Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

Border Wars

by Elizabeth Eggleston Seelye
Assisted by Edward Eggleston
New York
Dodd, Mead and Company, Publishers, 1879.



WITH the coming into power of William Pitt in England, a wiser management caused the tide to turn. The king was heartily discouraged with the bad conduct of the war in America. When Wolfe was appointed some one represented to the king that he was a young madman. " If he is mad, I hope he will bite some of my generals," was the reply.

The campaign of 1758 was more vigorous than the preceding ones. Louisburg, in Canada, was captured by Amherst and Wolfe, and Fort Duquesne, at the head of the Ohio, was taken and named Pittsburg in honor of William Pitt, to whom this year's success was due.

One disaster marred the general success. Lake George had been covered with a great army under Abercrombie and Lord Howe, on their way to attack Montcalm at Ticonderoga. In a preliminary skirmish the brave Lord Howe fell before he could lead his troops to success. The hope of the expedition had been in Howe. The management of the attack now devolved on Abercrombie, who was easily terrified and took pains to keep safely in the rear during battle. Montcalm worked bravely for his almost hopeless cause. With his small but intrepid force he met the storming columns of the English, who on their part also displayed the utmost courage. The English again and again attacked the walls. Nineteen hundred men were mowed down by French arms and artillery, and the English were at last repulsed. Without waiting to try the effect of his artillery upon the fort, Abercrombie with his army fled in the night, and did not rest until the length of Lake George lay between him and Montcalm.

In spite of this defeat the English success seemed certain. The French were on the point of starving ; scanty crops had been raised and Canada had been drained of every resource. The ever-fickle Indians had mostly deserted the losing cause. Montcalm said for himself and his troops, " We are resolved to find our graves under the ruins of the colony."

Let us now return to the vacillating Six Nations. Some of the Delaware Indians had captured a French dispatch. They found some one among them who could read, perhaps an Indian or halfbreed who had been taught by the Quakers. They crowded around with eager curiosity while the dispatch was spelled out. It proposed the extermination of the Iroquois. The French urged the western tribes to join in this, as the Six Nations claimed their territory. The Delawares were much astonished at so bold a proposition, for they still held the Iroquois in dread. They immediately sent information of the plot to the Senecas. Various friendly councils with Sir William Johnson followed. He could say to the Indians with truth, " I told you so."

In 1759 an expedition was undertaken by English and colonial troops under General Prideaux against Fort Niagara, a post which commanded the fur trade of the west, and was therefore considered very important. General Prideaux was joined by Sir William Johnson with nearly a thousand Indians. Among them was Brant, now a youth of seventeen. Prideaux was killed by the accidental explosion of a coehorn, and the command devolved upon Sir William Johnson. He understood the general's plans thoroughly, and carried them out with a great deal of energy. The siege was pressed with great eagerness. Each day batteries were brought nearer the fort. Meanwhile the French General D'Aubrey had gathered from the garrisons of the forts of Detroit, Venango, La Boeuf, and Presque Isle some twelve hundred men with an additional body of Indians, and was on his way to relieve Niagara, without which these other forts would be useless. Indian scouts brought news of D'Aubrey's approach. Leaving a guard in the trenches to prevent cooperation from the fort, Johnson placed his main army in a position to intercept the enemy and support the guard. The French army advanced. The Mohawks tried to open a parley with the French Indians, but failed. The war-whoop was the signal for battle. The British regulars charged the French in front, and the Iroquois Indians attacked their flanks. This threw the French into disorder, and when the English again charged furiously the French were forced to retreat. They were pursued and killed in great numbers by the victorious army.

Sir William Johnson sent an account of the battle to the commandant of the fort, with a summons to surrender, and with it the threat so frequently, in border warfare, hung over the heads of a garrison, that if the Indians were exasperated by further resistance they could not be restrained when the surrender should at length be made. The commander with his six hundred men capitulated, and the Indians behaved very well, partly perhaps through Johnson's influence, and partly because they had been satiated with slaughter in the pursuit of the routed army. Brant got his second experience of war in this successful campaign.

The fall of Niagara was followed by the desertion of other western posts. Ticonderoga and Crown Point were abandoned before Amherst's great army, again descending Lake George. Quebec, defended by the brave Montcalm, remained to be taken by the brave Wolfe to complete the fall of the French power in America.

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