This page conforms to the XHTML standard and uses style sheets. If your browser doesn't support these, you may not see the page as designed, but all the text is still accessible to you.


Bringing the heritage of Schenectady County, New York to the world since 1996

You are here: Home » Resources » MVGW Home » Chapter 45

History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 45: 1757 — Third Year of War.

[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 588-593 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. Some images have been relocated to the area in the text where they are discussed. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

Contents | Biographies | Illustrations | Maps | Portraits

Go back to: Chapter 44 | ahead to: Chapter 46

In the fourth year of the Seven Years' War — Leads twelve hundred militia and Indians to Lake George, March 21st — At German Flats, April 1st to 9th awaiting expected attack — Fight between drunken British soldiers and Mohawks at Fort Hunter — Johnson keeps Mohawks loyal — Leads militia and Indians to succor Colonel Monro at Fort William Henry — Webb prevents aid — Massacre of Fort William Henry.

The year 1757 opened with the enemy emboldened by his easy successes of the previous year as well as the usual evidences of inefficiency and timidity on the part of the English commanders who were sent over to America to conquer New France. The Colonists felt strong but depressed by the unchanging condition of a numerically weak enemy made powerful largely by the inferior military ability of their opponents' commanders.

Along the Mohawk, small scalping parties of Canadian Indians committed murders and depredations in most impudent fashion. They lurked about Fort Johnson, hoping to take Sir William or his scalp back to Canada. Johnson sent a messenger to Albany from Fort Johnson. Enemy Indians captured, killed and scalped the courier and threw his body into the Mohawk. Some farmers working in a field near Schenectady were shot down and killed. All along the border the settlers were in constant danger of murder and torture. The more timid began to leave their exposed homes. The Six Nations were disgusted with the English who behaved "like women" on the warpath. Only the Mohawks showed any signs of allegiance to the Colonies. Sir William Johnson entered upon a year beset with difficulties, which required all his energy and diplomacy to overcome.

There is hardly another instance in all history where a people twenty times more numerous than its enemy was so thoroughly beaten and outwitted as were the English Colonies by New France, in the first five years of the French and Indian war. Our admiration goes out to the warriors of the St. Lawrence, who made such a plucky fight against great odds.

[A North View of Fort Johnson]

While the frontier of the Colonies was open to attack, the incapable Loudoun was busy with fussy plans for a reconquest of Louisburg and a martinet's desire to insist upon the precedence of English over American officers of equal rank. The only bright spot in the Colonist's year was the elevation of William Pitt to the premiership of England, which event was actually the beginning of the conquest of New France.

On March 18th, 1757, an army of 1,500 French, Canadians and Indians made an attack upon Fort William Henry. They were repulsed twice. They made two more attacks which were beaten off and then fled in a panic down Lake George.

Sir William Johnson received news of this attack at Fort Johnson on March 20th. He immediately sent couriers to bring in the militia and Indians, who responded so quickly that Johnson set off the next day with 1,200 militia and a band of Indians. He reached Fort Edward on March 24th, only to find that the enemy had fled, and he led his army back to Fort Johnson, arriving there on March 27th.

At Fort Johnson, a messenger came in with news that the French were marching on the German Flats settlements. Johnson again jumped into the saddle. Ordering his army of militia and Indians to follow, Sir William rode all night and arrived at the Flats the next morning at five o'clock. Indian scouts now came in who reported that the alarm was false. However, to be on the safe side, Johnson made an entrenched camp and remained at Fort Herkimer from April 1st until April 9th, at the same time sending out a scouting party of Mohawks toward Oswegatchie, who reported the French party were moving up Lake Ontario en route to the Ohio River. Johnson had now become an experienced soldier and an active and capable commander, far different from the major-general of the Battle of Lake George.

While affairs in the Mohawk Valley were at such high tension, Johnson had trouble from an unexpected quarter. Several drunken soldiers of the Fort Hunter garrison got into trouble with some Indians of the adjacent Mohawk village and would have killed several of them if the Indian stockade gate had not been locked against them. The English regulars behaved in a most brutal manner and severely wounded several of the Mohawks. Johnson had great trouble in smoothing over this matter. He wrote General Abercrombie saying that the Mohawks wished the entire garrison removed and adding:

"It is very unlucky at this time, when a meeting of all the nations is soon expected, whereat I have great hopes matters may be brought to a better issue than was expected. There is nothing would give the French more pleasure than a difference between us and the Mohawks at present."

On June 11th, 1757, William Corry wrote Sir William Johnson as follows: "For God's sake, don't expose yourself among the Indians; rather send for them and let them wait upon you."

Johnson combatted the rising tide of French influence by holding many conferences with the Indians during this year. Between April 14th and 23rd, Sir William held conferences with the Susquehannas at Fort Johnson. On May 13th, Johnson sent scouts out toward Lake Champlain. The most important council of the year was that between Johnson and the Six Nations, held at Fort Johnson between June 10th and 20th, where the baronet succeeded in holding those Indians to some measure of allegiance to the English cause. Stone says that, previous to this council, Johnson "repeatedly held informal meetings with the Indians at his own house, feasting them, distributing presents and, in short, neglecting no opportunity of winning his way to their hearts by those pleasant little arts, which he alone knew so well how to employ." Johnson's diplomacy was the greatest enemy New France had at this time in its conflict with the Colonists.

Johnson's splendid diplomacy began to have its effect. The Oneidas and Tuscaroras did not attend the council of the Iroquois held at Fort Johnson on June 10th, but soon thereafter they came in and renewed their allegiance to the English. During June and July the baronet sent out scouting parties toward Canada. His activities at this time are graphically portrayed in the following letter to his secretary. This message also gives an interesting line on the numbers of the Mohawks of the Upper or Canajoharie Castle. As their numbers did not exceed 300 the entire Mohawk nation in our Valley could not have numbered more than 600 Indians in 1757. The letter follows:

"Fort Johnson, 17th July, 1757.

"Dear Wraxall:

"I received the first letter you wrote since you left us, just as I was going to Canajoharie and the German Flats. At the former, I clothed all their women, old men and children, who are much more numerous than I imagined, and gave them provisions which they are very scarce of. Their number amounts to 247, exclusive of their young men. At the latter, I had that unhappy affair of the two Indians (belonging to the party of the Five Nations whom I fitted out to go to Canada but who were murdered by Tom Smith) to make up. It was the most difficult job I ever had, as the Five Nations who were at the meeting lately, were all there yet, and so enraged (saying that these two made five now murdered by us within a year) that I had hard work to prevent their spilling blood for it. However, by condoling their death, taking our hatchet out of their heads, and several other forms used by them, and at a very considerable expense besides, I made them easy for this time. * * * I have now five parties out on different days; some of whom I expect daily; others making ready to go out. I hear some of the Aughquagas are coming here in order to go out unasked — all the Indians daily asking me when the army is to move towards the enemy and when I go. * * * I write now to Major-General Webb, from whom I had a letter the same time I received yours, wherein he expresses great satisfaction at my taking the first prisoner brought in, out of the hands of the Indians. It was with a good deal of difficulty, and I much doubt my being able to get all they may be able to take, from them, without giving much umbrage and dissatisfaction as may overset the whole, as they well know the French Indians are allowed to keep and dispose of their prisoners as they please, which is the greatest encouragement they can have given them. However, I shall endeavor all in my power to follow the general's directions in that point, as near as I can. I have nothing to write you from this quarter. All our hopes and expectations are from his lordship's success and yours that way.

"I am, dear Wraxall,

Your sincere well-wisher and Humble servant,

Wm. Johnson."

After the failure of the Canadian expedition to capture Fort William Henry in March, 1757, Montcalm made plans for another attempt on a much larger scale. He led an expedition from Montreal and set out up Lake George, in July, with 8,000 men. Another tragic chapter of English military incapacity was now enacted. Fort William Henry was defended by 500 men under the brave and efficient Colonel Monro, while 1,700 Provincial militia were stationed in a nearby intrenched camp. The cowardly and inefficient General Webb was at near by Fort Edward, with 4,000 more men. Montcalm called upon Fort William Henry to surrender. Monro, counting on reinforcements from Webb and the Americans, refused to comply, and made a brave defense.

As soon as Sir William Johnson heard of the attack on Fort William Henry he gathered the Mohawk Valley and Albany County militia and such Indians as he could gather and marched north. Stone says "The Baronet was at Fort Johnson holding an important council with the Cherokees in reference to their late treaty with the Louisiana governor, when news arrived on the first of August from Webb of the approach of Montcalm. Notwithstanding that he had his 'hands and head full' yet he abruptly broke up the conference and, hastily collecting what militia and Indians he could muster, started for the relief of Webb and arrived at the carrying place two days after the investment of Fort William Henry. Seeing at once the position of affairs, he begged that he might be sent to the aid of Monro. After repeated solicitations, his request was granted; but scarcely was he fairly on his way with Putnam's rangers and some militia, who had volunteered to share the danger, when Webb ordered him and his detachments back and sent in their place a letter to Monro full of exaggerations and advising him to surrender." Colonel Monro continued to resist until ten of his cannon had burst and his ammunition was spent, when, on the 9th of August, 1757, he capitulated. Montcalm's Indians had been of no use to him. They now got drunk on rum, obtained from the English soldiers, and, when the garrison marched out, they fell upon them and murdered thirty before Montcalm and the French officers could restrain them.

Johnson, and his militia and Indians marched back to Albany in disgust. On August 20th, Sir William started back to Fort Johnson. From August 31st to September 8th, Johnson was at Albany. From September 12th to the 20th, Johnson held a conference with Indians at Fort Johnson. From September 25th to October 4th, he again was at Albany.

Go to top of page | back to: Chapter 44 | ahead to: Chapter 46

You are here: Home » Resources » MVGW Home » Chapter 45 updated March 30, 2015

Copyright 2015 Schenectady Digital History Archive — a service of the Schenectady County Public Library