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Burr's intrigues, was told later by the Earl of Balcarras, who participated that day in his first battle, that at the first fire when Major Grant was killed, twenty-one men in the leading British platoon were brought down. The Earl himself was slightly wounded in the left thigh, and during the battle thirteen bullets passed through his clothing.
There is a discrepancy in regard to the hour when the battle of Hubbardton began, some of the authorities giving five and some seven o'clock in the morning. The account of the battle given in "Hemenway's Gazetteer" declares that "at an early hour the belligerents drew up their forces in line of battle but did not presently engage, as each awaited the arrival of reinforcements." According to this theory it would be possible to explain an early attack of the advance guard at five o'clock, when, it is said the troops under Warner were surprised in the act of getting breakfast, and at which time Major Grant, leading the British vanguard, was slain. Fraser was expecting Reidesel's reinforcements, and very likely Warner sent in haste to St. Clair for aid, or expected aid when the sound of firing was heard in St. Clair's camp. General Fraser's account of the battle, however, would indicate that he became involved in battle sooner than he intended, and did not have time to make the disposition of his troops that he desired. British and American accounts of the engagement differ widely. Although there is a conflict of opinion concerning details, certain important facts may be gleaned from the various accounts of the battle. Apparently the Americans, following a custom learned in Indian war
fare, had protected their camp by felling trees and brushwood. When Fraser's troops rushed forward to the attack, they became entangled in the rude defence, thus giving Warner and Francis time to rally their men, who sought shelter behind trees and thickets, and fired upon their foes. The lines of battle were formed within sixty yards of each other.
Early in the battle there was a contest for a steep hill on Fraser's left flank. The British made a dash for the height, accompanied by their commander, and meeting a body of Americans compelled them to retire to the position they held when first attacked.
For two hours the tide of battle ebbed and flowed, including musketry fire, charge and counter-charge. Warner made an impetuous attack upon the enemy, breaking their line and compelling them to fall back. The British lines were soon reformed, and advanced in an effort to drive the Americans at the point of the bayonet. Again they were driven back in disorder.
General Reidesel had started at three o'clock in the morning, and after marching four miles met Captain McKay, who notified him of Fraser's movements. The German troops had not advanced far before the sound of musketry firing was heard, and Reidesel sent Captain Poellnitz back with orders to tell Lieutenant Colonel Breymann to press forward with all possible speed. A second messenger soon arrived from Fraser with a report that the enemy were in such force that he could not withstand them unless speedily reinforced. Hastening forward Reidesel cursed and raged at the delay of his slow moving troops. The morning sun poured down
its rays with great intensity and Reidesel's report says his troops were "terribly heated" when they reached the battle field. From an eminence the German commander saw that the Americans were trying to surround Fraser's left wing, and he ordered a company of light infantry led by Captain VanGeyso to attack Warner's right wing, while the grenadiers under Captain Schottelins were to endeavor to fall upon the rear of the American position. Only a portion of the German troops had arrived with Reidesel, the chasseurs under Major Barnes and eighty grenadiers and light infantry, and in order to create the impression that a large body of troops had arrived he directed a band of music to lead, and the detachment advanced with a great noise, shouting, firing, and chanting of battle hymns.
Meanwhile Colonel Francis had led a third attack on the enemy's left wing. In his "History of Vermont," Ira Allen says that Francis ordered a retreat of a part of his regiment in order to take a more advantageous position; that his orders were misunderstood, and the retreat became general; and that while endeavoring to check this retreat and confusion, Colonel Francis was killed. Earlier in the action he had been wounded by a bullet, which passed through the right arm, and while engaged in a contest with the German troops, a ball entered the right breast and passed through his body, killing him almost instantly. This brave soldier was buried by the Brunswick regiment.
The arrival of the German troops, and the death of Colonel Francis, turned the scale. The Americans gave way, and fled in confusion. Colonel Warner was a man
who seldom yielded to anger, but when he saw his regiment retreating he threw himself down on a log and "poured forth a torrent of curses and execrations on the flying troops." Recovering his self possession in a moment, he ordered his men to assemble at Manchester, and they scattered in all directions. The grenadiers had taken possession of the Castleton road, cutting off the American retreat in that direction. An attempt was also made to retreat in the direction of Pittsford, over a steep mountain, but again the grenadiers reached the summit of the mountain in advance of the Americans. The battle is said to have lasted about three hours.
At the opening of the engagement Col. Nathan Hale (not the officer bearing a similar name executed by the British as a spy) of the Second New Hampshire Continental regiment, left the scene of action and marched toward Castleton, reducing Warner's force from nearly twelve hundred to some seven hundred or eight hundred men. It should be said in Hale's defence that his regiment was largely composed of invalids. He had not retreated far before he was attacked by a British detachment, and in the engagement Maj. Benjamin Titcomb was severely wounded, and Colonel Hale, Captains Robertson, Carr and Norris, Adjutant Elliot, two other officers and about one hundred men were taken prisoners. Colonel Hale was severely censured and while a prisoner appealed to General Washington for an investigation of his conduct, but he died September 23, 1780, while a prisoner on Long Island.
When St. Clair heard the sound of musketry firing, his first thought was to send reinforcements to Warner.
Two militia regiments, which had left the main army the night before the battle, were encamped within two miles of Warner's position. Two of St. Clair's aides, Majors Dunn and Livingston, were hurried off with assurances of support, and orders were given to the regiments mentioned to support Warner. Instead of supporting their hard pressed commander they hurried from the scene, making haste to rejoin the main army. Colonel Wilkinson says these regiments "were exceedingly insubordinate and seditious," and St. Clair, in a letter to Governor Bowdoin of Massachusetts, gives the names of their commanders as Colonels Bellows and Alcott (Olcott), adding that “had they obeyed my orders it is probable the enemy might have been repulsed." Majors Dunn and Livingston, who met the cowardly militia, reported them "equally deaf to commands and entreaties."
Naturally, there is some discrepancy in the British and American accounts of the losses in the battle of Hubbardton. Gordon, who secured his information from the journal of a British officer, afterward captured, says the Americans lost three hundred and twenty-four in killed, wounded and prisoners, the prisoners including twelve officers; while the British lost one hundred and eighty-three in killed and wounded, three officers being killed, and twelve wounded. Williams, the earliest Vermont historian, uses Gordon's figures of the losses at Hubbardton. General Fraser, the commander of the royal forces in this battle, has left on record the fact that he had at Hubbardton the day after the battle, one hundred and fifty wounded and two hundred and thirty prisoners. Considering the fierceness of the engage