On the morning of August 9, 1757, British and colonial officers defending the besieged Fort William Henry surrendered to French forces, accepting the generous "parole of honor" offered by General Montcalm. As the column of British and colonials marched with their families and servants to Fort Edward some miles south, they were set upon by the Indian allies of the French. The resulting "massacre," thought to be one of the bloodiest days of the French and Indian War, became forever ingrained in American myth by James Fenimore Cooper's classic novel The Last of the Mohicans.
In Betrayals, historian Ian K. Steele gives us the true story behind Cooper's famous book, bringing to life men such as British commander of Fort William Henry George Monro, English General Webb, his French counterpart Montcalm, and the wild frontier world of Natty Bumppo. The Battle of Lake George and the building of the fort marked the return of European military involvement in intercolonial wars, producing an explosive mixture of the contending martial values of Indians, colonials, and European regulars. The Americans and British who were attacked after surrendering, as well as French officers and their Indian allies (the latter enraged by the small amount of English booty allowed them by the French), all felt deeply betrayed. Contemporary accounts of the victims--whose identities Steele has carefully reconstructed from newly discovered sources--helped to create a powerful, racist American folk memory that still resonates today. Survivors included men and women who were adopted into Indian tribes, sold to Canadians in a well-established white servant trade, or jailed in Canada or France as prisoners of war.
Explaining the motives for the most notorious massacre of the colonial period, Steele offers a gripping tale of a fledgling America, one which places the tragic events of the Seven Years' War in a fresh historical context. Anyone interested in the fact behind the fiction will find it fascinating reading.
"[A] detailed and elegant history....Steele is an historian who takes great pains to discover, assemble, and present historical data; he is also a fine stylist. He writes in a straightforward way that captivates the reader by its deceptive simplicity."--The Canadian review of American Studies
"Extremely well documented from research on both sides of the Atlantic...Steele treats Europeans and American Indians fairly and is unafraid of presenting either side's warts and blemishes....This study, as with any good history, is multidimesional and thought provoking in its most positive sense. It is a superbly crafted, well-researched study of mid-eighteenth century North American military culture."--American Historical Review
"Until now no one has written a careful, full-length study of a military engagement from a multicultural perspective. Ian K. Steele's Betrayals attempts to clarify the circumstances that made alliances between Indians and Europeans fragile and unpredictable....In many ways, the author succeeds admirably in his aims....Valuable reading for anyone interested in intercultural alliances in warfare; Steele has broken new ground with this
book."-American Indian Quarterly
"A model case study of meticulous research....This well-written microcosm study opens a wide window on the times and is less military than cultural history. So it can be highly recommended for a variety of experts, average readers, and students alike."--Canadian Journal of History
"An interesting reinterpretation of the events surrounding the fall of Fort William Henry. Steele's history of the fort provides an excellent case study of diplomacy and warfare on the northern colonial frontier."--William and Mary Quarterly
"An intriguing account of the intricacies of one relatively small episode which had a profound impact on both the outcome of the French-English war in North America and on the actions and attitudes of American generations later.... Short, detailed, and finely textured....Fascinating and well written....Well worth the read."--International History Review
"Definitive....In comprehensiveness, humanity, and sophistication, not other effort to deal with the french and Indian War compares with this brief, eloquent book. It deserves the widest possible readership."--Fred Anderson, Journal of American History
"Provides the most comprehensive discussion available in print of the warfare along the Lake Champlain-Lake George waterway. Highly recommended for a broad spectrum of readers."--Choice
"A thoughtful, thoroughly rsearched and very well written book which deserves a wide readership."--Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research
"Betrayals is a compelling narrative of special interest to readers of early Canadian, American, military, and Amer-Indian history."--Loyalist Gazette
"The story of that fort's seizure is clear, balanced, and a contribution to an appreciation of the difficulties of warfare on the New York frontier. Steele takes the story, moreover, an additional step by tracing how historians and others have described the bloodshed at Fort William Henry."--Pacific Historical Review
"Steele's assessments of the motives of the British, French, and Indians are judicious, and his point that the English refugees had every reason to exaggerate the brutality of the Indians is well taken. The narrative moves briskly and the writing is crisp."--Robert O'Connell
"Betrayals is essential reading for those with an interest in the French and Indian War and the role of Indians in colonial New York warfare."--New York History
"Excellent piece of work unearthing known facts behind a much-used legend."--Arthur L. Johnson, Potsdam College, SUNY
"An excellent read. The author captures and controls our attention in this retelling of a familiar event. At the same time, manages to convey the insights of recent scholarship, teaching us about the chaotic, multicultural nectar of colonial wars and the uses and abuses of the past by older and more recent generations of historians. No lover of history who has ever read or reviewed a version of The Last of the Mohicans should miss this book. A riveting
text; an uncompromised scholar."--Jay Gitlin, Yale University
"At last we have a balanced, comprehensive narrative of the complexities surrounding the fall of Fort William Henry. Ian Steele's book should be read by all interested in colonial history, and colonial literature, as well as The Last of the Mohicans. A fine useful book."--John McWilliams, Middlebury College
"A superb piece of local and military history."--Don Higginbotham, University of North Carolina
"A solidly researched and clearly presented, detailed account."--James Haw, Indiana University
"Well written and well researched. Really delves into the reasons behind the "massacre" and writings of previous explanations. An excellent picture is drawn of the period and the setting."--Lee L. Schrieber, Temple University