The Battle of Fort Ticonderoga
May 10, 1775 at Fort Ticonderoga, New York
As the American force continued to gather around the Siege of Boston, they realized that they did not have the munitions or cannon to carry out successful siege or military operations.
Fort Ticonderoga was a valuable asset for several reasons. Within its walls was heavy artillery and armaments that the Americans had in short supply. The fort was situated on the shores of Lake Champlain, a strategically important route between the Colonies and the British-controlled northern provinces. British forces placed there would expose the American forces in Boston to attack from the rear.
After the war began, British General Thomas Gage realized the fort would require fortification, and several Americans had the idea of capturing the fort. As a result, expeditions began to be planned to capture the fort.
Benedict Arnold proposing the capture of Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point. When Arnold arrived outside Boston, he told the Massachusetts Committee of Safety about the cannons and other military equipment at the lightly defended fort.
On May 3, the Committee gave Arnold a colonel's commission and authorized him to command a "secret mission", which was to capture the fort. Also sent seperately was a small force of Green Mountain Boys, led by Colonel Ethan Allen.
Facts about the Battle of Fort Ticonderoga
- Armies - American Forces was commanded by Col. Ethan Allen and Col. Benedict Arnold and consisted of 83 Colonial militiamen. British Forces was commanded by Capt. De La Place and consisted of 48 Soldiers.
- Casualties - American casualties were one wounded. British casualties were 48 captured.
- Outcome - The result of the Battle of Fort Ticonderoga was an American victory. The Battle was part of the Invasion of Quebec Campaign of 1775
The Battle Begins
On May 9, Arnold arrived in Castleton and insisted that he was taking command of the operation, based on his orders and commission from the Massachusetts Committee of Safety. Many of the Green Mountain Boys objected, insisting that they would go home rather than serve under anyone but Allen. Arnold and Allen worked out an agreement. According to Arnold, he was given joint command of the operation. A raid was planned for dawn the next day.
On May 10, at dawn, the Patriots slipped into the fort. Most of the dozen British soldiers garrisoned there were still asleep. As dawn approached, fearful of losing the element of surprise, they attacked. Surprising the only sentry on duty at the south gate, they rushed into the fort. They then awoke the small number of sleeping British troops at gunpoint and began confiscating their weapons.
Allen and Arnold charged up the stairs into the officer's quarters and demanded surrender, which they got. The commander of the fort, Capt. De La Place, appeared and quickly surrendered the fort.
Fort Ticonderoga had largely fallen into disrepair and the garrison consisted of only 2 officers and 50 men. But, it still had a large stock of artillery. Only one shot was fired, and there were no serious injuries on either side. Both American leaders were ordered to take the approximately 100 cannon stored in the fort. They did not arrive in Boston until January 1776.
On May 12, Allen sent the British prisoners to Connecticut's Governor Jonathan Trumbull with a note saying "I make you a present of a Major, a Captain, and two Lieutenants of the regular Establishment of George the Third." Arnold spent the next few days cataloging the all of the captured military equipment.
News of the capture of Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point by the Americans, and especially the American raids on Fort Saint-Jean, electrified the Quebec population. Col. Dudley Templer, in charge of the British garrison at Montreal, issued a call on May 19 to raise a militia for defense of the city, and requested Indians living nearby to also take up arms.
On May 20, British General Guy Carleton was notified of the events and immediately ordered the garrisons of Montreal and Trois-Rivières to fortify Fort Saint-Jean. Some troops garrisoned at Quebec were also sent to Saint-Jean. Most of the remaining Quebec troops were dispatched to a variety of other points along the Saint Lawrence River to guard against potential American invasion threats.
Carleton then traveled to Montreal to oversee the defense of the province from there. Before leaving, he prevailed on Monsignor Jean-Olivier Briand, the Bishop of Quebec, to issue his own call to arms in support of the provincial defense, which was circulated primarily in the areas around Montreal and Trois-Rivières.