The first volume of With Musket & Tomahawk, The Saratoga Campaign and the Wilderness War of 1777 examined General John Burgoyne’s quest to drive straight south from Canada via the Hudson River corridor, thus severing New England from the rest of the rebellious colonies. It was intended to be a three-pronged assault, with General Howe coming up from New York City and General St. Leger coming over from the west. They were all supposed to converge at Albany, but Howe never even started, opting to take Philadelphia instead. The result was that Burgoyne’s army, once deep into the wilderness, was overwhelmed by Patriot numbers and forced to surrender. Michael Logusz described this failure when he writes,
“To begin, there was a lack of clear guidance, directives, orders, and messages. Always critical for any type of military operation, especially one involving joint military operations spanning an immense geographic area, the lack of such clear-cut directives doomed the British campaign from the outset.” p. 31
But curiosity has always remained: what of the “third” British column that was supposed to have come from the west, forging its way down the Mohawk Valley in order to reach Albany? Scholars of the subject already know what happened, amidst that primeval woodland, but here in Volume II of Logusz’s work we hear the exact details of why, and how, General Barry St. Leger never reached the Hudson.
A near-massacre took place in those dark forests and ravines, as St. Leger’s spearhead troops—the Iroquois under Chief Joseph Brant—ambushed and nearly obliterated a Patriot army, at Oriskany. But in the middle of that Mohawk Valley, a Patriot bastion—Fort Stanwix—held out, until finally a relief column under Benedict Arnold forced the attackers to flee. This episode in American history—immortalized in the movie “Drums Along the Mohawk”—has rarely seen the light of day in Revolution literature.
In the end, with Burgoyne’s main thrust defeated, the northern Patriots were able to breathe a little easier. But warfare through raiding parties continued throughout the theater, especially in the wilderness to the west, where the Iroquois Confederation, supported by Loyalist personnel and British largesse, continued to wreak havoc on the frontier. This second volume of Logusz’s work on the Wilderness War: The Mohawk Valley Campaign, will be an essential addition to understanding how American Patriots finally earned their freedom.
Both volumes of With Musket and Tomahawk are selections of the History Book Club: the first on Saratoga as a reprint; the second on the Mohawk Valley Campaign as a new release. We’d recommend both for a full understanding of the travails our forebears endured during the Revolution, as well as the multi-faceted war they faced. Outside of Washington’s Continental Army, warfare was more often waged as primitively as its wilderness environment, and author Logusz, a former Lt. Col. in the US Army and current resident of NY State, manages to bring it to life.