The meeting did not break up before there were signs of coming violence, but finally better feelings appeared to prevail and they decided to assemble again on the following morning.
In the interval Herkimer is said to have devised one of the vilest schemes that has ever been charged against a man of his rank. He selected a settler, named Joseph Waggoner, and three other trusty men as his accomplices. These persons were to assist him in a conspiracy against Brant’s life that was simply an attempt at murder. The details of the plot were furnished in a confession made afterwards by Waggoner. As the parties stood in the circle, the four accomplices were to take a cue from Herkimer and shoot the Indians down without warning. But Herkimer was reckoning without his host. Joseph Brant was far too shrewd to walk headlong into such an open snare. It is plain that he had come to suspect the intentions of his adversary. Next morning, as he stepped into the circle, he assumed a grave and dignified mien. Addressing Herkimer, he spoke in stern accents:
’I have five hundred warriors with me, armed and ready for battle. You are in my power; but as we have been friends and neighbours, I will not take advantage of you.’
As he ended, a great band of redskins advanced from the engirdling forest, and the war-whoop rent the air. Backed by his faithful warriors, the War Chief could speak in tones of authority to his foe. He did not forget to thank him for his coming, but bade him direct his steps once again towards his home on the Mohawk. Thereupon Brant turned about and strode away among the trees. Just then thick clouds blotted out the sky; a terrible storm swept in violence across the land, a fitting presage, as men thought, of the scourge of war that must now bring ruin and havoc in its wake.
FORT STANWIX AND ORISKANY
Fresh from undoing Herkimer’s ugly plot, Brant abandoned the Susquehanna and went off in the direction of Lake Ontario. A great Indian council was to be held at Oswego, and possibly he was hurrying to this meeting.
A vigorous campaign had been set on foot for the midsummer of 1777 by General Burgoyne, who was now in command of the British forces at Montreal. It was arranged that Burgoyne should strike southward with the main army until he reached the Hudson river. Meanwhile another body of troops, under Lieutenant-Colonel St Leger, would make a long detour by way of Lake Ontario and the western part of the colony of New York. The object of this latter movement was to rally the Indians, collect a force of loyalists, and fight through the heart of the country with the hope of forming a junction with Burgoyne’s army at Albany.
St Leger reached Oswego about the middle of July. There he was joined by a regiment of loyalists, the famous Royal Greens, and a company of Tory Rangers under Colonel John Butler. Brant was present with two hundred Mohawks, while a large band of Senecas were also grouped under the king’s standard. In all there were seventeen hundred men, fully one thousand of whom were Indians under the supreme command of Captain Brant.