The 18th encamped 12 miles down the Lake on the west side. 19th marched 3 miles down the lake, then took to the land with our snow shoes, travelled eight milles N. W. and encamped three mile from the Lake. 20th marched N. E. all day and encamped on the west side three miles from Lake Champlain.
January 21. We marched east until we came to the Lake half way between Crown Point and Ticonderoga, where we discovered a sled passing from the latter to the former. Lieut. Stark with twenty men was directed to head the sled, while I with my party, cut off its retreat, leaving Spikeman with the centre. Ten other sleds were discovered following down the Lake; and I endeavored to give Mr. Stark notice of it before he shew himself upon the Lake, but could not. He sallied out, and they hastily turned towards Ticonderoga. We pursued them, took seven prisoners, three sledges and six horses; the remainder escaped. The captives were examined seperately, who reported: "that 200 Canadians and 45 Indians had just arrived at Ticonderoga and were to be reinforced that evening by 50 Indians from Crown Point; that there were 600 regular troops at the Fortress, and 350 at Ticonderoga, where they expected a large army who in the spring were to beseige our Forts; that they had large magazines of provisions that the troops were well equiped and in condition to march at a moments warning, and intended to waylay and distress the convoys between our Forts." From this account of things, and knowing that those who escaped would give immediate notice of us, I gave orders to march with all expedition to the fires we had kindled the night before and to prepare for battle if offered, by drying our guns, it being a rainy day. This was accordingly effected. We then marched single file, myself and Lieut. Kennedy in front, Lieut. Stark in the rear and Captain Spikeman in the centre; and Mr. Brewer between the centre and the rear, Sergeant Walker having command of the rear.
In this manner, we advanced half a mile over broken ground, passed a valley of fifteen yards breadth, when the front having gained the summit of the opposite hill on the west side, fell in with the enemy drawn up in the form of a crescent to surround us, and were immediately saluted with a volley of 200 shot at a distance of five yards from the nearest, and thirty yards from the rear of the party. This fire took place about 2 o'clock P.M. and proved fatal to Lieut. Kennedy, Mr. Gardiner, a volunteer besides wounding several, and myself in the head. I ordered my men to retire to the opposite hill, where Lieut Stark and Mr. Brewer had made a stand with forty men to cover our retreat. We were closely pursued,--Capt. Spikeman and others were killed and several made prisoners. Lieut. Stark repulsed them by a brisk fire from the hill, killing a number, and affording us an opportunity to post ourselves to advantage. Mr. Stark then took a position in the centre, with Ensign Rogers; sergeants Walker and Phillips1 acting as reserves, to protect our flanks, and watch the enemy's motions. Soon after we had thus formed for battle, the enemy attempted to flank us, but the reserve bravely attacked them, giving the first fire, which stopped several from retreating to the main body. We were then pushed closely in front, but havihg the advantage of the ground, and being sheltered by large trees, we maintained a continual fire upon them, which killed a number of them, and compelled a number of to them retire upon their main body. They attempted to flank us once more, but were again gallantly repulsed by our reserve. In this affair Mr. Baker was killed.
We kept up a constant fire until sunset, when I received a shot through my wrist which disabled me from loading my gun. The action however, continued until darkness prevented our seeing each other. Our men gallantly kept their position till the fire of the enemy ceased and he retired.
The enemy during this action practised several stratagems to induce us to submit; sometimes assuring us, that they had reinforcements at hand, which would cut us into pieces without mercy; and that it was a pity so many brave men should be lost; that in case of surrender, we should be treated with compassion; calling me by name, they assured me of their friendship and esteem; but the brave men who fought by my side, were neither to be dismayed by their threats no flattered by they professions, and determined to conquor or die with arms in their hands.
