“With Musket and Tomahawk” by Michael O. Logusz, a 418-page hardcover, is a brilliantly written, meticulously re-searched, vivid and well-balanced account highlighting a four-month struggle in the pivotal year of 1777 during the American Revolutionary War. 1777 saw the patriots defeat a major British plan ordered by no less than King George III himself to suppress the patriots.
The British plan, foreseen by George Washington two years before Lexington and Concord, was to separate New England from the rest of the colonies, overrun the patriot food bases, and shatter the patriot forces in the northern regions.
Once accomplished, a series of mopping-up operations from Virginia to Georgia would commence shortly after to finish off once and for all the patriots’ revolutionary effort. England’s powerful army was augmented with Germans, American loyalists (Tories), Canadian and pro-British Indian forces.
Aside from several typographical errors, the book is attractively printed. The book cover features the famous painting by one of America’s most renown painters, Don Troini, depicting German troops being routed by America’s Northern Army at the Breymann Redoubt during the of Battle of Saratoga in October 1777.
Author has roots in Sterling
The author, Michael O. Logusz, has roots in the Sterling, Oswego and Syracuse central New York area.
He was born in Syracuse and finished grade school there. He attended SUNY Oswego, where he earned a B.A. in social studies. He has an M.A. in Russian area studies from Hunter College in New York City.
He is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army’s Military Police Academy, the Non-Commissioned Officer’s Academy, the Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Ga., the Basic and Advanced Armor Officer’s Course, the Combined Arms and Services Staff School and the Command and General Staff College Course.
He has served in the NATO School in Germany as an advisor, observer and exercise controller. In 2007, he volunteered for a tour of duty for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The author brings to bear his extensive military background in explaining strategy, battles and composition of forces. His account is enriched with many authenticated personal stories.
His work includes research at Fort Ontario in Oswego. He credits help from Fort Ontario Director Paul Lear and Richard LaCrosse Jr., author of “The Frontier Rifleman: His Arms, Clothing and Equipment During the Era of the American Revolution, 1760-1800.”
Also cited is George Sheldon III, a lifetime friend and resident of Fair Haven and an expert on rifles. Credit is also extended to the Fair Haven and Hannibal libraries, as well as Hallie Sweeting, a former local historian.
The depth of the author’s research is suggested by 76 pages of rich footnotes, five pages of acknowledgments and 14 pages of bibliography.
From Oswego to Vermont and from Lake Champlain to New York City throughout 1777, but especially from July to October 1777, numerous battles and engagements took place underneath a vast umbrella known as the Battle of Saratoga.
The author describes the northern wilderness in which these crucial Revolutionary War battles took place. This wilderness stretched from present-day Buffalo, far eastward through the present-day counties of Wayne, Oswego, Cayuga, Onondaga and other counties to the fringes of the Mohawk Valley.
Vast areas to the north of Albany and what is now central and southern New York state were also a part of this wilderness.
The plan fell apart with disastrous results for Burgoyne. To move to Albany from the west, St. Leger was unable to support Burgoyne when his troops retreated under threat from Benedict Arnold’s forces and after losing Indian support in the siege of Fort Stanwick.
Burgoyne’s support from Gen. Howe in the south did not materialize. Howe sent his army to take Philadelphia rather than sending a portion of it up the Hudson from New York City.
The book’s account vividly details the patriot attacks and counterattacks against Burgoyne’s army as he attempted to reach Albany from Canada.
We read of shifts in the balance of power, first in favor of the British with their world-class army against the growing strength of the patriots as revolutionary support came to bear together with their ability and determination to fight for their new country.
The patriots applied use of the long-range rifle and wilderness tactics along with a growing number of allies including women, blacks and American Indians to stop and then force the surrender of Burgoyne’s forces.
This outstanding American success turned the Revolutionary War in the patriot favor and encouraged European nations, especially France, to support the American cause.
The Americans had a number of advantages. The British used the “brown Bess,” a short-ranged gun. “This weapon denied Britain’s military the ability to possess many crack shooters. This weakness would play a major role in the British defense in New York’s wilderness in 1777.”
Frontier America accounted for another patriot advantage, where unlike in European warfare, “... armed citizens succeeded in creating tremendous hardships for Burgoyne. Patriots, too, could be both vicious and brutal.”
Still other elements that favored the patriots were those of supplies and a fighting spirit. For the British, the further they got from Canada, the more they suffered shortages.
The patriots were better supplied operating, as they did in their home region. Also, the Americans were fighting for their homeland and newfound freedoms they had gained compared with their European countries of origin. They were more motivated than the invading loyalist troops.
One of the German mercenaries, taken captive, got to know a German-American among the patriots. “They are steeped in the American idea of liberty and are unbearable.”
Covering the conflict
Using a great depth of primary sources, including correspondence and other records on both sides of the conflict, Logusz describes in detail the lives of participants. He covers all levels of the conflict, the strategy and tactics used, as well as details at the personal level. The horror of war was epitomized by the fate of the American Jane Campbell. She was detained by Indian allies of the British. “... with her hands tied firmly behind her back, Jane Campbell stood no more than ten feet in front of her mother when suddenly an enemy raider appeared behind her mother and drove a tomahawk deep in her head and killed her.” The story of this atrocity deeply affected the patriots. “... thousands of Jane Campbells would feel its full fury and import.”
In another example of brutality, Col. Daniel Morgan, one of the officers Washington assigned to Gen. Gates, the American Northern Army Commander, had scars on his back from 499 lashes struck by an English officer dating before the French and Indian War.
Handcuffed to a pole, Morgan was whipped in public. He vowed to kill 499 British. Other such little-known but fascinating facts are presented.
The war reached a conclusion soon after the second Battle of Saratoga, the last battle of the wilderness war.
The patriot forces lost 150 casualties in that battle, while the British lost no less than 600 personnel. The British were stopped short of Albany. A combination of distance, inclement weather, harsh terrain, swollen rivers and a lack of support from Canada prevented Burgoyne from retreating northward and back to Canada.
Their forces numbered slightly more than 6,000, while the patriots and their allies numbered 22,348. On Oct. 17, 1777, 5,791 prisoners marched out to surrender. “In a period of approximately four months, around 8,000 British and German soldiers and irregulars from Borgoyne’s army marched into captivity. For the patriots, Saratoga was indeed a massive victory.”
News of Burgoyne’s surrender spread far and wide. Throughout the North American continent and around the world, many found it difficult to believe that a powerful and undefeated army could have succumbed to a recently organized force.
Fast and easy reading, Logusz’ book is highly recommended.
Don Richardson is a past president of the Sterling Historical Society