Page images

they kept quiet and aloof. Moreover, at nearly the same time, Burgoyne sustained nearly an equal diminution of his numbers from another quarter, since he found it requisite to leave behind a garrison for Ticonderoga, which he had hoped that Sir Guy Carleton might afford from the force in Canada. Under such circumstances he determined to call in the detachment of General Fraser from Saratoga. The bridge of rafts had been carried away by heavy rains, and Frazer's men had to repass the Hudson as they best might by boats and canoes. Nevertheless Burgoyne had not relinquished the hope and intention of advancing. From Fort Edward to the town of Albany the distance was but fifty miles; and, once at Albany, he might be able to obtain round him adequate supplies, and patiently await the promised but tardy cooperation from New York.* Considering, however, the Mohawk river, the enemy's camp, and the other obstacles upon his route, he resolved not to move one step forward until he had collected stores of provision in advance for thirty days; and in bringing up these stores nearly a whole month was employed, —a month of delay, perhaps necessary to himself, but certainly advantageous to his enemies.

In his letters to the Secretary of State, General Burgoyne was far from concealing his embarrassments. Thus he writes: " The prospect of the campaign is much "less prosperous than when I wrote last. Wherever the "King's forces point, Militia to the amount of three or "four thousand assemble in twenty-four hours; they "bring with them their subsistence, and, the alarm over, "they return to their farms. The Hampshire Grants, "in particular, a country unpeopled, and almost unknown "during the last war, now abounds in the most active and "most rebellious race of the Continent, and hangs like a "gathering storm upon my left. In all parts the indus"try and management in driving cattle, and removing

* "It was generally believed, and I believe it myself firmly, that "if the army had got to Albany, we should have found a number of "loyal subjects that would have joined and done every thing in "their power to have established the army at that place." (Evidence of Captain Money, before the House of Commons, May 27. 1779.)

"corn, are indefatigable and certain; and it becomes "impracticable to move without portable magazines. "Another most embarrassing circumstance is the want "of communication with Sir William Howe; of the a messengers I have sent, I know of two being hanged, "and am ignorant whether any of the rest arrived. . . . "No operation, my Lord, has yet been undertaken in my "favour."*

At length, his thirty days' stores completed, General Burgoyne, risking, or, to speak more truly, resigning, his communications with Canada, crossed the Hudson with his whole remaining army to and beyond Saratoga. The Americans, under Gates, were ranged in front of Stillwater, and lining a low range of hills known by the name of Behmus's Heights; this encampment had been planned by Kosciusko, j On the 19th of September Burgoyne marched up to assail them, but found them advance to meet him. Gates himself thought fit to remain in the rear; and the brunt of the action was borne almost wholly by the division of Arnold. After four well-contested hours, the British, at sunset, remained masters of the ground; but except the honours of the day, derived no advantage from their hard-won victory. The Americans had retired to their lines, of which the strength was vouched for to Burgoyne by their prisoners and deserters; and the late conflict had shown, beyond dispute, that in numbers they were greatly superior. Under these circumstances, though the British, on the morning of the 20th, took up ground nearer to the enemy than they had held before, they did not for some time venture on any fresh onset. Moreover, on the second day after the action, the General received a letter in cypher from Sir Henry Clinton, stating his intention to attack the Highlands about that very time. "And," adds Burgoyne, in his narrative, "I was hourly "in expectation — I thought a justly founded one — of "that measure operating to dislodge Mr. Gates entirely "or to oblige him to detach a large portion of his force.

* Private Letter to Lord George Germaine, August 20. 1777.

f Note to Washington's Writings, vol. v. p. 142. Washington, at this period, was not personally acquainted with Kosciusko, but mentions him from report, as " a gentleman of science and merit"

"Either of these cases would probably have opened my "way to Albany."

Reasoning thus, Burgoyne remained in the same post for some time longer, fortifying his own camp, and watching the enemy, whose numbers he observed daily to increase. He put his troops on diminished rations, a measure to which they submitted with the utmost cheerfulness; but even thus the General considered, with just alarm, the gradual consumption of his stores. Meanwhile one of his officers writes as follows to a friend: —" Our "present situation is far from being an inactive one, the "armies being so near, that not a night passes but there "is firing and continual attacks upon the advanced picquets"Within these few evenings, exclusive of other"alarms, we have been under arms most of the night, as "there has been a great noise, like the howling of dogs "upon the right of our encampment; it was imagined "the enemy set it up to deceive us while they were "meditating some attack. The next night the noise was "much greater, when a detachment of Canadians and "Provincials was sent out to reconnoitre: and it proved "to have arisen from large droves of wolves that came "after the dead bodies; they were similar to a pack of "hounds, for one setting up a cry, they all joined; and "when one approached a corpse, their noise was hideous "till they had scratched it up."*

