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"By the way, talking of history, have you read Parkman's works? He was, I think, among the greatest of the historians, and yet one seldom hears his name."
SIR CONAN DOYLE
Historical works are, for the most part, aimed at two publics, one represented by the general reader, the other represented by the student. The general reader seeks in history for those qualities which are commonly grouped under the denomination of readable. He is not over anxious about impartiality, he is not over nice as to the methods or materials employed, but he looks eagerly for style and for sequence, for incident and for character. The student, on the other hand, requires primarily an impartial statement of facts, — facts arranged in such a way that neither structure nor materials will yield perceptibly under the assault of the critical investigator, or the man, in other words, who for purposes of his own has occasion to test things scientifically.
Among all the historians of America, and we might almost say of the nineteenth century, it is the peculiar glory of Francis Parkman, that he is able to a remarkable extent to satisfy both classes of public. In like manner it may be said of Parkman that he cannot as an historian be very critically classified. He is neither a stylist historian like Motley and Prescott, nor a modern or a scientific historian like Monod, Bémont, or Dr. H. C. Lea; nor can he fairly be described as occupying a place of transition between the two types such as that held by our own nationalist historians, E. A. Freeman and J. R. Green. In one respect, indeed, he conforms closely to the best type of historian, commoner, perhaps, in America than in the United Kingdom. He approaches his subject in a spirit of self-abnegation and sacrifice; he devotes youth,
viiilaughter, sociability, ease, and a large inherited capital of money and character to the accumulation and diffusion of historic truth. A man of iron resolution and strength of purpose, he consecrates qualities that would have gained high distinction and reward in almost any sphere of life to the exposition of a theme in the interests of which, like Sir Walter Scott, he underwent a voluntary apprenticeship, when hardly more than on the threshold of adult life. The Oregon trail was to him very much what the early sojourns at Sandy Knowe and the Border forays of early manhood were to Scott. He dedicated his whole life, in short, to the elaboration of an intellectual exercise chosen before he was twenty. A grand theme, we can now say, but one by no means popular then either in Europe or in America.
Colonial and savage history was, in the days of Palmerston and Cavour, held in the smallest esteem. The lack of associations in respect to American topography gave no opportunity for the rainbow rhetoric of the school of Macaulay. Americans in the eighteen-fifties were proud enough and to spare of the War of Independence (in which, as Mr. A. G. Bradley and others have pointed out, a moiety of Americans, who were also noncombatants, played a ‘waiting game’), but to the real conquest of their continent for men of an English speaking race they seldom gave a thought. To devote forty years to the history of Colonial frontiers and the skirmishes of backwoodsmen seemed to admirers of Prescott's Philip II. or Motley's Dutch Republic nothing less than wanton waste of time and opportunity. Nothing could have seemed more remote from such an adventure as that of Parkman's, when he embarked upon it, than the meed of popular applause or national appreciation. Parkman escaped censure by escaping observation. Few historians have been more unencumbered by help or encouragement. "One day (about 1865)," writes the American historian, John Fiske, "in the midst of the time-honoured classics on the window of Little, Brown & Co.'s book store in Boston, a stranger appeared which aroused my curiosity; it was a modest crown octavo, clad in sombre garb, and bearing the title,Pioneers of France in the New World. The author's
ixname was not familiar to me, but presently I remembered having seen it upon a stouter volume labelled The Conspiracy of Pontiac, of which many copies used to stand in a row far back in the inner and dusky regions of the shop. The older book I had once taken down from its shelf, just to quiet a lazy doubt as to whether Pontiac might be the name of a man or a place. Had that conspiracy been an event in Merovingian Gaul or in Borgia's Italy, I should have felt a twinge of conscience at not knowing about it, but the deaths of feathered and painted red men on the great lakes and the Alleghanies, only a century old, seemed remote and trivial."
Fourteen years later Fiske was lecturing in Gower Street, at University College, upon "America's Place in History." When he spoke of Irving, Bancroft, Ticknor, Prescott, Kirk, Motley, he found no lack of response; but when he went on to speak of one Francis Parkman, as holding the first place by right among all American historians up to that date, he could see that his remarks were received with considerable bewilderment, if not incredulity. There was one auditor present, however, in the back of the theatre, in whose cheek this novel pronouncement of the lecturer brought up a hot flush and generous glow of recognition. It was Parkman himself, who happened to be in England at the time, and, quite unknown to Fiske, had found his way into the audience upon this occasion.
Even to the present day it is true to say that Parkman, fully as his transcendent merit has been allowed by all the best judges, is comparatively unheard of. Among literary men, at any rate, it is a common experience to find ignorance rife as to who precisely Francis Parkman may be, and such questions as "Do you mean the preacher or the poet?" are not infrequent. This may be explicable in part by such considerations as the high price of most of his books, the unfamiliar sound of their titles, and the lack of accessible guidance as to their exact range, scope, and interrelation. But such obstacles to the right appreciation of an historian of the calibre of Parkman ought one and all to yield to simple treatment. As to the unity and intrinsic importance of his main theme there can, in fact, hardly be two opinions. The
xtheatre of his books is that upon wh ch the most dramat c scenes in the world's h story for the next few centuries will probably be played; and the conflict described in them is one of infinitely greater moment than that represented by the War of Independence. For it narrates in one continuous tale of almost epical grandeur the long struggle of a century and a halfs duration between the Anglo Celtic and Latin arms, races, languages, governmental traditions, and administrative and social deals, for the possession of that hinterland which meant ultimate supremacy and dominion upon the great continent. With the issue of this profound and momentous conflict —— not to appear less, it may be imagined, in the eyes of millions yet to be born, than the historic duels between Greeks and Persians, Romans and Carthaginians, or Franks and Saracens — was bound up the destiny of the two most interesting, indigenous tribes of North America — the trees of the virgin forests and the physically splendid race of savages who dwelt amongst them. With the supremacy of the English seaboard, therefore, as achieved for the time being in 1763, is associated indissolubly on the vast, impartial canvas of which Parkman had the secret, the sad, unfading record of the decline and fall of the American Indians, of the prairie roaming bison, of the coureurs de bois, and of the huge lacustrine or pine-clad solitudes of the American forest. Parkman had fully as much sympathy with these primitive moods or phases of living as with the more efficient, practical and commercial energy of his own Puritan or Quaker forebears. But his reserve in regard to his personal predilections is almost as impermeable as the cynical placidity of Gibbon, and served him in equally good stead. Persistence in research, care and judgment in weighing evidence, and a profound reverence for minute accuracy of detail became more and more in successive works the gods of this born scholar's idolatry. Few historians have steered with more triumphant skill between the Scylla and Charybdis of Partiality and Impartiality.
I shall conclude this section by citing the tribute paid to Parkman by Sir Conan Doyle,
xiof to-day who are under a special obligation to the graphic historian of the Great West. "That one book, The Jesuits in Canada, is worth a reputation in itself. And how noble is the tribute which this man of puritan blood pays to that wonderful order! . . . The story of Father Jogues is but one of many, and yet it is worth recounting. Father Jogues was on the Iroquois Mission, and was so tortured and mutilated by his sweet parishioners that the very dogs used to howl at his distorted figure. He made his way back to France, not for any reason of personal rest or recuperation, but because he needed a special dispensation to say Mass. The Catholic Church has a regulation that a priest shall not be deformed, so that the savages with their knives had wrought better than they knew. He received his dispensation and was sent for by Louis XIV., who asked him what he could do for him. No doubt the assembled courtiers expected to hear him ask for the next vacant bishoprick. What he did actually ask for, as the highest favour, was to be sent back to the Iroquois Mission, where the savages signalised his arrival by burning him alive.
"Parkman is worth reading, if it were only for his account of the Indians. Perhaps the very strangest thing about them, and the most unaccountable, is their small numbers. The Iroquois were one of the most formidable of tribes. They were of the Five Nations, whose scalping parties wandered over an expanse of thousands of square miles. Yet there is good reason to doubt whether the whole five nations could have put as many thousands warriors in the field. It was the same with all the other tribes of Northern Americans, both in the east, the north, and the west. Their numbers were always insignificant. And yet they had that country to themselves, the best of climates, and plenty of food. Why was it that they did not people it quickly? It may be taken as a striking example of the purpose and design which run through the affairs of men, that at the very moment when the Old World was ready to overflow, the New World was empty to receive it. Had North America been peopled as China is peopled, the Europeans might have founded some settlements, but could never have taken possession of the Continent."
Parkman began his life's work when history in America was hardly arrived at the hobbledehoy stage. Apart from the best historical work of Washington Irving, whose Conquest of Granada had appeared in 1829, of Jared Sparks, the Mentor of American History, of Bancroft, the first volume of whose History of America had appeared in 1834, of Ticknor, and Prescott (Ferdinand and Isabella, 1837, Mexico, 1842), hardly anything had been written of lasting significance before, as an undergraduate of Harvard, Parkman had already, in 1843, dedicated his life to the work which he completed in 1892. The man who could thus devote himself, under the serious deprivations and disabilities from which he suffered, may justly be termed indomitable. But there is nothing in the external side of Francis Parkman's career, which is singularly destitute of sensation or event, greatly to captivate or inspire the reader. A remote ancestor may have deserved to be included among Prince's "Worthies of Devon," but as a matter of fact he is not so enrolled. The son of William Parkman of Sidmouth landed in Massachusetts Bay before 1633. The historian's grandfather Samuel, son of a grim puritanic Ebenezer,
xiiitenacity which his ascendants transmitted per saltum to the historian; but the latter derived more by common consent from his mother, to whom he owed descent from the celebrated New England family of Cotton. Frank inherited her keen concentration of expression and many of her ways. He was born in what is now Allston Street, Boston, on September 16, 1823, fourteen years or so before the family moved into the colonial mansion which his prosperous grandfather had built. From 1829 to 1833 he went to live with his maternal grandfather on a farm in what was then unsophisticated country, several miles from the city. In the neighbouring wilderness, amid the Middlesex Fells, we may well believe that he first began to conjure up, and perhaps to enact with childish mimicry, the Indian and sylvan exploits with which Fenimore Cooper had begun to delight two continents in 1823. He sported, as aspiring boys do, in rhyme, rhetoric, and romance, and his favourites at seventeen, when he entered college, were Milton, Byron, and Scott. By predilection he was already a ranger of illimitable forest, and a Lycurgus among Red Indians. His ideal subject was already known to be the "Old French War," and he was already, in 1842, exploring its battlefields and diarising his journeys in prose of extraordinary pith and precocity.
Here is a typical specimen of the sort of diary Frank kept on the first of his seven pilgrimages to Europe — being then little over twenty:
"When I got to London, I thought I had been there before. There in flesh and blood was the whole host of characters that figure in Pickwick. Every species of cockney was abroad in the dark and dingy-looking streets, all walking with their heads stuck forward, their noses turned up, their chin pointing down, their knee-joints shaking, as they shuffled along with a gait perfectly ludicrous, but indescribable. The hackney coachman and cabmen, with their peculiar phraseology, the walking advertisements in the shape of a boy completely hidden between two placards, and a hundred others seemed so many incarnations of Dickens's characters. A strange contrast to Paris! The cities are no more alike than the
xiv‘dining room’ of London and the elegant restaurant of Paris, the one being a quiet dingy establishment where each guest is put into a box and supplied with porter, beef, potatoes, and plum pudding. Red faced old gentlemen of three hundredweight mix their ‘brandy go’ and read the Times. In Paris the tables are set in elegant galleries and saloons, and among the trees and flowers of a garden, and here resort coats cut by the first tailors and bonnets of the latest mode, whose occupants regale their delicate tastes on the lightest and most delicious viands. The waiters spring from table to table as noiselessly as shadows, prompt at the slightest sign; a lady, elegantly attired, sits within the arbor to preside over the whole. Dine at these places, then go to a London ‘diningroom’ — swill porter and devour beef!
"St. Paul's, which the English ridiculously compare to St. Peter's, is without exception the dirtiest and gloomiest church I have been in yet. I went up to the ball at the top of the cupola whence the prospect is certainly a most wonderful one. . . .
"Walk out in the evening, and keep a yard or two behind some wretched clerk, who with nose elevated in the air, elbows stuck out at right angles, and the pewter knob of his cane playing upon his underlip, is straddling his bow legs over the sidewalk with a most majestic air. Get behind him, and you see his dignity greatly disturbed. First he glances over one of his narrow shoulders, then over his other, then he edges off to the other side of the walk, and turns his vacant lobster eyes full upon you, then he passes his hand over his coattail, and finally he draws forth from his pocket the object of all this solicitude in the shape of a venerable and ragged cotton handkerchief, which he holds in his hand to keep it out of harm's way. I have been thus taken for a pickpocket more than a dozen times to-night, not the less so for being respectably dressed, for these gentry are the most dashy men on the Strand.
"There is an interesting mixture of vulgarity and helplessness in the swarm of ugly faces you see in the streets — meagre, feeble, ill proportioned, or not proportioned at all, the blockheads must needs put on a game air and affect the ‘man of the
xvworld’ in their small way. I have not met one handsome woman yet, though I have certainly walked more than fifty miles since I have been here, and have kept my eyes open. To be sure, the weather has been raw and chill enough to keep beauty at home. Elsewhere Englishmen are tall, strong, and manly; here, the crowd that swarms through the streets are like the outcasts of a hospital. . . .
"I spent seven or eight days in London. On the eighth day I went up the river to Richmond in a steamboat, with a true cockney pleasure-party on board, whose evolutions were very entertaining. . . .
"I got into the cars one night — having sent my trunks to Liverpool — and found myself in the morning at Darlington, nearly three hundred miles distant. Thence I took stage for Carlisle, famous in Border story.
"I went away at four in the morning for Abbotsford. We were in the region where one thinks of nothing but of Scott, and of the themes which he rendered so familiar to the whole world. The Cheviot was on our right — the Teviot hills before us. The wind came down from them raw and cold, and the whole sky was obscured with stormy clouds. I thought as we left the town of the burden of one of his ballads: ‘ The sun shines fair on Carlisle wall.’ It was little applicable now. The ancient fortifications looked sullen and cheerless as tottering battlements and black crumbling walls, beneath a sky as dark and cold as themselves, could make it. I was prepared for storms and a gloomy day, but soon the clouds parted and the sun broke out clear over the landscape. The dark heathery sides of Teviot — the numberless bright rapid streams that came from the different glens, and the woods of ash, larch, and birch that followed their course, and grew on the steeper declivities of the hills — never could have appeared to more advantage. Esk and Liddel, Yarrow, the Teviot, Minto Crag, Ettrick Forest, Branksome Castle — these and more likewise we passed before we reached the Tweed and saw Abbotsford on its banks among its forests planted by Scott himself. I left my luggage at the inn at Galashiels, telling the landlord that I was going away, and might return at night, or
xvimight not. I visited Abbotsford, Melrose, and Dryburgh — and consider the day better spent than the whole four months I was in Sicily and Italy. I slept at Melrose, and returned to Galashiels in the morning.
"I like the Scotch — I like the country and everything in it. The Liverpool packet will not wait, or I should stay long here, and take a trout from every ‘burnie’ in the Cheviot. The scenery has been grossly belied by Irving and others. It is wild and beautiful. I have seen none more so. There is wood enough along the margins of the streams (which are as transparent as our own); the tops of the hills alone are bare. The country abounds in game, pheasants, moorcock, curlew, and rabbits. . ..
"I walked up Arthur's Seat, passing the spot where Jeanie Deans had her interview with her sister's seducer, and, when I arrived at the top, looking down on the site of her father's cottage. Under the crags here is the place where Scott and James Ballantyne used to sit when boys and read and make romances together. Edinburgh, half wrapped in smoke, lies many hundred feet below, seen beyond the ragged projecting edge of Salisbury Crag, the castle rising obscurely in the extreme distance. . .."
His gravitation to the Scots border is characteristic. So too is his detection in his own character of the English stiffness and froidesse, or "offishness" as he calls it. Mark the sharp, mordant, critical tone of the writing, which tends now and again to become strangely acid and indeed almost splenetic — strange at any rate in a man so young, witnessing the scenes of classic story for the first time. He returned in 1844 more bent than ever on the old French War; but it was incumbent on him, he felt, to know far more, and that from direct observation, about the untamed Indians. Already he was famous among friends for the Indian lore he possessed. His tales of "border life, wampum, scalps and birch bark were unsurpassed by anything in Cooper." In 1845 he resolved to visit some of the distant tribes beyond the Rockies, in the large region then known vaguely as Oregon. The outcome was the remarkable expedition with Canadian guides and
xviimuleteer in the following of an Ogillallah chief called The Whirlwind, first described in papers contributed to the Knickerbocker Magazine (New York, 1847) and then published in book form in 1849. The horrible food and the unavoidable hardship of this expedition combined, no doubt, with inherited predisposition and a bad overstrain incurred in the gymnasium at college to undermine Parkman's health in a most disastrous way. We hear in succession of blindness, lameness, acute rheumatism, insomnia, and "a mysterious nervous disorder" which paralysed his work for months or even years at a time.
The almost incredible thing is that, even while all these plagues were beginning to rack the body of our sensitive enthusiast, and entirely despite the indifference shown by the public to his Oregon Trail, Parkman was already straining at the leash to get to his great theme. "Prescott could see a little," he wrote to his friend "Charley" Norton; "confound him, he could even look over his proofs, but I am not better off than an owl in the sunlight." It was under such conditions that, in 1851, he produced his History of the Conspiracy of Pontiac and the War of the North American Tribes against the English Colonies after the Conquest of Canada, which was in a sense both the cornerstone and the coping-stone of the complete historical edifice that he had already planned. It was the subject nearest his heart. For he had gone over the whole country and accumulated a lot of first-hand evidence. Its subjects were those of his youthful predilection: Pontiac, the forest hero, and last great Indian chieftain, with a background of sympathetic French Canadians of an extinct type for which he had the sincerest respect. The siege of Detroit, studied and restudied, map and ground, was to occupy the centre of the composition. It was no less imperative on him to work up his general sketch of the North American Indians, still vivid in recollection, and to get that subject off his mind, before he could go on to the central drama, that of the internecine duel between French and English colonial types and interests on the stage of the New World. And Pontiac is no less the coping-stone to the whole series, inasmuch as, chronologically speaking, it is nothing less than a complement to the
xviiilast chapter of Montcalm and Wolfe — and the events it describes are but an inevitable afterclap of the peace of 1763. The same event decides the final doom of the Indian, which Pontiac read truthfully as a choice between civilisation and extinction; and the savage decided for the simple life — and death. The Conspiracy of Pontiac is also an excellent introduction to the series, for it includes not only the synoptic view of the Red Indian tribes, the locus classicus for the aboriginal life and organisation, to which I have already referred, but also a most illuminating, though brief, retrospective survey of the last phases of the great conflict which terminated in 1763. It represents, in brief, the ornate (perhaps it may be admitted, a trifle florid) pediment, for which six stately columns were to be elaborated by the almost unintermitted effort of thirty years.
The light of day had been insupportable to Parkman for three years already when Pontiac appeared. But after its appearance he became much worse. In the autumn of 185I an effusion of water on the left knee lamed him; a partial recovery was followed by a relapse, which came to a crisis in 1853 and confined him to the house for two years. An odd consequence of this was that all the irritability of his nervous system centred in his head, causing intense pain. When he tried to fix his attention, he felt as if he had an iron band clamped about his head, like an ancient instrument of torture; at other times his thoughts swooped through his brain like an infernal blast, with a horrid confusion of tossing pains. In the train of these furies followed sleepless nights. Work upon the Magnum Opus was impossible. In 1858, when he seemed to be getting better, the death of his wife, who left him two little girls, sent him on his travels once more. In 1860 he was absorbed in rose-culture at his cottage on Jamaica Pond, which he had acquired after his father's death in 1852; and in 1866 he actually published a technical Book of Roses.
It was not until 1865 that the thread of the great scheme was definitely resumed by the publication of Pioneers of France in the New World, dealing with the discoveries of Champlain, the founder of Quebec, and the progress of Canadian settlement from 1512 to 1635. The next quarter of a century in Parkman's
xixlife is not more radically diversified than the existence of Gibbon while he was writing the Decline and Fall, or that of Carlyle while he was fuming over Friedrich. The work went on like an hour-hand, slowly and imperceptibly, and every few years a goodly volume was precipitated. In 1867 came one of the most poignant of the whole series — it was already well under weigh by 1865 — The Jesuits in North America, dealing mainly with the heroic missionary period from 1634 to 1642. Then at unequal intervals of two years and five years came La Salle and the Discovery of the Great West from 1643 to 1680, and The Old Reégime in Canada, dealing with the imperious Laval, and Canadian gentilhommerie from 1640 to 1673. The broken reign of Frontenac, and New France under Louis XIV. mainly from 1672 to 1698, the date of Frontenac's death, followed next in 1877. The interval between Frontenac and Montcalm frowned like an ugly chasm, but Parkman could no longer be deterred from the main quarry he had had in view so long — a full length of Montcalm. He wisely decided as the work progressed to group the two heroes together; and together they will live for many centuries in his pages, for, although the story may be written and rewritten in detail, the ensemble of Parkman's Montcalm and Wolfe will scarcely be surpassed. It was published in 1884, and dedicated to Harvard College. The book made a deep impression; and although the author was criticised for minimising the woes of the Acadians (as depicted by Longfellow in Evangeline), and for depreciating the part played by Leávis, the two criticisms in the lapse and current of time have amply answered themselves. Parkman now rested from his labours for five years as far as insomnia would let him, and it was not until the spring of 1892 that he put the final touch to this famous historical temple to bygone America and the remembrance of a vanished race by the publication of A Half Century of Conflict (1700 — 1750).
Of A Half Century of Conflict, Mr. E. J. Payne, the well known authority on American history, wrote shortly after its appearance,
XXown sake, the same aptitude for seizing its picturesque features, the same scrupulous and painstaking accuracy in particulars which have made Parkman's books alike popular with the general reader and indispensable to the student of history. Some persons, according to Mr. Payne, regarded the La Salle and Frontenac volumes of the historian's middle period — a period marked, relatively speaking, by a certain scientific detachment and dryness of style — as representing the historian at his very best. Those who like vivid colouring will conceivably prefer Pontiac — that brilliant pendant to the chain of subsequent volumes — to any of its successors. The judicious will probably confirm the verdict of Mr. Payne, that, profoundly interesting as all the early and middle work may be, its interest depends rather too largely upon the peculiar features of the transitory society, which it so lively depicts, and that it cannot seriously compete in importance with "the greater work to which Parkman finally addressed himself — the history of the conflict which substantially began with the administration of Frontenac, and only came to an end with the capture of Quebec in 1759."
A memorable chapter of history — one hundred and fifty years square — had thus been traced, drawn, made enduring, and justified — not without many searchings of heart. Rivalling that of S. R. Gardiner in its singleness of aim and purpose, Parkman's conception of history in his forty years' work had approximated more and more to that of Carlyle — to see people and events as they were, and to set them forth in due order and all possible clearness.
According to a statement by Miss Parkman, the historian was a better and a happier man after sixty than before. His ambition seems to have been in some measure assuaged, his humour mellowed; and as the years rolled on, the improvement in his health, the easier progress of his labour, and the development of his sympathy, enabled him at last to meet life with happier moods and habits. His last summer, we are glad to read in Farnham, was a very happy one. During the
xxiearly summer of 1893 he was frequently seen by friends in his house in Chestnut Street, on Beacon Hill, Boston, within a stone's throw of the former dwellings of Bancroft, Motley, and Prescott. At the end of August he returned to his home at the Pond, a few miles away, to amuse himself with the late flowers or with his boat on the lake. Modern progress, though unchecked, provoked fewer "damns" from him than ever before, and he seemed entering upon an Indian summer of serenity in strange contrast to his long and stoical conflict. The last book he read was Childe Harold. He fell ill early in November, peritonitis set in, and he died at noon on November 8, 1893. He was buried in the Mount Auburn Cemetery at Boston. "America has lost her best historian," wrote an English obituarist;
F. H. Underwood, the editor of The Atlantic Monthly, who "was not the editor," well remembered seeing Parkman walking on Boston Common with the aid of a cane, his figure attenuated and unsteady, his eyes shaded from the light, his face pale but animated by a serene, indomitable courage. "He had to forego even looking at a newspaper, not only on account of his weak eyes, but on account of a painful sensation in his head like that of wearing an iron crown. He lived, however, literally in hope, continuing his great and costly preparations for future work, with an abiding faith that somehow he would be able to accomplish it. With robust health, what might not such a man have accomplished and enjoyed! One sees in all his books, from The Oregon Trail onwards, such exhaustless spirits, such fulness of life, such joy in Nature, such sympathy with men of action, that his long periods of imprisonment must have been as painful as those of Silvio Pellico."
xxiiAs so often, however, it is the chronic invalids, such as Herbert Spencer and Francis Parkman, who formulate and execute these prodigious systems and atlases of synthetic philosophy and history. Thierry and Prescott, both more than half blind, write graphic historical narratives upon a colossal scale; and Huber, who is totally blind, writes the first universal monograph upon Bees. Parkman's ailments contributed to make of him during the most important productive period a silent, lonely, and self-centred man, frames of mind which all tend to promote lengthened meditation and definitive thought. They also tended to obscure his personality, for Parkman was no great mingler in town and club life, was no great diseur de tons mots, rather taciturn on the contrary: consequently he has no anecdotage. Nevertheless, from 1875 onwards, Parkman was fairly often seen in Boston and in Cambridge. He mingled familiarly, though rarely, in the Atlantic group of wits. He once said that for a man of letters to succeed in America he must be either a Harvard man or a humbug. But he was a Harvard man himself, and he even lectured occasionally at Cambridge. He was president too of several societies of students. But despite all this appearance of bonhomie and cordiality, the observer was conscious for ever of an impenetrable reserve. Like J. M. W. Turner, like Scott, like Byron, and like Borrow, the three men of letters, I fancy, with whom Parkman had most sympathy, his methods of work were secret. He spent money lavishly on copies, extracts, and abstracts. These were accumulated from headquarters in London, Paris, Washington, Quebec, and Montreal, and ultimately concentrated in his study. A period of great mental excitement then began for the historian. But he allowed nothing to appear on the surface. He had to submit everything to a rigid and most cautious scheme of hygiene, upon which indeed his working power altogether depended. He worked, as some of the greatest masters of history have worked — especially in America — with the slow concentrated persistency of the tortoise, and with the conscious deliberation of a Methuselah. But exactly how he worked is something of a mystery; for he kept his inner workshop locked; he sported his oak and flew a signal of
xxiii"no admittance" into the bargain. Nor has a single skeleton, construction model, or plan of even a section of his work been found among his most intimate papers. We know, however, that, like Prescott, he employed numerous readers. He had important materials read over and over again; he sat the while in a dark corner of the room, from which he only emerged now and again to take the book from the reader's hand by the window and mark a passage, either with a star, two crosses, or a vertical dash in red pencil. Having done this he hastily retreated and resumed his seat in the penumbra. From the mental picture thus built up in the mind he seems to have approached the agony of expression (for to him as to most great authors it was an agony, no less) in two ways, first by the use of "the gridiron" as he called it — a species of writing machine similar to the noctograph used by Prescott, for the use of those afflicted with blindness — and then by slow dictation in short spells, rarely to strangers, nearly always when possible to members of his own household. The text was elaborated in this way, and seldom corrected after it had once been taken down. The notes were pasted on by himself at the foot of each page. The contents of the "gridiron," having been thus exhausted, were laid aside in precise order and bound up in volumes, in which the word "used" appears at the bottom of every leaf. His amanuenses still speak of their wonder in witnessing the creation of his books. "It must have been, indeed, interesting to watch the transformation operated by the magic of his imagination — the living characters and real scenes suddenly brought forth from dry and disconnected facts read to him in bits for months or even years. One could hardly get a more intimate contact with the artistic faculty, at least in its activities of preparation and execution. During the last few years of his life his eyes allowed him to write quite freely for very short periods of time. Thus he was able to write out by himself, with pencil, on orange-coloured paper, the greater part of his Half-Century and Montcalm and Wolfe. This manuscript shows very few corrections. He had become master of a fluent, chaste, and simple diction."
No historian that ever lived, unless it be Macaulay, has
xxivfound a more brilliant, competent, or sympathetic biographer than Parkman has had in Charles Haight Farnham. His book on Parkman is a work of insight, originality, and power; but he is unable to place Parkman in altogether the right perspective as an historian, and he is sometimes, as it seems to me at any rate, a little erratic in his adjectives. Fluent, chaste, and simple are certainly not quite the epithets we should select to characterise Parkman's style. It is only fair to demonstrate that Parkman was able to emancipate himself at an early date from the floridity of the mid nineteenth century historians. He burns a far whiter light than either Motley or Macaulay; but by the law of equivalents he misses both the serenity of Prescott and the graphic fervour which blind partisanship alone seems able to inspire. Nor should we say that Parkman shares to any exceptional degree either the sinewy ease and fluency of Froude or the rhetorical simplicity of Freeman. His descriptive power in the picturesque passages is of a very high order, but it lacks the classical repose of Robertson, Hume, Goldsmith, and the masters of the old school. The sharp emphasis, on the other hand, which is seldom absent from his page, indicates an uneasy distrust of the new impersonal school of historians. The epithets that I should regard as most appropriate to his style would probably be nervous, energetic, and intense. But beneath all his work and never absent from it I detect a rare strain of nobility of mind and character in conflict with the shadow of pain and physical opposition. Tortured by physical ills, but unsubdued, schooling himself to the daily conquest of his body until effort becomes a condition of life and work, at the worst dictating a few lines a day from his dark corner, Parkman's great historical epic bears traces of the battlefield in almost every sentence. Enter the portico, and you will soon find that you are under military discipline. Parkman's favourites were Byron and Hazlitt, Borrow and Lowell. Like all these writers, within the four corners of his own work Parkman was a bit of a despot. There is always a grand swell of self-opinion in the current of the book before which doubts and hesitations must break or vanish. And if you are sensitive you may detect a suspicion of swagger about the triumphant
xxvmarch of the style, for it is in its essence aristocratic, and not wholly free from barbaric splendour now and again.
This brings me to the secret of Parkman's personality, which is the secret of his greatness. Though he wore the democratic badge in party politics, Francis Parkman was at heart and in reality an aristocrat. He wanted the democracy to be distinguished, and to be led on conservative lines by men of light and leading. His hero, like Carlyle's, was the man of action. His antipathies included every shape of spout and pulpit, the poet Wordsworth, invalids, Quakers and non-combatants of all kinds (the passionate regret of his life was his inability to march in 1862), transcendentalists, Thoreau, abolitionists, and eccentrics generally. On the "nigger question" and humanitarianism at large he was even more at one with Carlyle. "If every slave could be knocked on the head and as many abolitionists as could be conveniently brought together" he professed that his satisfaction would be complete. The Red Indian sang froid with which he contemplates the details of his torture scenes has been commented on by more than one of his critics. Greater contempt for universal suffrage had never Montmorency or Cecil than this professed democrat. As for women's suffrage, it was to him a thing unspeakable, and he wrote a caustic pamphlet to show how it had been tried and failed ignominiously among the Iroquois. The philosophers he sympathised with were Pope, Johnson, Scott, Wellington, "Old Hickory" and Stonewall Jackson, and, like another Waldershare, he would have repudiated most of his party's proceedings since the days of Jefferson. But his heart went out in a passionate reverence for the old ways of life, the old-fashioned America of the puritans and pioneers and stern New England tradition, the respectability of the single breed, and the faith in quality rather than quantity. The mere mechanical influx of wealth and operatives appealed to him not at all. Improvements in things fundamentally indifferent, such as transport or telegraphy, had no power to exhilarate him. His aspirations were all for a country prolific in martial heroes, dictators, and patriots, with a garnish of border history and ballads. An increment among the small pleasures of town life had little significance for a
xxvibeliever in the gospel of pain, whose favourite heroes were Coriolanus, George Washington, and Alexander Hamilton.
It will be readily seen from what has gone before how much there was of Sir Walter Scott in the make-up of Francis Parkman. True, he was a patriotic republican, but the republic must be conservative and almost oligarchic in its constitution to give him any real satisfaction. The coureurs de bois and the Algonquins were to him exactly what the moss-troopers and Jacobites were to Scott. Detroit was his counterpart of Branksome. In essence he was not less of a Tory, and he was even more of an "aristo," than Scott, for he had none of Scott's kindly feeling for mediocrity, or tolerance of silly swans like Miss Seward. The characteristics in which Scott had no share were Parkman's acerbity towards his enemies, real or imagined, his sardonic silences, and his asperity in regard to strangers or people he did not know well.
Parkman's greatness is reflected in his visage. At the first glance it seems to have affinity with what is commonly regarded in England as a "horsey type" of face. But it really is of the finest and most intellectual Yankee character. There is something of Fielding in the chin, but squarer and stronger. It is one of the faces that haunt one as that of a leader of men, — suggestive of unconquerable strength and undying resolution, with just a touch of the iron-headed (or was it wrong headed) obstinacy which Lady Eastlake thought she detected in George Borrow.
ACTON, January, 1908.
THE following is a list of Parkman's works:
The California and Oregon Trails, being Sketches of Prairie and Rocky Mountain Life, 1849; The Conspiracy of Pontiac, 1851; Vassall Morton, a Novel, 1856; Pioneers of France in the New World, I865; The Book of Roses, 1866; The Jesuits in North America, 1867; La Salle and the Discovery of the Great West, 1869; The Old Reágime in Canada, 1874; Count Frontenac and New France under Louis XIV., 1877; Montcalm and Wolfe, 1884; A Half century of Conflict, 1700-1750, 1892.
Parkman contributed to "The Atlantic Monthly" (1863-1893); "North American Review," "The Critic," "The Nation," "Harper's Monthly" (1864, 1890). His "Reasons against Woman Suffrage" appeared in 1887, and "Our Common Schools," 1890. He contributed Lives of La Salle, Frontenac, and Montcalm to "Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography."
The standard Life of Francis Parkman is that by Charles Haight Farnham (Macmillan, 1900), dedicated to the historian's sister, Eliza, and containing two portraits. This is supplemented by the short, but interesting and lively sketch by Henry Dwight Sedgwick, containing a few new particulars, and a third portrait, in the American Men of Letters Series, 1904. It is to be noted that both works concentrate upon an estimate of the life rather than of the works of the historian.
xxxiThe conquest of Canada was an event of momentous consequence in American history. It changed the political aspect of the continent, prepared a way for the independence of the British colonies, rescued the vast tracts of the interior from the rule of military despotism, and gave them, eventually, to the keeping of an ordered democracy. Yet to the red natives of the soil its results were wholly disastrous. Could the French have maintained their ground, the ruin of the Indian tribes might long have been postponed; but the victory of Quebec was the signal of their swift decline. Thenceforth they were destined to melt and vanish before the advancing waves of Anglo-American power, which now rolled westward unchecked and unopposed. They saw the danger, and, led by a great and daring champion, struggled fiercely to avert it. The history of that epoch, crowded as it is with scenes of tragic interest, with marvels of suffering and vicissitude, of heroism and endurance, has been, as yet, unwritten, buried in the archives of governments, or among the obscurer records of private adventure. To rescue it from oblivion is the object of the following work. It aims to portray the American forest and the American Indian at the period when both received their final doom.
It is evident that other study than that of the closet is indispensable to success in such an attempt. Habits of early reading had greatly aided to prepare me for the task; but necessary knowledge of a more practical kind has been supplied by the indulgence of a strong natural taste, which, at various intervals, led me to the wild regions of the north and west. Here, by the camp-fire, or in the canoe, I gained familiar acquaintance with the men and scenery of the wilderness. In
xxxii1846, I visited various primitive tribes of the Rocky Mountains, and was, for a time, domesticated in a village of the western Dahcotah, on the high plains between Mount Laramie and the range of the Medicine Bow.
The most troublesome part of the task was the collection of the necessary documents. These consisted of letters, journals, reports, and dispatches, scattered among numerous public offices, and private families, in Europe and America. When brought together, they amounted to about three thousand four hundred manuscript pages. Contemporary newspapers, magazines, and pamphlets have also been examined, and careful search made for every book which, directly or indirectly, might throw light upon the subject. I have visited the sites of all the principal events recorded in the narrative, and gathered such local traditions as seemed worthy of confidence.
I am indebted to the liberality of Hon. Lewis Cass for a curious collection of papers relating to the siege of Detroit by the Indians. Other important contributions have been obtained from the state paper offices of London and Paris, from the archives of New York, Pennsylvania, and other states, and from the manuscript collections of several historical societies. The late William L. Stone, Esq., commenced an elaborate biography of Sir William Johnson, which it is much to be lamented he did not live to complete. By the kindness of Mrs. Stone, I was permitted to copy from his extensive collection of documents, such portions as would serve the purposes of the following History.
To President Sparks of Harvard University, General Whiting, U. S. A., Brantz Mayer, Esq. of Baltimore, Francis J. Fisher, Esq. of Philadelphia, and Rev. George E. Ellis of Charlestown, I beg to return a warm acknowledgment for counsel and assistance. Mr. Benjamin Perley Poore and Mr. Henry Stevens procured copies of valuable documents from the archives of Paris and London. Henry R. Schoolcraft, Esq., Dr. Elwyn of Philadelphia, Dr. O'Callaghan of Albany, George H. Moore, Esq. of New York, Lyman C. Draper, Esq. of Philadelphia, Judge Law of Vincennes, and many others, have kindly contributed materials to the work. Nor can I
xxxiiiwithhold an expression of thanks to the aid so freely rendered in the dull task of proof-reading and correction.
The crude and promiscuous mass of materials presented an aspect by no means inviting. The field of the history was uncultured and unreclaimed, and the labour that awaited me was like that of the border settler, who, before he builds his rugged dwelling, must fell the forest-trees, burn the undergrowth, clear the ground, and hew the fallen trunks to due proportion.
Several obstacles have retarded the progress of the work. Of these, one of the most considerable was the condition of my sight, seriously, though not permanently, impaired. For about three years, the light of day was insupportable, and every attempt at reading or writing completely debarred. Under these circumstances, the task of sifting the materials and composing the work was begun and finished. The papers were repeatedly read aloud by an amanuensis, copious notes and extracts were made, and the narrative written down from my dictation. This process, though extremely slow and laborious, was not without its advantages; and I am well convinced that the authorities have been even more minutely examined, more scrupulously collated, and more thoroughly digested, than they would have been under ordinary circumstances.
In order to escape the tedious circumlocution, which, from the nature of the subject, could not otherwise have been avoided, the name English is applied, throughout the volume, to the British American colonists, as well as to the people of the mother country. The necessity is somewhat to be regretted, since, even at an early period, clear distinctions were visible between the offshoot and the parent stock.
Boston, August 1, 1851.
History--of the--Conspiracy of Pontiac
THE Indian is a true child of the forest and the desert. The wastes and solitudes of nature are his congenial home. His haughty mind is imbued with the spirit of the wilderness, and the light of civilization falls on him with a blighting power. His unruly pride and untamed freedom are in harmony with the lonely mountains, cataracts, and rivers among which he dwells; and primitive America, with her savage scenery and savage men, opens to the imagination a boundless world, unmatched in wild sublimity.
The Indians east of the Mississippi may be divided into several great families, each distinguished by a radical peculiarity of language. In their moral and intellectual, their social and political state, these various families exhibit strong shades of distinction; but, before pointing them out, I shall indicate a few prominent characteristics, which, faintly or distinctly, mark the whole in common.
All are alike a race of hunters, sustaining life wholly, or in part, by the fruits of the chase. Each family is split into tribes; and these tribes, by the exigencies of the hunter life, are again divided into sub-tribes, bands, or villages, often scattered far asunder, over a wide extent of wilderness.
2Unhappily for the strength and harmony of the Indian race, each tribe is prone to regard itself, not as the member of a great whole, but as a sovereign and independent nation, often arrogating to itself an importance superior to all the rest of mankind;
In an Indian community, each man is his own master. He abhors restraint, and owns no other authority than his own capricious will; and yet this wild notion of liberty is not inconsistent with certain gradations of rank and influence. Each tribe has its sachem, or civil chief, whose office is in a manner hereditary, and, among many, though by no means among all tribes, descends in the female line; so that the brother of the incumbent, or the son of his sister, and not his own son, is the rightful successor to his dignities.
3is drawn between the civil and military authority, though both are often united in the same person. The functions of war-chief may, for the most part, be exercised by any one whose prowess and reputation are sufficient to induce the young men to follow him to battle; and he may, whenever he thinks proper, raise a band of volunteers, and go out against the common enemy.
We might imagine that a society so loosely framed would soon resolve itself into anarchy; yet this is not the case, and an Indian village is singularly free from wranglings and petty strife. Several causes conspire to this result. The necessities of the hunter life, preventing the accumulation of large communities, make more stringent organization needless; while a species of self-control, inculcated from childhood upon every individual, enforced by a sentiment of dignity and manhood, and greatly aided by the peculiar temperament of the race, tends strongly to the promotion of harmony. Though he owns no law, the Indian is inflexible in his adherence to ancient usages and customs; and the principle of hero-worship, which belongs to his nature, inspires him with deep respect for the sages and captains of his tribe. The very rudeness of his condition, and the absence of the passions which wealth, luxury, and the other incidents of civilization engender, are favourable to internal harmony; and to the same cause must likewise be ascribed too many of his virtues, which would quickly vanish were he elevated from his savage state.
A peculiar social institution exists among the Indians, highly curious in its character; and though I am not prepared to say that it may be traced through all the tribes east of the Mississippi, yet its prevalence is so general, and its influence on political relations so important, as to claim especial attention. Indian communities, independently of their local distribution into tribes, bands, and villages, are composed of several distinct clans. Each clan has its emblem, consisting of the figure of some bird, beast, or reptile; and each is distinguished by the name of the animal which it thus bears as its device; as, for example, the clan of the Wolf, the Deer, the Otter, or the Hawk. In the language of the Algonquins, these emblems are
4known by the name of Totems.
To different totems attach different degrees of rank and dignity; and those of the Bear, the Tortoise, and the Wolf are among the first in honor. Each man is proud of his badge, jealously asserting its claims to respect; and the members of the same clan, though they may, perhaps, speak different dialects, and dwell far asunder, are yet bound together by the closest ties of fraternity. If a man is killed, every member of the clan feels called upon to avenge him; and the wayfarer, the hunter, or the warrior is sure of a cordial welcome in the distant lodge of the clansman whose face perhaps he has never seen. It may be added that certain privileges, highly prized as hereditary rights, sometimes reside in particular clans; such as that of furnishing a sachem to the tribe, or of performing certain religious ceremonies or magic rites.
The Indians east of the Mississippi may be divided into three great families: the Iroquois, the Algonquin, and the Mobilian, each speaking a language of its own, varied by numerous dialectic forms. To these families must be added a few stragglers from the great western race of the Dahcotah, besides several distinct tribes of the south, each
5of which has been regarded as speaking a tongue peculiar to itself.
Foremost in war, foremost in eloquence, foremost in their savage arts of policy, stood the fierce people called by themselves the Hodenosaunee, and by the French the Iroquois, a name which has since been applied to the entire family of which they formed the dominant member.
6the forests of Maine.
The Iroquois in some measure owed their triumphs to the position of their country; for they dwelt within the present limits of the State of New York, whence several great rivers and the inland oceans of the northern lakes opened ready thoroughfares to their roving warriors through all the adjacent wilderness. But the true fountain of their success is to be sought in their own inherent energies, wrought to the most effective action under a political fabric well suited to the Indian life; in their mental and moral organization; in their insatiable ambition and restless ferocity.
In their scheme of government, as in their social customs and religious observances, the Iroquois displayed, in full symmetry and matured strength, the same characteristics which in other tribes are found distorted, withered, decayed to the root, or, perhaps, faintly visible in an imperfect germ. They consisted of five tribes or nations — the Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Onondagas, the Cayugas, and the Senecas, to whom a sixth, the Tuscaroras, was afterwards added.
But the mainstay of Iroquois polity was the system of totemship. It was this which gave the structure its elastic strength; and but for this, a mere confederacy of jealous
8and warlike tribes must soon have been rent asunder by shocks from without or discord from within. At some early period, the Iroquois must have formed an individual nation; for the whole people, irrespective of their separation into tribes, consisted of eight totemic clans; and the members of each clan, to what nation soever they belonged, were mutually bound to one another by those close ties of fraternity which mark this singular institution. Thus the five nations of the confederacy were laced together by an eight-fold band; and to this hour their slender remnants cling to one another with invincible tenacity.
It was no small security to the liberties of the Iroquois — liberties which they valued beyond any other possession — that by the Indian custom of descent in the female line, which among them was more rigidly adhered to than elsewhere, the office of the sachem must pass, not to his son, but to his brother, his sister's son, or some yet remoter kinsman. His power was constantly deflected into the collateral branches of his family; and thus one of the strongest temptations of ambition was cut off.
9Iroquois had no laws; but they had ancient customs which took the place of laws. Each man, or rather each clan, was the avenger of its own wrongs; but the manner of the retaliation was fixed by established usage. The tribal sachems, and even the great council at Onondaga, had no power to compel the execution of their decrees; yet they were looked up to with a respect which the soldier's bayonet or the sheriffs staff would never have commanded; and it is highly to the honor of the Indian character that they could exert so great an authority where there was nothing to enforce it but the weight of moral power.
The origin of the Iroquois is lost in hopeless obscurity. That they came from the west; that they came from the north; that they sprang from the soil of New York, are the testimonies of three conflicting traditions, all equally worthless as aids to historic inquiry.
10of the Dutch in New York — that faint rays of light begin to pierce the gloom, and the chaotic traditions of the earlier epoch mould themselves into forms more palpable and distinct.
Taounyawatha, the God of the Waters — such is the belief of the Iroquois — descended to the earth to instruct his favourite people in the arts of savage life; and when he saw how they were tormented by giants, monsters, and evil spirits, he urged the divided tribes, for the common defense, to band themselves together in an everlasting league. While the injunction was as yet unfulfilled, the sacred messenger was recalled to the Great Spirit; but, before his departure, he promised that another should appear, empowered to instruct the people in all that pertained to their confederation. And accordingly, as a band of Mohawk warriors was threading the funereal labyrinth of an ancient pine forest, they heard, amid its blackest depths, a hoarse voice chanting in measured cadence; and, following the sound, they saw, seated among the trees, a monster of so hideous an aspect, that one and all they stood benumbed with terror. His features were wild and frightful. He was encompassed by hissing rattlesnakes, which, Medusa-like, hung writhing from his head; and on the ground around him were strewn implements of incantation, and magic vessels formed of human skulls. Recovering from their amazement, the warriors could perceive that in the mystic words of the chant, which he still poured forth, were couched the laws and principles of the destined confederacy. The tradition further declares that the monster, being surrounded and captured, was presently transformed to human shape, that he became a chief of transcendent wisdom and prowess, and to the day of his death ruled the councils of the now united tribes. To this hour the presiding sachem of the council at Onondaga inherits from him the honoured name of Atotarho.
The traditional epoch which preceded the auspicious event of the confederacy, though wrapped in clouds and
11darkness, and defying historic scrutiny, has yet a character and meaning of its own. The gloom is peopled thick with phantoms; with monsters and prodigies, shapes of wild enormity, yet offering, in the Teutonic strength of their conception, the evidence of a robustness of mind unparalleled among tribes of a different lineage. In these evil days, the scattered and divided Iroquois were beset with every form of peril and disaster. Giants, cased in armor of stone, descended on them from the mountains of the north. Huge beasts trampled down their forests like fields of grass. Human heads, with streaming hair and glaring eyeballs, shot through the air like meteors, shedding pestilence and death throughout the land. A great horned serpent rose from Lake Ontario; and only the thunderbolts of the skies could stay his ravages, and drive him back to his native deeps. The skeletons of men, victims of some monster of the forest, were seen swimming in the Lake of Teungktoo; and around the Seneca village on the Hill of Genundewah, a two-headed serpent coiled himself, of size so monstrous that the wretched people were unable to ascend his scaly sides, and perished in multitudes by his pestilential breath. Mortally wounded at length by the magic arrow of a child, he rolled down the steep, sweeping away the forest with his writhings, and plunging into the lake below, where he lashed the black waters till they boiled with blood and foam, and at length, exhausted with his agony, sank, and perished at the bottom. Under the falls of Niagara dwelt the Spirit of the Thunder, with his brood of giant sons; and the Iroquois trembled in their villages when, amid the blackening shadows of the storm, they heard his deep shout roll along the firmament.
The energy of fancy, whence these barbarous creations drew their birth, displayed itself, at a later period, in that peculiar eloquence which the wild democracy of the Iroquois tended to call forth, and to which the mountain and the forest, the torrent and the storm, lent their stores of noble imagery. That to this imaginative vigor was joined mental power of a different stamp, is witnessed by the caustic irony of Garangula and Sagoyewatha, and no less by the subtle policy, sagacious as it was treacherous,
12which marked the dealings of the Iroquois with surrounding tribes.
With all this intellectual superiority, the arts of life among them had not emerged from their primitive rudeness; and their coarse pottery, their spear and arrow heads of stone, were in no way superior to those of many other tribes. Their agriculture deserves a higher praise. In 1696, the invading army of Count Frontenac found the maize fields extending a league and a half or two leagues from their villages; and, in 1779, the troops of General Sullivan were filled with amazement at their abundant stores of corn, beans, and squashes, and at the ancient apple orchards which grew around their settlements.
