Fall of Skenesborough

Fall of Skenesborough

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The hamlet of Skenesborough (sometimes Skenesboro) was located on the southwestern shore of Lake Champlain and had served as the construction site of the small navy assembled by Benedict Arnold in 1775.In the summer of 1777, a small American naval presence remained at Skenesborough and was afforded protection by an iron chain stretched between the banks of the lake. The American defenders attempted to destroy their poorly maintained fortifications and hurriedly departed for the safer confines of Fort Anne to the south.An advance British unit claimed the handful of American ships at Skenesborough as well as food supplies and several cannon. A small party pursued the fleeing rebels and the remainder awaited the arrival of John Burgoyne, who had dispatched a portion of his army into the interior at Hubbardton.

Fall of Skenesborough - History

On May 10, 1775, a motley force under Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold surprised and captured the neglected Fort Ticonderoga and its small garrison. Its cannon were dragged to Dorchester Heights outside of Boston, where they convinced the British to withdraw. An American force invaded Canada but was sent reeling after a failed assault of Quebec on the last day of the year. In 1776 a planned British invasion along Lake Champlain required the construction of a fleet. By the time it defeated an American fleet at Valcour Island, it was too late in the season to tackle the American army at Ticonderoga. But for 1777, another British invasion was planned, this time with 8,000 men under Sir John Burgoyne. Ticonderoga and Mount Independence across the lake were defended by 2,500 to 3,000 men under Gen Arthur St. Clair. St. Clair had only taken command on June 13th. The previous commander, Col Anthony Wayne, believed that the fort was entrely defensible and said as much to Wahington after he was transfered to his command. Commander of the Northern Army, Gen. Schyuler, felt very differently he felt he needed 10,000 men to properly man the defenses. St Clair said he had only 1,576 healthy soldiers the day that he took command, which rose by 500 at the end of the month. Exact numbers are unclear, but St Clair later stated that if his men manned all the defenses, they would be stretched so thin that they would be barely within shouting distance of each other. Further, British light troops and Indian allies so controlled the wilderness around the fort that the Americans could scarely send out patrols. So, when Burgoyne landed troops three miles to the north of either side of the lake, they were uncontested and undetected but for the sound of their fifes and drums.

On July 2nd, British forces reached Les Chutes, the water and portage connection with Lake George, cutting off potential American escape via Lake George.

The old French earthworks that the British had assaulted at such cost in the French and Indian War were put back into service. Quickly, however, they fell to the British - on July 2nd.

The reconstructed earthworks on the right side of the panorama works is one of the works that protected the lower, flatter ground north of the main fort. Another is near the parking area at the treeline on the left side of the panorama. The main road leads to the fort itself, which we will see next.

If the British managed to get through the earthworks, they would face the stone fort, a formidable fortification for such a sparsely populated area. The standard four sided square trace with four bastions was augmented by two outworks called demi-lunes, giving the defenses more depth, and a covered way for the infantry to defend was fronted by a wooden palisade.

Designed and built originally by the French, the fort was built at a narrow point along Lake Champlain where water from Lake George entered after passing waterfalls - so the most impressive defenses faced east and south. Across the entering waters from Lake George was Sugar Loaf Hill, now caleed Mount Defiance this was the weak point in the defenses. Montcalm himself had noted the fort's vulnerability to cannon from the hill.

Huts had been built nearby the stone fort to house the troops.

At the tip of the peninsula, connecting Ticonderoga with Mount Independence across the lake, there was an innovative floating bridge anchored by rock filled cassions. These cassions may have originally built on ice and allowed to sink with warmer weather. Just to the north a log and chain boom kept British boats at bay.

On July 4, 1777, a group of forty British troops and several Indian allies climbed Sugar Loaf Hill. The next day they were joined by Lt William Twiss, the chief engineer of Burgoyne's army acting now as an aide to General Phillips, Maj Griffith Williams commanding Burgoyne's artillery, and Brigadier Simon Fraser. A mile long road would have to cut, but 12 pounders could be brought to the hill where they would dominate Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence. Phillips, it is said, exclaimed, "Where a goat can go, a man can go, and where a man can go, he can drag a gun."

An American staff officer had suggested to Gen Gates that a fort be built on Sugar Loaf Hill, but the advice was rejected. This staff officer, John Trumbull, along with Anthony Wayne and Benedict Arnold, studied the hill and concluded that cannon could be hauled to the top and fired into the fort. Building a fort there wasn't a simple matter, however, as there wasn't enough money or men to build and man a fort, and there was no good water supply.

The British party atop Sugar Loaf Hill had been spotted, and Indians had made campfires, demonstrating a larger presence. St Clair called a council of war. He had only 2.089 Continentals and 900 militia, and the British were preparing to open a devastating artillery crossfire on Ticonderoga, including from Sugar Loaf Hill. Meanwhile, the British/Hessian column on the east side of the lake was having difficulty crossing East Creek. The decision was unanimous - the army must evacuate stores by boat and retreat across the bridge toward the Hampshire Grants while there was still time. On July 6th, Burgoyne met with American deserters who said that the American army had evacuated. They had indeed evacuated, and in their haste and lack of planning, they left behind a wealth of stores and weapons. There is a story that two American soldiers were left at the Mount Independence side of the bridge to fire a cannon at the advancing British, but were found drunk this story has only one source, and an unreliable one at that. The bridge was cut by the retreating Americans, so when the British naval vessels breached the boom, they were free to continue south.

Skenesborough - now Whitehall

The naval part of the evacuation ended here at the south end of Lake Champlain on the afternoon of July 6th. Without even unloading the them, Col. Pierce Long burned and blew up the boats.

Today, the Champlain Canal connects Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.

What was the cause of the disaster at Ticonderoga? The American weakness in light troops meant that the defenders were kept in the dark about British movements. If Ticonderoga had been defended by a smaller force, and designed to be defended by a smaller force, a field army might have been able to contest the British advance and harass a British siege. But would a field army have been large enough to defeat Burgoyne? As it was, the American defenses required all of the troops available and more - not enough to occupy Mount Defiance and not even enough to defend existing fortifications. The effort was doomed to begin with, and the Americans were saved only by the failure of the British/Hessian column on the eastern side of the lake.

Informed of the fall of Ticonderoga, an elated King George exclaimed to his wife, "I have beat them!" On the American side, the news was a shock, and a rumor even circulated that Schyuler and St Clair had commited treason, paid for by silver bullets fired into the fort. St Clair, however, was found not guilty of charges against him in a court martial. The campaign was far from over, and the American army retreating east was still in danger. As the British pursued, a rear guard action at Hubbardton could decide the fate of the American Northern Army.

October 11, 1776 Valcour Island

One day, Benedict Arnold would enter history as a traitor to his country. For now, he had bought his young nation, another year in which to fight.

In the early days of the American Revolution, the 2nd Continental Congress looked north, to the Province of Quebec. The region was lightly defended at the time, and Congress was alarmed at its potential as a British base from which to attack and divide the colonies.

The Continental army’s expedition to Quebec ended in disaster on December 31, as General Benedict Arnold was severely injured with a bullet wound to his left leg. Major General Richard Montgomery was killed and Colonel Daniel Morgan was captured, along with about 400 fellow patriots.

Profile of the schooner “Liberty”

Quebec was massively reinforced in the Spring of 1776, with the arrival of 10,000 British and Hessian soldiers. By June, the remnants of the Continental army had been driven south to Fort Ticonderoga and Fort Crown Point.

Congress was right about the British intent to split the colonies. General Sir Guy Carleton, provincial governor of Quebec, set about doing so almost immediately.

Retreating colonials took with them or destroyed almost every boat along the way, capturing and arming four vessels in 1775: the Liberty, Enterprise, Royal Savage, and Revenge. Determined to take back the crucial waterway, the British set about disassembling warships along the St. Lawrence, moving them overland to Fort Saint-Jean on the uppermost navigable waters leading to Lake Champlain, the 125-mile long lake dividing upstate New York from Vermont.

There they spent the summer and early fall of 1776, literally building a fleet of warships along the upper reaches of the lake. 120 miles to their south, colonials were doing the same.

Sawmill at Fort Anne

The Americans had a small fleet of shallow draft bateaux used for lake transport, but needed something larger and heavier to sustain naval combat.

In 1759, British Army Captain Philip Skene founded a settlement on the New York side of Lake Champlain, built around saw mills, grist mills, and an iron foundry.

Today, the former village of Skenesborough is known as “Whitehall”, considered by many to be the birthplace of the United States Navy. In 1776, Major General Horatio Gates put the American ship building operation into motion on the banks of Skenesborough Harbor.

Hermanus Schuyler oversaw the effort, while military engineer Jeduthan Baldwin was in charge of outfitting. Gates asked General Benedict Arnold, an experienced ship’s captain, to spearhead the effort, explaining “I am intirely uninform’d as to Marine Affairs”.

200 carpenters and shipwrights were recruited to the wilderness of upstate New York. So inhospitable was this duty that workmen were paid more than anyone else in the Navy, with the sole exception of Commodore Esek Hopkins. Meanwhile, foraging parties scoured the countryside looking for guns, knowing that there was going to be a fight on Lake Champlain.

It is not widely known, that the American Revolution was fought in the midst of a smallpox pandemic. General George Washington was an early proponent of vaccination, an untold benefit to the American war effort. Nevertheless, a fever broke out among the shipbuilders of Skenesborough, that almost brought their work to a halt.

Lake Champlain: Garden island (right), Valcour Island (left)

It was a hastily built and in some cases incomplete fleet that slipped into the water in the summer and autumn of 1776. In just over two months, the American shipbuilding effort produced eight 54′ gondolas (gunboats), and four 72′ galleys. Upon completion, each hull was rowed to Fort Ticonderoga, where it was fitted with masts, rigging, guns, and supplies. By October 1776, the American fleet numbered 16 vessels, determined to stop the British fleet heading south.

