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Settlements of Scotch Highlanders in America
Chapter 8
Highland Settlement on the Mohawk


Sir William Johnson thoroughly gained the good graces of the Iroquois Indians, and by the part he took against the French at Crown Point and Lake George, in 1755, added to his reputation at home and abroad. For his services to the Crown he was made a baronet and voted £5000 by the British parliament, besides being paid £600 per annum as Indian agent, which he retained, until his death in 1774. He also received a grant of one hundred thousand acres of land north of the Mohawk. In 1743 he built Fort Johnson, a stone dwelling, on the same side of the river, in what is now Montgomery county. A few miles farther north, in 1764, he built Johnson Hall, a wooden structure, and there entertained his Indian bands and white tenants, with rude magnificence, surrounded by his mistresses, both white and red. He had dreams of feudal power, and set about to realize it. The land granted to him by the king, he had previously secured from the Mohawks, over whom he had gained an influence greater than that ever possessed heretofore or since by a white man over an Indian tribe. The tract of land thus gained was long known as "Kingsland," or the "Royal Grant." The king had bound Sir William to him by a feudal tenure of a yearly rental of two shillings and six pence for each and every one hundred acres. In the same manner Sir William bound to himself his tenants to whom he granted leases. In order to secure the greatest obedience he deemed it necessary to secure such tenants as differed from the people near him in manners, language, and religion, and that class trained to whom the strictest personal dependence was perfectly familiar. In all this he was highly favored. He turned his eyes to the Highlands of Scotland, and without trouble, owing to the dissatisfied condition of the people and their desire to emigrate, he secured as many colonists as he desired, all of whom were of the Roman Catholic faith. The agents having secured the requisite number, embarked, during the month of August, 1773, for America.

A journal of the period states that "three gentlemen of the name of Macdonell, with their families, and 400 Highlanders from the counties (1) of Glengarry, Glenmorison, Urquhart, and Strathglass lately embarked for America, having obtained a grant of land in Albany." [Gentleman's Magazine, Sept. 30, 1773.]

This extract appears to have been copied from the Courant of August 28th, which stated they had "lately embarked for America." This would place their arrival on the Mohawk some time during the latter part of the following September, or first of October. The three gentlemen above referred to were Macdonell of Aberchalder, Leek, and Collachie, and also another, Macdonell of Scotas. Their fortunes had been shattered in "the 45," and in order to mend them were willing to settle in America. They made their homes in what was then Tryon county, about thirty miles from Albany, then called Kingsborough, where now is the thriving town of Gloversville. To certain families tracts were allotted varying from one hundred to five hundred acres, all subjected to the feudal system.

Having reached the places assigned them the Highlanders first felled the trees and made their rude huts of logs. Then the forest was cleared and the crops planted amid the stumps. The country was rough, but the people did not murmur. Their wants were few and simple. The grain they reaped was carried on horseback along Indian trails to the landlord’s mills. Their women became accustomed to severe outdoor employment, but they possessed an indomitable spirit, and bore their hardships bravely, as became their race. The quiet life of the people promised to become permanent. They became deeply attached to the interests of Sir William Johnson, who, by consummate tact soon gained a mastery over them. He would have them assemble at Johnson Hall that they might make merry; encourage them in Highland games, and invite them to Indian councils. Their methods of farming were improved under his supervision; superior breeds of stock sought for, and fruit trees planted. But Sir William, in reality, was not with them long; for, in the autumn of 1773, he visited England, returning in the succeeding spring, and dying suddenly at Johnson Hall on June 24th, following.

Troubles were rising beneath all the peaceful circumstances enjoyed by the Highlanders, destined to become severe and oppressive under the attitude of Johnson’s son and son-in-law who were men of far less ability and tact than their father. The spirit of democracy penetrated the valley of the Mohawk, and open threats of opposition began to be heard. The Acts of the Albany Congress of 1774 opened the eyes of the people to the possibilities of strength by united efforts. Just as the spirit of independence reached bold utterance Sir William died. He was succeeded in his title, and a part of his estates by his son John. The dreams of Sir William vanished, and his plans failed in the hands of his weak, arrogant, degenerate son. Sir John hesitated, temporized, broke his parole, fled to Canada, returned to ravage the lands of his countrymen, and ended by being driven across the border.

The death of Sir William made Sir John commandant of the militia of the Province of New York. Colonel Guy Johnson became superintendent of Indian affairs, with Colonel Daniel Claus, Sir William’s son-in-law, for assistant. The notorious Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant) became secretary to Guy Johnson. Nothing but evil could be predicated of such a combination; and Sir John was not slow to take advantage of his position, when the war cloud was ready to burst. As early as March 16, 1775, decisive action was taken, when the grand jury, judges, justices, and others of Tryon county, to the number of thirty-three, among whom was Sir John, signed a document, expressive of their disapprobation of the act of the people of Boston for the "outrageous and unjustifiable act on the private property of the India Company," and of their resolution "to bear faith and true allegiance to their lawful Sovereign King George the Third." [Am. Archives, Fourth Series, Vol. II. p. 151.] It is a noticeable feature that not one of the names of Highlanders appears on the paper. This would indicate that they were not a factor in the civil government of the county.

On May 18, 1775, the Committee of Palatine District, Tryon county, addressed the Albany Committee of Safety, in which they affirm:

"This County has,. for a series of years, been ruled by one family, the different branches of which are still strenuous in dissuading people from coming into Congressional measures, and even have, last week, at a numerous meeting of the Mohawk District, appeared with all their dependants armed to oppose the people considering of their grievances; their number being so large, and the people unarmed, struck terror into most of them, and they dispersed. We are informed that Johnson-Hall is fortifying by placing a parcel of swivel-guns round the same, and that Colonel Johnson has had parts of his regiment of Militia under arms yesterday, no doubt with a design to prevent the friends of liberty from publishing their attachment to the cause to the world. Besides which we are told that about one hundred and fifty Highlanders, (Roman Catholicks) in and about Johnstown, are armed and ready to march upon the like occasion."

