A HANGING IN CANAJOHARIE
JAMES F. MORRISON
The following article will pertain to the capture and hanging of Lieutenant Henry Hare and Sergeant William Newbury of Butler's Rangers as spies. It was a very important incident that happened while General James Clinton was gathering his army and supplies at Canajoharie in preparation to march and join General John Sullivan in a joint campaign against the western Indian Villages of New York.
The following was excerpted from THE FRONTIERSMEN OF NEW YORK, JEPTHA R. SIMMS, GEORGE C. RIGGS, PUBLISHER, ALBANY, N.Y., 1883, VOL. II, pp 241-244.
Execution of two Spies. -While Gen. Clinton was waiting at Canajoharie for his troops and supplies to assemble, and also for the construction and delivery of bateaus, two tories were there hung, and a deserter shot. The following letter from Gen. Clinton to his wife, dated July 6th, 1779, briefly narrates the death of the two former:
"I have nothing further to acquaint you of, except that we apprehended a certain Lieut. Henry Hare, and a Sergeant Newbury, both of Col. Butler's regiment, who confessed that they left the Seneca country with 63 Indians and two white men, who divided themselves into three parties; one party was to attack Schoharie, another party Cherry Valley and the Mohawk River, and the other party to skulk about Fort Schuyler and the upper part of the Mohawk river, to take prisoners or scalps. I had them tried by a general court martial for spies, who sentenced them both to be hanged, which was done accordingly at Canajoharie, to the satisfaction of all the inhabitants of that place who were friends to their country, as they were known to be very active in almost all the murders that were committed on these frontiers. They were inhabitants of Tryon county, had each a wife and several children, who came to see them and beg their lives." [Authors note: The letter can be found on pp 122-123, Vol. V of the Clinton Papers-JFM].
The name of Hare was one of respectability in the Mohawk valley, before the Revolution. Members of the Hare family were engaged for years in sundry speculations with Maj. Jelles Fonda, who, as shown in the first volume, carried on an extensive trade with the Indians and fur traders at the western military posts; his own residence being at Caughnawaga [Mr. Simms had footnoted Caughnawga at the bottom of p 242 which I have omitted]. Henry Hare resided, before the war, a few miles from Fort Hunter. At the time he left the valley with the royalist party to go to Canada, his family remained, as did that of William Newbury, who lived about three miles from Hare, toward the present village of Glen. If Hare had rendered himself obnoxious to the whigs of Tryon county, Newbury had doubly so, by his inhuman cruelties at the massacre of Cherry Valley, one of which, the murder of a Mitchell child, on his trial, was proven against him. Hare and Newbury visited their friends, and were secreted for several days at their own dwellings. The former had left home before daylight to return to Canada, and was to call for his comrade on his route. Maj. Newkirk, who resided but a short distance from Hare, met a tory neighbor on the afternoon of the day on which Hare left home, who, wishing to be considered a quidnunc and lull suspicions resting upon himself, communicated to him the fact that Hare had been home; and supposing him then out of danger, he added, "perhaps he is about home yet." He also informed him that Newbury had been seen. Hare brought home for his wife several articles of clothing, such as British calicoes, dress-shawls, Indian mocasins, etc., and on the very day he set out to return to Canada, she was so imprudent as to put them on and go visiting-the sight of which corroborated the story told Newkirk. The Major notified Capt. Snooks, who collected a few armed whigs, and in the evening secreted himself with them near the residence of Hare, if possible, to give some further account of him.
Providence seems to have favored the design, for the latter, on going to Newbury's, had sprained an ankle. Not being willing to undertake so long a journey with a lame foot, and little suspecting that a friend has revealed his visit, he concluded to return to his dwelling. While limping along through his own orchard, Francis Putman, one of the Snooks party, then but 15 or 16 years old, stepped from behind an apple tree, presented his musket to his breast, and ordered him to stand. At a given signal, the rest of the party came up and he was secured. They learned from the prisoner that Newbury had not yet set out for Canada, and a party under Lieut. Newkirk went the same night and arrested him. They were enabled to find his house in the woods by following a tame deer which fled to it. The prisoners were next day taken to Canajoharie, where they were tried by court martial, found guilty, and executed as previously shown. The execution took place on Academy Hill, in the present village of Canajoharie. Said Joseph Wagner, who saw Hare hung "He had on a spotted calico shirt, ruffled at the bosom and cuffs. The gallows was made by setting up two crotches with a pole across them. He stood in a wagon and adjusted the rope on his neck, the wagon was drawn from under him and he was soon with his God."- John S. Quackenboss and Mrs. E. Gardinier.
