The lieutenant called his men together and led them down the bank to the bridge- head, where General Fraser was marshaling his troops. Across the bridge, the grenadier platoon walked boldly into the American battery covering the ap- proach. In a shelter lay an American gun crew, dead or were they drunk? The grenadiers gathered around in admiration and wonder, as the sergeant kicked the men out of their stupor. Suddenly a gun roared, an Indian stumbled back into the group, and the lieutenant cursed loudly. The cannon which the drunken Yankees had been left to man had been dis- charged by the prowling redskin.
It had been poorly laid, in an attempt at covering the bridge, and through the embrasure the grenadiers could see their mates of the advance corps approaching. He had crossed the creek in time to see the last of the "Yankees" march- ing off down the track to Hubbardton. While he and General Fraser discussed the situation, and aides were sent flying to Burgoyne with the news, the sol- diers of the advance corps scratched through the debris of hasty departure and argued over choice bits like so many fat red hens.
The general's house al- ways a prime focal point for loot had been burned. It was that which had made the blaze that General Riedesel had been awakened to see. His estimate had been a correct one: the Americans had escaped. Permission to pursue the retreating rebel army did not reach Fraser, on Mount Independence, until the sun was well up on a day that promised to be hot.
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At the morning alarm he had been able to muster only half of his advance corps. There was now no way to gather up his whole force for the chase. In the confusion that took hold of the invasion army on discovering the enemy gone, Commodore Lutwidge had cut the bridges in order to let his big ships go through. No less eager to pursue than the commodore, Fraser started off with his light infantry, followed by elements of the 24th Foot and of the grenadiers.
Riedesel watched them go; then he hurried away to muster a sufficient number of his Germans to fol- low in reserve.
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Soon Fraser's column was across the flat open ground back of Mount Independence. If the men expected coolness in the shade of the forest, they were doomed to disappointment. The woods were still, and as hot as fur, and the track, along which they traveled almost at a run, was deeply rutted; insects tormented faces streaked with rivulets of sweat. The soldiers had not eaten since the previous day and were hungry until thirst claimed their whole attention. At the first hill the pace slackened, and at one o'clock Fraser called a halt for rest.
Quiet returned to the forest as the men slept, oblivious to the torment of insects, heed- less of the stain made by forest mould on white trousers and pipe-clayed belts. Later in the afternoon, Riedesel caught up with the British column. With him were the Jagers, a handful of von Earner's blue-coated riflemen, and some grenadiers not more than eighty in all.
The Germans were as tired as the Englishmen had been. They slumped to the ground, giving a tail of varie- gated hue to the red and white body of the British column snaking along the brown slash of the track. After the two generals had conferred, Fraser roused his own men and marched them three miles further toward Hubbardton. The effects of the heat, hunger, and fatigue were still evident, and the men were in no condition to fight, not even against the American rebels who, in all probability, were as ex- hausted as themselves.
On a defensible ridge, Fraser fell out his corps. As the men settled in, the officers circulated among them warning of a a. From a saddle between two small frills, the road dipped into a valley through which Grant judged that there probably ran a good brook. They were getting into the mountains now, and soon could expect to cut into the north-south road from Crown Point to Hub- bardton and Castleton. The road was not new to Major Grant; he had traveled it some twenty years earlier as a provincial officer, before he had secured the King's Commission.
Now he swung off down the trail, the light infantrymen, as alert as rangers, close behind him. At the bottom of the hill, the woods ended in a clearing. Grant marched out from under the trees. There was the brook he had expected to find, its bank lined with American soldiers! The Yankees were splashing water in their faces and over their bare chests and shoulders, while in the roughly cleared field beyond, the rest of the regiment was preparing breakfast. Behind the major, the light in- fantry was pouring out of the woods and deploying without orders. To direct their disposition, Grant mounted a nearby stump and turning around, gave the order to fire.
At that instant, a rifle ball killed him dead. The Americans had been taken completely by sur- prise. It was Colonel Nathan Hale's New Hampshire Continentals, who, with the invalids and the strag- glers, comprised the rear guard. Colonel Hale at- tempted to organize some land of resistance. The British line came steadily on, the light infantry on the left, the 24th on the right.
Hale saw his second in command fall and his men flee into the woods. He himself was enveloped in the advancing line of redcoats, and was made prisoner. Pausing only to fix bayonets, the British line ad- vanced across the brook.
