History From America's Most Famous Valleys
The Story of Old Fort Plain and the Middle Mohawk Valley
By Nelson Greene
O’connor Brothers Publishers, Fort Plain, NY 1915
“Aug. 7” – Yesterday, about nine o’clock, an engagement ensued between a part of the militia of Tryon County, under the command of General Herkimer, and a party of savages, Tories and regulars, a short distance from Fort Stanwix (Fort Schuyler). It lasted till three o’clock in the afternoon, when the British thought proper to retire, leaving General Herkimer master of the field. Unluckily, however, the General and some valuable officers got wounded or killed in the beginning. But this did in no wise intimidate the ardor of the men, and the general, although he had two wounds, did not leave the field till the action was over. He seated himself on a log, with his sword drawn, animating his men.
“About one o’clock. Colonel Gansevoort having received information of General Herkimer’s march, sent out Lieutenant-Colonel Willett, with two hundred men, to attack an encampment of the British, and thereby facilitate General Herkimer’s march. In this the colonel succeeded, for after an engagement of an hour he had completely routed the enemy and taken one captain and four privates. The baggage taken was very considerable, such as money, bear skins, officers’ baggage and camp equipage; one of the soldiers had for his share a scarlet coat, trimmed with gold lace to the full, and three laced hats. When Colonel Willet turned to the fort, he discovered two hundred regulars in full march to attack him. He immediately ordered his men to prepare for battle, and, having a field piece with him. Captain Savage so directed its fire to play in concert with one out of the fort; these, with a brisk fire from his small arms, soon made these heroes scamper off with great loss. Colonel Willett then marched with his booty into the fort, having not a single man killed or wounded.
“General St. Leger, who commands the enemy’s force in that counter, soon after sent in a flag to demand the delivery of the fort, offering that the garrison should march out with their baggage, and be molested by the savages; that, if that was not complied with, he would not answer for the conducts of the Indians, if the garisson fell into their hands; that General Buygone was possession of Albany. Colonel Gansevoort, after animadverting on the barbarity and disgraceful conduct of the British officers, in suffering women and children to be butchered as the had done, informed of the flag that he was resolved to defend the fort to the last, and that he would never give it up so long as there was a men left to defend it.”
Lossing’s “Field Book of the Revolution” says of the heroic expedition of Willett and Stockwell to get aid for Fort Schuyler:
“Meanwhile the people in the Mohawk Valley were in the greatest consternation. St. Leger had arrived from Oswego and was besieging Fort Schuyler, while the Tories and Indians were spreading death and desolation on every hand. Colonel Gansevoort, with a handful of men, was closely shut up in the fort. General Herkimer, with the brave militia of Tyron county, had been defeated atOriskany, and the people below hourly expected the flood of destroyers to pour down upon them. It was a fearful emergency. Without aid all be will be lost. Brave hearts were ready for bold deeds.*”***Colonel Willett volunteered to be the messenger, and on a very stormy night, when shower after shower came down furiously, he and Lieutenant Stockwell left the fort, by the sally port, at ten o’clock, coach armed with a spear, and crept upon their hands and knees along a morass to the river. They crossed it upon a log and were soon beyond the line of drowsy sentinels. It was very dark, their pathway was in a thick and tangled wood, and the soon lost their way. The barking of dog apprised them of their proximity to an Indian camp, and for hours they stood still, fearing to advance or retreat. The clouds broke away toward dawn and the morning star in the east like the light of hope, revealed to them their desired cause. They then pushed on in a zigzag way, and like indians, sometimes traversed the bed of a stream to foil pursuers that might be upon their trail. They reached German Flatts in safety and, mounting fleet horses, hurried down the valley to the headquarters of General Schuyler who had already heard of the defeat of Herkimer and was devising means of the succor of the garrison at Fort Schuyler.
“The American Army of the North, then at Stillwater, was in wretched condition and in no shape to offer battle to the advancing forces under the Burgoyne. Its commander, Schuyler, ordered a retreat to the Mohawk, and it was during this movement, while the American were retiring slowly down the Hudson, that Willett and Stockwell came, asking aid, to the headquarters at Stillwater.
“Not a moment was to be lost. The subjugation of the whole valley would inevitably follow the surrender of Fort Schuyler and the victors gaining strength, would fall like an avalanche upon Albany, or by junction, swell the approaching army of Burgoyne.
