Now it’s the Fox’s Turn

March 3, 2010

The Olympics are over but tax season is just getting underway. I’m still finding it hard to find the time to post here but I’ll do my best.

Cadillac had managed to smooth thing over by 1708 but Vaudreuil came up with another plan to rid himself of the thorn in his side. He couldn’t seem to discredit Cadillac to the powers that be back in France so he thought a promotion might do the trick. In 1711 he recommended to the King and Minister Ponchartrain that Cadillac be named to the vacant position of Governor of Louisiana. He was and ordered to leave for his new post immediately.

Monsieur Jacque Charles Dubuisson was appointed new commandant of Fort Ponchartrain at de troit (the strait…between Lake Huron and Lake Erie). He was an able administrator but no Cadillac. He commanded neither the strength of resolve when dealing with the First Nations nor the respect they had for the former commander. He was there but a year when crisis broke out again. This time it was with the Fox and Mascoutin nations and would spiral into all-out war ending in disaster.

Before Cadillac left for Louisiana he invited the Fox and Mascoutin to settle at de troit. About 1000 came from Wisconsin along with a few Sauk. They settled on land assigned to them but built a fort of their own within a pistol’s shot of the French Fort. The next summer a disagreement arose between them and the French. Dubuisson accused them of conspiring under British influence to destroy Fort Ponchartrain but the Fox said it was the French that started the war for reasons unknown to them.

Apparently Dubuisson complained about the nearness of the Fox fort and ordered them to remove themselves. Some of the Fox’s young men under their great chiefs Lamima and Pemoussa shouted out insults to the French saying they were the owners of all the surrounding country. Actually they were the owners a century earlier.

Dubuisson was in a precarious position. The Wyandotte and Ottawa warriors had not returned from their winter hunt and Dubuisson had only about 30 Frenchmen at the fort. So he had to endure all of the escalating aggravation from the Fox and Mascoutin. He sent word to his allies at their hunting grounds to return as soon as possible.

The Fox were awaiting the arrival of their allies the Kickapoo when they received alarming news. The great Ottawa war chief Sahgimah had gone off in pursuit of a band of Mascoutin. He had the Potawatomi war chief Makisabi with him and about 100 warriors. Some the Mascoutin men had insulted Sahgimah by calling him a coward so they were out to avenge the insult. They came upon the Mascoutin wintering on the St. Joseph River where they attacked and killed 200. About 50 survivors fled to their kinsmen at de troit for protection. When they heard the news they immediately determined to burn an Ottawa lodge. Then they pillaged the crops growing outside the French fort. A Fox spy named Joseph had warned Dubuisson of their plans so he had time to save most of their wheat by bringing it into the fort.

Dubuisson was bracing himself for disaster when the Wyandotte and the Ottawa arrived from their hunting grounds. The Wyandotte met with Monsieur de Vincennes at their fort and insisted that the Fox and Mascoutin be annihilated according to the governor’s wishes. They claimed to know this from a previous council in Montreal.

Two hours later Sahgimah and Makisabi arrived. Not only their own warriors with them but also some Missouri, Illinois, Osage and other more remote nations that Dubuisson did not recognize. They picked up these other warriors as they returned from the St. Joseph and now had about 600 with them. They were in a highly agitated state. To make thing worse they discovered that the Fox had taken some hostages and among them was Sahgimah’s wife!

This multitude of nations let out a loud war cry and the Fox returned in kind.  Then they rushed the Fox fort with the Wyandotte and Ottawa at their head. About 40 Fox and Mascoutin warriors rushed out to meet them but immediately retreated back into their fort. Dubuisson’s allies requested permission to enter the French fort, which they did and he gave them supplies including ball and shot. After speeches from their war chiefs and harangues from their old men they all raised the war cry. Guns discharged from both sides and balls flew like hail. The war had begun!

NEXT WEEK: The Beginning of the Fox Wars

Reparation Granted

February 20, 2010

Tax season is upon us. I do tax returns hence the late post. It probably will be this way through April. Also the Winter Olympics are on distracting my attention. Oh well, what’s a blogger to do?

We left de troit and New France in a quandary. The Ottawa had withdrawn to Michillimakinac and the Miami to the St. Joseph and Wabash Rivers. The Delaware Loup had also withdrawn from the new French post. This not what Cadillac had envisioned.

The disturbances at de troit made things even more dicey for Governor Vaudreuil. The Ottawa had let it be known that they neither wanted war with the French nor did they fear it. There were eight or ten nations spread around the lakes that were their allies and they were indignant at the Wyandotte and Miami for what they had done. Vaudreuil feared the British would supply the upper nations from their posts on Hudson Bay. And a war with the Three Fires Confederacy and their allies would do irreparable harm to the fur trade. 

There was also the fact that two of their own had been killed, one being the Recollect Priest Constantine. This had to be dealt with in the sternest of terms, blood for blood. However, it looked like an impossible task to get the Ottawa to turn over any of their own for French execution.

The governor also had people at Michillimakinac whose safety he was ultimately responsible for. They tried to withdraw back to Montreal but were prevented from doing so by the Ottawa. Vaudreuil did not know if they were being held hostage or did they meet an even worse fate.

On the other hand things were not going well for the Ottawa either. When they withdrew from de troit it was late August and their corn at de troit had been ravaged. It was far too late for a new planting at Michillimakinac. They had no food to get them through the winter other than what their kinsmen could share with them. 1706-07 was going to be a long, hard winter.

They did make it through although they ended up eating grass, tree bark and boiled moccasins. They decided to go to Montreal and sue for peace. They sent a delegation of four chiefs of each of three of their nations, the Ottawa Kiskakoua, Sinago and La Fourche. Jean Le Blanc spoke for them all.

He laid the blame for all the trouble at the feet of Le Pesant. He said that he understood that their way of making reparation for a death with goods was not enough. He understood that the death of the two Frenchmen must be paid the French way, with blood. So they offered up two former prisoners that they had adopted into their nation to the governor to do with what he wished.

Vaudreuil refused. He wanted the head of Le Pesant and this is what he told Le Blanc. The Ottawa refused to give up one of their most prominent chiefs saying that he was a ‘great bear’ with much influence among all the nations of the lakes. They could not promise that they could pay the reparation that the governor demanded. So the council in Montreal ended in failure.

The governor-general was stymied. He had no idea how to defuse the situation so he did what all good politicians do when they find themselves in a situation such as this. He passed the buck. He had been informed that Cadillac had sent word to Le Blanc to come to de troit so he referred the matter to him with orders to find a way to make peace with all the nations.

Cadillac took charge. He was no Bourmont, the unfortunate young ensign assigned to look after the post when all the trouble started. He demanded in the sternest possible voice that they bring him Le Pesant and if he refused to come then they should kill him on the spot. If they didn’t do what he asked then it would be war meaning the death of their young men and hardship for their wives and children. He also demanded their answer a little before sundown.

The Ottawa caved in. They decided to capitulate to Cadillac’s demands and hand over Le Pesant or slay him themselves if he refused. The Wyandotte and Miami did not believe the Ottawa would do what they said they would do but agreed to accept anything that Cadillac did in regard to the matter and would abide by the peace.

The Ottawa returned with Le Pesant and handed him over to Cadillac to do with as he pleased. However, they did beg the commandant to spare him. After humiliating and incarcerating him Le Pesant escaped over the stockade walls and fled into the woods. Knowing that his countrymen had abandoned him and his influence was depleted Cadillac made the wise choice of not pursuing him. This would make for better relations with all the upper nations and the Wyandotte and Miami had already agreed to abide with any decision he made.

The peace was restored and the nations began to return to de troit. But there was still trouble ahead for both Cadillac and de troit.

NEXT WEEK: Now it’s the Fox’s turn!

Wyandotte Treachery!

February 10, 2010

First, congratulations to the New Orléans Saints for winning the Super Bowl! It not only lifted and renewed the city’s spirits but inspired the nation.

Last week we left Jean Leblanc trying to make peace by talking to the French. But Commandant de Bourmont refused to parlay and instead made the threatening gesture of puting swords on the end their poles. This cause great mistrust of the French among the Ottawa.

So the Ottawa went to the Wyandotte thinking they were their allies. Quarante Sols gave them a belt that signified that they were allies with the nations around them including the Ottawa, Chippewa, Mississauga and Potawatomi. They told Jean Leblanc they would share the French words with them on the Ottawa’s feast day and so they would not fear meeting in their lodges they would meet in a clearing where they would plant a French flag.

The next day the Wyandotte planted a French flag in open grassland just as they said they would. The French came and spread out large blankets on the ground near the flag and put large quantities of grain on them. The Wyandotte women did the same. But the Ottawa were very distrustful so the sent out scouts to survey the sounding area. They reported back that they had seen trails leading to the deep woods that encircled the open grassland.

The following day was their feast day. The Ottawa suspected a trap so they remained in their fort. The Miami and Wyandotte had some of their warriors hidden in the glades around the clearing but most of them were hidden in the deep woods surrounding the Ottawa fort. They had two bands. One came along the water and destroyed their canoes thinking it would prevent their escape. Then both rushed the fort to massacre all the women and children. They assumed the Ottawa had gone to meet at the clearing.

The Ottawa opened fire from their fort surprising the enemy. The Ottawa only lost one young man but the Miami and Wyandotte lost many. They retreated but returned that night. On their way they met Katalibou and his brother. They killed and scalped them. 

The next day the Wyandotte joined the Miami outside the Ottawa fort. Cletart, Quarante Sols’ brother, called out insults calling the Ottawa warriors women and saying that Onontio, the French Governor had long ago abandoned them. This riled the young Ottawa warriors and they rushed out of their fort to attack them. The Wyandotte held their ground but the Miami fled even though they had 400 men under arms. The next day they returned and attacked the Ottawa fort again but it was of little consequence. Before they left they shot a prisoner who was an ally of the Ottawa.

The same day some of the Ottawa’s young men along with two Mississauga returned to de troit from fighting the Flathead. The Wyandotte captured and bound them. They took the Ottawa warriors to the French fort but kept the two Mississauga men at the Wyandotte fort where they later released them.

The Miami released one of the young men with a message. The Miami did not wish to kill the other prisoners but wanted the Ottawa  to cover the Miami dead with presents thereby ending the hostilities. This was according to native custom.

The Ottawa collected all that they had to secure the release of the prisoners. They offered two packs of beaver pelts, ten pieces of porcelain beads, twenty kettles and various other small gifts. They took them unarmed to the appointed place in front of the French gates where Quarante Sols offered Jean Leblanc his hand. Just as he took it a shot rang out from the French fort and grazed Jean Leblanc’s shoulder. The Miami shot seven more killing two. The Ottawa fled with the Wyandotte and Miami in hot pursuit. The Ottawa warriors who had stayed at their fort rushed out to help their fleeing brothers.

During one of the Miami sorties they captured a young Ottawa woman and whisked her off to the French fort. Some of the Ottawa pursued them but arrived at the French fort only to hear the young woman’s screams as the Miami burned her alive! They spent the rest of the day fighting.

In fact all this fighting went on for almost two months. The Ottawa tired and were short of ball and shot so they chose Onabemamtou, one of their chiefs, to approach the Miami. He had danced the calumet peace dance with them in earlier times. He was successful a brokering a peace with them and reported back that they had laid all the blame at the feet of the Wyandotte and the French. They agreed to withdraw to their homeland on the St. Joseph and the Ottawa withdrew to Michillimakinac.

Cadillac returned to Fort Ponchartrain livid. He was upset with de Bourmont for not taking charge in the beginning. He chastised him for taking sides and not threatening each with the power of the French Governor. Now it was up to him to restore things and secure restitution for the killing of one of his soldiers and the Grey Robe.

NEXT WEEK: Reparation Granted

Trouble in Paradise…1706

February 4, 2010

Let me apologise for this week’s post being late. We had friends we hadn’t seen in 9 years visit. Funny how time just slips by.  Anyway we are all caught up with the news in each others life. Hope it’s not another 9 years 🙂

Last week we left Cadillac seeming to get his way. In 1706 Fort Ponchartrain was being reinforced with French soldiers, settlers and a Recollect missionary. Cadillac had also been successful in attracting First Nations to settle around the newly constructed fort. However, it would take a strong hand to manage the peace as some of these nations were traditional antagonists. Cadillac had that quality in abundance but Vaudreuil had another plan to thwart de troit’s success.

He had Cadillac called to Montreal and arrested on a trumped-up charge brought forth by the Company of the Colony. He was put on trial but found innocent by the Indendant. While he was away Sieur de Bougmont was left in command. He was a capable military man but didn’t have the strong hand that Cadillac had. Unfortunately, trouble broke out between the Nations at de troit.

A disagreement arose between the Mississauga and Miami and de Bougmont intervened thinking he had in had brought the matter to a successful conclusion. But the matter still simmered with the Ottawa taking sides with the Mississauga. To make matters worse a Potawatomi who was married to a Miami warned the Ottawa that the Wyandotte chief Michipichy or Quarante Sols conspired with the Miami in private to destroy the Ottawa.

