The Conquest

General Dieskau's Defeat

An Abortive Attempt Against Fort Edward

Meanwhile, Baron de Dieskau arrived in New France with his troops. Except for the 350 men who were captured from the Lys, all the French battalions had finally reached their destination. General Dieskau was responsible for tactical decisions, but for matters of strategy he was required to take orders from Governor General Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil. The latter's primary objective was to attack Fort Oswego (which the French called "Chouaguen") on the south shore of Lake Ontario. However, he cancelled this expedition when he learned that a 3,000-strong army of American militiamen was gathering south of Lake Champlain under the command of Colonel William Johnson to take Fort Saint-Frédéric. If this army made its way to the top of Lake Champlain and then the Richelieu, Montreal would indeed be at its mercy.

The La Reine and Languedoc battalions, as well as the Marine troops, militiamen and Amerindians, therefore assembled at Fort Saint-Frédéric under the command of Dieskau. With 1,500 men, the general decided to avoid the enemy army assembled at Lake George and to attack Fort Edward further to the south to cut off its avenue of retreat. This daring plan failed. Dieskau had to abandon his plans near Fort Edward because the Mohawks who were allied to the French refused to join the battle. They said that they were ready to defend Canada, but not to attack the English on their own territory. The fact was that they did not want to fight their Mohawk brothers who were English allies. Dieskau thus decided to go northward once again and to attack the camp where Johnson was with part of his army.

Johnson found himself in a difficult position, for Dieskau's movement had cut off his communications with Albany. More serious still, his army consisted solely of New England militiamen who had enlisted for the campaign. Johnson sent 1,000 men to meet Dieskau, who was waiting to ambush them. However, the Mohawks allied to the French warned those in the enemy camp of the ambush. The American militiamen got off with light losses and took refuge in the barricaded camp containing the rest of Johnson's troops on the current site of Lake George in New York State.