1756 - Operations on Lake Champlain

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The campaign lasted from May to November 1756

Description

For the 1756 campaign in North America, the British planned four offensives:

  • an attack against Fort Carillon (present-day Ticonderoga) and Fort Saint-Frédéric (present-day Crown Point) in the Lake Champlain area;
  • an expedition on Lake Ontario with strong naval and land forces to seize the French forts upon it: Niagara, Frontenac (present-day Kingston), and Toronto;
  • an attack on Fort Duquesne (present-day Pittsburgh) in the Ohio Valley;
  • a diversionary attack down the Chaudière River upon the settlements about Québec.

John Winslow was appointed by Shirley to command the force that would attack Fort Carillon and Fort Saint-Frédéric. These were provincial troops; no British regulars would be assigned.

The troops from New England and the levies of New York mustered in Albany.

On May 13, the Marquis de Montcalm, the new French commander in Canada, arrived at Québec.

At the end of May, the Chevalier de Lévis and Bourlamaque arrived from France with a reinforcement of 2 battalions (the II./La Sarre Infanterie and II./Royal Roussillon Infanterie). Meanwhile, the New England troops under Winslow advanced a short distance upstream on the Hudson from Albany and encamped at a place called Half-Moon. This force now numbered some 5,000 untrained men. Regiments consisted of 500 men divided into companies of 50.

From Winslow's headquarters at Half-Moon a road led along the banks of the Hudson to Stillwater, whence there was water carriage to Saratoga. Here stores were again placed in wagons and carried several km to Upper Falls; thence by boat to Fort Edward; and thence, 23 km across country, to Fort William Henry on Lake George, where the army was to embark for Fort Carillon. A stockade and two or more companies of provincials guarded each of the points of transit below Fort Edward. They were much harassed by Indians who now and then scalped a straggler. From time to time strong bands of Canadians and Indians approached by way of South Bay or Wood Creek and threatened more serious mischief. However, no train was cut off.

Early in June, a party of some 50 French and Indians came down to the Hudson across from Albany and captured two men. Other parties continued to harass British forces at Fort William Henry and Fort Edward. Meanwhile, Colonel Jonathan Bagley commanded at Fort William Henry where his troops were building three sloops and several hundred whaleboats to carry the British army to Fort Carillon. The French scouting parties reported that a very large British force was coming to attack Fort Carillon.

A reinforcement of Troupes de la Marine was despatched to join the two French battalions already present at Fort Carillon. A battalion, II./Royal Roussillon Infanterie, was sent after them. The militia were called out and ordered to follow with all speed.

On June 17, Captain Robert Rogers and his party of Rangers approached Fort Carillon and made a close survey of the fort and surrounding camps. He reported a significant concentration of French troops around the fort. By this time, Winslow's forces had increased to some 7,000 men.

By June 24, the detachment of the Royal Artillery under the command of Captain Thomas Ord was split between Albany, Oswego, Stillwater in New York and Wills Creek (Potomac River, Maryland). It consisted of:

  • military
    • 2 captains
    • 6 lieutenants
    • 1 adjutant
    • 1 quartermaster
    • 1 surgeon
    • 1 gentleman cadet
    • 4 sergeants
    • 5 corporals
    • 12 bombardiers
    • 24 Gunners
    • 64 matrosses
    • 1 drummer
  • civilian
    • 1 commissary & paymaster
    • 1 assistant and clerk of stores
    • 7 conductors
    • 11 artificers

On June 27, Montcalm and Lévis departed from Montréal and hastened to Fort Carillon, the supposed scene of danger. They embarked in canoes on the Richelieu.

By the end of June, the French relief force had coasted the shore of Lake Champlain, passed Fort Saint-Frédéric and reached Fort Carillon.

At the end of June, Abercromby and Webb arrived at Albany with a reinforcement of some 900 men consisting of the 35th Otway's Regiment of Foot and a body of the 42nd Highlanders. Shirley then resigned his command and returned to New York to wait for the arrival of Lord Loudon and inform him of the state of affairs.

At the end of June, Robert Rogers with 50 of his rangers embarked in five whaleboats on Lake George. They carried their boats over a gorge through the mountains, launched them again in South Bay and reached Lake Champlain. They managed to pass unnoticed in front of Fort Carillon.

On July 3, Montcalm and Lévis arrived at Carillon. Meanwhile, Vaudreuil had conceived a plan to secretly send an expedition against Oswego to alleviate the pressure of the British forces against Fort Carillon.

On July 7, Rogers' party passed undetected in front of Fort Saint-Frédéric.

On July 8, Rogers' party captured and sunk two French sloops, taking 8 prisoners. They then hid their boats on the western shore of the lake and returned south on foot with their prisoners.

The season was advancing fast. In July, Winslow urged Bagley to hasten the work on the boats.

On July 15, Montcalm was recalled from Carillon. He left for Montréal and Lévis assumed command of the 3,000 men assembled at Carillon for the defence of Lake Champlain.

On July 16, Lévis sent 46 Indians and 21 Canadians to reconnoitre Fort William Henry.

On July 17, Lévis reconnoitred the trail leading from the fall near Carillon to the head of Lake Saint-Sacrement (present-day Lake George).

On July 20, 42 Abénaki Indians who were at Fort Carillon moved closer to the carrying place to be in a better position to launch raids against British parties.

On July 22, 64 Indians and 17 bateaux loaded with supplies arrived at Carillon.

On July 23, Lévis began to send war parties to various part of this theatre of operations to create a diversion while Montcalm assembled a force at Fort Frontenac to attack Fort Oswego. A first party of 4 officers, 4 cadets, 71 French and 56 Indians under the command of the Sieur La Colombière, an officer of the Troupes de la Marine, advanced towards Fort William Henry. The same day, Loudon finally arrived at New York.

On July 23, Lévis' order of battle was as follows:

  • French regulars
  • Troupes de la Marine
    • M. de Bonne (1 coy)
    • Le Verrier (1 coy including some militia)
  • unspecified troop type
    • Sabrevois (1 coy)
    • M. de Saint-Vincent (1 coy)
    • Vassan (1 coy)
    • Vergor (1 coy)
  • Indians
    • Iroquois (unspecified number)
    • Abenakis (unspecified number)
    • Epinengs aka Nipissings (unspecified number)
    • Mississaugas (unspecified number)
    • Algonquins (unspecified number)

On July 24, Lévis received 142 recruits for the Troupes de la Marine.

On July 28, Lévis sent a party of 40 men under the Sieur d'Hébecourt, captain of La Reine Infanterie, to reconnoitre the road between Carillon and Fort Saint-Frédéric. Meanwhile, another party of 50 men under M. Duplessis of the Troupes de la Marine was sent to protect the convoys.

On July 30, Lévis sent a party of 10 officers, 1 cadet, 100 Canadians and 112 Indians under M. de Beaujeu, captain of the Troupes de la Marine towards Fort Edward and Fort William Henry.

During the latter part of July, Loudon sailed up the Hudson and, on reaching Albany, decided to abandon the attempt against Niagara and Frontenac, resolving instead to turn his whole force against Fort Carillon.

In August, Loudon had to solve the problem caused by the Royal order issued in May to the effect that all generals and field officers with provincial commissions were to take rank only as eldest captains when serving in conjunction with regular troops. This made all provincial officers subordinate to any British one. The provincial officers initially protested against this order, and held their position throughout 1756 (at the direction of William Pitt, a convoluted compromise would be reached in 1757).

By the beginning of August, Winslow had advanced to Lake George with nearly half his command (2,500 men), while the rest were at Fort Edward under Lyman, or in detachments at Saratoga and the other small posts below. Winslow's encampment at Lake George, around Fort William Henry, was in a quite unhealthy condition. Some 500 of his men were sick and he lost from five to eight men to illness daily.

On August 3, Duplessis' party returned to Carillon without having met any British force.

On August 4, 120 men of the Milice du district de Montréal arrived at Carillon but this reinforcement was insufficient to replace the losses due to illness. The same day, Beaujeu's party returned with 6 prisoners. One of them reported that some 5,000 men had now reached Fort Edward, awaiting orders to advance to Fort William Henry. This same prisoner claimed that another British force of some 4,000 men, 6 field guns and 200 bateaux was already assembled at Fort William Henry.

On August 7, a British party killed 14 horses near Fort Saint-Frédéric. The same day, 25 Iroquois arrived from Montréal at the French camp.

On August 8, Lévis received a reinforcement of 282 recruits and 142 men of the Milices Canadiennes bringing his force to a total of 3,761 men all included.

On August 11, some 20 Indians allied with the British killed 2 men and wounded one near the camp of the Chevalier de la Corne by the portage.

In mid August, after being informed of the fall of the British forts at Oswego on Lake Ontario, Loudon ordered Winslow to abandon his projects against Fort Carillon but to stay where he was and hold the French in check.

On August 16, Lévis reconnoitred the Montagne du Serpent-à-Sonnette (present-day Rattlesnake Hill).

On August 17, 11 Hurons arrived at Lévis' camp.

On August 19, a British party took two scalps near Contrecoeur's camp. The same day, La Corne sent a party of 150 men under Sieur Florimond to reconnoitre the surroundings of Fort William Henry.

