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The Minute Boys of the Mohawk Valley E-book
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It seems not only proper, but necessary, that I should explain how the material for this story was obtained, and why it happens that I can thus set down exactly what Noel Campbell thought and did, during certain times while he was serving the patriot cause in the Mohawk Valley as few other boys could have done. At some time in Noel`s life--most likely after he was grown to be a man with children, and, perhaps, grandchildren of his own--he wrote many letters to relatives of his in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, wherein he told with considerable of detail that which he did during the War of the Revolution, and more particularly while he and his friends were fighting against that wily Indian sachem, Thayendanega. These letters, together with many others concerning the struggles of our people for independence, came into my keeping a long while ago, and from the lines written by Noel Campbell I have put together the following story after much the same fashion as he himself set it down. When the work was begun I doubted if Thayendanega could have been frightened by a party of boys who were playing at being soldiers, and refused to make such statement until, quite by chance, I found the following in Lossing`s "Field-Book of the Revolution": "It was a sunny morning toward the close of May, when Brant and his warriors cautiously moved up to the brow of the lofty hill on the eastside of the town (Cherry Valley) to reconnoitre the settlement at their feet. He was astonished and chagrined on seeing a fortification where he supposed all was weak and defenceless, and greater was his disappointment when quite a large and well-armed garrison appeared upon the esplanade in front of Colonel Campbell`s house. "These soldiers were not as formidable as the sachem supposed, for they were only half-grown boys, who, full of the martial spirit of the times, had formed themselves into companies, and, armed with wooden guns and words, held regular drills each day.... He mistook the boys for full-grown soldiers, and, considering an attack dangerous, moved his party to a hiding-place in a deep ravine north of the village." Then again I questioned if General Herkimer would have sent two boys as messengers, even though an old and experienced soldier went with them, when he must have had under his command many men grown who were thoroughly familiar with Indian warfare. As if to combat this doubt, I found the following statement by one who has written much concerning the struggles of the colonists for freedom: "As soon as St. Leger`s approach up Oneida Lake was known to General Herkimer, he summoned the militia of Tryon County to the succor of the garrison at Fort Schuyler. They rendezvoused at Fort Dayton, on the German Flats, and, on the day when the Indians encircled the fort, Herkimer was near Oriskany with more than eight hundred men, eager to face the enemy. He sent as messengers to Gansevoort two boys and a man, informing him of his approach, and requesting him to apprise him of the arrival of the couriers by discharging three guns in rapid succession, which he knew would be heard at Oriskany." Having thus proven, at least to my own satisfaction, that so much of Noel`s story was true, I set about verifying the other portions, and in no single instance did I find that he had drawn upon his imagination, therefore I resolved to write it down as the lad himself would havespoken, being able, because of the letters, to put myself very nearly in his place. I would it had been possible to say more concerning Thayendanega and Sir John Johnson, for they played important parts in the making of Mohawk Valley history; but Noel`s own account was of such length that I did not feel warranted in adding to it. To the best of my knowledge and belief, the tale of the "Minute Boys of the Mohawk Valley" is no more than a narration of facts, as can be verified by reference to any of our standard histories of the beginnings of this nation. If the reader can find in the reading one-half the pleasure I have had in interpreting Noel Campbell`s odd speech, and smoothing down his too vigorous language, then will he be richly repaid for the perusal.
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