The influence exerted by the friends of Hare to save him would have been successful, had he declared that he visited the valley solely to see his family. He may have thought they dare not hang him; certain it is, that when he was interrogated as to the object of his visit, he unheisitatingly said that he not only came here to see his family, but also came in the capacity of a spy* [Mr. Simms has another footnote which I will include]. A deserter, named Titus, was shot at Canajoharie about the time the spies were hung, as I have been informed by an eye witness to all three executions.- James Williamson.
At the time the spies were to be executed, Gen. Clinton rode up to Fort Plain and spent an hour or two with Domine Gros; to avoid the importunity of their friends who begged for their lives; and especially was the case with Mrs. Hare- William H. Seeber.
Deserters were shot for the first, second or third offence, as circumstances warranted. Titus was buried near the place of his execution on the flats, and his bones were thrown out at the time of constructing the Erie canal, by workmen who were getting earth for its embankments.- Daniel Spencer. - The body of Hare was given to his relatives for interment. Previous to burial the coffin was placed in a cellar-kitchen, before a window, in which position a snake crawled over it. This circumstance gave rise to much speculation among the superstitious, who said "It was the devil after his spirit.""
* When Lieut. Hare was in custody, at the request of Gen. Clinton, he was asked by Johannes Roof if he did not kill Caty Steers, at Fort Stanwix, in 1777, "For," said Roof, "you was seen with your hands in her hair." He confessed that he had killed and scalped her- John Roof,Jr. , afterwards Colonel.
The following is an early version of the black snake and Hare story. The source is: LIFE AND WRITINGS OF DEWITT CLINTON,[DEWITT CLINTON'S PRIVATE CANAL JOURNAL 181O included], ed. WILLIAM W. CAMPBELL, 1849. This is excerpted from a typed manuscript of this book in the collection of the MONTGOMERY COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY AND ARCHIVES, Fonda, N.Y. The excerpts are from pp 11-12.
[July 7, 181O] "At a distance of forty-two and a-half miles from Schenectady, passed Fort Plain on the south side and in Minden. It derives its name from a block-house which was formerly erected here. There is a church near it, and it is marked erroneously in Wright's map, Canajoharie. An occurrence took place, near here, during the war, which excited much sensation among the superstitious. A Tory, from Canada, was apprehended and executed as a spy, in the army commanded by Gen. James Clinton. His friends were gratified with his body for interment; and when the company were assembling in a cellar-kitchen, a large black snake darted through the window, and ran under the coffin, and could not be found.
This affair made a great noise, and the superstitious Germans interpreted it as an omen favorable to the Whig cause, considering the black snake as a devil, anxious to receive his victim, and anticipating a delightful sacrifice."
The following excerpts are taken from men who were present at the capture of Hare and Newbury. Although related several years after the fact in their pension applications it still will verify some of Mr. Simms' facts.
GARRET NEWKIRK - PENSION APPLICATION NO. W24339, Private, Captain William Snook's Company [Fifth Company], Colonel Frederick Visscher's Regiment of Tryon County Militia [Third Battalion].
"And this deponent further says that he was ordered out and went with Captain Snook and a number of others to take one Harry Hare a Britsih Spy who was then ascertained to be in a House in the town of Florida: And the Company surrounded the House in the Night under the orders of Captain Snook. And they took Hare who was afterwards Hung as a Spy at Canajoharie."
WILLIAM J. NEWKIRK - PENSION APPLICATION NO. R7623, Private, Captain William Snook's Company [Fifth Company], Colonel Frederick Visscher's Regiment of Tryon County Militia [Third Battalion].
"This deponant also volunteered and actually went to take one Harry Hare a British Spy whose family resided at Florida, while he had been engaged in travelling Back and forth to & from Canada as a Spy: That Captain William Snook commanded the Company in taking Hare: That they surrounded the House at the Night and made him a Prisoner & he was hung as a Spy at Canajoharie as he was informed and believes that this deponent went from Florida to Canajoharie to assist in taking Hare to that place but did not see him executed."
