Saturday, July 21, 2012

Intern's Corner: July in the Revolution

The Battle of Hubbardton
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

          Often cited as the bloodiest battle of the Revolution, The Battle of Hubbardton, Vermont, on July 7, 1777 was a bitter struggle between the British Advance Corps and the American rear guards and reserves as the Americans attempted to retreat from Fort Ticonderoga.  Nearly a month previously, General Arthur Sinclair arrived at Ticonderoga to take command of the fort, but abandoned the defenses in the face of the over 10,000 man strong British invasion force under command of General Burgoyne.  As the Americans withdrew, Sinclair left behind Colonel Seth Warner with three regiments, around 1,000 men, to collect the rear guard and various other stragglers who had fallen behind the army. 

          Sensing an opportunity for a surprise attack, Brigadier General Fraser and Major General von Riedesel marched with around 900 men to attack the exposed American rear guard.  After marching some 14 miles, Fraser received intelligence from Native American Allies of the close American position, and he boldly moved to attack the numerically superior American force without support from von Riedesel, hitting their camp at 5 AM.  The Americans were taken completely by surprise, and the 2nd New Hampshire Regiment broke and fled in the face of the British assault.  However, the British soon began to lose their advantage.  The uneven wooded terrain allowed the Americans to stage a controlled retreat from one naturally defensible position to another, slowing British momentum and allowing the Americans to form up and bring their superior numbers to bear. 

          The battle began to swing in favor of the Americans, who threatened to overwhelm the British left and envelop the entire British force.  Fraser was only saved by the timely arrival of von Riedesel with 120 of his most elite jaegers and grenadiers.  While this was a small relief force compared to the nearly 2,000 men already engaged, the Germans made enough noise by blowing horns and singing psalms that they managed to hide their numbers and tipped the balance back in favor of the British.  Fire from the newly arrived German reinforcements cut down Colonel Ebenezer Francis, commander of the 11th Massachusetts.  The arrival of fresh troops and the loss of their commander routed the Massachusetts men, and Warner was forced to retreat, his last orders to his men to “scatter and meet me in Manchester.” 

          During the battle, the Americans lost 30 killed, 96 wounded, and 228 captured.  The British faced even greater casualties, and many were suffered by the elite light infantry which would be extremely difficult to replace during the war.  Ultimately, the battle was a hollow victory for the British, as they failed to gain any advantage from it.  The surprisingly heavy resistance of the American forces convinced the British that the Americans were much stronger than they had thought, and indeed, much stronger than they actually were at the time.  While Burgoyne was content to not to pursue his victory, the Americans were spread thin and largely disorganized, greatly fearing the disastrous potential of a British attack. However, the British inaction allowed for General John Nixon to arrive with 6,700 fresh American reinforcements, setting the stage for the American triumph at Saratoga.

Blanco, Richard L., and Paul J. Sanborn. The American Revolution: 1775-1783 : An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1993. Print. p.570-571, 789-792.

The Battle of Hubbardton, as taken from

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