History and Battles of Lake George

Bolton Landing, located on beautiful Lake George, formed on March 25th, 1799, separating from the town of Thurman. Visitors to the area will find both Bolton Landing and Lake George enjoy a rich history, with many battles held on or near the Lake.

Father Isaac Joques was one of the first white men to discover Lake George in 1642. Captured by the Mohawks, he escaped only to be sent back to the area in 1646 to try and form a peace treaty – a task that ended in his death. It was in 1646 that he renamed the lake, Lac Du Saint Sacrament. A statue erected in his honor can be found in Lake George’s Battleground Park.

As the area became more populated by white settlers and the French and Indian war began, Lake George became a desirable military asset as the main water route between the Hudson River and Lake Champlain. In 1755, Sir William Johnson, an officer in charge of British and Colonial forces, arrived in the area to rid North America of the French. He promptly renamed Lac Du Saint Sacrament to Lake George – in honor of his sovereign, George II. After an ambush of Colonial forces on the road between Fort Edward and Lake George, the battle at Lake George began on September 8th, 1755. 1500 British and Colonial forces, including 200 Mohawks, defeated 3500 French, Canadian and Native American forces.

Another famous battle in Lake George was depicted in the book Last of the Mohicans, and in movies. The battle was less a one-day attack and more of a planned and executed siege. In late July of 1757, Marquis de Montcalm assembled a formidable force of approximately 3,000 regular troops, 3,000 Canadian militia, a couple hundred artillery men and 2,000 Native Americans for an attack on Fort William Henry, built on the shores of Lake George in present-day Lake George Village. Artillery pounded the Fort’s log and earthen walls, while another smaller French force attacked the British from the south. The 800 British and Colonial troops were out maneuvered and out gunned. The British finally called a truce on August 7, 1757 under seemingly generous terms of surrender.

It is after the surrender that historical controversy followed. As the unarmed British troops and camp followers left the Fort, they were attacked by the Native American allies of the French who were disappointed by the generous surrender terms as they had been expecting payment in the form of loot. They stripped the British forces of belongings, captured others and killed many. It’s how many that were killed that has been blurred as the “Fort William Henry Massacre” was later used by the British forces for propaganda purposes. Some reports stated as many as 1500 were killed during the march to Fort Edward, however, modern scholars have reduced that number to less than two hundred. Ultimately, the French achieved their intended goal of burning the Fort to the ground and retreated to Fort Carrilon.

Fort William Henry was rebuilt in 1953 and made into a museum. Today the Fort is a popular Lake George attraction for both historians and tourists alike.