Site of Captain Jacob’s Meeting with Lord Jeffrey Amherst

(Great Barrington, Massachusetts)

  Main attributes of this Native American place: Native event/persons; In historic document.

Militiamen singly and in companies were relieved to reach Sheffield township on their way to New York province to skirmish during the Seven Years War, 1754-1763. It was a long trek east from Blandford, the last Massachusetts homestead town before they traversed the dense Greenwoods on their way to the Housatonic River valley.

It wasn’t until 1758, when British Gen. Jeffery Amherst (1717-1797) marched four regiments from
Boston through this mountainous area on his way to attack Quebec City that the roadway saw
improvement.

Amherst’s forces included the Pioneers, 200 strong, that day’s equivalent of the Army Corps of
Engineers, under the command of Major James Clephane, who hacked and shoveled, straightened and flattened the old Indian path into a semblance of a military road wide enough for soldiers to march three or four abreast and for horse-drawn supply wagons to navigate without spill.

Among Amherst’s units was His Majesty’s 78th Regiment of Foot commanded by Lt. Col. Simon Fraser, Master of Lovat. Fraser’s Highlanders conversed in Scots Gaelic. They wore short, brick-red Highland jackets and the feileadh mor (the great kilt, all 9 yards, orange red with green cross-hatching). They were armed with 42-inch carbines and bayonets, pistols and broadswords. Drummers and pipers set the pace for the marching regiments.

Amherst’s forces encamped for two nights in the meadow near Green River in Great Barrington, Mass., so the military leader could meet with Stockbridge Mohicans including Captain Jacob
Nawnawapatcoonks, an important British ally (he had already commanded a company of Stockbridge Mohicans with Robert Rogers’ famed Rangers) who wanted to re-enlist. Amherst didn’t discourage him; it’s up to Rogers, he said.

Amherst wrote in his journal of the arrival in what is now Great Barrington: September 30th I marched again early by the Right and half files with Flank Platoons; the ground would not permit to march by files or Platoons. Passed through woods to Sheffield about 9 miles and encamped a little beyond the Town; here I change wagons, Br. Doit [Dwight] assisting us. King Ben, Capt. Jacobs, his Son and two more Indians came with an interpreter to see me and dined with me. They came from Stockbridge, 7 miles, where there is a settlement. Br. Doit lives here.

The wail of bagpipes soared those nights. The 1,500 Scotsmen, after all, had considerably more in common with the Mohicans than did the English — in their distinct language, their strong traditions, their clan culture and their fierce capabilities in warfare. The still relatively wild region of western Massachusetts and eastern New York was not unlike the Highlands.

Amherst next observed: October. 1st. The troops halted. The Stockbridge Indians came; the King his Queen and Daughters and Capt. Jacobs with me. Amherst after the surrender of Montreal became occupied with a series of Indian rebellions in the Carolinas and Pennsylvania. He disdained American Indians, and sanctioned issuance of smallpox-infected blankets. He returned to Great Britain in 1763.

The great meadow is today a cornfield, just southeast of the Green River bridge on Route 23, the road to Egremont.

Contributor: Bernard A. Drew

SOURCES

Primary Source
Clarence J. Webster, ed. The Journal of Jeffery Amherst — Recording the Military Career of General Amherst in America from 1758 to 1763. Toronto: Ryerson, 1931.

Secondary Source
Drew, Bernard A. Henry Knox and the Revolutionary War Trail in Western Massachusetts. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2012.

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