Montcalm and Wolfe

Author: Francis Parkman

Chapter 26


Amherst. Niagara

Pitt had directed that, while Quebec was attacked, an attempt should be made to penetrate into Canada by way of Ticonderoga and Crown Point. Thus the two armies might unite in the heart of the colony, or, at least, a powerful diversion might be effected in behalf of Wolfe. At the same time Oswego was to be re-established, and the possession of Fort Duquesne, or Pittsburg, secured by reinforcements and supplies; while Amherst, the commander-in-chief, was further directed to pursue any other enterprise which in his opinion would weaken the enemy, without detriment to the main objects of the campaign.[722] He accordingly resolved to attempt the capture of Niagara. Brigadier Prideaux was charged with this stroke; Brigadier Stanwix was sent to conduct the operations for the relief of Pittsburg; and Amherst himself prepared to lead the grand central advance against Ticonderoga, Crown Point, and Montreal.[723]

[Footnote 722: Pitt to Amherst, 23 Jan., 10 March, 1759.]

[Footnote 723: Amherst to Pitt, 19 June, 1759. Amherst to Stanwix, 6 May, 1759.]

Towards the end of June he reached that valley by the head of Lake George which for five years past had been the annual mustering-place of armies. Here were now gathered about eleven thousand men, half regulars and half provincials,[724] drilling every day, firing by platoons, firing at marks, practising manoeuvres in the woods; going out on scouting parties, bathing parties, fishing parties; gathering wild herbs to serve for greens, cutting brushwood and meadow hay to make hospital beds. The sick were ordered on certain mornings to repair to the surgeon’s tent, there, in prompt succession, to swallow such doses as he thought appropriate to their several ailments; and it was further ordered that “every fair day they that can walk be paraded together and marched down to the lake to wash their hands and faces.” Courts-martial were numerous; culprits were flogged at the head of each regiment in turn, and occasionally one was shot. A frequent employment was the cutting of spruce tops to make spruce beer. This innocent beverage was reputed sovereign against scurvy; and such was the fame of its virtues that a copious supply of the West Indian molasses used in concocting it was thought indispensable to every army or garrison in the wilderness. Throughout this campaign it is repeatedly mentioned in general orders, and the soldiers are promised that they shall have as much of it as they want at a halfpenny a quart.[725]

[Footnote 724: Mante, 210.]

[Footnote 725: Orderly Book of Commissary Wilson in the Expedition against Ticonderoga, 1759. Journal of Samuel Warner, a Massachusetts Soldier, 1759. General and Regimental Orders, Army of Major-General Amherst, 1759. Diary of Sergeant Merriman, of Ruggles’s Regiment, 1759. I owe to William L. Stone, Esq., the use of the last two curious documents.]

The rear of the-army was well protected from insult. Fortified posts were built at intervals of three or four miles along the road to Fort Edward, and especially at the station called Half-way Brook; while, for the whole distance, a broad belt of wood on both sides was cut down and burned, to deprive a skulking enemy of cover. Amherst was never long in one place without building a fort there. He now began one, which proved wholly needless, on that flat rocky hill where the English made their intrenched camp during the siege of Fort William Henry. Only one bastion of it was ever finished, and this is still shown to tourists under the name of Fort George.

The army embarked on Saturday, the twenty-first of July. The Reverend Benjamin Pomeroy watched their departure in some concern, and wrote on Monday to Abigail, his wife: “I could wish for more appearance of dependence on God than was observable among them; yet I hope God will grant deliverance unto Israel by them.” There was another military pageant, another long procession of boats and banners, among the mountains and islands of Lake George. Night found them near the outlet; and here they lay till morning, tossed unpleasantly on waves ruffled by a summer gale. At daylight they landed, beat back a French detachment, and marched by the portage road to the saw-mill at the waterfall. There was little resistance. They occupied the heights, and then advanced to the famous line of intrenchment against which the army of Abercromby had hurled itself in vain. These works had been completely reconstructed, partly of earth, and partly of logs. Amherst’s followers were less numerous than those of his predecessor, while the French commander, Bourlamaque, had a force nearly equal to that of Montcalm in the summer before; yet he made no attempt to defend the intrenchment, and the English, encamping along its front, found it an excellent shelter from the cannon of the fort beyond.

