France Fears English Encroachment Upon The Lakes -- Formally Takes Possession -- The Panegyric Of Father Allouez -- Forts Are Erected -- Post Established At Detroit -- Description Of French Forts -- The Implacable Iroquois -- Fort Frontenac Is Built -- Attempt To Crush The Iroquois -- English Traders Visit Michilimackinac -- French Capture Two Parties Of Englishmen -- Mutual Jealousies- -- Senecas Defeat The French -- Fort Niagara Built And Abandoned -- Iroquois Continue Their Incursions -- Favorite Beaver Grounds -- War Is Continued -- Fort Frontenac Destroyed -- Rebuilt In 1694 -- English Claim Lake Ontario And Lake Erie -- English Trade With Canada Prohibited -- French Rebuild Fort Niagara -- English Erect A Fort At Oswego -- French Strengthen The Posts -- Final Struggle -- English Build War Vessels -- French Strengthen Defenses -- Montcalm Captures Oswego -- Fall Of Fort Frontenac -- Fort Niagara Surrenders -- A French Vessel Founders -- Conclusion.
A CENTURY of warfare marks the history of the Great Lakes, prior to their conquest by Great Britain. Unlike the French colony in Canada, the English settlements on the Atlantic did not seek to penetrate the wilderness far beyond their habitations. There was no large water course like the St. Lawrence, extending from New England into the interior of a continent and inviting exploration, but mountainous regions barred the way. One exception must be noted. From the settlement of the Hollanders at New Amsterdam a natural route led up the Hudson and Mohawk valleys to the region of the lower lakes. The Dutch traders were not slow in developing a fur traffic with the Indians, and when New York, in 1664, became a dependency of Great Britain, there was for the first time an opportunity for the English-speaking people to approach the lake region. The route led through the heart of the Iroquois nation, and the enmity of that proud people toward the French traders greatly aided the English in attaining a share of the profitable fur trade. From that date until the fall of Canada, in 1763, there were intrigues with Indian tribes, frequent outbursts of war, innumerable plottings and counter plottings, all growing out of the competition for lake commerce as it then existed, the wars in Europe between England and France fanning the hostilities on this side of the ocean. A few years after New York had become an English colony, France formally made her claim to the Great Lakes.
The formation of the Hudson Bay Company in England, and the fear that the English would thereby gain a foothold in the trade of the Great Lakes, was another cause of anxiety to the Canadian Government. Tolon learned in 1670 that two English vessels were engaged in the fur trade on Hudson Bay. It was accordingly resolved to take formal possession of the lake regions and make a closer alliance with the tribes surrounding the lakes.
So, during the summer of 1671, the Sault Ste. Marie was the scene of a memorable episode in the history of New France. Simon Francois Daumont, Sieur St. Lus-son, was commissioned by the Government of Quebec to go to Lake Superior to search for copper mines, and to take formal possession of the basin of the lakes and its tributary rivers. He took with him Nicholas Perrot and Louis Joliet, both of whom became more famous than did Daumont himself. On an elevation overlooking the rapids of St. Mary, around which have since been constructed two ship canals, St. Lus-son erected a cross and post of cedar with the arms of France. There were present the priests in their black robes, Indians and bushrangers. In the name of the "most high, mighty and redoubted monarch, Louis XIV, most Christian King of France and of Navarre," he declared France to be the owner of the Sault Ste. Marie, Lakes Huron and Superior, and "all the adjacent countries, rivers, lakes and contiguous streams."
Tolon announced the result of the expedition as follows: "Sieur de Saint Lusson is returned, after having advanced as far as 500 leagues from here, and planted the cross and set up the King's arms in presence of seventeen Indian nations, assembled on this occasion from all parts, all of whom voluntarily submitted themselves to the dominion of his majesty, whom alone they regard as their sovereign protector. This was effected, according to the account of the Jesuit Fathers, who assisted at the ceremony, with all the display and formality the country could afford.
"The place to which the said Sieur de Saint Lusson has penetrated is supposed to be more than 300 leagues from the extremities of the countries, bordering on the Ver-million or South sea. Those bordering on the West sea appear to be no farther from those discovered by the French. According to the calculations made from the reports of the Indians and from maps, there seems to remain not more than 1,500 leagues of navigation to Tartary, China and Japan. Such discoveries must be the work of either time or of the King. It can be said that the Spaniards have hardly penetrated farther into the interior of South, than the French have done up to the present time into the interior of North America."
"It is a most important affair, which calls us together. Cast your eyes on that cross, which is so high above your heads. 'Tis there where the Son of God was willing to be attached and to die, in order to satisfy His eternal Father for your sins. He is the master of your lives and also of heaven, and earth, and hell. It is He of whom I have so often spoken, and whose name and word I have borne into these distant lands. But, at the same time, look upon that other column, to which are attached the arms of that great chief of France, whom we call King. He lives beyond the sea. He is the chief of chiefs, and has not his like in the world. All the chiefs whom you have seen and of whom you have heard, are but children compared with him. He is like a great tree, while they are mere shrubs which we tread upon. You know Onnontio (governor-general), the renowned chief of Quebec. You know that he is the terror of the Iroquois, and that his name is sufficient to make them tremble, since he has desolated their lands, and carried fire among their settlements. There are beyond the sea ten thousand Onnontios like him, who are but warriors of that great chief, our King, of whom I speak. When he says 'I go to war,' everybody obeys, and these ten thousand chiefs raise bands of warriors both for the land and for the sea. Some embark in ships, like those you have seen at Quebec. Your canoes will hold but four or five men -- twelve to the utmost. Our vessels carry four and five hundred, and even a thousand. Another portion go to war on land, but in such numbers that, when arrayed in double ranks, they would reach to Mississaquenk, which is twenty leagues from here. When he attacks he is more fearful than thunder. The earth trembles, and the air and the sea are on fire from the discharge of his cannon. He has been seen in the midst of his squadrons covered with the blood of his enemies; so many of whom has he put to the sword, that he does not number their scalps, but merely the rivers of blood which he has caused to blow. He carries such a number of captives with him that he does not value them, but lets them go where they please to show that he does not fear them. Nobody dare make war on him. All nations beyond the sea have sued for peace with great submission. They come from every quarter of the globe to listen to him and admire him. It is he who decides upon the affairs of the world. What shall I say of his riches! You think yourselves very rich when you have ten or twelve sacks of corn, and hatchets and kettles and other things of the kind. He has more cities than you have men, which are scattered over a space of more than five hundred leagues. In each city there are shops containing hatchets enough to cut all your wood, kettles enough to cook all your caribou, and sugar enough to fill all your wigwams. His house extends further than from here to the Sault, is higher than the tallest of your trees, and contains more people than the largest of your settlements ever contained."
