On the evening of the day of carnage the prisoners were led down the valley to the loyalist encampment, several miles to the south of the fort. Fires had been lighted on every side, and within the extensive range of these fires the luckless captives were corralled for the night. But the air was chill, and many who were clothed in scanty fashion passed the hours of darkness in helpless agony on the cold, bare ground. During the night the shrill cries of the Indians, as they gloated over the scene of their triumph, resounded through the forest. The spoils were divided among the raiders, and with the dawning of another day they set out in the direction of Niagara.
The captives were separated into small parties, and apportioned among the different sections of the force. They had expected little mercy from the victors, but to their surprise clemency was shown to them. Butler had now succeeded in reasserting his authority on their behalf. As the marching bands came to a standstill, they were collected together and the women and children were released. Only the wives of two colonial officers with their families were held captive and carried away into the western forests. In Cherry Valley heaps of smoking debris were all that remained. Groups of redskins still hovered about the unhappy village until, on the following day, they saw that an enemy was approaching. A body of militia had come from the Mohawk river, but they were too late; the savages, avoiding an encounter, departed, and the scene was one of havoc and desolation. As one chronicler has written: ’The cocks crowed from the tops of the forest trees, and the dogs howled through the fields and woods.’
MINISINK AND THE CHEMUNG RIVER
Brant now proceeded to the loyalist rendezvous at Niagara, but his restless spirit would not allow him to remain idle. He was soon intent on forwarding a design of far-reaching import, in the prosecution of which he hoped to receive the assistance of the western tribes. He held intercourse with the Delawares and the Shawnees, and planned a joint campaign with them to take place during the winter months. The Western Indians were to make an attack on the borders of Virginia, while he would lead an expedition into the heart of the colony of New York. This bold enterprise, however, was fated to miscarry. Word came that Governor Hamilton, the British commander of Fort Detroit, had been overpowered by Colonel George Clark, in February, on the Wabash river. Hamilton, who had captured Fort Vincennes there, had for some time been endeavouring to interest the western tribes in the British cause; but, on July 5, 1778, Clark had captured the town of Kaskaskia in the Illinois country, and, after a forced march from that place to the Wabash with his Virginia militia, had appeared at Fort Vincennes and compelled Hamilton to surrender. The blow was a severe one and robbed the western tribes of their courage; they were so discomfited, indeed, that they would not venture into the country of the enemy. Balked in his purpose, Brant was forced to remain inactive at headquarters.