Sunday, September 24, 2017

Episode 011: Louisbourg, Frontenac and Treaty of Easton

Last week, we looked at General Abercromby’s failed attack on Fort Carillon.  At the same time Abercromby made his attempt.  Gen. Jeffrey Amherst was leading a separate army against Louisbourg.


The British had already captured much of Nova Scotia (also known as Acadia) back in 1755 when they expelled thousands of French Acadian civilians from the region.  I discussed this back in Episode 7. The French, however, retained control of Fort Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island. Today the island is considered part of Nova Scotia.  Back then, they considered it a separate entity.

Map of offensives during French and Indian War
(source: Wikipedia)
Louisbourg controlled the mouth of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the only water entry to the St. Lawrence River which was the only effective supply route for the French in the Great Lakes region. Taking Louisbourg would cut off Canada from France.  But the Fort was an impressive one and would not fall easily.  It had fallen before though.  Just over a decade earlier, a force of mostly British colonists from New England had captured Fort Louisbourg during the War of Austrian Succession (known in America as King George's War). They had done so at great cost, and were outraged when London gave the fort back to the French as part of the treaty ending that war, in exchange for concessions in Europe.

William Pitt had dispatched Gen. Loudoun to take Louisbourg in 1757.  After his arrival, he looked at the French defenses, decided an attack was impossible, and returned to New York without even making an attempt.  His failure was a big part of his recall in December of that year.

Much of Loudoun’s concern in 1757 was that a large French fleet supported the Fort, and prevented a British fleet from attacking.  In 1758, the French Navy was mostly gone, with only a  half dozen warships in the harbor. The British Navy effectively prevented any French naval relief force from arriving.  So chances of victory looked much better this time.

Gen. Amherst commanded a total British force of about 14,000 soldiers along with 12,000 sailors and marines under the command of Admiral Edward Boscawen.  The French had only 3500 soldiers and another 3500 sailors and marines, but had the vast defenses of the Fort for protection.

Siege of Louisbourg, 1758 (from Wikimedia)
The British could have approached by land from Nova Scotia, but doing so would have meant a long hard march over rugged terrain.  Instead, Gen. Amherst rather recklessly attempted a water landing on the Island in the face of enemy fire.  It could have been a disaster. Col. Wolfe, in charge of the landing, called it “rash and ill-advised.”  In the 18th Century, water landings in the face of the enemy were extremely difficult, as troops had to row slowly ashore and disembark before forming lines, all in the face of enemy fire. However, they got lucky, landing the troops with only about 100 casualties.

Without naval support, the French defenders could make the siege painful for the attackers, but could not prevent an eventual loss if the British decided to launch a conventional siege.  This involved entrenching artillery, while slowly digging ever closer entrenchments until finally the walls of the Fort would be demolished.  Unlike Abercromby at Carillon, Amherst sensibly elected to go with the conventional siege option. After the June 8 landing, British began digging their first entrenchments for their cannon.  Over the next few weeks, the British Navy worked to take out the few French warships in the harbor, as well as several island batteries.

Gen. Wolfe at Louisbourg (from Wikimedia)
The British Army took several hills near the fort and continued moving their entrenchments closer, battering the walls of the fort and slowly taking out most of the defenses.  By July 3, they were within 600 feet of the main walls and continued to bombard them.

The French garrison continued to put up a defense, but outnumbered, they could not go on the offensive, and could only slow an inevitable loss, unless by some miracle a French fleet could relieve them.  That miracle did not come.  By July 26, the British had destroyed or captured all of the French naval vessels supporting the Fort.  They army and navy were bombarding the city from all sides.  British artillery took out the last French cannon and British infantry breached the walls of the fort.

With more than a third of his defenders dead or incapacitated, and having held out for nearly two months with no hope of relief, the French commander decided he had conducted an honorable defense and reluctantly asked for terms of surrender.  Despite a valiant defense, Amherst was in no mood to give generous terms.  The memory of the Fort William Henry massacre was still too recent.  The French defenders would become prisoners of war.  All French civilians on the Island would be deported back to France, over 8000 men, women, and children. The French had no choice but to accept the terms.

British burning French Navy at Lousbourg (from Wikimedia)
After the fort fell, the British army completely destroyed the fort, tearing down its walls.  That way, politicians in London could never return the Fort to the French again.

The British victory at Louisbourg really was the first good news London had heard from America in years.  William Pitt received word of the victory at Louisbourg that autumn.  He literally hugged the messenger, so overjoyed at finally getting some good news from America.  His risky investments seem to be paying off.  Pitt instructed Amherst to continue to attack the French along the Great Lakes, establishing British control and expelling the French from the Continent.

Amherst’s second in command at Louisbourg, Gen. James Wolfe, returned to England for health reasons after the battle.  Since he was in London while Amherst remained in America, he became the face of victory for the English people and was the toast of the town.  Pitt ended up rewarding him with an independent command and instructions to return to America and take Quebec the following year.

The fall of Louisbourg in 1758, along with Britain’s ability to control the Atlantic, effectively severed New France from the mother country. It also opened up Quebec and other inland French cities to British Naval attack as ships could now simply sail up the St. Lawrence River.

The fall of Louisbourg marked a major shift in future battles.  Without relief from France, New France would slowly suffocate under the pressure of British offensives.  It was still too early to know this, but the British victory at Louisbourg would mark the beginning of the end for the French in Canada.

Fort Frontenac

As the siege of Louisbourg was reaching its end, Gen. Abercromby was still licking his wounds from the disastrous attempt to take Fort Carillon.  He probably had a good idea that his failure at Carillon, combined with Gen. Amherst’s success at Louisburg would mean that he would be out of a job and sent home in disgrace that winter and that Amherst would replace him as North American Commander.  This thought probably motivated the normally slow and cautious Abercromby to try something a little more daring.

Fort Frontenac on the northern coast of Lake Ontario was not a primary target for Pitt, Abercromby, or much of anyone else in the senior leadership.  It was not listed as a major objective at the beginning of the season.  The fact that it became a target of assault at all was probably due to the obsession of one man, Lt. Col John Bradstreet.  We met Bradstreet last week when he took command on the battlefield after Gen. Howe fell mortally wounded in the first offensive against Fort Carillon.

The son of a British officer and Acadian mother, Bradstreet had been a career officer, with notable service in King George’s war during the 1740’s.  Shirley, who had worked with Bradstreet during the earlier war, made Bradstreet his Adjutant General.  Despite his close association with the hated Shirley, Loudoun retained Bradstreet as a highly competent officer and promoted him to Lt. Col. in 1757.  Bradstreet had convinced Loudoun to let him lead an attack against Fort Frontenac.  But before the attack could get underway, Loudoun was recalled to England and Pitt’s new plan of attack, which did not include Frontenac, superseded all prior plans.

