History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Campaign of Lieut. Gen. John Burgoyne
and The Expedition of Lieut. Col. Barry St. Leger.
by William L. Stone.
Albany, NY, Joel Munsell. 1877.
During the period of inaction which now intervened, a part of the army, says the private journal of one of the officers, was so near the Americans that " we could hear his morning and evening guns, his drums, and other noises in his camp very distinctly, but we knew not in the least, where he stood, nor how he was posted, much less how strong he was." " Undoubtedly," naively adds the journal, "a rare case in such a situation."
Meanwhile the work of fortifying the camp was continued. A place d'armes was laid out in front of the regiments, and fortified with heavy batteries. During the night of the 21ST considerable shouting was heard in the American camp. This, accompanied- by the firing of cannon, led the army to believe that some holiday was being celebrated. Again, in the night of the 23d, more noise was heard in the same direction. " This time, however," says the journal of another officer," it may have proceeded from working parties, as the most common noise was the rattling of chains. From the fact also that voices were heard, it is evident that the enemy must have been very near the other side of the ditch. Lamb, also bears testimony to the close proximity of the Americans. " We could," says that writer, "distinctly hear the Americans felling and cutting trees ; and they had a piece of ordnance which they used to fire as a morning gun, so near us that the wadding from it struck against our works." On the 28th a captured cornet, who had been allowed by Gates to return to the British camp for five days, gave an explanation of the shouting heard on the night of the 21st This was, that General Lincoln, with a strong body of militia from New Hampshire and Connecticut, had attempted to surprise Ticonderoga, and though unsuccessful had captured four companies of the 53d, together with an armed brigand one bateau. Thus Burgoyne was indebted to an enemy in his front for information respecting his own posts in his rear.
But the action of the 9th had essentially diminished his strength, and his situation began to grow critical. His dispatches were intercepted, and his communications with Canada Cut off by the seizure of the posts at the head of Lake George. The pickets were more and more molested, the army was weakened by the sick and wounded, and the enemy swarmed on its rear and flanks, threatening the strongest positions. In fact the army was as good as cut off from its outposts, while in consequence of its close proximity to the American camp, the soldiers had but little rest. The nights, also, were rendered hideous by the howls of large packs of wolves that were attracted by the partially buried bodies of those slain in the action of the nineteenth.1 On the 1st of October a few English soldiers who were digging potatoes in a field a short distance in the rear of head-quarters within the camp, were surprised by the enemy who suddenly rushed from the woods and carried off the men in the very faces of their comrades.
There were now only sufficient rations for sixteen days , and foraging parties, necessarily composed of a large number of men, were sent out daily. At length Burgoyne was obliged to cut down the ordinary rations to a pound of bread and a pound of meat ; and as he had heard nothing from Clinton he became seriously
1 The first two nights this noise was heard, General Fraser thought it to have been the dogs belonging to the officers, and an order was given for the dogs to be confined within the tents. The next night the noise was much greater , when a detachment of Canadians and Provincials were sent out to reconnoitre, and it proved to have arisen from large droves of wolves that came after the dead ; they were similar to a pack of hounds ; for one setting up a cry, they all joined, and when they approached a corpse, their noise was hideous till they had scratched it up."--Anburey,
alarmed. Accordingly, on the evening of the 5th of October, he called a council of war. Riedesel and Faser advised an immediate falling back to their old position, beyond the Batten kil, Phillips declined giving an opinion, and Burgoyne reserved his decision until he had made a reconnaissance in force " to gather forage, and ascertain definitely the position of the enemy, and whether it would be advisable to attack him." Should the latter be the case, he would, on the day following the reconnaissance, advance on the Americans with his entire army, but if not, he would march back to the Batten kil.
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