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Frigid Fury:
The Battle on Snowshoes, March 1758
Page 2

The Battle: Phase Two

Phase 2 - pursuit The veteran Langy, hearing the firing to his front, deployed his two hundred and five men, mostly French marines and Canadian militia, and advanced in a rough line of battle. Within minutes Langy's force received the approximately fifty-five fleeing survivors of Durantaye's force hotly pursued by Ensign Gregory MacDonald's right flank guard followed by virtually the whole of Captain Charles Bulkeley's division including lieutenants Increase Moore, Archibald Campbell, James Pottinger and Ensign James White. The exultant rangers ran straight into Langy's volley, delivered at close range in total surprise. Captain Bulkeley and all his officers were killed or wounded in the deadly fusillade. Lieutenant Moore and Ensign MacDonald, both mortally wounded, managed to rally the survivors and fall back, hard pressed by Langy and Durantaye, to Roger's main body before they died.

The Battle: Phase Three

The French and Indians, perhaps seeing that the destruction of Rogers' hated rangers was at last within their grasp, pressed their attack so closely that the rangers could not break contact. Rogers later wrote in his journal that he lost fifty men in getting to the high ground.

Phase 3 -pressed Loescher, the historian of Rogers Rangers, estimates that Rogers now had not more than 120 men, many wounded, on his firing line. Ensign Joseph Waite and the ten men of his rear guard, on the left, were cut off and overwhelmed in the confusion as the rangers scrambled up toward the high ground. The officer and one man succeeded in escaping the carnage and fled into the woods.

Lieutenant Phillips informed me that about 200 Indians were going up ye hill on our right to take possession of ye rising ground upon our backs. . . I ordered him with 18 Men to take possession of ye rising Ground before the Enemy, & try to beat them back. Accordingly he went, but I being Suspicious that ye Enemy would go round on our left & take possession of the other part of the hill, I sent Lieutenant [Edward] Crofton with 15 Men to take possession of the ground there and soon after desired Captain Pringle to go with a few men & assist Crofton, which he did with Lt. Roche & 8 Men. But the Enemy pushed So close in the front that the party's were not more than 20 yards apart & oftentimes intermixed with each other.
Upon finding that Phillips & his party was obliged to Surrender, I thought it most prudent for me to retreat & bring off as many of my people as I possibly could. Which I immediately did.
Capt. Rogers with his party came to me, and said (as did all those with him) that a large body of Indians had ascended to our right; he likewise added, what was true, that the combat was very unequal, that I must retire, and he would give Mr. Roche and me a Sergeant to conduct us thru the mountain. No doubt prudence required us to accept his offer; but, besides one of my snowshoes being untied, I knew myself unable to march as fast as was required to avoid becoming a sacrifice to an enemy we could no longer oppose. I therefore begged of him to proceed and then leaned against a rock in the path, determined to submit to a fate I thought unavoidable. Unfortunately for Mr. Roche, his snow-shoes were loosened likewise, which obliged him to determine with me, not to labour in a flight we both were unequal to.

The Battle: Phase Four

Rogers, now in the last extremity, ordered his command to scatter and evade the enclosing enemy individually. The designated rally point was to be the place on the west shore of Lake George where they had left their sleds and packs so many hours before. In this Rogers was following his own advice as previously set forth in Rule No. X of his "Rules for Ranging Service":

 

The Retreat

Rogers reached Lake George about 8 p.m. on 13 March 1758 and struck out for the rendezvous. He soon met other survivors including several wounded. He collected the survivors at the rally point and immediately sent two rangers, on ice skates, south for Fort Edward with requests for a relief force. Four severely wounded men were put on sleighs, with two men each to pull, and also sent south. Rogers kept the remaining handful of survivors in a perimeter around the rally point where they were able to collect other evaders as they came in, though the men almost froze that night without fire or blankets.

Conclusion

Rogers estimated that about forty French and Indians were killed in the initial ambush and another sixty killed in the subsequent action. He estimated the enemy wounded at no less than 100. However Captain Hebecourt's report to General Montcalm listed his casualties as eight Indians killed, seventeen Indians wounded and two died of wounds, three Canadians wounded.

To Read More on the Battle on Snowshoes

Accounts of the battle are found in Burt Loescher, The History of Rogers' Rangers, in Francis Parkman's classic Montcalm and Wolfe, and in Lawrence Henry Gipson's The Great War for the Empire: The Victorious Years, 1758-1760, as well as in John Cuneo's biography, Robert Rogers of the Rangers. See also Gary Zaboly's "The Battle on Snowshoes," American History Illustrated, Dec. 1979, 12-24.

 

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/snowshoe2.htm

 

 
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