« PreviousContinue »
thirteen United States must in all human probability have followed, and the independence which they proclaimed in 1776 would have been extinguished before it existed a second year. No European power had as yet come forward to aid America. It is true that England was generally regarded with jealousy and ill-will, and was thought to have acquired, at the treaty of Paris, a preponderance of dominion which was perilous to the balance of power; but, though many were willing to wound, none had yet ventured to strike; and America, if defeated in 1777, would have been suffered to fall unaided.
Burgoyne had gained celebrity by some bold and dashing exploits in Portugal during the last war; he was personally as brave an officer as ever headed British troops; he had considerable skill as a tactician; and his general intellectual abilities and acquirements were of a high order. He had several very able and experienced officers under him, among whom were Major-General Philips and Brigadier-General Frazer.
His regular troops amounted, exclusively of the corps of artillery, to about 7,200 men, rank and file. Nearly half of these were Germans. He had also an auxiliary force of from two to three thousand Canadians. He summoned the warriors of several tribes of the red Indians near the Western lakes to join his army. Much eloquence was poured forth both in America and in England in denouncing the use of these savage auxiliaries. Yet Burgoyne seems to have done no more than Montcalm, Wolfe, and other French, American and English generals had done before him. But, in truth, the lawless ferocity of the Indians, their unskillfulness in regular action, and the utter impossibility of bringing them under any discipline, made their services of little or no value in times of difficulty; while the indignation which their outrages inspired went far to rouse the whole population of the invaded districts into active hostilities against Burgoyne's force."
Burgoyne assembled his troops and confederates near the River Bouquet, on the west side of Lake Champlain. He then, on the 21st of June, 1777, gave his red allies a war feast, and harangued them on the necessity of abstaining from their usual cruel practices against unarmed people and prisoners. At the same time, he published a pompous manifesto to the Americans, in which he threatened the refractory with all the horrors of war, Indian as well as European.10 The army proceeded by water to Crown Point, a fortification which the Americans held at the northern extremity of the inlet, by which the water from Lake George is conveyed to Lake Champlain. He landed here without opposition; but the reduction of Ticonderoga, a fortification about twelve miles to the south of Crown Point, was a more serious matter, and was supposed to be the critical part of the expedition. Ticonderoga commanded the passage along the lakes, and was considered to be the key to the route which Burgoyne wished to follow. The English had been repulsed in an attack on it in the war with the French in 1758 with severe loss. But Burgoyne now invested it with great skill; and the American general, St. Clair, who had only an ill-equipped army of about 3,000 men, evacuated it on the 5th of July. It seems evident that a different course would have caused the destruction or capture of his whole army, which, weak as it was, was the chief force then in the field for the protection of the New England States. When censured by some of his countrymen for abandoning Ticonderoga, Saint Clair truly replied “that he had lost a post, but saved a province.”ll Burgoyne's troops pursued the retiring Americans, gained several advantages over them, and took a large part of their artillery and military stores.
9. Does the writer think Burgoyne profited from the use of the Indians as soldiers ? Does he think it was wrong for Burgoyne to use them? What is your opinion?
10. To how great an extent would Burgoyne's words influence the Indians? Do you think he expected them to refrain from their barbarities?
The loss of the British in these engagements was trifling. The army moved southward along Lake George to Skenesborough, and thence, slowly and with great difficulty, across a broken country, full of creeks and marshes, and clogged by the enemy with felled trees and other obstacles, to Fort Edward, on the Hudson River, the American troops continuing to retire before them.
Burgoyne reached the left bank of the Hudson River on the 30th of July. Hitherto he had overcome every difficulty which the enemy and the nature of the country had placed in his way. His army was in excellent order and in the highest spirits, and the peril of the expedition seemed over when they were once on the bank of the river which was to be the channel of communication between them and the British army in the South. But their feelings, and those of the English nation in general when their successes were announced, may best be learned from a contemporary writer. Burke, in the Annual Register for 1777, describes them thus:
11. Do you think St. Clair acted wisely or in a cowardly manner ?
"Such was the rapid torrent of success, which swept everything away before the Northern army in its onset. It is not to be wondered at if both officers and private men were highly elated with their good fortune, and deemed that and their prowess to be irresistible; if they regarded their enemy with the greatest contempt; considered their own toils to be nearly at an end; Albany to be already in their hands; and the reduction of the northern provinces to be rather a matter of some time than an arduous task full of difficulty and danger.
“At home, the joy and exultation was extreme; not only at court, but with all those who hoped or wished the unqualified subjugation and unconditional submission of the colonies. The loss in reputation was greater to the Americans, and capable of more fatal consequences, than even that of ground, of posts, of artillery, or of men. All the contemptuous and most degrading charges which had been made by their enemies, of their wanting the resolution and abilities of men, even in their defense of whatever was dear to them, were now repeated and believed. Those who still regarded them as men, and who had not yet lost all affection to them as brethren; who also retained hopes that a happy reconciliation upon constitutional principles, without sacrificing the dignity of the just authority of government on the one side, or a dereliction of the rights of freemen on the other, was not even now impossible, notwithstanding their favorable dispositions in general, could not help feeling upon this occasion that the Americans sunk not a little in their estimation. It was not difficult to diffuse an opinion that the war in effect was over, and that any further resistance could serve only to render the terms of their submission the worse. Such were some of the immediate effects of the loss of those grand keys of North America—Ticonderoga, and the lakes.
The astonishment and alarm which these events produced among the Americans were naturally great; but in the midst of their disasters, none of the colonists showed any disposition to submit. The local governments of the New England States, as well as the Congress, acted with vigor and firmness in their efforts to repel the enemy. General Gates was sent to take the command of the army at Saratoga; and Arnold, a favorite leader of the Americans, was dispatched by Washington to act under him, with re-enforcements of troops and guns from the main American army. Burgoyne's employment of the Indians now produced the worst possible effects. Though he labored hard to check the atrocities which they were accustomed to commit, he could not prevent the occurrence of many barbarous outrages, repugnant both to the feelings of humanity and to the laws of civilized warfare. The American commanders took care that the reports of these excesses should be circulated far and wide, well knowing that they would make the stern New Englanders not droop, but rage.
Such was their effect; and though, when each man looked upon his wife, his children, his sisters, or his aged parents, the thought of the merciless