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October 11, 2009

Battle of Valcour remembered on anniversary

Revolutionary War loss gave Americans the time to win

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Sir Guy Carleton, governor general of Canada, was in charge of the British fleet and army. He had 1,670 British and Hessian soldiers, 34 vessels and 89 pieces of artillery, compared to 890 soldiers and sailors and 78 guns for the Americans.

The British fleet left Point au Fer in the early morning of Oct. 11. The Americans sighted the fleet later that morning as it went past Cumberland Head, Glenn said.

They allowed the British to sail 2 to 3 miles past Valcour, then emerged from the cover of the island. The battle started at about noon and lasted until dark, probably about 5:30 p.m.

The American vessels were all heavily damaged, with many in danger of sinking. Glenn said that, while many accounts state the Americans slipped through the British line in the dark, he believes they actually went north around Valcour and then proceeded south to Schuyler Island.

In either case, the British awoke on Oct. 12 to find the Americans gone in an unknown direction.

Both sides stayed in place on Oct. 12, then the Americans set sail south. A tough south wind enabled the British to capture several vessels, but Arnold and his troops escaped by land.

Although the victory gave the British control of Lake Champlain, it was too late in the year to conduct a siege of Fort Ticonderoga. The British retreated to near Montreal by Nov. 1, where they spent the winter.

They were able to take the fort in July 1777, but the delay enabled the American Army to become strong enough to win the Battle of Saratoga in October. That led to support from France and Spain, which turned the tide of the war.

"The one thing we needed in 1776 was time," Glenn said.

E-mail Dan Heath at: dheath@pressrepublican.com

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