As the two sides closed in the early days of October, General Arnold knew he was at a disadvantage. The element of surprise was going to be critical. Arnold chose a small strait to the west of Valcour Island, where he was hidden from the main part of the lake. There he drew his small fleet into a crescent formation, and waited.

Carleton’s fleet, commanded by Captain Thomas Pringle, entered the northern end of Lake Champlain on October 9.

Sailing south on the 11th under favorable winds, some of the British ships had already passed the American position behind Valcour island, before realizing they were there. Some of the British warships were able to turn and give battle, but the largest ones were unable to turn into the wind.

Fighting continued for several hours until dark, and both sides did some damage. On the American side, Royal Savage ran aground and burned. The gondola Philadelphia was sunk. On the British side, one gunboat blew up. The two sides lost about 60 men, each. In the end, the larger ships and the more experienced seamanship of the English, made it an uneven fight.

Only a third of the British fleet was engaged that day, but the battle went badly for the Patriot side. That night, the battered remnants of the American fleet slipped through a gap in the lines, limping down the lake on muffled oars. British commanders were surprised to find them gone the next morning, and gave chase.

One vessel after another was overtaken and destroyed on the 12th, or else, too damaged to go on, was abandoned. The cutter Lee was run aground by its crew, who then escaped through the woods. Four of sixteen American vessels escaped north to Ticonderoga, only to be captured or destroyed by British forces, the following year.

On the third day, the last four gunboats and Benedict Arnold’s flagship Congress were run aground in Ferris Bay on the Vermont side, following a 2½-hour running gun battle. Today, the small harbor is called Arnold’s Bay.

200 escaped to shore, the last of whom was Benedict Arnold himself, personally torching his own flagship before leaving it for the last time, flag still flying.

The British would retain control of Lake Champlain, through the end of the war.

The American fleet never had a chance and everyone knew it. Yet it had been able to inflict enough damage at a point late enough in the year, that Carlton’s fleet was left with no choice but to return north for the winter. One day, Benedict Arnold would enter history as a traitor to his country. For now, the General had bought his young nation, another year in which to fight.

A 1905 postcard displays the remains of Benedict Arnold’s flagship, the “Congress”.

Bears – Wolves – Panthers 1775

This past month [August / September 1975] a bear family has provided entertainment and some trepidation for a family with apple trees north of here kostenlose whatsapp videos zumen. Of course the bears do not visit the trees in the open field but pass them for a tree within 40 yards of the living room window. The tree is now thoroughly bear-pruned of good and poor branches alike herunterladen.

There is the other side herunterladen. One keeps a watchful eye in going to the garden and on the household pits. This is both day and night as the visits of the bears occur any time. Officials are reluctant to attempt capturing the animals to remove them to higher ground because of recent deer tragedies herunterladen. One man said he’d shoot any bear he saw as they have wrecked his honey business for the year.

Disaster struck this bear family as one cub was killed on the Northway herunterladen. They will doubtless meet death with the trigger happy sports who• are waiting for the season to open — and it won’t be for the excuse of killing for food word kostenlos downloaden computer bild.

Two hundred years ago the people of Skenesborough would not be enjoying the antics of bears or other wild animals herunterladen. Their domestic animals had to be securely penned to be safe from the marauders coming out of the forests. A bear often seized a lamb and ran off with it avira kostenlos downloaden chip.

Wolves were a menace. Mrs. Tryphena Wright of Northeast Skenesborough kept her eight sheep locked in a tree stump at night. But one night the wolves gained entrance, killed all eight and scattered parts of the bodies around the clearing and nearby woods.

Panthers also were a source of terror. If you’ve ever heard their screech, you know the feeling of having your hair stand on end. These animals were common in the woods around Skenesborough. Not man but the domestic animals were their prey, as witnessed by the ancestors of the late Wheaton Bosworth as they fled from the animal stalking their team.

Knowing the depredations of these wild animals, one can understand the last round-up of wolves in Kingsbury which sent the survivors to the hills of Dresden.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – September 11 1975

From Major General Philip Schuyler

On the 19th Instant the Enemy sent a Drum with Colonel Cilley’s Son and a Servant of General Poor,1 who were taken prisoners at Skenesborough on the Retreat from Tyonderoga, the former was charged with a Letter from Colonel Skene to me, dated (I suppose by Mistake) on the 20th Instant, Copy whereof No. 1 I do myself the Honor to enclose, with Copy of mine in Answer No. 2.2

The Intelligence brought by General Poor’s Servant and which was confirmed by Colonel Cilley’s Son, as also that of two prisoners taken on the 19h Instant is contained in No. 3.3

The Militia being extremely uneasy at being detained here in the very Time of Harvest began to leave us in great Numbers, and their Officers entreating that at least a part might be sent Home. In Order to prevent the whole from going, I called a Council of War on the Occasion, Copy of their proceedings No. 4 is herewith transmitted.4 Altho’ one half of the Militia have promised to remain three Weeks, I have not the least Hope that we shall keep above a Quarter of them, if so many—But supposing half of what are now on the Ground from the County of Berkshire in the Massachusetts State, and from the County of Albany in this, your Excellency will percieve by the inclosed Return No. 5. that we are greatly inferior to the Enemy supposing them the least they have been made by the Information received.5 In this Situation it is a natural Wish to be reinforced and if your Excellency affords it me, I wish it to be expedited the soonest possible.

From their being so steadily employed in cutting a Road towards us, I believe they mean to visit us soon, and from the Number of Horses they are said to have and to expect, I conjecture they will attempt to bring on their provisions on Horseback, if so, they will be able to move with Expedition.

Not one of the New Hampshire Militia had joined Colonel Warner on the 18th and very few from any other Quarter—I believe if a Body of Men were speedily collected in that Quarter, that General Burgoyne might be apprehensive, should he march this Way, that they would either fall in his Rear or make an Attempt on Mount Independance and probably prevent him from making the Attempt. I am Dear Sir most sincerely Your Excellency’s obedient humble Servant

1 . Joseph Cilley, Jr. (1734–1799), of Nottingham, N.H., who had been a captain in the New Hampshire militia and a member of the New Hampshire provincial congress in 1775, served as major of the 2d New Hampshire Regiment from May to December 1775, and as major of the 8th New Hampshire Regiment from January 1776 to November 1776, when he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. Cilley served as colonel of the 1st New Hampshire from April 1777 until his retirement in January 1781. Cilley was named major general of the New Hampshire militia in 1786, and in the 1790s he was a prominent member of the New Hampshire state legislature. Cilley and his wife, Sarah Longfellow Cilley, had ten children, but the son who carried Philip Skene’s letter to Schuyler has not been identified.

2 . The enclosed copy of Philip Skene’s letter to Schuyler, which is dated “Skenesborough House the 20h of July 1777,” reads in part: “The principal Inducement for my coming to this part of the Country arose from a Desire of contributing my Mite towards establishing Constitutional Government upon a solid and permanent Footing—to further this Desire his Excellency General Burgoyne has been pleased to commission me to grant Protections to those who wish to see themselves once more united to that Country from whence they derived their Existence—Most happy shall I think myself in being the least instrumental in accomplishing an Undertaking so important, and upon which the Happiness of thousands immediately depends—From my own Feelings I am inclined to believe that the prosperity and not the Destruction of your Country is the ultimate Object of your Wishes—Our former Knowledge and the present State of Independency, makes me extremely desirous to converse with you upon Matters of the highest Consequence, as I have Nothing to propose, that I flatter myself, you will not wish to hear, or that will not be fully performed. I shall be glad to hear this Offer of mine will meet your Approbation—This goes by Colo: Silly’s Son & General Poor’s Servant” (DLC:GW ).

Schuyler wrote a reply to Skene on 20 July: “Your Letter of this Day’s Date from Skenesborough House was delivered me by Colonel Cilley’s Son. As his Excellency General Burgoyne commands the British Troops, and is at the place whence your Letter was dated, I cannot consent to open a Correspondence except with him, or Officer commanding in his Absence, to whose Flags I shall always pay that Respect which is due from one Military Commander to another, and if a Conference is desired and an officer appointed on the part of General Burgoyne one of mine of equal Rank will meet him” (DLC:GW ).

3 . The enclosed undated “Notes of Examination” contains intelligence given by an unnamed servant of Brig. Gen. Enoch Poor and two prisoners from the 21st British Regiment, Francis Croter and John McCoy.

“General Poor’s Servant says—

“That he came by Wood Creek, the Enemy cut a Road to within about six Miles of Fort Ann—Middling good Road on the West Side of the Creek—Had a hundred Men out of each Regiment employed on it.

“Two Brigades of British Troops at Skenes.

“One Brigade of the Foreigners commanded by General Retseler [Riedesel] gone to the Grants.

“150 or 200 Batteaus brought into Wood Creek.

“No Cannon brought into the Creek—a Scow went up with two Field pieces but returned next Day.

“Two hundred Horses brought in from Canada, six hundred more at St John’s, for which Boats were applied for to bring them over.

“Capt. [Henry Farington] Gardiner Aid De Camp to Genl Burgoyne went to England.

“From what he could learn, they meant to come this Way.

“Heard from Tories Inhabitants, that there was great Slaughter amongst the British Troops at Hubberton.

“A good many came in for protections—Two small Companies of Tories joined them—Jones commanded one of them.

“Colonel Skene imagined some whole Regiments of Continental Troops would come over to them.

“Does not think there are above two hundred and fifty Indians.

“Lord Bclearris [Alexander Lindsay, sixth earl of Balcarres] slightly wounded in the Thigh.

“Not a great many Cattle drove into them.

“They were hawling the Gun and other Boats across into Lake George.

“Francis Croter Soldier of the 21st Regiment, a prisoner taken between Fort Ann and Skenesborough.

“Was taken in Company with some of the Inhabitants who were driving Cattle to Skenesborough & who had Letters from the Officer commanding at the Block House. Capt. [James] Lovel of the 21st and Captain [Alexander] Frazer of the 24th belong to the Indians & Rangers—The party came to the Blockhouse two Days after our Troops left Skenesborough.

“At Skenesborough 9th 20th 47th 21st & 53d Regiments.

“The Foreign Regiments are at Mount Independance Tyonderoga and Lake George.

“Believes six British Regiments came from Canada.

“About 8 or 9 foreign Regiments.

“About 500 Indians—200 Canadians.

“A good many Cattle drove to the Enemy.

“100 Men at the Blockhouse.

“Companies consist of 53 or 54.

“Not a very good Understanding between the British and Foreign Troops.

“The Enemy are cutting a Road towards Fort Ann.

“[James] Parks went with a Drove of Cattle to Skenesborough.

“Foreign Troops at Skenesborough.

“The Gun Boats and Artillery going to Fort George.

“Have about 100 Horses for the Artillery.

“Had ten Days provisions at the Block House—Most of it expended.

“The 21st & 31st have not received their Cloathing.

“The Troops that were in the Grants returned to Skenesborough.

“Agrees in other Things with Croter” (DLC:GW ).

4 . The council of war held at Fort Edward on 20 July 1777 was attended by major generals Schuyler and Arthur St. Clair and brigadier generals John Nixon, Enoch Poor, John Paterson, Ebenezer Learned, Abraham Ten Broeck, and John Fellows. The enclosed copy of the council’s minutes, in the writing of Schuyler’s secretary John Lansing, reads: “General Schuyler informed the Council that Application had been made to him by several of the Officers of the Militia to permit at least part of the Militia to return to their Habitations—He also laid before the Council the Examination of Colonel Cilley’s Son and a Servant of General Poor sent in by the Enemy and those of two Soldiers of the 21st Regiment, who were made prisoners by one of our Scouts about six Miles below Fort Ann. After reading this Information General Schuyler begged the Sense of the Council upon the following Questions—

“1 Whether, in our present Situation and that of the Enemy at Skenesborough, it would be prudent to dismiss any of our Militia?

“2dly If that Measure is the thought prudent, what proportion of the Militia ought to be discharged?

“3dly What will be the most eligible Mode of discharging part of them, so as not to give too much Umbrage to such as shall be ordered to remain?

“4thly Whether, if it shall be thought expedient to dismiss part of the Militia, any of the Militia of the County of Hampshire in the State of Massachusetts, and of the County of Litchfield in the State of Connecticut, which are just come up, and which, the General is informed are only Drafts and not the whole Force of that County, should be suffered to return?

“On the first and second Questions the Council are of Opinion, that altho’ the Army is already inferior to that of the least Number of the Enemy, of which we have an Account yet, considering the Distress that may be brought on the Country, at this very critical Time when the Harvest is so near at Hand, should the whole of the Militia be detained, and in Hopes that a Reinforcement of Continental Troops will be sent up, that one half of the Militia be permitted to return Home.

“on the third Question the Council recommend that the Brigadier Generals of Militia, together with their Field officers, adopt such Measures as shall appear best adapted to answer the purpose.

“Upon the fourth Question the Council are unanimously of Opinion that the Militia of the County of Hampshire in the Massachusetts Bay and those of the County of Litchfield in the State of Connecticut should be detained & that General Schuyler immediately write to the President of the State of Massachusetts Bay for a Relief of those of the Counties of Berkshire and Hampshire, that will be left here, and for a Reinforcement of not less than one thousand Rank and File from the State of Connecticut” (DLC:GW ).

5 . The enclosed copy of a return of this date of the Continental troops at and in the vicinity of Fort Edward, N.Y., shows 354 commissioned officers, 489 noncommissioned officers and staff, 3,818 rank and file, and 154 artillery. In addition, the return says there were “About sixteen hundred Militia with the army” (DLC:GW ).

From Major General Philip Schuyler

Your Excellency’s Favor of the 17th Instant was last Night delivered me by Mr Bennet.

If I had with me the Remonstrance of the Field Officers against quiting Crown point,1 I should attempt to point out the Insufficiency of each of the several Reasons they give against the Removal of the Army to Ticonderoga and which would at the same Time shew on what I founded my opinion of the propriety of the Measure but as the paper was left at Albany I shall cursorily enter into some Observations—The little Time I have for reflecting on the Subject the constant Interruptions from the Indians Indisposition of Body, and my Inability to convey my Ideas with that perspicuity the Subject merits, I hope will plead for the Inaccuracies which you will discover. Crown point is a peninsula which projects from the West Side of Lake Champlain and runs down and almost parallel to both Sides of it—The East Side of the peninsula is bounded by the Waters of that part of the Lake, which flow from Skenesborough and Lake George, passing by Tyconderoga in their Way and the North-East Corner of the peninsula is distant from the East Shore of Lake Champlain about half a Mile or something better, but under three Quarters of a Mile—The Northwest Corner of it is nearly if not quite two Miles distant from the Western Shore of the Lake—If the Enemy should have a Naval Superiority, our armed Vessels must retire to the Southward of Crown point, between that and Ticonderoga, or take Shelter under any Fortifications we might have there. In either Case the Enemy may go along the Western Shore land in the Bay that forms the peninsula and attack any Force that may be at Crown point, from the Rear, or they may land on the East Side of the Lake, below Crown point, and as the Country is flat, and in some parts improved, they may possess themselves of the East Shore, between Crown point and Ticonderoga, without any great Difficulty, however strong any Fortification on the East Side, opposite to Crown point, might be, and hence all Supplies must be cut off, unless our Force at Crown point should imbark in Batteaus & be sufficiently strong to land and repulse them, and there is little prospect that such an Attempt would succeed, considering how infinitely better they are provided than we and what Advantages they would receive from the Works they might throw up besides the last Considerations permit me to subjoin that such is the Nature of the Ground at Crown point (the point faces to the North fronts the Lake and is indented with small Bays and about one Mile broad on a streight Line from the North-eastern to the North-western point) that the Fort which General Amherst erected there, was so exposed, from the Grounds about it, that it required three or four strong Redoubts to cover it2—Redoubts, that were in themselves very considerable Fortifications and built at much Expence, on Account of the Scarcity of Earth, insomuch so that all the Fortifications ten thousand Men could make in the Course of the Campaign would be far from formidable.

At Ticonderoga we are not exposed to these Dangers or Difficulties—The Lake between the Fort and the intended Encampment on the East Side of it, does not exceed half a Mile in Breadth—Let us now suppose that the Enemy are capable of forcing our armed Vessels to seek Shelter at Ticonderoga—Nothing then is to obstruct their coming to that place—Being come, let us suppose that they would land on the East Side of the Lake—The intended Camp is defended on the North by a large Creek and sunken Country, which effectually prevents any Approaches from that Quarter they must therefore take a Tour of several Miles to head the sunken Country before they can get into our Rear—If they do, are our Supplies cut off? No, for we have the Communication by Lake George open—Can they drive us out of the strong Camp on the East Side? I think not: I think it impossible for twenty thousand Men to do it ever so well provided if the Camp consists of less than even a Quarter of that Number indifferently furnished such is the natural Strength of the Ground: but let us suppose that the Enemy should land on the West Side and attempt to drive us thence here we fight on an equal Footing (except what Advantages our Lines and Fortifications may give us) and we can oppose nine tenths of our Army to them: for they cannot prevent the Junction of our Troops either Way whenever they please to join—Let us suppose the worst—They drive us from the Ground we lose our Cannon, but they cannot prevent such as do not fall in the Engagement from retiring to the strong Camp. (A bare Inspection of a good Map if I had one to send your Excellency would I hope convince you of the Weight of these Observations.[)]

But if we are obliged to retreat from Ticonderoga—will not their Vessels pass our strong Camp and get between that and Skenesborough? I think it impossible for them to pass—The passage is narrow: the Channel more so our Vessels laying in Line of Battle on the South Side of the Camp: their’s obliged to come up by two at a Time, at most, exposed to our Cannon in getting there, and when there at once attacked by our Vessels and our Batteries within point blank Shot.

But if the Enemy have possession of Ticonderoga will they not cut off our Supplies? Yes, effectually any Supplies attempted to be sent by the Way of Lake George, but not those sent by the Way of Skenesborough, or thro’ the Towns laying in this Colony on the East Side of Lake Champlain between the Camp and New Hampshire and the Northern parts of the Massachusetts.

But cannot the Enemy when in possession of Ticonderoga penetrate into this Colony by the Way of Lake George, and leave our Army in the strong Camp? Yes, provided they take their Boats, provisions &c. out of Lake Champlain on the North Side of Ticonderoga and convey them by Land into Lake George: the Distance between three and four Miles. but as they cannot do this without our Knowlege we can move any part of our Army by the Way of Skenesborough to Fort George before they can reach it, but as we have no Naval Force on that Lake, nor any strong Fortifications and if they are superior and our Army not reinforced by Militia, which I should hope would not be the Case, we can retire from thence to some place in the Vicinity of Fort Edward, and bring away all the Carriages from the few Inhabitants that live there and I conceive that they would find it extremely difficult if not impossible to move only such of their Boats and Necessaries, as they cannot dispense with over a fifteen Mile Land Carriage, even if they should be able to bring a considerable Number of Carriages from Canada, for it will take one hundred Carriages, each carrying four Barrels of pork or Flour (and they can bring no Carriages that will convey more) to transport one Day’s provision for 10000 Men and the Carriages can only compleat a Trip in two Days.

Upon the whole, I do not only think Ticonderoga infinitely preferable to Crown point for a Stand to be made, but so happily situated for us that I have very little Apprehension of General Burgoyne’s being able to succeed in that Quarter unless there should be too great a Disparity of Numbers in his Favor.

