retreat from Ft Ticonderoga
Journal of Lieutenant William Digby of the Shropshire Regiment.
[July] 4th. Before day light, we shifted our camp farther back a small way from the range of their shot, until our l0-pounders could come up to play on them in return; by their not throwing shells, we supposed they had none, which from our camp being on a rocky eminence would have raked us much; as to their balls we did not much mind them being at too great a distance to suffer from any point blank shot from their cannon.
About noon we took possession of Sugar Loaf Hill [Fort Defiance] on which a battery was immediately ordered to be raised. It was a post of great consequence, as it commanded a great part of the works of Ticonderoga, all their vessels, and likewise afforded us the means of cutting off their communication with Fort Independent, a place also of great strength. But here the commanding officer was reckoned guilty of a great oversight in lighting fires on that post, tho I am informed it was don. by the Indians, the smoke of which was soon perceived by the enemy in the fort; as he should have remained undiscovered till night, when he was to have got two 12-pounders up, tho their getting there was almost a perpendicular ascent, and drawn up by most of the cattle belonging to the Army.
They no sooner perceived us in possession of a post which they thought quite impossible to bring cannon up to, than all their pretended boastings of holding out to the last, and choosing rather to die in their works than giving them up, failed them, and on the night of the sth they set fire to several parts of the garrison, kept a constant fire of great guns the whole night, and under the protection of that fire and clouds of smoke they evacuated the garrison Ieaving all their cannon, ammunition and a great quantity of stores. They embarked what baggage they could during the night in their battows, and sent them up to Skeensborough under the protection of five schooners, which Captain Carter of the Artillery with our gun boats followed and destroyed with all their baggage and provisions.
As I happened to be one of the lieutenants of the Grenadiers piques that night, when we perceived the great fires in the fort, the general was immediately made acquainted with it and our suspicion of their abandoning thc place, who with many other good officers imagined it was all a feint in them to induce us to make an attack, and seemingly with a great reason of prob ability, tho to me, who could be but a very poor judge, it seemed quite the contrary, as I never before saw such great fires.
About 12 o~clock we were very near committing a most dreadful mis" take. At that hour of the night, as I was going my rounds to observe if all the sentrys were alert on their different posts, one sentry challenged a pare' of men passing under his post, which was situated on the summit of a ravine or gully, and also heard carriages dragging in the same place, who answers friends, but on his demanding the countersign, they did not give it, and by their hesitating appeared at a loss; when the fellow •would have instantly fire upon them according to his orders, had not I come up at the time, on which I caused him to challenge them again; they not answering, I called to the piques to turn out and stand to their arms, still lothe to fire. Just at the time, Captain Walker came up in great haste and told me it was a part; of his Artillery with two 12-pounders going to take post on Sugar Loaf Hill, and his orders to them was to cause it to be kept as secret as possible, which by their too strictly attending to in not answering our challenge,which could never be the intention of their orders, was near involving us in another scene of the greatest confusion, which must have arose from our piques firing on them. I own I was somewhat alarmed, still thinking the great fires in their lines a feint and their coming to attack us with more security, imagining we gave in to that feint.
[July] 6th. At the first dawn of light, 3 deserters came in and informed that the enemy were retreating the other side of Mount Independent. The general was, without loss of time, made acquainted with it, and the picqueu of the army were ordered to march and take possession of the garrison and hoist the King's colors, which was immediately done, and the Grenadien and Light Infantry were moved under the command [of] Brigadier General Frazier, if possible to come up with them with the greatest expedition. From the fort we were obliged to cross over a boom of boats between that place. Mount Independent, which they, in their hurry, attempted to burn with effect, as the water quenched it, though in some places we could go but one abreast, and had they placed one gun so as the grape shot [could] take range of the bridge—and which surprised us they did not, as two men could I have fired it, and then made off—they would, in all probability, have destroyed all or most of us on the boom. We continued the pursuit the whole day without any sort of provisions, and, indeed, I may say, we had very little to drink as well,