In order to allay the feelings engendered against them Guy Johnson, on May 18th, wrote to the Committee of Schenectady declaring "my duty is to promote peace," and on the 20th to the Magistrates of Palatine, making the covert threat "that if the Indians find their council fire disturbed, and their superintendent insulted, they will take a dreadful revenge. The last letter thoroughly aroused the Committee of Tryon county, and on the 21st stated, among other things:

"That Colonel Johnson’s conduct in raising fortifications round his house, keeping a number of Indians and armed men constantly about him, and stopping and searching travelers upon the King’s highway, and stopping our communication with Albany, is very alarming to this County, and is highly arbitrary, illegal, oppressive, and unwarrantable; and confirms us in our fears, that his design is to keep us in awe, and oblige us to submit to a state of Slavery."

On the 23rd the Albany Committee warned Guy Johnson that his interference with the rights of travelers would no longer

be tolerated. So flagrant had been the conduct of the John-sons that a sub-committee of the city and county of Albany addressed a communication on the subject to the Provincial Congress of New York. On June 2nd the Tryon County Committee addressed Guy Johnson, in which they affirm "it is no more our duty than inclination to protect you in the discharge of . your province," but will not "pass over in silence the interruption which the people of the Mohawk District met in their meeting," "and the inhuman treatment of a man whose only crime was being faithful to his employers." The tension became still more strained between the Johnsons and patriots during the summer.

The Dutch and German population was chiefly in sympathy with the cause of America, as were the people generally, in that region, who did not come under the direct influence of the John-sons. The inhabitants deposed Alexander White, the Sheriff of Tryon county, who had, from the first, made himself obnoxious. The first shot, in the war west of the Hudson, was fired by Alexander White. On some trifling pretext he arrested a patriot by the name of John Fonda, and committed him to prison. His friends, to the number of fifty, went to the jail and released him; and from the prison they proceeded to the sheriff’s lodgings and demanded his surrender. He discharged a pistol at the leader, but without effect. Immediately some forty muskets were discharged at the sheriff, with the effect only to cause a slight wound in the breast. The doors of the house were broken open, and just then Sir John Johnson fired a gun at the hall, which was the signal for his retainers and Highland partisans to rally in arms. As they could muster a force of five hundred men in a short time, the party deemed it prudent to disperse.

The royalists became more open and bolder in their course, throwing every impediment in the way of the Safety Committee of Tryon county, and causing embarrassments in every way their ingenuity could devise. They called public meetings themselves, as well as to interfere with those of their neighbors; all of which caused mutual exasperation, and the engendering of hostile feelings between friends, who now ranged themselves with the opposing parties.

On October 26th the Tryon County Committee submitted a series of questions for Sir John Johnson to answer. [Am. Archives, Fourth Series, Vol. III. p. 1194.] These questions, with Sir John’s answers, were embodied by the Committee in a letter to the Provincial Congress of New York, under date of October 28th, as follows:

"As we found our duty and particular reasons to inquire or rather desire Sir John Jolmson’s absolute opinion and intention of the three following articles, viz:

1. Whether he would allow that his tenants may form themselves into Companies, according to the regulations of our Continental Congress, to the defence of our Country’s cause;

2. Whether he would be willing himself also to assist personally in the same purpose;

3. Whether he pretendeth a prerogative to our County Court-House and Jail, and would hinder or interrupt the Committee of our County to make use of the said publick houses for our want and service in our common cause;

We have, therefore, from our meeting held yesterday, sent three members of our Committee with the afore-mentioned questions contained in a letter to him directed, and received of Sir John, thereupon, the following answer:

1. That he thinks our requests very unreasonable, as he never had denied the use of either Court-House or Jail to anybody, nor would yet deny it for the use which these houses have been built for; but he looks upon the Court-House and Jail at Johnstown to be his property till he is paid seven hundred Pounds—which being out of his pocket for the building of the same.

2. In regard of embodying his tenants into Companies, he never did forbid them, neither should do it, as they may use their pleasure; but we might save ourselves that trouble, he being sure they would not.

3. Concerning himself he declared, that before he would sign any association, or would lift his hand up against his King, he would rather suffer that his head shall be cut off. Further, he replied, that if we would make any unlawful use of the Jail, he would oppose it; and also mentions that there have many unfair means been used for signing the Association, and uniting the peo

ple; for he was informed by credible gentlemen in New-York, that they were obliged to unite, otherwise they could not live there. And that he was also informed, by good authority, that likewise two-thirds of the Canajoharie and German Flatts people have been forced to sign; and, by his opinion, the Boston people are open rebels, and, the other Colonies have joined them.

Our Deputies replied to his expressions of forcing the people to sign in our County; that his authority spared the truth, and it appears by itself rediculous that one-third should have forced two-thirds to sign. On the contrary, they would prove that it was offered to any one, after signing, that the regretters could any time have their names crossed, upon their requests.

We thought proper to refer these particular inimical declarations to your House, and would be very glad to get your opinion and advice, for our further directions. Please, also, to remember what we mentioned, to you in our former letters, of the inimical and provoking behaviour of the tenants of said Sir John, which they still continue, under the authority of said Sir John."

The attitude of Sir John had become such that the Continental Congress deemed it best, on December 30th to order General Schuyler "to take the most speedy and effective measures, for securing the said Arms and Military Stores, and for disarming the said Tories, and apprehending their chiefs." The action of Congress was none too hasty; for in a letter from Governor William Trvon of New York to the earl of Dartmouth, under date of January 5, 1776, he encloses the following addressed to himself:

"Sir: I hope the occasion and intention of this letter will plead my excuse for the liberty I take in introducing to your Excellency the bearer hereof Captain Allen McDonell who will inform you of many particulars that cannot at this time with safety be committed to writing. The distracted & convulsed State this unhappy country is now worked up to, and the situation that I am in here, together with the many Obligations our family owe to the best of Sovereigns induces me to fall upon a plan that may I hope be of service to my country, the propriety of which I entirely submit to Your Excellency’s better judgment, depending on that friendship which you have been pleased to honour me with for your advice on and Representation to his Majesty of what we propose. Having consulted with all my friends in this quarter, among whom are many old and good Officers, most of whom have a good deal of interests in their respective neighborhoods, and have now a great number of men ready to compleat the plan—We must however not think of stirring till we have a support, & supply of money, necessaries to enable us to carry our design into execution, all of which Mr. McDonell who will inform you of everything that has been done in Canada that has come to our knowledge. As I find by the papers you are soon to sail for England I despair of having the pleasure to pay my respect to you but most sincerely wish you an Agreeable Voyage and a happy sight of Your family & friends. I am.