I had almost forgot to observe that your Excellency, from the Information you have had seems to entertain an Idea that the Situation of Crown point “Is of the utmost Importance, especially if we mean to keep the Superiority & Mastery of the Lake” and that “if it is abandoned by us it is natural to suppose the Enemy will possess it, and if they do that then our Vessels will be in their Rear, and it will not be in our power to bring them to Ticonderoga or the post opposite to it.” Your Excellency will pardon me for a few Remarks on that passage of your Letter.3

Crown point lies about forty three Miles from the extreme South Part of Lake Champlain, which is at Skenesborough, and about one hundred from the Northern Extreme, which is at St John’s—The part of the Lake South of Crown point is seldom in any place above two Miles wide from Crown point to about 18 Miles North of it, it may be at a Medium about 3½ Miles, three and four being the Extremes beyond that for about 56 Miles it is seldom less than six or more than 14 or 15 but a Chain of Islands running nearly parallel to the Sides of the Lake lay in the broadest part on, and nearly in the Middle, so that the Width on each Side is about six Miles.

Let us now suppose our Navy to be in any part of the Lake to the Northward of, and out of the Reach of the Cannon that may be at Crown point, and there attacked by the Enemy, what Assistance can it receive from any Fortification at the point? None surely, and if worsted, it must fly to the South Side of Crown point for Shelter and the Enemy have the entire Mastery of the Lake. If Crown point was totally abandoned and if the Navy was attacked and worsted in any part to the Northward of Ticonderoga, whether in Sight of that place or towards the North End of the Lake, the Consequences are exactly the same—It must retire to the South of where the Army is. If we abandon Crown point, that the Enemy will possess themselves of it is certain, if they can do it but if we suppose they can, we must not only suppose that they can and will pass our Fleet—altho’ their’s should be inferior, or that they must have a Naval Superiority—If they can pass our Fleet any where beyond Crown point, their Army can attack our’s at Crown point, if it is there, or at Ticonderoga if there: in either Case our Ships will be in their Rear.

But supposing they could and would, by some Means or other frustrate our Intentions in having a Navy in the Lake (which Intention appears to be to prevent any Boats coming up) and pass by it, altho’ superior to their’s—Is it probable they will do it? Will they risk the Danger they may run if a fair Wind should enable our Ships to get up with them? Will they risk an Interception of their Supplies and a prevention of Retreat in Case of a Repulse? I think not, but if their Navy is superior the keeping possession of the Lake is impossible, and then the Question recurs, where is the best place to make a Stand with the greatest prospect of Advantage to us—I think that place to be Ticonderoga and the Grounds opposite to it: I may be mistaken—The only View I had in giving my opinion for removing the Army to these places was, that I thought it would there most advance the Interest of the Cause we are engaged in.

Altho’ I do not recollect that in the Resolution of the General Officers to move the Army from Crown point, that it is observed that a small post was to be kept there, from whence our Vessels might be supplied more readily than from Ticonderoga yet that was determined on.4

I have always deprecated Jealousies and Contentions in the Army—I believe the officers that have served under me will do me the Justice to acknowlege it I shall invariably continue in that Line of Conduct, and if seconded by the inferior Officers I hope the Evil will soon vanish. Your Excellency’s Conclusion is too just “that the most lavish and extravagant Waste has been made of provisions”5—The Difficulties I experienced last Campaign on this Account, are incredible, and I was in Hopes that the Orders I had issued to the Officers, and the Directions I had given to the Commissaries, in the Course of the Winter would have been effectual and have put a Stop to many infamous practices—On this Side of Canada I experienced the good Effects: such of the Commissaries appointed by the Colonies at the Beginning of the Struggle as were then employed and were found incompetent were removed, as soon as it could be done, without giving Umbrage to particular Colonies. This Removal took place last Fall, and Things have been carried on regularly since that Time. But otherwise in Canada a Return was asked of such as were employed, and the Orders by which they as well as the Officers were to govern themselves were transmitted to the commanding Officer in February last, with a Request to publish them—I am informed they were never made public, nor was any Return sent of who was employed, and the D. Commissary could not tell, as they were appointed in Canada, and acted independent of him—When Mr Price was appointed D. Commissary General for Canada, I gave him a Copy of these Orders, Copy of which, and Copy of my Instructions to him, I think I transmitted to your Excellency6—I never received a single Line from him during the Time he was in Canada, and I am informed by Mr Swart, whom Mr Livingston sent into Canada as his Deputy, that the Soldiers have been permitted to go to the Barrels and take what they liked, and that this was by General Orders—On my last Arrival at Crown point I found the provisions laying in parcels on different parts of the Beach, exposed to the Weather and to be stolen I ordered it and did see it put into the Stores, and then found much less than I had expected, altho’ I had supposed that great Waste and Loss had taken place in the Retreat from Canada When I observed that fresh Beef was not to be had,7 I conceived that it could not be immediately procured in sufficient Quantities as all Stall-fed Beef was expended, and the Grass fed then hardly fit for killing, nor was I much mistaken, altho’ a few Days after I found that Mr Livingston by his Exertions and with borrowed Money had made Shift to engage such a Number that my Apprehensions on that Score are at an End but Mr Trumbull was certainly ill-informed in supposing that fresh Meat could be easily procured at the Time alluded to8—If Mr Livingston had been less industrious than he was, we should have experienced a Scarcity of provisions both from the then Scarcity of Beef and Money to purchase it with—I am however still uneasy on Account of pork, lest any Accident should hereafter be occasioned, by not having a sufficient Quantity in Store.

Before General Sullivan’s Brigade arrived at Albany the Troops were contented with the Continental Allowance, and when only Bread pork & peas could be got, they had a pound of each of the two former, in Lieu of all the other Articles but a Regiment of his Brigade refusing to draw less than 18 Ounces of pork, and General Sullivan assuring me that the additional Ounces had been allowed them since December last, in Lieu of Milk, I ordered the Commissary to issue it taking Receipts for the Quantities delivered—This extra-Allowance has not only made the Calculation I sent you some Time ago, extremely erronious, but will greatly distress us.

I am so well convinced of the Difficulties you labour under to procure the necessary Supplies of every Kind for the Army, that I have only asked for such Things as could not be procured at Albany or in the Neighbouring Country, and have wrote to Committees and employed persons in every Quarter of the County—I tried, but in Vain, to procure the Articles for the Gundaloes but as the Navigation is since interrupted, I hope to be able to get them and shall write immediately to Albany on that Head.

I shall immediately on my Return give out in Orders, that no double Commissions are to be held, except by the Officers you mention. I hope your Excellency will approve of my leaving it to the Choice of the Officers what Commission to keep.

I believe I forgot to mention that General Thomas and I concluded that it was highly necessary to have an active D. Quarter Master at St John’s and Chamblé—I mentioned Lieut. Colonel Buel of Burrel’s Regiment as an officer whose Activity and prudence I could rely on—He accepted the Office but with much persuasion, as he wished to remain with the Regiment—He is now at Fort George, and I am really at a Loss to find one to replace him, who will be equal to the Duty he is obliged to do. My Secretary, who had Orders to open any Dispatches that might come from you and to transmit such parts to General Gates as contained Orders that required more immediate Dispatch than the round about Way of first sending them here would admit of, informs me that the omitted part of my Letter of the 12th was “Inclose Returns of the Army at Crown point, the Garrison of Fort George &c.” “When I was at Crown point I proposed to a Council of Officers an Expedient, to procure the Return of the Deserters of the Northern Army and it was” unanimously &c.9

I am just now informed that the pennsylvania Carpenters arrived at Albany on the 20th Instant. I left Directions for forwarding them, and I hope they are now at Work.

I have no Hopes that the Conference with the Indians will open before the 29th and I fear it will then last a Week—Their Delays distress me beyond Imagination I have represented to them, that important Business required my Attendance at Albany they will not however suffer me to leave them and my Colleagues apprehend if I do, that it will essentially injure us—I must therefore comply with their Wishes, altho’ my presence on the Communication was never more wanted than at this Juncture.

Mr Trumbull the D. pay-Master General informs me that his Chest is quite empty—So early as the 22d of May Congress voted half a Million of Dollars for the Northern Army— 200,000 have only been received Will your Excellency please to represent to Congress that the Service suffers very materially for Want of Money, and that the Officers in the different Departments are put to inconcievable Difficulties on that Account.

That Heaven may protect, and pour its best Blessings on you is the unfeigned Wish of Your Excellency’s most obedient humble Servant

From Major General Philip Schuyler

I am this Moment favored with your Excellency’s Letter of the 6h Instant—You will before this have received my several Letters advising your Excellency of the Evacuation of Tyonderoga and the distressed Situation we are in—We are, by no Means now in a better, rather worse, as Desertion is frequent—General Nixon’s Brigade is not yet come up, nor do I get a Reinforcement of the Militia—General St Clair, from whom I have heard for the first Time about ten this Morning (Copy of his Letter I inclose) is about fifty Miles East of me1—If he should go to Bennington, as I fear he will be obliged to do, he will still be farther off and the more he gets into the inhabited part of the Country the greater will be the Desertion from the Army, which is already much, very much diminished, by Numbers going off. I am very apprehensive General St Clair will not join me with more than one thousand Men, General Nixon’s Corps, I am informed, is under that—Thus, with less than three thousand Continental, and not quite one thousand Militia I am to face a powerful Enemy from the North—flushed with Success and pressed at the same Time from the West, by a Body which from repeated Information (Copies whereof I have not Time to send) is respectable and already at Oswego.

We have still Stores of such Importance left at Fort George, that I am very anxious to bring them off, before I order that post to be abandoned, which I must do or suffer the Garrison to fall into the Enemy’s Hands, which it inevitably will, if the Enemy, who are approaching by Wood Creek,2 throw themselves between this & Lake George.

I have brought away about twenty pieces of Artillery from Lake George, together with nearly all the powder amounting to about thirteen Tons.

General Fellows with a small Body of the Militia, but all I could get, is breaking up the Road between this and Fort Ann and felling Trees into it. I will throw every Obstacle in their Rout I possibly can and retard their progress as much as possible—for this purpose I shall disengage myself of every Thing cumbersome, the Artillery especially as I can make no Use of it.

