French and Indian War

First Year

The next year, 1755, the war opened in earnest. Troops began to gather at Albany. At the opposite end of the State was Fort Niagara with its garrison of 30 disheartened Frenchmen. Against them Shirley, the royal governor of Massachusetts, led 2,000 men to capture the fort and to join Braddock marching from Virginia. Shirley heard of Braddock's disastrous failure to take Fort DuQuesne (du kane), reached Oswego, built ships, waited for fair weather, and leaving re-enforcements at Oswego went disgracefully back to the Hudson. Here 50 miles above Albany, where the river turns westward to catch the torrents of the Adirondacks, Fort Edward was built as the advance guard of the English settlements. Thence it is but a short distance over a gentle rise to water flowing into the St Lawrence. In the Champlain Valley the advance post of the French had been for 20 years at Crown Point. With this point in view William Johnson, with over 3,000 men, started north from Fort Edward, met the enemy at the head of the water, to which he gave the name Lake George and defeated them*. Without attempting to go further he loitered away the summer erecting Fort William Henry, the first building on Lake George. At the same time the French were pushing southward and building Fort Ticonderoga.

* A skirmishing party under Colonel Williams of Massachusetts was defeated and King Henrick and Colonel Williams were killed. The latter made a will at Albany leaving money to found a school. That school is William College, Massachusetts.

Second Year

The much vaunted and only success of the first year was no real gain; and the campaign during the next year was directed to keep what was already held. Oswego was threatened. A force to relieve the garrison was criminally delayed along the way by the commander , Webb, a royal officer. Meanwhile a new leader, Montcalm, had brought courage to the French. One day he reviewed his troops at Fort Frontenac, the same evening he landed before Oswego and in ten days he had the forts, many vessels and rich stores. Then to show the Indians that the French did not wish their land, he utterly destroyed the well-placed fortifications.

A Time of Gloom

it was politic move; the Iroquois were already looking with suspicion upon the English people who were fast occupying their land. The  Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas and Cayugas had already been to Montreal to promise to be neutral. It was a time of gloom in the colony of New York. Three thousand English regulars were in the province, mostly at Albany and New York city. There at any moment a family might be compelled to feed and shelter English soldiers. The colonists knew that such acts were illegal; but in their fear of the French they submitted. New York levied taxes, raised money and fitted out companies of militia capable of doing efficient service. But they were despised by the by the English, and their highest officers were made to obey the lowest officer of the regular army.

Third Year

Johnson's fort on Lake George now became a death trap. The garrison was surrounded by French and Indians under Montcalm. Forced to surrender , the men gave up their arms and were allowed to go to Fort Edward on parole. As the defenseless men started, they were attacked by Indians, some were stripped of their clothes, some scalped and those who escaped ran panting into Fort Edward. Here, resting contentedly, was the imbecile Webb with 4,000 unused troops.

Fourth Year

During the following winter the length of the Mohawk Valley was open to the French and the Indians. Palatine Village was burned , 40 people were murdered and a hundred and fifty carried to a fearful captivity; while the English officers enjoyed their snug winter quarters. During the summer (1758), 17,000 men, more than half the colonists, the largest body of men that had ever gathered in New York State, assembled at the site of the destroyed Fort William Henry, under the English general, Abercrombie. The army sailed gaily down the lake to the short swift stream which carries the water to Lake Champlain. There, while Abercrombie skulked in a saw mill, his misdirected men fell before the walls of Ticonderoga.

The Chain Broken

Final defeat now seemed the fate of the colonies and their king. At that moment a captain of New England and a force all American got reluctant permission to do their best. they hastened up the Mohawk, down the Oswego, across Ontario and took Fort Frontenac without a blow. The chain of French Forts was broken. The storehouse of the west was destroyed. There were already other signs of success. Pitt, the friend of America, had become Prime Minister of England; he had sent out General Wolfe, who had captured Louisburg, the great naval fortress of the French. There were other successes outside of New York; soon after the fall of Fort Frontenac, Fort Du Quesne, in Pennsylvania, was abandoned by the French.

The Fifth Year

The end was near. The French , few and starving, successful by unity and dash, suddenly collapsed. In 1759, Sir William Johnson captured Niagara and the way to the west was open. The French deserted Ticonderoga and Crown Point to concentrate on Quebec; and when on the plains of Abraham the brave Wolfe conquered the brave Montcalm, and both died, New York and her sister colonies had needed rest.

The Result

There was no question now as to the northern boundary of New York. But the war which made the decision broke up many families and left colony with debt of one and a half million dollars. On the other hand the farmers of New York had found friends and brothers in other colonies; they learned the unbrotherly feeling of the English; and in their marches they had viewed fertile fields in unknown regions of the State. The fear of the French and their savage allies could no longer keep them from the lands north and west of Albany. They very forts became centers around which future cities and villages were to gather. About Fort Schuyler Utica was to grow; Fort Stanwix was the nucleus of Rome, Fort Presentation nourished the germs of Ogdensburg. The war with its terrors had yet many helpful lessons for the English colonies in America.