Battle on Snowshoes

Battle on Snowshoes

The Battle on Snowshoes refers to two separate military engagements during the French and Indian War. Both battles were fought by members of British Ranger companies led by Robert Rogers against French troops and Indians allied to France, and both took place in northern New York state in the area of Lake George and Lake Champlain. The name for these battles comes from the fact that the British combatants were wearing snowshoes at the time.

First Battle on Snowshoes, January 21, 1757

The first of the engagements called the Battle on Snowshoes occurred on January 21, 1757, in Canada, New France in the area of Crown Point near Fort Ticonderoga. This battle is sometimes referred to as the Battle of LaBarbue Creek based on author Burt Loescher's erroneous claim that it took place at LaBarbue Creek.

Robert Rogers, a captain at the time, had been leading a scout from Fort Edward, with a stop at Fort William Henry at the head of Lake George to acquire provisions, snowshoes, and additional soldiers. Rogers left Fort William Henry with 86 men including himself, but 12 turned back because of injuries.Robert Rogers, "The Journals of Robert Rogers"; Todish, Timothy J., ed. (Fleischmanns, NY: Purple Mountain Press, 2002)] In the afternoon of the 21st, Rogers’ men encountered an ambush of, according to his estimate, '250 French and Indians.' French versions indicate this party consisted of at least 100 regulars and Canadian militia with several Indians, 'almost all Ottawas' Louis Antoine de Bougainville, "Adventures in the Wilderness"; Edward P. Hamilton, ed. and trans. (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1964)] from the Ohio region who were aligned with France.

The fight lasted several hours and ended only after sunset when neither side could see the other. Rogers was injured twice during the battle. In the dark, Rogers and his survivors retreated six miles to Lake Champlain and sent Lt. John Stark with two men to Fort William Henry for assistance in returning to safety. On the 23rd, Rogers, with 48 able-bodied and six wounded soldiers, returned to Fort William Henry. If 54 returned, then 20 men were killed or taken prisoner and in fact French reports claimed they took eight British prisoners. The French—consisting of 98 Regulars and 90 Canadians and Indians—had 37 killed and wounded. [ [ Francis Parkman] ] + possible one additional casualty {Reportably the Rangers had captured seven Frenchmen near Fort Carillon before they themselves were ambushed. One wounded and captured Ranger-later exchanged-claimed to have killed one of the captured Frenchmen after the Rangers were ambushed; it is unclear if this was the fate of the other captured ones as well}.

The French noted that they were at a disadvantage, being without snowshoes and 'floundering in snow up to their knees,' and the British were fortunate in being able to maintain positions on the high ground and behind large trees.

econd Battle on Snowshoes, March 13, 1758

The second engagement called the Battle on Snowshoes, and the better-known of the two, took place in the afternoon of March 13, 1758, on the west side of Lake George, NY. Captain Rogers had been sent on a scout from Fort Edward northwards toward Fort Carillon (later Fort Ticonderoga). General Haviland, who gave the order for the scout, had originally planned on 400 men taking part but reduced that to 180, even though they had reason to believe the French knew of the scout and were expecting 400 Rangers.

The Rangers, which included several soldiers from the 27th Regiment of Foot, the Inniskillings, and from other units, wore snowshoes as they marched through snow 4 feet deep, with a rivulet to their left and a steep mountain separating them from Lake George to their right. Their advance guard saw the enemy and what they assumed was a total of 'ninety-six, chiefly Indians.' Rogers’ men immediately engaged the enemy and believed they had routed the opposition but they were soon under attack by an additional force. Rogers estimated the main body to have been 600 French and Indians, while the French report sending 200 'domiciled Indians, Iroquois and Nepissings' along with 30 French regulars.

The Rangers fought bravely, considering they were outnumbered and their numbers fell quickly. They made several successful attempts to prevent themselves from being flanked. But after an hour and a half of heavy fighting, their numbers were too few and they finally retreated. The Rangers lost about 125 who were killed or captured. Rogers estimated 100 killed and nearly 100 wounded of the French-Indian forces; however, the French listed casualties as total of ten Indians killed, seventeen wounded and three Canadians wounded. [ [ New York State, The Battle on Snowshoes, March 1758] ]

Robert Rogers himself was originally reported by the French to have been killed, which in fact was not true. This report stemmed from the manner of Rogers’ escape during which he discarded some of his belongings, including his regimental coat, which contained his military commission. This episode also gave rise to the famous legend about Robert Rogers’ sliding 400 feet down the side of a hill to the frozen surface of Lake George. While there is no proof of this event, the rockface he supposedly went down has become known as 'Rogers' Slide' [ [ Lake George Historical Association - Roger's Slide] ] or 'Rogers Rock.' Authors Timothy J. Todish and Gary Zaboly examine this particular part of story in detail as part of their analysis of the journal of Robert Rogers.


ee also

*List of conflicts in Canada

Further reading

*Bob Bearor, "Battle On Snowshoes" (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 1997).
*Francis Parkman, "Montcalm and Wolf" (1884). Multiple editions currently available.
*Mary Cochrane Rogers, "Rogers' Rock, Lake George, March 13, 1758: A Battle Fought on Snow Shoes" (Derry, NH: published by the author, 1917).
*Gary S. Zaboly, "A True Ranger: The Life and Many Wars of Major Robert Rogers" (Garden City Park, NY: Royal Blockhouse, 2004).

External links

* [ New York State Military Museum]
* [ Mohican Press]
* [ Documentary]
* [ Reenactment]
* [ The New York Independence Trail]
* [ "The Battle on Snowshoes" By Gary Zaboly]
* [ on Snowshoes - Map]

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