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


The American Revolution – Part 2

June 12, 2011

In 1778 the British send 200 of Colonel John Butler’s Rangers into the Wyoming Valley to evict 6,000 illegal immigrants who were squatting on “Indian lands”. They had with them 300 of their First Nation allies mostly members of the Three Fires Confederacy. The Wyoming valley was situated in the middle of the Seneca’s best hunting grounds and land never ceded by them.

Most of the forts the illegals had built were quickly abandoned and the inhabitants fled. Fort Forty was the lone exception. When the warriors feigned a withdrawal the colonials foolishly poured out of their fort and into an ambush. This resulted in the killing of 227 of them. 

The Revolutionary government turned to propaganda releasing a series of outlandish stories of the “massacre””. One such story read that it was a “mere marauding, a cruel and murderous invasion of a peaceful settlement…the inhabitants, men women and children were indiscriminately butchered by the 1,100 men, 900 of them being their Indian allies”. In truth there was only 500 men, 300 of them being their First Nation allies. And according to an exhaustive study done by Egerton Ryerson only rebel soldiers were killed and the misinformation put out by the Congress Party was totally exaggerated and highly inflammatory.

Colonial propaganda was designed to inflame hatred among the populace toward the British’s First Nation allies. However, it had the effect of inflaming hatred toward all First Nation’s people due to the decades of violence along the frontier over land. The frontiersmen were convinced they had the right to push ever westward while harboring in their hearts the axiom “the only good Indian is a dead Indian”.

General Washington bought into his own government’s propaganda releases. In 1779 he decided to act. The Six Nation Iroquois League was divided on where their loyalties lay. Only the Oneida and Onondaga backed the rebel cause and even their loyalties were split. Washington charged General John Sullivan with a war of extermination against the Iroquois. Sullivan headed into Iroquois territory with an army of 6,500 men. His war of extermination was a failure but he did destroy forty Seneca and Cayuga towns along with burning all their crops. Although it is true that atrocities were committed by both sides those committed by the rebels were mostly forgotten. During this campaign the Iroquois dead were scalped and in one instance one was skinned from the waist down to make a pair of leggings!

The famished Iroquois fled to Niagara where they basically sat out the rest of the war. With their crops destroyed the British supplied them with the necessities putting a tremendous strain on their war effort. This expedition earned George Washington the infamous nickname of “Town Destroyer”. Now not only was any hope gone of assistance from the Shawnee but also the Iroquois.

Meanwhile, in Illinois country George Rogers Clark was determined to retake Fort Sackville at Vincennes. He had captured it the year before only to lose it to Colonel Hamilton who had marched immediately from Detroit. He left Kaskaskia on February 5th marching his 170 militiamen across flooded plains and waist deep, freezing water. When he arrived at Vincennes he used the old dodge of marching his men across a small patch of tableland visible to the fort. He repeatedly marched them across this plateau giving the enemy the impression that he had many more men than he actually had. The history books claim that this had such an alarming affect on the First Nations at the fort that they were “scared off” by the ruse and the fort fell immediately.

It is true that the British were abandoned by their First Nation allies. They were members of the Three Fires Confederacy. It is not true that they were “scared off”. Of the 170 militiamen with Clark some were Frenchmen from New Orleans. The French, like some of the First Nations, were also split in their allegiances. Captain Alexander McKee wrote to Captain R.B. Lernoult quite worried about news he had received regarding Three Fires support. In the letter he wrote that the Ottawa and Chippewa had sent a belt of peace to other surrounding nations saying they had been deceived by the British and the Six Nations into taking up the hatchet against the rebels. If they remained with the hatchet in their hands they would be forced to use it against their brothers the French. They reported seeing them coming with Clark and his Virginians and therefore withdrew as they still had great affection for the French. Old loyalties die hard. They were determined now to lay down the hatchet and remain quiet thus leaving the whites to fight among themselves. They were advising their brothers the Shawnee to do the same and that the tribes of the Wabash were also of like mind. This was not good news for the British.

The withdrawal of support from the Three Fires Confederacy and the sidelining of the Six Nations Iroquois that year left the British with only support from the Miami, Shawnee and some of the Delaware. There would be more atrocities to follow but still it would be another three years before the British would see any Three Fires’ support.

