Lake Champlain, lies between New York and Vermont, and extends from Whitehall in the former state to St. John's in Canada. It is 120 m. long, and varies in breadth from 40 rods to 15 m. Its greatest breadth unobstructed by islands is about 10 m., at a point near Burlington, Vt. Its outline is very irregular, the shores being indented by numerous bays. Its depth varies from 54 to 282 ft., and vessels of 80 or loo tons navigate its whole extent. The principal islands are North Hero, 11 by 2 m., South Hero, 13 by 4 m., and LaMotte, 6 by 2 m.; these three, with several smaller ones and the peninsula of Alburg, all in the N. part, form the county of Grand Isle in Vermont. There are about 50 smaller islands. The principal rivers entering the lake are Wood creek, at its head, the outlet of Lake George, the Au Sable, Saranac, and Chazy, from New York; the Otter, Winooski, Lamoille, and Missis.pie, from Vermont. The outlet of Lake Champlain is the Sorel or Richelieu river, sometimes called the St. John's, which empties into the St. Lawrence, and with the Chambly canal affords a passage for vessels of large size to the ocean. On the south it communicates, by means of the Champlain canal, with the Hudson river.
Navigation is usually closed by ice about the end of November, and opens early in April. The waters abound with bass, pickerel, salmon trout, and other varieties of fish. This lake, filling a valley enclosed by high mountains, is celebrated for its magnificent scenery, embracing the Green mountains of Vermont on the east and the Adirondack mountains of New York on the west. Several pleasant villages and watering places, with one or two important towns, are situated on its shores, which comprise the collection districts of Burlington and Champlain. - Lake Champlain was discovered in 1609 by Samuel Champlain, whose name it received. It was the scene of important events in the early wars of the continent, and in 1814 of a considerable naval battle. At that time an invasion of the northern portion of New York was contemplated by the British, and a force.of from 10,000 to 15,000 troops was collected in the vicinity of Montreal for that purpose. In such an expedition the command of Lake Champlain became an object of great moment, as it flanked the march of the invading army for more than 100 m., thus offering facilities for the transportation of reinforcements and supplies.
The efforts of both nations were therefore directed to the creation of naval forces on the lake in the shortest possible time. The Saratoga, the largest American vessel, was built at Vergennes, and was launched on the 40th day after the first tree used in her frame was taken from the forest. In August. 1814, the English army, about 12,000 strong, commanded by Sir George Prevost, advanced along the western shore to Plattsburgh, which was held by Gen. Macomb with about 1,500 men. The American naval force, under Capt. Macdonough, was anchored in Plattsburgh bay; it consisted of 14 vessels of all classes, carrying 86 guns and about 850 men; the largest vessel was the Saratoga, 26 guns and 212 men. The British squadron, under Capt. Downie, consisted of 16 vessels, carrying 1)5 guns and about 1,000 men; the largest vessel was the Confiance, 37 guns and 300 men. At sunrise on Sept. 11 the British squadron came in sight, and by 8 o'clock approached the American fleet. Fire was opened by the Americans, which was not returned by the enemy until the Confiance had anchored at about 300 yards from the American line.
The first broadside from the Confiance killed or wounded 40 men on board the Saratoga, nearly a fifth of her entire complement, and more than a third of the American loss during the action. The engagement now became general.
In an hour the whole starboard battery of the Saratoga was disabled. She was then winded about by means of kedges which had been laid from the bows, and her fresh broadside was brought to bear upon the Confiance, which had also suffered severely. The British vessel attempted to perform the same evolution, but without success, and after fighting about 2 1/2 hours in all was forced to strike her flag. The fire of the Saratoga was then turned upon the brig Linnet of 16 guns, the second vessel of the enemy, which surrendered in a few minutes.
The Chubb sloop of 11 guns had meanwhile struck to the Ticonderoga of 17 guns, and the Finch sloop of 11 guns had been crippled, and, drifting within reach of a single gun planted on a small island, also surrendered. These sloops had been captured from the Americans the year before. The 12 gunboats which made up the remainder of the British squadron also hauled down their flags, but presently made off and escaped, all the men on the American gunboats being required to keep the prizes afloat. The American loss in killed and wounded was 112; that of the British is estimated at from 173 to 204, exclusive of prisoners. Of the 95 guns which they brought into action, they lost all but 20. The American victory was mainly owing to the precaution of Mac-donough in throwing out kedges from the bows of the Saratoga, so that when the guns in one broadside were disabled, she could be turned round and present a fresh broadside to the enemy. Her 26 guns were thus in this action practically equal to twice as many. In fact, with these, she actually outfought the Confiance and the Linnet, with 53 guns of fully equal calibre, having together twice as many men, but which could not, when one broadside was disabled, turn round and fight with the other.
The British army under Prevost had in the mean time advanced upon Macomb's position at Plattsburgh. A feint was made in front, while a column was sent to ford the river above, and take it in the rear; but the column lost its way, and before the ford could be found the naval battle was over. The attack was at once abandoned, and under cover of night and a storm the British retreated in disorder, leaving behind their sick and wounded, and a part of their baggage and stores.