A Half-Century of Conflict, Volume II
Francis Parkman

Part 1 out of 4

Produced by Don Kretz, David Moynihan, Charles Franks
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.








French Explorers.--Le Sueur on the St. Peter's.--Canadians on the
Missouri.--Juchereau de Saint-Denis.--Bénard de la Harpe on Red
River.--Adventures of Du Tisné.--Bourgmont visits the Comanches.--The
Brothers Mallet in Colorado and New Mexico.--Fabry de la Bruyère.




The Western Sea.--Schemes for reaching it.--Journey of Charlevoix.--The
Sioux Mission.--Varennes de la Vérendrye.--His Enterprise.--His
Disasters.--Visits the Mandans.--His Sons.--Their Search for the Western
Sea.--Their Adventures.--The Snake Indians.--A Great War-Party.--The Rocky
Mountains.--A Panic.--Return of the Brothers.--Their Wrongs and their Fate.




Opposing Claims.--Attitude of the Rival Nations.--America a French
Continent.--England a Usurper.--French Demands.--Magnanimous
Proposals.--Warlike Preparation.--Niagara.--Oswego.--Crown Point.--The
Passes of the West secured.


1744, 1745.


War of the Austrian Succession.--The French seize Canseau and attack
Annapolis.--Plan of Reprisal.--William Vanghan.--Governor Shirley.--He
advises an Attack on Louisbourg.--The Assembly refuses, but at last
consents.--Preparation.--William Pepperrell.--George Whitefield.--Parson
Moody.--The Soldiers.--The Provincial Navy.--Commodore Warren.--Shirley as
an Amateur Soldier.--The Fleet sails.




Seth Pomeroy.--The Voyage.--Canseau.--Unexpected Succors.--Delays.
--Louisbourg.--The Landing.--The Grand Battery taken.--French Cannon turned
on the Town.--Weakness of Duchambon.--Sufferings of the Besiegers.--Their
Hardihood.--Their Irregular Proceedings.--Joseph Sherburn.--Amateur
Gunnery.--Camp Frolics.--Sectarian Zeal.--Perplexities of Pepperrell.




A Rash Resolution.--The Island Battery.--The Volunteers.--The Attack.--The
Repulse.--Capture of the "Vigilant."--A Sortie.--Skirmishes.--Despondency
of the French.--English Camp threatened.--Pepperrell and Warren.--Warren's
Plan.--Preparation for a General Attack.--Flag of Truce.--Capitulation.
--State of the Fortress.--Parson Moody.--Soldiers dissatisfied.--Disorders.
--Army and Navy.--Rejoicings.--England repays Provincial Outlays.




Louisbourg after the Conquest.--Mutiny.--Pestilence.--Stephen
Williams.--His Diary.--Scheme of conquering Canada.--Newcastle's
Promises.--Alarm in Canada.--Promises broken.--Plan against Crown
Point.--Startling News.--D'Anville's Fleet.--Louisbourg to be
avenged.--Disasters of D'Anville.--Storm.--Pestilence.--Famine.--Death of
D'Anville.--Suicide of the Vice-Admiral.--Ruinous Failure.--Return
Voyage.--Defeat of La Jonquière.




Efforts of France.--Apathy of Newcastle.--Dilemma of Acadians.--Their
Character.--Danger of the Province.--Plans of Shirley.--Acadian
Priests.--Political Agitators.--Noble's Expedition.--Ramesay at
Beaubassin.--Noble at Grand-Pré.--A Winter March.--Defeat and Death of
Noble.--Grand-Pré re-occupied by the English.--Threats of Ramesay against
the Acadians.--The British Ministry will not protect them.




Governor and Assembly.--Saratoga destroyed.--William Johnson.--Border
Ravages.--Upper Ashuelot.--French "Military Movements."--Number
Four.--Niverville's Attack.--Phineas Stevens.--The French repulsed.




Frontier Defence.--Northfield and its Minister.--Military Criticisms of
Rev. Benjamin Doolittle.--Rigaud de Vaudreuil.--His Great War-Party.--He
attacks Fort Massachusetts.--Sergeant Hawks and his Garrison.--A Gallant
Defence.--Capitulation.--Humanity of the French.--Ravages.--Return to Crown
Point.--Peace of Aix-la Chapelle.










The occupation by France of the lower Mississippi gave a strong impulse to
the exploration of the West, by supplying a base for discovery, stimulating
enterprise by the longing to find gold mines, open trade with New Mexico,
and get a fast hold on the countries beyond the Mississippi in anticipation
of Spain; and to these motives was soon added the hope of finding an
overland way to the Pacific. It was the Canadians, with their indomitable
spirit of adventure, who led the way in the path of discovery.

As a bold and hardy pioneer of the wilderness, the Frenchman in America has
rarely found his match. His civic virtues withered under the despotism of
Versailles, and his mind and conscience were kept in leading-strings by an
absolute Church; but the forest and the prairie offered him an unbridled
liberty, which, lawless as it was, gave scope to his energies, till these
savage wastes became the field of his most noteworthy achievements.

Canada was divided between two opposing influences. On the one side were
the monarchy and the hierarchy, with their principles of order,
subordination, and obedience; substantially at one in purpose, since both
wished to keep the colony within manageable bounds, domesticate it, and
tame it to soberness, regularity, and obedience. On the other side was the
spirit of liberty, or license, which was in the very air of this wilderness
continent, reinforced in the chiefs of the colony by a spirit of adventure
inherited from the Middle Ages, and by a spirit of trade born of present
opportunities; for every official in Canada hoped to make a profit, if not
a fortune, out of beaverskins. Kindred impulses, in ruder forms, possessed
the humbler colonists, drove them into the forest, and made them hardy
woodsmen and skilful bushfighters, though turbulent and lawless members of
civilized society.

Time, the decline of the fur-trade, and the influence of the Canadian
Church gradually diminished this erratic spirit, and at the same time
impaired the qualities that were associated with it. The Canadian became a
more stable colonist and a steadier farmer; but for forest journeyings and
forest warfare he was scarcely his former self. At the middle of the
eighteenth century we find complaints that the race of _voyageurs_ is
growing scarce. The taming process was most apparent in the central and
lower parts of the colony, such as the Côte de Beaupré and the opposite
shore of the St. Lawrence, where the hands of the government and of the
Church were strong; while at the head of the colony,--that is, about
Montreal and its neighborhood,--which touched the primeval wilderness, an
uncontrollable spirit of adventure still held its own. Here, at the
beginning of the century, this spirit was as strong as it had ever been,
and achieved a series of explorations and discoveries which revealed the
plains of the Far West long before an Anglo-Saxon foot had pressed their

The expedition of one Le Sueur to what is now the State of Minnesota may be
taken as the starting-point of these enterprises. Le Sueur had visited the
country of the Sioux as early as 1683. He returned thither in 1689 with the
famous _voyageur_ Nicolas Perrot. [Footnote: _Journal historique de
l'Etablissement des Français à la Louisiane_, 43.] Four years later,
Count Frontenac sent him to the Sioux country again. The declared purpose
of the mission was to keep those fierce tribes at peace with their
neighbors; but the Governor's enemies declared that a contraband trade in
beaver was the true object, and that Frontenac's secretary was to have half
the profits. [Footnote: _Champigny au Ministre, 4 Nov._ 1693.] Le
Sueur returned after two years, bringing to Montreal a Sioux chief and his
squaw,--the first of the tribe ever seen there. He then went to France, and
represented to the court that he had built a fort at Lake Pepin, on the
upper Mississippi; that he was the only white man who knew the languages of
that region; and that if the French did not speedily seize upon it, the
English, who were already trading upon the Ohio, would be sure to do so.
Thereupon he asked for the command of the upper Mississippi, with all its
tributary waters, together with a monopoly of its fur-trade for ten years,
and permission to work its mines, promising that if his petition were
granted, he would secure the country to France without expense to the King.
The commission was given him. He bought an outfit and sailed for Canada,
but was captured by the English on the way. After the peace he returned to
France and begged for a renewal of his commission. Leave was given him to
work the copper and lead mines, but not to trade in beaver-skins. He now
formed a company to aid him in his enterprise, on which a cry rose in
Canada that under pretence of working mines he meant to trade in
beaver,--which is very likely, since to bring lead and copper in bark
canoes to Montreal from the Mississippi and Lake Superior would cost far
more than the metal was worth. In consequence of this clamor his commission
was revoked.

Perhaps it was to compensate him for the outlays into which he had been
drawn that the colonial minister presently authorized him to embark for
Louisiana and pursue his enterprise with that infant colony, instead of
Canada, as his base of operations. Thither, therefore, he went; and in
April, 1700, set out for the Sioux country with twenty-five men, in a small
vessel of the kind called a "felucca," still used in the Mediterranean.

Among the party was an adventurous youth named Penecaut, a ship-carpenter
by trade, who had come to Louisiana with Iberville two years before, and
who has left us an account of his voyage with Le Sueur. [Footnote:
_Relation de Penecaut_. In my possession is a contemporary manuscript
of this narrative, for which I am indebted to the kindness of General J.
Meredith Reade.]

The party slowly made their way, with sail and oar, against the muddy
current of the Mississippi, till they reached the Arkansas, where they
found an English trader from Carolina. On the 10th of June, spent with
rowing, and half starved, they stopped to rest at a point fifteen leagues
above the mouth of the Ohio. They had staved off famine with the buds and
leaves of trees; but now, by good luck, one of them killed a bear, and,
soon after, the Jesuit Limoges arrived from the neighboring mission of the
Illinois, in a canoe well stored with provisions. Thus refreshed, they
passed the mouth of the Missouri on the 13th of July, and soon after were
met by three Canadians, who brought them a letter from the Jesuit Marest,
warning them that the river was infested by war-parties. In fact, they
presently saw seven canoes of Sioux warriors, bound against the Illinois;
and not long after, five Canadians appeared, one of whom had been badly
wounded in a recent encounter with a band of Outagamies, Sacs, and
Winnebagoes bound against the Sioux. To take one another's scalps had been
for ages the absorbing business and favorite recreation of all these
Western tribes. At or near the expansion of the Mississippi called Lake
Pepin, the voyagers found a fort called Fort Perrot, after its builder;
[Footnote: Penecaut, _Journal. Procès-verbal de la Prise de Possession du
Pays des Nadouessioux, etc., par Nicolas Perrot_, 1689. Fort Perrot
seems to have been built in 1685, and to have stood near the outlet of the
lake, probably on the west side. Perrot afterwards built another fort,
called Fort St. Antoine, a little above, on the east bank. The position of
these forts has been the subject of much discussion, and cannot be
ascertained with precision. It appears by the _Prise de Possession_,
cited above, that there was also, in 1689, a temporary French post near the
mouth of the Wisconsin.] and on an island near the upper end of the lake,
another similar structure, built by Le Sueur himself on his last visit to
the place. These forts were mere stockades, occupied from time to time by
the roving fur-traders as their occasions required.

Towards the end of September, Le Sueur and his followers reached the mouth
of the St. Peter, which they ascended to Blue Earth River. Pushing a league
up this stream, they found a spot well suited to their purpose, and here
they built a fort, of which there was great need, for they were soon after
joined by seven Canadian traders, plundered and stripped to the skin by the
neighboring Sioux. Le Sueur named the new post Fort l'Huillier. It was a
fence of pickets, enclosing cabins for the men. The neighboring plains were
black with buffalo, of which the party killed four hundred, and cut them
into quarters, which they placed to freeze on scaffolds within the
enclosure. Here they spent the winter, subsisting on the frozen meat,
without bread, vegetables, or salt, and, according to Penecaut, thriving
marvellously, though the surrounding wilderness was buried five feet deep
in snow.

Band after band of Sioux appeared, with their wolfish dogs and their sturdy
and all-enduring squaws burdened with the heavy hide coverings of their
teepees, or buffalo-skin tents. They professed friendship and begged for
arms. Those of one band had blackened their faces in mourning for a dead
chief, and calling on Le Sueur to share their sorrow, they wept over him,
and wiped their tears on his hair. Another party of warriors arrived with
yet deeper cause of grief, being the remnant of a village half exterminated
by their enemies. They, too, wept profusely over the French commander, and
then sang a dismal song, with heads muffled in their buffalo-robes.
[Footnote: This weeping over strangers was a custom with the Sioux of that
time mentioned by many early writers. La Mothe-Cadillac marvels that a
people so brave and warlike should have such a fountain of tears always at
command.] Le Sueur took the needful precautions against his dangerous
visitors, but got from them a large supply of beaver-skins in exchange for
his goods.

When spring opened, he set out in search of mines, and found, not far above
the fort, those beds of blue and green earth to which the stream owes its
name. Of this his men dug out a large quantity, and selecting what seemed
the best, stored it in their vessel as a precious commodity. With this and
good store of beaver-skins, Le Sueur now began his return voyage for
Louisiana, leaving a Canadian named D'Éraque and twelve men to keep the
fort till he should come back to reclaim it, promising to send him a
canoe-load of ammunition from the Illinois. But the canoe was wrecked, and
D'Éraque, discouraged, abandoned Fort l'Huillier, and followed his
commander down the Mississippi. [Footnote: In 1702 the geographer De l'Isle
made a remarkable MS. map entitled _Carte de la Rivière du Mississippi,
dressée sur les Mémoires de M. Le Sueur_.]

