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Historic Furnishing Study

Livestock was employed in two ways at Fort Stanwix: first, as food, and second, as draft animals. Horses, beef cattle, milk cows, and hogs were found at the fort during the siege, and in all probability poultry was there also.

Beef cattle were a major food of the garrison, and were usually found in the commissary's returns. The number of cattle often fluctuated depending upon the number of people in the garrison and upon the erratic behavior of the supply line. In August 1776 the fort had about 23 head of cattle to provide fresh meat for the garrison. [1]

One year later, soon after the siege, Fort Stanwix complained about the shortage of provisions, but the general commissary in Albany could not understand the justification for this complaint when the latest commissary return revealed that the garrison had 42 head of cattle. He conceded, however, that the cattle "must have been small." [2] Despite what might have been a misunderstanding, 2 months later 40 head of cattle were on their way to Fort Stanwix. [3] Meanwhile, as late as December 1780, 47 head of cattle were shipped to the garrison, but this was probably the last big shipment before the fort was evacuated. [4]

The cattle that were sent to Fort Stanwix were eventually slaughtered, salted, and barreled. Several barrels of salt were usually on hand for barreling cattle. The barrels were often made at the fort. Thus the commander was ordered in 1780 "to get at least 300 Beef Barrels made instantly." [5] The British often shipped staves, hoops and backings, along with other provisions, to their forces in America where barrels were then made. The same procedure was probably employed by the Americans.

Some of the cattle were served as fresh meat, and officers usually reaped the benefits. An order issued in 1780 directed the commissary at Fort Stanwix to issue a 3-day ration of fresh meat for the officers of the garrison. [6]

Milch cows and hogs also made up part of the livestock, but these were probably small in number. Moreover, this livestock was usually privately owned, either by members of the garrison itself or by neighboring farmers. During the siege Colonel Gansevoort was forced to slaughter milch cows and hogs, "the property of the late inhabitants" of Fort Stanwix, in order to supplement his inadequate provisions. [7]

The owners of milch cows sometimes presented problems to the garrison. Although milk was always welcomed, they often sold it at exorbitant prices. In September 1777 the commander was compelled to put a ceiling on the price of milk, setting it at 6 pence a quart. He reminded these owners that their cows received feed from the public lands, and he cautioned them that if the price ceiling was violated, he would have their cows expropriated and turned over to the hospital. [8]

Hogs proved to be a nuisance; they were frequently let loose about the fort, injuring the works. At one point owners of these animals were ordered to have their hogs "ringed" on penalty of having them expropriated. [9]

Records dating as early as 1765 indicate that horses as well as oxen were employed at Fort Stanwix for pulling wagons transporting boats and supplies from the Mohawk River to Wood Creek. [10] Horses were also used for carrying couriers and the commander of the fort. In late 1776 there were sufficient horses to warrant the assignment of a blacksmith to the fort. [11]

Just prior to the siege, Colonel Gansevoort requested two horses to be kept at "My Place for any Sudden Emergency." [12] Whether they were finally made available to Colonel Gansevoort is not clear, but it is certain that at least seven horses were at Fort Stanwix during the siege, and they were used for pulling wagons. In Willett's famous raid, seven supply wagons from the fort were used to cart away the plunder. [13]

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Last Updated: 26-Dec-2008