Revolutionary War Battles
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Phase 1: 2.a.m. to 4 p.m., July 6. Americans evacuate Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence and march to Hubbardton with British in pursuit.
Under the cover of darkness, General Arthur St. Clair evacuated his troops from Fort Ticonderoga. As with any nighttime withdrawal, when thousands of men are involved, there is confusion and some disgruntlement. "Such a retreat was never heard of since the creation of the world," wrote one soldier named Cogan, a member of Colonel Cilley's Ist New Hampshire Regiment, to General Stark a few days later. "Such order surprised both officers and soldiers . . . they left all the continental cloathing there; in short every article that belonged to the army...." Not realizing the odds against them or the relative strength of the forces on each side, some of St. Clair's men were belligerent, complaining because they had not stood and fought. Nevertheless, the last of American troops moved out of the south gate of Mount Independence at about 4 a.m. on July 6.
The supply train, the baggage, and the genuinely sick, supported by one regiment under the exceptionally competent Colonel Pierce Long, moved south up the Lake to Skenesborough (now Whitehall, New York). After crossing the floating bridge the remainder of the garrison assembled at Mount Independence. After the last of St. Clair's troops moved out of the south gate, they marched on the military road, a crude cart track not suitable for hauling artillery, southeast across the hills and through the forests, toward Hubbardton, Castleton, and Skenesborough. St. Clair planned to reunite his forces, baggage, supplies, and sick at Skenesborough. Later he would join General Philip Schuyler's forces south of Fort Edward, where it was expected that another stand against the enemy would be made.
The stout boom across Lake Champlain would, St. Clair undoubtedly believed, delay the British naval flotilla from pursuing him at once by water. A cannon, manned by a small detachment on the Mount Independence side, was to sweep the bridge and delay any enemy crossing in pursuit of his troops.
The Hubbardton military road, which had been cut through the woods only the year before, skirted small settlements and occasional clearings. From Orwell, the location of Mount Independence, it extended generally southeastward, avoiding the swampy northern end of Lake Bomoseen, then through the hills to Hubbardton (now East Hubbardton) to join the older Castleton road leading south.
St. Clair's attempts to maintain an orderly movement of the main body of troops were at first futile. He placed his inexperienced militia units between the more disciplined and experienced Continental brigades, but the militia still proved difficult to control. The commander and his aides moved along the column trying to restrain the men as they frequently broke formation. Not until the column reached Lacey's camp, just north of Lake Bomoseen, was St. Clair finally able to restore order.
Colonel Ebenezer Francis, a competent, energetic, and brave leader, followed St. Clair's troops as a rear guard. Francis's troops consisted of selected elements of his 11th Massachusetts Regiment, plus picked units from several other regiments, totaling some 450 men. He was ordered to gather before him "every living thing," meaning every American soldier and beast. He was to command the rear guard only as far as Hubbardton. At that point, General St. Clair would name Colonel Seth Warner to take command of Francis's rear guard plus Warner's and Hale's Continental regiments. St. Clair, evidently, foresaw the possibility of being overtaken, with a battle ensuing. Warner, who knew the country well and who had demonstrated his ability in rear guard actions all the way from Quebec to Ticonderoga the previous year, was the right man to command the rear guard plus at this point. From all reports, the rear guard under Francis had moved out of Mount Independence in excellent order, with the best units and officers available, under an outstanding commander.
There was confusion in the Northern Army ahead, however. Captain Moses Greenleaf reports in his diary that forty eight rounds of ammunition per man were drawn on July 5 along with four days of provisions. This is contrary to other reports of limited rations; Cogan claims that they "hurled thro' the woods at the rate of thirty five miles a day" and adds that the troops were "oblidged to kill oxen belonging to the inhabitants wherever we got them; before they were half skinned every soldier was oblidged to take a bit and roast it over the fire, then before half done oblidged to march ...." There is no doubt that most of the men were short of rations, even though Greenleaf's men appear to have drawn theirs.
At Lacey's camp, about two and one half miles west of Hubbardton, St. Clair received disturbing information. A party of Indians and Tories had already reached Hubbardton, suggesting that the pursuing British had eyes and ears in advance of themselves, and in advance of the Americans as well.
Despite this news, the main body of troops moved on. About noon the head of the column reached the saddle, south of the summit of Sargent Hill and was descending to Sucker Brook in order to reach Hubbardton about I p.m. The military road on which they were marching linked with an older road that ran from Castleton and joined with the old Crown Point road further to the north. (See Appendix L. ) Hubbardton appeared to be deserted. They discovered the Indian and Tory raiders had moved on toward Castleton, after capturing several of the local townsmen. A new problem then presented itself to General St. Clair. It was obvious that the raiding party had not come from Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence. He therefore concluded that it must have come from the north, from the Otter Creek Valley. St. Clair wondered, with understandable concem, whether additional British troops were directly on top of him.
In actuality, the raiders numbered only about fifty, a detachment that had been sent up Otter Creek several days previously while General Burgoyne moved his British troops up the Lake. When St. Clair's troops eventually arrived at Castleton, they would drive the raiders out, but none of this was apparent to St. Clair at the time, and the threat of an attack from the north in addition to pursuit from Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence occupied the General's thoughts.
St. Clair waited several hours for Francis's rear guard to catch up to him. The rear guard was expected to stay a reasonable distance behind the main body of troops in its protective role until ordered to join them. Colonel Francis was delayed because of an exceptionally large number of stragglers from the regiments ahead. There is contradictory evidence as to whether St. Clair moved on to Castleton some seven miles ahead, before Colonel Francis came up, or whether he remained until his actual arrival. Testimony at St. Clair's court martial trial states that "after waiting a length of time, two or three hours, for the rear guard and the stragglers, [St. Clair] moved on with the main body leaving the command with Colonel Warner, with orders to follow as soon as the whole came up."
In any event, when St. Clair departed, he left Warner and his Green Mountain Boys Regiment, plus some militia, and the 2nd New Hampshire Regiment under Colonel Nathan Hale, as reinforcements for Francis's rear guard when they arrived. The three regimental commanders and their three Continental units (particularly Francis's rear guard with its selected companies) were no doubt the best drawn from St. Clair's ten regiments, commanded by officers with combat experience and selected for the immediate task at hand. Altogether Warner's rear guard totaled approximately 1,000 to 1,200 men.
Although Hale was the official commander of the 2nd New Hampshire Regiment, he was delayed in joining Warner because of the large number of sick, disabled, and stragglers, who St. Clair had assigned to his regiment. (In the entire Northem Army, 532 men were listed as "Sick, Present," or roughly eighteen percent of the rank and file as of June 28, 1777. These were the men who made Hale's fob so difficult. G.W. Nesmith states in his book New Hampshire at Hubbardton that Hale was six miles behind the other American troops. Finally, when Francis arrived about 4 p.m., Warner took command of the entire rear guard. Upon Hales's arrival at the bivouac area that aftemoon, the three commanding officers gathered at the log cabin of John Selleck, which stood at the junction of the military and Castleton roads at what is now East Hubbardton.
