THE HALL BATTLE OR THE BATTLE OF JOHNSTOWN
by JAMES F. MORRISON
October 11, 1781, Major John Ross and Captain Walter Butler with twenty‑five
men from the 8th Regiment, one hundred men from the 34th Regiment, thirty
men from the 84th Regiment, 120 men from the King's Royal Regiment of New
York, 150 men from Butler's Rangers, forty men from Captain Leake's Corps,
twelve Chasseurs and 130 Indians totaling a force of 607 men left Oswego
on their way to the Mohawk Valley.
Major Ross and his men arrived in the Mohawk Valley on October 24th, and they attacked and plundered Currytown and took several inhabitants prisoners. Major Ross and his men afterwards headed for Warrensbush (now Town of Florida).
Late that afternoon Colonel Marinus Willett who was in command at Fort Rensselaer on receiving word of this invasion from some of the Currytown settlers, sent messengers to Forts Clyde, Paris and Plank for additional troops while he gathered troops and supplies at Fort Rensselaer.
Major Ross with his detachment arrived a few hours before daylight on October 25th at Warrensbush. At the first ray of sunshine the enemy attacked and burned Warrensbush. About one o'clock Ross and his men with great difficulty crossed the Mohawk River which was swollen from the recent heavy rains.
A scouting party from Fort Johnstown under Lieutenant Isaac Saulkill was sent out to find the enemy's whereabouts and strength. Saulkill and his men fell in with a party of Ross' men near Tribes Hill and Saulkill was killed and the rest dispersed. Ross now headed for Johnstown.
That morning Colonel Willett was joined by Major Abraham Copeman with about seventy‑five men from Fort Plank and Fort Clyde. Colonel Willett with his men, wagons and a three pound brass cannon left Fort Rensselaer and crossed the Mohawk River to Caughnawaga where he was joined by men from Fort Paris and Caughnawaga. Colonel Willett was informed that a case of ammunition was lost in the crossing. Willett sent Sergeant William Wallace and William Feeter to Johnstown to reconnoiter the enemy's movements.
Captain John Littel at Fort Johnstown gathered another scouting party to search for the enemy. Captain Littel with Lieutenant Zepheniah Batcheler, Sergeant John Eikler, Sergeant Henry Shew, Corporal Jacob Shew,
Privates John Brothers, Peter Yost Jr., John McMartin, David and John Moyer with three others left the fort in search of the enemy. Sergeant Wallace and Feeter joined Littel and the scouting party shortly after they left the fort.
Shortly after the scouting party left the fort, Major Ross and his men appeared before the fort. Stephen Shew then on sentry duty fired at them and the men in the fort turned out to defend it. After a few minutes of musket and cannon fire the enemy retreated from the fort. Stephen Shew, Jacob Covenhoven, Jeremiah Crowley, Isaac and Jeremiah Mason with several others pursued the enemy through the Village of Johnstown when they were joined by Captain Littel and the scouting party. Captain Littel ordered the garrison back to the fort while he and his men would follow the enemy. Wallace went to give Willett the intelligence of Ross' movements.
Wallace met Colonel Willett about a mile from Johnstown and informed him of the enemy's movements. Willett with his men marched to Fort Johnstown and arrived there a few minutes after the garrison returned. Jeremiah Crowley, Jacob Covenhoven, Isaac and Jeremiah Mason with a few others joined Willett making his force 412 men and they left Fort Johnstown with only eleven men to guard it.
Colonel Willett sent Major Andrew Fink with about fifty men to reinforce Captain Littel and his party. Captain Littel and his men fell in with the rear guard of the enemy. Captain Littel was hit in the right shoulder and the scouting party with their wounded Captain took to the woods. Here another brief exchange of musket fire took place and Sergeant Eikler was killed. Major Fink and his men now joined the scouting party.
Colonel Willett and his men arrived at the field where the enemy had encamped. Willett and his men now charged the enemy pushing them into the woods. Major Fink with his men and the scouting party finding themselves greatly outnumbered left the woods and joined Willett just as he arrived on the field. Fink and his men took position at the cannon which was placed on Willett's right wing and under the command of Captain and Rew Moody.
Colonel Willett now sent Major Aaron Rowley with Captain Samuel Clark, Lieutenant Dudley Holdridge, Sergeant William Wallace, Privates Isaac Mason, Enos Morse, Henry Rightmyer, Nathaniel Sherwood, Abram Winston and 140 other men to gain the rear of Ross and hoping that with Ross between them they could capture his entire force.
Shortly after Rowley left, Willett's right wing started to retreat and Ross with his men on seeing this took the advantage and charged causing panic in Willett's right wing and now they were in full flight. Willett desperately tried to regroup his right wing but they did not listen to him. Now the left wing of Willett's command, holding the field alone, was soon pressed by Ross now also took flight. Willett with his men retreated back to the Village of Johnstown and they took refuge in St. John's Church.
