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.
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..