and the Indian nations, as a sacred thing; therefore I was not to be frightened by the threats of rebels at the time."
Encouraged by the Johnsons and other Tories, who wished him to see the mother-country, that he might judge of her resources and population, Brant sailed for England in the fall of 1775. On his arrival in London he was conducted to a rather obscure inn, called "The Swan With Two Necks." All haste was made, however, to provide statelier lodgings for the great "Indian King," as the Englishmen called him. But Brant politely but firmly declined, declaring that the people at "The Swan" had treated him so kindly he preferred to stay there.
"In this Joseph showed his innocence," as Mason says. "He mistook the broad smile and hearty handshake, which forms such an important part of the landlord's stock in trade, for the genuine article. If he was taken in by the patronizing airs of the shrewd tavern-keeper, Brant showed no other signs of verdancy. He dressed in European clothing of the best quality. His courtly manners and clear-cut English caused the throng of titled men and jeweled women who sought his company and pressed upon him the honors of the capital to lose sight of the fact that this lordly gentleman of foreign accent and distinguished air was, in fact, a red-fisted savage, accustomed to lead his yelling band of braves to midnight massacres.
"When he appeared at court on visits of business or ceremony, he laid aside his European habit, and wore a gorgeous costume of the fashion of his own people. Bands of silver encircled his sinewy arms. Tall plumes adorned his head-dress, and highly colored fabrics, hung with copper pendants, formed his clothing. The sight of a glittering tomahawk with his full name, 'J. Thay-en-da-ne-gea,' engraved on it must have shocked the ladies at court."
Brant was much lionized while in England. He was courted by that celebrated worshiper of great men, Boswell; and sat for his picture twice during the visit, once at Boswell's request, and once for the Earl of Warwick, who caused Romney, the eminent painter, to make a portrait of him for his collection.
He bought a gold ring during his stay, upon which he had his full name engraved, that his body might be identified in case of his death in the coming battles.
Joseph Brant
Before he left England he promised to lead three thousand Indians into the field on the royal side. Returning to America, by way of New York, early in the spring, he was secretly landed at some quiet spot near the city. From here he undertook the dangerous journey through the country to Canada, and succeeded. On reaching Canada, he at once collected a large force of Indians, which he placed at the disposal of Sir Guy Carleton, commander of the royal forces in Canada. Carleton ordered him with six hundred Iroquois to join a company of regulars in dislodging the Americans from a point of land about forty miles above Montreal, known as the Cedars. The American commander, Bedell, when he saw the English and Indians approaching, deserted, under pretense of going for reinforcements. The command was left to Major Butterfield, who seems to have been almost as cowardly as Bedell. After a brief fight with musketry, he was intimidated by a threat that the Indians would have no mercy if the Americans held out any longer, and surrendered, against the wishes of his men. He had hardly surrendered when a detachment was sent to his relief by Arnold, which was attacked by Brant and his Indians, and, after a stubborn fight, captured. The savages murdered several of the prisoners before they could be stopped. Brant immediately exerted himself in every way to prevent a massacre. One of the prisoners, Captain McKinistry, who was wounded, was selected by the Indians to be put to death by torture. Brant would not permit this, but a chief's influence is not very great in such eases, and it was with a great deal of trouble that he prevented it. To soothe the feelings of his warriors, he and some of the British officers made up a purse, with which they bought the Indians an ox to roast instead of Captain McKinistry, who was treated with so much kindness by the young chief that he and Brant became fast friends. In after years Brant never passed down the Hudson without visiting the captain at his home. Arnold secured the exchange of the prisoners by promising to release British prisoners in return, which promise was never fulfilled.
In 1777 Brant gathered a large force of Indians at Oquaga, on the Susquehanna. The settlers on the frontier trembled, and there was reason for fear, for Brant was planning an attack upon Cherry Valley. He approached the settlement with his Indians one bright May morning, and took an observation from the distant woods. It happened at this moment that the boys of the settlement were parading in front of the rude fort with their wooden swords and guns. Brant mistook the amateurs for real soldiers. He, with his party, moved to a hiding place along the roadside, hoping to intercept some one who would give them information. That morning Lieutenant Wormwood, a rich young man from the Mohawk, who had come over to Cherry Valley to tell the inhabitants that reinforcements would be sent, started home. He was accompanied by one Peter Sitz, who bore double dispatches, one true, the other exaggerating the strength of the defense at the fort. When they reached the place where the Indians were in hiding Brant hailed them, but instead of answering they put spurs to their horses and tried to pass. But the savages fired at them, killing the lieutenant outright, and the horse on which Sitz rode. The Indians now rushed out and scalped Wormwood and captured Sitz, who delivered the bogus dispatches to Brant. By this means he was fortunately deceived as to the strength of Cherry Valley, and retired. It is said that the chief regretted the death of the young man, as they had formerly been friends.
Brant's forces at Oquaga continued to increase; all believed he was preparing for a hostile movement. The people of the frontier were in terror; General Herkimer, who was an old neighbor and friend of Brant, determined to visit him, hoping to influence him to remain neutral, and, failing in this, to capture the chief if possible. He sent a messenger, inviting Brant to an interview with him at Unadilla, and marched to this place with over three hundred militia. Brant moved to meet him with some five hundred braves; he encamped within two miles of Herkimer and sent a messenger to the general.
"Captain Brant wants to know what you came here for," said the messenger.
"I merely came to see and talk with my brother, Captain Brant," answered Herkimer.
"Do all these men want to talk with Captain Brant, too?" inquired the Indian. "I will carry your talk to Captain Brant, but you must not come any farther."
Through messengers a meeting was appointed to take place about midway between the two encampments. After Herkimer and his party had been on the ground some time Brant and his friends arrived, greeted the general and began to converse, but watched his face with a keen eye. In fact, each observed the other with ill-disguised suspicion.
"May I inquire the reason of my being so honored?" said the polite chief.
"I came only on a friendly visit," answered Herkimer.
"And all these have come on a friendly visit, too?" and Brant eyed Herkimer's companions. "All want to see the poor Indians? It is very kind," he added, with just a little curl of the lip.
General Herkimer wished to go forward to his camp, but Brant informed him he was quite near enough at present, and that he must not proceed further in that direction. Herkimer questioned Brant about his feelings and intentions with regard to the war between England and the colonies, to which the sachem replied earnestly: "The Indians are in concert with the King, as their fathers were. We have yet got the wampum belt which the King gave us, and we can not break our word. You and your followers have joined the Boston people against your sovereign. Yet, although the Bostonians are resolute, the King will humble them. General Schuyler was very smart on the Indians in his treaty with them, but at the same time he could not afford to give them the smallest article of clothing. The Indians have made war before upon the white people when they were all united; now they are divided, and the Indians are not frightened." Brant peremptorily refused to surrender the Tories in his party, when this was demanded, but agreed to meet Herkimer on the following morning.