HENRY SNOOK - PENSION APPLICATION NO. S11435, Private, Captain William Snook's [Henry's father] Company [Fifth Company], Colonel Frederick Visscher's Regiment of Tryon County Militia [Third Battalion].
"And this deponent further says that he volunteered with a number of whigs to go and take one William Newbury & William Rombo who were called British spies. And who were connected with one Harry Hare a British Spy. That the deponent and his company found Newbury & Rombo in the woods on the Eastside of the Schoharie Creek in the town of Florida. And took them Prisoners and surrendered them to Captain Snook and Major [John] Newkirk and the deponent then understood and believes that they were publicly executed at Canajoharie as British spies. And Hare their Companion who had also been taken by Captain Snook and some men under his Command was also executed as a Spy."
William Newbury is listed as serving as a sergeant in Captain Peter Ten Broeck's Company in Butler's Rangers for 1778. A William Rambaugh is listed as a private in the King's Royal Regiment of New York. He is listed as enlisted on October 16, 178O in the Second Battalion. There was an Astmus Rambaugh in Captain Snook's Company and an Ashmael Rambaugh that served in Captain John Visscher's Company [Fourth Company] but as of now I haven't found a connection between the three Rambaughs.
The following excerpt was taken a from a loyalist journal concerning the capture and hanging of Hare and Newbury. JOURNAL OF LIUTENANT RICHARD CARTWRIGHT, CONTINUATION OF A JOURNAL OF AN EXPEDITION INTO THE INDIAN COUNTRY 1779 [June 25-August 29, 1779], NEW YORK STATE HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION LIBRARY, COOPERSTOWN, N.Y..
[July] "6th This Evening came in a Cachnawagoe Indian who has been long at Oneyda; he pretends to have quitted the Enemy and promises to be our Friend for the future. Major Butler has some Suspicion of his being a Spy and would send him under Guard to Niagara but for Fear of disobliging the Indians. who are always inclined to put implied Confidence in any Professions made by one of their own Kind. By what this Man says Lieut. Henry Hare and Sergt. Newberry, who set off for Fort Hunter the 4th will have had the Misfortune to be taken by the Enemy and hanged as Spies. We have lost in Mr. Hare a very active enterprising Officer, and the Manner of his Death is shocking. The Indian was severly reprimanded by Major Butler for the Manner in which he had acted."
The following was excerpted from CAPTAIN ANDREW PORTER'S JOURNAL, ed. JAY H. JAKOVIC, DUTCH SETTLERS SOCIETY OF ALBANY YEARBOOK, VOL. 44, 1972-1974, ALBANY, N.Y., pp 6, 7, 9, & 1O.
"At a general court martial held Camp Canojohara June 2Oth 1779 by order of B. Genl James Clinton. Whereof Col. Peter Gansevoort was president.
Isaiah Wool Captn Lt. James MClure
Captns Aaron Aorson George Sytes
Henry Teabout Philip Conine
Captn Lt. Thomas Mackin Lieuts. Elisha Harvey
Members & Captain Andrew Porter Judge Advocate.
Mr. Henry Hair appeared before the court, charged with being taken lurking about camp as a spy.
The court being duly sworn proceeded to the tryal. The charge was read to the prisoner. Pleads not guilty.
Majr John Newkirk being sworn. Says he was informed that the prisoners Henry Hair was at home with his family at Nights & on Friday the 18th Inst. he collected a party of men & had them placed near the house of the prisoner; and on Saturday morning the 19th Instant the said party took him returning to his home.
The Prisoner being asked if he had taken the oath of Nutrality to the United States. Answers that he did take the oath about the beginning of the year 1776 but that he had been taken prisoner by us a day or two before. & that in May 1776 he went with Sr. John Johnson to the enemy & ever since that time has born arms against the United States of America; & about a fortnight past in Company with 19 Indians he left Canodaseago in the Sinica Country & parted with Sd Indians at Thompsons about ten miles above the German Flatts & four miles from the Mohake River, from thence he proceeded round the flatts & through the woods & passed through some part of this settlement afternights & in the daytime travelled through the woods & arrived at his own house near Fort Hunter last Sabath. That on Wednesday last he set off in company with William Newberry to join Col. John Butler's Regt. in the Sinica country, but Newberry getting lame about ten miles on their way; left him near Schohara Creek & was returning home with an intent to wait till Newberry would be able to march, & on his return near his own Door was taken by a party of our men, he also says before he was taken that he was informed there were an army of the Americans going back against the Indians.
