Oct 11

The Battle of Valcour Island 11 October 1776

Monday, October 11, 2010 12:01 AM


October 11th is the anniversary of the most important naval battle of the American Revolution. It was fought on a fresh-water lake (Lake Champlain) by an American force consisting of fifteen small vessels, commanded by an army general, Benedict Arnold, who became America’s most notorious traitor. Opposing it was a larger British flotilla, firing a weight of metal almost twice that of the Americans. Not surprising, therefore, the British destroyed the American fleet and decisively won the battle of Valcour Island.

Why then is it such an important battle? Because to deal with the threat posed by this rag-tag American fleet, the British expended precious time to assemble their own naval force, costing them the opportunity to invade the United States along the route of the Hudson River during the campaign of 1776. After their victory, they retreated to Canada, regrouped, and waited until the next spring to begin driving southward. By then the Americans were better prepared and the invaders were unsupported because the main British army in America had left New York. As a result, the Americans forced the surrender of the invading force at Saratoga, New York. This victory, in turn, convinced France to ally itself with the United States, broadening the American Revolution into an international conflict and stretching British resources to the breaking point. Thus a little-remembered naval battle changed the course of the war and led directly to American victory.

  • dwas

    I just remembered..we had a ship named after the island Valcour AVP55 ..My brother served on her in the early 50’s..

  • Jim Valle

    The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum located near Vergennes, VT has built a full scale replica of one of Arnold’s gunboats. It is similar to a real one located at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in DC. These improvised gunboats were ingenious examples of make-do technology constructed with the absolute minimum of normal ship fittings, They packed quite a punch with one cannon on each broadside and another firing over the bow. They were propelled by sweep oars and a large square sail and had no accomodation for the crew except a cook box. A similar fleet operated on Lake George and their remains were discovered by SCUBA divers some years back. It should be noted that Arnold did some good work for the American cause before he was suborned into treason by a combination of his own vanity, his Tory sweetheart, a neglectful Continental Congress and a British High Command that knew just how to play him.