Battle of Fort Anne Summary
The Battle of Fort Anne was a minor military engagement between the United States and Britain that took place on July 8, 1777, during the Saratoga Campaign of the American Revolutionary War. After the British captured Fort Ticonderoga and Skenesborough, American forces fled to several locations, including Fort Anne. The British pursued them to the fort, where the Americans attacked their camp on July 8. During the battle, the Americans were tricked into taking refuge in the fort and then decided to retreat to Fort Edward.
This map shows the location of Fort Anne, south of Skenesborough and north of Fort Edward. Image Source: Wikipedia.
Quick Facts About the Battle of Fort Anne
- Date Started: The Battle of Fort Anne started on Tuesday, July 8, 1777.
- Date Ended: The battle ended on July 8, 1777.
- Location: The siege took place at Fort Anne, which was along the banks of the Wood Creek, New York, south of Skenesborough.
- Military Campaign: The battle was part of the Saratoga Campaign.
- Who Won: Britain won the Battle of Fort Anne.
The Battle of Fort Anne Overview and History
In the fall of 1776, British forces pushed the American Northern Army out of Canada, from Quebec City all the way to Lake Champlain in New York. The British forces, under the command of Guy Carleton, chased after the Americans but were delayed by the Battle of Valcour Island. At that battle, a small American navy, led by Benedict Arnold, gave the army enough time to take refuge at Fort Ticonderoga and other fortifications. By the time the British broke through it was too late in the year to continue the chase. The British withdrew and in November and December 1776 they started to plan their next campaign against the United States.
Planning the Saratoga Campaign
Over the course of the winter of 1776–1777, General John Burgoyne developed the play for the British military campaign, which would be carried out in the spring of 1777. The plan, known as Burgoyne’s Campaign, called for a large force, under his command, to move south out of Canada and into western New York. A second force, led by Barry St. Leger, would move into the Mohawk River Vally. Finally, a third army, under the command of General William Howe, would move north out of New York City. Burgoyne believed if the plan was successful, the British would be able to take control of the Hudson River Valley and then isolate New England from the rest of the colonies, effectively cutting the United States in two. It would allow the British would be able to restore order to New England and the other colonies would fall in line.
Burgoyne Begins His Campaign
Burgoyne assembled his army and sailed from St. John’s on June 14. The army traveled south, crossed Lake Champlain, and toward Fort Ticonderoga. The fort was under the command of Arthur St. Clair, and General Philip Schuyler, his superior, ordered him to hold the fort as long as he could. While St. Clair waited for Burgoyne to arrive, he made plans for his garrison of around 3,000 men — regulars and militia — to escape.
Siege of Fort Ticonderoga
On July 1, British forces arrived north of the fort. Some crossed Lake Champlain on boats, others marched down the side of the lake. British infantry led by General Simon Fraser took control of the heights on Mount Defiance, which was called Sugar Loaf at the time, and started to move artillery into position. However, St. Clair was unaware the British had control of the heights. The position provided the British with an opportunity to fire down on the fort with their artillery. The Americans were alerted to the British presence when they spotted campfires burning on the heights on the night of July 5.
The next day, St. Clair called his officers together for a Council of War and they decided to evacuate the fort. Late in the night of July 5th, into the early morning of July 6th, the Americans evacuated Fort Ticonderoga. St. Clair has his men load supplies and artillery onto boats and sent them in the direction of Skenesborough. The rest of the army crossed to Mount Independence and then marched down the Hubbardton Road.
Battle of Skenesborough
Burgoyne sent forces out from his main body to pursue the Americans to Skenesborough. He also garrisoned Fort Ticonderoga and the surrounding locations with around 900 men, which decreased the strength of his army as he prepared to move on to Albany. The American forces, under the command of Captain James Gray, sailed to Skenesborough and took defensive positions when they arrived. They also stretched an iron chain across the river in an effort to keep British ships from sailing in too close.
The British ships arrived on July 6 and shot down the iron chain with well-placed shots from their cannons. They sailed in, landed troops, and engaged the Americans. The Americans were quickly overwhelmed, destroyed their fortifications, along with some ships and boats, and retreated further south to Fort Anne.
The British were able to capture some American troops, as well as supplies, artillery, and ships that were not destroyed. A portion of the British force followed the retreating Americans to Fort Anne, while the rest waited for Burgoyne to arrive.
British Attack Fort Anne
British troops, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Hill, pursued Gray and his force from Skenesborough to Fort Anne. When the Americans arrived at the fort, they were reinforced by 400 men from the New York Militia under the command of Colonel Henry van Rensselaer. Schuyler had sent van Rensselaer to Fort Anne when he heard St. Clair had retreated from Ticonderoga. The commandant of the fort itself was Pierse Long Jr. and both Gray and van Rensselaer fell under his command.
Early in the morning of July 8, an American deserter stumbled into the British camp and told Hill the garrison at Fort Anne had 1,000 men, but they were also worried about the impending British attack. With that information, Hill believed he was outnumbered and sent a message to Burgoyne that he needed reinforcements,
However, the deserter was actually a decoy, sent by the Americans to trick Hill into delaying the attack on the fort. The deserter went back to the fort and told the American commanders that the British force was only about 200 men. Burgoyne responded to Hill’s message by sending reinforcements. Meanwhile, the Americans prepared to launch an attack on the British camp.
The Americans approached the British but made too much noise, and the British heard them. The battle started when the Americans opened fire and lasted for at least two hours.
British reinforcements led by Captain John Money arrived and tricked the Americans into thinking they were being attacked by a force of Indian warriors. The fact is, Money was leading a group of Indians, but they refused to engage the Americans. So Money shouted “war cries” himself, which fooled the Americans, who thought they were about to be overrun and caused them to retreat back to the safety of the fort.
Inside the fort, the American officers held a Council of War and received intelligence that British reinforcements, under the command of General William Phillips, were on the way. The Americans were low on ammunition, so they decided to evacuate. They set fire to Fort Anne and headed to Fort Edward.
Timeline of the Battle of Fort Anne
This timeline shows how the Battle of Fort Anne fits into the events of the Saratoga Campaign.
- July 2–July 6, 1777 — Siege of Fort Ticonderoga
- July 6, 1777 — Battle of Skeneseborough
- July 7, 1777 — Battle of Hubbardton
- July 8, 1777 — Battle of Fort Anne
- August 2, 1777 — Siege of Fort Stanwix
- August 6, 1777 — Battle of Oriskany
- August 16, 1777 — Battle of Bennington
- September 19, 1777 — First Battle of Saratoga, Freeman’s Farm
- October 7, 1777 — Second Battle Saratoga, Bemis Heights
- October 17, 1777 — Surrender of Burgoyne’s Army