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The events of 1777 continued.-Reflections on St. Clair's retreat.
General Schuyler removes to Stillwater-Fort Stanwix invested by Colonel St. Leger-Brave and patriotic conduct of General Herkimer.Arnold volunteers to go to the relief of Colonel Gansevoort.-Successful sortie of the latter.Arnold resorts to stratagem, and forces St. Leger to raise the siege.-Battle at Bennington, and defeat of Colonel Baume.-General Schuyler again superceded in his command by General Gates.-Movements of Washington—the enemy enter the Chesapeake.-Surprise and capture of General Prescott-Expedition of General Sullivan and Colonel Ogden on Staten Island.-Conduct of the Quakers.-- Battle of Brandywine.-Proceedings of Congress. Northern army_Advantages under which Gates took the command. Correspondence of Gates and Burgoyne, relative to pri
Miss M-Crea.--Movements of the two armies.--Action of the 19th September.
The abandonment of Ticonderoga, which was considered as the strong hold of the northern department, excited against General St. Clair the most clamorous and undeserved censure, which, though he was honourably acquitted of all blame by the solemn decision of a competent tribunal, left a stain upon his reputation, which no subsequent event ever entirely removed. The reader has seen the difficulties and dangers with which he was surrounded, and it must be acknowledged, that he used the only means, and the only moment allowed him, of saving his army. If the evil consequences of defeat could have been confined to the simple loss of that army, it might with more show of propriety have been regarded as cowardly to fly from the threatened danger ; but the army of General St. Clair,
small and ill appointed as it was, was the only one, to defend the whole state of New York and the Hampshire grants, (as the state of Vermont was then called) from the incursions of the enemy: for we have already seen, that, though General Schuyler was commander in chief of the department, and had himself taken the field, his whole force was short of a thousand
The loss of St. Clair's division would have reduced even this number, for it cannot be supposed that the militia, which made a considerable portion of it, could have been induced to stand before the victorious troops of Burgoyne, after he had destroyed their strongest ground of reliance. There would have been no nucleus, around which to collect another army, and Burgoyne would have marched without interruption to Albany. The reasons which General St. Clair assigned to Congress, in his letter from Fort Edward, were sufficient to satisfy the minds of all, but jealous rivals, that his retreat was the result of the soundest judgment and prudence. “It was my original design," says he, “ to retreat to this place, that I might be between General Burgoyne and the inhabitants, and that the militia might have something in this quarter to collect to. It is now effected, and the militia are coming in, so that I have the most sanguine hopes that the progress of the enemy will be checked, and I may have the satisfaction to experience that although I have lost a post I have eventually saved a state."
The censure of the people did not rest upon General St. Clair alone. By some means or other, a report prevailed, wholly unfounded, that the retreat of the army had been made by order of Major General Schuyler; and he therefore came in for a full share of the disgrace, which it was attempted to fix upon St.
Clair. The consequence of these slanders, which were industriously circulated by the enemies of these two active and patriotick officers, was that the army was daily decreased by desertion. Both continentals and militia, fearful of trusting themselves to the command of men whose conduct was represented as weak and dastardly, left the army in large bodies ; so that on the 24th of July, the army which on the 20th amounted to upwards of 6,000, had been reduced to about 2700 continentals and 1300 militia. Upon the junction of General St. Clair with General Schuyler at Fort Edward, the army returned for a few days to Fort Ann, and occupied themselves in removing the stores which had been left at Fort George. On the day of his arrival here, a proclamation which had been issued by Burgoyne, calling upon the neighbouring inhabitants to meet at Castletown for the purpose of offering their submission and receiving pardon, fell into the hands of General Schuyler, who immediate. ly issued a counter-proclamation, setting forth the insidious designs of the enemy, and appealing in strong terms to the patriotism of his fellow citizens. The inhabitants, however, unfortunately preferred submission to resistance; and while the defection in the American army grew daily more and more alarming, numbers were flocking to the standard of the British General.
On the 22d of July General Schuyler retired with his whole army to Moses's Creek, a position on the Hudson, about four miles below Fort Edward, which had been selected by Kosciusko, Chief Engineer of the army, as the most eligible at which to await the movements of the enemy. A small island here divided the Hudson, and the high hills on each side ap
proached so near the river, that the position might be easily defended against a superiour force. General St. Clair was posted with one division of the army on the right bank of the river, and General Arnold, who after the evacuation of the Jerseys by Sir William Howe, had joined the northern army, was stationed with another division on the left. In this situation, but for the defection before spoken of, and the general toryism of the neighbouring counties, General Schuyler would have been enabled to have maintained bis ground, and checked the progress of a much superiour force. These circumstances, however, induced him to retire still further into the interiour; and on the 30th the camp was struck and the niarch commenced towards Saratoga, which place the army reached on the 31st, and after halting for twenty four hours, continued the march to Stillwater, where they arrived on the 20th of August.
During all this time, General Burgoyne was marching at his leisure in the rear of Schuyler, preceded by a party of Indians, who on the 29th encountered a detachment of 160 Americans, who had been sent to destroy a bridge a few miles in the rear of Fort Ed. ward, and threw them into such consternation, that they fled in the most dastardly manner. Major Clarkson, aid de camp to General Arnold, was severely wounded, as he was gallantly endeavouring to rally the frightened fugitives—A similar skirmish, if it may be dignified with that name, took place on the 2d of August, when our rear guard of a hundred men, under Major Hull, were fired upon by a small party of Indians, and took to instant flight. The Major, however, after great exertions, succeeded in rallying the men, and in forcing the assailants in their turn to a precipitate retreat.
On the 27th August, General Schuyler, receiving intelligence that Fort Schuyler or Stanwix, situated at the head of the Mohawk, was invested by a British force under Colonel St. Leger, consisting of upwards of five hundred regulars, and three hundred provincials with a large body of Indians under Sir John Johnson, ordered General Arnold to its relief. General Herkimer, with about eight hundred militia, had already marched to the succour of Colonel Gansevoort, who commanded the post; but having unfortunately none of the attributes of a soldier but bravery and patriotism, he fell into an ambuscade of Indians and provincials under Sir John, and was compelled to fight under many disadvantages. His militia, however, maintained a contest of two hours, in which they displayed the coolness and courage of disciplined veterans. The General himself was mortally wounded in the onset, but refused to be carried off the field, continuing to the last to animate and encourage his brave followers. Both parties ceased firing as if by mutual consent, neither having yielded an inch. Sir John, however, claimed a victory, though the Americans made a regular and deliberate retreat, in which they carried off all their wounded, without pursuit. The vigour of the contest may be readily conceived, when it is known that of General Herkimer's party of eight hundred, one hundred and sixty were killed and wounded. The loss of the enemy is not known, but there can be little doubt that it was at least equally great ; thirtythree of the Indians were killed, and twenty-nine wounded, among whom were many of their Chiefs.