The Story of Old Fort Johnson

W. Max Reid




("And among the plunder captured by Col. Willett were two fresh scalps with hair smooth and neatly plaited.")



During the year 1754, and previous to the active operations of the last French war, the forts along the Mohawk River were garrisoned by English troops, supplemented occasionally by provincial volunteers. At that time the post at Fort Hunter, although in a dilapidated condition, had a semblance of a garrison in a few soldiers under the command of a young English lieutenant by the name of Robert Stanley, whose headquarters were in an old stone building known as Queen Anne's Chapel parsonage. The soldiers were quartered inside the palisade which enclosed the chapel, and in the chapel itself.

Back of the parsonage to the south extended the primitive forest, with occasional openings made by settlers, partially under cultivation. To the east, west, and north were hundreds of acres of flat lands under cultivation by the Indians and a few white men who constituted the settlement at Tiononderoga. Their nearest neighbor to the east was the family of Jan Wemps, and two miles away on the north bank of the Mohawk was the fortified home of Colonel William Johnson, lately named Fort Johnson by its owner. Scattered here and there on the flat lands and the neighboring hills could be seen the rude huts of the Mohawks, with the "long house" near the palisade, also enclosed in a stockade of upright logs set firmly in the ground.

The parsonage was a two-story structure of rough, stone, with deep embrasured windows and small panes of glass protected by heavy wooden shutters, and doors guarded by huge locks with keys large enough for a medieval fortress. Loopholes for the firing of muskets were in evidence in the walls on every side. The interior was divided into four moderate-sized rooms above and below, scantily furnished with rude but substantial furniture. Here Lieutenant Stanley lived, while the household affairs were administered as best they could be by an Indian woman hired for that purpose. It was a lazy, inactive life that the Lieutenant led, its monotony occasionally broken by visits to the homes of the Johnsons, Wemps, and the Butlers, or an occasional trip down the Mohawk in bateau or canoe to Schenectady for supplies for the garrison.

A year before his regiment had been hurriedly ordered to America he had married a beautiful and loving woman. Two years had passed, but the remembrance of the blissful, tearful good-bye was a sweet memory to him in the wilderness notwithstanding the anguish of separation, and he looked forward with inexpressible longing to the coming June, when she would be with him again. In the meantime he busied himself in brightening the old structure with new bits of furniture and linen for the household, while quick-growing vines were planted in order to cover the weather-stained walls of the gloomy dwelling.


June has come and with it the ship that bore the wife of Lieutenant Stanley, and on one of those rare days in this leafy month a party is embarking on a well-loaded bateau for a slow voyage up the Mohawk; but with Mr. and Mrs. Stanley are two sturdy children, a boy of seven and a girl of three, whose yellow locks and pink and white complexion seem to indicate that they are of German parentage.

Among the emigrants on board the ship which brought Mrs. Stanley to the shores of America was a frail German with his wife and two children. Before the vessel was many days out, some of the passengers were stricken with a virulent disease, from which many died, among whom were the two Germans spoken of above. The grief of the two children was pitiful, and excited the sympathy of Mrs. Stanley to such an extent that she assumed the care of providing for them in the strange country which they were approaching. For many years it had been the custom for captains of ships plying between the old world and the new to transport emigrants without pay, with the understanding that upon their arrival in port their services should be sold to persons desiring servants, for a sum equalling their passage money, practically making the persons so sold slaves, for a period of years. Lieutenant Stanley, at the request of his wife, purchased the children in the manner, and the boy and girl were indentured to him for a term of ten years.

The bateau on which our party had embarked at Schenectady, although of generous capacity, was heavily loaded with supplies for Fort Johnson, and taxed to the utmost strength of eight vigorous polemen in making headway against the strong current and over the numerous riffs and shallows between the Kinaquarione hill and Johnson's trading settlement opposite the "painted rocks." At this point, the boat was lightened somewhat by the passengers going ashore and tramping through the forests that fringed the bank of the river.

With much trouble the bateau succeeded in reaching the foot of the riff near the present site of Guy Park; but was unable to proceed any farther, owing to the shallowness of the river between this point and Fort Johnson. Securing the bateau to the north bank and leaving two of their number to watch the cargo, which they had protected with huge tarpaulins, the boat crew, having made packs of some of the portable articles, joined the passengers in the moonlight tramp along the three-mile trail to Fort Johnson. In due time the weary travellers came in sight of the beacon light in the peak of the old stone mansion, supplemented by numerous camp-fires in front of rude Indian camps on the extensive flats in front of the palisaded building.

