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Colonial Fights & Fighters

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Colonial Fights & Fighters
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Author(s): Cyrus Townsend Brady
Date Published: 2012/01
Page Count: 236
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-766-1
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-765-4

The conflicts of backwoods and high seas

This book, though not the first published in the series, is chronologically the first in Brady’s essential cycle of books on the fights and fighters of the American nation. It includes the adventures of the early explorers of the North American continent including De Soto and the trials of the Huguenot colonies. No account of the period should ignore the rapacious activities of the ‘Gentlemen of the Black Flag,’ Sir Henry Morgan and other pirates who plied their deadly trade under the Jolly Roger. The 18th century saw a decisive confrontation between Britain and France over no less an issue than which of those powers would dominate the globe in terms of language, culture, influence and trade. Though the conflict was a global one, skirmishes and battles fought in the backwoods and mountains and on the lakes of the New World became known as the French and Indian War, so called because both sides could call on fierce native American tribes of the Eastern Woodlands—the Iroquois and Huron nations respectively—in support of their cause. The story of this war is compellingly recounted here, from the early days of disaster to Ticonderoga and the final defeat of the French under Montcalm by the British under Wolfe at Quebec. Brady’s series is regarded as a classic and these new Leonaur editions make it available, in its entirety, to modern readers and libraries.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

Montcalm was in a fearful state of uncertainty. He had with him but three thousand men of whom four hundred were Colonial regulars and Canadian militia. No re-enforcement could by any possibility reach him at that date except a little party of some five hundred men under de Levis, a soldier scarcely less able than Montcalm himself.<br>
The French general was too good a soldier not to realize the possibilities of the situation. He knew that successfully to maintain his position at Fort Ticonderoga—which, by the way, the French called Fort Carillon, from what sweet chime of bells, I wonder? Some priestly call, perhaps! or was it from the music of the river rushing over the rocky rapids hard by?—was a military impossibility.<br>
In the first place its fatal weakness lay in the fact that it was commanded by Mount Defiance, so that if the English planted guns there they would have the garrison at their mercy. There were but eight days’ provisions in the fort for his men, too. Should Abercrombie regularly besiege him, he would be starved out in a week. If he remained where he was the English force was large enough to allow one half of it to invest the fort while the other half could march up to Five Mile Point, where the lake narrowed to easy musket-shot range, and cut his communications and prevent his retreat. Yet to retreat without striking a blow, would be virtually giving up the whole of Canada south of the St. Lawrence. It would mean the abandonment of every French post south and west of Montreal, including the lonely forts in the valleys of the Ohio and the distant Mississippi.<br>
He could not make up his mind to go. It was a terrible dilemma; either going or staying seemed to presage destruction. It is evident from his movements that he was in a state of great indecision. What he hoped to accomplish with three thousand men against twenty-five thousand, which was the number his scouts accredited to Abercrombie, is not clear. Yet he stayed, perhaps with the feeling that it were better to fight, even if defeated, than give up everything without a struggle.<br>
Some of his officers were for retreat, others suggested that an intrenchment might be thrown up on the crest of the plateau which extended from the river to the lake, forming the base of the triangle of which Ticonderoga was the apex, and that the English might be met there with some chance of success. That would not materially alter the situation, however; the works would still be commanded from Mount Defiance, no intrenchments they could make would be of any permanence, as they could easily be destroyed by artillery. They could be blocked, intercepted, and starved out as before. Still, there could be no harm in trying it. In fact there was nothing else to do, and if they intended to fight they would need the breastwork. Montcalm certainly intended to fight, so he sent the regiment Berri to begin the intrenchment. Leaving a small garrison in the fort proper, with the main body of his troops he took post at the saw mill on the river, sending a strong party under de Bourlamaque to cover the beginning of the portage.<br>
On the 6th of July, he despatched Captains Lagny and Trapézec with three hundred men to pass around on the western side of the connecting river and feel for the English. Abercrombie had stopped to rest his men at Sabbath Day Point, twenty-five miles down the lake, and twelve miles from the outlet, on the evening of the 5th, resuming his advance about eleven at night so that the next morning the army approached the foot of the lake. The French post covering the portage thereupon destroyed the bridges crossing the river, abandoned and set fire to their works, and retreated to Montcalm’s camp. On the morning of the 6th, the English army passing down beyond the sheer face of Rogers rock on the left, debarked on the western side of the river in some open ground bordering the shore. Arrangements for the march were completed by noon. It was determined to march around the river until they came in touch with Ticonderoga, which they would formally invest, and then bring up the artillery and force a surrender.<br>
Rogers with his Rangers led the advance. Following him came the army in four parallel columns, with Lord Howe and Israel Putnam at the head of the right centre column, which was slightly in advance of the other three. The bateaux, boats, guns, supplies, etc., were left at the landing place. There were no roads through the woods, the Indian trail would scarcely suffice for a single file of men; the bewildered guides soon lost their way, and the four columns disappeared and became hopelessly lost in the forest, which was thick, trackless, and choked with undergrowth. The density of the wood even obscured sounds, and half a mile away a watcher would have been ignorant of the fact that some fifteen thousand men were buried in the wilderness. Even Lagny, an experienced woodsman, became confused after a time, and lost all sense of his whereabouts, but wandered aimlessly in the waste of trees until late in the afternoon the French suddenly came in touch with the right centre column.<br>
Howe and Putnam were still in the lead. Both parties were greatly surprised. The French, however, were quicker to recover themselves than the English, and they poured in a smart fire. Lord Howe fell dead at the first discharge, with a bullet in his heart. For a few moments the French drove back the startled and disorganized English, who outnumbered them ten to one, but Rogers heard the sound of firing and turned toward it. He happened to be within convenient distance. His men plunged through the wood and burst out upon the flank of the Frenchmen. Of the three hundred, one hundred and fifty were captured, one hundred were killed, and but fifty got away. The English loss was inconsiderable in number, but the killing of Lord Howe was an incomparable disaster. As Parkman says, “the death of one man was the ruin of fifteen thousand.” In spite of their success in the encounter, the noise of the smart engagement, as he heard the firing through the trees, filled Abercrombie with apprehension that Montcalm was upon them with his whole army. The advance was halted and he kept the troops under arms all night. Early in the morning he withdrew from the forest and led the army back to the landing place. Under the circumstances it was the proper thing to do, and possibly the only wise thing the unfortunate commander ever conceived or attempted.