Forts are Erected. -- A rude fort was erected by the French at Mackinaw about 1671. Daniel Greysolon Deluth or de Lhut, was dispatched in 1678 to the lands of the Sioux and Assiniboines. He planted the King's army among the Isanti Sioux Indians, who dwelt at Mille Lacs (Minnesota), "lest the English and other Europeans, settled toward California, take possession of the country."
In June, 1686, Duluth, then in command of the fort at Mackinaw, received orders from Governor Denonville of New France to establish a fort on the Detroit of Lake Erie. Accordingly, Fort St. Joseph, called Fort Duluth, was built on the St. Clair river, near the present Fort Gratiot, the same year. It was intended as a barrier to English traders, and was garrisoned by 58 men. Two years later Denonville, in order to allay the growing irritation of the Iroquois, ordered Fort St. Joseph abandoned. Accordingly, on August 27, 1688, the buildings were burned and the place deserted.
Post Established at Detroit. -- The passage between Lakes Erie and Huron was then unguarded until 1701. Cadillac in that year erected a fort on the site of Detroit. Livingston at this time was urging the governor of New York to establish a fort there. In 1703 the French fort was partially de-
stroyed by the Indians. In 1718 it was rebuilt by Tonty, and made one of the strongest in New France. In 1748 it was repaired with oak pickets fifteen feet long and a diameter of six inches at the small end. In 1749 a number of immigrants arrived from France, and the stockade was soon after enlarged.
The only known record of the fort, which during the French period occupied the site of Chicago, is a report made in 1718 by James Logan, an agent sent by Governor Keith, of Pennsylvania, to explore routes to the Mississippi. The report says: "From Lake Huron they pass by the Straits of Michilimackinac four leagues, being two in breadth and of great depth, to the Lake Illinois; thence 150 leagues to Fort Miamis, situated at the mouth of the river Chicago. This fort is not regularly garrisoned."
These forts were palisaded trading posts the garrison of which was supported not by the Crown but by the profits of the fur trade. It was not French soil that was protected, but the management and control of the Indian trade.
"It is surprising," says Schoolcraft, "to reflect upon the early enterprise and sound judgment of the French in seizing upon the points commanding all the natural avenues and passes of the lakes, particularly when it is considered that these selections must necessarily have been the result of an intimate acquaintance with the geographical features of the country. A number of posts and places which had been occupied by the French, but long since neglected, were subsequently re-fortified by the United States Government, while the Indians still held the Northwest.
Description of French Forts. -- The French forts at Sault Ste. Marie and Mackinaw were described, in 1763, by Henry, the English trader. He said: "Being desirous of visiting the Sault de Sainte-Marie, I left Michilimackinac on May 15, in a canoe. The Sault de Sainte-Marie is distant from Michilimackinac thirty leagues, and lies in the strait which separates Lake Huron from Lake Superior. Having passed Le Detour, a point of land at the entrance of the strait, our course lay among numerous islands, some of which are twenty miles in length, We ascended the rapid of Miscoutinsaki, a spot well adapted for mill-seats, and above which is the mouth of a river of the same name. The lands on the south shore of this river are excellent. The lake is bordered by meadows, and, at a short distance back, are groves of sugar-maple. From this river to the Sault de Sainte-Marie is one continued meadow.
"On the 19th I reached the Sault. Here was a stockaded fort, in which, under the French Government, there was kept a small garrison, commanded by an officer who was called the governor, but was in fact a clerk who managed the Indian trade here on government account. The houses were four in number, of which the first was the governor's, the second the interpreter's, and the other two, which were the smallest, had been used for barracks. The only family was that of M. Cadotte, the interpreter, whose wife was a Chippewa. The fort is situated on a beautiful plain of about two miles in circumference, and covered with luxuriant grass; and within sight are the rapids in the strait, distant half a mile. The width of the strait, or river is about half a mile. The portage, or carrying-place, commences at the fort. The banks are rocky and allow only a narrow foot-path over them. Canoes, half loaded, ascend on the south side, and the other half of the load is carried on men's shoulders. These rapids are beset with rocks of the most dangerous description; and yet they are the scene of a fishery, in which all their dangers are braved and mastered with singular expertness. They are full of white fish, much larger and more excellent than those of Michilimackinac, and which are found here during the greater part of the season, weighing in general from six pounds to fifteen.
"Fort Michilimackinac was built by order of the governor-general of Canada, and garrisoned with a small number of militia, who, having families, became less soldiers than settlers. Most of those whom I found in the fort had originally served in the French army. The fort stands on the south side of the strait which is between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. It has an area of two acres, and is enclosed with pickets of cedar-wood, and it is so near the water's edge that, when the wind is in the west, the waves break against the stockade. On the bastions are two small pieces of brass English cannon, taken some years since by a party of Canadians who went on a plundering expedition against the posts of Hudson Bay, which they reached by the route of the river Churchill.