Major Fink with his detachment with Captain Andrew Moody with his company of artillerymen with the cannon poured a heavy fire into the left wing of the enemy but Ross now turned his men and charged the cannon. Fink and his men with the artillerymen being outnumbered now also retreated from the field and joined Willett at the church.
Just then Rowley and his men arrived at their position behind the enemy and poured a heavy fire into them. The enemy now turned the cannon around and now fired it at Rowley and his men. Willett at the church hearing the fighting continuing knew that Rowley had reached his position and Willett rallied his men and returned to the field of battle.
Willett and his men charged the cannon and recaptured it but not before the enemy had spiked it with a brass nail in the priming hole and blowing up the ammunition wagon. Willett and his men pressed Ross, and fighting continued until darkness fell on the battlefield and with Ross and his men retreating from the battlefield.
The battle started about four o'clock and lasted until darkness fell. The Battle of Johnstown was commonly called by the troops at the battle the Hall Battle or Willett's Battle. Ross had eleven men killed, eleven men wounded and thirty‑two men were taken prisoners. Nicholas Herkimer one of the Loyalists captured and the rest of the prisoners were sent to Fort Hunter and from there they were sent to Schenectady. Willett had twelve men killed, twenty‑four men wounded and five were taken prisoners.
Major Aaron Rowley, Captain Samuel Clark, Lieutenant Dudley Holdridge, Privates George Hackney, Daniel McVey and Abram Winston were seriously wounded and they were sent to the General Hospital at Albany. Jeremiah Mason with several others gathered the dead and they performed a mass burial for their fallen comrades. Nathaniel Sherwood one of the men wounded at Johnstown died from his wounds on October 27th.
Colonel Willett with his men marched to Fort Dayton where they were reinforced by about 100 men from Schenectady and about sixty Oneida Indians. On October 28th, Willett left the fort in pursuit of Ross. On October 30th, Willett skirmished with the rear guard of the enemy under Captain Walter Butler at West Canada Creek. After about fifteen minutes of fighting the enemy retreated leaving Butler and four other men behind dead. After pursuing them a short distance Willett and his men returned to Fort Rensselaer.
The papers collected by Hon. Thomas Sammons, the Revolutionary patriot, and known as "the Sammons papers" contain an account of the battle of Johnstown by Lieutenant William Wallace. He was the guide who evidently piloted the Tryon County militia detachment, under the command of Major Rowley, to take up their position in the rear of and attack Ross's force from behind while Col. Willett made the frontal attack. Willett's men were defeated but Rowley's soldiers made such a stubborn attack against three times their number that the enemy fled when Willett returned to the attack. It would seem from Wallace's narrative that the victory was entirely due to the regulars and local militia under Major Rowley, who was severely wounded. The date of the Johnstown battle was October 25, 1781.
Col. Willett's force numbered only 416 men and Ross had over 700. Hence Willett resorted to the strategy of an attack in front and rear at the same time. His forces were evidently about evenly divided, giving about 200 men under Willett and 200 under Rowley. The latter had 60 Massachusetts regulars and about 150 Tryon County militia. Willett attacked Ross in front, evidently before Rowley got up. Greatly outnumbered, Willett's men were driven back to Johnstown shortly after which Rowley attacked Ross in the rear with great success and when Willett returned to the fight the enemy fled to the woods and the American victory of Johnstown was complete. After Willett was reinforced in Johnstown village by a party of Tryon militia, it is evident that over half his force, which then numbered 500, were Mohawk Valley militiamen.
Lieut. Wallace's account is a most interesting document relative to this important valley campaign and it is seemingly the best description of the Johnstown battle that has come under the notice of the editor of this work. It was originally published in the Mohawk Valley Democrat of Fonda, and is here reprinted in full, as follows:
MOHAWK VALLEY DEMOCRAT, JULY 10, 1913
"Col. Willett, having sent Rowley on with the militia to come in the rear of Ross, continued his march with the state troops on the main road through the village of Johnstown to the Hall farm, where Ross had arrived a little before. When Willett advanced, Ross fell back a short distance in the woods (and) formed an ambush. Willett's advance guard advanced in the woods while Willett formed his men on the field, with his field piece, for battle. His advance was repulsed with some loss. Ross ordered his men to leave their knapsacks where the ambush was formed and formed his men for battle. (He) advanced up to Willett on the field with his whole force (and) attacked him very furious. In a few minutes, Willett's men retreated and run in confusion to the village of Johnstown (and) left their field piece with the enemy. (The enemy) pursued Willett's men until near the village of Johnstown, about one mile. Ross *** (did not know) the militia was in his rear (and) expected he had defeated all the forces Willett had collected, so Major Rowley came on them unexpectedly, while some were as much as a mile apart looking for plunder. Willett and Ross had commenced their engagement about one o'clock. Rowley attacked Ross about two o'clock.
