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See Also: Schenectady in the Revolutionary War

A History of Schenectady During the Revolution:
Chapter IX: The Canadian Expedition

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[This information is from pp. 51-56 of A History of Schenectady During the Revolution by Willis T. Hanson, Jr. (Brattleboro, VT: E. L. Hildreth & Co., 1916). It is in the Schenectady Collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at Schdy R 974.744 H25, and copies are also available for borrowing.]

To the garrisoning of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, Congress had consented after much hesitation, believing that such an act of offensive warfare would further remove the chances of conciliation for which many still hoped.

Events, however, moved rapidly during the summer of 1775, and before fall Congress was laying plans for an invasion of Canada. Their decision was influenced by the knowledge that the Canadians were but lukewarm in their attitude toward the British Crown and by the memory of the French and Indian raids by way of Canada that had terrorized the northern provinces for over a century and a half. With Canada in hostile hands and without the cooperation of its inhabitants it was felt that no perfect unification of the Colonies could be effected.

Contingent upon the transportation of the army and its supplies destined for the Canadian campaign arose the necessity of boats on Lake George and Lake Champlain, together with necessary barracks and storehouses at the former place. To meet this demand the services of available carpenters were eagerly sought. From Schenectady, Jacob Vrooman, Michael (or Claus) Veeder and Tacarus Van der Bogart were, in September, appointed overseers or captains and under them enlisted (1) not a few of their fellow townsmen; the companies thus formed remaining on duty at the Lakes for practically the rest of the year. (2)

Captain Van Dyck, assigned to the 2d New York Line, had finally left Schenectady with his men late in August or early in September, the company marching to Ticonderoga, thence to Crown Point, and after having performed guard duty for a short period at the latter place, proceeding to the Isle Aux Noix, (3) later forming part of the detachment that reduced Chamblee (4) and seeing active service at the siege (5) of St. John's. (6)

Late in December the whole of Colonel Wemple's regiment stood a draft, about every seventh man being chosen for service. The troops thus selected marched to Fort Edward, then to Skenesborough, whence, news having been received of the death of Montgomery and of the failure to take Quebec, they were, after remaining some time at the fort, ordered home. (7)

Early in February, in response to a request (8) from the Committee at Albany, Harmanus Wendell and Abraham Wemple were appointed (9) by the Schenectady Committee "to take the sense of the people" in order to ascertain how many sleds could be counted upon from the district for the use of the troops then on their way to reinforce the remnant of the American army encamped before Quebec.

The letter (10) from the Albany Committee contained the further request that the consideration of the Schenectady Board be given to the appointment of necessary officers to command such additional troops as it might be called upon to raise in the district, and in compliance with this request it was decided (11) to recommend for appointment the following:

Captain Bradt, who was absent from town at the time his appointment was made, was still absent on April 10, when under the direction of the Committee the proposed company was being formed, and as it was felt that the filling of the office of captain could not "with propriety" be longer delayed, the command was given to Gerrit S. Veeder, much to the displeasure of the other officers, who immediately appeared before the Board and resigned their commissions, stating that their action was prompted by reason of the men being mutinous and dissatisfied with the selection of the Committee. (13) The differences were, however, almost immediately adjusted, (14) their commissions being returned to the officers by the Board upon request, but with a word of caution regarding their future behavior, and the company numbering thirty-eight men (officers excluded) was assigned (15) to the regiment of Colonel Cornelius A. Wynkoop.

With the approach of spring, to the multiplicity of other affairs was added the necessity of again taking up the building operations at the Lakes which had been suspended at the beginning of the winter. Many artisans from Schenectady were again engaged (16) for this work and early in March repaired to their assigned posts, continuing their work of constructing barracks, storehouses and gunboats for the army until well into the fall. (17)

The ravages of smallpox, which had broken out in the American camp during the winter, added to the scarcity of food and proper equipment, had by spring rendered half the troops unfit for duty. Schuyler communicated (18) this deplorable state of affairs to the Albany Committee on May 15, urging that they collect as many wagons as possible to transport provisious to Lake George, to be later forwarded to the army. This communication was sent later to the Schenectady Committee, who at once "made public by advertisement" their resolve "that no waggons be employed in carrying any goods or stores up or down between Schenectady and Albany for ten days unless they were going into the public service." (19) Myndert M. Wemple was further employed as a committee of one to engage every available wagon for the service.

Arnold meanwhile, stubbornly contesting his ground, slowly retreated from Canada, and on July 3 his mere skeleton of an army, presenting a most pitiable picture, arrived at Crown Point, where it had been determined to make a final stand.

Due to Arnold's foresight of the year before the strength of the American flotilla, meager though it was, was sufficient to retain the control of Lake Champlain, and it was to the overpowering of this flotilla, the strength of which the Americans were meanwhile making every endeavor to increase, that Sir Guy Carleton, the British commander, turned his attention, moving forward early in October with everything in readiness, and on the tenth entering into the three days' engagement that ended in the complete accomplishment of his purpose. The way to Crown Point was now open and towards this fortress Carleton at once proceeded, (20) only to find on his arrival that the works had been abandoned and that the Americans had fallen back on Ticonderoga.

The season was now well advanced, and deeming it unwise on this account to hazard a campaign that might be prolonged, Carleton did not press his advantage but withdrew his forces to Canada and there went into winter quarters.

Although so disastrously defeated, the first American navy had gloriously served its purpose, for it had necessitated a delay in the British advance just long enough to save the American forces an engagement, which, with Howe in possession of New York, might have accomplished in 1776 what Burgoyne failed to accomplish the next year.


  1. The services of these men, as in fact of all artisans in the Continental service, should not be depreciated for it must be remembered that they as well as the militiamen were jeopardizing their liberties. When workmen were enlisted in the service, the master workmen placed in command of the companies as overseers held corresponding army ranks.
  2. Pension Office Records, Simon J. Van. Antwerp S 28924; Adam Conde; Jacob P. Clute; Christopher Peek W 16371.
  3. At the northern extremity of Lake Champlain.
  4. Chamblee was captured by the American troops on October 20, 1775.
  5. Fort St. John's was taken in November.
  6. Pension Office Records, Peter Warren Cain W 16525.
  7. Pension Office Records, Frederick Weller S 14816.
  8. The Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Safety.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.
  12. He resigned his commission on March 11, 1776, because of his father's displeasure with him for having accepted it and Ephraim Snow was appointed to his place.
  13. The Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Safety.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Pension Office Records, Gerrit S. Veeder S 7792. Archives of the State of New York, p. 98.
  16. There is in the possession of the author an original agreement dated March 1, 1776, signed by Philip Schuyler as party of the first part and by thirty-eight of the townspeople, who, as parties of the second part, agreed to "immediately repair to Fort George, Tyconderoga, or such other place in the provinces of New York or Quebec, as Gen. Schuyler [should] direct, and there employ themselves in building and constructing such and so many batteaus or other vessels or buildings" as should be directed, and on the following terms: that they were "to begin their work at sunrise and continue at it till sunset (excepting one hour for breakfast and one and one-half hour for dinner). That each of them was to find and provide necessary tools and implements for the construction of the said work," and that each should receive over and above his wages "one pound and one-quarter of a pound of pork, and one-half pound of flour per day, four pints of peas per week, one pint of milasses per week, and half a pint of rum per day."
    A company of fatigue men under Captain John Clute was also enlisted at about this time. This company served at Saratoga, Fort Miller, Albany and Stillwater, remaining on duty until January 1, 1777. Pension Office Records, John Corl S 15263.
  17. Pension Office Records, Joseph Peek W 2568; Benjamin Van Vleck R 10897; Albert L. Vedder S 11840; Simon J. Van Antwerp S 28924; Adam Conde.
  18. The Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Safety.
  19. Ibid.
  20. At about this time a company drafted in Schenectady was on duty at Skenesborough and Fort Ann guarding boats and ammunition. Pension Office Records, Nicholas Barhydt; J. Wemple S 23490; Bartholomew Schermerhorn S 17078.

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See Also: Schenectady in the Revolutionary War updated March 30, 2015

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