A Historical Novel
American Decision: Seward-Beginning of Kindred Spirits
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William R. Truran
Colonel John Seward journeyed into the frontier of Sussex County and established a cabin and farm. He was a hearty pioneer and woodsman, and he became a folk hero along the lines of a Daniel Boone.
His family grew and his farm prospered. When the Revolutionary War came, he developed as a seasoned warrior and became known as a leader of men and a staunch defender of freedom and the independent way of life.
As the war progressed Seward led the Second Sussex Regiment and helped train young men for the militia, such as Private Daniel Talmadge and Private Nathan Wade. Nathan aspired to be a tradesman like his father and work in the gunpowder manufacturing. Daniel was a handsome youth, physically fit and full of energy and enthusiasm, who personified the vitality and spirit of America. Nathan looked up to Daniel as if an older sibling. In their military preparation they both epitomized the Spartan warrior, as representatives from their hometown of Sparta, NJ.
Sussex County was threatened by the dark shadow of the fierce Indian raids. Foremost among the real fears was the Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant. Brant was commissioned a colonel in the British army. He and his men were known to have burned, looted, and killed throughout the region. The Wyoming Massacre in nearby Pennsylvania produced tales of his brandishing a tomahawk to crush a skull like a melon. He became known as “Monster Brant.”
Joseph Brant was in reality a very smart and adaptable man, brought up on the estate of Sir William Johnson, a British Superintendent of Indian Affairs. Joseph was trained at what would be Dartmouth College, was sent to England where he met the king who also made him a Mason. He later met George Washington. His sister Molly Brant was an influential and provocative character interwoven with the Howe brothers, general and admiral in charge of North America for the British, in the broader story.
Seward and Brant are inevitably brought to clash at the Battle of the Minisink on July 22, 1779. As Colonel Brant’s men slash and burn in the region, Colonel Seward’s militia, and others in the region, are hastily assembled and hustled to the distant Delaware River valley where the ensuing combat takes the lives of many militiamen, including Talmadge and Wade. The British have a clear victory. The remains of the men were not recovered from the gruesome site for some 43 years.
The character of Colonel John Seward is altered as a result of this loss. His son Sammy Seward shows his dad a warmth for people, an understanding of the value for life, and the importance of these virtues in human progress. Sammy becomes a medical doctor, graduating from Columbia College, and instills this kindred spirit into his son William Henry Seward who becomes Abraham Lincoln’s right-hand man and a leading influence on the American heritage of the 19th century.