True to the Old Flag by G. A. Henty
Chapter XIII. Saratoga.
"What is your report?" asked General Burgoyne, as the scouts were conducted into his tent.
"We have discovered, sir, that the Americans have strongly fortified Mount Independence, which faces Ticonderoga, and have connected the two places by a bridge across the river, which is protected by a strong boom. Both positions are, however, overlooked by Sugar Hill, and this they have entirely neglected to fortify. If you were to seize this they would have to retire at once."
The general expressed his satisfaction at the news and gave orders that steps should be taken to seize Sugar Hill immediately. He then questioned the scouts as to their adventures and praised them highly for their conduct.
The next day the army advanced, and at nightfall both divisions were in their places, having arrived within an hour or two of each other from the opposite sides of the lake. Sugar Hill was seized the same night, and a strong party were set to work cutting a road through the trees. The next morning the enemy discovered the British at work erecting a battery on the hill, and their general decided to evacuate both Ticonderoga and Mount Independence instantly. Their baggage, provisions, and stores were embarked in two hundred boats and sent up the river. The army started to march by the road.
The next morning the English discovered that the Americans had disappeared. Captain Lutwych immediately set to work to destroy the bridge and boom, whose construction had taken the Americans nearly twelve months' labor. By nine in the morning a passage was effected, and some gunboats passed through in pursuit of the enemy's convoy. They overtook them near Skenesborough, engaged and captured many of their largest craft, and obliged them to set several others on fire, together with a large number of their boats and barges.
A few hours afterward a detachment of British troops in gunboats came up the river to Skenesborough. The cannon on the works which the Americans had erected there opened fire, but the troops were landed, and the enemy at once evacuated their works, setting fire to their store-houses and mills. While these operations had been going on by water Brigadier General Fraser, at the head of the advance corps of grenadiers and light infantry, pressed hard upon the division of the enemy which had retired by the Hubberton Road, and overtook them at five o'clock in the morning.
The division consisted of fifteen hundred of the best colonial troops under the command of Colonel Francis. They were posted on strong ground and sheltered by breastworks composed of logs and old trees. General Fraser's detachment was inferior in point of numbers to that of the defenders of the position, but as he expected a body of the German troops under General Reidesel to arrive immediately, he at once attacked the breastworks. The Americans defended their post with great resolution and bravery. The re-enforcements did not arrive so soon as was expected, and for some time the British made no way.
General Reidesel, hearing the fire in front, pushed forward at full speed with a small body of troops. Among these was the band, which he ordered to play.
The enemy, hearing the music and supposing that the whole of the German troops had come up, evacuated the position and fell back with precipitation. Colonel Francis and many others were killed and two hundred taken prisoners. On the English side 120 men were killed and wounded.
The enemy from Skenesborough were pursued by Colonel Hill, with the Ninth Regiment, and were overtaken near Fort Anne. Finding how small was the force that pursued them in comparison to their own, they took the offensive. A hot engagement took place, and after three hours' fighting the Americans were repulsed with great slaughter and forced to retreat after setting fire to Fort Anne and Fort Edward.
In these operations the British captured 148 guns, with large quantities of stores. At Fort Edward General Schuyler was joined by General St. Clair, but even with this addition the total American strength did not exceed forty-four hundred.
Instead of returning from Skenesborough to Ticonderoga, whence he might have sailed with his army up to Lake George, General Burgoyne proceeded to cut his way through the woods to the lake. The difficulties of the passage were immense: swamps and morasses had to be passed, bridges had to be constructed over creeks, ravines, and gulleys. The troops worked with great vigor and spirit. Major General Phillips had returned to Lake George and transported the artillery, provisions, and baggage to Fort George and thence by land to a point on the Hudson River, together with a large number of boats for the use of the army in their intended descent to Albany.
So great was the labor entailed by this work that it was not until July 30 that the army arrived on the Hudson River. The delay of three weeks had afforded the enemy time to recover their spirits and recruit their strength. General Arnold arrived with a strong re-enforcement, and a force was detached to check the progress of Colonel St. Leger, who was coming down from Montreal by way of Lake Ontario and the Mohawk River to effect a junction with General Burgoyne.
General Burgoyne determined to advance at once. The army was already suffering from want of transportation, and he decided to send a body of troops to Bennington, twenty-four miles to the eastward of the Hudson River, where the Americans had large supplies collected. Instead of sending light infantry he dispatched six hundred Germans--the worst troops he could have selected for this purpose, as they were very heavily armed and marched exceedingly slowly. Several of the officers remonstrated with him, but with his usual infatuated obstinacy he maintained his disposition.
On approaching Bennington Colonel Baum, who commanded the Germans, found that a very strong force was gathered there. He sent back for re-enforcements, and five hundred more Germans, under Lieutenant Colonel Breyman, were dispatched to his assistance. Long, however, before these slowly moving troops could arrive Colonel Baum was attacked by the enemy in vastly superior numbers. The Germans fought with great bravery and several times charged the Americans and drove them back. Fresh troops continued to come up on the enemy's side, and the Germans, having lost a large number of men, including their colonel, were forced to retreat into the woods. The enemy then advanced against Colonel Breyman, who was ignorant of the disaster that had befallen Baum, and with his detachment had occupied twenty-four hours in marching sixteen miles. The Germans again fought well, but after a gallant resistance were obliged to fall back. In these two affairs they lost six hundred men.
In the meantime Colonel St. Leger had commenced his attack upon Fort Stanwix, which was defended by seven hundred men. The American General Herkimer advanced with one thousand men to its relief. Colonel St. Leger detached Sir John Johnson with a party of regulars and a number of Indians, who had accompanied him, to meet them. The enemy advanced incautiously and fell into an ambush. A terrible fire was poured into them, and the Indians then rushed down and attacked them hand to hand. The Americans, although taken by surprise, fought bravely and succeeded in making their retreat, leaving four hundred killed and wounded behind them.
Colonel St. Leger had no artillery which was capable of making any impression on the defenses of the fort. Its commander sent out a man who, pretending to be a deserter, entered the British camp and informed Colonel St. Leger that General Burgoyne had been defeated and his army cut to pieces, and that General Arnold, with two thousand men, was advancing to raise the siege. Colonel St. Leger did not credit the news, but it created a panic among the Indians, the greater portion of whom at once retired without orders, and St. Leger, having but a small British force with him, was compelled to follow their example, leaving his artillery and stores behind him.
On September 13 General Burgoyne, having with immense labor collected thirty days' provisions on the Hudson, crossed the river by a bridge of boats and encamped on the heights of Saratoga. His movements had been immensely hampered by the vast train of artillery which he took with him. In an open country a powerful force of artillery is of the greatest service to an army, but in a campaign in a wooded and roadless country it is of little utility and enormously hampers the operations of an army. Had General Burgoyne, after the capture of Ticonderoga, pressed forward in light order without artillery, he could unquestionably have marched to New York without meeting with any serious opposition, but the six weeks' delay had enabled the Americans to collect a great force to oppose them.
On the 19th, as the army were advancing to Stillwater, five thousand of the enemy attacked the British right. They were led by General Arnold and fought with great bravery and determination. The brunt of the battle fell on the Twentieth, Twenty-fourth, and Sixty-second regiments. For four hours the fight continued without any advantage on either side, and at nightfall the Americans drew off, each side having lost about six hundred men. After the battle of Stillwater the whole of the Indians with General Burgoyne left him and returned to Canada.
Hampered with his great train of artillery, unprovided with transportation, in the face of a powerful enemy posted in an exceedingly strong position, General Burgoyne could neither advance nor retreat. The forage was exhausted and the artillery horses were dying in great numbers. He had hoped that Sir William Howe would have sailed up the Hudson and joined him, but the English commander-in-chief had taken his army down to Philadelphia. Sir Henry Clinton, who commanded at New York, endeavored with a small force at his command to make a diversion by operating against the American posts on the Hudson River, but this was of no utility.
