The Battle of Ticonderoga 1758
Battle: Ticonderoga 1758
War: The French and Indian War also known as the Seven Year War
(1757 to 1762)
Date: 8th July 1758w
Place: At the southern tip of Lake Champlain in the United
States, on the borders of northern New York State and Vermont.
The 42nd Highland Regiment, Black Watch, parading on
Glasgow Green, before leaving for America in 1757
Combatants: British and American colonial troops against French
regular and colonial troops.
Generals: General James Abercromby and Brigadier Lord Howe commanded
the British and Americans. The Marquis de Montcalm commanded the
Size of the armies: 15,000 British and American Provincials.
Around 3,600 French regular troops with a few Canadian provincials.
Uniforms, arms and equipment: The French made use of guns emplaced
on the walls of the fort, but essentially this was a battle of musket
and bayonet. The English regiments were uniformed in red coats
distinguished by regimental lace and facing colour, black tricorne
hats or mitre caps for the grenadiers.
The American provincial regiments wore blue. However, extensive
modification of uniform was made to suit forest warfare with coats
being cut back and any form of headgear and equipment permitted.
Rogers Rangers may have worn their distinctive green and Gage’s light
infantry wore grey.
The essential white uniform of the French regular infantry is likely
to have been similarly modified.
Soldiers carried muskets, bayonets, hatchets or tomahawks and knives.
The French musket was of a smaller calibre to the British. It is
unlikely that many rifled weapons were used. The standard battle issue
for British soldiers was 24 rounds. Probably Howe required his
soldiers to carry as many rounds as they could.
Winner: the French drove back the British/American attack,
inflicting heavy losses.
British Regiments: 27th, 42nd (the Highland Regiment: Black
Watch), 44th, 46th, 55th, 1st/ 60th, 4th/60th, Gage’s 80th Light
Infantry, Roger’s Rangers and regiments from New York, Massachusetts,
Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
27th: Later the Inniskilling Fusiliers and now the Royal Irish
42nd: The Royal Highland Regiment (the Black Watch)
44th: The Essex Regiment and now the Royal Anglian Regiment
46th: 2nd Bn, the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry and now 1st Bn,
the Light Infantry
55th: 2nd Bn, the Border Regiment and now 1st Bn, the King’s Own Royal
60th: The King’s Royal Rifle Corps and now 2nd Bn, the Royal Green
Battle of Ticonderoga
Account: The French fort of Ticonderoga lay at the southern
end of Lake Champlain, part of the long inland waterway that was the
main route for a British land invasion of French Canada. In June 1758
a force of British regular and American provincial troops from
Massachusetts, New Hampshire and the other New England provinces, in
all 15,000 men gathered at the head of Lake George. The nominal
commander was General James Abercrombie, an elderly portly man raised
to high command through political influence lacking military
experience or ability. The true inspiration for the army was Brigadier
Lord Howe. Howe understood the nature of warfare in America and worked
hard to adapt the troops for forest operations.
Drummer of the Royal Roussillon Regiment
The northern tip of Lake George was joined to the southern end of
Lake Champlain by a 5 mile strip of river marked by rapids and morass.
The French fort stood at the point where the river entered Lake
Champlain. Moncalm’s regular French battalions were positioned at
various points along the river, the regiment of Berry at the fort, the
main party at the Saw Mills further south and an advanced party at the
southern end of the portage that bypassed the rapids. Uncertain where
to contest the British advance Montcalm ordered the Berry regiment to
build a fortified abattis in front of the fort.
On 5th July 1758 the British and American flotilla set sail up Lake
George, Rogers Rangers and Gage’s light infantry leading.
Grenadier of the 42nd
Highlanders, the Black Watch
Arriving at the northern end of Lake George, Howe, Rogers and
Bradstreet landed to reconnoitre the French positions. A small French
party had been watching the army from the Western bank of Lake George.
In attempting to return to the main camp this force became involved in
a fight with the British advanced parties. In the skirmish Howe was
killed. The disastrous consequence of Howe’s death was that actual
command now fell on the inadequate Abercrombie.
