Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

whom the honour had been reserved, of rescuing Wyoming (the desired,) from the unprincipled encroachments of the moss trooping Yankees. Had he known the gallant Ogden, and could he have appreciated half his worth, the Colonel would modestly have judged the task, without undervaluing his own prowess, much more difficult of accomplishment than seems to have been apprehended. But ample means were promised him, and those promises were fulfilled. An army, for it may be so termed, of seven hundred men, were placed at his disposal.*

During the continuance of the first Pennymite and Yankee war, from the commencement of 1769, to the close of 1771, it will be remembered that every expedition against Wyoming was of a civil character. Sheriffs Jennings and Hacklein being ostensibly the chief officers on duty, merely supported by Capt. Ogden, Capt. Francis, Col. Clayton, Capt. Dick, Captains Morris and Ledlie, with their several military companies; the burnished musket, the glittering bayonet, the four pounder—the whole martial array being simply an appurtenant to a peace officer while he should serve a civil process. The same policy was again assumed. Col. Plunket, with his seven hundred armed men, his train of boats, with store of ammunition, the leading and largest one armed with a field-piece ready for action, on board, or to be landed, were the mere accompaniments of William Cook, Esq., the High Sheriff of Northumber. land, whose business at Wyoming was to arrest two or three individuals on civil writs.

A high degree of excitement prevailed on both sides. Several boats from Wyoming, trading with the settlements below, were seized on passing Fort Augusta, and their cargoes confiscated. Early in December, his preparations having been completed, Col. Plunket took up his line of march, the weather then being mild, the

“November 25, 1775.-Gov. Penn's Letter to Wm. Plunket and his associate Justices of

the Peace, for the county of Northumberland. “I have just now received a message from the Assembly, founded on a letter addressed to them from the county of Northumberland respecting the Connecticut settlers at Wyoming, etc., requesting me to give orders for a due execution of the laws of this Province in the counties of Northampton and Northumberland.

" In consequence thereof I do most cheerfully order you, to use your utmost diligence and activity in putting the laws of this Province in execution throughout the county of Northumberland; and you may depend on the faith of the House, and my concurrence with them, that every proper and necessary expense that may be incurred on the occasion will be defrayed," etc.

JOHN PENN."

river free from ice, a matter extremely unusual at that season of the year.

Justly alarmed at these formidable preparations, the Wyoming people despatched an agent to state the condition of affairs before Congress, and solicit their friendly interposition.

But while calling on Congress the inhabitants were far too wise to omit placing themselves in the best possible posture of defence. The military were reviewed. As there was no public magazine of provisions, every man able to bear arms was directed to hold himself in readiness to march at a moment's warning, his arms in order, with all the ammunition requisite for a weeks muster, and provisions for at least three days.

Scouts sent out for the purpose, returned, one every day with information of the advance of the enemy, who were coming up strong, and confident of success.

The cruelty of the contemplated attack was sensibly felt, intended, it was not doubted, like that on the Muncy settlement, to effectuate the entire expulsion of the whole people. It being in the midst of winter, those least given to despondence, looked to the probable issue with extreme inquietude, for defeat would assuredly devote the Valley to flames, and the inhabitants to famine. Seven hundred men ! nearly double the force Westmoreland could bring into the field. Of those who had taken the Freeman's oath, the whole number amount. ed to two hundred and eighty-five, and of these several came from the Lackawaxen settlement, forty miles east of Wyoming, a few from Coshutunk, on the Delaware, and many aged men were on the list. There were probably in the valley twenty or thirty persons, like David Meade, (holding a Connecticut right, yet in heart and hand if necd be, being secretly Pennsylvania landholders,) who, if they took no open part, wished success to the enterprise of Plunket, and at a proper moment would have lent their efficient aid in his behalf. These of course never took the Freeman's oath. The young men from fifteen to twenty-one, rallied with spirit on the occasion.

On the 20th December, the invading army was announced as having arrived at the mouth of the Nescopeck Creek, making their way now more slowly as the ice was gathering in the river, and checked the passage of their boats. Never did more earnest prayers ascend to Heaven for snows of Lapland to impede the march of the army, and ice of the Arctic circle to arrest their voyage.

Again Congress interposed, and on the 20th of December, adopted the following most important proceedings.

" The Congress taking into consideration, the dispute between the people of Pennsylvania and Connecticut, on the waters of the Susquehanna, came to the following resolution:

“Whereas, a dispute subsists between some of the inhabitants of the colony of Connecticut, settled under the claim of the said colony on land near Wyoming, on the Susquehanna river, and in the Delaware country, and the inhabitants settled under the claim of the Proprietors of Pennsylvania, which dispute it is apprehended will, if not suspended during the present troubles in the colonies, be productive of pernicious consequences, which may be very prejudicial to the common interest of the United Colonies, therefore

Resolved, That it is the opinion of this Congress, and it is accordingly recommended, that the contending parties immediately cease all hostilities, and avoid every appearance of force until the dispute can be legally decided. That all property taken and detained, be immediately restored to the original owners; that no interruption be given to either party, to the free passing and repassing of persons behaving themselves peaceably, through the disputed territory, as well by land as by water, without molestation of either persons or property; that all persons seized and detained on account of said dispute on either side, be dismissed and permitted to go to their respective homes, and that things being put in the same situation they were before the late unhappy contest, they continue to behave themselves peaceably on their respective possessions aud improvements, until a legal decision can be had on said dispute, or this Congress shall take further order thereon, and nothing herein done, shall be construed in prejudice of the claim of either party."*

