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Unite or Die Snake

 

Last updated: January 2018

 

A Brief History of the Original Regiment

Following the May 10th, 1775 raid on the British garrison at Ticonderoga, the men known locally as “the Green Mountain Boys” became folk heroes. The raid has been characterized as brazen and bold, accurate descriptions of the inhabitants of the New Hampshire Grants. These men had been involved in a 10 year dispute with New York over land rights and had used intimidation and violence to defend what they believed were their rights. Based on this success, the Continental Congress recommended to the Colony of New York on June 27, 1775 that they raise “those called the Green Mountain Boys” as a Regiment of infantry.  The New York Legislature authorized the Regiment on July 5, 1775 to be raised as a Battalion of 500 men in 7 Companies.  The Assembly of the New Hampshire Grants, in electing officers for the Regiment, shut out Ethan Allen & made Seth Warner the commander. A large number of the men involved in the raid on Ticonderoga joined the Regiment forming its core.

The Regiment was fielded in September of 1775 & assigned to Brigadier General Montgomery’s wing in the invasion of Canada.  The Regiment received its baptism of fire while moving around to the North side of the fort at St. Johns at the beginning of the siege.  Later posted between La Prairie & Longueuil, they were involved in several skirmishes.  Then on October 30, the British commander in Canada sent an 800 man relief force for the Fort at St. Johns from Montreal by boat to land at Longueuil.  Warner’s Regiment & the 2nd New York Regiment, then under Lieutenant Colonel Warner’s command, opposed the landing & drove the British off without losing a man.  The Regiment returned home on November 24, 1775, not having winter clothing to continue the campaign.

On January 6, 1776 the Regiment was recalled to active duty & by mid-February had marched to Montreal with 417 men where the Regiment was placed under Benedict Arnold’s command.  By March, stationed at Orleans, the Regiment was down to 102 effectives; small pox had hit the camp.  During the retreat from Canada in June of 1776, the Regiment was posted as the rear guard for the Northern Army.

On July 5, 1776, Warner's Regiment was re-authorized by the Continental Congress as an Extra-Continental Regiment.  Being classed with the 1st & 2nd Canadian Regiments, & the German Battalion, it did not fall under the jurisdiction of any State legislature.  A large proportion of the men & officers of the newly re-organized Regiment were veterans of the Canadian Campaign.

By June 1777, the Regiment was posted in the vicinity of Fort Ticonderoga & Mt. Independence where elements of the Regiment conducted scouting missions on the Vermont side of Lake Champlain.  Second Lieutenant Wheeler and 5 other men from the Regiment were killed and 11 others wounded when elements of Brigadier General Burgoyne’s forces engaged Fort Ticonderoga’s piquet lines on July 2, 1777.  Nearly surrounded & with British artillery in commanding positions on Mount Defiance to the west, & Hessian/Brunswick forces moving along the east side of the lake to flank positions at Mount Independence, General St. Clair decided to save his men & evacuate the fortification at Ticonderoga & Mount Independence.  The Regiment was designated along with the 11th Massachusetts and 2nd New Hampshire regiments as the rear guard & tasked with delaying the British long enough for Continental forces to regroup in southwestern Vermont. 

The advance elements of Burgoyne’s forces under Simon Frasier engaged the American rear guard early on the morning on July 7, 1777 at the hamlet of Hubbardton, VT.  Command of the Brigade had transferred to Colonel Warner at Hubbardton, due to his familiarity with the area & his proven leadership abilities.  After 5 hours of fighting, under pressure from Frasier’s grenadiers & by General Reidesel’s re-enforcements, Warner executed an orderly withdrawal of his remaining forces over Pittsford Ridge.  Five men from the Regiment were killed in the action with 56 missing,  reducing Regimental strength to 130 rank and file.  Twenty four eventually returned to the Regiment, but the remaining 32 are believed to have been either wounded & taken to Canada by the Crown forces or died of their wounds. Although many historians describe the battle as a loss because the British forces held the field at the end of the day, Warner & his Brigade accomplished their assignment of delaying Burgoyne while protecting the withdrawing Northern Continental Army. 

Centered around Rutland, VT, Warner & his Brigade, now composed of Williams’ Militia, Herrick’s Rangers, & Brigadier General Stark’s New Hampshire detachment, harassed the Brunswick troops stationed at Castleton, VT and raided Tory homes & strongholds throughout late July 1777.

On August 16, 1777 the Regiment was present at the second phase of the Battle of Bennington. German Col. v. Baum's forces had already been over-run by Brigadier General Stark’s New Hampshire militia & the militia brigade commanded by Colonel Warner, but a reinforcing column of 650 men under Col. v. Breymann was coming onto the field. With the militia dispersed looting the prizes of their victory, Breymann’s force was driving back the 4 Companies of Herrick’s Rangers & was on the verge of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat when the Regiment came onto the field. The Regiment now numbering 200 men attacked the German Line’s left flank, stopped them, and then, along with Herrick’s Rangers & other militia that Stark was able to rally, drove the Brunswick forces back. As darkness fell, the Germans retreated.

The morning of September 18, 1777, a force of 1,400 lead by Cols. Browne & Warner, (under General Benjamin Lincoln’s over all command) attacked Mount Independence, Fort Ticonderoga, & the portage connecting Lakes George & Champlain.  A series of engagements continued through September 21 when they were finally forced to retreat under pressure by Brunswicker re-enforcements.  Despite the withdrawal, the Regiment destroyed wagons & bateaux necessary to maintain the British supply line from Canada, down the Champlain valley to Stillwater, NY where the bulk of Burgoyne’s army waited.  With his supplies cut off, Burgoyne’s ability to move his forces was severely compromised & was a significant factor leading up to the Battle of Bemis Heights in October of 1777.

Although it is unclear & unlikely that Warner’s Regiment fought in the battles at Freeman’s Farm & Bemis Heights (popularly known as the Battles of Saratoga), Warner is specifically mentioned in one of Brigadier General Gates’ letters, as well as a letter from Colonel Spect's (second in command of the Brunswick troops during the Burgoyne Campaign) journal, placing him at the surrender of Burgoyne’s Northern Army.  After the surrender, the Regiment was assigned to the Lake George area scouting, & garrisoning various forts including Fort George, & Fort Edward.

All of the Additional Continental Regiments were having trouble enlisting recruits during 1778, as many of the States were paying additional enlistment bounties to new recruits for their own State Lines. This problem was made worse when General Washington ordered a draft of new recruits for Warner’s Regiment to Rhode Island instead of joining the Regiment. Political interference from New York with Vermont’s attempts to fill the Regiment was also a problem.

 The Regiment was involved in several skirmishes during 1778 & 1779.  The only significant one occurred at 14 Mile Island on Lake George where the Regiment lost 7 killed and 7 captured.  The Regiment’s Major & two Company Commanders were lost in this action.  

The Regiment’s final engagement was at Fort George at the southern end of Lake George on October 11, 1780.  The garrison commander, Captain Chipman, sent a force of 50 men under Captain Sill to investigate a report of 40 or 50 British in the area.  Instead they found 800 British & Indians.  With no other options available, Captain Sill attacked. In the ensuing battle the Regiment lost 15 killed and 15 captured, the rest fighting their way out.  Short on food & lacking sufficient force to defend the fort, Captain Chipman surrendered his post and 56 more men from the Regiment went into captivity.

The Regiment was disbanded by order of General Washington on January 1, 1781 as part of the Continental Congress’ overall re-organization of the American Army.