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up the river.” In fact, there seem to have been two roads, one on each side of the Hoosac; for the French were formed into two brigades, one of which, under the Sieur de la Valterie, filed along the right bank of the stream, and the other, under the Sieur de Sabrevois, along the left; while the Indians marched on the front, flanks, and rear. They passed deserted houses and farms belonging to Dutch settlers from the Hudson; for the Hoosac, in this part of its course, was in the province of New York. They did not stop to burn barns and houses, but they killed poultry, hogs, a cow, and a horse, to supply themselves with meat. Before night they had passed the New York line, and they made their camp in or near the valley where Williamstown and Williams College now stand. Here they were joined by the Sieurs Beaubassin and La Force, who had gone forward, with eight Indians, to reconnoitre. Beaubassin had watched Fort Massachusetts from a distance, and had seen a man go up into the watch-tower, but could discoverno other sign of alarm. Apparently, the fugitive Dutch farmers had not taken pains to warn the English garrison of the coming danger, for there was a coolness between the neighbors. Before breaking up camp in the morning, Rigaud
1 These Dutch settlements on the Hoosac were made under what was called the “Hoosac Patent,” granted by Governor Dongan of New York in 1688. The settlements were not begun till nearly forty years after the grant was made. For evidence on this point I am indebted to Professor A. L. Perry, of Williams College.
called the Indian chiefs together and said to them: “My children, the time is near when we must get other meat than fresh pork, and we will all eat it together.” “Meat,” in Indian parlance, meant prisoners; and as these were valuable by reason of the ransoms paid for them, and as the Indians had suspected that the French meant to keep them all, they were well pleased with this figurative assurance of Rigaud that they should have their share.1
The chaplain said mass, and the party marched in a brisk rain up the Williamstown valley, till after advancing about ten miles they encamped again. Fort Massachusetts was only three or four miles distant. Rigaud held a talk with the Abenaki chiefs who had acted as guides, and it was agreed that the party should stop in the woods near the fort, make scaling-ladders, battering-rams to burst the gates, and other things needful for a grand assault, to take place before daylight; but their plan came to nought through the impetuosity of the young Indians and Canadians, who were so excited at the first glimpse of the watch-tower of the fort that they dashed forward, as Rigaud says, “like lions." Hence one might fairly expect to see the fort assaulted at once; but by the maxims of forest war this would have been reprehensible rashness, and nothing of the
1 "Mes enfans, leur dis-je, le temps approche où il faut faire d'autre viande que le porc frais ; au reste, nous la mangerons tous ensemble ; ce mot les flatta dans la crainte qu'ils avoient qu'après la prise du fort nous ne nous réservâmes tous les prisonniers." - Journal de Rigaud.
kind was attempted. The assailants spread to right and left, squatted behind stumps, and opened a distant and harmless fire, accompanied with unearthly yells and howlings.
Fort Massachusetts was a wooden enclosure formed, like the fort at Number Four, of beams laid one upon another, and interlocked at the angles. This wooden wall seems to have rested, not immediately upon the ground, but upon a foundation of stone, designated by Mr. Norton, the chaplain, as the “underpinning,” – a name usually given in New England to foundations of the kind. At the northwest corner was a blockhouse, crowned with the watchtower, the sight of which had prematurely kindled the martial fire of the Canadians and Indians. This wooden structure, at the apex of the blockhouse, served as a lookout, and also supplied means of throwing water to extinguish fire-arrows shot upon the roof. There were other buildings in the enclosure, especially a large log-house on the south side, which seems to have overlooked the outer wall, and was no doubt loop-holed for musketry. On the east side there was a well, furnished probably with one of those long well-sweeps universal in primitive New England. The garrison, when complete, consisted of fifty-one men under Captain Ephraim Williams, who has left his name to Williamstown and Williams College, of the latter of which he was the founder. He was born at Newton, near Boston; was a man vigorous in body and mind; better acquainted with the world than most of his countrymen, having followed the seas in his youth, and visited England, Spain, and Holland; frank and agreeable in manners, well fitted for such a command, and respected and loved by his men. When the proposed invasion of Canada was preparing, he and some of his men went to take part in it, and had not yet returned. The fort was left in charge of a sergeant, John Hawks, of Deerfield, with men too few for the extent of the works, and a supply of ammunition nearly exhausted. Canada being then put on the defensive, the frontier forts were thought safe for a time. On the Saturday before Rigaud's arrival, Hawks had sent Thomas Williams, the surgeon, brother of the absent captain, to Deerfield, with a detachment of fourteen men, to get a supply of powder and lead. This detachment reduced the entire force, including Hawks himself and Norton, the chaplain, to twentytwo men, half of whom were disabled with dysentery, from which few of the rest were wholly free.
1 The term “ blockhouse ” was loosely used, and was even sometimes applied to an entire fort when constructed of hewn logs, and not of palisades. The true blockhouse of the New England frontier was a solid wooden structure about twenty feet high, with a pro jecting upper story and loopholes above and below.
VOL. II. – 16.!
1 See the notice of Williams in Mass. Hist. Coll., viii. 47. He was killed in the bloody skirmish that preceded the Battle of Lake George in 1755. “Montcalm and Wolfe," chap. ix.
“Lord's day and Monday ... the sickness was very distressing. . . . Eleven of our men were sick, and scarcely one of us in perfect health; almost every man was troubled with the griping and flux." - Norton, The Redeemed Captive.
There were also in the fort three women and five children.
The site of Fort Massachusetts is now a meadow by the banks of the Hoosac. Then it was a rough clearing, encumbered with the stumps and refuse of the primeval forest, whose living hosts stood grimly around it, and spread, untouched by the axe, up the sides of the neighboring Saddleback Mountain. The position of the fort was bad, being commanded by high ground, from which, as the chaplain tells us, “the enemy could shoot over the north side into the middle of the parade,” – for which serious defect, John Stoddard, of Northampton, legist, capitalist, colonel of militia, and “Superintendent of Defence," was probably answerable. These frontier forts were, however, often placed on low ground with a view to an abundant supply of water, fire being the most dreaded enemy in Indian warfare.?
1 Rigaud erroneously makes the garrison a little larger. “ La garnison se trouve de 24 hommes, entre lesquels il y avoit un ministre, 3 femmes, et 5 enfans." The names and residence of all the men in the fort when the attack began are preserved. Hawks made his report to the provincial government under the title “ An Account of the Company in his Majesty's Service under the command of Serg! John Hawks ... at Fort Massachusetts, August 20 [31, new style), 1746.” The roll is attested on oath “Before William Williams, Just. Pacis." The number of men is 22, including Hawks and Norton. Each man brought his own gun. I am indebted to the kindness of Professor A. L. Perry for a copy of Hawks's report, which is addressed to "the Honble. Spencer Phipps, Esq., Lieut. Gov! and Commander in Chief [and] the Honble his Majesty's Council and House of Representatives in General Court assembled.”
2 When I visited the place as a college student, no trace of the fort was to be seen except a hollow, which may have been the