The Rout of Braddock 1755 – Part 2

November 7, 2010

A council was held in the Fort with the French commander Sieur de Contrecoeur. He had three captains under him, Beaujeu, Dumas and Ligneris. The commandant came up with a plan. Beaujeu would have command of the force that was to repel the British with Dumas second in command. They would meet them on the road ambushing them at the ford where the road crossed the Monongahela. Langlade and the war chiefs objected. The spot was not to their liking. The terrain was two wide and open to conduct the type of warfare they were best at. They were ignored, the plan was set and the council concluded. Returning to their camps across the Alleghany the Ojibwa and their native allies prepared for war in their usual way.

War dances were danced and war songs were sung. These were interspersed with long harangues by war chiefs and seasoned warriors containing previous great deeds done in battle. These speeches always ended with a tremendous strike a the war post with a war club or tomahawk and loud shouts of war whoops. This spectacle never ceased to send a chill through their European allies. On this occasion it was the French who watched from Fort Duquesne’s ramparts along with a young English colonial who had been captured three days before.

Three days before the young Pennsylvanian James Smith was captured by three warriors, two Delaware and one Mohawk from Caughnawaga. His companion was killed and scalped but he was brought back to the fort a prisoner. He was only 18 years of age. When they neared the fort they gave the victory cry, a long halloo for each scalp or prisoner taken. Hundreds of warriors responded by pouring out of their wigwams shouting and screeching and firing their guns in the air. The French responded to the celebration likewise by firing off their guns including cannon from inside the fort. Smith was awed by the din and thought they must number in the thousands. What was about to come surprised him even more.

A great number of warriors began to form two columns. They were all whooping and yelling and carrying sticks. All were prepared for war with faces and bodies painted in various pigments of red, black, yellow and blue wearing nothing but breechcloths. It was a fearsome sight for the young man to behold.

One of the Delaware warriors who captured him spoke a little English and told him he must run between the two columns from one end to the other. He said to run fast, the faster the better as they were going to beat him. A shove from his advisor started him racing receiving blows all the way. As he neared the end one blow knocked him down. He tried to get up but someone threw sand in his eyes so he could not see where he was going. Beaten down again he took the warriors blows until he was rendered unconscious. Young James regained consciousness inside the fort being attended to by the post physician.    

Smith was interrogated by the war chiefs after receiving medical attention. Then the Delaware warrior who spoke English came to see him. He asked his captor why the warriors treated him so badly thinking he had offended them in some way. But he was told that he did not offend but it was just an old custom they had…like saying, how do you do? Smith then asked if he would be permitted to stay with the French and was told he would not but after he recovered he must live with the Delaware and become one of them. When he could get out of bed he made his way around with the aid of a crutch.

Meanwhile, General Braddock and his army had left Williamsburg following the road cut by the Virginians the year before. They were an impressive sight to behold. A long column of British regulars, 1,750 in all, dressed in bright red tunics, white helmets and sashes with steel bayonets flashing in the sun. They were followed by 450 Virgina Militia dressed in blue. Interspersed in the column were cannon and howitzers, 600 pack horses and 175 wagons carrying supplies and tools. All of this to supply the newly conquered fort and more.

The colonies were hemmed in by mountain ranges which made expansion impossible. But the British had ambitions to do just that and they had a plan. Braddock was to take Fort Duquesne and quickly move on to Fort Niagara. Sir William Johnson was to take Crown Point. William Shirley Sr., Governor of Massachusetts, was made a Major General and was to take Fort Beausejour. This all on the pretense that the French had invaded British territory. It seemed impossible that the plan should fail. The colonies had yet to see an army the size of Braddock’s and the English had population figures on their side. The total white population of New France, from Quebec to Louisiana, was just under 80,000. The British on the other hand had a population of 1.6 million including 200,000 slaves.

So Braddock headed for Fort Duquesne with his superior army and his arrogance intact. He had little respect for the colonial militia and even less for First Nation warriors. Benjamin Franklin, who was the postmaster of Pennsylvania at the time, came to see him at Williamsburg. He spent five days with Braddock and warned him of the forest warfare practiced by the First Nations suggesting that he should consider new battle tactics. Braddock replied “These savages may, indeed, be a formidable enemy to your raw American militia, but upon the King’s regular and disciplined troops, sir, it is impossible that they should make an impression.” Braddock was about to get the shock of his life! 

NEXT WEEK:  The Rout of Braddock 1755 – Part 3


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


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


More of France’s Allies Revolt!

August 22, 2010

While Nicholas’ warriors were harassing Detroit the Saulteaux Ojibwa from the St. Clair joined in. They had killed and carried off some of the local farmers’ cattle and some of the farms were attacked by “unknown Indians”. This was the work of some of the more brazen young men who were disregarding their chief’s disapproval. All this upheaval made it impossible for the French to get the fall harvest in putting the post in jeopardy.