That night Herkimer laid a dark plot to massacre the chief and his few attendants at the next meeting, the following day. But Brant was wary. At the appointed time he marched up to General Herkimer with great dignity.
"I have five hundred warriors with me, armed and ready for battle," said he. "You are in my power; but as we have been friends and neighbors I will not take advantage of you." As he said this he gave a signal to his waiting band, and with a war-whoop that made the forest resound they swept around the spot ready for any work their chief had for them to do. Restraining his men, Brant faced Herkimer and his raw recruits, and with a haughty gesture said: "You may go." The colonists took the hint and went at the highest possible speed.
Joseph Waggoner, one of Herkimer's party, in a written statement, declared that the general appointed himself and three others to be present at this meeting, and at a signal from him to shoot Brant and his three attendants upon the spot. This was not a very honorable or friendly intention, but white men in Indian warfare often become as treacherous as the Indians themselves, and it is a relief to know that the plan failed for the reason given.
The savage war had now commenced. The tomahawk and scalping-knife were combined with British bayonets for the devastation of the frontier. Burgoyne, who had superseded Sir Guy Carleton as commander of the royal forces in Canada, in invading New York, detached St. Leger against Fort Stanwix, or Schuyler, on the Mohawk. Brant and his Indians formed a part of this force. Colonel Gansevoort, the commander of the fort, declared his determination to defend it to the last extremity. But the fortifications were weak, and the garrison in peril. A body of militia was raised in the valley of the Mohawk for the relief of the place. Our old friend General Herkimer, took the command and, early in August, began his march for the fort. St. Leger, hearing of his approach, dispatched a strong force of British and Indians to meet them. Brant, knowing from experience that the militia would advance without much order or precaution, planned an ambush, which the misconduct of the Americans and their commander enabled him to carry into effect with such success as to cause them a severe loss. He placed his warriors in an ambush where there was a causeway and bridge crossing a low marsh. They were arranged in a circle with an opening at the bridge. As soon as the main body had crossed this marsh, a band of warriors rushed in to close the gap of the circle, completely inclosing the militia, with the exception of the supply train and rear guard, which had not entered the causeway.
Herkimer's first intimation of the vicinity of an enemy was a terrific Indian yell, followed immediately by so heavy and well-aimed a volley as brought nearly every man in his advanced body to the ground. A frightful struggle ensued. From every side the savages poured in the most galling fire. Every time the militia attempted to breakthrough the fatal lines which encircled them, they were beaten back with fearful slaughter. Yet they bravely maintained a most stubborn resistance by posting themselves in Indian fashion behind logs and trees.
Observing that a savage, waiting till a colonist had discharged his gun from behind a tree, would rush forward and tomahawk him before he could reload, they placed two men behind each tree, one reserving his fire for the defense of his companion. Finding themselves pressed on all sides, the militiamen disposed themselves in a circle. It was a small wheel within a larger one.
Just as the Indians charged on their foes with desperate valor, using the murderous bayonet, as well as the tomahawk, a sudden storm which had come up unnoticed by the struggling combatants broke upon them with tropical fury. Unearthly bolts of lightning, followed by peal after peal of sky-splitting thunder, lent horror to the scene. The trees of the forest writhed and swayed in the fury of the tempest. In a moment a mighty flood of waters burst forth from the surcharged clouds, dampening the powder and rendering some of the guns of the combatants useless. The conflict of men became puny in comparison with the conflict of the elements. The noise of battle was but a stillness contrasted with the awful roar of the storm. The awed combatants desisted. The dark clans of Thay-en-da-ne-gea withdrew in sullen rage to the sheltering distance.
The storm lasted about an hour, and the Americans availed themselves of this opportunity to take a more advantageous position.
When the fighting was again renewed, the red men were reenforced by a detachment of Johnson's Greens. As the royalists advanced upon the American militia, neighbor recognized neighbor, and with the bitter hatred of civil warfare the battle was waged more fiercely. The Americans fired upon the Greens as they came up, and then, with uncontrollable ferocity, sprang from the sheltering trees and attacked them with their bayonets and the butts of their muskets. The contest grew even closer, and militiamen and Tories, some of whom were neighbors and relatives, throttled and stabbed one another, often dying grappled together.
Near the commencement of the action a musket ball passed through and killed General Herkimer's horse, and shattered his own leg just below the knee. With perfect composure and cool courage, he ordered the saddle to be taken from his dead horse and placed against a large beech tree near. Seated there, with his men falling all around him, and the bullets of the enemy like driving sleet, the intrepid old general calmly gave his orders. When advised to take a less exposed position, his reply was, "No, I will face the enemy," and he continued to command his men; at the same time coolly taking out his tinder-box and lighting his pipe, he smoked it with the greatest composure. He did not long survive the battle, but died at his home near by.
A body of two hundred and fifty men of the garrison were in the meantime advancing to the relief of Herkimer's party. They fell upon the Indians and Tories, put them to rout, captured their provisions and baggage, with five standards, and returned in safety. Brant now drew off his braves, and one of the bloodiest battles of the war ended.
Herkimer's disaster produced no disheartening effects upon the garrison. They repulsed every attack, and refused to listen to any mention of a surrender, although they no longer had any hope of being relieved.
As it was of the utmost importance to reduce this place, in order to leave no military post in the hands of the Americans which might threaten the right flank of Burgoyne's army in its approach, St. Leger tried the arts of intimidation. On August 8 he sent a flag to the fort with a summons to surrender, in which he exaggerated his own strength, and represented that Burgoyne had entered Albany in triumph, after laying waste the whole country in his victorious march. He further stated that Brant and his Indians were determined, if they met with further resistance, to massacre every soul on the Mohawk river; and, in case they were obliged to wait any longer for the surrender of Fort Schuyler, every man in the garrison would be tomahawked.
Gansevoort, maintaining his inflexible resolution, was not moved in the slightest degree by these threats, but determined to make one more attempt to obtain relief. Two of his officers volunteered their services, and with much difficulty and many adventures, made their way through the cordon of the enemy to German Flats, from which place a message was sent to General Schuyler, at Stillwater. Measures were instantly taken to relieve the fort. General Arnold offered to conduct the expedition, and a brigade was detached for this purpose.
