War: American Revolutionary War
Date: 7th July 1777.
Place: New York State on the road south east from Ticonderoga
Combatants: British and Americans
Generals: Brigadier Simon Fraser commanded the British, Baron Riedesel commanded the Germans and Colonels Francis and Warner commanded the Americans.
Size of the forces: About 1,000 British and German troops against around 1,000 Americans.
Uniforms, arms and equipment:
The British wore red coats and headgear of bearskin caps, leather caps or tricorne hats depending on whether the troops were grenadiers, light infantry or battalion company men. The German infantry wore blue coats and retained the Prussian style grenadier mitre with brass front plate. The Americans dressed as best they could. Increasingly as the war progressed regular infantry regiments of the Continental Army wore blue uniform coats but the militia continued in rough clothing. Both sides were armed with muskets and guns.
Winner: The British and German troops.
24th Foot: Later the South Wales Borderers and now the Royal Regiment of Wales.
Francis 11th Massachusetts
Hale’s 2nd New Hampshire Regiment
Warner’s Green Mountain Men from Vermont
General St Clair’s troops left Fort Ticonderoga on 6th July 1777 hastening to put as much ground between themselves and the pursuing army of General Burgoyne in their retreat to the South. The weather was hot and the march, along the rudimentary track through the forest, was heavy going. After 26 miles the Americans reached Hubbardton, a minute hamlet. St Clair marched on, leaving Colonel Seth Warner and his Green Mountain Boys to await the rearguard of Colonel Francis’ 11th Massachusetts and Hale’s 2nd New Hampshire Regiments.
Once the rearguard reached Hubbardton, Francis and Hale decided to camp overnight in the hamlet to allow their men to recover from the rigours of the evacuation of Ticonderoga and the long march. They assumed they had outstripped the British and German troops and put out no proper picquet line.
In fact Brigadier Simon Fraser had pressed the pursuit and that night camped near to Hubbardton. The British 24th Regiment with British and Brunswick Grenadiers and Light Infantry resumed the advance at 3am and coming upon the Americans as they breakfasted, promptly attacked. The first Americans to be assaulted, Hale’s New Hampshires, gave way in disorder. Warner’s and Francis’ Regiments quickly formed up and resisted strongly. The fighting was intense and Major Grant, commanding the 24th, was killed.
The Americans formed a line stretching through wooded country, with hills on each flank. Fraser sent his grenadiers to climb the hill to the American left and outflank them. The hill was steep and the encircling move took longer than expected. In the meantime Colonel Francis attacked advanced around Fraser’s left flank, reinforced by some of Hale’s regiment who were returning to the battlefield. Fraser, whose force was inferior in numbers to the Americans, found himself in some difficulty.
The sound of the battle was heard by General St Clair, the American commander, to the south. He ordered two militia regiments to return and support Francis, but they refused.
Battle of Hubbardton
To the North-West Riedesel also heard the firing and came up in support of Brigadier Fraser as quickly as he could. Riedesel sent the Brunswick Jaegers ahead and as they came onto the battlefield they attacked the American right flank. The firing was fierce. The tide of the battle swung back in favour of the British, as the grenadiers finally cleared the hill on the American left and Fraser attacked their centre. Colonel Francis was killed and the American line began to break up.
The battle ended with the capture of numbers of American soldiers and 12 guns.
British and German casualties were 14 officers and 195 soldiers. American casualties were 12 officers and 300 soldiers. As the British held the field the American wounded were mostly captured.
The American retreat to the South continued with the British in pursuit. The casualties were high in this battle for the number of troops involved, reflecting the determination of the American Continental Regiments.
It is reported in Fortescue’s account of the battle that a party of American soldiers approached the British line with their arms reversed, a token that they intended to surrender. The British withheld their fire. The Americans fired a volley, causing a significant number of casualties, and withdrew. This sort of “ruse de guerre” has been common in warfare. It seems unlikely that any such incident would have happened on as large a scale as is suggested by Fortescue.