The Ottawa had planned to go to war against the Sioux. Quarante Sols’ plan was to wait until they left and after three days attack the villages and eat their women and children. When they heard the news of the Wyandotte and Miami plan they hastily called a council of the three Ottawa Nations that were at de troit. Le Pesant or the Heavy Man and Outoutagan or Jean Le Blanc, their two head chiefs, were at the council.

Le Pesant, who was a bit of a hot head, became enraged when he heard what they were planning. He said that since the Miami were determined to kill them and boil them they should prevent them from doing so by striking first. Outoutagan counselled against it but couldn’t prevail because of Le Pesant’s great influence and the fury that his harangue caused in their young warriors.

The Ottawa then went to the fort and informed commandant de Bougmont of what they had heard. In order to return to their own fort they had to pass by the Wyandotte’s stockade where they came across eight Miami chiefs going there for a feast. Le Pesant gave a great cry and said the chiefs of the one’s who would kill them were in front of them and they should put an end to it then and there. He gave another loud shout and the Ottawa began firing on Miami chiefs. They killed seven of the eight with only Pacamkon escaping to the French fort.

Then the Ottawa rushed to the Miami village to kill the rest of them in their lodges but none were there. They had all gone into the French fort. The enraged warriors rushed to Fort Ponchartrain determined to burn it but Outoutagan’s brother chief Miscouaki threw himself into the midst of them, snatching their flaming arrows and imploring them not to do any harm to the French. Chief Outoutagan saw that there was a grey robe and a soldier trapped outside the fort so he warned them to go to their fort quickly and tell the commandant not to fire upon the Ottawa nor give the Miami any powder. Unfortunately, they did not make it. The young Ottawa warriors killed them right at the gates of the French fort because they were furious at the killing of two of their chiefs.

The next day Outoutagan went to the French fort with a flag that the Governor had given his brother. He was told that as long as he carried that flag he would be safe. When he arrived at the gates of the fort the warriors with him had their arms all turned down. He asked to speak to de Bougmont to explain their reasons for attacking the Miami. Commandant de Bougmont told him that he had nothing to say to him and that he should wait until Sieur de la Forest returned in the early spring, which was another six months. He could then explain to him.

Since the commandant would not speak to them they returned to their fort. When the young men heard of this they determined again to burn the French fort. The elders wanted to cool things down so they sat in council for three days where Outoutagan said to Le Pesant that it was all his fault. How foolish it was to attack the Miami at the gates of the French fort. Now they were all dead and they had killed themselves!

NEXT WEEK: Wyandotte Treachery

And The Winner Is…

January 27, 2010

Fort du Detroit 1763

Last week we left Cadillac struggling with various opponents to his dream of monopolizing the fur trade at de troit. Fathers Carheil and Marest were doing their best to keep their First Nation charges at Michillimakinac. The Jesuits had also established a mission at the St. Joseph to destroy de troit, or so he thought. Now even more problems appear.

Governor de Callieres died and his replacement was Philippe de Rigault, Marquis de Vaudreuil. He was visited in Montreal by a delegation of Ottawa representing about 80 people left at Michilimakinac. They told him that they wished to die in their villages and refused to move to de troit.  

Vaudreuil  had also received word that the Miami and Wyandotte that had moved to de troit had met in council with the Seneca Iroquois about safe passage through their territory. They wished to explore trade with the British at Albany. Quarante Sols, the Wyandotte chief of de troit confirmed this and Vaudreuil forbade it.  The Company of the Colony was also complaining loudly about the cost of establishing the new post.

All this led de Vaudreuil to send a report to France. Count Ponchartrain, Minister in charge of the Colony, was informed that he and Indendant Beauharnois had decided to send Father Marest back to his mission because the Ottawa and Wyandotte there refused to move. He also stated that if trade between their First Nation allies and the British was ever established it would be because of de troit. It was burdensome to the Colony as well because of the exorbitant costs of enticing the First Nations to give up their villages and move to lands around Fort Ponchartrain. He advised that de troit be abandoned.

Cadillac fought back. He appealed in a letter directly to the King. The job of getting all the nations around to move to de troit was all but complete. He reported that there had been to date 2,000 First Nations people living around the new fort. They had 400 men under arms, ample protection from attack by the Iroquois. These 2,000 souls included a village of mixed Saulteux and Mississauga Ojibwa, all the Wyandotte except 30 who remained a Michillimakinac, a Miami village of about 30 families, and all the Ottawa except the 80 that remained at Michillimakinac. There were also some Nipissing that joined the Ottawa and a village of Delaware Loup. Trade was being done and at no cost to France’s treasury.

Cadillac also informed the King of the bickering that was going on in the far country of the Colony. The Sioux had attacked and killed some Miami and it had escalated to a war between the Sioux and eight of France’s First Nation allies. Cadillac took credit for brokering a peace but implored the King to augment the new fort with French regulars and settlers, not abandoned it. He said the reason the peace was so hard to keep was because of the lack of a French presence in the far country. Cadillac won out. The newly established Fort Ponchartrain would not only survive but would be expanded.

Cadillac was an imposing presence, well liked by the First Nations and could manage the affairs of the new post quite well. However, the one area he had problems with was trade. The Miami and the Wyandotte did secure safe passage to Albany. So did the Saulteux and Mississauga Ojibwa.  At the same time the Great Peace Treaty was being negociated in Montreal a number of Ojibwa chiefs travelled to Albany with some French fur traders to explore the idea of trade with the British.

Towasquaye a Wyandotte trader visited Albany a couple of years later and found he was treated well. He returned with a delegation sent by the chiefs of de troit to visit the governor Lord Cornbury. Tehonwahonkarachqua, a Miami and son-in-law of Michipichy the principle Wyandotte sachem and Rughkiwahaddi a Wyandotte spoke for their chiefs. They found not only were they well received but the goods were cheaper and of better quality than French goods. 

This would lead to competition driving the price of European goods down to the benefit of the First Nations, but that would be in the future. Monopolizing trade would not be the only problem the French would have to deal with. Much larger problems loomed on the horizon!

NEXT WEEK: Trouble in Paridise…1706.

More Intrigues at Detroit

January 20, 2010

Hi everyone! Another week gone by with some major things happening in the world. A major earthquake in Haiti which is a catastrophe the likes of which we have not seen. They need so much help and I urge everyone to give to a registered charity. Also a big election in Massachusetts yesterday that’s going to bring big changes in U.S. politics.

Now to get back to the story of the founding of Detroit not only was Cadillac having trouble with the Jesuits discouraging the First Nations from settling around the new Fort Ponchartrain but the various indigenous peoples were reluctant themselves. The Miami and Potawatomi were settled along the St. Joseph River in southwestern Michigan.  A group of about 30 Wyandotte families were living near them.

Michipichy, called by the French Quarante-Sous, was the head chief of the Wyandotte at the St. Joseph. The governor asked him in Montreal to go back to the St. Joseph and bring his people who were there to de troit, which he did. He also obtained a promise from the Miami that were there that they would also move to de troit after they collected the bones of their dead and set them in order.

Cadillac claimed they would all be there if the missionaries had not dissuaded them. They encouraged them to settle at the St. Joseph because they had a small mission already there and they wanted to expand it. He also claimed that the real reason they wanted to do this was to make de troit fail because he had brought a Grey Robe or Recollect priest there. The Augustinian Recollects and Jesuits were competing missionaries.

Another strange thing had happened. The governor, de Callieres, had told the head chief of the Miami in Montreal to settle on the St. Joseph after instructing Cadillac invite all the First Nations to settle at  de troit. This only served to confuse the Miami as well as the Wyandotte. So Michipichy went to Michillimakinac to see Sastaresty the head chief there. They were under they impression that the governor did not want them to go to Detroit. They decided to sent their elders to Montreal to see the governor to settle the dispute and to do whatever de Callieres wanted.

All this confusion made its way back to France even all the way to the King. Louis XIV sent a letter back to the Canadian officials detailing his wishes. His Majesty reported that on the one hand Sieur de la Mothe Cadillac is adamant that de troit will produce all the effects expected of it.

On the other hand others have reported that the land there is no good and will not produce the food required to support the population expected there. There is only the poor fishing available and the hunting grounds are 30 to 40 leagues away. There is also the fear of attack by the Iroquois and because the colony lacked the means to defend the newly established fort the result would be that war would recommence. Also, the Company of the Colony were reporting that the cost of establishing this new venture was so exorbitant that it was impossible to sustain. It seems Cadillac had a host of opponents all with their own agendas. 

So the King ordered through Governor de Callieres and Intendant Beauharnais that Cadillac and the most important of the French settlers at de troit meet and discuss the pros and cons of establishing the new settlement and outline them in a document. Also, all present at the deliberations were to sign the document. His Majesty would then be able to make an informed decision whether to continue augmenting that post, or to leave it as a trading post only or to abandon it altogether.

NEXT WEEK: And the Winner Is…