"Lieut. William Wallace, who brought on the Tryon County militia, (had been) appointed by Col. Willett as a pilot under the command of Major Rowley of Massachusetts. This detachment was sent from Col. Willett (over) the road leading to the river on the hill south of the village (of Johnstown) and crossed the creek near where Nicholas Yost's mill is and went onward till some distance above the Hall, then came downward to the east on the north side of the Hall creek, when, comming near or by the clear lands they discovered the enemy in different places on the Hall farm.
"The enemy soon formed some of their men. Rowley's men advanced, fired on the enemy, (and) the enemy immediately advanced with some of their men to the right of Rowley along or near the Hall creek. Rowley ordered Wallace to meet them. Some of the men volunteered (and) they run to meet them. Wallace told the men not to fire till he told them, but one of his men fired and killed the officer (who) marched forward. When they fired from both parties, the enemy's detachment run. Rowley found the enemy collected (in) considerable force and stood. ***(He) then received a ball through the ankle. He was carried back and the enemy then retreated back of a fence from where they were soon routed to another place where they made a stand. The enemy, having left some men with a field piece they had taken from Willett, they were also attacked by some militiamen. They abandoned it, the ammunition was blown up (and) the field piece was no more used that day. The militiamen left the cannon and fell on the enemy (and) generally routed the enemy; but in some part of the scrimmaging (the enemy) drove the militia back. None of the militia left the field, they continued to prevent Ross from uniting his men together and, about sunset, Ross's men had all left the field and the militia had gained a complete victory. About this time Willett returned from the village of Johnstown. The militiamen brought (in) about 40 prisoners, picked forth from scattered men of Ross's men‑‑probably not above two or three taken together.
"Willett, when he fell back to the village, received about 100 of the Tryon County militia. Why this delay of Willett was is difficult to know‑‑from two to six o'clock. (He had) a much superior force in the village to Rowley, after he was joined with 100 militiamen. After Major Rowley was wounded, it is difficult to know, who was commander. Some privates, where small parties met, assumed command. The officers, whereever they were, did their duty‑‑no confusion or none left the field until the enemy was completely drove from the field.
"Thus, for a second time, the militia of Tryon County defeated the enemy with a very inferior number. At Oriskany, the enemy were tow to one in a battle of about five hours, were completely drove back (and) left Herkimer unmolested to make biers (litters) and carry their wounded off. With Ross left, then 250 (American soldiers) drove Ross from the field with seven or 800 men‑‑like bulldogs, 'hold fast or die with the holt'."
Enos Morse, Pension No. W20264 (Mass.), age 71 years, October 16,
1832, Town of Riga, Monroe Co., N.Y. Private in 1781 in Capt. Samuel Clark's
Company in Col. Elisha Porter's Regt. of Mass. State Levies. Enos
enlisted on July 18th and was discharged on Nov. 2, 1781. Half of
the regiment under Lieutenant Colonel Barnabas Sears was stationed at Saratoga
and the other half under Major Aaron Rowley served under Col. Marinus Willett
in the Mohawk Valley.
"In the latter part of said applicants term there was an alarm that the British were on their march for Fort Stanwix ‑ This applicant & troops about three hundred in number were immediately marched for Schenectady to intercept them ‑ They soon learned however that the British had arrived at Johnstown ‑ they then directed their course for that place ‑ Here they found & engaged the enemy about seven hundred in number including Indians & tories. The attack was commenced by a divison of two hundred under the command of Colonel Willett ‑ He was repulsed ‑ This applicant was in a division of one hundred men under the command of Major Rowley ‑ they were employed in flanking the enemy when the attack was made by Colonel Willett.
This applicants divison soon attacked the enemy in his rear ‑ At this time Colonel Willetts divison had been wholly repulsed & his men being young had retreated for the fort.
