Construction and Military History 1758 to 1777
IV. FORT STANWIX IN THE REVOLUTION
While the men of Colonel Gansevoort's command were repairing Fort Stanwix, the British government and two of its generals were preparing plans for a campaign that was to test the fort and its defenders. What they planned was an invasion of the northern frontier that would, among other accomplishments, redeem the aborted one of 1776. To understand that plan and what it did and did not contain, we need to go back to November of that year when William Howe proposed a plan for 1777 providing that 2,000 men would hold Rhode Island while 10,000 would move from there against New England and 5,000 would hold New York City and 8,000 would "cover New Jersey" while 10,000 would advance up the Hudson to cooperate with a renewed invasion from Canada. The 8,000 men covering New Jersey would also threaten Philadelphia, which Sir William intended to attack after being reinforced. If the American Capital fell and troops became available, he planned to attack Virginia during the autumn and South Carolina and Georgia in the winter. This plan was predicated upon his having available a total of 35,000 men, requiring a reinforcement of 15,000. 
On December 20, before a response to his initial plan could be received from London, the general wrote to Lord George Germain, the Secretary of State for Colonies and Lord Commissioner of Trade and Plantations, outlining a modification of his plan. This proposed opening the campaign with an offensive against Pennsylvania, where he believed the sentiments of the people were favorable to the British, and deferring "the offensive Plan towards Boston until the Reinforcement arrives, that there might be a Corps to act defensively on the lower part of Hudson's River to cover Jersey and to facilitate in some degree the approach of the Canada Army." He changed the proposed distribution of troops to 2,000 for Rhode Island, 4,000 in the New York City area, 3,000 to act on the lower Hudson, and 10,000 to operate in Pennsylvania, a total of 19,000. 
At the close of the northern campaign of 1776, one of Gen. Sir Guy Carleton's subordinates, Maj. Gen. John Burgoyne, like other officers who were members of Parliment, returned to England for the winter sessions and to advance personal professional interests. He arrived at an important point in the development of plans for the coming year. Between the Colonial Minister and Sir Guy there was an old and cherished enmity. The general's failure to prosecute the invasion of the northern frontier was grist in Lord George's mill, and even George III agreed that the command of the next campaign should be given to a more aggressive general. 
There were two candidates for the honor: Henry Clinton and Burgoyne. Clinton did not seek the assignment, at least in part because he expected Howe to give it to him when the invading force established contact with New York.  Burgoyne was the more obvious choice, in spite of his association with the failed invasion. In fact, he turned that association to an advantage. Not only could he pose as being familiar with the American scene, but he also assiduously cultivated the impression that he had opposed the abandonment of Crown Point; and a precis in the American Department's papers shows that the account he gave of the campaign of the previous summer did not always place Carleton in the most favorable light. He had brought a letter from his commander recommending him to the secretary as a source of information and advice, and he took advantage of this, especially in detailed observations on Sir Guy's requirements for the next campaign.  He used a technique of moderate criticism and suggestive contrast to convey an impression of Carleton's inadequacy.
On New Year's Day Burgoyne wrote to Lord Germain telling him that he was leaving London for Bath:
Burgoyne was clearly soliciting the command of the army that would invade the Colonies' northern frontier.
As late as February 24, 1777, the day after the receipt of Howe's December 20 modification of plans for 1777, the King wrote to the Prime Minister, Lord North, that Germain was going to propose that the northern command be given to Sir Henry Clinton and that Burgoyne be sent to New York. However, on the following day, the Cabinet agreed to send Burgoyne back to Canada.  Germain had made certain that Carleton would not conduct the campaign, and he flattered himself that, although he had failed in an attempt to effect the Governor-General's recall, the invasion would be directed by a general who possessed the qualities the Secretary found so lacking in Sir Guy.
Leaving Carleton in command in Canada and appointing Burgoyne to command the expedition created a strange and potentially dangerous situation of dual command with "Burgoyne dependent on Carleton for his base and transport, yet marching independently to place himself under the orders of another General [Howe], while Carleton disowned all responsibility for events beyond the frontier of Canada." 
General Burgoyne had not been idle while his professional future was being settled: he was busy preparing his own plan. On February 28 he sent to Germain his "Thoughts for Conducting the War from the Side of Canada." 
In examining Burgoyne's plan, two matters are pertinent to this study: the basic purpose or objective of the invasion and how it involved the Mohawk Valley. A great deal of ink has been expended in identifying the first. The isolation of New England through a junction of three forces, Burgoyne's from Canada, Sir William Howe's from New York, and Brigadier Barry St. Leger's from Oswego at Albany was a time-honored, simplistic definition. Recent scholarship has made the story more complex and in so doing has redefined the strategic role that the campaign was intended to play. The heart of the solution of the problem lies in Burgoyne's plan.
That plan was, in the first place, a discussion of alternatives. After retaking the first British objectives, Crown Point and Fort Ticonderoga, "The next measure must depend upon those taken by the enemy, and upon the general plan concerted at home."  If the Government's plan provided that Sir William Howe's entire army would act on the Hudson and if "the only object of the Canada army is to effect a junction with that force," Burgoyne recommended that the main invading column go to Albany by way of Lake George. If, as he believed probable, the Americans should "be in force on the lake," light infantry and Indians should act around the lake to "oblige them to quit it without waiting for naval operations." If that failed to clear the lake, the army should attempt to move southward by Lake Camplain's South Bay and Skenesborough [Whitehall, N. Y.]. Burgoyne expected this alternative to be very difficult and at best requiring a significant number of vehicles for his artillery and supplies. The vehicles had to come from Canada. If, at the same time, the Americans should continue to occupy Lake George, the British would have to leave a chain of posts as they moved southward to secure their communications.
While Burgoyne expected that the British would be able to rid Lake George of the Americans, he advocated that the army "at the outset should be provided with carriages, implements, and artificers for conveying armed vessels from Ticonderoga to the lake."
His second alternative was based upon cooperation with the British force posted in Rhode Island by getting control of the Connecticut River. Such an expedition would be faced with serious transport, communications, and security problems, but "Should the junction between Canada and Rhode Island armies be effected upon the Connecticut, it would not be too sanguine an expectation that all the New England provinces will be reduced by their operations."
The third alternative that Burgoyne suggested was that if the force available for service were too small to undertake an over-land expedition with a reasonable promise of success, it might be wise to send the army by sea to join Sir William Howe.
If the first alternative, the one Burgoyne preferred, were chosen, he defined the expedition's mission in these works: "These ideas are formed upon the supposition, that the sole purpose of the Canada army is to effect a junction with General Howe, or after cooperating so far as to get possession of Albany and open the communication to New York, to remain upon Hudson's River, and thereby enable that General to act with his whole force to the Southward." If the second alternative providing for gaining control of the Connecticut River and cooperation with the troops in Rhode Island, were selected, the reduction of New England, which Britain saw as the heart of the rebellion, would certainly facilitate Howe's movements in other quarters. The third alternative, involving the transfer of the northern army by sea, would obviously be exclusively directed toward Howe's reinforcement. Nothing in Burgoyne's plan made holding the Camplain-Hudson line and isolating New England his mission, except in so far as "cooperating so far as to get possession of Albany and open the communication to New York, to remain upon Hudson's River, and thereby enable that General [Howe] to act with his whole force to the Southward" would contribute to attaining that end.