The prudent foresight and far-reaching humanity of General Schuyler at once dictated his course. He called a council and proposed sending a detachment immediately to the relief of Fort Schuyler. His officers opposed him with the pleae that his whole force was not then sufficient to stay the oncoming Burgoyne. The clearer judgement of Schuyler made him persist in his opinion, and he earnestly sought them to agree with him. While pacing the floor in anxious solitude, he overheard the halt-whispered remark, “He means to weaken the army.” Wheeling suddenly toward the slanderer and those around him, and unconsciously biting into several pieces a pipe he was smoking, he indignantly exclaimed, ‘Gentlemen, I shall take the responsibility upon myself; where is the brigadier that will take command of the relief? I shall beat up for volunteers tomorrow.’ The brave and impulsive Arnold, ever ready for deeds of daring, at once stepped forward and offered his services. The next morning the drum beat and eight hundred stalwart men were enrolled for the service before meridian. Fort Schuyler was saved and the forces of St. Leger were scattered to the winds.”
Subsequently Schuyler retreated to the Mohawk and fortified Van Schaick’s and Haver’s island at the mouth of that stream where it implies to the Hudson. Schuyler ordered the groin on his own fields at Saratoga to be burned. In his retreat, to prevent the enemy from reaping it. The following is taken from Lossing:
“That seemed to be the most eligible point (the islands at the Mohawk’s mouth) at which to make a stand in defense of Albany against the approaches of the enemy from the north and from the west. At that time there were no bridges across the Hudson or the Mohawk, and both streams were too deep to be fordable except in seasons of extreme drought. There was a ferry across the Mohawk, five miles above the falls (defended by the left wing under Gen. Arnold), and another across the Hudson at the Half Moon Point or Waterford. The “sprouts” of the Mohawk, between the islands, were usually fordable; and as Burgoyne would not, of course cross the Hudson or attempt the ferry upon the Mohawk, where a few resolute men successfully oppose him, his path wag of necessity directly across the mouth of the river. Fortifications were accordingly thrown up on the Islands and upon the mainland, faint traces of which are still visible.
The Story of Old Fort Plain
Burgoyne’s surrender is said to have been somewhat hastened by an American cannon ball which crossed his breakfast table during council of the British officers.
Benedict Arnold was born in Norwich, Conn., in 1740, a descendant of Benedict Arnold, one of Rhode Island’s early governors. From 1763 to 1767 he kept a drug and a book store in New Haven. At the outbreak of the Revolution he was in command of a volunteer company of that city and marched up to Cambridge with it. He was in many of stirring events of the war, up to his treason in 1870. Among his greatest services were his gallant leadership at Saratoga and his clever conduct of the relief of Fort Schuyler. He held commands in the British army during the latter part of the war and its end went to England. From 1786 to 1793 he was in business at St. Johns,N.B., where he was so dishonest in his dealings that he was hung in effigy by a mob. He died in London in 1804, aged 63 years.
Col. Peter Gansevoort, the intrepid commander of Forth Schuyler, was a Revolutionary patriot and soldier of the highest type and he deserves a niche in the hall of fame dedicated to heroes of the Revolution. Gansevoort was born in Albany, July 17, 1949. He accompanied Montgomery into Canada in 1775, with the rank of major, and the net year he was appointed a colonel in the New York line, which commission he held when he defended Fort Schuyler against St. Leger. For his gallant defense of that post he received the thanks of congress, and in 1781 was promoted to the rank of brigadier general by the state f New York. After the war he was for many years a military agent. He held several offices of trust and was always esteemed for his bravery and judgement as a soldier and for his fidelity, intelligence, and probity as a citizen. He died July 2, 1812, aged 62 years.
Of the 800 or more who constituted the patriot army at Oriskany only the following soldiers are recorded. Some of these are also known to have come from certain Tyron county sections and wherever this verified, it is given. The word Mohawk, refers to the present town of Montgomery county. The letter
K appended stands for killed;
W for wounded;
P for prisoner.
Following is the “Oriskany roster.”
