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Indian Soldiers of the American Revolution

Four Penobscot chiefs left Fort Pownal with Capt. John Lane June 10th. On June 14th, Samuel Freeman wrote from Watertown to his father, Enoch Freeman, at Falmouth Neck, "I can't help thinking but that they (the Indians) should be well treated, justice done them respecting their lands, etc., by which they now and forever be secured to the interests of the county." Capt. Lane was then here at Falmouth with Chief Orono, Joseph Pease, Poveris and one more, bound for Cambridge to the Provincial Congress. They were entertained and a chaise was provided to take them to their destination. Gen. Jedidiah Preble, chairman of the committee, sent with them a letter to Joseph Warren in which he said that he had furnished money to pay their expenses and that "Orono, the chief man, seems to be a sensible man and hearty in our cause." also, "We gave them assurances that they might depend upon being provided for while there as well as on their return back again, wished them a pleasant journey and that the event might be happy for them and us." In 1778, Joseph McLellan of Falmouth was voted, by the General Court, seven pounds for injury done his chaise by Capt. Lane's Indians. This damage was no doubt done in 1775. Drake says, "Only two days after the battle of Bunker Hill (June 19th) there arrived in Cambridge, a deputation of Penobscot Indians of whom the celebrated Orono was chief." They went before the Congress and among other things said that they had a large tract of land which they had a right to call their own and had possessed it many years. These lands had been encroached upon by the English who had for miles, on the ends, cut much of the good timber. They also said that they had been much imposed upon by traders, and desired such evils be prevented, also requested that provisions, powder, etc., be sent among them which they would buy at reasonable prices.

June 21st, the Congress recognized their claim to the land at the head of the tide on the Penobscot, extending six miles on each side of the river. Gen. Washington and the Congress both promised them that they should "enjoy the country" and told them that if anybody was to take their lands from them or if they heard of anything being done against them they would let them know of it.

The following letter was probably written by Andrew Gilman, the interpreter for the four chiefs after their return to Falmouth Neck from Cambridge, although their names, as he wrote them, are different from what has come down to us.

Falmouth, July 4, 1775
Sir: We have been here five days and did expect to go home with the supplies for our tribe in a sloop. But we are told Captain John Lane must return to Watertown before supply can be sent, we have agreed to go home in our canoes, though we should rather go in said sloop. We beg leave to let you know it is our desire that Captain Lane be appointed truck-master, with full power to redress any insults we may receive from the white people when we come in to trade. You may depend on our friendship and assistance if required.

"We are your humble servants.
Olenah
Messhall
Joseph
Pooler

Andrew Gilman, Interpreter."

The above letter is a testimonial to the patriotism, fidelity and honesty of John Lane, through whose efforts much was done that secured the friendship and aid of the Penobscot tribe to our forefathers in the Revolutionary War.

The Provincial Congress resolved, July 8th, 1775, to supply the Indians of the Penobscot with goods not to exceed in value, three hundred pounds and to take furs and skins in exchange.

In September, 1775, the chiefs of the Penobscots and the St. John Indians held a conference and resolved "to stand together with our brethren of Massachusetts and oppose the people of Old England that are endeavoring to take our lands and liberties from us."

Capt. John Lane raised a company for the army and in it enlisted five Penobscot Indians, Soncier, Eneas, Sebatis, Metagone and Sewanockett. When Arnold's expedition marched up the Kennebec, in the fall of 1775, three of Capt. Lane's Indians went as guides. Encos or Eneas and Sebatis went with a Mr. Jaquith on a secret errand, in advance with letters to friends of our cause in Canada and were successful, meeting the expedition on their return. The expedition, which consisted of about eleven hundred men, left Fort Halifax, Sept. 27th, and started on their march to Quebec with Sewanockett for their guides. In the Dead River region nearly one-third gave up in despair and returned to Cambridge. Arnold abandoned his batteaux and forced his way through the forests and swamps. The guides could not lead them out of the wilderness. They suspected treachery but became convinced the guides had lost their way. For thirty-two days no signs of human life met their eyes. The men suffered dreadfully from hunger and cold. On November 3 they reached the first Canadian settlement on the river Chaudiere, and Point Levi, opposite Quebec, Nov. 9th.

