|Soldiers from Regiment Prinz Friedrich prepare to defend Ticonderoga|
As public historians from across the United States gather this weekend at Fort Ticonderoga for the commemoration of Colonel John Brown's Raid, I thought it would be appropriate to post some primary sources from the German-speaking soldiers defending the fort. These men, from the Prinz Friedrich Regiment of Brunswick (Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel), described the American attack on Ticonderoga: the last significant military event to occur at the famous American fort. Many of the details which these sources give are inaccurate, particularly the claims regarding the numbers of American soldiers. Despite that, they give a unique perspective on the fighting in September 1777.
Ensign von Hille of the Prinz Friedrich Regiment described the attack as follows:
"Your Honor will surely have received my letter No. 9 from the 10th of this month, at least I hope so. In it I wrote that we had been cut off from Burgoyne's Army because of their changed position and suspected a provincial raid. That came to pass, for since that time, we know nothing about the army, because we have endured a five day blockade this side of Mount Independence and that on the side of Lake George, the 4 English Companies of the 53rd Regiment stationed there have been attacked and captured.
Sept. 18th ...At daybreak... Brigadier Brown on Lake George... wanted to make a surprise attack from all sides, against our very weak and sick garrison and take them prisoner. The reveille shot from the frigate Maria, which was riding at anchor together with the Frigate Carleton in front of the alarm battery to cover the dense woods towards Hubbardton was the agreed enemy signal. Brigadier Brown succeeded in making a surprise attack on and captured 4 English companies in their camp at the Portage of Lake George, taking the Canadians prisoner who were working there, and with 15 provincials making a surprise attack and seizing the so-called Sugar Loaf Battery that was occupied by 1 sergeant and 12 English soldiers. On the last map I sent you, it was marked, not laid out, it commands Ticonderoga as well as Mount Independence. Instead of the reveille shot from this battery, 4 small-arms shots were fired which got our attention in the camp. Thereupon several small-arms shots fell on our picket that consisted of 1 non-commissioned officer and 13 men and was stationed on a warning post about 1,000 paces on the road to Hubbardton.
The regiment hurried to the alarm posts. Your Honor's company had their's at the first battery, mine, those of von. Tunderfeldt's and Dietrich's companies had theirs behind the lines up to the 2nd battery where Lt. Colonel Praetorius' company was placed and the 5th and very weak company of the 53rd Regiment had their posts at the 3rd Battery.
The picket reported at their arrival that a corps was pushing through the dense woods against the 2nd and 3rd Batteries. We immediately became aware of several scouts on the large road. But because of the heavy cannonades from the battery and frigate there, nothing else could be seen further ahead.
Meanwhile, there was a cannonading from the 12pd. cannon on the Sugar Loaf Battery against Fort Ticonderoga, also Provincials frequently appeared but were again fired on. At 9am Musketeer Wilcke from your company had both thighs shot off by a cannonball and died immediately. At the same time, Lt. Volckmar, who had been commanded to the Fort with 40 men from the regiment, together with 1 captain and 2 officers and about 50 convalescing Englishmen was severely burned by a exposed gunpowder barrel together with Musketeer Francke from your company, and Musketeer Hartmann from my company.
At 11am, the Provincials sent one of their officers with a pole and a rag and invited the garrison to surrender and submit to captivity. It was rejected. Besides a few skirmishings, and cannonades, nothing else remarkable happened this day or night. . We remained at the alarm stations, pitched a few tents and half a company was under arms at all times.
September 19th. Our entire defense consisted of breastworks of trees and stones placed on top of one another. Here and there was an abatis in the woods. The provincials had taken 2 cannons they had discovered, (since they had none with them) into the nearest redoubt from Ticondergoa and cannonaded the fort. At noon, Brigadier Brown again sent a letter to exchange the English officers for the Provincials here. Rejected.
At 4pm, a Provincial Captain of the militia came on this side with a fellow who carried a white rag, who in a letter from Brigadier Warner invited the garrison to enter captivity. Rejected.
Today their Excellenies, the Provincial Generals, observed our situation from the woods. The small-arms fire was at times very fierce. About 9pm, in the evening, the Provincials seemed to move
around in the very near woods and sneak up towards the 2nd and 3rd Batteries. One noticed individuals moving up towards the 1st Battery. As we could not maintain any advanced post and because of the darkness of the night we were unable to distinguish anything, we trailed a general and violent small-arms fire and cannonade from the batteries and frigates on our side for 2 minutes. We learned afterwards that since they had succeeded in yesterday's surprise attack on this side, the provincials had been about to make a general attack at this time, meant especially between the 1st and 2nd Batteries but through this furious shooting had been deterred from it. Each soldier had 60 cartridges and 40 in reserve. English Brigadier Powell had given orders to use the bayonets in forced charges and retreat only if extremely necessary into the barracks covered with palisades and artillery.
