1757 - French raid on German Flats
The campaign lasted from October to November 1757
On October 20, Governor Vaudreuil assembled a detachment at Lachine near Montréal and placed it under the command of ensign François-Marie Picoté de Bellestre, of the Troupes de la Marine. This detachment consisted of 7 officers, 12 cadets of the Troupes de la Marine, 15 men of the Troupes de la Marine, 30 Canadien volunteers, and 200 Resident Indians. Its mission was to raid the British and Mohawk settlements on the Mohawk River.
On October 24, Bellestre’s detachment left La Présentation (present-day Ogdensburg, New York) where it had been reinforced by the Indians of this village.
On November 6, Bellestre’s detachment reached Lake Ontario. It then advanced about 18 km upstream on La Famine River (a river flowing in Hungry Bay in Lake Ontario) and disembarked.
On November 10, Bellestre’s detachment left its encampment on La Famine River and followed the path leading to Lake Oneida, advancing some 130 km and fording 3 rivers during the 4 days necessary to reach Fort William at the end of the portage on the Mohawk River. Bellestre sent messengers forward to the village of the Oneidas to invite them to join him in his attack on British settlements. However, only a few Oneidas joined his party. Bellestre then decided to strike German Flats located 55 km upstream from Fort William, on the left bank of the Mohawk River in front of Fort Herkimer. The village of German Flats counted some 300 inhabitants and was protected by 5 picket forts.
At daybreak on November 11, Bellestre left Fort William and advanced on the right bank of the Mohawk River up to 18 km from Fort Herkimer. He then forded the river and advanced during the night.
At 3:00 a.m. on November 12, Bellestre's force launched a three pronged attack on the small picket forts at German Flats on the Mohawk River. These were taken one by one and set on fire. Bellestre remained 24 hours in the village. The 60 dwellings of the settlement, with their barns and outhouses, were all burned, 40 or 50 of the inhabitants were killed and 102 inhabitants, chiefly women and children, were made prisoners, including Johan Jost Petrie, the magistrate of the place. Fort Herkimer was not far off with a garrison of 200 men under Captain Townshend who at the first alarm sent out a detachment too weak to oppose the French. Bellestre, unable to carry off his booty, ordered his party to kill hogs, sheep, cattle, and horses. He then made a hasty retreat. When Lord Howe, pushing up the river from Schenectady with troops and militia, arrived at German Flats the fight was finished.
The French war party then retraced its step towards Lake Ontario.
On November 29, Bellestre’s detachment arrived at Montréal with its prisoners.
During this expedition, the French losses amounted to 4 wounded: 1 Indian 1 soldier, 1 Canadien and Ensign de Lorimier.
This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Lévis, Chevalier de: Journal des campagnes du chevalier de Lévis en Canada de 1756 à 1760, Montréal, Beauchemin, 1889, pp. 106-109
- Parkman, Francis: Montcalm and Wolfe, Collier Books, New York, 1884, pp. 276-306
Castex, Jean-Claude: Dictionnaire des batailles terrestres franco-anglaises de la Guerre de Sept Ans, Presse de l'université Laval, Québec: 2006, pp. 232-233
Dechêne, Louise: Le Peuple, l’État et la Guerre au Canada sous le Régime français, Éditions du Boréal, 2008, pp. 504-505