Cover image for Betrayals : Fort William Henry and the massacre
Betrayals : Fort William Henry and the massacre
Steele, Ian K. (Ian Kenneth), 1937-
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1993.

Physical Description:
viii, 250 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E199 .S82 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



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 FortEdward 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 LakeGeorge 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 asFrench 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 apowerful, 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 itfascinating reading.

Author Notes

Ian K. Steele is Professor of History at the University of Western Ontario. His books include Politics of Colonial Policy, Guerillas and Grenadiers, and the award-winning The English Atlantic, 1675-1740: An Exploration of Communication and Community.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Steele's in-depth analysis of the events concerning the "massacre" of the British and Colonial prisoners after the fall of Fort William Henry argues that the killings resulted from differing concepts of war held by Montcalm and by his Native American allies. Imbued with European notions of "noble" and "civilized" warfare, Montcalm failed to comprehend that most of the warriors fought for personal glory, revenge, or booty. Montcalm's decision to parole the captured British garrison and to allow them to retain their personal possessions denied the Indians the fruits of the victory. The warriors' attempts to seize the British property as the prisoners marched toward Fort Edward precipitated the slaughter. Well written, this heavily documented account 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. -R. D. Edmunds, Indiana University--Bloomington

Table of Contents

1. Approachesp. 3
2. To Battle for Lake Georgep. 28
3. Fort William Henry, 1755-1757p. 57
4. Siegep. 78
5. "Massacre"p. 109
6. Aftermathp. 129
7. Perceptionsp. 149
Appendix Missing New England Paroleesp. 187
Notesp. 200
Indexp. 241