•100 years ago — Jan. 1914•
History seen as it really was
Nearly everyone has something, big or small, that they enjoy collecting. Rare plants, seashells, snow globes, coins, you name it. My passion for collecting started many long years ago when I visited at the home of my late friend, Warrensburgh’s eminent historian, Stewart Farrar. He had a vast collection of history books, which including volumes from the 18th and 19th century. Those fragile, cracked leather, handmade books, bound in leather — now cracked, written by people who had long since turned to dust, always fascinated me — and soon after I went on my own quest to acquire such treasures.
In the years to come it was my good fortune to have my daughter and son-in-law, Kayce and Jim Dimond, become well-known historical paper dealers and managers of estate sales. I purchased some of the best dusty tomes that many old Vermont attics had housed for many generations and whose pages really spoke to me. In many cases the writings were about local history, seen first hand, or stories told to the authors by older family members.
Lake George’s hidden secrets
Last October, the archeologists’ discovery of artifacts near Million Dollar Beach parking lot that could date back as far as 8000 years, shut down parking lot and roadwayconstruction plans to be temporarily shut down. The find included a lot of arrowheads and a spearhead that was about eight inches long. This indicateed that Lake George was a hotbed of activity for American Indians long before it became the site of numerous battles and encampments during the French and Indian War era.
Over the years It has been in the news many times that village workman digging for a water pipe or whatever, discovered yet another skeleton of some poor soul who perished during the famous 1756 aftermath of General Montcalm’s famous siege of Fort William Henry.
Even as this tale is well known, a tourist would be hard put to visualize this blood-thirsty event as it actually happened as they drive through the town’s modern, peaceful 21st century village.
The detailed account of the fort’s seige
I have a well worn book in my collection entitled, “A History of the State of Vermont from its Discovery and Settlement,” written by Nathan Hoskins and published by J. Shedd in 1831 in Vergennes, Vt. Besides Vermont history, the book also includes area Adirondack history and it was published only 75 years after the famous Lake George massacre. As Hoskins describes the aftermath of the bloody event, it is likely that he spoke with some elderly people who had once been there in their youth and survived the bloodbath or people who had heard detailed descriptions from older members of their family.
A day spent in Hell
Nathan Hoskins’ detailed narration of the aftermath of Marquis de Montcalm’s attack on Fort William Henry is not for the faint of heart.
After the French general’s trip south down Lake George from Ticonderoga, he attacked Fort William Henry with 500 men and a vast army of about 600 Indian volunteers to further advance the French cause in America. The fort was commanded by English officer Colonel Monroe who had under his command regulars and provincials stationed at Fort William Henry and nearby in the area that would later become Fort George. Colonel Monroe expected and depended upon relief from General Webb at Fort Edward who showed little interest in Monroe’s desperate dilemma and failed to make an appearance. Monroe defended his precarious position from August 3 to 9, 1756. On the 9th, many of Monroe’s guns burst and with his ammunition expended, he was therefore obliged to surrender.
Hoskins describes a blood bath
General Montcalm was an honorable man. On Aug. 9 articles of capitulation were signed, the terms of which were that the vanquished should retain their arms and be escorted to Fort Edward. The possession of the fort was then immediately given to the French. It wasn’t long before Montcalm realized that his Indian volunteers had no respect for him and were no longer under his control.
Hoskins wrote, “The Indians, ignoring Montcalm’s command, rushed instantly over the parapet and seized such articles as they could, with impunity, then they commenced their depredations upon the baggage of the officers, which was represented as a violation of the terms of the capitulation. But in contempt of this, the Indians attached to the French army fell upon the defenseless prisoners and massacred whoever came in their way. The whole garrison, consisting of 2,000 men, women and children, out of which 1,500 were killed or made prisoners and many of them never returned.”
When Major Putnam arrived with a company of rangers to watch the movements of Montcalm, he found that he was too late and Montcalm and his army had already embarked on their return to Ticonderoga. “The prospect was awful and horrid in the highest degree. The fort was demolished, the barracks and outhouses were a heap of ruins, the cannon stores and utensils were carried away, the fires were still burning with smoke and stench suffocating and offensive. Numberless fragments of human skulls, bones and carcasses half consumed, were still broiling and frying in the decaying fires. Dead bodies mangled with scalping knives, in all the wantonness of Indian barbarity were everywhere to be seen.”
Major Putnam, with his command, took to the trail of the marauders, which soon became strewed with fragments of plunder dropped by the rapidly retreating savages as they faded away into the forest and in their canoes.
Horrors better left unwritten
Hoskins described in detail how more than 100 woman, inhumanly stabbed and butchered, lay naked on the ground but I think that I would be wrong to go into further detail because his detailed description of the corpses is just too graphic. He did write that the spectacle was far too horrid to be described or endured. The bodies of the dead were buried in a trench near the scene of massacre a few yards east of the picketed enclosure of the fort. French historians would later only admit to 110 scalps being taken.
In Smith’s 1885 History of Warren County, there is a story of finding the corpse of a woman who had been mutilated and fastened to a sapling who had been tortured and scalped. Speaking of two oxen left by the Indians, it was written, “One of the oxen had no other injury than to have one of its horns cut out. It was still alive and bellowing with agony. This they were obliged to kill.”
“Another ox had been regularly scalped. The animal was afterwards driven to the lake, where it immediately became an object of sympathy and attention of the whole army. By careful attendance and nursing, the wound healed in the course of the season. In the fall the animal was driven down to the farm of Colonel Schuyler, near Albany, and the following year was shipped to England for exhibition as a curiosity. Far and wide it was known as the scalped ox.”
Further blood, glory & honorable death
Later in 1758, General Montcalm defended Ticonderoga and then proceeded to go to the defense of Quebec where he died a heroic death in 1759 fighting against British General James Wolfe who died also there on the Plains of Abraham.
Readers are welcome to contact Adirondack Journal correspondent Jean Hadden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 623-2210.