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Arrival at Caldwell.
Indian and French Names of Lake George. Fort William Henry. Attack upon Johnson's Camp, 1755.
and it has ever since been called Bloody Pond. I alighted in the rain, and made my way through tall wet grass and tangled vines, over a newly-cleared field, until I got a favorable view for the sketch here presented, which I hope the reader will highly prize, for it cost a pair of boots, a linen " sack” ruined by the dark droppings from a cotton umbrella, and a box of cough lozenges.
It was almost noon when we reined up at the Lake House at Caldwell. We had anticipated much pleasure from the first sight of Horicon, but a mist covered its waters, and its mountain frame-work was enveloped in fog ; so we reserved our sentiment for use the next fair day, donned dry clothing, and sat quietly down in the parlor to await the sovereign pleasure of the storm.
Lake George is indeed a beautiful sheet of water, and along its whole length of thirty-six miles almost every island, bay, and bluff is clustered with historic associations. On account of the purity of its waters, the Indians gave it the name of Horicon, or Silver Water. They also called it Canideri-oit, or The Tail of the Lake, on account of its connection with Lake Champlain.' It was visited by Samuel Champlain in 1609, and some suppose that he gave his name to this lake instead of the one which now bears it. It is fair to infer, from his own account, that he penetrated southward as far as Glenn's Falls; and it is not a little remarkable that in the same year, and possibly at the same season, Hendrick Hudson was exploring below the very stream near the head-waters of which the French navigator was resting. Strange that two adventurers, in the service of different sovereigns ruling three thousand miles away, and approaching from different points of the compass, so nearly met in the vast forests of wild America. The French, who afterward settled at Chimney Point, on Lake Champlain, frequently visited this lake, and gave it the name of Sacrament, its pure waters suggesting the idea.” The little village of Caldwell contains about two hundred inhabitants, and is situated
near the site of Fort William Henry, at the head of the lake, a fortress erected by General Johnson toward the close of 1755, after his battle there with the French under Dieskau. That battle occurred on the same day when Colonel Williams and his detachment were routed at Rocky Brook. The French pursued the retreating English vigorously, and about noon they were seen approaching in considerable force and regular order, aiming directly toward the center of the British encampment. When within one hundred rods of the breast-works, in the open valley in front of the elevation on which Fort George (now a picturesque ruin) was afterward built, Dieskau halt
ed and disposed his Indians and Canadians upon the Fort WILLIAM HENRY.
right and left flanks. The regular troops, under the
immediate command of the baron, attacked the English center, but, having only small arms, the effect was trifling. The English reserved their fire until the Indians and Canadians were close upon them, when with sure aim they poured upon them a volley of musket-balls which mowed them down like grass before the
Spafford's Gazetteer of New York. 2 The bed of the lake is a yellowish sand, and the water is so transparent that a white object, such as an earthen plate, may be seen upon the bottom at a depth of nearly forty feet. The delicious salmon trout, that weigh from five to twenty pounds, silver trout, pike, pickerel, and perch are found here in great abundance, and afford fine sport and dainty food for the swarms of visitors at the Lake House during the summer season.
3 The extent of the embankments and fosse of this fort was fourteen hundred feet, and the barracks were built of wood upon a strong foundation of lime-stone, which abounds in the neighborhood. This plan is copied from a curious old picture by Blodget, called a “ Prospective Plan of the Battles near Lake George, 1755."
Battle of Lake George, and Death of Dieskau.
Weakness of British Commanders.
The Six Nations.
scythe. At the same moment a bomb-shell was thrown among them by a howitzer, while two field pieces showered upon them a quantity of grape-shot. The savage allies, and almost as savage colonists, greatly terrified, broke and fled to the swamps in the neighborhood. The regulars maintained their ground for some time, but, abandoned by their companions, and terribly galled by the steady fire from the breast-works, at length gave way, and Dieskau attempted a retreat. Observing this, the English leaped over their breast-works and pursued them. The French were dispersed in all directions, and Dieskau, wounded and helpless, was found leaning upon the stump of a tree. As the provincial soldier' who discovered him approached, he put his hand in his pocket to draw out his watch as a bribe to allow him to escape. Supposing that he was feeling for a pocket pistol, the soldier gave him a severe wound in the hip with a musket-ball. He was carried into the English camp in a blanket and tenderly treated, and was soon afterward taken to Albany, then to New York, and finally to England, where he died from the effects of his wounds. Johnson was wounded at the commencement of the conflict in the fleshy part of his thigh, in which a musket-ball lodged, and the whole battle was directed for five consecutive hours by General Lyman, the second in command.'
