Battle of Fort Bull
The Battle of Fort Bull was a French attack on the British-held Fort Bull on 27 March 1756, early in the French and Indian War. The fort was built to defend a portion of the waterway connecting Albany, New York to Lake Ontario via the Mohawk River.
Lt. Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry led his command consisting of forces from the Troupes de la Marine, Canadien militia, and Indian allies on an attack against Fort Bull on 27 March 1756. Shielded by trees they sneaked up to within 100 yards (91 m) of the fort. Léry ordered a charge at the fort with bayonets. They stuck their muskets into the narrow openings in the fort and shot the defenders. Léry repeatedly asked for their surrender. Finally, the gate was crashed in and the French and Indians swarmed in, killing everyone they saw. The French soldiers looted what they could and set the powder magazines on fire. The fort was burned to the ground.
Following the failure of aggressive British campaign plans in 1755, a chain of forts along the Mohawk River riverway connecting the Hudson River to Lake Ontario were garrisoned during the winter of 1755–1756. The largest garrison was left at Fort Oswego, at the end of the chain, which depended on the others for its supplies. Two forts along the Oneida Carry were a key element of this supply chain. The Oneida Carry traversed an unnavigable section between Rome, New York and Wood Creek that was between one and six miles long, depending on seasonal water levels. Fort Williams, on the Mohawk, was the larger of the two, while Fort Bull, several miles north of Fort Williams on Wood Creek, was little more than a palisade surrounding storehouses. Fort Bull was garrisoned by a small number of men from Shirley's Regiment under William Bull, and held large quantities of military stores, including gunpowder and ammunition, destined for use in the 1756 campaign.
In early 1756 French military leaders in Canada decided to send a raiding expedition to attack Oswego's supply line. On March 12, a company of men left Fort de La Présentation and began an overland trek toward the Oneida Carry. Under the command of Lieutenant Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry, a Canadian-born seigneur, the force consisted of 84 troupes de la Marine, 111 Canadian militiamen, and 110 natives, mostly Iroquois but also some Hurons. After nearly two weeks of difficult winter travel, they arrived near the carry on March 24.
Early on March 25, Léry's men captured twelve British men near Fort Bull, while others escaped capture and ran toward Fort Williams. Learning from the prisoners of Bull's minimal defenses, he decided to immediately attack. As he had no field pieces, the only possibility was to attempt storming the fort by surprise. The fort's defenders managed to get its gate closed just before the French force arrived. The attackers managed to fire through loopholes in the fort's walls to distract the garrison, which responded by throwing rocks and grenades over the walls. After Bull refused several calls to surrender, the gate was taken down by the use of axes, and the attackers stormed into the fort. Nearly all of the small garrison was killed and scalped, according to a report by Sir William Johnson, who inspected the carnage when he eventually arrived at the head of a relief column. Léry's men set fire to the works, which included 45,000 pounds of gunpowder. The resulting conflagration destroyed the wooden fort.
A star-shaped wood stockade with four interior buildings was built in May-August 1756 as Fort Wood Creek. Fort Wood Creek was destroyed by the British in August 1756 when reports of another French force was received. Léry was promoted to captain for his successful command. The loss of the supplies at Fort Bull effectively ruined any British plans for military campaigns against French forts on Lake Ontario, and may have contributed to the French capture of Fort Oswego in August 1756.
- Parkman, p. 374.
- Parkman, pp. 375–6.
- Hagerty, Gilbert (1971), Massacre at Fort Bull: The De Léry Expedition Against Oneida Carry, 1756, Providence, RI: Mowbray Company, OCLC 801701
- Leonard, Peter (2007), Rome Revisited, Charleston: Arcadia, ISBN 978-0-7385-5534-8
- Parkman, Francis (1910), Montcalm and Wolfe: France and England in North America, Part Seventh, Volume 1, New York: Little, Brown, and Co., pp. 374–378. First published in 1884; see the book's article, Montcalm and Wolfe, for other editions.
- "CHAPTER 1 The Conquest: The Acadian Tragedy". Canadian Military History. Archived from the original on 2007-03-11..
- Mrs. Mecomber (August 6, 2008). "Whatever Happened to Fort Bull?". New York Traveler.net.. Blog post describing a visit to the site of Fort Bull, which is located on the present grounds of Erie Canal Village.