The action soon became severe & lasted more than an hour ‑ Major Rowley was wounded the second fire ‑ but continued during the action to give orders & animate his men. Notwithstanding the surperior force of the enemy they succeeded in repulsing him & 1taking about forty nine prisoners & a field piece taken from Colonel Willetts division. A short time before the close of the action Colonel Willett returned with about twenty men & joined in the action. Soon after this applicants division made its attack he was ordered by his Captain to pass to a company supposed to be under the command of Captain Moody in Colonel Willetts division; and request him not to fire; as they were so situated that if they did this applicants division would receive their shots ‑ He started & on approaching the company he called to an officer whom he supposed was Captain Moody & made the request ‑ he was answered that Captain Moody was not there, but Butlers Rangers. They immediately opened to the right & left & fired a field piece ‑ The effect was only to turn this applicant about in the direction of his company with force as to give him a good blast on his way back ‑ It was a company of the enemy who were in possession of a Field piece taken from Colonel Willetts divison ‑ this was the first intimation they had that Colonel Willett was not in the field or had retreated ‑ The attack by this applicants division was sometime continued supposing they were assisted by Colonel Willett ‑ This applicant with a part of his company went with the prisoners to Albany."
Jeremiah Mason, Pension No. R6996, (N.Y.), 66 years old, Sept. 21,
1832, Town of Johnstown, Montgomery Co. Private in Col. Frederick Visscher's
Regt. of Tryon Co. Militia.
"That his parents resided in the town of Johnstown and in the village and that his father and brothers were also in the army. That he was in the battle fought by Colonel Willett at Johnson Hall in Johnstown and was one who helped bury the dead after the battle."
Isaac Mason, Pension No. W18479, Vernon, Penn., April 13, 1833,
Col. Frederick Visscher's Regt. of Tryon Co. Militia.
"That he entered the service of the United States in the year that Cornwallis surrendered as a volunteer together with his father and two brothers. Our house and property had been burnt by the Indians & Tories sometime previously, he enrolled himself in Captain Putnam's Company of New York Militia, Wm Wallace was Lieutenant and on the 1st May entered the service, at Johnstown, in the garrison or stone fort, being the County Jail fitted up for that purpose. Major Little was called the garrison Major, and resided in the fort. Col. Vader who resided near Johnstown also commanded, there was also a Major Scouten, Col, Willett had the chief command, he commanded the forces from Fort Stanwix to Schenectady. We performed constant duty on guard and on Scouts. On 22d day of October which date he marked on a tree & saw many years after. The whole force of the Country was called out under Col. Willett to oppose Major Ross and Captain Butler and a party of British and Indians, there were somewhere about 400, men of all descriptions under Col. Willett, we left the garrison in search of the enemy, leaving Eleven old men to take care of the Fort, we missed the enemy, who took a road by Tripes Hill and surprised the town and garrison, and attacked it, but were repulsed with the cannon, the force under Col. Willett, came up, the British and Indians formed in a field, Willett advanced to about 8 rods of them under fire, and then fired, charged and broke their lines, they retreated, formed again, broke our line and took our cannon, Lieutenant Wallace commanded, the youngest of us, among whom deponant was, we formed in the line, the cannon was retook, the British retreated and were pursued about 8 miles. We took about 40 prisoners, Lieut Wallace commanded 49 person, most of whom were under 16 yrs of age, several of whom were killed."
Isaac is in error as to his enlistment in Col. Willett's Regt. Only Isaac's brother John is listed on the Company Muster Roll for Capt. Garret Putman's company in Col. Willett's Regt. John was wounded in the left side at the Battle of Johnstown (Pension No. W18479 N.Y.). Jeremiah Mason Sr. served as a private in Capt. Jellis Fonda's Company of Exempts in Col. Visscher's Regt. William Wallace was serving in this same Company and regiment and this is probably the same company that Isaac and Jeremiah Jr. was serving in as they were under 16 years of age. Their brother‑in‑law William Scarborough who was in Putman's Company with John Mason was killed in the Battle of Johnstown. William Wallace signed affadavits in both Isaac and Jeremiah's pensions and stated that he saw them engaged in said battle and that he gave them orders. Isaac's description of the battle is close to Col. Willett's description of the battle.
Martin A. Van Alstine, Pension No. S23O36 (N.Y.) Town of Root, Montgomery
County, N.Y., age 83 years. Col. Samuel Campbell's Regt. of Tryon Co. Militia
"That this deponant was also during said war but the precise time he cannot now remember engaged int he service of the United States at Johnstown in Montgomery County (then Tryon) for two days & that during that time an engagement took place between the Americans under Col. Willett & the enemy & that deponant was engaged through the whole of that battle ‑ that the deponant volunteered on that occasion & that a bullet carried away part of deponants hat on that occasion & that another bullet passed through the clothing of deponant just above the waist band & raked the skin of deponant.
And this deponant further now says that he now remembers that at the Johnstown Battle Col. Willett put deponant under the particular command of a man by the name of Walace, & deponant thinks he was a Captain & that he was a brave soldier."
Hugh Connelly, Pension No. S2869O (N.Y.), Jefferson, Schoharie Co.,
N.Y., age 73 years, February 5, 1833. Private in Captain William
Snook's Company in Colonel Frederick Visscher's Regt. of Tryon County Militia
"When the Indians and Tories burnt Florida they retreated as far as Johnstown there we came up with them and had a sharp engagement at first the Indians drove us then we were reinforced by the Stone Roble Militia commanded by Capt. MacMaster then we drove them and killed a number on both sides next Morning he helped bury thirteen his mess mates were killed. We then pursued them as far as Canada Creek there Capt. Butler was killed that commanded the Tories. We then returned Back the Indians that were with us had the scalps that they carried on a pole."
Abraham J. Quackenboss, Pension No. R8537 (N.Y.), Town of Glen,
Montgomery County, N.Y., age 72 years, Sept. 19, 1832. Private in
Capt. Jacob Gardinier's Company in Col. Visscher's Regt.
"And this deponant further says that he was engaged in the American service the time the Battle was fought Between the Americans and British at Johnstown at the Hall Farm that Captain Jacob Gardinier was his Captain. The Americans were commanded by Col. Marinus Willett and the enemys forces by Major Ross. That this deponant discharged fourteen rounds during the Battle and the Americans retook a cannon which had been lost during the Battle, that on our side one Rowley was shot in the lower part of the leg, the day after the Battle was fought this deponant assisted in Burying the dead. In the morning the day the Battle was fought this deponant was sent on express from Cagnawaga up the Mohawk River to notify some of the American troops near flat creek a little southeast from Canajoharie that the British forces were at Warrensbush in the Town of Florida & on their march to Johnstown."
Peter Van Alstine, Pension No. S14762 (N.Y.), Town of Glen, Montgomery
Co., N.Y., age 74 years, March 11, 1834. Sergeant in Capt. Rynier
Van Evera's Co. in Colonel Samuel Campbell's Regt.
"Marched from that place (Fort Plain) to Johnstown to attack Major Ross & Butler who were on their way to take that place with the British & Indians when this deponant was engaged in the Battle which took place at Sir William Johnson's Hall & was commanded by Major Rowley who had William Wallace for a guide. After this Battle was fought they returned the next day under the Command of Captain Van Evera to Fort Plain."
William Feeter, Pension No. S13O13 (N.Y.), February 11, 1833, Little
Falls, Herkimer County.
"In October the British Indians & Tories under the command of Major Ross & Walter Butler made their appearance on the Mohawk river in the (now) County of Montgomery the alarm sprede through the country deponant & two other young men Started from Stone Arabia & went down the Mohawk river about twelve miles & Joined Col. Willet at a place called Anthony's nose, Willet proceeded down the South Side of the river a few miles below Caghnawaga when Willet met an express who informed him the enemy were on the north side of the Mohawk river & on their way to Johnstown. Willet returned up the river & crossed over to Caghnawaga where he sent deponant & one William Wallace as a scout to ascertain the Situation of the enemy ‑ they proceeded to Johnstown & discovered the enemy a little distance west of Johnsons Hall they were building fires & encamping. Wallace returned to inform Col. Willet & deponant remained at the Jail with six persons who went under the command of one Capt. Lidle the keeper of the Jail. Deponant & the Company under Capt. Lidle when they saw Col. Willet advancing preceeded to the place where they had built their fires & saw them retreating into the woods about half a mile north towards Kingsborough deponant & his party pursued as fast as they could run & came up close to the woods & halted. Col. Willet sent a party of men under the command of Major Andrew Fink to join Capt. Lidles party & enter into the woods & fire upon the enemy & then retreat & had the enemy out into the field. they entered the woods a short distance & were fired upon by the enemy & one or two of their party killed they returned the fire & the enemy retreated & deponant & his party pursued them about half a mile into the woods. When they came up to the main body of the enemy ‑ deponant & Major Finck were in advance of their party & were fired upon by the enemy who stood on the top of the hill above them the balls struck in the trees ten or fifteen feet above deponants head. Deponant fired at an Indian not more than twenty paces distant, & the Indian fell. Major Finck then called out to his men to retreat as the enemy were surrounding them, & they retreated into the open field & were followed by the enemy, deponant & his party joined a company under the command of Capt. Moody who had comand of a cannon they made a stand a short time when they saw a large body of the enemy going through the woods to surround them & cut off their retreat to the town ‑ & this deponant & his party left the cannon & retreated to the town & joined Col. Willet who had rallied his men & had received a reenforcement of Militia. Willet advanced to meet the enemy, & again took the cannon & the enemy were driven from the field & retreated during the battle several of deponants friends & companions from Stone Arabia were severly wounded & deponant was requested to go to Stone Arabia to inform their friends & bring them to Johnstown to take care of the wounded. Deponant started immediately & went in night to Stone Arabia about 12 miles & ate nothing from early in the morning till late at night when he arrived at Stone Arabia. The next morning deponant returned to Johnstown to join Col. Willet, who deponant learned had gone in pursuit of the enemy & deponant followed Col. Willet to Fort Herkimer and stayed at the fort one night. All the militia had gone with Willet in pursuit of the enemy & deponant returned home to Stone Arabia. This between the Enemy & col. Willet at Johnstown deponant verily believes was in the fall of the year 1782 as above stated but by many of the Revolutionary soldiers it is said this battle was fought in the fall of the year 1781 which deponant thinks incorrect."
