The Rout of Braddock 1755 – Part 1

October 29, 2010

Washington led his demoralized militia back to Virgina and the French returned to Fort Duquesne. They burned Gist’s settlement and the storehouse at Redstone Creek along the way. This left no British flag flying west of the Alleghenies. The First Nations returned to their respective territories to prepare for their fall hunt.

The following spring the British came to the aid of the embattled Virginian Militia. They sent two companies of 500 crack regulars each along with General Edward Braddock as their commander. Braddock was a seasoned general fresh from the battlefields of Europe. He had the reputation of being a stern disciplinarian and master tactician. An enlistment of four hundred more men bolstered his army to 1,400 soldiers.

France wasn’t about to sit on their laurels. When the heard of the British movement they began making plans to counter the move. Eighteen war ships were being fitted to sail to America. They would carry six battalions of French regulars, 3,000 men in all, along with Baron Ludwig Dieskau and Marquis de Vaudreuil. Dieskau was a German born General in the French army with a reputation equal to Braddock. Vaudreuil was the son of the former governor of New France by the same name and was to replace the ailing Duquesne. The clouds of war loomed menacing on the horizon.

In the meantime Duquesne received a direct order from the King to bestow upon Sieur Charles Langlade a commission of ensign unattached to serve the troops maintained in Canada. This was the same Langlade that had such spectacular success at Pickawillany. Duquesne then asked Langlade to raise a war party of First Nations to aid in the defence of Fort Duquesne.

Ensign Langlade left Michilimackinac in the spring of 1755 with a party of Saulteaux Ojibway warriors. He picked up more Ojibway fighters at Saginaw and headed toward Detroit. Even more Saulteax Ojibway joined him from the St. Clair region. Leading war chiefs at the time were Wasson or Catfish from Saginaw, Animikeence or Little Thunder from Aamjiwnaang (Lower Lake Huron) and Sekahos or Hunter from the Thames River/Swan Creek region. 

The newly commissioned ensign finally arrived at his old friend Pontiac’s village which was on the Detroit River opposite Fort Ponchartrain. A war council was called with the Wyandotte’s leading chief Sastaretsi, Pontiac and the other Ojibwa war chiefs in attendance. The conclusion was unanimous; they must come to their French ‘father’s’ aid.

Langlade left Detroit with a war party of 637 Ojibway, Ottawa and Wyandotte warriors including war chiefs. However the vast majority were Ojibway. The impressive war party made their way to the southern shore of Lake Erie by way of the Bass Islands. They turned east and skirted the shore until they arrived at Presque Isle where the short portage led to the head of French Creek and Fort Le Boeuf.

French Creek was a small waterway that emptied into the Allegheny River at the Indian Town of Venago. There was an old Indian trail that skirted along the east side of the creek but at this time of the year it was quite navigable in their light bark canoes. Once they reached Venago they headed down the Allegheny to the confluence of the Monongahela and Fort Duquesne. Langlade had been travelling for about a month but was still fresh and ready for battle. They set up their camps on the west side of the Allegheny directly across for the Fort and awaited instructions.

NEXT WEEK:  The Rout of Braddock 1755 – Part 2

The Detroit Ottawa Are Furious!

July 5, 2010

When the three escapees arrived back at the Ottawa village they uttered the cries for the dead. The Wyandotte came to the village when they heard the wailing and those who had survived the ambush said it was the Wyandotte that had killed them. The Wyandotte denied having any part of it saying they were allies to the Ottawa and could not slay their brothers.

The warrior who had recognized and killed the Wyandotte warrior at the ambush accused the Wyandotte of not only being capable of killing their brothers but their father as well! He said the only reason they have not done so is there were so few of them. He told of hearing of the cries of the raven just before the attack explaining that he had been on several sorties against the Flathead and they never used this cry. It was a Wyandotte tradition. He then announced the killing of the Wyandotte warrior from Detroit that he recognized and said if it were untrue let them produce that man as he was missing from the Wyandotte congregation.

After his accusations the Wyandotte returned to their village and fortified themselves from attack. The Jesuit fathers returned to the safety of the French fort and the Ottawa congregated around the Wyandotte fort. They called out to those inside their fortification saying that it seemed they were afraid walling themselves up in their stronghold daring not to come out while the Ottawa were out in the open. They accused the Wyandotte of fearing an attack but said they were mistaken. They allow them to go to their cornfields unmolested but when they did decide to attack them they would declare it as they were incapable of any treachery.

