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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html


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Chapter VIII. — Taking of Forth William Henry, on Lake George, and the Plunder and Murder of Prisoners by the French Indians, Contrary to the Terms of Capitulation.

A SLIGHT review of events will enable us to appreciate the existing position of affairs. The colonists struggled on, through periods of terror which followed in close succession. The defeat of Braddock, by an Indian ambuscade, was still fresh in the memory of all, not a twelvemonth having elapsed, when the announcement of the disastrous capture of Fort William Henry rang through the colonies with startling effect. In 1757, Montcalm, the active Governor-General of Canada, crossed Lake Champlain, the Andiatora of the Iroquois, 271 with a reputed force of 4000 or 5000 men, accompanied by a very large body of diverse tribes of northern and western Indians, of the Algonquin family, collected from the great lakes, and from the valley of the St. Lawrence. A person present when this force approached the fort, represents Lake George to have been entirely covered with batteaux and canoes, which, combined with their banners and music, formed a scene of military display and magnificence, heightened by the wild and picturesque brilliance of the Indian costume, that has seldom been equalled.

The soldiers anxiously gazed over the walls of the fort at the approaching force, as at a panorama. During five days the fort was defended with intrepidity, by Colonel Munro, who had a garrison of 500 regular troops, supported by a body of provincials. It was closely besieged, while the Indians, encamped on the surrounding fields, made the forest ring with their shouts and war songs, and illuminated the obscurity of night with their numerous camp-fires. About 3000 provincials, who were encamped outside the fort, took refuge within the works, as soon as the enemy arrived. 272 The siege was stoutly maintained, a hope being entertained that reinforcements, which had been demanded, would arrive from Fort Edward. But, unfortunately, a letter from General Webb, the commandant of the latter post, apprising Munro that no reinforcement could be sent, and advising him to surrender, fell into the hands of Montcalm's Indians; and, with this letter in his possession, Montcalm summoned the garrison to surrender.

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One of the terms of the capitulation was that the army should march out with their arms, but without ammunition, and, with all the camp followers, should have a safe-conduct to Fort Edward. Fatal error! The wolves were to behold their prey and not gloat.

Circumstances would seem to indicate, that not only Braddock, but the British officers generally, were slow in obtaining a knowledge of the character of the Indians in time of war; when they are governed by hopes of plunder and impulse; the desire to obtain
scalps and booty being the great and only motive which ever induces them to accompany European armies, and force alone exercising any restraint upon their fiendish instincts. No sooner had the English columns marched out of the gates, and reached the plain, than the Indians began to plunder them of their effects, and, finally, to strip both officers and men of their clothing. Resistance was followed by blows, and many, stark naked, were glad to escape with their lives. In vain did the troops, destitute of ammunition, claim protection from this outrage. Colonel Munro, after the pillage commenced, took shelter in the fort, and demanded that the terms of the capitulation should be enforced. But the French, who were powerless, have been blamed, perhaps justly, for not efficiently complying with their engagements; yet, it is no easy matter to restrain marauding Indians. It has been estimated, that a large number of the force which surrendered on this occasion, perished subsequently; 273 although it is probable, that the fears of an officer, who narrowly escaped from this scene of pillage, far exceeded his capacity of cool judgment. His statements of the carnage are, certainly, not sustained by any historical authority to which we have had access.

Lieutenant-Governor De Lancey, in a letter, written August 24, 1757, observes: — "Montcalm, under his own eyes, and in the face of about 3000 regular troops, suffered the Indians to rob and strip them, officers as well as men, of all they had, and left most of them naked." 274

To strip the clothes from a man's back, and not to cleave his head with the tomahawk, was remarkable forbearance on the part of the Indians.

The nation that employs Indians in war, places itself in the position of a person who taps a broad lake, leading the waters, by a little stream, through a sand-bank. When the current swells, he cannot control it, and the augmented flood sweeps everything before it.

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html
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