Montcalm's Victory at Ticonderoga ( Fort Carillon )
July 8, 1758
Called "the Key to the Continent" and "the Gibraltar of the North," Fort Ticonderoga by the British . It controlled the strategically critical portage between Lakes George and Champlain in the eighteenth century and played an important role in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. To bar the road to Montreal to British, the French had as defences : in the first line, at the confluence of the La Chute river into lake Champlain, a fort which they named Fort Carillon . French troops began construction of the fort in 1755, . The British captured the fort in 1759 and renamed it Fort Ticonderoga. The storming of the fort on May 10, 1775, by Benedict Arnold, Ethan Allen, and the Green Mountain Boys was America's first victory of the Revolutionary War.
map of the battle of Ticonderoga
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A Map of the Country between Crown Point and Fort Edward
Click here for a larger image .
From The Gentleman's Magazine 1759 This magazine important contemporary source of information for the British public. It ran uninterrupted for almost 200 years, from 1731 to 1922.
It was the first to use the term magazine (from the French magazine, meaning "storehouse") for a periodical.
Gen. James Abercrombie
While the British were attacking Louisbourg, 17,000 British and colonial troops were also gathering to attack Fort Carillon at Ticonderoga under Gen. James Abercrombie ( 1706 - 1781 ) and a ranger force under Lord Howe at Albany. This was the largest army ever assembled in North America . Against this force, Montcalm (1712 - Sept 14, 1759 ) only had 3,000 French and Indian troops at the French star-shaped fort known as a trace italienne which proved better defense against artillery than a straight wall . While Abercrombie was a master of organization, as seen by his large flotilla used in the battle, he was not decisive in battle, which earned him the nickname " Mrs. Nanny Cromby ."
Battle of Carillon
The Battle of Carillon, also known as the 1758 Battle of Ticonderoga, was fought on July 8, 1758, during the French and Indian War known in modern Quebec as the War of Conquest. It was fought near Fort Carillon, on the shore of Lake Champlain. In the battle, which took place primarily on a rise about three-quarters of a mile from the fort itself, a French army of about 4,000 men under General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm and the Chevalier de Levis decisively defeated an overwhelmingly numerically superior force of British troops under General James Abercrombie, which frontally assaulted an entrenched French position without using field artillery. The battle was the bloodiest of the war, with over 2,500 casual
ties suffered, of which over 2,000 were British Soldiers.
A Large British Force Sails - The Daring Plan of Moncalm
The British force Embarks
Maurice Sautai 1920
The army sailed up Lake George in an large armada, 900 barks, 135 barges and a great number of flat boats, intended to convey a park of artillery, in sum total nearly 1,500 vessels a mile wide and seven miles long and landed without almost any opposition about two miles from Fort Carillon on July 6, 1758 .
The commander of this fine army was General Abercrombie, heavy of body and mind, prematurely aged. Political influences had forced his selection by Pitt, but the Minister expected the actual conduct of the army would be controlled in reality by an officer having the most brilliant prospects, Brigadier General George Augustus Howe ( c.1725 - July 6, 1758 ). Only 34 years of age, endowed with virile energy, Lord Howe had introduced some successful reforms in the army such as making the uniforms and headgear more practical and instructed the troops in Abercrombie's army in the manner of marching, forming, and fighting in the woods in the American Indian fighting style of the Rodger's Rangers .
The War That Made America: Turning the Tide
The Battle of Carillon
While the English were putting the last touches to the preparation for their embarkation, Montcalm reviewed with coolness the dangers of his situation and adopted prompt measures to avoid them. He knew too well the importance of Carillon, "the key of navigation and consequently of the country," to abandon it without fighting the enemy. "Activity and audacity are our only resources," he writes in his journal under date of July 1st, and this same day, in spite of the disproportion of his forces, he did not hesitate to leave the protection of the cannon of Carillon and occupy the north shore of Lake George, the place where the English would probably disembark. By this movement in advance, he hoped to impress the enemy and delay their approach for a few days, time sufficient to enable M. de Vaudreuil to furnish the reinforcements the hazardous situation demanded.
It was not Montcalm's plan to establish himself on the shores of Lake George, and to oppose the disembarkment of the English with all his forces, because the position did not favor it, but to entrench closer to Fort Carillon . Lord Howe, Lieutenant Colonel Bradstreet and Major Rogers went together to reconnoitre the landings at the Carry. Discovering only a weak French detachment, they reported immediately to Abercrombie there would be no opposition to his landing. About 9 o'clock the British army took possession of the shore of Lake George. General Abercrombie, hoping to invest Carillon the same day by the left bank of the Fall river, formed his troops in four columns, two of regulars in the centre and two of militia in the wings, moving forward as soon as the formation was complete.
Abercrombie had not realized the difficulties to be met in a country covered with a thick virgin forest, through which it was necessary to chop out a road. Having no outlook, advancing over uneven ground little known to their guides, it was not long before the columns were broken and commingled. After a disordered march, long and exhausting, the British Army had advanced but little and had not yet reached the banks of the Bernetz river at 4 o'clock .
Fort Ticonderoga -Living Conditions During
The French and Indian War
A Skirmish - The Death of Howe
The death of Brigadier General George Augustus Howe
( c.1725 - July 6, 1758 )
put the British forces in disarray .
He was buried in Albany, New York .
The British force Embarks
Maurice Sautai 1920
With Major Putnam and 200 wood rangers, Lord Howe marched at the head of the column on the right of the regulars, when suddenly they heard the challenge, "Qui vive?" "Franqais!" replied the English, though without deceiving their adversaries, who replied with a deadly volley. Lord Howe fell, mortally wounded; the column following him wavered a moment, on the point in' dispersing, but the firm stand of the wood rangers gave them time to recover, when the French detachment, overwhelmed by superior forces, saw themselves compelled, after a vigorous resistance, mostly to surrender.
One hundred and forty-eight prisoners, including several officers, remained in the hands of the English. About 50 Frenchmen lost their lives in this fight, and only about 100 succeeded in escaping and rejoined Montcalm carrying M. de Trepezec mortally wounded and M. de Langy slightly touched. The English suffered less in the conflict, but the death of Lord Howe was an irreparable loss to them.
Major Thomas Mante , English army officer, historian and military writer, and later aspy in the pay of the French government.( 1733 - 1802 ) wrote, "It seemed the soul of the army of General Abercrombie expired at the death of Lord Howe. From the disastrous moment when the General was deprived of his advice order and discipline were no longer observed and a strange infatuation usurped the place of determination."
The consequences of this fatal loss were soon to make themselves felt. The whole army uselessly remained the entire night under arms in the midst of the forest. At dawn, as the troops were already very tired by the lake crossing, by their laborious inarch through the forest, and by the want of provisions, "having been obliged to throw away those they had brought with them to relieve themselves," Abercrombie gave the order to return to the shore of lake Saint Sacrement, the place where they had disembarked, and there thev arrived on the 7th July at about 8 o'clock in the morning. Montcalm with joy watched the enemy making the mistake of throwing themselves across a forest which was like an impenetrable veil and marching towards the Bernetz river
By this false manoeuvre, the English lost a whole day and gave Montcalm a respite of incalculable importance for the arrival of nearby reinforcements and the completion of an entrenched position on a hillside. This gave the French more time to prepare their defenses of log and sharpened branch entrenchments known as abbatis and camouflage them . Without knowing of the death of Lord Howe, Montcalm, watching the movements of the enemy, was able to observe signs of trouble and confusion.
Whilst companies of grenadiers and volunteers advanced to cover the workers, the latter planted their flags on the works and labored most willingly, some digging a moat; others felling trees on the border of the forest, only 100 fathoms distant, and dragging them by hand to the entrenchment, leaving the stumps and the branches to obstruct the approach of the enemy. "The officers themselves, axe in hand, set the example." Montcalm passed along the lines, encouraging the workers and sharing with them the good humor and confidence they read on his face.
On the evening of the 7th, Montcalm wrote the orders, d, to he read to the troops setting forth his instructions for the defence of the entrenchments:
"Long live the King!
"The soldiers cannot be too strictly warned that the great fault of the regulars lies in hasty firing without aim; the result is ammunition is speedily exhausted and that, the enemy continu- ing to fire, the soldier becomes discouraged. The officers will develop this important matter, which cannot be too often repeated. They will see to it the soldier fires slowly and they must urge him to take good aim. . .
"Battalion Commanders will make use of their judgment and experience in circumstances which cannot be foreseen. "It is of the greatest importance to hold the entrenchments to the last extremity.
On the 8th July, by 5 o'clock in the morning, the troops, covered by the ordinary guards and three companies of grenadiers, had taken their battle positions, in the following order: the Canadians and the marines on the extreme right, behind the abatis of the deep hollow; the Queen, Beam and Guyenne behind the right of the entrenchment ; the Royal-Roussillon, the 2nd battalion of Berry and four of the pickets which arrived the day before with M. de Levis, in the centre; the two remaining pickets of M. de Levis, Languedoc and La Sarre, on the left; the com- panies of volunteers of Bernard and Duprat protecting the cutting of the hollow, at the extreme left. Each battalion should have behind it, in line of battle and ready to give support, its company of grenadiers and a picket. The total effective force of Montcalm's little army amounted only to 3,500 combatants.
Abercrombie was aware, from the reports of the prisoners of the detachment of M. de Trepezec, that Montcalm, from hour to hour, was expecting reinforcements of marines, Canadians and savages. Eager to forestall the arrival of these reinforcements and not to give time to his adversary to complete his works, the English General had ordered Clerck to find out if an attack on the French entrenchments appeared feasible. Upon receiving a favorable reply from the Engineer and without awaiting his artillery, Abercrombie ordered his army forward. Abercrombie was about to attack a place of great natural strength, surrounded on three sides by water and morass, and fortified on the fourth side by a breastwork eight feet high and many formidable obstacles with no scaling-ladders. The artillery to prepare a breach had not been brought up yet.
He left but one regiment of militia in the camp by the river and moved forward with more than 13,000 men. Abercromby decided attack to in a classic frontal attack, with skirmishers in the front a three brigades behind them, while the French, the British thought, were still putting up defenses. This was to be done before the artillery arrived or digging entrenchments to seal off the French fort on the peninsula .
A curtain of sharpshooters, made up of selected marksmen, of light infantry and wood rangers, preceded the army which de- bouched from the forest, about twelve thirty, opposite our en- trenchments. It was formed in four columns, pickets and grenadiers leading.
At the approach of the enemy, The French advanced guards withdrew in good order. At a cannon shot from the fort, serving as a signal, the workers threw down their tools to retake their place in the battalions which manned the parapet of the entrenchment, three ranks deep, after leaving their pickets and their grenadiers in reserve to the rear. Montcalm, coatless on account of the heat, was stationed at the centre, having beside him M. de Montreuil, Major General, M. de Bougainville, since three days appointed to the duties of Adjutant General, MM. de la Rochebeaucourt and Marcel, his aides-de-camp, also M. Desandrouins, who, his duty as engineer finished, had begged the honor of being attached to the person of li i s General during the battle.
Before reaching the abatis, the English columns were received with a murderous fire. The sections leading, halted and opened fire themselves, and, under the cover of this discharge and that of the selected sharpshooters who "hidden behind stumps and trunks of trees crowded the intervals and wings of the columns," the troops which followed them made repeated assaults on the abatis, but "our musketry fire was so well aimed the enemy was destroyed as soon as they appeared." The vigorous attacks of the assailants were repulsed on every side by the sustained and well aimed fire of the defenders. According to the instructions of Montcalm, our soldiers were allowed to fire at will, a manner of firing at which the French excelled.
Montcalm and his lieutenants, MM. de Levis and de Bourlamaque, watching the course of the battle, reinforced with grena- diers and the pickets the points successively menaced by the enemy, who, repulsed in one spot, courageously began the assault of another, so that "every part of the entrenchments was successively attacked with the greatest vigor."
During four hours, the enemy renewed his attacks, which were "nearly everywhere of an equal violence." About 5 o'clock in the evening his two left columns were combined to make a supreme effort against the salient angle of the entrenchment defended by the right of Guyenne and the left of Beam.
The Black Watch 42nd Highlanders
The Black Watch was detailed with the reserve, but at the first repulse advanced to the front and made attack after attack in vain effort to carry the works : only a few men, and these few all of the 42nd, succeeded in climbing the breastwork, but were immediately bayoneted as they reached the crest. After the assault had been maintained for four hours a general retirement was ordered, but not before the regiment in repeated attacks had lost 25 officers and 622 men, of whom 314 were killed.
The Highlanders, who had not ceased to give proofs of the highest courage throughout the day, led the column to the assault. They reached the foot of the abatis and, for a moment, Montcalm feared the entrenchment would be entered at that point. He personally ran there with a party of Grenadiers and of the pickets, while the Chevalier de Levis, seeing his right free of danger, doubled up, much to the purpose, the Queen battalion with those of Guyenne and Beam. The assault broken by the fire of the defenders, the enemy were again obliged to retire, leaving the vicinity of the abatis covered with his dead. The Highlanders, of admirable courage, them- selves alone, in killed and wounded had lost 25 officers and half of' their effectives.
After this last supreme effort, the enemy attacks diminished in violence and, between 6 and 7 o'clock, they merely maintained a lire along the whole front by sharpshooters, so as to gain time to remove the wounded and cover the retreat of his columns to the camp of the Fall. Towards 7 o'clock, several soldiers of Beam surmounted the' entrenchment, put to flight or killed the sharpshooters, am- bushed behind the nearest stumps of trees, and brought back some prisoners.
End of the Battle - Losses
After having taken some moments of repose, the troops passed the night cleaning their arms and in reinforcing the defence of the entrenchments, in anticipation of a renewed assault the next day. Lacking traverses, which they hastened to make, many sections of the lines had been subject to enfilade fire of the enemy, and, though our battalions fought under cover, they had suffered perceptible losses
The French battalions lost 12 officers killed and 25 wounded, two of them mortallv. The number of soldiers killed amounted to 92, that of the wounded to 248. The marines and the Canadians contributed to these losses 2 officers wounded, 10 soldiers killed and 1 1 wounded. Though the French had lost in killed and wounded a tenth of their effectives, the English, more sorely tried, had to deplore the loss of 2,000 of theirs, about a sixth of the number of troops engaged. In his letter to Pitt, dated July 12, 1758, Abercrombie acknowledges "464 men of the regular troops killed, 29 missing, and 1,117 wounded; 87 men of the provincial militia killed, missing and 239 wounded, the officers being included in the foregoing."
At dawn on the 9th July, our troops confidently awaited the renewal of the English assault, but opposite them nothing came to trouble the stillness of the forest. Companies of volunteers, sent out to reconnoitre, advanced even to the mill of the Fall without finding any further sign of the enemy than the remains of the boats which they had burned.
Since early in the morning July 9th Abercrombie had retired to the north shore of Lake George and his army, which three days ago had landed on this shore in admirable order, believing they were advancing to certain victory, so great was their confidence in their strength, reembarked hastily, profoundly shaken in morale and, notwithstanding their superior numbers, quite incapable of facing the dangers of a renewed battle. Fifteen thousand men fled from before three thousand. Canada was saved. The victory of our little army seemed such a prodigy, Montcalm and his soldiers ascribed it above all to divine intervention, to the "direct finger of Providence." Therefore, on the 12th July, the French General held a review of the battalions and had a Te Deum sung in grateful acknowledgment on the stage of the battle itself. Abercrombie never led another military campaign and was recalled to Great Britain and was replaced by General Jeffery Amherst ( 1717 - 1797 ).
Montcalm cheered by his troops, by Henry Ogden
The French, expecting a renewed attack, stayed in their fortifications overnight. The next day they found the British gone . It is estimated the British had 1,300 killed, with the French losing 377 .
Washington and his force raise the British flag at Fort Duquesne after finding it abandoned by the French
Shortly after the disaster at Ticonderoga, Col. John Bradstreet and 3,000 colonial troops were able to take the French Fort Frontenac with no loss of life after the French commander surrendered with his 100 or so troops . The fort was destroyed and 67 cannons, supplies and furs were seized . This cut off French contact with Fort Niagara and Duquense . In November 1758, the French burned and abandoned Fort Duquense .The commander of the English army to Fort Duquense, Gen. Forbes, renamed the site Pittsburgh in honor of William Pitt .
1759 Fort Carillon abandoned and partially destroyed by the retreating French
In early spring the chiefs of Canada met at Montreal to settle a plan of defence. What at first they most dreaded was an advance of the enemy by way of Lake Champlain. Bourlamaque ( 1716 -,1764 ) with three battalions, was ordered to take post at Ticonderoga, hold it if he could, or, if overborne by numbers, fall back to Isle-aux-Noix, at the outlet of the lake. La Corne ( 1703 - 1761 ) was sent with a strong detachment to entrench himself at the head of the rapids of the St. Lawrence, and oppose any hostile movement from Lake Ontario. Every able-bodied man in the colony, and every boy who could fire a gun, was to be called to the field. It was in the midst of all these preparations that Bougainville arrived from France with news that a great fleet was on its way to attack Quebec. The town was filled with consternation mixed with surprise, for the Canadians had believed that the dangerous navigation of the St. Lawrence would deter their enemies from the attempt.When the news brought by Bougainville reached Montreal, nearly the whole force of the colony, except the detachments of Bourlamaque and La Corne, was ordered to Quebec. Montcalm hastened thither, and Vaudreuil followed .
