Montcalm and Wolfe

Author: Francis Parkman

Chapter 3


Conflict for the West

The Iroquois, or Five Nations, sometimes called Six Nations after the Tuscaroras joined them, had been a power of high importance in American international politics. In a certain sense they may be said to have held the balance between their French and English neighbors; but their relative influence had of late declined. So many of them had emigrated and joined the tribes of the Ohio, that the centre of Indian population had passed to that region. Nevertheless, the Five Nations were still strong enough in their ancient abodes to make their alliance an object of the utmost consequence to both the European rivals. At the western end of their “Long House,” or belt of confederated villages, Joncaire intrigued to gain them for France; while in the east he was counteracted by the young colonel of militia, William Johnson, who lived on the Mohawk, and was already well skilled in managing Indians. Johnson sometimes lost his temper; and once wrote to Governor Clinton to complain of the “confounded wicked things the French had infused into the Indians’ heads; among the rest that the English were determined, the first opportunity, to destroy them all. I assure your Excellency I had hard work to beat these and several other cursed villanous things, told them by the French, out of their heads.”[26]

[Footnote 26: Johnson to Clinton, 28 April, 1749.]

In former times the French had hoped to win over the Five Nations in a body, by wholesale conversion to the Faith; but the attempt had failed. They had, however, made within their own limits an asylum for such converts as they could gain, whom they collected together at Caughnawaga, near Montreal, to the number of about three hundred warriors.[27] These could not be trusted to fight their kinsmen, but willingly made forays against the English borders. Caughnawaga, like various other Canadian missions, was divided between the Church, the army, and the fur-trade. It had a chapel, fortifications, and storehouses; two Jesuits, an officer, and three chief traders. Of these last, two were maiden ladies, the Demoiselles Desauniers; and one of the Jesuits, their friend Father Tournois, was their partner in business. They carried on by means of the Mission Indians, and in collusion with influential persons in the colony, a trade with the Dutch at Albany, illegal, but very profitable.[28]

[Footnote 27: The estimate of a French official report, 1736, and of Sir William Johnson, 1763.]

[Footnote 28: La Jonquière au Ministre, 27 Fév. 1750. Ibid., 29 Oct. 1751. Ordres du Roy et Dépêches des Ministres, 1751. Notice biographique de la Jonquière. La Jonquifère, governor of Canada, at last broke up their contraband trade, and ordered Tournois to Quebec.]

Besides this Iroquois mission, which was chiefly composed of Mohawks and Oneidas, another was now begun farther westward, to win over the Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas. This was the establishment of Father Piquet, which Céloron had visited in its infancy when on his way to the Ohio, and again on his return. Piquet was a man in the prime of life, of an alert, vivacious countenance, by no means unprepossessing;[29] an enthusiastic schemer, with great executive talents; ardent, energetic, vain, self-confident, and boastful. The enterprise seems to have been of his own devising; but it found warm approval from the Government.[30] La Présentation, as he called the new mission, stood on the bank of the River Oswegatchie where it enters the St. Lawrence. Here the rapids ceased, and navigation was free to Lake Ontario. The place commanded the main river, and could bar the way to hostile war-parties or contraband traders. Rich meadows, forests, and abundance of fish and game, made it attractive to Indians, and the Oswegatchie gave access to the Iroquois towns. Piquet had chosen his site with great skill. His activity was admirable. His first stockade was burned by Indian incendiaries; but it rose quickly from its ashes, and within a year or two the mission of La Présentation had a fort of palisades flanked with blockhouses, a chapel, a storehouse, a barn, a stable, ovens, a saw-mill, broad fields of corn and beans, and three villages of Iroquois, containing, in all, forty-nine bark lodges, each holding three or four families, more or less converted to the Faith; and, as time went on, this number increased. The Governor had sent a squad of soldiers to man the fort, and five small cannon to mount upon it. The place was as safe for the new proselytes as it was convenient and agreeable. The Pennsylvanian interpreter, Conrad Weiser, was told at Onondaga, the Iroquois capital, that Piquet had made a hundred converts from that place alone; and that, “having clothed them all in very fine clothes, laced with silver and gold, he took them down and presented them to the French Governor at Montreal, who received them very kindly, and made them large presents.”[31]

[Footnote 29: I once saw a contemporary portrait of him at the mission of Two Mountains, where he had been stationed.]

[Footnote 30: Rouillé à la Jonquière, 1749. The Intendant Bigot gave him money and provisions. N.Y. Col. Docs., X. 204.]

[Footnote 31: Journal of Conrad Weiser, 1750.]

Such were some of the temporal attractions of La Présentation. The nature of the spiritual instruction bestowed by Piquet and his fellow-priests may be partly inferred from the words of a proselyte warrior, who declared with enthusiasm that he had learned from the Sulpitian missionary that the King of France was the eldest son of the wife of Jesus Christ.[32] This he of course took in a literal sense, the mystic idea of the Church as the spouse of Christ being beyond his savage comprehension. The effect was to stimulate his devotion to the Great Onontio beyond the sea, and to the lesser Onontio who represented him as Governor of Canada.

[Footnote 32: Lalande, Notice de L’Abbé Piquet, in Lettres Édifiantes. See also Tassé in Revue Canadienne, 1870, p. 9.]

Piquet was elated by his success; and early in 1752 he wrote to the Governor and Intendant: “It is a great miracle that, in spite of envy, contradiction, and opposition from nearly all the Indian villages, I have formed in less than three years one of the most flourishing missions in Canada. I find myself in a position to extend the empire of my good masters, Jesus Christ and the King, even to the extremities of this new world; and, with some little help from you, to do more than France and England have been able to do with millions of money and all their troops.”[33]

[Footnote 33: Piquet à la Jonquière et Bigot, 8 Fév. 1752. See Appendix A. In spite of Piquet’s self-laudation, and in spite also of the detraction of the author of the Mémoires sur le Canada, 1749-1760, there can be no doubt of his practical capacity and his fertility of resource. Duquesne, when governor of the colony, highly praises “ses talents et son activité pour le service de Sa Majesté.”]

The letter from which this is taken was written to urge upon the Government a scheme in which the zealous priest could see nothing impracticable. He proposed to raise a war-party of thirty-eight hundred Indians, eighteen hundred of whom were to be drawn from the Canadian missions, the Five Nations, and the tribes of the Ohio, while the remaining two thousand were to be furnished by the Flatheads, or Choctaws, who were at the same time to be supplied with missionaries. The united force was first to drive the English from the Ohio, and next attack the Dog Tribe, or Cherokees, who lived near the borders of Virginia, with the people of which they were on friendly terms. “If,” says Piquet, “the English of Virginia give any help to this last-named tribe,—which will not fail to happen,—they [the war-party] will do their utmost against them, through a grudge they bear them by reason of some old quarrels.” In other words, the missionary hopes to set a host of savages to butchering English settlers in time of peace![34] His wild project never took effect, though the Governor, he says, at first approved it.

[Footnote 34: Appendix A.]

In the preceding year the “Apostle of the Iroquois,” as he was called, made a journey to muster recruits for his mission, and kept a copious diary on the way. By accompanying him, one gets a clear view of an important part of the region in dispute between the rival nations. Six Canadians paddled him up the St. Lawrence, and five Indian converts followed in another canoe. Emerging from among the Thousand Islands, they stopped at Fort Frontenac, where Kingston now stands. Once the place was a great resort of Indians; now none were here, for the English post of Oswego, on the other side of the lake, had greater attractions. Piquet and his company found the pork and bacon very bad, and he complains that “there was not brandy enough in the fort to wash a wound.” They crossed to a neighboring island, where they were soon visited by the chaplain of the fort, the storekeeper, his wife, and three young ladies, glad of an excursion to relieve the monotony of the garrison. “My hunters,” says Piquet, “had supplied me with means of giving them a pretty good entertainment. We drank, with all our hearts, the health of the authorities, temporal and ecclesiastical, to the sound of our musketry, which was very well fired, and delighted the islanders.” These islanders were a band of Indians who lived here. Piquet gave them a feast, then discoursed of religion, and at last persuaded them to remove to the new mission.

During eight days he and his party coasted the northern shore of Lake Ontario, with various incidents, such as an encounter between his dog Cerberus and a wolf, to the disadvantage of the latter, and the meeting with “a very fine negro of twenty-two years, a fugitive from Virginia.” On the twenty-sixth of June they reached the new fort of Toronto, which offered a striking contrast to their last stopping-place. “The wine here is of the best; there is nothing wanting in this fort; everything is abundant, fine, and good.” There was reason for this. The Northern Indians were flocking with their beaver-skins to the English of Oswego; and in April, 1749, an officer named Portneuf had been sent with soldiers and workmen to build a stockaded trading-house at Toronto, in order to intercept them,—not by force, which would have been ruinous to French interests, but by a tempting supply of goods and brandy.[35] Thus the fort was kept well stocked, and with excellent effect. Piquet found here a band of Mississagas, who would otherwise, no doubt, have carried their furs to the English. He was strongly impelled to persuade them to migrate to La Présentation; but the Governor had told him to confine his efforts to other tribes; and lest, he says, the ardor of his zeal should betray him to disobedience, he reimbarked, and encamped six leagues from temptation.