Le Sueur, with no authority from government, had opened relations of trade
with the wild Sioux of the Plains, whose westward range stretched to the
Black Hills, and perhaps to the Rocky Mountains. He reached the settlements
of Louisiana in safety, and sailed for France with four thousand pounds of
his worthless blue earth. [Footnote: According to the geologist
Featherstonhaugh, who examined the locality, this earth owes its color to a
bluish-green silicate of iron.] Repairing at once to Versailles, he begged
for help to continue his enterprise. His petition seems to have been
granted. After long delay, he sailed again for Louisiana, fell ill on the
voyage, and died soon after landing. [Footnote: Besides the long and
circumstantial _Relation de Penecaut_, an account of the earlier part
of Le Sueur's voyage up the Mississippi is contained in the _Mémoire du
Chevalier de Beaurain_, which, with other papers relating to this
explorer, including portions of his Journal, will be found in Margry, VI.
See also _Journal historique de l'Etablissement des Français à la
Louisiane_, 38-71.]

Before 1700, the year when Le Sueur visited the St. Peter, little or
nothing was known of the country west of the Mississippi, except from the
report of Indians. The romances of La Hontan and Matthieu Sagean were
justly set down as impostures by all but the most credulous. In this same
year we find Le Moyne d'Iberville projecting journeys to the upper
Missouri, in hopes of finding a river flowing to the Western Sea. In 1703,
twenty Canadians tried to find their way from the Illinois to New Mexico,
in hope of opening trade with the Spaniards and discovering mines.
[Footnote: _Iberville à ----, 15 Fév. 1703_ (Margry, VI. 180).] In
1704 we find it reported that more than a hundred Canadians are scattered
in small parties along the Mississippi and the Missouri; [Footnote:
_Bienville au Ministre_, 6 _Sept._ 1704.] and in 1705 one Laurain
appeared at the Illinois, declaring that he had been high up the Missouri
and had visited many tribes on its borders. [Footnote: Beaurain, _Journal
historique_.] A few months later, two Canadians told Bienville a similar
story. In 1708 Nicolas de la Salle proposed an expedition of a hundred men
to explore the same mysterious river; and in 1717 one Hubert laid before
the Council of Marine a scheme for following the Missouri to its source,
since, he says, "not only may we find the mines worked by the Spaniards,
but also discover the great river that is said to rise in the mountains
where the Missouri has its source, and is believed to flow to the Western
Sea." And he advises that a hundred and fifty men be sent up the river in
wooden canoes, since bark canoes would be dangerous, by reason of the
multitude of snags. [Footnote: Hubert, _Mémoire envoyé au Conseil de la

In 1714 Juchereau de Saint-Denis was sent by La Mothe-Cadillac to explore
western Louisiana, and pushed up Red River to a point sixty-eight leagues,
as he reckons, above Natchitoches. In the next year, journeying across
country towards the Spanish settlements, with a view to trade, he was
seized near the Rio Grande and carried to the city of Mexico. The
Spaniards, jealous of French designs, now sent priests and soldiers to
occupy several points in Texas. Juchereau, however, was well treated, and
permitted to marry a Spanish girl with whom he had fallen in love on the
way; but when, in the autumn of 1716, he ventured another journey to the
Mexican borders, still hoping to be allowed to trade, he and his goods were
seized by order of the Mexican viceroy, and, lest worse should befall him,
he fled empty handed, under cover of night. [Footnote: Penecaut,
_Relation_, chaps, xvii., xviii. Le Page du Pratz, _Histoire de la
Louisiane_, I. 13-22. Various documents in Margry, VI. 193-202.]

In March, 1719, Bénard de la Harpe left the feeble little French post at
Natchitoches with six soldiers and a sergeant [Footnote: For an interesting
contemporary map of the French establishment at Natchitoches, see Thomassy,
_Géologie pratique de la Louisiane._]. His errand was to explore the
country, open trade if possible with the Spaniards, and establish another
post high up Red River. He and his party soon came upon that vast
entanglement of driftwood, or rather of uprooted forests, afterwards known
as the Red River raft, which choked the stream and forced them to make
their way through the inundated jungle that bordered it. As they pushed or
dragged their canoes through the swamp, they saw with disgust and alarm a
good number of snakes, coiled about twigs and boughs on the right and left,
or sometimes over their heads. These were probably the deadly
water-moccason, which in warm weather is accustomed to crawl out of its
favorite element and bask itself in the sun, precisely as described by La
Harpe. Their nerves were further discomposed by the splashing and plunging
of alligators lately wakened from their wintry torpor. Still, they pushed
painfully on, till they reached navigable water again, and at the end of
the month were, as they thought, a hundred and eight leagues above
Natchitoches. In four days more they reached the Nassonites.

These savages belonged to a group of stationary tribes, only one of which,
the Caddoes, survives to our day as a separate community. Their enemies the
Chickasaws, Osages, Arkansas, and even the distant Illinois, waged such
deadly war against them that, according to La Harpe, the unfortunate
Nassonites were in the way of extinction, their numbers having fallen,
within ten years, from twenty-five hundred souls to four hundred.
[Footnote: Bénard de la Harpe, in Margry, VI. 264.]

La Harpe stopped among them to refresh his men, and build a house of
cypress-wood as a beginning of the post he was ordered to establish; then,
having heard that a war with Spain had ruined his hopes of trade with New
Mexico, he resolved to pursue his explorations.

With him went ten men, white, red, and black, with twenty-two horses bought
from the Indians, for his journeyings were henceforth to be by land. The
party moved in a northerly and westerly course, by hills, forests, and
prairies, passed two branches of the Wichita, and on the 3d of September
came to a river which La Harpe calls the southwest branch of the Arkansas,
but which, if his observation of latitude is correct, must have been the
main stream, not far from the site of Fort Mann. Here he was met by seven
Indian chiefs, mounted on excellent horses saddled and bridled after the
Spanish manner. They led him to where, along the plateau of the low,
treeless hills that bordered the valley, he saw a string of Indian
villages, extending for a league and belonging to nine several bands, the
names of which can no longer be recognized, and most of which are no doubt
extinct. He says that they numbered in all six thousand souls; and their
dwellings were high, dome-shaped structures, built of clay mixed with reeds
and straw, resting, doubtless, on a frame of bent poles. [Footnote:
Beaurain says that each of these bands spoke a language of its own. They
had horses in abundance, descended from Spanish stock. Among them appear to
have been the Ouacos, or Huecos, and the Wichitas,--two tribes better known
as the Pawnee Picts. See Marcy, _Exploration of Red River._] With them
were also some of the roving Indians of the plains, with their conical
teepees of dressed buffalo-skin.

The arrival of the strangers was a great and amazing event for these
savages, few of whom had ever seen a white man. On the day after their
arrival the whole multitude gathered to receive them and offer them the
calumet, with a profusion of songs and speeches. Then warrior after warrior
recounted his exploits and boasted of the scalps he had taken. From eight
in the morning till two hours after midnight the din of drums, songs,
harangues, and dances continued without relenting, with a prospect of
twelve hours more; and La Harpe, in desperation, withdrew to rest himself
on a buffalo-robe, begging another Frenchman to take his place. His hosts
left him in peace for a while; then the chiefs came to find him, painted
his face blue, as a tribute of respect, put a cap of eagle-feathers on his
head, and laid numerous gifts at his feet. When at last the ceremony ended,
some of the performers were so hoarse from incessant singing that they
could hardly speak. [Footnote: Compare the account of La Harpe with that of
the Chevalier de Beaurain; both are in Margry, VI. There is an abstract in
_Journal historique._]

La Harpe was told by his hosts that the Spanish settlements could be
reached by ascending their river; but to do this was at present impossible.
He began his backward journey, fell desperately ill of a fever, and nearly
died before reaching Natchitoches.

Having recovered, he made an attempt, two years later, to explore the
Arkansas in canoes, from its mouth, but accomplished little besides killing
a good number of buffalo, bears, deer, and wild turkeys. He was confirmed,
however, in the belief that the Comanches and the Spaniards of New Mexico
might be reached by this route.

In the year of La Harpe's first exploration, one Du Tisné went up the
Missouri to a point six leagues above Grand River, where stood the village
of the Missouris. He wished to go farther, but they would not let him. He
then returned to the Illinois, whence he set out on horseback with a few
followers across what is now the State of Missouri, till he reached the
village of the Osages, which stood on a hill high up the river Osage. At
first he was well received; but when they found him disposed to push on to
a town of their enemies, the Pawnees, forty leagues distant, they angrily
refused to let him go. His firmness and hardihood prevailed, and at last
they gave him leave. A ride of a few days over rich prairies brought him to
the Pawnees, who, coming as he did from the hated Osages, took him for an
enemy and threatened to kill him. Twice they raised the tomahawk over his
head; but when the intrepid traveller dared them to strike, they began to
treat him as a friend. When, however, he told them that he meant to go
fifteen days' journey farther, to the Padoucas, or Comanches, their deadly
enemies, they fiercely forbade him; and after planting a French flag in
their village, he returned as he had come, guiding his way by compass, and
reaching the Illinois in November, after extreme hardships. [Footnote:
_Relation de Bénard de la Harpe. Autre Relation du même. Du Tisné à
Bienville._ Margry, VI. 309, 310, 313.]

Early in 1721 two hundred mounted Spaniards, followed by a large body of
Comanche warriors, came from New Mexico to attack the French at the
Illinois, but were met and routed on the Missouri by tribes of that region.
[Footnote: _Bienville au Conseil de Régence, 20 Juillet, 1721._] In
the next year, Bienville was told that they meant to return, punish those
who had defeated them, and establish a post on the river Kansas; whereupon
he ordered Boisbriant, commandant at the Illinois, to anticipate them by
sending troops to build a French fort at or near the same place. But the
West India Company had already sent one Bourgmont on a similar errand, the
object being to trade with the Spaniards in time of peace, and stop their
incursions in time of war. [Footnote: _Instructions au Sieur de
Bourgmont, 17 Jan. 1722._ Margry, VI. 389.] It was hoped also that, in
the interest of trade, peace might be made between the Comanches and the
tribes of the Missouri. [Footnote: The French had at this time gained a
knowledge of the tribes of the Missouri as far up as the Arickaras, who
were not, it seems, many days' journey below the Yellowstone, and who told
them of "prodigiously high mountains,"--evidently the Rocky Mountains.
_Mémoire de la Renaudière_, 1723.]

Bourgmont was a man of some education, and well acquainted with these
tribes, among whom he had traded for years. In pursuance of his orders he
built a fort, which he named Fort Orléans, and which stood on the Missouri
not far above the mouth of Grand River. Having thus accomplished one part
of his mission, he addressed himself to the other, and prepared to march
for the Comanche villages.

Leaving a sufficient garrison at the fort, he sent his ensign, Saint-Ange,
with a party of soldiers and Canadians, in wooden canoes, to the villages
of the Kansas higher up the stream, and on the 3d of July set out by land
to join him, with a hundred and nine Missouri Indians and sixty-eight
Osages in his train. A ride of five days brought him again to the banks of
the Missouri, opposite a Kansas town. Saint-Ange had not yet arrived, the
angry and turbid current, joined to fevers among his men, having retarded
his progress. Meanwhile Bourgmont drew from the Kansas a promise that their
warriors should go with him to the Comanches. Saint-Ange at last appeared,
and at daybreak of the 24th the tents were struck and the pack-horses
loaded. At six o'clock the party drew up in battle array on a hill above
the Indian town, and then, with drum beating and flag flying, began their
march. "A fine prairie country," writes Bourgmont, "with hills and dales
and clumps of trees to right and left." Sometimes the landscape quivered
under the sultry sun, and sometimes thunder bellowed over their heads, and
rain fell in floods on the steaming plains.

Renaudière, engineer of the party, one day stood by the side of the path
and watched the whole procession as it passed him. The white men were about
twenty in all. He counted about three hundred Indian warriors, with as many
squaws, some five hundred children, and a prodigious number of dogs, the
largest and strongest of which dragged heavy loads. The squaws also served
as beasts of burden; and, says the journal, "they will carry as much as a
dog will drag." Horses were less abundant among these tribes than they
afterwards became, so that their work fell largely upon the women.

On the sixth day the party was within three leagues of the river Kansas, at
a considerable distance above its mouth. Bourgmont had suffered from
dysentery on the march, and an access of the malady made it impossible for
him to go farther. It is easy to conceive the regret with which he saw
himself compelled to return to Fort Orléans. The party retraced their
steps, carrying their helpless commander on a litter.

