A Half Century of Conflict - Volume I - France and England in North America
by Francis Parkman
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Copyright, 1892, By Francis Parkman.

Copyright, 1897, By Little, Brown, and Company.

University Press: John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, U.S.A.


This book, forming Part VI. of the series called France and England in North America, fills the gap between Part V., "Count Frontenac," and Part VII., "Montcalm and Wolfe;" so that the series now forms a continuous history of the efforts of France to occupy and control this continent.

In the present volumes the nature of the subject does not permit an unbroken thread of narrative, and the unity of the book lies in its being throughout, in one form or another, an illustration of the singularly contrasted characters and methods of the rival claimants to North America.

Like the rest of the series, this work is founded on original documents. The statements of secondary writers have been accepted only when found to conform to the evidence of contemporaries, whose writings have been sifted and collated with the greatest care. As extremists on each side have charged me with favoring the other, I hope I have been unfair to neither.

The manuscript material collected for the preparation of the series now complete forms about seventy volumes, most of them folios. These have been given by me from time to time to the Massachusetts Historical Society, in whose library they now are, open to the examination of those interested in the subjects of which they treat. The collection was begun forty-five years ago, and its formation has been exceedingly slow, having been retarded by difficulties which seemed insurmountable, and for years were so in fact. Hence the completion of the series has required twice the time that would have sufficed under less unfavorable conditions.

Boston, March 26, 1892.






The Spanish Succession.—Influence of Louis XIV. on History.—French Schemes of Conquest in America.—New York.—Unfitness of the Colonies for War.—The Five Nations.—Doubt and Vacillation.—The Western Indians.—Trade and Politics 3




Michilimackinac.—La Mothe-Cadillac: his Disputes with the Jesuits.—Opposing Views.—Plans of Cadillac: his Memorial to the Court; his Opponents.—Detroit founded.—The New Company.—Detroit changes Hands.—Strange Act of the Five Nations 17




The Forest of Maine.—A Treacherous Peace.—A Frontier Village.—Wells and its People.—Attack upon it.—Border Ravages.—Beaubassin's War-party.—The "Woful Decade."—A Wedding Feast.—A Captive Bridegroom 34




Hertel de Rouville.—A Frontier Village.—Rev. John Williams.—The Surprise.—Defence of the Stebbins House.—Attempted Rescue.—The Meadow Fight.—The Captives.—The Northward March.—Mrs. Williams killed.—The Minister's Journey.—Kindness of Canadians.—A Stubborn Heretic.—Eunice Williams.—Converted Captives.—John Sheldon's Mission.—Exchange of Prisoners.—An English Squaw.—The Gill Family 55




Border Raids.—Haverhill.—Attack and Defence.—War to the Knife.—Motives of the French.—Proposed Neutrality.—Joseph Dudley.—Town and Country 94




The Fishery Question.—Privateers and Pirates.—Port Royal.—Official Gossip.—Abuse of Brouillan.—Complaints of De Goutin.—Subercase and his Officers.—Church and State.—Paternal Government 110




Reprisal for Deerfield.—Major Benjamin Church: his Ravages at Grand-Pre.—Port Royal Expedition.—Futile Proceedings.—A Discreditable Affair.—French Successes in Newfoundland.—Schemes of Samuel Vetch.—A Grand Enterprise.—Nicholson's Advance.—An Infected Camp.—Ministerial Promises broken.—A New Scheme.—Port Royal attacked.—Acadia conquered 120


1710, 1711.


Scheme of La Ronde Denys.—Boston warned against British Designs.—Boston to be ruined.—Plans of the Ministry.—Canada doomed.—British Troops at Boston.—The Colonists denounced.—The Fleet sails for Quebec.—Forebodings of the Admiral.—Storm and Wreck.—Timid Commanders.—Retreat.—Joyful News for Canada.—Pious Exultation.—Fanciful Stories.—Walker disgraced 156




Peace of Utrecht.—Perilous Questions.—Louisbourg founded.—Annapolis attacked.—Position of the Acadians.—Weakness of the British Garrison.—Apathy of the Ministry.—French Intrigue.—Clerical Politicians.—The Oath of Allegiance.—Acadians refuse it: their Expulsion proposed; they take the Oath 183




Boundary Disputes.—Outposts of Canada.—The Earlier and Later Jesuits.—Religion and Politics.—The Norridgewocks and their Missionary.—A Hollow Peace.—Disputed Land Claims.—Council at Georgetown.—Attitude of Rale.—Minister and Jesuit.—The Indians waver.—An Outbreak.—Covert War.—Indignation against Rale.—War declared.—Governor and Assembly.—Speech of Samuel Sewall.—Penobscots attack Fort St. George.—Reprisal.—Attack on Norridgewock.—Death of Rale 212


1724, 1725.


Vaudreuil and Dummer.—Embassy to Canada.—Indians intractable.—Treaty of Peace.—The Pequawkets.—John Lovewell.—A Hunting Party.—Another Expedition.—The Ambuscade.—The Fight.—Chaplain Frye: his Fate.—The Survivors.—Susanna Rogers 250




The West and the Fur-trade.—New York and Canada.—Indian Population.—The Firebrands of the West.—Detroit in 1712.—Dangerous Visitors.—Suspense.—Timely Succors.—The Outagamies attacked: their Desperate Position.—Overtures.—Wavering Allies.—Conduct of Dubuisson.—Escape of the Outagamies.—Pursuit and Attack.—Victory and Carnage 272




The Mississippi to be occupied.—English Rivalry.—Iberville.—Bienville.—Huguenots.—Views of Louis XIV.—Wives for the Colony.—Slaves.—La Mothe-Cadillac.—Paternal Government.—Crozat's Monopoly.—Factions.—The Mississippi Company.—New Orleans.—The Bubble bursts.—Indian Wars.—The Colony firmly established.—The two Heads of New France 298




The Western Posts.—Detroit.—The Illinois.—Perils of the West.—The Outagamies.—Their Turbulence.—English Instigation.—Louvigny's Expedition.—Defeat of Outagamies.—Hostilities renewed.—Lignery's Expedition.—Outagamies attacked by Villiers; by Hurons and Iroquois.—La Butte des Morts.—The Sacs and Foxes 326




French Explorers.—Le Sueur on the St. Peter.—Canadians on the Missouri.—Juchereau de Saint-Denis.—Benard de la Harpe on Red River.—Adventures of Du Tisne.—Bourgmont visits the Comanches.—The Brothers Mallet in Colorado and New Mexico.—Fabry de la Bruyere 346




The Spanish Succession.—Influence of Louis XIV. on History.—French Schemes of Conquest in America.—New York.—Unfitness of the Colonies for War.—The Five Nations.—Doubt and Vacillation.—The Western Indians.—Trade and Politics.

The war which in the British colonies was called Queen Anne's War, and in England the War of the Spanish Succession, was the second of a series of four conflicts which ended in giving to Great Britain a maritime and colonial preponderance over France and Spain. So far as concerns the colonies and the sea, these several wars may be regarded as a single protracted one, broken by intervals of truce. The three earlier of them, it is true, were European contests, begun and waged on European disputes. Their American part was incidental and apparently subordinate, yet it involved questions of prime importance in the history of the world.

The War of the Spanish Succession sprang from the ambition of Louis XIV. We are apt to regard the story of that gorgeous monarch as a tale that is told; but his influence shapes the life of nations to this day. At the beginning of his reign two roads lay before him, and it was a momentous question for posterity, as for his own age, which one of them he would choose,—whether he would follow the wholesome policy of his great minister Colbert, or obey his own vanity and arrogance, and plunge France into exhausting wars; whether he would hold to the principle of tolerance embodied in the Edict of Nantes, or do the work of fanaticism and priestly ambition. The one course meant prosperity, progress, and the rise of a middle class; the other meant bankruptcy and the Dragonades,—and this was the King's choice. Crushing taxation, misery, and ruin followed, till France burst out at last in a frenzy, drunk with the wild dreams of Rousseau. Then came the Terror and the Napoleonic wars, and reaction on reaction, revolution on revolution, down to our own day.

