The Tryon County Militia was a brigade of
men between the ages of 16 and 60 commanded
by General Nicholas Herkimer. The force
was a part of the backbone of the New York
State's defenses and could be assembled
to meet any threat. Militiamen had to have
their own muskets and equipment and had
to train at least once a month.
In August 1777, 800 militiamen from the
brigade went with General Herkimer to relieve
the siege of Fort Stanwix. Nearly 500 were
killed or wounded at the Battle of Oriskany.
The loss of so many able-bodied men was
a catastrophic blow to the settlements of
the Mohawk Valley. The battle, fought on
August 6, 1777, has been described as the
bloodiest battle of the American Revolution.
Supported by 60 allied Oneida warriors,
Herkimer began the 40-mile march to Fort
Stanwix on August 4th. Upcoming sites and
markers on this road trip parallel Herkimer’s
Upon hearing of the march, St. Leger at
the siege of Fort Stanwix sent Tory leaders
Sir John Johnson and Col. John Butler to
ambush Herkimer and his troops. Indians
led by Mohawk chief Joseph Brant accompanied
the loyalist supporters. They chose a boggy
ravine two miles west of the Oriskany Creek
as their point of ambush.
Herkimer had sent three scouts forward
through the British lines at Fort Stanwix
in an attempt to coordinate attacks with
the fort. On the morning of the 6th, Herkimer’s
officers and men grew impatient and even
mutinous while they waited for an attack
signal from the fort. Herkimer pleaded with
them but found restraint was useless. He
ordered his troops to return to the march.
Unsuspecting, the inexperienced and impatient
militiamen marched blindly into the trap.
As they crossed the swampy bottom and marched
up the ravine side, the enemy closed in.
Muskets fired from behind trees and Indian
The Military Road and the
On August 6, 1777, the Tryon County militia
marched down a wilderness road that entered
this ravine. A “corduroy” road,
made of logs, was the only means by which
General Herkimer and his men could reach
Fort Stanwix other than by boat.
The Military Road dipped more than fifty
feet into this marshy ravine. A small stream,
barely three-feet wide, meandered along
the bottom. It was a splendid spot for an
ambush. While 50 of Sir John Johnson’s
Royal Greens waited behind a rise, 400 Iroquois,
led by the Mohawk chief Joseph Brant, concealed
themselves on both sides of the ravine.
It was into this trap that General Herkimer’s
militiamen advanced, with Herkimer at the
head of the column.
Military Road, the path of the old military
In the first murderous volley, General
Herkimer's horse was shot from beneath him
and his leg shattered by a musketball. Sitting
beneath a beech tree, propped against his
saddle and smoking an old black pipe, Herkimer
continued to direct the battle. In spite
of heavy losses, the patriots fought bravely.
Their stubborn resistance dismayed Johnson's
troops and the battle was so brutal that
Brant's warriors abandoned the fight, forcing
the British and Tories to withdraw as well.
The retreating British returned to Stanwix
to find their nearby camp raided by the
detachment of soldiers under Lt. Colonel
Marinus Willett. The assault against Fort
Stanwix continued indecisively. Disgusted,
Brant's warriors withdrew, forcing St. Leger
to abandon the siege and return to Canada.
The battered patriots returned to their
valley homes. Herkimer was taken by raft
down the Mohawk River to his home where
several days later, after an unskillful
amputation of his leg, he died. The wooded
glen was littered with hundreds of wounded,
dead and dying of both forces. The American
wounded numbered probably 150 and prisoners
about 50. The loss of the enemy probably
was as much as that of the Americans - 300
killed and wounded, and had much to do with
their retreat from Fort Stanwix. The Senecas
alone had 40 warriors killed.
Near this spot stood the Beech Tree, which
during the Battle of Oriskany sheltered
the wounded General Herkimer while he gave
orders that made Saratoga possible and decided
the fate of a nation.
Placed by Oriskany Chapter, Daughters of
the American Revolution of Oriskany, and
the Sons of Oriskany of New York City, June
For the first time in many generations,
peace with the Indian nations allied under
the Iroquois Confederacy was broken at the
Battle of Oriskany.
Today, the battlefield is dominated by
the 1884 Oriskany Monument. The 85-foot
high monument was dedicated August 6, 1884.
Its bronze plaques depict the battle and
list the names of some of the men who fought
Also, on the grounds are several smaller
monuments and markers. The Unknown Soldier
monument east of the ravine was dedicated
by the Daughters of the American Revolution
in 1928. Two “40-Mile Route”
markers, which appear along the route taken
by General Herkimer, are on the battlefield.
During its 150th anniversary in 1927, five
acres of the battlefield, including the
monument, were made a New York State historic
site to serve as a memorial to those who
fought so bravely and tenaciously to preserve
their land and freedom. Additional acreage
has been acquired through the years, and
in 1963 the United States Department of
the Interior, in recognition of the site's
exceptional value in commemorating and illustrating
the history of the United States, designated
Oriskany Battlefield a National Historic
When the Revolutionary War erupted the
Oneidas held different views about the conflict
than the rest of the Iroquois Confederacy.
After hundreds of years of peace and power,
the Iroquois Confederacy was split by the
issue of whether to side with the Colonists
or the British. The Oneidas made the difficult
decision to remain true to their new American
neighbors, believing in principle that taxation
without representation and domination by
the King of England was intolerable and
wrong. The decision to support the Colonists
pitted Indian brother against Indian brother
as the remaining four members of the original
Iroquois Confederacy decided to remain neutral
or sided with the British.
Gently rolling hills dropping away to the
valley lands on the north preserve the scene
of Herkimer's hard-fought battle, and a
tall monument commemorates the action. Included
in the site is the ravine between two low
hills where the Indians and loyalists sprang
their ambush. EVP's with the indian words
"Ooonah, oonah," Indians,call
of retreat have been rercorded. Many local
paranormal groups have gotten some amazing
documentation of orbs and actual ghost sightings
The heavy forest that covered the battlefield
in 1777 has disappeared, but the area has
otherwise retained its natural features
with a minimum of modern encroachments.
Restoration of the field appears practicable.
Oriskany State Park, containing the battlefield,
is well maintained and offers picnic facilities.
Operating Hours & Seasons
Mid-May thru mid-Oct., Wed.-Sat. 9 a.m.-
5p.m., Sun. 1-5 p.m. Also open Monday holidays
9 a.m.-5 p.m.
7801 State Rte 69, Oriskany, NY 13424 ·
ALSO SEE: THE TOP
TEN MOST HAUNTED BATTLEFIELD LIST
the battles have long ago ended and the
sound of cannons and muskets is but a distant
memory, there are some souls who are still
waiting for the call to “Retreat”
– and for them, it may never come!
plans to visit a Haunted Battlefield today!
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