A Mohawk runner having informed Johnson of the approach of the party, he was at the gate of the stockade to welcome his weary visitors. By his side were his two daughters, Anne and Mary, while in the rear of the family party stood a young woman in semi-barbarous apparel. With raven black hair drawn straight back from her low, smooth brow and fastened in flat plaits on the back of her well-formed head; features comely and complexion a pure olive, tinted on cheek and chin with the warm blood of her dusky race; form of medium height and well rounded with beauty's curves on limb and neck and breast, half-veiled slumbrous eyes and full, crimson lips, she stood apart from the daughters of her lord and master, but with the proud and quiet demeanor that was a marked characteristic in her association with the white guests of Sir William in after years. Dominant and masterful, sensual and affectionate, there is no reason to believe that the Baronet ever regretted the impulse that caused him to select this beautiful Mohawk girl as a successor to his first Indian wife, Caroline, and as stepmother to her own cousins.

Wine Vault Cellar, Old Fort Johnson.

After greeting his tired guests the servants were ordered to prepare refreshments for the Lieutenant and his wife, while a motherly black slave took charge of the two forlorn, motherless children.

As commissioner of Indian affairs, Johnson was regarded as an important personage, and frequent visits to Albany and New York, as guest of the wealthy and powerful of those cities, made it necessary that his own household should be ordered on a generous and hospitable plan; therefore the advent of this British officer and his lady in no way disconcerted this lord of the forest lands, who regaled them with all the delicacies of an epicure's larder and the choice liquors of a well-stocked wine cellar.

The advent of an educated English lady into the household of Sir William was of rare occurrence and highly appreciated by the Baronet, who was assiduous in his attentions to the officer's wife; she in return regaled her host with news of London and the gossip of the court. Midnight, however, found his guests in slumber, and the early morning, passengers in Indian canoes en route to their home at Fort Hunter.


Ten years have elapsed since the close of the last chapter and have brought many changes to the family of the Lieutenant, now Captain Stanley. Wounded in the French war at the battle of Lake George, the Captain is now an invalided soldier located at Fort Herkimer. During his residence at Fort Hunter, a daughter was born, and at this period is a beautiful child of nine years. The two German orphans spoken of in the last chapter are still members of his family, sharing the affection of their master, and contributing to his material comfort more as a son and daughter than bondservants. Rudolph, the boy, is a sturdy lad of seventeen and Therese a bright and loving child of thirteen, whose joys and sorrows are mingled with those of her foster sister Mildred.

Life at the old stone manse had been a period of happiness to the young English wife, varied somewhat by anxiety over occasional brawls between the English soldiers and the Mohawks, that sometimes threatened serious consequences, had it not been for the firm hand of their neighbor, Sir William Johnson. At last, however, an outrageous indignity offered to the wife of an Indian chief brought matters to a climax and made it necessary for Sir William to transfer the garrison to some other post and substitute a Colonial squad in pace of British soldiers, still retaining Captain Stanley as commandant of the post.

After the hospitable introduction into Sir William's family on the evening of Mrs. Stanley's arrival, visits were frequently exchanged between the two families, resulting in a firm and lasting friendship between the English lady and the dusky Molly Brant, and the comradeship of the motherless half-breeds, Caroline, Charlotte, and William, children of Sir William by his first Indian wife Caroline, with the German wards of Captain Stanley. The education of Rudolph and Therese had not been neglected and the decade ending in 1765 found them well advanced in studies chosen by the Captain, their teacher, to fit them for the life they were destined to live on the frontier or in their battle with the world at large.

At the age of seventeen Rudolph had grown to be a handsome, robust lad well versed in woodcraft and skill with rifle, taught him by his dusky companions and by experience in the forests which surrounded his chosen home on every side. The necessity of supplying their limited larder with animal food made frequent excursions into the forests unavoidable, and to become a skilful hunter and an expert angler was the ambition of the lads of the frontier settlements.

The French war had practically ended, but the German Flats settlements were frequently alarmed by incursions of small prowling bands of Algonquins from Canada, making it unsafe for unarmed settlers to venture far into the forest without exercising constant vigilance to prevent being surprised by the wily marauders.

