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A Battle on Snowshoes, January 1757

In Ticonderoga’s beautiful Trout Brook Valley of today, where so many during the warmer months enjoy the pleasure of playing golf, there stands a roadside historical marker that references another type of “ball” – the musket ball; and, of warfare — a battle on snowshoes.

These markers provide the reader with only the briefest of the location’s subject historical information.  From the journal writings of Major Robert Rogers we find a more in-depth account of his company’s January 1757 scout to this area.

Historical Marker, NYS Rte 9N near Ticonderoga’s Golf Course

“January 15, 1757. ~ Agreeable to orders from the commanding officer at Fort Edward, I this day marched with my own Lieutenant Mr. Stark, Ensign Page of Captain Richard Roger’s company, and fifty privates of said companies, to Fort William-Henry, where we were employed in providing provisions, snowshoes, &c. till the 17th, when being joined by Captain Spikeman, Lieutenant Kennedy and Ensign Brewer of his company, and fourteen of their men, together with Ensign James Rogers and fourteen men of Captain Hobbs’s company, and Mr. Baker, a volunteer of the 44th regiment of foot, we began our march on the ice down Lake George, and at night encamped on the east-side of the First Narrows.  The next morning, finding that some of the detachment had hurt themselves in the march the day before, as many were dismissed to return to the fort, as reduced our party to seventy-four men, officers included.

The 18th we marched twelve miles down the lake, and encamped on the west-side of it.

The 19th we marched three miles from our encampment further down the lake, and then took the land, and, upon snow-shoes, travelled north-west about eight miles from our landing, and three from the lake, where we encamped.

The 20th we marched north-by-east the whole day, and at night encamped on the western-side, opposite to and about three miles distant from Lake Champlain.

The 21st we marched east, till we came to the lake, about mid-way between Crown Point and Ticonderoga, and immediately discovered a sled going from the latter to the former.  I ordered Lieutenant Stark, with twenty men, to head the sled, while I, with a party, marched the other way to prevent its retreating back again, leaving Captain Spikeman in the center with the remainder.  I soon discovered eight or ten sleds more following down the lake, and endeavored to give Mr. Stark intelligence of it before he sallied on the lake and discovered himself to them, but could not.  They all hastily returned towards Ticonderoga.  We pursued them, and took seven prisoners, three sleds, and six horses; the remainder made their escape.  We examined the captives separately, who reported, ” That 200 Canadians and 45 Indians were just arrived at Ticonderoga, and were to be reinforced that evening, or next morning, by fifty Indians more from Crown Point: that there were 600 regular troops at the fortress, and 350 at Ticonderoga, where they soon expected a large number of troops, who in the spring were to besiege our forts: that they had large magazines of provisions in their forts, and that  the above-mentioned party were well equipped, and in a condition to march upon any emergency at the least notice, and were designed soon to way-lay and distress our convoys between the forts.”

From this account of things, and knowing that those who escaped would give early notice of us at Ticonderoga, I concluded it best to return; and ordered the party, with the utmost expedition, to march to the fires we had kindled the night before, and prepare for a battle, if it shoud be offered, by drying our guns, it being a rainy day, which we effected; and then marched in a single file, myself and Lieutenant Kennedy in the front, Lieutenant Stark in the rear, and Captain Spikeman in the center.  Ensigns Page and Rogers were between the front and center, and Ensign Brewer between the center and rear, Serjeant Walker having the command of a rear-guard.  In this manner we advanced half a mile, or thereabouts, over broken ground, when passing a valley of about fifteen rods breadth, the front having reached the summit of a hill on the west-side of it; the enemy, who had here drawn up in the form of a half-moon, with a design, as were supposed, to surround us, saluted us with a volley of about 200 shot, at the distance of about five yards from the nearest, or front, and thirty from the rear of their party.  This fire was about two o’clock in the afternoon, and proved fatal to Lieutenant Kennedy, and Mr. Gardner, a volunteer in my company, and wounded me and several others; myself, however, but slightly in the head.  We immediately returned their fire.  I then ordered my men to the opposite hill, where I supposed Lieutenant Stark and Ensign Brewer had made a stand with forty men to cover us, in the case we were obliged to retreat.  We were closely pursued, and Capt. Spikeman, with several of the party, were killed, and others made prisoners.  My people, however, beat them back by a brisk fire from the hill, which gave us an opportunity to ascend and post ourselves to advantage.  After which I ordered Lieutenant Stark and Mr. Baker in the center, with Ensign Rogers; Serjeants Walter and Phillips, with a party, being a reserve, to prevent our being flanked, and watch the motions of the enemy.  Soon after we had thus formed ourselves for battle, the enemy attempted to flank us on the right, but the above reserve bravely attacked them, and giving them the first fire very briskly, it stopped several from retreating to the main body.  The enemy then pushed us closely in the front; but having the advantage of the ground, and being sheltered by large trees, we maintained a continual fire upon them, which killed several, and obliged the rest to retire to their main body.

