In the mid-18th century, this battlefield was a focal point in the Seven Years' War, a world war between France and Great Britain. Here the two super-powers struggled for control of the Lake Champlain Lake George water highway, the strategic communication link between New York, the British administrative center, and Montreal, the second largest city of New France.
In July of 1758, the British commanded by General James Abercromby, launched an attack on For Carillon (Ticonderoga), the newest French fort in New France. The British mustered an army of 16,000 British regulars and American provincials, the largest ever assembled to date in North America.
Louis-Joseph de Gozon, the Marquis de Montcalm, led the French defense of Carillon. In less than 48 hours, Montcalm's 3400 French regulars and a handful of Canadians constructed defensive earthworks, the "French Lines," across the Heights of Carillon.
In a bloody day of fighting on 8 July 1758, the British lost nearly 2000 troops. The Highland Regiment suffered nearly 2/3 casualties, the highest sustained by a unit in a single-day action in North American history. Proportionally, Montcalm lost as many.
Here Montcalm had won the greatest French victory of the Seven Years' war, although he was outnumbered 5 to 1. He gave thanks to God by creating a red-painted cross at the center of the Lines. The Cairn, positioned at the near edge of "the killing zone," commemorates the valor of the Highland Regiment.
For two generations, in two wars, armies returned to the same battlefield. In 1759, the British returned on another attempt to drive the French from Carillon-and used the "French Lines" to protect themselves as they laid siege to the fort. During the Revolution, the American army dug in here in the summer and fall of 1776 as they succeeded in stopping Sir Guy Carelton's British advance up Lake Champlain. In 1777, the old French earthworks served as the American outer defenses against Burgoyne's advance. Later that autumn, the Americans, under Col. John Brown, succeeded in recapturing the French Lines, but lacked sufficient artillery to dislodge the British and German troops garrisoning the Fort. Many of these men (on both sides) had fought on this ground almost twenty years earlier.