Siege of Ticonderoga, 6-8 July 1758 (America)

Siege of Ticonderoga, 6-8 July 1758 (America)

Ticonderoga, defence of, 6-8 July 1758 (America)

British defeat in Canada during the French and Indian War. The British, under General James Abercromby, were set on attacking Montreal. In order to do so, they knew they had to take Fort Ticonderoga, which blocked their advance. The French were also aware of this, and in June 1758 Louis de Montcalm arrived to take personal command, increasing the garrison of the Fort from 1,000 to 5,000 men. In contrast, Abercromby had 15,000 men, and sufficent supplies and artillery to allow him to either starve out the French or bombard the fort into submission. Instead, on the day after arriving at the fort, and acting on a single report by a junior officer, who claimed that the fort's defences were weak, and could be easily stormed, ordered a frontal attack on the French lines. Montcalm had built a line of outer defences, some 300 meters from the Fort, in which he placed 3,000 regular troops, the elite of his force. The British attack was launched at noon, but bogged down in the outer defences, and after an afternoon of fighting, Abercromby withdrew his troops. He had suffered 2,000 casualties, compared to only 372 on the French side, but still outnumbered the French garrison, and yet after suffering a single repulse, Abercromby withdrew from Ticonderoga, abandoning the advance on Montreal, and much enhancing Montcalm's reputation.

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The Siege of Fort Ticonderoga (1777)

If everything had gone according to General John Burgoyne’s plan, 1777 would have been the year the British Empire put an end to the rebellion in its North American colonies.

In August 1776, an army of 32,000 British soldiers under the command of General William Howe, carried across the Atlantic the largest fleet in British naval history, had driven George Washington and the Continental Army out of New York City, then out of New York entirely. While Washington had kept the nascent American cause alive with dramatic victories at Trenton and Princeton, his position remained precarious.

A portrait of John Burgoyne, circa 1766. Wikimedia Commons

Back in London, General John Burgoyne proposed a plan for the campaign of 1777 that would crush Washington’s army and cut out the heart of the rebellion. Howe would advance his army up the Hudson River from New York City, while Burgoyne would move south from Canada with a second force. These two armies would crush Washington between them and link up at Albany, destroying the rebel army and cutting off New England, the heart of the rebellion, from the rest of the Thirteen Colonies.

General Burgoyne and his army of nearly 8,000 British regulars, Hessians, American Loyalists, and Native Americans began their campaign in mid-June. The first obstacle that Burgoyne would have to overcome was the American defenses at the southern end of Lake Champlain, around Fort Ticonderoga.

In 1777, Fort Ticonderoga was already a historic location. The fort had been constructed by the French in 1755, during the French and Indian War. In 1758 British troops tried and failed to capture the fort in the bloodiest battle fought in North America until the Civil War. The British succeeded in taking possession of the fort the next year when the French abandoned it and retreated north into Canada. In May of 1775 Fort Ticonderoga was captured by Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys militia. Artillery from the fort was transported south during the winter of 1775 and placed on high ground outside Boston in March of 1776, which forced the British to evacuate the city.

Fort Ticonderoga was the Americans’ first line of defense against a British invasion from Canada. In addition to the fort itself and the French Lines, the old entrenchments outside the fort left over from the battle in 1758, the Americans had also constructed fortifications on Mount Independence on the other side of Lake Champlain. Burgoyne and his army would have to overcome these positions in order to continue their advance south towards Albany.

A painting of Arthur St. Clair, made in the early 1780s. Wikimedia Commons

Burgoyne commanded nearly 8,000 men, while the Americans under General Arthur St. Clair numbered around 2,000. To capture Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence, Burgoyne split his army in two. A force of German troops, mostly from Brunswick and Hesse-Hanau and commanded by Major General Friederich Baron von Riedesel, landed on the east side of Lake Champlain. Their goal would be to surround Mount Independence and cut off the military highway that ran from Fort Ticonderoga, across a bridge over Lake Champlain, and south into New Hampshire. On the west side of the lake, the redcoats advanced to surround and besiege Fort Ticonderoga.

The Hessian advance was slowed by difficult terrain, but the British made fast progress. On July 2, soldiers from Brigadier Simon Fraser’s Advance Corps captured the outermost American positions at Mount Hope. Over the next three days, the British troops surrounded Fort Ticonderoga on its landward side. On July 5, British troops occupied the summit of Sugar Loaf Hill. This piece of high ground overlooked both Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence, but it had been left unfortified by the Americans. General St. Clair had not sent troops to guard Sugar Loaf Hill because there was no source of freshwater available to men camped on the summit.

