Fort William Henry 1757 Part 4

January 23, 2011

General Montcalm had advised Colonel Munro to dispose of the fort’s supply of rum to keep it away from the warriors. But some of his men couldn’t see all that good liquor going to waste. So they only broke open most of the barrels spilling the highly prized plunder on the ground.

The warriors were in a foul mood. The English were being allowed to walk away carrying their belongings including unloaded firearms. There would be no scalps nor prisoners which the French were only to happy to turn into cash and trade goods. There would be no loot to keep for themselves. Was this was their reward for fighting for their French allies? The First Nations felt betrayed!

The British prisoners were held in an entrenched camp just outside the fort. They were preparing for the march to Fort Edward the next day. Those who had kept back a good portion of the store’s rum barrels decided to sample their wares. All this was a very bad idea but the worst was yet to come.

Some of them thought if they shared some of the rum with the warriors it would put them on their good side, just in case there was trouble ahead. Over the course of the night some of the warriors helped themselves to the liquor and they weren’t shy about it. By dawn’s first light they were in a state of inebriation and highly agitated over Montcalm’s betrayal. The ones who didn’t participate in the intoxicating spirits were just as angry and tumultuous as the ones who did. The old chiefs such as Pennahouel lost control of their young men.

The British spent an uneasy night listening to the pounding of war drums and shouting of war cries coming from the darkness that surrounded them. They became extremely nervous and at dawn gathered together anxious to move out. 

Not all were ready to march. Seventeen soldiers were recuperating in the surgeon’s tents too wounded to travel. The French surgeon had left them in the protection of a French guard with La Corne and other Canadian officers within sight of the tents.

For the warriors this battle was not over. They began the day by attacking the medical tents. They dragged the wounded out of their beds and killed and scalped them on the spot. The French guards looked the other way while the Canadians look on with seemingly disinterest.

The escort of 300 French regulars finally arrived and Munro complained that the terms of capitulation had been broken. They were advised to give the warriors their baggage in order to try to appease them. This turned out to be bad advice as it only served to agitate their antagonizers all the more. The warriors demanded rum and some of the British regulars in fear for their lives gave them some from their canteens. Another bad mistake!

The long procession of 2,200 prisoners finally got underway. Down the narrow road they trudged in an even narrower column stretched out too far for any kind of safety. The French escort lead the way followed by British red coats, then the women and children. The colonial militia brought up the rear.

The English being harassed all the while by individual warriors who, one at a time would grab some prized item be it a hat or canteen or unloaded musket from an unresisting soldier. If there was resistance the unfortunate one would be tomahawked on the spot and relieved of his scalp as well. The French escort did nothing to curb the harassment.

Suddenly the loud screech of an Abenaki war cry signalled an attack. The “Praying Indians” from the mission of Panaouski led the escalation in violence. They rushed upon the New Hampshire militia at the rear of the column. The militia suffered 80 killed or captured. The rear of the column pressed in on those in front. Panicked by the escalation general confusion presided and the rest of the First Nation warriors joined in attacking the long procession from all sides. The British prisoners of war were stripped to their breeches and relieved of all their possessions. Some were killed, some were taken prisoner and some were left dazed in the middle of the road. Many others escaped into the woods to make their own way to the safety of Fort Edward. 

Montcalm was advised of the turmoil and he and Levis and other French officers rushed to the scene. They did try to restore order by inserting themselves in the melee calling for peace. Although brave it did little to quell the frenzied warriors.

When things did settle down the survivors were escorted back to the entrenched camp and put under extra guard until the next day. They were then marched under a stronger guard to Fort Edward where cannon fire could be heard at intervals as a signal to stragglers coming in from the previous day. Meanwhile Montcalm tried to retrieve the 200 prisoners being held in First Nations camps but it was to no avail.

The same day the survivors were marched to Fort Edward the First Nations broke camp and with prisoners in tow headed to Montreal. They were still highly agitated, upset at Montcalm’s betrayal. They were determined to receive their remuneration if not from the battle then from the governor.

Governor Vaudreuil rebuked them when they arrived for breaking the terms of surrender but this was just for show. Bougainville, who was in Montreal when the First Nations arrived, thought the British prisoners should be taken from them and they should be sent home in disgrace. But Vaudreuil thought better being confronted by more than 1,000 angry warriors. Intendent Bigot wrote in report that the warriors should be sent home satisfied at all costs.

To this end the First Nations received a ransom of two kegs of brandy for each prisoner, guns, canoes and other payment for services. They left Montreal for their homelands so distrustful of their French allies that most would not fight in their service again.

During the battle of Fort William Henry Montcalm’s officers did try to alleviate the attacks of the warriors after the capitulation, but not the regulars and certainly not the Canadians. Afterall, they understood the time-tested arrangement for payment for First Nations support and they knew Montcalm had foolishly broken it. The French may have won the battle but it was at Fort Henry they lost the war. The First Nations held the balance of power at this time and it was here that he lost them as trusted allies.

NEXT WEEK:  Fort Duquesne – An Encore 1758


Fort William Henry 1757 Part 3

January 16, 2011

Fort William Henry was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Munro, a brave Scottish veteran in charge of 2,200 fighting men. His superior, General Webb, was in command of Fort Edward some 14 miles to the south-west. He had charge of 1,600 soldiers. The colonies were raising more men but this would take more time than needed to counter Montcalm’s army of 8,000.

The French army had moved through the narrows on Lake George and spread themselves along the shoreline of the picturesque lake. Duc Francois de Levis was Montcalm’s second in command and had moved out the day before with the First Nation warriors. They were waiting for the rest of the army at a small cove that was formed by a point of land which protected them from the line of sight of the British fort.

That night Munro sent out a small party in two boats to reconnoiter. As they passed the point they noticed something unusual on the shore of the cove. They drew near it in order to identify the object. It was an awning the Fathers had stretched over their bateaux. Sensing danger they turned and began to row as hard as they were able but it wasn’t enough. Many of the warriors rushed to their canoes threw them into the water and vigorously pursued the frightened Englishmen.

Wild eyed with excitement the warriors quickly overtook them all the time shouting their terrifying war whoops. The din of a thousand shouts echoed across the placid lake magnifying the uproar ten fold. It was as if the French had unleashed an army of windigo to devour them.

Just as the spies made the eastern shore the warriors were upon them. They opened fire killing a Nipissing war chief. The fighting ceased immediately after the stand had begun. Some escaped into the blackness of the Appalachian woods, some were killed but three were taken prisoner ending up before Montcalm where he was able to extract some valuable information on the  strength and position of the enemy.

The following morning Munro sent a message to Fort Edward saying the French were in sight of the lake. Nine hours later he sent another informing the General that the firing had begun. He implored Webb to send reinforcements. Webb’s response was to send couriers to New England to ask for more militia. He waited out the battle fourteen miles away in the safety of Fort Edward. 

At the same time Munro sent his first communique the French army moved out. Levis left first with a contingent of chiefs and warriors leading the way. They made their way around the fort and positioned themselves behind it. La Corne took up a position behind Levis and the war chiefs spread their warriors across the road leading to Fort Edward.

The main body of warriors spread their canoes in a line across the lake covering it from shore to shore. They slowly moved toward the fort with slow, deliberate stroke all the while shouting war cries. Then they broke for the east and west shorelines just out of range of British cannon fire.

After the skirmishing around the fort was over Montcalm moved forward along the western shore of Lake George with five battalions. He stopped just short of the fort where he proceeded to set up siege works. He then moved in his heavy artillery and began to put Fort William Henry under siege. Munro sent a final courier to advise Webb the fort was under attack and to send reinforcements with all haste.

For several days the French inched forward all the time bombarding the fort with salvos of cannon fire. At night they laboriously dug new trenches in front of their siege works methodically plodding their artillery ever closer. Munro kept returning fire with his heavy artillery while sending out sorties to skirmish with the enemy. They were less than successful.

