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Aerial photo of Valcour Island by Roger and Doug Harwood

The Battle of Lake Champlain
October 11, 1776
By James P. Millard

The simple monument is easy to miss. And even if the traveler happens upon it, the few simple words really do little to convey the events that took place here. VALCOUR ISLAND...

Scene of the first phase of the dramatic Battle of Lake Champlain at Valcour Island

Photo of the Valcour Island monument by Jim MillardTake a look at the photo of the monument- in the distance is the island of Valcour. It is close, and yet here, within this space took place a desperate struggle between some 15 American warships and a much larger British fleet. These were the warships of the the new American navy, built a short time before in the southernmost reaches of the lake at a place known then as Skenesborough, today's Whitehall, New York.

The Commander of this fleet, a proud and haughty man, but one with no shortage of courage or military prowess, was Benedict Arnold. The battle to be fought in this place, at close quarters, by men described by Arnold himself as a "wretched, motley crew" would end in defeat for the American navy. It was however, a bittersweet victory for the British. This action, technically a defeat-nonetheless was crucial for the American side.

The significance of this delaying action was best summed up by Admiral Alfred Mahan in his "War of American Independence" when he wrote..."The little American navy on Champlain was wiped out: but never had any force, big or small, lived to better purpose nor died more gloriously, for it had saved the Lake for that year.*"

   For the full account of the Battle at Valcour Island on October 11, 1776, click HERE.

For a photographic tour of Valcour Island and the scene of the battle, click HERE.

   For a chart of the forces involved in the Battle of Lake Champlain, click HERE.

   For the dramatic story of Arnold's Bay, where the Rebel fleet grounded and set afire their vessels after the "running battle" on the lake, click HERE.
Benedict Arnold

See also:
Lieut. James Hadden's Account of the Battle of Lake Champlain: An eyewitness account of the extraordinary events on Lake Champlain between October 11-13, 1776

Explore an actual underwater archeological survey in beautiful and historic Valcour Bay!

*Note: Most modern-day historians agree with A.T. Mahan's assessment of Arnold's actions on the lake. For another viewpoint- one that actually calls Arnold's actions "foolhardy" and blames Carleton (and the falls on the Richelieu) for the delay in taking Ticonderoga rather than crediting Benedict Arnold and the action at Valcour Island, see:

Guy Carleton versus Benedict Arnold: The Campaign of 1776 in Canada and on Lake Champlain by Paul David Nelson. July 1976-New York History. Volume LVII. Number 3. Cooperstown, New York: Quarterly Journal of The New York State Historical Association.

Last modified: 11/10/2012

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