Oneida sentiments were expressed in the Six Nations declaration of war (July, 1813): "We do hereby command and advise all the War Chiefs to call forth immediately their warriors under them to put them in motion to protect their rights and liberties which our brethren the Americans are now defending." Several days earlier, an Iroquois speaker had told his people "that the country was invaded, that they had one common interest with the people of the United States, that they had every thing dear at stake, that the time had arrived for them to show their friendship for their brethren of the United States not only in words but in deeds."
1812-1813 - Our only reference to Oneida military service in 1812 derives from an individual's petition to the state (1857) to recover costs of transportation and equipment incurred that year. Having served at Sackets Harbor, Oneida Jake Antoine asked to be reimbursed for use of his own equipment (including a rifle) as well as $60 in back pay. His claim was judged correct, and, in 1859, New York awarded him $58.00 to compensate expenses though not, as far as we know, his pay.
During the summer and fall of 1813, United States forces were bottled up at Fort George on the Canadian side of the river opposite Fort Niagara. American Iroquois warriors were badly needed as rangers and light infantry to scour the countryside around the besieged American troops. In addition to pay, the Iroquois were promised that they could keep any publicly owned livestock they might capture.
Responding to American pleas, Oneidas crossed the Niagara River into Canada in early August and participated in a series of skirmishes with the enemy in August and September. Two Oneidas — Jake Whee-lock and a man listed only as "John"- perished in one of those fights at a place called Ball's Farm. Such activities did much to relieve British pressure on Fort George as the commander of American forces acknowledged: Yesterday I had the honor to address you a letter detailing the conduct of the Indians in a late skirmish. Their bravery and humanity were equally conspicuous. Already the quietness in which our pickets are suffered to remain evinces the benefit arising from their assistance.Two contingents of Oneidas joined U.S. forces on the Niagara Frontier in 1813. The first, commanded by Oneida leader Captain PeterElm (Tsot-te-gol-la-his or Two Trees of Equal Height), arrived in June. Names of people in this group derive from the same 1857 series of Oneida affidavits mentioned above in connection with Jake Antoine. That individual was present again (this time, with his father) as were Peter Skanandoah, Henry George, Peter Harnyos, Jake Skanandoah, Adam Jordan, William Cornelius, and Henry Cornelius. The men were accompanied by at least one woman (Dolly Skanandoah) serving as cook. The presence of women on a war expedition far from home suggests the Oneidas may have been skeptical about receiving military rations from their allies.
A contemporaneous newspaper notice stated that a number of Oneida warriors had passed through Canandaigua between September 14 and 21 on their way to link up with the American army. This second Oneida company, commanded by Capt. Cornelius Doxtader, numbered about fifty individuals including at least four women.
Histories of this campaign disparage the contributions of native allies. The Iroquois, for their part, believed their American allies offered too little battlefield support and too many worthless pledges. That fall, several Oneidas (listed as Adam Scanado, Cornelius Dockstader, Jacob Dockstader, Johnson, William, and nine others) were ordered to surrender horses they had taken in raids near Fort George. As the Seneca Red Jacket complained on behalf of the Six Nations warriors, "We have not received pay according to promise... We were promised that all horses and cattle should be free plunder. We took horses. We had to give them up. We have been deceived." At Fort George, as the Oneidas later explained, they received only one month's pay for two month's duty and their officers (Capt. C. Doxtader, Lt. Jacob Doxtader, and Ensign Abraham Brant) "received no more than common soldiers."
1814 - English naval forces dominated Lake Ontario as the year opened. The Americans had larger ships newly built at Sackets Harbor but those craft needed guns and cables that were sitting in an Oswego warehouse. Hoping to rush the supplies past a vigilant English blockade, American Capt. Melancthon Woolsey loaded them onto nineteen barges and, accompanied by a detachment of riflemen, set sail from Oswego hugging the shoreline and proceeding east then north."
At the Salmon River (Oswego County), Woolsey rendezvoused with about 130 Oneida soldiers (led by Capt. Peter Elm) who were to "traverse the shore, for the purpose of protecting the boats if chased on shore or into any of the creeks." The combined force reached Sandy Creek (South Sandy Creek, also called the Big Sandy) about noon on May 29, 1814. At that point, the barges proceeded upstream to unload the stores which would then be carried overland to Sackets Harbor about sixteen miles further north.
The American flotilla, however, had been detected by the British. The next day, an English force numbering some 200 marines and sailors, accompanied by two gun-boats and several barges, advanced up both banks of the creek into a skillfully prepared trap." American eye-witnesses stated: Our commander, apprehending an attack, placed the riflemen and Indians in the woods on each side of the creek, and sent a few raw militia with a show of opposing the enemy's landing. The plan succeeded. The militia retreated on the first fire, pursued by the enemy, but as soon as they passed the Indians and riflemen who were in ambush, these last attacked them in the rear, while a battery of four field pieces opened on them in the front.Our Indians poured in a murderous fire, and rushing from behind the brush set up their war whoops.. . The British, routed and confounded, threw down their arms and begged for quarter.
