Fort William Henry

Geographic position

43.4203° N, 73.7111° W


General note

Fort William Henry is located near the southern end of Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains in New York state. During the French and Indian War, the British built Fort William Henry, designed by Captain William Eyre and William Johnson, to serve as a base of attack against French fortifications. In 1757, led by French General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, the French and their Indian allies placed Fort William Henry under siege. As conditions deteriorated within the fort, General Montcalm offered generous terms of surrender to Lieutenant Colonel George Monro, who was the leader of the fort. The British accepted the terms and most left the fort in hopes of seeking protection at nearby Fort Edward. After the truce, Indians immediately entered Fort William Henry in order to take any remaining British goods, which would have been considered payment for their military services, and killed several lingering British subjects. On August 10, the Indians then attacked the retreating British column. These incidents inspired the scenes of massacre in James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans (1826). Early reports of these events suggested that 1500 British subjects were killed, but in reality, no more than 184 British men, women, and children were killed. The Indians captured and ransomed many British subjects as well, and the French burned Fort William Henry. The Wheelock-sponsored missionary Theophilus Chamberlain was among those captured at Fort William Henry, and he spent a year in captivity. As a result, Wheelock felt that Chamberlain’s knowledge of Native Americans would make him a good candidate for a missionary.