Published on February 8, 2013 by Carol
Beginning with King William’s war of the 1690s, England and France engaged in an on-going struggle for supremacy in North America. During the 1740s, and again in the French and Indian War of 1755-63, Mohicans played a vital role as scouts and rangers on the frontier between Canada and up-state New York. Their service is immortalized in the books (and films), Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper and in Northwest Passage by Kenneth Roberts. While Cooper imbued his Mohicans as the archetypal Noble Savage, doomed by the destiny of Europeans to sweep across America, Roberts portrays the Indian members of Rogers Rangers as drunken lackeys of the great white frontiersman. Both of these images are caricatures of the real role played by these Americans. Stockbridge warriors served in most of the campaigns between Lake George and Canada, fought alongside their Iroquois neighbors under Sir William Johnson against the French, and even participated with the English in putting down Pontiac’s Rebellion in the 1760s.
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For the young men of the Mohican and allied tribes, serving as soldiers was an expression of their traditional role as warriors for their people. While military service was appealing, its consequences had the accumulative effect of weakening the tribe. Death by bullet was compounded by death by disease, particularly in the cramped, sickly military camps of the 18th century. Smallpox, dysentery, measles, etc., all diminished the strength of the people. With each passing year, the number of the Stockbridges gradually declined.
While fighting for the King, and living with his colonial subjects, the Stockbridges (which became their new identification) continued to struggle to maintain their cultural and tribal identity. Other area Mohicans moved to Moravian communities in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and still others resided with regional tribes in the northeast and midwest. Wherever the Mohicans traveled however, all paid homage to Stockbridge and considered that community as their capital.
Service to the United States
The tensions between the colonials in North American and the Mother Country caught Native Americans in an awkward position. While those tribes who lived on the frontier of the Ohio Valley and the Southeast mostly sided with the English, many eastern tribes fought along side their American neighbors against the King. Even the Iroquois Confederacy was split apart by the war; the Mohawk, Seneca and Cayuga eventually allied themselves with the British, while the Oneida and Tuscarora chose to support the movement for independence.
The Stockbridges sided early with the Patriots. The young men of the community, Indian, white and black served in local companies formed into militia, state and Continental regiments. In addition to playing an active role in the military history of the Revolution, the Stockbridge Mohicans played a vital role in diplomacy with their Algonquin brethren, notably the Delaware and Shawnees, on toe frontier. The American government utilized the Mohicans as liaisons with their western relations in an attempt to keep the frontier free from the raids and bloodshed that all too frequently accompanied warfare on the fringes of colonial settlement.
John Sergeant, Jr., son of one of the first missionaries at Stockbridge, wrote to Congress in November, 1776: