Battle Of Lake George

For more than a century after the death of Jogues, Lakes George and

Champlain were the great route of war parties between Canada and the

British Colonies. Courcelles came this way in 1666 to lay waste the

Mohawk towns; and Mantet and Sainte-Helene, in 1690, to destroy

Schenectady in the dead of winter; while, in the next year, Major

Schuyler took the same course as he advanced into Canada to retort the

blow. Whenever there was war between France and England, these two lakes

became the scene of partisan conflicts, in which the red men took part

with the white, some as allies of the English, and some as allies of the

French. When at length the final contest took place for the possession

of the continent, the rival nations fiercely disputed the mastery of

this great wilderness thoroughfare, and the borders of Lake George

became the scene of noteworthy conflicts. The first of these was in

1755, the year of Braddock's defeat, when Shirley, governor of

Massachusetts, set on foot an expedition for the capture of Crown Point,

a fort which the French had built on Lake Champlain more than twenty

years before.

In January, Shirley had proposed an attack on it to the Ministry; and in

February, without waiting their reply, he laid the plan before his

Assembly. They accepted it, and voted money for the pay and maintenance

of twelve hundred men, provided the adjacent colonies would contribute

in due proportion. Massachusetts showed a military activity worthy of

the reputation she had won. Forty-five hundred of her men, or one in

eight of her adult males, volunteered to fight the French, and enlisted

for the various expeditions, some in the pay of the province, and some

in that of the King. It remained to name a commander for the Crown Point

enterprise. Nobody had power to do so, for Braddock, the

commander-in-chief, was not yet come; but that time might not be lost,

Shirley, at the request of his Assembly, took the responsibility on

himself. If he had named a Massachusetts officer, it would have roused

the jealousy of the other New England colonies; and he therefore

appointed William Johnson, of New York, thus gratifying that important

province and pleasing the Five Nations, who at this time looked on

Johnson with even more than usual favor. Hereupon, in reply to his

request, Connecticut voted twelve hundred men, New Hampshire five

hundred, and Rhode Island four hundred, all at their own charge; while

New York, a little later, promised eight hundred more. When, in April,

Braddock and the Council at Alexandria approved the plan and the

commander, Shirley gave Johnson the commission of major-general of the

levies of Massachusetts; and the governors of the other provinces

contributing to the expedition gave him similar commissions for their

respective contingents. Never did general take the field with authority

so heterogeneous.

He had never seen service, and knew nothing of war. By birth he was

Irish, of good family, being nephew of Admiral Sir Peter Warren, who,

owning extensive wild lands on the Mohawk, had placed the young man in

charge of them nearly twenty years before. Johnson was born to prosper.

He had ambition, energy, an active mind, a tall, strong person, a rough,

jovial temper, and a quick adaptation to his surroundings. He could

drink flip with Dutch boors, or Madeira with royal governors. He liked

the society of the great, would intrigue and flatter when he had an end

to gain, and foil a rival without looking too closely at the means; but

compared with the Indian traders who infested the border, he was a model

of uprightness. He lived by the Mohawk in a fortified house which was a

stronghold against foes and a scene of hospitality to friends, both

white and red. Here--for his tastes were not fastidious--presided for

many years a Dutch or German wench whom he finally married; and after

her death a young Mohawk squaw took her place. Over his neighbors, the

Indians of the Five Nations, and all others of their race with whom he

had to deal, he acquired a remarkable influence. He liked them, adopted

their ways, and treated them kindly or sternly as the case required, but

always with a justice and honesty in strong contrast with the

rascalities of the commission of Albany traders who had lately managed

their affairs, and whom they so detested that one of their chiefs called

them "not men, but devils." Hence, when Johnson was made Indian

superintendent there was joy through all the Iroquois confederacy. When,

in addition, he was made a general, he assembled the warriors in council

to engage them to aid the expedition.

This meeting took place at his own house, known as Fort Johnson; and as

more than eleven hundred Indians appeared at his call, his larder was

sorely taxed to entertain them. The speeches were interminable. Johnson,

a master of Indian rhetoric, knew his audience too well not to contest

with them the palm of insufferable prolixity. The climax was reached on

the fourth day, and he threw down the war-belt. An Oneida chief took it

up; Stevens, the interpreter, began the war-dance, and the assembled

warriors howled in chorus. Then a tub of punch was brought in, and they

all drank the King's health. They showed less alacrity, however, to

fight his battles, and scarcely three hundred of them would take the

war-path. Too many of their friends and relatives were enlisted for the


While the British colonists were preparing to attack Crown Point, the

French of Canada were preparing to defend it. Duquesne, recalled from

his post, had resigned the government to the Marquis de Vaudreuil, who

had at his disposal the battalions of regulars that had sailed in the

spring from Brest under Baron Dieskau. His first thought was to use them

for the capture of Oswego; but letters of Braddock, found on the

battle-field of the Monongahela, warned him of the design against Crown

Point; while a reconnoitring party which had gone as far as the Hudson

brought back news that Johnson's forces were already in the field.

Therefore the plan was changed, and Dieskau was ordered to lead the main

body of his troops, not to Lake Ontario, but to Lake Champlain. He

passed up the Richelieu, and embarked in boats and canoes for Crown

Point. The veteran knew that the foes with whom he had to deal were but

a mob of countrymen. He doubted not of putting them to rout, and meant

never to hold his hand till he had chased them back to Albany. "Make all

haste," Vaudreuil wrote to him; "for when you return we shall send you

to Oswego to execute our first design."

Johnson on his part was preparing to advance. In July about three

thousand provincials were encamped near Albany, some on the "Flats"

above the town, and some on the meadows below. Hither, too, came a swarm

of Johnson's Mohawks,--warriors, squaws, and children. They adorned the

General's face with war-paint, and he danced the war-dance; then with

his sword he cut the first slice from the ox that had been roasted whole

for their entertainment. "I shall be glad," wrote the surgeon of a New

England regiment, "if they fight as eagerly as they ate their ox and

drank their wine."

Above all things the expedition needed promptness; yet everything moved

slowly. Five popular legislatures controlled the troops and the

supplies. Connecticut had refused to send her men till Shirley promised

that her commanding officer should rank next to Johnson. The whole

movement was for some time at a deadlock because the five governments

could not agree about their contributions of artillery and stores. The

New Hampshire regiment had taken a short cut for Crown Point across the

wilderness of Vermont; but had been recalled in time to save them from

probable destruction. They were now with the rest in the camp at Albany,

in such distress for provisions that a private subscription was proposed

for their relief.

Johnson's army, crude as it was, had in it good material. Here was

Phineas Lyman, of Connecticut, second in command, once a tutor at Yale

College, and more recently a lawyer,--a raw soldier, but a vigorous and

brave one; Colonel Moses Titcomb, of Massachusetts, who had fought with

credit at Louisbourg; and Ephraim Williams, also colonel of a

Massachusetts regiment, a tall and portly man, who had been a captain in

the last war, member of the General Court, and deputy-sheriff. He made

his will in the camp at Albany, and left a legacy to found the school

which has since become Williams College. His relative, Stephen Williams,

was chaplain of his regiment, and his brother Thomas was its surgeon.

Seth Pomeroy, gunsmith at Northampton, who, like Titcomb, had seen

service at Louisbourg, was its lieutenant-colonel. He had left a wife at

home, an excellent matron, to whom he was continually writing

affectionate letters, mingling household cares with news of the camp,

and charging her to see that their eldest boy, Seth, then in college at

New Haven, did not run off to the army. Pomeroy had with him his brother

Daniel; and this he thought was enough. Here, too, was a man whose name

is still a household word in New England,--the sturdy Israel Putnam,

private in a Connecticut regiment; and another as bold as he, John

Stark, lieutenant in the New Hampshire levies, and the future victor of


The soldiers were no soldiers, but farmers and farmers' sons who had

volunteered for the summer campaign. One of the corps had a blue uniform

faced with red. The rest wore their daily clothing. Blankets had been

served out to them by the several provinces, but the greater part

brought their own guns; some under the penalty of a fine if they came

without them, and some under the inducement of a reward. They had no

bayonets, but carried hatchets in their belts as a sort of substitute.

At their sides were slung powder-horns, on which, in the leisure of the

camp, they carved quaint devices with the points of their jack-knives.

They came chiefly from plain New England homesteads,--rustic abodes,

unpainted and dingy, with long well-sweeps, capacious barns, rough

fields of pumpkins and corn, and vast kitchen chimneys, above which in

winter hung squashes to keep them from frost, and guns to keep them from


As to the manners and morals of the army there is conflict of evidence.

In some respects nothing could be more exemplary. "Not a chicken has

been stolen," says William Smith, of New York; while, on the other

hand, Colonel Ephraim Williams writes to Colonel Israel Williams, then

commanding on the Massachusetts frontier: "We are a wicked, profane

army, especially the New York and Rhode Island troops. Nothing to be

heard among a great part of them but the language of Hell. If Crown

Point is taken, it will not be for our sakes, but for those good people

left behind." There was edifying regularity in respect to form. Sermons

twice a week, daily prayers, and frequent psalm-singing alternated with

the much-needed military drill. "Prayers among us night and morning,"

writes Private Jonathan Caswell, of Massachusetts, to his father. "Here

we lie, knowing not when we shall march for Crown Point; but I hope not

long to tarry. Desiring your prayers to God for me as I am agoing to

war, I am Your Ever Dutiful Son."

To Pomeroy and some of his brothers in arms it seemed that they were

engaged in a kind of crusade against the myrmidons of Rome. "As you have

at heart the Protestant cause," he wrote to his friend Israel Williams,

"so I ask an interest in your prayers that the Lord of Hosts would go

forth with us and give us victory over our unreasonable, encroaching,

barbarous, murdering enemies."

Both Williams the surgeon and Williams the colonel chafed at the

incessant delays. "The expedition goes on very much as a snail runs,"

writes the former to his wife; "it seems we may possibly see Crown Point

this time twelve months." The Colonel was vexed because everything was

out of joint in the department of transportation: wagoners mutinous for

want of pay; ordnance stores, camp-kettles, and provisions left behind.

"As to rum," he complains, "it won't hold out nine weeks. Things appear

most melancholy to me." Even as he was writing, a report came of the

defeat of Braddock; and, shocked at the blow, his pen traced the words:

"The Lord have mercy on poor New England!"

Johnson had sent four Mohawk scouts to Canada. They returned on the

twenty-first of August with the report that the French were all astir

with preparation, and that eight thousand men were coming to defend

Crown Point. On this a council of war was called; and it was resolved to

send to the several colonies for reinforcements. Meanwhile the main body

had moved up the river to the spot called the Great Carrying Place,

where Lyman had begun a fortified storehouse, which his men called Fort

Lyman, but which was afterwards named Fort Edward. Two Indian trails led

from this point to the waters of Lake Champlain, one by way of Lake

George, and the other by way of Wood Creek. There was doubt which course

the army should take. A road was begun to Wood Creek; then it was

countermanded, and a party was sent to explore the path to Lake George.

"With submission to the general officers," Surgeon Williams again

writes, "I think it a very grand mistake that the business of

reconnoitring was not done months agone." It was resolved at last to

march for Lake George; gangs of axemen were sent to hew out the way; and

on the twenty-sixth two thousand men were ordered to the lake, while

Colonel Blanchard, of New Hampshire, remained with five hundred to

finish and defend Fort Lyman.

The train of Dutch wagons, guarded by the homely soldiery, jolted slowly

over the stumps and roots of the newly made road, and the regiments

followed at their leisure. The hardships of the way were not without

their consolations. The jovial Irishman who held the chief command made

himself very agreeable to the New England officers. "We went on about

four or five miles," says Pomeroy in his Journal, "then stopped, ate

pieces of broken bread and cheese, and drank some fresh lemon-punch and

the best of wine with General Johnson and some of the field-officers."

It was the same on the next day. "Stopped about noon and dined with

General Johnson by a small brook under a tree; ate a good dinner of cold

boiled and roast venison; drank good fresh lemon-punch and wine."

That afternoon they reached their destination, fourteen miles from Fort

Lyman. The most beautiful lake in America lay before them; then more

beautiful than now, in the wild charm of untrodden mountains and virgin

forests. "I have given it the name of Lake George," wrote Johnson to the

Lords of Trade, "not only in honor of His Majesty, but to ascertain his

undoubted dominion here." His men made their camp on a piece of rough

ground by the edge of the water, pitching their tents among the stumps

of the newly felled trees. In their front was a forest of pitch-pine; on

their right, a marsh, choked with alders and swamp-maples; on their

left, the low hill where Fort George was afterwards built; and at their

rear, the lake. Little was done to clear the forest in front, though it

would give excellent cover to an enemy. Nor did Johnson take much pains

to learn the movements of the French in the direction of Crown Point,

though he sent scouts towards South Bay and Wood Creek. Every day stores

and bateaux, or flat boats, came on wagons from Fort Lyman; and

preparation moved on with the leisure that had marked it from the first.

About three hundred Mohawks came to the camp, and were regarded by the

New England men as nuisances. On Sunday the gray-haired Stephen

Williams preached to these savage allies a long Calvinistic sermon,

which must have sorely perplexed the interpreter whose business it was

to turn it into Mohawk; and in the afternoon young Chaplain Newell, of

Rhode Island, expounded to the New England men the somewhat untimely

text, "Love your enemies." On the next Sunday, September seventh,

Williams preached again, this time to the whites from a text in Isaiah.

It was a peaceful day, fair and warm, with a few light showers; yet not

wholly a day of rest, for two hundred wagons came up from Fort Lyman,

loaded with bateaux. After the sermon there was an alarm. An Indian

scout came in about sunset, and reported that he had found the trail of

a body of men moving from South Bay towards Fort Lyman. Johnson called

for a volunteer to carry a letter of warning to Colonel Blanchard, the

commander. A wagoner named Adams offered himself for the perilous

service, mounted, and galloped along the road with the letter. Sentries

were posted, and the camp fell asleep.

While Johnson lay at Lake George, Dieskau prepared a surprise for him.

The German Baron had reached Crown Point at the head of three thousand

five hundred and seventy-three men, regulars, Canadians, and Indians. He

had no thought of waiting there to be attacked. The troops were told to

hold themselves ready to move at a moment's notice. Officers--so ran the

order--will take nothing with them but one spare shirt, one spare pair

of shoes, a blanket, a bearskin, and provisions for twelve days; Indians

are not to amuse themselves by taking scalps till the enemy is entirely

defeated, since they can kill ten men in the time required to scalp one.

Then Dieskau moved on, with nearly all his force, to Carillon, or

Ticonderoga, a promontory commanding both the routes by which alone

Johnson could advance, that of Wood Creek and that of Lake George.

The Indian allies were commanded by Legardeur de Saint-Pierre. These

unmanageable warriors were a constant annoyance to Dieskau, being a

species of humanity quite new to him. "They drive us crazy," he says,

"from morning till night. There is no end to their demands. They have

already eaten five oxen and as many hogs, without counting the kegs of

brandy they have drunk. In short, one needs the patience of an angel to

get on with these devils; and yet one must always force himself to seem

pleased with them."

They would scarcely even go out as scouts. At last, however, on the

fourth of September, a reconnoitring party came in with a scalp and an

English prisoner caught near Fort Lyman. He was questioned under the

threat of being given to the Indians for torture if he did not tell the

truth; but, nothing daunted, he invented a patriotic falsehood; and

thinking to lure his captors into a trap, told them that the English

army had fallen back to Albany, leaving five hundred men at Fort Lyman,

which he represented as indefensible. Dieskau resolved on a rapid

movement to seize the place. At noon of the same day, leaving a part of

his force at Ticonderoga, he embarked the rest in canoes and advanced

along the narrow prolongation of Lake Champlain that stretched southward

through the wilderness to where the town of Whitehall now stands. He

soon came to a point where the lake dwindled to a mere canal, while two

mighty rocks, capped with stunted forests, faced each other from the

opposing banks. Here he left an officer named Roquemaure with a

detachment of troops, and again advanced along a belt of quiet water

traced through the midst of a deep marsh, green at that season with

sedge and water-weeds, and known to the English as the Drowned Lands.

Beyond, on either hand, crags feathered with birch and fir, or hills

mantled with woods, looked down on the long procession of canoes. As

they neared the site of Whitehall, a passage opened on the right, the

entrance to a sheet of lonely water slumbering in the shadow of woody

mountains, and forming the lake then, as now, called South Bay. They

advanced to its head, landed where a small stream enters it, left the

canoes under a guard, and began their march through the forest. They

counted in all two hundred and sixteen regulars of the battalions of

Languedoc and La Reine, six hundred and eighty-four Canadians, and about

six hundred Indians. Every officer and man carried provisions for eight

days in his knapsack. They encamped at night by a brook, and in the

morning, after hearing Mass, marched again. The evening of the next day

brought them near the road that led to Lake George. Fort Lyman was but

three miles distant. A man on horseback galloped by; it was Adams,

Johnson's unfortunate messenger. The Indians shot him, and found the

letter in his pocket. Soon after, ten or twelve wagons appeared in

charge of mutinous drivers, who had left the English camp without

orders. Several of them were shot, two were taken, and the rest ran off.

The two captives declared that, contrary to the assertion of the

prisoner at Ticonderoga, a large force lay encamped at the lake. The

Indians now held a council, and presently gave out that they would not

attack the fort, which they thought well supplied with cannon, but that

they were willing to attack the camp at Lake George. Remonstrance was

lost upon them. Dieskau was not young, but he was daring to rashness,

and inflamed to emulation by the victory over Braddock. The enemy were

reported greatly to outnumber him; but his Canadian advisers had assured

him that the English colony militia were the worst troops on the face of

the earth. "The more there are," he said to the Canadians and Indians,

"the more we shall kill;" and in the morning the order was given to

march for the lake.

They moved rapidly on through the waste of pines, and soon entered the

rugged valley that led to Johnson's camp. On their right was a gorge

where, shadowed in bushes, gurgled a gloomy brook; and beyond rose the

cliffs that buttressed the rocky heights of French Mountain, seen by

glimpses between the boughs. On their left rose gradually the lower

slopes of West Mountain. All was rock, thicket, and forest; there was no

open space but the road along which the regulars marched, while the

Canadians and Indians pushed their way through the woods in such order

as the broken ground would permit.

They were three miles from the lake, when their scouts brought in a

prisoner who told them that a column of English troops was approaching.

Dieskau's preparations were quickly made. While the regulars halted on

the road, the Canadians and Indians moved to the front, where most of

them hid in the forest along the slopes of West Mountain, and the rest

lay close among the thickets on the other side. Thus, when the English

advanced to attack the regulars in front, they would find themselves

caught in a double ambush. No sight or sound betrayed the snare; but

behind every bush crouched a Canadian or a savage, with gun cocked and

ears intent, listening for the tramp of the approaching column.

The wagoners who escaped the evening before had reached the camp about

midnight, and reported that there was a war-party on the road near Fort

Lyman. Johnson had at this time twenty-two hundred effective men,

besides his three hundred Indians. He called a council of war in the

morning, and a resolution was taken which can only be explained by a

complete misconception as to the force of the French. It was determined

to send out two detachments of five hundred men each, one towards Fort

Lyman, and the other towards South Bay, the object being, according to

Johnson, "to catch the enemy in their retreat." Hendrick, chief of the

Mohawks, a brave and sagacious warrior, expressed his dissent after a

fashion of his own. He picked up a stick and broke it; then he picked up

several sticks, and showed that together they could not be broken. The

hint was taken, and the two detachments were joined in one. Still the

old savage shook his head. "If they are to be killed," he said, "they

are too many; if they are to fight, they are too few." Nevertheless, he

resolved to share their fortunes; and mounting on a gun-carriage, he

harangued his warriors with a voice so animated, and gestures so

expressive, that the New England officers listened in admiration, though

they understood not a word. One difficulty remained. He was too old and

fat to go afoot; but Johnson lent him a horse, which he bestrode, and

trotted to the head of the column, followed by two hundred of his

warriors as fast as they could grease, paint, and befeather themselves.

Captain Elisha Hawley was in his tent, finishing a letter which he had

just written to his brother Joseph; and these were the last words: "I am

this minute agoing out in company with five hundred men to see if we can

intercept 'em in their retreat, or find their canoes in the Drowned

Lands; and therefore must conclude this letter." He closed and directed

it; and in an hour received his death-wound.

It was soon after eight o'clock when Ephraim Williams left the camp with

his regiment, marched a little distance, and then waited for the rest of

the detachment under Lieutenant-Colonel Whiting. Thus Dieskau had full

time to lay his ambush. When Whiting came up, the whole moved on

together, so little conscious of danger that no scouts were thrown out

in front or flank; and, in full security, they entered the fatal snare.

Before they were completely involved in it, the sharp eye of old

Hendrick detected some sign of an enemy. At that instant, whether by

accident or design, a gun was fired from the bushes. It is said that

Dieskau's Iroquois, seeing Mohawks, their relatives, in the van, wished

to warn them of danger. If so, the warning came too late. The thickets

on the left blazed out a deadly fire, and the men fell by scores. In the

words of Dieskau, the head of the column "was doubled up like a pack of

cards." Hendrick's horse was shot down, and the chief was killed with a

bayonet as he tried to rise. Williams, seeing a rising ground on his

right, made for it, calling on his men to follow; but as he climbed the

slope, guns flashed from the bushes, and a shot through the brain laid

him dead. The men in the rear pressed forward to support their comrades,

when a hot fire was suddenly opened on them from the forest along their

right flank. Then there was a panic: some fled outright, and the whole

column recoiled. The van now became the rear, and all the force of the

enemy rushed upon it, shouting and screeching. There was a moment of

total confusion; but a part of Williams's regiment rallied under command

of Whiting, and covered the retreat, fighting behind trees like

Indians, and firing and falling back by turns, bravely aided by some of

the Mohawks and by a detachment which Johnson sent to their aid. "And a

very handsome retreat they made," writes Pomeroy; "and so continued till

they came within about three quarters of a mile of our camp. This was

the last fire our men gave our enemies, which killed great numbers of

them; they were seen to drop as pigeons." So ended the fray long known

in New England fireside story as the "bloody morning scout." Dieskau now

ordered a halt, and sounded his trumpets to collect his scattered men.

His Indians, however, were sullen and unmanageable, and the Canadians

also showed signs of wavering. The veteran who commanded them all,

Legardeur de Saint-Pierre, had been killed. At length they were

persuaded to move again, the regulars leading the way.

About an hour after Williams and his men had begun their march, a

distant rattle of musketry was heard at the camp; and as it grew nearer

and louder, the listeners knew that their comrades were on the retreat.

Then, at the eleventh hour, preparations were begun for defence. A sort

of barricade was made along the front of the camp, partly of wagons, and

partly of inverted bateaux, but chiefly of the trunks of trees hastily

hewn down in the neighboring forest and laid end to end in a single row.

The line extended from the southern slopes of the hill on the left

across a tract of rough ground to the marshes on the right. The forest,

choked with bushes and clumps of rank ferns, was within a few yards of

the barricade, and there was scarcely time to hack away the intervening

thickets. Three cannon were planted to sweep the road that descended

through the pines, and another was dragged up to the ridge of the hill.

The defeated party began to come in; first, scared fugitives both white

and red; then, gangs of men bringing the wounded; and at last, an hour

and a half after the first fire was heard, the main detachment was seen

marching in compact bodies down the road.

Five hundred men were detailed to guard the flanks of the camp. The rest

stood behind the wagons or lay flat behind the logs and inverted

bateaux, the Massachusetts men on the right, and the Connecticut men on

the left. Besides Indians, this actual fighting force was between

sixteen and seventeen hundred rustics, very few of whom had been under

fire before that morning. They were hardly at their posts when they saw

ranks of white-coated soldiers moving down the road, and bayonets that

to them seemed innumerable glittering between the boughs. At the same

time a terrific burst of war-whoops rose along the front; and, in the

words of Pomeroy, "the Canadians and Indians, helter-skelter, the woods

full of them, came running with undaunted courage right down the hill

upon us, expecting to make us flee." Some of the men grew uneasy; while

the chief officers, sword in hand, threatened instant death to any who

should stir from their posts. If Dieskau had made an assault at that

instant, there could be little doubt of the result.

This he well knew; but he was powerless. He had his small force of

regulars well in hand; but the rest, red and white, were beyond control,

scattering through the woods and swamps, shouting, yelling, and firing

from behind trees. The regulars advanced with intrepidity towards the

camp where the trees were thin, deployed, and fired by platoons, till

Captain Eyre, who commanded the artillery, opened on them with grape,

broke their ranks, and compelled them to take to cover. The fusillade

was now general on both sides, and soon grew furious. "Perhaps," Seth

Pomeroy wrote to his wife, two days after, "the hailstones from heaven

were never much thicker than their bullets came; but, blessed be God!

that did not in the least daunt or disturb us." Johnson received a

flesh-wound in the thigh, and spent the rest of the day in his tent.

Lyman took command; and it is a marvel that he escaped alive, for he was

four hours in the heat of the fire, directing and animating the men. "It

was the most awful day my eyes ever beheld," wrote Surgeon Williams to

his wife; "there seemed to be nothing but thunder and lightning and

perpetual pillars of smoke." To him, his colleague Doctor Pynchon, one

assistant, and a young student called "Billy," fell the charge of the

wounded of his regiment. "The bullets flew about our ears all the time

of dressing them; so we thought best to leave our tent and retire a few

rods behind the shelter of a log-house." On the adjacent hill stood one

Blodget, who seems to have been a sutler, watching, as well as bushes,

trees, and smoke would let him, the progress of the fight, of which he

soon after made and published a curious bird's-eye view. As the wounded

men were carried to the rear, the wagoners about the camp took their

guns and powder-horns, and joined in the fray. A Mohawk, seeing one of

these men still unarmed, leaped over the barricade, tomahawked the

nearest Canadian, snatched his gun, and darted back unhurt. The brave

savage found no imitators among his tribesmen, most of whom did nothing

but utter a few war-whoops, saying that they had come to see their

English brothers fight. Some of the French Indians opened a distant

flank fire from the high ground beyond the swamp on the right, but were

driven off by a few shells dropped among them.

Dieskau had directed his first attack against the left and centre of

Johnson's position. Making no impression here, he tried to force the

right, where lay the regiments of Titcomb, Ruggles, and Williams. The

fire was hot for about an hour. Titcomb was shot dead, a rod in front of

the barricade, firing from behind a tree like a common soldier. At

length Dieskau, exposing himself within short range of the English line,

was hit in the leg. His adjutant, Montreuil, himself wounded, came to

his aid, and was washing the injured limb with brandy, when the

unfortunate commander was again hit in the knee and thigh. He seated

himself behind a tree, while the Adjutant called two Canadians to carry

him to the rear. One of them was instantly shot down. Montreuil took his

place; but Dieskau refused to be moved, bitterly denounced the Canadians

and Indians, and ordered the Adjutant to leave him and lead the regulars

in a last effort against the camp.

It was too late. Johnson's men, singly or in small squads, were already

crossing their row of logs; and in a few moments the whole dashed

forward with a shout, falling upon the enemy with hatchets and the butts

of their guns. The French and their allies fled. The wounded General

still sat helpless by the tree, when he saw a soldier aiming at him. He

signed to the man not to fire; but he pulled trigger, shot him across

the hips, leaped upon him, and ordered him in French to surrender. "I

said," writes Dieskau, "'You rascal, why did you fire? You see a man

lying in his blood on the ground, and you shoot him!' He answered: 'How

did I know that you had not got a pistol? I had rather kill the devil

than have the devil kill me.' 'You are a Frenchman?' I asked. 'Yes,' he

replied; 'it is more than ten years since I left Canada;' whereupon

several others fell on me and stripped me. I told them to carry me to

their general, which they did. On learning who I was, he sent for

surgeons, and, though wounded himself, refused all assistance till my

wounds were dressed."

It was near five o'clock when the final rout took place. Some time

before, several hundred of the Canadians and Indians had left the field

and returned to the scene of the morning fight, to plunder and scalp the

dead. They were resting themselves near a pool in the forest, close

beside the road, when their repose was interrupted by a volley of

bullets. It was fired by a scouting party from Fort Lyman, chiefly

backwoodsmen, under Captains Folsom and McGinnis. The assailants were

greatly outnumbered; but after a hard fight the Canadians and Indians

broke and fled. McGinnis was mortally wounded. He continued to give

orders till the firing was over; then fainted, and was carried, dying,

to the camp. The bodies of the slain, according to tradition, were

thrown into the pool, which bears to this day the name of Bloody Pond.

The various bands of fugitives rejoined each other towards night, and

encamped in the forest; then made their way round the southern shoulder

of French Mountain, till, in the next evening, they reached their

canoes. Their plight was deplorable; for they had left their knapsacks

behind, and were spent with fatigue and famine.

Meanwhile their captive general was not yet out of danger. The Mohawks

were furious at their losses in the ambush of the morning, and above all

at the death of Hendrick. Scarcely were Dieskau's wounds dressed, when

several of them came into the tent. There was a long and angry dispute

in their own language between them and Johnson, after which they went

out very sullenly. Dieskau asked what they wanted. "What do they want?"

returned Johnson. "To burn you, by God, eat you, and smoke you in their

pipes, in revenge for three or four of their chiefs that were killed.

But never fear; you shall be safe with me, or else they shall kill us

both." The Mohawks soon came back, and another talk ensued, excited at

first, and then more calm; till at length the visitors, seemingly

appeased, smiled, gave Dieskau their hands in sign of friendship, and

quietly went out again. Johnson warned him that he was not yet safe; and

when the prisoner, fearing that his presence might incommode his host,

asked to be removed to another tent, a captain and fifty men were

ordered to guard him. In the morning an Indian, alone and apparently

unarmed, loitered about the entrance, and the stupid sentinel let him

pass in. He immediately drew a sword from under a sort of cloak which he

wore, and tried to stab Dieskau; but was prevented by the colonel to

whom the tent belonged, who seized upon him, took away his sword, and

pushed him out. As soon as his wounds would permit, Dieskau was carried

on a litter, strongly escorted, to Fort Lyman, whence he was sent to

Albany, and afterwards to New York. He is profuse in expressions of

gratitude for the kindness shown him by the colonial officers, and

especially by Johnson. Of the provincial soldiers he remarked soon after

the battle that in the morning they fought like good boys, about noon

like men, and in the afternoon like devils. In the spring of 1757 he

sailed for England, and was for a time at Falmouth; whence Colonel

Matthew Sewell, fearing that he might see and learn too much, wrote to

the Earl of Holdernesse: "The Baron has great penetration and quickness

of apprehension. His long service under Marshal Saxe renders him a man

of real consequence, to be cautiously observed. His circumstances

deserve compassion, for indeed they are very melancholy, and I much

doubt of his being ever perfectly cured." He was afterwards a long time

at Bath, for the benefit of the waters. In 1760 the famous Diderot met

him at Paris, cheerful and full of anecdote, though wretchedly shattered

by his wounds. He died a few years later.

On the night after the battle the yeomen warriors felt the truth of the

saying that, next to defeat, the saddest thing is victory. Comrades and

friends by scores lay scattered through the forest. As soon as he could

snatch a moment's leisure, the overworked surgeon sent the dismal

tidings to his wife: "My dear brother Ephraim was killed by a ball

through his head; poor brother Josiah's wound I fear will prove mortal;

poor Captain Hawley is yet alive, though I did not think he would live

two hours after bringing him in." Daniel Pomeroy was shot dead; and his

brother Seth wrote the news to his wife Rachel, who was just delivered

of a child: "Dear Sister, this brings heavy tidings; but let not your

heart sink at the news, though it be your loss of a dear husband. Monday

the eighth instant was a memorable day; and truly you may say, had not

the Lord been on our side, we must all have been swallowed up. My

brother, being one that went out in the first engagement, received a

fatal shot through the middle of the head." Seth Pomeroy found a moment

to write also to his own wife, whom he tells that another attack is

expected; adding, in quaintly pious phrase: "But as God hath begun to

show mercy, I hope he will go on to be gracious." Pomeroy was employed

during the next few days with four hundred men in what he calls "the

melancholy piece of business" of burying the dead. A letter-writer of

the time does not approve what was done on this occasion. "Our people,"

he says, "not only buried the French dead, but buried as many of them

as might be without the knowledge of our Indians, to prevent their being

scalped. This I call an excess of civility;" his reason being that

Braddock's dead soldiers had been left to the wolves.

The English loss in killed, wounded, and missing was two hundred and

sixty-two; and that of the French, by their own account, two hundred and

twenty-eight,--a somewhat modest result of five hours' fighting. The

English loss was chiefly in the ambush of the morning, where the killed

greatly outnumbered the wounded, because those who fell and could not be

carried away were tomahawked by Dieskau's Indians. In the fight at the

camp, both Indians and Canadians kept themselves so well under cover

that it was very difficult for the New England men to pick them off,

while they on their part lay close behind their row of logs. On the

French side, the regular officers and troops bore the brunt of the

battle and suffered the chief loss, nearly all of the former and nearly

half of the latter being killed or wounded.

Johnson did not follow up his success. He says that his men were tired.

Yet five hundred of them had stood still all day, and boats enough for

their transportation were lying on the beach. Ten miles down the lake, a

path led over a gorge of the mountains to South Bay, where Dieskau had

left his canoes and provisions. It needed but a few hours to reach and

destroy them; but no such attempt was made. Nor, till a week after, did

Johnson send out scouts to learn the strength of the enemy at

Ticonderoga. Lyman strongly urged him to make an effort to seize that

important pass; but Johnson thought only of holding his own position. "I

think," he wrote, "we may expect very shortly a more formidable

attack." He made a solid breastwork to defend his camp; and as

reinforcements arrived, set them at building a fort, which he named Fort

William Henry, on a rising ground by the lake. It is true that just

after the battle he was deficient in stores, and had not bateaux enough

to move his whole force. It is true, also, that he was wounded, and that

he was too jealous of Lyman to delegate the command to him; and so the

days passed till, within a fortnight, his nimble enemy were intrenched

at Ticonderoga in force enough to defy him.

The Crown Point expedition was a failure disguised under an incidental


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