Search billions of records on Ancestry.com

HISTORY OF

SARATOGA COUNTY, NEW YORK.

by NATHANIEL BARTLETT SYLVESTER

1878

--------------------

CHAPTER XIII.

LAST FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR, 1755-63.

-------------------------

We have now come, in passing through the history of the long colonial wars of the old wilderness, to the last French and Indian war, which raged for a period of eight years, ending in the peace of 1763.

In this period was enacted a great drama of five acts:

1. The expedition of Sir William Johnson to Lake George, in 1755.

2. The expedition of General Winslow, of 1756.

3. Montcalm's campaign against Lake George, in 1757.

4. Abercrombie's march and defeat, of 1758.

5. The victory of Amherst on Lake Champlain, and of Wolfe at Quebec, of the year 1759.

During this war great armies marched through Saratoga along the old northern war-worn valley, dyeing its streams with blood, and filling its wild meadows with thousands of nameless new-made graves.

------------------------------

I. - SIR WILLIAM JOHNSON'S EXPEDITION IN 1755.

In the beginning of the year 1755, a plan of military operations, on a more extensive scale than had ever before been projected, was adopted by the British ministry for dispossessing the French upon the English territory. Three expeditions were fitted out: that of Braddock against Fort Du Quesne, another under Shirley against Niagara, and a third under Johnson against Crown Point. To carry out this latter expedition five thousand provincial troops were raised, of which number eight hundred were furnished by New York. This army assembled at Albany on the last of June, where it was joined by King Hendrick, with a large body of Mohawk warriors. Early in July, about six hundred men were sent up the Hudson river to erect a fort at the Great Carrying-Place, on the site of old Fort Nicholson. This fort was first called Fort Lyman: in honor of the officer commanding the advanced corps. In a few years it was changed to Fort Edward, in honor of Edward, Duke of York, grandson of the reigning sovereign, George the Second. It stood upon the bank of the Hudson, on the north side of Fort Edward creek. Other detachments of the army soon followed, one of which, under command of Colonel Miller, built a fort at the rapids above Saratoga. It was named Fort Miller. Colonel Miller also cut a military road upon the west side of the Hudson to Fort Edward, and thence through the forest to the head of Lake George.

On the 8th of August, Major-General William Johnson left Albany with the artillery, and took command of the army in person. The latter part of August he advanced with the main body of his forces to the head of Lake George, with the design of passing to the outlet of the lake at Ticonderoga, and erecting a fort there to aid in the operations against Crown Point, but the French reached Ticonderoga in advance of him, and strongly fortified themselves there. Aware of Johnson's enterprise against Crown Point, Baron Dieskau, the commander of the French forces on Lake Champlain, had collected about three thousand men for its defense. Expecting an immediate attack, he selected a force of two hundred grenadiers, eight hundred Canadian militia, and seven hundred Indians, proceeded up the lake, and landed at the head of South bay, to embarrass Johnson, who was then lying with his army at the head of Lake George. He resolved to capture Fort Edward, thence drop down the river, and menace Albany. Accordingly, on the 7th day of September, he marched south into the edge of Kingsbury, where he halted about seven miles north of Fort Edward. The French and Indians opposed the idea of assaulting Fort Edward, dreading the cannon, but were willing to attack Johnson at Lake George. Dieskau therefore changed his course, marching toward Lake George, and encamped over night near the southern extremity of French mountain.

Johnson, learning of the approach of Dieskau on the morning of the eighth, sent out Colonel Ephraim Williams with a thousand troops, and Hendrick with two hundred Indians, with orders to oppose the progress of the French. They had gone but four miles when they encountered the enemy. Dieskau, informed of their approach, had halted and prepared for their reception, forming his forces in a semicircle, the ends of which were far in advance of the centre, and concealed from view by the forest. Into this ambuscade the detachment under Colonel Williams marched wholly unconscious of their danger. Suddenly the war-whoop resounded all around them, and a galling fire was opened all along the front and left side of the column. Colonel Williams hastily changed his position and ordered his men to ascend the rising ground on their right, but this brought them on the other wing of the French forces. Williams and Hendrick, with numbers of their followers, fell, and the detachment retreated in great confusion. A large part of these troops were from western Massachusetts, and few families there were but mourned the loss of relatives or friends cut off in "the bloody morning scout at Lake George." When this advance was proposed, it was opposed by King Hendrick. He remarked, in the laconic language of his race, "If they're to fight, they're too few; if they're to be killed, they're too many." And when it was suggested that the detachment should be divided into three bodies, he gathered three sticks from the ground. "Put these together," he said, "and you cannot break them; then take them one by one, and you can break them readily."

