WESTMORELAND TOWN AND COUNTY, OF CONNECTICUT—THE PEOPLE QUICK TO WAR FOR INDEPENDENCE—RECKLESS JOHN PENN—PLUNKETT'S EXPEDITION—THE TWO COMPANIES SENT TO WASHINGTON—STEUBEN JENKINS' HISTORICAL ADDRESS—MASSACRE OF THE HARDINGS—THE FATAL JULY 3, 1778—THEY SURRENDER AND ARE THEN PLUNDERED—CONFLICTING STORIES—THE BRITISH ACCOUNTS—PENNITES CALLED TORIES AND MANY DRIVEN OUT—LIST OF THE KILLED IN THE BATTLE—THE DORRANCES—COL. FRANKLIN WITH COMPANY REACHED THE FORT JUST AFTER THE BATTLE—BUTLER ESCAPED TO THE MOUNTAINS—DENISON SURRENDERS—SOME ANCIENT STORIES OF THE BATTLE INVESTIGATED—THE MOVEMENT—THE CENTENNIAL DAY OF THE BATTLE, ETC.
THE peaceful pastoral interim in the struggle with the Pennsylvanians was now, 1775, approaching a yet more bloody awakening. The cruel plowshare of war—of the long seven years' war for independence—was about to come crashing through the valley that was already stained with fraternal blood, as well as were the people the victims of repeated and cruel marauds and massacres by the savages. This was not only the border land, but the center of the long travails, where human suffering reached its limit. No spot on the globe is more freighted with the great events of history than this. Quoting from Miner's History:
"The battle at Lexington had taken place April 19. On the 17th of June, the battle of Bunker Hill was fought, so glorious to the American arms. The effect produced at Wyoming, by those soul-stirring events, will be best expressed by the simple record of a 'town meeting legally warned:'
"At a meeting of ye proprietors and settlers of ye town of Westmoreland, legally warned and held in Westmoreland, August 1st, 1775, Mr. John Jenkins was chosen moderator for ye work of ye day. Voted that this town does now vote that they will strictly observe and follow ye rules and regulations of ye honorable continental congress, now sitting at Philadelphia.
"Resolved, By this town, that they are willing to make any accommodations with ye Pennsylvania party that shall conduce to ye best good of ye whole, not infringing on the property of any person, and come in common cause of Liberty in ye defence of America, and that we will amicably give them ye offer of joining in ye proposals as soon as may be.
"Voted, As this town has but of late been incorporated and invested with the privileges of the law, both civil and military, and now in a capacity of acting in conjunction with our neighboring towns within this and the other colonies, in opposing ye late measures adopted by parliament to enslave America. Also this town having taken into consideration the late plan adopted by parliament of enforcing their several oppressive and unconstitutional acts—of depriving us of our property—and of binding us in all cases without exception, whether we consent or not, is considered by us highly injurious to American or English freedom; therefore do consent to and acquiesce in the late proceedings and advice of the continental congress, and do rejoice that those measures are adopted, and so universally received throughout the continent; and, in conformity to the eleventh article of the association, we do now appoint a committee to attentively observe the conduct of all persons within this town, touching the rules and regulations prescribed by the honorable continental congress, and will unanimously join our brethren in America in the common cause of defending our liberty."
[p.91] Here was outspoken patriotism and considerate diplomacy, offering an olive branch to their brethren of Pennsylvania, and unfurling the flag of defiance at King George. "Willing to make any accommodations with ye Pennsylvania party," and this was said in good faith, and it is, pity it is, it was not in that spirit taken up by the respective authorities of Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
In November, 1775, Pennsylvania sent an armed expedition against the towns of Judea and Charleston, colonies of Connecticut people on the West Branch of the Susquehanna, and destroyed them, and then menaced the Westmoreland people.
November 4, congress, on being advised of the attacks on Judea and Charleston, and the threatened attack on the people of Westmoreland town, passed the following resolutions:
"The congress, considering that the most perfect union between all the colonies, is essentially necessary for the just rights of North America, and being apprehensive that there is great danger of hostilities being commenced at or Dear Wyoming, that there is great danger of hostilities being commenced at or near Wyoming, between the inhabitants of the colony of Pennsylvania, and those of Connecticut,
"Resolved, That the assemblies of said colonies be requested to take the most speedy and effectual steps to prevent such hostilities."
"Ordered, That Mr. McKean and Mr. Deane wait upon the honorable house of assembly of Pennsylvania, now sitting, with a copy of the above resolutions."
"Ordered, That a copy of the said resolutions be transmitted by express to the magistrates and people of Pennsylvania and Connecticut, on the waters of the Susquehanna."
The action of congress was wholly unheeded by John Penn, the then governor of Pennsylvania, and equally reckless was he of the appalling fact that the whole country was in fact at war with the mother empire—the Revolution was on— when every one must stand shoulder to shoulder, brother to brother. This Penn can hardly go into our history as the worthy representative of his illustrious grandfather.
In the dead of winter, Col. Plunkett, who had just returned from his triumphant expedition against the West Branch settlers, was fitted out, as usual under authority of the civil officers, with an army of 700 men, with cannon to proceed against the people of the town of Westmoreland. The middle of December (an unusual circumstance, the river was free of ice), he set out in boats laden with men and stores to land near Wilkes-Barre, where the work of destruction was cruelly going on. There was cunning in the time chosen—committing the houses to flames, and stripped of worldly possessions—the people driven out of the country to make the exodus through the wilderness where many, mayhap all, would perish.
Plunkett started on this unholy crusade with 700 men, nearly double the number all told, of the able-bodied men then here. The settlers had sent couriers to congress, to Philadelphia and to Connecticut, and at the same time made every possible effort to protect themselves. There were 285 of the settlers who had taken the "Freeman's oath,"—this included the old. decrepit and sick, as well as several who were known to be little else than spies on the Connecticut people.
December 20 the invading army arrived at the mouth of Nescopeck creek, and by this time considerable ice was running in the river, impeding their progress. That same day congress by resolution enacted:
"The congress taking into consideration the dispute between the people of Pennsylvania and Connecticut, on the waters of the Susquehanna, came to the following resolution:
"WHEREAS, A dispute subsists between some of the inhabitants of the colony of Connecticut, settled under the claim of the said colony on land near Wyoming, on the Susquehanna river, and in the Delaware country, and the inhabitants settled under the claim of the proprietors of Pennsylvania, which dispute it is apprehended will, if not suspended during the present troubles in the colonies, be productive of [p.92] pernicious consequences, which may be very prejudicial to the common interest of the United Colonies; therefore
"Resolved, That it is the opinion of this congress, and it is accordingly recommended, that the contending parties immediately cease all hostilities, and avoid every appearance of force until the dispute can be legally decided. That all property taken and detained be immediately restored to the original owners; that no interruption be given to either party, to the free passing and repassing of persons behaving themselves peaceably, through the disputed territory, as well by land as by water, without molestation of either persons or property; that all persons seized and detained on account of said dispute on either side, be dismissed and permitted to go to their respective homes, and that things being put in the same situation they were before the late unhappy contest, they continue to behave themselves peaceably on their respective possessions and improvements, until a legal decision can be had on said dispute, or this congress shall take further order thereon, and nothing herein done shall be construed in prejudice of the claim of either party."
But this action too was as idle as the wind to the invaders. They pushed the expedition, and on the 24th the advance guard of Plunkett came upon the picket guards of Butler's command. The latter had rallied in all 300 men, and having not enough guns for each man, several men appeared with scythes fastened to poles. Col. Butler had taken a position at the mouth of Harvey Break below Wilkes-Barre on the west side of the river. It was well chosen, and when Plunkett's force came up they were halted, and Butler's men fired over their heads. The invaders saw they could not storm the position, and retired and attempted to send a boat load across the river to flank Butler, but this had been anticipated, and when nearly across they were fired on by Capt. Stewart's squad, when they turned the boat down stream and fled precipitately. This day's fighting resulted in the wounding of a man and a dog in the boat.
The next day Plunkett again advanced to the attack, and heavy firing commenced. A party was sent up, concealed along the mountain side, to turn Butler's flank, but this was anticipated and repulsed. More or less firing went on all day— several were wounded on both sides. A son of Surveyor-general Lukens was killed. Col. Plunkett retreated on Christmas day.
At this point in the melancholy story we are met with the doubly strange action of the Connecticut authorities; a resolution to prevent any addition being made to the Susquehanna settlement, unless under their "special license." Just at this time, when the settlers were being threatened by the wild savages on one side and invasion and war from the Pennsylvania authorities on the other—a time above all others when they needed every possible aid from the mother colony, this was a most cruel and unexpected blow, and from the least expected source.
The repulse of Plunkett closed the year 1775, and from that source no further invasion was expected that season. Alarms, however, from the Indians at the north were serious. Through the action of the leading men of the town the Indians were induced to come to Wilkes-Barre in September, 1776, to hold a council, in which the Indian, Capt. John, represented the savages and Col. Butler the colony. Capt. John made quite a speech, which if correctly interpreted was filled with the affectionate term of "brother" in nearly every sentence, and friendship was effusively expressed. The Indians wanted peace and brotherhood with the settlers; asked that they have a "fire-place" here and a great council, and "wampus" and "calumets" galore. The white man very properly suspected these over-friendly professions; and as time proved it was merely the savage cunning to get their warriors among the people and when disarmed, murder them at will. This all increased the fears and dread of the people. October following three chiefs from the Six Nations at Onondaga arrived and brought a "talk" from the "great head." This was more of their hypocritical pretensions of brotherly love and another plea for a great [p.93] "fireplace" at Wyoming. They complained that in a cow trade with a white man a certain Indian had been cheated, and demanded restitution, and also wanted flour given them to take home to their hungry people. Col. Butler promptly sent word to Roger Sherman of the dangers threatening, and asked for arms to place in the hands of the people for defense against invasions. Soon reports arrived giving information that the British under Col. John Butler (his command being mostly Canadians and Indians) was at Oswego, and now the people were convinced the savages were in alliance with the British, and were joining Burgoyne. The town of Westmoreland extended north to the State line following up the Susquehanna river, and in the neighborhood of Tioga Point (Athens) were the strong Indian settlements of Newtown, Oquaga, Sheshequin, Chenango, Owego, and Choconut. From these points they could quickly float in their canoes to Wilkes-Barre. Chapman, in his history, estimates in round numbers there were 5,000 settlers in Westmoreland at this time. Hon. Charles Miner corrects this statement and from the records shows that the approximate number was 430 able-bodied men, or a total of 2,580 population.
The patriotic vigilance of the settlers is given in the proceedings of a town meeting of Westmoreland, March 10, 1776:
"Voted, That the first man that shall make fifty weight of good salt-petre in this town shall be entitled to a bounty of £10, lawful money, to be paid out of the town treasury."
"Voted, That the selectmen be directed to dispose of the grain now in the hands of the treasurer or collector, in such way as to obtain powder and lead to the value of £40, lawful money, if they can do the same."
The continental congress having recommended the appointment of committees of vigilance in every town, and the arrest of persons hostile to the cause of liberty, a committee of inspection was established, a measure that became the more pressingly necessary, as, with the breaking out of the war, and the prohibition on the part of Connecticut of any further emigration to Wyoming, there had come in strange families of interlopers from Minnisink, from West Chester, New York, from Kinderhook, and the Mohawk, neither connected with Pennsylvania nor Connecticut, between whom and the old settlers there was neither sympathy in feeling nor community of interests—Wintermoots, Vangorders, and Von-Alstines. A path of communication was opened by the disaffected between New York and Niagara, to strike the Susquehanna twenty miles above Wilkes-Barre. Some of those new and unwelcome settlers soon made their sentiments known, and disclosed their hostility to the American cause, while others for the time remained quiet, though subsequent events showed the purpose of their emigration to the Susquehanna.
John Jenkins, Sr., and Capt. Solomon Strong were chosen members of the legislature to attend at Hartford, with instructions to request the assembly to demand of Pennsylvania £4,000 for losses sustained by invasions and property destroyed. The people took steps to build forts. The general assembly of Connecticut had to raise and organize the Twenty-fourth regiment of Connecticut militia at Westmoreland.
The Wintermoots (suspected people) had purchased and had erected a fort near the head of the valley (Pittston). To counteract this the settlers built a fort above this near the Jennings and Harding families. Forty fort was strengthened and sites for forts at Pittston, Wilkes-Barre, Hanover and Plymouth were arranged. July 4, 1776, now dawned upon the world. The memorable day in history, ushering in the transcendent event in the great movements of mankind. Liberty, blessed liberty to man, stepped forth, robed in purity, and on either side supporting [p.94] her were the stern, strong knights of the plow and the axe, across whose broad shoulders were slung the long, block match-lock rifles; in homespun and buckskin, with moccasin and bare feet these sublime heroes had just emerged from the severest school of hard fate, unkempt and unmindful of exterior appearances, they came together silent and resolved, carrying their lives and sacred honor in their hands and flinging them all, all on the altar of liberty. Independence was declared! From Maine to southernmost Florida war was aflame. Its horrors were everywhere in the land, but far more intensely in this lone frontier settlement, that was worse than isolated and unprotected. It was menaced by double dangers on every side, and even within the household were traitors to the sacred cause.
In November following Cols. Butler and Denison, representatives returned from New Haven bringing the good news that the town had been made the county of Westmoreland. Jonathan Fitch was made high sheriff.
During the summer Obadiah Gore, Jr., was commissioned lieutenant and recruited twenty men. About the same time Capt. Strong enlisted a squad of men—ten or twelve.
August 23, 1770, congress, at the urgent solicitation of Col, Butler, resolved to station two companies at Westmoreland for the defence of the inhabitants. Robert Durkee and Samuel Ransom were elected captains in these companies; James-Welles and Perrin Ross, first lieutenants; Asahel Buck and Simon Spalding, second lieutenants; Herman Swift and Mathias Hollenback, ensigns. Those companies when raised were stationed one on the east and one on the west side of the river.
In the early winter Gen. Howe had captured New York, the battle of White Plains had been fought; Washington was retreating with his little army of 3,000 men, hungry and nearly naked, through the Jerseys. "The commander-in-chief," says Marshall, "found himself at the head of a small force, less than 3,000, dispirited by their losses and fatigues, retreating almost naked and barefoot in the cold November and December, before a numerous and well-appointed and victorious enemy, through a desponding country much more disposed to obtain safety by submission than to seek it by manly resistance."
On December 8 Gen. Washington crossed the Delaware, and congress immediately took measures to retire from Philadelphia to Baltimore. At this moment of peril, they "Resolved, December 12, that the two companies raised in the town of Westmoreland, be ordered to join Gen. Washington, with all possible expedition. And the very same day adjourned to meet on the 20th, at Baltimore.
Promptly obeying the order, the two companies hastened their march, and before the close of the month and year were with the lines. under the command of their beloved Washington.
The people fully knew the dangerous sacrifice they were making, but not a moment faltered. This action of the patriots stands out prominently in the history of that long and terrible struggle. It was pledged to these men that as soon as conditions in the south should be relieved they would be allowed to return to the protection of their families. It is needless to say this promise was not kept. The imperative necessities of the army of Washington made it impossible, horrid as was the impending alternative.
The people proceeded in the work of organizing every possible safeguard as well as the work of perfecting the machinery for the new county of Montgomery. Great jealousy between the east and west side of the river had long existed, and the question of locating the county buildings now arose in renewed intensity. After a warm contention Wilkes-Barre was chosen as the county seat—the chief rival had been Kingston—settled by the Connecticut authorities through appointed commissioners.
Every hour brought additional evidence that there were secret enemies in their midst—Pennites, some of them, who had come and purchased Connecticut claims. [p.97] One, Adonijah Stansbury, had purchased Chapman's mill and he soon developed into an enemy in disguise. Col. Butler and Maj. Judd were appointed a committee to investigate him. He was prosecuted and finally persecuted until he was compelled to sell his mill and leave the settlement. During the summer the people worked on the forts by detachments. The one in Wilkes-Barre occupied what is now the courthouse square. A system of scouts were sent regularly up the river to keep watch of the movements of the Indians. Lieut. John Jenkins in command of a scouting party extended his trip to Wyalusing, where he was taken prisoner by a band of Indians and tories. Three of his men were taken with him: Mr. York, Lemuel Fitch and old man Fitzgerald. All except Fitzgerald were taken to Canada. Jenkins was exchanged for an Indian chief and sent to Albany. These were the first prisoners taken from Westmoreland. Other scouting parties were constantly sent up the river. As about all the able young men were in the continental army they consisted mostly of old men and called themselves "Reformados." Capt. William Hooker Smith, a physician, commanded the one from Wilkes-Barre.
The two companies sent to Gen. Washington were for the first time under fire January 27, 1777, at the battle of Millstone. Durkee's and Ransom's "Independent companies" were under Gen. Dickinson and met a detachment of Lord Cornwallis' men and gained a splendid victory. The companies were at Bound Brook, Brandywine, Germantown and Mud fort. Constant Matthewson, of Spalding's company, was killed by a cannon ball at Mud fort. Two brothers, Sawyers, died of camp disease, Spencer and Gaylord died and Porter was killed.
Connecticut sent out a heavy tax levy on Westmoreland county for the year 1777— "2 shillings on the pound." In the face of this is the proceedings of a town meeting, December 30, 1777:
"Voted, By this town that the committee of inspection be empowered to supply the sogers' wives and the sogers' widows and their families with the necessaries of life."
In June, 1778, Gov. Trumbull appointed the following a committee to keep the peace in Westmoreland county: Nathan Denison, Christopher Avery, Obadiah Gore, Zera Beach, Zebulon Butler, William McKarrican, Asaph Whittlesey, Uriah Chapman, Anderson Dana, Ebenezer Marcy, Stephen Harding, John Franklin 2d, Joseph Hambleton and William Judd.
Through the vigilance of this committee congress was kept closely advised of affairs on the headquarters of the Susquehanna. Indications strongly pointed to an invasion from the north. Congress again interposed and adopted the following:
March 17, 1778, "Resolved, That one full company of foot be raised in the town of Westmoreland, on the east bank of the Susquehanna, for the defence of the said town, and the settlement on the frontiers, and in the neighborhood thereof, against the Indians and the enemies of these States; the said company to be enlisted to serve one year from the time of their enlisting, unless sooner discharged by congress."
A scouting party was near Tunkhannock when a man named William Crooks approached the door of a house that had been occupied by John Secord, a tory, when he was shot dead by Indians within. A skirmish occurred about four miles below Tunkhannock and Joel Phelps and Minor Robbins were wounded. Robbins died the next day. Phelps recovered.
These ominous happenings were in May, and every day the arrogant demands of the Indian beggars and prowlers became more marked. All at once the scattered Indians in this section were recalled and their squaws came down the river, ostensibly begging, but as the people well knew to spy the condition of the settlers.
The people now became almost frantic, and appeals were sent by wives and mothers to their husbands and sons to hurry back and protect them from the impending massacre. But congress and the authorities held these men firmly and were apparently deaf to the piteous appeals.
[p.98] June 23, only a week before the arrival of the Canadian army, congress resolved to consolidate Ransom's and Durkee's companies, as some had from sickness and other causes* returned, there was at that time only about sixty men left to the company. Of this new company Simon Spalding was made captain and Timothy Pierce and Phineas Pierce lieutenants. They were permitted finally to march to the relief of their families, but as will be seen, too late to ward off the impending thunderbolt.
*The truth is that when Ransom and Durkee resigned in order to get home, there were twenty-five or thirty of the men who resolved they would, whether or no, also come to their families, and so they did. It was this circumstance that brought on the immediate consolidation of the two companies under Capt. Spalding. Grim necessity, it may be seen, caused in certain cases a laxness in military discipline unknown now in armies.
The enemy was concentrating at Newton (Elmira) and Tioga Point (Athens). The latter was in Montgomery county, and here they were preparing their canoes to descend upon the helpless settlers.
Two deserters from the British army, Pike and Boyd, had taken refuge in the valley. They were loyal to the Connecticut people and the latter was useful in drilling raw recruits.
The settlers fled from their homes to the fort. The militia companies were called out and every possible preparation made. The only cannon was in the Wilkes-Barre fort; having no balls it was used as an alarm gun.
Hon. Charles Miner estimates the invading army as about 400 of Butler's Rangers; a detachment of the Royal Greens, and several Pennsylvania tories, with 600 or 700 Indians. Butler, however, in his official report, says he had, all told, 500 men. They descended in their boats to the mouth of Bowman's creek, where the river makes a great bend, and by marching across this peninsula they traveled about twenty miles to the western mountains, reaching that place June 29. At Fort Jenkins, a mile above Wintermoot, the uppermost fort, there were the families of John Jenkins, the Hardings and Gardiners. Not aware of the close presence of the enemy, on the morning of the 30th Benjamin Harding, Stukely Harding, John Harding, James Hadsell, James Hadsell Jr., Daniel Waller, John Gardiner and Daniel Carr, had taken their arms and gone up to Exeter to their work—three miles. Late in the afternoon they were attacked in the field. Waller, Gardiner and Carr were taken prisoners; James Hadsell and his sons James and Benjamin and Stukely Harding were killed. John Harding, a lad, jumped into the water and hid under the willows, merely keeping his lips above water, where he heard the dying groans of his friends near by. The Indians searched carefully for him, but did not find him. This was the opening skirmish of the coming battle.
Col. Zebulon Butler by common assent assumed command of the Connecticut people. By a mere chance he was here on a furlough from the continental army, and had this man's counsel prevailed there is little doubt that this sad chapter in history would have been differently written. July 1 he sent Col. Denison and Lieut.-Col. Dorrance with all his force to Exeter to the scene of the preceding day's tragedy. They found two Indians standing guard over the scalped and mutilated bodies of their victims. These were shot dead—one where he sat and other as he was in the river, fleeing to get away. Col. Zebulon Butler's force buried the dead at Fort Jenkins (now West Pittston), and returned to Forty fort. The invading army then came down and took possession of Fort Wintermoot. The Wintermoots received the invaders kindly and even to the extent that one Daniel Ingersoll, who was in the fort as the enemy approached, began to make preparations to resist, when he was made a prisoner by the tory Wintermoots. That evening a detachment was sent and captured Fort Jenkins; it originally had but seventeen old men to defend it. Four were slain, three captured and the garrison capitulated.
Early the next morning the prisoner, Ingersoll, under an escort, was sent to Forty fort to demand a surrender, not only of the fort, but of Montgomery camp. On the morning of Friday, July 3, Mr. Ingersoll was again sent, with two guides, a white man and an Indian. This was supposed a ruse on the part of the enemy to spy the [p.99] condition of the defenders, under the mere pretense of demanding a surrender of all the forts and property.
Col. Zebulon Butler immediately called a council of war; the question considered was whether to parley for delay in the hope that Spalding and his men would come, or whether to march out and attack the enemy whenever found. Butler, Denison and Dorrance favored delay; but others, led by Stewart, hotly favored going to meet the enemy at once. The latter argued that the invaders would cross at Pittston and capture the fort, in spite of Capt. Blanchard, and murder the inhabitants; that there was no certainty when Spalding would arrive; two forts had already surrendered and the murder of the Hardings was the bloody token of the enemy's intentions. There are many versions of this part of the unfortunate affair. All, however, seem to agree that Stewart was the wild and unreasonable leader of the motion to go out and attack. The command of the Hanover company had been turned over to him. Pennsylvania at that time was offering a reward for his arrest. The fort was bountifully supplied with whisky, and while it was certain that Capt. Spalding with his command was force-marching to reach them and would certainly arrive within forty-eight hours, yet the better counsels of Butler and all the most prominent men were fatally overruled. Some have laid most of the blame on Stewart, but it is enough answer to all this that he gave his life a sacrifice to his judgments. He was killed at the head of his column. It is easy enough now to criticize the act, so it is of almost anything past.
They were brave men, and patriots all; if there was any mistake, it was one not of cowards, but of patriots ready to seal their faith with their hearts' blood. The minority with extreme reluctance yielded to the majority. There were in the fort six irregular companies, mostly raw recruits and many of them old men—the following being the different commands:
Capt. Dethic Hewitt's company, about forty men.
Capt. Asaph Whittlesey's company, from Plymouth, consisting of forty men under Stewart after reaching the fort.
Capt. William McKarrican's company, from Hanover, numbering about forty men. Being also the schoolmaster, and little used to war, though a brave, active, and valuable man, he gave up the command to Capt. Lazarus Stewart; Rosewell Franklin was his lieutenant.
The Lower Wilkes-Barre company, commanded by Capt. James Bidlack, Jr., consisting of thirty-eight men.
The Upper Wilkes-Barre company, commanded by Capt. Rezin Geer, smaller, but the number not known.
The Kingston company, commanded by Capt. Aholiab Buck, Lieut. Elija Shoemaker second in command.
In addition to those in the trainbands, the judges of the court and all the civil officers who were near went out. Many old men—some of them grandfathers—took their muskets and marched to the field. For instance, the aged Mr. Searle, of Kingston was one. Having become bald, he wore a wig. Taking out his silver knee buckles, he said to his family, "If I fall, I shall not need them. If I come back, they will be safe here." Nothing could have been more incongruous, more pitiably unfit, than the mingling of such aged men in the rough onset of battle. Dire was the necessity that compelled it. The old gentleman had a number of grand- children. Several boys, from fourteen to sixteen, are known to have been on the field. There was a company at Pittston of thirty or forty men, under Capt. Blanchard, stationed at the fort, to guard the people gathered there. To leave them, and march to Forty fort, would be to expose them to certain destruction, for the enemy were in sight, on the opposite bank of the river. Capt. Franklin's company from Huntington and Salem had not arrived. The other companies of the regiment were at Capouse and at the "Lackaway" settlement, too far off to afford assistance; so that there were about 230 enrolled men, and seventy old people, boys, civil magistrates, and other volunteers.
[p.100] Every movement of Col. Z. Butler was watched by a vigilant and wary foe. No sooner had the march commenced than the news was communicated to Col. John Butler, at Wintermoot's, who immediately despatched a messenger up to Fort Jenkins, for the party there, who were destroying the defences, to hasten down, for the Yankees were coming out to battle. This was between 2 and 3 o'clock. A few sentinels alone were left at Forty fort; and one of these by name of Cooper, more brave than obedient to orders, said "Our people need all their strength on the field. If defeated or successful, my being here will do no good." And he hurried off to join his neighbors.
Miss Bennett (Mrs. Myers) was one of the crowd of women and children who had resorted to the Forty fort. After the troops had been gone about half an hour, three men were seen spurring their jaded horses up the road. As they came to the gate and dismounted, the sweat flowed from the panting flanks of their generous steeds. Two of them were Capt. Durkee and Lieut. Pierce. In a moment they learned the state of things. "We are faint—give us bread; we have not broken our fast today." Such provisions as were at hand were placed before them. Pierce was a lieutenant in Capt. Spalding's company, then about forty miles off, through the Great swamp. They had ridden nearly all night. Having snatched a morsel of food, they hastened to the field.
Among many patriotic volunteers, justice requires that Anderson Dana should be particularly mentioned. He had just returned from duty as a member of the assembly at Hartford. It is impossible that any man could have conducted with a more cheerful spirit, or a more animating zeal. Christopher Avery, one of the justices of the court, who had filled many important stations, and possessed a large share of public confidence, though exempt by law, took post beside his neighbors. Many officers are mentioned, who strictly held no command. Capts. Durkee and Ransom were in the battle, and no doubt were referred to, and obeyed by the militia officers, but they held no official station.
As our troops approached Wintermoot's they perceived that the fort was in flames. The motive for setting it on fire is not yet understood, probably to prevent its sudden assault and capture; probably to draw attention and conceal their number and movements.
At this point there are two plains, the upper and the lower flats, divided by a steep bank of about fifteen or twenty feet in high; the lower a rich, sandy loam; the upper a coarse gravel. The fort was on the bank dividing the two plains.
Col. Z. Butler, on approaching the enemy, sent forward Capts. Ransom and Durkee, Lieuts. Ross and Wells, as officers whose skill he most relied on, to select the spot, and mark off the ground on which to form the order of battle. On coming up, the column deployed to the left, and under those officers every company took its station, and then advanced in line to the proper position, where it halted, the right resting on the steep bank noted, the left extending across the gravel flat to a morass, thick with timber and brush that separated the bottom land from the mountain. Yellow and pitch pine trees with oak shrubs were scattered all over the plain. On the American right was Capt. Bidlack's company, next was Capt. Hewitt's, Daniel Gore being one of his lieutenants. On the extreme left was Capt. Whittlesey's. Col. Butler, supported by Maj. John Garrett, commanded the right wing. Col. Denison, supported by Lieut. Col. George Dorrance, commanded the left. Such was the ground and such the order of battle. Everything was judiciously disposed and conducted in a strictly military manner. Capts. Durkee and Ransom, experienced officers, in whom great confidence was placed, were stationed, Durkee with Bidlack on the right wing, Ransom with Whittlesey on the left. Col. Butler made a very brief address just before he ordered the column to display. "Men, yonder is the enemy. The fate of the Hardings tell us what we have to expect if defeated. We came out to fight, not only for liberty, but for [p.101] life itself, and what is dearer, to preserve our homes from conflagration; our women and children from the tomahawk. Stand firm the first shock and the Indians will give way. Every man to his duty."
The column had marched up the road on which our right rested. On its display as Denison led off his men, he repeated the expression of Col. Butler—"Be firm, everything depends on resisting the first shock."
The left of the enemy rested on Wintermoot's fort, now on fire, and was commanded by Col. John Butler, who appeared on the ground with a handkerchief around his head. A flanking party of Indians was concealed behind some logs and bushes under the bank.
From Wintermoot's fort to the river in a straight line was about eighty rods; to Monockasy island, over the low flats in a south direction, about a mile. The weather clear and warm.
About four in the afternoon the battle began; Col. Z. Butler ordered his men to fire, and at each discharge to advance a step. Along the whole line the discharges were rapid and steady. It was evident, on the more open ground the Yankees were doing most execution. As our men advanced, pouring in their platoon fires with great activity, the British line gave way, in spite of all their officers' efforts to prevent it. The Indian flanking party on our right kept up from their hiding places a galling fire. Lieut. Daniel Gore received a ball through the left arm. "Capt. Durkee," said he, "look sharp for the Indians in those bushes." Capt. D. stepped to the bank to look, preparatory to making a charge and dislodging them, when he fell. On the British Butler's right, his Indian warriors were sharply engaged. As the battle waxed warmer, that fearful yell was raised again and again, with more and more spirit. It appeared to be once their animating shout, and their signal of communication: As several fell near Col. Dorrance, one of his men gave way; "Stand up to your work, sir," said he, firmly, but coolly, and the soldier resumed his place.
For half an hour a hot fire had been given and sustained, when the superior numbers of the enemy began to develop its power. The Indians had thrown into the swamp a large force, which now completely outflanked our left. It was impossible it should be otherwise; that wing was thrown into confusion. Col. Denison gave orders that the company of Whittlesey should wheel back, so as to form an angle with the main line, and thus present his front, instead of flank, to the enemy. The difficulty of performing evolutions, by the bravest militia on the field, under a hot fire, is well known. On the attempt the savages rushed in with horrid yells. Some had mistaken the order to fall back, as one to retreat, and that word, that fatal word, ran along the line. Utter confusion now prevailed on the left. Seeing the disorder, and his own men beginning to give way. Col. Z. Butler threw himself between the fires of the opposing ranks, and rode up and down the line in the most reckless exposure. "Don't leave me, my children, and the victory is ours." But it was too late.
Still on the fated left men stood their ground. "See," said Westover to George Cooper, "our men are all retreating, shall we go?" I'll have one more shot first," was his reply. At that moment a ball struck a tree just behind his head and an Indian springing toward him with his spear, Cooper drew up his rifle and fired; the Indian sprang into the air and fell dead. "Come," said Westover. "I'll load first," replied Cooper; and it is probable this cool audacity saved them, as the body of the savages had dashed forward after the flying, thus leaving them in the rear.
On the right, one of his officers said to Capt. Hewitt, The day is lost; see, the Indians are sixty rods in our roar, shall we retreat?" "I'll be damned if I do," was his answer. "Drummer, strike up!" and he strove to rally his men; every effort was vain—thus he fought and there be fell!
Every captain that led a company into the battle was slain, and in every instance fell on or near the line; as was well said, "They died at the head of their men." [p.102] Men never fought more bravely, every man did his duty, but they were overpowered by superior numbers, a force that was overwhelming.
David Spafford, who had just married Miss Blackman, was fatally shot and fell into the arms of his brother, Phineas. "Brother," said he, "I am mortally hurt; take care of Lavinia." Stephen Whiton, a young schoolmaster from Connecticut, was also a bridegroom, married a daughter of Anderson Dana; son-in-law and father fell together.
A portion of the Indian flanking party pushed forward in the rear of the Connecticut line to cut off the retreat to Forty fort, and then pressed the retreating army toward the river. Monockasy island affording the only hope of crossing the stream, the flight was toward the island across the fields. Cooper and those who remained near the line of battle saw the main body of the Indians hastening after the fugitives.
At Forty fort the bank of the river was lined by anxious wives and mothers, awaiting the issue. Hearing the firing sharply continued, now, hopes arose; but when the shots came irregular and approached nearer and nearer, the hope sank in dismay.
Among the most melancholy paragraphs in history are the after-battle reports told by fugitives who escaped from the bloody sacrifice. Pity it is now after the lapse of more than a century and all the parties to that sad day are long since resting in the silent city, we can not know that the most and worst of the frightful tales of the battle of Wyoming were the imaginings of heated minds, strung to breaking in the horrid hour. Some were but too true, but time, with its covering pall of charity, has now given us the assurance that in some of the most revolting things that found their way into the accounts of the contemporary history of the times were errors. The Canadians and Indians won a signal victory, and when the settlers were flanked, instead of holding together and obeying their officers—the only place and mode of safety on such occasions—they fled, throwing away their arms, while the victors pursued and struck down many in a most merciless fashion. Had our people stood together under their commander it is now evident that the British commander would have respected a flag of truce and those lives that were so cruelly sacrificed might have been saved. True, a part of Col. John Butler's command were Indians and when our people fled he could do little or nothing in restraining pursuit, even had he tried. It is not known that he had tried to do so. The contrary was charged to be true at the time by the survivors. The battle of Wyoming first went into history as a cold-blooded and pitiless massacre; the post-prandial orgie being the curdling story of Queen Esther and the Bloody Rock, where prisoners of war were led out by Indians, stood around in rows and this she-monster walking along the line with a war club or tomahawk braining the poor fellows. The first stories that found their way into print were gleaned from the flying fugitives that found their way to the Delaware, when each one had told the other of the dreadful sights they had seen, and then the writers who listened to the narratives had allowed nothing to be lost in the transmission. There never was a battle but that the first flying reports that went out from the opposing sides differed widely on important facts.
Night closed in on the dreadful scene of havoc. The pursuit of the flying soldiers could not have been very long or rapid, as the enemy only approached Forty fort the next morning and demanded an unconditional surrender. Col. Zebulon Butler and seventeen of his soldiers had escaped to the mountains during the night. Col. Denison remained and was in command; in command of a lot of women and children and a few wounded and aged men; this was not much to surrender—women, children and broken hearts. The victors granted terms of honorable capitulation; agreeing to respect private property and requiring the soldiers taken to pledge not again to take up arms against the king of England. These were not only honorable [p.103] but, under the circumstances, very liberal terms. A fact that should not be lost sight of is, that in the articles of capitulation Col. John Butler had inserted the clause allowing the "suspects" that had been driven away by the Yankees, to return and live here in peace and quiet and to repossess their property. There is historical significance in this clause.
The observance of the terms of surrender was kept only so far as no further massacre or human life was taken. But private property was not fully respected. The beautiful valley was devastated—the torch applied to the homes and buildings, and blackened waste took the place of the whilom pastoral scenes. Wilkes-Barre, where there were twenty-five buildings, was left with but three houses in the place—all else was in ashes. The Indians, drunk, engaged in plundering and destroying. The English commander, Butler, tried to restrain the red devils, but not to much purpose. And it is now believed this fact hastened his departure.
The invading army remained in possession in the captured fort four days, or until July 8, when Col. John Butler called his army together and took up his return march northward.
The women and children had fled the country; several had floated down the river as soon as the news of the disaster on the night of the 3d of July was known. Many others fled across the mountains and through the terrible wilderness back to Connecticut. These were new widows and freshly orphaned children mostly whose protectors lay dead and unburied on the fatal and bloody field. Here was the pitiful story that the century of years has but little modified. The ghastly details of each family in these dread days has not and never will be written. There were a few old men with these fleeing crowds of sufferers—so old and helpless mostly as to be like the infants, but an additional burden; children were born and children died on the long, terrible way. The heroes were dead—the greater heroines lived and hovered their helpless broods, baring their breasts to the elements and even the brutal savage in the protection of the young lives God had given. When we talk of war and its grim brutalities we think of strong, rough, brave men, but here were widows and young mothers tasting the bitterest dregs of woe—broken hearts and a fortitude sublime.
It is estimated that about 160 were killed the day and evening of the battle and 140 escaped. This estimate is given by Hon. Charles Miner and we accept it as the nearest correct now ascertainable.
Reinforcements.—On the evening of July 3, that had closed on the awful field of carnage, Capt. John Franklin arrived at Forty fort, with the Huntington and Salem company, about thirty-five men all told. He and Col. Denison consulted and determined to send to Wilkes-Barre for the cannon, call every possible aid to Forty fort and defend themselves to the last extremity. A messenger sent out early on the next morning reported the people flying and the scheme therefore wholly impracticable. Following on the "Old Warrior's path," he reported seeing a fleeing crowd of 100 women and children and only one man with the fugitives. This was Sheriff Jonathan Fitch.
It should be here mentioned that Capt. Blanchard surrendered the fort at Pittston, Fort Brown, on the morning of the 4th to a detachment of Col. John Butler's command.
When the fight occurred Capt. Spalding was only forty miles away and hurrying to Forty fort as fast as possible. With his and Franklin's men—thirty-five, who reached the fort during the fight—the invading army could have been successfully repulsed, and, standing on the defensive in chosen localities, in time the English and Indians as an army destroyed in all probability. Capts. Durkee and Bidlack had ridden all night and were at the fort in time to go into the battle, where both died. Hence the patriots knew just where Spalding and his command were at the moment they so rashly marched out to engage the enemy. [p.104] One of the theories that is read between the lines in this chapter of history is something like this: A number of families that had come to be known as anti-Yankee in sentiment had settled in the upper end of the valley. They had been driven out, some ordered to go, and others persecuted until they felt compelled to leave. These had taken refuge in northern New York and were eager to return to the valley and even up old scores. And it is said they suggested the expedition and some of these were in Col. John Butler's command, and that some of the darkest of the colors in the picture were the results of their presence.
Col. Z. Butler, as soon as possible, wrote Gen. Washington an account of the bloody day, and solicited succor, in order that, if possible, a portion of the harvest standing in the fields might be saved.
Joining Capt. Spaulding early in August, he returned to Wyoming. A new stockade was built in Wilkes-Barre and put in the best possible defence. A number of the settlers were now encouraged to return, among others John Abbott, who had been in the battle, and Isaac Williams, a young man, in attempting to harvest their wheat on Jacob's plains, were waylaid and both shot and scalped. The widow of Mr. Abbott, who had fled to Catawissa, with nine children (their house and barn having been burned, and all their property destroyed), set out on foot, a journey of nearly 300 miles, and begged their way home to Hampton, Conn.
About this time three Indians took prisoners on the Lackawanna, Isaac Tripp, the elder; Isaac Tripp, his grandson, and two young men, by the names of Keys and Hocksey. The old gentleman they painted and dismissed, but hurried the others into the forest (now Abington), above Leggett's Gap, on the warrior's path to Oquago. Resting one night, they rose next morning and traveled about two miles, when they stopped at a little stream of water. The two young Indians then took Keys and Hocksey some distance from the path, and were absent half an hour, the old Indian looking anxiously the way they had gone. Presently, the death-whoop was heard, and the Indians returned brandishing bloody tomahawks, and exhibiting the scalps of their victims. Tripp's hat was taken from his head, and his scalp examined twice, the savages speaking earnestly, when at length they told him to fear nothing, he should not be hurt, and carried him off as a prisoner. Luke Swetland and Joseph Blanchard were taken prisoners, near Nanticoke, on August 24, and carried away captives to the Indian country.
A garrison of about 100 men was in the Wilkes-Barre stockade—Capts. Garrison's and Spalding's companies; these were the militia of Westmoreland town. Armed parties labored in the fields and on the hills around were placed sentinels. Late in the fall Isaac Inman was murdered in Hanover. He supposed he had heard some wild turkeys and went out to kill one. His scalped body lay under the snow and was not discovered until spring.
On October 2 four of Capt. Morrison's men were attacked on the west side of the river, three of whom were killed, and one escaped. October 14 William Jameson, returning home from Wilkes-Barre, was shot near where the canal crossed the road below Careytown. Being wounded, he fell from the horse, and attempted to gain the woods, but was pursued, tomahawked and scalped. A valuable young man in the prime of life, being twenty-six years of age. He had been in the battle and escaped, and his scalp was therefore a doubly valuable prize to the Indians.
November 7 Mr. John Perkins was killed in Plymouth; a victim also most gratifying to the revengeful savage, as Mr. Perkins had a son in Spalding's independent company. William Jackson and Mr. Lester, taken from the mill at Nanticoke, were marched three, miles up into Hanover and then shot down. An aged man, spoken of as "old Mr. Hageman," a prisoner, escaped with six wounds, and survived. November 9 Capt. Carr and Philip Goss, in attempting to fly in a canoe, were shot below Wapwallopen and left, the latter dead, the other dying on the shore. Robert Alexander and Amos Parker were, about the same time, found murdered in the lower part of the valley. [p.107] A whole family was brutally massacred November 19, near Nescopeck—John, Elisha and Diah Utley; the first two shot down. Diah fled and swam the river, but as he came to the opposite shore was brained by an Indian. The savages then entered the house, murdered and scalped the aged mother, and in savage glee placed her body mockingly in a chair.
March 21, 1779, Capt. James Bidlack and Josiah Rogers, both aged, were crossing the flats on their way to Plymouth. The savages suddenly sprang from ambush and attempted to seize their horses bridles, but failing in this, a race ensued. The girth of Capt. Bidlack's saddle broke, he was thrown and made prisoner. Rogers was fired at several times, but escaped. Hardly had he carried the news to the fort when a large force of Indians was seen advancing over the Kingston flats toward the block-house; all this in full view of the Wilkes-Barre fort. They, however, made no determined attack, but did drive off considerable stock. Col. Butler at once sent out twenty-five men in pursuit and to succor those in the Kingston block-house, and the enemy was driven off; none of our people killed, but several wounded.
The miserable affair of Maj. Powell and his regiment of nearly 200 men occurred on April 19. He had been ordered to report at Wilkes-Barre. Arriving at Bear creek, ten miles from this place, a halt was made to dress and come in the valley with an imposing array of fine feathers, arms burnished and ruffled shirts put on, and the music struck up. They resumed marching, when they were fired on from ambush; the Major hastily retreated. This action took place near the summit of the second mountain, by the Laurel run, about four miles from Wilkes-Barre. Capt. Davis, Lieut. Jones, a corporal named Butler, and three men fell. Maj. Powell soon after left the army. It should be here explained that Maj. Powell's regiment was the first of the gathering for Sullivan's expedition, soon to be followed by the First and Third New Jersey regiments, two regiments of New Hampshire, and Col. Proctor's artillery—all a part of the rendezvous at Easton.
The year 1780 brought its renewal of troubles to the settlers. The sense of security and repose, so welcome to the wearied settlers after the distressing scenes of the two preceding years, they were not long permitted to cherish. Effectual as the punishment of the savages seemed, instead of subduing, it only appeared to have exasperated their thirst for revenge. Being confident that Sullivan had left in the whole Indian country nothing for them to subsist upon, it was not doubted but the savages were necessarily within the British lines at Niagara, beyond striking distance; and the settlers resumed their farming at Kingston, Hanover and Plymouth. The main settlement had block-houses built, in case of attack, wherein to seek shelter and make defence.
In the latter part of March an alarm was given that the Indians were in the valley. On the 27th Thomas Bennett and his son, a lad, in a field not far from their house, in Kingston, were seized and made prisoners by six Indians. Lebbeus Hammond, who had been captured a few hours before, they found tied as they entered a gorge of the mountain. Hammond had been in the battle, and was then taken prisoner, but had escaped.
On the night of the 28th the prisoners seized the opportunity, when their guard slept, rose upon them and slew all and triumphantly returned with their trophies to their friends. The same day Bennett and others were taken another roving band of Indians shot Asa Upson in Hanover. March 28 two men were making sugar eight miles below Wilkes-Barre; one was killed, the other taken prisoner. The next day Jonah Rogers; aged about fifteen, was taken prisoner from the lower part of the valley.
In September a large party of Indians passing Wyoming, without giving the least alarm, crossed the Susquehanna, near the mouth of the Nescopeck creek, leaving Wilkes-Barre fort eighteen miles on the left. On advancing into the Scotch Valley, now known as Conyngham and Sugar Loaf, moving with cat-like wariness, [p.108] they discovered a party of Americans entirely off their guard, some eating, others at play, for it was noon, and entertaining not the slightest apprehension of an enemy being near, they were reposing or sporting, after a forenoon march. On counting their numbers, the Indians found the Americans had thirty-three men, their own being thirty. Some were for making a bold attack; others, who had come for plunder, preferred to retire. It was, however, agreed upon that they would all draw near and take a shot; if the Americans were not broken, but should rally with spirit, they would retreat to a designated place. The fire was as deadly as unexpected. Our people who survived ran in the utmost confusion. Lieut. Myers, who commanded, did everything an intrepid officer could do to rally his men, seized his rifle, and vowed he would die before he would retreat. One or two ran to his aid, but it was too late. He was seized by the gallant Indian chief, wounded slightly, and made prisoner. Satisfied with their thirteen scalps, their prisoners, and all the booty brought out by the party, the Indians hastened their retreat, doing what mischief they could by burning the Shickshinny mills and all the grain stacks on their route. The second night Lieut. Myers contrived to make his escape, and came into the Wyoming fort with the melancholy tidings.
