St. Pierre to the Rescue!

August 29, 2010

Things had truly gotten out-of-hand at the upper posts. This was especially true of Michilimackinac. So the governor had the voyageurs called in and ordered to trade only from that post. This had the effect of increasing the manpower to over 100 which seemed to be an adequate defence for the fort. But to keep them there over the winter he had to provide them with food and supplies. To this end he ordered 10 cargo canoes loaded with 30,000 lbs of goods to make the trip from Montreal to Michilimackinac.

The governor also commissioned a Lieutenant St. Pierre to take charge of 12 well armed canoes and settle the peace in the upper country. He was to operate out of Michilimackinac travelling to the post at the Green Bay with presents in order to sound out the First Nations there. They had seemed favourable to the French but if they were not then he was to do all in his power to win them over.  

When St. Pierre arrived at Michilimackinac a council was called. He advised the chiefs at this council the object of his mission which was to restore the peace which they had so unworthily broken. He also demanded that they bring the murderers of the Frenchmen to him for his disposal. If they did not deliver these murderers to him that he would go and look for them himself!

The next day several chiefs who were at the council came to him and said they would turn the men responsible over to him but asked that he spare their lives. He said he could not say what their fate would be as this was up to the governor alone to determine.

Meanwhile, the Ottawa contingent who had gone to Montreal in the spring was led by a chief named Pindalouan. They were now anxious to return home because of the lateness of the season. The governor informed them of the sad state of affairs at Michilimackinac and they were genuinely surprised. This made them even more anxious explaining they would put things in order when they arrived home.

Monsieur de Vercheres and the 30 cargo canoes arrived at Michilimackinac in October and they had with them a prisoner they had captured along the way. Vercheres reported that they came across five canoes they thought had been the ones that attacked the French and pursued them. They beached their canoes and fled into the woods but the Frenchmen caught one. He had on him some French goods and a scalp so they asked him where he had gotten them. He replied that he was given them as a present by some warriors at Green Bay. He consistently claimed he was not guilty of attacking the French. Two Ottawa canoes arrived from Montreal and claimed this prisoner saying that he was of the family of Koquois, a chief very loyal to the French and a friend of de Vercheres. So de Vercheres released him to the Ottawa stressing the great favour he was doing them.

By October the nations around Michilimackinac had become very quiet. The two Saulteax warriors who had joined in on the attack on the French earlier returned their portion of the booty to prove their innocence. They still claimed that upon seeing their people firing on a canoe they had joined in to help not knowing the circumstances. The commandant accepted this explanation.

Back at Detroit the commandant de Longueuil was extremely anxious. Nicholas had been in communication with the Saulteaux and Ottawa and they were about to attack the fort. If that happened then Mikinak, an Ottawa chief from Saginaw, would also declare against them. The Potawatomi were waiting as well to join in the fray. The only people to remain faithful to the French were those under the Ottawa chief Quinousaki.  Almost all the cattle had been lost and if help didn’t soon arrive they would not be able to get the harvest in and they would perish.

But help was on the way. Sieur Dubuisson arrived at Niagara with the convoy from Montreal. While there some of men of the guard got drunk and ill-treated the Grand Chief of the Seneca. He left for Seneca country very dissatisfied and the commandant, Monsieur Duplessis, had to send Sieur Chabert to his town at the Little Rapid with presents to appease him. The convoy spent little time at Niagara chosing instead to press on to Detroit.

The Ottawa and Potawatomi were supposed to attack the French village on Bois Blanc Island just south of Detroit. If they took this village they would effectively be able to block help from arriving. However, 100 men mostly traders from Illinois and other posts to the west arrived and prevented them from doing so.  Dubuisson arrived at Detroit unheeded to find de Longueuil engaged in bringing in the harvest. So all the nations around that post also began to settle down. Peace was being restored to the upper country.

NEXT WEEK: A Rising Star Among the Ojibwa!


More of France’s Allies Revolt!

August 22, 2010

While Nicholas’ warriors were harassing Detroit the Saulteaux Ojibwa from the St. Clair joined in. They had killed and carried off some of the local farmers’ cattle and some of the farms were attacked by “unknown Indians”. This was the work of some of the more brazen young men who were disregarding their chief’s disapproval. All this upheaval made it impossible for the French to get the fall harvest in putting the post in jeopardy.

A party of chiefs and warriors arrived at Montreal to visit the Governor General. Among them were eight Ottawa chiefs and eight other warriors including two Seneca and some Wyandotte from Lorette who had accompanied Sieur Beleatre to Detroit the year before. Four Wyandotte chiefs were also with them including Sastaredzy, the principal chief and Tayachatin another main chief.

In the council with the governor they professed their loyalty and the Wyandotte, who had converted to Christianity, asked for Father La Richardie to return to Detroit to minister to their needs. He was their former missionary and they had the utmost confidence and respect for him. The French saw this as an opportunity to assist in settling things down at Detroit so they jumped at the chance. The governor quickly gave his approval, the priest consented and the deal was done.

Things were bad at Detroit with some of the young warriors getting out of control but they were worse at Michilimackinac. There was total confusion at that post. The Ottawa, Saulteaux Ojibwa and Mississauga were ill-disposed toward the French. The Ottawa of Saginaw had already struck a blow by killing three Frenchmen who were on their way from Detroit to Michilimackinac. The Saulteaux attacked two French canoes at La Cloche, an island in Georgian Bay between present day Little Current and Birch Island. One of the canoes escaped by discarding their cargo and fleeing to Michilimackinac while the other was totally defeated. Another Frenchman was stabbed by the Saulteaux just two leagues from the post at La Grosse Isle. 

The post itself was on high alert. Various warriors had killed all the horses and cattle they could not catch and were continuously hurling insults and threats at the fort. Only a few at a time were allowed inside the post and only under the strictest control. A council was held but ended in recrimination when it was discovered that some of the young warriors had come armed with knives. The French were in a very precarious position as they only had 28 men manning the post. They were relieved a few days later when de Noyelle and a contingent of Frenchmen arrived from Point Chagouamigon on Lake Superior.

At the same time an Ottawa name Nequionamin arrived with alarming news. He reported to the commandant that the Iroquois, the Wyandotte and the Flathead had reached an agreement with the English to attack and destroy all French everywhere. He also reported that the Nations of Detroit were in on the plot. The Ottawa led the revolt, the Potawatomi would cooperate as well as the Mississauga and the Saulteaux of St. Clair. He said the Ottawa of Saginaw had already struck referring to the three they had killed on Lake Huron. They also had sent 70 men to council with the Ottawa of Michilimackinac but they were reluctant because they had a contingent of their village visiting Montreal. He advised the commandant not to let anyone leave the fort and to keep a strict watch. The French needed to gain some control!

NEXT WEEK:  St. Pierre to the Rescue! August 1747


First Nations of the Upper Country Revolt-1747

August 8, 2010

In the 1740’s the British were doing all they could to disrupt the alliance between the French and their First Nation allies. In the spring of 1745 a group of the French’s Wyandotte allies returned to Detroit from visiting Chouaquin or Fort Oswego. They reported to the French that many of their allies attended a council where the British told them that they should consider them the only source of trade because the British navy was going to put to sea to take Canada and become the absolute masters in North America. Therefore, trade goods would be scarce or unavailable at the French trading posts.

This news produced so much consternation among the villages around Detroit that native traders would leave for British trading posts without saying a word. This of course was contrary to the wishes of the governor of New France. The French tried to rally their allies to attack the British and several parties of Ottawa and Saulteaux struck out for the Carolinas that summer but it was a half-hearted effort and they returned without striking a blow.

Meanwhile goods did become very scarce at the French posts. This drove the prices up and lowered the value of pelts considerably. French traders needed a licence to trade, which they normally purchased but these economic conditions forced the commandants at the various trading posts to provide trading licences for free. All this made trading with the British all the more attractive. So much so that many were ignoring the direct orders of the governor not to trade with them.

The Wyandotte war chief Nicholas moved his followers to Sandusky on the south side of Lake Erie. That spring some of his young warriors killed five Frenchmen and stole their furs. They were returning from the French post on the White River, a tributary of the Wabash. The news was brought to Chevalier de Longueuil, the commandant of Detroit by a Wyandotte woman whose loyalties were still attached to the French. She also informed him that all the neighboring nations had formed a plan to annihilate all the French of Detroit on one of the holidays of Pentecost, but the brash young warriors had struck too soon.

Nicholas decided to press on with the plan to destroy Detroit. He attacked and destroyed the mission and villages on Bois Blanc Island in the Detroit River and the Black Robes fled to the safety of the fort.

The commandant called a council of the First Nations that were allied to the French at Detroit. The Ottawa professed their loyalty as did Sasteradzy, the principal chief of the Detroit Wyandotte. The Wyandotte chief Taychatin confirmed his allegiance as well. They all claimed to have had no involvement in the treachery committed by Nicholas’ people that spring.

The following spring Nicholas burned his village on the Sandusky River and moved his band to the White River in Indiana. That autumn while visiting the Iroquois he died in an outbreak at Kuskusky. Kuskusky was a First Nation town in the Beaver River Valley near the present-day New Castle, Pennsylvania.

Of course the French blamed the English accusing them of sending secret belts to all the nations in the territory encouraging them to attack and destroy the French. They were probably right. Although in 1747 their allies confirmed their loyalties the future would bring even more turmoil for the French.

NEXT WEEK:  More of France’s Allies Revolt!