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Or The Winning of a Continent

BY G. A. HENTY [1894]

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Chapter 13
An Abortive Attack

Vocabulary 1:  corps, invalids, Rigaud, tarpaulins, Vaudreuil

1. Three weeks passed. James kept his men steadily at work, and even the scouts allowed that they made great progress. Sometimes they went out in two parties, with an officer and a scout to each, and their pouches filled with blank cartridge. Each would do its best to surprise the other; and, when they met, a mimic fight would take place, the men sheltering behind trees, and firing only when they obtained a glimpse of an adversary.

2. "I did not think that these pipe-clayed soldiers could have been so spry," Nat said to James. "They have picked up wonderfully, and I wouldn't mind going into an Indian fight with them. They are improving with their muskets. Their shooting yesterday wasn't bad, by no means.  In three months' time, they will be as good a lot to handle as any of the companies of scouts."

3. Besides the daily exercises, the company did scouting work at night, ten men being out, by turns, in the woods bordering the lake. At one o'clock in the morning, on the 19th of March, Nat came into the officers' tent.

4. "Captain," he said, "get up. There's something afoot."

5. "What is it, Nat?" James asked, as he threw off his rugs.

6. "It's the French, at least I don't see who else it can be. It was my turn tonight to go round and look after our sentries. When I came to Jim Bryan, who was stationed just at the edge of the lake, I said to him, 'Anything new, Jim?' and he says, 'Yes; seems to me as I can hear a hammering in the woods.' I listens, and sure enough axes were going.  It may be some three miles down. The night is still, and the ice brought the sound.

7. "'That's one for you, Jim,' says I. 'Them's axes sure enough.' I stands and looks, and then a long way down the lake on the left I sees a faint glare. They had had the sense to light the fires where we couldn't see them; but there were the lights, sure enough. It's the French, captain, the redskins would never have made fires like that, and if it had been a party of our scouts, they would have come on here, and not halted an hour's tramp away.

8. "You had best get the troops under arms, captain. Who would have thought they would have been such fools as to light their fires within sight of the fort!"

9. James at once went to Major Eyre's quarters, and aroused him, and in a few minutes the garrison were all under arms. Their strength, including James Walsham's corps, and some scouts of the company of John Stark, numbered three hundred and forty-six men, besides which there were a hundred and twenty-eight invalids in hospital.

10. Two hours passed, and then a confused sound, as of a great body of men moving on the ice, was heard. The ice was bare of snow, and nothing could be seen, but the cannon on the side facing the lake at once opened fire, with grape and round shot, in the direction of the sound.

11. After firing for a few minutes, they were silent. The sound on the ice could no longer be heard.

12. "They have taken to the woods," Nat, who had taken up his station next to James Walsham, said. "It ain't likely they would stop on the ice with the balls pounding it up."

13.  "Do you think they will attack before morning?" James asked.

14.  "It ain't likely," Nat replied. "They won't know the positions, and, such a dark night as this, they wouldn't be able to make out anything about them. If they could have come straight along the ice to the head of the lake here, they would have made a dash, no doubt; but now they find we ain't to be caught asleep, I expect they will wait till morning."

15.  Again the sound of axes was heard in the wood, and the glare of light appeared above the trees.

16. "There must be a tidy lot of 'em," Nat said.

17. "Do you think it will be any use to go out and try to surprise them?"

18.  "Not a bit, captain. They are sure to have a lot of redskins with them, and they will be lurking in the woods, in hopes that we may try such a move. No; we have got a strong position here, and can lick them three to one; but in the woods, except Stark's men, and perhaps yours, none of the others wouldn't be no good at all."

19.  Mayor Eyre, shortly afterwards, sent for James, who gave him the opinion of the scout, and the major then ordered the troops to get under shelter again, leaving Stark's men to act as sentries, for the night was bitterly cold.

