Battle of Ticonderoga


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Battle of Ticonderoga

During the French and Indian Wars

Ticonderoga, OPERATIONS AT. In the summer of 1758 the Marquis de Montcalm occupied the fortress of Ticonderoga, on Lake Champlain, with about 4,000 men, French and Indians. General Abercrombie personally commanded the expedition designed to capture this fortress, and at the beginning of July he had assembled at the head of Lake George about 7,000 regulars, nearly 9,000 provincials, and a heavy train of artillery. The army moved (July 5) down the lake in 900 bateaux and 125 whale-boats, and spent the night at a place yet known (as then named) as Sabbath-day Point. At dawn they landed at the foot of the lake, about 4 miles from Ticonderoga. The whole country was covered with a dense forest, and tangled morasses lay in the way of the English. Led by incompetent guides, they were soon bewildered; and while in that condition the right column, led by Lord Howe, was suddenly attacked by a small French force. A sharp skirmish ensued. The French were repulsed with a loss of 148 men made prisoners. At the first fire Lord Howe was killed, when the greater part of the troops fell back in confusion to the landingplace. From the prisoners Abercrombie learned that a reinforcement for Montcalm was approaching. He was also told of the strength of the garrison and the condition of the fortress; but the information, false and deceptive, induced him to press forward to make an immediate attack on the fort without his artillery. This was a fatal mistake. The outer works were easily taken, but the others were guarded by abatis and thoroughly manned. Abercrombie ordered his troops to scale the works in the face of the enemy's fire (July 8), when they were met by insuperable obstacles. After a bloody conflict of four hours, the assailants were compelled to fall back to Lake George, leaving about 2,000 men dead or wounded in the forest. Abercrombie then hastened to his camp at the head of the lake. The loss of the French was inconsiderable.

The 1759 Campaign and Expedition

Pitt conceived a magnificent plan for the campaign of 1759, the principal feature of which was the conquest of all Canada, and so ending the puissance of France in America. Abercrombie, who had been unsuccessful, was superseded by General Sir Jeffrey Amherst in the command of the British forces in America in the spring of 1759. The new commander found 20,000 provincial troops at his disposal. A competent land and naval force was sent from England to cooperate with the Americans. The plan of operations against Canada was similar to that of Phipps and Winthrop in 1690. A powerful land and naval force, under General James Wolfe, were to ascend the St. Lawrence and attack Quebec. Another force, under Amherst, was to drive the French from Lake Champlain, seize Montreal, and join Wolfe at Quebec; and a third expedition, under General Prideaux, was to capture Fort Niagara, and then hasten down Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence to Montreal. Amherst appeared before Ticonderoga (July 22, 1759) with about 11,000 men. The French commander had just heard, by Indian runners, of the arrival of Wolfe before Quebec (June 27), and immediately prepared to obey a summons to surrender. The garrison left their outer lines on the 23d and retired within the fort, and three days afterwards, without offering any resistance, they abandoned that also, partially demolished it, and fled to Crown Point. That, too, they abandoned, and fled down the lake to the Isle aux Noix, in the Sorel. Amherst pursued them only to Crown Point.

Battle Map of Ticonderoga

1777 Map of the Battle of Ticonderoga

Ticonderoga in the Revolutionary War

When, in 1775, it became apparent that war was inevitable, the importance of the strong fortresses of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, on Lake Champlain, and their possession, became subjects of earnest consultation among patriots. The subject was talked of in the Connecticut legislature after the affair at Lexington, and several gentlemen formed the bold design of attempting their capture by surprise. With this view, about forty volunteers set out for Bennington to engage the cooperation of Ethan Allen, a native of Connecticut, and the leader of the GREEN MOUNTAIN BOYS. He readily seconded their views. They had been joined at Pittsfield, Massachusetts, by Colonels Easton and Brown, with about forty followers. Allen was chosen the leader after the whole party reached Castleton, at twilight, on May 7. Colonel Easton was chosen to be Allen's lieutenant, and Seth Warner, of the Green Mountain Boys, was made third in command. At Castleton Colonel Arnold joined the party. He had heard the project spoken of in Connecticut just as he was about to start for Cambridge. He proposed the enterprise to the Massachusetts committee of safety, and was commissioned a colonel by the Provincial Congress, and furnished with means and authority to raise not more than 400 men in western Massachusetts and lead them against the forts. On reaching Stockbridge, he was disappointed in learning that another expedition was on the way. He hastened to join it, and claimed the right to the chief command by virtue of his commission. It was emphatically refused. He acquiesced, but with a bad grace.

