(COLONIAL WARS.) A desperate plea for support from the survivors of the 1690 Schenectady Massacre. Unsigned manuscript letter, two 4to pages on one leaf of bifolium, with transmittal note, docket note, and address panel on other leaf; minor dampstaining and wear. Schenectady, NY, circa 1690s
Estimate $1,500 - 2,500
On 8 February 1690, an army of French Canadian soldiers, aided by Saults and Algonquins, made a night raid on the unguarded Anglo-Dutch frontier town of Schenectady, NY. Sixty men, women and children were killed in the raid, many more were taken as captives, and much of the town was burnt in one of the uglier incidents of King William's War. The few remaining survivors struggled to rebuild in the face of a continuous series of smaller raids over the next decade, while the ineffectual New York colonial government was unable to provide more fortifications and troops--the context for this heart-rending letter, which is an appeal for help extending over two densely written pages. "The enemy doth surround us on every side, murdering some of our people in a most cruel & barbarous manner. . . ., hiding himself & spying us. We are every moment in fear of our life. If we go on to plant our somer corn, so necessary to the sustaining as wel of our life, than of the life of our cattle, we are troubled walking to & from our plantations, in order to look after the fences of our fields, and even then do we run the same risque & danger of being killed or taken by surprize. . . . We can't . . . entertain the correspondence with the city of Albany but marching out by whole troops of armed men. In the meanwhile our town must be missing sufficiency of men to be defended by in case of a sudden incursion of the enemy." Efforts to befriend rival Indians have shown promise: "We prevailed so much upon 'em that now last week ago twenty of 'em went out in company of sixty men of ours to scout up and down, & we find 'em true . . . but we are not capable to gain them wholly by sufficient supplies." The inhabitants seem on the verge of retreating to safer points: "We being abandoned & left to the mercy of the cruel ennemy, we must abandon our houses and farms and our town & move to the lower parts of the province, to live in security. . . . We are ready scoffed at & despised by the Indians & they blame the government of neglecting us." The letter begins with a note that it is from "the subscribed freeholders & inhabitants of . . . Schenectady," but it is not signed. It has a transmittal note in Dutch, and is addressed to Major John Alexander Glen of nearby Scotia, who figured prominently in the 1690 massacre. It is possibly a transcript which was forwarded to Glen's attention. The letter is apparently unpublished, and would seem to be an important document in Schenectady's grim post-massacre history.