18thCenturyMage/Crown Point Expedition

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The Crown Point Expedition took place in May of 1747 in the north of the Province of New York. The battle was part of the campaign by the British to cease French raids on border communities and take control of the frontier during King George's War. On one side was around 1,300 British regulars, colonial militia and indians under the command of Colonel James Rafferty, and on the other side around 850 marines, Canadian militia and indians under Colonel Paul Bécart de Granville et de Fonville.

Date 10th May 1747
Location West of Lake George, New York
Result French victory
Great Britain
Iroquois Confederacy
Wabanaki Confederacy
Commanders and leaders
Colonel James Rafferty
Colonel Martin Wagenbach
Major Courtenay Dowling
Captain David Robinson
Colonel Paul Bécart de Granville et de Fonville
Capitaine Luc Marin de la Malgue
Jacques Soleil
1,200 regulars and militia
approximately 100 indians
400 marines and militia
approximately 450 indians
Casualties and losses
144 killed
139 wounded
24 killed
72 wounded


The governor of Massechusetts, William Shirley, had argued for an attack on Fort Saint-Frédéric early on in King George's War, recognising the threat it posed to the northern border of the New England and Middle Colonies. It was used by the French and their Indian allies as a staging ground for raids and heavier assaults, and its commanding position gave the French control of the frontier. After the loss of Saratoga in late 1745, an Iroquois and intercolonial force was assembled in the July 1746 for a retaliatory attack, but the British regulars failed to arrive and the attack was aborted. That same year, a large French and Indian force raided the Hoosac River valley causing great losses to English colonists.

In the winter of 1746, in spite of voices warning of the risk to the trade with Quebec (particularly strongly on the part of Albany's merchants), the New York assembly resolved to end the threat of Fort Saint-Frédéric once and for all. They passed measures providing for the raising and equipping of militia regiments from the province and stores of additional arms and munitions. Assurances were sought from governor Clinton to guarantee British regular support and emissaries sent to the Iroquois seeking aid once again.

Orders were issued to gather an expeditionary force in Albany at the end of the spring. By mid- April a British regular regiment under Colonel James Rafferty arrived to lead the expedition, supported by a regiment of New York provincial militia under Colonel Martin Wagenbach, a two of companies of David Robinson's provincial rangers, artillery from New York and around a hundred Iroquois. Rafferty make the unpopular decision of ordering the wives and other non-essential camp followers to remain in Albany, in an attempt to reduce the size of the baggage train. Then he split his force, putting the guns and baggage on boats to send up the Hudson river, while his infantry would march ahead along the route of the river.

Meanwhile, Paul Bécart, the commandant of Fort Saint-Frédéric learned of British forces amassing at Albany and mustered a force of his own, comprising of three companies of troupes de la marine from the garrison, a body of Canadian militia under Luc Marin and around 450 natives from the Wabanaki Confederacy led by Jacques Soleil. While he lacked the manpower to directly oppose the British in the field, he formulated a plan with Marin to use their knowledge of the countryside and native warfare to their advantage. There were a limited number of routes the British could take to approach Saint-Frédéric and an ambush could be set south of Lac du Saint-Sacrement.

The British expedition set off from Albany on 1st May and made good time on the first leg of its journey, Rafferty's infantry column reaching Fort Lyman early on the 7th May. The fort was re-occupied and the stockade made whole again, during which time the ranger companies were sent to assess the routes ahead. Rather than wait for the artillery and baggage to catch up, Rafferty chose to press on, leaving two companies of militia behind to secure the portage guarded by the fort.

The ranger companies had scouted the two alternative routes around the southern tip of Lac du Saint-Sacrement, and since the company scouting the westerly route around had returned where the other had not, Rafferty chose to take the main force that way.

Back at Fort Lyman, on the evening of the 9th May a hundred Wabanaki assaulted the fort, taking the garrison by surprise and killing them to a man. They then sat in wait around the portage for the arrival of the river force. Now behind the route of Rafferty's march, Bécart gathered the bulk of his men at a narrow pass close to the south of Lac du Saint-Sacrement. Around ten miles to the north of them, the British infantry began construction of a temporary camp as a staging ground for the final assault on Fort Saint-Frédéric.


On the morning of 10th May, the guns and baggage arrived at the portage before Hudson's Fall and began to unload. An hour into their activities, they came under fire, the militia with them hard-pressed to give resistance with their backs to the river. Captain Robinson's company were skirting around the marsh at the south of the lake on their way back from the alternative path, and heard the gunfire coming from the ambush at the portage. They made haste towards the sounds of battle, falling on the ambushers and scattering them.

Colonel Bécart learned of the ambush and launched the next stage of his plan. An Acadian militiaman was dressed as an Iroquois and sent up to Rafferty's camp, claiming to be a runner from the fort, bringing news it was under attack and in need of aid. Leaving Colonel Wagenbach in command of the camp, Rafferty immediately dispatched half of his regiment to march to the fort's relief.

As it reached the narrowing of the pass, they found the path was obstructed with fallen trees, at which point fire began to pour in from the flanks. Colonel Rafferty was mortally wounded, and it was rumoured that Marin himself fired the fatal shot. From behind the barricade blocking the path, the French marines stood up and began to fire in volleys into the head of the British column of march. Major Dowling fell from his horse, at first thought killed or wounded, but he proved only winged and in a daze. The British tried to form into lines to repel the three-pronged attack firing ineffectually into the trees and the marines sheltering behind the barricade. Seeing the men around the British colours faltering, a band of Canadian militia charged out of the trees in the hopes of capturing the standard. This roused Major Dowling to charge, single-handed at first, to it's rescue, an action which steadied the remnants who had now fallen back into a rough box around the colours.

Disaster was averted by the timely arrival of Captain Robinson, who had installed the survivors of the river ambush in Fort Lyman, then marched to the sounds of gunfire to the north. Their sniping drove off the marines blocking the path, who hadn't expected any opposition to their rear, then swept up the flanking attackers.

Deciding that he'd done enough damage, and not willing to risk a full-scale engagement, Bécart sounded the retreat and brought his troops away in good order.


Dowling, now in command of the British, received Robinson's report of what had befallen both the garrison at Fort Lyman and the guns and baggage. A heavy toll had been exacted on the gunners in the ambush at the river portage and some of the ammunition lost. Realising the expedition was now lost, Dowling made the fateful decision to call it off rather than press on. Sending a messenger to Colonel Wagenbach with orders to break camp and retreat to Fort Lyman, he marched the remainder of his force south to secure it and what was left of the baggage ahead of their return. On 19th May the expeditionary force arrived once more in Albany to report the failure of its objective.

For the French it was a critical victory with a relatively low cost, losing a little under a hundred dead and wounded.

For the British it was a costly defeat, losing almost 300 men, many of the dead from the militia who'd been left to garrison Fort Lyman. Only the actions of Major Dowling and Captain Robinson had prevented a tragedy and the loss of potentially the entire expeditionary force. There had been rumblings about attempting another expedition the following campaigning season, but these never amounted to anything, and the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle ending the war was signed in October of 1748.

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