First, however, he sent one Gaillard on a perilous errand. Taking with him
two Comanche slaves bought for the purpose from the Kansas, Gaillard was
ordered to go to the Comanche villages with the message that Bourgmont had
been on his way to make them a friendly visit, and though stopped by
illness, hoped soon to try again, with better success.

Early in September, Bourgmont, who had arrived safely at Fort Orléans,
received news that the mission of Gaillard had completely succeeded; on
which, though not wholly recovered from his illness, he set out again on
his errand of peace, accompanied by his young son, besides Renaudière, a
surgeon, and nine soldiers. On reaching the great village of the Kansas he
found there five Comanche chiefs and warriors, whom Gaillard had induced to
come thither with him. Seven chiefs of the Otoes presently appeared, in
accordance with an invitation of Bourgmont; then six chiefs of the Iowas
and the head chief of the Missouris. With these and the Kansas chiefs a
solemn council was held around a fire before Bourgmont's tent; speeches
were made, the pipe of peace was smoked, and presents were distributed.

On the 8th of October the march began, the five Comanches and the chiefs of
several other tribes, including the Omahas, joining the cavalade. Gaillard
and another Frenchman named Quesnel were sent in advance to announce their
approach to the Comanches, while Bourgmont and his followers moved up the
north side of the river Kansas till the eleventh, when they forded it at a
point twenty leagues from its mouth, and took a westward and southwestward
course, sometimes threading the grassy valleys of little streams, sometimes
crossing the dry upland prairie, covered with the short, tufted dull-green
herbage since known as "buffalo grass." Wild turkeys clamored along every
watercourse; deer were seen on all sides, buffalo were without number,
sometimes in grazing droves, and sometimes dotting the endless plain as far
as the eye could reach. Ruffian wolves, white and gray, eyed the travellers
askance, keeping a safe distance by day, and howling about the camp all
night. Of the antelope and the elk the journal makes no mention. Bourgmont
chased a buffalo on horseback and shot him with a pistol,--which is
probably the first recorded example of that way of hunting.

The stretches of high, rolling, treeless prairie grew more vast as the
travellers advanced. On the 17th, they found an abandoned Comanche camp.
On the next day as they stopped to dine, and had just unsaddled their
horses, they saw a distant smoke towards the west, on which they set the
dry grass on fire as an answering signal. Half an hour later a body of wild
horsemen came towards them at full speed, and among them were their two
couriers, Gaillard and Quesnel, waving a French flag. The strangers were
eighty Comanche warriors, with the grand chief of the tribe at their head.
They dashed up to Bourgmont's bivouac and leaped from their horses, when a
general shaking of hands ensued, after which white men and red seated
themselves on the ground and smoked the pipe of peace. Then all rode
together to the Comanche camp, three leagues distant. [Footnote: This
meeting took place a little north of the Arkansas, apparently where that
river makes a northward bend, near the 22d degree of west longitude. The
Comanche villages were several days' journey to the southwest. This tribe
is always mentioned in the early French narratives as the Padoucas,--a name
by which the Comanches are occasionally known to this day. See Whipple and
Turner, _Reports upon Indian Tribes,_ in _Explorations and Surveys
for the Pacific Railroad,_ (Senate Doc., 1853,1854).]

Bourgmont pitched his tents at a pistol-shot from the Comanche lodges,
whence a crowd of warriors presently came to visit him. They spread
buffalo-robes on the ground, placed upon them the French commander, his
officers, and his young son; then lifted each, with its honored load, and
carried them all, with yells of joy and gratulation, to the lodge of the
Great Chief, where there was a feast of ceremony lasting till nightfall.

On the next day Bourgmont displayed to his hosts the marvellous store of
gifts he had brought for them--guns, swords, hatchets, kettles, gunpowder,
bullets, red cloth, blue cloth, hand-mirrors, knives, shirts, awls,
scissors, needles, hawks' bells, vermilion, beads, and other enviable
commodities, of the like of which they had never dreamed. Two hundred
savages gathered before the French tents, where Bourgmont, with the gifts
spread on the ground before him, stood with a French flag in his hand,
surrounded by his officers and the Indian chiefs of his party, and
harangued the admiring auditors.

He told them that he had come to bring them a message from the King, his
master, who was the Great Chief of all the nations of the earth, and whose
will it was that the Comanches should live in peace with his other
children,--the Missouris, Osages, Kansas, Otoes, Omahas, and Pawnees,--with
whom they had long been at war; that the chiefs of these tribes were now
present, ready to renounce their old enmities; that the Comanches should
henceforth regard them as friends, share with them the blessing of alliance
and trade with the French, and give to these last free passage through
their country to trade with the Spaniards of New Mexico. Bourgmont then
gave the French flag to the Great Chief, to be kept forever as a pledge of
that day's compact. The chief took the flag, and promised in behalf of his
people to keep peace inviolate with the Indian children of the King. Then,
with unspeakable delight, he and his tribesmen took and divided the gifts.

The next two days were spent in feasts and rejoicings. "Is it true that you
are men?" asked the Great Chief. "I have heard wonders of the French, but I
never could have believed what I see this day." Then, taking up a handful
of earth, "The Spaniards are like this; but you are like the sun." And he
offered Bourgmont, in case of need, the aid of his two thousand Comanche
warriors. The pleasing manners of his visitors, and their unparalleled
generosity, had completely won his heart.

As the object of the expedition was accomplished, or seemed to be so, the
party set out on their return. A ride of ten days brought them again to the
Missouri; they descended in canoes to Fort Orléans, and sang Te Deum in
honor of the peace. [Footnote: _Relation du Voyage du Sieur de Bourgmont,
Juin-Nov._, 1724, in Margry, VI. 398. Le Page du Pratz, III. 141.]

No farther discovery in this direction was made for the next fifteen years.
Though the French had explored the Missouri as far as the site of Fort
Clark and the Mandan villages, they were possessed by the idea--due,
perhaps, to Indian reports concerning the great tributary river, the
Yellowstone--that in its upper course the main stream bent so far southward
as to form a waterway to New Mexico, with which it was the constant desire
of the authorities of Louisiana to open trade. A way thither was at last
made known by two brothers named Mallet, who with six companions went up
the Platte to its South Fork, which they called River of the Padoucas,--a
name given it on some maps down to the middle of this century. They
followed the South Fork for some distance, and then, turning southward and
southwestward, crossed the plains of Colorado. Here the dried dung of the
buffalo was their only fuel; and it has continued to feed the camp-fire of
the traveller in this treeless region within the memory of many now living.
They crossed the upper Arkansas, and apparently the Cimarron, passed Taos,
and on the 22d of July reached Santa Fé, where they spent the winter. On
the 1st of May, 1740, they began their return journey, three of them
crossing the plains to the Pawnee villages, and the rest descending the
Arkansas to the Mississippi. [Footnote: _Journal du Voyage des Frères
Mallet, présenté à MM. de Bienville et Salmon_. This narrative is meagre
and confused, but serves to establish the main points. _Copie du
Certificat donné à Santa Fé aux sept [huit] Français par le Général
Hurtado, 24 Juillet, 1739. Père Rébald au Père de Beaubois, sans date.
Bienville et Salmon au Ministre, 30 Avril_, 1741, in Margry, VI.

The bold exploit of the brothers Mallet attracted great attention at New
Orleans, and Bienville resolved to renew it, find if possible a nearer and
better way to Santa Fé, determine the nature and extent of these mysterious
western regions, and satisfy a lingering doubt whether they were not
contiguous to China and Tartary. [Footnote: _Instructions données par
Jean-Baptiste de Bienville à Fabry de la Bruyère, 1 Juin, 1741_.
Bienville was behind his time in geographical knowledge. As early as 1724
Bénard de la Harpe knew that in ascending the Missouri or the Arkansas one
was moving towards the "Western Sea,"--that is, the Pacific,--and might,
perhaps, find some river flowing into it. See _Routes qu'on peut tenir
pour se rendre à la Mer de l'Ouest,_ in _Journal historique_,
387.] A naval officer, Fabry de la Bruyère, was sent on this errand, with
the brothers Mallet and a few soldiers and Canadians. He ascended the
Canadian Fork of the Arkansas, named by him the St. André, became entangled
in the shallows and quicksands of that difficult river, fell into disputes
with his men, and after protracted efforts, returned unsuccessful.
[Footnote: _Extrait des Lettres du Sieur Fabry._]

While French enterprise was unveiling the remote Southwest, two indomitable
Canadians were pushing still more noteworthy explorations into more
northern regions of the continent.





In the disastrous last years of Louis XIV, the court gave little thought to
the New World; but under the regency of the Duke of Orléans interest in
American affairs revived. Plans for reaching the Mer de l'Ouest, or Pacific
Ocean, were laid before the Regent in 1716. It was urged that the best hope
was in sending an expedition across the continent, seeing that every
attempt to find a westward passage by Hudson Bay had failed. As
starting-points and bases of supply for the expedition, it was proposed to
establish three posts, one on the north shore of Lake Superior, at the
mouth of the river Kaministiguia, another at Lac des Cristineaux, now
called Lake of the Woods, and the third at Lake Winnipeg,--the last being
what in American phrase is called the "jumping-off place," or the point
where the expedition was to leave behind the last trace of civilization.
These posts were to cost the Crown nothing; since by a device common in
such cases, those who built and maintained them were to be paid by a
monopoly of the fur-trade in the adjacent countries. It was admitted,
however, that the subsequent exploration must be at the charge of the
government, and would require fifty good men, at 300 francs a year each,
besides equipment and supplies. All things considered, it was reckoned that
an overland way to the Pacific might be found for about 50,000 francs, or
10,000 dollars. [Footnote: _Mémoire fait et arresté par le Conseil de
Marine, 3 Fév. 1717; Mémoire du Roy, 26 Juin, 1717._]

The Regent approved the scheme so far as to order the preliminary step to
be taken by establishing the three posts, and in this same year, Lieutenant
La Noue, of the colony troops, began the work by building a stockade at the
mouth of the Kaministiguia. Little more was done in furtherance of the
exploration till three years later, when the celebrated Jesuit, Charlevoix,
was ordered by the Duke of Orléans to repair to America and gain all
possible information concerning the Western Sea and the way to it.
[Footnote: _Charlevoix au Comte de Morville, 1 Avril_, 1723.]

In the next year he went to the Upper Lakes, and questioned missionaries,
officers, _voyageurs,_ and Indians. The results were not satisfactory.
The missionaries and the officers had nothing to tell; the voyagers and
Indians knew no more than they, but invented confused and contradictory
falsehoods to hide their ignorance. Charlevoix made note of everything, and
reported to the Comte de Toulouse that the Pacific probably formed the
western boundary of the country of the Sioux, and that some Indians told
him that they had been to its shores and found white men there different
from the French.

Believing that these stories were not without foundation, Charlevoix
reported two plans as likely to lead to the coveted discovery. One was to
ascend the Missouri, "the source of which is certainly not far from the
sea, as all the Indians I have met have unanimously assured me;" and the
other was to establish a mission among the Sioux, from whom after
thoroughly learning their language, the missionaries could, as he thinks,
gain all the desired information. [Footnote: The valuable journal of
Charlevoix's western travels, written in the form of letters, was published
in connection with his _Histoire de la Nouvelle France_. After his
visit to the Lakes, he went to New Orleans, intending to return in the
spring and continue his inquiries for the Western Sea; but being unable to
do this, he went back to France at the end of 1722. The official report of
his mission is contained in a letter to the Comte de Toulouse, 20 Jan.

