In seventeen seventy-seven,
amidst the deep summer’s August heat,
Barry St. Leger, loyalist milita,
and the Iroquois walked on sore feet.
Their mission was clear: move down the Mohawk,
meet Burgoyne and split the rebel states,
except the Americans in Fort Stanwix
were effectively blocking their way.
To advance the fort had to be reduced,
but St. Leger’s force had few big guns,
so he settled into a siege of the fort,
with a mind to hold strong 'til he’d won.
But the patriots knew of the British plans,
and were not content to just sit and wait,
Tyrion County called up its militia
to save Stanwix from a bloody fate.
Eight hundred of them marched for the fort,
under the command of Nick Herkimer,
a palatine German of the Mohawk vale,
an able and determined fighter.
They stopped to camp not far from Stanwix,
and Herkimer counseled that they should hold,
to await a signal from inside the fort
and launch a two-front attack bold.
But the militia saw this as cowardice,
and said,”What else could we expect?
His own brother fights with St. Leger,
we can’t expect him to take the next step.”
Herkimer darkened at his men’s words,
and would not idly receive their scorn,
he ordered the men to be on the ready,
they would advance the following morn.
But the British knew of their approach,
and prepared to put them to the test,
near five hundred set out to intercept,
mostly Iroquois with some Loyalists.
The next day the Americans, on the move,
found themselves passing through a ravine,
unaware that eyes stared upon them
as they drank from a cool, tiny stream.
The British had planned to wait until
the patriots were all stretched out,
but some Indians opened fire too early,
a roar of muskets and loud piercing shouts.
The first volleys hit hard, stunned the militia,
a good many brave soldiers went down,
Herkimer took a ball in the leg,
and from a dying horse pitched to the ground.
So fierce was that first surprise attack,
so many patriotic souls shot dead,
that all sides involved said the tiny stream
was stained by the blood until red.
Some tried to move wounded Herkimer,
but he was still in no mood for retreat,
he took out a pipe, leaned on a tree trunk,
and said,”I will meet the enemy...”
CONCLUDES IN PART II
Copyright © David Welch | Year Posted 2018