Francis J. “Smitty” Smith (1945-1992) grew up in historic Ticonderoga, NY in the 1950s, a time and place where the ghosts of old Indians and scouts were more alive than they are today. He was a graduate of the Fort Schuyler Maritime College, the Bronx, NY, and was a career merchant mariner, a lifetime spent traveling the world but with his heart firmly attached to his birthplace in the Adirondack Mountains. He was a hunter and a fisherman, and despite the long months at sea, he usually managed to get home for trout and deer seasons. The ocean “cruises,” while seemingly adventurous to those who stayed home, were lonely and dull, and to fight the boredom, Francis began writing what was to become the Skywaters Series.
On our maps it was Crown Point, named, not, as men presumed, for the crown on the head of the nefarious French King Louis, but for the hair lifted from the heads of our people and carried there in triumph by the Indians. Thus, Crown Point became for us, Scalp Point.
It was situated near the lower end of Lake Champlain and was the southernmost of the French defensive fortifications against our threatened incursions. It had been, even before the citadel was erected, the launching place for Indian raids, it giving them swift access to both our New England and New York frontiers. The raiders could travel the hundred miles from Montreal to Scalp Point without fear of interference from us, and from Scalp Point, waterways and trails led off to all the places they raided. And raid they did, for more than a century.
We Americans, fighting alongside our British cousins, urged them to take the war to the French. Not until this place of the devil was eradicated could we live free from the awful attacks. But before the British could get there, they had to find their way through the woods, something they were entirely incapable of doing on their own. It was our job to get them there. We were rangers. Rogers’ Rangers.
‘By 1759, we had been contesting the French for control of North America for a hundred years. I was thirty-nine years old and had been in the fight since I was a lad and only the expulsion of the French from the continent could give me what I wanted, to live in peace in the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York.’
So spoke Ken Kuyler, Albany-born trapper and scout.
Kuyler has served with two legendary American rangers, Old Joe Blanchard in King George’s War and now in the French and Indian War with Robert Rogers.
This latest war began as a series of skirmishes in the American wilderness and broadened into a world-wide conflict, and for Kuyler’s colonials and their British allies, it has been naught but catastrophic military debacles. Braddock’s defeat at the Monongahela, the brutal losses of Oswego and William Henry, Abercrombie’s monumental blundering at Ticonderoga.
Only when British prime minister William Pitt fixes the North American continent as the key to victory in the wider war will the British-American preponderance in men and munitions drive the war toward a successful close.
Kuyler can see the fulfillment of his dream, to establish his family at his Adirondack Paradise. What else he can see, albeit dimly, is how the expulsion of the French will lead to an outcome vastly different from what most men envision. The French presence has always served to mitigate the tensions between the Americans and the British but with the French defeated, the tensions rise. The Americans roil with indignation at the high-handedness of the British Parliament and king, the English bristle at American intransigence. Kuyler would stay clear of the troubles but with so many Americans, including his sons, embracing the notion of independence and threatening rebellion against the empire they helped to create, how long can he stand aside?