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stores saved from Ticonderoga, and knocking off the necks of bottles of wine, drank a pleasant reveille to General Burgoyne.
About three o'clock in the afternoon of the succeeding day, the heavily laden bateaux arrived at Skenesborough. The disembarkation had scarcely commenced when the thundering of artillery was heard from below. Could the enemy be at hand? It was even so. The British gunboats having pushed on in advance of the frigates, had overtaken and were firing upon the galleys. The latter defended themselves for a while, but at length two struck, and three were blown up. The fugitives from them brought word that the British ships not being able to come up, troops and Indians were landing from them and scrambling up the hills; intending to get in the rear of the fort and cut off all retreat.
All now was consternation and confusion. The bateaux, the storehouses, the fort, the mill were all set on fire, and a general flight took place toward Fort Anne, about twelve miles distant. Some made their way in boats up Wood Creek, a winding stream. The main body, under Colonel Long, retreated by a narrow defile cut through the woods; harassed all night by alarms that the Indians were close in pursuit. Both parties reached Fort Anne by daybreak. It was a small picketed fort, near the junction of Wood Creek and East Creek, about sixteen miles from Fort Edward. General Schuyler arrived at the latter place on the following day. The number of troops with him was inconsiderable, but, hearing of Colonel Long's situation, he immediately sent him a small re-enforcement, with provisions and ammunition, and urged him to maintain his post resolutely.
On the same day Colonel Long's scouts brought in word that there were British red coats approaching. They were in fact a regiment under Lieutenant-Colonel Hill, detached from Skenesborough by Burgoyne in pursuit of the fugitives. Long sallied forth to meet them; posting himself at a rocky defile, where there was a narrow pathway along the border of Wood Creek. As the enemy advanced he opened a heavy fire upon them in front, while a part of his troops crossing and recrossing the creek, and availing themselves of their knowledge of the ground, kept up a shifting attack from the woods in flank and rear. Apprehensive of being surrounded, the British took post upon a high hill to their right, where they were warmly besieged for nearly two hours, and, according to their own account, would certainly have been forced had not some of their
Indian allies arrived and set up the much-dreaded war-whoop. It was answered with three cheers by the British upon the hill. This changed the fortune of the day. The Americans had nearly expended their ammunition, and had not enough left to cope with this new enemy. They retreated, therefore, to Fort Anne, carrying with them a number of prisoners, among whom were a captain and surgeon. Supposing the troops under Colonel Hill an advance guard of Burgoyne's army, they set fire to the fort and pushed on to Fort Edward; where they gave the alarm that the main force of the enemy was close after them, and that no one knew what had become of General St. Clair and the troops who had retreated with him. We shall now clear up the mystery of his movements.
His retreat through the woods from Mount Independence continued the first day until night, when he arrived at Castleton, thirty miles from Ticonderoga. His rear-guard halted about six miles short, at Hubbardton, to await the arrival of stragglers. It was composed of three regiments, under Colonels Seth Warner, Francis and Hale; in all about thirteen hundred men.
Early the next morning, a sultry morning of July, while they were taking their breakfast, they were startled by the report of fire-arms. Their sentries had discharged their muskets, and came running in with word that the enemy were at hand.
It was General Fraser, with his advance of eight hundred and fifty men, who had pressed forward in the latter part of the night, and now attacked the Americans with great spirit, notwithstanding their superiority in numbers; in fact, he expected to be promptly re-enforced by Riedesel and his Germans. The Americans met the British with great spirit; but at the very commencement of the action, Colonel Hale, with a detachment placed under his command to protect the rear, gave way, leaving Warner and Francis with but seven hundred men to bear the brunt of the battle. These posted themselves behind logs and trees in "backwood" style, whence they kept up a destructive fire and were evidently gaining the advantage, when General Riedesel came pressing into the action with his German troops; drums beating and colors flying. There was now an impetuous charge with the bayonet. Colonel Francis was among the first who fell, gallantly fighting at the head of his men. The Americans, thinking the whole German force upon them, gave way and fled, leaving the ground covered with their dead and wounded. Many others who had been wounded perished in the woods, where they had taken refuge. Their
whole loss in killed, wounded and taken, was upward of three hundred; that of the enemy one hundred and eighty-three. Several officers were lost on both sides. Among those wounded of the British was Major Ackland of the grenadiers, of whose further fortunes in the war we shall have to speak hereafter.
The noise of the firing when the action commenced had reached General St. Clair at Castleton. He immediately sent orders to two militia regiments which were in his rear, and within two miles of the battle ground, to hasten to the assistance of his rear-guard. They refused to obey, and hurried forward to Castleton. At this juncture St. Clair received information of Burgoyne's arrival at Skenesborough, and the destruction of the American works there: fearing to be intercepted at Fort Anne, he immediately changed his route, struck into the woods on his left, and directed his march to Rutland, leaving word for Warner to follow him. The latter overtook him two days afterward, with his shattered force reduced to ninety men. As to Colonel Hale, who had pressed toward Castleton at the beginning of the action, he and his men were overtaken the same day by the enemy, and the whole party captured, without making any fight. It has been alleged in his excuse, with apparent justice, that he and a large portion of his men were in feeble health, and unfit for action; for his own part, he died while yet a prisoner, and never had the opportunity which he sought, to vindicate himself before a courtmartial.
On the 12th St. Clair reached Fort Edward, his troops haggard and exhausted by their long retreat through the woods. Such is the story of the catastrophe at Fort Ticonderoga, which caused so much surprise and concern to Washington, and of the seven days' mysterious disappearance of St. Clair, which kept every one in the most painful suspense.
The loss of artillery, ammunition, provisions and stores, in consequence of the evacuation of these northern posts, was prodigious; but the worst effect was the consternation spread throughout the country. A panic prevailed at Albany, the people running about as if distracted, sending off their goods and furniture. The great barriers of the North, it was said, were broken through, and there was nothing to check the triumphant career of the enemy.
The invading army, both officers and men, according to a British writer of the time, "were highly elated with their for
1 MS. Letter of Richard Varick to Schuyler.
tune, and deemed that and their prowess to be irresistible. They regarded their enemy with the greatest contempt, and considered their own toils to be nearly at an end, and Albany already in their hands.”
In England, too, according to the same author, the joy and exultation were extreme; not only at court, but with all those who hoped or wished the unqualified subjugation and unconditional submission of the colonies. "The loss in reputation was greater to the Americans," adds he," and capable of more fatal consequences, than that of ground, of posts, of artillery, or of men. All the contemptuous and most degrading charges which had been made by their enemies, of their wanting the resolution and abilities of men, even in defence of what was dear to them, were now repeated and believed." "It was not difficult to diffuse an opinion that the war, in effect, was over, and that any further resistance would render the terms of their submission worse. 66 Such," he concludes, were some of the immediate effects of the loss of those grand keys of North America, Ticonderoga and the lakes."
CAPTURE OF GENERAL PRESCOTT
PROFFERED IN EXCHANGE FOR
RE-ENFORCEMENTS TO SCHUYLER
NORTH-EASTERN MILITIA TO REPAIR TO SARATOGA FURTHER RE-ENFORCEMENTS GENERALS LINCOLN AND ARNOLD RECOMMENDED FOR PARTICULAR SERVICES WASHINGTON'S MEASURES AND SUGGESTIONS FOR THE NORTHERN CAMPAIGN BRITISH FLEET PUTS TO SEA - CONJECTURES AS TO ITS DESTINATION — A FEIGNED LETTER APPEARANCE AND DISAPPEARANCE OF THE FLEET ORDERS AND COUNTER ORDERS OF WASHINGTON ENCAMPS AT GERMANTOWN ANXIETY FOR THE SECURITY OF THE HIGHLANDS GEORGE CLINTON ON GUARD CALL ON
A SPIRITED exploit to the eastward was performed during the prevalence of adverse news from the North. General Prescott had command of the British forces in Rhode Island. His harsh treatment of Colonel Ethan Allen, and his haughty and arrogant conduct on various occasions, had rendered him peculiarly
1 Hist. Civil War in America, vol. i. p. 283.
odious to the Americans. Lieutenant-Colonel Barton, who was stationed with a force of Rhode Island militia on the mainland, received word that Prescott was quartered at a country house near the western shore of the island, about four miles from Newport, totally unconscious of danger, though in a very exposed situation. He determined, if possible, to surprise and capture him. Forty resolute men joined him in the enterprise. Embarking at night in two boats at Warwick Neck, they pulled quietly across the bay with muffled oars, undiscovered by the ships-of-war and guard-boats; landed in silence; eluded the vigilance of the guard stationed near the house; captured the sentry at the door, and surprised the general in his bed. His aide-de-camp leaped from the window, but was likewise taken. Colonel Barton returned with equal silence and address, and arrived safe at Warwick with his prisoners. A sword was voted to him by Congress, and he received a colonel's commission in the regular army.
Washington hailed the capture of Prescott as a peculiarly fortunate circumstance, furnishing him with an equivalent for General Lee. He accordingly wrote to Sir William Howe, proposing the exchange. "This proposition," writes he, "being agreeable to the letter and spirit of the agreement subsisting between us, will, I hope have your approbation. I am the more induced to expect it, as it will not only remove one ground of controversy between us, but in its consequences effect the exchanges of Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell and the Hessian officers, for a like number of ours of equal rank in your possession."
No immediate reply was received to this letter, Sir William Howe being at sea; in the mean time Prescott remained in durance. "I would have him genteelly accommodated, but strongly guarded," writes Washington. "I would not admit him to parole, as General Howe has not thought proper to grant General Lee that indulgence."1
Washington continued his anxious exertions to counteract the operations of the enemy; forwarding artillery and ammunition to Schuyler, with all the camp furniture that, could be spared from his own encampment and from Peekskill. A part of Nixon's brigade was all the re-enforcement he could afford in his present situation. "To weaken this army more than is prudent," writes he, "would perhaps bring destruction upon it, and I look upon the keeping it upon a respectable footing as the
1 Letter to Governor Trumbull. Correspondence of the Revolution, vol. i. Sparks.