[Footnote 35: On Toronto, La Jonquière et Bigot au Ministre, 1749. La Jonquière au Ministre, 30 Août, 1750. N.Y. Col. Docs. X. 201, 246.]

Two days more brought him to Niagara, where he was warmly received by the commandant, the chaplain, and the storekeeper,—the triumvirate who ruled these forest outposts, and stood respectively for then: three vital principles, war, religion, and trade. Here Piquet said mass; and after resting a day, set out for the trading-house at the portage of the cataract, recently built, like Toronto, to stop the Indians on their way to Oswego.[36] Here he found Joncaire, and here also was encamped a large band of Senecas; though, being all drunk, men, women, and children, they were in no condition to receive the Faith, or appreciate the temporal advantages that attended it. On the next morning, finding them partially sober, he invited them to remove to La Présentation; “but as they had still something left in their bottles, I could get no answer till the following day.” “I pass in silence,” pursues the missionary, “an infinity of talks on this occasion. Monsieur de Joncaire forgot nothing that could help me, and behaved like a great servant of God and the King. My recruits increased every moment. I went to say my breviary while my Indians and the Senecas, without loss of time, assembled to hold a council with Monsieur de Joncaire.” The result of the council was an entreaty to the missionary not to stop at Oswego, lest evil should befall him at the hands of the English. He promised to do as they wished, and presently set out on his return to Fort Niagara, attended by Joncaire and a troop of his new followers. The journey was a triumphal progress. “Whenever was passed a camp or a wigwam, the Indians saluted me by firing their guns, which happened so often that I thought all the trees along the way were charged with gunpowder; and when we reached the fort, Monsieur de Becancour received us with great ceremony and the firing of cannon, by which my savages were infinitely flattered.”

[Footnote 36: La Jonquière au Ministre, 23 Fév. 1750. Ibid., 6 Oct. 1751. Compare Colonial Records of Pa., V. 508.]

His neophytes were gathered into the chapel for the first time in their lives, and there rewarded with a few presents. He now prepared to turn homeward, his flock at the mission being left in his absence without a shepherd; and on the sixth of July he embarked, followed by a swarm of canoes. On the twelfth they stopped at the Genesee, and went to visit the Falls, where the city of Rochester now stands. On the way, the Indians found a populous resort of rattlesnakes, and attacked the gregarious reptiles with great animation, to the alarm of the missionary, who trembled for his bare-legged retainers. His fears proved needless. Forty-two dead snakes, as he avers, requited the efforts of the sportsmen, and not one of them was bitten. When he returned to camp in the afternoon he found there a canoe loaded with kegs of brandy. “The English,” he says, “had sent it to meet us, well knowing that this was the best way to cause disorder among my new recruits and make them desert me. The Indian in charge of the canoe, who had the look of a great rascal, offered some to me first, and then to my Canadians and Indians. I gave out that it was very probably poisoned, and immediately embarked again.”

He encamped on the fourteenth at Sodus Bay, and strongly advises the planting of a French fort there. “Nevertheless,” he adds, “it would be still better to destroy Oswego, and on no account let the English build it again.” On the sixteenth he came in sight of this dreaded post. Several times on the way he had met fleets of canoes going thither or returning, in spite of the rival attractions of Toronto and Niagara. No English establishment on the continent was of such ill omen to the French. It not only robbed them of the fur-trade, by which they lived, but threatened them with military and political, no less than commercial, ruin. They were in constant dread lest ships of war should be built here, strong enough to command Lake Ontario, thus separating Canada from Louisiana, and cutting New France asunder. To meet this danger, they soon after built at Fort Frontenac a large three-masted vessel, mounted with heavy cannon; thus, as usual, forestalling their rivals by promptness of action.[37] The ground on which Oswego stood was claimed by the Province of New York, which alone had control of it; but through the purblind apathy of the Assembly, and their incessant quarrels with the Governor, it was commonly left to take care of itself. For some time they would vote no money to pay the feeble little garrison; and Clinton, who saw the necessity of maintaining it, was forced to do so on his own personal credit.[38] “Why can’t your Governor and your great men [the Assembly] agree?” asked a Mohawk chief of the interpreter, Conrad Weiser.[39]

[Footnote 37: Lieutenant Lindesay to Johnson, July, 1751.]

