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Archiver > GEN-NYS > 2000-05 > 0958867941

From: SLWillig <>
Subject: Battle of Valcour Island
Date: Sat, 20 May 2000 17:12:21 -0700

Hi, everyone...

The following historical account of the Battle of Valcour Island during the
American Revolution may be found at the Clinton County NYGenExchange site
under the category of historical accounts. The URL is as follows:

Good hunting, everyone!

Susan Laursen Willig

State Coordinator: NYGenExchange:
Coordinator for the Washington County, NY, GenExchange


There is a small island, named Valcour Island, in Lake Champlain just east
of the town of Peru, in Clinton County, NY. In early colonial days it was
known as Valeur Island. [Valeur; French for 'value, meaning, or worth; and
also, valour; bravery and/or courage.] This name was taken from the name
of the French frigate, which carried the jubilant news of Montcalm's
ruinous and humiliating defeat of the English Gen. Abercrombie at Ft.
Carillon (later called Ft. Ticonderoga).

Valcour is a small island, only two miles long and one mile wide, yet it
was the site of a significant battle during the American
Revolution. [Question: if the British had won, what would the war have
been called?] Benedict Arnold and a tiny force of Continentals took on
the mighty British fleet on Oct 11, 1776, in the narrow channel between
Valcour Island and the mainland.

The British, led by Capt. Pringle, numbered more than 100 men. The fleet
consisted of 4 ships, 4 longboats, 20 gunboats and 24 smaller
vessels. Opposing them was the vastly outnumbered force led by Benedict
Arnold (later to become known as a traitor to America), which consisted of
only 600 men. Their "fleet" was comprised of 4 schooners, 3 galleys, 8
gondolas and a few smaller vessels. All tolled they had only 80 guns. The
prospect was dim indeed.

The battle raged all day on the 11th and ended at dark. It was assumed that
the battle would resume at daybreak on the following morning, but under
cover of darkness General Arnold withdrew his forces and sailed to the
south. Discovering the morning of the 12th that their quarry had vanished,
the British force set out after them, finally catching up with them at the
very narrowest part of Lake Champlain. There the battle continued with the
Americans being badly beaten.

The historical significance of the battle lay not in the resounding defeat
of Arnold's forces, but rather in the effectiveness of the delaying tactic.
Arnold's efforts at Valcour Island served to slow and distract the powerful
British force. This delay gave much-needed time to the Continentals to
build up their forces to the south so that later battles would not be as
disastrous for them as most of the previous ones had been.

A remnant of the battle of Valcour Island, the vessel "Royal Savage" was
left behind by Arnold's retreating force. (There is a restaurant named the
Royal Savage today south of Plattsburgh where you may enjoy a very pleasant
meal!). The other gunboats had been accounted for all except one. And
that, too, was found as recently as 1997. For information on the find of
that historic gunboat, see the following URL:

There is a great ongoing debate as to whether it should be left where it is
and at the mercy of the destructive zebra mussel which unfortunately
abounds in the waters of Lake Champlain, or whether it should be raised and
restored during which process it might well disintegrate.

To read more about the Battle of Valcour Island, please visit the following

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