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DIFFICULTIES OF BURGOYNE-PLANS AN EXPEDITION TO BENNINGTON-ST. LEGER BEFORE FORT STANWIX-GENERAL HERKIMER AT ORISKANY-HIGH WORDS WITH HIS OFFICERS-A DOGGED MARCH-AN AMBUSCADE-BATTLE OF ORISKANY-JOHNSON'S GREENS-DEATH OF HERKIMER-SPIRITED

OF COLONEL WILLETT-SIR JOHN JOHNSON DRIVEN TO THE RIVER-FLIGHT OF THE INDIANS-SACKING OF SIR JOHN'S CAMP-COLONEL GANSEVOORT MAINTAINS HIS POST-COLONEL WILLETT SENT IN QUEST OF AID—ARRIVES

AT SCHUYLER'S CAMP.

SORTIE

NEW difficulties beset Burgoyne at Fort Edward. The horses which had been contracted for in Canada, for draft, burthen and saddle, arrived slowly and scantily; having to come a long distance through the wilderness. Artillery and munitions, too, of all kinds, had to be brought from Ticonderoga by the way of Lake George. These, with a vast number of boats for freight, or to form bridges, it was necessary to transport over the carry. ing places between the lakes; and by land from Fort George to Fort Edward. Unfortunately, the army had not the requisite supply of horses and oxen. So far from being able to bring forward provisions for a march, it was with difficulty enough could be furnished to feed the army from day to day.

While thus situated, Burgoyne received intelligence that the part of his army which he had detached from Canada under

1777.]

Colonel St. Leger, to proceed by Lake Ontario and Oswego and make a diversion on the Mohawk, had penetrated to that river, and were actually investing Fort Stanwix, the stronghold of that part of the country.

EXPEDITION TO BENNINGTON.

149

To carry out the original plan of his campaign, it now be hooved him to make a rapid move down the Hudson, so as to be at hand to co-operate with St. Leger on his approach to Albany. But how was he to do this, deficient as he was in horses and vehicles for transportation? In this dilemma Colonel (late major) Skene, the royalist of Skenesborough, to whom, from his knowledge of all this region, he had of late resorted for counsel, informed him that at Bennington, about twenty-four miles east of the Hudson, the Americans had a great depot of horses, carriages, and supplies of all kind, intended for their Northern army. This place, he added, might easily be surprised, being guarded by only a small militia force.

An expedition was immediately set on foot; not only to surprise this place, but to scour the country from Rockingham to Otter Creek,; go down the Connecticut as far as Brattleborough, and return by the great road to Albany, there to meet Burgoyne They were to make prisoners of all officers, civil and military, whom they might mect, acting under Congress; to tax the towns. where they halted with every thing they stood in need of, and bring off all horses fit for the dragoons, or for battalion service, with as many saddles and bridles as could be found.

They were every where to give out that this was the vanguard of the British army, which would soon follow on its way to Boston, and would be joined by the army from Rhode Island. Before relating the events of this expedition, we will turn to notice those of the detachment under St. Leger, with which it

was intended to co-operate, and which was investing Fort

Schuyler.

This fort, built in 1756, on the site of an old French fortifica tion, and formerly called Fort Stanwix, from a British general of that name, was situated on the right bank of the Mohawk River, at the head of its navigation, and commanding the carrying-place between it and Wood Creek, whence the boats passed to the Oneida Lake, the Oswego River, and Lake Ontario. It was thus a key to the intercourse between Upper Canada and the valley of the Mohawk. The fort was square, with four bastions, and was originally a place of strength; having bomb-proof magazines, a deep moat and drawbridge, a sally port, and covered way. In the long interval of peace subsequent to the French war, it had fallen to decay. Recently it had been repaired by order of General Schuyler, and had received his name. It was garrisoned by seven hundred and fifty Continental troops from New York and Massachusetts, and was under the command of Colonel Gansevoort of the New York line, a stout-hearted officer of Dutch descent, who had served under General Montgomery in Canada.

It was a motley force which appeared before it; British, Hessian, Royalist, Canadian and Indian, about seventeen hundred in all. Among them were St. Leger's rangers and Sir Johr Johnson's royalist corps, called his greens. Many of the latter had followed Sir John into Canada from the valley of the Mohawk, and were now returned to bring the horrors of war among their former neighbors. The Indians, their worthy allies, were led by the famous Brant.

On the 3d of August, St. Leger sent in a flag with a summons to surrender; accompanied by a proclamation in style and spirit similar to that recently issued by Burgoyne, and intended

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1777.]

THE FORT BESIEGED.

151

to operate on the garrison. Both his summons and his proclamation were disregarded. He now set his troops to work to fortify his camp and clear obstructions from Wood Creek and the roads, for the transportation of artillery and provisions, and sent out scouting parties of Indians in all directions, to cut off all communication of the garrison with the surrounding country. A few shells were thrown into the fort. The chief annoyance of the garrison was from the Indians firing with their rifles from behind trees on those busied in repairing the parapets. At night they seemed completely to surround the fort, filling the woods with their yells and howlings.

On the 6th of August, three men made their way into the fort through a swamp, which the enemy had deemed impassable. They brought the cheering intelligence that General Herkimer, the veteran commander of the militia of Tryon County, was at Oriskany, about eight miles distant, with upwards of eight hun- . dred men. The people of that country were many of them of German origin; some of them Germans by birth. Herkimer was among the former; a large and powerful man, about sixtyfive years of age. He requested Colonel Gansevoort, through his two messengers, to fire three signal-guns on receiving word of his vicinage; upon hearing which, he would endeavor to force his way to the fort, depending upon the co-operation of the garrison.

The messengers had been despatched by Herkimer on the evening of the 5th, and he had calculated that they would reach the fort at a very early hour in the morning. Through some delay, they did not reach it until between ten and eleven o'clock. Gansevoort instantly complied with the message. Three signalguns were fired, and Colonel Willett, of the New York Continentals, with two hundred and fifty men and an iron three-pounder

was detached to make a diversion, by attacking that part of the enemy's camp occupied by Johnson and his royalists.

The delay of the messengers in the night, however, disconcerted the plan of Herkimer. He marshalled his troops by daybreak and waited for the signal-guns. Hour after hour elapsed, but no gun was heard. His officers became impatient of delay, and urged an immediate march. Herkimer represented that they were too weak to force their way to the fort without reinforcements, or without being sure of co-operation from the garrison, and was still for awaiting the preconcerted signals. High words ensued between him and two of his officers. He had a brother and other relatives among the enemy, and hence there were some doubts of his fidelity; though they subsequently proved to be unmerited. Colonels Cox and Paris were particularly urgent for an advance, and suspicious of the motives for holding back. Paris was a prominent man in Tryon County, and member of the committee of safety, and in compliance with the wishes of that committee, accompanied Herkimer as his volunteer aide. Losing his temper in the dispute, he accused the latter of being either a tory or a coward. "No," replied the brave old man, "I feel toward you all as a father, and will not lead you into a scrape from which I cannot extricate you." His discretion, however, was overpowered by repeated taunts, and he at length, about nine o'clock, gave the word to march; intimating, however, that those who were the most eager to advance, would be the first to run away.

There was ill

The march was rather dogged and irregular. humor between the general and his officers. Colonels Paris and Cox advised him to throw out a reconnoitring party in the ad vance, but he disregarded their advice, and perhaps in very op

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