Burgoyne's proposals received careful attention; and when the King responded to them, he and his ministers had not only the general's comments but also Howe's letter of November 30 containing his first plan, the one of December 20 altering that plan by shifting the offensive from New England to Philadelphia, one dated December 30 and that reported the affair at Trenton, and one dated January 20. When Sir William wrote the last, his fragile optimism had evaporated in the face of the battles of Trenton and Princeton and the amazing recuperative power displayed by Washington's army, and he wrote: "I do not now see a prospect of terminating ye War but by a general Action, and I am aware of the difficulties in our way to obtain it, as ye Enemy move with so much more celerity than we possibly can with our foreign troops who are too much attach'd to their baggage, which they have in amazing quantities in ye field." 
With all these documents before them, the King's advisors, members of the Cabinet, and George III made the choice from among Burgoyne's proposals. The King's decision is contained in a document entitled "Remarks on 'The Conduct of the War from Canada'," containing the royal objections to the second and third alternatives, ending with this paragraph:
The decision was made by the ministry and Crown. The primary purpose of the invasion would be to bring a two-column army from Canada to Albany, where it would be at Gen. Sir William Howe's command to utilize in prosecuting the war. If in accomplishing this other benefits should accrue, such as the isolation of New England, destruction of the army of the Northern Department, and reconquest of a geographic area, that would be so much the better. Perhaps in the face of such a disaster, the rebellion would collapse.
The second matter, and the one more directly associated with Fort Stanwix, concerns the part the Mohawk Valley was destined to play in Burgoyne's strategy. He covered that subject in his "Thoughts" with these paragraphs:
Burgoyne's discussion is a strange combination of proposing a diversion by way of the Mohawk and a questioning of its wisdom. But, again, it is wise to remember that he was writing about alternatives. For a purely military perspective, there was really not too much to commend the Mohawk expedition. True, it would be diversionary, but did it promise to be effective enough to justify the commitment of the white troops that would be required, especially when so few could be spared? The Government's decision to operate in western New York was based upon political rather than military considerations operating in the valley and farther west.
The region was the gateway to the great western country whose importance had long been appreciated at Whitehall. Memories of Pontiac's conspiracy were fresh, and prudence dictated that the western tribes become accustomed to supporting British interests in the interior.
More immediately important was the retention of the loyalty of the Six Nations. Two of the tribes were refusing to support their old allies, the British; and one, the Oneidas, was actively assisting the Colonies. The presence of victorious royal troops would insure the steadfastness of the loyal and recall the allegiance of the alienated.
The local Loyalists were another factornot only the active ones like the Johnsons and their associates, but also the inactive and wavering. The former had suffered self-exile for their principles, had raised a body of "provincials" in the British service, and had persuaded the authorities at home that the majority of the valley's people would rise for the Crown whenever a British army should appear.
On the basis of this combination of military and political interests, the ministry decided to make a commitment in the Mohawk-Ontario Country and Lt. Col. Barry St. Leger of the 34th Regiment of Foot was given its command with the local rank of brigadier.
General St. Leger was given 100 men from each of two regiments stationed in Canada, the 34th and the 8th; Sir John Johnson's Regiment (the Greens); a company of rangers under Walter Butler; and 342 Hanau Chasseurs (light infantry or Jagers). To these were to be added "a sufficient number of Canadians and Indians." The expedition also had 40 artillerymen to serve the six-pounders, two three-pounders, and four 4.4-inch "Coehorn" mortars.  Of the Hanau troops, only one company joined the expedition. Exact figures of St. Leger's strength cannot be established, but an estimated 700-800 white troops and, according to tradition, 800 to 1,000 Indians comprised his force. 
The British regulars and militia left Lachine near Montreal on or about June 23. When he left Montreal, St. Leger had received intelligence about Fort Stanwix to the effect that "there were 60 Men in a picketed place."  Upon this information, the commander formulated his plan to make a dash through the wilderness and storm what he believed to be a very weak frontier post, which was consistent with his ordnance capability. Col. Daniel Claus was skeptical about the accuracy of this intelligence and he sent out a reconnaissance party that reported a very different situation:
Although St. Leger refused to wait for more Germans and send back for additional artillery, he agreed to go to Oswego, which he had intended to by-pass, and join the Indians who were assembled there.
Since July 8, Claus had been superintendent of the expedition's Indians, and he wrote concerning the junction at with the Indians:
Obtaining and holding the cooperation of the Indians was no easy matter. They were somewhat less than unanimous in their desire to commit themselves to the active support of British interest. There were too many memories of white men's breaking their promises and of using the Indian in advancing their own self-interest. The white man who had title to their affection and loyalty, Sir William Johnson, was dead, and there was no one who could really assume his mantle. Relations between Daniel Claus and John Butler were not harmonious.  Joseph Brant, who was uniquely able to relate to both races, endeavored to secure fair treatment for his fellows, at the same time binding them to the British cause. Neither Sir John, who should have inherited some of his father's great skill in dealing with the red men, nor St. Leger, whose training and background ill fitted him to deal with an aboriginal people, could through their personal leadership command the Indians' loyalty, much less their obedience. There was never a time when St. Leger could depend upon his Indian allies' unreserved cooperationthey were always an unknown quantity in the tactical equation.
While St. Leger's composite force assembled and launched its invasion of the northwestern frontier, events took place in the Mohawk Valley that affected its outcome. One of these was a confrontation between Joseph Brant and Brig. Gen. Nicholas Herkimer, leader of the pro-American Germans and commanding general of the Tyron County militia. The details of the meeting are obscure and capable of contradictory interpretations. The general may have urged Brant to support the rebellion or at least remain neutral. The latter declared for the King and, without molestation from the militia, withdrew his people to Canajoharie Castle and, as had been noted, eventually joined St. Leger. At least some Americans believed that Herkimer had not conducted himself very well, and his leadership was compromised, a factor that was to have considerable influence when he attempted to support the fort a few weeks later. 
Almost simultaneous with this event, General Schuyler, while Burgoyne's main column was at Crown Point, learned something definite about the British plan. On June 29 he wrote Herkimer that he had heard that Sir John Johnson was on his way to Oswego and planned to attack Stanwix, and he ordered him to have the militia ready to support Gansevoort "at a moments warning."  During the next day, he wrote to Gansevoort: "A report prevails that Sir John Johnson intends to attack your post. You will therefore put yourself in the best posture of defence . . . I have written General Herkimer to support you with the militia, in case you should be attacked. Give him therefore the most early intelligence if any enemy should approach you." 
Intelligence that his fort was likely to be attacked did not take Gansevoort by surprise. As early as May 28, Oneida Indians reported that they had met hostiles on their way to Osewego who intended to attack the fort.  He and his men drove themselves, working against time to make the fort defensible and felling trees to obstruct Wood Creek.  His personnel problem was critical, and he feared a surprise while his men were on fatigue.
