Page images

was unanimously resolved to take post there." Colonel Trumbull in describing this location, said: "At the northern point it runs low into the lake, offering a good landing place; from thence the land rose to an almost level plateau elevated from fifty to seventy-five feet above the lake, and surrounded on three sides, by a natural wall of rock, everywhere steep, and sometimes an absolute precipice sinking to the lake. On the fourth and eastern side of the position ran a morass and deep creek at the front of the rock, which strengthened that front, leaving room only by an easy descent, for a road to the east, and to the landing from the southern end of the lake. We found plentiful springs of good water, at the foot of the rock. The whole was covered with primeval forest."

Writing to General Washington on this subject, General Schuyler said: "On the 9th we went over the ground for the intended post on the east side, which we found so remarkably strong as to require little labor to make it tenable against a vast superiority of force, and fully to answer the purpose of preventing the enemy from penetrating into the country to the south of it."

General orders issued at Ticonderoga on July 13 directed Captain Stevens of the artillery to encamp with his company "near the landing on the east side of the lake, where all the artillery, stores, etc. are to be landed." The Pennsylvania regiments were directed to encamp "upon the new ground" July 16, where Colonel St. Clair and Colonel Wayne were to lay out the encampment. Orders were issued on July 22 to the three brigades commanded by General Arnold, Colonel Reed and Colonel

Stark to encamp as soon as possible upon the ground allotted them upon the heights. General orders issued at Ticonderoga on July 30, showed that three of the four brigades at that place were stationed at Mount Independence, on the east side of the lake, in the present town of Orwell, Vt. As a result of the clearing of the forest and the exposing of the soil to the hot summer sun, a fever became prevalent, said to resemble the yellow fever, which sometimes proved fatal in two or three days.

Schuyler was so well pleased with the strength of Mount Independence, that in writing to Washington July 24, 1776, he said: "Can they (the enemy) drive us out of the strong camp on the east side? I think not. I think it impossible for twenty thousand men to do it, ever so well provided, if the camp consists of less. than even a quarter of that number, indifferently furnished, such is the natural strength of the ground."

In accordance with a resolution of the Continental Congress, a general hospital was erected on Mount Independence. The summit of that mountain is a table-land and here at a later date, a strong, star-shaped fort was erected, surrounded by pickets. In the center was a square of barracks.

By direction of General Gates, a road was cut from the west side of Mount Independence to join the road at Castleton, and a good bridge was constructed across the Otter Creek at Rutland. This work was performed under the direction of Lieut. Col. John Barrett of the Cumberland county militia.

The occasion of the naming of Mount Independence bears a direct relation to the birth of the American nation. The Boston Gazette of August 29, 1776, printed an extract from a letter which said: "We hear from Ticonderoga that on the 28th of July, immediately after divine worship, the Declaration of Independence was read by Colonel St. Clair, and having said 'God save the free independent States of America!' the army manifested their joy with three cheers. It was remarkably pleasing to see the spirits of the soldiers so raised after all their calamities, the language of every man's countenance was, Now we are a people! we have name among the states of this world." Probably this date should be July 18, when a courier arrived with news of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. A salute of thirteen guns was fired and the neighboring eminence was christened Mount Independence.

During the summer and fall of 1776, the greater part of the army at Ticonderoga was engaged in throwing up intrenchments, mounting guns, and securing provisions. General Gates had been in command of this post upon the return of the army from Canada, and General Sullivan, who had conducted the retreat from the north in a manner that displayed great skill and bravery, being displeased at the honor accorded Gates, at his expense, left in disgust for New York and Philadelphia.

Early in September the barracks and parade ground were finished. The intrenching tools were so few that it was necessary to divide the men into shifts that the tools might not be idle at any time. The works were completed in November, 1776, under the direction of

Colonel, later General, Wayne. Among the troops were men from New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the New Hampshire Grants. The Massachusetts troops came by way of Springfield (Vt.), Rutland, Castleton, and Skenesborough.

A letter written from Mount Independence by Col. Samuel Wigglesworth, to the New Hampshire Committee of Safety, as late as September 27, 1776, shows that conditions were still deplorable. In his letter he says: "Gentlemen, I wish you could transport yourselves to this place for a moment to see the distressed situation of these troops. There are no medicines of any avail in the Continental chest; such as there are in their native state unprepared; no emetick nor cathartick; no mercurial nor antimonial Remedy; no opiate or elixir, tincture, nor even any capital medicine. It would make a heart of stone melt to hear the moans and see the distresses of the dying. Now, Sirs, think how much more unhappy and distressed the conditions of these troops would be should the enemy attack our Lines."

* * *

Rum containing four pounds of gentian root and two pounds of orange peel to a hogshead was served to the men, and when these ingredients were not available the physicians suggested as a substitute snakeroot, dogwood and centaury.

In time, however, conditions improved. The smallpox gradually was conquered, and, although there was some fever and ague, the health and spirits of the men. showed a great change for the better. Fresh beef and

mutton added a pleasant variety to a salt pork diet and the distress caused by lack of tents was alleviated, in a measure at least, by the arrival of one hundred thousand feet of boards for purposes of shelter.

It is certain that the soldiers of this army deserved relief from conditions that often were almost intolerable. The sufferings of the army in Canada, and for several months after their return to Crown Point and Ticonderoga, deserve to rank with the privations endured by Washington's troops at Valley Forge.

The necessity of constructing a fleet if the mastery of the lake were to remain in the hands of the Americans was apparent to all. General Gates selected Gen. Benedict Arnold to have charge of naval operations, and wrote Washington as follows concerning the choice: "As soon as all the vessels and gondolas are equipped, General Arnold has offered to go to Crown Point and take command of them. This is exceedingly pleasing to me; as he has a perfect knowledge of maritime affairs, and is, besides, a most deserving and gallant officer."

General Schuyler, on May 7, 1776, had ordered Jacobus Wynkoop, a captain in the Continental service, to proceed immediately to Ticonderoga and take command of "all the vessels on Lake Champlain"-not an imposing flotilla, by any means—and with the greatest expedition to put them in the best condition possible for immediate service. There is no evidence that any task of importance was performed by Captain Wynkoop, but he did mention in a memorial to Congress, that he expected the appointment of "Commodore of the Lakes." When Gates appointed Arnold to command the ships on

« PreviousContinue »