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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 300 and 400 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 prevented.
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; bu 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 General Burgoyne's van, General 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 second 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, General 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 Reidesel occupied the eastern bank of the channel, and sent forward a detachment to the vicinity of the rivulet which flows from Mount Independence. General Burgoyne now labored assiduously in bringing forward his artillery and completing his communications. On the 5th of the month he caused Sugar Hill to be examined ; and, being informed that the ascent, though difficult, was not impracti. cable, 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 way. General 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 toward Skenesborough. The garrisons of Ticonderoga and Mount Independence marched by land through Castletown, toward 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.
General Burgoyne instantly resolved on a rapid pursuit. Commodore Lutwych began to cut the boom, and break down the bridge between Ticonderoga and Mount Independence; and so great was his activity that, although the Americans had labored ten months on the work, he opened a passage for his fleet by nine in the morning.
A number of gun-boats, under Captain Carter, were detached in pursuit of that part of the American force which had retreated up South river; and they proceeded with such rapidity, that at three in the afternoon they overtook the retreating enemy, brought them to action near the falls of Skenesborough, took two of their five galleys, and compelled them to burn the other three and their boats. At Skenesborough the Americans did not long remain ; for understanding that General Burgoyne, who with part of his army had sailed up the South river in boats, had landed at South bay, below Skenesborough, they set fire to the works, and, without any considerable loss of men, retreated to Fort Ann, higher up Wood creek. But they lost all their baggage, and a great quantity of provisions and military stores, which were either destroyed by themselves or taken by the British.
The operations against the main body of the garrison, which retreated by land, were not less active. General Frazer, at the head of a body of grenadiers and light infantry, pursued them; and was supported by General Reidesel. General St. Clair, convinced that his safety lay in the rapidity of his movements, marched with great diligence, and in the evening of the day on which he abandoned the forts reached Castletown, thirty miles from Ticonderoga; but his rear-guard, consisting of 1,200 men, under Colonel Warner, on account of fatigue, halted at Hubbardtown, six miles behind the rest of the army.
On the evening of the 6th of July, General Frazer arrived near Hubbardtown; and being informed that the rear of the enemy was at no great distan;e, b x
dered his men to lie on their arms during the night. On the morning of the 7th he renewed the pursuit, and soon overtook the American rear-guard, under Colonel Warner, who, besides his own regiment, had with him those of Colonels Francis and Hale. But Hale fled without fighting; and afterward falling in with a small party of British troops, he surrendered himself and such of his men as adhered to him prisoners. By this defection Warner could bring only about 700 men into action. Frazer began the attack about seven in the morning, and the conflict was severe and sanguinary. Colonel Francis fell, fighting bravely at the head of his regiment; but the battle was obstinately maintained till the arrival of General Reidesel with a reinforcement, when the Americans fled with precipitation.
St. Clair, who was at Castletown, six miles distant, heard the firing when it began, and ordered two regiments of militia, which were nearest the scene of action, to support Colonel Warner ; but, instead of obeying the order, those regiments sought safety in flight, and left Warner to his fate. In this encounter the Americans lost 324 men in killed, wounded, and prisoners ; the royal troops had 183 men killed or wounded.
While St. Clair lay at Castletown, an officer from one of the American galleys informed him that the British were hastening forward to Skenesborough, and would reach that place before him. He therefore entered the woods on his left, and pursued his way to Fort Edward, where, after a fatiguing march, in which his troops suffered much from bad weather and want of provisions, he joined General Schuyler on the 12th of July. Two days after leaving Castle
Colonel Hill, with the 9th regiment, was ordered to pursue the American detachment under Colonel Long, which had retreated up Wood Creek from Skenesborough to Fort Ann: two other regiments were afterward directed to support him. Colonel Long attacked Colonel Hill, and a severe skirmish ensued; but, being informed of the approach of the reinforcement to Colonel Hill, the Americans set fire to the works at Fort Ann, and retreated to Fort Edward.
Thus, in the course of a few days after the commencement of active operations, General Burgoyne made himself master of Ticonderoga and Mount Independence, drove the republicans from Lakes Champlain and George, and compelled them to seek shelter behind the Hudson.
The evacuation of Ticonderoga and Mount Independence was an event entirely unexpected by the Americans, and spread surprise and alarm throughout the provinces, particularly those of New England, which were exposed to the most immediate danger. St. Clair was generally blamed, but on inquiry was acquitted, although the Americans were not too indulgent to their unsuccessful officers. His garrison was much weaker than had been commonly supposed; and the circumstances of the retreat show that a considerable number of his troops were of the worst quality ; but amid the agitation and alarm occasioned by the abandonment of posts on the lakes, none of the people manifested a disposition to submit to British authority.
General Schuyler was on his way to Ticonderoga; but at Stillwater he was informed of the evacuation of the fort ; and at Saratoga, on the same day, he learned the total loss of the stores at Skenesborough. Amid this disastrous in