Permit me to assure your Excellency that I shall make every Resistance I possibly can, and that Nothing shall be left undone to prevent the Enemy from penetrating farther in the Country. I am Dr Sir with every Sentiment of Esteem & Respect Your Excellency’s most obedient humble Servant

1 . The enclosed copy of Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair’s letter to Schuyler, written at Dorset, N.Y., on 8 July 1777, reads: “Nine o’Clock about an Hour ago I received your Favor of Yesterday—I wrote you from Ticonderoga the Night before we left it to inform you that I intended to march to Skenesborough by the way of Castleton and from thence to Fort Edward, but when I got to Castleton I found the Enemy were in possession of Skenesborough which obliged me to change my Rout—On the March to Castleton we fell in with a party—commanded by Captain [Alexander] Fraser, who had been collecting Cattle in the Country—These were immediately dispersed and a few prisoners taken, but being reinforced by a strong Detachment from Tyonderoga they attacked in the Morning the rear Guard of our Army, who had imprudently stopped six Miles short of the main Body, and were, I believe rather surprised, notwithstanding which they made a very obstinate Defence, and I have good Reason to think killed and wounded a great Number of the Enemy—As they were at too great a Distance for me to support them, I sent orders to Colonel [Seth] Warner who commanded the party in Case he found himself too hard pressed to retreat to Rutland and join me. He is not yet come in, tho’ I have heard that he is coming on with about a hundred Men and a great part of the other Regiments, except [Col. Nathan] Hales are already joined us—I am in great Distress for provisions—If I can be supplied at Manchester I shall proceed directly for Fort Edward or Saratoga as Circumstances may direct—If not, I shall be obliged to go to Bennington. I account myself very happy in effecting this Retreat, as the loss of the Army, small as it is, would have been a Blow that this part of the Country would have felt severely, and that must inevitably have happened in a very few Days. Adieu my dear General—I hope to see you soon and Things in a better Train” (DLC:GW see also Smith, St. Clair Papers description begins William Henry Smith, ed. The St. Clair Papers. The Life and Public Services of Arthur St. Clair: Soldier of the Revolutionary War President of the Continental Congress and Governor of the North-Western Territory with his Correspondence and other Papers . 2 vols. Cincinnati, 1882. description ends , 1:423–24).

2 . Wood Creek, a tributary of South Bay (Lake Champlain), flowed parallel with the road running from Fort Ann to Skenesboro, New York.

The French and Indian War 1754-1763

The French and Indian War: the war that made America 25 books
The French & Indian War Edison, NJ, 1999
The War That Made America: A Short History of the French And Indian War (MP3 CD), at Amazon USA click on Audio Download
Empires at War: The French and Indian War and the Struggle for North America, 1754-1763, at Amazon USA
Breaking The Backcountry: Seven Years War In Virginia And Pennsylvania 1754-1765, at Amazon USA
Monongahela 1754-55: "Washington's defeat, Braddock's disaster", at Amazon USA
From Revolution to Reconstruction: French and Indian Wars
History of the French and Indian War
Monongahela 1754-55 : "Washington's defeat, Braddock's disaster", at Amazon USA 1754-5
Ticonderoga 1758 : Montcalm's victory against all odds, at Amazon USA 8th July 1758
Louisbourg 1758: Wolfe's first siege, at Amazon USA 27th July 1758
The Siege of Louisbourg, 1758

Burgoyne’s Big Fail

O n March 27, 1777, King George III received Major General John Burgoyne at Saint James Palace, where, in a private audience, Burgoyne reviewed his audacious proposal to attack the rebellious American colonies “from the side of Canada.” If all went well, he said, the offensive would bring a speedy end to the American Revolution.

King George pored over the details of Burgoyne’s plan. It called for marching an army south from Montreal along the western shore of Lake Champlain, recapturing Fort Ticonderoga at the south end of the lake in New York, and then hurrying on to Albany in time to link up with an army led by General Sir William Howe, which would be marching north from New York City.

Burgoyne, the illegitimate son of a nobleman, had long since earned a reputation in London’s high society as a compulsive gambler—and the nickname “Gentleman Johnny.” After joining the British Army as a teenager and quickly rising through the ranks, Burgoyne had tapped his aristocratic wife’s dowry to buy a commission as a captain, but he then lost so much at the gaming tables that he had to sell the commission to cover his debts.

Commissioned again when the Seven Years’ War broke out, he distinguished himself as a risk taker, leading the Coldstream Guards on daring attacks in France and Portugal. His capture of the enemy’s commanding officer led to a promotion to major general and a seat in the House of Commons. Burgoyne had been posted to Boston as the Revolutionary War began at Lexington and Concord.

By that time the king’s privy council had banned the importation of weapons to the American colonies, but such a brisk contraband trade had sprung up that General Thomas Gage, the commander in chief of British forces in North America, had warned London that the radicals were “sending to Europe for all kinds of military stores.”

Although Burgoyne was reluctant to use Native Americans to fight the Americans, King George III insisted on it. Later Burgoyne cautioned them to kill only when ordered to do so by British officers. (Bridgeman Images)

In May 1775, a full year before the individual colonial congresses deliberated independence, the Continental Congress appointed a secret committee headed by Robert Morris, who would almost singlehandedly arrange the financing of the Continental Army, to attempt negotiations with the French and Dutch governments for shipments of arms. Though these governments avoided direct complicity—supplying such contraband to the American rebels violated French neutrality under international law—they seldom interfered with entrepreneurs involved in the contraband trade. In France, Silas Deane, a Connecticut merchant and former member of Congress, acted as Congress’s commercial agent, working with Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, a playwright (The Marriage of Figaro) and arms dealer, to secure the secret approval of the foreign minister and King Louis XVI. They then set up a dummy mercantile firm, Roderigue Hortalez et Compagnie, to disguise their purchases of arms and ammunition in the Netherlands and other European countries.

Louis XVI, declaring that it was time to refit French weaponry, allowed merchants in Nantes to withdraw “outmoded” arms from royal arsenals for a nominal sum. Dutch arms mills were operating at full capacity. Gunpowder was shipped to Jamaica, where it was repackaged in sugar hogsheads and smuggled to Charleston, South Carolina from Bordeaux, three hundred casks of powder and 5,000 muskets sailed for Philadelphia on ships flying French colors, to be hauled overland to Boston.

By the time Burgoyne was appointed in the spring of 1776 as second in command of the first British invasion from the north, a river of arms and ammunition was flowing to the American army through the Dutch Caribbean harbor of Saint Eustatius. There, the Americans paid Dutch merchants six times the going rates for such goods in Europe.

In 1776, to expedite the construction of a squadron to take control of Lake Champlain, the Royal Navy cut and numbered timbers in England and shipped them on the decks of troop transports to Quebec. There they were assembled into hulls and hauled over a muddy log road to be fitted out at the lake’s northernmost navigable point, just north of the Canadian border at Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.

To block the British, American brigadier general Benedict Arnold, having retreated from his failed invasion of Canada, began to build a fleet of 15 heavily armed row galleys at the southern end of the lake. Sir Guy Carleton, the governor general of Canada and commander of the British offensive, spent all summer trying to build a superior force. By the time he sailed south on October 11, snow covered the Adirondacks and the British sailors sleeping above decks.

In a savage battle that day, at point-blank range in the narrow channel behind Valcour Island, Arnold crippled the schooner Carleton before escaping at night, having lost his own flagship, Royal Savage. Then, in a four-day running encounter, he sank two more gunboats but saw 10 more of his own ships sunk, grounded, or captured before he carried his wounded south to safety at Fort Ticonderoga. A dazed Carleton arrived too late to attack the heavily defended fort. With thick snow falling, he rustled a herd of cattle and withdrew to Canada. Having squandered a season of war, he planned to resume the campaign the following spring.

Burgoyne had been forced to watch from the rear as his superior, Carleton, lacking artillery support, failed to use his army. Rushing back to London, Burgoyne drew up his “Thoughts for Conducting the War from the Side of Canada,” in which he laid out a second, bolder northern campaign. To avoid repeating Carleton’s mistakes, Burgoyne would combine heavy artillery with “savages and light forces” to force the Americans to retreat “without waiting for naval operations.” As part of the plan, Burgoyne proposed a diversionary attack from Lake Ontario down the Mohawk River to divide, draw off, and weaken American forces, making it more difficult for them to repel his main invading force.

At the Battle of Freeman’s Farm, near Saratoga, Burgoyne’s forces ran into a punishing assault by Colonel Daniel Morgan and his riflemen and suffered 600 casualties—double the American toll. (Don Troiani/Bridgeman Images)

King George responded to Burgoyne’s blueprint in his own handwriting, decreeing that the British invasion force be limited to a size that would not weaken Canada’s defenses. No doubt the king remembered the American invasion of 1775, when Montreal had fallen and Arnold had very nearly captured Quebec. “Not above 7,000 effectives can be spared over Lake Champlain,” the king wrote.

The king, who was of German descent, also thought Burgoyne undervalued the troops Britain could rent from his cousins. “The Diversion on the Mohawk,” he noted, “ought, at least, be strengthened by 400 Hanover Chasseurs.” While German generals were mostly seasoned veterans of European warfare, German soldiers, often misidentified as Hessians, were schoolmasters, tavern keepers, tramps, violinists—anyone the landgraves could round up and pack off to fight.

Although Burgoyne was reluctant to use Native Americans to fight the colonists, the king insisted on it. He also told Burgoyne to take and hold Lake George. Of paramount importance, the king stressed, was that “the force from Canada must join [Howe] at Albany.”

Burgoyne was promoted to lieutenant general and given command of the army that would invade New York from the north. The day after his private audience with King George, he left London for the port city of Plymouth to board the frigate Apollo for the 40-day winter crossing, pausing only to dash off a note to Howe detailing the king’s instructions. After arriving in Quebec, Burgoyne received his official written orders from Carleton.

