Burgoyne's Invasion of 1777 - With an outline sketch of the American Invasion of Canada, 1775-76.
by Samuel Adams Drake
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Decisive Events in American History































Among the decisive events of the Revolutionary struggle, Burgoyne's campaign deservedly holds the foremost place, as well for what it led to, as for what it was in inception and execution—at once the most daring, most quixotic, and most disastrous effort of the whole war.

Burgoyne was himself, in some respects, so remarkable a man that any picture of his exploits must needs be more or less tinted with his personality. And this was unusually picturesque and imposing. He acquired prestige, at a time when other generals were losing it, through his participation in Carleton's successful campaign. But Burgoyne was something more than the professional soldier. His nature was poetic; his temperament imaginative. He did nothing in a commonplace way. Even his orders are far more scholarly than soldier-like. At one time he tells his soldiers that "occasions may occur, when nor difficulty, nor labor, nor life are to be regarded"—as if soldiers, in general, expected anything else than to be shot at!—at another, we find him preaching humanity to Indians, repentance to rebels, or better manners to his adversary, with all the superb self-consciousness that was Burgoyne's most prominent characteristic.

To the military critic, Burgoyne's campaign is instructive, because it embodies, in itself, about all the operations known to active warfare. It was destined to great things, but collapsed, like a bubble, with the first shock of an adverse fortune.

This campaign is remarkable in yet another way. It has given us the most voluminous literature extant, that treats of any single episode of the Revolutionary War. In general, it takes many more words to explain a defeat than to describe a victory. Hence this fulness is much more conspicuous upon the British than upon the American side of the history of this campaign. Not only the general, who had his reputation to defend, but high officials, whose guiding hand was seen behind the curtain, were called to the bar of public opinion. The ministers endeavored to make a scapegoat of the general; the general, to fix the responsibility for defeat upon the ministers. His demand for a court-martial was denied. His sovereign refused to hear him. It was thus meanly attempted to turn the torrent of popular indignation, arising from the ill success of the expedition, wholly upon the unlucky general's head. Burgoyne's heroic persistency at length brought the British nation face to face with the unwelcome fact, which the ministers were so desirous of concealing,—that somebody besides the general had blundered; and if the inquiry that Burgoyne obtained from Parliament failed to vindicate him as a captain, it nevertheless did good service by exposing both the shortcomings of his accusers, and the motives which had guided their conduct with respect to himself.

Besides the official examination by the House of Commons, we have several excellent narratives, written by officers who served with Burgoyne, all of which materially contribute to an intelligent study of the campaign, from a purely military point of view. These narratives are really histories of the several corps to which the writers belonged, rather than capable surveys of the whole situation; but they give us the current gossip of the camp-fire and mess-table, spiced with anecdote, and enlivened with the daily experiences through which the writers were passing. And this is much.

In his defence, General Burgoyne vigorously addresses himself to the four principal charges brought forward by his accusers: namely, first, of encumbering himself with a needless amount of artillery; secondly, of taking the Fort Anne route, rather than the one by way of Lake George; thirdly, of sending off an expedition to Bennington, under conditions inviting defeat; and, lastly, of crossing the Hudson after the disasters of Bennington and Fort Stanwix had taken place.

The real criticism upon Burgoyne's conduct, so far as it relates to the movement of his forces only, seems to be that from the moment when the march was actually to begin, he found himself in want of everything necessary to a rapid advance. Thus, we find him scarcely arrived at Skenesborough before he is asking Sir Guy Carleton for reenforcements to garrison Ticonderoga and Fort George with, to the end that his own force might not be weakened by the detachments required to hold those fortresses against the Americans, when he should move on. It would seem that this contingency, at least, might have been foreseen before it forced itself upon Burgoyne's attention. Yet it was of so serious a nature, in this general's eyes, that he expresses a doubt whether his army would be found equal to the task before it, unless Carleton would assume the defence of the forts referred to above.

At this time, too, the inadequacy of his transportation service became so painfully evident, that the expedition to Bennington offered the only practicable solution to Burgoyne's mind.

These circumstances stamp the purposed invasion with a certain haphazard character at the outset, which boded no good to it in the future.

Carleton having declined to use his troops in the manner suggested, Burgoyne was compelled to leave a thousand men behind him when he marched for Albany. Carleton, the saviour of Canada, was justly chagrined at finding himself superseded in the conduct of this campaign, by an officer who had served under his orders in the preceding one; and, though he seems to have acted with loyalty toward Burgoyne, this is by no means the only instance known in which one general has refused to go beyond the strict letter of his instructions for the purpose of rescuing a rival from a dilemma into which he had plunged with his eyes wide open.

The Prelude with which our narrative opens, undertakes first, to briefly outline the history of the Northern Army, which finally brought victory out of defeat; and next, to render familiar the names, location, and strategic value of the frontier fortresses, before beginning the story of the campaign itself.

Few armies have ever suffered more, or more nobly redeemed an apparently lost cause, than the one which was defeated at Quebec and victorious at Saratoga. The train of misfortunes which brought Burgoyne's erratic course to so untimely an end was nothing by comparison. And the quickness with which raw yeomanry were formed into armies capable of fighting veteran troops, affords the strongest proof that the Americans are a nation of soldiers.

So many specific causes have been assigned for Burgoyne's failure, that it is hardly practicable to discuss all of them within reasonable limits. The simplest statement of the whole case is that he allowed himself to be beaten in detail. It seems plain enough that any plan, which exposed his forces to this result, was necessarily vicious in itself. Moreover, Burgoyne wofully misestimated the resources, spirit, and fighting capacity of his adversary. With our forces strongly posted on the Mohawk, St. Leger's advance down the valley was clearly impracticable. Yet such a combination of movements as would bring about a junction of the two invading columns, at this point, was all essential to the success of Burgoyne's campaign. To have effected this in season, Burgoyne should have made a rapid march to the Mohawk, intrenched himself there, and operated in conjunction with St. Leger. His delays, attributable first, to his unwise choice of the Fort Anne route, next, to Schuyler's activity in obstructing it, and lastly, to his defeat at Bennington, gave time to render our army so greatly superior to his own, that the conditions were wholly altered when the final trial of strength came to be made.

What might have happened if Sir W. Howe had moved his large army and fleet up the Hudson, in due season, is quite another matter. The writer does not care to discuss futilities. In the first place, he thinks that Burgoyne's campaign should stand or fall on its own merits. In the next, such a movement by Howe would have left Washington free to act in the enemy's rear, or upon his flanks, with a fair prospect of cutting him off from his base at New York. Of the two commanders-in-chief, Washington acted most effectively in reenforcing Gates's army from his own. Howe could not and Carleton would not do this. From the moment that Burgoyne crossed the Hudson, he seems to have pinned his faith to chance; but if chance has sometimes saved poor generalship, the general who commits himself to its guidance, does so with full knowledge that he is casting his reputation on the hazard of a die. As Burgoyne did just this, he must be set down, we think, notwithstanding his chivalrous defence of himself, as the conspicuous failure of the war. And we assume that the importance which his campaign implied to Europe and America, more than any high order of ability in the general himself, has lifted Burgoyne into undeserved prominence.




[Sidenote: Canada's attitude.]

England took Canada from France in 1759, and soon after annexed it to her own dominions. Twelve years later, her despotic acts drove her American colonies into open rebellion. England feared, and the colonies hoped, Canada would join in the revolt against her. But, though they did not love their new masters, prudence counselled the Canadians to stand aloof, at least till the Americans had proved their ability to make head against the might of England.

That England would be much distressed by Canada's taking sides with the Americans was plain enough to all men, for the whole continent would then be one in purpose, and the conflict more equal; but the Americans also greatly wished it because all New England and New York lay open to invasion from Canada.

Nature had created a great highway, stretching southward from the St. Lawrence to the Hudson, over which rival armies had often passed to victory or defeat in the old wars. Open water offered an easy transit for nearly the whole way. A chain of forts extended throughout its whole length. Chambly and St. John's defended the passage of the Richelieu, through which the waters of Lake Champlain flow to the St. Lawrence. Crown Point[1] and Ticonderoga[2] blocked the passage of this lake in its narrowest part. Ticonderoga, indeed, is placed just where the outlet of Lake George falls down a mountain gorge into Lake Champlain. Its cannon, therefore, commanded that outlet also. Fort George stood at the head of Lake George, within sixteen miles of Fort Edward, on the Hudson. These were the gates through which a hostile army might sally forth upon our naked frontier. Much, therefore, depended on whether they were to be kept by friend or foe.

[Sidenote: Ticonderoga.]

In natural and artificial strength, Ticonderoga was by far the most important of these fortresses. At this place the opposite shores of New York and Vermont are pushed out into the lake toward each other, thus forming two peninsulas, with the lake contracted to a width of half a mile, or point-blank cannon range, between them: one is Ticonderoga; the other, Mount Independence. Thus, together, they command the passage of the two lakes.

