French and Indian War: Battle of Lake George

William Johnson at Lake George
Johnson sparing Baron Dieskau's life after the Battle of Lake George. Photograph Source: Public Domain

The Battle of Lake George took place September 8, 1755, during the French & Indian War (1754-1763). One of the first major engagements in the northern theater of the conflict, the fighting was the result of British efforts to capture Fort St. Frédéric on Lake Champlain. Moving to block the enemy, the French initially ambushed the British column near Lake George. When the British withdrew back to their fortified camp, the French followed.

Subsequent assaults on the British failed and the French were ultimately driven from the field with the loss of their commander Jean Erdman, Baron Dieskau. The victory help the British secure the Hudson River Valley and provided a needed boost for American morale after the disaster at the Battle of the Monongahela that July. To aid in holding the area, the British commenced building Fort William Henry.


With the outbreak of the French & Indian War, the governors of the British colonies in North America convened in April 1755, to discuss strategies for defeating the French. Meeting in Virginia, they decided to launch three campaigns that year against the enemy. In the north, the British effort would be led by Sir William Johnson who was ordered to move north through Lakes George and Champlain. Departing Fort Lyman (re-named Fort Edward in 1756) with 1,500 men and 200 Mohawks in August 1755, Johnson moved north and reached Lac Saint Sacrement on the 28th.

Renaming the lake after King George II, Johnson pushed on with the goal of capturing Fort St. Frédéric. Located on Crown Point, the fort controlled part of Lake Champlain. To the north, the French commander, Jean Erdman, Baron Dieskau, learned of Johnson's intention and assembled a force of 2,800 men and 700 allied Native Americans. Moving south to Carillon (Ticonderoga), Dieskau made camp and planned an attack on Johnson's supply lines and Fort Lyman. Leaving half of his men at Carillon as a blocking force, Dieskau moved down Lake Champlain to South Bay and marched to within four miles of Fort Lyman.

Change of Plans

Scouting the fort on September 7, Dieskau found it heavily defended and elected not to attack. As a result, he began moving back towards South Bay. Fourteen miles to the north, Johnson received word from his scouts that the French were operating in his rear. Halting his advance, Johnson began fortifying his camp and dispatched 800 Massachusetts and New Hampshire militia, under Colonel Ephraim Williams, and 200 Mohawks, under King Hendrick, south to reinforce Fort Lyman. Departing at 9:00 a.m. on September 8, they moved down the Lake George-Fort Lyman Road.

Battle of Lake George

  • Conflict: French and Indian War (1754-1763)
  • Dates: September 8, 1755
  • Armies & Commanders:
  • British
  • Sir William Johnson
  • 1,500 men, 200 Mohawk Indians
  • French
  • Jean Erdman, Baron Dieskau
  • 1,500 men
  • Casualties:
  • British: 331 (disputed)
  • French: 339 (disputed)

Setting an Ambush

While moving his men back towards South Bay, Dieskau was alerted to Williams' movement. Seeing an opportunity, he reversed his march and set an ambush along the road about three miles south of Lake George. Placing his grenadiers across the road, he aligned his militia and Indians in cover along the sides of the road. Unaware of the danger, Williams' men marched directly into the French trap. In an action later referred to as the "Bloody Morning Scout," the French caught the British by surprise and inflicted heavy casualties.

Among those killed were King Hendrick and Williams who was shot in the head. With Williams dead, Colonel Nathan Whiting assumed command. Trapped in a crossfire, the majority of the British began fleeing back towards Johnson's camp. Their retreat was covered by around 100 men led by Whiting and Lieutenant Colonel Seth Pomeroy. Fighting a determined rearguard action, Whiting was able to inflict substantial casualties on their pursuers, including killing the leader of the French Native Americans, Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Pierre. Pleased with his victory, Dieskau followed the fleeing British back to their camp.

William Johnson
Sir William Johnson. Public Domain

The Grenadiers Attack

Arriving, he found Johnson's command fortified behind a barrier of trees, wagons, and boats. Immediately ordering an attack, he found that his Native Americans refused to go forward. Shaken by the loss of Saint-Pierre, they did not wish to assault a fortified position. In an effort to shame his allies into attacking, Dieskau formed his 222 grenadiers into an attack column and personally led them forward around noon. Charging into heavy musket fire and grape shot from Johnson's three cannon, Dieskau's attack bogged down. In the fighting, Johnson was shot in the leg and command devolved to Colonel Phineas Lyman.

By late afternoon, the French broke off the attack after Dieskau was badly wounded. Storming over the barricade, the British drove the French from the field, capturing the wounded French commander. To the south, Colonel Joseph Blanchard, commanding Fort Lyman, saw the smoke from the battle and dispatched 120 men under Captain Nathaniel Folsom to investigate. Moving north, they encountered the French baggage train approximately two miles south of Lake George.

Taking a position in the trees, they were able to ambush around 300 French soldiers near Bloody Pond and succeeded in driving them from the area. After recovering his wounded and taking several prisoners, Folsom returned to Fort Lyman. A second force was sent out the next day to recover the French baggage train. Lacking supplies and with their leader gone, the French retreated north.


Precise casualties for the Battle of Lake George are not known. Sources indicate that the British suffered between 262 and 331 killed, wounded, and missing, while the French incurred between 228 and 600. The victory at the Battle of Lake George marked one the first victories for American provincial troops over the French and their allies. In addition, though fighting around Lake Champlain would continue to rage, the battle effectively secured the Hudson Valley for the British. To better secure the area, Johnson ordered the construction of Fort William Henry near Lake George.



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Hickman, Kennedy. "French and Indian War: Battle of Lake George." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Hickman, Kennedy. (2023, April 5). French and Indian War: Battle of Lake George. Retrieved from Hickman, Kennedy. "French and Indian War: Battle of Lake George." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).