صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

210

BURGOYNE INVADES NEW YORK. [CHAP. III.

being thus obstinate, frigates were brought up the river, and maintained an incessant fire: at length, longer defence being found impracticable, Fort Mifflin was evacuated. Washington then attempted to defend Fort Mercer, situated between Mouth and Timber Creeks, in Jersey; but that being threatened by an overpowering force, was also evacuated. The enemy was thus in possession of both shores, and no longer had any obstructions in the communication between the fleet and the army in Philadelphia.

Let us now turn to the operations of General Burgoyne in the north.

In the beginning of the year the British ministry, encouraged by the success of Howe's army, with the view of bringing the contest to a close, decided on sending a large force to Canada. Their plan was that this force should unite with the troops in New York, and thus overpowering all resistance, take possession of Philadel phia; after which the conquest of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia was to follow. Those central and rich provinces being in their possession, first the Southern, and then the Northern, States would eventually be compelled to submit. The expedition was to be commanded by General Burgoyne, who, it is said, had a principal share in planning it; and the force placed at his disposal was eight thousand men, including three thousand Germans, with an amount of artillery unusually large. Burgoyne reached Quebec early in the year, sooner than was thought practicable. At a great council of the Indians he endeavored to secure them as allies; and offered them pecuniary rewards for prisoners, but claimed credit that he offered none for scalps. He reached Ticonderoga, and possessed himself of a steep hill which commanded both that fort and Mount Independence. General St. Clair,

1777.]

TICONDEROGA EVACUATED.

211

who commanded, thinking the forts, thus exposed, could not be maintained, called a council of war, consisting of the general officers and Colonel Long, who unanimously advised the evacuation of both forts. This was imme

diately put in execution by St. Clair. The garrison, the invalids, and a part of the stores were withdrawn in the night, and put on board of batteaux for Skenesborough. The retreating army did not, however, long elude the vigilance of the enemy. It was closely pursued by Generals Frazer and Reidesel; and in the several rencounters which ensued, St. Clair lost, by capture or on the field, twelve hundred of his men. He joined Schuyler at Fort Edward, and their united force was about five thousand. When he approached this fortress, Schuyler, not thinking it tenable, retired first to Saratoga, and then to Stillwater, near the Mohawk.

While at Skenesborough, Burgoyne issued a proclamation calling upon the inhabitants to submit to the royal authority. A counter proclamation was issued by Schuyler, warning the inhabitants of the condition of the people of New Jersey.

The capture of Ticonderoga, which had so strong a garrison as five thousand men, and on which so much money had been spent, produced both alarm and surprise throughout the country, and suspicions immediately arose of treachery. Congress recalled all the generals in that division of the army, and instituted an inquiry into their conduct; but at the instance of General Washington the recall was suspended. On the inquiry which subsequently took place, they were all honorably acquitted.

General St. Clair alleged that the garrison numbered only three thousand effective men, and that ten thousand were required for its defence: that the works were incomplete, provisions insufficient, and other excuses.

212

BURGOYNE'S DIFFICULTIES.

[CHAP. III. Washington, after expressing to Schuyler his surprise and mortification, suggested that a spirited opposition would check the progress of Burgoyne's army, and adds, with characteristic sagacity, that the confidence derived from success would hurry him into measures that would be favorable to the Americans. He continued to entertain the same views, and to express the same predictions.1

Burgoyne had been so delayed in his march, that he did not reach the Hudson, in the neighborhood of Fort Edward, till the thirtieth of July. As soon as it was known that he had no communication with Ticonderoga except through Lake George (having evacuated Castletown), General Lincoln, with his corps of two to three thousand men, decided on trying to cut off his communication with the lakes. Burgoyne continued his march on the east side of the Hudson, and at length crossed the river, and took a position at Saratoga.

While Colonel St. Leger was investing Fort Schuyler, General Herkimer, in his march to relieve the fort, fell into an ambuscade, and was defeated by the British and Indians, with the loss of four hundred men. A gallant sortie was made by Colonel Willet, who, after killing some of the enemy, returned to the fort without the loss of a single man.

During this siege Burgoyne was using every effort to transport, by batteaux, provisions and stores from Fort George to the nearest navigable point on the Hudson. The distance was only eighteen miles, but the badness of the roads, and the difficulty of getting draught horses or cattle, caused great impediments and delay in the transportation. He had thus been able to get over but twelve batteaux by the fifteenth of August. His purpose

'III. Marshall, page 255-6.

1777.]

STARK'S VICTORY AT BENNINGTON.

213

was to descend the Hudson as soon as possible, as in that case the American army, to avoid being placed between him and St. Leger, must either risk a general action, retreat before him, or cross the Hudson into New England.' In either event, the whole Mohawk country would be open to the united forces of himself and St. Leger. But there was a difficulty in obtaining an adequate supply of provisions from Fort George, which, by the growing distance of transportation, and the annoyances from hostile militia, was constantly increasing. He therefore decided to get possession of the American deposits of provisions and stores at Bennington. Lieutenantcolonel Baum, with five hundred men, was accordingly despatched on that service. But while waiting for the reinforcement he was found to require, he was vigorously attacked by General Stark, and nearly the whole party was killed or taken prisoners. Then Colonel Brehman, who was coming to his aid, was attacked and defeated with the loss of his artillery and baggage.

St. Leger, now abandoning the siege of Fort Schuyler, returned to Montreal, and thence proceeded to Ticonderoga, with the intention of joining Burgoyne.

These successes of the Americans, besides relieving the whole Mohawk country from the enemy, had a very inspiriting effect on their countrymen, especially the militia; and converted the wavering, then a numerous body, into declared and zealous adherents. The occasional barbarities of the Indians rendered more benefit to the American cause by the resentment they excited than to the British by the terror they inspired.

While Schuyler and St. Clair were before a court of inquiry, Gates, who had left Canada for Philadelphia, was again appointed to the chief command.

1 III. Marshall, page 264.

214

BURGOYNE RETREATS.

[CHAP. III. Foiled in obtaining supplies from Bennington, Burgoyne was forced again to rely upon Fort George, and determining to bring on a general engagement, he crossed the Hudson, and encamped at Behmus's Heights, near Stillwater. He then attacked Gates. The contest was severe, and continued till dark, when the Americans retired to their camp, and the British lay on their arms, within half a mile from the field. The Americans lost between three and four hundred; the British, more than five hundred. As Burgoyne had failed in his object, the result had all the effect of a victory to the Americans. It increased their confidence, and by the consequent. increase of their numbers, it had doubly augmented their strength. Each army retained its position till the seventh of October-Burgoyne waiting for a reinforcement from Sir Henry Clinton, and Gates for further accessions to his army; when Burgoyne, whose provisions were greatly reduced, decided once more on a trial of strength in the field, as indispensable to his safety. In the engagement that followed, the Americans were more successful than in the previous action. They carried by storm the works occupied by the German reserve, took several pieces of artillery, and made upwards of two hundred prisoners. In the night Burgoyne found it prudent to withdraw his force to a strong position on the river. Gates, relying on the advantage he held, would not put it to hazard by attacking Burgoyne, in his advantageous position, but bent all his efforts to prevent the retreat of his adversary. A strong detachment was accordingly posted higher up the Hudson, and formidable corps on the opposite sides of the river. Burgoyne therefore retreated in the night to Saratoga, destroying the houses and property of the inhabitants on his march. He was there con

« السابقةمتابعة »