Johnson's Indians, burning with a fierce desire to avenge the death of Hendrick, were eager to follow the retreating enemy; and General Lyman proposed a vigorous continuation of efforts by attacking the French posts at Ticonderoga and Crown Point, on Lake Champlain. But Johnson, either through fear, love of ease, or some other inexplicable cause, withheld his consent, and the residue of the autumn was spent in erecting Fort William Henry
In the colonial wars, as well as in the war of our Revolution, the British government was often unfortunate in its choice of commanders. Total inaction, or, at best, great tardiness, frequently marked their administration of military affairs. They could not comprehend the elastic activity of the provincials, and were too proud to listen to their counsels. This tardiness and pride cost them many misfortunes, either by absolute defeat in battle, or the theft of glorious opportunities for victory through procrastination. Their shrewd savage allies saw and lamented this, and before the commissioners of the several colonies, who met at Albany in 1754 to consult upon a plan of colonial alliance, in which the Six Nations: were invited to join, Hendrick administered a pointed rebuke to the governor and military commanders. The sachems were first addressed by James Delancy, then lieutenant-governor of New York; and Hendrick, who was a principal speaker, in the course of a reply remarked, “ Brethren, we have not as yet confirmed the peace with them (meaning the French-Indian allies). 'Tis your fault, brethren ; we are not strengthened by conquest, for we should have gone and taken Crown Point, but you hindered us. We had concluded to go and take it, but were told it was too late, that the ice would not bear us. Instead of this, you burned your own fort at Sar-ragh-to-gee (near old Fort Hardy), and ran away from it, which was a shame and a scandal to you. Look about your country, and see ; you have no fortifications about you—no, not even to this city. 'Tis but one step from Canada hither, and the French may easily come and turn you out of doors.
“ Brethren, you were desirous we should open our minds and our hearts to you: look at
This soldier is believed to have been General Seth Pomeroy, of Northampton, Massachusetts.—Ever. ett's Life of Stark.
. At this battle General Stark, the hero of Bennington, then a lieutenant in the corps of Rogers's Rangers, was first initiated in the perils and excitements of regular warfare.
3 The Six Nations consisted of the tribes of the Mohawks, Onondagas, Oneidas, Senecas, Cayugas, and Tuscaroras. The first five were a long time allied, and known as the Five Nations. They were joined by the Tuscaroras of North Carolina in 1714, and from that time the confederation was known by the title of the Six Nations. Their great council fire was in the special keeping of the Onondagas, by whom it was always kept burning. This confederacy was a terror to the other Indian tribes, and extended its con. quests even as far as South Carolina, where it waged war against, and nearly exterminated, the once powerful Catawbas. When, in 1744, the Six Nations ceded a portion of their lands to Virginia, they insisted on the continuance of a free war-path through the ceded territory.
Montcalm's first Attack on Fort William Henry. Perfidy and Cowardice of Webb.
Vigilance of Stark.
the French, they are men—they are fortifying every where; but, we are ashamed to say it, you are like women, bare and open, without any fortifications."
The head of Lake George was the theater of a terrible massacre in 1757. Lord Loudon, a man of no energy of character, and totally deficient in the requisites for a military leader, was appointed that year governor of Virginia, and commander-in-chief of all the British forces in North America. A habit of procrastination, and his utter indecision, thwarted all his active intentions, if he ever had any, and, after wasting the whole season in getting here and preparing to do something, he was recalled by Pitt, then prime minister, who gave as a reason for appointing Lord Amherst in his place, that the minister never heard from him, and could not tell what he was doing.”
Opposed to him was the skillful and active French commander, the Marquis Montcalm, who succeeded Dieskau. Early in the spring he made an attempt to capture Fort William March 16, Henry. He passed up Lake George on St. Patrick's eve, landed stealthily behind
1757. Long Point, and the next afternoon appeared suddenly before the fort. A part of the garrison made a vigorous defense, and Montcalm succeeded only in burning some buildings and vessels which were out of reach of the guns at the fort.He returned to Ticonderoga, at which post and at Crown Point he mustered all his forces, amounting to nine thousand men, including Canadians and Indians, and in July prepared for another attempt to capture Fort William Henry.
General Webb, who was commander of the forces in that quarter, was at Fort Edward with four thousand men. He visited Fort William Henry under an escort of two hundred men commanded by Major Putnam, and while there he sent that officer with eighteen Rangers down the lake, to ascertain the position of the enemy on Champlain. They were discovered to be more numerous than was supposed, for the islands at the entrance of Northwest Bay were swarming with French and Indians. Putnam returned, and begged General Webb to let him go down with his Rangers in full force and attack them, but he was allowed only to make another reconnoissance, and bring off two boats and their crews which he left fishing. The enemy gave chase in canoes, and at times nearly surrounded them, but they reached the fort in safety.
Webb caused Putnam to administer an oath of secrecy to his Rangers respecting the proximity of the enemy, and then ordered him to escort him back immediately to Fort Edward. This order was so repugnant to Putnam, both as to its perfidy and unsoldierly character, that he ventured to remonstrate by saying, “I hope your excellency does not intend to neglect so fair an opportunity of giving battle should the enemy presume to land.” Webb coolly and cowardly replied, “ What do you think we should do here?” The near approach of the enemy was cruelly concealed from the garrison, and under his escort the general returned to Fort Edward. The next day he sent Colonel Monroe with a regiment to re-enforce and to take command of the garrison at Lake George.
Montcalm, with more than nine thousand men, and a powerful train of artillery, landed
Reported for the Gentlemen's Magazine, London, 1755. ? This is asserted by Dr. Franklin in his Autobiography (Sparks's Life, 219), where he gives an anecdote illustrative of the character of Loudon. Franklin had occasion to go to his office in New York, where he met a Mr. Innis, who had brought dispatches from Philadelphia from Governor Denny, and was awaiting his lordship's answer, promised the following day. A fortnight afterward he met Innis, and expressed his surprise at his speedy return. But he had not yet gone, and averred that he had called at Loudon's office every morning during the fortnight, but the letters were not yet ready. “Is it possible,” said Franklin, “ when he is so great a writer ? I see him constantly at his escritoire.” “ Yes," said Innis, " but he is like St. George on the signs, always on horseback, but never rides forward."
3 The garrison and fort were saved by the vigilance of Lieutenant Stark, who, in the absence of Rogers, had command of the Rangers, a large portion of which were Irishmen. On the evening of the 16th he overheard some of these planning a celebration of St. Patrick's (the following day). He ordered the sutler not to issue spirituous liquors the next day without a written order. When applied to he pleaded a lame wrist as an excuse for not writing, and his Rangers were kept sober. The Irish in the regular regiments got drunk, as usual on such an occasion. Montcalm anticipated this, and planned his attack on the night of St. Patrick's day. Stark, with his sober Rangers, gallantly defended and saved the fort.
Montcalm's second Attack on Fort William Henry.
Surrender of the Garrison.
Perfidy of the French and Indians.
at the head of the lake, and beleaguered the garrison, consisting of less than three thousand men.' He sent in proposals to Monroe for a surrender of the fort, urging his humane desire to prevent the bloodshed which a stubborn resistance would assuredly cause. Monroe, confidently expecting re-enforcements from Webb, refused to listen to any such proposals. The French then commenced the siege, which lasted six consecutive days, without much slaughter on either side. Expresses were frequently sent to General Webb in the mean while, imploring aid, but he remained inactive and indifferent in his camp at Fort Edward. General Johnson was at last allowed to march, with Putnam and his Rangers, to the relief of the beleaguered garrison ; but when about three miles from Fort Edward, Webb recalled them, and sent a letter to Monroe, saying he could render him no assistance, and advising him to surrender. This letter was intercepted by Montcalm, and gave him great joy, for he had been informed by some Indians of the movements of the provincials under Johnson and Putnam, who represented them to be as numerous as the leaves on the trees. Alarmed at this, Montcalm was beginning to suspend the operations of the siege preparatory to a retreat, when the letter from the pusillanimous Webb fell into his hands. He at once sent it in to Monroe, with proposals for an immediate surrender.
Monroe saw that his case was hopeless, for two of his cannon had bursted, and his ammunition and stores were nearly exhausted. Articles of capitulation were agreed upon, and, under promise of protection, the garrison marched out of the fort preparatory to being escorted to Fort Edward.”
The savages, two thousand warriors in number, were enraged at the terms of capitulation, for they were induced to serve in this expedition by a promise of plunder. This was denied them, and they felt at liberty to throw off all restraint. As soon as the last man left the gate of the fort, they raised the hideous war-whoop, and fell upon the English with the fury of demons. The massacre was indiscriminate and terrible, and the French were idle spectators of the perfidy of their allies. They refused interference, withheld the promised escort, and the savages pursued the poor Britons with great slaughter, half way to
Fifteen hundred of them were butchered or carried into hopeless captivity. Montcalm utterly disclaimed all connivance, and declared his inability to prevent the massacre without ordering his men to fire upon the Indians. But it left a deep stain upon his otherwise humane character, and the indignation excited by the event aroused the English colonists to more united and vigorous action.
