And still the official declaration of war had yet to be announced.
The first major move of the year was conducted by the French. Although it had yet to play an important part in the war, the three forts at Oswego continued to be a thorn in the side of the french. If manned properly, these forts would be a serious threat to the traffic of men and boats heading west, and the threat to forts Duquesne and Niagara were more than a passing fancy. The Governour of Canada, Vaudreuil had long recognized this threat. When Dieskau was forced to abandon his attack on Oswego and recalled his troops for the defense of Fort St. Frederic, and the Lake Champlain area, the Governour did not lay aside these plans, but only waited for the proper moment to set them in motion. This time came in March of 1756.
The first portion of the attack was not, in fact, directed at the forts at Oswego at all. Rather, Vaudreuil focused on the two small forts in Central New York called Fort Bull and Fort Williams. These forts stood along Wood creek in what is known as the Oneida Carry. A Carry was a place where portage was made between disconnected rivers. Often a small "fort" would be built in these places to 1) Protect the carry, and 2) to store goods for future travellers to carry onward.
The Oneida Carry stood between the Mohawk river (from which travellers would come from Albany and other points east) and Wood Creek (Which lead into Oneida Lake, and thence onto the Oswego River and to Oswego). To attack these places, Vaudreuil intended to delay the addition of men and supplies to Oswego, and thus make the attack on Oswego easier. To lead this force Vaudreuil chose one of his Canadian Lieutenants: the Chaussegros de Lery. de Lery gathered about him a total of 362 men, including 103 Indians, 8 officers from Louisbourg, and 251 soldiers taken from the Canadian ranks as well as the French regiments of La Reine, Guyenne, and Bearn. The Reigment of Languedoc was not included as they had been at winter quarters at Chambly, and the river was still unpassable.
After a long march with many delays, de Lery's force reached Fort Bull on 27 March 1756. After a short battle, de Lery was able to defeat the English. Entering the fort, his men gathered together all the armaments and tossed them into the swampy river where they were sure never to be found, or used against the French again. The fort was then burned to the ground. de Lery then began to march towards Fort Williams, but with the amount of prisoners he had, and when the Indians abandoned him, he was forced to return to Canada.
According to de Lery's records, the English losses were 105, and his own being 1 soldier and 2 Indians killed.
A small monument now stands near the former spot where Fort Bull once stood (in current Rome, NY), although the area is continuously being built over by shopping strips and new housing. It is my prediction that it will not be long before the site of Fort bull is completely lost much as Fort Edward (at current Fort Edward, NY) is. In a recent trip to Fort Edward it pained me to see that the town has grown over the former fort itself, with the few remaining signs being only a mound or two from the entrenchements and moat running through the backyards of several houses. Current work is going on at Rogers Island (across the river from Fort Edward) to save some of the remains (already picked over fairly well by "amateur archeologists").
Q: What is a historical site? Which sites must be preserved, and which can be allowed to disappear? I wish I had the answers.