What Really Happened At Delta Lake?

By Mitch Lee - 3rd NY, DeWitt's Co.

During the American Revolution, the lake was a headwater stream for the Mohawk River and did not exist as a lake until 1908, when the state began to build a reservoir to provide water to the Barge Canal and to avoid spring flooding in the city of Rome. The dam was finished in 1912 and the waters covered the town of Delta, some 150 homes.

This is the 220th Anniversary of the 1777 Campaign season. Here in North Central New York, we find that the far west wing of the Burgoyne Campaign of 1777 led to two very different and difficult clashes of arms. Both of these sites were within twelve miles of the Delta Lake State Park.

The first is Fort Stanwix, or better known as Fort Schuyler to the 3rd NY, who were stationed at this post in the center of what is now the city of Rome, NY.

In 1777, this post was on the far frontier, the edge of the Indian Treaty lands. While Burgoyne's army marched from Fort Ann to the Hudson, the second element of the offensive began some 150 miles away. Commanded by Colonel Barry St. Leger traveling with 400 Loyalists, 360 Germans, 200 British troops, and 1000 Indians, St. Leger's forces laid siege to Fort Schuyler from August 2nd to August 23rd, when, eventually, the investment ceased to exist. During this twenty-one days, the garrison was shelled and trenched towards, refused to surrender twice, and sallied to meet the enemy on August 6, where Lt. Col. Willett attacked the camps of the Loyalists and took plunder.

On the same date, August 6, a short distance down river from the Indian village of Orisko (present day Oriskany, NY), three-quarters of St. Leger's army lay in wait for the Militia Battalions of Tryon County: 1000 men under General Herkimer. The ambush was sprung and fighting took place all day. Upwards of 300 to 400 Americans and 100 to 200 from St. Leger's force lay dead, along with Gen. Herkimer, mortally wounded.

The headwaters of the Mohawk River became a route of scouting, skirmishing, and Indian travel throughout the war. After the war, the land around the headwaters were granted to Baron Von Steuben. The baron, who will come to be buried under a monument in the town of Remsen (twelve miles from Delta), farmed the property through tenants. He was soon joined by signer of the Declaration of Independence, Gen. Wm. Floyd, who build a large house in the present day village of Western. This large historic house is two miles from Delta Lake.

Copyright © 1997 Mitch Lee. All rights reserved.