"Within the stockade are thirty houses, neat in their appearance and tolerably commodious, and a church, in which mass is celebrated by a Jesuit missionary. The number of families may be nearly equal to that of the houses, and their subsistence is derived from the Indian traders, who assemble here in their voyages to and from Montreal. Michilimackinac is the place of deposit and point of departure between the upper countries and the lower. Here the outfits are prepared for the countries of Lake Michigan and the Mississippi, Lake Superior and the Northwest, and here the returns, in furs, are collected and embarked for Montreal."
The Implacable Iroquois. -- The Iroquois nation bore the brunt of the warfare which speedily followed. Their relations with the English were usually friendly, and with the French actively hostile. The Iroquois irrupt on in 1650 had swept commerce from the lakes. A writer in 1653 said: "The war with the Iroquois has dried up all sources of prosperity. The beaver are allowed to build their dams in peace. Crowds of Hurons no longer descend from their country with furs for trading. The Algonquin country is depopulated and the nations beyond it are retiring farther away, fearing the musketry of the Iroquois. The keeper of the company's stores here in Montreal has not bought a single beaver skin for a year." Peace was effected in 1654, and traders again appeared on the upper lakes. But the Iroquois continued to waylay their ancient enemies, the Ottawas. It was partially to place a barrier between these tribes that Governor Courcelles, in 1671, resolved to establish a post on Lake Ontario.
Fort Frontenac is Built: -- Before it was accomplished Frontenac succeeded Courcelles as governor of New France. He approved the plan and visited the proposed site in 1673. The Iroquois interposed no serious objection. The construction of this fort, known as Fort Frontenac, on the site of Kingston, has been noticed in the chapter on "La Salle and the Griffin."
Frontenac in 1678 sent Raudin, the engineer who had laid out Fort Frontenac, to the extremity of Lake Superior with presents to the Ojibways and the Sioux. He wished to retain their friendship, and prevent its alienation by the Iroquois or English traders.
Attempt to Crush the Iroquois. -- In 1684 De la Barre, then governor of Canada, sent a messenger to Albany, N. Y., complaining that the Seneca Indian , a branch of the Iroquois, had interrupted the trade of the French with the more distant Indians, commonly known at that time as the far nations, who included the numerous tribes inhabiting the countries on both sides of Lakes Huron and Erie, and westward to the Mississippi. Colonel Dongan, governor of New York, communicated the message to the Senecas who admitted the charge and justified their conduct, alleging that the French supplied arms and ammunition to the Miamis, with whom they were then at war. De la Barre, determining to crush the Iroquois, proceeded to Lake Ontario with an army of 1,700 men, and directed the far nations, his allies, to rendezvous at Niagara. Dongan promised the Iroquois his assistance. But an epidemic broke out among the French troops and De la Barre crossed the lake from Fort Frontenac to a place called, on account of the distress of his army, la Famine, and concluded a peace with three tribes of the Iroquois, the Oneidas, Onondagas and Cayugas, the remaining two tribes, Mohawks and Senecas, at the instigation of Colonel Dongan declining to attend the conference.
In his speech to the braves, De la Barre said: "The far nations have robbed and abused all the traders that were passing to the Illinois and Miamis and other Indians, the children of my King. They have acted contrary to the former treaty of peace. They have conducted the English into the lakes, which belong to the King, my master, and brought the English among the nations that are his children to destroy the trade of his subjects. I am willing to forget these things, but if ever the like shall happen for the future I have express orders to declare war against you."
Garrangula, an Onondaga chief, remarks an English historian (William Smith), heard these threats with contempt. He had learned the distressed state of the French army, and made answer: "We plundered none of the French but those that carried guns, powder and ball to the Miamis and Chictaghics (Illinois) because those arms might have cost us our lives. Herein we follow the example of the Jesuits, who stove all the kegs of rum brought to our castles lest the drunken Indians should knock them on the head. Our warriors have not beaver enough to pay for all these arms, that they have taken, and our old men are not afraid of the war. We carried the English into our lakes to trade with the Utawawes (Ottawas) and Ouatoghies (Hurons) as the Adirondacks brought the French to our castles to carry on a trade which the English say is theirs. We are born tree. We may go where we please, and carry with us whom we please, and buy and sell what we please."
The Marquis Denonville succeeded De-la Barre in 1685, and, to wipe out the disgrace of the previous campaign, recommended the construction of a stone fort at Niagara, sufficient to contain 400 or 500 men, not only to exclude the English from the lakes but to subdue the Five Nations. Colonel Dongan protested, and said an attack on the confederates (Iroquois) he would consider a breach of the peace. To prevent the building of a fort at Niagara he claimed that country as dependent upon the Province of New York.
Governor Dongan, of New York, although a Catholic, aggressively asserted the right of English traders to visit the Indians of the upper lakes. In 1685 he licensed La Fontaine Marion, a Canadian, and others to trade in the Ottawa country. Their successful trip created consternation at Quebec, and Governor Denonville wrote: "Michilimackinac is theirs. They have taken its latitude, have been to trade there with our Ottawas and Hurons, who received them cordially on account of the bargains they gave by selling them merchandise for beaver at a much higher price than we. Unfortunately we had very few Frenchmen there at that time."
By a treaty between France and England, made at Whitehall in 1686, it was agreed that the Indian trade in America should be free to the English and French. As interpreted by the English, this gave them the right of passage and trade on the Great Lakes.
English Traders Visit Michilimackinac. -- In 1686 a party of English traders reached Michilimackinac, who announced in advance that they would sell goods much cheaper than the French. They were well received, and conducted their trade with perfect liberty, for the commandant, De la Du-rantaye, was absent. He arrived just after the traders had departed, and wished to pursue them instantly, but the Hurons prevented him. "Nothing," says Charlevoix, "was fraught with greater danger than this opening of trade between New York and the nations, whom we had till then regarded as our most faithful allies."
