Research revealed that the only information on the Battle of Valcour Island, New York, also known as the Battle for Lake Champlain, was located in the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, not located in Peru or Valcour, New York, but in Vergennes, Vermont. So we drove to Vergennes, which included a 25 minute ferry ride across Lake Champlain to the museum.
Although the museum covered a vast amount of maritime history on the Lake, I was mainly interested in the battle. I was directed down to a pier where a replica ship of the Colonial Fleet of that battle, the Philadelphia, was docked and told to talk to Bill, who would be on the ship.
This man had a vast knowledge of the battle, and relayed the following:
Colonel Arnold was born on January 14, 1741, a British Subject, as everyone born at that time was, in Norwich, the colony of Connecticut. He served with distinction in the French and Indian War. During the early battles of the American revolution, he was greatly admired by George Washington as a military man that could think outside the box and achieve a military victory where other’s could not.
For that reason Washington sent Colonel Arnold to Lake Champlain to build and assemble a fleet to engage the British Royal Navy, the largest and most powerful navy in the World, who were expected to come from Canada and attack the Colonies.
On October 1, 1776, Arnold received reliable intelligence indicating that the British had a force significantly more powerful than his. Because his force was inferior, he chose the narrow, rocky body of water between the western shore of Lake Champlain and Valcour Island, in upstate New York, where the British fleet would have difficulty bringing its superior firepower to bear, and where the inferior seamanship of his relatively unskilled sailors would have a minimal negative effect. Some of Arnold’s captains wanted to fight in open waters, the traditional way to fight a naval battle at that time, and where they might be able to retreat to the shelter of Fort Crown Point, but Arnold argued that the primary purpose of the fleet was not survival but the delay of a British advance on Crown Point and Ticonderoga until the following spring.
On October 11, 1776, the British Fleet sailed down Lake Champlain. As they past Valcour Island Arnold sailed out and engaged them. Arnold lost to the superior British forces. However, the American defense of Lake Champlain stalled British plans to reach the upper Hudson River valley.
Although the British won the battle and now had control of the Lake, they abandoned the area and returned to Canada for the winter. This allowed the Colonial Army a year to prepare for the anticipated attack of the British which resulted in the Battle of Saratoga in New York, a battle won by the Colonists, which proved to be the turning point in the Revolutionary War. All because of Colonel Benedict Arnold.