The tranquil countryside and serene forests of New York belie the state’s violent past.
Before and during the American Revolution, New York was a battlefield.
In “Bloody Mohawk: The French and Indian War and American Revolution on New York’s Frontier,” author Richard Berleth chronicles the role the state played in securing the future of the United States.
“The French and Indian War battles were overwhelmingly fought in what is now New York state, and 80 percent of the American Revolution battles of substance were also fought in New York state. New York state in the colonial period was really a battleground state,” Berleth said.
The author, who is the chair of the Communication Arts Department at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, will be the featured speaker on April 24 at the Albany Institute of History and Art.
Berleth began working on the book 10 years ago, but the material reflects a lifelong interest in the upstate region’s history and culture.
A childhood trip to Fort Ticonderoga started Berleth on his journey.
“You could stand on the walls of the fort there and look at the hills and get a sense of what the American wilderness must have been like for people,” he said.
Vacationing in the region as an adult strengthened his interest.
“It was fed by the fact that I love to do fly fishing. I love going up there in the spring and early summer. While fishing, I would just poke around. You wonder about those places and what is the history behind them,” he said.
The book focuses on the Mohawk River Valley but includes accounts of battles across the province, including events at Lake George and Ticonderoga.
Berleth examines the French and British empires, the Iroquois Federation and American settlers — from Dutch fur-traders to German farmers to New England’s evangelicals.
The author hopes his work will help increase interest in the French and Indian War, a chapter of American history that gets little attention in classrooms.
“The reason it has never been a big part of the school curriculum is because it is difficult to connect the French and Indian War to the development of the country. It seems to have been an imperial war with the Indians mixed up in it.
“But there is a connection. It came close to bankrupting the colonies and the mother country, which led to taxing and, in turn, the revolution,” he said.
Berleth spent several years conducting research, but the book is not meant to be an academic tome.
“I tried to keep the narrative line as clean as possible. I wanted to keep the book readable,” he said. “It goes into depth into the key issues, but I don’t think it drowns the reader.”