Amherst brought up his artillery and began approaches in form, when, on the night of the twenty-third, it was found that Bourlamaque had retired down Lake Champlain, leaving four hundred men under Hebecourt to defend the place as long as possible. This was in obedience to an order from Vaudreuil, requiring him on the approach of the English to abandon both Ticonderoga and Crown Point, retreat to the outlet of Lake Champlain, take post at Isle-aux-Noix, and there defend himself to the last extremity;[726] a course unquestionably the best that could have been taken, since obstinacy in holding Ticonderoga might have involved the surrender of Bourlamaque’s whole force, while Isle-aux-Noix offered rare advantages for defence.

[Footnote 726: Vaudreuil au Ministre, 8 Nov. 1759. Instructions pour M. de Bourlamaque, 20 Mai, 1759, signé Vaudreuil. Montcalm à Bourlamaque, 4 Juin, 1759.]

The fort fired briskly; a cannon-shot killed Colonel Townshend, and a few soldiers were killed and wounded by grape and bursting shells; when, at dusk on the evening of the twenty-sixth, an unusual movement was seen among the garrison, and, about ten o’clock, three deserters came in great excitement to the English camp. They reported that Hebecourt and his soldiers were escaping in their boats, and that a match was burning in the magazine to blow Ticonderoga to atoms. Amherst offered a hundred guineas to any one of them who would point out the match, that it might be cut; but they shrank from the perilous venture. All was silent till eleven o’clock, when a broad, fierce glare burst on the night, and a roaring explosion shook the promontory; then came a few breathless moments, and then the fragments of Fort Ticonderoga fell with clatter and splash on the water and the land. It was but one bastion, however, that had been thus hurled skyward. The rest of the fort was little hurt, though the barracks and other combustible parts were set on fire, and by the light the French flag was seen still waving on the rampart.[727] A sergeant of the light infantry, braving the risk of other explosions, went and brought it off. Thus did this redoubted stronghold of France fall at last into English hands, as in all likelihood it would have done a year sooner, if Amherst had commanded in Abercromby’s place; for, with the deliberation that marked all his proceedings, he would have sat down before Montcalm’s wooden wall and knocked it to splinters with his cannon.

[Footnote 727: Journal of Colonel Amherst (brother of General Amherst). Vaudreuil au Ministre, 8 Nov. 1759. Amherst to Prideaux, 28 July, 1759. Amherst to Pitt, 27 July, 1759. Mante, 213. Knox, I., 397-403. Vaudreuil à Bourlamaque, 19 Juin, 1759.]

He now set about repairing the damaged works and making ready to advance on Crown Point; when on the first of August his scouts told him that the enemy had abandoned this place also, and retreated northward down the lake.[728] Well pleased, he took possession of the deserted fort, and, in the animation of success, thought for a moment of keeping the promise he had given to Pitt “to make an irruption into Canada with the utmost vigor and despatch.”[729] Wolfe, his brother in arms and his friend, was battling with the impossible under the rocks of Quebec, and every motive, public and private, impelled Amherst to push to his relief, not counting costs, or balancing risks too nicely. He was ready enough to spur on others, for he wrote to Gage: “We must all be alert and active day and night; if we all do our parts the French must fall;”[730] but, far from doing his, he set the army to building a new fort at Crown Point, telling them that it would “give plenty, peace, and quiet to His Majesty’s subjects for ages to come.”[731] Then he began three small additional forts, as outworks to the first, sent two parties to explore the sources of the Hudson; one party to explore Otter Creek; another to explore South Bay, which was already well known; another to make a road across what is now the State of Vermont, from Crown Point to Charlestown, or “Number Four,” on the Connecticut; and another to widen and improve the old French road between Crown Point and Ticonderoga. His industry was untiring; a great deal of useful work was done: but the essential task of making a diversion to aid the army of Wolfe was needlessly postponed.

[Footnote 728: Amherst to Pitt, 5 Aug. 1759.]

[Footnote 729: Ibid., 19 June, 1759.]

[Footnote 730: Amherst to Gage, 1 Aug. 1759.]

[Footnote 731: General Orders, 13 Aug. 1759.]