Questns by the Court
Did you join the enemy voluntarly? Ansr. voluntarly
Do you hold a Commission under Col. John Butler with the Enemy?
Answr. I hold a first Lieutenancy but left my commission at Niagara.
Is this the first time you ventured home to your family since you joined the Enemy
Answr. This is the third time; the first time when [I was is crossed out] returning I was discovered & fired on by a guard of the American Army near the Little Falls of the Mohake River but got off cleer: imediately when they fired at me I hid several letters that was sent with me by women in the Neighbourhood where my Family lived to their husbands who were with the Enemy.
The Prisoner being informed the court was ready to hear his defence, says he has no defence to make, but throws himself on the mercy of the court.
It appears by the prisoner's own confession that he was within three quarters of a mile of the incampment of the 3d N. York Regt. on Sunday last.
The court having considered the evidence & the prisoners own confession are unanimously of opinion that the Sd Henry Hair is guilty of the charge & sentence him to be hanged by the Neck until he is Dead."
The court adjourned after examination of other prisoners until 9:OO A.M. on the 21st. They met and ajourned to the next morning at the same time.
"June 22 the court met agreeable to adjournment. The following members are appointed viz Captn John Hamtranck Lieut Gerit Staats & Ensign Isiah Bagley in place of Captn Janson Teabout & Machin.
William Newberry appeared before the court, said to be a Sergt. in the British service & confined for lurking about the country and on suspicion of his being a spy.
The Prisoner pleads not guilty.
Questions by the court to the Prisoner
1st Where were you taken?
Answr. by Schohara Creek
2d Did you ever take the oath of Nutraility to the States?
Answr. I took an oath about two years past to be true to the State on N York.
3 How long after you took the oath did you join the Enemy?
Answr. The August following
4 Have you bore Arms against the United States of America ever since you joined the enemy?
Answr. I have.
5 In what Character did you act with the Enemy
Answr. As a serjeant in Col. John Butlers Regt.
6 What time did you leave the Enemy?
Answr. The 6th of this month.
7th Where did you leave the Enemy?
Answr. I left the main body of the army at Canodaseago in the Sinica Country.
8 Who came in company with you?
Answr. Henry Hair & 19 Indians-we parted with the Indians on this side of Orisquo creek, from which place they were to proceed to the Mohake River towards the American boats.
9th What Rout did you take after parting with the Indians?
Answr. Henry Hair & myself came down by Thompsons & from thence through the settlements till we arrived at Henry Hairs house near Fort Hunter. in the daytime we lay in the wood & at night proceeded on our way.
1O What time did you arrive at Henry Hairs house?
Answr. Last Sunday week just before day & remained there four Days & then set off to join the Enemy, but I getting lame about six or seven miles on our way, Henry Hair returned again to see his family & intended to wait untill I would be able to march with him.
11th During your stay in the neighbourhood did you discover any Boats or Troops marching up?
Answr. I heard the drums beat & was informed that a part was gone down to bring a number more Boats from Schenectady.
12 Who were the Persons that gave you the Intiligence of our movements?
Answr. Thomas Plato, Wilham Rombauch & Henry Hairs wife- said Hairs wife went backwards & forwards every day to gain Intiligence for us.
13 When you left home to join the Enemy the first time what party went with you?
Answr. Fifty-six men. & when we arrived at Youngs Lake we halted & chose our officers at which time I was choosen their Captn. We then proceeded & joined the British Army under the Command of Genl St. Ledger who at that time was beseiging Fort Stanwix.
14 Is this the first time you came down to see your family since you joined the Enemy
Answr. I came down once before & delivered myself up to Saml. Clyde & Saml. Campable Committee Men- they permited me to go to my house & wait until the Committee would. but some of my neighbours gave the Committee Information that I kept myself Secreted-upon which the Committee sent for me & ordered to be carried to Esopes with an officer & nine men as a guard, but being apprehencive that I should be hanged from what I was told; I made my escape & went back & joined the Enemy sometime afterwards
Major John Fry being sworn says I was made a Prisoner in Genl. Herkemans Battle with the Enemy & saw the Prisoner come in with a party of Men sometime after at the Oneida Lake.