On March 10 the savages made an attack on Samuel Ransom's house, in Plymouth, wounding him, though not severely. A spirited resistance was made, and one Indian left dead on the field. At the commencement of the war the proprietors, foreseeing danger, and the whole settlement being desirous that those beautiful and productive alluvial lands, consisting of a thousand acres of the richest river bottoms, should not be entirely neglected, and run to waste, made an agreement with several persons to give them the use of all the land they could cultivate during the war, if they would build block-houses of sufficient strength to defend it and keep possession. Among those who associated for the purpose were Maj. Prince Alden, Alexander Jameson, Joseph Jameson, Abraham Nesbitt, Jonah Rogers, Samuel Ayers, Mr. Ransom. and others. Except at the general expulsion after the massacre in 1778, the lessees, some of whom were proprietors, held their ground; attacked, defending themselves, fighting, suffering, they still maintained their position.
April 28, 1781, Capt. Spalding's company was ordered to march and Capt. Mitchell had been directed to assume command at this place in lieu of Col. Butler. It is supposed this action was at the instance of the Pennsylvania proprietaries, and was intended to get the Connecticut troops as much as possible out of the valley.
On Sunday, June 9, a party of twelve Indians made an attack on a blockhouse at Buttonwood, in Hanover, three miles below the Wilkes-Barre fort. They met with a warm reception. The house was gallantly defended, the women aiding the men with alacrity and spirit. A party from the fort, on receiving the alarm, battened down and found pools of blood, where Lieut. Rosewell Franklin had wounded, probably killed, an Indian. A terrible revenge followed. Scouts constantly on the alert, one going out as another returned, ascended the river from fifty to eighty miles, and sought the enemy in every direction. On Tuesday, the 14th, Lieut. Crain shot at and wounded an Indian within 600 yards of the garrison. The Rev. Mr. Johnson now returned with his family from their exile in Connecticut, having been compelled to fly after the massacre in 1778.
In the autumn of this year Capt. James Bidlack returned amid the rejoicing of the people from his captivity. He was accompanied by Mr. Harvey. Both had been paroled by the British.
The Monument.—"The Wyoming Commemorative Association" was incorporated December 31, 1881. Incorporators: Charles Dorrance, Edmund L. Dana, Steuben Jenkins, Garrick M. Harding, Wesley Johnson, Abel Baker, L. D. Shoemaker, Harry Hakes, R. J. Wisner, Payne Pettebone, D. S. Bennett, Stanley Woodward, Calvin Parsons. Officers: President, Charles Dorrance; vice-presidents, E. L. Dana, L. D. Shoemaker, Calvin Parsons, H. Hollister and Steuben Jenkins; treasurer, [p.109] Harry Hakes; secretary, Wesley Johnson; corresponding secretary, Abel Baker; librarian, D. S. Bennett.
The approach of the centennial anniversary of the Wyoming battle stimulated the descendants of the heroes of that day to prepare for its suitable celebration. In the month of June, 1877, Steuben Jenkins and Calvin Parsons by chance met in Wilkes-Barre and conferred upon the subject and agreed that immediate action should be taken in the premises. The preliminary work was at once entered upon. Steuben Jenkins and Wesley Johnson sent out special invitations to the living descendants to meet at the court-house in Wilkes-Barre, July 3, 1877. The:first meeting was therefore held on the ninety-ninth anniversary of the battle. Among others at this meeting were Hon. Steuben Jenkins, Hon. Edmund L. Dana, Gov. Henry M. Hoyt, Hon. Lazarus D. Shoemaker, Col. Charles Dorrance, Dr. Horace Hollister, of Providence, Priestly R. Johnson, Calvin Parsons and Wesley Johnson.
Gen. Dana presided. Dr. Hollister and Mr. Jenkins made addresses. A committee of seventeen was appointed to report at a subsequent meeting—all of these were lineal descendants of the participants of the battle, as follows: Hon. Steuben Jenkins, Gen. Edmund L. Dana, Dr. Horace Hollister, Stewart Pearce, Col. Charles Dorrance, Hon. Lazarus D. Shoemaker, Ira Davenport, Jesse Harding, Col. Frank Stewart, Capt. Calvin Parsons, Dr. Andrew Bedford, Edward Wells, Steuben Butler, William Ross Maffit, Wesley Johnson, Hon. Peter M. Osterhout, Elisha Blackman; chairman, Steuben Jenkins.
The members of the committee corresponded with the "seventeen townships"— the Connecticut claim. Steuben Jenkins was a grandson of Col. John Jenkins, of colonial times.
Judge Dana was a grandson of the chivalric Anderson Dana, who had hurried from the Hartford assembly to lay down his life for freedom.
Calvin Parsons is a descendant of the Dana stock on the maternal side.
Dr. Hollister was of the family of Hollisters who lost their lives in the "First Massacre of Wyoming" in 1763.
Stewart Pearce, author of a valuable history, Annals of Luzerne, was of the house of Lazarus Stewart.
Col. Charles Dorrance, a grandson of Col. George Dorrance.
Hon. L. D. Shoemaker was of the blood of Col. Denison and of Capt. Elijah Shoemaker. The latter was killed on the battle field.
Jesse Harding, a representative of the Hardings, who were attacked in the field and killed by John Butler's men. Of the father and four sons only one, the grandfather of Jesse, escaped.
CoL Frank Stewart, of the Lazarus Stewart blood.
Edward Wells, a grandson of Matthias Hollenback. Hon. Steuben Butler was a son of Col. Zebulon Butler. who was in command of the patriot army. On the day of the meeting, except Mrs. Sally Abbott, daughter of Col. Nathan Denison, was the only living representative next in degree to the old patriots of the valley.
Dr. Andrew Bedford's mother, Miss Sutton, was a girl ten years of age, in the fort.
William Ross Maffit was nearest of kin to the brave Ross family, being a grandson of Gen. William Ross.
The Davenports, of Plymouth, were among the early settlers of the valley.
Wesley Johnson is a grandson of the pioneer preacher. Jacob Johnson was present, but was detailed to stay at the fort. He was the secretary in drawing the papers of capitulation. Since the above was in press, Wesley Johnson died in Wilkes-Barre, in the latter part of October, 1892.
The Blackmans were prominent in the darkest of those dark days here.
Judge Osterhout was of the Gen. Putnam stock.
[p.110] July 18 following the committee met, when Mr. Jenkins submitted a plan of organization, and a general meeting called for July 25.
The association was organized at the meeting, July 25, 1877, and the work of preparation for holding a suitable centennial was fully inaugurated and was actively advanced along all the different lines by the different committees.
January 1, 1878, the centenary year of the battle, was marked by a large meeting of citizens assembling on the historic spot, at the call of the association. Dr. Harry Hakes delivered a discourse on the objects of the association and the approaching centennial meeting—the main purpose being to make July 3, 1878, the memorable day of Wyoming valley. Col. Samuel Bowman and Hubbard B. Payne also delivered short addresses. The "Old Sullivan gun" was brought out and several shots fired from it. It was broken off below the trunions and was examined with great curiosity. The gun had been brought over the mountains in 1779 by Gen. Sullivan from Easton and had been buried on the farm of the Denisons, as it was too heavy to carry on his trip up the Susquehanna.
Constant meetings were now held by the executive committee, and from every hand came assurances that July 3 would be indeed a memorable day.
The day came in fulfilment of all this preparation and the city and boroughs near the battle ground were decorated, and everywhere flags were fluttering and marching bands and music filled the air. Thousands of people were abroad, the streets and roads lined with the living masses and the railroad trains on every road were constantly arriving bearing their living human freight. A special train with the president of the United States and governor of Pennsylvania, their respective staffs and numerous honored guests reached Wilkes-Barre on the forenoon of the third. And the greatest day in the annals of Wyoming valley was inaugurated. The procession was an elaborate affair-representing even the earliest pioneer times with a band of genuine Indians brought here for the occasion; the industries of modern times were appropriately represented; many of the States were represented by their most prominent men; many buildings were handsomely decorated, and many poems and addresses were made on the grounds. It was estimated there were 50,000 people in attendance at the monument. Col. Wright made an appropriate address of welcome. The presidential and governor's party were welcomed by an address by Gov. Hoyt. At the monument a beautiful ode by Mrs. Waters ("Stella of Lackawanna") was read. The address of C. A. I. Chapman was an eloquent tribute to the illustrious dead. Rev. Charles Dana Barrows, of Lowell, Mass., read a poem—a tribute to the Massachusetts women of Wyoming. Then came the address of Judge Edmund L. Dana, whose grandparents—Dana and Stevens—were killed in the Wyoming battle. The address had been carefully prepared, but the program extending over more time than had been anticipated, was not read. An ode, "Fair Wyoming," by Miss Susan E. Dickinson, set to music, was then sung.
Jenkins' Address.—The crowning event of the first day, after short speeches by the president, governor, Hon. John Sherman, Senator Buckalew, Atty. Gen. Devans and others, was the historical address by Steuben Jenkins—a scholarly man, the best equipped of the day to make the centennial historical address over the bones of the fallen heroes of Wyoming. He was among the last of the living immediate descendants of this Spartan band. He had made a careful and intelligent study of the subject all his life, and had in his possession the amplest possible materials concerning the history of those early and trying times of the pioneers. A man ripe in learning, large in patriotism, and deep in devotion to his country and the liberties of its people, the hour and the man were admirably fitted to the important occasion, so much so that the act itself was historical. His heart and brain were profoundly stirred in the work of preparation of this address; he must have known that it was the crowning act of his long and useful life, and be rose to his highest [p.111] reach and condensed in a brief address an incomparable amount of the century's history of one of the supremest movements of mankind in all history and in all time.
He commenced with a brief contrast in the conditions of the country then and now; an explanation that these, defenders who fought and mostly fell were not soldiers—not an army, but mostly aged men, youths and a few others not able to be in the active army in the field; that they were without any military organization and without the equipments of an army; a peaceful, pioneer, agricultural race of men, content to till the soil and feed their flocks, but a people who loved liberty and hated the tyrant, and therefore as soon as they heard of the battles of Concord and Lexington had called a town meeting and unanimously voted a genuine Declaration of Independence, and at the call of their country sent all their able-bodied men to Washington's army. In 1776 John Jenkins, representative from Westmoreland to the Connecticut assembly, had obtained the right to erect here a powder mill; the town had voted a bounty of £10 to the "first man that shall make fifty weight of good saltpeter;" on the promulgation of the immortal Declaration of Independence a town meeting was called and it was voted to at once commence erecting forts; to raise two companies of soldiers, and forts were erected at Kingston, Upper Wilkes- Barre (Mill Creek) and at Wilkes-Barre proper; "Jenkins Fort," in Exeter township; West Pittston, Hanover and Plymouth (Stewart block house). The general campaign of 1777 opened amid gloom and despondency; Burgoyne with a powerful army was descending along Lake Champlain and the Hudson river and Howe was moving up the river to join him and they were rapidly taking the Indians into the British service and the people of the valley or Westmoreland county began to take the precaution of sending parties up the river to watch the movements of the Indians; the tories were now encouraged to open activity, and the people learned that constant communication was being carried on with the tories about Tunkhannock and the Indians above. February 13, 1778, Amos York and Lemuel Fitch were carried off as prisoners to Niagara. Richard Fitzgerald was captured by the same band, but was so old that he was discharged from custody; these prisoners were kept all winter at Niagara and reported seeing there many tories from the upper Susquehanna; added to all the other calamities the small-pox raged in every district and the people were helpless against its attacks, yet in all these misfortunes and discouragements on December 30, 1777, the people at a town meeting of Westmoreland voted to supply "ye sogers' wives and sogers' widows and their families with the necesaries of life."
