History, Historic Furnishing, and Historic Structure Reports
NPS Logo

Construction and Military History 1758 to 1777


The end of the Colonial Period found the western and northern portions of the Province of New York still in varying degrees frontier in nature. Much of the western part continued to be Iroqouis country. The Confederacy had lost much of its early strength; and its people, especially the Mohawks, Onandagas, and Oneidas, were becoming more "civilized" and dependent on the whites. The Mohawk Valley was thus a region where the races met in frequent contact, and relations between them was an important subject for the local people and the provincial government. Sir William Johnson, who from 1756 until his death on the eve of the Revolution was superintendent of Indian affairs for the tribes north of the Ohio River, was the valley's dominant personality. Its white population was a mixture of German, Scottish, and English with a small number of descendants of the old colonial Dutch families. In 1772 the half of New York bordering on Canada and the Iroquois country, including all of the Mohawk Valley from about two miles west of Schnectady, was separated from Albany County and named Tyron County in honor of Governor William Tryon.

The people of the county entered the era of Revolution with divided loyalties. Communities and families split as some members aligned themselves with the rebellious colonists while others remained loyal to England and its provincial administration or hoped to remain aloof from the war. For many the choice was agonizing as men found themselves forced to choose from among conflicting interests. For the Germans, with no sentimental ties to England, the natural choice would seem to have been to cast their lot with the rebels—as many did. However, as they had tried to do during the Seven Years' War, some sought neutrality in a quarrel that they felt was not their concern. For others, remembering shabby usage by New York patricians like the Schuylers, who were leaders in the resistance to imperial authority, and believing that they were more likely to receive fair treatment from a royal governor than a native oligarchy, the choice was to be loyal to the Crown. Among them the Johnson influence may have been a factor. Sir William's wife, Sir John's mother, was a German, and the Palatines had found the baronet fair and sympathetic. The Highlanders were divided, but some had served in the British Army and had little love for the Hudson Valley grandees; and these remained true to their old allegiance. The English and Dutch settlers, mostly native-born, probably included more dedicated members of the "Patriot" party than did the other elements of the population. Thus to the people of the Mohawk country, the Revolution had many of the characteristics of a civil war.

Leadership of the Loyalists centered in the family of Sir William Johnson. His political heirs were his son, Sir John: his nephew, son-in-law, and successor to the superintendency, Guy Johnson; another son-in-law, Daniel Claus; and John Butler, who had been Sir William's deputy. Closely associated with them was Joseph Bryant (Thayendanega), Sir William's secretary and brother of Molly Brant, his Mohawk mistress. Sir John, hereditary head of the family and of the imperial interest, undertook to organize the valley's Loyalists and Indians into a provincial force; but his efforts were thwarted, and he and some of his supporters were disarmed and placed on parole. Fearful that pro-British elements might yet rally on the Johnsons, the state's revolutionary leadership resolved to arrest him. When he learned that his family's old rival, Philip Schuyler, was sending a force under Colonel Dayton to carry out that resolution, he escaped to Canada in May 1776, where he was commissioned a lieutenant colonel and authorized to raise a loyal regiment.

American concern for the security of the valley was not confined to local or provincial action. Maj. Gen. Philip John Schuyler, commanding general of the Northern Department, was aware of the region's economical potential and its political and military significance. On June 8, 1776, he wrote to the President of the Continental Congress recommending that troops be posted at the site of Fort Stanwix and that the Indians be advised of the Continentals' intentions. [1] He did not wait for an answer from Congress before preparing to carry his suggestion into effect. Three days later, he informed General Washington that he was "preparing everything I can with utmost secrecy for taking post at Fort Stanwix, which I propose to do immediately after the conference with the Indians." [2] Congress did not delay considering the general's recommendation and on Friday, June 14:

Resolved, That General Schuyler and the other commissioners for Indian affairs in the northern department be directed immediately to hold a conference with Six Nations; to engage them in our interest upon the best terms that can be procured, and treat with them on the principles and in the decisive manner mentioned in his letter:

[of June 8]

That General Schuyler's preparations for immediately taking post at Fort Stanwix, and erecting a fortification there, be approved of; and that Gen. Washington be instructed to give him directions for carrying that measure into execution. [3]

