The hamlet of Fort Miller is named for the fort built on the west side of the Hudson River by the British during the French and Indian War. Known as the “Little Carrying Place,” Fort Miller was not much more than a protected storehouse strategically located between Saratoga and Fort Edward. Here a waterfall impeded river traffic, forcing travelers to carry their boat and supplies around the falls by land.
Despite the significant changes to the landscape, there is still evidence of the past. If you stand at the Fort Miller and Little Carrying Place historic marker and look at the jutting peninsula on the opposite side of the Hudson, you will notice a steep incline that levels at the surface. This is part of the “glacis” (gla-see), a steep artificial slope used for earthwork protections, which surrounded the old French and Indian War era fortification.They found the fort in ruins in the summer of 1777, but a settlement had taken it’s name on the opposite side of the river.
The land on the east side of the river was the estate of William Duer, a local judge who served on the Continental Congress and as commissary, providing supplies to the Continental Army. Prior to the hostilities, Duer had a contract to supply the British Navy with timber that could be used for ships’ masts, and several buildings surrounded his well-built manor, which had been abandoned prior to the British arrival. The land would have been cleared for timber and then converted for agricultural use, leaving an open view of the Hudson River.
The Hudson River here gain requires a portage of 5 or 6 miles and is therefore not navigable for bateaux. I looked at the beautiful building previously mentioned, which could be called a small castle, and wondered what such a beautiful building was doing in the wilderness. The owner of the house had taken flight to Philadelphia. Brig. Gen. Fraser had moved into the house. Around the house was a plain of more than 2,000 morgens of land, which was nearly all cultivated. The harvest was ripe but had not been gathered.
Julius Wasmus, August 10, 1777
Baum accompanied Burgoyne’s first wave of troops to Fort Miller, and is among the first to arrive there. The Rebels had abandoned the area just 4 days prior to their arrival, and their camps were still evident. August 10th is a day of rest for the troops, but not for Baum. He met with Riedesel, and Riedesel left him in the company of the officers assigned to assist with the campaign.
Baum did not command the confidence of the officers left in his charge, who were wary of his lack of experience. He spoke only German, had no experience fighting in the wilderness of the New World and no knowledge of the landscape. Burgoyne had provided men to act as speaking-aides, guides, scouts and engineers, whom could help construct or repair roads, bridges and protective fortifications. Wasmus writes:
Our Major General von Riedesel came to us this morning and had a long conversation with our Liet. Colonel Baum and at his departure, he left our Captain O’Connell and the English Engineer Liet. Durnford behind. Among the Volunteers, we also had Colonel Skene with us, who owns Skenesborough, Colonel Forster [Pfister] (a Braunschweiger by birth), and Capt. MacKay. These have been assigned to Lieut. Colonel Baum either as aides or because they knew the countryside around here and could understand several languages, especially English, French and the languages of the Savages. Since Liet. Colonel Baum understood none of all these languages, those men were very necessary for him.
Julius Wasmus, August 10, 1777