Reconstructing the Massacre at Fort William Henry, New York

Maria A. Liston, Brenda J. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations

Abstract

Fort William Henry, in upstate New York, was the site of a legendary siege and massacre in 1757 during the French and Indian War. As part of the terms of surrender, the British garrison was to retreat with all their arms and possessions, thus denying the Indian allies of the French their spoils of war. Contemporaneous and fictionalized accounts of the resulting massacre have often been regarded as exaggerations of actual events. Five men buried in a mass grave within the fort, known as the crypt, however, were clearly victims of the massacre. These men were among the sick and wounded who were unable to make the 15 mile (24 km) journey to Fort Edward and were left in the care of the French. Four of the five men sustained pre-mortem leg trauma that would have resulted in their hospitalization and prevented them from walking. The other massive perimortem trauma on these remains vividly depicts the results of the massacre. Three of the five men were shot in the knee; two of these three were shot elsewhere as well. One man was decapitated. Both the front and back of all the bodies bear cut marks, probably from the use of both axes and long-bladed knives as weapons. The numerous gashes in the thoracic and pelvic regions indicate the men were mutilated. Our analysis of the remains from this mass grave confirms and enhances the historical accounts of the massacre at Fort William Henry. The skeletons of these five men provide gruesome testimony of the assault to which they were subjected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-41
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Osteoarchaeology
Volume6
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Cut marks
  • Decapitation
  • Eighteenth-century warfare
  • Mutilation
  • Palaeopathology
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology

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