In 1777, the British had a sound plan for crushing the Americans and bringing the war to an end. A large Anglo-German force, led by Major General John Burgoyne was to crush Fort Ticonderoga, and then head south along the narrow land bridge that separated Lake Champlain from the upper Hudson River until they arrived at Albany. At Albany, they would be joined by Lieutenant Colonel Barry St. Leger and his forces. They would unite into one large force, with an army of this magnitude the British believed that they could destroy any army that got in its path. This plan included the annihilation of the main American army, which was led by George Washington.
It wouldn't take long before British scouts found out everything they needed to know about Fort Ticonderoga. The American fort was commanded by Major General Arthur St. Clair. St. Clair commanded 2,000 poorly fed men who had been living in substandard conditions. They were also reported to be poorly armed. It looked like Fort Ticonderoga would not put up much resistance. However, nothing went they way that Burgoyne expected. First, when he arrived they found that horses were in short supply and nobody wanted to sell them. Next, Burgoyne had a difficult time finding recruits. He did manage to assemble 400 Indian auxiliaries, but from the very beginning he had trouble controlling them. At the same time, Burgoyne decided that he needed 138 pieces of very heavy artillery. The artillery was burdensome and it kept sinking in the mud, because in most places there weren't any roads. Many days the forest was so thick that they could only advance one mile.
As the British and German forces approached the fort, General St. Clair had no idea how many troops were advancing on the fort. Making things worse, upon arrival General William Philips noticed that the towering peak called Mount Defiance provided a view of the interior of the fort. The peak was so steep that the Americans didn't believe that the British and German forces could reach the top, but the British believed that, “where a goat can go a man can go, and where a man can go he can drag a gun.” However, as the British assembled their artillery on the mountain peak their was a small explosion, and this alerted the Americans. The next morning, as they prepared to attack, Burgoyne found that the Americans had fled the fort. St. Clair knew that they were sitting ducks, during the night he gathered together every available boat in the area. His men spent the night tying them together to form a bridge that connected Fort Ticonderoga with the neighboring town. However, the British were right behind them. The next morning St. Clair's men stopped the British advance in a barrage of musket fire. Soon, the Americans gathered at a place called Stillwater where they constructed a fort under the guidance of Polish engineer Colonel Tadeusz Kosciuszko. At the time, Burgoyne was pretty happy with the way things had gone. He was in control of Fort Ticonderoga, and the Americans were on the run. Also, he had taken numerous prisoners, seized the American rebels barges and now was in possession of most of their provisions. Once again Burgoyne set his sights on Albany. What he didn't know was that American woodcutters, as fast as they could, were cutting down trees and toppling them in the areas that they convinced would soon become Major General Burgoyne's chosen path. The woodcutters choked off ravines, creating floods, and turning the terrain into swamps. As a result it took the British 26 days to travel 20 miles.