Klock's Field, New York
Klock's Field, New York
KLOCK'S FIELD, NEW YORK. 19 October 1780. Sir John Johnson had carried out a systematic attack on the Schoharie Valley, 16-18 October 1780, as part of a deliberate effort to drive the frontier back to Schenectady. On 19 October he continued toward Stone Arabia, and at 10:00 a.m. defeated 150 militiamen under Colonel John Brown near Fort Keyser. In the meantime Brigadier General Robert Van Rensselaer had mobilized the Albany County militia and set out in pursuit, with Governor George Clinton (a former Continental Army general) following behind with additional men. At Fort Hunter Colonel Pieter Vrooman joined Van Rensselaer with all of his Fifteenth Albany County Regiment (the inhabitants of the Schoharie Valley) that could be assembled. The militia paused on reaching the village of Sprakers, where they heard the sounds of Brown's defeat. Van Rensselaer did not cross the Mohawk at that point but instead had his men continue on almost to Fort Plain, where he left them to confer with the governor. When he returned he discovered that the men had improvised a bridge from baggage wagons and successfully crossed to the north bank.
Johnson had systematically destroyed Stone Arabia after defeating Brown and then started a slow march east with all his booty, heading toward St. Johnsville. Van Rensselaer could move faster, and he caught up with the rear guard late in the day. Left with no choice but to stand and fight, Johnson threw up a hasty breastwork on the eastern edge of St. Johnsville at a place known as Klock's Field (or Fox's Mills). His force consisted of about five hundred Loyalists from his own Royal Regiment of New York (the Royal Greens) and Lieutenant Colonel John Butler's Rangers, some British regulars, a detachment of Hesse-Hanau jägers, three small fieldpieces, a pair of light mortars, and a force of Indians (mostly Mohawks and Senecas)—somewhere between eight hundred and fifteen hundred men. He employed the jägers and Indians in the woods on his left flank and held the earthwork with the Loyalists.
Knowing that sunset was near, Van Rensselaer launched his attack immediately. Colonel Morgan Lewis commanded the vanguard. The main line had Colonel Abraham Cuyler on the left and Colonel Lewis Dubois (the former commander of the Fifth New York Regiment) on the right. Sixty pro-American Oneidas screened the right flank. The engaged American force numbered about 850 men. It quickly flushed the Indians and jägers out of the woods and sent them fleeing toward the river, accompanied by Johnson and Joseph Brant, who was wounded in the heel. The majority of the raiders, left without leaders, were surrounded and pinned against the Mohawk River. At this point, to the total astonishment of his defeated enemy, Van Rensselaer decided to break contact and fell back three miles to camp securely in Palatine.
During the night Johnson's survivors set off for Onondaga, where they had left their boats. Two parties of Americans set out in pursuit on the morning of 20 October but failed to catch up, although scouts got close enough to see the last of the raiders embark. The main body headed back to Albany and a rancorous court-martial of their general (who was acquitted).
The operation is significant not so much for the destruction or casualties, which were minimal on both sides, but rather for the sheer size of the contending forces. Johnson's force turned out to be too large to sustain itself and overwhelmed its rudimentary logistics. On the other hand, Governor Clinton told Washington that this raid destroyed more than 150,000 bushels of grain and 200 homes, and deprived the Continental Army in the Hudson Highlands of food for the coming winter.
Roberts, Robert B. New York's Forts in the Revolution. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1980.
revised by Robert K. Wright Jr.