THE DESTRUCTION OF UNADILLA AND THE BUTTERNUTS
BY JAMES F. MORRISON
Abany October 2th 1778
I Inclose you a Speech of the Oneida and Tuscorora Indians delivered to Major
Cochran at Fort Schuyler.
Sir, I am in Great distress for the article of Salt; as that Can best be purchas'd for flower to the Eastward I Beg your Excellency will grant me a pass to Boston or to any of the Easteren Stats for Eight Barrels of flower, which will make a Cart Load and your Excellency will Oblige your most Hum'e Serv't
Volckert P. Douw
To his Excellency Governor Clinton
Fort Schuyler Sept. 28 1778
On Fryday last arrived here the sachems & Warriors of the Oneida & Tuscarora
Nations, their number upwards of One hundrd. After the usual formalities,
they Delivered themselves nearly as follows (Being badly off for an Interpreter
Mr. Dean having been a long time).
Brothers, we have now The hatchet and burnt Unendello & a place called the Butter Nuts; we have Brought five Prisoners from Each of the above places. Our Warriors were Particular that no hurt should be Done to Women & Children; we Left four old men Behind who were no more able to go to War. We have retaken Wm Dygert, who was taken about nine weeks agoe by Brant on the Fall Hill; we now Deliver him to you so that he may return to his Friends. Last year we took up The Hatchet at Stillwater and we will now Continue it in our hands. The Grass Hopper, one of Oneida Chiefs, took to himself one of the Prisoners to Live with him in his own Family; his name is Wm Lull and has adopted him as his Son. Brothers, we deliver you six Prisoners, with whom you are to act as you Please. Brothers, you had a man scalped here sometime agoe. The Oneidas & Tuscaroras have taken revenge & have Brought you some Slaves. We do not take Scalps. We hope you are now Convinced of our Friendship towards you & your great Cause. The Warriors detain two of the Prisoners till tomorrow morning. The Conasarangas have one more Prisoner in their Possession, taken at the same Time; they will bring him tomorrow or next day.
Then the Conference ended. Accordingly the next morning they Delivered me the Prisoner mentioned in their speech the Evening before. I have them all in the Grand House here & allow them a Pound of Beef & a Pound of Bread Pr Man Pr day. At foot, hereof, you have Their Names:
Rechard McGinnis Inlisted among Butler's Rangers in January last and was at Wioming last Summer with Coll. Butler at their head; Capt. Gilbert Tise came from Neagara a few days Before the
party set out with Brant to Distroy the German Flatts; he had 33 Indians
with him mostly Mohawks and Conajoharry Indians. Brant whole party that Destroyed
The Flatts was 3OO Tories & 152 Indians. There were no Regular
Troops among them.
The Indians that were here Behaved with the greatest Openness that I could have Wished. I thanked them for their Services at this Time. I fed'em & gave them a hearty drink of Rum. I promiss'd that I would Communicate this affair as well to the General as to the Commissioners of Indian affairs at Albany. With the above Indians arrived also Eight Princepal Indians from Caughnawaga in Canada. They have Important intilligence to Communicate to us, in regard to Canada affairs which are in our favour, by what I have yet Learn'd. But as I heard last night that Mr. Dean is between here & Schonectady on his way for this place I have Deferred saying any thing particular to the Coughnawagas. I have victulled them for six Days and they are returned to Oneida with The Sachems & the moment Mr. Dean arrives here they will know it next day & Came immediately. The Intilligence they give will doubtless be Communicated by Mr. Dean without loss of Time. The 24th about sun Setting, 7 of our men being out towards the sluice, were fired on by Indians and returned the fire. I sent off a party Immediatly to support them, who pursued the Indians over the sluces, and returned. No harm was done. I am Gentlemen with respect Your Most Hum. Sevent
Prisoners Names-William Lull, Rechard McGinnis, John McGinnis, Jno. Harrison, Michael Stopplopen, Barry Loghlin, Moses Thurston, Caleb Lull, Benjamin Lull.
SOURCE: PUBLIC PAPERS OF GEORGE CLINTON, ed. HUGH HASTINGS, ALBANY, 1900, VOL. IV, pp 130-133.
The following excerpt is taken from Richard McGinnis' Journal. Richard was a private in Lieutenant-Colonel John Butler Rangers and in his account of the capture at the Butternuts you will get a loyalist point of view concerning this affair.