Burgoyne's army was now reduced to little more than five thousand men, and he determined to fall back upon the lakes. Before doing this, however, it would be necessary to dislodge the Americans from their posts on his left. Leaving the camp under the command of General Hamilton, Burgoyne advanced with fifteen hundred men against them. But scarcely had the detachment started when the enemy made a furious attack on the British left. Major Ackland, with the grenadiers, was posted here, and for a time defended himself with great bravery. The light infantry and Twenty-fourth were sent to their assistance, but, overpowered by numbers, the left wing was forced to retreat into their intrenchments. These the enemy, led by General Arnold, at once attacked with great impetuosity. For a long time the result was doubtful, and it was not until the American leader was wounded that the attack ceased. In the meantime the intrenchments defended by the German troops under Colonel Breyman had also been attacked. Here the fight was obstinate, but the German intrenchments were carried, Colonel Breyman killed, and his troops retreated with the loss of all their baggage and artillery. Two hundred prisoners fell into the hands of the Americans.
That night the British army was concentrated on the heights above the hospital. General Gates, who commanded the Americans, moved his army so as to entirely inclose the British, and the latter, on the night of October 8, retired to Saratoga, being obliged to leave all their sick and wounded in the hospital. These were treated with the greatest kindness by the Americans. An attempt was now made to retreat to Fort George or Fort Edward, but the Americans had taken up positions on each road and fortified them with cannon.
Only about thirty-five hundred fighting men now remained, of whom but one-half were British, and scarcely eight days' provisions were left. The enemy, four times superior in point of numbers, held every line of retreat and eluded every attempt of the British to force them to a general engagement.
The position was hopeless, and on October 13 a council of war was held and it was determined to open negotiations for a surrender. Two days were spent in negotiations, and it was finally agreed that the army should lay down its arms and that it should be marched to Boston, and there allowed to sail for England on condition of not serving again in North America during the contest. The Canadians were to be allowed to return at once to their own country. On the 16th the army laid down its arms. It consisted of thirty-five hundred fighting men and six hundred sick and nearly two thousand boatmen, teamsters, and other non-effectives.
Never did a general behave with greater incompetence than that manifested by General Burgoyne from the day of his leaving Ticonderoga, and the disaster which befell his army was entirely the result of mismanagement, procrastination, and faulty generalship.
Had Harold remained with the army until its surrender his share in the war would have been at an end, for the Canadians, as well as all others who laid down their arms, gave their word of honor not to serve again during the war. He had, however, with Peter Lambton and Jake, accompanied Colonel Baum's detachment on its march to Bennington. Scouting in front of the column, they had ascertained the presence of large numbers of the enemy, and had, by hastening back with the news, enabled the German colonel to make some preparations for resistance before the attack was made upon him. During the fight that ensued the scouts, posted behind trees on the German left, had assisted them to repel the attack from that quarter, and when the Germans gave way they effected their escape into the woods and managed to rejoin the army.
They had continued with it until it moved to the hospital heights after the disastrous attack by the Americans on their camp. General Burgoyne then sent for Peter Lambton, who was, he knew, one of his most active and intelligent scouts.
"Could you make your way through the enemy's lines down to Ticonderoga?" he asked.
"I could try, general," Peter said. "Me and the party who work with me could get through if anyone could, but more nor that I can't say. The Yanks are swarming around pretty thick, I reckon; but if we have luck we might make a shift to get through."
"I have hopes," the general said, "that another regiment, for which I asked General Carleton, has arrived there. Here is a letter to General Powell, who is in command, to beg him to march with all his available force and fall upon the enemy posted on our line of communication. Unless the new regiment has reached him he will not have a sufficient force to attempt this, but, if this has come up, he may be able to do so. He is to march in the lightest order and at full speed, so as to take the enemy by surprise. Twelve hours before he starts you will bring me back news of his coming, and I will move out to meet him. His operations in their rear will confuse the enemy and enable me to operate with a greater chance of success. I tell you this because, if you are surrounded and in difficulties, you may have to destroy my dispatch. You can then convey my instructions by word of mouth to General Powell if you succeed in getting through."
Upon leaving headquarters Peter joined his friends.
"It's a risksome business," he went on, after informing them of the instructions he had received, "but I don't know as it's much more risksome than stopping here. It don't seem to me that this army is like to get out of the trap into which their general has led 'em. Whatever he wanted to leave the lakes for is more nor I can tell. However, generaling aint my business, and I wouldn't change places with the old man to-day, not for a big sum of money. Now, chief, what do you say? How's this 'ere business to be carried out?"