One of those beautiful days in May when nature seems to entice humanity to enjoy the many attractions of stream and field and forest, two young girls might have been seen in a canoe, venturing from the south shore of the Mohawk River to a small island in mid-stream. The older of the two girls, seated in the bottom of the frail vessel, skilfully handled the paddle as she slowly propelled the frail vessel toward "the haven where they would be," while in the bow reclining, with her tiny hands trailing in the water on each side, was the Captain's daughter Mildred. Beautiful in form and features with the hues of perfect health and strength and with all the promises of beautiful and intelligent womanhood.

Therese, her companion and foster sister, is also fair to look upon. Straight of limb and robust in physique as became a forest training almost equal to that of her brother, she also seemed to give assurance of great physical attractions of form and face in early maturity.

Drifting and paddling slowly, the girls directed their canoe to a little cove with shelving beach, and as the bow grated upon the sand were alarmed at the sight of two half-naked Indians who sprang suddenly from the bushes, grasped the canoe on each side and forced it, with its terrified occupants, up the sandy beach and into the low dense thicket of willows that lined the cove. Mildred uttered a wild shriek of terror, which was quickly smothered by the rough hand of one of the savages, and sank into the bottom of the canoe, her terror-stricken face pale and drawn at the horror of the situation. The little German girl still grasped the paddle and gazed stolidly at her captor, as though she failed to comprehend the danger that hovered over them. With a significant touch of the knife at his belt the young {original text has "yound".} buck grasped the girl, at the same time saying, "Keep still or me kill you," and quickly sped across the small island to the place where their canoe was concealed, followed by his companion carrying the limp form of Mildred and dragging the light canoe with him. Placing one of the girls in each canoe, they hastily covered them with branches of willow, threatening instant death if they stirred or made an outcry, and paddled their boats up the stream and towards the northern shore.

The friendship existing between the members of Captain Stanley's household and Molly Brant and Sir William Johnson's family brought them in contact with Joseph Brant and the half-breed William Johnson of Canajoharie castle at Danube; and after the removal of Captain Stanley to the Herkimer fort, frequent visits were exchanged between the families and the young Indians. It so happened that on the morning of the capture of the two children, Rudolph in company with Tha-yen-da-ne-ga was returning from Indian Castle in a canoe, and, as they were rounding a piece of land a short distance below the island, discovered the Canadian Indians hastily paddling away.

Tha-yen-da-ne-ga's quick eye discovered the war paint of the savages, and at the same time recognized them as Hurons from the vicinity of Quebec; and Rudolph as quickly recognized Therese's canoe, which contained the shivering form of poor Mildred. Shouting the war-cry of the Mohawks, Brant with vigorous strokes of the paddle forced the light vessel swiftly in pursuit of the fleeing Hurons, while Rudolph's rifle placed a bullet through the right arm and into the side of the dusky buck in Mildred's canoe, causing him to drop his paddle. At the report of the rifle, the other Huron raised his gun, and as he brought it to rest, and in the act of firing at the pursuers, the little German girl quickly threw herself out of the canoe on the opposite side, clinging to the frail vessel until she capsized it just as the Indian's gun was discharged, the bullet speeding harmlessly toward the zenith instead of the mark of his murderous aim.

The two girls were expert swimmers, and as the Huron was floundering in the water Therese sank into the stream and struck out vigorously, still under the face of the water, towards the advancing canoe. The Huron soon came to the surface, still encumbered with his rifle, and seizing the frail canoe, but keeping it between himself and his approaching enemies, endeavored to reach the north shore of the river.

While this episode was being enacted, a similar one took place in the other canoe, by which the wounded Indian was thrown into the water and Mildred swam fearlessly and rapidly towards the island. Meanwhile the girls' canoe, floating down the stream in the direction of the pursuers, was seized by Therese as she came to the surface a few rods below the place where she had disappeared.

During the floundering of the Indians among the débris of the upturned canoes, Rudolph could not discover {original text has "disecovr".} any trace of his sister after the quick movement that capsized the vessel in which she was concealed, and deeming that she had been wounded and drowned, his rage at the Hurons became intense.

Urging Tha-yen-da-ne-ga to increased exertion he quickly reloaded his rifle, watching keenly the hand of the savage on the canoe which he was using as a shield, in his efforts to reach the north shore that he might escape in the thickets which lined its border. But his struggles were in vain, for at the instant that he sprang from the water's edge to his haven of comparative safety, the unerring bullet from Rudolph's rifle pierced his brain and he sank to the sand, dead. His fatally wounded companion having also disappeared under the waters of the Mohawk, the young men turned their attention toward succoring the recent captives, Tha-yen-da-ne-ga having discovered the perilous situation of Therese in mid-stream, clinging to the capsized canoe, while Mildred was seen lying in a state of collapse on the shore of the island.

