MOHAWK - Discovering the Valley of the Crystals Copyright 2002
Chapter Five - Iroquois
Battle of Wolf Hollow - 1669
Mohawk Valley history is replete with attacks and battles during the French & Indian War and the Revolutionary War, but little is written about the Mohawk-Mahican Wars. One of the battles of that war---in fact the last great battle---took place at the upper end of a ravine, some six miles east of Amsterdam, now called Wolf Hollow.
Throughout much of their history the Mohawks were in conflict with their eastern neighbors. Although relatively small in numbers, they dominated the Algonquain tribes in the northern Hudson Valley and in southern New England. Primary among their eastern enemies were the Mahicans (also spelled Mohicans). When the Dutch sailed up the Hudson in 1609 it was the Mahicans that greeted them.
In an effort to dominate trade with the Dutch and later with the British the Mohawks fought many battles with the Mahicans and their allies. (The Mohegans were a small tribe in coastal Connecticut that was not involved in this conflict.)
Just 60 years after the Dutch came on the scene with iron axes, beads, copper pots . . . and firearms, a large war party of Algonquains from New England, including Mohicans, attacked the easternmost Mohawk Castle at Caughnawaga (near present day Fonda). There are a number of accounts of this attack and subsequent battle. One of the most quoted is that of Jesuit Missionary, Father Jean Pierron who was living among the Mohawks at the time. He refers to the Algonquains as Loups and the Mohawks as Iroquois or Agnies.
"On the eighteenth of August 1669, three hundred of the Nation of the Loups---who live by the Sea, toward Baston (Boston), in New England---presented themselves at daybreak before the Palisade, and began to make so furious a discharge of musketry that the balls, piercing both the stockade and the cabins, soon awakened men, women and children, almost all of whom were, at the time, sound asleep. The men at once took gun and hatchet in hand; and, while they defended the palisade, the women began, some to make bullets, and others to arm themselves with knives and defensive weapons, in view of an irruption.
"Four Iroquois were killed at the outset, in the heat of the combat; and two were wounded, one of whom died a very short time afterward."
The last great battle took place at the upper end of Wolf Hollow.After a two-hour battle the Algonquains withdrew and headed east on foot. Runners reported the attack to the other Mohawk villages, and a large party of warriors gathered at Caughnawaga to pursue the enemy. They caught up to them by canoeing downriver some 17 miles. During the night Mohawk scouts located the Algonquain encampment on high ground west of Wolf Hollow.
"When the spies returned, and had made their report on the situation of the enemy, it was resolved not to attack him in his redoubt, where he seemed too strongly entrenched; but to lay ambuscade for him, on the route that it was thought he must take. To execute this plan, the Iroquois made a wide detour, and went to lay their ambuscade in a place that was precipitous---a very dangerous spot, from which all the road leading toward the Dutch was commanded. In the morning the Loups broke camp; and, as they were marching single file, according to the custom of the Savages, twelve of their number became involved unawares in the ambuscade. A shower of balls, with which they saw themselves all at once received, immediately put to flight those whom chance had spared. Frightful yells at once arose on all sides in the forest, and the Loups, having rallied on the same spot where they had encamped, were hotly pursued thither by the Iroquois---who, upon overtaking them there, made a furious assault upon them. At first the Loups made a vigorous resistance; but the cowardice of some of their number forcing them to yield to the fury of the Iroquois, ten from out the entire band intrenched themselves in the earth, in order to defend themselves to the last. This new intrenchment caused our Agnies terrible vexation; but, as they are a tireless and valiant people, they lost neither courage nor the hope of dislodging them. And, in order to do it with less danger, they made use of an old tree that they found there, which they carried before them, to shield themselves,---which they could do, going up only one by one to the place where the enemy had fortified himself. Nevertheless, that manoeuver was of no use to them,---for, in spite of this device, the Loups ceased not to keep up an active fire on them from all sides, and to kill and wound a great many of our people; and the combat would assuredly have been more disastrous to them, had not night overtaken them, and put an end to it. Our Savages had, in the beginning, taken four women of the enemy, out of twenty-four who had come on this expedition; and afterward six men, in the heat of combat.
"On the following morning, when they returned to the charge, they found that the enemy had taken flight in the night and had left them masters of the battle-field. The victors, following the custom of the Savages, cut off the heads of the Loups who had been left on the place, in order to remove the scalps from them; and then they took care to bury those of their own people that had died in the battle.
"It was said that there were nearly a hundred Warriors, on the side of the enemy, that perished---by being either slain in the engagement, or drowned in the flight. Yet I found it difficult to believe that their number was so great, because the Iroquois brought back only nineteen scalps from that defeat.
"A short time ago, I learned from some Loups who had been in this combat, that they had lost only fifty men; and the Iroquois nearly forty, counting those that the Loups killed,---on their march before the siege of the Iroquois village, in the siege, and in the fight that occurred some days later. Nevertheless, the Iroquois hold that they lost only thirteen on the battle-field."
And so ended the final battle of the Mohawks and their eastern neighbors. I have yet to discover if the name Wolf Hollow originates with the French word Loups (Wolves).
When you drive up Hoffman Hill Road, park near the Wolf Hollow historical marker and listen for the "frightful yells . . . in the forest."
For more information see: In Mohawk Country - Snow, Gehring & Starna - 1996; The Mohicans and Their Land 1609-1730 - Dunn - 1994, and The Iroquois - Dean R. Snow 1994.
Another source of information on the battle can be found at: http://www.rootsweb.com/~nyfulton/Turnpike/Scotia.html
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