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Destruction of American Vessels at Skenesborough. Flight of the Americans toward Fort Anne. Major Skene.
icans buried the body in the rear of the house, and, embarking on board a schooner in the harbor, belonging to Skene, they sailed down the lake to join Allen at Shoreham." A garrison was stationed at Skenesborough in 1776, and there the vessels of the little fleet which Arnold commanded in an action on the lake, below Crown Point, were constructed and partially armed. The Americans strengthened the military works there, and made it quite a strong post. This was the stipulated point for rendezvous of the army under St. Clair, on its retreat from Ticonderoga in 1777. I have already observed that those who escaped by water were unsuspicious of pursuit, and that the flotilla was scarcely moored at Skenesborough before the frigates appeared and attacked the galleys. Two of them were captured, and the other three were blown up. Unsupported by the feeble garrison at Skenesborough or by detachments from the army retreating by land,” and conscious of the futility of contention with such a force as Burgoyne presented, the Americans abandoned their bateaux, set fire to them, together with the fort, mills, block-houses, &c., and fled toward the camp of General Schuyler at Fort Edward.” At Fort Anne they were joined by a few other troops sent forward with provisions and ammunition by General Schuyler, but it was a feeble reenforcement, for he had with him at Fort Edward only about seven hundred Continentals and fifteen hundred militia. The supplies which he sent so reduced the ammunition and stores of his garrison, that they were several days without lead, except a small quantity which they received from Albany, and which was obtained by stripping the windows. The troops borne by the flotilla under Burgoyne, and those that marched from Ticonderoga in pursuit of the Americans, conjoined at Skenesborough, where the British commander resolved to make thorough preparations for pushing forward to the Hudson River. He was informed by the people at Skenesborough that the Americans were retreating toward Fort Edward. Lieutenant-colonel Hill, of the ninth regiment, was sent forward on the 7th to take post at Fort Anne and watch the movements of the republicans. The rest of the British army were encamped at Skenesborough and vicinity, where they remained nearly three weeks, while detachments were repairing the roads and bridges, and constructing new ones on the way to Fort Anne. Burgoyne and his staff were entertained at the mansion of Major Skene, whose familiarity with the country and the people caused him to be introduced into the military family of the commander. He was considered a valuable acquisition, but the result proved otherwise. He advised the disastrous expedition to Bennington, and accompanied the enemy there. He was personally known to many of the Americans engaged in that affair, who made great efforts to capture him alive. Four horses were shot under him, but, mounting a fifth, he made his escape, although the poor animal fell and expired from the effects of a shot, after carrying his rider beyond the reach of his foes. Skene was with Burgoyne when his army surrendered at Saratoga. He dared not return home under his parole, but went to England. He ordered his house to be burned, to prevent its falling into the hands of the Americans. His lands were confiscated and sold by the state," and soon after the Revolution the name of Skenesborough was repudiated by the people, and that of Whitehall substituted. Hardly a vestige of the Revolution
* See Reverend Lewis Kellogg's Historical Discourse, Whitehall, 1847. * At Castleton St. Clair was informed of the approach of Burgoyne by water, and, instead of marching to Skenesborough, he struck off into the woods on the left, fearing that he might be intercepted by the enemy at Fort Anne. * General Mattoon, late of Amherst, Massachusetts, was a subaltern in the American convoy. According to his account, there were then only four houses at Skenesborough, besides those belonging to Skene. While he was in one of them, occupied by a French family, and just in the act of partaking of some refreshments, a cannon-ball from the enemy's fleet entered, crushed the table, and scattered the victuals in all directions over the room.—Kellogg's Discourse, p. 6. * The place was very unhealthy at that time. The mortality from sickness among the troops stationed there during the Revolution was fearful; and so bad was the reputation of Whitehall in this particular at the close of the war, that, when the lands of Skene were offered for sale, no competitor appeared, and 29,000 acres were struck off at the first offer of £14 10s. to an agent of the purchasers, John Williams, Joseph Stringham, and John Murray.—Kellogg's Discourse, p. 14. A remarkable case of longevity occurred near Whitehall. Henry Francisco, a native of England, died
Whitehall in 1814. Ride to Fort Anne Village. Site of the Fort. Present Appearance of the Locality.
