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Expedition against the Onondagas

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

April 24.—This afternoon, the detachment sent out last Monday on an expedition against the Indians at Onondaga,1 returned to Fort Schuyler. The following account of it is given by a writer in the New York Packet:—”An enterprise against the Onondaga settlements of the Indians having been projected and approved of by his Excellency General Washington, and the direction of it committed to Brigadier-General James Clinton, commanding in the northern department, he, on the seventh of April, issued his orders, and gave the execution of them to Colonel Van Schaack, commander of the 1st battalion of New York Continental troops, appointing as second and third in command Lieutenant-Colonel Willet and Major Cochran, of the 3d New York battalion, all officers of approved courage and abilities. The detachment for the service consisted of six companies of New York, one of Pennsylvania, one of Massachusetts troops, and one of riflemen, amounting, in the whole, to five hundred and four rank and file, and fifty-one officers.

“Fort Schuyler being appointed the place of rendezvous, from thence, early on Monday morning, the nineteenth of April, the whole party began their march, provision for eight days having been previously sent off in twenty-nine batteaux into Wood Creek.

“After a march of twenty-two miles, the troops arrived about three o’clock in the evening at the old Scow Place, but the boats having much farther to come, did not arrive till ten o’clock. As soon as the boats arrived, the whole of the troops embarked, and, upon entering the lake, were much impeded by a cold head wind.

“At eight o’clock in the morning of the twentieth, the troops halted at Pisser’s Bay till all the boats came up, and then proceeded to the Onondaga landing, opposite to old Fort Brewerton, which they reached at three o’clock in the afternoon. From thence, after leaving all their boats with a proper guard, they marched eight or nine miles on their way to the Onondaga settlement, and, not being able to continue their march in the dark, lay on their arms all night, without fire.

“Very early on the twenty-first they proceeded to the Salt Lake, an arm of which (two hundred yards over, and four feet deep) they forded, with their pouches hung to their fixed bayonets, and advanced to the Onondaga Creek, where Captain Graham took prisoner an Onondaga warrior. The creek not being fordable, the troops crossed it on a log, and as soon as they were over, the utmost endeavors were used to surround the settlements, but as they extended eight miles, besides some scattered habitations lying back of the castles, it was impossible; and on the opposite side of the creek, though our troops entered their first settlement wholly undiscovered by them, they soon discovered some of our advanced parties, and took the alarm in all their settlements. The colonel, however, ordered different routes to be taken by different parties, in order to surround as many of their settlements as possible at the same time; but the Indians fled precipitately to the woods, not taking any thing with them. Our troops took thirty-three Indians and one white man prisoners, and killed twelve Indians. The whole of their settlements, consisting of about fifty houses, with a large quantity of corn and beans, were burnt, a number of fine horses, and every other kind of stock were killed. About one hundred guns, some of which were rifles, were among the plunder, the whole of which, after the men were loaded with as much as they could carry, was destroyed, with a considerable quantity of ammunition; one swivel, taken at the council house, had the trunnions broken off, and was otherwise much damaged, and, in fine, the destruction of all their settlements was complete.

“After this, the troops began to march on their return, recrossed the creek, and forded the arm of the lake, on the side of which they encamped on a good ground. They had only been once interrupted by a small party of Indians, who fired upon them from the opposite side of the creek, but were soon beaten back by Lieutenant Evans’ riflemen, who killed one of them.

“On the twenty-second the troops marched to the landing, embarked in good order, and rowed to Seven Mile Island; on the twenty-third crossed the lake, and landed two miles up Wood Creek. On Saturday, the twenty-fourth, at twelve o’clock, the whole detachment returned in safety to Fort Schuyler, having been out five days and a half.”2


1 Onondaga is about two hundred miles west of Albany, in New York, and about eighty miles from Fort Stanwix.—Gaine’s Mercury, May 17.
2 New Jersey Gazette, May 12.