In the Valley
Part 5 out of 6
"Is your hanging-party ready?" he said, and yawned, stretching his arms as
freely as the manacles would admit.
I looked curiously at him--a long, slender, wiry figure, with thin, corded
neck, and twisted muscles showing on so much of his hairy breast as the
open buckskin shirt exposed. The face was pointed and bony, and brown as
leather. For the moment I could not place him; then his identity dawned on
me. I stepped forward, and said:
"Is that you, Enoch Wade?"
He looked up at me, and nodded recognition, with no show of emotion.
"It might have been my ghost, cap'n," he said, "if you hadn't hurried
right along. These friends of yours were bent on spoiling a good man to
make bad meat. They wouldn't listen to any kind of reason. Can I have a
palaver with you, all by yourself?"
"What does he mean by a 'palaver'?" asked the honest Swiss sheriff.
I explained that it was a common enough Portuguese word, signifying
"talk," which Enoch in his wanderings had picked up. Furthermore, I told
Frey that I knew the man, and wished to speak with him apart, whereupon
the sheriff and the soldier left us.
"It is all in my eye--their hanging me," began Enoch, with a sardonic
smile slowly relaxing his thin lips. "I wasn't fooled a minute by that."
"Perhaps you are mistaken there, my man," I said, as sternly as I could.
"Oh, no, not a bit! What's more, they wouldn't have caught me if I hadn't
wanted to be caught. You know me. You have travelled with me. Honest
Injun, now, do you take me for the kind of a man to be treed by a young
Dutch muskrat-trapper if I have a mind not to be?"
I had to admit that my knowledge of his resourceful nature had not
prepared me for such an ignoble catastrophe, but I added that all the more
his conduct mystified me.
"Quite so!" he remarked, with another grim smile of complacency. "Sit
down here on this bed, if you can find room, and I'll tell you all
The tale to which I listened during the next half-hour, full of deep
interest as it was for me, would not bear repeating here at length. Its
essential points were these:
After Sir William's death Enoch had remained on at the Hall, not feeling
particularly bound to the new baronet, but having a cat's attachment to
the Hall itself. When Sir John finally resolved to avoid arrest by flight,
Enoch had been in two minds about accompanying him, but had finally
yielded to the flattering reliance placed by all upon the value and
thoroughness of his knowledge as a woodsman. It was largely due to his
skill that the party got safely through the great wilderness, and reached
Montreal so soon. Since his arrival in Canada, however, things had not
been at all to his liking. There was but one thought among all his refugee
companions, which was to return to the Mohawk Valley and put their old
neighbors to fire and sword--and for this Enoch had no inclination
whatever. He had accordingly resisted all offers to enrol him in the Tory
regiment which Sir John was raising in Canada, and had looked for an
opportunity to get away quietly and without reproach. This chance had only
come to him a week or so ago, when Philip Cross offered to pay him well to
take two letters down the Valley--one to his servant Rab, the other to
Mrs. Cross. He had accepted this errand, and had delivered the letters as
in duty bound. There his responsibility ended. He had no intention to
return, and had allowed himself to be arrested by a slow and uninventive
young man, solely because it seemed the best way of achieving his purpose.
"What is your purpose, Enoch?"
"Well, to begin with, it is to make your hair stand on end. I started from
Buck's Island, on the St. Lawrence, on the 9th of this month. Do you know
who I left there? Seven hundred uniformed soldiers, English and Tory,
with eight cannons, commanded by a British colonel--Sillinger they called
him--and Sir John Johnson. They are coming to Oswego, where they will meet
the Butlers with more Tories, and Dan Claus with five hundred Indians.
Then the whole force is to march on Fort Stanwix, capture it, and come
down the Valley!"
You may guess how eagerly I listened to the details which Enoch
gave--details of the gravest importance, which I must hasten to send west
to Herkimer and east to Schuyler. When this vital talk was ended, I
returned to the personal side of the matter with a final query:
"But why get yourself arrested?"
"Because I wanted to see you. My errand wasn't finished till I had given
you Philip Cross's message. 'Tell that Dutchman,' he said, 'if you can
contrive to do it without peril to yourself, that when I come into the
Valley I will cut out his heart, and feed it to a Missisague dog!'"
The Message Sent Ahead from the Invading Army.
The whole forenoon of this eventful day was occupied in transmitting to
the proper authorities the great tidings which had so fortuitously come
For this purpose, after breakfast, John Frey, who was the brigade major as
well as sheriff, rode down to Caughnawaga with me, four soldiers bringing
Enoch in our train. It was a busy morning at the Fonda house, where we
despatched our business, only Jelles Fonda and his brother Captain Adam
and the staunch old Samson Sammons being admitted to our counsels.
Here Enoch repeated his story, telling now in addition that one-half of
the approaching force was composed of Hanau Chasseurs--skilled marksmen
recruited in Germany from the gamekeeper or forester class--and that
Joseph Brant was expected to meet them at Oswego with the Iroquois war
party, Colonel Claus having command of the Missisaguesor Hurons from the
Far West. As he mentioned the names of various officers in Sir John's
regiment of Tories, we ground our teeth with wrath. They were the names of
men we had long known in the Valley--men whose brothers and kinsmen were
still among us, some even holding commissions in our militia. Old Sammons
could not restrain a snort of rage when the name of Hon-Yost Herkimer was
mentioned in this list of men who wore now the traitor's "Royal Green"
uniform, and carried commissions from King George to fight against their
"You saw no Sammons in that damned snake's nest, I'll be bound!" he
shouted fiercely at Enoch.
"Nor any Fonda, either," said Major Jelles, as firmly.
But then both bethought them that these were cruel words to say in the
hearing of the stalwart John Frey, who could not help it that his brother,
Colonel Hendrick, was on parole as a suspected Tory, and that another
brother, Bernard, and a nephew, young Philip Frey, Hendrick's son, were
with Johnson in Canada. So the family subject was dropped.
More or less minute reports of all that Enoch revealed, according to the
position of those for whom they were intended, were written out by me, and
despatched by messenger to General Schuyler at Albany; to
Brigadier-General Herkimer near the Little Falls; to Colonel Campbell at
Cherry Valley; and to my old comrade Peter Gansevoort, now a full colonel,
and since April the commandant at Fort Stanwix. Upon him the first brunt
of the coming invasion would fall. He had under him only five hundred
men--the Third New York Continentals--and I took it upon myself to urge
now upon General Schuyler that more should be speeded to him.
This work finally cleared away, and all done that was proper until the
military head of Tryon County, Brigadier Herkimer, should take action,
there was time to remember my own affairs. It had been resolved that no
word of what we had learned should be made public. The haying had begun,
and a panic now would work only disaster by interfering with this most
important harvest a day sooner than need be. There was no longer any
question of keeping Enoch in prison, but there was a real fear that if he
were set at large he might reveal his secret. Hence John Frey suggested
that I keep him under my eye, and this jumped with my inclination.
Accordingly, when the noon-day heat was somewhat abated, we set out down
the Valley road toward the Cedars. There was no horse for him, but he
walked with the spring and tirelessness of a grey-hound, his hand on the
pommel of my saddle. The four soldiers who had come down from Johnstown
followed in our rear, keeping under the shade where they could, and
picking berries by the way.
The mysterious letter from Philip to his deserted wife lay heavily upon my
thoughts. I could not ask Enoch if he knew its contents--which it turned
out he did not--but I was unable to keep my mind from speculating
During all these fourteen months Daisy and I had rarely spoken of her
recreant ruffian of a husband--or, for that matter, of any other phase of
her sad married life. There had been some little constraint between us for
a time, after Mr. Stewart's childish babbling about us as still youth and
maiden. He never happened to repeat it, and the embarrassment gradually
wore away. But we had both been warned by it--if indeed I ought to speak
of her as possibly needing such a warning--and by tacit consent the whole
subject of her situation was avoided. I did not even tell her that I owed
the worst and most lasting of my wounds to Philip. It would only have
added to her grief, and impeded the freedom of my arm when the chance for
revenge should come.
That my heart had been all this while deeply tender toward the poor girl,
I need hardly say. I tried to believe that I thought of her only as the
dear sister of my childhood, and that I looked upon her when we met with
no more than the fondness which may properly glow in a brother's eyes. For
the most part I succeeded in believing it, but it is just to add that the
neighborhood did not. More than once my mother had angered me by reporting
that people talked of my frequent visits to the Cedars, and faint echoes
of this gossip had reached my ears from other sources.
"You did not stop to see Mistress Cross open her letter, then?" I asked
"No: why should I? Nothing was said about that. He paid me only to deliver
it into her hands."
"And what was his mood when he gave it to you?"
"Why, it was what you might call the Madeira mood--his old accustomed
temper. He had the hiccoughs, I recall, when he spoke with me. Most
generally he does have them. Yet, speak the truth and shame the devil! he
is sober two days to that Colonel Sillinger's one. If their expedition
fails, it won't be for want of rum. They had twenty barrels when they
started from La Chine, and it went to my heart to see men make such beasts
I could not but smile at this. "The last time I saw you before to-day," I
said, "there could not well have been less than a quart of rum inside
"No doubt! But it is quite another thing to guzzle while your work is
still in hand. That I never would do. And it is that which makes me doubt
these British will win, in the long-run. Rum is good to rest upon--it is
rest itself--when the labor is done; but it is ruin to drink it when your
task is still ahead of you. To tell the truth, I could not bear to see
these fellows drink, drink, drink, all day long, with all their hard
fighting to come. It made me uneasy."
"And is it your purpose to join us? We are the sober ones, you know."
"Well, yes and no. I don't mind giving your side a lift--it's more my way
of thinking than the other--and you seem to need it powerfully, too.
But"--here he looked critically over my blue and buff, from cockade to
boot-tops--"you don't get any uniform on me, and I don't join any
regiment. I'd take my chance in the woods first. It suits you to a 't,'
but it would gag me from the first minute."
We talked thus until we reached the Cedars. I left Enoch and the escort
without, and knocked at the door. I had to rap a second time before Molly
Wemple appeared to let me in.
"We were all up-stairs," she said, wiping her hot and dusty brow with her
apron, "hard at it! I'll send her down to you. She needs a little
The girl was gone before I could ask what extra necessity for labor had
fallen upon the household this sultry summer afternoon.
Daisy came hurriedly to me, a moment later, and took both my hands in
hers. She also bore signs of work and weariness.
"Oh, I am _so_ glad you are come!" she said, eagerly. "Twice I have sent
Tulp for you across to your mother's. It seemed as if you never
"Why, what is it, my girl? Is it about the letter from--from----"
"You know, then!"
"Only that a letter came to you yesterday from him. The messenger--he is
an old friend of ours--told me that much, nothing more."
Daisy turned at this and took a chair, motioning me to another. The
pleased excitement at my arrival--apparently so much desired--was
succeeded all at once by visible embarrassment.