20.  It was not until ten o'clock next day that the French appeared, and, surrounding the fort on all sides, except on that of the lake, opened heavy musketry fire upon it. They were a formidable body. Vaudreuil, the governor of Canada, had spared no pains to make the blow a successful one. The force had been assembled at Crown Point, and numbered sixteen hundred regulars, Canadians, and Indians. Everything needful for their comfort had been provided--overcoats, blankets, bear skins to sleep on, and tarpaulins to cover them. They had been provided with twelve days' provisions, which were placed on hand sledges and drawn by the troops.

21.  They marched, over the ice of Lake Champlain, down to Ticonderoga, where they rested a week, and constructed three hundred scaling ladders. Three days' further march, up Lake George, brought them to the English fort.

1.  What was the name of the man station at the edge of the lake?  ________________

2.  How many invalids were in the hospital?  ______________________

3.  Did Nat think the French would attack in the morning?  _____________________

4.  At what time did the French appear?  ______________________

Vocabulary 2:  commandant, contemptuously, fusillade, Le Mercier, lieutenant, parley, resinous

22.  The weak point of the expedition was its leader, for Vaudreuil, who was himself a Canadian, had the greatest jealousy of the French officers, and had entrusted the command of the expedition to his brother, Rigaud.

23.  The fire did no damage, as the garrison lay sheltered behind their entrenchments, replying occasionally whenever the enemy mustered in force, as if with an intention of attacking.

24.  "I don't think they mean business, this time, captain," Nat said in a tone of disgust. "Why, there are enough of them to eat us, if they could but make up their minds to come on. They don't suppose they are going to take William Henry by blazing a way at it half a mile off!"

25.  "Perhaps they are going to make a night attack," James said. "They will have learned all about the position of our works."

26.  "Maybe so," Nat replied; "but I don't think so. When chaps don't attack at once, when there are four or five to one, I reckon that they ain't likely to attack at all. They meant to surprise us, and they haven't, and it seems to me as it has taken all the heart out of them."

27.  As evening approached, the fire ceased. At nightfall, strong guards were placed round the entrenchments, and the troops retired to their quarters, ready to turn out at a minute's notice.

28.  About midnight they were called out. There was again a sound on the lake. The cannon at once opened, and, as before, all was silent again.

29.  "Look, Walsham, look!" Edwards exclaimed. "They have set fire to the sloops."

30.  As he spoke, a tongue of flame started up from one of the two vessels lying in the ice, close to the shore, and, almost simultaneously, flames shot up from among the boats drawn up on the beach.

31.  "That's redskin work," Nat exclaimed.

32.  "Come, lads," James cried, leaping down from the low earthwork into the ditch. "Let us save the boats, if we can."

33.  The scouts followed him and ran down to the shore; but the Indians had done their work well. The two sloops, and many of the boats, were well alight, and it was evident at once that, long before a hole could be broken through the ice, and buckets brought down from the fort, they would be beyond all hopes of saving them.

34.  The French, too, opened fire from the woods bordering the lake, and, as the light of the flames exposed his men to the enemy's marksmen, James at once called them back to the fort, and the sloops and boats burned themselves out.

35.  At noon, next day, the French filed out from the woods on to the ice, at a distance of over a mile.

36.  "What now?" Edwards exclaimed. "They surely don't mean to be fools enough to march across the ice to attack us in broad daylight."

37.  "It looks to me," James replied, "as if they wanted to make a full show of their force. See, there is a white flag, and a party are coming forward."

38.  An officer and several men advanced towards the fort, and Major Eyre sent out one of his officers, with an equal number of men, to meet them. There was a short parley when the parties came together, and then the French officer advanced towards the fort with the English, his followers remaining on the ice.

39.  On nearing the fort, the French officer, Le Mercier, chief of the Canadian artillery, was blindfolded, and led to the room where Major Eyre, with all the British officers, was awaiting him. The handkerchief was then removed from his eyes, and he announced to the commandant that he was the bearer of a message from the officer commanding the French force, who, being desirous of avoiding an effusion of blood, begged the English commander to abstain from resistance, which, against a force so superior to his own, could but be useless. He offered the most favourable terms, if he would surrender the place peaceably, but said that if he were driven to make an assault, his Indian allies would unquestionably massacre the whole garrison.

40. Major Eyre quietly replied that he intended to defend himself to the utmost.

41,  The envoy was again blindfolded. When he rejoined the French force, the latter at once advanced as if to attack the place, but soon halted, and, leaving the ice, opened a fusillade from the border of the woods, which they kept up for some hours, the garrison contemptuously abstaining from any reply.

42.  At night, the French were heard advancing again, the sound coming from all sides. The garrison stood to their arms, believing that this time the real attack was about to be made.

43.  Nearer and nearer came the sound, and the garrison, who could see nothing in the pitchy darkness, fired wherever they could hear a sound.  Presently a bright light burst up. The redskins, provided with bundles of resinous sticks, had crept up towards some buildings, consisting of several store houses, a hospital, and saw mill, and the huts and tents of the rangers, and, having placed their torches against them, set them on fire and instantly retreated. The garrison could do nothing to save the buildings, as their efforts, in the absence of water, must be unavailing, and they would have been shot down by the foe lying beyond the circle of light. They therefore remained lying behind the entrenchment, firing wherever they heard the slightest sound, and momentarily expecting an attack; but morning came without the French advancing, and the garrison were then able to give their whole attention to saving the buildings in the fort.

44.  Some great wood stacks had now ignited, and the burning embers fell thickly on the huts, and for some hours it was only by the greatest exertions that the troops were able to save the buildings from destruction. Every moment they expected to be attacked, for, had the French advanced, the huts must have been left to themselves, in which case the garrison would have found themselves shelterless, and all their provisions and stores would have been consumed; but before noon the danger was over, for not only had the fires begun to burn low, but a heavy snow storm set in. All day it continued.

45.  "Now would be the time for them to attack," James Walsham said to his lieutenant. "We can scarce see twenty yards away."

46.  "Now is their chance," Edwards agreed; "but I don't believe in their attacking. I can't think who they have got in command. He ought to be shot, a man with such a force as he has, hanging about here for four days when he could have carried the place, with a rush, any moment."

47.  "No, I don't think they will attack," James replied. "Men who will stop to light a fire to warm themselves, within sight of an enemy's fort they want to surprise, are not likely to venture out of shelter of their blankets in such a snow as this."

48.  All day and all night the snow came down, till the ground was covered to a depth of over three feet. Early on Tuesday morning, twenty volunteers of the French regulars made a bold attempt to burn a sloop building on the stocks, with several storehouses and other structures near the water, and some hundreds of boats and canoes which were ranged near them. They succeeded in firing the sloop, and some buildings, but
James, with his scouts, sallied out and forced them to retreat, with the loss of five of their number; and, by pulling down some of the huts, prevented the fire spreading.

5.  James thought the French might make a _________________ attack.

6.  What was the name of the French officer who led the parlay?  _________________

7.  How far could they see in the snow storm?  ______________________

8.  How deep was the snow?  ________________________

Vocabulary 3:  Aix la Chapelle, Bohemia, Candiac, chateau, Chevalier de Levis, Fort Frontenac, Marquis, Nimes, Oswego, Piacenza, plateau, prestige

49.  Next morning the sun rose brightly, and the white sheet of the lake was dotted with the French, in full retreat for Canada. Their total loss had been eleven killed and wounded, while, on the English side, seven men had been wounded, all slightly. Never was a worse conducted or more futile expedition.

50.  After this affair, the time passed slowly at Fort William Henry. Until the sun gained strength enough to melt the thick white covering of the earth, James practiced his men in the use of snowshoes, and, as soon as spring had fairly commenced, resumed the work of scouting. This was done only as an exercise, for there was no fear that, after such a humiliating failure, the French would, for some time to come, attempt another expedition against the fort.

51.  In the autumn of 1756, General Montcalm had come out from France to take the command of the French troops. Few of the superior officers of the French army cared to take the command, in a country where the work was hard and rough, and little glory was to be obtained. Therefore the minister of war was able, for once, to choose an officer fitted for the post, instead of being obliged, as usual, to fill up the appointment by a court favourite.

