Near Lake George - 8 September 1755
Sir William Johnson withdrew his motley force of militia back to his fortified camp on the banks of Lake George. Baron Dieskau had given his scouting party a thrashing in the early morning hours and his men were in no mood for a fight, especially the handful of Mohawks who were still in camp. Fortunately, their position was strong, with a cleared field of fire in front of hastily built fortifications of stones, earth, logs, and a few fences. He also had artillery. Granted only a 3-pounder, but the French lacked even that.
The Baron was anxious to follow-up his advantage of the morning, but his force consisted of only 1/3 dependable regulars. The militia and Abenakis were, like Johnson’s troops, unwilling after having suffered severely in the ambush, especially amongst their leaders. Dieskau berated the militia and cajoled the natives. All agreed to accompany the regulars but only grudgingly.
At the edge of the cleared space the Baron deployed his men. The Grenadiers La Reine and Captain Bouchard’s company (Languedoc) on the right of the track from Fort Edward. On the left were Captain LaMotte and Captain Barbourg’s companies of Languedoc. Behind, supposed to support the advance, were four companies of militia and three bands of Abenakis.
Johnson had the cannon plus eight companies of militia and a small band of Mohawks. He had formed them in depth, three ranks behind the works. However, the Mohawks would spend the entire battle hunkered down in a small copse of trees near the lake’s bateaux landing.
Father Champagne conducted a brief service and then Dieskau ordered his men forward. British fire ripped into the neatly dressed lines of the regulars as soon as they emerged from the woods. The natives and the Canadians could not be made to leave the relative safety of the trees, though they could be persuaded to take random shots at the British.
The regulars paused halfway along to deliver measured volleys. In the exchange Johnson’s second in command, Colonel Lyman, was mortally wounded and Captain White of the Massachusetts militia wounded and carried from the field. However, the canister and musketry caused three of the four French companies to falter. Only LaMotte’s continued on, Father Champagne and Baron Dieskau encouraging them.
Over the works went the 2nd company Languedoc, skewering the 1st Connecticut militia with their bayonets. Encouraged by seeing the white uniforms cresting the works a few of the Canadians and Abenakis moved forward.
Johnson’s right now collapsed as Abenakis and Sgt Brissac’s Montreal company added their weight to LaMotte. The Mohawk’s led the run to canoe and bateaux. Johnson’s left, encouraged when Captain Corne was struck in the breast by a ball but then saved by his pocket testament, held a bit longer but, in the end, was also forced to relinquish the field.
Laughing Wolf was killed by one of the last shots as the British retired and the lamentations for his loss carried well into the night. Captain Bouchard, whose company routed ignominiously, was later (that December) sent by Baron Dieskau to establish a camp on Hudson’s Lake.
Dieskau’s total losses were 78 French regulars and 21 Abenakis. Crushed by defeat, Johnson left 113 casualties on the field and took 22 slightly wounded with him to the boats. The British also lost their cannon.
A fictional battle based (loosely) on the Rossbach campaign. With (loosely) the same result.
The battlefield was selected, a few small hills dotting a flat plain of neat fields. Only one copse of trees. On the edge of a rocky outcrop, was significant enough to impede movement.
The Prussian army, sixteen 12-figure battalions, arrayed along one edge. Their serried ranks were broken only by four minor gaps for the battalion guns and a single 6-pounder battery. Opposite, the French deployed as well in a long double-line, with one “extra” battalion. Likewise, they had three battalion guns and a single six-pounder battery. Two battalions, the Garde Francaises, were big, 16 figures strong.
Purposefully, resolutely, the four lines, two on either side, were marched forward. The Prussians, being better trained, advanced slightly further, managing to reach the only significant terrain feature before the French – the small rocky outcrop and its copse, theatrically dubbed the Bois de Belleau – on the Prussian right flank.
Battle was joined, as these things are wont to do, by the artillery popping away before the muskets could be brought in range. Also, as usually happens, the infantry shrugged off the few hits and trudged closer, where the execution truly began.
On the Prussian left, where the best of both armies faced each other, the French took the worst from the start. Poor morale throws sent the front line scurrying back and then the pressure of the well-drilled Prussian musketry laid heaps of tick marks on the casualty papers. The morale of the French second line held but the pressure was immense – with the Garde and Grenadiers taking an aggregate 27 hits!
In the center, the French 6-pounder helped to keep things even for a while. But the Prince Henry fusiliers, aided by the untimely withdrawal of 1st Belzunce, managed to provide just enough weight to cause the collapse of the French Brigade de Rochefort. With the destruction of 1st Briqueville (9 hits out of 12) the brigade failed its morale and ended the game, after the 6th turn.
The Prussian right was a scene not often played out on the table for the period. Formed troops – Regiment von Bevern and Regiment von Wied - edged their way through the Bois de Belleau! As they tramped through, they engaged Regiment La Roche. In the end the two on one was too much for the battalion of French, though their place was filled by the Royal Italians.
Regiment von Markgraf Karl successfully held the far flank against a turning maneuver by the Battalions Bulkeley and Clare of the Royal Irish Brigade. The Irish fumbled about when, failing to maintain their fire discipline, although their battalion guns did fearful execution, having hand-pushed themselves to keep pace and blasting away at a bare 75 yards.
With the center caved and the right (Garde Francais and Grenadiers) shattered, the French beat a retreat. French losses totaled 60; while the Prussians lost 43. Not as decisive as the historical battle of Rossbach but clearly a victory for the blue-coated figures representing Frederick the Great’s vaunted machine.
I have, Your Majesty, the honor to report a sharp action outside Corbach Friday last.
The Prince of Kesse-Kassel attempted to turn the flank of Your Majesty’s army. The attempt was manfully repulsed by the eleven battalions under my immediate command.
The enemy came boldly forward with Griffen’s Brigade on their left and Von Bischausen’s on their right. I advanced to battle with Brigadier du Skim-mer on my right, my own brigade under Brigadier du Blind in the center and Brigadier du Caq on the left. I deployed our six-pounder battery in the center.
While Griffen came on directly; Von Bischausen paled at the regular blasts from our six-pounders and sidestepped to our left, threatening du Caq’s small brigade with his five. Du Blind was ordered to support du Caq and did this smartly by advancing the Second Battalion Grenadiers Chantilly and the Royal Italians into the gap, held only by a two-gun six pounder section and a similar section of 3-pounders.
Du Skim-mer, supported by both battalions of Regiment Belzunce from du Blind’s brigade, engaged Griffen in the center of the field. Here, under intense musketry from the Hessians both First Belzunce and First Couronne retreated in some disorder. However the second battalions moved forward to take their places and cause fearful casualties on the Hessian front line.
On our left, Von Bischausen engaged du Caq, a quarter hour later, due to the Hessian maneuver to avoid our guns. Regiment Briqueville (both battalions) blunted the assault, forcing both Battalion Von Toll and the Lieb Battalion to withdraw in disorder. They then advanced to engage the enemy’s second line, which had been thrown into disorder as well, Battalion Prinz Isenberg and Battalion Prinz Ferdinand.
While the musketry battles were underway 2nd Chantilly made to charge the Hessian medium guns. These guns were rather ineffective most of the afternoon, firing their canister high. However, at the instant the Grenadiers were about to change from L’Advance to the Pas de Charge, a single canister ball struck both Major du Stunn and Captain Erg. This sudden loss of command created a hesitancy in the grenadiers which halted their advance. By the time command had been reestablished (I sent Captain En Gorge from my staff to take control) the enemy was retiring.
Von Bischausen led valiantly from the front, rallying and blandishing. The situation became critical when First Briqueville retired. Du Caq brought forward the first battalion of Regiment La Roche and stabilized the line. When the Battalion Prinz Isenberg retired, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. The Royal Italians, who had been deployed to support Du Caq was suffering from a lack of resolute leadership; it’s colonel and major having been taken by the flux the day before.
Du Skim-mer won the day. His brigade had been taking and causing incredible damage with Griffen. Despite his battalions wavering, the enemy suffered equally. When our six-pounder battery swung to engage Griffen’s left that tipped the balance from the edge. Both the Garde Grenadiers and the Battalion Manbach were forced to retire. I watched the proud grenadiers crumble, their ranks reduced by two-thirds, when first one mustached sergeant and the one private after another lost confidence and stumbled to the rear.
With both battalions in retreat Griffen could not hold the others, battered as they were by Du Skim-mer’s regular volleys. Making the best of his situation Griffen, who had fought strongly and skillfully, ordered his men to retire on the British main body. Von Bischausen was required to follow suit.
My command, in total, suffered 987 killed and wounded; half in Brigadier Du Skim-mer’s command, attesting to the ferociousness of his engagement. I am told, by an officer of the Hessians with whom my ADC negotiated a convention for the wounded and dead, that the Hessians suffered similarly. He giving their losses at 1010.
I am, Majesty, your obedient servant
Marechal De Broglie
Diatribes are simply often humorous recountings of the games played by the Long Island Irregulars. We play with toy soldiers and are unabashedly happy to have never lost this part of our childhoods..