"Now that you are here, I scarcely know why I wanted you, or--or how to
tell you what it is," she said, speaking slowly. "I was full of the idea
that nothing could be done without your advice and help--and yet, now you
have come, it seems that there is nothing left for you to say or do." She
paused for a moment, then added: "You know we are going back to
I stared at her, aghast. The best thing I could say was, "Nonsense!"
She smiled wearily. "So I might have known you would say. But it is the
truth, none the less."
"You must be crazy!"
"No, Douw, only very, very wretched!"
The poor girl's voice faltered as she spoke, and I thought I saw the
glisten of tears in her eyes. She had borne so brave and calm a front
through all her trouble, that this suggestion of a sob wrung my heart with
the cruelty of a novel sorrow. I drew my chair nearer to her.
"Tell me about it all, Daisy--if you can."
Her answer was to impulsively take a letter from her pocket and hand it to
me. She would have recalled it an instant later.
"No--give it me back," she cried. "I forgot! There are things in it you
should not see."
But even as I held it out to her, she changed her mind once again.
"No--read it," she said, sinking back in her chair; "it can make no
difference--between _us_. You might as well know all!"
The "all" could not well have been more hateful. I smoothed out the folded
sheet over my knee, and read these words, written in a loose, bold
character, with no date or designation of place, and with the signature
scrawled grandly like the sign-manual of a duke, at least:
"Madam:--It is my purpose to return to Cairncross forthwith, though you
are not to publish it.
"If I fail to find you there residing, as is your duty, upon my arrival, I
shall be able to construe the reasons for your absence, and shall act
"I am fully informed of your behavior in quitting my house the instant my
back was turned, and in consorting publicly with my enemies, and with
ruffian foes to law and order generally.
"All these rebels and knaves will shortly be shot or hanged, including
without fail your Dutch gallant, who, I am told, now calls himself a
major. His daily visits to you have all been faithfully reported to me.
After his neck has been properly twisted, I may be in a better humor to
listen to such excuses as you can offer in his regard, albeit I make
"I despatch by this same express my commands to Rab, which will serve as
your further instructions.
One clearly had a right to time for reflection, after having read such a
letter as this. I turned the sheet over and over in my hands, re-reading
lines here and there under pretence of study, and preserving silence,
until finally she asked me what I thought of it all. Then I had perforce
to speak my mind.
"I think, if you wish to know," I said, deliberately, "that this husband
of yours is the most odious brute God ever allowed to live!"
There came now in her reply a curious confirmation of the familiar saying,
that no man can ever comprehend a woman. A long life's experience has
convinced me that the simplest and most direct of her sex must be, in the
inner workings of her mind, an enigma to the wisest man that ever existed;
so impressed am I with this fact that several times in the course of this
narrative I have been at pains to disavow all knowledge of why the women
folk of my tale did this or that, only recording the fact that they did do
it; and thus to the end of time, I take it, the world's stories must
This is what Daisy actually said:
"But do you not see running through every line of the letter, and but
indifferently concealed, the confession that he is sorry for what he has
done, and that he still loves me?"
"I certainly see nothing of the kind!"
She had the letter by heart. "Else why does he wish me to return to his
home?" she asked. "And you see he is grieved at my having been friendly
with those who are not his friends; that he would not be if he cared
nothing for me. Note, too, how at the close, even when he has shown that
by the reports that have reached him he is justified in suspecting me, he
as much as says that he will forgive me."
"Yes--perhaps--when once he has had his sweet fill of seeing me kicking at
the end of a rope! Truly I marvel, Daisy, how you can be so blind, after
all the misery and suffering this ruffian has caused you."
"He is my husband, Douw," she said, simply, as if that settled everything.
"Yes, he is your husband--a noble and loving husband, in truth! He first
makes your life wretched at home--you know you _were_ wretched, Daisy!
Then he deserts you, despoiling your house before your very eyes,
humiliating you in the hearing of your servants, and throwing the poverty
of your parents in your face as he goes! He stops away two years--having
you watched meanwhile, it seems--yet never vouchsafing you so much as a
word of message! Then at last, when these coward Tories have bought help
enough in Germany and in the Indian camps to embolden them to come down
and look their neighbors in the face, he is pleased to write you this
letter, abounding in coarse insults in every sentence. He tells you of his
coming as he might notify a tavern wench. He hectors and orders you as if
you were his slave. He pleasantly promises the ignominious death of your
chief friends. And all this you take kindly--sifting his brutal words in
search for even the tiniest grain of manliness. My faith, I am astonished
at you! I credited you with more spirit."
She was not angered at this outburst, which had in it more harsh phrases
than she had heard in all her life from me before, but, after a little
pause, said to me quite calmly:
"I know you deem him all bad. You never allowed him any good quality."
"You know him better than I--a thousand times better, more's the pity.
Very well! I rest the case with you. Tell me, out of all your knowledge of
the man, what 'good quality' he ever showed, how he showed it, and when!"
"Have you forgotten that he saved my life?"
"No; but he forgot it--or rather made it the subject of taunts, in place
of soft thoughts."
"And he loved me--ah! he truly did--for a little!"
"Yes, he loved you! So he did his horses, his kennel, his wine cellar;
and a hundred-fold more he loved himself and his cursed pride."
"How you hate him!"
"Hate him? Yes! Have I not been given cause?"
"He often said that he was not in fault for throwing Tulp over the
gulf-side. He knew no reason, he avowed, why you should have sought a
quarrel with him that day, and forced it upon him, there in the gulf; and
as for Tulp--why, the foolish boy ran at him. Is it not so?"
"Who speaks of Tulp?" I asked, impatiently. "If he had tossed all Ethiopia
over the cliff, and left me _you_--I--I----"
The words were out!
I bit my tongue in shamed regret, and dared not let my glance meet hers.
Of all things in the world, this was precisely what I should not have
uttered--what I wanted least to say. But it had been said, and I was
covered with confusion. The necessity of saying something to bridge over
this chasm of insensate indiscretion tugged at my senses, and
finally--after what had seemed an age of silence--I stammered on:
"What I mean is, we never liked each other. Why, the first time we ever
met, we fought. You cannot remember it, but we did. He knocked me into the
ashes. And then there was our dispute at Albany--in the Patroon's mansion,
you will recall. And then at Quebec. I have never told you of this," I
went on, recklessly, "but we met that morning in the snow, as Montgomery
fell. He knew me, dark as it still was, and we grappled. This scar here,"
I pointed to a reddish seam across my temple and cheek, "this was
I have said that I could never meet Daisy in these days without feeling
that, mere chronology to the opposite notwithstanding, she was much the
older and more competent person of the two. This sense of juvenility
overwhelmed me now, as she calmly rose and put her hand on my shoulder,
and took a restful, as it were maternal, charge of me and my mind.
"My dear Douw," she said, with as fine an assumption of quiet, composed
superiority as if she had not up to that moment been talking the veriest
nonsense, "I understand just what you mean. Do not think, if I seem
sometimes thoughtless or indifferent, that I am not aware of your
feelings, or that I fail to appreciate the fondness you have always given
me. I know what you would have said----"
"It was exactly what I most of all would _not_ have said," I broke in
with, in passing.
"Even so. But do you think, silly boy, that the thought was new to me? Of
course we shall never speak of it again, but I am not altogether sorry it
was referred to. It gives me the chance to say to you"--her voice softened
and wavered here, as she looked around the dear old room, reminiscent in
every detail of our youth--"to say to you that, wherever my duty may be,
my heart is here, here under this roof where I was so happy, and where the
two best men I shall ever know loved me so tenderly, so truly, as daughter
There were tears in her eyes at the end, but she was calm and
She was very firmly of opinion that it was her duty to go to Cairncross
at once, and nothing I could say sufficed to dissuade her. So it turned
out that the afternoon and evening of this important day were devoted to
convoying across to Cairncross the whole Cedars establishment, I myself
accompanying Daisy and Mr. Stewart in the carriage around by the Johnstown
road. Rab was civil almost to the point of servility, but, to make
assurance doubly sure, I sent up a guard of soldiers to the house that
very night, brought Master Rab down to be safely locked up by the sheriff
at Johnstown, and left her Enoch instead.
From the Scythe and Reaper to the Musket.
And now, with all the desperate energy of men who risked everything that
mortal can have in jeopardy, we prepared to meet the invasion.
The tidings of the next few days but amplified what Enoch had told us.
Thomas Spencer, the half-breed, forwarded full intelligence of the
approaching force; Oneida runners brought in stories of its magnitude,
with which the forest glades began to be vocal; Colonel Gansevoort,
working night and day to put into a proper state of defence the
dilapidated fort at the Mohawk's headwaters, sent down urgent demands for
supplies, for more men, and for militia support.
At the most, General Schuyler could spare him but two hundred men, for
Albany was in sore panic at the fall of Ticonderoga and the menace of
Burgoyne's descent in force through the Champlain country. We watched this
little troop march up the river road in a cloud of dust, and realized that
this was the final thing Congress and the State could do for us. What more
was to be done we men of the Valley must do for ourselves.
It was almost welcome, this grim, blood-red reality of peril which now
stared us in the face, so good and wholesome a change did it work in the
spirit of the Valley. Despondency vanished; the cavillers who had
disparaged Washington and Schuyler, sneered at stout Governor Clinton, and
doubted all things save that matters would end badly, ceased their
grumbling and took heart; men who had wavered and been lukewarm or
suspicious came forward now and threw in their lot with their neighbors.
And if here and there on the hillsides were silent houses whence no help
was to come, and where, if the enemy once broke through, he would be
welcomed the more as a friend if his hands were spattered with our
blood--the consciousness, I say, that we had these base traitors in our
midst only gave us a deeper resolution not to fail.
General Herkimer presently issued his order to the Tryon militia,
apprising them of the imminent danger, and summoning all between sixteen
and sixty to arms. There was no doubt now where the blow would fall.
Cherry Valley, Unadilla, and the Sacondaga settlements no longer feared
raids from the wilderness upon their flanks. The invaders were coming
forward in a solid mass, to strike square at the Valley's head. There we
must meet them!
It warms my old heart still to recall the earnestness and calm courage of
that summer fortnight of preparation. All up and down the Valley
bottom-lands the haying was in progress. Young and old, rich and poor, came
out to carry forward this work in common. The meadows were taken in their
order, some toiling with scythe and sickle, others standing guard at the
forest borders of the field to protect the workers. It was a goodly yield
that year, I remember, and never in my knowledge was the harvest gathered
and housed better or more thoroughly than in this period of genuine
danger, when no man knew whose cattle would feed upon his hay a month
hence. The women and girls worked beside the men, and brought them cooling
drinks of ginger, molasses, and vinegar, and spread tables of food in the
early evening shade for the weary gleaners. These would march home in
bodies, a little later, those with muskets being at the front and rear;
and then, after a short night's honest sleep, the rising sun would find
them again at work upon some other farm.
There was something very good and strengthening in this banding together
to get the hay in for all. During twenty years of peace and security, we
had grown selfish and solitary--each man for himself. We had forgotten, in
the strife for individual gain and preferment, the true meaning of that
fine old word "neighbor"--the husbandman, or _boer_, who is nigh, and to
whom in nature you first look for help and sympathy and friendship. It was
in this fortnight of common peril that we saw how truly we shared
everything, even life itself, and how good it was to work for as well as
to fight for one another--each for all, and all for each. Forty years have
gone by since that summer, yet still I seem to discover in the Mohawk
Valley the helpful traces of that fortnight's harvesting in common. The
poor _bauers_ and squatters from the bush came out then and did their
share of the work, and we went back with them into their forest clearings
and beaver-flies and helped them get in their small crops, in turn. And to
this day there is more brotherly feeling here between the needy and the
well-to-do than I know of anywhere else.
When the barns were filled, and the sweet-smelling stacks outside properly
built and thatched, the scythe was laid aside for the musket, the sickle
for the sword and pistol. All up the Valley the drums' rattle drowned the
drone of the locusts in the stubble. The women moulded bullets now and
filled powder-horns instead of making drinks for the hay-field. There was
no thought anywhere save of preparation for the march. Guns were cleaned,
flints replaced, new hickory ramrods whittled out, and the grindstones
threw off sparks under the pressure of swords and spear-heads. Even the
little children were at work rubbing goose-grease into the hard leather of
their elders' foot-gear, against the long tramp to Fort Stanwix.
By this time, the first of August, we knew more about the foe we were to
meet. The commander whom Enoch had heard called Sillinger was learned to
be one Colonel St. Leger, a British officer of distinction, which might
have been even greater if he had not embraced the Old-World military vice
of his day--grievous drunkenness. The gathering of Indians at Oswego under
Claus and Brant was larger than the first reports had made it. The regular
troops, both British and German, intended for our destruction, were said
to alone outnumber the whole militia force which we could hope to oppose
to them. But most of all we thought of the hundreds of our old Tory
neighbors, who were bringing this army down upon us to avenge their own
fancied wrongs; and when we thought of them we moodily rattled the bullets
in our deerskin bags, and bent the steel more fiercely upon the whirling,
I have read much of war, both ancient and modern. I declare solemnly that
in no chronicle of warfare in any country, whether it be of great
campaigns like those of Marlborough and the late King of Prussia, and that
strange Buonaparte, half god, half devil, who has now been caged at last
at St. Helena; of brutal invasions by a foreign enemy, as when the French
overran and desolated the Palatinate; or of buccaneering and piratical
enterprise by the Spaniards and Portuguese; or of the fighting of savages
or of the Don Cossacks--in none of these records, I aver, can you find so
much wanton baseness and beast-like bloodthirstiness as these native-born
Tories showed toward us. Mankind has not been capable of more utter
cruelty and wickedness than were in their hearts. Beside them the lowest
painted heathen in their train was a Christian, the most ignorant Hessian
peasant was a nobleman.
Ever since my talk with Colonel Dayton I had been trying to look upon
these Tories as men who, however mistaken, were acting from a sense of
duty. For a full year it seemed as if I had succeeded; indeed, more than
once, so temperately did I bring myself in my new philosophy to think of
them, I was warned by my elders that it would be better for me to keep my
generous notions to myself. But now, when the stress came, all this
philanthropy fell away. These men were leading down to their old home an
army of savages and alien soldiers; they were boasting that we, their
relatives or whilom school-fellows, neighbors, friends, should be
slaughtered like rats in a pit; their commander, St. Leger, published at
their instigation general orders offering his Indians twenty dollars
apiece for the scalps of our men, women, and children! How could one
pretend not to hate such monsters?
At least I did not pretend any longer, but worked with an enthusiasm I had
never known before to marshal our yeomanry together.
Under the pelting July sun, in the saddle from morning till night--to
Cherry Valley, to Stone Arabia, to the obscure little groups of cabins in
the bush, to the remote settlements on the Unadilla and the East
Creek--organizing, suggesting, pleading, sometimes, I fear, also cursing a
little, my difficult work was at last done. The men of the Mohawk district
regiment, who came more directly under my eye, were mustered at
Caughnawaga, and some of the companies that were best filled despatched
forward under Captain Adam Fonda, who was all impatience to get first to
Fort Dayton, the general rendezvous. In all we were likely to gather
together in this regiment one hundred and thirty men, and this was better
than a fortnight ago had seemed possible.
They were sturdy fellows for the most part, tall, deep-chested, and hard
of muscle. They came from the high forest clearings of Kingsland and
Tribes Hill, from the lower Valley flatlands near to Schenectady, from the
bush settlements scattered back on Aries Creek, from the rich farms and
villages of Johnstown, and Caughnawaga, and Spraker's. There were among
them all sorts and conditions of men, thrifty and thriftless, cautious and
imprudent, the owners of slaves along with poor yokels of scarcely higher
estate than the others' niggers. Here were posted thick in the roll-call
such names as Fonda, Starin, Yates, Sammons, Gardenier, and Wemple. Many
of the officers, and some few of the men, had rough imitations of uniform,
such as home-made materials and craft could command, but these varied
largely in style and color. The great majority of the privates wore simply
their farm homespun, gray and patched, and some had not even their
hat-brims turned up with a cockade. But they had a look on their
sunburned, gnarled, and honest faces which the Butlers and Johnsons might
well have shrunk from.
These men of the Mohawk district spoke more Dutch than anything else,
though there were both English and High German tongues among them. They
had more old acquaintances among the Tories than had their Palatine
friends up the river, for this had been the Johnsons' own district. Hence,
though in numbers we were smaller than the regiments that mustered above
at Stone Arabia and Zimmerman's, at Canajoharie and Cherry Valley, we were
richer in hate.
At daybreak on August 2, the remaining companies of this regiment were to
start on their march up the Valley. I rode home to my mother's house late
in the afternoon of the 1st, to spend what might be a last night under her
roof. On the morrow, Samson Sammons and Jelles Fonda, members of the
Committee of Safety, and I, could easily overtake the column on
I was greatly perplexed and unsettled in mind about Daisy and my duty
toward her, and, though I turned this over in my thoughts the whole
distance, I could come to no satisfactory conclusion. On the one hand, I
yearned to go and say farewell to her; on the other, it was not clear,
after that letter of her husband's, that I could do this without unjustly
prejudicing her as a wife. For the wife of this viper she still was, and
who could tell how soon she might not be in his power again?
I was still wrestling with this vexatious question when I came to my
mother's house. I tied the horse to the fence till Tulp should come out
for him, and went in, irresolutely. At every step it seemed to me as if I
ought instead to be going toward Cairncross.
Guess my surprise at being met, almost upon the threshold, by the very
woman of whom of all others I had been thinking! My mother and she had
apparently made up their differences, and stood together waiting for me.
"Were you going away, Douw, without coming to see me--to say good-by?"
asked Daisy, with a soft reproach in her voice. "Your mother tells me of
your starting to-morrow--for the battle."
I took her hand, and, despite my mother's presence, continued to hold it
in mine. This was bold, but there was little enough of bravery in
"Yes, we go to-morrow; I wanted to come--all day I have been thinking of
little else--yet I feared that my visit might--might----"
Very early in this tale it was my pride to explain that my mother was a
superior woman. Faults of temper she may have had, and eke narrow
prejudices on sundry points. But she had also great good sense, which she
showed now by leaving the room.
"I came to you instead, you see," my dear girl said, trying to smile, yet
with a quivering lip; "I could not have slept, I could not have borne to
live almost, it seems, if I had let you ride off without a word, without
We stood thus facing each other for a moment--mumbling forth some
commonplaces of explanation, she looking intently into my eyes. Then with
a sudden deep outburst of anguish, moaning piteously, "_Must you truly
go_?" she came, nay, almost fell into my arms, burying her face on my
shoulder and weeping violently.
It is not meet that I should speak much of the hour that followed. I
would, in truth, pass over it wholly in silence--as being too sacred a
thing for aught of disclosure or speculation--were it not that some might,
in this case, think lightly of the pure and good woman who, unduly wrung
by years of grief, disappointment, and trial, now, from very weariness of
soul, sobbed upon my breast. And that would be intolerable.
We sat side by side in the little musty parlor. I did not hold her hand,
or so much as touch her gown with my knee or foot.
We talked of impersonal things--of the coming invasion, of the chances of
relieving Fort Stanwix, of the joy it would be to me if I could bear a
good part in rescuing my dear friend Gansevoort, its brave young
commandant. I told her about Peter, and of how we two had consorted
together in Albany, and later in Quebec. And this led us back--as we had
so often returned before during these latter hateful months--to the sweet
companionship of our own childhood and youth. She, in turn, talked of Mr.
Stewart, who seemed less strong and contented in his new home at
Cairncross. He had much enjoyment now, she said, in counting over a rosary
of beads which had been his mother's, reiterating a prayer for each one in
the Romish fashion, and he was curiously able to remember these
long-disused formulas of his boyhood, even while he forgot the things of
yesterday. I commented upon this, pointing out to her that this is the
strange quality of the Roman faith--that its forms and customs, learned in
youth, remain in the affections of Papists to their dying day, even after
many years of neglect and unbelief; whereas in the severe, Spanish-drab
Protestantism to which I was reared, if one once loses interest in the
tenets themselves, there is nothing whatever left upon which the mind may
Thus our conversation ran--decorous and harmless enough, in all
conscience. And if the thoughts masked by these words were all of a
forbidden subject; if the very air about us was laden with sweet
influences; if, when our eyes met, each read in the other's glance a whole
world of meaning evaded in our talk--were we to blame?
I said "no" then, in my own heart, honestly. I say it now. Why, think you!
This love of ours was as old as our intelligence itself. Looking back, we
could trace its soft touch upon every little childish incident we had in
common memory; the cadence of its music bore forward, tenderly, sweetly,
the song of all that had been happy in our lives. We were man and woman
now, wise and grave by reason of sorrow and pain and great trials. These
had come upon us both because neither of us had frankly said, at a time
when to have said it would have been to alter all, "I love you!" And this
we must not say to each other even now, by all the bonds of mutual honor
and self-respect. But not any known law, human or divine, could hold our
thoughts in leash. So we sat and talked of common things, calmly and
without restraint, and our minds were leagues away, in fields of their own
choosing, amid sunshine and flowers and the low chanting of
We said farewell, instinctively, before my mother returned. I held her
hands in mine, and, as if she had been a girl again, gently kissed the
white forehead she as gently inclined to me.
"Poor old father is to burn candles for your safety," she said, with a
soft smile, "and I will pray too. Oh, do spare yourself! Come back to us!"
"I feel it in my bones," I answered, stoutly. "Fear nothing, I shall come
The tall, bright-eyed, shrewd old dame, my mother, came in at this, and
Daisy consented to stop for supper with us, but not to spend the night
with one of my sisters as was urged. I read her reason to be that she
shrank from a second and public farewell in the morning.
