New York State Historical Association.

The Quarterly journal of the New York State Historical Association (Volume 6) online

. (page 5 of 26)
Online LibraryNew York State Historical AssociationThe Quarterly journal of the New York State Historical Association (Volume 6) → online text (page 5 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

lake Geoige and after having burnt most of the Stores about
Ticonderoga and killed and sent off all the Cattle and Horses, on
the 24th I imbarked for the Island, having 5 Cannon mounted on
the small sloop and gun Boats, but an unluky Circum.stance
happened; One Teriy lately a sutler in our Army being a Prisoner,
I suffered him to go at large on Parole but on my sailing from the
landing I ordered Terry & his Associates on board the Gun Boats,
unhappily an Officer coming on in the rear ordeied Teny out of
the Gun Boats into his own Boat and fall under his stern, altho
this Officer had no bad intent in this Order yet it Pioved oui
overthrow at the Island, for Night coming on with a great Storm
Terry m^ade his Escape to the Enem.y which gave them sufficient
Oppertunity to mount their Cannon and Prepare foi our reception[.]
I however Proceeded and made the Attempt, but finding the
Enemy too well Prepared was obliged to quit after two hours
Engagement, in which the Enemy huld the sloop between wind

Col. John Browns
expedition 177 J

Ft "Ttconderoga &
Diamond IsUtJZ^


Col Brown

Col Johnson (
Col Woodbridgc)




and water in such Manner I was obliged to toe her off, one of the
Gun Boats also being Wounded and many other Boats shattered
to Pieces, I thought Pioper to retreat and aftei having burned all
the boats on the East shore quit the Lake and got safely into
Skeensboio', I left behind me in the whole killed and wounded ten
Men — ^the Numbei of Piisoneis on Parole shall transmit your
honor very soon."

From British sources we get various statements which enable us
to form a more complete conception of the events connected with
this attack. Three of these are perhaps of special importance.
The general in command of the German troops Major general
Riedesel, has the following statement in his Journal :

"All the heavy baggage of the different regiments was sent back
to Ticonderoga on the 1st of Septembei. Those articles, however,
which might be more needed, were only sent back as far as Dia-
mond Island in Lake George — seven [should be three] miles from
Fort Geoige — that they might be close at hand in case of need.
At the same time two companies of the 47th Regiment were sent
with them as a garrison; only thirty men and one officer being
left at Fort George, as the communication with that lake was to
be given up for the present. "^^

The battle itself was reported by Burgoyne in his letter of 20
October 1777 which contained the following paragraphs:

"On the 24th instant [should be September], the enemy, enabled,
by the capture of the gunboats and bateaux, which they had made
after the surprise of the sloop, to embark upon Lake George,
attacked Diamond Island in two divisions.

"Captain Aubrey, and two companies of the 47th regiment,
had been posted at that island from the time the army passed the
Hudson's River, as a better situation, for the security of the stores
at the south end of Lake George, than Fort George, which is on
the continent, and not tenable against artillery and numbers.
The enemy weie repulsed by Captain Aubrey with gieat loss, and
puisued by the gun-boats under his command, to the east shoie,
where two of their principal vessels were retaken, together with all
the cannon. They had just time to set fire to the other bateaux,
and retreated over the mountains." ^^

The statem-ent of Burgoyne was probably based in part on the
report of Lieutenant Irwine who was in com-mand at Ft. George
with 30 men and whose report found in the Gates Papers was as
follows (the date is apparently a mistake for 25th) :


"Fort George 24^^ ggp^.r 1777.

"I think it necessary to acquaint you for the information of
General BurgO}Tie, that the enemy, to the amount of two or three
hundred men came fiom Skenesborough to the carrying place neai
Tyconderoea and there took seventeen or eighteen Batteaus
with Gunboats — Their design was first to attack the fort but
considering they could not well accomplish it without cannon they
desisted from that scheme, they were then resolved to attack
Diamond Island (which Island Capt. Aubrey commands) and if
they succeeded, to take this place, they began to attack the Island
with cannon about 9 o'clock yesterday morning, I have the satis-
faction to inform you that after a cannonading for near an hour
and a half on both sides the enemy took to their retreat. Then
was Gun boats sent in pursuit of them which occasioned the enemy
to burn their Gun boats and Batteaus and made their escape
towards Skenesborough in great confusion — we took one Gun
boat from them with a twelve pounder in her and a good quantity
of ammunition — w^e have heard there was a few kill'd and many
wounded of them. There was not a man killed or hurt during the
whole action of his Majesty's Troops. I have the honor to be
Sir your most obedient and most humb'^ Ser*^

Geo' Irwine Com at Fort George L* 47'''."3i

It appears strange that no account of this fight at Diamond
Island was published by the Americans and that, except for the
British account, which does not mention Colonel Brown, it re-
mained practically unknown till the publication of an article by
Rev. B. F. De Costa in 1S72, an article which has not been used in
our general histories of the Revolution.

