For other battles at Fort Ticonderoga, see Battle of Ticonderoga.
The first Battle of Fort Ticonderoga was fought on July 7-8, 1758, during the French and Indian War. A British army under General James Abercrombie tried to take the fort from a French garrison under General Marquis Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, but repeated assaults were unsuccessful and the British finally withdrew.
Some military historians have cited the Battle of Ticonderoga as a classic example of tactical military incompetence. Abercromby has been criticized for ignoring several good military options such as flanking the breastworks, waiting for artillery reinforcements, or bypassing the fort entirely. Instead he decided in favor of a frontal assault that was in the end useless.
The following material is quoted from Sketches of the Character, Manners and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland; with details of The Military Service of The Highland Regiments by Major-General David Stewart, Vol I & II, (1825), Edinburgh; as abridged by The Olive Tree Genealogy.
- Highland Regiment: Lord John Murray's Highlanders of the 42nd Highland Reg. (1st Battalion)
- Other Regiments: the 27th, 44th, 46th, 55th, and the 1st & 4th battalions of the 60th
- Battle Under General Command of: Major-Generals Abercromby, Hopson, and Lord Charles Hay; Colonels Lord Howe and Forbes
Ticonderoga is situated on a point of land between Lake Champlain and Lake George, and is surrounded on three sides with water, and on one half of the fourth side by a morass. The remaining part was strongly fortified with high entrenchments, supported and flanked by three batteries, and the whole front of that part was blocked up with felled trees, with their branches turned outwards, and their points first sharpened, and then hardened by fire; forming altogether a most formidable defence. The attack on Ticonderoga proved to be a disastrous and hopeless conflict.
The troops were embarked in boats at Lake George, and landing without opposition, were formed into two parallel columns. In this order they marched, on the 6th of July, to the enemy's advanced post, which was abandoned without a shot. The march was continued in the same order (July 7th), but the ground not having been previously examined, and the guides proving extremely ignorant, the columns came in contact, and were thrown in confusion. A detachment of the enemy, which got bewildered in the wood, fell in with the right column, at the head of which was Lord Howe. A smart skirmish ensued, in which the enemy were driven back and scattered, with considerable loss. This petty advantage was dearly purchased by the death of Lord Howe.
General Abercromby, perceiving that the men were fatigued, ordered them to march back to the landing-place, which they reached about eight o'clock in the evening. Next morning, (July 8th), he again advanced the attack, his operations being hastened by information obtained from the prisoners that General Levi, with 3000 men, was advancing to succour Ticonderoga. Alarmed at the report of this unexpected reinforcements, the General determined to strike a decisive blow before a junction could be effected. When the troops marched up to the entrenchments, they were surprised to find a regularly fortified breast-work, which could not be approached without the greatest exertions, particularly as the artillery had not yet been brought up. Unexpected and disheartening as these obstructions were, the troops displayed the greatest resolution, though exposed to a most destructive fire, from an enemy well covered and enabled to take deliberate aim, with little danger to themselves. The Highlanders, impatient at being left in the rear, could not be restrained, and rushing forward from the reserve, were soon in the front, endeavouring to cut their way through the trees with their broadswords.
No ladders had been provided for scaling the breast-work. The soldiers were obliged to climb up on each other's shoulders, and by fixing their feet in the holes which they had made with their swords and bayonets in the face of the work, while the defenders were so well prepared that the instant a man reached the top, he was thrown down. At length, after great exertions, Captain John Campbell, with a few men, forced their way over the breast-work, but were immediately dispatched with the bayonet. The General, despairing of success, gave orders for a retreat; but, the Highlanders in particular were so obstinate, that it was not till after the third order from the General that the commanding officer, Colonel Grant, was able to prevail upon them to retreat, leaving on the field more than one-half of the men, and two-thirds of the officers, either killed or desperately wounded. The next is an extract of a letter from an officer (Lieutenant William Grant), of the old Highland regiment containing apparently a candid detail of circumstances: "I have seen men behave with courage and resolution before now, but so much determined bravery can be hardly equalled in any part of the history of ancient Rome. Even those who were mortally wounded cried aloud to their companions, not to mind or lose a thought upon them, but to follow their officers, and to mind the honour of their country."
The 42nd was "first in the attack, and last in the retreat", and paid dearly with the loss of many lives and many severely wounded. However, due to the gallantry of the 42nd at Ticonderoga, letters of service were issued for adding a second battalion, and an order to make the regiment Royal, "as a testimony of his Majesty's satisfaction and approbation of the extraordinary courage, loyalty, and exemplary conduct of the Highland regiment."
The vacancies occasioned in the 42nd by the deaths at Ticonderoga were filled up in regular succession. The second battalion was to be formed of the three additional companies raised the preceding year, and of seven companies to be immediately recruited. One historical view was that the nation was highly satisfied with the conduct of the army; and the regret occasioned by the loss of so many valuable lives was alleviated by the hope, that an enterprise, so gallantly though unsuccessfully conducted, offered a fair presage of future success and glory.
The old Highland regiment having suffered so severely, and the second battalion being ordered on another service, (to the West Indies), they were not employed again this year.
42nd Highland Officers Killed (plus 9 sergeants, and 297 soldiers):
- Major: Duncan Campbell of Inveraw.
- Captain: John Campbell.
- Lieutenants: George Farquharson; Hugh McPherson; William Baillie; and John Sutherland.
- Ensigns: Patrick Stewart, son of Bonskied; and George Rattray.
42nd Highland Officers Wounded (plus 10 sergeants, and 306 soldiers):
- Captains: Gordon Graham of Drainie; Thomas Graham of Duchray; John Campbell of Strachur; James Stewart of Urrard; and James Murray of Strowen, son of Lord George Murray (and afterwards General).
- Lieutenants: James Grant; Robert Gray; John Campbell; :William Grant; John Graham, brother of Duchray; Alexander Campbell; Alexander Mackintosh; Archibald Campbell; David Miller (Milne?); and Patrick Balneaves, son of Edradour.
- Ensigns: John Smith; and Peter Grant.
The legend of Ticonderoga
The battle is also the site of the legend of Duncan Campbell who was cursed to die at Ticonderoga, a name that he had not heard until the battle.
Last updated: 05-22-2005 05:01:57