« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
A system had been established by which scouts were sent up the river, to watch the Indian paths, and bring intelligence. Each party of five or seven, was generally absent a week, but their numbers, and the frequeney of their tours of duty were increased as emergencies seemed to require.
Parties of Indians were occasionally heard of at no great distance, but they abstained from violence, except so far as to take off prisoners. Up to this time, they had committed no murder and burnt no dwelling. It is not doubted, that by profound policy, it was their wish the settlement should be lulled into security, that the companies of Durkee and Ransom might not be recalled, but the Valley left exposed, and reserved as a cherished victim for another campaign, when the main body of the Six Nations, now engaged in the northeast, in aid of Burgoyne, should be at liberty to detach a force competent to the certain destruction of the settlement.
An intercommunication it was known, or not doubted, was kept up between the disaffected settlers on the river, from near Tunkhannock to the Wyalusing, with the Indians at Tioga and Newtown, and the British at Niagara. Lieut. Asa Stevens was detached by the Committee of Inspection, with nine men, who returned bringing in five suspected persons, as prisoners. Lieut. John Jenkins having, , as the commander of a scouting party, extended his march as far up as Wyalusing, (near the centre of Westmoreland,) was taken prisoner by a band of Indians and Tories. Three men were taken with him, a Mr. Yorke, Lemuel Fitch, and an old man, named Fitzgerald. The Indians and their allies, placed Fitzgerald on a flax-brake, and told him he must renounce his rebel principles, and declare for the King, or die. “Well," said the stouthearted, old fellow, “I am old and have little time to live, anyhow; and I had rather die now a friend to my country, than live ever so long and die a tory!” They had magnanimity enough to let him go; but took the other three to Canada.
As Lieut. Jenkins was, himself, an active officer, and the son of one of the most distinguished men in Wyoming, the father having several times been chosen member of Assembly, a proposal was made and accepted, to exchange him for an Indian chief, then a prisoner in Albany. Under an Indian escort he was sent to that city, and when they arrived, it was found the chief had recently died of the small-pox. The rage of the young Indians, who had escorted him, could scarcely be restrained. They would have tomahawked Lieut. Jenkins on the spot, had they not been forcibly prevented. They
demanded that he should return with them. To have done so, would have been exposing him to certain death, probably lingering torture. But he was released, and instantly repaired to his post of duty. These were the first prisoners taken from Wyoming.
On an important occasion, a scouting party of thirty men under the command of Capt. Asaph Whittlesy, ventured up as far as Standing Stone, within twenty-five miles of the north line of Westmoreland. The Rev. Benjamin Bidlack, then a young man of twenty, who was out on this expedition, gives this picture of Wyoming, at that time. The young and active men were employed upon scouting parties, to guard the inhabitants from being surprised. Some portion of the militia was constantly on duty. It was necessary, as the able bodied men were away with the army, and the country so exposed. But the old men formed themselves into companies, and performed duty in the forts. Those companies of ancient men were called Reformados. Capt. Wm. H. Smith, (who acted also as physician and surgeon,) commanded one in Wilkesbarre, of which Elisha Blackman was lieutenant. The father of Mr. Bidlack commanded another in Plymouth.
In the mean time, Ransom and Durkee were stationed near the lines, between the two armies, in New Jersey; Washington, by his brilliant achievements at Trenton and Princeton, having wrested the western portion of that State from the hands of the enemy. They were termed “the two Independent Companies of Westmoreland," and kept from being incorporated with any corps or regiment, the intention being, it is not doubted, to order without unnecessary delay, their return to the duty for which they had been enlisted.
After joining the army, the first time they were under fire, was on the 20th of January, 1777, at the affair, or battle, at Millstone, one of the most gallant and successful actions, considering the numbers engaged, that was fought during the war.
“ When Gen. Washington's army was hutted near Morristown," says Rogers, “and laboring under that fatal malady, the small-pox, a line of posts was formed along the Millstone river, in the direction of Princeton. One of these, established at Somerset Court House, was occupied by Gen. Dickinson, with a few hundred men," (consisting of Durkee and Ransom's Independent Companies, from Wyoming, mustering about one hundred and sixty, and three hundred militia.) Not very distant, and on the opposite bank of the stream, stood a mill, in which a considerable quantity of flour had been collected for the use of our troops. At this time, Lord Corn
wallis lay at Brunswick, and having received information of this depot, immediately (lespatched a large foraging party, amounting to about four hundred men, and upwards of forty wagons, drawn by imported horses, of the English draft-breed, for the purpose of taking possession of it. The British troops arrived at the mill early in the morning, and having loaded the wagons with flour, were about to march on their return, when Gen. Dickinson, with an inferior force, which he led through the river, middle deep, attacked them with so much spirit and effect that they fled, abandoning the whole of their plunder."
