Friday, July 25, 2008

First Esopus War, from Early Sources

The first Esopus War from an internet site, called “The First Esopus War” with better documentation -

The First Esopus War
It is a peculiar feature of American history that many of the earlier settlements owe their establishment to the religious persecutions of the old country. Sometimes the Catholics drove the Protestants from their homes to find refuge in strange climes, as the French did the Huguenots at the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes; and again we behold a Protestant persecuting dissenters and Catholics alike, as the English did the Puritans of New England and the Romanists of Maryland. Another relic of old Europe, the outcome of the ancient feudal system, was the custom of granting large tracts to individuals called Patroons, thus establishing a system of tenantry, with the Lord of the Manor as the chief head. Both these causes, as we shall see, contributed to the settlement of Ulster county.
Holland at that time was denominated a "cage of unclean birds," because, it being a government founded on religious tolerance, all religions flocked there. Some English and French Walloons, who had found temporary refuge among the Hollanders, afterward emigrated to America, and settled at Rensselaerwyck. The management of the affairs of the Patroon of that section had been given to Brandt Van Schlectenhorst, "a person of stubborn and headstrong temper." This man was very earnest in defending what he considered the rights of his lord against the Governor of New Netherland and the West India Company. Stuyvesant claimed a jurisdiction about Fort Orange, and insisted that the Patroon was subordinate. Van Schlectenhorst denied both, and went so far as to dispute Stuyvesant's right to proclaim a fast in his jurisdiction. To insure allegiance, the Patroon pledged his tenants not to appeal from his courts to the Governor and Council; and finally, orders were issued for tenants to take the oath of allegiance to the Lord of the Manor. This bold proceeding Governor Stuyvesant was moved to call a crime. Some of the settlers sided with the Governor, and others with the doughty Van Schlectenhorst; the dispute at last ran so high that the two factions came to blows.
Among these tenants was one Thomas Chambers, an Englishman by birth, "tall, lean, with red hair, and a carpenter by trade." He was one of the Walloons that fled from his home to escape religious persecution, only to find himself involved in the troubles about the proprietary rights of the new country, a quarrel in which he had no interest; subject to the whim of his landlord or his commissary, treated as a slave, and victimized by covetous officers. He and his companions, therefore, cast about them for a new settlement, "where they could work or play, as seemed best to them." Chambers emigrated to the vicinity of Troy; but finding he was still on territory claimed by his old landlord, he removed to Esopus, having heard the land there was good, and that the savages had expressed a desire that the Christians would come among them. Tradition says they landed at the mouth of the Esopus Creek, and journeyed up until they reached the flats of Kingston. Here Chambers received a "free gift" of territory from the natives.
In 1655 a general war broke out between the Indian tribes on both sides of the Hudson, and the whites of Amsterdam and vicinity. When the news of this outbreak reached Esopus the inhabitants all fled, leaving their stock, dwellings and crops to the mercy of the savages. This action was the more necessary, as the few inhabitants were living scattered on their farms, without even a block-house for protection. During their absence their empty houses and unprotected grain was appropriated by the Indians. Albany records say the farmers returned to their homes as soon as peace was restored.
It had been the purpose of the Directors of the West India Company to construct a fort at Esopus, and orders had been issued to that effect. The orders were not obeyed, hence the unprotected state of the settlement. The savages had their wigwams all around the farms of the white people, and their maize-fields and bean-patches were near to each other. The hogs, cows and horses of the settlers roamed at will on the untilled flats, frequently destroying the crops of the Indian women. This made the Indians mad, and they complained of the depredations of the stock to the owners, but the animals still roamed.
Now and then a pig was found dead with an arrow or bullet in it. Now it was the Christian's turn to get mad. Still it might have been possible for the whites and Indians to have lived together in comparative amity, but for an additional source of trouble.