The Commander-in-Chief complied with the Congress's resolution; [4] and although the Indians postponed negotiations, General Schuyler pushed preparations for occupying the Carrying Place. He ordered Col. Elias Dayton of the 3d New Jersey Regiment of the Continental Line to take post at Fort Stanwix with 500 men of his regiment, 150 of Colonel Cornelius Wynkoop's 4th New York Continental Regiment, 75 Tryon County Militia "intended for Canada," and an additional 200 of the county militia. [5]

On June 26 General Schuyler gave orders for the shipment of supplies and artillery by batteaus to be commanded by Captains Lansing and Wolcott. Strict secrecy was enjoined, and the batteaumen were not to be informed of their destination. Preparations proceeded rapidly, and on July 1 the supplies began to move westward from Albany. [6] Colonel Dayton's troops assembled and reached their new post on July 23. In the meantime, Schuyler moved to German Flats to meet with the Indian delegations, in compliance with the Congress's June 14 resolution; and he reported that the occupation of the Carrying Place had not given umbrage to the Indians. [7]

The troops, accompanied by Engineer Nathaniel Hubbell, found the fort dismantled and ruinous. [8] Their task was to secure the vicinity, serve as a center for patrols, and either rebuild the fort or construct a new one. General Schuyler left to Dayton's discretion the selection of the two alternatives, telling him: "As I never was at Fort Stanwix, I cannot positively recommend any particular place for erecting a Fortification, but from the best Information I have been able to procure, I am led to believe the Spot on which the old Fort stood, the most Eligible, of this you must be the Judge." [9] The general apparently expected Dayton to build a new fort, either on the site of the colonial one or at a new location. However, he wisely left the final decisions of how to accomplish that part of the mission to the local commander. While the surviving correspondence that has been studied does not explicitly spell out how the colonel exercised his options, enough information exists to form some conclusions.

Since the Mohawk column did not arrive at its post until the middle of July, the commander and his engineer were faced with the problem of building a fort that could be occupied during the next winter within a severely limited period of time. Although there were more than 900 men in the expedition, only a portion of that number could be employed at a given time in construction, because military and camp duties absorbed part of the available man-power. The condition of the colonial fort was the key to the solution of their problem. If it could be repaired, a great saving of time could be realized. On the other hand, if it was too dilapidated, two alternatives remained: the fort could be razed and the site reused; or another location could be selected and prepared before new construction could be commenced. Two questions require answering: Did the Revolutionary fort occupy the site of the original Fort Stanwix? Was the old fort repaired; or did Dayton's men construct a completely new facility?

The first question is answered by two cartographic representations of the Revolutionary period fort. One of these is a copy of a map by Francois de Fleury entitled, "A Sketch of the siege of FORT SCHUYLER Presented to Col. Gansevoort L. Fleury." The other is a "Plan of Fort Stanwix" that hung in Peter Gansevoort's Albany home for many years and now in the New York Public Library. [10] Both of these locate the fort on the site of the original one.

The second question can be answered with almost as much precision. The representations of the Revolutionary fort's curtains, bastions, glacis, sally ports, and covered way correspond very closely with the earlier plans, particularly Crown Maps 99, 100 and 101. Within less than a fortnight after the troops arrived, Nathaniel Hubbell wrote to General Schuyler praising the soldiers' performance and predicting, "The Fort will be Tenable by 15 Agust [sic]." [11] A letter from Schuyler to Washington of August 1 is couched in terms that indicate the old fort was being repaired when he wrote, "Fort Stanwix is repairing and is already so far advanced as to be defensible against light artillery." [12] On the same day, Colonel Dayton wrote to commander, "The Fort here which at present is very defensible against almost any Number of Small Arms we had this day the pleasure to name Fort Schuyler" [13] Two days later, Schuyler wrote to General Horatio Gates:

Yesterday I received information that the enemy intended to possess themselves of Oswego, and to march a body of troops to destroy the settlements on the river. I can hardly imagine that they will venture to leave Fort Stanwix in the rear, which is already in such a condition as to be tenable against small-arms, and even light artillery. [14]

By the end of August, scarcely six weeks after beginning the work, Colonel Dayton was able to tell his commanding general that, "Unless the Enemy visit us by the first of October, 1 imagine they will not disturb Fort Schuyler this season." [15] Thus within two months, the fort was strong enough to persuade the local commander and his superior, who had spent most of the summer engaging in talks with the Indians at German Flats, that it could withstand any force the enemy was likely to bring against it that year. This had been accomplished in spite of rumors of hostile activity, continued drains on Dayton's man-power in providing scouts, and the loss of Wynkoop's two companies, who were ordered down-river on August 2. [16] This state of preparedness could have been achieved only by utilizing and repairing the curtains, bastions, ditch, and glacis of the original fort.

While Dayton and Schuyler had hoped to have the barracks for 400 men completed by the beginning of winter, a scarcity of bricks, boards, and nails forced deferment of that portion of the work until the next year. [17] But the engineer went to Albany for materials so that work could be resumed as early in the season as possible. [18] The correspondence does not provide details concerning other buildings constructed during 1776, but they probably included officer' quarters, a storehouse, and a powder magazine. Supplies and ordnance had been dispatched throughout the summer and fall, and facilities for their storage during the winter would have had a high priority. [19]

The lack of barracks limited the number of men who could be stationed at the fort during the winter months to about 200. This worried Colonel Dayton, whose men's time would expire at the end of the year, and he wrote General Schuyler telling him that he did not expect the enemy to move against the fort, adding:

I conclude General Schuyler will order no more than about 200 men to garrison this Fort the ensuing winter as I suppose that number sufficient and not more than 200 can be properly accommodated. On this account I fear a Separation of my Regiment unless you Sir, should think it fit to order us to a more active and important station, and send a part of Colonel Elmore's Battalion which I understand is equal to mine in point of numbers, to relieve us at this Post. [20]

General Schuyler complied with Dayton's request and on October 9 ordered Col. Samuel Elmore's Connecticut troops to leave German Flats and occupy Fort Schuyler [Stanwix], which they did on the 17th. Because not all the barracks had been completed, a part of Elmore's command returned to German Flats to winter there at nearby Burnet's Field. [21] At the end of December, beef and an eight-month supply of flour, along with soap and candles, were ordered sent to Elmore's men at Fort Stanwix. [22]

One of the last actions taken by the Continental Congress in 1776 was the passage of a resolution on Saturday, December 28, providing:

That Fort Stanwix be strengthened, & other fortifications be made at proper places near the Mohawk river, . . to be executed this winter, commanding officers of artillery, chief engineer, quartermaster general, & commissary general, provide & perform whatever things in the respective departments are necessary, or may contribute to the accomplishment thereof. [23]

The winter of 1776-77 was a period of quiet on the northern frontier, but it was not one of complacency. Sir Guy Carleton's aborted 1776 invasion confirmed American fears that the British intended carrying the war into the interior; and although Sir Guy had withdrawn to Canada, there was ample evidence that the project was deferred, not abandoned. Shortages of every form of material hounded the commanders in the Northern Department. Illness and desertion ate into the effective man-power. Sectional and personal loyalties divided men and units, a condition that was reflected in the shifts of command between Philip Schuyler and Horatio Gates. Crown Point and Ticonderoga at the northern terminus of the Champlain-Hendron line were still American, but every problem that plagued the Americans seemed to focus and compound there. Fort Stanwix was unfinished and while defensible against small arms and light artillery, it was vulnerable to a determined attack supported by heavier field pieces.

During the late winter, a new and little-known figure entered the story of the fort. A French officer, Captain B. De Lamarquise, who had been assigned to the Northern Department as an engineer, submitted to General Schuyler a plan for rebuilding the fort. The general accepted it and ordered the engineer to:

make the alterations agreeable to the plan you have laid before me, and to guard as much as possible against any misfortunes, that might be occasioned by an attack before the alterations are compleat, whilst the other is going on as possible that the garrison may be covered. Perhaps it will be best to begin with one bastion and the adjacent curtains and compleat as much as possible before another is begun. [24]

Lamarquise's plan has not been located, and thus an important element of the construction history of the fort is missing. That it envisaged substantial changes as indicated in the general's letter to Colonel Elmore in which he wrote: "Captain Marquizes [?] has in charge from the general to New Moddle [model] Fort Schuyler and make some additional fortifications at that place." [25]

At the end of March, while preparing to leave for Philadelphia, General Schuyler ordered Col. Peter Gansevoort of the 3d New York Regiment of the Continental Line to Fort Stanwix to replace Elmore's men of the Connecticut Line. [26]

The first detachment of the new garrison reached the fort on April 17. On May 3 Colonel Gansevoort arrived and took command. A week later, Elmore's men, who had spent the winter on the frontier, marched out of the fort on their way to Albany. The remainder of Gansevoort's regiment, under the command of Lt. Col. Marinus Willett arrived on May 28. [27]

Gates replaced Schuyler as Commanding General of the Northern Department. In his papers is an undated report from Captain de Lamarquise, written prior to Gansevoort's arrival, detailing the latter's work at the fort:

Capt. De Lamarquise's proceedings at Fort Schuyler since his arrival at that post—

has made halves to the axes, pickaxes & spades & other implements

has made 200 embares on riviere

has made a guard house at the entry of the Fort which before his arrival was behind

has made sentry-boxes where necessary to keep centinels

has built a house by order of the general for one stefanny who is married to a squaw 24 ft long by 12 ft deep

has made a small store to put provisions under cover finished a house for the savages when they come to that post also arranged the Barracks which were of no service not being in a state without alteration to receive 200 men and he will put them in a state to receive 500 or at least 400 say.

The Garrison has not yet permitted him to undertake the putting the fort in proper order and were there men sufficient, the grass will not be of sufficient strength for 15 days, to cut turf he has therefore employed the few he has to open a road to the westward of the fort where he can get cedar and pine near at hand, whereas before they were obliged to go three miles to fetch a piece of wood as also firewood.

as soon as Colo Gansevoort arrives he will set about the fort and trim it up with turf &c from the bottom of the ditch &c.

He proposes to raise the parapet with cedar (as there is enough about a mile from the fort) by the end of next month he thinks it will be necessary to order 200 to 300 militia to assist in that work if no other troops are to be sent but Gansevoort's.

He proposes next week to make a hospital for the sick for the want of which and a surgeon he will be obliged to send them down having already done it Major Cockran is now very ill.

When he arrived at Fort Schuyler the 20th of April with a company of 20 carpenters a few days after he was obliged to discharge 10 of them being shoemakers, tailors, & smiths who did not understand their business for which they engaged. [28]

Within three weeks, the engineer wrote General Gates proposing to build a new fort rather than repairing the existing one, saying:

I have received orders from General Schuyler to repair this fort in the same way form it was last war. It is absolutely necessary that I make it entirely new. Barracks, Ramparts, Parapet, Fosse and covered way, Fraise and Cheveaux de fiese; all is destroyed. If there is no more troops to come than Col. Gansevoort's Regiment, I can not absolutely repair this Fort so soon as I would wish it and necessity requires. I wish you wouuld send a reinforcement as soon as it is possible and give orders to the Quarter Master General to supply the necessities of the Garrison, by means of which I can in a little time put the place in condition not to fear the enemy. [29]

Almost simultaneously, Gansevoort assured the departmental commander that he would cooperate with the engineer to the full extent of his capabilities, but that he simply did not have the personnel to do everything that was needed, "as the whole fort and barracks is to be new modelled." He also informed him that he needed at least ten more batteaus to transport boards. [30]

Before Gates could respond to Gansevoort's and Lamarquise's correspondence, Congress again shifted the Northern Department's command to Schuyler [31] At this point, the construction history of the fort becomes more confusing. The engineer had insisted that the old fort was beyond repair and that a new one would have to be built, and Gansevoort's memorandum to Gates indicated that the works were to be "new modelled." On May 26 Lt. Col. Marinus Willett arrived from Fort Constitution with the rest of Gansevoort's regiment, minus a detachment left at Fort Dayton. [32] Colonel Willett prepared an account of his military career thirty years after the siege of Fort Stanwix, and that narrative makes the following contribution to the story of the fort's remodeling:

Instead of repairing the works after the manner of their original construction, which could easily have been done,—for though in a state of decay, the principal outlines of the old fort were sufficiently visible,—the engineer sent out large parties to procure logs from the swamp. Having ordered them to be drawn near the fort, he began to erect them in the covert way and not in the center of the ditch where they formerly had been placed. After having with much labor procured the logs, it appeared that each log was seven feet longer than was necessary; the logs being seventeen in length, when the pickets that were to be made of them only required ten feet. This blunder of the engineer, together with the remissness he showed, at so critical a moment, led Colonel Willett to suggest to Colonel Gansevoort the propriety of discharging him from the office he filled. Colonel Gansevoort, however, from the circumstance that the engineer had been appointed by the commander-in-chief of the Northern Department, General Schuyler, to superintend the fortifications, was reluctant to take the step.

The fortifications, consequently, continued to go on under the superintendence of the engineer. The barracks were repaired within the fort, and a large and commodious building intended for this purpose was erected a little beyond the foot of the glacis. But all of those works were of secondary importance; indeed the barracks out of the fort at the foot of the glacis, could be of no use in care of investment, but rather an injury. And so it actually proved: for the enemy set fire to this very building at a time, when the wind, blowing fresh toward the fort, occasioned considerable inconvenience to the garrison. In the meantime little was done to strengthen the fort, though there was every reason to expect the instant arrival of the enemy.

The anxiety of Colonel Willett, arising from a conviction of the incompetency of the engineer, in connection with the critical state of the fort, led him closely to inspect the progress of the state of the fortification. The engineer had begun to erect a salient angle to the gate, with two embrasures in it. He was also engaged in erecting pickets along the covert way. The pickets were placed about three feet from the parapet of the glacis. Two of them were framed together with cross-pieces, and formed a kind of porthole which were intended to be placed opposite the embrasures. But it soon appeared from the manner in which the pickets were arranged that the portholes formed of the pickets with crosspieces would come opposite the neck of the embrasures. By this means the salient angle would be rendered wholly useless Colonel Willett at an early stage of the work, noticed the error, but thought it best to let the engineer take his own course until the line of pickets should be carried to that part of the salient angle where they would be opposite to the embrasures. When the engineer reached this part of his work, his ignorance would be without the least covering; and yet he never discovered his error until the pickets were erected opposite the neck of the embrasures. Then for the first time he saw that all his labor in erecting the salient angle had been in vain; and that it could not be used without first knocking away the neck of the embrasures. The case being stated to Colonel Gansevoort, he directed Colonel Willett to arrest the engineer, which was accordingly done. He was permitted to repair to headquarters; a letter at the same time being sent to General Schuyler assigning the reasons of the arrest.

It was not until some time in the month [July] that this step was taken. Information had already been received that the enemy were advancing toward the garrison. [33]

Because the account was written so many years after the events took place and was rewritten by his son William, the colonel's story must be used cautiously and in conjunction with other, more contemporaneous sources. Returning to those sources, one can trace a part of the course of rebuilding of the fort. On June 15, in reply to a query of Schuyler's concerning the progress of the work, Gansevoort wrote that, in spite of the fact every available man was on fatigue details, progress was very slow and that:

there are about 2,000 Pickquettes lying around the fort which we have Drawn out of the swamp through which we have been obliged to make Roads for that purpose and will soon be able to compleat that part of the business—nothing of any importance is yet done towards the strengthening of the fortification which at present has little more than the name of a fortification. The engineer at this place has just laid the foundation of a salient angle before the gate and the carpenters are employed in framing a Barracks to be raised just before the glacis opposite the south Bastion the Barracks at present being bad and the whole works insufficient to contain the few men we have here, the whole of the works which appear to me to be necessary and which Capt. Marquisie tells me are to be done at this place undoubtedly require more strength than we have at present. I, therefore, humbly request that part of my Regiment which is at present stationed at Fort Dayton may be relieved and ordered to this place.

He reported that the engineer appeared to be diligent, that many of the supplies went to "victualing" the Indians, that a number of his men were ill, and that he had to send as far as Conajohary for boards and to Little Falls for lime. [34]

Suddenly, on July 10, General Schuyler wrote to Gansevoort directing him to "send Capt. Marquisie down & let Major Hubbel superintend the works." [35] Nothing in the contemporary correspondence reveals the reasons for this apparently abrupt action. Schuyler was not a man who gave his confidence lightly and he was equally slow to withdraw it. The reasons for ordering the Frenchman's replacement must have been weighty. Looking at it from the distance of nearly two centuries, some of Lamarquise's acts, and decisions, and statements certainly are hard to understand and defend. For one thing, he intruded himself into the field of Indian relations, as witness this report to General Gates:

I have the honor to write you this to inform you of the arrangements which I have made with the savages of the Six Nations, that after having held council with them of which Mr. Stephnes was the interpreter, they promised me neutrality, and that they will not medle any more with the affairs of the King of England, and they are satisfied that the King of France was a friend of the Americans for which they will rest at peace

The 26th of April last the savages of the Six Nations sent to the Fort for me, in consequence of which I was sent with them in Council with the savages that was arrived from Canada. These savages from Canada promised me also neutrality in the presence of Mr. Dean, the Interpreter, and told me that they will refuse General Carleton all sorts of propositions, and that they will not medle more with anything, and they gave the following news:

At a place called La Gallette (Oswaygatia I believe) [Oswego] where they are constructing a vessel of 28 pieces of cannon which ought to be finished. There is in the Fort 50 or 60 men, and 6 pieces of artillery mounted. At Niagara there is about 200 men which Mr. Johnson's son [Sir John Johnson] left when he was last fall at New York. At St. John's last winter they had there and at the Isle auxNois 1,000 men, and there they are constructing 12 batteaus of one mast, and several more large batteaus. When Messrs. Nermonet and the other gentlemen arrived, I had arrargned [arranged] all this on my good will and money, about a fortnight; being glad to have the occasion to oblige the country and render myslf useful to the Continent.

I hope General this will give you pleasure, and that you will have some regard to my good intention; it has cost in presents to make them drink about one hundred dollars which I expended with a good heart.

. . . I shall always be ready to execute your orders, and that will give much pleasure to the savages. [36]

In his undated memorandum describing the situation prior to May 5, the date of Gansevoort's arrival, he wrote concerning the conference with the Indians:

The 26 April 2 savages from the Sault St. Louis near Montreal arrived among the 6 Nations. As soon as they heard there was a French officer at the fort they sent for him to hold a council which lasted from 9 in the morning to 6 in the evening but not being accustomed to such councils he neglected to lay in a good breakfast. Therefore declares when he broke up had great occasion for a good dinner. In the counsel the savages from Canada agreed with the Six Nations and him not to take part with the English as they call our enemies but remain neutral.

When he went out to meet them they received him with the honors of war a salute of 3 cannons and each savage fired his fusil, which I answered with 3 discharges from the detachment I had with me. When I left them the same ceremony happened. They made him a present, but unfortunately not worth much. He did all he could to engage the Canadian Indians to come down but could not succeed . . . P.S.—If you send Capt. Florimant here I believe it will be of service first to assist in the works, secondly the right of another French officer will confirm to the savages what I have already told them—and also you may be assured he is an honest man. [37]

Lamarquise's reports pose some problems. First, Colonel Elmore, the fort's commanding officer and the official responsible for Indian affairs in that vicinity, and his successor Colonel Gansevoort, never referred to the council, nor did General Schuyler, departmental commander and Indian commissioner. This is strange, if so important a conference as the engineer describes convened. Secondly, the only members of the Six Nations whose presence in any numbers is reported at or near the fort and with whom the Americans apparently had friendly contacts were the Oneidas. Thirdly, the conduct of the Six Nations, excepting the Oneidas, was exactly the opposite of what Lamarquise reported they had pledged. If the council took place, it probably included not representatives of the Confederacy, but only a few of the local bands; and the Indians succeeded in hoodwinking the Frenchman, playing upon his sense of importance. There are no documents authorizing the engineer to treat with the Indians and none that have been studied support his story; although a probable result was Schuyler's order to Gansevoort forbidding persons not employed by the Indian Department to make speeches to the Indians. [38]

Lamarquise's professional performance is not always easy to defend. As has been noted, he was commissioned to restore the fort "in the same way it was last war." Contending that it was beyond repair, he advised building a completely new one and apparently proceeded to act as though that was what he was doing. This would have been a very ambitious undertaking under the best of conditions, and one that would have demanded a severely imposed husbanding of men, time and equipment. However, he built a house for Stephen Degran, a local French squaw-man, a building to shelter the Indians who visited the fort, and erected a large new barracks outside the fort that had to be destroyed during the siege to prevent its screening the enemy's approach. His utilization of building materials was not what would have been expected of an engineer working against time in a wilderness environment. Instead of erecting log barracks, he used boards that had to be shipped by batteaux from Conajohary, a distance of almost fifty miles. In fact, if he intended building a new fort to replace the old one he failed. Nothing in the contemporary documents indicates that he razed the old ramparts; and as shall be noted, the evidence indicates that the old fort was still standing in August. Perhaps he intended to build a new one and that time, the approaching enemy, and his recall precluded his accomplishing his objective. The Gansevoort-Schuyler correspondence does not tell why he was replaced—perhaps Colonel Willett's account of Lamarquise's incompetence provides the answer.

The Americans continued working to strengthen their position under Hubbell's supervision. As the summer advanced, enemy activity in the vicinity increased. On June 25 a party of Indians attacked Captain Gregg and Corporal Madison while hunting. The corporal was killed and the captain almost fatally wounded. [39] On July 3 Ensign John Spoor and a party of seven men cutting sod at the ruins of old Fort Newport were attacked. One soldier was killed and scalped, one wounded and scalped, and the officer and four men were captured. [40] Not unnaturally, the fort's commander suspected the neighboring Oneidas of having a share in these events; and, according to William L. Stone, Sr., the Indians denied any complicity, protesting their good-will and friendship, to which the Colonel replied:

Brother Warriors of the Six Nations: I thank you for your good talk.

Brothers: You tell us you are sorry for the cruel usage of Captain Gregg, and the murder of one of our warriors; that you would have immediately pursued the murderers, had not General Schuyler, General Gates, and the French general desired you not to take any part in this war; and that you have obeyed their orders, and are resolved to do so. I commend your good resolution.

Brothers: You say you have sent a runner to the Six Nations to inform them of what has happened, and that you expect some of the chiefs will look into the affair, and try to find the murderers. You have done well. I shall be glad to smoke a pipe with your chiefs, and hope they will do as they speak.

Brothers: I hope the mischief has been done, not by any of our good neighbors of the Oneida nation but by the Tories, who are enemies to you as well as to us, and who are ready to murder yourselves, your wives, and children if you will not be as wicked as themselves.

Brothers: When your chiefs shall convince me that Indians of the six Nations have had no hand in this wicked thing, and shall use means to find out the murderers and bring them to justice, you may be assured that we will strengthen the chain of friendship, and embrace you as good brothers. I wilt not suffer any of our warriors to hurt you. [41]

The details of the work done after Lamarquise's departure cannot be traced in the correspondence that has survived. Thus a picture of what the fort looked like when Brigadier Barry St. Leger's men laid siege to it in August must be inferred from the data that we have reviewed and from two cartographic sources.

Captain Lamarquise had reported to General Gates that the original fort was beyond repair and that a new one would have to be built, and Colonel Gansevoort apparently acquiesced in this. Therefore, one question that needs answering is whether a new fort was indeed constructed. The engineer's and Gansevoort's letters to Schuyler and Willett's Narrative give the impression that was the objective of the work undertaken during the summer of 1776; but the same sources raise doubts that much progress was made toward that goal.

The reports and letters, and especially Willett's account, clearly indicate that the original ditch and glacis were retained. This meant that before a new fort could be constructed the old one would have to be razed, but there is no documentary evidence that this was done. In fact, the ramparts received scant attention. The engineer reported to Gates before May 5 that he intended to raise the parapet with cedar. He mentioned the laying of turf on the ramparts' exterior slopes, and beginning work on a "salient angle" in front of the main gate. Colonel Willett recalled that "little was done to strengthen the fort," and Colonel Gansevoort reported on June 15 that "nothing of any importance is yet done towards strengthening the fortification . . ."

