1756 - French expedition against Fort Bull
The campaign lasted February to April 1756
At the end of 1755, the French commanders learned that the British had built two small forts to guard the Great Carrying Place (near present-day Rome NY) on the route to Oswego. One of these, Fort Williams, was on the Mohawk River. The other, Fort Bull, a mere collection of storehouses surrounded by a palisade, was 6 km distant, on the portage of the Corlac River (present-day Wood Creek). The British had imprudently filled them with a great quantity of stores and ammunition for the next campaign.
In February 1756, the Marquis de Vaudreuil, the governor of Canada, sent Joseph-Gaspard Chaussegros de Léry, a lieutenant of the Troupes de la Marine, with 367 picked men, soldiers, Canadians and Indians, to seize these two posts. The expeditionary force led by M. de Léry was guided by Oratory, an Oneida from La Présentation (near present-day Ogdensburg), and consisted of:
- 15 officers
- 28 French infantry regulars
- 55 men of the Compagnies Franches de la Marine
- 103 Indians
- 166 Canadian militia.
On February 26 1756, the French expedition left Lachine (near Montréal). Its advance was made under very bad conditions.
On March 7, the expedition arrived at La Présentation where it took a month worth supplies.
On March 12, Léry marched from La Présentation, carrying a month's supplies. During the advance on the British forts, Oratory, his guide, deserted but was captured two days later.
On March 26, the expedition was at 1,5 km from Fort Bull. Six Oneida warriors, who had joined him the day before, informed Léry of the situation of the forts.
On March 27, the expedition took position between the two British forts. At 5:30 a.m., they intercepted some supply wagons going to Fort Bull and captured 12 men. After taking some rest, the French advanced on Fort Bull which had a small garrison of 50 men from the 50th Shirley's Regiment of Foot led by a lieutenant. A French detachment opened fire on the fort while the French regulars assisted by other troops battered the door. After a fight which lasted one hour, the French beat down the gate with axes. The garrison was once more summoned but refused to surrender. The French forced their way inside the fort, shouting "Vive le Roi" and a frightful struggle followed. All the garrison were killed, except two or three who hid themselves. The fort was set on fire and blown to atoms by the explosion of the powder magazines.
Léry then withdrew, not venturing to attack Fort Williams. Johnson, warned by Indians of the approach of the French, had pushed up the Mohawk with reinforcements; but came too late. The same day, the French expeditionary force reached the French post in Nyanwauré Bay where it resupplied.
From Nyanwauré, the French used bateaux to get back to Montréal where they arrived on April 9.
During this expedition, the French lost 1 soldier of the Troupes de la Marine, 1 Indian and 9 wounded. The British lost some 80 men (including the troops which had been escorting the convoy).
Damage enough had been done to retard British operations in the direction of Oswego. These delays were sufficient to give the French time for securing all their posts on Lake Ontario. Before the end of June this was in good measure done. II./Béarn lay encamped before the now strong fort of Niagara and II./Guyenne and II./La Sarre, with a body of Canadians, guarded Frontenac (present-day Kingston) against attack.
This article incorporates texts from the two following books which are now in the public domain:
- Parkman, Francis: Montcalm and Wolfe, Collier Books, New York, 1884, pp. 218
- Lévis, chevalier de: Journal des campagnes du chevalier de Lévis en Canada de 1756 à 1760, Montréal, Beauchemin, 1889, pp. 42-44
- Malartic, Comte de Maurès de: Journal des Campagnes au Canada de 1755 à 1760, Dijon: Damidot, 1890, pp. 47-48
Castex, Jean-Claude: Dictionnaire des batailles terrestres franco-anglaises de la Guerre de Sept Ans, Presse de l'université Laval, Québec: 2006, pp. 131-133
Mitchell, James: Journal of the Campaigns of the Chevalier De Levis In Canada from 1756 to 1760, Seven Years War Association Journal Vol. IX No. 4