52.  The Marquis of Montcalm was born at the chateau of Candiac, near Nimes, on the 29th of February, 1712. At the age of fifteen, up to which time he had studied hard, he entered the army. Two years later he became a captain, and was first under fire at the siege of Philipsbourg. In 1736 he married Mademoiselle Du Boulay, who brought him influential connections and some property. In 1741 Montcalm took part in the campaign in Bohemia. Two years later he was made colonel, and passed unharmed through the severe campaign of 1744.

53.  In the following year he fought in the campaign in Italy, and, in 1746, was wounded at the disastrous action at Piacenza, where he twice rallied his regiment, received five sabre cuts, and was made prisoner.  He was soon liberated on parole, and was promoted, in the following year, to the rank of brigadier general, and, being exchanged for an officer of similar rank, rejoined the army, and was again wounded by a musket shot. Shortly afterwards the peace of Aix la Chapelle was signed, and Montcalm remained living quietly with his family, to whom he was tenderly attached, until informed, by the minister of war, that he had selected him to command the troops in North America, with the rank of major general. The Chevalier de Levis was appointed second in command.

54.  No sooner did Montcalm arrive in America, than difficulties arose between him and the Marquis de Vaudreuil, the governor, who had hoped to have himself received the appointment of commander of the French forces, and who, in virtue of his office, commanded the Canadian militia.

55.  From first to last this man opposed and thwarted Montcalm, doing all in his power to injure him, by reports to France in his disfavour. The misfortunes which befell France during the war were, in no slight degree, due to this divided authority, and to the obstacles thrown in the way of Montcalm by the governor.

56.  Montcalm's first blow against the English was struck in August, 1756, six months before the attack on Fort William Henry, which had been arranged by Vaudreuil. Three battalions of regular troops, with 700 Canadians and 250 Indians, with a strong force of artillery, were quietly concentrated at Fort Frontenac, and were intended for an attack
upon the important English post of Oswego. Fighting had been going on in this neighbourhood for some time, and it was from Oswego that Shirley had intended to act against Niagara and Frontenac. That enterprise had fallen through, owing to Shirley having been deprived of the command; but a sharp fight had taken place between Colonel Bradstreet and his armed boatmen, and 1100 French, who were beaten off.

57.  Oswego was a place of extreme importance. It was the only English post on Ontario, situated as it was towards the southwest corner of the lake. So long as it remained in their possession, it was a standing menace against the whole line of communications of the French with the south. Owing to gross neglect, the fort had never been placed in a really defensive condition. The garrison was small, and crippled with
the fever, which had carried off great numbers of them. The remainder were ill fed and discontented.

58.  On the 12th of August, the Earl of London sent Colonel Webb, with the 44th Regiment and some of Bradstreet's boatmen, to reinforce Oswego.  They should have started a month before, and, had they done so, would have been in time; but confusion and misunderstanding had arisen from a change in command. Webb had scarcely made half his march, when tidings of the disaster met him, and he at once fell back with the greatest precipitation.

59.  At midnight on the 10th, Montcalm had landed his force within half a league of the first English fort. Four cannon were at once landed, and a battery thrown up, and so careless of danger were the garrison, that it was not till the morning that the invaders were discovered. Two armed vessels at once sailed down to cannonade them; but their light guns were no match for the heavy artillery of the French, and they were forced to retire.

60.  The attack was commenced without delay. The Indians and Canadians, swarming in the forest round the fort, kept up a hot fire upon it. By nightfall the first parallel was marked out at 180 yards from the rampart.

61.  Fort Ontario, considered the strongest of the three forts at Oswego, stood on a high plateau on the right side of the river, where it entered the lake. It was in the shape of a star, and formed of a palisade of trunks of trees set upright in the ground, hewn flat on
both sides, and closely fitted together--an excellent defense against musketry, but worthless against artillery. The garrison of the fort, 370 in number, had eight small cannon and a mortar, with which, all next day, they kept up a brisk fire against the battery which the French were throwing up, and arming with twenty-six pieces of heavy

62.  Colonel Mercer, the commandant of Oswego, saw at once that the French artillery would, as soon as they opened fire, blow the stockade into pieces, and thinking it better to lose the fort, alone, than the fort and its garrison, he sent boats across the river after nightfall, and the garrison, having spiked their guns, and thrown their ammunition into the well, crossed the river, unperceived by the French.

