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provincial congress. The Tryon county committee of safety, were at this time a noble body of men. Enthusiastically devoted to the interests of their constituents, and the cause of the colonists; their zeal was untiring, and they faltered not in the important work before them. Supported by a great majority of the inhabitants of the valley, they exercised all the powers of government, for the time, executive, legislative and judicial, and all their proceedings were cheerfully acquiesced in, except by those attached to the royal cause. Sir John Johnson, was still at Johnstown, surrounded by his adherents, whom he had organized and armed, waiting a favorable moment to strike a bold and effectual blow against treason and disloyalty, which he failed to achieve; and finally fled into Canada in the spring of 1776, when he was commissioned a colonel in the British service, and raised a regiment composed of men who accompanied him, which was known as the Royal Greens.
No event of much interest has been noticed as having transpired within the territory of the present county of Herkimer, during the year 1776. The Declaration of Independence was solemnly adopted on the 4th of July, an event not originally anticipated by the great mass of the colonists; and immediately proclaimed to the world,after a state of war had existed fifteen months; a conflict for a redress of grievances, and not for the dismemberment of an empire. The attitude thus assumed.was solemn, and the aspects of the future were ominous of woe to the inhabitants of the western frontiers; but the Palatines of the German Flats who still survived, and their descendants, qttailed no before the coming storm. Their delegates in the county committee had the year before assented to the principle of separation, and they were not now backward in the cause, but with their brethren in the lower Mohawk valley, welcomed the act which was to separate them and their country from kingly power. The British ministry were by no means idle. An aggregate of 55,000 men, it was contemplated,
should compose the invading forces, at the different approachable points, and with these the colonists were to be crushed at a blow.
Congress directed General Schuyler, who then commanded the northern department, to repair and strengthen Fort Stanwix, afterwards known as Fort Schuyler, an important post, and to erect other fortifications in the Mohawk valley. Colonel Dayton, then stationed at German Flats with a detachment of regular troops, was charged with the works at Fort Stanwix, in which the Tryon county militia participated, but he seems to have made slow progress in completing the defenses, as they were incomplete when invested by St. Leger the following year.
The interview between General Herkimer and Capt. Joseph Brant, a Mohawk sachem, at Unadilla, in July, 1777, will be noticed in another place, that interview partaking more of personal character than of local historical interest. The important event of this year must receive a passing notice.
"Sad was the year, by proud oppression driven,
When transatlantic liberty arose;
The untiring vigilance of the emissaries of the crown began to unfold itself about midsummer of this year. The news of the approach of the British armies and their savage allies on the northern and western frontiers of the state, had been industriously circulated throughout the whole country, and the Mohawk valley was by no means neglected. The people there were alarmed and became depressed and desponding. They had cheerfully seconded all the movements of the colonists, in asserting their rights against the encroachments of the crown, and their situation was one of exposure and hazard. Protected from the inroads of the enemy only by light parties of regulars which could afford but little security against the marauding tories and their savage allies, they were incessantly harrassed by alarms, burthened with service, and worn down by fatigues; who can feel surprise that the patriotic should despond and the weak falter? Or why should a people so beset with foes within and without be suspected of loyalty to the cause to the support of which they had so recently pledged their lives, fortunes and honor? The first outburst of patriotic sentiment had doubtless stifled a lurking aspiration for the success of the royal cause, which now began to show itself in open disaffection to an alarming extent as the crisis approached; but it may with truth be said, that few, very few, if any of the inhabitants of the upper valley of the Mohawk, were found disloyal to the cause, or unwilling to put their shoulders to the wheel at their country's call.
Fort Schuyler was invested by Colonel St. Leger, on the 3d of August, 1777, with a force of seventeen hundred men, composed of British, Hessians, Johnson's Greens, Canadians and Indians. It would be out of place to notice particularly the events of this siege, or the disasters that befell the besiegers.