Finally Webb answered Munro’s calls for help. He sent a courier with a message informing him that he could send no reinforcements and that he should surrender and get the best terms possible. The message never got through. A party of warriors intercepted the courier along the road, killed him and took the paper he was carrying to Montcalm. The General read it and thought it might be useful in encouraging Munro to surrender sooner so he had Bougainville deliver it personally to its intended recipient. 

Fort William Henry was in deplorable condition. More than 300 had been killed or wounded. Its ramparts were blown to splinters. The walls were breached. Its artillery had been knocked out of commission except for a few small field pieces and smallpox was raging inside its walls.

Munro conferred with his officers about the dire situation. They decided to sue for peace if they could get honorable terms. Lieutenant-Colonel Young with a small escort was sent out under a white flag to Montcalm’s quarters.

Montcalm’s terms were more than generous. The British would be allowed to march out with the honors of war. They could carry their colors and their personal belongings under French escort to Fort Edward. In return they had to promise not serve in the military for eighteen months and all French prisoners of war held since the war began would be released. The victors would take possession of the stores, munitions and artillery.

Montcalm called the chiefs to council. He reiterated the terms of surrender and they agreed to hold their warriors back thinking the stores, munitions and artillery would be enough payment for their services. But the thinking of the warriors was that it fell far short. Dark ominous clouds hung over an otherwise sparkling victory and that could only spell disaster upon the whole enterprise!

NEXT WEEK:  Fort William Henry 1757 Part 4


The Adoption of James Smith 1755

November 21, 2010

The afternoon of Braddock’s defeat John Smith waited anxiously for word of the battle. He was sure that this would be the day of his salvation; that Braddock’s army would send the warriors fleeing in retreat and Contrecoeur would surrender the fort.

While resting in his quarters he heard a great commotion inside the fort. He rose and quickly hobbled out to receive what he thought would be good news. It was not. He feared so when he observed that the excitement being exhibited by those few returning from the battlefield were exultations of joy. Although he could not understand French he did understand Dutch which one of the soldiers spoke. Hesitatingly Smith asked, “What was the news?” The soldier informed him that a runner had just arrived and told them that Braddock was certain to be defeated. He said that the warriors and French had taken to the trees and gullies, surrounded him and kept up a constant barrage of fire upon them. He said he saw the British falling in heaps and if they didn’t retreat back across the river there would not be one left alive by sundown. For James Smith this was not good news!

A little later he heard the scalp haloos shouted by a number of warriors and saw them come in carrying many scalps, grenadier caps, canteens, small arms and other items issued to British regulars. Some time after that he saw a company of near 100 warriors and a few French arrive at the fort. Almost all had a number of scalps each. Then the main body arrived with a great number of wagon-horses, captured weapons and other loot. They brought the news that Braddock was defeated. All the warriors and French kept up a constant firing of small arms while the big guns of the fort continuously thundered in victory celebrations. Intermingled in the din were shouts of hundreds of victory whoops.

About sundown Smith saw a small company of warriors coming with about a dozen English prisoners. All were stripped naked and had their hands tied behind their backs. He watched from the wall of the fort as the prisoners were taken to the west bank of the Allegheny directly across from the fort. There the prisoners were burned to death amid shouts of victory. When the first one burned began to wail in pain James Smith could watch no longer so he retired to his quarters sore and dejected.

A few days later Smith was handed over by the French to their Caughnawaga allies. He wasn’t able to travel overland yet so they took him by canoe up the Allegheny to Venango where he recuperated for about three weeks. Then they moved him to a town on the west branch of the Muskingum River called Tullihas. It was inhabited by Caughnawagas, Delaware and Mohicans. The Caughnawaga were Christian Iroquois from the Montreal area who had left there to live in Ohio and return to their old ways.