Riding to Montreal, Burgoyne took personal command of his army. The invasion force was to be made up of 4,400 British Regulars and 4,700 Germans. The British units comprised 400 artillerymen and seven regiments of infantry, each made up of 500 to 600 men the German units were to include 100 artillerymen and five regiments of infantry, each made up of 500 to 700 men, plus one regiment each of dragoons, grenadiers, and jägers (light infantry). In all, Burgoyne’s expeditionary force had 9,187 regulars (8,671 infantrymen and 516 artillerymen). He was required, however, to leave behind sufficient troops to garrison Canadian posts.

By the time Burgoyne was ready to march south from Canada, 886 regulars, 150 French-Canadian militia, two battalions of about 100 American loyalists, and some 400 Indians had been added. Burgoyne expected that far more loyalists would join him as he advanced into New York.

Burgoyne’s first setback was the poor turnout of French Canadian volunteers. He had hoped to draw on their experience in forest warfare, but their enthusiasm had evaporated with their defeat by the British in the Seven Years’ War.

By now Burgoyne’s invasion force had shrunk to 7,868 men, including 250 Brunswick dragoons. Aiming to reach the Hudson River quickly, he asked his commissary general to calculate the number of horses and wagons it would take to haul 30 days’ rations “and 1,000 gallons of rum” for 10,000 men. Even to transport two weeks’ supplies, he was told, would require 500 carts pulled by two horses each.

When Burgoyne told Carleton that he would need at least 800 to 1,000 horses, Carleton scoffed. He ultimately promised to procure them but never did, and Burgoyne could buy only 400 horses. The Brunswick cavalry, his eyes and ears for reconnaissance, would have to walk.

Burgoyne thought he could bring a speedy end to the American Revolution by marching an army south from Montreal along the western edge of Lake Champlain, recapturing Fort Ticonderoga at the south end of the lake, and then proceeding to Albany to link up with an army led by General Sir William Howe. But unplanned circumstances intervened—including a scalping by one of his Native American mercenaries and a failed diversionary attack by Colonel Barry St. Leger. (Erwin Sherman)

To besiege Fort Ticonderoga, Burgoyne had his choice of the cannons shipped from Britain a year earlier. From them Major General William Phillips, his chief of artillery, selected 144 cannons: 37 heavy guns, 12- and 24-pounders 49 medium guns, 3- and 6-pounders plus 58 howitzers and mortars. These weapons and their heavy ammunition were an impossible arsenal for horses to haul through the wilderness over rough, unpaved roads. Short on draft animals, Phillips had abandoned two-thirds of his heavy guns and all but nine of his medium guns after the army had marched just 60 miles.

Guns and infantry had to follow a centuries-old path along Lake Champlain. Mohawk Indians had worn ruts in the trail from Montreal, then called Hochelaga. By the time French explorer Samuel de Champlain stamped his name on maps of the lake between the Adirondack and Green Mountains, the Mohawks had retreated south.

As the English and French established fur trading empires in North America, the Indian trail had become a smuggler’s superhighway. Because the British at Albany offered better and cheaper trading goods that the French-­connected northern Indians wanted, borderland Caugh­nawaga Iroquois, in bands of as many as 200, paddled, backpacked, or snowshoed heavy bundles of furs to Albany.

Building a fortress at Ticonderoga that they named Fort Carillon, the French had repulsed a British army in 1758, killing 2,000 men who attempted to take the fort without artillery. Two years later, the French retreated up the military road that had replaced the Indian path. Burgoyne’s infantry and supply train would follow the same route.

Burgoyne dispatched Brigadier General Simon Fraser with an advance guard of 10 companies of grenadiers, 10 companies of light infantry, and 3 companies of Carleton’s Canadians—about 1,300 troops in all—on a weeklong rapid march along the military road to secure a rendezvous point at the mouth of the Bouquet River. Fraser pitched camps straddling the river at Willsboro on the sprawling manor of loyalist William Gilliland. His men, thoroughly worn out from the march, set up what Fraser called “a pleasant and safe post…the most pleasant Camp I have ever seen.” While Fraser waited for Burgoyne, 200 Indians in birchbark canoes joined him.

Meanwhile, at Fort Saint John, on Ile au Noix at the northern tip of Lake Champlain, Phillips had loaded his artillery aboard the invasion fleet: the flagship Maria, the bomb ketch Thunderer, the sloop of war Inflexible, a row galley, a cutter, and, captured from the Americans the year before, the refitted schooner Royal George. Half the carts, hastily built of green wood at Montreal, had already fallen apart on the rough roads. Phillips ordered several of the ships stripped of their guns to make way for more supplies.

While his foot soldiers, camp cooks, and soldiers’ wives struggled for 12 days along the sodden road (it had rained for weeks the path was a quagmire and swollen waterways had knocked out most bridges), Burgoyne and his generals sailed up the lake, reaching the Bouquet River encampment on June 20.

Convening a five-day “Congress of Indians” beside the falls of the Bouquet, the ever-theatrical Burgoyne read aloud a proclamation addressed to the king’s loyal subjects. He intended to inspire loyalists to join his campaign and terrify the rebellious colonists “to hold forth security not degradation.” Appealing to “the temperate part of the Public,” he decried the Revolution as “unnatural.”

He threatened the Americans, declaring: “I have only to give stretch to the Indian Forces under my command, and they amount to thousands, to overthrow the harden’d Enemies of Great Britain. Messengers of Justice and wrath await them in the field [with] Devastation, famine, and every concomitant horror that a reluctant, but indispensable prosecution of military duty must occasion.”

His Indian allies, mostly Iroquois but some Ottawa and Abenaki recruited in Canada, were resplendent in their war paint and regalia. In a forest clearing, Burgoyne treated them to a resounding oration. He cautioned them that this was a new kind of war. They were to kill only when ordered to do so by British officers:

I positively forbid bloodshed when you are not opposed in arms. Aged men, women, and children and prisoners must be held sacred from the knife or the hatchet. You shall receive compensation for the prisoners you take, but you shall be called to account for scalps…to be taken only from the dead.

After an enthusiastic chorus of “Etow! Etow!” an aged Iroquois chief gave an answering speech. Promising to obey all British orders, he sat down to another round of “Etow! Etow!” Then Burgoyne broke out the rum. All parties imbibed generously as the Indians celebrated with a war dance.

Burgoyne’s threat to employ thousands of Indian mercenaries was to prove extremely ill advised. Settlers who might have happily exchanged provisions for English gold began to hide the supplies and horses Burgoyne would so desperately need. As word of his threat spread throughout the frontier, militias began to form. On June 25, sufficiently recovered from Burgoyne’s hospitality, the Indians took their places in what may have been the most dazzling spectacle in the history of Lake Champlain. Recording the scene in his journal, Lieutenant Thomas Anburey wrote:

In the front, the Indians went with their birch canoes, containing twenty or thirty each then the advanced corps in a regular line with their gunboats followed the Royal George and Inflexible towing large booms which are to be thrown across two points of land, with the other brigs and sloops following after them the first brigade in a regular line, then the Generals Burgoyne, Phillips and Riedesel in their pinnaces [longboats] next to them the second brigade, followed by the German brigades….

The generals stood at attention in their gunboats, as did the grenadiers of Fraser’s corps, their bayonets and brass fittings glimmering in the summer sunlight. Burgoyne, in scarlet uniform and gold epaulets, wore his dress sword and the trappings of the colonel of the Coldstream Guards.

Thousands of redcoats wore shortened coats and brimless caps, as an American privateer had captured the ship bearing their dress uniforms. The loyalists had dressed as Indians the French Canadians wore white summer smocks the Germans, light blue, green, or black uniforms.

Leading his light infantry in an amphibious assault on the old French works at Crown Point, 14 miles north of Fort Ticonderoga, Major Alexander Lindsay Lord Balcarres, 6th Earl of Balcarres, found the promontory deserted. On June 30, the army landed on both sides of the lake a few miles north of the fort as Burgoyne issued his final general orders for the campaign, urging “a reliance on the bayonet,” which “in the hands of the Valiant is irresistible….It will be our Glory and our preservation, to Storm when possible.”

On October 17, 1777, following his demoralizing loss to the Americans at the Battle of Saratoga, Burgoyne surrenders his remaining men and hands his sword to Major General Horatio Gates. (U.S. Architect of the Capitol)

By July 1, the army hove to just beyond cannon range. Burgoyne faced the fort’s walls across shoreline meadows that had been cleared of underbrush and trees to provide a field of fire lined with trenches. Across the lake’s narrow neck, the Americans had built an elaborate network of stockades and cannons on Mount Independence, connected to the fort by a floating bridge.

For months Colonel Tadeusz Kościuszko, a Polish-­born, French-trained military engineer, had been urging the commander to fortify the high­est hill just to the south, which was in easy range of the fort, but the American had ignored him. General Phillips, Burgoyne’s veteran artillerist, instantly grasped the importance of this weak spot. The engineer he sent to scout it reported that it could be climbed and was within 1,500 yards of the American fort.

On July 5, British soldiers overnight cleared a path to the summit, made gun emplacements, and hauled up two cannons. The first cannon fire from what became known as Mount Defiance the next morning convinced the fort’s recently arrived commanding officer, Major General Arthur St. Clair, that he must evacuate Fort Ticonderoga or risk losing his entire army. In a council of war, all the American officers supported him, voting to retreat under cover of darkness to minimize casualties and keep the army intact.

Nearly the entire garrison managed to escape. With five row galleys covering their retreat, the sick, the wounded, and the women were loaded onto 220 bateaux and sailed down Wood Creek to Skenesborough. With Fraser and his grenadiers pursuing them down the west shore of the lake and Major General Friedrich Adolf Riedesel and the Germans on the Vermont shore, all but 200 of the weary and dispirited Americans, aided by a fierce rearguard action at Hubbardton by the Vermonters, managed to escape south.