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Again in the forest, they felt the sting of American musket fire, not in volley, but individual shots from behind trees, rocks, and bushes. Under control of their officers, the British advanced cautiously in the line of skirmish forced on them by the trees, catching the occasional Yankee in his firing position and stolidly accepting their own casualties.
General Fraser, his small headquarters group run- ning after him, had taken over direct command. His reconnaissance had fixed the position of the main body of the American rear guard as up a hill in roughly prepared works, covering the track from Mount Independence at its juncture with the north- south road leading to Castleton. On the southern flank of the American position there was a steep hill which controlled the entire battle.
If the British held this hill, the Americans' escape route to the south was cut, and reinforcements could not get through from St. Glair's main army, presumed to be at Castleton. On the other hand, if tie Americans held the hill, a British assault would be caught in enfilade fire. Fraser wanted that hill. It was hands and knees, push, pull, and scramble up the steep slope.
At the top, the grenadiers barely had time to unsling their muskets to meet and drive back the Yankees, who had been sent out to seize the same objective. Red- faced and bare-headed as he wiped out the sweat- band of his grenadier's bearskin with his handker- chief, Acland sent two of his companies to his left to cover the right flank of the 24th. He could mark them by their musket fire, as they advanced in the woods on the other side of the clearing.
They appeared to be meeting with some success, and Acland was not surprised to see sixty Yankees come out into the clearing, their guns clubbed in the generally accepted token of surrender. Thirty feet away the Americans stopped; each side looked the other in the eye. There was a quick motion in the Yankee line, as clubbed muskets were swung 'round and fired from the hip in a hard volley at point-blank range.
The impact on the British was audible in screams, curses, and gasps, as the line staggered back. Then with a savage roar the gren- adiers surged forward to carry the long bayonets to the "sniveling, sneaking, dirty, low-born rebels! Back on the starting Hne, redcoats were down, wounded and dead. There was fire fighting all along the line, from Acland's grenadiers on the right to the Earl of Bal- carres, commanding the light infantry half a mile away on the left.
In the center, General Fraser could sense no gainful advance against the strong fire from the American position. All his troops were engaged. None were left with which to reach around on the American flank. Nearby was General Riedesel, stalk- ing up and down and cursing at his troops, who had not run as fast as he to get to the sound of the firing. At the sound of a hunting horn down the track, Riedesel raced off to intercept his ] tigers at the brook.
Those English officers who had hunted in Europe recognized the clear sound of the silver-coiled horn, and identified the call as the "greeting fanfare. With his two colonels now casualties, his escape road to Castleton cut off, on his right riflemen that a Green Mountain boy could respect, and battle-wise regulars coming on in front, Colonel Seth Warner of the Vermont Continentals did what any experienced ranger would have done. He cut and ran straight up the mountain at his back.
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The Battle of Hubbardton was over; there was no pursuit. All up and down the road stood tired British and German troops, counting off the scouts and picquets and guards. The remainder were sent back along their route from the brook to search out the wounded and dead.
There were many of these. Fifteen officers had been hit by the considered fire of the Yankees.
New York and New Jersey campaign
Balcarres had been wounded, though not seriously. As Acland came off his hilltop to report to Fraser, he limped heavily from a wound in his thigh. There were many American dead, too. On Acland's hill; a drummer boy found the body of Colonel Ebenezer Francis, who had commanded the llth Massachu- setts Continentals. Even in the untidy disarray of death in battle, his fine, well-proportioned figure was remarked upon by the grenadier officers who had gathered around. Captain Shrimpton was reading through the dead man's papers when a rifle cracked and the captain dropped, wounded, over the corpse.
No one saw the hidden rifleman, and no one found him; only the sharp report of his rifle had been heard. Soon it began to rain. At night- fall on 7 July, two hundred soldiers of the 9th Regi- ment of Foot made a fortified bivouac at the mouth of the defile, where Wood Creek enters the Champlain Valley. To the south, and in front of the regiment, lay a bay like the arm of an undulating forest sea, its shores the dark mountains, its depths the bed of the Hudson River.
A mile beyond the bivouac Fort Anne, held by the Yankees, was a hostile island. Its ranks were depleted, both officers and men sickly after long years in the fever-climate of British Florida, following on the rigors and casualties of the siege of Havana, on the island of Cuba.
By , when once again the 9th was called upon this time to go to the relief of Quebec and to suppress yet another rebellion, it was fighting fit.
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