Jacob Jansen Stohl, an agent for the Governor at Esopus, wrote to Stuyvesant to the following purpose: "The people of Fort Orange (Albany) sell liquor to the Indians so that not only I, but all the people of the Great Esopus, daily see them drunk from which nothing good, but the ruin of the land, must be the consequence."
In these transactions the whites were sometimes more to blame than the savages, and yet they wrote in this wise: "Christ did not forsake us; He collected us in a fold. Let us therefore not forsake one another, but let us soften our mutual sufferings."
In a letter from Thomas Chambers to Governor Stuyvesant, dated May, 1658, we find additional evidence of the baneful effects of the strong drink sold to the savages. He writes in substance: "I saw that the savages had an anker (ten-gallon keg) of brandy lying under a tree. I tasted myself and found it was pure brandy. About dusk they fired at and killed Harmen Jacobsen, who was standing in a yacht in the river; and during the night they set fire to the house of Jacob Adrijansa, and the people were compelled to flee for their lives. Once before we were driven away and expelled from our property; as long as we are under the jurisdiction of the West India Company we ask your assistance, as Esopus could feed the whole of New Netherland. I have informed myself among the Indians who killed Harmen, and they have promised to deliver the savage in bonds. Please do not begin the war too suddenly, and not until we have constructed a stronghold for defense."

The following month Chambers again wrote:--"We have done our best to apprehend the murderer, but have been mockingly refused by the barbarians. In answer to our inquiry who sold them the brandy, the savages refer to no one in particular, but to many, now Peter, then Paul. It is evident that it is not for the sake of selling their stock of beavers alone that they keep near Fort Orange (Albany), where, as the make of the brandy keg proves, the coopers have hardly sufficient time to supply the demand by these people. The savages set fire to the cow-shed, the pig-sty, and then the dwelling-house of Jacob Adrijaensen, and not being satisfied, compelled us here to plow for them. Upon our refusal they take fire-brands and hold them under the roofs of our houses, to set fire to them. The common savages do not pay any attention to their chiefs, as the latter seem to have lost their authority. We are obliged to remain in our houses, as the savages would immediately attack us when we stir about, and set everything on fire; therefore we request your favor for a succor of forty or fifty men.
In response to the above letters, at a meeting at which were present Honorable Director-General Peter Stuyvesant and three councillors, the following action was taken: They took up and seriously considered the letters for Esopus. By the first they were informed that the savages had killed Harmen Jacobsen and set fire to two houses, and behaved and acted very seriously and wantonly; by the second the savages were continuing in their intolerable insolence and boldness, forcing the people there to plow for them, etc. It was there fore resolved that the Director-General should go there forthwith, and fifty or sixty soldiers as a body guard, to make arrangements. This Director-General was no less a personage than the Peter the Headstrong, of whom Washington Irving gives the following facetious description:

"Peter Stuyvesant was the last, and, like the renowned Wouter Van Twiller, the best of our ancient Dutch governors, Wouter having surpassed all who proceeded him, and Peter never having been equalled by any successor. He was of a sturdy, raw-boned make, with a pair of round shoulders that Hercules would have given his hide for, when he undertook to ease old Atlas of his load. He was, moreover, not only terrible for the force of his arm, but likewise of his voice, which sounded as if it came from a barrel; and he possessed an iron aspect that was enough of itself to make the very bowels of his adversaries quake with terror and dismay. All of this martial excellence of appearance was inexpressibly heightened by an accidental advantage, that of a wooden leg; of which he was so proud that he was often heard to declare he valued it more than all his other limbs put together. Like Achilles, he was somewhat subject to extempore bursts of passion, which were rather unpleasant to his favorites and attendants, whose perceptions he was wont to quicken, after the manner of his illustrious imitator, Peter the Great, by anointing their shoulders with his walking staff."