Your Excellency’s most obedient

humble Servant,
John Johnson."

General Schuvler immediately took active steps to carry out the orders of Congress, and on January 23, 1776, made a very lengthy and detailed report to that body. Although he had no troops to carry into execution the orders of Congress, he asked for seven hundred militia, yet by the time he reached Caughnawaga, there were nearly three thousand men, including the Tryon county militia. Arriving at Schenectady, he addressed, on January 16th, a letter to Sir John Johnson, requesting him to meet him on the next day, promising safe conduct for him and such person as might attend him. They met at the time appointed sixteen miles beyond Schenectady, Sir John being accompanied by some of the leading Highlanders and two or three others, to whom General Schuyler delivered his terms. After some difficulty, in which the Mohawk Indians figured as peacemakers, Sir John Johnson and Allan McDonell (Collachie) signed a paper agreeing "upon his word and honor immediately deliver up all cannon, arms, and other military stores, of what kind soever, which may be in his own possession," or that he may have delivered to others, or that he knows to be concealed; that "having given his parole of honour not to take up arms against America," he consents not to go to the westward of the German-Flats and Kingsland (Highlanders’) District," but to every other part to the southward he expects the privilege of going; agreed that the Highlanders shall, "without any kind of exception, immediately deliver up all arms in their possession, of what kind soever," and from among them any six prisoners may be taken, but the same must be maintained agreeable to their respective rank.

On Friday the 19th General Schulyer marched to Johnstown, and in the afternoon the arms and military stores in Sir John’s possession were delivered up. On the next day, at noon, General Schuyler drew his men up in the street, "and the Highlanders, between two and three hundred, marched to the front, where they grounded their arms ;" when they were dismissed "with an exhortation, pointing out the only conduct which could insure them protection." On the 21st, at Cagnhage, General Schuyler wrote to Sir John as follows:

"Although it is a well known fact that all the Scotch (Highlanders) people that yesterday surrendered arms, had not broad-swords when they came to the country, yet many of them had, and most of them were possessed of dirks; and as none have been given up of either, I will charitably believe that it was rather inattention than a wilful omission. Whether it was the former or the latter must be ascertained by their immediate compliance with that part of the treaty which requires that all arms, of what kind soever, shall be delivered up.

After having been informed by you, at our first interview, that the Scotch people meant to defend themselves, I was not a little surprised that no ammunition was delivered up, and that you had none to furnish them with. These observations were immediately made by others as well as me. I was too apprehensive of the consequences which might have been fatal to those people, to take notice of it on the spot. I shall, however, expect an eclaircissement on this subject, and beg that you and Mr. McDonell will give it me as soon as may be."

Governor Tryon reported to the earl of Dartmouth, February 7th that General Schuyler "marched to Johnson Hall the 24th of last month, where Sr John had mustered near Six hundred men, from his Tenants and neighbours, the majority Highlanders, after disarming them and taking four pieces of artillery, ammunition and many Prisoners, with 360 Guineas from Sr John’s Desk, they compelled him to enter into a Bond in 1600 pound Sterling not to aid the King’s Service, or to remove within a limited district from his house."

The six of the chiefs of the Highland clan of the McDonells made prisoners were, Allan McDonell, sen. (Collachie), Allan McDonell, Jnr., Alexander McDonell, Ronald McDonell, Archibald McDonell, and John McDonell, all of whom were sent to Reading, Pennsylvania, with their three servants, and later to Lancaster.

Had Sir John obeyed his parole, it would have saved him his vast estates, the Highlanders their homes, the effusion of blood, and the savage cruelty which his leadership engendered. Being incapable of forecasting the future, he broke his parole of honor, plunged headlong into the conflict, and dragged his followers into the horrors of war. General Schuyler wrote him, March 12, 1776, stating that the evidence had been placed in his hands that he had been exciting the Indians to hostility, and promising to defer taking steps until a more minute inquiry could be made he begged Sir John "to be present when it was made," which would be on the following Monday.

Sir John’s actions were such that it became necessary to use stringent measures. General Schuyler, on May 14th, issued his instructions to Colonel Elias Dayton, who was to proceed to Johnstown, "and give notice to the Highlanders, who live in the vicinity of the town, to repair to it; and when any number are collected there, you will send off their baggage, infirm women and children, in wagons." Sir John was to be taken prisoner, carefully guarded and brought to Albany, but "he is by no means to experience the least ill-treatment in his own person, or those of his family." General Schuyler had previously written (May 10th) to Sir John intimating that he had "acted contrary to the sacred engagements you lay under to me, and through me to the publick," and have "ordered you a close prisoner, and sent down to Albany." The reason assigned for the removal of the Highlanders as stated by General Schuyler to Sir John was that "the elder Mr. McDonald (Allan of Collachie), a chief of that part of the clan of his name now in Tryon County, has applied to Congress that those people with their families may be moved from thence and subsisted." To this Sir John replied as follows:

"Johnson Hall, May 18, 1776.

Sir: On my return from Fort Hunter yesterday, I received your letter by express acquainting me that the elder Mr. McDonald had desired to have all the clan of his name in the County of Tryon, removed and subsisted. I know none of that clan but such as are my tenants, and have been, for near two years supported by me with every necessary, by which means they have contracted a debt of near two thousand pounds, which they are in a likely way to discharge, if left in peace. As they are under no obligations to Mr. McDonald, they refuse to comply with his extraordinarv request; therefore beg there may be no troops sent to conduct them to Albany, otherwise they will look upon it as a total breach of the treaty agreed to at Johnstown. Mrs. McDonald showed me a letter from her husband, written since he applied to the Congress for leave to return to their families, in which he mentions that he was told by the Congress that it depended entirely upon you; he then desired that their families might be brought down to them, but never mentioned anything with regard to moving my tenants from hence, as matters he had no right to treat of. Mrs. McDonald requested that I would inform you that neither herself nor any of the other families would choose to go down.

I am, sir, your very humble servant,

John Johnson."

