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or trunk of a fallen tree, not far before him, and approached it cautiously, setting on the dogs, or, as Stevens whimsically phrases it, “saying Choboy 1” to them. They ran forward barking, on which several heads appeared above the log, and several guns were fired at him. He was slightly wounded, but escaped to the fort. Then, all around, the air rang with war-whoops, and a storm of bullets flew from the tangle of bushes that edged the clearing, and rapped spitefully, but harmlessly, against the wooden wall. At a little distance on the windward side was a loghouse, to which, with adjacent fences, the assailants presently set fire, in the hope that, as the wind was strong, the flames would catch the fort. When Stevens saw what they were doing, he set himself to thwart them; and while some of his men kept them at bay with their guns, the rest fell to work digging a number of short trenches under the wall, on the side towards the fire. As each trench was six or seven feet deep, a man could stand in it outside the wall, sheltered from bullets, and dash buckets of water, passed to him from within, against the scorching timbers. Eleven such trenches were dug, and eleven men were stationed in them, so that the whole exposed front of the wall was kept wet." Thus,
* “Those who were not employed in firing at the enemy were enployed in digging trenches under the bottom of the fort. We dug no less than eleven of them, so deep that a man could go and stand upright on the outside and not endanger himself; so that when these trenches were finished, we could wet all the outside of the fort, which we did, and kept it wet all night. We drew some
though clouds of smoke drifted over the fort, and burning cinders showered upon it, no harm was done, and the enemy was forced to other devices. They found a wagon, which they protected from water and bullets by a shield of planks, — for there was a saw-mill hard by, – and loaded it with dry fagots, thinking to set them on fire and push the blazing machine against a dry part of the fort wall; but the task proved too dangerous, “for,” says Stevens, “instead of performing what they threatened and seemed to be immediately going to undertake, they called to us and desired a cessation of arms till sunrise the next morning, which was granted, at which time they said they would come to a parley.” In fact, the French commander, with about sixty of his men, came in the morning with a flag of truce, which he stuck in the ground at a musket-shot from the fort, and, in the words of Stevens, “said, if we would send three men to him, he would send as many to us.” Stevens agreed to this, on which two Frenchmen and an Indian came to the fort, and three soldiers went out in return. The two Frenchmen demanded, on the part of their commander, that the garrison should surrender, under a promise of life, and be carried prisoners to Quebec; and they farther required that Stevens should give his answer to the French officer in person.
hundreds of barrels of water; and to undergo all this hard service there were but thirty men.” – Stevens to Colonel W. Williams, April, 1747.
VOL. II. - 15
Wisely or unwisely, Stevens went out at the gate, and was at once joined by Niverville, attended, no doubt, by an interpreter. “Upon meeting the Monsieur,” says the English captain, “he did not wait for me to give him an answer," but said, in a manner sufficiently peremptory, that he had seven hundred men with him, and that if his terms were refused, he would storm the fort, “run over it,” burn it to the ground, and if resistance were offered, put all in it to the sword; adding that he would have it or die, and that Stevens might fight or not as he pleased, for it was all one to him. His terms being refused, he said, as Stevens reports, “Well, go back to your fort and see if your men dare fight any more, and give me an answer quickly; for my men want to be fighting.” Stevens now acted as if he had been the moderator of a town-meeting. “I went into the fort and called the men together, and informed them what the general said, and then put it to vote whether they would fight or resign; and they voted to a man to stand it out, and also declared that they would fight as long as they had life.” 1
Answer was made accordingly, but Niverville's promise to storm the fort and “run over it" was not kept. Stevens says that his enemies had not the courage to do this, or even to bring up their “fortification,” meaning their fire-wagon with its shield of planks. In fact, an open assault upon a fortified place was a thing unknown in this border warfare, whether waged by Indians alone, or by French and Indians together. The assailants only raised the war-whoop again, and fired, as before, from behind stumps, logs, and bushes. This amusement they kept up from two o'clock till night, when they grew bolder, approached nearer, and shot flights of firearrows into the fort, which, water being abundant, were harmless as their bullets. At daylight they gave over this exercise, called out, “Goodmorning!” to the garrison, and asked for a suspension of arms for two hours. This being agreed to, another flag of truce presently appeared, carried by two Indians, who planted it in the ground within a stone's throw of the fort, and asked that two men should be sent out to confer with them. This was done, and the men soon came back with a proposal that Stevens should sell provisions to his besiegers, under a promise on their part that they would give him no farther trouble. He answered that he would not sell them provisions for money, but would exchange them for prisoners, and give five bushels of Indian corn for every hostage placed in his hands as security for the release of an English captive in Canada. To this their only answer was firing a few shots against the fort, after which they all disappeared, and were seen no more. The garrison had scarcely eaten or slept for three days. “I believe men were never known to hold out with better resolution,” writes Stevens; and “though there were some thousands of guns shot at us, we
1 Stevens to Colonel William Williams, April, 1747.
had but two men slightly wounded, John Brown and Joseph Ely.”1
Niverville and his party, disappointed and hungry, now made a tour among the scattered farms and hamlets of the country below, which, incapable of resisting such an inroad, were abandoned at their approach. Thus they took an easy revenge for their rebuff at Number Four, and in a march of thirty or forty leagues, burned five small deserted forts or stockaded houses, "three meeting-houses, several fine barns, about one hundred dwellings, mostly of two stories, furnished even to chests of drawers, and killed five to six hundred sheep and hogs, and about thirty horned cattle. This devastation is well worth a few prisoners or scalps.”. It is curious to find such exploits mentioned with complacency, as evidence of prowess.
The successful defence of the most exposed place on the frontier was welcome news throughout New England, and Commodore Charles Knowles, who was then at Boston, sent Stevens a silver-hilted sword in recognition of his conduct. The settlers of Number Four, who soon returned to their backwoods home, were so well pleased with this compliment to one of their fellows that they gave to the settlement the baptismal name of the Commodore, and the town that has succeeded the hamlet of Number Four is Charlestown to this day.3
1 Stevens to Colonel W. Williams, April, 1747. · N. Y. Col. Docs., 1. 97.
8 Just after the withdrawal of the French and Indians, Stevens wrote two letters giving an account of the affair, one to Governor