Warner did not move up to Castleton as ordered. Why he didn't is a point of debate among historians, but we may venture a guess that he "disobeyed" his orders for several good reasons: his troops were too exhausted, especially the sick and disabled; two of the militia regiments from the main army were camped on the road at Ransomvale, blocking his passage; and he was in a good defensive position.
One can only speculate as to Warner's estimate of the situation. We can be quite sure that he had posted his security and that he was characteristically unperturbed, or at least gave that indication. Although some soldiers were ready to move on, many were still exhausted by the twenty mile march in roughly nine or ten hours over the crudest of roads. Francis's rear guard needed to rest. The sick, disabled, and stragglers had to be considered. Many had been left behind of necessity since to have encumbered the rear guard to the extent of being overtaken by the British would have been foolhardy. The troops had to rest and eat. Cattle wandering in the fields had to be slaughtered. It would be dark, no doubt, before these men could be moved again in any orderly manner.
This assessment was based on experience. Warner had employed rear guard tactics against both the Indians and the British during General John Sullivan's retreat from Quebec the previous spring. To some extent it had been through Warner's persistent efforts and demonstrated leadership that so many Americans had returned safely from that smallpox ridden disastrous retreat. Fortunately, a number of his officers and men were also veterans of that campaign.
Competent and much respected, Seth Warner was only thirty four, kindly, rough hewn, standing well over six feet, and broad shouldered. He had been an outstanding troop leader since 1775, when the leading "old men" of Vermont assembled at Dorset and selected him&emdash;instead of Ethan Allen&emdash;as the commander of the Green Mountain Boys. He had been Allen's strong right arm in the prerevolutionary border disputes between New York and Vermont. Warner had also proved himself as a soldier and regimental commander with General Montgomery during the invasion of Canada in 1775 and 1776. He was described by Daniel Chipman as an individual distinguished for his cool courage and perfect self possession on all occasions. During the retreat from Canada, he had demonstrated time after time his capability of picking up the wounded, the sick, and the invalids along the way while still keeping his distance from the pursuing British. With entire units decimated by smallpox, this had been a superhuman task that would cruelly shorten Warner's life.
Ebenezer Francis, in some respects like Warner, was in his early thirties, tall, imposing, brave, experienced, and capable. He had started as captain of a militia company in 1775, among the colonial troops besieging British held Boston. Remaining in service, he had been commissioned in 1776 as a colonel in the Continental line. Francis was dynamic, outspoken, and hard driving. His 11th Massachusetts, a seven company regiment, was perhaps the best disciplined of all the Continentals in St. Clair's force.
Nathan Hale, thirty four, was a native of New Hampshire. He was first constable there and moderator of several annual town meetings. As captain of a company of Minutemen in 1774, he marched his company to Cambridge on th alarm of the Battle of Lexington in April of 1775. That same year he was commissioned major of the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment; lieutenant colonel of the 2nd New Hampshire in 1776, and colonel in 1777 when the legislature appointed him commander of the 2nd New Hampshire Continental Regiment. Hale had participated in Washington's campaigns of 1776 in New York and New Jersey. (22) (He was not the Nathan Hale who said, "I have but one life to give to my country.")
These three commanders were feeling the heat of the British pursuit. Ebenezer Fletcher, a fifer in Captain James Carr's Company of Hale's 2nd New Hamsphire, had just recovered from measles and "not being able to march with the main body . . . " fell to the rear. The young soldier wrote later, "By sunrise the enemy had landed from their boats, and pursued us so closely as to fire on our rear. A large body of the enemy followed us all day, but kept so far behind as not to be wholly discovered."
Warner knew that pursuit in force was close enough to interfere with his plan for continuing an orderly withdrawal. His experience in the retreat from Canada must have convinced him nevertheless that the British regulars, with all their equipment, could not keep up the pace across country the Americans had set.
We also know Warner posted security because General Fraser, Commander of the British troops, reported that ". . .the Enemys' Centry's. . ." were the first to open fire on his advance scouts. The security was posted more than likely well out along the military road and assuredly over the ridge of the western flank of Sargent Hill. They could at this critical location observe the advance scouts of the British ascending the hill from the west. This was not possible from any other position. From this point the group of soldiers or pickets that were guarding the troops from surprise attack could fire and then drop out of sight down the road toward Sucker Brook, while the approaching enemy was obliged to continue their uphill march, suspicious of ambush ahead. No other location for a security post would have made any military sense. It was an ideal observation and listening post.
Down the military road, and south of Sucker Brook, hastily thrown up log defenses were in place to delay the enemy along the natural defensive line of the Brook. Joshua Pell, a British offficer, wrote about coming up with the Americans "very strongly posted." He added ". . .the Rebels consisted of near two thousand, and form'd behind the enclosures, which in this Country are compos'd of large Trees, laid one upon the other and made a strong breastwork..." Major General von Riedesel in his Memoirs ar~ Letters and Journals mentions that "Brigadier Fraser, with one half of his brigade and without artillery, met two thousand rebels strongly fortified...."
Pressure from directly north, as suggested by the Indian and Tory raid at Hubbardton on the moming of July 6, posed yet another incalculable danger. It seems likely that Warner was alert and concemed when he dispatched a force of roughly two hundred men north toward the Crown Point road to reco~ noiter and assist local families to evacuate. But the scouts apparently discovere no further threat from that direction and resumed at 7:00 a.m., thus contribut ing to Warner's delay.
Warner's mission as rear guard commander was to secure the main body of St. Clair's Northem Army from attack, to delay the enemy pursuit until the main body could retreat to Castleton, and to reorganize and prepare to fight fa ther south. At Hubbardton, six miles north of Castleton, Warner was astride. the road over which pursuit must come and on well-watered terrain suitable for both bivouac and defense. His very strong position on high ground, Monument Hill, could be abandoned or defended.
A salient consideration for Warner, however, was the presence of the two militia regiments only about two and one half miles south at Ransomvale. Because of these troops, Warner possibly felt that he was in compliance with orders and the doctrine of rear guard employment in maintaining a reasonable distance from the main body. The two militia regiments of Colonels Bellows and Olcott were just within the Castleton line. Until those regiments moved, Warner undoubtedly considered that he could not safely go forward. John P. Clement, one of the most knowledgeable scholars on the Battle of Hubbardton, writes: "Under the circumstances, it is logical to conclude that Wamer acted as a rear guard commander should act."(30) Clearly, Warner was confident, as was reflected later in the long and stubbom defense put forth by his officers and men during the battle.
Phase 2: 5:00 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., July 7. American pickets fire on British scouts and withdraw. British reconnoiter the American camp while waiting for German troops.
Forty-eight-year-old Brigadier Simon Fraser is described in the British Dictionary of National Biography (1809) as an active, intelligent, and prudent officer. He was the most experienced subordinate commander in Burgoyne's army. Fraser was both a gallant soldier and a cool daring troop leader. His habits of thoroughness and careful preparation before action were qualities common to most successful senior officers. His long service at home and abroad was impressive. A portion of his early service had been with the 60th Royal Americans. That unit was organized during the French and Indian War in 1756&emdash; very likely as a result of Braddock's defeat by the French in 1755. Fraser had served with Wolf at Louisburg and at Quebec, and he was, of course, familiar with American methods of fighting. His general officer rank of brigadier was temporary while he commanded the brigade, the so-called Advance Corps. His actual rank was lieutenant colonel of the 24th Foot (Infantry).
