« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
was declared not to be their intention to place 1776. Gates over Schuyler, and it was recommended
to those officers to endeavour to co-operate harmoniously. It was no small evidence of the zeal of the senior officer for the public service, that this was practicable.
With all the re-enforcements which had been received, considerable fears were entertained of their ability to maintain their ground against the enemy. The British army commanded by general Carleton, in great force, and flushed with victory, was about Montreal and St. Johns. Fortunately, the command of the lakes was essential to their further progress, and they did not possess a single vessel on those waters.
It was deemed of too much importance to the success of the war that the army should pene. trate to Albany by this route, and thereby open a free communication from thence through the lakes, with Canada; to relinquish the enterprise on account of obstacles not absolutely insurmountable. It was, therefore, determined to construct a fleet superior to that of the Americans, and to convey it in a condition for ser. vice into lake Champlain. This arduous work was immediately commenced.
General Schuyler on his part was not unemployed. He used all the means in his power, so to strengthen his little fleet, as to maintain a superiority over the enemy on the lakes. In this effort the commander in chief sensible of the advantages to be derived from maintaining chap. I. a superiority in those waters, cordially co-ope. 1776. rated; and his letters manifest the most anxious solicitude on this interesting subject. But it was found impracticable to obtain, in sufficient quantities to equal the wishes of the general, either artillery, the necessary materials for ship building, or workmen to construct the vessels. The carpenters were generally employed in the seaport towns, and could not easily be prevailed on to transfer themselves to the lakes. The heavy materials for a fleet were obtained with difficulty, and sparingly; in addition to which they were to be transported, with immense labour and expense by land, a very great distance.
In consequence of these embarrassments, the fleet equipped by the Americans amounted only to fifteen vessels, consisting of two schooners, one sloop, one cutter, three gallies, and eight gondolas. The largest schooner mounted only twelve guns carrying six and four pound balls.
It was deemed of much importance that this fleet should be commanded by a person of in. vincible resolution, and the commander in chief expressed a strong solicitude, that Arnold should be appointed to this dangerous service. That officer had acquired and deserved much reputation in the expedition against Quebec. Every thing which courage could perform was now again expected from him; nor were these expectations disappointed by the event.
The small-pox, which had made such havoc 1776. in the northern army while in Canada, still
continuing its ravages, and infecting the re-enforcements as they arrived; it was deemed necessary to stop those which were on their march, at Skeenesborough. The mortality produced by this, and other diseases, was such, that the northern army did not exhibit the force which congress had designed to give it; and, in a council of general officers, it was determined to evacuate Crown Point, and concentrate their forces about Ticonderoga.
This measure, which the feeble condition of the army, most probably, rendered advisable, was considered as surrendering lake Champlain to the enemy, and opening to them the whole country of New England. The field officers unanimously remonstrated against it; and general Washington himself expressed great surprise at it. Nothing but necessity, he con- . ceived, could justify the abandonment of so important a place; but as he, very properly, thought himself at too great a distance to give any positive orders on the subject, the measure was persisted in. Congress were disposed to be regulated in their plans, rather by their wishes, than by the means placed in the hands of their military commanders for the execution of them; and were so far from expecting this retrograde movement, that their views were extended to the lakes Ontario and Erie, and they were then contemplating a plan for taking possession of those waters, and securing CHAP. I. them by a naval force. These speculations 1776. were soon interrupted by demonstrating to them the unwelcome truth, that, instead of acquiring the command of other lakes, they were unable to retain those already in their possession.
With almost incredible exertions, the British general constructed a powerful fleet, the materials for which he transported a considerable distance over land. He afterwards dragged up the rapids of St. Therese and St Johns, thirty long boats, a number of flat boats of considerable burden, a gondola weighing thirty tons, with above four hundred batteaux. This immense work was completed in little more than three months, and, as if by magic, general Arnold saw on the lakes, the beginning of October, a fleet consisting of the ship Inflexible carrying eighteen twelve pounders; one schooner mounting fourteen, and another twelve six pounders; a flat bottomed radeau carrying six twenty-four, and six twelve
pounders besides howitzers; and a gondola carrying seven nine pounders. Twenty smaller vessels, under the denomination of gun boats, carried brass field pieces from nine to twenty four pounders, or were armed with howitzers. Some long boats were furnished in the same
2 Annual Register.
Chap.. manner, and about an equal number of large 1776. boats acted as tenders. * This formidable fleet
navigated by seven hundred prime seamen, on board of which was general Carleton himself, was conducted by .captain Pringle, and the guns were served by experienced artillerists. It proceeded immediately in quest of Arnold, who was soon found very advantageously posted, and forming a strong line to defend the passage between the island of Valicour, and the western main.
Notwithstanding the vast disparity of force, a warm action ensued. An unfavourable wind kept the Inflexible, and some others of the largest vessels of the hostile fleet, at too great a
* Intelligence was given to general Washington from Canada of these immense preparations; but he flattered himself that the account was exaggerated. By the same authority, he was also iriformed, that the army to invade the United States, by the way of the lakes, which was to be commanded by general Carleton, consisted of about eight thousand British and German troops, and a regiment of artillery under general Philips, with the finest train ever sent over from England, and a large body of Canadians. It was also a part of the plan, that sir John Johnson was to go round by Oswego with eight hundred Indians, M'Clean's regiment, and some volunteers, to enter the country by the way of fort George, and cut off the communication between Albany and Ticonderoga. This intelligence was communicated to the officers commanding on the lakes, and they were urged to make correspondent exertions on their part: but the means of do. ing so were not in their possession.