In 1818, Sewanockett applied for a pension and said that he was then ninety-five years of age and had always been friendly to the whites that he served in Capt. Lane's Company and also in the Quebec expedition remaining with the army until the assault on the city, being honorably discharged in the middle of January, 1776. In 1779, he volunteered in the Bagaduce expedition and stated that during the war he was in several skirmishes when several of his tribe were killed.

In 1786, Massachusetts attempted to get some of the Penobscots' land from them and at the conference a chief stated that the tribe had been at Oldtown Island 500 years and then that 350 blankets would give each of the tribe one. When an agent presented them a paper to sign relinquishing their lands they answered "We don't know anything about writing. All we know, we mean to have a right heart and a right tongue." The agents were unsuccessful.

In 1796, the tribe gave up their claim to land on both sides of the river from Nichol's rock, in Eddington, the head of the tide, thirty miles up, reserving their islands in the river. This was done for a consideration. This land consisted of 189,426 acres and it was laid out into nine townships. By another treaty, in 1818, with Massachusetts, the tribe conveyed to that state all the remainder of their lands except the islands and four townships in consideration of a yearly annuity in goods worth about $1,500. Maine at the separation from Massachusetts agreed to fulfill the obligations of the treaty and, in 1833, purchased their remaining townships for fifty thousand dollars.

The Penobscots were the Tarratines and anciently owned all the territory watered by the Penobscot River. In 1625, the tribe were said to have numbered about eight thousand. In 1669, they were subdued by the Mohawks. Their lands have been encroached upon by the land grabber until all that remains to them are islands in the Penobscot River including Oldtown Island and all above it and attempts have been made to get those. The state holds a fund of theirs amounting to nearly seventy-four thousand dollars for which they are paid six per cent interest, which with their shore rents, of about three thousand dollars, with the appropriations from the state, leaves them in comfortable circumstances, much more so than the Passamaquoddys whose lands did not prove as valuable.

Of chief Orono, Williamson said that he "was white in part" and "Orono had not the copper colored countenance, the sparkling eye, the high cheek bones or tawny features of a pristine native. On the contrary, his eyes were of a bright blue shade, penetrating and full of intelligence and benignity. In his person he was tall, straight and perfectly proportioned; and in his gait there was a gracefulness which of itself evinced superiority. He was honest, chaste, temperate and industrious. To a remarkable degree he retained his mental faculties and erect attitude to the last years of his life. As he was always abstemious and as his hair was in his last years of a milky whiteness, he resembled in appearance a cloistered saint." His wife, who was a full blooded native, died several years after him. Orono died, February 5, 1801, aged 112 years.

"For whiter Indians, to our shame we see.
Are not so virtuous nor humane as he.
Disdaining all the savage modes of life,
The tomahawk and bloody scalping knife.
He sought to civilize his tawny race,
Till death, great Nimrod of the human race,
Hit on his track, and gave this hunter chase.
His belt and wampum now aside he flung.
His pipe extinguished and his bow unstrung.
When countless moons their destined rounds shall cease.
He'll spend an endless calumet of peace."

The Penobscot tribe choose a governor, lieutenant governor and a delegate to the Legislature, to conduct their business. The state appoints an agent who has charge of their affairs and reports to the Legislature. The tribe have lived peaceably with their neighbors since the Revolution. They were never what could be called savage Indians and the white man has been much to blame whenever they have acted in that role.

Our forefathers pledged their word with the Indian tribes of our state for peace, when war meant the destruction of their homes. They promised them protection in their lands, and they have but little to show for it today. The state and the Indians have suffered together in regard to their lands from the avarice of the white men but now there is no hope for either to recover them History can only record the facts. Our ancestors promised little to the Indian considering what peace was worth to them. The Indians were faithful through the Revolution, when they had easy access to the enemy now let us he faithful to them. The state should keep its trust with them as they did with us, and insist that they must always be honestly dealt with. They are not as we are, they are a different people, and we can afford to be patient with them and take no advantage of their weaknesses.

"The sum of Indian happiness!
A wigwam, when the warm sunshine
Looks in among the groves of pine,
A stream where, round the light canoe,
The trout and salmon dart in view.
And the fair girl, before thee now.
Spreading thy mat with hand of snow,
Or plying, in the dews of morn.
Her hoe amidst thy patch of corn
Or offering up, at eve, to thee.
Thy birchen dish of hominy!''

