New York: Fort Stanwix National Monument

Aerial view of Fort Stanwix
Aerial view of Fort Stanwix

Courtesy of National Park Service

In Rome, New York, an ancient trail connects the Mohawk River and Wood Creek allowing travelers to move between present-day Canada and New York for thousands of years. Named by the Europeans in the early 1700s as the Oneida Carry, this portage was a six-mile path that the Six Nations Confederacy and the Dutch, English, and French traders used to carry goods throughout the northern Indian Territory. When the French and Indian War broke out in the summer of 1754, the Oneida Carry fell at the center of this armed conflict as each of the parties involved in the war fought for control of this vital path.  In an effort to protect their empire’s interests in North America, the British constructed a military outpost at the Oneida Carrying Place. Today, Fort Stanwix National Monument tells the story of this strategic outpost in the defense of New York, its influence on America’s Indian affairs, and the significant role Fort Stanwix played in the Revolutionary War.

Constructed in 1758 by Brigade General John Stanwix, the fort not only helped end the French army’s invasions in the Mohawk Valley, it also gave the British control over one of only two water routes between Lake Ontario and the Oneida Lake. From this position, British forces also managed to capture the French forts at Kingston, Ontario, Oswego, Niagara, Montreal, and at the St. Lawrence River. Although the fall of Montreal in 1760 ended most of the fighting between the English and the French in North America, the French and Indian War continued overseas until the Treaty of Paris officially ended the Seven Years War in 1763. Despite the end of the war, tensions in North America remained since the American Indians and colonists grew increasingly dissatisfied with the policies of the English empire.

When the French signed the Treaty of Paris, Great Britain acquired all of the French claims in North America on the east side of the Mississippi River. Many American Indians living in these territories fought alongside the French during the Seven Years War. Having felt forced to accept the new regime, the Indians staged a war of independence against the British. Known as Pontiac’s Rebellion, this uprising eventually led to the Treaty of 1768, which settled the conflicts between the tribes and the English settlers. The superintendent of Indian Affairs, Sir William Johnson negotiated the treaty at the abandoned Fort Stanwix, where representatives of the Six Nations--the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and Tuscarora agreed to cede the lands that lay on the south and east side of the Ohio River.

Despite resolving the conflict between the British settlers and the Six Nations Confederacy, the Treaty of Fort Stanwix could not prevent the North American fever for independence from spreading further into the colonies. Angered by the taxes that the English imposed on the North America settlers to finance the Seven Years War, the colonists declared their independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776. During the American Revolution, Fort Stanwix (then Fort Schuyler) played a key role in the Americans eventual victory at Saratoga on October 17, 1777. Without the presence of the Continental Army at Fort Schuyler, as well as the victory at Fort Stanwix on August 23, 1777, the outcome of the Revolutionary War might have changed, since the British would have gained control of the Oneida Carry and New York.

Although the Revolution ended in 1783, like the British at the conclusion of the Seven Years War, the Americans faced conflicts with the American Indians who were dissatisfied with the United States. Representatives of the newly formed nation met at Fort Stanwix to sign a treaty with the Six Nations Confederacy in 1784. Despite the Second Treaty of Fort Stanwix that officially ended the conflict with the Indians, the United States continued to expand into Indian territories. Fort Stanwix became a significant player in the administration of the nation’s Indian affairs until 1790. Today, Fort Stanwix National Monument preserves and interprets not only the history of Fort Stanwix during the Seven Years and Revolutionary Wars, but also the vital role it played in negotiating land deals with the American Indians of New York.

Reconstructed in 1976, the present Fort Stanwix in Rome, New York appears as much as it did during the Revolutionary War. Using old illustrations and original documents from the fort’s heyday, the City of Rome and the National Park Service built a replica of the Old Fort Stanwix. Like the original fort, most of the structures at the present day site are made of wood. These structures include the East Barracks, where workmen and junior officers slept; a Storehouse, which may have also contained the Quartermaster’s room; a Sally Port or hidden exit that allowed soldiers to sneak past enemy lines; the Northeast and Northwest Bastions; and the Southwest Bastion that presently stands above the makeshift hospital exhibit.

Other structures at the fort today are two Officer’s Quarters, the Commandant’s Quarters, an Artillery Officer’s Quarters, and the Staff/Dining Room, which in its glory days served as the office for Colonel Gansevoort. Also reconstructed are the Southeast, West, and Southwest Casemates, which once served as the living quarters for soldiers and the fort’s civilian workmen. The reconstructed fort also has a drawbridge, but it is unknown if this particular design is a true replica of the drawbridge used during the American Revolution. The present day drawbridge is a replica of a design commonly used at forts during the late 18th century.

Before entering Fort Stanwix, visitors should begin their tour of the National Monument at the Willet Center located across the street from the parking facilities on James Street. Here, park rangers provide an orientation about the three short trails that surround the monument. Two of the trails interpret the 1777 siege of Fort Schuyler, and the third trail follows the history of the Oneida Carrying Place. At the visitor center, tourists may also learn about the history of Fort Stanwix by visiting the museum area and participating in one of the many living history programs offered at the fort.

Fort Stanwix National Monument, a unit of the National Park System and a National Historic Landmark, is located at 100 S. James Street in Rome, NY. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. Fort Stanwix National Monument is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm, except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. For more information, visit the Fort Stanwix National Monument website or call 315-338-7730.

Fort Stanwix National Monument has been documented by the National Park Service Historic American Buildings Survey. Fort Stanwix National Monument is also the subject of an online lesson plan, The Battle of Oriskany: “Bloodshed a Stream Running Down.” The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places.

Last updated: August 7, 2017