On October 17, 1777, British General John Burgoyne surrendered his joint British, Canadian, and Hessian and Brunswicker forces to patriot General Horatio Gates near Saratoga, New York. Over 6,000 soldiers, the number placed by one historian is 6,222, became captives of war. Under the terms of the convention agreed upon by Burgoyne and Gates, the vanquished army was to march to Boston, Massachusetts, board British ships, and sail to England, to await formal exchange and to not participate in the war in America further.
When news reached the Continental Congress of this concession, that political body demanded a complete list of the troops surrendered to ensure the terms of the convention was to be upheld. When this was not forthcoming by the British, Congress reacted by vowing to not adhere to the stipulations of the convention. Burgoyne’s forces would not head back to Great Britain to await an exchange that year. Instead, these men were to be confined in camps both in New England and Virginia for the duration of the war. This force came to be called the Convention Army.
This Sunday, March 6, at 7 p.m. EDT, join Emerging Revolutionary War on our Facebook page for the next historian happy hour, as Dan Welch and Phillip S. Greenwalt discuss the Convention Army and what happened after the pivotal battle of Saratoga in October 1777.
Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historians Karl G. Elsea and William W. Welsch for thefinal installment of their three part series
The v. Lossberg Artillery detachment:
Bombardier Conrad Volprecht was about 44 years old with over 27 years of service. He led the v. Lossberg artillery detachment consisting of another bombardier, 13 gunners and 3 matrosses, with two three-pounder guns and associated horses, harness, and limber.[i]
Over two years after the battle and being a prisoner Bombardier Volprecht gave testimony that indicated the sequence of battle for his detachment was roughly as follows: First went to field, second fired north, third ordered south, and fourth got stuck in the mud till the end of the battle. There is a problem though, the sequence that better fits the data from the battle was as follows: first went to field, second ordered south, third fired west, and fourth got stuck in the mud.
John Adams wrote “Facts are stubborn things. They cannot be altered by our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions.” In studying firsthand accounts of the battles in the Revolutionary War they are sometimes not correct or even true. For example, there is an enjoyable firsthand account (written many years later) by a patriot Sergeant White (The Good Soldier White) that is often quoted in accounts of the battle. Parts of his story are no doubt true. The problem is that when Sgt. White states he was with “Lieut. Munroe, our late President of the U. States” and “I was the first that reach them [cannons],” and “They had all left it, except one man tending vent,” those specific parts of the story cannot be true. Hessian Lt. Englehardt would not have time to do all that he did and then cross the Assunpink bridge before the Jagers if artillery men from Sullivan’s column were that far up King Street. Facts from the battle mean that part of that story does not work.
The most important place in all the 13 states fighting for independence on December 26, 1776 from 8:00 am to 9:00 am was the long, narrow bridge over the Assunpink creek. It was held by Hessian Sergeant Muller and 18 men. Sgt. Muller was about 50 years old with about 32 years of service. The importance of this place was not fully realized by the Hessians, but the Patriots knew it had to be closed, and General Washington had two full brigades, Sargent’s and Glover’s, tasked with taking, as quickly as possible, and then holding the bridge.
At about 8:03 am Patriot General Sullivan was about one mile from Trenton center along the River road when he attacked the outlying Jager pickets. General Sullivan had the artillery fire several canister shots at the Jagers. This firing also served as a signal to General Washington so he would know his other wing was attacking. It was to be recalled that General Washington started his attack about 8:00 am on the Pennington road and he also was about a mile from Trenton center. This cannon firing was also a signal to General Ewing so he knew when to start his distraction. General Ewing heard the three cannon shots and he quickly followed with his guns and howitzers firing ten shots from across the Delaware River. General Ewing kept up his firing until he could make out that Patriots were approaching. The v. Knyphausen regiment was forming on Second Street and was the logical unit to resist any attack coming from the River Road.
Volprecht’s detachment with its two guns followed Lt. Fischer’s detachment east on Fourth Street from the Methodist church into the field north and east of the Quaker lane. Lt. Fischer’s detachment was falling back from its earlier engagement and picked up the v. Lossberg detachment as it passed by. It took longer for the v. Lossberg artillery detachment to prepare for the battle because the horses had to be collected, harnessed, hitched, and the guns limbered. Fischer testified that the “cannon were unhorsed, and the horses unharnessed and brought back again into the stable” from the cancelled early morning patrol.[ii] For the morning patrol the horses had been hitched and guns limbered at 4:00 am but the patrol was cancelled so the men/horses/limber/guns were brought back to the Methodist church and waited for sunrise to unhorse.