Abram, Arndt , Minden
Alter, Jacob, Minden
K. Ayer, Frederick, Schuyler
Bellinger, Col. Peter, German Flats
Bell, Capt. Geo. Henry, Fall Hill
K. Bell, Nicholas, Fall Hill
W. Bigbread, Capt. John, Palatine
Bauder, Melchert, Palatine
Boyer, John, Resmenyderbush
K. Bowman, Capt. Jacob, Canajoharie
P. Blauvelt, Maj. (supposed murdered), Mohawk
K. Bliven, Maj. John, Florida, Mohawk committee
K. Billington, Samuel, Palatine Committee of Safety
Bargy, Peter, Frankfort
K. Cox, Col. Ebenezer, Dnube, Canajoharie committee
Campbell, Lieut.Col. Samuel, Cherry Valley, Cnajoharie committee
Copeman, Capt. Abram, Canajoharie
Covenhoven (now Conover), Isaac , Glen
Casler, John, Minden
Clock, John I, St. Johnsville
W. Cook, John, Palatine
Coppernoll, Richard, Minden
Cox, William, Minden
K. Crousse, Robert , Minden
Crousse, George, Minden
Clemes, Jacob, Schuyler
W. Conover, Peter
K. Cunniingham, Andrew, Amsterdam
Collier, Jacob, Florida
K. Campbell, Lieut. Robert, Cherry Valley
K. Dievendorf, Capt. Henry Minden
K. Dillenback, Capt. Andrew, Palatine
K. Davis, Capt. John, James, Mohawk
K. Davis, Martinus, Mohawk
Dievendorf, John , Minden
Dunckel, Francis, Freybush
Dygert, Peter, Palatine
Dunckel, Hon. (John) Peter, Minden
Dunckel, Hon. Garrett, Minden
Dunckel, Hon. Nicholas, Minden
K. Davis, Benjamin, Mohawk
Dockstader, John, German Flats
K. Davy, Capt. Thomas, Springfield
K. Dygert, John, Palatine Committee of Safety
Dygert, Capt. William, German Flats
Demuth, Capt. Marx, Deerfield
DeGraft, Nicholas, Amsterdam
DeGraff, Capt. Immanuel, Amsterdam
Dygert, Peter S., German Flats
Dygert, George, German Flats
Dorn, Peter , Johnstown
K. Eisenlord, Maj. John, Palatine (secretary county committee)
Empie, Jacob, Palatine
Ehle, William, Palatine
P. Ehle, Peter
Eysler, John ,Resmenyderbush
W. & P. Prey, Maj. John, Palatine, Palatine committee
The letter inquiring about John was answered in 1768 by a Mr. Held for Mr. Frey and in it he stated that John Eisenlord came to Canajoharie about eight years before, a prisoner of the Indians.
John must have had a good education in Germany for he was hired to teach the children of the community and was able to earn a little by his writing. In 1768 he was elected undersheriff of Albany County and was given a commission in the militia.
On January 8, 1767, when John Eisenlord was 30 years old, he married Anna Elizabetha Krembs (or Krems, or Krempsin, or Crems) who was 20 years of age. She was the daughter of Peter and Elizabetta (Empie or Emge) Krembs of Stone Arabis, N.Y. John and Anna’s first child was born January 7, 1769 and was named John for his father.
A couple of years later there was another son who was named Peter for his mother’s father. Catharine was born on October 10, 1774. According to a fly leaf in the Eisenlord German Bible there was also a third son.
In 1775 John Eisenlord bought 25 acres of woodland from John Kayser for 654 pounds. It was located in lot 15 near the falls in the Mohawk River, about 48 miles above Schenectady. He had to give a mortgage for part of the payment.
After the Revolutionary War started a Committee of Vigilantes of Tryon County (now Montgomery) was formed. Nicholas Herkimer was chairman and John Eisenlord was secretary. Mr. Herkimer became a colonel in the militia and Eisenlord became a major. In the book New York in the Revolution, p. 245 John Eisenlord is listed with Christopher Fox and four others as Comissioners for Sequestration for Tryon County. It was their duty to deliver provisions for the use of the Continental army; to sieza and sell property belongings to Tories, but to leave the family emough food and clothing for three months; and to give assistance to the distressed.
The militia took part in the Battle of Oriskany, which is said to have started at 9:00 in the afternoon. There were many Indians hiding hiding in the woods and their type of warfare was so different from anything which was expected that many of the Americans were killed, including Major John Eisenlord. This was in Aug. 6, 1777, when he was just 40 years old. The historical novel, Drums Along the Mohawk by Walter Edmonds, mentions John Eisenlord as the one “fetohad” when it was necessary for the military leaders to compose an important letter.