Return to Battle of Oriskany (thing)

American battle that took place on August 6, 1777. Effectively Britain launched an attack, making an attempt to control the New York Colony.

Three Generals were to lead the attack: Major General John Burgoyne, General Sir William Howe and General Barry St. Leger.

They planned to attack on three fronts, Burgoyne attacking from Canada, marching down the Champlain Valley, Howe would march down the Hudson Valley from New York City, and Leger would attack Albany, marching down Mohawk Valley

General Nicholas Herkimer, upon hearing about Leger's attack on Fort Stanwix, ordered the Tyron County militia to relieve the garrison (which was under Colonel Gansevoort's command).

The militia left Fort Dayton on 4th August, and arrived at Oriskany on the night of the 5th, where they camped for the night. Herkimer sent a message to Gansevoort notifying him of their arrival. He asked that the Colonel fire a signal of three cannon blasts when the message was recieived. It was delayed until the following morning.

Before the message was recieved, Tory troops were spotted on the attack - the signal cannons were fired, and Gansevoort sent Colonel Willet and 200 men to creat a diversion.

Herkimer, did not advance, he did not feel it was safe to do so until reinforcements arrived. This was not well received by the men under his command. After much dissention, and bitter comments, the General gave the order to advance.

Leger, having heard of Herkimer's arrival and sent Colonel Sir John Johnson's Greens, Colonel John Butler with his rangers and Joseph Brant with a force of Native Americans.

Herkimer's troops had not marched 3 miles when they were ambushed. And a particularly clever ambush at that. The General was surrounded in a marsh ravine and taken by surprise.

The circle closed on Herkimer, cutting him off from his supplies, and from Colonol Vischer. His group routed, and were slaughtered by the Native Americans.

Herkimer was soon injured, shot in the leg. He continued to direct his troops from under a tree, throught the chaos and the pain.

The slaughter carried on for nearly an hour. Slowly the Provincials started to regain their composure and regroup - forming small circles to repel their attackers. The battle became a close quarters bayonet fight.

As if the misery couldn't get any greater, it was this time that life decided to really rain on their parade. Or more specifically, their battle. Torrential rain was added to the chaos of battle.

Herkimer, by all rights had done well to make it this far, the odds were never in his favour. And although he was still losing, the British had suffered heavy casualies too.

Herkimer noticed that his riflers were being killed by the Native Americans at an alarming rate. Whenever the flash of a rifle appeared - a Native would appear and strike the gunman down. The order went out that gunman were to travel in pairs. While one reloaded, the other could fend off any attacks.

It wasn't long before this was a moot point. The gunpowder was getting too wet. Joseph Brant pointed this out to his troops as a moral booster, but the Native Americans became worried that the Great Spirit had sent the rain as a sign to stop the fighting.

Now it was the Native Americans that were taking heavy losses, and they were on the verge of route, when Major Watts arrived with reinforcements.

The fight just gets bloodier and bloodier.

Colonel John Butler (British) decided to employ deception to give them an edge. Turning their coats inside out, gave the impression that they were American coats. He figured if the British did this, and just walked towards the Americans, they would be thought of as reinforcements.

And this, indeed, is what happened. And, until the Royal Greens attacked a Private, everyone was convinced. Butler's ploy failed at the last minute.

And so, the Native Americans fell back, and the battle had degraded into small pockets of fighting here and there. And finally, the "message recieved" cannon blasts were sounded from Fort Stanwix, the fighting ended, the British troops pulled back.

American Losses:
250 dead at battle
250 mortally wounded
50 captured

Native American Losses:
23 Chiefs dead
78 Warriors dead

Tory force Losses:
33 dead

Sources
http://www2.whidbey.com/jerod/oriskany.htm (an essay by Jerod Rosman)
http://www.npac.syr.edu/projects/ltb/teacher_journeys/battle.html


Standard disclaimer:
This is the first bit of American War History I have ever researched. Being a Briton I know nothing about it. I therefore may have said some very wrong things in the above text. /msg me and I'll sort them out. Thank you.
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