Ever since the failure of the American invasion of Canada, it had been the intention of Sir Guy Carleton, in accordance with the wishes of the ministry, to invade New York by way of Lake Champlain, and to secure the Mohawk Valley and the upper waters of the Hudson. The summer of 1776 had been employed by Carleton in getting together a fleet with which to obtain control of the lake. It was an arduous task. Three large vessels were sent over from England, and proceeded up the St. Lawrence as far as the rapids where they were taken to pieces, carried overland to St. John's, and there put together again. Twenty gunboats and more than two hundred flat-bottomed transports were built at Montreal, and manned with 700 picked seamen and gunners; and upon this flotilla Carleton embarked his army of 12,000 men.
To oppose the threatened invasion, Benedict Arnold had been working all the summer with desperate energy. In June the materials for his navy were growing in the forests of Vermont while his carpenters with their tools, his sailmakers with their canvas and his gunners with their guns had mostly to be brought from the coast towns of
Connecticut and Massachusetts. By the end of September he had built a little fleet of three schooners, two sloops, three galleys and eight gondolas, and fitted it out with seventy guns and such seamen and gunners as he could get together. With this flotilla he could not hope to prevent the advance of such an overwhelming force as that of the enemy. The most he could do would be to worry and delay it, besides raising the spirits of the people by the example of an obstinate and furious resistance. To allow Carleton to reach Ticonderoga without opposition would be disheartening, whereas by delay and vexation he might hope to dampen the enthusiasm of the invader. With this end in view, Arnold proceeded down the lake far to the north of Crown Point, and taking up a strong position between Valcour Island and the western shore, so that both his wings were covered and he could be attacked only in the front, he lay in wait for the enemy.
James Wilkinson, who twenty years afterward became commander-in-chief of the American army, and survived the second war with England, was then at Ticonderoga, on Gate's staff. Though personally hostile to Arnold, he calls attention in his Memoirs to the remarkable skill exhibited in the disposition of the little fleet at Valcour Island, which was the same in principle as that by which Macdonough won his brilliant victory not far from the same spot in 1814.
On the 11th of october, Sir Guy Carleton's squadron approached, and there ensued the first battle fought between an American and a British fleet.
At sundown, after a desperate fight of seven hours' duration, the British withdrew out of range, intending to renew the struggle in the morning. Both fleets had suffered severely, but the Americans were so badly cut up that Carleton expected to force their rear the next day, and capture them. But Arnold, during the hazy night, by a feat scarcely less remarkable than Washington's retreat from Long Island, contrived to slip through the British line with all that was left of his crippled flotilla, and made away for Crown Point with all possible speed. Though he once had to stop to mend leaks, and once to take off the men and guns from two gondolas which were sinking, he nevertheless, by dint of sailing and kedging, got such a start that the enemy did not overtake him until the next day but one, when he was nearing Crown Point. While the rest of the fleet, by Arnold's orders, now crowded sail for their haven, he in his schooner sustained an ugly fight for four hours with the three largest British vessels, one of which mounted eighteen twelve-pounders. His vessel was wofully cut up, and her deck covered with dead and dying men, when, having sufficiently delayed the enemy, he succeeded in running her aground in a small creek, where he set her on fire and she perished gloriously, with her flag flying till the flames brought it down.
Then marching through woodland paths to Crown Point, where his other vessels had now disembarked their men, he brought away his whole force in safety to Ticonderoga. When Carleton appeared before that celebrated fortress,
finding it strongly defended, and doubting his ability to reduce it before the setting in of cold weather, he decided to take his army back to Canada, satisfied for the present with having gained control of Lake Champlain. This sudden retreat of Carleton astonished both friend and foe. He was blamed for it by his generals, Burgoyne, Phillips and Riedesel, as well as by the king; and when we see how easily the fortress was seized by Phillips in the following summer, we can hardly doubt that it was a grave mistake.
Arnold had now won an enviable reputation as the "bravest of the brave." In his terrible march through the winderness of Maine, in the assault upon Quebec, and in the defence of Lake Champlain, he had shown rare heroism and skill. The whole country sang with his praises and Washington regarded him as one of the most ablest officers in the army. Yet when Congress now proceeded to appoint five new major-generals, they selected Stirling, Mifflin, St. Clair, Stephen and Lincoln, passing over Arnold, who was the senior brigadier. None of the generals named could for a moment be compared with Arnold for ability, and this strange action of Congress, coming soon after such a brilliant exploit, naturally hurt his feelings and greatly incensed him. Arnold was proud and irascible in temper, but on this occasion he controlled himself manfully, and listened to Washington, who entreated him not to resign. So astonished was Washington at the action of Congress that at first he could not believe it. He thought either that
Arnold must really have received a prior appointment, which for some reason had not yet been made public, or else that his name must have been ommitted through some unaccountable oversight. It turned out, however, on further inquiry, that state jealousies had been the cause of the mischief. The reason assigned for ignoring Arnold's services was that Connecticut had already two manor-generals, and was not in fairness entitled to any more!
But beneath this alleged reason there lurked a deeper reason, likewise founded in jealousies between the state. The intriques which soon after disgraced the northern army and imperilled the safety of the country had already begun to bear bitter fruit. Since the beginning of the war, Major-General Philp Schuyler had been in command of the northern department, with his headquarters at Albany, whence his ancestors had a century before hurled defiance at Frontenac. His family was one of the most distinguished in New York, and an inherited zeal for the public service thrilled in every drop of his blood. No more upright or disinterested man could be found in America and for bravery and generosity he was like the paladin of some mediaeval romance. In spite of these fine qualities, he was bitterly hated by the New England men, who formed a considerable portion of his army. Beside the general stupid dislike which the people of New York and of New England then felt for each other, echoes of which are still sometimes heard nowadays, there was a special reason for the odium which was heaped upon Schuyler. The dispute over
the possession of Vermont had now raged fiercely for thirteen years, and Schuyler, as a member of the New York legislature, had naturally been zealous in urging the claims of his own state. For this crime the men of New England were never able to forgive him, and he was pursued with vindictive hatred until his career as a general was ruined. His orders were obeyed with sullenness, the worst interpretation was put upon every one of his acts and evil-minded busybodies were continually pouring into the ears of Congress a stream of tattle, which gradually wore out their trust in him.
The evil was greatly enhanced by the fact that among the generals of the northern army there was one envious creature who was likely to take Schuyler's place in case he should be ousted from it and who for so desirable an object was ready to do any amount of intriguing. The part sustained by Charles Lee with reference to Washington was to some extent paralleled here by the part sustained toward Schulyer by Horatio Gates. There is indeed no reason for supposing that Gates was capable of such baseness as Lee exhibited in his willingness to play into the hands of the enemy; nor had he the nerve for such prodigious treason as that in which Arnold engaged after his sympathies had become alienated from the American cause. With all his faults, Gates never incurred the odium which belongs to a public traitor. But his nature was thoroughly weak and petty, and he never shrank from falsehood when it seemed to serve his purpose.
Unlike Lee, he was comely in person, mild in dispostition and courteous in manner, except when roused to anger or influenced by spite, when he sometimes became very violent. He never gave evidence either of skill or of bravery; and in taking part in the war his only solicitude seems to have been for his own personal advancement. In the course of his campaigning with the norther army, he seems never once to have been under fire, but he would incur no end of fatigue to get aprivate talk with a delegate in Congress. Like many others he took a high position at the beginning of the struggle simply because he was a veteran of the Seven Years' War, having been one of the officers who were brought off in safety from the wreck of Braddock's army by the youthful skill and prowess of Washington.
At present, and until after the end of the Saratoga campaign, such reputation as he had was won by appropriating the fame which was earned by his fellow-generals. He was in command at Ticonderoga when Arnold performed his venturesome feat on Lake Champlain, and when Carleton made his blunder in not attacking the stronghold; and all this story Gates told to Congress as the story of an advantage which he had somehow gained over Carleton, at the same time anxiously inquiring if Congress regarded him, in his remote position at Ticonderoga, as subject to the orders of Schuyler at Albany. Finding that he was thus regarded as subordinate, he became restive and seized the earliest opportunity of making a visit to Congress. The retreat of Carleton enabled Schuyler to send seven regiments to the relief of Washington in
New Jersey, and we have already seen how Gates, on arriving with this reinforcement, declined to assist personally in the Trenton campaign and took the occasion to follow Congress in its retreat to Baltimore.
The winter seems to have been spent in intrigue. Knowing the chief source of Schuyler's unpopularity, Gates made it a point to declare, as often and as loudly as possible, his belief that the state of New York had no title to the Green Mountain country. In this way he won golden opinions from the people of New England, and rose high in the good graces of such members of Congress as Samuel Adams, whose noble nature was slow to perceive his meaness and duplicity. The failure of the invasion of Canada had caused much chagrin in Congress, and it was sought to throw the whole blame of it upon Schuyler for having, as it was alleged, inadequately supported Montgomery and Arnold. The unjust charge served to arouse a prejudice in many minds, and during the winter some irritated letters passed between Schuyler and Congress, until late in March, 1777, he obtained permission to visit Philadelphia and vindicate himself. On the 22nd of May after a thorough investigation, Schuyler's conduct received the full approval of Congress, and he was confirmed in his command of the northern department which was expressly defined as including Lakes George and Champlain as well as the valleys of the Hudson and the Mohawk.
The sensitive soul of Gates now took fresh offence. He had been sent back in March to his post
at Ticonderoga just as Schulyer was starting for Philadelphia, and he flattered himself with the hope that he would soon be chosen to supersede his gallant commander. Accordingly when he found that Schuyler had been reinstated in all his old command and honours, he flew into a rage, refused to serve in a subordinate capacity, wrote an impudent letter to Washington and at last got permission to visit Congress again while General St. Clair was appoint in his stead to the command of the great northern fortress. On the 19th of June, Gates obtained a hearing before Congress, and behaved with such unseemly violence that after being repeatedly called to order, he was turned out of the room, amid a scene of angry confusion. Such conduct should naturally have ruined his cause, but he had made so many powerful friends that by dint of more or less apologetic talk the offence was condoned.
Throughout these bickerings Arnold had been the steadfast friend of Schuyler; and although his brilliant exploits had won general admiration he did not fail to catch some of the odium so plentifully bestowed upon the New York commander. In the chaos of disappointment and wrath which ensued upon the disastrous retreat from Canada in 1776, when everybody was eager to punish somebody else for the ill fortune which was solely due to the superior resources of the enemy, Arnold came in for his share of blame. No one could find any fault with his military conduct, but charges were brought against him on the ground of some exactions of private property at
Montreal which had been made for the support of the army. A thorough investigation of the case demonstrated Arnold's entire uprightness in the matter, and ther verdict of Congress, which declared the charges to be "cruel and unjust," was heartily indorsed by Washington. Nevertheless, in the manifold complications of feeling which surrounded the Schuyler trouble these unjust charges succeeded in arousing a prejudice which may have had something to do with the slight cast upon Arnold in the appointment of the new major-generals. In the whole course of American history there are few sadder chapters than this. Among the scandals of this eventful winter we can trace the beginnings of the melancholy chain of events which by and by resulted in making the once heroic name of Benedict Arnold a name of opprobrium throughout the world. We already begin to see too, originating in Lee's intrigues of the preceding autumn, and nourished by the troubles growing out of the Vermont quarrel and the ambitious schemes of Gates, the earliest germs of that faction which erelong was to seek to compass the overthrow of Washington himself.
For the present the injustice suffered by Anrold had not wrought its darksome change in him. A long and complicated series of influences was required to produce that result. To the earnest appeal of Washington that he should not resign he responded cordially, declaring that no personal considerations should induce him to stay at home while the interests of his country were at stake. He would zealously serve even under his juniors, who had
lately been raised above him, so long as the common welfare was in danger. An opportunity for active service soon presented itself. Among the preparations for the coming summer campaign, Sir William Howe thought it desirable to cripple the Americans by seizing a large quantity of military stores which had been accumulated at Danbury in Connecticut. An expedition was sent out, very much like that which at Lexington and Concord had ushered in the war, and it met with a similar reception. A force of 2,000 men, led by the royal governor, Tryon, of North Carolina fame, landed at Fairfield, and marched to Danbury, where they destroyed the stores and burned a large part of the town. The militia turned out, as on the day of Lexington, led by General Wooster, who was slain in the first skirmish. By this time Arnold, who happened to be visiting his children in New Haven, had heard of the affair and came upon the scene with 600 men. At Ridgefield a desperate fight ensued, and Arnold had two horses killed under him. The British were defeated. By the time they reached their ships, 200 of their number had been killed or wounded and, with the yeomanry swarming on every side, they narrowly escaped capture. For his share in this action, Arnold was now made a major-general, and was presented by Congress with a fine horse; but nothing was done towards restoring him to his relative rank, nor was any explanation vouch-safed. Washington offered him the command of the Hudson at Peekskill, which was
liable to prove one of the important points in the ensuing campaign, but Arnold for the moment declined to take any such position until he should have conferred with Congress, and fathomed the nature of the difficulties by which he had been beset; and so the command of this important position was given to the veteran Putnam.
The time for the summer campaign was now at hand. The first year of the independence of the United States was nearly completed, and up to this time the British had nothing to show for their work except the capture of the city of New York and the occupation of Newport. The army of Washington, which six months ago they had regarded as conquered and dispersed, still balked and threatened them from its inexpugnable position on the heights of Morristown. It was high time that something more solid should be accomplished, for every month of adverse possession added fresh weight to the American cause, and increased the probability that France would interfere.
A decisive blow was accordingly about to be struck. After careful study by Lord George Germaine, and much consultation with General Burgoyne, who had returned to England for the winter, it was decided to adhere to the plan of the preceding year, with slight modifications. The great object was to secure firm possession of the entire valley of the Hudson, together with that of the Mohawk. It must be borne in mind that at this time the inhabited part of the state of New York consisted almost entirely of the Mohawk and Hudson valleys. All the rest was unbroken wilderness,
save for an occasional fortified trading post. With a total population of about 170,000, New York ranked seventh among the thirteen states; just after Maryland and Connecticut, just before South Carolina. At the same time, the geographical position of New York, whether from a commercail or from a military point of view, was as commanding then as it has ever been. It was thought that so small a population, among which there were known to be many Tories, might easily be conquered and the country firmly held. The people of New Jersey and Pennsylvania were regarded as lukewarm supporters of the Declaration of Independence, and it was supposed that the conquest of New York might soon be followed by the subjection of these two provinces. With the British power thus thrust, like a vast wedge, through the centre of the confederacy, it would be impossible for New England to cooperate with the southern states, and it was hoped that the union of the colonies against the Crown would thus be effectually broken.
With this object of conquering New York, we have seen Carleton in 1776, approaching through Lake Champlain, while Howe was wresting Manhattan Island from Washington. But the plan was imperfectly conceived, and the cooperation was feeble. How feeble it was is well shown by the fact that Carleton's ill-judged retreat from Crown Point enabled Schuyler to send reinforcements to Washington in time to take part in the great strokes at Trenton and Princeton.
Something, however, had been acccomplished. In spite of Arnold's desperate resistance and Washington's consummate skill, the enemy had gained a hold upon both the northern and the southern ends of the long line. but this obstinate resistance served to some extent to awaken the enemy to the arduous character of the problem. The plan was more carefully studied, and it was intended that this time the cooperation should be more effectual. In order to take possession of the whole state by one grand system of operations, it was decided that the invasion should be conducted by three distinct armies operating upon converging lines. A strong force from Canada was to take Ticonderoga, and proceed down the line of the Hudson to Albany. This force was now to be commanded by General Burgoyne while his superior officer, General Carleton remained at Quebec. A second and much smaller force under Colonel St. Leger, was to go up the St. Lawrence to Lake Ontario, land at Oswego and, with the aid of Sir John Johnson and the Indians, reduce Fort Stanwix; after which he was to come down the Mohawk valley and unite his forces with those of Burgoyne. At the same time, Sir William Howe was to ascend the Hudson with the main army, force the passes of the Highlands at Peekskill, and effect a junction with Burgoyne at Albany. The junction of the three armies was expected to complete the conquest of New York, and to insure the over-throw of American independence.
Map of Burgoyne's Campaign July - October, 1777
Such was the plan of campaign prepared by the ministry. There can be no doubt that it was carefully studied, or that, if successful, it would have proved very disastrous to the Americans. There is room for very grave doubt, however, as to whether it was the most judicious plant to adopt. The method of invading any country by distinct forces operating upon converging lines is open to the objection that either force is liable to be separately overwhelmed without the possibility of reinforcement from the other. Such a plan is prudent only when the invaded country has good roads, and when the invaders have a great superiority in force, as was the case when the allied armies advanced upon Paris in 1814. In northern and central New York, in 1777, the conditions were very unfavourable to such a plan. The distances to be traversed were long, and the roads were few and bad. Except in the immediate neighbourhood of Albany and Saratoga, the country was covered with the primeval forest, through which only the trapper and the savage could make their way with speed. The Americans too, had the great advantage of operating upon interior lines. It was difficult for Burgoyne at Fort Edward, St. Leger before Fort Stanwix and Howe in the city of New York to communicate with each other at all; it was impossible for them to do so promptly; whereas nothing could be easier than for Washington at Morristown to reach Putnam at Peekskill or for Putnam to forward troops to Schuyler at Albany, or for Schuyler to send out a force to raise the siege of Fort Stanwix. In view of these considerations, it seems probable that
Lord George Germaine would have acted more wisely if he had sent Burgoyne with his army directly by sea to reinforce Sir William Howe. The army thus united, and numbering more than 30,000 men, would have been really formidable. If they had undertaken to go up the river to Albany, it would have been hard to prevent them. If their united presence at Albany was the great object of the campaign, there was no advantage in sending one commander to reach it by a difficult and dangerous overland march. The Hudson is navigable by large vessels all the way to Albany, and by advancing in this way the army might have preserved its connections; and whatever disaster might have befallen, it would have been difficult for the Americans to surround and capture so large a force. One arrived at Albany, the expedition of St. Leger might have set out from that point as a matter of subsequent detail and would have had a base within easy distance upon which to fall back in case of defeat.
In does not appear, therefore, that there were any advantages to be gained by Burgoyne's advance from the north which can be regarded as commensurate with the risk which he incurred. To have tranferred the northern army from the St. Lawrence to the Hudson by sea would have been far easier and safer than to send it through a hundred miles of wilderness in northern New York; and whatever it could have effected in the interior of the state could have been done as well in the former case as in the latter. But these considerations do not seem to have occurred to Lord
George Germaine. In the wars with the French, the invading armies from Canada had always come by way of Lake Champlain, so that this route was accepted without question, as if consecrated by long usage. Through a similar association of ideas an exaggerated importance was attached to the possession of Ticonderoga. The risks of the enterprise, moreover, were greatly underestimated. In imagining that the routes of Burgoyne and St. Leger would lie through a friendly country, the ministry fatally misconceived the whole case. There was, indeed a powerful Tory party in the country, just as in the days of Robert Bruce there was an English party in Scotland, just as in the days of Miltiades there was a Persian party in Attika. But no one has ever doubted that the victors at Marathon and at Bannockburn went forth with a hearty godspeed from their fellow-countrymen; and the obstinate resistance encountered by St. Leger, within a short distance of Johnson's Tory stronghold, is an eloquent commentary upon the error of the ministry in the estimate of the actual significance of the loyalist element on the New York frontier.
It thus appears that in the plan of a triple invasion upon converging lines the ministry were dealing with too many unknown quantities. They were running a prodigious risk for the sake of an advantage which in itself was extremely open to question; for should it turn out that the strength of the Tory party was not sufficiently great to make the junction of the three armies at Albany at once equivalent to the
complete conquest of the state, then the end for which the campaign was undertaken could not be secured without supplementary campaigns. Neither a successful march up and down the Hudson river nor the erection of a chain of British fortresses on that river could effectually cut off the southern communications of New England, unless all military resistance were finally crushed in the state of New York. The surest course for the British, therefore, would have been to concentrate all their available force at the mouth of the Hudson, and continue to make the destruction of Washington's army the chief object of their exertions. In view of the subtle genius which he had shown during the last campaign, that would have been an arduous task; but, as event showed, they had to deal with his genius all the same on the plan which they adopted, and at a great disadvantage.
Another point which the ministry overlooked was the effect of Burgoyne's advance upon the people of New England. They could reasonably count upon alarming the yeomanry of New Hampshire and Massachusetts by a bold stroke upon the Hudson, but they failed to see that this alarm would naturally bring about a rising that would be very dangerous to the British cause. Difficult as it was at that time to keep the Continental army properly recruited, it was not at all difficult to arouse the yeomanry in the presence of an immediate danger. In the western parts of New England there were scarcely any Tories to complicate the matter; and the flank movement by the New England militia became one of the most formidable features in the case.
But whatever may be thought of the merits of Lord George's plan, there can be no doubt that its success was absolutely dependent upon the harmonious cooperation of all the forces involved in it. The ascent of the Hudson by Sir William Howe, with the main army, was as essential a part of the scheme as the descent of Burgoyne from the north; and as the two commanders could not easily communicate with each other, it was necessary that both should be strictly bound by their instructions. At this point a fatal blunder was made. Burgoyne was expressly directed to follow the prescribed line down the Hudson, whatever might happen, until he should effect his junction with the main army. On the other hand, no such unconditional orders were received by Howe. He understood the plan of campaign, and knew that he was expected to ascend the river in force; but he was left with the usual discretionary power, and we shall presently see what an imprudent use he made of it. The reasons for this inconsistency on the part of the ministry were a long time unintelligible; but a memorandum of Lord Shelburne, lately brought to light by Lord Edmund Fitzmaurice, has solved the mystery. It seems that a dispatch, containing positive and explicit orders for Howe to ascend the Hudson, was duly drafted, and, with many other papers, awaited the minister's signature. Lord George Germaine, being on his way to the country, called at his office to sign the dispatches; but when he came to the letter addressed to General Howe, he found it had not been "fair copied."
Lord George, like the old gentleman who killed himself in defence of the great principle that crumpets are wholesome, never would be put out of his way by anything. Unwilling to lose his holiday he hurried off the the green meadows of Kent, intending to sign the letter on his return. But when he came back the matter had slipped from his mind. The document on which hung the fortunes of an army, and perhaps of a nation, got thrust unsigned into a pigeonhole, where it was duly discovered some time after the disaster at Saratoga had become part of history.
Happy in his ignorance of the risks he was assuming, Burgoyne took the field about the 1st of June, with an army of 7,902 men, of whom 4,135 were British regulars. His German troops from Brunswick, 3,116 in number, were commanded by Baron Riedesel, an able general, whose accomplished wife has left us such a picturesque and charming description of the scenes of this adventurous campaign. Of Canadian militia there were 148, and of Indians 503. The regular troops, both German and English, were superbly trained adn equipped, and their officers were selected with especial care. Generals Phillips and Fraser were regarded as among the best officers in the British service. On the second anniversary of Bunker Hill this army began crossing the lake to Crown Point; and on the 1st of July it appeared before Ticonderoga, where St. Clair was posted with a garrison of 3,000 men. Since its capture by Allen, the fortress had been
carefully strengthened, until it was now believed to be impregnable. But while no end of time and expense had been devoted to the fortifications, a neighboring point which commands the whole position had been strangely neglected. A little less than a mile south of Ticonderoga, the narrow mountain ridge between the two lakes ends abruptly in a bold crag, which rises 600 feet sheer over the blue water. Practised eyes in the American fort had already seen that a hostile battery planted on this eminence would render their stronghold untenable; but it was not believed that siege-guns could be dragged up the steep ascent, and so, in spite of due warning, the crag had not been secured when the British army arrived. General Phillips at once saw the value of the position, and, approaching it by a defile that was screened from the view of the fort, worked night and day in breaking out a pathway and dragging up cannon. "Where a goat can go, a man may go; and where a man can go, he can haul up a gun," argued the gallant general. Great was the astonishment of the garrison when, on the morning of July 5th, they saw red coats swarming on the top of the hill, which the British, rejoicing in their exploit, now named Mount Defiance. There were not only red coats there but brass cannon, which by the next day would be ready for work. Ticonderoga had become a trap, from which the garrison could not escape too quickly. A council of war was held, and under cover of night St Clair took his little army across the lake and retreated upon Castleton
in the Green Mountains. Such guns and stores as could be saved with the women and wounded men, were embarked in 200 boats and sent under a strong escort to the head of the lake, whence they continued their retreat to Fort Edward on the Hudson. About three o'clock in the morning a house accidently took fire and in the glare of the flames the British sentinels caught a glimpse of the American rear-guard just as it was vanishing in the sombre depths of the forest. Alarm guns were fired, and in less than an hour the British flag was hoisted over the empty fortress, while General Fraser with 900 men had started in hot pursuit of the retreating Americans.
Riedesel was soon sent to support him, while Burgoyne, leaving nearly 1,000 men to garrison the fort, started up the lake with the main body of the army. On the morning of the 7th, General Fraser overtook the American rear guard of 1,000 men under Colonels Warner and Francis, at the village of Hubbardton, about six miles behind the main army. A fierce fight ensued, in which Fraser was worsted, and had begun to fall back, with the loss of one fifth of his men, when Riedesel came up with his Germans and the Americans were put to flight, leaving one third of their number killed or wounded. This obstinate resistance at Hubbardton served to check the pursuit, and five days later St. Clair succeeded, without further loss in reaching Fort Edward where he joined the main army under Schuyler.
Up to this moment, considering the amount of
work done and the extent of country traversed, the loss of the British had been very small. They began to speak contemptuously of their antagonists, and the officers amused themselves by laying wagers as to the precise number of days it would take them to reach Albany. In commenting on the failure to occupy Mount Defiance, Burgoyne made a general statement on the strength of a single instance, - which is the besetting sin of human reasoning. "It convinces me," he said, "that the Americans have no men of military science." Yet General Howe at Boston, in neglecting to occupy Dorchester Heights, had made just the same blunder, and with less excuse; for no one had ever doubted that batteries might be placed there by somebody.
In England the fall of Ticonderoga was greeted with exultation, as the death-blow to the American cause. Horace Walpole tells how the king rushed into the queen's apartment, clapping his hands and shouting, "I have beat them! I have beat all the Americans!" People began to discuss the best method of re-establishing the royal governments in the "colonies." In America there was general consternation. St. Clair was greeted with a storm of abuse. John Adams, then president of the Board of War, wrote, in the first white heat of indignation, "We shall never be able to defend a post till we shoot a general!" Schuyler, too, as commander of the department, was ignorantly and wildly blamed, and his political enemies seized upon the occasion to circulate fresh stories to his
discredit. A court-martial in the following year vindicated St. Clair's prudence in giving up an untenable position and saving his army from capture. The verdict was just, but there is no doubt that the failure to fortify Mount Defiance was a grave error of judgment, for which the historian may fairly apportion the blame between St. Clair and Gates. It was Gates who had been in command of Ticonderoga in the autumn of 1776, when an attack by Carleton was expected, and his attention had been called to this weak point by Colonel Trumbell, whom he laughed to scorn.
Gates had again been in command from March to June. St. Clair had taken command about three weeks before Burgoyne's approach; he had seriously considered the question of fortifying Mount Defiance, but had not been sufficiently prompt. In no case could any blame attach to Schuyler. Gates was more at fault than anyone else, but he did not happen to be at hand when the catastrophe occurred, and accordingly people did not associate him with it. On the contrary, amid the general wrath, the loss of the northern citadel was alleged as a reason for superseding Schuyler by Gates; for if he had been there, it was thought that the disaster would have been prevented.
The irony of events, however, alike ignoring American consternation and British glee, showed that the capture of Ticonderoga was not to help the invaders in the least. On the contrary, it straightway became a burden, for it detained an eighth part of Burgoyne's force in garrison at a time when he could ill spare it. Indeed, alarming
as his swift advance had seemed at first, Burgoyne's serious difficulties were now just beginning, and the harder he laboured to surmount them the more completely did he work himself into a position from which it was impossible either to advance or to recede. On the 10th of July his whole army had reached Skenesborough (now Whitehall), at the head of Lake Champlain. From this point to Fort Edward, where the American army was encamped, the distance was twenty miles as the crow flies; but Schuyler had been industriously at work with those humble weapons, the axe and the crowbar, which in warfare sometimes prove mightier than the sword. The roads, bad enough at their best, were obstructed every few yards by huge trunks of fallen trees, that lay with their boughs interwoven. Wherever the little streams could serve as aids to the march, they were choked up with stumps and stones; wherever they served as obstacles which needed to be crossed, the bridges were broken down. The country was such an intricate labyrinth of creeks and swamps that more than forty bridges had to be rebuilt in the course of the march. Under these circumstances, Burgoyne's advance must be regarded as a marvel of celerity. He accomplished a mile a day, and reached Fort Edward on the 30th of July.
In the meantime Schuyler had crossed the Hudson, and slowly fallen back to Stillwater about thirty miles above Albany. For this retrograde movement fresh blame was visited upon him by the general public,
which at all times is apt to suppose that a war should mainly consist of bloody battles, and which can seldom be made to understand the strategic value of a retreat. The facts of the case were also misunderstood. Fort Edward was supposed to be an impregnable stronghold, whereas it was really commanded by highlands. The Marquis de Chastellux, who visited it somewhat later, declared that it could be taken at any time by 500 men with four siege-guns. Now for fighting purposes an open field is much better than an untenable fortress. If Schuyler had stayed at Fort Edward, he would probably have been forced to surrender; and his wisdom in retreating is further shown by the fact that every moment of delay counted in his favour. The militia of New York and New England were already beating to arms. Some of those yeomen who were with the army were allowed to go home for the harvest; but the loss was more than made good by the numerous levies which, at Schuyler's suggestion and by Washington's orders, were collecting under General Lincoln in Vermont for the purpose of threatening Burgoyne in the rear. Burgoyne had supposed that it would be necessary only to show himself at the head of an army, when the people would rush by hundreds to offer support or seek protecton. He now found that the people withdrew from his line of advance, driving their cattle before them, and seeking shelter, when possible, within the lines of the American army. In his reliance upon the aid of
New York loyalists, he was utterly disappointed; very few Tories joined him and these could offer neither sound advice nor personal influence wherewith to help him. When the yeomanry collected by hundreds, it was only to vex him and retard his progress.
Even had the loyalist feeling on the Vermont frontier of New York been far stronger than it really was, Burgoyne had done much to alienate or stifle it by his ill-advised employment of Indian auxiliaries. For this blunder the responsibility rests mainly with Lord North and Lord George Germaine. Burgoyne had little choice in the matter except to carry out his instructions. Being a humane man, and sharing, perhaps, in that view of the "noble savage" which was fashionable in Europe in the eighteenth century, he fancied he could prevail upon his tawny allies to forego their cherished pastime of murdering and scalping.
When, at the beginnning of the campaign he was joined by a party of Wyandots and Ottawas, under command of that same redoubtable Charles de Langlade who, twenty-two years before, had achieved the ruin of Braddock, he explained his policy to them in an elaborate speech full of such sentimental phrases as the Indian mind was supposed to delight in. The slaughter of aged men, of women and children and unresisting prisoners was abolutely prohibited; and "on no account, or pretense, or subtlety, or prevarication," were scalps to be taken from wounded or dying men. An order more likely to prove efficient was
one which provided a reward for every savage who should bring his prisoners to camp in safety. To these injunctions, which must have inspired them with pitying contempt, the chiefs laconically replied that they had "sharpened their hatchets upon their affections," and were ready to follow their "great white father."
The employment of savage auxiliaries was indignantly denounced by the opposition in Parliament, and when the news of this speech of Burgoyne's reached England it was angrily ridiculed by Burke, who took a sounder view of the natural instincts of the red man. "Suppose," said Burke, "that there was a riot on Tower Hill. What would the keeper of his majesty's lions do? Would he not fling open the dens of the wild beasts, and then address them thus? 'My gentle lions, my humane bears, my tender-hearted hyenas, go forth!' But I exhort you, as you are Christians and members of civilized society, to take care not to hurt any man, woman or child!" The House of Commons was convulsed over this grotesque picture; and Lord North, to whom it seemed irresistibly funny to hear an absent man thus denounced for measures which he himself had originated, sat choking with laughter, while tears rolled down his great fat cheeks.
It soon turned out, however, to be no laughing matter. The cruelties inflicted indiscriminately upon patriots and loyalists soon served to madden the yeomanry, and array against the invaders whatever wavering sentiment had hitherto remained in the country. One sad incident in particular
has been treasured up in the memory of the people, and celebrated in song and story. Jenny McCrea, the beautiful daughter of a Scotch clergyman of Paulus Hook, was at Fort Edward visiting her friend Mrs. McNeil. who was a loyalist and a cousin of General Fraser. On the morning of July 27th a marauding party of Indians burst into the house and carried away the two ladies. They were soon pursued by some American soldiers, who exchanged a few shots with them. In the confusion which ensued the party was scattered and Mrs. McNeil was taken alone into the camp of the approaching British army. Next day a save of gigantic stature, a famous sachem, known as the Wyandot Panther, came into the camp with a scalp which Mrs. McNeil at once recognized as Jenny's from the silky black tresses, more than a hard in length. As search was made, and the body of the poor girl was found hard by a spring in the forest, pierced with three bullet wounds. How she came to her cruel death was never known. The Panther plausibly declared that she had been accidentally shot during the scuffle with the soldiers, but his veracity was open to question, and the few facts that were known left ample room for conjecture. The popular imagination soon framed its story with a romantic completeness that thrust aside even these few facts. Miss McCrea was betrothed to David Jones, a loyalist who was serving as lieutenant in Burgoyne's army. In the legend which immediately sprang up, Mr. Jones was said to have sent a party of Indians, with a letter to his betrothed,
entreating her to come to him within the British lines that they might be married. For bringing her to him in safety the Indians were to receive a barrel of rum. When she had entrusted herself to their care, and the party had proceeded as far as the spring, where the savages stopped to drink, a dispute arose as to who was to have the custody of the barrel of rum and many high words ensued, until one of the party settled the question offhand by slaying the lady with his tomahawk. It would be hard to find a more interesting example of the mushroom-like growth and obstinate vitality of a romantic legend. The story seems to have had nothing in common with the observed facts, except the evidence of the two lovers and the Indians and a spring in the forest.*
Yet it took possession of the popular mind almost immediately after the event, and it has ever since been repeated, with endless variations in detail, by American historians. Mr. Jones himself, who lived, a broken hearted
*I leave this as I wrote it in June, 1883. Since then another version of the facts has been suggested by W. L. Stone in Appleton's Cyclopoedia of American Biography. In this version Mr. Jones sends a party of Indians under the half-breed Duluth to escort Miss McCrea to the camp, where they are to be married by Mr. Brudenell, the chaplain. It is to be quite a fine little wedding, and the Baroness Riedesel and Lady Harriet Ackland are to be among the spectators. Before Deluth reaches Mrs. McNeil's house, the Wyandot Panther (here known by the name of a different beast, Le Loup) with his party attacks the house and carries off the two ladies. The Panther's party meets Duluth's near the spring. Duluth insists upon taking Jenny with him and high words ensue between him and the Panther, until the latter, in a towering rage, draws his pistol and shoots the girl. This version,if correct, goes some way toward reconciling the legend with the observed facts.
man, for half a century after the tragedy - was never weary of pointing out its falsehood and absurdity; but all his testimony, together with that of Mrs. McNeil and other witnesses to the facts that really happened was powerless to shake the hold upon the popular fancy which the legend had instantly gained. Such an instance, occuring in a community of shrewd and well-educated people, affords a suggestive commentary upon the origin and growth of popular tales in earlier and more ignorant ages.
But in whatever way poor Jenny may have come to her death, there can be no doubt as to the mischief which it swiftly wrought for the invading army. In the first place, it led to the desertion of all the savage allies. Burgoyne was a man of quick and tender sympathy, and the fate of this sweet young lady shocked him as it shocked the American people. He would have had the Panter promptly hanged, but that his quilt was not clearly proved, and many of the officers argued that the execution of a famous and popular sachem would enrage all the other Indians, and might endanger the lives of many of the soldiers. The Panther's life was accordingly spared, but Burgoyne made it a rule that henceforth no party of Indians should be allowed to go marauding save under the lead of some British officer, who might watch and restrain them.
When this rule was put in force, the tawny savages grunted and growled for two or three days, and then, with hoarse yells and hoots, all the five hundred broke loose from the camp and scampered
off to the Adirondack wilderness. From a military point of view, the loss was small, save in so far as it deprived the army of valuable scouts and guides. But the thirst for vengeance which was aroused among the yeomanry of northern New York, of Vermont and of western Massachusetts was a much more serious matter. The lamentable story was told at every village fireside and no detail of pathos or of horror was forgotten. The name of Jenny McCrea became a watchword, and a fortnight had not passed before General Lincoln had gathered on the British flank an army of stout and resolute farmers, inflamed with such wrath as had not filled their bosoms since the day when all New England had rushed to besiege the enemy in Boston.
Such a force of untrained yeomanry is of little use in prolonged warfare, but on important occasions it is sometimes capable of dealing heavy blows. We have seen what it could do on the memorable day of Lexington. It was now about to strike, at a critical moment, with still more deadly effect. Burgoyne's advance, laborious as it had been for the last three weeks, was now stopped for want of horses to drag the cannon and carry the provision bags; and the army moreover was already suffering from hunger. The little village of Bennington at the foot of the Green Mountains had been selected by the New England militia as a centre of supplies. Many hundred horses had been collected there, with ample stores of food and ammunition. To capture this village would give Buryoyne the warlike material he wanted, while at
the same time it would paralyze the movements of Lincoln, and perhaps dispel the ominous cloud that was gathering over the rear of the British army. Accordingly, on the 13th of August, a strong detachment of 500 of Riedesel's men with 100 newly arrived Indians and a couple of cannon, was sent out to seize the stores at Bennington. Lieut. Colonel Baum commanded the expedition, and he was accompanied by Major Skene, an American loyalist, who assured Burgoyne on his honour that the Green Mountains were swarming with devoted subjects to King George, who would flock by hundreds to his standard as soon as it should be set up among them. That these loyal recruits might be organized as quickly as possible, Burgoyne sent along with the expedition a skeleton regiment of loyalists, all duly officered, into the ranks of which they might be mustered without delay. The loyal recruits however, turned out to be the phantom of a distempered imagination; not one of them appeared in the flesh. On the contrary, the demeanour of the people was so threatening that Baum became convinced that hard work was before him, and the next day he sent back for reinforcements. Lieut. Colonel Breymann was accordingly sent to support him, with another body of 500 Germans and two field-pieces.
Meanwhile Colonel Stark was preparing a warm reception for the invaders. We have already seen John Stark, a gallant veteran of the Seven Years' War, serving with distinction at Bunker Hill and at Trenton and Princeton. He was considered one of the ablest officers in the army; but he had
lately gone home in disgust, for, like Arnold, he had been passed over by Congress in the list of promotions. Tired of sulking in his tent, no sooner did this rustic Achilles hear of the invaders' presence in New England than he forthwith sprang to arms and in the twinkling of an eye 800 stout yeomen were marching under his orders. He refused to take instructions from any superior officer, but declared that he was acting under the sovereignty of New Hampshire alone, and would proceed upon his own responsibility in defending the common cause. At the same time he sent word to General Lincoln , at Manchester in the Green Mountains, asking him to lend him the services of Colonel Seth Warner with the gallant regiment which had checked the advance of Fraser at Hubbardton. Lincoln sent the reinforcement without delay, and after marching all night in a drenching rain, the men reached Bennington in the morning, wet to the skin. Telling them to follow him as soon as they should have dried and rested themselves, Stark pushed on, with his main body, and found the enemy about six miles distant. On meeting this large force, Baum hastily took up a strong position on some rising ground behind a small stream, everywhere fordable, known as Walloomsac river. All day long the rain fell in torrents, and while the Germans began to throw up entrenchments, Stark laid his plans for storming their position on the morrow. During the night a company of Berkshire militia arrived and with them the excellent Mr. Allen, the warlike parson of Pittsfield, who went up to
Stark and said, "Colonel, our Berkshire people have been often called out to no purpose, and if you dont let them fight now they will never turn out again." "Well," said Stark, "would you have us turn out now, while it is pitch dark and raining buckets?" "No, not just this minute," replied the minister. "Then," said the doughty Stark, "as soon as the Lord shall once more send us sunshine, if I dont give you fighting enough, I'll never ask you to come out again!"
Next morning the sun rose bright and clear, and a steam came up from the sodden fields. It was a true dog-day, sultry and scorching. The forenoon was taken up in preparing the attack, while Baum waited in his strong position. The New Englanders outnumbered the Germans two to one, but they were a militia, unfurnished with bayonets or cannon, while Baum's soldiers were all regulars, picked from the bravest of the troops which Ferdinand of Brunswick had led to victory at Creveld and Minden. But the excellent German commander, in this strange country, was no match for the astute Yankee on his own ground. Stealthily and leisurely, during the whole afternoon, the New England farmers marched around into Baum's rear. They did not march in military array, but in little squads, half a dozen at a time, dressed in their rustic blue frocks. There was nothing in their appearance which to a European veteran like Baum could seem at all soldier-like, and he thought that here at last were those blessed Tories whom he had been taught to look out for, coming to place themselves
behind him for protection. Early in the afternoon he was cruelly undeceived. For while 500 of these innocent creatures opened upon him a deadly fire in the rear and on both flanks, Stark, with 500 more, charged across the shallow stream and assailed him in front. The Indians instantly broke and fled screeching to the woods, while yet there was time for escape. The Germans stood their ground and fought desperately; but thus attacked on all sides at once, they were soon thrown into disorder, and after a two hours' struggle, in which Baum was mortally wounded, they were all captured. At this moment, as the New England men began to scatter to the plunder of the German camp, the relieving force of Breymann came upon the scene; and the fortunes of the day might have been changed had not Seth Warner also arrived with his 500 fresh men in excellent order. A furious charge was made upon Breymann, who gave way, and retreated slowly from hill to hill, while parties of Americans kept pushing on to his rear to cut him off. By eight in the evening, when it had grown too dark to aim a gun, this second German force was entirely dispersed or captured. Breymann, with a mere corporal's guard of sixty or seventy men, escaped under cover of darkness, and reached the British camp in safety. Of the whole German force of 1,000 men, 207 had been killed and wounded and more than 700 had been captured. Among the spoils of victory were 1,000 stand of arms, 1,000 dragoon swords and four field-pieces. Of the Americans, 14 were killed and 42 wounded.
The news of this brilliant victory spread joy and hope throughout the land. Insubordination which had been crowned with such splendid success could not be overlooked and the gallant Stark was at once taken back into the army and made a brigadier-general. Not least among the grounds of exultation was the fact than any army of yeomanry had not merely defeated, but annihilated an army of the Brunswick regulars, with whose European reputation for bravery and discipline every man in the country was familiar. The bolder spirits began to ask the question why that which had been done to Baum and Breymann might not be done to Burgoyne's whole army; and in the excitement of this rising hope, reinforcements began to pour in faster and faster, both to Schuyler at Stillwater and to Lincoln at Manchester. On the other had, Burgoyne at Fort Edward was fast losing heart, as dangers thickened around him. So far from securing his supplies of horses, wagons and food by this stroke at Bennington, he had simply lost one seventh part of his available army, and he was now clearly in need of reinforcements as well as supplies. But no word has yet come from Sir William Howe, and the news from St. Leger was anything but encouraging. It is now time for us to turn westward and follow the wild fortunes of the second invading column.
About the middle of July, St. Leger had landed at Oswego, where he was joined by Sir John Johnson with his famous Tory regiment known as the
Royal Greens, and Colonel John Butler with his company of Tory rangers. Great efforts had been made by Johnson to secure the aid of the Iroquois tribes, but only with partial success. For once the Long House was fairly divided against itself, and the result of the present campaign did not redound to its future prosperity. The Mohawks, under their great chief Thayendanegea, better known as Joseph Brant, entered heartily into the British cause, and they were followed, though with less alacrity, by the Cayugas and Senecas; but the central tribe, the Onondagas remained neutral. Under the influence of the missionary, Samuel Kirkland, the Oneidas and Tuscaroras actively aided the Americans, though they did not take the field. After duly arranging his motley force, which amounted to about 1,700 men, St. Leger advanced very cautiously through the woods, and sat down before Fort Stanwix on the 3d of August. This stronghold, which had been built in 1756, on the watershed between the Hudson and Lake Ontario, commanded the main line of traffic between New York and Upper Canada. The place was then on the very outskirts of civilization, and under the powerful influence of Johnson - the Tory element was stronger here than in any part of the state. Even here, however, the strength of the patriot party turned out to be much greater than had been supposed, and at the approach of the enemy the poeple began to rise in arms. In this part of New York there were many Germans, whose ancestors had come over to America during the horrors of
the Thirty Years' War; and among these there was one stout patriot whose name shines conspicuously in the picturesque annals of the Revolution. General Nicholas Herkimer, commander of the militia of Tryon County, a veteran over sixty years of age, no soon heared of St. Leger's approach than he started out to the rescue of Fort Stanwix; and by the 5th of August he had reached Oriskany, about eight miles distant, at the head of 800 men. The garrison of the fort, 600 in number, under Colonel Peter Gansevoort, had already laughed to scorn St. Leger's summons to surrender, when, on the morning of the 6th they heard a distant firing to the eastward, which they could not account for. The mystery was explained when three friendly messengers floundered through a dangerous swamp into the fort, and told them of Herkimer's approach and of his purpose. The plan was to overwhelm St. Leger by a concerted attack in front and rear. The garrison was to make a furious sortie, while Herkimer, advancing through the forest, was to fall suddenly upon the enemy from behind; and thus it was hoped that his army might be crushed or captured at a single blow. To insure completness of cooperation, Colonel Gansevoort was to fire three guns immediately upon receiving the message, and upon hearing this signal Herkimer would begin his march from Oriskany. Gansevoort would then make such demonstrations as to keep the whole attention of the enemy concentrated upon the fort, and thus guard Herkimer against a surprise by the way,
until, after the proper interval of time, the garrison should sally forth in full force.
In this bold scheme everything depended upon absolute coordination in time. Herkimer had dispatched his messengers so early on the evening of the 5th that they ought to have reached the fort by three o'clock the next morning, and at about that time he began listening for the signal-guns. But through some unexplained delay it was nearly eleven in the forenoon when the messengers reached the fort, as just described. Meanwhile, as hour after hour passed by, and no signal-guns were heard by Herkimer's men, they grew impatient and insisted upon going ahead, without regard to the preconcerted plan. Much unseemly wrangling ensued, in which Herkimer was called a coward and accused of being a Tory at heart, until, stung by these taunts, the brave old man at length gave way, and at about nine o'clock the forward march was resumed. At this time his tardy messengers still lacked two hours of reaching the fort, but St. Leger's Indian scouts had already discovered and reported the approach of the American force, and a strong detchment of Johnson's Greens under Major Watts together with Brant and his Mohawks, had been sent out to intercept them.
About two miles westof Oriskany the road was by a deep semicircular ravine, concave toward the east. The bottom of this ravine was a swamp, across which the road was carried by a causeway of logs, and the steep banks on either side were thickly
covered with trees and underbrush. The practised eye of Thayendanegea at once perceived the rare advantage of such a position, and an ambuscade was soon prepared with a skill as deadly as that which once had wrecked the proud army of Braddock. But this time it was a meeting of Greek with Greek, and the wiles of the savage chief were foiled by a desperate valour which nothing could overcome. By ten o'clock the main body of Herkimer's army had descended into the ravine, followed by the wagons, while the rear-guard was still on the rising ground behind. At this moment they were greeted by a murderous volley from either side, while Johnson's Greens came charging down upon them in front and the Indians with frightful yells, swarmed in behind and cut off the rear-guard, which was thus obliged to retreat to save itself. For a moment the main body was thrown into confusion, but it soon rallied and formed itself in a circle, which neither bayonet charges nor musket fire could break or penetrate. The scene which ensued was one of the most infernal that the history of savage warfare has ever witnessed. The dark ravine was filled with a mass of fifteen hundred human beings, screaming and cursing, slipping in the mire, pushing and struggling, seizing each other's throats, stabbing, shooting and dashing out brains.
Bodies of neighbors were afterwards found lying in the bog, where they had gone down in a death-grapple, their cold hands still grasping the knives plunged into each other's hearts. Early in the fight a musket-ball slew Herkimer's
horse, and shattered his own leg just below the knee; but the old hero, nothing daunted, and bating nothing of his coolness in the midst of the horrid struggle, had the saddle taken from his dead horse and placed at the foot of a great beech-tree, where, taking his seat and lighting his pipe, he continued shouting his orders in a stentorian voice and directing the progress of the battle. Nature presently enhanced the lurind horror of the scene. The heat of the August morning hd been intolerable, and black thunder-clouds, overhanging the deep ravine at the beginning of the action, had enveloped it in a darkness like that of night. Now the rain came pouring in torrents, while gusts of wind howled through the tree-tops and sheets of lightening flashed in quick succession, with a continuous roar of thunder that drowned the noise of the fray. The wet rifles could no longer be fired, but hatchet, knife, and bayonet carried on the work of butchery, until, after more than five hundred men had been killed or wounded, the Indians gave way and fled in all directions, and the Tory soldiers, disconcerted, began to retreat up the western road, while the patriot army, remaining in possession of the hard-won field, felt itself too weak to pursue them.
At this moment, as the storm cleared away and long rays of sunshine began flickering through the wet leaves, the sound of the three signal-guns came booming through the air, and presently a sharp crackling of musketry was heard from the direction of Fort Stanwix. Startled by this ominous sound, the Tories made all possible haste to join their own army,
while the patriots, bearing their wounded on litters of green boughs, returned in sad procession to Oriskany. With their commander helpless and more than one third of their number slain or disabled, they were in no condition to engage in a fresh conflict, and unwillingly confessed that the garrison of Fort Stanwix must be left to do its part of the work alone. Upon the arrival of the messengers, Colonel Gansevoort had at once taken in the whole situation. He understood the mysterious firing in the forest, saw that Herkimer must have been prematurely attacked, and ordered his sortie instantly, to serve as a diversion. The sortie was a brilliant success. Sir John Johnson, with his Tories and Indians, was completely routed and driven across the river. Colonel Marinus Willett took possession of his camp, and held it while seven wagons were three times loaded with spoil and sent to be unloaded in the fort. Among all this spoil, together with abundance of food and drink, blankets and clothes, tools and ammunition, the victors captured five British standards and all Johnson's papers, maps and memoranda, containing full instructions for the projected campaign. After this useful exploit, Colonel Willett returned to the fort and hoisted the captured British standards, while over them he raised an uncouth flag, intended to represent the American stars and stripes, which Congress had adopted in June, as the national banner. This rude flag, hastily extemporized out of a white shirt, an old blue jacket and some strips of red
cloth from the petticoat of a soldier's wife, was the first American flag with stars and stripes that was ever hoisted, and it was first flung to the breeze on the memorable day of Oriskany, August 6, 1777.
Of all the battles of the Revolution,this was perhaps the most obstinate and murderous. Each side seems to have lost not less than one third of its whole number; and of those lost, nearly all were killed, as it was largely a hand to hand struggle, like the battles of ancient times, and no quarter was given on either side. The number of surviving wounded who were carried back to Oriskany, does not seem to have exceeded forty. Among these was the indomitable Herkimer, whose shattered leg was so unskillfully treated that he died a few days later, sitting in bed propped by pillows, calmly smoking his Dutch pipe and reading his Bible at the thirty-eighth Psalm.
For some little time no one could tell exactly how the results of this fierce and disorderly day were to be regarded. Both sides claimed a victory, and St. Leger vainly tried to scare the garrison by the story that their comrades had been destroyed in the forest. But in its effects upon the campaign, Oriskany was for the Americans a success, though an incomplete one. St. Leger was not crushed, but he was badly crippled. The sacking of Johnson's camp injured his prestige in the neighbourhood, and the Indian allies, who had lost more than a hundred of their best warriors on that fatal morning, grew daily more sullen and refractory, until their strange behaviour came to be a
fresh source of anxiety to the British commander. While he was pushing on the siege as well as he could, a force of 1,200 troops under Arnold, was marching up the Mohawk valley to complete his discomfiture.
As soon as he had heard the news of the fall of Ticonderoga, Washington had dispatched Arnold to render such assistance as he could to the northern army,and Arnold had accordingly arrived at Schuyler's headquarters about three weeks ago. Before leving Philadelphia, he had appealed to Congress to restore him to his former rank relatively to the five junior officers who had been promoted over him, and he had just learned that Congress had refused the request. At this moment Colonel Willett and another officer, after a perilous journey through the wilderness, arrived at Schuyler's headquarters, and, bringing the news of Oriskany, begged that a force might be sent to raise the siege of Fort Stanwix. Schuyler understood the importance of rescuing the stronghold and its brave garrison, and called a council of war; but he was bitterly opposed by his officers, one of whom presently said to another, in an audible whisper, "He only wants to weaken the army!" At this vile insinuation, the indignant general set his teeth so hard as to bite through the stem of the pipe he was smoking, which fell on the floor and was smashed. "Enough!" he cried. "I assume the whole responsibility. Where is the brigadier who will go?" The brigadiers all sat in sullen silence; but Arnold, who had been brooding over his private
grievances, suddenly jumped up. "Here!" said he. "Washington sent me here to make myself useful: I will go." The commander gratefully seized him by the hand, and the drum beat for volunteers. Arnold's unpopularity in New England was mainly with the politicians. It did not extend to the common soldiers, who admired his impulsive bravery and had unbounded faith in his resources as a leader. Accordingly, 1,200 Massachusetts men were easily enlisted in the course of the next forenoon, and the expedition started up the Mohawk valley. Arnold pushed on with characteristic energy, but the natural difficulties of the road were such that after a week of hard work he was still more than twenty miles from Fort Stanwix. Believing that no time should be lost, and that everything should be done to encourage the garrison and dishearten the enemy, he had recourse to a statagem, which succeeded beyond his utmost anticipation. A party of Tory spies had just been arrested in the neighbourhood, and among them was a certain Yan Yost Cuyler, a queer, half witted fellow, not devoid of cunning, whom the Indians regarded with that mysterious awe with which fools and lunatics are wont to inspire them, as creatures possessed with a devil. Yan Yost was summarily condemned to death and his brother and gypsy-like mother, in wild alarm, hastened to the camp to plead for his life. Arnold for a while was inexorable, but presently offered to pardon the culprit on condition that he should go and spread a panic in the camp
of St. Leger. Yan Yost joyfully consented, and started off forthwith, while his brother was detained as a hostage, to be hanged in case of his failure. To make the matter still surer, some friendly Oneidas were sent along to keep an eye upon him and act in concern with him. Next day, St. Leger's scouts, as they stole through the forest, began to hear rumours that Burgoyne had been totally defeated, and that a great American army was coming up the valley of the Mohawk. They carried back these rumours to the camp, and toward evening, while officers and soldiers were standing about in anxious consultation, Yan Yost came running in with a dozen bullet holes in his coat and terror in his face, and said that he had barely escaped with his life from the resistless American host which was close at hand. As many knew him for a Tory, his tale found ready belief, and when interrogated as to the numbers of the advancing host he gave a warning frown, and pointed significantly to the countless leaves that fluttered on the branches overhead. Nothing more was needed to complete the panic. It was in vain that Johnson and St. Leger exhorted and threatened the Indian allies. Already disaffected, they now began to desert by scores, while some, breaking open the camp chests, drank rum till they were drunk and began to assault the soldiers. All night long the camp was a perfect Pandemonium. The riot extended to the Tories, and by noon of the next day St. Leger took to flight and his whole army was dispersed. All the tents, artillery, and stores fell into
the hands of the Americans. The garrison, sallying forth, pursued St. Leger for a while, but the faithless Indians, enjoying his discomfiture, and willing to curry favour with the stronger party, kept up the chase nearly all the way to Oswego; laying ambushes every night and diligently murdering the stragglers, until hardly a remnant of an army was left to embark with its crest-fallen leader for Montreal.
The news of the catastrophe reached Burgoyne before he had had time to recover from the news of the disaster at Bennington. Burgoyne's situation was now becoming critical. Lincoln, with a strong force of militia, was hovering in his rear, while the main army before him was gaining in numbers day by day. Putnam had just sent up reinforcements from the Highlands; Washington had sent Morgan with 500 sharpshooters; and Arnold was hurrying back from Fort Stanwix. Not a word had come from Sir William Howe, and it daily grew more difficult to get provisions.
Just at that time, when everything was in readiness for the final catastrophe, General Gates arrived from Philadelphia to take command of the norther army, and reap the glory earned by other men. On the first day of August, before the first alarm occasioned by Burgoyne's advance had subsided, Congress had yielded to the pressure of Schuyler's enemies and removed him from his command; and on the following day Gates was appointed to take his place. Congress was led to take this step
through the belief that the personal hatred felt toward Schuyler by many of the New England people would prevent the enlisting of militia to support him. The events of the next fort-night showed that in this fear Congress was quite mistaken. There can now be no doubt that the appointment of the incompetent Gates was a serious blunder, which might have ruined the campaign, and did in the end occasion much trouble, both for Congress and for Washington.
Schuyler received the unwelcome news with the noble unselfishness which always characterized him. At no time did he show more zeal and diligence than during his last week of command; and on turning over the army to General Gates he cordially offered his aid, whether by counsel or action, in whatever capacity his successor might see fit to suggest. But so far from accepting the offer, Gates treated him with contumely and would not even invite him to attend his first council of war. Such silly behaviour called forth sharp criticisms from discerning people. "The new commander-in-chief of the northern department," said Gouverneur Morris, "may, if he please, neglect to ask or disdain to receive advise; but those who know him will, I am sure, be convinced that he needs it."
When Gates thus took command of the northern army, it was stationed along the western bank of the Hudson, from Stillwater down to Halfmoon, at the mouth of the Mohawk, while Burgoyne's troops were encamped along the eastern bank, some thirty miles higher up, from Fort Edwrd down to the
Battenkill. For the next three weeks no movements were made on either side; and we must now leave the two armies confronting each other in these two positions, while we turn our attention southward, and see what Sir William Howe was doing, and how it happened that Burgoyne had as yet heard nothing from him.
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