Tag Archives: Iroquois

Book Review: Drums Along the Mohawk by Walter D. Edmonds

drums along the mohawkI consider Drums Along the Mohawk to be one of the best classic historical novels about Upstate New York.  It ranks right up there with James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans.

First published in 1936, Drums Along the Mohawk stayed at number one on the best-sellers list for two years. Gone With the Wind, also published in 1936, finally replaced it.

The story takes place in the Mohawk Valley of Upstate New York during the Revolutionary War.  It is the story of brave pioneers who settled this early American frontier. Walter D. Edmonds centers his tale around the lives of Gilbert Martin and his young wife, Magdalena.  The newly married couple settle and begin farming in the remote village of Deerfield.

The Rumbling of War

Gil and Lana hear the rumblings of war from the east. It seems far away and since the young couple is busy just surviving ,  they pay little attention to it. They have a home to build, land to clear and crops to plant.

Then a raiding party of Seneca warriors led by a Tory named Caldwell descend on their farm.  Only the timely warning by a friendly Oneida Indian called Blue Back allows them to escape the carnage.  The raiders burn their cabin and their crops. The raiders kill their livestock. The young couple must now also try to survive the devastation caused by the Revolutionary War.

 Iroquois Rampage

Joseph_Brant_painting_by_George_Romney_1776
Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant

Led by the Mohawk chief, Joseph Brant, the Iroquois sweep through the valley settlements. Aided by Tories like William Caldwell, the raiding parties leave charred cabins, burned crops, mutilated bodies, dead livestock  and shattered dreams in their wake. The raiders kill and scalp men, women and children   To the north, in Canada, the British  pay eight pounds for each American settlers’ scalp lifted. The isolated settlements and their small militias defend themselves as best they an against the raiders. But, they are farmers, not soldiers. And, the  savage raiders have them greatly outnumbered.

War Drums Along the Mohawk

This story is about heroes and patriots, a courageous people who fought back against impossible odds.  As a result, they helped give birth to a new American Nation.  The narrative is alive with such historical figures as General Herkimer, Adam Helmer, Doctor Petry, Peter Bellinger, Benedict Arnold and William Caldwell.  There is mention of an ancestor of mine, Jacob Gardinier who fought heroically at the Battle of Oriskany.

Personal History

1024px-Adam_Helmer_Grave_NY-DOT_SignI greatly enjoyed reading this novel because of my  Mohawk Valley roots. Many of my ancestors were born in Herkimer, previously known as German Flatts.  I listened to tales of Adam Helmer’s famous race against with the raiding Indians.  General Herkimer, Jacob Gardinier, Fort Dayton and Fort Stanwix were names and places I knew as a child.  I played along the Mohawk River,  the Susquahanna River and the West Canada Creek and I am who I am as a result, in part, because of these tales.

This is definitely a book I recommend all Americans should read.

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