The Regent approved the plan of the mission; but the hostile disposition of
the Sioux and the Outagamies prevented its execution for several years. In
1727 the scheme was revived, and the colonial minister at Versailles
ordered the Governor of Canada to send two missionaries to the Sioux. But
the mission required money, and the King would not give it. Hence the usual
expedient was adopted. A company was formed, and invested with a monopoly
of the Sioux fur-trade, on condition of building a fort, mission-house, and
chapel, and keeping an armed force to guard them. It was specially provided
that none but pious and virtuous persons were to be allowed to join the
Company, "in order," says the document, "to attract the benediction of God
upon them and their business." [Footnote: _Traité de la Compagnie des
Sioux, 6 Juin, 1727._] The prospects of the Company were thought good,
and the Governor himself was one of the shareholders. While the mission was
given the most conspicuous place in the enterprise, its objects were rather
secular than spiritual,--to attach the Sioux to the French interest by the
double ties of religion and trade, and utilize their supposed knowledge to
reach the Pacific. [Footnote: On this scheme, _Vaudreuil et Bégon au
Ministre, 4 Oct. 1723; Longueuil et Bégon au Ministre, 31 Oct. 1725;
Beauharnois et Dupuy au Ministre, 25 Sept. 1727._]

Father Guignas was made the head of the mission, and Boucher de la Perrière
the military chief. The party left Montreal in June, and journeying to the
Mississippi by way of Michillimackinac, Green Bay, Fox River, and the
Wisconsin, went up the great river to Lake Pepin, where the adventurous
Nicolas Perrot had built two trading-posts more than forty years before.
Even if his timeworn tenements were still standing, La Perrière had no
thought of occupying them. On the north, or rather west, side of the lake
his men found a point of land that seemed fit for their purpose,
disembarked, cut down trees, and made a square stockade enclosing the
necessary buildings. It was near the end of October before they were all
well housed. A large band of Sioux presently appeared, and set up their
teepees hard by. When the birthday of the Governor came, the party
celebrated it with a display of fireworks and vociferous shouts of _Vive
le Roi, Vive Charles de Beauharnois,_ while the Indians yelped in fright
and amazement at the pyrotechnics, or stood pressing their hands upon their
mouths in silent amazement. The French called their fort Fort Beauharnois,
and invited the aid of Saint Michael the Archangel by naming the mission in
his honor. All went well till April, when the water rose with the spring
floods and filled fort, chapel, and houses to the depth of nearly three
feet, ejecting the whole party, and forcing them to encamp on higher ground
till the deluge subsided. [Footnote: _Guignas à Beauharnois, 28 Mai,

Worse enemies than the floods soon found them out. These were the
irrepressible Outagamies, who rose against the intruding French and incited
the Sioux to join them. There was no profit for the Company, and no safety
for its agents. The stockholders became discouraged, and would not support
the enterprise. The fort was abandoned, till in 1731 a new arrangement was
made, followed by another attempt. [Footnote: _Beauharnois et Hocquart au
Ministre, 25 Oct. 1729; Idem, 12 Oct. 1731._] For a time a prosperous
trade was carried on; but, as commonly happened in such cases, the
adventurers seem to have thought more of utilizing their monopoly than of
fulfilling the terms on which they had received it. The wild Sioux of the
plains, instead of being converted and turned into Frenchmen, proved such
dangerous neighbors that in 1737 Legardeur de Saint-Pierre, who then
commanded the post, found himself forced to abandon it. [Footnote:
_Relation du Sieur de Saint-Pierre, 14 Oct. 1737._] The enterprise had
failed in both its aims. The Western Sea was still a mystery, and the Sioux
were not friends, but enemies. Legardeur de Saint-Pierre recommended that
they should be destroyed, benevolent advice easy to give, and impossible to
execute. [Footnote: "Cet officier [Saint-Pierre] a ajouté qu'il seroit
avantageux de detruire cette nation." _Mémoire de Beauharnois, 1738._]

René Gaultier de Varennes, lieutenant in the regiment of Carignan, married
at Three Rivers, in 1667, the daughter of Pierre Boucher, governor of that
place; the age of the bride, Demoiselle Marie Boucher, being twelve years,
six months, and eighteen days. Varennes succeeded his father-in-law as
governor of Three Rivers, with a salary of twelve hundred francs, to which
he added the profits of a farm of forty acres; and on these modest
resources, reinforced by an illicit trade in furs, he made shift to sustain
the dignity of his office. His wife became the mother of numerous
offspring, among whom was Pierre, born in 1685,--an active and hardy youth,
who, like the rest of the poor but vigorous Canadian _noblesse_,
seemed born for the forest and the fur-trade. When, however, the War of the
Spanish Succession broke out, the young man crossed the sea, obtained the
commission of lieutenant, and was nearly killed at the battle of
Malplaquet, where he was shot through the body, received six sabre-cuts,
and was left for dead on the field. He recovered, and returned to Canada,
when, finding his services slighted, he again took to the woods. He had
assumed the designation of La Vérendrye, and thenceforth his full name was
Pierre Gaultier de Varennes de la Vérendrye. [Footnote: M. Benjamin Sulte
has traced out the family history of the Varennes in the parish registers
of Three Rivers and other trustworthy sources. See _Revue Canadienne_,
X. 781, 849, 935.]

In 1728, he was in command of a small post on Lake Nipegon, north of Lake
Superior. Here an Indian chief from the River Kaministiguia told him of a
certain great lake which discharged itself by a river flowing westward. The
Indian further declared that he had descended this river till he reached
water that ebbed and flowed, and terrified by the strange phenomenon, had
turned back, though not till he had heard of a great salt lake, bordered
with many villages. Other Indians confirmed and improved the story. "These
people," said La Vérendrye to the Jesuit Degonnor, "are great liars, but
now and then they tell the truth." [Footnote: _Relation du Père Degonnor,
Jésuite, Missionnaire des Sioux, adressée à M. le Marquis de
Beauharnois_.] It seemed to him likely that their stories of a western
river flowing to a western sea were not totally groundless, and that the
true way to the Pacific was not, as had been supposed, through the country
of the Sioux, but farther northward, through that of the Cristineaux and
Assinniboins, or, in other words, through the region now called Manitoba.
In this view he was sustained by his friend Degonnor, who had just returned
from the ill-starred Sioux mission.

La Vérendrye, fired with the zeal of discovery, offered to search for the
Western Sea if the King would give him one hundred men and supply canoes,
arms, and provisions. [Footnote: _Relation de Degonnor: Beauharnois au
Ministre, 1 Oct_. 1731.] But, as was usual in such cases, the
King would give nothing; and though the Governor, Beauharnois, did all in
his power to promote the enterprise, the burden and the risk were left to
the adventurer himself. La Vérendrye was authorized to find a way to the
Pacific at his own expense, in consideration of a monopoly of the fur-trade
in the regions north and west of Lake Superior. This vast and remote
country was held by tribes who were doubtful friends of the French, and
perpetual enemies of each other. The risks of the trade were as great as
its possible profits, and to reap these, vast outlays must first be made:
forts must be built, manned, provisioned, and stocked with goods brought
through two thousand miles of difficult and perilous wilderness. There were
other dangers, more insidious, and perhaps greater. The exclusive
privileges granted to La Vérendrye would inevitably rouse the intensest
jealousy of the Canadian merchants, and they would spare no effort to ruin
him. Intrigue and calumny would be busy in his absence. If, as was likely,
his patron, Beauharnois, should be recalled, the new governor might be
turned against him, his privileges might be suddenly revoked, the forts he
had built passed over to his rivals, and all his outlays turned to their
profit, as had happened to La Salle on the recall of his patron, Frontenac.
On the other hand, the country was full of the choicest furs, which the
Indians had hitherto carried to the English at Hudson Bay, but which the
proposed trading-posts would secure to the French. La Vérendrye's enemies
pretended that he thought of nothing but beaver-skins, and slighted the
discovery which he had bound himself to undertake; but his conduct proves
that he was true to his engagements, and that ambition to gain honorable
distinction in the service of the King had a large place among the motives
that impelled him.

As his own resources were of the smallest, he took a number of associates
on conditions most unfavorable to himself. Among them they raised money
enough to begin the enterprise, and on the 8th of June, 1731, La Vérendrye
and three of his sons, together with his nephew, La Jemeraye, the Jesuit
Messager, and a party of Canadians, set out from Montreal. It was late in
August before they reached the great portage of Lake Superior, which led
across the height of land separating the waters of that lake from those
flowing to Lake Winnipeg. The way was long and difficult. The men, who had
perhaps been tampered with, mutinied, and refused to go farther. [Footnote:
_Mémoire du Sieur de la Vérendrye du Sujet des Etablissements pour
parvenir a la Découverte de la Mer de l'Ouest,_ in Margry, VI. 585.] Some of
them, with much ado, consented at last to proceed, and, under the lead of
La Jemeraye, made their way by an intricate and broken chain of lakes and
streams to Rainy Lake, where they built a fort and called it Fort St.
Pierre. La Vérendrye was forced to winter with the rest of the party at the
river Kaministiguia, not far from the great portage. Here months were lost,
during which a crew of useless mutineers had to be fed and paid; and it was
not till the next June that he could get them again into motion towards
Lake Winnipeg.

This ominous beginning was followed by a train of disasters. His associates
abandoned him; the merchants on whom he depended for supplies would not
send them, and he found himself, in his own words "destitute of
everything." His nephew, La Jemeraye, died. The Jesuit Auneau, bent on
returning to Michillimackinac, set out with La Vérendrye's eldest son and a
party of twenty Canadians. A few days later, they were all found on an
island in the Lake of the Woods, murdered and mangled by the Sioux.
[Footnote: _Beauharnois au Ministre, 14 Oct. 1736; Relation du Massacre
au Lac des Bois, en Juin, 1736; Journal de la Vérendrye, joint à la lettre
de M. de Beauharnois du ---- Oct. 1737_.] The Assinniboins and
Cristineaux, mortal foes of that fierce people, offered to join the French
and avenge the butchery; but a war with the Sioux would have ruined La
Vérendrye's plans of discovery, and exposed to torture and death the French
traders in their country. Therefore he restrained himself and declined the
proffered aid, at the risk of incurring the contempt of those who offered

Beauharnois twice appealed to the court to give La Vérendrye some little
aid, urging that he was at the end of his resources, and that a grant of
30,000 francs, or 6,000 dollars, would enable him to find a way to the
Pacific. All help was refused, but La Vérendrye was told that he might let
out his forts to other traders, and so raise means to pursue the discovery.

In 1740 he went for the third time to Montreal, where, instead of aid, he
found a lawsuit. "In spite," he says, "of the derangement of my affairs,
the envy and jealousy of various persons impelled them to write letters to
the court insinuating that I thought of nothing but making my fortune. If
more than forty thousand livres of debt which I have on my shoulders are an
advantage, then I can flatter myself that I am very rich. In all my
misfortunes, I have the consolation of seeing that M. de Beauharnois enters
into my views, recognizes the uprightness of my intentions, and does me
justice in spite of opposition." [Footnote: Mémoire du Sieur de la
Vérendrye au sujet des Etablissements pour parvenir à la Découverte de la
Mer de l'Quest.]

Meanwhile, under all his difficulties, he had explored a vast region
hitherto unknown, diverted a great and lucrative fur-trade from the English
at Hudson Bay, and secured possession of it by six fortified posts,--Fort
St. Pierre, on Rainy Lake; Fort St. Charles, on the Lake of the Woods; Fort
Maurepas, at the mouth of the river Winnipeg; Fort Bourbon, on the eastern
side of Lake Winnipeg; Fort La Reine, on the Assinniboin; Fort Dauphin, on
Lake Manitoba. Besides these he built another post, called Fort Rouge, on
the site of the city of Winnipeg; and, some time after, another, at the
mouth of the River Poskoiac, or Saskatchawan, neither of which, however,
was long occupied. These various forts were only stockade works flanked
with block-houses; but the difficulty of building and maintaining them in
this remote wilderness was incalculable. [Footnote: _Mémoire en abrégé de
la Carte qui représente les Etablissements faits par le Sieur de la
Vérendrye et ses Enfants_ (Margry, VI. 616); _Carte des Nouvelles
Découvertes dans l'Ouest du Canada dressée sur les Mémoires de Mr. de la
Vérandrie et donnée au Dépôt de la Marine par M. de la Galissonnière,_
1750; Bellin, _Remarques surla Carte de l'Amérique,_ 1755;
Bougainville, _Mémoire sur l'Etat de la Nouvelle France, _1757.
Most of La Vérendrye's forts were standing during the Seven Years' War, and
were known collectively as _Postes de la Mer de l'Ouest_.]

He had inquired on all sides for the Pacific. The Assinniboins could tell
him nothing. Nor could any information be expected from them, since their
relatives and mortal enemies, the Sioux, barred their way to the West. The
Cristineaux were equally ignorant; but they supplied the place of knowledge
by invention, and drew maps, some of which seem to have been made with no
other intention than that of amusing themselves by imposing on the
inquirer. They also declared that some of their number had gone down a
river called White River, or River of the West, where they found a plant
that shed drops like blood, and saw serpents of prodigious size. They said
further that on the lower part of this river were walled towns, where dwelt
white men who had knives, hatchets, and cloth, but no firearms. [Footnote:
_Journal de la Vérendrye joint à la Lettre de M. de Beauharnois du ----
Oct. 1737_.]

Both Assinniboins and Cristineaux declared that there was a distant tribe
on the Missouri, called Mantannes (Mandans), who knew the way to the
Western Sea, and would guide him to it. Lured by this assurance, and
feeling that he had sufficiently secured his position to enable him to
begin his Western exploration, La Vérendrye left Fort La Reine in October,
1738, with twenty men, and pushed up the River Assinniboin till its rapids
and shallows threatened his bark canoes with destruction. Then, with a band
of Assinniboin Indians who had joined him, he struck across the prairie for
the Mandans, his Indian companions hunting buffalo on the way. They
approached the first Mandan village on the afternoon of the 3d of December,
displaying a French flag and firing three volleys as a salute. The whole
population poured out to see the marvellous visitors, who were conducted
through the staring crowd to the lodge of the principal chief,--a capacious
structure so thronged with the naked and greasy savages that the Frenchmen
were half smothered. What was worse, they lost the bag that held all their
presents for the Mandans, which was snatched away in the confusion, and
hidden in one of the _caches_, called cellars by La Vérendrye, of
which the place was full. The chief seemed much discomposed at this mishap,
and explained it by saying that there were many rascals in the village.
The loss was serious, since without the presents nothing could be done. Nor
was this all; for in the morning La Vérendrye missed his interpreter, and
was told that he had fallen in love with an Assinniboin girl and gone off
in pursuit of her. The French were now without any means of communicating
with the Mandans, from whom, however, before the disappearance of the
interpreter, they had already received a variety of questionable
information, chiefly touching white men cased in iron who were said to live
on the river below at the distance of a whole summer's journey. As they
were impervious to arrows,--so the story ran,--it was necessary to shoot
their horses, after which, being too heavy to run, they were easily caught.
This was probably suggested by the armor of the Spaniards, who had more
than once made incursions as far as the lower Missouri; but the narrators
drew on their imagination for various additional particulars.