The Seneca, with the five braves who had from the first accompanied them, were now the only Indians with the British army. The rest of the redskins, disgusted with the dilatory progress of the army and foreseeing inevitable disaster, had all betaken themselves to their homes. They were, moreover, angered at the severity with which the English general had endeavored to suppress their tendency to acts of cruelty on the defenseless settlers. The redskin has no idea of civilized warfare. His sole notion of fighting is to kill, burn, and destroy, and the prohibition of all irregular operations and of the infliction of unnecessary suffering was, in his eyes, an act of incomprehensible weakness. The Seneca chief remained with the army simply because his old comrade did so. He saw that there was little chance of plunder, but he and his braves had succeeded in fair fight in obtaining many scalps, and would, at least, be received with high honor on their return to their tribe.
A long discussion took place between the chief and Peter before they finally decided upon the best course to be pursued. They were ignorant of the country and of the disposition of the enemy's force, and could only decide to act upon general principles. They thought it probable that the Americans would be most thickly posted upon the line between the British army and the lakes, and their best chance of success would therefore be to make their way straight ahead for some distance, and then, when they had penetrated the American lines, to make a long detour round to the lakes.
Taking four days' provisions with them they started when nightfall had fairly set in. It was intensely dark, and in the shadows of the woods Harold was unable to see his hand before him. The Indians appeared to have a faculty of seeing in the dark, for they advanced without the slightest pause or hesitation and were soon in the open country. The greatest vigilance was now necessary. Everywhere they could hear the low hum which betokens the presence of many men gathered together. Sometimes a faint shout came to their ears, and for a long distance around the glow in the sky told of many fires. The party now advanced with the greatest caution, frequently halting while the Indians went on ahead to scout; and more than once they were obliged to alter their direction as they came upon bodies of men posted across their front. At last they passed through the line of sentinels, and, avoiding all the camps, gained the country in the Americans' rear.
They now struck off to the right, and by daybreak were far round beyond the American army, on their way to Ticonderoga. They had walked for fifteen hours when they halted, and it was not until late in the afternoon that they continued their journey. They presently struck the road which the army had cut in its advance, and keeping parallel with this through the forest they arrived the next morning at Fort Edward. A few hours' rest here and they continued their march to Ticonderoga. This place had been attacked by the Americans a few days previously, but the garrison had beaten off the assailants.
On the march they had seen many bodies of the enemy moving along the road, but their approach had in every case been detected in time to take refuge in the forest. On entering the fort Peter at once proceeded to General Powell's quarters and delivered the dispatch with which he had been intrusted. The general read it.
"No re-enforcements have arrived," the general said, "and the force here is barely sufficient to defend the place. It would be madness for me to set out on such a march with the handful of troops at my disposal."
He then questioned Peter concerning the exact position of the army, and the latter had no hesitation in saying that he thought the whole force would be compelled to lay down their arms unless some re-enforcements reached them from below.
This, however, was not to be. General Clinton captured Forts Montgomery and Clinton, the latter a very strong position, defended with great resolution by four hundred Americans. The Seventh and Twenty-sixth regiments and a company of grenadiers attacked on one side, the Sixty-third Regiment on the other. They had no cannon to cover their advance and had to cross ground swept by ten pieces of artillery. In no event during the war did the British fight with more resolution. Without firing a shot they pressed forward to the foot of the works, climbed over each other's shoulders on to the walls, and drove the enemy back. The latter discharged one last volley into the troops and then laid down their arms. Notwithstanding the slaughter effected by this wanton fire after all possibility of continuing a resistance was over, quarter was given and not one of the enemy was killed after the fort was taken. The British loss was 140 killed and wounded; 300 Americans were killed, wounded, or taken prisoners. The fleet attacked the American squadron on the river and entirely destroyed it. Beyond sending a flying squadron up the river to destroy the enemy's boats and stores of provisions, nothing further could be done to effect a diversion in favor of General Burgoyne.
Four days after Harold's arrival at Ticonderoga the news of the surrender of General Burgoyne reached the place. Upon the following day he suggested to Peter Lambton that they should visit the clearing of the ex-soldier Cameron and see whether their interference had saved him and his family. Upon arriving at the spot whence Harold had fired the shot which had brought discovery upon them, they saw a few charred stumps alone remaining of the snug house which had stood there. In front of it, upon the stump of a tree, Cameron himself was sitting in an attitude of utter depression.
They walked across the clearing to the spot, but although the sound of their footsteps must have reached his ear, the man did not look up until Harold touched him on the shoulder.
"What has happened?" he asked. "Who has done this ruin?"
The man still remained with his head bent down, as if he had not heard the question.
"We had hoped that you had escaped," Harold went on. "We were hidden in the wood when we saw those ruffians drive your wife and daughter out, and it was the shot from my rifle that killed their leader and brought them down on us; and a narrow escape we had of it; but we hoped that we had diverted them from their determination to kill you and your family."
Cameron looked up now.
"I thank ye, sir," he said. "I thank ye wi' a' my hairt for your interference on our behalf. I heerd how closely ye were beset that night and how ye escaped. They thought nae mair o' us, and when the royal army arrived the next day we were safe; but ye might as weel ha' let the matter gang on--better, indeed, for then I should be deed instead o' suffering. This wark," and he pointed toward the remains of the house, "is redskin deviltry. A fortnight sin' a band o' Indians fell upon us. I was awa'. They killed my wife and burned my house and ha' carried off my bairn."
"Who were they?" Harold asked.
"I dinna ken," Cameron replied; "but a neebor o' mine whose place they attacked, and whom they had scalped and left for deed, told me that they were a band o' the Iroquois who had come down from Lake Michigan and advanced wi' the British. He said that they, with the other redskins, desairted when their hopes o' plunder were disappointed, and that on their way back to their tribes they burned and ravaged every settlement they cam' across. My neebor was an old frontiersman; he had fought against the tribe and knew their war-cry. He deed the next day. He was mair lucky than I am."
"The tarnal ruffians!" Peter exclaimed; "the murdering varmints! And to think of 'em carrying off that purty little gal of yours! I suppose by this time they're at their old game of plundering and slaying on the frontier. It's naught to them which side they fight on; scalps and plunder is all they care for."
The unfortunate settler had sat down again on the log, the picture of a broken-hearted man. Harold drew Peter a short distance away.
"Look here. Peter," he said. "Now Burgoyne's army has surrendered and winter is close at hand, it is certain that there will be no further operations here, except perhaps that the Americans will recapture the place. What do you say to our undertaking an expedition on our own account to try and get back this poor fellow's daughter? I do not know whether the Seneca would join us, but we three--of course I count Jake--and the settler might do something. I have an old grudge against these Iroquois myself, as you have heard; and for aught I know they may long ere this have murdered my cousins."
"The Seneca will jine," Peter said, "willing enough. There's an old feud between his tribe and the Iroquois. He'll jine fast enough. But mind, youngster, this aint no child's play; it aint like fighting them American clodhoppers. We'll have to deal with men as sharp as ourselves, who can shoot as well, hear as well, see as well, who are in their own country, and who are a hundred to one against us. We've got hundreds and hundreds of miles to travel afore we gets near 'em. It's a big job; but if, when ye thinks it all over, you're ready to go, Peter Lambton aint the man to hold back. As you say, there's naught to do this winter, and we might as well be doing this as anything else."
The two men then went back to the settler.
"Cameron," Harold said, "it is of no use sitting here grieving. Why not be up in pursuit of those who carried off your daughter?"
The man sprang to his feet.
"In pursuit!" he cried fiercely; "in pursuit! Do ye think Donald Cameron wad be sitting here quietly if he kenned where to look for his daughter--where to find the murderers o' his wife? But what can I do? For three days after I cam' back and found what had happened I was just mad. I couldna think nor rest, nor do aught but throw mysel' on the ground and pray to God to tak' me. When at last I could think, it was too late. It wad hae mattered naething to me that they were a hundred to one. If I could ha' killed but one o' them I wad ha' died happy; but they were gone, and how could I follow them--how could I find them? Tell me where to look, mon--show me the way; and if it be to the ends o' the airth I will go after them."
"We will do more, than that," Harold said. "My friend and myself have still with us the seven men who were with us when we were here before. Five are Senecas, the other a faithful negro who would go through fire and water for me. There is little chance of our services being required during the winter with the British army. We, are interested in you and in the pretty child we saw here, and, if you will, we will accompany you in the search for her. Peter Lambton knows the country well, and if anyone could lead you to your child and rescue her from those who carried her off, he is the man."