The Prisoner being Requested to make his defence says, he is very sorry for what he has done & was Induced to it, by the persuasions of men who he thought knew more than himself That Philip Koch brought a parcil of papers out of New York from Lord How & told him the King was very strong & America would be conquered in less than two months & everyone who did not go & join them would be hung up, or sent to the West India Islands as Slaves & after that he went to Christian Tillabauch for advice who shewed him some more papers & said the papers mentioned that whoever did not go off & join the Enemy would be made Slaves of & sent out of America. Koch & Tillabauch both told him they would go off & join the Enemy if they had not got Protection from Lord How-They also told him they had Recd. writings from Sr. John & Col. Butler importing that the Enemy determined to come down on the frontiers & shew no mercy to all those who would not join them.-He also say his Intentions in coming down this present time was only to see his Family & should have given himself up to the mercy of his Country if he had thought he could obtain Pardon, but Henry Hare & wife & Thomas Plato told him there was no mercy shewn any of those who had joined the Enemy & was from these arguments afraid to deliver himself up-he pray the court to have mercy on him & spare his life.
The court are of opinion the Prisoner is guilty of the Charge & Sentence him to be hanged by the neck until he is dead."
The following are excerpts from Diaries, Journals and Order Books kept by members of General Clinton's army in June of 1779.
SOURCE: JOURNAL OF LIEUT. RUDOLPHUS VAN HOVENBURGH, JOURNALS OF THE MILITARY EXPEDITION OF MAJOR GENERAL JOHN SULLIVAN AGAINST THE SIX NATIONS OF INDIANS IN 1779, ed. FREDERICK COOK, AUBURN, N.Y., 1887, p 276.
"June 2O Lieut. Hair of Indian Butler's Reg't was Hanged as Spy Near the Mohawk River. June 28 A Spy Executed on the Mohawk River In Col. Ganseworth's Camp."
SOURCE: JOHN BARR'S DIARY, ORDERLY BOOKS OF THE FOURTH NEW YORK REGIMENT, 1778-178O, THE SECOND NEW YORK REGIMENT, 178O-1783, ed. ALMON W. LAUBER, ALBANY, 1932, p 792.
"Monday 21st one Hair a Spy from Niagara was hanged to Day at the Mohawk River.
Sunday [27th] The Troops at the Ferry attended the Execution of a Criminal at the River he belonged to the Enemy's Service"
SOURCE: LIEUTENANT ROBERT PARKER'S JOURNAL, CANAJOHARIE AND THE SULLIVAN-CLINTON CAMPAIGN 1779-1929 [SESQUICENTENNIAL], ed. H.V. BUSH and others, 1929, p 26.
"June 21st - This day was executed a Spy called Henry Herr, who said he was a private in Coll. John Butler's Reg't. He was taken up by a party of Militia at some distance from here, found guilty & hanged. Several others are in confinement."
SOURCE: JOURNAL OF WILLIAM MCKENDRY, MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY PROCEEDINGS, MAY 1886, VOL. II, p 459.
"Ditto [June] 21st This day a man was hangd at Mohawk river taken up for a spy that was viewing The Stores as they passed up the River he Informd Genl Clinton that he was a Lieut in butler service which is now with the Indians also Informs that another Tory & 9 Indians came off with him.
Ditto 28th one man hangd at Mohawk River taken up for a Spy from Butler's Camp thats with the Indians."
SOURCE: THE ORDER BOOK OF CAPT. LEONARD BLEECKER , FRANKLIN B. HOUGH, N.Y., 1865, pp 41, 48, 5O & 53.
"At a General Court Martial held at Camp Canajohary, June 2O, whereof Col. Gansevoort was President, Mr. Henry Hare was tryed for lurking about the Camp as a Spy, found Guilty, and sentenced to be hanged by the Neck 'till he is dead." There were other sentences mentioned then the following:"The General approves the Sentences, and orders them to be put in Execution Tomorrow Morning at 9 O'Clock. For which reason The Troops will be under Arms at half after eight O'Clock, and Col. [Christopher] Yates, Qr Master General, will make the necessary Preparations for the Execution."