After the action, we had a great number so severely wounded that they could not travel without assistance; but as we were near to the French garrison, it was thought best to take advantage of the night, and retreat, which we did, keeping up the spirits of the wounded as well as possible, and reached Lake George six miles south of the French advanced guard, next morning. Our wounded men were now exhausted and could march no farther. Lieut. Stark there voluntered with Thomas Burnside and another to proceed to Fort William Henry, and procure sleighs for the wounded. They reached the Fort that night, and the next morning the sleigh arrived though the distance was nearly forty miles. Lieut. Buckly of Hobb's corps of Rangers, came out with fifteen men, and met us at the first narrows of Lake George. Our party which consisted of forty eight effective and six wounded men, arrived at William Henry with the prisoners the same evening, being the 23d of January, 1757.
The number which attacked us amounted to 250 French and Indians. We afterwards had an account from the enemy that their loss of those killed on the spot, and who afterwards died of their wounds amounted to 116 men. The officers and soldiers who survived the first onset, behaved with the most undaunted bravery and vied with each other, which should excel in their respective stations."
But the French were more active than ever. The Field-Marshal, Marquis de Montcalm had arrived from France, and their military operations were carried on with skill and energy. Arriving at Quebec, Montcalm hardly stopped for rest, but immediately pushed on to examine the military posts of the interior. Having reached Ticonderoga by forced traveling, and completed its examination, he forthwith determined to send an expedition against Oswego. To plan, was to execute. He forthwith ordered three regiments form Quebec, and on the evening of the 5th of August, 1756, his expedition anchored in Sackets Harbor. On the 12th of the same month, at midnight, he opened his trenches upon Fort Ontario, a fortress upon the left bank of the Onondaga, built by Gen. Shirley, and which commanded Oswego, situated upon the opposite bank of the river. The fire was kept up with spirit on both sides during the following day, when the garrison spiked their cannon, and retired to Fort Oswego. Montcalm took possession of Ontario, and turned its guns on Oswego. On the 14th, he prepared to storm the Fort, but the garrison, composed of Shirley and Pepperell's regiments, of 16,000 men, their commander Col. Mercer having been slain, and a practicable breach having been made in the walls of the fort, offered to capitulate. Terms were agreed upon, the public property was to be surrendered and the garrison was to be protected from the savages. But the capitulation was broken in the most shameful manner. The Indians were permitted to plunder at will. Several of the men were killed upon the parade; Lieut. de la Court, lying wounded in his tent, was also inhumanly murdered, and the sick in the hospital were permitted to be scalped! And as a fitting finale to such barbarity, Montcalm delivered twenty of the garrison to the Indians, in lieu of twenty Indians who had been slain, and these were put to death with all the inhuman barbarities the savages know so well how to invent. The Forts were both demolished, and the French forces returned to Montreal. The dilatory Webb who was on his way to relieve Oswego with a force of 900 regulars, and 700 boatmen, met the news of its disaster, and immediatety commenced a precipitate retreat.
The Earl of Loudon superseded Shirley, as Commander-in-Chief, of the English forces. The most sanguine hopes were cherished for his success. Of the nobility, no British commander had come to the Colonies with so much of popularity, or reputation. Such a commander gave great eclat to the campaign, and the cabins of the borderers resounded with his praises. Recruits were readily enlisted among the Scotch Irish of this neighborhood, while the recruiting Sergeant, or some old crone employed for the occasion, sat by their hearth stones and appealed to their family and national pride in a song beginning with,--
"Recruit me none but the old clans,
"The Frazers, McKenzies the Campbells and the Grants,
"For they are men trained up to the sword,
"Such warlike men Lord Loudon wants."
But Loudon was by no means equal to his reputation, and his career in this country, may be placed down as a complete failure. He did not arrive at New York with his forces till the end of July, when it was too late to enter upon any new enterprise, and he could do little else than strengthen the English fortifications, and prepare for the spring campaign. Thus the year 1756, brought little else than dishonor upon the British arms.