Their dwellings and works of defence were far from contemptible, either in their dimensions or in their structure; and though by the several attacks of the French, and especially by the invasion of De Nonville, in 1687, and of Frontenac, nine years later, their fortified towns were leveled to the earth, never again to reappear; yet in the works of Champlain and other early writers we find abundant evidence of their pristine condition. Along the banks of the Mohawk, among the hills and hollows of Onondaga, in the forests of Oneida and Cayuga, on the romantic shores of Seneca Lake and the rich borders of the Genesee, surrounded by waving maize fields, and encircled from afar by the green margin of the forest, stood the ancient strongholds of the confederacy. The clustering dwellings were encompassed by palisades, in single, double, or triple rows, pierced with loopholes, furnished with
13platforms within, for the convenience of the defenders, with magazines of stones to hurl upon the heads of the enemy, and with water conductors to extinguish any fire which might be kindled from without.
The area which these defenses enclosed was often several acres in extent, and the dwellings, ranged in order within, were sometimes more than a hundred feet in length. Posts, firmly driven into the ground, with an intervening framework of poles, formed the basis of the structure; and its sides and arched roof were closely covered with layers of elm bark. Each of the larger dwellings contained several distinct families, whose separate fires were built along the central space, while compartments on each side, like the stalls of a stable, afforded some degree of privacy. Here, rude couches were prepared, and bear and deer skins spread; while above, the ripened ears of maize, suspended in rows, formed a golden tapestry.
In the long evenings of midwinter, when in the wilderness without the trees cracked with biting cold, and the forest paths were clogged with snow, then, around the lodge-fires of the Iroquois, warriors, squaws, and restless naked children were clustered in social groups, each dark face brightening in the fickle firelight, while, with jest and laugh, the pipe passed round from hand to hand. Perhaps some
14shrivelled old warrior, the story-teller of the tribe, recounted to attentive ears the deeds of ancient heroism, legends of spirits and monsters, or tales of witches and vampires — superstitions not less rife among this all-believing race, than among the nations of the transatlantic world.
The life of the Iroquois, though void of those multiplying phases which vary the routine of civilized existence, was one of sharp excitement and sudden contrast. The chase, the war-path, the dance, the festival, the game of hazard, the race of political ambition, all had their votaries. When the assembled sachems had resolved on war against some foreign tribe, and when, from their great council-house of bark, in the Valley of Onondaga, their messengers had gone forth to invite the warriors to arms, then from east to west, through the farthest bounds of the confederacy, a thousand warlike hearts caught up the summons with glad alacrity. With fasting and praying, and consulting dreams and omens; with invoking the war-god, and dancing the frantic war-dance, the warriors sought to insure the triumph of their arms; and, these strange rites concluded, they began their stealthy progress full of confidence through the devious pathways of the forest. For days and weeks, in anxious expectation, the villagers await the result. And now, as evening closes, a shrill, wild cry, pealing
15from afar, over the darkening forest, proclaims the return of the victorious warriors. The village is alive with sudden commotion; and snatching sticks and stones, knives and hatchets, men, women, and children, yelling like fiends let loose, swarm out of the narrow portal, to visit upon the miserable captives a foretaste of the deadlier torments in store for them. And now, the black arches of the forest glow with the fires of death; and with brandished torch and firebrand the frenzied multitude close around their victim. The pen shrinks to write, the heart sickens to conceive, the fierceness of his agony; yet still, amid the din of his tormentors, rises his clear voice of scorn and defiance. The work is done; the blackened trunk is flung to the dogs, and, with clamorous shouts and hootings, the murderers seek to drive away the spirit of their victim.
The Iroquois reckoned these barbarities among their most exquisite enjoyments; and yet they had other sources of pleasure, which made up in frequency and in innocence all that they lacked in intensity. Each passing season had its feasts and dances, often mingling religion with social pastime. The young had their frolics and merry-makings; and the old had their no less frequent councils, where conversation and laughter alternated with grave deliberations for the public weal. There were also stated periods marked by the recurrence of momentous ceremonies, in which the whole community took part — the mystic sacrifice of the dogs, the wild orgies of the dream feast, and
16the loathsome festival of the exhumation of the dead. Yet in the intervals of war and hunting, these multiform occupations would often fail; and, while the women were toiling in the cornfields, the lazy warriors vainly sought relief from the scanty resources of their own minds, and beguiled the hours with smoking or sleeping, with gambling or gallantry.
If we seek for a single trait preeminently characteristic of the Iroquois, we shall find it in that boundless pride which impelled them to style themselves, not inaptly as regards their own race, "the men surpassing all others."
From this remarkable people, who with all the ferocity of their race blended heroic virtues and marked endowments of intellect, I pass to other members of the same great family, whose different fortunes may perhaps be ascribed rather to the force of circumstance than to any intrinsic inferiority.
The peninsula between the Lakes Huron, Erie, and Ontario was occupied by two distinct peoples, speaking dialects of the Iroquois tongue. The Hurons or Wyandots, including the formidable bands called by the French the Dionondadies, or Tobacco Nation,
The population of the Hurons has been variously stated at from ten thousand to thirty thousand souls, but probably did not exceed the former estimate. The Franciscans and the Jesuits were early among them, and from their copious descriptions it is apparent that, in legends and superstitions, manners and habits, religious observances and social customs, this people were closely assimilated to their brethren of the Five Nations. Their capacious dwellings of bark, and their palisaded forts, seemed copied after the same model.
18wrought them into a system, and woven them into a harmonious whole.
Like the Five Nations, the Wyandots were in some measure an agricultural people; they bartered the surplus products of their maize fields to surrounding tribes, usually receiving fish in exchange; and this traffic was so considerable, that the Jesuits styled their country the Granary of the Algonquins.
Their prosperity was rudely broken by the rancorous hostilities of the Five Nations; for though the conflicting parties were not ill matched in point of numbers, yet the united counsels and ferocious energies of the confederacy swept all before them. In the year 1649, in the depth of winter, their warriors invaded the country of the Wyandots, stormed their largest villages, and involved all within in indiscriminate slaughter.
Some found refuge among the French of Canada, where, at the village of Lorette, near Quebec, their descendants still remain; others were incorporated with their conquerors; while others again fled northward, beyond Lake Superior, and sought an asylum among the desolate wastes which bordered on the north-eastern bands of the Dahcotah. Driven back by those fierce bison-hunters, they next established themselves about the outlet of Lake Superior, and the shores and islands in the northern parts of Lake Huron. Thence, about the year 1680, they descended to Detroit, where they formed a permanent settlement, and where, by their superior valour, capacity, and address, they soon acquired a marvellous ascendency over the surrounding Algonquins.
The ruin of the Neutral Nation followed close on that of the Wyandots, to whom, according to Jesuit authority, they bore an exact resemblance in character and manners.
19The Senecas soon found means to pick a quarrel with them; they were assailed by all the strength of the insatiable confederacy, and within a few years their destruction as a nation was complete.
South of Lake Erie dwelt two potent members of the Iroquois family. The Andastes built their villages along the valleys of the Alleghany and the Upper Ohio; while the Erigas, or Eries, occupied the borders of the lake which still retains their name. Of these two nations little is known, for the Jesuits had no missions among them, and few traces of them survive beyond their names and the record of their destruction. The war with the Wyandots was scarcely over, when the Five Nations turned their fratricidal arms against their Erie brethren.
In the year 1655, using their canoes as scaling ladders, they stormed the Erie strongholds, leaped down like tigers among the defenders, and butchered them without mercy.
Thus, within less than a quarter of a century, four nations, the most brave and powerful of the North American savages, sank before the arms of the confederates. Nor did their triumphs end here. Within the same short space they subdued their southern neighbours the Lenape,
20north, the west, and the south, their conquests embraced every adjacent tribe; and meanwhile their war parties were harassing the French of Canada with reiterated inroads, and yelling the war-whoop under the very walls of Quebec.
They were the worst of conquerors. Inordinate pride, the lust of blood and dominion, were the mainsprings of their warfare; and their victories were stained with every excess of savage passion. That their triumphs must have cost them dear; that, in spite of their cautious tactics, these multiplied conflicts must have greatly abridged their strength, would appear inevitable. Their losses were, in fact, considerable; but every breach was repaired by means of a practice which they, in common with other tribes, constantly adhered to. When their vengeance was glutted by the sacrifice of a sufficient number of captives, they spared the lives of the remainder, and adopted them as members of their confederated tribes, separating wives from husbands, and children from parents, and distributing them among different villages, in order that old ties and associations might be more completely broken up. This policy, as Schoolcraft informs us, was designated among them by a name which signifies "flesh cut into pieces and scattered among the tribes."
In the years 1714-15, the confederacy received a great accession of strength. Southwards, about the head waters of the rivers Neuse and Tar, and separated from their kindred tribes by intervening Algonquin communities, dwelt the Tuscaroras, a warlike people belonging to the generic stock of the Iroquois. The wrongs inflicted by white settlers, and their own undistinguishing vengeance, involved them in a war with the colonists, which resulted in their defeat and expulsion. They emigrated to the Five Nations, whose allies they had been in former wars with southern tribes, and who now gladly received them, admitting them, as a sixth nation, into their confederacy, and assigning to their sachems a seat in the council-house at Onondaga.
It is a remark of Gallatin, that, in their career of conquest, the Five Nations encountered more stubborn resistance from the tribes of their own family, than from those of a different lineage. In truth, all the scions of this warlike
21stock seem endued with singular vitality and force, and among them we must seek for the best type of the Indian character. Few tribes could match them in prowess and constancy, in moral energy and intellectual vigour. The Jesuits remarked that they were more intelligent, yet less tractable, than other savages; and Charlevoix observes that, though the Algonquins were readily converted, they made but fickle proselytes; while the Hurons, though not easily won over to the church, were far more faithful in their adherence.
Besides these inherent qualities, the tribes of the Iroquois race derived great advantages from their superior social organization. They were all, more or less, tillers of the soil, and were thus enabled to concentrate a more numerous population than the scattered tribes who live by the chase alone. In their well-peopled and well-constructed villages, they dwelt together the greater part of the year; and thence the religious rites and social and political usages, which elsewhere existed only in the germ, attained among them a full and perfect development. Yet these advantages were not without alloy, and the Jesuits were not slow to remark that the stationary and thriving Iroquois were more loose in their observance of social ties, than the wandering and starving savages of the north.
Except the detached nation of the Tuscaroras, and a few smaller tribes adhering to them, the Iroquois family were confined to the region south of the Lakes Erie and Ontario,
22and the peninsula east of Lake Huron. They formed, as it were, an island in the vast expanse of Algonquin population, extending from Hudson's Bay on the north to the Carolinas on the south; from the Atlantic on the east to the Mississippi and Lake Winnipeg on the west. They were Algonquins who greeted Jacques Cartier, as his ships ascended the St. Lawrence. The first British colonists found savages of the same race hunting and fishing along the coasts and inlets of Virginia; and it was the daughter of an Algonquin chief who interceded with her father for the life of the adventurous Englishman. They were Algonquins who, under Sassacus the Pequot, and Philip of Mount Hope, waged deadly war against the Puritans of New England; who dwelt at Penacook, under the rule of the great magician, Passaconaway, and trembled before the evil spirits of the Crystal Hills; and who sang aves and told their beads in the forest chapel of Father Rasles, by the banks of the Kennebec. They were Algonquins who, under the great tree at Kensington, made the covenant of peace with William Penn; and when French Jesuits and fur-traders explored the Wabash and the Ohio, they found their valleys tenanted by the same far-extended race. At the present day, the traveller, perchance, may find them pitching their bark lodges along the beach at Mackinaw, spearing fish among the boiling rapids of St. Mary's, or skimming the waves of Lake Superior in their birch canoes.
Of all the members of the Algonquin family, those called by the English the Delawares, by the French the Loups, and by themselves Lenni Lenape, or Original Men, hold the first claim to attention; for their traditions declare them to be the parent stem whence other Algonquin tribes have sprung. The latter recognized the claim, and, at all solemn councils, accorded to the ancestral tribe the title of Grandfather.
The first European colonists found the conical lodges of
23the Lenape clustered in frequent groups about the waters of the Delaware and its tributary streams, within the present limits of New Jersey, and Eastern Pennsylvania. The nation was separated into three divisions, and three sachems formed a triumvirate, who, with the council of old men, regulated all its affairs.
When William Penn held his far-famed council with the sachems of the Lenape, he extended the hand of brotherhood to a people as unwarlike in their habits as his own pacific followers. This is by no means to be ascribed to any inborn love of peace. The Lenape were then in a state of degrading vassalage, victims to the domineering power of the Five Nations, who, that they might drain to the dregs the cup of humiliation, had forced them to assume the name of Women, and forego the use of arms.
24no longer women, but men.
Adjacent to the Lenape, and associated with them in some of the most momentous passages of their history, dwelt the Shawanoes, the Chaouanons of the French, a tribe of bold, roving, and adventurous spirit. Their eccentric wanderings, their sudden appearances and disappearances, perplex the antiquary, and defy research; but from various scattered notices, we may gather that at an early period they occupied the valley of the Ohio; that, becoming embroiled with the Five Nations, they shared the defeat of the Andastes, and about the year 1672 fled to escape destruction. Some found an asylum in the country of the Lenape, where they lived tenants at will of the Five Nations; others sought refuge in the Carolinas and Florida, where, true to their native instincts, they soon came to blows with the owners of the soil. Again, turning northwards, they formed new settlements in the valley of the Ohio, where they were now suffered to dwell in peace, and where, at a later period, they were joined by such of their brethren as had found refuge among the Lenape.
Of the tribes which, single and detached, or cohering in loose confederacies, dwelt within the limits of Lower
25Canada, Acadia, and New England, it is needless to speak; for they offered no distinctive traits demanding notice. Passing the country of the Lenape and the Shawanoes, and descending the Ohio, the traveller would have found its valley chiefly occupied by two nations, the Miamis or Twightwees, on the Wabash and its branches, and the Illinois, who dwelt in the neighbourhood of the river to which they have given their name. Though never subjugated, as were the Lenape, both the Miamis and the Illinois were reduced to the last extremity by the repeated attacks of the Five Nations; and the Illinois, in particular, suffered so much by these and other wars, that the population of ten or twelve thousand, ascribed to them by the early French writers, had dwindled, during the first quarter of the eighteenth century, to a few small villages.
Turning his course northward, traversing Lakes Michigan and Superior, and skirting the western margin of Lake Huron, the voyager would have found the solitudes of the wild waste around him broken by scattered lodges of the Ojibwas, Pottawattamies, and Ottawas. About the bays and rivers west of Lake Michigan, he would have seen the Sacs, the Foxes, and the Menomonies; and penetrating the frozen wilderness of the north, he would have been welcomed by the rude hospitality of the wandering Kniste-neaux.
The Ojibwas, with their kindred, the Pottawattamies, and their friends the Ottawas, — the latter of whom were fugitives from the eastward, whence they had fled from the wrath of the Iroquois, — were banded into a sort of
In their mode of life, they were far more rude than the Iroquois, or even the southern Algonquin tribes. The totemic system is found among them in its most imperfect state. The original clans have become broken into fragments, and indefinitely multiplied; and many of the ancient customs of the institution are but loosely regarded. Agriculture is little known, and, through summer and winter, they range the wilderness with restless wandering, now gorged to repletion, and now perishing with want. In the calm days of summer, the Ojibwa fisherman pushes out his birch canoe upon the great inland ocean of the north; and, as he gazes down into the pellucid depths, he seems like one balanced between earth and sky. The watchful fish-hawk circles above his head; and below, farther than his line will reach, he sees the trout glide shadowy and silent over the glimmering pebbles. The little islands on the verge of the horizon seem now starting into spires, now melting from the sight, now shaping themselves into a thousand fantastic forms, with the strange mirage of the waters; and he fancies that the evil spirits of the lake lie basking their serpent forms on those unhallowed shores. Again, he explores the watery labyrinths where the stream sweeps among pine-tufted islands, or runs, black and deep, beneath the shadows of moss-bearded firs; or he lifts his canoe upon the sandy beach, and, while his camp-fire crackles on the grass-plat, reclines beneath the trees, and smokes and laughs away the sultry hours, in a lazy luxury of enjoyment.
But when winter descends upon the north, sealing up the
27fountains, fettering the streams, and turning the green-robed forests to shivering nakedness, then, bearing their frail dwellings on their backs, the Ojibwa family wander forth into the wilderness, cheered only on their dreary track by the whistling of the north wind, and the hungry howl of wolves. By the banks of some frozen stream, women and children, men and dogs, lie crouched together around the fire. They spread their benumbed fingers over the embers, while the wind shrieks through the fir-trees like the gale through the rigging of a frigate, and the narrow concave of the wigwam sparkles with the frost-work of their congealed breath. In vain they beat the magic drum, and call upon their guardian manitoes;— the wary moose keeps aloof, the bear lies close in his hollow tree, and famine stares them in the face. And now the hunter can fight no more against the nipping cold and blinding sleet. Stiff and stark, with haggard cheek and shrivelled lip, he lies among the snow drifts; till, with tooth and claw, the famished wildcat strives in vain to pierce the frigid marble of his limbs. Such harsh schooling is thrown away on the incorrigible mind of the northern Algonquin. He lives in misery, as his fathers lived before him. Still, in the brief hour of plenty he forgets the season of want; and still the sleet and the snow descend upon his houseless head.
I have thus passed in brief review the more prominent of the Algonquin tribes; those whose struggles and sufferings form the theme of the ensuing History. In speaking of the Iroquois, some of the distinctive peculiarities of the Algonquins have already been hinted at. It must be admitted that, in moral stability and intellectual vigour, they are inferior to the former; though some of the most conspicuous offspring of the wilderness, Metacom, Tecumseh, and Pontiac himself, boasted their blood and language.
The fireside stories of every primitive people are faithful reflections of the form and colouring of the national mind; and it is no proof of sound philosophy to turn with contempt
28from the study of a fairy tale. The legendary lore of the Iroquois, black as the midnight forests, awful in its gloomy strength, is but another manifestation of that spirit of mastery which uprooted whole tribes from the earth, and deluged the wilderness with blood. The traditionary tales of the Algonquins wear a different aspect. The credulous circle around an Ojibwa lodge-fire listened to wild recitals of necromancy and witchcraft — men transformed to beasts, and beasts transformed to men, animated trees, and birds who spoke with human tongue. They heard of malignant sorcerers dwelling among the lonely islands of spell-bound lakes; of grisly weendigoes, and bloodless geebi; of evil manitoes lurking in the dens and fastnesses of the woods; of pygmy champions, diminutive in stature, but mighty in soul, who, by the potency of charm and talisman, subdued the direst monsters of the waste; and of heroes, who, not by downright force and open onset, but by subtle strategy, by trick or magic art, achieved marvellous triumphs over the brute force of their assailants. Sometimes the tale will breathe a different spirit, and tell of orphan children abandoned in the heart of a hideous wilderness, beset with fiends and cannibals. Some enamoured maiden, scornful of earthly suitors, plights her troth to the graceful manito of the grove; or bright aerial beings, dwellers of the sky, descend to tantalize the gaze of mortals with evanescent forms of loveliness.
The mighty giant, the God of the Thunder, who made his home among the caverns, beneath the cataract of Niagara, was a conception which the deep imagination of the Iroquois might fitly engender. The Algonquins held a simpler faith, and maintained that the thunder was a bird who built his nest on the pinnacle of towering mountains. Two daring boys once scaled the height, and thrust sticks into the eyes of the portentous nestlings; which hereupon flashed forth such wrathful scintillations, that the sticks were shivered to atoms.
29The religious belief of the Algonquins — and the remark holds good, not of the Algonquins only, but of all the hunting tribes of America — is a cloudy bewilderment, where we seek in vain for system or coherency. Among a primitive and savage people, there were no poets to vivify its images, no priests to give distinctness and harmony to its rites and symbols. To the Indian mind, all nature was instinct with deity. A spirit was embodied in every mountain, lake, and cataract; every bird, beast, or reptile, every tree, shrub, or grass-blade, was endued with mystic influence; yet this untutored pantheism did not exclude the conception of certain divinities, of incongruous and ever-shifting attributes. The sun, too, was a god, and the moon was a goddess. Conflicting powers of good and evil divided the universe; but if, before the arrival of Europeans, the Indian recognized the existence of a one, almighty, self-existent Being, the Great Spirit, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, the belief was so vague and dubious as scarcely to deserve the name. His perceptions of moral good and evil were perplexed and shadowy; and the belief in a state of future reward and punishment was by no means of universal prevalence.
Of the Indian character, much has been written foolishly, and credulously believed. By the rhapsodies of poets, the cant of sentimentalists, and the extravagance of some who should have known better, a counterfeit image has been tricked out, which might seek in vain for its likeness through every corner of the habitable earth; an image bearing no
30more resemblance to its original than the monarch of the tragedy and the hero of the epic poem bear to their living prototypes in the palace and the camp. The shadows of his wilderness home, and the darker mantle of his own inscrutable reserve, have made the Indian warrior a wonder and a mystery. Yet to the eye of rational observation there is nothing unintelligible in him. He is full, it is true, of contradiction. He deems himself the centre of greatness and renown; his pride is proof against the fiercest torments of fire and steel; and yet the same man would beg for a dram of whiskey, or pick up a crust of bread thrown to him like a dog, from the tent door of the traveller. At one moment, he is wary and cautious to the verge of cowardice; at the next, he abandons himself to a very insanity of recklessness; and the habitual self-restraint which throws an impenetrable veil over emotion is joined to the wild, impetuous passions of a beast or a madman.
Such inconsistencies, strange as they seem in our eyes, when viewed under a novel aspect, are but the ordinary incidents of humanity. The qualities of the mind are not uniform in their action through all the relations of life. With different men, and different races of men, pride, valour, prudence, have different forms of manifestation, and where in one instance they lie dormant, in another they are keenly awake. The conjunction of greatness and littleness, meanness and pride, is older than the days of the patriarchs; and such antiquated phenomena, displayed under a new form in the unreflecting, undisciplined mind of a savage, call for no special wonder, but should rather be classed with the other enigmas of the fathomless human heart. The dissecting knife of a Rochefoucault might lay bare matters of no less curious observation in the breast of every man.
Nature has stamped the Indian with a hard and stern physiognomy. Ambition, revenge, envy, jealousy, are his ruling passions; and his cold temperament is little exposed to those effeminate vices which are the bane of milder races. With him revenge is an overpowering instinct; nay, more, it is a point of honour and a duty. His pride sets all language at defiance. He loathes the thought of coercion; and few of his race have ever stooped to discharge a menial
31office. A wild love of liberty, an utter intolerance of control, lie at the basis of his character, and fire his whole existence. Yet, in spite of this haughty independence, he is a devout hero-worshipper; and high achievement in war or policy touches a chord to which his nature never fails to respond. He looks up with admiring reverence to the sages and heroes of his tribe; and it is this principle, joined to the respect for age, which springs from the patriarchal element in his social system, which, beyond all others, contributes union and harmony to the erratic members of an Indian community. With him the love of glory kindles into a burning passion; and to allay its cravings, he will dare cold and famine, fire, tempest, torture, and death itself.
These generous traits are overcast by much that is dark, cold, and sinister, by sleepless distrust, and rankling jealousy. Treacherous himself, he is always suspicious of treachery in others. Brave as he is, — and few of mankind are braver, — he will vent his passion by a secret stab rather than an open blow. His warfare is full of ambuscade and stratagem; and he never rushes into battle with that joyous self-abandonment, with which the warriors of the Gothic races flung themselves into the ranks of their enemies. In his feasts and his drinking-bouts we find none of that robust and full-toned mirth which reigned at the rude carousals of our barbaric ancestry. He is never jovial in his cups, and maudlin sorrow or maniacal rage is the sole result of his potations.
Over all emotion he throws the veil of an iron self-control, originating in a peculiar form of pride, and fostered by rigorous discipline from childhood upward. He is trained to conceal passion, and not to subdue it. The inscrutable warrior is aptly imaged by the hackneyed figure of a volcano covered with snow; and no man can say when or where the wild-fire will burst forth. This shallow self-mastery serves to give dignity to public deliberation, and harmony to social life. Wrangling and quarrel are strangers to an Indian dwelling; and while an assembly of the ancient Gauls was garrulous as a convocation of magpies, a Roman senate might have taken a lesson from the grave solemnity of an Indian council. In the midst of his family
32and friends, he hides affections, by nature none of the most tender, under a mask of icy coldness; and in the torturing fires of his enemy, the haughty sufferer maintains to the last his look of grim defiance.
His intellect is as peculiar as his moral organization. Among all savages, the powers of perception preponderate over those of reason and analysis; but this is more especially the case with the Indian. An acute judge of character, at least of such parts of it as his experience enables him to comprehend; keen to a proverb in all exercises of war and the chase, he seldom traces effects to their causes, or follows out actions to their remote results. Though a close observer of external nature, he no sooner attempts to account for her phenomena than he involves himself in the most ridiculous absurdities; and quite content with these puerilities, he has not the least desire to push his inquiries further. His curiosity, abundantly active within its own narrow circle, is dead to all things else; and to attempt rousing it from its torpor is but a bootless task. He seldom takes cognizance of general or abstract ideas; and his language has scarcely the power to express them, except through the medium of figures drawn from the external world, and often highly picturesque and forcible. The absence of reflection makes him grossly improvident, and unfits him for pursuing any complicated scheme of war or policy.
Some races of men seem moulded in wax, soft and melting, at once plastic and feeble. Some races, like some metals, combine the greatest flexibility with the greatest strength. But the Indian is hewn out of a rock. You cannot change the form without destruction of the substance. Such, at least, has too often proved the case. Races of inferior energy have possessed a power of expansion and assimilation to which he is a stranger; and it is this fixed and rigid quality which has proved his ruin. He will not learn the arts of civilization, and he and his forest must perish together. The stern, unchanging features of his mind excite our admiration, from their very immutability; and we look with deep interest on the fate of this irreclaimable son of the wilderness, the child who will not be
33weaned from the breast of his rugged mother. And our interest increases when we discern in the unhappy wanderer, mingled among his vices, the germs of heroic virtues — a hand bountiful to bestow, as it is rapacious to seize, and, even in extremest famine, imparting its last morsel to a fellow-sufferer; a heart which, strong in friendship as in hate, thinks it not too much to lay down life for its chosen comrade; a soul true to its own idea of honour, and burning with an unquenchable thirst for greatness and renown.
The imprisoned lion in the showman's cage differs not more widely from the lord of the desert, than the beggarly frequenter of frontier garrisons and dramshops differs from the proud denizen of the woods. It is in his native wilds alone that the Indian must be seen and studied. Thus to depict him is the aim of the ensuing History; and if, from the shades of rock and forest, the savage features should look too grimly forth, it is because the clouds of a tempestuous war have cast upon the picture their murky shadows and lurid fires.
THE American colonies of France and England grew up to maturity under widely different auspices. Canada, the offspring of Church and State, nursed from infancy in the lap of power, its puny strength fed with artificial stimulants, its movements guided by rule and discipline, its limbs trained to martial exercise, languished, in spite of all, from the lack of vital sap and energy. The colonies of England, outcast and neglected, but strong in native vigour and self-confiding courage, grew yet more strong with conflict and with striving, and developed the rugged proportions and unwieldy strength of a youthful giant.
In the valley of the St. Lawrence, and along the coasts of the Atlantic, adverse principles contended for the mastery. Feudalism stood arrayed against Democracy; Popery against Protestantism; the sword against the ploughshare. The priest, the soldier, and the noble, ruled in Canada. The ignorant, light-hearted Canadian peasant knew nothing and cared nothing about popular rights and civil liberties. Born to obey, he lived in contented submission, without the wish or the capacity for self-rule. Power, centred in the heart of the system, left the masses inert. The settlements along the margin of the St. Lawrence were like a far-extended camp, where an army lay at rest, ready for the march or the battle, and where war and adventure, not trade and tillage, seemed the chief aims of life. The lords of the soil were noblemen, for the most part soldiers, or the sons of soldiers, proud and ostentatious, thriftless and poor; and the people were their vassals. Over every cluster of small white houses glittered the sacred emblem of the cross. The church, the convent, and the roadside shrine were seen at every turn; and in the
35towns and villages, one met each moment the black robe of the Jesuit, the grey garb of the Recollet, and the formal habit of the Ursuline nun. The names of saints, St. Joseph, St. Ignatius, St. Francis, were perpetuated in the capes, rivers, and islands, the forts and villages of the land, and, with every day, crowds of simple worshippers knelt in adoration before the countless altars of the Roman faith.
If we search the world for the sharpest contrast to the spiritual and temporal vassalage of Canada, we shall find it among her immediate neighbours, the stern Puritans of New England, where the spirit of nonconformity was sublimed to a fiery essence, and where the love of liberty and the hatred of power burned with sevenfold heat. The English colonist, with thoughtful brow and limbs hardened with toil; calling no man master, yet bowing reverently to the law which he himself had made; patient and laborious, and seeking for the solid comforts rather than the ornaments of life; no lover of war, yet, if need were, fighting with a stubborn, indomitable courage, and then bending once more with steadfast energy to his farm, or his merchandise, — such a man might well be deemed the very pith and marrow of a commonwealth.
In every quality of efficiency and strength, the Canadian fell miserably below his rival; but in all that pleases the eye and interests the imagination, he far surpassed him. Buoyant and gay, like his ancestry of France, he made the frozen wilderness ring with merriment, answered the surly howling of the pine forest with peals of laughter, and warmed with revelry the groaning ice of the St. Lawrence. Careless and thoughtless, he lived happy in the midst of poverty, content if he could but gain the means to fill his tobacco-pouch, and decorate the cap of his mistress with a painted ribbon. The example of a beggared nobility, who, proud and penniless, could only assert their rank by idleness and ostentation, was not lost upon him. A rightful heir to French bravery and French restlessness, he had an eager love of wandering and adventure; and this propensity found ample scope in the service of the fur-trade, the engrossing occupation and chief source of income to the colony. When the priest of St. Ann's had shrived him of his sins; when, after the parting carousal,
36he embarked with his comrades in the deep-laden canoe; when their oars kept time to the measured cadence of their song, and the blue, sunny bosom of the Ottawa opened before them; when their frail bark quivered among the milky foam and black rocks of the rapid; and when, around their camp-fire, they wasted half the night with jests and laughter, — then the Canadian was in his element. His footsteps explored the farthest hiding-places of the wilderness. In the evening dance, his red cap mingled with the scalp-locks and feathers of the Indian braves; or, stretched on a bear-skin by the side of his dusky mistress, he watched the gambols of his hybrid offspring, in happy oblivion of the partner whom he left unnumbered leagues behind.
The fur-trade engendered a peculiar class of restless bushrangers, more akin to Indians than to white men. Those who had once felt the fascinations of the forest were unfitted ever after for a life of quiet labour; and with this spirit the whole colony was infected. From this cause, no less than from occasional wars with the English, and repeated attacks of the Iroquois, the agriculture of the country was sunk to a low ebb; while feudal exactions, a ruinous system of monopoly, and the intermeddlings of arbitrary power, cramped every branch of industry.
Such excursive enterprise was alien to the genius of the British colonies. Daring activity was rife among them, but it did not aim at the founding of military outposts and forest missions. By the force of energetic industry, their population swelled with an unheard-of rapidity, their wealth
37increased in a yet greater ratio, and their promise of future greatness opened with every advancing year. But it was a greatness rather of peace than of war. The free institutions, the independence of authority, which were the source of their increase, were adverse to that unity of counsel and promptitude of action which are the soul of war. It was far otherwise with their military rival. France had her Canadian forces well in hand. They had but one will, and that was the will of a mistress. Now here, now there, in sharp and rapid onset, they could assail the cumbrous masses and unwieldy strength of their antagonists, as the king-bird attacks the eagle, or the swordfish the whale. Between two such combatants the strife must needs be a long one.
Canada was a true child of the Church, baptized in infancy and faithful to the last. Champlain, the founder of Quebec, a man of noble spirit, a statesman and a soldier, was deeply imbued with fervid piety. "The saving of a soul," he would often say, "is worth more than the conquest of an empire";
38her voyage, the storm was ascribed to the malice of demons, trembling for the safety of their ancient empire.
The general enthusiasm was not without its fruits. The Church could pay back with usury all that she received of aid and encouragement from the temporal power; and the ambition of Louis XIII. could not have devised a more efficient enginery for the accomplishment of its schemes, than that supplied by the zeal of the devoted propagandists. The priest and the soldier went hand in hand; and the cross and the fleur de lis were planted side by side.
Foremost among the envoys of the faith were the members of that singular order, who, in another hemisphere, had already done so much to turn back the advancing tide of religious freedom, and strengthen the arm of Rome. To the Jesuits was assigned, for many years, the entire charge of the Canadian missions, to the exclusion of the Franciscans, early labourers in the same barren field. Inspired with a self-devoting zeal to snatch souls from perdition, and win new empires to the cross; casting from them every hope of earthly pleasure or earthly aggrandizement, the Jesuit fathers buried themselves in deserts, facing death with the courage of heroes and enduring torments with the constancy of martyrs. Their story is replete with marvels — miracles of patient suffering and daring enterprise. They were the pioneers of Northern America.
39Iroquois, like a man who invades unarmed a den of angry tigers. Jesuit explorers traced the St. Lawrence to its source, and said masses among the solitudes of Lake Superior, where the boldest fur-trader scarcely dared to follow. They planted missions at St. Mary's and at Michillimackinac,
The path of the missionary was a thorny and a bloody one; and a life of weary apostleship was often crowned with a frightful martyrdom. Jean de Brebeuf and Gabriel Lallemant preached the faith among the villages of the Hurons, when their terror-stricken flock were overwhelmed by an irruption of the Iroquois.
The slender frame of Lallemant, a man young in years and gentle in spirit, was enveloped in blazing savin-bark. Again and again the fire was extinguished; again and again it was kindled afresh; and with such fiendish ingenuity were his torments protracted, that he lingered for seventeen hours before death came to his relief.
Isaac Jogues, taken captive by the Iroquois, was led from canton to canton, and village to village, enduring fresh torments and indignities at every stage of his progress.
40begun; to illumine the moral darkness upon which, during the months of his disastrous captivity, he fondly hoped that he had thrown some rays of light. Once more he bent his footsteps towards the scene of his living martyrdom, saddened with a deep presentiment that he was advancing to his death. Nor were his forebodings untrue. In a village of the Mohawks, the blow of a tomahawk closed his mission and his life.
Such intrepid self-devotion may well call forth our highest admiration; but when we seek for the results of these toils and sacrifices, we shall seek in vain. Patience and zeal were thrown away upon lethargic minds and stubborn hearts. The reports of the Jesuits, it is true, display a copious list of conversions; but the zealous fathers reckoned the number of conversions by the number of baptisms; and, as Le Clercq observes, with no less truth than candour, an Indian would be baptized ten times a day for a pint of brandy or a pound of tobacco. Neither can more flattering conclusions be drawn from the alacrity which they showed to adorn their persons with crucifixes and medals. The glitter of the trinkets pleased the fancy of the warrior; and, with the emblem of man's salvation pendent from his neck, he was often at heart as thorough a heathen as when he wore in its place a necklace made of the dried forefingers of his enemies. At the present day, with the exception of a few insignificant bands of converted Indians in Lower Canada, not a vestige of early Jesuit influence can be found among the tribes. The seed was sown upon a rock.
While the church was reaping but a scanty harvest, the labours of the missionaries were fruitful of profit to the monarch of France. The Jesuit led the van of French colonization; and at Detroit, Michillimackinac, St. Mary's, Green Bay, and other outposts of the west, the establishment of a mission was the precursor of military occupancy. In other respects no less, the labours of the wandering missionaries advanced the welfare of the colony. Sagacious
41and keen of sight, with faculties stimulated by zeal and sharpened by peril, they made faithful report of the temper and movements of the distant tribes among whom they were distributed. The influence which they often gained was exerted in behalf of the government under whose auspices their missions were carried on; and they strenuously laboured to win over the tribes to the French alliance, and alienate them from the heretic English. In all things they approved themselves the staunch and steadfast auxiliaries of the imperial power; and the Marquis du Quesne observed of the missionary Picquet, that in his single person he was worth ten regiments.
Among the English colonies, the pioneers of civilization were for the most part rude, yet vigorous men, impelled to enterprise by native restlessness, or lured by the hope of gain. Their range was limited, and seldom extended far beyond the outskirts of the settlements. With Canada it was far otherwise. There was no energy in the bulk of her people. The court and the army supplied the main springs of her vital action, and the hands which planted the lilies of France in the heart of the wilderness had never guided the ploughshare or wielded the spade. The love of adventure, the ambition of new discovery, the hope of military advancement, urged men of place and culture to embark on bold and comprehensive enterprise. Many a gallant gentleman, many a nobleman of France, trod the black mould and oozy mosses of the forest with feet that had pressed the carpets of Versailles. They whose youth had passed in camps and courts grew grey among the wigwams of savages; and the lives of Castine, Joncaire, and Priber
Conspicuous in the annals of Canada stands the memorable name of Robert Cavalier de La Salle, the man who,
42beyond all his compeers, contributed to expand the boundary of French empire in the west. La Salle commanded at Fort Frontenac, erected near the outlet of Lake Ontario, on its northern shore, and then forming the most advanced military outpost of the colony. Here he dwelt among Indians, and half-breeds, traders, voyageurs, bushrangers, and Franciscan monks. He ruled his little empire with absolute sway, enforcing respect by his energy, but offending many by his rigour. Here he brooded upon the grand design which had long engaged his thoughts. He had resolved to complete the achievement of Father Marquette, to trace the unknown Mississippi to its mouth, to plant the standard of his king in the newly discovered regions, and found colonies which should make good the sovereignty of France from the Frozen Ocean to Mexico. Ten years of his early life had passed in connection with the Jesuits, and his strong mind had hardened to iron under the discipline of that relentless school. To a sound judgment, and a penetrating sagacity, he joined a boundless enterprise and an adamantine constancy of purpose. But his nature was stern and austere; he was prone to rule by fear rather than by love; he took counsel of no man, and chilled all who approached him by his cold reserve.
At the close of the year 1678, his preparations were complete, and he dispatched his attendants to the banks of the river Niagara, whither he soon followed in person. Here he erected a little fort of palisades, and was the first military tenant of a spot destined to momentous consequence in future wars. Two leagues above the cataract, on the western bank of the river, he built the first vessel which ever explored the waters of the upper lakes.
43along the virgin waters of Lake Erie, through the beautiful windings of the Detroit, and among the restless billows of Lake Huron, where a furious tempest had well-nigh engulfed her. La Salle pursued his voyage along Lake Michigan in birch canoes, and, after protracted suffering from famine and exposure, reached its southern extremity on the eighteenth of October.
He led his followers to the banks of the river now called the St. Joseph. Here, again, he built a fort; and here, in after years, the Jesuits placed a mission and the government a garrison. Thence he pushed on into the unknown region of the Illinois; and now dangers and difficulties began to thicken about him. Indians threatened hostility; his men lost heart, clamoured, grew mutinous, and repeatedly deserted; and worse than all, nothing was heard of the vessel which had been sent back to Canada for necessary supplies. Weeks wore on, and doubt ripened into certainty. She had foundered among the storms of these wilderness oceans; and her loss seemed to involve the ruin of the enterprise, since it was vain to proceed farther without the expected supplies. In this disastrous crisis, La Salle embraced a resolution eminently characteristic of his intrepid temper. Leaving his men in charge of a subordinate at a fort which he had built on the River Illinois, he turned his face again towards Canada. He traversed on foot twelve hundred miles of frozen forest, crossing rivers, toiling through snow-drifts, wading ice-encumbered swamps, sustaining life by the fruits of the chase, and threatened day and night by lurking enemies. He gained his destination, but it was only to encounter a fresh storm of calamities. His enemies had been busy in his absence; a malicious report had gone abroad that he was dead; his creditors had seized his property; and the stores on which he most relied had been wrecked at sea, or lost among the rapids of the St. Lawrence. Still he battled against adversity with his wonted vigour, and in Count Frontenac, the governor of the province — a spirit kindred to his own — he found a firm friend. Every difficulty gave way before him; and with fresh supplies of
44men, stores, and ammunition, he again embarked for the Illinois. Rounding the vast circuit of the lakes, he reached the mouth of the St. Joseph, and hastened with anxious speed to the fort where he had left his followers. The place was empty. Not a man remained. Terrified, despondent, and embroiled in Indian wars, they had fled to seek peace and safety, he knew not whither.
Once more the dauntless discoverer turned back towards Canada. Once more he stood before Count Frontenac, and once more bent all his resources and all his credit to gain means for the prosecution of his enterprise. He succeeded. With his little flotilla of canoes, he left his fort, at the outlet of Lake Ontario, and slowly retraced those interminable waters, and lines of forest-bounded shore, which had grown drearily familiar to his eyes. Fate at length seemed tired of the conflict with so stubborn an adversary. All went prosperously with the voyagers. They passed the lakes in safety; they crossed the rough portage to the waters of the Illinois; they followed its winding channel, and descended the turbid eddies of the Mississippi, received with various welcome by the scattered tribes who dwelt along its banks. Now the waters grew bitter to the taste; now the trampling of the surf was heard; and now the broad ocean opened upon their sight, and their goal was won. On the ninth of April, 1682, with his followers under arms, amid the firing of musketry, the chanting of the Te Deum, and shouts of "Vive le roi," La Salle took formal possession of the vast valley of the Mississippi, in the name of Louis the Great, King of France and Navarre.
The first stage of his enterprise was accomplished, but labours no less arduous remained behind. Repairing to the court of France, he was welcomed with richly merited favour, and soon set sail for the mouth of the Mississippi, with a squadron of vessels amply freighted with men and material for the projected colony. But the folly and obstinacy of a worthless naval commander blighted his fairest hopes. The squadron missed the mouth of the river; and the wreck of one of the vessels, and the desertion of the commander,
45completed the ruin of the expedition. La Salle landed, with a band of half-famished followers, on the coast of Texas; and, while he was toiling with untired energy for their relief, a few vindictive miscreants conspired against him, and a shot from a traitor's musket closed the career of the iron-hearted discoverer.
It was left with another to complete the enterprise on which he had staked his life; and, in the year 1699, Lemoine d'Iberville planted the germ whence sprang the colony of Louisiana.
Years passed on. In spite of a vicious plan of government, in spite of the bursting of the ever-memorable Mississippi bubble, the new colony grew in wealth and strength. And now it remained for France to unite the two extremities of her broad American domain, to extend forts and settlements across the fertile solitudes between the valley of the St. Lawrence and the mouth of the Mississippi, and entrench herself among the forests which lie west of the Alleghanies, before the swelling tide of British colonization could overflow those mountain barriers. At the middle of the eighteenth century, her mighty project was fast advancing towards completion. The great lakes and streams, the thoroughfares of the wilderness, were seized and guarded by a series of posts distributed with admirable skill. A fort on the strait of Niagara commanded the great entrance to the whole interior country. Another at Detroit controlled the passage from Lake Erie to the north. Another at St. Mary's debarred all hostile access to Lake Superior. Another at Michillimackinac secured the mouth of Lake Michigan. A post at Green Bay, and one at St. Joseph, guarded the two routes to the Mississippi, by way of the Rivers Wisconsin and Illinois; while two posts on the Wabash, and one on the Maumee, made France the mistress of the great trading highway from Lake Erie to the Ohio. At Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and elsewhere in the Illinois, little French settlements had sprung up; and as the canoe of the voyager descended the Mississippi, he saw, at rare intervals, along its swampy margin, a few small stockade forts, half buried
46amid the redundancy of forest vegetation, until, as he approached Natchez, the dwellings of the habitans of Louisiana began to appear.
The forest posts of France were not exclusively of a military character. Adjacent to most of them, one would have found a little cluster of Canadian dwellings, whose tenants lived under the protection of the garrison, and obeyed the arbitrary will of the commandant; an authority which, however, was seldom exerted in a despotic spirit. In these detached settlements, there was no principle of increase. The character of the people, and of the government which ruled them, were alike unfavourable to it. Agriculture was neglected for the more congenial pursuits of the fur-trade, and the restless, roving Canadians, scattered abroad on their wild vocation, allied themselves to Indian women, and filled the woods with a mongrel race of bushrangers.
Thus far secure in the west, France next essayed to gain foothold upon the sources of the Ohio, and, about the year 1748, the sagacious Count GalissonnieÄre proposed to bring over ten thousand peasants from France, and plant them in the valley of that beautiful river, and on the borders of the lakes.
THE French colonists of Canada held, from the beginning, a peculiar intimacy of relation with the Indian tribes. With the English colonists it was far otherwise; and the difference sprang from several causes. The fur-trade was the life of Canada; agriculture and commerce were the chief fountains of wealth to the British provinces. The Romish zealots of Canada burned for the conversion of the heathen; their heretic rivals were fired with no such ardour. And finally, while the ambition of France grasped at empire over the farthest deserts of the west, the steady industry of the English colonists was contented to cultivate and improve a narrow strip of seaboard. Thus it happened that the farmer of Massachusetts and the Virginian planter were conversant with only a few bordering tribes, while the priests and emissaries of France were roaming the prairies with the buffalo-hunting Pawnees, or lodging in the winter cabins of the Dahcotah; and swarms of savages, whose uncouth names were strange to English ears, descended yearly from the north, to bring their beaver and otter skins to the market of Montreal.
The position of Canada invited intercourse with the interior, and eminently favoured her schemes of commerce and policy. The River St. Lawrence, and the chain of the great lakes, opened a vast extent of inland navigation; while their tributary streams, interlocking with the branches of the Mississippi, afforded ready access to that mighty river, and gave the restless voyager free range over half the continent. But these advantages were well-nigh neutralized. Nature opened the way, but a watchful and terrible enemy guarded the portal. The forests south of Lake Ontario
48gave harbourage to the five tribes of the Iroquois, implacable foes of Canada. They waylaid her trading parties, routed her soldiers, murdered her missionaries, and spread havoc and woe through all her settlements.
It was an evil hour for Canada, when, on the twenty-eighth of May, 1609,
Such was the first collision between the white men and the Iroquois; and Champlain flattered himself that the latter had learned for the future to respect the arms of France. He was fatally deceived. The Iroquois recovered from their terrors, but they never forgave the injury; and yet it would be unjust to charge upon Champlain the origin of the desolating wars which were soon to scourge the colony. The Indians of Canada, friends and neighbours of the French, had long been harassed by inroads of the fierce
49confederates, and under any circumstances the French must soon have become parties to the quarrel.
Whatever may have been its origin, the war was fruitful of misery to the youthful colony. The passes were beset by ambushed war-parties. The routes between Quebec and Montreal were watched with tiger-like vigilance. Bloodthirsty warriors prowled about the outskirts of the settlements. Again and again the miserable people, driven within the palisades of their forts, looked forth upon wasted harvests and blazing roofs. The Island of Montreal was swept with fire and steel. The fur-trade was interrupted, since for months together all communication was cut off with the friendly tribes of the west. Agriculture was checked; the fields lay fallow, and frequent famine was the necessary result.
At intervals, the afflicted colony found respite from its sufferings; and through the efforts of the Jesuits, fair hopes began to rise of propitiating the terrible foe. At one time, the influence of the priests availed so far, that under their auspices a French colony was formed in the very heart of the Iroquois country; but the settlers were soon forced to a precipitate flight, and the war broke out afresh.
50they faced their assailants with characteristic gallantry. Courcelles, Tracy, De la Barre, and De Nonville invaded by turns, with various success, the forest haunts of the confederates; and at length, in the year 1696, the veteran Count Frontenac marched upon their cantons with all the force of Canada. Stemming the surges of La Chine, sweeping through the romantic channels of the Thousand Islands, and over the glimmering surface of Lake Ontario, and, trailing in long array up the current of the Oswego, they disembarked on the margin of the Lake of Onondago, and, startling the woodland echoes with the unwonted clangour of their trumpets, urged their perilous march through the mazes of the forest. Never had those solitudes beheld so strange a pageantry. The Indian allies, naked to the waist and horribly painted, adorned with streaming scalp-locks and fluttering plumes, stole crouching among the thickets, or peered with lynx-eyed vision through the labyrinths of foliage. Scouts and forest-rangers scoured the woods in front and flank of the marching columns — men trained among the hardships of the fur-trade, thin, sinewy, and strong, arrayed in wild costume of beaded moccasin, scarlet legging, and frock of buckskin, fantastically garnished with many-coloured embroidery of porcupine. Then came the levies of the colony, in grey capotes and gaudy sashes, and the trained battalions from old France in burnished cuirass and head-piece, veterans of European wars. Plumed cavaliers were there, who had followed the standards of Conde or Turenne, and who, even in the depths of a wilderness, scorned to lay aside the martial foppery which bedecked the camp and court of Louis the Magnificent. The stern commander was borne along upon a litter in the midst, his locks bleached with years, but his eye kindling with the quenchless fire which, like a furnace, burned hottest when its fuel was almost spent. Thus, beneath the sepulchral arches of the forest, through tangled thickets and over prostrate trunks, the aged nobleman advanced to wreak his vengeance upon empty wigwams and deserted maize-fields.
Even the fierce courage of the Iroquois began to quail before these repeated attacks, while the gradual growth of the colony, and the arrival of troops from France, at length convinced them that they could not destroy Canada. With the opening of the eighteenth century, their rancour showed signs of abating; and in the year 1726, by dint of skilful intrigue, the French succeeded in erecting a permanent military post at the important pass of Niagara, within the limits of the confederacy.