The Ottawa sent three sticks of porcelain to the Five Nations meeting them at Niagara. They presented them to their representatives with the request that they remain neutral in the dispute but if their intentions were to take the Wyandotte’s side they should declare it first. The Iroquoian envoys said they could not provide an answer but would take the strings to their towns.

The Wyandotte requested assistance from the French by appealing directly to Governor Beauharnois at Montreal. They also sent belts to the Christian Mohawk at Lake of the Two Mountains and St. Louis Falls asking them to take their side and provide asylum for them in Quebec. 

The French realized they had a full-fledged crisis on their hands. De Noyelles issued orders that no Frenchman should sell any powder, lead or guns to either side of the dispute. They were afraid this could cause the other side to accuse the French of providing the means of one side destroying the other. Beauharnois sent a great number of presents to Detroit with instructions to de Noyelles to settle things down.

However, dissention persisted for the next two years with the Ottawa, Ojibwa and Potawatomi threatening the Wyandotte with extermination and the Wyandotte men fearing for their families. In the fall of 1738 they formally asked the governor for asylum. They sent word to Beauharnois that they had met with an emissary at Michilimackinac sent by their brothers from Sault St. Louis. They were invited by them to come settle with them because they were currently living amongst a multitude of nations that liked them not.

However, they recalled an invitation given them by the former Governor Vaudreuil to come live near him where they would have asylum, a Father and a protector. This was the option they preferred most and if it was not repeated by Beauharnois they said they preferred to withdraw somewhere else to die, but if he did grant their request they asked to be sent a military man to guide them safely through the nations who were intent on destroying them.

In June of 1739 they sent the words of Sastarestsy Taatchatin and Orontony to Beauharnois. They asked the governor again to provide asylum near him. They said this was always their only wish and that would never change. They also issued warnings saying that if they were not allowed to settle in Quebec they would be forced to do something the governor would not like but did not say what. Probably this was a veiled reference to going over to the English side. They also said that they could never be strong in their new religion unless remove from among so many nations that were not Christian.

The Wyandotte were desperate. They implored de Noyelle along with the three Black Gowns at the Mission of l’assomption Among the Huron to write to the governor on their behalf recommending so strongly their request that the governor would be sure to grant it. In the summer of 1740 he wrote to the governor saying that after desperately trying to bring peace he now thought it impossible. Although it was the wish of the governor that they stay at Detroit he thought it would either bring on their destruction or they would ally themselves with the Iroquois and the British. Like Father de la Richardie he also felt that their move to Montreal would be no loss because the Shawnee were ready to take their place at Detroit. Would Beauharnois finally consent?

NEXT WEEK: The Saga Continues

The Iroquois Do It Right! Part 2

June 5, 2010

First let me apologize for being late with this post. The weather has been so fine I took advantage to work on my nature trails. I put in a bridge over a small stream that flows into the first pond. The wetlands are really taking shape.

We last left our story with the Detroit Wyandotte sending their chief La Forest to Quebec to invite the Quebec Wyandotte and Iroquois to join them in a war upon the Fox. Wouldn’t you know 47 Praying Indians from Lake of Two Mountains showed up at Detroit in October! Nobody went off to war with winter about to set in. Nobody but the Iroquois that is. The Mission Iroquois from the mission at the widening of the Ottawa River near Montreal were called Praying Indians. 

When they arrived they found that nearly all of the young men of the Ottawa and Potawatomi had already left for their winter hunting grounds. The Detroit First Nations gave the Wyandotte collars to persuade them to wait until spring when they promised all their warriors would join them but the Iroquois said it was impossible for them to wait. They procured arms and ammunition from the French commandant with directions as to the best route to follow to engage the Fox and off they went. They left on the 17th of October 1732 with a war party composed of 74 Wyandotte, 46 Iroquois and four Ottawa warriors.

They arrived at the St. Joseph River after a few days and found that all the Potawatomi there had also left for the winter hunt so they pushed on to Chicago. Some Potawatomi chiefs came to them there and proposed they wait until spring when they would also join them but they refused. From there they pushed into Kickapoo country. The Kickapoo were very frightened at first to see this small army of the fiercest of warriors in their territory but when they were told why they were there they offered to join them. However, they said they also had to wait until spring. But the war party refused and moved on.

