The Battle of Fort Keyser

October 18, 1780 at Fort Keyser, New York

Battle Summary

The Battle of Fort Keyser was also known as the Battle of Stone Arabia.

Facts about the Battle of Fort Keyser

  • Armies - American Forces was commanded by Col. ?? Brown and consisted of about 360 Soldiers. British Forces was commanded by Col. John Johnson & Chief Joseph Brant and consisted of about 450 Soldiers.
  • Casualties - American casualties were estimated to 120 killed/wounded. British casualties were estimated to be unknown.
  • Outcome - The result of the battle was a British victory.


During the autumn of 1780, the Indians, thirsting for revenge for the wrong and misery inflicted by Major General John Sullivan, were planning extensive expeditions against the Mohawk and Schoharie settlements. The leaders were Colonel John Johnson, Chief Joseph Brant, and the famous half-breed Corn-Planter.

The Indians met at Tioga Point. Ascending the Susquehanna River, they formed a junction at Unadilla with Johnson and his British forces, which consisted of 3 companies of his Greens, one company of German Yagers, 200 men of Butler's Rangers, one company of British regulars under Capt. Duncan, and a number of Mohawks. They came from Montreal by way of Oswego, bringing with them 2 small mortars, a brass 3-pound cannon, and a "grasshopper" cannon.

The plan of invasion was to proceed along the Charlotte River to its source, thence across to the head of the Schoharie, sweep all the settlements along its course to its junction with the Mohawk, and then devastate the valley down to Schenectady. The valley of the Schoharie was devastated, acts of cruelty by the Indians were commited, and the dwellings, barns, and recent harvest were destroyed.

On October 17, Johnson and his mixed forces arrived. progressed from Fort Hunter on the Mohawk River. They destroyed everything belonging to the Whigs.

Battle Begins

On October 18, he began his devastating march up the Mohawk Valley. Caughnawaga was burned and every dwelling on both sides of the river as far west as Fort Plain was destroyed, John advancing with the main body on the south side and Duncan's division on the north. Conspicuous among the sufferers was Jelles Fonda, a faithful and confidential officer under Sir William Johnson, but who, having turned his back upon the royal cause, was singled out as a special mark of vengeance.

His mansion at the "Nose" in the town of Palatine was destroyed, together with property estimated at sixty thousand dollars. The Major was absent. Under the cover of a thick fog his wife escaped and made her way on foot to Schenectady, 26 miles away. J. Johnson's forces had encamped, above W. Johnson.


On October 19, during the morning, the British crossed to the north side at Keder's Riff. A greater part of the motley army continued up the river, destroying crops and buildings, but a detachment of 150 men was despatched from Keder's Riff (Spraker's Basin) against the small stockade called Fort Paris, in Stone Arabia, about 2.5 miles from the Mohawk River. This fort was located a few rods northeast of the crossroads of this little hamlet, and at the time mentioned was occupied by Col. John Brown with a garrison of 130 men.

Tidings having been sent to Albany of the advent of Sir John Johnson into the settlements of the Schoharie, General Robert Van Rensselaer, with the Claverack, Albany, and Schenectady regiments, pushed on by forced marches to encounter him, accompanied by Governor Clinton.

As Van Rensselaer's advance was impeded, no diversion was created in Brown's favor. Fort Paris was 3 miles from the river, and undoubtedly, Brown could have defended it successfully against any force that Johnson would have sent against it; and yet, obeying the orders of a general who in other ways that day proved himself to have been incompetent, this brave man met the enemy two thirds of the way to the river, where the contest began.

Overpowered by numbers, he continued the fight, slowly retreating, expecting every moment to hear the firing in the enemy's rear - but in vain. Contesting the ground inch by inch for some distance, until observing that the Indians were gaining his flank, he ordered a retreat, at which time he received a musket-ball in the breast, killing him instantly. About 40 of his men were killed and the remainder sought safety in flight.

J. Johnson now dispersed his forces in small bands to a distance of 5 or 6 miles in every direction to pillage the country. He desolated Stone Arabia, and, proceeding to Klock's field near the present village of St. Johnsville, halted to rest.


From the British Report in September, 1780:
Lieut. Col. Butler with 200 rangers and 220 regular troops from the garrison of Niagara was directed to join Sir John Johnson at Oswego and act under his orders. His instructions forbade him to take "a single man, who is not a good marcher and capable of bearing fatigue. I hope Joseph is returned" Governor Haldimand added, "as I would by all means have him employed on this service."

Contrary winds prevented Butler from arriving at Oswego until October 1, and by that time the garrison on the Mohawk were warned by their Indian spies (Oneidas) that he had sailed from Niagara on an expedition of some kind. It was not until daybreak on October 17 that the weary column, commanded by Sir John Johnson, passed the fort at the head of the Schoharie, having made a long detour through the wilderness for the purpose of attacking the enemy in an entirely unexpected quarter, and swept along the west bank of that stream down to the Mohawk, burning every building and stack of grain as they went along. Sir John then "detached Captain Thompson of the Rangers and Captain Brant with about 150 Rangers and Indians to destroy the settlement at Fort Hunter on the east side of Schoharie Creek, which they effected without opposition, the inhabitants having fled to the fort." Advancing swiftly up the Mohawk the invaders laid waste the country on both sides until midnight, when utterly exhausted they halted at the narrow pass called the "Nose" to snatch a few hours' sleep. Before daybreak they were again on the march and soon encountered Col. Brown with 360 men from Stone Arabia, who attempted to check their further progress.

While the detachments of the 8th and 34th regiments advanced directly upon the front of the enemy' s position, Brant with a party of Indians made a circuit through the woods to turn their right flank, and Capt. John Macdonnell led a body of rangers in the opposite direction to turn their left. The position was carried with trifling loss to the assailants, while Colonel Brown and about 100 of his men were killed or taken.

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