The fur-trade of the English colonists opposed but feeble rivalry to that of their hereditary foes. At an early period, favoured by the friendship of the Iroquois, they attempted to open a traffic with the Algonquin tribes of the great lakes; and in the year 1687, Major McGregory ascended with a boat-load of goods to Lake Huron, where
52his appearance excited great commotion, and where he was promptly seized and imprisoned by a party of the French.
These early efforts of the English, considerable as they were, can ill bear comparison with the vast extent of the French interior commerce. In respect also to missionary enterprise, and the political influence resulting from it, the French had every advantage over rivals whose zeal for conversion was neither kindled by fanaticism nor fostered by an ambitious government. Eliot laboured within call of Boston, while the heroic Brebeuf faced the ghastly perils of the western wilderness; and the wanderings of Brainerd sink into insignificance compared with those of the devoted Rasles. Yet, in judging the relative merits of the Romish and Protestant missionaries, it must not be forgotten that while the former contented themselves with sprinkling a few drops of water on the forehead of the warlike proselyte, the latter sought to wean him from his barbarism, and penetrate his savage heart with the truths of Christianity.
In respect, also, to direct political influence, the advantage was wholly on the side of France. The English colonies, broken into separate governments, were incapable of exercising a vigorous and consistent Indian policy; and the measures of one government often clashed with those of another. Even in the separate provinces, the popular nature of the constitution and the quarrels of governors and assemblies were unfavourable to efficient action; and this was more especially the case in the province of New York, where the vicinity of the Iroquois rendered strenuous yet prudent measures of the utmost importance. The powerful confederates, hating the French with bitter enmity, naturally inclined to the English alliance; and a proper treatment would have secured their firm and lasting friendship. But, at the early periods of her history, the assembly of New York was made up in great measure of narrow-minded men, more eager to consult their own petty immediate interests than to pursue any far-sighted scheme of public welfare.
With more or less emphasis, the same remark holds true of all the other English colonies.
55negotiation between that people and the Wyandots.
In general, however, the Indian policy of the French cannot be charged with obsequiousness. Complaisance was tempered with dignity. At an early period, they discerned the peculiarities of the native character, and clearly saw that, while, on the one hand, it was necessary to avoid giving offence, it was not less necessary, on the other, to assume a bold demeanour and a show of power; to caress with one hand, and grasp a drawn sword with the other.
It was by observance of the course indicated above — a course highly judicious in a political point of view, whatever it may have been to the eye of the moralist — that the French were enabled to maintain themselves in small detached posts, far aloof from the parent colony, and environed by barbarous tribes, where an English garrison would have been cut off in a twelvemonth. They professed to hold these posts, not in their own right, but purely through the grace and condescension of the surrounding savages; and by this conciliating assurance they sought to
56make good their position, until, with their growing strength, conciliation should no more be needed.
In its efforts to win the friendship and alliance of the Indian tribes, the French government found every advantage in the peculiar character of its subjects — that pliant and plastic temper which forms so marked a contrast to the stubborn spirit of the Englishman. From the beginning, the French showed a tendency to amalgamate with the forest tribes. "The manners of the savages," writes the Baron La Hontan, "are perfectly agreeable to my palate;" and many a restless adventurer, of high or low degree, might have echoed the words of the erratic soldier. At first, great hopes were entertained that, by the mingling of French and Indians, the latter would be won over to civilization and the church; but the effect was precisely the reverse; for, as Charlevoix observes, the savages did not become French, but the French became savages. Hundreds betook themselves to the forest, never more to return. These outflowings of French civilization were merged in the waste of barbarism, as a river is lost in the sands of the desert. The wandering Frenchman chose a wife or a concubine among his Indian friends; and, in a few generations, scarcely a tribe of the west was free from an infusion of Celtic blood. The French empire in America could exhibit among its subjects every shade of colour from white to red, every gradation of culture from the highest civilization of Paris to the rudest barbarism of the wigwam.
The fur-trade engendered a peculiar class of men, known by the appropriate name of bush-rangers, or coureurs des bois, half-civilized vagrants, whose chief vocation was conducting the canoes of the traders along the lakes and rivers of the interior: many of them, however, shaking loose every tie of blood and kindred, identified themselves with the Indians, and sank into utter barbarism. In many a squalid camp among the plains and forests of the west, the traveller would have encountered men owning the blood and speaking the language of France, yet, in their wild and swarthy visages and barbarous costume, seeming more akin to those with whom they had cast their lot. The renegade of civilization caught the habits and imbibed the prejudices of his chosen
57associates. He loved to decorate his long hair with eagle feathers, to make his face hideous with vermilion, ochre, and soot, and to adorn his greasy hunting frock with horsehair fringes. His dwelling, if he had one, was a wigwam. He lounged on a bear-skin while his squaw boiled his venison and lighted his pipe. In hunting, in dancing, in singing, in taking a scalp, he rivalled the genuine Indian. His mind was tinctured with the superstitions of the forest. He had faith in the magic drum of the conjurer; he was not sure that a thunder-cloud could not be frightened away by whistling at it through the wing bone of an eagle; he carried the tail of a rattlesnake in his bullet-pouch by way of amulet; and he placed implicit trust in the prophetic truth of his dreams. This class of men is not yet extinct. In the cheerless wilds beyond the northern lakes, or among the mountain solitudes of the distant west, they may still be found, unchanged in life and character since the day when Louis the Great claimed sovereignty over this desert empire.
The borders of the English colonies displayed no such phenomena of mingling races; for here a thorny and impracticable barrier divided the white man from the red. The English fur-traders, and the rude men in their employ, showed, it is true, an ample alacrity to fling off the restraints of civilization; but though they became barbarians, they did not become Indians; and scorn on the one side, and hatred on the other, still marked the intercourse of the hostile races. With the settlers of the frontier it was much the same. Rude, fierce, and contemptuous, they daily encroached upon the hunting-grounds of the Indians, and then paid them for the injury with abuse and insult, curses and threats. Thus the native population shrank back from before the English, as from before an advancing pestilence; while, on the other hand, in the very heart of Canada, Indian communities sprang up, cherished by the government, and favoured by the easy-tempered people. At Lorette, at Caughnawaga, at St. Francis, and elsewhere within the province, large bands were gathered together, consisting in part of fugitives from the borders of the hated English, and aiding, in time of war, to swell the forces of the French in
58repeated forays against the settlements of New York and New England.
There was one of the English provinces marked out from among its brethren by the peculiar character of its founders, and by the course of conduct which was there pursued towards the Indian tribes. William Penn, his mind warmed with a broad philanthropy, and enlightened by liberal views of human government and human rights, planted on the banks of the Delaware the colony which, vivified by the principles it embodied, grew, with a marvellous rapidity, into the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Penn's treatment of the Indians was equally prudent and humane, and its results were of high advantage to the colony; but these results have been exaggerated, and the treatment which produced them made the theme of inordinate praise. It required no great benevolence to urge the Quakers to deal kindly with their savage neighbours. They were bound in common sense to propitiate them; since, by incurring their resentment, they would involve themselves in the dilemma of submitting their necks to the tomahawk, or wielding the carnal weapon, in glaring defiance of their pacific principles. In paying the Indians for the lands which his colonists occupied, — a piece of justice which has been greeted with a general clamour of applause, — Penn, as he himself confesses, acted on the prudent counsel of Compton, Bishop of London.
With regard to the alleged results of the pacific conduct
59of the Quakers, our admiration will diminish on closely viewing the circumstances of the case. The position of the colony was a most fortunate one. Had the Quakers planted their settlement on the banks of the St. Lawrence, or among the warlike tribes of New England, it may well be doubted whether their shaking of hands and assurances of tender regard would long have availed to save them from the visitations of the scalping-knife. But the Delawares, the people on whose territory their colony was planted, were, like themselves, debarred the use of arms. The Iroquois had conquered them, and reduced them to abject submission, wringing from them a yearly tribute, disarming them, forcing them to adopt the opprobrious name of women, and forego the right of war. The humbled Delawares were but too happy to receive the hand extended to them, and dwell in friendship with their pacific neighbours; since to have lifted the hatchet would have brought upon their heads the vengeance of their conquerors, whose good will Penn had taken pains to secure.
The sons of Penn, his successors in the proprietorship of the province, did not evince the same kindly feeling towards the Indians which had distinguished their father. Earnest to acquire new lands, they commenced, through their agents, a series of unjust measures, which gradually alienated the attachment of the Indians, and, after a peace of seventy years, produced a most disastrous rupture. The Quaker population of the colony sympathized in the kindness which its founder had cherished towards the benighted race. This feeling was strengthened by years of friendly intercourse; and except where private interest was concerned, the Quakers made good their reiterated professions of attachment. Kindness to the Indian was the glory of their sect. As years wore on, this feeling
60was wonderfully reinforced by the influence of party spirit. The time arrived when, alienated by English encroachment on the one hand and French seduction on the other, the Indians began to assume a threatening attitude towards the province; and many voices urged the necessity of a resort to arms. This measure, repugnant alike to their pacific principles and to their love of the Indians, was strenuously opposed by the Quakers. Their affection for the injured race was now inflamed into a sort of benevolent fanaticism. The more rabid of the sect would scarcely confess that an Indian could ever do wrong. In their view, he was always sinned against, always the innocent victim of injury and abuse; and in the days of the final rupture, when the woods were full of furious war-parties, and the German and Irish settlers on the frontier were butchered by hundreds, when the western sky was darkened with the smoke of burning settlements, and the wretched fugitives were flying in crowds across the Susquehanna, a large party among the Quakers, secure by their Philadelphia firesides, could not see the necessity of waging even a defensive war against their favourite people.
The encroachments on the part of the proprietors, which have been alluded to above, and which many of the Quakers viewed with disapproval, consisted in the fraudulent interpretation of Indian deeds of conveyance, and in the granting out of lands without any conveyance at all. The most notorious of these transactions, and the one most lamentable in its results, was commenced in the year 1737, and known by the name of the walking purchase. An old, forgotten deed was raked out of the dust of the previous century, a deed which was in itself of doubtful validity, and which, moreover, had been virtually cancelled by a subsequent agreement. On this rotten title the proprietors laid claim
61to a valuable tract of land on the right bank of the Delaware. Its western boundary was to be defined by a line drawn from a certain point on Neshaminey Creek, in a north-westerly direction, as far as a man could walk in a day and a half. From the end of the walk, a line drawn eastward to the River Delaware was to form the northern limit of the purchase. The proprietors sought out the most active men who could be heard of, and put them in training for the walk; at the same time laying out a smooth road along the intended course, that no obstructions might mar their speed. By this means an incredible distance was accomplished within the limited time. And now it only remained to adjust the northern boundary. Instead of running the line directly to the Delaware, according to the evident meaning of the deed, the proprietors inclined it so far to the north as to form an acute angle with the river, and enclose many hundred thousand acres of valuable land, which would otherwise have remained in the hands of the Indians.
62and deceived by false accounts of the transaction, they consented to remove the refractory Delawares. The delinquents were summoned before their conquerors, and the Iroquois orator, Canassatego, a man of noble stature and imposing presence,
"You ought to be taken by the hair of the head and shaken soundly till you recover your senses. You don't know what you are doing. Our brother Onas'
cause is very just. On the other hand, your cause is bad, and you are bent to break the chain of friendship. How came you to take upon you to sell land at all? We conquered you; we made women of you; you know you are women, and can no more sell land than women. This land you claim is gone down your throats; you have been furnished with clothes, meat, and drink, by the goods paid you for it, and now you want it again, like children as you are. What makes you sell land in the dark? Did you ever tell us you had sold this land? Did we ever receive any part, even the value of a pipe-shank, from you for it? We charge you to remove instantly; we don't give you the liberty to think about it. You are women. Take the advice of a wise man, and remove immediately. You may return to the other side of Delaware, where you came from; but we do not know whether, considering how you have demeaned yourselves, you will be permitted to live there; or whether you have not swallowed that land down your throats as well as the land on this side. We therefore assign you two places to go, either to Wyoming or Shamokin. We shall then have you more under our eye, and shall see how you behave. Don't deliberate, but take this belt of wampum, and go at once."
The unhappy Delawares dared not disobey this arbitrary mandate. They left their ancient homes, and removed, as they had been ordered, to the Susquehanna, where
63some settled at Shamokin, and some at Wyoming.
But now the French began to push their advanced posts into the valley of the Ohio. Most unhappily for the English interest, they found the irritated minds of the Indians in a state which favoured their efforts at seduction, and held forth a flattering promise that tribes so long faithful to the English might soon be won over to espouse the cause of France.
While the English interests wore so inauspicious an aspect in this quarter, their prospects were not much better among the Iroquois. Since the peace of Utrecht, in 1713, these powerful tribes had so far forgotten their old malevolence against the French, that the latter were enabled to bring all their machinery of conciliation to bear upon them. They turned the opportunity to such good account as not only to smooth away the asperity of their ancient foes, but also to rouse in their minds a growing jealousy
64against the English. Several accidental circumstances did much to aggravate this feeling. The Iroquois were in the habit of sending out frequent war-parties against their enemies, the Cherokees and Catawbas, who dwelt near the borders of Carolina and Virginia; and in these forays the invaders often became so seriously embroiled with the white settlers, that sharp frays took place, and an open war seemed likely to ensue.
It was with great difficulty that the irritation of these untoward accidents was allayed; and even then enough still remained in the neglect of governments, the insults of traders, and the haughty bearing of officials, to disgust the proud confederates with their English allies. In the war of 1745, they yielded but cold and doubtful aid; and fears were entertained of their final estrangement.
Thoughtful men in the English colonies saw with anxiety the growing defection of the Iroquois, and dreaded lest, in the event of a war with France, her ancient foes might now be found her friends. But in this ominous conjuncture, one strong influence was at work to bind the confederates to their old alliance; and this influence was wielded by a man so remarkable in his character, and so conspicuous an actor in the scenes of the ensuing history, as to demand at least some passing notice.
About the year 1734, in consequence, it is said, of the hapless issue of a love affair, William Johnson, a young Irishman, came over to America at the age of nineteen, where he assumed the charge of an extensive tract of wild land in the province of New York, belonging to his uncle, Admiral Sir Peter Warren. Settling in the valley of the Mohawk, he carried on a prosperous traffic with the Indians; and while he rapidly rose to wealth, he gained, at the same time, an extraordinary influence over the neighbouring Iroquois. As his resources increased, he built two mansions in the valley, known respectively by the names of Johnson Castle and Johnson Hall, the latter of which, a well-constructed building of wood and stone, is still standing in the village of Johnstown. Johnson Castle was situated at some distance higher up the river. Both were fortified against attack, and the latter was surrounded with cabins built for the reception of the Indians, who often came in crowds to visit the proprietor, invading his dwelling at all unseasonable hours, loitering in the doorways, spreading their blankets in the passages, and infecting the air with the fumes of stale tobacco.
Johnson supplied the place of his former love by a young Dutch damsel, who bore him several children; and, in justice to the latter, he married her upon her death-bed. Soon afterwards he found another favourite in the person of Molly Brant, sister of the celebrated Mohawk war-chief, whose black eyes and laughing face caught his fancy, as, fluttering with ribbons, she galloped past him at a muster of the Tryon county militia.
Johnson's importance became so conspicuous, that when the French war broke out in 1755, he was made a major-
66general; and soon after, the colonial troops under his command gained the battle of Lake George against the French forces of Baron Dieskau. For this success, for which, however, the commander was entitled to little credit, he was raised to the rank of baronet, and rewarded with the gift of five thousand pounds from the king. About this time he was appointed superintendent of Indian affairs for the northern tribes, a station in which he did signal service to the country. In 1759, when General Prideaux was killed by the bursting of a cohorn in the trenches before Niagara, Johnson succeeded to his command, routed the French in another pitched battle, and soon raised the red cross of England on the conquered rampart of the fort. After the peace of 1763, he lived for many years at Johnson Hall, constantly enriched by the increasing value of his vast estate, and surrounded by a hardy Highland tenantry, devoted to his interests; but when the tempest which had long been brewing seemed at length about to break, and signs of a speedy rupture with the mother country thickened with every day, he stood wavering in an agony of indecision, divided between his loyalty to the sovereign who was the source of all his honours, and his reluctance to become the agent of a murderous Indian warfare against his countrymen and friends. His final resolution was never taken. In the summer of 1774, he was attacked with a sudden illness, and died within a few hours, in the sixtieth year of his age, hurried to his grave by mental distress, or, as many believed, by the act of his own hand.
Nature had well fitted him for the position in which his propitious stars had cast his lot. His person was tall, erect, and strong; his features grave and manly. His direct and upright dealings, his courage, eloquence, and address were sure passports to favour in Indian eyes. He had a singular facility of adaptation. In the camp, or at the council-board, in spite of his defective education, he bore himself as became his station; but at home he was seen drinking flip and smoking tobacco with the Dutch boors, his neighbours, talking of improvements or the price of beaver-skins; and in the Indian villages he would feast on dog's flesh,
67dance with the warriors, and harangue his attentive auditors with all the dignity of an Iroquois sachem. His temper was genial; he encouraged rustic sports, and was respected and beloved alike by whites and Indians.
His good qualities, however, were alloyed with serious defects. His mind was as coarse as it was vigorous; he was vain of his rank and influence, and being quite free from any scruple of delicacy, he lost no opportunity of proclaiming them. His nature was eager and ambitious; and in pushing his own way, he was never distinguished by an anxious solicitude for the rights of others.
At the time of which we speak, his fortunes had not reached their zenith; yet his influence was great, and during the war of 1745, when he held the chief control of Indian affairs in New York, it was exercised in a manner most beneficial to the province. After the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, in 1748, finding his measures ill supported, he threw up his office in disgust. Still his mere personal influence sufficed to embarrass the intrigues of the busy priest at La Presentation; and a few years later, when the public exigency demanded his utmost efforts, he resumed, under better auspices, the official management of Indian affairs.
And now, when the blindest could see that between the rival claimants to the soil of America nothing was left but the arbitration of the sword, no man friendly to the cause of England could observe without alarm how France had strengthened herself in Indian alliances. The Iroquois, it is true, had not quite gone over to her side, nor had the Delawares yet forgotten their ancient league with William Penn. The Miamis in the valley of the Ohio had even taken umbrage at the conduct of the French, and betrayed a leaning to the side of England, while several tribes of the south showed a similar disposition. But, with few and slight exceptions, the numerous tribes of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi, besides a host of domiciliated
68savages in Canada itself, stood ready at the bidding of France to grind their tomahawks and turn loose their ravenous war-parties; while the British colonists had too much reason to fear that even those tribes who seemed most friendly to their cause, and who formed the sole barrier of their unprotected borders, might, at the first sound of the war-whoop, be found in arms against them.
THE people of the northern English colonies had learned to regard their Canadian neighbours with the bitterest enmity. With them, the very name of Canada called up horrible recollections and ghastly images: the midnight massacre of Schenectady, and the desolation of many a New England hamlet; blazing dwellings and reeking scalps; and children snatched from their mothers' arms, to be immured in convents and trained up in the heresies of Popery. To the sons of the Puritans, their enemy was doubly odious. They hated him as a Frenchman, and they hated him as a Papist. Hitherto he had waged his murderous warfare from a distance, wasting their settlements with rapid onsets, fierce and transient as a summer storm; but now, with enterprising audacity, he was entrenching himself on their very borders. The English hunter, in the lonely wilderness of Vermont, as by the warm glow of sunset he piled the spruce boughs for his woodland bed, started as a deep, low sound struck faintly on his ear, the evening gun of Fort Frederic, booming over lake and forest. The erection of this fort, better known among the English as Crown Point, was a piece of daring encroachment which justly kindled resentment in the northern colonies. But it was not here that the immediate occasion of a final rupture was to arise. By an article of the treaty of Utrecht, confirmed by that of Aix-la-Chapelle, Acadia had been ceded to England; but scarcely was the latter treaty signed, when debates sprang up touching the limits of the ceded province. Commissioners were named on either side to adjust the disputed boundary; but the claims of the rival powers proved utterly irreconcilable, and all negotiation was
The people of the middle colonies, placed by their local position beyond reach of the French, had heard with great composure of the sufferings of their New England brethren, and felt little concern at a danger so doubtful and remote. There were those among them, however, who, with greater foresight, had been quick to perceive the ambitious projects of the French; and, as early as 1716, Spotswood, governor of Virginia, had urged the expediency of securing the valley of the Ohio by a series of forts and settlements.
In the spring of 1753, the middle provinces were startled at the tidings that French troops had crossed Lake Erie, fortified themselves at the point of Presqu'Isle, and pushed forward to the northern branches of the Ohio.
71about him for the person best qualified to act as messenger, he made choice of George Washington, a young man twenty-one years of age, adjutant-general of the Virginian militia.
Washington departed on his mission, crossed the mountains, descended to the bleak and leafless valley of the Ohio, and thence continued his journey up the banks of the Alleghany until the fourth of December. On that day he reached Venango, an Indian town on the Alleghany, at the mouth of French Creek. Here was the advanced post of the French, and here, among the Indian log-cabins and huts of bark, he saw their flag flying above the house of an English trader, whom the military intruders had unceremoniously ejected. They gave the young envoy a hospitable reception,
With the first opening of spring, a newly-raised company of Virginian backwoodsmen, under Captain Trent, hastened
72across the mountains, and began to build a fort at the confluence of the Monongahela and Alleghany, where Pittsburg now stands; when suddenly they found themselves invested by a host of French and Indians, who, with sixty bateaux and three hundred canoes, had descended from Le Boeuf and Venango.
While the rival nations were beginning to quarrel for a prize which belonged to neither of them, the unhappy Indians saw, with alarm and amazement, their lands becoming a bone of contention between rapacious strangers. The first appearance of the French on the Ohio excited the wildest fears in the tribes of that quarter, among whom were those who, disgusted by the encroachments of the Pennsylvanians, had fled to these remote retreats to escape the intrusions of the white men. Scarcely was their fancied asylum gained, when they saw themselves invaded by a host of armed men from Canada. Thus placed between two fires, they knew not which way to turn. There was no union in their counsels, and they seemed like a mob of bewildered children. Their native jealousy was roused to its utmost pitch. Many of them thought that the two white nations had conspired to destroy them, and then divide their lands. "You and the French," said one of them, a few years afterwards, to an English emissary, "are like the two edges of a pair of shears, and we are the cloth which is cut to pieces between them."
The French laboured hard to conciliate them, plying them with gifts and flatteries,
74It was at this meeting that the memorable plan of a union of the colonies was brought upon the carpet; a plan, the fate of which was curious and significant, for the Crown rejected it as giving too much power to the people, and the people as giving too much power to the Crown.
The courts of London and Versailles still maintained a diplomatic intercourse, both protesting their earnest wish that their conflicting claims might be adjusted by friendly negotiation; but while each disclaimed the intention of hostility, both were hastening to prepare for war. Early in 1755, an English fleet sailed from Cork, having on board two regiments destined for Virginia, and commanded by General Braddock; and soon after, a French fleet put to sea from the port of Brest, freighted with munitions of war and a strong body of troops under Baron Dieskau, an officer who had distinguished himself in the campaigns of Marshal Saxe. The English fleet gained its destination, and landed its troops in safety. The French were less fortunate. Two
75of their ships, the Lys and the Alcide, became involved in the fogs of the banks of Newfoundland; and when the weather cleared, they found themselves under the guns of a superior British force, belonging to the squadron of Admiral Boscawen, sent out for the express purpose of intercepting them. "Are we at peace or war?" demanded the French commander. A broadside from the Englishman soon solved his doubts, and, after a stout resistance, the French struck their colours.
Thus began that memorable war which, kindling among the wild forests of America, scattered its fires over the kingdoms of Europe, and the sultry empire of the Great Mogul; the war made glorious by the heroic death of Wolfe, the victories of Frederic, and the marvellous exploits of Clive; the war which controlled the destinies of America, and was first in the chain of events which led on to her revolution, with all its vast and undeveloped consequences. On the old battle-ground of Europe, the struggle bore the same familiar features of violence and horror which had marked the strife of
76former generations — fields ploughed by the cannon ball, and walls shattered by the exploding mine, sacked towns and blazing suburbs, the lamentations of women, and the license of a maddened soldiery. But in America war assumed a new and striking aspect. A wilderness was its sublime arena. Army met army under the shadows of primeval woods; their cannon resounded over wastes unknown to civilised man. And before the hostile powers could join in battle, endless forests must be traversed, and morasses passed, and everywhere the axe of the pioneer must hew a path for the bayonet of the soldier.
Before the declaration of war, and before the breaking off of negotiations between the courts of France and England, the English ministry formed the plan of assailing the French in America on all sides at once, and repelling them, by one bold push, from all their encroachments.
77arrival in Virginia, he called together the governors of the several provinces, in order to explain his instructions and adjust the details of the projected operations. These arrangements complete, Braddock advanced to the borders of Virginia, and formed his camp at Fort Cumberland, where he spent several weeks in training the raw back woodsmen, who joined him, into such discipline as they seemed capable of; in collecting horses and wagons, which could only be had with the utmost difficulty; in railing at the contractors, who scandalously cheated him; and in venting his spleen by copious abuse of the country and the people. All at length was ready, and early in June, 1755, the army left civilization behind, and struck into the broad wilderness as a squadron puts out to sea.
It was no easy task to force their way over that rugged ground, covered with an unbroken growth of forest; and the difficulty was increased by the needless load of baggage which encumbered their march. The crash of falling trees resounded in the front, where a hundred axemen laboured, with ceaseless toil, to hew a passage for the army.
78slower stages, with the heavy wagons. On the eighth of July, the advanced body reached the Monongahela, at a point not far distant from Fort du Quesne. The rocky and impracticable ground on the eastern side debarred their passage, and the general resolved to cross the river in search of a smoother path, and recross it a few miles lower down, in order to gain the fort. The first passage was easily made, and the troops moved, in glittering array, down the western margin of the water, rejoicing that their goal was well nigh reached, and the hour of their expected triumph close at hand.
Scouts and Indian runners had brought the tidings of Braddock's approach to the French at Fort du Quesne. Their dismay was great, and Contrecoeur, the commander, thought only of retreat; when Beaujeu, a captain in the garrison, made the bold proposal of leading out a party of French and Indians to waylay the English in the woods, and harass or interrupt their march. The offer was accepted, and Beaujeu hastened to the Indian camps.
Around the fort and beneath the adjacent forest were the bark lodges of savage hordes, whom the French had mustered from far and near; Ojibwas and Ottawas, Hurons and Caughnawagas, Abenakis and Delawares. Beaujeu called the warriors together, flung a hatchet on the ground before them, and invited them to follow him out to battle; but the boldest stood aghast at the peril, and none would accept the challenge. A second interview took place with no better success; but the Frenchman was resolved to carry his point. "I am determined to go," he exclaimed. "What, will you suffer your father to go alone?"
79bedaubed themselves with war-paint, smeared themselves with grease, hung feathers in their scalp-locks, and whooped and stamped till they had wrought themselves into a delirium of valour.
That morning, James Smith, an English prisoner, recently captured on the frontier of Pennsylvania, stood on the rampart, and saw the half-frenzied multitude thronging about the gateway, where kegs of bullets and gunpowder were broken open, that each might help himself at will.
It was past noon of a day brightened with the clear sunlight of an American midsummer, when the forces of Braddock began, for a second time, to cross the Monongahela, at the fording-place which to this day bears the name of their ill-fated leader. The scarlet columns of the British regulars, complete in martial appointment, the rude backwoodsmen with shouldered rifles, the trains of artillery and the white-topped wagons, moved on in long procession through the broad and shallow current, and slowly mounted
80the opposing bank.
With steady and well-ordered march, the troops advanced into the great labyrinth of woods which shadowed the eastern borders of the river. Rank after rank vanished from sight. The forest swallowed them up, and the silence of the wilderness sank down once more on the shores and waters of the Monongahela.
Several guides and six light horsemen led the way; a body of grenadiers was close behind, and the army followed in such order as the rough ground would permit.
81returned the volley, and returned it with good effect; for a random shot struck down the brave Beaujeu, and the courage of the assailants was staggered by his fall. Dumas, second in command, rallied them to the attack; and while he, with the French and Canadians, made good the pass in front, the Indians opened a deadly fire on the right and left of the British columns.
82wounded. Of eighty-six officers, only twenty-three remained unhurt; and of twelve hundred soldiers who crossed the Monongahela, more than seven hundred were killed and wounded. None suffered more severely than the Virginians, who had displayed throughout a degree of courage and steadiness which put the cowardice of the regulars to shame. The havoc among them was terrible, for of their whole number scarcely one-fifth left the field alive.
The slaughter lasted three hours; when, at length, the survivors, as if impelled by a general impulse, rushed tumultuously from the place of carnage, and with dastardly precipitation fled across the Monongahela. The enemy did not pursue beyond the river, flocking back to the field to collect the plunder, and gather a rich harvest of scalps. The routed troops pursued their flight until they met the rear division of the army, under Colonel Dunbar; and even then their senseless terrors did not abate. Dunbar's soldiers caught the infection. Cannon, baggage, and wagons were destroyed, and all fled together, eager to escape from the shadows of those awful woods, whose horrors haunted their imagination. They passed the defenceless settlements of the border, and hurried on to Philadelphia, leaving the unhappy people to defend themselves as they might against the tomahawk and scalping-knife.
The calamities of this disgraceful overthrow did not cease with the loss of a few hundred soldiers on the field of battle; for it entailed upon the provinces all the miseries of an Indian war. Those among the tribes who had thus far stood neutral, wavering between the French and English,
83now hesitated no longer. Many of them had been disgusted by the contemptuous behaviour of Braddock. All had learned to despise the courage of the English, and to regard their own prowess with unbounded complacency. It is not in Indian nature to stand quiet in the midst of war; and the defeat of Braddock was a signal for the western savages to snatch their tomahawks and assail the English settlements with one accord; to murder and pillage with ruthless fury, and turn the whole frontier of Pennsylvania and Virginia into one wide scene of woe and desolation.
The three remaining expeditions which the British ministry had planned for that year's campaign were attended with various results. Acadia was quickly reduced by the forces of Colonel Monkton; but the glories of this easy victory were tarnished by an act of high-handed oppression. Seven thousand of the unfortunate people, refusing to take the prescribed oath of allegiance, were seized by the conquerors, torn from their homes, placed on shipboard like cargoes of negro slaves, and transported to the British provinces.
General, afterwards Sir William Johnson, had been charged with the conduct of the Crown Point expedition; and his little army, a rude assemblage of hunters and farmers from New York and New England, lay encamped at the southern extremity of Lake George. Here, while they languidly pursued their preparations, their active enemy anticipated their designs. Baron Dieskau, who, with a strong body of troops, had reached Quebec in the squadron which sailed from Brest in the spring, had intended
84to take forcible possession of the fort of Oswego, erected upon ground claimed by the French as part of Canada. Learning Johnson's movements, he changed his plan, crossed Lake Champlain, made a circuit by way of Wood Creek, and gained the rear of the English army, with a force of about two thousand French and Indians. At midnight, on the seventh of September, the tidings reached Johnson that the army of the French baron was but a few miles distant from his camp. A council of war was called, and the strange resolution formed of detaching a thousand men to meet the enemy. "If they are to be killed," said Hendrick, the Mohawk chief, "they are too many; if they are to fight, they are too few." His remonstrance was unheeded, and the brave old savage, unable, from age and corpulence, to fight on foot, mounted his horse, and joined the English detachment with two hundred of his warriors. At sunrise, the party defiled from the camp, and, entering the forest, disappeared from the eyes of their comrades.
Those who remained behind laboured with all the energy of alarm to fortify their unprotected camp. An hour elapsed, when from the distance was heard a sudden explosion of musketry. The excited soldiers suspended their work to listen. A rattling fire succeeded, deadened among the woods, but growing louder and nearer, till none could doubt that their comrades had met the French, and were defeated.
This was indeed the case. Marching through thick woods, by the narrow and newly-cut road which led along the valley stretching southward from Lake George, Williams, the English commander, had led his men full into an ambuscade, where all Dieskau's army lay in wait to receive them. From the woods on both sides rose an appalling shout, followed by a storm of bullets. Williams was soon shot down; Hendrick shared his fate; many officers fell, and the road was strewn with dead and wounded soldiers. The English gave way at once. Had they been regular troops, the result would have been most fatal; but every man was a woodsman and a hunter. Some retired in bodies along the road; but the greater part spread themselves through
85the forest, opposing a wide front to the enemy, and fighting stubbornly as they retreated. They shot back at the French from behind every tree or bush that could afford a cover. The Canadians and Indians pressed them closely, darting, with shrill cries, from tree to tree, while Dieskau's regulars, with steadier advance, bore all before them Far and wide through the forest rang shout, and shriek, and Indian whoop, mingled with the deadly rattle of guns. Retreating and pursuing, the combatants passed northward towards the English camp, leaving the ground behind them strewn with dead and dying.
A fresh detachment from the camp came in aid of the English, and the pursuit was checked. Yet the retreating men were not the less rejoiced when they could discern, between the brown columns of the woods, the mountains and waters of Lake George, with the white tents of their encampments on its shore. The French followed no farther. The blast of their trumpets was heard recalling their scattered men for a final attack.
During the absence of Williams' detachment, the main body of the army had covered the front of their camp with a breastwork, if that name can be applied to a row of logs, behind which the marksmen lay flat on their faces. This preparation was not yet complete, when the defeated troops appeared issuing from the woods. Breathless and perturbed, they entered the camp, and lay down with the rest. Full of dismal forebodings, the army waited the attack. Soon, at the edge of the woods which bordered the open space in front, painted Indians were seen, and bayonets glittered among the foliage, shining, in the homely comparison of a New England soldier, like a row of icicles on a January morning. The French regulars marched in column to the edge of the clearing, and formed in line, confronting the English at the distance of a hundred and fifty yards. Their complete order their white uniforms and bristling bayonets, were a new and startling sight to the eyes of Johnson's rustic soldiers, who raised but a feeble cheer in answer to the shouts of their enemies. Happily, Dieskau made no assault. The regulars opened a distant fire, throwing
86volley after volley of musketry against the English, while the Canadians and Indians, dispersing through the morasses on each flank of the camp, fired sharply, under cover of the trees and bushes. In the rear, the English were protected by the lake; but on the three remaining sides, they were hedged in by the flash and smoke of musketry.
The fire of the French had little effect. The English recovered from their first surprise, and every moment their confidence rose higher and their shouts grew louder. Levelling their long hunting-guns with cool precision, they returned a fire which thinned the ranks of the French, and galled them beyond endurance. Two cannon were soon brought to bear upon the morasses which sheltered the Canadians and Indians; and though the pieces were served with little skill, the assailants were so terrified by the crashing of the balls among the trunks and branches, that they gave way at once. Dieskau still persisted in the attack. From noon until past four o'clock, the firing was scarcely abated, when, at length, the French, who had suffered extremely, showed signs of wavering. At this, with a general shout, the English broke from their camp, and rushed upon their enemies, striking them down with the butts of their guns, and driving them through the woods like deer. Dieskau was taken prisoner, dangerously wounded, and leaning for support against the stump of a tree. The slaughter would have been great, had not the English general recalled the pursuers, and suffered the French to continue their flight unmolested. Fresh disasters still awaited the fugitives; for, as they approached the scene of that morning's ambuscade, they were greeted by a volley of musketry. Two companies of New York and New Hampshire rangers, who had come out from Fort Edward as a scouting party, had lain in wait to receive them. Favoured by the darkness of the woods — for night was now approaching — they made so sudden and vigorous an attack, that the French, though far superior in number, were totally routed and dispersed.
87On this day, the British colonists of America, for the first time, encountered in battle the trained soldiers of Europe. That memorable conflict has cast its dark associations over one of the most beautiful spots in America. Near the scene of the evening fight, a pool, half overgrown by weeds and water-lilies, and darkened by the surrounding forest, is pointed out to the tourist, and he is told that beneath its stagnant waters lie the bones of three hundred Frenchmen, deep buried in mud and slime.
The war thus begun was prosecuted for five succeeding years with the full energy of both nations. The period was one of suffering and anxiety to the colonists, who, knowing the full extent of their danger, spared no exertion to avert it. In the year 1758, Lord Abercrombie, who then commanded in America, had at his disposal a force amounting to fifty thousand men, of whom the greater part were provincials.
88Champlain, formed the main avenue of communication between Canada and the British provinces. Lake George is more than thirty miles long, but of width so slight that it seems like some broad and placid river, enclosed between ranges of lofty mountains; now contracting into narrows, thickly dotted with islands and shadowed by cliffs and precipices, and now spreading into a clear and open expanse. It had long been known to the French. The wandering Jesuits had called it Lac St. Sacrement, in admiration of its romantic scenery and the cool purity of its waters, which they loved to use in their sacred rites. Its solitude was now rudely invaded. Armies passed and repassed upon its tranquil bosom. At its northern point the French planted their stronghold of Ticonderoga; at its southern stood the English fort William Henry, while the mountains and waters between were a scene of ceaseless ambuscades, surprises, and forest skirmishing. Through summer and winter, the crack of rifles and the cries of men gave no rest to their echoes, and at this day, on the field of many a forgotten fight, are dug up rusty tomahawks, corroded bullets, and human bones, to attest the struggles of the past.
The earlier years of the war were unpropitious to the English, whose commanders displayed no great degree of vigour or ability. In the summer of 1756, the French general Montcalm advanced upon Oswego, took it, and levelled it to the ground. In August of the following year, he struck a heavier blow. Passing Lake George with a force of eight thousand men, including about two thousand Indians, gathered from the farthest parts of Canada, he laid siege to Fort William Henry, close to the spot where Dieskau had been defeated two years before. Erecting his batteries against it, he beat down its ramparts and dismounted its guns, until the garrison, after a brave defence, were forced to capitulate. They marched out with the honours of war; but scarcely had they done so, when Montcalm's Indians assailed them, cutting down and scalping them without mercy. Those who escaped came in to Fort Edward with exaggerated accounts of the horrors from which they had fled, and a general terror was spread
89through the country. The inhabitants were mustered from all parts to repel the advance of Montcalm; but the French general, satisfied with what he had done, repassed Lake George, and retired behind the walls of Ticonderoga.
In the year 1758, the war began to assume a different aspect, for Pitt was at the head of the government. Sir Jeffrey Amherst laid siege to the strong fortress of Louisburg, and at length reduced it; while in the south, General Forbes marched against Fort du Quesne, and, more fortunate than his predecessor, Braddock, drove the French from that important point. Another successful stroke was the destruction of Fort Frontenac, which was taken by a provincial army under Colonel Bradstreet. These achievements were counterbalanced by a signal disaster. Lord Abercrombie, with an army of sixteen thousand men, advanced to the head of Lake George, the place made memorable by Dieskau's defeat and the loss of Fort William Henry. On a brilliant July morning, he embarked his whole force for an attack on Ticonderoga. Many of those present have recorded with admiration the beauty of the spectacle, the lines of boats filled with troops stretching far down the lake, the flashing of oars, the glitter of weapons, and the music ringing back from crags and rocks, or dying in mellowed strains among the distant mountains. At night, the army landed, and, driving in the French outposts, marched through the woods towards Ticonderoga. One of their columns, losing its way in the forest, fell in with a body of the retreating French; and in the conflict that ensued, Lord Howe, the favourite of the army, was shot dead. On the following morning they prepared to storm the lines which Montcalm had drawn across the peninsula in front of the fortress. Advancing to the attack, they saw before them a breastwork of uncommon height and thickness. The French army were drawn up behind it, their heads alone visible, as they levelled their muskets against the assailants, while, for a hundred yards in front of the work, the ground was covered with felled trees, with sharpened branches pointing outward. The signal of assault was given. In vain the Highlanders, screaming with rage, hewed with their broadswords among the branches,
90struggling to get at the enemy. In vain the English, with their deep-toned shout, rushed on in heavy columns. A tempest of musket balls met them, and Montcalm's cannon swept the whole ground with terrible carnage. A few officers and men forced their way through the branches, passed the ditch, climbed the breastwork, and, leaping among the enemy, were instantly bayonetted. Yet, though the English fought four hours with determined valour, the position of the French was impregnable; and at length, having lost two thousand of their number, the army drew off, leaving many of their dead scattered upon the field. A sudden panic seized the defeated troops. They rushed in haste to their boats, and, though no pursuit was attempted, they did not regain their composure until Lake George was between them and the enemy. The fatal lines of Ticonderoga were not soon forgotten in the provinces; and marbles in Westminster Abbey preserve the memory of those who fell on that disastrous day.
This repulse, far from depressing the energies of the British commanders, seemed to stimulate them to new exertion; and the campaign of the next year, 1759, had for its object the immediate and total reduction of Canada. This unhappy country was full of misery and disorder. Peculation and every kind of corruption prevailed among its civil and military chiefs, a reckless licentiousness was increasing among the people, and a general famine seemed impending, for the population had of late years been drained away for military service, and the fields were left untilled. In spite of their sufferings, the Canadians, strong in rooted antipathy to the English, and highly excited by their priests, resolved on fighting to the last. Prayers were offered up in the churches, masses said, and penances enjoined, to avert the wrath of God from the colony, while everything was done for its defence which the energies of a great and patriotic leader could effect.
By the plan of this summer's campaign, Canada was to be assailed on three sides at once. Upon the west, General Prideaux was to attack Niagara; upon the south, General
91Amherst was to advance upon Ticonderoga and Crown Point; while upon the east, General Wolfe was to besiege Quebec; and each of these armies, having accomplished its particular object, was directed to push forward, if possible, until all three had united their forces in the heart of Canada. In pursuance of the plan, General Prideaux moved up Lake Ontario and invested Niagara. This post was one of the greatest importance. Its capture would cut off the French from the whole interior country, and they therefore made every effort to raise the siege. An army of seventeen hundred French and Indians, collected at the distant garrisons of Detroit, Presqu'Isle, Le Boeuf, and Venango, suddenly appeared before Niagara.
In the meantime, Sir Jeffrey Amherst had crossed Lake George, and appeared before Ticonderoga; upon which the French blew up their works, and retired down Lake Champlain to Crown Point. Retreating from this position also, on the approach of the English army, they collected all their forces, amounting to little more than three thousand men, at Isle Aux Noix, where they entrenched themselves, and prepared to resist the farther progress of the invaders. The lateness of the season prevented Amherst from carrying out the plan of advancing into Canada, and compelled him to go into winter-quarters at Crown Point. The same cause had withheld Prideaux's army from descending the St. Lawrence.
While the outposts of Canada were thus successfully attacked, a blow was struck at a more vital part. Early in June, General Wolfe sailed up the St. Lawrence with a force of eight thousand men, and formed his camp immediately below the city, on the Island of Orleans.
92was the task before him. Piles of lofty cliffs rose with sheer ascent on the northern border of the river; and from their summits the boasted citadel of Canada looked down in proud security, with its churches and convents of stone, its ramparts, bastions, and batteries; while over them all, from the very brink of the precipice, towered the massive walls of the Castle of St. Louis. Above, for many a league, the bank was guarded by an unbroken range of steep acclivities. Below, the River St. Charles, flowing into the St. Lawrence, washed the base of the rocky promontory on which the city stood. Lower yet lay an army of fourteen thousand men, under an able and renowned commander, the Marquis of Montcalm. His front was covered by entrenchments and batteries, which lined the bank of the St. Lawrence; his right wing rested on the city and the St. Charles; his left on the cascade and deep gulf of Montmorenci; and thick forests extended along his rear. Opposite Quebec rose the high promontory of Point Levi; and the St. Lawrence, contracted to less than a mile in width, flowed between, with deep and powerful current. To a chief of less resolute temper, it might well have seemed that art and nature were in league to thwart his enterprise; but a mind like that of Wolfe could only have seen in this majestic combination of forest and cataract, mountain and river, a fitting theatre for the great drama about to be enacted there.
Yet nature did not seem to have formed the young English general for the conduct of a doubtful and almost desperate enterprise. His person was slight, and his features by no means of a martial cast. His feeble constitution had been undermined by years of protracted and painful disease.
93better fitted for the quiet of domestic life than for the stern duties of military command; but to these gentler traits he joined a high enthusiasm, and an unconquerable spirit of daring and endurance, which made him the idol of his soldiers, and bore his slender frame through every hardship and exposure.
The work before him demanded all his courage. How to invest the city, or even bring the army of Montcalm to action, was a problem which might have perplexed a Hannibal. A French fleet lay in the river above, and the precipices along the northern bank were guarded at every accessible point by sentinels and outposts. Wolfe would have crossed the Montmorenci by its upper ford, and attacked the French army on its left and rear; but the plan was thwarted by the nature of the ground and the sleepless vigilance of his adversaries. Thus baffled at every other point, he formed the bold design of storming Montcalm's position in front; and on the afternoon of the thirty-first of July, a strong body of troops was embarked in boats, and, covered by a furious cannonade from the English ships and batteries, landed on the beach just above the mouth of the Montmorenci. The grenadiers and Royal Americans were the first on shore, and their ill-timed impetuosity proved the ruin of the plan. Without waiting to receive their orders or form their ranks, they ran, pell-mell, across the level ground between, and with loud shouts began, each man for himself, to scale the heights which rose in front, crested with entrenchments and bristling with hostile arms. The French at the top threw volley after volley among the hotheaded assailants. The slopes were soon covered with the fallen; and at that instant a storm, which had long been threatening, burst with sudden fury, drenched the combatants on both sides with a deluge of rain, extinguished for a moment the fire of the French, and at the same time made the steeps so slippery that the grenadiers fell repeatedly in their vain attempts to climb. Night was coming on with double darkness. The retreat was sounded, and, as the English re-embarked, troops of Indians came whooping down the heights, and hovered about their rear, to murder the stragglers and the wounded; while exulting shouts and cries
94of Vive le roi, from the crowded summits, proclaimed the triumph of the enemy.
With bitter agony of mind, Wolfe beheld the headlong folly of his men, and saw more than four hundred of the flower of his army fall a useless sacrifice.
The plan had been first proposed during the height of Wolfe's illness, at a council of his subordinate generals, Monkton, Townshend, and Murray. It was resolved to divide the little army, and, while one portion remained before Quebec to alarm the enemy by false attacks, and distract their attention from the scene of actual operation, the other was to pass above the town, land under cover of darkness on the northern shore, climb the guarded heights, gain the plains above, and force Montcalm to quit his vantage-ground, and perhaps to offer battle. The scheme was daring even to rashness; but its singular audacity was the secret of its success.
Early in September, a crowd of ships and transports, under Admiral Holmes, passed the city amidst the hot firing of its batteries; while the troops designed for the expedition, amounting to scarcely five thousand, marched upward along the southern bank, beyond reach of the cannonade. All were then embarked; and on the evening of the twelfth, Holmes' fleet, with the troops on board, lay safe at anchor in the river, several leagues above the town. These operations had not failed to awaken the suspicions of Montcalm; and he had detached M. Bougainville to watch the movements of the English, and prevent their landing on the northern shore.
The eventful night of the twelfth was clear and calm, with
95no light but that of the stars. Within two hours before daybreak, thirty boats, crowded with sixteen hundred soldiers, cast off from the vessels, and floated downward, in perfect order, with the current of the ebb tide. To the boundless joy of the army, Wolfe's malady had abated, and he was able to command in person. His ruined health, the gloomy prospects of the siege, and the disaster at Montmorenci, had oppressed him with the deepest melancholy, but never impaired for a moment the promptness of his decisions, or the impetuous energy of his action.
the shadows of his own approaching fate stole with mournful prophecy across his mind. "Gentlemen," he said, as he closed his recital, "I would rather have written those lines than take Quebec to-morrow."
As they approached the landing-place, the boats edged closer in towards the northern shore, and the woody precipices rose high on their left, like a wall of undistinguished blackness.
"Qui vive?" shouted a French sentinel, from out the impervious gloom.
"La France!" answered a captain of Eraser's Highlanders, from the foremost boat.
"A quel regiment?" demanded the soldier.
"De la Reine!" promptly replied the Highland captain, who chanced to know that the corps so designated formed part of Bougainville's command. As boats were frequently passing down the river with supplies for the garrison, and as a convoy from Bougainville was expected that very night, the sentinel was deceived, and allowed the English to proceed.
A few moments after, they were challenged again, and this time they could discern the soldier running close down to the water's edge, as if all his suspicions were aroused; but the skilful replies of the Highlander once more saved the party from discovery.
They reached the landing-place in safety — an indentation in the shore, about a league above the city, and now bearing the name of Wolfe's Cove. Here a narrow path led up the face of the heights, and a French guard was posted at the top to defend the pass. By the force of the current, the foremost boats, including that which carried Wolfe himself, were borne a little below the spot. The general was one of the first on shore. He looked upward at the rugged
97heights which towered above him in the gloom. "You can try it," he coolly observed to an officer near him; "but I don't think you'll get up."
At the point where the Highlanders landed, one of their captains, Donald Macdonald, apparently the same whose presence of mind had just saved the enterprise from ruin, was climbing in advance of his men, when he was challenged by a sentinel. He replied in French, by declaring that he had been sent to relieve the guard, and ordering the soldier to withdraw.