The report of the rifles and the way-cry of the Mohawks having alarmed the inhabitants of Fort Herkimer, boats were soon speeding to the scene of disturbance, and many willing hands were ready to offer assistance to the maidens, who proved to be more scared than hurt. Assistance, however, was given to bury the Huron deep in the sands of the shore, unmutilated and uncoffined.

Stopping to pick up Therese and restore the canoe to buoyancy, Brant stepped into the frail vessel and quickly paddled to the fort, while Rudolph hastened to Mildred, whose dripping form was soon nestling in his arms, in perfect comfort and rest, notwithstanding the chill of her involuntary bath and the horror of her brief bondage in the power of the young Hurons.

For many months Mrs. Stanley had been in a precarious state of health, notwithstanding the assiduous care of her husband and devoted children; but as the alarm of the garrison over the abduction of the two children was soon communicated to her, she succumbed to the horror of the situation and never recovered consciousness, but passed peacefully away, even amid the joy of the household over the rescue and return of the maidens.

After the death of his wife, Captain Stanley, broken in health and broken-hearted, sent in his resignation to the proper authorities and prepared to take possession of a grant of land which he owned near Fort Stanwix (Rome), and it is here that we find him in 1775, as a farmer and successful trader, with warehouses on the trail between the Mohawk and Wood Creek.


Although situated on the frontier and a resident of Tryon County for more than twenty years, the Captain was a thorough Briton at heart and loyal to his king; but the sympathies of Rudolph and his sister Therese were with the patriots.

We cannot, however, call the Captain an ardent partisan, for, broken in health and spirit and relying so completely on his adopted son and daughter for the care of his business and his household, he was inclined to remain neutral in the struggle for supremacy that was going on between the patriots and Tories, which kept old Tryon County in a state of turbulency and great unrest for many months.

After the French war and during the era of peace that prevailed in the valley of the Mohawk subsequent to that event, Rudolph, being fitted for a hunter by training and inclination, spent the greater part of the year in the wilderness, even extending his hunting and trading trips as far west as the Ohio and north and east to the valleys of the St. Lawrence and Lake Champlain, having at times for companions the Oneida half-breed Thomas Spencer, Brant (Thayendanega), and Teg-che-un-to (William Johnson, the half-breed). The young German, being of great physical strength and courage, combined with a cheerful disposition and manly personal beauty, made warm friends among the Palatine settlers and the Iroquois, and was worshipped as almost a god by Mildred and his sister Therese. These two girls had fulfilled the promise of their childhood, and were indeed beautiful in form and features. Many were the suitors that came into the home of Captain Stanley, but, although the friends of the Captain were received with kindness, none were able to make an impression on the hearts of the maidens.

Their education and social standing, as daughter and ward of the British officer, deterred many of the young men of the frontier settlements from offering more than respectful homage to these flowers of the wilderness, and the advances of such men as Walter Blair and Sir John Johnson were early received with such dignity and coldness as to prevent any repetition of attentions other than most respectful. However, the friendships of childhood had continued unbroken between Thayendanega and Rudolph, and the more recent companionship with Thomas Spencer, the young Oneida orator, and Teg-che-un-to the half-breed, made them welcome visitors to the household, and, in the case of Spencer and Brant, honored guests. Although Teg-che-un-to had been admitted as a friend on account of Molly Brant, the young man lacked many of the qualities that bound the trio together. His claim of superiority above the young people of the flats, on account of his left-handed connection with Sir William Johnson and the smattering of an education received at Dr. Wheelock's school at Lebanon, made him disliked, and his general character made him distrusted. Therefore his reception during the later years was more that of suffrance on account of early friendship than any love of the members of Captain Stanley's household for the fellow. An unreasoning jealousy had manifested itself towards Spencer because of the evident pleasure Therese exhibited in the society of the young orator of the forest, on account of his evident loyalty to the whites of the valley, and his power to sway people, both denizens of the wilderness and the whites of the plain, by his eloquence and power of reasoning.

