The Fort Surrenders
A cannonball shattered the inner wall of the Officers’ quarters and interrupted Carver’s sleep. Light shown through where the wall had been. It was daybreak. He leapt from his bed, unharmed, thankfully, and ran out into the inner yard of the fort. A mortar round struck the inner south wall and started a fire. He ran to the well and started drawing water. Someone shouted orders to set up a fire brigade and a line formed immediately, mostly women and older children, passing water in buckets from the well to the fire. It was out in a matter of minutes, but it was the first of many that would come that day.
Carver rushed to his post on the battlements, only to be greeted by an incoming round of cannonfire that hit his five-incher directly, blowing it to pieces and killing his crew instantly. The force of the explosion knocked him off the parapet, but he was once again miraculously unharmed. He got to his feet and without personal concern ran across the yard to the northeast corner of the fort and climbed to the parapet. Captain Arbuthnot lay wounded.
"Are you hurt badly, Sir?" Carver asked.
"No, I've just had the wind knocked out of me,” he gasped. Carver could see the deep red stain spreading through his waistcoat.
"What happened to our reinforcements?" he asked.
"No word,” said the Captain. "Take command of this gun.”
Carver cautiously peered over the battlement at the enemy lines. During the night the French had moved at least eight heavy cannons and a mortar into the left end of their trench. He would have no time to muse on his mortality this day. The French would pound the fort all day long.
* * * * *
The following day was no different, except that the French now had eleven more cannons at the right end of their trench. The hail of fire was merciless. The fort was slowly being shattered to pieces. The ramparts were half battered down. Carver was certain that the thunderous battle could be heard fourteen miles to the south at Fort Edward. Where in blazes were the reinforcements? They couldn't hold out much longer. It was not a matter of pride. More than three hundred had been killed or wounded. Hundreds more were disabled by the fever of small pox in various stages of contagion. All their large cannons and two mortars had been disabled. Sappers were digging their way in daylight now, right through the fort's garden to within two hundred and fifty yards of the wall. It was only a matter of time.
Once again the French ceased fire. Carver anticipated the cannon salute. There was the drumming. Another flag of truce could be made out through the sulfurous haze. Again, Carver was dispatched to escort Bougainville blindfolded to Monro's quarters.
"Bonjour, Colonel Monro,” he said bowing slightly. "I bring greetings from General Montcalm. He implores you in the name of humanity to surrender."
"Not while there is hope," said Monro.
"You still believe there is hope?” Bougainville said sadly. "There is no hope, Colonel. The hope you wait for will never be coming."
Monro's face drew taut and pale. "What do you mean?" he said.
Bougainville took a message from his pocket and presented it to the English Commander. The men looked at each other while he read it to himself. His face reflected despair. His arms dropped to his sides as he announced the contents to his Officers.
"It's from Captain Bartman, General Webb's aide-de-camp,” he said. "We can expect no help. There will be no reinforcements."
"It's a trick," said one of the Officers.
"It's no trick,” said the Colonel. "I know the handwriting.” He turned to the Frenchman. "How did this fall into your hands?"
"The messenger from Fort Edward ran into some of our Indian friends on his way back,” said Bougainville. "It was unfortunate - for him." The Frenchman appeared genuinely sorry.
"Many thanks for your courtesy and generosity, Captain,” said Monro, rising from his desk, "but we shall continue to hold out as God is our witness. Please inform your good General."
Bougainville bowed and let himself be blindfolded and led out of the fort.
"Time!” said Monro, looking about him. He saw no expressions of faith in the faces of his Officers. "We need time!"
After two more days of ceaseless cannon and mortar fire, death and destruction, Colonel Monro called a Council of his Officers. It was agreed, unanimously, that if terms could still be had, they would accede to the French demands and surrender the fort.
A salute was fired from one of the last small cannon still operational. A white flag was raised over the fort, and an emissary of peace went to the tent of General Louis de Montcalm, led by Lieutenant Colonel Young on horseback, wounded in the foot, a drummer, and a contingent of Junior Officers, among them Lieutenant Jonathan Carver of Montague, Massachusetts.
He had survived the battle. There was no longer anything to worry about.
Go to Chapter Fifteen.
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