Cannons mounted on Sugar Loaf Hill could dominate the American positions, but placing artillery on Sugar Loaf Hill would require cutting a road up the forested hillside, and manhandling the heavy cannons to the summit. British Major General William Philips famously claimed that, “Where a goat can go, a man can go, and where a man can go, he can drag a gun.”

A painting of British troops on Lake Champlain near Fort Ticonderoga. British Library

When the Americans in Fort Ticonderoga spotted British troops and campfires on the summit of Sugar Loaf Hill, General St. Clair ordered the immediate evacuation of the fort and Mount Independence, to be carried out that night. Supplies, wounded soldiers, and noncombatants were loaded onto a fleet of boats, which set sail up Lake Champlain to the port of Skenesboro. The garrison of the fort retreated across the bridge over the lake and linked up with the garrison of Mount Independence. The army marched south and by the next morning, they had reached Castleton (in modern-day Vermont). The British were unaware that the Americans had abandoned their positions until the morning of July 6. Burgoyne left a small garrison to occupy Fort Ticonderoga and began pursuing the retreating Americans.

When news of Fort Ticonderoga’s fall reached London, King George III is said to have burst into his wife’s bedroom and exclaimed, “I have beat them! I have beat all the Americans!” Yet Burgoyne’s success would be short-lived. The British were unable to catch the American force before it joined up with reinforcements further south. Many of the American soldiers who escaped the siege of Fort Ticonderoga would eventually take part in the Battles of Saratoga, where Burgoyne was defeated and forced to surrender.

The Guns of Ticonderoga

Library of Congress

Beginning with the reign King Louis XIV, cannons produced for the French army had a Latin motto engraved on their barrels: “Ultima Ratio Regum,” or “The Last Argument of Kings.” In the American Revolutionary War, the rebellious American colonists turned these symbols of royal power into a critical weapon in their struggle for independence.

After the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, the British had retreated back to the city of Boston. There they found themselves surrounded and besieged by an army of armed colonists. British General John Burgoyne disparaged the colonists as “a preposterous parade” and “a rabble in arms,” but the new commander of this Continental Army saw potential. General George Washington wrote that “in a little time we shall work up these raw materials into very good stuff.” Farmers and artisans could be made into soldiers, but the colonists had very little artillery and cannons could not be summoned out of thin air.

Nearly three hundred miles away, on the shore of Lake Champlain, was a treasure trove of artillery. In May of 1775, Ethan Allen led a militia made up of settlers from present-day Vermont, called the Green Mountain Boys, in a surprise attack that captured Fort Ticonderoga and its small British garrison without firing a shot. With this act of “burglarious enterprise,” as one British writer described it, the rebels took possession of two hundred cannons. Most officers thought that moving the guns all the way from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston was impossible, but Henry Knox thought otherwise.

Knox had been a bookseller before the outbreak of war, and his bookshop was known as “a fashionable morning lounge” that counted John Adams among its regular patrons. After Lexington and Concord, Knox and his wife snuck out of Boston in disguise. With a commission as a colonel in the Continental Army, Knox went to Washington and confidently predicted that once the cannons had been taken by boat from Fort Ticonderoga to the southern end of Lake George, it would take fewer than twenty days to move them overland to Boston.

Henry Knox left for Fort Ticonderoga on November 16, 1775. Once he arrived at the fort, he selected 58 pieces of artillery to take back to Boston. Most of artillery pieces were “12-pounder” or “18-pounder” cannons (depending on the weight of the cannonball they fired). Knox also brought one massive 24-pounder cannon, nicknamed “Old Sow,” that weighed more than 5,000 pounds and several high-arching mortar guns that weighed one ton each. In total, Henry Knox’s “noble train of artillery” weighed 120,000 pounds, or 60 tons.

On December 9, 1775, three boats loaded with artillery set sail on Lake George. Traveling forty miles down the ice-covered lake took eight days. Once the artillery was on the southern shore of the lake, Knox and his men used more than one-half mile of rope to secure the guns to 42 sleds. Hauling the heaviest guns required eight horses and sometimes additional oxen as well.

The journey on land required crossing the frozen Hudson River four times. The leader of each sled team carried an axe, so that if a cannon fell through the ice they could cut the lines before it dragged the horses underwater as well. Henry Knox himself nearly froze to death while trying to walk through three feet of snow in a blizzard. In a letter to Washington, he wrote that “it is not easy to conceive the difficulties we have had,” but not a single cannon was lost. Henry Knox and his noble train of artillery arrived at the Continental Army camp outside Boston in late January 1776. The journey that Knox had estimated would take sixteen or seventeen days had taken forty.

On the night of March 4, the cannons were moved into position on Dorchester Heights, overlooking the city and the harbor. On March 5, when British General William Howe learned what the colonists had done, he exclaimed that “these fellows have done more work in one night than I could make my army do in three months.” On March 6, 1776, he gave the order to prepare for evacuation. On Saint Patrick’s Day 1776, 120 ships carried 9,000 British soldiers, 1,200 dependents, and 1,100 Loyalists out of Boston. On the deck of one ship, the merchant George Erving told other Loyalists, “Gentlemen, not one of you will ever see that place again.”

Washington Irving described Henry Knox as “one of those providential characters which spring up in emergencies as if formed by and for the occasion.” His race up the ranks proved that in this new Continental Army capable men would not be held back by their class status, unlike in the British army. Knox and his “noble train” allowed the colonists to force Britain to retreat from Boston, a crucial early victory that bolstered morale and showed that the Americans had a chance of winning the war. The actions of these people at these places still matter to us today as critical links in the chain of events which led to the creation of the United States of America. By promoting men of merit like Henry Knox, regardless of their social class, George Washington made the Continental Army an embodiment of the egalitarian ideas that the new nation would profess.

British Begin Their Advance

After a month of boredom and inactivity, Abercromby finally gave the order for the troops to embark on the evening of July 4, 1758. After a night spent loading the boats, canoes, and bateaux (special heavy duty barges), the army began its voyage north on the lake to its meeting with Major General Louis-Joseph, the Marquis de Montcalm, the ranking French officer in North America.

Leading the way up the placid lake came Robert Rogers and his Rangers and Brig. Gen. Thomas Gage with his 80th Regiment of light infantry. Behind them, in three columns, came the remainder of the army and artillery on heavy flatboats. In the center column, the regulars were led by Lt. Col. George Howe with his 55th Regiment, while the American troops flanked the British on the right and left. The army was so vast, the Boston News Letter reported, that it virtually covered the entire surface of Lake George.

From the beginning, misfortune plagued the enterprise. By 5 pm, the armada had only covered 25 miles to Sabbath Day Point, where the boats pulled into shore to wait for baggage and artillery. To make matters worse, Abercromby gave orders to resume the advance at 11 pm, taking the terrible risk that the French and their Indian partisans might dash on them in the dark. Fortunately for the British, such a maneuver had not occurred to Montcalm. Instead, his rangers, under Captains Langy and Trepezec, only observed the oncoming enemy.

Around dawn on July 6, the army reached the Second Narrows, where Lake George approaches Lake Champlain. By noon, the entire force landed at a spot near Burnt Camp where Montcalm had set off to destroy Fort William Henry the summer before. A forward movement began with Major Rogers, Lt. Col. John Bradstreet, and Lord George Howe. (Rogers, a New Hampshire farmer, had raised his Ranger force at British request in 1756.) Before long, the head of the column was caught up in a thick wood. Parkman graphically described the plight of Abercromby’s men: “The guides [Rogers’ group] became bewildered in the maze of trunks and boughs the marching columns were confused, and fell in one upon the other. They were in the strange situation of an army lost in the woods.”

VIP Tours

Are you looking for a unique, exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime experience at Fort Ticonderoga? Do you want to don gloves and examine artifacts from our collection with our Curator of Collections? Do you appreciate personal tours with experts in their fields? Then one of Fort Ticonderoga’s VIP tours is for you!

These VIP tours are led by members of the Fort Ticonderoga professional museum staff and provide an experience unlike any other. Your group of four or less spends a morning exploring the collections and the historic landscape based on one of three available themes.

Advanced reservations are required and must be made at least three weeks in advance. Tours are offered based on staff availability. The cost of $1,500 includes up to a three and one-half hour experience, with lunch included. Full payment is required three weeks prior to the scheduled tour. No refunds, however, rescheduling to a mutually agreeable date is a possibility.

VIP tours may consist of extended periods of walking, climbing stairs, and navigating uneven terrain. Proper footwear is recommended. Tours are not handicap accessible, or appropriate for those who have difficulty walking.

Each tour includes:

  • Welcome and orientation
  • Collections-based experience with our Curator of Collections
  • A guided tour or program with a member of our staff
  • Lunch at America’s Fort Café with the presenting staff member

See below for VIP Tour options:

Ticonderoga's Treasures

Join Fort Ticonderoga’s Curator of Collections for a unique behind-the-scenes encounter with Fort Ticonderoga’s world-class museum collections. Go where few others have been to see highlights from the collection including clothing, weapons, and personal effects of soldiers from across the Atlantic. Learn how objects tell their own stories of the past and how Fort Ticonderoga uses its rich collection in context. This program begins at the Thompson Pell Research Center, home to our collections storage. Following this tour of collections, the tour will conclude at the fort itself with an overview of the history of the site, followed by lunch at America’s Fort Cafe for your group with the tour leader.