Next Week:  The American Revolution – Part 3  

 


The American Revolution – Part 1

June 6, 2011

The American Revolution broke out in 1775. At first neither the British nor the colonial rebels showed any interest in drawing on any First Nations support. The First Nations around the Great Lakes basin also had little interest in getting involved. Most saw it as a ‘white man’s” squabble. The more vocal ones advised neutrality saying ‘let the father chastise his rebellious son”. But after the war dragged on for two years each side began to look for the help of their First Nation allies. It had become most important for the British to protect the frontier. Ohio country was strategically crucial so a tug of war arose between Colonel Henry Hamilton the British commandant at Fort Detroit and George Morgan the Colonial Indian Agent at Fort Pitt for First Nations’ allegiance along the frontier.

The following spring Hamilton called a council at Detroit. Over 1600 First Nations people gathered there in June of that year. The presents flowed liberally including liquor. Of the 8,750 gallons of rum shipped to Detroit for the first six months 8,250 gallons were allocated for the “Indians”.

On June 14, 1778 the council began. Both Civil and War chiefs from the following nations: Ottawa, Chippewa, Potawatomi, Wyandotte, Delaware, Mohawks and Seneca . Heading the list of nine war chiefs of the Chippewa was my great-great-grandfather Little Thunder. He had been presented with a British Brigadier Generals dress and a King George III medal for service at Fort Sinclair on the St. Clair River in the late 1760’s. He coveted those items and I imagine him to be an impressive sight arriving at the council in his headdress, bright red tunic and large King’s medal hanging around his neck.

Simon Girty, the infamous colonial traitor, acted as one of eight interpreters. Girty “having escaped from the Virginians and having put himself under the protection of His Majesty, after giving satisfactory assurance of his fidelity” was looked upon by the British as a loyalist. One man’s renegade is another man’s partisan!

Chamintawaa, an Ottawa civil chief, spoke for the Three Fires Confederacy. He promised Hamilton to continue to ignore poor advice saying “bad birds come about us and whisper in our ears, that we should not listen to you, we shall always be attentive to what you say”. But the bulk of his speech was directed to the Delaware.

“Listen Brethren! I am going to say a few words to our Grandfathers the Delawares in the name of all the nations here present, I speak in the name of their War Chiefs”. Chamintawaa took them to task for not being wholeheartedly in unison with the other First Nations. He accused them of “breaking down branches from the trees to lay across our road, at the same hanging down your heads with tears in your eyes”. He asked them to be united and “listen to our father as we all do & obey his will” and not to “take your hearts to the Virginians”. Chamintawaa ended his speech with the warning, “this is the last time we intend speaking to you”.

The Delaware did not answer until the conclusion of the council. War Chief Captain James said he could not speak for all the Delaware but only for his village. He said he was entirely on side and to prove his words he “sang the war song and danced the war dance” on the belt he was given. However, three Delaware chiefs who were not at the council, Captain Pipe, Captain White Eyes and John Kill Buck Jr. signed a treaty with the Revolutionary Government at Fort Pitt in September.

The British were much more adept at raising First Nations’ support than the colonials. They had a well experienced Indian Department in place and had been practicing the policy of present giving for more than a decade. This had gone a long way in cementing good relations and alliances. On the other hand, the colonials had only decades of land grabbing and violent squabbles with their First Nation neighbors.

The Shawnee had become divided in 1778. The chiefs were opposed to joining the war but their warriors had become increasingly rebellious. Many ignored the prompting of their chiefs and clamoured for war. A group had already accepted a war belt from Hamilton at Detroit and joined in the raids on the frontier. By autumn the celebrated chief Cornstock had decided to accept a Delaware offer to move his village to their capital town of Coshocton for safety.

But before the move Cornstock along with chief Red Hawk and warrior Petalla visited Fort Randolph on the Kanawha River. They had made the trip to advise the Continental Army of the disposition of the Shawnee nation. Cornstock told the commander, Captain Matthew Arbuckle, that despite all his efforts to keep the Shawnee neutral the tide against the rebels was so strong that their warriors were being swept up in the current.

When Arbuckle heard this he decided to take the three hostage. Shawnee neutrality would be their ransom.  After about a month in custody Cornstock’s son, Elinipsico, came to see what happened to his father. Just as they were visiting the body of a young frontiersman was brought in. He had been mutilated and scalped. The undisciplined militia was incensed and wanted to take revenge on the four Shawnee inside the fort. Arbuckle and visiting Colonel Charles Stewart were helpless to stop them. Cornstock and his son died in a hail of bullets while Red Hawk was gunned down trying to escape up the chimney. Petalla died in agony after being severely mauled. Needless to say this ended any hope of securing an alliance with any of the Shawnee. Nimwah, Kishanosity and Oweeconne moved Cornstock’s village of seventeen families to Coshocton where many First Nations people who wished to remain neutral were gathering.