Colonel Dayton arrived at Johnstown May 19th, and as he says, in his report to General John Sullivan, he immediately sent "a letter to Sir John Johnson, informing him that I had arrived with a body of troops to guard the Highlanders to Albany, and desired that he would fix a time for their assembling. When these gentlemen came to Johnson Hall they were informed by Lady Johnson that Sir John Johnson had received General Schuyler’s letter by the express; that he had consulted the Highlanders upon the contents, and that they had unanimously resolved not to deliver themselves as prisoners, but to go another way, and that Sir John Johnson had determined to go with them. She added that, that if they were pursued they were determined to make an opposition, and had it in their power, in some measure."

The approach of Colonel Dayton’s command caused great commotion among the inhabitants of Johnstown and vicinity. Sir John determined to decamp, take with him as many followers as possible, and travel through the woods to Canada. Lieutenant James Gray, of the 42nd Highlanders, helped to raise the faithful bodyguard, and all having assembled at the house of Allen McDonell of Collachie started through the woods. The party consisted of three Indians from an adjacent village to serve as guides, one hundred and thirty Highlanders, and one hundred and twenty others. The appearance of Colonel Dayton was more sudden than Sir John anticipated. Having but a brief period for their preparation, the party was but illy prepared for their flight. He did not know whether or not the royalists were in possession of Lake Champlain, therefore the fugitives did not dare to venture on that route to Montreal; so they were obliged to strike deeper into the forests between the headwaters of the Hudson and the St. Lawrence. Their provisions soon were exhausted; their feet soon became sore from the rough travelling; and several were left in the wilderness to be picked up and brought in by the Indians who were afterwards sent out for that purpose. After nineteen days of great hardships the party arrived in Montreal in a pitiable condition, having endured as much suffering as seemed possible for human nature to undergo.

Sir John Johnson and his Highlanders, unwittingly, paid the highest possible compliment to the kindness and good intentions of the patriots, when they deserted their families and left them to face the foe. When the flight was brought to the attention of General Schuyler, he wrote to Colonel Dayton, May 27, in which he says:

"I am favored with a letter from Mr. Caldwell, in which he suggests the propriety of suffering such Highlanders to remain at their habitations as have not fled. I enter fully into his idea; but prudence dictates that this should be done under certain restrictions. These people have been taught to consider us in politicks in the same light that Papists consider Protestants in a religious relation, viz: that no faith is to be kept with either. I do not, therefore, think it prudent to suffer any of the men to remain, unless a competent number of hostages are given, at least five out of a hundred, on condition of being put to death if those that remain should take up arms, or in any wise assist the enemies of our country. A small body of troops * * may keep them in awe; but if an equal body of the enemy should appear, the balance as to numbers, by the junction of those left, would be against us. I am, however, so well aware of the absurdity of judging with precision in these matters at the distance we are from one another, that prudence obliges me to leave these matters to your judgment, to act as circumstances may occur."

Lady Johnson, wife of Sir John, was taken to Albany and there held as a hostage until the following December when she was permitted to go to New York, then in the hands of the British. Nothing is related of any of the Highlanders being taken at that time to Albany, but appear to have been left in peaceable possession of their lands.

As might have been, and perhaps was, anticipated, the Highland settlement became the source of information and the base of supplies for the enemy. Spies and messengers came and went, finding there a welcome reception. The trail leading from there and along the Sacandaga and through the Adirondack woods, soon became a beaten path from its constant use. The Highland women gave unstintingly of their supplies, and opened their houses as places of retreat. Here were planned the swift attacks upon the unwary settlers farther to the south and west. Agents of the king were active everywhere, and the Highland homes became one of the resting places for refugees on their way to Canada. This state of affairs could not be concealed from the Americans, who, none too soon, came to view the whole neighborhood as a nest of treason. Military force could not be employed against women and children (for from time to time nearly all the men had left), but they could be removed where they would do but little harm. General Schuyler discussed the matter with General Herkimer and the Tryon County Committee, when it was decided to remove of those who remained "to the number of four hundred." A movement of this description could not be kept a secret, especially when the troops were put in motion. In March, 1777, General Schuyler had permitted both Alexander and John MacDonald to visit their families. Taking the alarm, on the approach of the troops, in May, they ran off to Canada, taking with them the residue of the Highlanders, together with a few of the German neighbors. The journey was a very long and tedious one, and very painful for the aged, the women, and the children. They were used to hardships and bore their sufferings without Complaint. It was an exodus of a people, whose very existence was almost forgotten, and on the very lands they cleared and cultivated there is not a single tradition concerning them.

From papers still in existence, preserved in Series B, Vol. 158, p. 351, of the Haldeman Papers, it would appear that some of the families, previous to the exodus, had been secured, as noted in the two following petitions, both written in either 1779 or 1780, date not given although first is simply dated "27th July," and second endorsed "27th July":

"To His Excellency General Haldimand, General and Commander in Chief of all His Majesty’s Forces in Canada and the Frontiers thereof,

The memorial of John and Alexander Macdonell, Captains in the King’s Royal Regiment of New York, humbly sheweth,

That your Memorialist, John Macdonell’s, family are at present detained by the rebels in the County of Tryon, within the Province of New York, destitute of every support but such as they may receive from the few friends to Government in said quarters, in which situation they have been since 1777.

And your Memorialist, Alexander Macdonell, on behalf of his brother, Captain Allan Macdonell, of the Eighty-Fourth Regiment: that the family of his said brother have been detained by the Rebels in and about Albany since the year 1775, and that unless it was for the assistance they have met with from Mr. James Ellice, of Schenectady, merchant, they must have perished.

Your Memorialists therefore humbly pray Your Excellency will be graciously pleased to take the distressed situation of said families into consideration, and to grant that a flag be sent to demand them in exchange, or otherwise direct towards obtaining their releasement, as Your Excellency in your wisdom shall see fit, and your Memorialists will ever pray as in duty bound.

John Macdonell,
Alexander Macdonell."

"To the Honourable Sir John Johnson, Lieutenant-Colonel Commander of the King’s Royal Regiment of New York. The humbel petition of sundry soldiers of said Regiment sheweth,— That your humble petitioners, whose names are hereunto subscribed, have families in different places of the Counties of Albany and Tryon, who have been and are daily ill-treated by the enemies of Government. Therefore we do humbly pray that Your Honour would be pleased to procure permission for them to come to Canada,

And your petitioners will ever pray.

John McGlenny, Thomas Ross, Alexander Cameron, Frederick Goose, Wm. Urchad (Urquhart?), Duncan Mclntire, Andrew Mileross, Donald McCarter, Allen Grant, Hugh Chisholm, Angus Grant, John McDonald, Alex. Ferguson, Thomas Taylor, William Cameron, George Murdoff, William Chession (Chisholm), John Christy, Daniel Campbell, Donald Ross, Donald Chissem, Roderick McDonald, Alexander Grant.

The names and number of each family intended in the written petition :—


Mrs. Helen MacDonell, wife of Allan, the chief, was apprehended and sent to Schenectady ,and in 1780 managed to escape, and made her way to New York. Before she was taken, and while her husband was still a prisoner of war, she appears to have been the chief person who had charge of the settlement, after the men had fled with Sir John Johnson. A letter of hers has been preserved, which is not only interesting, but throws some light on the action of the Highlanders. It is addressed to Major Jellis Fonda, at Caughnawaga.

"Sir: Some time ago I wrote you a letter, much to this purpose, concerning the inhabitants of this Bush being made prisoners. There was no such thing then in agitation as you was pleased to observe in your letter to me this morning. Mr. Billie Laird came amongst the people to give them warning to go in to sign, and swear. To this they will never consent, being already prisoners of General Schuyler. His Excellency was pleased by your proclamation, directing every one of them to return to their farms, and that they should be no more troubled nor molested during the war. To this they agreed, and have not done anything against the country, nor intend to, if let alone. If not, they will lose their lives before being taken prisoners again. They begged the favour of me to write to Major Fonda and the gentlemen of the committee to this purpose. They blame neither the one nor the other of you gentlemen, but those ill—natured fellows amongst them that get up an excitement about nothing, in order to ingratiate themselves in your favour. They were of very great hurt to your cause since May last, through violence and ignorance. I do not know what the consequences would have been to them long ago, if not prevented. Only think what daily provocation does.

Jenny joins me in compliments to Mrs. Fonda.

I am, Sir,

Your humble servant,

Callachie, 15th March, 1777. Helen McDonell."

Immediately on the arrival of Sir John Johnson in Montreal, with his party who fled from Johnstown, he was commissioned a Colonel in the British service. At once he set about to organize a regiment composed of those who had accompanied him, and other refugees who had followed their example. This regiment was called the "King’s Royal Regiment of New York," but by Americans was known as "The Royal Greens," probably because the facings of their uniforms were of that color. In the formation of the regiment he was instructed that the officers of the corps were to be divided in such a manner as to assist those who were distressed by the war; but there were to be no pluralities of officers,— a practice then common in the British army.

In this regiment, Butler’s Rangers, and the Eighty-Fourth, or Royal Highland Emigrant Regiment also then raised, the Highland gentlemen who had, in 1773, emigrated to Tryon county, received commissions, as well as those who had previously had joined the ranks. After the war proper returns of the officers were made, and from these the following tables have been extracted. The number of private soldiers of the same name are in proportion.

In the month of January, following his flight into Canada, Sir John Johnson found his way into the city of New York. From that time he became one of the most bitter and virulent foes of his countrymen engaged in the contest, and repeatedly became the scourge of his former neighbors-in all of which his Highland retainers bore a prominent part. In savage cruelty, together with Butler’s Rangers, they outrivalled their Indian allies. The aged, the infirm, helpless women, and the innocent babe in the cradle, alike perished before them. In all this the MacDonells were among the foremost. Such warfare met the approval of the British Cabinet, and officers felt no compunction in relating their achievements. Colonel Guy Johnson writing to lord George Ger- main, November 11, 1779, not only speaks of the result of his conference with Sir John Johnson, but further remarks that "there appeared little prospect of effecting anything beyond harrassing the frontiers with detached partys. " In all probability none of the official reports related the atrocities perpetrated under the direction of the minor officers.

Although "The Royal Greens" were largely composed of the Mohawk Highlanders, and especially all who decamped from Johnstown with Sir John Johnson, and Butler’s Rangers had a fair percentage of the same, it is not necessary to enter into a detailed account of their achievements because neither was essentially Highlanders. Their movements were not always in a body, and the essential share borne by the Highlanders have not been recorded in the papers that have been preserved. Individual deeds have been narrated, some of which are here given.

The Royal Greens and Butler’s Rangers formed a part of the expedition under Colonel Barry St. Leger that was sent against Fort Schuyler in order to create a diversion in favor of General Burgoyne’s army then on its march towards Albany. In order to relieve Fort Schuyler (Stanwix) General Herkimer with a force of eight hundred was dispatched and, on the way, met the army of St. Leger near Oriskany, August 6, 1777. On the 3rd St. Leger encamped before Fort Stanwix, his force numbering sixteen hundred, eight hundred of whom were Indians. Proper precautions were not taken by General Herkimer, while every advantage was enforced by his wary enemy. He fell into an ambuscade, and a desperate conflict ensued. During the conflict Colonel Butler attempted a ruse-de guerre, by sending, from the direction of the fort, a detachment of The Royal Greens, disguised as American troops, in expectation that they might be received as reenforcements from the garrison. They were first noticed by Lieutenant Jacob Sammons, who at once notified Captain Jacob Gardenier; but the quick eye of the latter had detected the ruse. The Greens continued to advance until hailed by Gardenier, at which moment one of his own men observing an acquaintance in the opposing ranks, and supposing them to be friends, ran to meet him, and presented his hand. The credulous fellow was dragged into their lines and notified that he was a prisoner.