General Schuyler immediately took steps to relieve the man-power and ordered Herkimer to put 200 militiamen to clearing the road between Forts Dayton and Stanwix, so that reinforcement of Gansevoort might be expedited. Another 200 men were to be dispatched to reinforce the garrison.  The general was not leaning upon a very sturdy reed. The Tyron County Committee was begging him to send Continental troops to the valley at almost the same moment he was ordering Herkimer to call out 400 men to assist Gansevoort. This was at a time when Burgoyne was advancing southward from Ticonderoga and Schuyler was desperately trying to impede that advance and save his army for a future stand. Writing from Fort Edward on July 10, he said:
The committee acted with a spirit, but not the kind the general desired. Poor Herkimer, who had to implement Schuyler's directions, wrote concerning the order to reinforce Gansevoort:
Schuyler ordered Wesson's Continental Massachusetts Regiment to move into Tyron County to encourage the people.  Reinforcements for the fort's garrison arrived from the 3d New York and the New York militia on July 19. 
In an effort to improve both the strength and the morale of the people, Schuyler placed all of the troops in the county under the command of a senior colonel, Goose van Schaick, of the 1st New York, who had been wounded at Ticonderoga on July 6. 
The people at the fort became increasingly conscious of the dangers of the hour as work parties of militia labored under the protection of Continentals to obstruct Wood Creek, as the reports of scouts brought news of the approaching enemy, and as hostile Indians prowled the woods trying to way lay members of the garrison and local inhabitants. On Sunday, July 27, three girls went out to pick raspberries about 500 yards from the fort. A party of Indians fired on them, killing and scalping two and wounding the third. In order to protect his workers from ambush and to concentrate his manpower, Gansevoort called in the Wood Creek parties.  During the next day, he sent away "those women which belonged to the Garrison which have children with whom went the Man that was Scalped the Girl that was Wounded Yesterday & Sick in the Hospital" 
Oneidas and Mohawks sent messages to the fort informing the commander of the progress of St. Leger's column and the whereabouts of Indian parties. These Indians were in a dangerous situation. The other nations of the Confederacy were not likely to be merciful to any of their ancient allies who took a pacifist's position. Neutrality in any war is difficult and often dangerous. In border warfare, it is practically impossible. If the Americans failed to turn back the British advance, the future of the friendly tribes would not be happy.
Capt. Thomas De Witt, who had been left at Fort Dayton by Colonel Willett, arrived on the 13th with about 50 men of Gansevoort's regiment, and Maj. Ezra Badlam brought in 150 men of Col. James Wesson's 9th Massachusetts. The fort's commissary, a man named Hanson, arrived the same day with word that seven batteaux, loaded with provisions and ammunition were on their way up-stream.  Within 24 hours, Oneidas brought word that there were 100 "Strange Indians" at the old Royal Block House on their way to the fort. Fearing that they intended to intercept the batteaux, Gansevoort dispatched 100 men under a Captain Benschoten to reinforce the batteaux-guard. 
Gansevoort knew that it could be only a matter of hours before the fort would tried by the invaders, and he completed his preparations to receive them. Colonel Willett's Orderly Book records the disposition of the garrison:
Blocking Wood Creek had been so effective that St. Leger's column was advancing too slowly to suit his purposes, and he feared that additional men and supplies would reach the fort before he could get into an investing position. In order to obtain intelligence and intercept any relief parties, he sent an advance guard under Lieutenant Bird toward the fort. The lieutenant had difficulty with Indians, most of whom would not advance. 
Upon receiving the lieutenant's report that closed with the statement: "those with the scout of fifteen I had the honor to mention to you in my last, are sufficient to invest Fort Stanwix if you honor me so far as not to order the contrary," the commander replied:
It is easy to laugh at the brigadier's optimism in imagining that the garrison might surrender to so limited a display of force, but he shared two fairly common attitudes of his contemporaries: disdain for provincial arms and determination and a humane fear of what Indians might do to surrendered persons in the absence of a large number of regular troops. While he naturally hoped that a mere show of force would persuade the Americans to surrender, he probably did not really expect them to; and his orders to Bird simply provided for the eventuality.
After the advanced party reached the ruins of Fort Newport, the batteaux that Gansevoort was expecting approached Fort Stanwix. Colbrath's August 2 entry in his journal described the event:
The advanced party had failed to accomplish its immediate mission, i.e., intercepting the supply boats, but the "investiture" of Fort Stanwix was begun. St. Leger was not able to commit all of his men to laying siege to the camp, because 110 of them were employed for nine days clearing the obstacles from Wood Creek and another party to cutting a temporary road from Fish Creek over which to bring artillery and stores. 
On the day the siege opened, two or possibly three, important events have been reported as taking place. The first occurred early in the morning of Sunday, August 3, when a flag that has entered American folklore was raised on one of the fort's bastions. Briefly stated, the tradition developed during the nineteenth century that the news of the passage of the Flag Resolution by the Continental Congress on June 14 reached Fort Stanwix, either in a letter to Colonel Gansevoort or in a newspaper account brought in when the batteaux and one hundred men of the 9th Massachusetts Regiment arrived under Lt. Col. James Mellen on the second. Upon receiving this dramatic news, some of the people prepared a flag of thirteen stripes, alternating red and white, and thirteen stars on a blue field in compliance with the congressional resolution. This new national standard was then hoisted and a salute fired, marking the first time the Stars and Stripes flew over American troops. If true, this was certainly one of the most dramatically significant events of the American Revolution.
One of the early champaions of this interpretation was Pomeroy Jones, a local scholar whose interest in Fort Stanwix's history had a lasting influence on the work of the later scholars. Jones was born several years after the siege; but he knew a number of veterans and their children, including Judge Joshua Hathaway and his son Jay, and invoked their memories in identifying the flag as the "Stars and Stripes."  Jones's account was the basis for a number of assertions concerning the flag, including Dr. James Weise's, that the new national flag was unfurled, a salute fired, and that an adjutant read the resolution from the newspaper brought to the fort by the batteaux detail.  Weise's version was picked up by the New Larned History, in which the following appears:
There is no Startwout Journal, just Weise's publication, which was not based upon any original source.
John Albert Scott's popular Fort Stanwix (Fort Schuyler) and Oriskany repeated the story of the newspaper report and the raising of the "first Stars and Stripes."  Although Fort Stanwix's claims were frequently disputed in favor of other sites as Bennington, Brandywine, and Guilford Courthouse, many writers uncritically perpetuated the tradition.
A study of the evidence upon which to assess the Sanwix flag's significance is in order. The basic document for the origin of the Stars and Stripes is the so-called Flag Resolution passed by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777, which reads: "RESOLVED: that the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white: that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation."  This resolution was preceded and followed by matters brought to the Congress's attention by its Marine Committee. Since the resolution was converting the unofficial Grand Union into an official standard, substituting thirteen stars upon a blue field for the canton derived from the British Union, which combined the crosses of Saints George and Andrew, it was appropriate that it emanate from that committee. This was the case because, following British precedent, flying the Grand Union was common to ships and permanent land installations. Thus, the Congress was providing for a new marine flag, not a national military standard.
Crucial to the examination of the Fort Stanwix tradition is the record of what happened immediately after the passage of the resolution. Thacher's Military Journal's entry for August 3, 1777, noted that: "It appears by the papers that Congress resolved on 14 of June last, that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, that the union be thirteen stars in a blue geld . . ."  At first blush, Thacher's statement seems to be evidence that the news of the resolution had reached Albany, where he was on duty at the hospital, if not Fort Stanwix, by August 3. However, so far as this writer has been able to determine, the first public notice of the resolution appeared in the Pennsylvania Evening Post on August 20 in the following item: "In Congress, June 14, 1777. Resolved that the FLAG of the United States be THIRTEEN STRIPES alternate red and white; that the union be THIRTEEN STARS white in a blue field. Extract from minutes, CHARLES THOMSON, sec."  Other papers printed the resolution between September 3 and October 2, and the first New York papers to publish it were the September 8 issue of the New York Journal and General Advertiser and the September issue of New York Patent and the American Advertiser. The papers to which Thacher most likely had access were the two from New York and the Boston papers, the Gazette and the Spy, in which the story appeared on September 15 and 18 respectively.  The obvious conflict in testimony can only be explained by acknowledging that the doctor may have had access to a newspaper that is unknown to historians or, more probably, that when the Journal was prepared for publication prior to January 1, 1832, this was one of the instances in which alterations were made in organizing the material of the original manuscript.
More immediately pertinent to the Fort Stanwix flag are the testimonies of William Colbrath and Marinus Willett. In the entry for Sunday, August 3, Colbrath wrote: "Early this morning a Continental Flagg made by the officers of Col. Gansevoort's Regiment was hoisted and a cannon levelled at the Enemies Camp was fired on this occasion."  His calling the standard a "Continental" Union is important because that was the term applied to the Grand Union. It is also significant that he did not refer to the flag as a new one, as would have been natural if he was recording such a momentous event.
Lieutenant Colonel Willett wrote one of the earliest accounts of the siege in a letter to Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. He was probably also the author of the account that appeared in the August 28 issue of the Independent Chronicle and Universal Advertiser under the title "Extract of a Letter from an Officer of Distinction." In neither of these nor in his Oderly Book did he refer to the flag, a surprising oversight if it was as historically important as such a first would have been. 
Concerning the cloak from which the blue cloth had been cut, Willett wrote: "What Baggage the enemy had it consisting of only a few Blankets and CloaksA blue Camblot Cloak taken here [Peekskill] afterwards served to enable us to use it for blue strips of a Flagg which was afterwards hoisted during the siege of Fort Schuyler"  The statement about blue strips could only refer to a Continental flag, because the Stars and Stripes has a blue field, not blue stripes.
More than thirty years after the siege, Willett prepared the manuscript of his "Narrative," in which he wrote:
That Marinus Willett had an appreciation of his historic role is apparent in his letters and the "Narrative. " If he had been a party to or a witness of the manufacture and display of the first national flag, the fact would have been prominently recorded by him.
The papers of two other important American officials, Peter Schuyler and Peter Gansevoort, would be expected to throw some light upon such an important subject. General Schuyler was the commanding general of the Northern Department when the Flag Resolution was passed and continued in that office until August 19. If the Resolution had been published or become a matter of either official or common knowledge during that period and if it had the effect of authorizing a new national military standard, he would have been among the first to have known about it. Schuyler was a meticulous record keeper. His papers include all the correspondence he received from the Congress, General Washington, and every person with whom the had occasion to transact public or private business, as well as copies of all letters and documents that he sent to them. There is nothing in that important collection to indicate that the general or any of his correspondents knew about the Resolution before it was published on August 20.
Peter Gansevoort, the fort's commanding officer, also left a valuable collection of papers. They contain no letter advising him of the passage of the Flag Resolution. Nor do they include any documents that would support the assertion that the flag raised at his post was one that reflected compliance with the congressional act.
One of the soldiers of the 3d New York Regiment was James (Alexander) McGraw, who had enlisted during July 1775 and been shot in a leg during the Canadian campaign of 1775-76. He re-enlisted in Capt. Leonard Bleeker's company, 3d New York, and was confined to quarters at Fort Stanwix in March 1778 because of an "Ulcerous leg." It may have been during that period of convalescence that he carved the powder-horn that has figured prominently in the flag controversy, although the date on the specimen is December 25, 1777. 
If the horn is genuine and McGraw made it, and its accuracy in depicting the fort and its components argues for its authenticity, it offers valuable evidence. Flying from the southwest bastion is a flag that, except for the absence of the cross of St. George, resembles the Grand Union very closely.
A second powder-horn is one that apparently was carved by Christopher Hutton, who after serving in Meade's Regiment of New York Militia became an ensign in Cpt. Henry Tiebout's Company of the 3d New York Regiment on November 21, 1776, and was made regimental adjutant on May 28, 1778. He subsequently received a lieutenant's commission on February 6, 1779, transferred to the 2d New York on January 1, 1783, and was discharged on June 3, 1783.  His tour of duty at Fort Stanwix presumably extended from the end of March 1777 to November 1780, the period during which the regiment garrisoned the post.
At an unknown date, but presumably 1777, he carved or had carved for him, the horn associated with his name. The specimen has several subjects incised into its sides, including "Chris. Hutton 1777"; a diagrammatic sketch of the Mohawk and Schoharie Rivers; "Ft. Schuyler III Rege"; "Ft EWD"; a field cannon and a pyramidal stack of six balls; an Indian armed with a musket and Tomahawk; a mounted figure with the caption, "Peter.": and most important to this studya flag of stars and stripes.
The Hutton power-horn is more difficult to interpret than the McGraw specimen. It does not include such elements as the fort that make a comparison with documented data possible; and it poses several questions that defy easy solutions. The most obvious is whether it is what it is purported to be. Since there is no conclusive authentication that question remains moot; although on the basis of design, lettering, and general appearance, it appears to be a late 18th century specimen. The second question is, what designer's objective? Was he using the characters to illustrate events that occurred at Fort Stanwix in 1777? If so, why was the small legend "Ft EDW," which must refer to Fort Edward, included? That fort was located at another important carrying place, the one between the Hudson River and Wood Creek that provided a portage to and from Lake Champlain. Why was the flag located where it was? It, obviously was not intended to mark Stanwix's location in relation to the Mohawk River. While the mounted man captioned "Peter" may represent Colonel Gansevoort, it was a strange way for lowly Revolutionary period ensign to identify the regiment's commander.
Ensign Hutton may have intended that the powder-horn present a graphic record of his military career. But that still does not solve the problem of the flag. The question of when the horn was carved remains. Does it really date from 1777, or is it a later exercise in nostalgia? Because there is almost overwhelming evidence that Hutton could not have known of the passage of the Flag Resolution until during the autumn of 1777, it must be assumed that the horn was made some time after the siege. There is no answer that satisfies all the canons for historical criticism.
