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Sergeant Hawks, the provisional commander, was, according to tradition, a tall man with sunburnt features, erect, spare, very sinewy and strong, and of a bold and resolute temper. He had need to be so, for counting every man in the fort, lay and clerical, sick and well, he was beset by more than thirty times his own number; or, counting only his effective men, by more than sixty times, – and this at the lowest report of the attacking force. As there was nothing but a log fence between him and his enemy, it was clear that they could hew or burn a way through it, or climb over it with no surprising effort of valor. Rigaud, as we have seen, had planned a general assault under cover of night, but had been thwarted by the precipitancy of the young Indians and Canadians. These now showed no inclination to depart from the cautious maxims of forest warfare. They made a terrific noise, but when they came within gunshot of the fort, it was by darting from stump to stump with a quick zigzag movement that made them more difficult to hit than birds on the wing. The best moment for a shot was when they reached a stump, and stopped for an instant to duck and hide behind it. By seizing this fleeting opportunity, Hawks himself put a bullet into the breast of an Abenaki chief from St. Francis, – “which ended his days,” says the chaplain. In view of the nimbleness of the assailants, a charge of buckshot was found more to the purpose than a bullet. Besides the slain Abenaki, Rigaud reports sixteen Indians and Frenchmen wounded, 1 - which, under the circumstances, was good execution for ten farmers and a minister; for Chaplain Norton loaded and fired with the rest. Rigaud himself was one of the wounded, having been hit in the arm and sent to the rear, as he stood giving orders on the rocky hill about forty rods from the fort. Probably it was a chance shot, since, though rifles were invented long before, they were not yet in general use, and the yeoman garrison were armed with nothing but their own smooth-bore hunting-pieces, not to be trusted at long range. The supply of ammunition had sunk so low that Hawks was forced to give the discouraging order not to fire except when necessary to keep the enemy in check, or when the chance of hitting him should be unusually good. Such of the sick men as were strong enough aided the defence by casting bullets and buckshot.
remains of a cellar, and a thriving growth of horse-radish, – a relic of the garrison garden. My friend, Dr. D. D. Slade, has given an interesting account of the spot in the Magazine of American His: tory for October, 1888.
The outrageous noise lasted till towards nine in the evening, when the assailants greeted the fort with a general war-whoop, and repeated it three or four times; then a line of sentinels was placed around it to prevent messengers from carrying the alarm to Albany or Deerfield. The evening was dark and
1 “L'Ennemi me tua un abenakis et me blessa 16 hommes, tant Iroquois qu'Abenaquis, nipissings et françois.” – Journal de Rigaudo
cloudy. The lights of a camp could be seen by the river towards the southeast, and those of another near the swamp towards the west. There was a sound of axes, as if the enemy were making scalingladders for a night assault; but it was found that they were cutting fagots to burn the wall. Hawks ordered every tub and bucket to be filled with water, in preparation for the crisis. Two men, John Aldrich and Jonathan Bridgman, had been wounded, thus farther reducing the strength of the defenders. The chaplain says: “Of those that were in health, some were ordered to keep the watch, and some lay down and endeavored to get some rest, lying down in our clothes with our arms by us. . . . We got little or no rest; the enemy frequently raised us by their hideous outcries, as though they were about to attack us. The latter part of the night I kept the watch.”
Rigaud spent the night in preparing for a decisive attack, “ being resolved to open trenches two hours before sunrise, and push them to the foot of the palisade, so as to place fagots against it, set them on fire, and deliver the fort a prey to the fury of the flames."i It began to rain, and he determined to wait till morning. That the commander of seven
1 “Je passay la nuit à conduire l'ouvrage auquel j'avois destiné le jour précédent, résolu à faire ouvrir la tranchée deux heures avant le lever du soleil, et de la pousser jusqu'au pied de la palissade, pour y placer les fascines, y appliquer l'artifice, et livrer le fort en proye à la fureur du feu.” – Journal de Rigaud. He mis takes in calling the log wall of the fort a palisade.
hundred French and Indians should resort to such elaborate devices to subdue a sergeant, seven militiamen, and a minister, — for this was now the effective strength of the besieged, — was no small compliment to the spirit of the defence.
The firing was renewed in the morning, but there was no attempt to open trenches by daylight. Two men were sent up into the watch-tower, and about eleven o'clock one of them, Thomas Knowlton, was shot through the head. The number of effectives was thus reduced to eight, including the chaplain. Up to this time the French and English witnesses are in tolerable accord; but now there is conflict of evidence. Rigaud says that when he was about to carry his plan of attack into execution, he saw a white flag hung out, and sent the elder De Muy, with Montigny and D'Auteuil, to hear what the English commandant - whose humble rank he nowhere mentions — had to say. On the other hand, Norton, the chaplain, says that about noon the French “desired to parley,” and that “we agreed to it.” He says farther that the sergeant, with himself and one or two others, met Rigaud outside the gate, and that the French commander promised “good quarter” to the besieged if they would surrender, with the alternative of an assault if they would not. This account is sustained by Hawks, who says that at twelve o'clock an Indian came forward with a flag of truce, and that he, Hawks, with two or three others, went to meet Rigaud, who then offered honorable terms of capitulation. The sergeant promised an answer within two hours; and going back to the fort with his companions, examined their means of defence. He found that they had left but three or four pounds of gunpowder, and about as much lead. Hawks called a council of his effective men. Norton prayed for divine aid and guidance, and then they fell to considering the situation. “Had we all been in health, or had there been only those eight of us that were in health, I believe every man would willingly have stood it out to the last. For my part, I should,” writes the manful chaplain. But besides the sick and wounded, there were three women and five children, who, if the fort were taken by assault, would no doubt be butchered by the Indians, but who might be saved by a capitulation. Hawks therefore resolved to make the best terms he could. He had defended his post against prodigious odds for twenty-eight hours. Rigaud promised that all in the fort should be treated with humanity as prisoners of war, and exchanged at the first opportunity. He also promised that none of them should be given to the Indians, though he had lately assured his savage allies that they should have their share of the prisoners.
At three o'clock the principal French officers were admitted into the fort, and the French flag was raised
1 Journal of Sergeant Hawks, cited by William L. Stone, Life and Times of Sir William Johnson, i. 227. What seems conclusive is that the French permitted Norton to nail to a post of the fort a short account of its capture, in which it is plainly stated that the first advances were made by Rigaud.