Fort Anne, New York
Fort Anne, New York
FORT ANNE, NEW YORK. 8 July 1777. Although General John Burgoyne captured Skenesboro, New York, on 6 July, he failed to trap the defenders. On 7 July, Lieutenant John Hill led his Ninth Foot in pursuit while two other regiments consolidated their hold on the former naval base. The British traversed the 12 miles of rugged road towards Fort Anne and camped a mile from it. Hill had failed to catch Colonel Pierce Long's 150-man rear guard, but he did pick off several boats of invalids, camp followers, and others straggling in Wood Creek. His pickets also had an intense 4-hour skirmish with strong American patrols as evening fell. Shortly after dawn on the 8th an American spy posing as a deserter appeared in Hill's camp with the story that 1,000 troops held Fort Anne. Since Hill's force only numbered 190, and he did not feel able to either attack or safely retreat in the face of such odds, he decided to stand fast and call for reinforcement. The "deserter" then escaped to Fort Anne and reported on the British weakness. Meanwhile, heavy rains slowed the movement of the relief column and reduced visibility to almost nothing.
Colonel Henry van Rensselaer had, in fact, reached the fort with four hundred New York militia, and at 10:30 he sallied forth with Long's New Hampshire Continentals to annihilate Hill. The detachment abandoned its camp along Wood Creek and took refuge atop a steep, five-hundred-foot ridge, where it set up an all-around defense. Hill and his men fought off their adversaries for two hours. When their ammunition was running low and they were being attacked from all sides, an Indian war whoop was heard from the north. The Americans—who also were low on ammunition—assumed that it signaled the arrival of Burgoyne's reinforcements from Skenesboro, broke off the engagement, burned Fort Anne, and retreated to Fort Edward. It turned out that the "reinforcements" consisted of one deputy quartermaster general, Captain John Money; when his Indians had refused to follow him into the action, he had advanced alone with a borrowed war whoop. In this confusing little action the British lost twenty-two casualties, including three officers; the Americans probably suffered less. While both sides claimed victory, the edge went to Long, since the check ended effective British pursuit of his column.
Ketchum, Richard M. Saratoga: Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War. New York: Holt, 1997.
revised by Robert K. Wright Jr.