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flood of light upon this question. Transcribed literally, it reads as follows:
Ser you will order your bodellyen do merchs immiedeetleh do forded ward weid for das brofiesen and amonieschen fied for on betell. Dis yu will dis ben your berrell— from frind
NICOLAS HERCHHEIMER. To Cornell pieder bellinger
ad de flets Ochdober 18, 1776.
The order, rendered in English, reads as follows:
SIR: You will order your battalion to march immediately to Fort Edward with four days' provisions and ammunition fit for one battle. This you will disobey (at) your peril.
From (your) Friend,
NICOLAS HERCHHEIMER. To Colonel PETER BELLINGER, at The Flats.
October 18, 1776.
As a philological study, this order would furnish the text for an interesting treatise upon the linguistic evolution of the Mohawk Valley. It is of interest in this connection for the light it throws upon the question of the proper spelling of the German names upon the Oriskany roster. Ignorant of ordinary spelling, as General Herkimer clearly was, he must have had some clear ideas at least upon the way in which he preferred to spell his own name, and the reasons for that way. It is certain that in all his autographs preserved, he spelled it uniformly. In the “Calendar of New York Historical Manuscripts,” published by the State, are reproduced a number of letters from him, in which his name is spelled as above, except that in two cases, where the two H's come together in the middle of the name, a K is substituted for the first H. A careful inspection of his autograph shows that this substitution must have been the result of carelessness; for there is no appreciable difference in the formation of the two letters. Thus the K has worked its way into the spelling of the name by ignorance, or carelessness, or both. It is true, however, that even then there was no uniformity in the family method of spelling the name. In the roster of the Tryon County militia, made out in 1775, the name of the General's tory brother-from which branch of the family, by the way, sprang some of our best known families of to-day-is spelled Hanyoost Herkheimer. The lack of any established methods of orthography at that period resulted in a round dozen different ways of spelling this name, for each of which more or less family sanction, more or less modern, can be found. Here are some of these methods:
Herchheimer, Herkheimer, Herkhiemer, Herkemeyer, Herkimer, Herkomer, Harcomer, Herkeimer, Herckheimer, Hercheimer.
Nor is there any certainty as to the exact origin and meaning of the name, to serve as a guide to the true spelling. A place called “Herkheim" is mentioned in some German geographies as lying on the River Ill, in Upper Alsace, and the name may have sprung from it. The termination “er” denotes origin; so that “Herkheimer" would signify one born in or coming from Herkheim. This theory is not overthrown, even though the place has no existence at present, and notwithstanding the fact that it is not situated in the Palatinate proper, since the location stated is only a little south of it. In Unterfranken, North Bavaria, not far from Wurtzburg, is a small village named “Herchsheim." The inserted S in this name is of little significance, and does not mitigate against the possibility that the name has this town for its origin. These speculations do not help the matter, however. Very naturally the tendency was, as it is with all words, in all languages, and in all stages of civilization, to settle into the easiest and quickest method of spelling the Dutch names in the Mohawk. The tendency also was, outside of the valley, to Anglicize the spelling as much as possible. Thus, in the resolution of the Continental Congress ordering the erection of a monument, the spelling Her. kimer was adopted. The mover knew how the name was universally pronounced; he did not know how it was commonly spelled by the owners of it. In other records of the Continental Congress the name is spelled Her komer, which conveys very nearly the same sound.
It is easier to imagine than to describe the confusion of language resulting from the English spelling of words and names that continued to retain their German pronunciation. Take the name Fuchs for an example. Very early the English notaries in the valley began to write it For; and many documents are produced to prove that it was so written, and this writing accepted by the members of the family long previous to the Revolution. Yet it is just as certain that the pronunciation of the name remained Fuchs, and that that pronunciation is largely retained by the descendants of the family, notwithstanding the irresistible linguistic tendencies of a section now overwhelmingly Anglicized, down to this day. Again, the historian Kapp gives an instance in which the German name Fuerstein was translated into Flint, and subsequently re-translated into Gun, by which latter name the descendants now pass. The question is, whether, if this particular man had been in the battle of Oriskany, his name should have been graven upon the roster as Fuerstein, Flint, or Gun ? The decision was to the effect that the monument was erected not for the glory of the living, but for the commemoration of the valor of the dead. It was Zimmermann who fought at Oriskany, and not those of his descendants who choose to call themselves Carpenter; it was Weber who died there, not the descendants who go by the name of Weaver ; it was Wagner who earned our gratitude on that bloody field, not the scions of the collateral branches who spell their name Waggoner.
There are some instances of the curious errors which must necessarily have followed from any other decision of this question. Mr. Simms, in his “ Frontiersmen of New York," gives one. The celebrated half-breed, Cornplanter, known while he lived by the cognomen Abeel, which indicated the French mixture in his Indian blood, has been remembered in Pennsylvania by a monument erected over his grave in Warren County, by order of the Legislature of that State. Upon the die of that monument is this inscription :
“ John O'Bail, alias Cornplanter;
one hundred years."
It is bad enough that this monument, erected for the enlightenment of coming generations, should have made the old chieftain about ten years older than he was when he died; and it is infinitely worse that it should have perpetuated his name in an orthography that makes him out a fullblooded Irishman. The Oriskany monument, with as good reason, might have made Englishmen born and bred out of the full-blooded Germans who conquered and died at Oriskany. Nearly all of the names upon this roster have assumed an English form with the lapse of time. They have grown to resemble the names of men who came from England contemporaneously with the Palatinate settlement in the Mohawk Valley. It was argued in behalf of the modern spelling that it is the spelling that is to prevail in the future; that no one would know who was meant if this ob. solete orthography was preserved in the bronze; and that respect should be shown to the families which, while sacredly preserving traditions, had abandoned the spelling that was good enough for their ancestors. On the other hand, the argument shaped itself somewhat as follows: That in nearly every name in controversy, the changes in orthography were not uniform; that Zimmermann was sometimes retained, sometimes spelled Timmermann, sometimes metamorphosed into Carpenter; that Visscher, which is right, was retained by many, while more had gone over to Fisher ;
that Kraus was sometimes Krause, and sometimes Crouse; that Lieber was now Seeber, and then Zieber; and so on through the whole list; that these variations and sub-variations would continue in the future as they had increased in the past; that they were simply corruptions of a spelling that was once uniform; and that in a majority of instances no difficulty existed in determining which spelling was right, according to the rules of philology; that uniformity could only be secured by following inexorably those rules; that uniformity was indispensable, else every scion of every family who followed a different spelling from some other scion would have a just grievance if its particular spelling was ignored in preference to that other; that Oriskany was a purely German battle, and the commemoration of it should be loyal to German standards; and that the monument, being erected for purposes chiefly historical, must be true to history, individualizing the participants in the battle as they were individualized when alive.
A monument is a teacher as well as a memorial. The Oriskany monument will be no less effective as a memorial, because the roster inscribed upon it teaches that the great bulk of the participants on the American side were men who had not dropped their German tongue or their German orthography; men who were not fighting for a nationality, whose idea of patriotism had its origin in a common impulse with fellow-colonists who spoke a tongue they could not understand, but who were fighting primarily for the protection of their homes. There was no battle like it in the whole Revolution, and this quaint Dutch spelling on the roster tells the reason why. There has been no battle quite like it before or since. Oriskany is absolutely unique. The memorial of Oriskany emphasizes this uniqueness to the fullest extent possible. Thus does it best serve the double purpose for which it was erected.