Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

adroitly took out the purse, when he gave up the coveted garment to the spoiler.

So gross and widely circulated have been the errors, in respect to this capitulation, that it is time the truth of history should be vindicated. Gordon, Ramsey, Marshall and Botta, adopting the Poughkeepsie account, have all stated, that on Col. Denison asking what terms would be granted to him, was answered “the hatchet ;” and that thereupon surrendering, fire was set to the fort, and the prisoners, men, women and children, pitched in on the burning pile, and given up to the flames. The facts, carefully collected by the labour of years, and now faithfully recorded, are sufficiently painful. “Give the devil bis due,” is an adage, just, as it is old. In another page, this matter being regarded as important, is set forth more at large. For the present it may be stated, that while in every other particular the terms were violated, no life was taken at Forty Fort, except that of Serjeant Boyd.

Col. Butler finding his commands disregarded, and his authority set at nought, by his own bands of enraged and licentious savages, flushed with victory and drunk with blood; apprehensive too, it is believed, of his own life being taken, if he attempted to enforce obedience, mustered all his force, whom discipline could control, and on Wednesday, the 8th, withdrew from the plains. He did not even indulge himself with a visit to Wilkesbarre, or the lower part of the Valley.*

Mr. Finch, a prisoner liberated by the articles of capitulation, visiting the field with the writer in 1838, stated that Col. Butler received a letter from a messenger on the 5th or 6th, that be immediately assembled round him his officers and the Indian chiefs, and read it to them. That he addressed the latter very earnestly in their own tongue, and was understood, among other things, to enjoin it on them, not to kill women and children. That when he ceased to speak, they raised a great shout, and he ordered preparations to be made for a retreat. It was supposed the letter hastened his march. Such a letter may have been received, or it might have been a scheme devised to hasten the departure of the Indians.

Col. Butler did not lack sense. All that duty, more than honour required, had been done. He must have been insensible to interest, as well as character, to countenance further atrocities. The Valley was in his absolute power. Had he meant to plunder and destroy the whole, certainly he would not have entered into written articles, voluntarily stipulating the reverse. Mr. Finch also states, that the knot by which Col. Butler's handkerchief was tied, was shot through, so that it fell.

An anecdote, too good to be lost, may as well be told here. Mr. Finch, and the writer, waited on Mrs. Jenkins, then more than eighty years of age, who lived near the field. She instantly recognized him, although it was near half a century since they had met. She, it will be recollected was a prisoner, having been taken on the 21. “O yes, Finch," said the old lady with much archness and humour, in answer to his inquiry, “to be sure I remember you. An old squaw took you, and brought you in—she found you in the bushes—and as she drove

His retirement indeed, bore the marks of accelerated retreat. Fear of an attack from any probable force that could be brought to assail him, can hardly be imagined, and the anxiety to leave the ground can only be accounted for on the supposition that he was sickened by the tortures already committed, dreaded the further cruelties of the Indians, and desired by his absence, to escape the responsibility of their future conduct.

As we now part with this bold partisan leader forever, a page cannot be ill devoted in this history, which shall present a just sketch of his character. He was descended, we have great confidence in expressing the belief, from some of the younger branches of the family of the Duke of Ormond, whose name was Butler. Our own opinion is, that the two Colonel Butlers were from the same original stock, and perhaps three generations back, their fathers hailed at least as near as cousins. Col. John Butler was a fat man, below the middle stature, yet active; through the rough visage of the warrior, showing a rather agreeable, than forbidding aspect. Care sat on his brow. Speaking quickly, he repeated his words when excited. Decision, firmness and courage, were undoubted characteristics of the man. So detested is his name, associated with the atrocities perpetrated at Wyoming, that even now, it is not without some fear of offence, we draw of him, what we believe to be, a just outline. An old agricultural work says :-“ In the town of Kilkenny, Ireland, and near the river side, stands on an eminence, a fine gothic building belonging to the Butler family, which was erected in the reign of Queen Anne, by the famous Duke of Ormond." Sir Walter Scott, in his Legend of Montrose, makes Dalgetty say: “I e'en gave up my commission, and took service with Wallenstein in Walter Butler's Irish Regiment. Col. John Butler, had a son Walter, who fell on the Mohawk. The ancestor of Col. Butler, as we have elsewhere hinted, probably came over as Indian agent, (in Queen Anne's reign, when Ormond was in great power,) with the delegation of Kings from the Five Nations, on their return.

