The Mohawk Valley Region had enormous significance in international affairs and the struggle for independence. This stunning landscape became a battleground as guns, cannons, drums, and raids tore through the Region from 1776 to 1783, ending with the Treaty of Paris.
Seeking victory, the British unleashed a three-pronged campaign in the summer of 1777 hoping to squash the American Rebellion. Their goal was to capture the strategic Mohawk and Hudson River waterways and sever New England from the southern colonies.
In this grandiose strategy, General Burgoyne marched south from Canada. General St. Leger moved eastward from Lake Ontario, only to be defeated at Fort Stanwix. General Howe, stationed in New York City, chose to engage General George Washington in Pennsylvania rather than press north to Albany. This action ensured the Patriot victory over Burgoyne at Saratoga, "the turning point of the American Revolution."
For those in the Mohawk Valley Region, liberty came at a high cost. Families were torn apart and friendships broken. Native American tribes were divided and of the 7,500 European settlers in the Region in 1775, one third were killed or driven out. Another third fled to Canada as Loyalists, later to return and plunder their former neighbors. Those remaining grew grain to supply George Washington's armies while defending their homes.
After the costly American victory at Oriskany and crushing British defeat at Saratoga, the Crown unleashed a series of attacks against defenseless civilians across the Region remembered as the "Burning of the Valleys." In retaliation, the Patriots avenged their losses in what became known as the "Border Raids." It was neighbor against neighbor, tribe against tribe in the Mohawk Valley Region until nearly the end of the War.
After years of misery, defeat and disappointment, Washington sent Colonel Marinus Willett to command the forces on the Mohawk frontier. Under Willett’s inspired leadership, defeat immediately turned to victory. Farms and fields previously burned in enemy raids now produced much needed wheat to feed Washington’s Army. Farmers, no longer fearing for their own safety, returned to the valley with new hope for the future. In 1783, with the war all but over, George Washington toured the Mohawk region, offering sympathy and support to those that had given so much in the cause of American liberty. After the war it was the former citizen-soldiers of this frontier who would transform the Mohawk Valley into the “Gateway to America”.