The Mill Stone victory was, to their latest day, a darling theme with the old soldiers. By the unanimous declaration of those engaged, the attack was impetuous and well sustained. An order to charge was responded to with enthusiasm. Nor did the British yield the ground without a manly, though ineffectual resistance, The enemy retired in confusion, leaving to the victors a handsome booty, consisting of forty-seven wagons, and more than an hundred horses. Each man shared several dollars of prize money, and Capt. Ransom sent one of the wagons to his farm, at Wyoming, as a trophy. Nor was the victory achieved without loss. Several were killed, and a greater number wounded. Among the former, Porter, a gallant young fellow, the pride of Ransom's company, was cut down by a cannon ball.
His Excellency, Gen. Washington, in a letter to the President of Congress, dated Morristown, January 22d, 1777, gives this account of the occurrence.
My last to you was on the 20th instant. Since that, I have the pleasure to inform you that Gen. Dickinson, with about four hundred militia, has defeated a foraging party of the enemy, of an equal number, and has taken forty wagons, and upwards of an hundred horses, most of them of the English draft-breed, and a number of sheep and cattle which they had collected. The enemy retreated with so much precipitation, that Gen. Dickinson had only an oppor. tunity of making nine prisoners. They were observed to carry off a great many dead and wounded in light wagons. This action happened near Somerset Court House, on Millstone river. Gen. Dickinson's behaviour reflects the highest honour on him; for though his troops were all raw, he led them through the river middle deep, and gave the enemy so severe a charge, that although supported by three field pieces, they gave way, and left their convoy."
Gen. Lincoln's letter and Col. Butler's reply, will show the position of the companies, in May.
“ BOUND BROOK, May 27th, 1777. Sir,—It is His Excellency, General Washington's orders, that you march immediately with the three detachments from Connecticut regiments, and the two companies of Wyoming men, to Chatham, there to take Gen. Stephens' orders, if there—if not, you will send to Head Quarters for directions.
“ I am your humble servant,
“ B. LINCOLN.”
“CHATHAM, May 29th, 1777. “ Pursuant to orders received from your Excellency, by the hand of Major-General Lincoln, I have marched with the detachments from the Connecticut regiment, and a few of the Westmoreland Independent companies, and expect more of them will join me this day, and am now encamped upon the heights between Chatham and Springfield. I find Gen. Stephens has gone from this place, and no orders can be obtained from him, as I expected. My Quarter-Master waits on your Excellency, by my directions, to know your Excellency's pleasure concerning my detachment.
Many soldiers in the Independent Companies have received no clothes since they entered the service, and are almost naked. Many of their arms are useless, and some of them lost. They are also destitute of tents, and every kind of camp equipage. I hope your
Excellency will give special directions how they are to be supplied with those articles. I am, with the greatest esteem,
“ Your Excellency's most obedient “ His Excellency
“Humble servant, “ GEN. WASIJINGTON.
“ Z. BUTLER." The companies were at Bound brook, at Brandywine, at Germantown, and at Mud Fort. At that terrible bombardment, Lieut. Spalding commanded a detachment of Ransom's company. Almost every shot from the British tore through the fort, and the men fell on every side. A soldier of Spalding's threw himself flat on the ground. “ No body" he said “can stand this !" “Get up, my good fellow," said Spalding, coolly, “ I should hate to have to run you throughyou can stand it, if I can;" and the man returned cheerfully to his duty. Constant Matthewson, who was with Spalding, a brave man and excellent soldier, a fine intelligent fellow, was blown to pieces by a cannon ball. Sickness carried off several. The two brothers,
Sawyers, died of camp distemper. Porter was killed-Spencer and Gaylord died; and three or four were reported as discharged or missing. The company of Ransom, in October, 1777, mustered still sixty-two.
The wealth and revenue of this infant colony, presents an interest. ing topic of inquiry. Before us is a warrant to Mr. John Dorrance, to collect the State tax for 1778; but as it is based on the assessment of 1777, this seems to be a fitting place to introduce it to the reader's notice.