It is true that some delay was inevitable. The French had four armed vessels on the lake, and this made it necessary to provide an equal or superior force to protect the troops on their way to Isle-aux-Noix. Captain Loring, the English naval commander, was therefore ordered to build a brigantine; and, this being thought insufficient, he was directed to add a kind of floating battery, moved by sweeps. Three weeks later, in consequence of farther information concerning the force of the French vessels, Amherst ordered an armed sloop to be put on the stocks; and this involved a long delay. The saw-mill at Ticonderoga was to furnish planks for the intended navy; but, being overtasked in sawing timber for the new works at Crown Point, it was continually breaking down. Hence much time was lost, and autumn was well advanced before Loring could launch his vessels.[732]

[Footnote 732: Amherst to Pitt, 22 Oct. 1759. This letter, which is in the form of a journal, covers twenty-one folio pages.]

Meanwhile news had come from Prideaux and the Niagara expedition. That officer had been ordered to ascend the Mohawk with five thousand regulars and provincials, leave a strong garrison at Fort Stanwix, on the Great Carrying Place, establish posts at both ends of Lake Oneida, descend the Onondaga to Oswego, leave nearly half his force there under Colonel Haldimand, and proceed with the rest to attack Niagara.[733] These orders he accomplished. Haldimand remained to reoccupy the spot that Montcalm had made desolate three years before; and, while preparing to build a fort, he barricaded his camp with pork and flour barrels, lest the enemy should make a dash upon him from their station at the head of the St. Lawrence Rapids. Such an attack was probable; for if the French could seize Oswego, the return of Prideaux from Niagara would be cut off, and when his small stock of provisions had failed, he would be reduced to extremity. Saint-Luc de la Corne left the head of the Rapids early in July with a thousand French and Canadians and a body of Indians, who soon made their appearance among the stumps and bushes that surrounded the camp at Oswego. The priest Piquet was of the party; and five deserters declared that he solemnly blessed them, and told them to give the English no quarter.[734] Some valuable time was lost in bestowing the benediction; yet Haldimand’s men were taken by surprise. Many of them were dispersed in the woods, cutting timber for the intended fort; and it might have gone hard with them had not some of La Corne’s Canadians become alarmed and rushed back to their boats, oversetting Father Piquet on the way.[735] These being rallied, the whole party ensconced itself in a tract of felled trees so far from the English that their fire did little harm. They continued it about two hours, and resumed it the next morning; when, three cannon being brought to bear on them, they took to their boats and disappeared, having lost about thirty killed and wounded, including two officers and La Corne himself, who was shot in the thigh. The English loss was slight.

[Footnote 733: Instructions of Amherst to Prideaux, 17 May, 1759. Prideaux to Haldimand, 30 June, 1759.]

[Footnote 734: Journal of Colonel Amherst.]

[Footnote 735: Pouchot, II. 130. Compare Mémoires sur le Canada, 1749-1760; N.Y. Col. Docs., VII. 395; and Letter from Oswego, in Boston Evening Post, No. 1,248.]

Prideaux safely reached Niagara, and laid siege to it. It was a strong fort, lately rebuilt in regular form by an excellent officer, Captain Pouchot, of the battalion of Béarn, who commanded it. It stood where the present fort stands, in the angle formed by the junction of the River Niagara with Lake Ontario, and was held by about six hundred men, well supplied with provisions and munitions of war.[736] Higher up the river, a mile and a half above the cataract, there was another fort, called Little Niagara, built of wood, and commanded by the half-breed officer, Joncaire-Chabert, who with his brother, Joncaire-Clauzonne, and a numerous clan of Indian relatives, had so long thwarted the efforts of Johnson to engage the Five Nations in the English cause. But recent English successes had had their effect. Joncaire’s influence was waning, and Johnson was now in Prideaux’s camp with nine hundred Five Nation warriors pledged to fight the French. Joncaire, finding his fort untenable, burned it, and came with his garrison and his Indian friends to reinforce Niagara.[737]

[Footnote 736: Pouchot says 515, besides 60 men from Little Niagara; Vaudreuil gives a total of 589.]

[Footnote 737: Pouchot, II. 52, 59. Procès de Bigot, Cadet, et autres, Mémoire pour Daniel de Joncaire-Chabert.]

