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to become ensnared in an ambuscade from which they could not be extricated. This the General told his insubordinate officers who had so causelessly and cruelly taunted him with cowardice and toryism. He moreover told those who had been the most clamorous for an immediate forward movement, and most liberal in their epithets, that they would be the first to turn and run when the enemy made his appearance. This appears to have been verified to the letter when the action commenced. But what could the General do 1 To remain in camp only eight miles distant from the fort would lead to further outbreaks of insubordination, and circumstances might happen whereby he would be seriously compromised. He had been informed of the spot where he would be attacked on his march, and he seems to have adopted all the precautions to prevent surprise, that his small force, the nature of the ground and the condition of the country, then a dense wilderness, would allow; although writers differ on this point. It is not intended to repeat in this place any of the events of a battle which filled the valley with mourning.
The troops were ordered to march, and they obeyed with alacrity. After proceeding a short distance Herkimer and the principal part of his men found themselves involved in an inextricable ambuscade, with no alternative but to fight or surrender.
The General's horse was killed under him early in the action, and his leg was at the same time broken by a musket ball; in this situation he directed his saddle to be placed upon a small hillock, where he rested himself, and coolly and firmly issued his orders to his troops. When requested to place himself in a less exposed situation, he answered as a brave and true man would in like circumstances, "I will face the enemy." He found himself surrounded by his neighbors, family relatives and friends, in a position from which they could not be extricated, and where but a few hours before he had told them he did not wish to have them placed; and himself disabled so that he could not walk. While the battle raged the fiercest and the savage yell was loudest, he took his flint, steel and tinder box from his pocket, and lit his pipe, which he smoked with great composure.
The deliberation and coolness exhibited by the commanding officer on this occasion infused into his men a spirit of unconquerable resistance; and it is not unlikely there were some, who in the morning had heard his courage doubted and his prudential motives assailed, if they did not participate in this aggression, that felt keenly the wrong which had been done, and were the more resolved they would not see any further indignity heaped upon him. The General's conduct through the whole of this eventful day was admirable, and greatly contributed to produce order and combined action in his little army.
After the action, General Herkimer was conveyed to his own home, in the present town of Danube, a few miles east of Little Falls, where his leg, which had been fractured below the knee, was amputated. The published statements in regard to this operation do not agree. It was no doubt unskillfully done. The leg, flesh and bone were cut off square, without taking up or tieing the large blood vessels, and he consequently died of an hemorrhage. He was, in his last moments, collected, cheerful and resigned. When he became satisfied that the hours of life with him were numbered, he called for the Bible and read to those around him the thirty-eighth psalm, commencing with the earnest invocation:
"O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath; neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure."
Thus closed the life of Gen. Nicholas Herkimer. The name of Herkimer was at an early day bestowed on a tract of country erected into a county which was the place of his birth, as an appropriate memorial to one who had laid down his life in a heroic defense of that country, and the liberty of its citizens.
The General's loss was keenly felt and sincerely deplored by the people of Tryon county, and the country generally deeply sympathized with his friends in their bereavement.
In October following his death, the continental congress passed a resolution appropriating five hundred dollars for the erection of a monument to his memory, and in communicating the resolution to the governor of this state, the congress said:
"Every mark of distinction shown to the memory of such illustrious men as offer up their lives for the liberty and happiness of this country, reflects real honor on those who pay the grateful tribute; and by holding up to others the prospect of fame and immortality, will animate them to tread in the same path."
Gov. George Clinton, when he sent the resolution and letter to the committee of safety in Tryon county, remarked:
"Enclosed you have a copy of a letter and resolves of Congress for erecting a monument to the memory of your late gallant general. While, with you, I lament the causes, I am impressed with a due sense of the great and justly merited honor the continent has, in this instance, paid to the memory of that brave man."
Reader, have you seen that monument, erected by a grateful country, to the memory of a good and brave man, who offered up his life for its liberty and happiness?
Have you seen the proud memento that reflects real honor on those who paid the grateful tribute; and which holds up to others the prospect of fame and immortality 1
Descendants of the Palatines; sons of the Pilgrim Fathers; and ye, who have sought an asylum "in the land of the free and the home of the brave," since that monument was resolved to be erected, can you point out the spot where it stands, and have you read the inscriptions by which the republic has bestowed a "great and justly merited honor" "to the memory of that brave man?"
In what direction shall the thousands, who daily pass through the valley at a speed which almost annihilates time and space, turn themselves for a momentary glance at the indestructible memorial which proudly attests a nation's honor and gratitude? Or where shall they look for its mouldering ruins, after seventy-seven years' exposure to a severe and destructive climate 1
But why ask questions that have been answered more than three-quarters of a century, and when no other response than that already given will ever be obtained 1 Although the national congress has been remiss in executing its own resolve and redeeming its solemn pledge, our state has perpetuated the name of Herkimer So long, at least, as the republic shall stand.
Some writers have gone so far as to call in question Gen. Herkimer's prudence, if they do not doubt his capacity as a military commandant, in the disposition and arrangement of his forces in the march to Oriskany, on the morning of the battle. The writer of this sketch feels no disposition to become the partisan, but as these remarks have not been made by military men, so far as his observation has extended, he can not assent to the justice of any such conclusions drawn from the historical facts stated. The material error committed was the forward movement until reinforced, or the signal to be given from the fort was heard. Now let it be borne in mind that Gen. Herkimer was not in command of regular troops, nor the chief of subordinate officers, and his powers as commanding general might be circumscribed by the county committee, a large number of which, it appears, were in attendance. He doubted the expediency and propriety of breaking up his camp, and resisted until overruled by a necessity that knows no law and admits of no restraint whatever. His character as an officer was assailed, and his motives as a man were impugned. The state of things in his camp no doubt impressed him with the strong conviction that one act of insubordination might well be followed by another, which would prove more fatal to those engaged in it, and perhaps to himself and those who remained faithful to him, than any hazard he might incur by a combined movement of his whole force. If only a part of his small army had advanced, it is apparent every man would have been cut off and the remainder, with himself, would have shared the same fate; or, if they had not, he would have been greatly censured for permitting his troops to be attacked in detail.
General Herkimer is in no respect justly chargeable with committing an error by giving the order to march. It seems to be very well authenticated that front, flank and rear guards were thrown out and accompanied the march of the forces. The strength of these covering parties, or the distance they marched from the main body, is not stated.
In passing the marshy ground at the creek, it is very likely the flankers were compelled to fall into the advancing column, in order to cross on the bridge and causeway, and enable them to keep up with the line of march. Here was the spot the enemy chose to occupy in ambush. We might as well blame the commanding officer for taking this road, when there was no other, as to censure him for any disorder in the march consequent upon passing this defile. When seeking grounds to censure the conduct of others, we may overlook points very material to be considered. Surely the men of the revolution, and especially those of the Mohawk valley, were not to be told that the only mode of meeting an Indian attack was in solid column, or in regular formed .lines.
It is said the line of march was so irregular, and the attack so sudden, there was no opportunity of forming the men. In what manner would any officer acquainted with Indian warfare arrange his men, except to direct each one to take his cover, and watch the movements of the foe, and as he uncovered to deliver his fire? Why then seek to charge want of capacity for not doing what would have been condemned on all hands as unwise and extremely disastrous? A conflict with the northren Indians, in our dense forests, is almost an individual, hand-to-hand affair j depending more on personal prowess and skill, for success, than combined movements in column or line. This can not be better illustrated than in the words of an eloquent