The British policy, early in 1776, was to employ the Indians and tories in carrying on marauds and invasions on the unprotected frontiers and the people here well know that a most inviting field for these pitiless forays was down the Susquehanna to the Wyoming settlement. Yet at the request of congress this people sent to the continental army Durkee's and Ransom's companies, which included about all the able-bodied young men in the settlement—patriotic, indeed! but as rash an act of devotion and self sacrifice as ever was performed by a people. When the war cloud began to gather in the north the people promptly informed Congress and begged for the return of their two companies of soldiers, whose families and their helpless friends were menaced by the savages as well as the invaders.
In the midst of these accumulating terrors suddenly appeared in the settlement Lieut. John Jenkins, who had escaped from his captors in Canada. York and Fitch, who had been captured with him, had been released at Montreal, and they had been put on board a transport to be sent to New England. Fitch died on board the vessel and York only lived to reach his friends in Voluntown, Conn., and died. Jenkins arrived at home June 2, and brought information that a great number of tories from up the river had wintered at Montreal and threatened to return and punish their enemies in Wyoming. [This is italicized for the purpose of fixing it in the [p.112] reader's mind, as bearing on the theory, not much advanced. but believed by some, that Butler's invasion was at the suggestion of certain parties that had been suspected of being unfriendly to the Yankees and had been driven away.] The story of Jenkins confirmed the worst fears of the people. June 5 there was a general Indian alarm spread, caused by six white men (said to be tories) appearing at Tunkhannock and taking prisoners Elisha Wilcox, Pierce and one or two others and they plundered several of the inhabitants.
Hastening messengers were sent to Washington and to the soldiers in the army from the valley, telling of the gathering perils, and the inhabitants set to work strengthening the stockades and rude forts.
June 12, 1778, William Crooks and Asa Budd went up the river and reached a point about two miles above Tunkhannock, and from the house of John Secord they were fired upon, and Crooks was killed. On the 17th a party of five went up the river from Jenkins' fort. The canoe in which were Miner Robbins, Joel Phelps and Stephen Jenkins, was fired upon; Robbins was killed and Phelps wounded. Capt. Hewitt, with a scouting party, went up the river June 30, and hastily retiring, reported a large body of the enemy coming. At Jenkins fort, about a mile above Wintermoot fort, were gathered the families of John Jenkins, Capt. Stephen Harding, the Hadsalls, John Gardiner, and others. On the morning of June 30, and before Capt. Hewitt's return, Benjamin Harding, Stukely Harding, Stephen Harding, Jr., John Gardiner, and a lad named Rogers, aged eleven, James Hadsall and his sons James and John, and his sons-in-law Ebenezer Reynolds and Daniel Carr, together with Daniel Wallen and a negro named Quocko, a servant of William Martin—twelve in all, went up the river to Exeter to their farm labors. It is only known that Benjamin and Stukely Harding took their guns with them, though some of the others may have had theirs. The Hardings, with Gardiner and the boy Rogers, worked in the cornfield of Stephen Harding, Jr.; the Hadsells and the others, part in Hadsall's cornfield on the island, part in his tanyard, close at hand, on the mainland.
Late in the afternoon two suspected tories approached these men at work and offered to stand guard for them. This aroused suspicions, and Stephen Harding at once went for the horses, and when he returned his companions had quit work and started homeward, and he followed. On the way down was a deep, narrow ravine. This spot is near the Baptist church, between that and the river. As they passed this spot they were fired on; Benjamin and Stukely Harding were wounded. The Indians now rushed upon them, and the men fought for their lives, but fell. Here John Gardiner, having no arms, was taken prisoner. The dead Hardings had left all about their mutilated bodies the abundant evidences of their unconquerable bravery. In the meantime another party of Indians had captured James Hadsall, his son-in- law Carr, and the negro, at the tannery. Those on the island came off in canoes, and as they ascended the bank were ambushed and fired upon, killing James Hadsell and wounding Reynolds, who fled with Wallen. The boy, John Hadsell, had remained at the canoe, and, on hearing the firing, fled to the woods. He was the first to arrive at the fort and give the awful news. The elder Hadsell, Gardiner, Carr and the negro were taken up the creek two miles to the Bailey farm, where Hadsall and the negro were put to death, horribly tortured to give an evening's entertainment.
Stephen Harding Jr., Reynolds, Wallen and the boy Rogers fled through the woods, wandering all night and reached the fort the next morning. This sad story roused the people to a wild frenzy of apprehensions. John Gardiner, prisoner, was taken to near Geneva, N. Y., and put to death. His fellow prisoner, Daniel Carr, saw his mutilated remains the next day after he was tortured to death. This was the bloody prelude to the far more terrible story of "Bloody Wyoming."
On the morning of July 3, Col. John Butler sent a flag of truce to Forty fort [p.113] demanding, an unconditional surrender. "On the afternoon of the 2d and the morning of the 3d," says Dr. Harry Hakes, "councils of war were held in the fort to determine what best to do. Not only did the subordinate officers demand to be heard in the council, but the men all seem to have had their say. Such a state of affairs could not and would not be tolerated in a regular army, but with this undisciplined, unorganized force, assembled hastily together, made up largely of material that would be rejected by a regular army, the whole of it in a perfect frenzy of fear and full of dismal forebodings, perhaps not much else could be expected. The opinions of those who by profession, discipline and experience were best qualified to estimate the situation, went for no more than those of the inexperienced and untried. The real point to be decided resolved itself into this: Should they remain in fort for the present, until reinforcements should arrive, standing on the defensive, and endeavoring to find out the strength and position of the enemy; or should they go out at once and hunt him up and give him battle? The superior officers were in favor of the first propositions while the large majority demanded to be led at once to battle. The forces that were expected were the remainder of the Wyoming men with Washington, who had a few days previous been merged into one company under Capt. Spalding, and a company of thirty-five men from Huntington and Salem under the command of Capt. John Franklin. That Col. Zebulon Butler must have known to almost a certainty that these two bodies of men were near at hand is quite conclusively shown by the fact that Franklin and his men reached the fort a few hours after the battle, and Spalding's company was within one day's journey of the valley, although it retraced its march on hearing that the battle had taken place.
The majority argued that the enemy would either besiege the fort or spread over the valley, carrying devastation and death. What the enemy's plans were, we do not certainly know; nor did our people. We can only judge by their acts. Two things are certain—our people decided to make an attack, and the enemy knew just when, and chose his own ground. The contention in the fort was angry and loud, if not logical. A single instance will suffice to show the order, or disorder, of the occasion. Capt. Stewart was in favor of immediate action, and told Col. Butler that if he did not lead them out at once to battle, he would take his company and go home. We must remember that this was a popular assembly, rather than an organized and disciplined army, where each man must know his place and duty. Like popular assemblies for civil purposes, the majority decided—a safe enough rule for most civil purposes, but in such a case, brim full of danger. On the afternoon of the 2d, and again on the morning of the 3d, the British commander sent down under the flag of truce a demand for the surrender of the fort. This demand was in both cases refused. In that decision our men were unanimous. It may perhaps be doubted if the demand was made so much with any expectation of surrender as it was to thus safely get an idea of our strength, preparation and intentions. It answered both purposes. Between 2 and 3 o'clock in the afternoon of July 3, 1778, our forces marched out of the fort and started up the valley in search of the enemy. Upon arriving about where the Agricultural Fair Grounds are now located, the enemy was first discovered already drawn up in line of battle, his left wing composed of his regulars under the command of Col. John Butler, resting a short distance below Fort Wintermoot, which was in flames; his center composed of tories, and his right composed of his Indians, thus extending the line nearly half a mile, and resting on the border of a dense swamp, a large portion of his Indians being entirely concealed in the swamp. The ground between the respective forces was nearly level, and was covered by a growth of shrub oaks, about four or five feet in hight, interspersed with a number of yellow pine trees. Extending from Fort Wintermoot northwardly, in the direction of the line of battle, there was a long and narrow clearing containing some two or three acres. The line of march up the valley by our army brought it in front of the enemy's left wing. Our forces were [p.114] then deployed to the left, to cover the British line. Before forming the line, Col. Zebulon Butler briefly addressed his men in a few encouraging and bold sentences, concluding: "Stand firm the first shock, and the Indians will give way. Everything depends upon standing firm the first shock. Now to your posts." Cols. Denison and Dorrance took charge of our left wing, and Col. Butler the right. At the word of command our men were directed to open fire alone, the whole line, and then steadily advance at each fire. "Ready, aim, fire!" Our men gave them a volley of bullets, to which the enemy responded. Our men stand firm the first shock of the battle, and steadily advance, firing rapidly. The British left wing begins to fall back upon slightly elevated ground above Fort Wintermoot, and our right follows up the apparent advantage until it brings our men upon the cleared ground before mentioned. Up to this point our people felt confident of victory, and so far as they yet had any knowledge of the enemy, they had fair reasons for this confidence. On the cleared ground they were, however, badly exposed to the British fire, and lost heavily. It is said their dead bodies lay there like sheaves of grain in a harvest field. On our left the greatest misfortune was that Col. Dorrance and nearly every captain had been killed. Throughout our whole line we had lost nearly all the officers. In following up the supposed advantage, our right wing reached a bloody field, and our left had advanced so far along the side of the swamp that at this moment the Indians, who had been concealed in the swamp, raised their hideous war whoop, and, with tomahawk and spear, swarmed on our flank and rear. This was the climax and catastrophe of the battle. The enemy, in vastly superior numbers, was now both in front and rear. Our histories say that Col. Butler, on discovering the enemy's flank movement, sent an order to the left to "fall back (if so, it was with a view to change front so as to face the enemy), and that this order was mistaken for an order to retreat. Unquestionably such a movement would (if possible) give them the least chance to maintain the ground, but under the circumstances it could not be executed. In fact, veterans can not be held when thus surrounded, and it must not be expected of such a force as Col. Butler had. The battle is ended."
Dr. Harry Hakes, and he is in accord with Jenkins and others, says that there were "100 tories" with the invaders. It should be kept in mind that those called "tories" included the men in the valley who did not take side with the Connecticut people; many of whom had been driven out of the country; many had been arrested and taken to Connecticut, and in all cases of the kind set at liberty by the court as "without offence." Many of these "tories" were simply disloyal to the land claims of Connecticut, and there is no doubt but that some of them had been cruelly treated, and thereby inflamed with a spirit of revenge.
An incident in the fort of transcendent importance should properly have been mentioned in the preceding paragraphs: In the discussion of the subject of going out to attack the enemy the Hanover company had become mutinous; Capt. McKarrachen resigned in consequence thereof, and Lazarus Stewart was elected in his place. Col. Butler had placed Stewart under arrest for his incendiary conduct, and he was only discharged when all were ready to march out and attack.
