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ble ambuscade, and completely surrounded by an Indian force double their own numbers. The conflict that followed was severe and sanguinary, as might well have been expected from the character of the combatants engaged, and a hand to hand fight left but fifteen of the Americans, who escaped to tell the sad fate of their brethren. Some of this party were taken prisoners, but Woodworth and about half of his men were killed on the spot.
This fatal encounter took place about three miles north of Herkimer village, on the east side of the West Canada creek, in a deep ravine, where now may be seen the mound of earth, under which rest the remains of the gallant Woodworth and his brave companions. The killed, it appears, were all collected and buried in one common grave, unshrouded and uncoftined, with no monument to tell where rest the brave but unfortunate defenders of American liberty.
On the 6th of August, a German settlement called Shell's Bush, three or four miles north of Fort Dayton, was visited by a party of these formidable asserters of the rights of the crown. Donald McDonald, a Scotch refugee from Johnstown, with a party of about sixty Indians and tories, with whom was Empie and Cassleman, two famous traitors, the latter being the same man who was with the party that attacked Rheimensnyder's bush in April, 1780, made their appearance in the Shell settlement in the afternoon of the above day, when most of the inhabitants had retired to Fort Dayton, for protection. Some indications of this hostile movement must have been previously discovered, or the inhabitants would not have sought the protection of the fort. There was, however, one man, John Christian Shell, the husband of a brave and resolute wife, and the father of six sons, who determined to brave out the storm, let come what would. He had a strong blockhouse on his farm, well constructed for purposes of defense against marauding parties of tories and Indians; and he resolved to fight rather than run. The first story of logs had no openings except a doorway or entrance, well protected by a massive door, and loopholes through which the besieged could fire upon their assailants. The floor of the second story projected over the lower part of the building, and had apertures in the projecting floor, affording ample means of annoying any enemy who might approach the building to fire it or break open the door below. Shell had a good supply of arms and ammunition to stand an ordinary siege. When the enemy made their appearance, Shell and his sons were in the field at work, but his two youngest, being twins, only eight years old, were so far off he could not save them when he retired to his blockhouse, and they were taken and carried to Canada. Having gained his castle and secured the entrance, Shell and his little garrison were resolute and alert, and kept up a spirited fight from two o'clock until dark. Some of the incidents are worthy of particular notice. Shell's wife was active in loading the pieces fired by her husband and four sons. McDonald several times attempted to set fire to the building, but failed. His men were several times compelled to retreat, in consequence of the galling fire received from the party in the blockhouse. McDonald made an effort to force the door with a crowbar, but was wounded in the leg while so engaged, and none of his party being near enough to rescue him, Shell did not hesitate a moment to unbar the door and drag the wounded tory leader into his fortress. This capture not only secured Shell against being burnt out by the enemy, but afforded an ample supply of ammunition to the little garrison, whose stock was becoming rather short. To save his life, McDonald gave up his cartridges to be used against his followers. A short respite took .place between the belligerents, but the enemy returned and made a vigorous effort to take the blockhouse by assault. They came up to the walls and thrust the muzzles of their pieces through the loopholes, when Madam Shell by a blow upon five of them with an axe, rendered them useless; this being followed by several deliberate shots from the little garrison, compelled the assailants to retire to a respectful distance. Just at dark, Shell practised a little stratagem which induced the enemy to suppose that troops were approaching from Fort Dayton, whereupon they fled to the woods, taking with them Shell's two little sons. After providing for the tory commander in the best manner they could, the family started for the fort, which they reached in safety. Some of McDonald's Indians visited him, after the family went away, but finding he could not be removed, they left him to the mercy of the Americans, with a message to Shell that the welfare of his little boys depended on the treatment bestowed on McDonald. The wounded prisoner was taken to the fort the next day, when his leg was amputated. The enemy's loss on the ground was quite severe, eleven killed and six wounded. The little boys, on their return after the war, stated that nine out of twelve wounded which the enemy started with, died before they reached Canada.
