First published plan of Abercromby’s 1758 debacle at Ticonderoga

Engraved by Tho[ma]s Jefferys, A PLAN of the TOWN and FORT of CARILLON at TICONDEROGA; with the ATTACK made by the BRITISH ARMY Commanded by Genl. Abercombrie, 8 July 1758. London: Tho[ma]s Jefferys near Charing Cross, [1758].
Engraving, 14 ½”h x 18 ¾”w plus margins, spot color. A few very faint spots, some faint mat burn outside the plate mark, and a tiny chip to the upper edge. Centerfold reinforced on verso. Better than very good.

The most important contemporary plan of Fort Ticonderoga and surroundings, a handsome and valuable delineation of the layout of the fortress, its strategic location commanding the river between Lakes George and Champlain, and troop positions during General Abercromby’s catastrophic frontal assault during the French and Indian War.

Early in the Summer of 1758, the British Army, commanded by General James Abercromby, advanced north up the Hudson River to the southern extent of Lake Champlain. This was defended by the French at the imposing Fort Carillon (later Ticonderoga), situated high above the lake at the outlet of the stream connecting it with Lake George. Abercromby dallied on the march north, allowing the French defenders, commanded by the Marquis de Montcalm, to strengthen the fortifications. The difficult terrain allowed just one avenue of ground attack, which Montcalm ensured was well entrenched and protected by a dense abatis of felled trees with sharpened branches facing towards the attackers.

On arrival at Carillon Abercromby ordered an immediate assault on July 8th, without proper reconnaissance. The French were outnumbered four or five to one, but repelled several advances and inflicted nearly 2000 casualties on the British regulars and American militia. One third of the casualties, some three hundred dead and three hundred wounded, fell in just one regiment, Sir John Murray’s Black Watch, the senior [Scottish] Highland regiment in the British Army. The regiment exists to this day, with recent service in Iraq and Afghanistan, but this was their worst single-day casualties until the First World War.

Along with the defeat of Braddock’s force on the Monongahela in 1755, this was arguably the greatest British debacle of the French and Indian War. Although Abercromby attempted to foist the blame for inadequate reconnaissance on his engineers, he was recalled to London and replaced by General Sir Jeffrey Amherst. Some writers, among them Fred Anderson in his Crucible of War, suggest that the moronic generalship of Braddock and Abercromby, and their carelessness of human life, did much to begin the process by which American colonials came to be alienated from the mother country.

The plan
The plan was first issued separately by engraver-publisher Thomas Jefferys, who served as de-facto mapmaker to the British government. It shows the fort and outlying redoubts in great detail, the difficult topography which restricted attackers to approach from the West, and the positions of the French and British forces at the battle. One imagines that the London public would be immediately transfixed by news of the disaster, but that the events quickly faded from memory, replaced by the happier news of Amherst’s subsequent victories at Louisbourg and Quebec.

At the end of the war, Jefferys assembled his General Topography of North America [1768], which incorporated many of his regional maps of the colonies but also his American battle-plans, including this plan of the events at Fort Carillon. A later derivative was issued in Thomas Mante’s History of the Late War in North-America and the Islands of the West Indies, 1772. The plan is offered here in its first state, bearing Jefferys’ imprint, which was burnished out of Mante’s reissue, which also deleted a number of captions and troop positions. 

In all, a scarce and important plan of one of the most important locales of the French and Indian War, and the site of one of its greatest tragedies.

Phillips, List of Maps of America, p. 851. Schwartz, French and Indian War, fig. 63. Sellers and Van Ee, Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies, #1120. Some background from Anderson, Crucible of War and Schwartz, French and Indian War.