Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Uniform Notes

Finding accurate information on the uniforms of Revolutionary War soldiers is not always easy. This is especially true of the American army. Here are two remarkably detailed descriptions of the American soldier that I've come across in the course of past reading on the Revolutionary War.

The first description concerns the Philadelphia Associators, one of several uniformed city militias that antedated the Revolutionary War. The description appears in a June 3, 1775, letter by Silas Deane to his wife. Deane was in Philadelphia as one of Connecticut's representatives at the Second Continental Congress. The Philadelphia Associators are perhaps best known for leading a crucial counterattack at the battle of Princeton (January 3, 1777).

Deane wrote:

"The militia are constantly out, morning and evening, at exercise, and there are already thirty companies in this city in uniform, well armed, and have made a most surprising progress. The uniform is worth describing to you; it is a dark brown (like our homespun) coat, faced with red, white, yellow, or buff, according to their different battallions; white vest and breeches, white stockings, half-boots, black kneegarters. Their coat is made short, falling but little below the waistband of the breeches, which shows the size of a man to very great advantage. Their hats are small (as Jesse's little one, almost,) with a red, or white, or black ribbon, according to their battallions, closing in a rose, out of which rises a tuft of fur of deer, made to resemble the Buck's tail as much as possible, of about six or eight inches high. Their cartouch boxes are large, with the word LIBERTY and the number of their battallion, wrote on the outside in large white letters. Thus equipped they make a most elegant appearance, as their cartouch boxes are hung with a broad white wash-leather strap or belt, and their bayonet &c. on the other side, with one of the same; which two, crossing on the shoulders diamond-fashion, gives an agreeable appearance viewed in the rear."

"The Light Infantry are in green faced with buff; vests &c. as the others, except the cap, which is a hunter's cap, or jockey. These are, without exception, the genteelest companies I ever saw. They have besides a body of Irregulars, or Riflemen, whose dress it is hard to describe. They take a piece of Ticklenburgh, or tow cloth that is stout, and put it in a tan-vat until it has the shade of a dry or fading leaf; then they make a kind of frock of it, reaching down below the knee, open before, with a large cape. They wrap it round them tight, on a march, and tie it with their belt, in which hangs their tomahawk. Their hats, as the others. They exercise in the neighboring groves firing at marks, and throwing their tomahawks; forming on a sudden into one line, and then, at the word, break their order and take their posts, to hit their mark. West of this city is an open square of near two miles each way, with large groves each side, in which each afternoon they collect, with a vast number of spectators."

Don Troiani's painting of the Associators at Princeton can be seen here. He has also painted soldiers of the 2nd and 3rd battalions.

The second description concerns the mounted militia that served in the South Carolina backcountry in 1780-1781. The description appears in James Collins' (1859) Autobiography of a Revolutionary Soldier. Collins joined Captain John Moffett's mounted company in the summer of 1780, and fought at Williamson's Plantation, Fishing Creek, and Cowpens.

Collins left the following description of how he and his neighbors transformed themselves into volunteer dragoons:

"It will be, perhaps, proper here to mention, that we were a set of men acting entirely on our own footing, without the promise or expectation of any pay. There was nothing furnished us from the public; we furnished our own clothes, composed of course materials, and all home spun; our over dress was a hunting shirt, of what was called linsey woolsey, well belted around us. We furnished our own horses, saddles, bridles, guns, swords, butcher knives, and our own spurs; we got our powder and lead as we could, and had often to apply to the old women of the country, for their old pewter dishes and spoons, to supply the place of lead; and if we had lead sufficient to make balls, half lead and the other pewter, we felt well supplied. Swords, at first, were scarce, but we had several good blacksmiths among us; besides, there were several in the country. If we got hold of a piece of good steel, we would keep it; and likewise, go to all the sawmills, and take all the old whip saws we could find, set three or four smiths to work, in one shop, and take the steel we had, to another. In this way, we soon had a pretty good supply of swords and butcher knives. Mostly all our spurs, bridle bits, and horsemen's caps, were manufactured by us. We would go to a turner or wheelwright, and get head blocks turned, of various sizes, according to the heads that had to wear them, in shape resembling a sugar loaf; we would then get some super strong upper, or light sole leather, cut it out in shape, close it on the block, then grease it well with tallow, and set it before a warm fire, still on the block, and keep turning it round before the fire, still rubbing on the tallow, until it became almost as hard as a sheet of iron; we then got two small straps or plates of steel, made by our own smiths, of a good spring temper, and crossing it the center above, one reaching from ear to ear, the other, in the contrary direction; the lining was made of strong cloth, padded with wool, and fixed so as to prevent the cap from pressing too hard on the ears; there was a small brim attached to the front, resembling the caps now worn, a piece of bear skin lined with strong cloth, padded with wool, passed over from the front to the back of the head; then a large bunch of hair taken from the tail of a horse, generally white, was attached to the back part and hung down the back; then, a bunch of white feathers, or deer's tail, was attached to the sides, which completed the cap. The cap was heavy, but custom soon made it so that it could be worn without inconvenience. We made the scabbards of our swords of leather, by closing on a pattern of wood, and treating it similar to the cap. Our swords and knives, we polished mostly with a grindstone—not a very fine polish to be sure; but they were of a good temper, sharpened to a keen edge, and seldom failed to do execution, when brought into requisition."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Miniatures, Plus a Preview

As I've recently commented, I haven't been getting a great of painting accomplished lately, but there has been progress. Fresh from the workbench (and not yet varnished or flocked) is a set of blue-coat Continentals by Peter Pig. A batch like this could serve as many different regiments on many different fields of battle, and I haven't assigned them a specific identity. I'm certain, though, that they will feature in my upcoming Spring project.

The minis are from the new Peter Pig line, which are wonderfully expressive and a joy to paint. Each set of 8 infantry includes 3 different poses, and one can create even greater variety by combining different packs to form a single unit. In this case, the privates firing muskets come from both British infantry and a Continental infantry packs (the officers and wounded private come from other packs). The British infantry are in round hats and short coats, the Continentals in cocked hats with longish coat tails. The British pack is intended to represent redcoats' campaign dress during the middle and late war period. Many Continentals would have been similarly attired.

The end result is quite good, even despite my average painterly ability.

15mm-high Peter Pig miniatures, painted as blue-coat Continentals (click to enlarge).

In December I will continue exploring the American invasion of Canada by specifically writing about the September 25, 1775, battle of Longue-Pointe, near Montreal. This battle is chiefly famous for resulting in the capture of Ethan Allen, but it also had strategic consequences that threatened to derail the American campaign. I didn't think I would have much to say about this subject, but recent research has been extremely productive, and I plan to devote three posts to the subject next much: one in which I share primary sources, another in which I write about the probable location of the battle, and a third in which I write up the battle itself.

I have also been reading up on the southern campaign of the Revolution again, and anticipate writing next month about the February 3, 1779, battle of Port Royal (also called Beaufort) in South Carolina. In brief, South Carolina militia and artillery under William Moultrie faced off against veteran British light infantry. It was a hard fought battle that ended only when both sides ran out of ammunition. This battle took place during the year-and-a-half that separated the fall of Savannah (December, 1778) to the fall of Charleston (May, 1780). It sometimes seems like military histories of the war intentionally skim over this period, as if the author is saying, "Look things were bad, alright... but look what happened afterwards -- King's Mountain! Cowpens! Yorktown!" Such a treatment seems a disservice to those that fought during this time. The Americans did not roll over and play dead before the summer of 1780, and the British had to fight hard for their gains. The obscure battle at Port Royal is, I think, a good example of the interesting and often desperate character of this period of the war.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Guy Carleton vs. Ethan Allen

This is another installment in my ongoing series on the American invasion of Canada in 1775.

