19 Aug 2017

New York State in the Revolutionary War

New York State in the Revolutionary War

While the Revolutionary War is often remembered by the battles fought in and around burgeoning population centers between American and British regular armies, the fight for the young nation was contested just as fiercely in the sparsely settled backcountry forests and valleys of the American countryside. The Mohawk Valley in central New York is one such example.

In 1777, the Mohawk Valley set the stage for not only a civil war between Loyalist and Patriot militias, but also a multi-national war between the Indian nations, whose military support was desired by both the British and the Americans. Central New York was the homeland of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, whose members fought for the British and the Americans alike.

At the Battle of Oriskany on August 6, 1777, the Tryon County militia led by General Nicholas Herkimer and Oneida warriors marched northwest to resist the British siege of Fort Stanwix. Within a few miles of the fort, a British force comprised of primarily Native American warriors from the Senecas and Mohawks who, like the Oneidas, were members of the Iroquois Confederacy ambushed the Tryon County militia. After a torrential thunderstorm, Herkimer was forced to withdraw, having suffered more than 500 casualties. Many prominent chiefs and warriors fighting for the Loyalists, however, also fell that fateful day. As a result, the Iroquois reexamined their role in the siege. Known as “a place of great sadness,” the Oriskany Battlefield is today recognized by the Iroquois as a place of remembrance, and of reflection.

A plaque at Oriskany Battlefield State Park reads: “In the Valley homes, [there] was great mourning. For such a small population, the losses were almost overwhelming. In some families, the male members were wiped out. It was many a long, weary year before the sorrow and suffering caused by the sacrifices at Oriskany had been forgotten in the Valley of the Mohawk.”

The resulting conflict is one of the few battles of the American Revolution in which only North Americans participated. Its lasting ramifications echo in the Valley to this day. Thank you for your continued commitment to protecting the hallowed grounds where these brave and resilient soldiers fought.

Historical Map of Oriskany, New York

Fought on August 6, 1777, the Battle of Oriskany in central New York displayed a truly multi-nation conflict between nations of the Iroquois Confederacy and Loyalist and Patriot militias.

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American Battlefield Trust

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