After the battle of "Lake George" won by Gen. Johnson, but fought by Gen. Lyman, on the 8th of September, 1755, our troops had proceeded to erect a fortress near the southern extremity of Lake George. This was complete during the autumn, and was called Fort William Henry. It was a wooden fortress of no great pretensions, but in the hands of the English, commanded Lake George, and with Fort Edward, was an effectual barrier against any offensive operations of the French in that quarter.
In consequence, the taking of Fort William Henry became an object of great importance with the French Commander-in-Chief, the Marquis de Montcalm. In the winter of 1757, he sent an expedition of fifteen hundred men to surprise it. Their troops marching upon snow shoes, and hauling their baggage upon sleighs were led by Rigaud de Vaudreuil and the Chevaner de Longueuil. Their orders were to surprise the Fort, but failing in that, they were to destroy the out buildings and store houses beyond the protection of the Fort, and the shipping and batteaux on the Lake.
Many of the troops under Major Eyers, who held the fort, were Irish, and the company of rangers then in the fort, were many of them of Amoskeag, and of that class of men known as "Scotch Irish," who though of Ireland, were yet not Irish, nor particularly in love with Irish customs, but had no objections to uniting in a celebration in honor of St. Patrick. This company was under the command of Capt. John Stark, of Amoskeag, a son of a Scotch Irishman. His knowledge of Irish customs, doubtless saved the fortress. The garrison had determined upon celebrating "St. Patrick's Day" which is the 17th of March. Stark upon the alert, determined that the Rangers at least should be sober, and commanded the sutler, Samuel Blodgett of Amoskeag, to deliver no rum to the Rangers without a written order from him; and he refused all solicitations for orders, under the pretence of a lame hand. Thus on the night of the 17th of March, the Rangers were ready for any emergency, while the rest of the garrison were in the greatest excitement from deep potations in honor of St. Patrick and his wife, Shelah!
The French leaders, aware of the character of the troops in the English fortress, had laid their plans to attack it upon St. Patrick's night, supposing that amid a bacchanalian carousal, it could readily be surprised. Accordingly on the night of the 17th of March, the French forces crossed the crackling ice of Lake George, with their scaling ladders, confident of easy success in escalading the fortress, from which sounds of deep debauch were wafted upon the air. They advanced near the fort in silence, preparing to adjust their ladders, when a flash struck their eyes, and the rattling of small arms and the booming of cannon filled their astonished ears, while their ranks were thinned and broken by a shower of shot from well directed musketry and cannon from the walls of the fort. They retreated astonished, but not disheartened.
The foresight and prompt action of Stark saved the fortress. The crackling of the ice under the heavy tread of the French soldiery, fell upon the practiced ears of the Rangers and gave them timely notice of the approach of the foe. They seized their muskets and gave the alarm. The ramparts were filled with such of the garrison as were fit for service, the guns were manned, and in perfect silence, except the noise of the revellers, who were allowed or requested to continue their debauch, the better to deceive the enemy, their approach was awaited. They were suffered to approach within half musket shot, when the terrific fire was opened upon them.
The next day the enemy invested the place in form, and twice again attacked it, and were as often repulsed. At length after having attacked the fort for a fifth time and been repulsed, they retired, contenting themselves with destroying the huts of the rangers, and the store houses as well as the batteaux and sloops on the lake.
The spring of 1757 was spent by Loudon in preparing for an attack upon Louisburg, in conjunction with a powerful British fleet, and a large force of Infantry and Artillery, under Maj. Gen. Hopson.
Troops were called for from new Hampshire, and a regiment was raised and put under the command of Col. Meserve. Maj. John Goffe of Derryfield was commissioned as its Lieut. Colonel. A company was attached to this regiment from this nieghborhood, the roll of which was as follows;
Richard Emary [Emery?], Captain.; Nathaniel Martain, 1st Lieut.; Pallata. Russell, 2d Lieut.; John Moore, Ensign.; Darby Kelley, Sergt.; Joseph Pearsons, Sergt.; Benj. Kidder, Sen. Sergt; John Little, Sert.; Caleb Emary [Emery?], Sen. Corp.; Robert Murdock, Corp.; Micajah Wynn, Corp.; John Hutchenson, Corp. George Berry, Drummer.; Josiah Bean, Jona. Prescutt, Benj. Roberts, John Moore, Joseph WhicherWeed, James Dunlap, Edward Bean, Wm. Batchelder, Edward Critchet, Joseph Hillayerd, Ebenezer Hutchenson, Samuel Hardie, Henry Hutchenson, Jos. Ekerson, Jona. Melcher, Samuel Ring, Elijah Ring, Hezekiah Swaine, Wm. Towle, Joseph Webster, John Burns, Jona. Corlis, Jun., Asa Corlis, James Clough, Caleb Daulton, Caleb Emary [Emery?], Jun. Daniel Emerson, John Griffin, John Gorden, Thomas George, Thomas Kennady, Robt. Kennady, Benj. Kidder, Jun. John Kidder, Wm. McDugall, for B. Linkfield, John Merrill, James Patterson, Benj. Pettingal, Ezekiel Stevens, James Titcomb, Leond. Blanchard, Timothy Barron, Wm. Butterfield, James McCalley, Samuel Gibson, Thomas Lancey, Josiah Parker, Simon McQuestin, Peter Bussell, Samuel Chase, John Davis, Benj. Davis, Wm. Hutchenson, David Parker, Henry Parker, William Sillaway, Jno. Webster, for D. Allen, William Drought, Lazarus Rowe, Daniel Darling, Stephen Gilman, Tristram Quimby, John Sandburne, Gideon Young, Samuel Young, Stephen Webster, Solomon Prescutt, Thomas Parker, Ceasar Nero, John Corlis, David Nutt, Ebenezer Coarston, Moses Chase, John Stell, Jacob Bridgham, Patrick Clark.
One battalion of the regiment, under the command of Col. Meserve, joined the expedition against Louisburg, while the other battalion under Lieut. Colonel Goffe, rendezvoused at Number Four. This battalion afterwards joined Gen. Webb at Albany, and was posted at Fort William Henry, under the command of the veteran Col. Munroe.
On the 20th of June, Loudon sailed from New York with a considerable force, taken from the proper defences of the colonies. Among these troops in addition to the battalion, under Col. Meserve, there were from New Hampshire two companies of rangers, under the command of Captain Robert Rogers, and John Stark.
This absence of the Commander-in-Chief with so many of the English troops, left opportunity for the French to take aggressive measures, which did not go long unimproved. For aside from the opportunity, the failure of the French in their winter expedition against Fort William Henry, incited Montcalm to more determined action. The absence of Loudon, hastened his movements, and in July he concentrated an army of 8000 strong at Ticonderoga, and the last of the month pushed a large force, under the command of M. de Levi, along the shores of the Lake, guided by their Iroquois allies, against the coveted fortress.
Immediately upon hearing of the presence of the French army upon Lake Champlain, Gen. Webb, who was in command of the English army near Lake George, and who had just arrived at Fort William Henry, with a want of foresight reconcilable only with pusillanimity or cowardice, fell back with his troops upon Fort Edward, leaving Fort William Henry to be defended by about 2000 men, under the brave Col. Munroe. His troops were composed of Regulars and Provincials, and of the latter was a battalion of 200 men from New Hampshire, under Lieut. Col. John Goffe, of Amoskeag. They were left at the Fort to do scout duty, and to keep up a communication with Fort Edward. Besides those, there was a company of Rangers there from New Hampshire, under the command of Richard Rodgers. These men were mostly from the Merrimack valley, and many of them from Amoskeag.
On the 1st of August, Montcalm advanced with the remainder of his army, up the Lake in canoes and batteaux. The next day, both divisions united on the shores of the Lake within two miles of the fort. Here Montcalm first heard of the imprudent retreat of Webb, and determined forthwith to attack the fort. On the morning of the 3d, he sent by one of his aids, a written communication to Col. Munroe, demanding the surrender of the fortress. To this demand, Munroe laconically replied to Sieur Fantbrune, the messenger of Montcalm, "Tell Monsieur Montcalm, that I reject his proposal with disdain, and that I will defend the Fort, while I have a man able to fire a gun." This answer of defiance was given by the brave Munroe, under the full expectation that Gen. Webb, who was only fifteen miles distant, with an army of 4000 men, would send him immediate assistance.
Montcalm prosecuted his operations with activity, through the 4th and 5th, pushing his trenches close to the walls of the fort, and at day-break on the 6th, broke the stillness of the morning, by the discharge of shot and shell, from ten guns and a mortar, upon the invested fortress. Meantime, the Indians and sharp shooters of the Canadians, were posted behind every stump and tree that would afford protection, and furnish an unerring aim at such of the beleaguered garrison, as should expose themselves upon the walls. The besiegers redouble their energy, the defences give way under the effective fire of the French guns; the fire from the ramparts decreases from scarcity of ammunition, the Indians send forth their appalling yell over their anticipated prey; the pusillanimous Webb remains in stolid indifferance to the fate of Munroe and his brave companions! At length their ammunition completely fails, cannon and muskets are silent, useless upon the ramparts, and to cap the climax of their misfortunes, Montcalm sends into the ill-fated fortress, an intercepted letter from Webb, advising Col. Munroe to capitulate upon the best possible terms, as he could afford him no present relief! Farther resistance was in vain, and the garrison forthwith capitulated upon the main conditions that all public property should be surrendered to the French, that the garrison should march out with the honors of war, with their arms, baggage, and a field piece; and that they should be protected from the outrages of the savages. This latter stipulation was the more necessary, as the outrage at Oswego was fresh in mind, where the plunder and massacre of many of the garrison, had been permitted by Montcalm, in gross violation of the capitulation; and farther as if to outrage outraged humanity; twenty English prisoners had been delivered into the hands of the Indians by Montcalm, for the purpose of torture, and the cannibal feastings of the "Cold Country Savages." But as at Oswego, this article of the capitulation of Fort William Henry was most grossly broken. Before the English had left the fort, the Indians in large numbers had gained access, in search of plunder and strong drink. To prevent the latter falling into their hands, the liquor casks were stove in, and the run settled in pools upon the ground. The sharpened appetites of the Savages led them to prostrate themselves upon the ground and drink without stint or measure, to madness.
Then commenced promiscuous plunder and outrage within the walls. The evacuation of the troops was hastened, and they had marched but a short distance from the fort, the Provincial troops last in order, and the battalion from New Hampshire in the rear of the whole garrison, when as if by a preconcerted signal, hordes of savages rushed from the woods in their war paint, and with their horrid yells, commenced a promiscuous onslaught upon the Provincials, many of whom had already been plundered at the fort! The English troops were paralized. No guard had been furnished by Montcalm. There was not a single round of powder among them, not a bayonet among the Provincials, and the regular troops who had them, being in advance and unmolested by the savages from fear of that instrument, were feign to make the best of their way from the danger that was besetting the unarmed Provincials in the rear. The tomahawk and scalping knife reigned supreme, without let or hindrance. Many were killed, scores were wounded and hundreds were taken prisoners. Of these latter, numbers were put to death the following night by the most excruciating tortures. The loss cannot be ascertained. Eighty, of the two hundred me composing the battalion from New Hampshire, were either murdered or taken prisoners. The transaction filled the public mind with horror--as well it might, for it finds no parallel in history, save in the equally horrid outrage at Oswego--perpetrated by the same parties!
Yet there are those at the present day who would feign palliate the conduct of Montcalm. And a later writer2 has said:
"He may, indeed, still be censured for not having provided a sufficient escort for the surrendered garrison. Surely, however, he may well have deemed 2000 men, such as those who had before defended themselves with becoming bravery against his host, might hold their own against an inferior number of savages. When the onslaught began, he used his utmost endeavor to arrest it; he rushed into the blood scene, and strove earnestly to stop its progress. Baring his breast, he called upon the savages to slay him, their father, but to spare the English for whom his honor was plighted. Then, finding his interference useless, he called upon the prisoners to defend themselves, and fire upon their pursuers; it was in vain, however, so overpowering were the terrors of the Indian tomahawk." This writer seems forgetful of the fact that by acknowledging that Montclam "may, indeed, still be censured for not having provided a sufficient escort," he yields the whole question at issue. For had he furnished a sufficient escort, as he was bound to do by the articles of capitulation, the massacre could not have taken place. He had the ability to have furnished such escort, as he had 7000 troops at his command, and that he did not do it, with the horrors of Oswego fresh in recollection, is pretty conclusive testimony that he did not intend to do it, and that he connived at the massacre, as he had done at Oswego, about which there is no controversy and no attempt at palliation.
But the writer might have spared his implied charge of cowardice against the ill-fated garrison, contained in the paragraphs "surely, however, he (Montclam) may well have deemed 2000 men, such as those who had before defended themselves with becoming bravery against his host, might hold their own against an inferior number of savages," * * * "finding his interference useless, he called upon the prisoners to defend themselves, and fire upon their pursuers; it was in vain, however, so overpowering were the terrors of the Indian tomahawk." I say, the implied charge of cowardice may have well be spared, as adding insult to injury, and having not the least shadow of foundation in fact to sustain it. "Sure," * * * "2000 men, such as those who had before defended themselves with becoming bravery," might have obeyed Montclam's call to the prisoners to defend themselves, "and fire upon their pursuers," had they had the means within their power!
But the same writer says, speaking of the beseiged, "At length their amunition failed," and it is a well authenticated fact, that there was not a single round of ammunition among the prisoners. Under such circumstances, the conduct of Montclam cannot be excused or palliated.
Of the prisoners, the wounded, and the slain in this inhuman massacre, there were a number from Amoskeag, while others from the same place escaped by the greatest good fortune.Thus,
The expedition against Louisburg proved an entire failure, through the dilatoriness and pusillanimity of its leaders, and Loudon returned to New York. On his way, he met the news of the loss of Fort William Henry. Upon his arrival, he went immediately to Fort Edward, gave some orders as to it defence and returned to Albany for winter quarters. The following spring Loudon was recalled, and the command of the forces devolved upon Maj. Gen. Abercrombie.
Like Abercrombie, Loudon had the good sense to discover the great value of the Rangers, and augmented their number by the adition of five companies of 100 men each. Four of these companies were from New England and one from the Indians. Capt. Rogers was ordered to raise and organize the companies, and the appointment of the non-commissioned officers was left to his judgement. The companies were raised in the short space of two months, and in mid winter, the order to Rogers for their organization, bearing date, January 11, 1758, and the companies being at Fort Edward and ready for duty, the 15th day of March following. Capt. Rogers, as senior officer, had the command of the Rangers, and in April following, after the recall of Loudon, he was promoted to a Majority by Gen. Abercrombie and had the entire control of the discipline of this noted and efficient corps. Both Loudon and Abercrombie could but discover the great advantage of this corps, as their arduous duties were ever performed with skill, and promptness, and the skirmishes and battles fought by them, were the only relief from the disgraceful inactivity and cowardly defeat that marked the campaigns under these Generals.
Their services were in requisition to watch the movements of the French and their Indian allies, and in performing this duty, they not unfrequently came in collision with them, when severe and obstinate battles often ensued. One of these occurred March 13, 1758, while Loudon was lying inactively at Albany. It is given in Major Rogers own words.
"March 10, 1758. I was ordered by Col. Haviland to the neighborhood of Ticonderoga, not with four hundred men as was first given out, but with one hundred and eighty officers included. We had one Capt., one Lieut., and one Ensign of the line as volunteers, viz. Messrs. Creed, Kent, and Wrightson; also one Sergeant and one private, all of the 27th Regiment; a detachment from the four companies of Rangers quartered on the island near Fort Edward; viz. Capt. Bulkley, Lieutenants, Phillips, Moore, Campbell, Crafton, and Pottinger; Ensigns, Ross, Waite, McDonald, and White with 162 privates. I acknowledge that I entered upon this service, with this small detachment of brave men, with no small uneasiness of mind. We had every reason to believe that the prisoner and deserter above named, had informed the enemy of our intended expedition, and the force to be employed; yet my commander knowing all this, sent us out with 180 men. He probably had his reasons; and can doubtless justify his conduct; but there is no consolation to the friends of those brave men who were thus thrown in the way of an enemy, of three times their number, and of whom one hundred and seven never returned to tell their story. We first marched to the half way brook, in the road leading to Lake George and there encamped for the night.
March 11. Proceeded as far as the first narrows of Lake George, and encamped that evening on the east shore. After dark, a party went three miles down, to ascertain if the enemy were coming towards our Forts, who returned without my discovering them. We were however upon our guard, and kept parties walking up and down the lake all night, besides sentries at all neccessarry places upon the shore.
March 12. Left our camp at sunrise, and having made about three miles, perceived a dog running across the Lake, and sent a party to recconoitre the island, supposing the Indians were there in ambush. But not finding any, it was thought proper to take to the shore, and thus prevent our being discovered from the surrounding hills. We halted at a place called Sabbath day point, on the west shore, and sent out parties to look down the Lake with perspective glasses. As soon as dark, we proceeded down the Lake. Lieut. Phillips with fifteen men, some of whom preceded him on skates, acted as an advance guard, while Ensign Ross flanked us on the left, under the west shore near which we kept the main body, marching as closely as possible, to prevent separation, the night being extremely dark, In this manner we came within eight miles of the French advance, when Mr. Phillips sent back a man on skates to desire me to halt: upon this the men were ordered to sit down upon the ice. Mr. Phillips soon after came to me, informing that he had discovered what he supposed a fire on the east shore, but was uncertain. I sent him, accompanied by Mr. White to ascertain the fact. They returned in an hour, fully persuaded that a party of the enemy were encamped at that place. The advance guard was called in, and we marched to the west shore, where in a thicket we concealed our sleighs and packs.
Leaving a small guard with our baggage, we marched to attack the enemy's encampment if we should fine one. On reach the place where we supposed the fire to have been seen, and finding no enemy, we concluded Mr. Phillips had mistaken some patches of snow or pieces of rotten wood for fire, (which in the night and at a distance resembles it,) we therefore returned to our packs, and passed the night without a fire.
On the morning of the 13th, a council of the officers determined that our better course was to proceed by land on snow shoes, lest the enemy should discover us on the Lake. Accordingly we continued our march on the wester shore, keeping on the back of the mountains which overlooked the French advanced guard, and halted at 12 o'clock, two miles west of them, where we refreshed ourselves until three. This was to afford the day scout from the Fort, time to return home before we advanced, as our intention was to ambush some roads leading to the Fort that night, in order to trepan the enemy in the morning. Our detachment now advanced in two divisions, the one headed by Capt. Bulkley and the other by myself. Ensigns White and Waite, led the rear guard, the other officers being properly posted with their respective divisions. On our left, at a small distance, we were flanked by a small rivulet, and by a steep mountain on the right. Our main body kept close under the mountain, that the advance guard might better observe the brook, on the ice of which they might travel, as the snow was now four feet deep, which made tavelling [sic] very bad even with snow shoes. In this manner, we proceeded a mile and a half, when our advance informed us that the enemy were in sight; and soon after, that his force consisted of ninety-six, chiefly Indians. We immediately threw down our knapsacks and prepared for battle, supposing that the whole of the enemy's force were approaching our left, upon the ice of the rivulet. Ensign McDonald was ordered to take command of advanced guard, which as we faced to the left became a flanking party to our right. We marched within a few yards of the bank, which was higher than the ground we occupied; and observing the ground gradually descend from the rivulet, to the foot of the mountain, we extended our line along the bank, far enough to command the whole of the enemy at once. Waiting until their front was nearly opposite our left wing; I fired a gun as the signal for a general discharge. We gave them the first fire, which killed more than forty and put the remainder to flight, in which one half of my men pursued, and cut down several more of them with their hatchets and cutlasses. I now imagined they were totally defeated, and ordered Esign [sic] McDonald to head the flying remains of them, that none of them should escape. He soon ascertained that the party we had routed, was only the advanced guard of 600 Canadians and Indians, who were now coming up to attack the Rangers. The latter now retreated to their own ground, which was gained at the expense of fifty men killed. There they were drawn up in good order and fought with such intrepidity, keeping up a constant and well directed fire, as caused the French, though seven to one in number, to retreat a second time. We however being in no condition to pursue, they rallied again, recovered their lost ground, and made a desperate attack upon our front, and wings, but they were so well received, that their flanking parties soon retreated to their main body with great loss. This threw the whole into cofusion, [sic] and caused a third retreat. Our numbers were now too far reduced, to take advantage of their disorder, and rallying again, they attacked us a fourth time.
Two hundred Indians were now discovered ascending the right to possess themselves of the rising ground and fall upon our rear. Lieut. Phillips with 18 men was directed to gain possession of it before them, and drive the Indians back. He succeeded in gaining the summit and repulsed them by a well directed fire, in which every bullet killed its man. I now became alarmed less the enemy should go round on our left, and take post on the other part of the hill, and sent Lieut. Crafton, with 15 men to anticipate them. Soon after I sent two gentlemen who were volunteers, with a few men to support him which they did with great bravery.
The enemy pressed us so closely in front, that the parties were sometimes intermixed, and in general not more than 20 yards asunder. A constant fire continued for an hour and a half, from the commencement of the attack, during which time we lost eight officers and 100 privates killed upon the spot. After doing all that brave men could do, the Rangers were compelled to break, each man looking out for himself. I ran up the hill followed by about 20 men, towards Phillips and Crafton, where we gave the Indians, who were pursuing in great numbers, another fire which killed several and wounded others. Lieut. Phillips was about capitulating for himself and his party, being surrounded by three hundred Indians. We came so near, that he spoke to me and said if the enemy would give good quarters he thought it best to surrender, otherwise he would fight while he had one man left to fire a gun.
I now retreated, with the remainder of my party, in the best manner possible; several of whom were wounded and fatigued were taken by the savages who pursued our retreat. We reached Lake George in the evening, where we were joined by several wounded men, who were assisted, to the place where our sleighs han [sic] been left. From this place an express was despatched, to Col Haviland, for assistance to bring in the wounded. We passed the night here without a fire or blankets, they having fallen into the enemy's hands, with our knapsacks. The night was extremely cold, and the wounded men suffered much pain, but behaved in a manner consistent with their conduct in the action. In the morning, we proceeded up the Lake and at Hoop Island six miles north of William Henry, met Capt. John Stark coming to our relief, bringing with him provision, sleighs, blankets. We encamped on the Island, passed the night with good fires, and on the evening of the next day, (March 15,) arrived at Fort Edward.
The number of the enemy which attacked us was 700, of which 500 were Indians. From the best accounts, we after wards learned that we killed 150 of them, and wounded as many more, most of whom died. I will not pretend to say, what would have been the result of this unfortunate expedition, had our numbers been 400 strong, as was contemplated; but it is due to those brave officers and men who accompanied me, most of whom are now no more, to declare that every man in his respective station, behaved with uncommon resolution and coolness, nor do I recollect an instance during the action, in which the prudence or good conduct of one of them could be questioned.
The killed and missing in this engagement, amounted to 125 out of a detachment of 180 all told! This was a terrible disaster to Rogers and his party, and is to be attributed to the want of forethought in Col. Haviland, in sending out so small a force upon so hazardous an expedition.3