"At a General Court Martial, held at Camp Canajoharie Creek, June the 2Oth, and held by Adjournment to the 23d, whereof Col. Gansevoort was President, William Newbury, formerly an Inhabitant of this country, now a Serjeant in the British Service, was tryed for lurking about the Vicinity of the Camp as a Spy, found Guilty, and Sentenced to be hanged by the Neck 'till he is dead.
[June 24] In pursuance of the Generals Orders of Yesterday, the Sentence of William Newbury is to be put in Execution Tomorrow Morning at 6 O'Clock when The Troops upon the Ground will parade for that Purpose at the usual Place.
[June 26] William Newberry, who was respited Yesterday, is to be executed next Monday Morning at 6 O'Clock, and the Troops on the Ground will assemble for that Purpose at the usual Place of Execution."
The final item is a petition by Mrs. Abigal Hare, widow of Henry Hare, for support for the children and herself. This petitioned was found in the SPECIAL COLLECTIONS AND MANUSCRIPTS, NEW YORK STATE LIBRARY, ALBANY, N.Y., WILLIS T. HANSON COLLECTION, DOCUMENT NO. 12769.
To his Excellency Frederick Haldimand Esqr. Governor and Commander in Chief of the Province of Quebec &c &c &c
The Petition of Abigal Hare, Widow of the late Leiut Henry Hare, of the Indian Department. Humbly shewth,
That Your Petitioner, is a Poor Widow, with six small Children, without any means to support them, the want of Every necessary of life and the Continual Insults of the Rebels obliged her to leave the Province of New York and Come off to this.
Your Petitioner's Husband, two Brothers and nephew, distinguished themselves as friends to Government, On the Breaking out of the present Rebellion and Entered into his Majesties Service- One of the said Brothers, a Capt in the Indian department, was killed at Fort Stanwix in 77, (1) the other, is now a Capt. in Leuit. Col. Butlers Rangers, (2) and the nephew a Leuit. in said Corps. (3) Your Petitioners, Husband and three Brothers served during the last War, in the Indian Department, under the late Sir William Johnson Bart. And your petitioners said Husband being Ordered on a Scout, last Summer, was taken by the Rebels: who Charged with being a Spy -
Tryed him for the same. an Unjust Tryal Condemn'd him, in Consequence of which, he was Executed, whereby your Petitioner is Rendered Miserable, poor and Needy - her Situation emboldens her to Crave your Excellency Support and Protection Humbly praying, Your Excellency will take the same into Consideration, and Allow such a Yearly supply or Aid, as your Justice may see fit, in Order to Assist her and her Distressed Children.
And Your Petitioner, will Ever pray, as in duty bound
Montreal the 10th May 1780
You are hereby authorised and directed to pay to Mrs. Abigal Hare, Widow of the late Henry Hare, a Lieutenant in the Indian Department, in Consideration of her Misfortune and Distress, above related, the Sum of Twenty Pounds Sterling, as a yearly Pension to be continued to Her during Her Life, for the Maintenance of Her and Her Children, which Sum is to be charged in the Contingent Account of Expences of the Six Nation Indian Department.-
Given under my Hand
at Quebec this 25th day of May 178O
To Colonel Johnson
Superintendent of Indian Affairs
By His Excellency's Command -- R Mathews Sec
[On Reverse Side]
Authority to Pay to the Widow Hare a Yearly Pension of 2O Ster
Referd to in answer to Query 71
(1) She is referring to Captain John Hare of Johnstown who was killed at the Battle of Oriskany on August 6, 1777.
(2) She is referring to Captain Peter Hare who was appointed on February 8, 1779.
(3) She is referring to First Lieutenant John Hare who was appointed on December 23, 1779. He was listed in 1783 in Captain George Dame's Company.
One final note of some curiosity. On the pay roll for Captain William Snook's Company in Colonel Frederick Visscher's Regiment is a James Hare, serving as a private. I have no date for this service and oddly enough a James Hare shows up in Canada as serving as an Acting Ensign in the Indian Department. Are they the same man and is he related to the other Hares.
There is a Peter and William Hare serving as privates in 1783 in Butler's Rangers. Peter in Captain Lewis Genevay's Company and William in Captain Andrew Bradt's Company.