The Mandans seem to have much declined in numbers during the century that
followed this visit of La Vérendrye. He says that they had six villages on
or near the Missouri, of which the one seen by him was the smallest, though
he thinks that it contained a hundred and thirty houses. [Footnote:
_Journal de la Vérendrye_, 1738,1739. This journal, which is
ill-written and sometimes obscure, is printed in Brymner, _Report on
Canadian Archives_, 1889.] As each of these large structures held a
number of families, the population must have been considerable. Yet when
Prince Maximilian visited the Mandans in 1833, he found only two villages,
containing jointly two hundred and forty warriors and a total population of
about a thousand souls. Without having seen the statements of La Vérendrye,
he speaks of the population as greatly reduced by wars and the
small-pox,--a disease which a few years later nearly exterminated the
tribe. [Footnote: Le Prince Maximilien de Wied-Neuwied, _Voyage dans
l'Intérieur de l'Amérique du Nord_, II. 371, 372 (Paris, 1843). When
Captains Lewis and Clark visited the Mandans in 1804, they found them in
two villages, with about three hundred and fifty warriors. They report
that, about forty years before, they lived in nine villages, the ruins of
which the explorers saw about eighty miles below the two villages then
occupied by the tribe. The Mandans had moved up the river in consequence of
the persecutions of the Sioux and the small-pox, which had made great havoc
among them. _Expedition of Lewis and Clark_, I. 129 (ed. Philadelphia,
1814).These nine villages seem to have been above Cannon-ball River, a
tributary of the Missouri.]

La Vérendrye represents the six villages as surrounded with ditches and
stockades, flanked by a sort of bastion,--defences which, he says, had
nothing savage in their construction. In later times the fortifications
were of a much ruder kind, though Maximilian represents them as having
pointed salients to serve as bastions. La Vérendrye mentions some peculiar
customs of the Mandans which answer exactly to those described by more
recent observers.

He had intended to winter with the tribe; but the loss of the presents and
the interpreter made it useless to stay, and leaving two men in the village
to learn the language, he began his return to Fort La Reine. "I was very
ill," he writes, "but hoped to get better on the way. The reverse was the
case, for it was the depth of winter. It would be impossible to suffer more
than I did. It seemed that nothing but death could release us from such
miseries." He reached Fort La Reine on the 11th of February, 1739.

His iron constitution seems to have been severely shaken; but he had sons
worthy of their father. The two men left among the Mandans appeared at Fort
La Reine in September. They reported that they had been well treated, and
that their hosts had parted from them with regret. They also declared that
at the end of spring several Indian tribes, all well supplied with horses,
had come, as was their yearly custom, to the Mandan villages to barter
embroidered buffalo hides and other skins for corn and beans; that they had
encamped, to the number of two hundred lodges, on the farther side of the
Missouri, and that among them was a band said to have come from a distant
country towards the sunset, where there were white men who lived in houses
built of bricks and stones.

The two Frenchmen crossed over to the camp of these Western strangers,
among whom they found a chief who spoke, or professed to speak, the
language of the mysterious white men, which to the two Frenchmen was
unintelligible. Fortunately, he also spoke the language of the Mandans, of
which the Frenchmen had learned a little during their stay, and hence were
able to gather that the white men in question had beards, and that they
prayed to the Master of Life in great houses, built for the purpose,
holding books, the leaves of which were like husks of Indian corn, singing
together and repeating _Jésus, Marie_. The chief gave many other
particulars, which seemed to show that he had been in contact with
Spaniards,--probably those of California; for he described their houses as
standing near the great lake, of which the water rises and falls and is not
fit to drink. He invited the two Frenchmen to go with him to this strange
country, saying that it could be reached before winter, though a wide
circuit must be made, to avoid a fierce and dangerous tribe called Snake
Indians (_Gens du Serpent_). [Footnote: _Journal du Sieur de la
Vérendrye_, 1740, in Archives de la Marine.]

On hearing this story, La Vérendrye sent his eldest son, Pierre, to pursue
the discovery with two men, ordering him to hire guides among the Mandans
and make his way to the Western Sea. But no guides were to be found, and in
the next summer the young man returned from his bootless errand.
[Footnote: _Mémoire du Sieur de la Vérendrye, joint à sa lettre du 31
Oct. 1744_]

Undaunted by this failure, Pierre set out again in the next spring, 1742,
with his younger brother, the Chevalier de la Vérendrye. Accompanied only
by two Canadians, they left Port La Reine on the 29th of April, and
following, no doubt, the route of the Assinniboin and Mouse River, reached
the chief village of the Mandans in about three weeks.

Here they found themselves the welcome guests of this singularly
interesting tribe, ruined by the small-pox nearly half a century ago, but
preserved to memory by the skilful pencil of the artist Charles Bodmer, and
the brush of the painter George Catlin, both of whom saw them at a time
when they were little changed in habits and manners since the visit of the
brothers La Vérendrye. [Footnote: Prince Maximilian spent the winter of
1832-33 near the Mandan villages. His artist, with the instinct of genius,
seized the characteristics of the wild life before him, and rendered them
with admirable vigor and truth. Catlin spent a considerable time among the
Mandans soon after the visit of Prince Maximilian, and had unusual
opportunities of studying them. He was an indifferent painter, a shallow
observer, and a garrulous and windy writer; yet his enthusiastic industry
is beyond praise, and his pictures are invaluable as faithful reflections
of aspects of Indian life which are gone forever.]

[Footnote: Beauharnois calls the Mandans _Blancs Barbus_, and says
that they have been hitherto unknown. _Beauharnois au Ministre, 14
Août_, 1739. The name Mantannes, or Mandans, is that given them by the

Thus, though the report of the two brothers is too concise and brief, we
know what they saw when they entered the central area, or public square, of
the village. Around stood the Mandan lodges, looking like round flattened
hillocks of earth, forty or fifty feet wide. On examination they proved to
be framed of strong posts and poles, covered with a thick matting of
intertwined willow-branches, over which was laid a bed of well-compacted
clay or earth two or three feet thick. This heavy roof was supported by
strong interior posts. [Footnote: The Minnetarees and other tribes of the
Missouri built their lodges in a similar way.] The open place which the
dwellings enclosed served for games, dances, and the ghastly religious or
magical ceremonies practised by the tribe. Among the other structures was
the sacred "medicine lodge" distinguished by three or four tall poles
planted before it, each surmounted by an effigy looking much like a
scarecrow, and meant as an offering to the spirits.

If the two travellers had been less sparing of words, they would doubtless
have told us that as they entered the village square the flattened earthen
domes that surrounded it were thronged with squaws and children,--for this
was always the case on occasions of public interest,--and that they were
forced to undergo a merciless series of feasts in the lodges of the chiefs.
Here, seated by the sunken hearth in the middle, under the large hole in
the roof that served both for window and chimney, they could study at their
ease the domestic economy of their entertainers. Each lodge held a
_gens_, or family connection, whose beds of raw buffalo hide,
stretched on poles, were ranged around the circumference of the building,
while by each stood a post on which hung shields, lances, bows, quivers,
medicine-bags, and masks formed of the skin of a buffalo's head, with the
horns attached, to be used in the magic buffalo dance.

Every day had its sports to relieve the monotony of savage existence, the
game of the stick and the rolling ring, the archery practice of boys,
horse-racing on the neighboring prairie, and incessant games of chance;
while every evening, in contrast to these gayeties, the long, dismal wail
of women rose from the adjacent cemetery, where the dead of the village,
sewn fast in buffalo hides, lay on scaffolds above the reach of wolves.

The Mandans did not know the way to the Pacific, but they told the brothers
that they expected a speedy visit from a tribe or band called Horse
Indians, who could guide them thither. It is impossible to identify this
people with any certainty. [Footnote: The Cheyennes have a tradition that
they were the first tribe of this region to have horses. This may perhaps
justify a conjecture that the northern division of this brave and warlike
people were the Horse Indians of La Vérendrye; though an Indian tradition,
unless backed by well-established facts, can never be accepted as
substantial evidence.] The two travellers waited for them in vain till
after midsummer, and then, as the season was too far advanced for longer
delay, they hired two Mandans to conduct them to their customary haunts.

They set out on horseback, their scanty baggage and their stock of presents
being no doubt carried by pack-animals. Their general course was
west-southwest, with the Black Hills at a distance on their left, and the
upper Missouri on their right. The country was a rolling prairie, well
covered for the most part with grass, and watered by small alkaline streams
creeping towards the Missouri with an opaque, whitish current. Except along
the watercourses, there was little or no wood. "I noticed," says the
Chevalier de la Vérendrye, "earths of different colors, blue, green, red,
or black, white as chalk, or yellowish like ochre." This was probably in
the "bad lands" of the Little Missouri, where these colored earths form a
conspicuous feature in the bare and barren bluffs, carved into fantastic
shapes by the storms. [Footnote: A similar phenomenon occurs farther west
on the face of the perpendicular bluffs that, in one place, border the
valley of the river Rosebud.]

For twenty days the travellers saw no human being, so scanty was the
population of these plains. Game, however, was abundant. Deer sprang from
the tall, reedy grass of the river bottoms; buffalo tramped by in ponderous
columns, or dotted the swells of the distant prairie with their grazing
thousands; antelope approached, with the curiosity of their species, to
gaze at the passing horsemen, then fled like the wind; and as they neared
the broken uplands towards the Yellowstone, they saw troops of elk and
flocks of mountain-sheep. Sometimes, for miles together, the dry plain was
studded thick with the earthen mounds that marked the burrows of the
curious marmots, called prairie-dogs, from their squeaking bark. Wolves,
white and gray, howled about the camp at night, and their cousin, the
coyote, seated in the dusk of evening upright on the grass, with nose
turned to the sky, saluted them with a complication of yelpings, as if a
score of petulant voices were pouring together from the throat of one small

On the 11th of August, after a march of about three weeks, the brothers
reached a hill, or group of hills, apparently west of the Little Missouri,
and perhaps a part of the Powder River Range. It was here that they hoped
to find the Horse Indians, but nobody was to be seen. Arming themselves
with patience, they built a hut, made fires to attract by the smoke any
Indians roaming near, and went every day to the tops of the hills to
reconnoitre. At length, on the 14th of September, they descried a spire of
smoke on the distant prairie.

One of their Mandan guides had left them and gone back to his village. The
other, with one of the Frenchmen, went towards the smoke, and found a camp
of Indians, whom the journal calls Les Beaux Hommes, and who were probably
Crows, or Apsaroka, a tribe remarkable for stature and symmetry, who long
claimed that region as their own. They treated the visitors well, and sent
for the other Frenchmen to come to their lodges, where they were received
with great rejoicing. The remaining Mandan, however, became
frightened,--for the Beaux Hommes were enemies of his tribe,--and he soon
followed his companion on his solitary march homeward.

The brothers remained twenty-one days in the camp of the Beaux Hommes, much
perplexed for want of an interpreter. The tribes of the plains have in
common a system of signs by which they communicate with each other, and it
is likely that the brothers had learned it from the Sioux or Assinniboins,
with whom they had been in familiar intercourse. By this or some other
means they made their hosts understand that they wished to find the Horse
Indians; and the Beaux Hommes, being soothed by presents, offered some of
their young men as guides. They set out on the 9th of October, following a
south-southwest course. [Footnote: _Journal du Voyage fait par le
Chevalier de la Vérendrye en 1742._ The copy before me is from the
original in the Depot des Cartes de la Marine. A duplicate, in the Archives
des Affaires Etrangères, is printed by Margry. It gives the above date as
November 9th instead of October 9th. The context shows the latter to be

In two days they met a band of Indians, called by them the Little Foxes,
and on the 15th and 17th two villages of another unrecognizable horde,
named Pioya. From La Vérendrye's time to our own, this name "villages" has
always been given to the encampments of the wandering people of the plains.
All these nomadic communities joined them, and they moved together
southward, till they reached at last the lodges of the long-sought Horse
Indians. They found them in the extremity of distress and terror. Their
camp resounded with howls and wailings; and not without cause, for the
Snakes, or Shoshones,--a formidable people living farther westward,--had
lately destroyed most of their tribe. The Snakes were the terror of that
country. The brothers were told that the year before they had destroyed
seventeen villages, killing the warriors and old women, and carrying off
the young women and children as slaves.

None of the Horse Indians had ever seen the Pacific; but they knew a people
called Gens de l'Arc, or Bow Indians, who, as they said, had traded not far
from it. To the Bow Indians, therefore, the brothers resolved to go, and by
dint of gifts and promises they persuaded their hosts to show them the way.
After marching southwestward for several days, they saw the distant prairie
covered with the pointed buffalo-skin lodges of a great Indian camp. It was
that of the Bow Indians, who may have been one of the bands of the western
Sioux,--the predominant race in this region. Few or none of them could ever
have seen a white man, and we may imagine their amazement at the arrival of
the strangers, who, followed by staring crowds, were conducted to the lodge
of the chief. "Thus far," says La Vérendrye, "we had been well received in
all the villages we had passed; but this was nothing compared with the
courteous manners of the great chief of the Bow Indians, who, unlike the
others, was not self-interested in the least, and who took excellent care
of everything belonging to us."

The first inquiry of the travellers was for the Pacific; but neither the
chief nor his tribesmen knew anything of it, except what they had heard
from Snake prisoners taken in war. The Frenchmen were surprised at the
extent of the camp, which consisted of many separate bands. The chief
explained that they had been summoned from far and near for a grand
war-party against that common foe of all,--the Snakes. [Footnote: The
enmity between the Sioux and the Snakes lasted to our own time. When the
writer lived among the western Sioux, one of their chiefs organized a
war-party against the Snakes, and numerous bands came to join the
expedition from a distance in some cases of three hundred miles. Quarrels
broke out among them, and the scheme was ruined.] In fact, the camp
resounded with war-songs and war-dances. "Come with us," said their host;
"we are going towards the mountains, where you can see the great water that
you are looking for."

At length the camp broke up. The squaws took down the lodges, and the march
began over prairies dreary and brown with the withering touch of autumn.
The spectacle was such as men still young have seen in these Western lands,
but which no man will see again. The vast plain swarmed with the moving
multitude. The tribes of the Missouri and the Yellowstone had by this time
abundance of horses, the best of which were used for war and hunting, and
the others as beasts of burden. These last were equipped in a peculiar
manner. Several of the long poles used to frame the teepees, or lodges,
were secured by one end to each side of a rude saddle, while the other end
trailed on the ground. Crossbars lashed to the poles just behind the horse
kept them three or four feet apart, and formed a firm support, on which was
laid, compactly folded, the buffalo-skin covering of the lodge. On this,
again, sat a mother with her young family, sometimes stowed for safety in a
large open willow basket, with the occasional addition of some domestic
pet,--such as a tame raven, a puppy, or even a small bear cub. Other horses
were laden in the same manner with wooden bowls, stone hammers, and other
utensils, along with stores of dried buffalo-meat packed in cases of
rawhide whitened and painted. Many of the innumerable dogs--whose manners
and appearance strongly suggested their relatives the wolves, to whom,
however, they bore a mortal grudge--were equipped in a similar way, with
shorter poles and lighter loads. Bands of naked boys, noisy and restless,
roamed the prairie, practising their bows and arrows on any small animal
they might find. Gay young squaws--adorned on each cheek with a spot of
ochre or red clay, and arrayed in tunics of fringed buckskin embroidered
with porcupine quills--were mounted on ponies, astride like men; while lean
and tattered hags--the drudges of the tribe, unkempt and hideous--scolded
the lagging horses, or screeched at the disorderly dogs, with voices not
unlike the yell of the great horned owl. Most of the warriors were on
horseback, armed with round, white shields of bull-hide, feathered lances,
war-clubs, bows, and quivers filled with stone-headed arrows; while a few
of the elders, wrapped in robes of buffalo-hide, stalked along in groups
with a stately air, chatting, laughing, and exchanging unseemly jokes.
[Footnote: The above descriptive particulars are drawn from repeated
observation of similar scenes at a time when the primitive condition of
these tribes was essentially unchanged, though with the difference that the
concourse of savages counted by hundreds, and not by thousands.]

"We continued our march," says La Vérendrye, "sometimes south-southwest,
and now and then northwest; our numbers constantly increasing by villages
of different tribes which joined us." The variations of their course were
probably due to the difficulties of the country, which grew more rugged as
they advanced, with broken hills, tracts of dingy green sage-bushes, and
bright, swift streams, edged with cottonwood and willow, hurrying northward
to join the Yellowstone. At length, on the 1st of January, 1743, they saw
what was probably the Bighorn Range of the Rocky Mountains, a hundred and
twenty miles east of the Yellowstone Park.

A council of all the allied bands was now called, and the Frenchmen were
asked to take part in it. The questions discussed were how to dispose of
the women and children, and how to attack the enemy. Having settled their
plans, the chiefs begged their white friends not to abandon them; and the
younger of the two, the Chevalier, consented to join the warriors, and aid
them with advice, though not with arms.

The tribes of the Western plains rarely go on war-parties in winter, and
this great expedition must have been the result of unusual exasperation.
The object was to surprise the Snakes in the security of their winter camp,
and strike a deadly blow, which would have been impossible in summer.

On the 8th of January the whole body stopped to encamp, choosing, no doubt,
after the invariable winter custom of Western Indians, a place sheltered
from wind, and supplied with water and fuel. Here the squaws and children
were to remain, while most of the warriors advanced against the enemy. By
pegging the lower edge of the lodge-skin to the ground, and piling a ridge
of stones and earth upon it to keep out the air, fastening with wooden
skewers the flap of hide that covered the entrance, and keeping a constant
fire, they could pass a winter endurable to Indians, though smoke, filth,
vermin, bad air, the crowd, and the total absence of privacy, would make it
a purgatory to any civilized white man.

The Chevalier left his brother to watch over the baggage of the party,
which was stored in the lodge of the great chief, while he himself, with
his two Canadians, joined the advancing warriors. They were on horseback,
marching with a certain order, and sending watchmen to reconnoitre the
country from the tops of the hills. [Footnote: At least this was done by a
band of Sioux with whom the writer once traversed a part of the country
ranged by these same Snakes, who had lately destroyed an entire Sioux

Their movements were so slow that it was twelve days before they reached
the foot of the mountains, which, says La Vérendrye, "are for the most part
well wooded, and seem very high." [Footnote: The Bighorn Range, below the
snow line, is in the main well timbered with pine, fir, oak, and juniper.]
He longed to climb their great snow-encumbered peaks, fancying that he
might then see the Pacific, and never dreaming that more than eight hundred
miles of mountains and forests still lay between him and his goal.

Through the whole of the present century the villages of the Snakes were at
a considerable distance west of the Bighorn Range, and some of them were
even on the upper waters of the Pacific slope. It is likely that they were
so in 1743, in which case the war-party would not only have reached the
Bighorn Mountains, but have pushed farther on to within sight of the great
Wind River Range. Be this as it may, their scouts reached the chief winter
camp of the Snakes, and found it abandoned, with lodges still standing, and
many household possessions left behind. The enemy had discovered their
approach, and fled. Instead of encouraging the allies, this news filled
them with terror, for they feared that the Snake warriors might make a
circuit to the rear, and fall upon the camp where they had left their women
and children. The great chief spent all his eloquence in vain, nobody would
listen to him; and with characteristic fickleness they gave over the
enterprise, and retreated in a panic. "Our advance was made in good order;
but not so our retreat," says the Chevalier's journal. "Everybody fled his
own way. Our horses, though good, were very tired, and got little to eat."
The Chevalier was one day riding with his friend, the great chief, when,
looking behind him, he missed his two French attendants. Hastening back in
alarm, he found them far in the rear, quietly feeding their horses under
the shelter of a clump of trees. He had scarcely joined them when he saw a
party of fifteen hostile Indians stealthily creeping forward, covered by
their bull-hide shields. He and his men let them approach, and then gave
them a few shots; on which they immediately ran off, firearms being to them
an astounding novelty.

The three Frenchmen now tried to rejoin the great chief and his band, but
the task was not easy. The prairie, bare of snow and hard as flint, showed
no trace of foot or hoof; and it was by rare good fortune that they
succeeded, on the second day, not in overtaking the chief, but in reaching
the camp where the women and children had been left. They found them all in
safety; the Snakes had not attacked them, and the panic of the warriors was
needless. It was the 9th of February. They were scarcely housed when a
blizzard set in, and on the night of the 10th the plains were buried in
snow. The great chief had not appeared. With such of his warriors as he
could persuade to follow him, he had made a wide circuit to find the trail
of the lost Frenchmen, but, to his great distress, had completely failed.
It was not till five days after the arrival of the Chevalier and his men
that the chief reached the camp, "more dead than alive," in the words of
the journal. All his hardships were forgotten when he found his white
friends safe, for he had given them up for lost. "His sorrow turned to joy,
and he could not give us attention and caresses enough."

The camp broke up, and the allied bands dispersed. The great chief and his
followers moved slowly through the snowdrifts towards the east-southeast,
accompanied by the Frenchmen. Thus they kept on till the 1st of March, when
the two brothers, learning that they were approaching the winter village of
a people called Gens de la Petite Cerise, or Choke-Cherry Indians, sent one
of their men, with a guide, to visit them. The man returned in ten days,
bringing a message from the Choke-Cherry Indians, inviting the Frenchmen to
their lodges.

The great chief of the Bow Indians, who seems to have regarded his young
friends with mingled affection, respect, and wonder, was grieved at the
thought of losing them, but took comfort when they promised to visit him
again, provided that he would make his abode near a certain river which
they pointed out. To this he readily agreed, and then, with mutual regret,
they parted. [Footnote: The only two tribes of this region who were a match
for the Snakes were the Sioux and the Blackfeet. it is clear that the Bow
Indians could not have been Blackfeet, as in that case, after the war-party
broke up, they would have moved northward towards their own country,
instead of east-southeast into the country of their enemies. Hence I
incline to think the Bow Indians a band of Sioux, or Dakota,--a people
then, as since, predominant in that country.] [Footnote: The banks of the
Missouri, in the part which La Vérendrye would have reached in following an
east-southeast course, were occupied by numerous bands or sub-tribes of
Sioux, such as the Minneconjou, Yankton, Oncpapa, Brulé, and others,
friends and relatives of the Bow Indians, supposing these to have been

The Frenchmen repaired to the village of the Choke-Cherry Indians, who,
like the Bow Indians, were probably a band of Sioux. [Footnote: The Sioux,
Cheyennes, and other prairie tribes use the small astringent wild cherry
for food. The squaws pound it, stones and all, and then dry it for winter
use.] Hard by their lodges, which stood near the Missouri, the brothers
buried a plate of lead graven with the royal arms, and raised a pile of
stones in honor of the Governor of Canada. They remained at this place till
April; then, mounting their horses again, followed the Missouri upward to
the village of the Mandans, which they reached on the 18th of May. After
spending a week here, they joined a party of Assinniboins, journeyed with
them towards Fort La Reine, and reached it on the 2d of July,--to the great
relief of their father, who was waiting in suspense, having heard nothing
of them for more than a year.

Sixty-two years later, when the vast western regions then called Louisiana
had just been ceded to the United States, Captains Lewis and Clark left the
Mandan villages with thirty-two men, traced the Missouri to the mountains,
penetrated the wastes beyond, and made their way to the Pacific. The first
stages of that remarkable exploration were anticipated by the brothers La
Vérendrye. They did not find the Pacific, but they discovered the Rocky
Mountains, or at least the part of them to which the name properly belongs;
for the southern continuation of the great range had long been known to the
Spaniards. Their bold adventure was achieved, not at the charge of a
government, but at their own cost and that of their father,--not with a
band of well-equipped men, but with only two followers.

The fur-trading privilege which was to have been their compensation had
proved their ruin. They were still pursued without ceasing by the jealousy
of rival traders and the ire of disappointed partners. "Here in Canada more
than anywhere else," the Chevalier wrote, some years after his return,
"envy is the passion _à la mode,_ and there is no escaping it."
[Footnote: Le Chevalier de la Vérendrye au Ministre, 30 Sept. 1750.] It was
the story of La Salle repeated. Beauharnois, however, still stood by them,
encouraged and defended them, and wrote in their favor to the colonial
minister. [Footnote: _La Vérendrye père au Ministre, 1 Nov. 1746,_ in
Margry VI. 611.] It was doubtless through his efforts that the elder La
Vérendrye was at last promoted to a captaincy in the colony troops.
Beauharnois was succeeded in the government by the sagacious and able
Galissonière, and he too befriended the explorers. "It seems to me," he
wrote to the minister, "that what you have been told touching the Sieur de
la Vérendrye, to the effect that he has been more busy with his own
interests than in making discoveries, is totally false, and, moreover, that
any officers employed in such work will always be compelled to give some of
their attention to trade, so long as the King allows them no other means of
subsistence. These discoveries are very costly, and more fatiguing and
dangerous than open war." [Footnote: _La Galissonière au Ministre, 23
Oct. 1747._] Two years later, the elder La Vérendrye received the cross
of the Order of St. Louis,--an honor much prized in Canada, but which he
did not long enjoy; for he died at Montreal in the following December, when
on the point of again setting out for the West.

