Canadian Campaign > Battle of Valcour Island

Battle of Valcour Island


The Battle of Valcour Island, fought on October 11, 1776, was a significant naval engagement during the American Revolutionary War. This battle took place on Lake Champlain, near Valcour Island, and involved American and British naval forces. Despite being a tactical defeat for the Americans, the battle delayed the British advance, providing strategic advantages for the American cause.


  1. Strategic Context:

    • Control of Lake Champlain was crucial for both the American and British forces. The lake served as a key route for movement of troops and supplies between Canada and the American colonies.
    • The British, under General Guy Carleton, aimed to use the lake to launch an invasion from Canada into the American colonies, thereby cutting off New England from the rest of the colonies.
  2. American Objectives:

    • The American forces, led by General Benedict Arnold, sought to delay the British advance and prevent them from gaining control of Lake Champlain.
    • Arnold, recognizing the strategic importance of the lake, undertook the construction of a small fleet to challenge the British naval forces.

The Battle:

  1. American Fleet:

    • The American fleet consisted of 15 vessels, including the schooner Royal Savage, the sloop Enterprise, the gundalow Congress, the galley Washington, and several smaller gunboats.
    • The fleet was hastily constructed and manned by around 500 sailors and soldiers. Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, Arnold positioned his fleet near Valcour Island to maximize the tactical advantage provided by the narrow waters.
  2. British Fleet:

    • The British fleet, commanded by Captain Thomas Pringle, consisted of 25 vessels, including the large warships Inflexible and Thunderer, as well as a number of gunboats and support vessels.
    • The British fleet was better equipped and had more experienced sailors, giving them a significant advantage in firepower and maneuverability.
  3. Initial Engagement:

    • On the morning of October 11, 1776, the British fleet sailed southward along Lake Champlain. Arnold positioned his fleet between Valcour Island and the western shore of the lake, forcing the British to engage in the confined waters.
    • The battle began when the British gunboats discovered the American fleet and opened fire. The Americans, positioned defensively, returned fire, and a fierce engagement ensued.
  4. Tactical Manoeuvres:

    • The American fleet, despite being outgunned, used the narrow waters and the cover provided by Valcour Island to their advantage. The Americans inflicted damage on several British vessels, but the Royal Savage was heavily damaged and run aground.
    • Throughout the day, the battle raged with both sides exchanging heavy fire. The British warships, with their superior firepower, gradually gained the upper hand.
  5. American Withdrawal:

    • As night fell, Arnold realized that his fleet could not withstand another day of combat. Under the cover of darkness, the American fleet managed to slip past the British blockade and began retreating southward towards Crown Point.
    • The Americans scuttled some of their damaged vessels to prevent them from falling into British hands and continued their retreat.

Aftermath and Impact:

  1. Casualties:

    • American casualties included around 80 men killed or wounded, and several vessels were lost or scuttled. British casualties were lighter, with about 40 men killed or wounded.
  2. Strategic Consequences:

    • Despite the tactical defeat, the Battle of Valcour Island achieved its strategic objective. The engagement delayed the British advance, forcing them to halt their campaign and return to Canada for the winter.
    • The delay provided the American forces with valuable time to prepare defenses further south, particularly at Fort Ticonderoga and the Hudson River Valley.
  3. Arnold's Leadership:

    • Benedict Arnold's leadership and tactical ingenuity during the battle were widely praised. His decision to position the fleet in the narrow waters near Valcour Island and his ability to extricate his remaining ships under cover of darkness showcased his strategic acumen.


The Battle of Valcour Island remains a notable episode in the American Revolutionary War, symbolizing the strategic use of naval forces and the impact of well-executed defensive tactics in achieving broader military objectives.

Canadian Campaign


Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Sabalico Logo
Sabalytics Logo
World Map Logo
rStatistics Logo
Time Zone Logo
Galaxy View Logo
Periodic Table Logo
My Location Logo
Weather Track Logo
Sprite Sheet Logo
Barcode Generator Logo
Test Speed Logo
Website Tools Logo
Image Tools Logo
Color Tools Logo
Text Tools Logo
Finance Tools Logo
File Tools Logo
Data Tools Logo
History of Humanity - History Archive Logo
History of Humanity - History Mysteries Logo
History of Humanity - Ancient Mesopotamia Logo
History of Humanity - Egypt History Logo
History of Humanity - Persian Empire Logo
History of Humanity - Greek History Logo
History of Humanity - Alexander the Great Logo
History of Humanity - Roman History Logo
History of Humanity - Punic Wars Logo
History of Humanity - Golden Age of Piracy Logo
History of Humanity - Revolutionary War Logo