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FORT RICHELIEU. 337 the Huron country was cut off; and three times the annual packet of letters sent thither to the missionaries fell into the hands of the Iroquois. It was towards the close of the year 1640 that the scourge of Iroquois war had begun to fall heavily on the French. At that time, a party of their warriors waylaid and captured Thomas Godefroy and Francois Marguerie, — the latter a young man of great energy and daring, familiar with the woods, a master of the Algonquin language, and a scholar of no mean acquirements.1 To the great joy of the colonists, he and his companion were brought back to Three Rivers by their captors, and given up, in the vain hope that the French would respond with a gift of firearms. Their demand for them being declined, they broke off the parley in a rage, fortified themselves, fired on the French, and withdrew under cover of night. Open war now ensued, and for a time all was bewilderment and terror. How to check the inroads of an enemy so stealthy and so keen for blood was the problem that taxed the brain of Montmagny, the Governor. He thought he had found a solution, when he conceived the plan of building a fort at the mouth of the river Richelieu, by which the Iroquois always made their descents to the St. Lawrence. Happily for the perishing colony, the Cardinal de Richelieu, in 1642, sent out thirty or forty soldiers 1 During his captivity, he wrote, on a beaver-skin, a letter to the Dutch in French, Latin, and English. for its defence.1 Ten times the number would have been scarcely sufficient; but even this slight succor was hailed with delight, and Montmagny was enabled to carry into effect his plan of the fort, for which hitherto he had had neither builders nor garrison. He took with him, besides the new-comers, a body of soldiers and armed laborers from Quebec, and, with a force of about a hundred men in all,2 sailed for the Richelieu, in a brigantine and two or three open boats. On the thirteenth of August he reached his destination, and landed where the town of Sorel now stands. It was but eleven days before that Jogues and his companions had been captured, and Montmagny's followers found ghastly tokens of the disaster. The heads of the slain were stuck on poles by the side of the river; and several trees, from which portions of the bark had been peeled, were daubed with the rude picture-writing in which the victors recorded their exploit.8 Among the rest, a representation of Jogues himself was clearly distinguishable. The heads were removed, the trees cut down, and a large cross planted on the spot. An altar was raised, 1 Faillon, Colonie Franchise, ii. 2; Vimont, Relation, 1642, 2, 44.
2 Marie de l'lnearnation, Lettre, Sept. 21), 1042. 8 Vimont, Relation, 1042, 52.
This practice was common to many tribes, and is not yet extinct. The writer has seen similar records, made by recent war-parties of Crows or Blackfeet, in the remote West. In this case, the bark was removed from the trunks of large cotton-wood trees, and the pictures traced with charcoal and vermilion. There were marks for scalps, for prisoners, and for the conquerors themselves.
ATTACK ON THE FORT. 339 and all heard mass; then a volley of musketry was fired; and then they fell to their work. They hewed an opening into the forest, dug up the roots, cleared the ground, and cut, shaped, and planted palisades. Thus a week passed, and their defences were nearly completed, when suddenly the war-whoop rang in their ears, and two hundred Iroquois rushed upon them from the borders of the clearing.1 It was the party of warriors that Jogues had met on an island in Lake Champlain. But for the courage of Du Rocher, a corporal, who was on guard, they would have carried all before them. They were rushing through an opening in the palisade, when he, with a few soldiers, met them with such vigor and resolution that they were held in check long enough for the rest to snatch their arms. Montmagny, who was on the river in his brigantine, hastened on shore; and the soldiers, encouraged by his arrival, fought with great determination. The Iroquois, on their part, swarmed up to the palisade, thrust their guns through the loop-holes, and fired on those within; nor was it till several of them had been killed and others wounded that they learned to keep a more prudent distance. A tall savage, wearing a crest of the hair of some animal dyed scarlet and bound with a fillet of wampum, leaped forward to the attack, and was shot dead. Another shared his fate, with seven buck-shot in his 1 The Relation of 1642 says three hundred. Jogues, who had been among them to his cost, is the better authority. shield and as many in his body. The French, with shouts, redoubled their fire, and the Indians at length lost heart and fell back. The wounded dropped guns, shields, and war-clubs, and the whole band withdrew to the shelter of a fort which they had built in the forest, three miles above. On the part of the French, one man was killed and four wounded. They had narrowly escaped a disaster which might have proved the ruin of the colony; and they now gained time so far to strengthen their defences as to make them reasonably secure against any attack of savages.1 The new fort, however, did not effectually answer its purpose of stopping the inroads of the Iroquois. They would land a mile or more above it, carry their canoes through the forest across an intervening tongue of land, and then launch them in the St. Lawrence, while the garrison remained in total ignorance of their movements. While the French were thus beset, their Indian allies fared still worse. The effect of Iroquois hostilities on all the Algonquin tribes of Canada, from the Saguenay to the Lake of the Nipissings, had become frightfully apparent. Famine and pestilence had aided the ravages of war, till these wretched 1 Vimont, Relation, 1642, 50, 51. Assaults by Indians on fortified places are rare. The Iroquois are known, however, to have made them with success in several cases, some of the most remarkable of which will appear hereafter. The courage of Indians is uncertain and spasmodic. They are capable, at times, of a furious temerity, approaching desperation; but this is liable to sudden and extreme reaction. Their courage, too, is much oftener displayed in covert than in open attacks.
1641-43.] IROQUOIS AND ALGONQUIN. 341 bands seemed in the course of rapid extermination. Their spirit was broken. They became humble and docile in the hands of the missionaries, ceased their railings against the new doctrine, and leaned on the French as their only hope in this extremity of woe. Sometimes they would appear in troops at Sillery or Three Rivers, scared out of their forests by the sight of an Iroquois footprint; then some new terror would seize them, and drive them back to seek a hidingplace in the deepest thickets of the wilderness. Their best hunting-grounds were beset by the enemy. They starved for weeks together, subsisting on the bark of trees or the thongs of raw hide which formed the network of their snow-shoes. The mortality among them was prodigious. "Where, eight years ago," writes Father Vimont, "one would see a hundred wigwams, one now sees scarcely five or six. A chief who once had eight hundred warriors has now but thirty or forty; and in place of fleets of three or four hundred canoes, we see less than a tenth of that number."1 These Canadian tribes were undergoing that process of extermination, absorption, or expatriation which, as there is reason to believe, had for many generations formed the gloomy and meaningless history of the greater part of this continent. Three or four hundred Dutch guns, in the hands of the conquerors, gave an unwonted quickness and decision to the work, but in no way changed its essential character. The horrible nature of this warfare can be
1 Relation, 1044, 3.