As we travel around the U.S. I find it harder and harder
to keep the wars that were fought on U.S. soil straight. First we
went to Gettysburg (Civil War 1861-1865), then we went to Valley
Forge (Revolutionary War 1775-1783). Now we were in New York and
stopped at Fort William Henry which was the scene of the French
and Indian War (also known as the Seven Years' War). This
conflict was actually between two foreign powers on US soil. The
Fort was originally erected in 1755 by Major General William
Johnson of England. The Fort was erected on General Johnson's
orders because he anticipated a French advance from Canada into
the colonies. In the summer of 1757, the renowned Marquis
d'Montcalm (of France) swept south over Lake George to confront
Colonel Munro at Ft. Henry. For six days and nights, the French artillery mercilessly pounded the log fort.
Finally, Monro surrendered and what was left of the fort was
burned by the French. What followed on that tragic day is
infamously known as the "Massacre at Ft. William
Henry." Montcalm's Indian allies seized hundreds of British
and Colonial men, women and children many of whom were
slaughtered. The French troops who were guarding the prisoners
stood by and did nothing until finally an officer came by and
ordered the slaughter stopped.
The present fort was reconstructed in 1952. The reconstruction was possible because the British Army engineers who originally constructed the fort in 1755 left with complete copies of their plans. We were fortunate enough to meet Mr. Gerry Bradfield, who is the current museum curator. He shared with us some of the early planning (involving a relative of his) that enabled the reconstruction to take place. Mr. Bradfield is obviously very proud of the current operation of the Fort, as well he should be. Something that perhaps many people can relate to, is that Ft. Wm. Henry is the scene of the classic novel by James Fenimore Cooper called "The Last of the Mohicans."
One of the things that makes Ft. William Henry unique is the fact that they are doing an archeological dig on the site of the Fort aided by local college students and volunteers. The artifacts that are recovered are displayed in several museums throughout the Fort. One of the more humorous displays were the many objects they had recovered that were dropped into a well on the property during the many years it was opened as a tourist site prior to the reconstruction. There were coins from any number of countries, which, I'm sure, were probably were thrown by many hoping that maybe this was a "magical wishing well." Along with the coins were many items the tourists didn't want and decided to discard in addition to many items that were probably dropped accidentally and were unable to be recovered.
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