Most American kids learn about the battle of Oriskany as a side bar to the Saratoga
campaign. If one reads Drums Along The Mohawk One gets an intense portrayal of the Battle of Oriskany . The book is much better then the lame movie version.
I will set the stage for the battle of Oriskany. If this is familiar territory skip to comments.
The Brittish have a master plan to have three Army columns meet in Albany . The most famous column was the march of Burgoyne to Saratoga. He was stopped in a series of battle that included the battle of Bennington. Burgoyne never made it to Albany .
A second column also was headed from Canada led by Barry St Ledger. It was to travel
down the Mohawk Valley and was comprised of 2135 men half were Iriqouis. The Iriquios were led by Joseph Brant also known as Thayendanega.
St Ledger laid siege to Fort Stanwix . The Americans sent a relief column to alleviate pressure on the Fort. Along the way they picked up 60 friendly Oniedas to act as scouts. Herkimer sent a party led by Captain Demooth to sneak into the fort.
The men were to ask the Comander Gansevort to send out a sortie to distract St Ledger from intercepting the column.Gansevoort was to send out three straight cannonshots as a signal the message was recieved. St Ledger was alerted about the column by Brant's sister. He set up an ambush for the unsuspecting Americans. What happened to the Indian scouts and Rangers who were ahead of the column is a mystery.
The Americans found a gap and formed a line using trees and natural cover . The fleeing rear guard was slaughtered by the Indians. Herkimer told the men to work in pairs. Thus the tactic of Indians charging while the American's reloaded stopped.
A heavy thundersorm prevented gun powder from being used and hand to hand combat ensued .
A Collumn of men dressed in Gray marched down the road towards the battle. A cheer went up from the American's thinking it was a relief sortie from the fort. A sharp eyed Captain Gardinier screamed out "They're torries open fire". But nobody did so and a man ran out to greet his friend and was taken prisoner. They were a detatchmement of Tories led by Maj Stephen Watts. Gardiner charged the enemy branishing a spontoon . Garndiner was met by three of the enememy pinned to the ground with bayonets in each of his calves. The third wenet for the kill but Gardiner
parried the bayonet with his bare hand and pulled his attacker down on top of him as a shield.One of Gardiners men came to his aid and Gardiner rose to his feet and killed the man he was using as shield. The man he killed was Lt Angus Macdonald. The Tories messed with the wrong American as an enragered Captain Gardiner returned to his lines and ordered his men to fire . The volley killed thirty tories and more brutal hand to hand combat again ensued .
The men returned to their lines and there was a lull. Three cannon shots were heard in the distance. Captain Demooth had made it into Ft Stanwix and a sortie was on its way.The Indians let out a cry OOnah Oonah and withdrew from the battle over the objection of the British Comander Butler.
Ganesvoort sent a small detachment of 250 men led by Willett. They took 21 wagons of blankets ammunition clothing but made a special effort to Grab all the the cooking utensils. In fact they took everything not nailed to the floor.The Indians made it back to a looted camp further straining relations between the Brittish and their indian allies.
Willet then snuck out at at 1am and made his way through enemy troops , swamps and forrests to General Schuyler at Stillwater. Schuuyler was informed of the battle of Oriskany and the siege of Stanwix. He selected Major General Benedict Arnold who managed to scrounge up 950 men to face StLegers force of 1700.
A subordinate came up with a brilliant plan and Arnold accepted.A local German Hon Yost Schuyler was under sentence of death for recruiting troops for the Brittish. Yost was considered a moron by thr whites but was well respected by the indians. He was told to go ahead and tell the Indians that the most danerous man on the frontier Benedict Arnold was on the way with 3000 men bent on revenge. The indians wanted no part of Arnold and packed their few remaing belonging and left. St Ledger tried to persuade the Indians to stay. On their way out the Indians looted the British. They took clothing and liquor. According to St Ledger the disorderly Indians were worse then the enemy. St Ledger had no choice but to withdraw leaving his artillery and ammunition.
Arnold arrived at the Fort and pursued St Ledger . He almost caught St Ledger as his advance parties arrived just in time to see St Ledgers men departing on boats across Lake Onieda. Arold left 700 men Fort Stanwix and departed with 1200 men. They were to play a critical role in the Battle of Saratoga. Herkimer and his men never made it to the Fort but they held the battlefield and allowed Willet to loot the Indian camp. This led to a series of events where Arnold's creative thinking led to a victory , St Ledgers men would be unable to reinforce Burgoyne at Saratoga.
The moral of the story is that even half wits have their uses.