Drums Along the Mohawk is a 1939 historical Technicolor film based upon a 1936 novel of the same name by American author, Walter D. Edmonds. The film was produced by Darryl F. Zanuck and directed by John Ford. Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert portray settlers on the New York frontier during the American Revolution. The couple suffer British, Tory, and Indian attacks on their farm before the Revolution ends and peace is restored. The film—Ford’s first color feature—was well received, was nominated for two Academy Awards and became a major box office success, grossing over US$1 million in its first year. This was also the first time Claudette Colbert would be filmed in color. While filming Claudette Colbert had actually worried she might have not looked as good in color as she did in black and white.
Drums Along the Mohawk (1936) is a novel by American author Walter D. Edmonds. The story follows the lives of fictional Gil and Lana Martin, settlers in the Mohawk Valley of the New York frontier during the American Revolution.
The book is peopled with historical persons such as General Nicholas Herkimer, Adam Helmer, and William Caldwell, and features historical events such as the Battle of Oriskany and the Attack on German Flatts (1778).
The novel was a commercial and popular success, remaining on the bestseller list for two years.
In 1776, American colonists Gilbert Martin (Henry Fonda) and Lana Borst (Claudette Colbert) marry and leave her luxurious home in Albany, New York for a small farm in Deerfield on the western frontier of the Mohawk Valley in central New York. Lana has difficulty in adjusting to frontier life, but soon is working alongside her husband.
The American Revolution begins. Lana is pregnant and miscarries when the Martin farm is burned to the ground in an Indian attack led by a Tory, Caldwell (John Carradine). With no home and winter approaching, the Martins accept work on the farm of wealthy widow Mrs. McKlennar (Edna May Oliver).
Life returns to peaceful normality; Mrs. McKlennar and the Martins prosper. However, an attack by Tories and Indians threatens the valley, and the militia is called up. Ill-equipped and poorly trained, the settlers barely manage to defeat the enemy at Oriskany. Gil returns home wounded and delirious. Lana is again pregnant, and while Gil recovers from his wounds, she gives birth to their son.
The Tories and Mohawks attack German Flatts, and the settlers take refuge in Fort Herkimer. Mrs. McKlennar is mortally wounded, and ammunition runs short. Gil makes a dash through enemy lines to secure help from nearby Fort Dayton. As the Indians scale the walls of the fort, reinforcements arrive from Fort Dayton. The Indians are overwhelmed. After the battle, the settlers learn the revolution has ended, and the American flag is unfurled above the fort.
ADAM HELMER’S RUN:
Adam F. Helmer (c.1754 – April 9, 1830), also known as John Adam Helmer and Hans Adam Helmer, was an American Revolutionary War hero among those of the Mohawk Valley and surrounding regions of New York State. He was made nationally famous by Walter D. Edmonds’ popular 1936 novel Drums Along the Mohawk with its depiction of “Adam Helmer’s Run” of September 16, 1778 to warn the people of German Flatts of the approach of Joseph Brant and his company of Indians and Tories.
Lieutenant Adam F. Helmer
Famous Mohawk Valley Scout
On Aug. 6, 1777 carried military orders
for General Nicholas Herkimer
On Sept. 16, 1778 warned the settlers
at German Flats of the approach
of Joseph Brant and his warriors