Drums Along the Mohawk
To high school history books, the American Revolution began in Boston over stamps and tea, continued in Philadelphia in an argument over independence, nearly ended in the snow of Valley Forge, and was wrapped up in Virginia after timely French assistance. To an American living then on the east coast, which is where all of America’s cities and most of its population were, such a compression of history is not far wrong.
But for those American’s who had ventured out of the cities and moved along the inland waterways in search of fertile lands from which to scrape out farms, the Revolution was not about taxation. It was about survival. For decades the French, and later the English, had armed native American tribes and encouraged them to raid upon the frontier, driving the settlers back to the eastern cities, where they could be more easily controlled.
Drums Along the Mohawk is loosely based on real events which took place in the Mohawk and Wyoming Valleys during the Revolutionary War. American militia and settlers fought to defend their homes and forts against British led and supported Indian attacks, in a fight in which no quarter was offered by either side. The film presents – though fictionalizes – the death of General Nicholas Herkimer following the Battle of Oriskany in 1777, a part of the overall Saratoga campaign.
The story is not told from the perspective of the overall strategic situation facing the British army deep in the American woods, but from the local view of the settlers who had little to do with the war until it arrived at their doorstep, and little to do with it once it moved on.
For most Americans that is how the war affected their daily lives, once troops of one side or the other entered the area the war came with it and when the troops moved on, so did their commitment to the fighting. For the settlers in Drums Along the Mohawk, a flag and a country came after the threat to their lives and homes was defeated, not the other way around. Such was the Revolution on the frontier, a war for survival, with political and national issues of secondary, perhaps even incidental importance, especially to a people accustomed to governing themselves.