George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Edward Hand, 13 November 1778

From Brigadier General Edward Hand

Coughnawaga1 [N.Y.] 13th Novr 1778


When I wrote your Excy from Albany 10th I mentioned the information I had of an intended Attack on Cherry Valley, & the Steps I had taken to prevent the Ill effects of it, but unluckily, the Enemys Sudden Approach & our Own Tardiness has prevented a timely relief.

The Enemy (in what numbers I cant learn) came on Col. Alden by Surprise the 11th what has Since happend, the Inclosed letters from Cols. Clock & Fisher will give you as good an Acct of as I can learn2—the Militia do not turn out with that Spirit or alacrity I could wish—I have3 pressed Col. Vanscaik to march on with as great diligence as possible & expect Some Militia from Schenectady will join him: If Col. Clocks party does not relieve the Fort it is likely it will fall. I am Sir with much respect your Excys Most Obedt Hble Servt

Edwd Hand

ALS, DLC:GW; copy, enclosed in GW to Henry Laurens, 16 Nov. 1778, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; copy, WHi: Draper Collection.

Tory Lt. Col. John Butler’s plan to devastate American frontier forts and settlements in New York and Pennsylvania resulted in the Wyoming Valley Raid of 3–4 July, led by himself, and the Cherry Valley Raid of 11 Nov., led by his son Maj. Walter N. Butler. In the latter attack, the younger Butler, commanding two companies of Tories, joined with about 300 Seneca Indians under Joseph Brant to attack the settlement of Cherry Valley, N.Y., and Fort Alden, with its small garrison of 250 men of the 7th Massachusetts Regiment under Col. Ichabod Alden. Despite advance warning of the attack (see Hand to GW, 10 Nov.), Alden refused to take adequate precautions; and when Butler and Brant attacked on 11 Nov. they swept through the village, burning it and killing over thirty settlers. Fort Alden held out, but Col. Alden was killed along with sixteen of his soldiers. The attack sparked numerous atrocity stories and led to Maj. Gen. John Sullivan’s retaliatory expedition against the Iroquois from May to November 1779. For more on the raid, see George Clinton to GW, 17 Nov.; Hand to GW, 18 Nov.; and Williams, Hangman description begins Glenn F. Williams. Year of the Hangman: George Washington’s Campaign Against the Iroquois. Yardley, Pa., 2005. description ends .

1The Mohawk River settlement of Caughnawaga, now Fonda, N.Y., was located a few miles south of Johnstown, N.Y.

2The enclosed copy of a letter from Col. Jacob Klock to Hand, dated 12 Nov. at 10:00 p.m. from “John Moors about 4 Miles from Cherry Valley,” N.Y., reads: “I arrived here this Evening with upwards of three Hundred Men with an intent to March to Cherry Valley tomorrow at Break of Day, I have Information that the Enemy were about the Fort at 12 OClk to day & Fired against it with Small Arms, Col. Alden is Killed Col. Stacy and a number of other Officers are missing, a Great number of the Inhabitants, Men, Women, & Children Murdered in a most Barberous manner, All the Buildings Burnt, this is the best information I can get at Present” (DLC:GW).

The enclosed copy of a letter from Col. Frederick Fisher to Hand, dated 11 Nov. at 7:00 p.m. at Tryon County, N.Y., reads: “This Minute Received Intelligence from Cherry Valley, by Martin G. Vanalstine that Lt Pebe came from that place & gave the following Acct that Lt Pebe went to dine at one Mr Moores about 12 this day, when he was in the House he heard a Cannon shot, & looking out he saw Majr Wells’s House on fire, & the Enemy all round the Fort; that Pebe could not get into the Fort, Capt. Parker was in Compy with him, Parker went to Schoharry & Pebe came to Vanalstines, Pebe <says> that all the Field Officers are taken Prisoners at Major Wells’s & after Pebe left Cherry Valley they kept a constant Firing” (DLC:GW). Fisher (1741–1809) was colonel of the 3d Regiment of the Tryon County, N.Y., militia. He survived being tomahawked and scalped by Indians at Caughnawaga, N.Y., in May 1780.

3Hand inadvertently wrote “hape.”

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