The cartographic evidence argues strongly against the construction of a new fort. The most nearly contemporary plan or map was the one made by the French officer. Francois de Fleury, entitled, "A Sketch of the siege of FORT SCHUYLER Presented to Col. Gansevoort by L. Fleury." The original Map is lost, but two copies exist. One by G. H. Bowen is preserved in the Cornell University Library's Sparks Collection. Another was prepared by William Campbell for William L. Stone's Life of Brant. A later sketch of the fort was drawn by an unknown artist and presented to Colonel Gansevoort, in whose Albany home it hung for many years. It is now owned by the New York Public Library. [42] This presents a view of the fort and its environs after the siege, possibly in 1778. These representatious of the Revolutionary fort's curtains, bastions, glacis, and gates correspond closely with the earlier plans, especially numbers CXXI 99, 100, and 101 of the British Museum's Crown Map Collection.

From the correspondence of 1777 and the Fleury map, a general description of the historic fort as it existed at the time of the siege may be projected. The ditch and glacis conformed to the pre-Revolutionary design, i.e., a ditch that was about 40 feet wide and a glacis approximately 90 feet wide. However, Willett said that instead of being in the center of the ditch, the pickets were placed on the covered way, the space between the outside berm of the ditch and the glacis parapet. The pickets, according to Willett, were ten feet long, of which approximately six or seven feet stood above ground. An unfinished salient angle stood opposite the main gate, which was located in the center of the south curtain. A drawbridge gave access to the gate. In the center of the east curtain was another gate, or sally-port, that gave access to a spring-fed stream. A small sailent covered this entrance after 1764, and an unidentifiable symbol indicates that some type of work did so in 1777. A fraise of horizontal inclined pickets was near the top of the external slope of the ramparts. All reports agreed that a very limited amount of work was done on the ramparts, except for placing sod on the exterior slope and raising the parapet with cedar. The map's representation of the ramparts shows a heavy line for all sections except the south curtain and southeast bastion. This may indicate that the latter were in a less advanced state of repair. The flag staff was on the southwest bastion, where three cannon were mounted. Four guns were on the northwest bastion, three on the northeast, and four on the southeast. The bombproof was in the southeast bastion. The sources do not indicate whether the parapet was en barbette or had embrasures, although the post-siege plan shows embrasures. There is a tradition that because of the topography, the eastern curtain was shorter than the others; and this seems logical because a small stream flowed within a few yards of the fort on that side, and its west bank would appear to have required a weaker and shorter curtain. This is supported by St. Leger's description of the fort:

I found it a respectable Fortress strongly garrisoned with 700 men and demanding a train of Artillery we were not masters of for its speedy subjection—Its form is a kind of Trapezium or four sided figure with four Bastions freized and picketted, without them is a good ditch with pickets nipping out a considerable way at the salient angles of the Bastions three nines four sixes two threes with a considerable number of wall pieces were all the Artillery the Enemy made use of during the Siege. [43]

The structures inside the fort are not easily identified. The key to the map uses letters to accomplish this, but they are not always distinct. In one instance, the guard house, no reference is found in the key. This building stood to the left of the main gate as one entered the fort. Opposite it was the store-house. The barracks stood east and west of the parade, and the commandant's quarters and headquarters stood north of it. The key also lists a "Laboratory," whose location may have been identical with the store-house or commissary. Because the conclusions that may be developed from the documentary and cartographic sources lack certitude, it is hoped that archeological study will enlarge knowledge of the physical features and correct any errors of interpretation. [44]

After the siege, repair and construction continued, because the threat to the frontier remained critical. The post-siege map shows a hospital, carpenter shop, blacksmith shop, "Indian House," and stable outside the fort's walls and a "Necessary House" built over the creek and connected to the southeast bastion by a bridge in the position that a similar facility occupied in 1759, as depicted on Crown Map CXXI, 99.

<<< Previous <<< Contents>>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 26-Dec-2008