Source: courtesy Wikimedia Commons
ATIATOHARONGWEN (Thiathoharongouan, meaning his body is taken down from hanging or one who pulls down the people; also known as Louis Atayataghronghta, Louis Cook, and Colonel Louis), Mohawk chief; b. c. 1740 in Saratoga (Schuylerville, N. Y.); d. October 1814 on the Niagara frontier.
Atiatoharongwen was the son of a black man and a Saint-François Abenaki woman. All three were captured in a French attack on Saratoga, probably that conducted in 1745 by Paul Marin* de La Malgue. Atiatoharongwen’s father became a servant in Montreal (Que.), but the boy was rescued by the Indians of Saint-Saint-Louis (Caughnawaga, Que.) from a French officer who, thinking him a black, had claimed him as a prize. Mother and son then went to live with the Caughnawagas, where Atiatoharongwen became attached to the Jesuit missionary Jean-Baptiste Tournois* and was eventually converted to Roman Catholicism. Although illiterate throughout life, Atiatoharongwen became fluent in Mohawk, French, and English. The boy evidently possessed a keen mind, and he demonstrated a precocious interest in the councils of the tribe.
Along with other Caughnawaga warriors, Atiatoharongwen served with the French in the Seven Years’ War. He took part in the campaign against Major-General Edward Braddock in 1755 and was wounded during a skirmish with the British at Carillon (near Ticonderoga, N.Y.) in the spring of 1756. That August he participated in the conquest of Oswego (N.Y.) [see François-Pierre de Rigaud* de Vaudreuil] and in July 1758 fought against James Abercromby* in the defence of Carillon, where his bravery, ability, and knowledge of French had earned him the command of a party of Indians; he was also with the Indian forces of François de Lévis* in the French attack on Quebec in April 1760.
After the war Atiatoharongwen returned to Caughnawaga, where on 11 July 1763 he married Marie-Charlotte. Some time before the outbreak of the American revolution, he moved to the vicinity of the St Regis reservation. Never reconciled to British rule, in 1775 he became strongly attached to the American cause and, although most Caughnawagas preferred to remain neutral, he persuaded a small number to became partisans. He visited General George Washington in his camp at Cambridge, Mass., in August 1775, bringing news of the favourable disposition of the Indians and Canadians towards the American colonists. Later that year he returned to the province of Quebec as a messenger to assist Brigadier-General Richard Montgomery*’s expedition, and subsequently he served the Americans on numerous occasions as a scout and messenger.
When Atiatoharangwen again visited Washington in January 1776, he offered to raise 400 or 500 men. Washington hesitated, not sure that the Indians’ contribution would justify the expense of engaging them; Major-General Philip John Schuyler advised him not to employ them “if we can decently get rid of their offer.” By 1777 Atiatoharongwen was in command of the Indian Rangers, a company attached to the 1st New York Regiment; that year he led a party of Oneidas and Tuscaroras in the American victory over Major-General John Burgoyne* near Saratoga, where his warriors distinguished themselves by their bravery. On 15 June 1779 Atiatoharongwen was awarded a lieutenant-colonel’s commission by the second Continental Congress. In October 1781, at the head of 60 warriors from the Oneida settlements, he helped Lieutenant-Colonel Marinus Willer resist Major John Ross*’s raid on the Mohawk valley.
After the war Atiatoharongwen lived with the Oneidas, probably at Kanõˀalohaleˀ (Sherrill), N.Y., and briefly at Onondaga (near Syracuse), N. Y., where he married Marguerite (Monique) Thewanihattha (Tewennihata); they would have several children. About 1789 he returned to land he held near St Regis and became a chief at the reservation. In 1792 he went to Philadelphia to confer with Secretary of War Henry Knox on the tense situation in the Ohio region, which the British had refused to evacuate following the American revolution, and he promised to use his influence to keep the Indians there peaceful.
In 1796 a deputation consisting of Atiatoharongwen, Thomas Williams [Tehoragwanegen*], and others represented the St Regis and Caughnawaga Indians and their allies in negotiations with the government of New York State to obtain compensation for the lost use of vast tracts of land. On 31 May a treaty extinguishing the Indians’ claims was reluctantly signed by the Indian delegates far the sum of £1,230 and an annuity of £213. Criticized by their people for having signed the agreement, the delegates, and especially Atiatoharongwen, sought to deflect culpability to Joseph Brant [Thayendanegea]. They charged that he was responsible for the 999-year land leases signed in 1787 and 1788 which the Americans had used to undercut the delegates’ position; in fact Brant had only witnessed the documents, as had Atiatoharongwen himself. The latter was chosen to go yearly to collect the annuity generated by the treaty, but according to the Roman Catholic missionary at St Regis, Roderic MacDonell, writing in 1801, “he makes away with the greatest part of the money and disposes of lands on the American lines without consulting the Indians” at St Regis or Caughnawaga, so annoying them that they intended to sue him.
