Today, the New York State Quarter Coin remembers when the English army planned their attack on the French and began moving toward Fort Ticonderoga on July 5, 1758.
From Harper’s Encyclopedia of United States History, From 458 A.D. to 1902, published in 1901:
In the summer of 1758 the Marquis de Montcalm occupied the fortress of Ticonderoga, on Lake Champlain, with about 4,000 men, French and Indians.
General Abercrombie personally commanded the expedition designed to capture this fortress, and at the beginning of July he had assembled at the head of Lake George about 7,000 regulars, nearly 9,000 provincials, and a heavy train of artillery.
Viscount George Augustus Howe, colonel of the 60th (Royal American) Regiment, and then a brigadier-general, was Abercrombie’s second in command.
Howe was then thirty-four years of age, a skilful soldier, and greatly beloved by his men.
The army moved (July 5) down the lake in 900 bateaux and 125 whale-boats, and spent the night at a place yet known (as then named) as Sabbath-day Point.
At dawn they landed at the foot of the lake, about 4 miles from Ticonderoga.
The whole country was covered with a dense forest, and tangled morasses lay in the way of the English.
Led by incompetent guides, they were soon bewildered; and while in that condition the right column, led by Lord Howe, was suddenly attacked by a small French force.
A sharp skirmish ensued.
The French were repulsed with a loss of 148 men made prisoners. At the first fire Lord Howe was killed, when the greater part of the troops fell back in confusion to the landing-place.
From the prisoners Abercrombie learned that a re-enforcement for Montcalm was approaching.
He was also told of the strength of the garrison and the condition of the fortress; but the information, false and deceptive, induced him to press forward to make an immediate attack on the fort without his artillery.
This was a fatal mistake.
The outer works were easily taken, but the others were guarded by abatis and thoroughly manned.
Abercrombie ordered his troops to scale the works in the face of the enemy’s fire (July 8), when they were met by insuperable obstacles.
After a bloody conflict of four hours, the assailants were compelled to fall back to Lake George, leaving about 2,000 men dead or wounded in the forest.
Abercrombie then hastened to his camp at the head of the lake.
The loss of the French was inconsiderable.
Excerpt from an article by Marietta A. Winter of North Tonawanda High School in the Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association, published in 1912:
The French built a fort where the battle between the Algonquins and Mohawks was fought.
This was on the narrow strip of land which rises to a bluff, which separates Lake George from Lake Champlain.
They called it Carillon because the adjacent river tinkled like sweet bells as it hurried on its way, but later it was called Ticonderoga or Meeting of the Waters.
It was an excellent fort and so well situated, but in the hands of the French it was a splendid entrance to New York, whereas in English possession it would mean a fine gateway to Canada.
Dean Stanley says that after Niagara, the most interesting spot in America is Fort Ticonderoga. And another historian says, “There is but one Ticonderoga; other great cities like London, Paris, Rome, have namesakes all over the world but not so with Ticonderoga.”
As I have said before the French and English were old rivals and when they both settled on the same continent with the intention of securing as much land for themselves as possible, they soon found that they could not live such close neighbors comfortably.
So the most natural thing happened, they engaged in a life and death struggle in which one or the other was to be wiped off the map.
This war is known as the French and Indian war.
England could not trust the colonial commanders to take charge of this expedition, so she sent over her own English regulars with their own commanders.
Among them were Abercrombie, Howe and Amherst.
In 1758 Abercrombie attempted to take Fort Ticonderoga.
Montcalm, the great French commander, himself took charge of the fort and its defenses.
Across the plateau northwest of the fortress, runs a ridge which Montcalm fortified by felling trees in zigzag fashion to form a parapet so that an approaching foe could be caught between flank fire of musketry.
On the inner side was a platform from which to fire and the parapet was so high that nothing except the crown of the French soldiers’ hats could be seen.
Along the entire front of the parapet the ground was covered with twisted boughs and roots making it impossible to carry the position by infantry armed with muskets.
In July, 1758, Abercrombie with his great army proceeded up the “war path.”
It was a grand scene to see the 16,000 men who comprised his army and 1,200 boats as they slowly made their way up the lake.
Abercrombie was confident of doing what Johnson had failed to do.
They landed and a scouting party was sent on ahead.
Abercrombie was no fit man to undertake such an important expedition and it has often been wondered at that Pitt, who was a power in England at this time, should have allowed it.
But he had Lord Howe, a great general and favorite, with him and Pitt probably felt confident that so long as he was there things would go right.
The scouting party became lost and while wandering aimlessly in the dense forest they came upon a French party.
A skirmish ensued in which Lord Howe was killed. It was, indeed, a sad day for both England and the colonies, for Howe was beloved on both sides of the sea and his death was widely mourned.
The French party was captured and then Abercrombie proceeded to Ticonderoga.
He was confident that it could be taken with but little trouble and so ordered his men not to fire, but to make a bayonet charge, which failed for the soldiers found their lines broken up when they came to the tangle of trees and at the mercy of the fire which poured upon them from the French.
They were driven back and suffered a great loss.
But Abercrombie would not give up and stuck to his bayonet charge.
After several futile attempts he lost courage and fled, much to the disgust of the colonists, who nick named him “Miss Nabbycrombie.”
Montcalm was saved through Abercrombie’s stupidity, for he did not realize the weakness of the French position.
He could have sent back to the landing place, brought up all the cannon and used them to batter down the wooden obstructions before charging them with his infantry.
He could also have stationed a few batteries on one of the neighboring hills and in that way torn the French army to pieces.
The French had a little the best of the English because they had allied the Indians with them and often Indian savagery and massacres saved the day for the French.
The year preceding the defeat of Abercrombie, a great massacre took place at Fort William Henry.
In the last year of the war, General Amherst with 13,000 men advanced from the Hudson river upon Ticonderoga.
Montcalm was no longer there but General Bourlamaque was in charge.
While Amherst was meditating which would be the best attack, one of the forts was blown up. He then advanced and took it without a struggle.
The New York State Quarter Coin shows with an image of the ruins of Fort Ticonderoga.