It was Spencer, with the help of Dominie Kirkland, that held the Oneidas to neutrality during the struggle of the patriots for independence and assisted materially in the campaign that turned back St. Leger's hordes to Canada after the unsuccessful siege of Fort Schuyler. The rupture between the two half-breeds finally took place in the spring of 1777, when Tegcheunto declared his love for Therese and urged that she and Mildred should seek protection with the Johnsons at Johnstown. This proposition was rejected by them, and they accepted Spencer's advice to take refuge in Fort Schuyler from the advance of St. Leger's army. That Spencer loved Therese had been apparent to Rudolph and Mildred for many months, and that Therese also loved the young orator was known to the twain even before the young girl was willing to acknowledge that her desire for his society was any stronger sentiment than that of friendship.

To Rudolph it seemed as though his love for Mildred had no beginning, that he had always loved her. But when in the silence of the forest primeval his thoughts turned to her he knew this passionate, worshipful love sprang to life when he clasped her dripping form to his breast on the island in the midstream and felt her chilled arms around his neck as he murmured "My sweetheart, my love." The awakening of Mildred, however, came to her in her young womanhood, when, on her seventeenth birthday and after an unusually long sojourn in the wilderness, Rudolph returned and met her with a kiss and swift embrace. Then, holding her before him, he looked into her dear eyes and at last found what he had sought for since childhood, the answering, longing love light. It was then, clasped in his arms, that she had met his lips with a clinging, tremulous kiss that told him of the "awakened love that filled her very being."


Two years have passed, and in the spring of 1777 we find Rudolph enrolled in Colonel Dayton's troops stationed at Fort Dayton, Brant and Tegcheunto in Canada, and Thomas Spencer stirring up the patriots of the Mohawk valley with the news of the gathering of St. Leger's army at Three Rivers for the proposed expedition against Fort Schuyler.

It was at this time that Spencer advised and urged Captain Stanley and the two maidens to take refuge in Fort Schuyler from the murderous hordes of St. Leger. The Captain refused to leave his station, but urged the girls to accept the proposition of the young Oneida, saying that, as for him, he was as safe in the camp of the British as in the American fort.

On April 17 and May 3, 1777, troops under Colonel Gansevoort began to arrive at the fort, and on May 28th the remainder of the regiment, under Colonel Willett, making the number of the garrison seven hundred strong; most of whom were soon employed in strengthening the defences and otherwise preparing for the reception of the enemy, who were said to be gathering on the south shore of Lake Ontario near Oswego. With Colonel Willett's troop came Rudolph.

Alarmed at the various rumors of the gathering forces of the English and the barbarity of Indians, who with their families constitutied the major part of the expedition of St. Leger, many non-combatants found refuge inside of the fortification, among whom were a woman and two children, the eldest being a bright young girl of sixteen, named Nellie Earle. Mildred, Therese, and Nell soon became inseparable companions and leaders in many innocent sports that were inaugurated to enliven the tedium of the limited quarters that constituted their temporary abode. Accustomed as the trio were to frontier life, one of their chief pleasures was in morning rambles outside of the fortification but within the line of out-sentinels or pickets that encircled the fort, closely watching for evidence of the approach of the enemy.

The siege of Fort Schuyler and the attendant battle of Oriskany, together with the battle of Bennington, which turned the tide of war and led on to the defeat and surrender of General Burgoyne's army at Saratoga, are well known to students of history, but it may be well to outline the situation of affairs in the Mohawk Valley at the period of which I am writing, July 27, 1777.

General Herkimer, with the assistance of Thomas Spencer, had succeeded in arousing the patriots of the Mohawk Valley to the gravity of the situation, and was rapidly gathering the hardy yeomanry of the frontier at Fort Dayton for the relief of Fort Schuyler, which was threatened with investment and capture by St. Leger, whose army was slowly advancing from Oswego. With the British forces under command of Colonel Barry St. Leger were a detachment of British regulars, a band of Tories under Sir John Johnson and Colonel John Butler, and a large body of Canadian Indians and the disaffected of the Iroquois, under Colonel Daniel Claus and Captain Joseph Brant (Thayendanega).

No evidence of Indian scouts had been seen in the vicinity of Fort Schuyler, but a small working party from the fort had been attacked by a party of Amerinds near Fort Newport on Wood Creek, and some of the soldiers killed and others taken as prisoners. In order to protect the men at work, a party of one hundred of the garrison as guard, among whom was Rudolph, were sent out in the early hours of the morning with a tearful "God speed" from Mildred and Therese.

