British and Brunswick Fatigue Work at Ticonderoga in 1777

At the onset of the 1777 campaign, General John Burgoyne put a heavy reliance on the artillery and engineers of the army.  These two factions employed parties of men to expedite the works such as, building and repairing fortifications and roads. During a formal siege fatigue work is most important, as it facilitates the artillery’s motion. When the army landed at Crown Point on June 14th, Lieutenant Thomas Anbury, of the 29th Foot, recorded fatigue work in preparation for the siege.

the rest of the army are to be employed in forwarding the convoys and transports of provisions, removing artillery, and preparing fascines and other necessaries for artillery operations, and to commence the siege.brunswick soldiers

The Royal Artillery and Hesse-Kassel artillery attached to the wings of the army were supplied with tools necessary for building fortifications and roads. The procedure for drawing tools was briefly outlined in General Burgoyne’s orders on June 27th, “they are to apply to the Brigades of Artillery upon the Flanks, and return them as soon as the work is done. The greatest Attention must be had to the care of Tools, as the Regiments will be answerable for them.”

Lieutenant Hadden, of the Royal Artillery, recorded an inventory of tools in his journal on June 28th, as the army prepared to embark from Crown Point for its attack on Ticonderoga.

The following list of Intrenching Tools were attached to Capt. Borthwick’s & Pauche’s Brigades, [viz.]

 

  No Each Weighing Total Weight, lbs
Spades 80 6 480
Shovels 20 8 160
Felling Axe’s 50 8 400
Pick-Axe’s 60 7 420
Hoes 20 7 140
Hand Bills 25 2 50
Hand Hatch’ts 25 2 50
Hand Barrows 5 18 90
Wheel Barrows 14 40 560
Sand Baggs 180 15/18 150

 

Upon arriving at camp to the north of Three-Mile Point, fatigue parties from regiments were employed in clearing land for roads. While not under the fire of the enemy, this process was not without its dangers; On July 1st Lieutenant Hadden noted in his journal, “One of the men stumbled over the small stumps in the new clear’d Road & broke three of his Ribs:  I remark this to shew the necessaity of cutting the small bushes very close to the ground where men are to pass and repass in the night time.”

As the army approached Ticonderoga, they wasted no time in erecting fortifications, bridges and roads. In his journal on July 4th, Lieutenant Hadden described the road construction that paved the way for the American withdrawal:

The artificers were employed in repairing the Bridge at the Saw Mills burnt by the Enemy, and making a Road to the top of a high Mountain called Sugar Loaf Hill.

This work, accomplished under the guns of the American Great Redoubt onbattery the old French Lines was continued the next day. On July 5th Hadden noted, “a working party of 400 men, order’d from the Right Wing in order to erect a Battery the next evening. These 400 men were in addition to regular fatigue parties; General Burgoyne ordered on the 5th “Exclusive of the working parties upon the Road, 400 men from the Right Wing are to be kept fresh for working under the Chief Engineer tomorrow at Sunset.” This somewhat secret working party sent up Sugar Loaf Hill, facilitated the final stroke in the siege, forcing the Americans to retreat from Ticonderoga and Mount Independence.

Once Ticonderoga was taken on July 6th, the Prinz Friedrich Regimentand 62nd Foot guarded Ticonderoga as the main army moved on.  The garrison employed American tools and stores for fatigue work. Correspondence for the 47th Regiment of Foot included accounts of tools taken at Ticonderoga including, “great quantities of Military stores of every determination, intrenching tools, &c, &c, &c.” These tools not only used by British and Brunswick fatigue parties, but also in the hands of American prisoners.  Two hundred prisoners of war captured during the American retreat and the Battle of Hubbarton made their way back to Ticonderoga and were used as labor. A 62nd Foot orderly book entry from July 12th explained the procedure for employing prisoners:

The Prisoners are not to be taken out to work on that side without the knowledge of the Capt. For the day and then a certain proportion to be left at home to cook for the rest—

The prisoners spent most of their time repairing roads and moving artillery and stores. Lieutenant Hadden notes on July 29th “The Road is tolerably level, and where it wanted repairs the Rebel Prisoners were employed being furnished with Tools and working under a Guard: We had about Two hundred of them confined in a Barn, and those who were not wanted either for the redoubtabove purpose or Removing Guns & stores, amused themselves in beating Hemp.”

While prisoners spent most of the summer of 1777 repairing roads, British and Brunswick soldiers were employed in the construction of fortifications and buildings.  Records and journals rarely mentioned details of this work, a short note from Ensign von Hille of the Prinz Freidrich Regiment during the retreat from Ticonderoga on November 8th listed much of the work of the past several months:soldiers huts

With the reveille shot, all the newly built blockhouses, huts, barracks, magazines etc. were set afire, also the large communication bridge between Mt. Indep and Ticonderoga as well as the small one toward the portage of Lake George.

As cold weather approached at the end of October, Brunswick soldiers took measures to create makeshift housing.  Ensign von Hille wrote on October 22nd “Our men built huts out of boards to protect themselves from cold weather.”  These rapidly built huts may have been framed structures or they may simply have been simple boards laid over a central ridge beam or even over existing tents like those pictured in the 1788 book Was ist jedem Officier wahrend eines Feldzugs zu wissen nothig. Mit zehen Kupferplatten.

With all the works at Ticonderoga and Mount Independence held by two regiments, resources and man power were stretched thin. On September 18th, Colonel John Brown of Massachusetts succeed in freeing American prisoners of war and captured four companies of the 53rd Foot, leaving an even smaller labor force. Canadian workmen, who were employed loading and unloading boats, carts and wagons at the landings, fled at the start of Brown’s Raid as well, leaving the garrison’s manpower further depleted. During the five day siege laid by Colonel Brown, British and Brunswick soldiers were stretched to their limit. This state of affairs was described by Ensign von Hille on October 22nd, the day before Colonel Brown retreated from Ticonderoga.

For the past few weeks the service and the work were so demanding that even on Sundays not a single man was in the camp during the day and the men had to cook their salted meat at night.

To fuel this work and keep the fatigue party’s spirits high, commanders allocated rum rations to the working parties. On June 29th, Lieutenant Hadden noted he, “allowed Rum in common with other fatigue Parties.”  Not only were British and Brunswick soldiers supplied with a rum ration urestingpon order of fatigue, but so were the prisoners of war.

While Burgoyne and the main army pushed past Ticonderoga, a support force had to remain behind.  Those two regiments left behind were under strength, yet expected to maintain to fortifications, buildings, bridges, roads, and stores that were built by an American army of 10,000 in 1776.  The mundane tasks of the fatigue parties were the backbone of the communication and supply at Ticonderoga.  Working against all odds, the post was not only maintained, but additions were made throughout the summer into fall of 1777.  However, all the hours of labor and back breaking work were destroyed as Ensign von Hille described on November 8th, “the artillery corp was last,” setting everything ablaze and “Fort Ticond. Blew up high into the air…”

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