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Military Road Marker

July 22nd, 2009 · No Comments

The next time you’re heading to Whitehall, on the top of the mountain before you start down the other side, you can see this marker through the woods on the right hand side.

What is this? Well next time don’t drive by so fast. It marks a very historic spot.

It is actually a monument that the Town of Dresden erected in 1976 to desiginate the historic march through the woods that happened there in 1776. Here is a close up shot of the monument itself. It looks as new today as the day it was first put there.

This is the story behind it. (Condensed from online sources.)

In 1776-77 General John Burgoyne was given command of the British forces charged with gaining control of Lake Champlain and the Hudson River valley. The plan, largely of his own creation, was for Burgoyne and his force to cross Lake Champlain from Quebec and capture Ticonderoga before advancing on Albany, New York, where they would rendezvous with another British army under General Howe coming north from New York City, and a smaller force that would come down the Mohawk River valley under Barry St. Leger. This would divide New England from the southern colonies, and, it was believed, make it easier to end the colonies rebellion.

From the beginning Burgoyne was vastly overconfident. Leading what he believed was an overwhelming force, he saw the campaign largely as a stroll that would make him a national hero who had saved the rebel colonies for the crown. Before leaving London he had wagered a friend ten pounds that he would return victorious within a year. He refused to heed more cautious voices, both British and American, that suggested a successful campaign using the route he proposed was impossible.

Underlining the plan was the belief that Burgoyne’s aggressive thrust from Quebec would be aided by the movements of two other large British forces under General Howe and Sir Henry Clinton who would support the advance. However, Lord Germain’s orders dispatched from London were not clear on this point, with the effect that Howe took no action to support Burgoyne, and Clinton moved from New York too late and in too little strength to be any great help to Burgoyne.

As a result of this miscommunication, Burgoyne ended up conducting the campaign largely single-handedly. Even though he was not aware of this yet, he was still reasonably confident of success. Having amassed an army of over 7,000 troops in Quebec, Burgoyne was also led to believe by reports that he could rely on the support of large numbers of Native Americans and American Loyalists who would rally to the flag once the British came south. Even if the countryside was not as pro-British as expected, much of the area between Lake Champlain and Albany was underpopulated anyway, and Burgoyne was skeptical any major enemy force could gather there.

The campaign was initially successful. Burgoyne gained possession of the vital outposts of Fort Ticonderoga (for which he was made a lieutenant-general) and Fort Edward, but, pushing on, was detached from his communications with Quebec, and eventually hemmed in by a superior force, led by Horatio Gates. Several attempts to break through the enemy lines were repulsed at Saratoga in September and October 1777. On 17 October 1777, Burgoyne surrendered his entire army, numbering 5,800. This was the greatest victory the colonists had yet gained, and it proved to be the turning point in the war.

So now you know that Burgoyne passed this very spot on his way to defeat at Saratoga as you pass this spot as you go over the mountain! So stop and take a look at the monument the next time you pass by.

Tags: History