They entered the country of the Mascoutins next and the results were the same. The Mascoutins’ territory bordered on Fox country so they asked them for 10 men to act as guides. The Mascoutins provided them but said they didn’t think they could overcome the Fox because they were so numerous. The guides took them as far as the Fox border in Wisconsin, pointed them  in the right direction to engage the Fox then returned to their village. 

Meanwhile the first of the winter snows arrived with blizzard like conditions blanketing the ground in heavy snow. The hardy warriors donned their snowshoes and marched for several more days. Some of them became sick and the older ones fatigued so they held a council to determine what to do. Some of the old men counselled a return home but the young men would not hear of it. One even said he would rather die then return home without killing some men. Two of the great Wyandotte chiefs said that although they were old they still felt strong enough to continue so the camp broke up with most of the older warriors making their way back to Chicago and the younger men marching forward. Now there were 40 Wyandotte and 30 Iroquois left.

They followed the route that led to the Wisconsin River and after a few days they saw three men coming toward them across a prairie. When the three Fox men saw them they turned and fled. Thinking they were from a small village of four or five lodges the Mascoutin guides had told them about they followed them over a large hill. When they reached the top of the hill they discovered much to their surprise the principal village of the Fox, forty-six lodges in all, lay stretched out on the banks of the Wisconsin River. The 3 warriors who had fled upon first sight of their enemy had arrived in time to warn the large village. When the Fox saw the Iroquois and Wyandotte on the top of the hill ninety well-armed Fox warriors came out to meet them. The battle was on!

NEXT WEEK: The Iroquois Do It Right! Part 3

Louvigny’s Expedition

April 21, 2010

After two years of trying to get his war off the ground the French’s First Nation allies got tired of waiting. A party of Iroquois from Sault Ste. Louis along with the Wyandotte and Potawatomi from de troit met with the northern nations at Chicago. They determined to go to le Rocher, a village in Illinois country, to see the sons of de Ramezay and de Longueuil. Their plan was to get them to raise a French force to join them on a march against the Fox’s allies.

When they arrived in Illinois territory they found both Frenchmen very sick at Kaskaskia. However, they ordered a Frenchmen named Bizaillon who was on the Illinois River to raise as many Illinois warriors as he could to join the expedition. After raising some Illinois he and a Frenchman named Pachot joined the campaign. 

They found 70 wigwams belonging to the Mascoutin and Kickapoo who were hunting along a river. They attacked so their enemy dug in on a steep rock and after a long seige their fortress gave way. The Iroquois and allies killed more than 100 and took 47 prisoners not counting women and children. In order to make tracking them difficult they moved down the river a distance of 75 miles but after 11 days they were overtaken by 400 warriors who were the elite of the Fox Nation.

The Fox attacked at dawn. The Iroquois, Wyandotte, Potawatomi and Illinois had only 80 warriors left in their party and 50 of them defended the redoubt where the wounded and prisoners were being kept. The battle raged until 3 o’clock in the afternoon when the Fox finally retreated after losing many warriors. The Iroquois etc. pursued them for several hours killing even more.

When they returned to Illinois country they took a count reporting 26 killed and 18 wounded. This expedition took place in November 1715 and the two stunning defeats served both to bolster the spirits of the French First Nation allies and demoralize the spirits of the Fox and their allies. Both the Mascoutin and Kickapoo nations surrendered themselves to the governor Vaudreuil swearing that if the Fox refused to capitulate as well they would turn on their former ally.

The following spring de Louvigny left Montreal with 225 Frenchmen and another 200 from de troit and Michilimackinac joined him. Another 400 First Nation allies also joined the campaign. They had all the munitions needed for the war including 2 pieces of cannon and a grenade mortar. They found 500 Fox warriors and 3,000 women congregated on their river in a fortress with three palisades.

The attack began in earnest but the bullets from their firearms were of no effect. However, they kept the heavy artillery firing constantly night and day. This constant barrage quickly damaged the palisades and the Fox feared they would be breached by the third night. They also had expected another 300 warriors to arrive as reinforcements but they didn’t materialize. Things looked bad for the Fox so they called out for a parlay to talk peace.