Richard Inman, one of Stewart's men, as Jenkins says, "wearied with the long march and the burden he was carrying, lay down alongside of a fence, while they were halted, and went to sleep." Happily he was awakened in time to save the life of Col. Lazarus Butler, as he was following his retreating men, and an Indian was pursuing to kill him, when Inman rose on his knees, and at the command of Butler shot the red rascal. Another version has it that Rufus Bennett was saving himself in the race for the fort by holding on to Col. Butler's horse's tail, and that when he saw Inman sitting up, rubbing his eyes, be called to him: "Is your gun loaded?" Inman said, "Yes." "Shoot that Indian!" and Inman fired and killed the foremost of the two pursuers, and the other turned back. "Inman's nap" is an incident [p.117] worthy the muse of the Wyoming poets; it well illustrates the fact that in actual battle there is much of hap-hazard and accident.
Mr. Jenkins says the retreat was not wholly confused—the men in squads moved sullenly and would turn on their pursuers. On the left a squad of a dozen or more, unconscious of the fatal state of affairs, as only one of their men, John Caldwell, had fallen, stood their ground and continued firing in this position until passed by the enemy, when they fled in an opposite direction; some of them were taken afterward as prisoners, and, Mr. Jenkins says, were carried above the battlefield and massacred.
After the surrender there is much conflict as to what really took place. The first accounts that went out to the world gave the most shocking details of the horrid orgies, the cruel butcheries and scalping of men, women, and even children; the story of the butchery of a brother by his brother captor, while on his knees begging for his life; of the wounded being, after incredible tortures, dragged to the campfire and thrown on the burning logs and held there with pitchforks, and many other nameless horrors, were given in sickening detail. There is but little doubt but that there was much plundering after the battle. Col. Denison says the enemy "plundered, burned and destroyed almost everything that was valuable." William Gallup, under oath, said: "We were plundered of everything. They kept us three or four days, then told us to go. One hundred and eighty women and children, accompanied by only thirteen men, went together. * * * Two women were delivered on the way in the woods. * * * The savages burnt all our improvements. * * * The number of fugitives were about 2,000. * * * Many perished on the way for food, and many lost their way and were never heard of again. The dreary swamp was then called 'The Shades of Death.'"
Steuben Jenkins felt it imperative, on this centennial day of the Wyoming battle, to tell something of the other side of the story. He realized that history must in time reach the cold bottom facts and lay them before the world. He quotes freely from Capt. Alexander Patterson's petition to the legislature, in which, among other things, he says:
"In the year 1776 there were a number of inhabitants, settlers on the northeast branch of the Susquehanna, near Wyalusing, under the Pennsylvania title. Among these were two brothers by the name of Pawling, of a respectable family from the county of Montgomery. They had paid £1,000 in gold and silver for their farm at Wyalusing, unto Job Chilloway, a useful, well-informed Indian, who had obtained a grant for said land from the late proprietors of the State. Among the settlers were the Secords, Depew, Vanderlip, and many others, wealthy farmers. The Yankees at Wyoming being more numerous, and, though at the distance of sixty miles, insisted that the Pennsylvania settlers should come to Wyoming and train and associate under Yankee officers of their own appointment. As may be supposed the proposals were very obnoxious to the inhabitants of Pennsylvania, and very properly they refused, alleging they would associate by themselves and would not be commanded by intruder's, who had so repeatedly sacked the well-disposed inhabitants of Pennsylvania, and at the time bid defiance to the laws and its jurisdiction. This gave a pretext to the Yankees for calling them tories. They then went in force and tied the Pennsylvania settlers and brought them to Wyoming, with all their movables, and confined them in a log house, until the Indians, who lived in the neighborhood of Wyalusing, and loved the Pennsylvanians, and at the time were well affected to the United States, some of whom had joined our army, protested." He then proceeds to tell how the intervention of the Indians finally secured the release of the prisoners, but the poor people, as they were returning, he says, were ambushed and fired upon by the Yankees, and that in many ways the Pennsylvanians were so harassed by the intruders that they were driven to seek an asylum with the Indians, and at length retired to Niagara for protection. He says it was [p.118] natural to imagine that the Pennsylvanians, who had been so cruelly deprived of their property, would endeavor to regain it, and he bluntly says their "moving address" induced Butler and Joseph Brant, the well-known Indians, to undertake the expedition to the Wyoming to recover their property, goods and chattels, and then he gives this account of the battle:
"The party arrived at a place called Abraham's Plains, about five miles above Wyoming. The Yankees were apprised of their being at that place, and must need go and fight them, led on by the old murderer, Lazarus Stewart, first having drank two barrels of whisky to stimulate their spirits. They marched in riot, with drums beating and colors flying. The result was that a number of them were killed. Those who asked quarter were humanely treated, nor was woman or child molested, only enjoined to leave the country to the rightful owners. Surely there was no propriety in calling that a massacre or murder. The wretches brought it on themselves, and so be it."
New York, September 10, 1778, Col. Guy Johnson to Lord George Germain said:
"Your Lordship will have learned before this reaches you of the successful incursion of the Indians and loyalists from the northward. In conformity to the instructions I conveyed to my officers, they assembled their forces early in May, and one division under one of my deputies (Butler), proceeded with great success down the Susquehanna, destroying the posts and settlements at Wyoming, augmenting their numbers with many loyalists and alarming all the country; whilst another division under Mr. Brant, the Indian chief, cut off 294 men near Schoharie and destroyed the adjacent settlements, with several magazines, from whence the rebels had derived great resources, thereby affording encouragement and opportunity to many friends of the government to join them."
This is a little of the two sides of the story as given on the authority of Steuben Jenkins. Patent errors are to be seen on both sides, not only in the wide differences on material points, but on subjects where they are substantially agreed. This is one of the almost insuperable difficulties that meet the historian at every paragraph of his work. At the moment of an important occurrence the shield is seen from totally different sides; by highly excited minds, inflamed with opposing prejudices, and results are that all accounts are wholly irreconcilable. And the historian is left much to the task of blind guessing.
There was a battle on the 3d of July, 1778, in which the Connecticut patriots were terribly slaughtered, the palpable result of a fearful blunder on their part, in which so many good men sealed their mistake with their lives. The source of the invasion was chiefly the preceding ill treatment of the Pennite settlers by the Yankees. Connecticut had cruelly abandoned its people after instigating them to come here and treat the Penn settlers as open enemies and finally as tories. And now after more than one hundred years have come and gone the impartial chronicler is justified in the anomalous conclusion: Both were right and both were wrong.
The fallen heroes of that bloody field lay unburied from July 3 to October 22. When Lieut. John Jenkins, with a detail of men, gathered such as they could and gave them a common sepulture, none were recognizable. Those found on the battlefield were buried together and those found scattered at other points were buried where found. No index marked the spot where any were buried. And thus they slept in peace until July 4, 1832, when, after much vain searching, their bones were exhumed for the purpose of erecting a monument over the sacred ashes.
The Monument.—Nearly fifty years had elapsed after the Wyoming battle before any effective effort was made to erect the monument that now points the place where the heroes sleep. July 22, 1826, a meeting was called in Wilkes-Barre, followed by another meeting August 9; the latter was presided over by Gen. William Ross, Arnold Colt, secretary, in which resolutions were passed that in time led to the erection of [p.119] the monument. A committee was appointed, of whom Col. John Franklin was a member, to solicit subscriptions; of the entire committee of seventy-five members, only three were living July 3, 1878, viz.: Henry Roberts, aged eighty-seven; Abram Honeywell, of Dallas, aged eighty-six, and John Gore, of Kingston, aged eighty-three. Steuben Butler, editor of the paper in which the proceedings were published of this first meeting, was then aged ninety. He died August 12, 1881. But little more was done to push the monument along until July 3, 1832, when a large meeting convened at the battle-ground to pay tribute to the heroes. Rev. James May delivered an address. Among other things he said: "The grave containing their bones is uncovered before you. You see for yourselves the marks of the tomahawk and scalping knife on the heads which are here uncovered, after having rested for more than fifty years." A part of his audience were some of the survivors of the battle—fifty-four years preceding.
Another speaker, Rev. Nicholas Murry ("Kirwan"), made a few remarks on the occasion and holding up a skull to the view of the audience, asked them to look at the cruel marks of the tomahawk and scalping knife on it, using this gruesome token as an incentive to help build the monument to the memory of the "murdered." July 3, 1833, was laid the corner-stone of the Wyoming monument with great pomp and ceremony. Hon. Chester Butler, grandson of Col. Zebulon Butler, delivered an eloquent oration.
The enterprise now lingered and but little was done to advance it until 1839, when a new committee, Gen. William Ross, Hezekiah Parsons and Charles Minor, went to Connecticut and asked the legislature to appropriate $3,000 to help complete the work. Their petition was favorably reported, but again that mother state failed to succor the memory of her choicest heroes. The monument and grounds remained in a neglected condition until 1842, when the matter was taken up by the "Ladies' Monumental Association," fairs were held, dinners given and in a short time a small fund was raised, and the stone work resumed and carried to completion, but the grounds were still neglected. Nothing of importance was done until 1864. The "Wyoming Association" had been incorporated, and the matter was brought before the Historical and Geological society and subscriptions called for. And thus the funds to improve the grounds were secured.
The stone column is sixty-two feet six inches high from the ground surface, rectangular in form and is solid and graceful in appearance—four equal sides. The northwest face bears the appropriate inscription by Edward G. Mallory, the great-grandson of Col. Zebulon Butler:
"Near this spot was fought,
On the afternoon of Friday, the third day of July, 1778,
THE BATTLE OF WYOMING,
in which a small band of patriotic Americans,
chiefly the undisciplined, the youthful and the aged,
spared by inefficency from the distant ranks of the Republic,
led by Col. Zebulon Butler and Col. Nathan Denison,
with a courage that deserved success,
boldly met and bravely fought
a combined British, Tory and Indian force
of thrice their number.
Numerical superiority alone gave success to the invader
and wide-spread havoc, desolation and ruin
marked his savage and bloody footsteps through the valley.
commemorative of these events
and of the actors in them,
has been erected over the bones of the slain
by their descendants and others, who gratefully appreciate
the services and sacrifices of their patriot ancestors."
On the southwest and northeast sides of the monument are the names of the [p.120] slain so far as they could be ascertained at the time of the erection of the monument. Much care and pains were taken in making the list; everyone was consulted whom it was supposed could throw any light on the subject. A list had been printed in Mr. Miner's history and for a long time, while it was known it was not complete, yet it was not believed that it could be added to. He had recovered 130 names and published this in the belief that it was all that was ascertainable, but when it was known that the names were to be engraved on the stone, public attention was directed to the matter, the list revised and new names added. But the long list of the slain remained very incomplete, although to Mr. Miner's list were added forty-two names, making a total of 172, and yet it was well known the honored roll was not complete. The difficulty arose from the fact that many of them had just rushed in and there was no time to attempt an enrollment. They hurriedly came and hurriedly shouldered a gun and took their places in the line, and only answered "present" at the roll-call of the recording spirit of heaven, a melancholy evidence of the oft-repeated fact that this was in no sense an organized force, but mostly a gathering of the people to defend their homes and families. This fact should forever disarm all carping criticism; a trouble of some minds ignorant of essential facts, added to that wide disposition to adversly criticise all defeats, and brag on all victories. These people were defeated, no question now but that they erred in going out to give battle, but the numerical proportion they left starkening on the battle-field, with but few parallels in the history of wars, tells the answer more eloquently than human speech can ever utter.
The committee to make a correct list for engraving on the stone performed their task laboriously, from which is copied the following, with such additions as it has been possible to obtain:
Officers: Lieutenant-colonel, George Dorrance; major, Jonathan Waite Garrett.
Captains: James Bidlack, Jr., Aholiab Buck, Robert Durkee, Rezin Geer, Dethic Hewitt, William McKarrachen, Samuel Ransom, Lazarus Stewart, James Wigdon, Asaph Whittlesey.