John Bradstreet (from Wikimedia)
After the defeat, at Fort Carillon, Bradstreet saw an opportunity to revive his plan to attack Frontenac.  He convinced Abercromby to detach 5600 men under the command of Brigadier John Stanwix, and with Bradstreet as second in command, to “distress the enemy” on Lake Ontario and “if practicable” to attack Fort Frontenac.  Although Abercromby was not known for using his own initiative to start new offensives, he really had little to lose at this point since he was likely facing recall anyway.

The leadership kept the mission against Frontenac a secret. They maintained a cover story that the detachment was planning to rebuild Fort Bull, which Gen. Webb had burned in a panic back in 1756.  This would provide a defensive point against French attack and would also reinstate a needed trading post for the Iroquois.  In fact, Bradstreet planned to take his troops from there, up to Lake Ontario, along with several cannon.  From there, the force would cross the lake in small boats and conduct a surprise raid on Frontenac.

Bradstreet relied on speed and surprise to capture the French breastworks and mount his cannon 150 yards from the Fort’s walls on August 26, 1758.  The French commander almost immediately called for surrender, even though it meant he and his men would be taken as prisoners of war and shipped back to Albany.  The Fort had only 110 soldiers to defend it, not even enough to man all the cannon in the fort.  The main force had been detached to participate in the successful defense of Fort Carillon, and had not yet returned.  The 2200 British soldiers surrounding the Fort meant certain defeat.

Capture of Fort Frontenac, 1758 (from Wikimedia)
Fort Frontenac had been a major storage depot for the French.  In addition to the Fort’s 60 cannon, the British took control of more food and supplies than they could possibly carry.  Bradstreet’s orders were to destroy the Fort, not hold it.  The French still controlled Lake Ontario and a counter attack was a real possibility.  The British loaded as many arms and supplies as they could carry in their ships, as well as the captured French ships.

Initially, the British had taken the small French Garrison as prisoners of war.  But they were so overloaded with all the supplies, that Bradstreet decided to free the French prisoners and allow them to leave, on the promise that an equal number of English prisoners would be released soon in exchange.

Fearing a counterattack, Bradstreet burned the Fort, along with the supplies which they could not carry.  This would further reduce the already depleted French supplies for the year.  On August 28, only two days after arriving, the British slipped back across the Lake to rejoin the main force.

Upon his return, Bradstreet asked to make a similar raid against Fort Niagara.  But for now Abercromby had had enough initiative and refused to authorize a second raid.  Bradstreet wrote a self-promoting pamphlet to be published anonymously back in England.  It criticized Abercromby’s timidity in taking the initiative to control the Great Lakes and promoted Bradstreet’s own valiant efforts.  Bradstreet received a promotion to full Colonel, but his superiors in America were not happy with his criticism and self-promotion.  He ended up as assistant Quartermaster General in Albany.  A financially lucrative position, but not one that would lead to further glory and promotion.

As I already mentioned, the fall of Louisburg cut off France from its forces in New France, preventing them from providing more supplies or reinforcements.  This gave the advantage going forward to the British. The destruction of Fort Frontenac sped up that advantage.  By destroying most of New France’s supplies there, the French were unable to supply or provide other support for many other front line forts.  The French also lost arms, ammunition, and supplies that they planned to provide to their Indian allies in the Ohio Valley.  The loss of these supplies would help tip the balance in future negotiations and fighting.

Treaty of Easton

The British had now cut off the French in Canada from their supply lines to Europe.  They had destroyed much of the French supplies in the raid on Frontenac.  The British also had more than double the number of soldiers in the field.  If the French had any chance of preventing defeat, it would require the full efforts of their Indian allies.

French General Montcalm did not like using Indians, and the massacres at Fort Oswego and Fort William Henry only reinforced that distaste.  The Fort William Henry incident had created a real divide so that most tribes in Canada were now sitting out the war.  Even if they had wanted to come back, most tribes were being ravaged by smallpox epidemics, brought back through prisoners from Fort William Henry.

Charles Thomson, PA Secretary
at Treaty of Easton
In the Ohio Valley though, local tribes were still putting up a pretty successful campaign against the British and its colonies.  The local tribes, particularly the Delaware, were still upset with prior British colonial land grabs, and the fact that the Iroquois had ratified these land grabs after being paid off, leaving the Delaware to suffer.  The Delaware did not want the Iroquois to negotiate for them.

The British Indian agent, Sir William Johnson, who had been Britain’s Indian agent since the beginning of the War, was a big advocate of Iroquois control. He had been adopted into the Mohawk tribe and had a common law Mohawk wife, with whom he had eight children.  Johnson was not about to undercut Iroquois authority since the Mohawk were one of the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy.  As a result, the Delaware were more and more siding with the French against the English and the Iroquois.

In July 1758, Gen. Forbes, who was ever so slowly moving across western Pennsylvania toward Fort Duquesne, requested and received permission from Abercromby to negotiate directly with the Delaware.  This seems like an odd move for Abercromby.  He tended to be a soldier who would follow orders, stay inside the rules, and never use his own initiative.

Allowing Forbes to negotiate directly meant that he was cutting out the Iroquois, as well as Johnson, the Indian Agent for Britain.  Johnson’s royal commission as a Colonel (in addition to his provincial commission as Major General) and his receipt of a title of nobility a few years earlier, clearly meant he had the favor of very important people back in London.  Undercutting such a powerful man was not the sort of action Abercromby would normally take.  But he did.  Forbes used this authority to try to work out deals with the local tribes directly.

Sir William Johnson
(from Wikimedia)
During the summer and fall of 1758, talks continued in Easton, Pennsylvania between the eastern Delaware Chiefs led by Teedyuscung, and Pennsylvania’s colonial leaders.  Back in 1757, the various sides had generally come to terms to not kill each other basically by saying that we’ll resolve our differences later.  Well, Teedyuscung was pointing out that it was later now, and they still had not resolved their differences.  Teedyuscung wanted a reevaluation of the Walking Purchase, and a guarantee of a land reserve for his people in the Wyoming Valley (in northeastern Pennsylvania).

The Easton Convention of 1758 was much larger than that of the prior year.  More than 500 Indians from 13 different nations attended, each with their own agendas.  These included a delegation of western Delaware from the Ohio Valley. Like Teedyuscung, most wanted guarantees that their land would not be overrun with British settlers.  Their support was critical if the British ever wanted to take Fort Duquesne.

The Iroquois also sent representatives, trying to reassert control over the Delaware and making clear they could not cut independent deals with the British or their colonists.  Pennsylvania leaders and the British agents present would love to have simply worked out a deal with the compliant Iroquois.  But they also knew that if the Delaware and other local tribes did not find the final deal acceptable, they would remain pro-French in the ongoing war despite what the Iroquois told them to do.

