Ticonderoga and Crown Point: May 1775


Fort Ticonderoga viewed from Mount Defiance, 2009
Long before the Revolution, the British and the French both claimed Crown Point in the struggle for a North American empire. The French were the first to build in New York’s Champlain Valley, on the hill overlooking the Lake, in 1734. Four failed campaigns to oust the French between 1755 and 1758 were mounted by the British. It was not until 1759, however, after the French abandoned the demolished fort (Fort Saint Frederic), that it was taken over by the British with a force of 12,000 men. The British immediately began constructing an ambitious fortification complex (“Crown Point”), which contributed to the British conquest of Canada, the last French stronghold, and control of Lake Champlain as a communication highway. Its purpose was to protect nearby Ft. Ticonderoga from attack by water. In its heyday, there were 3000 men constructing the fort, a mammoth complex, whose ruins are still impressive today. Note that Jehiel's father and grandfather fought in these French and Indian Wars, 1755-1759.

The immediate object of the rebel attack on the British Forts at Ticonderoga and Crown Point on May 10 and 11, 1775 was first to capture the forts for themselves, but also to obtain a cannon and supplies to use for the impending siege of Boston. Washington, who assumed command of the American forces on July 2, 1775, could not attempt the Boston attack without heavy artillery, which was procured by Colonel Ethan Allen, Colonel Benedict Arnold and Colonel Seth Warner with Vermont’s Green Mountain Boys in addition to the Westchester Militia. Allen and Arnold, by order of the Connecticut legislature, crossed Lake Champlain in two boats with a total of eighty-three men and captured Fort Ticonderoga early in the morning of May 10, 1775, while the British garrison was sleeping. Allen demanded that the British commander surrender in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress. The commander complied and consequently there was no bloodshed.

Bowles' "Seat of War" 1776 map of New England - click on picture for a larger image (areas of interest specially noted)
It is not known if Jehiel Gregory fought in this battle. Most documentation of Revolutionary pay rolls were lost in fires in 1800. The one payroll found is dated October 9, 1775 at Ticonderoga and states Jehiel enlisted with the NY 4th Regiment on August 3rd, after this battle. However, it is known that his uncle Barnabas Barnum was one of the Green Mountain boys under Ethan Allen in 1775 in Vermont. Jehiel is also known to have been back at Ticonderoga in October, 1778, having transported emprisoned Tories there from Monkton, VT, with his cousin Richard Barnum, just seven months after Barnabus Barnum's death. Note that the Boston Tea Party occurred on December 16, 1773.

The British had gradually withdrawn their forces at Crown Point, until, at the beginning of 1775, the fort was lightly garrisoned by a small group of 11 British Soldiers. The day after the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, the rebel forces moved north and captured the fort at Crown Point. The capture yielded 114 pieces of cannon and heavy ordnance sorely needed by the Americans, more than was captured at Ticonderoga. Colonel Henry Knox carried twenty-nine of these to Boston during that winter to force the British out of the city.

Crown Point became a springboard for an American invasion of Canada. General Richard Montgomery's force sailed up the lake in August 1775. Despite initial success in Montreal, the combined forces of Montgomery and Benedict Arnold were defeated at Quebec in December 1775. They retreated in disarray, riddled with smallpox, to Crown Point. Men died by the hundreds in makeshift field hospitals and were buried in mass graves. After the Americans abandoned Crown Point, following their loss at the naval battle of Valcour Island* in October 1776, the British assembled their troops here throughout 1776 and 1777, and Crown Point did not return to American control until the war’s conclusion in 1783.

(*Although a tactical defeat for the American forces, the Battle of Valcour Island—October 11-13, 1776—is considered to be the greatest strategic battle won by the Americans during the War of the Revolution. In the summer of 1776, Major General Guy Carleton launched a military offensive to dislodge Patriot forces from their positions in Montreal, advancing along the Hudson River/Lake Champlain waterway. In a running battle in October 1776 the British succeeded in defeating the Americans under Brig. Gen. Benedict Arnold; however, the season was by then so far along that Carleton found it advisable to pull back to Canada for the purpose of entering winter quarters. By building a fleet and forcing the British to do likewise, Arnold was successful in imposing a year’s delay on Carleton’s timetable, thereby spoiling the British initiative to divide the colonies and conquer them. A final footnote concerning Valcour Island is the fact this this decisive naval battle was commanded on both sides by army generals.)

The 4th New York Regiment was authorized on May 25, 1775 and organized from June 28 to August 4 from Westchester, Dutchess, Kings, Queens, and Richmond counties for service with the Continental Army under the command of James Holmes. Thus, the 4th was not organized prior to the battle at Ticonderoga. The enlistments of the first establishment ended on December 31, 1775. The second establishment of the regiment was authorized on January 19, 1776, and it was designated the 3rd New York Regiment in 1776, then the 2nd New York Regiment in 1777.
Officers of the 4th:
Colonel Henry B. Livingston -21st November, 1776, to 13th January, 1779.
Colonel Cornelius D. Wynkoop- 8th March, 1776, to—November, 1776
LT. Col Pierre Regnier de Roussi -21st November, 1776, to 28th June, 1779
Lt. Colonel Frederick Weisenfels -13th January, 1779, to 1st January, 1781 Major Benjamin Ledyard
Major John Visscher, 8th March, 1776, to 26th June, 1776
Major Joseph McCracken, 29th May, 1778, to 11th April, 1780
Stockwell, Levi (N. Y.). 2d Lieutenant 4th New York, April, 1776
Ostrander, John (N. Y.). Ensign 4th New York, June, 1776; 2d Lieutenant 1st New York, 21st November, 1776; 1st Lieutenant 1st Canadian (Livingston's) Regiment, 1st February, 1777; resigned 16th January, 1779; subsequently served as Lieutenant and Adjutant of New York Levies in 1780 and 1781.
Service of the 4th NY:
Saratoga with Poor's New Hampshire brigade
Valley Forge with Poor's New Hampshire brigade
Monmouth Court House
Sullivan-Clinton Expedition with NY Brigade.
There have been no family stories passed down that Jehiel served at Valley Forge, as surely this would have been remembered if he had. But there were stories that he served at Crown Point and Fort Montgomery in addition to Ticonderoga. The battle at Fort Montgomery (1777) is interesting as it is associated with the 5th NY, not the 4th. I believe that with the loss of so many of the muster rolls in the fires in 1800-1812, the information our ancestors collected circa 1920-1940 based on family stories (in the Ohio county histories, and the Ancestors and Descendants of Henry Gregory book) are invaluable to pin down Jehiel's actual service.

Fort Montgomery: October 6, 1777

Fort Montgomery, a 14-acre fortification perched on a cliff overlooking the Hudson, was the scene of a fierce Revolutionary War battle for control of the Hudson River. On October 6, 1777, British, Loyalist and Hessian forces attacked Fort Montgomery and nearby Fort Clinton. The defending American Patriots, outnumbered 3 to 1, fought desperately until driven out of their forts at the points of the enemy bayonets. More than half of the Patriot forces were killed, wounded or captured.

Fort Montgomery cannon with battle drawing insert
Fort Montgomery was located at the confluence of Popolopen Creek and the Hudson River near Bear Mountain in Orange County, New York (45 miles north of New York City, not far from the Gregory home at Bedford, Westchester county, NY -- see map above; the map was drawn in 1776 prior to the building of the fort). The fortifications consisted of a river battery of six 32-pound cannons, a boom and cable across the Hudson River, and landward redoubts connected by ramparts, all situated on a cliff promontory rising 100 feet above the river. The fort was commanded by General George Clinton, who was the newly appointed governor of the state. Fort Montgomery and its companion fortification Fort Clinton (on the southern bank of the Popolopen) held a combined garrison of roughly 700 American soldiers. These men were from the 5th NY Regiment, Lamb's Artillery, Orange County Militia, and Ulster County Militia. (Jehiel Gregory was known to have enlisted in the 4th NY Regiment in 1775 and the Westchester County Militia, but not any of these three. Both Emily Phelps Woodward in her 1929 DAR application and Grant Gregory in his 1938 book state that Jehiel served at Fort Montgomery; it is unknown if his service included this battle or some other tour of duty here 1776-1778.)

The strategic importance of the ability to control navigation along the Hudson River was obvious to both the Americans and the British from the outbreak of open hostilities. The Hudson was the major means for transportation of supplies and troops throughout a large portion of the northeast. The eventual location of the fort was noted for its strategic advantage as a well-placed location for controlling navigation along the river as early as the seventeenth century. Only a month after the first open armed conflict in Lexington, the Continental Congress indicated its intent to build fortifications in the Hudson highlands for the purpose of protecting and maintaining control of the Hudson River. On May 25, 1775, the Continental Congress passed a resolution to construct fortifications along the Hudson River in order to retain control of the waterway that "…a post be also taken in the Highlands on each side of Hudson’s River and batteries erected in such a manner as will most effectually prevent any vessels passing that may be sent to harass the inhabitants on the borders of said river."

James Clinton and Christopher Tappan, both lifetime residents of the area, were sent to scout appropriate locations for the required fortifications. The initial site chosen was further to the north at West Point, and construction of the fortifications to be named Fort Constitution began. However, difficulties in construction and management of the original plan of fortifications and the escalating costs involved led to its abandonment. The location on Popolopen Creek across from Anthony's Nose was proposed, and the materials and resources from Fort Constitution were redirected to the construction at the new location. Construction began on the new Fort Montgomery in March 1776.

The strategic importance of the opposite bank of Popolopen Creek was quickly realized, as it was an elevated cliff terrace that had full view of the location of Fort Montgomery, so a smaller fortification named Fort Clinton was built there as well. The placement of these two forts and their associated cannon batteries effectively controlled this stretch of the Hudson River. However, in addition to the fortifications, a major engineering project was conceived to effectively blockade any naval traffic on the river. A boom and chain were built across the river to provide a physical barrier in addition to the combined firepower of the fortifications.

In July 1776, a committee appointed by the New York convention, which included John Jay, Robert Livingston, George Clinton and Robert Yates was appointed to "devise and carry into execution" measures for "obstructing the channel of Hudson's river, or annoying the navigation of the said River." It bemoaned the situation of its arms, and made measures to procure more cannon.

Fort Montgomery ruins, 2009
On October 6, 1777, a combined force of roughly 2,100 Loyalists, Hessians, and British regulars led by Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton attacked Forts Montgomery and Clinton from the landward side (which was only partially completed) with support from cannon fire from British ships on the Hudson River. The land columns attacking from west of the fort consisted of the New York Volunteers, the Loyal American Regiment, Emmerich's Chasseurs, the 57th and the 52nd Regiments of Foot. By the end of the day, both forts had fallen to the British, who burned the forts and tore down the stonework buildings.

Marker at Fort Montgomery: The Naval Battle of Fort Montgomery
Battle positions and movements - Prelude October 5 and 6, 1777, Courtesy of the United States Military Academy Department of History
When Sir Henry Clinton’s British troops reached Forts Clinton and Montgomery on October 6, 1777, some of his ships began moving upriver to support them. First came two galleys, the Dependence and the Crime, which were rowed into position. Four American ships, the frigate Montgomery, the sloop Camden, and the galleys Shark and Lady Washington defended the giant iron chain the Americans had stretched across the river below Fort Montgomery. As the British galleys approached, a fierce cannon battle ensued. The Dependence fired 95 shots from its 24-pounders and many more from its smaller 6-pounders, striking Fort Clinton and the American ships. The American commander held his fire until his ship, the Montgomery, was struck. He then returned the fire and ordered the massive 32-pounder cannon on board the Lady Washington to do the same. The guns from both forts fired on the British galleys too. Just before the battle reached its climax, two larger British ships, the brig Diligent and the sloop tender Hotham, and another galley, the Spitfire, came into view. Sir Henry Clinton later wrote that the sight of these ships “crowding all sail to support” the attack convinced him to begin his final assault. At dusk, the British drove the Americans from the forts, and the American vessels turned to support their fleeing soldiers. The Montgomery saved many Americans from capture by using its cannons to keep the British from encircling the fort. The Shark, the Camden, and the Lady Washington were ordered to rescue as many Americans as possible. As night fell, the ships tried to escape upriver, but the winds were not strong enough to overcome the ebb tide carrying them downriver. The Camden was run aground by its crew and was captured by the British. The Montgomery and the Shark were burned by their crews before they could fall into enemy hands. Only the Lady Washington escaped upriver.

Marker at Fort Montgomery: the Barracks
barrack ruins in the 20th century
You are looking at the foundation of a barracks built in the summer of 1776. This was probably a two-story building with a cellar under the northern half. Artifacts recovered from the site tell us a lot about the soldiers who lived here. In the 18th century, shoe buckles, brass and silver buttons, cuff links, glass tableware, tea services, and flatware were symbols of elevated social status. The large quantity of these items recovered from all of the barracks excavated at Fort Montgomery challenges traditional assumptions that these soldiers were poor and unsophisticated. An abundance of cattle, pig, sheep, chicken, duck, pigeon, and fish bones was found in a large trash dump just outside the building’s west wall, indicating that the soldiers were generally well-supplied with meat. The animals were probably butchered on site and the meat cooked in soups and stews that were eaten from bowls using large pewter spoons. The scarcity of bones and other debris inside the barracks suggests that the soldiers regularly cleaned the building.

The battle was a pyrrhic victory for the British, however, as the campaign against Forts Montgomery and Clinton caused delays that would give American forces the upper hand at the Battle of Bemis Heights in Saratoga. The reinforcements for which British General John Burgoyne was waiting were held up, and Burgoyne was forced to surrender at Saratoga ten days later with his reinforcements still far to the south.

Battle of Saratoga: October 1777

It has been said that more than any other single event, the Battle of Saratoga proved decisive in determining the eventual outcome of the Revolutionary War. Why? Because it signaled to the European powers that the rebels were capable of defeating the English on their own, and when news of the American victory reached Europe, France entered the war on the side of the Patriots. The financial and arms support, in addition to the military support that Washington’s Continental Army received from France starting the next year, was instrumental in the war’s successful conclusion (from the American standpoint!) in 1783.

By the spring of 1777, the British knew that they had to do something fast to keep control of the colonies. Lord George Germain was a strategist for the British, and thought the troops in Canada under Major General John Burgoyne needed to take control of Albany, NY and the Hudson River. This would divide the New England colonies from all the other colonies at the Hudson River and make it easier for Britain to gain control.

Burgoyne left Montreal in June 1777 with 6,000 men. On their way through Northern New York, they stopped at Fort Ticonderoga and took it over from the Americans. When they reached Albany in September, they found the city protected by 7,000 Patriots under Major General Horatio Gates. Because the Patriots had used the land to their advantage, they decided to sit and let the British make their move. There were some minor assaults, and on September 19, 1777 Burgoyne attacked. Even though the Patriots were reinforced by Major General Benedict Arnold’s troops (including New York’s 4th regiment), they could not hold off the British and retreated. The British casualties numbered 600 and the American 320.

On October 7, 1777 Major General Burgoyne staged a full assault on the Patriots beginning at three in the afternoon. The Patriots were ready with a strong defense, and the British retreated. This time the British casualties were four times greater than those of the Americans: 600 to 150. On October 17, 1777 Burgoyne, with less than 5,000 men, surrendered to a Patriot Army of 17,000-20,000 men, and he subsequently returned to England in disgrace and was never given another command. It has been estimated that this was one-quarter of the entire British Army in the Colonies.

The Battle of Saratoga was a major turning point in the war. The British goal of taking control of the North died, and they were forced to give up hope of ever regaining full authority over the northern Colonies. The French decided then to join the Patriots in the war against the British, and they were part of the victory at Yorktown, where General Cornwallis’ troops also surrendered. And probably most important, the Patriots themselves knew they had gained control and this imbued them with the confidence to continue fighting.

Traitors during the Revolution: General Benedict Arnold and Captain James Holmes

One of the more intriguing aspects of the Revolution, in my opinion, is loyalty vs. patriotism. With the benefit of hindsight, and the fact that history is always written by the victors, we have only been taught how Benedict Arnold was a traitor, with no attempt to understand the underlying causes. Perhaps to understand would lead to a realization of how fragile patriotism really is. I particularly was struck with how personally self-serving these decisions were for both Holmes and Arnold -- from the (very) limited amount of information available, it appears that the decision to switch sides came not from a fundamental switch in economic/political philosophy, but rather from a dislike of fellow officers for Holmes, and unrequited military ambitions for Arnold.

James Holmes. In his enlistment for the 4th regiment of the NY Line on August 3, 1775, the muster roll clearly states that he served at Ticonderoga in Captain Joseph Benedicts Company under the command of Colonel James Holmes.

James Holmes was the grandson of one of the original proprietors and settlers of the Town of Bedford*, where he was born in 1737. He served as a Captain in the Army during the French and Indian War, where he acquired a fine military reputation. He was elected to the Provincial Convention for the appointment of Delegates to the Continental Congress of 1774; and he was a member of the Provincial Congress, which tapped him to be a Colonel of the NY Regiment in 1775. He went with his Regiment, Jehiel's regiment, to the northern frontier, and occupied Ticonderoga, which is where he suddenly lost interest in the Patriot cause. The only source I found about Holmes ("Westchester County, New York, during the American Revolution" by Henry Barton Dawson) simply states that Ticonderoga was "very much to his disgust." and he quarrelled with General Schuyler, who commanded in that Department. He subsequently declined to continue in the service, after the term of the enlistment of his command had expired, became a Loyalist, and took the Lieutenant-colonelcy of the Corps of the Westchester-county Refugees. While many Loyalists, and particularly "traitors" who changed sides, moved to primarily Canada after the War, Holmes continued to live in Bedford, until about 1810, when he removed to New Haven, where he died, on the eighth of July, 1824, aged eighty-seven years.

