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A SHORT HISTORY OF THE     UNITED STATES NAVY
By R. CLARK, Rear-Admiral, U. S. Navy, (Ret.) c1910

 

THE FIRST BATTLE OF LAKE CHAMPLAIN

Arnold on Lake Cha'mplain

THE FIRST BATTLE OF LAKE CHAMPLAIN
The possession of Lakes Champlain and George WM felt early in the war to be of strategic importance. Not only did these lakes furnish an excellent waterway from Canada to the Colonies, but it was the design of the British that Carleton's army from Canada should rendez vous about Albany and thereby cut off all communica tions ,between the northern and southern Colonies. The American Army had invaded Canada in September, 1775, and during the following winter it had held Governor Guy Carleton shut up in Quebec. On the arrival of a British fleet with reinforcements, the Americans retreated to Crown Point, where they arrived on July 3, 1776. Brigadier-General Benedict Arnold, who, earlier in his career as a West India merchant, had at times commanded his own ships, started immediately to build a fleet on the lakes in competition with the British. Late in July, he was appointed by Gates to the command of the naval forces on the lakes. By October, he was able to muster one sloop, three schooners, eight gondolas, and four galleys. These vessels mounted altogether ninety-four cannon, from 2-pounders to 18-pounders, and they were manned by 700 officers and men, according to Arnold, "a wretched motley crew; the marines the refuse of every regiment, and the seamen few of them ever wet with salt water. " Arnold chose for his flagship one of the galleys, the Congress, a vessel of fifty-foot keel and of thirteen- foot beam, mounting one 18-pounder, one 12-pounder, and two 6- pounders.
But the British, with their greater resources in skilled seamen and in manufactured articles, won this race in building a fleet. Captain Charles Douglas, who had charge of the construction work of the enemy, had ready in twenty-eight days a full-rigged ship, the Enterprise, carrying eighteen 12-pounders. She had been begun at Quebec, and had been brought from the St. Lawrence up the Richelieu~ The Enterprise was of 180 tons burden, and greatly exceeded in size and armament 'any of Arnold's fleet. Early in October, General Sir Guy Carle- ton, thanks to Captain Douglas' energy in ship-building, had under his command one ship, two schooners, one radeau (raft), one large gondola, twenty gunboats and Four armed tenders. The British. fleet in the St. Lawrence furnished Carleton with 700 experienced officers and Seamen. The enemy also had a large detachment of savages under Major Thomas Carleton

The first squadron battle to be fought by Americans, , 'a strife of pygmies for the prize of a continent," as Mahan styles it, was begun on October 11, 1776. Arnold was lying in wait for Carleton behind Valcour Island, not far from the site of a later battle of Lake Champlain (September 11, 1814), where the struggle was again for the control of this great waterway.
As the British van, coming down under a fair north wind, with full press of sail, passed the Americans before discovering Arnold's fleet, Carleton's heavier vessels had to beat back slowly to help his hard-pressed gunboats. The Americans fought desperately from eleven o'clock in the morning till five  O 'clock that afternoon. With the British attacking in front and the Indians occupying the shore in the rear, Arnold was indeed "between the devil and the deep sea." That night, however, under cover of the lake mist, he slipped through the British line toward 'l'iconderoga. The British gave chase, and on the two days following they continued the battle~ Finally, Arnold beached his boats, and fought with desperate courage until his men had fired their gondolas and taken refuge in the woods. Most of Arnold's vessels were either captured or destroyed. In this battle the enemy captured 110 prisoners, among them being General Waterbury, the second in command. Arnold, with the rest of his men, made good his escape to Crown Point.
Although Arnold had lost his fleet, the delay which he then forced on Carleton was of the greatest advantage to the Americans. ' , Never had any force," says Mahan, "big or small, lived to better purpose, or died more gloriously; for it had saved the lake for that year. " The delay 'compelled Carleton to give up his plan of joining Howe to the south. When, next year, Burgoyne, renewing the attempt, invaded New York, he had not the aid which Carleton  could have relied on in 1776. Hence Arnold's work on the lakes opened the way for the surrender of Burgoyne  at Saratoga.

 

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CAUSES OF NAVAL ACTIVITY IN THE COLONIES
THE MARINE COMMITTEE
 
IMPORANT NAVAL EVENTS DURING THE REVOLUTION
THE FIRST BATTLE OF LAKE CHAMPLAIN
WICKES AND CONYNGHAM IN EUROPEAN WATERS
NAVAL PRISONERS, PRIZES, AND THEIR EFFECTS ON
 
 
 
 
 

  

 

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  A SHORT HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES NAVY By R. CLARK, Rear-Admiral, U. S. Navy, (Ret.) c1910 

This is scan from a very old copy of the book we have done some editing and corrections but their are many typos

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