26th Regiment of Foot at Fort Ticonderoga

ethan allenIn his memoires, Ethan Allen portrayed himself as a brave patriotic leader, who had plenty of time for rousing speeches as he and the Green Mountain Boys rushed through the gates of Fort Ticonderoga before dawn on May 10th, 1775. The British foe he caught unaware, Captain William Delaplace, emerged from his quarters with a cry of, “Come out you old rat!” only to stand patently in his night clothes for, “In the name of the Great Jehovah and the …..” This vivid picture of Captain Delaplace’s surprise was painted, and subsequently printed, into the iconic image of the capture of Fort Ticonderoga that fills the imagination and Google searches alike. Yet, like so many tall tales of Ethan Allen’s account, the British Garrison was far more complicated than Allen led readers to believe.

26th regiment of footDelaplace and nearly all of his command were men of the 26th Regiment of Foot, which was sent by the British Army to serve in North America in 1767, as part of a regular rotation of regiments into colonial service. The regiment’s Colonel, Major General John Scott, was a member of parliament who visited his regiment and the American colonies in 1769. He was a critique of British tax and economic policies in America, considering them bad for both parties. Rather than English soldiers, as is often assumed in popular memory, the 26th Foot was a proud Scottish regiment, known as the Cameronians or Covenanters for their armed defense of their religious liberty prior to the Glorious Revolution in 1688. While in English dress in 1775, the regiment adopted highland kilts and bonnets in 1881, the same time Ethan Allen reached his greatest popularity as an American patriotic figure.  Lieutenant Joceyln Feltham, second-in-command of Fort Ticonderoga on May 10th, 1775 wrote a long deposition about the capture of the fort, attempting to implicate Captain Delaplace. When Allen French published Feltham’s account in 1929 he prefaced the discovery and printing of this document with an apology that it ran counter to Ethan Allen’s narrative. Lieutenant Feltham commanded a party of twenty-three soldiers, reinforcements for Ticonderoga. He arrived twelve days prior to the fort’s capture with orders to leave as soon as more soldiers arrived with Lieutenant Wadman, who was to relieve him. Unfortunately for Feltham, the Green Mountain Boys arrived before Lieutenant Wadman. Writing from paroled captivity in Hartford Connecticut, Lieutenant Feltham ended his account with, “A list of names of Officer’s non commissd Officers & soldiers & the places they were taken.”

At Ticonderoga.

Officers &c of the 26th.

  • Capt Delaplace.
  • Lt Feltham

Non commissd officers & Privates

  • Henry Anderson Serjt  S
  • John M’cullogh drummer
  • John Ross O
  • John Traviss S
  • John Catham O
  • Alexr Brodie lame
  • Benjamin Fowkes
  • Alexander Fraser
  • James Hartley
  • Peter Campbell O
  • John Blake S
  • Edmund Grigson S
  • Henry Grant S
  • Willm Swann S
  • John Mc Cormick S
  • Daniel Cammeron S
  • Richard Sharpless S
  • George Scott S
  • John Barrender O
  • David Jenkins S
  • John Orram O
  • Alexr Willson
  • Archibald Mc Nabb S
  • Robert Anderson
  • Robert Miller S
  • Peter Mc Farlane S
  • Alexander Ramsay S
  • John Mc Cloud S
  • Hugh O Hara S
  • Daniel Stapleton S
  • William Stafford S
  • Robt Pollard S
  • John Mason S
  • Henry Pearce S
 
  • John Mc Donald baker
  • John Mcintoch, deserter S

Board of Ordnance at Ticonderoga

-Gentle conductor

  • Robert Rondick Corpl

Matrosses

  • John Miller
  • Robert Sherrie
  • John Hall

Provision store at Ticonderoga

  • Commissary Godlieb Sweitzer left behind sick.

DSCN2492Annotated with an, ‘O,’ to indicate worn out soldiers and an, ‘S’ to indicate fresh soldiers brought by Feltham, this list combined with a proper return adding twenty-four women and children provides a detailed picture. Captain Delaplace commanded a small garrison of long-serving soldiers from the 26th Foot, as well as a handful of soldiers from the Royal Artillery (officially part of the Board of Ordnance)  needed to maintain cannons and artillery stores. These soldiers were augmented with fresh soldiers by Lieutenant Feltham, less than a fortnight before the fort’s capture. It would be easy to assume that Captain Delaplace’s command was principally his company as a Captain, by definition, was a company commander. Without specific regimental orders this assumption largely made sense, albeit with nagging questions about the origins of reinforcements brought by Feltham.


IMG_3781Housed in the New York State Archives, is a surprisingly rich source of information about Captain Delaplace’s command. The 26th Foot, as with any regiment in the British Army was responsible for carefully accounting for all purchases and spending, including rations. For the 26th Foot in Canada, accounting reports on rations include the names of all companies listed by their captains, including the Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel, and Major who also held commissions as captains of their respective companies. Three reports from the 26th survive, covering sixty to sixty-one day period from August 25th to December 24th, 1774 and from February 25th to April 24th, 1775. These reports record the number of rations for the soldiers of each company and their location for the two-month periods. These locations include the cities of Montreal and Three Rivers and Forts Chambly, Crown Point, and of course, Ticonderoga. If these rations totals are divided by the number of days (60 or 61) this leaves the number of soldiers at each post.