The following is embodied in the journal of Governor Stuyvesant's visit to Esopus:
"We left in the private yachts on the 28th day of May, arriving at the kill of the Esopus on the 29th. To avoid commotion among the savages, or causing them to flee at the sight of so many soldiers before they could be spoken with, I ordered the accompanying yachts, to follow separately at a distance, and not to anchor near me before nightfall, nor to show too many soldiers on deck at once. I sent a barge ashore opposite to two little houses of the savages, to invite two or three of the Indians aboard. The barge presently came back with two savages, and also Thomas Chambers and another man, who were induced to come down to look for help from the good south wind and expected relief. I persuaded the savages by a little present to go inland and induce the Indian sachems to meet me at the home of Jacob Jansen Stohl the following day, his being the last dwelling in contiguity, or the day after that, assuring them that no harm should come to them or theirs. They agreed to do it, and were put on shore after I had some further talk with the two Christians, Chambers and Van Der Sluys. The other yachts arriving during the evening passed by us who were aground close to the shore. I ordered the soldiers landed with the least possible noise, without beating the drum; which being done, they were to send for me and my people on my yacht. We marched the same evening to the 'bouwery' of Thomas Chambers, that being the nearest, for the night. On the morning of the 30th, that being Ascension Day, we marched to the house of Jacob Jansen Stohl, nearest to the habitations and plantations of the savages, where we had made the appointment to meet them, and where, on Sundays and at the usual feasts, the Scriptures were read.
"When the people had assembled in the afternoon I stated to them that I had come with sixty soldiers, asking of them their opinion of what it were best to do; that I did not think the present time was favorable to involve the whole country in a general war on account of the murder, the burning of two small houses and other complaints about threats of the Indians; that now in summer, with the prospect of a good harvest, it was not the proper time to make bad worse, least of all by giving room too hastily to a blind fear; that it was not in our power to protect them and the other outlying farmers as long as they lived separately from each other, and insisted upon it contrary to the order of the Company.
"They answered they should be ruined and indigent men if they were again obliged to leave their property, which result would follow if they could get no protection against the savages. I told them they could get no protection as long as they lived separately; that it was necessary that they should remove together at a suitable place, where I could and would assist them with a few soldiers until further arrangements were made; or they might retreat with their wives, children, cattle, and most easily removed property to the Manhattans, or Fort Orange for safety; but if they could make up their minds to neither, they must not future disturb us with complaints.
"Each was of opinion that it was dangerous to remain in their present condition; there was a good harvest in prospect, with which they hoped to sustain their families the coming winters; to abandon those fertile fields at this juncture would occasion great loss, and entail upon them and their families abject poverty. The necessity of a concentrated settlement was at length conceded, but it was thought impracticable to effect the removal of the houses and barns before harvest time, in addition to the labor of inclosing the place with palisades. They plead very earnestly that the soldiers might remain with them until after harvest; this I peremptorily refused, and insisted that they should make up their minds without delay. To encourage them I promised to remain with the soldiers until the place was enclosed with palisades, provided they went to work immediately, before taking up anything else. Another difficulty presented itself--each one thought his place the most conveniently located for the proposed enclosure. But on the last day of May the inhabitants brought answer that they had agreed unanimously to make a concentrated settlement, and each had acquiesced in the place selected, and in the final arrangements. The grounds were staked out that same afternoon.
"In response to my request of the Indian chiefs for a conference, twelve or fifteen savages made their appearance at the house of Jacob Jansen Stohl, but only two chiefs were among them. They explained that the other sachems would not come before the next day; that they were frightened at so many soldiers, and hardly dared to appear; also that they had been informed that more soldiers were to follow.
