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Maj. Gen. Riedesel
Maj. Gen. Riedesel, commander of the German troops in Burgoyne's army.
Courtesy Fort Ticonderoga Museum.
Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates
Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates, commander of the American forces at Saratoga.
Courtesy Fort Ticonderoga Museum.

The St. Leger Expedition

By this time the tide of events already had started running against the British. This was first evidenced by the news of St. Leger's defeat at the bloody battle of Oriskany on August 6. St. Leger's force of about 1,600 men was made up chiefly of Tories, under the leadership of Sir John Johnston and Col. John Butler, and a number of Indians of the Iroquois Confederacy. The Iroquois were divided in their sympathies, but Joseph Brant and his Mohawk warriors and many Cayugas and Senecas joined St. Leger. The immediate objective of St. Leger was to reduce Fort Stanwix, which was held by 500 men under Col. Peter Gansevoort. As the British leader approached the fort, German settlers of the Mohawk Valley assembled under the leadership of Gen. Nicholas Herkimer and advanced to its relief. The Tories and Indians prepared an ambuscade in a ravine near Oriskany, 6 miles below Fort Stanwix, where Herkimer and his farmer militia were almost entirely surrounded. In a desperate struggle with knife, hatchet, bayonet, and clubbed rifle, Herkimer and his men finally put the Indians and Tories to flight from a field that has few, if any, equals in savage horror on the American continent. Herkimer himself, died from the effects of a wound received on the field of carnage, and his followers were so reduced and exhausted by the ordeal that they were compelled to return to their homes, Sixteen days later St. Leger's force was dispersed by the defection and desertion of his Indian allies on receipt of news in his camp that a large force under Benedict Arnold, dispatched by General Schuyler, was approaching for the relief of Fort Stanwix. Only a few of St. Leger's troops ever found their way back to Montreal.


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