The French and allies ignored the Fox’s first overture and kept on firing. They also covertly placed two bombs underneath the gates of the fort and were ready to blow the gates off when the Fox called out again. This time Louvigny submitted the call to surrender to his First Nation allies. The First Nations imposed such stringent conditions that they thought the Fox would never agree to them. They were of the mind to utterly destroy the Fox Nation.

First, They had to agree to make peace with all the First Nations around them. Second, they had to bring their allies, the Mascoutin and Kickapoo on board, even if it be by force. Third, they must return all prisoners they held to their respective nations. Fourth, They must go to war in distant lands to get prisoners to replace all those killed by them during the war. Fifth, they must cover the costs of the war by goods procured through the hunt. Sixth, They must give up six chiefs or children of chiefs to be taken to Vaudreuil as and held as guarantees for the articles of the treaty. Much to everyone’s surprise the Fox agreed to these conditions!

Sieur de Louvigny’s campaign against the Fox was a great success but this would not be the last of their belligerence nor the end of the Fox Wars.

NEXT WEEK:  The Fox Return To their Old Ways.

The Fox Wars

April 11, 2010

Greetings All! Well I’m back from my hiatus. Check out the new pics on the side. I gave a presentation on Aamjiwnaang’s history and culture at a Native American Celebration Day at the St. Clair County Community College, Port Huron, MI last week. So, I let everything slide beforehand to prepare. But now back to the early 1700’s in the Great Lakes.

In the last post we left about 1000 Fox and Mascoutin men, women and children being massacred at Grosse Point, MI on Lake St. Clair. Back in their main villages the Fox, Mascoutin and their Kickapoo allies heard about the disaster at de troit. This made them extremely agitated so they began sending out war parties everywhere to exact revenge. They sent them to Green Bay and de troit attacking all who were not allied with them. This made the routes of travel totally unsafe.

In the spring of 1713 they killed a Frenchman named l’Epine at Green Bay. They then attacked de troit killing three Frenchmen and five Wyandotte people. So the Wyandotte along with the Miami sent a delegation to Quebec to ask the French to join them in an expedition against the Fox and their allies in order to seek satisfaction.

Governor Vaudreuil agreed that the Fox had become so unruly that if the French did nothing they would be looked upon with contempt by all the far nations. But, he didn’t want the expense of any expedition to be charge to the King’s treasury so he hatched a plan to pay for it by using the colony’s commerce.

There was in the upper country about a hundred coureurs de bois who were French fur traders that had gone rogue. They had been ordered to cease their trading activities but they refused the direct order from the King. Many were even dealing with the English for trade goods. They were now considered outlaws. But, Vaudreuil reasoned, if the King were to pardon them he could issue them new licences, supply them with trading goods if they would promise to congregate at Michilimackinac and join in the war against the Fox. The profits from the trade goods could in turn pay for the expedition.

In 1714 Claude de Ramsey became acting governor while de Vaudreuil was in France. For two years the French did nothing but in the spring of 1715 they sent presents to the Miami and Illinois in order to arrange a peace between the two. They were both very large nations and both were common enemies of the Fox.

Meanwhile de Vaudreuil returned, asking Sieur de Louvigny, a military man with some import with the First Nations, to go to Michilimackinac. He was to take with him twenty men, munitions for the garrison and trade goods. He also had orders to accomplish three things.

First he was to ascertain if a general peace was even a possibility. Depending on the attitude of the far nations toward the Fox and their allies he would know if there was anything acceptable to them to “cover their dead” and if the Fox were to agree to the terms. Second, he was to encourage the Sioux to break the peace they had arranged with the Fox and not to give them safe haven once the expedition commenced. Third, he was to offer the King’s amnesty to the coureurs de bois if they all came to Michilimackinac and agreed to participate. However, de Louvigny got sick and could not go until the following spring.

Finally he arrived at Michilimackinac and ascertained that a general peace was not possible. However, when he arrived he found the situation rife with problems. The Sauk were fighting with the Puants and Sauteurs. The coureurs de bois were a lawless group trading with everyone including the Fox. This upset all the far nations allied against the Fox. He also discovered that they were getting their trade goods from unscrupulous merchants in Montreal. To top things off the goods and munitions to supply the expedition didn’t arrive until late August, too late to do anything that year!

