NPS Logo

Historical Background

Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

Suggested Reading

Colonials and Patriots
Survey of
Historic Sites and Buildings

New York
Fort Stanwix
Fort Stanwix

Location: Downtown Rome; site bounded approximately by Dominick, Spring, Liberty, and North James Streets.

Significance. The stand by an American garrison at Fort Stanwix during August 1777 was chiefly responsible for the repulse of the western wing of the British invasion of the northern Colonies from Canada, and checked the possibility of a loyalist uprising in the Mohawk Valley. The retreat to Canada of the western column after its failure to take Fort Stanwix was a blow to the British strategy of concentration at Albany, contributing thereby to the defeat of Burgoyne at Saratoga a few months later. In addition to its role in the War for Independence, Fort Stanwix was the scene of the treaty of that name, signed on November 5, 1768. By the Treaty of Fort Stanwix the Iroquois ceded a vast territory south and east of the Ohio River, as far west as the mouth of the Tennessee. The treaty thus cleared the way for a new and significant surge of westward settlement.

Fort Stanwix was situated at the Oneida Carrying Place, a key spot on the route between the Great Lakes and the Mohawk River, and was built originally during the French and Indian War but played no significant part in this conflict. It was reestablished in June 1776 (sometimes called Fort Schuyler by the patriots) and garrisoned with perhaps as many as 800 men in time to block British invasion objectives in the Mohawk Valley in the summer of 1777. Gen. John Burgoyne advanced south from Canada along the Champlain route at this time, expecting to meet the main British Army under General Howe which he believed would move up to the Hudson. Col. Barry St. Leger with more than 1,000 regulars, Tories, and Indians was to move down the Mohawk Valley to Albany and join the larger British forces there after rallying Tories and Indians on his route.

St. Leger invested Fort Stanwix on August 3 but was rebuffed when he demanded its surrender. The action was limited to sniping until August 6 when the bloody battle was fought at Oriskany, some 6 miles to the east (see pp. 131-132), between St. Leger and an American militia force under Gen. Nicholas Herkimer. The patriots were badly mauled and did not succeed in raising the siege of Stanwix, but during the action a detachment from the fort raided the British position, destroying provisions and camp equipment. This encouraged the besieged, who held firm while St. Leger began formal siege operations. He had advanced his works to within 150 yards of the fort when word came of the approach of an American relief force under Gen. Benedict Arnold. Having lost the confidence and support of his Indian "allies," St. Leger was obliged to abandon the siege near the end of August, retiring in considerable disorder to Canada. Fort Stanwix still stood and the American Army on the Hudson could give its full attention to Burgoyne, who surrendered at Saratoga on October 17, 1777.

Present Appearance. The site of Fort Stanwix occupies approximately a city block in the heart of Rome, and no physical evidence of the post is visible. The site is built over with roads, houses, and commercial developments. The remains of the fort were cleared away prior to the middle of the 19th century. Near the end of that century, after some controversy about the location, an effort was made to mark the outline at several points. Barring archeological investigation, it is difficult to say how successfully this was done. Authenticating the precise location of the fort through archeology appears somewhat impractical in view of the extensive development on the site. [39]

Fort Stanwix National Monument is a reconstructed Revolutionary War-era fort, with related outworks, located in downtown Rome, New York. The fort is owned and managed by the National Park Service. The reconstructed fort was built on the site of the original Fort Stanwix. The National Monument site occupies approximately 16 acres and is bordered by main thoroughfares surrounded by a mixture of commercial, residential, light industrial, and institutional land uses. The site of the fort, but not the reconstructed structure, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark, significant for the events that transpired there and its role in the American Revolution.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the enabling legislation for the national monument into law on 21 August 1935. Fort reconstruction began in the mid-1960s in tandem with an urban renewal program in downtown Rome to build two large city blocks anchored by a pedestrian mall. The National Park Service completed a master plan for Fort Stanwix in 1967. This plan recommended full reconstruction of the fort, the ruins of which lay beneath the City of Rome?s downtown. In 1970, the Park Service began a three-year archeological investigation of the site of Fort Stanwix. In 1974, reconstruction of the fort began. In 1976, the partially completed reconstructed fort opened to the public in time for the nation?s celebration of the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In 1977-78, further reconstruction work was done.

The reconstructed fort currently consists of an earth and timber-clad, reinforced concrete structure that surrounds three freestanding buildings. One remaining original feature, the foundation of a brick fireplace, is located within the reconstructed fort. Some original buildings and features of the fort remain unreconstructed, including the Northwest Bombproof, the Northeast Bombproof, the Headquarters, the Guard House, the Ravelin, the Bake House in the Southeast Bombproof, the Necessary, and the Sallyport and its Redoubt.

(from Reconstructing the Past, Partnering for the Future: An Administrative History of Fort Stanwix National Monument)

Previous Next
Last Updated: 09-Jan-2005