« PreviousContinue »
Burgoynes Arrival in Canada. His Preparations for the Campaign. Appointment of General Schuyler to the Command.
American affairs, made a most egregious blunder. Sir Guy Carleton, then Governor of Canada, and perfectly acquainted with the people and country, should have been placed in command. Burgoyne was almost totally ignorant of the Canadians and Indians, who formed a large part of his force, and he knew absolutely nothing of the true character and temper of the people he was sent to oppose and oppress. Burgoyne arrived at Quebec in March, 1777, bearing the commission of a lieutenant general. Carleton, though greatly aggrieved, nobly aided Burgoyne in preparing the expedition. By extraordinary activity, vessels were constructed, stores were collected, and a force of more than seven thousand men was mustered at St. John's, at the foot of Lake Champlain, on the first of June. Lieutenant Colonel St. Leger, with a detachment of seven hundred Rangers, was sent up the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario to Oswego, to penetrate the country from that point, arouse and conciliate the Indians, capture Fort Schuyler," sweep the valley of the Mohawk with the aid of Johnson and his Tories, and join Burgoyne at Albany when Lake Champlain and the valley of the Upper Hudson should lie prostrate at his feet. As soon as Congress perceived the storm that was gathering on the northern frontier, they felt the necessity of prompt action and the services of an influential commander. Fear, loyalty, British gold, would undoubtedly lead the van of the invading army, and none but a wise and tried man could quiet the alarm of the people and command the fidelity of the militia. Philip Schuyler,” a gentleman of fortune, and possessed of military skill, experience, sound judgment, prudent service to the colony
forethought, and lofty patriotism, was reappointed to the command of the forces of the north, in which position he had been superseded, in effect, a few weeks before, by Horatio Gates, the Adjutant General of the Continental army. No appointment could have been more popular with the people of Northern New York, who were in a state of great excitement and alarm. In the late campaigns against the French and Indians upon Lakes George and Champlain, he had rendered essential
and to the people of
* Fort Schuyler stood at the head of boat navigation, on the Mohawk, where the village of Rome now
is. It was erected in 1758, and was then called Fort Stanwix.
It was repaired in 1776, and named
Fort Schuyler, in honor of General Schuyler, in whose military department it was located.
* General Philip Schuyler was born at Albany, on the 22d of November, 1733. Schuyler, was Mayor of Albany, and commander of the northern militia in 1690.
His grandfather, Peter His father, John Schuy
ler, married Cornelia Van Courtlandt, a woman of strong mind, and Philip was their eldest son. By virtue of primogeniture law, he inherited the real estate of his father at his death, but he generously shared it with his brothers and sisters. His father died when Philip was young, and to the thorough training of
Schuyler and Gates. Advance of Burgoyne. Condition of the Continental Army.
nature, sought the aid of his counsel and his sword. But he encountered a smaller mind than his own, and both counsel and sword were refused. He was coldly received by the adjutant general, who was deeply offended because Congress had not allowed him to retain his command. A brave soldier always seeks the post of greatest danger; and General Schuyler, not doubting the courage or devotion of Gates, offered him the command of Ticonderoga, the point where the first conflict with Burgoyne would inevitably take place, and where the first laurels were to be won. But the pride of Gates stifled his patriotism. He refused to serve under Schuyler, and, at his own request, had leave to withdraw from the department, where, indeed, he had done literally nothing. All was terror and alarm among the inhabitants of the north, as Burgoyne victoriously swept Champlain from St. John's to Crown Point, and with his formidable force, daily aug. mented by loyalists and savage allies, prepared to beleaguer the strong fortress of Ticonderoga. Mount Hope, commanding the road to Lake George, was occupied ; the American outposts were driven in ; the lake was studded with armed vessels, and the formidable height of Mount Defiance was scaled, and artillery planted upon its very summit, seven hundred feet above the fort below. General St. Clair, who commanded the garrison, when he saw the battery above him, and the girdle of strong battalions that was closing around him, knew that resistance would be madness. Under cover of night, he retreated across to Mount Independence, and, with the small garrison there, fled toward Fort Edward by the way of Castleton and Skenesborough, leaving the stores and ammunition behind. The British eagerly pursued the flying Americans. The battle of Hubbardton, so disastrous to the patriots, was fought. The boom across the lake at Ticonderoga was broken, and a free passage made for the vessels of the enemy. They swept the lake to Skenesborough (now Whitehall), when the American works and the stores that were left became an easy prey to the invaders. The army under General Schuyler was in a wretched condition, and daily diminishing. Food, clothing, ammunition, and artillery were all wanting. The pecuniary resources and credit of Congress were daily failing, and all the future seemed dark, and foreboding of evil. The Eastern militia, sick and disheartened by late reverses, became restless and insubordi
his gifted mother he was greatly indebted for his success in life. He entered the army against the French and Indians in 1755, and commanded a company which attended Sir William Johnson to Fort Edward and Lake George. He soon attracted the attention of Lord Howe, who commanded the first division of the British army against the forts on Lake George and Lake Champlain, and was placed in the commissariat department. When Lord Howe fell at Ticonderoga, to Colonel Schuyler was intrusted the duty of conveying the body of that greatly-beloved young nobleman to Albany for sepulture. After the peace of 1763, he was much in active service in the civil government of his state. In the Colonial Assembly of New York, he was one of the warmest opponents of the British government in its attempts to tax the colonies without their consent. He was elected a delegate to the Continental Congress which assembled in May, 1775, and in June following he was appointed by that body one of the major generals (the third) of the American army. He was charged by Washington with the command of the army in the province of New York, and directed to secure the lakes and prepare for invading Canada. He was taken sick, and the command devolved on Montgomery. During 1776, he was active in Indian affairs, and in perfecting the order and discipline of the northern army. For causes quite inexplicable, he was superseded, in effect, by Gates in March, 1777, but was reinstated in May. Again, when Burgoyne drove St. Clair from Ticonderoga, and prudence caused General Schuyler to retreat with his army from Fort Edward down the Hudson River, calumny, that had successfully poisoned the minds of the Eastern people and the militia, became so clamorous for his removal, that Congress placed Gates again in charge of the army in August. Injured and insulted, the patriot still continued to devote his services and his fortune in aid of his country. He demanded a court of inquiry, and its verdict, acquitting him of all blame, conferred as much honor upon him as his successes won at Saratoga. He was urged by Washington to accept military command, but he preferred to lend his aid to his country in another way. He was a member of the old Congress under the Confederation; and after the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, he was a senator from New York, with Rufus King. He was again a senator, in place of Aaron Burr, in 1797. He died at Albany, November 18th, 1804, aged 71 years. He has two daughters still living—Elizabeth, the venerable widow of General Alexander Hamilton, and now (1849) ninety-two years of age; and Catharine, his youngest daughter, widow of the late Major Cochrane, of Oswego, son of Dr. Cochrane, the distinguished Surgeon General of the Revolutionary Army.
Retreat of Schuyler to the Mohawk. St. Leger in the Mohawk Valley. Relief of the Valley proposed by Schuyler.
nate, and nearly all of them left the army and returned home. These things were exceedingly discouraging to the commander, yet his stout heart never failed. “Should it be askJuly 24, ed,” he said, in a letter to the Albany Committee, from Moses's Creek, four miles be1777. low Fort Edward, “what line of conduct I mean to hold amid this variety of diffi. culties and distress, I would answer, to dispute every inch of ground with General Burgoyne, and retard his descent into the country as long as possible.” Burgoyne's force, in the mean while, was constantly augmented by accessions from the families of the loyal and the timid. Slowly and surely he advanced from Skenesborough to Fort Anne, and was pressing onward, in the midst of fearful obstacles, toward the Hudson. Under all these circumstances, General Schuyler thought it prudent to retreat until new recruits, or a re-enforcement from Washington, should give more strength to his army. He accordingly fell back from Fort Edward, the general rendezvous of his forces after the evac. uation of Ticonderoga, Mount Independence, and Fort George. As Burgoyne approached, the people fled, in terror and dismay, toward Albany, leaving their ripe harvest fields and pleasant homes to be trodden down or burned by the enemy. Burgoyne at length reached Fort Edward; and as he marched slowly down the valley of the Hudson, Schuyler retreated in good order to Saratoga, them to Stillwater, and finally to Cohoes' Falls. In the mean while the people in the Mohawk Valley were in the greatest consternation. St. Leger had arrived from Oswego, and was besieging Fort Schuyler, while the Tories and Indians were spreading death and desolation on every hand. Colonel Gansevoort, with a handful of men, was closely shut up in the fort; General Herkimer, with the brave militia of Tryon county, had been defeated at Oriskany, and the people below hourly expected the flood of destroyers to pour down upon them. It was a fearful emergency. Without aid all must be lost. Brave hearts were ready for bold deeds, and during a night of fearful tempest of thunder and rain, Colonel Willett and Lieutenant Stockwell crept stealthily from the fort, through groups of sleeping besiegers, beyond their lines, and at dawn on the second day, mounted upon fleet horses, sped down the valley to the headquarters of General Schuyler, at Stillwater, and, in the name of the beleaguered garrison and the people of Tryon county, implored assistance. Not a moment was to be lost. The subjugation of the whole valley would inevitably follow the surrender of Fort Schuyler, and the victors, gathering strength, would fall like an avalanche upon Albany, or, by junction, swell the approaching army of Burgoyne. The prudent foresight and far-reaching humanity of General Schuyler at once dictated his course. He called a council," and proposed sending a detachment immediately to the relief of Fort Schuyler. His officers opposed him, with the plea that his whole force was not then sufficient to stay the oncoming of Burgoyne. The clearer judgment of Schuyler made him persist in his opinion, and he earnestly besought them to agree with him. While pacing the floor in anxious solicitude, he overheard the half-whispered remark, “He means to weaken the army.” Treason in the heart of Philip Schuyler' Never was a thought more foul
* General Schuyler was then quartered in the house of Derrick Swart, Esq., at Stillwater. The house is still standing, just at the foot of the hill.—Charles Neilson, Esq.
* At this time jealousy had created secret enemies for General Schuyler, and he was even charged with being associated with St. Clair in preliminary acts of treason, about the time the latter evacuated Ticonderoga. The ridiculous story got abroad that they had been paid for their treason by the enemy in silver balls, shot from Burgoyne's guns into the American camp —See Thatcher's Military Journal, p. 86.
Note.—It will be observed that, in this rapid view of events connected with the American encampment at the mouth of the Mohawk, I have avoided all details, where, perhaps, the reader may have wished more minute information. The necessity for this course arises from the nature of the plan of my work, which is to notice in detail the various important localities, in the order in which I visited them, and not in chronological succession, as the mere historian would do. For example, I visited Cohoes' and Bemis's Heights before Fort Edward and Ticonderoga. I therefore describe the scenery and events of the former places minutely, and reserve similar minute details concerning the latter until, in the order of the narrative of my tour, I reach them. This explanation is necessary, as some might suppose that important places are to be slightly noticed, while others of less moment have an undue share of attention. I have visited all the
Volunteers for the Relief of Fort Schuyler. Position of the Americans at Cohoes. Active Preparations to oppose Burgoyne.
or charge more wicked. Wheeling suddenly toward the slanderer and those around him, and unconsciously biting into several pieces a pipe he was smoking, he indignantly exclaimed, “Gentlemen, I shall take the responsibility upon myself; where is the brigadier that will take command of the relief? I shall beat up for volunteers to-morrow.” The brave and impulsive Arnold, ever ready for deeds of daring, at once stepped forward and offered his services. The next morning the drum beat, and eight hundred stalwart men August 16 were enrolled for the service before meridian. Fort Schuyler was saved, and the 1777. forces of St. Leger scattered to the winds. In after years the recollection of those burning words of calumny always stirred the breast of the veteran patriot with violent emotions. If ever a bosom glowed with true devotion to country, it was that of Philip Schuyler. Such, in brief, were the events which placed the remnant of the main army of the north at the mouth of the Mohawk in August, 1777, and caused Van Schaick's and Haver's Islands to be fortified. That seemed to be the most eligible point at which to make a stand in defense of Albany against the approaches of the enemy from the north and from the west. Nowhere else could the comparatively feeble force of the Americans so effectually oppose the overwhelming number of the invaders. At that time there were no bridges across the Hudson or the Mohawk, and both streams were too deep to be fordable except in seasons of extreme drought. There was a ferry across the Mohawk, five miles above the falls,' and one across the Hudson at Half Moon Point,” or Waterford. The “sprouts” of the Mohawk, between the islands, were usually fordable ; and as Burgoyne would not, of course, cross the Hudson, or attempt the ferry upon the Mohawk, where a few resolute men could successfully oppose him, his path was of necessity directly across the mouth of the river. Fortifications were accordingly thrown up on the islands and upon the main land, faint traces of which are still visible. In this position, with his headquarters at Stillwater, in advance of his army, General Schuyler brought all his energies and resources into requisition for the augmentation and discipline of his troops, preparatory to a first determined conflict with Burgoyne. His private purse was freely opened,” and by unwearied exertions day and night the army rapidly improved in numbers, discipline, and spirits. His correspondence at that time with men of every degree, from the President of Congress and the commander-in-chief to subordinate officers and private gentlemen, was very extensive, all having relation to the one great wish of his heart, the checking of the progress of the British army. He addressed the civil and military authorities in every direction, urging them to assist him with men and arms. The Council of Safety, at Albany, was appealed to. “Every militia-man,” he said, “ought to turn out without delay in a crisis the most alarming since the contest began.” He appealed to the Eastern States. “If,” he said, in a letter to Governor Trumbull, of Connecticut, “the Eastern militia do not turn out with spirit and behave better, we shall be ruined.” To Washington he repeated, in substance, what he had said on the 12th of July previous. “If my countrymen will support me with vigor and dexterity, and do not meanly despond,
most important localities of the Revolution, and each in its turn, in the course of the work, will receive its full share of notice. It is my intention to give in notes, in the course of the work, brief biographical sketches of all the most important actors in our Revolutionary war, both domestic and foreign. These sketches will be introduced at points where the record exhibits the most prominent events in the life of the subject. Prominent men will, therefore, be mentioned often before a biography will be given; but the reader may rely upon finding it in the work, if a memoir can be found. * Loudon's ferry. At this place the left wing of the army rested, under the command of General Arnold. * So called from the name of Henry Hudson's ship, the Half Moon. * General Schuyler never allowed his private interest to interfere in the least degree with the public good. When the Continental army was retreating from Fort Edward, Mrs. Schuyler rode up from Albany to their beautiful country seat at Saratoga, and superintended the removal of their furniture. While there she received direction from her husband to set fire with her own hands to his extensive fields of wheat, and to request his tenants to do the same, rather than suffer them to be reaped by the enemy.—Women of the Revolution, vol. i., p. 60.
Schuyler superseded by Gates. Factions in Congress. Noble Conduct of Schuyler.
we shall be able to prevent the enemy from penetrating much further into the country.” At the same time all was life and activity in his camp. From his own state recruits were constantly filling his thinned regiments, and the heart of the patriot was cheered with the prospect of soon winning back those laurels which, by the late reverses and the events of the last campaign, had been, in a measure, stripped from his brow. But secret enemies had been for some time plotting his disgrace by poisoning the minds of the Eastern people, and raising a clamor in favor of the reinstatement of Gates, who as yet, for obvious reasons, had met with no reverses. The friends of that officer were an active faction in Congress at that time, sub rosa, but the next year were far more undisguised in favoring the scheme for giving Gates the chief command in place of Washington. We are so accustomed to look upon all the men of the Revolution who took sides with the friends of America as pure and holy in all their thoughts and actions, that we reluctantly yield to the conviction that they were ever actuated by motives less worthy and exalted than those of the loftiest patriotism. This is claiming too much for human nature. While we may award to them all that is noble and disinterested in feeling, when the good of the common cause demanded personal sacrifice and pliancy of opinion, it is folly to deny that the spirit of faction was rife among the members of the Old Continental Congress, and that selfish motives often controlled their actions. Congress, listening to the clamors from the East, the importunities of Gates's friends, and the suggestions of a false military philosophy, deprived General Schuyler of his command just as he was about to lead his troops to victory. General Gates, with his new commission, arrived at Van Schaick's on the 19th of August, three days after the battle of Bennington, a battle which, in its effect upon the British army, gave full assurance of future victory to the Americans. How nobly did the conduct of Schuyler on this occasion contrast with that of Gates a few weeks previous. On Gates's arrival, without the slightest indication of ill humor, the patriot resigned his command, communicated all the intelligence he possessed, and put every interesting paper into his hands, simply adding, “I have done all that could be done, as far as the means were in my power, to injure the enemy, and to inspire confidence in the soldiers of our own army, and, I flatter myself, with some success; but the palm of victory is denied me, and it is left to you, general, to reap the fruit of my labors. I will not fail, however, to second your views; and my devotion to my country will cause me with alacrity to obey all your orders.” “I am sensible,” he said, in a letter to Congress, “ of the indignity of being ordered from the command of the army at the time when an engagement must soon take place;” yet he preferred to suffer reproach in silence rather than allow his bleeding country to be injured by the withdrawal of a single arm from its support. Although disgraced by the act of Congress, he persevered assiduously in strengthening the army and preparing for the coming conflict. “I shall go on,” he said to Washington, “in doing my duty and endeavoring to deserve your esteem.” And when General Gates arrived, he cordially proffered his co-operation, was very active in promoting the success of the battles which soon after took place, was present at Saratoga when Burgoyne surrendered his sword, and rejoiced, because his country was the gainer, when the laurels which should have graced his brow were placed upon that of another. Warmed by such impulses, who can doubt that the bosom of the generous patriot on that day heaved with nobler pride and purer joy than that of the lauded victor?
Garden, p. 359.