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The Battle of Carillon, also known as the 1758 Battle of Ticonderoga, was fought on July 8, 1758, during the French and Indian War (which was part of the global Seven Years’ War). It was fought near Fort Carillon (now known as Fort Ticonderoga) on the shore of Lake Champlain in the frontier area between the British colony of New York and the French colony of New France.
In the battle, which took place primarily on a rise about three-quarters of a mile (one km) from the fort itself, a French army of about 3,600 men under General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm and the Chevalier de Levis decisively defeated an overwhelmingly numerically superior force of British troops under General James Abercrombie, which frontally assaulted an entrenched French position without using field artillery, a lack that left the British and their allies vulnerable and allowed the French to win a decisive victory. The battle was the bloodiest of the American theater of the war, with over 3,000 casualties suffered. French losses were about 400, while more than 2,000 were British.
American historian Lawrence Henry Gipson wrote of Abercrombie’s campaign that “no military campaign was ever launched on American soil that involved a greater number of errors of judgment on the part of those in positions of responsibility”. Many military historians have cited the Battle of Carillon as a classic example of tactical military incompetence. Abercrombie, confident of a quick victory, ignored several viable military options, such as flanking the French breastworks, waiting for his artillery, or laying siege to the fort. Instead, relying on a flawed report from a young military engineer, and ignoring some of that engineer’s recommendations, he decided in favor of a direct frontal assault on the thoroughly entrenched French, without the benefit of artillery. Montcalm, while concerned about the weak military position of the fort, conducted the defense with spirit. However, due in part to a lack of time, he committed strategic errors in preparing the area’s defenses that a competent attacker could have exploited, and he made tactical errors that made the attacker’s job easier.
The fort, abandoned by its garrison, was captured by the British the following year, and it has been known as Fort Ticonderoga (after its location) ever since. This battle gave the fort a reputation for impregnability that had an effect on future military operations in the area. Despite several large-scale military movements through the area, in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolutionary War, this was the only major battle fought near the fort’s location.
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