Gambar halaman

orders to take up the line of march, which was received with cheers by the men, who proceeded rapidly on their way, two deep, having thrown out the usual advanced and flanking parties.

At 10 o'clock, on the 6th, the main body of troops passed over a causeway on a marshy ravine, the advance having commenced an ascent of the westerly slope, when a well directed fire from the enemy, in front and on both flanks, accompanied with the dismal Indian war-whoop, unfolded to the American general that his division had become involved in an almost inextricable ambuscade. Retreat was impossible, for the causeway over the marsh was already blocked up with teams; and the rear guard, just commencing the descent of the eastern declivity, commanded by one of the officers who in the morning had taunted his general with cowardice, turned and fled on the first fire of the enemy. But flight did not save them from the fate that awaited their comrades on the west side of the ravine; the enemy, knowing well the ground, had gained the rear, and shot down the fugitives as they ran away from their companions. As might well be expected, the suddenness of the attack and the intensity of the enemy's fire, not only produced great disorder among the provincials, but annihilation seemed almost inevitable for a time.

In this disorder, the conflict raged about half an hour, when the Americans forming themselves into circular squads, the more effectually to repel the attacks of the enemy, who were steadily approaching on all sides; and, from this moment, resistance became more effective. The enemy then charged with bayonet, but they were met by brave hearts and strong arms, and thus the battle raged, until the parties were compelled to desist, by a heavy shower of rain, which raged with great fury more than an hour. The enemy sought the best shelter they could find, at a good distance from the provincials, when the latter, under the directions of their general, occupied a favorable piece of ground, and then so formed themselves as to be able to repel an attack from any quarter. The fight was renewed, but the Indians, suffering severely by the deadly fire of the militia, began to give ground, when a detatchment of Johnson's Greens, composed chiefly of loyalists who had fled from Tryon county, were brought into action face to face with many of their former neighbors. Then mutual hate and revenge raged with unspeakable intensity between the combatants, and the conflict now became, if possible, more a death struggle than ever.

In the meantime, while the battle was the most fierce, a firing was heard in the direction of the fort; no unwelcome sound, as may well be supposed, to the handful of surviving provincials, nor very gratifying to the enemy. During the conflict at the Oriskany, a well conducted sortie from the fort, under the command of Col . Willett, was made upon the forces under St. Leger, for the purpose of drawing the enemy's attention to the preservation of their camp in that direction. This was well understood by the provincials, and in it they saw great hopes of deliverance. This was not a fight suited to the taste of savages, who found their numbers fast diminishing, nor could such a contest be long maintained with much hope of survivorship, by either party. "Oonah," the retreating cry of the Indians, was heard in the distance, and their flight commenced with a salute of shouts and bullets from the surviving provincials. The Greens and Rangers soon followed the example of their illustrious allies, by a precipitate retreat, abandoning their dead and wounded, and the deeply crimsoned battle-field, in the undisputed possession of the Tryon county militia. Was this a victory, or a defeat of the provincials? By all the laws of war, they are victors who remain masters of the battle-ground. The American report gave the number of provincial militia killed, two hundred, besides the wounded and prisoners. The British accounts state the killed at four hundred, and two hundred prisoners, making in all six hundred, besides the wounded. Now in modern warfare, and in the severest battles, the wounded are more than two to one of the killed, say nothing about prisoners. The British accounts do not claim there was over one thousand militia on the march at this time to raise the siege of Fort Schuyler. Surely four hundred killed, eight hundred wounded and two hundred prisoners, out of one thousand, is making said havoc in the fighting line. But this is not so; and St. Leger, when he gave this statement of killed and prisoners to Gen. Burgoyne, was indulging not a little in the M. de Belletre vein.

The battle was a severe one. The severest, perhaps, for the number engaged, that took place during the whole revolutionary war. And from the character of the combatants, the surprise, and the disadvantages under which the provincials labored during the whole six hours conflict, the proportion of killed to the wounded must have been greatly beyond what ordinarily occurs in the hardest actions, where firearms are used as the principal weapon of assault and defense.

