Categories
Historic America

La Belle-Famille Battlefield in Youngstown, New York

This little-known British military victory along the Niagara River led to the French surrender of Fort Niagara, but historians are undecided about where it actually took place.

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The Battle of La Belle-Famille was fought on July 24, 1759 between French forces under the command of Col. François-Marie Le Marchand de Lignery and British forces under the command of Lt. Col. Eyre Massey and their American Indian allies along the Niagara River during the French and Indian War. The battle ended in complete British and Iroquois victory over the French, and the surrender of Fort Niagara two days later.

Approximately 3,500 British and Iroquois lay siege to Fort Niagara at the confluence of Lake Ontario and the Niagara River from July 6 to July 26, 1759. Trapped inside were 520 French regulars, militia, and their American Indian allies under the command of Captain Pierre Pouchot. Pouchot appealed to Col. François-Marie Le Marchand de Lignery for help, and Lignery marched from Fort Machault with 800 French regulars and militia and 500 native allies to relieve Fort Niagra’s garrison.

Lignery sent messengers ahead to notify Pouchot that relief was on its way, but unfortunately for them, the British also had advanced warning. Approximately 450 British soldiers and an equal number of Iroquois warriors set up a carefully laid ambush. Lignery compounded his earlier mistake by failing to properly screen his movement and French forces walked right into an open field, triggering the ambush.

Categories
Mysterious America

The Highlander's Legend and Weeping Woman of Ticonderoga

Two colonial-era ghost stories, one of which sparked an international legend, make Fort Ticonderoga one of Lake Champlain’s most haunted places.

Originally called Fort Carillon by the French, Fort Ticonderoga is a stone star fort near the southern end of Lake Champlain at the New York/Vermont border. French engineer Michel Chartier de Lotbinière, Marquis de Lotbinière constructed the fort between 1755 and 1757 during the French and Indian War. The French and Indian War was part of the larger Seven Years’ War between France and Great Britain.

In 1758, the British launched an invasion of what was then the French colony of Canada. Fort Carillon was key to French defenses on the shore of Lake Champlain. Today, visitors to Fort Ticonderoga are likely to overlook the secluded battlefield about three-quarters of a mile west of the citadel, but for seven hours on July 8, 1758, it was the scene of the bloodiest battle in the French and Indian War.

British General James Abercrombie took a force of 6,000 British regulars and 12,000 colonial volunteers, rangers, and American Indians to lay siege to Fort Carillon. The French, under General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm and the Chevalier de Levis, numbering about 3,600, dug entrenchments and erected breastworks on a hill west of the fort. Abercrombie ordered poorly coordinated frontal attacks on the French lines. The slaughter resulted in 800-1,000 British killed and 1,500 wounded to the French’s 104 killed and 273 wounded.

Categories
Mysterious America

Fort William Henry Offers Haunted History After Dark

A steady-stream of curiosity seekers visit this reconstructed French and Indian War-era fort after dark, hoping to catch a glimpse of the unknown.

Not to be confused with the other haunted Fort William Henry in Maine, Fort William Henry Museum and Restoration in Lake George, New York is a must-see for any history buff or paranormal enthusiast. Since being featured on an episode of SyFy’s Ghost Hunters in 2009, thousands have explored this reconstructed French and Indian War-era fort on nighttime ghost tours, hoping to snap an anomalous photo or experience something extraordinary.

British official Sir William Johnson ordered the fort’s construction in 1755 in preparation for a British attack on Crown Point on Lake Champlain. The French and their Indian allies, however, destroyed it less than two years later. French forces besieged the fort in 1757, and the siege only lasted a few days, with French artillery inflicting most of the damage.

To end the siege, French General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm arranged for the British forces to leave, but American Indians under his command were angry at being denied war spoils and massacred several hundred retreating British. Montcalm’s army tried to stop deprivations inflicted by their allies on paroled British captives, but events spiraled out of their control. These events formed the backdrop for James Fenimore Cooper’s novel The Last of the Mohicans (1826).

Categories
Historic America

Old Fort Niagara in Youngstown, New York

This magnificent fort at the mouth of the Niagara River preserves the scene of several battles, including a 20-day siege during the French and Indian War.

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The Battle of Fort Niagara was fought from July 6 to July 26, 1759 between French forces under the command of Captain Pierre Pouchot and British forces under the command of Brig. Gen. John Prideaux and their American Indian allies at the confluence of Lake Ontario and the Niagara River during the French and Indian War. The 20-day siege ended in British victory and French capitulation after French reinforcements were scattered at the Battle of La Belle-Famille.

In early July 1759, Brig. Gen. John Prideaux marched approximately 3,500 British and Iroquois forces along Lake Ontario to Fort Niagara, floated a battery of artillery across the Niagara River to Montreal Point, and began to lay siege. Captain Pierre Pouchot had sent away most of his troops, so he had about 520 French regulars, militia, and Seneca Iroquois allies on hand to defend the fort. Unfortunately for him, many of his Seneca allies deserted when the British arrived.

To make matters worse, the British ambushed and destroyed a relief column under the command of Col. François-Marie Le Marchand de Lignery at La Belle-Famille on July 24. Pouchot sent an officer to British lines to meet the wounded Lignery and confirm reports of the ambush. Seeing little hope, he surrendered on July 26.

Categories
Historic America

Lake George Battlefield Park

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.

Categories
Historic America

Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Defiance

Once a picturesque ruin, preservationists and private investors slowly restored Fort Ticonderoga to its former glory. Alternatively held by the French, British, and Americans, today it is a premier museum of eighteenth and early nineteenth century military history.  Tickets include admission to Mount Defiance, a strategic hill between the LaChute River and Lake Champlain.

Originally called Fort Carillon by the French, Fort Ticonderoga is a stone star fort near the southern end of Lake Champlain at the New York/Vermont border. French engineer Michel Chartier de Lotbinière, Marquis de Lotbinière constructed the fort between 1755 and 1757 during the French and Indian War.

Despite a reputation for being formidable, Fort Ticonderoga was captured three times without much loss in blood or treasure. In 1759, 11,000 British troops scared off a garrison of 400 Frenchmen with a few artillery shots. The retreating French tried to blow up the fort with explosives. In 1775, American militiamen called Green Mountain Boys surprised and captured the small British garrison. Two years later, the British recaptured the fort after hauling artillery up to the summit of Mount Defiance. The Americans fled without a fight.

Categories
Historic America

Fort William Henry in Lake George, New York

For history buffs, no trip to Upstate New York is complete without visiting Fort William Henry Museum and Restoration at the southern tip of Lake George. It’s a faithful recreation of the original fort, burnt by the French in 1757. The museum offers a variety of activities, guides in period uniform, artillery demonstrations, and an extensive gift shop.

French forces besieged the fort in 1757 during the French and Indian War. To end the siege, French General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm arranged for the British forces to leave, but American Indians under his command were angry at being denied war spoils and massacred several hundred retreating British. These events formed the backdrop for James Fenimore Cooper’s novel The Last of the Mohicans (1826).

Sir William Johnson ordered the fort’s construction in 1755 in preparation for a British attack on Crown Point on Lake Champlain. The French and their Indian allies, however, destroyed it less than two years later. The siege only lasted a few days, with the French artillery inflicting most of the damage. Montcalm’s army tried to stop deprivations inflicted by their allies on paroled British captives, but events spiraled out of their control.