Nicholas Herkimer

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Nicholas Herkimer
Herkimer at the Battle of Oriskany
Bornc. 1728 (1728)
German Flatts, New York
DiedAug 16, 1777 (aged 48–49)
German Flatts, New York
AllegianceKingdom of Great Britain
United States
Service/branchNew York Militia
Years of service1758
RankBrigadier General
Battles/warsFrench and Indian War

American Revolutionary War

Brigadier General Nicholas Herkimer (also known as Nikolaus Herchheimer; c. 1728 – August 16, 1777) was an American Palatine military officer who fought during the Revolutionary War. He died of wounds after the Battle of Oriskany.

Early life and career[edit]

Herkimer was born in the vicinity of German Flatts in the Mohawk Valley of the Province of New York, and was the elder brother of Loyalist officer Johan Jost Herkimer. Their parents were Catherine Petri and Johann Jost Herchheimer, a son of the Palatine immigrant Georg Herchheimer or Hirchemer from Sandhausen in the parish of Leimen south of Heidelberg.[1] Nicholas was of slender build, with a dark complexion and black hair; he was not quite six feet tall. He could speak German, English and Mohawk.

During the attack on German Flatts in the French and Indian War, he was involved in its defense. He was made a captain in the militia on January 5, 1758, and he repelled a second attack on German Flatts in April of that year.

Herkimer built his new house in 1764 on the south shore of the Mohawk River, near the falls and the present-day city of Little Falls. He owned 11 to 33 of Black slaves who worked on his estate.[2][3]

Nicholas Herkimer joined the Scottish Rite Freemasonry, being initiated in the St. Patrick's Lodge, Johnstown, NY.[4][5]

American Revolution[edit]

In July and August 1775 Herkimer headed the Tryon County Committee of Safety, and became colonel of the district militia. After the split in which Loyalist militia members from the area withdrew to Canada, he was commissioned a brigadier general in the Tryon County militia by the Provincial Congress on September 5, 1776. In June 1776, he led 380 men of the Tryon County militia to confront the Mohawk chief Joseph Brant at Unadilla, New York. Herkimer asked the Mohawk and five other Iroquois nations to remain neutral, while Brant said the Indians owed their loyalty to the King.

When Herkimer learned of the siege of Fort Stanwix to the west in late July 1777, he ordered the Tryon County militia to assemble at Fort Dayton. He marched them out to Fort Stanwix, about 28 miles to the west. His force marching in column was ambushed on August 6 by a mixed force of British regulars, Tory militia, and Mohawk in the Battle of Oriskany. Herkimer's horse was shot, and he was seriously wounded in the leg. In spite of his injuries, he sat propped up against a tree, lit his pipe, and directed his men in the battle, rallying them to avoid two panicked retreats. When they withdrew, they carried him home.

The brigade surgeon, William Petrie, dressed Herkimer's wound in the field and placed him on a litter. The wound quickly became infected, but the decision to amputate the leg was delayed for about ten days after the battle. The operation was performed by an inexperienced surgeon, Robert Johnson, because Petrie had also been wounded in the battle and was not available. The operation went poorly, the wound bled profusely, and Herkimer died of the injury on August 16, at around the age of 49.


A bronze statue of Herkimer was erected in 1907 in Myers Park in Herkimer, New York

Herkimer's home, in what is now Little Falls, New York, is preserved as the Herkimer Home State Historic Site. Herkimer County, New York was named in his honor.[6] His nephew, John Herkimer, later became a U.S. Congressman.

In popular culture[edit]



  1. ^ Jones, Henry Z, Jr., The Palatine Families of New York 1710; Universal City, California. 1985, Vol. 1, p. 388-390.
  2. ^ Falk, Cynthia G. "Forts, Rum, Slaves, and the Herkimer's Rise to Power in the Mohawk Valley," New York History, 89 (Summer 2008), 221–34.
  3. ^ "Slavery In The Mohawk Valley Event Thursday - New York Almanack". 2017-08-22. Retrieved 2023-08-11.
  4. ^ "U.S. Famous Freemasons". Archived from the original on May 10, 2008.
  5. ^ "Famous Master Mason". Archived from the original on Jan 4, 2016.
  6. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. pp. 155.

Further reading

  • Foote, Allan D., "Liberty March - The Battle of Oriskany," North Country Books Inc., Utica, New York, 1998

External links[edit]