Historic Sites and Buildings
Significance. The stand by an American garrison at Fort Stanwix during August 1777 was chiefly responsible for the repulse of the western wing of the British invasion of the northern Colonies from Canada, and checked the possibility of a loyalist uprising in the Mohawk Valley. The retreat to Canada of the western column after its failure to take Fort Stanwix was a blow to the British strategy of concentration at Albany, contributing thereby to the defeat of Burgoyne at Saratoga a few months later. In addition to its role in the War for Independence, Fort Stanwix was the scene of the treaty of that name, signed on November 5, 1768. By the Treaty of Fort Stanwix the Iroquois ceded a vast territory south and east of the Ohio River, as far west as the mouth of the Tennessee. The treaty thus cleared the way for a new and significant surge of westward settlement.
Fort Stanwix was situated at the Oneida Carrying Place, a key spot on the route between the Great Lakes and the Mohawk River, and was built originally during the French and Indian War but played no significant part in this conflict. It was reestablished in June 1776 (sometimes called Fort Schuyler by the patriots) and garrisoned with perhaps as many as 800 men in time to block British invasion objectives in the Mohawk Valley in the summer of 1777. Gen. John Burgoyne advanced south from Canada along the Champlain route at this time, expecting to meet the main British Army under General Howe which he believed would move up to the Hudson. Col. Barry St. Leger with more than 1,000 regulars, Tories, and Indians was to move down the Mohawk Valley to Albany and join the larger British forces there after rallying Tories and Indians on his route.
St. Leger invested Fort Stanwix on August 3 but was rebuffed when he demanded its surrender. The action was limited to sniping until August 6 when the bloody battle was fought at Oriskany, some 6 miles to the east (see pp. 131-132), between St. Leger and an American militia force under Gen. Nicholas Herkimer. The patriots were badly mauled and did not succeed in raising the siege of Stanwix, but during the action a detachment from the fort raided the British position, destroying provisions and camp equipment. This encouraged the besieged, who held firm while St. Leger began formal siege operations. He had advanced his works to within 150 yards of the fort when word came of the approach of an American relief force under Gen. Benedict Arnold. Having lost the confidence and support of his Indian "allies," St. Leger was obliged to abandon the siege near the end of August, retiring in considerable disorder to Canada. Fort Stanwix still stood and the American Army on the Hudson could give its full attention to Burgoyne, who surrendered at Saratoga on October 17, 1777.
Present Appearance. The site of Fort Stanwix occupies approximately a city block in the heart of Rome, and no physical evidence of the post is visible. The site is built over with roads, houses, and commercial developments. The remains of the fort were cleared away prior to the middle of the 19th century. Near the end of that century, after some controversy about the location, an effort was made to mark the outline at several points. Barring archeological investigation, it is difficult to say how successfully this was done. Authenticating the precise location of the fort through archeology appears somewhat impractical in view of the extensive development on the site. 
Last Updated: 09-Jan-2005