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Life And Times Of Washington, Volume 2 by John Frederick Schroeder and Benson John Lossing

Part 2 out of 16

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yourself," said Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, in a letter pressing
earnestly for a reinforcement of Continental troops, "that no
dependence is to be put on the militia; whatever men your Excellency
determines on sending, no time is to be lost." The garrison of Fort
Mifflin was now reduced to 156 effectives, and that of Red Bank did not
much exceed 200.

In consequence of these representations Washington ordered Col.
Christopher Greene, of Rhode Island, with his regiment, to Red Bank,
and Lieut.-Col. John Greene, of Virginia, with about 200 men, to Fort

Immediately after the battle of Brandywine Admiral Howe had sailed for
the Delaware, where he expected to arrive in time to meet and cooperate
with the army in and about Philadelphia. But the winds were so
unfavorable, and the navigation of the Bay of Delaware so difficult,
that his van did not get into the river until the 4th of October. The
ships of war and transports which followed came up from the 6th to the
8th, and anchored from New Castle to Reddy Island.

The frigates, in advance of the fleet, had not yet succeeded in their
endeavors to effect a passage through the lower double row of
_chevaux-de-frise_. Though no longer protected by the fort at
Billingsport, they were defended by the water force above, and the work
was found more difficult than had been expected. It was not until the
middle of October that the impediments were so far removed as to afford
a narrow and intricate passage through them. In the meantime the fire
from the Pennsylvania shore had not produced all the effect expected
from it, and it was perceived that greater exertions would be necessary
for the reduction of the works than could safely be made in the present
relative situation of the armies. Under this impression, General Howe,
soon after the return of the American army to its former camp on the
Skippack, withdrew his troops from Germantown into Philadelphia, as
preparatory to a combined attack by land and water on Forts Mercer and

After effecting a passage through the works sunk in the river at
Billingsport, other difficulties still remained to be encountered by
the ships of war. Several rows of _chevaux-de-frise_ had been sunk
about half a mile below Mud Island, which were protected by the guns of
the forts, as well as by the movable water force. To silence these
works, therefore, was a necessary preliminary to the removal of these
obstructions in the channel.

On the 21st of October (1777) a detachment of Hessians, amounting to
1,200 men, commanded by Col. Count Donop, crossed the Delaware at
Philadelphia with orders to storm Fort Mercer, at Red Bank. The
fortifications consisted of extensive outer works, within which was an
entrenchment eight or nine feet high, boarded and fraized. Late in the
evening of the 22d Count Donop appeared before the fort and attacked it
with great intrepidity. It was defended with equal resolution by the
brave garrison of Rhode Island Continentals, under command of Col.
Christopher Greene. The outer works being too extensive to be manned by
the troops in the fort, were used only to gall the assailants while
advancing. On their near approach the garrison retired within the inner
entrenchment, whence they poured upon the Hessians a heavy and
destructive fire. Colonel Donop received a mortal wound, and
Lieutenant-Colonel Mengerode, the second in command, fell about the
same time. [2]

Lieutenant-Colonel Linsing, the oldest remaining officer, drew off his
troops and returned next day to Philadelphia. The loss of the
assailants was estimated by the Americans at 400 men. The garrison was
reinforced from Fort Mifflin, and aided by the galleys which flanked
the Hessians in their advance and retreat. The American loss, in killed
and wounded, amounted to only thirty-two men.

The ships having been ordered to cooperate with Count Donop, the
Augusta, with four smaller vessels, passed the lower line of
_chevaux-de-frise_, opposite to Billingsport, and lay above it, waiting
until the assault should be made on the fort. The flood tide setting in
about the time the attack commenced they moved with it up the river.
The obstructions sunk in the Delaware had in some degree changed its
channel, in consequence of which the Augusta and the Merlin grounded a
considerable distance below the second line of _chevaux-de-frise_, and
a strong wind from the north so checked the rising of the tide that
these vessels could not be floated by the flood. Their situation,
however, was not discerned that evening, as the frigates which were
able to approach the fort, and the batteries from the Pennsylvania
shore, kept up an incessant fire on the garrison, till night put an end
to the cannonade. Early next morning it was recommenced in the hope
that, under its cover, the Augusta and the Merlin might be got off. The
Americans, on discovering their situation, sent four fire ships against
them, but without effect. Meanwhile a warm cannonade took place on both
sides, in the course of which the Augusta took fire, and it was found
impracticable to extinguish the flames. Most of the men were taken out,
the frigates withdrawn, and the Merlin set on fire, after which the
Augusta blew up, and a few of the crew were lost in her.

This repulse inspired Congress with flattering hopes for the permanent
defense of the posts on the Delaware. That body expressed its high
sense of the merits of Colonel Greene, of Rhode Island, who had
commanded in Fort Mercer; of Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, of Maryland, who
had commanded in Fort Mifflin; and of Commodore Hazlewood, who
commanded the galleys; and presented a sword to each of these officers,
as a mark of the estimation in which their services were held.

The situation of these forts was far from justifying this confidence of
their being defensible. That on Mud Island had been unskillfully
constructed and required at least 800 men fully to man the lines. The
island is about half a mile long. Fort Mifflin was placed at the lower
end, having its principal fortifications in front for the purpose of
repelling ships coming up the river. The defenses in the rear consisted
only of a ditch and palisade, protected by two blockhouses, the upper
story of one of which had been destroyed in the late cannonade. Above
the fort were two batteries opposing those constructed by the British
on Province and Carpenter's Islands, which were separated from Mud
Island only by a narrow passage between 400 and 500 yards wide.

The garrison of Fort Mifflin consisted of only 300 Continental troops,
who were worn down with fatigue and incessant watching, under the
constant apprehension of being attacked from Province Island, from
Philadelphia, and from the ships below.

Having failed in every attempt to draw the militia of New Jersey to the
Delaware, Washington determined to strengthen the garrison by further
drafts from his army. Three hundred Pennsylvania militia were detached
to be divided between the two forts, and a few days afterward General
Varnum was ordered, with his brigade, to take a position above
Woodbury, near Red Bank, and to relieve and reinforce the garrisons of
both forts as far as his strength would permit. Washington hoped that
the appearance of so respectable a Continental force might encourage
the militia to assemble in greater numbers.

Aware of the advantage to result from a victory over the British army
while separated from the fleet, Washington had been uniformly
determined to risk much to gain one. He had, therefore, after the
battle of Germantown, continued to watch assiduously for an opportunity
to attack his enemy once more to advantage. The circumspect caution of
General Howe afforded none. After the repulse at Red Bank his measures
were slow but certain, and were calculated to insure the possession of
the forts without exposing his troops to the hazard of an assault.

In this state of things intelligence was received of the successful
termination of the northern campaign, in consequence of which great
part of the troops who had been employed against Burgoyne, might be
drawn to the aid of the army in Pennsylvania. But Washington had just
grounds to apprehend that before these reinforcements could arrive Howe
would gain possession of the forts and remove the obstructions to the
navigation of the Delaware. This apprehension furnished a strong motive
for vigorous attempts to relieve Fort Mifflin. But the relative force
of the armies, the difficulty of acting offensively against
Philadelphia, and, above all, the reflection that a defeat might
disable him from meeting his enemy in the field even after the arrival
of the troops expected from the north, determined Washington not to
hazard a second attack under existing circumstances.

To expedite the reinforcements for which he waited, Washington
dispatched Colonel Hamilton to General Gates, with directions to
represent to him the condition of the armies in Pennsylvania, and to
urge him, if he contemplated no other service of more importance,
immediately to send the regiments of Massachusetts and New Hampshire to
aid the army of the middle department. These orders were not
peremptory, because it was possible that some other object (as the
capture of New York) still more interesting than the expulsion of
General Howe from Philadelphia might be contemplated by Gates; and
Washington meant not to interfere with the accomplishment of such

On reaching General Putnam, Colonel Hamilton found that a considerable
part of the northern army had joined that officer, but that Gates had
detained four brigades at Albany for an expedition intended to be made
in the winter against Ticonderoga. Having made such arrangements with
Putnam as he supposed would secure the immediate march of a large body
of Continental troops from that station, Colonel Hamilton proceeded to
Albany for the purpose of remonstrating with General Gates against
retaining so large and valuable a part of the army unemployed at a time
when the most imminent danger threatened the vitals of the country.
Gates was by no means disposed to part with his troops. He could not
believe that an expedition then preparing at New York was designed to
reinforce General Howe; and insisted that, should the troops then
embarked at that place, instead of proceeding to the Delaware, make a
sudden movement up the Hudson, it would be in their power, should
Albany be left defenseless, to destroy the valuable arsenal which had
been there erected, and the military stores captured with Burgoyne,
which had been chiefly deposited in that town.

Having, after repeated remonstrances, obtained an order directing three
brigades to the Delaware, Hamilton hastened back to Putnam and found
the troops which had been ordered to join Washington, still at
Peekskill. The detachment from New York had suggested to Putnam the
possibility of taking that place; and he does not appear to have made
very great exertions to divest himself of a force he deemed necessary
for an object, the accomplishment of which would give so much splendor
to his military character. In addition to this circumstance, an opinion
had gained ground among the soldiers that their share of service for
the campaign had been performed, and that it was time for them to go
into winter quarters. Great discontents, too, prevailed concerning
their pay, which the government had permitted to be more than six
months in arrear; and in Poor's brigade a mutiny broke out in the
course of which a soldier who was run through the body by his captain,
shot the captain dead before he expired. Colonel Hamilton came in time
to borrow money from the Governor, George Clinton, of New York, to put
the troops in motion; and they proceeded by brigades to the Delaware.
But these several delays retarded their arrival until the contest for
the forts on that river was terminated.

The preparations of Sir William Howe being completed, a large battery
on Province Island of twenty-four and thirty-two pounders and two
howitzers of eight inches each opened, early in the morning of the 10th
of November, upon Fort Mifflin, at the distance of 500 yards, and kept
up an incessant fire for several successive days. The blockhouses were
reduced to a heap of ruins; the palisades were beaten down, and most of
the guns dismounted and otherwise disabled. The barracks were battered
in every part, so that the troops could not remain in them. They were
under the necessity of working and watching the whole night to repair
the damages of the day, and to guard against a storm, of which they
were in perpetual apprehension. If, in the days, a few moments were
allowed for repose, it was taken on the wet earth, which, in
consequence of heavy rains, had become a soft mud. The garrison was
relieved by General Varnum every forty-eight hours, but his brigade was
so weak that half the men were constantly on duty.

Colonel Smith was decidedly of opinion, and General Varnum concurred
with him, that the garrison could not repel an assault, and ought to be
withdrawn; but Washington still cherished the hope that the place might
be maintained until he should be reinforced from the northern army.
Believing that an assault would not be attempted until the works were
battered down, he recommended that the whole night should be employed
in making repairs. His orders were that the place should be defended to
the last extremity; and never were orders more faithfully executed.

Several of the garrison were killed and among them Captain Treat, a
gallant officer, who commanded the artillery. Colonel Smith received a
contusion on his hip and arm which compelled him to give up the command
and retire to Red Bank. Major Fleury, a French officer of distinguished
merit, who served as engineer, reported to Washington that, although
the blockhouses were beaten down, all the guns in them, except two,
disabled, and several breaches made in the walls, the place was still
defensible; but the garrison was so unequal to the numbers required by
the extent of the lines, and was so dispirited by watching, fatigue,
and constant exposure to the cold rains, which were almost incessant,
that he dreaded the event of an attempt to carry the place by storm.
Fresh troops were ordered to their relief from Varnum's brigade, and
the command was taken, first by Colonel Russell, and afterward by Major
Thayer. The artillery, commanded by Captain Lee, continued to be well
served. The besiegers were several times thrown into confusion, and a
floating battery, which opened on the morning of the 14th, was silenced
in the course of the day.

The defense being unexpectedly obstinate, the assailants brought up
their ships (November 15, 1777) as far as the obstructions in the river
permitted and added their fire to that of the batteries, which was the
more fatal as the cover for the troops had been greatly impaired. The
brave garrison, however, still maintained their ground with unshaken
firmness. In the midst of this stubborn conflict, the Vigilant and a
sloop-of-war were brought up the inner channel, between Mud and
Province Islands, which had, unobserved by the besieged, been deepened
by the current in consequence of the obstructions in the main channel,
and, taking a station within 100 yards of the works, not only kept up a
destructive cannonade, but threw hand-grenades into them, while the
musketeers from the round-top of the Vigilant killed every man that
appeared on the platform.

Major Thayer applied to the Commodore to remove these vessels, and he
ordered six galleys on the service, but, after reconnoitering their
situation, the galleys returned without attempting anything. Their
report was that these ships were so covered by the batteries on
Province Island as to be unassailable.

It was now apparent to all that the fort could be no longer defended.
The works were in ruins. The position of the Vigilant rendered any
further continuance on the island a prodigal and useless waste of human
life; and on the 16th, about 11 at night, the garrison was withdrawn.

A second attempt was made to drive the vessels from their stations,
with a determination, should it succeed, to repossess the island, but
the galleys effected nothing, and a detachment from Province Island
soon occupied the ground which had been abandoned.

The day after, receiving intelligence of the evacuation of Fort
Mifflin, Washington deputed Generals De Kalb and Knox to confer with
General Varnum and the officers at Fort Mercer on the practicability of
continuing to defend the obstructions in the channel, to report
thereon, and to state the force which would be necessary for that
purpose. Their report was in favor of continuing the defense. A council
of the navy officers had already been called by the Commodore in
pursuance of a request of the Commander-in-Chief, made before the
evacuation had taken place, who were unanimously of opinion that it
would be impracticable for the fleet, after the loss of the island, to
maintain its station or to assist in preventing the _chevaux-de-frise_
from being weighed by the ships of the enemy.

General Howe had now completed a line of defense from the Schuylkill to
the Delaware, and a reinforcement from New York had arrived at Chester.
These two circumstances enabled him to form an army in the Jerseys,
sufficient for the reduction of Fort Mercer, without weakening himself
so much in Philadelphia as to put his lines in hazard. Still, deeming
it of the utmost importance to open the navigation of the Delaware
completely, he detached Lord Cornwallis, about 1 in the morning of the
17th (1777), with a strong body of troops to Chester. From that place
his lordship crossed over to Billingsport, where he was joined by the
reinforcement from New York.

Washington received immediate intelligence of the march of this
detachment, which he communicated to General Varnum, with orders that
Fort Mercer should be defended to the last extremity. With a view to
military operations in that quarter he ordered one division of the army
to cross the river at Burlington, and dispatched expresses to the
northern troops who were marching on by brigades, directing them to
move down the Delaware on its northern side until they should receive
further orders.

General Greene was selected for this expedition. A hope was entertained
that he would be able not only to protect Fort Mercer, but to obtain
some decisive advantage over Lord Cornwallis, as the situation of the
fort, which his lordship could not invest without placing himself
between Timber and Manto creeks, would expose the assailants to great
peril from a respectable force in their rear. But, before Greene could
cross the Delaware, Cornwallis approached with an army rendered more
powerful than had been expected by the junction of the reinforcement
from New York, and Fort Mercer was evacuated. A few of the smaller
galleys escaped up the river, and the others were burnt by their crews.

Washington still hoped to recover much of what had been lost. A victory
would restore the Jersey shore, and this object was deemed so important
that General Greene's instructions indicated the expectation that he
would be in a condition to fight Cornwallis.

Greene feared the reproach of avoiding an action less than the just
censure of sacrificing the real interests of his country by engaging
the enemy on disadvantageous terms. The numbers of the British exceeded
his, even counting his militia as regulars, and he determined to wait
for Glover's brigade, which was marching from the north. Before its
arrival, Cornwallis took post on Gloucester point, a point of land
making deep into the Delaware, which was entirely under cover of the
guns of the ships, from which place he was embarking his baggage and
the provisions he had collected for Philadelphia.

Believing that Cornwallis would immediately follow the magazines he had
collected, and that the purpose of Howe was, with his united forces, to
attack the American army while divided, General Washington ordered
Greene to re-cross the Delaware and join the army.

Thus, after one continued struggle of more than six weeks, in which the
Continental troops displayed great military virtues, the army in
Philadelphia secured itself in the possession of that city by opening a
free communication with the fleet.

While Lord Cornwallis was in Jersey, and General Greene on the Delaware
above him, the reinforcements from the north being received, an attack
on Philadelphia was strongly pressed by several officers high in rank,
and was, in some measure, urged by that torrent of public opinion,
which, if not resisted by a very firm mind, overwhelms the judgment,
and by controlling measures not well comprehended may frequently
produce, especially in military transactions, the most disastrous
effects. The officers who advised this measure were Lord Stirling,
Generals Wayne, Scott, and Woodford. The considerations urged upon
Washington in its support were: That the army was now in greater force
than he could expect it to be at any future time; that being joined by
the troops who had conquered Burgoyne, his own reputation, the
reputation of his army, the opinion of Congress and of the nation
required some decisive blow on his part; and that the rapid
depreciation of the paper currency, by which the resources for carrying
on the war were dried up, rendered indispensable some grand effort to
bring it to a speedy termination.

Washington reconnoitered the enemy's lines with great care and took
into serious consideration the plan of attack proposed. The plan
proposed was that General Greene should embark 2,000 men at Dunks'
ferry, and descending the Delaware in the night land in the town just
before day, attack the enemy in the rear, and take possession of the
bridge over the Schuylkill; that a strong corps should march down on
the west side of that river, occupy the heights enfilading the works of
the enemy, and open a brisk cannonade upon them, while a detachment
from it should march down to the bridge and attack in front at the same
instant that the party descending the river should commence its assault
on the rear.

Not only the Commander-in-Chief, but some of his best officers--those
who could not be impelled by the clamors of the ill-informed to ruin
the public interests--were opposed to this mad enterprise. The two
armies, they said, were now nearly equal in point of numbers, and the
detachment under Lord Cornwallis could not be supposed to have so
weakened Sir William Howe as to compensate for the advantages of his
position. His right was covered by the Delaware, his left by the
Schuylkill, his rear by the junction of those two rivers, as well as by
the city of Philadelphia, and his front by a line of redoubts extending
from river to river and connected by an abatis and by circular works.
It would be indispensably necessary to carry all these redoubts, since
to leave a part of them to play on the rear of the columns while
engaged in front with the enemy in Philadelphia would be extremely
hazardous. Supposing the redoubts carried and the British army driven
into the town, yet all military men were agreed on the great peril of
storming a town. The streets would be defended by an artillery greatly
superior to that of the Americans, which would attack in front, while
the brick houses would be lined with musketeers, whose fire must thin
the ranks of the assailants.

A part of the plan, on the successful execution of which the whole
depended, was that the British rear should be surprised by the corps
descending the Delaware. This would require the concurrence of too many
favorable circumstances to be calculated on with any confidence. As the
position of General Greene was known, it could not be supposed that Sir
William Howe would be inattentive to him. It was probable that not even
his embarkation would be made unnoticed, but it was presuming a degree
of negligence which ought not to be assumed to suppose that he could
descend the river to Philadelphia undiscovered. So soon as his movement
should be observed, the whole plan would be comprehended, since it
would never be conjectured that Greene was to attack singly.

If the attack in front should fail, which was not even improbable, the
total loss of the 2,000 men in the rear must follow, and General Howe
would maintain his superiority through the winter.

The situation did not require these desperate measures. The British
general would be compelled to risk a battle on equal terms or to
manifest a conscious inferiority to the American army. The depreciation
of paper money was the inevitable consequence of immense emissions
without corresponding taxes. It was by removing the cause, not by
sacrificing the army, that this evil was to be corrected.

Washington possessed too much discernment to be dazzled by the false
brilliant presented by those who urged the necessity of storming
Philadelphia in order to throw lustre round his own fame and that of
his army, and too much firmness of temper, too much virtue and real
patriotism to be diverted from a purpose believed to be right, by the
clamors of faction or the discontents of ignorance. Disregarding the
importunities of mistaken friends, the malignant insinuations of
enemies, and the expectations of the ill-informed, he persevered in his
resolution to make no attempt on Philadelphia. He saved his army and
was able to keep the field in the face of his enemy, while the clamor
of the moment wasted in air and was forgotten.

About this time Washington learnt, by a letter from General Greene,
that his young friend Lafayette, although hardly recovered from the
wound received at Brandywine, had signalized his spirit and courage by
an attack on Cornwallis' picket guard at Gloucester point, below
Philadelphia. "The Marquis," writes Greene, "with about 400 militia and
the rifle corps, attacked the enemy's picket last evening, killed about
20, wounded many more, and took about 20 prisoners. The Marquis is
charmed with the spirited behavior of the militia and rifle corps; they
drove the enemy about half a mile and kept the ground till dark. The
enemy's picket consisted of about 300 and were reinforced during the
skirmish. The Marquis is determined to be in the way of danger."

The following letter to Washington, cited by Sparks, contains
Lafayette's own account of this affair: "After having spent the most
part of the day in making myself well acquainted with the certainty of
the enemy's motions, I came pretty late into the Gloucester road
between the two creeks. I had 10 light horse, almost 150 riflemen, and
2 pickets of militia. Colonel Armand, Colonel Laumoy, and the
Chevaliers Duplessis and Gimat were the Frenchmen with me. A scout of
my men, under Duplessis, went to ascertain how near to Gloucester were
the enemy's first pickets, and they found at the distance of two miles
and a half from that place a strong post of 350 Hessians, with field
pieces, and they engaged immediately. As my little reconnoitering party
were all in fine spirits I supported them. We pushed the Hessians more
than half a mile from the place where their main body had been and we
made them run very fast. British reinforcements came twice to them,
but, very far from recovering their ground, they always retreated. The
darkness of the night prevented us from pursuing our advantage. After
standing on the ground we had gained, I ordered them to return very
slowly to Haddonfield."

The Marquis had only one man killed and six wounded. "I take the
greatest pleasure," he added, "in letting you know that the conduct of
our soldiers was above all praise. I never saw men so merry, so
spirited, and so desirous to go on to the enemy, whatever force they
might have, as that same small party in this little fight."

Washington, in a letter to Congress dated November 26, 1777, mentions
this affair with commendation, and suggests, as he had repeatedly done
before, Lafayette's appointment to one of the vacant divisions of the
army, and on the same day that this letter was received Congress voted
that such an appointment would be agreeable to them. Three days
afterward Washington placed Lafayette in command of the division of
General Stephen, who had been dismissed from the army for having been
intoxicated, to the great injury of the public service, on the eventful
day of the battle of Germantown. We shall see that this appointment, by
enabling Lafayette to act occasionally on a separate command, afforded
him the opportunity of rendering essential service to the cause of

On the 27th of November (1777), the Board of War was increased from
three to five members, viz.: General Mifflin, formerly aide to
Washington and recently quartermaster-general; Joseph Trumbull, Richard
Peters, Col. Timothy Pickering, of Massachusetts, and General Gates.
Gates was appointed president of the board, with many flattering
expressions from Congress. His recent triumph over Burgoyne had gained
him many friends among the members of Congress and a few among the
officers of the army. His head, naturally not over-strong, had been
turned by success, and he entered into the views of a certain clique
which had recently been formed, whose object was to disparage
Washington and put forward rather high pretensions in favor of the
"hero of Saratoga." This clique, called from the name of its most
active member, General Conway, the "Conway Cabal," we shall notice
hereafter. At the time of this change in the constitution of the Board
of War it was in full activity, and its operations were well known to
Washington. In fact, he had already applied the match which ultimately
exploded the whole conspiracy and brought lasting disgrace on every one
of its members.

