Battle of Oriskany

The Battle of Oriskany, fought on August 6, 1777, was one of the bloodiest battles in the North American theater of the American Revolutionary War and a significant engagement of the Saratoga campaign. Early in the siege of Fort Stanwix, an American relief force from the Mohawk Valley under General Nicholas Herkimer, numbering around 800 men of the Tryon County militia and a party of Oneida Indians, approached in an attempt to raise the siege. British commander Barry St. Leger authorized an intercept force consisting of a Hanau jäger (light infantry) detachment, Sir John Johnson’s King’s Royal Regiment of New York, Indian allies from the Six Nations and other tribes to the north and west, and Indian Department Rangers totaling at least 450 men.

The Loyalist and Indian force ambushed Herkimer’s force in a small valley about six miles (10 km) east of Fort Stanwix, near the present-day village of Oriskany, New York. During the battle, Herkimer was mortally wounded. The battle cost the Patriots approximately 450 casualties, while the Loyalists and Indians lost approximately 150 dead and wounded. The result of the battle remains ambiguous to this day because the advantage of the Loyalist victory was countered when a party sortied from Fort Stanwix and sacked their camp, spoiling morale among the Indians.

This was one the few battles in the war where almost all of the participants were North American: Loyalists and Indians fought against Patriots in the absence of British soldiers. For the Iroquois nations, the battle marked the beginning of a civil war, as Oneidas under Colonel Louis and Han Yerry allied with the American cause and fought against members of other Iroquois nations.

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