French Capture Two Parties of Englishmen. -- In the spring of 1687 a party of English traders, under Capt. Thomas Rose-boome, of Albany, consisting of twenty-nine whites and five Indians, were arrested by Durantaye, commandant at Mackinaw, twenty leagues from that post. A month later Durantaye. Duluth and a detachment of 170 French troops, together with about 400 Indian allies, while on their way to Niagara to assist in a movement against the Iroquois, met in St. Clair river a second party of twenty-nine English traders, accompanied by a few Indians in charge of Major Patrick McGregory, of Albany. They also were arrested. It a letter Governor Denonville expressed his pleasure at the capture of the two English parties, and adds: "It is certain that had the two English detachments not been stopped and pillaged, had their brandy and other goods entered Michilimackinac, all our Frenchmen would have had their throats cut by a revolt of all the Hurons and Ottawas, whose example would have been followed by all the other far nations, in consequence of the presents which had been secretly sent to the Indians."
The English version of this affair, and of the complications with the Indians that preceded it, is presented by Cadwallader Golden, surveyor-general of New York, in his "Memorial of the Fur Trade." He says: "The art and industry of the French, especially that of their religious missions, has so far prevailed upon all the Indians of North America that they are everywhere directed by French councils. Even our own Five Nations (the Iroquois) who formerly were mortal enemies of the French, and have always lived in the strictest amity with the English, have of late been so far gained that several of the Mohawks, who live nearest the English, have left their habitations and are gone to settle near Montreal, in Canada; and all the rest discover a dread of the French power."
After describing the value of the Indian trade on all the lakes, Colden continues: "It must naturally be objected that if these things are true, how is it possible that the traders of New York should neglect so considerable and beneficial trade for so long time ? In answering I shall give a short history of the country so far as it relates to this trade. When the Province of New York first came under the crown of Great Britain, our Five Nations of Indians were mortal enemies of the French at Canada, and were in a continued war with them and all the nations of Indians round the lakes, so that then it was not safe for the English to travel further than the countries of the Five Nations, nor would our Indians permit the far Indians (with whom they had constant war) to pass through their countries to Albany. Besides, the Five Nations were at that time so numerous (consisting of ten times the number of fighting men they now do), that the trade with them alone was very considerable for so young and small a colony. In the latter end of King Charles' reign the Governor of New York had orders to use all endeavors to make up a peace between our nations (the Iroquois) and the French; and that he should persuade the Five Nations to admit French priests among them in order to civilize them, the consequence of which was that the French thereby obtained a free commerce upon the lakes and obtained leave to build Cataraqui Fort (Frontenac) upon the north side of Lake Cataraqui (Ontario), and have two vessels of force upon the same lake. From this time, during all King James' reign, the French, whenever they had any differences with the Five Nations, threatened that the English of New York would join with them and destroy the Five Nations; by which our Five Nations became very much alienated in their affections from the English, and looked upon them as a people depending upon the French. The consequence of this appeared so dangerous to Colonel Dongan (the Governor of New York) that he again and again complained to his master. When the English had thus procured peace for the French, they thought they might justly reap some advantage from it, and it is hardly to be doubted that they had promises of that kind. They were, therefore, encouraged to send forty men, with great quantities of goods, into the lakes under the command of Major McGregory to trade with the far Indians. At this time Mr. Denonville, Governor of Canada, was gathering together all the forces of Canada and of the Indians (enemies of the Five Nations), in order to surprise the Five Nations and destroy them at the time they thought themselves secure by the peace so lately made. Major McGregory and his company were met by a French officer on Lake Erie coming with a great number of men to the general rendezvous of the French, and he, with all the English, were made prisoners. They were used with such severity as has never been practiced between Christian nations in open war, though the two Crowns at that time were not only at peace, but under the strictest ties of mutual friendship, for the French used these people as slaves in building Cataraqui fort, and a poor Frenchman that had conducted them was publicly shot to death as if he had brought an enemy into their country. Such was their apprehensions then of the English getting any footing among the Indians.
Charlevoix defends the shooting of the French guide. He says: "This act the Baron de la Hontan denounces as unjust because, he says, we were then at peace with England, and the English pretended to be masters of the lakes. As though this chimerical pretension, never mentioned to my knowledge by anyone except this author, restored to innocence a deserter, who was serving another nation to the detriment of his sovereign." Charlevoix claimed that the trading expeditions of the English were in formal violation of the agreement between the two Crowns, as Colonel Dongan well knew.
Denonville had resolved to crush the Iroquois on account of their harassment of Indian tribes friendly to the French, and on account of their instrumentality in giving the English access to the lakes. Accordingly, he, in 1687, collected 2,000 troops and 600 Indians at Montreal, and directed the far nations to meet him at Niagara for an expedition against the Senecas. As narrated above, the French traders from up the lakes and the far nations were on their way to meet him, when they encountered and captured the English traders.
Senecas Defeat the French. -- Marquis Denonville embarked his whole army in canoes, and set out from the fort at Frontenac June 23, one-half passing along the north side and the other along the south side of Lake Ontario, and both arrived the same day at Irondequoit. Setting out for the chief village of the Senecas, seven leagues distant, a battle resulted in which the French were worsted and driven to the banks of the lakes.
Fort Niagara is Built and Abandoned. -- Here, on the site of La Salle's trading post, was erected a fort with four bastions, on the southeast side of the straits of Niagara. Here 100 men, under command of De la Troye, were left with eight months' provisions. They were besieged that winter, and all but seven or eight miserably perished through famine. The fort was consequently abandoned in 1688. Charlevoix recounts the building of the fort at Niagara in 1687 and its early abandonment, and continues: "Meanwhile the Governor of New York steadily pursued his plan, which consisted in endeavoring to debauch our allies and draw to himself all the trade of Canada, as well as render the Iroquois our irreconcilable enemies."
The latter continued their hostile incursions up the lakes. Having no beaver in their own country, they were obliged to hunt at a great distance, which often occasioned disputes with their neighbors about the property of the beaver. The beaver was the most valuable branch of the Indian trade. Because of some interference of this kind from the Miamis, the Iroquois had in 1687 made an expedition against that tribe.
Favorite Beaver Grounds. -- One of the best beaver grounds in the whole Northwest was the lower Michigan peninsula. Hubbard, in his "Memorials of a Half Century," says: "The region between Lake Erie and Saginaw was one of the great beaver-trapping grounds. The Hurons, the Chippewas, the Ottawas, and even the Iroquois, from beyond Ontario, by turns sought this region in large parties for the capture of this game, from the earliest historic times. It is a region peculiarly adapted to the wants of this animal. To a great extent level, it is intersected by numerous water courses, which have but moderate flow. At the headwaters and small inlets of these streams the beaver established his colonies. Here he dammed the streams, setting back the water over the flat lands, and creating ponds, in which were his habitations. Not only one or two, but a series of such dams were constructed along each stream, so that very extensive surfaces became thus covered permanently with the flood. The trees were killed, and the land was converted into a chain of ponds and marshes, with intervening dry ridges. In time, by nature's recuperative process, the annual growth and decay of grasses and aquatic plants, these filled with muck or peat with occasional deposits of bog-lime, and the ponds and swales become dry again."
Fort Frontenac Destroyed. -- The war was continued in 1688, and Canada was invaded by the Iroquois. The grasp of the French upon the lower lakes was lost. The garrison at Fort Frontenac set fire to two barks which had been built at Fort Frontenac, and then abandoned the fort. Smith, in his history of New York, says: "They left a match to twenty-eight barrels of powder designed to blow up the works. The soldiers went down the river in such precipitation that one of the bateaux and her crew were all lost in shooting a fall. The confederates in the meantime seized the fort, the powder and the stores. But for the uncommon sagacity and address of the Sieur Perot the western Indians would have murdered every Frenchman among them."
The ascension of William of Orange to the throne of England in 1688 was followed by the war of the Palatinate (1689-97), and the hostilities between the French and English in America was increased in bitterness. Frontenac tried to capture New York, but failed. The Iroquois interposed an effectual barrier, but in the struggle the power of the Five Nations was broken.
Rebuilt in 1694. -- The French rebuilt Fort Frontenac in 1694, and two years later the Count raised one of the barks which had been sunk when the fort was deserted. He crossed Lake Ontario to Oswego river, and destroyed a village of the Onondagas.
The peace of Ryswick was signed in. 1697, but was only a truce, for the war of the Spanish Succession was reflected in America by Queen Anne's war (1702-13). At Detroit a fort was erected in 1701. During much of this time peace prevailed on the Great Lakes, while fighting occurred in New England and Quebec, because the French traders did not wish to again provoke the Iroquois and disturb the trade in goods which had sprung up from Albany to Montreal and was carried on by neutral Indians. This trade a little later was the cause of great animosity. The peace of Utrecht, concluded in 1713, gave England Hudson Bay, Newfoundland and Acadia, and France continued to hold possession of the lakes and to fortify the interior.
The Treaty of Utrecht contained this provision: "The subjects of France inhabiting Canada, and others, shall hereafter give no hindrance or molestation to the Five Nations subject to the dominion of Great Britain, nor to the other nations of America who are friendly to the same. In like manner the subjects of Great Britain shall behave themselves peaceably toward the Americans, who are subjects or friends to France, and on both sides they shall enjoy full liberty of going and coming on account of trade. Also the natives of these countries shall, with the same liberty, resort as they please to the British and French colonies for promoting trade on one side or the other, without any molestation or hindrance."
English Claim Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. -- In consequence of this treaty the sovereignty of Great Britain, it was claimed, extended over the territory of the Iroquois or Five Nations, and as this territory was defined by Charlevoix and other French writers to extend to Niagara and to both sides of Lake Ontario, the British lay claim to Fort Frontenac and Niagara, and consequently the control of the trade of Lake Ontario. Fort Frontenac had been abandoned by the French in 1688, after the downfall of Montreal, and the Indians had demolished a great part of the works. The English also held that the destruction of the Erie or Cat Nation, then inhabiting both shores of Lake Erie, gave to the victors, the Iroquois, and through them, the English, possession of Lake Erie also. On the other hand, the French maintained, with great ardor, their own title to these waterways.
The mouths of the Cuyahoga and the Sandusky had been trading points at least as far back as 1700. From that time on for about half a century they were points of great importance to the Indians and white men trading with the Indians. The French extended their trading posts to all points along the lakes, during the first half of the eighteenth century, one of these posts being at the mouth of the Cuyahoga, and another being at the mouth of Tinker's creek. From 1750 to 1760 the French and British traders occupied the field together.
Early in the eighteenth century trade with the Mississippi Valley increased, and the routes of travel became well defined. Three were especially used. One of these was by way of Lake Erie and the Maumee, Wabash and Ohio rivers; another was by way of Lake Michigan and the Chicago and Illinois rivers. The third was via Lake Michigan, Green Bay, and Fox and Wisconsin rivers. All these were independent of La Salle's route via the Kankakee and Illinois rivers.
