The historical heritage of a town and a village is not, nor should it be, in the hands of one person or single group of people. Pride in one’s native folklore and historical fact is an inherent characteristic. To strengthen this characteristic state governments have made a local history unit obligatory in the school curriculum. Early enough to develop youthful interest in one’s community and late enough to insure an understanding of local events in relation to national and world history.
The pin containing Festival ‘87’s logo is the Row Galley WASHINGTON that was part of the first United States fleet that played an active part in the Battle of Valcour. It is the fifth ship chosen by the Festival for its activities during Festival week in July in Whitehall, Schooner LIBERTY, Schooner ROYAL SAVAGE, Sloop ENTERPRIZE, and Gundelo PHILADELPHIA.
In 1776 while the fleet was building in Skenesborough Harbor, Benedict Arnold, in charge of providing the ships, designed the row galley to replace the gundelo then being built. The row galley was larger to carry more men; it was heavier to carry more armament; it was easier to handle. Four such row galleys were built in the harbor WASHINGTON, CONGRESS, TRUMBULL, GATES. They were rigged in Ticonderoga and sent down the lake to join the rest of the fleet. All but one took part in the battle. The GATES was not finished in time to reach Valcour Bay.
Since the British made a plan of this ship after its capture we know the dimensions: Hull, 80 feet; deck length, 72; keel length, 66; beam, 20; depth, 6; draft, 7; tonnage, BM 123. This design is in the national museum in Greenwich, England.
WASHINGTON was in the curved line of American ships stretched across Valcour Bay as the fleet met the British ships. That evening it followed the TRUMBULL as it led the American ships out of the Bay and fled toward Schuyler Island. The sails were badly ridden but after slight repairs ran guard, 13 October, at the rear of the fleeing ships that the British were fast overtaking. General David Waterbury asked permission to scuttle her but was refused. Shortly afterwards the enemy overtook her and her crew. They were later released and praised the kind treatment they received at the hands of the British.
The British repaired WASHINGTON and reached Crown Point with the British force. On 28 October 1776 with German General Riedesel aboard for St. John, she ran aground during a storm but was released by passing boats. There Riedesel left her for Three Rivers. She wintered at St. John.
The next year 1777 when General Burgoyne’s huge fleet started south toward Albany many small boats accompanied his fleet. Among them was Row Galley WASHINGTON with Gundelo JERSEY and Cutter LEE, which had also been captured by the British in the retreat from Valcour. She arrived at Fort Ticonderoga with troops and since the small boats accompanied General Burgoyne to Skenesborough it can be assumed that WASHINGTON was with them and two weeks later was sent back to Canada with the soldiers and officers effects as there were no horses to carry them south.
Row Galley WASHINGTON served the British until 1784 when she was allowed to deteriorate or was broken up in Canada. The Gundelo JERSEY and Schooner LIBERTY suffered the same fate.
Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Times – January 15, 1987