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Battle of Oriskiny

2006-01-23 00:00

  The British Northern Campaign called for the convergence of three separate forces: Burgonyne's troops coming down via Fort Ticonderoga and Lake Champlain; Colonel St. Leger's troops attempting to envelope the Mohawk valley; and 1,000 Native American warriors. St. Leger expected to overwhelm the small dilapidated fort called Fort Stanwix easily, since it was garrisoned by only a few Americans. What he found instead was a rebuilt force with 550 Americans commanded by an energetic Colonel Peter Gansevoort. That group was reinforced as he arrived by an additional 200 Massachusetts volunteers. St. Leger demanded the immediate surrender of the fort, a demand that was summarily rejected. St. Leger started to lay siege to the fort. Meanwhile, Brigadier General Herkimer led a force of over 800 men in a relief expedition to the fort. As the relief force noisily approached, St. Leger sent a force primarily made up of Native Americans to ambush the approaching relief column. Six miles from Fort Stanwix, near the village of Orinsky, they were attacked as the column was traversing a deep ravine. The Americans were surrounded, but they held their ground and fought bravely. Faced with no option but to fight or die, they fought the enemy until they reached a standstill. Each side lost over 150 men that day, and the American commander General Herkimer was soon to die from his wounds. All thoughts of relieving the fort were forgotten. St. Leger continued his investment of the fort with renewed vigor after the arrival of his cannons. He once again demanded the surrender of the fort, threatening that, if they did not surrender, he and the Native Americans would massacre not only the defenders but the entire patriot population of the valley. The Americans once again indignantly refused. Two men however snuck through the enemy lines to appeal for help. Help was indeed coming, in the form of Benedict Arnold leading part of Schuyler's army. Before he could arrive however, the dispirited Native Americans had learned of his pending arrival, and revolted. St. Leger had no choice but withdraw.

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