"The Fate of A Scouting Party"

by James F. Morrison


 

[The American Version of the Tale]

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On the morning of Thursday, September 6, 1781, Lieutenant Solomon WOODWORTH of Colonel Marinus WILLETT’s Regiment assembled his company of 46 men and six Oneida Indians at Fort Rensselaer. WOODWORTH with his company marched to Fort Dayton and reached there at dusk of the same day.

On the following morning, Friday, September 7, WOODWORTH gathered his men and left the fort to scout along the West Canada Creek for the ever present enemy. About two miles from the fort they came across the trail of the enemy which had been freshly made. Some of the men thought that a runner should be sent back to the fort and bring back Captain Garret PUTNAM and his company to reinforce their scouting party, WOODWORTH said that by the time Captain PUTNAM returned with his company the enemy would be gone. He also said that if they did encounter them they would be able to deal with them. The scouts now started to follow the trail but unknown to them a British Indian had been observing them. On seeing them follow the trail he headed back to the main encampment to report. Lieutenant John CLEMENT with his 74 Onondagas and Cayugas set a trap for WOODWORTH and his men on the trail.

On reaching the point of ambush, one of WOODWORTH’s men in advance spotted an Indian and fired. The scouts were well in the trap and the surrounding woods became alive. About ten of WOODWORTH’s command fell dead or lay dying. Moses YOCKUM, one of the Oneida warriors was wounded in the hip and the other five Oneidas picked him up and carried him back to the safety of Fort Dayton’s walls.

After WOODWORTH had fired a few shots he received a ball in the chest and died by Jacob SHEW. Now the enemy charged the scouts and those that could, fled, and the rest were either dead or captured.

Lieutenants WOODWORTH and WILSON, Orderly Sergeant John DUNHAM, Privates Ananias ARCHER, Daniel DODGE, Giles PARKER, Ebenezer PEASE and 15 more of the company were killed. Corporal David PUTNAM, Privates Jonathan BARRET, Henry COVEL, Steve LOVEJOY, Thomas MALLOY, Joseph MYERS, Joel SAVAGE, John L. SCHERMERHORN and Stephen VALENTINE were captured and were taken to Canada. Corporal Jacob SHEW, Privates Jacob BURKE, David CADY, Jr., (who had been wounded in the left arm), David MYERS, John SERVIS, Rynier VAN SICKLER, and nine other men escaped. CLEMENTS and an Indian chief by the name of DAIQUANDA had only two Indians wounded.

On Saturday, September 8, Captain Garrett PUTNAM with his company and the survivors of WOODWORTH’s Company returned to the site of the ambush to perform the grim task of burying the dead. The site of the ambush was in a deep ravine three miles north of Herkimer on the east side of the West Canada Creek.

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[The British Version of the Tale]

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Account of an action between a party of seventy from Onondagas & Cayugas under DAIQUANDA & Lieutenant Jno CLEMENT of Colo Johnson’s Department & a party of the Rebels near the German flats, as delivered to Colo Johnson by ONASADEGA and Onondaga Chief who came Express.

That on the 8th Instant Our Party arrived near the German flats & reconnoitered, the next morning at Day break the Rebels discharged three cannon from the Fort, by which the Indians imagined they had been discovered, whereupon they sent out some Young Indian to reconnoitre, who soon brought them word that the Rebels were approaching on the tracks that the Indians had made the night before. The rebels soon after came to where they had their fire place where Lt CLEMENT and the Indians being at a little distance heard them say, Damn them, they are gone off. The Indians then resolved to fight them & taking an Advantageous Situation formed in a half circle before they discharged a shot. Then poured in a volley and rushed on the Rebels with their Tomahawks, and Spears who after firing a few shots were totally defeated. The number of the Enemy was about Forty with three officers and their Loss was as follows –

Killed

Officers Privates Total
3 19 22

Taken

Privates Genl Total
8 30

 

On our part two Onondagas were dangerously wounded Lieut CLEMENT having intelligence from the Prisoners that they were part of a party destined for Carleton Island or Oswegatehy to get Prisoners dispatched the Informant with a Letter to advise Major ROSS of it & at the same time dispatched another Letter to Colo JOHNSON which is this moment come to Hand and Corresponds with the forgoing particulars with this addition that the Prisoners said the Rebels and French were lately totally defeated at the White Plains. Two of the rebel Officers killed were Capt Solomon WOODWARD, a noted scouter, & Lieut WILLSON.

Niagara 18th Sept 1781 G Johnson

 

Source: General Frederick Haldimand Papers, Letters from Colonel Guy Johnson, Add. MSS No. 21767, Microfilm Reel A-683.

 

* Transcribed June 6, 1999 by Douglas J .Weaver who is researching the following names in Fulton, Montgomery & Herkimer Counties: WEAVER BAUMAN, CLAUS/CLAUSE, FREDERICK, GOODRICH, HILLEGAS/HELLINGAS, MEYER, SMITH, WELLS.


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Last updated Tuesday, 13-May-2008 13:37:35 PDT