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.

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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.

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“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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