Click here to learn more about this site Click here to return to our home page Click here to visit our "clickable" map of local historic sites Click here to visit Part I of our huge two-part Table of Contents Click here to search the site Click here to learn about using the images and materials published on this site Click here to contact us

The Online Resource for Historians, Educators, Students and Visitors since 1997
This is a graphics-intensive publication, to fully experience the site we recommend you have JavaScript enabled.



Click here to learn about the Battle of Valcour, October 11, 1776

 

The Secrets of Crab Island:
Part V

The American Revolution
 

By James P. Millard

After a brief period of relative peace on the lakes after the end of the French and Indian War, conflict returned to the waterways. No longer were the American colonists concerned about France as an enemy. This time, Britain herself would become the chief antagonist. The strategic importance of the Richelieu/Champlain/Lake George corridor would again weigh heavily in this conflict.

By 1775 open rebellion had erupted in New England. Lake Champlain was the scene of some of the first major incidents of the Revolution. On May 10, Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold and the Green Mountain Boys seized Ticonderoga in a daring raid. The following day Seth Warner and Remember Baker captured the token British force at Crown Point. With one stroke, the weak British presence on Lake Champlain had been eliminated. Caught unaware, the Crown had left open an invasion route to Canada. The rebels would soon exploit this opening.

Crab Island, probably still known by the name given it by the French- St. Michel, lay along the route of one major military expedition after another. It is not believed the island itself played a key role during the Revolution, but the immediate area, especially the larger island to the south- storied Valcour Island, was to play a role the significance of which is still being discovered to this day.

In late August, early September, an American invasion force under General Richard Montgomery moved north up the lake. A parallel force sets out through the wilderness of Maine. Their intention was to take the key British outposts of Montreal and Quebec. As it had so many times previously, the island of St. Michel witnessed hundreds of batteaux laden with men and munitions en route to war.

In April 1776, a boat carrying Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Chase and Charles Carroll passes the island enroute to Montreal to negotiate with the Canadians. Their efforts fail, along with the invasion itself.  By June of 1776 the plucky American invasion force is engaged in a miserable retreat south up the lake from Canada. Hundreds of batteaux, laden with the ragged, sick and wounded remnants of Montgomery's army retreat towards the forts at Crown Point and Ticonderoga. It is a time of unspeakable misery for the Americans on the lake. They leave behind hundreds of their colleagues in unmarked graves at places such as Isle aux Noix and Isle aux Tętes and Isle la Motte. It is possible some were left behind at Isle St. Michel. We do not know for sure... possibly another of Crab Island's secrets. With their sorrowful journey south, goes any hope of uniting North America as one against British rule.

The summer of 1776 was spent fortifying the important outposts at Crown Point and Ticonderoga. Both sides were engaged in constructing fleets with which each hoped to gain control of the lake. These fleets would clash in an epic battle just south of Crab Island at Valcour.

The British drive south up the lake

The morning of October 11, 1776 saw an enormous British flotilla round Cumberland Head, pass Crab Island and continue to the south. A detailed account of the battle that ensued is discussed in detail elsewhere on the site. The vicinity of Crab Island was the scene of a truly pivotal exchange- one that played a crucial war in the history of the Revolution. The British won what was to prove to be a rather hollow victory at Valcour, the battle was carried south past Split Rock to Ferris's Bay. Seeing the mighty fortifications at Ticonderoga and Mt. Independence, Carleton turned his fleet around and returned to Canada for the winter. Several months later another mighty armada would travel south past Crab Island.

On June 13, 1777, an awesome military force left St. Johns on the Richelieu for an expedition up Lake Champlain. Their objective was nothing less than the splitting of New England from the rest of the colonies. By June 16th, Burgoyne's mighty army was encamped just north of Crab Island on the large peninsula known as Cumberland Head. The massive force consisted of

"The Ship Royal George, 24 Guns, Ship Inflexible, 20 Guns, Brigg Washington, 16, Schooner Maria, 14, Schooner Carlton, 12, Cutter Lee, 10. Radeau, now carrying 18, Gondolas Loyal Convert, 9, Gondolas Jersey, 7, and 24 Gun Boats, Mann'd and armed as last year with Brass Artillery "

Accompanying these large vessels were hundreds of batteaux and long-boats carrying thousands of troops.

We know that Burgoyne's mighty force sailed south to ultimate defeat at Saratoga. With this loss came the beginning of the end for His Majesty's forces in New England. Ultimately, the American rebels emerged victorious, and events upon Lake Champlain and Lake George were to prove key to the resolution of this latest contest in North America.  A new nation was the result.

Click here to go back to the previous page.   Click here to return to the introduction.   Click here to continue.

Sources/notes:

James Hadden. Hadden's Journal and Orderly Books: A Journal Kept in Canada and Upon Burgoyne's Campaign in 1776 and 1777, by Lieut. James M. Hadden, Roy. Art. Edited by Horatio Rogers. (Albany: Joel Munsell's Sons, 1884)

 

Visiting Crab Island...
Crab Island is publicly owned land- the property of the people of New York. It is also a very special, unique place that merits respect and consideration. Keep in mind the island is covered with Poison Ivy. It is also the home of protected fauna and flora. Look, but do not touch. Metal detectors and digging are strictly prohibited on the island.

*America's Historic Lakes is a favorite of educators around the world. You can feel confident that the material
on this site is accurate, well-researched, properly cited and presented.

Creative Commons License
America's Historic Lakes by James P. Millard and Guest Contributors is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

 Privacy Policy


James P. Millard
Post Office Box 262
South Hero, Vermont 05486-0262
contact@historiclakes.org

Terms of Service and Disclaimer of Liability

The historical information on this web site is provided as a public service by James P. Millard. I  have attempted to be as accurate as possible in my presentation of this historical material. However, I make no claims, guarantees or promises about the accuracy, currency, or completeness of the information provided. In no event shall the publisher; James P. Millard, be liable for any errors or omissions with respect to any information on this site. Material submitted by guest contributors and published on the site is the property of the contributor and may be removed at any time at my discretion or upon request of the contributor. This website occasionally provides links to sites of other organizations maintained by third parties. These links do not constitute an endorsement of the content, viewpoint, accuracy, opinions, policies, products, services, or accessibility of that website. Links to third-party websites are provided as a public service and convenience to users of our site; James P. Millard/America’s Historic Lakes does not control, endorse or recommend the content on sites we may link to. Once connected to another website, you are subject to the terms and conditions of that website.