The wilderness of the Adirondacks left a lasting impact on the shape of the American Revolution. Multiple nations contested the wilderness of upstate New York. The British dominated the region following the French and Indian War. During the revolution, The British and the colonists fought to control the crucial Lake Champlain and Lake George corridor within the Adirondack region. The struggle was heavily influenced by terrain and geography. The Adirondacks made it difficult to have large armies and transport supplies, whic influenced the outcome of the war.
During the opening stages of the American Revolution, Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen reinvented warfare in the region. Since the previous century of fighting showed the importance of the area, colonial forces hurried to seize control of the region (Bellico, 116). Led by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, colonial troops took Fort Ticonderoga on May 10th without any bloodshed just a month after the beginning of the war (Bellico, 156) The following day, on May 11th, another force of Americans captured the fort at Crown Point. Only a small force garrisoned the fort, which had once been considered one of he strongest in America. Perhaps, the Adirondacks low population density and wildness had contributed to the critical error. The capture of the two forts enabled the colonists to send the cannons to the main Continental Army in Boston. These proved to be critical in deciding the siege in favor of the Americans (Jenkins, 76). Following these early successes, Arnold and a newcomer on the scene, General Schulyer sought to invade Canada. The invasion was marked by serious ineptitude and ended in failure. The brutal winters of the Adirondacks and Canada hindered the campaign. The terrain and climate of the area played a critical role in the early struggles.
The British attempted to retake the region the next year. The British General Guy Carleton faced Benedict Arnold. The battle of Valcour Island on the 4th of October 1776 determined the fate of this campaign. Although the British annihilated the colonists, they did not press their advantage and the colonists maintained control of the region (Ibid, 77). Perhaps, the difficulty of penetrating the terrain made it impossible for the British to press home their victory.
The ferocity of the Adirondack war peaked in 1777. General Burgoyne led a force of 8,000 men south through the Adirondacks. This was meant to knock New England out of the war and thus end the war (Bellico, 168). However, poor planning and the difficulty of operating in the Adirondacks foiled Burgoyne’s plan. At first Burgoyne’s plan appeared to be working. He captured Lake Champlain and Fort Ticonderoga, which caused uproar throughout the colonies. Nevertheless, the retreat proved beneficial in the long run (Ibid, 179). The retreat drew Burgoyne’s army deeper and deeper into the wilderness, far from his supply lines. He was eventually surrounded and forced to surrender on October 13th 1777 in Saratoga New York after failing to make contact with the supporting army. After the battle, the French leant their support helping to decide the war in America’s favor. Following this battle, the Adirondack region was relatively quiet for the rest of the war though, intermittent raiding continued until the end of the war in 1783 (Ibid, 186).
The Adirondacks themselves had a great influence on the war. The terrain forced the fighting to be concentrated in one narrow corridor. The geography of the Adirondack region complicated the already difficult task of communicating across long distances. The Adirondacks also made it difficult for Burgoyne to keep his army supplied and which directly contributed to his surrender. Because of the Adirondacks contribution to the surrender of Burgoyne’s army, it is clear that the Adirondacks have a distinct and important place in the military history of the Revolutionary war.
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