The Beaver War 1763 – Part 6

April 23, 2011

By 1763 the Detroit River was dotted with French homesteads. This pioneer community had slowly grown over the previous fifty years and there had always been good relations with the surrounding First Nations. In fact most of the French families just wanted to remain neutral in this conflict. It must be remembered that Pontiac and his First Nation allies considered themselves to be at war with the British. They still considered the French to be their allies and the French settlers to be their friends.

However, when the war broke out the warriors indiscriminately began to kill their livestock and confiscate their goods. The French settlers asked for a council with Pontiac and it was granted. They complained bitterly explaining the disastrous consequences this policy had upon them and begged him to put a stop to it. He promised them he would under the condition that if the First Nations needed anything to support the continuation of the war they should give it up upon being asked to do so. They agreed. After this council the warriors ceased to trouble the settlers without the permission of their chiefs. They were allowed to continue going about their business during the week as well as go to mass on Sunday unmolested. 

When the captured bataux arrived at the Ottawa encampment above the fort Pontiac secured the supplies and stowed them away. A French woman named Deriviere had been expecting a trunk to arrive for her in that shipment. It contained personal goods and clothes and she was distraught that it had been lost. She convinced the interpreter Mr. Labutte to escort her from the fort to the Ottawa camp where she told Pontiac of her dilemma. He had the confiscated goods searched and Miss Diriviere’s missing trunk was found. It was returned to her with no objections. 

Most of June was spent keeping the fort under siege. The warriors continually roamed near the stockade in small parties either shooting at the fort or the ship anchored in the river. The British would return fire but neither was of any consequence. Attempts were made by the warriors to set fire to both the fort and the ship but they failed.

In one instance a cart was loaded with combustibles, lit on fire and pushed full speed at the fort’s pickets. The cart was let go when they reached a point just out of range of gunfire but the cart flipped over before it reached its target. In another instance two rafts were loaded with combustibles tied together with a long length of rope and floated toward the British ship anchored in the river just off the fort. The rafts were let go about 20 rods off the ship’s bow. The idea was that the current would carry the two rafts, one on each side of the ship’s bow, and set the ship ablaze. But the British saw the danger approaching, raised their anchor and moved out into the river just as the two rafts floated passed a few yards off their port side.

Lieutenant McDougal made a decision to try to escape back to the safety of the fort. There were no guards at the house where he and Major Campbell were being kept but there were groups of warriors always moving about just outside the homestead. Major Campbell decided not to go with him but approved of his plan. The young lieutenant executed his plan successfully making his way back to the fort. His older superior remained Pontiac’s captive at the house of Mr. Meloche. 

The armed sloop Beaver was sent to Niagara for reinforcements and it returned with 300 troops and some supplies. This was the only relief Fort Detroit received. Some of the French settlers secretly sympathized with the British. They would float canoes filled with supplies downriver during the night. A lantern would be lit just as they reached the fort as a signal to the garrison to come out and retrieve the supplies. These things made the strategy of starving out the garrison next to impossible.

During one of the warriors’ sorties a Chippewa chief was shot and killed. The body was retrieved by a French volunteer who was fighting for the British. He desecrated the chief’s body by scalping it and cutting it into pieces. The young chief happened to be the nephew of Wasson the leading war chief from Saginaw. He was livid and the rest of the Saginaw Chippewa were enraged. They raced to the house where Major Campbell was being held and demanded his life for the life of Wasson’s nephew. This was in accordance with First Nations’ custom. The act upon the dead chief was so grievous that Pontiac could not intervene. Campbell was turned over. He was immediately taken out, tortured by having his lips cut off, shot dead with arrows then cut into pieces. Campbell was not only a commanding officer but the cousin of his replacement Major Gladwin. This whole episode had now turned personal on both sides and could only lead to many more unnecessary deaths!

NEXT WEEK:  The Beaver War 1763 – Part 7

The Beaver War 1763 – Part 2

March 21, 2011

When the British had taken control of Fort Michilimackinac its new commandant Captain George Etherington sent dispatches throughout the territory commanding all French settlers to report to the fort. He wanted them to swear allegiance to the British Crown and for this he promised to take into consideration all of their needs as well as any complaints. The British would treat them as well as the French governor had.

Among the French in the area was Augustin de Langlade and his son Charles. This was the same Charles Langlade who had been at Pickawillany, Braddock’s rout and Fort William Henry. Etherington knew well of him so when the Langlades swore allegiance to the British he gave them command of the trading post at La Baye or Green Bay, Wisconsin.

