1758 - British expedition against Fort Frontenac
The campaign took place in August 1758
In March 1758, Captain Pouchot of Béarn Infanterie wrote from Niagara that 3,000 Indians were waiting to be let loose against the borders of the British colonies.
Throughout July 1758 and during the first days of August, after his defeat at Fort Carillon (present-day Ticonderoga), Abercromby remained encamped at the head of Lake Saint-Sacrement (present-day Lake George) without undertaking any initiative. During this period, he lost many men from dysentery.
After much hesitation, Abercromby finally detached a force of 3,000 men under Bradstreet to attack Fort Frontenac (present-day Kingston). This force consisted mostly of Provincial troops but also included 27 men of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. Fort Frontenac controlled a strategic position at the outlet of Lake Ontario into the Saint-Laurent River. It was a square fort of about 100 m. (100 yards), having 60 guns (half of them mounted) and 16 small mortars. It was garrisoned by only 110 men, besides some Indians, women and children. Stored in this fort was an immense quantity of provisions and goods designed for the French troops on the Ohio and their western garrisons.
Bradstreet's force first retraced to Albany. From there, it advanced by the Mohawk River and then followed the Onondaga River downstream to the ruins of Fort Oswego. Along the way, Bradstreet persuaded a few Oneidas to join him. This tribe, like most of the Five Nations, had been nearly lost to the British through the effects of the defeat at Fort Carillon.
When Vaudreuil was informed of Bradstreet's expedition against Fort Frontenac, he immediately sent 3,000 Canadians under the command of M. Duplessis along with all the Indians he could muster to rescue the fort.
On August 22, Bradstreet's fleet of whaleboats and bateaux pushed out on Lake Ontario.
On August 25, the British expeditionary force landed without obstruction within 2 km of Fort Frontenac. The fort was garrisoned only by some 110 men. It opposed little resistance in the following days.
On the night of August 26, Bradstreet made a lodgement within less than 200 meters of Fort Frontenac.
On August 27 in the morning, De Noyan, the French commander, surrendered himself and his followers, numbering 110 soldiers and labourers, as prisoners of war. With them were taken 9 armed vessels, carrying from 8 to 18 guns, and forming the whole French naval force on Lake Ontario. The crews escaped. An enormous quantity of provisions, naval stores, munitions, and Indian goods intended for the supply of the western posts fell into the hands of the British, who kept what they could carry off, and burned the rest. In the fort were found 60 cannon and 16 mortars, which the victors used to batter down the walls; and then, reserving a few of the best, knocked off the trunnions (short stubby bearings on either side of a cannon) of the others. The Oneidas were bent on scalping some of the prisoners. Bradstreet forbade it and consoled them by a lion's share of the plunder. In accordance with the orders of Abercromby, the fort was dismantled, and all the buildings in or around it burned, as were also the vessels, except the two largest, which were reserved to carry off some of the captured goods. Then, with boats deeply laden, the detachment returned to Oswego; where, after unloading and burning the two vessels, they proceeded towards Albany, leaving 1,000 men at the new fort which brigadier Stanwix was building at the Great Carrying Place of the Mohawk (present-day Rome, New York).
From a strategic point of view, the destruction of the French fleet and of the fort are quite surprising since their possessions would have been an important asset for the British for the next campaigns.
Upon his arrival at Fort de la Présentation (present-day Ogdensburg, New York) with the French reinforcements, Duplessis learned of the capture of Fort Frontenac. Nevertheless, he sent 600 men under M. de Montigny to reinforce the garrison of Fort Niagara.
The capture and destruction of Fort Frontenac was a terrible blow to French power in the West. Indeed, they had lost command of Lake Ontario and, with it, their lines of communication with the other French settlements on the Great Lakes and along the Ohio and Mississippi. More precisely, Fort Duquesne (present-day Pittsburgh) was now totally isolated. Furthermore, this British success induced many Indian tribes formerly allied with the French to change side.
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, pp. 283-284
- Fortescue J. W., A History of the British Army, Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899, p. 332
- Lévis, chevalier de, Journal des campagnes du chevalier de Lévis en Canada de 1756 à 1760, Montréal, Beauchemin, 1889, p. 149
- Parkman, Francis, Montcalm and Wolfe, Collier Books, New York, 1884, pp. 309, 379-380