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CAPTURE OF FORT BULL,1 BY M*. DE LERY.
[ Paris Doc. XXV. ]
On the 27 March 1756 at four o'clockin the morning, the detachments commanded by M. de Lery, Lieutenant of the Colonial troops, commenced their march, very much weakened by the fatigue they experienced during fifteen days since they left Montreal, for they were two days entirely out of provisions.2 At half past five they arrived at the road to the Carrying place, and the scouts in advance brought in two Englishmen who were coming from the fort nearest to Chouaguin, whom M. de Lery caused to be informed that he should have their brains knocked out by the Indians if he perceived that they endeavored to conceal the truth, and if they communicated it to him, he should use all his efforts to extricate them from their hands.
These prisoners stated that the Fort, this side of Chouaguin, was called Bull, having a garrison of 60 soldiers, commanded by a lieutenant, that there was in this fort a considerable quantity of munitions of war and provisions ; that the fort was constructed of heavy pickets, 15 to 18 feet above ground, doubled inside to a man's height, and was nearly of the shape of a star; that it had no cannon, but a number of grenadoes which Colonel Johnson had sent on intelligence being communicated to him by the Indians of our march ; that the Commandant of this Fort was called Bull; that 15 batteaux were to leave in the evening for Chouaguin; that at the moment sleighs were arriving with 9 batteaux loads ; that the fort on the Corlaer side, at the head of the Carrying Place was of much larger pickets and well planked, having four pieces of Cannon and a garrison of 150 men, commanded by Captain Williams, whose name the fort bore; that they did not know if there were any provisions in the fort not having been in it.3
At 10 o'clock the savages captured 10 men who were conducting the sleighs loaded with provisions. These confirmed what the prisoners had stated and added that 100 men arrived at 8 o'clock on the preceding evening, who were said to be followed by a large force.
Monsieur de Lery whilst occupying himself in distributing among his detachment the provisions found in the sleighs, was informed that a Negro who accompanied the loads had escaped taking the
1 This Fort is referred to in a Report of a Committee appointed to explore the Western Waters in the State of New-York. Albany,
Barber and Southwick, 1792. It is laid down in Sauthier's Map, as fort Bute. Its situation was about two miles west of Rome. See Outline Map annexed.
2 He left on the 17th March on the ice, passed by La Presentation (Ogdensburgh) and proceeded across the country and along the mountains, by paths known only to the savages to within a short distance of one of those Forts called Bull. Mem. sur Us ajf. du Canada dep, 1749 jusq. 1760. Published by Hist. Soc. Quebec, 1838.
3 The necessity of fortifying this Pass was pointed out, for the first time, in October 1736, by a number of Indian Traders who petitioned the Assembly to erect a fort at "the Carrying Place at the upper end of the Mohawk River." When Fort Williams was erected has not been ascertained. There was a Fort William in the Mohawk Country as early as 1745-6, but whether it be identical with Fort Williams is undetermined. The latter stood until 1756, when it was destroyed by Gen'l Webb on his famous flight from Wood creek immediately after the fall of Oswego. It was succeeded in 1758 by Fort Stanwix, and finally by the present city of Rome, Oneida county.
[vol. I."] 42
road to Fort Williams; whereupon not doubting but they would have intimation of him at that fort, he acquainted M. de Montigny, his second, of his determination to attack Fort Bull, the prisoners having assured him that the greater part of the provisions and stores were there. Each officer received immediate orders to form his brigade and M de Lery told the savages that he was about to attack the Bull but they represented to him that now they had provisions to carry the detachment to La Presentation—English meat that the Master of Life had bestowed on them, without costing a man—to risk another affair would be to go contrary to His will: if he desired absolutely to perish he was master of his frenchmen. The Commander replied that he did not wish to expose them and asked them only for two Indians to guide his expedition which they with difficulty granted. Some twenty determined afterwards to follow him being encouraged by some drams of brandy. The Algonquins, Nepissings and those Iroquois who were unwilling to follow him, accepted the proposition made by M de Lery to guard the road and the 12 prisoners. They assured the Commander that he may make the attack ; they would take possession of the road and watch the movements of the English at Fort Williams.
The detachment having commenced their march along the high road, the soldiers having their bayonets fixed, M deLery gave orders, when within 15 acres of the fort, to move strait forward without firing a shot, and seize the guard on entering the fort. He was still 5 acres off when he heard the whoop of the savages, notwithstanding the prohibition he had issued. He instantly ordered an advance double quick in order to carry the gate of the Fort, but the enemy had time to close it. Six Indians only followed the French: the others pursued six Englishmen who unable to reach the fort threw themselves into the bush.
