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Even Brant himself denounced him as more unrelenting than the savages themselves. It certainly can not excite surprise and wonder that the news of his death should have produced one universal shout of joy along the whole Mohawk valley. The miserable man met a fate he but too well deserved, and retributive justice was not robbed of a proper subject.
The losses of the enemy during this expedition were very severe, and the sufferings of the survivors in traversing eighty miles of wilderness, without food or blankets, in cold and dreary weather, were intense. Willett abandoned the pursuit and returned to Fort Dayton, having lost only one man. The surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, and other unpropitious events during the year, had produced an apathetic feeling on the part of the enemy.
In June, 1782, a party of the enemy, tories and Indians as usual, appeared at the Little falls for the sole purpose of destroying a grist-mill at that place, for they do not seem to have achieved any other valorous exploit in that way. 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, a year and a half before. 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 the best way they could. Two of them, Cox and Skinner, secreted themselves in the raceway, under the water-wheel, and escaped death and captivity; but two others, Christian Edick and Frederick Getman, jumped into the raceway, above the mill, and there endeavored 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 horned, and all of them, except the millers and soldiers, had brought corn to tho mill, and were waiting for their grists. Peter Wolleaver, Christian Edick, Frederick Getman, Marks Rasbach, John Rasbach, Thomas Shoemaker, Lawrence Hatter, Jacob Petri, Daniel Petri, who was killed, Peter Orendorff; Gershoni Skinner, and F. Cox, millers; a sergeant and six men from Capt. McGregor's company of continental troops. Two of the soldiers escaped, and five were taken prisoners.
In Stone's life of Brant, the author states that these mills were erected by Alexander Ellice, Esq., a Scotch merchant, "who had, under the favor of Sir William Johnson, obtained a patent of the wild mountain gorge, through which the Mohawk leaps from the upper into the lower section of the valley." This is not strictly accurate. The lands on the north side of the river, from the upper to the lower end of the falls, are embraced in the patent granted in 1725 to Johan Joost Petri and other Palatines, and the lands on the south side are covered by a patent granted in 1752 to Johan Jost Herchkeemer and another person, known as the Fall-Hill patent. Mr. Ellice, in his lifetime, and his family in England after his death, held the title to two of the four Burnetsfield lots on the north side of the river, and to the whole of Vaughn's patent, granted to Col. John Vaughn and others in 1770, the titles to which were derived through Mr. John Porteous, who was many years a merchant at the Little Falls, and died there. The names of the Burnetsfield patentees are given in another chapter, and it is there shown to whom the lots at the Little Falls were granted.
The upper Mohawk valley was not again visited by any serious calamity during the remainder of the contest. The war had not entirely ceased in other quarters, but there was a general subsiding of hostilities, as if by common consent, and the mother country had sickened of the effort to whip her rebellious children into submission. Towards the close of the year the British commander-in-chief directed that no more Indian expeditions at the north should be sent out, and those already on foot were recalled. The house of commons passed a resolution, soon after the news of the surrender of Cornwallis had reached England, declaring "that the house would consider as enemies to his majesty and the country, all who should advise or attempt the further proecution of offensive war on the continent of North America;" In conformity to the pacific sentiments expressed in the above resolution, if a ministerial change should take place, the American people might reasonably expect an entire change in the policy hitherto pursued towards them. The principal historical events of the war will be closed with this chapter, and the compiler, in common with many others, who like him have heard the oftentimes repeated traditional tale of the suffering infltcted upon the frontier settlements of the valley, must express his deep regret that some one had not written out a particular history of the revolutionary transactions within the county, while most of the surviving actors and eye witnesses were living.
In February, 1783, the forces under the command of Col. Willett, were concentrated at Fort Herkimer, the undeveloped object being to surprise and capture the British fortress at Oswego. The expedition failed in consequence of the small number of troops employed, and the want of a proper armament to besiege the place, attended with the unfortunate occurrence of the Indian guide having, when within a few miles of the fort, lost his way, and conducted this little band into a deep forest covered with snow, instead of directing his course to the place of destination. Colonel Willett returned to Albany in time to hear the gladsome news of peace proclaimed, and to rejoice with his emancipated countrymen in that welcome event.
Here closed the great drama of the revolution, which, for almost six years, had presented to the inhabitants of this frontier, little else than one continued scene of desolation, and blood. The enemy were too keen and indefatigable to leave a single out-laying hamlet unvisited at some period during the war, and probably not one in fifty escaped destruction by fire. In the winter and spring of 1780 the inhabitants whose dwellings were not within the protection of forts and block-houses defended by provincial troops, were compelled to abandon their farms and seek a shelter within the armed defenses, so fierce and exterminating had the Indian warfare become in retaliation of the exploits of the Americans during Sullivan's expedition in 1779.
In 1781 it was supposed that one third of the population of the whole Mohawk valley had gone over to the enemy, and another third had been killed or driven from the country, and that among those who remained were two thousand orphan children and three hundred widows The people of the upper valley suffered severly during the war and from the militia organizations before and after the war it would seem they lost nearly half their men capable of bearing arms during that period. But it is not true that one third of the population of the upper valley abandoned their country and its cause and went over to the enemy, nor is it probable that even one in twenty of them espoused the interests of the crown.
My desire to record in this book an historical fact, which illustrates, in a eminent degree, the spirit and bearing of the leading men of the revolution, induces me to append it to this otherwise long chapter, although it transpired at an early period of the war.
Soon after the confirmation of the treaty of alliance and commerce between the United States and France was received in England in 1778, the ministry acting under the authority of recent acts of parliament, sent out commissioners to America to negotiate respecting the difficulties between the two countries, and fully empowered them:
"To consent to a cessation of hostilities both by sea and land.
"To restore free intercourse, to revive mutual affection, and renew the common benefits of naturalization through the several parts of this empire.
"To extend every freedom to trade that our respective interests can require.
"To agree that no military forces shall be kept up in the different states of North America, without the consent of the general congress or particular assemblies.
"To concur in measures calculated to discharge the debts of America, and to raise the credit and value of the paper circulation.
"To perpetuate our union by a reciprocal deputation of an agent or agents from the different states, who shall have the privilege of a seat and voice in the parliament of Great Britain; or, if sent from Britain, in that case, to have a seat and voice in the assemblies of the different states to which they may be deputed respectively, in order to attend to the several interests of those by whom they are deputed.
"To establish the power of the respective legislatures in each particular state, to settle its revenue, its civil and military establishment, and to exercise a perfect freedom of legislation and internal government, so that the British states, throughout North America, acting with us in peace and war, under one common sovereign, may have the irrevocable enjoyment of every privilege that is short of a total separation of interests, or consistent with that union of force, on which the safety of our common religion and liberty depends."
These terms were not acceptable to Congress, nor was that body in the least inclined to negotiate on any terms of conciliation with the mother country in the then aspect of affairs. Having thus far single-handed and alone stood up against all adversities and weathered the storms of war, Congress and the people, with the aid of the French alliance, now fancied the haven of peace to be full in view. Mr. Laurens, in reply to certain inquiries put to him on the subject, said the Americans would not enter into the consideration of a treaty of peace, without a direct and open