Burgoynes report on Hubbardton
In the 1700s communication between North America and Europe was by sailing vessel, so news of events in the American Revolution did not reach Britain for some weeks even at the fastest, and subsequently what the public heard was even further delayed. An Edinburgh publication called Scots Magazine repeated news coming from London. Several bound volumes of this magazine have been in my family for years, and one of those volumes was printed in 1777, the year that the British General Burgoyne descended down Lake Champlain. The August issue of Scots Magazine, carried what Burgoyne wrote in July to Lord George Germaine, his superior government official based in London. You’ll notice it differs in some respects from accounts given by those in this country. The fight at Hubbardton (called “Huberton” by the general) makes no mention of Seth Warner or the Green Mountain Boys, but follows the action otherwise:
“My lord. I have the honor to acquaint your lordship that the enemy dislodged from Ticonderoga and Mount Independence on the sixth (of July) and were driven out the same day beyond Skenesborough on the right and to Huberton on the left, with the loss of 128 pieces of cannon . . . and military stores to a very large amount.”
After describing the seizure of Mount Independence, the report talked of action at Skenesborough, now known as Whitehall, and then continued:
“Brigadier Fraser continued his pursuit on the road to Castletown. Some stragglers of the enemy had been picked up, from whom the brigadier learned that their rear guard was composed of chosen men commanded by Col. Francis, one of their best officers.”
Francis headed a Massachusetts contingent. When he was killed, his men decamped, much to the dismay of Seth Warner. Burgoyne’s account made no mention of that:
“July 7. At three in the morning Brigadier Francis renewed his march and about five his advance scouts discovered the enemy’s sentries, who fired their pieces and joined their main body.
“The Brigadier, observing a commanding ground on the left of his light infantry, immediately ordered it to be possessed by that corps, and a considerable body of the enemy attempting the same, they met. The enemy were driven back to their original post.
“The advance guard under Maj. Grant were by this time engaged, and the grenadiers were advanced to sustain them and to prevent the right flank from being turned. The brigadier remained on the left where the enemy, aided by logs and trees, defended themselves long. After being dislodged, and prevented from getting to the Castletown road by the grenadiers, they rallied and renewed the action.
“They were again dislodged, and attempted to retreat by Pittsford Mountain, but the grenadiers gained the summit before them. This threw them into confusion. They were still nevertheless greatly superior in number . . . At this critical moment Maj. Gen. Reidesel arrived with the foremost of his column — the chasseurs and eighty grenadiers and light infantry. He extended upon Brigadier Fraser’s left flank. Maj. Berner led the chasseurs into action with great gallantry and they were equally well sustained.
“The enemy fled on all sides, leaving dead upon the field Col. Francis and many other officers and 200 private men.”
Burgoyne claimed the rebels had 2,000 men, while Brigadier Fraser had only 850 fighting men. The general added: “The bare relation of so signal an action is sufficient for its praise.”
So that was the Battle of Hubbardton from the British standpoint. Burgoyne himself was more interested in developments down the lake at Skenesborough, since he intended to proceed further south in that direction.
Kendall Wild is a retired editor of the Herald.