Notice of the assembling of the hostile forces at Oswego, for the purpose of invasion, contemporaneously with the approach of General Burgoyne by the way of Lake Champlain from the north, had been communicated by the Oneida Indians, to Col. Gansevoort, at Fort Schuyler, and the provincial authorities in Tryon county, and at Albany; and steps were immediately taken to meet the approaching crisis and drive back the invaders. General Herkimer, who commanded the Tryon county militia, issued a spirited and patriotic proclamation to the people of the county, on the 17th of July, 1777, notifying them of the assembling of the enemy at Oswego, and of their destination and objects, and calling on the male population en masse, to repair to the field, at a moment's warning, armed and equipped, to meet the invading forces.
Those in health between the ages of 16 and 60, were required to take the field, and those above 60, as well as the invalids, were directed to assemble, armed, at proper places, for the defense of the women and children. The members of the county committee of safety, and the exempts from military duty, were invited to repair to the place to be appointed, to join in repulsing the common enemy.
The whole American force at Fort Schuyler, when invested by the enemy, was seven hundred and fifty men. Col. Gansevoort was joined by Lieutenant Col. Mellon, of Col. Weston's regiment, with two hundred men, and two batteau loads of provisions, and military stores, on the 2d day of August. The deficiency of ammunition for the cannon was very great—being an inadequate supply for a protracted siege at a frontier post.
As soon as the approach of St. Leger to Fort Schuyler was known in Tryon county, General Herkimer ordered the militia of his brigade to rendezvous at Fort Dayton (then called German Flats). This defense was erected in the western part of Herkimer village, and the General soon found himself at the head of about nine hundred men, composed of the three militia regiments commanded by Colonels Klock, Cox, Vischer and some others, with volunteers of officers and men from various parts of the country. The published accounts of the forces collected under General Herkimer on this occasion, do not designate the localities from which the several regiments were drawn; enough is known, however, to warrant the assertion, that the militia of the German Flats and Kingsland district were attached to the regiment commanded by Col. Peter Bellinger, whose lieut. colonel was Frederick Bellinger; major, Enos Klepsattle. The militia of these districts participated in the battle of Oriskany. The alacrity and zeal evinced on this occasion should have entirely eradicated all impressions unfavorable to the patriotic devotion of the inhabitants of the valley, growing out of the expression of despondency in the early part of the year. Surely after this, no one could complain of German disloyalty to the cause of the colonists. General Herkimer left Fort Dayton on the 4th of August, and encamped near the Oriskany on the 5th, crossing the Mohawk river at old Fort Schuyler (now Utica) on the march up. At this point the General expressed his doubts of the expediency of a forward movement, until reinforcements should arrive, or the prearranged signal should be given by Col. Gansevoort from the fort. An express, Adam Helmer with two other men, had been dispatched to the fort, informing the commandant of the General's approach, and to arrange measures of cooperation. The messengers did not reach the fort until ten or eleven o'clock in the morning of the 6th. Three successive discharges of heavy ordinance was the signal agreed on, announcing the arrival of the express; the reports of which, it was assumed, could be heard at Herkimer's encampment, eight miles distant from the fort. Recriminatory and insubordinate language was used on the occasion, and the General was denounced to his face as a tory and coward; who replied, that their safety was in his hands, and he desired to avoid all difficulties that could not be surmounted by bravery and good conduct. On this occasion the General told some of his subordinates, who had been rather noisy and liberal in their accusations of his fidelity and courage, that they would be the first to run on the approach of the enemy; which was soon verified to the very letter.
All previous accounts had fixed St. Leger's forces at 2000 strong, nearly half of which were Indians led by Brant, a brave, active and artful Mohawk sachem. Herkimer knew this, and he no doubt believed, as well he might, that a force superior to his own, could be sent against him, which would select its own battle-field, without in any way interfering with the investment of the fort. But noisy insubordination prevailed, and precipitated the little band of patriots into the jaws of death. Smarting under the repeated accusations heaped upon him, and irritated no doubt, the General gave