The supper was almost a cheery meal. The women would have readily enough
made it doleful, I fancy, but my spirits were too high for that. There
were birds singing in my heart. My mother from time to time looked at me
searchingly, as if to guess the cause of this elation, but I doubt she was
as mystified as I then thought.
At twilight I stood bareheaded and watched Daisy drive away, with Enoch
and Tulp as a mounted escort. The latter was also to remain with her
during my absence--and Major Mauverensen almost envied his slave.
The Rendezvous of Fighting Men at Fort Dayton.
I shall not easily forget the early breakfast next morning, or the calm
yet serious air with which my mother and two unmarried sisters went about
the few remaining duties of preparing for my departure. For all they said,
they might have been getting me ready for a fishing excursion, but it
would be wrong to assume that they did not think as gravely as if they had
flooded the kitchen with tears.
Little has been said of these good women in the course of my story, for
the reason that Fate gave them very little to do with it, and the
narrative is full long as it is, without the burden of extraneous
personages. But I would not have it thought that we did not all love one
another, and stand up for one another, because we kept cool about it.
During this last year, in truth, my mother and I had seen more of each
other than for all the time before since my infancy, and in the main had
got on admirably together. Despite the affectation of indifference in her
letter, she did not lack for pride in my being a major; it is true that
she exhibited little of this emotion to me, fearing its effect upon my
vanity, doubtless, but her neighbors and gossips heard a good deal from
it, I fancy. It was in her nature to be proud, and she had right to be;
for what other widow in the Valley, left in sore poverty with a household
of children, had, like her, by individual exertions, thrift, and keen
management, brought all that family well up, purchased and paid for her
own homestead and farm, and laid by enough for a comfortable old age? Not
one! She therefore was justified in respecting herself and exacting
respect from others, and it pleased me that she should have satisfaction
as well in my advancement. But she did ruffle me sometimes by seeking to
manage my business for me--she never for a moment doubting that it was
within her ability to make a much better major than I was--and by ever and
anon selecting some Valley maiden for me to marry. This last became a
veritable infliction, so that I finally assured her I should never
marry--my heart being irrevocably fixed upon a hopelessly
I desired her to suppose that this referred to some Albany woman, but I
was never skilful in indirection, and I do not believe that she was at
The time came soon enough when I must say good-by. My carefully packed
bags were carried out and fastened to the saddle. Tall, slender,
high-browed Margaret sadly sewed a new cockade of her own making upon my
hat, and round-faced, red-cheeked Gertrude tied my sash and belt about me
in silence. I kissed them both with more feeling than in all their lives
before I had known for them, and when my mother followed me to the
horse-block, and embraced me again, the tears could not be kept back.
After all, I was her only boy, and it was to war in its deadliest form
that I was going.
And then the thought came to me--how often in that cruel week it had come
to fathers, husbands, brothers, in this sunny Valley of ours, leaving
homes they should never see again!--that nothing but our right arms could
save these women, my own flesh and blood, from the hatchet and
I swung myself into the saddle sternly at this thought, and gripped the
reins hard and pushed my weight upon the stirrups. By all the gods, I
should not take this ride for nothing!
"Be of good heart, mother," I said, between my teeth. "We shall drive the
scoundrels back--such as we do not feed to the wolves."
"Ay! And do you your part!" said this fine old daughter of the men who
through eighty years of warfare broke the back of Spain. "Remember that
you are a Van Hoorn!"
"I shall not forget."
"And is that young Philip Cross--_her_ husband--with Johnson's crew?"
"Yes, he is."
"Then if he gets back to Canada alive, you are not the man your
grandfather Baltus was!"
These were her last words, and they rang in my ears long after I had
joined Fonda and Sammons at Caughnawaga, and we had started westward to
overtake the regiment. If I could find this Philip Cross, there was
nothing more fixed in my mind than the resolve to kill him.
We rode for the most part without conversation along the rough, sun-baked
road, the ruts of which had here and there been trampled into fine dust by
the feet of the soldiers marching before. When we passed houses near the
highway, women and children came to the doors to watch us; other women and
children we could see working in the gardens or among the rows of tall
corn. But save for now and then an aged gaffer, sitting in the sunshine
with his pipe, there were no men. All those who could bear a musket were
gone to meet the invasion. Two years of war in other parts had drained the
Valley of many of its young men, who could not bear peace at home while
there were battles at the North or in the Jerseys, and were serving in
every army which Congress controlled, from Champlain and the Delaware to
Charleston. And now this levy for home defence had swept the farms clean.
We had late dinner, I remember, at the house of stout old Peter Wormuth,
near the Palatine church. Both he and his son Matthew--a friend of mine
from boyhood, who was to survive Oriskany only to be shot down near Cherry
Valley next year by Joseph Brant--had of course gone forward with the
Palatine militia. The women gave us food and drink, and I recall that
Matthew's young wife, who had been Gertrude Shoemaker and was General
Herkimer's niece, wept bitterly when we left, and we shouted back to her
promises to keep watch over her husband. It is curious to think that when
I next saw this young woman, some years later, she was the wife of Major
It was a stiff ride on to overtake the stalwart yeomen of our regiment,
which we did not far from a point opposite the upper Canajoharie Castle.
The men had halted here, weary after their long, hot march, and were
sprawling on the grass and in the shade of the bushes. The sun was getting
low on the distant hills of the Little Falls, and there came up a
refreshing stir of air from the river. Some were for encamping here for
the night; others favored going on to the Falls. It annoyed me somewhat to
find that this question was apparently to be left to the men themselves,
Colonel Visscher not seeming able or disposed to decide for himself.
Across the stream, in the golden August haze, we could see the roofs of
the Mohawks' village--or castle as they called it. Some of the men idly
proposed to go over and stampede or clear out this nest of red vermin, but
the idea was not seriously taken up. Perhaps if it had been, much might
have been changed for the better. Nothing is clearer than that Molly
Brant, who with her bastard brood and other Mohawk women was then living
there, sent up an emissary to warn her brother Joseph of our coming, and
that it was upon this information he acted to such fell purpose. Doubtless
if we had gone over and seized the castle and its inmates then, that
messenger would never have been sent. But we are all wise when we
* * * * *
By the afternoon of the next day, August 3, the mustering at Fort Dayton
was complete. No one of the thirty-three companies of Tryon County militia
was absent, and though some sent barely a score of men, still no more
were to be expected Such as the little army was, it must suffice. There
were of more or less trained militiamen nearly six hundred. Of artisan
volunteers, of farmers who had no place in the regular company formations,
and of citizens whose anxiety to be present was unfortunately much in
excess of their utility, there were enough to bring the entire total up to
perhaps two-score over eight hundred. Our real and effective fighting
force was about half-way between these two figures--I should say about
seven hundred strong.
It was the first time that the whole Tryon militia had been gathered
together, and we looked one another over with curiosity. Though called
into common action by a common peril, the nearness of which made the
Mohawk Valley seem a very small place and its people all close neighbors,
the men assembled here represented the partial settlement of a country
larger than any one of several European monarchies.
As there were all sorts and grades of dress, ranging from the spruce blue
and buff of some of the officers, through the gray homespun and
linsey-woolsey of the farmer privates, to the buckskin of the trappers and
huntsmen, so there were all manner of weapons, all styles of head-gear and
equipment, all fashions of faces. There were Germans of half a dozen
different types, there were Dutch, there were Irish and Scotch
Presbyterians, there were stray French Huguenots, and even Englishmen, and
here and there a Yankee settler from New England. Many there were who
with difficulty understood each other, as when the Scotch Campbells and
Clydes of Cherry Valley, for example, essayed to talk with the
bush-Germans from above Zimmerman's.
Notable among the chief men of the communities here, so to speak, huddled
together for safety, was old Isaac Paris, the foremost man of Stone
Arabia. He should now be something over sixty years of age, yet had
children at home scarce out of the cradle, and was so hale and strong in
bearing that he seemed no less fit for battle and hardship than his
strapping son Peter, who was not yet eighteen. These two laid their lives
down together within this dread week of which I write. I shall never
forget how fine and resolute a man the old colonel looked, with his good
clothes of citizen make, as became a member of the State Senate and one of
the Committee of Safety, yet with as martial a bearing as any. He was a
Frenchman from Strasbourg, but spoke like a German; no man of us all
looked forward to fighting with greater appetite, though he had been
always a quiet merchant and God-fearing, peaceful burgher.
Colonel Ebenezer Cox, a somewhat arrogant and solitary man for whom I had
small liking, now commanded the Canajoharie regiment in place of Herkimer
the Brigadier-General; there were at the head of the other regiments stout
Colonel Peter Bellinger, the capable and determined Colonel Jacob Klock,
and our own Colonel Frederick Visscher. Almost all of the Committee of
Safety were here--most of them being also officers in the militia; but
others, like Paris, John Dygert, Samson Sammons, Jacob Snell, and Samuel
Billington, coming merely as lookers-on. In short, no well-known Whig of
the Valley seemed absent as we looked the gathering over, and scarcely a
familiar family name was lacking on our lists, which it was now my
business to check off.
Whole households of strong men marched together. There were nine Snells,
all relatives, in the patriot ranks; so far as I can remember, there were
five Bellingers, five Seebers, five Wagners, and five Wollovers--and it
may well be five of more than one other family.
The men of the different settlements formed groups by themselves at the
first, and arranged their own separate camping-places for the night. But
soon, as was but natural, they discovered acquaintances from other parts,
and began to mingle, sitting in knots or strolling about the outer
palisades or on the clearing beyond. The older men who had borne a part in
the French war told stories of that time, which, indeed, had now a new,
deep interest for us, not only in that we were to face an invading force
greater and more to be dreaded than was Bellętre's, but because we were
encamped on historic ground.
From the gentle knoll upon which the block-house and stockade of Fort
Dayton were now reared we could see the site of that first little Palatine
settlement that had then been wiped so rudely from the face of the earth;
and our men revived memories of that dreadful night, and talked of them in
a low voice as the daylight faded.
The scene affected me most gravely. I looked at the forest-clad range of
northern hills over which the French and Indian horde stole in the night,
and tried to picture their stealthy approach in my mind. Below us, flowing
tranquilly past the willow-hedged farms of the German Flatts settlers, lay
the Mohawk. The white rippling overcast on the water marked the shallow
ford through which the panic-stricken refugees crowded in affright in the
wintry darkness, and where, in the crush, that poor forgotten woman, the
widow of an hour, was trampled under foot, swept away by the
How miraculous it seemed that her baby girl should have been saved, should
have been brought to Mr. Stewart's door, and placed in the very sanctuary
of my life, by the wilful freak of a little English boy! And how
marvellous that this self-same boy, her husband now, should be among the
captains of a new and more sinister invasion of our Valley, and that I
should be in arms with my neighbors to stay his progress! Truly here was
food enough for thought.
But there was little time for musing. After supper, when most of the rest
were free to please themselves, to gossip, to set night-lines in the river
against breakfast, or to carve rough initials on their powder-horns in
emulation of the art-work displayed by the ingenious Petrie boys, I was
called to the council held by General Herkimer in one of the rooms of the
fort. There were present some of those already mentioned, and I think that
Colonel Wesson, the Massachusetts officer whose troops garrisoned the
place, was from courtesy also invited to take part, though if he was
there he said nothing. Thomas Spencer, the Seneca half-breed blacksmith,
who had throughout been our best friend, had come down, and with him was
Skenandoah, the war-chief of the Oneidas, whom Dominie Kirkland had kept
in our interest.
The thing most talked of, I remember, was the help that these Oneidas
could render us. General Schuyler had all along shrunk from the use of
savages on the Continental side, and hence had required only friendly
neutrality of the Oneidas, whose chief villages lay between us and the
foe. But these Indians now saw clearly, that, if the invasion succeeded,
they would be exterminated not a whit the less ruthlessly by their
Iroquois brothers because they had held aloof. In the grim code of the
savage, as in the softened law of the Christian, those who were not for
him were against him. So the noble old Oneida war-chief had come to us to
say that his people, standing as it were between the devil and the deep
sea, preferred to at least die like men, fighting for their lives.
Skenandoah was reputed even then to be seventy years of age, but he had
the square shoulders, full, corded neck, and sharp glance of a man of
forty. Only last year he died, at a great age--said to be one hundred and
ten years--and was buried on Clinton Hill beside his good friend Kirkland,
whom for half a century he had loved so well.
There were no two opinions in the council: let the Oneidas join us with
their war-party, by all means.
After this had been agreed upon, other matters came up--the quantity of
stores we should take, the precedence of the regiments, the selection of
the men to be sent ahead to apprise Gansevoort of our approach. But these
do not concern the story.
It was after this little gathering had broken up, and the candles been
blown out, that General Herkimer put his hand on my shoulder and said, in
his quaint German dialect:
"Come, walk with me outside the fort."
We went together across the parade in the growing dusk. Most of those whom
we passed recognized my companion, and greeted him--more often, I am bound
to say, with "Guten Abend, Honikol!" than with the salute due to his rank.
There was, indeed, very little notion of discipline in this rough, simple
We walked outside the ditch to a grassy clearing toward the Flatts where
we could pace back and forth without listeners, and yet could see the
sentries posted at the corners of the forest enclosure. Then the honest
old Brigadier laid open his heart to me.
"I wish to God we were well out of this all," he said, almost gloomily.
I was taken aback at this. Dejection was last to be looked for in this
brave, stout-hearted old frontier fighter. I asked, "What is wrong?"
feeling that surely there must be some cause for despondency I knew
"_I_ am wrong," he said, simply.
"I do not understand you, Brigadier."
"Say rather that _they_, who ought to know me better, do not understand
"They? Whom do you mean?"
"All these men about us--Isaac Paris, Ebenezer Cox the colonel of my own
regiment, Fritz Visscher, and many more. I can see it--they suspect me.
Nothing could be worse than that."
"Suspect _you_, Brigadier! It is pure fancy! You are dreaming!"
"No, I am very much awake, young man. You have not heard them--I have! It
has been as much as flung in my face to-day that my brother Hon-Yost is a
colonel with Johnson--up yonder."
The little man pointed westward with his hand to where the last red lights
of day were paling over the black line of trees.
"He is with them," he said, bitterly, "and I am blamed for it. Then, too,
my brother Hendrick hides himself away in Stone Arabia, and is not of us,
and his son _is_ with the Tories--up yonder."
"But your brother George is here with us, as true a man as will march
"Then I have a sister married to Dominie Rosencranz, and he is a Tory; and
another married to Hendrick Frey, and _he_ is a Tory, too. All this is
thrown in my teeth. I do not pass two men with their heads together but I
feel they are talking of this."
"Why should they? You have two other brothers-in-law here in camp--Peter
Bellinger and George Bell. You imagine a vain thing, Brigadier. Believe
me, I have seen or heard no hint of this."
"You would not. You are an officer of the line--the only one here.
Besides, you are Schuyler's man. They would not talk before you."
"But I am Valley born, Valley bred, as much as any of you. Wherein am I
different from the others? Why should they keep me in the dark? They are
all my friends, just as--if you would only believe it--they are yours
"Young man," said the General, in a low, impressive voice, and filling and
lighting his pipe as he slowly spoke, "if you come back alive, and if you
get to be of my age, you will know some things that you don't know now.
Danger makes men brave; it likewise makes them selfish and jealous. We are
going out together, all of us, to try what, with God's help, we can do.
Behind us, down the river, are our wives or our sweethearts; some of you
leave children, others leave mothers and sisters. We are going forward to
save them from death or worse than death, and to risk our lives for them
and for our homes. Yet, I tell you candidly, there are men here--back here
in this fort--who would almost rather see us fail, than see me win my rank
in the State line."
"I cannot credit that."
"Then--why else should they profess to doubt me? Why should they bring up
my brothers' names to taunt me with their treason?"
Alas! I could not tell. We walked up and down, I remember, until long
after darkness fell full upon us, and the stars were all aglow--I trying
my best to dissuade the honest Brigadier from his gloomy conviction.
To be frank, although he doubtless greatly exaggerated the feeling
existing against him, it to a degree did exist.
The reasons for it are not difficult of comprehension. There were not a
few officers in our force who were better educated than bluff, unlettered
old Honikol Herkimer, and who had seen something of the world outside our
Valley. It nettled their pride to be under a plain little German, who
spoke English badly, and could not even spell his own name twice alike.
There were at work under the surface, too, old trade and race jealousies,
none the less strong because those upon whom they acted scarcely realized
their presence. The Herkimers were the great family on the river from the
Little Falls westward, and there were ancient rivalries, unexpressed but
still potent, between them and families down the Valley. Thus, when some
of the Herkimers and their connections--a majority, for that
matter--either openly joined the enemy or held coldly apart from us, it
was easy for these jealous promptings to take the form of doubt and
suspicions as to the whole-hearted loyalty of the Brigadier himself. Once
begun, these cruelly unjust suspicions rankled in men's minds and spread.
All this I should not mention were it not the key to the horrible tragedy
which followed. It is this alone which explains how a trained Indian
fighter, a veteran frontiersman like Herkimer, was spurred and stung into
rushing headlong upon the death-trap, as if he had been any ignorant and
We started on the march westward next day, the 4th, friendly Indians
bringing us news that the van of the enemy had appeared on the evening of
the 2d before Fort Stanwix, and had already begun an investment. We forded
the river at Fort Schuyler, just below where Utica now stands, and pushed
slowly forward through the forest, over the rude and narrow road, to the
Oneida village of Oriska, something to the east of the large creek which
bears the name Oriskany.
Here we halted a second time, encamping at our leisure, and despatching,
on the evening of the 5th, Adam Helmer and two other scouts to penetrate
to the fort and arrange a sortie by the garrison, simultaneous with
"The Blood Be on Your Heads."
A bright, hot sun shone upon us the next morning--the
never-to-be-forgotten 6th. There would have been small need for any waking
rattle of the drums; the sultry heat made all willing to rise from the
hard, dry ground, where sleep had been difficult enough even in the cooler
darkness. At six o'clock the camp, such as it was, was all astir.
Breakfast was eaten in little groups squatted about in the clearing, or in
the shade of the trees at its edges, members of families or close
neighbors clustering together in parties once more, to share victuals
prepared by the same housewives--it may be from the same oven or spit. It
might well happen that for many of us this was the last meal on earth, for
we were within hearing of the heavy guns of the fort, and when three of
these should be fired in succession we were to take up our final
six-miles' march. But this reflection made no one sad, apparently.
Everywhere you could hear merry converse and sounds of laughter.
Listening, no one would have dreamed that this body of men stood upon the
threshold of so grave an adventure.
I had been up earlier than most of the others, and had gone over to the
spot where the horses were tethered. Of these animals there were some
dozen, all told, and their appearance showed that they had had a bad night
of it with the flies. After I had seen them led to water and safely
brought back, and had watched that in the distribution of the scanty store
of oats my steed had his proper share, I came back to breakfast with the
Stone Arabia men, among whom I had many acquaintances. I contributed some
sausages and slices of bread and meat, I remember, to the general stock of
food, which was spread out upon one of Isaac Paris's blankets. We ate with
a light heart, half-lying on the parched grass around the extemporized
cloth. Some of the young farmers, their meal already finished, were up on
their feet, scuffling and wrestling in jest and high spirits. They laughed
so heartily from time to time that Mr. Paris would call out: "Less noise
there, you, or we shall not hear the cannon from the fort!"
No one would have thought that this was the morning before a battle.
Eight o'clock arrived, and still there had been no signal. All
preparations had long since been made. The saddle-horses of the officers
were ready under the shade, their girths properly tightened. Blankets had
been rolled up and strapped, haversacks and bags properly repacked, a last
look taken to flints and priming. The supply-wagon stood behind where the
General's tent had been, all laden for the start, and with the horses
harnessed to the pole. Still no signal came!
The men began to grow uneasy with the waiting. It had been against the
prevalent feeling of impatience that we halted here the preceding day,
instead of hastening forward to strike the blow. Now every minute's
inaction increased this spirit of restlessness. The militiamen's
faces--already saturnine enough, what with broken rest and three days'
stubble of beard--were clouding over with dislike for the delay.
The sauntering to and fro began to assume a general trend toward the
headquarters of the Brigadier. I had visited this spot once or twice
before during the early morning to offer suggestions or receive commands.
I went again now, having it in mind to report to the General the evident
impatience of the men. A doubt was growing with me, too, whether we were
not too far away to be sure of hearing the guns from the fort--quite six
The privacy of the commander was indifferently secured by the posting of
sentries, who guarded a square perhaps forty feet each way. In the centre
of this enclosure was a clump of high bushes, with one or two young trees,
bunched upon the bank of a tiny rivulet now almost dried up. Here, during
the night, the General's small army-tent had been pitched, and here now,
after the tent had been packed on the wagon, he sat, on the only chair in
camp, under the shadow of the bushes, within full view of his soldiers.
These were by this time gathered three or four deep around the three front
sides of the square, and were gradually pushing the sentries in. Five or
six officers stood about the General, talking earnestly with him and with
one another, and the growing crowd outside the square were visibly anxious
to hear what was going on.
I have said before, I think, that I was the only officer of the
Continental line in the whole party. This fact, and some trifling
differences between my uniform and that of the militia colonels and
majors, had attracted notice, not wholly of an admiring sort. I had had
the misfortune, moreover, to learn in camp before Quebec to shave every
day, as regularly as if at home, with the result that I was probably the
only man in the clearing that morning who wore a clean face. This served
further to make me a marked man among such of the farmer boys as knew me
only by sight. As I pushed my way through the throng to get inside the
square, I heard various comments by strangers from Canajoharie or Cherry
"There goes Schuyler's Dutchman," said one. "He has brought his _friseur_
"It would have been more to the point if he had brought some soldiers.
Albany would see us hang before she would help us," growled another.
"Make way for Mynheer," said a rough joker in the crowd, half-laughing,
half-scowling. "What they need inside yonder is some more Dutch prudence.
When they have heard him they will vote to go into winter quarters and
fight next spring!"
All this was disagreeable enough, but it was wisest to pretend not to
hear, and I went forward to the groups around the Brigadier.
The question under debate was, of course, whether we should wait longer
for the signal; or, rather, whether it had not been already fired, and the
sound failed to reach us on the sultry, heavy air. There were two opinions
upon this, and for a time the difference was discussed in amiability, if
with some heat. The General felt positive that if the shots had been fired
we must have heard them.
I seem to see him now, the brave old man, as he sat there on the rough
stool, imperturbably smoking, and maintaining his own against the
dissenting officers. Even after some of them grew vexed, and declared that
either the signal had been fired or the express had been captured, and
that in either case it would be worse than folly to longer remain here, he
held his temper. Perhaps his keen black eyes sparkled the brighter, but he
kept his tongue calm, and quietly reiterated his arguments. The
beleaguering force outside the fort, he said, must outnumber ours two to
one. They had artillery, and they had regular German troops, the best in
Europe, not to mention many hundreds of Indians, all well armed and
munitioned. It would be next to impossible to surprise an army thus
supplied with scouts; it would be practically hopeless to attack them,
unless we were backed up by a simultaneous sortie in force from the fort.
In that, the Brigadier insisted, lay our only chance of success.
"But I say the sortie _will_ be made! They are waiting for us--only we are
too far off to hear their signal!" cried one of the impatient colonels.
"If the wind was in the east," said the Brigadier, "that might be the
case. But in breathless air like this I have heard the guns from that
fort two miles farther back."
"Our messengers may not have got through the lines last night," put in
Thomas Spencer, the half-breed. "The swamp back of the fort is difficult
travelling, even to one who knows it better than Helmer does, and Butler's
Indians are not children, to see only straight ahead of their noses."
"Would it not be wise for Spencer here, and some of our young trappers, or
some of Skenandoah's Indians, to go forward and spy out the land for us?"
"These would do little good now," answered Herkimer; "the chief thing is
to know when Gansevoort is ready to come out and help us."
"The chief thing to know, by God," broke forth one of the colonels, with a
great oath, "is whether we have a patriot or a Tory at our head!"
Herkimer's tanned and swarthy face changed color at this taunt. He stole a
swift glance at me, as if to say, "This is what I warned you was to be
looked for," and smoked his pipe for a minute in silence.
His brother-in-law, Colonel Peter Bellinger, took the insult less tamely.
"The man who says Honikol Herkimer is a Tory lies," he said, bluntly, with
his hand on his sword-hilt, and honest wrath in his gray eyes.
"Peace, Peter," said the Brigadier. "Let them think what they like. It is
not my affair. My business is to guard the lives of these young men here,
as if I were their father. I am a childless man, yet here I am as the
parent of all of them. I could not go back again and look their mothers
in the eye if I had led them into trouble which could be avoided."
"We are not here to avoid trouble, but rather to seek it," shouted Colonel
He spoke loud enough to be heard by the throng beyond, which now numbered
four-fifths of our whole force, and there rolled back to us from them a
loud answering murmur of approval. At the sound of this, others came
running up to learn what was going on; and the line, hitherto with
difficulty kept back by the sentries, was broken in in more than one
place. Matters looked bad for discipline, or wise action of any sort.
"A man does not show his bravery by running his head at a stone wall,"
said the Brigadier, still striving to keep his temper, but rising to his
feet as he spoke.
"_Will_ you give the order to go on?" demanded Cox, in a fierce tone,
pitched even higher.
"Lead us on!" came loud shouts from many places in the crowd. There was a
general pushing in of the line now, and some men at the back,
misinterpreting this, began waving their hats and cheering.
"Give us the word, Honikol!" they yelled.
Still Herkimer stood his ground, though with rising color.
"What for a soldier are you," he called out, sharply, "to make mutiny like
this? Know you not your duty better?"
"Our duty is to fight, not to sit around here in idleness. At least _we_
are not cowards," broke in another, who had supported Cox from the outset.
"_You_!" cried Herkimer, all roused at last. "_You_ will be the first to
run when you see the British!"
There was no longer any pretence of keeping the square. The excited
farmers pressed closely about us now, and the clamor was rising
momentarily. All thought of order or military grade was gone. Men who had
no rank whatever thrust their loud voices into the council, so that we
could hear nothing clearly.
There was a brief interchange of further hot words between the Brigadier,
Colonel Bellinger, and John Frey on the one side, and the mutinous
colonels and men on the other. I heard the bitter epithets of "Tory" and
"coward" hurled at the old man, who stood with chin defiant in air, and
dark eyes ablaze, facing his antagonists. The scene was so shameful that I
could scarce bear to look upon it.
There came a hurly-burly of confusion and tumult as the shouts of the
crowd grew more vehement, and one of the refractory colonels impetuously
drew his sword and half turned as if to give the command himself.
Then I heard Herkimer, too incensed to longer control himself, cry: "If
you will have it so, the blood be on your heads." He sprang upon the stool
at this, waved his sword, and shouted so that all the eight hundred
The tall pines themselves shook with the cheer which the yeomen raised.
There was a scramble on the instant for muskets, bags, and belongings. To
rush was the order. We under-officers caught the infection, and with no
dignity at all hurried across the clearing to our horses. We cantered back
in a troop, Barent Coppernol leading the Brigadier's white mare at a
hand-gallop by our side. Still trembling with excitement, yet perhaps
somewhat reconciled to the adventure by the exultant spirit of the scene
before him, General Herkimer got into the saddle, and watched closely the
efforts of the colonels, now once more all gratified enthusiasm, to bring
their eager men into form. It had been arranged that Cox with his
Canajoharie regiment should have the right of the line, and this body was
ready and under way in less time, it seemed, than I have taken to write of
it. The General saw the other three regiments trooped, told Visscher to
bring the supply-wagon with the rear, and then, with Isaac Paris, Jelles
Fonda, and myself, galloped to the head of the column, where Spencer and
Skenandoah with the Oneida Indians were.
So marching swiftly, and without scouts, we started forth at about nine in
The road over which we hurried was as bad, even in those hot, dry days of
August, as any still to be found in the Adirondacks. The bottom-lands of
the Mohawk Valley, as is well known, are of the best farming soil in the
world, but for that very reason they make bad roads. The highway leading
to the fort lay for the most part over low and springy land, and was cut
through the thick beech and hemlock forest almost in a straight line,
regardless of swales and marshy places. These had been in some instances
bridged indifferently by corduroys of logs, laid the previous spring when
Gansevoort dragged up his cannon for the defence of the fort, and by this
time too often loose and out of place. We on horseback found these rough
spots even more trying than did the footmen; but for all of us progress
was slow enough, after the first excitement of the start had passed away.
There was no outlook at any point. We were hedged in everywhere by walls
of foliage, of mossy tree-trunks covered with vines, of tangled
undergrowth and brush. When we had gained a hill-top, nothing more was to
be seen than the dark-brown band of logs on the gully bottom before us,
and the dim line of road losing itself in a mass of green beyond.
Neither Herkimer nor Paris had much to say, as we rode on in the van.
Major Fonda made sundry efforts to engage them in talk, as if there had
been no recent dispute, no harsh words, no angry recriminations, but
without special success. For my part, I said nothing whatever. Surely
there was enough to think of, both as to the miserable insubordination of
an hour back, and as to what the next hour might bring.
We had passed over about the worst of these patches of corduroy road, in
the bottom of a ravine between two hills, where a little brook, dammed in
part by the logs, spread itself out over the swampy soil on both sides. We
in the van had nearly gained the summit of the farther eminence, and were
resting for the moment to see how Visscher should manage with his wagon
in the rear. Colonel Cox had also turned in his saddle, some ten yards
farther down the hill, and was calling back angrily to his men to keep in
the centre of the logs and not tip them up by walking on the ends.
While I looked Barent Coppernol called out to me: "Do you remember? This
is where we camped five years ago."
Before I could answer I heard a rifle report, and saw Colonel Cox fall
headlong upon the neck of his horse.
There was a momentary glimpse of dark forms running back, a strange yell,
a shot or two--and then the gates of hell opened upon us.
The Fearsome Death-Struggle in the Forest.
Were I Homer and Shakespeare and Milton, merged all in one, I should still
not know how fitly to depict the terrible scene which followed.
I had seen poor headstrong, wilful Cox pitch forward upon the mane of his
horse, as if all at once his spine had been turned, into limp string; I
saw now a ring of fire run out in spitting tongues of flame around the
gulf, and a circle of thin whitish smoke slowly raise itself through the
dark leaves of the girdling bushes. It was an appalling second of mental
numbness during which I looked at this strange sight, and seemed not at
all to comprehend it.
Then Herkimer cried out, shrilly: "My God! here it is!" and, whirling his
mare about, dashed down the hill-side again. I followed him, keeping ahead
of Paris, and pushing my horse forward through the aimlessly swarming
footmen of our van with a fierce, unintelligent excitement.
The air was filled now with shouts--what they were I did not know. The
solid body of our troops on the corduroy bridge were huddling together
like sheep in a storm. From the outer edges of this mass men were sinking
to the ground. The tipping, rolling logs tossed these bodies on their ends
off into the water, or under the feet of the others. Cox's horse had
jumped sidelong into the marsh, and now, its hind-quarters sinking in the
mire, plunged wildly, flinging the inert body still fastened in the
stirrups from side to side. Some of our men were firing their guns at
random into the underbrush.
All this I saw in the swift gallop down the hill to rejoin the Brigadier.
As I jerked up my horse beside him, a blood-curdling chorus of strange
barking screams, as from the throats of maniac women, rose at the farther
side of the ravine, drowning the shouts of our men, the ping-g-g of the
whistling bullets, and even the sharp crack of the muskets. It was the
Indian war-whoop! A swarm of savages were leaping from the bush in all
directions, and falling upon our men as they stood jammed together on the
causeway. It was a horrible spectacle--of naked, yelling devils, daubed
with vermilion and ghastly yellow, rushing with uplifted hatchets and
flashing knives upon this huddled mass of white men, our friends and
neighbors. These, after the first bewildering shock, made what defence
they could, shooting right and left, and beating down their assailants
with terrific smashing blows from their gun-stocks. But the throng on the
sliding logs made them almost powerless, and into their jumbled ranks kept
pouring the pitiless rain of bullets from the bush.
By God's providence there were cooler brains and wiser heads than mine,
here in the ravine, to face and grapple with this awful crisis.