is now left there. When another war was waged against us by the same enemy, in 1812, this was again the theater of hostile preparations. The block-house within the old fort was repaired, furnished with artillery, and garrisoned for the defense of the place. Intrenchments and a magazine were constructed on an island a few hundred yards north of the village, and barracks were erected on the brow of the hill west of Church Street, the remains of which have but recently been demolished. The American fleet engaged in september n, the battle of Plattsburgh, with the vessels captured from the enemy in that en- 1814. gagement, were anchored in the harbor at Whitehall soon after that event; and the remains of some of the vessels of both nations may now be seen decaying together in the lake, a short distance from the harbor. After breakfast, on the morning of our arrival at Whitehall, I rode to Fort Anne Augues. Village, eleven miles south, accompanied by the editor of the “Democrat,” whose 1848. kind attentions and free communications of valuable knowledge concerning historical localities in the vicinity contributed much to the pleasure and instruction of the journey thither. It is a pleasant little village, situated upon a gently undulating plain near the junction of Wood Creek and East Creek, and exhibited a charming picture of quiet and prosperity. There I found a venerable kinsman, nearly eighty years of age, who, in the vigor of manhood, fifty years ago, purchased an extensive tract of land in this then almost unbroken wilderness.” His dwelling, store-house, and barns occupy the site of Fort Anne, the only traces of which
SITE of Fort ANNE.3
are the stumps of the strong pine pickets with which it was stockaded. It was built by the English, under General Nicholson, in 1757, two years after the construction of Fort Edward. It was a small fortress, and was never the scene of any fierce hostility. Although ninety years had elapsed since its pickets were set in the ground, what remained of them
near there in November, 1820, aged one hundred and thirty-four years. He was present at the coronation of Queen Anne, March 8th, 1702. He served in the French wars and in the Revolution, and lived in this country nearly ninety years.
* D. S. Murray, Esq.
* William A. Moore, Esq., president of the Whitehall Bank.
* This view is from the bridge which crosses Wood Creek, looking south. The distant building on the right is the dwelling of Mr. Moore. Nearer is his store-house, and on the left are his out-houses. The stumps of the pickets may be traced in a circular line from his dwelling along the road to the crook in the fence, and so on to the barns and in their yards.
Putnam and Rogers near Fort Anne. Ambush of French and Indians. Desperate Battle. Perilous Situation of Putnam.
exhibited but slight tokens of decay, and the odor of turpentine was almost as strong and fresh when one was split as if it had been planted but a year ago. August, About a mile northwest of Fort Anne is the place where a severe battle was 1758, fought between a corps of five hundred Rangers, English and provincials, under Putnam and Rogers, and about the same number of French and Indians, under the famous partisan Molang. Putnam and Rogers were sent by Abercrombie to watch the enemy in the neighborhood of Ticonderoga. When they arrived at South Bay, an expansion of Lake Champlain near Whitehall, the two leaders separated, taking with them their respective divisions, but, being discovered by the watchful Molang, they deemed it expedient to reunite and return immediately to Fort Edward. Their troops were marched in three divisions, the right commanded by Rogers, the left by Putnam, and the center by Captain Dalzell (sometimes written D'Ell). They halted at evening on the border of Clear River, a fork of Wood Creek before its junction with East Creek, and within a mile of Fort Anne. Early in the morning, while the lines were forming, Major Rogers, regardless of the teachings of the Ranger's great virtue, precaution, amused himself by firing at a target with a British officer. The sound reached the vigilant ears of Molang and his Indian allies, who, unknown to the Americans, were then encamped within a mile of them. He had been searching for the Rangers to intercept them, and the firing was a sure guide. His men were posted in ambush along the paths which he knew they must take, and as the Americans, just at sunrise, emerged from a dense thicket into the open woods, Molang and his followers fell upon them with great fury. Rogers seemed to be appalled by the fierce onslaught and fell back, but Putnam and Dalzell