General Howe in the meantime was preparing to attack Washington in his
camp, and, as he confidently threatened, to "drive him beyond the

On the 4th of December (1777), Captain M'Lane, a vigilant officer on
the lines, discovered that an attempt to surprise the American camp at
White Marsh was about to be made, and communicated the information to
Washington. In the evening of the same day General Howe marched out of
Philadelphia with his whole force, and about 11 at night, M'Lane, who
had been detached with 100 chosen men, attacked the British van at the
Three Mile Run on the Germantown road, and compelled their front
division to change its line of march. He hovered on the front and flank
of the advancing army, galling them severely until 3 next morning, when
the British encamped on Chestnut Hill in front of the American right,
and distant from it about three miles. A slight skirmish had also taken
place between the Pennsylvania militia, under General Irvine, and the
advanced light parties of the enemy, in which the general was wounded
and the militia without much other loss were dispersed.

The range of hills on which the British were posted approached nearer
to those occupied by the Americans as they stretched northward. Having
passed the day in reconnoitering the right Howe changed his ground in
the course of the night, and moving along the hills to his right took
an advantageous position about a mile in front of the American left.
The next day he inclined still further to his right, and in doing so
approached still nearer to the left wing of the American army.
Supposing a general engagement to be approaching Washington detached
Gist, with some Maryland militia, and Morgan, with his rifle corps, to
attack the flanking and advanced parties of the enemy. A sharp action
ensued in which Major Morris, of New Jersey, a brave officer in
Morgan's regiment was mortally wounded, and twenty-seven of his men
were killed and wounded. A small loss was also sustained in the
militia. The parties first attacked were driven in, but the enemy
reinforcing in numbers and Washington unwilling to move from the
heights and engage on the ground which was the scene of the skirmish,
declining to reinforce Gist and Morgan, they, in turn, were compelled
to retreat.

Howe continued to maneuver toward the flank and in front of the left
wing of the American army. Expecting to be attacked in that quarter in
full force Washington made such changes in the disposition of his
troops as the occasion required, and the day was consumed in these
movements. In the course of it Washington rode through every brigade of
his army, delivering in person his orders respecting the manner of
receiving the enemy, exhorting his troops to rely principally on the
bayonet, and encouraging them by the steady firmness of his
countenance, as well as by his words, to a vigorous performance of
their duty. The dispositions of the evening indicated an intention to
attack him the ensuing morning, but in the afternoon of the 8th the
British suddenly filed off from their right, which extended beyond the
American left, and retreated to Philadelphia. The parties detached to
harass their rear could not overtake it. [3]

The loss of the British in this expedition, as stated in the official
letter of General Howe, rather exceeded 100 in killed, wounded, and
missing, and was sustained principally in the skirmish of the 7th
(December, 1777) in which Major Morris fell.

On no former occasion had the two armies met, uncovered by works, with
superior numbers on the side of the Americans. The effective force of
the British was then stated at 12,000 men. Stedman, the historian, who
then belonged to Howe's army, states its number to have been 14,000.
The American army consisted of precisely 12,161 Continental troops and
3,241 militia. This equality in point of numbers rendered it a prudent
precaution to maintain a superiority of position. As the two armies
occupied heights fronting each other neither could attack without
giving to its adversary some advantage in the ground, and this was an
advantage which neither seemed willing to relinquish.

The return of Howe to Philadelphia without bringing on an action after
marching out with the avowed intention of fighting is the best
testimony of the respect which he felt for the talents of his adversary
and the courage of the troops he was to encounter.

The cold was now becoming so intense that it was impossible for an army
neither well-clothed nor sufficiently supplied with blankets longer to
keep the field in tents. It had become necessary to place the troops in
winter quarters, but in the existing state of things the choice of
winter quarters was a subject for serious reflection. It was impossible
to place them in villages without uncovering the country or exposing
them to the hazard of being beaten in detachment.

To avoid these calamities it was determined to take a strong position
in the neighborhood of Philadelphia, equally distant from the Delaware
above and below that city, and there to construct huts in the form of a
regular encampment which might cover the army during the winter. A
strong piece of ground at Valley Forge, on the west side of the
Schuylkill between twenty and thirty miles from Philadelphia, was
selected for that purpose, and some time before day on the morning of
the 11th of December (1777) the army marched to take possession of it.
By an accidental concurrence of circumstances Lord Cornwallis had been
detached the same morning at the head of a strong corps on a foraging
party on the west side of the Schuylkill. He had fallen in with a
brigade of Pennsylvania militia commanded by General Potter which he
soon dispersed, and, pursuing the fugitives, had gained the heights
opposite Matron's ford, over which the Americans had thrown a bridge
for the purpose of crossing the river, and had posted troops to command
the defile called the Gulph just as the front division of the American
army reached the bank of the river. This movement had been made without
any knowledge of the intention of General Washington to change his
position or any design of contesting the passage of the Schuylkill, but
the troops had been posted in the manner already mentioned for the sole
purpose of covering the foraging party.

Washington apprehended from his first intelligence that General Howe
had taken the field in full force. He therefore recalled the troops
already on the west side and moved rather higher up the river for the
purpose of understanding the real situation, force, and designs of the
enemy. The next day Lord Cornwallis returned to Philadelphia, and in
the course of the night the American army crossed the river.

Here the Commander-in-Chief communicated to his army in general orders
the manner in which he intended to dispose of them during the winter.
He expressed in strong terms his approbation of their conduct,
presented them with an encouraging state of the future prospects of
their country, exhorted them to bear with continuing fortitude the
hardships inseparable from the position they were about to take, and
endeavored to convince their judgments that those hardships were not
imposed on them by unfeeling caprice, but were necessary for the good
of their country.

The winter had set in with great severity, and the sufferings of the
army were extreme. In a few days, however, these sufferings were
considerably diminished by the erection of logged huts, filled up with
mortar, which, after being dried, formed comfortable habitations, and
gave content to men long unused to the conveniences of life. The order
of a regular encampment was observed, and the only appearance of winter
quarters was the substitution of huts for tents.

Stedman, who, as we have already remarked, was in Howe's army, has not
only given a vivid description of the condition of Washington's army,
which agrees in the main with those of our own writers, but he has also
exhibited in contrast the condition and conduct of the British army in
Philadelphia. We transcribe this instructive passage:

"The American general determined to remain during the winter in the
position which he then occupied at Valley Forge, recommending to his
troops to build huts in the woods for sheltering themselves from the
inclemency of the weather. And it is perhaps one of the most striking
traits in General Washington's character that he possessed the faculty
of gaining such an ascendancy over his raw and undisciplined followers,
most of whom were destitute of proper winter clothing and otherwise
unprovided with necessaries, as to be able to prevail upon so many of
them to remain with him during the winter in so distressing a
situation. With immense labor he raised wooden huts, covered with straw
and earth, which formed very uncomfortable quarters. On the east and
south an entrenchment was made--the ditch six feet wide and three in
depth; the mound not four feet high, very narrow, and such as might
easily have been beat down by cannon. Two redoubts were also begun but
never completed. The Schuylkill was on his left with a bridge across.
His rear was mostly covered by an impassable precipice formed by Valley
creek, having only a narrow passage near the Schuylkill. On the right
his camp was accessible with some difficulty, but the approach on his
front was on ground nearly on a level with his camp. It is indeed
difficult to give an adequate description of his misery in this
situation. His army was destitute of almost every necessary of
clothing, nay, almost naked, and very often on short allowance of
provisions; an extreme mortality raged in his hospitals, nor had he any
of the most proper medicines to relieve the sick. There were perpetual
desertions of parties from him of ten to fifty at a time. In three
months he had not 4,000 men and these could by no means be termed
effective. Not less than 500 horses perished from want and the severity
of the season. He had often not three days' provisions in his camp and
at times not enough for one day. In this infirm and dangerous state he
continued from December to May, during all which time every person
expected that General Howe would have stormed or besieged his camp, the
situation of which equally invited either attempt. To have posted 2,000
men on a commanding ground near the bridge, on the north side of the
Schuylkill, would have rendered his escape on the left impossible;
2,000 men placed on a like ground opposite the narrow pass would have
as effectually prevented a retreat by his rear, and five or six
thousand men stationed on the front and right of his camp would have
deprived him of flight on those sides. The positions were such that if
any of the corps were attacked they could have been instantly
supported. Under such propitious circumstances what mortal could doubt
of success? But the British army, neglecting all these opportunities,
was suffered to continue at Philadelphia where the whole winter was
spent in dissipation. A want of discipline and proper subordination
pervaded the whole army, and if disease and sickness thinned the
American army encamped at Valley Forge, indolence and luxury perhaps
did no less injury to the British troops at Philadelphia. During the
winter a very unfortunate inattention was shown to the feelings of the
inhabitants of Philadelphia, whose satisfaction should have been
vigilantly consulted, both from gratitude and from interest. They
experienced many of the horrors of civil war. The soldiers insulted and
plundered them, and their houses were occupied as barracks without any
compensation being made to them. Some of the first families were
compelled to receive into their habitations individual officers who
were even indecent enough to introduce their mistresses into the
mansions of their hospitable entertainers. This soured the minds of the
inhabitants, many of whom were Quakers. But the residence of the army
at Philadelphia occasioned distresses which will probably be considered
by the generality of mankind as of a more grievous nature. It was with
difficulty that fuel could be got on any terms. Provisions were most
exorbitantly high. Gaming of every species was permitted and even
sanctioned. This vice not only debauched the mind, but by sedentary
confinement and the want of seasonable repose enervated the body. A
foreign officer held the bank at the game of faro by which he made a
very considerable fortune, and but too many respectable families in
Britain had to lament its baleful effects. Officers who might have
rendered honorable service to their country were compelled, by what was
termed a bad run of luck, to dispose of their commissions and return
penniless to their friends in Europe. The father who thought he had
made a provision for his son by purchasing him a commission in the army
ultimately found that he had put his son to school to learn the science
of gambling, not the art of war. Dissipation had spread through the
army, and indolence and want of subordination, its natural
concomitants. For if the officer be not vigilant the soldier will never
be alert.

"Sir William Howe, from the manners and religious opinions of the
Philadelphians, should have been particularly cautious. For this public
dissoluteness of the troops could not but be regarded by such people as
a contempt of them, as well as an offense against piety; and it
influenced all the representations which they made to their countrymen
respecting the British. They inferred from it, also, that the commander
could not be sufficiently intent on the plans of either conciliation or
subjugation; so that the opinions of the Philadelphians, whether
erroneous or not, materially promoted the cause of Congress. During the
whole of this long winter of riot and dissipation, General Washington
was suffered to continue with the remains of his army, not exceeding
5,000 effective men at most, undisturbed at Valley Forge, considerable
arrears of pay due to them; almost in a state of nature for want of
clothing; the Europeans in the American service disgusted and deserting
in great numbers, and indeed in companies, to the British army, and the
natives tired of the war. Yet, under all these favorable circumstances
for the British interest, no one step was taken to dislodge Washington,
whose cannon were frozen up and could not be moved. If Sir William Howe
had marched out in the night he might have brought Washington to
action, or if he had retreated, he must have left his sick, cannon,
ammunition, and heavy baggage behind. A nocturnal attack on the
Americans would have had this further good effect: it would have
depressed the spirit of revolt, confirmed the wavering, and attached
them to the British interest. It would have opened a passage for
supplies to the city, which was in great want of provisions for the
inhabitants. It would have shaken off that lethargy in which the
British soldiers had been immerged during the winter. It would have
convinced the well-affected that the British leader was in earnest. If
Washington had retreated the British could have followed. With one of
the best-appointed in every respect and finest armies (consisting of at
least 14,000 effective men) ever assembled in any country, a number of
officers of approved service, wishing only to be led to action, this
dilatory commander, Sir William Howe, dragged out the winter without
doing any one thing to obtain the end for which he was commissioned.
Proclamation was issued after proclamation calling upon the people of
America to repair to the British standard, promising them remission of
their political sins and an assurance of protection in both person and
property, but these promises were confined merely to paper. The best
personal security to the inhabitants was an attack by the army, and the
best security of property was peace, and this to be purchased by
successful war. For had Sir William Howe led on his troops to action
victory was in his power and conquest in his train. During Sir William
Howe's stay at Philadelphia a number of disaffected citizens were
suffered to remain in the garrison; these people were ever upon the
watch and communicated to Washington every intelligence he could wish

We have copied this passage from Stedman, with a view to show the
contrast between the situation of Washington and Howe and their
respective armies, as exhibited by an enemy to our cause. It is
literally the contrast between virtue and vice. The final result shows
that Providence in permitting the occupation of Philadelphia by the
British army was really promoting the cause of human liberty.

Stedman's statement of the numbers of Washington's army is erroneous,
even if it refers only to effective men, and his schemes for
annihilating Washington's army would probably not have been so easily
executed as he imagined. Still the army was very weak. Marshall says
that although the total of the army exceeded 17,000 men (February,
1778), the present effective rank and file amounted to only 5,012. This
statement alone suggests volumes of misery, sickness, destitution, and

We must now call the reader's attention to the northern campaign of
1777 which, remote as it was from Washington's immediate scene of
action, was not conducted without his aid and direction.

1. Footnote: This was Lieut.-Col. Samuel Smith, of the Maryland line.
After serving in this perilous post at Fort Mifflin, he was made
general, and in that rank assisted in the defense of Baltimore in the
War of 1812. See Document [A] at the end of this chapter.

2. Footnote: Donop was a brave officer. He was found on the battlefield
by Captain Mauduit Duplessis, a talented French engineer, who had
assisted Greene in defense of the fort, and who attended the
unfortunate count on his death-bed till he expired, three days after
the battle, at the early age of thirty-seven. "I die," said he, in his
last hour, "a victim of my ambition, and of the avarice of my
sovereign." A fine commentary on the mercenary system of the German
princes. The government of Hesse Cassel quite recently caused the
remains of Count Donop to be removed from Red Bank, to be interred with
distinguished honor in his own country.

3. Footnote: Judge Marshall, the biographer of Washington, on whose
account of this affair ours is founded, was present on the occasion. He
served in the army from the beginning of the war; was appointed first
lieutenant in 1776, and captain in 1777. He resigned his commission in
1778, and, devoting himself to the practice of the law, subsequently
rose to the eminent office of Chief Justice of the United States. He
died at Philadelphia, July 6th, 1836, aged seventy-nine.



We have already had occasion to refer to what was passing in the North
during the time when Washington was conducting the arduous campaign in
Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. General Schuyler had held the chief
command of the army operating against Canada since the opening of the
war in 1775. Under his direction the force of Montgomery was sent to
Quebec in the disastrous expedition of which we have already related
the history, and Arnold was acting in a subordinate capacity to
Schuyler when he so bravely resisted the descent of Carleton on the
lakes. Schuyler also performed the best part of the service of
resisting the invasion of New York from Canada, and nearly completed
the campaign which terminated in the surrender of Burgoyne to Gates. To
the events of this campaign we now call the reader's attention.

At the commencement of the campaign of 1777 the American army on the
frontier of Canada having been composed chiefly of soldiers enlisted
for a short period only, had been greatly reduced in numbers by the
expiration of their term of service.

The cantonments of the British northern army, extending from Isle aux
Noix and Montreal to Quebec, were so distant from each other that they
could not readily have afforded mutual support in case of an attack,
but the Americans were in no condition to avail themselves of this
circumstance. They could scarcely keep up even the appearance of
garrisons in their forts and were apprehensive of an attack on
Ticonderoga as soon as the ice was strong enough to afford an easy
passage to troops over the lakes. At the close of the preceding
campaign General Gates had joined the army under Washington, and the
command of the army in the northern department, comprehending Albany,
Ticonderoga, Fort Stanwix, and their dependencies, remained in the
hands of General Schuyler. The services of that meritorious officer
were more solid than brilliant, and had not been duly valued by
Congress, which, like other popular assemblies, was slow in discerning
real and unostentatious merit. Disgusted at the injustice which he had
experienced he was restrained from leaving the army merely by the deep
interest which he took in the arduous struggle in which his country was
engaged, but after a full investigation of his conduct during the whole
of his command, Congress was at length convinced of the value of his
services and requested him to continue at the head of the army of the
northern department. That army he found too weak for the services which
it was expected to perform and ill-supplied with arms, clothes, and
provisions. He made every exertion to organize and place it on a
respectable footing for the ensuing campaign, but his means were scanty
and the new levies arrived slowly. General St. Clair, who had served
under Gates, commanded at Ticonderoga, and, including militia, had
nearly 2,000 men under him, but the works were extensive and would have
required 10,000 men to man them fully. [1]

The British ministry had resolved to prosecute the war vigorously on
the northern frontier of the United States, and appointed Burgoyne, who
had served under Carleton in the preceding campaign, to command the
royal army in that quarter. The appointment gave offense to Carleton,
then Governor of Canada, who naturally expected to be continued in the
command of the northern army, and that officer testified his
dissatisfaction by tendering the resignation of his government. But
although displeased with the nomination, he gave Burgoyne every
assistance in his power in preparing for the campaign.

Burgoyne had visited England during the winter, concerted with the
ministry a plan of the campaign and given an estimate of the force
necessary for its successful execution. Besides a fine train of
artillery and a suitable body of artillerymen, an army, consisting of
more than 7,000 veteran troops, excellently equipped and in a high
state of discipline, was put under his command. Besides this regular
force he had a great number of Canadians and savages.

The employment of the savages had been determined on at the very
commencement of hostilities, their alliance had been courted and their
services accepted, and on the present occasion the British ministry
placed no small dependence on their aid. Carleton was directed to use
all his influence to bring a large body of them into the field, and his
exertions were very successful. General Burgoyne was assisted by a
number of distinguished officers, among whom were Generals Philips,
Fraser, Powel, Hamilton, Riedesel, and Specht. A suitable naval
armament, under the orders of Commodore Lutwych, attended the

After detaching Colonel St. Leger with a body of light troops and
Indians, amounting to about 800 men, by the way of Lake Oswego and the
Mohawk river, to make a diversion in that quarter and to join him when
he advanced to the Hudson, Burgoyne left St. John's on the 16th of
June, and, preceded by his naval armament, sailed up Lake Champlain and
in a few days landed and encamped at Crown Point earlier in the season
than the Americans had thought it possible for him to reach that place.

He met his Indian allies and, in imitation of a savage partisan, gave
them a war feast, at which he made them a speech in order to inflame
their courage and repress their barbarous cruelty. He next issued a
lofty proclamation addressed to the inhabitants of the country in
which, as if certain of victory, he threatened to punish with the
utmost severity those who refused to attach themselves to the royal
cause. He talked of the ferocity of the Indians and their eagerness to
butcher the friends of independence, and he graciously promised
protection to those who should return to their duty. The proclamation
was so far from answering the general's intention that it was derided
by the people as a model of pomposity.

Having made the necessary arrangements on the 30th of June, Burgoyne
advanced cautiously on both sides of the narrow channel which connects
Lakes Champlain and George, the British on the west and the German
mercenaries on the east, with the naval force in the center, forming a
communication between the two divisions of the army, and on the 1st of
July his van appeared in sight of Ticonderoga.

The river Sorel issues from the north end of Lake Champlain and throws
its superfluous waters into the St. Lawrence. Lake Champlain is about
eighty miles long from north to south, and about fourteen miles broad
where it is widest. Crown Point stands at what may properly be
considered the south end of the lake, although a narrow channel, which
retains the name of the lake, proceeds southward and forms a
communication with South river and the waters of Lake George.

Ticonderoga is on the west side of the narrow channel, twelve miles
south from Crown Point. It is a rocky angle of land, washed on three
sides by the water and partly covered on the fourth side by a deep
morass. On the space on the northwest quarter, between the morass and
the channel, the French had formerly constructed lines of
fortification, which still remained, and those lines the Americans had
strengthened by additional works.

Opposite Ticonderoga on the east side of the channel, which is here
between three and four hundred yards wide, stands a high circular hill
called Mount Independence, which had been occupied by the Americans
when they abandoned Crown Point, and carefully fortified. On the top of
it, which is flat, they had erected a fort and provided it sufficiently
with artillery. Near the foot of the mountain, which extends to the
water's edge, they had raised entrenchments and mounted them with heavy
guns, and had covered those lower works by a battery about half way up
the hill.

With prodigious labor they had constructed a communication between
those two posts by means of a wooden bridge which was supported by
twenty-two strong wooden pillars placed at nearly equal distances from
each other. The spaces between the pillars were filled up by separate
floats, strongly fastened to each other and to the pillars by chains
and rivets. The bridge was twelve feet wide and the side of it next
Lake Champlain was defended by a boom formed of large pieces of timber,
bolted and bound together by double iron chains an inch and a half
thick. Thus an easy communication was established between Ticonderoga
and Mount Independence and the passage of vessels up the strait

Immediately after passing Ticonderoga the channel becomes wider and, on
the southeast side, receives a large body of water from a stream at
that point called South river, but higher up named Wood creek. From the
southwest come the waters flowing from Lake George, and in the angle
formed by the confluence of those two streams rises a steep and rugged
eminence called Sugar Hill, which overlooks and commands both
Ticonderoga and Mount Independence. That hill had been examined by the
Americans, but General St. Clair, considering the force under his
command insufficient to occupy the extensive works of Ticonderoga and
Mount Independence and flattering himself that the extreme difficulty
of the ascent would prevent the British from availing themselves of it,
neglected to take possession of Sugar Hill. It may be remarked that the
north end of Lake George is between two and three miles above
Ticonderoga, but the channel leading to it is interrupted by rapids and
shallows and is unfit for navigation. Lake George is narrow, but is
thirty-five miles long, extending from northeast to southwest. At the
head of it stood a fort of the same name, strong enough to resist an
attack of Indians, but incapable of making any effectual opposition to
regular troops. Nine miles beyond it was Fort Edward on the Hudson.

On the appearance of Burgoyne's van St. Clair had no accurate knowledge
of the strength of the British army, having heard nothing of the
reinforcement from Europe. He imagined that they would attempt to take
the fort by assault and flattered himself that he would easily be able
to repulse them. But, on the 2d of July, the British appeared in great
force on both sides of the channel and encamped four miles from the
forts, while the fleet anchored just beyond the reach of the guns.
After a slight resistance Burgoyne took possession of Mount Hope, an
important post on the south of Ticonderoga, which commanded part of the
lines of that fort as well as the channel leading to Lake George, and
extended his lines so as completely to invest the fort on the west
side. The German division under General Riedesel occupied the eastern
bank of the channel and sent forward a detachment to the vicinity of
the rivulet which flows from Mount Independence. Burgoyne now labored
assiduously in bringing forward his artillery and completing his
communications. On the 5th of the month (July, 1777) he caused Sugar
Hill to be examined, and being informed that the ascent, though
difficult, was not impracticable, he immediately resolved to take
possession of it and proceeded with such activity in raising works and
mounting guns upon it that his battery might have been opened on the
garrison next day.

These operations received no check from the besieged, because, as it
has been alleged, they were not in a condition to give any. St. Clair
was now nearly surrounded. Only the space between the stream which
flows from Mount Independence and South river remained open, and that
was to be occupied next day.

In these circumstances it was requisite for the garrison to come to a
prompt and decisive resolution, either at every hazard to defend the
place to the last extremity or immediately to abandon it. St. Clair
called a council of war, the members of which unanimously advised the
immediate evacuation of the forts, and preparations were instantly made
for carrying this resolution into execution. The British had the
command of the communication with Lake George, and consequently the
garrison could not escape in that direction. The retreat could be
effected by the South river only. Accordingly the invalids, the
hospital, and such stores as could be most easily removed, were put on
board 200 boats and, escorted by Colonel Long's regiment, proceeded, on
the night between the 5th and 6th of July, up the South river towards
Skeenesborough. The garrisons of Ticonderoga and Mount Independence
marched by land through Castleton, towards the same place. The troops
were ordered to march out in profound silence and particularly to set
nothing on fire. But these prudent orders were disobeyed, and, before
the rear guard was in motion, the house on Mount Independence, which
General Fermoy had occupied, was seen in flames. That served as a
signal to the enemy, who immediately entered the works and fired, but
without effect, on the rear of the retreating army.

The Americans marched in some confusion to Hubbardton whence the main
body, under St. Clair, pushed forward to Castleton. But the English
were not idle. General Fraser, at the head of a strong detachment of
grenadiers and light troops, commenced an eager pursuit by land upon
the right bank of Wood creek: General Riedesel, behind him, rapidly
advanced with his Brunswickers, either to support the English or to act
separately as occasion might require. Burgoyne determined to pursue the
Americans by water. But it was first necessary to destroy the boom and
bridge which had been constructed in front of Ticonderoga. The British
seamen and artificers immediately engaged in the operation, and in less
time than it would have taken to describe their structure, those works
which had cost so much labor and so vast an expense, were cut through
and demolished. The passage thus cleared, the ships of Burgoyne
immediately entered Wood creek and proceeded with extreme rapidity in
search of the Americans. All was in movement at once upon land and
water. By three in the afternoon the van of the British squadron,
composed of gunboats, came up with and attacked the American galleys
near Skeenesborough Falls. In the meantime three regiments which had
been landed at South bay, ascended and passed a mountain with great
expedition, in order to turn the retreating army above Wood creek, to
destroy the works at the Falls of Skeenesborough, and thus to cut off
the retreat of the army to Fort Anne. But the Americans eluded this
stroke by the rapidity of their march. The British frigates having
joined the van, the galleys, already hard pressed by the gunboats, were
completely overpowered. Two of them surrendered; three of them were
blown up. The Americans having set fire to their boats, mills, and
other works, fell back upon Fort Anne, higher up Wood creek. All their
baggage, however, was lost and a large quantity of provisions and
military stores fell into the hands of the British.

The pursuit by land was not less active. Early on the morning of the
7th of July (1777) the British overtook the American rear guard who, in
opposition to St. Clair's orders, had lingered behind and posted
themselves on strong ground in the vicinity of Hubbardton. Fraser's
troops were little more than half the number opposed to him, but aware
that Riedesel was close behind and fearful lest his chase should give
him the slip, he ordered an immediate attack. Warner opposed a vigorous
resistance, but a large body of his militia retreated and left him to
sustain the combat alone, when the firing of Riedesel's advanced guard
was heard and shortly after his whole force, drums beating and colors
flying, emerged from the shades of the forest and part of his troops
immediately effected a junction with the British line. Fraser now gave
orders for a simultaneous advance with the bayonet which was effected
with such resistless impetuosity that the Americans broke and fled,
sustaining a very serious loss. St. Clair, upon hearing the firing,
endeavored to send back some assistance, but the discouraged militia
refused to return and there was no alternative but to collect the
wrecks of his army and proceed to Fort Edward to effect a junction with

Burgoyne lost not a moment in following up his success at
Skeenesborough, but dispatched a regiment to effect the capture of Fort
Anne, defended by a small party under the command of Colonel Long. This
officer judiciously posted his troops in a narrow ravine through which
his assailants were compelled to pass and opened upon them so severe a
fire in front, flank, and rear, that the British regiments, nearly
surrounded, with difficulty escaped to a neighboring hill, where the
Americans attacked them anew with such vigor that they must have been
utterly defeated had not the ammunition of the assailants given out at
this critical moment. No longer being able to fight Long's troops fell
back, and, setting the fort on fire, also directed their retreat to the
headquarters at Fort Edward.

While at Skeenesborough, General Burgoyne issued a second proclamation
summoning the people of the adjacent country to send ten deputies from
each township to meet Colonel Skeene at Castleton in order to
deliberate on such measures as might still be adopted to save those who
had not yet conformed to his first and submitted to the royal
authority. General Schuyler, apprehending some effect from this paper,
issued a counter-proclamation, stating the insidious designs of the
enemy--warning the inhabitants by the example of Jersey of the danger
to which their yielding to this seductive proposition would expose them
and giving them the most solemn assurances that all who should send
deputies to this meeting or in any manner aid the enemy, would be
considered as traitors and should suffer the utmost rigor of the law.

Nothing, as Botta remarks, [2] could exceed the consternation and
terror which the victory of Ticonderoga and the subsequent successes of
Burgoyne spread through the American provinces nor the joy and
exultation they excited in England. The arrival of these glad tidings
was celebrated by the most brilliant rejoicings at court and welcomed
with the same enthusiasm by all those who desired the unconditional
reduction of America. They already announced the approaching
termination of this glorious war; they openly declared it a thing
impossible that the rebels should ever recover from the shock of their
recent losses, as well of men as of arms and of military stores, and
especially that they should ever regain their courage and reputation,
which, in war, always contribute to success as much, at least, as arms
themselves. Even the ancient reproaches of cowardice were renewed
against the Americans and their own partisans abated much of the esteem
they had borne them. They were more than half disposed to pronounce the
Colonists unworthy to defend that liberty which they gloried in with so
much complacency. But it deserves to be noted here especially that
there was no sign of faltering on the part of the people, no
disposition to submit to the invading force. The success of the enemy
did but nerve our fathers to more vigorous resolves to maintain the
cause of liberty even unto death.

Certainly the campaign had been opened and prosecuted thus far in a
very dashing style by Burgoyne and had he been able to press forward it
is quite possible that success might have crowned his efforts. But
there were some sixteen miles of forest yet to be traversed; Burgoyne
waited for his baggage and stores, and meanwhile General Schuyler, who
was in command of the American forces, took such steps as would
necessarily put a stop to the rapid approach of the enemy. Trenches
were opened, the roads and paths were obstructed, the bridges were
broken up, and in the only practicable defiles large trees were cut in
such a manner on both sides of the road as to fall across and
lengthwise, which, with their branches interwoven, presented an
insurmountable barrier; in a word, this wilderness, of itself by no
means easy of passage, was thus rendered almost absolutely
impenetrable. Nor did Schuyler rest satisfied with these precautions;
he directed the cattle to be removed to the most distant places and the
stores and baggage from Fort George to Fort Edward, that articles of
such necessity for the troops might not fall into the power of the
British. He urgently demanded that all the regiments of regular troops
found in the adjacent States should be sent without delay to join him;
he also made earnest and frequent calls upon the militia of New England
and of New York. He likewise exerted his utmost endeavors to procure
himself recruits in the vicinity of Fort Edward and the city of Albany;
the great influence he enjoyed with the inhabitants gave him in this
quarter all the success he could desire. Finally, to retard the
progress of the enemy, he resolved to threaten his left flank.
Accordingly, he detached Colonel Warner, with his regiment, into the
State of Vermont with orders to assemble the militia of the country and
to make incursions toward Ticonderoga. In fact Schuyler did everything
which was possible to be done under the circumstances, and it is not
too much to assert in justice to the good name of General Schuyler,
that the measures which he adopted paved the way to the victory which
finally crowned the American arms at Saratoga.

Washington, equally with Congress, supposing that Schuyler's force was
stronger and that of the British weaker than was really the case, was
very greatly distressed and astonished at the disasters which befell
the American cause in the north. He waited, therefore, with no little
anxiety, later and more correct information before he was willing to
pronounce positively upon the course pursued by St. Clair. When that
officer joined Schuyler the whole force did not exceed 4,400 men; about
half of these were militia, and the whole were ill-clothed, badly
armed, and greatly dispirited by the recent reverses. Very ungenerously
and unjustly it was proposed to remove the northern officers from the
command and send successors in their places. An inquiry was instituted
by order of Congress, which resulted honorably for Schuyler and his
officers, and Schuyler, the able commander and zealous-hearted patriot,
remained for the present at the head of the northern department. [3]

Washington exerted himself with all diligence to send reinforcements
and supplies to the army of Schuyler. The artillery and warlike stores
were expedited from Massachusetts. General Lincoln, a man of great
influence in New England, was sent there to encourage the militia to
enlist. Arnold, in like manner, repaired thither; it was thought his
ardor might serve to inspire the dejected troops. Colonel Morgan, an
officer whose brilliant valor we have already had occasion to remark,
was ordered to take the same direction with his troop of light horse.
All these measures, conceived with prudence and executed with
promptitude, produced the natural effect. The Americans recovered by
degrees their former spirit and the army increased from day to day.

During this interval Burgoyne actively exerted himself in opening a
passage from Fort Anne to Fort Edward. But, notwithstanding the
diligence with which the whole army engaged in the work, their progress
was exceedingly slow, so formidable were the obstacles which nature as
well as art had thrown in their way. Besides having to remove the
fallen trees with which the Americans had obstructed the roads they had
no less than forty bridges to construct and many others to repair; one
of these was entirely of log work, over a morass two miles wide. In
short the British encountered so many impediments in measuring this
inconsiderable space that it was found impossible to reach the banks of
the Hudson near Fort Edward until the 30th of July (1777). The
Americans, either because they were too feeble to oppose the enemy or
that Fort Edward was no better than a ruin, not susceptible of defense,
or finally because they were apprehensive that Colonel St. Leger, after
the reduction of Fort Stanwix, might descend by the left bank of the
Mohawk to the Hudson and thus cut off their retreat, retired lower down
to Stillwater where they threw up entrenchments. At the same time they
evacuated Fort George, having previously burned their boats upon the
lake, and in various ways obstructed the road to Fort Edward. Burgoyne
might have reached Fort Edward much more readily by way of Lake George,
but he had judged it best to pursue the panic-stricken Americans, and,
despite the difficulties of the route, not to throw any discouragements
in the way of his troops by a retrograde movement.

At Fort Edward General Burgoyne again found it necessary to pause in
his career, for his carriages, which in the hurry had been made of
unseasoned wood, were much broken down and needed to be repaired. From
the unavoidable difficulties of the case not more than one-third of the
draught horses contracted for in Canada had arrived, and General
Schuyler had been careful to remove almost all the horses and draught
cattle of the country out of his way. Boats for the navigation of the
Hudson, provisions, stores, artillery, and other necessaries for the
army were all to be brought from Fort George, and although that place
was only nine or ten miles from Fort Edward, yet such was the condition
of the roads, rendered nearly impassable by the great quantities of
rain that had fallen, that the labor of transporting necessaries was
incredible. Burgoyne had collected about 100 oxen, but it was often
necessary to employ ten or twelve of them in transporting a single
boat. With his utmost exertions he had on the 15th of August conveyed
only twelve boats into the Hudson and provisions for the army for four
days in advance. Matters began to assume a very serious aspect indeed,
and as the further he removed from the lakes the more difficult it
became to get supplies from that quarter, Burgoyne saw clearly that he
must look elsewhere for sustenance for his army.

The British commander was not ignorant that the Americans had
accumulated considerable stores, including live cattle and vehicles of
various kinds at Bennington, about twenty-four miles east of the
Hudson. Burgoyne, easily persuaded that the Tories in that region would
aid his efforts, and thinking that he could alarm the country as well
as secure the supplies of which he began to stand in great need,
determined to detach Colonel Baum with a force of some six or eight
hundred of Riedesel's dragoons for the attack upon Bennington. His
instructions to Baum were "to try the affections of the country, to
disconcert the counsels of the enemy, to mount Riedesel's dragoons, to
complete Peters' corps (of Loyalists), and to obtain large supplies of
cattle, horses, and carriages." Baum set off on the 13th of August on
this expedition which was to result so unfortunately to himself, and
which proved in fact the ruin of Burgoyne's entire plans and purposes.

We have spoken of the consternation which filled the minds of men a
short time before this, when Burgoyne seemed to be marching in triumph
through the country. The alarm, however, subsided, and the New England
States resolved to make most vigorous efforts to repel the attack of
the enemy. John Langdon, a merchant of Portsmouth and speaker of the
New Hampshire Assembly, roused the desponding minds of his fellow-
members to the need of providing defense for the frontiers, and with
whole-hearted patriotism thus addressed them: "I have $3,000 in hard
money; I will pledge my plate for $3,000 more. I have seventy hogsheads
of Tobago rum which shall be sold for the most it will bring. These are
at the service of the State. If we succeed in defending our firesides
and homes I may be remunerated, if we do not the property will be of no
value to me. Our old friend Stark, who so nobly sustained the honor of
our State at Bunker Hill may be safely entrusted with the conduct of
the enterprise, and we will check the progress of Burgoyne." That brave
son of New Hampshire, General Stark, conceiving himself aggrieved by
certain acts of Congress in appointing junior officers over his head,
had resigned his commission. He was now prevailed upon to take service
under authority from his native State, it being understood that he was
to act independently as to his movements against the enemy. His
popularity speedily called in the militia, who were ready to take the
field under him without hesitation.

Soon after Stark proceeded to Manchester, twenty miles north of
Bennington, where Colonel Seth Warner, the former associate of Ethan
Allen, had taken post with the troops under his command. Here he met
General Lincoln, who had been sent by Schuyler to lead the militia to
the west bank of the Hudson. Stark refused to obey Schuyler's orders,
and Congress, on the 19th of August (1777), passed a vote of censure
upon his conduct. But Stark did not know of this, and as his course was
clearly that of sound policy, and his victory two days before the
censure cast upon him showed it to be so, he had the proud satisfaction
of knowing that the Commander-in-Chief approved of his plan of
harassing the rear of the British, and that the victory of Bennington
paralyzed the entire operations of Burgoyne.

On the day that Baum set out Stark arrived at Bennington. The progress
of the German troops, at first tolerably prosperous, was soon impeded
by the state of the roads and the weather, and as soon as Stark heard
of their approach he hurried off expresses to Warner to join him, who
began his march in the night. After sending forward Colonel Gregg to
reconnoiter the enemy he advanced to the rencontre with Baum, who,
finding the country thus rising around him, halted and entrenched
himself in a strong position above the Wollamsac river and sent off an
express to Burgoyne, who instantly dispatched Lieutenant-Colonel
Breyman with a strong reinforcement.

During the 15th of August (1777) the rain prevented any serious
movement. The Germans and English continued to labor at their
entrenchments upon which they had mounted two pieces of artillery. The
following day was bright and sunny and early in the morning Stark sent
forward two columns to storm the entrenchments at different points, and
when the firing had commenced threw himself on horseback and advanced
with the rest of his troops. As soon as the enemy's columns were seen
forming on the hill-side, he exclaimed, "See, men! there are the red
coats; we must beat to-day, or Molly Stark's a widow." The military
replied to this appeal by a tremendous shout and the battle which
ensued, as Stark states in his official report, "lasted two hours, and
was the hottest I ever saw. It was like one continual clap of thunder."
The Indians ran off at the beginning of the battle; the Tories were
driven across the river; and although the Germans fought bravely they
were compelled to abandon the entrenchments, and fled, leaving their
artillery and baggage on the field.

As Breyman and his corps approached they heard the firing and hurried
forward to the aid of their countrymen. An hour or two earlier they
might have given a different turn to the affair, but the heavy rain had
delayed their progress. They met and rallied the fugitives and returned
to the field of battle. Stark's troops, who were engaged in plunder,
were taken in great measure by surprise, and the victory might after
all have been wrested from their grasp but for the opportune arrival of
Warner's regiment at the critical moment. The battle continued until
sunset when the Germans, overwhelmed by numbers, at length abandoned
their baggage and fled. Colonel Baum, their brave commander, was
killed, and the British loss amounted to some eight or nine hundred
effective troops, in killed and prisoners. The loss of the Americans
was 30 killed and 40 wounded. Stark's horse was killed in the action.

Too much praise, as Mr. Everett well remarks, [4] cannot be bestowed on
the conduct of those who gained the battle of Bennington, officers and
men. It is, perhaps, the most conspicuous example of the performance by
militia of all that is expected of regular, veteran troops. The
fortitude and resolution with which the lines at Bunker Hill were
maintained by recent recruits against the assault of a powerful army of
experienced soldiers have always been regarded with admiration. But at
Bennington the hardy yeomen of New Hampshire, Vermont, and
Massachusetts, many of them fresh from the plough and unused to the
camp, "advanced," as General Stark expresses it in his official letter,
"through fire and smoke, and mounted breastworks that were well
fortified and defended with cannon."

Fortunately for the success of the battle Stark was most ably seconded
by the officers under him; every previous disposition of his little
force was most faithfully executed. He expresses his particular
obligations to Colonels Warner and Herrick, "whose superior skill was
of great service to him." Indeed the battle was planned and fought with
a degree of military talent and science which would have done no
discredit to any service in Europe. A higher degree of discipline might
have enabled the general to check the eagerness of his men to possess
themselves of the spoils of victory, but his ability, even in that
moment of dispersion and under the flush of success, to meet and
conquer a hostile reinforcement, evinces a judgment and resource not
often equaled in partisan warfare.

In fact it would be the height of injustice not to recognize in this
battle the marks of the master mind of the leader, which makes good
officers and good soldiers out of any materials and infuses its own
spirit into all that surround it. This brilliant exploit was the work
of Stark from its inception to its achievement. His popular name called
the militia together. His resolute will obtained him a separate
commission--at the expense, it is true, of a wise political principle,
but on the present occasion with the happiest effect. His firmness
prevented him from being overruled by the influence of General Lincoln,
which would have led him with his troops across the Hudson. How few are
the men who in such a crisis would not merely not have sought but
actually have repudiated a junction with the main army! How few who
would not only have desired, but actually insisted on taking the
responsibility of separate action! Having chosen the burden of acting
alone, he acquitted himself in the discharge of his duty with the
spirit and vigor of a man conscious of ability proportioned to the
crisis. He advanced against the enemy with promptitude; sent forward a
small force to reconnoiter and measure his strength; chose his ground
deliberately and with skill; planned and fought the battle with
gallantry and success.

The consequences of this victory were of great moment. It roused the
people and nerved them to the contest with the enemy, and it also
justified the sagacity of Washington, whose words we have quoted on a
previous page. Burgoyne's plans were wholly deranged and instead of
relying upon lateral excursions to keep the population in alarm and
obtain supplies, he was compelled to procure necessaries as best he
might. His rear was exposed, and Stark, acting on his line of policy,
prepared to place himself so that Burgoyne might be hemmed in and be,
as soon after he was, unable to advance or retreat. When Washington
heard of Stark's victory he was in Bucks county, Pennsylvania, whence
he wrote to Putnam: "As there is now not the least danger of General
Howe's going to New England I hope the whole force of that country will
turn out and by following the great stroke struck by General Stark,
near Bennington, entirely crush General Burgoyne, who, by his letter to
Colonel Baum, seems to be in want of almost everything."

The defeat at Bennington was not the only misfortune which now fell
upon the British arms. We have noted on a previous page that Burgoyne
had detached Colonel St. Leger with a body of regular troops,
Canadians, Loyalists, and Indians, by the way of Oswego, to make a
diversion on the upper part of the Mohawk river and afterward join him
on his way to Albany. On the 2d of August (1777) St. Leger approached
Fort Stanwix, or Schuyler, a log fortification situated on rising
ground near the source of the Mohawk river, and garrisoned by about 600
Continentals under the command of Colonel Gansevoort. Next day he
invested the place with an army of sixteen or seventeen hundred men,
nearly one-half of whom were Indians, and the rest British, Germans,
Canadians, and Tories. On being summoned to surrender Gansevoort
answered that he would defend the place to the last.

On the approach of St. Leger to Fort Schuyler, General Herkimer, who
commanded the militia of Tryon county, assembled about 700 of them and
marched to the assistance of the garrison. On the forenoon of the 6th
of August a messenger from Herkimer found means to enter the fort and
gave notice that he was only eight miles distant and intended that day
to force a passage into the fort and join the garrison. Gansevoort
resolved to aid the attempt by a vigorous sally, and appointed Colonel
Willet with upwards of 200 men to that service.

St. Leger received information of the approach of Herkimer, and placed
a large body consisting of the "Johnson Greens," and Brant's Indians in
ambush near Oriskany, on the road by which he was to advance. Herkimer
fell into the snare. The first notice which he received of the presence
of an enemy was from a heavy discharge of musketry on his troops, which
was instantly followed by the war-whoop of the Indians who attacked the
militia with their tomahawks. Though disconcerted by the suddenness of
the attack many of the militia behaved with spirit, and a scene of
unutterable confusion and carnage ensued. The royal troops and the
militia became so closely crowded together that they had not room to
use firearms, but pushed and pulled each other, and using their
daggers, fell pierced by mutual wounds. Some of the militia fled at the
first onset; others made their escape afterwards; about 100 of them
retreated to a rising ground where they bravely defended themselves
till a successful sortie from the fort compelled the British to look to
the defense of their own camp. Colonel Willet in this sally killed a
number of the enemy, destroyed their provisions, carried off some
spoil, and returned to the fort without the loss of a man. Besides the
loss of the brave General Herkimer, who was slain, the number of the
killed was computed at 400. St. Leger, imitating the grandiloquent
style of Burgoyne, again summoned the fort to surrender, but Colonel
Gansevoort peremptorily refused. Colonel Willet, accompanied by
Lieutenant Stockwell, having passed through the British camp, eluded
the patrols and the savages and made his way for fifty miles through
pathless woods and dangerous morasses and informed General Schuyler of
the position of the fort and the need of help in the emergency. He
determined to afford it to the extent of his power, and Arnold, who was
always ready for such expeditions, agreed to take command of the troops
for the purpose of relieving the fort. Arnold put in practice an acute
stratagem, which materially facilitated his success. It was this. Among
the Tory prisoners was one Yost Cuyler, who had been condemned to
death, but whom Arnold agreed to spare on consideration of his
implicitly carrying out his plan. Accordingly, Cuyler, having made
several holes in his coat to imitate bullet shots, rushed breathless
among the Indian allies of St. Leger and informed them that he had just
escaped in a battle with the Americans who were advancing on them with
the utmost celerity. While pointing to his coat for proof of his
statement, a sachem, also in the plot, came in and confirmed the
intelligence. Other scouts arrived speedily with a report which
probably grew out of the affair at Bennington, that Burgoyne's army was
entirely routed. All this made a deep impression upon the fickle-minded

Fort Schuyler was better constructed and defended with more courage
than St. Leger had expected, and his light artillery made little
impression on it. His Indians, who liked better to take scalps and
plunder than to besiege fortresses became very unmanageable. The loss
which they had sustained in the encounters with Herkimer and Willet
deeply affected them; they had expected to be witnesses of the triumphs
of the British and to share with them the plunder. Hard service and
little reward caused bitter disappointment, and when they knew that a
strong detachment of Americans was marching against them, they resolved
to take safety in flight. St. Leger employed every argument and
artifice to detain them, but in vain; part of them went off and all the
rest threatened to follow if the siege were persevered in. Therefore,
on the 22d of August (1777), St. Leger raised the siege, and retreated
with circumstances indicating great alarm; the tents were left
standing, the artillery was abandoned, and a great part of the baggage,
ammunition, and provisions fell into the hands of the garrison, a
detachment from which harassed the retreating enemy. But the British
troops were exposed to greater danger from the fury of their savage
allies than from the pursuit of the Americans. During the retreat they
robbed the officers of their baggage, and the army generally of their
provisions and stores. Not content with this they first stripped off
their arms, and afterwards murdered with their own bayonets all those
who from inability to keep up, from fear or other cause were separated
from the main body. The confusion, terror, and sufferings of this
retreat found no respite till the royal troops reached the lake on
their way to Montreal.

Arnold arrived at Fort Schuyler two days after the retreat of the
besiegers, but finding no occasion for his services he soon returned to
camp. The successful defense of Fort Stanwix, or Schuyler, powerfully
cooperated with the defeat of the royal troops at Bennington in raising
the spirits and invigorating the activity of the Americans. The
Loyalists became timid; the wavering began to doubt the success of the
royal arms, and the great body of the people became convinced that
nothing but steady exertion on their part was necessary to ruin that
army which a short time before had appeared to be sweeping every
obstacle from its path on the high road to victory. The decisive
victory at Bennington and the retreat of St. Leger from Fort Schuyler,
however important in themselves, were still more so in their
consequences. An army which had spread terror and dismay in every
direction--which had previously experienced no reverse of fortune was
considered as already beaten, and the opinion became common that the
appearance of the great body of the people in arms would secure the
emancipation of their country. It was, too, an advantage of no
inconsiderable importance resulting from this change of public opinion
that the disaffected became timid, and the wavering who, had the
torrent of success continued, would have made a merit of contributing
their aid to the victor were no longer disposed to put themselves and
their fortunes in hazard to support an army whose fate was so

The barbarities which had been perpetrated by the Indians belonging to
the invading armies excited still more resentment than terror. As the
prospect of revenge began to open their effect became the more
apparent, and their influence on the royal cause was the more sensibly
felt because they had been indiscriminate.

The murder of Miss M'Crea passed through all the papers on the
continent, and the story being retouched by the hand of more than one
master, excited a peculiar degree of sensibility. [5]

But there were other causes of still greater influence in producing the
events which afterward took place. The last reinforcements of
Continental troops arrived in camp about this time and added both
courage and strength to the army. The harvest, which had detained the
northern militia upon their farms, was over, and General Schuyler,
whose continued and eminent services had not exempted him from the
imputation of being a traitor, was succeeded by General Gates, who
possessed a large share of the public confidence.

When Schuyler was directed by Congress to resume the command of the
northern department, Gates withdrew himself from it. When the
resolution passed recalling the general officers who had served in that
department, General Washington was requested to name a successor to
Schuyler. On his expressing a wish to decline this nomination and
representing the inconvenience of removing all the general officers,
Gates was again directed to repair thither and take the command, and
their resolution to recall the brigadiers was suspended until the
Commander-in-Chief should be of opinion that it might be carried into
effect with safety.

Schuyler retained the command until the arrival of Gates, which was on
the 10th of August (1777), and continued his exertions to restore the
affairs of the department, though he felt acutely the disgrace of being
recalled in this critical and interesting state of the campaign. "It
is," said he, in a letter to the Commander-in-Chief, "matter of extreme
chagrin to me to be deprived of the command at a time when, soon if
ever, we shall probably be enabled to face the enemy; when we are on
the point of taking ground where they must attack to a disadvantage,
should our force be inadequate to facing them in the field; when an
opportunity will in all probability occur in which I might evince that
I am not what Congress have too plainly insinuated by taking the
command from me."

If error be attributable to the evacuation of Ticonderoga, no portion
of it was committed by Schuyler. His removal from the command was
probably severe and unjust as respected himself, but perhaps wise as
respected America. The frontier towards the lakes was to be defended by
the troops of New England, and however unfounded their prejudices
against him might be, it was prudent to consult them.

Notwithstanding the difficulties which multiplied around him Burgoyne
remained steady to his purpose. The disasters at Bennington and on the
Mohawk produced no disposition to abandon the enterprise and save his

It had now become necessary for Burgoyne to recur to the slow and
toilsome mode of obtaining supplies from Fort George. Having, with
persevering labor, collected provision for thirty days in advance he
crossed the Hudson on the 13th and 14th of September (1777) and
encamped on the heights and plains of Saratoga, with a determination to
decide the fate of the expedition in a general engagement.

Gates, having been joined by all the Continental troops destined for
the northern department and reinforced by large bodies of militia, had
moved from his camp in the islands, and advanced to the neighborhood of

The bridges between the two armies having been broken down by General
Schuyler, the roads being excessively bad and the country covered with
wood, the progress of the British army down the river was slow. On the
night of the 17th of September, Burgoyne encamped within four miles of
the American army and the next day was employed in repairing the
bridges between the two camps. In the morning of the 19th he advanced
in full force toward the American left. Morgan was immediately detached
with his rifle corps to observe the enemy and to harass his front and
flanks. He fell in with a picket in front of the right wing which he
attacked with vivacity and drove in upon the main body. Pursuing with
too much ardor he was met in considerable force, and after a severe
encounter was compelled in turn to retire in some disorder. Two
regiments led by Arnold being advanced to his assistance his corps was
rallied, and the action became more general. The Americans were formed
in a wood, with an open field in front, and invariably repulsed the
British corps which attacked them, but when they pursued those corps to
the main body they were in turn driven back to their first ground.
Reinforcements were continually brought up, and about 4 in the
afternoon upward of 3,000 American troops were closely engaged with the
whole right wing of the British army commanded by General Burgoyne in
person. The conflict was extremely severe and only terminated with the
day. At dark the Americans retired to their camp, and the British, who
had found great difficulty in maintaining their ground, lay all night
on their arms near the field of battle.

In this action the killed and wounded on the part of the Americans were
between three and four hundred. Among the former were Colonels Colburn
and Adams and several other valuable officers. The British loss has
been estimated at rather more than 500 men.

Each army claimed the victory and each believed itself to have beaten
near the whole of the hostile army with only a part of its own force.
The advantage, however, taking all circumstances into consideration,
was decidedly with the Americans. In a conflict which nearly consumed
the day, they found themselves at least equal to their antagonists. In
every quarter they had acted on the offensive, and after an encounter
for several hours had not lost an inch of ground. They had not been
driven from the field, but had retired from it at the close of day to
the camp from which they had marched to battle. Their object, which was
to check the advancing enemy, had been obtained, while that of the
British general had failed. In the actual state of things to fight
without being beaten was on their part victory, while on the part of
the British to fight without a decisive victory was defeat. The Indians
who found themselves beaten in the woods by Morgan, [6] and restrained
from scalping and plundering the unarmed by Burgoyne, saw before them
the prospect of hard fighting without profit, grew tired of the service
and deserted in great numbers. The Canadians and Provincials were not
much more faithful, and Burgoyne soon perceived that his hopes must
rest almost entirely on his European troops.

With reason, therefore, this action was celebrated throughout the
United States as a victory and considered as the precursor of the total
ruin of the invading army. The utmost exultation was displayed and the
militia were stimulated to fly to arms and complete the work so happily

General Lincoln, in conformity with directions which have been stated,
had assembled a considerable body of New England militia in the rear of
Burgoyne, from which he drew three parties of about 500 men each. One
of these was detached under the command of Colonel Brown to the north
end of Lake George, principally to relieve a number of prisoners who
were confined there, but with orders to push his success, should he be
fortunate, as far as prudence would admit. Colonel Johnson, at the head
of another party, marched towards Mount Independence, and Colonel
Woodbury with a third was detached to Skeenesborough to cover the
retreat of both the others. With the residue, Lincoln proceeded to the
camp of Gates.

Colonel Brown, after marching all night, arrived at the break of day on
the north end of the lake where he found a small post which he carried
without opposition. The surprise was complete, and he took possession
of Mount Defiance, Mount Hope, the landing place, and about 200
batteaux. With the loss of only three killed and five wounded, he
liberated 100 American prisoners and captured 293 of the enemy. This
success was joyfully proclaimed through the northern States. It was
believed confidently that Ticonderoga and Mount Independence were
recovered, and the militia were exhorted, by joining their brethren in
the army, to insure that event if it had not already happened.

The attempt on those places, however, failed. The garrison repulsed the
assailants, who, after a few days abandoned the siege. On their return
through Lake George in the vessels they had captured the militia made
an attack on Diamond Island, the depot of all the stores collected at
the north end of the lake. Being again repulsed they destroyed the
vessels they had taken and returned to their former station.

The day after the battle of Stillwater General Burgoyne took a position
almost within cannon-shot of the American camp, fortified his right,
and extended his left to the river. Directly after taking this ground
he received a letter from Sir Henry Clinton informing him that he
should attack Fort Montgomery about the 20th of September (1777). The
messenger returned with information that Burgoyne was in extreme
difficulty and would endeavor to wait for aid until the 12th of
October. [7]

Both armies retained their position until the 7th of October (1777).
Burgoyne in the hope of being relieved by Sir Henry Clinton, and Gates
in the confidence of growing stronger every day.

Having received no further intelligence from Sir Henry and being
reduced to the necessity of diminishing the ration issued to his
soldiers, Burgoyne determined to make one more trial of strength with
his adversary. In execution of this determination he drew out on his
right 1,500 choice troops whom he commanded in person assisted by
Generals Philips, Riedesel, and Fraser.

The right wing was formed within three-quarters of a mile of the left
of the American camp, and a corps of rangers, Indians, and Provincials
was pushed on through secret paths to show themselves in its rear and
excite alarm in that quarter.

These movements were perceived by General Gates, who determined to
attack their left and at the same time to fall on their right flank.
Poor's brigade and some regiments from New Hampshire were ordered to
meet them in front, while Morgan with his rifle corps made a circuit
unperceived and seized a very advantageous height covered with wood on
their right. As soon as it was supposed that Morgan had gained the
ground he intended to occupy the attack was made in front and on the
left in great force. At this critical moment Morgan poured in a deadly
and incessant fire on the front and right flank.

While the British right wing was thus closely pressed in front and on
its flank, a distinct division of the American troops was ordered to
intercept its retreat to camp, and to separate it from the residue of
the army. Burgoyne perceived the danger of his situation and ordered
the light infantry under General Fraser with part of the Twenty-fourth
regiment to form a second line in order to cover the light infantry of
the right and secure a retreat. While this movement was in progress the
left of the British right was forced from its ground and the light
infantry was ordered to its aid. In the attempt to execute this order
they were attacked by the rifle corps with great effect, and Fraser was
mortally wounded. Overpowered by numbers and pressed on all sides by a
superior weight of fire, Burgoyne with great difficulty and with the
loss of his field pieces and great part of his artillery corps regained
his camp. The Americans followed close in his rear, and assaulted his
works throughout their whole extent. Toward the close of day the
entrenchments were forced on their right, and General Arnold with a few
men actually entered their works, but his horse being killed under him
and himself wounded, the troops were forced out of them, and it being
nearly dark they desisted from the assault. The left of Arnold's
division was still more successful. Jackson's regiment of
Massachusetts, then led by Lieutenant-Colonel Brooks, turned the right
of the encampment and stormed the works occupied by the German reserve.
Lieutenant-Colonel Breyman who commanded in them was killed and the
works were carried. The orders given by Burgoyne to recover them were
not executed, and Brooks maintained the ground he had gained.

Darkness put an end to the action and the Americans lay all night with
their arms in their hands about half a mile from the British lines
ready to renew the assault with the return of day. The advantage they
had gained was decisive. They had taken several pieces of artillery,
killed a great number of men, made upwards of 200 prisoners, among whom
were several officers of distinction, and had penetrated the lines in a
part which exposed the whole to considerable danger.

Unwilling to risk the events of the next day on the same ground,
Burgoyne changed his position in the course of the night and drew his
whole army into a strong camp on the river heights, extending his right
up the river. This movement extricated him from the danger of being
attacked the ensuing morning by an enemy already in possession of part
of his works. The 8th of October (1777) was spent in skirmishing and
cannonading. About sunset the body of General Fraser, who had been
mortally wounded on the preceding day was, agreeably to his own desire,
carried up the hill to be interred in the great redoubt attended only
by the officers who had lived in his family. Generals Burgoyne,
Philips, and Riedesel, in testimony of respect and affection for their
late brave companion in arms joined the mournful procession which
necessarily passed in view of both armies. The incessant cannonade, the
steady attitude and unfaltering voice of the chaplain, and the firm
demeanor of the company, though occasionally covered with the earth
thrown up by the shot from the hostile batteries ploughing the ground
around them, the mute expression of feeling pictured on every
countenance, and the increasing gloom of the evening, all contributed
to give an affecting solemnity to the obsequies. General Gates
afterwards declared that if he had been apprised of what was going on
he would at least have silenced his batteries and allowed the last
offices of humanity to be performed without disturbance, or even have
ordered minute-guns to be fired in honor of the deceased general.

Gates perceived the strength of Burgoyne's new position and was not
disposed to hazard an assault. Aware of the critical situation of his
adversary he detached a party higher up the Hudson for the purpose of
intercepting the British army on its retreat, while strong corps were
posted on the other side of the river to guard its passage.

