The Highlanders were soon upon the scene of action filled to the brim with the stubborn fury with which they were wont to fight. At their head marched their Major, the dark-faced Inverawe, his son only a little behind.
The arrival of reinforcements put new heart into the gallant but exhausted regiments which had led the attack; and now the Highlanders were swarming about the foot of the rampart, seeking to scale its bristling sides, often gaining the top, by using the bodies of their slain countrymen as ladders, but only to be cut down upon the other side.
The Major cheered on his men. The shadow was gone from his face now. In the heat of the battle he had no thought left for himself. His kinsmen and clansmen were about him. He was ever in the van. One young chieftain with some twenty followers was on the top of the rampart, hacking and hewing at those behind, as if possessed of superhuman strength. The Highlanders, with their strange cries and yells, pressed ever on and on. But the raking fire from behind the abattis swept their ranks, mowed them down, and strewed the ground with dying and dead.
Like a rock stood Campbell of Inverawe, his eyes everywhere, directing, encouraging, cheering on his men, who needed not his words to inspire them with unquenchable fury.
Suddenly his tall figure swayed forward. Without so much as a cry he fell. There was a rush towards him of his own clansmen. They lifted him, and bore him from the scene of action. It was the end of the assault. The Highlanders who had scaled the rampart had all been bayoneted within. Nearly two thousand men, wounded or dead, lay in that terrible clearing. It was hopeless to fight longer. All that man could do had been done. The recall was sounded, and the brave troops, given over to death and disaster by the incompetence of one man, were led back to the camp exhausted and despairing; the Rangers still doing good service in carrying off the wounded, and keeping up a steady fire whilst this task was being proceeded with.
General Abercromby’s terror at the result of the day’s work was as pitiful as his mismanagement had been. There was no talk now of retrieving past blunders; there was nothing but a general rout—a retreat upon Fort Edward as fast as boats could take them. One blunder was capped by another. Ticonderoga was left to the French, when it might have been an easy prey to the English. The day of disaster was not yet ended, though away in the east the star of hope was rising.
It was at Fort Edward that the wounded laird of Inverawe breathed his last. His wound had been mortal, and he was barely living when they landed him on the banks of Lake George.
“Donald, you are avenged!” he said once, a few minutes before his death. “We have met at Ticonderoga!”
Book 4: Wolfe.
Chapter 1: A Soldier At Home.