One of the Caughnawaga men began to give him the dress of a native. He began by plucking out all of the hair on his head except a small square on his crown. This he braided into three scalp locks and adorned them with feathers and silver broches. After this they pierced his ears and nose which they  fixed with ear rings and nose jewels. He was ordered to strip down and put on a breach cloth and they painted his face and body in various colors. They finished his transformation by hanging around his neck a large wampum belt and they put on his wrists and right arm silver bracelets. Since Smith had only witnessed cruel deaths perpetrated on their English captors he was sure he was being all done up for execution.

When he was ready an old chief led him by the hand out of the lodge and gave the call, coo-wigh, several times in rapid succession. All the town came out and this old chief speaking very loudly made a long harangue. He then handed Smith over to three young women who led him waist deep into the river. He thought this was the mode of execution they had choses for him; death by drowning.

The three young women tried to wrestle him under the water, so Smith strained with all his might trying to stay above a watery grave. The whole town was on the bank witnessing the spectacle with gales of laughter. One of the young women spoke a little English so she repeated, “No hurt you”. Upon hearing these words he gave up the fight and let them submerge him completely.

After this they led him to the council house where he was given the finest of new clothes including a ruffled shirt, leggings and moccasins. They put new feathers in his scalp locks and repainted his face in various colors. They gave him a tomahawk, pipe and medicine pouch containing tobacco and dried sumach leaves. The chiefs and leading men of the town then came in and all sat in silence in a circle; all of them smoking. They were silent for a long time, then one of the chiefs stood and made a long speech which was interpreted for him by one who spoke English.

The old chief called him his son and said that he was now bone of their bones and flesh of their flesh. That the ceremony that was done that day washed all of the white blood from his body and he was now adopted into the Caughnawaga Nation, into a mighty family and into the lodge of a great man. Again he called him son and said that he had nothing to fear because they were now under the same obligation to love and support him as they were to love and support one another. Smith was now to consider himself as one of them.

At first he did not entirely believe this speech but over the next four years while living among them he found this to be true. He would write in his memoir four decades later, “…from that day I never knew them to make any distinction between me and themselves in any respect whatever until I left them. If they had plenty of clothing I had plenty, if we were scarce we all shared one fate.”

NEXT WEEK: Fort William Henry 1757


Great Meadows and Fort Necessity 1754 Part 2

October 19, 2010

The First Nations were just as concerned as the French about a British presence in their territory. They could see that the French were mainly interested in trade building only trading posts and a few forts scattered throughout their territories. There was only minimal clearing done around the posts for purposes of sustainability. The hunting grounds were left intact so First Nations were able to benefit from trade while maintaining their culture.

On the other hand the British were interested in expansion by homesteading thereby clearing First Nations’ hunting grounds so there was no way left to support their communities. This made British expansion a dangerous proposition for all First Nation communities. So, in the spring of 1754 the council of the St. Clair Saulteaux decided to send a party of ten warriors to the Ohio to survey the situation. They would no doubt have been led by their war chief Little Thunder.

Meanwhile the French were on the move as well. Duquesne replaced St. Pierre as commandant of Fort Le Boeuf with his lieutenant, Sieur de Contrecoeur. He arrived a Fort Le Boeuf with 500 soldiers, a mix of Canadians and regulars. This bolstered the French presence in the area to 1400 men.

At the same time Dinwiddie formed the Virginia Regiment of 300 men under the aristocrat Joshua Fry with Washington second in command. Fry kept half the regiment, all raw recruits, in Virginia shaping them up to march.

Meanwhile, Washington took the other half and made his way to the Ohio Company’s storehouse at Wills creek where he set up a base camp. From there they sent a small expedition of 40 backwoodsmen led by a Captain Trent over the Alleghenies to build a fort at a spot Washington had observed the previous fall. It was at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers where they form the Ohio. It was indeed a strategic site as a fort there would command the Ohio country.

