1755-09-08 - Combat of Lake George
Prelude to the Battle
At the beginning of September 1755, the Baron de Dieskau, commander of the French force on Lake Champlain, decided to attack Fort Lyman, because he was convinced that William Johnson's main force had already retired from the shores of Lake George. During his advance, he soon learned that Johnson was still encamped at Lake George. Dieskau then changed his plan and advanced on Johnson's camp.
Description of Events
Dieskau's force of about 1,500 men advanced rapidly through the forest and soon entered the rugged valley that led to Johnson's camp. The regulars marched along the road while Canadians and Indians moved through the woods. They were 5 km from the lake when their scouts brought a prisoner who informed them that a British detachment was approaching. Indeed, at 8:00 a.m., Johnson had sent a party of 500 men under Ephraim Williams, including 200 Mohawks led by their chief Hendrick, to cut off Dieskau's retreat from Fort Lyman. Dieskau prepared an ambush. Around 10:30 a.m., Williams' detachment fell into this ambush and soon routed towards Johnson's camp, pursued by the French.
Williams and Chief Hendrick were both killed during the fight. Dieskau paused about 11:00 a.m. to reorganise his force.
Meanwhile, Johnson, upon hearing the sound of musketry prepared to defend his camp. The Provincials quickly erected an improvised barricade made of tree trunks, wagons and bateaux in front of the camp. The barricade extended from a hill on the left to a marsh on the right. Three guns were positioned to enfilade the approaching road and a fourth was dragged to the top of the hill. Soon, men from the defeated detachment started to arrive to the camp. Some 500 men were detached to guard the flanks of the camp while the rest took position behind the barricade. Units from Massachusetts were on the right wing and those of Connecticut on the left.
Around 12:30 p.m., Dieskau's force appeared in good order within 150 yards from the breastwork. The regulars were on the road and the Canadians and Indians approached through the woods. The regulars formed lines and began firing by platoons. The three guns commanded by Captain Eyre then fired grapeshot, forcing the French regulars to retire and take cover.
After being repulsed in the centre of the British positions, the French made a second attempt on the British right against the regiments of colonels Williams, Ruggles and Titcomb. This new attack was also repulsed. Meanwhile, firing had become general all along the line. Johnson was wounded and Lyman took command. The French allied Indians managed to gain a height beyond the marsh to the right and opened flank fire. However, the artillery chased them from this position. Then, Dieskau was wounded twice.
Slowly, the Provincials and their Indian allies were gaining the edge in this firefight. Soon, they began to cross the barricade and to assault French positions. Around 5:00 p.m., the Canadians and Indians finally routed. However, the French regulars under M. de Montreuil formed a rearguard and retired in good order. The pursuit ceased around 7:00 p.m. Dieskau was left behind and captured. He was returned to France only in 1763.
During this combat and the preceding ambush, the losses of the Colonials amounted to 191 killed, 150 wounded and 62 missing while the French lost 132 killed, mainly among regulars and officers, and 184 wounded. Colonel Titcomb was killed while Johnson and Major Nichols were wounded. The heaviest losses of the British occured in Williams' column, Williams himself being killed together with Major Ashley and captains Ingersal, Puter, Ferral, Stoddert, McGimes and Steevens, all Indian officers with 40 Indians and Chief Hendrick.
Order of Battle
British Order of Battle
Commander: Major-General William Johnson
- Provincial (2,932 effective men as per the returns of August 17, 18 and 19)
- 1st Massachusetts Provincials (about 450 men) under Colonel Timothy Ruggles
- 2nd Massachusetts Provincials (about 450 men) under Colonel Moses Titcomb
- 3rd Massachusetts Provincials (about 450 men) under Colonel Ephraim Williams
- 1st Connecticut Provincials (about 450 men) under Major-General Lyman
- 2nd Connecticut Provincials (about 450 men) under Lieutenant-Colonel Whiting
- Rhode Island Provincials (about 250 men) under Lieutenant-Colonel Cole
- New York Provincials (3 coys from Connecticut totaling about 200 men) many settlers in upstate New York came from Connecticut
- Mohawk Indians (about 250 men)
French Order of Battle
Commander: Baron Ludwig August Dieskau seconded by M. de Montreuil
- French regulars (220 men)
- Milices Canadiennes (684 men)
- Resident Indians (678 men) aka Mission Indians
This article incorporates texts from the following books, which are now in the public domain:
- Anonymous: A Complete History of the Present War, from its Commencement in 1756, to the End of the Campaign, 1760, London, 1761
- Brodhead, John R.: Documents relative to the History of the State of New York, Vol. VI, O'Callaghan, Albany, 1855, pp. 1001, 1006, 1007 as summarized by user "Come In Nighthawk" of The Miniatures Page - 18th Century Discussion Message Board
- Lévis, François Gaston Chevalier de: Journal des campagnes du chevalier de Lévis en Canada de 1756-1760, Beauchemin, Montréal, 1889, pp. 40-42
- Parkman, Francis: Montcalm and Wolfe, Collier Books, New York, 1884, pp. 175-180, 182
Castex, Jean-Claude: Dictionnaire des batailles terrestres franco-anglaises de la Guerre de Sept Ans, Presse de l'université Laval, Québec: 2006, pp. 313-315
Dechêne, Louise: Le Peuple, l’État et la Guerre au Canada sous le Régime français, Éditions du Boréal, 2008, pp. 500-501
Summers, J. L. and René Chartrand: Military Uniforms in Canada, 1665-1970, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, 1981