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The Victory of Montcalm's Troops at Carillon by Henry Alexander Ogden (1854 1936). Fort Ticonderoga Museum, NY.

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Fort Carillon (later Fort Ticonderoga), fought in 1758 during the French and Indian War.

The battle has long been viewed as something of a primer on how not to fight.  A British invasion army of about 16,000 regulars, colonial militia and Indians under the leadership of General James Abercrombie, making its way up from the shores of Lake George toward Lake Champlain, came across a French force of about 4000 under General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm dug into entrenched positions before Carillon behind heavy walls and an open front strewn with abatis (that is, felled trees with sharpened branches).

Despite the fact that the French were more or less trapped in their position, that he could have reduced the place by bombardment or that he could have flanked them owing to some defensive lapses by Montcalm, Gen. Abercrombie decided on a  frontal infantry assault against the position (without artillery support).  He sent in three different waves of attackers, each one of which was mown down in succession as they tried to make their way through the tangle of branches before the entrenchments.  The battle proved to be the bloodiest of the war, with the Brits losing close to 3000 casualties as against fewer than 1000 for the French.  As a result, the British thrust up the Champlain watershed and its outflow toward Montreal was abandoned for the year.

(It wasn’t until the next summer that Fort Carillon was taken by forces under Lord Jeffrey Amherst.  Amherst had a force of 11,000 for his expedition.  He set up artillery positions overlooking Fort Carillon, whereupon the garrison of about 400 under General Bourlemaque withdrew, attempting to blow the fort up as they left.  The attempt was unsuccessful and the Brits occupied the place.  They would maintain control of what was now Fort Ticonderoga until it was attacked and captured in 1775 by American forces under Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold.)


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July 2010