"Truly!" gasped the Scotchman. "And will ye truly gang wi' me to find my bairn? May the guid God o' heaven bless you!" and the tears ran down his cheeks.
"Git your traps together at once, man," Peter said. "Let's go straight back to the fort; then I'll set the matter before the chief, who will, I warrant me, be glad enough to jine the expedition. It's too late to follow the track of the red varmints; our best plan will be to make straight for the St. Lawrence; to take a boat if we can git one; if not, two canoes; and to make up the river and along the Ontario. Then we must sell our boat, cross to Erie, and git fresh canoes and go on by Detroit into Lake Huron, and so up in the country of these reptiles. We shall have no difficulty, I reckon, in discovering the whereabout of the tribe which has been away on this expedition."
The Scotchman took up the rifle.
"I am ready," he said, and without another word the party started for the fort.
Upon their arrival there a consultation was held with the Seneca. The prospect of an expedition against his hereditary foes filled him with delight, and three of his braves also agreed to accompany them. Jake received the news with the remark:
"All right, Massa Harold. It make no odds to dis chile whar he goes. You say de word--Jake ready."
Half an hour sufficed for making the preparations, and they at once proceeded to the point where they had hidden the two canoes on the night when they joined General Burgoyne before his advance upon Ticonderoga. These were soon floating on the lake, and they started to paddle to the mouth of the Sorrel, down this river into the St. Lawrence, and thence to Montreal. Their rifles they had recovered from the lake upon the day following that on which Ticonderoga was first captured; Deer Tail having dispatched to the spot two of his braves, who recovered them without difficulty, by diving, and brought them back to the fort.
At Montreal they stayed but a few hours. An ample supply of ammunition was purchased and provisions sufficient for the voyage; and then, embarking in the two canoes, they started up the St. Lawrence. It was three weeks later when they arrived at Detroit, which was garrisoned by a British force. Here they heard that there had been continuous troubles with the Indians on the frontier; that a great many farms and settlements had been destroyed, and numbers of persons murdered.
Their stay at Detroit was a short one. Harold obtained no news of his cousins, but there were so many tales told of Indian massacres that he was filled with apprehension on their account. His worst apprehensions were justified when the canoes at length came within sight of the well-remembered clearing. Harold gave a cry as he saw that the farmhouse no longer existed. The two canoes were headed toward shore, and their occupants disembarked and walked toward the spot where the house had stood. The site was marked by a heap of charred embers. The outhouses had been destroyed, and a few fowls were the only living things to be seen in the fields.
"This here business must have taken place some time ago," Peter said, breaking the silence. "A month, I should say, or p'r'aps more."
For a time Harold was too moved to speak. The thought of his kind cousins and their brave girl all murdered by the Indians filled him with deep grief. At last he said:
"What makes you think so, Peter?"
"It's easy enough to see as it was after the harvest, for ye see the fields is all clear. And then there's long grass shooting up through the ashes. It would take a full month, p'r'aps six weeks, afore it would do that. Don't you think so, chief?"
The Seneca nodded.
"A moon," he said.
"Yes, about a month," replied Peter. "The grass grows quick after the rains."
"Do you think that it was a surprise, Peter?"
"No man can tell," the hunter answered. "If we had seen the place soon afterward we might have told. There would have been marks of blood. Or if the house had stood we could have told by the bullet-holes and the color of the splintered wood how it happened and how long back. As it is, not even the chief can give ye an idea."
"Not an attack," the Seneca said; "a surprise."
"How on arth do you know that, chief?" the hunter exclaimed in surprise, and he looked round in search of some sign which would have enabled the Seneca to have given so confident an opinion. "You must be a witch, surely."
"A chief's eyes are not blind," the redskin answered, with a slight smile of satisfaction at having for once succeeded when his white comrade was at fault. "Let my friend look up the hill--two dead men there."
Harold looked in the direction in which the chief pointed, but could see nothing. The hunter exclaimed:
"There's something there, chief, but even my eyes couldn't tell they were bodies."
The party proceeded to the spot and found two skeletons. A few remnants of clothes lay around, but the birds had stripped every particle of flesh from the bones. There was a bullet in the forehead of one skull; the other was cleft with a sharp instrument.
"It's clear enough," the hunter said, "there's been a surprise. Likely enough the hull lot was killed without a shot being fired in defense."