The Conquest of New France, A Chronicle of the Colonial Wars
George M. Wrong

Part 2 out of 3

moreover, Spain claimed the lands bordering on the Gulf of Mexico
and declared herself ready to drive out all intruders.

Nature, it is clear, dictated that, if France was to build up her
power in the interior of the New World, it was the valley of the
St. Lawrence which she should first occupy. Time has shown the
riches of the lands drained by the St. Lawrence. On no other
river system in the world is there now such a multitude of great
cities. The modern traveler who advances by this route to the
sources of the river beyond the Great Lakes surveys wonders ever
more impressive. Before his view appear in succession Quebec,
Montreal, Toronto, Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Duluth,
and many other cities and towns, with millions in population and
an aggregate of wealth so vast as to stagger the imagination.
Step by step had the French advanced from Quebec to the interior.
Champlain was on Lake Huron in 1615, and there the Jesuits soon
had a flourishing mission to the Huron Indians. They had only to
follow the shore of Lake Huron to come to the St. Mary's River
bearing towards the sea the chilly waters of Lake Superior. On
this river, a much frequented fishing ground of the natives, they
founded the mission of Sainte Marie du Saut. Farther to the
south, on the narrow opening connecting Lake Huron and Lake
Michigan, grew up the post known as Michilimackinac. It was then
inevitable that explorers and missionaries should press on into
both Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. By the time that Frontenac
came first to Canada in 1672 the French had a post called St.
Esprit on the south shore of Lake Superior near its western end
and they had also passed westward from Lake Michigan and founded
posts on both the Illinois and the Wisconsin Rivers which flow
into the Mississippi.

France had placed on record her claim to the whole of the Great
West. On a June morning in 1671 there had been a striking scene
at Sainte Marie du Saut. The French had summoned a great throng
of Indians to the spot. There, with impressive ceremony,
Saint-Lusson, an officer from Canada, had set up a cedar post on
which was a plate engraved with the royal arms, and proclaimed
Louis XIV lord of all the Indian tribes and of all the lands,
rivers, and lakes, discovered and to be discovered in the region
stretching from the Atlantic to that other mysterious sea beyond
the spreading lands of the West. Henceforth at their peril would
the natives disobey the French King, or other states encroach
upon these his lands. A Jesuit priest followed Saint-Lusson with
a description to the savages of their new lord, the King of
France. He was master of all the other rulers of the world. At
his word the earth trembled. He could set earth and sea on fire
by the blaze of his cannon. The priest knew the temper of his
savage audience and told of the King's warriors covered with the
blood of his enemies, of the rivers of blood which flowed from
their wounds, of the King's countless prisoners, of his riches
and his power, so great that all the world obeyed him. The
gave delighted shouts at the strange ceremony, but of its real
meaning they knew nothing. What they understood was that the
French seemed to be good friends who brought them muskets,
hatchets, cloth, and especially the loved but destructive
firewater which the savage palate ever craved.

The mystery of the Great Lakes once solved, there still remained
that of the Western Sea. The St. Lawrence flowed eastward.
Another river must therefore be found flowing westward. The
French were eager listeners when the savages talked of a mighty
river in the west flowing to the sea. They meant, as we now
suppose, the Mississippi. There are vague stories of Frenchmen on
the Mississippi at an earlier date; but, however this may be, it
is certain that in the summer of 1673 Louis Joliet, the son of a
wagon-maker of Quebec, and Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit priest,
reached and descended the great river from the mouth of the
Wisconsin to a point far past the mouth of the Ohio.

France thus planted herself on the Mississippi, though there her
occupation was less complete and thorough than it was on the St.
Lawrence. Distance was an obstacle; it was a far cry from Quebec
by land, and from France the voyage by sea through the Gulf of
Mexico was hardly less difficult. The explorer La Salle tried
both routes. In 1681-1682 he set out from Montreal, reached the
Mississippi overland, and descended to its mouth. Two years later
he sailed from France with four ships bound for the mouth of the
river, there to establish a colony; but before achieving his aim
he was murdered in a treacherous attack led by his own

It was Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville, who first made good
France's claim to the Mississippi. He reached the river by sea in
1699 and ascended to a point some eighty miles beyond the present
city of New Orleans. Farther east, on Biloxi Bay, he built Fort
Maurepas and planted his first colony. Spain disliked this
intrusion; but Spain soon to be herself ruled, as France then
was, by a Bourbon king--did not prove irreconcilable and slowly
France built up a colony in the south. It was in 1718 that
Iberville's brother, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville,
founded New Orleans, destined to become in time one of the great
cities of North America. Its beginnings were not propitious. The
historian Charlevoix describes it as being in 1721 a low-lying,
malarious place, infested by snakes and alligators, and
consisting of a hundred wretched hovels.

In spite of this dreary outlook, it was still true that France,
planted at the mouth of the Mississippi, controlled the greatest
waterway in the world. Soon she had scattered settlements
stretching northward to the Ohio and the Missouri, the one river
reaching eastward almost to the waters of the St. Lawrence
system, the other flowing out of the western plains from its
source in the Rocky Mountains. The old mystery, however,
remained, for the Mississippi flowed into the Gulf of Mexico,
into Atlantic waters already well known. The route to the Western
Sea was still to be found.

It was easy enough for France to record a sweeping claim to the
West, but to make good this claim she needed a chain of posts,
which should also be forts, linking the Mississippi with the St.
Lawrence and strong enough to impress the Indians whose country
she had invaded. At first she had reached the interior by way of
the Ottawa River and Lake Huron, and in that northern country her
position was secure enough through her posts on the upper lakes.
The route farther south by Lake Ontario and Lake Erie was more
difficult. The Iroquois menaced Niagara and long refused to let
France have a footing there to protect her pathway to Lake Erie
and the Ohio Valley. It was not until 1720, a period
comparatively late, that the French managed to have a fort at the
mouth of the Niagara. On the Detroit River, the next strategic
point on the way westward, they were established earlier. Just
after Frontenac died in 1698, La Mothe Cadillac urged that there
should be built on this river a fort and town which might be made
the center of all the trading interests west of Lake Erie. End
the folly, he urged, of going still farther afield among the
Indians and teaching them the French language and French modes of
thought. Leave the Indians to live their own type of life, to
hunt and to fish. They need European trade and they have valuable
furs to exchange. Encourage them to come to the French at Detroit
and see that they go nowhere else by not allowing any other posts
in the western country. Cadillac was himself a keen if secret
participant in the profits of the fur trade and hoped to be
placed in command at Detroit and there to become independent of
control from Quebec. Detroit was founded in 1701; and though for
a long time it did not thrive, the fact that on the site has
grown up one of the great industrial cities of modern times shows
that Cadillac had read aright the meaning of the geography of
North America.

