The British Army's March Through the Village of Champlain
The main invasion of the British started on Monday, August 31, when half of the 14,000 soldier army marched into Champlain. That next day, on September 1, the left wing, under General Brisbane, marched down the Odelltown Road (Route 276) and camped in Dewey’s and Hamilton’s fields. It might have been at this time that an interesting event occurred. When a British soldier was disciplined for insubordination, he was whipped with a cat o’ nine tails (a nine tailed cotton whip commonly used by the British army and navy to enforce discipline on the troops by lacerating the skin of the back). Two soldiers were sent to the tavern for beef brine to treat the open wounds. It was noted that the soldier’s screams were horrendous.
On September 3, a huge storm hit the northern part of Champlain and uprooted trees and destroyed fences and houses. The British army, who were camped in open fields all around Dewey’s (where the school is today as well as along Route 276) and on Prospect Street, only had the shelter of their tents. On September 4, when General Prevost could wait no longer for Captain Downie’s naval flotilla to be readied, he ordered his army to start their march to Plattsburgh.
On September 4, the right wing of the British Army marched down a very muddy Prospect Street. Pliny Moore wrote in his diary on this day: “British Army, about 14,000, passed on to Chazy with 16 pieces cannon.” The army marched 12 hours over the Oak Street bridge and up Main Street to Route 9 (called the State Road then). When passing over the Oak Street bridge the British band played “God Save the King”. This infuriated Silas Hubbell, the village magistrate, who told an officer that this was an insult to Champlainers. He warned the officer that if the soldiers wanted to pass without any incident they should stop playing that song. The officer agreed and the band played “Yankee Doodle” and marched on. (A British Major, who wrote about army life years later, noted that his soldiers wanted to throw Hubbell into the river but this was not allowed.) Drusilla Dewey remembered the soldiers passing by her house four abreast for three days with brilliant uniforms and glittering bayonets. This impressive event, witnessed when she was 12 years old, was something that she would never forget.
During the march south that Sunday morning, the British had skirmishes with the American militia at the upper bridge (the Main Street bridge at Church Street). General Powers’ 88th Regiment was left at Pliny’s orchards on Prospect Street to guard Champlain.