In My Judgement this Was Not Well Done as they Might have Made prisoners of them After Resting Myself at Oughquuaga I went Up to Se My Father and Brother Who Were Glad to See Me Once More, September 14: 1778 I took Sick with the Intermitting Fever I had It Very Bad Which hindered Me from Going to the German Flats As I porposed, as soon as I got Better We Got Everything In Readiness to proceed for Niagara We Buried the principal part of Our Effects and Intended to Go With the Army When they Returned from the Flats(1). But this was Not to be the Case. We were all the While Suspicious of the Reble or Oneida Indians It appears that Capn Brandt on his Way to the German Flats had Met 3 or 4 these Reble Indian Devils and had Sat a Gaurd Over them But I Believe We Were Sold By these Savages For as Soon as they Found that Capn Brandt With his party Where of they Fell on Us (2) They Took Brother John In the Feild as he Was Going To Catch the Horses they Immediately Bound him they then proceeded to Our house Father Being Near the house Called to Me to Come and Se Who they Where I Came out I Told him they Where Reble Indians, One of them Fowles By Name Told Me to Stop I Told him I Would Not. he then Level'd his peice at Me and Shot Me through the Ear His Gun was Loaded With Buck Shot. having Got In the House we Were Determined to Give them Battle Expecting No Mercy from the Hands of Merciless Savages We passed Several Shot at One Another, at Last they Told Us If We Wou'd Not Surrender they Would Murder John, Upon this We Were the Needsessity of Giving Ourselves Over to the Mercy of these Reble Savages (3)
At this time there Was One Tygert (4) a prisoner at Our house Whom Capn Brandt Took at the Mohawk River he Was Left in the Care of Brother John, The Indians therefore knowing him Immediately Released him- after they had Carried us of Some Distance they Returned a Second time To plunder the House and Tygert With them these Villains then Broke Open the Chest and Took from thence Brother Johns Watch Tygert Got the Watch and a Watch Belonging to My Father there Was Some Silver Money, Buck Skins and Many Other Artikles. By Our Being Taken prisoner Ended a Total Destruction of the Settlement(5), We Was Taken the 19th Day of September 1778 as Soon As the Savages had Bound Us they Took Us to A thick hemlock Swamp on the Unadella Creeck Where We Were pinion'd to Small Saplings Sitting in about 4 inches Water They Now Talked of Killing Us And We Expected Nothing Else as they held the Tomahawks over our Heads, But thanks Be to God Our Lives Were Spared for we Was Not hurt In the Least, Next Day They Started By the Time It was Light being 2O of Sepr they then On tyd Us, And Made Us Carry Heavy packs of that they had plunder'd From Us, There Where Six Men prisoners Besides Us, and Now they Led on at a Terrible Rate they Made us Travel as hard as We Could Lay Legs to the Ground For Fear of Being Overtaken By Captain Brandt however We Were Not, after 3 Days Smart Travel We Came to the Oneida Castle Being the 22 of Sepr at Even, as soon as We Came Into their town Several Indians Came and Strip'd of Our Coats Jackets Hats this Was the first Stripping, we Soon underwent another For as Soon as We Came Into Houses the Squaws Immdeiately Drawed Our Shirts Over (our) heads and We We(re) left Intirely Destitute of Anything to Cover Our Nakedness however in this Miserable Situation an Old Indian Brought Each of Us an Old Reged Blanket Coat Our coming Into Town Was attended With Shouting Bellowing Very Common Among the Savages When they Bring In prisoners. After Holding a Counsel Over Us they Concluded to Send Us to Fort Stanwix Now Fort Schuyler But it Coming to Rain about this time being the 24 of Sepr We Were Obliged to Stay till It Was Clear after Two Days we Sat of for this Fort above Recited While In the hand of the Savas they Gave plenty of the Fare Suc has Corn Etc. Sepr 26: 1778 we Came Within Sight of Fort Schuyler Upon Which they Saluted the Savages With 13 peices of Cannon In honor of the Reble States for Bringing In 8 honest hearted Subjects of his Majesty. On this they Sent Out A Strong Gaurd to Convey Us Into their Strong Holds With Drums a Beating Colours Flying Etc. as We passed In the Reble Soldiers and Whores, Upbraided Us, ah Tories Ah What Do You think of Yourselves Etc. We Made No Answer, they hove Us Into A Gaurd house About 9 feet Long and Four Wide they Gave Us Some Hay To Lay On In the Evening they Examd Us One By himself and