When France was secure at Niagara and at Detroit, two problems
still remained unsolved. One was that of occupying the valley of
the Ohio, the waters of which flow westward almost from the south
shore of Lake Erie until they empty into the vaster flood of the
Mississippi. Here there was a lion in the path, for the English
claimed this region as naturally the hinterland of the colonies
of Virginia and Pennsylvania. What happened on the Ohio we shall
see in a later chapter. The other great problem, to be followed
here, was to explore the regions which lay beyond the
Mississippi. These spread into a remote unknown, unexplored by
the white man, and might ultimately lead to the Western Sea. We
might have supposed that France's farther adventure into the West
would have been from the Mississippi up its great tributary the
Missouri, which flows eastward from the eternal snows of the
Rocky Mountains. Always, however, the uncertain temper of the
many Indian tribes in this region made the advance difficult. The
tribes inhabiting the west bank of the Mississippi were
especially restless and savage. The Sioux, in particular, made
life perilous for the French at their posts near the mouth of the

It thus happened that the white man first reached the remoter
West by way of regions farther north. It became easy enough to
coast along the north and the south shore of Lake Superior, easy
enough to find rivers which fed the great system of the St.
Lawrence or of the Mississippi. These, however, would not solve
the mystery. A river flowing westward was still to be sought.
Thus, both in pursuit of the fur trade and in quest of the
Western Sea, the French advanced westward from Lake Superior.
Where now stands the city of Fort William there flows into Lake
Superior the little stream called still by its Indian name of
Kaministiquia. There the French had long maintained a
trading-post from which they made adventurous journeys northward
and westward.

The rugged regions still farther north had already been explored,
at least in outline. There lay the great inland sea known as
Hudson Bay. French and English had long disputed for its mastery.
By 1670 the English had found trade to Hudson Bay so promising
that they then created the Hudson's Bay Company, which remains
one of the great trading corporations of the world. With the
English on Hudson Bay, New France was between English on the
north and English on the south and did not like it. On Hudson Bay
the English showed the same characteristics which they had shown
in New England. They were not stirred by vivid imaginings of what
might be found westward beyond the low-lying coast of the great
inland sea. They came for trade, planted themselves at the mouths
of the chief rivers, unpacked their goods, and waited for the
natives to come to barter with them. For many years the natives
came, since they must have the knives, hatchets, and firearms of
Europe. To share this profitable trade the French, now going
overland to the north from Quebec, now sailing into Hudson Bay by
the Straits, attacked the English; and on those dreary waters,
long before the Great West was known, there had been many a naval
battle, many a hand-to-hand fight for forts and their rich prize
of furs.

The chief French hero in this struggle was that son of Charles Le
Moyne of Montreal, Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville, who ended his
days in the task of founding the French colony of Louisiana. He
was perhaps the most notable of all the adventurous leaders whom
New France produced. He was first on Hudson Bay in the late
summer of 1686, in a party of about a hundred men, led by the
Chevalier de Troyes, who had marched overland from Quebec through
the wilderness. The English on the Bay, with a charter from King
Charles II, the friend of the French, and in a time of profound
peace under his successor, thought themselves secure. They now
had, however, a rude awakening. In the dead of night the
Frenchmen fell upon Fort Hayes, captured its dazed garrison, and
looted the place. The same fate befell all the other English
posts on the Bay. Iberville gained a rich store of furs as his
share of the plunder and returned with it to Quebec in 1687, just
at the time when La Salle, that other pioneer of France, was
struck down in the distant south by a murderer's hand.

Iberville was, above all else, a sailor. The easiest route to
Hudson Bay was by way of the sea. More than once after his first
experience he led to the Bay a naval expedition. His exploits are
still remembered with pride in French naval annals. In 1697 he
sailed the Pelican through the ice-floes of Hudson Straits. He
was attacked by three English merchantmen, with one hundred and
twenty guns against his forty-four. One of the English ships
escaped, one Iberville sank with all on board, one he captured.
That autumn the hardy corsair was in France with a great booty
from the furs which the English had laboriously gathered.

The triumph of the French on Hudson Bay was short-lived. Their
exploits, though brilliant and daring, were more of the nature of
raids than attempts to settle and explore. They did no more than
the English to ascend the Nelson or other rivers to find what lay
beyond; and in 1718, by the Treaty of Utrecht, as we have already
seen, they gave up all claim to Hudson Bay and yielded that
region to the English.

Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de la Verendrye, was a member
of the Canadian noblesse, a son of the Governor of Three Rivers
on the St. Lawrence. He was born in 1685 and had taken part in
the border warfare of the days of Queen Anne. He was a member of
the raiding party led against New England by Hertel de Rouville
in 1704 and may have been one of those who burst in on the little
town of Deerfield, Massachusetts, and either butchered or carried
off as prisoners most of the inhabitants. Shortly afterwards we
find him a participant in warfare of a less ignoble type. In 1706
he went to France and became an ensign in a regiment of
grenadiers. Those were the days when Marlborough was hammering
and destroying the armies of Louis XIV. La Verendrye, took part
in the last of the series of great battles, the bloody conflict
at Malplaquet in 1709. He received a bullet wound through the
body, was left for dead on the field, fell into the hands of the
enemy, and for fifteen months was a captive. On his release he
was too poor to maintain himself as an officer in France and soon
returned to Canada, where he served as an officer in a colonial
regiment until the peace of 1713. Then the ambitious young man,
recently married, with a growing family and slight resources, had
to work out a career suited to his genius.

His genius was that of an explorer; his task, which fully
occupied his alert mind, was that of finding the long dreamed of
passage to the Western Sea. The venture certainly offered
fascinations. Noyon, a fellow-townsman of La Verendrye at Three
Rivers, had brought back from the distant Lake of the Woods, in
1716, a glowing account, told to him by the natives, of walled
cities, of ships and cannon, and of white-bearded men who lived
farther west. In 1720 the Jesuit Charlevoix, already familiar
with Canada, came out from France, went to the Mississippi
country, and reported that an attempt to find the path to the
Western Sea might be made either by way of the Missouri or
farther north through the country of the Sioux west of Lake
Superior. Both routes involved going among warlike native tribes
engaged in incessant and bloody struggles with each other and not
unlikely to turn on the white intruder. Memorial after memorial
to the French court for assistance resulted at last in serious
effort, but effort handicapped because the court thought that a
monopoly of the fur trade was the only inducement required to
promote the work of discovery.

La Verendrye was more eager to reach the Western Sea than he was
to trade. To outward seeming, however, he became just a fur
trader and a successful one. We find him, in 1726, at the
trading-post of Nipigon, not far from the lake of that name, near
the north shore of Lake Superior. From this point it was not very
difficult to reach the shore of one great sea, Hudson Bay, but
that was not the Western Sea which fired his imagination.
Incessantly he questioned the savages with whom he traded about
what lay in the unknown West. His zeal was kindled anew by the
talk of an Indian named Ochagach. This man said that he himself
had been on a great lake lying west of Lake Superior, that out of
it flowed a river westward, that he had paddled down this river
until he came to water which, as La Verendrye understood, rose
and fell like the tide. Farther, to the actual mouth of the
river, the savage had not gone, for fear of enemies, but he had
been told that it emptied into a great body of salt water upon
the shores of which lived many people. We may be sure that La
Verendrye read into the words of the savage the meaning which he
himself desired and that in reality the Indian was describing
only the waters which flow into Lake Winnipeg.

La Verendrye was all eagerness. Soon we find him back at Quebec
stirring by his own enthusiasm the zeal of the Marquis de
Beauharnois, the Governor of Canada, and begging for help to pay
and equip a hundred men for the great enterprise in the West. The
Governor did what he could but was unable to move the French
court to give money. The sole help offered was a monopoly of the
fur trade in the region to be explored, a doubtful gift, since it
angered all the traders excluded from the monopoly. La Verendrye,
however, was able, by promising to hand over most of the profits,
to persuade merchants in Montreal to equip him with the necessary
men and merchandise.

