TwHP Lessons

The Battle of Oriskany: "Blood Shed a Stream Running Down"

[Painting] Battle of Oriskany. Painted by Frederick C. Yohn, 1977.
(Courtesy of Utica Public Library)


hat the late Incursions of the Enemy & their Savages into the said county [Tryon], & upon a part of the County of Albany have reduced the Inhabitants to the utmost distress. The Harvests not yet gathered in are rotting upon the ground. The Grass uncut. The fallow Grounds not yet ploughed. The Cattle in a great measure destroyed."¹

For hundreds of years, central and western New York had been inhabited by the six member nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. During the colonial period the French, the Dutch, and the British coveted its strategic location along an important fur trade route. The Mohawk Valley's rich farmland also yielded great quantities of food, and the land attracted European settlers. By the time of the Revolutionary War, Dutch, German, Irish, Scotch, and British settlers prospered from lucrative trade and productive farms.

Yet the whole area suffered from long-established prejudices and hatred between groups and individuals. When war broke out, European Americans and American Indians fought each other for control of New York's political power, land, and commerce. The sentiments quoted above would be repeated time and time again as personal vendettas and reprisals escalated to bloody massacres and battles. No episode better captures the brutal civil war in the Mohawk Valley than the Battle of Oriskany on August 6, 1777, where neighbor fighting neighbor transformed a quiet ravine into a bloody slaughterhouse.

¹William Harper and Fredrick Fisher to Gov. George Clinton, August 28, 1777 from Public Papers of George Clinton, Vol. 2 (Albany: State of New York, 1900).


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. 18th­century travel in New York State
 2. The Iroquois Confederacy
 3. Northern Campaign of 1777
 4. Oriskany Battlefield

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. Growing Tensions in Central New York
 2. The Battle of Oriskany
 3. Effects of the Battle of Oriskany

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. Joseph Brant, 1786
 2. Sir John Johnson, 1770s
 3. Battle of Oriskany

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Where Do I Stand?
 2. The Lost Battlefield
 3. In the Grip of Fear

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Fort Stanwix National Monument

This lesson is based on the Oriskany Battlefield State Historic Site and Fort Stanwix National Monument, two of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Both properties have been designated National Historic Landmarks.



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