Robert Tomes.

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

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into Lake Champlain. A party of light-
infantry had already encamped at its base,
and the question was soon started wheth
er it were possible to scale the hill and
establish upon its summit a force suffi
cient for operations against the forts. The
directing engineer of the British, Lieu
tenant Twiss, having been ordered to re
connoitre, reported that the hill had the
entire command of the works and build
ings of both Ticonderoga and Mount In
dependence, at the distance of about four-



[PART n.

teen hundred yards from the former and
fifteen hundred from the latter; that the
ground might be levelled so as to receive
cannon, and that the road by which to
convey them, although difficult, might be
made practicable in twenty-four hours ;
that the hill also commanded in reverse
the bridge of communication across the
lake between Ticonderoga and Mount In
dependence ; and that from the summit
the exact situation of the vessels could
be seen, while not a movement of the
Americans could be made during the day
without being discovered, and even hav
ing their numbers counted.

Burgoyne, after this report, immediate
ly ordered General Phillips to take pos
session of Sugar-Loaf hill. It was not
effected without difficulty ; for such was
the steepness of the ascent, that it became
necessary to hoist the cannon from tree
to tree. :i: The final success, however, was
complete ; and, on the 5th of July, the
British were in full possession, and signal
ized their triumph by christening the hill
anew, by the name of " Mount Defiance."
When St. Clair beheld the English flag
flying from the summit, and the bristling
cannon threatening his doomed post, he
turned to his officers, saying, " We must
away from this, for our situation has be
come a desperate one." A council of war
was immediately called.

General St. Clair, having stated
July i> . .

to his officers that there was ev
ery reason to believe that the batteries
of the enemy were ready to open on the
Ticonderoga side, that the camp was very
much exposed to their fire, and that a

* Thucher.

simultaneous attack would probably be
made upon Ticonderoga and Mount Inde
pendence, requested their opinion as to
whether the whole of the troops, artillery,
and stores, should be drawn over to Mount
Independence for the defence of that post.
The council unanimously agreed that they
should be, on that very night. The gen
eral then proposed the question whether,
after this movement,Mount Independence
itself could be defended ; and, if not, whe
ther a retreat into the country were prac
ticable. They unanimously expressed the
opinion that, " as the enemy have already
nearly surrounded us, and there remains
nothing more to invest us completely but
their occupying the neck of land betwixt
the lake and the East creek (which is not
more than three quarters of a mile over),
and possessing themselves of the narrows
betwixt that and Skenesborough and
therebycutting off all communication with
the country a retreat ought to be un
dertaken as soon as possible, and that we
shall be very fortunate to effect it."

The retreat having been determined
upon, everything was done to effect it,
without arousing the suspicions of the
enemy. A cannonade was kept up every
half hour from the redoubt against the
advanced battery of the British ; and, pre
vious to striking the tents, all the lights
were put out. The cannon left behind
were ordered to be spiked, but the trun
nions not to be knocked oflj lest the noise
might arouse the enemy. The evacua
tion had been resolved upon at three
o clock in the afternoon, but night was
waited for, that it might be carried into
execution with greater secrecy. Accord-



July 6.

hm-ly, in the middle of the night
July 5,

the whole camp was aroused, and

be ""an to move from both Ticonderoga


and Mount Independence, with the usual
bustle and confusion of a hasty retreat.
The sick, the wounded, and the women,
were brought out to the shore, together
with as many of the cannon and stores
as could be collected in the hurry. They
were then thrust aboard of two hundred
batteaux and boats, which, at three o clock
in the morning, pushed up Lake
Champlain for Skenesborough,
followed by an escort of five armed gal
leys and a guard of six hundred men, un
der Colonel Long, of New Hampshire.
The main body of the troops crossed over
the bridge from Ticonderoga to Mount
Independence ; and St. Glair, taking an
unfinished road through the wilderness,
on the east or Vermont side of the lake,
led them on toward Hubbardton and Cas-
tleton, with the view of reaching Skenes
borough by a circuitous march.

The retreat had been begun with great
caution in the silence and darkness of the
night, and the enemy seemed to be quite
unconscious of the movement. But, by
some blunder or accident, the house of
General De Fermoy had been set on fire,
and suddenly a blaze of light arose from
Mount Independence, by which the Brit
ish from their lofty position on the hills
could see the Americans in full retreat.
At ouce the sentries gave the alarm ; the
drums beat to arms; and the enemy, Hock
ing into the deserted forts, prepared to
follow in immediate pursuit.

The party on the lake got safely off;
and, though looking " back with regret

and forward with apprehension," there
were not wanting those who were awa
kened to the picturesque interests about
them. " The night was moonlit and pleas
ant ; the sun burst forth in the morning
with uncommon lustre ; the day was fine ;
the water s surface serene and unruffled.
The shore on each side exhibited a vari
egated view of huge rocks, caverns, and
clefts, and the whole was bounded by a
thick, impenetrable wilderness."* There
were, fortunately, other available means
to keep up the spirits of those less sensi
ble to the exhilarating influence of the
beauties of Nature. The drum and the
fife struck up their cheering music ; and
among the hospital-stores gathered in the
haste of the retreat, there were found ma
ny " dozen bottles of choice wine," which,
by " breaking off their necks," were made
available for the enlivenment of the de-

Thus they sailed on during the night
and a part of the next day, until they
reached Skenesborough at three
o clock in the afternoon, the far
thest point of the lake navigable by the
galleys. Having got thus far in safety,
there was no suspicion of further danger.
The boats were lying quietly at the wharf,
and the people, having landed, were loi
tering without concern upon the shore,
when suddenly the enemy s fleet hove in
sight, and began to pour a broadside into
the American galleys and batteaux.

General Burgoyne was on board the
frigate Royal George, on the lake, when
he first learned the retreat of the Ameri
cans. He immediately ordered General

* Timelier. | Jb.




Fraser with his brigade, and Baron Rei-
desel with a detachment of B runs wickers,
to follow St. Clair by land, while he him
self promptly pursued with his fleet the
fugitives on the lake. The famous bridge.


chain, and boom, which had cost such an
immensity of labor and money, and were
deemed so impenetrable, were before him.
This was the security in the faith of which
the Americans were reposing so compla
cently at Skenesborough. Bridge, boom,
and chain, however, all gave way before
the " uncommon efforts and industry" of
Burgoyne, and so rapidty, that his gun
boats reached Skenesborough only two
hours after the arrival of the American
flotilla. He had thus almost overtaken
it on the lake ; and, if he had, " horridly
disastrous indeed would have been our
fate," exclaims one of the pursued. Nor
were they yet safe. The galleys at the
wharves resisted for some time ; but soon
two struck their colors, and the rest were
blown up.

While the British gun-boats advanced
to Skenesborough, the frigates came to
anchor a short distance to the north, and
landed a body of British soldiers and In
dians. Colonel Long strove to rally his
guard, and with them to give battle ; but
his efforts were useless. His men were
panic-struck, and, having set fire to the
fort, mills, and batteaux, scattered in ev
ery direction, each one seeking only his
personal safety in flight. A number of
them, however, soon gathered together
for mutual safetv, and fled through a

/ O

narrow defile, so closely pursued by the
enemy, that those in the rear were con
stantly calling out, " March on ! the Indi

ans are at our heels !" Thus the fugi
tives pushed on the whole of that night,
and until five o clock the next morning,
when they reached Fort Anne.
Some of the sick succeeded in
arriving at the same post, having made
their escape in the boats by Wood creek,
a small, navigable stream, which branches
off from the lake at Skenesborough. All
the artillery, provision, most of the bag
gage, and some of the invalids, fell into
the hands of the enemy.

General Schuyler, being at Fort Ed
ward, and hearing of the disaster, sent a
small reinforcement, which so encouraged
the fugitives under Colonel Long, that
they not only stood their ground at Fort
Anne, but prepared to sally out against
their pursuers.