After the departure of the guard, the trio wandered aimlessly out of the fort, going in the opposite direction from that taken by the soldiers, and soon came to the picket line; and in the same listless manner, picking berries and wild flowers as they went, out into the woods, unmindful of lurking foes.

The three maidens, fresh from their morning ablutions, were attired in short, dark blue cotton skirts, with low-cut blouse of white linen shirred across the neck, and short loose sleeves, exposing the firm health-tinted flesh of neck and shoulders, while their feet were encased in neatly fitting buckskin moccasins, laced half way to the knee. The long brown hair of Nellie, the black tresses of Mildred, and the golden locks of blond Therese were braided in glossy plaits, which hung below their waists, while each maiden carried a stout staff.

Mildred, the life of the party, was tall and lithe of limb, with that pure white complexion which might well be called transparent, barely concealing as it did the ruddy hue of health that seems ready to bloom on cheek and chin to match the full red lips, seemingly forever parted for pensive smile or gay peal of laughter. Her eyes, whose long lashes and brows were as midnight in blackness, were of that uncertain tint of dark gray, shaded to deepest olive, which unfolds to you the heart that the eye of black seems to hide as with a mask.

Both Therese and Mildred had blossomed into beautiful womanhood, although inured to the hardships and toils of frontier life, and the sports of stream, field, and forest had given them strength of limb that many a college athlete might envy.

Reclining under the shade of a small cluster of forest trees, the two older girls were thinking of loved ones and the dangers that encompassed them, and listlessly watching Nell, who had wandered a short distance from them in search of forest flowers, when they were startled by the appearance of an Indian in hideous war-paint, and the piercing cry of terror from Nell as the savage seized her as she turned for flight. Springing to their feet, Therese, followed by Mildred, rushed to the assistance of their companion, who was pinioned against a tree with one hand of the Indian, while with the other he drew his knife. As he raised to strike, Therese, who was in advance, brought her stout staff down on his head, crushing the skull and laying him dead at their feet. Almost at the instant of the stroke that killed the savage the two brave girls found themselves in the grasp of two of his companions, while Nell, released and slightly wounded, sped with the fleetness of a deer towards the fort, a half a mile away.

Pausing an instant when she found she was not pursued, she saw the hatchet and scalping-knife do their deadly work on the prostrate forms of her companions and then with even greater speed continued her flight until she fell unconscious at the open portal of the fort.

It afterwards transpired that on the evening of the day of this atrocious murder the assassins were boasting in the presence of Thayendanega and Tegcheunto of the slaying of the maidens. The description that the two Hurons gave of their victims attracted the chief's attention and he ordered them to lead him to the spot, Tegcheunto accompanying him, and was horrified to find the mangled bodies of their two friends. With a calmness that was marvellous in one of so passionate a nature, Brant ordered the bodies placed on a litter and carried to a secluded spot outside of the encampment. A grave was prepared and with simple ceremonies by the army chaplain, the bodies of the friends of their youth and manhood were lowered in the grave.

Twenty-four hours after, the bodies of the two Hurons were found outside of the camp, bearing the same wounds that they had inflicted on their victims.

The grief of Rudolph, when, upon his return from Wood Creek the day after the occurrence, Nell Earle related to him to terrible affair, was grievous to behold.

With the consent of Colonel Gansevoort, Rudolph asked for volunteers to go in search of the bodies, but was somewhat embarrassed by the large number who were eager to join the perilous attempt. Selecting, however, three trusty scouts, he, following the explicit directions given him by Nell, found the spot, plainly indicated by gruesome evidence and the blood-stained staff of Therese.

The utmost wariness and circumspection had been necessary in order to reach the spot, which was on the outskirts of one of the Indian encampments west of the fort, and indicated on some old maps as "the scalping tree." A few rods north could be seen the straggling camp-fires of the Indians, while to the south lay the cedar swamp. The sight of the staff brought vividly to mind the courageous attempt of the young girls to rescue their companion and their horrible death by their cruel captors. Evidence was plainly visible that they did not yield up their young lives without a fearful struggle with these ghouls of the forest lands.

