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Historic Furnishing Study

Situated in the midst of the Iroquois Confederacy, Fort Stanwix was literally at the crossroads of Indian traffic. Treaties were made there and Indians frequently visited. General Schuyler worked incessantly to improve relations with the Irioquois, and he used Fort Stanwix as his base of operations. He attached considerable importance to having goods for the Indians, either for purchase or gifts, a precedent long ago established by the British. He took special pains to see that all his posts in the Northern Department, especially Fort Stanwix, were adequately supplied with goods for this purpose. In 1776 Schuyler wrote to Congress that:

I should order to the value of about fifteen hundred pounds in Indian goods to Fort Stanwix to be there disposed of at such a price as to give no umbrage to the Indians and that the States may not lose above four hundred pounds upon them. . . . [1]

In January 1777, Schuyler ordered Colonel Elmore to purchase 20 pounds of goods as gifts for the Indians. Fifteen months later the Board of Indian Commissioners for Indian Affairs at Albany sent a quantity of goods to Fort Stanwix, also to be used as gifts for the Indians. Meanwhile, members of the garrison were warned not to purchase these goods from the Indians on pain of being punished. [2]

So significant was this activity at Fort Stanwix that in December 1776 John Hansen, the commissary at the fort, requested Colonel Elmore to set aside a room for Indian goods. The room he received adjoined the one in which he resided. His plans were to connect the two rooms by means of a doorway so that there would be only one door from the outside leading to both rooms. Apparently he decided upon this plan in order to have better control over the supply in his charge. Hansen immediately sent word to Reverend Kirkland, who was both chaplain to the garrison at Fort Stanwix and missionary among the Indians, to pass on to the friendly Oneidas that he had received large quantities of supplies for them. [3]

From the sources on hand it is difficult to identify all the supplies available to the Indians, but rum was a major item. One Officer in Colonel Dayton's regiment said that "Rum is an Article we are obliged to give them [viz Indians] & many of them cannot be pacified till quite drunk." [4]

Next to rum, clothing and blankets were also widely sought by the Indians, particularly during the cold weather. General Schuyler told Congress that there were Indians in Albany who complained constantly because of lack of clothing and blankets. Schuyler said with some despair that "To transact Business with Indians at any Time is a most disagreeable Task. To do it with empty hands greatly increases the Difficulties." [5]

Schuyler sought assistance from every quarter in obtaining Indian supplies, and in 1777 he requested blankets, blue strands, vermillion, knives, long and short pipes, and coarse white linen for shirts from Boston through an agent of Congress. Some of these items were destined for Fort Stanwix. [6] Other items provided the Indians at Fort Stanwix were bread and beef. [7] No doubt there were other provisions.

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Last Updated: 26-Dec-2008