Lake George - Encyclopedia

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LAKE GEORGE, a lake in the E. part of New York, U.S.A., among the S.E. foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. It extends from N.N.E. to S.S.W. about 34 m., and varies in width from 2 to 4 m. It has a maximum depth of about 400 ft., and is 323 ft. above the sea and 227 ft. above Lake Champlain, into which it has an outlet to the northward through a narrow channel and over falls and rapids. The lake is fed chiefly by mountain brooks and submerged springs; its bed is for the most part covered with a clean sand; its clear water is coloured with beautiful tints of blue and green; and its surface is studded with about 220 islands and islets, all except nineteen of which belong to the state and constitute a part of its forest reserve. Near the head of the lake is Prospect Mountain, rising 1736 ft. above the sea,while several miles farther down the shores is BlackMountain, 2661 ft. in height. Lake George has become a favourite summer resort. Lake steamers ply between the village of Lake George (formerly Caldwell) at the southern end of the lake and Baldwin, whence there is rail connexion with Lake Champlain steamers.

Lake George was formed during the Glacial period by glacial drift which clogged a pre-existing valley. According to Prof. J. F. Kemp the valley occupied by Lake George was a low pass before the Glacial period; a dam of glacial drift at the southern end and of lacustrine clays at the northern end formed the lake which has submerged the pass, leaving higher parts as islands. Before the advent of the white man the lake was a part of the war-path over which the Iroquois Indians frequently made their way northward to attack the Algonquins and the Hurons, and during the struggle between the English and the French for supremacy in America, waterways being still the chief means of communication, it was of great strategic importance (see Champlain, Lake). Father Isaac Jogues, Rene Goupil and Guillaume Couture seem to have been the first white men to see the lake (on the 9th of August 1642) as they were being taken by their Iroquois captors from the St Lawrence to the towns of the Mohawks, and in 1646 Father Jogues, having undertaken a half-religious, half-political mission to the Mohawks, was again at the lake, to which, in allusion to his having reached it on the eve of Corpus Christi, he gave the name Lac Saint Sacrement. This name it bore until the summer of 1755, when General William Johnson renamed it Lake George in honour of King George II.

General Johnson was at this time in command of a force of colonists and Indians sent against the French at Crown Point on Lake Champlain. The expedition, however, had proceeded no farther than to the head of Lake George when Johnson was informed that a force of French and Indians under Baron Ludwig August Dieskau was pushing on from Crown Point to Fort Lyman (later Fort Edward), 14 m. to the S. of their encampment. Accordingly, on the morning of the 8th of September a detachment of 1000 colonials under Colonel Ephraim Williams (1715-1755) and 200 Indians under Hendrick, a Mohawk chief, was sent to aid Fort Lyman, but when about 3 m. S. of the lake this detachment fell into an ambuscade prepared for it by Dieskau and both Williams and Hendrick were killed. The survivors were pursued to their camp, and then followed on the same day the main battle of Lake George, in which boo colonials fighting at first behind a hastily prepared barricade defeated about 1400 French and Indians. Both commanders were wounded; Dieskau was captured; the French lost about Soo; and the colonials nearly the same (including those who fell earlier in the day). Johnson now built on the lake shore, near the battlefield, a fort of gravel and logs and called it Fort William Henry (the site was occupied by the Fort William Henry Hotel till it was burned in 1909). In the meantime the French entrenched themselves at Ticonderoga at the foot of the lake. In March 1757 Fort William Henry successfully withstood an attack of 1600 men sent out by the marquis de Vaudreuil, governor of Canada, but on the 9th of August of the same year its garrison, after being reduced to desperate straits, surrendered to the marquis de Montcalm. By the terms of surrender the garrison was to be allowed to march out with the honours of war and was to be escorted to Fort Edward, but the guard provided by Montcalm 'was inadequate to protect them from his Indian allies and on the day following the surrender many were massacred or taken prisoners. The fort was razed to the ground. In 1758 General James Abercrombie proceeded by way of Lake George against Fort Ticonderoga, and in 1759 Baron Jeffrey Amherst, while on his way to co-operate with General James Wolfe against Quebec, built near the site of Fort William Henry one bastion of a fort since known as Fort George, the ruins of which still remain.

A monument commemorative of the battle of Lake George was unveiled on the 8th of September 1903, on the site of the battle, and within the state reservation of 35 acres known as Fort George Battle Park. Horicon is a name that was given to the lake by James Fenimore Cooper. The Indian name of the lake was Andia-ta-roc-te.

See Francis Parkman, Montcalm and Wolfe (Boston, 1884); and E. E. Seelye, Lake George in History (Lake George, 1897).

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