The Oneida Carrying Place, a four-mile overland route that connected the Mohawk River and Wood Creek, was vital to British military campaign strategies beginning with the French and Indian War. The Carry also saw significant action during St. Leger’s American Revolution Campaign (1777), which included the Siege of Fort Stanwix/Schuyler and the Battle of Oriskany.
One of two British fortifications Fort Bull was built to secure the Oneida Carrying Place in 1755. In 1756 French troops, supported by allied Native Americans, marched overland from Fort de La Preséntation (present day Ogdensburg) and attacked the British fort killing or capturing nearly 60 from the British garrison. This French victory deprived the British at Fort Oswego of vital supplies, ending British plans to attack the French-held Fort Niagara and leading to the French capture of Fort Oswego later that year. Soon after the destruction of Fort Bull, the British returned and built Fort Wood Creek.
Over the years researchers have speculated as to whether the new fort (Fort Wood Creek) was built over the remains of Fort Bull. Others are convinced that traces of Fort Bull remain buried outside of the Fort Wood Creek footprint which is still visible today. However, in 2020 archaeologists using innovative remote sensing technology along with traditional field techniques uncovered a significant amount of material related to the attack including a charred plank along with an impacted French musket ball and British grenade fragments all within the Fort Wood Creek complex.
The National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) has awarded $71,630 to Binghamton University to continue conducting limited archaeological excavations at the Rome Historical Society’s (RHS) Fort Bull – Fort Wood Creek site.
Expanding on a previous ABPP grant from 2018, the Public Archaeology Facility (PAF), a research center at Binghamton University, in collaboration with RHS will continue their archaeological investigations in an effort to confirm the presence of the original Fort Bull and any of its associated battlefield features which may be remaining. As part of this effort local stakeholders including Veterans and Indigenous descendants will also participate in a community stewardship program that will help advance the preservation and interpretation of the Fort Bull Battlefield.
“With evidence of a battle present at the fort and on the adjacent landscape, we believe that this is where the battle of Fort Bull occurred” said Arthur L. Simmons III, Executive Director of RHS. “As stewards of the Fort Bull – Fort Wood Creek site we are excited to continue working with PAF, the Oneida Indian Nation, and our other partners to ensure the Fort Bull Battlefield remains protected and that the site’s history is well preserved.” Simmons continued, “we know that the importance of this site predates its colonial fortifications and is also relevant to the history of Indigenous people throughout this region.”
This project’s goals include gaining a wider regional recognition of Fort Bull’s importance during the French and Indian War, a better understanding of the fort’s location, identifying the critical defining features associated with the battle, and bringing underrepresented Indigenous voices to the interpretation of the Oneida Carrying Place. Also included in this effort will be local Veterans who will help to drive the patriotic commemoration within the community. Incorporating these Veterans into the project will also help build a dedicated group of stewards for preserving the area’s military landscape.
Fort Bull is currently interpreted in a small landscape corresponding to the fort itself. This project will also continue to identify and assess the integrity of defining features through minimal excavations guided by the results of previous and newly conducted geophysical surveys. These field investigations will provide a full participatory experience for non-archaeologists (professionally supervised) who have a vested interest in presenting a more inclusive history of the Fort Bull landscape. Past PAF outreach has demonstrated that hands-on experiences promote a collective responsibility for preserving heritage sites. Bringing local stakeholders, affiliated groups (Veterans), and descendant (Indigenous) communities into the preservation process will help build stronger preservation partnerships in support of the protection and portrayal of the Fort Bull Battlefield and the surrounding military landscape as part of the Oneida Carrying Place.
With the Oneida Indian Nation joining in on the investigation this will ensure that Indigenous knowledge of the site which is located within their ancestral homelands and the conflicts’ impact on their community will be integrated into long term preservation planning.
ABPP’s Preservation Planning Grants promote the preservation and protection of sites where historic battles across all eras were fought on American soil. The program’s financial assistance to a broad range of Tribal, state, and local preservation partners supports community-driven stewardship of sites of armed conflict that shaped the growth and development of the United States. In addition, National Park Service ABPP administers three other grant programs: Battlefield Interpretation Grants, Battlefield Land Acquisition Grants, and Battlefield Restoration Grants.
With funding secured, plans are now being set for archaeologists to conduct further field research throughout 2023. To learn more about Fort Bull – Fort Wood Creek or to access the site please contact the Rome Historical Society.
The Rome Historical Society is located at 200 Church Street, Rome, NY and is a non-profit organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code. For more information, call (315) 336-5870 or visit their website.
Photo of Fort Bull – Fort Wood Creek site provided.