Governor Burnett of New York, in 1720, was impressed with the necessity of getting command of Lake Ontario as well for the benefit of trade and the security of the friendship of the Five Nations, as to frustrate the French designs of confining the English colonies to narrow limits along the sea coast, by a chain of forts on the great passes from Canada to Louisiana. To this end he began in 1720 the erection of a trading house at Oswego. This aroused the activity of the French. Fearing to lose a profitable trade, which they had almost entirely engrossed, and the command of Lake Ontario, they in 1726 launched two vessels in it, and transported material for building a large storehouse and repairing the fort at Niagara. "The scheme," says Smith, "was not only to secure to themselves the entrance into the west end of the lake, as they already had the east, by the fraudulent erection of Fort Frontenac, many years before, but also to carry their trade more westerly, and thus render Oswego useless by shortening the travels of the western Indians nearly 200 miles."
English Trade With Canada Prohibited. -- Acts were passed by the Legislative Council of New York in November, 1720, and in July, 1722, forbidding New York merchants supplying Canada with goods for the fur trade. The sale of these goods, it had been urged, enabled France to control the trade of the West, and to hem in the English colonies. The New York merchants, who had profited by this Canadian trade, protested, and were supported by the exporting houses in England, who supplied them.
French Rebuild Fort Niagara. -- The purpose of these acts was to encourage English traders on the lower lakes. Doubtless with a view to checking this threatened English trade, the Governor of Canada in 1725 rebuilt Fort Niagara of stone. Two years later the English erected a fort at Oswego, and renewed hostilities were threatened. Smith, in his "History of New York," says: "Charlevoix does honor to Mr. Burnet,' in declaring that he left no stone unturned to defeat the French designs at Niagara. Nor is it much to be wondered at. For, besides supplanting his favorite trade at Oswego, it tended to the defection of the Five Nations; and in case of a rupture, exposed the frontiers of our southern colonies to the ravages of the French and their allies. Mr. Burnet, upon whom these considerations made the deepest impression, laid the matter before the house -- remonstrated against the proceedings of Longuiel in Canada -- wrote to the ministry in England, who complained of them to the French court -- and met the Iroquois at Albany, endeavoring to convince them of the danger they, themselves, would be in from an aspiring, ambitious neighbor."
English Erect a Fort at Oswego. -- "The French in the meantime completed their works at Niagara; and Mr. Burnet (Governor of New York), who was unable to do anything else, erected a fort in I727, for the protection of the post and trade at Oswego. This necessary undertaking was pregnant with the most important consequences, not only to this, but all our colonies; and though the Governor's seasonable activity deserved the highest testimonials of our gratitude, I am ashamed to confess, what I am bound to relate, that he built the fort at his private expense, and that a balance of about 56 pounds principal, though frequently demanded, remains due to his estate this very day.
"Beauharnois, the governor of Canada, who superseded Longuiel, was so incensed at the building of the fort, that he sent a written summons, in July, to the officer posted there to abandon it; and, though his predecessor had done the same, a little before, at Niagara, in the country of the Senecas, the acknowledged subjects of the British Crown, yet with singular effrontery, he dispatched de la Chassaigne, a man of parts, and governor of Trois Rivieres, to New York, with the strongest complaints to Mr. Burnet upon that head. His excellency sent him a polite, but resolute answer, on the 8th of August; in which he refuted the arguments urged by the French governor-general, and remonstrated against the proceedings of the last year at Niagara.
"The French, who eyed the important garrison at Oswego, and our increasing trade there, with the most restless jealousy, prepared, early in the spring following, to demolish the works. Governor Burnet gave the first intelligence of this design in a letter to Colonel Montgomerie, dated at Boston the 31st of March, 1729. The garrison was thereupon immediately reinforced by a detachment from the independent companies; which, together with the declared resolution of the Indians, to protect the fort, induced the French to desist from intended invasion. From that time to the year 1754 this garrison was guarded only by a lieutenant and five and twenty men. General Shirley's parting from the forces destined against Fort Duquesne, and proceeding with half the army to Oswego in 1755, was extremely fortunate to our colonies; the French being then determined and prepared to possess themselves of the post. Besides the vessels launched there, to secure the command of the lake, the general, before he returned to winter quarters, erected two strong square forts, with bastions, commanding as well the entrance into the Onondaga river, as the old fort; in the situation of which, little regard was had to any thing besides the pleasantness of the prospect.
"Thus far our Indian affairs appeared to be under a tolerable direction; but these fair prospects were soon obscured by the King's repealing, on the 11th of December, 1729, all the acts which Mr. Burnet with so much labor and opposition, procured for the prohibition of an execrable trade between Albany and Montreal. To whose intrigues this event is to be ascribed, cannot be certainly determined. But that it was pregnant with the worst consequences, time has sufficiently evinced. Nothing could more naturally tend to undermine the trade at Oswego, to advance the French commerce at Niagara, to alienate their fidelity to Great Britain, and particularly to rivet the defection of the Caghnuagas (Cayugas). For these residing on the south side of St. Lawrence, nearly opposite Montreal, were employed by the French as their carriers; and thus became interested against us by motives of the most prevailing nature. One would imagine that after all the attention bestowed on this affair in the last administration, the objections against this trading intercourse with Canada, must have been obvious to the meanest capacity, and yet so astonishing has been our conduct, that from the time Mr. Burnet removed to Boston, it has been rather encouraged than restrained. * * * I cannot, in justice to my countrymen, help observing that, from the severest scrutiny I could make, our people are free from the charge of selling ammunition to the French, which has so unjustly exposed the inhabitants of Albany to the odium of all the colonies in New England."
A letter, written at New York in 1740, thus describes the trade at Oswego: "Governor Burnett has succeeded far beyond expectations in redeeming the Indian trade from the hands of the French. The trading house is at Oswego, a very great trade is carried on with the remote Indians, who formerly used to go down to the French at Montreal, and then buy our English goods at second hand. The Indian trade is now divided into several hundred hands, and there have been for many years past upward of one hundred young men of this province, who have gone yearly among the Indians to supply them with our goods. By this means I am assured that the Indian trade of this province is now far above five times as much as when Governor Burnett began to put his scheme into execution."
