Drums Along the Mohawk (novel)

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Drums Along the Mohawk
Drums Along the Mohawk novel.jpg
AuthorWalter D. Edmonds
CountryUnited States
Publication date
Media typePrint

Drums Along the Mohawk (1936) is a novel by American author Walter D. Edmonds.[1] The story follows the lives of fictional Gil and Lana Martin, settlers in the central Mohawk Valley of the New York frontier during the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783). Frank Bergmann wrote in 2005 that the novel, "as a best-seller and a novel perennially assigned in the state's high schools, has substantially shaped the popular view of the region's pioneer period."[2]

The book is peopled with historical persons such as General Nicholas Herkimer, Adam Helmer, descendants of the German immigrants who were the majority residents in the central Mohawk Valley at the time, and William Caldwell. It also features such historical events as the Battle of Oriskany and the Attack on German Flatts (1778).

The novel was a commercial and popular success, remaining on the bestseller list for two years.[3][4]

In 1939, the book was adapted for a Technicolor feature film of the same name directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda, Claudette Colbert, Edna May Oliver, Ward Bond, and John Carradine. Historian Edward Countryman has argued that, while the film incorporates characters, plot, and dialogue from the novel, it differs profoundly in its portrayal of society in the period of the American Revolution. He (Ford) made it a mythic triumph of the American cause, rather than suggesting the complexity of the times as had Edmonds.[5] Similarly, Frank Bergmann has written, "Unfortunately the 1939 film directed by John Ford, starring Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert, abandons the historical complexity of the original for the mythic simplification of an all-American Western."[2]

The Bantam Books edition had gone through no less than 48 printings between July 1936 and August 1956. The novel is still in print after eight decades.[6]


  1. ^ Edmonds, Walter D. (1936). Drums Along the Mohawk. Boston: Little Brown. OCLC 764419.
  2. ^ a b Bergmann, Frank (2005). "Drums Along the Mohawk". In Eisenstadt, Peter R.; Moss, Laura-Eve (eds.). The Encyclopedia of New York State. Syracuse University Press. p. 473. ISBN 9780815608080.
  3. ^ Bergmann, Frank (1997). "Foreword". Drums Along the Mohawk. Syracuse University Press. pp. xi–xiv. ISBN 9780815604570. OCLC 36065929. Bergmann's foreword for the 60th anniversary printing of Edmonds' novel.
  4. ^ Boxer, Sarah (January 28, 1998). "W. D. Edmonds Dies at 94 – Author of Historical Novels – Obituary; Biography". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-09-30.
  5. ^ Countryman, Edward (1980). "John Ford's Drums Along the Mohawk: The Making of an American Myth". Radical History Review. 1980 (24): 93–112. doi:10.1215/01636545-1980-24-93. Edmonds wrote a novel that combined hard research into the dynamics of a social crisis with a form that opened that research to a mass public. Ford made of that novel a film which pictures two forces that must conflict because their nature demands it and which argues that the triumph of the American cause obliterates all divisions, whether of race, class, or sex.
  6. ^ Edmonds, Walter D. (2015). Drums Along the Mohawk. Diana Gabaldon (introduction). Vintage. ISBN 978-1101872673. OCLC 892338803. Reprint of 1936 novel.

Further reading[edit]

  • Thompson, Ralph (July 31, 1936). "Books of the Times". The New York Times. If you have any spark of feeling for the American past, or even faintly suspect that you would like a historical novel put together with patience, wit, and intelligence, this one belongs near the top of your reading list.