There followed a period of high hopes and of heartbreaking
failure. In 1731 La Verendrye set out for the West with three
sons, a nephew, a Jesuit priest, the Indian Ochagach as guide--a
party numbering in all about fifty. He intended to build
trading-posts as he went westward and to make the last post
always a base from which to advance still farther. His
difficulties read like those of Columbus. His men not only
disliked the hard work which was inevitable but were haunted by
superstitious fears of malignant fiends in the unknown land who
were ready to punish the invaders of their secrets. The route lay
across the rough country beyond Lake Superior. There were many
long portages over which his men must carry the provisions and
heavy stores for trade. At length the party reached Rainy Lake,
and out of Rainy Lake the waters flow westward. The country
seemed delightful. Fish and game were abundant, and it was not
hard to secure a rich store of furs. On the shore of the lake, in
a charming meadow surrounded by oak trees, La Verendrye built a
trading-post on waters flowing to the west, naming it Fort St.

The voyageurs could now travel westward with the current. It is
certain that other Frenchmen had preceded them in that region,
but this is the first voyage of discovery of which we have any
details. Escorted by an imposing array of fifty canoes of
Indians, La Verendrye floated down Rainy River to the Lake of the
Woods, and here, on a beautiful peninsula jutting out into the
lake, he built another post, Fort St. Charles. It must have
seemed imposing to the natives. On walls one hundred feet square
were four bastions and a watchtower; evidence of the perennial
need of alertness and strength in the Indian country. There were
a chapel, houses for the commandant and the priest, a
powder-magazine, a storehouse, and other buildings. La Verendrye
cleared some land and planted wheat, and was thus the pioneer in
the mighty wheat production of the West. Fish and game were
abundant and the outlook was smiling. By this time the second
winter of La Verendrye's adventurous journeying was near, but
even the cold of that hard region could not chill his eagerness.
He himself waited at Fort St. Charles but his eldest son, Jean
Baptiste, set out to explore still farther.

We may follow with interest the little group of Frenchmen and
Indian guides as they file on snowshoes along the surface of the
frozen river or over the deep snow of the silent forest on, ever
on, to the West. They are the first white men of whom we have
certain knowledge to press beyond the Lake of the Woods into that
great Northwest so full of meaning for the future. The going was
laborious and the distances seemed long, for on their return they
reported that they had gone a hundred and fifty leagues, though
in truth the distance was only a hundred and fifty miles. Then at
last they stood on the shores of a vast body of water, ice-bound
and forbidding as it lay in the grip of winter. It opened out
illimitably westward. But it was not the Western Sea, for its
waters were fresh. The shallow waters of Lake Winnipeg empty not
into the Western Sea but into the Atlantic by way of Hudson Bay.
Its shores then were deserted and desolate, and even to this day
they are but scantily peopled. In that wild land there was no
hint of the populous East of which La Verendrye had dreamed.

At the mouth of the Winnipeg River, where it enters Lake
Winnipeg, La Verendrye built Fort Maurepas, named after the
French minister who was in charge of the colonies and who was
influential at court. The name no doubt expresses some clinging
hope which La Verendrye still cherished of obtaining help from
the King. Already he was hard pressed for resources. Where were
the means to come from for this costly work of building forts?
>From time to time he sent eastward canoes laden with furs which,
after a long and difficult journey, reached Montreal. The traders
to whom the furs were consigned sold them and kept the money as
their own on account of their outlay. La Verendrye in the far
interior could not pay his men and would soon be without goods to
trade with the Indians. After having repeatedly begged for help
but in vain, he made a rapid journey to Montreal and implored the
Governor to aid an enterprise which might change the outlook of
the whole world. The Governor was willing but without the consent
of France could not give help. By promising the traders, who were
now partners in his monopoly, profits of one hundred per cent on
their outlay, La Verendrye at last secured what he needed. His
canoes were laden with goods, and soon brawny arms were driving
once again the graceful craft westward. He had offered a new
hostage to fortune by arranging that his fourth son, a lad of
eighteen, should follow him in the next year.

La Verendrye pressed on eagerly in advance of the heavy-laden
canoes. Grim news met him soon after he reached Fort St. Charles
on the Lake of the Woods. His nephew La Jemeraye, a born leader
of men, who was at the most advanced station, Fort Maurepas on
Lake Winnipeg, had broken down from exposure, anxiety, and
overwork, and had been laid in a lonely grave in the wilderness.
Nearly all pioneer work is a record of tragedy and its gloom lies
heavy on the career of La Verendrye. A little later came another
sorrow-laden disaster. La Verendrye sent his eldest son Jean back
to Rainy Lake to hurry the canoes from Montreal which were
bringing needed food. The party landed on a peninsula at the
discharge of Rainy Lake into Rainy River, fell into an ambush of
Sioux Indians, and were butchered to a man. This incident reveals
the chief cause of the slow progress in discovery in the Great
West: the temper of the savages was always uncertain.

There is no sign that La Verendrye wavered in his great hope even
when he realized that the Winnipeg River was not the river
flowing westward which he sought. We know now that the northern
regions of the American continent east of the Rocky Mountains are
tilted towards the east and the north and that in all its vast
spaces there is no great river which flows to the west. La
Verendrye, however, ignorant of this dictate of nature, longed to
paddle with the stream towards the west. The Red River flows
from the south into Lake Winnipeg at a point near the mouth of
the Winnipeg River. Up the Red River went La Verendrye and found
a tributary, the Assiniboine, flowing into it from the west. At
the point of junction, where has grown up the city of Winnipeg,
he built a tiny fort, called Fort Rouge, a name still preserved
in a suburb of the modern Winnipeg. The explorers went southward
on the Red River, and then went westward on the Assiniboine River
only to find the waters persistently flowing against them and no
definite news of other waters leading to the Western Sea. On the
Assiniboine, near the site of the present town of Portage la
Prairie in Manitoba, La Verendrye built Fort La Reine. Its name
is evidence still perhaps of hopes for aid through the Queen if
not through the King of France.

In 1737 La Verendrye made once more the long journey to Montreal.
His fourteen canoes laden with furs were an earnest of the riches
of the wonderful West and so pleased his Montreal partners that
again they fitted him out with adequate supplies. In the summer
of 1738 we find him at Fort La Reine, rich for the moment in
goods with which to trade, keen and competent as a trader, and
having great influence with the natives. All through the West he
found Indians who went to trade with the English on Hudson Bay,
and he constantly urged them not to take the long journey but to
depend upon the French who came into their own country. It was a
policy well fitted to cause searching of heart among the English
traders who seemed so secure in their snug quarters on the
seashore waiting for the Indians to come to them.

La Verendrye had now a fresh plan for penetrating farther on his
alluring quest. He had heard of a river to the south to be
reached by a journey overland. It was a new thing for him to
abandon canoes and march on foot but this he now did and with
winter approaching. On October 16, 1738, when the autumn winds
were already chill, there was a striking little parade at Fort La
Reine. The drummer beat the garrison to arms. What with soldiers
brought from Canada, the voyageurs who had paddled the great
canoes, and the Indians who dogged always the steps of the French
traders, there was a muster at the fort of some scores of men. La
Verendrye reviewed the whole company and from them chose for his
expedition twenty soldiers and voyageurs and about twenty
Assiniboine Indians. As companions for himself he took Francois
and Pierre, two of his three surviving sons, and two traders who
were at the fort.

We can picture the little company setting out on the 18th of
October on foot, with some semblance of military order, by a
well-beaten trail leading across the high land which separates
the Red River country from the regions to the southwest. La
Verendrye had heard much of a people, the Mandans, dwelling in
well-ordered villages on the banks of a great river and
cultivating the soil instead of living the wandering life of
hunters. Such wonders of Mandan culture had been reported to La
Verendrye that he half expected to find them white men with a
civilization equal to that of Europe. The river was in reality
not an unknown stream, as La Verendrye hoped, but the Missouri, a
river already frequented by the French in its lower stretches
where its waters join those of the Mississippi.

