French-Indian War 1754-1763
2007 marked the French and Indian War 250th Anniversary. Events from the seven-year struggle included the surrender of Fort William Henry in Lake George and the resulting and much debated massacre that occurred when the British retreated from French and Indian forces.
In 1755, the British built Fort William Henry on the south end of Lake George. The French countered this move by building a fort on the north end of Lake George, in Ticonderoga. This fort was originally known as Fort Carillon, later renamed Fort Ticonderoga by the British. In 1757, as part of the French and Indian War, the French General, Montcalm, captured Fort William Henry. In the summer of 1759 the French were defeated. The English took control of all the forts and forced the French from the lakes. When the war ended in 1763, the English ruled all of Eastern North America.
The French and Indian War raged from the late 1750's into the early 1760's, and produced the single largest pre-Civil War land battle in American history. Fort Ticonderoga, the setting of this legendary battle, offers historical reenactments depicting with expert accuracy every detail of the battle, from uniforms and weapons to staging and military strategy. The Lake George Battlefield Park and Fort George State Park are amazing adventures. Both parks include interpretive signage chronicling historical events like the bloody battles and the race to cure smallpox that transpired on these famous sites.
Historical re-enactors are devotees of the past; lovers of history who are passionate about portraying the events of a particular time as accurately and precisely as possible. They are sticklers for detail, adhering to strict guidelines for the authentic dress and materials of the period, the weaponry, cooking utensils, and medical care. Reenactors bring history to vivid life amid the smoke of cannon and musket fire, the colors, sounds and smells of an 18th century battlefield.
The French and Indian War, also called the Seven Years' War began in 1754 with territorial disputes between the French and British, both of whom wanted to claim settlements and benefit from the vigorous economic growth that was sure to follow. The flash point occurred when young George Washington, a then-colonel in the British army, built a small fort on the Ohio River in Pennsylvania. He refused to leave when ordered by the French and the fort was attacked. Washington lost a third of his troops before surrendering and being allowed to return to Wills Creek. The battle had begun.
In the early fall of 1755, the Battle of Lake George ended inconclusively, but gave the British a strategy to construct Fort William Henry, only to have it sieged and massacred later in the war.
The surrender of Fort William Henry took place in the summer of 1757. The British agreed to surrender to the French, and negotiated very generous terms for their surrender that included safe passage to Fort Edward. As they retreated, they were attacked by the Indians who had fought as allies of the French. There still remains much speculation as to why the massacre occurred and how many people were killed. Reports varied from a few dozen to over one thousand, but it has been generally agreed to have been at the lowest end of that estimate. The fictional reenactment in James Fenimore Cooper’s novel, Last of the Mohicans, although popular, greatly inflated what actually occurred during that retreat.
Celebrate American history by visiting these legendary forts for a fascinating and intimate glimpse into the events that shaped the future of our nation.