NEXT WEEK:  The American Revolution – Part 2


The Beaver War 1763 – Part 3

March 29, 2011

The fall of Fort Michilimackinac was a stunning success. Late spring 1763 provided other spectacular military successes for the First Nation alliance. Most of the western British forts fell under First Nation assault.  The others were put under siege.

Fort Sandusky was the first to fall. Ottawa and Wyandotte warriors were let into the fort on the pretense of friendship then opened fire on the garrison of 15 killing them all but Commandant Ensign Pawlee who was given to one of their widows to replace a husband killed in battle.  

Fort Venango capitulated much in the same way a Michilimackinac. The western Seneca, who were also known to Sir William Johnson as the Chenussios and to the Americans as the Mingos entered the fort in the guise of friendship but once inside turned on the garrison. After killing all the British soldiers there they made the commandant write the reasons down for the attack in a dispatch.

The dispatch he wrote stated that there were two reasons for the war. First, for the past two years the scarcity of powder and its price, when it was available, as well as the cost of other necessities was far too high. When they complained about this they were ill-treated and never redressed. Second, When the British began to take over the posts from the French they began to increase their military presence which made them believe the British had designs of possessing all of their lands.

The dispatch was given to a party of warriors heading toward Fort Pitt in order to have it fall into the hands of the British. The commandant of Venango was then put to death and the fort was destroyed. The Seneca also took Fort LeBoeuf and its 16 men.

The fort at P’resqu Isle was commanded by Ensign John Christie and had 27 defenders. They lined the inside of their long two-story blockhouse to reinforce it,  and laid in casks of drinking water. The only door was on the first floor leading inside the fort. The only openings in the walls were long slits for their muskets and the floor between the two stories was perforated so if forced to the second floor they could shoot down upon any intruders. They abandoned the fort, locked themselves inside the blockhouse and prepared for a siege. 

The Seneca, supported by some Ottawa, Chippewa and Wyandotte warriors, shot flaming arrows at the roof of the blockhouse. The soldiers worked tirelessly tearing off the burning shingles dousing the roof with their drinking water. Meanwhile, some of them dug a tunnel to the well inside the fort which was under the First Nations’ control. They carried buckets of water back through the tunnel to replace their drinking water. The work was so laborious that they decided to surrender on the second day of the siege. On the 22nd of June they were taken prisoner and divided up between the four First Nations. 

The Detroit Potawatomi arrived Fort St. Joseph saying they had come to visit their relatives. They informed the commandant, Ensign Schlosser, that they wished to come into the fort to which him a good morning. They seized Schlosser and attacked the fort. Their numbers were so great that they slaughtered all but three of the garrison in about two minutes. A Mr. Winston and a Mr. Hambough hid in the house a Frenchman named Louison Chivalie for four days before being discovered. They were taken prisoner and Hambough and a Mr. Chim were sent south to Illinois but Winston was kept at St. Joseph.

Fort Miami on the Miami River suffered the same fate as the other forts in the region. It was attacked  on the 27th of May by the Miami and some Delaware. Fort Miami’s commandant, Ensign Holmes, had a Miami mistress but she betrayed him by luring him outside the fort and into a trap where he was killed. They then attacked the fort killing half the garrison. The other half was taken prisoner and shipped down the Wabash River to Fort Ouiatinon to be added to the prisoners there. Not one was killed at Ouiatinon as the whole garrison of 20 men surrendered after their commandant, Lieutenant Edward Jenkins, was also lured outside the fort where he was seized and threatened with death if the garrison did not surrender. Then all the prisoners were taken to Fort Chartre on the Mississippi River. This fort was still in French hands under the command of J. Neyeon de Villiere.

The forts that were closer in proximity to the colonies were better able to withstand the First Nation onslaught. Forts Ligonier and Bedford were able uito hold out against the siege tactics of the First Nations. The Delaware, who had joined the alliance in full, took over the siege from the Seneca and the Chippewa. They had even less luck.

Fort Pitt was commanded by a Swiss soldier of fortune who had joined the British army. Captain Simeon Ecuer had taken the words of General Amherst literally. Amherst, in responding to the upheaval, had said to Colonel Bouquet in June “that blankets should be infected with small pox and given to the Indians as presents.”  Ecuer did just that. Small pox raged through the Delaware villages that summer.

