Fort Oswego

Bradstreet had gained laurels at Louisburg eleven years before, and had been made lieutenant-governor of St. Johns, Newfoundland. Knowing his worth, Shirley had called him into active military service, and sent him from Albany, with a competent force, to provision the garrison at Oswego. With two hundred provincial troops and forty companies of boatmen, he crossed the country by way of the Mohawk River, Wood Creek, Oneida Lake and the Oswego River, and placed in the fort at Oswego provisions for five thousand troops for six months. He was accompanied by Captain (afterward General) Schuyler, as commissary.

Bradstreet had observed that his descent of the Oswego River had been watched by French and Indian scouts. He had gone only nine miles up that stream on his return, when he was attacked by a strong party of French regulars, Canadians and Indians. The provincials drove some of them from an island in the river, and there Bradstreet made a defensive stand. One of the Canadians, too badly wounded to fly with his companions, remained, and a boatman was about to dispatch him, when young Schuyler saved his life. Soon afterward Bradstreet abandoned the island and drove the assailants back into the forest. Owing to accident, there was only one bateau left at the island when the colonel ordered his men away. It was hardly sufficient to carry the commander and the little party with him. The wounded Canadian begged to be taken in, but he was refused. "Then throw me into the river," he cried, "and not leave me here to perish with hunger and thirst." The heart of Captain Schuyler was touched by the poor fellow's appeal, and handling his weapons and coat to a companion-in-arms, he bore the wounded man to the water, swam with him across the deep channel, and placed him in the hands of a surgeon. The soldier survived; and nineteen years afterward, when Schuyler, at the head of the northern army of the Revolution, sent a proclamation in the French language into Canada inviting the inhabitants to join the patriots, that soldier, living near Chamblee, enlisted under the banner of Ethan Allen, that he might see and thank the preserver of his life. He went to Schuyler's tent, on the Isle aux Noix, and kissed the general's hand in token of his gratitude.

After a sharp fight in the forest near the Oswego River, Bradstreet dispersed his motley foe, and hastened to Albany with the startling news just mentioned. Meanwhile the more active French had been preparing for an attack on Oswego. So early as March, three hundred Frenchmen, led by Indian guides, had made their way on snow-shoes along the bases of the Adirondack Mountains, on the north and west, to the vicinity of Oneida Lake, destroyed a small English stockade there, called Fort Bull, and returned with thirty prisoners. Late in May, eight hundred men under De Villiers, pushed forward to Sandy Creek, at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, and from that party went the detachment that assailed Bradstreet. At about the same time, Field Marshal the Marquis de Montcalm arrived at Quebec as governor-general and commander-in-chief. He was small in stature, but very energetic in mind and body. He instantly surveyed the field of his future operations. By journeying night and day, he penetrated to Ticonderoga, where the French had built Fort Carillon. He saw the value of that position, as well as Crown Point, and hastening back to Quebec, he prepared an expedition, secretly, against Oswego. At the head of three regiments, he ascended the St. Lawrence to Fort Frontenac, and was joined at Montreal by a large body of Canadians and Indians. With this force, about five thousand in number, he crossed the lake in bateaux and canoes, and anchored in what is now Sackett's Harbor, early in August.

Fort Oswego, on the west side of the river, was a strong work. Fort Ontario, on the east side, was weaker, and was considered an outpost to the other. Against Ontario, Montcalm led his forces. Behind Four-Mile Point, a long wooded cape eastward of Oswego, he landed his troops, unobserved by the English scouts, and was in full march through the woods before he was discovered. Colonel Mercer, the commander of the little garrison of one thousand men, at Ontario, prepared to receive the foe, who invested the fort in full force, with thirty pieces of cannon, some of which had been taken from Braddock the year before. Finding sharp resistance, Montcalm began a regular siege, and on the 14th of August, when he was about to storm the works, Colonel Mercer, who saw that further resistance would be useless, agreed to surrender the post to the French. One hundred and twenty pieces of artillery, six vessels of war, three chests of coin and a large quantity of ammunition and stores, were the spoils of victory. To allay the jealousy of the Six Nations, Montcalm destroyed both forts; and the priests who accompanied him erected a cross, on which they placed the words, "THIS IS THE BANNER OF VICTORY." Close by it they raised a wooden column, on which was placed the arms of France and the inscription: "BRING LILIES WITH FULL HANDS." Then Montcalm descended the St. Lawrence, with his prisoners, and sent the captured English flags to decorate the churches of Montreal and Quebec. The destruction of the forts at Oswego was an admirable stroke of policy on the part of the French commander. It pleased the Indians, and, as he hoped, caused them to assume a position of neutrality toward the belligerents. French emissaries soon seduced the Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas from the British interest.

Loudon arrived just in time to hear of the loss of Oswego, as the first military news that reached him. He congratulated the country because of its escape from greater disasters. "If the attack had been made on the provincials alone," he said, "it would have been followed with fatal consequences." He would not allow any merit in the character of a provincial soldier. For them he had nothing but contemptuous words. Notwithstanding the provincials had saved the remnant of Braddock's army, in spite of the cowardice of the regulars and the obstinacy of their general; had conquered Acadia; defeated Dieskau, and had performed nearly all of the really useful military service against the French, he praised the British regulars and disparaged the Americans. Pleading the danger of another attack from the French, in greater force, as an excuse for his imbecility, he left the enemy to build a stronger work at Ticonderoga, dismissed the provincials to their homes, and placed the regulars in winter-quarters.

Under his instructions, Lord Loudon demanded of the city of New York, free quarters for himself, his officers, and a thousand men. "Your demand is contrary to the laws of England and the liberties of America," said the mayor of the city. "Free quarters are everywhere usual; I assert it on my honor, which is the highest evidence you can require," answered the haughty earl. The mayor was firm, and Loudon determined to make New York an example for the rest of the continent. When the citizens, by the lips of the mayor, pleaded their rights as Englishmen, his lordship, with a vulgar oath, said to the magistrate: "If you don't billet my officers upon free quarters, this day, I'll order here all the troops under my command, and billet them myself upon the city." A subscription for the purpose was raised, the officers were billeted on the city, and Loudon won his first victory. A similar contest, with a similar result, occurred in Philadelphia, and there Loudon won his second victory.

In the meantime the provincials had won a substantial victory on the Alleghany River, in Pennsylvania. We have observed that Dr. Franklin had superintended the construction of a chain of small posts along the Pennsylvania frontier, from the Delaware to the borders of Maryland, as a defence against hostile Indians. But the Indians continued to harass the remote settlements, until, on the borders of Pennsylvania and Virginia, almost a thousand white persons had perished, and much property had been plundered or destroyed. Franklin was satisfied that he was not in his right place, and abandoned military life forever. Colonel John Armstrong, of Pennsylvania, took his position, and with three hundred men, accompanied by Captain Mercer of Virginia, he proceeded, in the night of the 7th of September, 1756, to chastise the hostile Delawares at Kittaning, one of their principal villages (now in Armstrong county), within thirty-five miles of Fort Duquesne. Stealthily, Armstrong and his followers passed the Alleghany Mountains and took post not far from Kittaning, at midnight, when the Indians were sleeping without a dream of danger near. It was a warm night, and some were reposing in the open air on the outskirts. Upon them the provincials came at dawn. The Indians sprang to their feet, gave the war-whoop, and flew to the village, closely pursued by the provincials, who killed many of their chiefs and utterly destroyed the town. Not a vestige of a dwelling was left. The chastisement was effectual. It inspired the Delawares with such fear of the white man, that they were completely humbled, and the frontier had peace. So ended the campaign of 1756. The chief results of that campaign were a gain of strength and territory by the French; two victories in battle over the common foe by the provincials, and the bloodless conquest of the unarmed English cities of New York and Philadelphia by Lord Loudon and his British regulars, the spoils of his victories being free food and lodging for a few months and the contempt of the people. Fifteen hundred volunteers and drafted militia, under Colonel Washington, were placed in stockades during the ensuring winter, for the defence of the frontiers of Pennsylvania and Virginia; and on the western borders of the Carolinas, several military posts were established as a protection against the Cherokees and Creeks, and their neighbors, among whom French emissaries were at work.

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