In the following year Shell and two of his sons, being at work in the field not far from his block-house, were fired upon by a party of Indians secreted in a wheat field, and he was dangerously wounded. The sons remained with their father until a party from the fort came to their relief. One of the sons was, however, shot dead and the other wounded, before the guard arrived. John Christian Shell did not long survive his wounds, and thus closed the life of a brave and resolute man and a pure and devout Christian. During the short cessation in the attack on the block-house, Shell addressed his Maker in a hymn of deliverance from peril, used by the early German reformers.
The Shellsbush settlement is on what is usually called Gens Purchase, embracing perhaps some portion of the Royal Grant, and it will be observed that the name of Shell, Schel or Shaul does not occur among the patentees of Burnets field, nor is the name found in the list of Palatine, remaining in New York, or taken to Livingston Manor, of the first two companies that emigrated. Enough is still known of him to authorize the conclusion that he was a German Lutheran, and he or his ancestors may have come over with the third body of immigrants in 1722, or at a later period. The singularly rude and unharmonious account of Shell's conflict with the tories and Indians, contained in Campbell's Annals of Tryon county, has contributed very much to keep that event fresh in the recollection of the descendants of his German neighbors.
After the defeat of the expedition led by Major Ross, aided by Walter N. Butler, and which fell upon the lower valley on the 24th of October, like an avalanche of lava, burning and destroying every thing in its course, the enemy retreated in a northerly direction through Jersyfield. Col. Willett having ordered the destruction of their batteaux, left at the Oneida lake, arrived at the German Flats by forced marches, in order to intercept Ross's retreat on the west Canada creek, unless he should return to Buck's island on the St. Lawrence river. On the morning of the 29th Willett with four hundred of his best troops with sixty Oneida warriors, provisioned for five days, started in a northerly direction from Fort Dayton along the West Canada creek. The first day's march of the Americans through a snow storm was severe, and at night they camped in a thick forest on the Royal Grant. Here Col. Willett, having ascertained during the night, by means of his scouts, the locality, position and force of the enemy, remained until the next morning when he started well prepared to give battle to the foe, determined to inflict a justly merited and suitable chastisement upon the marauders; but Ross being equally alert, and quite as anxious to avoid the action as his opponent was to bring it on, and being well advised of the proximity of his antagonist, was in full retreat as early as the Americans had started in the pursuit, and it was not until afternoon that Willett came up with a party of the enemy's rear. A smart skirmish ensued, when several of the enemy were killed and taken prisoners, among the latter was a tory, Lieutenant John Rykeman, and the remainder fled.- The Americans overtook the main body of Ross's party soon after, when a running fight was kept up between the pursuers and pursued until the latter crossed the creek late in the day. Butler succeeded in rallying his men and made a stand on the west bank, when a brisk action took place between the parties on opposite sides of the creek, during which the enemy had about twenty men killed, and among them was Walter N. Butler. The death of this officer was followed by the immediate and confused flight of his men, and Willett pursued his terror stricken foes until compelled to desist by darkness and the fatigue of his men, who had been on foot all day and more than half the time fighting. The enemy continued the retreat all night and marched thirty miles before they made a halt.
Col. Willett says, "strange as it may appear, it is nevertheless true, that notwithstanding the enemy had been four days in the wilderness, with only half a pound of horseflesh per man per day, yet in this famished condition they trotted thirty miles before they stopped. Many of them, indeed, fell a sacrifice to such treatment." The British had six hundred and seventy men in this expedition, which closed the active offensive operations of the enemy at the north for the year.
Walter N. Butler's Death.
According to the most authentic tradition we now have of Butler's death, derived from Major Thornton, late of Schenectady, who was a captain under Col. Willett, in the pursuit of Ross and Butler, on their retreat from Johnstown, there seems to be a somewhat different version given to this affair, than that heretofore published. Thornton stated that Ross and Butler, with their party, encamped on Butler's ridge in the town of Norway, on the night before the Americans overtook them, having traversed the forest from