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