14. An Invitation from Gov. Tryon of New York
Affairs had now been brought to such a stage that it was the fixed determination of the New Hampshire Grants settlers at all costs to maintain their ground by expelling every person who should presume to approach their territory under auspices of the New York claimants.
While the feelings of the people were highly exasperated by the occurrences previously mentioned, news came to Bennington that Gov. Tryon was ascending the North River with a body of British troops, who were on their way to subdue the refractory Green Mountain Boys. This news was readily credible because the royal troops had been lately used on Bateman's Patent in the colony of New York to quell some disputes about land titles or rents, and it was also known that the New York claimants to the New Hampshire Grants had applied to the governor of New York for a similar favor.
The report of the approach of Gov. Tryon at first produced alarm. The Committees of Safety met in convention with the military officers to consult on the measures proper to be taken. Their perilous situation was viewed in all its aspects, and on full consideration it was finally resolved that "it was their duty to oppose Governor Tryon and his troops to the utmost of their power."
This resolution being taken, every practicable measure was adopted to make effective resistance. Two pieces of cannon and a mortar, with powder and ball, were brought from the fort at East Hoosick to Bennington, and a general rally of the military was made. A plan of operations was devised by which a few sharpshooters were to be stationed in a narrow pass on the road leading from Albany to Bennington, who were to lie concealed and shoot down the officers as they approached with the troops. These same marksmen were to hasten forward through the woods and join another party of their comrades at a similar position when they were to exercise their unerring skill with their rifles, and then retreat to the main body, which would be prepared to receive the invading troops, much disordered and dispirited as it was supposed they would be by the loss of officers.
A trusty person was dispatched to Albany with instructions to wait the arrival of Gov. Tryon's army, to take particular note of the officers, so that he might know them again, and to learn all that he could about numbers of the enemy, the time of marching and other useful intelligence. The messenger returned with information that the troops were windbound down the river, that they were destined for the ports on the lakes, and had no designs upon Bennington. Although the people were thus relieved from the necessity of putting their valor to the test, their prompt and bold preparation for the onset was a pledge that in no event could it have ended in their dishonor.
Information about activities of the settlers during this alarm soon reached the governor of New York in letters from Mr. Justice Munro as well as by two or three individuals from Shaftsbury who, in consequence of having repurchased their lands under New York, had excited the animosity of their neighbors, and who during the preparations for the battle with Gov. Tryon, had thought it unsafe to remain at their homes and thus had fled to New York.
From the numbers and determined spirit of the New Hampshire grantees, indicated by their recent movements, Gov. Tryon seems to have been impressed with the difficulty of subduing them by force, and to have come to the determination of trying what could be done by negotiation. He accordingly prepared a letter addressed to the Rev. Jedediah Dewey and other principal inhabitants of Bennington, in which after censuring the illegality and violence of their conduct, he expressed a strong desire to do them justice, and invited them to send a deputation of such persons as they might choose, who might lay before him a full statement of their grievances, and the causes of their complaints.
To any deputies thus sent he promised security and protection, excepting Allen, Warner, and three others for whom reward had been offered by proclamation. This letter was approved by the Governor's Council on May 19 and committed to the sheriff of Albany County to be delivered to the Rev. Mr. Dewey.