His intrepid sons survived, and they were not idle. One of them, the
Chevalier, had before discovered the river Saskatchawan, and ascended it as
far as the forks. [Footnote: _Mémoire en abrégé des Établissements et
Découvertes faits par le Sieur de la Vérendrye et ses Enfants._] His
intention was to follow it to the mountains, build a fort there, and thence
push westward in another search for the Pacific; but a disastrous event
ruined all his hopes. La Galissonière returned to France, and the Marquis
de la Jonquière succeeded him, with the notorious François Bigot as
intendant. Both were greedy of money,--the one to hoard, and the other to
dissipate it. Clearly there was money to be got from the fur-trade of
Manitoba, for La Vérendrye had made every preparation and incurred every
expense. It seemed that nothing remained but to reap where he had sown.
His commission to find the Pacific, with the privileges connected with it,
was refused to his sons, and conferred on a stranger. La Jonquière wrote to
the minister: "I have charged M. de Saint-Pierre with this business. He
knows these countries better than any officer in all the colony."
[Footnote: _La Jonquière au Ministre, 27 Fev. 1750_.] On the contrary,
he had never seen them. It is difficult not to believe that La Jonquière,
Bigot, and Saint-Pierre were partners in a speculation of which all three
were to share the profits.

The elder La Vérendrye, not long before his death, had sent a large
quantity of goods to his trading-forts. The brothers begged leave to return
thither and save their property from destruction. They declared themselves
happy to serve under the orders of Saint-Pierre, and asked for the use of
only a single fort of all those which their father had built at his own
cost. The answer was a flat refusal. In short, they were shamefully robbed.
The Chevalier writes: "M. le Marquis de la Jonquière, being pushed hard,
and as I thought even touched, by my representations, told me at last that
M. de Saint-Pierre wanted nothing to do with me or my brothers." "I am a
ruined man," he continues. "I am more than two thousand livres in debt, and
am still only a second ensign. My elder brother's grade is no better than
mine. My younger brother is only a cadet. This is the fruit of all that my
father, my brothers, and I have done. My other brother, whom the Sioux
murdered some years ago, was not the most unfortunate among us. We must
lose all that has cost us so much, unless M. de Saint-Pierre should take
juster views, and prevail on the Marquis de la Jonquière to share them. To
be thus shut out from the West is to be most cruelly robbed of a sort of
inheritance which we had all the pains of acquiring, and of which others
will get all the profit." [Footnote: _Le Chevalier de la Vérendrye au
Ministre, 30 Sept. 1750._]

His elder brother writes in a similar strain: "We spent our youth and our
property in building up establishments so advantageous to Canada; and after
all, we were doomed to see a stranger gather the fruit we had taken such
pains to plant." And he complains that their goods left in the
trading-posts were wasted, their provisions consumed, and the men in their
pay used to do the work of others. [Footnote: _Mémoire des Services de
Pierre Gautier de la Vérendrye l'aisné, présenté à Mg'r. Rouille, ministre
et secrétaire d'Etat._]

They got no redress. Saint-Pierre, backed by the Governor and the
Intendant, remained master of the position. The brothers sold a small piece
of land, their last remaining property, to appease their most pressing
creditors. [Footnote: Legardeur de Saint-Pierre, in spite of his treatment
of the La Vérendrye brothers, had merit as an officer. It was he who
received Washington at Fort Le Bœuf in 1754. He was killed in 1755, at the
battle of Lake George. See _Montcalm and Wolfe,_ I. 303.]

Saint-Pierre set out for Manitoba on the 5th of June, 1750. Though he had
lived more or less in the woods for thirty-six years, and though La
Jonquière had told the minister that he knew the countries to which he was
bound better than anybody else, it is clear from his own journal that he
was now visiting them for the first time. They did not please him. "I was
told," he says, "that the way would grow harder and more dangerous as we
advanced, and I found, in fact, that one must risk life and property every
moment." Finding himself and his men likely to starve, he sent some of
them, under an ensign named Niverville, to the Saskatchawan. They could not
reach it, and nearly perished on the way. "I myself was no more fortunate,"
says Saint-Pierre. "Food was so scarce that I sent some of my people into
the woods among the Indians,--which did not save me from a fast so rigorous
that it deranged my health and put it out of my power to do anything
towards accomplishing my mission. Even if I had had strength enough, the
war that broke out among the Indians would have made it impossible to

Niverville, after a winter of misery, tried to fulfil an order which he had
received from his commander. When the Indians guided the two brothers La
Vérendrye to the Rocky Mountains, the course they took tended so far
southward that the Chevalier greatly feared it might lead to Spanish
settlements; and he gave it as his opinion that the next attempt to find
the Pacific should be made farther towards the north. Saint-Pierre had
agreed with him, and had directed Niverville to build a fort on the
Saskatchawan, three hundred leagues above its mouth. Therefore, at the end
of May, 1751, Niverville sent ten men in two canoes on this errand, and
they ascended the Saskatchawan to what Saint-Pierre calls the "Rock
Mountain." Here they built a small stockade fort and called it Fort La
Jonquière. Niverville was to have followed them; but he fell ill, and lay
helpless at the mouth of the river in such a condition that he could not
even write to his commander.

Saint-Pierre set out in person from Fort La Reine for Fort La Jonquière,
over ice and snow, for it was late in November. Two Frenchmen from
Niverville met him on the way, and reported that the Assinniboins had
slaughtered an entire band of friendly Indians on whom Saint-Pierre had
relied to guide him. On hearing this he gave up the enterprise, and
returned to Fort La Reine. Here the Indians told him idle stories about
white men and a fort in some remote place towards the west; but, he
observes, "nobody could reach it without encountering an infinity of tribes
more savage than it is possible to imagine."

He spent most of the winter at Fort La Reine. Here, towards the end of
February, 1752, he had with him only five men, having sent out the rest in
search of food. Suddenly, as he sat in his chamber, he saw the fort full of
armed Assinniboins, extremely noisy and insolent. He tried in vain to quiet
them, and they presently broke into the guard-house and seized the arms. A
massacre would have followed, had not Saint-Pierre, who was far from
wanting courage, resorted to an expedient which has more than once proved
effective on such occasions. He knocked out the heads of two barrels of
gunpowder, snatched a firebrand, and told the yelping crowd that he would
blow up them and himself together. At this they all rushed in fright out of
the gate, while Saint-Pierre ran after them, and bolted it fast. There was
great anxiety for the hunters, but they all came back in the evening,
without having met the enemy. The men, however, were so terrified by the
adventure that Saint-Pierre was compelled to abandon the fort, after
recommending it to the care of another band of Assinniboins, who had
professed great friendship. Four days after he was gone they burned it to
the ground.

He soon came to the conclusion that farther discovery was impossible,
because the English of Hudson Bay had stirred up the Western tribes to
oppose it. Therefore he set out for the settlements, and, reaching Quebec
in the autumn of 1753, placed the journal of his futile enterprise in the
hands of Duquesne, the new governor. [Footnote: _Journal sommaire du
Voyage de Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Pierre, chargé de la Découverte de la
Mer de l'Ouest_ (British Museum).]

Canada was approaching her last agony. In the death-struggle of the Seven
Years' War there was no time for schemes of Western discovery. The brothers
La Vérendrye sank into poverty and neglect. A little before the war broke
out, we find the eldest at the obscure Acadian post of Beauséjour, where he
wrote to the colonial minister a statement of his services, which appears
to have received no attention. After the fall of Canada, the Chevalier de
la Vérendrye, he whose eyes first beheld the snowy peaks of the Rocky
Mountains, perished in the wreck of the ship "Auguste," on the coast of
Cape Breton, in November, 1761.

[Footnote: The above narrative rests mainly on contemporary documents,
official in character, of which the originals are preserved in the archives
of the French Government. These papers have recently been printed by M.
Pierre Margry, late custodian of the Archives of the Marine and Colonies at
Paris, in the sixth volume of his _Découvertes et Établissements des
Français dans l'Amérique Septentrionale,_--a documentary collection of
great value, published at the expense of the American Government. It was M.
Margry who first drew attention to the achievements of the family of La
Vérendrye, by an article in the _Moniteur_ in 1852. I owe to his
kindness the opportunity of using the above-mentioned documents in advance
of publication. I obtained copies from duplicate originals of some of the
principal among them from the Dépôt des Cartes de la Marine, in 1872. These
answer closely, with rare and trivial variations, to the same documents as
printed from other sources by M. Margry. Some additional papers preserved
in the Archives of the Marine and Colonies have also been used.]

[Footnote: My friends, Hon. William C. Endicott, then Secretary of War, and
Captain John G. Bourke, Third Cavalry, U. S. A., kindly placed in my hands
a valuable collection of Government maps and surveys of the country between
the Missouri and the Rocky Mountains visited by the brothers La Vérendrye;
and I have received from Captain Bourke, and also from Mr. E. A. Snow,
formerly of the Third Cavalry, much information concerning the same region,
repeatedly traversed by them in peace and war.]





We have seen that the contest between France and England in America divided
itself, after the Peace of Utrecht, into three parts,--the Acadian contest;
the contest for northern New England; and last, though greatest, the
contest for the West. Nothing is more striking than the difference, or
rather contrast, in the conduct and methods of the rival claimants to this
wild but magnificent domain. Each was strong in its own qualities, and
utterly wanting in the qualities that marked its opponent.

On maps of British America in the earlier part of the eighteenth century,
one sees the eastern shore, from Maine to Georgia, garnished with ten or
twelve colored patches, very different in shape and size, and defined, more
or less distinctly, by dividing lines which, in some cases, are prolonged
westward till they touch the Mississippi, or even cross it and stretch
indefinitely towards the Pacific. These patches are the British provinces,
and the westward prolongation of their boundary lines represents their
several claims to vast interior tracts, founded on ancient grants, but not
made good by occupation, or vindicated by any exertion of power.

These English communities took little thought of the region beyond the
Alleghanies. Each lived a life of its own, shut within its own limits, not
dreaming of a future collective greatness to which the possession of the
West would be a necessary condition. No conscious community of aims and
interests held them together, nor was there any authority capable of
uniting their forces and turning them to a common object. Some of the
servants of the Crown had urged the necessity of joining them all under a
strong central government, as the only means of making them loyal subjects
and arresting the encroachments of France; but the scheme was plainly
impracticable. Each province remained in jealous isolation, busied with its
own work, growing in strength, in the capacity of self-rule and the spirit
of independence, and stubbornly resisting all exercise of authority from
without. If the English-speaking populations flowed westward, it was in
obedience to natural laws, for the King did not aid the movement, the royal
governors had no authority to do so, and the colonial assemblies were too
much engrossed with immediate local interests. The power of these colonies
was that of a rising flood slowly invading and conquering, by the
unconscious force of its own growing volume, unless means be found to hold
it back by dams and embankments within appointed limits.

In the French colonies all was different. Here the representatives of the
Crown were men bred in an atmosphere of broad ambition and masterful and
far-reaching enterprise. Achievement was demanded of them. They recognized
the greatness of the prize, studied the strong and weak points of their
rivals, and with a cautious forecast and a daring energy set themselves to
the task of defeating them.

If the English colonies were comparatively strong in numbers, their numbers
could not be brought into action; while if the French forces were small,
they were vigorously commanded, and always ready at a word. It was union
confronting division, energy confronting apathy, military centralization
opposed to industrial democracy; and, for a time, the advantage was all on
one side.

The demands of the French were sufficiently comprehensive. They repented of
their enforced concessions at the Treaty of Utrecht, and in spite of that
compact, maintained that, with a few local and trivial exceptions, the
whole North American continent, except Mexico, was theirs of right; while
their opponents seemed neither to understand the situation, nor see the
greatness of the stakes at issue.

In 1720 Father Bobé, priest of the Congregation of Missions, drew up a
paper in which he sets forth the claims of France with much distinctness,
beginning with the declaration that "England has usurped from France nearly
everything that she possesses in America," and adding that the
plenipotentiaries at Utrecht did not know what they were about when they
made such concessions to the enemy; that, among other blunders, they gave
Port Royal to England when it belonged to France, who should "insist
vigorously" on its being given back to her.