The sun rose, and, from the ramparts of Quebec, the astonished people saw the Plains of Abraham glittering with arms, and the dark-red lines of the English forming in array of battle. Breathless messengers had borne the evil tidings to Montcalm, and far and near his wide-extended camp resounded with the rolling of alarm drums and the din of startled preparation. He, too, had had his struggles and his sorrows. The civil power had thwarted him; famine, discontent, and disaffection were rife among his soldiers; and no small portion of the Canadian militia had dispersed from sheer starvation. In spite of all, he had trusted to hold out till the winter frosts should drive the invaders from before the town; when, on that disastrous
98morning, the news of their successful temerity fell like a cannon shot upon his ear. Still he assumed a tone of confidence. "They have got to the weak side of us at last," he is reported to have said, "and we must crush them with our numbers." With headlong haste, his troops were pouring over the bridge of the St. Charles, and gathering in heavy masses under the western ramparts of the town. Could numbers give assurance of success, their triumph would have been secure; for five French battalions and the armed colonial peasantry amounted in all to more than seven thousand five hundred men. Full in sight before them stretched the long, thin lines of the British forces — the half-wild Highlanders, the steady soldiery of England, and the hardy levies of the provinces — less than five thousand in number, but all inured to battle, and strong in the full assurance of success. Yet, could the chiefs of that gallant army have pierced the secrets of the future, could they have foreseen that the victory which they burned to achieve would have robbed England of her proudest boast, that the conquest of Canada would pave the way for the independence of America, their swords would have dropped from their hands, and the heroic fire have gone out within their hearts.
It was nine o'clock, and the adverse armies stood motionless, each gazing on the other. The clouds hung low, and, at intervals, warm light showers descended, besprinkling both alike. The coppice and cornfields in front of the British troops were filled with French sharpshooters, who kept up a distant, spattering fire. Here and there a soldier fell in the ranks, and the gap was filled in silence.
At a little before ten, the British could see that Montcalm was preparing to advance, and, in a few moments, all his troops appeared in rapid motion. They came on in three divisions, shouting after the manner of their nation, and firing heavily as soon as they came within range. In the British ranks, not a trigger was pulled, not a soldier stirred; and their ominous composure seemed to damp the spirits of the assailants. It was not till the French were within forty yards that the fatal word was given. At once, from end to end of the British line, the muskets rose to the
99level, as if with the sway of some great machine, and the whole blazed forth at once in one crashing explosion. Like a ship at full career, arrested with sudden ruin on a sunken rock, the columns of Montcalm staggered, shivered, and broke before that wasting storm of lead. The smoke, rolling along the field, for a moment shut out the view; but when the white wreaths were scattered on the wind, a wretched spectacle was disclosed; men and officers tumbled in heaps, columns resolved into a mob, order and obedience gone; and when the British muskets were levelled for a second volley, the masses were seen to cower and shrink with uncontrollable panic. For a few minutes, the French regulars stood their ground, returning a sharp and not ineffectual fire. But now, echoing cheer on cheer, redoubling volley on volley, trampling the dying and the dead, and driving the fugitives in crowds, the British troops advanced and swept the field before them. The ardour of the men burst all restraint. They broke into a run, and with unsparing slaughter chased the flying multitude to the very gates of Quebec. Foremost of all, the light-footed Highlanders dashed along in furious pursuit, hewing down the Frenchmen with their broadswords, and slaying many in the very ditch of the fortifications. Never was victory more quick or more decisive.
In the short action and pursuit, the French lost fifteen hundred men, killed, wounded, and taken. Of the remainder, some escaped within the city, and others fled across the St. Charles to rejoin their comrades who had been left to guard the camp. The pursuers were recalled by sound of trumpet; the broken ranks were formed afresh, and the English troops withdrawn beyond reach of the cannon of Quebec. Bougainville, with his detachment, arrived from the upper country, and, hovering about their
100rear, threatened an attack; but when he saw what greeting was prepared for him, he abandoned his purpose and withdrew. Townshend and Murray, the only general officers who remained unhurt, passed to the head of every regiment in turn, and thanked the soldiers for the bravery they had shown; yet the triumph of the victors was mingled with sadness, as the tidings went from rank to rank that Wolfe had fallen.
In the heat of the action, as he advanced at the head of the grenadiers of Louisburg, a bullet shattered his wrist; but he wrapped his handkerchief about the wound, and showed no sign of pain. A moment more, and a ball pierced his side. Still he pressed forward, waving his sword and cheering his soldiers to the attack, when a third shot lodged deep within his breast. He paused, reeled, and, staggering to one side, fell to the earth. Brown, a lieutenant of the grenadiers, Henderson, a volunteer, an officer of artillery, and a private soldier raised him together in their arms, and, bearing him to the rear, laid him softly on the grass. They asked if he would have a surgeon; but he shook his head, and answered that all was over with him. His eyes closed with the torpor of approaching death, and those around sustained his fainting form. Yet they could not withhold their gaze from the wild turmoil before them, and the charging ranks of their companions rushing through fire and smoke. "See how they run," one of the officers exclaimed, as the French fled in confusion before the levelled bayonets. "Who run?" demanded Wolfe, opening his eyes like a man aroused from sleep. "The enemy, sir," was the reply; "they give way everywhere." "Then," said the dying general, "tell Colonel Burton to inarch Webb's regiment down to Charles River, to cut off their retreat from the bridge. Now, God be praised, I will die in peace," he murmured; and, turning on his side, he calmly breathed his last.
Almost at the same moment fell his great adversary, Montcalm, as he strove, with useless bravery, to rally his shattered ranks. Struck down with a mortal wound, he
101was placed upon a litter and borne to the General Hospital on the banks of the St. Charles. The surgeons told him that he could not recover. "I am glad of it," was his calm reply. He then asked how long he might survive, and was told that he had not many hours remaining. "So much the better," he said; "I am happy that I shall not live to see the surrender of Quebec." Officers from the garrison came to his bedside to ask his orders and instructions. "I will give no more orders," replied the defeated soldier; "I have much business that must be attended to, of greater moment than your ruined garrison and this wretched country. My time is very short; therefore, pray leave me." The officers withdrew, and none remained in the chamber but his confessor and the Bishop of Quebec. To the last, he expressed his contempt for his own mutinous and half-famished troops, and his admiration for the disciplined valour of his opponents.
The victorious army encamped before Quebec, and pushed their preparations for the siege with zealous energy; but before a single gun was brought to bear, the white flag was hung out, and the garrison surrendered. On the eighteenth of September, 1759, the rock-built citadel of Canada passed forever from the hands of its ancient masters.
The victory on the Plains of Abraham and the downfall of Quebec filled all England with pride and exultation. From north to south, the whole land blazed with illuminations, and resounded with the ringing of bells, the firing of guns, and the shouts of the multitude. In one village alone all was dark and silent amid the general joy; for here dwelt the widowed mother of Wolfe. The populace, with unwonted delicacy, respected her lonely sorrow, and forbore to obtrude the sound of their rejoicings upon her grief for one who had been through life her pride and solace, and repaid her love with a tender and constant devotion.
Canada, crippled and dismembered by the disasters of this year's campaign, lay waiting, as it were, the final stroke
102which was to extinguish her last remains of life, and close the eventful story of French dominion in America. Her limbs and her head were lopped away, but life still fluttered at her heart. Quebec, Niagara, Frontenac, and Crown Point had fallen; but Montreal and the adjacent country still held out, and thither, with the opening season of 1760, the British commanders turned all their energies. Three armies were to enter Canada at three several points, and, conquering as they advanced, converge towards Montreal as a common centre. In accordance with this plan, Sir Jeffrey Amherst embarked at Oswego, crossed Lake Ontario, and descended the St. Lawrence with ten thousand men; while Colonel Haviland advanced by way of Lake Champlain and the River Sorel, and General Murray ascended from Quebec, with a body of the veterans who had fought on the Plains of Abraham.
By a singular concurrence of fortune and skill, the three armies reached the neighbourhood of Montreal on the same day. The feeble and disheartened garrison could offer no resistance, and on the eighth of September, 1760, the Marquis de Vaudreuil surrendered Canada with all its dependencies, to the British crown.
THE FRENCH WAR
WE have already seen how, after the defeat of Braddock, the western tribes rose with one accord against the English. Then, for the first time, Pennsylvania felt the scourge of Indian war; and her neighbours, Maryland and Virginia, shared her misery. Through the autumn of 1755, the storm raged with devastating fury; but the following year brought some abatement of its violence. This may be ascribed partly to the interference of the Iroquois, who, at the instances of Sir William Johnson, urged the Delawares to lay down the hatchet, and partly to the persuasions of several prominent men among the Quakers, who, by kind and friendly treatment, had gained the confidence of the Indians.
This treaty, however, did not embrace the Indians of the Ohio, who comprised the most formidable part of the Delawares and Shawanoes, and who still continued their murderous attacks. It was not till the summer of 1758, when General Forbes, with a considerable army, was advancing against Fort du Quesne, that these exasperated savages could be brought to reason. Well knowing that, should Forbes prove successful, they might expect a
104summary chastisement for their misdeeds, they began to waver in their attachment to the French; and the latter, in the hour of peril, found themselves threatened with desertion by allies who had shown an ample alacrity in the season of prosperity. This new tendency of the Ohio Indians was fostered by a wise step on the part of the English. A man was found bold and hardy enough to venture into the midst of their villages, bearing the news of the treaty at Easton, and the approach of Forbes, coupled with proposals of peace from the governor of Pennsylvania.
This stout-hearted emissary was Christian Frederic Post, a Moravian missionary, who had long lived with the Indians, had twice married among them, and, by his upright dealings and plain good sense, had gained their confidence and esteem. His devout and conscientious spirit, his fidelity to what he deemed his duty, his imperturbable courage, his prudence and his address, well fitted him for the critical mission. His journals, written in a style of quaint simplicity, are full of lively details, and afford a minute and graphic picture of forest life and character. He left Philadelphia in July, attended by a party of friendly Indians, on whom he relied for protection. Reaching the Ohio, he found himself beset with incalculable perils from the jealousy and malevolence of the savage warriors, and the machinations of the French, who would gladly have destroyed him.
105Yet he found friends wherever he went, and finally succeeded in convincing the Indians that their true interest lay in a strict neutrality. When, therefore, Forbes appeared before Fort du Quesne, the French found themselves abandoned to their own resources; and, unable to hold their ground, they retreated down the Ohio, leaving the fort an easy conquest to the invaders. During the autumn, the Ohio Indians sent their deputies to Easton, where a great council was held, and a formal peace concluded with the provinces.
While the friendship of these tribes was thus lost and regained, their ancient tyrants, the Iroquois, remained in a state of loose and critical attachment. At the outbreak of
106the war, they had shown, it is true, many signs of friendship;
The Hurons of Lorette, the Abenakis, and other domiciliated tribes of Canada ranged themselves on the side of France throughout the war, and at its conclusion, they, in common with the Canadians, may be regarded in the light of a conquered people.
The numerous tribes of the remote west had, with few exceptions, played the part of active allies of the French; and warriors might be found on the farthest shores of Lake Superior who garnished their war-dress with the scalp-locks of murdered Englishmen. With the conquest of Canada, these tribes subsided into a state of passive inaction, which was not destined long to continue.
And now, before launching into the story of that sanguinary war, which forms our proper and immediate theme, it will be well to survey the grand arena of the strife, the goodly
107heritage which the wretched tribes of the forest struggled to retrieve from the hands of the spoiler.
One vast, continuous forest shadowed the fertile soil, covering the land as the grass covers a garden lawn, sweeping over hill and hollow in endless undulation, burying mountains in verdure, and mantling brooks and rivers from the light of day. Green intervals dotted with browsing deer, and broad plains blackened with buffalo, broke the sameness of the woodland scenery. Unnumbered rivers seamed the forest with their devious windings. Vast lakes washed its boundaries, where the Indian voyager, in his birch canoe, could descry no land beyond the world of waters. Yet this prolific wilderness, teeming with waste fertility, was but a hunting-ground and a battle-field to a few fierce hordes of savages. Here and there, in some rich meadow opened to the sun, the Indian squaws turned the black mould with their rude implements of bone or iron, and sowed their scanty stores of maize and beans. Human labour drew no other tribute from that inexhaustible soil.
So thin and scattered was the native population, that, even in those parts which were thought well peopled, one might sometimes journey for days together through the twilight forest, and meet no human form. Broad tracts were left in solitude. All Kentucky was a vacant waste, a mere skirmishing ground for the hostile war-parties of the north and south. A great part of Upper Canada, of Michigan, and of Illinois, besides other portions of the west, were tenanted by wild beasts alone. To form a close estimate of the numbers of the erratic bands who roamed this wilderness would be a vain attempt; but it may be affirmed that, between the Mississippi on the west and the ocean on the east, between the Ohio on the south and Lake Superior on the north, the whole Indian population, at the close of the French war, did not greatly exceed ten thousand fighting men. Of these, following the statement of Sir William Johnson, in 1763, the Iroquois had nineteen hundred and fifty, the Delawares about six hundred, the Shawanoes about three hundred, the Wyandots about four hundred and fifty, and the Miami tribes, with their neighbours the Kickapoos, eight hundred; while the Ottawas, the Ojibwas, and other
108wandering tribes of the north, defy all efforts at enumeration.
A close survey of the condition of the tribes at this period will detect some signs of improvement, but many more of degeneracy and decay. To commence with the Iroquois, for to them with justice the priority belongs: Onondaga, the ancient capital of their confederacy, where their council-fire had burned from immemorial time, was now no longer what it had been in the days of its greatness, when Count Frontenac had mustered all Canada to assail it. The thickly-clustered dwellings, with their triple rows of palisades, had vanished. A little stream, twisting along the valley, choked up with logs and driftwood, and half hidden by woods and thickets, some forty houses of bark, scattered along its banks, amid rank grass, neglected clumps of bushes, and ragged patches of corn and peas, — such was Onondaga when Bartram saw it, and such, no doubt, it remained at the time of which I write.
High up the Susquehanna were seated the Nanticokes, Conoys, and Mohicans, with a portion of the Delawares. Detached bands of the western Iroquois dwelt upon the head waters of the Alleghany, mingled with their neighbours, the Delawares, who had several villages upon this stream. The great body of the latter nation, however, lived upon the Beaver Creeks and the Muskingum, in numerous scattered towns and hamlets, whose barbarous names it is useless to record. Squalid log cabins and conical wigwams of bark were clustered at random, or ranged to form rude streets and squares. Starveling horses grazed on the neighbouring meadows; girls and children bathed and laughed in the adjacent river; warriors smoked their pipes in haughty indolence; squaws laboured in the cornfields, or brought fagots from the forest, and shrivelled hags screamed from lodge to lodge. In each village one large building stood prominent among the rest, devoted to purposes of public meeting, dances, festivals, and the entertainment of strangers. Thither the traveller would be conducted, seated on a bear-skin, and plentifully regaled with hominy and venison.
The Shawanoes had fixed their abode upon the Scioto and its branches. Farther towards the west, on the waters of the Wabash and the Maumee, dwelt the Miamis, who, less exposed, from their position, to the poison of the whiskey keg, and the example of debauched traders, retained their ancient character and customs in greater purity than their eastern neighbours. This cannot be said of the Illinois, who dwelt near the borders of the Mississippi, and who, having lived for more than half a century in close contact with the French, had become a corrupt and degenerate race. The Wyandots of Sandusky and Detroit far surpassed the surrounding tribes in energy of character and social progress. Their log dwellings were strong and commodious, their agriculture was very considerable, their name stood high in war and policy, and by all the adjacent Indians they were regarded with deference. It is needless to pursue farther this catalogue of tribes, since the position of each will appear hereafter as they advance in turn upon the stage of action.
110The English settlements lay like a narrow strip between the wilderness and the sea, and, as the sea had its ports, so also the forest had its places of rendezvous and outfit. Of these, by far the most important in the northern provinces was the frontier city of Albany. From thence it was that traders and soldiers, bound to the country of the Iroquois, or the more distant wilds of the interior, set out upon their arduous journey. Embarking in a bateau or a canoe, rowed by those hardy men who earned their livelihood in this service, the traveller would ascend the Mohawk, passing the old Dutch town of Schenectady, the two seats of Sir William Johnson, Fort Hunter at the mouth of the Schoharie, and Fort Herkimer at the German Flats, until he reached Fort Stanwix at the head of the river navigation. Then crossing overland to Wood Creek, he would follow its tortuous course, overshadowed by the dense forest on its banks, until he arrived at the little fortification called the Royal Blockhouse, and the waters of the Oneida Lake spread before him. Crossing to its western extremity, and passing under the wooden ramparts of Fort Brewerton, he would descend the River Oswego to Oswego,
The chief thoroughfare from the middle colonies to the Indian country was from Philadelphia westward, across the Alleghanies, to the valley of the Ohio. Peace was no sooner concluded with the hostile tribes, than the adventurous fur-traders, careless of risk to life and property, hastened over the mountains, each eager to be foremost in
111the wilderness market. Their merchandise was sometimes carried in wagons as far as the site of Fort du Quesne, which the English rebuilt after its capture, changing its name to Fort Pitt. From this point the goods were packed on the backs of horses, and thus distributed among the various Indian villages. More commonly, however, the whole journey was performed by means of trains, or, as they were called, brigades of packhorses, which, leaving the frontier settlements, climbed the shadowy heights of the Alleghanies, and threaded the forests of the Ohio, diving through thickets, and wading over streams. The men employed in this perilous calling were a rough, bold, and intractable class, often as fierce and truculent as the Indians themselves. A blanket coat, or a frock of smoked deerskin, a rifle on the shoulder, and a knife and tomahawk in the belt, formed their ordinary equipment. The principal trader, the owner of the merchandise, would fix his headquarters at some large Indian town, whence he would dispatch his subordinates to the surrounding villages, with a suitable supply of blankets and red cloth, guns and hatchets, liquor, tobacco, paint, beads, and hawk's bells. This wild traffic was liable to every species of disorder; and it is not to be wondered at that, in a region where law was unknown, the jealousies of rival traders should become a fruitful source of broils, robberies, and murders.
In the backwoods, all land travelling was on foot, or on horseback. It was no easy matter for a novice, embarrassed with his cumbrous gun, to urge his horse through the thick
112trunks and undergrowth, or even to ride at speed along the narrow Indian trails, where, at every yard, the impending branches switched him across the face. At night, the camp would be formed by the side of some rivulet or spring: and, if the traveller was skilful in the use of his rifle, a haunch of venison would often form his evening meal. If it rained, a shed of elm or bass-wood bark was the ready work of an hour, a pile of evergreen boughs formed a bed, and the saddle or the knapsack a pillow. A party of Indian wayfarers would often be met journeying through the forest, a chief, or a warrior, perhaps, with his squaws and family. The Indians would usually make their camp in the neighbourhood of the white men; and at meal-time the warrior would seldom fail to seat himself by the traveller's fire, and gaze with solemn gravity at the viands before him. If, when the repast was over, a fragment of bread or a cup of coffee should be handed to him, he would receive these highly-prized rarities with a deep ejaculation of gratitude: for nothing is more remarkable in the character of this people than the union of inordinate pride and a generous love of glory with the mendicity of a beggar or a child.
He who wished to visit the remoter tribes of the Mississippi valley — an attempt, however, which, until several years after the conquest of Canada, no Englishman could have made without great risk of losing his scalp — would find no easier course than to descend the Ohio in a canoe or bateau. He might float for more than eleven hundred miles down this liquid highway of the wilderness, and except the deserted cabins of Logstown, a little below Fort Pitt, the remnant of a Shawanoe village at the mouth of the Scioto, and an occasional hamlet or solitary wigwam along the luxuriant banks, he would discern no trace of human habitancy through all this vast extent. The body of the Indian population lay to the northward, about the waters of the tributary streams. It behoved the voyager to observe a sleepless caution and hawk-eyed vigilance. Sometimes his anxious scrutiny would detect a faint blue smoke stealing upward above the green bosom of the forest, and betraying the encamping place of some lurking war-party. Then the canoe would be drawn in haste beneath
113the overhanging bushes which skirted the shore; nor would the voyage be resumed until darkness closed, when the little vessel would drift swiftly and safely past the point of danger.
Within the nominal limits of the Illinois Indians, and towards the southern extremity of the present state of Illinois, were those isolated Canadian settlements, which had subsisted here since the latter part of the previous century. Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Vincennes were the centres of this scattered population. From Vincennes one might paddle his canoe northward up the Wabash, until he reached the little wooden fort of Ouatanon. Thence a path through the woods led to the banks of the Maumee. Two or three Canadians, or half-breeds, of whom there were numbers about the fort, would carry the canoe on their shoulders, or, for a bottle of whiskey, a few Miami Indians might be bribed to undertake the task. On the Maumee, at the end of the path, stood Fort Miami, near the spot where Fort Wayne was afterwards built. From this point one might descend the Maumee to Lake Erie, and visit the neighbouring fort of Sandusky, or, if he chose, steer through the Strait of Detroit, and explore the watery wastes of the northern lakes, finding occasional harbourage at the little military posts which commanded their important points. Most of these western posts were transferred to the English, during the autumn of 1760; but the settlements of the Illinois remained several years longer under French control.
Eastward, on the waters of Lake Erie and the Alleghany, stood three small forts, Presqu'Isle, Le Boeuf, and Venango, which had passed into the hands of the English soon after the capture of Fort du Quesne. The feeble garrisons of all these western posts, exiled from civilization, lived in the solitude of military hermits. Through the long,
114hot days of summer, and the protracted cold of winter, time hung heavy on their hands. Their resources of employment and recreation were few and meagre. They found partners in their loneliness among the young beauties of the Indian camps. They hunted and fished, shot at targets, and played at games of chance; and when, by good fortune, a traveller found his way among them, he was greeted with a hearty and open-handed welcome, and plied with eager questions touching the great world from which they were banished men. Yet, tedious as it was, their secluded life was seasoned with stirring danger. The surrounding forests were peopled with a race dark and subtle as their own sunless mazes. At any hour, those jealous tribes might raise the war-cry. No human foresight could predict the sallies of their fierce caprice, and in ceaseless watching lay the only safety.
When the European and the savage are brought in contact, both are gainers, and both are losers. The former loses the refinements of civilization, but he gains, in the rough schooling of the wilderness, a proud independence, a self-sustaining energy, and powers of action and perception before unthought of. The savage gains new means of comfort and support, cloth, iron, and gunpowder; yet these apparent benefits have often proved but instruments of ruin. They soon become necessities, and the unhappy hunter, forgetting the weapons of his fathers, must thenceforth depend on the white man for ease, happiness, and life itself.
Those rude and hardy men, hunters and traders, scouts and guides, who ranged the woods beyond the English borders, and formed a connecting link between barbarism and civilization, have been touched upon already. They were a distinct, peculiar class, marked with striking contrasts of good and evil. Many, though by no means all, were coarse, audacious, and unscrupulous; yet, even in the worst, one might often have found a vigorous growth of warlike virtues, an iron endurance, an undespairing courage, a wondrous sagacity, and singular fertility of resource. In them was renewed, with all its ancient energy, that wild and daring spirit, that force and hardihood of mind, which marked our barbarous ancestors of Germany and Norway.
115These sons of the wilderness still survive. We may find them to this day, not in the valley of the Ohio, nor on the shores of the lakes, but far westward on the desert range of the buffalo, and among the solitudes of Oregon. Even now, while I write, some lonely trapper is climbing the perilous defiles of the Rocky Mountains, his strong frame cased in time-worn buckskin, his rifle gripped in his sinewy hand. Keenly he peers from side to side, lest Blackfoot or Arapahoe should ambuscade his path. The rough earth is his bed, a morsel of dried meat and a draught of water are his food and drink, and death and danger his companions. No anchorite could fare worse, no hero could dare more; yet his wild, hard life has resistless charms; and, while he can wield a rifle, he will never leave it. Go with him to the rendezvous, and he is a stoic no more. Here, rioting among his comrades, his native appetites break loose in mad excess, in deep carouse, and desperate gaming. Then follow close the quarrel, the challenge, the fight, — two rusty rifles and fifty yards of prairie.
The nursling of civilization, placed in the midst of the forest, and abandoned to his own resources, is helpless as an infant. There is no clue to the labyrinth. Bewildered and amazed, he circles round and round in hopeless wanderings. Despair and famine make him their prey, and unless the birds of heaven minister to his wants, he dies in misery. Not so the practised woodman. To him, the forest is a home. It yields him food, shelter, and raiment, and he threads its trackless depths with undeviating foot. To lure the game, to circumvent the lurking foe, to guide his course by the stars, the wind, the streams, or the trees, — such are the arts which the white man has learned from the red. Often, indeed, the pupil has outstripped his master. He can hunt as well; he can fight better; and yet there are niceties of the woodsman's craft in which the white man must yield the palm to his savage rival. Seldom can he boast, in equal measure, that subtlety of sense, more akin to the instinct of brutes than to human reason, which reads the signs of the forest as the scholar reads the printed page, to which the whistle of a bird can speak clearly as the tongue of man, and the rustle of a leaf give knowledge of life or
THE war was over. The plains around Montreal were dotted with the white tents of three victorious armies, and the work of conquest was complete. Canada, with all her dependencies, had yielded to the British crown; but it still remained to carry into full effect the terms of the surrender and take possession of those western outposts, where the lilies of France had not as yet descended from the flagstaff. The execution of this task, neither an easy nor a safe one, was assigned to a provincial officer, Major Robert Rogers.
Rogers was a native of New Hampshire. He commanded a body of provincial rangers, and stood in high repute as a partisan officer. Putnam and Stark were his associates; and it was in this woodland warfare that the former achieved many of those startling adventures and hair-breadth escapes which have made his name familiar at every New England fireside. Rogers' Rangers, half hunters, half woodsmen, trained in a discipline of their own, and armed, like Indians, with hatchet, knife, and gun, were employed in a service of peculiar hardship. Their chief theatre of action was the mountainous region of Lake George, the debatable ground between the hostile forts of Ticonderoga and Crown Point. The deepest recesses of these romantic solitudes had heard the French and Indian yell, and the answering shout of the hardy New England men. In summer, they passed down the lake in whale boats or canoes, or threaded the pathways of the woods in single file, like the savages themselves. In winter, they journeyed through the swamps on snow-shoes, skated along the frozen surface of the lake, and bivouacked at night among
118the snow-drifts. They intercepted French messengers, encountered French scouting parties, and carried off prisoners from under the very walls of Ticonderoga. Their hardships and adventures, their marches and countermarches, their frequent skirmishes and midwinter battles, had made them famous throughout America; and though it was the fashion of the day to sneer at the efforts of provincial troops, the name of Rogers' Rangers was never mentioned but with honour.
Their commander was a man tall and vigorous in person and rough in feature. He was versed in all the arts of woodcraft, sagacious, prompt, and resolute, yet so cautious withal that he sometimes incurred the unjust charge of cowardice. His mind, naturally active, was by no means uncultivated; and his books and unpublished letters bear witness that his style as a writer was not contemptible. But his vain, restless, and grasping spirit, and more than doubtful honesty, proved the ruin of an enviable reputation. Six years after the expedition of which I am about to speak, he was tried by a court-martial for a meditated act of treason, the surrender of Fort Michillimackinac into the hands of the Spaniards, who were at that time masters of Upper Louisiana.
On the twelfth of September, 1760, Rogers, then at the height of his reputation, received orders from Sir Jeffrey Amherst to ascend the lakes with a detachment of rangers, and take possession, in the name of his Britannic Majesty, of Detroit, Michillimackinac, and other western posts included in the late capitulation. He left Montreal, on the following day, with two hundred rangers, in fifteen whale boats. They passed the chapel of St. Anne's, where Canadian voyageurs, bound for the north-west, received absolution and paid their votive offerings. Stemming the surges of La Chine and the Cedars, they left behind them the straggling hamlet which bore the latter name, and formed at that day the western limit of Canadian settlement.
120at its western extremity, reached Fort Niagara on the first of October. Carrying their boats over the portage, they launched once more above the cataract, and slowly pursued their voyage, while Rogers, with a few attendants, hastened on in advance to Fort Pitt, to deliver despatches, with which he was charged, to General Monkton. This errand accomplished, he rejoined his command at Presqu'Isle, about the end of the month, and the whole proceeded together along the southern margin of Lake Erie. The season was far advanced. The wind was chill, the lake was stormy, and the woods on shore were tinged with the fading hues of autumn. On the seventh of November they reached the mouth of Cayahoga River, the present site of Cleveland. No body of troops under the British flag had ever before advanced so far. The day was dull and rainy, and resolving to rest until the weather should improve, Rogers ordered his men to prepare their encampment in the neighbouring forest. The place has seen strange changes since that day. A youthful city has usurped the spot where the fish-hawk and the eagle, the wolf and the bear, then reigned with undisputed mastery.
Soon after the arrival of the rangers, a party of Indian chiefs and warriors entered the camp. They proclaimed themselves an embassy from Pontiac, ruler of all that country, and directed, in his name, that the English should advance no farther until they had had an interview with the great chief, who was already close at hand. In truth, before the day closed, Pontiac himself appeared; and it is here, for the first time, that this remarkable man stands forth distinctly on the page of history. He greeted Rogers with the haughty demand, what was his business in that country, and how he dared enter it without his permission. Rogers informed him that the French were defeated, that Canada had surrendered, and that he was on his way to take possession of Detroit, and restore a general peace to white men and Indians alike. Pontiac listened with attention, but only replied that he should stand in the path of the English until morning. Having inquired if the strangers were in need of anything which his country could afford, he withdrew, with his chiefs, at nightfall, to his own encampment;
121while the English, ill at ease, and suspecting treachery, stood well on their guard throughout the night.
In the morning, Pontiac returned to the camp with his attendant chiefs, and made his reply to Rogers' speech of the previous day. He was willing, he said, to live at peace with the English, and suffer them to remain in his country as long as they treated him with due respect and deference. The Indian chiefs and provincial officers smoked the calumet together, and perfect harmony seemed established between them.
Up to this time, Pontiac had been, in word and deed, the fast ally of the French; but it is easy to discern the motives that impelled him to renounce his old adherence. The American forest never produced a man more shrewd, politic, and ambitious. Ignorant as he was of what was passing in the world, he could clearly see that the French power was on the wane, and he knew his own interest too well to prop a falling cause. By making friends of the English, he hoped to gain powerful allies, who would aid his ambitious projects, and give him an increased influence over the tribes; and he flattered himself that the newcomers would treat him with the same studied respect which the French had always observed. In this, and all his other expectations of advantage from the English, he was doomed to disappointment.
A cold storm of rain set in, and the rangers were detained some days in their encampment. During this time, Rogers had several interviews with Pontiac, and was constrained to admire the native vigour of his intellect, no less than the singular control which he exercised over those around him.
On the twelfth of November, the detachment was again in motion, and within a few days, they had reached the western end of Lake Erie. Here they heard that the Detroit Indians were in arms against them, and that four hundred warriors lay in ambush at the entrance of the river to cut them off. But the powerful influence of Pontiac was exerted in behalf of his new friends. The warriors abandoned their
122design, and the rangers continued their progress towards Detroit, now within a short distance.
In the meantime, Lieutenant Brehm had been sent forward with a letter to Captain Beletre, the commandant at Detroit, informing him that Canada had capitulated, that his garrison was included in the capitulation, and that an English detachment was approaching to relieve it. The Frenchman, in great wrath at the tidings, disregarded the message as an informal communication, and resolved to keep a hostile attitude to the last. He did his best to rouse the fury of the Indians. Among other devices, he displayed upon a pole, before the yelling multitude, the effigy of a crow pecking a man's head, the crow representing himself, and the head, observes Rogers, "being meant for my own." All his efforts were unavailing, and his faithless allies showed unequivocal symptoms of defection in the hour of need.
Rogers had now entered the mouth of the River Detroit, whence he sent forward Captain Campbell with a copy of the capitulation, and a letter from the Marquis de Vaudreuil, directing that the place should be given up, in accordance with the terms agreed upon between him and General Amherst. Beletre was forced to yield, and with a very ill grace declared himself and his garrison at the disposal of the English commander.
The whale boats of the rangers moved slowly upwards between the low banks of the Detroit, until at length the green uniformity of marsh and forest was relieved by the Canadian houses, which began to appear on either bank, the outskirts of the secluded and isolated settlement. Before them, on the right side, they could see the village of the Wyandots, and on the left the clustered lodges of the Pottawattamies, while, a little beyond, the flag of France was flying for the last time above the bark roofs and weather-beaten palisades of the little fortified town.
The rangers landed on the opposite bank, and pitched their tents upon a meadow, while two officers, with a small detachment, went across the river to take possession of the place. In obedience to their summons, the French garrison defiled upon the plain, and laid down their arms. The fleur de lis was lowered from the flagstaff, and the
123cross of St. George rose aloft in its place, while seven hundred Indian warriors, lately the active allies of France, greeted the sight with a burst of triumphant yells. The Canadian militia were next called together and disarmed. The Indians looked on with amazement at their obsequious behaviour, quite at a loss to understand why so many men should humble themselves before so few. Nothing is more effective in gaining the respect, or even attachment, of Indians than a display of power. The savage spectators conceived the loftiest idea of English prowess, and were beyond measure astonished at the forbearance of the conquerors in not killing their vanquished enemies on the spot.
It was on the twenty-ninth of November, 1760, that Detroit fell into the hands of the English. The garrison were sent as prisoners down the lake, but the Canadian inhabitants were allowed to retain their farms and houses, on condition of swearing allegiance to the British crown. An officer was sent southward to take possession of the forts Miami and Ouatanon, which guarded the communication between Lake Erie and the Ohio, while Rogers himself, with a small party, proceeded northward to relieve the French garrison of Michillimackinac. The storms and gathering ice of Lake Huron forced him back without accomplishing his object, and Michillimackinac, with the three remoter posts of St. Marie, Green Bay, and St. Joseph, remained for the time in the hands of the French. During the next season, however, a detachment of the 6oth Regiment, then called the Royal Americans, took possession of them; and nothing now remained within the power of the French, except the few posts and settlements on the Mississippi and the Wabash, not included in the capitulation of Montreal.
The work of conquest was consummated. The fertile wilderness beyond the Alleghanies, over which France had claimed sovereignty, — that boundless forest, with its tracery of interlacing streams, which, like veins and arteries, gave it life and nourishment, — had passed into the hands of her rival. It was by a few insignificant forts, separated by oceans of fresh water and uncounted leagues of forest, that the two great European powers, France first, and now
124England, endeavoured to enforce their claims to this vast and wild domain. There is something ludicrous in the disparity between the importance of the possession and the slender-ness of the force employed to maintain it. A region embracing so many thousand miles of surface was consigned to the keeping of some five or six hundred men. Yet the force, small as it was, appeared adequate to its object, for there seemed no enemy to contend with. The hands of the French were tied by the capitulation, and little apprehension was felt from the red inhabitants of the woods. The lapse of two years was enough to show how complete and fatal was the mistake.
THE country was scarcely transferred to the English when smothered murmurs of discontent began to be audible among the Indian tribes. From the head of the Potomac to Lake Superior, and from the Alleghanies to the Mississippi, in every wigwam and hamlet of the forest, a deep-rooted hatred of the English increased with rapid growth. Nor is this to be wondered at. We have seen with what sagacious policy the French had laboured to ingratiate themselves with the Indians; and the slaughter of the Monongahela, with the horrible devastation of the western frontier, the outrages perpetrated at Oswego, and the massacre at Fort William Henry, bore witness to the success of their efforts. Even the Delawares and Shawanoes, the faithful allies of William Penn, had at length been seduced by their blandishments; and the Iroquois, the ancient enemies of Canada, had half forgotten their former hostility, and well-nigh taken part against the British colonists. The remote nations of the west had also joined in the war, descending in their canoes for hundreds of miles, to fight against the enemies of France. All these tribes entertained towards the English that rancorous enmity which an Indian always feels against those to whom he has been opposed in war.
Under these circumstances, it behoved the English to use the utmost care in their conduct towards the tribes. But even when the conflict with France was impending, and the alliance with the Indians of the last importance, they had treated them with indifference and neglect. They were not likely to adopt a different course now that their friendship seemed a matter of no consequence. In truth, the
126intentions of the English were soon apparent. In the zeal for retrenchment, which prevailed after the close of hostilities, the presents which it had always been customary to give the Indians, at stated intervals, were either withheld altogether, or doled out with a niggardly and reluctant hand; while, to make the matter worse, the agents and officers of government often appropriated the presents to themselves, and afterwards sold them at an exorbitant price to the Indians.
The English fur-trade had never been well regulated, and it was now in a worse condition than ever. Many of the traders, and those in their employ, were ruffians of the
127coarsest stamp, who vied with each other in rapacity, violence, and profligacy. They cheated, cursed, and plundered the Indians, and outraged their families; offering, when compared with the French traders, who were under better regulation, a most unfavourable example of the character of their nation.
The officers and soldiers of the garrisons did their full part in exciting the general resentment. Formerly, when the warriors came to the forts, they had been welcomed by the French with attention and respect. The inconvenience which their presence occasioned had been disregarded, and their peculiarities overlooked. But now they were received with cold looks and harsh words from the officers, and with oaths, menaces, and sometimes blows, from the reckless and brutal soldiers. When, after their troublesome and intrusive fashion, they were lounging everywhere about the fort, or lazily reclining in the shadow of the walls, they were met with muttered ejaculations of impatience or abrupt orders to depart, enforced, perhaps, by a touch from the butt of a sentinel's musket. These marks of contempt were unspeakably galling to their haughty spirit.
But what most contributed to the growing discontent of the tribes was the intrusion of settlers upon their lands, at
128all times a fruitful source of Indian hostility. Its effects, it is true, could only be felt by those whose country bordered upon the English settlements; but among these were the most powerful and influential of the tribes. The Delawares and Shawanoes, in particular, had by this time been roused to the highest pitch of exasperation. Their best lands had been invaded, and all remonstrance had been fruitless. They viewed with wrath and fear the steady progress of the white man, whose settlements had passed the Susquehanna, and were fast extending to the Alleghanies, eating away the forest like a spreading canker. The anger of the Delawares was abundantly shared by their ancient conquerors, the Six Nations. The threatened occupation of Wyoming by settlers from Connecticut gave great umbrage to the confederacy.
The discontent of the Indians gave great satisfaction to the French, who saw in it an assurance of safe and bloody vengeance on their conquerors. Canada, it is true, was gone beyond hope of recovery; but they still might hope to revenge its loss. Interest, moreover, as well as
129passion, prompted them to inflame the resentment of the Indians; for most of the inhabitants of the French settlements upon the lakes and the Mississippi were engaged in the fur-trade, and, fearing the English as formidable rivals, they would gladly have seen them driven out of the country. Traders, habitans, coureurs des bois, and all other classes of this singular population, accordingly dispersed themselves among the villages of the Indians, or held councils with them in the secret places of the woods, urging them to take up arms against the English. They exhibited the conduct of the latter in its worst light, and spared neither misrepresentation nor falsehood. They told their excited hearers that the English had formed a deliberate scheme to root out the whole Indian race, and, with that design, had already begun to hem them in with settlements on the one hand, and a chain of forts on the other. Among other atrocious plans for their destruction, they had instigated the Cherokees to attack and destroy the tribes of the Ohio valley.
The fierce passions of the Indians, excited by their wrongs, real or imagined, and exasperated by the representations of the French, were yet farther wrought upon by influences of another kind. A prophet rose among the Delawares. This man may serve as a counterpart to the famous Shawanoe prophet, who figured so conspicuously in the Indian outbreak under Tecumseh, immediately
130before the war with England in 1812. Many other parallel instances might be shown, as the great susceptibility of the Indians to religious and superstitious impressions renders the advent of a prophet among them no very rare occurrence. In the present instance, the inspired Delaware seems to have been rather an enthusiast than an impostor; or perhaps he combined both characters. The objects of his mission were not wholly political. By means of certain external observances, most of them sufficiently frivolous and absurd, his disciples were to strengthen and purify their natures, and make themselves acceptable to the Great Spirit, whose messenger he proclaimed himself to be. He also enjoined them to lay aside the weapons and clothing which they received from the white men, and return to the primitive life of their ancestors. By so doing, and by strictly observing his other precepts, the tribes would soon be restored to their ancient greatness and power, and be enabled to drive out the white men who infested their territory. The prophet had many followers. Indians came from far and near, and gathered together in large encampments to listen to his exhortations. His fame spread even to the nations of the northern lakes; but though his disciples followed most of his injunctions, flinging away flint and steel, and making copious use of emetics, with other observances equally troublesome, yet the requisition to abandon the use of firearms was too inconvenient to be complied with.
With so many causes to irritate their restless and warlike spirit, it could not be supposed that the Indians would long remain quiet. Accordingly, in the summer of the year 1761, Captain Campbell, then commanding at Detroit, received information that a deputation of Senecas had come to the neighbouring village of the Wyandots for the purpose of instigating the latter to destroy him and his garrison.
131Jeffrey Amherst, and the commanding officers of the different forts; and, by this timely discovery, the conspiracy was nipped in the bud. During the following summer, 1762, another similar design was detected and suppressed. They proved but the precursors of a tempest. Within two years after the discovery of the first plot, a scheme was matured greater in extent, deeper and more comprehensive in design — such a one as was never, before or since, conceived or executed by a North American Indian. It was determined to attack all the English forts upon the same day; then, having destroyed their garrisons, to turn upon the defenceless frontier, and ravage and lay waste the settlements, until, as many of the Indians fondly believed, the English should all be driven into the sea, and the country restored to its primitive owners.
It is difficult to determine which tribe was first to raise the cry of war. There were many who might have done so, for all the savages in the backwoods were ripe for an outbreak, and the movement seemed almost simultaneous.
132The Delawares and Senecas were the most incensed, and Kiashuta, chief of the latter, was perhaps foremost to apply the torch; but, if this were the case, he touched fire to materials already on the point of igniting. It belonged to a greater chief than he to give method and order to what would else have been a wild burst of fury, and to convert desultory attacks into a formidable and protracted war. But for Pontiac, the whole might have ended in a few troublesome inroads upon the frontier, and a little whooping and yelling under the walls of Fort Pitt.
Pontiac, as already mentioned, was principal chief of the Ottawas. The Ottawas, Ojibwas, and Pottawattamies, had long been united in a loose kind of confederacy, of which he was the virtual head. Over those around him his authority was almost despotic, and his power extended far beyond the limits of the three united tribes. His influence was great among all the nations of the Illinois country; while, from the sources of the Ohio to those of the Mississippi, and, indeed, to the farthest boundaries of the widespread Algonquin race, his name was known and respected.
The fact that Pontiac was born the son of a chief would in no degree account for the extent of his power; for, among Indians, many a chief 's son sinks back into insignificance, while the offspring of a common warrior may succeed to his place. Among all the wild tribes of the continent, personal merit is indispensable to gaining or preserving dignity. Courage, resolution, wisdom, address, and eloquence are sure passports to distinction. With all these Pontiac was pre-eminently endowed, and it was chiefly to them, urged to their highest activity by a vehement ambition, that he owed his greatness. His intellect was strong and capacious. He possessed commanding energy and force of mind, and in subtlety and craft could match the best of his wily race. But, though capable of acts of lofty magnanimity, he was a thorough savage, with a wider range of intellect than those around him, but sharing all their passions and prejudices, their fierceness and treachery. Yet his faults were the faults of his race; and they cannot eclipse his nobler qualities, the great powers and heroic virtues of his mind. His
133memory is still cherished among the remnants of many Algonquin tribes, and the celebrated Tecumseh adopted him for his model, proving himself no unworthy imitator.
Pontiac was now about fifty years old. Until Major Rogers came into the country, he had been, from motives probably both of interest and inclination, a firm friend of the French. Not long before the French war broke out, he had saved the garrison of Detroit from the imminent peril of an attack from some of the discontented tribes of the north. During the war, he had fought on the side of France. It is said that he commanded the Ottawas at the memorable defeat of Braddock; but, at all events, he was treated with much honour by the French officers, and received especial marks of esteem from the Marquis of Montcalm.
We have seen how, when the tide of affairs changed, the subtle and ambitious chief trimmed his bark to the current, and gave the hand of friendship to the English. That he was disappointed in their treatment of him, and in all the hopes that he had formed from their alliance, is sufficiently evident from one of his speeches. A new light soon began to dawn upon his untaught but powerful mind, and he saw the altered posture of affairs under its true aspect.
It was a momentous and gloomy crisis for the Indian race, for never before had they been exposed to such
134pressing and imminent danger. With the downfall of Canada, the Indian tribes had sunk at once from their position of power and importance. Hitherto the two rival European nations had kept each other in check upon the American continent, and the Indian tribes had, in some measure, held the balance of power between them. To conciliate their good will and gain their alliance, to avoid offending them by injustice and encroachment, was the policy both of the French and English. But now the face of affairs was changed. The English had gained an undisputed ascendency, and the Indians, no longer important as allies, were treated as mere barbarians, who might be trampled upon with impunity. Abandoned to their own feeble resources and divided strength, the tribes must fast recede, and dwindle away before the steady progress of the colonial power. Already their best hunting-grounds were invaded, and from the eastern ridges of the Alleghanies they might see, from far and near, the smoke of the settlers' clearings, rising in tall columns from the dark-green bosom of the forest. The doom of the race was sealed, and no human power could avert it; but they, in their ignorance, believed otherwise, and vainly thought that, by a desperate effort, they might yet uproot and overthrow the growing strength of their destroyers.
It would be idle to suppose that the great mass of the Indians understood, in its full extent, the danger which threatened their race. With them, the war was a mere outbreak of fury, and they turned against their enemies with as little reason or forecast as a panther when he leaps at the throat of the hunter. Goaded by wrongs and indignities, they struck for revenge, and relief from the evil of the moment. But the mind of Pontiac could embrace a wider and deeper view. The peril of the times was unfolded in its full extent before him, and he resolved to unite the tribes in one grand effort to avert it. He did not, like many of his people, entertain the absurd idea that the Indians, by their unaided strength, could drive the English into the sea. He adopted the only plan that was consistent with reason, that of restoring the French ascendency
135in the west, and once more opposing a check to British encroachment. With views like these, he lent a greedy ear to the plausible falsehoods of the Canadians, who assured him that the armies of King Louis were already advancing to recover Canada, and that the French and their red brethren, fighting side by side, would drive the English dogs back within their own narrow limits.
Revolving these thoughts, and remembering moreover that his own ambitious views might be advanced by the hostilities he meditated, Pontiac no longer hesitated. Revenge, ambition, and patriotism, wrought upon him alike, and he resolved on war. At the close of the year 1762, he sent out ambassadors to the different nations. They visited the country of the Ohio and its tributaries, passed northward to the region of the upper lakes, and the wild borders of the River Ottawa; and far southward towards the mouth of the Mississippi.
136was charged. It was heard everywhere with approbation; the belt was accepted, the hatchet snatched up, and the assembled chiefs stood pledged to take part in the war. The blow was to be struck at a certain time in the month of May following, to be indicated by the changes of the moon. The tribes were to rise together, each destroying the English garrison in its neighbourhood, and then, with a general rush, the whole were to turn against the settlements of the frontier.
The tribes, thus banded together against the English, comprised, with a few unimportant exceptions, the whole Algonquin stock, to whom were united the Wyandots, the Senecas, and several tribes of the lower Mississippi. The Senecas were the only members of the Iroquois confederacy who joined in the league, the rest being kept quiet by the influence of Sir William Johnson, whose utmost exertions, however, were barely sufficient to allay their irritation.
While thus on the very eve of an outbreak, the Indians concealed their design with the deep dissimulation of their race. The warriors still lounged about the forts, with calm, impenetrable faces, begging as heretofore for tobacco, gunpowder, and whiskey. Now and then, some slight intimation of danger would startle the garrisons from their
137security, and an English trader, coming in from the Indian villages, would report that, from their manner and behaviour, he suspected them of mischievous designs. Some scoundrel half-breed would be heard boasting in his cups that before next summer he would have English hair to fringe his hunting-frock. On one occasion, the plot was nearly discovered. Early in March, 1763, Ensign Holmes, commanding at Fort Miami, was told by a friendly Indian, that the warriors in the neighbouring village had lately received a war-belt, with a message urging them to destroy him and his garrison, and that this they were preparing to do. Holmes called the Indians together, and boldly charged them with their design. They did as Indians on such occasions have often done, confessed their fault with much apparent contrition, laid the blame on a neighbouring tribe, and professed eternal friendship to their brethren the English. Holmes writes to report his discovery to Major Gladwyn, who, in his turn, sends the information to Sir Jeffrey Amherst, expressing his opinion that there has been a general irritation among the Indians, but that the affair will soon blow over, and that, in the neighbourhood of his own post, the savages were perfectly tranquil.
With the approach of spring, the Indians, coming in from their wintering grounds, began to appear in small parties about the different forts; but now they seldom entered them, encamping at a little distance in the woods. They were fast pushing their preparations for the meditated blow, and waiting with stifled eagerness for the appointed hour.
I INTERRUPT the progress of the narrative to glance for a moment at the Indians in their military capacity, and observe how far they were qualified to prosecute the formidable war into which they were about to plunge.
