Visitors to beautiful Lake George, New York can camp and hike on a 264-year-old battlefield and see the ruins of old British and American forts.
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The Battle of Lake George was fought on September 8, 1755 between French forces under the command of Jean Erdman, Baron Dieskau and British forces under the command of Sir William Johnson and their American Indian allies commanded by Chief Hendrick Theyanoguin at the southern tip of Lake George, New York during the French and Indian War. The battle ended in British and Iroquois victory over the French, and the building of Fort William Henry.
In early September 1755, Sir William Johnson marched north from Fort Edward intending to capture the French Fort St. Frédéric at Crown Point on the western shore of Lake Champlain. Around the same time, Baron Dieskau took 222 French regulars, 600 French-Canadian militia, and 700 Mohawk allies and moved south with the aim of destroying Johnson’s base of supplies at Fort Edward. While camped on Lake George’s southern shore, Johnson learned of the French movement and sent 1,000 Colonial militia and 200 Mohawk allies to reinforce the fort.
In what became known as the “Bloody Morning Scout,” Baron Dieskau ambushed the British relief column and inflicted heavy casualties, however, the British and Mohawk warriors were able to inflict equally heavy losses on the French during their fighting retreat back to camp. Both sides lost experienced officers in the engagement. When French forces reached Johnson’s camp, the militia and their Indian allies refused to attack because the British had erected makeshift fortifications.
Baron Dieskau led his 222 regulars in a frontal attack, hoping they would inspire the others. The attack failed, and Baron Dieskau was wounded and captured. As French forces retreated south, British reinforcements from Fort Edward ambushed them and they fled in disorder. The British dumped French dead into a nearby pond, which became known as “Bloody Pond.” Total casualties have been disputed, but each side lost approximately 300 killed or wounded throughout the day.
The French and Indian War, part of the larger Seven Years’ War, was fought between Great Britain and France and their American Indian allies from 1754 to 1763. It ended in complete victory over the French, and France ceded her North American colonies to Great Britain and Spain. Many American Colonists felt their contribution to the war entitled them to equal status in the British Empire, setting the stage for the Revolutionary War and Declaration of Independence 13 years later.
Today, the battlefield is part of Lake George Battlefield Park and Campground. Visitors can traverse the battlefield itself, as well as the ruins of Fort George, along winding paths through the woods. Expect to run into picnickers and campers enjoying the scenery. There are several signs and monuments telling the history of the battle, most notably a statue of Mohawk Chief Hendrick Theyanoguin and British General William Johnson erected in 1903.
Lake George Battlefield Park is located at 34 Fort George Road in Lake George, New York, on the south shore of Lake George. The park is free to walk (parking $10) and open from May 26 through September 3. The campground is $22 per night and open from May 18 through October 8. Call (518) 668-3348 for more information. Parking is limited to nearby pay lots, which are usually full during peak season. Bloody Pond is located across the street from Carquest Auto Parts, 1827 U.S. Route 9.