Letter from BUZZ HESSE
Editor’s Note: As recounted here, life – and death – in the former frontier where we live could be brutal, and is reflected in this letter. Please proceed with that understanding.
To the Editor:
The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta editions of June 13-14, 2019, published a letter written by Zachary Aldridge headlined, “Article complicit in suffering of Native Americans”. This letter was in reference to Jim Kevlin’s May 23 article regarding the Sullivan/Clinton expedition of 1779-80, and
Mr. Aldridge’s was a narrow, one-sided view of the expedition.
Keep in mind that the Fort Stanwix Treaty Line, established in 1768 between Native Americans and Great Britain, formed a boundary that demarked the westernmost edge of what was later to become the United States in 1783 when the signing of the Treaty of Paris separated the Colonies from Great Britain.
The Stanwix treaty, which allowed colonists’ settlement eastward of the treaty line, was not honored by the Native Americans. In fact, the Iroquois nations – excepting only the Oneidas – along with Butler’s Rangers and some British Tories, wreaked untold havoc on the early colonial settlers of this region who by virtue of the treaty had been authorized to settle here.
Numerous Iroquois raids upon those early settlers – in violation of the Stanwix treaty – resulted in innumerable deaths and great devastation to individuals, their farms and fledgling communities as documented in the accounts of the Wyoming Valley Massacre and, later, the Cherry Valley Massacre of 1778 in what is now Otsego County. As noted by Capt. Benjamin Warren, American colonial officer, and witnessed by him at Cherry Valley, “the mutilation and scalped bodies”… “of men, women and children, corpses with their heads crushed” … “charred bodies remains” … “a shocking sight of savagery and brutality” were acts perpetrated upon the colonists by the Iroquois at Cherry Valley. Some 46 people were killed and nearly 200 others were left homeless.
This massacre, led by Little Beard of the Senecas, Capt. Walter Butler of Butler’s Rangers, and Joseph Brant of the Mohawks, culminated in Gen. George Washington establishing the Sullivan/Clinton Expedition to end these atrocities.
Another noted illustration of the extent of the savagery of the Iroquois toward the Americans is an account chronicled in William L. Stone’s “Border Wars of the American Revolution,” Vol. II, published in 1843 regarding the capture of Lieutenant Boyd of the Rifle Corps of the Sullivan/Clinton force, along with eight other men.
Capt. Walter Butler delivered Boyd “to Little Beard and his clan, the most ferocious of the Seneca tribe. … Having been denuded, Boyd was tied to a sapling, where the Indians first practised upon the steadiness of his nerves by hurling their tomahawks apparently at his head, but so as to strike the trunk of the sapling as near to his head as possible without hitting it; … His nails were pulled out, his nose cut off, and one of his eyes plucked out. His tongue was also cut out, and he was stabbed in various places. …
His sufferings were terminated by striking his head from his body.”
This took place on the 13th of September 1778. Eight other individuals were included in the capture, and all eventually were killed, including Honyerry, an Oneida Indian, who was “hacked to pieces”.
To conclude, we should look at as many facts about issues as we can and try to be open-minded.
Several years ago, I wrote an article for inclusion in the Otsego County Tourism booklet. In that article I referred to Joseph Brant as a famous person. I guess I was naïve as I received several calls rebuffing me and stating that I surely must have meant that Brant was infamous. Well, I guess it showed a lack of open-mindedness on the parts of all parties.
I must admit that based on the prowess of Joseph Brant, I still think of him as a remarkable individual, despite his alliance with the Crown. We all need to be more retrospective. Great people have existed on both sides of the fence whether we agree or not with the side of the fence they have chosen to be on.