The British Fort William Henry on the shores of Lake George, New York (NY), was built during the French and Indian War (1754-1763) by Sir William Johnson as a staging ground for attacks against the French Fort Carillon (later renamed Fort Ticonderoga). It was part of a chain of British and French forts along the important inland waterway from New York City to Quebec. Fort William Henry was named both for Prince William, the Duke of Cumberland, the younger son of King George II, and Prince William Henry, the Duke Gloucester, a grandson of King George II and a younger brother of the future King George III. (For information on the name of the fort, see Fred Anderson, Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754 to 1766 (New York: Vintage Books, 2000), page 123.)
Contrary to popular belief, during the siege most of the soldiers of Fort William Henry were camped outside the fort at the eastern end behind hastily dug trenches. The fort held the garrison of regular British troops, the exterior camp was for colonial militiamen. Prior to its destruction Fort William Henry was also the staging point for Rogers' Rangers. By the time the siege began Monro had under his command around 2,200 men consisting of the 35th Regiment of Foot , elements of the 60th Foot and the New Hampshire Provincial Regiment along with militia from New Jersey and Massachusetts.
After the surrender to the French on very generous terms, the Indian allies of the French began to attack the British and colonial column leaving the fort. They had been expecting payment for their assistance in the form of loot, captives, and scalps and were severely disappointed at the lenient surrender terms. Many people were killed, captured, or stripped of belongings. The severity of the attack on the surrendered troops, called the Fort William Henry Massacre, was later exaggerated for propaganda purposes. Some contemporary reports claim as many as 1500 killed, but modern scholars put the number at 70-180 dead. (See Ian K. Steele, Betrayals: Fort William Henry & the "Massacre" (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), pp. 78-128.) Historians note that it is likely that Montcalm tried to prevent the attack, but probably did not have the means to stop it by force. The French soldiers escorted the survivors to Fort Edward following the massacre.
It has been suggested that this massacre and the associated propaganda are the reasons for the British army's reluctance to ever surrender to the French during the Seven Years' War, even when in an untenable position. This fact was a constant cause of annoyance to the French.
The victors also dug up the graves of people who had died during the siege, infecting themselves and others with Smallpox as they attempted to scalp the corpses and steal valuables. The French finally burned the fort and retreated to Fort Carillon.
A replica of Fort William Henry now stands in its place, and is a popular tourist attraction in the village of Lake George, NY.
Tucked away, Fort William Henry shines ; The fort is part of Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site, once the home of 300 motley English settlers. Series: ABOUT THE SERIES MAINE'S HISTORIC FORTS have s
Aug 19, 2008; Anonymous By MEREDITH GOAD Staff Writer -- Portland Press Herald (Maine) 08-19-2008 Tucked away, Fort William Henry shines ; The...