Captured by the Indians: The Seldom Told Stories of Horatio Jones and the Benjamin Gilbert Family

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Captured by the Indians: The Seldom Told Stories of Horatio Jones and the Benjamin Gilbert Family

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When the Oneidas and Tuscaroras sided with the Americans, our Revolution would split the Iroquois Confederacy down the middle and would become the Iroquois "civil war". The Battle of Oriskany in 1777, as Oneidas clashed with their brothers the Senecas, shattered nearly 300 years of Iroquois unity. Their fateful decision to join the British would become a catastrophe and lead to their eventual demise. The dye however was cast. The mental images of the “"merciless Indian Savages” terrorizing the frontier offered in the Declaration of Independence would prevail and a nation conceived in liberty would show little remorse in driving the Indians from their homeland. With Mohawk leader Joseph Brant in command his goal was simple, the destruction of large agricultural areas in order to deny food stocks to Washington's army and deprive the Americans of much needed resources. In the summer of 1779, General John Sullivan was sent by Washington to destroy Iroquois villages as reprisal for the Indian and Loyalist raids on the frontier. General John Sullivan led an American army through their country and succeeded in burning more than forty Iroquoian towns and villages and destroying their crops. Joseph Brant and his Indian war parties, together with Butler's Rangers from Ft. Niagara, attempted to stop the Sullivan campaign. But as a result of the actions of the war and the success of General Sullivan’s campaign of 1779 in particular, many of the Indians were forced to retreat to Ft. Niagara. The fort would become an Indian refugee camp and their fateful decision to join the British would lead to their eventual demise. As a result of the Indian campaign against the Americans during the revolution, many interesting and unusual Indian captivity stories would abound. Yet seldom do Indian captivity stories capture one’s imagination and soul like the two major captivity stories reprinted in this book. In one story the participants chose to stay with the Indians and in the second story the family chose to return to the white man’s ways. The incredible story of The Life of Horatio Jones was written by George H. Harris and taken from Volume VI of the Publications of the Buffalo Histl Society, Buffalo, NY, that was originally published in 1903. His story is remarkable in the fact that so much important information about 18th century Indian life comes from it. Soldier-boy Jones was taken prisoner by the Senecas in the Bedford County area of South-Central Pennsylvania, moved to New York and forced to run the gauntlet. He was adopted by the Senecas, took an Indian wife, and was eventually made a trusted chief of the Seneca tribe. He lived among them for many years, serving as interpreter in many important tribal councils and negotiations with the U.S. government. After Jones’ Indian wife died, he married Indian captive Sarah Whitmore and in 1798, in grateful recognition of his services, the Senecas persuaded New York to cede to Jones a square mile of land, where he would reside. No white man was ever more closely allied with the Senecas; nor ever knew more about Indian life, or ever left his adopted Indian homeland. Jones’ account also includes the stories of the capture of Sarah Whitmore and Jasper Parrish. A Narrative of the Captivity and Sufferings of Benjamin Gilbert and his Family reprinted from an original copy of the book that was printed in London in 1790. It’s the incredible story of the twelve members of the Gilbert family that were captured in 1780 in Eastern Pennsylvania by Indians under the leadership of Roland Montour and led on a toilsome journey northward across the rugged mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania to Ft. Niagara. They separated along the way to live with different Indian groups, eventually to be released in August of 1782 and returned to their homeland in Pennsylvania after 2½ years captivity. 

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