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Fort Ticonderoga Victory at Saratoga

army, st, clair, lake, defiance, mount and forces

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The outlook for the Colonial army in the summer of 1777 was a very gloomy one. The soldiers were but half clothed, half fed and almost ready to disband. This condition of affairs moved the British to greater efforts, hoping thereby to stamp out the rebellion at once. They set about to divide the colonies by a line of English fortresses going up the Hudson, thence by Lake George and Lake Champlain to the St. Lawrence river. General Burgoyne's army was already in Canada and he was instructed to march south by the lakes and unite with St. Henry Clinton's army which was to pass up the Hudson from New York. This, we need scarcely add, would have hopelessly divided the colonies, and by stop ping all communications between them, would probably have compelled our armies to disband. Ticonderoga, the same which Ethan Allan had captured , and which Francis Park man calls the "School ground of the American Revolution," was then in possession of the Colonists and is situated be tween Lake Champlain and Lake George. The tenure of this post by the American army prevented a confluence of Bur goyne's forces marching south, with those of Clinton march ing north. A quarrel between Generals Schuyler and Gates necessitated a new commander. Congress, perhaps because of St. Clair's newly won laurels, though some of his biograph ers say, to sacrifice him, sent him to take command of Ticon deroga and hold it at all hazzards. He was given two thous and two hundred men in all, a force that was entirely inade quate, though it was probably all that the weak army could furnish.

Many victories in the Revolution were won by taking desperate chances, and no one was more willing to make the sacrifice, with even the slightest hope of success, than St. Clair. Burgovne's army came down the lake and attacked Ticonderoga in June, 1777. Near by was a high, rocky pro montory since called Mount Defiance, which overlooked and practically commanded the fort. This was inaccessible to the Continental army because of their weakness, and moreover, St. Clair's army was too small to occupy and hold Ticonder oga and Mount Defiance both. General Arnold a few months before this had asked for not less than twenty thousand men to hold it. Burgoyne found that he could not capture Ticon deroga without fortifying Mount Defiance. He therefore, by

means of ropes and tackle, hoisted cannon to its crest and placed there sufficient arms and men to overcome the fort below. The French English and American officers had all regarded Mount Defiance as inaccessible to heavy artillery, but now the top of the mountain bristled with. English guns.

St. Clair and his officers agreed at once that against such a fortification even ten thousand men could not hold Ticond eroga and that his army must either retreat or be captured. The army retreated the following night going towards Hub bardton and Castleton, thirty miles away. The British fol lowed them and several small engagements ensued in which St. Clair lost heavily. But to follow his divided forces Bur goyne was compelled to divide his army. As St. Clair's men retreated they blocked the way with deep ditches, destroyed bridges, fallen timber, etc., making it still more difficult to pursue them. St. Clair's soldiers formed a nucleus to which Generals Horatio Gates and Arnold added their forces and all under Gates attacked Burgoyne. Clinton's army, with provisions, was delayed in its journey up the Hudson, and in the meantime the forces under Gates were increased daily by hardy volunteers so that in a few weeks the entire army of Burgoyne, waiting for Clinton's tardy relief, was forced to surrender at the battle of Saratoga, though Clinton was then less than fifty miles away. Creasy has seen fit to include this as one of the Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World's History.

Reporting the surrender of Ticonderoga and the retreat, St. Clair wrote these words : "I knew I could save my reputa tion by sacrificing the army ; hut were I to do so, I should forfeit that which the world could not restore and which it cannot take away, the approbation of my own conscience." On July 14th, before Burgoyne's victory, he wrote to Con gress, "I have the most sanguine hopes that the progress of the enemy will be checked and I may yet have the satisfac tion to experience, that by abandoning a post I have eventu ally saved a state." This proves almost conclusively that St. Clair foresaw a brilliant victory over the English and was willing to sacrifice himself, if by so doing he could save his army from capture and thus assist in bringing about the great victory.

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