Slaughter at Sabbath Day Point

Last week during Emerging Revolutionary War’s annual getaway, we made our way north along the western shore of Lake George in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Our destination was Fort Ticonderoga. The group made a quick stop at a new historical marker placed near Sabbath Day Point (about twenty miles or so north of the lake’s southern shore), which explained the military activity the site witnessed during the French and Indian War. The area was a strategic landing spot along the western shore of the lake and was constantly being utilized by the British and their French adversary. One tragic event in particular transpired here during late July 1757.

Sabbath_Day_Point_Marker

Hague Historical Society Marker at Sabbath Day Point

The summer of 1757 was an active month for British and French operations along the Lake Champlain-Lake George-Hudson River corridor—one of the most significant water highway systems in North America. The French and their Indian allies, under the command of the Marquis de Montcalm and situated at Fort Carillon (Ticonderoga) to the north of Lake George, were preparing to launch a campaign to besiege and destroy Fort William Henry along the southern shore. Patrols in this area were constant as both sides attempted to collect intelligence on enemy movements, numbers, and logistics.

At Fort William Henry, Lt. Col. George Monro of the 35th Regiment of Foot was in command of the British garrison of 2,500 regulars and provincials. Throughout July, word from prisoners and escapees from Canada continued to come in that Montcalm was amassing a force of 8,000 French regulars, Canadians, and Indians to march on his position. Desiring more intelligence, Monro ordered Col. John Parker of the 1st New Jersey Regiment (the “Jersey Blues”) to conduct a reconnaissance north towards Carillon with 350 men from his own unit and some from the 1st New York Regiment. The mission was simple on paper: gather intelligence on the enemy and cause as much damage to him as possible to hamper any advance.

On July 23, Parker and his detachment sailed north from Fort William Henry in twenty-two whaleboats. For many of the men, they would never step foot on land again. Waiting in ambush for them near Sabbath Day Point were hundreds of Canadians and Indians. The French were prepared to oppose any patrols along the northern end of the lake.

After spending the night on an island south of Sabbath Day Point, the British reconnaissance force continued onward during the morning of July 24. Sources are conflicting in regard to what happened next, but three of the boats, either separated from the group or ordered forward as an advanced party, were attacked by the Indians at the point. The boats were pulled up along the shore to serve as a decoy to lead Parker’s men closer to land. When the rest of the British column came rowing towards the ambush site, the entire shoreline was set ablaze with musket fire.

The New Jerseyans’ and New Yorkers’ fates were sealed as the French Indians began to push their canoes into the water and encircle the panic-stricken detachment, cutting off their escape. Many of the British were shot dead or pulled into the lake as their boats were overturned. “The Indians jumped into the water and speared them like fish…,” recorded Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, Montcalm’s aide-de-camp, “The English, terrified by the shooting, the sight, the cries, and agility of these monsters, surrendered almost without firing a shot.” The fighting, which was most likely over in a matter of minutes, left over 100 of Parker’s force dead. Another 150 were taken prisoner and brought to the French camps outside of Fort Carillon. Col. Parker and the men onboard four of the whaleboats managed to escape the terror and reported back to Monro the following day.

Jersey_Blues

“Massacre at Sabbath Day Point” by Mark Churms

For the prisoners, the horrors of that day continued when they reached Carillon, dragged onshore by ropes tied around their necks. Along with the captured Jerseymen, the French allied Indians had also taken another prize—the detachment’s rum supply. In the Ottawa camp outside the fort, the drunken Indians performed a cannibal ritual, cooking and eating three of the prisoners. Father Pierre Roubaud, a Jesuit missionary with the Abenaki at Carillon, watched in horror as the Ottawa indulged in “large spoonfuls of this detestable broth… The saddest thing was that they had placed near them about ten Englishmen, to be spectators of their infamous repast.” Roubaud attempted to stop the horrid supper, but a young Ottawa refused and told him, “You have French taste; I have Indian. This is good meat for me.” Eventually, the wretched act ceased, and preparations were made for the prisoners to be transported to Montreal where they would be ransomed back to the British.

Nine days after the action at Sabbath Day Point, Father Roubaud returned to the site of the ambush as Montcalm’s army marched and rowed along the western shore on its way to capture Fort William Henry.  Seeing the dead of Parker’s command strewn about the trees and shoreline, the priest recalled, “Some were cut into pieces, and nearly all were mutilated in the most frightful manner.” This was the true nature of warfare in North America during the French and Indian War, and a tragic chapter in New Jersey’s colonial history.

 

 

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The Sons of Liberty in Kentucky

In Louisville, Kentucky, earlier this month, I paid a visit to the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum downtown. Across the street, I was pleasantly surprised to see a marvelous statue of a minuteman.

Sons of American Revolution Statue

The plaque on the back reads

Sons of Liberty—1775

To Honor the History
of
Philadelphia Continental Chapter
1901

Pennsylvania Society
Founded 1893

By its Compatriots
2009

The statue stands outside the headquarters of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. “Located along Main Street’s Museum Row in downtown Louisville,” the society’s website says, “the Sons of the American Revolution is the leading male lineage society that perpetuates the ideals of the war for independence.”

Sons of American Revolution Museum

The statue was publicly unveiled in November 2015. According to the Louisville Courier Journal, “The 800-pound, 8-foot high bronze statue of the Minuteman holding a musket rests upon 19,000 pounds of quarried Kentucky limestone, material specifically requested by the artist James Muir.”

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Using the King’s Highway to Trap a King’s Army

A few weeks ago, heading to the airport after the first Emerging Revolutionary War symposium, fellow ERW historian Rob Orrison made a pit stop in a residential neighborhood in Prince William County, Virginia.

To the average traveler to the Ronald Reagan International Washington National Airport this slight detour would not be normal. Yet, for two historians of early American history, these detours are rarely common.

This particular detour took us to a portion of the King’s Highway that has been preserved by the Prince William County Historic Preservation Division. Along this stretch soldiers in the French Army under Comte de Rocambeau and Continentals under General George Washington traversed on their way to Yorktown to entrap the British under General Lord Charles Cornwallis.

Thus, one king’s soldiers, King Louis XVI took a route named for monarch to assist rebels in trapping the ground forces of another king, that of Great Britain by using a road named for the British monarch. Interesting to think about the naming of the road in those terms.

Portions of this route are still preserved today, other sections have been modernized and blacktopped to be Route 1.

Below are a few photos I snapped, including the size 14 Nike shoe belonging to yours truly, re-enacting marching down the thoroughfare like the patriots of 1781.

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The Ring Fight and the Emergence of Andrew Pickens

While the Second Continental Congress met in the early summer of 1776, colonists in the far away backcountry of South Carolina faced a threat from a perennial foe, the Cherokees. While delegates debated a declaration of independence, war parties struck settlements between the Broad and Saluda Rivers in the Ninety Six District. In response to these raids, militia Major Andrew Williamson mustered his Ninety Six regiment. Augmented by militia from the Carolinas and Virginia, he commenced a campaign against the Cherokee villages along the eastern face of the Blue Ridge.

General Andrew Pickens of South Carolina

Williamson struck at Esseneca on August 1. The colonials sustained twenty casualties but forced the warriors to abandon the village. Over the course of the next week, Williamson moved further into enemy territory. Rather than engage his force, the Cherokees retreated before the advance. Williamson burned a number of towns including Oconee, Estatoe and Toxaway.

The regiment reached Tamassee on August 12. Once again, Williamson found the village abandoned. He decided to send out scouting parties to examine the nearby hills. One of the patrols was led by a company commander from the Long Canes region of South Carolina, Captain Andrew Pickens. He took with him about sixty men. To cover more ground, Pickens divided his group and continued on with thirty five militiamen.

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Symposium Recap

One week has passed since the first annual Emerging Revolutionary War symposium. Held in conjunction with Historic Alexandria, Virginia at the Lyceum, the theme was “Before they were Americans.”

With a day of lectures, keynoted by Dr. Peter Henriques, professor emeritus of George Mason University the topics ranged from the French and Indian War, to George Washington, to material culture, smallpox, and Boston on the Road to Revolution. The day ended with a panel of historians in a Q&A session.

Over 70 people attended and many joined members of Emerging Revolutionary War and Historic Alexandria at Gadsby’s Tavern, an 18th century tavern with a great connection to American history, including a a ballroom used by Washington to celebrate his birthdays!

Plans are already in motion for the second annual Emerging Revolutionary War symposium to be held in late September of 2020 back in Alexandria, Virginia. Stay tuned to this blog and our Facebook page for information as that day draws near.

In the meantime, check out some of the photos below, taken by ERW historian Rob Orrison, who along with Liz Williams of Historic Alexandria were the driving forces behind making this symposium possible. A big thank you to all who attended and we hope to see you next year!

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“I Have not Yet Begun to Fight!” or Words to that Effect (September 23, 1779)

Bonhomme Richard (Naval History and Heritage Command)

Bonhomme Richard (Naval History and Heritage Command)

During the night of September 23/24, 1779, Captain John Paul Jones led his frigate, Bonhomme Richard, into its legendary fight with Serapis. In the midst of a battle that was not going well for the Americans, British Captain Richard Pearson asked if Jones was ready to strike his colors and surrender. Jones offered one of the most famous replies in American naval history: “I have not yet begun to fight!” Or did he? Continue reading

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Symposium Update

Today, our sixth and final installment of the September 28th, 2019 symposium Before They Were Americans highlights William Griffith.

William Griffith is a native of Branchburg, New Jersey and currently resides in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  He received his BA in History from Shepherd University in 2014, and MA in Military History from Norwich University in 2018. His passion for history can be traced back to his first trip with his father to Fort William Henry along the southern shore of Lake George when he was five-years-old.

While completing his undergraduate studies at Shepherd, he spent his time as a volunteer with the Gettysburg Foundation and the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, and also worked as an intern and substitute librarian at the David Library of the American Revolution. He has previously served as a historical interpreter at Fort Frederick State Park in Big Pool, Maryland, and was employed by the Gettysburg Foundation from 2017-2019. He currently serves as a full-time Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide. When not indulging himself in military history, he can be found closely following his second passion – the New York Yankees.

 

William’s first book, The Battle of Lake George: England’s First Triumph in the French and Indian War, was released by The History Press on September 5, 2016. His next book, A Handsome Flogging: The Battle of Monmouth, June 28, 1778, will be released later this year as part of Savas Beatie’s Emerging Revolutionary War series.

 

He will be presenting his talk “A proud, indolent, ignorant self-sufficient set: The Colonists’ Emergence as a Fighting Force in the French and Indian War” at the September symposium.

 

Photo of William Griffith smiling with a clearing of trees behind him, presumably a historic battlefield
Continue reading

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