Saratoga Campaign > Battle of Oriskany

Battle of Oriskany

Background

The Battle of Oriskany on August 6, 1777 was one of the bloodiest battles in the North American theater of the American Revolutionary War and a significant engagement of the Saratoga campaign. An American party trying to relieve the siege of Fort Stanwix was ambushed by a party of Loyalists and allies of several American Indian tribes, primarily Iroquois. This was one of the few battles in the war in which almost all of the participants were American; Patriots and allied Oneida fought against Loyalists and allied Indians in the absence of British regular soldiers.

The American relief force came from the Mohawk Valley under General Nicholas Herkimer and numbered around 800 men of the Tryon County militia plus a party of Oneida warriors. British commander Barry St. Leger authorized an intercept force consisting of a Hanau Jäger (light infantry) detachment, Sir John Johnson's King's Royal Regiment of New York, Indian allies from the Six Nations, particularly Mohawks and Senecas and other tribes to the north and west, and Indian Department Rangers, totaling at least 450 men.

The Loyalist and Indian force ambushed Herkimer's force in a small valley about six miles (10 km) east of Fort Stanwix, near the village of Oriskany, New York. Herkimer was mortally wounded, and the battle cost the Patriots approximately 450 casualties, while the Loyalists and Indians lost approximately 150 dead and wounded. The result of the battle remains ambiguous. The apparent Loyalist victory was significantly affected by a sortie from Fort Stanwix in which the Loyalist camps were sacked, damaging morale among the allied Indians.

The battle also marked the beginning of a civil war among the Iroquois, as Oneida warriors under Colonel Louis and Han Yerry allied with the American cause. Most of the other Iroquois tribes allied with the British, especially the Mohawks and Senecas. Each tribe was highly decentralized, and there were internal divisions among bands of the Oneida, some of whom also migrated to Canada as allies of the British. The site is known in Iroquois oral histories as "A Place of Great Sadness." The site has been designated by the United States as a National Historic Landmark; it is marked by a battle monument at the Oriskany Battlefield State Historic Site.

Saratoga Campaign Battles

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