At the end of the Frog Month the principle Ojibwa war chief Mineweweh and another chief named Madjeckewiss or Bad Bird gathered 400 Ojibwa warriors at Michilimackinac. Mineweweh had devised a strategem to take the fort as part of the Beaver War. They had feigned friendship with the British and offered to put on an exhibition baggataway or lacrosse on the Queen’s birthday. On June 2, 1763 they all gathered outside the fort for the spectacle. The captain and his second in command joined the Ojibwa spectators but the gates to the fort were left closed. Most of the spectators were Ojibwa women dressed in their long shawls. Little did Etherington realize that their colorful shawls concealed weapons for the warriors.

The game of lacrosse as played by the Ojibwa was a wild affair. There were little rules and the number of players on the field was only limited to the number of young men available. The ball would be struck by one side toward the opponent’s goal which was a line drawn at the end of the field. The players were struck with the sticks more than the ball so there was plenty of confusion accompanied with the din of loud whooping and yelling. With all the excitement it made for an engrossing spectator sport. 

The game began and several times the ball was thrown over the stockade and inside the fort where the garrison would toss the ball back over the wall and onto the playing field. Finally the captain ordered the gates opened so the players could retrieve the ball themselves. The next time the ball was thrown into the fort the players all rushed to the spectators, took hold of their weapons and then rushed into the fort. The soldiers were shocked and slow to act. The massacre was on!

Captain Etherington and his aide Lieutenant Leslie was captured immediately. The garrison  of 90 soldiers fell quickly suffering 70 killed and the other 20 taken prisoner. Etherington and Leslie were to be burned at the stake so a few days later the wood was prepared and the two were lashed to the poles.

Charles Langlade was at Michilimackinac at the time of the attack  to purchase supplies for the post at Green Bay. He was not only very influential with the Ojibwa but he was also an Ottawa war chief. Of course he was not taken prisoner but it all happened so fast that he was of little help to Etherington.

He had warned the commandant earlier, and several times, that he had heard rumours of treachery by the Ojibwa from his Ottawa friends at L’Arbre Croche. They were not in favor of the Beaver War, not because they liked the British so much as they were angry that Mineweweh had not invited them to take part in the surprise attack. Etherington dismissed Langlade’s warnings because he had called in Matchikuis, a chief of the Michilimackinac Ottawa, to ask him about the rumours. Of course he denied everything. Finally the captain ordered Langlade not to bring it up again calling the rumours ” the twaddle of old women”.

Langlade had left Michilimackinac the day it fell but returned with some of the Ottawa warriors from L’Arbre Croche just in time to save the two officers from the fire. When he took charge of the two officers he rebuked Etherington saying if he had listened to the “old women’s stories” he would not be in the humiliating position he was in with most of his garrison wiped out. Then he negotiated with Mineweweh for their safety and all twenty-two prisoners were sent under an armed guard of L’Arbre Croche Ottawa to Montreal. Fort Michilimackinac was left in Mineweweh’s hands.

NEXT WEEK:  The Beaver War 1763 – Part 3

England Supplants France in North America 1760

February 21, 2011

James Smith, our young captive friend, went with his adoptive father Tecaughretanego and son Nungany to Detroit for trade in April of 1759. They stayed there until early summer then left for Caughnewaga near Montreal. While they were there he heard of a French ship that had British prisoners on it to be shipped overseas and held for exchange.

He stole away from Caughnewaga and placed himself aboard that ship. However, his plan didn’t go exactly as he had hoped. General Wolfe had the St. Lawrence River blockaded and the ship could not leave Montreal. So Smith and the prisoners were transferred to prison where he was held for four months. Sometime in November of that year they were all sent to Crown Point and exchanged. He finally arrived home early in the year 1760.

Wolfe and Montcalm faced off in one of the final gasps of the war in that famous battle on the Plains of Abraham and the fall of Quebec. The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763 transferring all French holdings in North America to England. Both generals were killed at Quebec and General Jeffery Amherst was appointed Commander-in-Chief of all the British forces in America.

Amherst epitomised the height of British 18th century arrogance. The French had a policy of present giving to the First Nations which cemented friendships and alliances. Because of this policy the First Nations allowed them to build forts as trading posts on First Nations’ territories. It also gave the French safe passage to and from these posts. Amherst saw this policy as bribery. He wrote “Service must be rewarded; it has ever been a maxim with me. But to purchase the good behavior either of Indians or any others, is what I do not understand”

Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs George Crogan wrote to Amherst that the First Nations in those parts were uneasy with the cessation of what France considered their holdings to Great Britain. They felt the French had no right to give away their land. The British had taken over all the French forts and were increasing their arms. The First Nations couldn’t understand why since the French had been defeated and the war was over. Who were they arming against. All this had led to confusion on their part, so much so that it prevented them from bringing their prisoners as they had promised.

Amherst’s feeling toward the First Nations were well documented. He replied to Crogan that he was sorry that “the Indians should entertain such idle notions regarding the cessions made by the French Crown” and if they didn’t give up their prisoners as first promised he would be forced to use “harsh measures” to make them comply.

Amherst also wrote to Colonel Bouquet, “The Post of Fort Pitt, or any of the others commanded by officers can certainly never be in danger from such a wretched enemy as the Indians are…I am fully convinced the only true method of treating those savages is to keep them in proper subjection and punish without exception the transgressors…I wish there was there was not an Indian settlement within a thousand miles of our country; for they are only fit to live with the inhabitants of the woods, being more nearly allied to the brute than the human creation.”

The British traders were also far harder to deal with than the French had been. They no longer extended credit to the First Nations until after the fall hunt. Lack of credit could mean starvation. Amherst responded to First Nations complaints by extinguishing the policy of present giving. This included arms and ammunition which he said they had in abundance. This was untrue and only added to the threat of starvation.

The new policies of the British Department of Indian Affairs enacted by General Amherst only made the situation all the more fertile for hostilities. There was an Ottawa war chief from Detroit about to burst upon the scene and he brought with him the clouds of war. His name was Pontiac. Unfortunately Amherst failed to see the threat.

NEXT WEEK:  The Beaver War 1763

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 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

Langlade Captures Pickawillany-1752

September 17, 2010

In the 1720’s Augustin Mouet de Langlade, a French trader living at Michilimackinac, married Domitilde, an Ottawa woman who was a sister of an important chief named Nissowaquet. The French called Nissowaquet La Fourche meaning The Fork. They had a son who was baptized Charles Michel Mouet de Langlade in May of 1729.

 Because of a dream Nissowaquet believed his young nephew had a protecting spirit so he convinced his parents to let ten year-old Charles accompany him to Tennessee on a war party against the Chickasaw. On two previous raids they were repelled by their foes. They were successful on this particular sortie in that a treaty was made between the two when the confrontation ended in a stalemate. This adventure earned him the name Aukewingeketawso meaning Defender of his Country. So Charles Langlade became enthralled with military service at a very young age.

 Sixteen years later Augustin Langlade purchased a position for his son in the French colonial regulars as a cadet. He was 21 years old. Although he served in the French military he wore the dress of an Ottawa warrior. Over the next two years he gained much influence with the Ottawa side of his heritage.

 In 1752 he was visiting the village of Memeskia an important Miami chief on the Great Miami or Rocky River. It was situated at the mouth of Laramie Creek and had the considerable population of 8,000 and was a hub of English trading activity. The French called Memeskia la Demoiselle or Your Lady but the English called him Old Britain.

Memeskia was pro-British and held the French in great disdain. What Langlade was doing in Ohio country is not known but probably he was spying for the French. At any rate Old Britain insulted him in some way and Langlade left the country in a huff. When he got to Detroit he angrily related the incident to his friend Pontiac an important Detroit Ottawa war chief. Both became enraged so they convinced Little Thunder and his Saulteux Ojibwa to allow Langlade passage through their territory to exact his revenge.

 Detroit commandant Celoron couldn’t be happier. At last his First Nation allies were on board to help him fulfill his orders to clear the English traders out French territory and return the Miami to the French fold. Langlade returned from Michilimackinac with 250 Ottawa and Ojibwa warriors bent on restoring his good name. However, he could not convince Little Thunder and the St. Clair Ojibwa to join them so they carried on alone picking up a contingent of French regulars at Detroit.

 On the morning of June 21st they arrived at Pickawillany, the name the English called Memeskia’s village. Most of the warriors there were away on their summer hunt but the women were in the cornfields and eight traders were in the outbuildings .

The Ottawa and their allies came upon them suddenly. They surprised the women taking them prisoner. Three traders were besieged in a house and they surrendered immediately but the Miami warriors fought on. A truce was called in the afternoon with all but two traders being handed over. The Miami kept these two hidden. The women were released. Memeskia’s widow and son had escaped, however, la Demoiselle’s fate was an Ottawa cooking pot. They partook in the old custom of eating a defeated foe whose qualities of leadership and bravery could be had by literal consumption. They also killed one of the traders who was wounded and ate his heart. When the expedition returned to Detroit they had plunder worth 3,000 British pounds sterling and five English traders who were arrested and put in prison .

 Governor du Quesne was elated. Although the French officially denounced the above mentioned custom as an atrocity du Quesne wrote to the French minister in Paris asking for an annual pension of 200 livres for Langlade saying that he would be highly pleased with it and it would have great effect in the country. He also reported that the Miami had come back to the French alliance greatly diminishing the English influence in French territory.

 NEXT WEEK: Great Meadows and Fort Neccessity-1754

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 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