"He did not yield without a struggle; during which Garde-nier, watching the action and the result, sprang forward, and with a blow from his spear levelled the captor to the dust and liberated his man. Others of the foe instantly set upon him, of whom he slew the second and wounded the third. Three of the disguised Greens now sprang upon him, and one of his spurs becoming entangled in their clothes, he was thrown to the ground. Still, contending, however, with almost super-human strength, both of his thighs were transfixed to the earth by the bayonets of two of his assailants, while the third presented a bayonet to his breast, as if to thrust him through. Seizing the bayonet with his left hand, by a sudden wrench he brought its owner down upon himself, where he held him as a shield against the arms of the others, until one of his own men, Adam Miller, observing the struggle, flew to the rescue. As the assailants turned upon their new adversary, Gardenier rose upon his seat; and although his hand was severely lacerated by grasping the bayonet which had been drawn through it, he seized his spear lying by his side, and quick as lightning planted it to the barb in the side of the assailant with whom he had been clenched. The man fell and expired—proving to be Lieutenant McDonald, one of the loyalist officers from Tryon county.

This was John McDonald, who had been held as a hostage by General Schuyler, and when permitted to return home, helped run off the remainder of the Highianclers to Canada, as previously noticed. June 19, 1777, he was appointed captain Lieutenant in The Royal Greens. During the engagement thirty of The Royal Greens fell near the body of McDonald. The loss of Herkimer was two hundred killed, exclusive of the wounded and prisoners. The royalist loss was never given, but known to be heavy. The Indians lost nearly a hundred warriors among whom were sachems held in great favor. The Americans retained possession of the field owing to the sortie made by the garrison of Fort Schuyler on the camp of St. Leger. On the 22nd St. Leger receiving alarming reports of the advance of General Arnold suddenly clecamped from before Fort Schuyler, leaving his baggage behind him. Indians, belonging to the expedition followed in the rear, tomahawking and scalping the stragglers; and when the army did not run fast enough, they accelerated the speed by giving their war cries and fresh alarms, thus adding increased terror to the demoralized troops. Of all the men that Butler took with him, when he arrived in Quebec he could muster but fifty. The Royal Greens also showed their numbers greatly decimated.

Among the prisoners taken by the Americans was Captain Angus McDonell of The Royal Greens. For greater security he was transferred to the southern portion of the State. On October 12th following, at Kingston, he gave the following parole to the authorities:

"1. Angus McDoiiell, lieutenant in the 60th or Royal American regiment, now a prisoner to the United States of America and enlarged on my parole, do promise upon my word of honor that I will continue within one mile of the house of Jacobus Harden— burgh, and in the town of Hurley, in the county of Ulster; and that I will not do any act, matter or thing whatsoever against the interests of America; and further, that I will remove hereafter to such place as the governor of the state of New York or the president of the Council of Safety of the said state shall direct, and that I will observe this my parole until released, exchanged or otherwise ordered.

Angus McDonell."

The following year Captain Angus McDonald and Allen McDonald, ensign in the same company were transferred to Reading, Pennsylvania. The former was probably released or exchanged for he was with the regiment when it was disbanded at the close of the War. What became of the latter is unknown. Probably neither of them were Sir John Johnson’s tenants.

The next movement of special importance relates to the melancholy story of Wyoming, immortalized in verse by Thomas Campbell in his "Gertrude of Wyoming." Towards the close of June 1778 the British officers at Niagara determined to strike a blow at Wyoming, in Pennsylvania. For this purpose an expedition of about three hundred white men under Colonel John Butler, together with about five hundred Indians, marched for the scene of action. Just what part the McDonells took in the Massacre of Wyoming is not known, nor is it positive any were present.; but belonging to Butler’s Rangers it is fair to assume that all such participated in those heartrending scenes which have been so often related. It was a terrible day and night for that lovely valley, and its beauty was suddenly changed into horror and desolation. The Massacre of Wyoming stands out in bold relief as one of the darkest pictures in the whole panorama of the Revolution.

While this scene was being enacted, active preparations were pushed by Alexander McDonald for a descent on the New York frontiers. It was the same Alexander who has been previously mentioned as having been permitted to return to the Johnstown settlement, and then assisted in helping the remaining Highland families escape to Canada. He was a man of enterprise and activity, and by his energy he collected three hundred royalists and Indians and fell with great fury upon the frontiers, Houses were burned, and such of the people as fell into his hands were either killed or made prisoners. One example of the blood thirsty character of this man is given by Sims, in his "Trappers of New York," as follows:

"On the morning of October 25, 1781, a large body of the enemy under Maj. Ross, entered Johnstown with several prisoners, and not a little plunder; among which was a number of human scalps taken the afternoon and night previous, in settlements in and adjoining the Mohawk valley; to which was added the scalp of Hugh McMonts, a constable, who was surprised and killed as they entered Johnstown. In the course of the day the troops from the garrisons near and militia from the surrounding country, rallied under the active and daring Willett, and gave the enemy battle on the Hall farm, in which the latter were finally defeated with loss, and made good their retreat into Canada. Young Scarsborough was then in the nine months’ service, and while the action was going on, himself and one Crosset left the Johnstown fort, where they were on garrison duty, to join in the fight, less than two miles distant. Between the Hall and woods they soon found themselves engaged. Crosset after shooting down one or two, received a bullet through one hand, but winding a handkerchief around it he continued the fight under cover of a hemlock

stump. He was shot down and killed there, and his companion surrounded and made prisoner by a party of Scotch (Highlanders) troops commanded by Captain McDonald. When Scarsborough was captured, Capt. McDonald was not present, but the moment he saw him he ordered his men to shoot him down. Several refused; but three, shall I call them men? obeyed the dastardly order, and yet he possibly would have survived his wounds, had not the miscreant in authority cut him down with his own broad— sword. The sword was caught in its first descent, and the valiant captain drew it out, cutting the hand nearly in two."

This was the same McDonald who, in 1779, figured in the battle of the Chemung, together with Sir John and Guy Johnson and Walter N. Butler.

Just what part the Mohawk Highlanders, if any, had in the Massacre of Cherry Valley on October 11, 1778, may not be known. The leaders were Walter N. Butler, son of Colonel John Butler, who was captain of a company of Rangers, and the monster Brant.

Owing to the frequent depredations made by the Indians, the Royal Greens, Butler’s Rangers, and the independent company of Alexander McDonald, upon the frontiers, destroying the innocent and helpless as well as those who might be found in arms, Congress voted that an expedition should he sent into the Indian country. Washington detached a division from the army under General John Sullivan to lay waste that country. The instructions were obeyed, and Sullivan did not cease until he found no more to lay waste. The only resistance he met with that was of any moment was on August 29, 1779, when the enemy hoping to ambuscade the army of Sullivan, brought on the battle of Chemung, near the present site of Elmira. There were about three hundred royalists under Colonel John Butler and Captain Alexander McDonald, assisting Joseph Brant who commanded the Indians. The defeat was so overwhelming that the royalists and Indians, in a demoralized condition sought shelter under the walls of Fort Niagara.

The lower Mohawk Valley having experienced the calamities of border wars was yet to feel the full measures of suffering. On Sunday, May 21, 1780, Sir John Johnson with some British troops, a detachment of Royal Greens, and about two hundred Indians and Tories, at dead of night fell unexpectedly on Johnstown, the home of his youth. Families were killed and scalped, the houses pillaged and then burned. Instances of daring and heroism in withstanding the invaders have been recorded.

Sir John’s next achievement was in the fall of the same year, when he descended with fire and sword into the rich settlements along the Schoharie. He was overtaken by the American force at Klock’s Field and put to flight.

Sir John Johnson with the Royal Greens, principally his former tenants and retainers, appear to have been especially stimulated with hate against the people of their former homes who did not sympathize with their views. In the summer of 1781 another expedition was secretly planned against Johnstown, and executed with silent celerity. The expedition consisted of four companies of the Second battalion of Sir John’s regiment of Royal Greens, Butler’s Rangers and two hundred Indians, numbering in all about one thousand men, under the command of Major Ross. He was defeated at the battle of Johnstown on October 25th. The army of Major Ross, for four days in the wilderness, on their advance had been living on only a half pound of horse flesh per man per day; yet they were so hotly pursued by the Americans that they were forced to trot off a distance of thirty miles before they stopped,—during a part of the distance they were compelled to sustain a running fight. They crossed Canada Creek late in the afternoon, where Walter N. Butler attempted to rally the men. He was shot through the head by an Oneida Indian, who was with the Americans. When Captain Butler fell his troops fled in the utmost confusion, and continued their flight through the night. Without food and even without blankets they had eighty miles to traverse through the dreary and pathless wilderness.

On August 6, 1781, Donald McDonald, one of the Highlanders who had fled from Johnstown, made an attempt upon Shell’s Bush about four miles north of the present village of Herkimer, at the head of sixty-six Indians and Tories. John Christian Shell had built a block-house of his own, which was large and substantial, and well calculated to withstand a seige. The first story had no windows, but furnished with loopholes which could be used to shoot through by muskets. The second story projected over the first, so that the garrison could fire upon an advancing enemy, or cast missiles upon their heads. The owner had a family of six sons, the youngest two were twins, and only eight years old. Most of his neighbors had taken refuge in Fort Dayton; but this settler refused to leave his home. When Donald McDonald and his party arrived at Shell’s Bush his brother with his sons were at work in the field; and the children, unfortunately were so widely separated from their father, as to fall into the hands of the enemy.

"Shell and his other boys succeeded in reaching their castle, and barricading the ponderous door. And then commenced the battle. The beseiged were well armed, and all behaved with admirable bravery; but none more bravely than Shell’s wife, who loaded the pieces as her husband and sons discharged them. The battle commenced at two o’clock, and continued until dark. Several attempts were made by McDonald to set fire to the castle, but without success; and his forces were repeatedly driven back by the galling fire they received. McDonald at length procured a crow-bar and attempted to force the door; but while thus engaged he received a shot in the leg from Shell’s Blunderbuss, which put him hors du combat. None of his men being sufficiently near at the moment to rescue him, Shell, quick as lightning, opened the door, and drew him within the walls a prisoner. The misfortune of Shell and his garrison was, that their ammunition began to run low; but McDonald was very amply provided, and to save his own life, he surrendered his cartridges to the garrison to fire upon his comrades. Several of the enemy having been killed and others wounded, they now drew off for a respite. Shell and his troops, moreover, needed a little breathing time; and feeling assured that, so long as he had the commanding officer of the beseigers in his possession, the enemy would hardly attempt to burn the citadel, he ceased firing. He then went up stairs, and sang the hymn which was a favorite of Luther during the perils and afflictions of the Great Reformer in his controversies with the Pope. While thus engaged the enemy likewise ceased firing. But they soon after rallied again to the fight, and made a desperate effort to carry the fortress by assault. Rushing up to the walls, five of them thrust the muzzles of their guns through the loop-holes, but had no sooner done so, than Mrs. Shell, seizing an axe, by quick and well directed blows ruined every musket thus thrust through the walls, by bending the barrels. A few more well-directed shots by Shell and his sons once more drove the assailants back. Shell thereupon ran up to the second story, just in the twilight, and calling out to his wife with a loud voice, informed her that Captain Small was approaching from Fort Dayton with succors. In yet louder notes he then exclaimed—’Captain Small march your company round upon this side of the house. Captain Getman, you had better wheel your men off to the left, and come up upon that side.’ There were of course no troops approaching; but the directions of Shell were given with such precision, and such apparent earnestness and sincerity, that the stratagem succeeded, and the enemy immediately fled to the woods, taking away the twin-lads as prisoners. Setting the best provisions they had before their reluctant guest, Shell and his family lost no time in repairing to Fort Dayton, which they reached in safety—leaving McDonald in the quiet possession of the castle he had been striving to capture in vain. Some two or three of McDonald’s Indians lingered about the premises to ascertain the fate of their leader; and finding that Shell and his family had evacuated the post, ventured in to visit him. Not being able to remove him, however, on taking themselves off, they charged their wounded leader to inform Shell, that if he would be kind to him, (McDonald,) they would take good care of his (Shell’s) captive boys. McDonald was the next day removed to the fort by Captain Small, where his leg was amputated; but the blood could not be stanched, and he died within a few hours. The lads were carried away into Canada. The loss of the enemy on the ground was eleven killed and six wounded. The boys, who were rescued after the war, reported that they took twelve of their wounded away with them, nine of whom died before they arrived in Canada. McDonald wore a silver-mounted tomahawk, which was taken from him by Shell. It was marked by thirty scalp-notches, showing that few Indians could have been more industrious than himself in gathering that description of military trophies."