Gave Us a Little Bread and Meat Just Enough to Live On, In Examining Brother John they Called him An Old Offender, and that Infamous old Villain their Commissary Hanson (6) told Me I shou'd Be hanged and to prepare for Death, In fact I expected Nothing Else, the Tygert above Mentioned that took my Brothers Watch here Offerd her for Sale and Sold her acordingly to One Ensign Spoor (7) For 7O Continential Doolars and Three Hard Ones However Spoor had Generosity Enough to Let My Brother have his Watch provided he Give him the Money he had Advanced for it When In his power Which he Readily Agreed to, After 9 Days Confinemt In this place they Shackled Us With Irons and put Us In Battoes to Convey Us to Albany Coming Down the Mohawk River Under A Strong Gaurd We Came to Fort Dayton Where the Rebles Would Not Let Us Sleep Under their Roof, We therefore Lay out all Night Under the Canopy of Heavens the Serjaint of the Gaurd One Wilkinson (8) however provided Wood for a Fire to Keep us Warm During the Night October 5th We Came to Fort Herkimer and had It Not Been for the Gaurd the Rebles Woud Certainly have Bayonetd Us For We Were Most Shockingly Upbraided By these Most Villanious Ignorent Rebles I Was Very Glad When We Went On Board the Battoes Out of their Reach October 7th We Came to Schenecteuday We Laid there All Night Next Morning Being the 8th of October We had Our Irons Knocked Of and proceeded To Albany on Foot as Soon We Came In Sight of the Town The Yankee Troops that Laid their Come out to Convey us In With Drum and Fife. As soon as We Got in the Fort Coll Gansevoort (9) Inquired Which Was the One that Was With Butler the Officer of the party pointed to Me Saying there he is Sir, he then Turned to Me and Sayd Very Well My lad What Is Your Name I Replyed-My Name Is McGinniss, Was You With Butler, Answer I Was (1O). ah,ah You are a pretty Fellow Indeed, he then Ordered Mr. Dawson to take us Into Costody and Lock Us Up In his Strongest Room We Came Into this pretty place the 8 Day of October 1778"
SOURCE: A LOYALIST "JOURNAL", ed. CAROL LIND, THE NEW YORK GENEALOGICAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD, VOL. 1O6, NO. 1, JAN. 1975, p 18, VOL. 1O6, NO. 2, APRIL 1975, pp 113-115.
(1) Captain Joseph Brant and Captain William Caldwell of Butler's Rangers with a combined command of Indians and Rangers destroyed the German Flatts in Tryon County [now Herkimer County] on September 17, 1778. During this attack they also attacked Fort Herkimer with little effect. This accounts for his treatment at Fort Herkimer while being conveyed to Albany as a prisoner.
(2) (This note was on the opposite page of the journal). It is the Greatest presumption to Trust On the Varacity of Any SavageWhatsoever. For they will Undoubtedly Deceive You as they Did Us And I have the Greatest Reason to Beleive that Barandt Knew That these Savages Where on their way When He met them to Destroy Our Settlement As he Never Sent us any Word, Which he Could Easily have Done to put us On Our Gaurd to have Escaped to the Woods, And therefore When he And his party Returned from the Destruction of Ye German Flats Back Again to Our place What the Reble Indians had not time to Destroy Brandt and his party Destroy'd for us Brandts Mohawks Went in Our house Ripd Up the feather Bed and took the Tick with them Every hog (they) took My fathers horse and he was Obliged to Go to the Indians and Beg for his horses with Tears In his Eyes and Much Pleading he Got Two of them Back I was Informed Brant took the Other (Note continued two pages later) and (all) Living Creature they took Clean of his Indian Savages took my fathers horses and Brandt himself Went with my father to Get His horses from them By Much Intreaties he Got them. I was Informed On My Coming to Canada that Brandt himself Carried of my fathers Mare the Best of the three horse Kind the Information I received from Richd Dingman Who lived then At Our Settlement. (This whole note is written in a slightly different hand and at an obviously later date.)
(3) (Note on opposite page). After I had Surrender'd Myself To the Savages I Beg'd of them they Woud Leave My Father Behind Father Likewise plead for himself It Was Granted By them. When they Returned to plunder the House Again My Father had left the House Which Was happy For him For they Came Back of porpose to take him Along With Us But he Took Refuge In the Woods, he After this Went to Eusopus To My Sisters Where, the Rebles Made him A prisoner.
(4) William Dygert, Captain of the Ninth Company in Colonel Peter Bellinger's Regiment of Tryon County Militia [Fourth Battalion].
(5)The settlement referred to was Unadilla, Old England District, Tryon County [now Otsego County]. This settlement was in the militia district commanded by John Harper, Colonel of the Fifth Regiment of Tryon County Militia.
(6) Commissary John Hanson who was stationed at Fort Schuyler.
(7)John Spoor, Ensign, Eighth Company commanded by Captain Leonard Bleecker of the Third New York Continental Regiment. Ensign Spoor was taken prisoner on July 3, 1777 and later returned to the regiment after being exchanged.
(8) Robert Wilkinson, Sergeant, Fifth Company commanded by Captain Aaron Aorson of the Third New York Continental Regiment.
(9) Peter Gansevoort, Colonel, Third New York ContinentalRegiment. This regiment at this time garrisoned Fort Schuyler and detached companies garrisoned Fort Dayton and Fort Herkimer& at various times.
(1O) McGinnis is referring to the Wyoming, Pennsylvania attack made by Colonel John Butler on July 3,1778.
was excerpted from THE FRONTIERSMEN OF NEW YORK,JEPTHA R.
SIMMS, GEORGE C. RIGGS, PUBLISHER, ALBANY, N.Y., 1883,
VOL. II, pp 198-199.
What Mr. Simms relates in his Frontiersmen relates to the raid that took place at the Butternuts (Now the Village of Morris, [Otsego County]) and does not mention that Unadilla was raided at the same time.
I am not aware that any unusual inconvenience was experienced by the settlers on Butternut creek on account of the war, until the fall of 1778. Then, as appears by an obituary newspaper notice of the death of Mrs. Martha Lull, which took place Jan. 6, 1851, the Lull family had a corn-husking, in the midst of which fourteen Oneida Indians came there. Although armed-as, indeed, every body then was who could be-they declared themselves friendly, and no fear was entertained on account of their visit. They joined earnestly in the labor of the evening, partook bountifully of the collation which followed-a closing ceremony from time immemorial-and posting two of their number as sentinels, they laid down on the husks to sleep. As it was well known to the friends of liberty, that no settlers would be allowed to remain exposed to the clemency of the enemy, who would not feed them and furnish them desired information, the settlers on the Butternut creek were looked upon with suspicion by their more patriotic countrymen, as the sequel of this husking will show.
Sometime in the night a messenger announced at Lull's that a party of Continentals were approaching, and a moment after a shrill whistle near the door echoed through the night air, which brought in the red sentinels. In a brief space of time, the dwellings of Lull and Knapp were surrounded by armed men, and their male members made prisoners and hurried off to Cherry Valley. The scene was one of terror to Martha, the young bride, who then not only had an infant child in her arms, but was cumbered with the care of two motherless children of her husband's brother Benjamin. She earnestly enquired of the Indians what would be the fate of the prisoners, her husband being among them, but learned nothing except that their lives would probably be spared. The women and children were not molested, nor were the dwellings plundered.
At the time of this eventful husking, the younger Knapp, Martha's brother, had gone on some errand to Albany. Returning a day or two after and learning at Cherry Valley the condition of things, he went down with three horses and conveyed his sister and other friends yet in the settlement to that place, the road much of the way being designated by marked trees. After a brief detention in Cherry Valley, Joseph Lull was set at liberty, and early on the morning that place was so effectually destroyed, he and his family had started to go to Dutchess county-hearing the alarm gun at the fort when only four miles from it. It is presumed the other settlers on Butternut creek, did not return to their forest home to remain, until peace and social order were restored.
Mr. Simms may have put together 2 different incidents as one. There were no Continentals with the Oneidas when they destroyed the Butternuts but the 6th Massachusetts Continental Regiment under Colonel Ichabod Alden was stationed at Cherry Valley and I relate the following from the JOURNAL OF WILLIAM MCKENDRY, MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY PROCEEDINGS, MAY 1886, VOL. II, p 447:
"Ditto 12th Capt. Ballard arrived from a Scout at Cherry Valley brought in with him from ye Butter Nuts 73 head of horn Cattle 4O Sheep 14 Horses 14 Tories"
McKendry also relates that on September 9, 1778 that Captain Robert McKean
brought in three prisoners from Unadilla.
