Construction and Military History 1758 to 1777
When the last ships came from Quebec, a report prevailed in Canada, said to have been founded upon positive evidence that the rebels had laid the keels of several large vessels at Skenesborough and Ticonderoga, and were resolved to exert their utmost powers, to construct a new and formidable fleet during the winter.
I will not, however, give credit to their exertions, in such a degree as to imagine the King's troops will be prevented passing Lake Champlain early in the summer, but will suppose the operations of the army to begin at Crown Point.
But as the present means to form effectual plans to lay down every possible difficulty, I will suppose the enemy in great force at Ticonderoga; the different works there are capable of admitting twelve thousand men.
I will suppose him also to occupy Lake George with considerable naval strength, in order to secure his retreat, and afterwards to retard the campaign; and it is natural to expect that he will take measures to block up the roads from Ticonderoga to Albany by way of Skenesborough, by fortifying the strong ground at different places, and thereby obliging the King's army to carry a weight of artillery with it, and felling trees, breaking bridges, and other obvious impediments, to delay, though it should not have the power or spirit to finally resist its progress.
The enemy thus disposed upon this side of Canada, it is to be considered what troops will be necessary, and what disposition of them will be most proper to prosecute the campaign with vigor and effect.
I humbly conceive the operating army (I mean exclusively of the troops left for the security of Canada) ought not to consist of less than eight thousand regulars, rank and file. The artillery required in the memorandums of General Carleton, a corps of watermen, two thousand Canidians, including hatchetmen and other workmen, and one thousand or more savages.
It is to be hoped that the reinforcements and victuall ships may all be ready to sail from the Channel and from Corke on the last day of March. I am persuaded that to sail with a fleet of transports earliers, is to subject government to loss and disappointment. It may reasonably be expected that they will reach Quebec before the 20th of May, a period in full time for the opening of the campaign. The roads, and the rivers and lakes, by the melting and running off of the snows, are in common years impracticable sooner.
But as the weather long before that time will have admitted of labour in the docks, I will take for granted that the fleet of last year, as well as bateaux as armed vessels, will be found repaired, augmented and fit for immediate service. The magazines that remain of provision, I believe them not to be abundant, will probably be formed at Montreal, Sorel and Chamblee.
I conceive the first business for those entrusted with the chief powers, should be to select and post the troops destined to remain in Canada; to throw up the military stores and provisions with all possible dispatch, in which service the above mentioned troops, if for operation to cantonments, within a few days march of St. John's as conveniently may be. I should prefer cantonments at that season of the year to encampment, as the ground is very damp, and consequently very pernicious to the men, and more especially as they will have been for many months used to lodgings, heated with stoves, or between decks of ships; all these operations may be put in motion together, but they severally require some observation.
I should wish that the troops left in Canada, supposing the number mentioned in my former memorandum to be approved, might be made as follows.
My reason for selecting the 31st regiment for this duty is, that when I saw it last it was not equally in order with other regiments for services of activity.
I propose the 29th regiment as it is not presently brigaded.
I propose Maclean's corps, because I very much apprehend desertion from such parts of it as are composed of Americans, should they come near the enemy.
In Canada, whatsoever may be their disposition, it is not easy to effect it.
And I propose making up the residue by detachment, because selecting the men least calculated to fatigue or least accustomed to it, which may be equally good soldiers in more confined movements and better provided situations, the effective strength for operations is much greater and defensive strength not impaired.
I must beg to leave the expeditious conveyance of provisions and stores from Quebec, and the several depositories, in order to form ample magazines at Crown Point, as one of the most important operations of the campaign, because it is upon that which most of the rest will depend. If sailing vessels up the St. Lawrence are alone to be employed, the accident of contrary winds may delay them two months before they pass the rapids of Richelieu, and afterwards St. Peter's Lake; delays to that extent are not uncommon and they are only to be obviated by having a quantity of small craft in readiness to work with oars. From the mouth of the Sorrel to Chamblee, rowing and tacking is a sure conveyance if sufficient hands are found. From Chamblee to St. Therese (which is just above the Rapids) land-carriage must be used, and great authority will be requisite to supply the quantity necessary.
A business as complicated, in arrangement, in some parts unusual in practice, and in other difficult, can only be carried to the desired effect by the peremptory powers, warm zeal, and consonant opinion of the governor; and through the former 650 are not to be doubted, a failure of the latter, indicated, or seeming to be vindicated, by the plausible obstructions that will not fail to be suggested by others, will be sufficient to crush such exertions as an officer of sanguine temper, entrusted with the future conduct of the campaign and whose personal interest and fame therefore consequently depend upon timely out-set, would lead to make.
The assembly of the savages and Canadians will also depend entirely upon the governor.
Under these considerations, it is presumed, that the general officer employed to proceed with the army will be held out of reach of any possible blame till he is clear of the province of Canada, and furnished with the proposed supplies.
