|THE BLOODIED MOHAWK|
CAPTAIN WALTER BUTLER
Of the Battle of Johnstown, fought on October 25, Lieutenant Colonel Willett recorded: (1)
Fort Rensselaer 2d Novr 81
My Lord, I embrace
Having returned from pursuing the enemy, My first business shall be to acquaint your Lordship of with the several transactions, that have taken place in this Quarter from the time of the enemies first making their appearance --
At 8 oClock P. M. of the 24th ultimo I received advice that a Considerable body of the enemy were disscovered in the upper part of the Mohawk destrict Just at Dark -- every means was instantly taken to Collect the forces of the County in order to oppose them without loss of time and by one oClock the following day I was within two miles of Fort Hunter with about two between 4 and [ ]00 Levies and Militia were I learnt that the enemy having Burnt several houses & barns at Warrensbush had Crossed at a ford below Fort Hunter and were Marching towards Johnstown [ ]is obliged me [ ] to Cross the river as fast as possible and march by the shortest rout to place were the were directing their Course [ ] my advancing within two miles of Johns town, I was informed the enemy were already at that place and were kiling the People and that they had Halted in the field Back of Johnsons Hall and were busy [ ] in killing the Cattle Inhabitants Cattle. Then [--] I was Joined [excepting] a small proportion of the Militia and was in [--] of having advanced with by now Thus situated I determined to attack them as quick as possible and orderd the left wing of the [--] few troops I had to perform a Circuitous march in & through a wood in order to fall upon the enemies right flank whilst the right wing which was composed all together of the Militia the State of Massachusetts Advanced in front a few minnets brought us in view of the enemy and the troops of this wing were pushed on to a field adjoining the one passed by the enemy were they [--] displayed to the right and Advanced in a line towards the enemy who retired presepatly to a neighbouring wood Closely pressed by the Advance of our right wing who [then] a began to skirmage with them whilst the remainder of this wing was Advancing briskly in two Collums -- In this pleasing situation without any apparent Cause the whole of this wing turned about and fled [ in the most shame ] Nor was it possible to Rally them a field piece which was left upon a hight at a small distance from the wood to cover secure a retreat was abandoned by the officers and fell into hands of the enemy at this critical period our left Wing of this County Except about sixty 60 Levies from commanded by Major Rowley of the [ ] made their appearance in the enemies rear of the above state, made their appearance in the enemies rear. These soon regained every thing that the right wing had lost and Considerable more Night came on and the enemy retired into the wood [ ] leaving a large number of their packs behind them and Marched that Night Six miles, they encamped upon the top of a Mountain. By Information from prisoners who made their escape from them in the night it appeared to be their intention to strike at the frontiers of Stony Arabia -- to try to furnish themselves with Provisions. This induced me to march to that place the the next Morning [--][--] [--] till Continued at were we remained all that Day & Night without hearing any thing further from the enemy then that they were pointing their rout further into the Wilderness. As they were gone so far as to make it clear they could not make a Sudden Stroke at the frontiers below the little falls On the morning of the 27 I marched up to the German flatts in order to be between the enemy and their boats which were left at Oneida Creek On my way to that place I learnt that a party which had been detached to destroy the enemies boats had returned without doing their duty. The 28th was passed in furnishing the Choicest of the troops & Sixty Oneida Indians who this day Joined me with five days provisions in Order to pursue the enemy in the Wilderness, And it appearing clearly that the enemy having given up the hope of arriving at their Boats were directing their march to Buch Island, or Oswaugashee. The troops Intended to pursue them to the number [--] 400 besides Indians Crossed the Mohawk from Fort Herkemer, and Encamed in the woods. The Day following we marched upwards of twenty Miles north into the Wilderness through a Snow Storm and about 8 oClock A M in the Morning of the thirtieth we fell in with our the enemy between their rear Guard and a detachment of upwards of 40 men who were left some small distance in with some Indians Intended to endeavour to procure some kind of Supply of provision and follow after the troops who were to keep in continue their rout some of this party were taken some killed the rest disspersed the main Body of the enemy Set out upon a trot in Indian file and we pursued them as Closely and warmly as possible untill ne quite Night they never made but one attempt to resist our pursuit and that was at a very bad ford on Canada Creek where they lost Major Walter Butler and several more / This Butler is the person who Commanded at the Massacre at Cherry Valley in Novbr 8 / During our pursuit some were taken and a number of the enemy killed we had lost one man during the course of the day -- Our Indians were very usefull they pursued them with their Common alertness upon such occations. Your Lordship knows they are the best Calvary for service of the the Wilderness