"After assurances on my part that no harm should befall them, they became more cheerful; and the same evening about fifty savages made their appearance at the house of Stohl. After they had all gathered under a tree outside of the enclosure, about a stone's throw from the hedge, I went to them, and so soon as we had sat down, they, as is their custom, began a long speech, telling how in Kieft's time our nation had killed so many of their people, which they had put away and forgotten.
"I answered that his all happened before my time, and did not concern me; that they and the other savages had drawn it all upon themselves by killing several Christians which I would not repeat, because when peace was made the matter had all been forgotten and put away among us [their customary expression on such occasions].
" I asked them if since peace was made any harm had been done to them or theirs; they kept a profound silence. I stated to them and upbraided them for the murders, injuries, and insults during my administrations, to discover the truth and authors of which I had come to Esopus at this time, yet with no desire to begin a general war, or punish any one innocent of it, if the murderer was surrendered and the damages for the burned houses paid. I added that they had invited us to settle on their lands in the Esopus, that we did not own the land, nor did we desire to until we had paid for it. I asked why they committed the murders, burned the houses, killed the hogs, and did other injuries.
"Finally one of the sachems stood up and said that the Dutch sold the 'boison' [brandy] to the savages, and were the cause of the Indians becoming 'cacheus' [crazy] mad or drunk, and that then they had committed the outrages; that at such times they, the chiefs, could not keep in bounds the young men who were then spoiling for a fight; that the murder had not been committed by any one of their tribe, but by a Neversink savage; that the Indian who had set fire to the houses had run away and would not be here. That they were not enemies; they did not desire or intend to fight, but had no control over the young men.
"I told them if the young men had a desire to fight to come forward now; I would match them, man for man, or twenty against thirty or even forty; that now was the proper time for it; that it was not well to plague, injure or threaten the farmers, or their women and children; that if they did not cease in future, we might try to recover damages. We could kill them, capture their wives and children, and destroy their corn and beans. I would not do it because I told them I would not harm them; but I hoped they would immediately indemnify the owner of the houses, and deliver up the murderer.
"To close the conference I stated my decision: that to prevent further harm being done to my people, or the selling of more brandy to the Indians, my people should all remove to one place and live close by each other; that they might better sell me the whole country of the Swannekers [Dutch] so that the hogs of the latter could not run into the corn-fields of the savages and be killed by them. The chiefs then asked through Stohl and Chambers that I would not begin a war with them on account of the late occurrence, as it had been done while they were drunk; they promised not to do so again.
"On Monday, June 3rd, the soldiers with all the inhabitants began work on the palisades. The spot marked out for a settlement has a circumference of about 210 rods, [a dutch rod is 12 feet] well adapted by nature for defensive purposes; and when necessity requires it can be surrounded by water on three of its sides. To carry on the work with greater speed and order I directed a party of soldiers and experienced wood-cutters to go into the woods and help load the palisades into wagons; the others I divided again into parties of twenty men each, to sharpen the palisades and put them up. The inhabitants who were able were set to digging the moat, who continued to do so as long as the wind and the rain permitted.
"Towards evening of the 4th of June a party of forty or fifty savages came to where we were at work, so that I ordered six men from each squad to look after their arms. After work had been stopped they asked to speak to me. They informed me they had concluded to give me the land I had asked to buy to 'grease my feet' as I had come so long a way to see them. They promised in future to do no harm to the Dutch, but would go hand in hand and arm in arm with them.
"Being in need of gunpowder, of which we had only what was in the 'bandoleers,' and lacking some plank for a guard-house, and some carpenters to aid our work, I concluded to go in the Company's yacht to Fort Orange for the same. I arrived back at Esopus on the afternoon of the 12th, and found everybody at work, and two sides of the palisades finished. About noon of the 20th the stockade was completed, it being necessary only to stop apertures where roots of trees had been in the ground: this was completed in good time the same day.
“Having accomplished the work so far I set out on my return, leaving 24 soldiers to assist in guarding the place. As they had themselves 30 fighting men, besides seven or eight carpenters, they were in my opinion capable of taking care of themselves.”