Pouchot had another resource, on which he confidently relied. In obedience to an order from Vaudreuil, the French population of the Illinois, Detroit, and other distant posts, joined with troops of Western Indians, had come down the Lakes to recover Pittsburg, undo the work of Forbes, and restore French ascendency on the Ohio. Pittsburg had been in imminent danger; nor was it yet safe, though General Stanwix was sparing no effort to succor it.[738] These mixed bands of white men and red, bushrangers and savages, were now gathered, partly at Le Boeuf and Venango, but chiefly at Presquisle, under command of Aubry, Ligneris, Marin, and other partisan chiefs, the best in Canada. No sooner did Pouchot learn that the English were coming to attack him than he sent a messenger to summon them all to his aid.[739]

[Footnote 738: Letters of Colonel Hugh Mercer, commanding at Pittsburg, January-June, 1759. Letters of Stanwix, May-July, 1759. Letter from Pittsburg, in Boston News Letter, No. 3,023. Narrative of John Ormsby.]

[Footnote 739: Pouchot, II. 46.]

The siege was begun in form, though the English engineers were so incompetent that the trenches, as first laid out, were scoured by the fire of the place, and had to be made anew.[740] At last the batteries opened fire. A shell from a coehorn burst prematurely, just as it left the mouth of the piece, and a fragment striking Prideaux on the head, killed him instantly. Johnson took command in his place, and made up in energy what he lacked in skill. In two or three weeks the fort was in extremity. The rampart was breached, more than a hundred of the garrison were killed or disabled, and the rest were exhausted with want of sleep. Pouchot watched anxiously for the promised succors; and on the morning of the twenty-fourth of July a distant firing told him that they were at hand.

[Footnote 740: Rutherford to Haldimand, 14 July, 1759. Prideaux was extremely disgusted. Prideaux to Haldimand, 13 July, 1759. Allan Macleane, of the Highlanders, calls the engineers “fools and blockheads, G—d d—n them.” Macleane to Haldimand, 21 July, 1759.]

Aubry and Ligneris, with their motley following, had left Presquisle a few days before, to the number, according to Vaudreuil, of eleven hundred French and two hundred Indians.[741] Among them was a body of colony troops; but the Frenchmen of the party were chiefly traders and bushrangers from the West, connecting links between civilization and savagery; some of them indeed were mere white Indians, imbued with the ideas and morals of the wigwam, wearing hunting-shirts of smoked deer-skin embroidered with quills of the Canada porcupine, painting their faces black and red, tying eagle feathers in their long hair, or plastering it on their temples with a compound of vermilion and glue. They were excellent woodsmen, skilful hunters, and perhaps the best bush-fighters in all Canada.

[Footnote 741: “Il n’y avoit que 1,100 François et 200 sauvages.” Vaudreuil au Ministre, 30 Oct. 1759. Johnson says “1,200 men, with a number of Indians.” Johnson to Amherst, 25 July, 1759. Portneuf, commanding at Presquisle, wrote to Pouchot that there were 1,600 French and 1,200 Indians. Pouchot, II. 94. A letter from Aubry to Pouchot put the whole at 2,500, half of them Indians. Historical Magazine, V., Second Series, 199.]

When Pouchot heard the firing, he went with a wounded artillery officer to the bastion next the river; and as the forest had been cut away for a great distance, they could see more than a mile and a half along the shore. There, by glimpses among trees and bushes, they descried bodies of men, now advancing, and now retreating; Indians in rapid movement, and the smoke of guns, the sound of which reached their ears in heavy volleys, or a sharp and angry rattle. Meanwhile the English cannon had ceased their fire, and the silent trenches seemed deserted, as if their occupants were gone to meet the advancing foe. There was a call in the fort for volunteers to sally and destroy the works; but no sooner did they show themselves along the covered way than the seemingly abandoned trenches were thronged with men and bayonets, and the attempt was given up. The distant firing lasted half an hour, then ceased, and Pouchot remained in suspense; till, at two in the afternoon, a friendly Onondaga, who had passed unnoticed through the English lines, came to him with the announcement that the French and their allies had been routed and cut to pieces. Pouchot would not believe him.