Just before Williams began his march Hendrick mounted a stump and harangued his people. With his strong, masculine voice he might have been heard at least half a mile. One who heard him but did not understand his language, afterwards said, "The animation of Hendrick, the fire of his eye, the force of his gestures, his emphasis, the inflections of his voice, and his whole manner, affected him more than any speech he had ever heard."

Williams, who gallantly took his position upon a rock which is now the base of his own monument, fell early in action. Hendrick fell nearly at the same moment. The English forces, reaching Dieskau, doubled up and fled pell-mell to their intrenchments. They were soon relieved by Lieutenant-Colonel Whitting, however, and fought with more valor under cover of a party of about three hundred men, commanded by Colonel Cole, who had made their appearance. The detachment then retreated in good order to their camp. As soon as the stragglers began to come in, showing that the enemy was at hand, a barricade of logs was hastily thrown up in front of the English encampment. In a short time, Dieskau's troops made their appearance; they advanced with great regularity, their burnished muskets glittering in the sun. We can readily imagine that no small trepidation was caused among the English at the advancing platoons. A short pause was made by the French before commencing the attack; this enabled Johnson's men to recover from their panic, and when once fairly engaged they fought with the calmness and resolution of veterans. Johnson's camp was assailed by the grenadiers in front, and by the French and Indians upon both flanks. A few discharges of artillery against the Indians caused them to fall back and secure themselves behind logs and trees, from which they afterwards maintained an irregular fire. General Johnson being wounded early in the engagement, the command devolved upon General Lyman, who stationed himself in front of the breastworks and directed their movements.

For nearly four hours the battle lasted, the assailed still standing firm at every point. Dieskau at length ordered a retreat. So hastily did his men withdraw that their leader, having been wounded in the foot, was unable to keep pace with them. Reclining against a stump to obtain temporary relief from his pain, he was discovered by a soldier. Dieskau sought to propitiate the soldier by offering him his watch. As he searched for it, the soldier, mistaking his action for an attempt to reach his pistol, discharged his musket and gave him a wound in the left hip from which he died twelve years afterwards. The French retreated to the ground where the forenoon engagement had occurred, and there paused for the night. In the mean time, Colonel Blanchard, the commanding officer at Fort Edward, had sent out two hundred men to range the woods. Hearing the discharge of cannon in the direction of Johnson's camp, they knew that a battle was there in progress, and they hastened on to the scene of action. Reaching the French encampment after nightfall, they distributed themselves in positions from which they could fire with the most security and effect. A body of the French were washing and refreshing themselves from their packs upon a margin of a marshy pool in a hollow. At the first fire such numbers of these fell dead into and along the pool, and it became so discolored with blood, that it has since borne the name of "Bloody Pond." The surprise was so sudden that the French fled at all points, but soon rallied and returned to the charge. They maintained for a time a sharp conflict, but soon gave way and fled through the woods towards South bay, leaving their packs, baggage, and a number of prisoners in the hands of the victors, who conveyed them in triumph to Johnson's camp. With this final rout of the French army, the memorable engagement of the 8th of September, 1755, at Lake George closed. Seven hundred French were killed, and two hundred and thirty English.

This engagement takes rank as one of the most important in our nation's history. It exerted a great influence on our country's destiny. It showed that raw troops, fresh from the plow and workshop, who before had never been in the service, if properly officered and led, could compete with veterans of European history. The confidence in their own abilities which the battle of Lake George gave the provincials had no small influence upon the issue of this war, and in substantially leading our country into and through our Revolutionary contest. General Johnson now erected a fort at Lake George, which was named in honor of William Henry, Duke of Cumberland, brother of George the Third.

------------------------------

II. - WINSLOW'S EXPEDITION OF 1756.

In the summer of 1756 six thousand troops were collected, under Colonel Seth Winslow, who had commanded the expedition which the previous year had reduced Acadia. Advancing up the Hudson, he halted at Stillwater, and built a fort on the site of old Fort Ingoldsby, which he called Fort Winslow. Proceeding to Lake George, he remained during the summer, effecting little. The operations of this campaign were chiefly confined to Captain Rogers' Rangers along the shores of Lake George and Lake Champlain. The army of General Winslow returned in the fall, having accomplished nothing.

------------------------------

III. - MONTCALM'S INVESTMENT OF FORT GEORGE IN 1756.

On the 10th of August, 1756, Montcalm invested Oswego. He leveled the fortresses to the ground, and Oswego was left once more a solitude. Returning triumphantly, he lost no time in arranging his expedition against Fort William Henry, on Lake George. At Montreal ho held a council of the Indian tribes gathered there from Nova Scotia and Lake Superior. On the 12th of July he proceeded up Lake Champlain to Fort Carillon, at Ticonderoga, accompanied by eighteen hundred and six warriors. In addition to the Indians the French army was composed of three thousand and eighty-one regulars, two thousand nine hundred and forty-six Canadian militia, and one hundred and eight artillery, in all six thousand two hundred and fifteen men. General Webb, who was in command of the English forces, upon the 2d day of August dispatched Colonel Monroe from Fort Edward, with his regiment, to rendezvous at and take command of the Fort William Henry garrison, which then numbered two thousand two hundred men, four hundred and fifty of whom occupied the fort, and the remainder were posted in the fortified camp on the ground near the forts. General Webb remained at Fort Edward with the main army, amounting to four or five thousand men, which in a few days began to be augmented by the arrival of militia. Upon the 3d of August, Montcalm arrived with his force before old Fort William Henry, which he soon invested. Colonel Monroe sent from time to time to General Webb for assistance, but the pusillanimous Webb lay inactive, and paid no attention to his requests. Thus the garrison at Lake George held out day after day, expecting relief and reinforcements, but none came.

On the 8th of August, {original text has "June"} General Johnson obtained permission of Webb to march to the relief of the garrison, and Putnam and his Rangers volunteered; but this force had scarcely begun their march when Webb ordered them to return to their posts. Giving over all hopes of relief, his ammunition now nearly exhausted, Colonel Monroe, on the 9th of August, signed articles of capitulation. The garrison was to march out with the honors of war, retaining their arms and their baggage, and one cannon. Covered wagons were to be furnished for their baggage, and an escort of five hundred men to guard the garrison on their way to Fort Edward. A scene now ensued which beggars description, and fixes a stain upon Montcalm which dims the lustre of his triumphs. The Indians fell upon the musketeers, and butchered them in the most ferocious manner. It is but just to the French, however, to say that they did everything in their power to prevent the fiendish massacre; as savages, when once they have tasted blood, were not to be appeased or controlled. The miserable remnants of this ill-starred garrison, after struggling through the woods, reached Fort Edward in small parties, after sleeping in the open air.

The number that was massacred on this occasion was never definitely ascertained. Montcalm soon burned the fort and retired with his forces to Ticonderoga.

------------------------------

IV. -ABERCROMBIE'S EXPEDITION.

The famous but disastrous expedition of Abercrombie, in the year 1758, has been so often and fully related in our histories that it seems to need but a passing notice here.

As his expedition proceeded up Lake George, on the 5th day of July of that year, the old northern wilderness had never witnessed a more imposing and brilliant spectacle. With banners flying and bands of music sending forth their inspiriting strains, more than a thousand boats moved over the broad waters of the lake, in which were sixteen thousand men, their officers richly dressed in scarlet uniforms, and all joyous in the anticipation of the glory they were about to win. Four days afterwards, when this army came back shattered, dismayed, and sorrow-stricken, it presented a sad contrast. The boats were now filled with their dead and dying. In one of them was Lord Howe, a young nobleman of the highest promise, the idol of the English army. Of the different corps of this unfortunate army, a Highland regiment, commanded by Lord Murray, suffered the most. Of this regiment one-half the privates and twenty-five officers were killed or severely wounded. After reaching the head of Lake George, load after load of these miserable sufferers were brought to Fort Edward, there to breathe out their dying groans, and to mingle their dust with that of the surrounding plains. Dying, they were placed to rest in unmarked and unremembered graves. Of all that stricken multitude buried at Fort Edward, the name and place of only one grave is preserved to the present day. It is the grave of Duncan Campbell, of Invershaw, major of the old Highland regiment. Abercrombie remained for some time at Lake George, and finally returned to Albany, his expedition, like so many others, having proved a failure.

