Robert Tomes.

Battles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) online

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the army, and more calculated to secure discipline.


recruits from Europe, not finding the
Americans disposed to serve with arms,
notwithstanding the hopes held out to
me upon my arrival in this port."

Tories by profession abounded since
the British success on Long island. Stat-
en island, New York, and Long island,
were now filled with those who were pro
fuse in their expressions of loyal attach
ment, but by no means as free in giving
their services as they were bountiful in
professions of good will. There was one,
however, who, now that he was embarked
in the cause, was evidently doing his best
to aid Howe. This was OLIVER DELANCEY,
the son of a Huguenot colonist, who had
early come to America, and, having re
ceived an extensive grant of land in West-
chester county, became wealthy, and the
founder of an influential family. Oliver,
like his brother James, the lieutenant-
governor of New York, reached a posi
tion of high influence in the province.
When the French War began, and he was
solicited to accept the command of the
New-York regiment, he said that, if he
did, he could in ten days raise the whole
quota of troops required of that colony.
Nor was this the mere boast of a bragga
docio. He was strongly attached to his
country, and boldly advocated its rights ;
but when the question came of separa
tion, he opposed it, and, so soon as the
Revolutionary struggle began, he staked
his all on the side of the British throne.
On Howe s arrival at Staten island, De-
lancey was the first American loyalist to
be made a brigadier-general in the royal

Great hopes were entertained of his




influence in obtaining recruits in New
York and its neighborhood. He, howev
er, although only required to obtain fif
teen hundred men in all, was more than
a year in getting six hundred to join his
standard, and during the whole war they
never amounted to eight hundred. He
was now at work on Long island, tempt
ing the Americans by offers of the same
pay and treatment as English soldiers,
and Washington supposed with such suc
cess, that he thought it necessary, if pos
sible, to counteract his manoeuvres. Gen
eral George Clinton was accordingly sent
from his station on the Hudson, beyond
Kingsbridge, to meet General Lincoln,
just appointed to the command of the
new levies of troops from Massachusetts.
Clinton was to proceed to Fairfield, in
Connecticut, and there concoct with Lin
coln a plan to make a descent upon Long
island, and try to check Delancey s " per
nicious practices." The expedition was,
however, finally abandoned, for want of
the necessary boats.

The tories, too, seemed to be very ac
tive at this moment in Westchester and
Dutchess counties. Washington had been
informed that there were several compa
nies of men preparing to go off and join
the king s army. Accordingly, he ordered
the guard-boats and the sentries at the
works on Mount Washington to keep a
strict lookout, in case these American re
cruits for the British army should attempt
to come down the North river. General
Heath also, then in command at Kings-
bridge, was urged to do his utmost, by
means of his troops, to intercept any coin
ing down the East river, with the purpose

of joining the enemy s forces on Long
island. Washington was determined to
use every precaution in his power " to
prevent these parricides from accomplish
ing their designs."

On Long island there was another man,
of a different stamp from Delancey, one
Major Rogers, who was all the more for
midable as he was entirely unscrupulous.
ROBERT ROGERS was born in New Hamp
shire, where his father emigrated from
Scotland. During the French War, he en
tered the British service, and command
ed a corps of New-England riflemen, who
became renowned for their exploits, un
der the name of Rogers Rangers. When
peace with France was declared, Rogers
retired, on half-pay, to his native town.
He did not, however, long remain at rest,
but soon took up arms in the campaign
against the Cherokee Indians. He was
rewarded for his services by being ap
pointed governor of Michillimackinac in
1766 ; but his artfulness of character, and
want of directness of conduct, exposed
him to the suspicion of laying a plot to
plunder his own fort and join the French.
He was accordingly put in irons, and sent
to Montreal for trial. He escaped con
demnation, however, and went to Ens 1 -

7 O

land, where he contrived to establish him
self on such a respectable footing, that
he was presented to the king. But his
good fortune soon failed him, and he was
clapped into prison for debt.

When the difficulties between Great
Britain and her colonies were fast ap
proaching the crisis of war, Rogers again
made his appearance in America. So lit
tle scrupulous was he supposed to be,


[PART n.

that it was the opinion of all who knew
him, that he was ready to join either the
British or the Americans, as his personal
interest might prompt, or chance direct.
When the Revolutionary War began, Rog
ers kept wandering about the country,
and haunting the quarters of Americans
in authority, civil or military, with the
view of either selling his services, or ful
filling his duties as a spy, in which char
acter he was suspected to have been al
ready employed by the British.

