On August 3, Col. Barry St. Leger, coming from Niagara, laid siege to Fort Stanwix with a force of 800 British troops and more than 1,000 Indians. It was during this battle that a flag of stars and stripes -- crafted from red, white and blue material inside the fort -- was first flown in the face of enemy fire.
Seventy-five miles downstream, militia commander Gen. Nicholas Herkimer received word of the British attack, assembled a force of 800 men and boys from Mohawk River Valley settlements and farms and marched westward to relieve the fort. The British, having learned of Herkimer's advance, prepared an ambush along the river at Oriskany, 5 miles to the east.
The resulting conflict, on a man-to-man basis, is considered the bloodiest battle of the Revolution. When the guns went silent, St. Leger's force was badly mauled, most of his Indians were either dead or had deserted. Herkimer's bloodied band returned to their homes; where the general died of wounds 11 days later.
On August 22, 19 days from the start of the siege, the British retreated westward, allowing Fort Stanwix to become the only bastion in the United States that did not fall to the British at some point in the war. The fort's successful stand denied St. Leger an opportunity to rendezvous with other forces and played a major role in denying crucial reinforcements to the army of Brig. Gen. John Burgoyne in the pivotal Battle of Saratoga a few weeks later.
Consequently, Burgoyne surrendered to the American force; spurring France and Spain to declare war on England and to send help to the colonial cause