But the peace begun under such favorable auspices was of short duration, as we learn by a letter from Sergeant Lawrens, the officer in charge of the military at Esopus, to Governor Stuyvesant. He wrote
“Send me quickly orders. The Indians are becoming savage and insolent, and have killed a fine mare belonging to Jacob Jansen. They are angry that you challenged twenty of their men to fight. Those returned from the beaver-hunt say if they had been here they would have accepted the challenge. They talk about it every day; and to-day about five hundred savages are assembled, and their numbers constantly increasing. Provide us as quickly as possible with ammunition.” Ensign Direk Smith was dispatched to the relief of the garrison with twenty-five additional troops, making the fighting strength a total of fifty men, exclusive of the citizens.
Smith was directed to make secure the enclosed place, mount a sufficient guard, and not allow any savage to pass through except upon permission of Jacob Jansen Stohl or Thomas Chambers. They were not to act “hostilely” against the Indians, but to stand strictly on the defensive. The agricultural labors were to be kept up under a guard of from twenty to twenty-five men; the laborers themselves were directed to take their arms with them, “that in case of attack they may make a better stand against the savages;” and were also instructed to keep as close together as possible.

In October of 1658 the Esopus sachems made a conveyance of the land as they had promised. They said they hoped the soldiers would now lay down their arms, that the settlers need now fear nothing. They promised they would hunt many beavers and pass right by Fort Orange with their peltries; they liked to see the plows work, but no soldiers.” The following graphic account of a collision between the savages and the settlers we find in the records:
“To the Honorable, Wise and very Valiant, His Honor Director General Peter Stuyvesant at New Amsterdam:-----
“As on the 20th, at night between 10 and 11 o'clock, some savages raised a great noise and yelling under the fort, whereupon Dirck de Goyer and two others alarmed me on the guard, I commanded the sergeant to take nine or ten men, and directed him to go out by one of the gates and return by the other one, and not to molest anybody. The sergeant sent back word that a crowd of savages was there. Jacob Jansen Stohl came to the guard, saying `I will go, give me four or five men.' After they had returned I asked them who ordered them to fire, and they said the savages had shot first. Jacob Jansen Stohl replied violently that the dogs [Indians] had vexed us long enough; that they lie in the bushes all around; and that they have fired innumerable brand arrows into grain stacks and barns. They attempted to set fire to the barn of Hap, but the barn being covered with plank, the corn was saved; and they have killed several cattle belonging to us. One prisoner escaped from them; he gives the number of savages as four hundred. He thought the white prisoners in their hands were all alive, but badly off. He said further, if we had not some cannon here, not one of us, large or small, would have escaped.”

The records say when the Dutch came to the place they fired a volley among the Indians as they lay around a fire.
One savage was knocked in the head with an axe, and was left for dead, but he presently made off. Another, while lying on the ground stupidly drunk, was hewn on the head with a cutlass, which roused him so that he fled; after which the Dutch retreated to the fort with great speed.

We find the following version of the affair given by the Catskill Indians:--
Eight Esopus Indians broke off corn ears for Thomas Chambers. When they finished work the savages said, "Come give us brandy." Chambers replied, " When it is dark." When evening was come he gave a large bottle with brandy to the Indians. They retired to a place at no great distance from the fort and sat down to drink. The eight savages drank there until midnight; by that time they were drunk, and they began to yell. At length the brandy came to an end. One Indian said, "Buy more brandy; we still have wampum." The savage who was afterwards killed went to Chambers' house to get more brandy. Chambers said, " I have given you all I had." The savage then went to where the soldiers were, taking with him the bottle which he hid under his cloak. "Have you any brandy?" said the Indian. "Yes, I have brandy," answered a soldier. " Here is wampum, give me brandy for it." "What is wampum, and what can I do with it? where is your kettle?" said the soldier. "I have no kettle, but I have a bottle here under my cloak," replied the savage. The soldier filled the bottle, but would take nothing for the brandy.
The savage came to his comrades who were lying about and crying, and asked them, "Why do you cry? I have brought brandy!" Whereupon they changed their cry, and asked if he had given all the wampum. "No, a soldier gave it to me." They replied "that is very good," and began to drink lustily from the bottle, because they had no goblet or ladle. When the bottle was passed around the savages began to wrangle and fight. Two of them presently said to each other, "We have no cause to fight, let us go away;" so they went away, leaving six. After a little time one of the remaining savages said, "Come let us go away; I feel that we shall be killed." Said the other, "You are crazy; who should kill us? We would not kill the Dutch, and have nothing to fear from them or the other Indians." "Yes," replied he, "but I nevertheless am so heavy-hearted."
The bottle was passed twice, and the savage said again, "Come, let us go; my heart is full of fears." He went off and hid his goods in the bushes at a little distance. Coming back once more they heard the bushes crackle as the Dutch came there, without knowing who it was. Then this savage went away, saying "Come, let us go, for we all shall be killed;" and the rest laid down together, whereupon the Dutch came and all of them fired into the Indians, shooting one in the head and capturing another. One drunken savage was continually moving about, whereupon the Dutch fired upon him repeatedly, nearly taking his dress from his body.