It is certain Col. Butler could have commanded much more severe conditions. The settlement was wholly at his mercy. No one can deny but the capitulation, on its face, was, under the circumstances, in a high degree honourable, and favourable to Col. Denison. Col.

you along, patted you on the back, saying, my son, my son!" Though certainly no reflection on his courage or manhood, he did not relish the story half so much as the bystanders, especially as he had previously been playing the hero in his account of the battle. He very soon took leave of the Valley.

Franklin confirms the statement of Mrs. Myers, that Butler exerted himself to restrain the savages, seemed deeply hurt when he was unable to do so, and at once offered, if a list could be furnished of property lost, to make it good. Finally he withdrew his own men, proper, taking, so far as we learn, no plunder. His fault appears to us to have been in his position_his crime, in accepting command, lending his name, and associating with those blood-thirsty and unprincipled savages who were placed under his orders. Their stains, neither time nor charity can remove. But does it not attach with tenfold deeper crimson to the Government under whose administration such inhuman agents were directed to be employed? We have some reason to believe that many years after the war, the Government of Great Britain having withheld from Butler some token of honour, or expected emolument, otherwise his due, on account of his alleged treachery and cruelty, he sent a confidential agent to Wyoming to obtain certificates of the true state of the facts; in which he succeeded. That he was regarded as respectable, independent of his commission as a British officer, is shown from the fact, that the American commissioners appointed to treat with the Six Nations, under Washington's administration, in 1795,) accepted an invitation from Col. Butler, crossed the line, and dined with him.*

With Butler, a large portion of the Indians withdrew, and their march presented a picture at once melancholy and ludicrous. Squaws to a considerable number, brought up the rear, a belt of scalps stretched on small hoops, around the waist for a girdle, having on, some four, some six, and even more, dresses of chintz or silk, one over the other; being mounted astride on horses, of course all stolen, and on their heads three, four, or five bonnets, one within another, worn wrong side before.

One prisoner taken at Exeter the 1st of July, when the Hardings and Hadsels were massacred, as we leave the battle ground, de

* The deepest stain on the character of Butler, next to his taking the command of such a horde of merciless and ungovernable wretches, arises out of the fact that but two prisoners were taken, and saved at the time of the battle. With his own regiment of Rangers, and the detachment of Sir John Johnson's Greens, not including the tories who joined his army, he must have had several hundred while men under his command, no inconsiderable number disciplined soldiers. These, beyond all doubt, were the iminediate servants of his will. That they took no part in the pursuit of the fugitives, is not for a moment to be imagined. It would seem, of course, that they must have participated in the cruelties which followed the flight; the refusal to give quarter to a yielding foe, or the subsequent murder of prisoners who had surrendered! Whatever may be said of the ungovernable character of the Indians, for the conduct of his own regularly enlisted and disciplined soldiers, he was unquestionably responsible.

mands our special notice. Mr. John Gardiner was a husband and father, a highly respectable man, against whom, some unappeasable spirit of enmity is supposed to have existed. On the morning of the 4th his wife and children were permitted to see, and take leave of him. Elisha Harding, Esq., then a boy, was present, and represents the scene as extremely affecting. When the last adieu was exchanged, an Indian placed a grievous load on his shoulders, which he could scarcely raise, then put a halter round his neck, and led him off as he would a beast. The farewell expressed the sentiment; “I go to return no more." Exhausted with fatigue before he arrived at his captor's home, he fell, crushed by the weight of his load, when he was handed over to the squaws, who tortured him to death by fire. Daniel Carr, a fellow prisoner, saw the remains the following day, and represented it as a sight to awaken the deepest pity.

