Oriskany - Encyclopedia

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ORISKANY, a village of Oneida county, New York, U.S.A., about 7 m. N.W. of Utica. Pop. about 800. Oriskany is served by the New York Central & Hudson River railway. There are malleable iron works and a manufactory of paper makers' felts here. In a ravine, about 2 m. west of Oriskany, was fought on the 6th of August 1777 the battle of Oriskany, an important minor engagement of the American War of Independence. On the 4th of August Gen. Nicholas Herkimer, who had been colonel of the Tyrone county (New York) militia in 1775, and had been made a brigadier-general of the state militia in 1776, had gathered about 800 militiamen at Fort Dayton (on the site of the present Herkimer, New York) for the relief of Fort Schuyler (see Rome, N.Y.) then besieged by British and Indians under Colonel Barry St Leger and Joseph Brant. On the 6th General Herkimer's force, on its march to Fort Schuyler, was ambushed by a force of British under Sir John Johnson and Indians under Joseph Brant in the ravine above mentioned. The rear portion of Herkimer's troops escaped from the trap, but were pursued by the Indians, and many of them were overtaken and killed. Between the remainder and the British and Indians there was a desperate hand-to-hand conflict, interrupted by a violent thunderstorm, with no quarter shown by either side. On hearing the firing near Fort Schuyler (incident to a sortie by Lieut.-Colonel Marinus Willett) the British withdrew, after about 200 Americans had been killed and as many more taken prisoners, the loss of the British in killed being about the same. General Herkimer (who had advised advancing slowly, awaiting signal shots announcing the sortie, and had been called "Tory" and "coward" in consequence), though his leg had been broken by a shot at the beginning of the action, continued to direct the fighting on the American side, but died on the 16th of August as a result of the clumsy amputation of his leg. The battle, though indecisive, had an important influence in preventing St Leger from effecting a junction with General Burgoyne. The battlefield is marked by a monument erected in 1884.

See Orderly Book of Sir John Johnson during the Oriskany Campaign (Albany, 1882), with notes by W. L. Stone and J. W. De Peyster; Publications of the Oneida Historical Society, vol. i. (Utica, N.Y., 18 77); and Phoebe S. Cowen, The Herkimers and Schuylers (Albany, 1903).

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