On August 20 in a letter to John Winslow, Lord Loudoun suspended the Ticonderoga Campaign. Winslow lead the British colonials. This was in response to the French capturing Fort Oswego, earlier in August.

The same day (August 20), Florimond returned and reported that a British force occupied an island about 15 km from Fort William Henry. It had several bateaux and a two-masted boat.

On August 23, a party of Hurons and Canadians reconnoitred the southern part of Lake Saint-Sacrement. The same day, 18 Indians arrived from Montréal.

On August 25, Lieutenant-Colonel Burton (48th Foot), James Montresor (Chief Engineer), and William MacLeod (Royal Artillery) conducted a review of Fort William Henry. Winslow then suspended all ship building and concentrated on improving the interior of the Fort — soon afterward, the North Storehouse, East Barracks, and West Barracks were built. A 40-ton sloop only a few days away from completion was left unfinished in the stocks. This ship would never leave the stocks and would be burnt in March 1757 by Rigaud’s Winter Raid.

The same day (August 25), after several false alarms, Lévis resolved to reinforce his positions at the portage with 60 regulars and to establish a new camp with 120 men from the Troupes de la Marine midway between those of La Corne and Contrecoeur.

On August 27, M. de Lusignan, commanding at Fort Saint-Frédéric, informed Lévis of the capture of Fort Oswego. The same day the projected reinforcement of 60 men went to the portage. Meanwhile, after his victory on Lake Ontario, Montcalm was quickly retracing his steps to Fort Carillon.

On August 28, M. de Saint-Martin established the new camp planned by Lévis with 120 men from the Troupes de la Marine.

On August 31, II./Béarn Infanterie, which had previously been sent back to Montréal by Montcalm, set off from La Prairie and marched to Fort Saint-Jean.

On September 2, II./Béarn Infanterie embarked for Fort Carillon aboard 26 bateaux.

On September 3, Winslow and the Lake George “Navy” sailed north. The largest ship was a 30-ton sloop equipped with two 6-pdrs, one 8-in mortar, eight swivels, and a crew of fifty; one sloop of four swivels and 40 men; 1 sloop of two swivels and 35 men; and seven whaleboats with eleven men each. Near the north end of Lake George, the British fired on a French row galley, but it retreated into the embayment that lead to Carillon (present-day Ticonderoga). The British failed to pursue. This “tour” was a clear rebuke by Winslow of Loudoun’s decision to cancel the Ticonderoga Campaign (Loudoun Letter, LO 1710). La Corne informed Lévis that the British now had 3 boats and 10 whale boats on Lac du Saint Sacrement (Lake George). Lévis immediately sent him 3 coys of grenadiers as reinforcement.

On September 4, the grenadiers returned to Lévis' main camp and 150 Iroquois arrived from Sault-Saint-Louis.

On September 5, II./Béarn Infanterie reached Fort Saint-Frédéric on Lake Champlain.

On September 6, II./Béarn Infanterie arrived at Carillon. Lévis sent it to camp to the left of the Fall of Lac Saint-Sacrement.

On September 7, Lévis sent all the Indians to his advanced posts while II./Béarn Infanterie erected abbatis.

On September 10, II./Guyenne Infanterie, all the grenadiers and a piquet of La Sarre Infanterie arrived at Carillon with Montcalm who assumed command. He sent II./Guyenne Infanterie to camp to the right of II./Béarn Infanterie.

On September 11 and 12, several Indians reinforced Montcalm's force.

On September 17, Montcalm sent out a strong party of 60 soldiers and 450 Indians under the command of M. de la Perrière assisted by several officers to reconnoitre the British forts (Malartic mentions 600 Indians (Iroquois, Abenakis and Ottawas) and 200 Canadiens).

On September 19, a party of 30 Canadiens and 110 Indians led by Marin (probably part of La Perrière's force) ambushed Captain Hodges and 50 men a few km from Fort William Henry. Only six men of Hodges' detachment escaped. La Perrière returned to Carillon with 14 prisoners and 26 scalps. He informed Montcalm that Loudon was still at Albany and had abandoned the project of an attack on Carillon.

On September 21 and 22, almost all the Indians departed from Carillon to return to their villages before the winter. Montcalm only managed to retain 36 of them by giving them presents. The last day, a supply convoy of 22 bateaux arrived at Carillon.

On September 25, Montcalm sent Florimond with 17 Abenakis warriors to reconnoitre Fort Edward.

On September 29, 18 Potawatomis arrived at Carillon. The same day, Florimond returned and informed Montcalm that the British occupied the lower part of the Chicot River.

