Chapter XIV
Samuel Brady's Revenge


General Washington excused the appointment of Colonel Brodhead to the command of the Western Department. on the plea that no important operations were to be undertaken in that quarter. Brodhead did not understand the- '! matter in that light. He had his own ideas about the defense of the frontier and proceeded actively to put them into execution; and although not much was expected of him,, he proved to be the most vigorous and the most successful in punishing the savages among all the commanders at Fort Pitt during the Revolution, including his two successors as. well as two predecessors.

In the beginning of April, 1779, McIntosh transferred to Brodhead 722 men, regulars and militia.(1) Most of theseo troops were at Forts Pitt and McIntosh, but small parties garrisoned Fort Henry, at Wheeling; Fort Randolph, at Point Pleasant, and Fort Hand, near the Kiskiminetas, three and a half miles southwest of the site of Apollo. About the middle of April, Lieutenant Lawrence Harrison, formerly one of Gibson's Lambs, but now connected with the Thirteenth Virginia, was sent to occupy Fort Crawford, a. small stockade built by Colonel William Crawford at Parnassus, during the preceding summer. Forts Hand and Crawford were intended to protect the northern border of -Westmoreland county from the raids of the Iroquois who lived on the upper waters of the Allegheny river, but they were not altogether effective.

With the first mild weather of spring the incursions of the savages began. The Senecas and Muncys descended the Allegheny in canoes until within striking distance of the Westmoreland settlements, hid their canoes in the thickets and scattered in little bands through the country. They burned cabins, killed and scalped the men, carried off the women, children and household goods, regained their canoes and ascended the river before they could be overtaken by the soldiers or aroused settlers. It was almost impossible for regular troops to accomplish anything in this kind of predatory warfare. The movements of the Indians were secret and swift. Except when snow was on the ground, they usually left no trail that could be followed save by the most experienced woodsman. The spring and early summer of 1779 present a terrible record of Indian depredations on the border, and the northern portion of Westmoreland county, between the Forbes road (nearly the present line of the Pennsylvania railroad) and the Kiskiminetas river, was almost depopulated.

Brodhead put into operation a system of scouting along the border, from one fort to another, and from the regulars at Fort Pitt he organized a number of ranging bands, composed of the boldest and most experienced frontiersmen, whom he sent on extended tours into the forests. To command these ranging parties he selected three of the bravest and keenest woodsmen in the Eighth Pennsylvania, Captain Van Swearingen, Lieutenant Samuel Brady and Lieutenant John Hardin. It was in this work that Brady won fame as an Indian fighter and killer.

Daniel Boone said, in his elder days, that, while he had fought Indians for many years, he did not know positively that he had ever killed one. Such was not the case with Samuel Brady. His hatred of the red men was personal and he made it his business to kill them. He had abundant justification. The cruel death of his brother, in August, 1778, was followed by the killing of his father, Captain John Brady, on April i 1, 1779. Captain Brady was conveying supplies from Fort Wallis to Muncy, on the west branch of the Susquehanna, when he was shot dead from his horse by three Iroquois Indians secreted in a thicket. His body was recovered unscalped and was buried at Muncy, where a handsome monument was erected by public subscription in 1879.(2) Samuel Brady received news of his father's death about the time he was chosen by Brodhead as a forest ranger. It swelled his hatred of the Indian race, gave him additional eagerness on the warpath and nerved his arm to execute vengeance.

Only a brief review is possible of the Indian depredations in Westmoreland county in that terrible spring of 1779. On April 15 Colonel Brodhead wrote to a friend in the East, "The Indians are daily committing murders in Westmoreland to such a degree that it is apprehended they have formed a camp on some of the waste lands of the inhabitants." Toward the end of April a strong band of Iroquois entered the Ligonier settlement, slaughtered cattle and hogs, killed one man and carried two families into captivity.(3)

It was probably the same band, estimated to be ioo strong and accompanied by several tories, that attacked Fort Hand on April 26. The garrison consisted of 17 men, under Captain Samuel Moorhead and Lieutenant William Jack. About i o'clock in the afternoon the savages fired from the woods at two ploughmen, who escaped unharmed into the stockade. The team of horses and the yoke of oxen with which they were working were killed by the Indians, who then spread around the place and shot down all the domestic animals in sight. The savages hid behind stumps, fences and sheds and opened fire on the fort, which was returned with vigor by the garrison. Several women within the stockade molded bullets for the riflemen, and the firing kept up briskly until nightfall. Three members of the garrison were wounded and one of them died a few days later. He was Sergeant Philip McGraw, who occupied a sentry box in a corner bastion. A bullet entered a narrow porthole, and after McGraw had been shot and removed, a man of the name of McCauley was wounded in the same manner.

During the night the Indians continued to whoop and shoot at the stockade. They mimicked the sentinel's cry, "All's well" About midnight the savages set fire to John McKibben's large log house not far from the fort, and as the flames poured upward and illuminated the stockade, the tories among the Indians cried, "Is all well now There was but little wind and the fire did not spread. In the morning the savages were still about the fort, but during the forenoon they gave up the siege and went away to the northward. During the night a messenger had been sent out and he made his way to Fort Pitt for aid. Forty soldiers were hurried to Fort Hand, but they were too late to intercept the marauders.(4)

During May Brodhead kept his scouts out along the upper Allegheny, to give warning of the approach of any other hostile bands, and he was employing every exertion to prepare for an expedition into the Seneca country. He was much hampered by the lack of supplies, which came with painful slowness over the mountain roads from the East. For many days his men were without meat. Flour was bought only at a high price. The soldiers were clothed in rags and many were without shoes. They learned to make Indian moccasins, and Brady and his scouts were clad almost entirely in the Indian fashion. On all their forest excursions they painted their bodies and faces as the savages did, wore feathers in their long hair and were to be distinguished only by close scrutiny from the red men whom they hunted. They were accompanied by a few Delaware warriors, who rendered excellent service in trailing the Seneca war parties. A young Delaware chief, Nanowland, took an especial fancy to Brady and was with him so constantly as to become known as Brady's "Pet Indian."

About the first of June Brodhead was informed that a. large band of Seneca Indians and tories, under Colonel John Butler, was preparing to descend the Allegheny river and ravage the settlements. He sent three scouts in a canoe up the Allegheny as far as Venango (the present Franklin). There they were discovered by a party of hostile Indians, who pursued them in canoes almost to the mouth of the Kiskiminetas. The scouts had a narrow escape and the news they brought to Fort Pitt satisfied Brodhead that the threatened invasion was at hand.

The savages were not as numerous, however, as was supposed. There were but seven of them. They hid their canoes on the Allegheny and penetrated into Westmoreland county between Fort Hand and Fort Crawford. There they encountered a solitary soldier, and left him dead and scalped in the woods. They surprised the little settlement at James Perry's mill, on Big Sewickley creek, killed a woman and four children and carried off two children, half a dozen horses, blankets, jewelry and articles of female raiment(5)

When the news of this raid reached Fort Pitt two parties were sent out after the Indians. One considerable company marched to the Sewickley settlement and attempted from there to follow the Indian trail. The other band, consisting of 20 men under Brady, all painted and dressed like Indians, ascended the Allegheny river. Brady was satisfied that the marauders came from the north and would return in that direction, regain their hidden canoes and seek to escape by water. His experience told him that the surest way to cut them off would be to make a rapid march up the stream. His men kept a sharp lookout for the Indian canoes and toward an evening found them drawn up amid shrubbery, on the beach within the mouth of one of the large creeks entering the Allegheny from the east. The authorities differ as to the identity of this creek. McCabe, who compiled a series of traditions concerning Brady's exploits, says that it was the Big Mahoning. Colonel Brodhead, in his contemporary report to General Washington, says that it was "about 15 miles above Kittanning." This agrees with the location of Red Bank creek, and would make the scene of Brady's adventure not far from the place since called Brady's Bend.

The Indians had gone into camp in the woods, on a little knoll north of the creek, and were preparing their evening meal when discovered by Brady. They had hobbled the stolen horses and turned them out to graze on the meadow between their camp and the creek. This stream was very high and the scouts were compelled to ascend it two miles before they were able to wade across.

After nightfall Brady and his men stealthily descended the northern side of the creek until they were near the Indian camp, and hid themselves in the tall grass of the meadow. Crawling on their stomachs, they approached closer and closer to the hill where the Indians and their prisoners were sleeping around the campfire. They were much annoyed by the horses in the meadow, which threatened to -betray the presence of the strange creatures in the grass, but the animals were probably too weary with their long journey of the day to make any demonstrations of alarm.

Brady and Nanowland, laying aside their tomahawks, knives, powder horns and bullet pouches, crept to within a few yards of the Indian camp, to count the savages and ascertain the position of the captive children. One of the Indian warriors suddenly cast off his blanket, arose, stepped forth to within six feet of where Brady lay, stood there awhile, stretched himself and then returned to his slumber. Brady and Nanowland then crawled silently back to their companions and prepared for an attack at daybreak.

The whole party of scouts made their way amid the grass and bushes as near the Indian camp as was considered safe, and lay awaiting the dawn. By and by, as morning began to come, one Indian awoke and aroused the others. They stood about the fire, laughing and chatting, when a deadly volley blazed forth from the adjacent bushes. The chief of the seven Indians fell dead and the others fled almost naked into the dense forest, two of them being severely wounded. Brady's own rifle brought down the Indian captain, and, with a shout of almost fiendish triumph, Brady sprang forward and scalped the fallen chief. The traditions of the Brady family say that this chief was the very Indian, Bald Eagle, who had struck down and scalped Brady's younger brother on the Susquehanna ten months before. Brodhead informed Washington that he was "a notorious warrior of the Muncy nation."

The two wounded Indians were trailed for some distance by the drops of blood on the ground, but they quickly staunched their wounds with leaves and were lost in the dense thickets. Nanowland uttered the cry of a young wolf, the peculiar call of the Muncys, and it was twice answered by the fugitives; but further calls brought no response and the wounded savages could not be found. Three weeks later Brady was in the same neighborhood and observed a flock of crows hovering about a thicket. On searching there, he found the partially devoured body of an Indian.(6)

The children captured at Sewickley were recovered unharmed and Brady and his men returned to Fort Pitt with the stolen horses and plunder, the blankets, guns, tomahawks and knives of the savages. The punishment of this Indianband was so severe that not another inroadwas made by the northern savages into Westmoreland county during that year.

1 Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, vol. all., p. 108; Frontler-Forts, vol. it., p. 827.

2 Meginness's History of the West Branch; Notes and Queries, vol. L, p. 123.

3 Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, vol. vii., p. 845.

4 Washington-Irvine Correspondence, p. 39; Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, vol. vil., p. 882; Frontier Forts, vol. Ii, p. 328.

5 Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, vol. vii., p. 6O5.

6 Pennsylvania Archives, First Series, vol. xii., p. 131; Washington--Irvine Correspondence, p. 41; Hist. Coll. of Pa., p. 99.

SOURCE:  Page(s) 88-97: Old Westmoreland, A History of Western Pennsylvania During the Revolution by Edgar W. Hassler, J.R. Weldon & Co, Pittsburgh, 1900

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