Battle of Ticonderoga (1777)

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Battle of Ticonderoga
Fort Ticonderoga, from Mount Defiance
Fort Ticonderoga, from Mount Defiance from
date July 5, 1777 to July 6, 1777
place Fort Ticonderoga
output British victory
Parties to the conflict

Great Britain kingdomKingdom of Great Britain Great Britain

Flag of the United States of America (1777-1795) .svg United States


John Burgoyne

Arthur St. Clair

Troop strength
7000 soldiers
800 Indians and Canadians
3000 soldiers and militias

5 fallen

7 killed
11 wounded

The Battle of Ticonderoga on July 5th and 6th, 1777, was more a series of maneuvers than a direct conflict in the American War of Independence . The British Army, under General John Burgoyne , took the fort after forcing American General Arthur St. Clair to withdraw with the defenders.


Map of Ticonderoga and Environs, 1780

The previous summer's British and Hessian advance was halted with the Battle of Valcour , but everyone knew they would return. Fort Ticonderoga was manned by understaffed regiments of the Continental Army and militia units from different states. In all, General Arthur St. Clair had a little over 2,500 men in the area. They had worked for months to repair the old fort and built several new log houses. They had also strengthened Fort Independence on the other side of the lake and a pontoon bridge built where the river La Chute in the Lake Champlain opens the connection between the forts to improve.

However, the American effort became pointless because it overlooked a key point. A hill called "Sugar Loaf" towered over both forts and large cannons stationed on top would make it impossible to defend the forts. John Trumbull had pointed this out earlier that year when General Horatio Gates was in command. Gates thought that was impossible. After Gates left for the Continental Congress , Philip Schuyler also declared the concerns baseless, so the threat was ignored. Caught in political arguments with Gates and Schuyler over command of the Northern Department of the Continental Army , St. Clair refused to override Schuyler's orders after being left alone in command. He kept that position despite Tadeusz Kościuszko repeating Trumbull's warnings and Benedict Arnold climbing the hill with his bad leg. Because Gates endorsed Kościuszko's advice, Schuyler and St. Clair ignored it.

Portrait of British Commander John Burgoyne , painted by Joshua Reynolds , circa 1766

Burgoyne's force of about 8,000 men with artillery and naval support was large enough to overrun St. Clair's position. Schuyler ordered that St. Clair and his force, which had been reinforced by the arrival of 3,500 militiamen, be held for as long as possible before retreating while additional forces were drawn closer to Albany . The Burgoyne expedition arrived in the area in early July.

Evacuation and fall

British patrols also discovered Sugar Loaf's strategic location. Beginning on July 2, 1777 , they took the height and built fortified artillery positions on their top. They also spent several days winching some of their heavy cannons from tree to tree up the embankment. On July 4th, the Americans held a silent toast ceremony in memory of the American Declaration of Independence made the previous year . However, on the morning of July 5, 1777 , they woke up and discovered the completed British position, which was reinforced throughout the day with further incoming cannons.

A continuous fire would lay the fort in ruins. Trumbull had already demonstrated that American cannons could not reach the top of the hill. During the night St. Clair withdrew with his troops under cover of darkness. The Ticonderoga cannons, most of the supplies and some men too sick or too badly wounded were left behind for the British. A handful of men were left with loaded cannons and burning fuses at Fort Independence to bombard the pontoon bridge after the retreat. But they went over the supplies and opened a barrel of wine. The next morning British troops captured them and took the forts without firing a shot. General Simon Fraser set out to follow the fleeing Americans.


The retreat from Fort Ticonderoga was hasty but was part of the American defense strategy drawn up by General Schuyler in response to the British Saratoga campaign . General Fraser's pursuit led to the Battle of Hubbardton as he caught up with the rear. St. Clair, meanwhile, managed to unite most of his men with Schuyler's forces at Fort Edward in preparation for the Battle of Saratoga . Ticonderoga did not stop Burgoyne's advance substantially, but it had to leave behind several regiments and much of his Canadian forces as garrisons. The political influence of surrender was much stronger. The Continental Congress was called and criticized both Schuyler and St. Clair for the loss. Schuyler had to resign as commander of the Northern Department of the Continental Army and was replaced by General Horatio Gates . Arthur St. Clair insisted that his actions were honorable. He requested that his actions be judged by a court-martial and after that he was fully acquitted.

After the American victory and Burgoyne's surrender after the Battle of Saratoga, British forces retreated to St. John's and the Americans retook the fort without significant losses.

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This article is based on a translation of the article en: Battle of Ticonderoga (1777) from the English Wikipedia in the version of January 21, 2005 .

Coordinates: 43 ° 50 ′ 29 "  N , 73 ° 23 ′ 17"  W.