[Footnote 38: Clinton to Lords of Trade, 30 July, 1750.]

[Footnote 39: Journal of Conrad Weiser, 1750.]

Piquet kept his promise not to land at the English fort; but he approached in his canoe, and closely observed it. The shores, now covered by the city of Oswego, were then a desolation of bare hills and fields, studded with the stumps of felled trees, and hedged about with a grim border of forests. Near the strand, by the mouth of the Onondaga, were the houses of some of the traders; and on the higher ground behind them stood a huge blockhouse with a projecting upper story. This building was surrounded by a rough wall of stone, with flankers at the angles, forming what was called the fort.[40] Piquet reconnoitred it from his canoe with the eye of a soldier. “It is commanded,” he says, “on almost every side; two batteries, of three twelve-pounders each, would be more than enough to reduce it to ashes.” And he enlarges on the evils that arise from it. “It not only spoils our trade, but puts the English into communication with a vast number of our Indians, far and near. It is true that they like our brandy better than English rum; but they prefer English goods to ours, and can buy for two beaver-skins at Oswego a better silver bracelet than we sell at Niagara for ten.”

[Footnote 40: Compare Doc. Hist. N.Y., I. 463.]

The burden of these reflections was lightened when he approached Fort Frontenac. “Never was reception more solemn. The Nipissings and Algonkins, who were going on a war-party with Monsieur Belêtre, formed a line of their own accord, and saluted us with three volleys of musketry, and cries of joy without end. All our little bark vessels replied in the same way. Monsieur de Verchères and Monsieur de Valtry ordered the cannon of the fort to be fired; and my Indians, transported with joy at the honor done them, shot off their guns incessantly, with cries and acclamations that delighted everybody.” A goodly band of recruits joined him, and he pursued his voyage to La Présentation, while the canoes of his proselytes followed in a swarm to their new home; “that establishment”—thus in a burst of enthusiasm he closes his Journal—“that establishment which I began two years ago, in the midst of opposition; that establishment which may be regarded as a key of the colony; that establishment which officers, interpreters, and traders thought a chamaera,—that establishment, I say, forms already a mission of Iroquois savages whom I assembled at first to the number of only six, increased last year to eighty-seven, and this year to three hundred and ninety-six, without counting more than a hundred and fifty whom Monsieur Chabert de Joncaire is to bring me this autumn. And I certify that thus far I have received from His Majesty—for all favor, grace, and assistance—no more than a half pound of bacon and two pounds of bread for daily rations; and that he has not yet given a pin to the chapel, which I have maintained out of my own pocket, for the greater glory of my masters, God and the King.”[41]

[Footnote 41: Journal qui peut servir de Mémoire et de Relation du Voyage que j’ay fait sur le Lac Ontario pour attirer au nouvel Établissement de La Présentation les Sauvages Iroquois des Cinq Nations, 1751. The last passage given above is condensed in the rendering, as the original is extremely involved and ungrammatical.]

In his late journey he had made the entire circuit of Lake Ontario. Beyond lay four other inland oceans, to which Fort Niagara was the key. As that all-essential post controlled the passage from Ontario to Erie, so did Fort Detroit control that from Erie to Huron, and Fort Michillimackinac that from Huron to Michigan; while Fort Ste. Marie, at the outlet of Lake Superior, had lately received a garrison, and changed from a mission and trading-station to a post of war.[42] This immense extent of inland navigation was safe in the hands of France so long as she held Niagara. Niagara lost, not only the lakes, but also the Valley of the Ohio was lost with it. Next in importance was Detroit. This was not a military post alone, but also a settlement; and, except the hamlets about Fort Chartres, the only settlement that France owned in all the West. There were, it is true, but a few families; yet the hope of growth seemed good; for to such as liked a wilderness home, no spot in America had more attraction. Father Bonnecamp stopped here for a day on his way back from the expedition of Céloron. “The situation,” he says, “is charming. A fine river flows at the foot of the fortifications; vast meadows, asking only to be tilled, extend beyond the sight. Nothing can be more agreeable than the climate. Winter lasts hardly two months. European grains and fruits grow here far better than in many parts of France. It is the Touraine and Beauce of Canada.”[43] The white flag of the Bourbons floated over the compact little palisaded town, with its population of soldiers and fur-traders; and from the blockhouses which served as bastions, one saw on either hand the small solid dwellings of the habitants, ranged at intervals along the margin of the water; while at a little distance three Indian villages—Ottawa, Pottawattamie, and Wyandot—curled their wigwam smoke into the pure summer air.[44]

[Footnote 42: La Jonquière au Ministre, 24 Août, 1750.]