The infantry and Indians "opened a most destructive fire upon the enemy, which obliged them to surrender in about ten minutes," reported the American commander. Not a single individual of the British expedition escaped being captured or killed. Their defeat proved to be costly in a larger sense for it allowed the Americans to equip their new warships and take command of Lake Ontario." The Oneidas suffered a single casualty: Jim Chrisjohn, wounded in the leg. Local tradition has it that:the Indians were released from duty immediately after the battle and were urged to return to their homes. They had not been paid for their services, and the Army had not even fed them. They faced a long walk home (about 50 miles).. .It is reported that one group approached a farmhouse and very politely asked for some food. The farmer's wife knew that they had been in battle, and she fed them a hearty meal. As a token of gratitude, they gave her a beautiful wooden bowl. The bowl was saved in her family for several generations and is believed to still exist in the Sixtown area.
Oneidas remembered, sixty-five years later, that Jacob and Cornelius Doxtator fought in this battle and Henry Cornelius (Suggeyonetau) probably did also. As was true of other elderly Oneidas, this was the second war in which the latter had risked his life on behalf of the United States.
Immediately after Sandy Creek, Oneidas joined U.S. Army forces assembling to re-enforce the more distant Niagara Frontier. An official muster of Oneidas lists seventeen soldiers serving under their leader. Lt. Hendrick Schuyler, from June 13 to July 26. Another eight Oneidas served until September 25. On June 15, 33 Oneidas under Cornelius Doxtator were reported at Onondaga awaiting the arrival of two more groups under Jacob Doxtator and Martinus White.
They joined the American army in time for the battle at Chippawa (Ontario) on July 5, an engagement in which they served under General Peter Porter. A Pennsylvania militiaman with the Oneidas and other Six Nations Indians at Chippawa wrote: We marched down to near Chapaway [Chippawa], and General Porter called on our regiment for some volunteers to go out on a scout and about 200 of our regiment with 450 Indians advanced within a mile of Chipawa [sic], when we met some of the enemy we drove them till their main body let loose their artillery on us when we were obliged to retreat a short distance till General Scott came to our assistance with the regulars which soon compelled the enemy to retreat to their fort.
General Porter said his command performed beyond the call of duty and had done double the work of any other American troops that day. They suffered some 35 casualties, 23 of them native people. Among those who fell was Oneida Cornelius Doxtator. In later years, an interpreter named Ephraim Webster remembered that he saw:Doxtater, an Oneida chief, pursued by five or six mounted Wy-andots. They passed near him [Webster], and knowing well the Indian rules of warfare, he stood erect and firm, looking them full in the face; they passed him unharmed. Doxtater was shot just as he leaped a fence nearby, upon which the Wyandots wheeled and rode off.
Chief Doxtator's grandson indicated what happened next: Cornelius Doxtator Sr. was with Oneidas in battle of Chippewa [sic] in 1814. Was shot, when a Chippewa ran up, tomahawked & scalped him; & with others, captured Doxtator's two boys, Daniel and George, respectively 17 & 15, who were near their father. But some Oneidas shot the Chippewa as he was clambering a fence.. .and recovered the prisoner boys. Nevertheless, Major-General Jacob Brown, overall commander of U.S. forces that day, severely criticized the Iroquois performance at Chippawa. "Perhaps the American general, who could not see the Iroquois action because of the forest, wanted his regulars to absorb as much of the credit for his singular victory as possible...Rather than praising the American-allied Iroquois discovery of the British flanking movement, Brown's report to Washington emphasized how their retreat left his flank exposed and how he had to send his dragoons to stop 'the fugitives' from running from the battlefield altogether."
Aftermath - Oneidas who enlisted in 1814 had been promised pay of $40 (captains), $30 (lieutenants), and $8 (warriors) but they received little or nothing of this during hostilities. "Sadly, the American government did not act in good time, despite continued protests by the Iroquois... They had fought for the United States, they had suffered losses, but they found their needs ignored by those who had demanded their help." In 1816, Oneidas politely reminded federal Indian agent Jasper Parrish of unfulfilled obligations: We the undersigned Oneida Indians respectfully inform you Sir that we have understood from the Secretary of War from the seat of Government and also from the General Edmunds Paymaster General that a regular return list of our warriors who served in the last war of all their claims has been presented by you Sir to the War Department and accepted and also that the money requisite to pay us for the whole of our pay has been paid to you about three months past for the purpose of paying us and we therefore humbly hope that you will have the goodness to fulfill the expectations of Government that we have been already paid the whole of our dues from them by you our Agent for that purpose and we humbly pray that you will satisfy our Claims as soon as you can as we want it settled soon by complying with this our Request you will greatly oblige us.
The Oneidas fought well in the War of 1812 and contributed substantially to the few triumphs Americans could ever claim around Lake Ontario. According to Benn, the Iroquois "provided the United States with a competent light infantry force in an army that fought without an adequate supply of such troops. Unfortunately for the Americans, they did not utilize their aboriginal allies effectively and, except for Sandy Creek and Chippawa, reaped few strategic benefits from having native combatants in their ranks."
The Oneidas themselves gained nothing for their efforts. They bore the burden of hosting their younger brothers, the Tuscaroras, who had been burned off their lands near Niagara in late 1813. Hardships were endured without help from the federal government which, during the years 1813-1817, suspended all annuity payments to the Iroquois. In the end, Oneidas experienced the same ingratitude New York State had shown them after the Revolution. Following a brief pause in the state's land-cession treaties during the war years (1811-1815), New York's remorseless efforts to acquire Oneida land started back up again.