July 8, 1758: The Battle of Carillon

On a hot July day in 1758, the Marquis de Montcalm decisively defeated a superior British and American army under the command of General James Abercromby. The battle would be the bloodiest single days action until the American Civil War, nearly 2,000 British troops were killed and wounded. Join Fort Ticonderoga’s Curator of Collections for an in-depth tour of the battlefield. Follow the traces of the battle across the epic landscape. Be prepared for hiking across a variety of terrain from brush to clear asphalt. The tour will return for a lunch at the America’s Fort Cafe for your group with the tour leader.

Preserving the Revolution: The American Defenses of Ticonderoga

Join Fort Ticonderoga’s Curator of Collections for an in-depth look at the most intact series of Revolutionary War earthworks in North America. Begin at the Old French Fort to get up to speed with the construction and condition of the fort prior to its capture in 1775. Traversing the landscape from the heights of Carillon to the edge of Lake Champlain, see the evidence of how the American military re-shaped the Ticonderoga peninsula to defend from British invasion from the North. The program covers over a mile of ground returning for a lunch at the America’s Fort Cafe for your group with the tour leader.

Siege of Ticonderoga, 6-8 July 1758 (America) - History

No military engagement fought in America prior to the Civil War was bloodier or more costly than the Battle of Carillon (Ticonderoga). For over four hours during the afternoon of July 8, 1758, British and French forces ruthlessly clashed in upstate New York atop the heights west of Fort Carillon, producing over 2,400 casualties – nearly 2,000 of them English. In a year of such memorable British triumphs this was truly an incredible and most tragic disaster. By nightfall, Major General James Abercromby’s army was in full retreat up Lake George, and the Marquis de Montcalm’s courageous Frenchmen remained behind their earthworks, celebrating one of the most miraculous victories ever won on the continent.[1]

It had been over four years since George Washington ordered his small detachment of Virginians and Mingo warriors to open fire on the French-Canadian party encamped within Jumonville Glen, and England’s military efforts against the French in North America were still abysmal. Seventeen fifty-eight was meant to turn the tide in favor of King George II. With William Pitt’s ascension to Secretary of State for the Southern Department, it became his duty to prosecute the war in earnest, sparing no expense. After the failed operation against Fortress Louisbourg and the capitulation of Fort William Henry the previous year, plans for a four-pronged offensive in North America began to formulate. These large-scale movements were directed against Forts Duquesne and Frontenac (located along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario), Louisbourg (yet again), and finally Fort Carillon atop the promontory between Lakes Champlain and George. The effort against the French at Carillon was to be led by the newly instated Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty’s Forces in North America, Major General James Abercromby.

Major General James Abercromby

James Abercromby was born in 1706 in Glassaugh, Scotland and received his first commission as an ensign in 1717 with the 25 th Regiment of Foot. He saw action and was wounded during the War of Austrian Succession, and by 1756 he held the rank of major general, serving under Lord Loudoun in North America. By December of the following year he was officially commissioned to replace Loudoun after his recall. To compliment Abercromby during his offensive against Fort Carillon, Brigadier General George, Viscount Howe (the older brother of Richard and William) was given the role of second-in-command for the expedition.[2]

During June 1758, Abercromby’s army of British Regulars and colonial provincials gathered along the southern shore of Lake George beside the still present ruins of Fort William Henry, which was burned by Montcalm following its capitulation the previous August. By July 5, when the army began its embarkation down Lake George, the British could count a total of 16,000 men amassed to assault Carillon – it was the largest military force ever assembled for a campaign on the North American continent. Nearly 10,000 provincials from New England, New Jersey, and New York had joined ranks with eight regiments of British Regulars. To oppose them over thirty-two miles to the north, Montcalm had roughly 3,500 men at his disposal with another 500 that would join him before the battle commenced.[3]

Embarkation of Abercromby’s Army, July 5, 1758

On July 5, nearly one-thousand small boats and other crafts departed from the shore of Lake George and headed north. The spectacle must have been amazing. Extending seven miles in four rows covering shoreline to shoreline, Abercromby’s army rowed towards its destiny, arriving at its debarkation point the following day around 10:00am. The landing party, consisting of Rogers’ Rangers, Thomas Gage’s 80 th Light Infantry, and Phineas Lyman’s 1 st Connecticut Regiment, staggered ashore with George Howe at the head of the advance. The men were immediately met with resistance and a running battle commenced that ran several miles to the north near Bernetz Brook. Leading on foot at the head of an advancing force is no place for the second-in-command of an army, but Howe was not your typical general and that is why his men adored him. At 4:00pm the fighting became the hottest it was all afternoon as the French continued their hasty withdraw back to Montcalm’s lines. During this contest, Howe lost his life. With their beloved leader now dead, confusion amassed and the British left the field and returned to the landing site. While the skirmishing yielded no true tactical significance, Montcalm was alerted of Abercromby’s landing and began to fortify the heights west of Fort Carillon, choosing to face the British in the field rather than defend against a siege with his army so outnumbered.[4]

