expedition to bennington
Expedition to Bennington
Account of the expedition by a Hessian officer named Glich.
August 16, 1777
That these advantages [resulting from St. Leger's advance], trifling as they were, might not be wholly wasted, it became incumbent on Gen. Burgoyne to advance without delay; whilst the deplorable deficiency in the mean of transport, under which he labored, seemed to render all attempts at moving the army fruitless. Though our troops had toiled without intermission during three whole weeks, there was in camp no greater stock of provisions than sufficed for four days consumption; and to move forward with a supply | so slender into desert country appeared to a leader of the old school little better than insanity.
I have called it a desert country, not only with reference to its natural | sterility—and heaven knows it was sterile enough—but because offthe pains I which were taken, and unfortunately with too great success, to sweep its few I cultivated spots of all articles likely to benefit the invaders. In doing this the enemy showed no decency either to friend or foe. All the fields of standing corn were laid waste, the cattle were driven away, and every particle of grain, as well as morsel of grass, carefully removed; so that we could depend for subsistence, both for men and horses, only upon the magazines which we' might ourselves establish. But our draft animals were so inadequate to tint| conveyance of stores that no magazine had as yet been formed farther in advance than Fort George; and Fort George was too much in the rear o beof service as a base of operations, after we should have quitted the position which we now occupied.
I have said that the American army retreated as we advanced, cutting the roads and devastating the face of the country over which they passing They were now, according to the best accounts which we could receive,
Sratoga, a hamlet, or rather farm, on the left bank of the Hudson and about elf way between Fort Edward and the Mohawk. It seemed advisable to General Burgoyne to threaten them there; for if they wished an action, he had
apprehension as to the result; if they retired, Col. St. Ledger would be in their rear; and should they succeed in escaping both divisions, then was the road to Albany thrown open, and the principal design of the inroad attained.Increased exertions were accordingly used to bring a flotilla from the lakes to he nearest navigable point in the river; and so unremitting were they that fore the close of the first week in August a considerable number of boats and barges, laden with such stores as could be forwarded, were launched rpon the stream and ready to accompany the army.
Whilst these projects were in contemplation, and the above means adopted or bringing them to an issue, a piece of information was obtained at headquarters which promised to bring about the happiest results, by relieving us rt once from all the embarrassments attendant upon meagre supplies and inidequate means of transport. About twenty miles to the eastward of the Hudson lies the obscure village of Bennington, a cluster of poor cottages situated in a wild country between the forks of the Hosac. Here the enemy had gathered together a considerable depot of cattle, cows, horses and wheel carriages, most of which were drawn across the Connecticut River from the provinces of New England; and as it was understood to be guarded by a party of militia only, an attempt to surprise it seemed by no means unjustifiable. It is true that between Fort Edward and Bennington the means of communication were exceedingly defective. One prodigious forest, bottomed in swamps nd morasses, covered the whole face of the country, through which no body of men, unless accustomed to such expeditions, could hope to make their way, at all events with celerity. But the necessities of the army were pressing; the state of the campaign was a critical one; and the risk, though doubtless great, was considered by no means to outweigh the advantages to be derived from success. Gcneral Burgoyne determined to incur it; and a few hours sufficed for the final arrangement of his plan and drawing up of his instructions.
There were attached to our little army two hundred German dragoons, men of tried valor and enterprise, but destitute of horses. These the General selected as part of the force to be employed in the surprise of Bennington, not only because he entertained the most perfect confidence in their steadiness, but because he conceived that, in the country which they were about to penetrate, they might be able to pick up a sufficient number of horses for their own use. In addition to these, the Canadian rangers, a detachment of provincials, about one hundred Indians and Capt. Fraser's marksmen, with two pieces of small cannon, were allotted to their service; and the whole, amounting to five hundred men, were placed under the orders of Lieut. Col. Baume. The latter officer received special instructions to proceed with extreme caution. He was particularly enjoined to keep his dragoons together, and feel his way, foot by foot, with his light troops alone; and whilst it was broadly hinted that he might look for recruits among the well-disposed inhabitants, the greatest care was taken to impress him with the conviction that they were not to be implicitly trusted. It would have been well, both for himself and his followers, had these advices been somewhat more carefully remembered. But there was a fatality attending all our measures which soon began to develop itself; and perhaps the fate of the present expedition ought to have been taken as a fair warning of the destiny which awaited the army at large.