But an opportunity presented itself for directing a stratagem against the enemy. Among the Tory spies recently captured was a half-witted fellow named Hon-Yost Schuyler; he was tried by court-martial and condemned to death. His mother and brother interceded with Arnold on his behalf; the general at first was inexorable, but at last proposed terms on which he would grant Hon-Yost's pardon. He must hurry to Fort Schuyler and alarm St. Leger's army, so that he would raise the siege. The foolish fellow immediately accepted these conditions, and his brother became a hostage in his stead. Hon-Yost now made arrangements with a friendly Oneida Indian to aid him, and, after firing several shots through his clothes, the two men started by different routes to St. Leger's army.
Brant's Indian warriors had been morose and dissatisfied since the battle of Oriskany; they had been promised an easy success and much plunder, and they had found neither the one nor the other. They were now holding a great pow-wow to consult the spirits about the success of the present siege. In the midst of the ranting and drumming, and dancing, and other mysterious jugglery, Hon-Yost arrived in camp. Hon-Yost was well known to be on their side, and they crowded around him to hear the news. With the trickery of a half-witted man he did not deliver his message in plain words. He knew the effect of mystery with an Indian. He shook his head ominously, and pointed to his riddled clothes to denote his narrow escape from the coming foe.
"How many men—how many men are there?" asked the eager Indians.
Hon-Yost looked up and pointed to the leaves of the trees over his head. The report ran like wild-fire through the camp; it quickly reached the ear of the commander. St. Leger sent for Hon-Yost. The wily fellow adopted a different policy in talking to the English commander. He told a straight and pitiful story; how he had been captured, tried and condemned; how, on the way to his execution, finding himself carelessly guarded, he had fled, thinking he would die any way, and he would as soon be shot as hung. His escape had been narrow, as the colonel might see by looking at his clothes. And the Americans were coming in great force to raise the siege. While Hon-Yost was being interviewed at headquarters, the Oneida messenger arrived with wampum to say that the Americans were indeed coming in great force. Of course, after all this, the spirits consulted in the pow-wow gave ominous warnings. St. Leger saw that the Indians were about to decamp; he tried to reassure them; he called a council, but neither the influence of Thay-en-da-ne-gea nor that of Johnson was of any avail.
"The pow-wow says we must go—the pow-wow says we must go," persisted the Indians. And the besieging army went—as fast as they could, strewing their baggage along the route.
The simpleton, whose well-told lie was responsible for this sudden departure, went with them a few miles, and then contrived to slip away. He reported to General Arnold, who promptly released his brother, and gave him a full pardon.
Brant was again at Oquaga in 1778, the terror of the border. Women turned pale and children trembled at his very name. In the bitter animosity of the day no story of cruelty was too black to be laid upon Brant, the great chief of these savage warriors. Brant felt keenly the hatred with which he was regarded in afterlife among frontiersmen. The proud chief wished to be regarded as a gentleman in every respect. "He always denied," as Edward Eggleston says, "that he had ever committed any act of cruelty during this cruel war, and none has been proved against him, while many stories of his mercy are well authenticated. He led, indeed, a savage force, and fought in the savage way, as the English officials who managed the Indian alliance desired. When Indians were accused of cruelty Brant would return the charge upon the whites, who sometimes, in fact, excelled the savages in their revengeful barbarity. To Brant the civilized custom of imprisoning men was the worst of cruelty; a man's liberty, he held, was worth more than his life. Of the Indian custom of torture he did not approve, but when a man must die for a crime, he thought it better to give him some chance to make atonement in a courageous and warrior-like death than to execute him after the manner of the whites by the humiliating gallows. Brant used in after-life to defend the Indian mode of warfare. He said the Indians had neither the artillery, the numbers, the forts, nor the prisons of the white men. In place of artillery they must use stratagem; as their forces were small, they must use every means to kill as many of the enemy with as small a loss to themselves as possible; and, as they had no prisons, their captives must, in some cases, be killed. He held it more merciful to kill a suffering person, and thus put an end to his misery."
King Hendrick
During the summer of 1778, when every borderer trembled for his life, a boy named William McKoun was one day making hay in a field alone; when, happening to turn around he saw an Indian very near, and involuntarily raised his rake for defense.
"Don't be afraid, young man, I shan't hurt you," said the Indian. "Can you tell me where Foster's house is?" The youth gave the directions, and then asked, "Do you know Mr. Foster?" "I am slightly acquainted with him. I saw him once at Halfway creek," answered the Indian. "What is your name?" "William McKoun." "Oh, you are a son of Captain McKoun, who lives in the northeast part of town, I suppose. I know your father very well; he lives neighbor to Mr. Foster. I know McKoun very, very well, and a very fine fellow he is, too. I know several more of your neighbors and they are all fine men."
"What is your name?" the boy ventured to ask. The Indian hesitated a moment and then said: "My name is Brant." "What! Captain Brant?" cried the boy, eagerly. "No; I'm a cousin of his," answered the chief, smiling, as he turned away.
The first blow that Brant struck in 1778 was at a small settlement about ten miles from Cherry Valley. The inhabitants were aroused by the terrible war-whoop in the dead of night; some escaped, the rest were taken prisoners. Under Brant's guidance there was no massacreing of helpless women and children. The houses and barns were fired, and their flames lighted up the country; the men were tied and carried into captivity. Brant had left one large house unburned. Into this he gathered the women and children, and here he left them unharmed.
The alarming news that Brant's forces were increasing, and that he was fortifying himself at Unadilla, reached Cherry Valley. Captain McKoun, of that place, very foolishly wrote Brant a challenge to meet him either in single combat, or with an equal number of men, with the insulting addition that if Brant would come to Cherry Valley they would change him "from a Brant to a goose." This letter was put in the Indian post office; in other words, it was tied to a stick and put in an Indian foot-path, and was sure to reach the chief.
Brant received it in due time, and referred to it in this postscript to a letter written to a loyalist a few days after: "I heard that the Cherry Valley people are very bold and intend to make nothing of us; they call us wild geese, but I know the contrary. I mean now to fight the cruel rebels as well as I can."
Early in the fall of 1778 Brant, with his Indian army, made an attack upon German Flats, the finest and richest part of Mohawk Valley. Fortunately four scouts from the settlement were out; three of them were killed by the Indians, but the fourth one escaped to warn the settlers. Men, women and children took to Forts Dayton and Herkimer, near by, for safety. Brant did not know that his approach was expected. The Indians swept into the settlement from different directions, that they might take it entirely by surprise. They found the houses deserted. A moment more and the settlement was in a blaze. Each family could see from the forts its own home and the stored-up fruits of their year's labor fast burning up. But they might be thankful they were not in the houses.
The Indians dared not brave the artillery of the forts, but could be seen rushing into the pastures after the cattle, and driving away sheep and horses. They left the settlers nothing, but fortunately they had found only two men to kill.
A war of retaliation was now begun. A regiment of American troops marched upon Brant's headquarters. They approached Unadilla with the greatest caution, thinking to surprise the Indians in their homes, but Indians are not often so surprised. They found that Unadilla had been deserted several days. Capturing a loyalist, they made him guide them to Oquaga. This town had been just deserted in the greatest confusion, and much of the Indians' portable property was left behind. Here were a number of well-built houses which denoted Brant's efforts at civilization. The colonial soldiers feasted upon poultry, fruit and vegetables of the red men; and then everything was destroyed by fire.
Near to this place was an Indian fort. This, too, was laid in ruins. On the return two mills were burned and the village of Unadilla was left in a blaze.
From his ruined villages Brant determined to return to Niagara for winter quarters. While on the way he was met by Walter N. Butler, who, with a force of loyalists, was marching to attack the settlements, and he brought orders for Brant to join him. The great sachem was much displeased to be put in a subordinate position under this young man, or rather young fiend, whom he disliked. He was at length persuaded to join him, however, with a force of some five hundred warriors.
It was late in the fall. The scattered settlers had returned to their homes thinking it was too late in the season for further danger from the Indians, as Brant and his warriors had, as they supposed, gone into winter quarters at Niagara. They therefore did not apprehend an attack on the settlement.
The fort at Cherry Valley was the church, surrounded with a stockade and garrisoned by eastern soldiers, who knew little of Indian fighting. They heard rumors of an approach from the Indians, but did not credit them fully. They did, however, send out scouts, who went a few miles, built a fire and lay down to sleep, without appointing a guard. They awoke to find themselves prisoners.
Butler and Brant approached the settlement on a stormy night. They fired upon a straggling settler, who escaped to give the alarm. But, strange to say, the commander did not yet believe the Indians were coming in force, until they burst like a storm upon the settlement, surrounding the houses and murdering the inhabitants as they came forth.
The house of Mr. Wells, a prominent citizen, was first surrounded, and every person in it was killed by the ferocious Senecas, who were first to rush into the village. Captain Alden, the unwise commander, paid for his folly with his life. He and the other officers were quartered among the settlers outside the fort, and as soon as the alarm was heard he tried to reach the fort, but a savage hurled his tomahawk at his head with deadly effect. Thirty-two settlers, mostly women and children, were killed, although some of them escaped to the woods and from there to the Mohawk Valley. Brant greatly regretted the murder of the Wells family, with whom he was well acquainted; although he had tried to anticipate the Indians and reach the Wells house before the Senecas, but failed. He now asked after Captain McKoun, and was informed that he had probably escaped to the Mohawk with his family.
"He sent me a challenge once," said Brant. "I have now come to accept it. He is a fine soldier thus to retreat."
"Captain McKoun would not turn his back upon an enemy when there was any probability of success," answered his informer.
"I know it," said Brant. "He is a brave man, and I would have given more to take him than any other man in Cherry Valley, but I would not have hurt a hair of his head."
Through all that terrible struggle, here and elsewhere, in which so much blood was shed, and so many heart-sickening scenes were enacted by both parties, Brant was generally found on the side of mercy; but it was his misfortune to be under the command of Tories, whom he declared, "were more savage than the savages themselves."
We have called Walter N. Butler a fiend, and an incident is recorded of the massacre at Cherry Valley which tends to prove it. Butler ordered a little child to be killed because he was a rebel. Brant interfered and saved him, remarking: "This child is not an enemy to the King, nor a friend to the colonies; long before he is old enough to bear arms the trouble will be settled."
During this massacre Brant entered a house where he found a woman going about her regular duties.
"How does it happen you are at this kind of work while your neighbors are all murdered around you?" exclaimed the chief.
"We are King's people," answered the woman.
"That plea won't save you to-day," said Brant.
"There is one Joseph Brant; if he is with the Indians, he will save us," said the woman.
"I am Joseph Brant," answered the chief; "but I am not in command, and I don't know that I can save you, but I will do what I can."
At this moment some Senecas approached the house "Get into bed and pretend you are sick," said Brant. The woman hurried into bed and Brant met the Senecas.
"There's no one here but a sick woman and her children." said he. He prevailed upon the Indians to leave, after little conversation. When they were out of sight he went to the door and gave a long, shrill yell. Immediately some Mohawks came running across the fields.
"Where is your paint?" Brant called out to them. "Here, put my mark upon this woman and her children." The order was obeyed, and Brant turned to the woman saying, "You are now probably safe, as the Indians will understand and respect that sign."
The loyalists and Indians gained no success by an attempted assault on the fort, while the garrison dared make no sally, on account of the superior numbers of the Indians. The enemy encamped for the night in the valley, and spent most of the night distributing and dividing plunder. There were thirty or forty prisoners, men, women and children, who spent a sleepless night, fearing that torture was reserved for them; but the next morning the whole force marched down Cherry Valley creek. On the morning of the following day, the prisoners were all gathered together, and were informed that the women were all to be sent back with the exception of Mrs. Moore, Mrs. Campbell and their children. It seems that the husbands of these two women had been active in border warfare, and it was resolved, as a punishment, to keep their families in captivity. These Women and children were finally exchanged for British prisoners among the Americans.
Among other captives the Indians carried away, at this time, a man named Vrooman, who was an old friend of the chief. Desiring to give his friend a chance to escape. Brant sent him back about two miles to get some birch-bark. He, of course, expected to see no more of him, but what was his surprise when, a few hours after, Vrooman came hurrying up with the bark, which the chief did not want. Brant said afterward that he had sent him back on purpose to give him a chance to escape, but he was such a big fool he did not do it and he was compelled to take him to Canada.
In 1780, when Sir John Johnson and Brant led a desolating army through the Schoharie and Mohawk valleys, Brant's humanity was again displayed. On their way to Fort Hunter an infant was carried off. The frantic mother followed them as far as the fort, but could get no tidings of her child. On the morning after the departure of the invaders, and while General Van Rensselaer's officers were at breakfast, a young Indian came bounding into the room, bearing the infant in his arms and a letter from Captain Brant, addressed to "The Commander of the Rebel Army." The letter was as follows: "Sir,—I send you, by one of my runners, the child, which he will deliver, that you may know that whatever others may do, I do not make war upon women and children. I am sorry to say that I have those engaged with me who are more savage than the savages themselves." He named Colonel John Butler, who commanded the Tories at Wyoming, and his son, Walter N., the commander of the British and Indians at Cherry Valley. The former occurred July 3, 1778 the latter, November 10, of the same year.
