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One of Washington's most trusted generals said, and said truly, that it was only through misfortune that the Americans would rise to the character of a great people. Perhaps no event of the Revolution more signally verified the truth of this saying, than the fall of Ticonderoga.

Let us see how this disaster was affecting the Northern States. In that section, stragglers and deserters were spreading exaggerated accounts of it on every side. In Vermont, the settlers living west of the mountains were now practically defenseless. Burgoyne's agents were undermining their loyalty; the fall of Ticonderoga had shaken it still more. Rather than abandon their farms, many no longer hesitated to put themselves under British protection. Hundreds, who were too patriotic to do this, fled over the mountains, spreading consternation as they went. From Lake Champlain to the New England coast, there was not a village that did not believe itself to be the especial object of Burgoyne's vengeance. Indeed, his name became a bugbear, to frighten unruly children with.

Of those who had been with the army, many believed it their first duty to protect their families, and so went home. Numbers, who were on the way to Ticonderoga, turned back, on hearing that it was taken. To Burgoyne, these results were equal to a battle gained, since he was weakening the Americans, just as surely, in this way, with entire safety to himself.

In despair, those settlers who stood faithful among the faithless turned to their New Hampshire brethren. "If we are driven back, the invader will soon be at your doors," they said. "We are your buckler and shield. Our humble cabins are the bulwark of your happy firesides. But our hearts fail us. Help us or we perish!"

Could Schuyler do nothing for these suffering people? To let them be ruined and driven out was not only a bad policy but a worse strategy. He knew that Burgoyne must regard these settlements with foreboding, as the home of a hostile and brave yeomanry, whose presence was a constant threat to him. To maintain them, then, was an act of simplest wisdom. Schuyler could ill spare a single soldier, yet it was necessary to do something, and that quickly, for all New England was in a tumult, and Burgoyne said to be marching all ways at once. What wonder, since Washington himself believed New England to be the threatened point![27]

Warner's regiment had been recruited among the Green Mountain Boys of this very section. Schuyler posted what was left of it at Manchester, to be at once a rallying-point for the settlers, a menace to the loyalists, and a defense against Burgoyne's predatory bands, who were already spreading themselves out over the surrounding region. It was not much, but it was something.

From New Hampshire, the panic quickly spread into Massachusetts, and throughout all New England. As usually happens, the loss of Ticonderoga was laid at the door of the generals in chief command. Many accused St. Clair of treacherous dealing. Everywhere, people were filled with wrath and astonishment. "The fortress has been sold!" they cried. Some of the officers, who had been present, wrote home that the place could have held out against Burgoyne for weeks, or until help could have arrived. This was sure to find ready believers, and so added to the volume of denunciation cast upon the head of the unlucky St. Clair.

But these passionate outbursts of feeling were soon quenched by the necessity all saw for prompt action. Once passion and prejudice had burned out, our people nobly rose to the demands of the situation. But confidence in the generals of the Northern army was gone forever. The men of New England would not sit long in the shadow of defeat, but they said they would no more be sacrificed to the incompetency of leaders who had been tried and found wanting. Congress had to pay heed to this feeling. Washington had to admit the force of it because he knew that New England must be chiefly looked to in this crisis, to make head against Burgoyne. If she failed, all else would fail.

If we turn now to New York, what do we see? Five counties in the enemy's hands. Three more, so divided against themselves as to be without order or government. Of the remaining six, the resources of Orange, Ulster, and Dutchess were already heavily taxed with the duty of defending the passes of the Hudson; Westchester was being overrun by the enemy, at will; only Tryon and Albany remained, and in Tryon, every able-bodied citizen, not a loyalist, was arming to repel the invasion of St. Leger, now imminent.

We have thus briefly glanced at the dangers resulting from the fall of Ticonderoga, at the resources of the sections which Burgoyne was now threatening to lay waste with fire and sword, and at the attitude of the people toward those generals who had so grievously disappointed them in the conduct of the campaign, up to this time.

In the words of one distinguished writer, "The evacuation of Ticonderoga was a shock for which no part of the United States was prepared." In the language of another, "No event throughout the whole war produced such consternation, nothing could have been more unexpected."

It was not so much the loss of the fortress itself,--as costly as it was to the impoverished colonies, that could have been borne,--but the people had been led to believe, and did believe, it was next to impregnable; nor could they understand why those who had been entrusted with its defense should have fled without striking a blow, or calling for assistance until too late.

Congress immediately ordered all the generals of the Northern army[28] to Philadelphia, in order that their conduct might be looked into. John Adams hotly declared that they would never be able to defend a post until they shot a general. But Washington, always greatest in defeat, hastened to show how such a step was doubly dangerous to an army when fronting its enemy, and wisely procured its suspension for the present. He first set himself to work to soothe Schuyler's wounded pride, while stimulating him to greater activity. "We should never despair," he nobly said. And again: "If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new exertions. I yet look forward to a happy change." It was indeed fortunate that one so stout of heart, with so steady a hand, so firm in the belief of final triumph, so calm in the hour of greatest danger, should have guided the destinies of the infant nation at this trying hour.


[27] THE THREATENED POINT. Baffled in his purpose of taking Philadelphia by Washington's success at Trenton, Sir William Howe had decided on making another attempt; but his maneuvers led Washington to believe Howe was going to Newport, R.I., with the view of overrunning Massachusetts. See Note 3, "Plan of Campaign" (p. 32).

[28] GENERALS OF THE NORTHERN ARMY. Schuyler and St. Clair were chiefly inculpated. Brigadiers Poor, Patterson, and De Fermoy, who were with St. Clair at Ticonderoga, were included in the order. All had agreed in the necessity for the evacuation, and all came in for a share of the public censure. Poor and Patterson nobly redeemed themselves in the later operations against Burgoyne.