Terrible rage filled the breast of Rudolph, but it was that of calm and deliberate character that boded ill to the persons who were the occasion of it. The flickering light of the camp-fires was but a few rods away, and a shot from a rifle would undoubtedly result in death or capture. The young man did not fear death, but rather welcomed the thought of the cessation of life, the eternal lapse of memory; but did not care to give his life for one or even two of the hated race that had brought this great grief upon him. In his rage he said that scores of lives could not atone for their murder, and he determined to take care of his own life that he might wreak terrible vengeance on the dusky warriors of the tribe of Hurons. The presence of members of the hated race, however, so near the spot of the brutal attack was an incentive for instant action.

During consultation in regard to the plan of attack, Rudolph insisted that he should warily approach one of the outlying camps alone, the others to follow near enough to support him with their rifles if it should be necessary for him to make a hurried retreat.

Concealing themselves at a distance that rendered the movements in camp distinctly visible in the light of the many fires, they waited impatiently until the occupants of the wigwams should seek rest on their rude couches, often only mother earth. It is a singular fact that the Indians seldom protected their camps with sentinels or outposts, but trusted to their own wakefulness to guard against surprises, even when on the war-path. Knowing this custom, the scouts had but little fear of being discovered after evidence of activity had ceased.

The wigwam which had been selected as the object of attack lay outside the circle of light, and the savages had gradually retired from the great central fire, leaving but one dusky warrior sitting on the ground clasping his knees while he listlessly watched the dying embers. Rudolph's party drew stealthily near until they could discern the dark forms of two warriors in slumber outside of the weather-stained canvas of their tepee. Motioning the scouts to halt at a little elevation which concealed their forms when lying at full length, Rudolph continued to advance, prone upon his stomach, with the sinuous motion of a huge reptile, until he could distinguish the features of his intended victims. Slowly circling around until he approached the heads of the sleeping warriors, who were lying parallel with each other, he raised himself on one knee and with two rapid strokes of his hunting hatchet cleft the brain of each dusky foe, without a sound except a guttural exclamation from his last victim, which aroused the watcher at the fire. Starting to his feet, the savage stood in a listening attitude only to receive the deadly stroke from a hatchet hurled with unerring precision by one of Rudolph's companions, the force of the weapon piercing his brain and laying him at full length on the glowing coals. Retreating as silently as they advanced, the scouting party arrived at the fort in the early hours of the morning.

On August 2d and 3d St. Leger's whole army arrived and completely invested the fort, the Indians especially annoying the garrison by a continual firing of small arms, at times skulking through the underbrush and potato vines of a large cultivated field in the immediate vicinity of the fortifications, on the west. During this period Rudolph seemed tireless, and was ever at his post to pick off any of his hated foes who were unfortunate enough to expose any portion of their dusky naked bodies to the unerring aim of his trusty rifle. So careless of exposure had he become that he received a reprimand from Col. Willett, who ordered him to keep under cover, as the small garrison could ill spare so brave a soldier and such an unerring marksman. If any particularly hazardous work was to be done, Rudolph was always the first to volunteer, at times heedlessly exposing himself as though fearless of death. From a happy-go-lucky good fellow, with kindly, cheerful disposition, he had become silent and moody, at times standing for hours at a casement with set teeth and eager eyes watching for an opportunity to wreak vengeance on any of the dusky race who had inflicted this great sorrow upon him. As yet he did not know that the murderers had been slain by his old-time friends Thayendanega and Tegcheunto, and his only thought seemed to be to kill, kill, in hopes that his bullet might reach the heart of the assassins. Although tenderly attached to little Nell, who lay wounded in the southwest bomb-proof, he refrained from visiting her often, knowing that he would lose command of himself in her presence and probably retard her recovery from an excess of emotion. Withdrawing himself from his friends and left alone with his grief and rage, he seemed to develop savage instincts that were entirely foreign to his nature. He became, in fact, a monomaniac, crouching here and there, starting at the least sound, while his wild gaze sought the forest and the low shrubs in the direction of the Indian encampments. At times his eager face would put on a grim smile as his keen eye caught the waving motion of the feathers of a scalp lock or the bronze head of an Indian putting aside a branch, in his stealthy advance toward the fort to pick of some careless picket or fearless soldier, and he became at once the wary marksman of the forest, keenly watching his for and luring him on by careless indifference to his exposure until with quick movement and apparently without an aim of precision his rifle's missile found its way to the life-blood of his foe.

At last, on the 6th day of August, came word that General Herkimer was advancing to the relief of the garrison with nine hundred eager and impetuous patriots, with the request that when the messengers arrived at the fort, Colonel Gansevoort should make a sortie in order to draw the attention of the British and Indians from their advance and make it easier for his (Herkimer's) troops to enter the fort.