Louis placed his grandson on the throne of Spain, and insulted England by acknowledging as her rightful King the son of James II., whom she had deposed. Then England declared war. Canada and the northern British colonies had had but a short breathing time since the Peace of Ryswick; both were tired of slaughtering each other, and both needed rest. Yet before the declaration of war, the Canadian officers of the Crown prepared, with their usual energy, to meet the expected crisis. One of them wrote: "If war be declared, it is certain that the King can very easily conquer and ruin New England." The French of Canada often use the name "New England" as applying to the British colonies in general. They are twice as populous as Canada, he goes on to say; but the people are great cowards, totally undisciplined, and ignorant of war, while the Canadians are brave, hardy, and well trained. We have, besides, twenty-eight companies of regulars, and could raise six thousand warriors from our Indian allies. Four thousand men could easily lay waste all the northern English colonies, to which end we must have five ships of war, with one thousand troops on board, who must land at Penobscot, where they must be joined by two thousand regulars, militia, and Indians, sent from Canada by way of the Chaudiere and the Kennebec. Then the whole force must go to Portsmouth, take it by assault, leave a garrison there, and march to Boston, laying waste all the towns and villages by the way; after destroying Boston, the army must march for New York, while the fleet follows along the coast. "Nothing could be easier," says the writer, "for the road is good, and there is plenty of horses and carriages. The troops would ruin everything as they advanced, and New York would quickly be destroyed and burned."[1]

Another plan, scarcely less absurd, was proposed about the same time by the celebrated Le Moyne d'Iberville. The essential point, he says, is to get possession of Boston; but there are difficulties and risks in the way. Nothing, he adds, referring to the other plan, seems difficult to persons without experience; but unless we are prepared to raise a great and costly armament, our only hope is in surprise. We should make it in winter, when the seafaring population, which is the chief strength of the place, is absent on long voyages. A thousand Canadians, four hundred regulars, and as many Indians should leave Quebec in November, ascend the Chaudiere, then descend the Kennebec, approach Boston under cover of the forest, and carry it by a night attack. Apparently he did not know that but for its lean neck—then but a few yards wide—Boston was an island, and that all around for many leagues the forest that was to have covered his approach had already been devoured by numerous busy settlements. He offers to lead the expedition, and declares that if he is honored with the command, he will warrant that the New England capital will be forced to submit to King Louis, after which New York can be seized in its turn.[2]

In contrast to those incisive proposals, another French officer breathed nothing but peace. Brouillan, governor of Acadia, wrote to the governor of Massachusetts to suggest that, with the consent of their masters, they should make a treaty of neutrality. The English governor being dead, the letter came before the council, who received it coldly. Canada, and not Acadia, was the enemy they had to fear. Moreover, Boston merchants made good profit by supplying the Acadians with necessaries which they could get in no other way; and in time of war these profits, though lawless, were greater than in time of peace. But what chiefly influenced the council against the overtures of Brouillan was a passage in his letter reminding them that, by the Treaty of Ryswick, the New England people had no right to fish within sight of the Acadian coast. This they flatly denied, saying that the New England people had fished there time out of mind, and that if Brouillan should molest them, they would treat it as an act of war.[3]

While the New England colonies, and especially Massachusetts and New Hampshire, had most cause to deprecate a war, the prospect of one was also extremely unwelcome to the people of New York. The conflict lately closed had borne hard upon them through the attacks of the enemy, and still more through the derangement of their industries. They were distracted, too, with the factions rising out of the recent revolution under Jacob Leisler. New York had been the bulwark of the colonies farther south, who, feeling themselves safe, had given their protector little help, and that little grudgingly, seeming to regard the war as no concern of theirs. Three thousand and fifty-one pounds, provincial currency, was the joint contribution of Virginia, Maryland, East Jersey, and Connecticut to the aid of New York during five years of the late war.[4] Massachusetts could give nothing, even if she would, her hands being full with the defence of her own borders. Colonel Quary wrote to the Board of Trade that New York could not bear alone the cost of defending herself; that the other colonies were "stuffed with commonwealth notions," and were "of a sour temper in opposition to government," so that Parliament ought to take them in hand and compel each to do its part in the common cause.[5] To this Lord Cornbury adds that Rhode Island and Connecticut are even more stubborn than the rest, hate all true subjects of the Queen, and will not give a farthing to the war so long as they can help it.[6] Each province lived in selfish isolation, recking little of its neighbor's woes.

New York, left to fight her own battles, was in a wretched condition for defence. It is true that, unlike the other colonies, the King had sent her a few soldiers, counting at this time about one hundred and eighty, all told;[7] but they had been left so long without pay that they were in a state of scandalous destitution. They would have been left without rations had not three private gentlemen—Schuyler, Livingston, and Cortlandt—advanced money for their supplies, which seems never to have been repaid.[8] They are reported to have been "without shirts, breeches, shoes, or stockings," and "in such a shameful condition that the women when passing them are obliged to cover their eyes." "The Indians ask," says the governor, "'Do you think us such fools as to believe that a king who cannot clothe his soldiers can protect us from the French, with their fourteen hundred men all well equipped?'"[9]

The forts were no better than their garrisons. The governor complains that those of Albany and Schenectady "are so weak and ridiculous that they look more like pounds for cattle than forts." At Albany the rotten stockades were falling from their own weight.

If New York had cause to complain of those whom she sheltered, she herself gave cause of complaint to those who sheltered her. The Five Nations of the Iroquois had always been her allies against the French, had guarded her borders and fought her battles. What they wanted in return were gifts, attentions, just dealings, and active aid in war; but they got them in scant measure. Their treatment by the province was short-sighted, if not ungrateful. New York was a mixture of races and religions not yet fused into a harmonious body politic, divided in interests and torn with intestine disputes. Its Assembly was made up in large part of men unfitted to pursue a consistent scheme of policy, or spend the little money at their disposal on any objects but those of present and visible interest. The royal governors, even when personally competent, were hampered by want of means and by factious opposition. The Five Nations were robbed by land-speculators, cheated by traders, and feebly supported in their constant wars with the French. Spasmodically, as it were, on occasions of crisis, they were summoned to Albany, soothed with such presents as could be got from unwilling legislators, or now and then from the Crown, and exhorted to fight vigorously in the common cause. The case would have been far worse but for a few patriotic men, with Peter Schuyler at their head, who understood the character of these Indians, and labored strenuously to keep them in what was called their allegiance.

The proud and fierce confederates had suffered greatly in the late war. Their numbers had been reduced about one half, and they now counted little more than twelve hundred warriors. They had learned a bitter and humiliating lesson, and their arrogance had changed to distrust and alarm. Though hating the French, they had learned to respect their military activity and prowess, and to look askance on the Dutch and English, who rarely struck a blow in their defence, and suffered their hereditary enemy to waste their fields and burn their towns. The English called the Five Nations British subjects, on which the French taunted them with being British slaves, and told them that the King of England had ordered the governor of New York to poison them. This invention had great effect. The Iroquois capital, Onondaga, was filled with wild rumors. The credulous savages were tossed among doubts, suspicions, and fears. Some were in terror of poison, and some of witchcraft. They believed that the rival European nations had leagued to destroy them and divide their lands, and that they were bewitched by sorcerers, both French and English.[10]

After the Peace of Ryswick, and even before it, the French governor kept agents among them. Some of these were soldiers, like Joncaire, Maricourt, or Longueuil, and some were Jesuits, like Bruyas, Lamberville, or Vaillant. The Jesuits showed their usual ability and skill in their difficult and perilous task. The Indians derived various advantages from their presence, which they regarded also as a flattering attention; while the English, jealous of their influence, made feeble attempts to counteract it by sending Protestant clergymen to Onondaga. "But," writes Lord Bellomont, "it is next to impossible to prevail with the ministers to live among the Indians. They [the Indians] are so nasty as never to wash their hands, or the utensils they dress their victuals with."[11] Even had their zeal been proof to these afflictions, the ministers would have been no match for their astute opponents. In vain Bellomont assured the Indians that the Jesuits were "the greatest lyars and impostors in the world."[12] In vain he offered a hundred dollars for every one of them whom they should deliver into his hands. They would promise to expel them; but their minds were divided, and they stood in fear of one another. While one party distrusted and disliked the priests, another was begging the governor of Canada to send more. Others took a practical view of the question. "If the English sell goods cheaper than the French, we will have ministers; if the French sell them cheaper than the English, we will have priests." Others, again, wanted neither Jesuits nor ministers, "because both of you [English and French] have made us drunk with the noise of your praying."[13]

The aims of the propagandists on both sides were secular. The French wished to keep the Five Nations neutral in the event of another war; the English wished to spur them to active hostility; but while the former pursued their purpose with energy and skill, the efforts of the latter were intermittent and generally feeble.

"The Nations," writes Schuyler, "are full of factions." There was a French party and an English party in every town, especially in Onondaga, the centre of intrigue. French influence was strongest at the western end of the confederacy, among the Senecas, where the French officer Joncaire, an Iroquois by adoption, had won many to France; and it was weakest at the eastern end, among the Mohawks, who were nearest to the English settlements. Here the Jesuits had labored long and strenuously in the work of conversion, and from time to time they had led their numerous proselytes to remove to Canada, where they settled at St. Louis, or Caughnawaga, on the right bank of the St. Lawrence, a little above Montreal, where their descendants still remain. It is said that at the beginning of the eighteenth century two-thirds of the Mohawks had thus been persuaded to cast their lot with the French, and from enemies to become friends and allies. Some of the Oneidas and a few of the other Iroquois nations joined them and strengthened the new mission settlement; and the Caughnawagas afterwards played an important part between the rival European colonies.

The "Far Indians," or "Upper Nations," as the French called them, consisted of the tribes of the Great Lakes and adjacent regions, Ottawas, Pottawattamies, Sacs, Foxes, Sioux, and many more. It was from these that Canada drew the furs by which she lived. Most of them were nominal friends and allies of the French, who in the interest of trade strove to keep these wild-cats from tearing one another's throats, and who were in constant alarm lest they should again come to blows with their old enemies, the Five Nations, in which case they would call on Canada for help, thus imperilling those pacific relations with the Iroquois confederacy which the French were laboring constantly to secure.

