Posted by Seamus on July 09, 2000 at 20:21:56:
Cpl. Malcolm MacWilliam July ye 9, 1758
Pvt. Davey Gunn
77th Highlanders, Montgomery’s
I do not know where or how to begin this missive. There are so many emotions running through me that I am bewildered. I guess I had best start at the beginning, with our landing on the 6th inst.
Early that morning we landed in a cove in the northernmost part of Lake George and advanced the army in three columns. The forest was extremely dense and covered everywhere...there were no cleared areas... and we were immediately lost and confused. An advance party of French, who had been spying on us from a large rock and were now headed back to Carillon, was also foundering in these same woods, and neither of us knew the other was there. A Frenchman called out inquiring who we were, and was answered by Major Putnam in French that we were their countrymen. However, they opened fire upon our column and at the first fire, Lord Howe was struck by a musket ball which crashed through him, piercing his heart and lungs and shattering his backbone, knocking him onto his back. He never moved again, except for a slight quivering of his hands for an instant. Timothy, Chauncey, and I witnessed this tragic moment, Malcolm, from about 10 feet. We could not believe what we had just seen. It all seemed to be happening very slowly, and we were powerless to do anything about it. IT WAS SUDDEN AND INSTANT.
When Lord Howe died, the spirit went out of the army. He was the very heart and soul of us all. Later that day, when his lifeless form was brought into the camp back at the landing there was hardly a dry eye. We were able to beat back the French party, inflicting tremendous casualties on them. According to prisoners, few of them made it back to the fort.
On the 7th we advanced again on the fort, but by a different route, over the small stream which connects Lake George to Lake Champlain, and lay on our arms all night. The next morning, the 8th , we once again advanced in three columns.
The French had constructed an earthwork across the whole of the peninsula of Ticonderoga, nearly 3/4 of a mile from the fort, itself. What a formidable work it was! It was built of a great wall of logs and an abatis of trees with their branches sharpened and facing us about 100 feet from their trenches. At first sight it was obvious that no man could penetrate it.
Oh, Dear Cousins! It was suicide! Wave after wave of the 42nd Highlanders, the proud Black Watch assaulted this abatis....and time after time they were thrown back, meanwhile suffering horrendous losses. The sight of those countrymen of yours impaled on the branches, shot through, and mangled so horribly makes my heart ache so. Even with the losses and difficulty in getting through the abatis, some succeeded in reaching the wall, only to be shot or die from the bayonet. Our losses also included a similar count from the Royal American Regiment.
Malcolm, Davey...I witnessed something I thought I never would see....a British army as powerful as we were yesterday was forced to retreat, leaving the field in the control of a much smaller enemy. It is said that our losses, both British and Provincial forces, was nearly as great as the entire force of French defending Carillon.
And now, dear cousins, it is my solemn and unpleasant duty to inform you that your gallant countryman and kinsman, Sgt. Alisdair Robison, 42nd Highlanders, the Black Watch, was killed making the final assault on the earthworks. He had, somehow, made his way through the abatis and had turned to encourage his troops to follow him, and while standing there waving his backsword and bellowing, “Onward, lads! I have gotten here, you can, too!!” when a volley of musketry was sent in his direction by a squad of Frenchmen. I don’t believe there was an inch of his 6 foot 5 inch frame that wasn’t pierced, cousins. He died instantly and the assault failed....and the army retreated to the safety of our cove.
We are all...those of us who were not left dead or dying on the field...are now back in our boats, heading back to the head of Lake George, only this time there are no pipers playing, nor drummers beating. The is only the silence, interrupted by the sounds of the Lake upon the whaleboat and the occassional cries and moans of the wounded. Except for some torn clothes and cuts and bruises, Timothy, Chauncey and I are not injured. The Good Lord had us under His protection today, for sure, and we have been on our knees, giving thanks to Him for that. I have not seen Flags or Tales all day, since we made the advance this morning. The smoke was so thick you could hardly see, and they may have drifted to another area away from us. This was quite common today. I pray they are alright, too, but my stomach has a knot in it. We are earnestly hoping and praying that they are in another boat. Organization was sadly lacking at the landing as we departed. Tons of equipment and supplies...and even some wounded...were left there.
Tonight, I am sure that a victorious French force is celebrating...and while they are celebrating, the once-proud British Lion is skulking off with its tail between its legs.....
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