Fraser's command was divided into three components: two companies of his own 24th Regiment, a light infantry battalion of ten companies, and a grenadier battalion of ten companies &emdash; twenty-two companies in all. (A column of twos, suitable for marching on the crude cart track of a military road, would have extended approximately three-fifths of a mile, probably a mile when intervals between companies and battalions were not closed up.)
Under the organization then in practice in the British army, each battalion consisted of eight line companies and two flank companies. One of these flank companies was light infantry, composed of the most active and capable soldiers, while the other was a grenadier company composed of the huskiest men. For campaign purposes, the light infantry and grenadiers were detached from their regiments and assembled into provisional battalions, making up the elite of the British infantry. In Burgoyne's army these crack battalions were each ten companies strong, seven taken from the British regiments of Burgoyne's army, and three from those remaining in Canada under General Carleton.
On July 6, after midnight, General Fraser, with a detachment of his corps, had been the first to enter Fort Ticonderoga and discover the American evacuation. His men led the way to Mount Independence overcoming a squad of American artillerymen who were supposed to cover the bridge by firing on the British but who apparently had been made incompetent by Madiera found at the site and who fled. Fraser, complying with Burgoyne's specific orders, organized a pursuit of the Rebel troops. His operations were hampered, however, by many of his soldiers who were busy plundering the American camp. "It was with very great difficulty I could prevent horrid irregularities . . . that about five o'clock I got everything tolerably well secured; I could n get any certain intelligence of the number of Rebels, who went by land; yet believed their rear guard to be within four miles of me ...."
The evidence suggests that Fraser sent advance scouts (Indians and Tories) ahead despite his disorderly troops since he mentions them the next day when they "discovered" the American pickets who fired and withdrew.
Gathering the Advance Corps, minus the guard and other detachments that had been left at Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence, Fraser pursued the retreating Americans, "resolved to attack any body of the rebels that I could come up with." The task force &emdash; approximately 850 &emdash; marched without provisions as there had been no time to issue rations or fill canteens. Nine miles into the march the British found "about 20 Rebels, all very much in liquor." From these prisoners Fraser learned Francis's name and that he was one of the best officers in St. Clair's command. An officer was sent back to Burgoyne to inform him of the progress and to request reinforcements.
Fraser and his men marched through the sweltering heat for four more miles before halting at a stream where two bullocks were slaughtered, "which refreshed the men greatly. " One of the prisoners informed him that Francis "would be glad to surrender to the King's troops, rather than fall into the hands of Savages," so Fraser sent this man ahead to contact the American rear guard. Fraser later complained that "Francis paid no attention . . . although within two miles, except by doubling his diligence in getting away. "
About 4:00 in the afternoon, Fraser halted once again to give his men a brief rest. He was joined by a new and most unexpected addition to his pursuing forces. Major General Baron Friedrich Adolph von Riedesel, commander of the German division of Burgoyne's army and General Burgoyne's second in command, came up from the rear.
Von Riedesel later explained that Burgoyne had instructed him to march part of his corps in support of Fraser and then push on to Skenesborough. He immediately set his troops in motion &emdash; a regiment of infantry and a battalion each of jagers (riflemen), grenadiers, and chasseurs (light infantry), totaling about 1,100 men. Von Riedesel had preceded them, with a company of jagers, and a detachment of grenadiers and chasseurs, roughly 180 men.
The German's arrival was a surprise to Fraser. He later wrote that "I felt much hurt to be embarrassed with a senior officer." He also felt let down by Burgoyne, for not ordering the remainder of his Corps to join him and for not sending "any provision, ammunition, or supply of surgeons or materials to take care of the wounded in case of an action." These were all grave oversights or omissions by Burgoyne and were cause enough for the delay that was so out of character with Fraser's accustomed decisiveness and drive.
Fraser stated that with von Riedesel's permission he would move on about three miles, bivouac, and start again about 3:00 the next morning toward Hubbardton. He stated once more that "I had discretionary powers to attack the Enemy wherever I could come up with them, and that I determined to do it. "
Von Riedesel, thirty-eight, husky, alert, intelligent, and somewhat florid, was an officer of distinction, with some twenty years of successful military service. He tactfully deferred to Fraser's apparent impatience. His slow-moving German detachment &emdash; heavily equipped and armed as they were &emdash; would not cover any more ground that night. They would bivouac where Fraser was, and at three the next morning they would move out, prepared to give close support. Fraser and his troops marched on another three miles to Lacey's camp, where they bivouacked for the short night. Francis's American rear guard had departed only a few hours before.
On July 7, at three the next morning, Fraser set his troops in motion again. Likewise, von Riedesel's Brunswick troops assembled ready to march, although this is hard to reconcile when one considers the many hours they consumed in marching roughly six miles to the scene of the battle. Von Riedesel himself moved out in advance with his selected force of jagers, chasseurs, and grenadiers. It is fortunate for the British that he did so, as we shall see.
The rising sun lit the hill crests as the British column ascended toward a notched cleft in the saddle on the western flank of Sargent Hill. Fraser reported the time as 5:00 a.m. In front, the small platoon of Tory and Indian scouts was reconnoitering through the woods when, according to Fraser, it was fired upon by American pickets: ". . . my advanced Scouts descryed the Enemy's Centry's who fired and joined the main body." (By "main body," he meant the squad, platoon, or company in support of the advanced pickets. ) These supporting troops were located about one half mile down the military road at Sucker Brook, the initial delaying position. The American pickets were located in the saddle of the divide.
The British advance guard ascending the western side of Sargent Hill could not have seen the American bivouac over half a mile south. After the American shot or shots were fired, Fraser called in his commanding officer of the Tory and Indian scouts and directed him to reconnoiter the American camp. The military road ran through the saddle of the hill and had high ground on both sides of it &emdash; ideal terrain for an ambush. The land was rugged, hilly, mostly forested with marshes down along Sucker Brook, which were to be avoided. Logically, the reconnaissance would have taken place to the west of the American camp, well out on its flanks to avoid detection.
The Tory scouts and Indians must have gone well toward the rear of the American position almost a mile away in order to have determined that the Americans were in much greater strength than had been anticipated by Fraser. Elements of the scouting party may have looked down on the entire position from Mount Zion. Between three and four hundred feet above Sucker Brook it has a commanding view of Monument Hill. It is also probable that Tory spies within the American bivouac were in liaison with their counterparts in the British scouting party and might have rendezvoused with them.
It is apparent that when the information came back to Fraser, he was reluctant to attack until the Germans came up. He was too experienced and well-trained an officer to attempt an attack against a numerically superior force, even though the training and efficiency of his troops were greater.
It is made quite clear in von Riedesel's memoirs that "in case General Fraser found the enemy too strong for him he was to wait for General Riedesel and thus offer a united front to the enemy." Von Riedesel had received his orders directly from General Burgoyne to support Fraser in case of attack. Certainly, Fraser would have been reluctant to act against the carefully thought out plan of the commander in chief.
