8. Driving to Split Rock: The Army Code of Honor

The British Royal Army was notorious for its zealous discipline. Most believed this to be a gentleman’s war—with a few modifications for the wilderness.

Battle of White Mountain c. 1620 showing organization of a Gentleman’s War.

A certain code of honor existed among Europe’s armies. They believed this would be a gentleman’s war fought by gentlemen leaders with a code of honor. When fighting a gentleman’s war, the commanding general had nearly total control of the battlefield. Orders were transmitted to the various regiments by way of an ensign that ran to and from headquarters to the various parts of the army. The commanding general had to be strategic and the soldiers fearless.

Officer commissions were sold, so the upper ranks of the military were reserved for people of upper-class refinement, while the rank-and-file was made up of young adventurers and even criminals that served in lieu of punishment. It was widely believed that without their gentlemen leaders the soldiers would commit grave atrocities or flee. The British Royal Army was notorious for their discipline.

In 1764, a Manual of Arms was published by the Crown, which outlined how to stand, hold a weapon, timing, and various formations.  This included steps for loading and firing, forming a firing line, fixing bayonets, or forming a column for charges. The Royal and Continental armies had leaders that had been trained by the British during the French and Indian War. Soldiers like George Washington or Sir Guy Carleton understood a gentleman’s war, but they also had experience fighting against unconventional enemies, such as the Indians.

Both armies had to adapt their fighting technique for fighting in the wilderness. They learned to expand and contract the lines, which enabled them to move more easily though the woods. They also learned the art of “treeing,” where they would hide and fire from behind trees, lying on their belly or otherwise protected from fire. Many of these techniques they borrowed from the Indians, or learned through generations of warfare in this wilderness.

Travel Tools

Start track 8 after entering the historic hamlet of Essex. During this part of the journey on the Turning Point Trail, you will drive by the 3,700-acre Split Rock Wild Forest, between the towns of Essex and Westport. The forest is part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve. Located in the eastern foothills of the Adirondack Mountains along the shore of Lake Champlain, it comprises the largest tract of undeveloped Lake Champlain shoreline in New York.

The Split Rock trailhead is on Lakeshore Road, 5.8 miles south of Essex and 4.7 miles north of Westport. Trails go up, over, and along this mountain overlooking Lake Champlain with wetlands, little waterfalls, an old quarry, hidden bays, and views. Trails range from 2- to 6-mile loops, easy to moderate.

The wild forest is named for Split Rock Mountain, the main feature of the area. The Lake Champlain Palisades and Webb Royce Swamp are within its boundaries. The trail system provides many scenic views of Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains of Vermont. The Westport Boat Launch Site, located in the Hammond Pond Wild Forest, is the nearest location to launch on the lake and access the shoreline campsites on Split Rock Wild Forest.

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