Burgoyne Retakes Fort Ticonderoga and Skenesboro: June 30-July 7, 1777
On June 30, 1777, Maj. General John Burgoyne's right wing put ashore on the western shore of Lake Champlain to the north of Fort Ticonderoga, while his left wing under Maj. General Friedrich von Riedesel put ashore on the eastern shore. On July 2, Brig. General Simon Fraser and his Advance Corps secured Mt. Hope to the northwest of Fort Ticonderoga. Americans manning the outpost had burned it at 9:00 A.M. and retreated, even though the British did not arrive for another four hours. With possession of Mt. Hope, the British cut off the American route to Lake George.
At about 3:00 P.M. the British probed the main defenses of Fort Ticonderoga. After the British closed within 100 yards, the Americans responded with ineffectual fire that did drive the British back. Meanwhile, General von Riedesel was moving south along the eastern bank and had begun to draw artillery fire from Mt. Independence. The situation was not dire for Continental Maj. General Arthur St. Clair yet because the American line of communication to Skenesboro remained open and von Riedesel was slowed by East Creek and surrounding swamps.
On July 3, General Burgoyne took full possession of Mt. Hope and an artillery exchange began. On July 4, Burgoyne's chief engineer determined that artillery could be mounted on Mt. Defiance not only harass Fort Ticonderoga, but also Mt. Independence and any boats sent to evacuate the fort. On July 5, General St. Clair saw the preparations that Burgoyne was making at Mt. Defiance and called a council of war at 3:00 P.M. The decision was made to evacuate Fort Ticonderoga.
That evening at dusk, heavy American cannonade covered the midnight evacuation of the artillery, supplies and invalids in boats to Skenesboro under Colonel Pierce Long. Early on the morning of July 6, the rest of General St. Clair's force evacuated over the bridge to the eastern shore and were going to reach Skenesboro by way of Castleton. His well-organized retreat was compromised when Brig. General Mattias Fermoy forgot to notify all of his men of the retreat and set his quarters on fire, so that General von Riedesel sent troops by boat to harass the retreating force.
General Burgoyne did not learn of General St. Clair's withdrawal until daybreak. He then ordered General Fraser to pursue St. Clair overland and Burgoyne himself pursued Colonel Long by water. By late afternoon, having caught up with Long at Skenesboro, Burgoyne dispatched troops to cut off a southern retreat by Long and attacked the town. However, Long was able to set fire to the town and escape, because Burgoyne did not give his enveloping forces time to get into position.
General St. Clair had marched to Hubbardton (now East Hubbardton, Vermont). He continued with most of his force another six miles to Castleton and made camp for the night. Colonel Seth Warner was ordered to remain until the rear guard arrived and then join St. Clair at Castleton, but he instead remained in Hubbardton for the night with around 1,000 men. General Fraser had begun his pursuit from Mt. Independence at 4:00 A.M. General von Riedesel caught up with him at 1:00 P.M. They agreed that Fraser would advance three miles and then they would march at 3:00 A.M. on July 7.
During the night, General Fraser's Indian scouts learned of Colonel Warner's camp. He immediately made plans for attack. After first routing a regiment at breakfast, the fighting grew heavy with the British taking more casualties because of their unfamiliarity with forest fighting. Then General von Riedesel's German troops arrived and the fresh reinforcements broke the American resistance. Warner's last order was for the men to "Scatter and meet me at Manchester."
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