------------------------------

V. - EXPEDITION OF GENERAL AMHERST IN 1759.

In 1759, Major Amherst succeeded Abercrombie as commander-in-chief of the British army in America. In the month of June, at the head of an army of twelve thousand men, he advanced to Lake George. While here he commenced building Fort George, one of the most substantial fortifications ever reared in this direction. When passing down the lake to Ticonderoga, General Amherst, with his staff, landed on a Sunday upon the beautiful headland which is now so much admired by every one who crosses these waters. Since that day it has borne the name of Sabbath-day point. The French had scarcely two thousand men garrisoned in the fortresses on Lakes George and Champlain. On the 22d of July, Amherst invested Ticonderoga without opposition, and the advanced lines, which had been the scene of so much slaughter two years before under Abercrombie, were immediately abandoned by the French. On the 26th of July the French blew up Fort Carillon at Ticonderoga, and retired down the lake to Crown Point, leaving the heavy artillery and twenty men in possession. Amherst soon advanced against Crown Point. On the 1st of August Crown Point was abandoned by the French, and they withdrew down Lake Champlain to its northern extremity.

Three days afterwards Amherst moved forward with his forces, and occupied the fort at Crown Point. Amherst spent the remainder of the season in rebuilding and enlarging the stupendous fortifications at Crown Point, Ticonderoga, and Lake George. The ruins of these forts at the present day are objects of great interest to the tourist. The works alone at Crown Point, it is said, cost the British treasury two millions of pounds sterling. It was during the autumn of this year that Quebec was wrested from Montcalm by the victorious Wolfe, and the sceptre of France over her long-fought-for and much-prized Canadian possessions fell from her grasp forever.

------------------------------

VI. - ORIGIN OF YANKEE DOODLE.

It was during the next to the last campaign of the French and Indian wars that this famous national air had its birth. In the summer of 1758, before advancing northward, the British army lay encamped on the eastern bank of the Hudson, a little south of the city of Albany, on the ground once belonging to Jeremiah Van Rensselaer. Vestiges of their encampment remained for a long time; and after a lapse of sixty years, when a great proportion of the actors of those days had passed away from the earth, the inquisitive traveler could observe the remains of the ashes, the places where they boiled their camp-kettles. It was this army that, under the command of Abercrombie, was foiled with a severe loss in the attack on Ticonderoga, where the distinguished Howe fell at the head of his troops, in an hour that history has consecrated to fame. In the early part of June the eastern troops began to pour in, company after company; and such a motley assemblage of men never before thronged together on such an occasion, unless an example may be found in the ragged regiment of Sir John Falstaff, of right merry and facetious memory. It would have relaxed the gravity of an anchorite to have seen the descendants of the Puritans marching through the streets of our ancient city, to take their station on the left of the British army; some with long coats, some with short coats, and others with no coats at all, in colors as varied as the rainbow; some with their hair cropped like the army of Cromwell, and others with wigs, whose curls flowed around their shoulders. Their march, their accoutrements, and the whole arrangement of the troops furnished matter of amusement to the wits of the British army. The music played the airs of two centuries ago, and the tout ensemble exhibited a sight to the wondering strangers that they had been unaccustomed to in their own land.

Among the club of wits that belonged to the British army, there was a physician, attached to the staff, by the name of Dr. Shackburg, who combined with the science of a surgeon the skill and talents of a musician. To tease Brother Jonathan he composed a tune, and with much gravity recommended it to the officers as one of the most celebrated airs of martial music. The joke took, to the no small amusement of the British corps. Brother Jonathan exclaimed it was nature fine; and in a few days nothing was heard in the provincial camp but the name of Yankee Doodle. Little did the author or his coadjutors then suppose that an air made for the purpose of levity and ridicule should ever be marked for such high destinies. In twenty years from that time our national march inspired the hearts of the heroes of Bunker Hill. It was the tune played by the American band as the conquered British took up their march from the "field of the grounded arms" at Old Saratoga, on the 17th day of October, 1777, and in less than thirty years Lord Cornwallis and his army marched into the American lines to the tune of Yankee Doodle.

----------------------------------------

NEXT --- HOME

Transcribed from the original text and html prepared by Bill Carr, last updated 2/7/00.

Please provide me with any feedback you may have concerning errors in the transcription or any supplementary information concerning the contents. wcarr1@nycap.rr.com


Back to Saratoga County GenWeb


Copyright ©1999,2000 Bill Carr and Heritage Hunters of Saratoga County

All Rights Reserved.