The savages remaining, now freed from the slight restraint the presence of their white allies imposed, gave themselves to the wildest disorder. Separating in parties of from five to ten, they scattered through the Valley, marking their course as if in sheer wantonness, with fire. After stripping a house of every thing fancied, they would either leave, or set fire to it, as whim or caprice seemed to dictate. Such was their joyous exultation, they hardly knew how to give it expression. Constant Searle, Esq., the most aged man who went to the field, had fallen among the rest. An Indian was seen on horseback, wearing his wig hind side before, while his companions would frighten the animal, or prick him with a spear, laughing to see him fall.

From the farm of an aged man by the name of Weeks, in Wilkesbarre, originally from Fairfield county, seven persons had gone out to battle, (so imperious, so irresistible were demands for men, even to make up the three hundred.) Philip, Jonathan, and Bartholomew Weeks, his sons—Silas Benedict, who married a grand-daughter, Jabez Beers, and Josiah Carman, relatives, and Robert Bates, a boarder. Horrible slaughter! The whole seven lay dead on the field at night! A band of Indians came to the house of Mr. Wecks, and bade him remove. “How can I," said he, “my whole family you have slain.” Getting provisions, they feasted heartily, when one of them wheeled a large rocking chair into the road, took the hat from the old gentleman, and putting it on his own head, sat down, and rocked himself. Allowing him to take a pair of oxen, they gave Mr. Weeks three days to prepare for his departure, when they set fire to the buildings, and destroyed all that was left.

The terms of capitulation being known, and regarded as favorable, the lives of the garrison having been spared, and the Savages thus far seeming satisfied with plunder and burning, hope of life dawned, for a moment, upon those that remained; but almost immediately the cheering ray was extinguished in blood.

News came down from the Lackawanna, that Mr. Hickman, bis wife and child, were murdered at Capouse. The very next day two men, by the name of Leach and St. John, who were removing with their families, were shot six miles up the Lackawanna. One of them had a child in his arms, which, with strange inconsistency, the Indian took up, and handed to the mother, all covered with the father's blood. Leaving the women in the wagon unhurt, they took the scalps of their husbands, and departed. Again, alarm arose to phrenzy. Col. Denison, with all who had remained at Forty Fort, fled; some down the river and some through the swamp.*

Except a few who gathered about the fort at Wilkesbarre, the whole people abandoned the settlement. Every house and barn, not spared by caprice, was burnt. The Valley presented one wide scene of conflagration and ruin.

Col. Z. Butler, as soon as possible, wrote a hasty letter to General Washington, stating briefly the fate of the day, and soliciting succour, that if possible, a portion of the harvest might be preserved.

Joining Capt. Spalding, early in August, he returned to Wyoming. A new stockade was erected in Wilkesbarre, and put in the best posture of defence. So sustained, a number of persons, whose families had fled, returned in the hope to save a portion of the wasting harvest, which had escaped destruction. John Abbott, who had been in the battle, and Isaac Williams, a young man, in attempting

Through malice or misapprehension, blame was attempted to be cast on Col. Denison and the people, for taking up arıns again. Surely they were released from every ol·ligation of peace or neutrality, by the flagrant and wanton violation of all the provisions of the capitulation.

† Capt. Spalding was at Shupes', half way between the Pocono and Blue mountains, near fifty miles from Wyoming, on the day of the battle. Marching early on the 4th, he advanced thirteen miles to where the gate is now kept. Here he met Mr. Hollenback and Mr. Hageman, the first fugitives, and learned the fate of the day. Pushing forward, he came to the Bear Swamp, within twelve miles of Wilkesbarre, which he was anxious to reach. Resting his company, who had marehed thirty miles through intolerable roads, he sent two men for ward to reconnoiter. From the mountain, they saw the flaines rising in all directions, confirming the slatements of the retreating inbabitants, that the Valley was entirely in possession of the enemy. Victory, with a single company, being hopeless, Capt. Spalding returnej, rendering all the aid in his power, to the distressed. Taking up a position at Stroudsburg, he waited the orders of Col. Butler.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »