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Approach of a British Re-enforcement under Phillips. View of the Battle-ground. A Lull in the Battle.
rallied his troops, and was re-enforced by four regiments under Lieutenant-colonels Brooks, Cilley, and Scammel, and Majors Dearborn and Hull) might cut the British lines and separate the two wings, he brought up the twenty-fourth regiment, some light infantry, and Breyman's riflemen, to strengthen the point of attack. The Americans made such a vigorous resistance, that the British began to give way and fall into confusion; but General Phillips, who, from his position below the heights, heard the din of conflict on the right wing of his army, hurried over the hills, through the thick woods, with fresh troops and part of the artillery under Captain Jones, and appeared upon the ground at the very moment when victory seemed within the grasp of the Americans. For an hour the republicans had disputed the ground inch by inch, but the crushing force of superior numbers pressed them back to their lines.
It was now about three o'clock. The contest suddenly ceased, but it was only the lull which precedes a more furious burst of the tempest. Each army took breath, and gathered up new energies for a more desperate conflict. They were beyond musket-shot of each other, and separated by a thick wood and a narrow clearing. Each was upon a gentle hill, one sloping toward the south, the other toward the north. The Americans were sheltered by the intervening wood; the British were within an open pine forest. The Americans stood
* This view is taken from near the house of Mr. Neilson, looking northwest. In the foreground, on the right, are seen the remains of the intrenchments which here crossed the road from Fort Neilson, the fortified log barn. The light field in the distance, toward the right of the picture, with a small house within it, is the old clearing called “Freeman's farm.” On the rising ground over the tree upon the slope, near the center of the foreground, is the place where Fraser wheeled southward to turn the right flank of the Americans. On the level ground, near the small trees on the right of the large tree upon the slope, is the place where Arnold and Fraser met and fought. On the high middle ground beyond the woods, toward the left, where several small houses are seen, the British formed their line for the second battle on the 7th of October. The detachments under Poor, Learned, and Morgan, which marched to the attack on that day, diverged from near the point seen in the foreground on the right, and marched down the slope by the sheep, across the flat. The brigade of Learned passed on where are seen the dark trees on the left. Morgan kept further to the extreme left, and Poor made a direct line across the level ground and up the hill in the direction marked by the four slender trees by the fence in the center of the picture. The range of mountains in the extreme distance borders the eastern shore of Lake George. The highest peak in the center is Buck Mountain, and that upon the extreme left is French Mountain, at the foot of which are the remains of Forts George and William Henry, at the head of Lake George.
Renewal of the Battle. Loss sustained by both Armies. The number and the particular Troops engaged.
in determined silence, and heard distinctly the voices of the officers upon the opposite hill as they gave their orders along the lines. Again the enemy made the first hostile movement, and from a powerful battery opened a terrible fire, but without effect. To this the Americans made no reply. Burgoyne then ordered the woods to be cleared by the bayonet, and soon, across the open field, column after column of infantry steadily advanced toward the patriot lines. The Americans kept close within their intrenchments until the enemy fired a volley and pressed onward to the charge, when they sprang upon their assailants with a force that drove them far back across the clearing. Like the ebbing and flowing of the tide, the contending armies alternately advanced and retreated, and for more than three hours the conflict was severe and the result doubtful. And it was not until the sun went down and darkness came upon them, that the warriors ceased their horrid strife. Even amid the gloom of evening there were furious contentions. Just at dusk, Lieutenant-colonel Marshall, with the tenth Massachusetts regiment, encountered some British grenadiers and infantry on a rise of ground a little west of Freeman's cottage, and a brisk but short action ensued." The commander of the enemy was killed, and the troops fled in confusion. Lieutenant-colonel Brooks, of the eighth Massachusetts regiment, remained upon the field until eleven o'clock at night, and in the course of the evening he had a skirmish on the extreme left with some of Breyman's riflemen, whom he knew as such only by the brass match-cases upon their breasts. He was the last to leave the field of action. The conflict at length ended. The Americans retired within their lines, and the British rested on their arms all night upon the field of battle.” The loss of the Americans was, officers included, sixty-four killed, two hundred and seventeen wounded, and thirty-eight missing; in all, three hundred and nineteen.” The British lost, in killed, wounded, and prisoners, “rather more than less than five hundred.” Both parties claimed the honor of victory. The British, it is true, remained masters, or, at least, possessors, of the field, but this was not their ultimate object. It was to advance, and that they failed to do; while the Americans were intent only upon maintaining their ground, and this they accomplished. The advantage, therefore, was certainly on the side of the republicans. Very few battles have been marked by more determined bravery and patient endurance on both sides than this. Phillips and Reidesel, who had served in the wars in Flanders and other parts of Europe, said they never knew so long and hot a fire; and Burgoyne, in his defense before Parliament, remarked, “few actions have been characterized by more obstinacy in attack or defense.” The number of Americans engaged in the action was about two thousand five hundred, and of the British about three thousand. The whole British army in camp and on the field numbered about five thousand, and that of the American about seven thousand. Although the aggregate number of killed on both sides did not exceed one hundred and fifty, the slaughter and maiming were dreadful in particular instances. Major Jones, of the British army, commanded a battery, and fell, while at his post, during the swaying to and fro of the armies across the clearing, toward evening, when several of the cannons were taken and retaken a number of times. Thirty-six out of forty-eight of his artillery-men were killed or wounded. Lieutenant Hadden was the only officer unhurt, and he had his cap shot from his head by a musket-ball while spiking the cannon. The sixty-second regiment”
At the urgent solicitation of Arnold, Gates sent out this feeble re-enforcement, which was all that was detached from the right wing during the action. Had fresh troops been supplied to support the left wing, no doubt the Americans would have gained a decided victory.
* See Gordon, Ramsay, Botta, Marshall, Sparks, Pictorial History of the Reign of George III., Stedman, Burgoyne's State of the Expedition, Thatcher, Neilson, &c.
* Report to the Board of War.
* Lieutenant-colonel Kingston, the adjutant general, before a committee of Parliament.
* The particular troops engaged in this action were, of the British, the ninth, twenty-first, sixty-second, and twentieth of Hamilton's brigade; the twenty-fourth, belonging to Fraser's brigade; Breyman's rifle
Baroness Reidesel's Notice of the Battle. Major Hull. Narrow Escape of Burgoyne. Arnold, and the Testimony of History.
of Hamilton's brigade, which consisted of six hundred when it left Canada, was so cut in pieces, that only sixty men and five officers were left capable of duty. The commander, Colonel Anstruther, and Major Harnage, were both wounded. The Baroness Reidesel, wife of General Reidesel, who accompanied her husband through this whole campaign, wrote an admirable narrative of the various events connected therewith. In relation to the battle of the 19th of September, she says, “An affair happened, which, though it turned out to our advantage, yet obliged us to halt at a place called Freeman's farm. I was an eye-witness to the whole affair, and, as my husband was engaged in it, I was full of anxiety, and trembled at every shot I heard. I saw a great number of the wounded, and, what added to the distress of the scene, three of them were brought into the house in which I took shelter. One was a Major Harnage, of the sixty-second regiment, the husband of a lady of my acquaintance; another was a lieutenant, married to a lady with whom I had the honor to be on terms of intimacy; and the third was an officer by the name of Young.” More than one half of an American detachment under Major Hull," consisting of two hundred men, was killed or wounded. Some of the Americans ascended high trees, and from their concealed perches picked off the British officers in detail. Several were killed by the bullets of these sure marksmen. Burgoyne himself came very near being made a victim to this mode of warfare. A bullet, intended for him, shattered the arm of Captain Green, aid-de-camp to General Phillips, who at that moment was handing a letter to Burgoyne. The captain fell from his horse. In the confusion of the smoke and noise, it was supposed to be Burgoyne, and such was the belief, for some hours, in the American camp. Among the Americans who were killed in the battle were Colonels Adams and Colburn, valuable officers. But it is unpleasant and unprofitable to ponder upon the painful details of a battle, and we will pass on to the consideration of subsequent events. Let us pause a moment, however, and render justice to as brave a soldier as ever drew blade for freedom. Although in after years he was recreant to the high and sacred responsibilities that rested upon him, and committed an act deserving the execrations of all good men, strict justice demands a fair acknowledgment of his brave deeds. I mean Benedict Arnold The testimony of historians is in conflict respecting the part which Arnold performed in the battle just noticed; and prejudice and evident falsehood have denied him the honor of being personally engaged in it. Gordon says, “Arnold's division was out in the action, but he himself did not head them; he remained in the camp the whole time.” General Wilkinson, the adjutant general of Gates at that time, says in his Memoirs that “no general officer was on the field of battle during the day,” and intimates that he himself chiefly conducted affairs. He further says, that when, toward evening, Gates and Arnold were together in front of the camp, Major Lewis' came in from the scene of action, and announced that its progress was undecisive. Arnold immediately exclaimed, “I will soon put an end to it,” and set off in a full gallop from the camp. Gates dispatched an officer after him, and ordered him back. Botta, who was acquainted with many of the foreign officers who served in this war, and whose sources of correct information were very ample, observes,
men; a corps of grenadiers; a part of the artillery, and a motley swarm of Indians and loyalists. The American troops in action were those under Morgan and Dearborn; the first, second, and third New Hampshire regiments; the eighth, ninth, and tenth Massachusetts regiments; the second and third of New York, and a Connecticut regiment of militia. He was a major general in our war with Great Britain in 1812. He surrendered his whole army, with all the forts and garrisons in the neighborhood of Detroit, to General Brock on the 16th of August of that year. His wife, Sarah Hull, to whom he had been married but a few weeks when the battle of Stillwater occurred, determined to share the fortunes and perils of her husband, was in the camp, and was active among those American women who extended comfort and kind attentions to the ladies of the British army after the surrender of Burgoyne. Because of his surrender at Detroit, General Hull was tried for cowardice, treason, &c., and condemned to be shot; but, in consideration of his Revolutionary services and his age, he was pardoned. He lived to see his character vindicated, and died in 1825. His wife died the following year. * Morgan Lewis, afterward governor of the state of New York.
Colonel Varick's Letter respecting Arnold. General Gates's Treatment of Arnold. Rupture between them.
“Arnold exhibited upon this occasion all the impetuosity of his courage; he encouraged his men by voice and example.” Stedman, a British officer who served under Cornwallis here, says, in his “History of the American War,” “The enemy were led to the battle by General Arnold, who distinguished himself in an extraordinary manner.” Allen, in his Biographical Dictionary, says, “In the battle near Stillwater, September the 19th, he conducted himself with his usual intrepidity, being engaged incessantly for four hours.” M.Farlane, in the Pictorial History of England, says, “Gates's detachment, being re-enforced and led on by Arnold, fell upon Burgoyne and the right wing.” Again : “Arnold behaved with extraordinary gallantry, but he could make an impression nowhere.” Again: “Every time that Arnold was beaten back, Gates sent him more men from the star redoubt.” The well-founded traditions of the vicinity support the position that Arnold was actively engaged in the conflict, and a knowledge of the locality is sufficient to cause a doubt of the correctness of Wilkinson's statement.
Finally, Colonel Varick, writing from camp to General Schuyler, three days after the action, said, “He [Gates] seems to be piqued that Arnold's division had the honor of beating the enemy on the 19th. This I am certain of that Arnold has all the credit of the action. And this I further know, that Gates asked where the troops were going when Scammel's battalion marched out, and, upon being told, he declared no more troops should go; he would not suffer the camp to be exposed. Had Gates complied with Arnold's repeated desires, he would have obtained a general and complete victory over the enemy. But it is evident to me he never intended to fight Burgoyne, till Arnold urged, begged, and entreated him to do it.” In another letter which he wrote to Schuyler, about a month afterward, from Albany, Colonel Varick observed, “During Burgoyne's stay here, he gave Arnold great credit for his bravery and military abilities, especially in the action of the 19th, whenever he spoke of him, and once in the presence of Gates.”
Under ordinary circumstances, the statements of General Wilkinson, he being adjutant general at that time, and presumed to be cognizant of all the events of the battle, ought to be received as semi-official ; but in this case they must be taken with great allowance. Gates was evidently jealous of Arnold's well-earned reputation and growing popularity with the army; and Wilkinson, who was his favorite, and seemed ever ready to pander to his commander's vanity, caused, by his officious interference at that very time, a serious misunderstanding between the two generals, which resulted in an open rupture. In the first place, he caused a part of Arnold's division to be withdrawn without his knowledge, and he was put in the ridiculous light of presuming to give orders which were contravened by the general orders of the commander-in-chief. Wilkinson also insisted on the return of a part of Arnold's division (Morgan's corps) being made directly to him, and Gates sustained the unjust demand in general orders. And then, to crown his injustice toward a brave of. ficer, Gates, in his communication to Congress respecting the battle, said nothing of Arnold or his division, but merely observed that “the action was fought by detachments from the army.” This was ungenerous, not only to Arnold, but to the troops under his command, and he justly complained of the neglect when it became known. Harsh words passed between the two officers, and Gates even told Arnold that he thought him of little consequence in the army, that when Lincoln arrived he should take away his command, and that he would give him a pass to leave the camp as soon as he pleased."
Under the excitement of his feelings, Arnold demanded a pass for himself and suite to join General Washington. The pass was granted, but in his cooler moments he saw how injurious it might be to the cause, and how hazardous to his reputation, if he should voluntarily leave the army when another battle was hourly expected. He remained, but without any employment in the camp, for Gates put his threat into execution, took command of Arnold's division himself, and, on the arrival of General Lincoln, on the 29th, placed him over the right wing.
* Sparks's Life of Arnold.
Condition of the Armies after the Battle. Burgoyne's Encampment. Poverty of the American Commissariat.
The morning of the 20th of September was cloudy, dull, and cheerless, and with the gloomy aspect of nature the spirits of the British army sympathized. The combatants had slumbered upon the field during the night, and at dawn, seeing no disposition on the part of the Americans to renew the conflict, they retired to their camp on the river hills, and upon the flats at the mouth of the creek, now Wilbur's Basin
BURGoyne's ENcAMPMENT on THE WEST BANK of THE HUDson, SEPTEMBER 20, 1777
Burgoyne was surprised and mortified at the bold and successful resistance of the Americans, and saw clearly that it would be useless to attempt to carry the works by storm, or in any other way to push forward toward Albany. He resolved to strengthen his position, endeavor to communicate with Howe and Clinton at New York, and effect by their co-operation what his own unaided troops could not accomplish. Had he been aware of the true condition of the Americans on the morning after the battle, he might easily have won a victory, for the soldiers composing the left wing, which sustained the conflict, had only a single round of cartridges left. Nor was the magazine in a condition to supply them, for such was the difficulty of procuring ammunition at that time, that the army had a very meager quantity when the conflict began the day previous, and now there were not in the magazine forty rounds to each man in the service. At no time was there more than three days’ provisions in the camp, and on the day of action there was no flour. A supply arrived on the 20th, and the disheartening contingency of short allowance to the weary soldiers was thus prevented. General Gates alone was privy to this deplorable deficiency, and it was not until after a supply of powder and window-leads for bullets was received from Albany that he made the fact known, and thus gave a plausible reason for not complying with Arnold's urgent request to commence the battle early again the next morning.
Both parties now wrought diligently in strengthening their respective positions. The Americans extended and completed their line of breast-works from the northeastern angle on the river hills,' westward about three fourths of a mile, to the heights, a few rods north
* See the small map on page 46.