A people living chiefly by the chase, and therefore, of necessity, thinly scattered over a great space, divided into numerous tribes, held together by no strong principle of cohesion, and with no central government to combine their strength, could act with little efficiency against such an enemy as was now opposed to them. Loose and disjointed as a whole, the government even of individual tribes, and of their smallest separate communities, was too feeble to deserve the name. There were, it is true, chiefs whose office was in a manner hereditary; but their authority was wholly of a moral nature, and enforced by no compulsory law. Their province was to advise, and not to command. Their influence, such as it was, is chiefly to be ascribed to the principle of hero-worship, natural to the Indian character, and to the reverence for age, which belongs to a state of society where a patriarchal element largely prevails. It was their office to declare war and make peace; but when war was declared, they had no power to carry the declaration into effect. The warriors fought if they chose to do so; but if, on the contrary, they preferred to remain quiet, no man could force them to lift the hatchet. The war-chief, whose part it was to lead them to battle, was a mere partisan, whom his bravery and exploits had led to distinction. If he thought proper, he sang his war-song and danced his war-dance, and as many of the young men as were disposed to follow him gathered
140around and enlisted themselves under him. Over these volunteers he had no legal authority, and they could desert him at any moment, with no other penalty than disgrace. When several war-parties, of different bands or tribes, were united in a common enterprise, their chiefs elected a leader, who was nominally to command the whole; but unless this leader was a man of high distinction, and endowed with great mental power, his commands were disregarded, and his authority was a cipher. Among his followers was every latent element of discord, pride, jealousy, and ancient half-smothered feuds, ready at any moment to break out, and tear the whole asunder. His warriors would often desert in bodies; and many an Indian army, before reaching the enemy's country, has been known to dwindle away until it was reduced to a mere scalping party.
To twist a rope of sand would be as easy a task as to form a permanent and effective army of such materials. The wild love of freedom, and impatience of all control, which mark the Indian race, render them utterly intolerant of military discipline. Partly from their individual character, and partly from this absence of subordination, spring results highly unfavourable to the efficiency of continued and extended military operation. Indian warriors, when acting in large masses, are to the last degree wayward, capricious, and unstable; infirm of purpose as a mob of children, and devoid of providence and foresight. To provide supplies for a campaign forms no part of their system. Hence the blow must be struck at once, or not struck at all; and to postpone victory is to insure defeat. It is when acting in small, detached parties, that the Indian warrior puts forth his energies, and displays his admirable address, endurance, and intrepidity. It is then that he becomes a truly formidable enemy. Fired with the hope of winning scalps, he is staunch as a bloodhound. No hardship can divert him from his purpose, and no danger subdue his patient and cautious courage.
From their inveterate passion for war, the Indians are always prompt enough to engage in it; and on the present occasion, the prevailing irritation afforded ample assurance that they would not remain idle. While there was little
141risk that they would capture any strong and well-defended fort, or carry any important position, there was, on the other hand, every reason to apprehend wide-spread havoc, and a destructive war of detail. That the war might be carried on with vigour and effect, it was the part of the Indian leaders to work upon the passions of their people, and keep alive their irritation; to whet their native appetite for blood and glory, and cheer them on to the attack; to guard against all that might quench their ardour, or abate their fierceness; to avoid pitched battles; never to fight except under advantage; and to avail themselves of all the aid which surprise, craft, and treachery could afford. The very circumstances which unfitted the Indians for continued and concentrated attack were, in another view, highly advantageous, by preventing the enemy from assailing them with vital effect. It was no easy task to penetrate tangled woods in search of a foe, alert and active as a lynx, who would seldom stand and fight, whose deadly shot and triumphant whoop were the first and often the last tokens of his presence, and who, at the approach of a hostile force, would vanish into the black recesses of forests and pine swamps, only to renew his attacks afresh with unabated ardour. There were no forts to capture, no magazines to destroy, and little property to seize upon. No species of warfare could be more perilous and harassing in its prosecution, or less satisfactory in its results.
The English colonies at this time were but ill fitted to bear the brunt of the impending war. The army which had conquered Canada was now broken up and dissolved; the provincials were disbanded, and most of the regulars sent home. A few fragments of regiments, miserably wasted by war and sickness, had just arrived from the West Indies; and of these, several were already ordered to England, to be discharged. There remained barely troops enough to furnish feeble garrisons for the various forts on the frontier and in the Indian country.
142of Canada. He was a man well fitted for the emergency; cautious, bold, active, far-sighted, and endowed with a singular power of breathing his own energy and zeal into those who served under him. The command could not have been in better hands; and the results of the war, lamentable as they were, would have been much more disastrous, but for his promptness and vigour, and, above all, his judicious selection of those to whom he confided the execution of his orders.
While the war was on the eve of breaking out, an event occurred which had afterwards an important effect upon its progress — the signing of the treaty of peace at Paris, on the tenth of February, 1763
Throughout the western wilderness, in a hundred camps and villages, were celebrated the savage rites of war. Warriors, women, and children were alike eager and excited; magicians consulted their oracles, and prepared
143charms to insure success; while the war-chief, his body painted black from head to foot, withdrawing from the people, concealed himself among rocks and caverns, or in the dark recesses of the forest. Here, fasting and praying, he calls day and night upon the Great Spirit, consulting his dreams, to draw from them auguries of good or evil; and if, perchance, a vision of the great war-eagle seems to hover over him with expanded wings, he exults in the full conviction of triumph. When a few days have elapsed, he emerges from his retreat, and the people discover him descending from the woods, and approaching their camp, black as a demon of war, and shrunken with fasting and vigil. They flock around and listen to his wild harangue. He calls on them to avenge the blood of their slaughtered relatives; he assures them that the Great Spirit is on their side, and that victory is certain. With exulting cries they disperse to their wigwams, to array themselves in the savage decorations of the war-dress. An old man now passes through the camp, and invites the warriors to a feast in the name of the chief. They gather from all quarters to his wigwam, where they find him seated, no longer covered with black, but adorned with the startling and fantastic blazonry of the war-paint. Those who join in the feast pledge themselves, by so doing, to follow him against the enemy. The guests seat themselves on the ground, in a circle around the wigwam, and the flesh of dogs is placed in wooden dishes before them, while the chief, though goaded by the pangs of his long, unbroken fast, sits smoking his pipe with unmoved countenance, and takes no part in the feast.
Night has now closed in, and the rough clearing is illumined by the blaze of fires and burning pine-knots, casting their deep red glare upon the dusky boughs of the tall surrounding pine-trees, and upon the wild multitude who, fluttering with feathers and bedaubed with paint, have gathered for the celebration of the war-dance. A painted post is driven into the ground, and the crowd form a wide circle around it. The chief leaps into the vacant space, brandishing his hatchet as if rushing upon an enemy, and, in a loud, vehement tone, chants his own exploits and those
144of his ancestors, enacting the deeds which he describes, yelling the war-whoop, throwing himself into all the postures of actual fight, striking the post as if it were an enemy, and tearing the scalp from the head of the imaginary victim. Warrior after warrior follows his example, until the whole assembly, as if fired with sudden frenzy, rush together into the ring, leaping, stamping, and whooping, brandishing knives and hatchets in the firelight, hacking and stabbing the air, and working themselves into the fury of battle, while at intervals they all break forth into a burst of ferocious yells, which sounds for miles away over the lonely, midnight forest.
In the morning, the warriors prepare to depart. They leave the camp in single file, still decorated in all their finery of paint, feathers, and scalp-locks; and, as they enter the woods, the chief fires his gun, the warrior behind follows his example, and the discharges pass in slow succession from front to rear, the salute concluding with a general whoop. They encamp at no great distance from the village, and divest themselves of their much-valued ornaments, which are carried back by the women, who have followed them for this purpose. The warriors pursue their journey, clad in the rough attire of hard service, and move silently and stealthily through the forest towards the hapless garrison, or defenceless settlement, which they have marked as their prey.
The woods were now filled with war-parties such as this, and soon the first tokens of the approaching tempest began to alarm the unhappy settlers of the frontier. At first, some trader or hunter, weak and emaciated, would come in from the forest, and relate that his companions had been butchered in the Indian villages, and that he alone had escaped. Next succeeded vague and uncertain rumours of forts attacked and garrisons slaughtered; and soon after, a report gained ground that every post throughout the Indian country had been taken, and every soldier killed. Close upon these tidings came the enemy himself. The Indian war-parties broke out of the woods like gangs of wolves, murdering, burning, and laying waste, while hundreds of terror-stricken families, abandoning their homes, fled for
145refuge towards the older settlements, and all was misery and ruin.
Passing over, for the present, this portion of the war, we will penetrate at once into the heart of the Indian country, and observe those passages of the conflict which took place under the auspices of Pontiac himself — the siege of Detroit, and the capture of the interior posts and garrisons.
To begin the war was reserved by Pontiac as his own peculiar privilege. With the first opening of spring his preparations were complete. His light-footed messengers, with their wampum belts and gifts of tobacco, visited many a lonely hunting-camp in the gloom of the northern woods, and called chiefs and warriors to attend the general meeting. The appointed spot was on the banks of the little River Ecorces, not far from Detroit. Thither went Pontiac himself, with his squaws and his children. Band after band came straggling in from every side, until the meadow was thickly dotted with their slender wigwams.
The great Roman historian observes of the ancient Germans, that when summoned to a public meeting, they would lag behind the appointed time in order to show their independence. The remark holds true, and perhaps with greater emphasis, of the American Indians; and thus it happened, that several days elapsed before the assembly was complete. In such a motley concourse of barbarians,
147where different bands and different tribes were mustered on one common camping ground, it would need all the art of a prudent leader to prevent their dormant jealousies from starting into open strife. No people are more prompt to quarrel, and none more prone, in the fierce excitement of the present, to forget the purpose of the future; yet, through good fortune, or the wisdom of Pontiac, no rupture occurred; and at length the last loiterer appeared, and farther delay was needless.
The council took place on the twenty-seventh of April. On that morning, several old men, the heralds of the camp, passed to and fro among the lodges, calling the warriors, in a loud voice, to attend the meeting.
In accordance with the summons, they came issuing from their cabins — the tall, naked figures of the wild Ojibwas, with quivers slung at their backs, and light war-clubs resting in the hollow of their arms; Ottawas, wrapped close in their gaudy blankets; Wyandots, fluttering in painted shirts, their heads adorned with feathers, and their leggings garnished with bells. All were soon seated in a wide circle upon the grass, row within row, a grave and silent assembly. Each savage countenance seemed carved in wood, and none could have detected the deep and fiery passions hidden beneath that immovable exterior. Pipes with ornamented stems were lighted, and passed from hand to hand.
Then Pontiac rose, and walked forward into the midst of the council. According to Canadian tradition, he was not above the middle height, though his muscular figure was cast in a mould of remarkable symmetry and vigour. His complexion was darker than is usual with his race, and his features, though by no means regular, had a bold and stern expression, while his habitual bearing was imperious and peremptory, like that of a man accustomed to sweep away all opposition by the force of his impetuous will. His ordinary attire was that of the primitive savage — a scanty cincture girt about his loins, and his long black hair flowing loosely at his back; but on occasions like this he was wont to appear as befitted his power and character, and he stood before the council plumed and painted in the lull costume of war.
Looking round upon his wild auditors, he began to speak, with fierce gesture, and loud, impassioned voice; and at every pause, deep guttural ejaculations of assent and approval responded to his words. He inveighed against the arrogance, rapacity, and injustice of the English, and contrasted them with the French, whom they had driven from the soil. He declared that the British commandant had treated him with neglect and contempt; that the soldiers of the garrison had foully abused the Indians; and that one of them had struck a follower of his own. He represented the danger that would arise from the supremacy of the English. They had expelled the French, and now they only waited for a pretext to turn upon the Indians and destroy them. Then, holding out a broad belt of wampum, he told the council that he had received it from their great father the King of France, in token that he had heard the voice of his red children; that his sleep was at an end; and that his great war-canoes would soon sail up the St. Lawrence, to win back Canada, and wreak vengeance on his enemies. The Indians and their French brethren should fight once more side by side, as they had always fought; they should strike the English as they had struck them many moons ago, when their great army marched down the Monongahela, and they had shot them from their ambush, like a flock of pigeons in the woods.
Having roused in his warlike listeners their native thirst for blood and vengeance, he next addressed himself to their superstition, and told the following tale. Its precise origin is not easy to determine. It is possible that the Delaware prophet, mentioned in a former chapter, may have had some part in it; or it might have been the offspring of Pontiac's heated imagination, during his period of fasting and dreaming. That he deliberately invented it for the sake of the effect it would produce, is the least probable conclusion of all; for it evidently proceeds from the superstitious mind of an Indian, brooding upon the evil days in which his lot was cast, and turning for relief to the mysterious Author of his being. It is, at all events, a characteristic specimen of the Indian legendary tales, and, like many of them, bears an allegoric significance. Yet he
149who endeavours to interpret an Indian allegory through all its erratic windings and puerile inconsistencies, has undertaken no easy or enviable task.
"A Delaware Indian," said Pontiac, "conceived an eager desire to learn wisdom from the Master of Life; but, being ignorant where to find him, he had recourse to fasting, dreaming, and magical incantations. By these means it was revealed to him, that, by moving forward in a straight, undeviating course, he would reach the abode of the Great Spirit. He told his purpose to no one, and having provided the equipments of a hunter — gun, powder-horn, ammunition, and a kettle for preparing his food — he set forth on his errand. For some time he journeyed on in high hope and confidence. On the evening of the eighth day, he stopped by the side of a brook at the edge of a small prairie, where he began to make ready his evening meal, when, looking up, he saw three large openings in the woods on the opposite side of the meadow, and three well-beaten paths which entered them. He was much surprised; but his wonder increased, when, after it had grown dark, the three paths were more clearly visible than ever. Remembering the important object of his journey, he could neither rest nor sleep; and, leaving his fire, he crossed the meadow, and entered the largest of the three openings. He had advanced but a short distance into the forest, when a bright flame sprang out of the ground before him, and arrested his steps. In great amazement he turned back, and entered the second path, where the same wonderful phenomenon again encountered him; and now, in terror and bewilderment, yet still resolved to persevere, he pursued the last of the three paths. On this he journeyed a whole day without interruption, when at length, emerging from the forest, he saw before him a vast mountain, of dazzling whiteness. So precipitous was the ascent, that the Indian thought it hopeless to go farther, and looked around him in despair: at that moment he saw, seated at some distance above, the figure of a beautiful woman arrayed in white, who arose as he looked upon her, and thus accosted him: ‘How can you hope, encumbered as you are, to succeed in your design? Go down to the
150foot of the mountain, throw away your gun, your ammunition, your provisions, and your clothing; wash yourself in the stream which flows there, and you will then be prepared to stand before the Master of Life.’ The Indian obeyed, and again began to ascend among the rocks, while the woman, seeing him still discouraged, laughed at his faintness of heart, and told him that, if he wished for success, he must climb by the aid of one hand and one foot only. After great toil and suffering, he at length found himself at the summit. The woman had disappeared, and he was left alone. A rich and beautiful plain lay before him, and at a little distance he saw three great villages, far superior to the squalid dwellings of the Delawares. As he approached the largest, and stood hesitating whether he should enter, a man gorgeously attired stepped forth, and, taking him by the hand, welcomed him to the celestial abode. He then conducted him into the presence of the Great Spirit, where the Indian stood confounded at the unspeakable splendor which surrounded him. The Great Spirit bade him be seated, and thus addressed him:
"‘I am the Maker of heaven and earth, the trees, lakes, rivers, and all things else. I am the Maker of mankind; and because I love you, you must do my will. The land on which you live I have made for you, and not for others. Why do you suffer the white men to dwell among you? My children, you have forgotten the customs and traditions of your forefathers. Why do you not clothe yourselves in skins, as they did, and use the bows and arrows, and the stone-pointed lances, which they used? You have bought guns, knives, kettles, and blankets from the white men, until you can no longer do without them; and, what is worse, you have drunk the poison fire-water, which turns you into fools. Fling all these things away; live as your wise forefathers did before you. And as for these English — these dogs dressed in red, who have come to rob you of your hunting-grounds, and drive away the game — you must lift the hatchet against them. Wipe them from the face of the earth, and then you will win my favour back again, and once more be happy and prosperous. The children of your great father, the King of France, are not like the English.
151Never forget that they are your brethren. They are very dear to me, for they love the red men, and understand the true mode of worshipping me.’"
"The Great Spirit next gave his hearer various precepts of morality and religion, such as the prohibition to marry more than one wife, and a warning against the practice of magic, which is worshipping the devil. A prayer, embodying the substance of all that he had heard, was then presented to the Delaware. It was cut in hieroglyphics upon a wooden stick, after the custom of his people, and he was directed to send copies of it to all the Indian villages.
"The adventurer now departed, and, returning to the earth, reported all the wonders he had seen in the celestial regions."
Such was the tale told by Pontiac to the council; and it is worthy of notice, that not he alone, but many of the greatest men who have arisen among the Indians, have been opponents of civilization, and staunch advocates of primitive barbarism. Red Jacket and Tecumseh would gladly have brought back their people to the wild simplicity of their original condition. There is nothing progressive in the rigid, inflexible nature of an Indian. He will not open his mind to the idea of improvement, and nearly every change that has been forced upon him has been a change for the worse.
Many other speeches were doubtless made in the council, but no record of them has been preserved. All present were eager to attack the British fort, and Pontiac told them, in conclusion, that on the second of May he would gain admittance with a party of his warriors, on pretence of dancing the calumet dance before the garrison; that they would take note of the strength of the fortification, and, this information gained, he would summon another council to determine the mode of attack.
The assembly now dissolved, and all the evening the
152women were employed in loading the canoes, which were drawn up on the bank of the stream. The encampments broke up at so early an hour, that when the sun rose, the savage swarm had melted away; the secluded scene was restored to its wonted silence and solitude, and nothing remained but the slender framework of several hundred cabins, with fragments of broken utensils, pieces of cloth, and scraps of hide, scattered over the trampled grass, while the smouldering embers of numberless fires mingled their dark smoke with the white mist which rose from the little river.
Every spring, after the winter hunt was over, the Indians were accustomed to return to their villages, or permanent encampments, in the vicinity of Detroit; and, accordingly, after the council had broken up, they made their appearance as usual about the fort. On the first of May, Pontiac came to the gate with forty men of the Ottawa tribe, and asked permission to enter and dance the calumet dance before the officers of the garrison. After some hesitation he was admitted; and proceeding to the corner of the street, where stood the house of the commandant, Major Gladwyn, he and thirty of his warriors began their dance, each recounting his own valiant exploits, and boasting himself the bravest of mankind. The officers and men gathered around them; while, in the meantime, the remaining ten of the Ottawas strolled about the fort, observing everything it contained. When the dance was over, they all quietly withdrew, not a suspicion of their sinister design having arisen in the minds of the English.
After a few days had elapsed, Pontiac's messengers again passed among the Indian cabins, calling the principal chiefs to another council, in the Pottawattamie village. Here there was a large structure of bark, erected for the public use on occasions like the present. A hundred chiefs were seated around this dusky council-house, the fire in the centre shedding its fitful light upon their dark, naked forms, while the sacred pipe passed from hand to hand. To prevent interruption, Pontiac had stationed young men, as sentinels,
153near the house. He once more addressed the chiefs, inciting them to hostility against the English, and concluding by the proposal of his plan for destroying Detroit. It was as follows: Pontiac would demand a council with the commandant concerning matters of great importance; and on this pretext he flattered himself that he and his principal chiefs would gain ready admittance within the fort. They were all to carry weapons concealed beneath their blankets. While in the act of addressing the commandant in the council-room, Pontiac was to make a certain signal, upon which the chiefs were to raise the war-whoop, rush upon the officers present, and strike them down. The other Indians, waiting meanwhile at the gate, or loitering among the houses, on hearing the yells and firing within the building, were to assail the astonished and half-armed soldiers; and thus Detroit would fall an easy prey.
In opening this plan of treachery, Pontiac spoke rather as a counsellor than as a commander. Haughty as he was, he had too much sagacity to wound the pride of a body of men over whom he had no other control than that derived from his personal character and influence. No one was hardy enough to venture opposition to the proposal of their great leader. His plan was eagerly adopted. Deep, hoarse ejaculations of applause echoed his speech; and, gathering their blankets around them, the chiefs withdrew to their respective villages, to prepare for the destruction of the unhappy little garrison.
To the credulity of mankind each great calamity has its dire prognostics. Signs and portents in the heavens, the vision of an Indian bow, and the figure of a scalp imprinted on the disk of the moon, warned the New England Puritans of impending war. The apparitions passed away, and Philip of Mount Hope burst from the forest with his Narragansett warriors. In October, 1762, thick clouds of inky blackness gathered above the fort and settlement of Detroit. The river darkened beneath the awful shadows, and the forest was wrapped in double gloom. Drops of rain began to fall, of strong, sulphurous odour, and so deeply coloured that the people, it is said, collected and used them for the purpose of writing.
La Motte Cadillac was the founder of Detroit. In the year 1701, he planted the little military colony, which time has transmuted into a thriving American city.
157frequent sojourns upon the borders of the Detroit, and baptized the savage children whom they found there.
Fort St. Joseph was abandoned in the year 1688. The establishment of Cadillac was destined to a better fate, and soon rose to distinguished importance among the western outposts of Canada. Indeed, the site was formed by nature for prosperity; and a bad government and a thriftless people could not prevent the increase of the colony. At the close of the French war, as Major Rogers tells us, the place contained twenty-five hundred inhabitants.
The Canadian is usually a happy man. Life sits lightly upon him; he laughs at its hardships, and soon forgets its sorrows. A lover of roving and adventure, of the frolic and the dance, he is little troubled with thoughts of the past or the future, and little plagued with avarice or ambition. At Detroit, all his propensities found ample scope. Aloof from the world, the simple colonists shared none of its pleasures and excitements, and were free from many of its cares. Nor were luxuries wanting which civilization might have envied them. The forests teemed with game, the marshes with wild fowl, and the rivers with fish. The apples and pears of the old Canadian
158orchards are even to this day held in esteem. The poorer inhabitants made wine from the fruit of the wild grape, which grew profusely in the woods, while the wealthier class procured a better quality from Montreal, in exchange for the canoe-loads of furs which they sent down with every year. Here, as elsewhere in Canada, the long winter was a season of social enjoyment; and when, in summer and autumn, the traders and voyageurs, the coureurs des bois, and half-breeds, gathered from the distant forests of the north-west, the whole settlement was alive with frolic, gaiety, with dancing and feasting, drinking, gaming, and carousing.
Within the limits of the settlement were three large Indian villages. On the western shore, a little below the fort, were the lodges of the Pottawattamies; nearly opposite, on the eastern side, was the village of the Wyandots; and on the same side, two miles higher up, Pontiac's band of Ottawas had fixed their abode. The settlers had always maintained the best terms with their savage neighbours. In truth, there was much congeniality between the red man and the Canadian. Their harmony was seldom broken; and among the woods and wilds of the northern lakes roamed many a lawless half-breed, the mongrel offspring of intermarriages between the colonists of Detroit and the Indian squaws.
We have already seen how, in an evil hour for the Canadians, a party of British troops took possession of Detroit, towards the close of the year 1760. The British garrison, consisting partly of regulars and partly of provincial rangers, was now quartered in a well-built range of barracks within the town or fort. The latter, as already mentioned, contained about a hundred small houses. Its form was nearly square, and the palisade which surrounded it was about twenty-five feet high. At each comer was a wooden bastion, and a block-house was erected over each gateway. The houses were small, chiefly built of wood, and roofed with bark or a thatch of straw. The streets also were extremely narrow, though a wide passage way, known as the chemin du ronde, surrounded the town between the houses and the palisade. Besides the barracks, the only
159public buildings were a council-house and a rude little church.
The garrison consisted of a hundred and twenty soldiers, with about forty fur-traders and engageés; but the latter, as well as the peaceful Canadian inhabitants of the place, could little be trusted, in the event of an Indian outbreak. Two small armed schooners, the Beaver and the Gladwyn, lay anchored in the stream, and several light pieces of artillery were mounted in the bastions.
Such was Detroit — a place whose defences could have opposed no resistance to a civilized enemy; and yet, situated as it was, far removed from the hope of speedy succour, it could only rely, in the terrible struggles that awaited it, upon its own slight strength and feeble resources.
Standing on the water bastion of Detroit, the landscape that presented itself might well remain impressed through life upon the memory. The river, about half a mile wide, almost washed the foot of the stockade; and either bank was lined with the white Canadian cottages. The joyous sparkling of the bright blue water; the green luxuriance of the woods; the white dwellings, looking out from the foliage; and, in the distance, the Indian wigwams curling their smoke against the sky — all were mingled in one great scene of wild and rural beauty.
Pontiac, the Satan of this forest paradise, was accustomed to spend the early part of the summer upon a small island at the opening of the Lake St. Clair, hidden from view by the high woods that covered the intervening Isle au Cochon.
160naked form on a rush mat, or a bear-skin, like any ordinary warrior. We may fancy the current of his thoughts, the uncurbed passions swelling in his powerful soul, as he revolved the treacheries which, to his savage mind, seemed fair and honourable. At one moment, his fierce heart would burn with the anticipation of vengeance on the detested English; at another, he would meditate how he best might turn the approaching tumults to the furtherance of his own ambitious schemes. Yet we may believe that Pontiac was not a stranger to the high emotion of the patriot hero, the champion not merely of his nation's rights, but of the very existence of his race. He did not dream how desperate a game he was about to play. He hourly flattered himself with the futile hope of aid from France. In his ignorance, he thought that the British colonies must give way before the rush of his savage warriors; when, in truth, all the combined tribes of the forest might have chafed in vain rage against the rock-like strength of the Anglo-Saxon.
Looking across an intervening arm of the river, Pontiac could see on its eastern bank the numerous lodges of his Ottawa tribesmen, half hidden among the ragged growth of trees and bushes. On the afternoon of the fifth of May, a Canadian woman, the wife of St. Aubin, one of the principal settlers, crossed over from the western side, and visited the Ottawa village, to obtain from the Indians a supply of maple sugar and venison. She was surprised at finding several of the warriors engaged in filing off the muzzles of their guns, so as to reduce them, stock and all, to the length of about a yard. Returning home in the evening, she mentioned what she had seen to several of her neighbours. Upon this, one of them, the blacksmith of the village, remarked that many of the Indians had lately visited his shop, and attempted to borrow files and saws for a purpose which they would not explain.
161that the more numerous and respectable class in the little community had too deep an interest in the preservation of peace to countenance the designs of Pontiac. M. Gouin, an old and wealthy settler, went to the commandant, and conjured him to stand upon his guard; but Gladwyn, a man of fearless temper, gave no heed to the friendly advice.
In the Pottawattamie village lived an Ojibwa girl, who, if there be truth in tradition, could boast a larger share of beauty than is common in the wigwam. She had attracted the eye of Gladwyn. He had formed a connection with her, and she had become much attached to him. On the afternoon of the sixth, Catharine — for so the officers called her — came to the fort, and repaired to Gladwyn's quarters, bringing with her a pair of elk-skin moccasins, ornamented with porcupine work, which he had requested her to make. There was something unusual in her look and manner. Her face was sad and downcast. She said little, and soon left the room; but the sentinel at the door saw her still lingering at the street corner, though the hour for closing the gates was nearly come. At length she attracted the notice of Gladwyn himself; and calling her to him, he pressed her to declare what was weighing upon her mind. Still she remained for a long time silent, and it was only after much urgency, and many promises not to betray her, that she revealed her momentous secret.
"To-morrow," she said, "Pontiac will come to the fort with sixty of his chiefs. Each will be armed with a gun, cut short, and hidden under his blanket. Pontiac will demand to hold a council; and after he has delivered his speech, he will offer a peace-belt of wampum, holding it in a reversed position. This will be the signal of attack. The chiefs will spring up and fire upon the officers, and the Indians in the street will fall upon the garrison. Every Englishman will be killed, but not the scalp of a single Frenchman will be touched."
Gladwyn was an officer of signal courage and address. He thanked his faithful mistress, and, promising a rich reward, told her to go back to her village, that no suspicion might be kindled against her. Then, calling his subordinates together, he imparted what he had heard. The defences of the place were feeble and extensive, and the garrison by far too weak to repel a general assault. The force of the Indians at this time is variously estimated at from six hundred to two thousand; and the commandant greatly feared that some wild impulse might precipitate their plan, and that they would storm the fort before the morning. Every preparation was made to meet the sudden emergency. Half the garrison were ordered under arms, and all the officers prepared to spend the night upon the ramparts.
"It rained all day," writes the chronicler, "but cleared up towards evening, and there was a very fair sunset." Perhaps it was such an one as even now, when all else is changed, may still be seen at times from the eastern shore of the Detroit. A canopy of clouds is spread across the sky, drawn up from the horizon like a curtain, as if to reveal the glory of the west, where lies a transparent sea of liquid amber immeasurably deep. The sun has set; the last glimpse of his burning disk has vanished behind the forest; but where he sank, the sky glows like a conflagration, and still, from his retreat, he bathes heaven and earth with celestial colouring. The edges of the cloudy curtain are resplendent with gold, and its dark blue drapery is touched with blood-red stains by the floods of fiery radiance. The forests and the shores melt together in rich and shadowy purple, and the waters reflect the splendour of the heavens. Gazing on the gorgeous sublimity of earth and sky, man may forget his vexed and perturbed humanity. Goaded by passions, racked by vain desires, tossed on the tumultuous sea of earthly troubles, amid doubt and disappointment, pain and care, he awakens to new hope as he beholds the glory of declining day, and rises in serene strength to meet that majestic smile of God.
The light departed and the colours faded away. Only a dusky redness lingered in the west, and the darkening
163earth seemed her dull self again. Then night descended, heavy and black, on the fierce Indians and the sleepless English. From sunset till dawn, an anxious watch was kept from the slender palisades of Detroit. The soldiers were still ignorant of the danger, and the sentinels did not know why their numbers were doubled, or why, with such unwonted vigilance, their officers visited their posts. Again and again Gladwyn mounted his wooden ramparts and looked forth into the gloom. There seemed nothing but repose and peace in the soft, moist air of the warm spring evening, with the piping of frogs along the river bank, just raised from their torpor by the genial influence of May. But, at intervals, as the night wind swept across the bastion, it bore sounds of fearful portent to the ear, the sullen booming of the Indian drum and the wild chorus of quavering yells, as the warriors, around their distant camp-fires, danced the war-dance, in preparation for the morrow's work.
THE night passed without alarm. The sun rose upon fresh fields and newly-budding woods, and scarcely had the morning mists dissolved, when the garrison could see a fleet of birch canoes crossing the river from the eastern shore, within range of cannon shot above the fort. Only two or three warriors appeared in each, but all moved slowly, and seemed deeply laden. In truth, they were full of savages, lying flat on their faces, that their numbers might not excite the suspicion of the English.
At an early hour, the open common behind the fort was thronged with squaws, children, and warriors, some naked, and others fantastically arrayed in their barbarous finery. All seemed restless and uneasy, moving hither and thither, in apparent preparation for a general game of ball. Many tall warriors, wrapped in their blankets, were seen stalking towards the fort, and casting malignant furtive glances upward at the palisades. Then, with an air of assumed indifference, they would move towards the gate. They were all admitted; for Gladwyn, who in this instance, at least, showed some knowledge of Indian character, chose to convince his crafty foe that, though their plot was detected, their hostility was despised.
The whole garrison was ordered under arms. Sterling, and the other English fur-traders, closed their storehouses and armed their men, and all in cool confidence stood waiting the result.
Meanwhile, Pontiac, who had crossed with the canoes from the eastern shore, was approaching along the river
165road, at the head of his sixty chiefs, all gravely marching in Indian file. A Canadian settler, named Beaufait, had been that morning to the fort. He was now returning homewards, and as he reached the bridge which led over the stream then called Parent's Creek, he saw the chiefs in the act of crossing from the farther bank. He stood aside to give them room. As the last Indian passed, Beaufait recognized him as an old friend and associate. The savage greeted him with the usual ejaculation, opened for an instant the folds of his blanket, disclosed the hidden gun, and, with an emphatic gesture towards the fort, indicated the ferocious purpose to which he meant to apply it.
At ten o'clock, the great war-chief, with his treacherous followers, reached the fort, and the gateway was thronged with their savage faces. All were wrapped to the throat in coloured blankets. Some were crested with hawk, eagle, or raven plumes; others had shaved their heads, leaving only the fluttering scalp-lock on the crown; while others, again, wore their long black hair flowing loosely at their backs, or wildly hanging about their brows like a lion's mane. Their bold yet crafty features, their cheeks besmeared with ochre and vermilion, white lead and soot, their keen, deep-set eyes gleaming in their sockets, like those of rattlesnakes, gave them an aspect grim, uncouth, and horrible. For the most part, they were tall, strong men, and all had a gait and bearing of peculiar stateliness.
As Pontiac entered, it is said that he started, and that a deep ejaculation half escaped from his broad chest. Well might his stoicism fail, for at a glance he read the ruin of his plot. On either hand, within the gateway, stood ranks of soldiers and hedges of glittering steel. The swarthy, half-wild engageés of the fur-traders, armed to the teeth, stood in groups at the street corners, and the measured tap of a drum fell ominously on the ear. Soon regaining his composure, Pontiac strode forward into the narrow street; and his chiefs filed after him in silence, while the scared faces of women and children looked out from the windows as they passed. Their rigid muscles betrayed no sign
166of emotion; yet, looking closely, one might have seen their small eyes glance from side to side with restless scrutiny.
Traversing the entire width of the little town, they reached the door of the council-house, a large building standing near the margin of the river. Entering, they saw Gladwyn, with several of his officers, seated in readiness to receive them, and the observant chiefs did not fail to remark that every Englishman wore a sword at his side and a pair of pistols in his belt. The conspirators eyed each other with uneasy glances. "Why," demanded Pontiac, "do I see so many of my father's young men standing in the street with their guns?" Gladwyn replied through his interpreter, La Butte, that he had ordered the soldiers under arms for the sake of exercise and discipline. With much delay and many signs of distrust, the chiefs at length sat down on the mats prepared for them; and after the customary pause, Pontiac rose to speak. Holding in his hand the wampum belt which was to have given the fatal signal, he addressed the commandant, professing strong attachment to the English, and declaring, in Indian phrase, that he had come to smoke the pipe of peace, and brighten the chain of friendship. The officers watched him keenly as he uttered these hollow words, fearing lest, though conscious that his designs were suspected, he might still attempt to accomplish them. And once, it is said, he raised the wampum belt as if about to give the signal of attack. But at that instant Gladwyn signed slightly with his hand. The sudden clash of arms sounded from the passage without, and a drum rolling the charge filled the council-room with its stunning din. At this, Pontiac stood like one confounded. Some writers will have it, that Gladwyn, rising from his seat, drew the chief's blanket aside, exposed the hidden gun, and sternly rebuked him for his treachery. But the commandant wished only to prevent the consummation of the plot, without bringing on an open rupture. His own letters affirm that he and his officers remained seated as before. Pontiac, seeing his unruffled brow and his calm eye fixed steadfastly upon him, knew not what to think, and soon sat down in amazement and perplexity. Another pause ensued, and Gladwyn commenced a brief reply. He assured the
167chiefs that friendship and protection should be extended towards them as long as they continued to deserve it, but threatened ample vengeance for the first act of aggression. The council then broke up; but before leaving the room, Pontiac told the officers that he would return in a few days, with his squaws and children, for he wished that they should all shake hands with their fathers the English. To this new piece of treachery Gladwyn deigned no reply. The gates of the fort, which had been closed during the conference, were again flung open, and the baffled savages were suffered to depart, rejoiced, no doubt, to breathe once more the free air of the open fields.
Gladwyn has been censured, and perhaps with justice, for not detaining the chiefs as hostages for the good conduct of their followers. An entrapped wolf meets no quarter from the huntsman; and a savage, caught in his treachery, has no claim to forbearance. Perhaps the commandant feared lest, should he arrest the chiefs when gathered at a public council, and guiltless as yet of open violence, the act might be interpreted as cowardly and dishonourable. He was ignorant, moreover, of the true nature of the plot. In
168his view, the whole affair was one of those impulsive outbreaks so common among Indians, and he trusted that, could an immediate rupture be averted, the threatening clouds would soon blow over.
Here, and elsewhere, the conduct of Pontiac is marked with the blackest treachery; and one cannot but lament that a nature so brave, so commanding, so magnanimous, should be stained with the odious vice of cowards and traitors. He could govern, with almost despotic sway, a race unruly as the winds. In generous thought and deed, he rivalled the heroes of ancient story, and craft and cunning might well seem alien to a mind like his. Yet Pontiac was a thorough savage, and in him stand forth, in strongest light and shadow, the native faults and virtues of the Indian race. All children, says Sir Walter Scott, are naturally liars; and truth and honour are developments of later education. Barbarism is to civilization what childhood is to maturity, and all savages, whatever may be their country, their colour, or their lineage, are prone to treachery and deceit. The barbarous ancestors of our own frank and manly race are no less obnoxious to the charge than those of the cat-like Bengalee; for in this childhood of society, brave men and cowards are treacherous alike.
The Indian differs widely from the European in his notion of military virtue. In his view, artifice is wisdom, and he honours the skill that can circumvent, no less than the valour that can subdue, an adversary. The object of war, he argues, is to destroy the enemy. To accomplish this end, all means are honourable; and it is folly, not bravery, to incur a needless risk. Had Pontiac ordered his followers to storm the palisades of Detroit, not one of them would have obeyed him. They might, indeed, after their strange superstition, have reverenced him as a madman; but, from that hour, his fame as a war-chief would have sunk for ever.
Balked in his treachery, the great chief withdrew to his village, enraged and mortified, yet still resolved to persevere. That Gladwyn had suffered him to escape, was to his mind an ample proof either of cowardice or ignorance. The latter supposition seemed the more probable, and he
169resolved to visit the English once more, and convince them, if possible, that their suspicions against him were unfounded. Early on the following morning, he repaired to the fort with three of his chiefs, bearing in his hand the sacred calumet, or pipe of peace, the bowl carved in stone, and the stem adorned with feathers. Offering it to the commandant, he addressed him and his officers to the following effect: "My fathers, evil birds have sung lies in your ear. We that stand before you are friends of the English. We love them as our brothers, and, to prove our love, we have come this day to smoke the pipe of peace." At his departure, he gave the pipe to Major Campbell, second in command, as a farther pledge of his sincerity.
That afternoon, the better to cover his designs, Pontiac called the young men of all the tribes to a game of ball, which took place, with great noise and shouting, on the neighbouring fields. At nightfall, the garrison were startled by a burst of loud shrill yells. The drums beat to arms, and the troops were ordered to their posts; but the alarm was caused only by the victors in the ball play, who were announcing their success by these discordant outcries. Meanwhile, Pontiac was in the Pottawattamie village, consulting with the chiefs of that tribe, and with the Wyandots, by what means they might compass the ruin of the English.
Early on the following morning, Monday, the ninth of May, the French inhabitants went in procession to the principal church of the settlement, which stood near the river bank, about half mile above the fort. Having heard mass, they all returned before eleven o'clock, without discovering any signs that the Indians meditated an immediate act of hostility. Scarcely, however, had they done so, when the common behind the fort was once more thronged with Indians of all the four tribes; and Pontiac, advancing from among the multitude, approached the gate. It was closed and barred against him. Pontiac shouted to the sentinels, and demanded why he was refused admittance. Gladwyn himself replied, that the great chief might enter, if he chose, but that the crowd he had brought with him must remain outside. Pontiac rejoined, that he wished all his
170warriors to enjoy the fragrance of the friendly calumet. Gladwyn's answer was more concise than courteous, and imported that he would have none of his rabble in the fort. Thus repulsed, Pontiac threw off the mask which he had worn so long. With a grin of hate and rage, he turned abruptly from the gate, and strode towards his followers, who, in great multitudes, lay flat upon the ground, just beyond reach of gunshot. At his approach, they all leaped up and ran off, "yelping," in the words of an eye-witness, "like so many devils."
Looking out from the loopholes, the garrison could see them running in a body towards the house of an old English woman, who lived, with her family, on a distant part of the common. They beat down the doors, and rushed tumultuously in. A moment more, and the mournful scalp-yell told the fate of the wretched inmates. Another large body ran, with loud yells, to the river bank, and, leaping into their canoes, paddled with all speed to the Isle au Cochon. Here dwelt an Englishman, named Fisher, formerly a sergeant of the regulars.
They soon dragged him from the hiding-place where he had sought refuge, murdered him on the spot, took his scalp, and made great rejoicings over this miserable trophy of brutal malice. On the following day, several Canadians crossed over to the island to inter the body, which they accomplished, as they thought, very effectually. Tradition, however, relates, as undoubted truth, that when, a few days after, some of the party returned to the spot, they beheld the pale hands of the dead man thrust above the ground, in an attitude of eager entreaty. Having once more covered the refractory members with earth, they departed, in great wonder and awe; but what was their amazement, when, on returning a second time, they saw the hands protruding as before! At this, they repaired in horror to the priest, who hastened to the spot, sprinkled the grave with holy water, and performed over it the neglected rites of burial. Thenceforth, says the tradition, the corpse of the murdered soldier slept in peace.
Pontiac had borne no part in the wolfish deeds of his followers. When he saw his plan defeated, he turned towards the shore, and no man durst approach him, for he was terrible in his rage. Pushing a canoe from the bank, he urged it, with vigorous strokes, against the current, towards the Ottawa village, on the farther side. As he drew near, he shouted to the inmates. None remained in the lodges but women, children, and old men, who all came flocking out at the sound of his imperious voice. Pointing across the water, he ordered that all should prepare to move the camp to the western shore, that the river might no longer interpose a barrier between his followers and the English. The squaws laboured with eager alacrity to obey him. Provision, utensils, weapons, and even the bark covering to the lodges, were carried to the shore; and before evening all was ready for embarkation. Meantime, the warriors had come dropping in from their bloody work, until, at nightfall, nearly all had returned. Then Pontiac, hideous in his war-paint, leaped into the central area of the village. Brandishing his tomahawk, and stamping on the ground, he recounted his former exploits, and denounced vengeance on the English. The Indians flocked about him. Warrior after warrior caught the fierce contagion, and soon the ring was filled with dancers, circling round and round with frantic gesture, and startling the distant garrison with unearthly yells.
The war-dance over, the work of embarkation was commenced, and long before morning the transfer was complete. The whole Ottawa population crossed the river, and pitched their wigwams on the western side, just above the mouth of the little stream then known as Parent's Creek, but since named Bloody Run, from the scenes of terror which it witnessed.
During the evening, fresh tidings of disaster reached the fort. A Canadian, named Desnoyers, came down the river in a birch canoe, and, landing at the water gate, brought news that two English officers, Sir Robert Davers and Captain Robertson, had been waylaid and murdered by
172the Indians, above Lake St. Clair.
Every Englishman in the fort, whether trader or soldier, was now ordered under arms. No man lay down to sleep, and Gladwyn himself walked the ramparts throughout the night.
All was quiet till the approach of dawn. But as the first dim redness tinged the east, and fields and woods grew visible in the morning twilight, suddenly the war-whoop rose on every side at once. As wolves assail the wounded bison, howling their gathering cries across the wintry prairie, so the fierce Indians, pealing their terrific yells, came bounding naked to the assault. The men hastened to their posts. And truly it was time, for not the Ottawas alone, but the whole barbarian swarm, Wyandots, Pottawattamies, and Ojibwas, were upon them, and bullets rapped hard and fast against the palisades. The soldiers looked from the loopholes, thinking to see their assailants gathering for a rush against the feeble barrier. But, though their clamours filled the air, and their guns blazed thick and hot, yet very few were visible. Some were ensconced behind barns and fences, some skulked among bushes, and some lay flat in hollows of the ground; while those who could find no shelter were leaping about with the agility of monkeys, to dodge the shot of the fort. Each had filled his mouth with bullets, for the convenience of loading, and
173each was charging and firing without suspending these agile gymnastics for a moment. There was one low hill, at no great distance from the fort, behind which countless black heads of Indians alternately appeared and vanished, while, all along the ridge, their guns emitted incessant white puffs of smoke. Every loophole was a target for their bullets; but the fire was returned with steadiness, and not without effect. The Canadian engageés of the fur-traders retorted the Indian war-whoops with outcries not less discordant, while the British and provincials paid back the clamour of the enemy with musket and rifle balls. Within half gunshot of the palisade was a cluster of outbuildings, behind which a host of Indians found shelter. A cannon was brought to bear upon them, loaded with red-hot spikes. They were soon wrapped in flames, upon which the disconcerted savages broke away in a body, and ran off yelping, followed by a shout of laughter from the soldiers.
For six hours the attack was unabated; but as the day advanced, the assailants grew weary of their futile efforts. Their fire slackened, their clamours died away, and the garrison was left once more in peace, though from time to time a solitary shot, or lonely whoop, still showed the presence of some lingering savage, loath to be balked of his revenge. Among the garrison, only five men had been wounded, while the cautious enemy had suffered but trifling loss.
Gladwyn was still convinced that the whole affair was but a sudden ebullition, which would soon subside; and being, moreover, in great want of provision, he resolved to open negotiations with the Indians, under cover of which he might obtain the necessary supplies. The interpreter, La Butte, who, like most of his countrymen, might be said to hold a neutral position between the English and the Indians, was despatched to the camp of Pontiac to demand the reasons of his conduct, and declare that the commandant was ready to redress any real grievance of which he might complain. Two old Canadians of Detroit, Chapeton and Godefroy, earnest to forward the negotiation,
174offered to accompany him. The gates were opened for their departure, and many other inhabitants of the place took this opportunity of leaving it, alleging as their motive, that they did not wish to see the approaching slaughter of the English.
Reaching the Indian camp, the three ambassadors were received by Pontiac with great apparent kindness. La Butte delivered his message, and the two Canadians laboured to dissuade the chief, for his own good and for theirs, from pursuing his hostile purposes. Pontiac stood listening, armed with the true impenetrability of an Indian. At every proposal, he uttered an ejaculation of assent, partly from a strange notion of courtesy peculiar to his race, and partly from the deep dissimulation which seems native to their blood. Yet with all this seeming acquiescence, the heart of the savage was unmoved as a rock. The Canadians were completely deceived. Leaving Chapeton and Godefroy to continue the conference and push the fancied advantage, La Butte hastened back to the fort. He reported the happy issue of his mission, and added that peace might readily be had by making the Indians a few presents, for which they are always rapaciously eager. When, however, he returned to the Indian camp, he found, to his chagrin, that his companions had made no progress in the negotiation. Though still professing a strong desire for peace, Pontiac had evaded every definite proposal. At La Butte's appearance, all the chiefs withdrew to consult among themselves. They returned after a short debate, and Pontiac declared that, out of their earnest desire for firm and lasting peace, they wished to hold council with their English fathers themselves. With this view, they were expressly desirous that Major Campbell, second in command, should visit their camp. This veteran officer, from his just, upright, and manly character, had gained the confidence of the Indians. To the Canadians the proposal seemed a natural one, and returning to the fort, they laid it before the commandant. Gladwyn suspected treachery, but Major Campbell urgently asked permission to comply with the request of Pontiac. He felt, he said, no fear of the Indians, with whom he had always maintained the most friendly terms.
175Gladwyn, with some hesitation, acceded, and Campbell left the fort, accompanied by a junior officer, Lieutenant M'Dougal, and attended by La Butte and several other Canadians.
In the meantime, M. Gouin, anxious to learn what was passing, had entered the Indian camp, and, moving from lodge to lodge, soon saw and heard enough to convince him that the two British officers were advancing into the lion's jaws.
176forward, and his voice allayed the tumult. He shook the officers by the hand, and, turning, led the way through the camp. It was a confused assemblage of huts, chiefly of a conical or half-spherical shape, and constructed of a slender framework covered with rush mats or sheets of birch bark. Many of the graceful birch canoes, used by the Indians of the upper lakes, were lying here and there among paddles, fish-spears, and blackened kettles slung above the embers of the fires. The camp was full of lean, wolfish dogs, who, roused by the clamour of their owners, kept up a discordant baying as the strangers passed. Pontiac paused before the entrance of a large lodge, and, entering, pointed to several mats placed on the ground, at the side opposite the opening. Here, obedient to his signal, the two officers sat down. Instantly the lodge was thronged with savages. Some, and these were for the most part chiefs, or old men, seated themselves on the ground before the strangers, while the remaining space was filled by a dense crowd, crouching or standing erect, and peering over each other's shoulders. At their first entrance, Pontiac had spoken a few words. A pause then ensued, broken at length by Campbell, who from his seat addressed the Indians in a short speech. It was heard in perfect silence, and no reply was made. For a full hour, the unfortunate officers saw before them the same concourse of dark, inscrutable faces, bending an unwavering gaze upon them. Some were passing out, and others coming in to supply their places, and indulge their curiosity by a sight of the Englishmen. At length, Major Campbell, conscious, no doubt, of the danger in which he was placed, resolved fully to ascertain his true position, and, rising to his feet, declared his intention of returning to the fort. Pontiac made a sign that he should resume his seat. "My father," he said, "will sleep to-night in the lodges of his red children." The grey-haired soldier and his companion were betrayed into the hands of their enemies.
Many of the Indians were eager to kill the captives on the spot, but Pontiac would not carry his treachery so far. He protected them from injury and insult, and conducted them to the house of M. Meloche, near Parent's Creek,
177where good quarters were assigned them, and as much liberty allowed as was consistent with safe custody.
Late in the evening, La Butte, the interpreter, returned to the fort. His face wore a sad and downcast look, which sufficiently expressed the melancholy tidings that he brought. On hearing his account, some of the officers suspected, though probably without ground, that he was privy to the detention of the two ambassadors; and La Butte, feeling himself an object of distrust, lingered about the streets, sullen and silent, like the Indians among whom his rough life had been spent.
ON the morning after the detention of the officers, Pontiac crossed over, with several of his chiefs, to the Wyandot village. A part of this tribe, influenced by Father Pothier, their Jesuit priest, had refused to take up arms against the English; but, being now threatened with destruction if they should longer remain neutral, they were forced to join the rest. They stipulated, however, that they should be allowed time to hear mass, before dancing the war-dance.
Having secured these new allies, Pontiac prepared to resume his operations with fresh vigour; and to this intent, he made an improved disposition of his forces. Some of the Pottawattamies were ordered to lie in wait along the river bank, below the fort; while others concealed themselves in the woods, in order to intercept any Englishman who might approach by land or water. Another band of the same tribe were to conceal themselves in the neighbourhood of the fort, when no general attack was going forward, in order to shoot down any soldier or trader who might chance to expose his person. On the twelfth of May, when
179these arrangements were complete, the Indians once more surrounded the fort, firing upon it from morning till night.
On the evening of that day, the officers met to consider what course of conduct the emergency required; and, as one of them writes, the commandant was almost alone in the opinion that they ought still to defend the place.
180he enters a lodge, and calmly stirs the decaying embers, that, by their light, he may select his sleeping victims. With cool deliberation, dealing the mortal thrust, he kills foe after foe, and tears away scalp after scalp, until at length an alarm is given; then, with a wild yell, he bounds out into the darkness, and is gone.
Time passed on, and brought little change and no relief to the harassed and endangered garrison. Day after day the Indians continued their attacks, until their war-cries and the rattle of their guns became familiar sounds.
For many weeks, no man lay down to sleep, except in his clothes, and with his weapons by his side.
181proved abortive. The little church, which stood near the palisade, was particularly exposed, and would probably have been set on fire, had not the priest of the settlement threatened Pontiac with the vengeance of the Great Spirit, should he be guilty of such sacrilege. Pontiac, who was filled with eagerness to get possession of the garrison, neglected no expedient that his savage tactics could supply. He even went farther, and begged the French inhabitants to teach him the European method of attacking a fortified place by regular approaches; but the rude Canadians knew as little of the matter as he; or if, by chance, a few were better informed, they wisely preferred to conceal their knowledge. Soon after the first attack, the Ottawa chief had sent in to Gladwyn a summons to surrender, assuring him that if the place were at once given up, he might embark on board the vessels, with all his men; but that, if he persisted in his defence, he would treat him as Indians treat each other; that is, he would burn him alive. To this Gladwyn made answer that he cared nothing for his threats.
Meanwhile, great efforts were made to procure a supply of provisions. Every house was examined, and all that could serve for food, even grease and tallow, was collected and placed in the public storehouse, compensation having first been made to the owners. Notwithstanding these precautions, Detroit must have been abandoned or destroyed, but for the assistance of a few friendly Canadians, and especially of M. Baby, a prominent habitant, who lived on the opposite side of the river, and provided the garrison with cattle, hogs, and other supplies. These, under cover of night, were carried from his farm to the fort in boats,
182the Indians long remaining ignorant of what was going forward.
They, on their part, began to suffer from hunger. Thinking to have taken Detroit at a single stroke, they had neglected, with their usual improvidence, to provide against the exigencies of a siege; and now, in small parties, they would visit the Canadian families along the river shore, passing from house to house, demanding provisions, and threatening violence in case of refusal. This was the more annoying, since the food thus obtained was wasted with characteristic recklessness. Unable to endure it longer, the Canadians appointed a deputation of fifteen of the eldest among them to wait upon Pontiac, and complain of his followers' conduct. The meeting took place at a Canadian house, probably that of M. Meloche, where the great chief had made his headquarters, and where the prisoners, Campbell and M'Dougal, were confined.
When Pontiac saw the deputation approaching along the river road, he was seized with an exceeding eagerness to know the purpose of their visit; for having long desired to gain the Canadians as allies against the English, and made several advances to that effect, he hoped that their present errand might relate to the object next his heart. So strong was his curiosity, that, forgetting the ordinary rule of Indian dignity and decorum, he asked the business on which they had come before they themselves had communicated it.
183The Canadians replied, that they wished the chiefs to be convened, for they were about to speak upon a matter of much importance. Pontiac instantly despatched messengers to the different camps and villages. The chiefs, soon arriving at his summons, entered the apartment, where they sat down upon the floor, having first gone through the necessary formality of shaking hands with the Canadian deputies. After a suitable pause, the eldest of the French rose, and heavily complained of the outrages which they had committed. "You pretend," he said, "to be friends of the French, and yet you plunder us of our hogs and cattle, you trample upon our fields of young corn, and when you enter our houses, you enter with tomahawk raised. When your French father comes from Montreal with his great army, he will hear of what you have done, and, instead of shaking hands with you as brethren, he will punish you as enemies."
Pontiac sat with his eyes riveted upon the ground, listening to every word that was spoken. When the speaker had concluded, he returned the following answer: —
"We have never wished to do you harm, nor allow any to be done you; but among us there are many young men who, though strictly watched, find opportunities of mischief. It is not to revenge myself alone that I make war on the English. It is to revenge you, my brothers. When the English insulted us, they insulted you also. I know that they have taken away your arms, and made you sign a paper which they have sent home to their country. Therefore you are left defenceless; and I mean now to revenge your cause and my own together. I mean to destroy the English, and leave not one upon our lands. You do not know the reasons from which I act. I have told you those only which concern yourselves; but you will learn all in time. You will cease then to think me a fool. I know, my brothers, that there are many among you who take part with the English. I am sorry for it, for their own sakes; for when our father arrives, I shall point them out to him, and they will see whether they or I have most reason to be satisfied with the part we have acted."
"I do not doubt, my brothers, that this war is very troublesome to you, for our warriors are continually passing and repassing through your settlement. I am sorry for it. Do not think that I approve of the damage that is done by them; and, as a proof of this, remember the war with the Foxes, and the part which I took in it. It is now seventeen years since the Ojibwas of Michillimackinac, combined with the Sacs and Foxes, came down to destroy you. Who then defended you? Was it not I and my young men? Mickinac, great chief of all these nations, said in council, that he would carry to his village the head of your commandant — that he would eat his heart and drink his blood. Did I not take your part? Did I not go to his camp, and say to him, that if he wished to kill the French, he must first kill me and my warriors? Did I not assist you in routing them and driving them away?
And now you think that I would turn my arms against you! No, my brothers; I am the same French Pontiac who assisted you seventeen years ago. I am a Frenchman, and I wish to die a Frenchman; and I now repeat to you that you and I are one — that it is for both our interests that I should be avenged. Let me alone. I do not ask you for aid, for it is not in your power to give it. I only ask provisions for myself and men. Yet, if you are inclined to assist me, I shall not
185refuse you. It would please me, and you yourselves would be sooner rid of your troubles; for I promise you, that as soon as the English are driven out, we will go back to our villages, and there await the arrival of our French father. You have heard what I have to say: remain at peace, and I will watch that no harm shall be done to you, either by my men or by the other Indians."
This speech is reported by a writer whose chief characteristic is the scrupulous accuracy with which he has chronicled minute details without interest or importance. He neglects, moreover, no opportunity of casting ignominy and contempt upon the name of Pontiac. His mind is of so dull and commonplace an order as to exclude the supposition that he himself is author of the words which he ascribes to the Ottawa chief, and the speech may probably be taken as a literal translation of the original.
As soon as the council broke up, Pontiac took measures for bringing the disorders complained of to a close, while, at the same time, he provided sustenance for his warriors; and, in doing this, he displayed a policy and forecast scarcely paralleled in the history of his race. He first forbade the commission of farther outrage.
On the river bank, not far from the house of Meloche, lived an old Canadian, named Quilleriez, a man of exceeding vanity and self-conceit, and noted in the settlement for the gaiety of his attire. He wore moccasins of the most elaborate pattern, and a sash plentifully garnished with beads and wampum. He was continually intermeddling in
186the affairs of the Indians, being anxious to be regarded as the leader or director among them.
Major Rogers, a man familiar with the Indians, and an acute judge of mankind, speaks in the highest terms of Pontiac's character and talents. "He puts on," he says, "an air of majesty and princely grandeur, and is greatly honoured and revered by his subjects."
In the present instance, few durst infringe the command he had given, that the property of the Canadians should be respected; indeed, it is said that none of his followers would cross the cultivated fields, but always followed the beaten paths; in such awe did they stand of his displeasure.
Pontiac's position was very different from that of an ordinary military leader. When we remember that his authority, little sanctioned by law or usage, was derived chiefly from the force of his own individual mind, and that it was exercised over a people singularly impatient of restraint, we may better appreciate the commanding energy that could hold control over spirits so intractable.
The glaring faults of Pontiac's character have already appeared too clearly. He was artful and treacherous, bold, fierce, ambitious, and revengeful; yet the following anecdotes will evince that noble and generous thought was no stranger to the savage hero of this dark forest tragedy. Some time after the period of which we have been speaking, Rogers came up to Detroit with a detachment of troops, and, on landing, sent a bottle of brandy, by a friendly Indian, as a present to Pontiac. The Indians had always been suspicious that the English meant to poison them. Those around the chief endeavoured to persuade him that the brandy was drugged. Pontiac listened to what they
188said, and, as soon as they had concluded, poured out a cup of the liquor, and immediately drank it, saying that the man whose life he had saved had no power to kill him. He referred to his having prevented the Indians from attacking Rogers and his party when on their way to demand the surrender of Detroit. The story may serve as a counterpart to the well-known anecdote of Alexander the Great and his physician.
Pontiac had been an old friend of Baby; and one evening, at an early period of the siege, he entered his house, and, seating himself by the fire, looked for some time steadily at the embers. At length, raising his head, he said he had heard that the English had offered the Canadian a bushel of silver for the scalp of his friend. Baby declared that the story was false, and protested that he would never betray him. Pontiac for a moment keenly studied his features. "My brother has spoken the truth," he said, "and I will show that I believe him." He remained in the house through the evening, and, at its close, wrapped himself in his blanket, and lay down upon a bench, where he slept in full confidence till morning.
Another anecdote, from the same source, will exhibit the power which he exercised over the minds of his followers. A few young Wyandots were in the habit of coming, night after night, to the house of Baby, to steal hogs and cattle. The latter complained of the thief to Pontiac, and desired his protection. Being at that time ignorant of the intercourse between Baby and the English, Pontiac hastened to the assistance of his friend, and, arriving about nightfall at the house, walked to and fro among the barns and enclosures. At a late hour, he distinguished the dark forms of the plunderers stealing through the gloom. "Go back to your village, you Wyandot dogs," said the Ottawa chief; "if you tread again on this man's land, you shall die." They slunk back abashed; and from that time forward, the Canadian's property was safe. The Ottawas had no
189political connection with the Wyandots, who speak a language radically distinct. Over them he could claim no legitimate authority; yet his powerful spirit forced respect and obedience from all who approached him.
WHILE perils were thickening around the garrison of Detroit, the British commander-in-chief at New York remained ignorant of their danger. Indeed, an unwonted quiet had prevailed, of late, along the borders and about the neighbouring forts. With the opening of spring, a strong detachment had been sent up the lakes, with a supply of provisions and ammunition for the use of Detroit and the other western posts. The boats of this convoy were now pursuing their course along the northern shore of Lake Erie; and Gladwyn's garrison, aware of their approach, awaited their arrival with an anxiety which every day increased.
Day after day passed on, and the red cross of St. George still floated above Detroit. The keen-eyed watchfulness of the Indians had never abated; and woe to the soldier who showed his head above the palisades, or exposed his person before a loophole. Strong in his delusive hope of French assistance, Pontiac had sent messengers to M. Neyon, commandant at the Illinois, earnestly requesting that a force of regular troops might be sent to his assistance; and Gladwyn, on his side, had ordered one of the vessels to Niagara, to hasten forward the expected convoy. The schooner set sail; but on the next day, as she lay becalmed at the entrance of Lake Erie, a multitude of canoes suddenly darted out upon her from the neighbouring shores. In the prow of the foremost the Indians had placed their prisoner, Major Campbell, with the dastardly purpose of interposing him as a screen between themselves and the fire of the English. But the brave old man called out to
191the crew to do their duty, without regard to him. Happily, at that moment a fresh breeze sprang up; the flapping sails stretched to the wind, and the schooner bore prosperously on her course towards Niagara, leaving the savage flotilla far behind.
The fort, or rather town, of Detroit had, by this time, lost its wonted vivacity and life. Its narrow streets were gloomy and silent. Here and there strolled a Canadian, in red cap and gaudy sash; the weary sentinel walked to and fro before the quarters of the commandant; an officer, perhaps, passed along with rapid step and anxious face; or an Indian girl, the mate of some soldier or trader, moved silently by, in her finery of beads and vermilion. Such an aspect as this the town must have presented on the morning of the thirtieth of May, when, at about nine o'clock, the voice of the sentinel sounded from the south-east bastion, and loud exclamations, in the direction of the river, roused Detroit from its lethargy. Instantly the place was astir. Soldiers, traders, and habitans, hurrying through the water-gate, thronged the canoe wharf and the narrow strand without. The half-wild coureurs des bois, the tall and sinewy provincials, and the stately British soldiers, stood crowded together, their uniforms soiled and worn, and their faces haggard with unremitted watching. Yet all alike wore an animated and joyous look. The long-expected convoy was full in sight. On the farther side of the river, at some
192distance below the fort, a line of boats was rounding the woody projection, then called Montreal Point, their oars flashing in the sun, and the red flag of England flying from the stern of the foremost.
Leaving the disappointed garrison, we will pass over to the principal victims of this deplorable misfortune. In each of the boats, of which there were eighteen, two or more of the captured soldiers, deprived of their weapons, were compelled to act as rowers, guarded by several armed savages, while many other Indians, for the sake of farther security, followed the boats along the shore. In the foremost, as it happened, there were four soldiers and only three Indians. The larger of the two vessels still lay anchored in the stream, about a bow-shot from the fort, while her companion, as we have seen, had gone down to Niagara to hasten up this very reinforcement. As the boat came opposite this vessel, the soldier who acted as steersman conceived a daring plan of escape. The principal Indian sat immediately in front of another of the soldiers. The steersman called, in English, to his comrade to seize the savage and throw him overboard. The man answered that he was not strong enough; on which the steersman directed him to change places with him, as if fatigued with rowing, a movement which would excite no suspicion on the part
193of their guard. As the bold soldier stepped forward, as if to take his companion's oar, he suddenly seized the Indian by the hair, and gripping with the other hand the girdle at his waist, lifted him by main force, and flung him into the river. The boat rocked till the water surged over her gunwale. The Indian held fast to his enemy's clothes, and, drawing himself upward as he trailed alongside, stabbed him again and again with his knife, and then dragged him overboard. Both went down the swift current, rising and sinking; and, as some relate, perished, grappled in each other's arms.
They related many particulars of the catastrophe which had befallen them and their companions. Lieutenant Cuyler had left Fort Niagara as early as the thirteenth of May, and embarked from Fort Schlosser, just above the falls, with ninety-six men and a plentiful supply of provision and ammunition. Day after day he had coasted along the northern shore of Lake Erie, and had seen neither friend
194nor foe amid those lonely forests and waters, when, on the twenty-eighth of the month, he landed at Point Peleée, not far from the mouth of the River Detroit. The boats were drawn on the beach, and the party prepared to encamp. A man and a boy went to gather firewood at a short distance from the spot, when an Indian leaped out of the woods, seized the boy by the hair, and tomahawked him. The man ran into camp with the alarm. Cuyler immediately formed his soldiers into a semicircle before the boats. He had scarcely done so when the enemy opened their fire. For an instant, there was a hot blaze of musketry on both sides; then the Indians broke out of the woods in a body, and rushed fiercely upon the centre of the line, which gave way in every part; the men flinging down their guns, running in a blind panic to the boats, and struggling with ill-directed efforts to shove them into the water. Five were set afloat, and pushed off from the shore, crowded with the terrified soldiers. Cuyler, seeing himself, as he says, deserted by his men, waded up to his neck in the lake, and climbed into one of the retreating boats. The Indians, on their part, pushing two more afloat, went in pursuit of the fugitives, three boat loads of whom allowed themselves to be recaptured without resistance; but the remaining two, in one of which was Cuyler himself, made their escape.
195ground. Immediately leaving the spot, he rowed along the south shore to Presqu'Isle, from whence he proceeded to Niagara, and reported his loss to Major Wilkins, the commanding officer.
The actors in this bold and well-executed stroke were the Wyandots, who, for some days, had lain in ambush at the mouth of the river, to intercept trading boats or parties of troops. Seeing the extreme fright and confusion of Cuyler's men, they had forgotten their usual caution, and rushed upon them in the manner described. The ammunition, provision, and other articles, taken in this attack, formed a valuable prize; but, unfortunately, there was, among the rest, a great quantity of whiskey. This the Indians seized, and carried to their respective camps, which, throughout the night, presented a scene of savage revelry and riot. The liquor was poured into vessels of birch-bark, or anything capable of containing it; and the Indians, crowding around, scooped it up in their cups and ladles, and quaffed the raw whiskey like water. While some sat apart, wailing and moaning in maudlin drunkenness, others were maddened to the ferocity of wild beasts. Dormant jealousies were awakened, old forgotten quarrels kindled afresh, and had not the squaws taken the precaution of hiding all the
196weapons they could find before the debauch began, much blood would, no doubt, have been spilt. As it was, the savages were not entirely without means of indulging their drunken rage. Many were wounded, of whom two died in the morning; and several others had their noses bitten off — a singular mode of revenge, much in vogue upon similar occasions, among the Indians of the upper lakes. The English were gainers by this scene of riot; for late in the evening, two Indians, in all the valour and vain-glory of drunkenness, came running directly towards the fort, boasting their prowess in a loud voice; but being greeted with two rifle bullets, they leaped into the air like a pair of wounded bucks, and fell dead on their tracks.
It will not be proper to pass over in silence the fate of the unfortunate men taken prisoners in this affair. After night had set in, several Canadians came to the fort, bringing vague and awful reports of the scenes that had been enacted at the Indian camp. The soldiers gathered round them, and, frozen with horror, listened to the appalling narrative. A cloud of deep gloom sank down upon the garrison, and none could help reflecting how thin and frail a barrier protected them from a similar fate. On the following day, and for several succeeding days, they beheld frightful confirmation of the rumours they had heard. Naked corpses, gashed with knives and scorched with fire, floated down on the pure waters of the Detroit, whose fish came up to nibble at the clotted blood that clung to their ghastly faces.
Late one afternoon, at about this period of the siege, the garrison were again greeted with the dismal cry of death, and a line of naked warriors was seen issuing from the woods, which, like a wall of foliage, rose beyond the pastures in rear of the fort. Each savage was painted black, and each bore a scalp fluttering from the end of a pole. It was but too clear that some new disaster had befallen; and in truth, before nightfall, one La Brosse, a Canadian, came to the gate with the tidings that Fort Sandusky had been taken, and all its garrison slain or made captive.
198rounded by a crowd of Indians, chiefly squaws and children, who pelted him with stones, sticks, and gravel, forcing him to dance and sing, though by no means in a cheerful strain. A worse infliction seemed in store for him, when happily an old woman, whose husband had lately died, chose to adopt him in place of the deceased warrior. Seeing no alternative but the stake, Paully accepted the proposal; and having been first plunged in the river, that the white blood might be washed from his veins, he was conducted to the lodge of the widow, and treated thenceforth with all the consideration due to an Ottawa warrior.
Gladwyn soon received a letter from him, through one of the Canadian inhabitants, giving a full account of the capture of Fort Sandusky. On the sixteenth of May — such was the substance of the communication — Paully was informed that seven Indians were waiting at the gate to speak with him. As several of the number were well known to him, he ordered them, without hesitation, to be admitted. Arrived at his quarters, two of the treacherous visitors seated themselves on each side of the commandant, while the rest were disposed in various parts of the room. The pipes were lighted, and the conversation began, when an Indian, who stood in the doorway, suddenly made a signal by raising his head. Upon this, the astonished officer was instantly pounced upon and disarmed; while, at the same moment, a confused noise of shrieks and yells, the firing of guns, and the hurried tramp of feet, sounded from the area of the fort without. It soon ceased, however; and Paully, led by his captors from the room, saw the parade ground strown with the corpses of his murdered garrison. At nightfall he was conducted to the margin of the lake, where several birch canoes lay in readiness; and as, amid thick darkness, the party pushed out from shore, the captive saw the fort, lately under his command, bursting on all sides into sheets of flame.
Soon after these tidings of the loss of Sandusky, Gladwyn's garrison heard the scarcely less unwelcome
199news that the strength of their besiegers had been reinforced by two strong bands of Ojibwas. Pontiac's forces in the vicinity of Detroit now amounted, according to Canadian computation, to about eight hundred and twenty warriors. Of these, two hundred and fifty were Ottawas, commanded by himself in person; one hundred and fifty were Pottawattamies, under Ninivay; fifty were Wyandots, under Takee; two hundred were Ojibwas, under Wasson; and added to these were a hundred and seventy of the same tribe, under their chief, Sekahos.
The sleepless garrison, worn by fatigue and ill fare, and harassed by constant petty attacks, were yet further saddened by the news of disaster which thickened from every quarter. Of all the small posts scattered at wide intervals through the vast wilderness to the westward of Niagara and Fort Pitt, it soon appeared that Detroit alone had been able to sustain itself. For the rest, there was but one unvaried tale of calamity and ruin. On the fifteenth of June, a number of Pottawattamies were seen approaching the gate of the fort, bringing with them four English prisoners, who proved to be Ensign Schlosser, lately commanding at St. Joseph's, together with three private soldiers. The Indians wished to exchange them for several of their own tribe, who had been for nearly two months prisoners in the fort. After some delay, this was effected, and the garrison then learned the unhappy fate of their comrades at St. Joseph's. This post stood at the mouth of the River St. Joseph's, near the head of Lake Michigan, a spot which had long been the site of a Roman Catholic mission. Here, among the forests, swamps, and ocean-like waters, at an unmeasured distance from any abode of civilized man, the daring and indefatigable Jesuits had laboured more than half a century for the spiritual good of the Pottawattamies, who lived in great numbers
200near the margin of the lake. As early as the year 1712, as Father Marest informs us, the mission was in a thriving state, and around it had gathered a little colony of the forest-loving Canadians. Here, too, the French Government had established a military post, whose garrison, at the period of our narrative, had been supplanted by Ensign Schlosser, with his command of fourteen men, a mere handful, in the heart of a wilderness swarming with insidious enemies. They seem, however, to have apprehended no danger, when, on the twenty-fifth of May, early in the morning, the officer was informed that a large party of the Pottawattamies of Detroit had come to pay a visit to their relatives at St. Joseph's. Immediately after, a Canadian came in with intelligence that the fort was surrounded by Indians, who evidently had hostile intentions. At this, Schlosser ran out of the apartment, and crossing the parade, which was full of Indians and Canadians, hastily entered the barracks. These were also crowded with savages, very insolent and disorderly. Calling upon his sergeant to get the men under arms, he hastened out again to the parade, and endeavoured to muster the Canadians together; but while busying himself with these somewhat unwilling auxiliaries, he heard a wild cry from within the barracks. Instantly all the Indians in the fort rushed to the gate, tomahawked the sentinel, and opened a free passage to their comrades without. In less than two minutes, as the officer declares, the fort was plundered, eleven men were killed, and himself, with the three survivors, made prisoners, and bound fast. They then conducted him to Detroit, where he was exchanged, as we have already seen.
Three days after these tidings reached Detroit, Father Jonois, a Jesuit priest of the Ottawa mission near Michillimackinac, came to Pontiac's camp, together with the son of Minavavana, great chief of the Ojibwas, and several other Indians. On the following morning, he appeared at the gate of the fort, bringing a letter from Captain Etherington, commandant at Michillimackinac. The commencement of the letter was as follows: —
201"Michillimackinac, 12 June, 1763
"Notwithstanding what I wrote you in my last, that all the savages were arrived, and that everything seemed in perfect tranquillity, yet on the fourth instant, the Chippeways, who live in a plain near this fort, assembled to play ball, as they had done almost every day since their arrival. They played from morning till noon; then, throwing their ball close to the gate, and observing Lieutenant Lesley and me a few paces out of it, they came behind us, seized and carried us into the woods.
"In the mean time, the rest rushed into the fort, where they found their squaws, whom they had previously planted there, with their hatchets hid under their blankets, which they took, and in an instant killed Lieutenant Jamet, and fifteen rank and file, and a trader named Tracy. They wounded two, and took the rest of the garrison prisoners, five of whom they have since killed.
"They made prisoners all the English traders, and robbed them of everything they had; but they offered no violence to the persons or property of any of the Frenchmen."
Captain Etherington next related some particulars of the massacre at Michillimackinac, sufficiently startling, as will soon appear. He spoke in high terms of the character and conduct of Father Jonois, and requested that Gladwyn would send all the troops he could spare up Lake Huron, that the post might be recaptured from the Indians, and garrisoned afresh. Gladwyn, being scarcely able to defend himself, could do nothing for the relief of his brother officer, and the Jesuit set out on his long and toilsome canoe voyage back to Michillimackinac.
The next news which came in was that of the loss of Ouatanon, a fort situated upon the Wabash, a little below the site of the present town of La Fayette. Gladwyn received a letter from its commanding officer, Lieutenant
202Jenkins, informing him that, on the first of June, he and several of his men had been made prisoners by stratagem, on which the rest of the garrison had surrendered. The Indians, however, apologized for their conduct, declaring that they acted contrary to their own inclinations, and that the surrounding tribes had compelled them to take up the hatchet.
Close upon these tidings came the news that Fort Miami was taken. This post, standing on the River Maumee, was commanded by Ensign Holmes; and here I cannot but remark on the forlorn situation of these officers, isolated in the wilderness, hundreds of miles, in some instances, from any congenial associates, separated from every human
203being except the rude soldiers under their command, and the white or red savages who ranged the surrounding woods. Holmes suspected the intention of the Indians, and was therefore on his guard, when, on the twenty-seventh of May, a young Indian girl, who lived with him, came to tell him that a squaw lay dangerously ill in a wigwam near the fort, and urged him to come to her relief. Having confidence in the girl, Holmes followed her out of the fort. Pitched at the edge of a meadow, hidden from view by an intervening spur of the woodland, stood a great number of Indian wigwams. When Holmes came in sight of them, his treacherous conductress pointed out that in which the sick woman lay. He walked on without suspicion; but, as he drew near, two guns flashed from behind the hut, and stretched him lifeless on the grass. The shots were heard at the fort, and the sergeant rashly went out to learn the reason of the firing. He was immediately taken prisoner, amid exulting yells and whoopings. The soldiers in the fort climbed upon the palisades, to look out, when Godefroy, a Canadian, together with two other white men, made his appearance, and summoned them to surrender, promising that if they did so, their lives should be spared, but that otherwise they would all be killed without mercy. The men, being in great terror, and without a leader, soon threw open the gate, and gave themselves up as prisoners.
Had detachments of Rogers' Rangers garrisoned these posts, or had they been held by such men as the Rocky Mountain trappers of the present day, wary, skilful, and almost ignorant of fear, some of them might, perhaps, have been saved; but the soldiers of the 6oth Regiment, though many of them were of provincial birth, were not qualified by their habits and discipline for this kind of service.
The loss of Presqu'Isle will close this black catalogue of calamity. Rumours of it first reached Detroit on the twentieth of June, and two days after, the garrison heard those dismal cries, announcing scalps and prisoners, which, of late, had grown mournfully familiar to their ears. Indians were seen passing, in numbers, along the opposite bank of
204the river, leading several English prisoners, who proved to be Ensign Christie, the commanding officer at Presqu'Isle with those of his soldiers who survived.
There had been hot fighting before Presqu'Isle was taken. Could courage have saved it, it would never have fallen. The fort stood near the site of the present town of Erie, on the southern shore of the lake which bears the same name. At one of its angles was a large blockhouse, a species of structure much used in the petty forest warfare of the day. It was two stories in height, and solidly built of massive timber, the diameter of the upper story exceeding that of the lower by several feet, so that, through openings in the projecting floor of the former, the defenders could shoot down upon the heads of an enemy assailing the outer wall below. The roof, being covered with shingles, might easily be set on fire; but to guard against this, there was an opening at the summit, through which the garrison, partially protected by a covering of plank, might pour down water upon the flames. This blockhouse stood on a projecting point of land, between the lake and a small brook which entered it nearly at right angles. Unfortunately, the bank of the brook rose in a high, steep ridge, within forty yards of the blockhouse, thus affording a cover for assailants, while the bank of the lake offered similar facilities on another side.
At early dawn on the fifteenth of June, the garrison of Presqu'Isle were first aware of the enemy's presence; and when the sun rose, they saw themselves surrounded by two hundred Indians, chiefly from the neighbourhood of Detroit. At the first alarm, they abandoned the main body of the fort, and betook themselves to the blockhouse as a citadel. The Indians, crowding together in great numbers, under cover of the rising ground, kept up a rattling fire, and not only sent their bullets into every loophole and crevice, but shot fire-arrows upon the roof, and threw balls of burning pitch against the walls. Again and again the building took fire, and again and again the flames were extinguished.
The Indians now rolled logs to the top of the ridges, where they constructed three strong breastworks, from behind which they could discharge their shot and throw
205their fire-balls with still greater effect. Some of them tried to dart across the intervening space, and shelter themselves in the ditch which surrounded the fort; but all of these were killed or wounded in the attempt. And now the defenders could see the Indians throwing up earth and stones, behind one of the breastworks. Their implacable foes were labouring to undermine the blockhouse, a sure and insidious expedient, against which there was no defence. There was little leisure to reflect on this new peril; for another more imminent and horrible soon threatened them. The barrels of water, always kept in the blockhouse, were nearly emptied in extinguishing the frequent fires; and though there was a well in the parade-ground, yet to approach it would be certain death. The only resource was to dig one in the blockhouse itself. The floor was torn up, and while some of the men fired their heated muskets from the loopholes, to keep the enemy in check, the rest laboured with desperate energy at this toilsome and cheerless task. Before it was half completed, the roof was again on fire, and all the water that remained was poured down to extinguish it. In a few moments, the cry of fire was once more raised, when a soldier, at imminent risk of his life, tore off the burning shingles, and averted the danger.
By this time it was evening. From earliest daybreak, the little garrison had fought and toiled without a moment's rest. Nor did the darkness bring relief, for guns flashed all night long from the Indian entrenchments. They seemed resolved to wear out the obstinate defenders by fatigue; and while some, in their turn, were sleeping, the rest kept up the assault. Morning brought fresh dangers. The well had been for some time complete: and it was happy that it was so, for by this time the enemy had pushed their subterranean approaches as far as the house of the commanding officer, which they immediately set on fire. It stood on the parade, close to the blockhouse; and, as the pine logs blazed fiercely, the defenders were nearly stifled by the heat. The outer wall of the blockhouse scorched, blackened, and at last burst into flame. Still the undespairing garrison refused to yield. Passing up water from the well below, they poured it down upon the fire, which at length was happily subdued, while
206the blazing house soon sank into a glowing heap of embers. The men were now, to use the words of their officer, "exhausted to the greatest extremity"; yet they kept up their forlorn and desperate defence, toiling and fighting without pause, within the wooden walls of their dark prison, where the close and heated atmosphere was clogged with the smoke of gunpowder. The fire on both sides continued through the day, and did not cease till midnight; at which hour a voice was heard to call out, in French, from the enemy's entrenchments, warning the garrison that farther resistance would be useless, since preparations were made for setting the blockhouse on fire, above and below at once. Christie demanded if there were any among them who spoke English; upon which, a man in the Indian dress came out from behind the breastwork. He was a soldier, who, having been made prisoner early in the French war, had since lived among the savages, and now espoused their cause, fighting with them against his own countrymen. He said that if they yielded, their lives should be spared, but if they fought longer, they must all be burnt alive. Christie, resolving to hold out as long as a shadow of hope remained, told them to wait till morning for his answer. They assented, and suspended their fire; and while some of the garrison watched, the rest sank exhausted into a deep sleep. When morning came, Christie sent out two soldiers, as if to treat with the enemy, but, in reality, to learn the truth of what they had said respecting their preparations to burn the blockhouse. On reaching the breastwork, the soldiers made a signal, by which their officer saw that his worst fears were well founded. In pursuance of their orders, they then demanded that two of the principal chiefs should meet with Christie midway between the breastwork and the blockhouse. The chiefs appeared accordingly; and Christie, going out, yielded up the little fortress which he had defended with such indomitable courage; having first stipulated that the lives of all the garrison should be spared, and that they might retire unmolested to the nearest post. The soldiers, pale, wild, and haggard, like men who had passed through a fiery ordeal, now issued from the blockhouse, whose sides were pierced with bullets and scorched
207with fire. In spite of the capitulation, they were surrounded and seized, and, having been detained for some time in the neighbourhood, were sent as prisoners to Detroit, where Ensign Christie soon after made his escape, and gained the fort in safety.
After Presqu'Isle was taken, the neighbouring little posts of Le Boeuf and Venango shared its fate; while farther southward, at the forks of the Ohio, a host of Delaware and Shawanoe warriors were gathering around Fort Pitt, and blood and havoc reigned along the whole frontier.
WE return once more to Detroit and its beleaguered garrison. On the nineteenth of June, a rumour reached them that one of the vessels had been seen near Turkey Island, some miles below the fort, but that, the wind failing her, she had dropped down with the current, to wait a more favourable opportunity. It may be remembered that this vessel had, several weeks before, gone down Lake Erie to hasten the advance of Cuyler's expected detachment. Passing these troops on her way, she had held her course to Niagara; and here she had remained until the return of Cuyler, with the remnant of his men, made known the catastrophe that had befallen him. This officer, and the survivors of his party, with a few other troops spared from the garrison of Niagara, were ordered to embark on board of her, and make the best of their way back to Detroit. They had done so, and now, as we have seen, were almost within sight of the fort; but the critical part of the undertaking yet remained. The river channel was in some places narrow, and more than eight hundred Indians were on the alert to intercept their passage.
For several days, the officers at Detroit heard nothing farther of the vessel, when, on the twenty-third, a great commotion was visible among the Indians, large parties of whom were seen to pass along the outskirts of the woods, behind the fort. The cause of these movements was unknown till evening, when M. Baby came in with intelligence that the vessel was again attempting to ascend the river, and that all the Indians had gone to the attack. Upon this, two cannon were fired, that those on board might know that the fort still held out.
209This done, all remained in much anxiety awaiting the result.
The schooner, late that afternoon, began to move slowly upward, with a gentle breeze, between the main shore and the long-extended margin of Fighting Island. About sixty men were crowded on board, of whom only ten or twelve were visible on deck, the officer having ordered the rest to lie hidden below, in hopes that the Indians, encouraged by this apparent weakness, might make an open attack. Just before reaching the narrowest part of the channel, the wind died away, and the anchor was dropped. Immediately above, and within gunshot of the vessel, the Indians had made a breastwork of logs, carefully concealed by bushes, on the shore of Turkey Island. Here they lay in force, waiting for the schooner to pass. Ignorant of this, but still cautious and wary, the crew kept a strict watch from the moment the sun went down.
Hours wore on, and nothing had broken the deep repose of the night. The current gurgled with a monotonous sound around the bows of the schooner, and on either hand the wooded shores lay amid the obscurity, black and silent as the grave. At length, the sentinel could discern, in the distance, various moving objects upon the dark surface of the water. The men were ordered up from below, and all took their posts in perfect silence. The blow of a hammer on the mast was to be the signal to fire. The Indians, gliding stealthily over the water in their birch canoes, had, by this time, approached within a few rods of their fancied prize, when suddenly the dark side of the slumbering vessel burst into a blaze of cannon and musketry, which illumined the night like a flash of lightning. Grape and musket shot flew tearing among the canoes, destroying several of them, killing fourteen Indians, wounding as many more, and driving the rest in consternation to the shore.
210success; for, though the Indians fired at her constantly from the shore, no man was hurt, and at length she left behind her the perilous channels of the islands. As she passed the Wyandot village, she sent a shower of grape among its yelping inhabitants, by which several were killed; and then, furling her sails, lay peacefully at anchor by the side of her companion vessel, abreast of the fort.
The schooner brought to the garrison a much-needed supply of men, ammunition, and provision. She brought, also, the interesting and important tidings that peace was at length concluded between France and England. The bloody and momentous struggle of the French war, which had shaken North America since the year 1755, had indeed been virtually closed by the victory on the Plains of Abraham, and the junction of the three British armies at Montreal. Yet up to this time, its embers had continued to burn, till, at length, peace was completely established by formal treaty between the hostile powers. France resigned her ambitious project of empire in America, and ceded Canada and the region of the lakes to her successful rival. By this treaty, the Canadians of Detroit were placed in a new position. Hitherto they had been, as it were, prisoners on capitulation, neutral spectators of the quarrel between their British conquerors and the Indians; but now their allegiance was transferred from the crown of France to that of Britain, and they were subjects of the English king. To many of them, the change was extremely odious, for they cordially hated the British. They went about among the settlers and the Indians, declaring that the pretended news of peace was only an invention of Major Gladwyn; that the king of France would never abandon his children; and that a great French army was even then ascending the St. Lawrence, while another was approaching from the country of the Illinois.
Pontiac himself clung fast to this delusive hope; yet he was greatly vexed at the safe arrival of the vessel, and the assistance she had brought to the obstinate defenders of Detroit. He exerted himself with fresh zeal to gain possession of the place, and attempted to terrify Gladwyn into submission. He sent a message, in which he strongly urged him to surrender, adding, by way of stimulus, that eight hundred more Ojibwas were every day expected, and that, on their arrival, all his influence could not prevent them from taking the scalp of every Englishman in the fort. To this friendly advice Gladwyn returned a very brief and contemptuous answer.
Pontiac, having long been anxious to gain the Canadians as auxiliaries in the war, now determined on a final effort to affect his object. For this purpose, he sent messages to the principal inhabitants, inviting them to meet him in council. In the Ottawa camp, there was a vacant spot, quite level, and encircled by the huts of the Indians. Here mats were spread for the reception of the deputies, who soon convened, and took their seats in a wide ring. One part was occupied by the Canadians, among whom were several whose withered, leathery features proclaimed them the patriarchs of the secluded little settlement. Opposite these sat the stern-visaged Pontiac, with his chiefs on either hand, while the intervening portions of the circle were filled by Canadians and Indians promiscuously mingled. Standing on the outside, and looking over the heads of this more dignified assemblage, was a motley throng of Indians and Canadians, half-breeds, trappers, and voyageurs, in wild and picturesque, though very dirty attire. Conspicuous among them were numerous Indian dandies, a large class in every aboriginal community, where they hold about the same relative position as in civilized society. They were wrapped in the gayest blankets, their necks adorned with beads, their cheeks daubed with vermilion, and their ears hung with pendants. They stood sedately looking on, with evident self-complacency, yet ashamed and afraid to take their places among the aged chiefs and warriors of repute.
All was silent, and several pipes were passing round from
212hand to hand, when Pontiac rose, and threw down a war-belt at the feet of the Canadians,
"My brothers," he said, "how long will you suffer this bad flesh to remain upon your lands? I have told you before, and I now tell you again, that when I took up the hatchet, it was for your good. This year the English must all perish throughout Canada. The Master of Life commands it; and you, who know him better than we, wish to oppose his will. Until now I have said nothing on this matter. I have not urged you to take part with us in the war. It would have been enough had you been content to sit quiet on your mats, looking on, while we were fighting for you. But you have not done so. You call yourselves our friends, and yet you assist the English with provision, and go about as spies among our villages. This must not continue. You must be either wholly French or wholly English. If you are French, take up that war-belt, and lift the hatchet with us; but if you are English, then we declare war upon you. My brothers, I know this is a hard thing. We are all alike children of our great father the King of France, and it is hard to fight among brethren for the sake of dogs. But there is no choice. Look upon the belt, and let us hear your answer."
One of the Canadians, having suspected the purpose of Pontiac, had brought with him, not the treaty of peace, but a copy of the capitulation of Montreal with its dependencies, including Detroit. Pride, or some other motive, restrained him from confessing that the Canadians were no longer children of the King of France, and he determined to keep up the old delusion that a French army was on its way to win back Canada, and chastise the English invaders. He began his speech in reply to Pontiac by professing great love for the Indians, and a strong desire to aid them in the war. "But, my brothers," he added, holding out the articles of capitulation, "you must first untie the knot with which our great father, the king, has bound us. In this paper, he tells all his Canadian children to sit quiet and obey the English until he comes, because he wishes to
213punish his enemies himself. We dare not disobey him, for he would then be angry with us. And you, my brothers, who speak of making war upon us if we do not do as you wish, do you think you could escape his wrath, if you should raise the hatchet against his French children? He would treat you as enemies, and not as friends, and you would have to fight both English and French at once. Tell us, my brothers, what can you reply to this?"
Pontiac for a moment sat silent, mortified, and perplexed; but his purpose was not destined to be wholly defeated. "Among the French," says the writer of the diary, "were many infamous characters, who, having no property, cared nothing what became of them." Those mentioned in these opprobrious terms were a collection of trappers, voyageurs, and nondescript vagabonds of the forest, who were seated with the council, or stood looking on, variously attired in greasy shirts, Indian leggings, and red woollen caps. Not a few among them, however, had thought proper to adopt the style of dress and ornament peculiar to the red men, who were their usual associates, and appeared among their comrades with paint rubbed on their cheeks, and feathers dangling from their hair. Indeed, they aimed to identify themselves with the Indians, a transformation by which they gained nothing; for these renegade whites were held in light esteem, both by those of their own colour and the savages themselves. They were for the most part a light and frivolous crew, little to be relied on for energy or stability; though among them were men of hard and ruffian features, the ringleaders and bullies of the voyageurs, and even a terror to the Bourgeois
214these who now took up the war-belt, and declared that he and his comrades were ready to raise the hatchet for Pontiac. The better class of Canadians were shocked at this proceeding, and vainly protested against it. Pontiac, on his part, was much pleased at such an accession to his forces, and he and his chiefs shook hands, in turn, with each of their new auxiliaries. The council had been protracted to a late hour. It was dark before the assembly dissolved, "so that," as the chronicler observes, "these new Indians had no opportunity of displaying their exploits that day." They remained in the Indian camp all night, being afraid of the reception they might meet among their fellow-whites in the settlement. The whole of the following morning was employed in giving them a feast of welcome. For this entertainment a large number of dogs were killed, and served up to the guests; none of whom, according to the Indian custom on such formal occasions, were permitted to take their leave until they had eaten the whole of the enormous portion placed before them.
Pontiac derived little advantage from his Canadian allies, most of whom, fearing the resentment of the English and
215the other inhabitants, fled, before the war was over, to the country of the Illinois.
It happened that among the English was a soldier who had been prisoner, for several years, among the Delawares, and who, while he had learned to hate the whole race, at the same time had acquired many of their habits and practices. He now ran forward, and, kneeling on the body of one of the dead savages, tore away the scalp, and shook it, with an exulting cry, towards the fugitives.
Lieutenant Hay and his party, after their successful sally, had retired to the fort; when, at about four o'clock in the afternoon, a man was seen running towards it, closely pursued by Indians. On his arriving within gunshot distance, they gave over the chase, and the fugitive came panting beneath the walls, where a wicket was flung open to receive him. He proved to be the commandant of Sandusky, who, having, as before mentioned, been adopted by the Indians, and married to an old squaw, now seized the first opportunity of escaping from her embraces.
Through him, the garrison learned the unhappy tidings that Major Campbell was killed. This gentleman, from his high personal character, no less than his merit as an officer, was held in general esteem, and his fate excited a feeling of anger and grief among all the English in Detroit. It appeared that the Indian killed and scalped, in the skirmish of that morning, was nephew to Wasson, chief of the Ojibwas. On hearing of his death, the enraged uncle had immediately blackened his face in sign of revenge, called
216together a party of his followers, and repairing to the house of Meloche, where Major Campbell was kept prisoner, had seized upon him, and bound him fast to a neighbouring fence, where they shot him to death with arrows. Others say that they tomahawked him on the spot; but all agree that his body was mutilated in a barbarous manner. His heart is said to have been eaten by his murderers, to make them courageous, a practice not uncommon among Indians, after killing an enemy of acknowledged bravery. The corpse was thrown into the river, and afterwards brought to shore and buried by the Canadians. According to one authority, Pontiac was privy to this act; but a second, equally credible, represents him as ignorant of it, and declares that Wasson was compelled to fly to his own village at Saginaw, to escape the rage of the offended chief.
The two armed schooners, anchored opposite the fort, were now become objects of awe and aversion to the Indians. This is not to be wondered at, for, besides aiding in the defence of the place, by sweeping two sides of it with their fire, they often caused great terror and annoyance to the besiegers. Several times they had left their anchorage, and, taking up a convenient position, had battered the Indian camps and villages with no little effect. Once in particular — and this was the first attempt of the kind — Gladwyn himself, with several of his officers, had embarked on board the smaller vessel, while a fresh breeze was blowing from the north-west. The Indians, on the banks, stood watching her as she tacked from shore to shore, and pressed their hands against their mouths in amazement, thinking that magic power alone could enable her thus to make her way against wind and current.
217ashore within their clutches, when suddenly a shout of command was heard on board, her progress was arrested, she rose upright, and her sails flapped and fluttered as if tearing loose from their fastenings. Steadily she came round, broadside to the shore; then, leaning once more to the wind, bore away gallantly on the other tack. She did not go far. The wondering spectators, quite at a loss to understand her movements, soon heard the hoarse rattling of her cable, as the anchor dragged it out, and saw her furling her vast white wings. As they looked unsuspectingly on, a puff of smoke was emitted from her side; a loud report followed; then another and another; and the balls, rushing over their heads, flew through the midst of their camp, and tore wildly among the thick forest-trees beyond. All was terror and consternation. The startled warriors bounded away on all sides; the squaws snatched up their children, and fled screaming; and, with a general chorus of yells, the whole encampment scattered in such haste, that little damage was done, except knocking to pieces their frail cabins of bark.
This attack was followed by others of a similar kind; and now the Indians seemed resolved to turn all their energies to the destruction of the vessel which caused them such annoyance. On the night of the tenth of July, they sent down a blazing raft, formed of two boats, secured together with a rope, and filled with pitch pine, birch bark, and other combustibles, which, by good fortune, missed the vessel, and floated down the stream without doing injury. All was quiet throughout the following night; but about two o'clock on the morning of the twelfth, the sentinel on duty saw a glowing spark of fire on the surface of the river, at some distance above. It grew larger and brighter; it rose in a forked flame, and at length burst forth into a broad conflagration. In this instance, too, fortune favoured the vessel; for the raft, which was larger than the former, passed down between her and the fort, brightly gilding her tracery of ropes and spars, lighting up the old palisades and bastions of Detroit with the clearness of day, disclosing the
218white Canadian farms and houses along the shore, and revealing the dusky margin of the forest behind. It showed, too, a dark group of naked spectators, who stood on the bank to watch the effect of their artifice, when a cannon flashed, a loud report broke the stillness, and before the smoke of the gun had risen, these curious observers had vanished. The raft floated down, its flames crackling and glaring wide through the night, until it was burnt to the water's edge, and its last hissing embers were quenched in the river.
Though twice defeated, the Indians would not abandon their plan, but, soon after this second failure, began another raft, of different construction from the former, and so large that they thought it certain to take effect. Gladwyn, on his part, provided boats which were moored by chains at some distance above the vessels, and made other preparations of defence, so effectual that the Indians, after working four days upon the raft, gave over their undertaking as useless. About this time, a party of Shawanoe and Delaware Indians arrived at Detroit, and were received by the Wyandots with a salute of musketry, which occasioned some alarm among the English, who knew nothing of its cause. They reported the progress of the war in the south and east; and, a few days after, an Abenaki, from Lower Canada, also made his appearance, bringing to the Indians the flattering falsehood that their great father, the King of France, was at that moment advancing up the St. Lawrence with his army. It may here be observed, that the name of father, given to the Kings of France and England, was a mere title of courtesy or policy; for, in his haughty independence, the Indian yields submission to no man.
It was now between two and three months since the siege began; and if one is disposed to think slightingly of the warriors whose numbers could avail so little against a handful of half-starved English and provincials, he has only to recollect, that where barbarism has been arrayed against civilization, disorder against discipline, and ungoverned fury against considerate valour, such has seldom failed to be the result.
At the siege of Detroit, the Indians displayed a high degree of comparative steadiness and perseverance; and their history cannot furnish another instance of so large a force persisting so long in the attack of a fortified place. Their good conduct may be ascribed to their deep rage against the English, to their hope of speedy aid from the French, and to the controlling spirit of Pontiac, which held them to their work. The Indian is but ill qualified for such attempts, having too much caution for an assault by storm, and too little patience for a blockade. The Wyandots and Pottawattamies had shown, from the beginning, less zeal than the other nations; and now, like children, they began to tire of the task they had undertaken. A deputation of the Wyandots came to the fort, and begged for peace, which was granted them; but when the Pottawattamies came on the same errand, they insisted, as a preliminary, that some of their people, who were detained prisoners with the English, should first be given up. Gladwyn demanded, on his part, that the English captives known to be in their village should be brought to the fort, and three of them were accordingly produced. As these were but a small part of the whole, the deputies were sharply rebuked for their duplicity, and told to go back for the rest. They withdrew angry and mortified; but, on the following day, a fresh deputation of chiefs made their appearance, bringing with them six prisoners. Having repaired to the council-room, they were met by Gladwyn, attended only by one or two officers. The Indians detained in the fort were about to be given up, and a treaty concluded, when one of the prisoners declared that there were several others still remaining in the Pottawattamie village. Upon this, the conference was broken off, and the deputies ordered instantly to depart. On being thus a second time defeated, they were goaded to such a pitch of rage, that, as afterwards became known, they formed the desperate resolution of killing Gladwyn on the spot, and then making their escape in the best way they could; but, happily, at that moment the commandant observed an Ottawa among them, and, resolving
220to seize him, called upon the guard without to assist in doing so. A file of soldiers entered, and the chiefs seeing it impossible to execute their design, withdrew from the fort, with black and sullen brows. A day or two afterwards, however, they returned with the rest of the prisoners, on which peace was granted them, and their people set at liberty.
FROM the time when peace was concluded with the Wyandots and Pottawattamies until the end of July, little worthy of notice took place at Detroit. The fort was still watched closely by the Ottawas and Ojibwas, who almost daily assailed it with petty attacks. In the meantime, unknown to the garrison, a strong reinforcement was coming to their aid. Captain Dalzell had left Niagara with twenty-two barges, bearing two hundred and eighty men, with several small cannon, and a fresh supply of provision and ammunition.
Coasting along the south shore of Lake Erie, they soon reached Presqu'Isle, where they found the scorched and battered blockhouse so gallantly defended by Ensign Christie, and saw with surprise the mines and entrenchments made by the Indians in assailing it.
222proceeding on their voyage, they reached Sandusky on the twenty-sixth of July; and here they marched inland to the neighbouring village of the Wyandots, which they burnt to the ground, at the same time destroying the corn, which this tribe, more provident than most of the others, had planted there in the spring. Dalzell then steered northward for the mouth of the Detroit, which he reached on the evening of the twenty-eighth, and cautiously ascended under cover of night. "It was fortunate," writes Gladwyn, "that they were not discovered, in which case they must have been destroyed or taken, as the Indians, being emboldened by their late successes, fight much better than we could have expected."
On the morning of the twenty-ninth, the whole country around Detroit was covered by a sea of fog, the precursor of a hot and sultry day; but at sunrise, its surface began to heave and toss, and, parting at intervals, disclosed the dark and burnished surface of the river; then lightly rolling, fold upon fold, the mists melted rapidly away, the last remnant clinging sluggishly along the margins of the forests. Now, for the first time, the garrison could discern the approaching convoy.
223barracks in the place were too small to receive them, they were all quartered upon the inhabitants.
Scarcely were these arrangements made, when a great smoke was seen rising from the Wyandot village across the river, and the inhabitants, apparently in much consternation, were observed paddling down stream with their household utensils, and even their dogs. It was supposed that they had abandoned and burned their huts; but in truth, it was only an artifice of these Indians, who had set fire to some old canoes and other refuse piled in front of their village, after which the warriors, having concealed the women and children, returned and lay in ambush among the bushes, hoping to lure some of the English within reach of their guns. None of them, however, fell into the snare.
Captain Dalzell was the same officer who was the companion of Israel Putnam in some of the most adventurous passages of that rough veteran's life; but more recently he had acted as aide-de-camp to Sir Jeffrey Amherst. On the day of his arrival, he had a conference with Gladwyn, at the quarters of the latter, and strongly insisted that the time was come when an irrecoverable blow might be struck at Pontiac. He requested permission to march out on the following night, and attack the Indian camp. Gladwyn, better acquainted with the position of affairs, and perhaps more cautious by nature, was averse to the attempt; but Dalzell urged his request so strenuously that the commandant yielded to his representations, and gave a tardy consent.
Pontiac had recently removed his camp from its old position near the mouth of Parent's Creek, and was now posted several miles above, behind a great marsh, which protected the Indian huts from the cannon of the vessel. On the afternoon of the thirtieth, orders were issued and preparations made for the meditated attack. Through the inexcusable carelessness of some of the officers, the design became known to a few Canadians, the bad result of which will appear in the sequel.
About two o'clock on the morning of the thirty-first of July, the gates were thrown open in silence, and the detachment, two hundred and fifty in number, passed noiselessly out. They filed two deep along the road, while two large bateaux, each bearing a swivel on the bow, rowed up the river abreast of them. Lieutenant Brown led the advanced guard of twenty-five men; the centre was commanded by Captain Gray, and the rear by Captain Grant. The night was still, close, and sultry, and the men marched in light undress. On their right was the dark and gleaming surface of the river, with a margin of sand intervening, and on their left a succession of Canadian houses, with barns, orchards, and cornfields, from whence the clamorous barking of watch-dogs saluted them as they passed. The inhabitants, roused from sleep, looked from the windows in astonishment and alarm. An old man has told the writer how, when a child, he climbed on the roof of his father's house, to look down on the glimmering bayonets, and how, long after the troops had passed, their heavy and measured tramp sounded from afar, through the still night. Thus the English moved forward to the attack, little thinking that, behind houses and enclosures, Indian scouts watched every yard of their progress — little suspecting that Pontiac, apprised by the Canadians of their plan, had broken up his camp, and was coming against them with all his warriors, armed and decorated for battle.
A mile and a half from the fort, Parent's Creek, ever since that night called Bloody Run, descended through a wild and rough hollow, and entered the Detroit amid a growth of rank grass and sedge. Only a few rods from its mouth, the road crossed it by a narrow wooden bridge,
225not existing at the present day. Just beyond this bridge, the land rose in abrupt ridges, parallel to the stream. Along their summits were rude entrenchments made by Pontiac to protect his camp, which had formerly occupied the ground immediately beyond. Here, too, were many piles of firewood belonging to the Canadians, besides strong picket fences, enclosing orchards and gardens connected with the neighbouring houses. Behind fences, wood-piles, and entrenchments crouched an unknown number of Indian warriors with levelled guns. They lay silent as snakes, for now they could hear the distinct tramp of the approaching column.
The sky was overcast, and the night exceedingly dark. As the English drew near the dangerous pass, they could discern the oft-mentioned house of Meloche upon a rising ground to the left, while in front the bridge was dimly visible, and the ridges beyond it seemed like a wall of undistinguished blackness. They pushed rapidly forward, not wholly unsuspicious of danger. The advanced guard were half way over the bridge, and the main body just entering upon it, when a horrible burst of yells rose in their front, and the Indian guns blazed forth in a general discharge. Half the advanced guard party were shot down; the appalled survivors shrank back aghast. The confusion reached even the main body, and the whole recoiled together; but Dalzell raised his clear voice above the din, advanced to the front, rallied the men, and led them forward to the attack.
226the front and flanks. To advance farther would be useless, and the only alternative was to withdraw and wait for daylight. Captain Grant, with his company, recrossed the bridge, and took his station on the road. The rest followed, a small party remaining to hold the enemy in check while the dead and wounded were placed on board the two bateaux, which had rowed up to the bridge during the action. This task was commenced amid a sharp fire from both sides; and before it was completed, heavy volleys were heard from the rear, where Captain Grant was stationed. A great force of Indians had fired upon him from the house of Meloche and the neighbouring orchards. Grant pushed up the hill, and drove them from the orchards at the point of the bayonet — drove them, also, from the house, and, entering the latter, found two Canadians within. These men told him that the Indians were bent on cutting off the English from the fort, and that they had gone in great numbers to occupy the houses which commanded the road below.
227would have been turned into a flight. "The enemy," writes an officer who was in the fight, "marked him for his extraordinary bravery"; and he had already received two severe wounds. Yet his exertions did not slacken for a moment. Some of the soldiers he rebuked, some he threatened, and some he beat with the flat of his sword; till at length order was partially restored, and the fire of the enemy returned with effect. Though it was near daybreak, the dawn was obscured by thick fog, and little could be seen of the Indians, except the incessant flashes of their guns amid the mist, while hundreds of voices, mingled in one appalling yell, confused the faculties of the men, and drowned the shout of command. The enemy had taken possession of a house, from the windows of which they fired down upon the English. Major Rogers, with some of his provincial rangers, burst the door with an axe, rushed in, and expelled them. Captain Gray was ordered to dislodge a large party from behind some neighbouring fences. He charged them with his company, but fell, mortally wounded, in the attempt.
He entered it with some of his own men, while many panic-stricken regulars broke in after him, in their eagerness to gain a temporary shelter. The house was a large and
228strong one, and the women of the neighbourhood had crowded into the cellar for refuge. While some of the soldiers looked in blind terror for a place of concealment, others seized upon a keg of whiskey in one of the rooms, and quaffed the liquor with eager thirst, while others, again, piled packs of furs, furniture, and all else within their reach, against the windows, to serve as a barricade. Panting and breathless, their faces moist with sweat and blackened with gunpowder, they thrust their muskets through the openings, and fired out upon the whooping assailants. At intervals, a bullet flew sharply whizzing through a crevice, striking down a man, perchance, or rapping harmlessly against the partitions. Old Campau, the master of the house, stood on a trap-door to prevent the frightened soldiers from seeking shelter among the women in the cellar. A ball grazed his grey head, and buried itself in the wall, where a few years since it might still have been seen. The screams of the half-stifled women below, the quavering war-whoops without, the shouts and curses of the soldiers, the groans and blaspheming of the wounded men, mingled in a scene of clamorous confusion, and it was long before the authority of Rogers could restore order.
In the meantime, Captain Grant, with his advanced party, had moved forward about half a mile, where he found some orchards and enclosures, by means of which he could maintain himself until the centre and rear should arrive. From this point he detached all the men he could spare to occupy the houses below; and as soldiers soon began to come in from the rear, he was enabled to reinforce these detachments, until a complete line of communication was established with the fort, and the retreat effectually secured. Within an hour, the whole party had arrived, with the exception of Rogers and his men, who were quite unable to come off, being besieged in the house of Campau, by full two hundred Indians. The two armed bateaux had gone down to the fort, laden with the dead and wounded.
229They now returned, and, in obedience to an order from Grant, proceeded up the river to a point opposite Campau's house, where they opened a fire of swivels, which swept the ground above and below it, and completely scattered the assailants. Rogers and his party now came out, and marched down the road, to unite themselves with Grant. The two bateaux accompanied them closely, and, by a constant fire, restrained the Indians from making an attack. Scarcely had Rogers left the house at one door, when the enemy entered it at another, to obtain the scalps from two or three corpses left behind. Foremost of them all, a withered old squaw rushed in, with a shrill scream, and, slashing open one of the dead bodies with her knife, scooped up the blood between her hands, and quaffed it with a ferocious ecstasy.
Grant resumed his retreat as soon as Rogers had arrived, falling back from house to house, and joined in succession by the parties sent to garrison each. The Indians, in great numbers, stood whooping and yelling, at a vain distance, quite unable to make an attack, so well did Grant choose his positions, and so steadily and coolly conduct the retreat. About eight o'clock, after six hours of marching and combat, the detachment entered once more within the sheltering palisades of Detroit.
In this action, the English lost fifty-nine men, killed and wounded. The loss of the Indians could not be ascertained, but it certainly did not exceed fifteen or twenty. At the beginning of the fight, their numbers were probably much inferior to those of the English; but fresh parties were continually joining them, until seven or eight, hundred warriors must have been present.
The Ojibwas and Ottawas only formed the ambuscade at the bridge, under Pontiac's command; for the Wyandots and Pottawattamies came later to the scene of action, crossing the river in their canoes, or passing round through the woods behind the fort, to take part in the fray.
In speaking of the fight of Bloody Bridge, an able writer in the Annual Register for the year 1763 observes, with justice, that although in European warfare it would be deemed a mere skirmish, yet in a conflict with the American savages, it rises to the importance of a pitched battle; since these people, being thinly scattered over a great extent of country, are accustomed to conduct their warfare by detail, and never take the field in any great force.
The Indians were greatly elated by their success. Runners were sent out for several hundred miles, through the surrounding woods, to spread tidings of the victory; and reinforcements soon began to come in to swell the force of Pontiac. "Fresh warriors," writes Gladwyn, "arrive almost every day, and I believe that I shall soon be besieged by upwards of a thousand." The English, on their part, were well prepared for resistance, since the garrison now comprised more than three hundred effective men; and no one entertained a doubt of their ultimate success in defending the place. Day after day passed on; a few skirmishes took place, and a few men were killed, but nothing worthy of notice occurred, until the night of the fourth of September, at which time was achieved one of the most memorable feats which the chronicles of that day can boast.
The schooner Gladwyn, the smaller of the two armed vessels so often mentioned, had been sent down to Niagara with letters and dispatches. She was now returning, having on board Horst, her master, Jacobs, her mate, and a crew of ten men, all of whom were provincials, besides six Iroquois Indians, supposed to be friendly to the English. On the night of the third, she entered the River Detroit; and in the morning the six Indians asked to be set on shore, a request which was foolishly granted. They disappeared in the woods, and probably reported to Pontiac's warriors the small numbers of the crew. The vessel stood up the river until nightfall, when, the wind failing, she was compelled to anchor about nine miles below the fort. The men on board watched with anxious vigilance; and as night came on, they listened to every sound which broke the stillness, from the strange cry of the night-hawk, wheeling
231round and round above their heads, to the bark of the fox from the woods on shore. The night set in with darkness so complete, that at the distance of a few rods nothing could be discerned. Meantime, three hundred and fifty Indians, in their birch canoes, glided silently down with the current, and were close upon the vessel before they were seen. There was only time to fire a single cannon-shot among them, before they were beneath her bows, and clambering up her sides, holding their knives clinched fast between their teeth. The crew gave them a close fire of musketry, without any effect; then, flinging down their guns, they seized the spears and hatchets with which they were all provided, and met the assailants with such furious energy and courage, that in the space of two or three minutes they had killed and wounded more than twice their own number. But the Indians were only checked for a moment. The master of the vessel was killed, several of the crew were disabled, and the assailants were leaping over the bulwarks, when Jacobs, the mate, called out to blow up the schooner. This desperate command saved her and her crew. Some Wyandots, who had gained the deck, caught the meaning of his words, and gave the alarm to their companions. Instantly every Indian leaped overboard in a panic, and the whole were seen diving and swimming off in all directions, to escape the threatened explosion. The schooner was cleared of her assailants, who did not dare to renew the attack; and on the following morning she sailed for the fort, which she reached without molestation. Six of her crew escaped unhurt. Of the remainder, two were killed, and four seriously wounded, while the Indians had seven men killed upon the spot, and nearly twenty wounded, of whom eight were known to have died within a few days after. As the whole action lasted but a few minutes, the fierceness of the struggle is sufficiently apparent from the loss on both sides. The survivors of the little crew were afterwards rewarded as their undaunted bravery deserved.
And now, taking leave, for a time, of the garrison of Detroit, whose fortunes we have followed so long, we will turn to observe the progress of events in a quarter of the wilderness yet more wild and remote.
IN the spring of the year 1763, before the war broke out, several English traders went up to Michillimackinac, some adopting the old route of the Ottawa, and others that of Detroit and the lakes. We will follow one of the latter on his adventurous progress. Passing the fort and settlement of Detroit, he soon enters Lake St. Clair, which seems like a broad basin filled to overflowing, while, along its far distant verge, a faint line of forest separates the water from the sky. He crosses the lake, and his voyageurs next urge his canoe against the current of the great river above. At length Lake Huron opens before him, stretching its liquid expanse, like an ocean, to the farthest horizon. His canoe skirts the eastern shore of Michigan, where the forest rises like a wall from the water's edge; and as he advances northward, an endless line of stiff and shaggy fir-trees, hung with long mosses, fringes the shore with an aspect of monotonous desolation. In the space of two or three weeks, if his Canadians labour well, and no accident occur, the trader approaches the end of his voyage. Passing on his right the extensive Island of Bois Blanc, he sees, nearly in front, the beautiful Mackinaw, rising, with its white cliffs and green foliage, from the broad breast of the waters. He does not steer towards it, for at that day the Indians were its only tenants, but keeps along the main shore to the left, while his voyageurs raise their song and chorus. Doubling a point, he sees before him the red flag of England swelling lazily in the wind, and the palisades and wooden bastions of Fort Michillimackinac standing close upon the margin of the lake. On the beach, canoes are drawn up, and Canadians and Indians are idly lounging. A little beyond
234the fort is a cluster of the white Canadian houses, roofed with bark, and protected by fences of strong round pickets.
The trader enters at the gate, and sees before him an extensive square area, surrounded by high palisades. Numerous houses, barracks, and other buildings form a smaller square within, and in the vacant space which they enclose, appear the red uniforms of British soldiers, the grey coats of Canadians, and the gaudy Indian blankets, mingled in picturesque confusion, while a multitude of squaws, with children of every hue, stroll restlessly about the place. Such was Fort Michillimackinac in 1763.
Though buried in a wilderness, Michillimackinac was still of no recent origin. As early as 1671, the Jesuits had established a mission near the place, and a military force was not long in following; for, under the French dominion, the priest and the soldier went hand in hand. Neither toil, nor suffering, nor all the terrors of the wilderness could damp the zeal of the undaunted missionary; and the restless ambition of France was always on the alert to seize every point of vantage, and avail itself of every means to gain ascendency over the forest tribes. Besides Michillimackinac, there were two other posts in this northern region, Green Bay and the Sault Ste. Marie. Both were founded at an early period, and both presented the same characteristic features — a mission-house, a fort, and a cluster of Canadian dwellings. They had been originally garrisoned by small parties of militia, who, bringing their families with them, settled on the spot, and were founders of these little colonies. Michillimackinac, much the largest of the three, contained thirty families within the palisades of the fort, and about as many more without. Besides its military value, it was important as a centre of the fur-trade; for it was here that the traders engaged their men, and sent out their goods in canoes, under the charge of subordinates,
235to the more distant regions of the Mississippi and the north-west.
During the greater part of the year, the garrison and the settlers were completely isolated — cut off from all connection with the world; and, indeed, so great was the distance, and so serious the perils, which separated the three sister posts of the northern lakes, that often, through the whole winter, all intercourse was stopped between them.
It is difficult for the imagination adequately to conceive the extent of these fresh-water oceans, and vast regions of forest, which, at the date of our narrative, were the domain of nature — a mighty hunting and fishing ground, for the sustenance of a few wandering tribes. One might journey among them for days, and even weeks together, without beholding a human face. The Indians near Michillimackinac were the Ojibwas and Ottawas, the former of whom claimed the eastern section of Michigan and the latter the western, their respective portions being separated by a line drawn southward from the fort itself.
These two tribes, with most of the other neighbouring Indians, were strongly hostile to the English. Many of their warriors had fought against them in the late war, for France had summoned allies from the farthest corners of the wilderness, to aid her in her desperate struggle. This feeling of hostility was excited to a higher pitch by the influence of the Canadians, who disliked the English, not merely as national enemies, but also as rivals in the fur-trade, and were extremely jealous of their intrusion upon the lakes. The following incidents, which occurred in the autumn of the year 1761, will illustrate the state of feeling which prevailed: —
At that time, although Michillimackinac had been surrendered, and the French garrison removed, no English troops had yet arrived to supply their place, and the Canadians were the only tenants of the fort. An adventurous trader, Alexander Henry, who, with one or two others, was the pioneer of the English fur-trade in this region, came to Michillimackinac by the route of the Ottawa. On the way, he was several times warned to turn back, and assured of death if he proceeded, and, at length, was compelled for safety to assume the disguise of a Canadian voyageur. When his canoes, laden with goods, reached the fort, he was very coldly received by its inhabitants, who did all in their power to alarm and discourage him. Soon after his arrival, he received the very unwelcome information, that a large number of Ojibwas, from the neighbouring villages, were coming, in their canoes, to call upon him. Under ordinary circumstances, such a visitation, though disagreeable enough, would excite neither anxiety nor surprise; for the Indians, when in their villages, lead so monotonous an existence, that they are ready to snatch at the least occasion of excitement, and the prospect of a few trifling presents and a few pipes of tobacco is often a sufficient inducement for a journey of several days. But in the present instance there was serious cause of apprehension, since Canadians and Frenchmen were alike hostile to the solitary trader. The story could not be better told than in his own graphic and truthful words.
"At two o'clock in the afternoon, the Chippewas (Ojibwas)
237came to the house, about sixty in number, and headed by Minavavana, their chief. They walked in single file, each with his tomahawk in one hand and scalping-knife in the other. Their bodies were naked from the waist upward, except in a few examples, where blankets were thrown loosely over the shoulders. Their faces were painted with charcoal, worked up with grease, their bodies with white clay, in patterns of various fancies. Some had feathers thrust through their noses, and their heads decorated with the same. It is unnecessary to dwell on the sensations with which I beheld the approach of this uncouth, if not frightful assemblage.
"The chief entered first, and the rest followed without noise. On receiving a sign from the former, the latter seated themselves on the floor.
"Minavavana appeared to be about fifty years of age. He was six feet in height, and had in his countenance an indescribable mixture of good and evil. Looking steadfastly at me, where I sat in ceremony, with an interpreter on either hand and several Canadians behind me, he entered, at the same time, into conversation, with Campion, inquiring how long it was since I left Montreal, and observing that the English, as it would seem, were brave men, and not afraid of death, since they dared to come, as I had done, fearlessly among their enemies.
"The Indians now gravely smoked their pipes, while I inwardly endured the tortures of suspense. At length, the pipes being finished, as well as a long pause, by which they were succeeded, Minavavana, taking a few strings of wampum in his hand, began the following speech: —
"‘Englishman, it is to you that I speak, and I demand your attention.’
"‘Englishman, you know that the French king is our father. He promised to be such; and we, in return, promised to be his children. This promise we have kept.’
"‘Englishman, it is you that have made war with this our father. You are his enemy; and how, then, could you have the boldness to venture among us, his children? You know that his enemies are ours.’
"‘Englishman, we are informed that our father, the
238King of France, is old and infirm; and that, being fatigued with making war upon your nation, he is fallen asleep. During his sleep you have taken advantage of him, and possessed yourselves of Canada. But his nap is almost at an end. I think I hear him already stirring, and inquiring for his children, the Indians; and when he does awake, what must become of you? He will destroy you utterly.’
"‘Englishman, although you have conquered the French, you have not yet conquered us. We are not your slaves. These lakes, these woods and mountains, were left to us by our ancestors. They are our inheritance; and we will part with them to none. Your nation supposes that we, like the white people, cannot live without bread, and pork, and beef! But you ought to know that He, the Great Spirit and Master of Life, has provided food for us in these spacious lakes, and on these woody mountains. ’
"‘Englishman, our father, the King of France, employed our young men to make war upon your nation. In this warfare, many of them have been killed; and it is our custom to retaliate until such time as the spirits of the slain are satisfied. But the spirits of the slain are to be satisfied in either of two ways: the first is, by the spilling of the blood of the nation by which they fell; the other, by covering the bodies of the dead, and thus allaying the resentment of their relations. This is done by making presents. ’
"‘Englishman, your king has never sent us any presents, nor entered into any treaty with us; wherefore he and we are still at war; and, until he does these things, we must consider that we have no other father nor friend, among the white men, than the King of France; but for you, we have taken into consideration that you have ventured your life among us, in the expectation that we should not molest you. You do not come armed, with an intention to make war; you come in peace, to trade with us, and supply us with necessaries, of which we are in much want. We shall regard you, therefore, as a brother; and you may sleep tranquilly, without fear of the Chippewas. As a token of our friendship, we present you this pipe to smoke.’
"As Minavavana uttered these words, an Indian presented me with a pipe, which, after I had drawn the smoke
239three times, was carried to the chief, and after him to every person in the room. This ceremony ended, the chief arose, and gave me his hand, in which he was followed by all the rest."
These tokens of friendship were suitably acknowledged by the trader, who made a formal reply to Minavavana's speech. To this succeeded a request for whiskey on the part of the Indians, with which Henry unwillingly complied; and, having distributed several small additional presents, he beheld, with profound satisfaction, the departure of his guests. Scarcely had he ceased to congratulate himself on having thus got rid of the Ojibwas, or, as he calls them, the Chippewas, when a more formidable invasion once more menaced him with destruction. Two hundred L'Arbre Croche Ottawas came in a body to the fort, and summoned Henry, together with Goddard and Solomons, two other traders, who had just arrived, to meet them in council. Here they informed their startled auditors that they must distribute their goods among the Indians, adding a worthless promise to pay them in the spring, and threatening force in case of a refusal. Being allowed until the next morning to reflect on what they had heard, the traders resolved on resistance, and, accordingly, arming about thirty of their men with muskets, they barricaded themselves in the house occupied by Henry, and kept strict watch all night. The Ottawas, however, did not venture an attack. On the following day, the Canadians, with pretended sympathy, strongly advised compliance with the demand; but the three traders resolutely held out, and kept possession of their stronghold till night, when, to their surprise and joy, the news arrived that the body of troops known to be on their way towards the fort were, at that moment, encamped within a few miles of it. Another night of watching and anxiety succeeded; but at sunrise, the Ottawas launched their canoes and departed, while, immediately after, the boats of the English detachment were seen to approach the landing-place. Michillimackinac received a strong garrison, and for a time, at least, the traders were safe.
Time passed on, and the hostile feelings of the Indians towards the English did not diminish. It necessarily follows, from the extremely loose character of Indian government — if indeed the name government be applicable at all — that the separate members of the same tribe have little political connection, and are often united merely by the social tie of totemship. Thus the Ottawas at L'Arbre Croche were quite independent of those at Detroit. They had a chief of their own, who by no means acknowledged the authority of Pontiac, though the high reputation of this great warrior everywhere attached respect and influence to his name. The same relations subsisted between the Ojibwas of Michillimackinac and their more southern tribesmen; and the latter might declare war and make peace without at all involving the former.
The name of the Ottawa chief at L'Arbre Croche has not survived in history or tradition. The chief of the Ojibwas, however, is still remembered by the remnants of his people, and was the same whom Henry calls Minavavana, or, as the Canadians entitled him, by way of distinction, Le Grand Sauteur, or the Great Ojibwa. He lived in the little village of Thunder Bay, though his power was acknowledged by the Indians of the neighbouring islands. That his mind was of no common order is sufficiently evinced by his speech to Henry; but he had not the commanding spirit of Pontiac. His influence seems not to have extended beyond his own tribe. He could not, or, at least, he did not, control the erratic forces of an Indian community, and turn them into one broad current of steady and united energy. Hence, in the events about to be described, the natural instability of the Indian character was abundantly displayed. In the spring of the year 1763, Pontiac, in compassing his grand scheme of hostility, sent, among the rest, to the Indians of Michillimackinac, inviting them to aid him in the war. His messengers, bearing in their hands the war-belt of black and purple wampum, appeared before the assembled warriors, flung at their feet a hatchet painted red, and delivered the speech with which they had been charged. The warlike auditory answered with deep
241ejaculations of applause, and, taking up the blood-red hatchet, pledged themselves to join in the contest. Before the end of May, news reached the Ojibwas that Pontiac had already struck the English at Detroit. This wrought them up to a high pitch of excitement and emulation, and they resolved that peace should last no longer. Their numbers were at this time more than doubled, by several bands of their wandering people, who had gathered at Michillimackinac, from far and near, attracted probably by rumours of impending war. Being, perhaps, jealous of the Ottawas, or willing to gain all the glory and plunder to themselves, they determined to attack the fort, without communicating the design to their neighbours of L'Arbre Croche.
At this time there were about thirty-five men, with their officers, in garrison at Michillimackinac.
An Ojibwa chief, named Wawatam, had conceived for
242him one of those strong friendly attachments which often form so pleasing a feature in the Indian character. It was about a year since Henry had first met with this man. One morning, Wawatam had entered his house, and placing before him, on the ground, a large present of furs and dried meat, delivered a speech to the following effect: Early in life, after the ancient usage of his people, he had withdrawn to fast and pray in solitude, that he might propitiate the Great Spirit, and learn the future career marked out for him. In the course of his dreams and visions on this occasion, it was revealed to him that, in after years, he should meet a white man, who should be to him a friend and brother. No sooner had he seen Henry, than the irrepressible conviction rose up within him, that he was the man whom the Great Spirit had indicated, and that the dream was now fulfilled. Henry replied to the speech with suitable acknowledgments of gratitude, made a present in his turn, smoked a pipe with Wawatam, and, as the latter soon after left the fort, speedily forgot his Indian friend and brother altogether. Many months had elapsed since the occurrence of this very characteristic incident, when, on the second of June, Henry's door was pushed open without ceremony, and the dark figure of Wawatam glided silently in. He said that he was just returned from his wintering ground. Henry, at length recollecting him, inquired after the success of his hunt; but the Indian, without replying, sat down with a dejected air, and expressed his surprise and regret at finding his brother still in the fort. He said that he was going on the next day to the Sault Ste. Marie, and that he wished Henry to go with him. He then asked if the English had heard no bad news, and said that through the winter he himself had been much disturbed by the singing of evil birds. Seeing that Henry gave little attention to what he said, he at length went away with a sad and mournful face. On the next morning, he came again, together with his squaw, and, offering the trader a present of dried meat, again pressed him to go with him, in the afternoon, to the Sault Ste. Marie. When Henry demanded his reason for such urgency, he asked if his brother did not know that many bad Indians, who had never shown themselves at the
243fort, were encamped in the woods around it. To-morrow, he said, they were coming to ask for whiskey, and would all get drunk, so that it would be dangerous to remain. Wawatam let fall, in addition, various other hints, which, but for Henry's imperfect knowledge of the Algonquin language, could hardly have failed to draw his attention. As it was, however, his friend's words were spoken in vain; and at length, after long and persevering efforts, he and his squaw took their departure, but not, as Henry declares, before each had let fall some tears. Among the Indian women, the practice of weeping and wailing is universal upon all occasions of sorrowful emotion; and the kind-hearted squaw, as she took down her husband's lodge, and loaded his canoe for departure, did not cease to sob and moan aloud.
On this same afternoon, Henry remembers that the fort was full of Indians, moving about among the soldiers with a great appearance of friendship. Many of them came to his house, to purchase knives and small hatchets, often asking to see silver bracelets, and other ornaments, with the intention, as afterwards appeared, of learning their places of deposit, in order the more easily to lay hand on them at the moment of pillage. As the afternoon drew to a close, the visitors quietly went away; and many of the unhappy garrison saw for the last time the sun go down behind the waters of Lake Michigan.
THE following morning was warm and sultry. It was the fourth of June, the birthday of King George. The discipline of the garrison was relaxed, and some license allowed to the soldiers. Encamped in the woods, not far off, were a large number of Ojibwas, lately arrived; while several bands of the Sac Indians from the River Wisconsin had also erected their lodges in the vicinity. Early in the morning, many Ojibwas came to the fort, inviting officers and soldiers to come out and see a grand game of ball, which was to be played between their nation and the Sacs. In consequence, the place was soon deserted by half its tenants. An outline of Michillimackinac, as far as tradition has preserved its general features, has already been given; and it is easy to conceive, with sufficient accuracy, the appearance it must have presented on this eventful morning. The houses and barracks were so ranged as to form a square, enclosing an extensive area, upon which their doors all opened, while behind rose the tall palisades, forming a large external square. The picturesque Canadian houses, with their rude porticoes, and projecting roofs of bark, sufficiently indicated the occupations of their inhabitants; for birch canoes were lying near many of them, and fishing-nets were stretched to dry in the sun. Women and children were moving about the doors; knots of Canadian voyageurs reclined on the ground, smoking and conversing; soldiers were lounging listlessly at the doors and windows of the barracks, or strolling in a careless undress about the area.
Without the fort, the scene was of a very different character. The gates were wide open, and the soldiers were collected in groups under the shadow of the palisades,
245watching the Indian ball play. Most of them were without arms, and mingled among them were a great number of Canadians, while a multitude of Indian squaws, wrapped in blankets, were conspicuous in the crowd.
Captain Etherington and Lieutenant Leslie stood near the gate, the former indulging his inveterate English propensity; for, as Henry informs us, he had promised the Ojibwas that he would bet on their side against the Sacs. Indian chiefs and warriors were also among the spectators, intent, apparently, on watching the game, but with thoughts, in fact, far otherwise employed.
The plain in front was covered by the ball players. The game in which they were engaged, called baggattaway by the Ojibwas, is still, as it always has been, a favourite with many Indian tribes. At either extremity of the ground, a tall post was planted, marking the stations of the rival parties. The object of each was to defend its own post, and drive the ball to that of its adversary. Hundreds of lithe and agile figures were leaping and bounding upon the plain. Each was nearly naked, his loose black hair flying in the wind, and each bore in his hand a bat of a form peculiar to this game. At one moment the whole were crowded together, a dense throng of combatants, all struggling for the ball; at the next, they were scattered again, and running over the ground like hounds in full cry. Each, in his excitement, yelled and shouted at the height of his voice. Rushing and striking, tripping their adversaries, or hurling them to the ground, they pursued the animating contest amid the laughter and applause of the spectators. Suddenly, from the midst of the multitude, the ball soared into the air, and, descending in a wide curve, fell near the pickets of the fort. This was no chance stroke. It was part of a preconcerted stratagem to insure the surprise and destruction of the garrison. As if in pursuit of the ball, the players turned and came rushing, a maddened and tumultuous throng, towards the gate. In a moment they had reached it. The amazed English had no time to think or act. The shrill cries of the ball players were changed to the ferocious war-whoop. The warriors snatched from the squaws the hatchets, which the
246latter, with this design, had concealed beneath their blankets. Some of the Indians assailed the spectators without, while others rushed into the fort, and all was carnage and confusion. At the outset, several strong hands had fastened their gripe upon Etherington and Leslie, and led them away from the scene of massacre towards the woods.
"I did not go myself to see the match which was now to be played without the fort, because, there being a canoe prepared to depart on the following day for Montreal, I employed myself in writing letters to my friends; and even when a fellow-trader, Mr. Tracy, happened to call upon me, saying that another canoe had just arrived from Detroit, and proposing that I should go with him to the beach, to inquire the news, it so happened that I still remained to finish my letters; promising to follow Mr. Tracy in the course of a few minutes. Mr. Tracy had not gone more than twenty paces from my door, when I heard an Indian war-cry, and a noise of general confusion.
"Going instantly to my window, I saw a crowd of Indians, within the fort, furiously cutting down and scalping every Englishman they found: in particular, I witnessed the fate of Lieutenant Jamette.
"I had, in the room in which I was, a fowling-piece, loaded with swan shot. This I immediately seized, and held it for a few minutes, waiting to hear the drum beat to arms. In this dreadful interval, I saw several of my countrymen fall, and more than one struggling between the knees of an Indian, who, holding him in this manner, scalped him while yet living.
"At length, disappoined in the hope of seeing resistance made to the enemy, and sensible, of course, that no effort of my own unassisted arm could avail against four hundred Indians, I thought only of seeking shelter amid the slaughter which was raging. I observed many of the
247Canadian inhabitants of the fort calmly looking on, neither opposing the Indians nor suffering injury; and from this circumstance, I conceived a hope of finding security in their houses.
"Between the yard door of my own house and that of M. Langlade, my next neighbour, there was only a low fence, over which I easily climbed. At my entrance, I found the whole family at the windows, gazing at the scene of blood before them. I addressed myself immediately to M. Langlade, begging that he would put me into some place of safety, until the heat of the affair should be over — an act of charity by which he might, perhaps, preserve me from the general massacre; but while I uttered my petition, M. Langlade, who had looked for a moment at me, turned again to the window, shrugging his shoulders, and intimating that he could do nothing for me — ‘Que voudriez-vous que j'en ferais?’
"This was a moment for despair; but the next a Pani
woman, a slave of M. Langlade's, beckoned me to follow her. She brought me to a door, which she opened, desiring me to enter, and telling me that it led to the garret, where I must go and conceal myself. I joyfully obeyed her directions; and she, having followed me up to the garret door, locked it after me, and, with great presence of mind, took away the key.
"This shelter obtained, if shelter I could hope to find it, I was naturally anxious to know what might still be passing without. Through an aperture, which afforded me a view of the area of the fort, I beheld, in shapes the foulest and most terrible, the ferocious triumphs of barbarian conquerors. The dead were scalped and mangled; the dying were writhing and shrieking under the unsatiated knife and tomahawk; and from the bodies of some, ripped open, their butchers were drinking the blood, scooped up in the
248hollow of joined hands, and quaffed amid shouts of rage and victory. I was shaken not only with horror, but with fear. The sufferings which I witnessed I seemed on the point of experiencing. No long time elapsed before, every one being destroyed who could be found, there was a general cry of ‘All is finished.’ At the same instant, I heard some of the Indians enter the house where I was.
"The garret was separated from the room below only by a layer of single boards, at once the flooring of the one and the ceiling of the other. I could, therefore, hear everything that passed; and the Indians no sooner came in than they inquired whether or not any Englishmen were in the house. M. Langlade replied, that ‘ he could not say, he did not know of any,’ answers in which he did not exceed the truth; for the Pani woman had not only hidden me by stealth, but kept my secret and her own. M. Langlade was, therefore, as I presume, as far from a wish to destroy me as he was careless about saving me, when he added to these answers, that ‘they might examine for themselves, and would soon be satisfied as to the object of their question.’ Saying this, he brought them to the garret door.
"The state of my mind will be imagined. Arrived at the door, some delay was occasioned by the absence of the key; and a few moments were thus allowed me, in which to look around for a hiding-place. In one corner of the garret was a heap of those vessels of birch bark used in maple sugar making.
"The door was unlocked and opening, and the Indians ascending the stairs, before I had completely crept into a small opening which presented itself at one end of the heap. An instant after, four Indians entered the room, all armed with tomahawks, and all besmeared with blood, upon every part of their bodies.
"The die appeared to be cast. I could scarcely breathe; but I thought the throbbing of my heart occasioned a noise loud enough to betray me. The Indians walked in every direction about the garret; and one of them approached me so closely, that, at a particular moment, had he put forth his hand, he must have touched me. Still I remained
249undiscovered; a circumstance to which the dark colour of my clothes, and the want of light, in a room which had no window in the corner in which I was, must have contributed. In a word, after taking several turns in the room, during which they told M. Langlade how many they had killed, and how many scalps they had taken, they returned downstairs, and I, with sensations not to be expressed, heard the door, which was the barrier between me and my fate, locked for the second time.
"There was a feather bed on the floor; and on this, exhausted as I was by the agitation of my mind, I threw myself down and fell asleep. In this state I remained till the dusk of the evening, when I was awakened by a second opening of the door. The person that now entered was M. Langlade's wife, who was much surprised at finding me, but advised me not to be uneasy, observing that the Indians had killed most of the English, but that she hoped I might myself escape. A shower of rain having begun to fall, she had come to stop a hole in the roof. On her going away, I begged her to send me a little water to drink, which she did.
"As night was now advancing, I continued to lie on the bed, ruminating on my condition, but unable to discover a resource from which I could hope for life. A flight to Detroit had no probable chance of success. The distance from Michillimackinac was four hundred miles; I was without provisions, and the whole length of the road lay through Indian countries, countries of an enemy in arms, where the first man whom I should meet would kill me. To stay where I was, threatened nearly the same issue. As before, fatigue of mind, and not tranquillity, suspended my cares, and procured me farther sleep.
"The respite which sleep afforded me during the night was put an end to by the return of morning. I was again on the rack of apprehension. At sunrise, I heard the family stirring; and, presently after, Indian voices, informing M. Langlade that they had not found my hapless self among the dead, and they supposed me to be somewhere concealed. M. Langlade appeared, from what followed, to be, by this time, acquainted with the place of my retreat; of which, no
250doubt, he had been informed by his wife. The poor woman, as soon as the Indians mentioned me, declared to her husband, in the French tongue, that he should no longer keep me in his house, but deliver me up to my pursuers; giving as a reason for this measure, that, should the Indians discover his instrumentality in my concealment, they might revenge it on her children, and that it was better that I should die than they. M. Langlade resisted, at first, this sentence of his wife, but soon suffered her to prevail, informing the Indians that he had been told I was in his house; that I had come there without his knowledge, and that he would put me into their hands. This was no sooner expressed than he began to ascend the stairs, the Indians following upon his heels.
"I now resigned myself to the fate with which I was menaced; and regarding every effort at concealment as vain, I arose from the bed, and presented myself full in view to the Indians, who were entering the room. They were all in a state of intoxication, and entirely naked, except about the middle. One of them, named Wenniway, whom I had previously known, and who was upwards of six feet in height, had his entire face and body covered with charcoal and grease, only that a white spot, of two inches in diameter, encircled either eye. This man, walking up to me, seized me, with one hand, by the collar of the coat, while in the other he held a large carving-knife, as if to plunge it into my breast; his eyes, meanwhile, were fixed steadfastly on mine. At length, after some seconds of the most anxious suspense, he dropped his arm, saying, ‘I won't kill you!’ To this he added, that he had been frequently engaged in wars against the English, and had brought away many scalps; that, on a certain occasion, he had lost a brother, whose name was Musinigon, and that I should be called after him.
"A reprieve, upon any terms, placed me among the living, and gave me back the sustaining voice of hope; but Wenniway ordered me downstairs, and there informing me that I was to be taken to his cabin, where, and indeed everywhere else, the Indians were all mad with liquor, death again was threatened, and not as possible only, but
251as certain. I mentioned my fears on this subject to M. Langlade, begging him to represent the danger to my master. M. Langlade, in this instance, did not withhold his compassion, and Wenniway immediately consented that I should remain where I was, until he found another opportunity to take me away."
Scarcely, however, had he been gone an hour, when an Indian came to the house, and directed Henry to follow him to the Ojibwa camp. Henry knew this man, who was largely in his debt; and some time before, on the trader's asking him for payment, the Indian had declared, in a significant tone, that he would pay him soon. There seemed at present good ground to suspect his intention; but, having no choice, Henry was obliged to follow him. The Indian led the way out of the gate; but, instead of going towards the camp, he moved with a quick step in the direction of the bushes and sand-hills behind the fort. At this, Henry's suspicions were confirmed. He refused to proceed farther, and plainly told his conductor that he believed he meant to kill him. The Indian coolly replied, that he was quite right in thinking so, and at the same time, seizing the prisoner by the arm, raised his knife to strike him in the breast. Henry parried the blow, flung the Indian from him, and ran for his life. He gained the gate of the fort, his enemy close at his heels, and, seeing Wenniway standing in the centre of the area, called upon him for protection. The chief ordered the Indian to desist; but the latter, who was foaming at the mouth with rage, still continued to pursue Henry, vainly striking at him with his knife. Seeing the door of Langlade's house wide open, the trader darted in, and at length found himself in safety. He retired once more to his garret, and lay down, feeling, as he declares, a sort of conviction that no Indian had power to harm him.
This confidence was somewhat shaken when, early in the night, he was startled from sleep by the opening of the door. A light gleamed in upon him, and he was summoned to descend. He did so, when, to his surprise and joy, he found, in the room below, Captain Etherington, Lieutenant Leslie, and Mr. Bostwick, a trader, together with Father Jonois, the Jesuit priest from L'Arbre Croche. The Indians
252were bent on enjoying that night a grand debauch upon the liquor they had seized; and the chiefs, well knowing the extreme danger to which the prisoners would be exposed during these revels, had conveyed them all into the fort, and placed them in charge of the Canadians.
Including officers, soldiers, and traders, they amounted to about twenty men, this handful being all that had escaped from the massacre.
When Henry entered the room, he found his three companions in misfortune engaged in earnest debate. These men had supped full of horrors; yet they were almost on the point of risking a renewal of the bloodshed from which they had just escaped. The temptation was a strong one. The fort was this evening actually in the hands of the white men. The Indians, with their ordinary recklessness and improvidence, had neglected even to place a guard within the palisades. They were now, one and all, in their camp, mad with liquor, and the fort was occupied by twenty Englishmen, and about three hundred Canadians, principally voyageurs. To close the gates, and set the Indians at defiance, seemed no very difficult matter. It might have been attempted, but for the dissuasions of the Jesuit, who had acted throughout the part of a true friend of humanity, and who now strongly represented the probability that the Canadians would prove treacherous, and the certainty that a failure would involve destruction to every Englishman in the place. The idea was therefore abandoned, and Captain Etherington, with his companions, that night shared Henry's garret, where they passed the time in condoling with each other on their common misfortune.
A party of Indians came to the house in the morning, and ordered Henry to follow them out. The weather had changed, and a cold storm had set in. In the dreary and forlorn area of the fort were a few of the Indian conquerors, though the main body were still in their camp, not yet recovered from the effects of their last night's carouse. Henry's conductors led him to a house, where, in a room almost dark, he saw two traders and a soldier imprisoned. They were released, and directed to follow the party. The whole then proceeded together to the lake shore, where they
253were to embark for the Isles du Castor. A chilling wind blew strongly from the north-east, and the lake was covered with mists, and tossing angrily. Henry stood shivering on the beach, with no other upper garment than a shirt, drenched with the cold rain. He asked Langlade, who was near him, for a blanket, which the latter, with coldblooded inhumanity, refused to furnish unless security was given for payment. Another Canadian proved more merciful, and Henry received a covering from the weather. With his three companions, guarded by seven Indians, he embarked in the canoe, the soldier being tied by his neck to one of the cross-bars of the vessel. The thick mists and the tempestuous weather compelled them to keep along the shore, close beneath the wet dripping forests. In this manner they had proceeded about eighteen miles, and were approaching L'Arbre Croche, when an Ottawa Indian came out of the woods, and called to them from the beach, inquiring the news, and asking who were their prisoners. Some conversation followed, in the course of which the canoe approached the shore, where the water was quite shallow. All at once, a loud yell was heard, and a hundred Ottawas, rising from among the trees and bushes, rushed into the water, and seized upon the canoe and prisoners. The astonished Ojibwas remonstrated in vain. The four Englishmen were taken from them, and led in safety to the shore. Good will to the prisoners, however, had by no means prompted the Ottawas to this very unexpected proceeding. They were jealous and angry that the Ojibwas should have taken the fort without giving them an opportunity to share in the plunder; and they now chose this summary mode of asserting their rights.
The chiefs, however, shook Henry and his companions by the hand, professing great good will, assuring them, at the same time, that the Ojibwas were carrying them to the Isles du Castor merely to kill and eat them. The four prisoners, the sport of so many changing fortunes, soon found themselves embarked in an Ottawa canoe, and on their way back to Michillimackinac. They were not alone. A flotilla of canoes accompanied them, bearing a great number of Ottawa warriors; and before the day was over
254the whole had arrived at the fort. At this time, the principal Ojibwa encampment was near the woods, in full sight of the landing-place. Its occupants, astonished at this singular movement on the part of their rivals, stood looking on in silent amazement, while the Ottawa warriors, well armed, filed into the fort, and took possession of it.
This conduct is not difficult to explain, when we take into consideration the peculiarities of the Indian character. Pride and jealousy are always strong and active elements in it. The Ottawas deemed themselves grossly insulted because the Ojibwas had undertaken an enterprise of such importance without consulting them, or asking their assistance. It may be added, that the Indians of L'Arbre Croche were somewhat less hostile to the English than the neighbouring tribes; for the great influence of the priest Jonois seems always to have been exerted on the side of peace and friendship.
The English prisoners looked upon the new comers as champions and protectors, and conceived hopes from their interference not destined to be fully realized. On the morning after their arrival, the Ojibwa chiefs invited the principal men of the Ottawas to hold a council with them in a building within the fort. They placed upon the floor a valuable present of goods, which were part of the plunder they had taken; and their great war-chief, Minavavana, who had conducted the attack, rose and addressed the Ottawas.
Their conduct, he said, had greatly surprised him. They had betrayed the common cause, and opposed the will of the Great Spirit, who had decreed that every Englishman must die. Excepting them, all the Indians had raised the hatchet. Pontiac had taken Detroit, and every other fort had also been destroyed. The English were meeting with destruction throughout the whole world, and the King of France was awakened from his sleep. He exhorted them, in conclusion, no longer to espouse the cause of the English, but, like their brethren, to lift the hatchet against them.
When Minavavana had concluded his speech, the council adjourned until the next day; a custom common among Indians, in order that the auditors may have time to ponder with due deliberation upon what they have heard.
255At the next meeting, the Ottawas expressed a readiness to concur with the views of the Ojibwas. Thus the difference between the two tribes was at length amicably adjusted. The Ottawas returned to the Ojibwas some of the prisoners whom they had taken from them, still, however, retaining the officers and several of the soldiers. These they soon after carried to L'Arbre Croche, where they were treated with kindness, probably owing to the influence of Father Jonois.
Though the Ottawas and Ojibwas had come to terms, they still looked on each other with distrust, and it is said that the former never forgot the slight that had been put upon them. The Ojibwas took the prisoners who had been returned to them from the fort, and carried them to one of their small villages, which stood near the shore, at no great distance to the south-east. Among the other lodges was a large one, of the kind often seen in Indian villages, erected for use on public occasions, such as dances, feasts, or councils. It was now to serve as a prison. The soldiers were bound together, two and two, and further secured by long ropes tied round their necks, and fastened to the pole which supported the lodge in the centre. Henry and the other traders escaped this rigorous treatment. The spacious lodge was soon filled with Indians, who came to look at their captives, and gratify themselves by deriding and jeering at them. At the head of the lodge sat the great war-chief Minavavana, side by side with Henry's master, Wenniway. Things had remained for some time in this position, when Henry observed an Indian stooping to enter at the low aperture which served for a door, and, to his great joy, recognized his friend and brother, Wawatam, whom he had last seen on the day before the massacre. Wawatam said nothing; but, as he passed the trader, he shook him
256by the hand, in token of encouragement, and, proceeding to the head of the lodge, sat down with Wenniway and the war-chief. After he had smoked with them for a while in silence, he rose and went out again. Very soon he came back, followed by his squaw, who brought in her hands a valuable present, which she laid at the feet of the two chiefs. Wawatam then addressed them in the following speech: —
"Friends and relations, what is it that I shall say? You know what I feel. You all have friends, and brothers, and children, whom as yourselves you love; and you, — what would you experience, did you, like me, behold your dearest friend — your brother — in the condition of a slave; a slave, exposed every moment to insult, and to menaces of death? This case, as you all know, is mine. See there, [pointing to Henry,] my friend and brother among slaves, — himself a slave!
"You all well know that, long before the war began, I adopted him as my brother. From that moment, he became one of my family, so that no change of circumstances could break the cord which fastened us together.
"He is my brother; and because I am your relation, he is therefore your relation too; and how, being your relation, can he be your slave?
"On the day on which the war began, you were fearful lest, on this very account, I should reveal your secret. You requested, therefore, that I would leave the fort, and even cross the lake. I did so; but I did it with reluctance. I did it with reluctance, notwithstanding that you, Minavavana, who had the command in this enterprise, gave me your promise that you would protect my friend, delivering him from all danger, and giving him safely to me.
"The performance of this promise I now claim. I come not with empty hands to ask it. You, Minavavana, best know whether or not, as it respects yourself, you have kept your word; but I bring these goods to buy off every claim which any man among you all may have on my brother as his prisoner."
To this speech the war-chief returned a favourable answer. Wawatam's request was acceded to, the present was accepted, and the prisoner released. Henry soon found himself in the lodge of his friend, where furs were spread for him to lie upon, food and drink brought for his refreshment, and everything done to promote his comfort that Indian hospitality could suggest. As he lay in the lodge, on the day after his release, he heard a loud noise from within the prison-house, which stood close at hand, and, looking through a crevice in the bark, he saw the dead bodies of seven soldiers dragged out. It appeared that a noted chief had just arrived from his wintering ground. Having come too late to take part in the grand achievement of his countrymen, he was anxious to manifest to all present his entire approval of what had been done, and with this design he had entered the lodge and despatched seven of the prisoners with his knife.
The Indians are not habitual cannibals. After a victory, however, it often happens that the bodies of their enemies are consumed at a formal war-feast — a superstitious rite, adapted, as they think, to increase their courage and hardihood. Such a feast took place on the present occasion, and most of the chiefs partook of it, though some of them, at least, did so with repugnance.
About a week had now elapsed since the massacre, and a revulsion of feeling began to take place among the Indians. Up to this time all had been triumph and exultation; but they now began to fear the consequences of their conduct. Indefinite and absurd rumours of an approaching attack from the English were afloat in the camp, and, in their growing uneasiness, they thought it expedient to shift their position to some point more capable of defence. Three hundred and fifty warriors, with their families and household effects, embarked in canoes for the Island of Michillimackinac, seven or eight miles distant. Wawatam, with his friend Henry, was of the number. Strong gusts of wind came from the north, and when the fleet of canoes were half way to the island, it blew a gale, the waves pitching and tossing with such violence, that the frail and heavy-laden vessels were much endangered. Many voices were raised in prayer to the Great Spirit, and a dog was thrown into the
258lake, as a sacrifice to appease the angry manitou of the waters. The canoes weathered the storm, and soon drew near the island. Two squaws, in the same canoe with Henry, raised their voices in mournful wailing and lamentation. Late events had made him sensible to every impression of horror, and these dismal cries seemed ominous of some new disaster, until he learned that they were called forth by the recollection of dead relatives, whose graves were visible upon a neighbouring point of the shore.
The Island of Michillimackinac, or Mackinaw, owing to its situation, its beauty, and the fish which the surrounding waters supplied, had long been a favourite resort of Indians. It is about three miles wide. So clear are the waters of Lake Huron, which wash its shores, that one may count the pebbles at an incredible depth. The island is fenced round by white limestone cliffs, beautifully contrasting with the green foliage that half covers them, and in the centre the land rises in woody heights. The rock which forms its foundation assumes fantastic shapes — natural bridges, caverns, or sharp pinnacles, which, at this day, are pointed out as the curiosities of the region. In many of the caves have been found quantities of human bones, as if, at some period, the island had served as a grand depository for the dead; yet of these remains the present race of Indians can give no account. Legends and superstitions attached a mysterious celebrity to the place, and here it was said the fairies of Indian tradition might often be seen dancing upon the white rocks, or basking in the moonlight.
The Indians landed at the margin of a little bay. Unlading their canoes, and lifting them high and dry upon the beach, they began to erect their lodges, and before night had completed the work. Messengers arrived on the next day from Pontiac, informing them that he was besieging Detroit, and urging them to come to his aid. But their warlike ardour had well nigh died out. A senseless alarm prevailed among them, and they now thought more of securing their own safety than of injuring the enemy. A vigilant watch was kept up all day, and the unusual precaution taken of placing guards at night. Their fears, however, did not prevent them from seizing two English trading canoes, which had come from Montreal by way of the Ottawa. Among the booty found in them was a quantity of whiskey, and a general debauch was the immediate result. As night closed in, the dolorous chanting of drunken songs was heard from within the lodges, the prelude of a scene of riot; and Wawatam, knowing that his friend Henry's life would be in danger, privately led him out of the camp to a cavern in the hills, towards the interior of the island. Here the trader spent the night, in a solitude made doubly dreary by a sense of his forlorn and perilous situation. On waking in the morning, he found that he had been lying on human bones, which covered the floor of the cave. The place had anciently served as a charnel-house. Here he spent another solitary night, before his friend came to apprise him that he might return with safety to the camp.
Famine soon began to be felt among the Indians, who were sometimes without food for days together. No complaints were heard; but with faces blackened, in sign of sorrow, they patiently endured the privation with that resignation, under inevitable suffering, which distinguishes the whole Indian race. They were at length compelled to
260cross over to the north shore of Lake Huron, where fish were more abundant, and here they remained until the end of summer, when they gradually dispersed, each family repairing to its winter hunting-grounds. Henry, painted and attired like an Indian, followed his friend Wawatam, and spent a lonely winter among the frozen forests, hunting the bear and moose for subsistence.
The posts of Green Bay and the Sault Ste. Marie did not share the fate of Michillimackinac. During the preceding winter, Ste. Marie had been partially destroyed by an accidental fire, and was therefore abandoned, the garrison withdrawing to Michillimackinac, where many of them perished in the massacre. The fort at Green Bay first received an English garrison in the year 1761, at the same time with the other posts of this region. The force consisted of seventeen men, commanded by Lieutenant Gorell. Though so few in number, their duties were of a very important character. In the neighbourhood of Green Bay were numerous and powerful Indian tribes. The Menomonies lived at the mouth of Fox River, close to the fort.
261The Winnebagoes had several villages on the lake which bears their name, and the Sacs and Foxes were established on the River Wisconsin, in a large village composed of houses neatly built of logs and bark, and surrounded by fields of corn and vegetables.
Gorell seems to have acquitted himself with great judgment and prudence. On first arriving at the fort, he had found its defences decayed and ruinous, the Canadian inhabitants unfriendly, and many of the Indians disposed to hostility. His good conduct contributed to allay their irritation, and he was particularly successful in conciliating his immediate neighbours, the Menomonies. They had taken an active part in the late war between France and England, and their spirits were humbled by the losses they had sustained, as well as by recent ravages of the small-pox. Gorell summoned them to a council, and delivered a speech, in which he avoided wounding their pride, but at the same time assumed a tone of firmness and decision, such as can alone command an Indian's respect. He told them that the King of England had heard of their ill conduct, but that he was ready to forget all that had passed. If, however, they should again give him cause of complaint, he would send an army, numerous as the trees of the forest, and utterly destroy them. Flattering expressions of confidence
262and esteem succeeded, and the whole was enforced by the distribution of a few presents. The Menomonies replied by assurances of friendship, more sincerely made and faithfully kept than could have been expected. As Indians of the other tribes came from time to time to the fort, they met with a similar reception, and, in his whole intercourse with them, the constant aim of the commandant was to gain their good will. The result was most happy for himself and his garrison.
On the fifteenth of June, 1763, an Ottawa Indian brought to Gorell the following letter from Captain Etherington: —
"Michillimackinac, June 11, 1763.
"This place was taken by surprise, on the fourth instant, by the Chippeways, [Ojibwas,] at which time Lieutenant Jamet and twenty [fifteen] more were killed, and all the rest taken prisoners; but our good friends, the Ottawas, have taken Lieutenant Lesley, me, and eleven men, out of their hands, and have promised to reinstate us again. You'll therefore, on the receipt of this, which I send by a canoe of Ottawas, set out with all your garrison, and what English traders you have with you, and come with the Indian who gives you this, who will conduct you safe to me. You must be sure to follow the instruction you receive from the bearer of this, as you are by no means to come to this post before you see me at the village, twenty miles from this. ... I must once more beg you'll lose no time in coming to join me; at the same time, be very careful, and always be on your guard. I long much to see you, and am, dear sir,
"Your most humble serv't.
On receiving this letter, Gorell summoned the Menomonies to a council, told them what the Ojibwas had done, and said that he and his soldiers were going to Michillimackinac to restore order, adding, that during his absence he commended the fort to their care. Great numbers of
263the Winnebagoes and of the Sacs and Foxes afterwards arrived, and Gorell addressed them in nearly the same words. Presents were given them, and it soon appeared that the greater part were well disposed towards the English, though a few were inclined to prevent their departure, and even to threaten hostility. At this juncture, a fortunate incident occurred. A Dahcotah chief arrived with a message from his people to the following import: They had heard, he said, of the bad conduct of the Ojibwas. They hoped that the tribes of Green Bay would not follow their example, but, on the contrary, would protect the English garrison. Unless they did so, the Dahcotah would fall upon them, and take ample revenge. This auspicious interference must, no doubt, be ascribed to the hatred with which the Dahcotah had long regarded the Ojibwas. That the latter should espouse one side of the quarrel, was abundant reason to the Dahcotah for adopting the other.
Some of the Green Bay Indians were also at enmity with the Ojibwas, and all opposition to the departure of the English was now at an end. Indeed, some of the more friendly offered to escort the garrison on its way; and on the twenty-first of June, Gorell's party embarked in several bateaux, accompanied by ninety warriors in canoes. Approaching Isle du Castor, near the mouth of Green Bay, an alarm was given that the Ojibwas were lying there in ambush; on which the Menomonies raised the war-song, stripped themselves, and prepared to do battle in behalf of the English. The alarm, however, proved false; and, having crossed Lake Michigan in safety, the party arrived at the village of L'Arbre Croche on the thirtieth. The Ottawas came down to the beach to salute them with a discharge of guns, and, on landing, they were presented with the pipe of peace. Captain Etherington and Lieutenant Leslie, with eleven men, were in the village, detained as prisoners, though treated with kindness. It was thought that the Ottawas intended to disarm the party of Gorell also; but the latter gave out that he would resist such an attempt, and his soldiers were permitted to retain their weapons.
Several succeeding days were occupied by the Indians in
264holding councils. Those from Green Bay requested the Ottawas to set their prisoners at liberty, and the latter, at length, assented. A difficulty still remained, as the Ojibwas had declared that they would prevent the English from passing down to Montreal. Their chiefs were therefore summoned; and being at this time, as we have seen, in a state of much alarm, they at length reluctantly yielded the point. On the eighteenth of July, the English, escorted by a fleet of Indian canoes, left L'Arbre Croche, and reaching, without interruption, the portage of the River Ottawa, descended to Montreal, where they all arrived in safety, on the thirteenth day of August.
The extraordinary figures intended to represent tortoises, deer, snakes, and other animals, which are often seen appended to Indian treaties, are the totems of the chiefs, who employ these devices of their respective clans as their sign manual. The device of his clan is also sometimes tattooed on the body of the warrior.
The word tribe might, perhaps, have been employed with as much propriety as that of clan, to indicate the totemic division; but as the former is constantly employed to represent the local or political divisions of the Indian race, hopeless confusion would arise from using it in a double capacity.
Iroquois, Five, and afterwards Six Nations; Confederates, Hodenosaunee, Aquanuscioni, Aggonnonshioni, Ongwe Honwe, Mengwe, Maquas, Mahaquase, Massawomecs, Palenachendchiesktajeet.
The name of Massawomecs has been applied to several tribes; and that of Mingoes is often restricted to a colony of the Iroquois which established itself near the Ohio.
Mohawks, Anies, Agniers, Agnierrhonons, Sankhicans, Canungas, Mauguawogs, Ganeagaonoh.
Oneidas, Oneotas, Onoyats, Anoyints, Onneiouts, Oneyyotecaronoh, Onoiochrhonons.
Onondagas, Onnontagues, Onondagaonohs.
Cayugas, Caiyoquos, Goiogoens, Gweugwehonoh.
Senecas, Sinnikes, Chennessies, Genesees, Chenandoanes, Tsonnontouans, Jenontowanos, Nundawaronoh.
Mr. Morgan is of opinion that these institutions were the result of "a protracted effort of legislation." An examination of the customs prevailing among other Indian tribes makes it probable that the elements of the Iroquois polity existed among them from an indefinite antiquity; and the legislation of which Mr. Morgan speaks could only involve the arrangement and adjustment of already existing materials.
Since the above chapter was written, Mr. Morgan has published an elaborate and very able work on the institutions of the Iroquois. It forms an invaluable addition to this department of knowledge.
Cusick was an old Tuscarora Indian, who, being disabled by an accident from active occupations, essayed to become the historian of his people, and produced a small pamphlet, written in a language almost unintelligible, and filled with a medley of traditions in which a few grains of truth are inextricably mingled with a tangled mass of absurdities. He relates the monstrous legends of his people with an air of implicit faith, and traces the presiding sachems of the confederacy in regular descent from the first Atotarho downwards. His work, which was printed at the Tuscarora village, near Lewiston, in 1828, is illustrated by several rude engravings representing the Stone Giants, the Flying Heads, and other traditional monsters.
Frontenac, in his expedition against the Onondagas, in 1696 (see Official Journal, Doc. Hist. New York, I. 332), found one of their villages built in an oblong form, with four bastions. The wall was formed of three rows of palisades, those of the outer row being forty or fifty feet high. The usual figure of the Iroquois villages was circular or oval, and in this instance the bastions were no doubt the suggestion of some European adviser.
"We alighted at the council-house, where the chiefs were already assembled to receive us, which they did with a grave, cheerful complaisance, according to their custom; they shew'd us where to lay our baggage, and repose ourselves during our stay with them; which was in the two end apartments of this large house. The Indians that came with us were placed over against us. This cabin is about eighty feet long and seventeen broad, the common passage six feet wide, and the apartments on each side five feet, raised a foot above the passage by a long sapling, hewed square, and fitted with joists that go from it to the back of the house; on these joists they lay large pieces of bark, and on extraordinary occasions spread mats made of rushes: this favour we had; on these floors they set or lye down, every one as he will; the apartments are divided from each other by boards or bark, six or seven foot long, from the lower floor to the upper, on which they put their lumber; when they have eaten their homony, as they set in each apartment before the fire, they can put the bowl over head, having not above five foot to reach; they set on the floor sometimes at each end, but mostly at one; they have a shed to put their wood into in the winter, or in the summer to set to converse or play, that has a door to the south; all the sides and roof of the cabin are made of bark, bound fast to poles set in the ground, and bent round on the top, or set aflatt, for the roof, as we set our rafters; over each fireplace they leave a hole to let out the smoke, which, in rainy weather, they cover with a piece of bark, and this they can easily reach with a pole to push it on one side or quite over the hole; after this model are most of their cabins built." — Bartram, Observations, 40.
"The 18th going to Canagorah, that day there were most cruelly burnt four men, four women and one boy. The cruelty lasted aboutt seven hours. When they were almost dead letting them loose to the mercy of ye boys, and taking the hearts of such as were dead to feast on."— Greenhalgh, Journal, 1677.
Charlevoix. Letters to the Duchess of LesdiguieÄres; Champlain, Voyages de la Nouv. France; Clark, Hist. Onondaga, I., and several volumes of the Jesuit Relations, especially those of l656-'7 and 1659-'60.
The Dionondadies are also designated by the following names: Tionontatez, Petuneux — Nation of Tobacco.
The Dahcotah, as well as the Algonquins, believe that the thunder is produced by a bird. A beautiful illustration of this idea will be found in Mrs. Eastman's Legends of the Sioux. An Indian propounded to Le Jeune a doctrine of his own. According to his theory, the thunder is produced by the eructations of a monstrous giant, who had unfortunately swallowed a quantity of snakes; and the latter falling to the earth, caused the appearance of lightning. "VoilÅ une philosophie bien nouvelle!" exclaims the astonished Jesuit.
Charlevoix, Voyages, Letter X.
The Swedish traveller Kalm gives an interesting account of manners in Canada, about the middle of the eighteenth century. For the feudal tenure as existing in Canada, see Bouchette, I. Chap. XIV. (Lond. 1831), and Garneau, Hist. Canada, Book III. Chap. III.
"We find the Indians, as far back as the very confused manuscript records in my possession, repeatedly upbraiding this province for their negligence, their avarice, and their want of assisting them at a time when it was certainly in their power to destroy the infant colony of Canada, although supported by many nations; and this is likewise confessed by the writings of the managers of these times."— MS. Letter — Johnson to the Board of Trade, May 24, 1765.
These facts afford no ground for national reflections when it is recollected that while Iroquois prisoners were tortured in the wilds of Canada, Elizabeth Gaunt was burned to death at Tyburn for yielding to the dictates of compassion, and giving shelter to a political offender.
"Shamokin Daniel, who came with me, went over to the fort [Du Quesne] by himself, and counselled with the governor, who presented him with a laced coat and hat, a blanket, shirts, ribbons, a new gun, powder, lead, etc. When he returned, he was quite changed, and said, ‘See here, you fools, what the French have given me. I was in Philadelphia, and never received a farthing;’ and (directing himself to me) said, ‘The English are fools, and so are you.’" — Post, First journal.
Washington, while at Fort Le Boeuf, was much annoyed by the conduct of the French, who did their utmost to seduce his Indian escort by bribes and promises.
"The French inveighed against the capture of their ships, before any declaration of war, as flagrant acts of piracy; and some neutral powers of Europe seemed to consider them in the same point of view. It was certainly high time to check the insolence of the French by force of arms; and surely this might have been as effectually and expeditiously exerted under the usual sanction of a formal declaration, the omission of which exposed the administration to the censure of our neighbours, and fixed the imputation of fraud and freebooting on the beginning of the war." — Smollett, III. 481. See also Mahon, Hist. England, IV. 72.
"Braddock is a very Iroquois in disposition. He had a sister, who, having gamed away all her little fortune at Bath, hanged herself with a truly English deliberation, leaving only a note upon the table with those lines, ‘To die is landing on some silent shore,’ etc. When Braddock was told of it, he only said, ‘ Poor Fanny! I always thought she would play till she would be forced to tuck herself up.’"
Here follows a curious anecdote of Braddock's meanness and profligacy, which I omit. The next is more to his credit. "He once had a duel with Colonel Gumley, Lady Bath's brother, who had been his great friend. As they were going to engage, Gumley, who had good humour and wit (Braddock had the latter), said, ‘Braddock, you are a poor dog! Here, take my purse. If you kill me, you will be forced to run away, and then you will not have a shilling to support you.’ Braddock refused the purse, insisted on the duel, was disarmed, and would not even ask his life. However, with all his brutality, he has lately been governor of Gibraltar, where he made himself adored, and where scarce any governor was endured before."
— Letters to Sir H. Mann, CCLXV., CCLXVI.
Washington's opinion of Braddock may be gathered from his Writings, II. 77.
The English themselves bore reluctant testimony to the good conduct of the Virginians. — See Entick, Hist. Late War, 147.
Blodgett's pamphlet is accompanied by a curious engraving, giving a bird's eye view of the battle, including the surprise of Williams' detachment, and the subsequent attack on the camp of Johnson. In the first half of the engraving, the French army is represented lying in ambuscade in the form of a horseshoe. Hendrick is conspicuous among the English, from being mounted on horseback, while all the others are on foot. In the view of the battle at the lake, the English are represented lying flat on their faces, behind their breastwork, and busily firing at the French and Indians, who are seen skulking among the woods and thickets.
I am again indebted to President Sparks for the opportunity of examining several curious manuscripts relating to the battle of Lake George. Among them is Dieskau's official account of the affair, and a curious paper, also written by the defeated general, and containing the story of his disaster, as related by himself in an imaginary conversation with his old commander, Marshal Saxe, in the Elysian Fields. Several writers have stated that Dieskau died of his wounds. This, however, was not the case. He was carried prisoner to England, where he lived for several years, but returned to France after the peace of 1763.
In his Letter to the Ministry, dated Sept. 2, Wolfe writes in these desponding words:
"By the nature of the river, the most formidable part of this armament is deprived of the power of acting; yet we have almost the whole force of Canada to oppose. In this situation there is such a choice of difficulties, that I own myself at a loss how to determine. The affairs of Great Britain I know require the most vigorous measures, but then the courage of a handful of brave troops should be exerted only where there is some hope of a favourable event. However, you may be assured, that the small part of the campaign which remains shall be employed (as far as I am able) for the honour of his Majesty, and the interest of the nation; in which I am sure of being well seconded by the admiral and by the generals: happy if our efforts here can contribute to the success of his Majesty's arms in any other part of America."
is one of the lines which Wolfe must have recited as he strikingly exemplified its application." — Grahame, Hist, U.S. IV. 50. See also Playfair's Works, IV. 126.
An eloquent account of the siege and capture of Quebec will be found in Mr. Warburton's Conquest of Canada
"We set out from Kushkushkee for Sankonk; my company consisted of twenty-five horsemen and fifteen foot. We arrived at Sankonk in the afternoon. The people of the town were much disturbed at my coming, and received me in a very rough manner. They surrounded me with drawn knives in their hands, in such a manner that I could hardly get along; running up against me with their breasts open, as if they wanted some pretence to kill me. I saw by their countenances they sought my death. Their faces were quite distorted with rage, and they went so far as to say, I should not live long; but some Indians, with whom I was formerly acquainted, coming up and saluting me in a friendly manner, their behaviour to me was quickly changed." . . . "Some of my party desired me not to stir from the fire, for that the French had offered a great reward for my scalp, and that there were several parties out on that purpose. Accordingly I stuck constantly as close to the fire as if I had been chained there. . . .
"In the afternoon, all the captains gathered together in the middle town; they sent for us, and desired we should give them information of our message. Accordingly we did. We read the message with great satisfaction to them. It was a great pleasure both to them and us. The number of captains and counsellors were sixteen. In the evening, messengers arrived from Fort Duquesne, with a string of wampum from the commander; upon which they all came together in the house where we lodged. The messengers delivered their string, with these words from their father, the French king: —
"‘My children, come to me, and hear what I have to say. The English are coming with an army to destroy both you and me. I therefore desire you immediately, my children, to hasten with all the young men; we will drive the English and destroy them. I, as a father, will tell you always what is best.’ He laid the string before one of the captains. After a little conversation, the captain stood up, and said, ‘I have just heard something of our brethren, the English, which pleaseth me much better. I will not go. Give it to the others; maybe they will go.’ The messenger took up again the string, and said, ‘He won't go; he has heard of the English.’ Then all cried out, ‘Yes, yes, we have heard from the English.’ He then threw the string to the other fireplace, where the other captains were; but they kicked it from one to another, as if it was a snake. Captain Peter took a stick, and with it flung the string from one end of the room to the other, and said, ‘Give it to the French captain, and let him go with his young men; he boasted much of his fighting; now let us see his fighting. We have often ventured our lives for him; and had hardly a loaf of bread when we came to him; and now he thinks we should jump to serve him’' Then we saw the French captain mortified to the uttermost; he looked as pale as death. The Indians discoursed and joked till midnight; and the French captain sent messengers at midnight to Fort Duquesne."
The kicking about of the wampum belt is the usual indication of contempt for the message of which the belt is the token. The uses of wampum will be described hereafter.
"July 2nd. Dined with Sir Wm. at Johnson Hall. The office of Superintendent very troublesome. Sir Wm. continually plagued with Indians about him — generally from 300 to 900 in number — spoil his garden, and keep his house always dirty. . . .
"10th. Punted and rowed up the Mohawk River against the stream, which, on account of the rapidity of the current, is very hard work for the poor soldiers. Encamped on the banks of the river, about 9 miles from Harkimer's.
"The inconveniences attending a married Subaltern strongly appear in this tour. What with the sickness of their wives, the squealing of their children, and the smallness of their pay, I think the gentlemen discover no common share of philosophy in keeping themselves from running mad. Officers and soldiers, with their wives and children, legitimate and illegitimate, make altogether a pretty compound oglio, which does not tend towards showing military matrimony off to any great advantage. . . .
"Monday, 14th. Went on horseback by the side of Wood Creek 20 miles, to the Royal Blockhouse, a kind of wooden castle, proof against any Indian attacks. It is now abandoned by the troops, and a Sutler lives there, who keeps rum, milk, rackoons, etc., which, though none of the most elegant, is comfortable to strangers passing that way. The Blockhouse is situated on the east end of the Oneida Lake, and is surrounded by the Oneida Indians, one of the Six Nations."
Although Rogers, especially where his pecuniary interest was concerned, was far from scrupulous, I have no hesitation in following his account of the expedition up the lakes. The incidents of each day are minuted down in a dry, unambitious style, bearing the clear impress of truth. Extracts from the orderly books and other official papers are given, while portions of the narrative, verified by contemporary documents, may stand as earnests for the truth of the whole.
Rogers' published works consist of the Journals of his ranging service and his Concise Account of North America, a small volume containing much valuable information. Both appeared in London in 1765. To these may be added a curious drama, called Ponteach, or the Savages of America, which appears to have been written, in part at least, by him. It is very rare, and besides the copy in my possession, I know of but one other, which may be found in the library of the British Museum. For an account of this curious production, see Appendix, B. An engraved full-length portrait of Rogers was published in London in 1776. He is represented as a tall, strong man, dressed in the costume of a ranger, with a powder-horn slung at his side, a gun resting in the hollow of his arm, and a countenance by no means prepossessing. Behind him, at a little distance, stand his Indian followers.
The steep mountain called Rogers' Slide, near the northern end of Lake George, derives its name from the tradition that, during the French war, being pursued by a party of Indians, he slid on snowshoes down its precipitous front, for more than a thousand feet, to the frozen lake below. On beholding the achievement, the Indians, as well they might, believed him under the protection of the Great Spirit, and gave over the chase. The story seems unfounded; yet it was not far from this mountain that the rangers fought one of their most desperate winter battles, against a force of many times their number.
"I shall not lake upon me to point out the Originall Parsimony &c. to wh the first defection of the Indians can with justice & certainty be attributed, but only observe, as I did in a former letter, that the Indians (whose friendship was never cultivated by the English with that attention, expense, & assiduity with whye French obtained their favour) were for many years jealous of our growing power, were repeatedly assured by the French (who were at ye pains of having many proper emissaries among them) that so soon as we became masters of this country, we should immediately treat them with neglect, hem them in with Posts & Forts, encroach upon their Lands, and finally destroy them. All wh after the reduction of Canada, seemed to appear too clearly to the Indians, who thereby lost the great advantages resulting from the possession wh the French formerly had of Posts & Trade in their Country, neither of which they could have ever enjoyed but for the notice they took of the Indians, & the presents they bestowed so bountifully upon them, wh however expensive, they wisely foresaw was infinitely cheaper, and much more effectual than the keeping of a large body of Regular Troops, in their several Countrys, wh however considerable could not protect Trade, or cover Settlements, but must remain cooped up in their garrisons, or else be exposed to the Ambuscades & surprises of an Enemy over whom (from the nature & situation of their country) no important Advantage can be gained, — from a sense of these Truths the French chose the most reasonable & most promising Plan, a Plan which has endeared their memory to most of the Indian Nations, who would I fear generally go over to them in case they ever got footing again in this Country, & who were repeatedly exhorted, & encouraged by the French (from motives of Interest & dislike wh they will always possess) to fall upon us, by representing that their liberties & Country were in ye utmost danger."
"The English treat us with much Disrespect, and we have the greatest Reason to believe, by their Behaviour, they intend to Cut us off entirely; They have possessed themselves of our Country, it is now in our power to Dispossess them and Recover it, if we will but Embrace the opportunity before they have time to assemble together, and fortify themselves. There is no time to be lost, let us Strike immediately." — Speech of a Seneca chief to the Wyandots and Ottawas of Detroit, July, 1761.
At a conference at Philadelphia, in August, 1761, an Iroquois sachem said, "We, your Brethren of the seven Nations, are penned up like Hoggs. There are Forts all around us, and therefore we are apprehensive that Death is coming upon us."
Extract from a MS. Letter — Captain Campbell, commanding at Detroit, to Major Walters, commanding at Niagara.
"Detroit, June 17th, 1761
two o'clock in the morning.
"I had the favour of Yours, with General Amherst's Dispatches.
"I have sent You an Express with a very Important piece of Intelligence I have had the good fortune to Discover. I have been Lately alarmed with Reports of the bad Designs of the Indian Nations against this place and the English in General; I can now Inform You for certain it Comes from the Six Nations; and that they have Sent Belts of Wampum & Deputys to all the Nations, from Nova Scotia to the Illinois, to take up the Hatchet against the English, and have Employed the Messagues to send Belts of Wampum to the Northern Nations. . . .
"Their project is as follows: the Six Nations — at least the Senecas are to Assemble at the head of French Creek, within five and twenty Leagues of Presqu'Isle, part of the Six Nations, the Delawares and Shanese, are to Assemble on the Ohio, and all at the same time, about the latter End of this Month, to surprise Niagara & Fort Pitt, and Cut off the Communication Every where; I hope this will Come time Enough to put You on Your Guard and to send to Oswego, and all the Posts on that communication, they Expect to be Joined by the Nations that are Come from the North by Toronto."
Several tribes, the Miamis, Sacs, and others, have claimed connection with the great chief; but it is certain that he was, by adoption at least, an Ottawa. Henry Conner, formerly government interpreter for the northern tribes, declared, on the faith of Indian tradition, that he was born among the Ottawas of an Ojibwa mother, a circumstance which proved an advantage to him by increasing his influence over both tribes. An Ojibwa Indian told the writer that some portion of his power was to be ascribed to his being a chief of the Metai, a magical association among the Indians of the lakes, in which character he exerted an influence on the superstition of his followers.
When a wampum belt was sent to summon the tribes to join in war, its colour was always red or black, while the prevailing colour of a peace-belt was white. Tobacco was sometimes used on such occasions as a substitute for wampum, since in their councils the Indians are in the habit of constantly smoking, and tobacco is therefore taken as the emblem of deliberation. With the tobacco or the belt of wampum, presents are not unfrequently sent to conciliate the good will of the tribe whose alliance is sought. In the summer of the year 1846, when the western bands of the Dahcotah were preparing to go in concert against their enemies the Crows, the chief who was at the head of the design, and in whose village the writer was an inmate, impoverished himself by sending most of his horses as presents to the chiefs of the surrounding villages. On this occasion, tobacco was the token borne by the messengers, as wampum is not in use among the tribes of that region.
Extract from a MS. Letter — Ensign Holmes, commanding at Miamis, to Major Gladwyn: —
March 30th, 1763.
"Since my Last Letter to You, wherein I Acquainted You of the Bloody Belt being in this Village, I have made all the search I could about it, and have found it out to be True; Whereon I Assembled all Chiefs of this Nation, & after a long and troublesome Spell with them, I Obtained the Belt, with a Speech, as You will Receive Enclosed; This Affair is very timely Stopt, and I hope the News of a Peace will put a Stop to any further Troubles with these Indians, who are the Principal Ones of Setting Mischief on Foot. I send you the Belt, with this Packet, which I hope You will Forward to the General."
Extract from a MS. Letter — Major Gladwyn to Sir J. Amherst:
"Detroit, May 14th, 1763.
"On the First Instant, Pontiac, the Chief of the Ottawa Nation, came here with about Fifty of his Men, [forty, Pontiac MS.,] and told me that in a few days, when the rest of his Nation came in, he Intended to Pay me a Formal Visit. The 7th he came, but I was luckily Informed, the Night before, that he was coming with an Intention to Surprize Us; Upon which I took such Precautions that when they Entered the Fort, (tho' they were, by the best Accounts, about Three Hundred, and Armed with Knives, Tomyhawks, and a great many with Guns cut short, and hid under their Blankets,) they were so much surprized to see our Disposition, that they would scarcely sit down to Council: However in about Half an hour, after they saw their Designs were Discovered, they Sat Down, and Pontiac made a speech which I Answered calmly, without Intimating my suspicion of their Intentions, and after receiving some Trifling Presents, they went away to their Camp."
Extract from an anonymous letter — Detroit, July 9, 1763.
"You have long ago heard of our pleasant Situation, but the Storm is blown over. Was it not very agreeable to hear every Day, of their cutting, carving, boiling and eating our Companions? To see every Day dead Bodies floating down the River, mangled and disfigured? But Britons, you know, never shrink; we always appeared gay, to spite the Rascals. They boiled and eat Sir Robert Davers; and we are informed by Mr. Pauly, who escaped the other Day from one of the Stations surprised at the breaking out of the War, and commanded by himself, that he had seen an Indian have the Skin of Captain Robertson's Arm for a Tobacco-Pouch!"
The story of General Stark is well known. Being captured, in his youth, by the Indians, and told to run the gantlet, he instantly knocked down the nearest warrior, snatched a club from his hands, and wielded it with such good will that no one dared approach him, and he reached the goal scot free, while his more timorous companion was nearly beaten to death.
"New York, 22nd June, 1763.
"The Precautions you took when the Perfidious Villains came to Pay you a Visit, were Indeed very wisely Concerted; And I Approve Entirely of the Steps you have since taken for the Defence of the Place, which, I hope, will have Enabled You to keep the Savages at Bay until the Reinforcement, which Major Wilkins Writes me he had sent you, Arrives with you.
"I most sincerely Grieve for the Unfortunate Fate of Sir Robert Davers, Lieut. Robertson, and the Rest of the Poor People, who have fallen into the Hands of the Merciless Villains. I Trust you did not Know of the Murder of those Gentlemen, when Pontiac came with a Pipe of Peace, for if you had, you certainly would have put him, and Every Indian in your Power, to Death. Such Retaliation is the only Way of Treating such Miscreants.
"I cannot but Approve of your having Permitted Captain Campbell and Lieut. MacDougal to go to the Indians, as you had no other Method to Procure Provisions, by which means you may have been Enabled to Preserve the Garrison; for no Other Inducement should have prevailed on you to Allow those Gentlemen to Entrust themselves with the Savages. I am Nevertheless not without my Fears for them, and were it not that you have two Indians in your Hands, in Lieu of those Gentlemen, I should give them over for Lost.
"I shall Add no more at present; Capt. Dalzell will Inform you of the steps taken for Reinforcing you: and you may be assured — the utmost Expedition will be used for Collecting such a Force as may be Sufficient for bringing Ample Vengeance on the Treacherous and Bloody Villains who have so Perfidiously Attacked their Benefactors."
Extract from a letter dated Detroit, July 6.
"We have been besieged here two Months, by Six Hundred Indians. We have been upon the Watch Night and Day, from the Commanding Officer to the lowest soldier, from the 8th of May, and have not had our Cloaths off, nor slept all Night since it began; and shall continue so till we have a Reinforcement up. We then hope soon to give a good Account of the Savages. Their Camp lies about a Mile and a half from the Fort; and that's the nearest they choose to come now. For the first two or three Days we were attacked by three or four Hundred of them, but we gave them so warm a Reception that now they don't care for coming to see us, tho' they now and then get behind a House or Garden, and fire at us about three or four Hundred yards' distance. The Day before Yesterday, we killed a Chief and three others, and wounded some more; yesterday went up with our Sloop, and battered their Cabins in such a Manner that they are glad to keep farther off."
"Detroit, July 8th, 1763.
"Since the Commencement of this Extraordinary Affair, I have been Informed, that many of the Inhabitants of this Place, seconded by some French Traders from Montreal, have made the Indians Believe that a French Army & Fleet were in the River St. Lawrence, and that Another Army would come from the Illinois; And that when I Published the cessation of Arms, they said it was a mere Invention of Mine, purposely Calculated to Keep the Indians Quiet, as We were Affraid of them; but they were not such Fools as to Believe me; Which, with a thousand other Lies, calculated to Stir up Mischief, have Induced the Indians to take up Arms; And I dare say it will Appear ere long, that One Half of the Settlement merit a Gibbet, and the Other Half ought to be Decimated; Nevertheless, there is some Honest Men among them, to whom I am Infinitely Obliged; I mean, Sir, Monsieur Navarre, the two Babys, & my Interpreters, St. Martin & La Bute."
"Five miles below the mouth of Wolf River is the Great Death Ground. This took its name from the circumstance, that some years before the Old French War, a great battle was fought between the French troops, assisted by the Menomonies and Ottaways on the one side, and the Sac and Fox Indians on the other. The Sacs and Foxes were nearly all cut off; and this proved the cause of their eventual expulsion from that country."
The M'Dougal manuscripts, above referred to, belonged to a son of the Lieutenant M'Dougal who was the fellow-prisoner of Major Campbell. On the death of the younger M'Dougal, the papers, which were very voluminous, and contained various notes concerning the Indian war, and the captivity of his father, came into the possession of a family at the town of Palmer, in Michigan, who permitted such of them as related to the subjects in question to be copied by the writer.
"New York, 2nd Nov. 1763.
"'Tis an old saying that the Devil is easier raised than laid. Sir Jeffrey has found it so, with these Indian Demons. They have cut his little Army to Pieces, & almost if not entirely obstructed the Communication to the Detroite, where the Enemy are grown very numerous; and from whence I fancy you'll soon hear, if any survive to relate them, very tragical Accounts. The Besiegers are led on by an enterprising Fellow called Pondiac. He is a Genius, for he possesses great Bravery, Art, & Oratory, & has had the Address to get himself not only at the Head of his Conquerors, but elected Generalissimo of all the confederate Forces now acting against us — Perhaps he may deserve to be called the Mithridates of the West."
This incident may have suggested the story told by Mrs. Grant, in her Memoirs of an American Lady. A young British officer, of noble birth, had been living for some time among the Indians, and having encountered many strange adventures, he was now returning in a canoe with a party of his late associates, — none of them, it appears, were aware that hostilities existed, — and approached the schooner just before the attack commenced, expecting a friendly reception. Sir Robert D — , the young officer, was in Indian costume, and wishing to surprise his friends, he made no answer when hailed from the vessel, whereupon he was instantly fired at and killed. — The story is without confirmation in any contemporary document, and, indeed, is impossible in itself. Sir Robert Davers was killed, as before mentioned, near Lake St. Clair; but neither in his character, nor in the mode of his death, did he at all resemble the romantic adventurer whose fate is commemorated by Mrs. Grant.
Extract from a MS. Letter — Major Wilkins to Sir J. Amherst.
"Niagara, 6th June, 1763.
"Just as I was sending off my Letter of Yesterday, Lieutenant Cuyler, of the Queen's Rangers, Arrived from his Intended Voyage to the Detroit. He has been very Unfortunate, Having been Defeated by Indians within 30 miles of the Detroit River; I observed that he was Wounded and Weak, and Desired him to take the Surgeon's Assistance and some Rest, and Recollect the Particulars of the Affair, and let me have them in Writing, as perhaps I should find it Necessary to Transmit them to Your Excellency, which I have now Done.
"It is probable Your Excellency will have heard of what has Happened by way of Fort Pitt, as Ensign Christie, Commanding at Presqu'Isle, writes me he has sent an Express to Acquaint the Commanding Officer at that Place, of Sanduskie's being Destroyed, and of Lieut. Cuyler's Defeat.
"Some Indians of the Six Nations are now with me. They seem very Civil; The Interpreter has just told them I was writing to Your Excellency for Rum, and they are very glad."
"The remaining barges proceeded up the river, and crossed to the house of Mr. Meloche, where Pontiac and his Ottawas were encamped. The barges were landed, and, the women having arranged themselves in two rows, with clubs and sticks, the prisoners were taken out one by one and told to run the gantlet to Pontiac's lodge. Of sixty-six persons who were brought to the shore, sixty-four ran the gantlet, and were all killed. One of the remaining two, who had had his thigh broken in the firing from the shore, and who was tied to his seat and compelled to row, had become by this time so much exhausted that he could not help himself. He was thrown out of the boat and killed with clubs. The other, when directed to run for the lodge, suddenly fell upon his knees in the water, and having dipped his hand in the water, he made the sign of the cross on his forehead and breast, and darted out in the stream. An expert swimmer from the Indians followed him, and, having overtaken him, seized him by the hair, and crying out, ‘You seem to love water; you shall have enough of it,’ he stabbed the poor fellow, who sunk to rise no more." — Gouin's Account, MS.
"I have heard of your situation, which gives me great Pain; indeed, we are not in much better, for this morning the Indians sent for me, to speak to me, and Immediately bound me, when I got to their Cabbin, and I soon found some of my Soldiers in the same Condition: They told me Detroit, Miamis, and all them Posts were cut off, and that it was a Folly to make any Resistance, therefore desired me to make the few Soldiers, that were in the Fort, surrender, otherwise they would put us all to Death, in case one man was killed. They were to have fell on us and killed us all, last night, but Mr. Maisongville and Lorain gave them wampum not to kill us, & when they told the Interpreter that we were all to be killed, & he knowing the condition of the Fort, beg'd of them to make us prisoners. They have put us into French houses, & both Indians and French use us very well: All these Nations say they are very sorry, but that they were obliged to do it by the Other Nations. The Belt did not Arrive here 'till last night about Eight o'clock. Mr. Lorain can inform you of all. Just now Received the News of St. Joseph's being taken, Eleven men killed and three taken Prisoners with the Officer: I have nothing more to say, but that I sincerely wish you a speedy succour, and that we may be able to Revenge ourselves on those that Deserve it.
"I Remain, with my Sincerest wishes for your safety,
"Your most humble servant,
"N.B. We expect to set off in a day or two for the Illinois."
Extract from a Letter — Detroit, July 9, 1763 (Penn. Gaz. No. 1808).
"Judge of the Conduct of the Canadians here, by the Behaviour of these few Sacres Bougres, I have mentioned; I can assure you, with much Certainty, that there are but very few in the Settlement who are not engaged with the Indians in their damn'd Design; in short, Monsieur is at the Bottom of it; we have not only convincing Proofs and Circumstances, but undeniable Proofs of it. There are four or five sensible, honest Frenchmen in the Place, who have been of a great deal of Service to us, in bringing us Intelligence and Provisions, even at the Risque of their own Lives: I hope they will be rewarded for their good Services; I hope also to see the others exalted on High, to reap the Fruits of their Labours, as soon as our Army arrives; the Discoveries we have made of their horrid villianies, are almost incredible. But to return to the Terms of Capitulation: Pondiac proposes that we should immediately give up the Garrison, lay down our Arms, as the French, their Fathers, were obliged to do, leave the Cannon, Magazines, Merchants' Goods, and the two Vessels, and be escorted in Battoes, by Indians, to Niagara. The Major returned Answer, that the General had not sent him there to deliver up the Fort to Indians, or any body else; and that he would defend it whilst he had a single man to fight alongside of him. Upon this, Hostilities recommenced, since which Time, being two Months, the whole Garrison, Officers, Soldiers, Merchants and Servants, have been upon the Ramparts every Night, not one having slept in a House, except the Sick and Wounded in the Hospital.
"Our Fort is extremely large, considering our Numbers, the Stockade being above 1000 Paces in Circumference; judge what a Figure we make on the Works."
The writer of the above letter is much too sweeping and indiscriminate in his denunciation of the French.
"New York, 16th June, 1763.
"I am to thank you for your Letter of the 6th Instant, which I have this moment Received, with some Advices from Niagara, concerning the Motions of the Indians that Way, they having attacked a Detachment under the Command of Lieut. Cuyler of Hopkins's Rangers, who were on their Route towards the Detroit, and Obliged him to Return to Niagara, with (I am sorry to say) too few of his Men.
"Upon this Intelligence, I have thought it Necessary to Dispatch Captain Dalyell, my Aid de Camp, with Orders to Carry with him all such Reinforcements as can possibly be collected (having, at the same time, a due Attention to the Safety of the Principal Forts), to Niagara, and to proceed to the Detroit, if Necessary, and Judged Proper."
"Detroit, Aug. 8th, 1763.
"On the 31st, Captain Dalyell Requested, as a particular favor, that I would give him the Command of a Party, in order to Attempt the Surprizal of Pontiac's Camp, under cover of the Night, to which I answered that I was of opinion he was too much on his Guard to Effect it; he then said he thought I had it in my power to give him a Stroke, and that if I did not Attempt it now, he would Run off, and I should never have another Opportunity; this induced me to give in to the Scheme, contrary to my Judgement."
The Commander-in-chief ordered a medal to be struck and presented to each of the men. Jacobs, the mate of the schooner, appears to have been as rash as he was brave; for Captain Carver says, that several years after, when in command of the same vessel, he was lost, with all his crew, in a storm on Lake Erie, in consequence of having obstinately refused to take in ballast enough.
As this affair savours somewhat of the marvellous, the following evidence is given touching the most remarkable features of the story. The document was copied from the archives of London.
Extract from A Relation of the Gallant Defence made by the Crew of the Schooner on Lake Erie, when Attacked by a Large Body of Indians, as published by order of Sir Jeffery Amherst in the New York papers.
"The Schooner Sailed from Niagara, loaded with Provisions, some time in August last: Her Crew consisted of the Master and Eleven Men, with Six Mohawk Indians, who were Intended for a particular Service. She entered the Detroit River, on the 3rd September; and on the 4th in the Morning, the Mohawks seemed very Desirous of being put on Shore, which the Master, very Inconsiderately, agreed to. The Wind proved contrary all that Day ; and in the Evening, the Vessell being at Anchor, about Nine o'clock, the Boat-swain discovered a Number of Canoes coming down the River, with about Three Hundred and Fifty Indians; Upon which the Bow Gun was Immediately Fired; but before the other Guns could be brought to Bear, the Enemy got under the Bow and Stern, in Spite of the Swivels & Small Arms, and Attempted to Board the Vessell; Whereupon the Men Abandoned their Small Arms, and took to their Spears, with which they were provided; And, with Amazing Resolution and Bravery, knocked the Savages in the Head; Killed many; and saved the Vessell. ... It is certain Seven of the Savages were Killed on the Spot, and Eight had Died of those that were Wounded, when the Accounts came away. The Master and One Man were Killed, and four Wounded, on Board the Schooner, and the other Six brought her Safe to the Detroit."
It is somewhat singular that no mention is here made of the command to blow up the vessel. The most explicit authorities on this point are Carver, who obtained his account at Detroit, three years after the war, and a letter published in the Pennsylvania Gazette, No. 1816. This letter is dated at Detroit, five days after the attack. The circumstance is also mentioned in several traditional accounts of the Canadians.
"Their tradition concerning the name of this little island is curious. They say that Michapous, the chief of spirits, sojourned long in that vicinity. They believed that a mountain on the border of the lake was the place of his abode, and they called it by his name. It was here, say they, that he first instructed man to fabricate nets for taking fish, and where he has collected the greatest quantity of these finny inhabitants of the waters. On the island he left spirits, named Imakinakos; and from these aerial possessors it has received the appellation of Michilimakinac.
"When the savages, in those quarters, make a feast of fish, they invoke the spirits of the island, thank them for their bounty, and entreat them, to continue their protection to their families. They demand of them to preserve their nets and canoes from the swelling and destructive billows, when the lakes are agitated by storms. All who assist in the ceremony lengthen their voices together, which is an act of gratitude. In the observance of this duty of their religion, they were formerly very punctual and scrupulous; but the French rallied them so much upon the subject, that they became ashamed to practise it openly." — Heriot, Travels in Canada, 185.
"The first I accosted were Chipeways, inhabiting near the Ottowaw lakes; who received me with great cordiality, and shook me by the hand, in token of friendship. At some little distance behind these stood a chief remarkably tall and well made, but of so stern an aspect, that the most undaunted person could not behold him without feeling some degree of terror. He seemed to have passed the meridian of life, and by the mode in which he was painted and tatowed, I discovered that he was of high rank. However, I approached him in a courteous manner, and expected to have met with the same reception I had done from the others; but, to my great surprise, he withheld his hand, and looking fiercely at me, said, in the Chipeway tongue, ‘Cawin nishishin saganosh,’that is, ‘The English are no good.’ As he had his tomahawk in his hand, I expected that this laconick sentence would have been followed by a blow; to prevent which I drew a pistol from my belt, and, holding it in a careless position, passed close by him, to let him see I was not afraid of him. . . . Since I came to England, I have been informed, that the Grand Sautor, having rendered himself more and more disgustful to the English by his inveterate enmity towards them, was at length stabbed in his tent, as he encamped near Michillimackinac, by a trader." — Carver, 96.