Governor Guy Carleton made Montréal his headquarters after the Americans began to invade Canada. The colony’s chief defense was Fort Saint-Jean on the Richelieu, where the bulk of the 7th and 26th regiments was garrisoned. Once that fort was besieged, Carleton placed his hopes in raising a large body of Canadian militia to relieve the fort, or to at least prevent the Americans from making any further inroads into Canada. However, the rebellion of Canadian forces in the Richelieu valley and forays made by Colonel Ethan Allen and Major John Brown dashed Carleton’s hopes. On September 21, 1775, he bemoaned [1] that “A few days ago I had hopes of assembling a corps on the Sorell [i.e., the Richelieu river] and another at La Prairie, either of which might have saved the province for this year, but the friends of rebellion dissipated both by their intrigues and lies” (Allen helped capture Carleton’s agents on the Richelieu, and Brown captured La Prairie; cf. here). He determined, however, to “spin out matters as long as I can in hopes that a good wind may bring us relief” (i.e., until reinforcements should arrive from Boston or Britain).

Guy Carleton

In practice, this meant that Carleton remained holed up in Montréal while awaiting events. Carleton had with him a detachment of the 26th Regiment, some Indian Department officers and [Guy] “Johnson’s rangers,” and a small number of Indians. Montréal was a walled city, but Carleton took little comfort in this as the walls were “extensive and defenceless.” The town’s primary defense was its Canadian and English militia. The upper class of Canadians seemed dependable; already a number of these men were serving with the garrison at Fort Saint-Jean. The lower class, however, were at best ambivalent in their sentiments, and quite a few of the English citizens of Montréal had strong ties to the Thirteen Colonies and preferred the American cause.

Meanwhile, Colonel Ethan Allen was heading his way.

Allen distinguished him by co-leading the successful attack on Fort Ticonderoga. However, he afterwards led a meaningless expedition into Canada that almost got him and his command killed or captured [see events of May 17 and May 18, 1775]. (This misadventure in Canada was a primary reason why Allen was bypassed for the leadership of the Green Mountain Boys, when they organized as a regiment in the Continental Army).

A correspondent for the New York Gazette observed that “Allen is a high flying genius, pursues every scheme on its first impression, without consideration, and much less judgment. It was with the utmost difficulty, and through the greatest entreaty, that [Major] General [Philip] Schuyler permitted him to go with the army, knowing his natural disposition…” [2]

Allen's Route to Longue-Pointe: September 18-24, 1775 (click to enlarge).

On September 18, Allen was at Saint-Denis, and contemplated capturing some British vessels anchored at Sorel. On the 20th he was at Saint-Ours, with, he claimed, 250 newly-raised volunteers. He boasted in a letter to Brigadier-General Richard Montgomery that he would raise hundreds, if not thousands, of men, and join Montgomery's army then besieging Fort Saint-Jean. [3] Soon thereafter, Allen marched to Sorel, but made no attempt to capture the British vessels. Instead, his force turned towards La Prairie. Allen could not pay, or feed, or arm his men, and only about 80 left the Richelieu valley with him. Those that did allegedly “plundered the Houses and Farms of the Gentlemen and Habitants, that had joined the King's Forces” “in every Parish on their Road.” [4]

On September 24, Allen’s party left Longueuil for La Prairie, marching along the stretch of St. Lawrence opposite Montréal. En route, he encountered Major Brown. According to Allen, “Col. Brown proposed that, "provided I would return to Longueuil, and procure some canoes, so as to cross the river St. Lawrence a little north of Montreal, he would cross it a little to the south of the town, with near two hundred men, as he had boats sufficient; and that we could make ourselves masters of Montreal."” [5] Allen quickly agreed, picked up 30 Americans that had been with Brown, and returned to Longueuil. His party crossed the river that night and landed in an area known generally as Longue-Pointe. [6]


1. Letter to William Legge, Secretary of State for the Colonies, dated September 21, 1775.

2. In Frank Moore (1859). Diary of the American Revolution: From newspapers and original documents.

3. The full contents of Allen's letter can be found here.

4. Here I am quoting a letter by Hector de Cramahé, lieutenant governor of the province of Quebec.

5. From Allen's narrative.

6. As shown in the map, Allen landed in a rural area considerably above the "village" of Longue-Pointe. The landing site was almost certainly within the modern-day Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district of Montréal.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Miniatures en Masse

I manage to fit some American Revolution-themed reading or writing into most evenings. However, I probably don’t paint miniatures more than once a week. Nevertheless, I am slowing making progress towards being able to put together miniature versions of relatively large and well-known battles of the American Revolution. On this count, I am probably closest to being able to put together Camden and Guilford Courthouse. With the recent completion of the 33rd Foot, I am now especially close to completing the British order of battle for both battles. For Camden, I need only the Volunteers of Ireland and some additional light infantry. For Guilford Courthouse, I need only Regiment von Bose, and the Guards’ flank companies. Unfortunately, I am not so close to completing the American side for these two battles. I need quite a few additional militia and Continentals for both battles, plus Lee’s Legion for Guilford and Armand’s Legion for Camden.

I haven’t made up my mind as to whether my big spring project will be: Camden, Guilford Courthouse, or something else entirely. While I certainly won’t be able to do a complete version of, say, Brandywine or Germantown, I might still be able to put together a crucial part of one of those battles in miniature. For example, I would enjoy focusing on the struggle for Chadd’s Ford at Brandywine, or the actions by Maxwell’s and Nash’s brigades at Germantown.

Each newly-painted miniature brings me one step closer to these goals. Below are pictures of some relatively large 15mm formations that provide a look at my progress.

Some southern campaign British regiments.

American Continentals. This force represents is a decent start towards the completion of Nash’s brigade (who generally were without uniforms). Of course, they could also represent a number of other American formations, north or south.

American militia.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Livingston's War

An American army commanded by Major-General Philip Schuyler crossed into southern Canada on September 4, 1775, and established a base at L’Île-aux-Noix. The next day, Schuyler wrote an address to the people of Canada, informing them of his intentions and requesting their support. He also sent north Colonel Ethan Allen of Vermont and Major John Brown of Massachusetts.

Allen and Brown soon linked up with a body of pro-American Canadians organized by James Livingston. These men kept watch on the British garrisons at Fort Saint-Jean and Fort Chambly, and awaited the advance of Schuyler’s army. On or about September 11, Allen, however, couldn’t resist the temptation to capture five royal artillerymen [1] travelling between the two forts.

At the time, Livingston was operating with a small party of men on Île Sainte-Thérèse, between Fort Chambly and Fort Saint-Jean. He lamented to Schuyler, “I have begun a war,” because of Allen’s action. Livingston could scarcely provide his volunteers with provisions, arms, or ammunition. No matter. The next day, the British sent out two bateaux from Fort Chambly, one of which allegedly contained 20 armed men, and the other stores for Fort Saint-Jean. As the British neared Île Sainte-Thérèse, Livingston’s men blasted them with musket fire, killing or wounding as many as a dozen men, and sending the dazed survivors fleeing to neighboring Île Sainte-Marie. Both boats were captured.

Not long after, Livingston retired to Pointe-Olivier, downriver from Fort Chambly, and Allen and Brown returned to Schuyler’s camp. Schuyler sent out Allen and Brown a second time in preparation for the Americans final push against Fort Saint-Jean. On September 17, Brown, acting with some Canadian volunteers, intercepted supplies heading for Fort Saint-Jean. The next day, Allen and Livingston captured two British agents at Saint-Denis. Soon after, Allen and Brown occupied key towns on the Saint-Lawrence. Brown took up post at La Prairie, and Allen advanced to Sorel.

Meanwhile, the American army, now led by Brigadier-General Richard Montgomery, lay siege to Fort Saint-Jean. While this occurred, Livingston, with a force hovering around 300 men, continued operations on the Richelieu. Livingston’s chief responsibilities were to protect Montgomery’s northern flank and to help stop any breakout attempt from Fort Saint-Jean. The poorly-armed Canadians demanded, and eventually received, two 4-pounder field pieces.

