From an unknown source found in a scrapbook at the Bradford County Museum
The campaign of General Sullivan up the Susquehanna in the fall of 1779, when he built the fort at Tioga Point and made it the base of his operations in the raid into the Indian country of Central New York for the purposes of chastising the warlike tribes and destroying their villages and crops, was successfully accomplished, and left great devastation in the wake of his victorious army. In this campaign the Oneida tribe of Indians had promised to cooperate, but through the connivance of General Haldimand, who made them believe that the expression of friendship that had been held out to them were a snare to lure them to fancied security while the occasion would be taken advantage of to work their destruction. In consequence of this only a few Oneida scouts were with Sullivan in the campaign.
The expedition was very successful and the orders of General Washington to “Lay waste to all the settlements around” and “not only to overrun but destroy them” was carried out. General Sullivan found the settlements very much resembling the farms and fruit gardens of civilized life. The troops scoured everything round about; burnt their villages and destroyed their crops and their fruit orchards. Forty Indian towns, the largest containing 128 houses were destroyed. Corn gathered and ungathered, to the amount of one hundred and sixty thousand bushels shared the same fate. The fruit trees were cut down and the Indians were hunted like wild beasts, till neither house, nor fruit tree, nor field of corn, nor inhabitant remained in the whole country. The fruit orchards had been so largely cultivated that in one place fifteen hundred were cut down.
At the organization of the expedition it was designed to extend the conquest to Niagara, where a strong fort was located, that had been the seat of Tory influence among the Indians, but the campaign closed without making the conquest and Niagara continued to be the headquarters for the intriguing bands who, now thoroughly stirred up revenge, resumed their warlike incursions. The Oneidas having showed friendship for the whites now became the special objects of hatred among their more savage companions, and a merciless warfare was at once instituted against them, and the whites who were in the exposed part of the country.
Niagara had become the headquarters of the Indians who had been driven from their villages, and it was also the headquarters of Brant, Guy Johnson and the Butlers who had commanded the Indians and Tories in the campaign. The winter had been one of unexampled severity which, added to the dire calamities of the campaign, stung the hostiles to the highest state of desperation. With revenge in their hearts the savages, aided by British troops, in the spring of 1780 commenced their campaign of destruction. They first burned the castle of the Oneidas that had been spared by Sullivan and drove them upon the white settlements for protection. They next commenced a movement on the fort at Schoharie but hearing a rumor that they had been re-enforced adopted a system of maneuvering until they might obtain more reliable information in regard to the strength of the garrison. While doing this they accidentally came upon a company of men near Harpersfield, under the command of Captain Alexander Harper, who were in the woods engaged in making maple sugar for those in the fort. They came upon the command so cautiously that the first intimation Harper had of their presence was the death of three of his band who were struck down while engaged in their work. Brant rushed up to Harper, tomahawk in hand, and said, “Harper, I am sorry to find you here.” “Why are you sorry, Captain Brant?” asked Harper. “Because,” replied the chief, “I must kill you,” at the same time raising his hatchet, but suddenly his arm fell and looking at Harper squarely in the face he inquired, “Are there any regular troops in Schoharie?” Harper saw at once that if he told the truth that the savages would strike at once against the defenseless inhabitants, and so he told Brant that they had received a re-enforcement of three hundred Continental troops a few days before. This announcement practically changed the plans of Brant, and so he decided to put his prisoners in the care of a Tory leader named Becraft. During the night they held a council and debated whether Harper and his ten companions should be put to death at once. Harper understood enough of their language to comprehend the situation he was in and his feelings were considerably excited while listening to their arguments. The next morning he was brought before another council where he was questioned more closely in regard to the troops at Schoharie, but he acted his part well and it was finally decided that the whole command should be taken to Niagara and that Harper should remain as a prisoner until his fate could be decided. The prisoners then were heavily loaded with the booty taken from Harpersfield, and under a heavy guard commenced their journey.
Their first direction was down the Delaware river and in a short time they stopped at a mill for provisions. The miller was rank Tory, and his daughters urged Brant to put the prisoners to death. The following day they met another person who knew both Brant and Harper, and he tried to convince Brant that Harper was deceiving him in regard to the troops at Schoharie, and he also counseled that the prisoners be put to death. The next day an old man named Brown was taken captive, and as he was too feeble to march, he was killed, and his scalp added to the trophies on the war belt of the chieftain. After descending the Delaware some distance, they crossed over to Owego on the Susquehanna, where they constructed rafts and floated down to the junction of the Chemung at Tioga Point. The prisoners were so heavily loaded that they must have sunk down exhausted by the way had it not been that Brant was suffering from fever and ague so that he was unable to travel except on every other day.
During the march to Tioga Point, Brant had detached eleven of his men to make a raid in the Minnisink settlement and they captured five prisoners, which they brought to Tioga Point the night before. They were strong athletic fellows and during the night when the Indians slept soundly one of the Minnisink men slipped his binding cords and then unloosed his four companions. They secured the tomahawks from the Indians and killed all of them except one, who escaped. As Brant and his party approached the place the Indian met him and set up a war whoop, when the warriors rushed forward expecting a combat. The lone warrior related the melancholy fate of his companions and the Indians then formed a circle around Harper and his party, and with gleaming tomahawks flourishing in the air were about to dispatch them when the lone warrior rushed inside the circle and made an appeal for their lives. He was a chief and he made his appeal on the grounds that it was not they who had murdered their brothers, and to take the lives of the innocent would not be right in the eyes of the Great Spirit. The appeal was successful, and this noble act of chivalry stands unique to the credit of the warrior chieftain.
The act of this unknown chieftain was that of a high souled warrior.
Chief Joseph Brant or Thayendaneken was a Mohawk military and political leader.
Henry Farley is a founding member and a current board member of the Sayre Historical Society. He is also president of the Bradford County Historical Society.