The Battle of Carillon, or the 1758 Battle of Ticonderoga
July 8, 1758
Fort Ticonderoga or Carillon
The Battle of Carillon, also known as the 1758 Battle of Ticonderoga, was fought July 8, 1758, during the French and Indian War (which was part of the global Seven Years’ War). It was fought near Fort Carillon (now known as Fort Ticonderoga) on the shore of Lake Champlain in the frontier area between the British colony of New York and the French colony of New France.
The British and their colonists in New England had long been troubled by French and their native allies attacking the ever-expanding frontier settlements. Many of these attacks generated from the French stronghold of Fort St. Frederic (now Crown Point) on the western shore of Lake Champlain. That fort secured French control of the lake.
In 1755 the French began construction of Fort Carillon to protect the portage along the LaChute River between Lakes George and Champlain. It was from Fort Carillon that the French , under General Montcalm, staged their successful attack and siege of Fort William Henry in 1757. The fall of William Henry, and the later massacre of its surrendered defenders and civilians, left both lakes in the hands of the French.
A Massive British Army Attacks
British troops preparing to sail north before the Battle of Carillon
On July 5, 1758 a massive British army sailed north down Lake George to attack Carillon and Fort St. Frederic.The force consisted of 6,000 British regulars and 12,000 provincial troops, including militia, rangers and native allies. It is said that the fleet transporting the army was three columns wide and three miles long as they rowed up Lake George.
The army made landfall at the north end of Lake George on July 6 with minimal casualties, except for the loss of General Howe, who was beloved by his troops and probably the best field commander in the British army.
The Battle of Carillon
Troops of The Black Watch storming the breastworks at the Battle of Carillon
The battle mostly took place on a rise about 3/4 mile from the fort. The French army of about 3,600 men under General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm and the Chevalier de Levis decisively defeated the overwhelmingly numerically superior force of 18,000 British troops under General James Abercrombie.
The British frontal assault of an entrenched French position without using field artillery left the British and their allies vulnerable and allowed the French to win a decisive victory. It was the bloodiest battle in the American theater of this war, with about 400 French and more than 2,500 British casualties.
Many military historians have cited the Battle of Carillon as a classic example of tactical military incompetence. Abercrombie, confident of a quick victory, ignored several military options, such as: flanking the French breastworks, waiting for his artillery, or laying siege to the fort. Instead, he decided instead on a direct frontal assault of the entrenched French position without the benefit of artillery.
The Importance of the Battle of Carillon
French troops cheering General Montcalm after the Battle of Carillon
British forces, expecting an easy victory, thought the capture of Carillon would lead in turn to the capture of the more strategic and important Fort St. Frederic (Fort Crown Point), and ultimately mastery of Lake Champlain. The staggering defeat forced them to retreat back up Lake George to the ruins of Fort William Henry and ultimately to Fort Edward.
The battle ended the military career of General Abercromby, and bolstered the status of General Montcalm, who was to die next year on the Plains of Abraham, defending Quebec from British assault.
The fort was abandoned by the French the following year, and it has since been known as Fort Ticonderoga (after its location). This battle gave the fort a reputation for impregnability that had an effect on future military operations in the area. Despite several large-scale military movements through the area, in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolutionary War, this was the only major battle fought near the fort’s location.