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Welcome to Caldwell, NY_________________


CALDWELL, the shire town of Warren county, was organized in 1810, and named in honor of James Caldwell, Esq., a principal proprietor and benefactor.  It has a mountainous surface, and embraces the south end of Lake George.  Caldwell village lies at the head of Lake George, 62 miles from Albany, 9 from Glen's Falls, and 27 from Saratoga springs. The village consists of about 50 dwellings.

The scenery in this vicinity is of a wild and picturesque character, similar to the Highlands of Scotland. Westward, rises a range of mountains, the highest of which is Prospect or Rattlesnake Hill, which is an elevation of about 1,500 feet.  Remains of forts William Henry and George, are still to be seen at the head of the lake, a short distance east of the courthouse.

This village and the lake has become quite a fashionable place of resort during the warm season of the year.  Besides the attractions of the natural scenery, it is rendered interesting from having been the theatre of important military operations. The celebrated "Battle of Lake George," on Sept. 8th, 1755, was fought in the vicinity of Bloody Pond, so called from the fact that the corpses of the slain were thrown into it.  The battle was between the provincial troops under Major-general, afterward Sir William Johnson, aided by a body of Indians under Hendrick the Mohawk chieftain, and a body of French Canadians and Indians under Baron Dieskau, a French nobleman.  The baron embarked at Fort Frederick, at Crown Point, with 2,000 men in batteaux, and landed at Skeensboro, now Whitehall. Having understood that Johnson lay carelessly encamped at the head of Lake George, he determined to attack him.

The following account of the conflict that ensued, is given by Dr. Dwight, who received much of his information from eye-witnesses of the action.

On the night of Sunday, Sept. 7, at 12 o'clock, information was brought, that the enemy had advanced 4 miles on the road from Fort Edward to Lake George; or half way between the village of Sandy Hill and Glenn's falls. A council of war was held early in the morning, at which it was resolved to send a party to meet them.  The number of men, determined upon at first, was mentioned by the general to Hendrick; and his opinion was asked.  He replied, "If they are to fight, they are too few. If they are to be killed, they are too many." The number was accordingly increased. Gen. Johnson also proposed to divide them into 3 parties. Hendrick took 3 sticks, and, putting them together, said to him, "Put these together, and you can't break them.  Take them one by one, and you will break them easily." The hint succeeded, and Hendrick's sticks saved the party, and probably the whole army, from destruction.

The party detached consisted of 1,200, and were commanded by Col. Ephraim Williams, a brave and skillful officer, greatly loved by the soldiery, and greatly respected by the country at large. Lieut. Col. Whiting, of New Haven, was second in command, and brought up the rear.  Col. Williams met the enemy at Rocky brook, 4 miles from Lake George. Dieskau had been informed of his approach by his scouts, and arranged his men in the best possible order to receive them, extending his line on both sides of the road in the form of a half-moon.  Johnson did not begin to raise his breastwork until after Williams had marched; nor, as a manuscript account of this transaction, now before me, declares, until after the rencounter between Williams and the enemy had begun.

Williams marched his men directly into the hollow of the half-moon. This will be explained by the fact, that the whole country was a deep forest. When the enemy saw them completely within his power, he opened a fire of musketry on the front and on both flanks of the English at the same moment.  The English fell in heaps; and at the head of them their gallant commander.  Hendrick, also, was mortally wounded, fighting with invincible courage in the front of his people.  He was shot in the back; a fact which filled him with disdain and anguish; as he thought, that he should be believed to have fled from the enemy.  The truth was, the horns of the half-moon were so far advanced, that they in a great measure enclosed the van of the English, and fired upon them from the rear.  From this fire Hendrick received the wound which terminated his life.

Upon the death of Col. Williams, Lieut. Col. Whiting succeeded to the command of the detachment.  He was an officer of great merit, and had gained much applause at the reduction of Louisburgh; and, in consequence of his gallant conduct at that siege, had been made a captain in the regular British service.  Whiting, seeing the danger of his men, immediately ordered a retreat; and conducted it so judiciously, that he saved the great body of them from destruction, in circumstances of extreme peril; in which their own confusion and alarm, and the situation of the ground, threatened their extermination no less than the superior numbers of the enemy.

The noise of the first fire was heard at Lake George.  Efforts began then to be made in earnest by the general for the defense of the camp; and a party of 300 men were dispatched under Lieut. Col. Cole, to support the retreating corps.  A few stragglers, both English and Indians, came into the camp, and announced, what had indeed been already sufficiently evident from the approaching sound of the musketry, that the French army was superior in numbers and strength to Col. Williams' corps, and was driving them towards the camp. Some time after, "the whole party that escaped," says Gen. Johnson, "came in large bodies;" a decisive proof of the skill and coolness with which Lieut. Col. Whiting conducted this retreat.  These men also arranged themselves in their proper places, and took their share in the engagement which followed.

About half after 11 o'clock, the enemy appeared in sight marching up the road in the best order towards the centre of the English.  When they came to the bottom of an open valley, directly in front of the elevation, on which Fort George was afterward built, and on which the centre of the English army was posted, Dieskau halted his men about 15 minutes, at the distance of little more than 150 yards from the breastwork.   have never seen a reason assigned for this measure.  I think I can assign one. The Indians were sent out on the right flank, and a part of the Canadians on the left, intending to come in upon the rear of the English, while the main body attacked them in front.  The ground was remarkably favorage to this design; being swampy, thickly forested, and, therefore, perfectly fitted to conceal the approach of these parties.  The Indians, however, were soon discovered by Lieut. Col. Pomeroy, who immediately mentioned the fact to the general; and, observing to him, that these people were extremely afraid of cannon, requested that one or two pieces might be pointed against them.  They were then near the ground on which Fort William Henry was afterward built.  The general approved of the proposal.  A shell was instantly thrown among them from a howitzer, and some field-pieces showered upon them a quantity of grape-shot.  The Indians fled.

The baron, in the mean time, led up his main body to attack the centre. They began the engagement by firing regularly in platoons; but at so great a distance, that they did very little execution.  This circumstance was favorable to the English; and soon recovering from the panic into which they had been thrown by the preceding events of the day, they fought with great spirit and firmness.

Gen. Johnson, at the commencement of the battle, received a flesh wound in his thigh, and the ball lodged in it.  He bled freely, but was able to walk away from the army to his tent.  Gen. Lyman then took the command, and continued in it during the action. This gentleman, who seemed to have no passions, except those which are involved in the word humanity, immediately stationed himself in the front of the breastwork; and there, amid the thickest danger, issued his orders, during 5 hours, to every part of the army, as occasion demanded, with a serenity which many covet, and some boast, but very few acquire.  The main body of the French kept their ground, and preserved their order, for a considerable time; but the artillery, under the command of Capt. Eyre, a brave English officer, who performed his part with much skill and reputation, played upon them with such success, and the fire from the musketry was so warm and well-directed, that their ranks were soon thinned, and their efforts slackened sufficiently to show that they despaired of success in this quarter.  They then made another effort against the right of the English, stationed between the road and the site of Fort William Henry, and composed of Ruggles' regiment, Williams', now commanded by Lieut. Col. Pomeroy, and Titcomb's.  Here a warm fire was kept up on both sides about an hour; but on the part of the enemy was unavailing.

At 4 o'clock, the English, and the Indians who fought with them, leaped over their breastwork, and charged the enemy.  They fled, and were vigorously pursued for a short distance. A considerable number were slain in the pursuit.  The wounded, and a very few others, were made prisoners. Among these was Dieskau.  He was found by a soldier, resting on a stump, with hardly an attendant.  As he was feeling for his watch, in order to give it to the soldier, the man, suspecting that he was searching for a pistol, discharged the contents of his musket through his hips.  He was carried into the camp in a blanket by 8 men, with the greatest care and tenderness, but evidently in extreme distress.

Hendrick had lived to this day with singular honor, and died fighting with a spirit not to be excelled.  He was at this time from 60 to 65 years of age.  His head was covered with white locks; and what is uncommon among Indians, he was corpulent.  Immediately before Col. Williams began his march, he mounted a stage, and harangued his people.  He had a strong masculine voice; and, it was thought, might be distinctly heard at the distance of half a mile; a fact which, to my own view, has diffused a new degree of probability over Homer's representations of the effects produced by the speeches and shouts of his heroes. Lieut. Col. Pomeroy, who was present, and heard this effusion of Indian eloquence, told me, that, although he did not understand a word of the language, yet such was the animation of Hendrick, the fire of his eye, the force of his gesture, the strength of his emphasis, the apparent propriety of the inflections of his voice, and the natural appearance of his whole manner, that himself was more deeply affected with this speech, then with any other which he had ever heard.  In the Pennsylvania Gazette, Sept. 25, 1755, he is styled "the famous Hendrick, a renowned Indian warrior among the Mohawks," and it is said that his son, being told that his father was killed, giving the usual Indian groan upon such occasions, and suddenly putting his hand on his left breast, swore, that his father was still alive in that place, and that there stood his son. Baron Dieskau was conveyed from Albany to New York, and from thence to England; where soon after he died.

The capture of Fort William Henry, at this place, Aug. 9th, 1757, and the massacre by the Indians, created a sensation in all the northern states.  The following account of the capture of the fort, is extracted from Professor Silliman's Tour.

The Marquis de Montcalm, after three ineffectual attempts upon Fort William Henry, made great efforts to besiege it in form, and in August, 1757, having landed ten thousand men near the fort, summoned it to surrender.  The place of his landing was shown me, a little north of the public house; the remains of his batteries and other works are still visible; and the graves and bones of the slain are occasionally discovered.

He had a powerful train of artillery, and although the fort and works were garrisoned by three thousand men, and were most gallantly defended by the commander, Colonel Monroe, it was obliged to capitulate; but the most honorable terms were granted to Colonel Monroe, in consideration of his great gallantry.  The bursting of the great guns, the want of ammunition, and above all, the failure of General Webb to succor the fort, although he lay idle at Fort Edward with four thousand men, were the causes of this catastrophe.

The capitulation was, however, most shamefully broken; the Indians attached to Montcalm's army, while the troops were marching out of the gate of the fort, dragged the men from the ranks, particularly the Indians in the English service, and butchered them in cold blood - they plundered all without distinction, and murdered women and little children, with circumstances of the most aggravated barbarity.*  The massacre continued all along the road, through the defile of the mountains, and for many miles, the miserable prisoners, especially those in the rear, were tomahawked and hewn down in cold blood; it might well be called the bloody defile, for it was the same ground that was the scene of the battles, only two years before, in 1755.  It is said that efforts were made by the French to restrain the barbarians, but they were not restrained, and the miserable remnant of the garrison with difficulty reached Fort Edward pursued by the Indians, although escorted by a body of French troops.  I passed over the whole of the ground, upon which this tragedy was acted, and the oldest men in the country still remember this deed of guilt and infamy.

Fort William Henry was leveled by Montcalm, and has never been rebuilt. Fort George was built as a substitute for it, on a more commanding site, and although often mentioned in the history of subsequent wars, was not I believe the scene of any very memorable event.

Created 6/8/03
2003 Warren County NYGenWeb
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