Montcalm burned and otherwise destroyed every thing connected with the forti- August 9, fication. Major Putnam, who had been sent with his Rangers from Fort Edward
1757. to watch the movements of Montcalm, reached Lake George just as the rear of the enemy left the shore, and truly awful was the scene there presented, as described by himself : “ The fort was entirely demolished; the barracks, out-houses, and buildings were a heap of ruins ; the cannon, stores, boats, and vessels were all carried away. The fires were still burning, the smoke and stench offensive and suffocating. Innumerable fragments, human skulls and bones, and carcasses half consumed, were still frying and broiling in the decaying fires.
1 The place where Montcalm landed is a little north of the Lake House, at Caldwell, and about a mile from the site of the fort.
* It was stipulated, 1st. That the garrison should march out with their arms and baggage; 2d. Should be escorted to Fort Edward by a detachment of French troops, and should not serve against the French for a term of eighteen months ; 3d. The works and all the warlike stores should be delivered to the French ; 4th. That the sick and wounded of the garrison should remain under the protection of Montcalm, and should be permitted to return as soon as they were recovered.
* Dr. Belknap. * The defile through which the English retreated, and in which so many were slaughtered, is called the Bloody Defile. It is a deep gorge between the road from Glenn's Falls to Lake George and the high range of bills northward, called the French Mountain. In excavations for the plank road near the defile a large number of skeletons were exhumed. I saw the skull of one, which was of an enormous size, at least one third larger than any other human head I ever saw. The occipital portion exhibited a long fracture, evidently made by a tomahawk.
Destruction of Fort William Henry.
Brilliant Expedition under Abercrombie.
Visit to the Ruins of Fort George.
Dead bodies, mangled with scalping-knives and tomahawks in all the wantonness of Indian fierceness and barbarity, were every where to be seen. More than one hundred women, butchered and shockingly niangled, lay upon the ground, still weltering in their gore. Devastation, barbarity, and horror every where appeared, and the spectacle presented was too diabolical and awful either to be endured or described.”
Fort William Henry was never rebuilt. Upon an eminence about a mile southeast of it, and half a mile from the lake, Fort George was erected, but it was never a scene of very stirring events. A little south of Fort George was a small fortification called Fort Gage, so named in honor of General Gage, who served under Lord Amherst, and succeeded him in the command of the forces in America in 1760, and was Governor of Massachusetts when the Revolution broke out. Hardly a vestige of this fort can now be seen.
The English, under General Abercrombie and the young Lord Howe, quartered at Fort George in 1758, preparatory to an attack upon the French posts upon Lake Champlain. Seven thousand regulars and nine thousand provincial troops were there assembled, with a fine train of artillery and all necessary military stores, the largest and best-appointed army yet seen in America. On the 5th of July they embarked on Lake George, on board nine hundred bateaux and one hundred and thirty-five whale-boats, and the next day landed at the foot of the lake and pushed on toward Ticonderoga. Of the events which befell them there I shall hereafter write. Let us glance a moment at the present.
Toward evening the rain abated, and, accompanied by an old resident shoemaker as guide, I made a visit to the remains of the two English forts. The elder one (Fort William Henry) stood directly upon the lake shore, on the west side of a clear mountain stream called West Creek, the main inlet of Lake George. Nothing of it now remains but a few mounds and shallow ditches, so leveled and filled that the form of the works can not be distinctly traced. The road along the lake shore passes across the northeast and northwest angles, but the features of the past are hardly tangible enough to attract the attention of a passer-by. A little southwest of the fort, at the base of Rattlesnake or Prospect Hill, is a level clearing called the French Field. It is the place where Dieskau halted and disposed his troops for action. Many of the slain were buried there ; and I saw a rough-hewn stone at the head of a grave, upon which was inscribed, in rude characters, “ Jacques Cortois, 1755."
Fort George, the remains of which are scattered over several acres, was situated about a mile southeast from William Henry, upon an eminence gently sloping back from the lake. The dark limestone or black marble, such as is found at Glenn's Falls, here every where approaching near the surface or protruding above, formed a solid foundation, and supplied ample materials for a fortress. A quadrangular citadel, or sort of castle, was built within the lines of breast-works, and the ruins of this constitute all that is left of the old fort. I observed vestiges of the foundations of the barracks and other buildings; and the quarries whence materials were taken for the buildings and ramparts seem almost as fresh as if just opened. The wall of the citadel, on the eastern side (the left of the picture), is now about twenty feet high. Within the ancient area of the fort there is just sufficient earth to nourish a thick growth of dark juniper bushes, which, with the black rocks and crumbling masonry, presented a somber aspect. Both forts commanded a fine view of the lake for ten miles north.
The indications of fair weather which lured me out suddenly disappeared, and before I reached the Lake House the heavy clouds that came rolling up from the south poured
RUINS OF THE CITADEL OF FORT GEORGE. down their contents copiously. Dark masses of vapor hovered upon the mountains that begirt the lake, and about sunset the tops of all