Nevertheless his tale was true. Johnson, besides his Indians, had with him about twenty-three hundred men, whom he was forced to divide into three separate bodies,—one to guard the bateaux, one to guard the trenches, and one to fight Aubry and his band. This last body consisted of the provincial light infantry and the pickets, two companies of grenadiers, and a hundred and fifty men of the forty-sixth regiment, all under command of Colonel Massey.[742] They took post behind an abattis at a place called La Belle Famille, and the Five Nation warriors placed themselves on their flanks. These savages had shown signs of disaffection; and when the enemy approached, they opened a parley with the French Indians, which, however, soon ended, and both sides raised the war-whoop. The fight was brisk for a while; but at last Aubry’s men broke away in a panic. The French officers seem to have made desperate efforts to retrieve the day, for nearly all of them were killed or captured; while their followers, after heavy loss, fled to their canoes and boats above the cataract, hastened back to Lake Erie, burned Presquisle, Le Boeuf, and Venango, and, joined by the garrisons of those forts, retreated to Detroit, leaving the whole region of the upper Ohio in undisputed possession of the English.

[Footnote 742: Johnson to Amherst, 25 July, 1759. Knox, II. 135. Captain Delancey to—, 25 July, 1759. This writer commanded the light infantry in the fight.]

At four o’clock on the day of the battle, after a furious cannonade on both sides, a trumpet sounded from the trenches, and an officer approached the fort with a summons to surrender. He brought also a paper containing the names of the captive French officers, though some of them were spelled in a way that defied recognition. Pouchot, feigning incredulity, sent an officer of his own to the English camp, who soon saw unanswerable proof of the disaster; for here, under a shelter of leaves and boughs near the tent of Johnson, sat Ligneris, severely wounded, with Aubry, Villiers, Montigny, Marin, and their companions in misfortune,—in all, sixteen officers, four cadets, and a surgeon.[743]

[Footnote 743: Johnson gives the names in his private Diary, printed in Stone, Life of Johnson, II. 394. Compare Pouchot, II. 105, 106. Letter from Niagara, in Boston Evening Post, No. 1,250. Vaudreuil au Ministre, 30 Oct. 1759.]

Pouchot had now no choice but surrender. By the terms of the capitulation, the garrison were to be sent prisoners to New York, though honors of war were granted them in acknowledgment of their courageous conduct. There was a special stipulation that they should be protected from the Indians, of whom they stood in the greatest terror, lest the massacre of Fort William Henry should be avenged upon them. Johnson restrained his dangerous allies, and, though the fort was pillaged, no blood was shed.

The capture of Niagara was an important stroke. Thenceforth Detroit, Michillimackinac, the Illinois, and all the other French interior posts, were severed from Canada, and left in helpless isolation; but Amherst was not yet satisfied. On hearing of Prideaux’s death he sent Brigadier Gage to supersede Johnson and take command on Lake Ontario, directing him to descend the St. Lawrence, attack the French posts at the head of the rapids, and hold them if possible for the winter. The attempt was difficult; for the French force on the St. Lawrence was now greater than that which Gage could bring against it, after providing for the safety of Oswego and Niagara. Nor was he by nature prone to dashing and doubtful enterprise. He reported that the movement was impossible, much to the disappointment of Amherst, who seemed to expect from subordinates an activity greater than his own.[744]

[Footnote 744: Amherst to Gage, 28 July, 1 Aug., 14 Aug., 11 Sept. 1759. Diary of Sir William Johnson, in Stone, Life of Johnson, II. 394-429.]

He, meanwhile, was working at his fort at Crown Point, while the season crept away, and Bourlamaque lay ready to receive him at Isle-aux-Noix. “I wait his coming with impatience,” writes the French commander, “though I doubt if he will venture to attack a post where we are intrenched to the teeth, and armed with a hundred pieces of cannon.”[745] Bourlamaque now had with him thirty-five hundred men, in a position of great strength. Isle-aux-Noix, planted in mid-channel of the Richelieu soon after it issues from Lake Champlain, had been diligently fortified since the spring. On each side of it was an arm of the river, closed against an enemy with chevaux-de-frise. To attack it in front in the face of its formidable artillery would be a hazardous attempt, and the task of reducing it was likely to be a long one. The French force in these parts had lately received accessions. After the fall of Niagara the danger seemed so great, both in the direction of Lake Ontario and that of Lake Champlain, that Lévis had been sent up from Quebec with eight hundred men to command the whole department of Montreal.[746] A body of troops and militia was encamped opposite that town, ready to march towards either quarter, as need might be, while the abundant crops of the neighboring parishes were harvested by armed bands, ready at a word to drop the sickle for the gun.