French Strengthen the Posts. -- In 1747 the governor of Canada, Conte de la Golis-soniere, proceeded to fortify the scattered posts from Lake Superior to Lake Ontario. In 1750 Little Fort Niagara, one and one-half miles above the Falls of Niagara, was completed, and was the upper terminus of a portage to Fort Niagara, on the site of the present village of Lewiston.
Meanwhile the English colonies had pushed into the Ohio Valley, and sought land rather than trade. They were backed by compact colonies, and were breaking the chain of French communication between the Great Lakes and Louisiana. The Thirteen colonies numbered one million people and represented agricultural arid industrial civilization. Opposed to them were 80,000 French habitants and traders scattered through the continent, subjects of capricious dictation from Paris. The French habitants and voyageurs, thus held in vassalage without restraints or ambition, assimilated the more readily with the savages. The free life of the forest fur trade increased the number of the coureurs de bois, whose birch canoes skirted the clear waters of the Great Lakes to the tune of gay boating songs.
The closing struggle was at hand, and during the seven years' war (1756-63) the French denizens of the West stirred the passions of the Indians to implacable fury by pointing to the steady encroachments upon their land by the English. The campaigns centered about the key points of the Indian trade.
English Build War Vessels. -- In 1755 the English had built two sloops at Oswego, named the Oswego and Ontario, and in the same year General Shirley placed on the same lake a sloop and a schooner, each of 60 tons, besides a number of smaller boats.
One of the English schooners on Lake Ontario, launched in the summer of 1755, was of forty feet keel, and carried fourteen swivel guns. While she was provided with sails, she was also made to row when necessary. In the fleet, fitted out in Oswego, by the English in 1755, was a decked sloop of eight 4-pounders and thirty swivels; a decked schooner of eight 4-pounders and twenty-eight swivels; an undecked schooner of fourteen swivels and fourteen oars, and an undecked schooner of twelve swivels and fourteen oars, all of which were unrigged late in the fall.
French Strengthen Defenses. -- The French had strengthened Niagara, Toronto and Fort Frontenac, and their flag floated over Lake Ontario in almost undisputed sway. The Marquis de Vaudreuil opened the campaign in 1756 by sending de Lery with 250 French and 80 Indians to capture some small forts which had been constructed on the road to Oswego for the protection of convoys proceeding thither. Three hundred men were also despatched from Fort Frontenac under Captain de Villier, with instructions to establish themselves at some favorable point in the vicinity of Oswego, and if possible to capture the fort at that place. Captain Villier erected a stockade fort in a dense part of the forest, which was soon detected by the Iroquois Indians, who became much alarmed by such unauthorized occupation of territory, and sent, by the advice of Sir William Johnson, a deputation to Montreal to remonstrate with Vaudreuil and request him to demolish the fort. This he refused to do; but promised the Indians that if they would remain neutral he would protect them from every insult.
No sooner had the Iroquois been dismissed with this promise and many rich presents, than Vaudreuil took measures to strengthen Villier and to prepare for the capture of the British vessels which then began to appear on Lake Ontario. Mont-clam approved the measures taken by Vaudreuil with respect to Oswego, and directed one of the other generals, Bourlemaque, to push forward to Villier's camp and to take command. From Montreal Montcalm hastened to Fort Frontenac to make further preparations for the capture of Oswego.
Lieutenant-Colonel Bradstreet, of the British forces, was determined to reduce Fort Frontenac, or, as it is called in the narrative of his expedition, Fort Cataraqui, to destroy the enemy's shipping there and thus deprive them of the dominion of the lakes, which the French then held through their fleet. Colonel Bradstreet therefore led a detachment of raw Irish troops with a convoy of provisions from Albany to Oswego, and while he was descending the Onondaga river, Villier, with a force of 700 French and Indians, pushed forward to intercept him, but became lost in the dense forests and reached the river after Brad-street had safely passed down to Oswego. Fearing an attack, Colonel Bradstreet divided his canoes into three divisions, and advanced up the river. He was fiercely attacked by the French, July 3, 1756, and in the battle that ensued, completely defeated Villier. His loss amounted to 60 killed and wounded, while the French lost 100 killed and 70 wounded.
Montcalm Captures Oswego. -- Montcalm then made preparations to lay siege to Oswego, and left Fort Frontenac on August 4, to carry out this design. He arrived in the evening of the same day at Sacket's Harbor, where he had more than 3,000 men. On the 9th of the month his vanguard was within one and a half miles of Oswego, and on the night of the 12th he opened his guns on Fort Ontario, which stood on the opposite side of the river from Fort Oswego. A spirited battle was fought in which the French were successful. The English lost 150 in killed and wounded during the siege and the French only 80. The French captured 1,600 prisoners, 120 cannon and mortars, 6 sloops of war, 200 boats, a large amount of stores, ammunition and provisions, and ?18,000 in coin.
When Oswego surrendered to the French in 1756 there was there quite a shipbuilding yard. Nine vessels were finished, one of them carrying eighteen guns, and there were others upon the stocks. But most of the vessels used on Lake Ontario during the war were bateaux.
Fall of Fort Frontenac. -- For the next two years the war went on furiously in all parts of North America, but for some time no further operations were conducted on Lake Ontario. The French were for a time constantly victorious, but William Pitt was placed at the head of affairs in England, and soon a great change was noticeable. General Amherst was sent to North America to take command, reaching Halifax May 28, 1758. Louisburg was captured. Colonel Bradstreet still pressed his plan of campaign against Fort Frontenac, and was soon on his way with 3,000 militia and forty-two of the Onondaga Indians, led by their chief, Red Head. Brad-street speedily crossed Lake Ontario, and, August 25, 1758, landed within a mile of the fort, and opened his guns at 500 yards. Finding this distance too great, he took possession of an old entrenchment near the defense, where his guns opened with effect. As the garrison consisted of only 120 soldiers and forty Indians it was impossible for it to hold out, and it surrendered on the morning of the 27th.
