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Champlain, Lake, operations on

After the Americans left Canada in sad plight in June, 1776, Carleton, the governor of Canada and general of the forces there, appeared at the foot of Lake Champlain with a well-appointed force of 13,000 men. Only on the bosom of the lake could they advance, for there was no road on either shore. To prevent this invasion, it was important that the Americans should hold command of its waters. A flotilla of small armed vessels was constructed at Crown Point, and Benedict Arnold was placed in command of them as commodore. A schooner called the Royal Savage was his flag-ship. Carleton, meanwhile, had used great diligence in fitting out an armed flotilla at St. John for the recovery of Crown Point and Ticonderoga. Towards the close of August, Arnold went down the lake with his fleet and watched the foe until early in October, when he fell back to Valcour Island and formed his flotilla for action without skill. Carleton advanced, with Edward Pringle as commodore, and, on the morning of Oct. 11, gained an advantageous position near Arnold's vessels. A very severe battle ensued, in which the Royal Savage was first crippled and afterwards destroyed. Arnold behaved with the greatest bravery during a fight of four or five hours, until it was closed by the falling of night. In the darkness Arnold escaped with his vessels from surrounding dangers and pushed up the lake, but was overtaken on the 13th. One of the vessels, the Washington, was run on shore and burned, while Arnold, in the schooner Congress, with four gondolas, kept up a running fight for five hours, suffering great loss. When the Congress was almost a wreck, Arnold ran the vessels into a creek about 10 miles from Crown Point, on the eastern shore, and burned them. Then he and his little force made their way through the woods to a place opposite Crown Point, just avoiding an Indian ambush, and escaped to the port whence he started in safety. At Crown Point he found two schooners, [90] two galleys, one sloop, and one gondela— all that remained of his proud little fleet. In the two actions the Americans lost about ninety men; the British not half that number. General Carleton took possession of Crown Point on Oct. 14, but abandoned it in twenty days and returned to Canada.

When the War of 1812-15 was declared, the whole American naval force on Lake Champlain consisted of only two boats that lay in a harbor on the Vermont shore. The British had two or three gunboats, or armed galleys, on the Richelieu, or Sorel, River, the outlet of Lake Champlain. Some small vessels were hastily fitted up and armed, and Lieut. Thomas McDonough was sent to the lake to superintend the construction of some naval vessels there. In the spring of 1813 he put two vessels afloat— the sloops-of-war Growler and Eagle. Early in June, 1813, some small American vessels were attacked near Rouse's Point by British gunboats. McDonough sent the Growler and Eagle, manned by 112 men, under Lieut. Joseph Smith, to look after the matter. They went down the Sorel, chased three British gunboats some distance down the river, and were in turn pursued by three armed row-galleys, which opened upon the flying sloops with long 24-pounders. At the same time a land force, sent out on each side of the river, poured volleys of musketry upon the American vessels, which were answered by grape and canister. For four hours a running fight was kept up, when a heavy shot tore off a plank from the Eagle below water, and she sank immediately. the Growler was disabled and run ashore, and the people of both vessels were made prisoners. The loss of the Americans in killed and wounded was twenty; that of the British almost 100. The captured sloops were refitted, and named, respectively, Finch and Chubb. They were engaged in the battle off Plattsburg the next year, when McDonough recaptured them. For a while the British were masters of Lake Champlain. This loss stimulated McDonough to greater exertions. By Aug. 6 he had fitted out and armed three sloops and six gunboats. At the close of July a British armament, under Col. J. Murray, attacked defenceless Plattsburg. It was composed of soldiers, sailors, and marines, conveyed in two

The Royal savage.1

sloops-of-war, three gunboats, and forty-seven long-boats. They landed on Saturday afternoon, and continued a work of destruction until ten o'clock the next day. General Hampton, who was then at [91] Burlington, only 20 miles distant, with 4,000 troops, made no attempt to oppose the invaders. The block-house, arsenal, armory, and hospital at Plattsburg were destroy-

Scene of Arnold's naval battle.2

ed; also private store-houses. The value of public property wasted was $25,000, and of private merchandise, furniture, etc., several thousand dollars. Many then went on a plundering raid, destroying transport vessels and property on shore. Such was the condition of naval affairs on Lake Champlain at the close of the summer of 1813.

1 this engraving was made from a drawing in water-colors, of the Royal savage, found by the late Benson J. Lossing among the papers of General Schuyler, and gave the first positive information as to the design and appearance of the “Uinion flag” (q. V.), displayed by the Americans at Cambridge on Jan. 1, 1776. the drawing exhibited, in proper colors, the thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, with the British union (the crosses of St. George and St. Andrew) on a blue field in the dexter corner.

2 this scene is between Port Kent and Plattsburg, on Lake Champlain. Western shore. On the left is seen a point of the mainland: on the right a part of Valcour Island. Between these Arnold formed his little fleet for action.

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