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Lake George, and Richelieu River
By James P. Millard
PART I (d)- New France and New England:
The French and Indian War
TIME SPAN 1757- JULY 1759
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The short period of relative calm comes to a dramatic close. Robert Rogers and his Rangers attack a party of French ascending the lake from Canada on sleighs. They take seven prisoners and are promptly pursued by a larger party of French troops. Overtaken in a ravine near Carillon, a pitched battle is fought. Known as The Battle of La Barbue Creek, the Rangers lose fourteen killed, six wounded and have another six taken prisoner. In addition Major Rogers himself is wounded twice, before narrowly escaping to William Henry. The French lose up to a third of their force.
A French force of some 1100 regulars and 400 Indians sets out from Quebec under the command of Francois-Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil, brother of the governor of New France. Their mission is nothing less than the defeat of the garrison at Ft. William Henry. Equipped with over 300 ladders to be used in scaling the walls of the fort, this force encamps at Carillon from March 9 through the 15th awaiting favorable weather. Finally on the 19th of March, the attackers appear in the vicinity of Wm. Henry. The attack is designed to surprise the British garrison. Unfortunately for the French, alert sentries under the command of John Stark notice the campfires of the attackers and alert the rest of the fort. The French are stunned to find their sneak attack greeted by cannon fire. The element of surprise gone, Rigaud determines to do as much damage as possible to the outbuildings and surroundings of the fort, while giving up on his goal of the actual capture of the fortress. Bluffing, the French send an officer into the fort with terms of surrender. Major William Eyre, the British commander, replies that he will "...defend His Majesty's Fort to the last extremity." The French renew their destruction of the area outside the walls. Destroyed are several icebound vessels, a hospital, several storehouses, huts for the Rangers, and a large store of supplies such as lumber. Interestingly, the French force outnumber the British and colonials inside Wm. Henry by 4 to 1. Despite the fact that Ft. William Henry is intact and the garrison left to fight another day, the French declare victory.
Not to be undone by the brazen exploits of their French adversaries, the British send a force out from Wm. Henry to attempt the works at Carillon. This force, under the command of a Colonel Parker, meets with an ambush and is decimated. Of the 400 attackers, two officers and seventy men return to Ft. William Henry.
"We returned and marched round by the bay to the west of Crown Point, and at night got into the cleared land among their houses and barns. Here we formed an ambush, expecting their labourers out to tend their cattle and clean their grain, of which there were several barns full. We continued there that night, and next day till dark; when discovering none of the enemy, we set fire to the houses and barns, and marched off." [Rogers the Ranger]**
"Vaudreuil, a Canadian by birth, who had served in Canada and been governor of Louisiana, arrived at Carillon."**
The French return. Amassing a force of 8,000 at Carillon under the command of the esteemed Louis-Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm, an enormous force prepares to attack the British at Ft. William Henry. Included in this group are some 1800 Indians, assembled from as far away as the Great Lakes and the Mississippi. They have come this far to drive the British from their lands... and to attain the spoils of war. The battle that follows- The storied Battle of Fort William Henry, will be immortalized in James Fenimore Cooper's "Last of the Mohicans". This defeat, and the massacre that follows it, will serve to strengthen the resolve of Great Britain to evict the French from the continent. The fort capitulated on August 9th.