But they came too late to arrest the attack of Colonel Plunket, whose force had arrived on the 23d, at the southwestern opening of the Valley. Colonel Zebulon Butler, who commanded the Yankees, by the most strenuous exertions had mustered about three hundred men and boys, but there were not guns enough to arm the whole, and several appeared on the ground with scythes fastened upon handles, projecting straight as possible; a formidable weapon in the hands of an active soldier, if they should be brought to close quarters, but otherwise useless. These weapons the men sportively called “the end of time.” On the night of the 23d, he encamped on a flat near the union of Harvey's Creek with the river. From this point he

* This decisive interposition of Congress, and the acquiescence of Pennsylvania, it was thought by many, gave to the settlement a legal sanction, though it might not effect the ultimate question of title.

one.

despatched Major John Garrett, his second in command, to visit Colonel Plunket with a flag, and desire to know the meaning of his extraordinary movements, and to demand his intentions in approaching Wyoming with so imposing a military array? The answer given was, that he came peaceably as an attendant on Sheriff Cook, who was authorized to arrest several persons at Wyoming, for violating the laws of Pennsylvania, and he trusted there would be no opposition to a measure so reasonable and pacific. Major Garrett reported that the enemy outnumbered the Yankees more than two to

“ The conflict will be a sharp one, boys,” said he, “I for one am ready to die, if need be, for my country." Things wore a different aspect from what they had done formerly. Men then, were almost the only inhabitants. Now the Valley abounded with old men, women and children, brought out by the confidence inspired by three years of peace and prosperity. It was a season of gloomy apprehension.

Colonel Butler was humane as he was brave-politic as he was undaunted. Several positions existed below the Nanticoke falls where the river leaves the Valley, and takes its way for four or five miles between precipitous mountains, where a stand might have been made with almost certain success. It was thought better, however, justifiable as would have been such a course, to wait the attack within the Valley itself. Orders were also given to this effect-not to take life unless rendered unavoidable in self-defence. Leaving Ensign Mason Fitch Alden, with eighteen men on the ground where he had bivouacked, Colonel Butler retired on the morning of the 23d, and detached Captain Stewart with twenty men across to the east side of the river, above the Nanticoke Falls, with orders to lie in ambush, and prevent any boat's crew from landing on that shore.

On the morning of the 24th, about 11 o'clock, Ensign Alden was apprised of the approach of Plunket and his army, and, retiring slowly and in order, was followed by their van-guard, who came up with martial music playing. Keeping at a respectful distance, no shot was fired from either side, and Alden joining Col. Butler, reported the approach of the foe.

Displaying his columns on the flat just abandoned by the Yankees, Col. Plunket directed a spirited advance in pursuit of Alden, not doubting but the main forces of the Yankees were near, and the hour of battle had come. In less than thirty minutes the advancing line was arrested by the word, Halt! and Plunket, who was in the

front, a little on the right, observing Col. Butler's position, was heard to exclaim, “My God! what a breastwork !"

Harvey's creek coming in from the north, cuts the high mountain which here approaches the river, deep to its base. A precipitous Jedge of rocks, from near the summit, runs southerly to the river, presenting to the west by south a lofty natural barrier, for a mile along the ravine; and where the defence was not perfect, Col. Butler had made it so by ramparts of logs, so that it would require a powerful, as well as bold enemy, to dislodge him. Nothing could have been more perfectly military than the selection of the spot, and the whole preparations of defence. So it was regarded by his soldiers. Mr. John Carey says in respect to the conduct of Col. Butler, in all that affair “ I loved the man-he was an honour to the human species." Such a declaration speaks the merits of Col. Butler in language more impressive than the most laboured eulogium. To take life was not the object, but orders were given for a general discharge all along the line of the defence by platoons, so as to impress Col. Plunket with a proper idea of the strength and spirit of its defenders. No one was hurt, but considerable confusion was seen to prevail in his ranks as Plunket's men recoiled from the formidable breast work. A boat was forthwith dispatched by him, with a number of soldiers, to the opposite shore, it being the intention of the invaders to cross over and enter the settlement by a way apparently less obstructed, for sheriff Cook to serve his civil process. The passage of the boat and crew was watched by both parties with intense anxiety. A few minutes decided its fate. As it approached the shore, Capt. Stewart opened a fire, which wounded one man, and killed a dog that was on board, probably specially aimed at, when instantly pulling their oars with a will, the men gained the suction of the falls, through which they sped among the breakers with the rapid flight of an arrow, fortunately without further injury.

Thus closed the battle for the day. Col. Plunket retired, and encamped on the ground occupied by Col. Butler two nights previously. Early on the ensuing morning the contest was renewed, Col. Plunket returning to the attack, and determining to out-flank the Yankees, while at the same moment he should storm the breastwork. His troops displayed; they approached the line of Yankee defence, covering themselves by trees and loose rocks which lay below, and opened a spirited fire all along the line. While he thus assailed Col. Butler in front, a detatchment of his most determined and alert men was sent up the mountain on the left, by a rapid march, concealed as

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »