BATTLE OF LAKE GEORGE
No one delighted more in the free and easy life of the frontier than did Colonel William Johnson. He was a typical colonial patroon, a representative of the king and a friend of the red man. The Indians trusted him implicitly. He had studied their character and knew well their language. He entered into their life with full sympathy for their traditions and was said to possess an influence over them such as had never been gained by any other white man. For a long time he lived at Fort Johnson, a three-storey dwelling of stone on the left bank of the Mohawk, and later at Johnson Hall, a more spacious mansion several miles farther north. Here all who came were treated with a lavish hand, and the wayfarer found a welcome as he stopped to admire the flowers which grew before the portals. Within were a retinue of servants, careful for the needs of all. When hearts were sad or time went slowly, a dwarf belonging to the household played a merry tune on his violin to drive away gloom from the wilderness mansion.
On one occasion, however, Johnson’s hospitality was taxed beyond all bounds. This was at Fort Johnson in the year 1755, just after he had been made a major-general in the colonial militia. The French from Canada had already been making bold encroachments on territory claimed by the English to the north and the west. They had erected Fort Duquesne at the junction of the Alleghany and Monongahela rivers, where the great city of Pittsburgh now stands; they had fortified Niagara; and now they were bidding defiance to all the English colonists between the Alleghany Mountains and the sea. War had not been declared in Europe, but the inhabitants of the Thirteen Colonies, only too eager to stay the hand of France in America, planned a series of blows against the enemy. Among other things, they decided that an attempt should be made to capture the French stronghold of Fort Frederic at Crown Point on Lake Champlain. The officer selected to Command the expedition to be sent on this enterprise was William Johnson, now a major-general of the colony of New York.
It flashed at once across Johnson’s mind that his redskin friends could aid him in the undertaking; so he sent messages with all speed to the tribes, asking them to gather at his house. Eleven hundred hungry Indians answered the summons. From all quarters they came in, taking up their residence for the time being upon his broad domain. Johnson’s bright and genial face clouded as he looked upon the multitude of guests and saw his food supplies vanishing and every green thing that grew upon his fields and meadows being plucked up. But he bore it all good-naturedly, for he was determined to win their support. Seated on the grass in squads, according to their tribes, they listened while he addressed them and told them of their duties to the English crown. With rising eloquence he said that they were bound in their allegiance to the English as though with a silver chain. ’The ends of this silver chain,’ he added, ’are fixed in the immovable mountains, in so firm a manner that the hands of no mortal enemy might be able to move it.’ Then as he bade them take the field, he held a war belt in his hands and exclaimed with fervour: