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See Also: Schenectady in the Revolutionary War

A History of Schenectady During the Revolution:
Chapter XV: Steps Taken to Protect the Frontier. Sullivan's Campaign.

Go back to: Chapter XIV | ahead to: Chapter XVI

[This information is from pp. 90-94 of A History of Schenectady During the Revolution by Willis T. Hanson, Jr. (Brattleboro, VT: E. L. Hildreth & Co., 1916). It is in the Schenectady Collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at Schdy R 974.744 H25, and copies are also available for borrowing.]

During the winter (1778-1779) roving bands of Indians and Tories kept the settlers on the frontiers in constant alarm.

In the spring the first active steps that had yet been taken looking toward an adequate protection of the frontiers were embodied in an act of the State Legislature which provided for the raising of a force of one thousand men (1) for this purpose. The men drafted were to continue in the service until the following January and were to be allowed the same pay and rations as the Continental army. For the force to be raised the schedule called for nineteen men (2) to be drafted from Colonel Wemple's regiment.

While the proposed force was slowly being enrolled, the Continental Congress, realizing the seriousness of the situation, decided to itself take the matter in hand, and to General Washington was given the direction of the campaign which aimed not only at checking the raids but also at the total destruction and devastation of the settlements of the raiders and the capture of as many of the enemy as possible.

The plan of Sullivan's campaign as adopted called for one division under General Sullivan to proceed by way of the Susquehanna River and a second under General James Clinton to proceed up the Mohawk from Schenectady to Canajoharie, crossing to Otsego Lake, thence down the Susquehanna, the two divisions joining at Tioga Point.

Under the direction of Henry Glen work was early actively undertaken to prepare and assemble at Schenectady the necessary provisions and stores in anticipation of the arrival of Clinton's division. (3) Schenectady seems to have been chosen for the concentration of the supplies rather than Canajoharie for the reason that there were no proper storehouses at the latter place and further because it was felt that at Schenectady there would be less likelihood of their being the object of an attack on the part of the enemy. (4)

On May 28 General Clinton reported to Washington that a quantity of provision had been successfully collected, and further that there were one hundred batteaux assembled ready to be loaded on the shortest notice. (5)

While these preparations were going on, small bodies of Indians appearing simultaneously in different quarters again necessitated the calling out of the militia. General Clinton reported the matter to his brother on April 28 in part as follows: (6)

The alarm was general thro' the whole Country, and I believe in a few days Schenectady woud have been the Frontier of the State, if it had not been for the appearance of the Troops, which I immediately marched up, consisting of that part of Gansevoort's Regt., which was in town, and the Schenectady Militia, amounting in the whole to about two hundred, with which I proceeded as far as Johnstown, where I was joined by a number of the Tryon County Militia who turned out chearfully on the occasion.

"[As] the only method left of restoring the Inhabitants to their former Tranquility," General Clinton determined (7) to erect a blockhouse at Sacandaga. To Colonel Gansevoort (8) was intrusted the duty of carrying out the orders and a detail of the Schenectady militia was ordered out to assist in the work. (9)

On June 15 General Clinton reported (10) that the one hundred boats (11) at Schenectady had been loaded and were already on their way up the Mohawk. "I have ordered one hundred more Boats to be had in readiness immediately," continues the report, "as the Genl. has ordered me to embark all the Troops, and take no P. Horses."

Under the direction of the Committee of Safety and under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Yates many of the Schenectady militia were employed in the embarkation of Clinton's brigade, and not a few, as volunteers, in the conveying of the baggage and supplies of the army up the Mohawk. Some of the men also accompanied the division on its march and on fatigue duty assisted in cutting the road through to Otsego Lake and in the erection of the dam necessary to transfer the batteaux to the Susquehanna River. (12)

The devastation and havoc wrought by the American forces as they advanced through the Indian country fulfilled to the letter the instructions of Congress and yet how ineffectual were these measures in the attainment of the main object of the expedition is amply shown by the subsequent history of the frontiers. Neither were the Indians subdued nor the prime movers in their raids captured, and the blackened ruins of their homes served only to further incite them to measures of retaliation. Scarcely had Sullivan returned when reports of murders committed by roving bands of Indians were borne to the authorities, and on October 25, Colonel Van Dyck, writing from Fort Schuyler, reported (13) a plan of the "Regulars" to lay siege to that post while the Indians were in the meantime destroying "the Country down as far as Schenectady."

While the reported plan did not mature, sufficient alarm was caused to warrant the militia being kept almost constantly on duty during the fall, details from Colonel Wemple's regiment forming part of the garrison (14) of many of the forts to the westward and acting as guards for the farmers in the vicinity while they gathered their harvests.

Notes

  1. A greater part of this force was later requisitioned by Congress to fill up the regiments of the New York Continental Line.
  2. Public Papers of George Clinton, V, 167.
  3. Pension Office Records, David Van Derheyden W 6373.
  4. James Clinton to Washington, Albany, May 28, 1779. Washington Papers, Library of Congress.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Public Papers of George Clinton, IV, 771.
  7. Ibid. This had been suggested to Governor Clinton by Jellis Fonda. Public Papers of George Clinton, IV, 670.
  8. Colonel Peter Gansevoort of the 3d New York Line. He had been in command at Fort Stanwix when besieged by St. Leger.
  9. Pension Office Records, John B. Veeder R 10927; John DeGraff; Ephraim Bradt W 16860.
  10. Public Papers of George Clinton, V, 86.
  11. They were escorted by the 3d New York Line and a detachment under Colonel Butler.
  12. Pension Office Records, Simon J. Vrooman W 6370; James Barhydt S 12948.
  13. Public Papers of George Clinton, V, 330.
  14. On November 19 eighty men from Colonel Wemple's regiment, ten of whom were "Exempts," were on duty at Fort Paris. Public Papers of George Clinton, V, 365. Details at Fort Hunter and Fort Plank, Pension Office Records, Daniel McMichael S 13885; Richard Van Vranken S 11623; Matthew DeGarmo S 23599. Details at Schoharie, Pension Office Records, Gerrit Schermerhorn S 14422; John DeGraff S 15090; George Passage R 7889.

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See Also: Schenectady in the Revolutionary War

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