Only three soldiers from Captain Delaplace’s company were at Ticonderoga during the entire period covered by these rations lists. Two solders were at Crown Point, and most of the company was quartered in Montreal. The majority of the 26th Foot, about 229 soldiers (including Delaplace’s company) was quartered in Montreal. One company, Captain Strong’s was quartered in Three Rivers and Captain Livingston’s Company guarded Fort Chambly. At Ticonderoga, Captain Delaplace drew rations for twenty-three soldiers of the 26th Foot, two or three drawn from most companies, with as many as four or six drawn from individual companies during different periods. The soldiers were drafted from every company of the 26th Foot except Captain Stewart’s, or the Light Infantry company. Captain Delaplace did not command his company at Ticonderoga, he commanded a guard.

DSCN2417This may sound like a meaningless distinction, but it was a common practice at the time and says something about Fort Ticonderoga itself in 1774 and early 1775. The company was not so much a tactical unit so much as an administrative unit. Under a colonel, a regiment existed as an administrative unit, recruiting and equipping soldiers for one or more battalions that fielded as the tactical unit. Within that regiment, each company existed as an administrative unit commanded by a captain. When a battalion formed up it was subdivided into wings, grand divisions, divisions, and platoons or section. The division, roughly corresponded in size with a company, but did not equate the same thing. Similarly, guards in their various types were formed from officers, non-commissioned officers, fifers, drummers, and soldiers pulled from many companies in a regiment. Whether British or American, orderly books are filled with the size and composition of guards to be created from the companies of a regiment or brigade. While this sounds abhorrent to modern military personal, breaking down unit cohesion and leadership, this was standard practice. When a guard was formed, each of the companies that contributed officers and men remained. If an entire guard was wiped out or captured, the companies of the regiment remained as viable units. In the case of Ticonderoga, Captain Delaplace and his entire guard were captured on May 10th, but Captain Delaplace’s company remained intact in Montreal.

The fact that Delaplace commanded a guard, not a company at Fort Ticonderoga attests to the state and vulnerability of the post. Fort Chambly, a much older, captured French fort along the Richelieu River, served as a residence for Captain Livingston’s company. A little more remote and Spartan, it was on par for quarters in Montreal or Three Rivers. British Engineer Captain John Montressor described Fort Ticonderoga in 1774 as Ticonderoga “composed of decayed Wood and Earth,” suggesting the, “ruinous situation,” of the fort was beyond repair.  He added, “the unhealthiness of the place, the Garrison being then ill with Fevers and Agues, the badness of the Water.” The only serviceable part of the Ticonderoga was the barracks since they were “repairable, being made of Stone.” Whether due to decay or its exposed location near the south end of Lake Champlain Fort Ticonderoga was an important post to be guarded, not ideal quarters for a company.

26th_grenadierIn itself Captain Delaplace’s guard was not exceptional. While the massive barracks recreated today create the impression that whole regiments resided in the fort, guards formed from various companies, like Delaplace’s guard, were common. The French Army formed compagnie du piquet with soldiers from various regiments’ companies for winter guards at Fort Carillon. General orders for the Continental Army camp of Ticonderoga in 1776 and 1777, include a Lieutenant’s or Captain’s guard for Fort Ticonderoga, ‘the Old French Fort.’ Combining the Lieutenant Feltham’s account of the capture with the report on rations, a few odd details do appear. Throughout the winter of 1774 into the spring of 1775 Captain Delaplace’s guard included three men from Major Preston’s or the grenadier company. These large elite soldiers had uniform distinctions such as bearskin caps, befitting their status. These soldiers were often kept as a reserve and in wartime operations the grenadier companies of many regiments were pulled together into grenadier battalions. The same was true for light infantry companies, like Captain Stewart’s, fielding in light battalions. The three grenadiers drafted into Delaplace’s guard may reflect the difficulty of the regiment finding suitable men to compose the guard at Ticonderoga or the lack of distinction between companies in peacetime. Captain Stewart’s light infantry company grew from eight soldiers in August to October 1774 to thirty-eight by February to April 1775. The growth and training of this company may have precluded it from service in guard’s like Captain Delplace’s. Perhaps or more concern, Lieutenant Feltham noted an ‘S’ next to the name of Sergeant Henry Anderson, indicating this sergeant arrived with Feltham’s reinforcements. The number of soldiers indicated by the rations report of February through April of 1775 does not entirely line up with Feltham’s report on those captured on May 10th. However, if Feltham’s account is accurate, until he arrived Captain Delaplace’s guard of twenty-three men had a captain, a drummer and possibly a corporal or two. A proper captain’s guard usually included a compliment of junior officers, sergeants, and corporals to post guards and fight as unit if necessary. Without Feltham’s reinforcements, Captain Delplace’s guard may have been a tactical unit, but it was not tactically ready to guard. While the capture of Fort Ticonderoga was a stunning victory for the Green Mountain Boys, it reflects the challenges of a long rotation on colonial service for the 26th Foot. The story of America’s First Victory is far richer than Ethan Allen’s account and as new evidence is discovered on both sides, it only becomes richer.

Fort Ticonderoga’s Living History Event, 1775 British Garrison, will bring to life the stories of soldiers guarding this epic fort. Guests will have the opportunity to witness soldiering in peacetime as they learn about the men of the 26th foot and their wives and families who made their homes inside the crumbling walls of the old fort.

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