Information on the French and Indian war

In May, 1702, Queen Anne and her allies the Emperor of Germany and the States-General of Holland declared war against France and Spain. When hostilities began in Europe, they were the signal for the English colonists in America to prepare for another fierce struggle with the French and Indians. Governor Dudley and some magistrates of Massachusetts held a conference with the Eastern Indians at Casco, in June, 1703. The Indians, with well-feigned friendship, readily renewed former treaties. They declared that the French had asked them to take up the hatchet against the English, but they had refused because the friendship for the people of Massachusetts was "as firm as the mountains, and as enduring as the sun and moon."

Some believed in the sincerity of the Indians. Wise men shook their heads in doubt, and others declared their belief that the Indians, under the tutelage of the French, were playing a treacherous part. Circumstances soon settled the question. Only a few weeks after the conference these same Indians fell, with remorseless fury, upon the frontier settlers of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The solemn treaties were scattered to the winds. The tribes from the Merrimac to the Penobscot desolated the border settlements, murdering the innocent, plundering the thrifty, and laying in ashes cabins, mansions, and villages. Not even the benefactors of the Indians, the Friends or Quakers, were spared. They respected "neither the milk-white brows of the grave ancient," nor "the mournful cries of tender infants."

This treachery greatly exasperated the English against the French Jesuits, to whose counsels they professed to trace the cause of the dire calamity. Already this Order had incurred the intense hatred of the New Englanders, because many circumstances pointed to Jesuit influence inciting the Indians to make war on the English. The revelation of Bomaseen, a sachem who visited Boston, intensified that hatred. He declared that the Jesuits had told the Indians that Jesus Christ was a Frenchman; that his mother, the Virgin Mary, was a French woman; that the English had murdered him; that he had gone up to heaven to plead for mankind, and that he who would receive his favor must espouse the cause of his countrymen, the French, in the pending quarrel. Bomaseen was a crafty Indian, and may have invented this story; but it was believed by the colonists. The Legislatures of both New York and Massachusetts had already passed laws for the expulsion of the Jesuits from their respective provinces; but nothing could diminish their secret influence over the Indians. Warriors from Canada joined those south of the St. Lawrence, and in their murderous forays they were often accompanied by French troops and ecclesiastics.

The white men and Indians all confessed their sins to the priests and received pardon for them, before engaging in their bloody work. A day was appointed for such confession and pardon. "I exhorted them," [the Indians], says Father Rale, of Norridgewock, "to maintain the same interest in religion as if they were at home; to observe carefully the laws of war; to practice no cruelty; to kill no one except in the heat of battle; and to treat their prisoners humanely." What a ghastly commentary on their merciful instructions were the Indian cruelties of these absolved men, as they swept along the frontier from Casco to Wells immediately after leaving the presence of the priest, staining the fields with the blood of the innocent, and lighting up the heavens at night with the flames of burning dwellings! Twenty years afterward, Rale fell a victim to the fiery indignation of the English against him and his fellow Jesuits for their alleged complicity in the atrocious acts of the Indians for more than a quarter of a century. Norridgewock, where he had labored as a missionary more than thirty years, was attacked by the English in 1723. Rale was shot dead, it is said, at the foot of a cross, where his flock, with wild cries, bewailed his death. On that spot, in 1833, a monument was erected to his memory. With Rale, Bomaseen and some of his kindred also fell.

During the winter of 1703-4, the people along the New England frontier lived in perpetual dread of the foe. At length, late in February, a party of French and Indians, who had traveled with snow-shoes all the way from Canada, approached the pretty village of Deerfield on the Connecticut River, in Massachusetts. The snow lay four feet deep in that region, and was covered with a crust that bore the invaders. The drifts around the town were almost as high as its encircling palisades. Over these Major Hertel de Rouville, the commander of the motley party, and his followers, easily crept into the village while the inhabitants were slumbering before the dawn of the first day of March. The first intimation the villagers had of danger was the bursting open of their doors and the sound of the horrid war-whoop of the Indians. The people were dragged from their beds and murdered or carried into captivity. The village was set on fire, and every building excepting the chapel and one dwelling-house was laid in ashes. Forty of the inhabitants were killed, and one hundred and twelve were borne to the wilderness an hour after sunrise.