It was a long march over the prairie. La Verendrye found that he
could not hurry his Indian guides. They insisted on delays during
days of glorious autumn weather when it would have been wise to
press on and avoid the winter cold on the wind-swept prairie.
They went out of their way to visit a village of their own
Assiniboine tribe; and, when they resumed their journey, this
whole village followed them. The prairie Indians had a more
developed sense of order and discipline than the tribes of the
forest. La Verendrye admired the military regularity of the
savages on the march. They divided the company of more than six
hundred into three columns: in front, scouts to look out for an
enemy and also for herds of buffalo; in the center, well
protected, the old and the lame, all those incapable of fighting;
and, for a rear-guard, strong fighting men. When buffalo were
seen, the most active of the fighters rushed to the front to aid
in hemming in the game. Women and dogs carried the baggage, the
men condescending to bear only their weapons.

Not until cold December had come did the party reach the chief
Mandan village. It was in some sense imposing, for the Indian
lodges were arranged neatly in streets and squares and the
surrounding palisade was strong and well built. Around the fort
was a ditch fifteen feet deep and of equal width, which made the
village impregnable in Indian warfare. After saluting the village
with three volleys of musket fire, La Verendrye marched in with
great ceremony, under the French flag, only to discover that the
Mandans were not greatly unlike the Assiniboines and other
Indians of the West whom he already knew. The men went about
naked and the women nearly so. They were skilled in dressing
leather. They were also cunning traders, for they duped La
Verendrye's friends, the Assiniboines, and cheated them out of
their muskets, ammunition, kettles, and knives. Great eaters were
the Mandans. They cultivated abundant crops and stored them in
cave cellars. Every day they brought their visitors more than
twenty dishes cooked in earthen pottery of their own handicraft.
There was incredible feasting, which La Verendrye avoided but
which his sons enjoyed. The Mandan language he could not
understand and close questioning as to the route to the Western
Sea was thus impossible. He learned enough to discredit the vague
tales of white men in armor and peopled towns with which his
lying guides had regaled him. In the end he decided for the time
being to return to Fort La Reine and to leave two of his
followers to learn the Mandan language so that in the future they
might act as interpreters. When he left the Mandan village on the
13th of December, he was already ill and it is a wonder that he
did not perish from the cold on the winter journey across hill
and prairie. "In all my life I have never," he says, "endured
such misery from illness and fatigue, as on that journey." On the
11th of February he was back at Fort La Reine, worn out and
broken in health but still undaunted and resolved never to
abandon his search.

Abandon it he never did. We find him in Montreal in 1740 involved
in what he had always held in horror--a lawsuit brought against
him by some impatient creditor. The report had gone abroad that
he was amassing great wealth, when, as he said, all that he had
accumulated was a debt of forty thousand livres. In the autumn of
1741 he was back at Fort La Reine, where he welcomed his son
Pierre from a fruitless journey to the Mandans.

The most famous of all the efforts of the family was now on foot.
On April 29, 1742, a new expedition started from Fort La Reine,
led by La Verendrye's two sons, Pierre and Francois. They knew
the nature of the task before them, its perils as well as its
hopes. They took with them no imposing company as their father
had done, but only two men. The party of four, too feeble to
fight their way, had to trust to the peaceful disposition of the
natives. When they started, the prairie was turning from brown to
green and the rivers were still swollen from the spring thaw. In
three weeks they reached a Mandan village on the upper Missouri
and were well received. It was after midsummer when they set out
again and pressed on westward with a trend to the south. The
country was bare and desolate. For twenty days they saw no human
being. They had Mandan guides who promised to take them to the
next tribe, the Handsome Men--Beaux Hommes--as the brothers
called them, a tribe much feared by the Mandans. The travelers
were now mounted; for the horse, brought first to America by the
Spaniards, had run wild on the western plains where the European
himself had not yet penetrated, and had become an indispensable
aid to certain of the native tribes. Deer and buffalo were in
abundance and they had no lack of food.

When they reached the tribe of Beaux Hommes, the Mandan guides
fled homeward. Summer passed into bleak autumn with chill winds
and long nights. By the end of October they were among the Horse
Indians who, they had been told, could guide them to the sea.
These, however, now said that only the Bow Indians, farther on,
could do this. Winter was near when they were among these
Indians, probably a tribe of the Sioux, whom they found excitedly
preparing for a raid on their neighbors farther west, the Snakes.
They were going, they said, towards the mountains and there the
Frenchmen could look out on the great sea. So the story goes on.
The brothers advanced ever westward and the land became more
rugged, for they were now climbing upward from the prairie
country. At last, on January 1, 1743, they saw what both cheered
and discouraged them. In the distance were mountains. About them
was the prairie, with game in abundance. It was a great host with
which the brothers traveled for there were two thousand warriors
with their families who made night vocal with songs and yells. On
the 12th of January, nearly two weeks later, with an advance
party of warriors, the La Verendryes reached the foot of the
mountains, "well wooded with timber of every kind and very high."

Was it the Rocky Mountains which they saw? Had they reached that
last mighty barrier of snow-capped peaks, rugged valleys, and
torrential streams, beyond which lay the sea? That they had done
so was long assumed and many conjectures have been offered as to
the point in the Rockies near which they made their last camp.
Their further progress was checked by an unexpected crisis. One
day they came upon an encampment of the dreaded Snake Indians
which had been abandoned in great haste. This, the Bow Indians
thought, could only mean that the Snakes had hurriedly left their
camp in order to slip in behind the advance guard of the Bows and
massacre the women and children left in the rear. Panic seized
the Bows and they turned homeward in wild confusion. Their chief
could not restrain them. "I was very much disappointed," writes
one of the brothers, "that I could not climb the
mountains"--those mountains from which he had been told that he
might view the Western Sea.

There was nothing for it but to turn back through snowdrifts over
the bleak prairie. The progress was slow for the snow was
sometimes two feet deep. On the 1st of March the brothers parted
with their Bow friends at their village and then headed for home.
By the 20th they were encamped with a friendly tribe on the banks
of the Missouri. Here, to assert that Louis XV was lord of all
that country, they built on an eminence a pyramid of stones and
in it they buried a tablet of lead with an inscription which
recorded the name of Louis XV, their King, and of the Marquis de
Beauharnois, Governor of Canada, and the date of the visit.

Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. One hundred and seventy
years later, on February 16, 1913, a schoolgirl strolling with
some companions on a Sunday afternoon near the High School in the
town of Pierre, South Dakota, stumbled upon a projecting corner
of this tablet, which was in an excellent state of preservation.
Thus we know exactly where the brothers La Verendrye were on
April 2, 1743, when they bade farewell to their Indian friends
and set out on horseback for Fort La Reine.

Spring had turned to summer before the brothers reached their
destination. On July 2, 1743, they relieved the anxiety of their
waiting father after an absence of fifteen months. Moving slowly
as they did, could they have traveled from the distant Rockies
from the time in January when they turned back? It seems
doubtful; and in spite of the long-cherished belief that the
brothers reached the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, it may be
that they had not penetrated beyond the barrier which we know as
the Black Hills. The chance discovery of a forgotten plate by
school children may in truth prove that, as late as in 1750, the
Rocky Mountains had not yet been seen by white men and that the
first vision of that mighty range was obtained much farther north
in Canada.