NEXT WEEK:  Louvigny’s Expedition

The Fox’s Demise

March 18, 2010

Ah, the weather is so fine,…just like summer! I do so want it to continue. But, alas I heard rumblings about a chance of wet flurries next week. Oh well, back to reality and back to our story.

We left the Fox and Mascoutin chiefs being escorted back to their fort after their First Nation adversaries rejected their peace plan. When they were returned safely the firing recommenced. For four days they fired upon each other without a word being spoken.

The Fox shot flaming arrows at the French fort hoping it would catch fire and burn down. Sometimes these flaming missiles flew three or four hundred at a time. It was a good plan because the buildings inside Fort Ponchartrain had thatched roofs. Some of them did catch fire and the French panicked but Dubuisson reassured them. They replaced the thatch with bear and deer skins, filled large pirogues with water and fashioned large poles with mops on the ends to extinguish any skins that might start to smolder.  This sufficed in handling the matter.

Now Dubuisson had another problem. He heard rumours that some of his First Nation allies want to quit the fight and leave. Others heard the same rumours and again the Frenchmen began to panic. They told Dubuisson they thought they should retire to Michilimackinac as quickly as possible. He rejected that idea immediately and called the plan cowardly. Then he called a council with the war chiefs.

When they were all gathered he started an harangue to encourage them to remain and fight to the end. But in the middle of his discourse the chiefs interrupted him. They told him they never would quit the fight and that some liar had started these bad rumours. They got so riled up that they all sang the war song, did the war dance then with a loud war cry rushed out of the fort to attack the Fox.

Every day a few Sauk who were with the Fox would abandon them and come over to the French side. They brought intelligence with them on the condition of the enemy. By this point in the war they reported that the Fox were in very poor condition. They said that over 80 women and children had died from lack of food and water. They were unable to intern them along with the warriors being killed daily because of being continually fired upon. This in turn caused disease to break out in their fort. They were indeed in bad shape, so bad that they had no other choice but to try again to sue for peace.

They demanded permission to speak to their adversaries and permission was granted. The Fox’s two greatest chiefs, Pemoussa the war chief and Allamina the civil chief came along with Kuit and Onabimaniton the two greatest Mascoutin chiefs. Pemoussa was dressed in his finest carrying wampum belts and painted green. He was supported by seven female captives who were also painted adorned with their finest beadwork also carrying wampum belts. Pemoussa led the procession.

The other three chiefs each carried a chickikoue, a small drum used to enlist spiritual assistance. They proceeded in the French fort in single file the three chiefs beating their chickikouies and all singing the song of it. When they had entered the fort they ceased the song and Pemoussa spoke.

Pemoussa conceded defeat and offered the seven women captives as payment for his life. He said he was not afraid to die but conceded for the lives of their women and children. He offered six wampum belts to tie the Fox and Mascoutin to the French and their allies in friendship and asked for a good word with which he could return to his village. Dubuisson again acquiesced to the war chiefs to give the Fox an answer. 

The chiefs and their warriors were so enraged at the Fox they refused to give them any answer but instead asked to speak with Dubuisson in private. They wanted to kill the four head chiefs on the spot so the Fox would be leaderless and surrender without condition. Dubuisson dismissed this idea out of hand. Besides, if he agreed to such a dishonorable plan the Governor General would not forgive him. The chiefs agreed and the Fox delegation was returned to their fort safely but without a treaty.

The firing recommenced once again and on the nineteenth day of the seige the Fox and Mascoutin decamped about midnight and their escape was not discovered until the next morning. The Ottawa, Wyandotte and the rest of their allies went off in hot pursuit. De Vincennes and a few Frenchmen went with them.

The Fox and their Mascoutin allies knew they would be pursued so they stopped at what today is Grosse Pointe, Michigan on Lake St. Clair and made an entrenchment there. They built very good ramparts which enabled them to kill 20 of the pursuers. Another siege ensured that lasted four days.

Dubuisson had sent word to the Ojibway on the St. Clair River and the Mississauga on Lake St. Clair to come to their aid when the war first broke out. They couldn’t because all their young men were gone on their winter hunt. But now they had returned and they began to show up at the rate of 100 canoes a day for the four days. Then they stormed the Fox entrenchment and slaughtered all but 100. Then they returned to Fort Ponchartrain with their 100 captives which they killed about five a day until they were all dead.

The Fox and Mascoutin who were invited to de troit were totally annihilated.They lost 1,000 men, women and children in the war. The Ottawa, Wyandotte and their allies, including 25 Iroquois from Fond du Lac, suffered 60 men killed and wounded and the French had one killed and several wounded. This tragedy at de troit would commence a period of about 25 years known in history as the Fox Wars.

NEXT WEEK: The Fox Wars

The Beginning of the Fox Wars

March 10, 2010

The weather is great as I sit to write this week’s post. The sun is shining and it’s warming up. However, it still could get a little warmer…no, a lot warmer! I am so looking forward to summer.

We last left the Fox and Mascoutin hunkered down in their fort surrounded by hostile First Nations less than 100 yards from the French fort. The French erected two 20 foot scaffolds in order to shoot down on their villages. All Dubuisson’s allies left Fort Ponchartrain and fanned out to the edge of the forest surrounding the settlement. They had the Fox pinned down and they couldn’t go out for food or water. This siege lasted 19 days. 

During this time the French fired upon the Fox fort continually night and day. Their allies kept returning to the fort with prisoners they had captured in the woods. These were Fox and Mascoutin kinsmen coming to join them not knowing they were besieged. Their sport was to kill them with arrows and them burn them. Meanwhile the Fox in their fort were becoming exhausted with thirst and hunger. They hoisted twelve red flags in their villages and called out to the French they had no father but the English and called out to the Ottawa and their allies they would do better to change sides. Their attempt at intimidation failed.

Finally, the Potawatomi war chief Makisabie mounted one of the French scaffolds and called out to the Fox. He entered into a long harangue chastising them and their British “masters”. He didn’t get too far along when Dubuisson broke in stopping him. The Fox had asked for this interlude only so they could sneak out for water. The French recommenced their firing killing 30 Fox including some women who had gone for water. The fox returned fire killing 12 Frenchmen.

The Fox had taken a French house that was outside their fort and it had a mound of earth on the gabled side of it. They erected a scaffold behind it on which to stand and fire upon the French. The French bullets would not penetrate this defence so they hauled one of their small cannons up on their scaffold, aimed it at the Fox scaffold and fired. Upon the first two discharges the Fox scaffold fell killing some of them. They were so frighted they called out for a meeting with the French and their allies.

Dubuisson held a council with all the war chiefs and they decided to hear them out thinking they may still be able to extract the three women prisoners, including Sahgimah’s wife, the Fox had taken.

The next morning the Fox war chief Pemoussa came out of his fort with two others and a white flag. They also had with them two captives who had been living with them for a long time. Dubuisson sent an armed escort to bring him to the fort and also to protect him from the insults of some of the young warriors. The council was held in the parade grounds of Fort Ponchartrain with the Fox delegation surrounded by their enemies’ war chiefs.

Pemoussa asked for a two-day cease-fire so their elders could determine in council a way to turn aside their enemies wrath. He also offered up the two captives as partial payment for the blood they had spilt.

Dubuisson told Pemoussa that if his heart was right he would have brought the three women hostages instead of the two strangers they offered. If they really wanted peace they could begin by bringing the three women otherwise the war would continue. All the war chiefs concurred saying they had nothing to say to Pemoussa and that if he wanted to live let him turn over the three women. Pemoussa and his delegation including the two strange captives were escorted back to their fort. 

Two hours later a Fox chief along with two Mascoutin chiefs returned to the French fort under a white flag. The had the three women with them. The three chiefs spoke to Dubuisson and all the war chiefs asking that the Ottawa, Potawatomi and others retire and the French cease firing for two days in order that they may go for food and water. They explained their people were dying inside their fort for lack of provisions. Dubuisson deferred their answer to the war chiefs.

They chose the Illinois war chief Makouandeby to be their speaker. He then told the Fox and Mascoutin chiefs that they were not to be trusted. They knew of their commitment to the British to kill the French and burn their fort. Because of their bad hearts they would not retire leaving the French alone to be killed and as soon as the Fox and Mascoutin chiefs reentered their fort they would be fired upon and the war would recommence.

NEXT WEEK:  The Fox’s Demise