They then attempted to flank us again, but were again met by our reserved party, and repulsed.  Mr. Baker about this time was killed.  We maintained a pretty constant fire on both sides, till the darkness prevented our seeing each other, and about sun-set I received a ball thro’ my hand and wrist, which disabled me from loading my gun.  I however found means to keep my people from being intimidated by this accident; they gallantly kept their advantageous situation, till the fire cease on both sides.  The enemy, during the action, used many arts and stratagems to induce us to submit, sometimes threatening us with severity if we refused, assuring us that they every moment expected a large reinforcement, which should cut us to pieces without mercy: at other times flattering and cajoling us, declaring it was a pity so many brave men should be lost; that we should, upon our surrender, be treated with the greatest compassion and kindness; calling me by name, they gave me the strongest assurances of their esteem and friendship that words could do; but no one being dismayed by their menaces, or flattered by fair promises, we told them our numbers were sufficient, and that we were determined to keep our ground as long as there were two left to stand by each other.

After the action, in which we had a great number so severely wounded that they could not travel without assistance, and our ammunition being nearly expeneded, and considering that we were near to Ticonderoga, from whence the enemy might easily make a descent, and overpower us by numbers, I thought it expedient to take the advantage of the night to retreat, and gave orders accordingly; and the next morning arrived at Lake George, about six miles south of the French advanced guard, from whence I dispatched Lieutenant Stark with two men to Fort William-Henry to procure conveyances for our wounded men thither; and the next morning were met by a party of fifteen men  and a sled, under the command of Lieutenant Buckley, of Hobbs’s company of Rangers, at the first narrows at Lake George.  Our whole party, which now consisted of only forty-eight effective, and six wounded men, arrived at Fort William-Henry the same evening, being the 23rd of January 1757.

Period map of Lakes George & Champlain

The nearest computation we could make of the number which attacked us, was, that it consisted of about 250 French and Indians; and we afterwards had an account from the enemy, that their loss in this action, of those killed, and who afterwards died of their wounds, amounted to 116 men.

Both the officers and soldiers I had the honour to command who survived the first onset, behaved with the most undaunted bravery and resolution, and seemed to vie with each other in their respective stations who should excel.

Having laid this return before Major Sparks, commanding officer at Fort Edward, he transmitted the same to the General; and the 30th of January following, I wrote to Capt. James Abercrombie, that at Albany, recommending such officers as I thought most deserving, to fill up the vacancies occasioned by our late action, among whom were Lieutenant Stark to be Captain of Spikeman’s company, and Serjeant Joshua Martin to be Ensign in Captain Richard Roger’s company, and I also mentioned several things in favour of the Rangers.

Notes:  Want to learn more about this battle, Robert Rogers and the “Rangers?” All of this plus so much more can be found at the Hancock House Research Library under the Burt Garfield Loescher Collection.

We need your help!

Sometime during August 2016 the historical marker that marked this January 1757 Roger’s Rangers battle was stolen from its pole near the entrance into today’s Ticonderoga Golf Club.  We are republishing this original 2015 web article at this time, on the anniversary of this battle, to renew public attention to its loss.  These historical markers are expensive.  The Ticonderoga Historical Society is seeking donations and sponsorships to help fund its replacement.  Any financial contribution is  welcome.  All donations can be mailed to the Ticonderoga Historical Society, Hancock House, 8 Moses Circle, Ticonderoga, NY 12883.

Thank You

1/21/17 wgd

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