Ensign Smith knew what the consequences of this outbreak would be, and he sought to ascertain who ordered the firing contrary to his express instructions. The Dutch cast all the blame on the Indians, saying that the latter fired first. The affairs of the colony being in such an unsatisfactory state, and finding the people would not respect his authority, Smith announced his intention of leaving for New Amsterdam next day. Great excitement was manifested when this became known. The people tried to dissuade him from his purpose by representing their exposed condition, and making assurances of future obedience on their part. Smith was intractable, and continued making preparations for his departure; but by an adroit measure of Stohl and Chambers, who hired all the boats in the neighborhood, he found himself unable to carry out his resolution. It was deemed expedient, however, to acquaint the Governor of the state of affairs, and accordingly Christopher Davis was dispatched down the river in a canoe for that purpose.
Davis was escorted to the river by a company of eight soldiers and ten citizens, under Sergeant Lawrentsen, Sept. 21st, 1659. On the return of the escort to the village they fell into an ambuscade near where now stands the City Hall; the Sergeant and thirteen men surrendered without firing a shot, the rest making their escape. War now began in earnest. More than five hundred savages were in the vicinity of the fort, who kept up a constant skirmish with settlers. By means of firebrands they set fire to the House of Jacob Gebers; numbers of barracks, stacks and barns were in like manner destroyed. One day they made a desperate assault on the palisades which came near being successful. Failing in this, the savages slaughtered all the horses, cattle and hogs they could find outside the defenses. Three weeks was a constant siege kept up so that "none dare go abroad." Unable to take the town they vented their fury on the unfortunate prisoners.
Jacob Jansen Van Stoutenburgh, Abram Vosburg, a son of Cornelius B. Sleight, and five or six other were compelled to run the gauntlet; they were next tied to stakes, and, after being beaten and cut in the most cruel manner, were burned alive. Thomas Clapboard [Chambers], William the carpenter, Peter Hillebrants and Evert Pel's son were among the captives.
These are the only names mentioned in the early records. Clapboard was taken by six warriors down the Esopus kill. At night he removed the cords by which he was bound, and successively knocked five of his captors in the head while they were asleep, killing the sixth before he could fly, and making good his escape. Another prisoner, a soldier, got home safely after a somewhat rough experience. Peter Laurentsen and Peter Hillebrants were ransomed; Pel`s son, then a mere youth, was adopted into the tribe and married among them. Overtures were afterwards made to the Indians by the friends of the lad for his return; but the savages answered that he “wished to stay with his squaw and pappoose, and he ought to.”
News of these events filled the whole colony with fear and forebodings. Stuyvesant had only six or seven soldiers in garrison at Amsterdam, and they were sick and unqualified for duty. He then sent to Fort Orange and Rensselaerwyck for reinforcements; but the inhabitants of Fort Orange could not succor without leaving their own homes defenseless. The Governor asked for volunteers, offering Indians as prizes; only six or seven responded, lie then conscripted all the garrison at Amsterdam, the Company's servants, the hands in his brewery and the clerks. The people made great opposition to this, averring that “they were not liable to go abroad and fight savages.”

Notwithstanding these hindrances Governor Stuyvesant set sail October 9th with about 160 men, and reached Esopus next day. Here he found the siege had been raised thirty-six hours before, and that the savages had retreated to their homes whither the Governor's troops could not follow them, for the country was then innundated with nearly a foot of water from the frequent rains.

In the spring of 1660, there was a renewal of hostilities; an Indian castle having been plundered, and several savages taken captive, the Indians sued for peace and proposed an exchange of prisoners. Stuyvesant declined their overtures, and prosecuted the war with vigor, sending some of the captive chiefs, then in his hands, to Curagoa, as slaves to the Dutch.

The clans now held a council. Said Sewackenamo, the Esopus chief, “What will you do?” “We will fight no more,” said the warriors. “We wish to plant in peace,” replied the squaws. “We will kill no more hogs,” answered the young men.

Stuyvesant met their propositions with an extravagant demand for land. The fertile corn-planting grounds of the Walkill and Rondout valleys had excited the cupidity of the colonists. The savages were loath to give up so much of their territory, but they finally acceded to the Governor's demand. During the negotiations the Indians plead for the restoration of their enslaved chiefs. But in pursuance of Stuyvesant's policy, those ancient sachems had become the chattels of Dutchmen, and were toiling, under the lash, in the maize and bean-fields among the islands of the far-off Caribbean Sea; so the Governor replied that they must be considered dead. Although deeply grieved at this, the chiefs agreed to the treaty, and departed.

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