Chief Teedyuscung
(from wikipedia)
By October 1758, the various groups had worked out a resolution.  The major concession of the Treaty was to cede back all English claims to land west of the Allegheny mountains.  Although the Iroquois would retain control of the lands, the English were permitted to negotiate directly with the local tribes to resolve issues.  In other words, the Iroquois would not be permitted to undercut the Delaware in the Ohio Valley and sell their land out from under them.  That was good enough to bring the western Delaware back onto the side of the British.  By this time, the British victories at Louisbourg and Frontenac were well known.  The French had their supplies cut off and were clearly on the defensive.  For the Delaware, they realized they had better cut a deal with the winning side that protected their land.

Teedyuscung, Chief of the eastern Delaware, now found himself isolated at the conference.  The Iroquois had reasserted authority over him.  Now that the western Delaware had cut a separate deal for their land, the eastern Delaware posed no serious threat.  If they went to war, they could be cut down by the Iroquois and the colonists.  Teedyuscung realizing this, spent most of the Conference getting drunk and rambling angrily.  In the end, he only got promises that they would look into the terms of the Walking Purchase at some later date and would refer the issue of a Wyoming Valley reservation back to the Iroquois Council for further consideration.  Neither of these ever resulted in any satisfaction for the eastern Delaware.

But with peace now in place with the Western Delaware, Gen. Forbes could finally move forward with his plans to take Fort Duquesne.

Next Week: Gen. Forbes makes  his final assault of Fort Duquesne.  The British follow up that, by capturing Fort Niagara, and finally Fort Carillon as well.

Next Episode 12: Forts Duquesne, Niagara, and Carillon Fall

Previous Episode 10: New British Strategy & Fort Carillon

Visit the American Revolution Podcast (

Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account.

You may also donate via VenmoZelle, or popmoney (send to

Click here to see my Patreon Page
You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option for people who want to make monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.

An alternative to Patreon is SubscribeStar.  For anyone who has problems with Patreon, you can get the same benefits by subscribing at SubscribeStar.

Click here to go to my SubscribeStar Page

Further Reading


Capture of Lousibourg:

The Siege of Louisbourg, 1758:

Seven Years War, Siege of Louisbourg (1758):

War of Austrian Succession, Siege of Louisbourg (1745):


Fort Frontenac:

Easton Treaty:

The Minutes of a treaty held at Easton, in Pennsylvania, in October, 1758. By the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, and the governor of New-Jersey; with the chief sachems and warriors of the Mohawks, Oneydos, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, Tuscaroras, Tuteloes, Nanticokes and Conoys, Chugnuts, Delawares, Unamies, Mohickons, Minisinks, and Wapings:;idno=N06429.0001.001
Or PDF copy:

Free eBooks:
(links to unless otherwise noted)

An authentic account of the reduction of Louisbourg, in June and July 1758, (1758) (a contemporary description published in London months after the battle).

An Authentic register of the British successes: being a collection of all the extraordinary and some of the ordinary gazettes from the taking of Louisbourg, July 26, 1758 by the Hon. Adm. Boscawen and Gen Amherst, to the defeat of the French fleet under M. Conflans, Nov. 21, 1759 by Sir Edward Hawke: also, a particular account of M. Thurot's defeat by Capt. John Elliott, (1760).

A letter to the Right Honourable William Pitt, Esq., from an officer at Fort Frontenac, (1759).

An impartial account of Lieut. Col. Bradstreet's expedition to Fort Frontenac, by John Bradstreet (1759) (this is Bradstreet’s own work, published in London to publicize his accomplishments).

The Fall of New France, 1755-1760, by Gerald E. Hart, (1888).

The History of Canada, Vol. 4, by William Kingsford (1889),

The Diary of Nathaniel Knap [sic] of Newbury in the province of Massachusetts Bay in New England: written at the second siege of Louisburg in 1758, by Nathaniel Knapp (1895).

An Historical Journal of the Campaigns in North America for the Years 1757, 1758, 1759, and 1760Vol 1Vol. 2, & Vol. 3, by John Knox (1914).

Louisbourg, From its Foundation to its Fall, 1713-1758, by John McLennan (1918).

Genuine letters and memoirs relating to the natural, civil, and commercial history of the islands of Cape Breton and Saint John: from the first settlement there, to the taking of Louisbourg by the English in 1758, by Thomas Pichon (1760).

Memoir Upon the Late War in North America, Between the French and English, 1755-60Vol. 1, & Vol. 2, by Pierre Pouchot (1866).

A Soldier of the Wilderness: A Story of Abercrombie's Defeat and the Fall of Fort Frontenac in 1758, by Everett Titsworth Tomlinson (1905) (from Google Play - Books).

Causes of the Alienation of the Delaware and Shawanese Indians from the British Interest, by Charles Thomson (1867 - originally published 1759).

Indian treaties printed by Benjamin Franklin, 1736-1762, by Carl Van Doren (1932)

The Great Fortress: a Chronicle of Louisbourg, 1720-1760, by William Wood (1915).

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Anderson, Fred Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766, Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

Boscawen, Hugh The Capture of Louisbourg, 1758, Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 2011.

Brumwell, Stephen Redcoats: The British Soldier and War in the Americas 1755-1763, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002.

Hawke, David The Colonial Experience, Prentice Hall, 1966.

Jennings, Francis Empire Of Fortune: Crowns, Colonies & Tribes in the Seven Years War in America, W.W. Norton & Co. 1988.

Endgame 1758: The Promise, the Glory, and the Despair of Louisbourg's Last Decade, by A. J. B. Johnston (2008).

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Episode 010: New British Strategy & Fort Carillon (Ticonderoga)

Last week, I discussed the Fort William Henry Massacre, which had become a rallying cry for the colonists.  Despite that, the colonies showed no interest in supporting any of Gen. Loudoun’s demands.  Loudoun and the colonies could not seem to find any way to work with each other. Meanwhile, in London, William Pitt spend most of 1757 consolidating his power and looking for a new way to prosecute a war which Britain seemed to be losing.

Loudoun Sent Home

One of Pitt’s big changes was to recall Gen. Loudoun and put a new commander in charge of North America.  In December 1757 Pitt, issued an order to recall Loudoun.  So during the winter while Loudoun was trying to compel colonial leaders to provide support for the 1758 campaign, an order recalling him was slowly making its way across the Atlantic.

After Loudoun’s patron Lord Cumberland resigned in disgrace back in September 1757, he had no political backing in London. Pitt’s order that Loudoun assault Louisbourg earlier that year had come to nothing.   Loudoun continued to blame provincial politics for his problems, but in the end he had accomplished almost nothing militarily.  Although not directly in command for the disasters at Fort Oswego and Fort William Henry, Loudoun had no real success to show for his 18 months in command.  His primary achievement seemed to be to set colonial opinion strongly against having any standing army among them.

Most importantly, William Pitt decided that a new strategy which required colonial cooperation, needed a new leader who could work with the colonies.  The bad blood between Loudoun and the colonial leaders had gotten to the point where such cooperation would be impossible.

Loudoun relinquished his command and returned to Britain as a frustrated failure.  Don’t feel too bad for him though.  He would go on to a command in Europe, and would receive several more promotions and honors.

New Military Leadership

After the Duke of Cumberland resigned in September 1757, Sir John Ligonier became commander of all British forces.  Although Ligonier was 77 years old and had been born and raised in France, he had been a capable British officer for his entire adult life.  He worked closely with Pitt to develop a new strategy for the war.
John Ligonier
(from UK National Army Museum)

Up until that time, the British had put most of their emphasis on the war in Europe.  The colonies, not only in America, but worldwide, got little attention.  Now though, Pitt and Ligonier realized that Britain’s real power was its navy. France could field large armies in Europe but Britain controlled the seas.  If Britain used its power to seize French colonies all over the world, France might be willing to sue for peace on terms favorable to the British.  To deal with British obligations on the Continent, Pitt mostly threw money at the problem. British military aid to Prussia and other allies would tie up French forces on the Continent, while the British themselves focused on France’s colonies.  One part of this strategy meant taking all of Canada from France and bringing North America under British rule.

James Abercromby
(from Wikimedia)
Pitt ordered Maj. Gen. James Abercromby (sometimes spelled Abercrombie), Loudoun’s second in command, to take charge of forces in America.  Abercromby was a career officer having purchased his first commission as an ensign at the age of 11.  As an adult, Abercromby, who came from a Scottish noble family, won a seat in Parliament.  His military career was respectable, though not particularly distinguished.  He had commanded troops as a colonel in the War of Austrian succession.  His advancement to major general seemed more the result of political and family connections and as an administrator rather than as a combat leader. Most historians dismiss him as plodding, cautious, and unimaginative.

Perhaps realizing that Abercromby could not be left to his own initiative, Pitt and Ligonier decided to appoint new field commanders themselves for the 1758 fighting season, rather than letting Abercromby make recommendations. These new field commanders were young dynamic officers, often selected over others who had more experience and seniority.  They were men that Ligonier knew personally and believed had great potential as military leaders.

Jeffrey Amherst
(from Wikimedia)
London identified three military goals for 1758.  These were the same goals that Gen. Loudoun had recommended, but new leaders would have the chance to implement them.

Abercromby himself would lead an attack on Fort Carillon at the southern tip of Lake Champlain. Fort Carillon would allow the British to begin moving forces up from the Colonies into Canada. But Abercromby was not really a field officer.  He would rely on a young acting Brigadier General, George Augustus, Viscount Howe, to lead the army.

At the same time Abercromby advanced on Fort Carillon, another army would make a renewed attempt to take Louisbourg in Nova Scotia.  Taking this fort was key to preventing French supply and reinforcement of the entire Great Lakes region.  Col. Jeffery Amherst received promotion to General and would lead the next attempt to take Louisbourg. Second in command of the expedition was an up and coming Lt. Col. named James Wolfe.

The British also still needed to take Fort Duquesne, which was the key to holding the Ohio Valley. Acting Brigadier General John Forbes would lead a renewed campaign to take Fort Duquesne and return the Ohio Valley to British control.

I’m only going to have time today to go over the attack on Fort Carillon, but it is important to remember that all of these attacks were happening simultaneously during the summer of 1758.  The goal was to overwhelm the French on multiple fronts, and take advantage of the superior numbers on the British side.

New Colonial Strategy

To make all of this work, Britain could not waste time fighting with colonial leaders over the prosecution of the war.  They needed lots of militia to fill out the armies necessary to fight these three campaigns.

James Wolfe
(from Wikipedia)
Since the War began, London and its colonies were never really on the same page.  Both wanted to push back against the French and Indians, but could not agree on how to do it.  Gen. Braddock had largely ignored the colonial protests and had gotten himself killed before much infighting could flair up.  His successor, Gen. Shirley, seemed to work well with the colonists, but as a result ended up falling into disfavor in London.  Gen. Loudoun, of course, tried to implement the policies that the Ministry wanted, but seemed to get nowhere with colonial cooperation.

More important than any change in military leadership, was Secretary Pitt’s policy changes in how Britain would run the war in America.  Clearly, ordering colonies to submit to military demands was not working.

Rather than treat the colonies as subjects to be taxed and bullied, Pitt decided to treat them as allies.  Pitt appealed to the colonists in the medium they understood best: money.  In Europe, Pitt threw money at his allies in the German States to keep France busy.  In America, Pitt would throw money at the colonies in order to convince them to go on the attack in Canada.
John Forbes
(from Wordpress)

In short, Pitt had adopted the policy Gen. Shirley had pursued before he had been recalled to London to face charges.  Shirley’s political reputation now restored, he received an appointment as Governor of the Bahamas and had the satisfaction of seeing his policies finally implemented in America.

Pitt sent notices to the colonial governors, encouraging them to raise their own military units for use in the offensive against the French in Canada.  Rather than forcing the colonies to pay for these offensives, Britain would reimburse colonial expenses for raising these armies on their own. Pitt also repealed the hated policy that gave British regular officers command authority over colonial officers of higher rank.  Going forward, the colonials would be treated as partners rather than subordinates.  Colonial militia would not be treated as simple adjuncts to the Regular Army.  They would fight essentially as allied armies alongside the Regulars.  But most importantly, Britain was going to pick up the cost of all these armies.

Pownall and other colonial governors were totally on board with Pitt’s plans to pay for everything.  A few months earlier, the colonies had balked at Gen. Loudoun’s demand that they raise a combined force of less than 7000 soldiers for the coming year.  They complained that it simply was not possible.

Now that the British agreed to pay for the expenses, Massachusetts agreed to field 7000 soldiers for the coming year all by itself. Connecticut promised another 5000.  In Virginia, where Col. Washington could not even completely fill his one regiment with conscripts, the new money provided him with plenty of volunteers, and even allowed Virginia to recruit a second regiment, more than doubling its force.

Other colonies followed suit, agreeing to provide a total of more than 23,000 new men to fight the war at British expense.  When combined with the Regulars in America, British forces would field nearly 50,000 armed men in 1758, compared to less than 10,000 French soldiers.  Beyond that, Canada only had a total French population of 15,000-16,000 men of fighting age.

Fort Carillon

Abercromby began execution of the new offensive in the spring of 1758.  By June, he had established a headquarters near the ruins of Fort William Henry at the southern tip of Lake George.  Abercromby had not only the largest army in the field that year, this was the largest military force up until this time ever assembled in North America.  Eight Regiments of British Regulars totalled about 6000 officers and men, joined with about 10,000 militia, from New England, New York, and New Jersey.  This assault force would take on Gen. Montcalm’s force of roughly 3500 French soldiers and militia at Fort Carillon.

The French had built Fort Carillon about two years earlier, after the outbreak of hostilities.  Built by engineers in the French Regular Army, the five point wood and stone fort, with ample artillery, provided a good defensive position against any attack.

Gen. Montcalm had used the fort as a launching point for the raids on Fort Oswego and Fort William Henry.  Now, with such a large British force advancing on him, the French General relied on the fort’s defenses to help counter any advantage the British had in troop numbers.

Gen. George Howe

The aging and overweight Abercromby relied on acting Gen. George Howe to handle most of the field work.  George Howe came from a prominent family in British society.  His mother came from Royalty in Hanover, and had come to Britain along with King George I when he assumed the British Crown.  His father, a member of Parliament and a Viscount, received a royal appointment as Governor of Barbados in the 1730’s.  Like many British who moved to the Caribbean, known then as the West Indies, Gov. Howe got sick and died after only a couple of years.
George Howe
(from NY Public Library)

On his father’s death, George, age 10, inherited his father’s title. Despite his pedigree, Howe was not particularly wealthy, at least by aristocratic standards.  At age 20, he purchased a commission in the army.  Howe, thrived as an officer.  During the War of Austrian Succession, he served as aide de camp to the Duke of Cumberland, and by the end of the War was a Lt. Col.  At age 33 in 1758, he was now a General and essentially in command of the largest military force North America had ever seen.   Howe was also an early advocate of light infantry, soldiers who traveled light and were well adapted to fighting in the wilderness conditions of America.  In early July, he made his way to Fort Carillon to lead the assault personally.

First Fighting

In addition to the main fort, the French had outpost in the area.  The British first needed to capture or drive back the outposts before they could begin an assault on the Fort Carillon itself.  On July 6, Gen. Howe led an advance force on a French camp about four miles from Fort Carillon.

Map of Fort Carillon Battle (from Wikipedia)
The British quickly routed the French, but Howe was killed early in the action, dying in the arms of a Connecticut militia officer named Israel Putnam, a name you will want to remember when we get to the Revolution.  The loss of such a promising young officer struck many people as a tragedy. The people of Massachusetts donated a fund to pay for a memorial to Gen. Howe in Westminster Abbey.

Howe’s death had an impact on the mission, but more importantly would affect the relationship of his two younger brothers, the future Gen. William Howe and future Admiral Richard Howe.  The death of this promising officer was a tragedy, to be sure.  The loss would not only affect the course of this battle, but would have major consequences for many future events.

Howe’s second in command, Lt. Col. John Bradstreet immediately took charge and requested permission to assault the Fort.  Had Bradstreet moved quickly, he might very well have taken the Fort which still had not received reinforcements.  Abercromby, however, seemed stunned by the loss of his General and did not want to continue fighting.  He denied the request to attack and decided to regroup for a day.

That extra time allowed Montcalm to get his reinforcements from Fort Frontenac, set up better entrenchments, and improve other defensive measures.  Even with the reinforcements though, the 4000 or so French forces, seemed no match for the British force of 16,000. Montcalm had only about 15 Indians at the Fort.  Most of his Indian allies had abandoned him after the falling out over Fort William Henry,  Abercrombie’s artillery probably could have forced the capitulation of the Fort within days.  I say “probably” because Abercromby decided on a different plan of attack.

Abercromby was convinced that the Fort’s defenses did not necessitate the difficult and time consuming task of entrenching artillery.  Rather, he could simply use his infantry to storm the Fort.

The day after Howe’s death, July 7, Abercromby sent out scouts to get a better idea of the enemy defenses.  That night, he held a council of war to discuss options.  But rather than letting all officers give input, Abercromby limited debate to whether they should use three lines of attack or four.  He did not allow any consideration of mounting artillery to use against the French lines, or even as support for the infantry.  The General decided that artillery would be too much trouble and would take too much time to mount.

Final Assault

The next day, July 8, a group of skirmishers led by his new second in command, Col. Thomas Gage, who we last met in Episode 5 at the battle of the Monongahela and another name you will want to remember, took the field.  The Regulars were accompanied by Rogers Rangers and a group of Massachusetts infantry, which used skirmishing techniques to drive the French pickets back into their main lines.

Next, eight battalions of British regulars advanced on the Fort.  In truth, the British never even got near the Fort.  Gen. Montcalm deployed most of his forces on Rattlesnake Hill, which stood between the Fort and the attacking British. The French entrenched the hill and laid down branches and other impediments designed to break up the British line during the advance.

The impediments worked, as the British regulars got caught up in the debris.  As they slowly tried to advance over the impediments, the French began to mow them down.  While the regulars stood and died bravely, they nevertheless died without inflicting much of any damage on the French.

Abercromby was directing the assault from more than a mile away.  He ordered the assault to continue without seeing first hand the resulting carnage.  In the afternoon, several regiments of militia also tried to storm the French defenses and suffered massive losses as well.  Among those involved in the assault was a militia Major from Massachusetts named Artemas Ward, again, a name you may want to remember as we get into the Revolution.

By the end of the day, around 2500 British soldiers, mostly regulars, lay dead or wounded, making it the bloodiest day of battle in North America until the American Civil War.
Victory of Montcalm's Troops at Carillon. by Henry Ogden
(from Wikipedia, original at Fort Ticonderoga Museum, NY)

After seeing these losses, Abercromby did not decide to change his plan of attack to use his artillery, but rather decided to retreat.  He feared a possible counter attack from a French force that was still only one-fourth the size of his. The order to retreat spread panic and confusion among the British, who fled chaotically down Lake George back to the base near the ruins of Fort William Henry.

After such an embarrassing loss, most officers and men still wanted to return and use artillery to take the Fort properly.  Another officer you may want to remember, Capt. Charles Lee of the 44th Foot wrote a letter home:

"These proceeding must undoubtedly appear most astonishingly absurd to people who were at a distance, but they were still more glaringly so to us who were upon the spot…. There was one hill in particular which seem’d to offer itself as an ally to us, it immediately Commanded the lines from hence two small pieces of cannon well planted must have drove the French in a very short time from their breast work… but notwithstanding some of our Cannon was brought up & in readiness, this was never thought of, which (one would imagine) must have occur’d to any blockhead who was not absolutely so far sunk in Idiotism as to be oblig’d to wear a bib and bells."

Abercromby, however, overruled his junior officers and decided that they had done enough fighting. He would not attempt any further offensive against Carillon.  Despite overwhelming numbers and an obvious plan of attack, Fort Carillon would remain the year’s greatest failure.  It would permanently tarnish Abercromby’s reputation and would lead to his replacement later that year.  Like most recalled but well connected British Generals, Abercromby would be promoted several more times. He would serve as a member of Parliament, but would never again command troops in the field.

