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Clinton, the brother of the delegate, was stationed. The im portant part which these brothers were soon to act in the military affairs of that province, and ultimately in its political history, entitles them to a special notice.
They were of the old Clinton stock of England; being descended from General James Clinton, an adherent of royalty in the time of the civil wars, but who passed over to Ireland after the death of Charles I. Their father, Charles Clinton, grandson of the general, emigrated to America in 1729, and settled in Ulster, now Orange County, just above the Highlands of the Hudson. Though not more than fifty miles from the city of New York, it was at that time on the borders of a wilderness, where every house had at times to be a fortress. Charles Clinton, like most men on our savage frontier in those days, was a warrior by necessity, if not by choice. He took an active part in Indian and French wars, commanded a provincial regiment stationed at Fort Herkimer, joined in the expedition under General Bradstreet, when it passed up the valley of the Mohawk, and was present at the capture of Fort Frontenac. His sons, James and George, one twenty, the other seventeen years of age, served in the same campaign, the one as captain, the other as lieutenant; thus taking an early lesson in that school of American soldiers, the French war.
James, whose propensities were always military, continued in the provincial army until the close of that war; and afterward, when settled on an estate in Ulster County, was able and active in organizing its militia. George applied himself to the law, and became successful at the bar in the same county. Their father, having laid aside the sword, occupied for many years, with discernment and integrity, the honorable station of Judge of the Court of Common
Pleas. He died in Ulster County, in 1773, in the eightythird year of his age, "in full view of that revolution in which his sons were to act distinguished parts." With his latest breath he charged them "to stand by the liberties of their country."
They needed no such admonition. From the very first they had been heart and hand in the cause. George had championed it for years in the New York Legislature, signalizing himself by his zeal as one of an intrepid minority in opposing ministerial oppression. He had but recently taken his seat as delegate to the Continental Congress.
James Clinton, appointed colonel on the 30th of June, 1775, had served with his regiment of New York troops under Montgomery at the siege of St. John's and the capture of Montreal, after which he had returned home. He had subsequently been appointed to the command of a regiment in one of the four battalions raised for the defense of New York. We shall soon have occasion to speak further of these patriot brothers.
The prevalence of smallpox had frequently rendered Washington uneasy on Mrs. Washington's account during her visits to the army; he was relieved, therefore, by her submitting to inoculation during their sojourn in Philadelphia, and having a very favorable time.
He was gratified, also, by procuring the appointment of his late secretary, Joseph Reed, to the post of adjutant-general, vacated by the promotion of General Gates, thus placing him once more by his side.
Affairs in Canada-Disaster at the Cedars-Hostile Designs of the Johnsons- A Bloody Summer expected-Forts in the Highlands -Colonel James Clinton in Command-Fortifications at King's Bridge and on Long Island
DISPATCHES from Canada continued to be disastrous. General Arnold, who was in command at Montreal, had established a post on the St. Lawrence, about forty miles above that place, on a point of land called the Cedars; where he had stationed Colonel Bedel with about four hundred men to prevent goods being sent to the enemy in the upper country, and to guard against surprise from them or their Indians.
In the latter part of May, Colonel Bedel received intelligence that a large body of British, Canadians, and Indians, under the command of Captain Forster, were coming down from Oswegatchie to attack him. Leaving Major Butterfield in command of the post, he hastened down to Montreal to obtain re-enforcements. Arnold immediately detached one hundred men, under Major Shelburne, and prepared to follow in person, with a much greater force. In the meantime, the post at the Cedars had been besieged, and Major Butterfield intimidated into a surrender, by a threat from Captain Forster that resistance would provoke a massacre of his whole garrison by the Indians. The re-enforcements under Major Shelburne were assailed within four miles of the Cedars by a large party of savages, and captured, after a sharp skirmish, in which several were killed on both sides.
Arnold received word of these disasters while on the
march. He instantly sent forward some Caughnawaga Indians to overtake the savages and demand a surrender of the prisoners; with a threat that, in case of a refusal, and that any of them were murdered, he would sacrifice every Indian who fell into his hands, and would follow the offenders to their towns, and destroy them by fire and sword. He now embarked four hundred of his men in bateaux, and pushed on with the remainder by land. Arriving at St. Anne's, above the rapids of the St. Lawrence, he discovered several of the enemy's bateaux taking the prisoners off from the island, a league distant. It was a tormenting sight, as it was not in his power to relieve them. His bateaux were a league behind, coming up the rapids very slowly. He sent several expresses to hurry them. It was sunset before they arrived, and he could embark all his people; in the meantime, his Caughnawaga messengers returned with an answer from the savages. They had five hundred prisoners collected together, they said, at Quinze Chiens, where they were posted; should he offer to land and attack them, they would kill every prisoner, and give no quarter to any who should fall into their hands thereafter.
"Words cannot express my feelings," writes Arnold, "at the delivery of this message. Torn by the conflicting passions of revenge and humanity; a sufficient force to take ample revenge, raging for action, urged me on one hand; and humanity for five hundred unhappy wretches, who were on the point of being sacrificed, if our vengeance was not delayed, pleaded equally strong on the other." In this situation, he ordered the boats to row immediately for the island whither he had seen the enemy taking their prisoners. Before he reached it, the savages had conveyed them all away, excepting five, whom he found naked, and almost starved,
and one or two, whom, being unwell, they had butchered. Arnold now pushed for Quinze Chiens, about four miles distant, on the mainland. Here was the whole force of the enemy, civilized and savage, intrenched and fortified.
As Arnold approached, they opened a fire upon his boats, with small arms and two brass six-pounders. He rowed near the land, without returning a shot. By this time it was too dark to distinguish anything on shore, and being unacquainted with the ground, he judged it prudent to return to St. John's.
Here he called a council of war, and it was determined to attack the enemy early in the morning. In the course of the night a flag was sent by Captain Forster, with articles for an exchange of prisoners, which had been entered into by him and Major Shelburne. As the terms were not equal, they were objected to by Arnold, and a day passed before they were adjusted. A cartel was then signed, by which the prisoners, consisting of two majors, nine captains, twenty subalterns, and four hundred and forty-three privates, were to be exchanged for an equal number of British prisoners of the same rank, and were to be sent to the south shore of the St. Lawrence, near Caughnawaga, whence to return to their homes. Nine days were allowed for the delivery of the prisoners, during which time hostilities should be suspended.
Arnold, in a letter to the commissioners of Congress then at Montreal, giving an account of this arrangement, expressed his indignation at the conduct of the king's officers in employing savages to screen their butcheries, and suffering their prisoners to be killed in cold blood. "I intend being with you this evening," added he, "to consult on some effectual measures to take with these savages, and still more