These were among the most bloody massacres of Indian warfare. But let it never be forgotten, that the commander and instigator of the butchery of aged non-combatants, women and children, at each place, was a white man. We have seen how Brant restrained the fiendish barbarity of the younger Butler at Cherry Valley. And, as to Wyoming, it has been proven that the "Monster Brant," as Campbell calls him in his "Gertrude of Wyoming," was not present at that massacre.
The Indians who fought with the Loyalists at Wyoming were not Mohawks, but Senecas, under their war-chief, Gi-en-gwa-tah, which signifies "he who goes in the smoke."
It was at Wyoming where the garrison sallied forth under Colonel Zebulon Butler, the commander, to attack the Tories and Indians, under the command of John Butler. The Americans were ambushed and only a remnant regained the fort. A demand was sent in for the surrender of the fort, accompanied by one hundred and ninety-six bloody scalps, taken from the slain. When the best terms were asked, the infamous John Butler replied, "the hatchet." It will be noticed that the hostile commanders bore the same name, as they were cousins and had been old friends.
It was believed for many years that Brant and his Mohawk warriors were engaged in the invasion of Wyoming. Historians of established reputation, such as Gordon, Ramsey, Thacher, Marshall, and Allen, assert that he and John Butler were joint commanders on that occasion, and upon his memory rested the foul imputation of being a participant in the horrid transactions of Wyoming. Misled by history, or rather "historical imagination," Campbell, in his "Gertrude of Wyoming," makes the Oneida say:
           "This is no time to fill the joyous cup;
           The mammoth comes—the foe—the monster Brant,
           With all his howling, desolating band."
And again:
           "Scorning to wield the hatchet for his tribe,
           'Gainst Brant himself I went to battle forth;
           Accursed Brant! he left of all my tribe
           Nor man, nor child, nor thing of living birth.
           No! not the dog that watched my household hearth
           Escaped that night of blood upon the plains.
           All perish'd. I alone am left on earth!
           To whom nor relative nor blood remains—
           No, not a kindred drop that runs in human veins."
Brant always denied any participation in the invasion, but the evidence of history seemed against him, and the verdict of the world was that he was one of the chief actors in that horrible tragedy. From this aspersion Mr. Stone vindicated his character in his "Life of Brant." A reviewer, understood to be Caleb Cushing, of Massachusetts, disputed the point, and maintained that Stone had not made out a clear case for the sachem. Unwilling to remain deceived, if he was so, Mr. Stone made a journey to the Seneca country, where he found several surviving warriors who were engaged in that campaign. The celebrated Seneca chief, Kavundvowand, better known as Captain Pollard, who was a young chief in the battle, gave Mr. Stone a clear account of the events, and was positive in his declarations that Brant and the Mohawks were not engaged in that campaign. The Indians were principally Senecas, and were led by Gi-en-gwa-tah, as before mentioned. John Brant, a son of the Mohawk sachem, while in England in 1823, on a mission in behalf of his nation, opened a correspondence with Mr. Campbell on the subject of the injustice which the latter had done the chief in his "Gertrude of Wyoming." The result was a partial acknowledgment of his error by the poet in the next edition of the poem that was printed. He did not change a word of the poem, but referred to the use of Brant's name there in a note, in which he says: "His son referred to documents which completely satisfied me that the common accounts of Brant's cruelties at Wyoming, which I had found in books of travels, and in Adolphus's and other similar histories of England, were gross errors. . . . The name of Brant, therefore, remains in my poem a pure and declared character of fiction." This was well enough, as far as it went; but an omission, after such a conviction of error, to blot out the name entirely from the poem, was unworthy of the character of an honest man; and the stain upon the poet's name will remain as long as the blot upon a humane warrior shall endure in the epic.
Johnson in Treaty
Following is a part of the letter written by Campbell to John Brant: "Sir,—Ten days ago I was not aware that such a person existed as a son of the Indian leader, Brant, who is mentioned in my poem, 'Gertrude of Wyoming.' . . . Lastly, you assert that he was not within many miles of the spot when the battle which decided the fate of Wyoming took place; and from your offer of reference to living witnesses, I can not but admit the assertion."
Another of Brant's exploits was the destruction of Minisink, near the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. With a band of sixty Mohawks and twenty-seven Tories disguised as Indians, Brant stole upon the Minisink people, whose first warning was the burning of houses. Most of the inhabitants fled, but some were killed and others taken captive. The houses were plundered and burned, property destroyed and cattle driven away.
In a massacre during this raid one man, Major Wood, was about to be killed, when, either by accident or design, he made a Masonic signal, though he did not belong to the order. Brant was an enthusiastic Freemason, and at once rescued him. When the Indian leader found out the deception, he boiled over with rage, but yet spared his life. The captive, on his part, it is said, felt bound to join the order immediately on his release from captivity.
In the summer of 1779, the colonies resolved on a united effort to crush the power of the Six Nations by an invasion of their country. The command was given to General Sullivan, who went to work as one in earnest. He decided that the expedition should advance in three divisions. The left was to move from Pittsburg, under Col. Daniel Broadhead; the right from the Mohawk, under Gen. James Clinton, while Sullivan was to lead the center from Wyoming.
General Clinton, with seventeen hundred men, reached Otsego Lake, the source of the Susquehanna. In doing this Clinton had traversed a portage of about twenty miles, conveying his baggage and two hundred and twenty boats. Owing to the dry season there was not sufficient water to float any craft larger than an Indian canoe. While waiting for orders Clinton employed his men damming up the outlet of the lake, which raised the surface of the water several feet. When the order came, everything was in readiness; the dam was torn away, and the out rushing torrent carried with it the large boats filled with troops and supplies, where nothing but Indian canoes had ever been seen before. The sight astonished the Indians, who concluded that the Great Spirit must have made the flood to show that he was angry with them.
The two armies met at Tioga in the latter part of August, forming together a force of five thousand men. On August 26 this powerful body marched into the Indian country. At the Indian village of Newtown, where Elmira now stands, Sullivan found a force of twelve hundred Tories and Indians under the command of Sir John and Guy Johnson, Col. John and Walter N. Butler, and Joseph Brant.
The battle began at once and raged all day. The Americans gradually forced the enemy back. So many Indians were killed that "the sides of the rocks next the river appeared as though blood had been poured on them by pailfuls."