63.  But Oswego was in no position for defense. Fort Pepperell stood on the mouth of the river, facing Fort Ontario. Towards the west and south the place was protected by an outer line of earthworks, mounted with cannon, but the side facing the river was wholly exposed, in the belief that Fort Ontario would prevent any attack in this direction.

64.  Montcalm lost no time. The next evening, his whole force set to work throwing up a battery, at the edge of the rising ground on which Fort Ontario stood, and, by daybreak, twenty heavy guns were in position, and at once opened fire. The grape and round shot swept the English position, smashing down the mud-built walls, crashing through the
stockades, and carrying destruction among the troops. The latter made a shelter of pork barrels, three high and three deep, and planted cannon behind them, and returned the enemy's fire; but the Canadians and Indians had crossed the river, by a ford two miles up, and soon opened fire from all sides.

65.  Colonel Mercer, who had bravely led his men, and inspired them by his example, was cut in two by a cannon shot, and the garrison were seized with despair. A council of officers was held, and the garrison surrendered as prisoners of war, to the number of sixteen hundred, which included sick, the sailors belonging to the shipping, labourers,
and upwards of a hundred women.

66.  Montcalm had the greatest difficulty in preventing the Indians, by means of threats, promises, and presents, from massacring the prisoners. Oswego was burned to the ground, the forts and vessels on the stocks destroyed, and, the place having been made a desert, the army returned with their prisoners and spoil to Montreal.

67.  The loss of Oswego had inflicted a very severe blow to the influence and prestige of England, among the Indians of the lake districts, but this was partly restored by the failure of the French expedition against William Henry, early in the following spring.

9.  How many English men were wound in the battle of Fort William Henry?  _________

10.  What was the name of the French General?  __________________________

11.  What was the date of Montcalm’s first attack against the English?  _____________

12.  About how many women were in the fort?  _______________________

Vocabulary 4:  Iowas, Menomonies, Miamis, Mississagas, Ojibwas, Pottawattamies, Winnebagoes, Ticonderoga

68.  The expedition against Louisbourg, to strengthen the western frontier which had been emptied of troops, proved a failure. A great delay had taken place at home, in consequence of ministerial changes, and it was not until the 5th of May that fifteen ships of the line and three frigates, under Admiral Holbourne, with 5000 troops on board, sailed from England for Halifax, where Loudon was to meet him with the forces from the colony. But, while the English fleet had been delaying, the French government had obtained information of its destination, and had sent three French squadrons across the Atlantic to Louisbourg.

69.  It was the 10th of July before the united English force assembled at Halifax, and there fresh delays arose. The troops, nearly twelve thousand in number, were landed, and weeks were spent in idle drill.

70.  At the beginning of August the forces were again embarked, when a sloop came in from Newfoundland, bringing letters which had been captured on board a French ship. From these, it appeared that there were twenty-two ships of the line, besides several frigates, in the harbour of Louisbourg, and that 7000 troops were in garrison, in what was by far the strongest fortress on the continent.

71.  Success was now impossible, and the enterprise was abandoned. Loudon, with his troops, sailed back to New York; and Admiral Holbourne, who had been joined by four additional ships, sailed for Louisbourg, in hopes that the French fleet would come out and fight him. He cruised for some time off the port, but Lamotte, the French admiral, would not come out.

72.  In September, a tremendous gale burst upon the British fleet: one ship was dashed on the rocks, a short distance from Louisbourg, and only a sudden shift of the wind saved the rest from a total destruction. Nine were dismasted, and others threw their cannon into the sea. Had Lamotte sailed out on the following day, the English fleet was at his mercy. Fortunately he did not do so, and Holbourne returned to England.

73.  The French in Canada were aware that Loudon had gathered all his troops at New York, and was preparing for an expedition, which was to be aided by a fleet from England; but, thinking it probable that it was directed against Quebec, the most vital point in Canada, since its occupation by the English would entirely cut the colony off from France, Montcalm was obliged to keep his forces in hand near that town, and was unable to take advantage of the unprotected state in which Loudon had left the frontier of the colonies.

