Robert Tomes.

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

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While a dashing young subaltern, Bur
goyne made the acquaintance of a daugh
ter of the earl of Derby. The two be
came deeply enamored, and were married
clandestinely, greatly to the indignation
of his lordship of Derby, who declared
that he would never admit them to his
presence. Burgoyne, however, with his
brilliant, promise as a soldier, and a rising
man in Parliament, aided by his gentle
manly tact, soon reconciled the earl of
Derby to the alliance. With this recog
nised relationship, we find Burgoyne, in
1774, acting as master of ceremonies in
the fete given at the seat of the family,
" The Oaks," to celebrate the marriage
of his brother-in-law, Lord Stanley, with
Lady Betsey Hamilton, the daughter of
the duke of Hamilton. It was on this
occasion that Burgoyne first publicly dis
played his talents as a dramatist. He
wrote a " dramatic entertainment, in five
acts," styled The Maid of the Oaks," which
was played at the marriage-festival, and
afterward successfully brought out (un

der the auspices, and with some touches
of the pen, of Garrick) at Drury Lane.
The pen was, however, soon dropped for
the sword, and it was not until after his
several campaigns in America that he re
newed his literary pursuits. He then
wrote " The Lord of the Manor" a comic
opera in three acts a light, sparkling
piece, which was acted, and welcomed
with much applause. Writing verse with
facility, he contributed two lively, satiri
cal compositions, " The Westminster Guide "
and a "Probationary Ode" to one of the
cleverest political jeu d csprits of the day.
In 1786, he brought out on the stage the
comedy of " The Heiress" and, soon after,
the historical drama of "Richard Occur de
Lion" In all these, Burgoyne exhibits a
knowledge of society and the world, a
quick fancy, and a flexible hand. Ilia
temper was gay, and his disposition so
cial. He loved pleasure, but was active
in business. A thorough soldier, he never
failed to do his duty, though he always
strove to soften the severities of war by
acts of generosity and humanity, to which
his natural kindliness of heart prompted
him. Horace Walpole says of him smart-
ingly, that he had " a half-understanding
that was worse than none ;" that he was
"a classic scholar who had more reading
than parts ;" that he " was fond of writing,
and did not want eloquence, but judg
ment extremely ;" and, again, that he was
" the most verbose and bombastic boaster
that ever bore a truncheon," though " he
did not want spirit, not knowledge, not
any zeal for serving his master."

We have seen Burgoyne at Boston, and
subsequently in Canada ; and now, for the



third time, we find him in America as
commander-in-chief of the British troops
at the North. This appointment had been
conferred upon him by the British gov
ernment in order to carry out the pro
posed plan of penetrating toward Albany
from Canada, and thus form a junction
with a portion of Sir William Howe s ar
my which was to advance up the Hudson,
that the American communication might
be cut off between the northern and east
ern states. Burgoyne, when consulted,
had declared that a force of eight thou
sand regulars, two thousand Canadians,
and one thousand Indians, would be ne
cessary to secure the success of the plan.
On arriving in Canada, General Bur
goyne met with some disappointment in
filling up the complement of his army,
but was able, however, to commence op
erations with an effective force. Sir Guy
Carleton had been superseded, and might
have justly complained of neglect, and
want of acknowledgment of his previous
services; but, waiving all personal feel
ing, he magnanimously welcomed Bur
goyne with great friendliness, and ear
nestly aided him in executing his plans.
Carleton, in character with his usual be
nevolence, is supposed to have objected
to the employment of the Indians, and
therefore been supplanted by Burgoyne,
who had fewer scruples on this point.
Carleton sent his resignation to England
as governor of Canada, but in the mean
time tendered his services to the newly-
appointed commander-in-chief; and, with
his knowledge of and influence in the
country, he proved of great advantage.
By his means the Indian tribes were con

ciliated, and the native Canadians induced
to remain faithful to British interests.

Burgoyne s European force amounted
to seven thousand men, of whom nearly
one half were hired mercenaries from the
principality of Brunswick, in Germany.
To these were added four hundred Indi
ans and about a hundred and fifty Cana
dians. His artillery corps and train were
of the most serviceable character, " prob
ably the finest and the most excellently
supplied as to officers and private men
that had ever been allotted to second the
operations of any army." His officers
were men of great repute for skill and
daring. General Phillips commanded the
artillery ; Generals Fraser, Hamilton, and
Powell, the various British divisions ; and
Baron Reidesel and General Specht, the
B runs wickers.