Jacob Tanner, Pension No. S11513 (N.Y.), April 18, 1833, Town of
Sharon, Schoharie County. Private Captain Garret Putman's Company
in Colonel Marinus Willett's Regiment of Levies.
"That he remained there until the beginning of October 1781 when two of Colonel Willets companies were dispatched to the town of Sharon now a town of Schoharie County lying South of Montgomery County, for cattle for the use of the Soldiery stationed at the afore mentioned place the two companies were commanded by Captains Putnam and Gross ‑ they marched through the wilderness fifteen miles to Henry Haines Mills where they remained over night Not being able to obtain any cattle the two compaines started the ensuing day upon their return to the fort. The Deponant and one Frederick Olman neighbors had families residing at Currystown in the County of Montgomery who were exposed daily to some struggling club of Indians were advised by the commanding officers to return to the fort by the way of their homes ‑ The deponant and his comrad Olman and the company seperated near the place of the present site of the Dutch Reformed Church in Sharon and while on their way were benighted in the cedar swamp in the North of Sharon when they were obliged to stay during the night ‑ On again advancing the suceeding morning about one hundred and eighty yards they were surprized by a party of Indians eleven in number and a white tory by the name of John Har who had lodged the same night within about two hundred yards of them in the same swamp ‑ As soon as the Indians discovered them they pursued this deponant and Olman about three miles when they crossed the Indians by prostrating themselves flat upon the ground on the top of a hillock while the Inidans curved around the hill into the valley below ‑ Deponant and Olman took advantage of this circumstance and immediately started in a different direction and pursued their course without interruption until they arrived at Currytown but before they reached their houses deponand and Olman were captured by a company of Indians in ambuscade who were headed by Henry Brandt a cousin of Colo. Joseph Brant who took them after making prisoners of Mr. Olmans father and mother, to Fort Hunter where they were with deponant put under guard the 24 Oct., 1781. On the succeeding morning Deponant, Olman and his father in law together with thirteen other prisoners were drove back of Johnstown where they were detained two days ‑ From this place deponant with others were escorted as prisoners by the savages to fort Niagara and then kept as a prisoner until the spring of Seventeen hundred and Eighty two ‑ "
Frederick Ulman, Pension No. S14743 (N.Y. & Penn.), February
5, 1833, Town of Carlisle, Schoharie County. Served as private in Captain
Garret Putman's Company in Colonel Marinus Willett's Regiment of Levies.
"In the year 81 1st April saith he listed again in the same Company for the term of 9 months was stationed at fort Plain fort Plank and near there Continued until Oct. Then Being in a Scouting party about 2O miles from his staionary place and being in the town of Root then and there himself and Jacob Tanner were taken prisoners By a party of Indians and tories being the 24th day of October in the year 81 ‑ (A place called Warnsbush was Burned on the 25th) Recollects the next day after he was a prisoner he was taken Near Johnstown, and being in the woods near there and kept by the Enemy ‑ he at this time through the trees saw his late Col. Willett marching towards Johnstown with his Regiment at which place (Being 25th Oct) he had a Battle. Conquered the Enemy ‑ the Enemy Retreated kept him prisoner with them and was present when at West Canada Creek, Butler then of the Commander of Indians and tories was shot Dead, and Recollects that he felt happy that It took place ‑"
Stephen Shew, Pension No. W1O9O (N.Y.), September 4, 1832, age 71
years, Rutland, Jefferson County. Served as a private in Captain John Littel's
Company in the Third Battalion of Tryon County Militia (Colonel Frederick
"That in the year 1781 while in the Militia service as above stated the enemy made their appearance near the Fort in Johnstown, the claimant being among the number in the Fort was the first to fire upon the enemy and in Company with several others rushed from the Fort to pursue them, but were soon ordered back by Capt. Little to guard the Fort, while at the same time Col. Willett with his Regiment in pursuit of the enemy arrived at the Fort Immediately followed, over took and attacked them in what is commonly called the Hall field, a little below the village, where a bloody battle ensued and continued untill evening ‑ that early the next morning the applicant in company with several others followed the enemy, overtook two of their rear guard and took them prisoners ‑ conducted them back to the Fort and gave them up to the regular authority of the American Army as prisoners of war."
