Published on February 10, 2013 by Carol
Once the British pulled back to their lines at Kingsbridge, local residents went through the battlefield looking for survivors. Several of the wounded soldiers were taken to the houses of Frederick and Daniel DeVoe, where they were tended to. One Stockbridge was severely wounded in the face, having one side of his face cleaved down by a sword cut almost to his chin. He was nursed for several weeks and was finally able to return home, but with a “frightfully” disfigured face (Thomas F. DeVoe, 1880, p. 194.).
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Several days after the battle, local residents noticed their dogs acting very strangely. Suspicious as to the cause of the dogs’ behavior, the owners followed them one day. Down the hill from the battlefield, they found a grisly scene; old Chief Nimham’s remains had been nearly devoured by the dogs, along with the bodies of several other Indians. These remains were brought up the hill and interred with the other Stockbridge dead of the battle; all were buried in a plot known as Indian Field, and stones were placed over their graves; not as a monument to their memories, but to prevent further desecration by animals. One local historian wrote that eighteen Stockbridges (and other Native American warriors) are buried at Indian Field (Stephen Jenkins, The Story of the Bronx, 1912, p. 303.)
In 1880, just one hundred and two years after the battle, a local resident wrote an account of the Stockbridge Indian Massacre. At that time, the Van Cortlandt family still owned the grounds of the ancient manor estate. The author of the article was Thomas F. DeVoe, a descendant of the DeVoe families on whose farm the battle was fought. Mr. DeVoe’s personal account of the battlefield as it appeared during his lifetime is worth retelling.
Late one pleasant afternoon, two persons were leisurely walking up the road, which was then known as the New Road, although it was publicly opened soon after the year 1800. Before that period it was a lane, used by several farmers on its line, and at its entrance from the old Mile Square Road – about one- quarter of a mile south of the scene of the incidents of my story – were set up “posts and bars,” which closed it from the public.
The elder of these two persons was a lady, some 65 years of age; the other, the writer of these lines, a stout lad of about 14 years – her grandson – of an inquiring turn of mind, whose numerous questions somewhat annoyed the ancient dame; in fact, his tongue was more active than all other members of his body, and while passing on towards the spot I refer to – then an opening in the woods – she told him the reason why it became known as the “Indian Field,” and related many interesting incidents connected with the terrible massacre of the friendly Indians, which the lad had often heard talked about from his early youth.
At the period spoken of , the cleared opening, Iying on the left-hand side of the road, was almost square, containing two or three acres of land, and was surrounded on three sides by large trees, and a dense wood, covering several hundred acres, known as “Cortlandt’s Woods”…The soil, of this open space, was of a light and loamy nature, though l well remember to have seen grain growing upon it during several seasons, and it was also a famous place for wild strawberries, as were also the fields on the high grounds on the easterly side of the road, which were formerly known as the Battle Field on “DeVeaux’s Heights.”
The old lady, spoken of before, was at the time of the conflict a young woman of eighteen. She, with several others of the family, the next day visited a portion of the grounds where this butchery took place…here she saw a great many dead Indians…
Fortunately for history, Mr. DeVoe drew a map of the grounds which he described. With that map, present-day visitors to the very same spot can easily detect the burial place of these Stockbridge Indians. Between Mr. DeVoe’s article of 1880, and the next published account of the affair in 1912, many changes occurred to “Cortlandt’s Woods.” Urban expansion had arrived to the Bronx/Yonkers border. The Valentine property became Woodlawn Cemetery, Mile Square Road changed names several times (to present-day Van Cortlandt Park East), the sloping hills east and north of the road were subdivided and prepared for housing development. In 1888 the old manor was preserved as a vast park in an expanding New York City. The New Road described by DeVoe in 1880 was Oneida Ave. in the Bronx and Old Jerome Ave. at its intersection with the Yankers border. It still exists in Van Cortlandt Park; although now just a pathway through Cortlandt’s Woods, the modem visitor can easily trace the stone walls that border the lane. Was it stone walls like these that Simcoe referred to in describing Tarleton’s inability to cross the fences along Mile Square Road?