M. de Lery set some men to cut down the gate, and caused the Commandant to be summoned to surrender, promising quarter to him and all his garrison; to which he only answered by a fire of musketry and by throwing a quantity of grenades. Our soldiers and Canadians who ran full speed the moment the Indians whooped, got possession of the portholes; through these they fired on such of the English as they could get a sight of. Great efforts were made to batter down the gate which was finally cut in pieces in about an hour. Then the whole detachment with a cry of Vive le Roi rushed into the Fort and put every one to the sword they could lay hands on. One woman and a few soldiers only were fortunate enough to escape the fury of our troops. Some pretend that only one prisoner was made during this action.1
The Commandant and Officers repaired to the stores and caused their men to use diligence in throwing the barrels of powder into the river, but one of the Magazines having caught fire and M. de Lery considering that he could not extinguish it without incurring the risk of having the people blown up who should be employed there, gave orders to retire as quick as possible. There wras hardly time to do this when the fire communicated to the powder which blew up at three points. The explosion was so violent that a soldier of Guyenne and an Iroquois of ths Sault were wounded ty the debris of the fort though they were already at a distance. The Indian especially is in danger of losing his life by the wound.2
A detachment was, however, sent to look after the baggage that remained on the road and shortly after an Indian came to notify M de Lery that the English were making a sortie. This caused him to rally his forces and placing himself on the bank of the creek he had the bombs, grenades, bullets and all the ammunition that could be found, thrown notwithstanding into the water. He had the 15 batteaux staved in, and then set out to meet the sortie of which he had been informed. But he learned on the road that the Indians had repulsed it alter having killed 17 men. This sortie was from Port Williams on the intelligence carried thither by the Negro. The Indians who, unwilling to attack Fort Bull, took charge of the road, acquitted themselves so well that this detachment quickly retreated with a loss of 17 men. The Indians coming some hours after to congratulate M de Lery on his fortunate success failed not to make the most of their advantage.
1 "Except five persons they put every soul they found to the sword." A faithful Narrative of the dangers, sufferings and deliverances of Robert Eastman, and his captivity among the Indians of North America. Annual Beg. Vol. I. Anno, 1758. This Eastburn was taken prisoner by the Trench on this occasion and removed to a town called "Oswegotchy."
2 He was scarcely four arpens off when the fire communicating to the rest of the powder blew up the fort. The buildings were carried away and whatever remained was in an in it ant in a blaze. The shock was so violent and the commotion so great; that his troop, seized with terror, fell on their knees. Mem, Sur les aff, du Canada,
A chief asked him if he proposed attacking the other fort; which was nothing more than a boast on his part. M de Lery replied he would proceed forthwith if the Indians would follow him. This reply drove this Chief off and all those of his party prepared to follow. Our troops did the same and encamped in the wood three quarters of a league from the fort. The fort Bull prisoners were examined and we learned that Colonel Johnson having been informed of our march had sent notice to all the posts, regarding it, however, as impossible in consequence of the rigor of the season. Tort Bull is situate near a small creek that falls into that of Chouaguin about four miles from the fort. Fort Williams is near the River Mohawk which falls into that of Corlar. The carrying place from one Fort to the other is about four miles long over a pretty level country though swampy in some places.
M de Lery's detachment was 15 officers, 2 Cadets, 10 soldiers of the Queen's Regiment, 17 of Guyenne's, 22 of Beam's, 27 of the Colony; in all 93 soldiers; 166 Canadians, 33 Iroquois from the Lake of Two Mountains, 33 from La Presentation, 18 from Sault St. Louis, 3 from St. Bigin, 3 Abenakis of Missiskoui, 2 Algonquins, and 11 Nipissings. Total 362 men, 265 of whom attacked the fort. A soldier of the Colony and an Indian from La Presentation were killed. A soldier of the Queen's, 2 Canadians and 2 Iroquois were wounded.
