1758-03-13 - Skirmish of Snow Shoes

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Battles >> 1758-03-13 - Skirmish of Snow Shoes

French Victory

Prelude to the Skirmish

Rogers's advance from Fort Edward in March 1758.
 
Copyright: Dinos Antoniadis

At the beginning of 1758, the British planned winter attacks on Fort Carillon (present-day Ticonderoga) and Fort Saint Frédéric (present-day Crown Point) from Fort Edward. However these plans were soon abandoned, being officially cancelled on February 27.

On February 28, Colonel Haviland, commanding at Fort Edward, sent rangers under the command of Captain Israel Putnam from the Connecticut Provincials to reconnoitre the two French forts. Haviland also announced the departure of Rogers' Rangers as soon as Putnam would have returned.

On March 6, Putnam returned from his mission during which one man had gone missing. The same day the French ambushed a British convoy on the Hudson River near Saratoga.

On March 10, Colonel Haviland sent 184 Rogers' Rangers, men and officers, reinforced by several volunteers on a scouting party towards Fort Carillon. Captain Pringle and Lieutenant Roche, of the 27th Regiment of Foot, were among the volunteers. Rogers commanded the whole. His force marched towards Lake George and encamped at "Half-way Brook".

On March 11, Rogers' party reached Lake George. They passed down Lake George on the ice. They camped at the Narrows.

On March 12, the rangers resumed their advance on Lake George. A dog was seen and, fearing that it could accompany a party of Native American warriors, Rogers left the lake and entered into the woods. Rogers marched under cover of night. His party reached Sabbath Day Point at 10:00 a.m. and rested till darkness. The same day, Hébecourt, commanding at Fort Carillon, received a reinforcement of 200 Mission Indians (mostly Iroquois of Canada) and 30 men of the Compagnies Franche de la Marine. The Native Americans had no sooner arrived than they sent out scouts.

During the night of March 12 to 13, Rogers' force marched up to the vicinities of Montagne Pelée (present-day Bald Mountain).

Map

Map of the Skirmish of Snow Shoes, fought on March 13, 1758.
 
Copyright: Dinos Antoniadis
Key to the map:
 
1 The Rangers attack the Native American scouts forming the French vanguard and pursue them.
2 The French main force appears. The Rangers are surprised and forced to retreat uphill.
3 Rogers forms a line and repulses many attacks.
4 A large body of Native American warriors succeeded in turning their right flank. The remaining Rangers escape.

Description of Events

On March 13, as they neared the French outposts, the rangers pursued their way by land behind Rogers Rock and the other mountains of the western shore. They left at 7:00 a.m. and paused at 11:00 a.m.

At 1:00 p.m., six Abenaki warriors returning from a scout of Fort Edward warned the French at Fort Carillon that they had found a great number of snow-shoe tracks.

At 1:15 p.m., Sieur La Durantaye from the Compagnies Franche de la Marine immediately rushed out at the head of a body of 96 Canadian Iroquois and Nipissing warriors and a few Milices Canadiennes to meet the approaching enemy, moving down Trout Creek.

At 1:30 p.m., another detachment of 205 men under the command of Jean-Baptiste Levreault de Langis de Montégron left Fort Carillon and followed La Durantaye. It consisted of soldiers of the Compagnies Franche de la Marine and La Reine Infanterie along with some Milices Canadiennes, Canadian Iroquois and Nipissing. They took their way up the valley of Trout Brook, a mountain gorge that opens from the west upon the valley of Fort Carillon, and the Montagne Pelée.

Towards 3:00 p.m., Rogers reached a point nearly west of the mountain that bears his name (present-day Rogers Rock). The rough and rocky ground was buried more than one meter in snow, and all around stood the grey trunks of the forest. Close on the right was a steep hill, and at a little distance on the left was the brook, lost under ice and snow. A scout from the front told Rogers that a party of Native Americans was approaching along the bed of the frozen stream, on which he ordered his men to halt, face to that side, and advance cautiously. La Durantaye's Native Americans, forming the French vanguard, soon appeared and received a fire that killed three of them and drove back the rest in confusion on their main body.

Not suspecting that they were but an advance-guard, about half the rangers dashed in pursuit, not bothering to reload, the rest scalped the dead and dying.

The pursuing rangers coming round a bend were then ambushed by Langis’s force, deployed in a crescent. The woods rang with yells and musketry. In a few minutes some 50 rangers were shot down, and a dozen more slightly wounded. The rest panicked and was driven back in disorder upon their comrades, pursued by the Nipissing and Canadian Iroquois.

At length a large body of Native Americans succeeded in turning the right flank of the rangers. Lieutenant Phillips and a few men were sent by Rogers to oppose the movement; but they quickly found themselves surrounded, and after a brave defence surrendered on a pledge of good treatment.

Rogers ordered his men to retreat back up the slope of Bear Mountain, leaving his rear guard cut off. Rogers now advised the volunteers, Pringle and Roche, to escape while there was time, and offered them a sergeant as guide; but they gallantly resolved to stand by him. Up the mountain, the rangers reformed and temporarily halted Langis’s force. A continuous firefight developed. After about 90 minutes, Rogers considered further resistance useless and ordered the rangers to disperse.

By then 8 officers and more than 100 rangers lay dead and wounded in the snow. Evening was near and the forest was darkening fast, when the few survivors broke and fled. Adjutant Malartic recorded that, ‘... the Indians having discovered a chief’s scalp in the breast of an officer’s jacket, refused all quarter, and took 114 scalps.’ Tying Lieutenant Phillips and his men to trees, they hacked them to pieces.

Rogers with about 20 followers escaped up the mountain; and gathering others about him, made a running fight against the Native American pursuers, reached Lake George, not without fresh losses, and after two days of misery regained Fort Edward with the remnant of his band. The French, Canadiens and Native Americans on their part suffered too, the chief loss (8 killed and 17 wounded) falling on the Native Americans. Tow cadets and one Canadien were also wounded.

Rogers lost 125 out of 180 men.

Order of Battle

British Order of Battle

Commander: Major Robert Rogers

  • Rogers' Rangers (184 men)
    • Vanguard (11 men) under Ensign Gregory McDonald
    • Bulkeley's Division (82 men)
    • Rogers' Division (82 men)
    • rearguard (11 men) under Ensigns White and Waite

French Order of Battle

Commander: Sieur de La Durantaye and Langis de Montegron

References

This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  1. Parkman, Francis, Montcalm and Wolfe, Collier Books, New York, 1884, pp. 309-312
  2. Lévis, chevalier de, Journal des campagnes du chevalier de Lévis en Canada de 1756 à 1760, Montréal, Beauchemin, 1889, pp. 124-128
  3. Montcalm, Account of the skirmish
  4. Rogers, Robert, Account of the skirmish

Other sources

Mitchell, James J., The Battle on Snowshoes, Seven Years War Association Journal Vol. XI No. 1

Other sources

Larry burrow for additional info on this engagement