[Footnote 745: Bourlamaque à (Bernetz?), 22 Sept. 1759.]

[Footnote 746: Montcalm à Bourlamaque, 9 Août, 1759. Rigaud à Bourlamaque, 14 Août, 1759. Lévis à Bourlamaque, 25 Août, 1759.]

Thus the promised advance of Amherst into Canada would be not without its difficulties, even when his navy, too tardily begun, should be ready to act its part. But if he showed no haste in succoring Wolfe, he at least made some attempts to communicate with him. Early in August he wrote him a letter, which Ensign Hutchins, of the rangers, carried to him in about a month by the long and circuitous route of the Kennebec, and which, after telling the news of the campaign, ended thus: “You may depend on my doing all I can for effectually reducing Canada. Now is the time!”[747] Amherst soon after tried another expedient, and sent Captains Kennedy and Hamilton with a flag of truce and a message of peace to the Abenakis of St. Francis, who, he thought, won over by these advances, might permit the two officers to pass unmolested to Quebec. But the Abenakis seized them and carried them prisoners to Montreal; on which Amherst sent Major Robert Rogers and a band of rangers to destroy their town.[748]

[Footnote 747: Amherst to Wolfe, 7 Aug. 1759.]

[Footnote 748: Amherst to Pitt, 22 Oct. 1759. Rogers, Journals, 144.]

It was the eleventh of October before the miniature navy of Captain Loring—the floating battery, the brig, and the sloop that had been begun three weeks too late—was ready for service. They sailed at once to look for the enemy. The four French vessels made no resistance. One of them succeeded in reaching Isle-aux-Noix; one was run aground; and two were sunk by their crews, who escaped to the shore. Amherst, meanwhile, leaving the provincials to work at the fort, embarked with the regulars in bateaux, and proceeded on his northern way till, on the evening of the twelfth, a head-wind began to blow, and, rising to a storm, drove him for shelter into Ligonier Bay, on the west side of the lake.[749] On the thirteenth, it blew a gale. The lake raged like an angry sea, and the frail bateaux, fit only for smooth water, could not have lived a moment. Through all the next night the gale continued, with floods of driving rain. “I hope it will soon change,” wrote Amherst on the fifteenth, “for I have no time to lose.” He was right. He had waited till the season of autumnal storms, when nature was more dangerous than man. On the sixteenth there was frost, and the wind did not abate. On the next morning it shifted to the south, but soon turned back with violence to the north, and the ruffled lake put on a look of winter, “which determined me,” says the General, “not to lose time by striving to get to the Isle-aux-Noix, where I should arrive too late to force the enemy from their post, but to return to Crown Point and complete the works there.” This he did, and spent the remnant of the season in the congenial task of finishing the fort, of which the massive remains still bear witness to his industry.

[Footnote 749: Orderly Book of Commissary Wilson.]

When Lévis heard that the English army had fallen back, he wrote, well pleased, to Bourlamaque: “I don’t know how General Amherst will excuse himself to his Court, but I am very glad he let us alone, because the Canadians are so backward that you could count on nobody but the regulars.”[750]

[Footnote 750: Lévis à Bourlamaque, 1 Nov. 1759.]

Concerning this year’s operations on the Lakes, it may be observed that the result was not what the French feared, or what the British colonists had cause to hope. If, at the end of winter, Amherst had begun, as he might have done, the building of armed vessels at the head of the navigable waters of Lake Champlain, where Whitehall now stands, he would have had a navy ready to his hand before August, and would have been able to follow the retreating French without delay, and attack them at Isle-aux-Noix before they had finished their fortifications. And if, at the same time, he had directed Prideaux, instead of attacking Niagara, to co-operate with him by descending the St. Lawrence towards Montreal, the prospect was good that the two armies would have united at the place, and ended the campaign by the reduction of all Canada. In this case Niagara and all the western posts would have fallen without a blow.

