According to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation,
“Nearly one third of all the battles fought during the American Revolution were fought in New York State. The capture of Fort Ticonderoga, the Battles of Oriskany, Newtown and Saratoga are just a few of the major events that took place on New York soil.”
This is part two in a four-part look at these important theaters in the war and New York’s vital role in our Nation’s Founding Struggle
"One of the most violent battles of the Revolutionary War occurred at Oriskany on August 6, 1777. It was the first time that Oneida warriors, who openly sided with the rebellious Americans, fought against other Haudenoshaunee warriors who allied themselves with the British."
so reads a plaque at the site of the Battle of Newtown. Oneidas at the Battle of Oriskany painting by Don Troiani 2005.
Blacksnake, a Seneca war chief, said this of the battle:
We met the enemy at the place near a small creek. They had 3 cannons and we none. We had tomahawks and a few guns, but agreed to fight with tomahawks and scalping knives. During the fight, we waited for them to fire their guns and then we attacked them. It felt like no more than killing a Beast. We killed most of the men in the American's army. Only a few escaped from us. We fought so close against one another that we could kill or another with a musket bayonet.... It was here that I saw the most dead bodies than I have ever seen. The blood shed made a stream running down on the sloping ground.
General Herkimer was shot through the leg and his horse killed, but he continued to lead the men. A fierce thunderstorm interrupted the battle, allowing a contingent of Patriots to slip away and attack the nearby British camps. Once the battle resumed, the Indian Tories abandoned the fight and went to the aid of their camp. Without their help, the British soon abandoned the fight, too.
The result of the battle was a draw. Out of 800 only 150 Patriots returned without major wounds. Herkimer didn't stop the siege, but by August 22, St. Leger ended it anyway. General Herkimer died of his wounds 11 days after the battle. The Oneida villages were sacked and given over to natives loyal to the rebel cause.