In regard to the "Far Indians," the French, the English, and the Five Iroquois Nations all had distinct and opposing interests. The French wished to engross their furs, either by inducing the Indians to bring them down to Montreal, or by sending traders into their country to buy them. The English, with a similar object, wished to divert the "Far Indians" from Montreal and draw them to Albany; but this did not suit the purpose of the Five Nations, who, being sharp politicians and keen traders, as well as bold and enterprising warriors, wished to act as middle-men between the beaver-hunting tribes and the Albany merchants, well knowing that good profit might thus accrue. In this state of affairs the converted Iroquois settled at Caughnawaga played a peculiar part. In the province of New York, goods for the Indian trade were of excellent quality and comparatively abundant and cheap; while among the French, especially in time of war, they were often scarce and dear. The Caughnawagas accordingly, whom neither the English nor the French dared offend, used their position to carry on a contraband trade between New York and Canada. By way of Lake Champlain and the Hudson they brought to Albany furs from the country of the "Far Indians," and exchanged them for guns, blankets, cloths, knives, beads, and the like. These they carried to Canada and sold to the French traders, who in this way, and often in this alone, supplied themselves with the goods necessary for bartering furs from the "Far Indians." This lawless trade of the Caughnawagas went on even in time of war; and opposed as it was to every principle of Canadian policy, it was generally connived at by the French authorities as the only means of obtaining the goods necessary for keeping their Indian allies in good humor.

It was injurious to English interests; but the fur-traders of Albany and also the commissioners charged with Indian affairs, being Dutchmen converted by force into British subjects, were, with a few eminent exceptions, cool in their devotion to the British Crown; while the merchants of the port of New York, from whom the fur-traders drew their supplies, thought more of their own profits than of the public good. The trade with Canada through the Caughnawagas not only gave aid and comfort to the enemy, but continually admitted spies into the colony, from whom the governor of Canada gained information touching English movements and designs.

The Dutch traders of Albany and the importing merchants who supplied them with Indian goods had a strong interest in preventing active hostilities with Canada, which would have spoiled their trade. So, too, and for similar reasons, had influential persons in Canada. The French authorities, moreover, thought it impolitic to harass the frontiers of New York by war parties, since the Five Nations might come to the aid of their Dutch and English allies, and so break the peaceful relations which the French were anxious to maintain with them. Thus it happened that, during the first six or seven years of the eighteenth century, there was a virtual truce between Canada and New York, and the whole burden of the war fell upon New England, or rather upon Massachusetts, with its outlying district of Maine and its small and weak neighbor, New Hampshire.[14]


[1] Premier Projet pour L'Expedition contre la Nouvelle Angleterre, 1701. Second Projet, etc. Compare N. Y. Col. Docs., ix. 725.

[2] Memoire du Sieur d'Iberville sur Boston et ses Dependances, 1700 (1701?). Baron de Saint-Castin also drew up a plan for attacking Boston in 1702 with lists of necessary munitions and other supplies.

[3] Brouillan a Bellomont, 10 Aout, 1701. Conseil de Baston a Brouillan, 22 Aout, 1701. Brouillan acted under royal orders, having been told, in case of war being declared, to propose a treaty with New England, unless he should find that he can "se garantir des insultes des Anglais" and do considerable harm to their trade, in which case he is to make no treaty. Memoire du Roy au Sieur de Brouillan, 23 Mars, 1700.

[4] Schuyler, Colonial New York, i. 431, 432.

[5] Colonel Quary to the Lords of Trade, 16 June, 1703.

[6] Cornbury to the Lords of Trade, 9 September, 1703.

[7] Bellomont to the Lords of Trade, 28 February, 1700.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Schuyler, Colonial New York, i. 488.

[10] N. Y. Col. Docs., iv. 658.

[11] Bellomont to the Lords of Trade, 17 October, 1700.

[12] Conference of Bellomont with the Indians, 26 August, 1700.

[13] Journal of Bleeker and Schuyler on their visit to Onondaga, August, September, 1701.

[14] The foregoing chapter rests on numerous documents in the Public Record Office, Archives de la Marine, Archives Nationales, N. Y. Colonial Documents, vols. iv. v. ix., and the Second and Third Series of the Correspondance Officielle at Ottawa.




Michilimackinac.—La Mothe-Cadillac: his Disputes with the Jesuits.—Opposing Views.—Plans of Cadillac: his Memorial to the Court; his Opponents.—Detroit founded. The New Company.—Detroit changes Hands.—Strange Act of the Five Nations.

In the few years of doubtful peace that preceded Queen Anne's War, an enterprise was begun, which, nowise in accord with the wishes and expectations of those engaged in it, was destined to produce as its last result an American city.

Antoine de La Mothe-Cadillac commanded at Michilimackinac, whither Frontenac had sent him in 1694. This old mission of the Jesuits, where they had gathered the remnants of the lake tribes dispersed by the Iroquois at the middle of the seventeenth century, now savored little of its apostolic beginnings. It was the centre of the western fur-trade and the favorite haunt of the coureurs de bois. Brandy and squaws abounded, and according to the Jesuit Carheil, the spot where Marquette had labored was now a witness of scenes the most unedifying.[15]

At Michilimackinac was seen a curious survival of Huron-Iroquois customs. The villages of the Hurons and Ottawas, which were side by side, separated only by a fence, were surrounded by a common enclosure of triple palisades, which, with the addition of loopholes for musketry, were precisely like those seen by Cartier at Hochelaga, and by Champlain in the Onondaga country. The dwellings which these defences enclosed were also after the old Huron-Iroquois pattern,—those long arched structures covered with bark which Brebeuf found by the shores of Matchedash Bay, and Jogues on the banks of the Mohawk. Besides the Indians, there was a French colony at the place, chiefly of fur-traders, lodged in log-cabins, roofed with cedar bark, and forming a street along the shore close to the palisaded villages of the Hurons and Ottawas. The fort, known as Fort Buade, stood at the head of the little bay.[16]

The Hurons and Ottawas were thorough savages, though the Hurons retained the forms of Roman Catholic Christianity. This tribe, writes Cadillac, "are reduced to a very small number; and it is well for us that they are, for they are ill-disposed and mischievous, with a turn for intrigue and a capacity for large undertakings. Luckily, their power is not great; but as they cannot play the lion, they play the fox, and do their best to make trouble between us and our allies."

La Mothe-Cadillac[17] was a captain in the colony troops, and an admirer of the late governor, Frontenac, to whose policy he adhered, and whose prejudices he shared. He was amply gifted with the kind of intelligence that consists in quick observation, sharpened by an inveterate spirit of sarcasm, was energetic, enterprising, well instructed, and a bold and sometimes a visionary schemer, with a restless spirit, a nimble and biting wit, a Gascon impetuosity of temperament, and as much devotion as an officer of the King was forced to profess, coupled with small love of priests and an aversion to Jesuits.[18] Carheil and Marest, missionaries of that order at Michilimackinac, were objects of his especial antipathy, which they fully returned. The two priests were impatient of a military commandant to whose authority they were in some small measure subjected; and they imputed to him the disorders which he did not, and perhaps could not, prevent. They were opposed also to the traffic in brandy, which was favored by Cadillac on the usual ground that it attracted the Indians, and so prevented the English from getting control of the fur-trade,—an argument which he reinforced by sanitary considerations based on the supposed unwholesomeness of the fish and smoked meat which formed the chief diet of Michilimackinac. "A little brandy after the meal," he says, with the solemnity of the learned Purgon, "seems necessary to cook the bilious meats and the crudities they leave in the stomach."[19]

Cadillac calls Carheil, superior of the mission, the most passionate and domineering man he ever knew, and further declares that the Jesuit tried to provoke him to acts of violence, in order to make matter of accusation against him. If this was Carheil's aim, he was near succeeding. Once, in a dispute with the commandant on the brandy-trade, he upbraided him sharply for permitting it; to which Cadillac replied that he only obeyed the orders of the court. The Jesuit rejoined that he ought to obey God, and not man,—"on which," says the commandant, "I told him that his talk smelt of sedition a hundred yards off, and begged that he would amend it. He told me that I gave myself airs that did not belong to me, holding his fist before my nose at the same time. I confess I almost forgot that he was a priest, and felt for a moment like knocking his jaw out of joint; but, thank God, I contented myself with taking him by the arm, pushing him out, and ordering him not to come back."[20]

Such being the relations of the commandant and the Father Superior, it is not surprising to find the one complaining that he cannot get absolved from his sins, and the other painting the morals and manners of Michilimackinac in the blackest colors.

I have spoken elsewhere of the two opposing policies that divided Canada,—the policies of concentration and of expansion, on the one hand leaving the west to the keeping of the Jesuits, and confining the population to the borders of the St. Lawrence; on the other, the occupation of the interior of the continent by posts of war and trade.[21] Through the force of events the latter view had prevailed; yet while the military chiefs of Canada could not but favor it, the Jesuits were unwilling to accept it, and various interests in the colony still opposed it openly or secretly. Frontenac had been its strongest champion, and Cadillac followed in his steps. It seemed to him that the time had come for securing the west for France.

The strait—detroit—which connects Lake Huron with Lake Erie was the most important of all the western passes. It was the key of the three upper lakes, with the vast countries watered by their tributaries, and it gave Canada her readiest access to the valley of the Mississippi. If the French held it, the English would be shut out from the northwest; if, as seemed likely, the English should seize it, the Canadian fur-trade would be ruined.[22] The possession of it by the French would be a constant curb and menace to the Five Nations, as well as a barrier between those still formidable tribes and the western Indians, allies of Canada; and when the intended French establishment at the mouth of the Mississippi should be made, Detroit would be an indispensable link of communication between Canada and Louisiana.