In the course of his wanderings, he fell
in with Doctor Wheelock, of Dartmouth
college, who wrote : " The famous Major
Rogers came to my house, from a tavern
in the neighborhood, where he called for
refreshment. I had never before seen
him. He was in but an ordinary habit
for one of his character." He treated the
doctor with great respect, and gave him
an account of his travels. He spoke of
his visit to London, where the doctor s
college, he said, was in great repute, and
that Lord Dartmouth and many other
noblemen had spoken of it in his hearing
with " expressions of the highest esteem
and respect." He told of his deeds in for
eign lands, and how he had fought two
battles in Algiers, under the dey; and,
with the apparent desire to live thereaf
ter in peace and innocence, he declared
that he had now returned to his native
country "to take care of some large grants
of lands made to him," and to visit his
sister and his wife, whom he had not seen
since his return" from England. He had
been, however, according to his own ac
count, very deliberate in performing his
conjugal duties ; for he had already spent

twenty days with the Congress at Phila
delphia, and as many more in New York.
He had been offered and urged, he said,
to take a commission in favor of the colo
nies ; but, with a scrupulous delicacy, as
he w r as on half-pay from the crown, he
thought it proper not to accept it, The
major wound up his interview with the
doctor by declaring that he was a great
friend to his college, and volunteered to
assist in obtaining a large grant of land
for it.

Rogers, as we have seen, had been in
Philadelphia, where he had been arrest
ed ; but having " solemnly promised and
engaged, on the honor of a gentleman
and soldier, that he would not bear arms
against the American united colonies, in
any manner whatsoever, d uring the Amer
ican contest with Great Britain," he was
set free, and provided with a passport by
the Pennsylvania committee of safety.
Thus fortified, Rogers proceeded (about
a month after his visit to Doctor Whee
lock) to the American camp before Bos
ton, and w r rote Washington a letter, re
questing his signature to his Philadelphia
certificate, and making this emphatic pro
fession of patriotism : " I love America ;
it is my native country, and that of my
family, and I intend to spend the even
ing of my days in it."

About the same time that Washington
received this letter, Doctor Wheelock also
wrote him that "two soldiers, returning


from Montreal, informed him that our offi
cers were assured by a Frenchman (a cap
tain of the artillery, whom they had taken
captive) that Major Rogers was second in
command under General Carleton ; and




that he had been, in an Indian habit,
through our encampment at St. Johns."
Washington sent General Sullivan to
have an interview with Rogers, who was
then within a few miles of Cambridge.
Sullivan confronted the major with this
statement of Doctor Wheelock about his
service in Canada. Rogers denied his
having been there, but confessed that he
had gone to the westward of Albany. As
Washington did not care to see the ma
jor, and could not know of any reason
Avhy he should be haunting the American
camp, Sullivan was directed to tell him
that he could neither be received at head
quarters nor get his passport signed ; but
that he might depart, and enjoy such se
curity as the papers with which he was
already provided might give him.

The next event in the history of the
major was his arrest, by the order of
Washington, at South Amboy, where he
was prowling about the American camp,
and in the neighborhood of the British
on Staten island, under suspicious circum
stances. Washington sent him to Phila
delphia, under the care of an officer, as
Rogers had declared that he was on his
way to make a secret offer to serve Con
gress a body which, however, the com-
mander-in-chief took care to put on its
guard, by suggesting to President Han
cock " whether it would not be danger
ous to accept the offer of his services."
Congress would have nothing to do with

the major, but handed him over to the
provincial legislative assembly of New

Rogers now appeared in his true char
acter, as a colonel in the British army,
engaged in recruiting his famous corps,
called the Queen s Rangers. By an offer
to recruits "of their proportion of all rebel
lands," he was filling his ranks with a set
of desperate adventurers, who made them
selves notorious, throughout the war, as
among the most audacious and unscrupu
lous of the enemy.

He was now on Long island, getting
men, out of the abounding tories there.
He had made his headquarters at Hun-
tington ; and Connecticut seemed greatly
alarmed lest he should carry out his threat
of landing at Norwalk, taking the conti
nental stores, and laying waste the town.
Governor Trumbull says : " I hope we
shall be able to frustrate his designs. I
have no need to apprize you [he is wri
ting to Livingston] of the art of this Rog
ers. He has been a famous scouter, or
woods-hunter, skilled in waylaying, am
buscade, and sudden attack."* Rogers
was a dangerous fellow, as cunning as an
Indian, and as unscrupulous as a highway
man. His tricks were a constant topic
of conversation in the American camp,
and all the officers and soldiers of spirit
were anxious, if possible, to catch the
wily colonel.

* Sparks s Life of Washington.





The Americans at Tieonderoga. The 111 Condition of the Troops. Their Sufferings. Reinforcements. Boat-Building
at Skenesborough. Arnold and his Fleet. Arnold again in Trouble. Condemned by the Court. Gates comes to
his Rescue, and dissolves the Court. Activity of Sir Guy Carleton. Arnold sets sail. Prepares to fight the Enemy.
The Action. Victorious Result. Arnold s Escape. Humanity of Carleton. Carleton takes Crown Point. Re
connoitres Ticonderoga. Gates makes a Great Show of Defence. Carleton frightened awav. Retires into Canada.


SOON after the arrival at Crown
Point of Generals Sclmyler, Gates,
and Arnold, who had met at Albany and
set out together to join the northern ar
my, the troops, it will be recollected, were
withdrawn to Ticonderoga. General Sir
Gny Carleton, the governor of Canada,
Avas at St. Johns (on the Sorel river, near
the northern extremity of Lake Cham-
plain), and might be expected, so soon as
he could construct proper vessels for the
purpose, to sail up the lake and attack
the Americans. The latter began to pre
pare, in all haste, to defend themselves.
The old French fort was strengthened by
new defences, and the neighboring hills
and grounds cleared of their forest-wood,
and fortified with redoubts and batteries.
The American troops, when they had
reached Crown Point, after their retreat
under General Sullivan, were in a state
of extreme misery. " I found them," said
Adjutant-General Trumbull, " dispersed,
some few in tents, some in sheds, and
more under the shelter of miserable bush
huts, so totally disorganized by the death
or sickness of officers, that the distinction
of regiments and corps was in a great de
gree lost ; so that I was driven to the ne
cessity of great personal examination :

and I can truly say that I did not look
into tent or hut in which I did not find
either a dead or dying man. I found the
whole number of officers and men to be
five thousand two hundred, and the sick
who required the attentions of a hospital
were two thousand eight hundred ; so
that when they were sent off, with the
number of men necessary to row them to
the hospital, which had been established
at the south end of Lake George, a dis
tance of fifty miles, there would remain
but the shadow of the army."

With this " shadow of the army," how
ever, the Americans began their opera
tions at Ticonderoga, and with their new
duties their old sufferings did not end.
As the forest was cleared for the encamp
ment, the exhalations from the earth, thus
exposed for the first time to the rays of
a midsummer sun, together with the mi-
asm from the lake, soon produced a fever,
which not seldom carried off the strong
est men in two or three days after an at

Reinforcements, however, soon arrived
from New England and Pennsylvania, so
that the post at Ticonderoga began to as
sume the aspect of military strength and
activity. Ship-carpenters had also arrived




from Boston and New London, and were
at once set to work at Skenesborough,
building the hulls of boats and galleys.
These as soon as launched were towed
down the lake to Ticonderoga, where they
were equipped and armed. General Gates
had appointed Arnold,from his well-known
activity and his experience as a sailor, to
superintend the fitting out of this little
fleet, and promised him the command.
The difficulty of obtaining proper mate
rials for ship-building, and the distance to
which they had to send for skilful work
men, interfered greatly with the work ;
but Arnold s energy so overcame every
obstacle, that by the middle of August
he had a squadron of one sloop and one
schooner of twelve guns, two schooners
of eight, and five gondolas with each

Arnold, however, with his usual facility
of quarrel, had just now a difficulty on
hand, which nearly led to the loss of his
command. When about leaving Quebec,
he lawlessly ordered some goods to be
seized belonging to merchants in Mon
treal, but gave receipts to the owners,
who were promised payment on present
ing them to Congress. They had made
their claims, and Arnold was now called
upon to account for his disposition of the
goods. All he had to say was, that they
had been damaged and plundered, and
that Colonel Hazen was responsible, for
he had disobeyed orders in not taking
proper charge of them. Hazen accord
ingly was arrested, and tried by court-
martial. Arnold brought forward, as his
principal witness, a Major Scott. His tes
timony, however, was rejected by the

court, on the ground that, as he had
seized the goods, though under the or
ders of Arnold, he was a party concerned.
Arnold became so enraged at this, tha.
he completely lost all self-control, and
addressed an insulting communication to
the court. They insisted upon an apol
ogy, in vindication of their wounded dig
nity. This only made Arnold still more
intemperate in his rage ; and, insultingly
refusing to apologize, he hinted so broad
ly that he was ready to give each mem
ber personal satisfaction, that the whole
court considered themselves as being chal
lenged ! This was, of course, too outra
geous a contempt of their dignity to be
passed over without rebuke and punish
ment ; and General Gates was according
ly appealed to, to interpose the severity
of his executive power. Gates, however,
was not disposed to spare his admiral of
the lake-fleet, and therefore acted " dicta-
torially," as he himself calls it, and dis
solved the court-martial. To Congress,
Gates justified his conduct, saying, " The
United States must not be deprived of
that excellent officer s [Arnold s] services
at this important moment."*

The vessels being equipped, and Ar
nold in command, the flotilla rendez
voused at Crown Point. Here floated
the Royal Savage, the Enterprise, the
Revenge, and the Liberty, the four larger
craft, together with the half-dozen gon
dolas and several new galleys. Sir Guy
Carleton was not less busy and active
than Arnold. Bringing a large force of
shipwrights, riggers, and sailors, from Que
bec, together with frames of vessels, sup-

* Sparks s Life of Arnold.




plies of timber, cordage, guns, and every
thing that "was necessary for constructing
and fitting out ships-of-war, the Canadian
governor was soon enabled to launch at
St. Johns a formidable fleet.

Toward the end of September, Arnold
was prepared for a cruise, and set sail
down the lake. General Gates had or
dered him not to advance beyond the
Isle-aux-Tetes (near what is now called
Rouse s point), at the northern part of
Lake Champlain, where its waters are
narrowed toward the outlet of the Sorel
river. When Arnold had reached Wind
mill point, within four miles of the Isle-
aux-Tetes, observing that that island and
the neighboring shores were in posses
sion of the British, he came to anchor,
moving his flotilla across the lake. Hav
ing occasion to land his men, in order to
cut some timber and brushwood for the
purpose of raising the bulwarks of his
little vessels, and thus prevent them from
being so accessible to boarders, he found
that his position was not yet secure from
annoyance by the enemy. A party that
he had sent ashore had, in fact, been set
upon by an ambuscade of Indians, and
driven to their boats, with the loss of sev
eral killed and wounded. Arnold now
weighed anchor, and sailed back some
eight or ten miles, until he reached Isle-

From this point scouts were sent along
the banks of the lake, and guard-boats
stationed in advance along its waters, in
order to watch the approach of the ene
my, and obtain information of their move
ments. From what was thus learned, Ar
nold thought it advisable to move still

farther down, and accordingly sailed back
and took a position with his flotilla in the
narrowest part of the channel between
Valcour island and the western bank of
the lake. Here he stretched his little
vessels in line across and toward the up
per part of the strait. While thus moored,
awaiting the approach of the enem^, he
was reinforced, from Crown Point, by the
cutter Lee, of four guns; the three gal
leys Congress, Washington, and Trumbull,
each of ten guns ; and several additional
gondolas. His whole force in guns now
amounted to ninety ; in metal, six hun
dred and forty-seven pounds ; and in men,
most of whom were soldiers, to six hun

The advance guard-boats were constant
ly on the lookout, as the approach of the
British was hourly expected. At break

of day, accordingly, Carleton s

Oct Hi

fleet hove in sight off Cumber
land head to the north, and its approach
was duly reported. As vessel after vessel
bore down, the appearance of the enemy
was truly formidable. There was the ship
Inflexible, of sixteen guns ; the schooner
Maria, of fourteen ; the schooner Carle-
ton, of twelve ; the razee Thunderer, of
fourteen ; the gondola Royal Consort, of
six ; together with a score of gun-boats,
four long-boats, each armed witli a gun,
and four-and-twenty other small craft.

Carleton had almost proved himself a
match in activity for even the energetic
Arnold. The ship Inflexible had been
got ready to sail within twenty-eight days
after her keel had been laid ; and between
July and October, so great had been the
despatch of the enemy, that no less than




" thirty fighting-vessels of different sorts
and sizes, and all carrying cannon," had
been equipped. Carle ton, however, had
all the resources of the British fleet, then
at Quebec, at his command. British men-
of-war supplied abundant materials, edu
cated naval officers to superintend the
work, skilful artificers to execute it, and
all the possible requirements for building
and equipping vessels-of-war. The prep
arations had all been conducted by Cap
tain Douglas, of the Isis ; and, when the
fleet was ready to sail, seamen to the num
ber of more than seven hundred were
drafted from the naval ships at Quebec,
to man the squadron of the lake ; while
each vessel was officered by lieutenants
and midshipmen, and the whole were
commanded by the British naval captain
Pringle, of the Lord Howe. Carleton
himself, though yielding the direction of
the fleet to the nautical experience of
Pringle, could not restrain his ardor to be
a witness of the struggle, and accordingly
went on board the flag-ship, the Inflexible,
determined to share the common danger.


The young officers, some of them now for
the first time in separate command, were
full of eager desire to distinguish them
selves. Among the midshipmen was the
youthful Pellew (already noticed for his
gallantry), afterward famous as Lord Ex-

The British fleet bore for the southern
point of Valcour island, with the view of
rounding it, and bringing the whole force
against Arnold s line stretched across the
strait to the north. The wind, however,
was unfavorable for this manoeuvre, and
only the smaller craft were able to enter

the channel, as the larger vessels had not
room to beat up, and could not sail suffi
ciently close hauled.

Arnold, observing the difficulty, and
seeing the British force thus divided, or
dered three of his galleys and his schoon
er the Royal Savage to get under way.
He himself took the lead, on board the
Congress galley, and sailed, followed by
the rest, to attack those of the enemy in
advance, which consisted of all their small
craft and the schooner Carleton of twelve
guns, commanded by Lieutenant D acres.

The engagement soon began, hot and
heavy, and continued from eleven o clock
in the morning till five in the afternoon.
The American boats suffered greatly, and
none more than the Congress, which Ar
nold took care to keep in the hottest of
the struggle. He was constantly on deck,
pointing the guns with his own hands;
and, when the enemy retired from the
fight, Arnold s galley was almost a wreck,
with her hull riddled with shot, her mast
barely standing, her rigging torn into
shreds, and a large proportion of her men
killed or wounded. The Washington gal
ley, commanded by Waterbury, had hard
ly suffered less, her captain being wound
ed, her lieutenant with many of her men
killed, and the vessel itself well shattered.
One gondola lost every officer but her
captain, and another sank immediately
after the engagement. No less than six
ty in all were either killed or wounded.

The Royal Savage, in attempting to
reach the line, got aground, when she was
set on fire by her crew, and abandoned.
The larger British vessels, which were un
able to take part in the action, strove, by



[PART. 1 1.

landing their men and some Indians on
Valcour island, to harass the Americans
with musketry ; but, although they kept
up a constant fire, they only added to the
confusion and excitement of the scene,
and foiled to do much damage.

Arnold, upon retiring to his former an
chorage, called a council of his officers,
when it was unanimously resolved that,
with the superiority in ships, men, and
armament, of the British, it was impossi
ble to cope with them, and that the only
resource left was to attempt to escape
back to Crown Point. How to accom
plish this was, however, the great diffi
culty, as the enemy had stretched their
vessels across the strait, Avithin only a few
hundred yards of the American line. As
the night was dark, and the wind blew
favorably from the north, Arnold deter
mined upon the bold expedient of pas
sing through the British fleet. The at
tempt was made, and with perfect suc
cess. The Trumbull galley, commanded
by Colonel Wigglesworth, of the Massa

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 47 of 126)