Strange as it may appear Yet it is true that Not withstanding the Enemy had been 4 days in the Wilderness with only half pound of horse flesh for each man per day In this famished Situation Major Ross with such of his men as could keep way with them troted more then thirty miles before he Stoped -- Many to his sins fell Sacrifice to such treatment Their Packs and Blankets were Strewed about the woods and all their horses except five which had been sent a considerable disstance in front ahead with some of their Wounded and a few prisoners fell into our hands In this Condition I left the Unfortunate Major I call him Unfortunate for he was surly unfortunate in having charge of so fine a detachment of troops to execute such a Dirty trifling piece of business as he was sent upon at such Immense hasard and exquisite toil -- To fatigue the brave troops who were with me any ferther appeared unnecessery. The enemy who continued their flight great part of the Night had got Considerably before us And almost certain destruction appeared to be in their front before them. They were at least Seven days March through a Berren Wilderness In an Inclement season of the year and rivers not to be passed without Boats or Rafts in their way before they could [-- --] be furnished with provisions
This being their Situation It was [--] thought Impossible to pursue besides our situation had we followed them a day or two longer would have been little better then their's for Our Indians as well as many of the troops In order to pursue them with greater vim had Laid aside their Blankets and provisions, which were now [ ] more than twenty miles in our rear --
This being their Situation it was thought Improper to pursue any longer further to a punishment perhaps more more equate to their demerit then a musquet Ball a tomahawk or captivity. We left them --
I shall not attempt to give your Lordship an account of the enemies loss through the whole of this affair Lik [--] But shall leave it to the fields of Johns town The Hills the Mountains the Deep and Gloomy Marshes the Rivers and the Brooks in that Desolate region for more than twenty miles in length thirty miles in width of North of Fort Schuyler thro which they have & thro which they are to pass the rest through snow And the Officers who was he is that detached them upon this paltry expedition --
It would be Wrong for me to close this letter without assuring your Lordship that the troops in General who upon this Service Supported the great fatigues they had to encounter with a Soldierly fortitude, To Andrew Frink Esquire formerly a Captain in Coll Van Scacks regt But at present a Magistrate in this County who performed the service of ma Brigade Major I am under great obligation for his particular Attention great diligence and Manly deportment through the whole of this affair --
I shall Collect all the returns proper to transmit to your Lordship and forward them as soon they are collected
Magr Genll am &c
Lord Sterling M Willett
Regt 8 25
Sir John Johnson's Rgt 120
Butler's Corps 150
The day following the Battle of Johnstown, Lieutenant Colonel Willett arrived at Fort Plank in pursuit of Major Ross and Captain Butler. A young militiaman [Jacob Tanner], stated: (2)
. . . he was at fort Plank and the next morning after said battle. Col. Willett selected out forty white men of which this deponent was one besides several Indians to pursue the Indians and tories under Walter Butler That on the second night the Oneida Indians discovered the trail of butler's Band, and in the morning they Struck on in pursuit They came up with them Killed Some and took some prisoners That Butler swam waded his horse across across the West Canada Creek and immediately dismounted and attempted to Skulk off through the trees. That he cried out to his pursuers to "Shoot and be damned" which he had no sooner done than he was struck by a Ball from one Louis An Oneida The Indian and tomahawked and scalped him . . .
Thomas Folger, a private in Captain Thomas Wasson's Company of Colonel Abraham Wemple's Regiment, who was also present at the killing of Walter Butler, states: (3)
. . . He was with the troops that pursued Major Ross in his retreat on this occasion, and in Company with the party of Oneida Indians who followed Sir Walter Butler -- saw said Walter at West Canada Creek shot at by an Oneida Indian, who then swam across said creek, (said Walter being on the opposite side) & tomahawked & scalped his fallen foe. . . .
Another interesting anecdote of the events occurring during the pursuit of Ross' men, is that of Richard Casler: (4)
. . . When Willett's men came upon the enemy they were drying their cloaths by fires & were surprised at that place Walter Butler was killed by an indian (he believes) an Oneida indian. He (Casler) was there & saw the indian who killed Butler & who had Butlers Coat and scalp The indian shot Butler from across the Creek Butlers Sergeant was also killed at this place He saw Butler stripped naked and lying on his back on the ground From this place, which was named Butler's Ford, Col. Willet followed the enemy for a considerable distance . . .
