Every New York State schoolchild has American Revolutionary events drummed into his head. New York State is loaded with history, and we exploit it as much as we can, lol. Have you ever heard of Fort Stanwix, Fort Ticonderoga, Fort Ontario/Oswego, or Fort Washington? Sure you have! They were very important strategic stations during early American colonization, both before the Revolution and during.
Has anyone ever hear of Fort Bull?
We are American history buffs, and before visiting the Erie Canal Village in Rome, NY, we had never heard of Fort Bull. But that’s probably because the fort no longer exists. It was attacked and destroyed in an explosion centuries ago. The carnage inflicted by the French and the Indians seems vaguely familiar… doesn’t Mel Gibson draw on this event for his fictional story about Fort Wilderness, in “The Patriot”?
The ruins of the old fort is in an isolated area of the Erie Canal Village. A widely-mowed path leads you to a clearing where a large carved boulder marks the area.
Beyond the clearing is a rather swampy and thickly-forested area. The Fort Bull Oak, an ancient tree that reigns over the forest, is in this forest. This tree is special because it “witnessed” the slaughter and destruction of the fort way back in 1756. It is a nationally-protected tree, listed on the National Historic Tree Registry. Visitors are offered the opportunity to stomp through the forest to see the Great Fort Bull Oak. We desperately wanted to, but the dank humidity drew out the biting insects; I can’t walk in any woods without bug spray as I am allergic to bug bites and they just eat me alive. Besides, the bridge to the trail looked a little unsteady.
Maybe next time.
My daughter wrote a short piece about the history of the fort:
Fort Bull was one of three forts constructed during the French and Indian War to protect the Oneida Carry, a portage route in central New York State. The Oneida Carry lay between the Mohawk River and Wood Creek, as one of the important trade routes between Albany and Oneida Lake. Europeans used this route to trade with the Native Americans during colonial times. During the French and Indian War, the British built three forts to protect the Oneida Carry: Forts Williams, Newport, and Bull. Fort Bull, built by Captain Mark Petrie and his men, was a star-shaped wood stockade with four interior buildings, capable of holding a garrison of approximately sixty men, yet it contained no artillery.
In 1756, French Lieutenant Gaspard Joseph Chaussegros deLery led his army of French troops, Canadian militia, and Indian allies in an attack on the British Fort Bull. Lt. deLery ordered a bayonet charge, and the troops pointed their muskets into the narrow openings in the walls of the fort and shot the defenders. deLery persistently demanded that the defenders of the fort surrender, but shortly, the French and Indian army burst the fortress gates open and slaughtered all the inhabitants, except a few they took prisoner. deLery reported that the losses to the enemy were 105, while only 3 of his own force were killed. The French looted what they could, then set the powder magazine on fire, thus burning the fort to the ground. Perhaps too weak to attack the other two forts, the French retreated back to Canada. A relief force under Sir William Johnson came to Fort Bull, yet they were too late. Johnson reported that “all were inhumanely butchered and scalped.” Later in the same year, the fort was rebuilt and given the name Fort Wood Creek, but was soon demolished by the British for fear of losing it again to the French.
A small stone monument now stands at the former site of Fort Bull, in Rome, New York.