Initially uncertain how to deal with the assault, Montcalm’s force
withdrew behind the abattis constructed across the isthmus on which
the fort lay. Montcalm set his whole force to strengthening the
position, overnight building a near impenetrable thicket of branches
and thorn. After an initial hesitation, Abercrombie resolved to
attack, urged on by Bradstreet. Lieutenant Clarke, the army’s engineer
was sent to reconnoitre the French position. Clarke advised that the
abattis could be stormed by infantry assault.
Behind the fortified line, now reinforced through the arrival of a
force commanded by Levis, stood the French regiments of La Sarre,
Languedoc, Berry, Royal Rousillon, La Reine, Bearn and Guienne.
Soon after 9am on 8th July the British and Americans began their
frontal assault on the abbatis. No use was made of the strong British
artillery. The attack continued throughout the day with additional
attempts to pass the fort by boat. In spite of the intrepid efforts of
the American provincial and the British regular troops the French held
them back until finally Abercrombie drew his men off and the retreat
began. The attacking troops suffered heavy casualties.
View of the fort after the Battle of Ticonderoga
In the final stages of the assault the 42nd Highlanders
launched from the reserve a particularly determined attack
that came near to succeeding.
Montcalm understandably claimed that he had inflicted a crushing
victory on the British.
Casualties: The American provincials lost 350 killed and wounded. The
British battalions lost 1,600 killed and wounded. The worst affected
were the 42nd with 490 casualties, 44th and 46th with 200 each, 55th
and 4/60th with 150, 1/60th and 27th with 100.
The French casualties were around 350 killed and wounded.
Follow-up: Abercromby was reduced to a state of panic by his
defeat and retreated to the southern end of Lake George. Fortunately
some of his subordinates were made of sterner stuff, in particular
Bradstreet and Forbes. In August 1758 Bradstreet marched to Fort
Frontenac, captured and destroyed the fort and the French flotilla on
Lake Ontario. In November Forbes took Fort DuQuesne, Braddock’s
Abercromby was withdrawn and his position as commander in chief taken
by General Amherst. The French victory deferred their loss of Canada
by a year.
The 44th and 46th Foot
Regimental anecdotes and traditions:
- The 42nd is rich in tradition from the battle. Foremost is the
account surrounding the death of the regiment’s major, Duncan Campbell
of Inverawe. The 42nd was a Campbell regiment. All 5 officer
casualties at Fontenoy in 1745 had been Campbells. At some time in the
1740s Inverawe had been involved in concealing a fugitive. When it
turned out the man had murdered his cousin, Inverawe turned him out in
breach of a promise he had made. The fugitive appeared in a dream to
Inverawe and said “I will see you at Ticonderoga". By 1758 Inverawe
had served in the Black Watch for some 20 years and was the major.
Only on his arrival in America did he discover the existence of
Ticonderoga. The fugitive appeared again to Inverawe in a dream the
night before the battle the bloodstained figure predicted his death.
Inverawe was severely wounded in the battle and died at Fort Edward
after his arm had been amputated.
- Captain John Campbell who was wounded in the battle is reputed to
have been one of the 3 highlanders inspected by George II in 1742 when
the regiment marched to London. The King gave each man a sovereign
which they are reputed to have thrown to the doorman on the way out.
- Parkman records the bravery of William Smith of the Rhode Island
Regiment who fought his way up to the rampart and shot several French
soldiers before being severely wounded.
- The 44th suffered heavy casualties in the battle and must be taken
to have redeemed itself after Prestonpans and the Monongahela.
General Abercromby's force embarking for the attack on Fort
Captain John Campbell of the Black Watch
- Ticonderoga 1758 by Rene Chartrand, Osprey Publishing 2000.
- Fort Ticonderoga: Key to a Continent by EP Hamilton.
- Montcalm and Wolfe by Parkman Vol 1 MacMillan 1899
- History of the British Army by Fortescue