Search billions of records on

John Van Eps and the Battle of Oriskany

Transcribed from "The Van Epps Papers: A Collection of the Reports of Percy M. Van Epps on the History of the Town of Glenville", by Percy M. Van Epps, 3rd edition, published by the Town Board of Glenville in 1998. (pgs. 171-172). The original manuscript by Percy Van Epps was published in December 1935 as part of his report "Historical Tablets and Markers of Glenville, NY (Part One)" .

John Van Eps (b. 1764) of the old inn and the cement enterprise, took part when but a mere lad in the famous battle in the defile at Oriskany, August sixth, 1777. For some weeks before this encounter, the people of the Mohawk Valley had been in a state of alarm and apprehension. Colonel Barry St. Leger with an army of 1400 British regulars, Hessians, Tories, Canadians and Indians had left Oswego and were making their way towards Fort Stanwix, then garrisoned with 750 Continental soldiers under Colonel Peter Gansevoort. Its fall was expected and dreaded, for then there would be but little or no barrier to St. Leger's planned advance on Albany. Burgoyne was already on his way from the north; Clinton expected to come from the south, and with St. Leger from the west--A triangular investment of Albany, which had it succeeded as planned by the war lords would have gone far to establish British control of the rebellious colonies. The part assigned to St. Leger in this triangular advance was considered the most important part of the scheme, so authorities have said.

People throughout the entire Mohawk Valley were packing up their most treasured possessions ready for abandonment of their homes should the word come of the fall of Fort Stanwix. Up at the Caughnawaga, now Fonda, good old domine Thomas Romeyn had already boxed and buried in his garden his library of precious tomes--heavy theology of three centuries, bound in pigskin. The Dutch domine who a few years after, in the Church of the Woestina, at Vedder's Ferry, now Hoffmans baptised the children of John and Jannetje Van Eps.

Then, on the seventeenth of July, came the urgent call of General Nicholas Herkimer for every able bodied man, and boy over sixteen, large enough to handle a rifle, to assemble at the German Flats from which they were to march to the relief of Fort Stanwix. Responding to this call of General Herkimer, Colonel Van Schaick at once set out from Schenectady with a small force of men and boys, their number increasing along every mile of the road. Among these additions was John Van Eps, who at his father's house at Hoffmans, seized his rifle and joined the little army marching by, John was then still in his fourteenth year. It is known that there were many boys in this relief expedition. A British officer wrote contemptuously of the rabble of men and boys sent out to oppose his troops. The story is told of the daughter of an Oneida chief, fifteen years old, who carried her rifle and fought beside her father in Oriskany's deadly ambuscade. The Oneidas, alone of the Six Nations, were friendly and helpful, with but a few exceptions, to the cause of the colonists.

John Van Eps was justly proud of the part he took at Oriskany and often spoke of it in later life. When General Herkimer was shot from his horse, John was near and was one of those who carried the wounded leader to the big beech where he sat propped up on his saddle, smoking and shouting encouragement to his men. John escaped the storm of bullets unscathed and two years later he enlisted in Captain John Van Patten's company of Albany County Militia, serving to the end of the war, taking part in all the expeditions up the Mohawk Valley, including the Battle of Johnstown and the pursuit of the fleeing British army. He died in 1847.

Back to Index