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Winslow at one time, and the British General Webb, at another, had been at and near Lake George with forces, not sufficient for any offensive measures, and not able, indeed, to maintain the position they had taken against the enemy.
This was a large force for Massachusetts to raise, and the necessary expenditures were great in proportion. Bounties were to be given, or the enlistments would not be made; and this must be advanced by the province. The number raised by voluntary enlistments was 4,500; and it became necessary to raise the other 2,500 by impressment or drafts from the militia. The whole force under General Abercrombie, of regular British troops and provincials which advanced against the French forts at Lakes George and Champlain, amounted to upwards of 17,000.
General Abercrombie passed Lake George; and on landing at the northern borders, some distance from Ticonderoga, which he proposed first to attack, he sent forward a large detachment of 7000 men. But they were obliged to make their way through a wilderness without paths, where they were met by a party of the enemy, whom they attacked, and slew or captured the greater part. This affair, otherwise not very important, became memorable by the death of Lord Howe, a British nobleman, who was in the detachment, who, though young, had attained a character of uncommon celebrity for his bravery and virtue.* The detachment returned to the main army, which soon after advanced to attack Ticonderoga, as had been proposed. After sending out small parties for discovery, by which, however, he seemed to have been misinformed, he resolved to storm the fort. It was a place of great strength, and was well manned; and, although he made a gallant assault, he found it necessary to retire to his former station. The loss sustained by the English on this occasion, was 1800 men, and many valuable military articles.
The enemy, however, did not discover any plan of acting offensively, and Colonel Bradstreet, of the provincial troops, was directed by General Abercrombie, having himself proposed
*Major (afterwards General) Israel Putnam, who, with Major John Stark, were then brave partisan officers, and after acting with Major Rogers in the corps of Rangers, accompanied Lord Howe at this time. He proposed to go forward to ascertain the strength of the enemy's party which had been discovered, and Lord Howe insisted on joining him. Putnam objected in vain, saying that his own life was of little value, but that his lordship's was too valuable to be thus exposed. Howe replied, that life must be as dear to Putnam as to himself. Massachusetts voted £250 for the erection of a monument in Westminster Abby, to the memory of this accomplished and gallant nobleman.
the enterprise, to march to Lake Ontario, with three thousand provincial troops, and one hundred British regulars; and thence to proceed against Fort Frontenac, near the north part of the Lake and the River St. Lawrence. The enterprise was attended with complete success. He surprised and captured the garrison, with little opposition; and destroyed nine vessels, and other property, which fell into his hands; but soon returned, as it was reported a large party of the enemy were advancing against him.
The expedition against Louisbourg, mean time, was prosecuted with vigor, as had been proposed. It vas invested by large naval and land forces, the latter commanded by General Amherst; and after a few days of judicious and vigorous assault it surrendered to the British. General Amherst arrived in Boston, from this expedition, in September, and hearing of the disastrous repulse at Lake George and vicinity, he hastened to Albany, to take on himself command of the army in that quarter, and give all possible aid for efficient action or defence; but it was thought to be too late in the season to undertake another expedition at that time; it being the opinion of military men of experience and judgment, that it would require great caution and circumspection, as well as courage, to be successful. The troops were also liable to fever and ague, and other sickness, at that season, near the lakes.
Besides the men killed by the enemy, many of the Massachusetts troops died by sickness; and the expenses, incurred by the province for the campaign, were a heavy burden to the people. But, with all this loss of life and treasure, there was such a desire to prevent the inroads of the French, and to drive them from Canada, that the general court readily consented, at the request of the British ministry, to raise 6,500 men, for another expedition, in 1759; in the expectation, however, that compensation would be made eventually by the English government. But a part of these were to be stationed at Penobscot, as a guard to those engaged in building a fort on that river; and it was also agreed, that such as chose might enter the British naval service. Several hundred of these men enlisted on board the English ships; and 2500 served at Louisbourg, to supply the place of British troops, who were required for the fleet ordered to Quebec.
The plan of proceedings was in a great measure conformable to that pursued the preceding year. The conquest of Canada being the great object, it was arranged, that a naval force should ascend the St. Lawrence, and an army advance by Lake Champlain. As a preliminary measure, it was agreed that the
main land forces under General Amherst, should attack Ticonderoga and Crown Point, and a detachment fall on the fortress at Niagara. The fleet, with General Wolfe and the troops under his command, arrived near Quebec, in the month of June. Much time was spent in ascertaining the proper place and mode of attack, and in preparing for an efficient and vigorous assault on the city, which was well fortified, and very difficult of approach. In one skirmish, which could not well be avoided, 500 men were killed and taken, and General Wolfe was some weeks suffering by severe sickness. In September, after a consultation with his officers, he concluded to make the attack, dangerous and desperate as it appeared. To one of his gallant bearing, there was no other alternative. The issue was doubtful for several hours, but British coolness and bravery united, at length decided the gallant conflict. The commanding generals of both armies were slain in the battle. Both were brave, and both distinguished for military talents. The English and American people have honored the memory of Wolfe, as one of the first among a host of military heroes. This brilliant affair afforded just cause of joy and courage to the New England colonies and to the whole British empire.
Meanwhile, General Amherst was advancing on Canada, by the way of Lake Champlain. Ticonderoga and Crown Point were successively abandoned by the enemy, as he approached, after destroying much of the valuable property, which could not be easily taken with them. They made a stand at the northern part of the lake, and Amherst proposed to pursue them. But he had no vessels or boats for the transportation of his troops, and it was impossible to march by land through a perfect wilderness. Vessels were ordered to be built; but it was so late, when they were finished, that the attempt to reach them was in vain. The tempestuous weather prevented the progress of the boats, and several of them were wrecked and lost in the enterprise; which was soon after abandoned, for that season. One of the vessels built at this time, was a brigantine; which was afterwards despatched by General Amherst, to make discovery of the force and condition of the enemy. She gave them some annoyance, but it was too late to continue in that climate. Major Rogers, with two hundred rangers, was ordered to fall on the village of the St. Francois Indians, on the south side of St. Lawrence, and who had made most of the depredations on the frontier settlements of New England, for many preceding years. He was accustomed to this sort of warfare, and to travelling through the thick forests like the Indians themselves. An event occurred on his way, which
obliged him to send back fifty or sixty of his party; but he proceeded with the remaining one hundred and fifty, and attacked the village, at an early hour in the morning, when they had no notice of his approach, and destroyed the settlement, and slew or dispersed the whole population. At the present day, such an act of cruelty would be severely reprobated. But it was then viewed in a different light: it was called just retaliation for former cruelties and butcheries, perpetrated by that tribe and its savage allies.
The people of Massachusetts had reason to complain of the British military commanders, that the soldiers were not always discharged when their term of enlistment expired. In 1759, those employed at Louisbourg, and on board the fleet, were detained long after the time for which they engaged to serve had elapsed. This made them averse from entering into the naval service, and insist, as they usually did, that they should not be united with British regular troops, but be kept in separate corps, and under provincial officers. They had an antipathy to mercenary soldiers; and though ready to engage in military service, for the defence of the country, they never wished to lose the character of citizens. They wished, indeed, to retain the distinctive character of militia; and they seldom enlisted, except for the season. To this general fact, however, there were, no doubt, a few exceptions.
The general court was so much occupied, on the dangers which threatened from the French and Indians, at this period, that there was less dispute and disagreement with Governor Pownall, than there had been with several of his predecessors. And he was not of a disposition to seek occasions for collision or controversy. It was his resolution, no doubt, to be a faithful servant of the crown; but he was not eager to push the claims of prerogative, when the exigency did not require it. While he was in the chair, the requisitions on the general court were made directly by the British commanders-in-chief, or, through him, by the ministry in England; and with these calls, being for men and means, as well for their own welfare as that of the parent government, they were ready to comply, without hesitation, to the extent of their ability; still having a regard for the rights of the people, and laying no greater burden than the occasion demanded. The people were subject to heavy burdens, and they bore them cheerfully, as well from a true spirit of loyalty, as from a regard to their own safety and liberty. For six successive years, they provided men and money in the war against the French, and received only a partial reimbursement from the parent state, though they were promised recompense at a future day.
The burdens of the people were so great, and so many the embarrassments of navigation, during this protracted period of war, that the debtors were very numerous, both among the land holders and the merchants. The merchants were in the habit of having large credits for goods in England; and the state of the country prevented their remittances, as they had formerly done. An insolvent act was passed by the general court, in 1757, for the relief of debtors; but it was necessary, by the provisions of the charter, that the king should approve of it, to render it complete and valid. When it was laid before the king, he referred it to the lords of trade, for their opinion, and they said, that, though they approved of the principle of the bill, and admitted the propriety of a bankrupt, or insolvent law, they apprehended some injustice from such a law in the province; because, while it operated favorably to the creditors there, those in England might suffer. The king, therefore, declined giving it his approbation.
Mr. Pownall was succeeded by Mr. Bernard, in the winter of 1659-60, and appointed Governor of South Carolina. After Governor Pownall's departure, and before the arrival of Governor Bernard, who was removed from the administration of New Jersey, Mr. Hutchinson, being lieutenant governor, discharged the duties of chief magistrate of Massachusetts. As the governor was soon expected, he prudently declined acting further than attending to the ordinary service of the station. It had already been determined to make another attempt against Montreal, and other parts of Canada, in the hands of the French. Mr. Pett called for the same forces as were raised the two seasons previously, and urged the importance of the object; at the same time promising compensation, according to the efforts which might be made. In January, 1760, the general court ordered, that five thousand men should be raised; and they also voted to allow a bounty to the men who had been detained in Nova Scotia,* and at Louisbourg, after their term of service had expired. It was difficult, however, to raise the number ordered. Only three thousand three hundred of the five thousand could be enlisted; which, even
*The Governor of Nova Scotia made honorable mention of the exertions of Colonel Thomas and his officers, (from Massachusetts,) in quieting the men who were held beyond the time of their enlistment. It was an arbitrary act in the British commander, and yet he attempted to justify his conduct, by saying that the men could not be spared, and must not go till he chose to discharge them. The families of the men suffered much in their absence; but the general court, protesting against their detention, voted to give a bounty, which was generally applied for the relief of their wives and children.