mistress when many of his advisers were urging him to move elsewhere). But the most important problem, it seems clear, was his failure to understand the nature of the war that he was fighting—or even to understand that it was truly a war. The Iroquois and the British The campaign in upstate New York was not just a British defeat. It was a setback for the ambitious efforts of several Iroquois leaders, who hoped to involve Indian forces in the English military effort, believing that a British victory would help stem white movement onto tribal lands. The Iroquois Confederacy had declared itself neutral in the war in 1776, but not all its members were content to remain passive in the northern campaign. Among those Saratoga Patriot Victory at British Blunders who worked to expand the Native American role in the war were a Mohawk brother and sister, Joseph and Mary Brant. Both were people of stature within the Mohawk nation: Joseph was a celebrated warrior; Mary was a mag- netic woman and the widow of Sir William Johnson, the British superintendent of Indians, who had achieved wide popularity among the tribes. The Brants persuaded their own tribe to contribute to the British cause and attracted the support of the Seneca and Cayuga as well.They played an important role in Burgoyne’s unsuccessful campaigns in the north. But the alliance was also a sign of the growing divi- sions within the Iroquois Confederacy. Only three of the six nations of the Confederacy supported the British. The Oneida and the Tuscarora backed the Americans; the Onondaga split into several factions. The three-century-old Confederacy, weakened by the aftermath of the French and Indian War, continued to unravel. The alliance had other unhappy consequences for the Iroquois. A year after Oriskany, Indians joined British troops in a series of raids on outlying white settlements in upstate New York. Months later, Patriot forces under the command of General John Sullivan harshly retaliated, wreaking such destruction on tribal settlements that large groups of Iroquois fled north into Canada to seek refuge. Many never returned. Securing Aid from Abroad The failure of the British to crush the Continental army in the mid-Atlantic states, combined with the stunning Amer- ican victory at Saratoga, was a turning point in the war. It transformed the conflict and ushered it into a new and final phase. Central to this transformation of the war was Ameri- can success in winning support from abroad—indirect support from several European nations, and direct sup- port from France. Even before the Declaration of Inde- pendence, Congress dispatched representatives to the capitals of Europe to negotiate commercial treaties with the governments there; if America was to leave the Brit- ish Empire, it would need to cultivate new trading part- ners. Such treaties would, of course, require European governments to recognize the United States as an inde- pendent nation. John Adams called the early American representatives abroad “militia diplomats.” Unlike the dip-
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- Summer '15
- United States Declaration of Independence, Thirteen Colonies