Leaving the personal incidents of this disaster to be noticed in another place, the events of the year, subsequent to the battle of Oriskany, must now be considered. Failing to induce Col. Gansevoort to surrender Fort Schuyler on any of the terms offered by Col. St. Leger, an effort was made by Sir John Johnson, and Cols. Claus and John Butler, to detach the inhabitants of the valley from the patriot cause, and for this purpose emissaries were sent below with incendiary proclamations, to induce the timid, terrified and disaffected people to abandon the cause of the country, and to join the British forces under St. Leger. Col. Weston was at Fort Dayton, with his regiment, during the siege of Fort Schuyler, and learning that a secret meeting of tories was to be held at Mr. Shoemaker's, a loyalist residing a mile or two distant, Weston sent a party of men, who surprised and captured Lieut. Walter N. Butler, of St. Leger's army, and twentyeight soldiers and Indians, who had come clandestinely to the German Flats on a mission from Sir John and others. Butler was tried by a court martial as a spy, and received sentence of death, but was reprieved, sent to Albany a prisoner, where he was detained some time, and finally making his escape, afterwards exhibited his kindly feeling to the land of his birth by becoming one of its severest scourges. Humanity has no tears to shed over the subsequent fate of this man, nor can the pretense that he came "on a truce to the inhabitants of the county," be of any avail whatever. He came on a secret mission and in a clandestine manner, and was taken in the very act of attempting to alienate the inhabitants from their allegiance to the country, and his reprieve by the American general was an act of grace, favored by many influential persons, who had previously known him at Albany.

General Arnold arrived at Fort Dayton a short time before the 21st of August, at which point troops were assembling with a view of proceeding to the relief of Fort Schuyler, still beleaguered by St. Leger's forces, and to counteract the effect of the incendiary efforts of Johnson, Claus and John Butler, the American general on the 20th of August, issued a proclamation stating that "whereas a certain Barry St. Leger, a Brigadier-General in the service of George of Great Britain, at the head of a banditti of robbers, murderers and traitors, composed of savages of America and more savage Britons ( among whom is the noted Sir John Johnson, John Butler and Daniel Claus), have lately appeared in the frontiers of this state, and threatened ruin and destruction to all the inhabitants of the United States," urging the inhabitants to continue their fidelity to the common cause, offering pardon to all those who may have been misled by the artifice and misrepresentation of the enemy, if they would in ten days come in and lay down their arms, but denouncing "the just vengeance of heaven and of this exasperated country" against all who should persist in their wicked courses. On the 23d of August Gen. Arnold left Fort Dayton, determined to hazard a battle with forces inferior to the enemy before Fort Schuyler, rather than have the garrison surrender, and had proceeded half a day's march, when he was met by an express from Col. Gansevoort, with the cheering news that the seige had been raised; but the cause of this sudden movement on the part of the enemy was wholly unknown to the gallant Colonel and his brave garrison; not so however with Arnold.

Hanyost Schuyler was the instrument made use of to scatter the besieging forces surrounding Fort Schuyler, and send them helter-skelter back to Canada in double quick time. The home of this strange and singular being, was near the upper Mohawk Indian castle in the present town of Danube, where he resided with his mother and brother Nicholas, and hence in early life had much intercourse with the Indians. He is described as coarse and ignorant, and but little removed from idiocy, and still possessing shrewdness enough to be made the instrument of accomplishing an important object. Hanyost was somewhat tainted with loyalty, and had been captured at Shoemaker's with Walter N. Butler, and others; he was tried by a court martial and sentenced to death. His mother and brother, on hearing this sad news, of course hastened to headquarters to intercede for his life. For a time their efforts were unavailing, but finally it was proposed he should repair to St. Leger's camp with a friendly Oneida Indian, and so manage to alarm the enemy as to produce an abandonment of the siege.

Hanyost gladly embraced the alternative, leaving his brother as a hostage for the faithful execution of his mission; being assured that Nicholas should die if he faltered in the enterprise. Schuyler having procured sundry shots through his garments, that he might show he had run for dear life, departed with his Indian comrade for the enemy's camp. They had arranged between them to approach St. Leger's position from opposite directions, and were not to appear acquainted with each other, if they should meet. This affair was wisely planned, and most skillfully and adroitly


« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »