- Author: Ian Castle
- Illustrator: Graham Turner
- Short code: CAM 260
- Publication Date: 20 Nov 2013
- Number of Pages: 96
Ian Castle sets out to show how the Fennimore Cooper version of the siege of Fort William Henry strayed from the truth and has altered how we perceive the siege today.
He is much more prone to examining excesses of wilderness warfare as massacres, and is more anglocentric, unlike Chartrande who tries to find a balance and is much more cautious about what the Anglo American’s called a massacre.
At the end of 1755 Fort Beauséjour, in the east, had fallen to Moncton, but Braddock was dead on the Monongahela and the acting British commander in chief had stalled at Oswego.
Johnson had held on at Lake George, building Fort William Henry as a bulwark. Castle describes this often overlooked campaign well and presents the French commander, Dieskau, as unlucky rather than inept.
As usual the European dependence on their native allies becomes very obvious, and certainly the French felt they could not fight without them. Once more the French brought a massive array of tribes with them, some quite unknown to the British, so well respected were the French at this point of the war.
British by comparison had no true tribal support after Lake George when even the Mohawks, who took heavy casualties there, shied away from support and Rangers had to be resorted to for scouting and raiding.
With both sides eyeing up the vital Lake George corridor as a means to strike into each other’s territory, the French landed the first blow, destroying Oswego and placing the British squarely on the defensive.
The resultant descent by the Marquis de Montcalm on Fort William Henry became the most celebrated and infamous event in the French and Indian War.
A six day siege ended with the surrender of the fort and the negligent abandonment of the British prisoners to the anger of Montcalm’s irritated warriors.
In this most controversial moment of the campaign, the author shows us that this was hardly the massacre of lore, even though for a brief period on the last day a sudden explosion of violence broke out and could not be immediately stopped resulting in the murder of many helpless soldiers and civilians.
Full spread artwork is offered by Graham Turner, who creates three especially good pieces. The French line at Lake George and the image of the massacre are particularly good.
The book is detailed and effectively brings the subject to the reader in an accessible way. Although too focused on explaining the rights, wrongs and massacres of the event and reliant on mostly English sources, the author brings a heartening dose of sober observation to a still fraught subject.
Explaining as he does the operation which brought Montcalm ever higher in the estimation of later historians and once more proved the superiority of the French and Canadian, Allied military synthesis.