Fort William Henry at Lake George



William Kentfield's first son, and my fifth-great-grandfather, was Ebenezer Kentfield.  His is the first death recorded in the records of the Belchertown, Massachusetts Congregational Church. He lost an arm, contracted smallpox and died in December, 1755 at Lake George, New York while serving in the French and Indian War.

Ebenezer probably was serving at Fort William Henry at Lake George, which was constructed in the fall of 1755. It was destroyed in 1757; those events formed the basis for James Fenimore Cooper's Last of the Mohicans. Although built fifty years after William Kentfield's brief military service, conditions there were very similar to the conditions under which he served. Indeed, it was the four independent companies which garrisoned the fort, joined in 1755 by a British regiment under Braddock. (This was the first time a British regiment entered New York.) Thus, Ebenezer served in one of the same group of companies in which William served. Future research will attempt to determine whether they actually served in the same company. Fort William Henry has the advantage of having been excavated and reconstructed, existing now as an archeological research site and tourist attraction. Fort Frederick in Albany, where William probably served, is now an Albany street.

One account written in 1756 describes the life at Fort William Henry of "about 2,500 men, 500 of them sick, the greatest part of them what they call poorly. They bury from five to eight daily, and officers in proportion. Extremely indolent and dirty to a degree [that] the fort stinks enough to cause an infection. They have all their sick in it. The camp (is) nastier than anything I can conceive. Their necessary houses [i.e. privies], kitchens, graves and places for slaughtering cattle, all mixed through the encampment."

Archeology lecture notes available on the Internet continue: "The cemetery at Fort William Henry saw the burial of over 1,000 persons in two years of use. Skeletal remains show evidence of poor dental care with infections, abscesses, and cavities. Fifteen of sixteen intact skeletons showed infections which had to be long term or severe in order to show in their remains. Ear infections were also found in three of the sixteen. Additionally, evidence of chronic tuberculosis, respiratory tract infections, lesions, and nutritional stress was present. Most tuberculosis victims did not succumb to the disease. One skeleton had a bandage pin in the left shoulder. All skeletal remains prove unsanitary conditions were prevalent, and show a lot of battle trauma."