Next Week: The British finally begin to turn things around with the fall of Louisbourg and Frontenac, as well as the Treaty of Easton.

Next Episode 11: Louisbourg, Frontenac, and Treaty of Easton

Previous Episode 9: Fort William Henry Massacre & Rise of Pitt

Visit the American Revolution Podcast (

Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account.

You may also donate via VenmoZelle, or popmoney (send to

Click here to see my Patreon Page
You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option for people who want to make monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.

An alternative to Patreon is SubscribeStar.  For anyone who has problems with Patreon, you can get the same benefits by subscribing at SubscribeStar.

Click here to go to my SubscribeStar Page

Further Reading


Battle of Fort Carillon, 1758:

The Debacle at Fort Carillon, by Richard Snow American Heritage Mag. Vol. 23, Issue 4, June 1972:

Battle For Ticonderoga, by John F. Ross, American Heritage Mag. Vol. 18, Issue 4, 2008:

Gen. James Abercromby:

Sir John Ligonier:

Gen. Jeffery Amherst:

Gen. James Wolfe:

Gen. John Forbes:

Westminster Abbey Howe Memorial:

Col. John Bradstreet:

Israel Putnam:

Artemas Ward:

Charles Lee:

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

The Fall of New France, 1755-1760, by Gerald E. Hart, (1888).

The History of Canada, Vol. 4,  by William Kingsford (1889).

An Historical Journal of the Campaigns in North America for the Years 1757, 1758, 1759, and 1760Vol 1Vol. 2, & Vol. 3, by John Knox (1914).

The Burial of Lord Viscount Howe, Killed in the French and Indian War, by Edward Owen (1893)

Montcalm and Wolfe, Vol. 1, by Francis Parkman (1885).

Memoir Upon the Late War in North America, Between the French and English, 1755-60Vol. 1, & Vol. 2, by Pierre Pouchot (1866).

The Administration of the British Colonies, by Thomas Pownall (1777).

A Soldier of the Wilderness: A Story of Abercrombie's Defeat and the Fall of Fort Frontenac in 1758, by Everett Titsworth Tomlinson (1905) (from Google Play - Books).

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Anderson, Fred Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766, Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

Brumwell, Stephen Redcoats: The British Soldier and War in the Americas 1755-1763, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002.

Fowler, Willam F. Jr. Empires at War: The French and Indian War and the Struggle for North America, 1754-1763, Walker Books, 2005.

Jennings, Francis Empire Of Fortune: Crowns, Colonies & Tribes in the Seven Years War in America, W.W. Norton & Co. 1988.

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Episode 009: Fort William Henry Massacre & Rise of Pitt

Last week, I talked about all the British setbacks in 1756.  Sadly, Britain was in for more setbacks and turmoil in 1757.  Much of this had to do with continued political chaos in London.  It also resulted from the lack of a properly supported military strategy for North America.

Loudoun Goes to Canada

British military commander of North America Lord Loudoun grew increasingly frustrated not only with colonial politics, with his subordinate officers badmouthing him to friends in London, but also because London wanted to second guess his strategic command decisions.  Loudoun planned to use his regulars to reinforce the frontier, from Pennsylvania to South Carolina and recapture lost territory. In early 1757, newly appointed Secretary of State William Pitt, who I am going to discuss in more detail in a few minutes, sent instructions that he should focus on Canada, taking Louisbourg and proceed up the St. Lawrence River to take Quebec.  To help him with this task, Loudoun received another 8000 regulars.  In early June 1757, Loudoun took 6000 soldiers to Halifax to besiege the French Fort at Louisbourg, along with additional support from the Royal Navy.
Map of offensives during French and Indian War
Note: Louisbourg in upper right, Loudon in 1757 followed
the same path as Amherst did in 1758 shown on map.
(source: Wikipedia)

Although Loudoun felt this plan opened up New York, and the middle colonies to French attack, he was a good enough officer to follow orders.  At this point, the frustrated Loudoun was probably happy to let the colonies suffer.  He was sick and tired of dealing with provincials and their political leaders, who seemed to want to thwart him at every turn.  In addition to the ongoing disputes over the quartering of his soldiers, the colonists continually refused to provide the necessary men and money needed to fight.  His attempts to integrate colonial troops into regular units met with great resistance.  At the beginning of summer 1757, in an attempt to prevent colonials trading with the enemy, he banned all non-military shipping.  This led to huge economic disruption as no colony could get goods to market or receive imports.  By June, colonial governors were countermanding his orders and permitting civilian trade ships to get back to their commerce.

When he left for Canada with Gen. Abercromby and 6000 regulars, Loudoun was probably happy to leave Gen. Webb, in charge of frontier defenses.  Webb, despite his own apparent cowardice, still had good friends in London and was one of the officers badmouthing Loudoun as a poor commander.  Loudoun regarded Webb as timid and incompetent with friends in high places.  Webb would be responsible for the mess and the colonials would learn that they needed to defer to a strong military commander with the necessary resources to defend them.
Map of Louisbourg Fort and Port (from Wikipedia)

Loudoun, however, also disappointed the ministry in Canada.  Pitt had wanted Loudoun to attack the French fort at Louisbourg.   Even so, the French Navy in Louisbourg Harbor was too large for the small British fleet to challenge.  With that, Loudoun gave up on Louisbourg and returned his forces to New York.  There, he returned to his original plan of taking Fort Carillon at Ticonderoga.  Even then Loudoun could not catch a break.  A hurricane destroyed much of the British fleet on the return trip from Halifax in September.

Fort William Henry Massacre

Meanwhile, during the summer of 1757, Gen. Daniel Webb led British forces in New York, attempting to make some progress there.  Fort William Henry sat at the southern tip of Lake George in New York, the northernmost fort in a string of forts.  As the Fort closest to the French lines, the British planned to use it as a launching point against French Forts Carillon and Saint Frédéric further up the lake.
Fort William Henry and surrounding area (from Thoughtco)

The French commander Montcalm thought it could be the next British domino to fall before the advance of the French and Indians.  British Major William Eyre commanded the Fort during a surprise raid by the French over the winter of 1756.  The French had not brought cannon, but had attempted to use the element of surprise to scale the walls and take the Fort.  The British had beaten off this raid, but not before the French burned all the outbuildings and gunships.

As the 1757 fighting season began that spring, the Fort remained in a precarious position.  The garrison sat in an area surrounded by hostile Indians, meaning that the British got little intelligence.  Without a ship, they could not even scout from the lake.  The commander had relied on the highly effective Capt. Robert Rogers, of Rogers Rangers, to provide intelligence.  The Rangers, however, had suffered heavy casualties during a scouting expedition and Rogers himself was convalescing in Albany. This left Eyre with little intelligence on enemy movements.  Fort Edward was a few miles away, with reinforcements that could help to lift any siege.  Otherwise though, Fort William Henry was a sitting duck.