Denonville had recognized the importance of the position, and it was by his orders that Greysolon Du Lhut, in 1686, had occupied it for a time, and built a picket fort near the site of Fort Gratiot.[23]

It would be idle to imagine that the motives of Cadillac were wholly patriotic. Fur-trading interests were deeply involved in his plans, and bitter opposition was certain. The fur-trade, in its nature, was a constant breeder of discord. The people of Montreal would have the tribes come down every summer from the west and northwest and hold a fair under the palisades of their town. It is said that more than four hundred French families lived wholly or in part by this home trade, and therefore regarded with deep jealousy the establishment of interior posts, which would forestall it. Again, every new western post would draw away trade from those already established, and every trading license granted to a company or an individual would rouse the animosity of those who had been licensed before. The prosperity of Detroit would be the ruin of Michilimackinac, and those whose interests centred at the latter post angrily opposed the scheme of Cadillac.

He laid his plans before Count de Maurepas by a characteristic memorial, apparently written in 1699. In this he proposed to gather all the tribes of the lakes at Detroit, civilize them and teach them French, "insomuch that from pagans they would become children of the Church, and therefore good subjects of the King." They will form, he continues, a considerable settlement, "strong enough to bring the English and the Iroquois to reason, or, with help from Montreal, to destroy both of them." Detroit, he adds, should be the seat of trade, which should not be permitted in the countries beyond it. By this regulation the intolerable glut of beaver-skins, which spoils the market, may be prevented. This proposed restriction of the beaver-trade to Detroit was enough in itself to raise a tempest against the whole scheme. "Cadillac well knows that he has enemies," pursues the memorial, "but he keeps on his way without turning or stopping for the noise of the puppies who bark after him."[24]

Among the essential features of his plan was a well-garrisoned fort, and a church, served not by Jesuits alone, but also by Recollet friars and priests of the Missions Etrangeres. The idea of this ecclesiastical partnership was odious to the Jesuits, who felt that the west was their proper field, and that only they had a right there. Another part of Cadillac's proposal pleased them no better. This was his plan of civilizing the Indians and teaching them to speak French; for it was the reproach of the Jesuit missions that they left the savage a savage still, and asked little of him but the practice of certain rites and the passive acceptance of dogmas to him incomprehensible.

"It is essential," says the memorial, "that in this matter of teaching the Indians our language the missionaries should act in good faith, and that his Majesty should have the goodness to impose his strictest orders upon them; for which there are several good reasons. The first and most stringent is that when members of religious orders or other ecclesiastics undertake anything, they never let it go. The second is that by not teaching French to the Indians they make themselves necessary [as interpreters] to the King and the governor. The third is that if all Indians spoke French, all kinds of ecclesiastics would be able to instruct them. This might cause them [the Jesuits] to lose some of the presents they get; for though these Reverend Fathers come here only for the glory of God, yet the one thing does not prevent the other,"—meaning that God and Mammon may be served at once. "Nobody can deny that the priests own three quarters of Canada. From St. Paul's Bay to Quebec, there is nothing but the seigniory of Beauport that belongs to a private person. All the rest, which is the best part, belongs to the Jesuits or other ecclesiastics. The Upper Town of Quebec is composed of six or seven superb palaces belonging to Hospital Nuns, Ursulines, Jesuits, Recollets, Seminary priests, and the bishop. There may be some forty private houses, and even these pay rent to the ecclesiastics, which shows that the one thing does not prevent the other." From this it will be seen that, in the words of one of his enemies, Cadillac "was not quite in the odor of sanctity."

"One may as well knock one's head against a wall," concludes the memorial, "as hope to convert the Indians in any other way [than that of civilizing them]; for thus far all the fruits of the missions consist in the baptism of infants who die before reaching the age of reason."[25] This was not literally true, though the results of the Jesuit missions in the west had been meagre and transient to a surprising degree.

Cadillac's plan of a settlement at Detroit was not at first received with favor by Callieres, the governor; while the intendant Champigny, a fast friend of the Jesuits, strongly opposed it. By their order the chief inhabitants of Quebec met at the Chateau St. Louis,—Callieres, Champigny, and Cadillac himself being present. There was a heated debate on the beaver-trade, after which the intendant commanded silence, explained the projects of Cadillac, and proceeded to oppose them. His first point was that the natives should not be taught French, because the Indian girls brought up at the Ursuline Convent led looser lives than the young squaws who had received no instruction, while it was much the same with the boys brought up at the Seminary.

"M. de Champigny," returned the sarcastic Cadillac, "does great honor to the Ursulines and the Seminary. It is true that some Indian women who have learned our language have lived viciously; but that is because their teachers were too stiff with them, and tried to make them nuns."[26]

Champigny's position, as stated by his adversary, was that "all intimacy of the Indians with the French is dangerous and corrupting to their morals," and that their only safety lies in keeping them at a distance from the settlements. This was the view of the Jesuits, and there is much to be said in its favor; but it remains not the less true that conversion must go hand in hand with civilization, or it is a failure and a fraud.

Cadillac was not satisfied with the results of the meeting at the Chateau St. Louis, and he wrote to the minister: "You can never hope that this business will succeed if it is discussed here on the spot. Canada is a country of cabals and intrigues, and it is impossible to reconcile so many different interests."[27] He sailed for France, apparently in the autumn of 1699, to urge his scheme at court. Here he had an interview with the colonial minister, Ponchartrain, to whom he represented the military and political expediency of his proposed establishment;[28] and in a letter which seems to be addressed to La Touche, chief clerk in the Department of Marine and Colonies, he promised that the execution of his plan would insure the safety of Canada and the ruin of the British colonies.[29] He asked for fifty soldiers and fifty Canadians to begin the work, to be followed in the next year by twenty or thirty families and by two hundred picked men of various trades, sent out at the King's charge, along with priests of several communities, and nuns to attend the sick and teach the Indian girls. "I cannot tell you," continues Cadillac, "the efforts my enemies have made to deprive me of the honor of executing my project; but so soon as M. de Ponchartrain decides in its favor, the whole country will applaud it."

Ponchartrain accepted the plan, and Cadillac returned to Canada commissioned to execute it. Early in June, 1701, he left La Chine with a hundred men in twenty-five canoes loaded with provisions, goods, munitions, and tools. He was accompanied by Alphonse de Tonty, brother of Henri de Tonty, the companion of La Salle, and by two half-pay lieutenants, Dugue and Chacornacle, together with a Jesuit and a Recollet.[30] Following the difficult route of the Ottawa and Lake Huron, they reached their destination on the twenty-fourth of July, and built a picket fort sixty yards square, which by order of the governor they named Fort Ponchartrain.[31] It stood near the west bank of the strait, about forty paces from the water.[32] Thus was planted the germ of the city of Detroit.

Cadillac sent back Chacornacle with the report of what he had done, and a description of the country written in a strain of swelling and gushing rhetoric in singular contrast with his usual sarcastic utterances. "None but enemies of the truth," his letter concludes, "are enemies of this establishment, so necessary to the glory of the King, the progress of religion, and the destruction of the throne of Baal."[33]

What he had, perhaps, still more at heart was making money out of it by the fur-trade. By command of the King a radical change had lately been made in this chief commerce of Canada, and the entire control of it had been placed in the hands of a company in which all Canadians might take shares. But as the risks were great and the conditions ill-defined, the number of subscribers was not much above one hundred and fifty; and the rest of the colony found themselves shut out from the trade,—to the ruin of some, and the injury of all.[34]

All trade in furs was restricted to Detroit and Fort Frontenac, both of which were granted to the company, subject to be resumed by the King at his pleasure.[35] The company was to repay the eighty thousand francs which the expedition to Detroit had cost; and to this were added various other burdens. The King, however, was to maintain the garrison.

All the affairs of the company were placed in the hands of seven directors, who began immediately to complain that their burdens were too heavy, and to beg for more privileges; while an outcry against the privileges already granted rose from those who had not taken shares in the enterprise. Both in the company and out of it there was nothing but discontent. None were worse pleased than the two Jesuits Carheil and Marest, who saw their flocks at Michilimackinac, both Hurons and Ottawas, lured away to a new home at Detroit. Cadillac took a peculiar satisfaction in depriving Carheil of his converts, and in 1703 we find him writing to the minister Ponchartrain, that only twenty-five Hurons are left at Michilimackinac; and "I hope," he adds, "that in the autumn I shall pluck this last feather from his wing; and I am convinced that this obstinate priest will die in his parish without one parishioner to bury him."[36]

If the Indians came to Detroit, the French would not come. Cadillac had asked for five or six families as the modest beginning of a settlement; but not one had appeared. The Indians, too, were angry because the company asked too much for its goods; while the company complained that a forbidden trade, fatal to its interests, went on through all the region of the upper lakes. It was easy to ordain a monopoly, but impossible to enforce it. The prospects of the new establishment were deplorable; and Cadillac lost no time in presenting his views of the situation to the court. "Detroit is good, or it is bad," he writes to Ponchartrain. "If it is good, it ought to be sustained, without allowing the people of Canada to deliberate any more about it. If it is bad, the court ought to make up its mind concerning it as soon as may be. I have said what I think. I have explained the situation. You have felt the need of Detroit, and its utility for the glory of God, the progress of religion, and the good of the colony. Nothing is left me to do but to imitate the governor of the Holy City,—take water, and wash my hands of it." His aim now appears. He says that if Detroit were made a separate government, and he were put at the head of it, its prospects would improve. "You may well believe that the company cares for nothing but to make a profit out of it. It only wants to have a storehouse and clerks; no officers, no troops, no inhabitants. Take this business in hand, Monseigneur, and I promise that in two years your Detroit shall be established of itself." He then informs the minister that as the company complain of losing money, he has told them that if they will make over their rights to him, he will pay them back all their past outlays. "I promise you," he informs Ponchartrain, "that if they accept my proposal and you approve it, I will make our Detroit flourish. Judge if it is agreeable to me to have to answer for my actions to five or six merchants [the directors of the company], who not long ago were blacking their masters' boots." He is scarcely more reserved as to the Jesuits. "I do what I can to make them my friends, but, impiety apart, one had better sin against God than against them; for in that case one gets one's pardon, whereas in the other the offence is never forgiven in this world, and perhaps never would be in the other, if their credit were as great there as it is here."[37]

The letters of Cadillac to the court are unique. No governor of New France, not even the audacious Frontenac, ever wrote to a minister of Louis XIV. with such off-hand freedom of language as this singular personage,—a mere captain in the colony troops; and to a more stable and balanced character it would have been impossible.