It is estimated that more than 40 thousand weight of powder was burned or thrown into the creek with a number of Bombs, grenades, and balls of different calibre. A great deal of salted provisions, bread, butter, chocolate, sugar and other provisions were likewise thrown into the water. The stores were filled with clothes and other effects which were pillaged; the remainder burnt. This day cost the English 90 men of whom 30 are prisoners. Our detachment killed or captured 30 horses.l
[ N. Y. Mercury April 5,1756. j
By an Express that arrived here on Friday last, from Albany, we are told that a number of French & Indians had attacked Lieutenant Bull, and 30 men, that were posted at the upper End of the Great Carrying place; that he, & some of his People were killed, and a small store and Provisions in it burnt; & that they were in Pain for some of their Battoes, which they feared were cut off by the enemy.
1 After this exploit they retired to the woods and formed their main body which consisted of 400 French and 300 Indians commanded by one of the principal gentlemen of Quebec; as soon as they got together, they threw themselves on their knees and returned thanks to God for their victory; an example gays Eastburn well worthy of imitation. They continued their march through the woods about four miles, and then it being dark, and several Indians being drunk, they encamped. . . . They encamped and rested much in the same manner the night following; and the next morning, Sunday the 28th, they rose very early and retreated hastily towards Canada, for fear of General Johnson who as they were informed was on his march against them. . . . After a march of seven days they arrived at Lake Ontario where they were met by some French batteaus with a large supply of provisions, of which they had been so much in want that they had subsisted during some part of the march upon horse flesh, and had even devoured a porcupine without any other dressing than sufficed just to scorch off the hair and quills. Eastburn, after a tedious voyage with part of this company, arrived at Oswegotchy an Indian town.—Eastburn's Narrative.
Those who may not have access to the Vol. of the Annual Eeg. containing this Nar. will find it reprinted in London's Coll. of Ind. Narratives, Carlisle, Pa., 1811, Vol. ii; Incidents of Border Life, Chambersburgh, Pa., 1839i also in Drake's Tragedies of the Wilderness, Boston, 1841.
[ From the same, April 12. ]
What we have been able to collect from some Letters and Verbal Information is as follows, viz*.
That about the 18th March [0. S.] a large Body of French & Indians attacked, and cut off 16 of our Battoes, near the Carrying Place, and either killed or captivated the greatest Part of the People; that as soon as the Officer that commanded about 35 men that were posted there, heard the firing, he detached a party to their Assistance, and as they did not return agreeable to his Expectation, he sent another Detachment, which so weakened the Garrison, that a Number of the Enemy that lay in Ambush, rushed in, put them all to the sword, blew up the Powder, & destroyed the Garrison, whilst the rest of the Enemy were engaged with our people, whom they killed or carried off, as only one was arrived at Fort Williams, the 20th of March, as will appear by the following Letter.
Extract of a Letter from Fort Williams, dated the 20th March 1756.
These may serve to inform you, that we arrived here safe, Yesterday about Eleven o'clock. The People that were transporting Lansing's Provisions, were attacked between this and the Marsh by a Body of French and Indians, and are all, but one that got in here, either killed or taken Prisoners; their names you have underneath. The Fort at Wood Creek is burnt down, and none of Lansing's Men, or the Red Coats are as yet come in. Just now the Commissary arrived from Oswego, and informs us, that the 20 Battoes sent there by Capt Williams, were safe arrived to their great joy; and that the People in Garrison were pretty hearty. All Lansing's Provisions are destroyed, as well as the Powder that was in the Garrison, the People laid in Heaps and burnt. John Davids, Henry Dawson, James Tock, George Roberson, John Tuyle, John Griefey,John Pain, and Closs Marseillis, went down Wood Creek last Wednesday, whether they are taken or not, we cannot tell. We believe John Davis got safe to Oswego, as the Commissary met him on the other side of the Lake. Philip Lansing and John Van Alle, are safe here yet, with the rest of their Men. Just now 70 of our Indians are came in, and acquaints us, that by the Tracts of the Enemy, they imagined there was at least 500 of them. The names of the Persons, Residents in and about Albany, and supposed to be killed, are as follows, viz*. John, Jacob, and Andries Kidnee, John Vanderheyden, Jacobus Sickles, Wolker Dawson, Anthony Brandt, Peter Griffins, Cornelius Sprong, three Servants & five Negroes.
FRENCH DESCENT ON THE GERMAN FLATTS.
[ Paris Doe. XIII. }
Summary of M. de Belletreh Expedition, the 28th November, 1757
M. de Belletre with his detachment of about 300 Men, Marines, Canadians and Indians, arrived notwithstanding all the obstacles of the season and the greatest scarcity of provisions, at the river a la Famine [Black river,] where he met seven or eight Nontagues who on a message reported to them in the General's name, expressed delight in uniting with him.