Montcalm prepared for an all out siege on the Fort in the spring of 1757.  He had 6000 regular troops along with the necessary siege artillery.  Despite his reluctance to use Indians after the Oswego incident, more than 2000 Indians showed up in the spring to participate in fighting against the British.  Many of them had heard stories of the booty that others had collected in fighting during the year prior, as well as the ransom money Montcalm had paid to recover the prisoners taken at Fort Oswego.  They wanted in on the action.  Montcalm could not simply send them home without insulting them.  Like it or not, they would be a part of the coming campaign.

The British were preparing for the summer fighting season as well.  Lt. Col. George Monro brought five companies of regulars and about 1000 militia from New York, New Jersey and New Hampshire to Fort William Henry.  Despite the difficulty with intelligence, by June Monro was aware that the French were assembling a force to attack the Fort.  Monro sent 500 men in small boats on a raiding party up Lake George to destroy some French sawmills.  The men ran smack into the main French force who killed or captured most of them.

Area Map of Forts (Wm. Henry & Edward on right)
When word of the attack on the raiding party reached Fort William Henry, Gen. Webb, normally at nearby Fort Edward was at William Henry on an inspection tour.  Webb immediately got out of there and ran back to Fort Edward, promising to send reinforcements.  He ordered the regulars to man the Fort.  The militia would encamp on a nearby hill in order to prevent the French from mounting cannon there.

Monro only had about 1100 men fit for duty, facing the 8000 man French force bearing down on him.  After returning to Fort Edward, Webb sent another 200 regulars and 800 militia as a relief force.  He had more reinforcements to send, but did not want to make Fort Edward vulnerable.  He also decided not to lead the relief force himself, but sent Lt. Col. Joseph Frye to take charge.  Having more than 2000 defenders at the Fort created its own problems. The fort itself was designed to handle about 500 defenders. Most of the defenders had to dig entrenchments outside the Fort walls to build a larger defensive line.

By early August, Indian snipers were firing on the Fort while French began entrenching siege cannon.  Monro sent numerous letters to Webb calling for more reinforcements. Webb received these, but decided to leave Monro on his own.  He was more concerned about the French taking the Fort and then advancing on Fort Edward.  He refused to send more of his own troops until he received more reinforcements himself.  As a result, it quickly became inevitable that the Fort would fall to the French.

Monro engaged in a spirited defense for several days while the French artillery (actually English artillery the French had captured at Oswego) slowly reduced the walls of Fort William Henry along with the men inside.  On August 9, Monro asked for terms of surrender.  This time, Montcalm thought the British commander had acted nobly.  He offered honorable terms, allowing the troops to retain their arms, possessions, colors and a single cannon. They would be given safe passage back to Fort Edward, and exchanged for the French prisoners held there.

Once again though, Montcalm’s Indian allies were not on board with the plan.  They had come to fight for booty and honors of war.  Once the British had turned over the Fort, the Indians assaulted the hospital, killing and scalping the sick and wounded.  Next, they turned on the prisoners, stealing their possessions and taking many more prisoner, with the intention of returning home with them as slaves, or receiving ransom payment from Montcalm for their return.  With more Indians present than the year before at Fort Oswego, the number of atrocities against prisoners increased greatly as well.
Montcalm at Fort Henry Massacre (from Wikipedia)

Some stories at the time said that the Indians killed more than 1000 defenders.  In truth the number was probably closer to 200.  When the killing started, many prisoners simply ran into the woods, figuring they would take their chances rather than wait and be slaughtered.  The Indians chased them down and killed some. But most escaped.  Some survivors made it back to Fort Edward with shocking tales of the Massacre of Fort William Henry.

Montcalm also recaptured several hundred of the prisoners and kept his promise to get them to Fort Edward.  But the tales of the massacre served as a rallying cry for the British, one that would inevitably result in future revenge.  In later battles, losing French forces would often be denied the honors of war in retaliation for this massacre.

The situation also created a serious breach between the French and their Indian allies.  The Indians did not want to fight if they could not raid the forts and take prisoners, and the French did not want Indians who would not obey orders.  The Indians left the theater to return home, unsure if they would ever return.  Many left with prisoners in tow.  This turned out to be a terrible mistake.  Many of the prisoners turned out to be infected with smallpox.  An epidemic spread throughout many of the French allied tribes.  The number of Indians who died from smallpox as a result dwarfed the number of prisoners killed at the massacre.

Without his Indian allies, Montcalm opted not to attack Fort Edward, which he probably could have taken from the trembling Webb with little effort beyond walking up to the Fort and shouting “boo”.  Instead, he burned Fort William Henry and returned to Fort Carillon, taking complete control of Lake George for France.

Thousands of militia turned up at Fort Edward, in response to Webb’s calls for reinforcements.  They were eager to exact revenge on the French for the massacre.  But Webb had no intention of leading a counter-assault.  He sent most of the militia home.  Another year of fighting had brought no British success, as the 1757 fighting season came to an end.

Colonies Fight with Loudoun

Despite French success in New York, the colonies continued to resist Gen. Loudoun’s attempts to reorganize colonial defenses.  The arguments all remained the same.  New England colonies did not want to raise taxes to send troops to defend New York.  Colonial soldiers did not want to fight for the low pay being offered.  Colonies did not want to pay to house Regulars.  Colonial officers did not want to take orders from lower officers in the Regular Army.  Colonial militia did not want to be subject to regular army punishments and discipline.

Colonial resistance though, moved beyond grumbling.  After the immediate fear of the Fort William Henry massacre faded, colonists went back to resisting just about everything Loudoun wanted them to do.  Anti-recruitment riots broke out in several colonies during the fall and early winter of 1757.

Gen. Loudoun may have thought he caught a break when his former aide, Thomas Pownall became Royal Governor of Massachusetts.  You may recall that Pownall had been instrumental in lobbying London to replace Gen. Shirley as Commander of North American Forces.  Pownall then returned to America by Loudoun’s side in the summer of 1756.
Thomas Pownall (from Wikipedia)

By early 1757 though, Pownall was back in London now badmouthing Gen. Loudoun and angling for a new job.  In August, he became Governor of Massachusetts and returned to America.  As an astute politician, Pownall quickly realized the Massachusetts legislature was not going to comply with Loudoun’s edicts.  Seeing how the political winds were blowing, Pownall decided to back the Massachusetts legislature and oppose Loudoun.

Loudoun had hoped to wage a winter campaign against Fort Carillon at Ticonderoga.  But with local recruitment failing, he could not get the troops he needed. That, combined with an unusually snowy winter led to an end to the campaign before it started.

