On October 24, 1778, in an attempt to gain control of Lake Champlain, the Governor General of Canada ordered Major Christopher Carleton to lead a force of about 450 men, that included British soldiers, American loyalists, German mercenaries and Indians, down Lake Champlain to the Otter Creek Valley. The force sailed on two schooners: the HMS Maria and the HMS Carleton, two gunboats, and various batteaux. Carleton’s force was ordered to take or destroy buildings, supplies and materials that could be used by the Continental Army to invade Canada, as well as take rebel men prisoner. This raid became known as Carleton’s Raid.
Major Carleton’s force raided Panton, Vermont on November 5 or 8, 1778. According to the Honorable John D. Smith, Esq., Joseph Holcomb (2nd-great grandfather to George Dewey (Holcomb) Baker) was chopping firewood under an elm tree on the property of his brother-in-law, Phineas Spaulding. He was suddenly surrounded and captured by Indians and taken to a vessel on Lake Champlain. His father, Phineas Holcomb, and three brothers, Joshua, Samuel and Elisha, were captured at their residence, a short distance away from Spaulding’s, and also brought aboard the vessel (some accounts provide a date of November 11th as the capture date for the latter four Holcombs). Their homes, as well as all other homes in Panton, except that of Timothy Spaulding, were burned by British soldiers.
Following his successful raid, Major Carleton returned to Isle aux Noix on November 14, 1778. With him were 39 prisoners and a report that his force destroyed “4 months provisions for 12,000 men.” The prisoners were taken, by foot, further north to Fort Saint-Jean (also known as Fort Saint John), where they were subjected to starvation and suffered from other hardships. Being that they were only about 16 and 15 when captured, Joseph and Elisha Holcomb suffered less than many other prisoners, and were allowed to care for sick prisoners.
Joshua and Samuel Holcomb died while imprisoned during the summer of 1781. The brothers’ likely cause of death was either starvation or disease, the same as many of their prison companions. Accounts about the fate of Phineas Holcomb vary. Some say that he died at Fort Saint-Jean. Other sources indicate that he escaped the prison and died in Rutland. All sources agree that he died on September 11, 1781. Joseph and Elisha Holcomb were exchanged for British prisoners and released in June 1782, about three years and eight months following their capture.
List of Prisoners sent to St. Johns
by Major Carleton / 29th Regiment
Wintress Herrick--lndian Interpreter Elis Roberts
Fenis Oakum being upwards of 70*
John Grizall-released & sent back with the women on account of his age
*Names were misspelled, Samuel's name was inaccurately recorded, and Phineas’ age was incorrect as he was 52 at the time of his capture.