The Battle of Fort Henry August 3-9, 1757
Plans for a Louisbourg Expedition
( 1705 - 1782 )
Marquis de Montcalm
( 1712 - 1759 )
After Braddock's death and Dieskau's capture, both empires sent new military commanders to North America. Hindered by quarrelsome provincial councils, incompetent generals, and the redcoats' inability to adapt to wilderness warfare, Britain was losing the war. England sent John Campbell, earl of Loudoun and the French sent Marquis de Montcalm. Montcalm had many years of fighting experience in Europe and was a decisive and clever general .
Upon arriving in Canada, Montcalm first inspected the progress of the construction of Fort Carillon. Satisfied with the work, he mobilized forces to strike against the English at Fort Oswego on Lake Ontario.
Montcalm belonged to a family of Rouergue, concerning whom the glorious tradition ran: "War is the grave of the Montcalm." Wounded in 1746, when Colonel of the Auxerrois regiment, at the battle of Plaisance, he several times rallied his regiment against the charges of the Austrian cavalry '[ and in 1747, at the furious attack on the entrenchments of Assiette, Montcalm won the esteem of the Generals under whose command he had fought, amongst others, de Chevert and Marshal de Belle-Isle. Chosen by d'Argenson early in 1756 to succeed Baron de Dieskau, commanding the regulars in Canada, wounded and taken prisoner by the English the previous year, Montcalm had proved himself entirely worthy of this appointment by his important success in the capture of fort Chouaguen (Oswego) in 1756 and of fort William Henry (or fort Saint George) in 1757. As Commander he possessed the qualities which inspire affection : an extreme care for the welfare of the soldier and an equal solicitude for the advancement of his officers, for whom he was never weary of seeking rewards from the King, when they proved themselves worthy.
John Campbell's second in command, Gen. James Abercromby ( 1706 - 1781 ) arrived to relived William Shirely of command. Campbell did not arrive in time to save Fort Oswego from capture. Campbell alienated provincials by trying to incorporate them into the regular army. The provincials were afraid of regular army discipline and officers were afraid of being demoted.
Location of Fort Oswego
The south view of Oswego on Lake Ontario
Smiths History of New York, published in London, 1767
Montcalm wanted to take Fort Oswego ( now Oswego, New York ), it was the only English fort between a string of French forts on the Great Lakes. With the Iroquois following a policy of neutrality since the Braddock disaster, French rading parties could pass through their land. Vaudreuil sent out a raiding party of 360 Indians, Canadians and French regulars under the command of Liet. Lery, on snowshoes attacked Fort Bull in March, 1756 , destroying great quantities of ammunition and goods intended for Fort Oswego. All the 60 to 70 defenders of Fort Bull were put to the sword except for a handful of soldiers. He first captured Fort Ontario, then began the assault on Fort Oswego.
Location of Fort Ontario (B) and Fort Oswego (F)
The Gentleman's Magazine, 1757
The English colonists realized Fort Oswego's weak position and reinforced it, but Montcalm took it with 3,000 and 120 cannons taken from Fort Ontario . The fort was bombarded, killing the British commander. The fort surrendered, giving the French 1,700 English prisoners on August 15, 1756, which were taken to Quebec . Thirty prisoners were killed after they had surrendered .
Classic by Francis Parkman(1893)
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The Battle of Fort Henry
August 3-9, 1757
Colonel Monro (seated) receiving surrender terms from
Montcalm delivered by aide (blue and white)
Montcalm in planning his campaign for the summer of 1757 determined, with the aid of his Indian allies, to drive the English back from Lake George, perhaps to capture Fort Edward, fourteen miles to the south, and even to make a demonstration against Albany. In taking Fort Henry, Montcalm wanted to control the 'Warpath of Nations', the link connecting the Hudson River,Lake George,Lake Champlain, the Richelieu River and the ocean.
Québec History 11 - Battle of Fort William Henry
Montcalm then drove into the Champlain Valley to attack Fort William Henry in August, 1757 with 8,000 - 3,000 regulars, 3,000 militia and nearly 2,000 Indians, 36 Cannon and Five mortars. The fort was commanded by Colonel Monro and garrisoned by a force of little more than 2000 men and only half of these were fit for duty. Soon, the log fort was under siege and smallpox was ravaging the troops inside . The fort held out for a week and surrendered after their artillery was smashed. William Johnson made a dramatic attempt to come to the aid of the fort, but could not break through . After the surrender to the French on very generous terms, Montcalm was unable to prevent the Indian allies of the French began to attack the British and colonial column leaving the fort. They had been expecting payment for their assistance in the form of loot, captives, and scalps and were severely disappointed at the lenient surrender terms.
What happened next became the most infamous incident of the war - and one which forms an integral part of James Fenimore Cooper's classic novel The Last of the Mohicans - the 'massacre' of Fort William Henry. As the garrison prepared to march for Fort Edward a flood of enraged Native Americans swept over the column, unleashing an unstoppable tide of slaughter. Cooper's version has coloured our view of the incident,
An estimated 100 - 200 were killed . After the attack, French soldiers escorted the survivors. This act, along with the killings of soldiers after the fall of Fort Oswego, enraged the English colonists and convinced many never to surrender to the French . With the fall of the fort, the British frontier was forced back to Albany .
Montcalm trying to stop the massacre, by Alfred Bobbett
Plans for a Louisbourg Expedition
While Montcalm was taking Fort Oswego and Henry, Campbell was planning to attack Louisbourg. The British leaders thought it would be easy, since the colonial militia was able to take it in 1745 . Louisbourg was returned to France in the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, signed on October 18, 1748 ended the War of the Austrian Succession . The colonies refused to unite under Campbell, and he wasted time with delay after delay , even though his force was located in Halifax, not far away . A French fleet arrived and reinforced Louisbourg, and a fierce storm destroyed much of the British fleet that was to be used to blockade Louisbourg and Campbell called off the expedition .