Sunday, June 01, 2008

Tomahawks, Tatoos And Sideburns

We had a great time in Lake George (originally named Lac Du St. Sacrement by the French). The weather wasn't all that great but the restaurants were. We toured Fort William Henry and got to see the newest in rescue and tow equipment at the conference center next door to the fort.

There was a rather bizarre confluence of tatoos and sideburns though,; we arrived just before the opening of the annual 2008 Americade motorcycle festival and the closing of the Elvis Impersonators festival. Between the early arrivers for the one and late departures for the other, it made for some interesting dinner companions.

But all in all it was a real slice of Americana in a small village situated at the end of a lake that 220 years ago dominated world events. I was surprised that the movie, "The Last of The Mohicans" starring Daniel Day-Lewis was a fairly realistic protrayal of the role that Lake George played in the French and Indian Wars.

The seige of Fort William Henry actually did occur in Agust of 1757. The Fort was surrendered by Colonel Monroe when General Webb refused to come to his assistance. And after the surrender there was a massacre, well - sort of, by the Indian allies of the french general, General Marquis de Montcalm. But it appears to be mostly pillaging by the Indians of the defeated Redcoats with some loss of life, but no where near the scale depicted by the movie.

Col. Monro, speaking of his regular troops, gave 129 killed and wounded - including the siege - as his estimates. Regarding the militia, he says, "No Regular Accot Could be got from the Provincials but their Numbers Kill'd Could not be Less than Four Officers & about 40 Men. And very near as many Men Wounded." Roubard stated killed could number "hardly more than forty or fifty." Another man stated, "Near Thirty Carcasses, however, were actually seen ..." There is no doubt some killing occurred, but, by and large, the picture was one of Indians taking, from terrified soldiers, baggage and clothing they felt was due them.

It was a scene of pawing, grabbing, poking & touching. When a soldier resisted stiffly, he may have been knocked down, beaten, scalped or killed. Indians had learned from Oswego that a soldier was worth more alive than dead. The French would pay handsomely for the return of prisoners. So, as the soldiers broke and ran, the Indians pursued. They gathered booty, and collected prisoners. It was undoubtedly a scene of utter pandemonium and terror, but the "massacre" as film and some historians have presented it, just never did occur. At some point, the French did help restore some semblance of order. Though hundreds streamed in well before, the remnants of the column, including Col. George Monro, did arrive at Fort Edward, under French guard, on August 14.

Col. George Monro was not killed by an Indian Chietain who then cut out the Colonel's heart and ate it. The good Colonel's health was broken after the siege and it was reported that he died of apoplexy three months later on November 3, 1757. Others who are not so charitable say that he took a tumble while leaving his favorite Albany pub and died due to the consequences of his fall.

General Marquis de Montcalm did not live much longer than Col. Monro. He died on September 14, 1759 while fighting the British at Quebec.

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