Ft. William Henry Massacre As A French
Fault Essay, Research Paper
In the act of war, men are in conflict with each other over certain things and fighting is a way to remedy this. However, every decent man knows that there are certain codes of chivalry that one is upheld to during an act of war. These are basic codes of respect and rationality that go along with fighting. Theses are rules of conduct that characterize a gentleman. At Ft. William Henry, the Marquis de Montcalm and the French army violated these manners of war. The French demonstrated the curtsey of barbarians when they allowed the English to be brutally massacred by Indians as they left Ft. William Henry in retreat.
Major General Webb was the commanding officer at the Fort William Henry, until he decided to leave for Ft. Edward a few miles away, taking a good number of men with him. This left the fort in the hands of Colonel Monro and Colonel Young and about 2,300 men, and only about half of these men were fit for duty. The fort was bombarded with a garrison of over 7, 500 French soldiers and Indian allies. Monro held out for four days, and did not decide to seek terms with the French until he was notified that reinforcements were not available to Monro at the time.
Monro agreed to the terms for surrender given by Montcalm. The British were to leave the fort entirely, accept for the wounded that were to be returned to them as soon as they were seen healthy. The British could leave honorably to nearby Ft. Edward with their arms, but without ammunition. They carry their flags away with honor as long as agreed not to fight for 18 months. Monro accepted the terms of surrender given by Montcalm, as they were respectful and honorable. Mono also had little choice in matters because he was outnumbered by nearly three to one, without possible chance of reinforcements. The terms allowed the British to be defeated without a loss of their moral or dignity. No one would be taken prisoner. The terms were discussed like gentleman while battle was put on hold. The terms of the agreement were in fact so good, that they now seem suspicious. As it turned out, Montcalm went back on his word, and turned his back on human decency as well.
As is all too well known, the British company did not make it very far in their retreat to Ft. Edward. No sooner had the British left the fort than they were brutally attacked by a large band of Indians. The helpless British troops could do little to defend themselves from the ravage Indians, as they were murdered and scalped. They had no ammunition, and were leaving in a peaceful fashion with innocent women and children, as they had agreed upon with the French and their allies. Why would the French allow this horrible crime to be committed on their civilized counterparts?
The Indians come from a different culture than the white man. They do not understand the curtseys of war, or the art of being a gentleman. One cannot reason with the Indian. They are oafish men who are simply fighting for a voice in what will happen to the lands in which they live. This massacre at Ft. William Henry could have almost have been expected to happen at the hands of the Indians. The Indians can only be looked down upon as being ignorant of the proper behavior in warfare. They are but children who do not yet realize moral code that is at hand in warfare, therefore they cannot be blamed. If a child does something wrong, but they are too young to realize their faults, the parents are held responsible. In this case, the finger of blame is pointed directly towards the French. The French are the ‘fathers’ of the Indians by title.
The French were well aware of the Indian’s desire to acquire gains from the fighting that they were contributing to the war. By the agreement that the British and the French had made, the Indians had little chance to gain any goods or booty for themselves as a result of conquest. They wanted a trophy for the war they had engaged themselves in, and they did not have it. The Natives had traveled many miles to be a part of the battle that they now saw never happening. The French knew that Indians were going to make sure and get booty from the British, despite any agreements the two had made together. The Indians had implied their intentions and desires to the French, and the French simply turned their backs.
During the negotiations, Colonel Young told Montcalm that he was concerned with the behavior of the Indians around the camp, and he wanted to make sure that there was a complete and full understanding of the terms of surrender among the Indians. The agreement between the French and the British was translated to the many different tribes, but who knows what the Indians were really told. Some of the French translators most likely implied that the words of the agreement to peaceful British surrender were not to be taken seriously. One would be a fool to not to think that the French at some point told the Indians that they could do what they want. By admitting that, although the two are allies, the French do not have absolute power over the Indians, the French are subliminally telling the Indians to go ahead and attack the British. The French are two-faced in this war. They were allies with some of the Indians indeed, and they seemed to attempt to uphold the honorable codes of conduct in the war in a superficial way, but below the surface they were out to win the war any war they could. The French have no problem agreeing to wipe the blood clean from their hands and let the Indians take care of the English. The French simply handed the British over to the Indians to be murdered, scalped, and eaten. They threw the British into a cage of hungry lions and threw away the key. If the French really had any intention to help the defenseless British, (beyond that of making themselves look innocent) they would have. However, they did not and they thereby broke the rules of dignified fighting in exchange for a cheap step towards victory in the war.
The Indians terrified the French, even though they were allies with them. They feared that if they angered the Indians too much by not letting them fulfill their intent of the British, the Natives would retaliate against them. Just as the Indians put their goal of war above that of following European war conduct, the French placed winning the procession of America above the codes chivalry also. To the French, that is the main goal, winning the war. This comes first and never second to being a gentleman, or following rules of war. The Indians are but savages that live by inferior means of moral conduct, but the French were the overseers of the Indians, the father figure. They did little within their power to protect the British troops and their families from a massacre that represented dishonor, chaos and evasion. Now the French have little claim to the title gentlemen, and they will forever be remembered as nothing but weasels of war at the deceitful, ferocious massacre of Ft. William Henry.