Revolutionary War

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The American Revolution (1775–1783) brought more warfare through Montgomery County, then part of Tryon County.

The county, carved out of Albany County in 1772, had 10,000 inhabitants and built its county seat and county courthouse in Johnstown. Three of the seven original judges were relatives of the British Baronet William Johnson, with a fourth being a close business associate and neighbor. They remained loyal to the British as rebellion loomed. The other three judges sided with the American cause.

The Tryon County Militia was formed in 1772 when the Province of New York authorized the establishment of a civilian armed force in each county. In August 1774, shortly before the outbreak of the American Revolution, some rebellion-minded residents of the county formed the Tryon County Committee of Safety. Their goal was to harass their Loyalist neighbors, and they did so rather effectively.

Guy Johnson, a diplomat for the British Crown, fled to the safety of Canada with a large party of supporters in May 1775. Sir John Johnson, 2nd Baronet of New York, left with a large entourage in May 1776. Before the end of the War, more than 1,200 farms would be abandoned and 354 families would leave the county. With the Loyalists out of the way, the Tryon County Militia became – in effect – an army of rebellion under the control of the Committee for Safety.

In a significant turning point in the War of Independence, about 740 Tryon militiamen, supported by 60 allied Oneidas, fought the British in the August 6, 1777, Battle of Oriskany. The militia had been racing to relieve a British siege at Fort Stanwix, in what is now Rome, NY. They fell into a trap in a boggy ravine west of Oriskany Creek set by British and Loyalist troops supported by Seneca and Mohawk forces led by Chief Joseph Brant.

The American militiamen managed to beat the British forces into retreat, but at great cost. The unit lost 385 fighters, with another 50 wounded and 30 captured. Their leader, General Nicholas Herkimer, died 10 days later of a wound received in the battle.

For the Iroquois nations, the battle marked the beginning of civil war. Oneida warriors allied with the American cause fought the Mohawk and other nations that sided with the British and Loyalists. There were also internal divisions among the Oneida, some of whom went to Canada as allies of the British.

A year after the war ended, the state legislature voted to change the county’s name to Montgomery County, in honor of General Richard Montgomery, a Continental Army General slain during the Battle of Quebec.

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