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On July 8, 1758, British forces led by General James Abercrombie, stormed the fortified defenses of the French at Fort Ticonderoga. This short battle was a part of the Seven Years War in which Britain and France fought for control of the Northern part of the American continent. Fort Ticonderoga was a stronghold of the French and Britain’s goal was to push the French from the fort in order to advance and change the course of the war. General Abercrombie, leader of British forces and known in military circles as a great man, made a few blunders that day which failed to accomplish victory and cost the lives of his men.

In the early morning of July 6, 1758, General Abercrombie sent his officers, Colonel Bradstreet and Major Rogers into the harbor of Fort Ticonderoga in order to seize and destroy French vessels there. The night was calm, very dark, and the only threat to the British was rough surf of the harbor. Within a few minutes, they torched vessels and exchanged gun fire with the French. With men on both sides killed or wounded, Abercrombie’s troops retreated to their rally point to rest and reorganize. Angered and wrought with the dissolution of the death of their respected Brigadier General Milord Howe, they stayed an additional twenty four hours which allowed French forces to reinforce their positions.[1]

When Abercrombie’s troops approached the shore on the morning of July 8, they faced overwhelmingly artillery fire and a barrage of French infantry riflemen. The first blunder General Abercrombie realized was his ill preparedness for the battle with the French forces. Before the skirmish, he was confident that his use of 6,000 regular troops and 9000 provincials were enough to overwhelm the French guarding the outpost. Upon his arrival, just days earlier through Lake George, he sent a reconnaissance party ahead to assess where he needed to place troops in order to advance upon the fort. With the reconnaissance parties’ return and no word of resistance found, Abercrombie set up his troops in column formation with his provincials in the front and marched them toward the enemy. The French opened fire with artillery shells and devastated Abercrombie’s troops. Retreat was near impossible even as witnesses reported the Ticonderoga forest, “very thick and impossible with regularity of such a body of men.”[2]

The second blunder Abercrombie realized was that his troops were inexperienced for the ambush the French troops bestowed upon them. Overwhelmed, witnesses told of how the troops scattered and fell “upon each other” as they tried to escape the violence. Upon retreat and assessment of casualties, Abercrombie reflected upon the loss of his men and his own failure in the attack on Fort Ticonderoga. He knew the fatigue of his men was one factor. His troops had traveled over night and then he marched them well into the day before the attack. When they had reached their rally point, and before the attack Abercrombie told them to drop their excess load bearing equipment and continue with rifles. He also realized his miscalculation of his reconnaissance party who reported only a small force of about 400 men.  Abercrombie was confident a small force of resistance was no match for his large number of troops. Surprisingly, beyond the 400 troops, thousands more lie entrenched and heavily fortified with the ability to slow any advancing movement of enemy combatants.

The battle only took four hours, killing 464 regulars and 87 provincials and wounding 239. Abercrombie, later replaced in the war, retreated with what troops he had left to Fort Edward in Albany.[3]

 

 

[1] Louis Antoine de Bougainville, Adventure in the Wilderness: The American Journals of Louis Antoine de Bougainville 1756-1760, trans. and ed. Edward P. Hamilton (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990), 226.

[2] James Boswell, The Scots Magazine, vol. 20, (Edinburgh: Sands, Donaldson, Murray and Cochran, 1758), 436. Harvard, CT: Harvard University Press, 2007.

[3] Ibid., 437.

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