Another of the powder-horns that depict Fort Stanwix and a flag is one attributed to James Wilson, a private in Col. Goose Van Schaick's 1st New York Regiment, which garrisoned the fort from the end of 1778 until November 1780. Although it does not show the buildings that stood within the fort, it does include five sentry boxes, the necessary, and a structure on the southeast bastion that was demolished on December 20, 1780, after the 1st New York moved out. Along with other features, both historic and decorative, it also has an elaborate symbol of a hand grasping thirteen arrows surrounded by a floral scroll bearing the legend: "THE XIII UNITED STATES OF AMERICA." There is also a flag flying over the fort, an ensign of eleven stripes without a canton and stars.  The fact that this flag differed significantly from the Grand Union and the Stars and Stripes does not detract from the specimen's value, but reflected the historic reality as will become apparent in the following paragraphs.
Turning from the powder-horns, with their evidentiary problems to the sounder ground of documentary evidence, it should be remembered that the congressional resolution of June 14 concerned a maritime flag and was not intended to provide an official standard to troops in the field. This is confirmed by subsequent events.
Almost two years after the siege of Fort Stanwix, Richard Peters, secretary of the Board of War, wrote to General Washington that requisitions for drums and colors had not been filled because "we have not the materials to make either in sufficient numbers." He went on to write concerning the flags:
Peters' letter makes it obvious that the resolution of June 14, 1777, did not authorize a national military standard, that as of May 1779, no such flag had been adopted, and that the Board of War would ask the Congress to establish one after Washington had expressed his opinion on the matter.
The Board continued to consider the design for a new national military flag during the summer of 1779 and by September had narrowed the choice to: "The one with the Union and Emblem in the middle . . . as a variant from the Marine Flag."  The Marine Flag was the Stars and Stripes, and the Board favored a different form for military use.
The matter was still unsettled when the final shot of the war was fired in South Carolina in 1782. This does not mean that no flags of one design or another including stars and stripes appeared on the field. One of them, the so-called Bennington Flag, is believed by some students to be the oldest such color. While there is no contemporary record to confirm its Revolutionary vintage, a nineteenth century tradition claims that it was raised at Bennington by President Fillmore's grandfather, Nathaniel Fillmore, who kept it until during the War of 1812, when he gave it to his nephew, Septa Fillmore, in whose family it remained until 1926. It does not conform to the Flag Resolution, having in the center of the union the number "76." Nor could it have been carried in the field, being ten feet long by five and half feet wide. 
Another claimant for honors is a flag that is said to have been carried by North Carolina militia at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781. Noted flag authority R. C. Ballard Thurston believed that this is the only such flag carried by troops during the war. It does not follow the color scheme defined in the Flag Resolution in that it has seven blue and six red stripes and thirteen blue stars on a white union. 
That the Stars and Stripes flew at Yorktown is attested by a contemporary watercolor by Lt. Col. John Graves Simcoe of the Queen's Rangers. It resembles the Guilford flag in having red and blue stripes and blue union with "a pattern figures. marks or, perhaps, stars in what seems to be a darker shade of blue." 
It might be argued that the flag flown at Fort Stanwix was also an unofficial version of the Stars and Stripes. However, that contradicts Colbrath's testimony and strains Willett's statement, to say nothing of the evidence, for what it is worth, of the McGraw powder-horn. If it was certainly not a result of the Flag Resolution, for there is not a scintila of evidence that anyone in the fort knew of the Congress's act in August 1777.
An exhaustive, if not comprehensive, search has failed to locate any claims identifying the Fort Stanwix Flag as the Stars and Stripes that date before the 1850's, three-quarters of a century after the siege.
In the absence of testimony favoring the tradition that meets the minimum canons for historical accuracy, a careful study of the documentary sources leads to the conclusion that the fort's flag was a locally made version of the Grand Union and could not have been the first Stars and Stripes to be flown over American troops in the presence of the enemy.
There is a tradition that on the day the siege was opened St. Leger paraded his troops to overawe the garrison. Hoffman Nickerson, as usual without citing a source, records it as follows:
Christopher Ward, also without citing a source, told the same story in less detail.  Contemporary American and British reports that have been consulted in the preparation of this study do not document such a review. Colbrath did record in his Journal for August 3 that "about three o'clock this after the Enemy shewed themselves to the Garrison on all Sides Carry'd off some Hay from a Field near the Garrison. "  However, this falls short of corroborating the dramatic show of force that Nickerson and Ward described.
At 3 p.m., St. Leger sent Captain Tice under a flag to demand the fort's surrender and offered protection to the garrison. Colbrath recorded that the demand and promise were "Rejected with disdain."  William L. Stone, who was not above tampering with his sources in the interest of a good story, gave this text of the British general's proclamation:
This proclamation was an almost verbatim copy of General Burgoyne's and it was equally effective.
The Americans continued to try to work at strengthening the fort against the assault that they were certain St. Leger would undertake whenever he was able to bring up his artillery and the men who were working on the temporary road and clearing a passage on Wood Creek. However, the continuing fire from the Indians harassed the working parties, forcing them to work at night. On the night of the 4th, details went out and brought in 27 stacks of hay for the cattle that were impounded in the fort's ditch and to burn a house and barn that obstructed the field of fire.  The Indians' fire resulted in two deaths among the garrison on the 4th and 5th, and six were wounded during the former. The barracks that Lamarquise had erected outside the fort was burned by the British during the late afternoon of the 5th. 
On the same afternoon, St. Leger received word from the late Sir William Johnson's Indian wife, Molly Brant, that a relief column was on its way to the fort and would be within 10 or 12 miles of the British camp by that night. St. Leger now had a serious tactical problem to solve. He had to sustain the siege and destroy the relief column.
The relief column was General Herkimer's response to learning of St. Leger's advance on the fort. On June 30 he ordered the Tryon County militia to muster at Fort Dayton. By August 4, between 800 and 900 men assembled and the march to raise the siege was begun. On the night of the 5th Herkimer sent three or four scouts forward to inform Gansevoort of his advance and to ask the fort's commander to cooperate if the enemy should attack the militia. Gansevoort was asked to fire three shots to acknowledge receipt of the runners and to express his willingness to make a sortie when Herkimer's column approached, then to engage the enemy about the fort and prevent them from concentrating on the militia.
On the morning of the 6th, Herkimer had reached a critical point in his march to the fort's aid. No cannon shots had been heard from its defenders. Should he continue to advance or await the expected signal? He convened a council of war to discuss the matter. His preference was for waiting for the signal, but the overwhelming majority of his officers favored an immediate advance. The discussion became heated, and as the commander maintained his opinion with traditional Teutonic stubbornness some of the officers accused him of Tory sympathies or cowardice, making much of the fact that one of his brothers was an officer in Sir John's regiment. Berated and maligned, the old soldier-farmer yielded and gave the order to march. With his Oneida scouts in the lead, the general took the head of a double column of about 600 men, followed by a 200-man rear-guard.
When he received the news of Herkimer's advance, St. Leger dispatched about 400 Indians and the light infantry company of Sir John's regiment, under Sir John, Colonel Butler and Joseph Brant, to ambush the military relief force.
With surprisingly poor march security, the Tryon men marched to a place about six miles from the fort where the road crossed a broad ravine about 50 feet deep with very steep banks. There the Anglo-Indian party had laid an ambush with the light infantrymen on the west and the Indians along the ravine's margin in a curve, leaving the eastern side open to Herkimer's men. When the middle of the column was deep in the ravine, the light infantrymen were to check its head while the Indians closed the circle around the rear-guard.
The main body of the column made its way into the ravine and up the western side when the Indians east of the ravine opened fire and rushed the road-bound militiamen. The trap was sprung too early to catch the rear-guard, which fled. Herkimer, at the column's head, turned back to investigate the firing. The light infantry and Indians on the west rushed forward; and the general's horse fell dead and he suffered a wounded leg.
The circle was completed; and the Americans took cover behind trees, formed small circles, and fought with a valor born of desperation. After three-quarters of an hour, a cloudburst wet the muskets' priming and for an hour the fighting stopped. During the lull, Herkimer's men took cover by twos so that, when one had fired and was reloading, the other would be ready to shoot any of the enemy that attacked.
The Tryon County men gave a good account of themselves that day; and the Indians, who suffered severely, began to lose their aggressiveness. At this point, a second detachment of Sir John's regiment, under Major Watts, arrived on the scene. He ordered his men to turn their coats inside out, concealing their uniforms. Thus they advanced under the guise of a sortie from the fort. The militia discovered the ruse and attacked, and a fierce hand-to-hand fight followed that ended when the Indians retreated, followed by the white troops. The Battle of Oriskany was over. The militia was too badly mauled to pursue, and they gathered their wounded to begin the march back to Fort Dayton. 
The morning of August 6 was a time of uncertainty at the fort. The garrison noted that the Indians, who had been maintaining a continual firing, were going away from the immediate area toward the lower landing on the Mohawk. Not knowing what was really happening, the officers and men feared that something was afoot in the river valley and that the loyalty of its inhabitants would weaken if the fort were reported taken. Colbrath expressed the men's fears in these terms:
But before the lieutenant could get away, the men whom Herkimer had sent with the message of his approach arrived, and Colbrath recorded that:
In his letter of August 11, his first account of the events, Colonel Willett wrote:
Thus the detachment from the fort set out down the old military road that lay between Albany and Oswego. When the column reached a point a little more than half a mile from the fort, it came upon Sir John Johnson's camp and its mission was altered on the spot. The troops raided this camp, the nearby Indian one, and perhaps Lieutenant Bird's about half a mile away at the "Lower Landing Place." The colonel reported:
The loot taken from the camps included "several bundles of papers and a parcel of letters belonging to our garrison, which they had taken from our militia, but not yet opened. . . . There were likewise papers belonging to Sir John Johnson, and several others of the enemy's officers, with letters to and from Gen. St. Leger, their Commander; their papers have been of some service to us." 
From prisoners brought in from the camp, the garrison learned about the fight at Oriskany, the enemy's strength, the number and type of his artillery. 
The question of why Willett stopped to plunder the camp instead of obeying the order to meet Herkimer is not clearly answeredin fact, it is not broached in the contemporary documents. The men from the fort did not know that the militia had been engaged, but their curiosity must have been piqued by the absence of so large at part of the enemy. Apparently, Willett simply decided that the immediate and obvious benefits to be derived from attacking the camps outweighed any obligation to rendezvous with Herkimer. Although it could not have influenced Willett's decision, it was too late to have done the militia much good. Adam Hellmer, one of Herkimer's runners, testified that he entered the fort at one o'clock, although Colbrath wrote that the men came in by 10 a.m. and Willett put their arrival at "about 11 o'clock." If, as is probable, Hellmer was correct, Willett's detail did not leave the fort until nearly mid-afternoon, too late to have influenced the outcome at Oriskany. This fact, along with the results of his raid, probably muted criticism of his failure to execute his orders.
St. Leger, from his main encampment northeast of the fort, undertook to intercept Willett's sortie, but arrived too late to prevent its successful return with the captured goods. 
The raid on the Indian camp was to have especially significant results. The loss of their clothes, blankets, and provisions coupled with the loss of several of their chiefs at Oriskany dampened their enthusiasm for what was threatening to become a long, unrewarding siege, a type operation for which they rarely had an affinity. In fact, the British situation was not nearly good enough to give much promise of success, unless St. Leger could persuade the fort's garrison that defence of the post was doomed to failure. Nevertheless, he put the best possible face on conditions when he reported to Burgoyne:
Of course, Burgoyne was many miles north of Halfmoon and in no condition to send the Mohawk expedition assistance in any form.
The men in the fort enjoyed a respite from enemy fire during most of the 7th, although "at 11 o'Clock this Evening the Enemy came near the Fort called to our Centinels, telling them to come out again with Fixed Bayonets and they should give us Satisfaction for Yesterdays work, after which they fired 4 small Cannon at the Fort we laughed at them heartily and they returned to Rest."  At midnight, the runners from Herkimer's column and a militianman who brought news of the fight at Oriskany set out for the lower valley.
The cannon fire that Colbrath reported indicated that St. Leger had finally brought up his artillery. More shots were fired into the fort during the day, and the garrison "in order to Return the compliment, they [the enemy] were Salluted with a few Balls from our Cannon." 
At about 5 p.m., St. Leger's adjutant, Major Ancrum, Colonel Butler, and a surgeon came to the fort under a flag. Colonel Willett's "Narrative" gives this dramatic example of total recall:
The deputation from the British commander presented a letter written by Colonel Peter Bellinger and Major Frey, who had been captured at Oriskany, that read:
Gansevoort believed the letter to be a forgery or prepared under durres, and it had no effect upon his determination to defend the fort.
Colonel Willett's post-war account differs from his first reports of the conference in detail and mood. His first version of the event, which is contained in his important August 11 letter, related that:
An account that appeared in August 28, 1777, issue of The Independent Chronicle and Universal Advertiser, Boston, entitled "Extract of a Letter from a Officer of Distinction," who was probably Willett, read:
The record is clear that the British made their proposal and that Colonel Gansevoort refused to entertain the idea of surrendering the fort. In fact, the only thing that would have persuaded him to do so would have been a loss of nerve. He knew that it was highly unlikely that Burgoyne had reached Albany, even if the main portion of the Northern Department's army had been defeated, which was improbable. He also knew that the British artillery was incapable of breaching his works; and he had no confidence in the British ability to restrain the Indians. Daniel Claus accurately summed up the reasons for the Colonel's refusal when he wrote: "The Rebels knowing their Strength in Garrison as well as Fortification and the Insufficiency of our Field pieces to hurt them, and apprehensive of being masacred by the Indians for the Loss they sustained in the Action [at Oriskany]. They rejected the Summons s[ai]d that they were determined to hold out to the last Extremity. " 
Shortly after mid-night, Colonel Willett, accompanied by Lieutenant Levi Stockwell, left the fort to go to Fort Dayton to raise a relief expedition. It was from there that the colonel wrote his August 11 and August 13 letters. 
During the first day of the cease-fire following the conference, St. Leger sent a flag to the fort with a written statement of the demands presented on the previous day by Adjutant-general Ancrum. That paper read:
The fort's commander replied immediately:
Although the armistice was to have lasted for three days, the British began to bombard the fort at 10:30 p.m. and continued a "well directed fire" all night. The fort's papers and money were stored in the bomb-proof in the southwest bastion. Artillery and small arms fire were exchanged at intervals during the next week with very limited effect on the garrison and none on the fort's fabric. On the 16th, Colbrath recorded that "the Enemy threw some Shells Horrisontally at our Works."  The explanation of this technique is found in St. Leger's report to Burgoyne:
The Fleury map shows a portion of St. Leger's disposition of positions for the siege. The lack of a scale limits its usefulness in determining distances, but an estimate based upon the size of the square formed by the fort's bastions, 335 feet to the side, except for eastern face, the distance between the original battery positions and the fort was approximately 350 yards. The sap or approach directed toward the northwest bastion. 
While St. Leger's men worked at the approach trench, the garrison and their enemies kept up the exchange of fire. The fort suffered little or no damage, although a few casualties occurred among its defenders. The effects of the American fire can not be determined. On August 21 a woman in the fort who was "big with Child" was wounded in the thigh by the artillery fire. The next day, she gave birth to a daughter on the southwest bastion's bombproof, and Colbrath recorded that both and mother and child "do well with the Blessing of God."  The enemy diverted the stream that was the main water source, and the garrison dug wells within the fort. Sorties went out for a variety of purposes, and both sides lost men through desertion. 
While the siege continued, the British did not ignore the country that the fort defended. After the Battle of Oriskany, Sir John Johnson proposed to his commander that he be permitted to take 200 men and "a signifficient body of Indians" down the valley to bring the people back to the royal cause, but St. Leger "said he could not spare the men, and disapproved of it."  A few days later, Walter Butler took two regulars and three Indians to German Flats in an effort to enlist the assistance of the inhabitants in persuading the garrison to surrender. Butler carried with him a proclamation, signed by Sir John, Daniel Claus, and John Butler, that read:
The garrison at Fort Dayton captured the little party, and nothing came of this ploy. 
While St. Leger's and Gansevoort's men contended for the Mohawk country, events elsewhere were taking place that were to be decisive in bringing failure to British designs.
Gen. Philip Schuyler, whose command of the Northern Department placed upon him ultimate responsibility for the defense of the Mohawk Valley, as retreating southward along the Hudson before Burgoyne's hitherto victorious advance. He was struggling to retard that advance and prepare his main army for a stand that would halt the British invasion. Shortages, personality clashes, sectional animosities, political rivalries, and a succession of disheartening reverses conspired in making his task almost impossible. Yet he did not neglect his responsibilities in the western part of his command. During July, he worked at trying to obtain additional Continental troops for the Tryon County area and sought the state's assistance in finding units that could be sent up the Mohawk. He wrote letters to the Tyron County committees and General Herkimer that endeavored to encourage and advise them.
On August 6 Schuyler's assistance took a more concrete form when he ordered a Continental force to move toward Fort Stanwix. This contingent was followed by others on and after August 9. The Continentals were Brig. Gen. Ebeneezer Learned's brigade of Massachusetts troops, which had been posted at Van Schaick's Island near the junction of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers.  He also wrote to the Tryon County officials requesting that they cooperate with their militia.
The main body of Schuyler's army lay at the vilage of Stillwater, and from that place Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold departed on August 13 to direct the relief of Fort Stanwix. There is a well-known story of his assignment to the command that had its origins in Isaac N. Arnold's Life of Arnold and has been repeated by many other writers including Hoffman Nickerson in the classic, The Turning Point of the Revolution:
Isaac Arnold's version offers other details. After telling of the officers' opposition and the general's breaking the pipe, he wrote that Schuyler said: "Gentlemen: I shall take the responsibility upon myself; Fort Stanwix and the Mohawk Valley should be saved! Where is the brigadier who will command the relief? I shall beat up for volunteers tomorrow. No brigadier offered his services, and Benedict Arnold:
Not a single contemporary source supports this story, and there are several facts that contradict it.
Starting with Nickerson't first sentence, Schuyler was not at Stillwater when he received news of St. Leger's arrival at Stanwix, of Herkimer's retreat from Oriskany, and made his decision to relieve the fort. He was at his home in Albany, which was his headquarters until he went to Stillwater on or about August 10. General Learned was already on the march toward Stanwix, and another brigadier was not required to command the relief. What was needed was a higher ranking general officer, and Arnold was the only major general on hand.
The beating of the drum for volunteers simply did not occur. The Continentals that were committed were moved from Van Schaick's Island, more than 20 miles away, from three to seven days before the legendary council; and Arnold's instructions make it clear that he was to join those troops and take command of themnot that he was to take troops with him from Stillwater. In addition, Schuyler never refered to the fort as Fort Stanwix after it was renamed in his honor.
Schuyler's instruction to Arnold appear to support the part of the story that related to the latter's volunteering to command the relief expedition when he wrote: "It gives me greatest satisfaction that you have offered to go and conduct the military operations in the Tryon county."  However, the circumstances of his volunteering are not clear, especially in the light of a letter from Washington to Schuyler, dated July 24, in which he proposed that Arnold, "or some other sensible spirited officer," be assigned to Fort Stanwix "in case anything formidable should appear in that quarter."  The proposal was couched in terms that in a normal military interpretation would be almost tantamount to an order.
There is no evidence for representing Schuyler's general officers as opposed to the Mohawk undertaking. In fact, in one of his reports to Washington, Schuyler wrote that the detailing of the Massachusetts regiments was done "by the unanimous advice of all the general officers here [Stillwater]." 
Schuyler ordered Arnold to "repair thither [Tryon County] with all convenient speed and take upon you the command of all the Continental troops & such of the Militia as you can prevail upon to join your troops. Fort Schuyler is being beseiged you will hasten to its relief and hope that the Continental troops now in the county of Tryon, if joined by some of the militia will be adequate to the business."
Arnold set out immediately for Albany, where he met Colonel Willett, and together they hurried to Fort Dayton, which they reached on August 20. During the following day, he convened a council consisting of Brigadier General Learned; Colonels Willett; John Bailey, 2d Massachusetts; Cornelius Van Dycke, 1st New York; Henry Beeckman Livingston, 4th New York; James Wesson, 9th Massachusetts; and Lt. Col. John Brook; 8th Massachusetts. The official report in the Gates Papers reads:
Benedict Arnold has a reputation for audacity equalled by few if any of his contemporaries, but he approached the relief of Fort Stanwix with uncharacteristic caution. While it was true that the evidence indicated that St. Leger's force outnumbered Arnold's column, the total American strength, including the fort's garrison, gave them a force more than equal to that of their enemy. At the most, St. Leger's white troops numbered 700 to 800 men, of whom approximately 300 were Canadian militia, not the most reliable of troops. The Indians, who may have numbered 800 at this time, were of limited usefulness in a pitched battle; and even that number had been reduced by the fighting at Oriskany. Between Arnold and Gansevoort, the Americans had a maximum of 1,746, of whom all but about 100 were Continentals.  St. Leger could not maintain the siege and repel the relief column; and if he abandoned the siege, the garrison would be free to cooperate with Arnold against him. The responsibilities of an independent field command had sobered the flamboyant general who so often made his superiors seem pedestrian when he did not have ultimate responsibility for the conduct of a campaign.