Andrew Oilman, the Penobscots' interpreter, seems to have been a man who had the respect and confidence of both the white man and the Indian. The following appointment shows in what estimation he was held at that time. The commission was given him while he was at Cambridge, as interpreter for the Penobscot chiefs.

"To Andrew Oilman, Gentleman:

"We entertaining a good opinion of your prudence, courage, and good conduct, do appoint, and you the said Andrew Oilman are hereby appointed to the honorary title of Lieutenant; and you are to be considered of that rank not only among the good people of this Province, but among all friends and brethren through the Continent; and we confide in your readiness to promote the common cause of America among our good brothers, the Indians of the several tribes which you may have an opportunity to be acquainted with, as well as with the inhabitants of the Province of Canada. "

By order of the Congress.

"Watertown, June 25, 1775." Lieut. Oilman was ordered by the President of the Congress to use his efforts to cultivate a friendly feeling with the Indians of St. Francois and the Canada Indians, and told him that he should receive a proper reward. When he was at Falmouth Neck with the Penobscot chiefs on their way to Cambridge, in 1775, Enoch Freeman said of him, "One Mr. Oilman is their interpreter who speaks their tongue freely and seems to be a clever young man."

He is noticed as being on guard at Penobscot with ten Indians, Sept. 12th, 1776.

The following roll is of a company of Indians under the command of Lieut. Oilman in the Bagadnce Expedition of 1779- They were probably all Penobscots. They were actively engaged and from a soldier's diary we learn that one was killed July 25th, another Aug. 5th, when another was taken prisoner and probably there were others. This roll is a novelty in our Revolutionary history and service to remind us of the Indians' service in that war.

"Pay Roll for a number of Indians for their services at Penobscot on the late expedition under command of Lieut. Andrew Gilman, made agreeable to a Resolve of the General Court of the 17th, Sept. 1779."

Andrew Gilman, Lieut., June 29th to Aug. 21st.

Indian Pay Roll

Atlean, 2 days
Atlianis Junr, 6 days
Cawquish
Che Osson, 3 days
Elqr Osson, 5 days
Francis Joseph, 5 days
Francis Moxes, 10 days
Fransway, 10 days
French Mesor, July 15th to August 21.
Jam Holet, July 15th to August 21.
John Nepton, July 15th to August 21.
Joseph Cook, 10 days
Joseph Eneas, July 15th to August 21.
Leard Osioro, 33 days
Leeve, 5 days
Lewey Venison, 15 days
Little Sabatis, July 15th to August 21.
Lonsor, 23 days
Matignois, July 15th to August 21.
Natlanis, July 15th to August 21.
Nepton Bowit, July 15th to August 21.
Obogan
Orono, 5 days
Peal Toewaso, 20 days
Pearl Nicholah, 6 days
Pearl Sock, 10 days
Pernewett, 10 days
Poriss, July 15th to August 21.
Sacotiar, 20 days
Saoemick, 6 days
Sebatis Junr, 10 days
Sebatis, July 15th to August 21.
Shannot, 5 days
Soctoner, July 15th to August 21.
Solomses, July 15th to August 21.
Soviss Many, July 15th to August 21.
Soviss Molly, July 15th to August 21.
Soviss Piece, July 15th to August 21.
Sowanockeg, 10 days
Tomases, 5 days
Wine Meesor, 10 days

The Indians were paid 14 shillings per day.

Boston, Oct. 4, 1779
Suffold Ss.
Personally appeared Lt. Andrew Gilman (the subscriber to this Roll) and made Oath that the same is just and true according to the best of his knowledge.

Signed Before
Jonathan Metcalf, Justice of Peace.
Massachusetts Archives, Vol. 37, Page 145.

A monument to the memory of the Revolutionary Soldiers of the Penobscot tribe of Indians has been erected on Indian Island. Old Town. Maine, by the Bangor Chapter, D. A. R., which bears the following inscription:

In honor of the Indian Patriots
of the Penobscot
and other tribes of Maine
for their loyal service
during the
Revolutionary War.
Erected by the Maine Daughters
of the American Revolution
1910.

This monument was dedicated with appropriate exercises by the Maine State Council. D. A. R., June 7, 1912.

AHGP Maine

Source: Sprague's Journal of Maine History, John Francis Sprague, Editor, Volume 1, 1914.

 


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