LAKE GEORGE The British lined up along the entrance to the old courthouse in Lake George, facing the French and Indian troops as their superior officers pounded on the door demanding attention. It was the kickoff of the 250th anniversary celebration of the siege of Fort William Henry, demonstrated on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 15 and 16.
More than 1,200 reenactors came to Lake George for the event, dressed in period costumes as British, French and of course, Indians.
Lake George Supervisor Louis Tessier emerged from the courthouse and addressed the opposing troops, now encamped in town.
Be it known to all men that the town board of the Town of Lake George, NY, takes pleasure in conferring the Freedom of the Town on said forces.
It was the custom of the day for military leaders to get permission to use their bayonets and march through the streets of the towns in which they did battle.
This freedom is conferred in memory of all those members of said armies and said allies in honor of their gallant service to their respective monarchs during the 1750s, Tessier said.
The British marched down Canada Street, stopping traffic while drivers and passengers hopped out of their vehicles and scrambled for cameras, followed by the French and Indian forces. They went back to their respective encampments in Battlefield Park, where the reenactors spent the weekend in authentic tents.
On Saturday, both forces lined up on opposing sides of the field for inspection by state Sen. Betty Little, Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Thomas and other notables.
Cannons roared throughout the day as the opposing forces demonstrated how the French tried to rout the British forces from their encampment just outside of Fort William Henry.
The fort was built for 500 people, and there were 2,300, so they had an entrenched encampment just outside, said George Neumann, who enthusiastically narrated the events. The French had about 8,000 militia.
The tactical demonstrations continued throughout the afternoon, with the British suffering heavy losses, but still repelling the French and Indians.
Sundays demonstrations included General Louis Joseph the Marquis de Montcalms delivery of a letter from British Gen. Daniel Web in Fort Edward, stating that he couldnt assist him, advising Lt. Col. George Monro, commander of Fort William Henry, to surrender. Monro had watched the mounting casualties and the forts artillery disabled, and agreed to terms of surrender. The next morning, while en-route to Fort Edward, the rear of the column of survivors was attacked by angry Indians, who wanted to continue to pillage and fight, and many of the Forts survivors were killed. This massacre was also a part of Sundays demonstrations.
Reenactors arrived in Lake George for the weekend from all over the U.S. and Canada.
Andrew Hyde of Loudonville, Ohio was here as a member of Spikemans Rangers, a company of rangers that had the unhappy fate of suffering heavy casualties during most of their battles.
Our company is famous for dying in battle, Hyde said. We try to relive how a massacre took place. The Rangers had fought near Ticonderoga in January of 1757 in the First Battle on Snowshoes, where their leader, Capt. Spikeman, was killed. Spikemans Rangers were garrisoned at Fort William Henry in August of 1757 during the siege.
This is a big event for us, when you know this many people will be here, its worth the trip, Hyde said. We do what were best at, and at the end of each battle, we congratulate each other on how well we die.
Michael Vass of Crown Point, Ind. was dressed as an Indian, fighting with the French.
Its my third year as an Indian, Vass said. But Ive been a reenactor for 20 years. Vass said he started studying history as a kid and enjoys being a part of it.
Were on the attacking side, and we also ambush the survivors, he said.
Throughout the weekend, visitors were welcomed into the various encampments and to shop at the different merchants, with authentic items of the time. The 250th anniversary continues this weekend on Rogers Island in Fort Edward.