To form some idea of what he was facing, Fraser went to a lookout on the south side of Sargent Hill. The reconnoitering party had been out for roughly an hour, which meant that it would have been about 6:15 a.m. Fraser still delayed, hoping for the arrival of von Riedesel and his troops. Fraser's impatience did not cloud his better judgement at least for the moment, ". . . I had intelligence, which appeared to me probable, that the Rebels were in force near me, and gathering strength hourly; I was then in the most disaffected part of America, every person a Spy."
Fraser was continually sending word to von Riedesel. Upon decamping, he sent a message back to the German commander that he was on his march and would wait for him at Hubbardton. Max von Elking in The German Allied Troops in North America (1776-1783) writes that Fraser was not in favor of attacking the enemy unless the Germans arrived since he now considered himself to be weaker. It must be understood that his forward position in the saddle of Sargent Hill was still one half mile from Sucker Brook where the "first fire" took place (other than the alerting fire by the American picket at 5:00). It was one thing to attack Francis's force of 450 with his well trained 850 troops; it was quite another to find himself facing a force of 1100 to 1200, particularly, as Fraser himself stated, when he was without replenishment of ammunition, additional surgeons, and rations. But sometime between 6:15 and 6:30 Major Grant persuaded him to attack without the German reinforcements.
Phase 3: 6:30 a.m. to 7:20 a.m. Major Robert Grant and the British Advance Guard drive in the American pickets. British deploy from column to line formation as Americans delay them along Sucker Brook.
Fraser's trepidation about attacking the rebels without German reinforcements seems to have been all too well warranted. The overly eager and ill-fated Major Grant led the attack on the Americans, which included two companies of the 24th Regiment, followed by Major Alexander Lindsay's 53rd Regiment, with ten companies of light infantry, and followed by Major Acland's 20th Regiment, with ten companies of grenadiers. General Fraser was with the light infantry. This column of some 850 men snaked across the hills halfway back to Lacey's camp down the western slopes. (See Appendix L. ) deploying such a force on such relatively steep wooded slopes must have been at best a tactical nightmare.
Grant's advance guard easily dislodged the American pickets who had fired on them earlier and was driving them in toward the delaying troops along Sucker Brook when he was shot and killed. Twenty-one of his men were also casualties. The retreating American pickets or the delaying troops were responsible for inflicting these early casualties and quite likely made Fraser further regret his hasty decision. Thomas Anburey, an officer with Fraser, writes of the incident.
Major Grant, of the 24th Regiment, who had the advance guard attacked their [the American] picquets, which were soon driven into the main body. From this attack we lament the death of this very gallant and brave officer, who in all probability fell a victim to the great disadvantages we experience peculiar to this unfortunate contest, those of the riflemen. [He means musketmen since the Americans were not equipped with rifles.] Upon his coming up with the enemy, he got upon the stump of a tree to reconnoitre and had hardly given the men orders to fire, when he was struck by a rifle ball, fell off the tree, and never uttered another syllable.
This encounter opened the rear guard action by the Americans at the Sucker Brook defensive line. By 6:30 a.m. the Americans were successfully delaying the British. While the British spread out from a march column into line formation extending several hundred yards to the right and left of the military road,the American units on the south side of the Brook were conducting the so-called attack.
This "attack" was in reality more a delaying tactic on the part of the Americans. Their musket fire, the terrain, and a crude abatis (a barricade of felled trees with branches facing the enemy) afforded the Americans some protection and slowed down the British troops. This, of course, was the object &emdash; to force the enemy to deploy, thus gaining additional time for Warner's forces to assemble into march column on the Castleton road or Monument Hill plateau and continue the withdrawal. The action was successful since the British deployed right and left of the crossing, a time consuming maneuver for British troops of that period.
Phase 4: 7:20 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. British attack Monument Hill earlier than expected. Americans counterattack. Battle for Monument Hill and the Castleton Road takes place.
The British attack on Monument Hill and Castleton road was a pivotal point in the Battle. Here the Americans tried for the last time to stall the British advance, which would allow St. Clair's main army to get a healthy head start south.
At about the time that Fraser's advance guard was descending Sargent Hill, colonels Warner, Francis, and Hale were at the Selleck cabin near the junction of the Hubbardton military road and the Castleton road. Warner had received the latest intelligence about the enemy and was preparing to move out immediately when a mounted courier arrived with a message from St. Clair that the British had broken the boom at Ticonderoga, sailed up the Lake to Skenesborough, and captured or destroyed the remnants of the American fleet. St. Clair, who had intended to rejoin his troops under Colonel Pierce Long at Skenesborough, was cut off from General Schuyler and his troops in the Hudson Valley. St. Clair now had to move east before moving south in order to avoid a probable enemy attack from Skenesborough in the west. At the same time, he had to continue his retreat from Fraser's pursuit on the northwest. Warner and his troops were to join him in the Rutland area instead of Castleton. As we know, it was apparently Warner's intention to move out immediately when his patrol returned at 7:00 a.m. and when he received the information that the two militia regiments two and one half miles ahead at Ransomvale had moved.
By about 7:00 Warner's regiment was ready to continue the withdrawal. His scouts had informed him as to the strength of Fraser's force, and he was well aware that an attacking force, even though superior in training and other factors, needed a numerical superiority of about two to one in order to be successful. The approximate ratio of 850 British soldiers to 1,100 to 1,200 Americans was not in Fraser's favor. He was aware that the presence of his relatively powerful force commanding the plateau of Monument Hill and astride the Castleton road had already delayed Fraser's smaller force and caused him to reconnoiter, to wait for Von Riedesel, and to redeploy.
Colonel Francis, whose troops were already in formation by 7:00, was next in line north of Warner whose men also were in formation and ready to march. Hale's men, farthest to the north, and on the American right flank as the Battle developed, had not yet assembled. They were closest to the British as they attacked up the northern slope of Monument Hill, and since they had not assembled, they were not as prepared as were Warner's and Francis's troops. Thus Hale's 2nd New Hampshire regiment undoubtedly absorbed the brunt of the initial British attack. He had placed his understrength regiment under the temporary command of his second in command, Major Titcomb, and had returned in haste to his primary responsibility, the very large group of invalids, walking sick, and stragglers located along Sucker Brook with Captain Carr's outpost company. He urgently needed to put these men in motion toward the Castleton road ahead of the British.
From this point on the Battle moves swiftly and with a great deal of confusion. Descriptions of this portion of the Battle vary, but by taking the various accounts and making a composite, a relatively clear picture of what happened emerges. The following describes the Battle from the vantage points of both British and American observers. The reader should keep in mind that the actions described in each of these perspectives are happening simultaneously.
The British Perspective
Fraser describes the Battle, as he saw it, in a letter to a member of his family. His account is cursory and omits many essential details in the development and ending of the Battle. Fraser wrote that ". . . the whole [his Advance Corps] were in order of march when we found ourselves so near the Rebels. I was at the head of the Light Infantry Battalion, it had then a pretty steep hill on the left flank [Monument Hill]; I halted the Light Infantry, faced them to the left and with the whole in front I ran up the hill with them, and we met the Rebels endeavoring to get possession of it . . . " Since the Americans were already in possession of the hill, Fraser means they were advancing toward the crest to prevent the British from seizing it.
As Fraser's advance guard on his right flank attacked the west slope of Monument Hill, Warner's troops counterattacked. Fraser had intended to hold the grenadiers in reserve. But now, with the advance guard in trouble, he committed these troops and hoped for the arrival of the Germans to fill the vacancy. He moved the grenadiers around the American left flank to the west and south. Fraser reports, ". . .I found my advanced guard engaged . . .I ordered the Granadiers to support the right [the advance guard], with directions to prevent, if possible the Enemy's gaining the road, which leads to Castletown and Skenesborough."
Fraser demonstrated his ability as a tactician when he formed a detachment of the light infantry to lead the grenadiers. He appears to have placed both of them under Major Lindsay, with Major Acland commanding the grenadiers. The light infantry detachment provided the speed required to reach and outflank the Rebels at the Castleton road. Meanwhile the light infantry regiment under Fraser forced the Rebels from the crest of the first hill (west slope of Monument Hill) and drove them to a smaller hill. Fraser then continues his report that the Rebels left this position after being strongly pressed.
The grenadiers provided the strength to hold the Castleton road and extended the line all the way to the top of Pittsford Ridge. Fraser mentions in his letter that ". . . when they [the Rebels] wished to gain the Castleton road by filing off to their own left, they were met by the Granadiers who obliged them to attempt a retreat by scrambling up Huberton mountain [Pittsford ridge], and march toward Pittsford falls, here the Granadiers moved on the right flank of the enemy [behind the Americans], and we got possession of the top of this hill before they could .... " Anburey confirms Fraser's account, "The grenadiers were ordered to form to prevent the enemy's getting to the road that leads to Castletown, which they were endeavouring to do, and were repulsed, upon which they attempted their retreat by a very steep mountain to Pittsford. The grenadiers scrambled up an ascent which appeared almost inaccessible, and gained the summit of the mountain before them."
Fraser's decision to commit the grenadiers, his reserve, around Warner's left flank sealed off the Castleton road from further American withdrawal, and at the same time strengthened the advance guard on his (Fraser's) immediate right. This was a brilliant maneuver, and one of the keys to the British's eventual success. The envelopment not only sealed the road but continued across it to the northeast for one half mile to the summit of Pittsford ridge. The envelopment had encompassed approximately 220 degrees when measured from the starting position along the military road near Sucker Brook. This maneuver blocked the American withdrawal to the south and east, and forced them ever farther north as they withdrew.
It appears probable that the light infantry detachment went only as far as a few hundred yards east of the Castleton road, while the grenadiers went on to the top of Pittsford Ridge. Thomas Anburey in his Travels Through the Interior Parts of America, vividly describes the battle along the ridge.
. . . they attempted their retreat by a very steep mountain to Pittsford. The grenadiers scrambled up the ascent which appeared almost inaccessible, and gained the summit of the mountain before them; this threw them into great confusion, and that you may form some idea how steep the ascent must have been, the men were obliged to sling their firelocks and climb up the side, sometimes resting their feet upon the branch of a tree, and sometimes on a piece of rock; had any been so unfortunate as to have missed his hold, he must inevitably been dashed to pieces.
Anburey continued his description of the battle:
Although the grenadiers had gained the summit of this mountain, the Americans had lost great numbers of their men, with their brave commander Col. Francis, still they were far superior in numbers to the British, and the contest remained doubtful till the arrival of the Germans....
Outflanked on the south and east, Fraser describes a group of the Rebels who were desperately seeking escape to the north and who were reforming for an attack on the left flank of his light infantry, which they observed as exposed. Francis's withdrawal and Fraser's pressure carried the British infantry toward the Castleton road in a blunt penetration, which left the British left flank exposed. Fraser speaks of "the weakness of my left." The Rebels were attacking briskly, he reports, so briskly that he sent a message to Riedesel that immediate support was essential to avoid defeat. Von Eelking recorded in his memoir of von Riedesel that, ". . . an aide arrived with a message from Fraser, to the effect that he feared his left wing would be surrounded. Riedesel sent word back to him that he was at that very instant about to attack the enemy's right wing." Fraser's account leaves out a great many crucial details of the Battle. He fails, for instance, to mention that there was a delay, what his reconnaissance reported, the driving in of the pickets, the death at the "first fire" of his close friend and subordinate Major Grant, and the twenty-one casualties that resulted from that initial skirmish. He also omits the Americans' delaying action at Sucker Brook, and his own visual reconnaissance of the enemy positions. Significantly, Fraser omits any mention of the detachment of light infantry, under Lindsay, which led the grenadiers around the American left flank (southern flank). He writes nothing of Francis's and Warner's counterattacks that met and repulsed two British attacks up the slopes of Monument Hill, although he implied this when he wrote, ". . . we met the Rebels endeavoring to get possession of it...." Even Burgoyne, who was not present, mentions that the Rebels "long defended themselves by the aid of logs and trees."
The American Perspective
If we were to look no further than Fraser's account, we would have a picture of a British rout. Fortunately there are other accounts of this Battle that fill in many of the details Fraser leaves out. By piecing these together it becomes clear that the Americans, although at the unfortunate cost of many lives, accomplished what they had set out to do: put some distance between their army and the British troops. Below are descriptions of the Battle from the three different American positions.
Francis absorbed the main British assault, and his command, which included the original rear guard, provided the strongest opposition. As we know, these were the select troops from St. Clair's ten regiments. Francis's sector comprised the battlefield area as it is recognized today on the central summit of Monument Hill. He was the only regimental commander to lose his life during the Battle. His gallantry under fire was noted by the British, Germans, and Americans.
As with the other commanders, Colonel Francis hastily returned from the meeting at Selleck's cabin. He immediately ordered Captain Greenleaf to "march the regiment . . . with the greatest expedition, or the enemy would be upon us ...." Greenleaf wrote in his diary that it was 7:15 a.m. Warner's men just ahead were undoubtedly in march column facing south and were already in motion since Greenleaf stated that immediately upon Francis's orders he started a portion of the regiment marching. "At twenty minutes past 7, the enemy appeared within gun shot of us; we fac'd to the right, when the firing began, which lasted until 3/4 past Eight a.m. without Cessation."
Thus Francis &emdash; and no doubt Warner &emdash; swung their troops from march column into a line formation to the right and counterattacked toward the crest of the hill, stopping the British with heavy losses. The British climbing Monument Hill could not see the Americans on the top until they almost met at the crest. The Americans held this position long and stubbornly, but finally had to withdraw to the "hill of less eminence," as Fraser described it, and thence to the high log fence east of the Castleton road. This new position &emdash; the gentle rise near the top of Monument Hill between the crest and the road &emdash; offered the Americans limited protection. The British promptly reorganized for their second attack when the Americans withdrew to the "hill of less eminence."