By the end of September, the French had some 5,300 men well entrenched at Fort Carillon while Loudon was at the head of some 10,000 men posted from Albany to Lake George. The four regiments of British regulars in the region (35th, 42nd, 44th and 48th regiments) were carefully kept separate from the provincial troops

On October 2, a supply convoy arrived at Carillon. The same day, Indians found 4 abandoned barges loaded with powder and balls near Fort Saint-Frédéric.

On October 3, Montcalm sent a detachment of 20 regulars, 20 Troupes de la Marine, 60 men of the Milices Canadiennes and a few Indians under M. de Léry, a Canadian officer, to reconnoitre the area where the abandoned barges had been found. Another detachment of Milices Canadiennes and Indians under Langy reconnoitred the Chicot River.

On October 11, Vaudreuil informed Montcalm that he could send the troops to their winter-quarters.

On October 12, 300 Troupes de la Marine and 3 officers departed from Carillon for Montréal along with all the sick.

On October 13, Contrecoeur abandoned his encampment and joined La Corne at his own encampment.

On October 18, Langy's detachment returned, reporting a considerable British camp at Fort Edward.

On October 19, Langy was sent back towards Fort Edward to gather further intelligence.

On October 20, a British war party of some 12 men wounded 2 Canadians near Contrecoeur's old camp.

On October 21, Langy returned without any new information.

On October 25, a supply convoy of 25 bateaux reached Carillon.

On October 26, Montcalm departed for Montréal with the grenadiers and the piquets of La Sarre Infanterie. Lévis then assumed command at Carillon.

On October 31, the Milice du district de Québec along with some Troupes de la Marine who were to take their winter-quarters in the region of Québec departed from Carillon.

On November 1, II./Guyenne Infanterie departed Carillon for Québec.

On November 2, II./La Reine Infanterie left Carillon to reach its winter-quarters upstream from Québec on the left bank of the Saint-Laurent River. The same day, Saint-Martin abandoned his camp and retired to Carillon.

On November 3, Saint-Martin departed from Carillon with the Milice du district de Trois-Rivières along with some Troupes de la Marine designated to take their winter quarters in the region of Trois-Rivières. The same day, 250 men of II./Béarn Infanterie went to Fort Saint-Frédéric to cut some wood, leaving 100 men behind at Fort Carillon.

On November 4, all the remaining French outposts retired to Carillon. The same day, Lévis sent 2 Indians and 10 French under Langy to reconnoitre Fort Edward.

On November 5, 2 coys of French grenadiers along with 2 piquets advanced up to the abandoned outposts. The same day, all the remaining Troupes de la Marine left for Montréal. The troops at Carillon now consisted of:

N.B.: after the capture of Oswego a piquet of Guyenne Infanterie and another one of Béarn Infanterie had been sent to Niagara to assume garrison duty.

On November 6, Langy's party came back without additional information about the situation at Fort Edward. The same day, the Milice du district de Montréal along with some Troupes de la Marine who were to take their winter-quarters in the region of Montréal departed from Carillon.

On Novemer 7, 2 piquets of Béarn Infanterie, which had been left behind, quitted Carillon.

From November 11, II./Béarn Infanterie took its winter-quarters at Longueuil (3 coys), La Prairie (3 coys), Boucherville (4 coys) and Varennes (3 coys).

On November 12, Lévis departed from Carillon, leaving 3 piquets as garrison (1 piquet of each of the following regiments: La Reine, Royal Roussillon and Languedoc) and bringing with him the rest of Royal Roussillon and Languedoc. They camped in the snow at Anse-à-la-Bouteille.

On November 13, Lévis' bateaux were obliged to berth at Anse-à-la-Consolation because of the rough weather conditions on Lake Champlain.

On November 15, Lévis' force arrived at Sainte-Thérèse. II./Languedoc Infanterie was sent to Laprairie.

On November 16, Lévis marched to Chambly with the remnants of his force.

On November 17, Lévis reached Montréal where he took his winter quarters.

Meanwhile, Winslow's men had followed the example of the French. Major Eyre, with 400 regulars, took possession of Fort William Henry and the provincials marched for home, their ranks thinned by camp diseases and smallpox.

References

This article incorporates texts from the following books, which are now in the public domain:

  1. Parkman, Francis: Montcalm and Wolfe, Collier Books, New York, 1884, pp. 219-256
  2. Lévis, chevalier de: Journal des campagnes du chevalier de Lévis en Canada de 1756 à 1760, Montréal, Beauchemin, 1889, pp. 44-78
  3. Malartic, Comte de Maurès de: Journal des Campagnes au Canada de 1755 à 1760, Dijon: Damidot, 1890, pp. 79-91
  4. A Return of His Majesty's Forces in North America, 1756 (LO 4394)

Acknowledgement

Kenneth P Dunne for the information on the detachment of the British Royal Artillery