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HOME > Short Stories > With Rogers on the Frontier > CHAPTER XVII THE SIEGE OF FORT WILLIAM HENRY
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The failure of Rigaud's expedition against Fort William Henry was followed by a period of peace, during which Seth was occupied for the most part in leading scouting parties northward to spy upon the doings of the French at Ticonderoga and Crown Point.

He had many an adventure in this service, and more than once escaped capture by what was almost a miracle, yet his ardor was not in the least damped by any of these thrilling experiences, and he had no sooner got safely back from one outing than he began to plan for another.

Major Rogers meanwhile had been despatched to Nova Scotia on a special mission, and consequently was far away when the French resolved to wipe out the disgrace of the defeats of Dieskau and Rigaud by sending such a force against the obstinate defenders of the English fort as would render complete victory an absolute certainty.

To this undertaking Montcalm himself gave his personal attention, and got together at Montreal an army of regulars, Canadians, and Indians that, so far as numbers went, certainly seemed to assure success.

By the end of July he had all transported to Ticonderoga, where Bourlamaque, with the battalion of Bearn and Royal Rousillon had been since May, finishing the fort and sending out scouting parties to discover the strength and designs of the English at Fort William Henry.

Ticonderoga, which by being made the base of the projected attack upon the English stronghold had become a point of great importance, is a high rocky promontory between Lake Champlain on the north and the mouth of the outlet of Lake George on the south. Near its extremity and close to the fort were encamped the battalions of Bourlamaque.

Two miles farther south a wide space had been cleared which was covered by the tents of the regiments of La Reine, Languedoc, and Guienne, all commanded by Levis.

From this camp a road a mile and a half long had been cut through the forest to the navigable waters, and at the end of this road was another fortified camp formed of colony regulars, Canadians, and Indians, under command of Rigaud.

Beyond this at the edge of Lake George, and at Rogers' Rock, were stationed advance parties whose business it was to watch the movements of the English.

There were thus gathered within a range of four miles fully eight thousand fighting men, representing the brightest civilization and the darkest barbarism of the day, from the scholarly Montcalm and the accomplished Levis with their suite of courtly young officers, to the foulest man-eating savages of the uttermost northwest.

The Indian allies numbered nearly two thousand. They were exceedingly difficult to manage and cost their employers infinite trouble, besides being a tremendous expense. There was no keeping them fed. Rations would be served to them for a week, and they would consume them in a couple of days and demand more. Once when refused they took the matter into their own hands, and butchered and devoured a drove of cattle intended for the troops.

Their supreme delight was to get drunk; and sometimes when crazed with brandy they fought like wolves, grappling and tearing each other with their teeth.

Some of them were cannibals, and actually dared to indulge in their abominable appetite while in camp, the unfortunate victim being an English prisoner taken by one of their war parties.

Such were the fiends in human form whose aid the French had enlisted, and who subsequently were to cast so dark a stain upon the record of this enterprise.

It was the 1st of August when, having got everything arranged to his satisfaction, Montcalm set his whole force in motion toward the object of his undertaking. The spectacle presented was a brilliant and imposing one, and well calculated to strike terror into the hearts of those against whom it was prepared.

Seth and a little band of his Rangers, who had ventured out from Fort William Henry on a scouting expedition, beheld it from the summit of a lofty hill, and their spirits sank at the sight.

"Heaven help us! There's no counting them!" exclaimed Seth in a tone of consternation. "We can't possibly hold the fort against them. They've five times as many men as we have, at least."

"Let us hurry back to the fort then and tell Colonel Monro," Reuben Thayer made haste to suggest. "Perhaps he'll think it best not to attempt to defend our fort, but to retreat to Fort Edward."

"We can't tell him too soon what we've seen," returned Seth. "But I'm sure he won't give up the fort without a fight. He's too brave to do that."

In this opinion of Lieutenant-Colonel Monro, who then was in command at Fort William, Seth showed how well he knew the man, for the sturdy Scotch veteran certainly was not of the kind to beat a retreat or to surrender at discretion. On the contrary, he could be relied upon to fight to the very last; and, if need be, to die rather than give up his sword.

What the Rangers saw was the French flotilla moving up the lake in the full blaze of the afternoon sun.

First a great swarm of birch canoes crowded with naked savages in war paint and feathers, and gliding swiftly over the smooth water in no particular order. Next came two hundred and fifty bateaux, moved by sail and oar, some bearing the Canadian militia and some the battalion of old France in handsome uniform. Then followed the cannon and mortars, each one placed on a platform, sustained by two bateaux lashed side by side, and rowed by the militia of Saint Ours. The battalions of Bearn and Rousillon, the Canadians of Gaspe with the provision boats and the field hospital continued the procession, and lastly a rear-guard of regulars closed the long line.

No wonder that while the watching scouts could not help being filled with admiration at the spectacle, they also were depressed by the conviction that to repel the attack of such a force was hopeless, and that the fate of their beloved fort was sealed.

With utmost speed they made their way back through the woods, and told Commander Monro what they had seen.

As Seth rightly judged, the brave old man, while fully realizing the seriousness of the situation, did not for a moment contemplate the evacuation of the fort, or the anticipating of the attack by sending a message of surrender to Montcalm.

What he did do was at once to despatch a note to General Webb, who was at Fort Edward, fourteen miles distant, with nearly two thousand men, informing him of the advance of the French and asking for reinforcements, a request which he repeated again and again during the siege, without evoking any response from Webb, who seemed to have been too timid to do as he should have done, namely, hasten ............
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