Loudoun also had to keep some militia beyond the terms of their enlistments.  For Loudoun, this was a military necessity, to keep the forts along the New York Frontier properly manned.  For the militia, who had volunteered for only a few months after the Fort William Henry Massacre, extending the enlistments for the rest of the winter, especially with no battle apparent on the horizon, seemed like a violation of their rights.  Eventually, several of the regiments simply marched home in violation of orders.  Technically, Loudoun could have shot them as deserters, but given that the population supported their decision to leave, it would have been politically impossible.  One of those deserters was a 19 year old private named Rufus Putnam, a name that will become much more important during the Revolution.

In February 1758, Gov. Pownall hosted a conference of New England Governors in Boston, without Loudoun, to discuss how the colonies would respond to the French threat.  Outraged that this conference happened without his approval, Loudoun summoned colonial representatives to Hartford to lay down the law and inform them of what he expected of them for the 1758 fighting season.  He gave each colony enlistment quotas for militia, though the colonies made clear they might not meet them.  Tension between Loudoun and colonial leaders was reaching a breaking point.

The British Regroup, Again

The political chaos in America was matched by political chaos in Britain.  Back in London, the Ministry grew increasingly frustrated with the lack of success in America.  Prime Minister Newcastle and Secretary of War Fox had their hands full with an all-out war in Europe.  France was threatening German States, including the King’s Hanover.  French forces were even building up along the coast, threatening a possible cross-channel invasion of England.  The French destroyed a large British fleet in the Mediterranean trying to relieve the British post at Minorca (which also fell).  With nothing to show for their efforts, both Fox and Newcastle had resigned from government in late 1756.

Enter William Pitt

Despite the failures of Fox and Newcastle, there was no obvious alternative to their leadership. William Pitt, a fellow Whig, had been the main voice of opposition.  The King still did not like Pitt much.  Pitt’s close relationship with the Prince of Wales remained a sticking point. More than that, Pitt had continually attacked government policies, regularly savaging Newcastle in the House of Commons.  Despite all this, the King decided to give Pitt a chance.  By putting Pitt in charge of the war effort, I think the King thought either he will do well and Britain will benefit, or he will fail and we can be rid of this pain in the neck.
William Pitt
By Richard Brompton
(from Wikipedia)

The King decided to put Pitt in charge of the war, but did not want to make him Prime Minister.  That position went to William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire.  Don’t worry, you won’t have to remember that name.  Although Devonshire served as Prime Minister for about a year, he was pretty much a nonentity.  Pitt became the real power in his position as Secretary of State for the Southern Department, which covered matters in the American colonies.

Not one for modesty, Pitt commented "My Lord, I am sure I can save this country, and no one else can."  Pitt proposed a massive build up of both the army and navy, enough to protect Hanover for the King, increase the forces in America, and develop a home army to protect against a potential British invasion.

Despite his efforts, Pitt never really found favor with the King.  After a few months, in April 1757, the King dismissed Pitt, without even finding a replacement.  After flailing around for several months of inaction, Pitt and Newcastle were able to make nice with one another.  The King appointed Newcastle as Lord of the Treasury and Prime Minister again.  Pitt returned to Secretary of the Southern Department again in June.  Essentially, Newcastle would control the money and Pitt would control war strategy.

Fox ended up getting stuck in a job as paymaster general, with little power but which greatly enriched him personally.  He seemed happy with that.  Fox’s patron, The Duke of Cumberland, who remember is also the King’s son, headed to Germany to lead an army, planning to come back with greater glory and a restoration of his men to real power.

Battle of Hastenbeck, scene of the Duke of Cumberland's loss
(Source Wikipedia)
The fortunes of war, however, can be fickle.  Facing a superior French force, Cumberland did poorly in Germany.  Tasked with defending Hanover for the King, Cumberland was forced to negotiate a surrender that led to his army being disbanded and the surrender of much of Hanover to the French.  Upon his return to England, the King remarked:  "Here is my son who has ruined me and disgraced himself."  Cumberland resigned all of his military and public offices and retired from public life in September 1757.  This completely changed the political dynamic in England, giving Pitt much more political capital to fight the war as he saw fit.  So, although he had been in the ministry for more than a year, it was not until the fall of 1757 that Pitt really had most of the political impediments out of his way to prosecute the war as he wanted.

So most of 1757 was political chaos in London with no unified strategy to fight the war either in America or Europe.  By the end of the year though, Pitt had the necessary political support to make real strategic changes that would turn around England’s fortunes of war.  A big part of his plan was a renewed emphasis on North America.

Next week: William Pitt implements a new plan to win the war, and finds a way to work with the colonies.

Next Episode 10: New British Strategy & Fort Carillon

Previous Episode 8: Surrender of Fort Oswego

Visit the American Revolution Podcast (

Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account.

You may also donate via VenmoZelle, or popmoney (send to

Click here to see my Patreon Page
You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option for people who want to make monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.

An alternative to Patreon is SubscribeStar.  For anyone who has problems with Patreon, you can get the same benefits by subscribing at SubscribeStar.

Click here to go to my SubscribeStar Page

Further Reading


Massacre of Misunderstanding: Fort William Henry, 1757: htttp:// military-history/massacre-of-misunderstanding-fort-william-henry-1757

The “Massacre” at Fort William Henry, by David Starbuck:

Robert Rogers:

Lt. Col. George Monro:

William Pitt, the Elder

William Cavendish 4th Duke of Devonshire:

Free eBooks:
(from unless noted)

Documents relative to the colonial history of the state of New York, Vol. 10 by John Brodhead (1853).

The Fall of New France, 1755-1760, by Gerald E. Hart, (1888).

The History of Canada, Vol. 3, by William Kingsford (1887).

An Historical Journal of the Campaigns in North America for the Years 1757, 1758, 1759, and 1760, Vol 1, Vol. 2, & Vol. 3, by John Knox (1914).

General orders of 1757, by Phineas Lyman (1899).

England In The Age Of The American Revolution, by J.B. Namier (1930).

Montcalm and Wolfe, Vol. 1, by Francis Parkman (1885).

Memoir Upon the Late War in North America, Between the French and English, 1755-60, by Pierre Pouchot, Vol. 1, & Vol. 2 (1866).

The Administration of the British Colonies, by Thomas Pownall (1777)

The Life of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, Vol 1, by Basil Williams, (1915).

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Anderson, Fred Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766, Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

Brumwell, Stephen Redcoats: The British Soldier and War in the Americas 1755-1763, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002.

Castle, Ian Fort William Henry 1755–57: A battle, two sieges and bloody massacre, Osprey Publishing, 2013.

Fowler, Willam F. Jr. Empires at War: The French and Indian War and the Struggle for North America, 1754-1763, Walker Books, 2005.

Hughes, Ben The Siege of Fort William Henry: A Year on the Northeastern Frontier, Westholme Publishing, 2011.

Jennings, Francis Empire Of Fortune: Crowns, Colonies & Tribes in the Seven Years War in America, W.W. Norton & Co. 1988.

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.