The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier


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Forts in New York (state)

It is now operated as a living museum and a popular tourist attraction in the village of Lake George. Following the battle, Johnson decided to construct a fortification near the site, while the French began construction of Fort Carillon near the northern end of the lake. Design and construction of the new fortification was overseen by British military engineer William Eyre of the 44th Foot. Fort William Henry was an irregular square fortification with bastions on the corners, in a design that was intended to repel Indian attacks, but not necessarily withstand attack from an enemy armed with artillery.

Its walls were 30 feet thick, with log facings around an earthen filling. Inside the fort were wooden barracks two stories high, built around the parade ground. Its magazine was in the northeast bastion, and its hospital was located in the southeast bastion. The fort was surrounded on three sides by a dry moat, with the fourth side sloping down to the lake. The only access to the fort was by a bridge across the moat.

In the spring of , command of the fort was turned over to George Monro, with a garrison principally drawn from the 35th Foot and the 60th Royal American Foot. By June the garrison had swollen to about 1, men with the arrival of provincial militia companies from Connecticut and New Jersey. Conditions in both the fort and the camp were not good, and many men were ill, including some with smallpox. The French force of General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm arrived on August 3, and established camps to the south and west of the fort.

French forces totaled some 8,, consisting of 3, regulars, 3, militia and nearly 2, Native Americans from various tribes. What happened next has been described in historical and popular treatments as a massacre. Horrific events took place, although in the end, historian Ian Steele finds it most likely that around people about 7. The terms of surrender were that the British and their camp followers would be allowed to withdraw, under French escort, to Fort Edward, with the full honors of war, on condition that they refrain from participation in the war for 18 months.

Background

They were allowed to keep their muskets but no ammunition, and a single symbolic cannon. In addition, British authorities were to release French prisoners within three months. Montcalm, before agreeing to these terms, attempted to make sure that his Indian allies understood them, and that the chiefs would undertake to restrain their men. The British garrison was then evacuated from the fort to the entrenched camp, while Monro was quartered in the French camp.

The Indians then entered the fort and plundered it, butchering some of the wounded and sick whom the British had left behind.


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The French guards posted around the entrenched camp were somewhat unsuccessful at keeping the Indians out of that area, and it took significant effort to prevent plunder and scalping in that camp. Montcalm and Monro initially planned to march the prisoners south the following morning, but after seeing the Indian bloodlust decided to attempt the march that night. He served at Culloden and in Flanders , presumably in the role of a Practitioner Engineer "Ensign".

Eyre commanded the artillery at the Battle of Lake George September 8, and was subsequently promoted from England to the rank of Major over more or equally senior officers in the 44th. During the failed Ticonderoga Campaign in , Abercromby and Eyre clashed over conflicting duties of regimental command and the engineering needs of the campaign. Eyre was confident that he could perform both duties, but Abercromby insisted that Eyre choose a single role.

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Eyre chose his regimental duties over engineering responsibilities. Less experienced engineers then advised Abercromby. Immediately following the Ticonderoga disaster, Eyre was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in the 55th regiment, but he transferred back to the 44th as Lieutenant Colonel October 29, Under Amherst, Eyre continued his engineering duties and led the successful siege operations against Ticonderoga in and Fort Levis on the St. Lawrence River in Amherst trusted and valued Eyre Cubbison , Page Eyre designed the fortification at Crown Point.

On March 19, , a French force of sixteen hundred men attempted a surprise assault on Fort William Henry. The assault failed. Some histories have one company of the 35th, one company of the 42nd Highlanders, two new companies of the 44th, and two companies of the 48th reaching Fort William Henry, but this seems false see Brown , Page Elements of these other regiments did march in relief but then turned back when Rigaud's Raid was driven off Loudoun to Pitt, April 25, , in Kimball , Page Although surrounded by huge tracts of forest, the Siege of Fort William Henry FWH can accurately be described as a traditional European artillery duel.

The French adopted standard zigzag trenching to establishment their gun batteries, while the British conducted defensive fire in an attempt to retard the French earthwork. The British occupied two distinct positions. The remaining 1, men were sheltered within the Entrenched Camp on a hillock yards to the southeast of the Bastion. Late November by William Eyre. John Inglis , Page Original British Museum, Maps, cxxi 3. Except for the two large labels, the penmanship appears to be the same as in LO and LO , Letters from Eyre to Loudoun, March 26 and May 28, , respectively.

The various profile sections depict the two underground Magazines, the aboveground casemate of the east curtain wall, and a roofed storage area between the South Barracks and the South Curtain Wall Note S. The transcription of the Plan Notes is on the following page. The Grand Magazine. Inches square, and covered in a like manner, being strongly shored and braced within. A Casement bomb Proof, that will contain upwards of Men. A Designed Work where men lie in Safety in time of a Siege. Observe in Section D.

A Barrack not finished. An outwork to defend.

The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier

Note: The intent of the "Q" on top of the South Curtain Wall is obscure as "S" does not seem to fit the definition of a casement. Casements with middle centerline suggest an internal pitched roof, not two rooms. There is a small Storehouse next to North Barracks. The three Piles of Barracks when completed will contain men, and the Storehouses near 3, barrels of Provisions.

There are no Palisades as yet planted around the Fort or detached Work. Of all the historical drawings, the building layout in Figure 1 is probably the most representative of the time of the Siege Rocque Drawing. In Figure 2, a long aboveground storage "building" is located between the South Barracks and the south curtain wall.

French and Indian War: Siege of Fort William Henry

This storage area is depicted in both the aerial plan view and the profile section; it is referenced in Note S. As the south curtain wall could be attacked, Eyre chose to have the full width of the earth-filled curtain wall at this location.


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Between and , the building configuration slowly changed. To allow access and ventilation of the aboveground casement rooms built into the east curtain wall, the East Barracks may have been shifted away from the curtain wall some additional distance, as the South Barracks is in Figure 2. The east curtain casement was intended as a bomb-proof shelter for the garrison, not storage.

Evidence suggests a hospital was established outside the east wall in Fall , but the building may never have been used in that capacity Eyre, March 24th, ; Letter Appendix. In Fall , this hospital was likely unsecured without a protective stockade. The footprint of the north wall warehouse is shown in Figure 1, but the footprint of the razed advanced work is not shown. The orientation of Figure 1 is awkward with north to the bottom of the page. The gun embrasures along the west curtain wall are missing. These gun embrasures are clearly shown in Eyre's as-built drawing. Compared to Figure 1, the east wall is much longer than depicted by approximately 55 feet.

The south wall is longer by about 25 feet.

The Siege of Fort William Henry

The lengths of the west and north walls are better matches. The north wall is now the shortest wall. Only the southeast corner stake needs to be moved to account for the difference seen between the outside dimensions of Figures 1 and 2. Even to this day, there is no illustration that successfully blends Figure 1 and Figure 2 into a representative drawing for the time of the Siege. Ormsby first appears on the rolls of the 35th in Besides Ormsby, the 35th's officers assigned to the Bastion included Lt. Charles Gore and Lt. William Widdrington LO A single unidentified subaltern officer of the Royal Americans was posted to the Bastion.

The 35th Regiment of Foot was part of the Irish Establishment and was only authorized to a strength of with an annual budget of 8, pounds Under the British Establishment, a foot regiment had a "garrison" strength of and an annual budget of 15, pounds Steward , Page In all likelihood, these transferred troops were the bottom quality from each of the parent regiments See Brumwell , Page With the difficulties encountered in recruiting by Braddock and the poor performance of the colonial lead expeditions in , London had decided to send both the 35th and 42nd Regiments to America at near full strength.

The 35th arrived at Plymouth in March England. Recruiting continued and prisons were scoured looking for men willing to serve in the 35th for life in exchange for release Pargellis , Page Impressing the unemployed was authorized Hughes , Page 3; and Brumwell , Page At Plymouth, the 35th was immediately transferred to the British Establishment and authorized by a "sign manual" to full campaign strength under the signature of the Secretary of War.

Major Fletcher, "Irish", impressed men, and much of the baggage of the 35th sailed in mid-June and did not reach North America until August LO Sailing time from England to North America was typically between six and eight weeks. In early September, the 35th was reunited outside of Albany, but its strength had been reduced by sickness and further culling of the unfit. The surge in "recruiting" in England had dramatically changed the ethnic mix of the 35th. After , the effectiveness of recruiting in America was severely reduced Brumwell , Page In October , Loudoun considered the 35th fit for no more than garrison duty or work detachments and rejected all thought of using them as part of any campaign.

Loudoun had considerably more faith in the 44th, 48th, and the newly arrived 42nd Regiment. The six months the 35th spent near Albany organizing and in drill is best explained in Hughes ; Chapter 2.

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By March , the 35th was deemed much more capable. It still did not have the full confidence of Loudoun, but it had markedly improved in his eyes. When moving from a peacetime footing to a war footing, the number of lieutenants in a foot regiment was typically doubled by the addition of a lieutenant to each company in the battalion. The number of sergeants per company would increase from three to four. In peacetime, the nine battalion companies, "tricorner hats", would be lead by a Captain, one Lieutenant, and one Ensign; in wartime, there would be a Captain, two Lieutenants, and one Ensign.

Ensigns would not be assigned to the single grenadier company. Regardless of origin, there needed to be a rash of promotions or new blood added to the regiment to staff the ten or so "new" lieutenant vacancies in each battalion. In the four weeks prior to the Battle of the Monongahela, Braddock authorized at least thirty promotions among the officers, gentlemen volunteers, and possibly sergeants of the 44th and 48th Regiments rankers ; minting both new ensigns and new lieutenants Steward , Page Though under- strength, fifty-man companies remained effective. At least on paper, the officers appointed as the Adjutant and the Quartermaster would also serve in an existing line company double duty ; these two positions were not additional officer slots.

There would be additional staff officers — chaplain, surgeon and surgeon mates. Math and logic would dictate that the wartime grenadier company would then carry a Captain and two Lieutenants. Yet this was not the case here. In , the 35th was carrying 20 Lieutenants, but consistently a third lieutenant in the grenadier company. Monro does what he can to keep that Regiment right, but they must have Examples made before it will do.

The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier
The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier
The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier
The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier
The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier
The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier
The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier
The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier

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