Having first detached Colonel St. Leger
from St. Johns with a miscellaneous force,
consisting of British, Germans, Sir John
Johnson s New -York tory confederates,
and savages (amounting in all to about
eight hundred), in order to make a diver
sion on the Mohawk river, Bur-

1 If .I K- JUUC 14

goyne himself set out with his
force. After proceeding some distance,
he encamped his army at the river Bou
quet, on the western side of Lake Cham-
plain, near Crown Point. Here he met
the Indians in council, and gave them a
war-feast. Burgoyne was naturally soli
citous about the conduct of his savage al-


lies, and took care to impress upon them
the humane requirements of civilized war
fare. They were told that they should
only kill those who opposed them in arms;
that old men and women, children and



[PART n.

prisoners, the wounded and the dying,
should be spared the hatchet; and that
none but those who had been slain in bat
tle should be scalped. Burgoyne prom
ised them rewards for prisoners, but de
clared that he would call them to strict
account for every scalp they brought in.

Having swollen his rhetoric, in his ad
dress to the savages, in accordance with
the supposed requirements of Indian ora
tory, Burgoyne, it would seem, found it
difficult to bring his imagination within
its ordinary range ; for the proclamation
which he immediately afterward issued
to the people of the country was full of
pompous declamation. There was some
thing in it, however, worse than its style.
It held out the threat of savage cruelty.
" I have," said he, " but to give stretch to
the Indian forces under my direction, and
they amount to thousands, to overtake
the hardened enemies of Great Britain
and America. I consider them the same,
wherever they may lurk."

Soon after sending St. Clair to Ticon
deroga. General Schuyler him-

self went to examine into the

condition of affairs there. They did not
ippear as satisfactory as he had antici
pated. Instead of the force of five thou
sand, which Washington supposed to be
the strength of the garrison at this post,
it was found that there were less than
twenty-five hundred effective men in all,
to defend both the works at Ticonderoga,
on the west side of the lake, and Mount
Independence, on the east. Such a mea
ger supply of troops, it was clear, was
quite inadequate to defend the two posts.
Without reinforcements, in case of an at

tack from the enemy, one or the other
would have to be abandoned. In such
an event, Mount Independence was con
sidered as the post at which it would be
desirable to concentrate all the available
force. Attention was accordingly direct
ed chiefly to this point. All the cannon
and stores, not immediately wanted on
the Ticonderoga side, were taken over;
and Kosciusko, who was the engineer-in-
chief of the northern army, at once com
menced repairing the old and adding new
works, in order to strengthen the by-no-
means strong fortifications of Mount In
dependence. There was such a deficiency
of provisions, that it was inferred that the
garrison, unless soon supplied, would not
be able to hold out for many days. With
all these drawbacks, it was still thought


advisable to obtain reinforcements and
supplies, and to maintain the two posts
as long as possible. It was deemed pru
dent, however, to collect and repair the
batteaux, in case a retreat should become

General Schuyler, thus made aware of
the weaknesses and wants of Ticondero
ga, hastened back to Fort George, and
so bestirred himself, that he was soon able
to send a good supply of provisions, and
some working-men to aid in the construc
tion of the works. He seemed, however,
to be in very little anxiety about the post,
for he writes to Congress : " I trust we
shall still be able to put everythm< % in


such order as to give the enemy a good
reception, and, I hope, a repulse, should
they attempt a real attack, which I con
jecture will not be soon, if at all."*

* Irvinjr.




July 1,

Washington, too, from the information
ho had obtained, which was unaccounta
bly inexact, continued to believe that Ti-
conderoga was beyond the chance of dan
ger. "As the garrison at Ticonderoga,"
he writes to Schuyler, " is sufficient to
hold it against any attack, I do not think
it politic, under your representation of the
scarcity of provisions, to send up troops
to consume what oiiiHit to be thrown into


the fort." He soon received intelligence
which placed it beyond any chance of
doubt, that Burgoyne was advancing;
but he was still confident of St. Glair s
security until the last moment, when a
letter from Schuyler appears to
have conveyed for the first time
a truthful account of the condition of Ti
conderoga. Washington thereupon im
mediately ordered General Putnam to de
spatch a brigade, under Nixon, to rein
force the northern army.