If you happened to be English “Indian County” was not the place to be in the summer of 1763. Just before the fall of Fort Miami five Frenchmen, Miny Chain, Jacques Godfrey and Messrs. Beauban, Chavin and Labadee were with a band of Ottawa and Chippewa warriors at the mouth of the Miami River. They spotted John Welch, a trader from Fort Miami, on his way to Detroit with two boats loaded down with pelts.

The warriors hid in the forest while Chain beckoned Welsh and his party to shore. When they landed they were taken prisoner and their goods divided up. Chain and Godfrey took their prisoners to Fort Miami to be added to the prisoners there. The other three returned with their share, including Welch, to Detroit. When they arrived the Ottawa seized their plunder, killed Welch, and took the goods saying that all plunder belonged to the First Nations.

King Beaver, Shingas and four other friendly Delaware chiefs came to an English trader named Colhoun who was at their town of Tuscarora. They informed him of the British forts falling like autumn leaves. They also told him that a trader named Hugh Crawford and a boy were taken prisoner at the mouth of the Miami but six others were killed. Five English traders were also killed at Salt Lick Town on Salt Springs Creek. They warned him to remove himself and his men to a safer place as they saw tracks of a large war party heading their way. 

Later they send Daniel, one of their chiefs, and two others to escort them safely to Fort Pitt. But these three were not friendly Delaware, but had joined the alliance. They refused to let them bring their weapons with them saying the three were sufficient to escort them safely. The next day as they were crossing Beaver Creek they were attacked by a war party. The three Delaware disappeared immediately and of Colhoun’s party of fourteen only Colhoun and two others escaped. Although they became lost they were eventually able to make it to Fort Pitt.

NEXT WEEK:  The Beaver War 1763 – Part 4


St. Pierre to the Rescue!

August 29, 2010

Things had truly gotten out-of-hand at the upper posts. This was especially true of Michilimackinac. So the governor had the voyageurs called in and ordered to trade only from that post. This had the effect of increasing the manpower to over 100 which seemed to be an adequate defence for the fort. But to keep them there over the winter he had to provide them with food and supplies. To this end he ordered 10 cargo canoes loaded with 30,000 lbs of goods to make the trip from Montreal to Michilimackinac.

The governor also commissioned a Lieutenant St. Pierre to take charge of 12 well armed canoes and settle the peace in the upper country. He was to operate out of Michilimackinac travelling to the post at the Green Bay with presents in order to sound out the First Nations there. They had seemed favourable to the French but if they were not then he was to do all in his power to win them over.  

When St. Pierre arrived at Michilimackinac a council was called. He advised the chiefs at this council the object of his mission which was to restore the peace which they had so unworthily broken. He also demanded that they bring the murderers of the Frenchmen to him for his disposal. If they did not deliver these murderers to him that he would go and look for them himself!

The next day several chiefs who were at the council came to him and said they would turn the men responsible over to him but asked that he spare their lives. He said he could not say what their fate would be as this was up to the governor alone to determine.

Meanwhile, the Ottawa contingent who had gone to Montreal in the spring was led by a chief named Pindalouan. They were now anxious to return home because of the lateness of the season. The governor informed them of the sad state of affairs at Michilimackinac and they were genuinely surprised. This made them even more anxious explaining they would put things in order when they arrived home.

Monsieur de Vercheres and the 30 cargo canoes arrived at Michilimackinac in October and they had with them a prisoner they had captured along the way. Vercheres reported that they came across five canoes they thought had been the ones that attacked the French and pursued them. They beached their canoes and fled into the woods but the Frenchmen caught one. He had on him some French goods and a scalp so they asked him where he had gotten them. He replied that he was given them as a present by some warriors at Green Bay. He consistently claimed he was not guilty of attacking the French. Two Ottawa canoes arrived from Montreal and claimed this prisoner saying that he was of the family of Koquois, a chief very loyal to the French and a friend of de Vercheres. So de Vercheres released him to the Ottawa stressing the great favour he was doing them.

By October the nations around Michilimackinac had become very quiet. The two Saulteax warriors who had joined in on the attack on the French earlier returned their portion of the booty to prove their innocence. They still claimed that upon seeing their people firing on a canoe they had joined in to help not knowing the circumstances. The commandant accepted this explanation.

Back at Detroit the commandant de Longueuil was extremely anxious. Nicholas had been in communication with the Saulteaux and Ottawa and they were about to attack the fort. If that happened then Mikinak, an Ottawa chief from Saginaw, would also declare against them. The Potawatomi were waiting as well to join in the fray. The only people to remain faithful to the French were those under the Ottawa chief Quinousaki.  Almost all the cattle had been lost and if help didn’t soon arrive they would not be able to get the harvest in and they would perish.

But help was on the way. Sieur Dubuisson arrived at Niagara with the convoy from Montreal. While there some of men of the guard got drunk and ill-treated the Grand Chief of the Seneca. He left for Seneca country very dissatisfied and the commandant, Monsieur Duplessis, had to send Sieur Chabert to his town at the Little Rapid with presents to appease him. The convoy spent little time at Niagara chosing instead to press on to Detroit.

The Ottawa and Potawatomi were supposed to attack the French village on Bois Blanc Island just south of Detroit. If they took this village they would effectively be able to block help from arriving. However, 100 men mostly traders from Illinois and other posts to the west arrived and prevented them from doing so.  Dubuisson arrived at Detroit unheeded to find de Longueuil engaged in bringing in the harvest. So all the nations around that post also began to settle down. Peace was being restored to the upper country.

NEXT WEEK: A Rising Star Among the Ojibwa!


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 Affair of the Wyandotte of Detroit

June 19, 2010

If you have been following my posts you will recall that after the catastrophic war with the Iroquois in 1649 the remnants of the Huron, Petun and Neutrals who had not converted to Christianity made their way to Michilimackinac to live near the Ottawa. There they became know as the Wyandotte, a corruption of the what the Huron called themselves, Ouendat. The Jesuits cut back their mission work in North America to mainly Lower Canada, but did keep a presence at Michilimackinac and Illinois as well as Michigan. They also set up a mission called The Mission of l’assomption Among the Huron at Detroit which, for nearly forty years bore nor fruit.

Father Armand de la Richardie arrived at Detroit in 1728 and labored among the Wyandotte for many years with no conversions. He finally gained one convert, an old Wyandotte chief named Hoosien. His family quickly followed but it wasn’t long after his conversion that he died. Thinking that after the old chief had gone his family would quickly revert to their traditional beliefs Father Richardie, who was in ill-health, thought of giving up and returning to Quebec. To his surprise his mission kept growing and within 3 years of the death of his first convert all the Detroit Wyandotte had embraced Roman Catholicism.

In 1738 the Wyandotte and the Ottawa of Detroit had a falling out. The Jesuits thought the Ottawa were ‘more brutal and superstitious’ than the Wyandotte. Sastaretsy, the title of the principle Wyandotte chief, sent word to the Governor General as well as to their brothers, the Iroquois of Sault St. Louis or Caughnawaga and the Huron of Lorette near Quebec City. He reported that the Ottawa had raised the hatchet to them and had asked the other Algonquian speaking nations there to joined them in exterminating them. This of course would be referring to the Sauteux Ojibwa, Potawatomi and Mississauga.

The Governor General sent presents to them asking, through the Commandant of Detroit Monsieur de Noyelle to settle the peace and keep the Wyandotte at Detroit. The Wyandotte agreed to heed the Governor but said at the first alarm they would either go to the Seneca or else beyond the Belle Riviere. This was the name the French had given to the Ohio River.

That winter the First Nations of Detroit lived in apprehension of each other. The Wyandotte wintered in the interior which was not their custom to do so. In the spring the principle chief or the Wyandotte, Orontony, whose baptismal name was Nicolas, sent branches of porcelain to the Governor begging him to allow the Detroit Wyandotte to move to Quebec. They asked for a tract of land near him to settle on and a French officer to escort them as protection from attack.

Meanwhile, they made peace with the Flathead to the south. This was a nation that continuously skirmished with the Nations of Detroit. They made threats to move south among them but reconsidered after receiving harsh words from Entatsogo, chief of the Sault. Now they begged the Governor to forgive them for not sending their elders to Montreal as asked to do so because they were alarmed by the Praying Indians of Sault St. Louis. They also sent word to the Governor that it was not the custom of the Wyandotte to ask for protection or asylum but that it was the duty of one who had compassion on them to come and console them or to lead them to a new place where they would be safe.

In June of that year Father Richardie wrote to the governor that he had done all he could to influence their minds but they would not let go of their fears and apprehensions. They had been talking to both the English and their allies the Iroquois of Upstate New York and that those two nations had been taking advantage of the Wyandotte’s alarm and trying to induce them toward their side. The Father suggested the Governor allow the move to Quebec and even send his nephew to escort them rather than see his charges go over to the other side. The good Father stated that if the move was made the Wyandotte would not be missed at Detroit because their were some Sauteaux Ojibwa from the St. Clair willing to move to Detroit to take their place not to mention the Shawanee.

NEXT WEEK: More Upheaval at Detroit!