He maintains that the voyages of Verrazzano and Ribaut made France owner of
the whole continent, from Florida northward; that England was an interloper
in planting colonies along the Atlantic coast, and will admit as much if
she is honest, since all that country is certainly a part of New France. In
this modest assumption of the point at issue, he ignores John Cabot and his
son Sebastian, who discovered North America more than twenty-five years
before the voyage of Verrazzano, and more than sixty years before that of

When the English, proceeds Father Bobé, have restored Port Royal to us,
which they are bound to do, though we ceded it by the treaty, a French
governor should be at once set over it, with a commission to command as far
as Cape Cod, which would include Boston. We should also fortify ourselves,
"in a way to stop the English, who have long tried to seize on French
America, of which they know the importance, and of which," he observes with
much candor, "they would make a better use than the French do...The
Atlantic coast, as far as Florida, was usurped from the French, to whom it
belonged then, and to whom it belongs now." [Footnote: "De maniere qu'on
puisse arreter les Anglois, qui depuis longtems tachent de s'emparer de
l'Amerique françoise, dont ils conoissent l'importance et dont ils feroient
un meillieur usage que celuy qui les françois en font."] England, as he
thinks, is bound in honor to give back these countries to their true owner;
and it is also the part of wisdom to do so, since by grasping at too much,
one often loses all. But France, out of her love of peace, will cede to
England the countries along the Atlantic, from the Kennebec in New France
to the Jordan [Footnote: On the river Jordan, so named by Vasquez de
Ayllon, see _Pioneers of France in the New World_, pp. 11, 39 (revised
edition) _note_. It was probably the Broad River of South Carolina.]
in Carolina, on condition that England will restore to her all that she
gave up by the Treaty of Utrecht. When this is done, France, always
generous, will consent to accept as boundary a line drawn from the mouth of
the Kennebec, passing thence midway between Schenectady and Lake Champlain
and along the ridge of the Alleghanies to the river Jordan, the country
between this line and the sea to belong to England, and the rest of the
continent to France.

If England does not accept this generous offer, she is to be told that the
King will give to the Compagnie des Indes (Law's Mississippi Company) full
authority to occupy "all the countries which the English have usurped from
France;" and, pursues Father Bobé, "it is certain that the fear of having
to do with so powerful a company will bring the English to our terms." The
company that was thus to strike the British heart with terror was the same
which all the tonics and stimulants of the government could not save from
predestined ruin. But, concludes this ingenious writer, whether England
accepts our offers or not, France ought not only to take a high tone
(_parler avec hauteur_), but also to fortify diligently, and make good
her right by force of arms. [Footnote: _Second Mémoire concernant les
Limites des Colonies présenté en 1720 par Bobé, prêtre de la Congrégation
de la Mission_ (Archives Nationales).]

Three years later we have another document, this time of an official
character, and still more radical in its demands. It admits that Port Royal
and a part of the Nova Scotian peninsula, under the name of Acadia, were
ceded to England by the treaty, and consents that she shall keep them, but
requires her to restore the part of New France that she has wrongfully
seized,--namely, the whole Atlantic coast from the Kennebec to Florida;
since France never gave England this country, which is hers by the
discovery of Verrazzano in 1524. Here, again, the voyages of the Cabots, in
1497 and 1498, are completely ignored.

"It will be seen," pursues this curious document, "that our kings have
always preserved sovereignty over the countries between the 30th and the
50th degrees of north latitude. A time will come when they will be in a
position to assert their rights, and then it will be seen that the
dominions of a king of France cannot be usurped with impunity. What we
demand now is that the English make immediate restitution." No doubt, the
paper goes on to say, they will pretend to have prescriptive rights,
because they have settled the country and built towns and cities in it; but
this plea is of no avail, because all that country is a part of New France,
and because England rightfully owns nothing in America except what we, the
French, gave her by the Treaty of Utrecht, which is merely Port Royal and
Acadia. She is bound in honor to give back all the vast countries she has
usurped; but, continues the paper, "the King loves the English nation too
much, and wishes too much to do her kindness, and is too generous to exact
such a restitution. Therefore, provided that England will give us back Port
Royal, Acadia, and everything else that France gave her by the Treaty of
Utrecht, the King will forego his rights, and grant to England the whole
Atlantic coast from the 32d degree of latitude to the Kennebec, to the
extent inland of twenty French leagues [about fifty miles], on condition
that she will solemnly bind herself never to overstep these limits or
encroach in the least on French ground."

Thus, through the beneficence of France, England, provided that she
renounced all pretension to the rest of the continent, would become the
rightful owner of an attenuated strip of land reaching southward from the
Kennebec along the Atlantic seaboard. The document containing this
magnanimous proposal was preserved in the Château St. Louis at Quebec till
the middle of the eighteenth century, when, the boundary dispute having
reached a crisis, and commissioners of the two powers having been appointed
to settle it, a certified copy of the paper was sent to France for their
instruction. [Footnote: _Demandes de la France_, 1723 (Archives des
Affaires Etrangères).]

Father Bobé had advised that France should not trust solely to the justice
of her claims, but should back right with might, and build forts on the
Niagara, the Ohio, the Tennessee, and the Alabama, as well as at other
commanding points, to shut out the English from the West. Of these
positions, Niagara was the most important, for the possession of it would
close the access to the Upper Lakes, and stop the Western tribes on their
way to trade at Albany. The Five Nations and the Governor of New York were
jealous of the French designs, which, however, were likely enough to
succeed, through the prevailing apathy and divisions in the British
colonies. "If those not immediately concerned," writes a member of the New
York council, "only stand gazing on while the wolff is murthering other
parts of the flock, it will come to every one's turn at last." The warning
was well founded, but it was not heeded. Again: "It is the policy of the
French to attack one colony at a time, and the others are so besotted as to
sit still." [Footnote: _Colonel Heathcote to Governor Hunter, 8 July_,
1715. _Ibid, to Townshend, 12 July_, 1715.]

For gaining the consent of the Five Nations to the building of a French
fort at Niagara, Vaudreuil trusted chiefly to his agent among the Senecas,
the bold, skilful, and indefatigable Joncaire, who was naturalized among
that tribe, the strongest of the confederacy. Governor Hunter of New York
sent Peter Schuyler and Philip Livingston to counteract his influence. The
Five Nations, who, conscious of declining power, seemed ready at this time
to be all things to all men, declared that they would prevent the French
from building at Niagara, which, as they said, would "shut them up as in a
prison." [Footnote: _Journal of Schuyler and Livingston_, 1720.] Not
long before, however, they had sent a deputation to Montreal to say that
the English made objection to Joncaire's presence among them, but that they
were masters of their land, and hoped that the French agent would come as
often as he pleased; and they begged that the new King of France would take
them under his protection. [Footnote: _Vaudreuil au Conseil de
Marine_, 24 _Oct._ 1717.] Accordingly, Vaudreuil sent them a
present, with a message to the effect that they might plunder such English
traders as should come among them. [Footnote: _Vaudreuil et Bégon au
Conseil de Marine_, 26 _Oct._ 1719]

Yet so jealous were the Iroquois of a French fort at Niagara that they sent
three Seneca chiefs to see what was going on there. The chiefs found a few
Frenchmen in a small blockhouse, or loopholed storehouse, which they had
just built near Lewiston Heights. The three Senecas requested them to
demolish it and go away, which the Frenchmen refused to do; on which the
Senecas asked the English envoys, Schuyler and Livingston, to induce the
Governor of New York to destroy the obnoxious building. In short, the Five
Nations wavered incessantly between their two European neighbors, and
changed their minds every day. The skill and perseverance of the French
emissaries so far prevailed at last that the Senecas consented to the
building of a fort at the mouth of the Niagara, where Denonville had built
one in 1687; and thus that important pass was made tolerably secure.

Meanwhile the English of New York, or rather Burnet, their governor, were
not idle. Burnet was on ill terms with his Assembly, which grudged him all
help in serving the province whose interests it was supposed to represent.
Burnet's plan was to build a fortified trading-house at Oswego, on Lake
Ontario, in the belief that the Western Indians, who greatly preferred
English goods and English prices, would pass Niagara and bring their furs
to the new post. He got leave from the Five Nations to execute his plan,
bought canoes, hired men, and built a loopholed house of stone on the site
of the present city of Oswego. As the Assembly would give no money, Burnet
furnished it himself; and though the object was one of the greatest
importance to the province, he was never fully repaid. [Footnote: "I am
ashamed to confess that he built the fort at his private expense, and that
a balance of above £56 remains due to his estate to this very day." Smith,
_History of New York_, 267 (ed. 1814).] A small garrison for the new
post was drawn from the four independent companies maintained in the
province at the charge of the Crown.

The establishment of Oswego greatly alarmed and incensed the French, and a
council of war at Quebec resolved to send two thousand men against it; but
Vaudreuil's successor, the Marquis de Beauharnois, learning that the court
was not prepared to provoke a war, contented himself with sending a summons
to the commanding officer to abandon and demolish the place within a
fortnight. [Footnote: _Mémoire de Dupuy_, 1728. Dupuy was intendant of
Canada. The King approved the conduct of Beauharnois in not using force.
_Dépêche du Roy, 14 Mai, 1728._] To this no attention was given; and
as Burnet had foreseen, Oswego became the great centre of Indian trade,
while Niagara, in spite of its more favorable position, was comparatively
slighted by the Western tribes. The chief danger rose from the obstinate
prejudice of the Assembly, which, in its disputes with the Royal Governor,
would give him neither men nor money to defend the new post.

The Canadian authorities, who saw in Oswego an intrusion on their domain
and a constant injury and menace, could not attack it without bringing on a
war, and therefore tried to persuade the Five Nations to destroy it,--an
attempt which completely failed. [Footnote: When urged by the younger
Longueuil to drive off the English from Oswego, the Indians replied, "Drive
them off thyself." _"Chassez-les toi-même." Longueuil fils au Ministre,
19 Oct. 1728._] They then established a trading-post at Toronto, in the
vain hope of stopping the Northern tribes on their way to the more
profitable English market, and they built two armed vessels at Fort
Frontenac to control the navigation of Lake Ontario.

Meanwhile, in another quarter the French made an advance far more
threatening to the English colonies than Oswego was to their own. They had
already built a stone fort at Chambly, which covered Montreal from any
English attack by way of Lake Champlain. As that lake was the great highway
between the rival colonies, the importance of gaining full mastery of it
was evident. It was rumored in Canada that the English meant to seize and
fortify the place called Scalp Point (_Pointe à la Chevelure_) by the
French, and Crown Point by the English, where the lake suddenly contracts
to the proportions of a river, so that a few cannon would stop the passage.

As early as 1726 the French made an attempt to establish themselves on the
east side of the lake opposite Crown Point, but were deterred by the
opposition of Massachusetts. This eastern shore was, however, claimed not
only by Massachusetts, but by her neighbor, New Hampshire, with whom she
presently fell into a dispute about the ownership, and, as a writer of the
time observes, "while they were quarrelling for the bone, the French ran
away with it." [Footnote: Mitchell, _Contest in America_, 22.]

At length, in 1731, the French took post on the western side of the lake,
and began to intrench themselves at Crown Point, which was within the
bounds claimed by New York; but that province, being then engrossed, not
only by her chronic dispute with her Governor, but by a quarrel with her
next neighbor, New Jersey, slighted the danger from the common enemy, and
left the French to work their will. It was Saint-Luc de la Corne,
Lieutenant du Roy at Montreal, who pointed out the necessity of fortifying
this place, [Footnote: _La Corne au Ministre, 15 Oct. 1730._] in order
to anticipate the English, who, as he imagined, were about to do so,--a
danger which was probably not imminent, since the English colonies, as a
whole, could not and would not unite for such a purpose, while the
individual provinces were too much absorbed in their own internal affairs
and their own jealousies and disputes to make the attempt. La Corne's
suggestion found favor at court, and the Governor of Canada was ordered to
occupy Crown Point. The Sieur de la Fresnière was sent thither with troops
and workmen, and a fort was built, and named Fort Frédéric. It contained a
massive stone tower, mounted with cannon to command the lake, which is here
but a musket-shot wide. Thus was established an advanced post of France,--a
constant menace to New York and New England, both of which denounced it as
an outrageous encroachment on British territory, but could not unite to rid
themselves of it. [Footnote: On the establishment of Crown Point,
_Beauharnois et Hocquart au Roy_, 10 Oct. 1731; _Beauharnois et
Hocquart au Ministre_, 14 Nov. 1731.]

While making this bold push against their neighbors of the South, the
French did not forget the West; and towards the middle of the century they
had occupied points controlling all the chief waterways between Canada and
Louisiana. Niagara held the passage from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie. Detroit
closed the entrance to Lake Huron, and Michillimackinac guarded the point
where Lake Huron is joined by Lakes Michigan and Superior; while the fort
called La Baye, at the head of Green Bay, stopped the way to the
Mississippi by Marquette's old route of Fox River and the Wisconsin.
Another route to the Mississippi was controlled by a post on the Maumee to
watch the carrying-place between that river and the Wabash, and by another
on the Wabash where Vincennes now stands. La Salle's route, by way of the
Kankakee and the Illinois, was barred by a fort on the St. Joseph; and even
if, in spite of these obstructions, an enemy should reach the Mississippi
by any of its northern affluents, the cannon of Fort Chartres would prevent
him from descending it.

These various Western forts, except Fort Chartres and Fort Niagara, which
were afterwards rebuilt, the one in stone and the other in earth, were
stockades of no strength against cannon. Slight as they were, their


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