(This is the second in a series on history and archaeology in upstate New York communities)
“The territory that now comprises the county of Saratoga lay in the angle of two great pathways, one from the north, the other from the west. And lying as it did in the angle of the war trails, it became the battle ground of nations.”
Thus wrote Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester in his great little book called Historical Sketches of Northern New York and the Adirondack Wilderness (1877), This passage is in the beginning of the chapter that ends with the Battle of Wilton on February 17, 1693. Wilton is just north of Saratoga Springs (although there was no Town of Wilton in 1693, so the name of the battle comes from the 19th century, perhaps coined by Sylvester himself).
The battle of Wilton was fought as a running engagement between a force of some 700-800 French and Indian allies, who had just attacked Mohawk villages in their homeland southwest of Saratoga County, and some 250 pursuers from the colony of New York. The New Yorkers caught up with the French and Canadian Indians in Wilton, where the western war path that led to the Mohawk valley met the northern war path to Montreal. A violent struggle ensued. After the fighting in Wilton, the French and Indian force fled along the northern path to a place in the Queensbury-Glens Falls area where they crossed the upper Hudson River on ice that, conveniently for them, thawed and broke up before the pursuing New Yorkers reached the river. The surviving French and Indians made it safely back to Canada.
In 2011, Curtin Archaeological completed an archaeological investigation at a site in Wilton located just south of the intersection of the great western and northern warpaths. Our excavation did not find traces of the battle, but on-going analyses may allow us to comment on traditional use of these travel routes before the French and Indian Wars of the 17th and 18th centuries. Later this year we will post more on the results of this dig.
If you would like to read a fascinating, longer, and more detailed account of the 1693 Battle of Wilton– rich with the language of the period– you can find it in the venerable History of the Five Indian Nations, written by the prominent New Yorker Cadwallader Colden in the early 18th century. Colden based his account of the battle on Col. Peter Schuyler’s journal of 1693.
1727/1747 The History of the Five Indian Nations Depending on the Province of New-York in America. Reprinted 1985 byCornellUniversity Press, Ithaca, New York.
Sylvester, Nathaniel Bartlett
1877 Historical Sketches of Northern New York and the Adirondack Wilderness. William H. Young, Troy, New York. Reprinted 1997 by Harbor Hill Books, Fleischmanns, New York.