The following day, Abercromby’s army marched to within a mile and a half or so of the French at Carillon and encamped for the evening. From this position near a saw mill the commander-in-chief added the finishing touches to his battle plan on the morning of July 8 – it was from here as well that he would observe the engagement, staying far behind the frontlines. With the loss of his trusted subordinate, Howe, and the information newly at hand that a large body of French reinforcements numbering 3,000 men was approaching Fort Carillon, Abercromby seemingly lost his wit. Rather than sending an experienced engineer such as Major William Eyre of the 44 th Regiment of Foot to observe the French position, he instead ordered two of his personal aides, Captains James Abercrombie and Matthew Clerk to ride forward and report the situation. The two officers returned and suggested to the commanding general that the French earthworks were incomplete and that the position could easily be carried with a frontal assault. Abercromby accepted the report as gospel and began preparations for an attack.[5]

Truth be told, by the morning of July 8, the French had indeed completed their defensive works a half-mile to the northwest of the fort. The series of fallen logs – stacked some six to seven feet high with loopholes cut into them to fire out of from behind cover – extended from the lowland near the La Chute River to the south across the peninsula to Lake Champlain to the north. The area in front of the earthworks was cleared for about one-hundred yards, and a line of abatis was erected in front of the line to hinder the enemy’s advance. The earthworks were defended by seven regiments of French Regulars, each manning roughly a hundred yards of entrenchment. To the right of the line a company of Troupes de La Marine (Canadian Regulars) was positioned and a battery of six cannon was placed in a redoubt constructed on the left. Canadian militia defended the lowland near the La Chute River. This area was the weak point in Montcalm’s line, but Abercromby failed to exploit it. A battalion of the Regiment de Berry was left behind to man the fort and run ammunition to the front. While Montcalm had selected the best ground near the fort to make his stand, his position was nevertheless dangerous. His army was bottled up on a peninsula and if his defensive measure should fail his force would be trapped and surrounded by the overwhelming numbers of the British. Things could all begin tumbling down for Montcalm if his earthworks were blasted to splinters by the might of the English artillery before a frontal attack commenced. Lucky for him, however, Abercromby opted that an artillery barrage to precede the assault was unnecessary, and in fact, that no cannon would be needed at all to assist in carrying the French position.[6]

Louis-Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm

At half past noon, July 8, 1758, the 80 th Light Infantry, Rogers’ Rangers, and a battalion of Massachusetts light infantrymen advanced forward to the abatis in a long skirmish line, driving the French pickets before them back to the earthworks. With the ground in front of the French position clear it was time to launch the grand European-style assault. Stepping out from the tree line at the base of the heights, over six-thousand men garbed in scarlet red moved forward in a line three ranks deep. The beating of drums and the shrill of the fifes pierced the air, and the wale of Scottish bagpipes reverberated from the musicians amongst the 42 nd Regiment of Foot – the “Black Watch” – near the center of the line. Forward they went with undaunted courage only to be cut to pieces by French small arms fire upon reaching the abatis. There the dead and dying lay tangled amidst the branches as their comrades struggled to press forward. “The fire was prodigiously hot,” Captain Charles Lee (yes, that Charles Lee) of the 44 th Regiment of Foot vividly remembered, “the slaughter of officers very great, almost all wounded, the men still furiously rushing forwards without any leaders.” Staring through the smoke up towards the French line, only the tops of the regimental standards were visible above the earthworks.[7]

The devastating effect of the French musketry forced the British lines to waiver. They could not obtain enough momentum to make their way into the enemy entrenchments, let alone even climb near them. Abercromby was no help during all of this. He remained behind at the sawmill camp delegating orders as his men were being sent into a meat grinder a mile and a half away. His decision to not order up his artillery to bombard the French or support his infantry’s attack was beginning to show how costly it truly was.