[Footnote 43: Relation du Voiage de la Belle Rivière, 1749.]

[Footnote 44: A plan of Detroit is before me, made about this time by the engineer Lery.]

When Céloron de Bienville returned from the Ohio, he went, with a royal commission, sent him a year before, to command at Detroit.[45] His late chaplain, the very intelligent Father Bonnecamp, speaks of him as fearless, energetic, and full of resource; but the Governor calls him haughty and insubordinate. Great efforts were made, at the same time, to build up Detroit as a centre of French power in the West. The methods employed were of the debilitating, paternal character long familiar to Canada. All emigrants with families were to be carried thither at the King’s expense; and every settler was to receive in free gift a gun, a hoe, an axe, a ploughshare, a scythe, a sickle, two augers, large and small, a sow, six hens, a cock, six pounds of powder, and twelve pounds of lead; while to these favors were added many others. The result was that twelve families were persuaded to go, or about a twentieth part of the number wanted.[46] Detroit was expected to furnish supplies to the other posts for five hundred miles around, control the neighboring Indians, thwart English machinations, and drive off English interlopers.

[Footnote 45: Le Ministre à la Jonquière et Bigot, 14 Mai, 1749. Le Ministre à Céloron, 23 Mai, 1749.]

[Footnote 46: Ordonnance du 2 Jan. 1750. La Jonquière et Bigot au Ministre, 1750. Forty-six persons of all ages and both sexes had been induced by La Galissonière to go the year before. Lettres communes de la Jonquière et Bigot, 1749. The total fixed population of Detroit and its neighborhood in 1750 is stated at four hundred and eighty-three souls. In the following two years, a considerable number of young men came of their own accord, and Céloron wrote to Montreal to ask for girls to marry them.]

La Galissonière no longer governed Canada. He had been honorably recalled, and the Marquis de la Jonquière sent in his stead.[47] La Jonquière, like his predecessor, was a naval officer of high repute; he was tall and imposing in person, and of undoubted capacity and courage; but old and, according to his enemies, very avaricious.[48] The Colonial Minister gave him special instructions regarding that thorn in the side of Canada, Oswego. To attack it openly would be indiscreet, as the two nations were at peace; but there was a way of dealing with it less hazardous, if not more lawful. This was to attack it vicariously by means of the Iroquois. “If Abbé Piquet succeeds in his mission,” wrote the Minister to the new Governor, “we can easily persuade these savages to destroy Oswego. This is of the utmost importance; but act with great caution.”[49] In the next year the Minister wrote again: “The only means that can be used for such an operation in time of peace are those of the Iroquois. If by making these savages regard such an establishment [Oswego] as opposed to their liberty, and, so to speak, a usurpation by which the English mean to get possession of their lands, they could be induced to undertake its destruction, an operation of the sort is not to be neglected; but M. le Marquis de la Jonquière should feel with what circumspection such an affair should be conducted, and he should labor to accomplish it in a manner not to commit himself.”[50] To this La Jonquière replies that it will need time; but that he will gradually bring the Iroquois to attack and destroy the English post. He received stringent orders to use every means to prevent the English from encroaching, but to act towards them at the same time “with the greatest politeness.”[51] This last injunction was scarcely fulfilled in a correspondence which he had with Clinton, governor of New York, who had written to complain of the new post at the Niagara portage as an invasion of English territory, and also of the arrest of four English traders in the country of the Miamis. Niagara, like Oswego, was in the country of the Five Nations, whom the treaty of Utrecht declared “subject to the dominion of Great Britain.”[52] This declaration, preposterous in itself, was binding on France, whose plenipotentiaries had signed the treaty. The treaty also provided that the subjects of the two Crowns “shall enjoy full liberty of going and coming on account of trade,” and Clinton therefore demanded that La Jonquière should disavow the arrest of the four traders and punish its authors. The French Governor replied with great asperity, spurned the claim that the Five Nations were British subjects, and justified the arrest.[53] He presently went further. Rewards were offered by his officers for the scalps of Croghan and of another trader named Lowry.[54] When this reached the ears of William Johnson, on the Mohawk, he wrote to Clinton in evident anxiety for his own scalp: “If the French go on so, there is no man can be safe in his own house; for I can at any time get an Indian to kill any man for a small matter. Their going on in that manner is worse than open war.”

[Footnote 47: Le Ministre à la Galissonière, 14 Mai, 1749.]

