History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Campaign of Lieut. Gen. John Burgoyne
and The Expedition of Lieut. Col. Barry St. Leger.
by William L. Stone.
Albany, NY, Joel Munsell. 1877.
SERGEANT LAMB'S ACCOUNT OF HIS JOURNEY THROUGH THE WOODS FROM FORT MILLER TO TICONDEROGA, TO EXPEDITE SUPPLIES FOR BURGOYNE'S ARMY. 1
During our continuance at Fort Miller, the writer of this memoir was selected by his officers to return alone to Ticonderoga, for the purpose of taking back some of our baggage which had been left there. Going unaccompanied
1 From a Memoir of His own Life, by R. Lamb, formerly a sergeant in the Royal Welsh Fusileers, author of a Journal of Occurrences during the late American War, Dublin, 1811. For the opportunity of copying from this rare work, the author is indebted to the unfailing courtesy of Mr. Lyman C. Draper, of Madison, Wisconsin.
on such a solitary route was dreary and dangerous ; but yet the selection of one from numbers, seemed to render the man chosen on the occasion, a depositary of peculiar confidence. He therefore undertook the duty imposed, not only without repining, but with alacrity. A small detachment if sent, could not pass unnoticed or safe by such a route through the woods, a distance of twenty miles ;1 and a sufficient force could not be spared on the occasion. The sending of a single soldier appeared therefore the most advisable plan , and it was ordered by General Burgoyne, that he should, after arriving at Ticonderoga, follow the royal army with the baggage escorted by the recruits, and as many of the convalescents remaining at that post as could march with it. Pursuant to this arrangement, he prepared himself, taking twenty rounds of ball cartridge, and some provisions.
About noon he set out, and at four in the afternoon reached our former encampment. Fort Edward, where he stopped awhile to refresh. Thence he proceeded with as much expedition as he could make to Fort Henry on Lake George.2 Almost eleven o'clock
1 Lamb refers to the distance from Fort Miller to Fort George, where he would take water-carriage, and not of course, to the distance from Fort Miller to Ticonderoga.
2 Meaning Fort George Fort Wm. Henry was then in ruins. Much confusion seems always to have arisen regarding these two forts. The French on Montcalm's expedition against Fort William Henry in 1757, (built by Sir William Johnson in 1755) spoke of going against Fort George - though this fort, which consisted of only a single bastion, was not built until several years after by Amherst.- W. L. S.
at night, becoming very weary, he laid him down to sleep a little in a thick part of a wood. Although the day was hot, the night dews soon awakened him shivering with cold, having rested but about two hours; then resuming his march for four or five miles he saw a light on his left, and directed his course toward it. Having gained the place, he was saluted by a man at the door of his house who informed him that a soldier's wife had been just taken in from the woods, where she was found by one of his family, in the pains of child-birth. Being admitted into this hospitable dwelling, the owner of which was one of the Society of Friends, or people called Quakers,1 he recognized the wife of a sergeant of his own company. The woman was delivered of a fine girl soon after, and having requested her friendly host to allow her to stop until his return from Ticonderoga, at which time he would be able to take her to the army in one of his wagons, he set out on his lonely route again. Previous to his leaving her, she informed him that she had determined to brave the dangers of the woods, in order to come up with her husband; that she had crossed Lake George, and was seized with the sickness of labor in the forest, where she must have perished, "had she not been providentially discovered by the kind-hearted people under whose roof she then was. It is worthy of remark that the author not long since in this city (Dublin), with great pleasure, saw the female, who was born as he before related, in the wilderness, near Lake George. She had been married to a man serving in the band of a militia regiment, and the meeting with her revived in his mind the lively emotions of distressful and difficult scenes, which, although long passed, can never be forgotten by him.1 At Fort George, he was provided with a boat to take him across (sic) the lake to Ticonderoga.
Lake George is situate southwest of Lake Champlain, and its bed lies about 100 feet higher. Its waters are beautifully clear, composing a sheet thirty -six miles long, and from one to seven wide. It embosoms more than two hundred islands, affording nothing for the most part but a ground of barren rocks covered with heath, and a few cedar and spruce trees. On each side it is skirted by prodigious mountains. The lake abounds with fish, and some of the best kind, such as the black or Oswego bass, also large speckled trout.2 It was called Lake Sacrament by the Canadians, who, in former times, were at the pains to procure its water for sacramental uses in their churches.3
1 Lamb furnishes the story of this woman's heroism two or three pages forward.
2 This will be quite a revelation to fishermen of the present day - since it is generally supposed not only that the name Oswego bass is a modern one, but that the bass are a comparatively recent inhabitant of Lake George.- W.L.S.
