Akwesasne & The War of 1812

General Louis Cook in the War of 1812

When the War of 1812 was declared, Atiatonharonkwen was by then an old man of 75, but he rallied to the American banner once again.  Franklin Hough tells us that he visited General Jacob Brown in Ogdensburgh in the summer of 1812 and received a new commission:

…he was furnished with a new and elegant military dress and equipage, corresponding with the rank which his commissions conferred. On his return to his family, his appearance was so changed, that they did not know him, and his children fled from the proffered caresses of their father, as if he had been the spirit of evil.

He repaired to Plattsburgh and was there when the voyageurs arrived in Akwesasne, as shown by this article that appeared in “The War” in October of 1812:

General Louis of the St. Regis Indians, a firm and undeviating friend of the United States, and his son, have been in this village for several weeks.  The St. Regis Indians are disposed to remain neutral in the present contest, but what effect the British influence and British success may have upon them we know not.

General Joseph Bloomfield’s correspondence from the time seems to support the article’s contention that Colonel Louis had been upgraded to General Louis, at least in name:

Agreeably to the request of Genl Louis, of St. Regis, new at this post, I have given directions for the passage of [Louis and his son] to Whitehall & their conveyance to Albany to wait upon Govr. Tompkins & to present themselves at your Head Quarters in business as Genl. Louis represents of great importance… In a former letter I advised you of $50 advanced in like manner to Eleazer Williams to whom I shall deliver our letters on his return from a visit to his father.  These Indians are very expensive allies.  Genl. Louis with two sons & a grandson wait here the return of Chief Jacob subsisted at the expense of the US.

Atiatonharonkwen was called upon by the neutral faction in August of 1813 to see what he could do to effect the release of some influential Kahnawake chiefs and warriors and their commanding officer, Delormiere, who had been captured by the Americans on the Niagara frontier.  He agreed to do what he could on their behalf, and set out for Niagara, but one of his enemies wrote a letter to the Americans to warn them that he was coming on a secret mission.  He was arrested when he arrived and held for eight days.  He was eventually released when some officers from Plattsburgh came along that knew him, but a commission of inquiry was held to sort through the mess.

According to Hough,

… he appeared before the commission, and answered, with great modesty, the several questions that were put to him, by the young officers: but the impertinence of some of them aroused his spirit, and he replied : “You see that I am old, and worn out, and you are young, and know little of the service. You seem to doubt what I have been, and what I am now. It is right that you should watch the interests of your country in time of war. My history you can have.” He then gave them the names of several prominent officers of the northern frontier, as references, and with a heavy hand, laid a large black pocket book upon the table, and bid them examine its contents. It contained his commissions as lieutenant colonel; general Washington’s recommendatory letters, and those of generals Schuyler, Gates, Knox, Mooers, and governor Tompkins, and a parchment certificate of membership, in a military masonic lodge of the revolution.

Atiatonharonkwen was cleared of any suspicion and returned to Akwesasne where he joined General James Wilkinson at French Mills in the autumn of 1813.  In January of 1814, he went with General Brown to Sacket’s Harbor, and in June of that year, he and two of his sons and a few others went to Niagara to be a part of the invasion of Canada.

According to Eleazer Williams,

When the American army under Gen. Brown crossed into Canada side, he and a detachment of the warriors of the six nations, accompanied the army. He was present at the battles of Chippewa & Lundy’s Lane. After the retreat of the American army to Fort Erie, he soon after recrossed to Buffaloes being now in a feeble state of health, where he was attended to with much kindness and care by the Government Physicians.

Franklin Hough, who interviewed Atiatonharonkwen’s daughter, wrote that he was injured in a fall from his horse while leading some Tuscarora warriors.  Both agree that he was taken to the American camp near Buffalo, where he was visited by his sons and officers who knew him.  He died in October of 1814, his death annouced with the firing of heavy cannon befitting his rank as officer.
As Americans and Canadians come together to commemorate the War of 1812 and celebrate the subsequent peace, the people of Akwesasne and our brother First Nations urge our friends and allies to remember the struggles and sacrifices of our chiefs and warriors on both sides of the conflict.  They have been the unsung heroes of your history far too long.