After 1743 the French seem to have made no further efforts to
reach the Western Sea by way of the Missouri. If in reality the
brothers had not gone beyond the Black Hills in South Dakota,
then their most important work appears to have been done within
what is now Canada, as discoverers of the Saskatchewan, the
mighty river which carries to far-distant Hudson Bay the waters
melted on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. It was by
this route up the Saskatchewan that fifty years later was solved
the tough and haunting problem of going over the mountains to the
Pacific Ocean. La Verendrye now ascended the Saskatchewan for
some three hundred miles to the forks where it divides into two
great branches. He was going deeper into debt but he hoped always
for help from the King. It is pathetic to see today, on the map
of that part of western Canada which he and his sons explored, a
town, a lake, and a county called Dauphin, in honor of the heir
to the throne of France. No doubt La Verendrye had the thought
that some day he might plead with the Dauphin when he had become
King for help in his great task.

Before the year 1749 had ended La Verendrye, who had returned to
Montreal, was in his grave. His sons, partners in his work,
expected to be charged with the task--to which the King, in 1749,
had anew appointed their father--of continuing the work of
discovery in the West. Francois, for a time ill, wrote in 1750
from Montreal to La Jonquiere, the Governor at Quebec, that he
hoped to take up the plans of his father. The Governor's reply
was that he had appointed another officer, Legardeur de
Saint-Pierre, to lead in the search for the Western Sea. Francois
hurried to Quebec. The Governor met him with a bland face and
seemed friendly. Francois, urged that he and his brothers claimed
no preeminence and that they were ready to serve under the orders
of Saint-Pierre. The Governor was hesitant; but at last told
Francois, frankly that the new leader desired no help either from
him or from his brothers. Francois, was dismayed. He and his
brothers were in debt. Already he had sent on stores and men to
the West and the men were likely to starve if not followed by
provisions. His chief property was in the West in the form of
goods which would be plundered without his guardianship. To tide
over the immediate future he sold the one small piece of land in
Montreal which he had inherited from his father and threw this
slight sop to his urgent creditors.

Saint-Pierre, strong in his right of monopoly, insisted that the
brothers should not even return to the West. Francois, urged that
to go was a matter of life and death. In some way he secured
leave to set out with one laden canoe. When Saint-Pierre found
that Francois had gone, he claimed damages for the intrusion on
his monopoly and secured an order to pursue Francois and bring
him back. He caught him at Michilimackinac. The meeting between
the two men at that place involved explanations. Face to face
with an injured man, Saint-Pierre admitted that he had been in
the wrong, paid to Francois many compliments, and regretted that
he had not joined hands with the brothers.

The mischief done was, however, irreparable. Francois, crippled
by opposition, could not carry on his trade with success and in
the end he returned to Montreal a ruined man overwhelmed with
debt. He wrote to the French court a noble appeal for relief:

"I remain without friends and without patrimony...a simple
ensign of the second grade; my elder brother has only the same
rank as myself; my younger brother is only a junior cadet. This
is the result of all that my father, my brothers and myself have
done.... There are in the hands of your Lordship resources of
compensation and of consolation. I venture to appeal to you for
relief. To find ourselves excluded from the West would mean to be
cruelly robbed of our heritage, to realize for ourselves all that
is bitter and to see others secure all that is sweet."

The appeal fell on deaf ears. The brothers sank into obscurity.
During Montcalm's campaigns from 1756 to 1759 Pierre and Francois
seem to have been engaged in military service. Francois was
killed in the siege of Quebec in 1759. After the final surrender
of Canada the Auguste, a ship laden for the most part with
refugees returning to France, was wrecked on the St. Lawrence.
Among those on board who perished was Pierre de la Verendrye. He
died amid the howling of the tempest and the cries of drowning
men. Tragedy, unrelenting, had pursued him to the end.

Legardeur de Saint-Pierre, the choice of the Marquis de la
Jonquiere to take up the search for the Western Sea in succession
to the elder La Verendrye, himself went only as far as Fort La
Reine. It was a subordinate, the Chevalier de Niverville, whom he
sent farther west to find the great mountains and if possible the
sea. The winter of 1750-51 had set in before Niverville was
ready. He started apparently from Fort Maurepas, on snowshoes,
his party dragging their supplies on toboggans. Before they
reached Paskoya on the Saskatchewan (the modern Le Pas) they had
nearly perished of hunger and were able to save their lives only
by catching a few fish through the ice. Niverville was ill. He
sent forward ten men by canoe up the Saskatchewan. They traveled
with such rapidity that on May 29, 1751, they had reached the
Rockies. They built a good fort, which they named Fort La
Jonquiere, and stored it with a considerable quantity of
provisions. If, as seems likely, the brothers La Verendrye saw
only the Black Hills, these ten unknown men were the discoverers
of the Rocky Mountains.

Saint-Pierre braced himself to set out for the distant goal but
he was easily discouraged. Niverville, he said, was ill; the
Indians were at war among themselves; some of them were plotting
what Saint-Pierre calls "treason" to the French and their
"perfidy" surpassed anything in his lifelong experience. The
hostile influence of the English he thought all-pervasive.
Obviously these are excuses. He did not like the task and he
turned back. As it was, he tells a dramatic story of how Indians
crowded into Fort La Reine in a threatening manner and how he
saved the fort and himself only by rushing to the magazine with a
lighted torch, knocking open a barrel of powder, and threatening
to blow up everything and everybody if the savages did not
withdraw at once. He was eager to leave the country. In 1752 he
handed over the command to St. Luc de la Come and, in August of
that year, having experienced "much wretchedness" on his
journeys, he was safely back in Montreal. The founding of Fort La
Jonquiere was, no doubt, a great feat. Where the fort stood we do
not know. It may have been on the North Saskatchewan, near
Edmonton, or on the south branch of the river near Calgary. In
any case it was a far-flung outpost of France.

The English had always been more prosaic than the French. The
traders on Hudson Bay worked, indeed, under a monopoly not less
rigorous than that which Canada imposed. Without doubt, many an
Englishman on the Bay was haunted by the hope and desire to reach
the Western Sea. But the servants of the Company knew that to buy
and sell at a profit was their chief aim. They had been on the
whole content to wait for trade to come to them. By 1740 the
Indians, who made the long journey to the Bay by the intricate
waters which carried to the sea the flood of the Saskatchewan and
Lake Winnipeg, were showing to the English articles supplied by
the French at points far inland. It thus became evident that the
French were tapping the traffic in furs near its source and
cutting off the stream which had long flowed to Hudson Bay.

In June, 1754, Anthony Hendry, a young man in the service of the
Company, left York factory on Hudson Bay to find out what the
French were doing. We have a slight but carefully written diary
of Hendry's journey. He does not fail to note that in the summer
weather life was made almost intolerable by the "musketoos."
Traveling by canoe he reached the Saskatchewan River and tells
how, on the 22d of July, he came to "a French house." It was Fort
Paskoya. When Hendry paddled up to the river bank two Frenchmen
met him and "in a very genteel manner" invited him into their
house. With all courtesy they asked him, he says, if he had any
letter from his master and where and on what design he was going
inland. His answer was that he had been sent "to view the
Country" and that he intended to return to Hudson Bay in the
spring. The Frenchmen were sorry that their own master, who was
apparently the well-known Canadian leader, St. Luc de la Corne,
the successor of Saint-Pierre, had gone to Montreal with furs,
and added their regrets that they must detain Hendry until this
leader's return. At this Hendry's Indians grunted and said that
the French dared not do so. Next day Hendry took breakfast and
dinner at the fort, gave "two feet of tobacco" (at that time it
was sold in long coils) to his hosts, and in return received some
moose flesh. The confidence of his Indian guides that the French
would not dare to detain him was justified. Next day Hendry
paddled on up the river and advanced more than twenty miles,
camping at night by "the largest Birch trees I have yet seen."

