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The humor of the piece consists chiefly in its exact imitation of the style of such compositions, and of the typography and other characteristics of a Boston newspaper.
Boston, March 12th, 1782.
Extract of a Letter from Captain Gerrish, of the New
England Militia, dated Albany, March 7th. THE peltry taken in the expedition (see the account of the expedition to Oswegatchie, on the River St. Lawrence, in our paper of the 1st instant,] will, as you see, amount to a good deal of money. The possession of this booty at first gave us pleasure; but we were struck with horror to find among the packages eight large ones, containing SCALPS of our unhappy country-folks, taken in the three last years by the Seneca Indians from the inhabitants of the frontiers of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and sent by them as a present to Colonel Haldimand, governor of Canada, in order to be by him transmitted to England. They were accompanied by the following curious letter to that gentleman.
“ Teoga, January 3d, 1782. “May it please your Excellency, “At the request of the Seneca chiefs, I send herewith to your Excellency, under the care of James Boyd, eight packs of scalps, cured, dried, hooped, and painted, with all the Indian triumphal marks, of which the following is invoice and explanation.
“No. 1. Containing forty-three scalps of Congress soldiers, killed in different skirmishes; these are stretched on black hoops, four inches diameter; the inside
of the skin painted red, with a small black spot to note their being killed with bullets. Also sixty-two of farmers killed in their houses; the hoops red; the skin painted brown, and marked with a hoe; a black circle all round, to denote their being surprised in the night; and a black hatchet in the middle, signifying their being killed with that weapon.
“ No. 2. Containing ninety-eight of farmers killed in their houses; hoops red; figure of a hoe, to mark their profession; great white circle and sun, to show they were surprised in the daytime; a little red foot, to show they stood upon their defence, and died fighting for their lives and families.
“No. 3. Containing ninety-seven of farmers ; hoops green, to show they were killed in their fields; a large white circle with a little round mark on it for the sun, to show that it was in the daytime; black bullet-mark on some, hatchet on others.
“No. 4. Containing one hundred and two of farmers, mixed of the several marks above; only eighteen marked with a little yellow flame, to denote their being of prisoners burnt alive, after being scalped, their nails pulled out by the roots, and other torments; one of these latter supposed to be a rebel clergyman, his band being fixed to the hoop of his scalp. Most of the farmers appear by the hair to have been young or middleaged men; there being but sixty-seven very gray heads among them all; which makes the service more essential.
“No. 5. Containing eighty-eight scalps of women; hair long, braided in the Indian fashion, to show they were mothers; hoops blue; skin yellow ground, with little red tadpoles, to represent, by way of triumph, the tears of grief occasioned to their relations; a black scalping-knife or hatchet at the bottom, to mark their being killed with those instruments. Seventeen others, hair very gray ; black hoops; plain brown color; no mark, but the short club or casse-tête, to show they were knocked down dead, or had their brains beat out.
“ No. 6. Containing one hundred and ninety-three boys' scalps, of various ages; small green hoops ; white ish ground on the skin, with red tears in the middle, and black bullet-marks, knife, hatchet, or club, as their deaths happened.
“No. 7. Two hundred and eleven girls' scalps, big and little ; small yellow hoops; white ground; tears; batchet, club, scalping-knife, &c.
“No. 8. This package is a mixture of all the varieties above mentioned, to the number of one hundred and twelve; with a box of birch bark, containing twenty-nine little infants' scalps of various sizes; small white hoops; white ground; no tears; and only a little black knife in the middle, to show they were ripped out of their mothers' bellies.
“With these packs, the chiefs send to your Excellency the following speech, delivered by Conejogatchie in council, interpreted by the elder Moore, the trader, and taken down by me in writing.
• Father, We send you herewith many scalps, that you may see we are not idle friends.
A blue Belt. Father, •We wish you to send these scalps over the water to the great King, that he may regard them and be refreshed; and that he may see our faithfulness in destroying his enemies, and be convinced that his presents have not been made to ungrateful people.
' A blue and white Belt with red Tassels.'
* Father, • Attend to what I am now going to say; it is a matter of much weight. The great King's enemies are many, and they grow fast in number. They were formerly like young panthers; they could neither bite nor scratch; we could play with them safely; we feared nothing they could do to us. But now their bodies are become big as the elk, and strong as the buffalo; they have also got great and sharp claws. They have driven us out of our country for taking part in your quarrel. We expect the great King will give us another country, that our children may live after us, and be his friends and children, as we are. Say this for us to the great King. To enforce it, we give this belt.
* A great white Belt with blue Tassels.' *Father, •We have only to say farther, that your traders exact more than ever for their goods; and our hunting is lessened by the war, so that we have fewer skins to give for them. This ruins us. Think of some remedy. We are poor; and you have plenty of every thing. We know you will send us powder and guns, and knives and hatchets; but we also want shirts and blankets.
• A little white Belt:'
“I do not doubt but that your Excellency will think it proper to give some farther encouragement to those honest people. The high prices they complain of are the necessary effect of the war.
Whatever presents may be sent for them, through my hands, shall be distributed with prudence and fidelity. I have the honor of being your Excellency's most obedient
“And most humble servant,
“JAMES CRAUFURD." 9
It was at first proposed to bury these scalps ; but Lieutenant Fitzgerald, who, you know, has got leave of absence to go to Ireland on his private affairs, said he thought it better they should proceed to their destination; and, if they were given to him, he would undertake to carry them to England, and hang them all up in some dark night on the trees in St. James's Park, where they could be seen from the King and Queen's palaces in the morning; for that the sight of them might perhaps strike Muley Ishmael (as he called him) with some compunction of conscience. They were accordingly delivered to Fitz, and he has brought them safe hither. To-morrow. they go with his baggage in a wagon for Boston, and will probably be there in a few days after this letter.
I am, &c.
Boston, March 20th. Monday last arrived here Lieutenant Fitzgerald above mentioned, and yesterday the wagon with the scalps. Thousands of people are flocking to see them this morning, and all mouths are full of execrations. Fixing them to the trees is not approved. It is now proposed to make them up in decent little packets, seal and direct them; one to the King, containing a sample of every sort for his museum ; one to the Queen, with some of women and little children; the rest to be distributed among both Houses of Parliament; a double quantity to the bishops.