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Sharon Springs Swamp, New York

Sharon Springs Swamp, New York

SHARON SPRINGS SWAMP, NEW YORK. 10 July 1781. Colonel Marinus Willett was in command of the force of New York state troops that took over responsibility for the defense of the Mohawk Valley from the Continentals at the beginning of July 1781. He set up headquarters at Fort Rensselaer (locally known as Fort Plain, later as Canajoharie) and immediately received word that large forces were moving against the settlements. On 9 July, Willett detected smoke rising in the southeast and assumed that the raiders were attacking Currytown, about eleven miles away. Earlier that morning Willett had sent out a thirty-five-man patrol under Captain Gross to Thurlough, but on seeing the smoke he sent a messenger to redirect the patrol towards Currytown. Willett also sent Captain Robert McKean with sixteen more of the state troops in the same direction, telling him to collect all the local militiamen he could as he advanced. McKean arrived in time to help the inhabitants put out burning buildings. Willett himself assembled a pursuit force and set out at dusk, picking up the two captains' detachments. By this time he had learned that the enemy was camped for the night about eighteen miles away in Sharon Springs Swamp (as it was subsequently called). The Americans (now numbering about 170 men) kept moving through the night, hoping to surprise the enemy soldiers at dawn before they were alert. However, his guide got lost for a while in the dark, and as a consequence, Willett arrived at 6 a.m. on the 10th to find the two hundred Indians and Loyalists formed up on high ground.

Willett determined to engage them, since the two forces were about equal in numbers, but as he was completing his deployment the Indians charged. The disciplined Americans repulsed the first attack in the center and then used their reserves under McKean to throw back a second charge on the American right flank. After an hour and one-half of combat, the Indians broke contact and withdrew by breaking into small parties. Willett said that he lost five killed and nine wounded, including the mortally wounded McKean, who died on the way back to Fort Rensselaer. He estimated the Indian losses at around forty based on the large number of dead left on the battlefield. The victory bought the valley several months of quiet. The city council of Albany voted the freedom of the city to Willett in honor of this action.

SEE ALSO Border Warfare in New York; Currytown, New York.


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

Willett, William M. A Narrative of the Military Actions of Colonel Marinus Willett. 1831. Reprint, New York: New York Times, 1969.

                       revised by Robert K. Wright Jr.

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