From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol I. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.
July 17. –By an express from the northward we learn that the American forces, under the command of General St. Clair, abandoned Fort Ticonderoga and the adjoining lines, on the morning of the 6th instant, and are now encamped in the vicinity of Moses Creek. A letter from an officer at that place, written this day, gives the following account of the retreat and its consequences: — The retreat from Ticonderoga will be a matter of speculation in the country, and the accounts different and confused, a true state of facts will therefore be very satisfactory without doubt.
We were deceived with respect to the strength of the enemy, and our own reinforcements. The enemy have practised a piece of finesse which has too well answered their purpose; they have so conducted that all hands in the United States believed they had drawn their force from Canada to the southward, and designed only to garrison their posts in the northern world; the consequence of this belief has been the ordering eight regiments, destined for Ticonderoga and its environs, to Peekskill, and little attention has been paid to this department. The enemy’s condition in Canada has been represented as miserable, confused, scattered and sickly; this has been the general opinion in camp and country, and our situation has been thought perfectly safe.
Our force consisted of about four thousand, including the corps of artillery, and artificers who were not armed, a considerable part of which were militia; we could bring about three thousand fit for duty into the field. General Burgoyne came against us with about eight thousand healthy, spirited troops, with a lake force consisting of three fifty-gun ships, a thunder mounting eighteen brass twenty-four pounders, two thirteen-inch mortars, a number of howitz, several sloops, gun-boats, &c., &c.
Their strength being so very superior to ours obliged us to tamely sit still and see them erect batteries all around us, without hazarding a sally. Two batteries were erected in front of our lines, on higher ground than ours; within half a mile on our left they had taken post on a very high hill overlooking all our works; our right would have been commanded by their shipping and the batteries they had erected on the other side of the lake. Our lines at Ticonderoga would have been of no service, and we must have inevitably abandoned them in a few days after their batteries opened, which would have been the next morning; we then should have been necessitated to retire to Fort Independence, the consequence of which, I conceive, would have been much worse than the mode adopted; for the moment we had left Ticonderoga fort, they could send their shipping by us, and prevent our communication with Skenes-borough; then the only avenue to and from Fort Independence would have been by a narrow neck of land leading from the mount to the Grants. To this neck they had almost cut a road; a day more would have completed it. A few troops stationed at Ticonderoga, would have prevented our communication with Lake George, as our own works would have been against us. Their shipping would have destroyed our connection with Skenesborough, and their main body might have been placed on this neck of land, which, by a few works, might have prevented all supplies and reinforcements; we might have stayed at the mount as long as our provisions would have supported us; we had flour for thirty days, and meat sufficient only for a week. Under these circumstances General St. Glair, on the sixth instant, called a council of war, and an evacuation was unanimously agreed upon as the only means of saving the army from captivity.
It was necessary also that our retreat should be precipitate, as the communication was almost cut off, and they would soon be apprised of our designs. It was therefore determined to send the baggage and sick in boats to Skenesborough, and for the army to march by land from the mount to that place, being forty miles. At the dawn of day we left Fort Independence, and I cannot say the march was conducted with the greatest regularity; the front, which was the main body, marched thirty miles to a place called Castleton, about twelve miles from Skenesborough; the militia halted three miles in the rear of the front, and the rear guard, commanded by Colonel Francis, being joined by Colonels Warner and Hale, halted at Hubbardton, about a mile and a half in the rear of the militia. As the march was severe, the feeble of the army had fallen in the rear, and tarried at Hubbardton with the rear guard. This body in rear might consist of near a thousand men. Before I proceed further it may be necessary to give you the enemy’s dispositions after they were advised of our retreat: A large body, at least two thousand, were detached to pursue our main body and harass our rear; all the gun boats and some of their shipping were sent after our baggage, came up with it at Skenesborough and took it. The ninth regiment, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Hills, was ordered to run down South Bay, and land and march on a by road to Fort Ann, and take that before our troops could reach it; the remainder of the army went on to Skenesborough, except a garrison at Ticonderoga.
The body of the enemy sent to harass our rear, came up with it the next morning at Hubbardton, which was then commanded by Colonel Warner; by the exertions of the officers our little army formed and gave them battle, which continued about twenty-five minutes very severe, when our party were overpowered with numbers and gave way. The loss on both sides was considerable; as our people took to the woods and are daily coming in, it is impossible to ascertain our loss. Colonel Francis, a worthy, brave officer, after signalizing himself, was shot through, and expired instantly; Colonel Hale is missing. It is natural to ask why was not Colonel Warner reinforced? Let me tell you; orders were sent to Colonel —-, who commanded the militia, to go to the assistance of the rear guard, but before they arrived, the action was over and our people dispersed. Our main body being now twelve miles from Skenesborough, and hearing that a large body of the enemy were arrived there, and knowing that a large body were in our rear, the general imagined if we pursued our route, that we must engage both in front and rear under great disadvantage; and to pursue his plan in first retreating, which was to save the army, he though prudent to file off to the left, and before we reached Hudson River, we marched one hundred and fifty miles; in this march we picked up about thirty prisoners, part British, part Waldeckers, and part Canadians. The party of our men who were at Skenesborough, retreated to Fort Ann; they were twice attacked by the ninth regiment, and both times repulsed them. They took a Captain Montgomery and a doctor, and would probably have taken the whole regiment had their ammunition held out. This is a candid statement of facts, and for this conduct we are told our country calls us either knaves or cowards; I conceive they ought to be grateful to our general, for had we stayed we very certainly should have been taken, and then no troops could have stood between the enemy and the country. Our affairs now are not desperate in this quarter, as they would certainly have been; we have destroyed Fort George and its appendages, and shall soon be able, I hope, to make head against our enemies, as we are gathering strength and re-collecting ourselves.1
1 Pennsylvania Evening Post, August 9.