Cadillac's proposal was accepted. The company was required to abandon Detroit to him on his paying them the expenses they had incurred. Their monopoly was transferred to him; but as far as concerned beaver-skins, his trade was limited to twenty thousand francs a year. The governor was ordered to give him as many soldiers as he might want, permit as many persons to settle at Detroit as might choose to do so, and provide missionaries.[38] The minister exhorted him to quarrel no more with the Jesuits, or anybody else, to banish blasphemy and bad morals from the post, and not to offend the Five Nations.

The promised era of prosperity did not come. Detroit lingered on in a weak and troubled infancy, disturbed, as we shall see, by startling incidents. Its occupation by the French produced a noteworthy result. The Five Nations, filled with jealousy and alarm, appealed to the King of England for protection, and, the better to insure it, conveyed the whole country from Lake Ontario northward to Lake Superior, and westward as far as Chicago, "unto our souveraigne Lord King William the Third" and his heirs and successors forever. This territory is described in the deed as being about eight hundred miles long and four hundred wide, and was claimed by the Five Nations as theirs by right of conquest.[39] It of course included Detroit itself. The conveyance was drawn by the English authorities at Albany in a form to suit their purposes, and included terms of subjection and sovereignty which the signers could understand but imperfectly, if at all. The Five Nations gave away their land to no purpose. The French remained in undisturbed possession of Detroit. The English made no attempt to enforce their title, but they put the deed on file, and used it long after as the base of their claim to the region of the Lakes.


[15] See "Old Regime in Canada," 383.

[16] Relation de La Mothe-Cadillac, in Margry, v. 75.

[17] He wrote his name as above. It is often written La Motte, which has the advantage of conveying the pronunciation unequivocally to an unaccustomed English ear. La Mothe-Cadillac came of a good family of Languedoc. His father, Jean de La Mothe, seigneur de Cadillac et de Launay, or Laumet, was a counsellor in the Parliament of Toulouse. The date of young Cadillac's birth is uncertain. The register of his marriage places it in 1661, and that of his death in 1657. Another record, cited by Farmer in his History of Detroit, makes it 1658. In 1703 he himself declared that he was forty-seven years old. After serving as lieutenant in the regiment of Clairembault, he went to Canada about the year 1683. He became skilled in managing Indians, made himself well acquainted with the coasts of New England, and strongly urged an attack by sea on New York and Boston, as the only sure means of securing French ascendency. He was always in opposition to the clerical party.

[18] See La Mothe-Cadillac a ——, 3 Aout, 1695.

[19] La Mothe-Cadillac a ——, 3 Aout, 1695.

[20] "Il me dit que je me donnois des airs qui ne m'appartenoient pas, en me portant le poing au nez. Je vous avoue, Monsieur, que je pensai oublier qu'il etoit pretre, et que je vis le moment ou j'allois luy demonter la machoire; mais, Dieu merci, je me contentai de le prendre par le bras et de le pousser dehors, avec ordre de n'y plus rentrer." Margry, v. (author's edition), Introduction, civ. This introduction, with other editorial matter, is omitted in the edition of M. Margry's valuable collection, printed under a vote of the American Congress.

[21] See "Count Frontenac," 440.

[22] Robert Livingston urged the occupation of Detroit as early as 1700. N. Y. Col. Docs., iv. 650.

[23] Denonville a Du Lhut, 6 Juin, 1686. Count Frontenac, 133.

[24] "Sans se destourner et sans s'arrester au bruit des jappereaux qui crient apres luy."—Memoire de La Mothe-Cadillac adresse au Comte de Maurepas.

[25] Memoire adresse au Comte de Maurepas, in Margry, v. 138.

[26] La Mothe-Cadillac, Rapport au Ministre, 1700, in Margry, v. 157.

[27] Rapport au Ministre, 1700.

[28] Cadillac's report of this interview is given in Sheldon, Early History of Michigan, 85-91.

[29] La Mothe-Cadillac a un premier commis, 18 Octobre, 1700, in Margry, v. 166.

[30] Callieres au Ministre, 4 Octobre, 1701. Autre lettre du meme, sans date, in Margry, v. 187, 190.

[31] Callieres et Champigny au Ministre, sans date.

[32] Relation du Destroit (by the Jesuit who accompanied the expedition).

[33] Description de la Riviere du Detroit, jointe a la lettre de MM. de Callieres et de Champigny, 8 Octobre, 1701.

[34] Callieres au Ministre, 9 Novembre, 1700.

[35] Traite fait avec la Compagnie de la Colonie de Canada, 31 Octobre, 1701.

[36] Lamothe-Cadillac a Ponchartrain, 31 Aoust, 1703 (Margry, v. 301). On Cadillac's relations with the Jesuits, see Conseils tenus par Lamothe-Cadillac avec les Sauvages (Margry, v. 253-300); also a curious collection of Jesuit letters sent by Cadillac to the minister, with copious annotations of his own. He excepts from his strictures Father Engelran, who, he says, incurred the ill-will of the other Jesuits by favoring the establishment of Detroit, and he also has a word of commendation for Father Germain.

[37] La Mothe-Cadillac a Ponchartrain, 31 Aout, 1703. "Toute impiete a part, il vaudroit mieux pescher contre Dieu que contre eux, parce que d'un coste on en recoit son pardon, et de l'autre, l'offense, mesme pretendue, n'est jamais remise dans ce monde, et ne le seroit peut-estre jamais dans l'autre, si leur credit y estoit aussi grand qu'il est dans ce pays."

[38] Ponchartrain a La Mothe-Cadillac, 14 Juin, 1704.

[39] Deed from the Five Nations to the King of their Beaver Hunting Ground, in N. Y. Col. Docs., iv. 908. It is signed by the totems of sachems of all the Nations.




The Forest of Maine.—A Treacherous Peace.—A Frontier Village.—Wells and its People.—Attack upon it.—Border Ravages.—Beaubassin's War-party.—The "Woful Decade."—A Wedding Feast.—A Captive Bridegroom.

For untold ages Maine had been one unbroken forest, and it was so still. Only along the rocky seaboard or on the lower waters of one or two great rivers a few rough settlements had gnawed slight indentations into this wilderness of woods; and a little farther inland some dismal clearing around a blockhouse or stockade let in the sunlight to a soil that had lain in shadow time out of mind. This waste of savage vegetation survives, in some part, to this day, with the same prodigality of vital force, the same struggle for existence and mutual havoc that mark all organized beings, from men to mushrooms. Young seedlings in millions spring every summer from the black mould, rich with the decay of those that had preceded them, crowding, choking, and killing one another, perishing by their very abundance,—all but a scattered few, stronger than the rest, or more fortunate in position, which survive by blighting those about them. They in turn, as they grow, interlock their boughs, and repeat in a season or two the same process of mutual suffocation. The forest is full of lean saplings dead or dying with vainly stretching towards the light. Not one infant tree in a thousand lives to maturity; yet these survivors form an innumerable host, pressed together in struggling confusion, squeezed out of symmetry and robbed of normal development, as men are said to be in the level sameness of democratic society. Seen from above, their mingled tops spread in a sea of verdure basking in light; seen from below, all is shadow, through which spots of timid sunshine steal down among legions of lank, mossy trunks, toadstools and rank ferns, protruding roots, matted bushes, and rotting carcasses of fallen trees. A generation ago one might find here and there the rugged trunk of some great pine lifting its verdant spire above the undistinguished myriads of the forest. The woods of Maine had their aristocracy; but the axe of the woodman has laid them low, and these lords of the wilderness are seen no more.

The life and light of this grim solitude were in its countless streams and lakes, from little brooks stealing clear and cold under the alders, full of the small fry of trout, to the mighty arteries of the Penobscot and the Kennebec; from the great reservoir of Moosehead to a thousand nameless ponds shining in the hollow places of the forest.

It had and still has its beast of prey,—wolves, savage, cowardly, and mean; bears, gentle and mild compared to their grisly relatives of the Far West, vegetarians when they can do no better, and not without something grotesque and quaint in manners and behavior; sometimes, though rarely, the strong and sullen wolverine; frequently the lynx; and now and then the fierce and agile cougar.

The human denizens of this wilderness were no less fierce, and far more dangerous. These were the various tribes and sub-tribes of the Abenakis, whose villages were on the Saco, the Kennebec, the Penobscot, and the other great watercourses. Most of them had been converted by the Jesuits, and, as we have seen already, some had been persuaded to remove to Canada, like the converted Iroquois of Caughnawaga.[40] The rest remained in their native haunts, where, under the direction of their missionaries, they could be used to keep the English settlements in check.