Livingston’s War (click to enlarge). The part of the Richelieu in which Livingston’s Canadians operated during September and October, 1775, is indicated by the blue line (i.e., from Fort Saint-Jean to the parish of Saint-Denis). In mid-September, at least, Livingston’s headquarters was at Pointe-Olivier, near Fort Chambly. The British garrisons at Fort Saint-Jean, Fort Chambly, and Montreal are indicated (cf. Carleton Defends Canada), as is Montgomery’s American army besieging Fort Saint-Jean and Brown’s and Allen’s late September advances to the Saint-Lawrence.

Mostly the Canadians were allowed to act with impunity along the Richelieu. One known exception appears in a letter by Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel Mott of Connecticut (Montgomery’s chief engineer). He wrote that:

“On the 3d instant there was a severe engagement between the French Whigs on one side, and the French Tories and Regulars on the other side, at Chambly, about thirteen miles from this place. The Tory party had the advantage, as they fired about fifty cannon-shot on our Whigs, when they had only small arms to defend with. They lost several men on each side. The Whigs maintained their ground.”

In the absence of significant threats, Livingston’s men were able to contribute to the siege of Fort Saint-Jean, and attack Fort Chambly.

First, Livingston’s men erected a breastwork northeast of Fort Saint-Jean on the estate of Moses Hazen. The British attacked this force on October 4 with a heavily armed row galley [2]. The Canadians responded with musket fire and their little 4-pounders. The British eventually withdrew after failing to make any impression on Livingston’s men (according to Mott, they lost “only one man, slightly wounded with a grape-shot”).

Soon thereafter, the Canadians moved their cannon closer to Fort Saint-Jean, and on the 13th they were joined by an American gun section consisting of two 12 pounders. The combined battery sank the British schooner the Royal Savage and inflicted a number of casualties among the garrison.

Canadian artillery.

In mid-October, Livingston was granted permission to attack Fort Chambly. The attack was begun by his men, Major John Brown and around 50 Provincials, a 9-pounder cannon, and Lieutenant Johnston and two privates from Lamb’s Artillery company. The bombardment began on October 17. The next morning, a second 9-pounder joined in the firing. After a day and a half of cannonading (i.e., by midday on the 18th), a small breach was made in the fort’s outer wall. At that point, the 88-man British garrison, consisting chiefly of men from the 7th Foot, agreed to surrender. [3]


1. They were Thomas Goone, gunner, and Matthew Bell, John Boetle, Osburn Frederick, and Robert Knox, matrosses, of Captain Jones' s Company, 4th battalion, Royal Artillery

2. According to Major Henry Livingston of the 3rd New York, the galley had one 24-pounder in the bow, and 1 four pounder and some swivel guns on each side.

3. The complete list of men can be found here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

33rd Regiment of Foot

The 33rd Regiment of Foot was one of the most distinguished regiments serving in the British army during the American Revolutionary War. An admirer, Sergeant Roger Lamb, commented that "The 33rd... set a standard of soldier like duty." Lieutenant-General Charles Cornwallis served as the regiment's colonel, but in the field the regiment was led by Lieutenant-Colonel James Webster.

The 33rd first served on a British expedition to the Carolinas, and it was present at battle of Sullivan's Island (June 28, 1776). After the unsuccessful conclusion of that expedition, the regiment was sent to New York, where it was active at the battles of Long Island (August 27, 1776) and Fort Washington (November 16, 1776). In 1777, the regiment participated in the invasion of Pennsylvania and the subsequent retreat through New Jersey. The battalion companies saw relatively little combat during this interval. The grenadier company, however, saw hard fighting at Brandywine (September 11, 1777) and Monmouth (June 28, 1778), and the light infantry company lost many of its men in various engagements by the end of 1777.

