Overview and Summary of the Battle of Oriskany & the Siege of Fort Stanwix
George Washington and the Continental Army had defeated the British in New Jersey at the Battle of Princeton and driven them to New York. British soldiers, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Barry St. Leger, were marching from Quebec eastward across central New York and the Mohawk Valley to join with British forces at Albany, New York. The Mohawk Valley region of New York state was of prime strategic importance to the British. It was a natural passageway connecting the Atlantic Ocean via the Hudson Valley with the interior of North America and inhabited by the Iroquois Confederacy who were strong allies of the British.
The Battle of Oriskany and the Siege of Fort Stanwix
Patriot leaders had realized the need to defend the Mohawk Valley against British incursions and began rebuilding Fort Stanwix in 1776. Colonel Peter Gansevoort took command of Fort Stanwix in the spring of 1777 with about 700 soldiers. By the end of July, Lieutenant Colonel Barry St. Legers army, including American Loyalists and Indians led by Chief Joseph Brant, consisting of about 1,200 men was approaching Wood Creek. Gansevoort was defending Fort Stanwix with a force about half that of St. Legerís. The siege of Fort Stanwix began on August 3, 1777. General Nicholas Herkimer attempted to take his 800 colonial militiamen to re-enforce the Americans at Fort Stanwix. His army was ambushed 2 miles west of Oriskany Creek by a force of about 1,200 British and their Iroquois allies. The battle that followed resulted in heavy casualties for both sides following bloody hand-to-hand combat. General Nicholas Herkimer received a terrible injury to his leg, from which he later died. After three weeks Barry St. Leger was still unable to capture the fort and was forced to lift the siege of Fort Stanwix on August 22nd and withdraw to Canada.
Importance and Significance of the Battle of Oriskany & the Siege of Fort Stanwix
Significance of the Battle of Oriskany: The significance of the conflict was that St. Leger's retreat to Canada and his failure to advance on Albany contributed to Burgoyne's surrender following the Battles of Saratoga in October 1777.