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Carleton’s Raid on the Champlain Valley

Jessica Sturtevant
photo provided
Jessica Sturtevant

Monday January 1, 2007

By Jessica Sturtevant

    During the Revolution the British in Canada wanted to gain control of the upper colonies as well as Lake Champlain, a crucial waterway. So they sent men down to raid the settlements in the New Hampshire Grants and New York. In 1778, the Governor General of Canada, sent raid lead Major Christopher Carleton down Lake Champlain to the Otter Creek Valley.

    Carleton’s expedition consisted of 354 British troops, Tory supporters, and hired Germans, with about 100 Native Americans. They sailed with two large boats, the Maria and the Carleton (named after Christopher’s uncle, Guy Carleton) along with two gunboats and various longboats and canoes. The purpose of their raid was to destroy buildings and supplies, which the rebel army could use. They also wanted to take the men prisoners so they wouldn’t fight on the American side of the conflict.

    The Carleton sailed from Isle aux Noix on October 24th 1778, with the Maria and gunboats waiting farther down on the New York side of the lake. The Carleton anchored in West Bay behind Crown Point near the Maria on the 31st. Mr. Alder, who was in charge of the Maria, had already found some men nearby and detained them on board. The boats remained at Crown Point. Carleton had a conference with the Indian Chiefs on what to do decided to march with most of troops up to about thirty miles from the mouth of Otter Creek and work downward setting out the next evening.

    Forces later brought in fifteen prisoners with information. Carleton now needed to change his plans. He sent a large force from the east shore of the lake to Otter Creek to proceed east across uninhabited terrain from a point two miles south of Chimney Point to Otter Creek, and then move north along the creek to its mouth, destroying buildings and supplies and taking prisoners in a series of surprise attacks.

    When the British reached Middlebury they found it abandoned, the settlers having fled from the invasion of Burgoyne the year before. The force then continued on to Weybridge. All the settlers there had remained and the five remaining men were taken prisoner. From Weybridge, Carleton’s men went down to New Haven and Waltham. In Waltham, they captured the Griswold brothers. When the troops reached Vergennes, they found that most of the settlers had left. The forces camped above the falls.

    Carleton moved along the east side of the lake destroying different buildings. He continued to Buttonmold Bay, but had to stop there for the evening. The boats continued up the creek and camped where Dead Creek meets Otter Creek. The expedition was now complete and entirely successful. The boats sailed back up Lake Champlain and reached Isle aux Noix on Nov. 14th, 1778.

    The prisoners were taken north and reached Quebec on Dec. 6th 1778. More prisoners joined them from an additional raid in 1779. Many tried to escape though few make it home. Some of the prisoners tried to win their freedom in other ways and a few died in prison. Eventually, in June of 1782, forty-eight Vermont prisoners were exchanged for British prisoners, including many from Carleton’s raid.

About the Author

Jessica Sturtevant is a member of the Otter Creek Basin Student History Club and a sophomore at Vergennes Union High School. She recently traveled to Romania to help with English as a second language camp. She enjoys learning about history and holds several local, state, and national placements in writing and speech contests.

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