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more. All this damage could not be done short of fortyeight hours. M. de Belletre made provision to be always able to resist the enemy, who, as has been observed, were to the number of 350 men in the said Fort Kouari [Herkimer], about a quarter of a league from the field of battle."
This is a most extraordinary narrative of a most barbarous transaction, and is so characterized by one of M. de Belletre's own countrymen, Mr. Daine, in his report to the French minister, in which he says the injury inflicted "in horned cattle, sheep and horses has been greatly exaggerated in the relation of M. de Belletre's expedition. It must be diminished at least a good half. It is still more exaggerated in regard to furniture, wearing apparel, merchandise and liquors, which are carried up to fifteen hundred thousand livres, as well as the loss of the Palatine village in Indian corn." And Gov. De Lancy, in mentioning the destruction of "a valuable settlement on the north side of the Mohawk's river, opposite to Fort Hareniger, called the German Flats," says "the loss is estimated at twenty thousand pounds this money," fifty thousand dollars, a pretty large discrepancy from that given by the valorous Frenchman, who seemed somewhat desirous that his achievement should begin to compare with the martial deeds of his illustrious countryman, Turrene, when he ravaged the German Palatinate about one hundred years before.
The confidence inspired by a long exemption from hostile visits, proved in this case extremely unfortunate. It is asserted that these people were informed the day before, by friendly Indians, of the contemplated attack of the French and Indians, but being extremely incredulous, they gave no heed to these admonitions. Their settlement was in sight of a fort on the south side of the river, garrisoned by three hundred and fifty men; so says the French account, and it must be taken at considerable discount. But if this was true in all its parts, these people had some grounds to suppose, if they were attacked, that they would be aided by an armed force so near at hand in repelling the assault; their retirement to the fort with their families and effects could not have preserved their houses and crops from destruction. Militia forces from Albany had been ordered the year before to repair to the German Flats; and the fort mentioned in the French account and by Gov. De Lancy is described as a "stockaded work around the church and block-house, with a ditch and a parapet pallisadoed, thrown up by Sir William Johnson a year ago [in 1756] upon an alarm then given."
But there is another witness who must speak in relation to this sad affair. Sir William Johnson haying been informed that the Indians had not notified the Palatines of the enemy's approach until the morning the attack was made, sent his deputy agent and Indian interpreter, to inquire of the Oneida and Tuscarora Indians, several of whom he was told were assembled at the German Flats, respecting this affair, and ask them to explain why they had not given more timely notice of the designs and approach of the enemy.
The deputy agent, Mr. Croghan, did not arrive at the scene of desolation until the Indians had left for home; he sent for them to return; the narrative then proceeds:
"The aforesaid Indians returned, and on the 30th Novem ber [ 1757], at Fort Harkeman, Conaghquieson, the chief Oneida sachem, made the following speech to Mr. Croghan, having first called in one Rudolph Shumaker, Hanjost Harkeman and several other Germans, who understood the Indian language, and desired them to sit down and hear what he was going to say.
Conaghquieson then proceeded and said:
"Brother: I can't help telling you that we were very much surprised to hear that our brethren, the English, suspect and charge us with not giving them timely notice of the designs of the French, as it is well known we have not neglected to give them every piece of intelligence that came to our knowledge.
"Brother: About fifteen days before the affair happened, we sent the Germans word that some Swegatchi Indians told us, the French were determined to destroy the German Flats, and desired them to be on their guard. About six days after that we had a further account from the Swegatchi, that the French were preparing to march.
"I then came down to the German flats, and in a meeting with the Germans, told them what we had heard, and desired them to collect themselves together in a body at their fort, and secure their women, children and effects, and make the best defense they could; and at the same time told them to write what I had said to our brother Warraghiyagey [Meauing Sir William Johnson. The Palatines never sent this intelligence.]. But they paid not the least regard to what I told them, and laughed at me, saying they did not value the enemy. Upon this I returned home and sent one of our people to the lake [meaning the Oneida lake] to find out whether the enemy were coming or not; and after he had staid there two days, the enemy arrived at the carrying place, and sent word to the castle at the lake, that they were there, and told them what they were going to do; but charged them not to let us at the upper castle know any thing of their design. As soon as the man I sent there heard this, he came on to us with the account that night, and as soon as we received it we sent a belt of loampum to confirm the truth thereof, to the flats, which came here the day before the enemy made their attack; but the people would not give credit to the account even then, or they might have saved their lives. This is the truth, and those Germans here present know it to be so.
"The aforesaid Germans did acknowledge it to be so, and that they had such intelligence.
In testing historical facts, all the circumstances of the relations given must be examined with care, the position of the narrators known, and all probabilities nicely and properly balanced. Hitherto these people, in their intercourse with the colonial officials of the crown, had given no such evidence of inanition and stolidity as is here charged upon them. They did not lack shrewdness and a good degree of intelligence in selecting their lands. This is evident to any one who will take the trouble to examine into it. They had every motive, the preservation of life, and the protection of property, to induce them to be cautious and guarded in all their actions; they would not be likely in one short year to have forgotten that all the frontier posts between them and their habitual foes had been captured, and that an invasion of their own homes had been feared.
De Lancy knew nothing of the facts stated, bearing upon this particular subject, except what he derived from reports or rumors, and M. de Belletre's narrative is a mere bagatelle, discredited by one of his own countrymen; besides, how could he know the English had notice of his coming the day preceding, except from rumor? The statements of the narrative which has been partly transcribed, present the gravest subject of reflection, touching the matter to be disposed of. Sir William Johnson had, at this time, been several years superintendent of Indian affairs under the crown, possessing great shrewdness, much talent and an untiring perseverance in the discharge of his duties; his intercourse with the Indians was marked with uncommon sagacity, and to carry into effect, fully, the policy of his government in respect to the Indians, appeared to be the end and aim of all his actions. He had already achieved a standing with the home government, that could not be easily assailed, and won for himself a title, to his posterity a fortune. His influence over and control of the native Indians within his superintendency, was very great, and it seemed their brother Warraghiyagey had only to express a desire, to have it fulfilled, so far as it depended on their agency. They could not forfeit his confidence in them with impunity; and they well knew that every approach of the enemy, or even rumor of it, through their country, towards the English settlements, must in accordance with the conventional relations existing between him and them, be immediately communicated to the parties expected to be assailed. This attack on the Palatine village was sudden, and no doubt unexpected, to Sir William, and when the news reached him his first thought seems to have been that his Indian outposts had been negligent of their duty, for he despatched his deputy and interpreter to the spot to inquire why they had not given more timely notice of the designs and approach of the enemy, he having been informed that no intelligence had been given by the Indians until the morning the attack was made. The. affair was a very grave one, and might create some embarrassments.
The blame of permitting this murderous assault, without making any preparation to meet it, must fall upon Sir William and his sub-agents, the Indians, or the German settlers, and it is not very difficult to see what would be the result of the inquiry, when the judge and witness were interested parties, and it must be more agreeable to the subagent to find the Indians blameless, than chargeable with a neglect that must in some degree reflect discredit upon the chief superintendent of Indian affairs. The document, partly copied, was not found in the archives of the state, either here or in England, nor among Sir William's papers, and there is no evidence found, except the paper itself, that the Palatines knew any thing of its contents or were present on the occasion; and what is quite remarkable, no paper has been seen or found wherein Sir William alludes to this invasion, but he was at the German Flats in 1756, in April, 1757, and in 1758. The fact is not improbable that the deputy agent was better pleased to find the fault of being unprepared attributable to the settlers, rather than the Indians, for then there could be no cause for censure, however remote, against the Indian superintendency. The