« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
Late in February there came the astounding tidings to Captain Ogden, suddenly arresting the flowing tide of hilarity and enjoyment, that his garrison had been surprised and expelled by a superior force. Prompt, alert, he was instantly in motion ; gathering a few tried followers, he hastened with all possible celerity to the field of action. Captain Lazarus Stewart, from Hanover, in Lancaster county, with “forty" settlers, who had accepted from the Susquehanna Company, a township, to be named after their parent town, having with him ten Connecticut people, appeared in the valley the beginning of February, ousted the few men left by Ogden, from their comfortable quarters at Fort Durkee, but did not attempt to arrest or keep them as prisoners.
The dread cannon, the formidable four pounder, was the first object of concern. It had been carefully housed, with ammunition a good store, in the fortress at Mill Creek, from whence it was taken, and with emotions of pride at the capture, and a pleasing sense of security from the possession, transported in safety to Fort Durkee.
It is difficult at this distant time to determine which should be regarded as most extraordinary, the facility with which the Yankees were taken to prison, or the certainty and ease with which they escaped. Our story left Captain Durkee confined in the Philadelphia jail ; by what means he obtained his freedom, I have sought information in vain; but we find him now, with unabated vigor and increased zeal at the head of the Connecticut forces.
Sheriff Jennings could not accompany his friend Ogden, but the latter, according to settled policy, choosing to be attended by, and to act professedly under the orders of a civil magistrate, took with him a deputy sheriff from Northampton. On arriving upon the ground, Fort Důrkee being in possession of the Yankees, strengthened in its defences and well garrisoned, Captain Ogden with fifty men, entered upon his old quarters at Mill Creek, which he put in the best posture of defence. His policy was obvious and instantly adopted, his numbers being unknown, to keep them concealed as much as possible, to appear diffident, not venturing out, risking nothing, but seeming busy, as if adding to the strength of his fortress, so as to induce his enemy to suppose him weak and waiting for reinforce
the protectors of Wyoming from Yankee intrusion, most acceptable. Pure wine flowedhealths to the victors were quaffed--the joke passed, and Ogden, truly a most capital soldier, assured them in those moments of hilarity that the work was accomplished—the four pounder, superior to "if" was the true peace-maker; and he was confident that never another Yankee would dare to place his intruding foot upon the Susquehanna. ?
ments, by this means leading them from too much confidence into some rash act that might expose them to capture.
A fortunate omen had already occurred to inspire hopes, and stimulate the ardor of his men. The Yankees, to avoid awakening suspicion, were to come into the valley in small detachments; one of these, consisting of ten or twelve men, who had learned the success of Stewart, but were not apprised of the arrival of a Pennsylvania force, appeared cold and hungry, before the gate at the Mill Creek fortress, not doubting a cordial welcome from expecting friends. Very readily were they admitted, but instantly arrested by the deputy sheriff as prisoners, and so closely confined that escape was impossible, and their arrival and capture was unknown to their friends at Fort Durkee.
The policy of Captain Ogden produced its desired effect, (as afterwards the affected caution of Napoleon at Austerlitz, rendered presumptuous the Russian and Austrian generals, and terminated in their discomfiture.) Major Durkee and his officers, after full consultation, resolved to capture Ogden while he was yet weak, and before reinforcements should enable him to bid them defiance. Heretofore the Connecticut people had acted merely as civil citizens united for mutual protection; they now assumed a more martial aspect, and marched out with the Connecticut flag flying, to the inspiring music of the fife and drum.
However much this display may have imparted confidence, and inspired courage among the Yankees, Captain Ogden was the last man in whom it could occasion despondence, or create the slightest alarm. A negotiation was opened immediately after the besiegers had drawn up before the Mill Creek fortress. Ogden, to reconnoiter, came out with a flag to demand their purpose, and estimate their numbers. Finding their strength not greatly superior to his own, he retired. Placing the deputy sheriff on duty, he suddenly rushed out with all his men armed, ordered the sheriff's officer to arrest the whole Yankee array, in the name, and by authority of Pennsylvania. A sharp conflict ensued; the Connecticut people were defeated with the loss of one man, William Stager, who was shot dead on the spot, and several were wounded. This was the first blood shed in those memorable Pennymite and Yankee wars for the possession of Wyoming.
Controversy arose as to which party was responsible for firing the first gun, and occasioning the first effusion of blood. Such an inquiry on this occasion, would seem to be useless, as regards the general
question, as unavailing in this particular case. The Yankees here marched forth in military array, with martial music, their guns loaded with ball, to capture Ogden. By every rule of honorable war he had a right to consider them as enemies, and would have been justified in opening a fire upon them from his fortification, without notice or parley. The manner in which they came, was a declaration of war. War was meant. And it was justifiable to answer war with war. But the first man who fell was one of the Connecticut party, and it roused into more fiery action those deep and deadly passions, which the events of the preceding summer were calculated to awaken into bitterness. But there is annther reflection which, in justice, should be recorded in association with that just expressed. Was this the commencement of the contest ? Had not the Connecticut people been expelled by an armed force, in full military array, with artillery as well as small arms, pointed for their destruction? Was not this in fact, the earliest decided belligerent demonstration; an unequivocal act of war? Leaving the decision of this point to an abler casuist, or a less partial judge, I advance to the siege of Fort Ogden.