sustained their position and returned the fire. The conflict became desperate. At length Putnam's fusee missed fire when the muzzle was within a few inches of the breast of a giant savage, who thrust it aside and fell upon the major with the fierceness of a panther, made him prisoner, bound him firmly to a tree, and then returned to the battle. Captain Dalzell now assumed the command. The provincials fell back a little, but, rallying, the fight continued with great vigor. The tree to which Putnam was bound was about midway between the combatants, and he stood in the center of the hottest fire of both, utterly unable to move body or limb, so firmly had the savage secured him. His garments were riddled by bullets, but not one touched his person. For an hour he remained in this horrible position, until the enemy were obliged to retreat, when he was unbound and carried off by his savage captors." - - - - Wounded, exhausted, and dispirited, MAJon IshAEL PUTNAM IN BRITISH UNIForM. Putnam was forced to make a weary from an old picture in the possession of rentleman in New London, connecteur march over a rough country, led on by
* At one time, when the provincials fell back, and the Indians were near him, a young warrior amused himself by trying his skill in throwing his tomahawk as near Putnam's head as possible without hitting him. When he was tired of his amusement, a French subaltern, more savage than the Indian, leveled his musket at Putnam's breast, but it missed fire. The major claimed the consideration due to a prisoner of war, but the barbarous Frenchman was unmoved, and, after striking him a violent blow upon his cheek with the butt end of his musket, left him to die, as he thought.
Humanity of Putnam's Captor. Preparation for Torture. Interposition of Molang. Battle-ground near Fort Anne.
the savages, who had tied cords so tightly around his wrists that his hands were swollen and dreadfully tortured. He begged for release either from the pain or from life. A French officer interposed and unbound the cords; and just then his captor came up, and, with a sort of savage humanity, supplied him with moccasins, and expressed great indigmation because of the harsh treatment his prisoner had endured. I say savage humanity, for it was present kindness, exercised while a dark and atrocious intention for the future made the Indian complaisant—the prisoner was reserved for the stake, and all those exquisite tortures with which savage cruelty imbitters the death of its victims. Deep in the forest he was stripped naked, and with green withes was bound fast to a sapling. The wood was piled high around him, and the wild death-songs of the savages, mingled with fierce yells, were chanted. The torch was applied, and the crackling flame began to curl around the fagots, when a black cloud, that for an hour had been rising in the west, poured down such a volume of water that the flames were nearly extinguished. But they burst forth again in fiercer intensity, and Putnam lost all hope of escape, when a French officer dashed through the crowd of savages, scattered the burning wood, and cut the cords of the victim. It was Molang himself. Some relenting savage had told him of the horrid orgies in the forest, and he flew to the rescue of Putnam, just in time to save him. After enduring much suffering, he was delivered to Montcalm at Ticonderoga, and by him sent to Montreal, where he experienced great kindness from Colonel Peter Schuyler, a fellow-prisoner, through whose influence he was exchanged for a prisoner taken by Colonel Bradstreet at Fort Frontenac." About three fourths of a mile north of Fort Anne is a narrow, rocky defile, through which Wood Creek and the Champlain Canal flow and the rail-road is laid. Art has widened the defile by excavation, and cultivation has swept away much of the primitive forest. Here in this rocky gorge, then just wide enough for the stream and a narrow pathway, a severe
BATTLE-Gaound NEAR Font ANNE.”
engagement occurred between the ninth British regiment, under Lieutenant-colonel Hill, and a detachment of Americans, under Colonel Long. This officer, with about five July a hundred republicans, principally of the invalids and convalescents of the army, was ". posted at Fort Anne by General Schuyler, with directions to defend it. Warned of the approach of the enemy, Colonel Long prepared not only for defense, but to go out and meet him. The Americans fit for duty were mustered, and early in the morning they marched up to the southern edge of the defile. “At half past ten in the morning,” said Major
* See Humphrey's and Peabody's Biographies of Putnam.
