THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR, 1754-1763 -- PART I
General Braddock, commander-in-chief of the English forces, planned four expeditions for the year 1755. The first resulted in the subjugation of Nova Scotia. The other three all failed -- that against Fort du Quesne, in defeat and the death of Braddock; the one against Fort Niagara, through inaction; and, lastly, the Crown Point expedition, the only one with which our present history has to do, because it was a work of greater magnitude than had been anticipated.
This expedition was in command of Gen. William Johnson, with 3400 soldiers, including a band of friendly Mohawks. For this army, New Hampshire furnished a regiment of 500 men, under Col. Joseph Blanchard. Dr. Anthony Emery of this town was a surgeon of the regiment and lieutenant of the 7th company. Other Hampton men were enlisted.
Governor Wentworth ordered Colonel Blanchard's regiment to rendezvous at a place since made memorable as the farm of Daniel Webster, in Franklin, then called Stevenstown; and while there, to build boats for transportation through the rivers supposed to lie along their route to Crown Point. Meanwhile, one company, Captain Rogers and his rangers, were sent forward to build a fort at Coos Meadows (above Lancaster), for the occupation of the troops on their way, or for defense. After six weeks consumed in these absurd measures, the governor was persuaded of his mistake, and sent the regiment directly across the province to Number Four (now Charlestown), and thence toward Crown Point by way of Albany. Early in August, some of the New England troops had built Fort Edward, on the Hudson, above Albany, only fourteen miles from the head of Lake George. General Johnson, with the main division of the army, arrived before the summer was ended and encamped by the lake. When the New Hampshire regiment arrived, they were quartered at Fort Edward.
This was the situation, when Baron Dieskau, the bold commander of Crown Point, determined to make a swift movement, pass Johnson's camp secretly and capture Fort Edward. Fortunately for the English, General Johnson heard of the design, and prepared to thwart it. Fortunately for the garrison, Dieskau's guides led him out of his way on the night of September 7th, and when the 8th dawned, he found himself, with his 1400 men, French and Indians, four miles north of Fort Edward, on the Lake George road, and Colonel Williams, with 1000 soldiers and 200 Mohawks, coming into view behind them. Instantly, the French general formed an ambush, into which the English fell. But Dieskau's Indians recognized their Mohawk brethren and refused to fire. A sharp contest ensured, resulting, after the English had been driven back to the lake, in the rout of the French, with much loss on both sides, including the death of the two commanders.
On the same morning, a scouting party from Fort Edward saw wagons burning in the road, and returned to report. Thereupon, eighty New Hampshire and forty New York men were ordered out. They found dead bodies of drivers and cattle, but no foe. The sound of battle was ahead of them, towards the lake. Pressing on, they were in season to harass the retreating French and capture much of their baggage. Fort Edward was saved, and this and other New Hampshire towns spared the slaughter of their sons.
After this engagement, General Johnson called for reinforcements, and built Fort William Henry for the defense of his army at the lake. In response to the call, New Hampshire sent a second regiment of 300 men, under Colonel Gilman, of Exeter. The 2nd company was largely from Hampton. Among them was John Blake, who died at Albany in December. This regiment, mustered September 19, marched by the route of the first, through Number Four to Albany, and in December "marched back again," the campaign of 1755 being ended.
The next year told of disaster. Governor Shirley, who had been commander-in-chief since the death of Braddock, was soon superceded by the inefficient Earl of Loudoun. He employed the armies in unimportant and frivolous works, while the French built and occupied Ticonderoga, strengthened Crown Point, captured the forts on the Oswego river and burned the town. Not will this year was war formally declared. A second expedition against Crown Point came to nothing. For this expedition, New Hampshire sent a regiment of 700. The rolls contain many Hampton names, but as we cannot certainly identify them, we pass them by.
The next year was even more disastrous. New Hampshire again furnished a regiment, a part going with Lord Loudoun to Halifax, to act a farce before Louisburg and return; and the rest joining Colonel Monroe, in the ill-starred defense of Fort William Henry, to be butchered by savages, through the perfidy of General Montcalm.
Tidings of the massacre fired the colonies. Governor Wentworth convened the assembly and by his message and by letters from the seat of war, told the news, the most horrid details of which had not yet arrived -- and said, what shall we do? The assembly replied; we have not enough men left now to defend our own homes -- but no matter -- we will send 500 more; and if Fort Edward is besieged, let the governor order others at his discretion, and supply money for their march till they join the king's forces. Only, when they can be spared, recall them, for we are dangerously exposed. However, 250 were deemed sufficient, and this battalion of five companies, under Major Tash was forwarded with all speed and stationed at Number Four for the defense of the fort. Of the two cavalry companies, one, as given below, was from Hampton, a few of the men, probably, being from other towns; the other was commanded by Anthony Towle, born here, but then residing in Chester. His brother Caleb, at that time or afterwards of Hawke, was in the ranks. Jeremiah Marston, son of the Jeremiah killed at Louisburg, was lieutenant of the 3d company, in which were Paul Smith Marston and other Hampton men.