( 1717 - 1797 )
Pitt had directed that, while Quebec was attacked, an attempt should be made to penetrate into Canada by way of Ticonderoga and Crown Point. Thus the two armies might unite in the heart of the colony, or, at least, a powerful diversion might be effected in behalf of Wolfe.
He accordingly resolved to attempt the capture of Niagara. Brigadier Prideaux ( 1718 - 1759 ) was charged with this stroke; Brigadier Stanwix ( 1690 - 1766 )was sent to conduct the operations for the relief of Pittsburg; and Amherst himself prepared to lead the grand central advance against Ticonderoga, Crown Point, and Montreal.
The army embarked on Saturday, the twenty-first of July. There was another military pageant, another long procession of boats and banners, among the mountains and islands of Lake George. Night found them near the outlet; and here they lay till morning, tossed unpleasantly on waves ruffled by a summer gale. At daylight they landed, beat back a French detachment, and marched by the portage road to the saw-mill at the waterfall. There was little resistance. They occupied the heights, and then advanced to the famous line of entrenchment against which the army of Abercrombie had hurled itself in vain. These works had been completely reconstructed, partly of earth, and partly of logs. Amherst's followers were less numerous than those of his predecessor, while the French commander, Bourlamaque, had a force nearly equal to that of Montcalm in the summer before; yet he made no attempt to defend the entrenchment, and the English, encamping along its front, found it an excellent shelter from the cannon of the fort beyond.
Amherst brought up his artillery and began approaches in form, when, on the night of the twenty-third, it was found that Bourlamaque had retired down Lake Champlain, leaving four hundred men under Hebecourt to defend the place as long as possible. This was in obedience to an order from Vaudreuil, requiring him on the approach of the English to abandon both Ticonderoga and Crown Point, retreat to the outlet of Lake Champlain, take post at Isle-aux-Noix, and there defend himself to the last extremity;
The fort fired briskly; a cannon-shot killed Colonel Townshend, and a few soldiers were killed and wounded by grape and bursting shells; when, at dusk on the evening of the twenty-sixth, an unusual movement was seen among the garrison, and, about ten o'clock, three deserters came in great excitement to the English camp. They reported that Hebecourt and his soldiers were escaping in their boats, and that a match was burning in the magazine to blow Ticonderoga to atoms. Amherst offered a hundred guineas to any one of them who would point out the match, that it might be cut; but they shrank from the perilous venture. All was silent till eleven o'clock, when a broad, fierce glare burst on the night, and a roaring explosion shook the promontory; then came a few breathless moments, and then the fragments of Fort Ticonderoga fell with clatter and splash on the water and the land. It was but one bastion, however, that had been thus hurled skyward. The rest of the fort was little hurt, though the barracks and other combustible parts were set on fire, and by the light the French flag was seen still waving on the rampart. A sergeant of the light infantry, braving the risk of other explosions, went and brought it off. Thus did this redoubted stronghold of France fall at last into English hands, as in all likelihood it would have done a year sooner, if Amherst had commanded in Abercrombie's place; for, with the deliberation that marked all his proceedings, he would have sat down before Montcalm's wooden wall and knocked it to splinters with his cannon.
He now set about repairing the damaged works and making ready to advance on Crown Point; when on the first of August his scouts told him that the enemy had abandoned this place also, and retreated northward down the lake.Well pleased, he took possession of the deserted fort, and, in the animation of success, thought for a moment of keeping the promise he had given to Pitt "to make an irruption into Canada with the utmost vigor and despatch."
Wolfe, his brother in arms and his friend, was battling with the impossible under the rocks of Quebec, and every motive, public and private, impelled Amherst to push to his relief, not counting costs, or balancing risks too nicely. He was ready enough to spur on others, for he wrote to Gage: "We must all be alert and active day and night; if we all do our parts the French must fall;"but, far from doing his, he set the army to building a new fort at Crown Point, telling them that it would "give plenty, peace, and quiet to His Majesty's subjects for ages to come." Then he began three small additional forts, as outworks to the first, sent two parties to explore the sources of the Hudson; one party to explore Otter Creek; another to explore South Bay, which was already well known; another to make a road across what is now the State of Vermont, from Crown Point to Charlestown, or "Number Four," on the Connecticut; and another to widen and improve the old French road between Crown Point and Ticonderoga. His industry was untiring; a great deal of useful work was done: but the essential task of making a diversion to aid the army of Wolfe was needlessly postponed.