"Marquis Montcalm, with the 9,000 French and Indians he had collected during the summer at Carillon, captured Fort William Henry from Col. Monroe. This was the zenith of French power in America."**
1758 March 11
“…we proceeded as
far as the first narrows on Lake George, and encamped that evening on
the east-side of the lake…” Rogers
“…we halted at a
place called Sabbath-day Point, on the west-side of the lake, and sent
out parties to look down the lake with perspective glasses, which we had
for that purpose. As soon as it was dark we proceeded down the lake…”
“…in the morning, I
deliberated with the officers how to proceed, who were unanimously of
opinion, that it was best to go by land in snow-shoes, lest the enemy
should discover us on the lake; we accordingly continued our march on
the west-side, keeping on the back of the mountains that overlooked the
French advanced guards. At twelve of the clock we halted west of those
guards, and there refreshed ourselves till three, that the day-scout
from the fort might be returned home before we advanced; intending at
night to ambuscade some of their roads, in order to trepan them in the
morning. We then marched in two divisions,… having a rivulet at a small
distance on our left, and a steep mountain on our right. We kept close
to the mountain, that the advanced guard might better observe the
rivulet, on the ice of which I imagined they would travel if out, as the
snow was four feet deep, and very bad traveling on snow-shoes. In this
manner we marched a mile and a half, when our advanced guard informed me
of the enemy being in their view; and soon after, that they had
ascertained their number to be ninety-six, chiefly Indians. We
immediately laid down our packs, and prepared for battle, supposing
these to be the whole number or main body of the enemy, who were
marching on our left up the rivulet, upon the ice. I ordered Ensign
McDonald to the command of the advanced guard, which, as we faced to the
left, made a flanking party to our right. We marched to within a few
yards of the bank, which was higher than the ground we occupied; and
observing the ground gradually to descend from the bank of the rivulet
to the foot of the mountain, we extended our party along the bank, far
enough to command the whole of the enemy’s at once; we waited till their
front was nearly opposite to our left wing, when I fired a gun, as a
signal for a general discharge against them; whereupon we gave them the
first fire, which killed about forty Indians; the rest retreated, and
were pursued by about one half of our people.
I now imagined the
enemy totally defeated, and ordered Ensign McDonald to head the flying
remains of them, that none might escape; but we soon found our mistake,
and that the party we had attacked were only their advanced guard,
their main body coming up, consisting of 600 more, Canadians and
Indians; upon which I ordered our people to retreat to their own ground,
which we gained at the expense of fifty men killed; the remainder I
rallied, and drew up in pretty good order, where they fought with such
intrepidity and bravery as obliged the enemy (tho’ seven to one in
number) to retreat a second time; but we not being in a condition to
pursue them, they rallied again, and recovered their ground, and warmly
pushed us in front and both wings, while the mountain defended our rear;
but they were so warmly received, that their flanking parties soon
retreated to their main body with considerable loss. This threw the
whole again into disorder, and they retreated a third time; but our
number being now too far reduced to take advantage of their disorder,
they rallied again, and made a fresh attack upon us. About this time we
discovered 200 Indians going up the mountain on our right, as we
supposed, to get possession of the rising ground, and attack our rear;
to prevent which I sent Lieutenant Philips, with eighteen men, to gain
the first possession, and beat them back; which he did: and being
suspicious that the enemy would go round on our left, and take
possession of the other part of the hill, I sent Lieutenant Crafton,
with fifteen men, to prevent them there; and soon after desired two
Gentlemen, who were volunteers in the party, with a few men, to go and
support them, which they did with great bravery.
The enemy pushed us
so close in front, that the parties were not more than twenty yards
asunder in general, and sometimes intermixed with each other. The fire
continued almost constant for an hour and half from the beginning of the
attack, in which time we lost eight officers, and more than 100 private
men killed on the spot. We were at last obliged to break, and I with
about twenty men ran up the hill to Philips and Crafton, where we
stopped and fired on the Indians, who were eagerly pushing us, with
numbers that we could not withstand. Lieutenant Philips being surrounded
by 300 Indians, was at this time capitulating for himself and party, on
the other part of the hill. He spoke to me and said if the enemy would
give them good quarters, he thought it best to surrender, otherwise that
he would fight while he had one man left to fire a gun (This unfortunate
officer, and his whole party, after they surrendered, upon the strongest
assurances of good treatment from the enemy, were inhumanly tied up to
trees, and hewn to pieces, in a most barbarous and shocking manner).