On the day after the date of this letter, namely, on the 7th of October, no intelligence having been received of the expected co-operation, and little time remaining to spare, Burgoyne determined to make a movement to the enemy's left, with about fifteen hundred of his men, his object being to examine the best place for forcing a way through, and meanwhile to cover a forage. The troops were on their march accordingly when they found themselves anticipated by the enemy, who sallied forth in large numbers to assail them. Thus did Behmus's Heights

* Letter, October 6. 1777. Travels by Lieutenant Anburey, vol. i. pp. 431—433. Of the period between September 19. and October 7. Burgoyne himself declares: "I do not believe either officer or "soldier ever slept, during that interval, without his clothes." (Review of the Evidence, &c., p. 166.)


become the scene of a second conflict. From this, as from the former, General Gates remained entirely aloof; on both days keeping close to his encampment. There also was Arnold — certainly not from inclination, but because a quarrel had arisen several days before between himself and Gates, who, in jealousy it would seem, had deprived him of his command.

For some time, though chafing, Arnold remained within the camp. But as he heard the firing grow louder and louder his impatience became uncontrollable; and, at length, without instructions or permission, he rode off at full gallop to the field of battle. This being told to Gates, he sent an aide-de-camp after him with orders to return. As soon as Arnold saw the other officer behind him, he guessed the purport of the message; he put spurs to his horse and quickened his speed, while the aide-de-camp pursued in vain, keeping up the chase for half an hour without ever being able to approach within speaking distance. Arnold rode about the field in every direction, seeking the hottest parts of the action, and wherever he went issuing his orders; and being the highest officer in rank that appeared upon the ground, his orders were obeyed. "It is a curious fact,"adds his biographer, "that "an officer who really had no command in the army, was "the leader in one of the most spirited and important "battles of the Revolution." * Owing, in no slight degree, to his presence and exertions—charging, as he did more than once, sword in hand—the design of the British was foiled; they retreated hard pressed, but in good order, leaving behind six pieces of artillery, and with one of their most respected chiefs, General Fraser, mortally wounded. He told his friends that he had seen the man who shot him — it was a rifleman, posted high upon a tree. In both the actions of Behmus's Heights, many of the American marksmen had been stationed in this manner, and had singled out no small number of the British officers.

Not satisfied with the success already gained, and impatient of delay, Arnold forthwith gave orders to storm the British lines. Assailed they were accordingly on several sides and with great fury, the enemy rushing

* Sparks's Life of Arnold, p. 118.

forward under a severe fire of grape-shot and small arms. Arnold, still on horseback, led the van boldly, forcing his way into the works; but was shot through the leg, and disabled for many months to come. Another American officer, General Lincoln, was almost equally conspicuous for bravery. At last, however, the assailants in this quarter, held as it was by the native British, were repulsed. But they proved more successful on another point, namely, the entrenchment of the German reserve commanded by Colonel Breyman; here the commander was killed, and the entrenchment carried; and thus at the close of the day the Americans had not only won the victory, but gained an opening on the British right and rear.

Under these disadvantages, the British during the night quitted their encampment, and took post on some neighbouring heights. There they continued the whole day of the 8th, offering battle to the enemy. But the enemy were intent upon a wiser scheme; they were already marching to turn the British right. When apprised of this design, in the afternoon, Burgoyne saw no remedy besides a retreat to Saratoga. His troops began to move that very night at nine o'clock. They were compelled to leave behind their hospital with their sick and wounded, whom Burgoyne could only commend, by letter, to the humanity of Gates. On the other hand, with the view to another action in the plains, he was determined not to relinquish his field artillery, but found the utmost delay in dragging it along, having lost the greater part of his draught horses, and heavy rains having now begun to fall. There were, likewise, constant difficulties in guarding the boats upon the Hudson, in which all the stores of provision were contained. With these drawbacks, although the distance was not full ten miles, the army did not reach Saratoga until the night of the 9th. "Such," says Burgoyne, "was their state of fatigue, that the men, "for the most part, had not strength or inclination to cut "wood and make fires, but rather sought sleep in their "wet clothes, upon the wet ground, under the continuing "rain."* Nor was it until after daylight of the 10th

* Review of the Evidence, &c., p. 174.

« PreviousContinue »