Hendry wished to see the country thoroughly and to come into
touch with the natives. The best way to do this and to obtain
food was to leave the river and go boldly overland. He
accordingly left his canoes behind and advanced on foot. The
party was starving. On a Sunday in July he walked twenty-six
miles and says "neither Bird nor Beast to be seen,--so that we
have nothing to eat." The next day he traveled twenty-four miles
on an empty stomach and then, to his delight, found a supply of
ripe strawberries, "the size of black currants and the finest I
ever eat." The next day his Indians killed two moose. He then met
natives who, when he asked them to go to Hudson Bay to trade,
replied that they could obtain all they needed from the French
posts. The tact and skill of the French were such that, as Hendry
admits, reluctantly enough, the Indians were already strongly
attached to them. Day after day Hendry journeyed on over the
rolling prairie in the warm summer days. He came to the south
branch of the Saskatchewan near the point where now stands the
city of Saskatoon and crossed the river on the 21st of August.
Then on to the West, eager to take part in the hunting of the

Hendry is almost certainly the first Englishman to see this
region. In the end he reached the mountains. He makes no mention
of having seen or heard anything of Fort La Jonquiere, built
three years earlier. He had aims different from those of La
Verendrye and other French explorers. Not the Western Sea but
openings for trade was he seeking. His great aim was to reach the
tribe called later the Blackfeet Indians, who were mighty hunters
of the buffalo. Hendry was alive to the impressions of nature.
The intense heat of August was followed in September by glorious
weather, with the nights cool and the mosquitoes no longer
troublesome. The climate was bracing. He complains only, from
time to time, of swollen feet, and we need not wonder since his
daily march occasionally went beyond twenty-five miles. Sometimes
for days he saw no living creature. At other times wild life was
prolific: there were moose in great abundance, bears, including
the dreaded grizzly--one of which killed an Indian of his company
and badly mutilated another--beaver, wild horses, and, above all,
the buffalo. "Saw many herds of Buffalo grazing like English
cattle," he says, on the 13th of September, and the next day he
goes buffalo hunting. Guns and ammunition were costly. His
Indians, who used only bows and arrows, on this day killed
seven--"fine sport," says Hendry. Often the Indians took only the
tongue, leaving the carcass for the wolves, who naturally
abounded in such advantageous conditions. It is not easy now to
imagine the part played by the buffalo in the life of the
prairie. As Hendry advanced the herds were so dense as sometimes
to retard his progress. Other writers tell of the vast numbers of
these creatures. Alexander Henry, the younger, writing on April
1, 1801, says that in a river swollen by spring floods, drowned
buffalo floated past his camp in one continuous line for two days
and two nights. In prairie fires thousands were blinded and would
go tumbling down banks into streams or lie down to die. One
morning the bellowing of buffaloes awakened Henry and he looked
out to see the prairie black. "The ground was covered at every
point of the compass, as far as the eye could reach, and every
animal was in motion."

Daily as Hendry advanced he saw smoke in the distance and his
Indians told him that it came from the camp of the Blackfeet. He
reached them on Monday the 14th of October. When four miles away
he was stopped by mounted scouts who asked whether he came as a
friend or as an enemy. He was taken to the camp of two hundred
tents pitched in two rows, and was led through the long passage
between the tents to the big tent of the chief of whom he had
heard much. Not a word was spoken. The chief sat on a white
buffalo skin. Pipes were passed round and each person was
presented with boiled buffalo flesh. When talk began, Hendry told
the chief that his great leader had sent him to invite them to
come to trade at Hudson Bay where his people would get powder,
shot, guns, cloth, beads, and other things. The chief said it was
faraway, and his people knew nothing of paddling. Such strangers
to great waters were they that they would not even eat fish. They
despised Hendry's tobacco. What they smoked was dried horse dung.
In the end Hendry was dismissed and ordered to make his camp a
quarter of a mile away from that of the Blackfeet.

It was close by the present site of Calgary and apparently in
full view, on clear days, of the white peaks of the Rocky
Mountains that Hendry visited the Blackfeet. He lingered in the
far western country through the greater part of the winter. On a
portion of his return journey he used a horse. When the spring
thaw came, once more he took to the water in canoes. He complains
of the idleness of his Indian companions who would remain in
their huts all day and never stir to lay up a store of food even
when game was abundant. Conjuring, dancing to the hideous
pounding of drums, feasting and smoking, were their amusements.
On his way back Hendry revisited the French post on the
Saskatchewan. The leader, no doubt St. Luc de la Corne, had
returned from Montreal and now had with him nine men. "The
master," says Hendry, " invited me in to sup with him, and was
very kind. He is dressed very Genteel." He showed Hendry his
stock of furs; "a brave parcel," the admiring rival thought.
Hendry admits the superiority of the French as traders. They
"talk Several Languages to perfection; they have the advantage of
us in every shape." In the West, as in the East, France was
recognized as a formidable rival of England for the mastery of
North America.

When Hendry was making his peaceful visit to the French fort in
1755, the crisis of the struggle had just been reached. In that
year the battle line from Acadia to the Ohio and the Mississippi
was already forming, and the fate of France's eager efforts to
hold the West was soon to be decided in the East. If Britain
should conquer on the St. Lawrence, she would conquer also on the
Saskatchewan and on the Mississippi.

Conquer she did, and thus it happened that it was Britain's sons
who took up the later burdens of the discoverer. In the summer of
1789, just at the time when the great Revolution was beginning in
France, Alexander Mackenzie, a Scotch trader from Montreal,
starting from Lake Athabasca, north of the farthest point reached
by Hendry, was pressing still onward into an unknown region to
find a river which might lead to the sea. This river he found; we
know it now as the Mackenzie. For two weeks he and his Indians
and voyageurs paddled with the current down this mighty stream,
and on July 14, 1789, the day of the fall of the Bastille, he saw
whales sporting in Arctic waters.

The real goal which Mackenzie sought was that of La Verendrye, a
western and not a northern ocean. Three years later, after months
of preparation, he attempted the great feat of crossing the Rocky
Mountains to the sea. After nine months of rugged travel, across
mountain streams and gorges, in peril daily from hostile savages,
on July 22, 1793, he reached the shore of the Pacific Ocean, the
first white man to go by land over the width of the continent
from sea to sea. It was thus a Scotchman who achieved that of
which La Verendrye had so long dreamed; and with no aid from the
state but with only the resources of a trading company.

Ten years later, when France sold to the United States her last
remaining territory of Louisiana, the American Government
equipped an expedition under Lewis and Clark to cross the Rocky
Mountains by way of the Missouri, the route from which the La
Verendrye brothers had been obliged to turn back. The party began
the ascent of the Missouri on May 14, 1804, and arrived in the
Mandan country in the late autumn. Here they spent the winter of
1804-05. Not until November 15, 1805, had they completed the hard
journey across the Rocky Mountains and reached the mouth of the
Columbia River on the Pacific Ocean. Little did La Verendrye, in
his eager search for the Western Sea, imagine the difficulties to
be encountered and the hardships to be endured by those who were
destined, in later days, to realize his dream.

