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Case 6: Crown Point~Amherst~August 4

Major General Jeffery Amherst, British commander-in-chief in North America, led the main effort against Montréal.  His army of 11,000 men traveled down Lake George and Lake Champlain, the traditional invasion route between the province of New York and Canada.  British and French armies had clashed in this arena each year since 1755, resulting in three major engagements but no decisive battle.  French forts at Ticonderoga and Crown Point blocked the way north.

[Fort Edward to Ticonderoga]. Pen and ink with watercolor on paper, [1759]. Thomas Gage Papers. Map Division, Small Maps 1759.

Using Albany as his base, Amherst, a careful, methodical commander, gathered his forces and moved up the Hudson River to Fort Edward and crossed the portage road to the southern end of Lake George.  There, he began constructing a replacement for Fort William Henry, destroyed by the French in 1757.  It was not until late July that he set off down Lake George with a fleet of bateaux and whaleboats.  On July 22 the army landed at the head of the La Chute River and prepared to advance on Ticonderoga.

Michel Chartier de Lotbinière (1723-1798), “Plan du Fort de Carillon et de ses Environs . . .” Pen and ink with watercolor on paper, [1758]. Map Division, Maps 4-L-9.

Amherst approached Ticonderoga (known as Carillon by the French) warily, for it was there, in July 1758, that a powerful British army had met ruin in a rash assault on the French outer defenses.  This time, however, Amherst faced a much-reduced defending force of 3,000 men under Colonel François de Bourlamaque (1716-1764).  The greater part of the defenders of New France had been called to Québec to oppose Wolfe.  Bourlamaque, unwilling to be trapped by a siege, withdrew most of his troops to Crown Point on July 23.  Three days later, as Amherst began to besiege Ticonderoga, Bourlamaque’s rear guard detonated the fort’s powder magazine, leaving the place in ruins.

Jeffery Amherst to William Henry Lytellton, LS, July 27, 1759. Manuscripts Division, William Henry Lytellton Papers.

On July 27 General Amherst described the initial success of his campaign to South Carolina Governor William Henry Lytellton.  Upon arriving at Ticonderoga, Amherst wrote, his troops had encountered “only a trifling Opposition from the Enemy.”  His engineers immediately commenced siege operations.

[Roger Townshend] to unidentified recipient, AL, July 20, 1759. Manuscripts Division, Charles Townshend Papers.

Preparing to move up Lake George to Ticonderoga, Lieutenant Colonel Roger Townshend (1732-1759) penned this unfinished letter to one of his relatives.  He was confident of victory and confided, “we appear to feel bold & Realy believe The Dragon is in us.”  Townshend had “no doubt but we shall drub them.”

[Samuel Morris Diary], July 25, 1759. Manuscripts Division, Miscellaneous Bound.

Despite his optimism, Colonel Townshend was one of a handful of British casualties of the abortive siege of Ticonderoga.  On July 25, as the engineers began the trenches, he was “kild by a Cannon Ball” from the fort.  Provincial soldier Samuel Morris recorded Townshend’s death in his diary (lower right).