Major Robert Rogers, sent in September to punish the Abenakis of St. Francis, had addressed himself to the task with his usual vigor. These Indians had been settled for about three quarters of a century on the River St. Francis, a few miles above its junction with the St. Lawrence. They were nominal Christians, and had been under the control of their missionaries for three generations; but though zealous and sometimes fanatical in their devotion to the forms of Romanism, they remained thorough savages in dress, habits, and character. They were the scourge of the New England borders, where they surprised and burned farmhouses and small hamlets, killed men, women, and children without distinction, carried others prisoners to their village, subjected them to the torture of “running the gantlet,” and compelled them to witness dances of triumph around the scalps of parents, children, and friends.

Amherst’s instructions to Rogers contained the following: “Remember the barbarities that have been committed by the enemy’s Indian scoundrels. Take your revenge, but don’t forget that, though those dastardly villains have promiscuously murdered women and children of all ages, it is my order that no women or children be killed or hurt.”

Rogers and his men set out in whaleboats, and, eluding the French armed vessels, then in full activity, came, on the tenth day, to Missisquoi Bay, at the north end of Lake Champlain. Here he hid his boats, leaving two friendly Indians to watch them from a distance, and inform him should the enemy discover them. He then began his march for St. Francis, when, on the evening of the second day, the two Indians overtook him with the startling news that a party of about four hundred French had found the boats, and that half of them were on his tracks in hot pursuit. It was certain that the alarm would soon be given, and other parties sent to cut him off. He took the bold resolution of outmarching his pursuers, pushing straight for St. Francis, striking it before succors could arrive, and then returning by Lake Memphremagog and the Connecticut. Accordingly he despatched Lieutenant McMullen by a circuitous route back to Crown Point, with a request to Amherst that provisions should be sent up the Connecticut to meet him on the way down. Then he set his course for the Indian town, and for nine days more toiled through the forest with desperate energy. Much of the way was through dense spruce swamps, with no dry resting-place at night. At length the party reached the River St. Francis, fifteen miles above the town, and, hooking their arms together for mutual support, forded it with extreme difficulty. Towards evening, Rogers climbed a tree, and descried the town three miles distant. Accidents, fatigue, and illness had reduced his followers to a hundred and forty-two officers and men. He left them to rest for a time, and, taking with him Lieutenant Turner and Ensign Avery, went to reconnoitre the place; left his two companions, entered it disguised in an Indian dress, and saw the unconscious savages yelling and signing in the full enjoyment of a grand dance. At two o’clock in the morning he rejoined his party, and at three led them to the attack, formed them in a semicircle, and burst in upon the town half an hour before sunrise. Many of the warriors were absent, and the rest were asleep. Some were killed in their beds, and some shot down in trying to escape. “About seven o’clock in the morning,” he says, “the affair was completely over, in which time we had killed at least two hundred Indians and taken twenty of their women and children prisoners, fifteen of whom I let go their own way, and five I brought with me, namely, two Indian boys and three Indian girls. I likewise retook five English captives.”

English scalps in hundreds were dangling from poles over the doors of the houses.[751] The town was pillaged and burned, not excepting the church, where ornaments of some value were found. On the side of the rangers, Captain Ogden and six men were wounded, and a Mohegan Indian from Stockbridge was killed. Rogers was told by his prisoners that a party of three hundred French and Indians was encamped on the river below, and that another party of two hundred and fifteen was not far distant. They had been sent to cut off the retreat of the invaders, but were doubtful as to their designs till after the blow was struck. There was no time to lose. The rangers made all haste southward, up the St. Francis, subsisting on corn from the Indian town; till, near the eastern borders of Lake Memphremagog, the supply failed, and they separated into small parties, the better to sustain life by hunting. The enemy followed close, attacked Ensign Avery’s party, and captured five of them; then fell upon a band of about twenty, under Lieutenants Dunbar and Turner, and killed or captured nearly all. The other bands eluded their pursuers, turned southeastward, reached the Connecticut, some here, some there, and, giddy with fatigue and hunger, toiled wearily down the wild and lonely stream to the appointed rendezvous at the mouth of the Amonoosuc.

