A sculpture of Brigadier General Peter Gansevoort stands in a city park named in his honor at Rome, Oneida County, NY. This bronze, dedicated November 8, 1906, was created by Emilio F. Piatti. It presents the General in dress uniform grasping his sword and holding what is perhaps one of the most impactful tools (or weapons) ever devised – an accurate map.
The inscription reads:
“Brigadier General Peter Gansevoort Jr. Colonel in the Continental Army, served in Canada with Montgomery in 1775 in campaign against Quebec. Successfully defended Fort Stanwix in 1777 against the allied British and Indian forces under St. Leger preventing their junction with Burgoyne at Saratoga. He took part in the campaign of 1779 under General Sullivan. He was in active command at the outbreak of the War of 1812 and died July 2nd 1812 at the age of sixty three years.”
New York became a strategic focus during the American Revolution, largely due to its unique geography, for which a good map was critical to understanding. The British understood that it was important to crush the rebellion as quickly as possible. Their plan hoped to divide the colonies along the Hudson River by taking Albany. To that effect they would launch a three pronged attacked on New York during the summer of 1777.
The waterways were the conduit for the invasion forces. Burgoyne would lead a large detachment from the St. Lawrence River, through the valley of Lake Champlain and the northern Hudson River, with the objective of Albany. A second army, commanded by Colonel Barry St. Leger, would invade from Lake Ontario, at the Port of Oswego. His troops would move along the Oswego and Oneida Rivers, Oneida Lake and the eastern flowing Mohawk River, rendezvousing with Burgoyne near Albany. From Albany, the combined forces could link along the Hudson River with occupied New York. If successful, New England would be divided from the rest of the Colonies.
The short interruption of the water route between Oneida Lake and the Mohawk River, long known to native people as The Great Carrying Place, became a defensive bastion for the Americans at Fort Stanwix. St. Leger’s invasion began in July of 1777, and on August 3rd, St. Leger’s assault of the Fort began. General Nicholas Herkimer rallied his Tryon County Militia, and they marched to aid Fort Stanwix. Word of Herkimer’s march reached St. Leger however, and he planned a trap. His troops and Native American allies were stationed along Herkimer’s likely route and the two forces met near Oriskany on August 6th. The battle, which claimed the life of Herkimer, has been described as one of the bloodiest of the war.
The American reinforcements were repulsed, but the Battle of Oriskany took a considerable toll on the British and the capture of Fort Stanwix was no longer possible. On August 22nd St. Leger halted the attack and retreated the way he came. The Revolutionaries in the Mohawk Valley had denied Burgoyne his flanking reinforcements and doomed the British war plan. Gansevoort’s leadership in the defense of Fort Stanwix is why his statue stands in Rome near the Fort Stanwix National Monument.
But what about that map Gansevoort holds? Not quite ten years before the Revolution, in 1768, the British (including negotiators from the colonies of New Jersey, Virginia and Pennsylvania) had signed the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, negotiated in part by Sir William Johnson. The Treaty designated a line along the Ohio River. It was hoped this clearly defined property border would reduce depredations against indigenous people.The lines drawn on a map during the Fort Stanwix Treaty of 1768 would eventually include Kentucky, most of West Virginia (both then part of the Virginia Colony), and parts of Pennsylvania.
So that map in Gensevoort’s hand is not just about St. Leger’s attack – it’s about understanding the strategic and international importance of Quebec and Stanwix. The statue and the map are symbols of Gansevoort’s military intelligence and his successes in the wars to control colonialism in North America at what would become known as “The Empire State.”
Photos, from above: Statue of Peter Gansevoort near the Fort Stanwix National Monument (courtesy Bill Orzell); and a map showing a portion of the 1768 Fort Stanwix Treaty boundary line in New York.