Again and again the regulars were ordered to advance, only to be met with the same result each attempt. Nearly four hours had passed since the initial line had stepped off and the situation was beginning to become desperate. In a last-ditch effort to pierce the French earthworks and turn the tide of the battle, the 42 nd Regiment of Foot emerged from the abatis and with a terrible cry the “Ladies from Hell,” charged forward. As the “Black Watch” advanced up the heights, an officer of the 55 th Regiment of Foot watched in admiration:

With a mixture of esteem, grief, and envy, I am penetrated by the great loss and immortal glory acquired by the Highlanders engaged in the late bloody affair. Impatient for the fray, they rushed forward to the entrenchments, which many of them actually mounted. Their intrepidity was rather animated and damped by witnessing their comrades fall on every side. They seemed more anxious to avenge the fate of their deceased friends than careful to avoid a like death….[8]

The “intrepidity” of the 42 nd Regiment was not enough to carry the works. Their dedication and valor that day cost them tremendously. Of the 900 or so men that the regiment took into the field with them that bloody day, 647 were casualties – 314 of that number dead on the field. In any other battle of any other war fought in North America, only one other regiment, the 1 st Maine Heavy Artillery at Petersburg on June 18, 1864, suffered a near greater loss of life in a single engagement. This is a sacrifice that needs to be better remembered.[9]

Assault of the 42nd Regiment of Foot “The Black Watch”

Around 5:00pm, Abercromby called off the attack and ordered his army to retire from the field. The men, battered and bruised, made their way back to the sawmill camp and later that night were led back down to the landing site from two days before. Rumors that Montcalm was following closely in pursuit to destroy the English army spread rapidly and the retreat became extremely hasty – if not an actual rout. The campaign was over.

Montcalm’s victory against the British at Carillon was nothing short of a miracle. His army was outnumbered four-to-one and had essentially trapped itself on the Ticonderoga peninsula in order to meet the English army in open combat to avoid a siege. Abercromby made zero use of his artillery to weaken or destroy the French defenses – which were somehow complete in less than two days and conveniently during the morning of the battle – and he failed to exploit any of the weak points on Montcalm’s flanks.

The British had failed to bag the French army at Fort Carillon and therefore left the enemy in possession of the crucial north-south waterway of Lake Champlain that offered direct access into the Richelieu River and henceforth Canada. The bloody defeat had cost Abercromby nearly 2,000 men with upwards of 800 of that number killed. Montcalm on the other hand incurred just fewer than 400 casualties – still roughly ten percent of his army present on the field that day. In the history of military conflict in America prior to the Civil War, only the Battles of Long Island and New Orleans come close to the 2,400 lost July 8, 1758.

The “Black Watch” Monument today on Carillon Battlefield (notice the position of the French earthworks in the rear of the photograph)

The Battle of Carillon was England’s most humiliating defeat of the French and Indian War. At no other battle during the conflict did a British/Provincial army outnumber its foe so greatly in both manpower and artillery, only to be beaten as terribly as Abercromby’s army was before the French entrenchments at Carillon. This defeat should not be put upon the shoulders of the brave men who fought with such rigor that July afternoon though. Their commanding general let them down. Abercromby’s failure to conduct proper reconnaissance and utilize his army’s artillery cost him the day. If George Howe had not been killed two days before, maybe things would have been different. But who knows? Lucky for Abercromby, the other three British offensives on the continent succeeded, so his defeat only cost him his job and not the war for his countrymen. He was replaced by Jeffrey Amherst two months later. The following year, another effort was made to take Fort Carillon with Sir Jeffrey at its head. The French ignited their powder supplies and abandoned the fort, blowing it up before a shot was fired in anger. France’s attention in North America had turned solely to defending Canada as James Wolfe’s army was threatening Quebec.

[1] William R. Nester, The Epic Battles of Ticonderoga, 1758 (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2008), 156.

[3] Rene Chartrand, Ticonderoga 1758: Montcalm’s Victory against All Odds (New York: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2000), 29.

[4] Fred Anderson, Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 154-1766 (New York: Vintage Books, 2000), 240-241 Nester, The Epic Battles of Ticonderoga, 1758, 126-131.

[6] Anderson, Crucible of War, 242 Nester, 139-140.

[7] Anderson, 243-244 Quoted in Stephen Brumwell, Redcoats: The British Soldier and War in the Americas, 1755-1763 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 28.

[8] Quoted in Archibald Forbes, The History of the Black Watch (N/A: Leonaur, 2010), 44.

Indian Trail

Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Colonial Era &bull Military &bull Native Americans &bull War, French and Indian. A significant historical year for this entry is 1758.

Location. 43° 48.974′ N, 73° 28.696′ W. Marker is in Ticonderoga, New York, in Essex County. Marker is on U.S. 9, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Ticonderoga NY 12883, United States of America. Touch for directions.

Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Cliff Seat (approx. one mile away) a different marker also named Indian Trail (approx. 1.1 miles away) Carillon Outpost (approx. 1.9 miles away) Abercrombie's Landing (approx. 2 miles away) Gen. Henry Knox Trail (approx. 2.7 miles away) LaChute River Trail (approx. 2.8 miles away) Historic Valley (approx. 3 miles away) "C-Dam" (approx. 3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Ticonderoga.