A party of chiefs and warriors arrived at Montreal to visit the Governor General. Among them were eight Ottawa chiefs and eight other warriors including two Seneca and some Wyandotte from Lorette who had accompanied Sieur Beleatre to Detroit the year before. Four Wyandotte chiefs were also with them including Sastaredzy, the principal chief and Tayachatin another main chief.

In the council with the governor they professed their loyalty and the Wyandotte, who had converted to Christianity, asked for Father La Richardie to return to Detroit to minister to their needs. He was their former missionary and they had the utmost confidence and respect for him. The French saw this as an opportunity to assist in settling things down at Detroit so they jumped at the chance. The governor quickly gave his approval, the priest consented and the deal was done.

Things were bad at Detroit with some of the young warriors getting out of control but they were worse at Michilimackinac. There was total confusion at that post. The Ottawa, Saulteaux Ojibwa and Mississauga were ill-disposed toward the French. The Ottawa of Saginaw had already struck a blow by killing three Frenchmen who were on their way from Detroit to Michilimackinac. The Saulteaux attacked two French canoes at La Cloche, an island in Georgian Bay between present day Little Current and Birch Island. One of the canoes escaped by discarding their cargo and fleeing to Michilimackinac while the other was totally defeated. Another Frenchman was stabbed by the Saulteaux just two leagues from the post at La Grosse Isle. 

The post itself was on high alert. Various warriors had killed all the horses and cattle they could not catch and were continuously hurling insults and threats at the fort. Only a few at a time were allowed inside the post and only under the strictest control. A council was held but ended in recrimination when it was discovered that some of the young warriors had come armed with knives. The French were in a very precarious position as they only had 28 men manning the post. They were relieved a few days later when de Noyelle and a contingent of Frenchmen arrived from Point Chagouamigon on Lake Superior.

At the same time an Ottawa name Nequionamin arrived with alarming news. He reported to the commandant that the Iroquois, the Wyandotte and the Flathead had reached an agreement with the English to attack and destroy all French everywhere. He also reported that the Nations of Detroit were in on the plot. The Ottawa led the revolt, the Potawatomi would cooperate as well as the Mississauga and the Saulteaux of St. Clair. He said the Ottawa of Saginaw had already struck referring to the three they had killed on Lake Huron. They also had sent 70 men to council with the Ottawa of Michilimackinac but they were reluctant because they had a contingent of their village visiting Montreal. He advised the commandant not to let anyone leave the fort and to keep a strict watch. The French needed to gain some control!

NEXT WEEK:  St. Pierre to the Rescue! August 1747


The Saga Continues

July 20, 2010

It’s been two weeks since I last wrote a post. Summer always seems to be so busy with outdoor projects that my writing seems to suffer. However, I also seem to get a lot of ‘other things’ done so the guilty feelings about my neglect is tempered somewhat.

In the last post the year of 1740 was one of tension and mistrust among the nations of Detroit. 1741 was no different. In one instance a Wyandotte woman was working in their cornfield when a party of Saulteux happened along. They threatened the woman with death and killed her dog in front of her. This frightened her very badly and set the whole Wyandotte village on edge.

In another incident an Ottawa man in a state of intoxication accused the Wyandotte of killing his brother. This story spread throughout the Ottawa and their allies’ villages. De Noyan had to get involved in order to prevent things from getting out of hand. He implored the Ottawa not to act on the word of a drunken man so they took his advice. It proved to be a good thing too as the rumour turned out to be false.

De Noyan came up with a plan to make peace. He advised the Wyandotte to break their peace with the Choctaw and attack them taking as many prisoners as possible. Then they could offer the prisoners to the Ottawa as payment for the blood shed at the original ambush. They could also reclaim their ally status because they had attacked the enemy of the Ottawa.

However, the plan was thwarted by a few who did not want to break their peace with the Flathead. They had secretly sent a collar to them warning of the plan. Not only did this foul up De Noyan’s plan but they also warned them of an impending Ottawa attack. A large party had left Detroit to make a raid on the Flathead but when they arrived in their country they only found two abandoned villages.

Finally the Governor decided to allow them to move to Quebec. He sent his nephew to present his words to the Ottawa, Saulteax, Potawatomi and Mississauga of Detroit. He had to say it was his idea that the Wyandotte should be removed and not the Wyandotte’s desire due to fear. He didn’t like this but after four years of prodding by Detroit’s commandant and the Black Robes he gave in.

Unfortunately by this time the Wyandotte had broken into three factions. The majority still wanted to remove to Quebec as did Sastarestsy Taatchatin. This group had moved to the little Lake. This is what the French called what today is Rondeau Bay on the north shore of Lake Erie. Orontony or Nicholas and his followers set up a village at Sandusky Bay in Ohio and Angouirot, the third Wyandotte chief, had a smaller following that wanted to set up a new village about three leagues from Detroit on Grand Isle in the Detroit River.

This fracture of the Wyandotte Nation gave Governor Beauharnois cause to reconsider his offer. He had always wanted the Wyandotte to stay at Detroit and for peace among the nations there to be the norm. Three Wyandotte chiefs had gone to Montreal in 1742 to pick out the land they thought they would be allowed to move to but Beauharnois gave them a new message to take back to Detroit.

He sent word back to the Wyandotte elders that he understood that they had left the decision-making on the matter of moving to their young men and that they had all decided to move to Grosse Isle. This contravened what the elders had begged him to do and although he did not understand what had caused misunderstandings among them he was pleased that all the unpleasantries at Detroit had apparently been smoothed over. Therefore, he could not place them anywhere because he had no information regarding the decisions taken by the Wyandotte Nation. All he could do was be pleased that they had decided to move nearby Detroit and he wished that they would live in peace at whatever place they chose to settle.

Governor Beauharnois also had a new ally for peace that only served to reinforce his decision. The great Ottawa chief Mekinac had moved to Detroit from Michilimackinac. He was one of the signees of the Great Peace Treaty of 1701 and was highly influential among his nation. He had visited Beauharnois that same year in Montreal along with chief Kinousakis. They led the two factions of the Detroit Ottawa. Both expressed their great desire for peace and promised to work with the French commandant toward that end. So Beauharnois had reason to believe that all would eventually be worked out. The Wyandotte never did move to Quebec but would instead remain in the Detroit area for another 150 years.

NEXT WEEK: First Nations of the Upper Country Revolt -1747


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


The Iroquois Do It Right! Part 1

May 22, 2010

The Fox came under attack from various enemies over the next three years. In 1729 the Mascoutins and the Kickapoo made several raids on their villages. They were seeking revenge for the killing of their two hunters. The next year they were attacked by a force of 150 Frenchmen, from both Canada and Louisiana, and 900 First Nation warriors. The Fox had constructed a fort on a plain situated between the Wabash and Illinois rivers about 180 miles south of Chicago and southeast of present day Peoria, Illinois. They blockaded them in their fort finally forcing them out by starvation. They chased them down killing 200 warriors and 200 women and children. Another four or five hundred women and children were taken captive and distributed among the various First Nations.   

The year after their defeat in Illinois the nation of the same name attacked the Fox once again at a Fox village somewhere between le Rocher on the Illinois River and Miami country. When the Kickapoo, Mascoutins and Potawatomi heard this they went there immediately. When they arrived the Illinois withdrew and six Potawatomi were wounded and a seventh one was killed. Two Mascoutin were also killed as well as a few of the Fox warriors. They traded insults with the Fox calling out that they would make their supper off the Potawatomi, Mascoutin and Kickapoo. The great Pottawatomie war chief, Madouche replied it was the Fox that would make food for all the nations. Then the Illinois returned to join the fight and some time later the Fox withdrew.

In the summer of 1732 the Wyandotte, Ottawa and Potawatomi from Detroit made a sortie into Fox country. They split into two groups. The first group contained all the Wyandotte and about ten Ottawa warriors. They were the first to arrive on the shores of Lake Marameek where the Fox had constructed a fort on a tongue of land between the shore and an impassable wetland. Lake Marameek is undetermined but there is a Maramee River about 20 miles south of St. Louis, Missouri.

They held back until the next day when, at daybreak, they sent a party of five or six to scout near the palisade. A woman came out and they killed her. When the Fox saw this they sortied out of their fort but were ambushed by the larger force. They had four warriors killed and a few more wounded so they retreated back into their fort.

The next day the rest of the Ottawa and Potawatomi arrived and they brought the le Rocher Illinois with them. The Fox came out to meet them again and three Wyandotte were killed and a few of their allies were wounded. The Fox retreated again into their fort.

The Wyandotte called a council and it was decided to parlay with the Fox. They determined that a Potawatomi chief should go into the fort and propose that the Fox surrender and they would spare their lives. When he delivered this proposal the Fox told him they did not trust them to keep their word. Instead they proposed that the war party from Detroit should withdraw and the Fox would stay quiet in their fort until the following spring at which time they would come to Detroit or the St. Joseph River to settle up for the lives lost. This is how the whole affair ended. However, the Wyandotte sent their greatest chief La Forest to Montreal to ask the Wyandotte of Lorette and the Iroquois of the Lake of Two Mountains to join them in a war on the Fox to settle the matter.

The Fox had lost their allies and were being refused asylum by their once friendly neighbors the Sioux and the Winnebago. The French were attacking them as well as all the nations around them. By 1732 they were in poor shape indeed.

NEXT WEEK: The Iroquois Do It Right! Part 2