BLOODY GULCH AT ORISKANY
Contributed by By Michael O'Dockerty
[Note: This article was contributed by Sarah Timmerman Israel in February 2002, and found
recently in a misplaced folder on my computer. Sarah contributed this poem in anticipation of the 225th
anniversary of the Battle of Oriskany, which was celebrated in August 2002. It was written many years
ago, but the year it was printed and the newspaper is unknown.]
BLOODY GULCH AT ORISKANY
By Michael O'Dockerty
The strategy seemed clear enough
Upon that August day;
St. Leger had come from the north to
Make his bloody way.
Down though our peaceful Valley
Green for glory of his king.
He caused the hillsides to resound the
Warwhoop's savage ring!
"Surrender Gansevoort". He declared
"Give up the Stanwix Fort!
Make free the way to Albany." "We'll
Not!" was the retort.
The little force which was inside put
forth a hearty front,
Until the Mohawk men could rise-the
invaders' thrust to blunt.
Honikol called the farmers forth, to
German Flatts to go.
And so the curtain rises on our Valley's
They then set out on August fourth, two
days upon the trail.
Each man knew deep within his heart
their mission must not fail.
To save his wife and family from
Tomahawk and knife,
He dropped his hoe and took up arms in
Freedom's mortal strife.
"Make haste!" said Cox and Visscher
bold. "Plunge on into the frey.
We'll save our homes in gallant style.
We'll drive the foe away."
"Caution, "quoth old Herkimer. "I've
been this way before.
Just when the woods seem emptiest,
death stands with open door."
"We'll camp here at Orisks Creek and
Send but three scouts through.
We need some help from Stanwix Fort,
To charge in-we're too few."
"We'll wait to hear three cannon shots
and then make out attack.
A sortie from the fort will help make up
the strength we lack."
The day dawned hot on August sixth.
The troops could naught but wait
For word to move toward the fort and
Lord. who knows the fate!
The morning slowly passed them by
And came no cannon sound.
Impatience wove its evil thread and
Caused much grumbling round.
Old Herkimer commanded. "Wait-
until the time is ripe!"
But many officers, incensed, would
give him no respite.
Their pleas, harangues ,and curses did
beat upon his ear.
Those ignorant, self-righteous fools
would not admit to fear!
"A traitor, Herkimer." Said Cox. "A
traitor and a coward!"
At last with Old Nick's patience spent,
the order to go forward!
"Vorwaerts, ahead, you loudmouthed
fools! Talk's cheap and so you rave!
March on, the coming hours will tell
which ones of us are brave!
They forged ahead with lusty cheer;
their hearts were steeled with hate.
They did not know the stage was set to
Seal their bloody fate-
For Johnson's Greens with Butler's
troops, Iroquois allies too.
Had laid a secret ambush at a gulch
they must come through.
The sudden volley struck at ten within
The deep defile.
Could Cox have had a moment's time to
Rue his brashness vile?
Dead Cox lay face-down in the swamp,
the Gen'ral by his side;
His leg smashed by a lead ball when his
trusty plowhorse died.
The rear guard just outside the gulch
retreated from the thrust.
Indians sensing easy scalps chased
after in blood-lust.
Within that loathsome Bloody Gulch
which the Mohawk Valley rues.
Liberty bared her ample breast and the
devil took his dues.
Though volley came from every side,
our men took up the fight;
They circled up, returned the fire as
foes came into sight.
Old Nick was picked up from the
swamp. He sat beside a tree.
"Move to a safer place," they said.
"No, I'll face the enemy!"
Looking round, he lit his pipe. "Now
double up." he said.
"A partner's loaded gun will save you
from the death you dread."
As hand to hand the battle raged, the
creek ran red with blood;
While neighbor ravaged neighbor and
the gore ground into mud.
Now nearly noon, a thunderstorm
drenched each man through and through.
To keep their precious powder dry,
both forces then withdrew.
Herkimer scanned the battleground. He
said. "We are too low.
Move atop the westward slope to better
fight the foe."
The rain slacked off, the fight
Renewed. Three cannon shots were heard.
A sortie from the Stanwix Fort the Tory
With noise that came fro Stanwix
Fort the Tories tried a ruse;
Dead farmers' hats upon their heads to
disguise and confuse.
The Tories charged without a shot,
about to close the bolt;
"They're friends!"- "Not so!" cried
Gardinier. " Don't you see them green coats?"
Again the bloody fight ensued with
Tomahawk and hand.
The battle had come down at last to the
Final ghastly stand.
But sounds arising from the camp
caused the Iroquois retreat.
"Oonah! Oonah!" from every side
announced the fleeing feet.
The fight went on a little while; 'twas
fought 'twixt tree and root.
But left without their Iroquois, the
Tories too pulled foot.
The Patriots now held the field, but
what a fearful cost!
Eight hundred men began the march-
Two hundred plus were lost.
They gathered up the wounded men-
they had to leave the dead.
They retreated to their Mohawk homes
from the gully which ran red.
Oriskany was ten days past. Old
Herkimer lay dead.
How much they'd miss that warrior in
Years that lay ahead.
Oriskany had bought them time and
slowed the wardrum's beat.
St. Leger couldn't harm their homes
And soon would sound retreat.
It's so today across this land in time of
Citizen-soldiers yet arise to strike out
To keep our colors flying high and
bright for all to see.
God bless this wondrous land of ours,
And help us keep it free!