Battle of Valcour Island: October 11, 1776

This date in Lake Champlain History

Battle of Valcour Island: October 11, 1776

battle of valcour island

Royal Savage, Benedict Arnold’s flagship, is shown run aground and burning, while British ships fire on her (watercolor by unknown artist, ca. 1925)

Continental Brigadier General Benedict Arnold and his 17-ship flotilla were defeated after three long and separate actions at the Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain when they engaged 25 ships under British Captain Thomas Pringle.

Benedict Arnold and Battle of Valcour Island

Benedict Arnold

The Continental Army had retreated from Quebec to Fort Ticonderoga and Fort Crown Point in June 1776 after British forces in Canada were reinforced. They Americans then spent the summer of 1776 strengthening those forts, and building additional ships to augment the small American fleet already on the lake under the command of Arnold.

The British had a 9,000 man army in Canada but needed to build a fleet to move it on the lake. By early October, the British fleet, which significantly outgunned the American fleet, was ready to launch their offensive.

Battle of Valcour Island

Battle of Valcour Island: October 11, 1776

On October 11, 1776 Arnold lured the superior British fleet into the straight between Valcour Island and the New York mainland where their maneuverability was limited. Although Arnold’s makeshift fleet was defeated, the battle delayed the British advance and caused it to fall back into winter quarters.

The British fleet and army withdrew from Lake Champlain on October 20, 1776 and returned to Canada for the winter. It was nearly a year before the British advance was renewed.

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