The infantry of the v. Lossberg and Rall regiments followed Volprecht’s detachment into the field. It was in this field that these two regiments would form a line for battle. While waiting for the v. Lossberg regiment to form Volprecht was ordered by Lt. Weiderhold, “Artillery men, come here with the cannon” meaning they were to join the v. Knyphausen regiment.[iii] The v. Knyphausen regiment was on Second Street heading to the open field just east of Trenton and away from the Assunpink bridge. Volprecht and his v. Lossberg artillery detachment moved south on Quaker lane, linked up with the v. Knyphausen regiment, and set up his gun position facing threats coming from Trenton. The following map presents Trenton as it was in 1776.[iv]
While this was happening on the Hessian side, the right wing of the Patriot forces was moving east on River Road. General Sullivan rushed two of his brigades toward the Assunpink bridge. Neil’s battery with Sargent’s brigade and Sargent’s battery with Glover’s brigade made it to the bridge and across. Glover’s brigade with Sargent’s battery continued along the Assunpink creek to cut off possible exits for the v. Knyphausen regiment. St Clair’s brigade was moving east on Second Street with Moulder’s (three four-pounders) and Hugg’s artillery (two three-pounders).
Hessian Bombardier Volprecht testified that he fired his gun five times and the other gun fired one time.[v] One of those six shots hit the fore horse of one of Hugg’s three-pounder guns as they advanced in support of Patriot St. Clair‘s brigade. John Greenwood, a fifer in the 15th Continental, recorded that one of Hugg’s guns had the fore horse shot by a Hessian three-pounder gun, ”the ball from which struck the fore horse that was dragging our only piece of artillery, a 3-pounder. The animal, which was near me … was struck in its belly and knocked over on its back. While it lay there kicking the cannon was stopped.”[vi] That was the only hit scored by the Hessian artillery that day. St. Clair’s brigade with Col. Stark’s infantry in the lead applied great pressure causing the v. Knyphausen regiment to pull back farther east. Volprecht’s artillery detachment pulled back with the regiment.
As the Hessian artillery detachment pulled back east disaster struck both guns. Volprecht had been ordered into a valley without the ground being checked. Both guns got stuck in the mud. The rest of the battle the men of the artillery, with some aid from nearby infantry, was spent trying to extract the guns from the mud. One gun was extracted just before the surrender, the other gun was extracted after the battle was over.
Mud ended the third artillery engagement. The battle at Trenton was over. The Patriots had a great victory. What is shocking was the limited number of shots from the Hessian artillery. The Rall artillery detachment fired twelve solid shot and one grape, the v. Knyphausen artillery detachment fired “seven or eight shots,” and the v. Lossberg artillery detachment fired six shots.[vii] These few shots lend support for how quickly the Patriots won the Battle of Trenton.
[i] William S. Stryker, The Battles of Trenton and Princeton (The Riverside Press, Cambridge, 1898), 388
[ii]Hessian Documents of the American Revolution, Morristown National Historical Park, ML, The Affair at Trenton Dec. 26, 1776, English Translation, ML 337
[iii] Hessian Documents of the American Revolution, Morristown National Historical Park, ML, The Affair at Trenton Dec. 26, 1776, English Translation, ML 277
[v] Hessian Documents of the American Revolution, Morristown National Historical Park, ML, The Affair at Trenton Dec. 26, 1776, English Translation, ML 277
[vi] John Greenwood, Revolutionary Services of John Greenwood of Boston and New York, 1775-1783, 40-41. “the first intimation I received of our going to fight was the firing of a 6- pound cannon at us, the ball from which struck the fore horse that was dragging our only piece of artillery a 3-pounder.” Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/revolutionaryser00gree/page/38/mode/2u
[vii] Hessian Documents of the American Revolution, Morristown National Historical Park, ML, The Affair at Trenton Dec. 26, 1776, English Translation, ML 341
When a historian, author, or student of the American Revolutionary War mentions the following three words, “Green Mountain Boys” there is usually one name that comes to the forefront.
Seth Warner is usually not that name. Yet, he is one of the two names that should be forever linked with the great history of the “Green Mountain Boys.”
For those that are drawing a blank, the other name usually associated with this famous unit is Ethan Allen.
Warner, born in hilly Woodbury, Connecticut on May 17, 1743, the fourth of ten children to Dr. Benjamin Warner and Silence Hurd Warner. The young Seth was a product of the western frontier, growing up on the fringes of the English world, and thus learning from an early age to live and survive in the woods, rivers, and hills of Connecticut and what would become Vermont.
He did attend what limited schooling was available and from his father, rudimentary medical practice. In an 18th century biography, Warner was remembered to have vast information on the nature and uses of indigenous plants.
During the French and Indian War, Warner served two summers fighting in the cause of the British and would serve as a captain in the “Green Mountain Boys” following the French and Indian War. One biography states that Warner was part of the famous ranger outfit known as Major Roger’s Rangers, yet there is no primary evidence that supports this biographical claim.
With war on the horizon following the action at Lexington and Concord, Warner was elected third in command, with Ethan Allen being elected in top command, on May 8, 1775 for the task of capturing Fort Ticonderoga in western New York.
