Scalp Bounty
Francis Whiting Halsey

In December, 1781, with the record not yet complete, it was estimated that in Tryon County 700 buildings had been burned, 613 persons had deserted, and 354 families had abandoned their dwellings. The number of farms that lay uncultivated was placed at 12,000. Governor Clinton estimated that the wheat destroyed would amount to 150,000 bushels. Tryon County had lost two-thirds of its inhabitants. Of those who remained 380 were widows and 2,000 were fatherless children.

A collection of grim and curious souvenirs of this warfare was long supposed to have been captured and taken to Albany early in the spring of 1782. Along with a mass of peltry were said to have been found eight large packages containing scalps, "taken in the last three years by the Seneca Indians from the inhabitants of the frontiers of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia." The scalps, "cured, dried, hooped, and painted with all the Indian triumphal marks," had been designed for shipment from Tioga Point in January of the same year to Sir Frederick Haldimand, Governor of Canada, who was asked to tramsimt them "over the water to the Great King, that he may regard them and be refreshed, and that he may see our faithfulness in destroying his enemies and be convinced that his presents have not been made to ungrateful people."

The letter to Sir Frederick Haldimand added that "the Great King's enemies are many, and they grow fast in number. They were formerly like young panthers; they could neither bite nor scratch; we could play with them safely; we feared nothing they could do to us. But now their bodies are become big as the elk and strong as the buffalo; they have also got great and sharp claws. They have driven us out of our country by [our] taking part in your quarrel. We expect the Great King will give us another country that our children may live after us and be his friends and children as we are. We are poor and you have plenty of everything. We know you will send us powder and guns and knives and hatchets; but we also want shirts and blankets."

An invoice and description of the scalps were given in which appears the following: "No. 1. Containing 43 scalps of Congress soldiers killed in different skirmishes; these are stretched on black hoops, four inch diameter; the inside of the skin painted red with a small black spot to note their being killed with bullets. Also sixty-two farmers, killed in their houses; the hoops red, the skin painted brown and marked with a hoe; a black circle all round to denote their being surprised in the night; and a black hatchet in the middle signifying their being killed with that weapon. No. 2. Containing 98 of farmers killed in their houses; hoops red; figure of a hoe to mark their profession; great white circle and sun, to show they were surprised in the daytime; a little red foot to show they stood upon their defence, and died fighting for their lives and families. No. 5. Containing 88 scalps of women; hair long, braided in the Indian fashion, to show they were mothers; hoops blue; skin yellow ground, with little red tadpoles, to represent, by way of triumph, the tears of grief occassioned to their relations; a black scalping-knife or hatchet at the bottom, to mark their being killed with those instruments; 17 others, hair very gray; black hoops, plain brown colour; no mark but the short club or casstete, to show they were knocked down dead, or had their brains beat out. No. 7. 211 girls scalped, big and little; small yellow hoops; white ground; tears, hatchet, club, scalping-knife, &:c. No. 8. This package is a mixture of all the varieties above mentioned, to the number of 122; with a box of birch bark, containing 29 little infants' scalps of various sized; small white hoops; white ground."

This letter was long supposed to be genuine and has often been printed as if it were. Stone, however, discovered that it was written by Franklin "for political purposes."


The Old New York Frontier by Francis Whiting Halsey, pages 312-314
Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1901