Haldimand Papers Add. Mss. No. 21,760, folios 77-80
Transcribed by Judy Longley from microfilm of the Haldimand Papers in possession of the British Library, London; courtesy of Public Archives of Canada
Onendella Novr 17th 1778
After a tedious and fatiguing March our Party, composed of the Rangers and 321 Indian Warriors encamped on the Evening of the 10th Inst. within about six Miles of the Settlement, having the Day before taken a rebel scout consisting of a Serg't & eight Privates, from whom we learned that a Colonel Alden with 300 continental Troops occupied a picqueted Fort, erected for the Defence of the Settlement, and that the Militia of the Place were computed at 150; that the Enemy had Notice of our Approach two days before by Means of an Oneyda Indian; and also that the colonel with his principal officers usually lodged at an House about 400 yards from the Fort. There conven'd the Indian Chiefs and proposed to them that, as in all Probability the Enemy, tho informed of our Coming, were not apprised of our being so near there, we should as soon as the moon rose, march directly into the Settlement and with a Party surround the House and take the officers, while the main Body of Rangers & Indians endeavoured to surprize the Fort: to this they unanimously agreed, but in the mean Time an heavy Rain falling and continuing all Night so much discouraged the Indians that I could not get them to move till Day Light, when it was resolved that Capt. McDonald with two Subalterns and fifty chosen Rangers Should march with the Body of the Indians, and with one Party surround the House and cut off the Communication between the Fort & Inhabitants, while the other began the Attack upon the Fort, which I was to support with the main Body of Rangers. We came unperceived till within about a Mile of the Fort, when the Indians made a Halt and two of them unknown to the rest advanced and fired upon two Men cutting Wood, one of whom tho' wounded made his Escape and alarmed the officers at the House of whom the Major and a few others had Time to get safe into the Fort, many more in attempting to do the same were killed, and the rest taken Prisoners, at the house by the Indians who had immediately rushed forward on the Report of the guns.
The Persons killed were the Colonel, 2 Captains, 2 Lieut'ts, one Ensign & 20 Privates; the Prisoners a Lieutenant Colonel, a Lieut., an Ensign, the Surgeon's Mate, & 10 Privates. The Colours of the Regiment were burnt in the House.
Although our Design of surprising the Fort was thus frustrated, we nevertheless made an Attempt firing upon it for the Space of ten minutes, at about 70 yards Distance, which was briskly returned both by their Musquetry and Cannon, when finding it inaccessible on this Part, I moved with the Rangers to explore the other Side, destroying in our Way a Block-House which the Rebels had abandoned at our Approach. But perceiving the Indians dispersed over the Settlement, killing and taking Prisoner the Inhabitants, plundering and destroying the Buildings &c., I found it absolutely necessary to move again with the whole of the Rangers, and take Possession of an Eminence, which commanded the Fort on the Side we first attacked, in order to prevent a Sally while the Indians were scattered as aforesaid. We remained in this Position till late in the Evening, tho it rained incessantly; we then retired about a Mile further and there passed the Night; the greatest part of the Houses, Barns &c. in the Settlement, together with the continental Store, being burnt, and a great Number of Cattle killed and driven off by the Indians. The next morning I sent Cap't McDonald with sixty Rangers, accompanied by Mr. Brant with fifty Indians, to compleat the Destruction of the Place, while the other Indians with the weakest of the Rangers went off with the Cattle. I remained myself with the Rest of the Rangers to support Cap't McDonald in Case of a Sally, having Men continually going to and from the Fort to give me Notice of all the Enemies Motions, until Cap't McDonald returned after intirely desolating the Settlement and adding a large drove of Horses & Cattle to those already taken. The Garrison all the while coop'd within their Breast-Works remained Spectators of our Depredations which they made no Attempts to interrupt. After having in vain endeavoured to draw them out of the Fort, and finding it not practicable, with our Force to take it, we thought proper to retire and leave it, the only remaining Building amidst the Ruins of the Place.
I have much to lament, that notwithstanding my utmost Precaution and Endeavours to save the Women and Children, I could not prevent some of them falling unhappy Victims to the Fury of the Savages. They have carried off many of the Inhabitants Prisoners and killed more; among the latter is a Coln. Cloyd a very violent Rebel.
I could not prevail with the Indians to leave the Woman and children behind. On the second Morning of our March Cap't Johnston (to whose Knowledge of the Indians and Address in managing I am much indebted,) and I got them to permit twelve, who were Loyalists, and whom I had concealed the first Day with the humane Assistance of Mr. Joseph Brant & Cap't Jacobs of Ockquaga, to return.
The Death of the Women and Children upon this Occasion may I believe be truly ascribed to the Rebels having falsely accused the Indians of Cruelty at Weyomen; this had much exasperated them, and they were still more incensed at finding the Colonel and those Men who had there laid down their Arms, soon after, marching into their County intending to destroy their Villages, and they declared they would no more be falsely accused, or fight the Enemy twice; meaning that they would not in future give Quarter.
I am informed by the Lieu't Colonel Prisoner and the enclosed Letter that the British Troops were about to leave New York (the Provincials in Government Bay remaining to guard that Place) and go to Boston. I am also told by one Anderson who had been Prisoner in Albany, and only eleven Days from that Place, that they had Accounts there, that the Troops who had left N. York were landed below Boston, and that there were large Reinforcements commanded by Gen'ls Howe and Burgoyne landed at N. York, that an english Fleet had burned Egg Harbour and all the Rebels Shipping at that Place, and that the Rebels at Albany were making Preparations for a secret Expedition, said by the Friends of Government there to be intended against Carleton Island in the Winter; I am likewise informed by him and several of the Prisoners that the Rebels intend to invade the Indian Country in the Spring, with an Army of three Thousand Men. How far these Reports may be relied on I cannot say, but it were to be wished that in order to keep the Indians in Spirits and attach them more firmly to our Interest, a Fort were erected and supported at Oswego: indeed the Indians expect it will be done.
It gives me Pleasure that I can mention with Truth the Alertness of the officers in general and Cap't McDonald in particular, whose Activity and Spirit on every Occasion does him much Honour and to whose Conduct I am much indebted.
The Men are in better Health and Spirits that could be expected from the Fatigues and Hardships they have undergone. I shall march without Delay to Quarters, and hope you'll send Provisions and other Necessaries to meet us. We are happy in not having lost a Man; our fife Major one Private and three Indians only wounded.
I am &c --- Walter Butler
P.S. In Justice to the Detachment of the Eighth, I must inform you that they were particularly alert in every Point of duty. I forgot to mention among other Things that it was currently reported at Albany about 15 Days ago, that Lord Cornwallis had been in the Jerseys with about nine thousand Men, and destroyed a rebel Magazine containing among other Stores twenty thousand Barrels of Flour. I am also told by the Lieu't Colonel (and from other Circumstances think it true) that there are five thousand french Troops landed at Boston.
(Inclosed in Lt. Col. Bolton's letter (No 26, to Gen'l Haldimand) of 30th November)