Also in 1777, a portion of the regiment served in the northern theater in John Burgoyne's army. These men helped serve the artillery pieces, and, like most of Burgoyne's men, were captured at Saratoga.

After Monmouth, the regiment spent time in and around British posts in New York City and Newport, Rhode Island. In 1780, the regiment fought in the southern theater, including at the siege of (April-May, 1780) Charleston. After Charleston surrendered, the battalion companies of the regiment helped garrison South Carolina. These men saw hard hard fighting at the battle of Camden (August 16, 1780), where the regiment charged Continental infantry and American cannon spewing grape shot and canister. By the end of the day, the regiment lost 100 men, or 1/3 of its strength. The next major battle in which the 33rd served was Guilford Courthouse (March 15, 1781). On this occasion, the British army was faced with three successive lines of American infantry. The 33rd was the first regiment to fight its way through the first two American lines (militia from North Carolina and Virginia), and it then played a pivotal role in forcing the final line (Continentals) to retreat. However, losses once again totaled 1/3 of the regiment's strength. The remainder of the 33rd accompanied Cornwallis into Virginia, and it fought its last battle at Yorktown (October, 1781).

Below are two images of 15mm miniatures I've painted to represent the 33rd Foot. Colors for the flag pole will be added at a future date.

Also Online

Reenactors: 33rdfoot.org

Painted miniatures by other bloggers:

Saturday, November 6, 2010

On Maps

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how much progress one can make researching Revolutionary War battles with a computer and an Internet connection. (No doubt the same can be said of many other historical topics). This is especially true when it comes to finding, and, when necessary, creating, maps of historic places.

At the public's disposal are collections of both modern and historic maps.

For modern maps, I rely chiefly on Google Maps and ACME Mapper. For historic maps, I cannot speak too highly of the David Rumsey map collection. The Library of Congress' digital map collection is also recommended.

Of course, there are also available more specialized collections. While researching the American invasion of Canada, for example, I've relied heavily on the online collections maintained by the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec and the McCord Museum of Canadian History.

To make a map, I rely on both modern and historic maps. In the case of the map I made of Fort Saint-Jean and vicinity, I was able to resize and "paste" a historic map (which shows lost terrain features) onto a modern map of the area.

Making maps (click to enlarge). At left, an early of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu has been superimposed on a modern map of the area. The early map shows a hill and stream that were important during the siege of Fort Saint-Jean, but that are not visible on modern maps of the area.

The roads and place names shown in the final map were derived from 18th Century maps of the area, such as the one partially shown below.

An early map of Fort Saint-Jean and vicinity. North is at upper left. The fort is at the southern terminus of the road (labeled C). The Richelieu is labeled Rivière Chambly. The roads that diverge north of Rivière Saint-Jean are shown going to La Prairie and Chambly. These roads remained in use at the time of the Revolution.

Once I've been able to compare old and new maps to work out where some specific event occurred, like the skirmish at Rivière Saint-Jean, I can use Google Maps' street view function to "visit" the site of these historic events. The image shows the site of this skirmish, which of course is much changed from 1775. The road heading into the background follows the route by which the British supplied Fort Saint-Jean in 1775. On September 18, 1775, the Americans under Major John Brown defended a breastwork that was built across this road (likely near the houses in the background).

Rivière Saint-Jean has been obliterated by urban development. The road that angles to the left sits on or near the site of this stream. The Richelieu (into which it flowed) can be glimpsed at right. The British deployed for battle near the spot from which this image was made.

The methods of research described above are of course better suited to some battles than others. I'm planning to write in the not-too-distant future about the battle of Longue-Pointe, which was fought near the city of Montreal. The Google street view image below was taken somewhere near the place where the British deployed for that battle and looks in the direction of Montreal (from whence the British marched). However, the landscape has been so utterly transformed by development that it's quite impossible to visual the scene of the desperate fight that once took place there.

Google street view near site of 1775 battle of Longue-Pointe, looking towards Montreal.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Skirmish at Rivière Saint-Jean (3)

This is the third and final post devoted to a skirmish at Rivière Saint-Jean in southern Canada that took place on September 18, 1775. For the events immediately preceding this skirmish, click here. For transcriptions of journal entries recorded by the participants, click here.

On September 17, 1775, the Americans advanced on Fort Saint-Jean, in southern Canada, for the third time. Unlike the earlier attempts (September 6 and September 10), this time the British offered no outward resistance. The Americans took up positions to the south and northwest of the fort, which placed the garrison in a state of siege. Early on September 18th, the British garrison learned of its predicament. Lieutenant William Duff of the 7th Foot was dispatched with about 30 Canadian volunteers to round up cattle from farms north of the fort and to scout out the American position to the northwest. Also, Guillaume de Lorimier, with a few Indians, was sent to scout out the American position to the south.

When Duff returned to the fort, he reported that the American force to the northwest was small, and the fortification it had erected was crude. Major Preston then dispatched Captain John Stronge with around 100 men of the 7th and 26th regiments, with nearly as many Canadian volunteers, and a field piece to drive away the Americans. The force they attacked was much smaller: about 50 Americans and 34 Canadians under the command of Major John Brown.

Brown’s men fired as the British approached, killing Sieur Beaubien dit Desauniers of the Canadians and wounding Corporal Knowles and Private Kelly of the 7th. The British, for their part, fired and charged. This fire possibly wounded several of Brown’s men, who quickly fled into the woods. [1]

British infantry and Canadian volunteers capture a breastwork near Fort Saint-Jean.

Canadian Antoine Dupré was the first man to climb into the breastwork; there he captured a couple of men, including Moses Hazen, a retired British officer and a prominent local landowner.

Hazen had been Brown's prisoner; he was captured the day before while traveling to his fields. However, the British suspected the worst of him and kept him as their own prisoner. The suspicion was deserved. Hazen had secretly contacted the Americans on September 6. On September 11, the British gave him a captain’s commission and orders to raise a company of militia. He did neither.

The British sortie against Brown’s command surprised the American leadership. Brigadier-General Richard Montgomery had intended Brown’s position to remain secret until he could move 500 men into position to support him. However, Brown was defeated before the American movement began. As soon as the sound of musket fire boomed across the flat woodland, Montgomery raced to get his forces into motion.

On the river, the Schuyler and Hancock rowed towards the fort and opened fire with their 12-pounders. This fire reportedly struck a bateau and the British schooner, the Royal Savage, but apparently did no other harm. The British responded with shell fire, but they, too, were unable to inflict casualties.

On land, Colonel Timothy Bedel led around 500 men from Bedel’s Rangers (his regiment), the 4th Connecticut, and the Green Mountain Boys, on a circuitous march through the wet woodland north and west of Saint-Jean. En route, Bedel received conflicting advice: a Canadian guide wanted to take Bedel directly to the site of the earlier skirmish, while a Huron guide wanted to take Bedel further to the east, so as to cut off the British detachment from the fort. Bedel, not understanding the Indian’s intention, and fearing treachery, took the Canadian’s advice.

Skirmish at Rivière Saint-Jean (click to enlarge). The British attack is shown in red. The advance of the American relief force is shown in blue.

The Americans advanced noisily through the woods, and the British opened fire the moment they came into view. According to Lieutenant John Fassett of Vermont, “They gave us a hot fire. The grape shot and Musket balls flew very thick…”

Bedel's Column Forms for Battle.

Benjamin Trumbull (who at the time was in the main American camp), claimed that the British fire wounded two Americans (including a Captain John Watson of the 4th Connecticut), and that a piece of grape shot accidentally killed one Briton (that would be, based on other evidence, Private Alexander Ross of the 26th). Before the Americans could deploy, the British scrambled for the safety of their fort. Bedel then occupied the breastwork Brown had built.

Once again, Fort Saint-Jean was in a state of siege.


1. See this letter from Major Israel Morey to the New-Hampshire Committee of Safety.