CHAPTER VI. The Valley Of The Ohio

Almost at the moment in 1749 when British ships were lying at
anchor in Halifax harbor and sending to shore hundreds of
boatloads of dazed and expectant settlers for the new colony,
there had set out from Montreal, in the interests of France, an
expedition with designs so far-reaching that we wonder still at
the stupendous issues involved in efforts which seem so petty.
The purpose of France was now to make good her claim to the whole
vast West. It was a picturesque company which pushed its canoes
from the shore at Lachine on the 15th of June, six days before
the British squadron reached Halifax. There was a procession of
twenty-three great birchbark canoes well filled, for in them were
more than two hundred men, at least ten in each canoe, together
with the necessary impedimenta for a long journey. There were
twenty soldiers in uniform, a hundred and eighty Canadians
skilled in paddling and in carrying canoes and freight over the
portages, a band of Indians, and fourteen officers with Celoron
de Blainville at their head.

The acting Governor of Canada at this time was a dwarf in
physique, but a giant in intellect, the brilliant naval officer,
the Marquis de la Galissoniere, destined later to inflict upon
the English in the Mediterranean the naval defeat which caused
the execution of Admiral Byng as a coward. This remarkable
man--planning, like his predecessor Frontenac, on a scale suited
to world politics--saw that the peace of 1748 settled nothing,
that in the balance now was the whole future of North America,
and that victory would be to the alert and the strong. He chose
Celoron, the most capable of the hardy young Canadian noblesse
whom he had at hand, a man accustomed to the life of the forest,
and sent with him this large party to assert against the English
the right of France to the valley of the Ohio. The English were
now to be shut out definitely from advancing westward and to be
confined to the strip of territory lying between the Atlantic
coast and the Alleghany Mountains, a little more than that strip
fifty miles wide talked about in Quebec as the maximum concession
of France, but still not very much according to the ideas of the
English, and even this not secure if France should ever grow
strong enough to crowd them out.

At no time do we find more vivid the contrast in type between the
two nations. Before a concrete fact the British take action. When
they gave up Louisbourg they built Halifax. Their traders had
pressed into the Ohio country, not directed under any grandiose
idea of empire, but simply as individuals, to trade and reap for
themselves what profit they could. When they were checked and
menaced by the French, they saw that something must be done. How
they did it we shall see presently. It was the weakness of the
English colonies that they could not unite to work out a great
plan. If Virginia took steps to advance westward, Pennsylvania
was jealous lest lands which she desired should go to a rival
colony. France, on the other hand, had complete unity of design.
Celoron spoke in the name of the King of France and he spoke in
terms uncompromising enough. "The Ohio," said the King of France
through his agent, "belongs to me." It is a French river. The
lands bordering upon it are "my lands." The English intruders are
foreign robbers and not one of them is to be left in the western
country: "I wilt not endure the English on my land." The Indians,
dwelling in that region, are "my children."

Scattered over the vast region about the Great Lakes were a good
many French. At the lower end of Lake Ontario stood Fort
Frontenac, a menace to the colony of New York, as the dwellers in
the British post of Oswego on the opposite shore of the lake well
knew. We have already seen that the French held a fort at Niagara
guarding the route leading farther west to Lake Erie and to
regions beyond Lake Erie, by way of the Ohio or the upper lakes,
to the Mississippi. Near the mouth of the Mississippi, New
Orleans was now becoming a considerable town with a governor
independent of the governor at Quebec. Along the Mississippi at
strategic points stretching northward beyond the mouth of the
Missouri were a few French settlements, ragged enough and with a
shiftless population of fur traders and farmers, but adequate to
assert France's possession of that mighty highway. The weak point
in France's position was in her connection of the Mississippi
with the St. Lawrence by way of the Ohio. This was the place of
danger, for here English rivalry was strongest, and it was to
cure this weakness that Celoron was now sent forth.

Celoron moved toilsomely over the portage which led past the
great cataract of Niagara and launched his canoes on Lake Erie.
>From its south shore, during seven days of heart-breaking labor,
the party dragged the canoes and supplies through dense forest
and over steep hills until they reached Chautauqua Lake, the
waters of which flow into the Allegheny River and by it to the
Ohio. For many weary days they went with the current, stopping at
Indian villages, treating with the savages, who were sometimes
awed and sometimes menacing. They warned the Indians to have no
dealings with the scheming English who would "infallibly prove to
be robbers," and asserted as boldly as Celoron dared the lordship
of the King of France and his love for his forest children.
Celoron realized that he was on an historic mission. At several
points on the Ohio, with great ceremony, he buried leaden plates,
as La Verendrye had done a few years earlier in the far West,
bearing an inscription declaring that, in the name of the King of
France, he took possession of the country. On trees over these
memorials of lead he nailed the arms of France, stamped on sheets
of tin. Since that day at least three of the plates have been

Celoron's expedition went well enough. He advanced as far west on
the Ohio as the mouth of the Great Miami River, then up that
river, and by difficult portages back to Lake Erie. It was a
remarkable journey; but in the late autumn he was back again in
Montreal, not sure that he had achieved much. The natives of the
country were, he thought, hostile to France and devoted to the
English who had long traded with them. This opinion was in truth
erroneous, for, when the time of testing came, the Indians of the
West fought on the side of France. Montcalm had many hundreds of
them under his banner. The expedition meant the definite and
final throwing down of the gauntlet by France. With all due
ceremony she had declared that the Ohio country was hers and that
there she would allow no English to dwell.

Legardeur de Saint-Pierre could hardly have known, when he left
the hard region of the Saskatchewan in 1752, that a year later he
would be sent to protect another set of outposts of France in the
West. In 1753 we find him in command of the French forces in the
Ohio country. Celoron had been sent to Detroit. If Saint-Pierre
had played his part feebly on the Saskatchewan, he was now made
for a brief period one of the central figures in the opening act
of a world drama. It is with a touch of emotion that we see on
the stage, as the opponent of this not great Frenchman, the
momentous figure of George Washington.

The fight for North America was now rapidly approaching its final
phase in the struggle which we know as the Seven Years' War.
During forty years, commissioners of the two nations had been
trying to reach some agreement as to boundaries. Each side,
however, made impossible demands. France claimed all the lands
drained by the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes and by the
Mississippi and its tributaries a claim which, if made good,
would have carried her into the very heart of the colony of New
York and would have given her also the mastery of the Ohio and
the regions beyond. Britain claimed all the lands ever occupied
by the Iroquois Indians, who had been recognized as British
subjects by the Treaty of Utrecht. As those Indians had overrun
regions north of the St. Lawrence, the British thus would become
masters of a good part of Canada. Neither side was prepared for
reasonable compromise. The sword was to be the final arbiter.

Events moved rapidly towards war. In 1753 Duquesne, the new
Governor of Canada, sent more than a thousand men to build Fort
Le Boeuf, on upper waters flowing to the Ohio and within easy
reach of support by way of Lake Erie. In the nest year the French
were swarming in the Ohio Valley, stirring up the Indians against
the English and confident of success. They jeered at the
divisions among the English and believed their own unity so
strong that they could master the colonies one by one. The two
colonies most affected were Pennsylvania and Virginia, either of
them quite ready to see its own citizens advance into the Ohio
country and possess the land, but neither of them willing to
unite with the other in effective military action to protect the

It is at this crisis that there appears for the first time in
history George Washington of Virginia. In December, 1753, in the
dead of winter, he made a long, toilsome journey from Virginia to
the north through snow and rain, by difficult forest trails, over
two ranges of mountains, across streams sometimes frozen,
sometimes dangerous from treacherous thaws. On the way he heard
gossip from the Indians about the designs of the French. They
boasted that they would come in numbers like the sands of the
seashore; that the natives would be no more an obstacle to them
than the flies and mosquitoes, which indeed they resembled; and
that not the breadth of a finger-nail of land belonged to the
Indians. Washington was told by one of the French that "it was
their absolute design to take possession of the Ohio and, by--,
they would do it!" It was no matter that the French were
outnumbered two to one by the English, for the English were
dilatory and ineffective.

