Another Round of Land Cessions – Part 2

November 10, 2011

The American ‘Northwest Territories’ began filling up with white settlers. The new republic clamoured for more and more land. Land speculators were greedy for profits. Legislation was being influenced by desires for statehood and statehood was dependent upon population requirements. Increases of American settlers degraded traditional hunting grounds thereby impoverishing its First Nation inhabitants. This poverty set off  a spiral of more land cessions and more poverty.

Between 1802 and 1805 the New Governor of Indiana Territory concluded no less than seven treaties by which the Delaware, Miami, Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Shawnee, Sac and Fox ceded their rights to the southern part of Indiana, portions of Wisconsin and Missouri as well as most of Illinois. Huge tracts of land were dealt away for the paltry price of two cents or less per acre.

Not only was the land undervalued but it was secured by entirely fraudulent means. The Americans used such tactics as bribery, the supplying of huge amounts of liquor or the threat to withhold payments of annuities already agreed to. Treaties were negotiated with any First Nation individual that was willing to sign with no regard for his authority to speak for his people.

Thomas Jefferson was president of the United States at this time. He was a conflicted man as can be found in his writings on human rights versus his record of slavery. He admired the quality of character of the American Indian and of their culture but considered them inferior. He was of the belief that they could, however, be rehabilitated and ‘civilized’. However, during the revolution he relished the thought of displacing the Cherokee and taking their lands and during the Indian War for the Ohio he advocated the destruction of the Shawnee. During Harrison’s treaty negotiating spree Jefferson had written to him in private advising him to encourage the Indians to run up debts at the trading posts and then compel them to settle the debt by selling tribal lands. Although Jefferson tried to give the impression that America held no place for the Indian as Indian and he publicly advocated assimilation one wonders it privately he saw an America with no Indians at all. 

There was a population tsunami that was happening and it continuously overwhelmed First Nation territories.  In 1796 Ohio had a white population of 5,000. By 1810 it had jumped to more than 230,000. This overpowering agrarian culture would only make its way ever westward transforming pristine forests to barren farmlands. It appears the Shawnee warrior Chiksika was right, our land was being eaten up by a windigo!

The American success in their revolution put a tremendous strain for land resources on what was left of British North America. Approximately 4% of the population of the thirteen colonies were British Empire Loyalists and left America for other British territories. Some 5,000, which was the smallest of these groups of loyalists, came to Upper Canada. Governor Haldimand also had to deal with a large influx of Iroquois refuges who had been loyal to the Crown during the revolution.

During that war the Iroquois Six Nation Confederacy’s loyalties split the league. Many of the Oneida and Tuscarora backed the rebels while the Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca backed the British. Chief John Deserontyon and 200 Mohawks sought refuse near Lachine in Lower Canada while Chief Joseph Brant crossed over at Niagara. The population of these Iroquois and their allies fluctuated between 2,000 and 5,000.

In the Treaty of Paris, which ended the war, no mention was made of Iroquois lands in upstate New York. This angered the Iroquois who were now refugees from their homeland. Haldimand fearing they might take their frustrations out on the loyalist refugees ordered the Indian Agents to be extra generous in handing out supplies and presents to them. 

In 1783 the Mississauga ceded two large tracts of land to the British. One ran from  the Trent River to the Gananoque River. The other from the Gananoque to the Toniato River or present day Jones Creek near Brockville. Each tract was “as far as a man could walk in one day” deep. Out of these the British later  surveyed a township called Tyendiaga on the Bay of Quinte for Chief Deserontyon and his followers.

Chief Joseph Brant preferred the Grand River area of southwestern Ontario. The Mississauga also ceded to the British the whole of the Grand River valley from its headwaters to its mouth to a depth of six miles on each side. This tract was later transferred to Brant and his followers. At the same time the Mississauga ceded a large tract at the western end of Lake Ontario including the Niagara peninsula as well as a tract of land to the west of the Grand River as far as Catfish Creek. The aggregate acreage of these land surrenders came to over 1,000,000 hectares and the total cost to the British a mere 1,180 pounds sterling worth of trade goods.  

In 1790 the First Nations commonly known as the ‘Detroit Indians’, the Chippewa, Ottawa, Potawatomi and Wyandotte also ceded a large tract of land from the foot of the St. Clair River to Lake Erie, east along the north shore to Catfish Creek. Reserved out of this huge tract were two small tracts on the Detroit River for the Wyandotte. The balance included all the land between the Thames River and Lake Erie and was ceded for a mere  1,200 pounds sterling.

The British also expected an influx of First Nation refugees who were displaced from Ohio by the Treaty of Greenville. In 1796 the Chippewa ceded a tract of land on the St. Clair River to be used by the Chippewa as well as any American Indians. This tract is present day Sombra Township. At the same time they ceded a tract of land over 3,000 hectares at the forks on the Thames River and called it London. The British said they needed it to establish a new capital of Upper Canada replacing York as it would be easier to defend. Both tracts of land were not used for the purposes stated but nevertheless the Chippewa still lost the land.

NEXT WEEK: Another Round of Land Cessions – Part 3


The Indian War of 1790-95 – Part 2

July 24, 2011

St. Clair’s Shame left the fledging new nation in a precarious position. The First Nations had just destroyed the only army the United States had. President Washington put Major General Anthony Wayne in charge of building a new one and Congress appropriated one million dollars toward the project.

 Wayne’s nickname was “Mad Anthony” which he earned during the Revolution, but their was nothing “mad” about the man. He was methodical and extremely determined. Wayne set out to build the new army at Pittsburg. It would be an army well-trained, disciplined and large enough to take care of the “Indian problem”. And he would be sure to take enough time to ensure a successful campaign.

He began recruiting in June of 1792. His goal was an army of 5,120 officers, NCOs and privates whipped into the crack troops needed to defeat a formidable enemy. By the end of 1792 he had moved 22 miles south of Pittsburg to Legionville where he wintered. In the spring of 1793 he moved to Hobson’s Choice on the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Mill Creek. Finally, in October of 1793 he made his headquarters near Fort Hamilton.

Wayne received new recruits daily all the time relentlessly drilling them into the army he knew he needed. But all did not go well with the project. Desertion rates were extremely high. The First Nation’s stunning successes on the Wabash and in the Maumee Valley had instilled terror in the hearts of ordinary pioneers and moving further toward “Indian Country” only heightened their fear. Many new recruits would desert at the first sign of trouble.

The problem had become so chronic that Wayne posted a reward for the capture and return of any deserter. After a court-martial the guilty would be severely punished usually by 100 lashes or sometimes even executed. An entry in the Orderly Book Mss. dated August 9, 1792 reads, “Deserters have become very prevalent among our troops, at this place, particularly upon the least appearance, or rather apprehension of danger, that some men (for they are unworthy of the name of soldiers), have lost every sense of honor and duty as to desert their post as sentries, by which treacherous, base and cowardly conduct, the lives and safety of their brave companions and worthy citizens were committed to savage fury.”

Meanwhile, warriors from other First Nations joined the confederacy Little Turtle and Blue Jacket had forged. In October 1792 the Shawnee hosted a congress held at the Glaize, where the Auglaize River flows into the Maumee. Delegates from the nations whose territories were being defended attended. These were Wyandotte from Sandusky, Delaware, Shawnee, Mingo, Miami, Munsee, Cherokee and Nanticoke. Also attending were other First Nations from further away but all offering support for the war effort. Some of these were Fox and Sauk from the upper Mississippi, Six Nations and Mahican from New York, Iroquois from the St. Lawrence and Wyandotte from Detroit. There were also many warriors from the Three Fires Confederacy. They were Ottawa, Potawatomi and Chippewa from Detroit as well as Chippewa from Aamjiwnaang and Saginaw. There were even some Chippewa from Michilimackinac. This was the largest First Nation congress every brought together by First Nations alone.

Even though the United States had suffered two humiliating defeats at the hands of the First Nation Confederacy they still had little respect. Henry Knox characterized them as Miami and Wabash Indians together with “a banditti, formed of Shawanese and outcast Cherokees”.  However, because their military was in shambles and they had a deficiency in revenue peaceful negotiations were preferrable to another war.

Washington at first sent delegates to the Glaize from their First Nation allies with offers to negotiate. There were still some groups of individual First Nations friendly with the Americans despite the treatment received. The delegation of “U.S. Indians” arrived and the celebrated Seneca orator Red Jacket spoke for the U.S.

Red Jacket rose to speak to the nearly one thousand conferees at the Glaize. He spoke on two strings of wampum bringing the American message that even though they defeated the mighty British and now all Indian territories belonged to them by right of conquest they may be willing to compromise. They offered to consider accepting the Muskingum River as the new boundary between the United States and “Indian Country”. But the Confederacy saw no need to compromise. After all they had defeated American armies not once but twice in the last two years. They insisted the boundary agreed to in the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768 be adhered to. That boundary was the Ohio and they would accept no other. 

The Shawnee chief Painted Pole reminded Red Jacket that while his Seneca group was in Philadelphia cozying up to the Americans the Confederacy was busy defending their lands. Now he was at the Glaize doing the Americans dirty work. He accused Red Jacket of trying to divide the Confederacy and demanded that Red Jacket speak from his heart and not from his mouth. Painted Pole then took the wampum strings that Red Jacket had spoken on and threw them at the Seneca delegation’s feet. Red Jacket was sent back to the Americans with the Confederacy’s answer, “there would be no new boundary line”.

There was a tell-tale sign at that conference that Red Jacket’s task would be difficult if not impossible. In normal negotiations the Civil chiefs would sit in the front with the War Chiefs and warriors behind them. In this arrangement it would be the much easier Civil Chiefs that would negotiate. But at the Glaize the War Chiefs sat in front of the Civil Chiefs meaning that Red Jacket would be dealing with the War Chiefs.

The British sat in the wings waiting for the new republic’s experiment in democracy to fail and hoping at least for an “Indian boundary state” to be formed. The Spanish at New Orleans also sat by hoping for this new “Indian State” as it would serve as a buffer state preventing American expansion into Illinois country. The British even had observers at the Great Congress at the Glaize in the person of Indian Agent Alexander McKee and some of his men. Hendrick Aupaumut, a Mohican with Red Jacket’s emissaries, accused McKee of unduly influencing the conference’s outcome. But the Americans were not about to be deterred so easily.

NEXT WEEK:  The Indian War of 1790-95 – Part 3


A Decade of Turmoil

May 25, 2011

After the Royal Proclamation was issued a peace council was held at Niagara in July of 1764. Some 1,500 First Nations chiefs and warriors met with Sir William Johnson, British Superintendent of Indian Affairs, who represented British interests. Conspicuously absent was Pontiac and the Ottawa of Detroit. The Potawatomi, Wyandotte and Chippewa of Saginaw also refused to attend.

Johnson presented the First Nations with two wampum belts. The first beaded belt contained two figures holding hands as well as the year of the council. Johnson proclaimed on this belt, “My children, I clothe your land, you see that Wampum before me, the body of my words, in this spirit of my words shall remain, it shall never be removed, this will be your Mat the eastern Corner of which I myself will occupy, the Indians being my adopted children their life shall never sink in poverty.” Johnson was coveting with the First Nations that the British recognized their ownership of the land and that they would respect that by only occupying the eastern corner of it leaving the rest for the First Nations to live in and prosper as allies.

The second belt was called the Twenty-four Nation Wampum. It was a beaded belt that had twenty-four figures on it holding hands and pulling a large sailing ship. The English words that accompanied this belt were, “My children, see, this is my Canoe floating on the other side of the Great Waters, it shall never be exhausted but always full of the necessities of life for you my Children as long as the world shall last. Should it happen anytime after this that you find the strength of your life reduced, your Indian tribes must take hold of the Vessel and pull towards you this my Canoe, and where you have brought it over on this land on which you stand, I will open my hand as it were, and you will find yourselves supplied with plenty”.

To the First Nations these two wampum belts were sacred symbols that solemnized an agreement between two Nations that could not be broken unilaterally. But to the British not so much. British sentiments can be found throughout their correspondence of the day. General Thomas Gage, who had replaced Amherst, wrote to Johnson from New York on August 5th, “I wish they may be yet sincere, when the Rod is removed; and should be glad to hear that they had delivered up the Murderers agreeable to their Treaty; and to see the King of the Delawares, as He is called, and the Head Warrior of that Nation, lodged in our Hands. Till then, we ought to be upon our Guard, and put No Faith in their Speeches and Declarations.” Johnson wrote to Gage on September 1st from Johnson Hall, “As to their Sincerity I believe it can be relied on whilst its made worth their While, but I will not take upon me to say that a people who have been strongly prejudiced against us will conquer their aversion without we take steps to remove it, & whether this is necessary or not I submit to you.”

The Royal Proclamation was impossible to enforce. Squatters from the colonies immediately ignored it and began to cross the Alleghenies. Both land speculators and squatters regarded the rich lands west of the Alleghenies as a prize to be had for the hard-fought victory of the French and Indian War. Land speculators like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry resented the Monarchy using the Proclamation to stifle their efforts to make a profit from “Indian lands”. Washington said he thought it was only a temporary measure to settle the First Nations and would soon fall. So he advised his business associate William Crawford to scout out lands in First Nations’ territories before others did. Speculators flooded the colonial government with petitions for land grants even though it was illegal.