Nothing important happened during the night. Lt. Wallmoden arrived from Canada with 1 non-commissioned officer and 7 Grenadiers this afternoon. During the night all remained on their old places under arms although it was very cold.
September 20th. There also was a little small-arms fire from the Sugar Loaf Battery, but all the more from the redoubt of the 2 cannons, against Ticonderoga, to which the cannons of the redoubt on Mount Independence at Lake Champlain gave a sharp reply.
September 21st. Around noon one Sergeant from the 53rd Regiment deserted from the 3rd Battery. He had been recruiting with Scheither [in German-Central Europe]. As it seemed that the Provincials had left the redoubt with the two cannons, 10 men Lt. Wolgast's command at the bridge were sent to Mount Independence in batteau to spike the cannons. At the disembarkation about 30 provincials rushed out of various ditches and holes against those people, wounded Musketeer Engelcke of Captain von Tunderfeldt's company very severly on his head and shot Musketeer Lieffert's hat, sword, and accouterments to bits and wounded him slighted in his left ear. Musketeer Engelcke was taken prisoner.
At 4pm, the officers and recruits from the Light Infantry, the Dragoons, Prinz Friedrich, and v. Riedesel came to us from Canada. These were quickly distributed among the regiment. Lt. von Reitzenstein had to stay at Chambly with all the large baggage. In the evening, Musketeer Bodemann from Captain Dietrichs' company deserted from the command at the left wing of the 3rd Battery-- the garrison remained under arms during the night and nothing of importance happened.
September 22nd. ...It redounds to our regiment's honor that it has to man the main posts while the English troops merely occupied the 3rd Battery. At 10pm, the enemy made an attack on Ticonderoga, but it was fiercely saluted. There also was much firing in the woods onto Mount Independence. On account of a day-long rainstorm, it was a bad night.
September 23rd. Nothing was heard or seen from the enemy, and later it was learned that their main corps had set out on the retreat at 5pm. They had done this because their first surprise attack the night of the 19th and 20th was a failure and because they lacked supplies.
Young Lt. Ernst Schroeder, of Captain von Tunderfeldt's Company also wrote a report on the raid, submitted to General Riedesel:
Gracious Lord, Dread General, Ect.
....It was on Sept. 18th about one hour before daybreak that the Rebels intended to attack us; but our picket was awake and quickly sounded the alarm. In less than half a minute, the entire regiment stood fully armed and occupied the line[s]... This line is well fortified by nature and in most places inaccessible. Close to the front of this line is a woods where we have for some time now erected several abatis and which we have cleared in front of us as far as a good musket shot. The Rebels, who are said to be 3,000 strong, withdrew into the woods on this side. In the little river their were two cannon ships, that when the rebels came out, could spray the whole terrain in front of our line. At the right wing lay a frigate in the bay with 2 canons that covered the regular road. The 3 Batteries and 3 newly built blockhouses were all covered with cannons. The Rebels, however, had no cannons but were trying almost every night to attack us.
We also were continually under arms every night and fired sharply as soon as they ventured out of the woods so that they quickly withdrew into the woods. They eventually lost the courage to come out and no longer risked a real attack on our side, although at their arrival, they had firmly challenged us. Just on the 18th of September towards noon, another rebel corps attacked, it was 5,000 men strong and had come from Fort George.
The first rebel attack occured before day-break against the new entrenchment on the Sugar Loaf Hill. This entrenchment commands both Ticonderoga and Mount Independence and is the same where, at the capture of these places, we had set up our batteries and thus forced the enemy to withdraw. This entrenchment and the portage where the rapids are, dividing Lake Champlain from Lake George, was occupied by 4 companies of the 53rd English Regiment. These were surprised and captured by the rebels. Fortunately, there were in the entrenchment no more than 2 cannons and about 100 rounds of ammunition, that the rebels took as booty and later used to fire on both forts. For this corps had neither taken any cannon along and when the ammunition was spent, they had to cease cannonading. After this they pressed forward up to the French lines and seized all small entrenchments ececpt the two that lay closest to Ticonderoga. Yet none of these had been occupied by us. Among the cannons that were in these entrenchments, the rebels had found three that had not been spiked, together with balls and cartridges; they fired with them upon the fort they had previously challenged as long as they powderhorns would last.
But when their powderhorns were empty, their cannonading ceased: our cannons did not stop firing, night and day. While the Rebels were now thinking every night how to make a surprise attack on this fort, we in turn received a small reinforcement: these were about 150 men who joined us instead of the recruits from the commands in Canada. They all came in batteaux, and the rebels tried to make their arrival difficult; but our cannons fired so violently on them that they forgot their project and let the batteaux land successfully.
Finally, the Rebels withdrew with considerable losses in the evening of September 23rd.
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