Lieutenants: A. Atherton, Aaron Gaylord, Perrin Ross, Lazarus Stewart, Jr., Flavius Waterman, Stoddart Bowen, Timothy Pierce, Elijah Shoemaker, Asa Stevens, James Wells.
Ensigns: Jeremiah Bigford, Silas Gore, Jonathan Otis, Asa Gore, Titus Hinman, William White.
Privates: Jabez Atherton, Christopher Avery, — Ackke, A. Benedict, Jabez Beers, Samuel Bigford, David Bixby, Elias Bixby, John Boyd, John Brown, Thomas Brown, William Buck, Joseph Budd, Amos Bullock, Asa Bullock, Henry Bush, Eson Brockway, John Caldwell, D. Denton, Anderson Dana, Conrad Davenport, George Downing, James Levine, Levi Dunn, William Dunn, — Ducher, Benjamin Finch, Daniel Finch, John Finch, Elisha Fish, Cornelius Fitchett, Eliphalet Follett, Thomas Faxon, John Franklin, Stephen Fuller, Thomas Fuller, Joshua Landon, Daniel Lawrence, William Lawrence, Francis Ledyard, James Lock, Conrad Lowe, Jacob Lowe, William Lester, C. McCartee, Nicholas Manville, Nero Matthewson, Alexander McMillan, Job Marshall, Andrew Millard, John Murphy, Robert McIntire, Joseph Ogden, Josiah Carman, Joseph Cary, Joel Church, William Cofferin. James Cofferin, Samuel Cole, Isaac Campbell, — Campbell, Robert Comstock, Kingsley Comstock, — Cooks (three brothers), Christopher Courtright, John Courtright, Anson Corey, Jenks Corey, Rufus Corey, Joseph Crocker, Samuel Crocker, Jabez Darling, Darius Spofford, James Spencer, Joseph Staples, Rufus Stevens, James Stevenson, Nailer Sweed, Gamaliel Truesdale, Ichabod Tuttle, Abram Vangorder, George Gore, — Gardner, — Green, Benjamin Hatch, William Hammond, Silas Harvey, Samuel Hutchinson. Cypria, Hebard, Levi Hicks, John Hutchins, James Hopkins, Nathaniel Howard, Zipporah Hubbard, Elijah Inman, Israel Inman. Samuel Jackson, Robert Jameson, Joseph Jennings, Henry Johnson, John Van Wie, [p.121] Elihu Waters, Jonathan Weeks, Bartholomew Weeks, Philip Weeks, Peter Wheeler, Stephen Whiten, Eben Wilcox, Elihu Williams, Jr., Rufus Williams, Abel Palmer, Silas Parke, William Parker, John Pierce, Henry Pencil, Noah Pettebone, Jr., Jeremiah Ross, Jr., Elisha Richards, William Reynolds, Elias Roberts, Timothy Rose, Abram Shaw, James Shaw, Constant Searle, Abel Seely, Levi Spencer, Eleazer Sprague, Aaron Stark, Daniel Stark, Josiah Spencer, Eson Wilcox, John Williams, John Ward, John Wilson, William Woodring, Aziba Williams, — Wade, Ozias Yale, Gershom Prince (colored).
Lieut. Boyd was executed by court martial by the British, after the surrender, as a deserter and spy.
On the southeast face of the monument is inscribed the list of the known (supposed) survivors. It was ascertained, however, that there were names omitted that should have been inscribed. Mr. Jenkins' and the committee's attention was called to this; it was intended to fill out these names on the monument, but so far it has not been done, and the omission is here as fully supplied as possible. Our attention was called to this by Mr. G. W. Gustin, of Plains, who kindly supplied the names as indicated over their insertion below.
Colonels: Zebulon Butler, Nathan Denison.
Lieutenants: Daniel Gore, Timothy Howe.
Ensigns: Daniel Downing, Mathias Hollenback.
Sergeants: Jabez Fish, Phineas Spafford, — Gates.
Privates: John Abbott, Gideon Baldwin, Zera Beach, Rufus Bennett, Solomon Bennett, Elisha Blackman, Nathan Carey, Samuel Carey, George Cooper, Joseph Elliott, Samuel Finch, Roswell Franklin, Hugh Forsman, Thomas Fuller, John Garrett, Samuel Gore, Lemuel Gustin, James Green, Lebbeus Hammond, Jacob Haldron, Elisha Harris, Ebenezer Heberd, William Heberd, Richard Inman, David Inman, John Jamison, Henry Lickers, Joseph Morse, Thomas Neill, Josiah Pell, Phineas Pierce, Abraham Pike, John M. Skinner, Giles Slocum, Walter Spencer, Edward Spencer, Amos Stafford, Roger Searle, Cherrick Westbrook, Eleazer West Daniel Washburn.
List of killed on the approach of the invaders: William Crooks, Miner Robbins, Benjamin Harding, Stukely Harding, James Hadsall, James Hadsall, Jr., William Martin, Quoco (colored).
Prisoners from Wyoming: John Gardner, Daniel Carr, Samuel Carey, Daniel Wallen, Daniel Rosencrans, Elisha Wilcox and — Pierce.
Reflections.—Time and calm investigation have punctured some of the blood-curdling stories that first went out to the world as eye-witnessed scenes of that day. It is pretty generally now conceded that the story of Queen Esther and the "Bloody Rock" were without foundation; that the "Queen" was not there at all. Curiously enough, while both sides, for a long time, asserted that the Indian Brant was there in command of the savages, yet he was not at the battle at all. Again, Steuben Jenkins concedes, indirectly, that there was no massacre of the surrendered, or in the fort; yet, in enumerating the number of scalps, he estimates many of them were taken from the murdered fugitives as they were fleeing toward the Delaware. Until recent years Col. John Butler was never mentioned, except with a shudder—a monster savage, fit only to lead just such a horde of brutes as was his army. Time has changed much of this high-colored picture. On this subject Dr. Harry Hakes has well said:
"Before Col. John Butler took possession of the fort he learned that there was a large quantity of whisky there, and ordered Col. Denison to throw the whole of it into the river before his army should come down to the fort. It has already been remarked that soon after the battle and massacre monstrous falsehoods concerning some portions of the transactions became published and are handed down in some histories. While there is certainly enough of truth to make one of the blackest [p.122] pages in the history of modern warfare, it is doing but simple justice to put down the truth at this late day. To illustrate the manner in which indefinite ideas of the enormity of the crimes then perpetrated have gained an irresistible hold of those who have never carefully searched for the truth, or those who have felt themselves interested or justified in coloring the account with too much red or black, I quote from a History of the United States, by S. G. Goodrich, edition of 1871, for use of schools and families, pages 245-6: "There was a beautiful settlement at Wyoming so thickly peopled, according to some statements, it had already furnished 1,000 men to the continental army. Early in July 400 Indians, with more than twice that number of tories and half-blood Englishmen, came upon the settlement and destroyed it. They were headed by Brant, a cruel half-breed Indian, and John Butler, a tory. The colonists, in their apprehension of what might happen, had built a few small forts, and gathered their families and some of their effects into them. The savages and savage-looking whites now appeared before one of the forts, which was commanded by a cousin of Butler, and demanded its surrender. They persuaded its commander to come out to a spot agreed upon in the woods, for the purpose, as they said, of making peace. He accordingly marched to the spot with 400 men, but not a tory or an Indian was to be found there. They pressed on through the dark paths of the forest, but still no one was to be found. At last they saw themselves suddenly surrounded by the enemy. The savages were in every bush, and sprang out upon them with terrible yells. All but sixty of these 400 men were murdered in the most cruel manner. The enemy went back to Kingston, and, to strike the Americans in the forts with as much fear as possible, hurled over the gates to them the reeking scalps of their brothers, husbands and fathers. The distressed people now inquired of Butler, the leader of the tories, what terms he would give them. He answered only, "The hatchet!" They fought as long as they were able, but the enemy soon enclosed the fort with dry wood and set it on fire. The unhappy people within—men, women and children—all perished in the fearful blaze. The whole country was then ravaged, and all the inhabitants who could be found were scalped.' This certainly is bloody enough to satisfy the most desperate tory hater or his remotest posterity; but that such an account should be published as late as 1871 for instruction in schools and the edification of families, is an unmitigated, unpardonable outrage. The Hon. Stewart Pearce demonstrated, more than twenty years ago, that Brant was not in the battle. The Hon. H. B. Wright, also, in his History of Plymouth, after a correspondence with the historian, Bancroft, says Brant was not in the battle. After the signing of the articles of capitulation there was no personal injury done any one. The Indians did plunder the women, and even the men, of some, if not, most, of their clothing and provisions. The inhabitants—men, women and children—fled from the valley in different directions and encountered very great suffering in their flight. The Indians roamed over the valley and burned nearly every hut not belonging to a loyalist or tory. The enemy took off horses and perhaps cattle that were left or abandoned by the inhabitants. The enemy left the valley by the Lackawanna path three or four days after the battle. The valley seems to have been entirely deserted by both friend and foe, and our dead lay unburied for four months on the battle-field. It will be observed that the terms of the capitulation were violated upon the part of the enemy, in plundering the people of clothing, provisions, in cattle and horse stealing, and in the burning of the dwellings. Col. Denison remonstrated with Col. Butler against the plundering, but Butler replied that it was not in his power to prevent it, and such has been generally conceded. We soon had an armed force again in the valley, and under their protection the inhabitants began to return in the fall of the same year. The tories, however, never availed themselves of the terms of the capitulation "to be allowed to remain in undisturbed possession of their farms and to trade without molestation." The undoubted fact is that for fifty years after the battle and until the statute [p.123] of limitations had exterminated their titles, they could no more live here in safety than lambs in a fold of wolves. How a different termination of the war might have affected all parties in their civil rights it is not difficult to understand. No instance is recorded of any of the British regular troops being parties to the massacre or violating the terms of capitulation. In a few instances the tories are said to have killed prisoners, but the conclusion is irresistible that they inaugurated the expedition and directed the Indians in their work of fire and blood. As for the British government and its subordinate officers having taken the Indians into their confidence and employ, they must be held responsible for their conduct."
In concluding this subject, it may be properly noticed that even among the people here, descendants largely of the Revolutionary sires, there are those who incline to take sides and make a material issue of the fact that there was whisky in the fort, and insinuate this had something to do with the calamities that struck these devoted people. Nothing could be more cruel and unjust to the memory of the illustrious dead. A century ago and now are times so radically different on the subject of whisky as to leave little or nothing to compare. It was a necessity, if not a virtue, then to make and use whisky. To convert their corn and rye into whisky was the only way to transport their farm products to market at all; no other way could they have made a living here; in the use of it there was no exception, both as a beverage and a medicine. A teetotaler or a prohibitionist here then would have been simply a species of monstrosity. Without arguing the proprieties, it is enough to say that the times justified the free use of whisky among the pioneers; it is doubtful indeed if the country could have been settled without it. These were not a drunken people. Men then got drunk of course, but they do far worse now in the stream of madmen, murderers, and the diseased in mind and body, that sicken the air of heaven with their debaucheries. The use and making of whisky by our pioneer fathers, if not a virtue, certainly was not a wrong. The average of mankind was then full of ignorant, superstition and unreasoning bigotry, to an extent that would be little short of criminal now, but it is not at all certain but that very fact was one of his mainstays in the hard struggle of life that lay before him. In many things he had to be a man of stern, blind faith—the rough, not the polished diamond, as the soldier must be a man who obeys orders without thinking at all. Therefore, in judging of then, the times and the circumstances must have first consideration.