Langlade Captures Pickawillany-1752

September 17, 2010

In the 1720’s Augustin Mouet de Langlade, a French trader living at Michilimackinac, married Domitilde, an Ottawa woman who was a sister of an important chief named Nissowaquet. The French called Nissowaquet La Fourche meaning The Fork. They had a son who was baptized Charles Michel Mouet de Langlade in May of 1729.

 Because of a dream Nissowaquet believed his young nephew had a protecting spirit so he convinced his parents to let ten year-old Charles accompany him to Tennessee on a war party against the Chickasaw. On two previous raids they were repelled by their foes. They were successful on this particular sortie in that a treaty was made between the two when the confrontation ended in a stalemate. This adventure earned him the name Aukewingeketawso meaning Defender of his Country. So Charles Langlade became enthralled with military service at a very young age.

 Sixteen years later Augustin Langlade purchased a position for his son in the French colonial regulars as a cadet. He was 21 years old. Although he served in the French military he wore the dress of an Ottawa warrior. Over the next two years he gained much influence with the Ottawa side of his heritage.

 In 1752 he was visiting the village of Memeskia an important Miami chief on the Great Miami or Rocky River. It was situated at the mouth of Laramie Creek and had the considerable population of 8,000 and was a hub of English trading activity. The French called Memeskia la Demoiselle or Your Lady but the English called him Old Britain.

Memeskia was pro-British and held the French in great disdain. What Langlade was doing in Ohio country is not known but probably he was spying for the French. At any rate Old Britain insulted him in some way and Langlade left the country in a huff. When he got to Detroit he angrily related the incident to his friend Pontiac an important Detroit Ottawa war chief. Both became enraged so they convinced Little Thunder and his Saulteux Ojibwa to allow Langlade passage through their territory to exact his revenge.

 Detroit commandant Celoron couldn’t be happier. At last his First Nation allies were on board to help him fulfill his orders to clear the English traders out French territory and return the Miami to the French fold. Langlade returned from Michilimackinac with 250 Ottawa and Ojibwa warriors bent on restoring his good name. However, he could not convince Little Thunder and the St. Clair Ojibwa to join them so they carried on alone picking up a contingent of French regulars at Detroit.

 On the morning of June 21st they arrived at Pickawillany, the name the English called Memeskia’s village. Most of the warriors there were away on their summer hunt but the women were in the cornfields and eight traders were in the outbuildings .

The Ottawa and their allies came upon them suddenly. They surprised the women taking them prisoner. Three traders were besieged in a house and they surrendered immediately but the Miami warriors fought on. A truce was called in the afternoon with all but two traders being handed over. The Miami kept these two hidden. The women were released. Memeskia’s widow and son had escaped, however, la Demoiselle’s fate was an Ottawa cooking pot. They partook in the old custom of eating a defeated foe whose qualities of leadership and bravery could be had by literal consumption. They also killed one of the traders who was wounded and ate his heart. When the expedition returned to Detroit they had plunder worth 3,000 British pounds sterling and five English traders who were arrested and put in prison .

 Governor du Quesne was elated. Although the French officially denounced the above mentioned custom as an atrocity du Quesne wrote to the French minister in Paris asking for an annual pension of 200 livres for Langlade saying that he would be highly pleased with it and it would have great effect in the country. He also reported that the Miami had come back to the French alliance greatly diminishing the English influence in French territory.

 NEXT WEEK: Great Meadows and Fort Neccessity-1754


A Rising Star Among the Ojibwa

September 10, 2010

By 1750 the Saulteax Ojibway living in the St. Clair region had expanded. The Ojibwa from Swan Creek expanded across Lake St. Clair and up the Thames River. They had established a village near present day London and one at the mouth of Kettle Creek on Lake Erie.

The Ojibway living at the mouth of the Black River, at the foot of Lake Huron, had expanded both east and west. They had established villages on Bear Creek as well as the mouth of the Au Sable River in Ontario. They also expanded west establishing villages at Nepessing Lake and along the Flint River in Michigan. Animikeence or Little Thunder was their leading war chief at this time.

Under the Treaty of Utrecht the English claimed they had gained the right to trade with the First Nation allies of the French from the upper lakes. Although the French contested this point if was a certain fact that it did not give them the right to set up trading posts in Ohio country. However, they did just that.

British traders moved into the Ohio Valley setting up posts along it as well as its tributaries. They did this under the pretense that it was Iroquois land and as sovereign over the Iroquois they had the right to expand into this new territory. The French claimed it as part of New France, discovered by La Salle and there had been a French presence there for decades.

None of this was really true. Ohio country was First Nations lands belonging to the Miami, Delaware and Shawnee nations. The French didn’t really discover the territory as it was never lost nor were the British ever the Iroquois’ sovereigns. Be this as it may the French forged ahead with a plan to oust the English.

Monsieur Celoron, major commandant at Detroit was to take a detachment of French soldiers supported by a large force of First Nation allies and clear the region of English traders. The idea was to arrest the traders, confiscate their goods and make the Miami understand that although they could go to Albany to trade with the English under no certain terms could they allow the English to establish themselves in French territory.

The plan failed miserably. The Saulteax refused to endorse it saying that because of the close proximity of the Miami many had intermarried and they would have no part in a war against their relatives. Little Thunder also refused to allow French allies from further north to pass through their territory to support Celoron.

Celoron pushed ahead entering Miami territory with a few French regulars and a few First Nation warriors. They had a little success in removing a few English traders and their goods but in the process killed two Miami people. These murders only served to stir up the First Nations who were trading with the English and setting them against the French. 

 Meanwhile, Monsieur de Lajonquiere, Governor of Canada, had instructions from France to encourage the Five Nations to destroy the English post at Oswego. He was to convince them that an English post on their territory was an affront to their sovereignty. To accomplish this he went too far by giving the impression that France accepted the Onondaga’s contention that Ohio belonged to the Iroquois and that the French should not establish themselves there without their permission. He did this at solemn council which also included the Christian Iroquois from Quebec as well as the Abenaki of St. Francis and the Ottawa of Michilimackinac.  

In 1752 de Lajonquiere was replaced by Ange du Quesne as Governor. The French minister wrote to du Quesne with orders from the king. He was to make sure the territory was cleared of English traders and their goods confiscated without causing a war with any of the First Nations, no easy feat with Little Thunder and the Saulteax standing in the way.  He was also ordered to do all in his power to destroy the impression of First Nations sovereignty over land and to prevent any consequences that might arise due to de Lajonquiere’s error in judgement.

NEXT WEEK: Langlade Captures Pickawillany 1752