The American line was far from uniform and the intensity of pressure varied from flank to flank. Francis had under him seven or more company commanders, captains or first lieutenants who led their units through the woods, and open fields. Thus along the line of defense some companies were more involved than others. Francis would have moved from company to company in an effort to help those having trouble or losing ground, or one that had taken more than its share of casualties. He would, of course, also have been in communication with Warner and Hale through his subordinates.
It is difficult to document a second American counterattack, but it seems quite likely that one occurred at the "hill of less eminence," probably by effective musketry. Although not necessarily a sortie, the Americans again repulsed the British. Fraser clearly implies in his letter that the Americans held this position until the third British attack. Finally, after this assault, the Americans withdrew to the east of the Castleton road, where they continued their fire from behind the high log fence. Joseph Bird recalled his experience at that position:
We drove them back twice, by cutting them down so fast. We didn't leave the log fence or charge them. The action began on our right, which soon gave way. They couldn't drive us from the fence, until they charged us. I was near the centre, opposite the west road, under Col. Francis. Hale commanded our right. We fought, before they drove us till I had fired nearly 20 cartridges.
Bird's account is somewhat confusing, but it is the first hand account of a soldier who very clearly was in the thick of the battle. Bird's expression "until they charged us" probably refers to the British third attack, a charge with bayonets, which the Americans saw no reason to receive, especially since further withdrawal or retreat was implicit in their mission. In fact, having delayed the British to the maximum, it was now the duty of the rear guard to disengage and to extricate itself. The units did not, however, withdraw in an orderly manner; if they had attempted to do so, they would have been mowed down by the British. Both a study of the terrain east of the Castleton road and Bird's account indicate that the Americans scattered to the east and northeast, downhill, across a wheatfield exposed to British fire for about eighty yards to a hedgerow at Hubbardton Brook (Breton Brook). Thus there was an understandable dash to gain shelter beyond, as well as to get out of effective range.
The Americans put up further resistance after crossing the wheatfield. Bird said, ". . . that the wheatfield, last [east] of the log fence, was some 15 rods wide, fenced on the east, by a long brush fence, hard to get over. When I got over, I took a tree and waited for them to come within shot. We fought through the woods, all the way to the ridge of the Pittsford mountain, popping away from behind trees."
After the rebels withdrew from the high log fence just east of the Castleton road, the tables were turned, in a sense. Up to this point the Americans had had the advantage of defilade positions, log and tree defenses and the stone and log fences, from behind which they had directed their fire. Now, from the Castleton road, east toward Pittsford ridge, they were relatively unprotected as they dashed downhill toward what is today the headwaters of North Breton Brook. The stream forks here so that most of the troops had to cross the stony brook bed twice before reaching the first slopes of Pittsford Ridge, which became ever steeper to an almost vertical rise at the summit some 500 feet above Sucker Brook. Here the retreating troops were met by the grenadiers, who had completely enveloped Warner's men on the south, crossed the Castleton road, and advanced northeastward to the ridgeline. As Fraser mentioned in his letter this wide envelopment of the grenadiers effectively blocked the American attempt to retreat southeastward, or to get back on the Castleton road.
As the Americans were forced to the north by the light infantry detachment and the grenadiers, a running battle through the woods and along the ridgeline developed. It was during this engagement that Colonel Francis was killed. Bird who was close by Francis when he died on the ridge of Pittsford mountain, gave this account: "so Francis told me to take off my pack. I replied that I could fight with it on. He said, I tell you to take it off. At this time smoke was so thick on the hill [Pittsford ridge], we did not see the enemy until they fired. There being some scattering firing, Francis told the soldiers not to fire, they were firing on their own men. Then came a British volley and Francis fell dead." In his journal, Captain Greenleaf describes Francis's death in greater detail. "Numbers fell on both sides, among ours the brave and ever to be lamented Col. Francis, who fought bravely to the last. He first received a ball through his right arm, but still continued at the head of our troops, till he received the fatal wound through his body, entering his right breast, he dropped on his face."
Bird escaped down the east side of the ridge. Many were killed along the ridge, but no further pursuit occurred. The majority who escaped did so by crossing to the east, finding their way in the direction of the settlements at Pittsford, Proctor, and eventually West Rutland. The British volley that killed Francis must have come from the top of the ridge which, according to both Fraser and Anburey, the grenadiers and light infantry had gained ahead of the Americans. Francis and his men were undoubtedly climbing in a northeasterly direction with the British just above them. Anburey, who was present with the grenadiers, more or less confirms Francis's death on or near the ridge:
After the action was over, and all firing had ceased for near two hours, upon the summit of the mountain [Pittsford Ridge] I have already described, which had no ground anywhere that could command it, a number of officers were collected to read the papers taken out of the pocketbook of Colonel Francis, when Captain Shrimpton, of the 62nd regiment, who had the papers in his hand, jumped up and fell, exclaiming he was "severely wounded"; we all heard the ball whiz by us, and turning to the place whence the report came, saw the smoke ...."
It appears that one of Francis's many loyal men remained behind and risked his life to even the score for the life of the much respected Francis.
Colonel Warner's regimental sector on the south and southwestern slopes of Monument Hill extended about two hundred yards south of the Selleck cabin and appears to have extended almost as far as the southern fork of the military road.
As we have seen from Captain Greenleaf's journal, part of Francis's troops were already on the march south when they saw the enemy on their right. Thus it appears likely that Warner's troops just ahead were also marching.
Prior to the march order, which Warner issued to Francis and Hale about 7:00 that morning, the Americans had been camped in a rough semicircle on the northern and southern slopes of Monument Hill. The exception was Captain Carr's company and the invalid straggler group to the west of Monument Hill along Sucker Brook. This unit was then withdrawing having been surprised and partially overrun with many prisoners taken.
Francis's men on Warner's right flank held the top of the plateau of Monument Hill starting from Warner's sector, for an estimated 300 yards to Hale's sector, which comprised the northwestern and northern ends of the plateau, occupying about 250 yards. The total front was about one half mile (800 yards) for the entire distance.
When the British advance guard attacked up the west slope of Monument Hill on the right of Fraser's light infantry regiment, Warner's regiment counterattacked down the hill with sufficient depth or distance that the right flank of the ascending British advance guard was about to be turned. Warner's regi ment was able to handle the advance guard and even threaten to defeat it by very nearly turning its flank. But with the arrival of the British grenadiers and the light infantry detachment a short time later, his forces were divided, and he was outnumbered; so he gradually, but very stubbornly fell back toward the Castleton road, holding there. To be able to turn the British right, Warner's troops must have been well west of the road by the time the advance guard came within range.
It was at this point that the troops all along the line fell back, disengaged, and scattered. According to Daniel Chipman, Warner ordered them to assemble at Manchester. To have continued to fight at this phase would have been contrary to his rear guard mission. He had fought the British virtually to a draw, and now was the time to leave the field. The final withdrawal from behind the high log fence may have been by prearrangement.
The ability of Warner and Francis, and their subordinate officers, to cause their troop units to advance and withdraw, and to hold their ground under the hottest of small arms fire was truly remarkable. The sustained time of the Monument Hill phase of the battle (holding action) was one hour twenty-five minutes according to Captain Greenleaf. It clearly shows that even minimal training, or "exercises" as it was termed in those days, paid off in combat.
