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Setting the Stage

With the outbreak of hostilities in 1775, it became clear that New York was vital to military victory. If the British could defeat the Rebel forces in New York, they would control trade between the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes and divide the colonies. They also would be able to feed their troops from the bounty of the Mohawk Valley, the "bread basket" of the Revolutionary War.

In 1777, the British conceived an ambitious plan for the conquest of New York. This plan called for a three prong attack into the heart of the colony with all three invading forces meeting in Albany. The first army, led by General John Burgoyne, was to invade New York moving south from Canada through the Lake Champlain–Hudson River corridor to Albany. The second force, to be commanded by General William Howe, was to move north up the Hudson River Valley from New York City to Albany. The third and final British troops, commanded by General Barry St. Leger, were to move down Lake Ontario from Canada to Oswego, New York and hook eastward through the Mohawk Valley towards Albany.

This plan was dependent on coordination between the armies and the anticipated rallying to arms of the large Tory population the British believed existed in New York. Rebel leaders in New York prepared to defend the state and reinforced the Mohawk Valley. At the ravine of Oriskany in August 1777, the two sides clashed for control of New York.

 

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