But General Herkimer was checked by the fearfully fatal ambuscade of Brant's at Oriskany, which resulted in a hand-to-hand battle of many hours' duration and the dearly-bought victory of the patriots of the Mohawk Valley, who were left in possession of the field of battle, with one third of their comrades lying dead and wounded and their loved General seriously injured.

With St. Leger's troops at Oriskany were Brant and Tegcheunto, the half-breed, and with the patriots Thomas Spencer, the Oneida. During the latter part of the engagement, personal encounters frequently took place between former neighbors, sometimes the only weapon a knife, and frequently with bard hands.

In the midst of the fray, however, Thomas Spencer found himself confronted by Tegcheunto armed with knife and tomahawk and evidently intent upon taking his life. Thomas was armed with knife only, although supplemented with brawny hands and muscles of steel, as became a man who had followed the trade of blacksmith for a number of years. It was at the time the retreating cry of "Oonah, Oonah!" was given, and the Indians were fast withdrawing from the conflict, that Spencer, greatly wearied, was resting on a log where the plateau drops to the north and finally ends in a swamp, when he heard the breaking of a twig behind him. Springing to his feet, he turned just in time to intercept a blow from a tomahawk in the hand of young Johnson, by grasping the handle as it descended.

The struggle for the weapon was brief and it was soon lying in a thicket a few feet away. As the hatchet disappeared, each man drew his knife and, taking a step backward, watched his adversary for the first movement of attack.

Tegcheunto, with the blood of King Hendrick and Sir William Johnson in his veins, was no mean adversary to the young blacksmith, whose lithe, sinewy form was a few inches taller than the broad-shouldered half-breed. The place where they had met was a level plateau covered with forest trees of great girth, with here and there the forms of dead and wounded American and British soldiers and Indian warriors, with red, green and blue garments mingled with dusky flesh, gaudy trappings and feathered head-dresses. A little farther to the south could be seen other combatants, some in the close embrace of a death struggle, others in retreat and pursuit.

The sight of the man who had gained the love of the maiden who had spurned him, and the temporary advantage Spencer had gained by disarming him of his tomahawk, roused the revengeful blood of the savage to furious rage, and muttering between his set teeth, "You d----d dog of an Oneida, I'll send you where your yellow-haired sweetheart has gone," he made a vicious lunge at his exposed side, which would have ended the blacksmith's life had it not been for a quick spring to the right, and the momentum of the blow, which threw Johnson off his guard.

Before he could recover, Spencer drove his knife to the hilt in his brawny breast, coolly withdrawing the same, as his foe fell backwards, adding one more to the long list of dead on Oriskany's battle-field.

While these scenes were being enacted at Oriskany, Colonel Willett was making the sortie from Fort Schuyler asked for by General Herkimer. With Willett's detachment went Rudolph. The impetuous charge of the Americans drove in the pickets and dispersed the advance guard before it could be formed for resistance, and they sought safety in flight. Two encampments of the Indians were totally routed and many wagon loads of supplies and baggage were brought into the fort, together with blankets, kettles, Indian trinkets and garments thrown off by the Indians who were engaged in the battle at Oriskany, and five British standards. Great joy was manifested by the garrison over the success of the raid and the plunder secured. Among the various articles found in the Indians' camp were two fresh scalps. One of the scalps was of golden hair, the other glossy black, and evidently those of Mildred and Therese Stanley; neatly braided and smoothly dressed as they wore it the morning they wandered out the meet their dreadful death.

Club House of "The Antlers."

The effect of the discovery upon Rudolph can better imagined than described. The long-pent-up tears that flowed, the only relief to a heart surcharged with grief, rage and remorse, left this strong man utterly prostrate, refusing food and declining to perform those duties which had been eagerly welcomed since the day of their disappearance.

On the third day after the sortie he appeared again on the ramparts, heedlessly exposing himself to the fire of the enemy as though he courted death as the only relief from his sufferings.

All night the British bombarded the fort, and all night long Rudolph with rifle across his arm, paced the ramparts, while shells were exploding all about him. But just as the eastern sky changed its hue and put on the gray livery of dawn, a shot from the enemy pierced the heart already broken with grief, and Rudolph died, murmuring with his faintest breath, "Sweetheart! sister!"



Transcribed from the original text and html prepared by Bill Carr, last updated 12/11/99.

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