The Missions of Atiatonharongwen
(Originally published in The People’s Voice, October 7, 2005)
Written by Darren Bonaparte
Apparently Joseph Brant and his sister Molly (widow of the late Sir William Johnson) kept an eye on Colonel Louis and his pro-American activities, just as he kept a careful eye on their activities for the British. Molly’s friend, Mary Hill, was the Mohawk mistress of General Philip Schuyler and often shared intelligence with Molly that was forwarded to the British. This we find in a letter by Captain Al Frasier dated November 5th, 1780:
I acquainted Sir John Johns. for your Excellency’s information that Captain Dame of the Rangers with nine soldiers & above twenty Indians of those of his party that were missing had come in three days ago.
Along with those men there is come a sister of Captn. Aaron the Mohawk chief, a very intelligent woman who has much in the confidence of all the principal Indians that adhered to the Rebels, as she was herself always attached to their cause & till now lived among them-
She informed Miss Molly that the St. Regis Indian named the Negroe had been at Rhode Island, and was charged by the Commander in Chief of the French troops with a great many letters to Canadians English & Indians, with which he set off for St. Regis from Schenectady five weeks ago, and that she had once been engaged herself to come along with him–She further says that some of the principal Indians were told in confidence that the Rebels were determined to invade Canada this winter or early in the Spring by three different Routes. And they said that their designs upon Canada might fail of success, yet they were sure of reducing the upper posts, as they were determined at all costs to take Carleton Island, which wd. oblige the higher Garrisons to surrender for want of provisions –She says Schuyler was himself to command this latter enterprise.
This woman also confirms the late news respecting General Gates Army & likewise that Arnold is going into New York.
There are certainly two Indians which always reside at the village of St. Regis for the purpose of conveying letters & intelligence of all our movements to the Rebels. I hope to be able to give Your Excellency their names by next opportunity.
Long after the war was over, Colonel Louis continued to be a thorn in the side of the loyalist Joseph Brant. Both were sent to the Great Lakes area to promote peace on behalf of the United States government, although Colonel Louis strenuously objected to Brant’s involvement. When both men became involved in land sales with the Americans, they used each other as scapegoats when controversy erupted. The end result was that a war almost broke out between their respective communities and their allies, something that was narrowly averted by careful diplomacy. Eleazer Williams’ biography of the Colonel has this to say about his relationship with Brant:
A spirit of unfriendly feelings was created between Col. Lewis & Col. Brandt during the Revolution. They were in opposite parties. This feeling was cherished by Brandt to unmanly degree. After Lewis’ return to St. Regis he was often disturbed by the British Indian agents. Although living peacably with his Indian friends, yet, his former course in the american struggl was not easily forgotten by the tories who had taken a refuge in the Province.
Col. Brandt at Montreal in 1787 made a visit, with a large party of the Mohawks & held a council with Sir John at La Chine. The Mohawks were heard with threats against the life of Col. Lewis. Some of the friendly Cahnowagas, gave timely notice to Lewis of those threats. As it was expected, on the return of Brandts party, they crossed the St. Lawrence from Cornwall with a view to execute those threats uttered at La Chine. But he was secured by his friends. An account of which there was a fray with the Mohawks by some of the St. Regis Indians.
Sources: Indian Affairs Papers: American Revolution, by Maryly B. Penrose, A History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties, New York, by Franklin B. Hough, the Frederick Haldimand Papers, and the biography of Colonel Louis by Eleazer Williams in the Papers of Franklin B. Hough, New York State Archives.
Next in series: Eleazer Williams: The Lost Mohawk
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.