On the evening of the 9th they were on the shore of Lake Champlain, opposite Ticonderoga, and at dawn the next morning the officers and eighty men were on the beach a few rods from the fortress, sheltered by a bluff. A boy familiar with the fort was their guide. Following him, they ascended stealthily to the sally-port, where a sentinel snapped his musket and retreated into the fort, closely followed by the invaders, who quickly penetrated to the parade. With a tremendous shout the New Englanders awakened the sleeping garrison, while Allen ascended the outer staircase of the barracks to the chamber of the commander (Captain Delaplace), and beating the door with the handle of his sword, cried out with his loud voice, " I demand an instant surrender!" The captain rushed to the door, followed by his trembling wife. He knew Allen, and recognized him. " Your errand ?" demanded the commander. Pointing to his men, Allen said, "I order you to surrender." "By what authority do you demand it?" inquired Delaplace. "By the authority of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!" answered Allen, with emphasis, at the same time flourishing his broadsword over the head of the terrified commander. Delaplace surrendered the fort and its dependencies, and a large quantity of precisely such munitions of war as the colonists needed - 120 iron cannon, fifty swivels, two mortars, a howitzer, a coehorn, a large quantity of ammunition and other stores, and a warehouse full of naval munitions, with forty-eight men, women, and children, who were sent to Hartford. Two days afterwards Colonel Seth Warner made an easy conquest of Crown Point.

Burgoyne's Capture on Fort Ticonderoga

In June, 1777, with about 7,000 men, Lieutenant - General Burgoyne left St. Johns, on the Sorel, in vessels, and moved up Lake Champlain. His army was composed of British and German regulars, Canadians and Indians. The Germans were led by Major-General Baron de Riedesel, and Burgoyne's chief lieutenants were Major-General Phillips and Brigadier - General Fraser. The invading army (a part of it on land) reached Crown Point, June 26, and menaced Ticonderoga, where General St. Clair was in command. The garrison there, and at Mount Independence opposite, did not number in the aggregate more than 3,500 men, and not more than one in ten had a bayonet; while the invaders numbered between 8,000 and' 9,000, including a reinforcement of Indians, Tories, and a splendid train of artillery. There were strong outposts around Ticonderoga, but St. Clair had not men enough to man them. On the 29th Burgoyne issued a grandiloquent proclamation to the people, and on July 1 moved against the fort. He secured important points near it, and finally planted a battery on a hill 700 feet above the fort, since known as Mount Defiance. The battery there made Ticonderoga absolutely untenable, and a council of war determined to evacuate it. On the evening of July 5, invalids, stores, and baggage were sent off in boats to Skenesboro (afterwards Whitehall); and at 2 A.M. on the 6th the troops left the fort silently, and withdrew to Mount Independence across a bridge of boats. Thence they began a flight southwards through the forests of Vermont before daylight. The movement was discovered by the British by the light of a building set on fire on Mount Independence, and pursuit was immediately begun. The Americans lost at Ticonderoga a large amount of military stores and provisions, and nearly 200 pieces of artillery.

While Burgoyne was pressing down the valley of the upper Hudson towards Albany, General Lincoln, in command of troops eastward of that river, attempted to recover Ticonderoga and other posts in the rear of the invaders. On September 13, 1777, he detailed Colonel John Brown with 500 men for the purpose. Brown landed at the foot of Lake George, and by quick movements surprised all the posts between that point and Fort Ticonderoga, 4 miles distant. He took possession of Mount Defiance and Mount Hope, the old French lines, 200 bateaux, several gunboats, an armed sloop with 290 prisoners, besides releasing 100 American prisoners. He then proceeded to attempt the capture of Ticonderoga and Mount Independence opposite, but it was found impracticable, and abandoned the enterprise and rejoined Lincoln.



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