When they arrived they immediately started work on a small fort which the British had planned to garrison with the newly formed Virgina Regiment. But Contrecoeur moved against them with a force of 500 soldiers ousting the small band of Virginians and destroying their half completed fort. He then proceeded to build a much larger, stronger one which he named Fort Duquesne after his Governor. This fort would later become Fort Pitt and is today’s Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

Ensign Jumonville de Villiers was sent out of the newly constructed fort as a courier carrying a letter to give to any Englishmen he might encounter ordering them to vacate French territory. He had a contingent of 20 soldiers with him and orders to evict the English by force if they did not comply with the orders of the letter.

At the same time Washington was on the Youghiogany, a branch of the Monongahela, with 40 men. The Half King  joined him with 12 Mingo warriors. The Mingoes led him to Jumonville’s camp where they took the French by surprise. There was gunfire and the French were bested. The Virginian contingent killed ten Frenchmen including the young ensign. The took the rest as prisoners. The Half King boasted that it was he that dispatched Jumonville by splitting his head open with his tomahawk.

The incident sparked an international crisis. The French were outraged claiming that Washington opened fire on French soldiers who were only on a courier mission. They said that Jumonville was under a white flag shouting he only had a letter to deliver when they were cut down. Of course the British denied this.

Coulon de Villiers, the brother of Jumonville, rushed from Montreal to Fort Duquesne to find 500 Frenchmen and eleven First Nation warriors there awaiting their marching orders. The eleven warriors were different from the 400 he had brought with him from Canada. He described them as people from the falls of the lake or Lake Indians. They were the Saulteaux from Aamjiwnaang or the St. Clair region. Coulon was given the opportunity of avenging his brother’s death by leading the 500 French regulars, the Saulteaux from Aamjiwnaang along with a few of the Ohio warriors as well as Mohawk, Wyandotte, Abenaki and Algonquin from Quebec, Nipissing from Superior country and Ottawa from Detroit on a mission to oust the British from Ohio country.

Washington had fallen back to a huge open prairie called Great Meadows where he hastily constructed a rather flimsy entrenchment he named Fort Necessity. He was expecting a French attack and chose this spot to make his stand because its openness made it not so susceptible to the forest style warfare First Nations were so famous for. He also called for reinforcements from Fry who he thought was still in Virginia but he had died leaving Washington first in command. Three companies did finally arrive on July 1st. A company of British Regulars under Captain also arrived from South Carolina bolstering the garrison to 400 plus the Half King’s forty warriors.

Coulon de Villiers arrived on the 4th of July in a driving rain and took up position on a ridge in front of Fort Necessity and began firing down on Washington’s entrenchment. This made Fort Necessity’s position less than desirable because their three canons could not be fired uphill.

Coulon’s warrior allies kept to the edge of the Forest open as warfare was not their first choice of battle. They took pot shots on the fort all day long. After nine hours of pouring rain the French soldiers were soaked to the bone. The Virginians were hunkered down in a sea of mud.

Coulon called for a parlay to discuss terms of surrender. Washington had no choice but to agree because what little powder he had left was wet and his guns were useless. The French wrote out the terms of surrender but Washington could read no French.

Washington relied on a Dutchman Captain in his militia named Vanbraam to act as his interpreter. One clause of the surrender document read l’assassinat du Sieur de Jumonville, which Vanbraam translated as the death of Sieur de Jumonville. Washington signed the document and was allowed to return with his men unarmed to Virgina. He later disputed that he was an assassin blaming Vanbraam for the mistranslation.

The whole mission was an assorted affair. The Half King left Great Meadows in disgust saying that the French had acted as cowards and the English as fools. The other First Nation warriors fell back to Fort Duquesne where more of their own joined them in ever-increasing numbers. The young upstart Washington had killed a French ensign on a courier mission along with ten other soldiers and signed a document he could not read thereby starting the French and Indian War!

NEXT WEEK:  The Rout of Braddock 1755


Great Meadows and Fort Necessity 1754 Part 1

October 11, 2010

By the mid 18th century the Ohio valley was a hotbed of activity. The population was made up of many First Nations villages and towns. They included many Delaware, Shawnee, Miami and Wyandotte communities with a few roaming Ottawa and Iroquois bands. The English called the Iroquois in the area Mingoes. British traders had set up trading houses at the larger First Nations’ towns. But the English had more in mind than just trade with the First Nations. They wanted their land for settlement. 

They had signed the Treaty of Albany with the Iroquois in 1722 that marked out a line dividing their territory with the colony of Virgina.  That line basically followed the Blue Ridge mountains. However, Virginian settlers soon began crossing the Blue Ridge and squatting on First Nations’ territory. Many paid with their lives and by the 1740’s the Iroquois were so frustrated with their allies, the British, that they were ready to declare all out war on Virgina. In 1743 the British paid the Iroquois 100 pounds stirling for any territory claimed by them in the Shenandoah Valley. The following year under the treaty of Lancaster the Iroquois sold the British all of the Shenandoah Valley for 200 pounds of gold. At the Treaty of Logstown in 1752 the Iroquois recognized English trading rights in all of their territory southeast of the Ohio River.

The French saw the Ohio River Valley as French territory by way of discovery by La Salle and by way of French presence in the territory for a hundred years previous. They saw all this British activity as a violation of the treaty of Utrecht, which at best gave the British only the right to trade with First Nations in their own territory. The British crown complained to the French court in Paris, but this was a long process.

Lieutenant-Governor Dinwiddie of Virgina believed the Ohio Territory belonged to the Colonies under Virgina’s original charter. The boundaries in the charter were more than vague so he extended the northern border to at least include the Ohio River and its tributaries. On top of all the activity around trade the English wanted this territory for settlement. In order to facilitate this settlement the Ohio Company was formed. It was an association given a grant of 500,000 acres in the Ohio Valley by the British crown providing they could establish 100 families, build a fort and maintain a garrison there within seven years.

The French were not about to sit idly by and let the British take over the territory. Officially the British Crown complained to the French Court at Paris. Unofficially the French were about to take action to reassert their ownership of the territory that gave them unfettered access from Quebec to Louisiana. Duquesne, governor of New France, ordered a French presence in the territory backed by a series of French forts.

The French landed an expedition at P’resqu Isle, today’s Erie, Pennsylvania, on the south shore of Lake Erie. It had a fine natural harbor so they build a fort here then cleared a roadway of only a few leagues to Riviere Aux Boeufs today called French Creek. They built another fort here calling it Fort Le Boeuf.

The First Nations of the territory saw an opportunity to play one European nation against the other. Although they had a trading alliance with the British they had always been more fully allied with the French. They all went out of their way to help the French move the large amount of heavy supplies to garrison two forts. The only ally the British had in the area that was fully committed to them were the Mingoes. Shortly after Fort Le Boeuf was built a Mingo chief named the Half King arrived and ordered the French to leave the territory. But the French were arrogant and haughty laughing the Half King out of the fort. He was mortified and full of rage against the French. They had made an enemy that were sure to hear from again.

In the fall of 1753  Legardeur de St. Pierre arrived  to command Fort Le Boeuf. He had just settled in expecting a long and monotonous winter when a stranger arrived on horseback along with the fall rains mixed with wet snow. He was tall, young and brash a mere youth of 21 years. He was accompanied by a much older man, several others with the pack horses backed by the Half King and several warriors. He carried a letter from Dinwiddie introducing him and containing orders for the French to leave British territory immediately. His name was George Washington.

St. Pierre afforded the young Virginian Major every courtesy and after studying the document he had presented he replied by letter to Dinwiddie that he would forward his correspondence to Duquesne for consideration. In the meantime he could only remain at his post and follow the orders of his general.

Washington struggled through extreme winter conditions to return to Virgina. He finally arrived at Williamsburg by mid January and gave his report to Dinwiddie. It not only included St. Pierre’s letter of response but the information given him by some French soldiers at a French outpost at the mouth of French Creek that the French had every intention of taking the country by force and nothing would deter them.

NEXT WEEK: Great Meadows and Fort Necessity 1754 Part 2


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