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each of the five nations for itself, and the colonists and their red allies had an interval of rest. In the following May, an Onondaga orator, on a peace visit to Montreal, said, in a speech to the Governor, "Our young men will no more fight the French; but they are too warlike to stay at home, and this summer we shall invade the country of the Eries. The earth trembles and quakes in that quarter; but here all remains calm."1 Early in the autumn, Father Le Moyne, who had taken advantage of the peace to go on a mission to the Onondagas, returned with the tidings that the Iroquois were all on fire with this new enterprise, and were about to march against the Eries with eighteen hundred warriors.2 The occasion of this new war is said to have been as follows. The Eries, who it will be remembered dwelt on the south of the lake named after them, had made a treaty of peace with the Senecas, and in the preceding year had sent a deputation of thirty of their principal men to confirm it. While they were in the great Seneca town, it happened that one of that nation was killed in a casual quarrel with an Erie; whereupon his countrymen rose in a fury and murdered the thirty deputies. Then ensued a brisk war of reprisals, in which not only the Senecas, but the other Iroquois nations, took part. The Eries captured a famous Onondaga chief, and were about 1 Le Mercier, Relation, 1654, 9.
2 Ibid., 10. Le Moyne, in his interesting journal of his mission repeatedly alludes to their preparations.
I654.J A SISTER'S REVENGE. 543 to burn him, when he succeeded in convincing them of the wisdom of a course of conciliation; and they resolved to give him to the sister of one of the murdered deputies, to take the place of her lost brother. The sister, by Indian law, had it in her choice to receive him with a fraternal embrace or to burn him; but, though she was absent at the time, no one doubted that she would choose the gentler alternative. Accordingly, he was clothed in gay attire, and all the town fell to feasting in honor of his adoption. In the midst of the festivity the sister returned. To the amazement of the Erie chiefs, she rejected with indignation their proffer of a new brother, declared that she would be revenged for her loss, and insisted that the prisoner should forthwith be burned. The chiefs remonstrated in vain, representing the danger in which such a procedure would involve the nation: the female fury was inexorable; and the unfortunate prisoner, stripped of his festal robes, was bound to the stake, and put to death.1 He warned his tormentors with his last breath that they were burning not only him, but the whole Erie nation, since his countrymen would take a fiery vengeance for his fate. His words proved true; for no sooner was his story spread abroad among the Iroquois, than the confederacy resounded with warsongs from end to end, and the warriors took the field under their two great war-chiefs. Notwithstanding Le Moyne's report, their number, according 1 De Quen, Relation, 1656. 30.
to the Iroquois account, did not exceed twelve hundred.1 They embarked in canoes on the lake. At their approach the Eries fell back, withdrawing into the forests towards the west, till they were gathered into one body, when, fortifying themselves with palisades and felled trees, they awaited the approach of the invaders. By the lowest estimate, the Eries numbered two thousand warriors, besides women and children. But this is the report of the Iroquois, who were naturally disposed to exaggerate the force of their enemies. They approached the Erie fort, and two of their chiefs, dressed like Frenchmen, advanced and called on those within to surrender. One of them had lately been baptized by Le Moyne; and he shouted to the Eries, that, if they did not yield in time, they were all dead men, for the Master of Life was on the side of the Iroquois. The Eries answered with yells of derision. "Who is this master of your lives?" they cried; "our hatchets and our right arms are the masters of ours." The Iroquois rushed to the assault, 1 This was their statement to Chaumonot and Dablon, at Onondaga, in November of this year. They added, that the number of the Eries was between three and four thousand. (Journal des PP. Chaumonot et Dablon, in Relation, 1050, 18.) In the narrative of De Quen (Ibid., 30, 31), based, of course, on Iroquois reports, the Iroquois force is also set down at twelve hundred, but that of the Eries is reduced to between two and three thousand warriors. Even this may safely be taken as an exaggeration. Though the Eries had no firearms, they used poisoned arrows with great effect, discharging them, it is said, with surprising rapidity.
FATE OF THE ERIES. 545 but were met with a shower of poisoned arrows, which killed and wounded many of them, and drove the rest back. They waited awhile, and then attacked again with unabated mettle. This time, they carried their bark canoes over their heads like huge shields, to protect them from the storm of arrows; then planting them upright, and mounting them by the cross-bars like ladders, scaled the barricade with such impetuous fury that the Eries were thrown into a panic. Those escaped who could; but the butchery was frightful, and from that day the Eries as a nation were no more. The victors paid dear for their conquest. Their losses were so heavy that they were forced to remain for two months in the Erie country, to bury their dead and nurse their wounded.1 1 De Quen, Relation, 1656, 31. The Iroquois, it seems, afterwards made other expeditions, to finish their work. At least, they told Chaumonot and Dablon, in the autumn of this year, that they meant to do so in the following spring. It seems, that, before attacking the great fort of the Eries, the Iroquois had made a promise to worship the new God of the French if He would give them the victory. This promise, and the success which followed, proved of great advantage to the mission. Various traditions are extant among the modern remnant of the Iroquois concerning the war with the Eries. They agree in little beyond the fact of the existence and destruction of that people. Indeed, Indian traditions are very rarely of any value as historical evidence. One of these stories, told me some years ago by a very intelligent Iroquois of the Cayuga Nation, is a striking illustration of Iroquois ferocity. It represents that the night after the great battle the forest was lighted up with more than a thousand fires, at each of which an Erie was burning alive. It differs from the historical accounts in making the Eries the aggressors.
One enemy of their own race remained, — the Andastes. This nation appears to have been inferior in numbers to either the Hurons, the Neutrals, or the Eries; but they cost their assailants more trouble than all these united. The Mohawks seem at first to have borne the brunt of the Andaste war; and, between the years 1650 and 1660, they were so roughly handled by these stubborn adversaries that they were reduced from the height of audacious insolence to the depths of dejection.1 The remaining four nations of the Iroquois league now took up the quarrel, and fared scarcely better than the Mohawks. In the spring of 1662, eight hundred of their warriors set out for the Andaste country to strike a decisive blow; but when they reached the great town of their enemies, they saw that they had received both aid and counsel from the neighboring Swedish colonists. The town was fortified by a double palisade, flanked by two bastions, on which, it is said, several small pieces of cannon were mounted. Clearly, it was not to be carried by assault, as the invaders had promised themselves. Their only hope was in treachery; and, accordingly, twenty-five of their warriors gained entrance, on pretence of settling the terms of a peace. Here, again, ensued a grievous disappointment; for the Andastes seized them all, built high scaffolds visible from without, and tortured them to 1 Relation, 1660, 6 (anonymous). The Mohawks also suffered great reverses about this time at the hands of their Algonquin neighbors, the Mohicans.