The identity of the person responsible for the demise of Captain Butler is universally given as Louey Nic: (5) or as . . . an Indian by the name of Lewey who had the command of the American Indians . . ., (6) with the exception of one pensioner who identifies Butler's slayer as Harmanus a Schoharie Indian. (7) The accounts seem consistent in that Butler was initially shot while standing on the far side of the creek and then tomahawked and scalped by the Indian who had waded across.
From the skirmish at West Canada Creek, Lieutenant Colonel Willett continued his relentless pursuit of the enemy, chasing them as far as Mayfield. While at Mayfield, the dark side of Mr. Willett seems to have presented itself: (8)
He assisted in taking a British soldier prisoner, who was by order of Colonel Willett given up to the Oneidas, who tomahawked him in revenge for the loss of one of their number, that had been stabbed by some one of the enemy, and as this prisoner was found with a bloody knife in his hand, he was suspected to have been the murderer.
John Monk, who was among those engaged in the pursuit of Major Ross and Captain Butler, states that after their victories at Johnstown and West Canada Creek, the militiamen of his unit returned to Fort Plank, from which they were discharged. (9)
On November 3, 1781 Mr. Willett filed his report with Governor Clinton's Office: (10)
Fort Rensselaer, 2nd, November 1781.
Dear Sir, I am just returned from a most fatiguing pursuit of the Enemy, and tho it has not been in my power to take or kill the whole of the Detachment that lately made their Appearance in this Quarter, yet I flatter myself they are very little better off As those that are not among the killed and taken, are in a famishing situation scattered throughout the Wilderness on the rout to Buck Island where any of them that may arrive will have tales of Horror only to Relate. After the Affair at Johnstown, which happened on the 25th ultimo, and which would at once have proved fatal to them had the Right Wing of the small number of Troops I had engaged, behaved half as well as the left, the enemy took to the wilderness and finding it out of their Power to pass us so as to get to the Oneida creek where they had left their Boats, they Directed their Rout towards Buck Island keeping far back in the Wilderness; This Determined me to cut across from the German Flatts in order to Intercept them on that Rout. Accordingly on the evening of the 28th, having furnished near 400 men and sixty Indians who had just joined me with four days and a half Provisions, which was all I could procure, I Crossed the Mohawk from Fort Herkimer and Incamped in the Woods.
The 29th we marched North upwards of Twenty miles in a snow storm, and at Eight oclock A.M. of the 30th we fell in with the enemy, who without any Resistance worth mentioning fled from that time, untill night; we pursued them as Closely and warmly as Possible. Nor did they ever attempt to Check us in our Advance Except at one Difficult ford in Canada Creek, where they lost several of their men. Amongst those killed at that Place was Walter Butler, the Person who commanded the Massacre at Cherry Valley in November 1778. He was called Major, but by the commission found in his Pocket appears to be no more than a Captain.
A Number of Prisoners have been taken and many were killed in our Intercourse with those Gentry.
To Pursue them any farther was thought Improper; many of the Troops as Well as the Indians had laid aside their Blankets and Provisions in order to pursue with Greater ease. And in the evening we found ourselves at least Twenty miles from those packs. The woods was strewed with the packs of the Enemy; Provision they had none. The few horses they had amongst them when first we fell in with them, they were obliged to leave; except five, which were sent a Considerable way in front, with some of their Wounded and a few Prisoners. Their flight was performed in an Indian file upon a Constant trott, and one man's being Knocked in the head or falling off into the woods never stopped the Progress of his Neighbour, not even the fall of their favourite Butler, could attract their attention so much as to Induce them to take even the Money or anything Else out of his Pocket, altho he was not Dead when found by one of our Indians, who finished his business for him and got a Considerable Booty.
Strange as it may appear, yet it is true, that notwithstanding the Enemy had been four days with a half pound of horse flesh for each man per day, yet they did not halt from the time we began to Pursue them untill they had Proceeded more than thirty miles: (and they Continued their Rout a Considerable part of the night)--In this Situation to the Compassion of a starving Wilderness, we left them in a fair way of Receiving a Punishment better suited to their merit than a musquet ball, a Tomahawk or Captivity.
