The Life of General John Stark of New Hampshire by Howard Parker Moore
With Biographies from Memoir and Official Correspondence of General John Stark by Caleb Stark
The early military career of a great American soldier and patriot
Students of the history of the American War of Independence will be familiar with Major-General John Stark of the Continental Army who served at Bunker Hill, Trenton, Princeton and notably at Bennington, 1777. However, in common with many American soldiers of his period, he had once been a soldier of the British Army. More interestingly he joined the elite rangers, serving with Robert Rogers, and it is this period of his life which forms the focus of this book. After a period of captivity with the Abenaki tribe when he was 24 years old, Stark was eventually ransomed and he and his brother, Will, joined Rogers Rangers. Stark’s abilities led to his promotion to lieutenant and he served with the Rangers through the French and Indian War, including at the famous ambush that became known as ‘The Fight on Snow-shoes’ in 1757 and at the Battle of Carillon (Ticonderoga). He became second in command of the Ranger companies, retiring with the rank of captain in 1759. No library of the Rangers will be complete without this unique Leonaur edition, which has drawn together valuable information on Stark and his associates during this period.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
The men were to bring their own arms, good blankets and warm clothing “the same to be uniform in each company”. All were to be at the fort by the 15th of March next, instructions dated Jan. 11th, 1758. Rogers indicates the levies were completed by the 4th of March but four of the companies went to Louisburg to join Gen. Amherst “and the other remained with me”.
The operations of 1757 and 1758 merged imperceptibly. A large force of British Regulars, some Connecticut Provincials under Capt. Israel Putnam, and other troops were kept, practically under arms, in the fort at Fort Edward. On the island in the river the rangers were quartered. Rogers went to Abercrombie, then to Loudon, after he had failed to get humane treatment of his revolting and disorderly rangers by Lt. Col. Wm. Haviland, the rigid and intolerant commandant. Rogers had reluctantly complied with Haviland’s order that whippings of rangers should be the punishment of infractions. The men, confined in ramshackle quarters, the best they could make themselves, quite inadequate against the rigors of a northern winter, became restive.
The whippings were excessive, 800 and 500 lashes. After 300 were administered the men would be horribly mutilated, their backs raw. An incipient mutiny was barely checked. The men cut down the whipping post on the island. Haviland was obdurate, determined to discipline some of Rogers’ men, deciding one must hang, to bring about a cowing of the rest. The situation resulted in Haviland becoming hated as no post commander had ever been. After Rogers had stood up for his corps with Lord Loudon at New York, Gen. Abercrombie being an intermediary at Albany, those superiors of Haviland sensibly viewed the indispensability of the rangers as the main consideration.
Rogers was allowed to discharge a few of the chief actors but the whole situation was a menace to the future and the reputation of “Rogers’ Rangers”, Capt. Stark was in and about the island most of the time, but appears to have had no prominence in the disturbances. After recovering from an illness during the turn of the year (1757-1758) Rogers made important plans for the capture of Ticonderoga and Crown Point by the rangers.
He saw Lord Loudon on Jan. 9th, and had his ideas checkmated, without divining that Loudon himself wanted Rogers to do nothing to interfere with his own schemes of taking the French strongholds. There is little doubt that Loudon’s selfish ambition prevented a good measure of success, had Rogers received permission and been granted the necessary supplies for a large scout, over the snows to the northern posts in surprise attacks on the insufficient winter garrisons of the French.
During this period Robert Rogers was doing some of his best work. His address and resourcefulness, his patience and leadership were never so conspicuous. Double-crossed by Loudon, by Abercrombie, but not Howe as far as known, Rogers contended daily with the local authority, Haviland, who, to spite Rogers used the ranger company of Putnam, Connecticut’s contribution, a unit camped not on Rogers’ island but separately, near the British. On Jan. 25 when Rogers had reached his headquarters, back from his trip south, he sent Lt. Phillips to Lake George to see if it was frozen enough to bear troops. It was. On the 28th a large convoy of provisions and artillery shells arrived by sleighs from Albany.
A few days later Rogers sent Capt. John Stark with a party to the first narrows of Lake George to test the condition of the lake. While Stark was gone Fort Edward had a bitter surprise attack by a large French party under the Ranger, Langy De Montegron, as intrepid a leader as Rogers himself. Coming by Wood Creek from “Ti”, Langy’s party of 100, Regulars, Canadians and Indians, laid an ambush near Fort Edward, where British regulars and Connecticut Provincials were gathering firewood.
The men had been allowed out with almost no protection and without snow shoes. Driven into the deep snow the men were helpless. The results were 13 killed, 4 wounded, five prisoners, some scalps taken. Rogers, somewhat belatedly got 140 rangers together but could not overtake Langy. Rogers tried a shortcut to head off the Frenchman and in doing so met with Capt. Stark and his party at Half-way Brook. They combined and crossed over to South Bay, but Langy had passed.
Loudon reluctantly gave up a plan he had to lead an expedition during the winter against Ticonderoga, leaving it for execution to Abercrombie and Lord Howe. Rogers and Stark bent their energies in preparations, Howe getting his order from Loudon on Feb. 1st, 1758. An engineer, Lt. Leslie, was sent up to test the lake route, with some light sledges, 30 in number, leaving on Feb. 11th with Capt. Stark and two subalterns and 40 rangers on snow shoes. The snow was too deep and the weather too severe and 40 men too few to make a solid path but Leslie and Stark and 10 rangers went on to Lake George. The snow was found to be four or five feet deep.
Shortly a few sleighs and horses reached the lake and found it safe. The parties then returned and Leslie reported to Lord Howe and Abercrombie at Albany. Instead of adopting Rogers’ plan of a flying Ranger unit of 400 men with snowshoes, it was foolishly considered that light field pieces should form a part of the attacking force. Snow shoes, however, being short, they were feverishly constructed at Fort Edward. The story is clear from Loudon’s diaries and other sources.