Among the victims was the Rev. John Williams, the village pastor, and his family. Two of his children and a black servant were murdered at his door. With his wife and five children he began the toilsome journey. Mrs. Williams fainted with fatigue on the second day. The tomahawk of an Indian cleft her skull, and so they were relieved of the burden. Her husband and children were taken to Canada, and after a captivity among the Caughnawagas, near Montreal, for nearly two years, they were ransomed and returned home. Only a daughter, ten years old, was kept. The Indians would not part with her. She grew up to womanhood in Indian habits and tastes, became a Roman Catholic, married a young Mohawk brave and bore children; and when she visited her relations in Deerfield in after years, she could not be induced to abandon her Indian mode of life, nor leave the church to which she was attached.

The chief object of this expedition was to procure the little bell in the meeting-house in Deerfield. It had been bought in France for the church of St. Louis, at Caughnawaga. The vessel that bore it to America was captured by a New England privateer and taken into Boston. The bell was purchased by the congregation at Deerfield, and hung in the belfry of the meeting-house. The invaders carried it away, under the charge of Father Nicolas, of the church at Caughnawaga, who accompanied the expedition. It was borne in triumph to its original destination, and it now summons the people to worship from the belfry of the church of St. Louis at Caughnawaga.

For years these tales of horror were the true narratives of the experience of New Englanders on the border. Remote settlements were abandoned. The tillers of the soil gathered in palisaded villages and labored in the fields in groups, and well-armed. There was no semblance of civilized warfare in the methods of the French and Indians, and their cruelties inspired good men everywhere with horror. "I hold it to be my duty towards God and my neighbor," wrote the good Peter Schuyler, Mayor of Albany, to Vau dreuil, the French governor of Canada, "to prevent, if possible, these barbarous and heathen cruelties. My heart swells with indignation when I think that a war between Christian princes, bound to the exactest laws of honor and generosity, which their noble ancestors have illustrated by brilliant examples, is degenerated into Indian and boundless butchery. These are not the methods for terminating the war. Would that all the world thought with me on this subject."

Such protests were uttered in vain. The Indians were unrestrained by their Christian allies. The power of the church and state encouraged them in their bloody deeds. At length the New Englanders determined to make aggressive movements. In 1707, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, resolved to carry war into the French domain on the East. Early in June a thousand men under Colonel Marsh sailed for Nantucket, under convoy of a British war-ship, to attempt the conquest of Acadie. The French at Port Royal were prepared for them, and the expedition was a failure.

In 1710, another expedition, fitted out at the joint expense of the New England colonies and New York and New Jersey, sailed from Boston, with a fleet from England under the command of Colonel Nicholson. There were thirty-six vessels in all. They sailed in September, and six days after-ward the fleet was anchored before the fort at Port Royal. The place was surrendered to the English on the thirteenth of October, and the name and fortress of Port Royal were changed to Annapolis, in honor of Queen Anne. Acadie was annexed to the realm of Great Britain, under the title of Nova Scotia or New Scotland. The British flag has waved perpetually over that fortress from that day to this.

Nicholson carried the good news to England, and urged the conquest of Canada. The people of the province of New York, though shielded from invasion by the French and Indians from Canada by the neutral Five Nations who stood an impassable barrier, favored the project, because they looked with concern upon the progress of French dominion in the West, its arms reaching from the great lakes on the North toward others extending from the Gulf of Mexico on the South. The French then claimed all the region in the Valley of the Mississippi to "the South Sea;" named the country Louisiana in honor of their king, and were preparing to establish a great empire there.

The Legislature of New York sent a memorial to the queen on the subject of French encroachments, by the hand of Colonel Schuyler, just mentioned, who was accompanied to England by sachems of the Five Nations, as representatives of the Iroquois Confederacy.

In London these dusky "kings," as they were called, drew crowds of wondering gazers. Multitudes followed the sachems wherever they went, and the print-shops soon exhibited engravings of their portraits. They felt awkward in English small-clothes of black, and scarlet mantles trimmed with gold lace, in which they were clad, and preferred the scanty wardrobe of their forest homes. They were entertained at sumptuous banquets by the principal nobility of the realm, and shown the glory of the kingdom. They saw reviews of troops, and went on board some of the great ships of the Royal Navy; and at the London theatre they were amused by gorgeous displays. In the state carriage drawn by six horses, they were conveyed to the court and held an audience with the queen; and before their departure, they addressed to her Majesty, and to the Lords of the Privy Council, letters bearing their signatures in the form of rude pictures of the Wolf, the Bear, and the Tortoise--their respective totems or tribal arms--in which they promised perpetual friendship and alliance with the English, and confirmed them by presenting belts of wampum, their tokens of fidelity. With Schuyler, they returned to America in the ship Dragon, with Colonel Nicholson, and arrived in Boston early in the summer of 1711. They had seen evidences of the amazing strength, power and glory of Great Britain, which made a deep and abiding impression upon the ambassadors and their countrymen. They were ready to aid the English in the conquest of Canada.

An expedition for that conquest was planned by Henry St. John, after-ward Lord Bolingbroke, the friend of Pope and Swift, the brilliant orator and conversationalist, and the popular and unscrupulous Secretary of War of Queen Anne. Fifteen ships-of-war, forty transports and six store-ships were placed under the command of Admiral Sir Hovenden Walker, and with marines and battalions of veteran soldiers, then sailed for America and arrived at Boston in June, 1711. New England colonies promptly raised a provincial force, and the ships sailed for Quebec on the 10th of August, bearing about seven thousand troops. At the same time other colonies had formed a provincial army for the capture of Montreal and the holding of the region of the upper St. Lawrence. These were under the command of Nicholson, who held a general's commission and marched from Albany, on the Hudson, on the same day when the fleet left Boston. They were four thousand in number, and were chiefly furnished by New York and Connecticut. Six hundred of them were warriors of the Five Nations.

News of these movements soon reached Governor Vaudreuil at Montreal. He sent out Jesuit missionaries and other agents to secure Indian allies, and hastened to Quebec to prepare for the invaders. The fortifications were strengthened; and so enthusiastic were the inhabitants in the cause of defensive war, that women worked on the forts. But there was no occasion to fight for Quebec, for the British armament on the sea did not get into the St. Lawrence. When the ships arrived at its mouth after loitering by the way, they were overtaken by a storm of wind and a thick fog. It was a perilous place among rocks and shoals. Haughtily rejecting the advice of the New England pilots, the admiral listened to that of French pilots, who had an interest in misleading him. His fleet was soon driving on the shore, on the night of the 2d of September. Just as he was going to bed the captain of his vessel came down to him and said, "Land is in sight; we are in great danger." Walker did not believe him. Presently a provincial captain rushed down and exclaimed: "For the Lord's sake come on deck, or we shall be lost; I see the breakers all around us." Leisurely putting on his peril. His orders for salvation, immediately given, were too late. The vessels were driven on the iron-bound shore, and eight of them were lost. Almost a thousand men perished in the sea.

A few days afterward, a council of war concluded that it would be wise to abandon the expedition. The disheartened admiral returned to England with his ships, while the provincial troops were sent to Boston. Hearing of the calamity and the result, Nicholson unwillingly retraced his steps to Albany, and left Montreal unmolested. Walker actually claimed credit for himself in retreating after falsely charging the disaster to the incompetence of the New England pilots. "Had we arrived safe at Quebec, ten or twelve thousand men," he wrote, "must have been left to perish of cold and hunger; by the loss of a part, Providence saved all the rest." The admiral was disappointed in not receiving public honors for his exploits in assisting Providence.

In the spring of 1713, the war was ended by a treaty concluded at Utrecht, by which England obtained the privilege of being the chief trader of the world in African slaves, and received large accessions of territory from France. The eastern Indians, wearied with the war, sent delegates to Boston to sue for peace; and at Portsmouth, the governor of Massachusetts and New Hampshire made a solemn treaty of amity with the chiefs of those tribes on the 24th of July.

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