Friday, August 24, 2012

Fort Stanwix and Oriskany

This August marks the 235th anniversary of the siege of Fort Stanwix and battle at Oriskany.

Today the fort is a national park in Rome, New York, along the Mohawk River.  Oriskany is a few miles away.

As part of General John Burgoyne's northern campaign from Canada into New York, with Albany as its goal, Lieutenant Colonel Barry St. Leger led approximately 2,000 men (consisting of British Regulars, Hessians, Canadians, Loyalists and Iroquois) as well as several pieces of artillery to Fort Stanwix (now known as Rome, New York).   He laid siege to Fort Stanwix, then known as Fort Schuyler, on August 3.  The fort controlled the Mohawk Valley and was the gateway to the west. The fort was garrisoned by about 600 to 750 Continental soldiers from New York under General Peter Gansevoort.   Colonel Peter Gansevoort was in command of the 3rd New York Regiment at the fort.  Early on, met with a demand for surrender, he said "It is my determined defend this fort and garrison to the last extremity, in behalf of the United American States, who have placed me here to defend it against all their enemies." 

The siege lasted from August 2 to August 22, 1777.  On August 22, the British lifted the siege, and St. Leger failed to reinforce Burgoyne or otherwise assist at Saratoga.  Oriskany was an ambush of the American forces and a bloody battle that fostered destruction of the Iroquois Confederacy.  The British and Indians suffered severe casualties and the Americans held the field.  Not only was the Revolution a civil war between Patriot and Loyalist forces, but it became a civil war among the Native Americans as well.

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