The Schoharie Uprising and the Battle of the Flockey

Continued from The Battle of Oriskany - August 6th, 1777.

As the British plan for the invasion of New York to divide New England from the rest of the colonies was coming together, there was much activity in the Schoharie Valley that would have a direct bearing on the future of the Brown family.

With the departure of the Royal Governor of New York and the dissolution of the New York Provincial Assembly, there was a void in civil government. Districts not under direct British control organized Committees of Correspondence, Safety and Protection under the Continental Congress.

Their primary task was to organize and supervise the security and defense of their districts, with a specific focus on identifying and active or sympathetic Loyalists, who were closely monitored and often subject to arrest, loss of property, imprisonment or even hanging.

John Brown was among the Schoharie Valley Loyalists, having “declared in favor of [the] British Govt. from first,” as he would later write. John’s father Adam had been among the early settlers of Fulton, just south of Middleburg, along with the Vrooman, Chrysler, Bouck, and other families. Upon coming of age, John had purchased 200 acres the Schoharie Creek from George Mann for £185 and married Magdalena Zeh in 1770. Their third daughter, Catharine, was born in April 1777 in the midst of great uncertainty.

John’s neighbor and cousin was Adam Chrysler, a prosperous farmer and  mill owner. In 1760, Chrysler had married John’s stepmother, Anna Maria (Hofer) Brown, who had been widowed by John’s father Adam, and become the stepfather of John’s two half-brothers Adam and Joseph.

The Brown and Chrysler families had ties going back to Germany and had immigrated to New York together. John Brown and Adam Chrysler lived across the river from Bouck Island, settled by the Bouck family, and the three families intermarried over a number of generations. They regarded each other, in the German tradition, as “cousin families”.

Facing persecution and emboldened by both the impending British invasion and Joseph Brant, whose raids already terrorized the frontier Patriots, the Schoharie Valley Loyalist sprung into action. Chrysler began recruiting local Loyalists in March of 1777. He wrote in his journal, “I thought it was my duty to get as many men and Indians for Government as laid in my power.”

An Ensign in the British Indian Affairs Department under Joseph Brant, Chrysler was in contact with Brant and in June he "received a letter from Brant who desired me to remain at Schohary in readiness until he came to me." By then, Chrysler’s force numbered 25 Mohawks and 70 Loyalists, including John Brown and his older brother Michael, their half-brothers Adam and Joseph, and several Boucks.

Brant met with old friend and neighbor Nicholas Herkimer, who sought to diffuse the situation, but quickly discovered that Brant was resolved to side with the British and could not be swayed. Militia Colonel John Harper accompanied General Herkimer to the meeting and reported back to the Committee of Safety that trouble was inevitable and that they should begin to prepare for attack.

Mann's Tavern as it appears today.

On August 7th, the Patirot Schoharie Militia mustered under Captain George Mann at his tavern to prepare their defense. The next day, Mann shocked everyone by declaring himself a "friend of King George." He delivered an impassioned speech about the propriety of going over to the British, who were close to invading the county. Some of his men followed, and those who didn’t were so demoralized by Mann’s declaration, and the devastating news of the Battle of Oriskany, that they did not take up arms against him. The only troops still willing to fight were 20 men trapped in Johannes Becker's stone house near Middleburgh, which would come to be known as "Fort Defiance" or Middle Fort.

At the same time,  Loyalist John McDonnell arrived with 28 men from the Charlotte Creek settlements and joined Chrysler. They seized the south end of the Valley while Mann controlled the north. As planned, the Loyalists now controlled the Schoharie Valley and awaited the arrival of Brant and Lieutenant Colonel Barry St. Leger from Fort Stanwix.

Facing overwhelming odds, Col. Harper made a bold escape. He slipped through the Loyalist lines to Albany and returned with reinforcements, a 28 man cavalry from the 2nd Continental Light Horse. They launched a surprise raid on Mann’s Tavern and rounded up the Loyalists stationed there. From there, Harper marched south to Fort Defiance leading the cavalry, his own small company of rangers, and members of the Schoharie Militia who rallied around him.

Middle Fort, or "Fort Defiance" by R.L. Adams from a sketch by R.A. Grider

Word of Harper soon reached Adam Chrysler, who wrote, “... we were informed that the rebels had got reinforcements and thought it proper to retreat until we saw a convenient place to make a stand, which was at my house. From whence I detached thirty-five (35) men to intercept the Rebels at Breakabeen, if they should take that route.”

The Loyalists had retreated to Chrysler's farm near a low floodplain referred to by the Germans as “Die Flache” or the Flats. There they ambushed Harper's force, killing a lieutenant and wounding several others.

The Patriots rallied. The Light Horse charged and Chrysler and McDonnell's force took up a defensive position in the woods. Chrysler wrote, “By this time, there was such a great shower of rain that we could not pursue them, and our men were in two divisions. I was informed they were 400 strong, so we retreated back in the woods."

Cavalry charge at the Battle of the Flockey by Scott Patterson, 2001

They also soon learned that at Fort Stanwix, St. Leger had decided not to advance on the Mohawk Valley, much to the chagrin of Joseph Brant. With his force divided and believing he faced overwhelming numbers with no hope of reinforcements, Chrysler had no choice but to disband his force and depart. Over time, the conflict at “Die Flache” became know as “The Battle of the Flockey” and is now regarded as the first cavalry charge of the United States Army.

The Loyalists, however, would not give up. The uprising was the beginning of a long and brutal struggle in and around the Schoharie Valley. The “notorious Adam Crysler” went to Fort Niagara where he would join Butler’s Rangers with whom he become infamous for his recurring raids. 

An interpretation of the Butler's Rangers uniform by G. Dittrick

Many followed Chrysler to Fort Niagara and likewise became Rangers. Adam Brown joined Joseph Brant’s Volunteers for a time and would eventually face charges by the Albany Committee of Safety before joining Butler’s Rangers with brother Joseph.

Other Loyalists returned home after the uprising. Among them were John and Michael Brown, who elected to say, perhaps because both had young children at home. Michael would die some time before 1781 when his widow Sophia was remarried to Nicholas Zeh.

John Brown remained in Schoharie for a number of years until, “He was so persecuted he could stay no longer. He was ordered to quit the country by the Rebels as being a Tory.” John went to Fort Niagara in 1781 and served with Butler’s Rangers for the duration of the war.