The close of the Revolution found the First Battalion of the King’s Regiment of New York stationed at Isle aux Noix and Carleton Island with their wives and children to the number of one thousand four hundred and sixty-two. The following is a list of the officers of both Battalions at the close of the War:

The officers and men of the First Battalion, with their families, settled in a body in the first five townships west of the boundary line of the Province of Quebec, being the present townships of Lancaster, Charlottenburgh, Cornwall, Osnabruck and Williamsburgh; while those of the Second Battalion went farther west to the Bay of Quinte, in the counties of Lennox and Prince Edward. Each soldier received a certificate entitling him to land; of which the following is a copy:

"His Majesty’s Provincial Regiment, called the King’s Royal

Regiment of New York, whereof Sir John Johnson, Knight and Baronet is Lieutenant-Colonel, Commandant.

These are to certify that the Bearer hereof, Donald McDonell, soldier in Capt. Angus McDonell’s Company, of the aforesaid Regiment, born in the Parish of Killmoneneoack, in the County of Inverness, aged thirty-five years, has served honestly and faithfully in the said regiment Seven Years; and in consequence of His Majesty’s Order for Disbanding the said Regiment, he is hereby discharged, is entitled, by His Majesty’s late Order, to the Portion of Land allotted to each soldier of His Provincial Corps, who wishes to become a Settler in this Province, He having first received all just demands of Pay, Cloathing, &c., from his entry into the said Regiment, to the Date of his Discharge, as appears from his Receipt on the back hereof. Given under my Hand and Seal at Arms, at Montreal, this twenty-fourth Day of December, 1783.

John Johnson."

"I, Donald McDonell, private soldier, do acknowledge that I have received all my Cloathing, Pay, Arrears of Pay, and all Demands whatsoever, from the time of my Inlisting in the Regiment and Company mentioned on the other Side to this present Day of my Discharge, as witness my Hand this 24th day of December, 1783.

Donald McDonell."

There appears to have been some difficulty in according to the men the amount of land each, should possess, as may be inferred from the petition of Colonel John Butler on behalf of The Royal Greens and his corps of Rangers. The Order in Council, October 22 1788 allowed them the same as that allotted to the members of the Royal Highland Emigrants. Ultimately each soldier received one hundred acres on the river front, besides two hundred at a remote distance. If married he was entitled to fifty acres more, an additional fifty for every child, Each child, on coming of age, was entitled to a further grant of two hundred acres.

It is not the purpose to follow these people into their future homes, for this would be later than the Peace of 1783. Let it suffice to say that their lands were divided by lot, and into the wilderness they went, and there cleared the forests, erected their shanties out of round logs, to a height of eight feet, with a room not exceeding twenty by fifteen feet.

These people were pre-eminently social and attached to the manners and customs of their fathers. In Scotland the people would gather in one of their huts during the long winter nights and listen to the tales of Ossian and Fingal. So also they would gather in their huts and listen to the best reciter of tales. Often the long nights would be turned into a recital of the sufferings they endured during their flight into Canada from Johnstown; and also of their privations during the long course of the war. It required no imagination to picture their hardships, nor was it necessary to indulge in exaggeration. Many of the women, through the wilderness, carried their children on their backs, the greater part of the distance, while the men were burdened with their arms and such goods as were deemed necessary. They endured perils by land and by water; and their food often consisted of the flesh of dogs and horses, and the roots of trees. Gradually some of these story tellers varied their tale, and, perhaps, believed in the glosses.

A good story has gained extensive currency, and has been variously told, on Donald Grant. He was born at Crasky, Glenmoriston, Scotland, and was one of the heroes who sheltered prince Charles in the cave of Corombian, when wandering about, life in hand, after the battle of Culloden, before he succeeded in effecting his escape to the Outer Hebrides. Donald, with others, settled in Glengarry, a thousand acres having been allotted to him. This old warrior, having seen much service, knew well the country between Johnstown and Canada. He took charge of one of the parties of refugees in their journey from Schenectady to Canada. Donald lived to a good old age and was treated with much consideration by all, especially those whom he had led to their new homes. It was well known that he could spin a good story equal to the best. As years went on, the number of Donald’s party rapidly increased, as he told it to open-mouthed listeners, constantly enlarging on the perils and hardships of the journey. A Highland officer, who had served in Canada for some years, was returning home ,and, passing through Glengarry, spent a few days with Alexander Macdonell, priest at St. Raphael’s. Having expressed his desire to meet some of the veterans of the war, so that he might hear their tales and rehearse them in Scotland, that they might know how their kinsmen in Canada had fought and suffered for the Crown, the priest, amongst others, took him to see old Donald Grant. The opportunity was too good to be lost, and Donald told the general in Gaelic the whole story, omitting no details; giving an account of the number of men, women and children he had brought with him, their perils and their escapes, their hardships borne with heroic devotion; how, when on the verge of starvation, they had boiled their moccassins and eaten them; how they had encountered the enemy, the wild beasts and Indians, beaten all off and landed the multitude safely in Glengarry. The General listened with respectful attention, and at the termination of the narrative, wishing to say something pleasant, observed:

"Why, dear me, Donald, your exploits seem almost to have equalled even those of Moses himself when leading the children of Israel through the Wilderness from Egypt to the Land of Promise." Up jumped old Donald. "Moses," exclaimed the veteran with an unmistakable air of contempt, and adding a double expletive that need not here be repeated, "Compare ME to Moses! Why, Moses took forty years in his vain attempts to lead his men over a much shorter distance, and through a mere trifling wilder-ness in comparison with mine, and he never did reach his destination, and lost half his army in the Red Sea. I brought my people here without the loss of a single man."

It has been noted that the Highlanders who settled on the Mohawk, on the lands of Sir William Johnson, were Roman Catholics. Sir William, nor his son and successor, Sir John Johnson, took any steps to procure them a religious teacher in the principles of their faith. They were not so provided until after the Revolution, and then only when they were settled on the lands that had been allotted to them. In 1785, the people themselves took the proper steps to secure such an one,—and one who was able to speak the Gaelic, for many of them were ignorant of the English language. In the month of September, 1786, the ship "McDonald," from Greenock, brought Reverend Alexander McDonell, Scotus, with five hundred emigrants from Knoydart, who settled with their kinsfolk in Glengarry, Canada.


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