231 years ago, the Oneida Indian Nation became the first ally of the American colonists in their fight for freedom, at the Battle of Oriskany. On Wednesday, August 6, at 7 pm, a solemn remembrance ceremony will be held at the battlefield to remember those who fought and those who died at what history has called the ”bloodiest battle of the American Revolution.” The Oneidas will be represented at this community-wide event by Brian Patterson, Bear Clan Representative for the Nation’s Council, and members of the Nation’s reenactment group, First Allies.
The Battle took place in what is now Oneida County on the south side of the Mohawk River. According to the great wiki:
During his march down the Mohawk Valley from Oswego to Albany, Lieutenant Colonel Barry St. Leger besieged Fort Stanwix, then under the command of Colonel Peter Gansevoort. St. Leger’s force of British regulars of the Royal Artillery, 8th and 34th Regiments, loyalist King’s Royal Yorkers and natives of the Six Nations and Seven Nations of Canada laid siege to the fort.
Upon hearing reports of St. Leger’s advance, Brigadier General Nicholas Herkimer assembled the Tryon County militia at Fort Dayton to proceed to Gansevoort’s aid. On August 4, 1777, Herkimer, with 800 militiamen—mostly poorly trained German-American farmers—and 40 Oneida Indians, began the forty-mile (65 km) trek west from Fort Dayton to Fort Stanwix.
When St. Leger learned through Molly Brant that Herkimer and his relief expedition were on their way, he sent Joseph Brant, a Mohawk chief, with more than 400 natives, and Sir John Johnson, with the light infantry company of his King’s Royal Yorkers to intercept them. Their clash at Oriskany Creek was one of the key episodes of the Campaign of 1777.
On August 6, 1777, [the] American relief force from the Mohawk Valley under General Nicholas Herkimer, numbering around 800 men of the Tryon County militia, was approaching to raise the siege. British commander Barry St. Leger authorized an intercept force consisting of a Hanau Jager detachment, Sir John Johnson’s King’s Royal Regiment of New York, Native allies from the Six Nations, and Indian Department Rangers totaling at least 450 men.
The Loyalist and Native force ambushed Herkimer’s force in a small valley about six miles east of Fort Stanwix. During the battle, Herkimer was mortally wounded. The battle cost the Patriots approximately 450 casualties, while the Loyalists and Natives lost approximately 150 dead and wounded. It was a clear victory for the loyalists over the rebels.
But the Loyalist victory was tarnished when a sortie from Fort Stanwix sacked the Crown camp, spoiling morale among the Native Americans.