Land Where The Partridge Drums
A History of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation
In the Shadow of Serpents:
Trials and Tribulations of the Early 1800’s
The Battle of Chippawa
Written and illustrated by Darren Bonaparte
The fortunes of our fellow Mohawks at the Grand River following the Battle of Beaver Dam deserves to be told here. These men served under Major John Norton, the late Joseph Brant’s “successor,” and had successfully defended Canada from an American invasion earlier in the war. Across the border, the Americans were pressuring the Tuscaroras to serve in their army. They sent a delegation to Canada to see if their northern brothers would hurt them if they crossed the rivers with the American forces; they were told by an Onondaga Chief:
“This will depend on yourselves. If you take no part with the Americans we shall meet you with the same friendship as we ever did, and we look for the day when you shall see our forces on your side of the water. We have no contention with you. It is the King and the Americans, and we have taken part with the King. We will contend for his rights.”
Later on, when the Tuscaroras did engage on the side of the Americans, the Haudenosaunee of Grand River released themselves of the promise not to attack them. Five days later the Tuscaroras joined an American force from Fort Niagara in an attack on the Canadian Indians in the vicinity of Fort Erie, Ontario.
In July of 1814 an American force under General Jacob Brown with about 500 Senecas under Red Jacket took possession of Fort Erie and then turned toward Chippawa and Fort George. They encountered a British force that contained 300 Indians, 200 of which were from Six Nations. These men quickly advanced upon the American line, far ahead of the British troops, and came close to capturing an American officer who immediately turned
and ran in the opposite direction. The Indians, following right into a large contingent of the Americans, were forced to retreat. The carnage that ensued between the American and Canadian Indians was particularly gruesome:
“A rush accompanied with savage yells (was) made upon them and continued for more than a mile, through scenes of frightful havoc and slaughter, a few only of the fugitives offering to surrender as prisoners, while others believing that no quarter would be given, suffered themselves to be cut down with the tomahawk, or turning back on their pursuers fought hard to the last.” (Stanley 1963: 228)
This battle was rather insignificant to the main combatants, but to their Haudenosaunee allies it was devastating. 87 Canadian Indians were killed and 5 were taken prisoner. The American Indians lost 9 men; 4 were wounded and 10 were missing. The Senecas looked sadly upon the bodies of their fallen brothers. Before long the two sides agreed to resume their previous stance of neutrality, much to the chagrin of their non-native allies (who rarely appreciated their efforts anyway.)
Next week: The Last Years of Cook and Gray
By Darren Bonaparte, historian and author of The Wampum Chronicles. Reprinted with permission.
Darren Bonaparte is a cultural historian from the Akwesasne First Nation. He is a frequent lecturer at schools, universities, museums, and historical sites in the United States and Canada. He has written four books, several articles, and the libretto for the McGill Chamber Orchestra’s Aboriginal Visions and Voices. Darren is a former chief of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. He is the creator of The Wampum Chronicles and historical advisor to film and television. He currently serves as the Director of the Tribal Historic Preservation Office of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe.