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Frigid Fury:
The Battle on Snowshoes, March 1758

by Joseph F. Meany Jr.Rogers print
NOTE: The photographs accompanying this article are from a recreation by the Company of Military Historians

Preliminaries

The cancellation of Lord Loudoun's planned mid-winter strike at the French forts at Carillon [Ticonderoga] and Saint Frederick [Crown Point], was announced at Fort Edward on 27 February 1758. The Commander-in-Chief's decision was made public by Lieutenant Colonel William Haviland, 27th Regt. of Foot, the post commander. The following day, Haviland ordered, instead, a sequence of reconnaissance patrols to be conducted north to the vicinity of Fort Carillon and Crown Point on Lake Champlain.
"This gentleman, about the 28th of February ordered out a scout under the direction of one Putnum captain of a company of one of the Connecticut provincial regiments. . . giving out publical at the same time, that, upon Putnam's return, I should be sent to the French forts with a strong party of 400 Rangers. This was known not only to all the officers, but soldiers also, at Fort Edward before Putnam's departure."
I acknowledged I entered upon this service, and viewed this small detachment of brave men march out, with no little concern and uneasiness of mind; for as there was the greatest reason to suspect, that the French were, by the prisoner and deserter, fully informed of the design of sending me out upon Putnam's return; what could I think, to see my party, instead of being strengthened and augmented, reduced to less than one-half of the number first proposed. I must confess it appeared to me (ignorant and unskilled as I then was in the politics and arts of war) incomprehensible; but my commander doubtless had his reasons, and is able to vindicate his own conduct.

The Patrol


Rogers and his rangers, 184 men in all, departed from their camp on the island at Fort Edward at about mid-afternoon on 10 March 1758 and, Rogers recorded, "marched to the half-way brook, in the road leading to Lake George and there encamped the first night."

The Day of the Battle

The fourth day of the patrol, ill-fortuned 13 March 1758, opened with an "O group" or officers meeting. The council of war unanimously concurred with Rogers that the patrol should don snowshoes and push inland to the west circling behind Bald Mountain, keeping out of sight of the French advanced post there. The rangers moved out at seven a.m. and marched on snowshoes until eleven a.m. when they halted and ate a cold meal on the back of a ridge opposite the French outpost. There the rangers waited for the daily French relief and resupply party to return. By three p.m., Rogers judged that the daily French patrol must have passed and his men had regained their strength after the four hour morning snowshoe march. Rogers ordered the rangers to continue the march down the valley of Trout Brook "thinking to lay an Ambush on Some of their roads in ye Night, & meet with them in the morning without being discovered."

The Battle on Snowshoes: Phase One
Roger's narrative describes the first, or contact, phase of the battle.

phase 1 -We kept close to the mountain, that the advanced guard might better observe the rivulet, on the ice of which I imagined the enemy would travel if out, as the snow was four feet deep, and very bad travelling on snow shoes

 

New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History
Last modified: March 19, 2008
URL: http://www.dmna.state.ny.us/historic/articles/snowshoe.htm

 

 
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