74.  As soon, however, as, by despatch received from France, and by the statements of prisoners captured by the Indians on the frontier, Montcalm learned that the expedition, which had just left New York, was destined for Louisbourg, he was at liberty to utilize his army for the invasion of the defenseless colonies, and he determined to commence the
campaign by the capture of Fort William Henry.

75.  James Walsham, with his company of Royal Scouts, had spent the spring at Fort William Henry. Loudon had, at first, sent an order for the corps to be broken up, and the men to rejoin their respective regiments, and to accompany them on the expedition; but the earnest representations of Colonel Monro of the 35th Regiment, who was now in
command, of the total inadequacy of the garrison to defend itself, should a serious attack be made from Ticonderoga; and of the great value to him of the corps under Captain Walsham, which was now thoroughly trained in forest fighting, induced him to countermand the order.

76.  James was glad that he was not obliged to rejoin his regiment. The independent command was a pleasant one, and although life at Fort William Henry had, since the French repulse, been an uneventful one, there was plenty of fishing in the lake, and shooting in the woods, to vary the monotony of drill.

77.  He and Edwards were now both expert canoemen, and often ventured far down the lake, taking with them one or other of the scouts, and keeping a sharp lookout among the woods on either side for signs of the enemy.  Once or twice they were chased by Indian canoes, but always succeeded in distancing them.

78.  "The news has just come in that the expedition has sailed," James said as he one day, towards the end of July, entered the hut which he now occupied with Edwards; for the corps had long since been put under huts, these being better suited for the hot season than tents.

79.  "It is rather a nuisance," Edwards grumbled, "being kept here, instead of going and taking share in a big siege."

80.  "Don't be impatient, Edwards," James replied. "If I am not greatly mistaken, you will have quite as much fighting as you want here before long. Montcalm's sudden attack on Oswego last autumn showed that he is an enterprising general, and I have no doubt that, as soon as he learns that Loudon's expedition is not intended for Quebec, he will be beating us up on the frontier with a vengeance."

81.  Montcalm, indeed, had already prepared to strike a blow. A thousand Indians, lured by the prospect of gifts, scalps, and plunder, had come in from the west and north, and were encamped near Montreal; and, besides these, there were the Mission Indians, and those of the Five Nations who adhered to France.

82.  Early in July, the movement began. Day after day, fleets of boats and canoes rowed up Lake Champlain, and, towards the end of the month, the whole force was gathered at Ticonderoga. Here were now collected eight thousand men, of whom two thousand were Indians, representing forty-one tribes and sub-tribes: among them were Iroquois, Hurons, Nipissings, Abenakis, Algonkins, Micmacs, and Malecites. These were all nominal Christians, and counted eight hundred warriors. With them were the western Indians: Ojibwas, Mississagas, Pottawattamies, Menomonies, Sacs, Foxes, Winnebagoes, Miamis, and Iowas. These were still unconverted.

83.  The French held these savage allies in abhorrence. Their drunkenness, their turbulence, their contempt of all orders, their cruelty to their captives, and their cannibalism, disgusted and shocked Montcalm and his officers; but they were powerless to restrain them, for without them as scouts, guides, and eyes in the forests, the French could have done nothing, and, at the slightest remonstrance, the Indians were ready to take offense, and to march away to their distant homes.

84.  The letters of Montcalm and his officers, to their friends, were full of disgust at the doings of their savage allies, and of regret that they could not dispense with their services, or restrain their ferocity. Vaudreuil and the Canadians, on the other hand, accustomed to the traditions of savage warfare, made no attempt whatever to check the
ferocity of the Indians, and were, indeed, the instigators of the raids which the savages made upon the unprotected villages and settlements on the frontier; offered rewards for scalps, and wrote and talked gleefully of the horrible atrocities committed upon the colonists.

13.  On what date did the English force arrive at Halifax?  ____________________

14.  How man troops did the French have in Louisbourg?  ____________________

15.  James and Edwards were now expert _______________________

16.  Did Montcalm and his office like the way the Indians acted?  _________________

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