[Footnote 48: Mémoires sur le Canada, 1749-1760. The charges made here and elsewhere are denied, somewhat faintly, by a descendant of La Jonquière in his elaborate Notice biographique of his ancestor.]

[Footnote 49: Le Ministre à La Jonquière, Mai, 1749. The instructions given to La Jonquière before leaving France also urge the necessity of destroying Oswego.]

[Footnote 50: Ordres du Roy et Dépêches des Ministres; à MM. de la Jonquière et Bigot, 15 Avril, 1750. See Appendix A. for original.]

[Footnote 51: Ordres du Roy et Dépêches des Ministres, 1750.]

[Footnote 52: Chalmers, Collection of Treaties, I. 382.]

[Footnote 53: La Jonquière à Clinton, 10 Août, 1751.]

[Footnote 54: Deposition of Morris Turner and Ralph Kilgore, in Colonial Records of Pa., V. 482. The deponents had been prisoners at Detroit.]

The French on their side made counter-accusations. The captive traders were examined on oath before La Jonquière, and one of them, John Patton, is reported to have said that Croghan had instigated Indians to kill Frenchmen.[55] French officials declared that other English traders were guilty of the same practices; and there is very little doubt that the charge was true.

[Footnote 55: Précis des Faits, avec leurs Pièces justificatives, 100.]

The dispute with the English was not the only source of trouble to the Governor. His superiors at Versailles would not adopt his views, and looked on him with distrust. He advised the building of forts near Lake Erie, and his advice was rejected. “Niagara and Detroit,” he was told, “will secure forever our communications with Louisiana.”[56] “His Majesty,” again wrote the Colonial Minister, “thought that expenses would diminish after the peace; but, on the contrary, they have increased. There must be great abuses. You and the Intendant must look to it.”[57] Great abuses there were; and of the money sent to Canada for the service of the King the larger part found its way into the pockets of peculators. The colony was eaten to the heart with official corruption; and the centre of it was François Bigot, the intendant. The Minister directed La Jonquière’s attention to certain malpractices which had been reported to him; and the old man, deeply touched, replied: “I have reached the age of sixty-six years, and there is not a drop of blood in my veins that does not thrill for the service of my King. I will not conceal from you that the slightest suspicion on your part against me would cut the thread of my days.”[58]

[Footnote 56: Ordres du Roy et Dépêches des Ministres, 1750.]

[Footnote 57: Ibid., 6 Juin, 1751.]

[Footnote 58: La Jonquière au Ministre, 19 Oct. 1751.]

Perplexities increased; affairs in the West grew worse and worse. La Jonquière ordered Céloron to attack the English at Pickawillany; and Céloron could not or would not obey. “I cannot express,” writes the Governor, “how much this business troubles me; it robs me of sleep; it makes me ill.” Another letter of rebuke presently came from Versailles. “Last year you wrote that you would soon drive the English from the Ohio; but private letters say that you have done nothing. This is deplorable. If not expelled, they will seem to acquire a right against us. Send force enough at once to drive them off, and cure them of all wish to return.”[59] La Jonquière answered with bitter complaints against Céloron, and then begged to be recalled. His health, already shattered, was ruined by fatigue and vexation; and he took to his bed. Before spring he was near his end.[60] It is said that, though very rich, his habits of thrift so possessed his last hours that, seeing wax-candles burning in his chamber, he ordered others of tallow to be brought instead, as being good enough to die by. Thus frugally lighted on its way, his spirit fled; and the Baron de Longueuil took his place till a new governor should arrive.

[Footnote 59: Ordres du Roy et Dépêches des Ministres, 1751.]

[Footnote 60: He died on the sixth of March, 1752 (Bigot au Ministre, 6 Mai); not on the seventeeth of May, as stated in the Mémoires sur le Canada, 1749-1760.]

Sinister tidings came thick from the West. Raymond, commandant at the French fort on the Maumee, close to the centre of intrigue, wrote: “My people are leaving me for Detroit. Nobody wants to stay here and have his throat cut. All the tribes who go to the English at Pickawillany come back loaded with gifts. I am too weak to meet the danger. Instead of twenty men, I need five hundred.... We have made peace with the English, yet they try continually to make war on us by means of the Indians; they intend to be masters of all this upper country. The tribes here are leaguing together to kill all the French, that they may have nobody on their lands but their English brothers. This I am told by Coldfoot, a great Miami chief, whom I think an honest man, if there is any such thing among Indians.... If the English stay in this country we are lost. We must attack, and drive them out.” And he tells of war-belts sent from tribe to tribe, and rumors of plots and conspiracies far and near.

Without doubt, the English traders spared no pains to gain over the Indians by fair means or foul; sold them goods at low rates, made ample gifts, and gave gunpowder for the asking. Saint-Ange, who commanded at Vincennes, wrote that a storm would soon burst on the heads of the French. Joncaire reported that all the Ohio Indians sided with the English. Longueuil informed the Minister that the Miamis had scalped two soldiers; that the Piankishaws had killed seven Frenchmen; and that a squaw who had lived with one of the slain declared that the tribes of the Wabash and Illinois were leaguing with the Osages for a combined insurrection. Every letter brought news of murder. Small-pox had broken out at Detroit. “It is to be wished,” says Longueuil, “that it would spread among our rebels; it would be fully as good as an army.... We are menaced with a general outbreak, and even Toronto is in danger.... Before long the English on the Miami will gain over all the surrounding tribes, get possession of Fort Chartres, and cut our communications with Louisiana.”[61]

[Footnote 61: Dépêches de Longueuil; Lettres de Raymond; Benoit de Saint-Clere à la Jonquière, Oct. 1751.]

The moving spirit of disaffection was the chief called Old Britain, or the Demoiselle, and its focus was his town of Pickawillany, on the Miami. At this place it is said that English traders sometimes mustered to the number of fifty or more. “It is they,” wrote Longueuil, “who are the instigators of revolt and the source of all our woes.”[62] Whereupon the Colonial Minister reiterated his instructions to drive them off and plunder them, which he thought would “effectually disgust them,” and bring all trouble to an end.[63]

[Footnote 62: Longueuil au Ministre, 21 Avril, 1752.]

[Footnote 63: Le Ministre à la Jonquière, 1752. Le Ministre à Duquesne, 9 Juillet, 1752.]

La Jonquière’s remedy had been more heroic, for he had ordered Céleron to attack the English and their red allies alike; and he charged that officer with arrogance and disobedience because he had not done so. It is not certain that obedience was easy; for though, besides the garrison of regulars, a strong body of militia was sent up to Detroit to aid the stroke,[64] the Indians of that post, whose co-operation was thought necessary, proved half-hearted, intractable, and even touched with disaffection. Thus the enterprise languished till, in June, aid came from another quarter. Charles Langlade, a young French trader married to a squaw at Green Bay, and strong in influence with the tribes of that region, came down the lakes from Michillimackinac with a fleet of canoes manned by two hundred and fifty Ottawa and Ojibwa warriors; stopped a while at Detroit; then embarked again, paddled up the Maumee to Raymond’s fort at the portage, and led his greased and painted rabble through the forest to attack the Demoiselle and his English friends. They approached Pickawillany at about nine o’clock on the morning of the twenty-first. The scared squaws fled from the cornfields into the town, where the wigwams of the Indians clustered about the fortified warehouse of the traders. Of these there were at the time only eight in the place. Most of the Indians also were gone on their summer hunt, though the Demoiselle remained with a band of his tribesmen. Great was the screeching of war-whoops and clatter of guns. Three of the traders were caught outside the fort. The remaining five closed the gate, and stood on their defence. The fight was soon over. Fourteen Miamis were shot down, the Demoiselle among the rest. The five white men held out till the afternoon, when three of them surrendered, and two, Thomas Burney and Andrew McBryer, made their escape. One of the English prisoners being wounded, the victors stabbed him to death. Seventy years of missionaries had not weaned them from cannibalism, and they boiled and eat the Demoiselle.[65]

[Footnote 64: La Jonquière à Céleron, 1 Oct. 1751.]

[Footnote 65: On the attack of Pickawillany, Longueuil au Ministre, 18 Août, 1752; Duquesne au Ministre, 25 Oct. 1752; Colonial Records of Pa., V. 599; Journal of William Trent, 1752. Trent was on the spot a few days after the affair.]

The captive traders, plundered to the skin, were carried by Langlade to Duquesne, the new governor, who highly praised the bold leader of the enterprise, and recommended him to the Minister for such reward as befitted one of his station. “As he is not in the King’s service, and has married a squaw, I will ask for him only a pension of two hundred francs, which will flatter him infinitely.”

The Marquis Duquesne, sprung from the race of the great naval commander of that name, had arrived towards midsummer; and he began his rule by a general review of troops and militia. His lofty bearing offended the Canadians; but he compelled their respect, and, according to a writer of the time, showed from the first that he was born to command. He presently took in hand an enterprise which his predecessor would probably have accomplished, had the Home Government encouraged him. Duquesne, profiting by the infatuated neglect of the British provincial assemblies, prepared to occupy the upper waters of the Ohio, and secure the passes with forts and garrisons. Thus the Virginian and Pennsylvanian traders would be debarred all access to the West, and the tribes of that region, bereft henceforth of English guns, knives, hatchets, and blankets, English gifts and English cajoleries, would be thrown back to complete dependence on the French. The moral influence, too, of such a movement would be incalculable; for the Indian respects nothing so much as a display of vigor and daring, backed by force. In short, the intended enterprise was a master-stroke, and laid the axe to the very root of disaffection. It is true that, under the treaty, commissioners had been long in session at Paris to settle the question of American boundaries; but there was no likelihood that they would come to agreement; and if France would make good her Western claims, it behooved her, while there was yet time, to prevent her rival from fastening a firm grasp on the countries in dispute.

Yet the Colonial Minister regarded the plan with distrust. “Be on your guard,” he wrote to Duquesne, “against new undertakings; private interests are generally at the bottom of them. It is through these that new posts are established. Keep only such as are indispensable, and suppress the others. The expenses of the colony are enormous; and they have doubled since the peace.” Again, a little later: “Build on the Ohio such forts as are absolutely necessary, but no more. Remember that His Majesty suspects your advisers of interested views.”[66]

[Footnote 66: Ordres du Roy et Dépêches des Ministres, 1753.]

No doubt there was justice in the suspicion. Every military movement, and above all the establishment of every new post, was an opportunity to the official thieves with whom the colony swarmed. Some band of favored knaves grew rich; while a much greater number, excluded from sharing the illicit profits, clamored against the undertaking, and wrote charges of corruption to Versailles. Thus the Minister was kept tolerably well informed; but was scarcely the less helpless, for with the Atlantic between, the disorders of Canada defied his control. Duquesne was exasperated by the opposition that met him on all hands, and wrote to the Minister: “There are so many rascals in this country that one is forever the butt of their attacks.”[67]

[Footnote 67: Duquesne au Ministre, 29 Sept. 1754.]

It seems that unlawful gain was not the only secret spring of the movement. An officer of repute says that the Intendant, Bigot, enterprising in his pleasures as in his greed, was engaged in an intrigue with the wife of Chevalier Péan; and wishing at once to console the husband and to get rid of him, sought for him a high command at a distance from the colony. Therefore while Marin, an able officer, was made first in rank, Péan was made second. The same writer hints that Duquesne himself was influenced by similar motives in his appointment of leaders.[68]

[Footnote 68: Pouchot, Mémoire sur la dernière Guerre de l’Amérique septentrionale (ed. 1781), I. 8.]

He mustered the colony troops, and ordered out the Canadians. With the former he was but half satisfied; with the latter he was delighted; and he praises highly their obedience and alacrity. “I had not the least trouble in getting them to march. They came on the minute, bringing their own guns, though many people tried to excite them to revolt; for the whole colony opposes my operations.” The expedition set out early in the spring of 1753. The whole force was not much above a thousand men, increased by subsequent detachments to fifteen hundred; but to the Indians it seemed a mighty host; and one of their orators declared that the lakes and rivers were covered with boats and soldiers from Montreal to Presquisle.[69] Some Mohawk hunters by the St. Lawrence saw them as they passed, and hastened home to tell the news to Johnson, whom they wakened at midnight, “whooping and hollowing in a frightful manner.”[70] Lieutenant Holland at Oswego saw a fleet of canoes upon the lake, and was told by a roving Frenchman that they belonged to an army of six thousand men going to the Ohio, “to cause all the English to quit those parts.”[71]

[Footnote 69: Duquesne au Ministre, 27 Oct. 1753.]

[Footnote 70: Johnson to Clinton, 20 April, 1753, in N.Y. Col. Docs., VI. 778.]

[Footnote 71: Holland to Clinton, 15 May, 1753, in N.Y. Col. Docs., VI. 780.]

The main body of the expedition landed at Presquisle, on the southeastern shore of Lake Erie, where the town of Erie now stands; and here for a while we leave them.


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Chicago: Francis Parkman, "Chapter 3," Montcalm and Wolfe Original Sources, accessed September 30, 2023,

MLA: Parkman, Francis. "Chapter 3." Montcalm and Wolfe, Vol. 6, Original Sources. 30 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: Parkman, F 1884, 'Chapter 3' in Montcalm and Wolfe. Original Sources, retrieved 30 September 2023, from