All was lost. The Indian warriors fled, taking women and children with them, and leaving their fertile country, with its populous and well-laid-out villages, its vast fields of waving grain, its numerous orchards, laden with the ruddy fruit, open to the destroyers' advance. Town after town was laid in ashes. Of Kanadaseagea, the capital of the Senecas, not one house was left standing. Genesee, the principal western town, containing all the winter stores of the confederacy, was completely obliterated. Nor were they the ordinary wigwams and cabins, but frame houses, some of which were finely finished, painted and provided with chimneys. These invaders found themselves in a veritable garden, with a soil that needed but to be tickled with a crude implement, to make it laugh with a golden harvest.
A soldier took the pains to measure an ear of corn which he plucked from the stalk and found it to be twenty-two inches long. Another soldier made a rough count of the number of apple trees in a single orchard which was on the point of destruction. He estimated that there were fifteen hundred bearing trees. Nor was this unusually large. Of the number of orchards, the men said they were "innumerable." This, probably, included those of peach and pear trees. They were the product of the toil and care of generations of Iroquois. "A wigwam can be built in two or three days," the Indians sadly said; "but a tree takes many years to grow again."
One can not help but contrast the indications of great abundance found here with the abject poverty of the "great and good Massasoit," mentioned in another chapter. But Massasoit lived in an inhospitable country and his career was near the beginning of the intercourse between the white and red races. Evidently the enterprising Iroquois had learned much of agriculture and horticulture from the thrifty farmers near them.
General Sullivan had now destroyed their homes and driven their families abroad to strange and inhospitable regions. More than forty of the villages were laid in ruins. As Mason says, "The landscape was no longer variegated with fields of golden grain, with burdened orchards, staggering beneath their tinted fruitage, with verdant pastures, dotted over with sleek and peaceful herds, nor with waving forests of ancient trees, whose emerald foliage formed such a rich contrast with the sunny sky and winding river. As far as the eye could stretch, the prospect presented a single ominous color. That color was black. It was a landscape of charcoal! The American general was happy."
The sorrows of the Iroquois became the source of dissension. There arose a peace party. The leader of it was a young Seneca chief named Red Jacket. He had the gift of eloquence. He spoke with thrilling earnestness of the folly of war, which was driving them forever from the lovely valley which they had inherited from their fathers; a war, too, in which they fought, not for themselves, but for the English. "What have the English done for us," he exclaimed, with flashing eye, drawing his proud form to its fullest height, and pointing with the zeal of despair toward the winding Mohawk, "that we should become homeless and helpless wanderers for their sakes?" His burning words sank deep into the hearts of his passionate hearers. It was secretly resolved by his party to send a runner to the American army, and ask them to offer peace on any terms.
Brant heard of this plot to make peace. He kept his own counsel. The runner left the camp. Two confidential warriors were summoned by him. In a few stern words he explained to them that the American flag of truce must never reach the Indian camp. Its bearers must be killed on the way, yet with such secrecy that their fate should not be known. The expectant peace party, waiting for the message in vain, were to believe that the Americans had scornfully refused to hear their prayer for peace. The plot was carried out. The flag of truce never arrived.
Meantime Colonel Broadhead, leading the expedition from Pittsburg, ascended the Allegheny with six hundred men. His purpose was to create a diversion that would help the general campaign. Besides doing that he destroyed many villages and cornfields, and returned after a month's absence without the loss of a man.
The winter of 1779-80 was one of unprecedented rigor. The shivering Iroquois, at Niagara, suffered severely; but the fire of hate burned in the heart of Brant as hot as ever. He had long meditated a terrible revenge upon the Oneidas, who had refused to follow his leadership, and persisted in neutrality. Upon them he laid the blame of all his disasters. That winter he led his warriors across frozen rivers and through snowy forests, to the home of the unsuspecting Oneidas. Of what followed we have no detailed history. It is only known that Brant fell upon them without mercy, that their villages and wigwams, their store-houses and council buildings were suddenly destroyed, that vast numbers of them were slain, and that the survivors fled to the white men for protection. The poor refugees, stricken for a fault which was not their own, were allotted rude and comfortless quarters near Schenectady, where they were supported by the Government till the close of the war.
The Tories and Indians, to the number of about one thousand, under Sir John Johnson, Brant and Cornplanter, planned another invasion of the Mohawk settlements. Brant's appetite for vengeance was unabated. He was ambitious to surpass the work of Sullivan.
On the morning of October 16, 1780, the occupants of the little fort at Middleburg, far down the Mohawk Valley, looked out at sunrise on a startling sight. In every direction barns, hay-stacks, granaries and many houses were on fire. Everywhere the people fled, abandoning everything in their madness of fear. Their alarm was justifiable. Brant's army, without a moment's warning, was upon them.
At first the Tories and Indians mounted their little cannon and prepared to besiege the fort. But meeting with a stubborn resistance, and finding that the siege would delay them, Brant, a past-master of guerrilla warfare, gave up the notion of taking the fort, and swept on down the valley. In their course the whole valley on both sides of the Mohawk was laid in ruins. Houses and barns were burned, the horses and cattle killed or driven off, and those of the inhabitants who were not safely within the walls of their fortifications were either killed or taken captive.
The very churches were fired.
But the torch of destruction was stayed wherever lived a Tory. They passed by the homes of all who were loyal to England. Then one of the strange sides of human nature asserted itself. The settlers, furious at their own wrongs, and aflame with passion at the sight of their Tory neighbors' immunity from harm, issued from the forts and with their own hands applied the torch to all houses left standing, thus completing the work which transformed a verdant valley into a mighty cinder.
The goal of the expedition was Schenectady, but the invaders never reached that settlement. Flying horsemen had long since carried the news of the invasion to Albany. Too much time had been taken up in the advance. General Van Rensselaer, with a strong force, was on the way to meet the enemy. Brant and Johnson began a retreat, but it was now too late. A heavy battle was fought. At sunset the advantage was with the Americans. But Van Rensselaer, who was proverbially slow or incompetent, failed to push it. That night was of unusual darkness and favored the retreat of the enemy.
An amusing thing happened at this time. Nine Tories were hurrying through the forest in full retreat. Suddenly a stern voice cried out in the darkness, "Lay down your arms." They obeyed promptly and were made prisoners. Every Tory was securely pinioned and led away. In the morning they found themselves in a little block-house. Their captors were seven militiamen. The nine had surrendered to the seven.