Attempts by British officials in the Canadas to break Atiatoharongwen’s allegiance to the Americans with the enticement of a pension were unavailing, but few at St Regis shared his attachment, his personal following being, wrote MacDonell in 1801, “about four families.” During the War of 1812 he was again commissioned by the Americans and was active in campaigns on the Niagara frontier. He died there, much lamented by his comrades, as a result of injuries received in a fall from his horse during a skirmish, and was buried near Buffalo, N.Y.
Atiatoharongwen had been, according to the historian Franklin Benjamin Hough, “tall and athletic, broad shouldered and strongly built, with a very dark complexion, and somewhat curly hair, which in old age became gray”; MacDonell described him as “a black man.” His considerable talents both on the battlefield and in council had made his services highly valued by his French and American allies and his activities a constant source of irritation for British officials.
[The Gallery of Fine Arts, Yale University (New Haven, Conn.), has in its collection a small pencil sketch by John Trumbull of Atiatoharongwen labelled “Col. Joseph Lewis, chief of the Oneida Indians.” This and other sketches served as preliminary drawings for Trumbull’s “Death of General Montgomery in the attack of Quebec,” also at Yale University. However, the artist made no claim to have accurately represented Atiatoharongwen or any but three of the other figures. Atiatoharongwen did have his portrait done during a visit to Albany, N. Y., but the painting has been lost.
The most comprehensive and valuable biographical account of Atiatoharongwen is in F. B. Hough, A history of St. Lawrence and Franklin counties, New York, from the earliest times to the present time (Albany, 1853), 182–98, based on information obtained by Hough from one of the chief’s daughters, Mary. None the less, Hough’s statement that Atiatoharongwen and his parents were captured at Saratoga (Schuylerville, N.Y.) “towards the close of 1755” is to be questioned since it conflicts with other data in the account and with events of the time.
There is a reference to Atiatoharongwen under the probably erroneous name of Quitawape in Anthony Wayne . . . the Wayne-Knox-Pickering-McHenry correspondence, ed. R. C. Knopf (Pittsburgh, Pa., 1960; repr. Westport, Conn., 1975), 59. b.g.]
AP, Saint-François-Xavier (Caughnawaga), Reg. des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures, 11 juill. 1763; Saint-Régis, Reg. des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures, 6 juill., 3 nov. 1801. National Arch. (Washington), Military record of Lewis Atayataghronghta; Pension record of Nicholas Cusick; RG 360, M247, roll 158, item 147, 3: 391. NYPL, Philip Schuyler papers, Indian boxes, box 14. N.Y. State Library (Albany), New York State land papers, 42: 135. PAC, RG 10, Al, .486: 58–62; A6, 659: 181407–9. The balloting book, and other documents relating to military bounty lands in the state of New York (Albany, 1825), 140, 151. N.Y., Commissioners of Indian Affairs, Proceedings of the commissioners of Indian affairs . . . , intro. F. B. Hough (2v. in 1, Albany, 1861), 37–40, 73, 101, 122, 132–33, 135, 139–41, 143, 150, 153–55, 176, 196, 222, 229, 231, 233, 272–74, 311, 349, 351, 353–54, 358, 365. U.S., Congress, American state papers (Lowrie et al.), class 2, 1: 123, 235, 616–20. George Washington, The writings of George Washington, from the original manuscript sources, 1745–1799, ed. J. C. Fitzpatrick (39v., Washington, 1931–44), 3: 397–98; 4: 274–75, 280. Gallery of Fine Arts, Yale Univ., Key to “Death of General Montgomery in the attack of Quebec” (n.d.). Handbook of American Indians (Hodge), 2: 723. F. B. Hough, A history of St. Lawrence and Franklin counties . . . , supra, 126–46. J. R. Simms, Frontiersmen of New York, showing customs of the Indians, vicissitudes of the pioneer white settlers, and border strife in two wars (2v., Albany, 1882–83); History of Schoharie County, and border wars of New York . . . (Albany, 1845). Eleazer Williams, Life of Te-ho-ra-gwa-ne-gen, alias Thomas Williams, a chief of the Caughnawaga tribe of Indians in Canada . . . (Albany, 1859), 44–45.