In June 1777, British General John Burgoyne devised a plan to drive south from Canada along New York’s eastern border and separating the New England colonies from the rest of the colonies, making them easier to defeat. Part of Burgoyne’s plan was to gain control of the Hudson River, a vital waterway from New York City north into the northern wilderness of New York. Whoever controlled the Hudson River effectively controlled a large part of New England.
On July 1, 1777, Burgoyne landed his forces just north of Fort Ticonderoga along Lake Champlain. German General Baron Friedrich Adolf Riedesel and his Brunswickers, fighting with Burgoyne, landed just south of the fort. American General Arthur St. Clair was in command of Fort Ticonderoga with about 3,000 troops.
On July 5, 1777, St. Clair decided to abandon Fort Ticonderoga after dark and headed 15 miles southeast into what is now Vermont. They crossed Lake Champlain using floating bridges. They marched towards Hubbardton and Castleton. They stopped at Hubbardton to give Colonel Ebenezer Francis time for his 11th Massachusetts Regiment to arrive. Francis’s regiment was serving as the rearguard, protecting the rest of St. Clair’s forces as they retreated southeast.
On July 6, 1777, while waiting for Francis and his regiment to arrive, St. Clair took most of his forces and headed on to Castleton, leaving Colonel Seth Warner and Colonel Nathan Hale behind to wait at Hubbardton for Francis. Burgoyne learned that St. Clair had left Hubbardton with the bulk of his forces, heading to Castleton. He dispatched General Simon Fraser and Riedesel to pursue the retreating Americans.
On July 7, 1777, Francis was not prepared for an attack, as he believed that his lead over the British was greater than it was. At 5:00 am, Fraser arrived just outside the American encampments at Hubbardton and launched his attack into the American lines. They advanced through the Americans, until Francis and Warner were able to regroup and form a strong defense between a couple of hills. Then Riedesel arrived and helped reinforce Fraser’s troops. As the American lines began to weaken, Warner ordered his troops to scatter into the woods and eventually join up with St. Clair at fort Edward further south.
When the battle was over, the American rearguard forces suffered 41 killed, 96 wounded and 234 captured including Nathan Hale. The British and German forces suffered 60 killed and 158 wounded.
About 40-50 miles north of New York City, American frontiersmen and troops built two forts on the western side of the Hudson River where Popolopen Creek flows into the river. Fort Clinton was built on the high ground of the south side of Popolopen Creek and Fort Montgomery was built on the high ground of the north side of Popolopen Creek, both overlooking the Hudson River. Between the forts, there were over 50 cannons trained on the Hudson River as the two forts monitored all river traffic.
As Burgoyne and his British troops moved south, they met with resistance and a number of other natural obstacles that slowed their advance. Burgoyne counted on British General William Howe in New York City to move north and join his forces, but Howe never received orders telling him to move north. Instead, Howe went west and captured Philadelphia.
Manning the two American forts were about 600 American troops under the command of General Israel Putnam whose base of operation was at Peekskill about 10 miles southeast of the forts on the opposite side of the Hudson River.
Fort Clinton was fully constructed and Fort Montgomery was still under construction at the beginning of October, 1777. Americans had placed a heavy chain across the Hudson River from the west side of the two forts to the east side. The purpose of the chain was to stop any British ships trying to pass.
On October 3, 1777, British General Henry Clinton took 3,000 British troops and began sailing north up the Hudson River from New York City after receiving a message from Burgoyne requesting support.
On this day, October 6, 1777, Clinton attacked the two American forts on a day shrouded with fog. He sent Lieutenant Colonel Mungo Campbell and 900 troops to move around to the rear of Fort Montgomery. Clinton attacked Fort Clinton with the remainder of his troops.
By evening, Campbell reached his target and sent word for the Americans in Fort Montgomery to surrender. Instead of surrendering, American Lieutenant Colonel William Livingston asked Campbell to surrender. Campbell then launched an all-out assault on the still under construction fort. At first, the Americans held their own and inflicted a number of casualties among the British including Campbell. Outraged at the death of their commander, the British stormed the fort I earnest and breached the walls. Angered at Campbell’s death, the British troops slaughtered many of the American at Fort Montgomery.
Clinton and his remaining British troops managed to overrun the Americans at Fort Clinton. The British ships anchored in the Hudson River bombarded both forts throughout the day. In the battles of Fort Clinton and Montgomery, the British suffered 41 killed and 142 wounded. The Americans suffered 75 killed and at least 263 captured.
While the British were victorious in capturing the two forts, the battles prevented them from joining up with British General Cornwallis at Fort Saratoga, allowing for the Americans to defeat the British at Fort Saratoga.
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Sources for the above includes: British Capture Forts Montgomery and Clinton; American Revolution: Battle of Forts Clinton & Montgomery; Battles of the American Revolution: Fort Clinton and Fort Montgomery; The Battle of Fort’s Montgomery and Clinton; Plan of the Attack of the Forts Clinton & Montgomery Upon Hudsons River Which Were Stormed by His Majesty’s Forces Under the Command of Sir Henry Clinton…6th of Octr. 1777…; Fort Montgomery State Historic Site; Attack in the Highlands, the Battle of Fort Montgomery; Today, July 7, 1777: Hubbardton – Vermont’s Only Revolutionary War Battle