Centennial Anniversary - Oswego One Hundred years Ago - Battle Between
The French and English in the Year 1856.
One hundred years ago to-day, Oswego was an important English trading post, of considerable importance also as a military post, it being the key of the upper country to the great line of communication between the Lakes and Albany and New York; by way of the Chouaguen, or Onondaga, or Oswego River - our noble river being then known by all three of these names.
The place was fortified and defended by three forts: - "Fort Ontario" occupied the right or east bank at the mouth of the river, where Fort Ontario now stands. "Fort George" occupied the west bank of the river probably at the foot of First street, which was then a high bluff; and "Fort Chouaguen," which stood on the present site of the new stone residence of Mr. W. D. Smith, on the hill, in the First Ward.
The Five Nations of Indians were then the sovereigns of the soil in this portion as well as most of the State of New York; but the English traders had made this one of their first important points for carrying on their traffic with the Indians in this region, as well as those above and on the Canada side. Canada was in possession of the French, and the Upper Province was a howling wilderness. Montreal and Quebec, however, were, at that period, quite populous and important places. France and England were at war, and, of course, active hostilities were carried on between their respective Colonies. The French would make up expeditions from Montreal to invade this Northern frontier, incite the Indians to hostility, and commit all the depredations in their power.
Oswego was an important and strong point, and it was deemed necessary by the French that it should be taken from the English. Consequently, several expeditions wee sent against it, and hostile bands of French and Indians were continually prowling about in this vicinity, and numerous skirmishes and battles took place. Just one hundred years ago to-day - July 3, 1756 - a very important battle took place about seven miles up the river; near the point where the Oswego River Starch Factory is now located. In fact, from the accounts given in the ancient documents, the Island upon which the Factory stands, was the principal point of the action. This is confirmed, too, by the discovery of ancient relics on that island, and last season the skull of an Indian was dug up there while excavating for the Factory, which had been perforated by a musket ball, and the ball was found inside the skull. The battle resulted in a decided defeat of the French and Indians by Capt. Bradstreet, an English officer. Capt. Bradstreet had about 300 battoemen, who were working their battoes up the river with them, and the French had about 700 - 200 regular French troops, and the balance Canadians and Indians.
The following is an account of the battle, taken from the New York Mercury, July 19, 1756. It is a letter dated Albany, 13 July 1756:
On Monday, Colonel Bradstreet arrived here from Oswego. On the 3d, about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, nine miles on this side of that place, having about 300 battoemen with him, in their battoes, he was attacked from the North Side of the river by about 700 of the enemy, of which 200 were regulars, the rest Canadians and Indians. Col. Bradstreet, who at that time was near the front of his party, proceeded with six men to a small island near the enemy, and ordered a few more to follow him there, to keep back the enemy from fording the river, till the rest of his men could land on the South side of it. he had no sooner landed with the six men, but he was attacked by twenty of the enemy, who his party beat back, kept possession of the Island, and were joined by six more battoemen.
They were then attacked by about 40 of the enemy, who stood their ground very well, and wounded eight out of the twelve; yet as our people never fired without each killing his man, the enemy gave way. The party on the Island were then increased to about twenty, besides the wounded, and were again attacked by 70 of the enemy, whom our folks also beat back the third time. This affair on the Island lasted nearly an hour, and had given the rest of our battoemen time to land on the South side of the river, and those on the Island, perceiving the enemy were coming to surround with their whole strength, retired to the South side of the river, and were followed by the enemy.
Our people made a feint flight until the chief of the enemy had forded the river, then faced about, and pushed the enemy back into the river, where they killed great numbers of them; the rest took to their heels, and were so closely pursued, that they left all their packs, blankets and provisions behind, and many of them their guns. About forty of our people are killed and missing, and twenty-four slightly wounded. The number of the enemy killed is not exactly known, as most of them fell in the river, but it must be at least triple the number of ours. Col. Bradstreet has brought two prisoners with him.
Other accounts state that the English lost 20 men in the battle and 24 wounded, while the French lost over 100 in killed, and a large number wounded. Oswego, however, was finally captured, and the Forts destroyed by the French the same season. We shall allude to this event in a few weeks, when the century since the event shall expire.