We know how busily they plied their tomahawks in William and Mary's War, and what havoc they made among the scattered settlements of the border.[41] Another war with France was declared on the fourth of May, 1702, on which the Abenakis again assumed a threatening attitude. In June of the next year Dudley, governor of Massachusetts, called the chiefs of the various bands to a council at Casco. Here presently appeared the Norridgewocks from the Kennebec, the Penobscots and Androscoggins from the rivers that bear their names, the Penacooks from the Merrimac, and the Pequawkets from the Saco, all well armed, and daubed with ceremonial paint. The principal among them, gathered under a large tent, were addressed by Dudley in a conciliatory speech. Their orator replied that they wanted nothing but peace, and that their thoughts were as far from war as the sun was from the earth,—words which they duly confirmed by a belt of wampum.[42] Presents were distributed among them and received with apparent satisfaction, while two of their principal chiefs, known as Captain Samuel and Captain Bomazeen, declared that several French missionaries had lately come among them to excite them against the English, but that they were "firm as mountains," and would remain so "as long as the sun and moon endured." They ended the meeting with dancing, singing, and whoops of joy, followed by a volley of musketry, answered by another from the English. It was discovered, however, that the Indians had loaded their guns with ball, intending, as the English believed, to murder Dudley and his attendants if they could have done so without danger to their chiefs, whom the governor had prudently kept about him. It was afterwards found, if we may believe a highly respectable member of the party, that two hundred French and Indians were on their way, "resolved to seize the governor, council, and gentlemen, and then to sacrifice the inhabitants at pleasure;" but when they arrived, the English officials had been gone three days.[43]

The French governor, Vaudreuil, says that about this time some of the Abenakis were killed or maltreated by Englishmen. It may have been so: desperadoes, drunk or sober, were not rare along the frontier; but Vaudreuil gives no particulars, and the only English outrage that appears on record at the time was the act of a gang of vagabonds who plundered the house of the younger Saint-Castin, where the town of Castine now stands. He was Abenaki by his mother; but he was absent when the attack took place, and the marauders seem to have shed no blood. Nevertheless, within six weeks after the Treaty of Casco, every unprotected farmhouse in Maine was in a blaze.

The settlements of Maine, confined to the southwestern corner of what is now the State of Maine, extended along the coast in a feeble and broken line from Kittery to Casco. Ten years of murderous warfare had almost ruined them. East of the village of Wells little was left except one or two forts and the so-called "garrisons," which were private houses pierced with loopholes and having an upper story projecting over the lower, so that the defenders could fire down on assailants battering the door or piling fagots against the walls. A few were fenced with palisades, as was the case with the house of Joseph Storer at the east end of Wells, where an overwhelming force of French and Indians had been gallantly repulsed in the summer of 1692.[44] These fortified houses were, however, very rarely attacked, except by surprise and treachery. In case of alarm such of the inhabitants as found time took refuge in them with their families, and left their dwellings to the flames; for the first thought of the settler was to put his women and children beyond reach of the scalping-knife. There were several of these asylums in different parts of Wells; and without them the place must have been abandoned. In the little settlement of York, farther westward, there were five of them, which had saved a part of the inhabitants when the rest were surprised and massacred.

Wells was a long, straggling settlement, consisting at the beginning of William and Mary's War of about eighty houses and log-cabins,[45] strung at intervals along the north side of the rough track, known as the King's Road, which ran parallel to the sea. Behind the houses were rude, half-cleared pastures, and behind these again, the primeval forest. The cultivated land was on the south side of the road; in front of the houses, and beyond it, spread great salt-marshes, bordering the sea and haunted by innumerable game-birds.

The settlements of Maine were a dependency of Massachusetts,—a position that did not please their inhabitants, but which they accepted because they needed the help of their Puritan neighbors, from whom they differed widely both in their qualities and in their faults. The Indian wars that checked their growth had kept them in a condition more than half barbarous. They were a hard-working and hard-drinking race; for though tea and coffee were scarcely known, the land flowed with New England rum, which was ranked among the necessaries of life. The better sort could read and write in a bungling way; but many were wholly illiterate, and it was not till long after Queen Anne's War that the remoter settlements established schools, taught by poor students from Harvard or less competent instructors, and held at first in private houses or under sheds. The church at Wells had been burned by the Indians; and though the settlers were beggared by the war, they voted in town-meeting to build another. The new temple, begun in 1699, was a plain wooden structure thirty feet square. For want of money the windows long remained unglazed, the walls without plaster, and the floor without seats; yet services were duly held here under direction of the minister, Samuel Emery, to whom they paid L45 a year, half in provincial currency, and half in farm-produce and fire-wood.

In spite of these efforts to maintain public worship, they were far from being a religious community; nor were they a peaceful one. Gossip and scandal ran riot; social jealousies abounded; and under what seemed entire democratic equality, the lazy, drunken, and shiftless envied the industrious and thrifty. Wells was infested, moreover, by several "frightfully turbulent women," as the chronicle styles them, from whose rabid tongues the minister himself did not always escape; and once, in its earlier days, the town had been indicted for not providing a ducking-stool to correct these breeders of discord.

Judicial officers were sometimes informally chosen by popular vote, and sometimes appointed by the governor of Massachusetts from among the inhabitants. As they knew no law, they gave judgment according to their own ideas of justice, and their sentences were oftener wanting in wisdom than in severity. Until after 1700 the county courts met by beat of drum at some of the primitive inns or taverns with which the frontier abounded.

At Wells and other outlying and endangered hamlets life was still exceedingly rude. The log-cabins of the least thrifty were no better furnished than Indian wigwams. The house of Edmond Littlefield, reputed the richest man in Wells, consisted of two bedrooms and a kitchen, which last served a great variety of uses, and was supplied with a table, a pewter pot, a frying-pan, and a skillet; but no chairs, cups, saucers, knives, forks, or spoons. In each of the two bedrooms there was a bed, a blanket, and a chest. Another village notable—Ensign John Barrett—was better provided, being the possessor of two beds, two chests and a box, four pewter dishes, four earthen pots, two iron pots, seven trays, two buckets, some pieces of wooden-ware, a skillet, and a frying-pan. In the inventory of the patriarchal Francis Littlefield, who died in 1712, we find the exceptional items of one looking-glass, two old chairs, and two old books. Such of the family as had no bed slept on hay or straw, and no provision for the toilet is recorded.[46]

On the tenth of August, 1703, these rugged borderers were about their usual callings, unconscious of danger,—the women at their household work, the men in the fields or on the more distant salt-marshes. The wife of Thomas Wells had reached the time of her confinement, and her husband had gone for a nurse. Some miles east of Wells's cabin lived Stephen Harding,—hunter, blacksmith, and tavern-keeper, a sturdy, good-natured man, who loved the woods, and whose frequent hunting trips sometimes led him nearly to the White Mountains. Distant gunshots were heard from the westward, and his quick eye presently discovered Indians approaching, on which he told his frightened wife to go with their infant to a certain oak-tree beyond the creek while he waited to learn whether the strangers were friends or foes.

That morning several parties of Indians had stolen out of the dismal woods behind the houses and farms of Wells, and approached different dwellings of the far-extended settlement at about the same time. They entered the cabin of Thomas Wells, where his wife lay in the pains of childbirth, and murdered her and her two small children. At the same time they killed Joseph Sayer, a neighbor of Wells, with all his family.

Meanwhile Stephen Harding, having sent his wife and child to a safe distance, returned to his blacksmith's shop, and, seeing nobody, gave a defiant whoop; on which four Indians sprang at him from the bushes. He escaped through a back-door of the shop, eluded his pursuers, and found his wife and child in a cornfield, where the woman had fainted with fright. They spent the night in the woods, and on the next day, after a circuit of nine miles, reached the palisaded house of Joseph Storer.

They found the inmates in distress and agitation. Storer's daughter Mary, a girl of eighteen, was missing. The Indians had caught her, and afterwards carried her prisoner to Canada. Samuel Hill and his family were captured, and the younger children butchered. But it is useless to record the names and fate of the sufferers. Thirty-nine in all, chiefly women and children, were killed or carried off, and then the Indians disappeared as quickly and silently as they had come, leaving many of the houses in flames.

This raid upon Wells was only part of a combined attack on all the settlements from that place to Casco. Those eastward of Wells had been, as we have seen, abandoned in the last war, excepting the forts and fortified houses; but the inhabitants, reassured, no doubt, by the Treaty of Casco, had begun to return. On this same day, the tenth of August, they were startled from their security. A band of Indians mixed with Frenchmen fell upon the settlements about the stone fort near the Falls of the Saco, killed eleven persons, captured twenty-four, and vainly attacked the fort itself. Others surprised the settlers at a place called Spurwink, and killed or captured twenty-two. Others, again, destroyed the huts of the fishermen at Cape Porpoise, and attacked the fortified house at Winter Harbor, the inmates of which, after a brave resistance, were forced to capitulate. The settlers at Scarborough were also in a fortified house, where they made a long and obstinate defence till help at last arrived. Nine families were settled at Purpooduck Point, near the present city of Portland. They had no place of refuge, and the men being, no doubt, fishermen, were all absent, when the Indians burst into the hamlet, butchered twenty-five women and children, and carried off eight.

The fort at Casco, or Falmouth, was held by Major March, with thirty-six men. He had no thought of danger, when three well-known chiefs from Norridgewock appeared with a white flag, and asked for an interview. As they seemed to be alone and unarmed, he went to meet them, followed by two or three soldiers and accompanied by two old men named Phippeny and Kent, inhabitants of the place. They had hardly reached the spot when the three chiefs drew hatchets from under a kind of mantle which they wore and sprang upon them, while other Indians, ambushed near by, leaped up and joined in the attack. The two old men were killed at once; but March, who was noted for strength and agility, wrenched a hatchet from one of his assailants, and kept them all at bay till Sergeant Hook came to his aid with a file of men and drove them off.

They soon reappeared, burned the deserted cabins in the neighborhood, and beset the garrison in numbers that continually increased, till in a few days the entire force that had been busied in ravaging the scattered settlements was gathered around the place. It consisted of about five hundred Indians of several tribes, and a few Frenchmen under an officer named Beaubassin. Being elated with past successes, they laid siege to the fort, sheltering themselves under a steep bank by the water-side and burrowing their way towards the rampart. March could not dislodge them, and they continued their approaches till the third day, when Captain Southack, with the Massachusetts armed vessel known as the "Province Galley," sailed into the harbor, recaptured three small vessels that the Indians had taken along the coast, and destroyed a great number of their canoes, on which they gave up their enterprise and disappeared.[47]

Such was the beginning of Queen Anne's War. These attacks were due less to the Abenakis than to the French who set them on. "Monsieur de Vaudreuil," writes the Jesuit historian Charlevoix, "formed a party of these savages, to whom he joined some Frenchmen under the direction of the Sieur de Beaubassin, when they effected some ravages of no great consequence; they killed, however, about three hundred men." This last statement is doubly incorrect. The whole number of persons killed and carried off during the August attacks did not much exceed one hundred and sixty;[48] and these were of both sexes and all ages, from octogenarians to newborn infants. The able-bodied men among them were few, as most of the attacks were made upon unprotected houses in the absence of the head of the family; and the only fortified place captured was the garrison-house at Winter Harbor, which surrendered on terms of capitulation. The instruments of this ignoble warfare and the revolting atrocities that accompanied it were all, or nearly all, converted Indians of the missions. Charlevoix has no word of disapproval for it, and seems to regard its partial success as a gratifying one so far as it went.

One of the objects was, no doubt, to check the progress of the English settlements; but, pursues Charlevoix, "the essential point was to commit the Abenakis in such a manner that they could not draw back."[49] This object was constantly kept in view. The French claimed at this time that the territory of Acadia reached as far westward as the Kennebec, which therefore formed, in their view, the boundary between the rival nations, and they trusted in the Abenakis to defend this assumed line of demarcation. But the Abenakis sorely needed English guns, knives, hatchets, and kettles, and nothing but the utmost vigilance could prevent them from coming to terms with those who could supply their necessities. Hence the policy of the French authorities on the frontier of New England was the opposite of their policy on the frontier of New York. They left the latter undisturbed, lest by attacking the Dutch and English settlers they should stir up the Five Nations to attack Canada; while, on the other hand, they constantly spurred the Abenakis against New England, in order to avert the dreaded event of their making peace with her.

The attack on Wells, Casco, and the intervening settlements was followed by murders and depredations that lasted through the autumn and extended along two hundred miles of frontier. Thirty Indians attacked the village of Hampton, killed the Widow Mussey, a famous Quakeress, and then fled to escape pursuit. At Black Point nineteen men going to their work in the meadows were ambushed by two hundred Indians, and all but one were shot or captured. The fort was next attacked. It was garrisoned by eight men under Lieutenant Wyatt, who stood their ground for some time, and then escaped by means of a sloop in the harbor. At York the wife and children of Arthur Brandon were killed, and the Widow Parsons and her daughter carried off. At Berwick the Indians attacked the fortified house of Andrew Neal, but were repulsed with the loss of nine killed and many wounded, for which they revenged themselves by burning alive Joseph Ring, a prisoner whom they had taken. Early in February a small party of them hovered about the fortified house of Joseph Bradley at Haverhill, till, seeing the gate open and nobody on the watch, they rushed in. The woman of the house was boiling soap, and in her desperation she snatched up the kettle and threw the contents over them with such effect that one of them, it is said, was scalded to death. The man who should have been on the watch was killed, and several persons were captured, including the woman. It was the second time that she had been a prisoner in Indian hands. Half starved and bearing a heavy load, she followed her captors in their hasty retreat towards Canada. After a time she was safely delivered of an infant in the midst of the winter forest; but the child pined for want of sustenance, and the Indians hastened its death by throwing hot coals into its mouth when it cried. The astonishing vitality of the woman carried her to the end of the frightful journey. A Frenchman bought her from the Indians, and she was finally ransomed by her husband.

By far the most dangerous and harassing attacks were those of small parties skulking under the edge of the forest, or lying hidden for days together, watching their opportunity to murder unawares, and vanishing when they had done so. Against such an enemy there was no defence. The Massachusetts government sent a troop of horse to Portsmouth, and another to Wells. These had the advantage of rapid movement in case of alarm along the roads and forest-paths from settlement to settlement; but once in the woods, their horses were worse than useless, and they could only fight on foot. Fighting, however, was rarely possible; for on reaching the scene of action they found nothing but mangled corpses and burning houses.

The best defence was to take the offensive. In September Governor Dudley sent three hundred and sixty men to the upper Saco, the haunt of the Pequawket tribe; but the place was deserted. Major, now Colonel, March soon after repeated the attempt, killing six Indians, and capturing as many more. The General Court offered L40 for every Indian scalp, and one Captain Tyng, in consequence, surprised an Indian village in midwinter and brought back five of these disgusting trophies. In the spring of 1704 word came from Albany that a band of French Indians had built a fort and planted corn at Coos meadows, high up the river Connecticut. On this, one Caleb Lyman with five friendly Indians, probably Mohegans, set out from Northampton, and after a long march through the forest, surprised, under cover of a thunderstorm, a wigwam containing nine warriors,—bound, no doubt, against the frontier. They killed seven of them; and this was all that was done at present in the way of reprisal or prevention.[50]

The murders and burnings along the borders were destined to continue with little variety and little interruption during ten years. It was a repetition of what the pedantic Cotton Mather calls Decennium luctuosum, or the "woful decade" of William and Mary's War. The wonder is that the outlying settlements were not abandoned. These ghastly, insidious, and ever-present dangers demanded a more obstinate courage than the hottest battle in the open field.

One curious frontier incident may be mentioned here, though it did not happen till towards the end of the war. In spite of poverty, danger, and tribulation, marrying and giving in marriage did not cease among the sturdy borderers; and on a day in September there was a notable wedding feast at the palisaded house of John Wheelwright, one of the chief men of Wells. Elisha Plaisted was to espouse Wheelwright's daughter Hannah, and many guests were assembled, some from Portsmouth, and even beyond it. Probably most of them came in sailboats; for the way by land was full of peril, especially on the road from York, which ran through dense woods, where Indians often waylaid the traveller. The bridegroom's father was present with the rest. It was a concourse of men in homespun, and women and girls in such improvised finery as their poor resources could supply; possibly, in default of better, some wore nightgowns, more or less disguised, over their daily dress, as happened on similar occasions half a century later among the frontiersmen of West Virginia.[51] After an evening of rough merriment and gymnastic dancing, the guests lay down to sleep under the roof of their host or in adjacent barns and sheds. When morning came, and they were preparing to depart, it was found that two horses were missing; and not doubting that they had strayed away, three young men—Sergeant Tucker, Joshua Downing, and Isaac Cole—went to find them. In a few minutes several gunshots were heard. The three young men did not return. Downing and Cole were killed, and Tucker was wounded and made prisoner.

Believing that, as usual, the attack came from some small scalping-party, Elisha Plaisted and eight or ten more threw themselves on the horses that stood saddled before the house, and galloped across the fields in the direction of the firing; while others ran to cut off the enemy's retreat. A volley was presently heard, and several of the party were seen running back towards the house. Elisha Plaisted and his companions had fallen into an ambuscade of two hundred Indians. One or more of them were shot, and the unfortunate bridegroom was captured. The distress of his young wife, who was but eighteen, may be imagined.

Two companies of armed men in the pay of Massachusetts were then in Wells, and some of them had come to the wedding. Seventy marksmen went to meet the Indians, who ensconced themselves in the edge of the forest, whence they could not be dislodged. There was some desultory firing, and one of the combatants was killed on each side, after which the whites gave up the attack, and Lieutenant Banks went forward with a flag of truce, in the hope of ransoming the prisoners. He was met by six chiefs, among whom were two noted Indians of his acquaintance, Bomazeen and Captain Nathaniel. They well knew that the living Plaisted was worth more than his scalp; and though they would not come to terms at once, they promised to meet the English at Richmond's Island in a few days and give up both him and Tucker on payment of a sufficient ransom. The flag of truce was respected, and Banks came back safe, bringing a hasty note to the elder Plaisted from his captive son. This note now lies before me, and it runs thus, in the dutiful formality of the olden time:—

Sir,—I am in the hands of a great many Indians, with which there is six captains. They say that what they will have for me is 50 pounds, and thirty pounds for Tucker, my fellow prisoner, in good goods, as broadcloth, some provisions, some tobacco pipes, Pomisstone [pumice-stone], stockings, and a little of all things. If you will, come to Richmond's Island in 5 days at farthest, for here is 200 Indians, and they belong to Canada.

