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Life and Death on the Shore of Lake George

The skirmishes of the French and Indian War have long held a fascination for me. The Last of the Mohicans was one of my favourite books as a teenager despite the rather convoluted early 19th century language and style in which it was written.

I wrote La Petite Guerre rules, together with David Blanchard, primarily to re-fight such skirmishes (available as a free download in the rules section of my website). I resurrected the rules recently to re-fight Batoche (1885) but it has been quite a while since my French and Indian War figures have seen the light of day. They came out of their boxes recently to fight a skirmish set in the prelude to the siege of Ft William Henry (1757) — very loosely based on the historical engagement at Sabbath Day Point. I could not resist introducing the fictional Natty Bumppo (aka Hawkeye) and the Mohicans Chingachgook and Uncas into the game.

The action at Sabbath Day Point was an ambush that ended with the slaughter of a British reconnaissance in force. The inevitable outcome would not make for a good game so I changed it to an encounter between several small scouting parties, each seeking intelligence and supplies in the lead up to the siege of Ft William Henry. The full scenario is available on my website here (Grant's Farm).

The fictional Grant’s Farm was the focal point of the game. The British players were looking to gain intelligence of French actions (by capturing prisoners), secure supplies from the farm (or deny them to the enemy), and to get the Grants to the safety of Ft William Henry to the south. The French were also looking to gather supplies and intelligence. Four players, two British, one French and one Ottawa, converged on the farm from the four corners of the table (see Grant's Farm scenario map).

Col Parker of the New Jersey Blues attempted to drag his boats up a stream from Lake George towards the farm. When one got stuck he left the boats and led his detachment towards the farm on foot.

Reaching the farm, Parker warned the Grants of the impending danger and began to gather up livestock and supplies. This led to some amusing moments as some of the New Jersey men tried (not always successfully) to get the pigs under control. Meanwhile Ensign Langlade’s French were closing in on the farm. They are just visible in the top right of the photo above but, being in the forest, they were not yet visible to the other on-table figures.

As the French closed in on the farm from the northwest, the Ottawas came in by canoes from the across the lake from the northeast, beaching their canoes in the same place where Parker had disembarked. The Indians moved past the British boats, sending the lone New Jersey man, who had been left to guard them, fleeing in panic.

As Obwandiyag’s Ottawas moved rapidly towards the farm, Capt. Putnam’s rangers arrived on the scene from the south. The Ottawas opened fire, killing one ranger and stunning another.

Obwandiyag immediately charged ahead of his men to kill the stunned ranger with his tomahawk only to be shot and killed himself by one of the other rangers at close range. A turn later most of the other Ottawas had closed, sending one ranger fleeing in terror and capturing Capt. Putnam along with the other remaining man.

The unexpected arrival of the Ottawas cause panic to spread amongst the neat column of New Jersey Blues and the Grant family who were carrying supplies and leading livestock along the trail towards the safety of the Fort. Supplies were dropped and some of the animals started heading off in random directions.

Meanwhile Langlade’s French were closing in. An effective volley wounded and incapacitated most of Parker's rearguard detachment. Given the chance to make his escape, Col Parker nobly decided to stand his ground and was killed when the French came into close combat. His stand bought time for the Grants to get away.

Hawkeye, Chingachgook and Uncas began making their way to Grant’s farm as soon as they heard the first shots. The arrived too late to save either Parker or Putnam but they were able to intervene to prevent the French from stopping the Grants and some of the supplies escaping to Ft William Henry with a much reduced guard. The Ottawas meanwhile were occupied scalping their slain enemies and securing their prisoners.

It was a clear French victory. Langlade was the only leader to have survived the engagement. Obwandiyag and Parker were slain while Putnam was a captive and unlikely to survive much longer. The British had also suffered more casualties than the French or Ottawas. The Grants and some supplies did make it away to safety so it was not a complete disaster for the British. The Grant family has much to be grateful for.

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