Skip to main content

German Flats (Herkimer), New York

German Flats (Herkimer), New York

GERMAN FLATS (HERKIMER), NEW YORK. 13 September 1778. Originally called Burnet's Field, this settlement was actually a ten-mile stretch of the Mohawk Valley extending west from the mouth of West Canada Creek, with its center five miles south of the subsequently named Herkimer. Its name comes from the fact that the first settlers were German immigrants from the Palatine. It contained about seventy houses on both sides of the river when the Revolution started, including Brigadier General Nicholas Herkimer's stockaded mansion (called Fort Herkimer). Two miles westward on the north bank of the river was Fort Dayton, established by Colonel Elias Dayton in the fall of 1776 on the site of an earlier French and Indian War post. It was one of the few Continental Army posts in the Mohawk Valley and its explicit purpose was to protect German Flats.

In the late summer of 1778, the settlers heard rumors that Joseph Brant and Captain William Caldwell intended to raid German Flats with a force of 300 Loyalists and 150 Mohawk warriors. In response, Colonel Peter Bellinger, commander of Fort Dayton, sent out scouts to probe towards Unadilla, which was suspected of being Brant's base. They were ambushed near the later town of Edmeston. Three scouts were killed but the fourth, Adam Helmer, got away. He had a reputation as the best cross-country runner in the valley, and his escape is the basis for Henry Fonda's dash in the movie Drums Along the Mohawk (1939). Helmer reached the settlement on 13 (or 17) September and gave the alarm in time for most of the inhabitants to retreat into the several local forts. Brant's raiding party came up the Unadilla River by way of Cedarville and arrived on the southern end of the settlement an hour after the alarm. Unaware of the fact that the inhabitants were already warned, he camped for the night near the known Loyalist area of Shoemaker's Tavern (modern Mohawk). The next day the raiders had to content themselves with burning the abandoned farms and mills from Little Falls to Frankford.

On 29 October 1780, Sir John Johnson passed through German Flats after raiding Schoharie Valley. In early 1781 Indians appeared in small parties and destroyed property at German Flats. The hated Walter Butler was captured at Shoemaker's house.

SEE ALSO Border Warfare in New York; Butler, Walter.


Roberts, Robert B. New York's Forts in the Revolution. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1980.

Mintz, Max M. Seeds of Empire: The American Revolutionary Conquest of the Iroquois. New York: New York University Press, 1999.

                            revised by Robert K. Wright Jr.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"German Flats (Herkimer), New York." Encyclopedia of the American Revolution: Library of Military History. . 21 Apr. 2019 <>.

"German Flats (Herkimer), New York." Encyclopedia of the American Revolution: Library of Military History. . (April 21, 2019).

"German Flats (Herkimer), New York." Encyclopedia of the American Revolution: Library of Military History. . Retrieved April 21, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.