This was a most important victory for the English, and a most disastrous loss to the French. The fort, which was a square stone one, was blown up, seven vessels were captured, which are described in the narrative of Bradstreet's expedition, written by a member of it, as "a snow, a brig, three schooners and two sloops." There was a great variety of Indian goods and provisions, the latter being "in prodigious quantity on the wharf, piled up against the storehouse along the whole length." There was judged to be 10,000 barrels, and in the fort there were found sixty pieces of cannon, sixteen mortars and six brass patteraras, all of which were destroyed. The Indian goods, with which the stores were filled, were estimated to have cost in the first place 800,000 livres ($175,000). The greater portion of these goods were burned, Colonel Brad-street's bateaux being too deeply laden with provisions, etc., and too much crowded to admit of any considerable addition to their cargoes, without greatly endangering them on Lake Ontario.
The names of the vessels comprising the English fleet on Lake Ontario at the same time were as follows: Le Montcalm (The Montcalm); Les Evive (The Lively), Le Vigilant (The Vigilant); Le George (The George), L'Ontario (The Ontario), and the Lactraguence. The accompanying illustration is a reproduction of a cut of these vessels, found by Hon. J. Ross Robertson, of Toronto, in the British Museum, and used here with his permission.
In Cooper's "Pathfinder" occurs the following paragraph, which is interesting in this connection: "'We have made an awful run, Captain,' returned the man to whom this remark had been addressed. 'That is the French king's ship, Lee-my-calm (Le-Montcalm), and she is standing in for Niagara, where her owner has a garrison and a fort.' " This vessel is described by Cooper as a full-rigged ship, with no imperfection about her.
Following is a translation of Montcalm's dispatch to his minister in France, announcing the capture of Fort Frontenac: "The enemy have taken Fort Frontenac, which, in truth, is immaterial, but, what is more aggravating, they have captured considerable supplies, quantities of merchandise, eighty cannon, large and small, and have destroyed the shipping which was a result of my taking Chouaguen (Oswego), as well as destroying five of our ships, and capturing two. That shipping assured us the supremacy on Lake Ontario, which we have lost in a moment."
Fort Niagara Surrenders. -- In 1759, in order to prevent little Fort Niagara from falling into the hands of the English, the garrison destroyed it. This was by order of Joncaire, in command of the French. It was in this year that the English commander, General Prideaux, demanded the surrender of Fort Niagara from the French, and, being refused, he laid siege to it, and was killed in the attempt to capture it. He was succeeded by Sir William Johnson, who pushed the war forward with vigor, capturing Fort Niagara before re-inforcement could reach it from Venango on Lake Erie. When these re-inforcements reached Navy island, they heard of the fail of Fort Niagara, and, believing the two vessels that had brought them down would certainly fall into the hands of the English, they took them, together with some smaller ones that had been built on Navy island, to the northern end of Grand island, and there set them on fire. As late as 1850 the remains of these vessels could be seen at the bottom of the river, and it was from this circumstance that the arm of the river where they lay was named "Burnt Ship Bay."
A French Vessel Founders. -- In the Maryland Gazette, August 23, 1759, is the following: "By a letter from Niagara of the 21st ult., we learn that by the assistance and influence of Sir William Johnson there were upwards of eleven hundred Indians convened there, who by their good behavior have justly gained the esteem of the whole army; that Sir William, being informed that the enemy had buried a quantity of goods on an island about twenty miles from the post, sent a number of Indians to search for them, who found to the value of eight thousand pounds, and were in hopes of finding more; and that a French vessel, entirely laden with beaver, had foundered on the lake, where her crew, consisting of forty-one men, were all lost."
In 1759 when M. Pouchot was sent by M. de Vaudreuil to Niagara he says that at La Presentation (Ogdensburg) bateaux were found that had been sent to meet them, that they embarked and that on the 4th they reached Point au Baril, three leagues above La Presentation. There two barques were being built, each of which was to carry ten pieces of 12-pound cannon. On the 9th one of the barques was launched and named the Iroquois, the other being launched on the 12th, and named the Outaouaise. On the 25th the French troops left for Niagara, arriving there on the 3oth. In June, 1759, M. Pouchot sent a troop of Indians from Niagara to Oswego to watch the English, they going on the Outaouaise. On the way this vessel was caught in a gale of wind, which was so fierce that it carried away the mainmast and bowsprit. They were, therefore, obliged to run down to La Presentation, and were thus prevented from cruising in front of Oswego to watch the English. These Indians had never before encountered a tempest in a vessel, and were so greatly frightened that they threw overboard their ornaments, arms and tobacco, in order if possible to appease the Manitou of the lake. There was on board a Canadian who was a mere dwarf in stature. The Indians had never before seen so small a man, and took him for a Manitou, and were with difficulty prevented from killing him and throwing him overboard.
In writing of the attack on Oswego in 1760, Pouchot says that the English had built five great bateaux of thirteen oars on each side and with a cannon at the end. The two vessels mentioned above, the Iroquois and the Outaouaise, did valiant service for the French during the war on Lake Ontario, but they were at length captured by the English. There were two other vessels on this lake about the same time, named respectively the Seneca, of 22 guns, and the Oneida, of 18 guns.
The fall of Fort Frontenac and Fort Niagara gave the British control of Lakes Ontario and Erie. The scepter of France had departed forever from the Inland seas. The eventful history of French possession had been concluded and the ensign of England floated unquestioned from the masts of the few ships that sailed the Great Lakes.
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Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.