The Major Operations of the Navies in the War of American Independence
by A. T. Mahan
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Copyright, 1913, By A.T. MAHAN

All rights reserved

Published, October, 1913



The contents of this volume were first contributed as a chapter, under the title of "Major Operations, 1762-1783," to the "History of the Royal Navy," in seven volumes, published by Messrs. Sampson Low, Marston, and Company, under the general editorship of the late Sir William Laird Clowes. For permission to republish now in this separate form, the author has to express his thanks to the publishers of that work.

In the Introduction following this Preface, the author has summarized the general lesson to be derived from the course of this War of American Independence, as distinct from the particular discussion and narration of the several events which constitute the body of the treatment. These lessons he conceives to carry admonition for the present and future based upon the surest foundations; namely, upon the experience of the past as applicable to present conditions. The essential similarity between the two is evident in a common dependence upon naval strength.

There has been a careful rereading and revision of the whole text; but the changes found necessary to be made are much fewer than might have been anticipated after the lapse of fifteen years. Numerous footnotes in the History, specifying the names of ships in fleets, and of their commanders in various battles, have been omitted, as not necessary to the present purpose, though eminently proper and indeed indispensable to an extensive work of general reference and of encyclopaedic scope, such as the History is. Certain notes retained with the initials W.L.C. are due to the editor of that work.











Macaulay quoted on the action of Frederick the Great 1

Illustration from Conditions of the Turkish Empire 2

Lesson from the Recent War in the Balkans, 1912-1913 2

The War of American Independence a striking example of the Tendency of Wars to Spread 3

Origin and Train of Events in that War, Traced 3

Inference as to possible Train of Future Events in the History of the United States 4

The Monroe Doctrine Simply a Formulated Precaution against the Tendency of Wars to Spread 4

National Policy as to Asiatic Immigration 4

Necessity of an Adequate Navy if these two National Policies are to be sustained 4

Dependence on Navy Illustrated in the Two Great National Crises; in the War of Independence and in the War of Secession 4

The United States not great in Population in proportion to Territory 5

Nor Wealthy in Proportion to exposed Coast-Line 5

Special Fitness of a Navy to meet these particular conditions 5

The Pacific a great World Problem, dependent mainly on Naval Power 5




Preponderant effect of Control of the Water upon the Struggle for American Independence 6

Deducible then from Reason and from Experience 6

Consequent Necessity to the Americans of a Counterpoise to British Navy 6

This obtained through Burgoyne's Surrender 6

The Surrender of Burgoyne traceable directly to the Naval Campaigns on Lake Champlain, 1775, 1776 7

The subsequent Course of the War in all Quarters of the world due to that decisive Campaign 7

The Strategic Problem of Lake Champlain familiar to Americans from the Wars between France and Great Britain prior to 1775 8

Consequent prompt Initiative by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold 8

Energetic Pursuit of first Successes by Arnold 9

Complete Control of Lake Champlain thus secured 9

Invasion of Canada by Montgomery, 1775 9

Arnold marches through Maine Wilderness and joins Montgomery before Quebec 10

Assault on Quebec. Failure, and Death of Montgomery 10

Arnold maintains Blockade of Quebec, 1776 10

Relief of the Place by British Navy 11

Arnold Retreats to Crown Point 12

Arnold's Schemes and Diligence to create a Lake Navy, 1776 13

Difficulties to be overcome 13

Superior Advantages of the British 13

The British by building acquire Superiority, but too late for effect in 1776 13

Ultimate Consequences from this Retardation 14

Constitution of the Naval Force raised by Arnold 14

He moves with it to the foot of Lake Champlain 15

Takes position for Defence at Valcour Island 15

Particular Difficulties encountered by British 15

Constitution of the British Lake Navy 16

Land Forces of the Opponents 17

Naval Forces of the Two at the Battle of Valcour Island 17

Magnitude of the Stake at Issue 18

Arnold's Purposes and Plans 18

Advance of the British 19

Arnold's Disposition of his Flotilla to receive Attack 20

The Battle of Valcour Island 21

The Americans Worsted 22

Arnold Retreats by night Undetected 23

Pursuit by the British 24

Destruction of the American Vessels 25

British Appreciation of the Importance of the Action, as shown 26

Criticism of the conduct of the Opposing Leaders 26

Arnold's Merit and Gallantry 27

End of the Naval Story of the Lakes 27

Effect of the Campaign upon the Decisive Events of 1777 28




Necessity that Force, if resorted to, be from the first Adequate 29

Application to National Policy in peace 29

To the Monroe Doctrine 29

Failure of the British Government of 1775 in this respect 30

Consequences of such failure 30

General Howe evacuates Boston and retires to Halifax. Extent of his Command 30

Dissemination of Effort by British Government 30

Expedition against South Carolina 31

Local Conditions about Charleston 32

Description of Fort Moultrie 33

Plan of British Naval Attack 33

The Battle of Fort Moultrie 34

Failure of the Attack. British Losses 36

Comment upon the Action 37

The Expedition retires to New York 38

The Howes, Admiral and General, arrive in New York Bay 39

Operations about the City 39

Continuous and Decisive, but Inconspicuous, Part played by the British Navy 40

Description of Local Conditions about New York 40

American Preparations for Defence 41

Crucial Weakness of the Scheme 42

The Advance of the British 42

Washington withdraws his Army from the Brooklyn side 43

Success of this Withdrawal due to British Negligence 44

Subsequent Operations, and Retreat of Washington to New Jersey 45

Retreat continued to Pennsylvania, where he receives reinforcements 46

Slackness of Sir William Howe's actions 47

The British take possession of Narragansett Bay. Importance of that position 48

Washington suddenly takes the Offensive. Battle of Trenton 48

He recovers most of the State of New Jersey 49




British Object in Campaign of 1777 the same as that in 1776 50

Part assigned to Burgoyne 50

Slowness of his Progress at the beginning 51

Sir William Howe, instead of cooeperating, takes his Army to the Chesapeake 52

Criticism of this Course 52

Howe's Progress to Philadelphia, and Capture of that City 53

Admiral Lord Howe takes the Fleet from the Chesapeake to the Delaware 53

Surrender of Burgoyne and his Army 53

British Naval Operations in Delaware Bay 54

Brief Tenure—Nine Months—of Philadelphia by British 55

The general Failure of the British Campaign determined by Howe's move to the Chesapeake 55

General Results of the Campaign 56

Part played by the British Navy. Analogous to that in Spain, 1808-1812, and in many other instances 57




France recognizes the Independence of the United States, and makes with them a defensive Alliance 58

A French Fleet sails for America under Comte d'Estaing 59

Unprepared condition of the British Navy 59

Admiral Byron sails with a Reinforcement for America 59

Ill effect of Naval Unreadiness upon British Commerce; and especially on the West Indies 60

Admiral Keppel puts to Sea with the British Channel Fleet 61

First Guns of the War with France 62

Extreme Length of Byron's Passage 62

He turns back to Halifax 62

D'Estaing's slowness allows Howe to escape from Delaware Bay. Howe's Celerity 62

Evacuation of Philadelphia by British Army, and its precipitate Retreat to New York 63

Escape of both Army and Fleet due to d'Estaing's Delays 63

Rapid Action of Lord Howe 64

D'Estaing Arrives off New York 64

Howe's elaborate Dispositions for the Defence of New York Bay 65

Statement of British and French Naval Force 66

D'Estaing decides not to attempt Passage of the Bar, and puts to Sea 67

Anchors off Narragansett Bay 69

Forces the Entrance to Newport and Anchors inside the Bay 70

The British garrison besieged by superior American and French forces 70

Howe appears with his Fleet and anchors off the entrance, at Point Judith 71

Sustained Rapidity of his action at New York 71

D'Estaing Withdraws from Siege of Newport and puts to Sea 73

Manoeuvres of the two Opponents 74

D'Estaing quits the Field, and both Fleets are scattered by a heavy Gale 75

Howe returns to New York and collects his Fleet 76

D'Estaing calls oft Newport; but abandons the Siege finally, taking his Fleet to Boston 77

Critical Condition of British garrison in Newport. D'Estaing's withdrawal compels Americans to raise the siege 77

Howe follows d'Estaing to Boston 77

Discussion of the Conduct of the opposing Admirals 78

Howe gives up his Command and returns to England 80




Admirals Keppel and D'Orvilliers put to Sea from Portsmouth and Brest 82

Instructions given to the French Admiral 83

Preliminary Manoeuvres after the two Fleets had sighted one another 83

The Battle of Ushant 84

A Drawn Battle. The respective Losses 91

The Significance of the Battle in the fighting Development of the British Navy 93

The "Order of Battle" 93

The Disputes and Courts Martial in Great Britain arising from the Battle of Ushant 94

Keppel Resigns his Command 97



Influence of Seasonal Conditions upon Naval Operations in America 98

Commercial Importance of the West Indies 98

The French seize Dominica 99

D'Estaing Sails with his Fleet from Boston for Martinique 100

A British Squadron under Hotham sails the same day for Barbados, with Five Thousand Troops 100

Admiral Barrington's Seizure of Santa Lucia 101

D'Estaing sails to Recapture it 102

Rapidity and Skill shown in Barrington's Movements and Dispositions 102

D'Estaing's attacks Foiled, both on Sea and on Shore 103

He Abandons the attempt and Returns to Martinique 104

Importance of Santa Lucia in Subsequent Operations 104

Byron Reaches Barbados, and takes over Command from Barrington 105

D'Estaing Captures the British Island Grenada 105

Byron goes to its Relief 106

The Action between the two Fleets, of Byron and d'Estaing, July 6, 1779 106

Criticism of the two Commanders-in-Chief 110

D'Estaing returns to Grenada, which remains French 112

Byron returns to England. British North American Station assigned to Admiral Arbuthnot, Leeward Islands to Rodney 113

British Operations in Georgia and South Carolina. Capture of Savannah 113

Fatal Strategic Error in these Operations 114

D'Estaing's attempt to Retake Savannah Foiled 115

His appearance on the coast, however, causes the British to abandon Narragansett Bay 115

D'Estaing succeeded by de Guichen in North America. Rodney also arrives 115



Spain declares War against Great Britain 116

Delays in Junction of French and Spanish Fleets 116

They enter the Channel. Alarm in England 117

Plans of the French Government 118

Their Change and Failure. The Allied Fleets return to Brest 119

Criticism of the British Ministry 120

Divergent views of France and Spain 120

Prominence given to Gibraltar, and the resulting Effect upon the general War 121

Exhaustion of Supplies at Gibraltar 121

Rodney with the Channel Fleet Sails for its Relief, with ultimate Destination to Leeward Islands Command 121

He Captures a large Spanish Convoy 122

And Destroys a Second Spanish Squadron of Eleven Sail-of-the-Line 123

Distinction of this Engagement 124

Gibraltar and Minorca Relieved 125

Rodney proceeds to the West Indies 126

The Channel Fleet returns to England 126




Rodney's Force upon arrival in West Indies 128

Action between British and French Squadrons prior to his arrival 129

Rodney and de Guichen put to sea 130

Action between them of April 17, 1780 131

Cause of Failure of Rodney's Attack 133

His Disappointment in his Subordinates 135

His Expression of his Feelings 135

Discussion of the Incidents and Principles involved 137

The Losses of the Respective Fleets 140

They Continue to Cruise 141

The Action of May 15, 1780 142

That of May 19, 1780 144

The Results Indecisive 144

Contrary Personal Effect produced upon the two Admirals by the encounters 145

De Guichen asks to be Relieved 145

Rodney's Chary Approval of his Subordinates in these two instances 145

Suspicion and Distrust rife in the British Navy at this period 146

Twelve Spanish Sail-of-the-Line, with Ten Thousand Troops, Arrive at Guadeloupe 147

They refuse Cooeperation with de Guichen in the Windward Islands 147

De Guichen Accompanies them to Haiti with his Fleet 147

He declines to Cooeperate on the Continent with the Americans, and sails for Europe 148

Rodney Arranges for the protection of the Homeward West India Trade, and then proceeds to New York 149

Effect of his coming 150

The Year 1780 one of great Discouragement to Americans 151

Summary of the Operations in the Carolinas and Virginia, 1780, which led to Lord Cornwallis's Surrender in 1781 151

Two Naval Actions sustained by Commodore Cornwallis against superior French forces, 1780 153

The Year 1780 Uneventful in European seas 157

Capture of a great British Convoy 157

The Armed Neutrality of the Baltic Powers 158

The Accession of Holland to this followed by a Declaration of War by Great Britain 158

The French Government withdraws all its Ships of War from before Gibraltar 158



Effects of the Great Hurricanes of 1780 in West Indies 159

Rodney's Diminished Force. Arrival of Sir Samuel Hood with reinforcements 160

Rodney receives Orders to seize Dutch Possessions in Caribbean 160

Capture of St. Eustatius, St. Martin, and Saba 161

The large Booty and Defenceless state of St. Eustatius 161

Effect of these Conditions upon Rodney 161

Hood detached to cruise before Martinique 162

De Grasse arrives there with Twenty Ships-of-the-Line 163

Indecisive Action between de Grasse and Hood 164

Criticism of the two Commanders 166

Junction of Rodney and Hood 166

De Grasse attempts Santa Lucia, and Fails 167

He captures Tobago 168

He decides to take his Meet to the American Continent 168




Summary of Land Operations in Virginia early in 1781 169

Portsmouth Occupied 170

A French Squadron from Newport, and a British from Gardiner's Bay, proceed to the Scene 170

They meet off the Chesapeake 171

Action between Arbuthnot and des Touches, March 16, 1781 171

The Advantage rests with the French, but they return to Newport. Arbuthnot enters the Chesapeake 174

Cornwallis reaches Petersburg, Virginia, May 20 175

Under the directions of Sir Henry Clinton he evacuates Portsmouth and concentrates his forces at Yorktown, August 22 175

The French Fleet under de Grasse Anchors in the Chesapeake, August 30 176

British Naval Movements, in July and August, affecting conditions in the Chesapeake 176

Admiral Graves, successor to Arbuthnot at New York, joined there by Sir Samuel Hood, August 28 177

Washington and Rochambeau move upon Cornwallis 178

The British Fleet under Graves arrives off the Chesapeake 179

Action between de Grasse and Graves, September 5 179

Hood's Criticism of Graves's Conduct 181

The British, worsted, return to New York. De Grasse, reinforced, re-enters the Chesapeake, September 11 184

Cornwallis Surrenders, October 19 184

De Grasse and Hood Return to West Indies 185



Leading Objects of the Belligerents in 1781 186

The Relief of Gibraltar by Admiral Darby 186

Capture of British Convoy with the spoils of St. Eustatius 188

The French and Spanish Fleet under Admiral de Cordova again enters the English Channel 188

Darby in inferior Force shut up in Tor Bay 188

The Allies Decide not to attack him, but to turn their Efforts against British Commerce 189

Minorca Lost by British 189

The Battle of the Dogger Bank, between British and Dutch Fleets 190



Capture and Destruction near Ushant of a great French Convoy for the West Indies opens the Naval Campaign of 1782 195

Attack upon the Island of St. Kitts by de Grasse and de Bouille 197

Hood sails for its Relief from Barbados 197

His Plan of procedure 198

Balked by an Accident 199

He Succeeds in dislodging de Grasse and taking the Anchorage left by the French 200

Unsuccessful Attempt by de Grasse to shake Hood's position 203

St. Kitts nevertheless compelled to Surrender owing to having insufficient Land Force 205

Hood Extricates himself from de Grasse's Superior Force and Retires 205

Rodney arrives from England and joins Hood 205

Project of French and Spaniards against Jamaica 206

De Grasse sails from Martinique with his whole Fleet and a large Convoy 207

Rodney's Pursuit 208

Partial Actions of April 9, 1782 209

British Pursuit continues 211

It is favored by the Lagging of two Ships in the French Fleet, April 11 211

An Accident that night induces de Grasse to bear down, and enables Rodney to force Action 212

The Battle of April 12 begins 214

A Shift of Wind enables the British to Break the French Order in three places 217

Consequences of this Movement 218

Resultant Advantages to the British 219

Practices of the opposing Navies in regard to the Aims of Firing 219

Consequences Illustrated in the Injuries received respectively 220

Inadequate Use made by Rodney of the Advantage gained by his Fleet 220

Hood's Criticisms 220

Hood's Opinion shared by Sir Charles Douglas, Rodney's Chief-of-Staff 222

Rodney's own Reasons for his Course after the Battle 222

His Assumptions not accordant with the Facts 223

Actual Prolonged Dispersion of the French Fleet 224

Hood, Detached in Pursuit, Captures a small French Squadron 224

Rodney Superseded in Command before the news of the victory reached England 225

The general War Approaches its End 226




Howe appointed to Command Channel Fleet 227

Cruises first in North Sea and in Channel 228

The Allied Fleets in much superior force take Position in the Chops of the Channel, but are successfully evaded by Howe 229

The British Jamaica Convoy also escapes them 229

Howe ordered to Relieve Gibraltar 229

Loss of the Royal George, with Kempenfelt 229

Howe Sails 229

Slow but Successful Progress 230

Great Allied Fleet in Bay of Gibraltar 230

Howe's Success in Introducing the Supplies 231

Negligent Mismanagement of the Allies 231

Partial Engagement when Howe leaves Gibraltar 232

Estimate of Howe's Conduct, and of his Professional Character 232

French Eulogies 232



Isolation characteristic of Military and Naval Operations in India 234

Occurrences in 1778 234

Sir Edward Hughes sent to India with a Fleet, 1779 235

The Years prior to 1781 Uneventful 235

A British Squadron under Commodore Johnstone sent in 1781 to seize Cape of Good Hope 236

A Week Later, a French Squadron under Suffren sails for India 236

Suffren finds Johnstone Anchored in Porto Praya, and attacks at once 237

The immediate Result Indecisive, but the Cape of Good Hope is saved by Suffren arriving first 238

Suffren reaches Mauritius, and the French Squadron sails for India under Comte d'Orves 239

D'Orves dies, leaving Suffren in Command 240

Trincomalee, in Ceylon, captured by Hughes 240

First Engagement between Hughes and Suffren, February 17, 1782 240

Second Engagement, April 12 242

Third Engagement, July 6 244

Suffren captures Trincomalee 247

Hughes arrives, but too late to save the place 247

Fourth Engagement between Hughes and Suffren, September 3 248

Having lost Trincomalee, Hughes on the change of monsoon is compelled to go to Bombay 251

Reinforced there by Bickerton 251

Suffren winters in Sumatra, but regains Trincomalee before Hughes returns. Also receives Reinforcements 251

The British Besiege Cuddalore 252

Suffren Relieves the Place 253

Fifth Engagement between Hughes and Suffren, June 20, 1783 253

Comparison between Hughes and Suffren 254

News of the Peace being received, June 29, Hostilities in India cease 255




Remains of the Revenge, one of Benedict Arnold's Schooners on Lake Champlain in 1776. Now in Fort Ticonderoga. Frontispiece


Major-General Philip Schuyler 12

Edward Pellew, afterwards Admiral, Lord Exmouth 12

Benedict Arnold 27

Attack on Fort Moultrie in 1776 33

Richard, Earl Howe 78

Charles Henri, Comte d'Estaing 78

Admiral, the Honourable Samuel Barrington 104

Comte de Guichen 144

George Brydges, Lord Rodney 144

Francois-Joseph-Paul, Comte de Grasse, Marquis de Tilly 204

Admiral, Lord Hood 204

Sir Edward Hughes, K.B. 254

Pierre Andre de Suffren de Saint Tropez 254



Lake Champlain and Connected Waters 8

New York and New Jersey: to illustrate Operations of 1776, 1777, and 1778 40

Narragansett Bay 70

Leeward Islands (West Indies) Station 99

Island of Santa Lucia 101

Island of Martinique 164

Peninsula of India, and Ceylon 234

North Atlantic Ocean. General Map to illustrate Operations in the War of American Independence 280



D'Orvilliers and Keppel, off Ushant, July 27, 1778

Figure 1 86

Figures 2 and 3 90

D'Estaing and Byron, July 6, 1779 106

Rodney and De Guichen, April 17, 1780, Figures 1 and 2 132

Rodney and De Guichen, May 15, 1780 143

Cornwallis and De Ternay, June 20, 1780 156

Arbuthnot and Des Touches, March 16, 1781 172

Graves and De Grasse, September 5, 1781 180

Hood and De Grasse, January 25, 1782, Figures 1 and 2 201

Hood and De Grasse, January 26, 1782, Figure 3 203

Rodney and De Grasse, April 9 and 12, 1782

Figures 1 and 2 210

Figure 3 212

Figures 4 and 5 215

Figure 6 218

Johnstone and Suffren, Porto Praya, April 16, 1781 237

Hughes and Suffren, February 17, 1782 240

Hughes and Suffren, April 12, 1782 243

Hughes and Suffren, July 6, 1782 243

Hughes and Suffren, September 3, 1782 249

* * * * *




Macaulay, in a striking passage of his Essay on Frederick the Great, wrote, "The evils produced by his wickedness were felt in lands where the name of Prussia was unknown. In order that he might rob a neighbour whom he had promised to defend, black men fought on the coast of Coromandel, and red men scalped each other by the Great Lakes of North America."

Wars, like conflagrations, tend to spread; more than ever perhaps in these days of close international entanglements and rapid communications. Hence the anxiety aroused and the care exercised by the governments of Europe, the most closely associated and the most sensitive on the earth, to forestall the kindling of even the slightest flame in regions where all alike are interested, though with diverse objects; regions such as the Balkan group of States in their exasperating relations with the Turkish empire, under which the Balkan peoples see constantly the bitter oppression of men of their own blood and religious faith by the tyranny of a government which can neither assimilate nor protect. The condition of Turkish European provinces is a perpetual lesson to those disposed to ignore or to depreciate the immense difficulties of administering politically, under one government, peoples traditionally and racially distinct, yet living side by side; not that the situation is much better anywhere in the Turkish empire. This still survives, though in an advanced state of decay, simply because other States are not prepared to encounter the risks of a disturbance which might end in a general bonfire, extending its ravages to districts very far remote from the scene of the original trouble.

Since these words were written, actual war has broken out in the Balkans. The Powers, anxious each as to the effect upon its own ambitions of any disturbance in European Turkey, have steadily abstained from efficient interference in behalf of the downtrodden Christians of Macedonia, surrounded by sympathetic kinsfolk. Consequently, in thirty years past this underbrush has grown drier and drier, fit kindling for fuel. In the Treaty of Berlin, in 1877, stipulation was made for their betterment in governance, and we are now told that in 1880 Turkey framed a scheme for such,—and pigeonholed it. At last, under unendurable conditions, spontaneous combustion has followed. There can be no assured peace until it is recognised practically that Christianity, by the respect which it alone among religions inculcates for the welfare of the individual, is an essential factor in developing in nations the faculty of self-government, apart from which fitness to govern others does not exist. To keep Christian peoples under the rule of a non-Christian race, is, therefore, to perpetuate a state hopeless of reconcilement and pregnant of sure explosion. Explosions always happen inconveniently. Obsta principiis is the only safe rule; the application of which is not suppression of overt discontent but relief of grievances.

The War of American Independence was no exception to the general rule of propagation that has been noted. When our forefathers began to agitate against the Stamp Act and the other measures that succeeded it, they as little foresaw the spread of their action to the East and West Indies, to the English Channel and Gibraltar, as did the British ministry which in framing the Stamp Act struck the match from which these consequences followed. When Benedict Arnold on Lake Champlain by vigorous use of small means obtained a year's delay for the colonists, he compassed the surrender of Burgoyne in 1777. The surrender of Burgoyne, justly estimated as the decisive event of the war, was due to Arnold's previous action, gaining the delay which is a first object for all defence, and which to the unprepared colonists was a vital necessity. The surrender of Burgoyne determined the intervention of France, in 1778; the intervention of France the accession of Spain thereto, in 1779. The war with these two Powers led to the maritime occurrences, the interferences with neutral trade, that gave rise to the Armed Neutrality; the concurrence of Holland in which brought war between that country and Great Britain, in 1780. This extension of hostilities affected not only the West Indies but the East, through the possessions of the Dutch in both quarters and at the Cape of Good Hope. If not the occasion of Suffren being sent to India, the involvement of Holland in the general war had a powerful effect upon the brilliant operations which he conducted there; as well as at, and for, the Cape of Good Hope, then a Dutch possession, on his outward voyage.

In the separate publication of these pages, my intention and hope are to bring home incidentally to American readers this vast extent of the struggle to which our own Declaration of Independence was but the prelude; with perchance the further needed lesson for the future, that questions the most remote from our own shores may involve us in unforeseen difficulties, especially if we permit a train of communication to be laid by which the outside fire can leap step by step to the American continents. How great a matter a little fire kindleth! Our Monroe Doctrine is in final analysis merely the formulation of national precaution that, as far as in its power to prevent, there shall not lie scattered about the material which foreign possessions in these continents might supply for the extension of combustion originating elsewhere; and the objection to Asiatic immigration, however debased by less worthy feelings or motives, is on the part of thinking men simply a recognition of the same danger arising from the presence of an inassimilable mass of population, racially and traditionally distinct in characteristics, behind which would lie the sympathies and energy of a powerful military and naval Asiatic empire.

Conducive as each of these policies is to national safety and peace amid international conflagration, neither the one nor the other can be sustained without the creation and maintenance of a preponderant navy. In the struggle with which this book deals, Washington at the time said that the navies had the casting vote. To Arnold on Lake Champlain, to DeGrasse at Yorktown, fell the privilege of exercising that prerogative at the two great decisive moments of the War. To the Navy also, beyond any other single instrumentality, was due eighty years later the successful suppression of the movement of Secession. The effect of the blockade of the Southern coasts upon the financial and military efficiency of the Confederate Government has never been closely calculated, and probably is incalculable. At these two principal national epochs control of the water was the most determinative factor. In the future, upon the Navy will depend the successful maintenance of the two leading national policies mentioned; the two most essential to the part this country is to play in the progress of the world.

For, while numerically great in population, the United States is not so in proportion to territory; nor, though wealthy, is she so in proportion to her exposure. That Japan at four thousand miles distance has a population of over three hundred to the square mile, while our three great Pacific States average less than twenty, is a portentous fact. The immense aggregate numbers resident elsewhere in the United States cannot be transfered thither to meet an emergency, nor contribute effectively to remedy this insufficiency; neither can a land force on the defensive protect, if the way of the sea is open. In such opposition of smaller numbers against larger, nowhere do organisation and development count as much as in navies. Nowhere so well as on the sea can a general numerical inferiority be compensated by specific numerical superiority, resulting from the correspondence between the force employed and the nature of the ground. It follows strictly, by logic and by inference, that by no other means can safety be insured as economically and as efficiently. Indeed, in matters of national security, economy and efficiency are equivalent terms. The question of the Pacific is probably the greatest world problem of the twentieth century, in which no great country is so largely and directly interested as is the United States. For the reason given it is essentially a naval question, the third in which the United States finds its well-being staked upon naval adequacy.



At the time when hostilities began between Great Britain and her American Colonies, the fact was realised generally, being evident to reason and taught by experience, that control of the water, both ocean and inland, would have a preponderant effect upon the contest. It was clear to reason, for there was a long seaboard with numerous interior navigable watercourses, and at the same time scanty and indifferent communications by land. Critical portions of the territory involved were yet an unimproved wilderness. Experience, the rude but efficient schoolmaster of that large portion of mankind which gains knowledge only by hard knocks, had confirmed through the preceding French wars the inferences of the thoughtful. Therefore, conscious of the great superiority of the British Navy, which, however, had not then attained the unchallenged supremacy of a later day, the American leaders early sought the alliance of the Bourbon kingdoms, France and Spain, the hereditary enemies of Great Britain. There alone could be found the counterpoise to a power which, if unchecked, must ultimately prevail.

Nearly three years elapsed before the Colonists accomplished this object, by giving a demonstration of their strength in the enforced surrender of Burgoyne's army at Saratoga. This event has merited the epithet "decisive," because, and only because, it decided the intervention of France. It may be affirmed, with little hesitation, that this victory of the colonists was directly the result of naval force,—that of the colonists themselves. It was the cause that naval force from abroad, entering into the contest, transformed it from a local to a universal war, and assured the independence of the Colonies. That the Americans were strong enough to impose the capitulation of Saratoga, was due to the invaluable year of delay secured to them by their little navy on Lake Champlain, created by the indomitable energy, and handled with the indomitable courage, of the traitor, Benedict Arnold. That the war spread from America to Europe, from the English Channel to the Baltic, from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean, from the West Indies to the Mississippi, and ultimately involved the waters of the remote peninsula of Hindustan, is traceable, through Saratoga, to the rude flotilla which in 1776 anticipated its enemy in the possession of Lake Champlain. The events which thus culminated merit therefore a clearer understanding, and a fuller treatment, than their intrinsic importance and petty scale would justify otherwise.

In 1775, only fifteen years had elapsed since the expulsion of the French from the North American continent. The concentration of their power, during its continuance, in the valley of the St. Lawrence, had given direction to the local conflict, and had impressed upon men's minds the importance of Lake Champlain, of its tributary Lake George, and of the Hudson River, as forming a consecutive, though not continuous, water line of communications from the St. Lawrence to New York. The strength of Canada against attack by land lay in its remoteness, in the wilderness to be traversed before it was reached, and in the strength of the line of the St. Lawrence, with the fortified posts of Montreal and Quebec on its northern bank. The wilderness, it is true, interposed its passive resistance to attacks from Canada as well as to attacks upon it; but when it had been traversed, there were to the southward no such strong natural positions confronting the assailant. Attacks from the south fell upon the front, or at best upon the flank, of the line of the St. Lawrence. Attacks from Canada took New York and its dependencies in the rear.

These elements of natural strength, in the military conditions of the North, were impressed upon the minds of the Americans by the prolonged resistance of Canada to the greatly superior numbers of the British Colonists in the previous wars. Regarded, therefore, as a base for attacks, of a kind with which they were painfully familiar, but to be undergone now under disadvantages of numbers and power never before experienced, it was desirable to gain possession of the St. Lawrence and its posts before they were strengthened and garrisoned. At this outset of hostilities, the American insurgents, knowing clearly their own minds, possessed the advantage of the initiative over the British government, which still hesitated to use against those whom it styled rebels the preventive measures it would have taken at once against a recognised enemy.

Under these circumstances, in May, 1775, a body of two hundred and seventy Americans, led by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, seized the posts of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, which were inadequately garrisoned. These are on the upper waters of Lake Champlain, where it is less than a third of a mile wide; Ticonderoga being on a peninsula formed by the lake and the inlet from Lake George, Crown Point on a promontory twelve miles lower down.[1] They were positions of recognised importance, and had been advanced posts of the British in previous wars. A schooner being found there, Arnold, who had been a seaman, embarked in her and hurried to the foot of the lake. The wind failed him when still thirty miles from St. John's, another fortified post on the lower narrows, where the lake gradually tapers down to the Richelieu River, its outlet to the St. Lawrence. Unable to advance otherwise, Arnold took to his boats with thirty men, pulled through the night, and at six o'clock on the following morning surprised the post, in which were only a sergeant and a dozen men. He reaped the rewards of celerity. The prisoners informed him that a considerable body of troops was expected from Canada, on its way to Ticonderoga; and this force in fact reached St. John's on the next day. When it arrived, Arnold was gone, having carried off a sloop which he found there and destroyed everything else that could float. By such trifling means two active officers had secured the temporary control of the lake itself and of the approaches to it from the south. There being no roads, the British, debarred from the water line, were unable to advance. Sir Guy Carleton, Governor and Commander-in-Chief in Canada, strengthened the works at St. John's, and built a schooner; but his force was inadequate to meet that of the Americans.

The seizure of the two posts, being an act of offensive war, was not at once pleasing to the American Congress, which still clung to the hope of reconciliation; but events were marching rapidly, and ere summer was over the invasion of Canada was ordered. General Montgomery, appointed to that enterprise, embarked at Crown Point with two thousand men on September 4th, and soon afterwards appeared before St. John's, which after prolonged operations capitulated on the 3d of November. On the 13th Montgomery entered Montreal, and thence pressed down the St. Lawrence to Pointe aux Trembles, twenty miles above Quebec. There he joined Arnold, who in the month of October had crossed the northern wilderness, between the head waters of the Kennebec River and St. Lawrence. On the way he had endured immense privations, losing five hundred men of the twelve hundred with whom he started; and upon arriving opposite Quebec, on the 10th of November, three days had been unavoidably spent in collecting boats to pass the river. Crossing on the night of the 13th, this adventurous soldier and his little command climbed the Heights of Abraham by the same path that had served Wolfe so well sixteen years before. With characteristic audacity he summoned the place. The demand of course was refused; but that Carleton did not fall at once upon the little band of seven hundred that bearded him shows by how feeble a tenure Great Britain then held Canada. Immediately after the junction Montgomery advanced on Quebec, where he appeared on the 5th of December. Winter having already begun, and neither his numbers nor his equipments being adequate to regular siege operations, he very properly decided to try the desperate chance of an assault upon the strongest fortress in America. This was made on the night of December 31st, 1775. Whatever possibility of success there may have been vanished with the death of Montgomery, who fell at the head of his men.

The American army retired three miles up the river, went into winter-quarters, and established a land blockade of Quebec, which was cut off from the sea by the ice. "For five months," wrote Carleton to the Secretary for War, on the 14th of May, 1776, "this town has been closely invested by the rebels." From this unpleasant position it was relieved on the 6th of May, when signals were exchanged between it and the Surprise, the advance ship of a squadron under Captain Charles Douglas,[2] which had sailed from England on the 11th of March. Arriving off the mouth of the St. Lawrence, on the morning of April 12th, Douglas found ice extending nearly twenty miles to sea, and packed too closely to admit of working through it by dexterous steering. The urgency of the case not admitting delay, he ran his ship, the Isis, 50, with a speed of five knots, against a large piece of ice about ten or twelve feet thick, to test the effect. The ice, probably softened by salt water and salt air, went to pieces. "Encouraged by this experiment," continues Douglas, somewhat magnificently, "we thought it an enterprise worthy an English ship of the line in our King and country's sacred cause, and an effort due to the gallant defenders of Quebec, to make the attempt of pressing her by force of sail, through the thick, broad, and closely connected fields of ice, to which we saw no bounds towards the western part of our horizon. Before night (when blowing a snow-storm, we brought-to, or rather stopped), we had penetrated about eight leagues into it, describing our path all the way with bits of the sheathing of the ship's bottom, and sometimes pieces of the cutwater, but none of the oak plank; and it was pleasant enough at times, when we stuck fast, to see Lord Petersham exercising his troops on the crusted surface of that fluid through which the ship had so recently sailed." It took nine days of this work to reach Anticosti Island, after which the ice seems to have given no more trouble; but further delay was occasioned by fogs, calms, and head winds.

Upon the arrival of the ships of war, the Americans at once retreated. During the winter, though reinforcements must have been received from time to time, they had wasted from exposure, and from small-pox, which ravaged the camp. On the 1st of May the returns showed nineteen hundred men present, of whom only a thousand were fit for duty. There were then on hand but three days' provisions, and none other nearer than St. John's. The inhabitants would of course render no further assistance to the Americans after the ships arrived. The Navy had again decided the fate of Canada, and was soon also to determine that of Lake Champlain.

When two hundred troops had landed from the ships, Carleton marched out, "to see," he said, "what these mighty boasters were about." The sneer was unworthy a man of his generous character, for the boasters had endured much for faint chances of success; and the smallness of the reinforcement which encouraged him to act shows either an extreme prudence on his part, or the narrow margin by which Quebec escaped. He found the enemy busy with preparations for retreat, and upon his appearance they abandoned their camp. Their forces on the two sides of the river being now separated by the enemy's shipping, the Americans retired first to Sorel, where the Richelieu enters the St. Lawrence, and thence continued to fall back by gradual stages. It was not until June 15th that Arnold quitted Montreal; and at the end of June the united force was still on the Canadian side of the present border line. On the 3d of July it reached Crown Point, in a pitiable state from small-pox and destitution.

Both parties began at once to prepare for a contest upon Lake Champlain. The Americans, small as their flotilla was, still kept the superiority obtained for them by Arnold's promptitude a year before. On the 25th of June the American General Schuyler, commanding the Northern Department, wrote: "We have happily such a naval superiority on Lake Champlain, that I have a confident hope the enemy will not appear upon it this campaign, especially as our force is increasing by the addition of gondolas, two nearly finished. Arnold, however,"—whose technical knowledge caused him to be intrusted with the naval preparations,—"says that 300 carpenters should be employed and a large number of gondolas, row-galleys, etc., be built, twenty or thirty at least. There is great difficulty in getting the carpenters needed." Arnold's ideas were indeed on a scale worthy of the momentous issues at stake. "To augment our navy on the lake appears to me of the utmost importance. There is water between Crown Point and Pointe au Fer for vessels of the largest size. I am of opinion that row-galleys are the best construction and cheapest for this lake. Perhaps it may be well to have one frigate of 36 guns. She may carry 18-pounders on the Lake, and be superior to any vessel that can be built or floated from St. John's."

Unfortunately for the Americans, their resources in men and means were far inferior to those of their opponents, who were able eventually to carry out, though on a somewhat smaller scale, Arnold's idea of a sailing ship, strictly so called, of force as yet unknown in inland waters. Such a ship, aided as she was by two consorts of somewhat similar character, dominated the Lake as soon as she was afloat, reversing all the conditions. To place and equip her, however, required time, invaluable time, during which Arnold's two schooners exercised control. Baron Riedesel, the commander of the German contingent with Carleton, after examining the American position at Ticonderoga, wrote, "If we could have begun our expedition four weeks earlier, I am satisfied that everything would have been ended this year (1776); but, not having shelter nor other necessary things, we were unable to remain at the other [southern] end of Champlain." So delay favors the defence, and changes issues. What would have been the effect upon the American cause if, simultaneously with the loss of New York, August 20th-September 15th, had come news of the fall of Ticonderoga, the repute of which for strength stood high? Nor was this all; for in that event, the plan which was wrecked in 1777 by Sir William Howe's ill-conceived expedition to the Chesapeake would doubtless have been carried out in 1776. In a contemporary English paper occurs the following significant item: "London, September 26th, 1776. Advices have been received here from Canada, dated August 12th, that General Burgoyne's army has found it impracticable to get across the lakes this season. The naval force of the Provincials is too great for them to contend with at present. They must build larger vessels for this purpose, and these cannot be ready before next summer. The design was[3] that the two armies commanded by Generals Howe and Burgoyne should cooeperate; that they should both be on the Hudson River at the same time; that they should join about Albany, and thereby cut off all communication between the northern and southern Colonies."[4]

As Arnold's more ambitious scheme could not be realised, he had to content himself with gondolas and galleys, for the force he was to command as well as to build. The precise difference between the two kinds of rowing vessels thus distinguished by name, the writer has not been able to ascertain. The gondola was a flat-bottomed boat, and inferior in nautical qualities—speed, handiness, and seaworthiness—to the galleys, which probably were keeled. The latter certainly carried sails, and may have been capable of beating to windward. Arnold preferred them, and stopped the building of gondolas. "The galleys," he wrote, "are quick moving, which will give us a great advantage in the open lake." The complements of the galleys were eighty men, of the gondolas forty-five; from which, and from their batteries, it may be inferred that the latter were between one third and one half the size of the former. The armaments of the two were alike in character, but those of the gondolas much lighter. American accounts agree with Captain Douglas's report of one galley captured by the British. In the bows, an 18 and a 12-pounder; in the stern, two 9's; in broadside, from four to six 6's. There is in this a somewhat droll reminder of the disputed merits of bow, stern, and broadside fire, in a modern iron-clad; and the practical conclusion is much the same. The gondolas had one 12-pounder and two 6's. All the vessels of both parties carried a number of swivel guns.

Amid the many difficulties which lack of resources imposed upon all American undertakings, Arnold succeeded in getting afloat with three schooners, a sloop, and five gondolas, on the 20th of August. He cruised at the upper end of Champlain till the 1st of September, when he moved rapidly north, and on the 3d anchored in the lower narrows, twenty-five miles above St. John's, stretching his line from shore to shore. Scouts had kept him informed of the progress of the British naval preparations, so that he knew that there was no immediate danger; while an advanced position, maintained with a bold front, would certainly prevent reconnoissances by water, and possibly might impose somewhat upon the enemy. The latter, however, erected batteries on each side of the anchorage, compelling Arnold to fall back to the broader lake. He then had soundings taken about Valcour Island, and between it and the western shore; that being the position in which he intended to make a stand. He retired thither on the 23rd of September.

The British on their side had contended with no less obstacles than their adversaries, though of a somewhat different character. To get carpenters and materials to build, and seamen to man, were the chief difficulties of the Americans, the necessities of the seaboard conceding but partially the demands made upon it; but their vessels were built upon the shores of the Lake, and launched into navigable waters. A large fleet of transports and ships of war in the St. Lawrence supplied the British with adequate resources, which were utilized judiciously and energetically by Captain Douglas; but to get these to the Lake was a long and arduous task. A great part of the Richelieu River was shoal, and obstructed by rapids. The point where lake navigation began was at St. John's, to which the nearest approach, by a hundred-ton schooner, from the St. Lawrence, was Chambly, ten miles below. Flat-boats and long-boats could be dragged up stream, but vessels of any size had to be transported by land; and the engineers found the roadbed too soft in places to bear the weight of a hundred tons. Under Douglas's directions, the planking and frames of two schooners were taken down at Chambly, and carried round by road to St. John's, where they were again put together. At Quebec he found building a new hull, of one hundred and eighty tons. This he took apart nearly to the keel, shipping the frames in thirty long-boats, which the transport captains consented to surrender, together with their carpenters, for service on the Lake. Drafts from the ships of war, and volunteers from the transports, furnished a body of seven hundred seamen for the same employment,—a force to which the Americans could oppose nothing equal, commanded as it was by regular naval officers. The largest vessel was ship-rigged, and had a battery of eighteen 12-pounders; she was called the Inflexible, and was commanded by Lieutenant John Schanck. The two schooners, Maria, Lieutenant Starke, and Carleton, Lieutenant James Richard Dacres, carried respectively fourteen and twelve 6-pounders. These were the backbone of the British flotilla. There were also a radeau, the Thunderer, and a large gondola, the Loyal Convert, both heavily armed; but, being equally heavy of movement, they do not appear to have played any important part. Besides these, when the expedition started, there were twenty gunboats, each carrying one fieldpiece, from 24's to 9-pounders; or, in some cases, howitzers.[5]

"By all these means," wrote Douglas on July 21st, "our acquiring an absolute dominion over Lake Champlain is not doubted of." The expectation was perfectly sound. With a working breeze, the Inflexible alone could sweep the Lake clear of all that floated on it. But the element of time remained. From the day of this writing till that on which he saw the Inflexible leave St. John's, October 4th, was over ten weeks; and it was not until the 9th that Carleton was ready to advance with the squadron. By that time the American troops at the head of the Lake had increased to eight or ten thousand. The British land force is reported[6] as thirteen thousand, of which six thousand were in garrison at St. John's and elsewhere.

Arnold's last reinforcements reached him at Valcour on the 6th of October. On that day, and in the action of the 11th, he had with him all the American vessels on the Lake, except one schooner and one galley. His force, thus, was two schooners and a sloop, broadside vessels, besides four galleys and eight gondolas, which may be assumed reasonably to have depended on their bow guns; there, at least, was their heaviest fire. Thus reckoned, his flotilla, disposed to the best advantage, could bring into action at one time, two 18's, thirteen 12's, one 9, two 6's, twelve 4's, and two 2-pounders, independent of swivels; total thirty-two guns, out of eighty-four that were mounted in fifteen vessels. To this the British had to oppose, in three broadside vessels, nine 12's and thirteen 6's, and in twenty gunboats, twenty other brass guns, "from twenty-four to nines, some with howitzers;"[7] total forty-two guns. In this statement the radeau and gondola have not been included, because of their unmanageableness. Included as broadside vessels, they would raise the British armament—by three 24's, three 12's, four 9's, and a howitzer—to a total of fifty-three guns. Actually, they could be brought into action only under exceptional circumstances, and are more properly omitted.

These minutiae are necessary for the proper appreciation of what Captain Douglas justly called "a momentous event." It was a strife of pigmies for the prize of a continent, and the leaders are entitled to full credit both for their antecedent energy and for their dispositions in the contest; not least the unhappy man who, having done so much to save his country, afterwards blasted his name by a treason unsurpassed in modern war. Energy and audacity had so far preserved the Lake to the Americans; Arnold determined to have one more try of the chances. He did not know the full force of the enemy, but he expected that "it would be very formidable, if not equal to ours."[8] The season, however, was so near its end that a severe check would equal a defeat, and would postpone Carleton's further advance to the next spring. Besides, what was the worth of such a force as the American, such a flotilla, under the guns of Ticonderoga, the Lake being lost? It was eminently a case for taking chances, even if the detachment should be sacrificed, as it was.

Arnold's original purpose had been to fight under way; and it was from this point of view that he valued the galleys, because of their mobility. It is uncertain when he first learned of the rig and battery of the Inflexible; but a good look-out was kept, and the British squadron was sighted from Valcour when it quitted the narrows. It may have been seen even earlier; for Carleton had been informed, erroneously, that the Americans were near Grand Island, which led him to incline to that side, and so open out Valcour sooner. The British anchored for the night of October 10th, between Grand and Long[9] Islands. Getting under way next morning, they stood up the Lake with a strong north-east wind, keeping along Grand Island, upon which their attention doubtless was fastened by the intelligence which they had received; but it was a singular negligence thus to run to leeward with a fair wind, without thorough scouting on both hands. The consequence was that the American flotilla was not discovered until Valcour Island, which is from one hundred and twenty to one hundred and eighty feet high throughout its two miles of length, was so far passed that the attack had to be made from the south,—from leeward.

When the British were first made out, Arnold's second in command, Waterbury, urged that in view of the enemy's superiority the flotilla should get under way at once, and fight them "on a retreat in the main lake;" the harbour being disadvantageous "to fight a number so much superior, and the enemy being able to surround us on every side, we lying between an island and the main." Waterbury's advice evidently found its origin in that fruitful source of military errors of design, which reckons the preservation of a force first of objects, making the results of its action secondary. With sounder judgment, Arnold decided to hold on. A retreat before square-rigged sailing vessels having a fair wind, by a heterogeneous force like his own, of unequal speeds and batteries, could result only in disaster. Concerted fire and successful escape were alike improbable; and besides, escape, if feasible, was but throwing up the game. Better trust to a steady, well-ordered position, developing the utmost fire. If the enemy discovered him, and came in by the northern entrance, there was a five-foot knoll in mid-channel which might fetch the biggest of them up; if, as proved to be the case, the island should be passed, and the attack should be made from leeward, it probably would be partial and in disorder, as also happened. The correctness of Arnold's decision not to chance a retreat was shown in the retreat of two days later.

Valcour is on the west side of the Lake, about three quarters of a mile from the main; but a peninsula projecting from the island at mid-length narrows this interval to a half-mile. From the accounts, it is clear that the American flotilla lay south of this peninsula. Arnold therefore had a reasonable hope that it might be passed undetected. Writing to Gates, the Commander-in-Chief at Ticonderoga, he said: "There is a good harbour, and if the enemy venture up the Lake it will be impossible for them to take advantage of our situation. If we succeed in our attack upon them, it will be impossible for any to escape. If we are worsted, our retreat is open and free. In case of wind, which generally blows fresh at this season, our craft will make good weather, while theirs cannot keep the Lake." It is apparent from this, written three weeks before the battle, that he then was not expecting a force materially different from his own. Later, he describes his position as being "in a small bay on the west side of the island, as near together as possible, and in such a form that few vessels can attack us at the same time, and those will be exposed to the fire of the whole fleet." Though he unfortunately gives no details, he evidently had sound tactical ideas. The formation of the anchored vessels is described by the British officers as a half-moon.

When the British discovered the enemy, they hauled up for them. Arnold ordered one of his schooners, the Royal Savage, and the four galleys, to get under way; the two other schooners and the eight gondolas remaining at their anchors. The Royal Savage, dropping to leeward,—by bad management, Arnold says,—came, apparently unsupported, under the distant fire of the Inflexible, as she drew under the lee of Valcour at 11 A.M., followed by the Carleton, and at greater distance by the Maria and the gunboats. Three shots from the ship's 12-pounders struck the Royal Savage, which then ran ashore on the southern point of the island. The Inflexible, followed closely by the Carleton, continued on, but fired only occasionally; showing that Arnold was keeping his galleys in hand, at long bowls,—as small vessels with one eighteen should be kept, when confronted with a broadside of nine guns. Between the island and the main the north-east wind doubtless drew more northerly, adverse to the ship's approach; but, a flaw off the cliffs taking the fore and aft sails of the Carleton, she fetched "nearly into the middle of the rebel half-moon, where Lieutenant J.R. Dacres intrepidly anchored with a spring on her cable." The Maria, on board which was Carleton, together with Commander Thomas Pringle, commanding the flotilla, was to leeward when the chase began, and could not get into close action that day. By this time, seventeen of the twenty gunboats had come up, and, after silencing the Royal Savage, pulled up to within point-blank range of the American flotilla. "The cannonade was tremendous," wrote Baron Riedesel. Lieutenant Edward Longcroft, of the radeau Thunderer, not being able to get his raft into action, went with a boat's crew on board the Royal Savage, and for a time turned her guns upon her former friends; but the fire of the latter forced him again to abandon her, and it seemed so likely that she might be re-taken that she was set on fire by Lieutenant Starke of the Maria, when already "two rebel boats were very near her. She soon after blew up." The American guns converging on the Carleton in her central position, she suffered severely. Her commander, Lieutenant Dacres, was knocked senseless; another officer lost an arm; only Mr. Edward Pellew, afterwards Lord Exmouth, remained fit for duty. The spring being shot away, she swung bows on to the enemy, and her fire was thus silenced. Captain Pringle signalled to her to withdraw; but she was unable to obey. To pay her head off the right way, Pellew himself had to get out on the bowsprit under a heavy fire of musketry, to bear the jib over to windward; but to make sail seems to have been impossible. Two artillery boats were sent to her assistance, "which towed her off through a very thick fire, until out of farther reach, much to the honour of Mr. John Curling and Mr. Patrick Carnegy, master's mate and midshipman of the Isis, who conducted them; and of Mr. Edward Pellew, mate of the Blonde, who threw the tow-rope from the Carleton's bowsprit."[10] This service on board the Carleton started Pellew on his road to fortune; but, singularly enough, the lieutenancy promised him in consequence, by both the First Lord and Lord Howe, was delayed by the fact that he stayed at the front, instead of going to the rear, where he would have been "within their jurisdiction."[11] The Carleton had two feet of water in the hold, and had lost eight killed and six wounded,—about half her crew,—when she anchored out of fire. In this small but stirring business, the Americans, in addition to the Royal Savage, had lost one gondola. Besides the injuries to the Carleton, a British artillery boat, commanded by a German lieutenant, was sunk. Towards evening the Inflexible got within point-blank shot of the Americans, "when five broadsides," wrote Douglas, "silenced their whole line." One fresh ship, with scantling for sea-going, and a concentrated battery, has an unquestioned advantage over a dozen light-built craft, carrying one or two guns each, and already several hours engaged.

At nightfall the Inflexible dropped out of range, and the British squadron anchored in line of battle across the southern end of the passage between the island and the main; some vessels were extended also to the eastward, into the open Lake. "The best part of my intelligence," wrote Burgoyne next day from St. John's, to Douglas at Quebec, "is that our whole fleet was formed in line above the enemy, and consequently they must have surrendered this morning, or given us battle on our own terms. The Indians and light troops are abreast with the fleet; they cannot, therefore, escape by land." The British squadron sharing this confidence, a proper look-out was not kept. The American leader immediately held a conference with his officers, and decided to attempt a retreat, "which was done with such secrecy," writes Waterbury, "that we went through them entirely undiscovered." The movement began at 7 P.M., a galley leading, the gondolas and schooners following, and Arnold and his second bringing up the rear in the two heaviest galleys. This delicate operation was favoured by a heavy fog, which did not clear till next morning at eight. As the Americans stole by, they could not see any of the hostile ships. By daylight they were out of sight of the British. Riedesel, speaking of this event, says, "The ships anchored, secure of the enemy, who stole off during the night, and sailing round the left wing, aided by a favourable wind, escaped under darkness." The astonishment next morning, he continues, was great, as was Carleton's rage. The latter started to pursue in such a hurry that he forgot to leave orders for the troops which had been landed; but, failing to discover the fugitives, he returned and remained at Valcour till nightfall, when scouts brought word that the enemy were at Schuyler's Island, eight miles above.

The retreat of the Americans had been embarrassed by their injuries, and by the wind coming out ahead. They were obliged to anchor on the 12th to repair damages, both hulls and sails having suffered severely. Arnold took the precaution to write to Crown Point for bateaux, to tow in case of a southerly wind; but time did not allow these to arrive. Two gondolas had to be sunk on account of their injuries, making three of that class so far lost. The retreat was resumed at 2 P.M., but the breeze was fresh from the southward, and the gondolas made very little way. At evening the British chased again. That night the wind moderated, and at daybreak the American flotilla was twenty-eight miles from Crown Point,—fourteen from Valcour,—having still five miles' start. Later, however, by Arnold's report, "the wind again breezed up to the southward, so that we gained very little either by beating or rowing. At the same time the enemy took a fresh breeze from northeast, and, by the time we had reached Split Rock, were alongside of us." The galleys of Arnold and Waterbury, the Congress and the Washington, had throughout kept in the rear, and now received the brunt of the attack, made by the Inflexible and the two schooners, which had entirely distanced their sluggish consorts. This fight was in the upper narrows, where the Lake is from one to three miles wide; and it lasted, by Arnold's report, for five glasses (two hours and a half),[12] the Americans continually retreating, until about ten miles from Crown Point. There, the Washington having struck some time before, and final escape being impossible, Arnold ran the Congress and four gondolas ashore in a small creek on the east side; pulling to windward, with the cool judgment that had marked all his conduct, so that the enemy could not follow him—except in small boats with which he could deal. There he set his vessels on fire, and stood by them until assured that they would blow up with their flags flying. He then retreated to Crown Point through the woods, "despite the savages;" a phrase which concludes this singular aquatic contest with a quaint touch of local colour.

In three days of fighting and retreating the Americans had lost one schooner, two galleys, and seven gondolas,—in all, ten vessels out of fifteen. The killed and wounded amounted to over eighty, twenty odd of whom were in Arnold's galley. The original force, numbering seven hundred, had been decimated. Considering its raw material and the recency of its organisation, words can scarcely exaggerate the heroism of the resistance, which undoubtedly depended chiefly upon the personal military qualities of the leader. The British loss in killed and wounded did not exceed forty.

The little American navy on Champlain was wiped out; but never had any force, big or small, lived to better purpose or died more gloriously, for it had saved the Lake for that year. Whatever deductions may be made for blunders, and for circumstances of every character which made the British campaign of 1777 abortive and disastrous, thus leading directly to the American alliance with France in 1778, the delay, with all that it involved, was obtained by the Lake campaign of 1776. On October 15th, two days after Arnold's final defeat, Carleton dated a letter to Douglas from before Crown Point, whence the American garrison was withdrawn. A week later Riedesel arrived, and wrote that, "were our whole army here it would be an easy matter to drive the enemy from their entrenchments," at Ticonderoga, and—as has been quoted already—four weeks sooner would have insured its fall. It is but a coincidence that just four weeks had been required to set up the Inflexible at St. John's; but it typifies the whole story. Save for Arnold's flotilla, the two British schooners would have settled the business. "Upon the whole, Sir," wrote Douglas in his final letter from Quebec before sailing for England, "I scruple not to say, that had not General Carleton authorized me to take the extraordinary measure of sending up the Inflexible from Quebec, things could not this year have been brought to so glorious a conclusion on Lake Champlain." Douglas further showed the importance attached to this success by men of that day, by sending a special message to the British ambassador at Madrid, "presuming that the early knowledge of this great event in the southern parts of Europe may be of advantage to His Majesty's service." That the opinion of the government was similar may be inferred from the numerous rewards bestowed. Carleton was made a Knight of the Bath, and Douglas a baronet.

The gallantry shown by both sides upon Lake Champlain in 1776 is evident from the foregoing narrative. With regard to the direction of movements,—the skill of the two leaders,—the same equal credit cannot be assigned. It was a very serious blunder, on October 11th, to run to leeward, passing a concealed enemy, undetected, upon waters so perfectly well known as those of Champlain were; it having been the scene of frequent British operations in previous wars. Owing to this, "the Maria, because of her distant situation (from which the Inflexible and Carleton had chased by signal) when the rebels were first discovered, and baffling winds, could not get into close action."[13] For the same reason the Inflexible could not support the Carleton. The Americans, in the aggregate distinctly inferior, were thus permitted a concentration of superior force upon part of their enemies. It is needless to enlarge upon the mortifying incident of Arnold's escape that evening. To liken small things to great,—always profitable in military analysis,—it resembled Hood's slipping away from de Grasse at St. Kitts.[14]

In conduct and courage, Arnold's behavior was excellent throughout. Without enlarging upon the energy which created the flotilla, and the breadth of view which suggested preparations that he could not enforce, admiration is due to his recognition of the fact—implicit in deed, if unexpressed in word—that the one use of the Navy was to contest the control of the water; to impose delay, even if it could not secure ultimate victory. No words could say more clearly than do his actions that, under the existing conditions, the navy was useless, except as it contributed to that end; valueless, if buried in port. Upon this rests the merit of his bold advance into the lower narrows; upon this his choice of the strong defensive position of Valcour; upon this his refusal to retreat, as urged by Waterbury, when the full force of the enemy was disclosed,—a decision justified, or rather, illustrated, by the advantages which the accidents of the day threw into his hands. His personal gallantry was conspicuous there as at all times of his life. "His countrymen," said a generous enemy of that day, "chiefly gloried in the dangerous attention which he paid to a nice point of honour, in keeping his flag flying, and not quitting his galley till she was in flames, lest the enemy should have boarded, and struck it." It is not the least of the injuries done to his nation in after years, that he should have silenced this boast and effaced this glorious record by so black an infamy.

With the destruction of the flotilla ends the naval story of the Lakes during the War of the American Revolution. Satisfied that it was too late to proceed against Ticonderoga that year, Carleton withdrew to St. John's and went into winter-quarters. The following year the enterprise was resumed under General Burgoyne; but Sir William Howe, instead of cooeperating by an advance up the Hudson, which was the plan of 1776, carried his army to Chesapeake Bay, to act thence against Philadelphia. Burgoyne took Ticonderoga and forced his way as far as Saratoga, sixty miles from Ticonderoga and thirty from Albany, where Howe should have met him. There he was brought to a stand by the army which the Americans had collected, found himself unable to advance or to retreat, and was forced to lay down his arms on October 17th, 1777. The garrison left by him at Ticonderoga and Crown Point retired to Canada, and the posts were re-occupied by the Americans. No further contest took place on the Lake, though the British vessels remained in control of it, and showed themselves from time to time up to 1781. With the outbreak of war between Great Britain and France, in 1778, the scene of maritime interest shifted to salt water, and there remained till the end.

[Footnote 1: In customary representation of maps, North is upper, and movement northward is commonly spoken of as up. It is necessary therefore to bear in mind that the flow of water from Lake George to the St. Lawrence, though northward, is down.]

[Footnote 2: Afterwards Captain of the Fleet (Chief of Staff) to Rodney in his great campaign of 1782. Post, p. 222. He died a Rear-Admiral and Baronet in 1789.]

[Footnote 3: Author's italics.]

[Footnote 4: Remembrancer, iv. 291.]

[Footnote 5: The radeau had six 24-pounders, six 12's, and two howitzers; the gondola, seven 9-pounders. The particulars of armament are from Douglas's letters.]

[Footnote 6: By American reports. Beatson gives the force sent out, in the spring of 1776, as 13,357. ("Mil. and Nav. Memoirs," vi. 44.)]

[Footnote 7: Douglas's letters.]

[Footnote 8: Douglas thought that the appearance of the Inflexible was a complete surprise; but Arnold had been informed that a third vessel, larger than the schooners, was being set up. With a man of his character, it is impossible to be sure, from his letters to his superior, how much he knew, or what he withheld.]

[Footnote 9: called North Hero.]

[Footnote 10: Douglas's letter. The Isis and the Blonde were vessels of the British squadron under Douglas, then lying in the St. Lawrence. The officers named were temporarily on the lake service.]

[Footnote 11: Sandwich, First Lord of the Admiralty, to Pellew.]

[Footnote 12: Beatson, "Nav. and Mil. Memoirs," says two hours.]

[Footnote 13: Douglas's letters. The sentence is awkward, but carefully compared with the copy in the author's hands. Douglas says, of the details he gives, that "they have been collected with the most scrupulous circumspection."]

[Footnote 14: Post, p. 205.]




The opening conflict between Great Britain and her North American Colonies teaches clearly the necessity, too rarely recognised in practice, that when a State has decided to use force, the force provided should be adequate from the first. This applies with equal weight to national policies when it is the intention of the nation to maintain them at all costs. The Monroe Doctrine for instance is such a policy; but unless constant adequate preparation is maintained also, the policy itself is but a vain form of words. It is in preparation beforehand, chiefly if not uniformly, that the United States has failed. It is better to be much too strong than a little too weak. Seeing the evident temper of the Massachusetts Colonists, force would be needed to execute the Boston Port Bill and its companion measures of 1774; for the Port Bill especially, naval force. The supplies for 1775 granted only 18,000 seamen,—2000 less than for the previous year. For 1776, 28,000 seamen were voted, and the total appropriations rose from L5,556,000 to L10,154,000; but it was then too late. Boston was evacuated by the British army, 8000 strong on the 17th of March, 1776; but already, for more than half a year, the spreading spirit of revolt in the thirteen Colonies had been encouraged by the sight of the British army cooped up in the town, suffering from want of necessaries, while the colonial army blockading it was able to maintain its position, because ships laden with stores for the one were captured, and the cargoes diverted to the use of the other. To secure free and ample communications for one's self, and to interrupt those of the opponent, are among the first requirements of war. To carry out the measures of the British government a naval force was needed, which not only should protect the approach of its own transports to Boston Bay, but should prevent access to all coast ports whence supplies could be carried to the blockading army. So far from this, the squadron was not equal, in either number or quality, to the work to be done about Boston; and it was not until October, 1775, that the Admiral was authorized to capture colonial merchant vessels, which therefore went and came unmolested, outside of Boston, carrying often provisions which found their way to Washington's army.

