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Clair. The consequence of these slanders, which were industriously circulated by the enemies of these two active and patriotick officers, was that the army was daily decreased by desertion. Both continentals and militia, fearful of trusting themselves to the command of men whose conduct was represented as weak and dastardly, left the army in large bodies; so that on the 24th of July, the army which on the 20th amounted to upwards of 6,000, had been reduced to about 2700 continentals and 1300 militia. Upon the junction of General St. Clair with General Schuyler at Fort Edward, the army returned for a few days to Fort Ann, and occupied themselves in removing the stores which had been left at Fort George. On the day of his arrival here, a proclamation which bad been issued by Burgoyne, calling upon the neighbouring inhabitants to meet at Castletown for the purpose of offering their submission and receiving pardon, fell into the hands of General Schuyler, who immediately issued a counter-proclamation, setting forth the insidious designs of the enemy, and appealing in strong terms to the patriotism of his fellow citizens. The inhabitants, however, unfortunately preferred submission to resistance; and while the defection in the American army grew daily more and more alarming, numbers were flocking to the standard of the British General.
On the 22d of July General Schuyler retired with his whole army to Moses's Creek, a position on the Hudson, about four miles below Fort Edward, which had been selected by Kosciusko, Chief Engineer of the army, as the most eligible at which to await the movements of the enemy. A small island here divided the Hudson, and the high hills on each side ap
proached so near the river, that the position might be easily defended against a superiour force. General St. Clair was posted with one division of the army on the right bank of the river, and General Arnold, who after the evacuation of the Jerseys by Sir William Howe, had joined the northern army, was stationed with another division on the left. In this situation, but for the defection before spoken of, and the general toryism of the neighbouring counties, General Schuyler would have been enabled to have maintained his ground, and checked the progress of a much superiour force. These circumstances, however, induced him to retire still further into the interiour; and on the 30th the camp was struck and the march commenced towards Saratoga, which place the army reached on the 31st, and after halting for twenty four hours, continued the march to Stillwater, where they arrived on the 20th of August.
During all this time, General Burgoyne was marching at his leisure in the rear of Schuyler, preceded by a party of Indians, who on the 29th encountered a detachment of 160 Americans, who had been sent to destroy a bridge a few miles in the rear of Fort Ed. ward, and threw them into such consternation, that they fled in the most dastardly manner. Major Clarkson, aid de camp to General Arnold, was severely wounded, as he was gallantly endeavouring to rally the frightened fugitives—A similar skirmish, if it may be dignified with that name, took place on the 2d of August, when our rear guard of a hundred men, under Major Hull, were fired upon by a small party of Indians, and took to instant flight. The Major, however, after great exertions, succeeded in rallying the
men, and in forcing the assailants in their turn to a precipitate retreat.
On the 27th August, General Schuyler, receiving intelligence that Fort Schuyler or Stanwix, situated at the head of the Mohawk, was invested by a Bri. tish force under Colonel St. Leger, consisting of upwards of five hundred regulars, and three hundred provincials with a large body of Indians under Sir John Johnson, ordered General Arnold to its relief. General Herkimer, with about eight hundred militia, had already marched to the succour of Colonel Gansevoort, who commanded the post; but having unfortunately none of the attributes of a soldier but bravery and patriotism, he fell into an ambuscade of Indians and provincials under Sir John, and was compelled to fight under many disadvantages. His militia, however, maintained a contest of two hours, in which they displayed the coolness and courage of disciplined veterans. The General himself was mortally wounded in the onset, but refused to be carried off the field, continuing to the last to animate and encourage his brave followers. Both parties ceased firing as if by mutual consent, neither having yielded an inch. Sir John, however, claimed a victory, though the Americans made a regular and deliberate retreat, in which they carried off all their wounded, without pursuit. The vigour of the contest may be readily conceived, when it is known that of General Herkimer's party of eight hundred, one hundred and sixty were killed and wounded. The loss of the enemy is not known, but there can be lit. tle doubt that it was at least equally great; thirtythree of the Indians were killed, and twenty-nine wounded, among whom were many of their Chiefs.
While this action was going on, Colonel Gansevoort, an officer of great gallantry, ordered a sortie of two hundred and fifty men under Lieutenant Col. Willet, against the rear of the enemy's encampment, in which that officer succeeded in destroying a large quantity of their camp equipage and provisions, and in carrying off a quantity of their baggage, without losing a man.
General Arnold in the mean time proceeded with about eight bundred continentals to the German flats, at which place he was directed to collect such a militia force as could be induced to join him, and then move to the relief of Colonel Gansevoort. Finding however that all his efforts to draw the militia, to him in any sufficient number were ineffectual, and learning that the strength of the besiegers was much greater than his own, he resorted to a stratagem which proved completely successful. A young man by the name of Cuyler, nephew to the brave but unfortunate Herkimer, had been brought in by the troops on suspicion of being a spy–he was told, that his own safety and the security of his property, which was large, depended on the fidelity with which he should execute the trust that would be reposed in him. He was instructed to present himself before St. Leger, as having narrowly escaped from capture by the Americans, and to represent the force of Arnold as being three times its real amount with such further exaggeration of the danger that threatened the British forces, as might induce St. Leger to seek for safety in a retreat. His tale was artfully assisted by some friendly Indians, and had its proper effect upon the tories, provincials, and Indians under St. Leger, who had no choice left him ; for both officers and men
protested they would abandon him if he did not consent to an immediate retreat. They were made to believe, that Arnold was within a few miles of them with upwards of three thousand men, and such was their eagerness to escape, that St. Leger was not even allowed time to save his tents, artillery and baggage, a great part of which fell into the hands of Colonel Gansevoort. Thus was this siege which had been closely continued for eighteen days precipitately raised without a blow. The two commanding officers blamed each other for their discomfiture; and their frequent altercations would at length have terminated in a personal contest but for the interference of some of their Indian Chiefs.
The progress of Burgoyne, after leaving the Lake, was, as has been said, extremely slow,GeneralSchuyler having taken care to leave as many obstructions in the road as possible. Arrived at Fort Edward, he found himself in a great measure destitute of provisions, and learning that the Americans had a con. siderable store of them at Bennington, he determined, by the advice of the tory Skeene, to send off a detachment to gain possession of them. He had other objects also in view, to which he had been excited by the misrepresentations of Skeene, with regard to the loyalty of the country about Bennington. The officer chosen for this expedition was Lieutenant Colonel Baume of the German troops, than whom no man could be worse fitted to accomplish the objects intended, which were (according to the instructions which afterwards fell into the hands of General Stark,) “ to try the affections of the country, to disconcert the councils of the enemy, to mount Reidesel's dragoons, to complete Peter's corps, and to ob