I now thought it
most prudent to retreat, and bring off with me as many of my party as I
possibly could, which I immediately did; the Indians closely pursuing us
at the same time, took several prisoners… The number of the enemy was
about 700, 600 of which were Indians. By the best accounts we could get,
we killed 150 of them, and wounded as many more.” Rogers
"Engagement at South Bay between Capt. Israel Putnam with only 68 men and 300 to 400 French and Indians before which superior force Putnam was obliged to retreat."**
"At a little cove (Howe's Landing), Gen. Abercrombie landed from his flotilla of batteaux, rafts and boats his army of 9,000 provincial troops and 7,000 British veterans. As the van guard pushed through the dense woods they encountered the van of the French army, like themselves uncertain as to the way. Near Trout Brook, Putnam said to Lord Howe, who was leading his 1,500 veterans, "Keep back, keep back, my lord, you are the idol and soul of the army, and my life is worth but little." "Putnam" answered Howe, "your life is as dear to you as mine is to me. I am determined to go." At the first fire, Howe fell with another officer and several privates while Stark, Putnam, and Rogers with their rangers fought Indian fashion. Soon, with spirit broken, after great loss, with their beloved leader dead, the army marched back to their place of landing to bivouac until the next day."**
Assembled on the Southern shore of Lake George an expeditionary force of 15,000 men wait to embark on a mission to drive the French from the lakes. Setting out on July 5, 1758 under the command of General James Abercromby, the flotilla of some 1100 vessels will move up Lake George to take the Fortress of Carillon. The attack, regarded by many as a debacle of the worst sort, is to end in bitter defeat of the mighty British force by a much smaller force of French troops under Montcalm. The British Army, while impressive to see, was doomed from the outset. Accompanying the British regulars were some 9,000 provincial troops. Most of these had little or no training. Many had accumulated but a single day of training in the basics- how to fire a musket- prior to embarkation for Carillon. This fact, together with the incredible ineptness of Abercromby and the death of the one officer who perhaps could have led this army to victory, George Augustus Lord Viscount Howe, leads to a horrifying defeat at the Heights of Carillon- July 8, 1758.
"In the morning Abercrombie added to the depression of his troops by withdrawing the whole army to the protection of the works at the landing. At noon Col. Bradstreet advanced to the French sawmills at the lower falls which the French had abandoned. In the meantime the French toiled all day directed by Dupont Le Roy, a distinguished engineer, in constructing a parapet and an abattis. By evening the French were made glad by the arrival of 400 veterans."**
The mighty British army of Abercrombie is soundly defeated at the Heights of Carillon, The British lose 1,610 men killed, wounded or missing. The French-377. By some estimates, the British outnumber the French 4-1.
"De Levis, who had been recalled by Vaudreuil from an expedition undertaken against the Mohawk valley, arrived at Ticonderoga at five o'clock in the morning, accompanied by De Senezergues, destined to die with Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham. At about the same hour at the English camp three or four hundred Mohawks arrived. The attack began soon after noon and the conflict raged all that long hot July afternoon. Regiment after regiment was ordered forward until the crystal waters of Lake Horicon were red with blood. At last the hardy veterans, panic-stricken, fled in confusion, their retreat being covered by the Provincials."**
"Early in the morning the British troops embarked and by evening reached their old camp at the southern end of Lake George, while the wounded were conveyed to Fort Edward and Albany, to which the ammunition and artillery were also sent."**
"At daybreak De Levis, following the track of Abercrombie, found only 'vestiges of a stricken and routed army; the wounded and supplies abandoned, and clothing scattered through the woods.' "**
"Arrival at Ticonderoga of the younger Vaudreuil with 3,000 Canadians."**
"Six hundred Indians arrived to aid Montcalm. A few days later Rogers and Putnam with their commands were surprised by Marin and his Indians and Putnam and a few others were cut off from the main body. The men were slain and Putnam captured. In what was afterwards the town of Crown Point, the brave ranger was tied to an oak tree while his savage captor amused himself by hurling his tomahawk as near the head of his victim as possible, without striking the mark. Later, Marin himself released the unhappy Putnam when tied to the stake with the crackling flames already rising about him. The same Autumn Putnam's exchange was effected."**
"At Fort Edward, N.Y. whither he had been carried mortally wounded on the retreat of the army from Ticonderoga, died Duncan Campbell of Inverawe of the Black Watch, 42d Highland reg't. A brown head stone inscribed with his name and date of death, now marks the spot where his remains were re-interred some years ago."**
" 'The Marquis de Montcalm is gone to hold a Council with all the Nations, consisting of thirty-seven, and on his return has fixed the departure of the army.--Journal of the Expedition against Fort William Henry.' "**
"Amherst reached the head of Lake George with an army of 6,000 men, where he remained a month waiting for the remainder of the troops to come up."**
"The army of Amherst disembarked on the eastern shore of Lake George, nearly opposite the former landing place of Abercrombie."**
"While Amherst was engaged in preparing for a siege at Ticonderoga, De Burlemaque [Bourlamarque], the French commander of Carillon, retired to Fort Frederic(k) [Frédéric], leaving Hebencourt with 400 men of the La Reine regiment to hold the fort."**
Once again, a massive British force sails forth from the southern shores of Lake George. This army, together with a force of some 9,000 that sail up the St. Lawrence to attack Quebec City, will finally achieve the ultimate goal of the King. The multi-pronged attack on New France is to force the French to pull Montcalm and his forces back to defend the main cities of the Province. Leaving only a small force of 2300 men to fend off invasion from the south, Montcalm retires to Quebec to meet the British under Wolfe. Troops under General Jeffrey Amherst advance on Carillon. Brigadier Chevalier de Bourlamarque is now in command of Carillon. He is faced with certain defeat, knowing that his superiors are preoccupied with defense of the capitol, no relief will be available for the frontier fortresses. As the mighty British force advances from the south, Bourlamarque retreats to St. Frédéric at Crown Point, leaving behind a small force of 400 to delay the attackers and destroy Carillon behind them.
"At ten o'clock at night, deserters to the British camp informed Amherst that the French had abandoned the fort, but had left guns loaded and pointed with a lighted fuse connected with the powder magazine. Instantly an awful explosion resounded throughout the valley, announcing the blowing up of the fort at Ticonderoga."**
The Union Jack of Great Britain flies over the Fortress of Carillon. The fort is rebuilt and renamed Ticonderoga by the new occupants.
Amherst dispatches Major Robert Rogers and his Rangers to Crown Point to report on the condition of the French at St. Frédéric. Before the Rangers arrive, the French blow up the fortress and retreat to make a stand at Isle Aux Noix in the Richelieu river. St. Frédéric, unlike Carillon, is never rebuilt. The French have abandoned the Lake Champlain and Lake George region.
† Robert Rogers.
Journals of Major Robert Rogers: Containing An Account of Several Excursions
he made under the Generals who commanded upon the Continent of North
America, during the late War. 1765. London: J. Millan, Whitehall.
Reprinted numerous times by various publishers.
** THREE CENTURIES IN THE CHAMPLAIN VALLEY: A COLLECTION OF HISTORICAL FACTS AND INCIDENTS- TERCENTENARY EDITION. 1909: Compiled and Edited by Mrs. George Fuller Tuttle. Saranac Chapter, D.A.R. Plattsburgh, NY.
***David C. Glenn, "History Timeline," December 13, 2001. Personal email correspondence to author. Letter detailing errors and corrections to Fuller Tuttle work of 1909. (December 13, 2001).
Abercrombie expedition image: Warwick Stevens Carpenter. The Summer Paradise in History. Albany: General Passenger Department, The Delaware and Hudson Company. 1914. Courtesy of John and Barbara Gallagher.
The TIMELINE continues HERE
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