Jun 5, 2016

NY's Road to Independence

Celebrate Independence Day by visiting one of these Revolutionary War sites to learn how the colonist fought to gain our independence. In Texas, NY, there is a sign pointing to Spy Island. Many people wonder what it is all about but few bother to stop to learn about the spy.  Spy Island is just one small part of New York’s Revolutionary past but it played a part in defeating the British army. Early in 1777 George Washington was quartered on the Hudson River and enlisted the services of Silas Town. Town was sent to Canada to determine the number of men under the command of General John
Burgoyne who was preparing to launch a three-pronged plan to conquer New York State. It was thought that conquering New York State would end the colonial rebellion.  Burgoyne was to move south from Quebec, General Howe was to travel north from New York City, and St. Leger was to travel up the St. Lawrence across Lake Ontario to Albany via Oswego. They were to meet in Albany. The plan was doomed from the start because Howe sent his troops to capture Philadelphia and the colonial forces in Central New York thwarted the plan of St. Leger. 

In July 1777 Silas Town was secreted on a small island in the Little
Salmon River when St. Leger and his men put ashore for the night.  According to Town’s story, St. Leger tried to convince Joseph Brant, the Mohawk chief, to move the troops overland from Mexico
Point directly to Fort Stanwix.  Brant would only go by way of Oswego because he knew Native Americans were waiting to strengthen their contingent. In the morning Town made haste to report to the commander at Fort Stanwix. Today, at Mexico Point Park, a monument marks Town’s grave where he overheard the British plans and a hand-carved full-size statue of Joseph Brant points the way to Fort Ontario.

Most likely Town was just one of
several “Paul Reveres” who gave warning to Fort Stanwix that the British were coming. Early warning allowed the commander of Fort Stanwix to secure the fort and to send word to General Nicholas Herkimer asking for support. Fort Stanwix was able to successfully repel the siege. Fort Stanwix has been reconstructed and has a great informative Visitor Center depicting the lifestyle of the era including the siege of the fort.

General Herkimer was not so lucky. Herkimer, leading 700 Tryon County militiamen and Oneida warriors, was ambushed by an equal force of Tories and Mohawks in Oriskany. In the six-hour battle, one of the bloodiest of the Revolution, the American force was prevented from relieving Fort Stanwix, but the British, after suffering heavy losses, retreated to Oswego. The injured Herkimer died days later. Today the monument at Oriskany is a quiet, reflective spot belying the horror that took place in 1777.  The monument reads: 

Here British invasion was checked and thwarted, 
here General Nicolas Herkimer, 
intrepid leader of the American forces, 
though mortally wounded kept command of the fight 
till the enemy had fled.  
The life-blood of more than two hundred patriot heroes
made this battleground sacred forever.
St. Leger’s troops never made it to Albany leaving Burgoyne without reinforcements when his men engaged the colonists at Saratoga. The pivotal British plan to divide and conquer the colonies failed, a major factor in the War for Independence.