* This sketch was taken from the rail-road, looking north. The forest upon the left is the “thick wood” of the Revolution, but on the right cultivated fields have taken the place of the forest to a considerable extent. On the right is seen the Champlain Canal, here occupying the bed of Wood Creek. . The fence on the left indicates the place of the public road between Fort Anne and Whitehall. When this sketch was made (1848) the rail-road was unfinished.
Battle near Fort Anne. Return to Whitehall. Visit to “Putnam's Rock." View of the Scene.
Forbes in his testimony on the trial of Burgoyne, “they attacked us in front with a heavy and well-directed fire; a large body of them passed the creek on the left, and fired from a thick wood across the creek on the left flank of the regiment; they then began to recross the creek and attack us in the rear; we then found it necessary to change our ground, to prevent the regiment being surrounded; we took post on a high hill to our right. As soon as we had taken post, the enemy made a very vigorous attack, which continued upward of two hours; and they certainly would have forced us, had it not been for some Indians that arrived and gave the Indian hoop, which we answered with three cheers; the rebels soon after that gave way.” The major's facts are correct, but his inferences are wide of the mark. The Americans were not frightened by the Indian war-hoop, for it was a sound very familiar to their ears, but they “gave way” because their ammunition gave out. Had Colonel Long been well supplied with powder and ball, the British troops would have been destroyed or made prisoners. Captain Montgomery, of Hill's regiment, was severely wounded and captured by the Americans, who, when they gave way, set fire to Fort Anne and retreated to the headquarters of General Schuyler at Fort Edward. We returned to Whitehall toward evening. The ride was delightful through a country ever-changing and picturesque, particularly when approaching the lake. On the left rise the lofty summits of the hills on Lake George; on the east those of Vermont and Massachusetts; and down the lake, northward, Mount Defiance may be plainly seen. After an early evening meal, I procured a water-man and his boat, and, accompanied by my traveling companion and Mr. M., proceeded to “Put's Rock,” near “ the Elbow,” a mile from the landing, and near the entrance of South Bay.” The lake is here very narrow, and the shores on either |-- side are abrupt, rocky, and wooded. It was - about sunset when we arrived at the scene of * Putnam's exploit, and the deep shadows that gathered upon the western shore, where the famous ledge is situated, heightened the picturesque character of the scenery and the force ) of the historical associations which lionize the spot. Upon the rough ledge of rocks seen on the right of the picture Major Putnam and fifty men boldly opened a musket battery upon about five hundred French and Indian warriors under the famous Molang, who were in canoes upon the water.” This event occurred a few days previous to the unfortunate battle
WIEw at PUTNAM's Rock.
Burgoyne's State of the Expedition, &c., p. 81.
* Here I will correct a serious geographical error which I find in Peabody's Life of Putnam. He says, “Abercrombie ordered Major Putnam to proceed with fifty men to South Bay, in Lake George.” Again, “The detachment marched to Wood Creek, near the point where it flows into South Bay.” South Bay is in Lake Champlain, and Wood Creek does not flow into it at all. See note respecting Wood Creek, ante, page 137.
* The view is taken from the Vermont shore, where rafts of timber and piles of lumber (as seen on the left) betoken the chief article of commerce here. The ledge of rocks, which rises about fourteen feet in height, is on the New York side. From the perpendicular point, rugged and broken, there is a gentle slope thickly covered with timber and shrubbery, and affording an excellent place for an ambuscade. The small trees in the distance mark the point at the Elbow, and the hill beyond is a portion of Skene's Mountain, which overlooks the harbor at Whitehall.