In 1776, there were an estimated 1,810 Indian warriors living in New York. Of them, 230 were friendly to the Americans, the remaining 1,580 had chosen to side with the British.
In contrast to the federal government, New York exempted Indians from service in the Colony’s militia by legislative acts passed in 1778 and 1782. These were the same acts that also exempted slaves from militia service.
Although many Indians served in the American army, only a few were pensioned. Among them were Honyere Tewahangarahken, an Oneida Indian also known as Honyere Doxtator, and Nicholas Kaghnatsto, a Tuscarora Indian known as Nicholas Cusick.
We will meet Nicholas Cusick, a very highly respected sachem and Tuscarora Chief, again in a future article dealing with the Tuscarora and their land transactions in North Carolina.
Nicholas Kaghnatsto, a pensioner, served as a Lieutenant under Lieutenant Colonel Louis Atayataroughta, also simply known as Colonel Louis, in Colonel Goose Van Schaick’s Regiment. He signed his English name, Nicholas Cusick, when he applied for a federal pension. Cusick died sometime before March 1841 as attested to by his son, James, who was then living in Rochester, New York. Another son lived in Canada and refused to return to the US to collect from his father’s estate.
Nicholas Cusick’s pension application in 1826 shows that he was then about 65 years old, so he was born about 1761, although he was serving in the Revolution by 1777 and in 1779 was holding an officer’s position. That would be unlikely for a young man of 18, so perhaps he was somewhat older. His 1828 letter says he was nearly 70 which would put is birth about 1758. Nicholas received a pension and bounty land in Seneca County, NY, 500 acres initially, and apparently an additional 2000 at some point, but his son in a letter to President Filmore says that Nicholas was “cheated of it.”
Nicholas applied for a pension in 1818 for those who were impoverished or disabled. He lived on the Tuscarora Reservation, and says that the tribe also owns rented land in North Carolina. Those rents, when received, are divided among the tribe by the “number of souls.” His only possessions, since the land is jointly held, is a small log cabin, a yoke of oxen, one cow, 12 hogs, 2 old ploughs, 4 hoes, 2 axes, enough corn to feed the stock and the family until next spring “I hope” and an old wagon. He has cooking utensils and “tabb” furniture which is for the use of his family. He is also an interpreter and received $200 per year from the government for those services.
He says of himself, “I am in a decrepit state, unable to labor by means of a rheumatic affection which has caused one hip to be displaced. I am feeble in strength.” He says his wife is age 57 and can do little for the support of the family. He goes on to say that he has two daughters who are “dumb” and three children of another daughter who is deceased that he has to support as well. He signs a declaration that includes the information that he has 10 children.
Nicholas also served as a gatherer of intelligence during the war, one of the most valuable services that the northern Indians provided to the American Army. On August 23, 1777, he and Johannes Oosterhout, Jr. submitted a lengthy intelligence report concerning the activities of various enemy Indians groups. The report was made available to the New York Council of Safety a few days later.
Honyere Tewahangarahken and Nicholas Kaghnatsto were among a group of twelve Oneida and Tuscarora Indians whose commissions were authorized by the Continental Congress on April 3, 1779.
In total, Nicholas Cusick served in the American Revolution for 5 years.