Born where Native American still threatened the westward-minded colonists, with the training during two summers in the last major war on the American Continent, Warner would now play a major role in the upcoming American Revolution.
With that, Seth Warner and the “Green Mountain Boys” marched off to help make the dream of American independence a reality. Following Ethan Allen, Warner found himself embroiled in the first campaign outside the environs of Boston when on May 10, 1775 he took part in the American capture of Fort Ticonderoga in western New York. Following up the next day, Warner, serving as second-in-command, attacked and captured the British garrison at Crown Point, approximately 13 miles away from Fort Ticonderoga. When news broke of the exploit, the “Green Mountain Boys” and subsequently Warner quickly became a household name for the patriot cause.
With the turn of the season to summer, Allen and Warner appeared in Philadelphia to appeal directly to the Continental Congress. Their aim was to achieve recognition as a regiment for the “Green Mountain Boys.” On June 23, 1775, the day the two men appeared in front of the governing body of the American cause, the Congress agreed and sent the endorsement to the state of New York. After some debate in provincial Congress of the Empire State, the endorsement was finally agreed upon.
With the ensuing vote of officers, surprisingly, Allen was not elected as commander, but Warner survived in an officer capacity, garnering 41 of 46 votes for lieutenant colonel. No reason or notes from this convention, held on July 6, 1775 has ever surfaced.
Before 1775 was out, Warner, who would lead the command, found themselves on the way to Canada. Initially stationed along the St. Lawrence River on the way to Montreal and near the end of October, Warner’s men repulsed an amphibious landing and attack by Sir Guy Carleton, the British Governor-General of Canada. With the repulse, at the Battle of Longeuill led to the surrender of Fort St. John on November 3, 1775.
Ten days later Montreal fell to the American forces and Warner and his “Green Mountain Boys” entered the fallen city later that same day. The American commander, General Richard Montgomery wanted this crack unit to continue with him by canoe to Quebec but because of the lack of winter clothing, the command was forced to head south, for supplies.
Not to stay in a support role for long, Warner’s men marched north shortly after the turn of the year in January 1776 to reinforce the Americans laying siege to Quebec. While there Warner showed the depth of his concern for the welfare of his men. With the smallpox epidemic ravaging the American ranks–in fact more American soldiers would die of that disease than any single other cause–Warner allowed his men to be inoculated, which was not not akin to what inoculations are like today.
Click this link, courtesy of Mount Vernon, on what smallpox inoculation was like in Colonial America.
After the return from Canada, on July 5, 1776, Warner was elevated to the rank of colonel and tasked with raising another regiment from the New Hampshire Grants (the area now comprising Vermont). Yet, it was one year and one day later that Warner showed how valuable his role as a general officer was.
During the Battle of Hubbardton, Warner oversaw the rearguard of General Arthur St. Clair’s retreating American forces. Outside this frontier settlement, Warner’s men suffered more casualties and eventually yielded the field to the British, but the toll extracted from the British (over 200 killed, wounded, and captured) was high enough to cause the British to stop their pursuit of the retreating American army.
A month later, on August 16, 1777, Warner played another critical role in the American victory at Bennington. Under the overall command of General John Stark–another of the fiery, yet competent, and overlooked American general officers–Warner provided invaluable assistance because of his familiarity with the region. His home was a scant few miles from where the engagement would unfold.
Warner would oversee the left wing of the American assault and have as his goal the “Tory Redoubt” that fell on the east side of the Walloomsac River, which would be a dominant feature in the ensuing battle.
The Americans routed the German, British, and Loyalist forces, even halting a 600-man reinforcement column under German Lieutenant Colonel Heinrich Breymann who arrived on the field in the latter stages.
Stark reported to Congress that Warner showed “superior skill in the action.”
Unbeknownst to Warner at the time, the campaign that culminated with British General John Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga, was the defining moment in Warner’s American Revolutionary War career. Warner would stay in the service, reaching the rank of brigadier general, bestowed upon him in 1778 by the new state of Vermont courtesy of the state legislature. That made him the only brigadier general in the newly formed state. On September 6, 1780 Warner received his only wound of the war, in an ambush by Native Americans outside Fort George in New York.
Unfortunately for the old “Green Mountain Boys” commander, the years after his retirement in 1780 were not kind. He fell out of favor with his former commander, Ethan Allen which led Warner to confront him in 1781 about contact with the British when Allen was a prisoner-of-war. This was all in conjunction with some contact Vermont had with British Canada about possible negotiations in reunifying Vermont with the British Empire. The extent of the negotiations and the seriousness of the idea has been in question by historians ever since.
Regardless, Warner, in failing health in 1784, returned to Woodbury, where he died on December 26, 1784, at the age of 41. Warner’s remains lay in Roxbury, Connecticut.
*For more information on the campaigns of New York in which Warner played a role in, consult Michael O. Logusz’s two-volume “With Musket and Tomahawk” series published by Savas Beatie LLC. at http://www.savasbeatie.com*