3 The writer here, in common with Cooper, falls into a very common error. The French missionary. Father Jogues, named it St. Sacrament, not on account of the purity of its waters, but because he arrived at the lake upon one of the festival days of that name.1 The early Roman catholic discoverers, says the late Rev. Mr. Van Rensaelaer, " frequently connect the discovery of places with the festival name on the calendar." Mr. Cooper, in his Last of the Mohicans suggests the name of Horicon for this lake. This, though quite poetical, is merely fanciful, as indeed he claims, and has not the merit of historical truth. The ancient Iroquois name of the lake is Andiatarocte - " there the lake shuts itself."- W. L. S.
1 " Ils arriverant, la veille du S. Sacrament, au bout du lac que est joint au grand lac de Champlain, Les Iroquois le nomment Andiatarocte, comme qui discit la ou le lac se ferme. Le Pere le nomma le lac du S. Sacrament. " Relations, 1645-6..
There are two islands nearly in the centre of it, in one of which, called Diamond island, two companies of the 47th were stationed, commanded by Captain Aubrey, for the purpose of forwarding prisoners over the lakes. These islands were, anterior to this time, said to swarm with rattle-snakes ; so much so, that people would not venture to land on them. A bateau in sailing near Diamond island having upset, the people in it gained the shore, but climbed the trees for fear of the snakes, until they got an opportunity of a vessel passing to leave it. Some hogs, however, which had been carried in the upset boat remaining on the island to which they swam, were sometime afterward followed by the owners, who, to recover them, ventured ashore. They found the swine exceedingly fat, and, to their surprise, met but very few of the rattlesnakes which before had been so plenty. A hog being killed on the spot, made a good meal for the people. It was discovered by its stomach that the hog fed upon the rattlesnakes, and had nearly cleared the island of such noxious tenantry.
The wild hog in the woods and the Indian himself are known to feed on snakes as a delicacy.1 * * * *
1 "The Indians," says Farmer Hector St. John, " cut off the head, skin the body and cook it as we do eels, and its flesh is extremely sweet and white."
There are but two serpents whose bites or stings prove mortal, viz: the pilot or the copper-head, and the rattle snake. For the bite or venom of the former, it is said that no remedy or cure is yet discovered. It is called pilot from its being the first in coming from its state of torpidity in the spring, and its name of copperhead is taken from the copper colored spots of its head. The black snake is a good deal innocuous, and is remarkable only for its agility, beauty, and its art or instinct of enticing birds or insects to approach it. I have heard only of one person who was stung by a copperhead He quickly swelled in a most dreadful manner; a multitude of spots of different hues on different parts of his body, alternately appeared and vanished; his eyes were filled with madness and rage; he fixed them on all present with the most vindictive looks; he thrust out his tongue as the snakes do; he hissed through his teeth with inconceivable strength, and became an object of terror to all by-standers. To the lividness of a corpse, he united the desperate force of a maniac; they hardly were able to keep him fast, so as to guard themselves from his attacks , when, in the space of two hours, death relieved the poor individual from his struggles, and the spectators from their apprehensions. The venom of the rattle-snake does not operate so soon, and hence there is more time to procure medical relief. There are several antidotes with which almost every family is provided against the poison of it. It is very inactive, and unless pursued or vexed, perfectly inoffensive. * * * * *
The author having arrived and completed his business at Ticonderoga, he accompanied the baggage over Lake George, attended by a number of seamen sent to work the bateaux on the Hudson river. On his returning he called on the good Quaker who lodged the sick wife of his fellow soldier, but to his astonishment was told that, on the morrow after he left her there in childbirth, she set out to meet her husband against the wishes and repeated entreaties of the whole family, who were anxious to detain her until his return. She could not be persuaded to stop, but set out on foot with her new born infant, and arrived safe with her husband, whom she had followed with such fond solicitude. She thus gave an instance of the strength of female attachment and fortitude, which shows that the exertions of the sex are often calculated to call forth our cordial admiration.
In a short time the author had the gratification of conducting the stores and baggage for which he had been despatched, in safety to the army, and to receive the thanks of his officers, for the manner in which he executed the orders confided to him. By this conveyance the forces obtained a month's provisions, and a bridge of boats being constructed upon the Hudson, on the 13th or 14th September, 1777, the royal army crossed it, and encamped on Saratoga plain.1
Lamb returned to England - having witnessed the surrender at Yorktown-in 1783,
where he was affectionately received by an aged mother and a few kind relatives.
" He then," the memoir concludes, "had to take counsel about
a line of living to earn a subsistence; such is generally the result of a
military life. He chose to become a school-master, an arduous occupation,
which has enabled him for upwards of twenty-six years, to provide for, and
educate a growing family, the source of satisfaction and solicitude. He was
discharged without the Pension (occasioned by a mere technicality and red
tape. See his Journal of the American War, page 435.)
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