Skenesboro, New York
Skenesboro, New York
SKENESBORO, NEW YORK. Later Whitehall, New York. 6 July 1777. After John Burgoyne closed in on Ticonderoga on 2-5 July, Arthur St. Clair evacuated the position during the night of 5-6 July. He led the main body of American troops overland to Castleton, intending to continue to Skenesboro. Colonel Pierce Long commanded those retreating by water directly to Skenesboro using the five armed vessels that remained of the Champlain squadron and 220 small boats. Long had some 450 effectives escorting the invalids and all stores and artillery that could be saved. Leaving Ticonderoga shortly after midnight, he made two tactical errors that jeopardized his operation: (1) assuming that the boom and bridge between Ticonderoga and Mount Independence would delay pursuit, he took his time sailing up the lake; and (2) he made no attempt to set up positions along the winding watercourse to check the enemy's advance.
Burgoyne needed less than half an hour to shoot his way through the undefended obstacle, and by 3 p.m. his pursuing squadron was only three miles from Skenesboro, where Long had landed two hours earlier. In a piecemeal commitment, Burgoyne put three regiments (the Ninth, Twentieth, and Twenty-first Foot) ashore in South Bay to move overland and cut off Long's retreat south from Skenesboro; he then continued with the rest of his force by water to attack Skenesboro from the north by way of Wood Creek. But since Burgoyne did not give the enveloping force enough time to get into position, Long escaped the trap. Setting fire to everything that would burn, Long hurried south toward Fort Anne with the 150 men of his rear guard as Burgoyne approached Skenesboro. This moment marked the end of the American naval presence on the lakes during the war. The British captured the galley Trumbull (10 guns) and schooner Revenge (8), but Long was able to successfully burn or blow up the sloop Enterprise (12), the schooner Liberty (8), and the galley Gates (4).
Early on 7 July, Lieutenant Colonel Hill pursued with his Ninth Regiment. That led to its near annihilation at Fort Anne on 8 July.
Long's poor management of his part of the evacuation from Ticonderoga deprived the Americans of time they should have been able to gain in delaying Burgoyne's offensive. It also forced St. Clair to make a seven-day detour with the main body to bypass captured Skenesboro.
Ketchum, Richard M. Saratoga: Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War. New York: Holt, 1997.
Nickerson, Hoffman. The Turning Point of the Revolution; or, Burgoyne in America. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1928.
revised by Robert K. Wright Jr.