Other letters of Colonel Brown in the possession of a descendant,
Capt. William Butler Clarke, of Belmont, Massachusetts (some of
which were evidently used by Mr. Howe in his sketch of Brown
already referred to), were printed last year in the New England
Historical and Genealogical Register, but without any comments
other than a very brief introduction stating the source of the
papers. This article has probably not come to the attention of
many students of New York history, but it has funiished the
occasion of this effort properly to understand the events narrated.

The managem.ent of the expedition by Colonel Brown was
commended in General Lincoln's letter to him dated at Bemis
Heights, September 28th, in which he regrets that it could not have
been crowned with greater success. On Septem.ber 30th he


despatched Colonel Brown to Pawlet, directing him on his
arrival there to send two or three hundred men with 10 or 12 days
provision between Ft. Edward and Ft. George in order to cut oflE
all communication between the posts. Of the results we know
nothing; but the surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga soon after
brought about the early retreat of the British from Ft. George and
Diamond Island and a little later from Ft. Ticonderoga. With
the later events on Lake George there is not time to deal. What
the results of the capture of this little island might have been is
difficult to judge. Burgoyne's surrender came so soon that its
result would perhaps have been slight in any case. But though a
failure in its immediate purpose, this study has shown, I hope,
that it was part of a well-conceived scheme of operation, carried
out with energy and judgment and by a commander whose work
has not hitherto received its due credit.

Peter Nelson

Authorities Cited

iThe elevations above sea-level are: Lake Champlain, 101 feet; Lake
George, 322 feet; Hudson River at Ft. Edward, about 120 feet; highest
point between Ft. Anne and Ft. Edward, about 150 feet; highest point be-
tween Lake George and Ft. Edward, about 570 feet.

^General Dieskau had approached Ft. William Henry by way of South
Bay and the southern end of French Mountain.

^Documents relating to the Colonial History of the State of New York, 8:451.
This work will hereafter be cited as Col. Doc.

^Skene settled a few families at Skenesborough in 1761. Thomas Jones,
History of New York during the Revolutionary War, (New York, 1879), 1:693.

^B. F. DeCosta, A Narrative of Events at Lake George (N. Y., 1868), p. 44-
46, 73. This work will be cited hereafter as DeCosta, Narrative; it is prac-
tically identical as to text with chapters 6-8 and appendices I and II of his
Lake George (N. Y., 1868) ; his Lake George (N. Y., 1869) omits the appendices.
B. F. DeCosta, Notes on the History of Fort George (N. Y., 1871), is an inde-
pendent work and will be cited as DeCosta, Fort George. See also Cat. Doc,
8:371, and Documentary History of the State of New York, 4:517 (quarto edition).

^DeCosta, Narrative, p. 54.

'DeCosta, Narrative, p. 47-62.

*Col. Pierse Long, of New Hampshire.

'It has been said that he retreated to Rutland but this is an error which
probably arose from his order to Warner to retire to that point if hard pressed.
See letter of St. Clair to Schu\ier, Dorset, 8 July 1777, in Jared Sparks, Corre-
spondence of the American Revolution (Boston, 1853), 2:513.

lojohn Burgoyne, A State of the Expedition (Ed. 2, London, 1780), p. iv.

"Burgoyne, p. viii-ix.

i^Burgoyne, p. xxxv-xxxvi.

"Burgoyne, p. 17-19.

"Gen. John Watts DePeyster is quoted in Justin Winsor, Narrative and
Critical History of America (Boston, 1889), 6:313, as follows: "Burgoyne


could have been re-assembled at 'Old Ty' by the 10th July; could have been
transported to Fort George by the l2th; and, having left his heavy guns and
all but his light artillery and indispensable materials there or at Ty, in depot,
■with a sufficient guard, could have reached Fort Edward on the evening of the
13th July. From this point to Albany is about fifty miles. With six or ten
days' rations and an extra supply of ammunition sufficient for a battle of that
period, Burgoyne could have swept Schuyler out of his path with ease, and,
allowing one day's delay for a fight, could have occupied Albany on the 16th


I'Burgoyne, p. Ixxxiv.

i^Sparks, 2:533-36. The date of Gates' letter is incorrectly given as Sep-
tember. The plan had previously been discussed by ;Schuyler and Lincoln;
see letter of former, 31 July 1777, in Sparks, 2:516.

'"Lincoln to the Council of Massachusetts, 23 Sept. 1777, in Sparks, 2:

'^Lincoln's orders to Brown are printed in Sparks, 2:525-26, and are there
dated the I2th; in his letter to Gates, 14 Sept. 1777, De Costa, Fort George,
p. 42, Lincoln gives the date as yesterday (that is, the ijth); and in his letter
to the Council of Massachusetts he wrote that his orders had been issued on
the 14th. In spite of these discrepancies, there seems very little reason to
doubt Brown's statement in his letter of 4 Oct. 1777 that he received his
orders on the ijth ; his report from Poultney on the same day shows that he set
out at once.

"Col. Thomas Johnson, of the Vermont militia.

^^Col. Benjamin Ruggles Woodbridge, of the Massachusetts militia.

-'The 19th, according to letter of Lincoln to Laurens, Sparks, 2:535; but
the i8th, according to his letter to the Council of Massachusetts, Sparks, 2;

"Archibald M. Howe, Colonel John Brown oj Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the
brave accuser of Benedict A mold, an address delivered before the Fort Rensse-
laer chapter of the D. A. R. and others, at the village of Palatine Bridge,
New York, September 29, 1908 (Boston, 1908).

"^This letter and others which follow are quoted from a communication by
Capt. William Butler Clarke, of Belmont, Mass., to the New England Historical
and Genealogical Register, October 1920, 74:284-93. The letters there printed

1 Brown to Lincoln, Poultney, 13 Sept. 1777

2 u u .. j4 .. ..

3 " Johnson, Lake George Landing, 18 Sept. 1777

4 " Lincoln, " " " " " "

5 " " 19 ;'

6 " Warner, " " " " " "

7 " Lincoln, " " " 20 " "

8 Lincoln to Brown, Pawlet, 21 Sept. 1777

9 Brown to Lincoln, Skenesborough, 26 Sept. 1777

10 Lincoln to Brown, Bemis Heights, 28 " "

11 " " " " 30 "

12 Brown to Lincoln, Falls Mills, 1 Oct. 1777

13 Lincoln to Brown, (no place), 2 " "

14 Brown to , Pawlet, 4 " "

Of these nos. 4 and 9 had previously appeared in B. F. DeCosta, The Fight
at Diamond Island (N. Y., 1872), reprinted with additions from the New
England Historical and Genealogical Register, April 1872, 26:147-52; the
date of No. 4, is there erroneously given as the 10th. Both were copied from
the Gates Papers in the New York Hi.storical Society. DeCosta's article was
reprinted, practically in full, except the introductory pages, in William L.
Stone, The Campaign of Lieut. Gen. Burgoyne (1877), p. 347-52. No. 4 was
also printed in Sparks, 2:529-30, presumably from "the newspapers of the


time" and said to be addressed to Gates, and No. 8 appears in Sparks, 2:527-
28, from a different original. From Howe's address on Colonel Brown, it
would seem that he had also seen Nos. 5, 7, and 14.

^^From the absence of any later reference to such an island, this statement
seems to be distorted information about Diamond Island, as is the later refer-
ence to three companies of German troops at the island.

''^In his letter of 13 September, Colonel Brown mentions "Col, Warner's
party" and next day again speaks of "Colo. Warner's Detachmt." This was
doubtless Col. Seth Warner of Vermont. The General Warner to whom his
letter of the 19th was addressed, and who is mentioned in his letter to Lincoln
of the 19th and 20th, and in Lincoln's letter to Brown of the 2lst, 30th and
2d October, was Jonathan Warner, of Hard wick, Mass., who was brigadier
general of Massachusetts militia. He was appointed to the command of all
Massachusetts militia detached for the reinforcement of the Northern army,
9 Aug. 1777 (L. R. Paige, History of Hardwick (Boston, 1883), p. 273).

In the same letter Lincoln says that General Bayley, who is referred to in
Lincoln's letter to Brown of the 21st, "is left at Castleton, in the neighborhood
of the enemy, and will forward supplies, and join the troops, if necessary."
This was Gen. Jacob Bayley who was commissioned brigadier-general of
Gloucester and Cumberland county militia by the New York Provincial
Congress in 1776. A letter of his dated at Castleton, 22 Sept. 1777, is printed
in the New Hampshire State Papers, 17:136, in which he reports 500 prisoners
taken and the division reduced to 1,500 by General Lincoln's withdrawal of
most of the troops to the south.

26See letters referred to in note 23.

^'Dunham Bay.

*8Howe, p. 12, assumes that this report was to Lincoln, but Captain Clarke
says: "There is nothing in or on this letter to indicate to what general it was
written. Apparently it was not written to General Lincoln."

