The few miles between Fort Edward and Lake George – Glens Falls being about
midway – was, in early times, known as "The Great Carry," a landbreak in the
water communication between New York and Quebec via the Hudson River.
Lakes George and Champlain and the Richelieu and St. Lawrence
Rivers. It was, therefore, a region of strategic importance in commanding
this important natural waterway. It was the warpath of savage tribes before
the advent of white men, and especially the scene of almost constant bloody conflict
during the long French and English and during the Revolution. This "Carry"
was dotted with fortifications; the principal being Fort Edward, at the then head of
navigation on the Hudson, Fort Amherst at Glens Falls, and Fort William Henry at the
head of Lake George. The whole of this little distance abounds in historic interest
and is made romantic by Cooper's Last of the Mohicans.
In August, 1755, Sir William Johnson with three or four thousand Colonials camped
at the Lake, which for a century had been called Lac St. Sacrement, which he promptly
changed to Lake George in honor of his king. Baron Dieskau commanded the gathered
French, Canadians and Indian auxiliaries at Ticonderoga, at the other end of the Lake,
and taking the bold initiative moved against Fort Edward, but arriving in the vicinity of
Glens Falls he decided to surprise General Johnson. "The Bloody Morning Scout" and
death of Colonel Ephraim Williams, was on the same day (September 7th, 1755).
followed by the desperate battle of Lake George, resulting in Dieskau's defeat and has
being left on the field three times wounded.
The English realizing the importance of the position then began building Fort
William Henry, while the French entrenched themselves at Ticonderoga and this beautiful lake became the highway for scout, maraud and Foray.
In March, 1757, a French expedition marched on the frozen lake to surprise and
capture Fort William Henry, then commanded by Captain Eyre, an engineer officer who
had escaped from Braddock's defeat and who ably served the artillery in the Battle of
The surprise failed, and after a few days of threatening, harmless firing
and Indian war-whooping it returned to Ticonderoga. But the French General Montcalm waited his time, and in July, 1757, gathered a force of some 6,000 regulars and
Canadians, and a large, far fetched Indian contingent for the capture of Fort William Henry.
August 1st, the main army embarked and made a fine pageant, "gay with banners.
brilliant. costumes and savage bravery," as it slowly proceeded up the Lake.
Colonel Monroe, a brave
Scotchman, commanded at the
head of the Lake with about 2,200
men about $00 in the fort and the
rest in an entrenched camp. Fort
William Henry was a four-bastion-ed fortification of logs covered with
earth, protected by the Lake on
the north, on the east by a ravine
and on the south and west by a
deep ditch and chevaux-de-frise.
It seventeen cannon of poor
metal, some swivels and mortars,
and had a silent, mortal enemy
within – the smallpox.
After scouting and reconnoitering Montcalm decided
against assault and commenced
siege operations. Colonel Monroe
reasonably expected reinforcements from General Webb,
commanding at Fort Edward, and it was not to the credit of this general that he withheld
them. On the third day of the siege a messenger from General Webb was
captured by the French with a dispatch to Colonel Monroe stating that no reinforcements would be sent him. This encouraged Montcalm to press the siege and his works
approached nearer and nearer the fort. August 9th, 1757, the sixth day of the siege, with
thirty-two French canon in position at short range, with the walls of the fort already
much battered down, its poor guns burst or otherwise disabled, outnumbered, and assault
sure to succeed and bring the of Indian butchery, the forlorn and worn-out garrison were compelled to decide upon surrender. The terms were the marching out with war
honors and personal effects and to be safeguarded to Fort Edward. At noon the fallen
garrison marched out, and during the ceremonies of capitulation Indians climbed through
the casemates of the fort and murdered the smallpox sick, which wrought its own vengeance, the contracted disease afterwards wasting the tribes. The savages hung about the
fallen garrison, sullen and dissatisfied in being deprived of captives, scalps and plunder,
and even pushed through the French guard, threateningly handling the long hair of the
cowering women and terrifying the children among the prisoners. They plundered the
camp chests of the resisting English officers and "things looked ugly." Montcalm was
summoned and begged and threatened his savages to observe the terms of surrender.
The situation at this time is the subject of Mr. Ferris' sketch, owned by the
Glens Falls Insurance Company, excellently reproduced on the other side.
However Montcalm may have succeeded in staying the Indians for a little, a massacre
followed which stands wickedly disgraceful among the war cruelties of history. We have
no room for the sickening particulars, but the wounded, women and children, were included in the butchery. Some escaped half and even stark naked to the woods, fleeing
toward Fort Edward, guided by its guns, which were kept booming for the purpose.
Many were rescued by the French and others were taken captive and hurried away for
the price which the French had promised, but a fearful number, variously estimated,
were slaughtered by the red fiends of Montcalm's command. "The Massacre of Lake
George" robbed the French of the glory of their victory and sadly stained their honor.
In correspondence between Generals Webb and Montcalm concerning the massacre,
the latter tried to vindicate himself by saying: "You know what it is to restrain 3,000
Indians of 33 nations," showing how large a savage contingent he had gathered from far
Montcalm razed Fort William Henry and burned its wooden walls, but its outline can
yet be distinctly traced in the pine grove immediately to the east of the hotel of same name.
Back to the Stories of the French & Indian and Revolutionary Wars.