Ticonderoga itself is a tongue-shaped projection of quite uneven land, broad and high at the base, or where it joins the hills behind it, but growing narrower as it descends over intervening hollows or swells to its farthest point in the lake. That part next the mainland is a wooded height, having a broad plateau on the brow—large enough to encamp an army corps upon—but cut down abruptly on the sides washed by the lake. This height, therefore, commanded the whole peninsula lying before it, and underneath it, as well as the approach from Lake George, opening behind it in a rugged mountain pass, since it must be either crossed or turned before access to the peninsula could be gained. Except for the higher hills surrounding it, this one is, in every respect, an admirable military position.

The French, who built the first fortress here, had covered all the low ground next the lake with batteries and intrenchments, but had left the heights rising behind it unguarded, until Abercromby attacked on that side in 1758. They then hastily threw up a rude intrenchment of logs, extending quite across the crest in its broadest part. Yet, in spite of the victory he then obtained, Montcalm was so fully convinced that Ticonderoga could not stand a siege, that he made no secret of calling it a trap, for some honest man to disgrace himself in.[3]

Ticonderoga, however, was henceforth looked upon as a sort of Gibraltar. People, therefore, were filled with wonder when they heard how Ethan Allen had surprised and taken it on the 9th of May, 1775, with only a handful of men; how Seth Warner had also taken Crown Point; and how Skenesborough[4] and Fort George, being thus cut off from Canada, had also fallen into our hands without firing a shot.[5]

Thus, in the very beginning of the war for independence, and at one bold stroke, we regained possession of this gateway of the north; or in military phrase, we now held all the strategic points by which an advance from Lower Canada upon the United Colonies was possible.


[1] CROWN POINT, built by the French in 1731, greatly strengthened by the British, who took it in 1759.

[2] TICONDEROGA, familiarly called "Ty" because the early spelling of the name was Tyconderoga. Built 1755-56 by the French, taken 1759 by the British, under Amherst. Three weeks before the battle of Lexington, an agent of Massachusetts was sent to ascertain the feelings of the people of Canada. His first advice was that "Ty" should be seized as quickly as possible.

[3] MONTCALM'S PROPHECY came true in St. Clair's case in 1777.

[4] SKENESBOROUGH, now Whitehall, named for Philip Skene, a retired British officer, who settled on lands granted him after the French War. He had about fifty tenants, and a few negro slaves.

[5] THE CAPTURED ARTILLERY was taken to Cambridge on sleds in midwinter, by Colonel Knox. It enabled Washington to bring the siege of Boston to a favorable conclusion.



[Sidenote: Invasion of Canada.]

The prompt seizure of the lake fortresses had a marked effect upon the wavering Canadians.[6] Many joined us. More stood ready to do so whenever the signal for revolt should be given. Success begets confidence. The Americans were now led to believe that by throwing an army into Canada at once, the people would no longer hesitate to free themselves from the British yoke. The time seemed the riper for it, because it was known that the strong places of Canada were but weakly guarded. Could Quebec and Montreal be taken, British power in Canada would be at an end.

[Sidenote: Our army retreats.]

[Sidenote: 1776.]

With such promise held out before it, Congress resolved to make the attempt. Forces were ordered to both places. One body, under General Montgomery,[7] mustered at Ticonderoga. Ethan Allen went before it to rouse the Canadians, who were expected to receive the Americans with open arms. This army moved down the lake in October, taking St. John's and Chambly in its way, and Montreal a little later. The other, led by Colonel Arnold,[8] ascended the Kennebec to its head, crossed over to the Chaudiere, which was followed to the St. Lawrence, and came before Quebec at about the same time Montgomery entered Montreal. Montgomery hastened to Arnold with a handful of men. Together they assaulted Quebec on the morning of December 31. The attack failed, and Montgomery fell. The Americans lay before Quebec till spring, when the arrival of fresh troops, for the enemy, forced ours to retreat to Montreal. This, too, was abandoned. Our army then fell back toward Lake Champlain, setting fire to Chambly, and St. John's behind it. The enemy followed close, recapturing these places as our troops left them. Very little fighting took place, but the Americans were greatly disheartened by having constantly to retreat, and by the loss of many brave officers and men, who fell sick and died of the smallpox. July 1 the army finally reached Crown Point, ragged, sickly, and destitute of everything. Weakened by the loss of five thousand men and three commanders, it was no longer able to keep the field. Instead of conquering Canada, it had been driven out at the point of the bayonet. The great question now was, whether this army could hold its own against a victorious and advancing enemy.

General Gates[9] took command of the army at this critical time. Convinced that he could never hope to hold both Crown Point and Ticonderoga, and knowing Ticonderoga to be much the stronger, in a military view, he decided to remove the army to that place at once. This was promptly done.[10] The soldiers were set to work strengthening the old, or building new, works, under the direction of skilful engineers. Of these new works the strongest, as well as most important, because they commanded Ticonderoga itself, were those raised on the peninsula opposite the fortress on the Vermont side, which was christened Mount Independence on the day the army heard that the colonies had declared themselves free and independent.

Having thrown a bridge across the strait, between Ticonderoga and Mount Independence, the Americans waited for the enemy to come and attack them, for with such leaders as Gates and Stark they felt confident of gaining the victory.

The British were equally active on their side. After driving the Americans from Canada, they next determined to make themselves masters of Lake Champlain, recover the forts they had lost, and so gain a foothold for striking a blow at our northern colonies.

For this purpose they set about building a fleet at St. John's. Vessels were sent out from England, for the purpose, which were taken to pieces below the Chambly rapids, brought across the portage, and put together again at St. John's. By working diligently, the British got their fleet ready to sail early in October.

Well knowing the importance of keeping possession of the lake, the Americans turned Skenesborough into a dockyard, and were straining every nerve to get ready a fleet strong enough to cope with the British. As everything needed for equipping it had to be brought from the sea-coast, the British had much the advantage in this respect, yet all labored with so much zeal, that our fleet was first ready for action. Gates gave the command of it to Arnold, who had once been a sailor, and whose courage had been tried so signally under the walls of Quebec.

By the middle of August, Ticonderoga was in fighting trim. The enemy's delays had given time to make the defences so strong that an attack was rather hoped for than feared. Ignorant of the great preparations making at St. John's, the Americans also believed themselves strongest on the lake. Our fleet, therefore, went forward with confidence to the battle.

[Sidenote: Naval battle, October 11.]

On the 11th of October the British flotilla was seen coming up the lake. The rival forces met at Valcour Island, and the battle began. From noon till night the combatants hurled broadsides at each other without ceasing. The British then drew off to repair damages, meaning to renew the fight in the morning. This gave Arnold a chance to slip through them unperceived, for his vessels were so badly shattered that all hope of gaining the victory was given over. He was pursued and overtaken. Near Crown Point the battle began again, but the enemy's superior forces soon decided it in his favor. Rather than surrender, Arnold ran his disabled vessels on shore, set fire to them, and with his men escaped to the woods.

Having thus cleared the lake, the British commander, Guy Carleton,[11] sailed back to St. John's, leaving Ticonderoga unmolested behind him, to the great astonishment of our soldiers, who said Carleton deserved to be hanged for not following up his victory over Arnold.


[6] THE WAVERING CANADIANS. The Massachusetts revolutionary authority had been at work upon the wavering Canadians since 1774, with only partial success. (See note 2, preceding chapter.) The Americans thought the Canadians would seize the opportunity of freeing themselves, but events proved this opinion ill-grounded. A political connection between the Protestants of New England and the Catholics of Canada, except for mutual defence, could hardly be lasting, nor did the priests favor it. The military advantages were equally questionable, though great stress was laid upon them by Washington and Schuyler, even after the allegiance of the Canadians had been confirmed to the British side by the reverses our arms sustained. If we had conquered Canada, it would doubtless have been handed over to France again at the close of the war.

[7] GENERAL RICHARD MONTGOMERY, of Irish birth, had served under Amherst at the taking of Crown Point and Ticonderoga in 1759, settled in New York, been one of eight brigadiers created by Congress in June, 1775; General Schuyler's illness threw the chief command, for which he proved himself eminently fitted, on Montgomery. His having served on this line was much in his favor.

[8] COLONEL BENEDICT ARNOLD had once been a soldier at Ticonderoga. He went there again with a commission from Massachusetts, when the fortress was taken by Allen. He had also spent some time in Quebec. These facts had influence in procuring for him a command in the invading expedition.

[9] GENERAL HORATIO GATES, a retired British major, settled in Virginia, was made adjutant-general of the army, June, 1775.

[10] THE REMOVAL OF THE ARMY from Crown Point to Ticonderoga was strongly opposed by Stark and others, and disapproved by Washington.

[11] GUY CARLETON, British governor of Canada, though driven from Montreal by Montgomery, had successfully defended Quebec against him. He reconnoitred Ticonderoga, but seems to have thought it too strong to be attacked with his force.




After the British had gone back to Canada, it was thought they would return as soon as the lake should be frozen hard enough to bear artillery. But when it was found that they had gone into winter quarters, and the danger was past, part of the garrison of Ticonderoga was hurried off to Washington, who was then fighting against great odds in the Jerseys. This winter was the dark hour of the Revolution, upon which the victory at Trenton[12] shed the first ray of light. So low had the American cause fallen at this time, that, but for this unlooked-for success, it is doubtful if another army could have been brought into the field.

The British were really planning to invade New York as soon as the lakes should be open again, in the spring. For this campaign great preparations were making, both in Canada and England. Quiet, therefore, reigned at Ticonderoga throughout the winter of 1776 and 1777.

General Burgoyne sailed for England in November, to lay before the king a plan for subduing the colonies in a single campaign. Burgoyne was a good soldier, popular with the army and government, brave to rashness, but vain and headstrong. He knew the Americans were not to be despised, for he had seen them fight at Bunker Hill, as well as in the campaign just closed, in which he himself had taken part; yet an easy confidence in his own abilities led Burgoyne into committing many grave errors, not the least of which was underestimating this very enemy.[13]

[Sidenote: George III. wants the war pushed.]

Any plan that promised to put down the Americans, was sure of gaining the king's ear. Justice was never tempered with mercy in this monarch's treatment of his rebellious subjects. His heart was hardened, his hand ever ready to strike them the fatal blow. Moreover, the Americans had just now declared themselves independent of Great Britain. They had crossed their Rubicon. To crush them with iron hand was now the king's one thought and purpose. No half measures would do for him. He told his ministers, in so many words, that every means of distressing the Americans would meet with his approval. Mercenaries, savages, refugees—all who could fire a shot, or burn a dwelling, were to be enrolled under the proud old banner of the isles. No more effectual means could have been devised to arouse the spirit of resistance to the highest pitch.

Burgoyne's ambition was kindled by the hope of making himself the hero of the war. He combined the qualities of general and statesman without being great as either. He wrote and talked well, was eloquent and persuasive, had friends at court, and knew how to make the most of his opportunity. On his part, the king wanted a general badly. He had been grievously disappointed in Sir William Howe, whose victories seemed never bringing the war any nearer to an end. Burgoyne brought forward his plan at the right moment, shrewdly touched the keynote of the king's discontent by declaring for aggressive war, smoothed every obstacle away with easy assurance, and so impressed the ministers with his capacity, that they believed they had found the very man the king wanted for the work in hand.

The plan proposed for making short work of the war was briefly this: The American colonies were to be divided in two parts, by seizing the line of the Hudson River; just as in later times, the Union armies aimed to split the Southern Confederacy in two by getting possession of the Mississippi. To effect this, two armies were to act together. With one, Burgoyne was to come down the lakes from Canada, and force his way to Albany, while the other was coming up the Hudson to join him. Once these armies were united, with full control of the Hudson in their hands, New England would be cut off from the other colonies by forts and fleets, and the way laid open to crush out rebellion in what was admitted to be its cradle and stronghold.

Ever since Sir William Howe had been driven from Boston, in the spring of 1776, the opinion prevailed among American generals that, sooner or later, New England would become the battle-ground.[14] This view was sustained by the enemy's seizure of Newport, in December of the same year, so that the Americans were perplexed at finding themselves threatened from this quarter, until the enemy's plans were fully developed.

[Sidenote: St. Leger's part.]

There was yet another part to the plan concerted between Burgoyne and the British cabinet. It was seen that in proportion as Burgoyne moved down toward Albany, he would have the fertile Mohawk valley on his right. This valley was the great thoroughfare between the Hudson and Lake Ontario, Niagara, and Detroit. In it were many prosperous settlements, inhabited by a vigorous yeomanry, who were the mainstay of the patriot cause in this quarter. The passage to and fro was guarded by Fort Stanwix, which stood where Rome now is, and Fort Oswego, which was situated at the lake. Fort Stanwix was held by the Americans, and Oswego, by the British. Perceiving its value to the Americans not only as a granary, but as a recruiting station, and in view of the danger of leaving it on his flank, Burgoyne decided to march a force through this valley, clear it of enemies, and so effectively bring about a timely cooeperation between the two branches of the expedition. Freed of fear for himself, he could materially aid in the work intrusted to his auxiliary. It followed that the Americans, with whom Burgoyne himself might be contending, would, of necessity, be greatly distressed by their inability to draw either men or supplies from the Mohawk Valley, no less than by the appearance of this force upon their own flank. The command of it was given to Colonel St. Leger, who was ordered to proceed up the St. Lawrence to Oswego, and from thence to Fort Stanwix and Albany.

It must be allowed that this plan was well conceived; yet its success depended so much upon all the parts working in harmony together, that to have set it in motion, without consultation or clear understanding between the generals who were to execute it, is inconceivable. At a distance of three thousand miles from the scene of war, the British cabinet undertook to direct complicated military operations, in which widely separated armies were to take part. General Burgoyne received his orders on the spot. General Howe did not receive his until the 16th of August; his army was then entering Chesapeake Bay. Burgoyne was being defeated at Bennington, at the time Howe was reading his despatch, and learning from it what he had not known before; namely, that he was expected to cooeperate with the army of Burgoyne. These facts will so sufficiently illustrate the course that events were taking, as to foreshadow their conclusion to the feeblest understanding.

In order to make the war more terrible to the Americans, the British cabinet decided to use the Indians of Canada, and the Great Lakes, against them. Not even the plea of military necessity could reconcile some Englishmen to letting loose these barbarians upon the colonists. Though enemies, they were men. Lord Chatham, the noblest Englishman of them all, cried out against it in Parliament. "Who is the man," he indignantly asked, "who has dared to associate to our arms the tomahawk and scalping-knife of the savage?" All knew he meant the prime minister, and, behind him, the king himself. Had not King George just said that any means of distressing the Americans must meet with his approval?


[12] VICTORY AT TRENTON. After being driven from the Jerseys, Washington suddenly turned on his pursuers, and by the two fine combats of Trenton and Princeton, compelled much superior forces everywhere to retreat before him, thus breaking up all the enemy's plans for the ensuing campaign, saving Philadelphia, and putting new life into the American cause.

[13] UNDERESTIMATING HIS ENEMY. Burgoyne candidly admits as much in his letter to Lord G. Germaine. State of the Expedition, Appendix, xcii.

[14] NEW ENGLAND THE BATTLE-GROUND. Sir William Howe did propose, at first, operating against Boston from Rhode Island, with ten thousand men, while an equal force should effect a junction with the army of Canada, by way of the Hudson. This purpose he subsequently deferred for an advance into Pennsylvania, but Burgoyne asserts that he was not informed of the change of plan when he sailed for Canada in April; and, though Sir William Howe afterward wrote him to the same effect (July 17th) a letter which was received early in August, Burgoyne, nevertheless, persisted in his intention of passing the Hudson, notwithstanding he knew, and says (August 20th), that no operation had yet been undertaken in his favor. State of the Expedition, 188, 189; Appendix, xlvii.



Having thus outlined the plan of invasion, let us now look at the means allotted for its execution. There were in Canada ten thousand British soldiers; in New York, thirty thousand. Burgoyne was to take with him seven thousand, of whom three thousand were Germans in the pay of England.[15] In discipline, spirit, and equipment, this was by far the best little army that had yet taken the field in America.

Good judges said that England might be searched through and through before such battalions could be raised. Forty cannon, splendidly served and equipped, formed its artillery train. All the generals, and most of the soldiers, were veterans. In short, nothing that experience could suggest, or unlimited means provide, was omitted to make this army invincible. It was one with which Burgoyne felt he could do anything, and dare everything.

Besides these regular troops, we have said the government had authorized and even attempted to justify to the world, the employment of Indians. Four hundred warriors joined the army when it marched, and as many more when it reached Lake Champlain. They were to scour the woods, hang like a storm cloud about the enemy's camps, and discover his every movement. For this service they had no equals. In the woods they could steal upon an enemy unawares, or lie in wait for his approach. In the field they were of little use. Much of the terror they inspired came from the suddenness of their onset, their hideous looks and unearthly war-cries, and their cruel practice of scalping the wounded.

To these were added about an equal number of Canadians, and American refugees, who were designed to act as scouts, skirmishers, or foragers, as the occasion might require. Being well skilled in bush-fighting, they were mostly attached to Frazer's corps, for the purpose of clearing the woods in his front, getting information, or driving in cattle. With his Indians and irregulars,[16] Burgoyne's whole force could hardly have numbered less than ten thousand men.

Taken as a whole, this army was justly thought the equal of twice its own number of raw yeomanry, suddenly called to the field from the anvil, the workshop, or the plough. Its strongest arm was its artillery; its weakest, its Indian allies.

Burgoyne divided his force into three corps, commanded by Generals Frazer, Phillips, and Riedesel,—all excellent officers. Frazer's corps was mostly made up of picked companies, taken from other battalions and joined with the 24th regiment of the line. As its duty was of the hardest, so its material was of the best the army could afford. Next to Burgoyne, Frazer was, beyond all question, the officer most looked up to by the soldiers; in every sense of the word, he was a thorough soldier. His corps was, therefore, Burgoyne's right arm. Phillips commanded the artillery; and Riedesel, the Germans.

In the middle of June this army embarked on Lake Champlain. Of many warlike pageants the aged mountains had looked down upon, perhaps this was the most splendid and imposing. From the general to the private soldier, all were filled with high hopes of a successful campaign. In front, the Indians, painted and decked out for war, skimmed the lake in their light canoes. Next came the barges containing Frazer's corps, marshalled in one regular line, with gunboats flanking it on each side; next, the Royal George and Inflexible frigates, with other armed vessels forming the fleet. Behind this strong escort, the main body, with the generals, followed in close order; and, last of all, came the camp followers, of whom there were far too many for the nature of the service in hand.

In the distance the American watch-boats saw this gallant array bearing down upon them, in the confidence of its power. Hastening back to Ticonderoga, the word was passed along the lines to prepare for battle.

For the Mohawk Valley expedition, St. Leger, who led it, took with him about seven hundred regular troops, two hundred loyalists, and eight guns. At Oswego, seven hundred Indians of the Six Nations joined him. With these, St. Leger started in July for Fort Stanwix, which barred his way to the Hudson, just as Ticonderoga blocked Burgoyne's advance on the side of Lake Champlain.


[15] SOLDIERS WERE HIRED from the petty German princes for the American war. The Americans called them all Hessians, because some came from the principality of Hesse. George III. also tried to hire twenty thousand Russians of Empress Catharine, but she gave him to understand that her soldiers would be better employed. There was good material among the Germans, many of whom had served with credit under the Great Frederick; but the British showed them little favor as comrades, while the Americans looked upon them as paid assassins. Not one in twenty knew any English, so that misconception of orders was not unfrequent, though orders were usually transmitted from headquarters in French. A jealousy also grew up out of the belief that Burgoyne gave the Germans the hardest duty, and the British the most praise. At Hubbardton, and on the 19th of September, the Germans saved him from defeat, yet he ungenerously, we think, lays the disaster of October 7th chiefly at their door.

[16] INDIANS AND IRREGULARS. It is impossible to give the number of these accurately, as it was constantly fluctuating. Though Burgoyne started with only four hundred Indians, the number was increased by five hundred at Skenesborough, and he was later joined by some of the Mohawks from St. Leger's force. In like manner, his two hundred and fifty Canadians and Provincials had grown to more than six hundred of the latter before he left Skenesborough. Most of these recruits came from the Vermont settlements. They were put to work clearing the roads, scouting, getting forward the supplies, collecting cattle, etc. Their knowledge of the country was greatly serviceable to Burgoyne. In the returns given of Burgoyne's regular troops, only the rank and file are accounted for. Staff and line officers would swell the number considerably.



(July 5, 1777.)

A hundred years ago, the shores of Lake Champlain were for the most part a wilderness. What few settlements did exist were mostly grouped about the southeast corner of the lake, into which emigration had naturally flowed from the older New England States. And even these were but feeble plantations,[17] separated from the Connecticut valley by lofty mountains, over which one rough road led the way.

Burgoyne's companions in arms have told us of the herds of red deer seen quietly browsing on the hillsides; of the flocks of pigeons, darkening the air in their flight; and of the store of pike, bass, and maskelonge with which the waters of the lake abounded. At one encampment the soldiers lived a whole day on the pigeons they had knocked off the trees with poles. So the passage of the lake must have seemed more like a pleasure trip to them than the prelude to a warlike campaign.

In his way up the lake, Burgoyne landed at the River Bouquet, on the west shore, where for some days the army rested.

To this rendezvous, large numbers of Indians had come to join the expedition. It was indispensable to observe the customs which had always prevailed among these peoples when going to war. So Burgoyne made them a speech, gave them a feast, and witnessed the wild antics of their war dance.

He forbade their scalping the wounded, or destroying women and children. They listened attentively to his words, and promised obedience; but these commands were so flatly opposed to all their philosophy of war, which required the extinction of every human feeling, that Burgoyne might as well have bidden the waters of the lake flow backward, as expect an Indian not to use his scalping-knife whenever an enemy lay at his mercy.

Still, it is to Burgoyne's credit that he tried to check the ferocity of these savages, and we would also charitably believe him at least half ashamed of having to employ them at all, when he saw them brandishing their tomahawks over the heads of imaginary victims; beheld them twisting their bodies about in hideous contortions, in mimicry of tortured prisoners; or heard them howling, like wild beasts, their cry of triumph when the scalp is torn from an enemy's head.

While thus drawing the sword with one hand, Burgoyne took his pen in the other. He drew up a paper which his Tory agents were directed to scatter among the people of Vermont, many of whom, he was assured, were at heart loyal to the king. These he invited to join his standard, or offered its protection to all who should remain neutral. All were warned against driving off their cattle, hiding their corn, or breaking down the bridges in his way. Should they dare disobey, he threatened to let loose his horde of savages upon them. Such a departure from the rules of honorable warfare would have justified the Americans in declaring no quarter to the invaders.

Well aware that he would not conquer the Americans with threats, Burgoyne now gave the order to his army to go forward. His view of what lay before him might be thus expressed: The enemy will, probably, fight at Ticonderoga. Of course I shall beat them. I will give them no time to rally. When they hear St. Leger is in the valley, their panic will be completed. We shall have a little promenade of eight days, to Albany.

On June 29 the army was near Ticonderoga. This day Burgoyne made a stirring address to his soldiers, in which he gave out the memorable watchword, "This army must not retreat."

The next day, Frazer's corps landed in full view of the fortress. The rest of the army was posted on both sides of the lake, which is nowhere wider than a river as the fortress is approached. The fleet kept the middle of the channel. With drums beating and bugles sounding, the different battalions took up their allotted stations in the woods bordering upon the lake. When night fell, the watch-fires of the besiegers' camps made red the waters that flowed past them. But as yet no hostile gun boomed from the ramparts of Ticonderoga.

What was going on behind those grim walls which frowned defiance upon the invaders? General Gates was no longer there to direct. General St. Clair[18] was now in command of perhaps four thousand effective men, with whom, nevertheless, he hoped to defend his miles of intrenchments against the assaults of twice his own numbers. His real weakness lay in not knowing what point Burgoyne would choose for attack, and he had been strangely delinquent in not calling for reenforcements until the enemy was almost at the gates of the fortress itself.

Burgoyne knew better than to heedlessly rush upon the lines that had proved Abercromby's destruction.[19] He knew they were too strong to be carried without great bloodshed, and meant first to invest the fortress, and after cutting off access to it on all sides, then lay siege to it in regular form.

[Sidenote: July 2, Mount Hope seized.]

To this end, Frazer's corps was moved up to within cannon-shot of the works. His scouts soon found a way leading through old paths,[20] quite round the rear of the fortress, to the outlet of Lake George. This was promptly seized. After a little skirmishing, the enemy planted themselves firmly, on some high ground rising behind the old French lines, on this side; thus making themselves masters of the communication with Lake George, and enclosing the fortress on the rear or land side. While this was going on, on the west shore, Riedesel's Germans were moved up still nearer Mount Independence, on the Vermont shore, thus investing Ticonderoga on three sides.

A more enterprising general would never have permitted his enemy to seize his communications with Lake George, without making a struggle for their possession, but St. Clair appears to have thought his forces unequal to the attempt, and it was not made. The disaster which followed was but the natural result.

A-B, Ticonderoga. C-D-E, Mount Independence. F, Barracks. G, Mount Defiance. H, Bridge joining the fortress proper with Mount Independence. I, American Fleet. K, Outlet of Lake George. O, British Fleet. P, Three-Mile Point. Q, First Landing Place of Burgoyne. R, The Germans. T-U, Position taken on Mount Hope. W, Second Position of same Troops at U. Z, Portage to Lake George.]

[Sidenote: Mount Defiance occupied.]

Just across the basin formed by the widening of the outlet of Lake George, a steep-sided mountain rises high above all the surrounding region. Its summit not only looks down upon the fortress, in every part, but over all its approaches by land or water. Not a man could march without being distinctly seen from this mountain. Yet, to-day, the eye measures its forest-shagged sides, in doubt if they can be scaled by human feet. Indeed, its ascent was so difficult that the Americans had neglected to occupy it at all. This is Mount Defiance, the most commanding object for miles around.

[Sidenote: July 5.]

Burgoyne's engineers could not help seeing that if artillery could be got to the top of this mountain, Ticonderoga was doomed. They reconnoitred it. Though difficult, they said it might be done. St. Clair's timidity having given them the way to it, the British instantly began moving men and guns round the rear of the fortress, and cutting a road up the mountain-side. The work was pushed forward day and night. It took most of the oxen belonging to the army to drag two twelve-pounders up the steep ascent, but when they were once planted on the summit, Ticonderoga lay at the mercy of the besiegers.

[Sidenote: July 6.]

When St. Clair saw the enemy getting ready to cannonade him from Mount Defiance, he at once gave orders to evacuate the fortress[21] under cover of the night. Most of the garrison retreated over the bridge leading to Mount Independence, and thence by the road to Hubbardton. What could be saved of the baggage and army stores was sent off to Skenesborough, by water. Hurry and confusion were everywhere, for it was not doubted that the enemy would be upon them as soon as daylight should discover the fortress abandoned. This happened at an early hour of the morning. The British instantly marched into the deserted works, without meeting with the least resistance. Ticonderoga's hundred cannon were silent under the menace of two. Burgoyne was now free to march his victorious battalions to the east, the west, or the south, whenever he should give the order.


[17] FEEBLE PLANTATIONS. No permanent settlements were begun west of the Green Mountains till after the conquest of Canada. After that, the report of soldiers who had passed over the military road from Charlestown on the Connecticut River, to Crown Point, brought a swarm of settlers into what is now Bennington County. Settlement began in Rutland County in 1771.

[18] GENERAL ARTHUR ST. CLAIR, of Scotch birth, had been a lieutenant with Wolfe at Quebec; he resigned and settled in Pennsylvania; served with our army in Canada; made brigadier, August, 1776; major-general, February, 1777.

[19] ABERCROMBY lost two thousand men in assaulting these lines in 1758. Since then they had been greatly strengthened.

[20] THROUGH OLD PATHS. The Indians had passed this way centuries before the fortress was thought of.

[21] ST. CLAIR seems to have waited just long enough for the defence to become difficult, to admit its impossibility. He chose the part of safety rather than that of glory.



(July 7, 1777.)

Not doubting he would find Skenesborough still in our possession, St. Clair was pushing for that place with all possible speed. He expected to get there by land, before the enemy could do so by water; then, after gathering up the men and stores saved from Ticonderoga, St. Clair meant to fall back toward Fort Edward, where General Schuyler,[22] his superior officer, lay with two thousand men.

This was plainly St Clair's true course. Indeed, there was nothing else for him to do, unless he decided to abandon the direct route to Albany altogether. So St. Clair did what a good general should. He resolved to throw himself between Burgoyne and Schuyler, whose force, joined to his own, would thus be able, even if not strong enough to risk a battle, at least to keep up a bold front toward the enemy.

Though Burgoyne really knew nothing about Schuyler's force, he was keenly alive to the importance of cutting off the garrison of Ticonderoga from its line of retreat, and, if possible, of striking it a disabling blow before it could take up a new position. St. Clair counted on stealing a march before his retreat could be interfered with. He also depended on the strength of the obstructions at the bridge[23] of Ticonderoga to delay the enemy's fleet until his own could get safely to Skenesborough. In both expectations, St. Clair was disappointed.

[Sidenote: July 6.]

In the first place, Burgoyne had sent Frazer out in pursuit of him, as soon as the evacuation was discovered; in the second, Burgoyne's gunboats had hewed their way through the obstructions by nine in the morning, and were presently crowding all sail after the American flotilla, under command of Burgoyne himself.

Riedesel's camp, we remember, lay on the Vermont side, and so nearest to Mount Independence, and St. Clair's line of retreat. Burgoyne, therefore, ordered Riedesel to fall in behind Frazer, who had just marched, and give that officer any support he might be in want of.

Thus, most of the hostile forces were in active movement, either by land or water, at an early hour of the sixth. Let us first follow Frazer, in his effort to strike the American rear.

Frazer had with him eight hundred and fifty men of his own corps. He pushed on so eagerly that the slow-moving Germans were far in the rear when the British halted for the night, near Hubbardton. The day had been sultry, the march fatiguing. Frazer's men threw themselves on the ground, and slept on their arms.

St. Clair had reached Hubbardton the same afternoon, in great disorder. He halted only long enough for the rearguard to come up, and then hastened on, six miles farther, to Castleton, leaving Warner,[24] with three regiments, to cover his retreat. Instead of keeping within supporting distance of the main body, Warner foolishly decided to halt for the night where he was, because his men were tired, thus putting a gap of six miles between his commander and himself.

Warner did not neglect, however, to fell some trees in front of his camp, and this simple precaution, perhaps, proved the salvation of his command the next day.

[Sidenote: July 7.]

At five in the morning, Frazer's scouts fell upon Warner's pickets while they were cooking their breakfasts, unsuspicious of danger. The surprise was complete. With their usual dash, Frazer's men rushed on to the assault, but soon found themselves entangled among the felled trees and brushwood, behind which the Americans were hurriedly endeavoring to form. At the moment of attack, one regiment made a shameful retreat. The rest were rallied by Warner and Francis,[25] behind trees, in copses, or wherever a vantage-ground could be had. As the combat took place in the woods, the British were forced to adopt the same tactics. Musket and rifle were soon doing deadly work in their ranks, every foot of ground was obstinately disputed, and when they thought the battle already won they found the Americans had only just begun to fight.

For three hours, eight hundred men maintained a gallant and stubborn fight against the picked soldiers of Burgoyne's army, each side being repeatedly driven from its ground without gaining decided advantage over the other. Nor would Frazer have gained the day, as he at length did, but for the timely arrival of the Germans. Indeed, at the moment when the British were really beaten and ready to give way, the sound of many voices, singing aloud, rose above the din of battle, and near at hand. At first neither of the combatants knew what such strange sounds could mean. It was Riedesel's Germans advancing to the attack, chanting battle hymns to the fierce refrain of the musketry and the loud shouts of the combatants. Fifty fresh men would have turned the scale to either side. This reenforcement, therefore, decided the day. Being now greatly outnumbered, the Americans scattered in the woods around them.

Although a defeat, this spirited little battle was every way honorable to the Americans, who fought on until all hope of relief had vanished. A single company would have turned defeat into victory, when to the British, defeat in the woods, thirty miles from help, meant destruction. Even as it was, they did not know what to do with the victory they had just won, with the loss of two hundred men, killed and wounded, seventeen of whom were officers. They had neither shelter nor medicines for the wounded, nor provisions for themselves. The battle had exhausted their ammunition, and every moment was expected to bring another swarm of foes about their ears.

The Americans had three hundred men killed and wounded, and many taken. The brave Colonel Francis, who had so admirably conducted the retreat from Ticonderoga, was killed while rallying his men. Seldom has a battle shown more determined obstinacy in the combatants, seldom has one been more bloody for the numbers engaged.

While Frazer was thus driving St. Clair's rearguard before him on the left, the British were giving chase to the American flotilla on the lake. This had hardly reached Skenesborough, encumbered with the sick, the baggage, and the stores, when the British gunboats came up with, and furiously attacked, it. Our vessels could not be cleared for action or make effective resistance. After making what defence they could, they were abandoned, and blown up by their crews. Skenesborough was then set on fire, the Americans making good their retreat to Fort Anne,[26] with the loss of all their stores.

St. Clair heard of Warner's defeat and of the taking of Skenesborough almost at the same hour. His first plan had wholly miscarried. His soldiers were angry and insubordinate, half his available force had been scattered at Hubbardton, his supplies were gone, his line of retreat in the enemy's hands. Finding himself thus cut off from the direct route to Fort Edward, he now marched to join Schuyler by way of Rutland, Manchester, and Bennington. This he succeeded in doing on the twelfth, with about half the men he had led from Ticonderoga. Warner, too, brought off the shattered remnant of his command to Bennington.

On his part, Schuyler had promptly sent a reenforcement to Fort Anne, to protect St. Clair's retreat, as soon as he knew of it. These troops soon found other work on their hands than that cut out for them.

[Sidenote: July 7.]

Burgoyne was determined to give the Americans no time either to rally, or again unite their scattered bands in his front. Without delay, one regiment was pushed forward to Fort Anne, on the heels of the fugitives who had just left Skenesborough in flames. When this battalion reached the fort, instead of waiting to be attacked, the Americans sallied out upon it with spirit, and were driving it before them in full retreat, when the yells of some Indians, who were lurking in the neighboring woods, spread such a panic among the victors that they gave up the fight, set fire to Fort Anne, and retreated to Fort Edward with no enemy pursuing them. The defeated British then fell back to Skenesborough, so that each detachment may be said to have run away from the other.

General Burgoyne had much reason to be elated with his success thus far. In one short week he had taken Ticonderoga, with more than one hundred cannon; had scattered the garrison right and left; had captured or destroyed a prodigious quantity of warlike stores, the loss of which distressed the Americans long after; had annihilated their naval armament on the lake, and had sown dismay among the neighboring colonies broadcast. It was even a question whether there was any longer a force in his front capable of offering the least resistance to his march.

With these exploits, the first stage of the invasion may be said to have ended. If ever a man had been favored by fortune, Burgoyne was that man. The next stage must show him in a very different light, as the fool of fortune, whose favors he neither knew how to deserve when offered him, nor how to compel when withheld.


[22] GENERAL PHILIP SCHUYLER, one of the four major-generals first created by Congress, June, 1775. Had seen some service in the French War; was given command of the Northern Department, including Ticonderoga, Crown Point, Fort Stanwix, etc., February, 1777, as the one man who could unite the people of New York against the enemy. Gates declined to serve under him.

[23] OBSTRUCTIONS AT THE BRIDGE. The Americans had stretched a boom of logs, strongly chained together, across the strait.

[24] SETH WARNER was on the way to Ticonderoga when he met St. Clair retreating. The rearguard, which Colonel Francis had previously commanded, was then increased, and put under Warner's orders.

[25] COLONEL EBENEZER FRANCIS of Newton, Mass., colonel, 11th Massachusetts Regiment. His bravery was so conspicuous that the British thought he was in chief command of the Americans.

[26] FORT ANNE, one of the minor posts built during the French War to protect the route from Albany to Lake Champlain. It consisted of a log blockhouse surrounded by a palisade. Boat navigation of Lake Champlain began here, fourteen miles from Skenesborough, by Wood Creek flowing into it.



One of Washington's most trusted generals said, and said truly, that it was only through misfortune that the Americans would rise to the character of a great people. Perhaps no event of the Revolution more signally verified the truth of this saying, than the fall of Ticonderoga.

Let us see how this disaster was affecting the Northern States. In that section, stragglers and deserters were spreading exaggerated accounts of it on every side. In Vermont, the settlers living west of the mountains were now practically defenceless. Burgoyne's agents were undermining their loyalty; the fall of Ticonderoga had shaken it still more. Rather than abandon their farms, many no longer hesitated to put themselves under British protection. Hundreds, who were too patriotic to do this, fled over the mountains, spreading consternation as they went. From Lake Champlain to the New England coast, there was not a village which did not believe itself to be the especial object of Burgoyne's vengeance. Indeed, his name became a bugbear, to frighten unruly children with.

Of those who had been with the army, many believed it their first duty to protect their families, and so went home. Numbers, who were on the way to Ticonderoga, turned back, on hearing that it was taken. To Burgoyne, these results were equal to a battle gained, since he was weakening the Americans, just as surely, in this way, with entire safety to himself.

In despair, those settlers who stood faithful among the faithless, turned to their New Hampshire brethren. "If we are driven back, the invader will soon be at your doors," they said. "We are your buckler and shield. Our humble cabins are the bulwark of your happy firesides. But our hearts fail us. Help us or we perish!"

Could Schuyler do nothing for these suffering people? To let them be ruined and driven out was not only bad policy, but worse strategy. He knew that Burgoyne must regard these settlements with foreboding, as the home of a hostile and brave yeomanry, whose presence was a constant threat to him. To maintain them, then, was an act of simplest wisdom. Schuyler could ill spare a single soldier, yet it was necessary to do something, and that quickly, for all New England was in a tumult, and Burgoyne said to be marching all ways at once. What wonder, since Washington himself believed New England to be the threatened point![27]

Warner's regiment had been recruited among the Green Mountain Boys of this very section. Schuyler posted what was left of it at Manchester, to be at once a rallying-point for the settlers, a menace to the loyalists, and a defence against Burgoyne's predatory bands, who were already spreading themselves out over the surrounding region. It was not much, but it was something.

From New Hampshire, the panic quickly spread into Massachusetts, and throughout all New England. As usually happens, the loss of Ticonderoga was laid at the door of the generals in chief command. Many accused St. Clair of treacherous dealing. Everywhere, people were filled with wrath and astonishment. "The fortress has been sold!" they cried. Some of the officers, who had been present, wrote home that the place could have held out against Burgoyne for weeks, or until help could have arrived. This was sure to find ready believers, and so added to the volume of denunciation cast upon the head of the unlucky St. Clair.

But these passionate outbursts of feeling were soon quenched by the necessity all saw for prompt action. Once passion and prejudice had burned out, our people nobly rose to the demands of the situation. But confidence in the generals of the Northern army was gone forever. The men of New England would not sit long in the shadow of defeat, but they said they would no more be sacrificed to the incompetency of leaders who had been tried and found wanting. Congress had to pay heed to this feeling. Washington had to admit the force of it, because he knew that New England must be chiefly looked to in this crisis, to make head against Burgoyne. If she failed, all else would fail.

[Sidenote: P. Van Cortlandt's letters.]

If we turn now to New York, what do we see? Five counties in the enemy's hands. Three more, so divided against themselves as to be without order or government. Of the remaining six, the resources of Orange, Ulster, and Dutchess were already heavily taxed with the duty of defending the passes of the Hudson; Westchester was being overrun by the enemy, at will; only Tryon and Albany remained, and in Tryon, every able-bodied citizen, not a loyalist, was arming to repel the invasion of St. Leger, now imminent.

We have thus briefly glanced at the dangers resulting from the fall of Ticonderoga, at the resources of the sections which Burgoyne was now threatening to lay waste with fire and sword, and at the attitude of the people toward those generals who had so grievously disappointed them in the conduct of the campaign, up to this time.

[Sidenote: John Marshall.]

In the words of one distinguished writer, "The evacuation of Ticonderoga was a shock for which no part of the United States was prepared." In the language of another, "No event throughout the whole war produced such consternation, nothing could have been more unexpected."

It was not so much the loss of the fortress itself,—as costly as it was to the impoverished colonies, that could have been borne,—but the people had been led to believe, and did believe, it was next to impregnable; nor could they understand why those who had been intrusted with its defence should have fled without striking a blow, or calling for assistance until too late.

Congress immediately ordered all the generals of the Northern army[28] to Philadelphia, in order that their conduct might be looked into. John Adams hotly declared that they would never be able to defend a post until they shot a general. But Washington, always greatest in defeat, hastened to show how such a step was doubly dangerous to an army when fronting its enemy, and wisely procured its suspension for the present. He first set himself to work to soothe Schuyler's wounded pride, while stimulating him to greater activity. "We should never despair," he nobly said. And again: "If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new exertions. I yet look forward to a happy change." It was indeed fortunate that one so stout of heart, with so steady a hand, so firm in the belief of final triumph, so calm in the hour of greatest danger, should have guided the destinies of the infant nation at this trying hour.


[27] THE THREATENED POINT. Baffled in his purpose of taking Philadelphia by Washington's success at Trenton, Sir William Howe had decided on making another attempt; but his manoeuvres led Washington to believe Howe was going to Newport, R.I., with the view of overrunning Massachusetts. See Note 3, "Plan of Campaign" (p. 32).

[28] GENERALS OF THE NORTHERN ARMY. Schuyler and St. Clair were chiefly inculpated. Brigadiers Poor, Patterson, and De Fermoy, who were with St. Clair at Ticonderoga, were included in the order. All had agreed in the necessity for the evacuation, and all came in for a share of the public censure. Poor and Patterson nobly redeemed themselves in the later operations against Burgoyne.



It is a well-known maxim of war, that the general who makes the fewest mistakes will come off conqueror.

In his haste to crush the Americans before they could combine against him, Burgoyne had overshot his mark. His troops were now so widely scattered that he could not stir until they were again collected. By the combats of Hubbardton and Fort Anne, nothing material had been gained, since St. Clair was at Fort Edward by the time Frazer got to Skenesborough, and the Americans had returned to Fort Anne as soon as the British left the neighborhood.

After the battle of Hubbardton, Riedesel was posted at Castleton, in order to create the impression that the British army was moving into New England. By this bit of strategy, Burgoyne expected to keep back reenforcements from Schuyler. Riedesel's presence also gave much encouragement to the loyalists, who now joined Burgoyne in such numbers as to persuade him that a majority of the inhabitants were for the king. The information they gave, proved of vital consequence in determining Burgoyne's operations in the near future.

Two routes were now open to Burgoyne. Contrary to sound judgment, he decided on marching to Fort Edward, by way of Fort Anne, instead of going back to Ticonderoga, making that his depot, and proceeding thence up Lake George to Fort Edward and the Hudson. Unquestionably, the latter route would have taken him to Albany, by the time he actually reached Fort Edward, and in much better condition to fight.

Burgoyne had said he was afraid that going back to Ticonderoga would dispirit his soldiers. It could have been done in half the time required for bringing the supplies up to it at Skenesborough, to say nothing of the long and fatiguing marches saved by water carriage across Lake George.

Be that as it may, from the moment Burgoyne decided in favor of the Fort Anne route, that moment the possession of Fort Anne became a necessity to him. Had he first attacked it with fifteen hundred men, instead of five hundred, he would have taken it; but even if he had occupied it after the fight of the eighth, the Americans would have been prevented from blocking his way, as they subsequently did with so much effect. In Burgoyne's case, delays were most dangerous. It seems only too plain, that he was the sort of general who would rather commit two errors than retract one.

Let us see what Burgoyne's chosen route offered of advantage or disadvantage. The distance by it to Fort Edward is only twenty-six miles. By a good road, in easy marches, an army should be there in two days; in an exigency, in one. It was mostly a wilderness country, and, though generally level, much of it was a bog, which could only be made passable by laying down a corduroy road. There were miles of such road to be repaired or built before wagons or artillery could be dragged over it. Indeed, a worse country to march through can hardly be imagined. On the other hand, of this twenty-six miles, Wood Creek, a tributary of Lake Champlain, afforded boat navigation for nine or ten, or as far as Fort Anne, for the artillery, stores, and baggage.

But while Burgoyne was getting his scattered forces again in hand, and was bringing everything up the lake to Skenesborough, the garrison of Fort Edward had been spreading themselves out over the road he meant to take, and were putting every obstacle in his way that ingenuity could devise or experience suggest. Hundreds of trees were felled across the road. The navigation of Wood Creek was similarly interrupted. Those trees growing on its banks were dexterously dropped so as to interlock their branches in mid-stream. Farms were deserted. All the live-stock was driven out of reach, to the end that the country itself might offer the most effectual resistance to Burgoyne's march.

Burgoyne could not move until his working parties had cleared the way, in whole or in part. From this cause alone, he was detained more than a week at Skenesborough. This delay was as precious to the Americans as it was vexatious to Burgoyne, since it gave them time to bring up reenforcements, form magazines, and prepare for the approaching struggle, while the enemy's difficulties multiplied with every mile he advanced.

[Sidenote: July 25.]

At length the British army left Skenesborough. It took two days to reach Fort Anne, and five to arrive at Fort Edward, where it halted to allow the heavy artillery, sent by way of Lake George, to join it; give time to bring up its supplies of food and ammunition, without which the army was helpless to move farther on; and, meanwhile, permit the general to put in execution a scheme by which he expected to get a supply of cattle, horses, carts, and forage, of all of which he was in pressing want.

Still another body of savages joined Burgoyne at Fort Edward. Better for him had they staid in their native wilds, for he presently found himself equally powerless to control their thirst for blood, or greed for plunder.

[Sidenote: July 21.]

Not yet feeling himself strong enough to risk a battle, Schuyler decided to evacuate Fort Edward on the enemy's approach. He first called in to him the garrison at Fort George. Nixon's brigade, which had just been obstructing the road from Fort Anne, was also called back. All told, Schuyler now had only about four thousand men. With these he fell back; first, to Moses's Creek, then to Saratoga, then to Stillwater.


[29] FORT EDWARD, a link in the chain of forts extending between Canada and the Hudson,—first called Fort Lyman, for Colonel Phineas Lyman, who built it in 1755,—stood at the elbow of the Hudson, where the river turns west, after approaching within sixteen miles of Lake George, to which point there was a good military road. The fort itself was only a redoubt of timber and earth, surrounded by a stockade, and having a casern, or barrack, inside, capable of accommodating two hundred soldiers. It was an important military position, because this was the old portage, or carrying-place, from the Hudson to Lake George, though the fort was no great matter.



[Sidenote: Frazer advances.]

On the 9th of August, Frazer's corps moved down to Duer's house, seven miles from Fort Edward, and seven from Saratoga. This was done to cover the expedition Burgoyne had planned; first, to confirm the belief that he was about to fall on New England, and, next, for supplying his army with horses, cattle, carts, provisions, forage—everything, in short, of which he stood in want. Both objects would be gained at once, since fear of the first would make easy the second.

[Sidenote: Real object of the Bennington raid.]

Burgoyne ached to strike a blow at New England. The successes he had just met with tempted him on toward his wishes; yet he dared not go too far, because the king's orders forbade his turning aside from his main object, to march into New England, as he himself had asked for discretionary power to do, when laying his plan before the ministers. Still, as New England was to be the final object of the campaign, Burgoyne was impatient to set about humbling her in good earnest. Events were working so favorably for him, that he now saw his chance to go at least half way toward his desires. So the expedition to Bennington was certainly far from being the effect of any sudden decision on Burgoyne's part, or wholly due to the pressing want of supplies. It would, we think, have been undertaken in any event.

On the other hand, the victualling of his army was the one obstacle to Burgoyne's advance to Albany. So long as every pound of bread and meat had to be brought from Quebec to Skenesborough, and from Skenesborough to his camp, the farther the army marched, the greater the difficulty of feeding it became. It was now living from hand to mouth, so to speak. Nobody but Tories would sell it a pound of beef or an ear of corn. What gold could not buy, Burgoyne determined to take by force. If enough could be gleaned, in this way, from the country round, he could march on; if not, he must halt where he was, until sufficient could be brought up over a road every day growing longer and more dangerous. Burgoyne would never submit to the last alternative without trying the first.

For the moment then, the problem, how to feed his army so as to put it in motion with the least possible delay, was all-important with General Burgoyne. The oldest, and most populous, of the Vermont settlements lay within striking distance on his left. He knew that rebel flour was stored in Bennington. He had been told that half the farmers were loyal at heart, and that the other half would never wait for the coming of British veterans. Burgoyne was puffed up with the notion that he was going to conjure the demon of rebellion with the magic of his name. Already he saw himself not only a conqueror, but lawgiver to the conquered. On the whole, the plan seemed easy of accomplishment. Burgoyne was like a man starving in the midst of plenty. Supplies he must have. If they could be wrung from the enemy, so much the better.

An expedition chiefly designed to rob barnyards, corn-cribs, and henroosts promised little glory to those engaged in it. This may have been the reason why Burgoyne chose to employ his Germans, who were always excellent foragers, rather than his British soldiers. Perhaps he thought the Germans would inspire most fear. Be that as it may, never did a general make a more costly mistake.[30]

[Sidenote: Baum marches for Bennington.]

The command was given to Colonel Baum, who, with about a thousand Germans, Indians, Canadians, and refugee loyalists, started out from camp on his maraud, on the eleventh, halted at Batten-Kill on the twelfth, and reached Cambridge on the thirteenth. He was furnished with Tory guides, who knew the country well, and with instructions looking to a long absence from the army.

Burgoyne then began manoeuvring so as to mask Baum's movements from Schuyler.

[Sidenote: Frazer crosses the Hudson.]

Frazer was marched down to Batten-Kill, with his own and Breyman's corps. Leaving Breyman here to support either Baum or himself, in case of need, Frazer crossed the Hudson on the fourteenth, and encamped on the heights of Saratoga that night. The rest of the army moved on to Duer's, the same day. By thus threatening Schuyler with an advance in force, of which Frazer's crossing was conclusive proof, Burgoyne supposed Baum would be left to plunder at his leisure, but he seems to have thought little of the opposition which Baum, on his side, might meet with from the settlers themselves; though this too was provided against in Baum's orders, and by posting Breyman on Baum's line of march.

If Baum succeeded to his wishes, Burgoyne meant to throw the whole army across the Hudson immediately. Already Frazer was intrenching at Saratoga, with the view of protecting the crossing. Having now so placed his troops as to take instant advantage of Baum's success, of which he felt no manner of doubt, Burgoyne could only sit still till Baum should be heard from.

Meanwhile, the New England militia were flocking to Manchester in squads, companies, or regiments. Washington had said they were the best yeomanry in the world, and they were about to prove their right to this title more decisively than ever. Ministers dismissed their congregations with the exhortation, "He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one." Some clergymen even took a musket and went into the ranks. Apathy and the numbness that succeeds defeat were dissipated by these appeals and these examples.

It was Washington's policy to keep a force on Burgoyne's flank, which might be used to break up his communications, cut off his provision trains, or otherwise so harass him as to delay his march. In General Lincoln[31] he found an officer, at once capable and brave, who had the confidence of the New England people. Lincoln was, therefore, sent to take command of the militia now mustering at Manchester.

At the same time, New Hampshire called upon the veteran Stark[32] to lead her forces into the field. Stark had left the army in disgust, because Congress had promoted other officers over his head, not more worthy than himself. He was still smarting under the sense of wrong, when this command was offered him. He was like Achilles, sulking in his tent.

Stark said that he asked nothing better than to fight, but insisted that he would do so only upon condition that the State troops should be exclusively under his orders. To agree to this would be practically an exercise of State sovereignty. But time pressed, Stark's name was a host in itself: it was thought best to give his wounded vanity this sop; for, by general consent, he was the only man for the crisis.

[Sidenote: Aug. 6.]

Lincoln found six hundred men assembled at Manchester, most of whom belonged to Stark's brigade. On the seventh, Stark himself arrived with eight hundred more. By Schuyler's order, Lincoln desired Stark to march them to the main army at once. Stark replied that, being in an independent command, he would take orders from nobody as to how or where he should move his troops.

Though plainly subversive of all military rules, Stark's obstinacy proved Burgoyne's destruction; for if Schuyler had prevailed, there would never have been a battle of Bennington.

Though undoubtedly perplexed by the situation in which he found himself placed, of antagonism to the regularly constituted military authority of the nation, Stark's future operations show excellent military judgment on his part. He was not going to abandon Schuyler, or leave Vermont uncovered; still less was he disposed to throw away the chance of striking Burgoyne by hanging on his flank, and of thus achieving something on his own account. Stark's sagacity was soon justified to the world.

[Sidenote: Aug. 9.]

He determined to march with part of his force to Bennington, twenty-five miles south of Manchester, and about the same distance from Stillwater. In this position he would easily be able to carry out either of the objects he had in view, assist Schuyler, cover Bennington, or get in a telling blow somewhere, when least expected.

Burgoyne's expectation of surprising Bennington was thus completely frustrated.

[Sidenote: Aug. 14.]

Baum learned at Cambridge that the Americans were at Bennington, to the number of eighteen hundred. He immediately wrote Burgoyne to this effect. On the next day, he marched to Sancoic, a mill-stream falling into the Walloomsac River in North Hoosac, and after again writing Burgoyne, confirming the account he had previously sent about the force in his front, moved on toward Bennington, under the impression that the Americans would not wait to be attacked.


[30] A COSTLY MISTAKE to give the command to an officer who could not speak English; still another, to intrust an expedition in which celerity of movement was all-important, to soldiers loaded down with their equipments, as the Germans were, instead of to light troops. Colonel Skene went with Baum. See note 4, p. 18.

[31] GENERAL BENJAMIN LINCOLN, born at Hingham, Mass., 1733. Made a major-general, February, 1777. Joined Schuyler, July 29, at Fort Miller, while our army was retreating; sent thence to Manchester. One of those captains who, while seldom successful, are yet considered brave and skilful commanders.

[32] GENERAL JOHN STARK, born at Londonderry, N.H., 1728, had seen more active service than most officers of his time. He had fought with Abercromby at Ticonderoga, against Howe at Bunker Hill, and with Washington at Trenton. Notwithstanding this, he was passed over in making promotions, perhaps because he had less education than some others, who lacked his natural capacity for a military life. Congress first censured him for insubordination, and then voted him thanks, and promotion to a brigadiership for his victory over Baum.



Burgoyne's movements convinced Schuyler that he would shortly be attacked by the whole British army, as Burgoyne had intended and foreseen. Schuyler therefore again urged Stark to come to his assistance without more delay, if he would not have the burden of defeat lie at his own door. This appeal took present effect.

Nothing happened till the thirteenth. Meantime, Stark had decided to go to Schuyler's assistance. His brigade was under arms, ready to march, when a woman rode up in haste with the news that hostile Indians were running up and down the next town, spreading terror in their path. She had come herself, because the road was no longer safe for men to travel it. Stark quickly ordered out two hundred men to stop the supposed marauders, and gain further intelligence.

This detachment soon sent back word that the Indians were only clearing the way for a larger force, which was marching toward Bennington. Swift couriers were instantly despatched to Manchester, to hurry forward the troops there to Stark's aid.

[Sidenote: Aug. 14.]

The next day Stark moved out toward the enemy, in order to look for his detachment. He soon fell in with it, fighting in retreat, with the enemy following close behind. Stark halted, formed his line, and gathered in his scouts. This defiance brought the enemy to a stand also.

Seeing before him a force as strong as, or stronger than, his own, Baum was now looking about him for ground suitable to receive an attack upon; making one himself was farthest from his thoughts, as Burgoyne had given him express orders not to risk an engagement, if opposed by a superior force, but to intrench, and send back for help at once. This was precisely Baum's present situation. He therefore lost no time in sending a courier to headquarters.

On his part, Stark did not wish to fight till Warner could come up, or delay fighting long enough for the enemy to be reenforced. Baum's evident desire to avoid an action made Stark all the more anxious to attack him, and he resolved to do so not later than the next morning, by which time he confidently reckoned on having Warner's regiment with him. Though small, it had fought bravely at Hubbardton, and Stark felt that his raw militia would be greatly strengthened by the presence of such veterans among them.

[Sidenote: Aug. 15.]

Rain frustrated Stark's plan for attacking the next day, so there was only a little skirmishing, in which the Americans had the advantage. Baum improved the delay by throwing up a redoubt of logs and earth on a rather high, flat-topped hill, rising behind the little Walloomsac River. In this he placed his two field-pieces. His Canadians and loyalists took up a position across and lower down the stream, in his front, the better to cover the road by which his reenforcements must come, or the Americans attempt to cut off his retreat. These dispositions were all that time, the size of his force, and the nature of the ground, would permit.

Rain also kept back the reenforcements that each side was so impatiently expecting. Stark chafed at the delay, Baum grew more hopeful of holding out until help could reach him. Burgoyne had, indeed, despatched Breyman to Baum's assistance at eight o'clock in the morning, with eight hundred and fifty men and two guns. This corps was toiling on, through mud and rain, at the rate of only a mile an hour, when an hour, more or less, was to decide the fate of the expedition itself. The fatigue was so great, that when urged on to the relief of their comrades, the weary Germans would grumble out, "Oh, let us give them time to get warm!"

Warner's regiment could not leave Manchester till the morning of the fifteenth, but by marching till midnight, it was near Bennington on the morning of the sixteenth. Breyman put so little energy into his movements that he was nowhere near Baum at that hour. Stark, however, was strengthened by the arrival of several hundred militia from Massachusetts, who came full of fight, and demanding to be led against the enemy without delay. Stark's reply was characteristic: "Do you want to go out now, while it is dark and rainy?" he asked. "No," the spokesman rejoined. "Then," continued Stark, "if the Lord should give us sunshine once more, and I do not give you fighting enough, I will never ask you to turn out again."

[Sidenote: Aug. 16.]

The day broke clear and pleasant. Both parties prepared for the coming battle. Stark had the most men, but Baum the advantage of fighting behind intrenchments, and of having artillery, while Stark had none.

At midday, Stark formed his men for the attack. All were yeomanry, in homespun, rudely equipped with pouches and powder-horns, and armed with the old brown firelocks, without bayonets, they had brought from their homes. Some had served in the preceding campaign, but not one in fifty had ever fired a shot in anger; while many were mere lads, in whom enthusiasm for their leader and cause supplied the want of experience. The work now required of them was such as only veterans were thought capable of doing. They were to storm intrenchments, defended by the trained soldiers of Europe; yet not a man flinched when Stark, with a soldier's bluntness and fire, pointed his sword toward the enemy's redoubt and exclaimed, "There, my lads, are the Hessians! To-night our flag floats over yonder hill, or Molly Stark is a widow!"

His men answered with loud cheers, grasped their weapons, and demanded to be led against the enemy. Stark then gave the wished-for order to march.

Meanwhile, dismay reigned in Bennington. Every man who could load a musket had gone out to fight with Stark. Their household goods had been loaded upon wagons, ready to move off in case the day went against them. Their wives and little ones stood hand in hand along the village street, throughout that long summer afternoon, listening to the peal of cannon and musketry, in fear for those who had gone forth to the battle, and expecting the moment that was to make them homeless wanderers.

The story of the battle is soon told. Stark so divided his force as to attack the enemy in front, flank, and rear, at once. The nature of the ground was such as to hide the march of the several detachments from Baum's view, but he had no other idea than to keep close in his intrenchments.

At three in the afternoon, firing began in Baum's rear. This was the signal that the several attacking columns had reached their allotted stations. All the Americans then rushed on to the assault. Baum found himself everywhere assailed with unlooked-for vigor. Never had he expected to see raw rustics charging up to the muzzles of his guns. In vain he plied them with grape and musketry. The encircling line grew tighter and tighter; the fire, hotter and hotter. For an hour he defended himself valiantly, hoping for night or Breyman to come. At last his fire slackened. The Americans clambered over the breastworks, and poured into the redoubt. For a few moments there was sharp hand-to-hand fighting. The Germans threw down their muskets, drew their broadswords, and desperately attempted to cut their way out. Most of them were beaten back or taken. A few only escaped. The Tories and Canadians fared no better. The victory was complete and decisive.

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