If he was not prepared to rush into battle, he was ready to sound aggressive, so he issued a proclamation:
Willett once again returned eastward to deliver to General Gates the council of war's resolution August 21 along with a request for 1,000 light infantry men. 
Without waiting for reinforcements, Arnold resorted to a strategm that has few parallels in American history and folk lore. A Loyalist plot had been uncovered in the vicinity of German Flats, and among the prisoners taken was one of the less prepossessing members of the numerous Schuyler clan, a mentally retarded fellow named Hon Yost Schuyler. He had lived among the Indians, who apparently held him in some awe because of his affliction. He was condemned to death for his part in the plot, but his brother Nickolas and their mother came into Arnold's camp to plead for the life of the unfortunate man. Nickerson's account of how Arnold used him is probably more accurate than most that have come down to us:
St. Leger, Sir John, and the Indian superintendents, Claus and Butler, tried to prevent their allies from overreacting to the tales of Arnold's advance. A council was convened, at which the general learned that 200 Indians had already decamped. The chiefs then informed him that if he did not retreat, they would abandon him. 
Just how much Hon Yost's story played in influencing the Indians is open to question. The campaign certainly had not been profitable to the Iroquois, and they had little stomach for either a prolonged siege or another battle. The appearance of the half-demented white man must have seemed very fortuitous. They now had an excellent excuse for doing what they wanted to: abandon the expedition. Daniel Claus put the best face possible on the affair when he wrote:
Everyone knew that the siege would not be renewedthat the expedition was a failure.
The British withdrawal was so precipitant that they left part of their equipment behind. Colbrath described the evacuation from the garrison's prospective:
Colonel Gansevoort's official report to General Arnold confirmed Colbraths account, setting the time that he learned of St. Leger's withdrawal at 3:00 p.m. 
The impedimenta abandoned by the retreating army included:
General Arnold, at German Flats, had learned of the enemy's attempt to dig approach trenches nearer the fort; and fearful that an attack might carry the place, he decided to move to its relief. An express reached him when he had marched about two miles and informed him of St. Leger's withdrawal. He pushed about 900 men forward in an effort to catch up with the British rear. He reached the fort at 5 p.m., too late to press the pursuit. The next morning, he sent 500 men to continue the chase, but bad weather forced its abandonment, except for a small party that reached Oneida Lake in time to see the last of the British soldiers crossing it in boats.  Arnold soon hurried back to the Hudson with Learned's brigade and participated in the decisive Battles of Saratoga.
Barry St. Leger intended to join Burgoyne on the Hudson and redeem the defeat he had suffered on the Mohawk. The distance were too great, and St. Leger did not get to join the main drive against Albany.
The British plan for 1777 went awry on the Hudson with more dramatic and far-reaching results than was the case on the Mohawk. As we have noted, Sir William Howe had proposed shifting his primary threat from New England to Philadelphia.  The king and his ministers approved this change in priorities early in March.  and he moved against the American capital, leaving Sir Henry Clinton in New York with about 3,000 men to defend the city and act on the lower Hudson. Burgoyne's main army advanced to the northern part of the township of Stillwater, where Gates had blocked the road to Albany. On two days, September 19 and October 7, he fought two engagements, called the Battle of Saratoga, on the American general's terms. Failing to drive or lure the Americans off Bemis Heights, he retreated northward to the village of Saratoga (Schuylerville), where he capitulated to Gates on October 17. The British grand design for 1777 was wrecked. A strategic and tactical turning point in the war was passed, and a family fight had become an international conflict. 
The American victory at Fort Stanwix purchased temporary security for the troubled Mohawk valley that was shattered each of the remaining years of the war by raids by British regulars and, especially, their Loyalist and Indian auxiliaries. Except for the regulars, the people on both sides were fighting for their home country; and the fighting was often characterized by the mutual savagery of internecine warfare. The Americans retaliated in 1779 with the Sullivan-Clinton campaign that devastated the hostile Iroquois towns but failed to destroy the Indians' ability to fight. Although the tribes suffered severely during the winter of 1779-80, the heaviest of the century, they joined their white allies for even more serious raids, especially Joseph Brant's and Sir John Johnson's forays of 1780; and the northern frontier was a theatre for destructive but indecisive border war until the end of the Revolution. 
Fort Stanwix continued to guard the Great Carrying Place until the spring of 1781. During the fort's final years, the elements and fires worked havoc on its fabric and structures. A fire in April 1780 destroyed the guardhouse and threatened the nearest barracks so seriously that it had to razed to prevent the fire's spreading.  On May 14, 1781, another fire, preceded by a rainstorm, destroyed all the barracks; and the rain did extensive damage to the fort's walls. On May 27, Washington wrote the President of the Continental Congress:
The general visited the Great Carrying Place in 1783 and in August directed Marinus Willett, by then a colonel of the New York Levies and Militia, to build one or two blockhouses at the portage between the river and Wood Creek.  Apparently three such structures were erected near the site of the colonial Fort Williams near the river landing-place.
In 1784, the United States negotiated one of its first Indian treaties at old Fort Stanwix. The settlement of western lands was one of the new nation's most pressing problems. Efforts to reach a solution produced the Ordinance of 1785, one of the landmarks in American legislative and land policy history. The Ordinance provided for the division of western public lands into townships and sections and for their sale by auction. The minimum price was set at one dollar per acre, and the smallest plot to be sold at auction was one section, 640 acres. These terms effectively barred the frontier farmers from buying government land directly, because they had to attend an auction in the east and because 640 acres at a dollar each exceeded their needs and resources. Thus, the door was opened to speculators, who could purchase the lands and then divide them for sale at a profit and on interest-bearing credit.
While surveys mandated by the Ordinance were started, Congress turned to the next step required to open the WestIndian removal. One of the chapters in that story is the Treaty of Stanwix of 1784, by which the Iroquois surrendered all claims to their old lands in return for a few cheap presents. Altogether, the Indians had few reasons to remember the fort with affection. Yet, there are few historic sites whose story more nearly represent the history of the western frontier. Trade, settlements, war, diplomacy, heorism, cupidity, and suffering each played a role at the Oneida Carrying Place, as each had throughout the story of the white man's conquest of the frontier.
A decade after the second Treaty of Fort Stanwix was signed, the State of New York erected a blockhouse for housing military stores on the parade of the fort. Still standing in 1815, it disappeared at an unknown date, and the entire fort was leveled by 1830.  The history of Fort Stanwix had come to a close.
Last Updated: 26-Dec-2008