After evacuating Boston, General Howe retired to Halifax, there to await the coming of reinforcements, both military and naval, and of his brother, Vice-Admiral Lord Howe, appointed to command the North American Station. General Howe was commander-in-chief of the forces throughout the territory extending from Nova Scotia to West Florida; from Halifax to Pensacola. The first operation of the campaign was to be the reduction of New York.

The British government, however, had several objects in view, and permitted itself to be distracted from the single-minded prosecution of one great undertaking to other subsidiary operations, not always concentric. Whether the control of the line of the Hudson and Lake Champlain ought to have been sought through operations beginning at both ends, is open to argument; the facts that the Americans were back in Crown Point in the beginning of July, 1776, and that Carleton's 13,000 men got no farther than St. John's that year, suggest that the greater part of the latter force would have been better employed in New York and New Jersey than about Champlain. However that may be, the diversion to the Carolinas of a third body, respectable in point of numbers, is scarcely to be defended on military grounds. The government was induced to it by the expectation of local support from royalists. That there were many of these in both Carolinas is certain; but while military operations must take account of political conditions, the latter should not be allowed to overbalance elementary principles of the military art. It is said that General Howe disapproved of this ex-centric movement.

The force destined for the Southern coasts assembled at Cork towards the end of 1775, and sailed thence in January, 1776. The troops were commanded by Lord Cornwallis, the squadron by Nelson's early patron, Commodore Sir Peter Parker, whose broad pennant was hoisted on board the Bristol, 50. After a boisterous passage, the expedition arrived in May off Cape Fear in North Carolina, where it was joined by two thousand men under Sir Henry Clinton, Cornwallis's senior, whom Howe by the government's orders had detached to the southward in January. Upon Clinton's appearance, the royalists in North Carolina had risen, headed by the husband of Flora Macdonald, whose name thirty years before had been associated romantically with the escape of the young Pretender from Scotland. She had afterwards emigrated to America. The rising, however, had been put down, and Clinton had not thought it expedient to try a serious invasion, in face of the large force assembled to resist him. Upon Parker's coming, it was decided to make an attempt upon Charleston, South Carolina. The fleet therefore sailed from Cape Fear on the 1st of June, and on the 4th anchored off Charleston Bar.

Charleston Harbour opens between two of the sea-islands which fringe the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia. On the north is Sullivan's Island, on the south James Island. The bar of the main entrance was not abreast the mouth of the port, but some distance south of it. Inside the bar, the channel turned to the northward, and thence led near Sullivan's Island, the southern end of which was therefore chosen as the site of the rude fort hastily thrown up to meet this attack, and afterwards called Fort Moultrie, from the name of the commander. From these conditions, a southerly wind was needed to bring ships into action. After sounding and buoying the bar, the transports and frigates crossed on the 7th and anchored inside; but as it was necessary to remove some of the Bristol's guns, she could not follow until the 10th. On the 9th Clinton had landed in person with five hundred men, and by the 15th all the troops had disembarked upon Long Island, next north of Sullivan's. It was understood that the inlet between the two was fordable, allowing the troops to cooeperate with the naval attack, by diversion or otherwise; but this proved to be a mistake. The passage was seven feet deep at low water, and there were no means for crossing; consequently a small American detachment in the scrub wood of the island sufficed to check any movement in that quarter. The fighting therefore was confined to the cannonading of the fort by the ships.

Circumstances not fully explained caused the attack to be fixed for the 23d; an inopportune delay, during which Americans were strengthening their still very imperfect defences. On the 23d the wind was unfavourable. On the 25th the Experiment, 50, arrived, crossed the bar, and, after taking in her guns again, was ready to join in the assault. On the 27th, at 10 A.M., the ships got under way with a south-east breeze, but this shifted soon afterwards to north-west, and they had to anchor again, about a mile nearer to Sullivan's Island. On the following day the wind served, and the attack was made.

In plan, Fort Moultrie was square, with a bastion at each angle. In construction, the sides were palmetto logs, dovetailed and bolted together, laid in parallel rows, sixteen feet apart; the interspace being filled with sand. At the time of the engagement, the south and west fronts were finished; the other fronts were only seven feet high, but surmounted by thick planks, to be tenable against escalade. Thirty-one guns were in place, 18 and 9-pounders, of which twenty-one were on the south face, commanding the channel. Within was a traverse running east and west, protecting the gunners from shots from the rear; but there was no such cover against enfilading fire, in case an enemy's ship passed the fort and anchored above it. "The general opinion before the action," Moultrie says, "and especially among sailors, was that two frigates would be sufficient to knock the town about our ears, notwithstanding our batteries." Parker may have shared this impression, and it may account for his leisureliness. When the action began, the garrison had but twenty-eight rounds for each of twenty-six cannon, but this deficiency was unknown to the British.

Parker's plan was that the two 50's, Bristol and Experiment, and two 28-gun frigates, the Active and the Solebay, should engage the main front; while two frigates of the same class, the Actaeon and the Syren, with a 20-gun corvette, the Sphinx, should pass the fort, anchoring to the westward, up-channel, to protect the heavy vessels against fire-ships, as well as to enfilade the principal American battery. The main attack was to be further supported by a bomb-vessel, the Thunder, accompanied by the armed transport Friendship, which were to take station to the southeast of the east bastion of the engaged front of the fort. The order to weigh was given at 10.30 A.M., when the flood-tide had fairly made; and at 11.15 the Active, Bristol, Experiment, and Solebay, anchored in line ahead, in the order named, the Active to the eastward. These ships seem to have taken their places skilfully without confusion, and their fire, which opened at once, was rapid, well-sustained, and well-directed; but their position suffered under the radical defect that, whether from actual lack of water, or only from fear of grounding, they were too far from the works to use grape effectively. The sides of ships being much weaker than those of shore works, while their guns were much more numerous, the secret of success was to get near enough to beat down the hostile fire by a multitude of projectiles. The bomb-vessel Thunder anchored in the situation assigned her; but her shells, though well aimed, were ineffective. "Most of them fell within the fort," Moultrie reported, "but we had a morass in the middle, which swallowed them instantly, and those that fell in the sand were immediately buried." During the action the mortar bed broke, disabling the piece.

Owing to the scarcity of ammunition in the fort, the garrison had positive orders not to engage at ranges exceeding four hundred yards. Four or five shots were thrown at the Active, while still under sail, but with this exception the fort kept silence until the ships anchored, at a distance estimated by the Americans to be three hundred and fifty yards. The word was then passed along the platform, "Mind the Commodore; mind the two 50-gun ships,"—an order which was strictly obeyed, as the losses show. The protection of the work proved to be almost perfect,—a fact which doubtless contributed to the coolness and precision of fire vitally essential with such deficient resources. The texture of the palmetto wood suffered the balls to sink smoothly into it without splintering, so that the facing of the work held well. At times, when three or four broadsides struck together, the merlons shook so that Moultrie feared they would come bodily in; but they withstood, and the small loss inflicted was chiefly through the embrasures. The flagstaff being shot away, falling outside into the ditch, a young sergeant, named Jasper, distinguished himself by jumping after it, fetching back and rehoisting the colours under a heavy fire.

In the squadron an equal gallantry was shown under circumstances which made severe demands upon endurance. Whatever Parker's estimate of the worth of the defences, no trace of vain-confidence appears in his dispositions, which were thorough and careful, as the execution of the main attack was skilful and vigorous; but the ships' companies, expecting an easy victory, had found themselves confronted with a resistance and a punishment as severe as were endured by the leading ships at Trafalgar, and far more prolonged. Such conditions impose upon men's tenacity the additional test of surprise and discomfiture. The Experiment, though very small for a ship of the line, lost 23 killed and 56 wounded, out of a total probably not much exceeding 300; while the Bristol, having the spring shot away, swung with her head to the southward and her stern to the fort, undergoing for a long time a raking fire to which she could make little reply. Three several attempts to replace the spring were made by Mr. James Saumarez,—afterwards the distinguished admiral, Lord de Saumarez, then a midshipman,—before the ship was relieved from this grave disadvantage. Her loss was 40 killed and 71 wounded; not a man escaping of those stationed on the quarter-deck at the beginning of the action. Among the injured was the Commodore himself, whose cool heroism must have been singularly conspicuous, from the notice it attracted in a service where such bearing was not rare. At one time when the quarter-deck was cleared and he stood alone upon the poop-ladder, Saumarez suggested to him to come down; but he replied, smiling, "You want to get rid of me, do you?" and refused to move. The captain of the ship, John Morris, was mortally wounded. With commendable modesty Parker only reported himself as slightly bruised; but deserters stated that for some days he needed the assistance of two men to walk, and that his trousers had been torn off him by shot or splinters. The loss in the other ships was only one killed, 14 wounded. The Americans had 37 killed and wounded.

The three vessels assigned to enfilade the main front of the fort did not get into position. They ran on the middle ground, owing, Parker reported, to the ignorance of the pilots. Two had fouled each other before striking. Having taken the bottom on a rising tide, two floated in a few hours, and retreated; but the third, the Actaeon, 28, sticking fast, was set on fire and abandoned by her officers. Before she blew up, the Americans boarded her, securing her colours, bell, and some other trophies. "Had these ships effected their purpose," Moultrie reported, "they would have driven us from our guns."

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