Jacob Shew, Pension No. S22985 (N.Y.), July 4, 1848, Village of
Broadalbin, Fulton County. Served as a private in Captain Garret Putman's
Company in Colonel Marinus Willett's Regiment of Levies. Stephen's brother.
"Again, in the fall season of the same year a battle was waged near Johnstown between a party of Indians and tories, about four hundred in number, and Colonel Willett with his regt. and many others. This applicant being out with a scouting party the same day, consisting of twelve in number, viz: Capt. Little, John Eikler, John Brothers, Peter Yost, Henry Shew, this applicant & others whose names are forgotten; on hearing the firing, immediately turned their course towards Johnstown, and came in as a reinforcement before the battle was over. This is what is commonly called the Hall Battle."
Philadelphia Nov. 17
HEAD‑QUARTERS CONTINENTAL VILLAGE NOV. 8, 1781
SINCE I had the honor of addressing your Excellencey this morning, I have received the inclosed papers from Major‑General Lord Stirling, by which Congress will perceive that the enemy have been compleatly disappointed in their designs on the northern frontiers of this State, and defeated with considerable loss. The address, gallentry, and perservering activity exhibited by Col. Willett on this occasion, do him the highest honor. The conduct of Major Rowley, and the brave militia under his command, at a critical moment, merits particular commendations. I have the honor to be, with the highest respect, your Excellencey's most obediant servant,
His Excellencey the President of Congress: Extract of a letter from Major‑General Lord Stirling, dated Saratoga, Nov. 6, 1781.
I have received a letter from Col. Willett, copy of which is inclosed. The returns he alludes to were never sent. The vigilant, prudent conduct of this officer, through the whole affair was such he reflects the highest honor upon the military character; and the essential service he has done his country will give him a pleasing remembrance in every honest breath. The number he has taken, killed and wounded, with the distressed situation in which he left them, will amount short of a total defeat; eight days march will scarcely bring them to a country where they can be supplied with provisions.
Fort Rensselaer Nov. 2, 1781
Having just returned from pursuing the enemy, my first business is to acquaint your Lordship of the particular transactions that have taken place in this quarter, from the time of their first appearance.
Eight o'clock, P.M. on the 24th ult. I received advice that a considerable body of the enemy were discovered in the upper part of the Mohawk district every means was instantly taken to collect the force of the country in order to oppose them without loss of time, so that by one o'clock the following day I was within two miles of Fort‑Hunter, with between four and five hundered levies and militia; there I learnt that the enemy, having burnt several houses and barns at Warrensbush, had crossed the river at a ford some distance below, and were marching to Johnstown. This obliged me to cross the river as soon as possible, and march by the shortest route to the place whither they were directing their course. When within two miles of Johnstown, I was informed they were already there, had halted; and were busy in killing cattle belonging to the inhabitants. Thus situated, I was determined to attack them as soon as possible; and ordered the left wing of the few troops I had, to perform a circuit throught the woods, and fall upon their right flank, while the right wing advanced in front.
A few minutes brought us in view of them. The troops of this wing were pushed on to a field adjoining to the one possessed by the enemy, where they displayed to the right, and advanced in a line towards them, who retired with precipitation to a neighbouring wood, closely pressed by our advance, which began to skirmish with them; while the remainder of the wing was advancing briskly in two columns.‑‑In this pleasing situation without any apparent cause, the whole of the wing turned about and fled, nor was it possible to rally them. A field piece, which was left on a height at a small distance from the wood, to secure a retreat, was abandoned, and fell into the hands of the enemy. At this critical period our left wing, commanded by Major Rowley, of the Massachusetts State, and composed of the militia of this county, except about sixty of the levies of the above State, made their appearance in the enemy's rear.
