DESCRIPTION: Grigor loves his rich cousin Katie. Her father arranges for Grigor's impressment. He is killed near Fort Niagara; the finger with her ring is cut off. His ghost appears to Katie without the finger. She dies. The father is left "bereft of all joys."
EARLIEST DATE: 1825 (Buchan, _Gleanings of Scotch, English, and Irish Scarce Old Ballads_, according to GreigDuncan2)
KEYWORDS: grief love ring army battle parting death America Scotland father servant soldier ghost
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (1 citation):
GreigDuncan2 340, "Grigor's Ghost" (2 texts, 1 tune)
cf. "On One Thursday's Evening" (tune, according to GreigDuncan2)
NOTES: This is a long ballad and many elements were left out of the description. Among them: Grigor, whose father had been exiled, was taken in and poorly used as a servant by his uncle MacFarlane; Katie is courted by wealthy suitors; her mother overhears their meeting and reports it to MacFarlane; when Grigor and Katie part she asks to be allowed to accompany him in the army but Grigor refuses and she gives him a ring; after Katie dies of grief the mother dies the same night.
According to the ballad, Grigor is killed near Fort Niagara July 30, 1759, four days after the battle there. - BS
The battle of Fort Niagara was part of William Pitt's grand strategy of 1758-1759 for the French and Indian War, in which he attacked the French in Canada on many fronts. The most notable of these campaigns was that of James Wolfe against Quebec, for which see "Brave Wolfe" [Laws A1].
The Niagara campaign took place some weeks before that, and in some ways was even more decisive (because the French had no real chance to reverse the result; they could have retaken Quebec). The British had already accomplished one of the objectives for which they had started the war: They had taken the fort at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, the site of the future Pittsburg (see Walter R. Borneman, The French and Indian War, Harper-Collins, 2006, pp. 187-192). This allowed British resettlement of much of western Pennsylvania, from which they had been driven after Braddock's Defeat (for which see the song of the same name). But if the British could capture Fort Niagara, they could cut off Quebec (and, hence, European France) from the trans-Appalachian areas.
John Prideaux, newly appointed brigadier general, was given 3000 troops and sent up the Mohawk River to take the fort. (Borneman, p. 193). He was joined by about a thousand Iroquois at Oswego (see Fred Anderson, Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 2000; I use the 2001 Vintage Books edition; pp. 330-331). This was significant for the British, because the Iroquois had been fairly quiet until then, and most other tribes supported the French. Prideaux therefore left a thousand British and American troops at Oswego to guard his communications and rebuilt the fort there, and rowed the rest of the troops to a point near the mouth of the Niagara River (Borneman, p. 194).
Fort Niagara, built in 1725 near the mouth of the Niagara and much improved in the years since, was well-built and well-situated for most purposes, with water on three sides and a strong wall on the fourth. But it was undermanned; the officer in charge thought that the threat was over for the year, and had sent most of his garrison off to other duties (Anderson, p. 355). His reasons were valid, but the conclusions were wrong; when the British showed up, the fort was manned by only about 500 men (fewer than 200 French regulars and about 300 locals). Plus it was vulnerable to artillery fire from a high point nearby (Borneman, p. 195). Prideaux put his troops there on July 7, 1759 and began a siege.
On July 20, Prideaux was killed by his own artillery (Anderson, p. 336, Borneman, p. 196). On July 23, before the English command could properly be reorganized, the French troops that had earlier left the fort returned. But, disregarding advice from the locals, the 1500 or so men marched right into an ambush and were slaughtered on July 24 (Borneman, p. 198; Anderson, p. 337, says that the Indians in the relief column pulled out, so it was perhaps only 600 Frenchmen who went to their doom. Either way, the relief expedition failed). With no further hope of rescue, Fort Niagara surrendered on July 25 (Anderson, p. 337; Borneman, p. 199).
The battle broke the back of the French position west of the Appalachians. For the moment, New France (what we now would call Quebec) still stood, but it had no real supply line to the southwestern forts. French settlements in places like Michigan and Illinois were cut off from contact with the French government. Few were actually attacked, but they could be taken any time the British wanted them.
The last sputter of the Niagara campaign came as the French attacked Oswego on the supply line to Fort Niagara (Borneman, pp. 202-203). This was a complete fiasco for the French, but perhaps this was the attack in which Grigor was killed. - RBW
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