By the time Warner and his men had reached the high log fence east of the Castleton road, it must have been obvious to them that they would be trapped by the grenadiers already south of them unless they made full speed for Pittsford Ridge. It became a race then to see who would get there first, the Americans or the British. They retreated across the open wheat field, much as Francis's and Hale's men under Titcomb were doing, exposed to British fire. Naturally, they moved in a hurry. A hedgerow beyond the wheat field afforded the first shelter.
Warner had gotten the message by this time that the main body was secure miles ahead and that the two militia regiments at Ransomvale had moved. His job now was to escape, extricate his troops from close combat, and to join the main body at West Rutland by the shortest route possible, which was across the mountains to the southeast. This was quite difficult at that moment because of the presence of the grenadiers at the summit of Pittsford ridge. A running battle ensued below and along the cliffs and through the woods as the British and American troops converged. The Americans were pressed more and more to the north, taking casualties as the British fired on them as they ascended toward the summit.
Colonel Hale perhaps had one of the most difficult parts to play in the Battle of Hubbardton. General St. Clair had placed him in charge of the invalids, walking sick, wounded, and stragglers, including some who were intoxicated, from the retreating Northern Army in the forced march from Mount Independence. By the time they finally reached Hubbardton late on the afternoon of July 6, this unorganized group may have numbered three hundred. They were from all ten of the regiments in St. Clair's rapidly retreating army.
When Colonel Hale finally came up with his group, Warner, now in overall command of the reinforced rear guard, assigned them to an area well west of the military road and along Sucker Brook, downstream, where they could clean themselves up and rest.
They were attached to Captain Carr's company of Hale's 2nd New Hampshire Regiment, already in place as an outpost to secure the extreme left flank on the west. This position was near the site of the Old Manchester Farm road, a likely approach by the British.
A number of the soldiers were recovering from measles and were very weak. Ebenezer Fletcher, a fifer in Carr's company, writes, "Having just recovered from the measles and not being able to march with the main body [Northern Army] I fell in the rear." Some no doubt suffered from dysentery, diarrhea, hangovers, and other troop disorders, as well as the aftermath of measles. The day was reported as excessively hot, and the distance marched was well over twenty miles at a grueling pace. After seeing to his group of sick and exhausted men, Hale reported to Warner at the Selleck cabin on the south side of Monument Hill.
The next morning, July 7, about 7:00 Captain Carr's company and the group of sick and stragglers were surprised by the British as they attacked across Sucker Brook. Ebenezer Fletcher, continuing his narrative, reported the opening of the battle as he observed it first hand:
The morning after our retreat, orders came very early for the troops to refresh and be ready for marching. Some were eating, some were cooking, and all in a very unfit posture for battle. Just as the sun rose [down deep in a valley, with steep hills to the east, this could well have been about 7:00], there was a cry "The enemy are upon us." Looking around I saw the enemy in line of battle. Orders came to lay down our packs and be ready for action. The fire instantly began. We were but a few in number compared to the enemy. At the commencement of the battle, many of our party retreated back into the woods. Capt. Carr came up and says, "My lads advance, we shall beat them yet." A few of us followed him in view of the enemy. Every man was trying to secure himself behind girdled trees, which were standing on the place of action. I made shelter for myself and discharged my piece. Having loaded again and taken aim, my piece misfired. I brought the same a second time to my face, but before I had time to discharge it, I received a musket ball in the small of my back, and fell with my gun cocked...
Fletcher hid himself under a tree but was discovered by the British after the Battle, brought into camp, and treated well by two doctors who told him that he had some prospect of recovering.
It appears to have been this relatively isolated unit and Hale's group of sick and stragglers out on the extreme west or left flank that were surprised, suggesting strongly that enemy scouts and Indians "took of [off] a Centry . . ." during the night, as was reported by Captain Greenleaf. The Indians had captured or tomahawked the sentry or picket so that the British attack, which came later, came without warning.
As explained by Fletcher, these troops withdrew, firing at the British from behind trees as they did so. They withdrew into Warner's sector and across the Castleton road, where they were defeated, with many killed and wounded and with many prisoners taken by the pursuing and overrunning British troops under Lindsay and Acland.
The location of Colonel Hale during this early phase of the battle is not clear. Since he was still responsible for the sick and stragglers group in Captain Carr's area, and since Carr was one of his subordinate company commanders, it would appear that he would have exercised early morning responsibilities there, and no doubt he did so, and may have been midway between his regiment on Monument Hill and his group of invalids and stragglers down at Sucker Brook when the British attacked.
In any event, Hale had placed his understrength 2nd New Hampshire regiment under the temporary command of Major Benjamin Titcomb, his second in command. Titcomb brought the regiment to Monument Hill while Hale was struggling with his sick and straggler group in the rear. Titcomb was assigned the northern sector of the hill, on the American right flank, the first to face the British assault.
On July 7, shortly after 7:00, as Warner and Francis were assembling for marching, Titcomb had not yet assembled Hale's regiment when the British attacked. One soldier there testified that "the action began on Francis's right, which soon gave way." It is likely that Hale's troops, temporarily under Titcomb, had not as yet formed for marching and were the ones who initially gave way. But although they were in greater disarray than the other two regiments, the 2nd New Hampshire men apparently recovered and held out as long as the other two commands, suffering more disabling wounds than the other two combined. After withdrawing behind the high log fence, elements reorganized, and in company with Francis's troops attacked the British left flank that had become exposed. The Americans were bringing pressure on the British left and were about to get behind them when the Germans attacked them from the front, flank, and rear. At this point the Americans disengaged and scattered east toward Pittsford ridge.
Since Hale's men did not leave any description of the action in their sector, our presumption of activity is based upon the pension records of disabling wounded among Hale's men and the killed, as well as upon Bird's statement that Hale's men were on the right flank. That Hale had a dual mission there can be no doubt, which may explain the several conflicting accounts as to his actions and locations.
Hale and about seventy men were surrounded after the battle and captured when threatened by a ruse. Hadden, recognized as the authority on Hale, wrote, "As proof of what may be done against Beaten Battalions while their fears are upon them, an officer and 15 men detached for the purpose of bringing in Cattle fell in with 70 Rebels, affecting to have the rest of the party concealed and assuring them they were surrounded [by a larger number], they surrendered their arms and were brought in [as] prisoners.''
By the time Hale and his men were captured, the firing had ceased. Certainly, a detachment would not be looking for cattle in the vicinity of a battlefield when the shooting was in progress. Hale and his men, many of whom were seriously wounded, were like the rest of the retreating Americans trying to reach a road or trail across the mountains toward Rutland. There can be no doubt that Hale acted to save the lives of his men. Actually, the feigning of a larger concealed force was more a reality than a deception when we consider that von Breymann's 1,000 Germans had just arrived at the very close of the most violent phase of the Battle.
Phase 5: 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Germans rescue the British. End of battle at 8:45 a.m. Americans retreat towars West Rutland.