The enemy were Commanded by a Major Ross, formerly Captain of the grenadiers of the Thirty-fourth Regt. and were composed of the following Detachments:
Eighth Regt. 25 Men
Thirty-fourth do 100 do
Eighty-fourth do 30 do
Sir Jno. Johnson's Corps 120 do
Butler's Corps 150 do
Lake's Corps 40 do
Yawger's Corps 12 do
Indians 130 do
Total ...... 607
I am sure the loss of the Enemy must be great. It is, however, out of may power to ascertain it. The man who sent such a fine Detachment of Troops upon such a Paltry Business when they Return, will be best able to say how great their loss has been and to him I leave it. Upwards of Fifty Prisoners are Returned to me to be taken. Their killed is by no means Trifling and many, very many, must be scattered about the Wilderness almost sure of Perishing there.
I have not yet been able to procure an Exact Return of our Killed and Wounded but from my Present Accounts we must have had in the whole about Ten Killed and Thirty Wounded. Captain * * * [Zielly] of my Regt. of Levies is Missing. Upon the whole tho. I think the affair might have turned out better, yet it is a most Capital stroke in favour of the County of Tryon. A full Conviction that I have omitted nothing in my Power to make it as Capital as it could Possible be follows me. Was I disposed to find fault I think I have cause to do it the calling away Major Logan with those two Companies under his Command from Johnstown by General Stark, has undoubtedly been an Essential Injury to us; such an Addition to our strength at Johnstown must have assured us a most Compleat victory at that Place and the Calling of those Troops from this Quarter to a part w(h)ere they have the whole Eastern world at hand to Reinforce them, appeared to me as unaccountable at that time as it has Proved Injurious since.
I have the Honour to be Your Excellencies most obedient and very Humble Servt.
After returning home from the Jerseyfield Battle, Andrew Fink, Jr. wrote concerning the Rebel's recent successes: (11)
Stonearabia Novr 12th 1781--
I received yours of the 2d Ist. some days ago wherein you request to know the Names of those persons killed in the Action at Johnstown, which I shall give you as far as has come to my knowledge their Names are as follows Vizt-- Hugh McManus Samuel Crosset and One Crowley all from or near Johnstown. John Sits son of Peter Sits from or near Fort Plain, John Cighler since Died of his wounds from Johnstown, Jacob Myer Also Died of his Wounds formerly from the German Flatts, The rest of the wounded is lik [ely to] do well, Thus far come to my knowledge respe[cting] the Militia, others that are Killed or wounded are of the Levies. excepting One Artillery men Killed in prusuit of the Enemy a few miles this side Jersey Field at the Harrycain. --
John Zieley is not return'd, we learn from the Prisoners and in perticular from Lieut Ryckman that he is prisoner with Major Ross, farther Adds that he was Acquainted with Zieley that he was well and that he spoke with him, I hope by the help of Providence that he will soon return, as he is much (Lamented) and wanted by his Family -- I am Dr Sir Your Friend and very Humble servant --
P.s I should have wrote before but Andrew Fink Junr
was prevented by a very sore hand not
able to write -- because the Scarsity
of Paper --
Jacob Becker, RWPA #R693. Interestingly, he states that they were stationed at Fort Stanwix and joined the pursuit from there under the command of an Irish Officer and that Butler was killed by one of the American Indians.
Richard [Dietrich] Casler, RWPA #W6637. He states . . . he went thence with his company to a place called in those days Fort House which was where the East Canada Creek empties into the mohawk in said County of Herkimer. . . . . . When Willett's men came upon the enemy they were drying their cloaths by fires & were surprised at that place Walter Butler was killed by an indian (he believes) an Oneida indian. He (Casler) was there & saw the indian who killed Butler & who had Butlers Coat and scalp The indian shot Butler from across the Creek Butlers Sergeant was also killed at this place He saw Butler stripped naked and lying on his back on the ground From this place, which was named Butler's Ford, Col. Willet followed the enemy for a considerable distance . . .
Jacob Coons, RWPA #R2291. He states that on October 25, 1781, an express sent to Lieutenant Colonel Marinus Willett from Johnstown was killed by an Indian atop Tribes Hill. He states that shortly after the Battle of Johnstown commenced, Willett was forced to retreat, but upon being joined by a company of Militiamen from Stone Arabia the lieutenant colonel rallied his troops and the fighting became more generalized. He states that after the Battle of Johnstown . . . In the Morning Col Willet Ordered a pursuit to be made which continued five days or until Col Willet and his party arrived at West Canada Creek - Here Ross had Encamped overnight at a place Called Mount Farm and Just Crossed the Creek and were on the opposite Side -- There this deponent saw Col Butler Killed by the Shot of an American Indian, across the Creek the Indian immediately Sprang into the Creek, Crossed it, Scalped him and returned in Safety . . .