The navigation of Lake Champlain, secured by the superiority of our naval force, and the arrangements for forming proper magazines so established as to make the execution certain, I would not lose a day to take possession of Crown Point with Brigadier Fraser's corps, a large body of savages, a body of Canadians, both for scouts and works, and the best of our engineers and artificers well supplied with entrenching tools.
The brigade will be sufficient to prevent insult during the time necessary for collecting the stores, forming magazines, and fortifying posts; all of which should be done to a certain degree, previous to proceeding in force to Ticonderoga; to such a degree I mean as may be supposed to be effected in time of transporting artillery, preparing fascines, and other necessaries for artillery operation; and by keeping the rest of the army back during that period, the transport of provisions will be lessened, and the soldiers made use of in forwarding the convoys.
But there would only be one brigade at Crown Point at that time, it does not follow that the enemy should remain in a state of tranquility. Corps of savages, supported by detachments of light regulars, should be continually on foot to keep them in alarm, and within their works to cover the reconnoitering of general officers and engineers, and to obtain the best intelligence of their strength, position, and design.
If due exertion is made in the preparations stated above, it may be hoped that Ticonderoga will then become a more proper place for arms than Crown Point.
The next measure must depend upon those taken by the enemy, and upon the general plan of the campaign as concerted at home. If it be determined that General Howe's whole forces should act upon Hudson's River, and to the southward of it, and the only object of the Canada army to be to effect a junction with that force, the immediate possession of Lake George would be of great consequence, as the most expeditious and most commodious route to Albany; and should the enemy be in force upon that lake, which is very probable, every effort should be tried, by throwing savages and light troops around it, to oblige them to quit it without waiting for naval preparation. Should these efforts fail, the route by South Bay and Skenesborough might be attempted, but considerable difficulties may be expected, as the narrow parts of the river may be easily choaked up and rendered impassable, and at best there will be necessity for a great deal of land carriage for the artillery, provisions, &c. which can only be supplied from Canada. In case of success also by that route, and the enemy not removed from Lake George, it will be necessary to leave a chain of posts, as the army proceeds, for the securities of your communications, which may too weaken so small an army.
Lest all these attempts should unavoidably fail, and it become indispensible to attack the enemy by water upon Lake George, the army at the outset should be provided with carriages, implements and artificers, for conveying armed vessels from Ticonderoga to the lake.
These ideas are formed upon the supposition, that it be the sole purpose of the Canada army to effect a junction with Lord Howe, or after cooperating so far as to get possession of Albany and open the communication with New-York, to remain upon Hudson's River, and thereby enable that general to act with his whole force to the southward.
But should the strength of the main American army be such as to admit of the corps of troops now at Rhode Island remaining there during the winter, and acting separately in the spring, it may be highly worthy consideration, whether the most important purpose to which the Canada army could be employed, supposing it is possession of Ticonderoga, would not be to gain the Connecticut River.
The extent of the country from Ticonderoga to the inhabited country upon the river, opposite Charles Town, is about sixty miles, and though to convey artillery and provision so far by land would be attended with difficulties perhaps more than those suggested, upon a progress to Skenesborough, should the object appear worthy, it is hoped resources might be found; in that case it would be advisable to fortify with one or two strong redoubts the heights opposite Charles Town, and establish posts of savages upon the passage from Ticonderoga to those heights, to preserve the communications and at the same time to prevent any attempt from the country above Charles Town, which is very populous, from molesting the rear or interrupting the convoys of supply, while the army proceeded down the Connecticut. Should the junction between the Canada and Rhode Island armies be effected upon the Connecticut, it is not too sanguine an expectation that all the New England provinces will be reduced by their operations.
To avoid breaking in upon the matter, I omitted in the beginning of these papers to state the idea of the expedition at the outset of the campaign by the Lake Ontario and Oswego to the Mohawk River, which, as a diversion to facilitate every proposed operation, would be highly desirable, provided the army should be reinforced sufficiently to afford it.
It may at first appear, from a view of the present strength of the army, that it may bear the sort of detachment proposed by myself last year for this purpose; but it is to be considered that at that time the utmost object of the campaign, from the advanced season and unavoidable delay of preparation for the lakes being the reduction of Crown Point and Ticonderoga, unless the success of my expedition had opened the road to Albany, no greater numbers were necessary than for those first operations. The case of the present year differs; because the season of the year affording a prospect of very extensive operation and consequently the establishment of many posts, patroles, &c. will become necessary. The army ought to be in a state of number to bear those drains, and still remain sufficient to attack anything that probably can be opposed to it. . . . Should it appear, upon examination of the really effective numbers of the Canada army, that the force is not sufficient for proceeding upon the above ideas with a fair prospect of success, the alternative remains of embarking the army at Quebec, in order to effect a junction with General Howe by sea, or to be employed separately to co-operate with the main designs, by such means as should be within their strength upon other parts of the continent.
Last Updated: 26-Dec-2008