When a dispatch from Burgoyne reached London, the recapture of Ticonderoga made him a popular hero. When King George heard the news, he exulted to Queen Charlotte, “I have beat them, beat all the Americans!”

But once again Burgoyne squandered his advantage as the Americans employed a scorched-earth strategy. He landed three regiments at South Bay on the east side of the Ticonderoga promontory with orders to occupy the road to Fort Anne, the only route south, but moving his troops through the dense woods proved difficult. Once again, the Americans escaped, burning the fort at Skenesborough and destroying the bridges, rendering the road impassable once again, they turned and fought a two-hour, rearguard action before they burned Fort Anne and retreated to Fort Edward. There, they joined St. Clair and the main army, which had escaped through Manchester and Bennington, Vermont.

Now Burgoyne faced a difficult decision, one that would prove controversial. In the plan approved by the king, he had proposed Lake George as the best route to Albany, a route that would take the army to Fort George, the northern terminus of a 16-mile road to Fort Edward and the portage to the Hudson River. He had believed it to be the shortest route from Ticonderoga to the Hudson and the least vulnerable to ambush, flank attack, and delaying action. He expected to capture the American army at Ticonderoga, but if the Americans retreated, he thought they would flee down Lake George. But St. Clair surprised him by retreating east through Skenesborough, his only feasible escape route with British guns atop Mount Defiance.

If Burgoyne had sent ahead his advance corps supported by light infantry to attack Fort Edward in July’s third week, he could have seized the fort before the retreating Americans could reinforce it. With his main army, Burgoyne could then have seized Fort George, cutting off St. Clair’s retreat. Embarking his entire army down Lake George, he might have crossed it in 24 hours. He could have then reached Albany by the end of July.

Instead, he chose to divide his forces, moving his troops along the land route east of Lake George from Skenesborough and sending his gunboats, bateaux, and heavy artillery over Lake George. Critics would later accuse him of choosing the slower land route under the influence of Colonel Philip Skene, the owner of the vast Skenesborough Manor, who would profit from an improved road with strong new bridges and causeways through swamps built by army engineers.

Later, Burgoyne would defend his choice of routes before Parliament by arguing that, after taking Skenesborough and Fort George, he would have had to fall back to Ticonderoga from Skenesborough, some 36 miles, then start the march south all over again. He contended that his advance would have bogged down, as his boats, artillery, and supply wagons portaged from Lake Champlain up to the level of Lake George, 221 feet higher via a gorge three miles long, a task that eventually took 11 days. From Lake George to the Hudson was another 16 miles, making the overall march 90 miles. Burgoyne saw such a retreat before advancing again as psychologically devastating to his army.

Burgoyne had made a reasonable command decision to send his foot soldiers by land and his artillery and supplies by boat over Lake George. The forces reunited at the abandoned Fort Edward within 24 hours of each other on July 28 and 29. In fact, ferrying the army the length of the lake would have taken even longer: There were not enough boats to transport the troops, guns, and supplies all at once. More hours would have been lost crossing the lake four times.

Time, not distance, now became Burgoyne’s enemy. All night, he could hear the dull thwack of axes and the crash of trees as Major General Philip Schuyler’s tireless army blocked the roads, slowing Burgoyne’s advance to a mile a day. Once again, the Americans had escaped.

By early August, Burgoyne’s supply problems had become alarming. Consuming their rations by the end of July, the British badly needed resupply, but more than anything they desperately needed more horses to haul food, tents, and winter uniforms over the lengthening line of communications to Canada—and the German dragoons were still on foot.

Burgoyne’s loyalist spies informed him that there was an American supply base at Bennington. Expecting to be able to either buy or confiscate some 1,000 horses, hundreds of cattle, large amounts of corn, and scores of wagons from the Vermonters, Burgoyne sent a force of nearly 500 men—230 Germans, 206 loyalists and Canadian volunteers, and 50 British light infantry under the Hessian colonel Friedrich Baum—to get the job done. Few of them, however, were familiar with the terrain.

Marching south first to Stillwater in the blistering August heat, Baum drafted another 100 Germans, then marched to Cambridge on the 12th. His advance guard surprised and captured 50 militia and seized 1,000 bushels of wheat and 1,500 bullocks. This too-easy victory encouraged Baum to march on to Bennington, where his spies told him there were 2,000 more bullocks and 300 horses guarded by only 1,800 Vermonters.

Despite being badly outnumbered, Baum plodded ahead. By August 16 he was encamped at an entrenched position on a hilltop overlooking the Walloomsac River, seven miles west of Bennington, when 1,600 Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont militiamen led by Brigadier General John Stark swept around Baum’s flanks and breached his frontal defenses in a two-hour battle.

It appeared that 600 reinforcements sent by Burgoyne would turn the tide of battle before Vermonter Samuel Safford arrived with 140 Green Mountain Continentals, giving Stark enough time to regroup for the German counterattack. Repeating their flank sweeps and frontal attacks until sundown, the Americans, now outnumbering the invaders three to one, killed more than 200 of the British, including the commanding officers. The surrender of Baum’s 1,400 troops to an American militia force that sustained only 30 casualties seriously damaged Burgoyne’s chances of recruitment and resupply and further bogged him down.

Meanwhile, what had been planned as a diversionary attack, at a strategic portage in the western Mohawk River Valley, also faile d. With 1,800 men, mostly Indians and loyalists, British colonel Barrimore Matthew “Barry” St. Leger had besieged Fort Stanwix, garrisoned by 800 New York militia. Iroquois ambushed an American relief force at Oriskany, but the militiamen fought back fiercely. When General George Washington sent Benedict Arnold with 1,000 volunteers, the Indians fled, leaving St. Leger no choice but to retreat to Lake Ontario, freeing Arnold and his men to reinforce the main American army.

At the same time, the turnout of American militia was increasing steadily, especially after the scalping of Jane McCrae by Burgoyne’s Canadian Indians. McCrae, who was engaged to a loyalist officer on Burgoyne’s staff, lived on a farm near Fort Edward. Her fiancé had sent a party of Indians with a horse to bring her and her belongings to Burgoyne’s camp. She was accidentally shot three times by pursuing Americans before she was scalped by an Indian known as Wyandot Panther, who wanted the bounty Burgoyne had offered, equivalent to a barrel of rum, for any American scalp. When Panther arrived in the British camp, McCrae’s fiancé recognized her hair. No one, it was clear, was safe from Burgoyne’s murderous Indians.

The incident proved doubly damaging to Burgoyne, who wanted to execute Panther, but his staff warned him that if he did so, all the Indians would desert him. As it was, his show of displeasure was enough to cool the Indians’ interest. Where Burgoyne had counted on the support of thousands of Indians, only 400 had come south with him, and most had abandoned the British by early September.

Still resolved to press on to Albany, Burgoyne finally crossed the Hudson on September 13 and moved against the Americans, now 6,000 strong and entrenched on Bemis Heights, a densely wooded plateau south of Saratoga, in elaborate defensive works that Kościuszko had designed—and armed with French heavy artillery.

In July, Schuyler had complained to General Washington that he had no cannons, even as two French transports, Amphitrite and Mercure, arrived at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in time, he wrote, to unload “more than eighteen thousand stands of arms complete, and fifty-two pieces of brass cannons, with powder and tents and clothing.” As Burgoyne’s army had inched its way south through the forest, a convoy of oxen had been dragging cannons and ammunition west over the mountains. Most of the Americans’ arms at Saratoga were now state-of-the-art, French-made weapons, enabling the Americans to fight the British invaders to a bloody standstill in two battles.

In the Battle of Freeman’s Farm, near Saratoga, Burgoyne’s attempt on September 19 to gain the high ground on the American left ran into the deadly accurate fire of Colonel Daniel Morgan and his riflemen. British casualties of 600 men were double the American toll.

Burgoyne became increasingly desperate. After waiting three more weeks, he learned that he could expect no help from Howe, who had defeated Washington at Brandywine Creek and, outmaneuvering him, captured Philadelphia and decided to spend the winter in the American capital.

On October 7 Burgoyne finally ventured out of his heavily fortified lines at Freeman’s Farm. Once again, he failed to turn the American left before Benedict Arnold, leading a fierce assault, drove him back into his walled log fort. Arnold was crippled by a wound to his leg, but not so much as Burgoyne, who had lost another 600 men (the American had lost only 150). Now he was surrounded by Americans, who outnumbered his men three to one.

Withdrawing from the battlefield that night, Burgoyne retreated to Saratoga. His path back to Canada cut off, his army now thoroughly demoralized, he surrendered his remaining 5,700 men—all that remained of 10,700 invaders—on October 17, 1777.

Burgoyne had sealed his own defeat not only by the route he had chosen but by his rash proclamation that he would enlist Indians to help him. Thousands of irate Americans handed the reckless commander a thrashing that roused international support for the American Revolution.

In the greatest American victory of the eight-year war, Burgoyne’s loss of an entire British army at Saratoga convinced the French that the Americans, with their help, could defeat Great Britain. Within months its Treaties of Amity and Friendship with France assured the infant republic enough military and economic assistance that it could survive as an independent nation.

France’s entry completely transformed the war. With French weapons and training in maneuver by Major General Baron von Steuben, Washington’s army marched out of Valley Forge in pursuit of the British as they retreated across to New York City. In hundred-degree heat at the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778, the reinvigorated Americans fought the British to a standstill.

As the American Revolution metastasized into a worldwide struggle between the British and allied American, French, Spanish, and Dutch forces, the British fought a largely defensive war of posts, rarely launching ambitious campaigns, their only major success at Charleston, South Carolina. Only once did Washington launch a major offensive, driving the Iroquois into Canada and destroying their western New York tribal lands.

The failure of Burgoyne’s invasion of America “from the side of Canada” led to a drawn-out, five-year fight that left him little more than a footnote to the narrative of a wider war. After he signed a convention of surrender that assured his army would be allowed to sail back to England, Congress rejected it, allowing only senior British officers to sail home. The rest of the Convention Army, as it had become known, marched south to sit out the rest of the war in Virginia and Maryland. Returning to England in disgrace, stripped of his command, “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne joined the opposition to the war in Parliament and returned to the one place he would ever again receive accolades—the London theater. To jeers and cheers, he became a popular, if second-rate, West End playwright.

Willard Sterne Randall, professor emeritus of history at Champlain College, is the author of 14 books, including Unshackling America: How the War of 1812 Truly Ended the American Revolution (St. Martin’s Press, 2017).

This article appears in the Spring 2020 issue (Vol. 32, No. 3) of MHQ—The Quarterly Journal of Military History with the headline: Burgoyne’s Big Fail

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September of 1777

September 1, 1777 at Fort Henry, Virginia

On September 1, 400 Indians laid siege to Fort Henry, named in honor of Patrick Henry. The settlers took refuge in the fort before the Indians attacked. Several soldiers died in skirmishes outside the walls before the siege began.
After American reinforcements arrived, the Indians burned the settlement, killed livestock, and then withdrew. In the end, there was not any deaths among ther fort's defenders.
Conclusion: American Victory

September 12, 1777 at Chester, Pennsylvania (Occupation of Chester)

On September 12, Gen. George Washington and the American army were withdrawing from Brandywine towards Chester. Maj. Gen. William Howe and the British army was following the Americans during their retreat. While Washington continued through Chester, when the British entered the town, they occupied it.

September 16, 1777 at Warren, Pennsylvania

In the days following his defeat at the Battle of Brandywine, Gen. George Washington was intent on accomplishing two contradictory tasks: protecting Philadelphia from British forces under Gen. Sir William Howe and replenishing rapidly dwindling supplies and munitions from stockpiles in Reading, Pennsylvania.

For reasons known only to Howe, the British did not immediately pursue Washington's retreating Continental Army after the victory of September 11. Instead, Howe remained in camp for several days along Brandywine Creek, then resumed the chase.

Washington received word of the British advance and chose to make a stand at a location on a valley road between Lancaster and Philadelphia.

Skirmishing began on September 16 and British forces initiated flanking movements around the American lines. Before the armies were fully engaged, however, rain began and quickly turned into a steady downpour. Powder became wet, making the firearms useless.

This "battle" in the clouds of rain and fog never developed. Washington withdrew his forces, led his army to Reading for supplies and left behind a small force under Anthony Wayne to harass the presumed British movement toward Philadelphia.

Howe's army found it nearly impossible to follow Washington over the rutted, muddy roads. The decision was made to wait out the storm, then move toward their objective. Wayne established a camp near Paoli, where he would be surprised by a British raid a few days later.
Conclusion: Inconclusive Victory

September 16, 1777 at Warren, Pennsylvania

On September 16, both British and American forces prepared for a major engagement in the vicinity of Warren or White Horse Tavern. Heavy rain that day made the cartridge boxes too wet to be used and the American forces decided to withdraw.
Conclusion: Inconclusive Victory

September 18, 1777 at Fort Ticonderoga, New York

American detachments raided the vicinity of Fort Ticonderoga. They captured 300 British and managed to free 100 Patriot prisoners. The raid was a severe blow to the British line of communications.
Conclusion: American Victory

September 19, 1777 at Bemus Heights, New York

In December, Gen. Burgoyne concerted with the British ministry a plan for the campaign of 1777. A large force under his command was to go to Albany by way of Lakes Champlain and George, while another body, under Sir Henry Clinton, advanced up the Hudson. Simultaneously, Col. Barry St. Leger was to make a diversion, by way of Oswego, on the Mohawk river.

In pursuance of this plan, Burgoyne, in June began his advance with one of the best-equipped armies that had ever left the shores of England.

Proceeding up Lake Champlain, he easily forced the evacuation of Crown Point, Ticonderoga, and Fort Anne. But, instead of availing himself of the water-carriage of Lake George, at the head of which there was a direct road to Fort Edward, he advanced upon that work by land, consuming 3 weeks in cutting a road through the woods and building bridges over swamps.

This gave time for Schuyler to gather the yeomanry together, and for Washington to re-enforce that general with troops, under Morgan, from the southern department. Burgoyne also lost valuable time and received a fatal check by his disastrous attack on Bennington.

At length, finding his progress stopped by the entrenchments of Gates at Bemus's Heights, 9 miles south of Saratoga, he endeavored to extricate himself from his perilous position by fighting. Two battles were fought, on nearly the same ground, on September 19th and October 7th. The September 19th battle was indecisive.

This event was the turning-point in the American revolution. It secured the French alliance, and lifted the clouds of moral and financial gloom that had settled upon the hearts of the leaders, even the hopeful Washington. Burgoyne, until his unfortunate campaign, stood very high in his profession.
Conclusion: Draw

September 23, 1777 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Occupation of Philadelphia)

Gen. Charles Cornwallis, marching in with 4 British and 2 Hessien units, took possession of the city of Philadelphia to the acclaim of Loyalist supporters. The main body of his army encamped at germantown.

Gen. George Washington moved from Pott's Grove to encamp at Pennybacker's Mill (Schwenksville) on the Perkiomen River. He was not deeply dispirited by the loss of Philadelphia and concentrated his energies on restoring his troops.
Conclusion: British Victory

September 24, 1777 at Diamond Island, New York

Having previously captured 300 British troops on the west shore of Lake George, Col. John Brown's Continentals successfully raided the British post at Diamond Island, located south of Ticonderoga. They were unsuccessful in capturing Fort Ticonderoga itself.
Conclusion: American Victory

September 26, 1777 at North Carolina coast, North Carolina (Nancy vs. British ships)

On September 26, the privateer Nancy, commanded by Capt. Palmer, captured two British ships off the North Carolina coast that contained 100 slaves and ivory. Palmer sent the ships to Georgia.
Conclusion: American Victory

Royal Savage was estimated to be 50 ft (15 m) long and 15 ft (4.6 m) wide and measured 70 tons. [2]

She was armed with eight 4-pounder guns, four 6-pounder guns, and ten swivel guns. Royal Savage had a crew of 40 to 50 men. [2]

Siege of Fort St. Jean Edit

Royal Savage, a two-masted schooner, was damaged and sunk by American forces under Richard Montgomery during the siege of St. Johns (St. Jean-Iberville), Quebec, in the fall of 1775. Raised and repaired after the capture of that fort on 2 November, she, with the small schooner Liberty and the sloop Enterprise (ex-HMS George III), formed the nucleus of the American Lake Champlain squadron. That squadron, under Benedict Arnold, denied the British the use of the lake during the fall of 1776 and thus contributed to Burgoyne's defeat at Saratoga. [2]

Summer 1776 Edit

In June 1776, the American force, pushed from Canada, fell back to Crown Point, Skenesborough, and Fort Ticonderoga. There Arnold pressed his force to complete a shipbuilding program before the British completed their squadron. In late August, 10 of his ships were finished and he moved north with Royal Savage as his flagship. Into September he scouted the lakeshore. On 23 September he moved his fleet into an anchorage at Valcour Island, separated from the western shore by a half-mile channel, to await the remainder of his squadron, and the British. With the arrival of the galley Congress, Arnold shifted his headquarters to that boat, and continued to wait. [2]

Battle of Valcour Island Edit

On 11 October the north wind carried the British past the island. American ships, including Royal Savage, appeared fired on the enemy, and beat back into the southern entrance to the channel, where the remainder of Arnold's force was positioned to meet the enemy, beat him if possible, but, at all cost, to delay him. [2]

Coming in from the south, the British force was handicapped by the wind. Arnold's planning and the British acceptance of the bait had given the Americans a chance to carry out their mission. [2]

Royal Savage, however, ran aground on the southwest point of Valcour Island around 11 am when attempting to return to the American line, and, undefendable, was abandoned. Despite attempts to reboard her, she was taken by a British boarding party which turned her guns against the American fleet. They too, however, soon found themselves under considerable fire and had to abandon Royal Savage. [2] [1]

The British didn't want to give the Americans an opportunity to retake Royal Savage so they set fire to her sometime after dark. This, though, led to unintentionally helping the American fleet escape in the night. With the fire burning all night she was able to provided for a magnificent distraction. Combined with a moonless night, the ammunition blowing up and staring at the fire, the British were unable to see the American fleet slip away. [1]

The ship remained in the lake until it was raised in 1934 by marine salvor and amateur archaeologist Lorenzo Hagglund. According to Art Cohn, Hagglund's family held onto the remains of the ship and associated artifacts until being purchased by the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1995. [3]

The remains were sold to Harrisburg for $42,500 with the plan of five museums being created in the city. The ship had no connections to either the city of Harrisburg or the state of Pennsylvania, but with plans of revolving displays that would cover different periods of history the then mayor, Stephen R. Reed was able to rationale the purchase. However, only two of the planned six museums opened and the plans to display Royal Savage stalled with the remains being pilled up in the corner of one of the city garages. [1]

In October 2013 the city council tried to recoup some of the city's money by auctioning off the remains of Royal Savage. They had already auctioned off some other artefacts in 2006 that had an American West connection in Dallas, Texas. The pre-auction estimates for Royal Savage ranged between $20,000 and $30,000. This fell well below the $42,500 that had been paid for her in 1995. The starting bid was set at $10,000 but she was only able to bring $5,000. However, in the end the bidder decided not to take possession of Royal Savage and Harrisburg retained ownership. [1]

In July 2015 the city of Harrisburg was formally presented with the remains of Royal Savage. [3]

Mayor Eric Papenfuse presided over the event in which Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) Director Sam Cox accepted the artefacts on behalf of the Navy:

This ship, and its artifacts are now going to be preserved and cherished for the public for generations to come as they should be. For the last 20 years, the artifacts have stayed in storage, out of public viewing, and we are pleased today to bring them to the light of day and to make sure they are being given the proper care. [3]

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