Old Herkimer seemed before my very eyes to wax bigger and stronger and
calmer in the saddle, as this pandemonium unfolded in front of us. His
orders I forget now--or what part I played at first in carrying them
out--but they were given swiftly and with cool comprehension of all our
needs. I should think that within five minutes from the first shot of the
attack, our forces--or what was left of them--had been drawn out of the
cruel helplessness of their position in the centre of the swamp. This
could never have been done had not Honikol Herkimer kept perfectly his
self-control and balance, like an eagle in a tempest.
Visscher's regiment, in the rear, had not got fairly into the gulf, owing
to the delay in dragging the wagon along, when the ambushed Indians fired
their first volley; and he and his men, finding themselves outside the
fiery circle, promptly ran away. They were followed by many of the
Indians, which weakened the attacking force on the eastern side of the
ravine. Peter Bellinger, therefore, was able to push his way back again
from the beginning of the corduroy bridge into the woods on both sides of
the road beyond, where cover was to be had. It was a noble sight to see
the stalwart Palatine farmers of his regiment--these Petries, Weavers,
Helmers, and Dygerts of the German Flatts--fight their path backward
through the hail of lead, crushing Mohawk skulls as though they had been
egg-shells with the mighty flail-like swing of their clubbed muskets, and
returning fire only to kill every time. The bulk of Cox's Canajoharie
regiment and of Klock's Stone Arabia yeomen were pulled forward to the
rising ground on the west side, and spread themselves out in the timber
as well as they could, north and south of the road.
While these wise measures were being ordered, we three horsemen had,
strangely enough, been out of the range of fire; but now, as we turned to
ride back, a sudden shower of bullets came whizzing past us. My horse was
struck in the head, and began staggering forward blindly. I leaped from
his back as he toppled, only to come in violent collision with General
Herkimer, whose white mare, fatally wounded, had toppled toward me. The
Brigadier helped extricate himself from the saddle, and started with the
rest of us to run up the hill for cover, but stumbled and stopped after a
step or two. The bone of his right leg had been shattered by the ball
which killed his steed, and his high boot was already welling with blood.
It was in my arms, never put to better purpose, that the honest old man
was carried up the side-hill. Here, under a low-branched beech some two
rods from the road, Dr. William Petrie stripped off the boot, and
bandaged, as best he could, the wounded leg. The spot was not well
sheltered, but here the Brigadier, a little pale, yet still calm and
resolute, said he would sit and see the battle out. Several young men, at
a hint from the doctor, ran down through the sweeping fire to the edge of
the morass, unfastened the big saddle from his dead mare, and safely
brought it to us. On this the brave old German took his seat, with the
maimed leg stretched out on some boughs hastily gathered, and coolly
lighting his pipe, proceeded to look about him.
"Can we not find a safer place for you farther back, Brigadier?" I asked.
"No; here I will sit," he answered, stoutly. "The men can see me here; I
will face the enemy till I die."
All this time the rattle of musketry, the screech of flying bullets, the
hoarse din and clamor of forest warfare, had never for an instant abated.
Looking down upon the open space of the gully's bottom, we could see more
than two-score corpses piled upon the logs of the road, or upon little
mounds of black soil which showed above the level of the slough,
half-hidden by the willows and tall, rank tufts of swamp-grass. Save for
the dead, this natural clearing was well-nigh deserted. Captain Jacob
Seeber was in sight, upon a hillock below us to the north, with a score of
his Canajoharie company in a circle, firing outward at the enemy. Across
the ravine Captain Jacob Gardenier, a gigantic farmer, armed with a
captured Indian spear, had cut loose with his men from Visscher's retreat,
and had fought his way back to help us. Farther to the south, some of the
Cherry Valley men had got trees, and were holding the Indians at bay.
The hot August sun poured its fiercest rays down upon the heaps of dead
and wounded in this forest cockpit, and turned into golden haze the mist
of smoke encircling it. Through this pale veil we saw, from time to time,
forms struggling in the dusk of the thicket beyond. Behind each tree-trunk
was the stage whereon a life-drama was being played, with a sickening and
tragic sameness in them all. The yeoman from his cover would fire; if he
missed, forth upon him would dart the savage, raised hatchet gleaming--and
there would be a widow the more in some one of our Valley homes.
"Put two men behind each tree," ordered keen-eyed Herkimer. "Then, when
one fires, the other's gun will be loaded for the Indian on his running
forward." After this command had been followed, the battle went better
There was a hideous fascination in this spectacle stretched before us. An
hour ago it had been so softly peaceful, with the little brook picking its
clean way in the sunlight through the morass, and the kingfisher flitting
among the willows, and the bees' drone laying like a spell of indolence
upon the heated air. Now the swale was choked with corpses! The rivulet
ran red with blood, and sluggishly spread its current around barriers of
dead men. Bullets whistled across the gulf, cutting off boughs of trees as
with a knife, and scattering tufts of leaves like feathers from a hawk
stricken in its flight. The heavy air grew thick with smoke, dashed by
swift streaks of dancing flame. The demon-like screams of the savages, the
shouts and moans and curses of our own men, made hearing horrible.
Yes--horrible is the right word!
A frightened owl, I remember, was routed by the tumult from its sleepy
perch, and flew slowly over the open space of the ravine. So curious a
compound is man!--we watched the great brown-winged creature flap its
purblind way across from wood to wood, and speculated there, as we stood
in the jaws of death, if some random ball would hit it!
I am writing of all this as if I did nothing but look about me while
others fought. Of course that could not have been the case. I recall now
these fragmentary impressions of the scene around me with a distinctness
and with a plenitude of minutić which surprise me, the more that I
remember little enough of what I myself did. But when a man is in a fight
for his life there are no details. He is either to come out of it or he
isn't, and that is about all he thinks of.
I have put down nothing about what was now the most serious part of the
struggle--the combat with the German mercenaries and Tory volunteers on
the high ground beyond the ravine. I conceive it to have been the plan of
the enemy to let the Indians lie hidden round about the gulf until our
rear-guard had entered it. Then they were to disclose their ambuscade,
sweeping the corduroy bridge with fire, while the Germans and Tories,
meeting our van up on the crown of the hill beyond, were to attack and
drive it back upon our flank in the gulf bottom, when we should have been
wholly at the mercy of the encircling fusilade from the hills. Fortunately
St. Leger had given the Indians a quart of rum apiece before they started;
this was our salvation. The savages were too excited to wait, and closed
too soon the fiery ring which was to destroy us all. This premature action
cut off our rear, but it also prevented our van reaching the point where
the white foe lay watching for us. Thus we were able to form upon our
centre, after the first awful shock was over, and to then force our way
backward or forward to some sort of cover before the Germans and Tories
came upon us.
The fighting in which I bore a part was at the farthest western point,
where the remnants of four or five companies, half buried in the gloom of
the impenetrable wood, on a line stretching along the whole crest of the
hill, held these troops at bay. We lay or crouched behind leafy coverts,
crawling from place to place as our range was reached by the enemy,
shooting from the shield of tree-trunks or of tangled clumps of small
firs, or, best of all, of fallen and prostrate logs.
Often, when one of us, creeping cautiously forward, gained a spot which
promised better shelter, it was to find it already tenanted by a corpse,
perhaps of a near and dear friend. It was thus that I came upon the body
of Major John Eisenlord, and later upon what was left of poor Barent
Coppernol, lying half-hidden among the running hemlock, scalpless and
cold. It was from one of these recesses, too, that I saw stout old Isaac
Paris shot down, and then dragged away a prisoner by the Tories, to be
handed over to the hatchets of their Indian friends a few days hence.
Fancy three hours of this horrible forest warfare, in which every minute
bore a whole lifetime's strain and burden of peril!
We knew not then how time passed, and could but dimly guess how things
were going beyond the brambled copse in which we fought. Vague
intimations reached our ears, as the sounds of battle now receded, now
drew near, that the issue of the day still hung in suspense. The war-yells
of the Indians to the rear were heard less often now. The conflict seemed
to be spreading out over a greater area, to judge from the faintness of
some of the rifle reports which came to us. But we could not tell which
side was giving way, nor was there much time to think of this: all our
vigilance and attention were needed from moment to moment to keep
All at once, with a terrific swoop, there burst upon the forest a great
storm, with loud-rolling thunder and a drenching downfall of rain. We had
been too grimly engrossed in the affairs of the earth to note the
darkening sky. The tempest broke upon us unawares. The wind fairly roared
through the branches high above us; blinding flashes of lightning blazed
in the shadows of the wood. Huge boughs were wrenched bodily off by the
blast. Streaks of flame ran zigzag down the sides of the tall, straight
hemlocks. The forest fairly rocked under the convulsion of the elements.
We wrapped our neckcloths or kerchiefs about our gunlocks, and crouched
under shelter from the pelting sheets of water as well as might be. As for
the fight, it ceased utterly.
While we lay thus quiescent in the rain, I heard a low, distant report
from the west, which seemed distinct among the growlings of the thunder;
there followed another, and a third. It was the belated signal from
I made my way back to the hill-side as best I could, under the dripping
brambles, over the drenched and slippery ground vines, upon the chance
that the Brigadier had not heard the reports.
The commander still sat on his saddle under the beech-tree where I had
left him. Some watch-coats had been stretched over the lowest branches
above him, forming a tolerable shelter. His honest brown face seemed to
have grown wan and aged during the day. He protested that he had little or
no pain from his wound, but the repressed lines about his lips belied
their assurance. He smiled with gentle irony when I told him of what I had
heard, and how I had hastened to apprise him of it.
"I must indeed be getting old," he said to his brother George. "The young
men think I can no longer hear cannon when they are fired off."
The half-dozen officers who squatted or stood about under the tree,
avoiding the streams which fell from the holes in the improvised roof,
told me a terrible story of the day's slaughter. Of our eight hundred,
nearly half were killed. Visscher's regiment had been chased northward
toward the river, whither the fighting from the ravine had also in large
part drifted. How the combat was going down there, it was difficult to
say. There were dead men behind every tree, it seemed. Commands were so
broken up, and troops so scattered by the stern exigencies of forest
fighting, that it could not be known who was living and who was dead.
What made all this doubly tragic in my ears was that these officers, who
recounted to me our losses, had to name their own kinsmen among the slain.
Beneath the general grief and dismay in the presence of this great
catastrophe were the cruel gnawings of personal anguish.
"My son Robert lies out there, just beyond the tamarack," said Colonel
Samuel Campbell to me, in a hoarse whisper.
"My brother Stufel killed two Mohawks before he died; he is on the knoll
there with most of his men," said Captain Fox.
Major William Seeber, himself wounded beyond help, said gravely: "God only
knows whether my boy Jacob lives or not; but Audolph is gone, and my
brother Saffreness and his son James." The old merchant said this with dry
eyes, but with the bitterness of a broken heart.