*The town of Bedford was founded on December 23, 1680 when twenty-two Puritans from Stamford, Connecticut purchased a tract of land three miles square known as the "Hopp Ground" from Chief Katonah and several other Indians for coats, blankets, wampum and cloth. Bedford was made a part of Connecticut in 1697 when a patent fixed the boundaries as a six-mile square and only when King William III of England issued a royal decree in 1700, to settle a boundary dispute, did Bedford become part of New York. Originally a settlement of the colony of Connecticut, Bedford Village was laid out in 1681 with a town common, a village street, and three-acre house plots distributed by lot to the twenty-two original proprietors in accordance with the New England custom. Most of this area as well as part of the "East Field" which was originally farmed in common is included in the Bedford Village Historic District. A significant inland settlement during the 18th century, Bedford served as the Seat of Westchester County government during much of the Revolution.

Benedict Arnold:
1741 Norwich,CT -
1801 London,England
Major Benedict Arnold. When Jehiel signed up for the 4th Regiment of the New York Line, at Ticonderoga, Benedict Arnold had just achieved the successful capture of the Fort from the British.

Born in Norwich, Connecticut on January 14, 1741, when the town consisted of less than 3,000 residents, Benedict Arnold was 10 years younger than Jehiel's father Nehemiah, and 14 years older than Jehiel. The Gregory family would have personally known the Arnold family.

Arnold was a merchant operating ships on the Atlantic Ocean when the war broke out in 1775. He began the war as a captain in Connecticut's militia, a position to which he was elected in March 1775. Following the outbreak of hostilities at Lexington and Concord the following month, his company marched northeast to assist in the siege of Boston that followed. Arnold proposed to the Massachusetts Committee of Safety an action to seize Fort Ticonderoga in New York, which he knew was poorly defended. They issued him a colonel's commission on May 3, 1775, and he immediately rode off to the west, where he arrived at Castleton in the disputed New Hampshire Grants (present-day Vermont) in time to participate with Ethan Allen and his men in the capture of Fort Ticonderoga. He followed up that action with a bold raid on Fort Saint-Jean on the Richelieu River north of Lake Champlain. When a Connecticut militia force arrived at the fort in June, he had a dispute with its commander over control of the fort, and resigned his Massachusetts commission. He was on his way south from Ticonderoga when he learned that his wife died earlier in June.

He distinguished himself through acts of cunning and bravery. His actions included the Capture of Fort Ticonderoga in 1775, successful defensive and delaying tactics despite losing the Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain in 1776, the Battle of Ridgefield, Connecticut (after which he was promoted to major general), operations in relief of the Siege of Fort Stanwix, and key actions during the pivotal Battles of Saratoga in 1777, in which he suffered leg injuries that ended his combat career for several years.

In spite of successes, Arnold was passed over for further promotion by the Continental Congress while other officers claimed credit for some of his accomplishments. Adversaries in military and political circles brought charges of corruption or other malfeasance, but he was acquitted in most formal inquiries. Congress investigated his accounts, and found that he owed it money after he had spent much of his own money on the war effort. Frustrated and bitter, Arnold decided to change sides in 1779, and opened secret negotiations with the British. In July 1780, he sought and obtained command of West Point in order to surrender it to the British. Arnold's scheme was exposed in September when American forces captured British Major John André carrying papers that revealed the plot. Upon learning of André's capture, Arnold fled down the Hudson River to the British sloop-of-war Vulture, narrowly avoiding capture by the forces of George Washington, who had been alerted to the plot.

Arnold received a commission as a brigadier general in the British Army, an annual pension of £360, and a lump sum of over £6,000. He led British forces on raids in Virginia, and against New London and Groton, Connecticut, before the war effectively ended with the American victory at Yorktown. In the winter of 1782, Arnold moved to London with his second wife, Margaret "Peggy" Shippen Arnold whose family had, not surprisingly, been Loyalists. He was well received by King George III and the Tories but frowned upon by the Whigs. In 1787, he entered into mercantile business with his sons Richard and Henry in Saint John, New Brunswick, but returned to London to settle permanently in 1791, where he died ten years later.

Because of the way he changed sides his name quickly became a byword in the United States for treason or betrayal. His conflicting legacy is recalled in the ambiguous nature of some of the memorials that have been placed in his honor.

The major difference between Holmes and Arnold is that Holmes did not switch sides secretively, with malice. It is still hard for me to understand how Arnold could lead forces against the Patriots in Connecticut, against the very men whom he had previously led, and who had been his friends and neighbors.

Return to Hay Tree