Schuyler, in the meantime, was divert
ing himself with the idea that Burgoyne
would march his main body from St. Fran
c-is or St. Johns to the east and invade
New England. " I am," he writes, " the
more continued in this conjecture, as the
enemy can not be ignorant how very dif
ficult, if not impossible, it will be for them
to penetrate to Albany, unless in losing
Ticonderoga we should lose not only all
our cannon, but most of the army de
signed for this [the northern] depart

St. Glair, even at Ticonderoga, w r as for
a long time in a state of uncertainty about
the strength and designs of the enemy.
In the meanwhile he kept his men busily
occupied in increasing the defences of the

place. There were not wanting some
among the officers who were doubtful of
the policy of holding the post. The gar
rison were so few in numbers, and the la
bors of all so much increased by the works
and the strong guards necessary on the
threatened approach of the enemy, that
the men became prostrated by fatigue and
watching. " If fortitude," wrote an officer
at that time, "if enterprise, if perseve
rance or temerity, could avail, I would
not complain ; but, in the name of Heav
en, what can be expected from a naked,
undisciplined, badly-armed, unaccoutred
body of men, when opposed to a vast su
periority of British troops?"

The American lines were greatly ex
tended, from Mount Independence, on the
east side of Lake Champlain, to Ticon
deroga on the west. The two places were
connected by a floating bridge, supported
on twenty-two sunken piers of very large
timber, and the spaces between filled with
separate floats, each about fifty feet long
and twelve wide, strongly fastened to
gether by iron chains and rivets. On the
northern side of this bridge was stretched
a boom made of large timber, well secured
by riveted bolts, and a double iron chain,
with links of one and a half inches square.
The length of this combined bridge, boom,
and chain, w r as four hundred yards, and
its construction had cost an immensity
of labor and expense. The work was sup
posed, however, to be admirably adapted
to the double purpose of a communication
between Ticonderoga and Mount Inde
pendence, and of an impenetrable barrier
to any approach of the enemy by way
of the lake.



[PART n.

There were two hills which command
ed the works : one cnlled Mount Hope,
rising about half a mile in advance of the
old French lines on the Ticonderoga or
west side of the lake; and another, known
as the Sugar-Loaf hill, or Mount Defiance.
Mount Hope was the least important of
the two hills, as it only commanded the
left of the works at Ticonderoga, and was
unprotected, probably in consequence of
the meagerness of St. Glair s force, which,
composed of less than three thousand
men of whom nine hundred were raw
militia, but just come in was not suffi
cient, when the troops were ordered to
man the lines, to occupy their whole ex

The S n gar-Loaf hill was, however, en
tirely neglected, from the prevalent im
pression that it was inaccessible for artil
lery, and too distant, even if in possession
of an enemy, for their balls to reach the
fort. This hill, which is the northern ter
mination of the mountairi-ridffe dividing

O o

Lake George from Lake Champlain, rises
precipitously to a height of six hundred
feet, and completely commanded both the
works at Ticonderoga, from which it was
only separated by the outlet from Lake
George, and those at Mount Independ
ence, from which it was divided by the
narrowest part of Lake Champlain. A
year before, John Trumbull (then Gen
eral Gates s adjutant at Ticonderoga, and
subsequently the well-known painter) had
been impressed with the importance of
guarding the Sugar-Loaf hill. " I had for
some time," he says, "regarded this emi
nence as completely overruling our en
tire position. It was said, indeed, to be

at too great a distance to be dangerous ;
but by repeated observations I had satis
fied my mind that the distance was by
no means so great as was generally sup
posed : and at length, at the table of Gen
eral Gates, where the principal officers of
the army were present, I ventured to ad
vance the new and heretical opinion that
our position was bad and untenable, as
being overlooked in all its parts by this
hill. I was ridiculed for advancing such
an extravagant idea. I persisted, how
ever ; and, as the truth could not be as
certained by argument, by theory, or by
ridicule, I requested and obtained the
general s permission to ascertain it by

" General (then Major) Stevens was bu
sy at the north point of Mount Indepen
dence in examining and proving cannon.
I went over to him on the following morn
ing, and selected a long, double-fortified
French brass gun (a twelve -pounder),
which was loaded with the proof-charge of
best powder, and double shotted. When
I desired him to elevate this gun so that
it should point at the summit of Mount
Defiance (Sugar-Loaf hill), he looked sur
prised, and gave his opinion that the shot
would not cross the lake. That is what
I wish to ascertain, major, was my an
swer. I believe they will ; and you will
direct your men to look sharp, and we,
too, will keep a good lookout. If the shot
drop in the lake, their splash will be easi
ly seen ; if, as I expect, they reach the hill,
we shall know it by the dust of the im
pression which they will make upon its
rocky face.

" The gun was fired, and the shot was



plainly seen to strike at more than half

the height of the hill. I returned to head-


quarters, and made my triumphant re
port, and after dinner requested the gen
eral and officers who were with him to
walk out upon the glacis of the old French
fort, where I had ordered a common six-
pound field-gun to be placed in readiness.
This was, in their presence, loaded with
the ordinary charge, pointed at the top
of the hill, and when fired it was seen
that the shot struck near the summit.

" Thus, the truth of the new doctrine
was demonstrated but still it was insist
ed upon that this summit was inaccessible
to an enemy. This also I denied, and
again resorted to experiment. General
Arnold, Colonel Wayne, and several oth
er active officers, accompanied me in the

general s barge, which landed us at the
foot of the hill, where it was most pre
cipitous and rocky, and we clambered to
the summit in a short time. The ascen
n as difficult and laborious, but not imprac
ticable ; and when we looked down upon
the outlet of Lake George, it was obvious
to all that there could be no difficulty in
driving up a loaded carriage."

Notwithstanding this demonstration of
the importance of Mount Defiance a year
before, no regard was paid toward secu
ring it; and the engineers and the dispir
ited troops went on wasting their ener
gies in ceaseless labors upon works which
alone were useless for defence, unless the
enemy should be equally heedless, and
dash their force against them in an as


Stealthy Approach of the Enemy. General St. Clair in Despair. The Beginning of the Attack. A Hasty and Ineffect
ual Fire. A Jolly Hibernian. St. Clair hopeful of an Assault. General Burgoyne discovers the Weak Point. He
takes possession of Sugar-Loaf Hill. St. Clair calls a Council of War. A Retreat determined upon. The Night s
Silent March. The Enemy aroused. The Scene described. The Provincials escape to Skenesborough. They are
overtaken by Burgoyne. Burning of Galleys and Batteaux. The Struggle on Land. " The Indians at our Heels."
The Fight at Fort Anne. Disasters and Adventures of the Fugitives. The Lost St. Clair. His Wanderings.
The Success of the British at Hubbardtown. Unsuccessful Attempt of St. Clair to aid the Discomfited Provincials
St. Clair turns up in Vermont. A Royal Conqueror.


THE occasional si^ht of the Indi

an warriors at the American out
posts (some of General Burgoyne s savage
allies), as they were prowling about the
adjacent forests, indicated the approach
of the enemy. General St. Clair, however,
was yet in ignorance of their force and
All his efforts to obtain infor-


mation had been in vain. Although the
heights of Ticonderoga afforded an ex
tended view of the country, the approach
es were concealed by mountain headlands
and dense woods. Reconnoitring-parties
were sent out, but they were either cut
up, captured, or driven in, by the Indian
scouts of the enemy.



[PART n.

Burgoyne s force, however, was reveal
ing itself more clearly from day to day.
On the 30th of June, a part of his fleet
had sailed up the lake from Crown Point,
and troops debarked on the west side,
within three miles and in full view of Ti-
conderoga. Another detachment, com
posed of Indians and Canadians, had land
ed on the opposite side, and, falling in
with an American scouting-party,attacked
and put it to the rout. St. Clair was anx
ious, but yet, as he was ignorant of the
strength and purpose of the enemy, un
decided upon what he should do. Per
fectly aware, however, of the weakness
of his own position, St. Clair wrote to Gen
eral Schuyler : " Should the enemy invest
and blockade us, we are infallibly ruined ;
we shall be obliged to abandon this side
[theTiconderoga side], and then they will
soon force the other from us, nor do I see
that a retreat will in any shape be prac
ticable. Everything, however, shall be
done that is practicable to frustrate the
enemy s designs ; but what can be expect
ed from troops ill armed, naked, and un-
accoutred ?" lie was in hopes, notwith
standing, that Burgoyne s force was too
small for an investment of the posts on
both sides of the lake, and that he would
attempt an assault, in which case St. Clair
encouraged himself with the belief that,
by withdrawing all his troops within the
works at Mount Independence, a success
ful resistance might possibly be made.