According to Eggleston another curious incident happened in connection with this expedition. "The famous Cornplanter, who commanded the Senecas who served under Brant, was a half-breed. He said of himself: 'When I was a child and began to play with the Indian boys in the village, they took notice of my skin being a different color from theirs and spoke about it. I inquired of my mother the cause, and she told me that my father was a white man.' Cornplanter's father was, in fact, an Indian trader named O'Beel, who was settled in the Mohawk Valley at the time of its invasion. During the progress of the army Cornplanter went with a band of Indians to his father's house, and taking him prisoner, marched off with him. After going some ten or twelve miles, he stopped abruptly, and, walking up in front of his father, said: 'My name is John O'Beel, commonly called Cornplanter. I am your son. You are my father. You are now my prisoner and subject to the customs of Indian war-fare. You shall not be harmed. You need not fear. I am a warrior. Many are the scalps which I have taken. Many prisoners I have put to death. I am your son. I am a warrior. I was anxious to see you and greet you in friendship. I went to your cabin and took you by force, but your life shall be spared. Indians love their friends and their kindred, and treat them with kindness. If now you choose to fellow the fortunes of your yellow son, I will cherish your old age with plenty of venison and you shall live easy. But if you prefer to return to the arms of your pale-face squaw and the caresses of your pale-face children, my brothers, it is well. You are free to choose.' The old man preferred to go back and Cornplanter sent him with an Indian escort."
The last scene of the bloody drama on the Mohawk took place October 24, 1781. The British force of regulars, Tories and Indians, to the number of a thousand, were under the command of Major Ross and Walter N. Butler. The Americans, under the command of Colonels Rowley and Willett, met the invaders near Johnson Hall and a battle immediately ensued. The advantage was with the Americans, and the enemy retreated, in a northerly course along West Canada creek, pursued by Willett. Night came on and Willett and his force encamped in a thick wood upon the "Royal Grant," which Sir William Johnson obtained from King Hendrick, the Indian chief, in a dreaming contest.
The next day the Americans overtook the enemy, commanded by Walter Butler, on the opposite side of the stream. A brisk fire was kept up across the creek, by both parties, until Butler was shot in the head by an Oneida Indian, who knew him and took deliberate aim. His men now fled in confusion. The friendly Oneida bounded across the stream, and found his victim not dead, but writhing in great agony. The bloody Tory who had never shown mercy to others begged piteously for his life, "Save me! Save me!" he cried out, "Give me quarter!" while the tomahawk of the warrior glittered over his head. "Me give you Sherry Falley quarter!" shouted the Indian, and buried his hatchet in the head of his enemy. He took his scalp, and, with the rest of the Oneidas, continued the pursuit of the flying host. The body of Butler was left to the beasts and birds, without burial, for charity toward one so inhuman and blood-stained had no dwelling place in the bosom of his foes. The place where he fell is still called Butler's Ford. The pursuit was kept up until evening, when Willett, completely successful by entirely routing and dispersing the enemy, wheeled his victorious little army and returned to Fort Dayton in triumph.
Quite a different fate was in store for the second in command at Cherry Valley, the humane Brant. At the close of the American Revolution, when the treaty of peace was made between Great Britain and the United States not one word was said in it about the Six Nations. It was ever thus. Indians have a great sense of their own dignity and importance. They were much hurt at being thus overlooked by the power they had aided so materially in the late war. Brant immediately exerted himself to get a home for his people. The Mohawks had left forever their own beautiful country in New York and were now encamped on the American side of Niagara river.
The Senecas, who were very anxious for the Mohawks in any future wars, offered them a home in the Genesee Valley. But Brant said the Mohawks were determined to "sink or swim" with the English. Accordingly, he went to Quebec, and with the aid of General Haldiman, secured a grant of land on Grand river, which flows into Lake Erie. Brant and his Mohawks received a title to the land on both sides of the river from its mouth to its source. This made a tract both beautiful and fertile twelve miles wide and one hundred miles long. The Mohawks soon after took possession of their new home.
The Baroness De Riedesel, a charming German lady, who was the wife of the general commanding the Hessians during Burgoyne's campaign, met Brant at Quebec. She says in her memoirs: "I saw at that time the famous Indian chief, Captain Brant. His manners are polished; he expressed himself with fluency, and was much esteemed by General Haldiman. I dined with him once at the general's. In his dress he showed off to advantage the half military and half savage costume. His countenance was manly and intelligent, and his disposition very mild."
Leading Hawk
Like other ambitious warriors, since and before, Brant planned at one time a confederacy of the Northwestern tribes, over which he should be the head chief. He never succeeded in uniting the Indians, however.
In 1785 Brant made a second visit to England, and was received with more splendor and ceremony than before. This was in consideration of his eminent services for the crown during the Revolution. He was well acquainted with Sir Guy Carlton, afterward Lord Dorchester. Earl Moira, afterward Marquis of Hastings, had formed an attachment for Brant and gave him his picture set in gold. Lord Percy, who afterward became Duke of Northumberland, had been adopted by the Mohawks, and on the occasion of his adoption Brant had given him the name of Thorighwegeri, or the Evergreen Brake.
Brant, therefore, had many friends among the nobility, and was presented at court. He refused to kiss the King's hand, but gallantly offered to kiss the hand of the Queen. He became quite a favorite with the royal family. The Prince of Wales, afterward George IV., who was then very wild, took a good deal of pleasure in the sachem's company. He invited Brant to go with him on some of his rambles, in which he visited places, as Brant afterward said, "very queer for a prince to go to." He was often a guest at the Prince's table, where he met many Whig leaders, among them, the celebrated Charles James Fox. Brant learned from the conversation of these Whig leaders to have much less respect for the King than he had been taught in America. Fox presented the chief with a silver snuff-box with his initials engraved upon it.
Brant met, in society, a nobleman (?) save the mark! of whom he had heard the scandalous story that his honors were purchased at the expense of the virtue of his beautiful wife. This nobleman very foolishly hectored Brant rather rudely upon the wild customs and manners of the Indians.
"There are customs in England also which the Indians think very strange," said the chief coolly. "And pray what are they?" inquired the nobleman, "Why, the Indians have heard," said Brant, "that it is a practice in England for men who are born chiefs to sell the virtue of their squaws for place and for money to buy their venison." It is unnecessary to add that the nobleman was effectually silenced.