In possession of the cannon, it was resolved to bring its power to bear on the enemy. A neighboring hill overlooked the Fort, and completely commanded the position. But the Yankees, with a respectful caution highly complimentary to Capt. Ogden's prowess, did not choose to risk the piece within reach of a sortie of their intrepid enemy. A slight redoubt was therefore thrown up on the western river bank, directly opposite the fortification. The cannon was transported across, and mounted ready for action. The piece had to be elevated, for the fort was not less that fifty feet above the level of the gun. The distance between the two points was about sixty rods. Little skilled in the science of projectiles, it would not be expected that the Yankee farmers could manage their artillery so as to produce a very powerful effect. But on the 15th of April, they opened their fire. Never, before, had echoes of those mountains been disturbed by, and answered to a voice so tremendous. Shot after shot was sent booming across the Susquehanna; day after day, roar succeeded roar, but to the astonishment of all, without doing the least possible execution. Time was too precious to be thus wasted. Reinforcements might arrive. The cannon was removed to the eastern shore, and Major Durkee, having received an accession to his forces, marched up a second time in military array to invest the fort. Dividing his men into three divisions, each, with all possible de
spatch, erected a breast-work; the cannon was mounted in the one under his immediate command. A spirited fire was opened on the stockade. The siege gave rise to a gallant act on the part of the Yankees. A storehouse adjoining the fort, strong and well manned, was stormed, set on fire, and burnt to the ground, by which most of the valuable articles for peace or war, belonging the Pennsylvania party, were entirely consumed.
Capt. Ogden had failed in no part of the duty of an able officer. Immediately after his attack, in March, he had despatched a trusty messenger to the Governor, stating his situation, urging the necessity of immediate aid, and saying he would defend his position to the utmost extremity, or while there was hope of relief.
Governor Penn was in no condition to comply with the request. A dark cloud, portending a storm, lowered in another quarter. The disputes between the colonies and the mother country seemed rapidly festering into an open contest. The massacre at Boston had taken place on the 5th of the month, and lurid flames of threatening war shot up from every point of the surrounding horizon. He, therefore, applied to Gen. Gage, commander-in-chief of his Majesty's forces in North America, whose head-quarters were then at New York, for assistance to suppress what was considered the lawless and unprincipled invasion by the Connecticut people, of the peaceful and assured territory of Pennsylvania. Such, it seems, Gen. Gage did not regard it. His reply is important, not only as it shows his own, but, probably, as it exhibits the general opinion of the country in regard to the contest.
“ New York, April 15, 1770.—The troops in all the provinces have orders, in general, to assist the civil power, when they shall be legally called upon; but the affair in question seems to be a dispute concerning property, in which I cannot but think it would be highly improper for the King's troops to interfere."
No aid arriving, and the siege being pressed with vigour, a flag sent in by Major Durkee, led to negotiations which terminated in the surrender of the fort. Articles of capitulation were entered into on the 29th of April. Capt. Ogden was to retire from the valley, with all his forces, in three days, except that to take care of his property, which was to be respected, six men were to be left in possession of one of the houses. To the surprise of the besiegers, and the delight of the captives, the party of Yankee prisoners were discovered and released, after more than a month's confinement, so rigorous, that
they had not been able to give their friends the least intimation of their captivity.
The nicer laws, which tend so much to soften the asperities and relieve the distresses of war, unhappily were but too slightly regarded on either side. Justifying his conduct by that of Capt. Ogden himself, to the seventeen Connecticut people, left to keep possession, by the articles of capitulation the previous Autumn, Major Durkee proceeded, very unceremoniously, to expel the six as very unwelcome neighbours, indeed, as spies on his proceedings, and according to established usage on both sides, or in the homely adage of the time, " tit for tat,” he relieved them from the charge of what property had been left under their care. This, however, was not all demanded by prudence, and justified by the laws of war. The fort was strong—the adjacent buildings comfortable. With the force then under his command, to spare a suitable detachment to garrison the place was impossible. If left, it was apprehended that the Pennsylvania party would retake possession, perhaps with more ordnance, and greater numbers, and bid defiance to all the power of the Yankees to dispossess him. After full consultation it was resolved to set fire to the fort, and level the whole establishment with the earth. Eight years previous, the first habitations of white men had been erected on this spot by the unfortunate settlers of 1762, which had been preserved by the Savages, when they massacred or expelled the Connecticut people from the Valley. The aspiring flames were a grand but melancholy sight, awakening sad recollections of the past, and gloomy forbodings for the future. But the position was too admirably chosen to be long neglected.
Reader, as we turn from this scene of destruction, I beg leave to remind you that we shall look in upon it again, ere long, under more pleasing auspices.
No sooner had the news reached Philadelphia, than the Executive published a proclamation, denouncing what he conceived the highhanded, and outrageous conduct of the intruders.
Writs were issued by the Supreme Court for the arrest of several of the Yankee leaders, for whose capture a large reward was offered; under the authority of which Lazarus Stewart was made prisoner while on a visit below the mountains. By the aid of partizans, with some violence to the officer, he succeeded to make his escape.
Planting time had come. Peace reigned. Wyoming was in the undisturbed possession of the Yankees. The luscious shad again came up in countless myriads, inviting the toil-worn emigrants from