Attack on German Flatts (1757)

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Attack on German Flatts
Part of the French and Indian War
Date November 12, 1757
Location present-day Herkimer, New York
Coordinates: 43°1′34″N 74°59′25″W / 43.02611°N 74.99028°W / 43.02611; -74.99028
Result French and Indian victory
Belligerents
 France
Kingdom of France Province of Canada
 Great Britain
Commanders and leaders
François-Marie Picoté de Belestre Johan Jost Petrie
Strength
300 troupes de la Marine, Canadien militia, and Indians 300 civilian men, women, and children
Casualties and losses
5 wounded[1] 40-50 killed
150 captured[1]

On November 12, 1757 during the French and Indian War, a company of French and Indian warriors staged an attack on German Flatts, on the north side of the Mohawk River in the British Province of New York. The settlement of Palatine German refugees and their families was destroyed, and many of the women and children were taken prisoner. (Since 1788 the village has been called Herkimer, New York and not German Flatts.)

Background[edit]

The campaign season for 1757 had been a successful one for authorities in New France. The British had failed in an expedition against Louisbourg, and defeated at Fort William Henry by the French and their Indian allies. New France's governor, the Marquis de Vaudreuil, had attempted to convince German settlers in the Mohawk River valley to support the French cause. When the Germans failed to support the French in the assault on Fort William Henry in August, Vaudreuil decided to send a punitive expedition against them. He attacked the settlement called German Flatts, on the north side of the Mohawk River west of Little Falls. (This settlement is where present-day Herkimer, New York is located, and not the modern German Flatts on the south side of the Mohawk River.)

Vaudreuil assembled a force of about 300 at Lachine under the command of François-Marie Picoté de Belestre, an experienced commander in the troupes de la marine. On October 20, this company left Lachine and traveled up the Saint Lawrence River and along the shore of Lake Ontario to the mouth of the Oswego River, site of another French victory in 1756. From there they traveled up the river, crossed the Oneida Carry to the Mohawk River, and descended to German Flatts. They arrived near the settlement on November 11.[2]

At the time, German Flatts consisted of about 30 homes and 300 settlers, with five fortified blockhouses. Although friendly Oneida had warned of the attack, the settlers had made no defensive preparations.

Attack[edit]

On November 12, 1757 at around 3 am, Belestre's force launched an attack on German Flatts from the hills north of the village. The five blockhouses quickly surrendered before the superior force. Forty people were killed, all the buildings were destroyed, and more than 100 of the inhabitants, mostly women and children, were captured and taken back to Montreal. Some of the inhabitants fled across the Mohawk to Fort Herkimer for safety. The fort's commander sent out a detachment of fifty men, but they retreated after a brief exchange of gunfire with Belestre's force. The next day Belestre departed, his canoes loaded with prisoners and plunder; he returned to Montreal on November 20.

Aftermath[edit]

News reached Schenectady the day after the attack. General George Howe immediately came up the river with the 42nd Regiment, but found nothing more than the smoking ruins of the settlement.

Most of the prisoners were later exchanged for those held by the British. Gradually the German residents returned and rebuilt the settlement. During the American Revolutionary War, German Flatts was attacked in 1778, with considerable loss of life and crops. Fighting on the frontier in the valley was fierce during those years.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Benton, p. 52
  2. ^ Kingsford, p. 70

References[edit]