In 1767 Indian Agent George Croghan made a trip from New York to Detroit and back to assess the state of Indian Affairs in “Indian Country”. He spent two days with some chiefs and warriors of the Delaware Nation trying to ascertain the purpose of a large council of Western Nations he had heard was to be held the following spring. On the second day the chiefs told him they did not know the purpose of the council but the First Nations were generally dissatisfied with the conduct of the British. They complained that the British hounded them for every minor crime committed by them, but they ignored even the most aggrieved crimes including murder that British subjects committed against the First Nations. In short they could get no justice.

In 1768 Sir William Johnson held a council with the Six Nation Iroquois at Fort Stanwix. They agreed to cede a huge tract of land south of the Mohawk and Ohio rivers and east to the Tennessee River which was the hunting grounds of the Shawnee Nation. It covered what is now western Pennsylvania as well as most of Kentucky and West Virgina.. The Iroquois claimed ownership based on conquests made in the seventeenth century but they had long since lost the territory. But none of that mattered to the Colonial Government. This gave them reason enough to openly ignore the Royal Proclamation and approve petitions for land across the Alleghenies. The land rush was on. Johnson was given a dressing down for overstepping the bounds of his government position but the damage was already done.

The Shawnee fought back against the trespassers by killing them and/or burning them out. The nasty skirmishes continued on for the next five years. It escalated when in the spring of 1774 colonial vigilantes murdered the family of the Mingo chief Tachnedorus. The family included the chief’s pregnant sister who was strung up by her wrists, sliced open and the unborn child impaled on a stake. Tachnedorus’ grief was unbearable. He exacted his revenge by attacking and killing settlers in Virgina. This gave the Colonial Government a reason to declare open warfare on the Shawnee. This “war” was called Lord Dunmore’s War after the Governor of Virgina.

The Shawnee sent out war belts to the other nations near them. But the British used a divide and conquer strategy. Johnson worked on the Iroquois and John Stuart, Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the South, the Cherokee. Consequently the belts were rejected and the Shawnee were left to fight the war alone.

Dunmore led an army of 1,500 volunteer militia down the Ohio River from Fort Pitt. General Andrew Lewis at the head of 1,100 men moved down the Kanawha River to meet Dunmore on the Ohio. The plan was to attack and destroy Shawnee towns on the Scioto River.

The Shawnee rallied their warriors but could only raise 700 men. They were hopelessly outnumbered. Their war chiefs Cornstock, Black Hoof, Black Fish, Blue Jacket and Packeshinwaw held a council. They determined the only chance for success was to meet the enemy head on in a surprise attack.

They crossed the Ohio on rafts in the night of October 9th and surprised Lewis at a place called Pleasant Point. The battle raged on all day with first the Shawnee pushing the Virginians back. Then reinforcements arrived and the Shawnee were forced to retreat and take up a position on the banks of the Ohio. Finally, with the battle lost they were forced to withdraw back to their towns on the Scioto. The only solution was to sue for peace.

Cornstock spoke for the Shawnee. He chose to deal with Lord Dunmore at Camp Charlotte. The peace was costly. The Shawnee had to give up all claim to the lands south of the Ohio and had to send four hostages to Williamsburg to be held in order to ensure future peaceful conduct. One of the hostages was Cornstock’s own son Wissecapoway. Lord Dunmore’s War brought a measure of peace but more storm clouds appeared on the future as the Colonies continued to rail against Great Britain.

NEXT WEEK:  The American Revolution


Fort Duquesne – An Encore 1758 Part 2

February 5, 2011

By May 1758 word has spread throughout the territories that the British under General Forbes was preparing to march on Fort Duquesne with an army of 7,000 men. This included 1,200 Highlanders, a detachment of Royal Americans with the balance made up of militia from Pennsylvania, Virgina, Maryland and North Carolina.

The Three Fires Confederacy which included Ojibwa, Ottawa and Potawatomi warriors gathered at Detroit in July. The Wyandotte joined them and they all marched off to the defence of Fort Duquesne. The memory of Braddock’s defeat fresh in their minds and the vast amount of plunder gotten drove the warriors on. Their design was a repeat of 1756.

