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Surrender of Fort William Henry, Lake George, NY, August 9, 1757

The "Black Watch" at Ticonderoga, July 8, 1758

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 Lake George.

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 and wide.

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.

Site of Fort William Henry

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