[Footnote 751: Rogers says “about six hundred.” Other accounts say six or seven hundred. The late Abbé Maurault, missionary of the St. Francis Indians, and their historian, adopts the latter statement, though it is probably exaggerated.]

This was the place to which Rogers had requested that provisions might be sent; and the hope of finding them there had been the breath of life to the famished wayfarers. To their horror, the place was a solitude. There were fires still burning, but those who made them were gone. Amherst had sent Lieutenant Stephen up the river from Charlestown with an abundant supply of food; but finding nobody at the Amonoosuc, he had waited there two days, and then returned, carrying the provisions back with him; for which outrageous conduct he was expelled from the service. “It is hardly possible,” says Rogers, “to describe our grief and consternation.” Some gave themselves up to despair. Few but their indomitable chief had strength to go father. There was scarcely any game, and the barren wilderness yielded no sustenance but a few lily bulbs and the tubers of the climbing plant called in New England the ground-nut. Leaving his party to these miserable resources, and promising to send then relief within ten days, Rogers made a raft of dry pine logs, and drifted on it down the stream, with Captain Ogden, a ranger, and one of the captive Indian boys. They were stopped on the second day by rapids, and gained the shore with difficulty. At the foot of the rapids, while Ogden and the ranger went in search of squirrels, Rogers set himself to making another raft; and having no strength to use the axe, he burned down the trees, which he then divided into logs by the same process. Five days after leaving his party he reached the first English settlement, Charlestown, or “Number Four,” and immediately sent a canoe with provisions to the relief of the sufferers, following himself with other canoes two days later. Most of the men were saved, though some died miserably of famine and exhaustion. Of the few who had been captured, we are told by French contemporary that they “became victims of the fury of the Indian women,” from whose clutches the Canadians tried in vain to save them.[752]

[Footnote 752: Événements de la Guerre en Canada, 1759, 1760. Compare N.Y. Col. Docs., X. 1042.]

NOTE: On the day after he reached “Number Four,” Rogers wrote a report of his expedition to Amherst. This letter is printed in his Journals, in which he gives also a supplementary account, containing further particulars. The New Hampshire Gazette, Boston Evening Post, and other newspapers of the time recount the story in detail. Hoyt (Indian Wars, 302) repeats it, with a few additions drawn from the recollections of survivors, long after. There is another account, very short and unsatisfactory, by Thompson Maxwell, who says that he was of the party, which is doubtful. Mante (223) gives horrible details of the sufferings of the rangers. An old chief of the St. Francis Indians, said to be one of those who pursued Rogers after the town was burned, many years ago told Mr. Jesse Pennoyer, a government land surveyor, that Rogers laid an ambush for the pursuers, and defeated them with great loss. This, the story says, took place near the present town of Sherbrooke; and minute details are given, with high praise of the skill and conduct of the famous partisan. If such an incident really took place, it is scarcely possible that Rogers would not have made some mention of it. On the other hand, it is equally incredible that the Indians would have invented the tale of their own defeat. I am indebted for Pennoyer’s puzzling narrative to the kindness of R.A. Ramsay, Esq., of Montreal. It was printed, in 1869, in the History of the Eastern Townships, by Mrs. C.M. Day. All things considered, it is probably groundless.

Vaudreuil describes the destruction of the village in a letter to the Minister dated October 26, and says that Rogers had a hundred and fifty men; that St. Francis was burned to ashes; that the head chief and others were killed; that he (Vaudreuil), hearing of the march of the rangers, sent the most active of the Canadians to oppose them, and that Longueuil sent all the Canadians and Indians he could muster to pursue them on their retreat; that forty-six rangers were killed, and ten captured; that he thinks all the rest will starve to death; and, finally, that the affair is very unfortunate.

I once, when a college student, followed on foot the route of Rogers from Lake Memphremagog to the Connecticut.


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Chicago: Francis Parkman, "Chapter 26," Montcalm and Wolfe Original Sources, accessed March 20, 2023,

MLA: Parkman, Francis. "Chapter 26." Montcalm and Wolfe, Vol. 6, Original Sources. 20 Mar. 2023.

Harvard: Parkman, F 1884, 'Chapter 26' in Montcalm and Wolfe. Original Sources, retrieved 20 March 2023, from