If you do not come in 5 days, you will not see me, for Captain Nathaniel the Indian will not stay no longer, for the Canada Indians is not willing for to sell me. Pray, Sir, don't fail, for they have given me one day, for the days were but 4 at first. Give my kind love to my dear wife. This from your dutiful son till death,

Elisha Plaisted.

The alarm being spread and a sufficient number of men mustered, they set out to attack the enemy and recover the prisoners by force; but not an Indian could be found.

Bomazeen and Captain Nathaniel were true to the rendezvous; in due time Elisha Plaisted was ransomed and restored to his bride.[52]


[40] Count Frontenac, 231.

[41] Ibid., chaps, xi. xvi. xvii.

[42] Penhallow, History of the Wars of New England with the Eastern Indians, 16 (ed. 1859). Penhallow was present at the council. In Judge Sewall's clumsy abstract of the proceedings (Diary of Sewall, ii. 85) the Indians are represented as professing neutrality. The governor and intendant of Canada write that the Abenakis had begun a treaty of neutrality with the English, but that as "les Jesuites observoient les sauvages, le traite ne fut pas conclu." They add that Rale, Jesuit missionary at Norridgewock, informs them that his Indians were ready to lift the hatchet against the English. Vaudreuil et Beauharnois au Ministre, 1703.

[43] Penhallow, 17, 18 (ed. 1859). There was a previous meeting of conciliation between the English and the Abenakis in 1702. The Jesuit Bigot says that the Indians assured him that they had scornfully repelled the overtures of the English, and told them that they would always stand fast by the French. (Relation des Abenakis, 1702.) This is not likely. The Indians probably lied both to the Jesuit and to the English, telling to each what they knew would be most acceptable.

[44] See "Count Frontenac," 371.

[45] Bourne, History of Wells and Kennebunk.

[46] The above particulars are drawn from the History of Wells and Kennebunk, by the late Edward E. Bourne, of Wells,—a work of admirable thoroughness, fidelity, and candor.

[47] On these attacks on the frontier of Maine, Penhallow, who well knew the country and the people, is the best authority. Niles, in his Indian and French Wars, copies him without acknowledgment, but not without blunders. As regards the attack on Wells, what particulars we have are mainly due to the research of the indefatigable Bourne. Compare Belknap, i. 330; Folsom, History of Saco and Biddeford, 198; Coll. Maine Hist. Soc., iii. 140, 348; Williamson, History of Maine, ii. 42. Beaubassin is called "Bobasser" in most of the English accounts.

[48] The careful and well-informed Belknap puts it at only 130. History of New Hampshire, i. 331.

[49] Charlevoix, ii. 289, 290 (quarto edition).

[50] Penhallow, Wars of New England with the Eastern Indians.

[51] Doddridge, Notes on Western Virginia and Pennsylvania.

[52] On this affair, see the note of Elisha Plaisted in Massachusetts Archives; Richard Waldron to Governor Dudley, Portsmouth, 19 September, 1712; Bourne, Wells and Kennebunk, 278.




Hertel de Rouville.—A Frontier Village.—Rev. John Williams.—The Surprise.—Defence of the Stebbins House.—Attempted Rescue.—The Meadow Fight.—The Captives.—The Northward March.—Mrs. Williams killed.—The Minister's Journey.—Kindness of Canadians.—A Stubborn Heretic.—Eunice Williams.—Converted Captives.—John Sheldon's Mission.—Exchange of Prisoners.—An English Squaw.—The Gill Family.

About midwinter the governor of Canada sent another large war-party against the New England border. The object of attack was an unoffending hamlet, that from its position could never be a menace to the French, and the destruction of which could profit them nothing. The aim of the enterprise was not military, but political. "I have sent no war-party towards Albany," writes Vaudreuil, "because we must do nothing that might cause a rupture between us and the Iroquois; but we must keep things astir in the direction of Boston, or else the Abenakis will declare for the English." In short, the object was fully to commit these savages to hostility against New England, and convince them at the same time that the French would back their quarrel.[53]

The party consisted, according to French accounts, of fifty Canadians and two hundred Abenakis and Caughnawagas,—the latter of whom, while trading constantly with Albany, were rarely averse to a raid against Massachusetts or New Hampshire.[54] The command was given to the younger Hertel de Rouville, who was accompanied by four of his brothers. They began their march in the depth of winter, journeyed nearly three hundred miles on snow-shoes through the forest, and approached their destination on the afternoon of the twenty-eighth of February, 1704. It was the village of Deerfield, which then formed the extreme northwestern frontier of Massachusetts,—its feeble neighbor, the infant settlement of Northfield, a little higher up the Connecticut, having been abandoned during the last war. Rouville halted his followers at a place now called Petty's Plain, two miles from the village; and here, under the shelter of a pine forest, they all lay hidden, shivering with cold,—for they dared not make fires,—and hungry as wolves, for their provisions were spent. Though their numbers, by the lowest account, were nearly equal to the whole population of Deerfield,—men, women, and children,—they had no thought of an open attack, but trusted to darkness and surprise for an easy victory.

Deerfield stood on a plateau above the river meadows, and the houses—forty-one in all—were chiefly along the road towards the villages of Hadley and Hatfield, a few miles distant. In the middle of the place, on a rising ground called Meeting-house Hill, was a small square wooden meeting-house. This, with about fifteen private houses, besides barns and sheds, was enclosed by a fence of palisades eight feet high, flanked by "mounts," or blockhouses, at two or more of the corners. The four sides of this palisaded enclosure, which was called the fort, measured in all no less than two hundred and two rods, and within it lived some of the principal inhabitants of the village, of which it formed the centre or citadel. Chief among its inmates was John Williams, the minister, a man of character and education, who, after graduating at Harvard, had come to Deerfield when it was still suffering under the ruinous effects of King Philip's War, and entered on his ministry with a salary of sixty pounds in depreciated New England currency, payable, not in money, but in wheat, Indian-corn, and pork.[55] His parishioners built him a house, he married, and had now eight children, one of whom was absent with friends at Hadley.[56] His next neighbor was Benoni Stebbins, sergeant in the county militia, who lived a few rods from the meeting-house. About fifty yards distant, and near the northwest angle of the enclosure, stood the house of Ensign John Sheldon, a framed building, one of the largest in the village, and, like that of Stebbins, made bullet-proof by a layer of bricks between the outer and inner sheathing, while its small windows and its projecting upper story also helped to make it defensible.

The space enclosed by the palisade, though much too large for effective defence, served in time of alarm as an asylum for the inhabitants outside, whose houses were scattered,—some on the north towards the hidden enemy, and some on the south towards Hadley and Hatfield. Among those on the south side was that of the militia captain, Jonathan Wells, which had a palisade of its own, and, like the so-called fort, served as an asylum for the neighbors.

These private fortified houses were sometimes built by the owners alone, though more often they were the joint work of the owners and of the inhabitants, to whose safety they contributed. The palisade fence that enclosed the central part of the village was made under a vote of the town, each inhabitant being required to do his share; and as they were greatly impoverished by the last war, the General Court of the province remitted for a time a part of their taxes in consideration of a work which aided the general defence.[57]

Down to the Peace of Ryswick the neighborhood had been constantly infested by scalping-parties, and once the village had been attacked by a considerable force of French and Indians, who were beaten off. Of late there had been warnings of fresh disturbance. Lord Cornbury, governor of New York, wrote that he had heard through spies that Deerfield was again to be attacked, and a message to the same effect came from Peter Schuyler, who had received intimations of the danger from Mohawks lately on a visit to their Caughnawaga relatives. During the autumn the alarm was so great that the people took refuge within the palisades, and the houses of the enclosure were crowded with them; but the panic had now subsided, and many, though not all, had returned to their homes. They were reassured by the presence of twenty volunteers from the villages below, whom, on application from the minister, Williams, the General Court had sent as a garrison to Deerfield, where they were lodged in the houses of the villagers. On the night when Hertel de Rouville and his band lay hidden among the pines there were in all the settlement a little less than three hundred souls, of whom two hundred and sixty-eight were inhabitants, twenty were yeomen soldiers of the garrison, two were visitors from Hatfield, and three were negro slaves. They were of all ages,—from the Widow Allison, in her eighty-fifth year, to the infant son of Deacon French, aged four weeks.[58]

Heavy snows had lately fallen and buried the clearings, the meadow, and the frozen river to the depth of full three feet. On the northwestern side the drifts were piled nearly to the top of the palisade fence, so that it was no longer an obstruction to an active enemy.

As the afternoon waned, the sights and sounds of the little border hamlet were, no doubt, like those of any other rustic New England village at the end of a winter day,—an ox-sledge creaking on the frosty snow as it brought in the last load of firewood, boys in homespun snowballing one another in the village street, farmers feeding their horses and cattle in the barns, a matron drawing a pail of water with the help of one of those long well-sweeps still used in some remote districts, or a girl bringing a pail of milk from the cow-shed. In the houses, where one room served as kitchen, dining-room, and parlor, the housewife cooked the evening meal, children sat at their bowls of mush and milk, and the men of the family, their day's work over, gathered about the fire, while perhaps some village coquette sat in the corner with fingers busy at the spinning-wheel, and ears intent on the stammered wooings of her rustic lover. Deerfield kept early hours, and it is likely that by nine o'clock all were in their beds. There was a patrol inside the palisade, but there was little discipline among these extemporized soldiers; the watchers grew careless as the frosty night went on; and it is said that towards morning they, like the villagers, betook themselves to their beds.

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