Drums Along the Mohawk

by Walter D. Edmonds

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 613

*Mohawk Valley

*Mohawk Valley. Region of what is now New York State surrounding the Mohawk River, which flows west from a point north of Albany to near Lake Oneida. Most of the action takes place here, but characters refer, usually disparagingly, to the machinations of politicians in Albany and Philadelphia, as well as other sites connected with the Revolutionary War, such as Fort Ticonderoga in New York and Connecticut’s Newgate Prison, a former copper mine used as a penal colony to hold Tories and Loyalists.

*Deerfield Settlement

*Deerfield Settlement. Tiny community at the western end of the Mohawk Valley, near Utica, to which the young pioneer Gilbert (Gil) Martin takes his bride, Magdelana (Lana), after their marriage in 1776 at Fox’s Mills, where her family lives. Their first cabin, along with the rest of the houses and fields in the settlement, is burned to the ground by raiding Seneca Indians. The novel ends in 1784 when the Martins return to Deerfield, construct a new and larger cabin on the site of the old one, and re-clear and plant their land in wheat and corn.

*German Flats

*German Flats. Village east of Deerfield and south of the Mohawk River where Gil and Lana spend the winter of 1776 in a one-room house within sight of Fort Herkimer after fleeing Deerfield. During the spring they take refuge in Mrs. McKlennar’s well-kept farm, which is one of the few fictional places in the novel. There, Gil works as a farm hand, and Lana does the sewing and takes over the milking whenever Gil must respond to militia calls. Mrs. McKlennar’s stone house survives an attack by the Destructives, a roving band of Tories and Indians led by General Butler but is later burned by two lone Indians, while Lana hides with her two sons. Mrs. McKlennar survives by shaming the Indians into dragging her in her bed outside the burning house. Later, Gil and his friends build a simple cabin on the site. Although Mrs. McKlennar leaves her farm to Gil and Lana, her will is destroyed in the fire that claims the house, and the farm is forfeited for back taxes. Later, its is given to a Massachusetts veteran as payment for service to his country.


*Oriskany. Village at the western end of Mohawk Valley that is the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the war, with more than half the members of the Tryon County militia killed in a pitched fight with a combined British and Indian force. The losses to the German Flats militia are devastating.

*Fort Stanwix

*Fort Stanwix. Fortification at Rome, New York, that was a key to the protection of the Mohawk Valley during the war. Because the settlers doubt the ability of those in charge of the fort, they take responsibility themselves for protecting their farms from Indians, British forces, and Loyalists. Many settlers have good reasons to distrust their own military leaders, who seize their grain and animals for troops and leave them to starve through the harsh winters. Typical of the military’s lack of foresight is their failure to leave the settlers with seed to plant new crops in the spring.

*West Canada Creek

*West Canada Creek. Site of the final battle in the novel, here in 1781 the militia, under the leadership of Marinus Willett, kills Walter Butler and disperses his band of Destructives into the woods.


*Onondaga. Indian village at the far western end of the Mohawk Valley that is the site of an attack on the Onondaga Indians led by Colonel Van Schaick, whose troops burn the village and kill or capture all the Indians who have not fled.


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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 231

Clarke, Edward J. “Book Review: Two Historical Novels.” North American Review 242, no. 2 (Winter, 1937): 433-438. Praises Edmonds’ novel as significant American nationalist literature. Notes universal struggle for land and freedom set against natural disaster and political conflict.

Gay, Robert M. “The Historical Novel: Walter D. Edmonds.” The Atlantic Monthly 165, no. 5 (May, 1940): 656-658. Analyzes the structure of the historical novel. Claims Edmonds avoided the common pitfalls of this genre by concentrating on simple characters and powerful narrative, achieving unity and purpose within a complex string of events.

Kohler, Dayton. “Walter D. Edmonds: Regional Historian.” English Journal 27, no. 1 (January, 1938): 1-11. Comparative analysis of Edmonds’ short stories and novels to 1938. Explains the new regionalism movement Edmonds inspired as an exploration of the New York State canal region in colonial times, not as a world separate from the contemporary reader, but as a collection of similar struggles and hopes separated from the present only by time.

Nevins, Allan. “War in the Mohawk Valley.” Saturday Review of Literature 14, no. 14 (August 1, 1936): 5. Praises the author’s ability to represent a realistic view of a region in conflict with Tories and Indians, but laments the novel’s absence of any rich characterizations.

Wyld, Lionel D. Walter D. Edmonds, Storyteller. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1982. Discusses Edmonds’ creation of a new genre, the canal novel, and its impact on subsequent works by others using New York State themes and settings.

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