Eggleston informs us, that, "while Brant was in London a great masquerade was given, to which he was invited. He needed no mask. He dressed himself for the occasion in his rich semi-savage costume, wore his handsome tomahawk in his belt, and painted one-half his face in the Indian manner. There were some Turks also present at the ball. One of them examined Brant very closely, and at last raised his hand and pulled the chief's Roman nose, supposing it to be a mask. Instantly Brant gave the war-whoop and swung his glistening tomahawk around the Turk's head in that dangerous way in which Indians handle this weapon. It was only an Indian joke, but the Turk cowered in abject terror and the ladies shrieked and ran as though they had been in as much danger as the settlers' wives and daughters of America, who had dreaded this same sound but a few years before."
Having accomplished the purpose of his visit to England, which was some reparation to the Mohawks for losses sustained in the war, and money with which to build a church and school-house, Brant returned to Canada.
He now began his labors for the improvement of his people, and hoped to induce them to devote themselves more to agriculture.
The Western nations still looked to the great war-chief for advice. Brant thus retained his importance. He was under half-pay as a British officer, and held the commission of colonel from the King of England, though he was usually called captain.
When he visited Philadelphia, then the capital of the United States, the new government offered to double his salary and make him many presents if he would influence the Western nations for peace. Brant refused the offer, knowing that he would be accused of duplicity if he received anything from the United States. An Indian chief quickly loses his influence if he is suspected of being mercenary.
Brant, in fact, joined the Western Indians, and is said to have been present with one hundred and fifty Mohawks in the fierce battle which resulted in St. Clair's defeat, though this fact is disputed. It is well known that Little Turtle commanded the Indians in that battle, and it hardly seems reasonable that the great war-chief and head of the Iroquois would take second place to another.
He erected for himself a fine mansion on the western shore of Lake Ontario, where he lived in great splendor. Here he held his barbaric court, "with a retinue of thirty Negro servants, and surrounded by gay soldiers, cavaliers in powdered wigs and scarlet coats, and all the motley assemblage of that picturesque era."
His correspondence, of which much is yet extant, reveals a rugged and powerful intellect, on which his associations with white men had exerted a marked influence. He encouraged missionaries to come among his people, and renewed his Christian professions, which had, perhaps, been suspended or eclipsed while he was hurling his warriors like destroying thunderbolts on the people of the Mohawk Valley. His letters reveal a proud, sensitive spirit, jealous of its dignity, and which could not brook the slightest imputation of dishonor. His mind was eminently diplomatic and nothing escaped his attention, whether in the cabinets of ministers or around the council fire of distant tribes of Western Indians.
The oft-quoted saying that, "uneasy lies the head which wears a crown," was demonstrated in his career. On one of his Eastern trips, a Dutchman from the Mohawk Valley, whose entire family had been killed by Brant's warriors, swore vengeance. The man shadowed him day and night, seeking an opportunity to kill him. Brant had taken a room in a New York hotel, which fronted on Broadway. Looking out of the window, he saw his enemy on the opposite side of the street aiming a gun at him. Our old hero, Colonel Willet, interfered. He assured the Dutchman, whose name was Dygert, that the war was over, and he would be hanged if he murdered the chief. This so frightened the man that he went home without carrying his threat into execution. Thus we find that the very man who refused burial to the body of Walter N. Butler, saved the life of Brant. The chief had planned to return through the Mohawk Valley, but learning of a plot to assassinate him en route he changed his course and went home another way. He was most cordially abhorred, and lived and died virtually an exile from his native land.
Nor was his ascendancy among the Iroquois maintained without some heartburning. His old enemy, Red Jacket, the orator, gathered a number of malcontents around his standard, and at a pretended meeting of the sachems of the confederacy, during Brant's absence, he was impeached and formally deposed from the position of head chief of the Six Nations. When Thay-en-da-ne-gea heard of it on his return, he boldly confronted his enemies in public council; he defied them, denied their calumnies and charges, and demanded a fair trial before his people. The military fame and prestige of the great war-chief overcame even the burning eloquence and invectives of Red Jacket, and Brant triumphed over all opposition.
Brant proved conclusively that he had always been loyal to the British cause, and the best interest of the Six Nations.
It is a little remarkable, therefore, that among his warmest personal friends was Colonel Aaron Burr, who was afterward a traitor to his country, in thought and intention, if not in actual fact.
Colonel Burr was at this time in the zenith of his popularity. He gave Brant a letter of introduction to his talented daughter, Theodosia, then but fourteen years old. Her father said of Brant in this letter: "Colonel Brant is a man of education—speaks and writes the English perfectly—and has seen much of Europe and America. Receive him with respect and hospitality. He is not one of those Indians who drink, but is quite a gentleman; not one who will make you fine bows, but one who understands and practices what belongs to propriety and good breeding. He has daughters; if you could think of some little present to send to one of them-a pair of earrings, for example—it would please him."
Theodosia Burr received Brant with great hospitality, and gave him a dinner party, to which she invited some of the most eminent gentlemen in New York. Several years afterward, when Theodosia was married, she and her husband visited Brant and his family at Grand River.
Brant died in 1807, at the age of sixty-four years, leaving unfinished his work for the security of the Mohawks in the full possession of their lands. Among his last words he said to the chief, Norton: "Have pity on the poor Indian; if you can get any influence with the great, endeavor to do them all the good you can."
A few years before the chief's death he had built a large house on a tract of land at the head of Lake Ontario, a gift from the King. He had a number of Negro slaves whom he had captured during the war and who lived with him in contentment, it is said, satisfied with the Indian customs.
The great chief was buried beside the church which he had built at Grand River, the first church in upper Canada. There is a monument over his grave, said to have cost thirty thousand dollars, with the following inscription:
"This tomb is erected to the memory of Thay-en-da-ne-gea, or Capt. Joseph Brant, principal chief and warrior of the Six Nations Indians, by his fellow-subjects, admirers of his fidelity and attachment to the British crown."
On the death of Joseph Brant, his youngest son, John, became chief, and head of the confederacy. He was a gentlemanly young man and distinguished himself on the British side in the war of 1812, and was given a captain's commission.
In 1832 he was elected a member of the Provincial Parliament for the county of Haldiman.
He and his youngest sister, Elizabeth, lived in their father's house in civilized style, but their mother preferred to live among the Indians in the Mohawk village at Grand River. A gentleman and his daughters who visited them in 1819 found the parlor carpeted and furnished with mahogany tables, the fashionable chairs of the day, a guitar, and a number of books. Miss Brant proved to be "a noble-looking Indian girl." The upper part of her hair was done up in a silk net, while the long lower tresses hung down her back. She wore a short black silk petticoat, with a tunic of the same material, black silk stockings and black kid shoes. She was remarkably self-possessed and ladylike. She afterward married William Johnson Kerr, a grandson of Sir William Johnson, and they lived together happily in the Brant house.


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