Also see . . .
1. Frigid Fury: The Battle on Snowshoes, March 1758. New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center. (Submitted on July 25, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey.)

2. Wars and Battles, Robert Rogers 1731-1795. (Submitted on July 25, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey.)

Birthdays in History

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James Monroe

Apr 28 James Monroe, 5th US President (1817-25), born in Monroe Hall, Virginia (d. 1831)

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Oct 16 Noah Webster, lexicographer (Webster's Dictionary), born in West Hartford, Connecticut (d. 1843)

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Fort Ticonderoga Recreates the Epic 1758 Battle of Carillon

ALBANY, N.Y. - July 8, 2013 - PRLog -- Join Fort Ticonderoga for an exciting two-day battle re-enactment highlighting the epic 1758 Battle of Carillon! Witness how the British amassed the largest army in North American history to date yet was stunningly defeated by a French army a quarter of its size. The event takes place Saturday and Sunday, July 20-21, 9:30am to 5 pm.

Highlighted programming featured throughout the weekend brings to life the story of the courageous French soldiers that protected their lines of defense against all odds. Visitors will meet the British and Provincial soldiers who gave their utmost to drive the French from the rocky peninsula and fortress of Carillon, later named Ticonderoga. Experience the fog of war and smoky haze of battle as the French and British armies maneuver across Fort Ticonderoga’ s historic landscape at battle re-enactments at 1:30 pm each day. Admission to Montcalm’s Cross Battle Re-enactment is included in a Fort Ticonderoga’ s general admission ticket. For the full event schedule and to learn more about the event visit or call 518-585-2821.

“During this dramatic event, visitors will discover how the Battle of Carillon sealed the reputation of Ticonderoga for generations to come,” said Beth Hill, Fort Ticonderoga’ s President and CEO. “The July 8th battle resulted in the greatest number of casualties in one day until the American Civil War and as a result, Ticonderoga became a legend in its own time.”

“In July 1758 the British army attacked the French at Carillon (Ticonderoga) attempting to capture the Fort and take control of the portage between Lake George and Lake Champlain. On July 5th, the largest military force ever assembled in North America embarked by bateaux down Lake George,” said Stuart Lilie, Fort Ticonderoga Director of Interpretation. “Abercromby’ s army of British and Provincial soldiers landed at the north end of Lake George, after a long night packed into the fleet of bateaux. Sweeping through the La Chute valley, Brigadier General Lord Augustus Howe and the advanced guard encountered a lost patrol of French soldiers. In the ensuing confusing battle on July 6th Lord Howe was shot through the chest, and killed on the spot. The death of this leader, known as the darling of the army, struck a blow to British morale and tactical command.”
“On the 7th of July the French at Ticonderoga constructed a half mile-long log wall protected in front by a dense tangle of treetops and sharpened branches to serve as a barrier against the British attackers. This fortification was known as the French Lines. On July 8th, the British attacked. After seven hours of fighting, the British had suffered casualties of nearly 2,000 men killed and wounded. Broken and dismayed, the British retreated back to their camp at the southern end of Lake George. The retreating soldiers brought with them the story of this great battle, taking the name Ticonderoga home to taverns and newspapers in America and Britain. This fight for the Heights of Carillon at that time was the single most-bloody day in American history, and gave Fort Carillon a formidable reputation. News of this miraculous victory reached France by the fall of that year and marked France’s greatest victory of the French and Indian War (1754-1763). On October 1st, 1758 the French army staged a reenactment of the battle, to accompany fireworks to celebrate in front of Paris city hall.”

The Montcalm’s Cross Re-enactment Event is made possible by generous funding support from the History Channel and Peter S. Paine, Jr.

Fort Ticonderoga offers more than one hundred exciting and unique events and programs this season! Visit for a full list of ongoing programs or call 518-585-2821. Funding for the 2013 season is provided in part by Amtrak. Visit visit/directions for a special 2 for 1 Amtrak offer!

America’s Fort ™
Located on Lake Champlain in the beautiful 6 million acre Adirondack Park, Fort Ticonderoga is a not-for-profit historic site and museum that ensures that present and future generations learn from the struggles, sacrifices, and victories that shaped the nations of North America and changed world history. Serving the public since 1909, Fort Ticonderoga engages more than 70,000 guests annually and is dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of Fort Ticonderoga’ s history. Accredited by the American Association of Museums, Fort Ticonderoga offers programs, historic interpretation, tours, demonstrations, and exhibits throughout the year and is open for daily visitation May 17 through October 20, 2013. The 2013 season features the Fort’s newest exhibit “It would make a heart of stone melt” Sickness, Injury, and Medicine at Fort Ticonderoga which explores early medical theory, practice, and experience as each relates to the armies that served at Fort Ticonderoga in the 18th century. Admission price is $17.50 for adults, $14.00 for seniors (62 years and older), $8 children 5-12 years old, and children 4 years and under are free. Friends of Fort Ticonderoga also enjoy free admission. Visit for a full list of ongoing programs or call 518-585-2821. Fort Ticonderoga is located at 100 Fort Ti Road, Ticonderoga, New York.