The first decision was which route to take. Washington, being a loyal Virginian, favoured the road that Braddock had cut which led from Virgina. Forbes favoured a new road that would have to be cut through the Pennsylvanian wilderness. It would be a more direct route and only have to cross one range of the Alleghenies. There would be time enough to accomplish the road as Forbes planned to take his time advancing on the French fort. He knew the warriors there would tire of waiting for him and would have to abandon the field to return to their territories for their winter hunt. Thinking Washington’s argument was more politically driven than sound military strategy Forbes won out. By July the advance guard under Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Bouquet was camped near Raystown the site of present day Bedford, Pennsylvania.

Governor Vaudreuil sent supplies to Fort Duquesne with reinforcements to follow. Unfortunately, the supplies were at Fort Frontenac awaiting the reinforcements when Bradstreet arrived and captured them. The reinforcements were on their way from Montreal when they got word of the fall of Fort Frontenac, so with no supplies they returned to Montreal. There would be no help for the under garrisoned Fort Duquesne except for the warriors who arrived that summer.

 Meanwhile, Forbes had received word of the discontent of the Ohio First Nations. He enlisted the help of Christian John Post a Moravian missionary who knew the Delaware well, had lived among them and had married one of them. Most importantly he was well trusted by them. He arrived at the Delaware town of Kushkushkee north-west of Fort Duquesne where he met with chiefs King Beaver, Shingas and Delaware George. His message from the Governor of Pennsylvania was well received there so they took him to another town nearby.

Post got a different kind of reception there. The young warriors were in a nasty mood. Some wanted to kill him on the spot but others wanted to hear what he had to say. His message pleased them but they insisted he go with them to Fort Duquesne to deliver the message to the chiefs and warriors there. He resisted the dangerous proposal but the Delaware would accept nothing less.

When they arrived at the fort the French insisted he be turned over to them. The Delaware refused insisting that they all hear the words of the Governor of Pennsylvania. So all the First Nations and the French officers gathered outside the fort to hear what Post had to say. He informed the chiefs that General Forbes was on his way with a large army to drive the French from Ohio and that they should remain neutral in the conflict. The governor also invited them to renew the chain of friendship and peace with the British at a conference to be held at Easton, Pennsylvania. This displeased the French very much but there was nothing they could do but watch the Delaware leave with Post under their protection.

The whole Delaware nation met in council and decided that they would take hold of the peace-chain again if the invitation did not just come from Pennsylvania but from all the British provinces. This was done and the conference was held at Easton in October. The Iroquois Five Nations attended it with William Johnson along with the Delaware, Mohegans and a few other nations. The British were represented by delegates from most of their provinces. The result was that the invitation should be sent by wampum belts to all their allied nations to the west. The Moravian Post was given the task of delivering the belts. The French/First Nation alliance was beginning to disintegrate.

Post was at one of the Delaware towns meeting in council with the chiefs when a French officer from Fort Duquesne arrived. He had a belt to present them inviting them to come to the fort and help drive back Forbes. The belt was rejected with disdain. Chief Captain Peter took the French wampum string and threw it on the floor. He then took a stick and flung it across the room and the other chiefs kicked it around from one to the other. Captain Peter said that they had given their all for the French cause and had gotten nothing in return so they were determined not to help them fight the British again. He was referring to Montcalm’s betrayal the previous year.

The French officer was the escorted to a Grand Council that had been called. Post delivered messages of peace from the council at Easton. They were accepted with great pleasure by everyone except the French officer. He was ridiculed by the chiefs and warriors. One called Isaac Still pointed at him and said, “There he sits! The French always deceived us!” They all began to shout whoops of agreement. The officer could take no more. He left the council to return to Fort Duquesne to give his report. The overtures of peace were accepted all over Ohio as far as the Wabash River. The Delaware, Shawnee, Mingo and Miami were no longer allies with the French but were at peace with the British.

NEXT WEEK:  Fort Duquesne – An Encore 1758 Part 3


Fort Willaim Henry 1757 Part 2

January 9, 2011

Well, the holiday season is over and it was busier than usual this year. I hope everyone had a joyous Noel. I seemed to be running all day, every day! But things are settling down now and I can get back to writing. I don’t know if I stated in a previous post or not but I am also writing a historical fiction to be published this year.

James Smith was still with the Caughnawaga Mohawks in early June of 1757 when he wrote in his journal that all the Wyandotte, Ottawa and Potawatomi towns in Ohio country were preparing for war. He also wrote that the woods were full of ‘Jibewas’ who had come down from the upper lakes. These would have been Little Thunder’s warriors from the St. Clair and Langlade’s warriors from Michilimackinac. After the war songs were sung and the war dance danced they all left the territory singing the travelling song and firing their small arms. They were off to join Montcalm and the Praying Indians at Lake Champlain.

Montcalm had gone to the Lake of Two Mountains and Sault St. Louis to take part in the same war preparation ceremonies with the Christian Iroquois or Praying Indians. He brought with him great promises of gifts and prospects of much loot and plunder. His emissaries had done the same over the previous winter with the western nations all in order to raise a huge number of First Nation warriors to compliment his army. As he was moving detachments of French regulars, Canadians and Mission Indians up the Lake Champlain the Western Nations began joining them. By the end of July the whole force was gathered at Ticonderoga. A smaller force had been there since May finishing the fort and sending out war parties to set panic among the settlers along the frontier as well as to reconnoiter the strength and capacity of Fort William Henry.

While Montcalm waited for all intelligence to come in before mounting his attack upon the British fort his First Nation allies sent out sortie after sortie up and down the frontier. In the First Nation worldview war was no game to be played on open fields between soldiers only. The enemy included the old, women and children as well as soldiers. European allies paid for scalps and neither distinguished age or sex. The frontiers of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania were in a state of panic. Settlers didn’t know when their turn would come to be burned out and their families killed.

The French put some normally very able officers over various groups of warriors. But these warriors were no normal military men. They looked only to their war chiefs for guidance all but ignoring their French officers. Saint-Luc de la Corne was supposedly in charge and was called the ‘General of the Indians”. Several other officers had ‘charge’ of the various groups. All of these Frenchmen, including interpreters, had lived most of their lives among the nations. They were well acquainted with their culture and understood their real lack of authority over them.

The so-called ‘Mission Indians’ numbered some eight hundred chiefs and warriors and were made up of Iroquois from Caughnawaga, Two Mountains and Le Presentation as well as the Wyandotte of Detroit and Lorette. They also included Algonquin speaking nations; Nipissing from the lake by the same name, Abenaki from St. Francis, Becancour, Missisqui and Penobscot as well as Algonquin from Trois Riviere and Two Mountains. Finally there were Micmac and Malecites from Acadia. Three missionaries were assigned to the “Praying Indians”. They were Abbe Picquet to the Iroquois, Father Mathevet to the Nipissing and Father Roubaud to the Abenaki.

There were also among the throng 1,000 well armed warriors from the western nations all painted for war. There were Ottawa from Michillimackinac, Saginaw and Detroit; Saulteax Ojibwa from Lake Superior and St. Clair; Potawatomi from St. Joseph and Detroit as well as Delaware from Ohio. From further west came the Menominee, Sauk, Fox and Winnebago from Wisconsin. There were also Miami from Illinois and finally Iowa from the Des Moines. All were assigned interpreters except the Iowa because no Frenchmen spoke the language. 

The size of the force at Ticonderoga numbered 8,000 men of which nearly 2,000 were First Nation warriors. When the whole force was settled they gathered in one great assembly. Their war chiefs were distinguished by the gorget that they wore to protect their necks and their civil chiefs by the large King’s medal hung around them. Montcalm spoke first explaining his plan of attack upon the British fort. Colonel Louis Antoine de Bougainville recorded the proceeding in his journal.

Pennahouel of the Ottawa and a major chief rose to speak first for the whole assembly. Stating the fact that he was the elder of all in attendance he thanked Montcalm for his words. Kikensick, chief of the Nipissing, next rose speaking for the Christian nations. He addressed the western nations thanking them for coming to help defend their territories from English encroachment. He then thanked Montcalm for coming to join the battle from across the great sea. Then he assured them all the Master of Life was with them so that only honor and glory could follow.

Montcalm responded with a speech  encouraging unity followed by the presentation of a great wampum belt of 6,000 beads to seal this unity between the First Nations and the French. Pennahouel took the belt and held it up confirming the confederacy. The next day the great assembly of chiefs and warriors spread themselves out in camps along the lake and awaited the time to move on Fort William Henry.

NEXT WEEK: Fort William Henry 1757 Part 3


The Adoption of James Smith 1755

November 21, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEXT WEEK: Fort William Henry 1757


Great Meadows and Fort Necessity 1754 Part 2

October 19, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEXT WEEK:  The Rout of Braddock 1755