29Max von Eelking, Memoirs, and Letters and Journals, of Major General
Riedesel (Albany 1868), 1:134.

'"Burgoyne, p. xcv; quoted by DeCosta, Diamond Island, p. 8, with date
of 27th; also in his Fort George, p. 43, and his Narrative, p. 66.

^^DeCosta, Diamond Island, p. 9; from Gates Papers.


A History oj Minnesota. By William Watts Folwell. In
four volumes. Vol. I. (Saint Paul: Minnesota Historical Soci-
ety. 1921. Pp. xvii, 533. Illustrations and Maps.)

This promises to be a monumental history of Minnesota. It
is of peculiar interest to New Yorkers because of the fact that
te a uthor was bom on a farm in the town of Romulus, was
gad uated from Hobart College at Geneva, and was for many
years a professor there. In 1869 he was made president of the
University of Minnesota and continued as such until 1884.

Fur traders from New York and fur trading companies organ-
ized in New York played an important part in the early explora-
tions and development of Minnesota. Such a trader was John
Jacob Astor and such a company was the American Fur Company,
which he organized. The story of these is told in the first volume.

New York's additional interest is drawn from the fact that when
the territory was peopled it was from New York State that the
larger number of the settlers came during the years 1855 and 1856.
Just as New Yorkers had been most active in settling Wisconsin
between 1830 and 1850, so now they showed a similar activity in

The reason for this migration from New York State has never
been fully explained and Mr. Folwell does not even broach it in
this volume. Joseph Schafer of Wisconsin has recently ventured
the supposition that it was due to the tendency early observable
in Western New York, for large owners to buy out small farmers
for the purpose of cattle raising, and dairying. Probably there
was just as much in the temptation to sell acreage at high prices
in New York when they could go out to Wisconsin and Minnesota
and buy lands at figures as low as $1.25 an acre.

In a brief notice such as this it is impossible to select for mention
the many items of interest to the New Yorker in this volume.
The book is written in a delightfully entertaining style.


Letters of Members of the Cotitinental Congress. Edited by

Edmund C. Burnett. Vol. I. August 29, 1774 to July 4, 1776.

(Washington D. C. Carnegie Institution. 1921. Pp. Ixvi,

The interest of New Yorkers in this collection is more particular-
ly directed to its own members who are listed on pages Hi — Ivii.
They were John Alsop, Simon Boerum, George Clinton, James
Duane, William Flo>d, John Haring, John Jay, Francis Lewis,
Philip Livingston, Robert R. Livingston, Isaac Low, Lewis
Morris, Philip Schuyler, Henry Wisner. A study of the index of
which there is a very good one shows that James Duane, John
Jay and Philip Schuyler were the most active if we were to judge
by the number of references which are made to them.

These letters will supply in a measure, the accounts of pro-
ceedings which were never kept or if kept for the time being,
were destroyed. Just as John Jay is said to have remarked to
young William Livingston that the true history of the Revolution
would never be written, so Dr. Jameson calls attention to the
statements of John Adams that so many of the meetings were in
secret and so much of the material purposely destroyed, that the
history could not be written.

As a piece of good editing this work of Mr. Burnett's leaves
nothing to be desired. Not only are letters given, but also
extracts from diaries where they have been found. The collection
is thoroughly annotated at the bottom of each page so that every
letter or docimient used is placed in its proper setting — a very
necessary thing in a collection drawn from so many different
sources. Force's American Archives, the Journals of the Con-
tinental Congress, and the Journals of Provincial Congresses are
most drawn from. In addition, numerous collections of private
letters, some of which have not as yet been printed, have been

The work will be complete in six volumes.

The History of the 306th Field Artillery. Compiled by the men
who participated in the events described. (New York: Knicker-
bocker Press. 1920. Pp. vi, 169. Illustrations and maps.)

In a measure this volume tells the same story for the whole
306th Field Artillery as the volume below tells for Battery B


alone. The history of "Soldier making at Camp Upton" and of
other events is told in chapters similar in title and content.

This work, however, takes on a more serious aspect in Part II,
which is devoted to "Operations and Statistics," but even in
this portion there are several chapters under such titles as "Regi-
m.ental Fun and Frolic," "The Howitzer" a short lived journal-
istic enterprise, "Prisoners in Germany," "Paris," and "Tales
They Tell." Try as he will the American soldier cannot get
away from the comic side of even serious life. It is a tribute to
his mental make up that he was able to go rollicking through war
as he goes through peace. It seems at times as if he got more
fun out of war than he gets out of the business of life.

One of the m.ost valuable parts of the volume is the portion
which is devoted to the "Military Biographies of every Man in
the 306th Field Artillery."

The drawings and illustrations are a credit to the authors.

J. S.

The Story of Battery B, jo6th F. A. — 7/th Division. By Edi-
torial Staff. (Printed by the Premier Printing Company,
New York. No date. Pp. 102. Illustrations.)

In ten chapters entitled Cam.p Upton, the Leviathan and
Brest, Training Days at Camp De Souge, The Vosges Front,
Vesle-Aisne Campaign, The Eight Day Hike to the Argonne,
The Argonne-Meuse Campaign, Marcq and the Armistice, "Home
was Never Like This" — Dancevoir and Noyen, and Homeward
Bound, the story of the 306th is told. It is accompanied by
numerous photographic illustrations and snap-shots, an honor
roll, casualti humorous stories, poems and an alphabetical
roster with addi esses.

It is in no sense a technical or military account of the activities
of the unit. It is told in a popular vein calculated to appeal to
the lelatives and fi lends of the members and to serve as a sort of
reviver of memories foi the boys themselves. It is books of this
kind, however, which do more to show the psychology of o ur men
in the World War than any technical treatise could possibly do.

"Home Was Never Like This," is a delightful chapter showing
the impressions which the French male and female made on our
men. The question of getting a bath was always a problem, but
even this hardship the men seemed to take good naturedly.

J. S.


Monroe in the World War. By Arthur Coventry Patmore.
(Monroe. New York. Monroe Gazette. 1921. Pp. 65. Illus-

The little booklet gives a sketch of the activities of the in-
corporated village of Monroe during the World War. It con-
tains a list of men who entered the service, the contributions to
the Red Cross, Liberty Loans and Y. M. C. A., a diary of Private
John Dawson, letters from some soldiers, the participation of the
high school and other items. It is to be regretted that more
details were not obtained from the men who entered the service
such as the units to which they belonged, and other items usually
obtained by questionnaires.



Roswell Randall Hoes, the noted authority on Ulster County
and Kingston history, died in Washington, D. C, on October 26,

Dr. J. A. Campbell of Toronto and Colonel Roland B. Camp-
bell of Great Britain who are descended from the famous Duncan
Campbell, who lost his hfe at Ticonderoga under Abercromby,
visited Duncan's grave in Union Cemetery at Fort Edward on
November 24, 1921.

On September 15, 1921, James A. Beckett, Delmer Runkle
and William C. Jones, accompanied by James Sullivan, State
Historian, and A. W. Abrams, Chief of the Visual Instruction
Division of the State Education Department visited Bennington
Battlefield Park, in order to make a survey of what was needed
to put the park in shape for visitors so that the Legislature at itg
coming session could be asked to appropriate the necessary funds
Mr. Abrams took photographs.

Mrs. Theodore Douglas Robinson, sister of Theodore Roose-
velt, unveiled a bust of her brother at the Roosevelt School, at
New Rochelle, December 19, 1921.

It is proposed that the seven English speaking nations of the
world, Great Britain and Ireland, Canada, Newfoundland,
Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States join
in a celebration of Magna Charta Day — which comes on June


The Chautauqua County Historical Society held its thirty-
eighth annual meeting at Ma^-ville, September 10, 1921. The
meeting was mainly devoted to obituary notes on Charles M . Dow
of Jamestown, Gilbert W. Strong of Sherman and Herman Sixbey
of Mayville. The former officers were re-eleeted.



At the September 21, 1921 meeting of the Madison County His-
torical Society in its room in the city hall at Oneida, Prof. Harry W.
Langworthy gave an address on "Points of Historical Interest
Along the Hudson River."

The Daughters of Columbia County Historical Society, at its
meeting in Albany on October 30, 1921, approved of the erection
of a "House of History," in memor}^ of Theodore Roosevelt.
Sketches of his life were read. Mrs. James Gillette read a paper
on "The Livingston Family."

On September 13, 1921, the Daughters of Columbia County
Historical Society, held a meeting at Lebanon Springs. Dr.
Hattie Peckham solicited facts of the unwritten history of
Lebanon Springs.

On September 21, 1921, the Dutchess County Historical
Society made a historical pilgrimage to the towns of Washington,
Amenia and Northeast. Many historic spots were visited and
several lecturers explained their significance.

The Daughters of Columbia County Historical Society met at
Hudson on September 29, 1921. Dr. George Rossman of An-
cram, spoke on "Indian Remains in Columbia County," and Dr.

Online LibraryNew York State Historical AssociationThe Quarterly journal of the New York State Historical Association (Volume 6) → online text (page 5 of 26)