Lieutenant-Colonel Hill, with the ninth
regiment of British regulars, had followed
the panic-struck fugitives from
Skenesborough, and had posted
himself under cover of the woods near
Fort Anne. Early the next morning the
Americans sallied out, and, while one par
ty attacked him in front with great vigor,
another crossed a creek in order to take
him in the rear. Colonel Hill was forced
to shift his ground for fear of being sur
rounded, and post himself upon the sum
mit of a hill. Here he was pursued and
attacked, when a hot struggle ensued,
which lasted for nearly t\vo hours. Vic
tory was almost in the grasp of the Amer
icans, when a number of savages de
tached by Burgoyne from Skenesborough
rushed out of the neighboring forests,
and sent up their terrible war-whoop,
which was answered by three cheers from

July 7,




July 9,

the British troops, and Colonel Long s
men gave way. Ketiring to Fort Anne,
which was a small picket-fort of little im
portance, the Americans set fire to it, and
then proceeded to Fort Edward, on the
Hudson, some thirty miles distant. Here
they found General Schnyler, who had
come on with the small reinforcement
sent from Peekskill, which he
had been anxiously awaiting, for
the purpose of inarching to the aid of
the post at Ticonderoga.

" I am here," writes Schuyler from Fort
Edward, " at the head of a handful of men
(not above fifteen hundred), with little
ammunition (not above five rounds to a
man), having neither balls nor lead to
make any. The country is in the deep
est consternation ; no carriages to remove
the stores from Fort George, which I ex
pect every moment to hear is attacked ;
and what adds to my distress is, that a
report prevails that I had given orders
for the evacuation of Ticonderoga."

Schuyler could learn nothing of the

/ o

fate of General St. Clair and the main
body of the troops. The Americans who
had escaped by the lake to Skenesbor-
ough, and arrived at Fort Edward, could
not clear up the mystery. They merely
reported the retreat from Ticonderoga,
and their own disasters and adventures.
Whether St. Clair had been cut off by the
enemy, or had succeeded in making his
escape, and was now wandering through
the forest wildernesses, was a question the
solution of which was anxiously looked
for. In two days more the solution came,
in the intelligence that St. Clair was safe,
with a remnant of his troops, in Vermont.

Let us now trace his course from the mo
ment of abandoning the posts at Ticon
deroga and Mount Independence.

It was three o clock in the morning: be-

July 7,

fore St. Clair had begun his re
treat with his van, and his rear
was still lingering not far from the forts,
when the enemy took possession. Gen
eral Fraser, a brave and active officer, had
no sooner planted the British flag, than
he was out in pursuit with his brigade.
Baron Reidesel, with his Brunswickers,
had been ordered to reinforce him ; but
the heavy, formal Germans did not move
with the same celerity as Eraser s light-
troops, which pushed on quickly in ad

St. Clair, too, did not linger, but moved
on the whole day through the forest wil
derness with great speed, and did not halt
his advanced troops until the afternoon,
at Hubbardton. Here he remained a
short time for his rear-guard and strag
glers ; but, learning that they were coin
ing, St. Clair left Colonel Warner, with a
hundred and fifty men, to await their ar
rival, and pushed on until night, when he
reached Castle ton, some thirty miles dis
tant from Ticonderoga.

Warner had been ordered to join the
rear-guard when it arrived at Hubbard
ton, and then advance with it toward Cas-
tleton. When, however, Colonel Francis,
who commanded the rear-guard, came up,
he and Warner, either confiding in their
numbers, which amounted to over fifteen
hundred men, or underrating the activity
of their pursuers, determined to halt for

the ni^ht at Hubbardton. Ear-

i ii *i

ly the next morning they were



[PART n.

parading their troops, in readiness to fol
low St. Glair, when General Fraser sud
denly marched into Hubbardton ! This
brave and expeditious officer had kept
close upon the heels of Warner the whole
day before ; and, as his own force was
small, amounting to only eight hundred
and fifty men, and he knew that St. Glair
could not be far in advance, he ordered
his troops to lie on their arms for the
night, waiting to attack the rear of the
Americans when their van should be suf
ficiently distant. The occasion was now
offered ; and Fraser, although with an in
ferior force, being too impatient to await
the coming up of the Germans, at once
began an attack. The Americans gener
ally bore the onset gallantly ; but Colo
nel Hale, who is said to have been dis
pirited by a long illness, fled immediate
ly with his whole regiment of militia in
the direction of Castleton. This greatly
diminished the force of the Americans;
but those left bravely stood their ground,
and at their very first fire made great
havoc in the front ranks of the enemy,
striking down twenty-one men, killing
Major Grant, a distinguished British offi
cer, and wounding the young earl of Ba,l-
carras, at the head of the light-infantry.
Colonels Warner and Francis led on their
men with great gallantry, and were them
selves foremost in the fight. The Amer
icans were apparently driving their oppo
nents from the ground, when the drums
were heard of the German troops coming
up to reinforce Fraser. This dispirited
the Americans and encouraged the Brit

ish. The latter now made a vigorous
charge with their bayonets, and remained
masters of the field. The loss of the en
emy was a hundred and eighty-three in
killed and wounded ; that of the Ameri
cans amounted to over three hundred,
twelve of whom were officers, and among
them Colonel Francis. The recreant Hale
and his militia met with a characteristic
fate : they surrendered to a small party
of British troops, much inferior to them

General St. Glair, at Castleton, hearing


the firing, immediately sent his aid-de
camp to order two militia regiments
which were encamped three or four miles
in his rear to reinforce the troops at
Hubbardton. They, however, refused to
obey. St. Glair then prepared to march
himself; but, finding that the Americans
had been put to flight, he continued his
retreat. Skenesborough had been his ob
ject, in the circuitous route which he had
taken ; but an officer of one of the Amer
ican galleys having come in and reported
that the British were pursuing in force
toward that place, he changed his line of
march, and struck the woods to his left,
on the route to Bennington (in the New-
Hampshire grants, now Vermont) ; and,
while on his way thither, intelligence was
first received by General Schuyler,at Fort
Edward, of his safety.

" The king," says Horace Walpole, " on
receiving the account of the taking of
Ticonderoga, ran into the queen s room,
crying, I have beat them beat all the
Americans ! "




Washington incredulous of the Fall of Ticonderoga. He does not doubt the Advance of General Burgoyne. Prepares to
give Him a Check. Urges that General Arnold be sent North for the Purpose. Moves his own Army nearer the
Hudson. Encamps at the Clove. He disapproves of the Abandonment of Ticonderoga. Disappointed, but not dis
heartened. General St. Glair at Fort Edward. The American Force at the North. Its Sorry Condition. Fortunate
Delay of Burgoyne. General Schuyler fortifies a Camp at Moses Creek. The Discouragement of. the Country.
Schuyler slandered. St. Glair assumes the Responsibility. A Lost Post : a Saved State. The American Troops
disaffected. Arnold arrives at Moses Creek. His Disinterested Conduct. Burgoyne on the Move. A Difficult
March. Proclamations and Counter-Proclamations. The British caught napping in Rhode Island. A Novel Batter
ing-Ram. Capture of General Prescott.


July 10,

WHEN the first rumor of the loss
of Ticonderoga reached Washing
ton, he was loath to believe it. General
Schuyler had written him from Stillwater,
while on his way to Fort Ed ward,
what he had heard ; but the en
tire account appeared so confused to the
eommander-m-chief, that he could not "es
tablish any certain deduction from it,"
and hoped that it might prove " prema
ture and groundless." Whether true or
not, he was no longer in doubt that Gen
eral Burgoyne had come up Lake Cham-
plain, determined to push his way toward
the Hudson, and that a check to his prog
ress was absolutely necessary. The mi
litia from New York and the New-Eng
land states must be instantly called out
in full force, and an active, spirited officer
appointed to conduct and lead them on.
General Arnold was recommended as the
man for this business. " He is active, ju
dicious, and brave, and an officer in whom J
the militia will repose great confidence ;"
and, besides, " he is well acquainted with
that country, and with the routes and
most important passes and defiles in it,"

wrote Washington to Congress, advising
that body to send Arnold at once from
Philadelphia to the northern department.
Believing, too, that Sir William Howe
would push against the Highland passes,
in order to co-operate with General Bur
goyne, Washington moved his own army
toward the North river. From Morris-
town, where he had encamped after leav
ing Middlebrook, he marched to
T> TT July 13,

rompton plains. He was now

no longer in doubt concerning the fall of
Ticonderoga, for General Schuyler had
sent him more specific information from
Fort Edward. Washington pronounced
the evacuation of the posts upon Lake
Champlain as " among the most unfortu
nate that could have befallen us." Schuy
ler, having written that he had not been
able to learn anything about General St.
Clair and the army under him, Washing
ton writes in answer that he is
astonished beyond expression.
" I am totally at loss," he says, " to con
ceive what has become of them. The
whole affair is so mysterious, that it even
baffles conjecture." He was sufficiently

July 13,




July 15.

sanguine, however, to hope that they
might have " changed their design of re
treating from the forts, and returned to
them," although he feared that they had
all fallen into the hands of the enemy.

Washington, having marched
his army still nearer to the Hud
son, and encamped at the Clove, he here
receives a despatch from General Schuy-
ler, clearing up the mystery in regard to
St. Clair. He expresses his chagrin and
surprise that Ticonderoga and Mount In
dependence should have been evacuated
an event, he snys, "not apprehended,
nor within the compass of my reasoning."
Even at this late moment, Washington,
by some strange and inexplicable neglect
on the part of Schuyler, had not been
correctly informed of the condition of St.
Clair and his troops previous to their re
treat. He very naturally declares that he
knows not upon what principle the evac
uation was founded, and that it was diffi
cult to be accounted for, u if the garrison
amounted to five thousand men, in high spirits,
healthy, well supplied with provisions and am
munition, and the eastern militia marching
to their succor."

Washington, however, does not allow
himself to indulge long in useless regrets.
"This stroke," he writes, "is severe indeed,
and has distressed us much." But, with
his usual firm reliance upon the justice
of his cause, he calmly says : " Notwith
standing things at present have a dark
and gloomy aspect, I hope a spirited op
position will check the progress of Gen
eral Burgoyne s army, and that the con
fidence derived from his success will hur
ry rhim into measures that will in their

July 12,

consequences be favorable to us. We
should never despair. Our situation has
before been unpromising, and has changed
for the better : so I trust it will again. If
new difficulties arise, we must only put
forth new exertions, and proportion our
efforts to the exigency of the times."

General St. Clair finally succeeded in
reaching Schuyler, at Fort Ed
ward, with the remnant of his
jaded troops, after their long and painful
march through a wild country of forest,
mountain, and morass. The whole north
ern army, when thus concentrated, num
bered only four thousand four hundred
men, inclusive of the militia. They were
deficient in almost every requirement :
they had neither tents, houses, barns,
boards, nor any shelter, except a little
brushwood ; their supply of ammunition
was so scanty, that the inhabitants of Al
bany were obliged to strip the windows
of the shops and houses of their leaden
weights to melt into balls; provisions they
had in tolerable abundance, but means to
cook them were so scarce, that only one
camp-kettle could be afforded to every
twenty men. Under these circumstances
disease increased, and the troops were so
disheartened, that desertions began to pre
vail to an alarming extent.

Fortunately for the Americans, G cneral
Burgoyne lingered atSkenesborough and
in its neighborhood, waiting for the arri
val of tents,baggage,and provisions. This
delay of the British general gave Schuy
ler an opportunity of making some efforts
to strengthen himself and oppose the
march of the enemy. A position was se
lected for a fortified camp at Moses creek,



on the Hudson, five miles below FortEcl-
wa rcl. Kosciusko, who was chief-engineer,
had chosen the ground and superintend
ed the works. Everything was done, by
the destruction of bridges, and the felling
of trees across the roads and passes, to
obstruct the march of the enemy from
the north. Schuyler, however, with all
his activity, found that his exertions were
of little avail. His troops were daily di
minishing by disease and desertion, and
the country failed to respond to his ear
nest appeals for aid. " Every letter I re
ceive from the county of Tryon," he says,
" advise me that the inhabitants of it will
lay down their arms unless I support them

with continental troops The district of

Schoharie," he adds, " has also pointedly
intimated that, unless continental troops
are sent them, they will also submit to
the enemy."

The country was, in fact, greatly dis
heartened by the loss of the northern
posts, for which Generals Schuyler and
St. Clair were unjustly held responsible.
It was even believed that they had acted
the part of traitors to their country, and
absurdly rumored that they had been
paid for their treason by Burgoyne in
silver balls, which he had shot into the
American camp ! General St. Clair soon
relieved Schuyler from all responsibility
for the abandonment of Ticonderoga and
Mount Independence. " He knew noth
ing of the matter until it was over," was
St. Glair s public refutation of the slan
ders against Schuyler. "As to myself,"
he continues,"! was perfectly easy. 1
was conscious of the uprightness and pro
priety of my conduct, and despised the

July 27,

vague censure of an uninformed popu
lace." More than this, St. Clair justified

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 64 of 126)