The Conquest

The French Take Fort William Henry

A Strong Move

The French did not remain idle. As soon as the 1756 campaign was over, Governor General Vaudreuil set himself the objective of taking Fort William Henry (Fort George, to the French), on Lake George. This would prevent an attack against forts Carillon (Ticonderoga for the English) and Saint-Frédéric.

In August 1757, Montcalm left Montreal to lay siege to Fort William Henry with a powerful corps of 6,000 soldiers and militiamen accompanied by 1,600 Amerindians, to place the British on the defensive. On August 6, after only three days of shelling, Lieutenant-Colonel George Monro, commander of the fort, surrendered. Montcalm granted the honours of war to the garrison of 2,500 men, allowing them to withdraw, with flags, guns and baggage, if they promised not to fight for 18 months. But this arrangement failed to give due regard to their Amerindian allies. Frustrated by their inability to obtain any booty or capture prisoners, they attacked the Anglo-American soldiers as they withdrew, killing several and taking approximately 600 captive. The French officers, including Montcalm, intervened and were able to free about 400 men. Vaudreuil was later to purchase a large number of them. But some were killed, others tortured, and a few of those killed even eaten. Outraged, the British staff refused to recognize the conditions of surrender and decided to no longer grant the honours of war to French troops. The surrender of Fort William Henry was nevertheless a harsh blow to the British, and it prevented them from effecting any operations south of Montreal for the remainder of the year.