I told them of the shooting and capture of Paris and the death of
Eisenlord. My news created no impression, apparently. Our minds were
saturated with horror. Of the nine Snells who came with us, seven were
said to be dead already.
The storm stopped as abruptly as it had come upon us. Of a sudden it grew
lighter, and the rain dwindled to a fine mist. Great luminous masses of
white appeared in the sky, pushing aside the leaden clouds. Then all at
once the sun was shining.
On that instant shots rang out here and there through the forest. The
fight began again.
The two hours which followed seem to me now but the indistinct space of a
few minutes. Our men had seized upon the leisure of the lull to eat what
food was at hand in their pockets, and felt now refreshed in strength.
They had had time, too, to learn something of the awful debt of vengeance
they owed the enemy. A sombre rage possessed them, and gave to their
hearts a giant's daring. Heroes before, they became Titans now.
The vapors steaming up in the sunlight from the wet earth seemed to bear
the scent of blood. The odor affected our senses. We ran forth in parties
now, disdaining cover. Some fell; we leaped over their writhing forms,
dashed our fierce way through the thicket to where the tell-tale smoke
arose, and smote, stabbed, stamped out the life of, the ambushed foe.
Under the sway of this frenzy, timorous men swelled into veritable
paladins. The least reckless of us rushed upon death with breast bared and
with clinched fists.
A body of us were thus scouring the wood on the crest of the hill, pushing
through the tangle of dead brush and thick high brake, which soaked us
afresh to the waist, resolute to overcome and kill whomsoever we could
reach. Below us, in the direction of the river, though half a mile this
side of it, we could hear a scattering fusillade maintained, which bespoke
bush-fighting. Toward this we made our way, firing at momentary glimpses
of figures in the thicket, and driving scattered groups of the foe before
us as we ran.
Coming out upon the brow of the hill, and peering through the saplings and
underbrush, we could see that big Captain Gardenier and his Caughnawaga
men were gathered in three or four parties behind clumps of alders in the
bottom, loading and firing upon an enemy invisible to us. While we were
looking down and hesitating how best to go to his succor, one of old
Sammons's sons came bounding down the side-hill, all excitement, crying:
"Help is here from the fort!"
Sure enough, close behind him were descending some fourscore men, whose
musket-barrels and cocked hats we could distinguish swaying above the
bushes, as they advanced in regular order.
I think I see huge, burly Gardenier still, standing in his woollen
shirt-sleeves, begrimed with powder and mud, one hand holding his spear,
the other shading his eyes against the sinking sun as he scanned the
"Who's there?" he roared at them.
"From the fort!" we could hear the answer.
Our hearts leaped with joy at this, and we began with one accord to get to
the foot of the hill, to meet these preservers. Down the steep side we
clambered, through the dense second-growth, in hot haste and all
confidence. We had some friendly Oneidas with us, and I had to tell them
to keep back, lest Gardenier, deeming them Mohawks, should fire upon them.
Coming to the edge of the swampy clearing we saw a strange sight.
Captain Gardenier was some yards in advance of his men, struggling like a
mad Hercules with half a dozen of these new-comers, hurling them right and
left, then falling to the ground, pinned through each thigh by a bayonet,
and pulling down his nearest assailant upon his breast to serve as
While we took in this astounding spectacle, young Sammons was dancing
"In God's name, Captain," he shrieked, "you are killing our friends!"
"Friends be damned!" yelled back Gardenier, still struggling with all his
vast might. "These art Tories. _Fire_! you fools! _Fire_!"
It was the truth. They were indeed Tories--double traitors to their former
friends. As Gardenier shouted out his command, these ruffians raised their
guns, and there sprang up from the bushes on either side of them as many
more savages, with weapons lifting for a volley.
How it was I know not, but they never fired that volley. Our muskets
seemed to poise and discharge themselves of their own volition, and a
score of the villains, white and red, tumbled before us. Gardenier's men
had recovered their senses as well, and, pouring in a deadly fusillade,
dashed furiously forward with clubbed muskets upon the unmasked foe. These
latter would now have retreated up the hill again, whence they could fire
to advantage, but we at this leaped forth upon their flank, and they, with
a futile shot or two, turned and fled in every direction, we all in
Ah, that chase! Over rotten, moss-grown logs, weaving between gnarled
tree-trunks, slipping on treacherous twigs, the wet saplings whipping our
faces, the boughs knocking against our guns, in savage heat we tore
forward, loading and firing as we ran.
The pursuit had a malignant pleasure in it: we knew the men we were
driving before us. Cries of recognition rose through the woods; names of
renegades were shouted out which had a sinister familiarity in all
I came upon young Stephen Watts, the boyish brother of Lady Johnson, lying
piteously prone against some roots, his neck torn with a hideous wound of
some sort; he did not know me, and I passed him by with a bitter hardening
of the heart. What did he here, making war upon my Valley? One of the
Papist Scots from Johnstown, Angus McDonell, was shot, knocked down, and
left senseless behind us. So far from there being any pang of compassion
for him, we cheered his fall, and pushed fiercely on. The scent of blood
in the moist air had made us wild beasts all.
I found myself at last near the river, and on the edge of a morass, where
the sun was shining upon the purple flowers of the sweet-flag, and tall
rushes rose above little miry pools. I had with me a young Dutch
farmer--John Van Antwerp--and three Oneida Indians, who had apparently
attached themselves to me on account of my epaulettes. We had followed
thus far at some distance a party of four or five Tories and Indians; we
came to a halt here, puzzled as to the course they had taken.
While my Indians, bent double, were running about scanning the soft ground
for a trail, I heard a well-known voice close behind me say:
"They're over to the right, in that clump of cedars. Better get behind a
I turned around. To my amazement Enoch Wade stood within two yards of me,
his buckskin shirt wide open at the throat, his coon-skin cap on the back
of his head, his long rifle over his arm.
"In Heaven's name, how did you come here?"
"Lay down, I tell ye!" he replied, throwing himself flat on his face as he
We were too late. They had fired on us from the cedars, and a bullet
struck poor Van Antwerp down at my feet.
"Now for it, before they can load," cried Enoch, darting past me and
leading a way on the open border of the swale, with long, unerring leaps
from one raised point to another. The Indians raced beside him, crouching
almost to a level with the reeds, and I followed.
A single shot came from the thicket as we reached it, and I felt a
momentary twinge of pain in my arm.
"Damnation! I've missed him! Run for your lives!" I heard shouted
excitedly from the bush.
There came a crack, crack, of two guns. One of my Indians rolled headlong
upon the ground; the others darted forward in pursuit of some flitting
forms dimly to be seen in the undergrowth beyond.
"Come here!" called Enoch to me. He was standing among the low cedars,
resting his chin on his hands, spread palm down over the muzzle of his
gun, and looking calmly upon something on the ground before him.
I hurried to his side. There, half-stretched on the wet, blood-stained
grass, panting with the exertion of raising himself on his elbow, and
looking me square in the face with distended eyes, lay Philip Cross.
Alone at Last with My Enemy.
My stricken foe looked steadily into my face; once his lips parted to
speak, but no sound came from them.
For my part I did not know what to say to him. A score of thoughts pressed
upon my tongue for utterance, but none of them seemed suited to this
strange occasion. Everything that occurred to me was either weak or
over-violent. Two distinct ideas of this momentary irresolution I
remember--one was to leave him in silence for my Oneidas to tomahawk and
scalp; the other was to curse him where he lay.
There was nothing in his whitening face to help me to a decision. The look
in his eyes was both sad and savage--an expression I could not fathom. For
all it said to me, he might be thinking wholly of his wound, or of nothing
whatever. The speechless fixity of this gaze embarrassed me. For relief I
turned to Enoch, and said sharply:
"You haven't told me yet what you were doing here."
The trapper kept his chin still on its rest, and only for a second turned
his shrewd gray eyes from the wounded quarry to me.
"You can see for yourself, can't ye?" he said. "What do people mostly do
when there's shooting going on, and they've got a gun?"
"But how came you here at all? I thought you were to stay at--at the place
where I put you."
"That was likely, wasn't it! Me loafing around the house like a tame cat
among the niggers while good fighting was going on up here!"
"If you wanted to come, why not have marched with us? I asked you."
"I don't march much myself. It suits me to get around on my own legs in my
own way. I told you I wouldn't go into any ranks, or tote my gun on my
shoulder when it was handier to carry it on my arm. But I didn't tell you
I wouldn't come up and see this thing on my own hook."
"Have you been here all day?"
"If you come to that, it's none of your business, young man. I got here
about the right time of day to save _your_ bacon, anyway. That's enough
for _you_, ain't it?"
The rebuke was just, and I put no further questions.
A great stillness had fallen upon the forest behind us. In the distance,
from the scrub-oak thickets on the lowlands by the river, there sounded
from time to time the echo of a stray shot, and faint Mohawk cries of
"Oonah! Oonah!" The battle was over.
"They were beginning to run away before I came down," said Enoch, in
comment upon some of these dying-away yells of defeat which came to us.
"They got handled too rough. If their white officers had showed themselves
more, and took bigger risks, they'd have stood their ground. But these
Tory fine gentlemen are a pack of cowards. They let the Injuns get killed,
but they kept darned well hid themselves."
The man on the ground broke silence here.
"You lie!" he said, fiercely.
"Oh! you can talk, can you?" said Enoch. "No, I don't lie, Mr. Cross. I'm
talking gospel truth. Herkimer's officers came out like men, and fought
like men, and got shot by dozens; but till we struck you, I never laid
eyes on one of you fellows all day long, and my eyesight's pretty good,
too. Don't you think it is? I nailed you right under the nipple, there,
within a hair of the button I sighted on. I leave it to you if that ain't
pretty fair shooting."
The cool brutality of this talk revolted me. I had it on my tongue to
interpose, when the wounded man spoke again, with a new accent of gloom
in his tone.
"What have I ever done to you?" he said, with his hand upon his breast.
"Why, nothing at all, Mr. Cross," answered Enoch, amiably. "There wasn't
any feeling about it, at least on my part. I'd have potted you just as
carefully if we'd been perfect strangers."
"Will you leave us here together for a little while, Enoch?" I broke in.
"Come back in a few minutes; find out what the news is in the gulf--how
the fight has gone. I desire some words with this--this gentleman."
The trapper nodded at this, and started off with his cat-like, springing
walk, loading his rifle as he went. "I'll turn up in about a quarter of
an hour," he said.
I watched his lithe, leather-clad figure disappear among the trees, and
then wheeled around to my prostrate foe.
"I do not know what to say to you," I said, hesitatingly, looking down
He had taken his hand away from his breast, and was fumbling with it on
the grass behind him. Suddenly he raised it, with a sharp cry of--
"I know what to say to you!"
There was a pistol in the air confronting me, and I, taken all aback,
looked full into the black circle of its barrel as he pulled the trigger.
The flint struck out a spark of flame, but it fell upon priming dampened
by the wet grass.
The momentary gleam of eagerness in the pallid face before me died
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