America’s Fort is a registered trademark of the Fort Ticonderoga Association.

Battle of Carillon

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Battle of Carillon, (July 8, 1758), one of the bloodiest conflicts of the French and Indian War (1754–63) and a major defeat for the British. It was fought at Fort Carillon on the shores of the southern tip of Lake Champlain on the border of New York and Vermont. (The battle is also known as the Battle of Ticonderoga, for Fort Carillon was renamed Ticonderoga after the British retook it the following year.)

After losing several battles in 1757, and in retaliation in particular for the massacre of British colonists by France’s American Indian allies at Fort William Henry that year, the British went on the offensive in 1758 and sought to recapture strategical points held by the French. The British were nominally led by the elderly and inept Major General James Abercrombie, but the real leader of the troops was the savvy and energetic Brigadier General Lord George Howe. The French were led by Major General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm. British forces and their American allies totalled some 15,000–16,000 men, the French army comprised a mere 3,600.

Montcalm sent Captain Trépezet and 350 men to scout the British troops that had landed on northern end of Lake George, south of Fort Carillon, on July 6. The French were entrenched at Fort Carillon, from which Montcalm had launched his successful battle for Fort William Henry the year before. Now vastly outnumbered, Montcalm built a fortified line of defense, which included a nearly impenetrable thicket of brush and abatis (sharpened wooden stakes stuck in the ground, pointing at advancing troops) on the crest of a hill outside of the fort. After receiving reports of the large size of the British forces, Montcalm ordered the return of Trépezet and his men.

While Howe and his British troops pressed northward, they ran into Trepezet and his retreating force on July 6. A skirmish followed, in which the British successfully fought off the French, but Howe was killed in the process. This was a devastating turn-of-events for the British, for it left command of the British forces in the hands of the incompetent Abercrombie, who then dawdled in indecisiveness. Finally ill-advised by scouts that the French defensive position at nearby Fort Carillon could easily be overrun without the use of artillery, Abercrombie issued a full frontal assault, leaving the majority of his artillery at the army’s landing site.

Instead of a coordinated attack on July 8, the British assault began piecemeal around 12:30 pm, and by 2:00 p.m. the first assault had failed. The abatis hampered British efforts to reach the fort and allowed the French to rain devastating musket fire onto the advancing troops. Additional frontal attacks were ordered, and despite the heroic effort of the troops, the assaults were to no avail. The carnage continued into the evening, until finally Abercrombie ordered a full retreat and a return to not just their landing site but to fortified area south of Lake George, making a follow-up siege of the fort with his still formidable army and artillery impossible.

The Battle of Carillon was a humiliating defeat for Britain. Some 2,000 British troops had been killed or wounded, including some 350 American troops from New England. French casualties totaled around 350, with additional 200 killed or wounded in the earlier skirmish on July 6. In the wake of the defeat Ambercrombie was recalled to England and replaced by the more competent General Jeffrey Amherst, who successfully retook the fort the following year, renaming it Fort Ticonderoga.

The French naturally hailed the Battle of Carillon as a great victory, and its effect was significant: it helped the stave off the eventual fall of Canada. The French victory banner, the flag of Carillon, later served as inspiration for the Québec provincial flag.

Battles of the French and Indian War - Ticonderoga

The Battle of Ticonderoga, often referred to as the Battle of Fort Carillon, was fought between July 7 and July 8 of 1758. Fort Carillon was the southernmost fort in New France and was a vital location on Lake Champlain that protected a portage to Lake George.

16,000 British soldiers (the largest British force ever assembled in North America), under the command of Generals Howe and Abercrombie, descended upon the strongly fortified French position. French forces of about 3,200, under the command of Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, had built the fort with high entrenchments, supported by three batteries. In addition, the only clear path to the fort was blocked by the felling of trees as ordered by General Montcalm. Just before the main assault, General Howe was killed in a skirmish. General Abercrombie, then in complete charge, ordered a direct frontal assault on the fort, without waiting for his cannons to be assembled and positioned. The French were easily able to withstand the assault with lethal rounds of gunfire at the advancing British. The British were forced to retreat, after losing over 2,000 soldiers to death or injury.

The French victory would be short-lived, however. In 1759, the British successfully invaded the fort and renamed it Fort Ticonderoga

Watch the video: British grenadiers march British line infantry attack (January 2022).

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