TICONDEROGA RAID. September 1777. After the British capture of Ticonderoga on 5 July, Major General Benjamin Lincoln was ordered to Vermont to organize and command New England militia being raised in the region. One of his missions was to threaten Burgoyne's long lines of communication to Canada, and in September, after the Battle of Bennington, Lincoln saw his chance. Remaining at Pawlet with five hundred troops, Lincoln sent three five-hundred-man detachments to disrupt British supply lines. The principal effort was assigned to Colonel John Brown, who was to attack Ticonderoga from the west. Colonel Samuel Johnson was to support him by a diversion against Mount Independence, across the lake. Colonel Ruggles Woodbridge was to occupy Skenesboro, which the British had abandoned, and move south through Fort Anne to Fort Edward.
British Brigadier General Henry Powell commanded Ticonderoga and its outposts. Apparently feeling secure, he had disposed his nine hundred soldiers carelessly and had not posted adequate security detachments. Brown was therefore able to spend two days undetected in the area before attacking at daybreak on 18 September. Rushing the Lake George landing (at the outlet from that lake into Lake Champlain) and overwhelming the sergeant's guard on Mount Defiance, the Americans had little difficulty in gaining control of everything on the west shore except the French stone fort and the Grenadier's Battery at the tip of the peninsula. Brown also freed over one hundred American prisoners while capturing three hundred of the enemy. However, Johnson reached Mount Independence too late in the day to surprise the Prince Frederick Regiment stationed there. Powell refused to surrender Ticonderoga, which was defended by the Fifty-third Regiment, and Brown lacked the heavy artillery and other supplies needed to reduce it. The Americans cannonaded the positions for four days and then withdrew.
Using captured boats, Brown moved up Lake George with 420 men, planning to surprise the British post at Diamond Island, 25 miles south of Ticonderoga, at dawn on the 23rd. He was frustrated by adverse winds, and by the time he could launch his attack, at about 9 a.m. on 24 September, the two companies that constituted the British garrison had been warned of his approach by a paroled Loyalist. Brown soon saw that the artillery on his boats was no match for enemy guns firing from breastworks, and he withdrew after a short bombardment. The Americans landed on the east shore, burned their boats, and rejoined Lincoln.
Although short of complete success, the raid was strategically important. Brown brought back information that Burgoyne had provisions for no more than four weeks. The confidence of the British was shaken by this unexpected threat to their lines of communication, and news of the raid was received in Gates's camp on 21 September with prolonged cheering and a thirteen-gun salute. A few days later Burgoyne, whose troops were close enough to hear the celebration on Bemis Heights, got the bad news from a prisoner released precisely to report the ill tidings.
Ketchum, Richard M. Saratoga: Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War. New York: Holt, 1997.
revised by Michael Bellesiles