Chapter 2. Ticonderoga 1758 - Recollections of An Old Soldier - the Life of Captain David Perry (1741-1826)

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Revolutionary soldier by A. Chappel

(Chapters One through Five Inclusive.)

Chapter II
First Campaign. Rank: Private. 
Abercrombie's Unsuccessful Assault.
[The Legend of Ticonderoga]
[ To order a hard copy of Recollections click here. ]

jumphis year, in August, I was sixteen years old; at which age the young lads of that day were called into the training-bands.  In the Spring of 1758, I was warned to training, and there were recruiting officers on the parade-ground, to enlist men for the next campaign.  I enlisted into Capt. Job Winslow's company, of Col. Prebble's regiment, to serve eight months.-- People said I would not "pass muster," as I was small of my age; but there was no difficulty about that.  When the company was full, we marched first to Worceser, staid there a few days, and then marched to Old Hadley.  We remained here about a week.  From this place we crossed the river to Northampton, where we drew five days' provisions  -- left the place in the afternoon, and encamped a few miles out of town, in the woods for the night. - In that day there were no human habitations from Northampton, to within ten miles of Albany.  There was a small picket Fort in what was then called Pantocet Woods, commanded by Col. Williams.  We had no other road than marked trees to direct our course -- no bridges on which to cross the streams; some of which we waded; others we passed on trees felled by our men: and for five successive nights we lay on the ground.  We arrived at Greenbush, and, after a few days' tarry, marched up the North River to a place called Setackuk, where the Indians had driven off, captured, or destroyed the inhabitants.   We here took a number of horses to draw the cannon to Lake George, but not having horses enough, some of the cannon were drawn by men.   Part of the men went in Batteaus• with the provisions.  When we arrived at the Lake, the army, consisting of British• and Americans, amounted to about 20,000 men.  It was commanded by Gen. Abrecombe, and Lord Howe was second in command.  We encamped there until boats and provisions enough were collected to carry us across the Lake, with cannon, &c. to attack Ticonderoga.•  We arrived at the Narrows• the second morning after our embarkation, where we expected to be attacked by the enemy.


Major Rodgers•, with his Rangers was the first to land.  He was joined by Lord Howe and his party; and we had proceeded but a short distance into the woods, before we were met by the enemy, and a brisk fire ensued.  It was the first engagement I had ever seen, and the whistling of balls, and roar of musketry terrified me not a little.  At length our regiment formed among the trees, behind which the men kept stepping from their ranks for shelter.  Col. Prebble, who, I well remember, was a harsh man, swore he would knock the first man down who should step out of his ranks; which greatly surprised me, to think that I must stand still to be shot at.  Pretty soon, however, they brought along some wounded Frenchmen; and when I came to see the blood run so freely, it put new life into me.  The battle proved a sore one for us.  Lord Howe and a number of other good men, were killed.


The army moved on that day to within a short distance of the enemy, and encamped for the night.  In the morning we had orders to move forward again, in a column three deep, in order to storm the enemy's breast-works, known in this country by the name of "the Old French Lines."  Our orders were to "run to the breast-work, and get in if we could." But their lines were full, and they killed our men so fast, that we could not gain it.  We got behind trees, logs and stumps, and covered ourselves as we could from the enemy's fire.  The ground was strewed with the dead and dying.  It happened that I got behind a white-oak stump, which was so small that I had to lay on my side, and stretch myself; the balls striking the ground within a hand's breadth of me every moment, and I could hear the men screaming, and see them dying all around me.  I lay there some time.  A man could not stand erect, without being hit, any more than he could stand out in a shower, without having drops of rain fall upon him; for the balls came by hands-full.  It was a clear day -- a little air stirring.  Once in a while the enemy would cease firing a minute or two, to have the smoke clear away, so that they might take better aim.  In one of these intervals I sprang from my perilous situation, and gained a stand which I thought would be more secure, behind a large pine log, where several of my comrades had already taken shelter: but the balls came here as thick as ever.  One of the men raised his head a little above the log, and a ball struck him in the centre of the forehead, and tore up his scalp clear back to the crown.  He darted back, and the blood ran merrily; and, rubbing his face, said it was a bad blow, and no one was disposed to deny it, for he looked bad enough.  


We lay there till near sunset; and, not receiving orders from any officer, the men crept off, leaving all the dead, and most of the wounded.  We had two of our company killed, and a number wounded.  Our captain (Winslow) received a ball in his wrist, which passed up the fleshy part of his arm, and he carried it there as long as he lived, which was a number of years: he was afterwards raised to the rank of Colonel. Our Lieutenant was wounded by a shot in the leg, and one of our Sargeants received a ball in his arm, which he carried with him to his grave.
We got away the wounded of our company; but left a great many crying for help, which we were unable to afford them.  I suppose, that as soon as we left the ground, the enemy let loose his Indians upon them: for none of those that we left behind were ever heard of afterwards.  We started back to our boats without any orders, and pushed out on the Lake for the night.  We left between 6 and 7000, in killed and wounded, on the field of battle, which I believe is a greater number than ever was lost on our side, in one day, in all the battles that have been fought in America.  We went over the Lake with about 21,000 men, in high spirits, with all kinds• of music;•* but returned back melancholy and still, as from a funeral, and took our old stand at the south end of the Lake.  


A great deal was said by the subaltern officers and men, at that time, with regard to the conduct of the commanding General.  I was but a boy, and could have but little judgment about it then; but, from later experience and reflection, I think it looks more like the conduct of a Hull,• a Wilkinson,• or a Hampton,• than like that of an able General and firm Patriot.  We had artillery enough, and might have erected batteries; and it seems as though we might have taken the place.   But it was thought by some, that the misfortune happened in consequence of the death of Lord Howe, as he was a more experienced officer.  
Nothing of material consequence took place after this, for some time. Hardly a day passed, however, while we lay in camp, in which British and Yorkers did not flog some of their men.  We were employed in building a fort.
Not long after, Major Rodgers and Major (afterwards General•) Putnam, took charge of a party of men, on an expedition to a place called South Bay, where they met the enemy, and had a smart engagement.  Maj. Putnam was taken and carried to Canada; and Maj. Rodgers returned to Fort Edward with what men they had left.  While lying in camp, our water and provisions were very bad, the men grew sickly, and a great many died of the Dysentery.  But the same Almighty Power that warded off the balls in the day of battle, preserved me from the desolating scourge of disease.


Towards Fall, Maj. Rodgers, with a party of men, went away to the westward, to a place called Cataraqua,• and destroyed it.
It was during the Summer of this year, that Generals Wolfe and Amherst• came from England with a fleet and army, and took Cape Breton; after which Gen. Amherst came and took command of our army, and Abrecombe went off.  
When our times were out, we were dismissed, and went home.  Our route was back to Albany, through Sharon and the "Green Woods," and over Glascow Mountain to Springfield,• and so on to Worcester. I returned to [my master, and went to work at my trade.]

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