This movement compelled Burgoyne again to change his position and to
retire to Saratoga. About 9 at night the retreat was commenced and was
effected with the loss of his hospital, containing about 300 sick, and
of several batteaux laden with provisions and baggage. On reaching the
ground to be occupied he found a strong corps already entrenched on the
opposite side of the river prepared to dispute its passage. From
Saratoga, Burgoyne detached a company of artificers under a strong
escort to repair the roads and bridges toward Fort Edward. Scarcely had
this detachment moved when the Americans appeared in force on the
heights south of Saratoga creek and made dispositions which excited the
apprehension of a design to cross it and attack his camp. The Europeans
escorting the artificers were recalled, and a Provincial corps employed
in the same service, being attacked by a small party, ran away and left
the workmen to shift for themselves. No hope of repairing the roads
remaining it became impossible to move the baggage and artillery.

The British army was now almost completely environed by a superior
force. No means remained of extricating itself from difficulties and
dangers which were continually increasing, but fording a river, on the
opposite bank of which a formidable body of troops was already posted,
and then escaping to Fort George through roads impassable by artillery
or wagons, while its rear was closely pressed by a victorious enemy.

A council of general officers, called to deliberate on their situation,
took the bold resolution to abandon everything but their arms and such
provisions as the soldiers could carry, and by a forced march in the
night up the river, to extricate themselves from the American army, and
crossing at Fort Edward, or at a ford above it, to press on to Fort

Gates had foreseen this movement and had prepared for it. In addition
to placing strong guards at the fords of the Hudson he had formed an
entrenched camp on the high grounds between Fort Edward and Fort
George. The scouts sent to examine the route returned with this
information and the plan was abandoned as impracticable.

Nothing could be more hopeless than the condition of the British army,
or more desperate than that of their General, as described by himself.
In his letter to Lord George Germain, Secretary of State for American
affairs, he says: "A series of hard toil, incessant effort, stubborn
action, until disabled in the collateral branches of the army by the
total defection of the Indians; the desertion or timidity of the
Canadians and provincials, some individuals excepted; disappointed in
the last hope of any cooperation from other armies; the regular troops
reduced by losses from the best parts to 3,500 fighting men, not 2,000
of which were British; only three days' provisions upon short allowance
in store; invested by an army of 16,000 men, and no appearance of
retreat remaining--I called into council all the generals, field
officers, and captains commanding corps, and by their unanimous
concurrence and advice I was induced to open a treaty with
Major-General Gates."

A treaty was opened with a general proposition stating the willingness
of the British general to spare the further effusion of blood, provided
a negotiation could be effected on honorable terms. This proposition
was answered by a demand that the whole army should ground their arms
in their encampment and surrender themselves prisoners of war. This
demand was instantly rejected with a declaration that if General Gates
designed to insist on it the negotiation must immediately break off and
hostilities recommence. On receiving this decided answer Gates receded
from the rigorous terms at first proposed, and a convention was signed
(October 17, 1777), in which it was agreed that the British army, after
marching out of their encampment with all the honors of war, should lay
down their arms and not serve against the United States till exchanged.
They were not to be detained in captivity, but to be permitted to
embark for England.

The situation of the armies considered, [9] these terms were highly
honorable to the British general and favorable to his nation. They were
probably more advantageous than would have been granted by Gates had he
entertained no apprehension from Sir Henry Clinton, who was at length
making the promised diversion on the North river, up which he had
penetrated as far as Aesopus. The drafts made from Peekskill for both
armies had left that post in a situation to require the aid of militia
for its security. The requisitions of General Putnam were complied
with, but the attack upon them being delayed, the militia, who were
anxious to attend to their farms, became impatient; many deserted, and
Putnam was induced to discharge the residue.

Governor Clinton immediately ordered out half the militia of New York
with assurances that they should be relieved in one month by the other
half. This order was executed so slowly that the forts were carried
before the militia were in the field.

Great pains had been taken and much labor employed to render the
position of the American army for guarding the passage up the Hudson
secure. The principal defenses were Forts Montgomery and Clinton. They
had been constructed on the western bank of the Hudson, on very high
ground extremely difficult of access and were separated from each other
by a small creek which runs from the mountains into the river. These
forts were too much elevated to be battered from the water, and the
hills on which they stood were too steep to be ascended by troops
landing at the foot of them. The mountains, which commence five or six
miles below them, are so high and rugged, the defiles, through which
the roads leading to them pass, so narrow and so commanded by the
heights on both sides, that the approaches to them are extremely
difficult and dangerous.

To prevent ships from passing the forts, _chevaux-de-frise_ had been
sunk in the river and a boom extended from bank to bank, which was
covered with immense chains stretched at some distance in its front.
These works were defended by the guns of the forts and by a frigate and
galleys stationed above them, capable of opposing with an equal fire in
front any force which might attack them by water from below.

Fort Independence is four or five miles below Forts Montgomery and
Clinton and on the opposite side of the river on a high point of land,
and Fort Constitution is rather more than six miles above them on an
island near the eastern shore. Peekskill, the general headquarters of
the officer commanding at the station, is just below Fort Independence
and on the same side of the river. The garrisons had been reduced to
about 600 men and the whole force under Putnam did not much exceed
2,000. Yet this force, though far inferior to that which Washington had
ordered to be retained at the station, was, if properly applied, more
than competent to the defense of the forts against any numbers which
could be spared from New York. To insure success to the enterprise it
was necessary to draw the attention of Putnam from the real object and
to storm the works before the garrisons could be aided by his army.
This Sir Henry Clinton accomplished.

Between three and four thousand men embarked at New York and landed on
the 5th of October (1777) at Verplanck's Point on the east side of the
Hudson, a short distance below Peekskill, upon which Putnam retired to
the heights in his rear. On the evening of the same day a part of these
troops re-embarked and the fleet moved up the river to Peekskill Neck
in order to mask King's Ferry, which was below them. The next morning
at break of day the troops destined for the enterprise landed on the
west side of Stony Point and commenced their march through the
mountains into the rear of Forts Clinton and Montgomery. This
disembarkation was observed, but the morning was so foggy that the
numbers could not be distinguished, and a large fire, which was
afterward perceived at the landing place, suggested the idea that the
sole object of the party on shore was the burning of some storehouses.
In the meantime the maneuvers of the vessels and the appearance of a
small detachment left at Verplanck's Point persuaded Putnam that the
meditated attack was on Fort Independence.

His whole attention was directed to this object, and the real designs
of the enemy were not suspected until a heavy firing from the other
side of the river announced the assault on Forts Clinton and
Montgomery. Five hundred men were instantly detached to reinforce the
garrisons of those places, but, before this detachment could cross the
river, the forts were in possession of the British.

Having left a battalion at the pass of Thunderhill to keep up a
communication, Sir Henry Clinton had formed his army into two
divisions--one of which, consisting of 900 men, commanded by
Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell, made a circuit by the forest of Deane, in
order to fall on the back of Fort Montgomery, while the other,
consisting of 1,200 men, commanded by General Vaughan and accompanied
by Sir Henry Clinton in person, advanced slowly against Fort Clinton.

Both posts were assaulted about five in the afternoon. The works were
defended with resolution and were maintained until dark, when, the
lines being too extensive to be completely manned, the assailants
entered them in different places. The defense being no longer possible
some of the garrison were made prisoners, while their better knowledge
of the country enabled others to escape. Governor Clinton passed the
river in a boat and Gen. James Clinton, though wounded in the thigh by
a bayonet, also made his escape. Lieutenant-Colonels Livingston and
Bruyn and Majors Hamilton and Logan were among the prisoners. The loss
sustained by the garrisons was about 250 men; that of the assailants
was stated by Sir Henry Clinton at less than 200. Among the killed were
Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell and two other field officers.

As the boom and chains drawn across the river could no longer be
defended the Continental frigates and galleys lying above them were
burnt to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy. Fort
Independence and Fort Constitution were evacuated the next day and
Putnam retreated to Fishkill. General Vaughan, after burning
Continental village, where stores to a considerable amount had been
deposited, proceeded at the head of a strong detachment up the river to
Aesopus, which he also destroyed. [10]

Putnam, whose army had been augmented by reinforcements of militia to
6,000 men, detached General Parsons with 2,000 to repossess himself of
Peekskill and of the passes in the Highlands, while with the residue he
watched the progress of the enemy up the river. The want of heavy
artillery prevented his annoying their ships in the Hudson.

On the capitulation of Burgoyne, near 5,000 men had been detached by
Gates to aid Putnam. Before their arrival General Vaughan had returned
to New York, whence a reinforcement to General Howe was then about to

Great as was the injury sustained by the United States from this
enterprise Great Britain derived from it no solid advantage. It was
undertaken at too late a period to save Burgoyne, and though the passes
in the Highlands were acquired, they could not be retained. The British
had reduced to ashes every village and almost every house within their
power, but this wanton and useless destruction served to irritate
without tending to subdue. A keenness was given to the resentment of
the injured, which outlived the contest between the two nations.

The army which surrendered at Saratoga exceeded 5,000 men. On marching
from Ticonderoga it was estimated at 9,000. In addition to this great
military force the British lost and the Americans acquired, a fine
train of artillery, 7,000 stand of excellent arms, clothing for 7,000
recruits, with tents and other military stores to a considerable

The thanks of Congress were voted to General Gates and his army, and a
medal of gold in commemoration of this great event was ordered to be
struck and presented to him by the President in the name of the United
States. Colonel Wilkinson, his adjutant-general, whom he strongly
recommended, was appointed brigadier-general by brevet.

In the opinion that the British would not immediately abandon the
passes in the Highlands, Congress ordered Putnam to join Washington
with a reinforcement not exceeding 2,500 men, and directed Gates to
take command of the army on the Hudson, with unlimited powers to call
for aids of militia from the New England States as well as from New
York and New Jersey.

A proposition to authorize the Commander-in-Chief, after consulting
with General Gates and Governor George Clinton, to increase the
detachment designed to strengthen his army, if he should then be of
opinion that it might be done without endangering the objects to be
accomplished by Gates, was seriously opposed. An attempt was made to
amend this proposition so as to make the increase of the reinforcement
to depend on the assent of Gates and Clinton, but this amendment was
lost by a considerable majority and the original resolution was
carried. These proceedings were attended with no other consequences
than to excite some degree of attention to the state of parties.

Soon after the capitulation of Burgoyne, Ticonderoga and Mount
Independence were evacuated and the garrison retired to Isle aux Noix
and St. John's. The effect produced by this event on the British
cabinet and nation was great and immediate. It seemed to remove the
delusive hopes of conquest with which they had been flattered, and
suddenly to display the mass of resistance which must yet be
encountered. Previous to the reception of this disastrous intelligence
the employment of savages in the war had been the subject of severe
animadversion. Parliament was assembled on the 20th of November (1777),
and, as usual, addresses were proposed in answer to the speech from the
throne entirely approving the conduct of the administration. In the
House of Lords the Earl of Chatham moved to amend the address by
introducing a clause recommending to his majesty an immediate cessation
of hostilities and the commencement of a treaty of conciliation, "to
restore peace and liberty to America, strength and happiness to
England, security and permanent prosperity to both countries." In the
course of the very animated observations made by this extraordinary man
in support of his motion, he said: "But, my lords, who is the man that,
in addition to the disgraces and mischiefs of war, has dared to
authorize and associate to our arms the tomahawk and scalping-knife of
the savage? to call into civilized alliance the wild and inhuman
inhabitant of the woods? to delegate to the merciless Indian the
defense of disputed rights and to wage the horrors of his barbarous war
against our brethren? My lords, these enormities cry aloud for redress
and punishment. Unless thoroughly done away they will be a stain on the
national character. It is not the least of our national misfortunes
that the strength and character of our army are thus impaired.
Familiarized to the horrid scenes of savage cruelty, it can no longer
boast of the noble and generous principles which dignify a soldier; no
longer sympathise with the dignity of the royal banner nor feel the
pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war that makes ambition
virtue. What makes ambition virtue? The sense of honor. But is this
sense of honor consistent with the spirit of plunder or the practice of

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