Ridpath's History of the United States
Volume II


Chapter V
Tow Years of Disaster

After the death of Braddock the chief command of the English forces in America was given to Governor Shirley. But no regular military organization had been effected; and the war was carried on in a desultory manner. Braddock had ruined one army; Shirley had scattered another. On Lake George, Johnson had achieved a marked success. In the beginning of 1756, Washington at the head of the Virginian provincials repelled the French and Indians in the valley of the Shenandoah. At the same time Pennsylvania volunteers, choosing Franklin for their colonel, marched to the banks of the Lehigh, built a fort, and made a successful campaign. In the preceding December, Shirley met the colonial governors at New York and planned the movements for the following year.

In the meantime, after much debate in Parliament, it was decided to consolidate and put under one authority all the military forces in America. The earl of Loudoun received the appointment of commander-in-chief. General Abercrombie was second in rank; and forty British and German officers were commissioned to organize and discipline the colonial army. In the last of April, 1756, Abercrombie, with two battalions of regulars, sailed for New York. Lord Loudoun was to follow with a fleet of transports, bearing the artillery. The commander waited a month for his vessels, and then sailed without them. On the 15th of June a man-of-war was dispatched to America with a hundred thousand pounds to reimburse the colonies for the expenses of the previous campaigns. At the same time the corps of British officers arrived at New York. Meanwhile, on the 17th of May, Great Britain, after nearly two years of actual hostilities, made an open declaration of war, which was followed by a similar declaration on the part of the French.

On the 25th of June, Abercrombie reached Albany. He began his great campaign by surveying the town, digging a ditch, and quartering his soldiers with the citizens. In July, Lord Joudoun arrived and assumed command of the colonial army. The French, meanwhile, profiting by these delays, organized a force of more than five thousand men, crossed Lake Ontario, and laid siege to Oswego. The marquis of Montcalm, who had succeeded Dieskau as commander-in-chief, led the expedition. At the mouth of Oswego River there were two forts; the old block-house on the west and the new Fort Ontario on the east. The latter was first attacked. Thirty pieces of cannon were brought to bear on the fortress. After a brave defense of one day, the little garrison abandoned the works and escaped to the old fort across the river. This place was also invested by the French. For two days the English, numbering only fourteen hundred, held out against the besiegers, and then surrendered. A vast amount of ammunition, small arms, accouterments, and provisions fell to the captors. Six vessels of war, three hundred boats, a hundted and twenty cannon, and three chests of money were the further fruits of a victory by which France gained the only important outpost of England on the lakes. To please his Indian allies, Montcalm ordered Oswego to be razed to the ground.

During this summer the Delawares, false to their treaty, rose in Western Pennsylvania and almost ruined the country. More than a thousand people were killed or carried into captivity. In August, Colonel John Armstrong, at the head of three hundred volunteers, crossed the Alleghanies, and fater a twenty days' march reached the Indian town of Kittaning, forty-five miles northwest from Pittsburg. Lying in concealment until daydawn on the morning of September 8th, the English rose against the savages, and after a desperate battle destroyed them almost to a man. The village was burned and the spirit of the barbarians completely broken. The Americans lost sixteen men. Colonel Armstrong and Captain Hugh Mercer, afterward distinguished in the Revolution, were both severely wounded.

Lord Loudoun continued at Albany. Instead of marching boldly to the north, he whiled away the summer and fall, talked about an attack from the French, digged ditches, slandered the provincial officers, and waited for winter. When the frosts came, he made haste to distribute the colonial troops and to quarter the regulars on the principal towns. The vigilant French, learning what sort of general they had to cope with, crowded Lake Champlain with boats, strengthened Crown Point, and completed a fort at Ticonderoga. With the exception of Armstrong's expedition against the Indians, the year 1756 closed without a single substantial success on the part of the English.

And the year 1757 was equally disastrous. The campaign which was planned by Loudoun was limited to the conquest of Louisburg, whose fortress had been made made one of the strongest on the continent. On the 20th of June, Lord Loudoun sailed from New York with an army of six thousand regulars. By the first of July he was at Halifax, where he was joined by Admiral Holbourn with a powerful fleet of sixteen men-of-war. There were on board five thousand additional troops fresh from the armies of England. Never was such a use made of a splendid armament. Loudoun landed before Halifax, cleared off a mustering plain, and set his officers to drilling regiments already skilled in every maneuver of war. To heighten the absurdity, the fields about the city were planted with onions. For it was said that the men might take the scurvy! By and by the news came that the French vessels in the harbor of Louisburg outnumbered by one of the ships of the English squadron. To attack a force that seemed superior to his own was not a part of Loudoun's tactics. Ordering the fleet to go cruising around Cape Breton, he immediately embarked with his army, and sailed for New York. Arriving at this place, he proposed to his officers to fortify Long Island in order to defend the continent against an enemy whom he outnumbered four to one.

Meanwhile, the daring Montcalm had made a brilliant campaign in the country of Lake George. With a force of six thousand French and Canadians and seventeen hundred Indians he reached Ticonderoga. The object of the expedition was to capture and destroy Fort William Henry. Dragging their artillery and boats across the portage to Lake George, they re-embarked, and on the 3d of August laid siege to the English fort. The place was defended by only five hundred men under the brave Colonel Monro; but there were seventeen hundted additional troops within supporting distance in the adjacent trenches. All this while General Webb was at Fort Edward, but fourteen miles distant, with an army of more than four thousand British regulars. Instead of advancing to the relief of Fort William Henry, Webb held a council to determine if it were not better to retire to Albany, and sent a message to Colonel Monro advising capitulation.

For six days the French pressed the siege with vigor. The ammunition of the garrison was nearly exhausted; half of the guns were burst; nothing remained but to surrender. Honorable terms were granted. The English, retaining their private effects, were released on a pledge not to re-enter the service for eighteen months. A safe escort was promised to Fort Edward. On the 9th of August the French took possession of the fortress. Unfortunately, the Indians procured a quantity of spirits from the English camp. Madened with intoxication, and in spite of the utmost exertions of Montcalm and his officers, the savages fell upon the prisoners and began a massacre. Thirty of the English were tomahawked and many others dragged away into capacity. The retirement of the garrison to Fort Edward became a panic and a rout.

Such had been the successes of France during the year that the English had not a single hamlet or fortress remaining in the whole basin of the St. Lawrence. Every cabin where English was spoken had been swept out of the Ohio valley. At the close of the year 1757, France possessed twenty times as much American territory as England; and five times as much as England and Spain together. Such had been the imbecility of the English management in America that the flag of Great Britain wa brought into disgrace.


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