Unfortunately Lieutenant McKendry did not relate the names of the loyalists that were taken by Captain William H. Ballard but it appears to be the August incident for the most part that Mr. Simms narrates in his FRONTIERSMEN.
In a letter from Colonel John Cantine to Governor George Clinton, dated, September 28, 1778 at Marbletown contains an affidavit of Robert McGinnis. There is also a reply from Governor Clinton, dated, September 29, 1778 at Poughkeepsie. They can be found in VOL. IV, pp 113-116, PUBLIC PAPERS OF GEORGE CLINTON. The following is the affidavit part only.
Robert McGinnis, of Sixty Nine Years of age, being duly sworn saith that he Lived at the Unindilly; that on Saturday, being the 19th Instant, he was taken Prisoner, with his Two sons, one Tygart & Three other men by a number of Onida Indians; the Deponant saith, that said Tygart had been taken Prisoner some time before, by Brant's Party, on the Mohawck River, & brought to the Deponant's house, & there Left. After the Deponant had been the Prisoner some short time he was set at Liberty on account of his Great age, his sons with Tygart & the other three, were Carryed of by said Indians; the Next day being Sunday, Capt. Joseph Brant with his party Came to the Settlement his party Consisting, the Deponant thinks, of about Two hundred men, Indians and Torys; the Deponant says, they Came from German Flatts, & were on thier way Down to onoughquawga; the Deponant Further saith, that he was stript of every thing he had, meaning all his Goods, Excepting what he had previously Concaled; the Deponant Further adds, that Brant had a very Large Number of Cattle with him; he Likewise understood by some of the party, that they intend to Make their Next Stroke Some where back of Esopus, but he the Deponant Conjectures, From what he could learn, that it was some part of Rochester they Intended, & further Saith Not.
Marbletown Sept'r 27th 1778 Robert
Sworn before me Jacob DeLametter
2, 1778, Colonel William Butler of the Fourth Pennsylvania Continental Regiment
marched from the Middle Fort [now Middleburg, Schoharie County] to destroy
the Indian Village Onaquaga. This village had been used by Joseph Brant to
launch many of his raids. Colonel Butler sent a detailed report to Governor
George Clinton on this expedition and I excerpt the following concerning
"Oct'r 7th: Early this Morning I detach'd Lieut't Stevens, with a few men to Unidilla to make Prisoner of one Glasford, who I intended shou'd guide me to Anohaghkwage; this he effected, & after the Troops had cook'd their Provisions, & refresh'd themselves a little, I march'd 5 miles beyond Brandt's Camp-"
SOURCE: PUBLIC PAPERS OF GEORGE CLINTON, ed. HUGH HASTINGS, 1900, ALBANY, N.Y., VOL. IV, p 224. [Entire report is pp 222-228]
In 1779 when General James Clinton moves through the same area in August to join General John Sullivan, William McKendry of the Sixth Massachusetts Continental Regiment writes the following at Unadilla:
[August 1779] " Ditto 12th Embarkd 7, O'clock A M arivd at the Scotch Settlement 2, O'clock P.M. 15 Miles Ogdens where I went on shore and gathered a quantity of berrys and made a Bowl of Punch-Our troops burnt two houses, Arrivd at Unadilla 3 O'clock P.M. and encampt half a mile above Demini Johnston's Farm [Rev. William Johnston lived in the present day Sidney, Delaware County]-the land very good at this place the houses are all destroyed by the Indians last summer-some Indian tracks discovered by the front Guard this day.-This is the place where Genl Hercamin held the first council with Brant and the Indians after this war commencd."
SOURCE: JOURNAL OF WILLIAM MCKENDRY, MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY PROCEEDINGS, MAY 1886, VOL. II, p 462.
For further reading besides those quoted from are:
GRAYMONT, BARBARA, THE IROQUOIS IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, 1972, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY PRESS, N.Y..
HALSEY, FRANCIS W., THE OLD NEW YORK FRONTIER, CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS, N.Y., 1917.
HINMAN, MARJORY BARNUM, ONAQUAGA: HUB OF THE BORDER WARS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION IN NEW YORK STATE, 1975.
KELSAY, ISABEL THOMPSON, JOSEPH BRANT 1743-18O7, MAN OF TWO WORLDS, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY PRESS, N.Y., 1984.