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Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair
Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair, American commander at Fort Ticonderoga.
Courtesy U. S. Army Signal Corps.
Brig. Gen. Simon Fraser
Brig. Gen. Simon Fraser, commander of Burgoyne's advance corps.
Courtesy U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Retreat of the Americans

General St. Clair at once made plans to abandon the fortress. That night, under cover of darkness, the American Army began retreating across the bridge of boats which ran from the fort to the east shore of Lake Champlain. Here the American Army split—half of it retreated by land and the other half, with the sick, wounded, and supplies, embarked on the small American fleet and sailed down South Bay to Skenesboro (Whitehall). As the secret retreat was being successfully carried out, one of the buildings in the fort caught fire, and the flames revealed to the British on the summit of Mount Defiance the events that were taking place below.

Burgoyne ordered an instant pursuit. With great speed and energy, the British general, accompanied by the English fleet and part of his army, smashed through the floating bridge, which the Americans had hoped would retard the British pursuit, and sailed swiftly down South Bay after the retreating American fleet. At the same time Burgoyne dispatched Gen. Simon Fraser, with the remaining part of the Royal Army, in pursuit of the American forces retreating by land. On the afternoon of July 6, Burgoyne, with his fleet, overtook the Americans as they neared Skenesboro and proceeded to capture and destroy all that remained of the American fleet, taking many prisoners and supplies, while the remnants of the American Army fled into the forest.

Early on the morning of July 7, General Fraser launched an attack, near Hubbardton, Vt., on the rear guard of the section of the American Army that was retreating by land. After a fierce battle the American force was totally routed and dispersed over the mountains. Near Fort Ann, on July 8, the British also defeated a third force of American troops. Everywhere, then, the American armies were in full retreat before the advance of Burgoyne's triumphant army. Also there now swarmed ahead of the Royal Army great numbers of savage Indian warriors, terrorizing the settlers of the Hudson Valley.

By taking Fort Ticonderoga, Burgoyne had opened the gateway to the Hudson, destroyed the American fleet on Lake Champlain, captured great quantities of supplies, and taken many prisoners as well as 128 American cannon; all at a loss of less than 200 men. George III was so exultant over the news from Ticonderoga that he is said to have exclaimed: "I have beat them! I have beat all the Americans!" The fall of this fortress proved a severe shock to the American morale and served further to increase British contempt for the character of colonial resistance.

Although the roads far to the south were jammed with long lines of wagons, horses, and men of the retreating American Army and with the families of frightened settlers as they fled before the invading army, Gen. Philip Schuyler, the American commander of the Northern Department, had not yet given up the struggle. He concentrated the remnants of the fleeing American forces at Fort Edward, and from there he dispatched hundreds of axmen to fell trees, blocking the roads to the north. Bridges were destroyed, crops burned, and cattle and horses driven off along the route of the British advance. Marching 23 miles overland from Skenesboro through Fort Ann to Fort Edward on the Hudson, Burgoyne encountered innumerable delays because of the rough nature of the country and the effective retarding tactics adopted by General Schuyler. It was not until July 30 that the Royal Army was finally able to reach Fort Edward, 23 days after the battle of Hubbardton. This was an average advance of only 1 mile a day.

On his arrival at Fort Edward the British commander found himself confronted with a new problem. His Indian allies had driven off friend and foe alike, and, in territory where Burgoyne had expected to receive aid and support, he found only abandoned homes and fields. With an army of some 8,500 men, 39 remaining bronze cannon, 1,700 baggage and artillery horses, and 200 head of oxen to supply, and faced with a countryside devastated by his Indians and his foe, the British commander found it necessary to bring practically all of his provisions from Canada. This operation required the utmost efforts of his army, and it was mid-September before Burgoyne could bring forward sufficient supplies to enable him to cross the Hudson at Saratoga.


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