Morrison's Pensions


     On July 9, 1781, a party of Indians and Loyalist numbering about 300 under the command of Lieutenant John Dockstader(1) entered the Currytown settlement(2).  It was about ten in the morning and most of the settlers were busy in their fields.

     Jacob Dieffendorf Sr. and his two sons, Frederick and Jacob, Jr. were at work in one of their fields were surprised. Jacob Sr. and Frederick made an attempt to reach Fort Lewis(3) but Frederick was overtaken and tomahawked, scalped and left for dead (Jacob Sr. escaped). Jacob Jr. was captured along with Andrew Bellinger, and Mary Miller. Philip Bellinger Jr., Jacob Moyer and his father, who had been cutting trees, were killed.

     That same morning Colonel Marinus Willett dispatched Captain Lawrance Gross with thirty‑five men to scout the New Dorlach(4) and Bowman's Creek area. Shortly afterwards Colonel Willett saw smoke coming from the Currytown area and dispatched Captain Robert McKean with sixteen men to go to Currytown to investigate the cause of the smoke and to collect all the men possible on the way. They arrived at Currytown in time only to put the fires out.

     Captain Gross with his party came across Lieutenant Dockstader's trail and sent two men to follow their trail. Captain Gross with the rest of his men would wait at Bowman's Creek for the two scouts to return. The two scouts followed the trail for about a mile when they came upon the enemy encampment. They approached as close as safety would allow and saw a large number of packs and a few Indians cooking food for the return of the main party. The two scouts returned to Bowman's Creek to give a report to Captain Gross. Captain Gross sent John Young and another man to Fort Rensselaer(5) to report to Colonel Willet what they had discovered and that he would wait at Bowman's Creek.

     Colonel Willett on receiving the report he sent a message to Lieutenant‑Colonel Volkert Veeder to gather as many men he could and march with all speed to Currytown. Colonel Willett at the same time took what men that could be spared from Fort Rensselaer and what militia he had gathered and set out for Bowman's Creek. When he passed Fort Clyde(6) He took what men that could be spared from that post. About midnight Colonel Willett joined forces with Captains Gross and McKean. Colonel Willett with his men set out for the enemy's camp and they arrived there about daylight(7).

     The enemy were encamped in a cedar swamp near the center of the present Town of Sharon Springs(8). The camp was on the highest ground in the swamp. On the south side was a ridge and by a circuitous route he reached that ridge. Now he prepared an ambush to receive the enemy.

     Colonel Willett sent Lieutenant Jacob Sammons with ten men over the ridge as a decoy to show themselves, fire on the enemy and retreat back to the main body. The trick worked and the enemy picked up their weapons and followed in pursuit. Sammons and his men were so hotly pursued that Willett's main body had to break from cover to rescue the retreating men. Frederick Bellinger and Adam Kittle of the decoy detachment were killed during the retreat.

     The yelling Indians and Loyalists were received with a deadly volley from behind trees and stumps. Then the enemy made a desparate rush on the right wing and would have suceeded if not for Captain McKean with his fifty men (which had been held in reserve) poured a deadly volley into them.

     The battle lasted for an hour and a half. The enemy believing they had encountered a superior force made a hasty retreat. Captain McKean started in pursuit and on giving a command he received two balls in the chest and he fell forward mortally wounded. Samuel, his son, ran to his aid and was shot in the mouth. The American force pursued only to the enemy's now deserted camp. They found the enemy had left most of their equipment and the plunder taken at Currytown.

     The enemy had about fifty men killed(9) and wounded. Colonel Willett had five men killed and nine wounded. John Caspar Lerhri, Adam Kittle, Ebenezer McMicle and Frederick Bellinger are four of the five men killed. Captain Robert McKean was mortally wounded and died later that day on the way to Fort Rensselaer where he was buried in the soldiers cemetery near the fort. Samuel McKean was wounded in the mouth; Adam Strobeck was shot in the hip; Jacob Radnour was shot in his right hip; George Dunckle was shot in the eye; Nicholas Yordan was shot in the right wrist; and Henry Pruyne was wounded in the arm.

     On the enemy seeing Colonel Willett's eleven man detachment tomahawked and scalped all of the prisoners except for Andrew Bellinger, James Butterfield(10) and possibly two other persons which were taken to Canada. Lieutenant‑Colonel Volkert Veeder arrived on the field after the battle was almost over with detachments from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Regiments of the Tryon County Militia and attended the task of gathering the wounded and burying the dead. Jacob Dieffendorf Jr. was one of the prisoners scalped and tomahawked was now gaining consciousness. As his face was covered with blood and leaves one of the militiamen mistook him for an Indian and levelled his musket to fire. Another militiaman on seeing that it wasn't an Indian knocked the musket barrel up and the shot went harmlessly into the air. The Miller girl was also found alive but she also died on the way back to Fort Rensselaer. Jacob and Frederick Dieffendorf were cared for by Doctor Johan George Vach and later recovered from their wounds.

1)  John Dockstader according to his report was only a Lieutenant and died later on October 17, 1781 while accompanying another raiding party into the Mohawk Valley.

2)  Lieutenant Dockstader arrived at  Lake Otsego on July 7th and followed some tracks and later that day  he  caught  up  with James Butterfield near Cherry Valley and took him prisoner.

3)  Fort Lewis was the home  of Henry Lewis  and around which was built a picket stockade.

4)  New Dorlach is now, Sharon Springs and Town of Sharon area in Schoharie County.

5)  Fort Plain was renamed in 1780 Fort Rensselaer after General Robert Van Rensselaer who was then in command of the post. All of  the  men  who served there still called it Fort Plain and sometimes Colonel Willett in official letters would also date letters to Governor Clinton Fort Plain.

6)  Fort Clyde  was  named  after Lieutenant‑Colonel Samuel Clyde who supervised its building. This site is on Route 163 in the Town of Minden and is marked with a New York State historical marker.

7)  Colonel Willett had planned on arriving hours before daylight to set  an ambush  but due to the guide losing his way in the
    dark they arrived at daylight.

8)  It was commonly called Turlough or Dorlach and  therefore referred  to  by  those who fought there as Battle of Turlough.
    There  is a  New York State  Historical marker on Route 20 to mark the  battle  site.  I  would  also  note that some local
    historians dispute the marked site and claim that it was at a different spot.

9)  Colonel  Willett  claimed that he saw fifty of the enemy dead in one place but I think that was to  large  of  a number and have therefore put fifty killed and wounded. Lieutenant Dockstader  claims  to  have had only five of the Indians wounded and none killed.

10) James Butterfield in his pension Claim No. S44351 states  that he was appointed Captain in Willett's levies and was captured near Cherry Valley.

Return to opening page of Morrisons's Pensions

Copyright 1998, -- 2006. James F. Morrison and Berry Enterprises. All rights reserved. All items on the site are copyrighted. While we welcome you to use the information provided on this web site by copying it, or downloading it; this information is copyrighted and not to be reproduced for distribution, sale, or profit.