The next occurrences in Brant’s life are even more deplorable than those narrated in the preceding chapter. The Cherry Valley episode can only be regarded as a sad instance of what the use of Indian allies sometimes involved. A peaceful farming district was devastated; peasants were plundered and slain. It is true that some of them were in arms against British rule, but as a whole they were quietly engaged in farming operations, striving to build up homes for themselves on the outskirts of civilization. In this work of devastation and death Brant was only second in command; the leader was a white man and a British officer. But neither Brant nor Butler, who commanded the expedition, was able to restrain the cruelty and ferocity of the Indian warriors until much havoc had been wrought.
A haze was now brooding over the Susquehanna, and the autumn leaves were being tinged with red. The struggle of the year 1778 seemed over and Brant decided to spend the winter at Niagara. Accordingly he set out with a band of warriors from his entrenched position at Unadilla and went forward by easy stages along the old and well-beaten Indian trail leading towards Lake Ontario. He had proceeded well on his way when, to his surprise, a party of former allies crossed his path in the forest. Led by Captain Walter N. Butler, a son of Colonel John Butler, the victorious leader at Wyoming, a body of the Tory Rangers who had been with Brant at Oriskany were going eastward. In 1777 their youthful officer had suffered harsh imprisonment among the enemy, and, burning for vengeance, he was making a late-season tramp into the rebels’ country. He had asked for a number of his father’s rangers, and his request had been granted. He was also allowed the privilege of taking Brant along with him, should the chieftain be found willing to join his force.
On meeting with Brant so opportunely by the way, he gave him an outline of the measures of retaliation which he proposed to adopt. As the scheme was unfolded, the war-scarred chief of the Mohawks saw that he was meant to serve under this youth of small experience. Brant was ready for almost any work that might be of service to his king, but he was at first reluctant to serve under Butler. The situation between the two leaders became strained, but at last Brant gave in; their differences were patched up, and the two men came to friendly terms. Orders were issued by Brant to his motley throng of redskins, and five hundred of them reversed their march. The united contingent of seven hundred men first headed for the banks of the Tioga river, one of the branches of the Susquehanna. Here a conference was held, and it was agreed that they should make a combined attack upon the settlers of Cherry Valley. To Butler this was more than pleasing, eager as he was to pay off what he considered a heavy score.