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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 72: Indian Raid at Fort Herkimer; Washington at Schenectady.

[This information is from Vol. II, pp. 1085-1090 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. Some images have been relocated to the area in the text where they are discussed. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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1782 — Last of the war in the Valley — Rebuilding and repopulation — Tory and Indian raid at Fort Herkimer — Tories — General Washington at Schenectady.

The following chapter deals with the year 1782 and 1783 as relating to the Mohawk Valley. As there were no hostilities to speak of in those years in the Middle and Lower Mohawk Valley, these sections began gradually to be repopulated and rebuilt. Families returned to their burned homes. The whole section had been razed of dwellings by the raiding parties of the enemy but houses and barns were now reared and with rumors of peace in the air, the valley was rapidly repopulated in these two years. When Washington came to Fort Plain in 1783 some of the marks of war along the Mohawk had vanished. In 1782, and even in 1783, small scalping parties of Indians committed occasional murders and depredations and in 1782 the Herkimer settlements were destructively visited but the middle and lower Valley were comparatively free of further hostilities, except in a small way. This was largely due to the efficient protection afforded by Col. Willett and his garrisons.

In February, 1782, the Tryon county court of general session indicted 41 persons for their Tory proclivities, on the charge of "aiding, abetting, feeding and comforting the enemy." Molly Brant was one of those indicted. In February, 1781, this court indicted 104 Tryon county Tories on this charge. In October, 1781, 16 more were so charged. Among the 161 persons indicted many bore the names of Mohawk Valley German and Dutch pioneer families. Simms says, "Indeed we may say that thus very many of the German families of New York became represented in Canada, and are so to this day."

Christopher P. Yates wrote a letter to Col. H. Frey dated Freyburg [Freysbush], March 22, 1782. He said among other things: "We have already had three different inroads from the enemy. The last was at Bowman's kill, [Canajoharie creek] from whence they took three children of McFee's family."

* * * * *

In July, 1782, all the buildings on the south side of the Mohawk in the German Flats section, except Fort Herkimer and the Johan Jost Herkimer house, were destroyed by a force of 600 Tories and Indians. The night before the mill at Little Falls had been burned by the raiders. One man was killed in attempting to escape to Fort Herkimer and another was caught, tortured and killed near that post, the Indians hoping his cries would draw a party from the fort and so weaken it that they could make a successful attack. The garrison's hot fire kept off the enemy. Two soldiers in the fort were hit and killed and a number of the invaders are presumed to have been killed and wounded. The valley of the Mohawk was not again visited by any serious raid during the remainder of the war. The conflict had not entirely ceased in other quarters but there was a general subsiding of hostilities here. Toward the close of 1782 the British commander-in-chief directed that no more Indian expeditions be sent out, and those on foot were called in.

The Editor of this work regrets that there are no details available, other than the meager record given, concerning the raids in the German Flats in 1778 and in 1782.

* * * * *

The "Sammons papers" give an account by Jacob Timmerman of his capture, in the Palatine district, "by Indians who came over from Oswegatchie, about 25 in number." This was in 1782, while Timmerman was out with a scouting party of six. The Indians fired on them, killing two. Two escaped and Timmerman, who was wounded, and Peter Hillegas were captured. The party took a week to return to Oswegatchie [present Ogdensburg] from whence they were taken to Montreal, where Timmerman was put in a hospital to be cured of his wound. He and Hillegas were afterward closely confined until the end of the hostilities. One of the last Indian murders of the Revolution, within the present limits of Fulton and Montgomery county, was that of Henry Stoner of Fonda's Bush, later Broadalbin, in 1782. He was an old patriot and was struck down and tomahawked in his fields. His son, Nick Stoner, the famous trapper, attacked and mortally wounded the Indian murderer of his father with an andiron in a Johnstown tavern after the war. Strange to say young Stoner was imprisoned for this affray in which he laid out several savages, but was shortly after released from the Johnstown jail.

* * * * *

The night before the attack of 1782 on Fort Herkimer, a party of Brant's raiders appeared at the Little Falls mill and burned it. Benton's History of Herkimer County and the Upper Mohawk Valley, says: "The grist mill, on the falls of the Mohawk, became quite important to the inhabitants of the Upper Valley, as well as to the garrisons of Forts Herkimer and Dayton, after the destruction of those at German Flats, by Brant. * * * The enemy came upon the party at the flouring mill at night and accomplished their designs without much difficulty. At any rate, only a few shots were fired and one man, Daniel Petri, was killed. When the Indians entered the mill, the occupants attempted to escape as best they could. Two of them, Cox and Skinner, secreted themselves in the raceway, under the waterwheel and escaped death and captivity; but two others, Christian Edick and Frederick Getman, jumped into the raceway above the mill and there attempted to conceal themselves, but the burning mill disclosed their hiding place and they were taken prisoners. After burning the mill, the enemy retired, taking with them several prisoners. The following persons were at the mill when it was burned and all of them, except the miller and the soldiers, had brought corn to the mill and were waiting for their grist. Peter Wolleaver, Christian Edick, Frederick Getman, Marks Rasbach, Thomas Shoemaker, Lawrence Hatter, Jacob Petri, Daniel Petri who was killed, Peter Orendorff, Gershom Skinner and F. Cox, millers; a sergeant and six men from Captain McGregor's Company of Continental troops. Two of the soldiers escaped and five were taken prisoners." Considering their bloodthirsty attack on Fort Herkimer, the following day, these raiders were remarkably mild in their behavior.

American histories of the Revolution give little or no mention of the fact that General Washington was deeply concerned with the defenses of the Mohawk Valley frontier. The Commander-in-Chief was a master strategist and he realized the vital importance of this exposed border. His visit to Schenectady, in 1775, probably was made with the idea of discussing the defenses and fortifications along the Mohawk with the local military commanders. His tour of the valley in 1783 shows his intense interest in this hundred-mile Revolutionary battleline and the manner in which this great redoubt was successfully held throughout seven years of the most terrible border warfare.

While we have but few records remaining of Washington's concern as to the Mohawk outposts, doubtless he had many conferences and gave numerous orders as to the strengthening and holding of this great outpost of liberty. For four years — from 1780 to 1783 — Fort Plain was the American military headquarters of the Mohawk Valley. In 1780 it was renamed Fort Rensselaer by the incompetent or traitorous or cowardly Gen. Robert Van Rensselaer, who so disgracefully conducted the pursuit of Sir John Johnson in 1780. That Washington was concerned as to the strength of this valley strategic point is shown in the following letter, in which he calls the post "Fort Plain". Like Colonel Willett, Washington was a stickler for proper military forms. Regardless of the probability that he must have secretly despised Van Rensselaer, Willett called the post by its official military name of "Fort Rensselaer". Consequently, when General Washington came to the place in 1783, he too writes of the fort as "Fort Rensselaer". The "Fort Plain" of Washington's letter of 1782 and the "Fort Rensselaer", to which he refers in his correspondence of 1783, were one and the same. The letter of 1782 is the property of the Fort Rensselaer Club and hangs on the walls of the Van Alstyne house in Canajoharie. The letter follows:

Head Quarters, Newburgh, July 2, 1782.

Sir:

Colonel Reid has informed me of the ill Condition of Fort Plain and of the Magazine at that place. As it is of the greatest importance that they should be repaired, I must request you to make every possible Exertion to supply the necessary materials.

I am, Sir,

Your very humble Servt.

G. Washington.

Mr. Quackenbos

Q. Master

This letter bears the following address, on that portion which was folded outside:

Public Service

Mr. Quackenbos
Asst. Dy. Q. Master
Albany

G. Washington

Regarding Washington's visit to Schenectady in 1782, Hanson's "History of Schenectady During the Revolution" says (with quotations omitted):

In June, 1782, reports brought to General Washington indicated that Albany and Schenectady were to be the chief objects of another attack on the part of the enemy. While these reports were probably without foundation there may have been some connection between them and the visit which General Washington paid to Albany during the latter part of the month. It was during this visit that Washington, on the invitation of the townspeople, took occasion to pay his second visit to Schenectady, riding over in a carriage with General Schuyler on the thirtieth. On their arrival these two distinguished guests were received with "no little formality by the civil and military authorities and escorted some distance by a numerous procession in which (Washington) walked with his hat under his arm." At the public dinner given later at the tavern of Robert Clench were assembled "a respectable number of gentlemen," and to Colonel Frederick Visscher, who was then living in Schenectady, Washington assigned the seat on his right. At some time during the day an address was publicly delivered and before Washington set out on his return to Albany he took occasion to write the following reply:

"To the Magistrates and Military Officers of the town of Schenectada:

"Gentlemen — I request you to accept my warmest thanks for your affectionate address.

"In a cause so just and righteous as ours, we have every reason to hope the Divine Providence will still continue to crown our arms with success, and finally compel our enemies to grant us that peace upon equitable terms, which we so ardently desire.

"May you, and the good people of this town, in the meantime, be protected from every insidious and open foe, and may the complicated blessings of peace soon reward your arduous struggles for the establishment of the freedom and independence of our common country.

Go. Washington."

Further details relative to Washington's visit to Schenectady, in 1782, follow:

In the summer of 1782, Gen. Washington was at Albany and was invited to visit Schenectady by its citizens. He accepted and rode there from Albany in a carriage with Gen. Schuyler on June 30, 1782. Washington walked with his hat under his arm in a long procession which served as his escort a considerable distance. A public dinner was given the commander-in-chief at the tavern kept by Abraham Clinch, who was a drummer boy under Braddock. Being acquainted with the adventures and sufferings of Col. Visscher, Washington expressed surprise that the noted Tryon county militia officer had not been invited, and sent a messenger for him. Visscher was a man of spirit, but somewhat retiring. He was found in his barn doing some work, which he left with reluctance. Presenting himself to Washington the latter gave him marked attention and seated Visscher next himself at the dinner. A number of Tryon militia officers were there present. Visscher, it will be remembered, was in chief command of the neighboring posts, with headquarters at Fort Paris in Stone Arabia, in 1779, and later was scalped by Indians but recovered, as previously related. He also commanded the unfortunate rear guard at Oriskany but was himself a man of utmost bravery.

During this Schenectady visit, it is related, Washington was walking about the streets of that city with a citizen named Banker, a blacksmith. An old negro passing took off his hat and bowed respectfully to the general, a salutation which Washington politely returned. His Schenectady companion expressed surprise, saying that slaves were not thus noticed in the valley. Washington replied: "I cannot be less civil than a poor negro."

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