The British had been engaged in combat with the Americans on Monument Hill since 7:20 a.m. Fraser had sent an urgent second message to von Riedesel that the Americans were in such force that he would not be able to withstand them without reinforcements. Von Riedesel and his Brunswick detachment finally arrived at the northern end of the hill about 8:30 a.m. Fraser must have felt great relief when at last he saw the Germans coming to rescue his vulnerable left flank. He writes almost jubilantly that the Brunswick troops attacked "in the handsomest manner possible."
It was this exposure of the British left flank that made the action on the American right flank so interesting. Had it not been for the arrival of the Germans, the Americans might have turned the flank, reached Fraser's rear, and, as he feared, defeated him. Just before the Germans appeared, the Americans had rallied and moved against the British left flank with telling effect. Von Riedesel observed that the Americans were forcing the British to the south at this point, and called this the third American counterattack.
The perception of being trapped in a virtual cul-de-sac seems to have caused Francis's and Hale's men, on the American right flank, to renew the battle for their disengagement, just before the arrival of the Germans. It was apparent to the Americans that escape to the south or east was impossible. Thus a last desperate effort was made to cripple the exposed British left flank so that disengagement could be made before the enemy recovered.
About 7:20 a.m., when Fraser was making his attack up Monument Hill, von Riedesel and his advance group of jagers, chasseurs, and grenadiers were ascending the far side of Sargent Hill on the trail from Lacey's camp. The approximately 180 Brunswick troops marched over the rough cart track. Their uniforms were unquestionably covered with sweat on this extremely hot day. General von Riedesel had received Fraser's message to speed up his pace since the enemy appeared too strong for him to handle alone. He therefore sent back word for his slow-moving main body to quicken its advance.
At about 8:15 a.m., he reached a clearing on Sargent Hill with a commanding view of the battle field on Monument Hill. He saw at once that the British left flank was vulnerable to attack since it was exposed and was being driven to the south by the American right flank. On the Hubbardton military road, meanwhile, the halted Brunswick detachment, recovering from their exhausting march, with their thick-barreled, short rifles beside them, were waiting orders to attack. They were not to be disappointed.
Von Riedesel accordingly ordered his troops to attack the American right. His one hundred jagers moved across the area in a frontal attack on the Rebels. Approximately eighty grenadiers moved wider to the left to partially envelop the Americans. They turned south, after crossing the Castleton road, outflanked the northern part of Monument Hill, and assaulted the American right and rear. As an added touch of deception to confuse the Americans and to inspire his troops, he ordered his little German band to play. It was a well conceived plan and apparently well executed. A courier rode back to Lieutenant Colonel Heinrich von Breymann, commanding the Brunswick main body, with an urgent message to accelerate his advance. The Germans advanced in the vicinity of the present cemetery and little marsh. The strange sounds of the German band and the jagers singing hymns were heard from near the American right flank. The music was heard, in fact, as far away as Pittsford Ridge, half a mile east of the Castleton road. Even the British grew anxious when they heard the music. "We were apprehensive," wrote Lieutenant Anburey, a British officer with the grenadiers, "by the noise we heard, that a reinforcement had been sent back from the main body of the American Army for the support of their rear guard."
But even under the German attack, the American pressure seemed to increase. In his essay on Hubbardton, Henry Hall writes
Then all the drums are made to beat full music, and the yagers quickly went down and heartily attack the 400 Americans, who were opposite them. The Americans receive them with an equally resolute salute or discharge. This collision had scarcely been fairly begun before Capt. Geusau [von Geyso] and the rest of the vanguard arrived at their post, and quickly advanced with drums beating and bayonets level, for a charge upon the right wing of the Americans, in spite of the American's fire growing fiercer.
At this moment of apparent success for the Americans, the Germans brought their rifle fire into effect and attacked the American right flank where Hale's (under Titcomb) and Francis's troops were located, which caused the Americans to pull back behind the log fence east of the Castleton road. Shortly thereafter they broke away to the east across the wheat field. The accuracy and shock of rifle, as compared to musket, fire may explain why Hale's troops suffered more disabling wounded than Warner's and Francis's commands combined. It may also explain why these men were said to have panicked, if indeed they did. Max von Eelking's account of the German support puts it in the context of General Burgoyne's order after the fall of Carillon (Fort Ticonderoga).
Brigadier Fraser, with twenty companies of English grenadiers and light infantry shall march to Castletown and Skeensborough and attack the enemy who have retreated by land. General Riedesel with his corps of reserves, under Breyman, and the infantry regiment of Riedesel, shall follow the corps of Fraser and support it in case of attack. The fleet and the rest of the army, shall pursue their way to Skeensborough by water, and attack the fleet of the rebels and that part of their army which have taken their way thence by water.
Further on von Eelking describes how the Germans proceeded in carrying out Burgoyne's order.
General Riedesel, that he might lose no time, took a company of jagers and an advanced guard of eighty men from Breyman's corps and hastened on, leaving orders for the rest of this corps and his own regiment to follow on immediately.... In case General Fraser found the enemy too strong for him he was to wait for General Riedesel and thus offer a unified front to the enemy.
In the meantime a second officer arrived from Fraser and reported to the Brunswick general that the former had met the enemy in such force that he would not be able to withstand him unless he was speedily reinforced.
Once within range, the jagers, firing the only rifles used at Hubbardton, advanced slowly toward the American right flank. The Massachusetts and New Hampshire troops were then at the very point of turning the British left flank. If it had not been for the intervention of the Germans, Fraser's exposed left flank might have been turned and with it the possibility of a British defeat. The Americans saw that they would be enveloped on their right flank unless they pulled back at once. They felt the telling shock of the rifle fire coupled with the advancing jagers with fixed bayonets, no doubt in cadence with the little German band and the troops singing. Before the Americans retreated they fired a volley reported by the Germans as brisk and increasing in intensity. At this point the entire line behind the high log fence disengaged and scattered.
This was about 8:45 a.m., according to Captain Greenleaf, and the Battle for Monument Hill was over. The running battle along the cliffs of Pittsford ridge to the east would not sputter out for almost an hour. The grenadiers remained on the ridge until 5:00 that evening, expecting an American counterattack.
"About five o'clock in the afternoon," Anburey writes, "the grenadiers were ordered from the summit of the mountain, to join the light infantry and 24th regiment, on an advantageous situation; in our cool moments, in descending, everyone was astonished how he had ever gained the summit. For my own part, it appeared as if I should never reach the bottom; but my descent was greatly retarded by conducting Major Acland, who was wounded in the thigh."
The encounter at Hubbardton is regarded as an important American tactical victory because sufficient time was secured to allow St. Clair’s main force to proceed to safety in Castleton, less than ten miles (16 km) to the south. Unlike earlier battles, the Continental Army troops continued to fight in a disciplined manner despite suffering heavy losses. Once they had achieved their aim, the Americans executed a dangerous but successful disengagement from the enemy and retreated to join St. Clair.
The British losses at Hubbardton were sufficient to end thoughts of further pursuit. The force returned to Fort Ticonderoga and linked up with John Burgoyne’s main army.