Burgoyne s whole army now

began to move from Crown Point.

On the western shore the British came

marching forward, and on the left the

German troops, while the fleet sailed up

the lake in advance. The British imme
diately and without resistance took pos
session of Mount Hope, which command
ed the left of the works at Ticonderoga.
Desiring to possess themselves of another
piece of rising ground in advance, within
only a thousand yards of the American
lines, they sent forward Captain Frazer,
with a detachment of riflemen and sev
eral hundred Indians, to clear the way.
They came on so audaciously, that they
ventured to attack an American picket
of sixty men, within two hundred yards
of a battery of eight guns, and, having
dispersed this outguard, approached to
within less than a hundred yards of the
main work, where, scattering themselves
along the front among the brushwood,
they kept up a brisk fire.

General St. Clair, who had consoled
himself with the hope of an assault, be
lieved that it was now about to take
place, and that the detachment which had
approached so boldly had been sent for
ward to draw his iire and create disorder,
preliminary to the general attack, lie
accordingly ordered his troops to sit down
on the banquet, with their backs to the
parapet, to cover them from the shot of
the enemy, and to prevent their throw
ing away their own fire. One of the o Ul
cers at this moment, as he leaned on the
parapet, observed a British light-infantry
man, who, having crept within forty paces
of the ditch, and taken a position on his
knees behind a stump, was loading and
firing. "I stepped," says Wilkinson (for
he was the ollicer, and gives the account
of the incident), to a salient angle of the
line, and ordered a sergeant to rise and



shoot him. The order was obeyed, and
at the discharge of the musket every man
arose, mounted the banquet, and without
command fired a volley ; the artillery fol
lowed the example, as did many of the
officers, from the colonels down to subal
terns: and, notwithstanding the exertions
of the general, his aids, and several other
officers, three rounds were discharged be
fore they could stop the firing." The
whole result of this hurried fire and large
consumption of powder was the wound
ing of a single lieutenant, and the fright
of the rest of the party, who, when the
smoke had dispersed, were observed at
three hundred yards distance, retreating
helter-skelter to the British position on
Mount Hope. One drunken fellow, how
ever, was left upon the field, who, having
been brought into the American lines,
proved of some service.

St. Glair was still ignorant of the force
of the enemy, and of their purpose. He
now hit upon an expedient for obtaining
the information he desired. The tipsy
captive, who had been picked up in front
of the works, was clapped into the guard
house, and, as he was supposed to be in
a social and communicative humor, it was
proposed to get what he knew out of
him. An Irishman, one Captain Johnson,
of the American artillery, temporarily as
suming the character of a tory (putting
on a ragged suit, and concealing about
his person a bottle), was thrust in with
the prisoner. Johnson s brogue, rags, and
whiskey, dispelled all doubts of his coun
try, and he soon succeeded in commend
ing himself to the fellowship of the cap
tive, who was also a jolly Hibernian.

The prisoner proved to be not only
communicative,but intelligent; and John
son w T as enabled to draw from him the
number and name of every corps under
General Burgoyne, and an estimate of the
strength of his whole force. It would
appear, moreover, to have been pretty
clearly ascertained that the enemy s ob
ject was to invest the place.

The American commander, however,
still deluded himself with the hope that
Burgoyne would hazard an assault. Ac
cordingly, for several days, he held his
ground ; and, although the British were
in possession of Mount Hope, and contin
ued to make their approaches, he opened
his batteries and kept up a brisk cannon
ade. St. Glair strove with all his might
to animate his fatigued troops, and or
dered every man at morning and evening
roll-call to the alarm-posts; while the
greatest vigilance and alertness were en

Burgoj ne, in the meantime, having
thoroughly examined the American posi
tion, discovered its weak point. This was
the unoccupied Sugar-Loaf hill, on the
south side of the outlet from Lake George

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 63 of 126)