Warren County Historical Society Presents …

The Digital Version “REWIND”

March 1, 2018






Massacre at Fort William Henry



     In early August of 1757 during the French and Indian War, the fort on the south shore of Lake George, Fort William Henry, was besieged by the French under the command of General Montcalm.  The fighting for the fort went on for days.  The destruction of many cannons and the injury to many defenders of the fort made it clear to the British that further efforts to defend it would be in vain.  


     The British made terms of surrender with the French on August 9, 1757.  The British realized that the terms of surrender were extremely generous, so they accepted the terms quickly.  The British army and the other people in the fort immediately fell into French custody.  These included many women, children, servants and slaves  


     The terms of surrender stated that the British forces would be allowed to return home, be allowed to keep all personal items in their possession, and they would be paraded around nearby towns in a way that wasn’t degrading, but more honored.       It also stated that the garrison would be withdrawn to Fort Edward with specific terms that the French military would protect the British citizens from the Indians.

     Many of these terms of surrender, however, went against the ideas of the Native Americans that were fighting with the French soldiers.  During the French and Indian War, the French were allied with various Native American tribes.  These tribes were promised many spoils of war in exchange for their help.  Problems began to arise when the Native Americans were told they were not allowed to take clothing, weapons, or personal belongings from any of the English prisoners.  



     This infuriated Montcalm’s Native American forces who experienced heavy losses during the siege of Fort William Henry, and they felt betrayed by the French who initially promised them such items.  These tension between the Native Americans and the French would lead to the massacre at Fort William Henry.


     The Massacre began once the British prisoners were marched out of the fort and nearby camp and were on the road heading towards Fort Edward.  At the very back of the British army, those who were just leaving the camp were surprised when the Native Americans rushed into the fort and began to rob the English prisoners.  


     Articles of clothing, weapons, and other valuables were all taken by the Native Americans and afterwards, the Native Americans began to take English prisoners.  It wasn’t long when this escalated to the murder of many English soldiers.


     After witnessing what was happening in the this the front of marching army began to scatter and run off randomly to escape the fate met by those behind them.  Many of these soldiers fleeing for their lives were captured, but thirty of them were able make their way to Fort Edward and were able to tell their story of the incident.


     The enraged Native Americans killed and scalped many soldiers.  The took the women, children, servants and slaves as prisoners.  The slaughtered the sick and wounded.  Early accounts of the events called it a massacre and implied that as many as 1,500 people were killed, although it is unlikely that more than 200 were actually killed in the massacre.

     The death or capture of many of these English soldiers created disarray among family members and caused more distrust between the Native Americans and the French.

     Many of the prisoners that were captured would be dressed as Native Americans so that the French wouldn’t be able to find them prisoners, increasing the time it would take to get these prisoners from the natives. Some tribes which resided near Montreal were revealed to have had 200 prisoners that were captured from the Massacre at Fort William Henry.








This article was prepared by Ethan Snowball, a junior at Queensbury High School for the Warren County Historical Society.  Photos are courtesy of Google Images.


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