These soon regained every thing our right wing had lost, and more. Night came on, and the enemy retired into the wood, leaving a great number of their packs behind them. After marching six miles, they encamped on the top of a mountain. By information from prisoners who made their escape from them in the night, it appeared to be their intention to strike at the frontiers of Stone Arabia in order to furnish themselves with provisions. This induced me to march to that place the next morning, where we remained all that day and night, without hearing any thing further from them, than that they were pointing their route further into the wilderness. I was now sure they were unable to make any sudden stroke below the Little Falls, and in consequence, on the morning of the 27th, I removed to the German Flatts, in order to be between the enemy and their boats, which they had left at Oneida‑Creek. On my way I learnt; that the party which I had detached to destroy them, had returned without doing their duty. The 28th was passed in furnishing the choicest of the troops with five days provision, and sixty Oneida Indians, who had this day joined me. It now appeared clearly, that the enemy having given up the hope of returning to their boats, were directing their march to Buck's Island, or to Osswagewa. The troops intended to pursue them, to the amount of 400, besides Indians, crossed the Mohawk at Fort‑Herkimer, and encamped in the woods. The day following we marched upwards of 20 miles north, into the woods, through a snow‑storm, and about 8 o'clock, A.M. on the morning of the 30th, we fell in with the enemy, between the rear‑guard and a detachment of 40 men with some Indians. These it was intended should procure a fresh supply of provisions, and follow after their troops, who were to continue their route. Some of this party were taken, some killed, and the rest dispersed. Their main body set out on a trot in Indian file, and were pursued as warmly and closely as possible, until quite night. Our pursuit they but once endeavored to resist, which was at a very bad ford on Canada Creek, where they left Major Walter Butler and several more. (This is the same Butler who commanded the massacre at Cherry‑Valley in November 1778.) We have lost but one man in the pursuit. Our Indians were very useful, and behaved with their usual alertness upon such occasions. Your Lordship knows they are the best cavalry for the service of the wilderness. Strange as it may appear it is true, that not withstanding the enemy had been four days in the wilderness with only half a pound of horse‑flesh per man per day, yet, in this famished situation, they troted 30 miles before they stopped. Many of them indeed fell a sacrifice to such treatment. Their packs and blankets were strewed through the woods. All their horses, except five which were sent a considerable distance forward in their van, with their wounded and a few prisoners fell into our hands.
In this situation I left the unfortunate Major Ross; unfortunate I call him, for he was surely so in taking charge of so fine a detachment of men to execute so dirty and triffling a piece of business as he was sent on at such immense hazard and exquisite toil. To fatique the brave troops any longer, appeared unnecessary. The enemy, who continued their flight great part of the night, had got greatly the start of us, and almost certain destruction appeared before them.‑‑A seven days march, rivers passable but upon rafts, a barren wilderness, in an inclement season of the year, to be encountered with, before they can obtain any provisions; besides, our situation, had we pursued them a day or two longer, might become little better than theirs; for our Inidians, and many of the troops, in order to pursue them with greater vigour, had thrown aside their blankets and provisions, which were now 20 miles or more in the rear; in fine, we left them in a situation, perhaps, more suited to their merit than a musket ball, a tomahawk, or captivity.
I shall not attempt to give your Lordship an account of the whole of the enemy's loss, from the beginning to the end of the affair. The fields of Johnstown, the brooks and rivers, the hills and mountains, the deep and gloomy marshes throught which they had to pass; these must tell, these only can tell; and perhaps at least the officer, whoever he is, that detached them on this paltry expediton. The desolate region they traversed in their flight, while we were pursuing them, lies upwards of 30 miles north of Fort‑Schuyler.
It would be wrong in me to close this letter, without assuring your Lordship that the troops in general, who were with me on this service, supported the great fatigues they had to encounter, with a soldier‑like fortitude. To Andrew Finck; Esq; formerly a Captian in Col. Van Schaick's regiment, but at present a Magistrate in this county, who performend the service of a Brigade‑Major, I am under great obligations for his particular attention, great dilligence, and manly deportment, through the whole of this expedition.
Inclosed is a particular return of the force of the enemy; returns of our killed and wounded, and such as shall be proper to transmit to your Lordship, shall be sent forward as soon as collected. I remain, with sentiments of the greatest esteem and respect, your Lordship's very humble servant,
The Hon. Major‑General Lord Stirling
Force of the enemy; taken from Walter Butler's pocket book.
Eighth regiment 25, thirty‑fourth ditto 100, eighty‑fourth ditto Highlanders 30, Sir John's 120, Lake's Independent 40, Butler's Rangers 150, Yagers 12, Indians 130. ‑‑ Total 607
Published by order of Congress
Charles Thomson Sec'ry
Source: The Providence Gazette and Country Journal
Saturday, December 1, 1781, Vol. XVIII, No. 935
1) Green, Ernest, "Gilbert Tice, U.E.". Ontario Historical Society, Vol. XX1, 1924, PP 186‑197.
2) Greene, Nelson, History of the Mohawk Valley, Chicago S.J. Clarke Publishing Co, 4 Vols. 1925.
3) Morrison, James F., A History of Fulton County in the Revolution, 1977.
4) Simms, Jeptha R., The Frontiersmen of New York, George Riggs, 2 Vols., 1881‑1883.
5) Swiggett, Howard, War Out of Niagara, Columbia University Press, 1933.
6) Thomas, Howard, Marinus Willet, Prospect Books, 1954.
7) Watt,ed. Gavin K., The Kings Royal Regiment of New York 1984.
8) Willett, William M., A Narrative of Military Actions of Col. Marinus Willet, N.Y., G&C&H Carvill, 1831.