Johannes Duesler W16244. In October they fought a battle at Johnstown. After they retook a field piece a brass six pounder, they had lost, Colonel Willett laid a hand on it and said hurrah for Lady Washington. They pursued the enemy to a point where two roads joined and in a skirmish there an American Artilleryman was killed. He was not present when Butler was killed, but arrived to see someone on the other side of the creek waving what he said was Butler's Commission.
Thomas Folger, RWPA #S10697. . . . He was with the troops that pursued Major Ross in his retreat on this occasion, and in Company with the party of Oneida Indians who followed Sir Walter Butler -- saw said Walter at West Canada Creek shot at by an Oneida Indian, who then swam across said creek, (said Walter being on the opposite side) & tomahawked & scalped his fallen foe. . . . . . . He assisted in taking a British soldier prisoner, who was by order of Colonel Willett given up to the Oneidas, who tomahawked him in revenge for the loss of one of their number, that had been stabbed by some one of the enemy, and as this prisoner was found with a bloody knife in his hand, he was suspected to have been the murderer . . .
John Kenneda, RWPA #R5866. He was age 78 when deposed on September 8, 1832. He was Oneida Indian and served as such in the American Cause. He . . . was in Battle of Stillwater -- at taking of Burgoyne under Colonel Lewey or Louis a St. Regis or half breed --. . . . In 1781, he served in Lieutenant Colonel Marinus Willett's Corps and . . . Was at the battle at West Canada Creek when Col Butler was shot in the breast and killed. . . .
Rozel Holmes, RWPA #S13445. Rozel states . . . Butler was killed by Harmanus a Schoharie Indian and scalped. . . .
John Stalker, RWPA #S19478. He also served in Captain Robert McKeen's Company of Lieutenant Colonel Willett's Regiment in 1781, concerning which he states . . . while at Fort Plain they were attacked by a party of the British and Indians commanded by Col Butler and Major Ross, they were engaged by Col Willetts Regt and pursued to Canada Creek in which engagement Col. Butler was killed by an Indian by the name of Lewey who had the command of the American Indians. . . .
Jasper Taylor, RWPA #S14645. Of the events following the Battle of Johnstown that he took part in the pursuit of Major John Ross' Forces and that he saw Captain Walter Butler dead and he remembers one Indian Chief called Col Louis (Lewey) as he thinks) who commanded the Indians at that battle.
1. Willett's Letter Book, New York State Library Mss #SC16670. 2. Jacob Tanner, RWPA #S11513. 3. Thomas Folger, RWPA #S10697. 4. Richard [Dietrich] Casler, RWPA #W6637. 5. Nicholas Smith, RWPA #S16252. 6. John Stalker, RWPA #S19478. 7. Rozel Holmes, RWPA #S13445. 8. Thomas Folger, RWPA #S10697. 9. Conrad Countryman, RWPA #W16920. 10. Public Papers of George Clinton, 7:472. N.B. The original letter can be found in New York State Library Mss #SC15705. 11. Henry Glen Papers, New York Public Library, New York, New York. Return to Home
2. Jacob Tanner, RWPA #S11513. 3. Thomas Folger, RWPA #S10697. 4. Richard [Dietrich] Casler, RWPA #W6637. 5. Nicholas Smith, RWPA #S16252. 6. John Stalker, RWPA #S19478. 7. Rozel Holmes, RWPA #S13445. 8. Thomas Folger, RWPA #S10697. 9. Conrad Countryman, RWPA #W16920. 10. Public Papers of George Clinton, 7:472. N.B. The original letter can be found in New York State Library Mss #SC15705. 11. Henry Glen Papers, New York Public Library, New York, New York. Return to Home
3. Thomas Folger, RWPA #S10697. 4. Richard [Dietrich] Casler, RWPA #W6637. 5. Nicholas Smith, RWPA #S16252. 6. John Stalker, RWPA #S19478. 7. Rozel Holmes, RWPA #S13445. 8. Thomas Folger, RWPA #S10697. 9. Conrad Countryman, RWPA #W16920. 10. Public Papers of George Clinton, 7:472. N.B. The original letter can be found in New York State Library Mss #SC15705. 11. Henry Glen Papers, New York Public Library, New York, New York. Return to Home
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