In the end, Washington arrived at Fort Le Boeuf and presented a
letter from Dinwiddie, the Lieutenant-Governor of Virginia,
pointing out that the British could not permit an armed force
from Canada to invade their territory of the Ohio and requiring
that the French should leave the country at once. Legardeur de
Saint-Pierre, to whom this firm demand was delivered, "an elderly
gentleman," says Washington, with "much the air of a soldier"
gave, of course, a polite answer in the manner of his nation, but
he intended, he said, to remain where he was as long as he had
instructions so to do. Washington kept his eyes open and made
careful observations of the plan of the fort, the number of men,
and also of the canoes, of which he noted that there were more
than two hundred ready and many others building. The French tried
to entice away his Indians and he says, "I cannot say that ever
in my life I suffered so much anxiety." On the journey back he
nearly perished when he fell into an ice-cold stream and was
obliged to spend the night on a tiny island in frozen clothing.
He brought comfort as cold to the waiting Dinwiddie.

The French meanwhile were always a little ahead of the English in
their planning. Early in April, 1754, a French force of five or
six hundred men from Canada, which had set out while Quebec was
still in the icy grip of winter, reached the upper waters of the
Ohio. They attacked and destroyed a fort which the English had
begun at the forks where now stands Pittsburgh, and, in its
place, began a formidable one, called Fort Duquesne after the
Governor of Canada. In vain was Washington sent with a few
hundred men to take possession of this fort and to assert the
claim of the English to the land. He fell in with a French
scouting party under young Coulon de Jumonville, killed its
leader and nine others, and took more than a score of
prisoners--warfare bloody enough in a time of supposed peace. But
the French were now on the Ohio in greater numbers than the
English. At a spot known as the Great Meadows, where Washington
had hastily thrown up defenses, which he called Fort Necessity,
he was forced to surrender, but was allowed to lead his force
back to Virginia, defeated in the first military adventure of his
career. The French took the view that his killing of the young
officer Jumonville was assassination, since no state of war
existed, and raised a fierce clamor that Washington was a
murderer--a strange contrast to his relations with France in the
years to come.

What astonishes us in regard to these events is that Britain and
France long remained nominally at peace while they were carrying
on active hostilities in America and sending from Europe armies
to fight. There were various reasons for this hesitation about
plunging formally into war. Each side wished to delay until sure
of its alliances in Europe. During the war ending in 1748 France
had fought with Frederick of Prussia against Austria, and Britain
had been Austria's ally. The war had been chiefly a land war, but
France had been beaten on the sea. Now Britain and Prussia were
drawing together and, if France fought them, it must be with
Austria as an ally. Such an alliance offered France but slight
advantage. Austria, an inland power, could not help France
against an adversary whose strength was on the sea; she could not
aid the designs of France in America or in India, where the
capable French leader Dupleix was in a fair way to build up a
mighty oriental empire. Nor had France anything to gain in Europe
from an Austrian alliance. The shoe was on the other foot. The
supreme passion of Maria Theresa who ruled Austria was to recover
the province of Silesia which had been seized in 1740 by Prussia
and held--held to this day. Austria could do little for France
but France could do much for Austria. So Austria worked for this
alliance. It is a story of intrigue. Usually in France the King
carried on negotiations with foreign countries only through his
ministers, who knew the real interests of France. Now the astute
Austrian statesman, Kaunitz, went past the ministers of Louis XV
to Louis himself. This was the heyday of Madame de Pompadour, the
King's mistress. Maria Theresa condescended to intrigue with this
woman whom in her heart she despised. There is still much mystery
in the affair. The King was flattered into thinking that
personally he was swaying the affairs of Europe and took delight
in deceiving his ministers and working behind their backs. While
events in America were making war between France and Britain
inevitable, France was being tied to an ally who could give her
little aid. She must spend herself to fight Austria's battles on
the land, while her real interests required that she should build
up her fleet to fight on the sea the great adversary across the
English Channel.

The destiny of North America might, indeed; well have been other
than it is. A France strong on the sea, able to bring across to
America great forces, might have held, at any rate, her place on
the St. Lawrence and occupied the valleys of the Ohio and the
Mississippi. We can hardly doubt that the English colonies,
united by a common deadly peril, could have held against France
most of the Atlantic coast. But she might well have divided with
them North America; and today the lands north of the Ohio and
westward beyond the Ohio to the Pacific Ocean might have been
French. The two nations on the brink of war in 1754 were playing
for mighty stakes; and victory was to the power which had control
of the sea. France had a great army, Britain a great fleet. In
this contrast lay wrapped the secret of the future of North

As the crisis drew near the vital thought about the future of
America was found, not in America, but in Europe. The English
colonies were so accustomed to distrust each other that, when
Virginia grew excited about French designs on the Ohio,
Pennsylvania or North Carolina was as likely as not to say that
it was the French who were in the right and a stupid, or
excitable, or conceited, colonial governor who was in the wrong.
In Paris and London, on the other hand, there were no illusions
about affairs in America. In both capitals it was realized that a
grim fight was on. During the winter of 1754-55 extensive
preparations were being made on both sides. France equipped an
army under Baron Dieskau to go to Canada; Britain equipped one
under General Braddock to go to Virginia. Each nation asked the
other why it was sending troops to America and each gave the
assurance of benevolent designs. But in the spring of 1755 a
British fleet under Admiral Boscawen put to sea with instructions
to capture any French vessels bound for North America. At the
same time the two armies were on the way across the Atlantic.
Dieskau went to Canada, Braddock to Virginia, each instructed to
attack the other side, while in the meantime ambassadors at the
two courts gave bland assurances that their only thought was to
preserve peace.

The English colonists showed a political blindness that amounted
to imbecility. Albany was the central point from which the
dangers on all sides might best be surveyed. Here came together
in the summer of 1754 delegates from seven of the colonies to
consider the common peril. The French were busy in winning, as
they did, the support of the many Indian tribes of the West; and
the old allies of the English, the Iroquois, were nervous for
their own safety. The delegates to Albany, tied and bound by
instructions from their Assemblies, had to listen to plain words
from the savages. The one Englishman who, in dealing with the
Indians, had tact and skill equal to that of Frontenac of old,
was an Irishman, Sir William Johnson. To him the Iroquois made
indignant protests that the English were as ready as the French
to rob them of their lands. If we find a bear in a tree, they
said, some one will spring up to claim that the tree belongs to
him and keep us from shooting the bear. The French, they added,
are at least men who are prepared to fight; you weak and
un-prepared English are like women and any day the French may
you out. Benjamin Franklin told the delegates that they must
unite to meet a common enemy. Unite, however, they would not. No
one of them would surrender to a central body any authority
through which the power of the King over them might be increased.
The Congress--the word is full of omen for the future--failed to
bring about the much-needed union.

In February, 1755, Braddock arrived in Virginia with his army,
and early in May he was on his march across the mountains with
regulars, militia, and Indians, to the number of nearly fifteen
hundred men, to attack Fort Duquesne and to rid the Ohio Valley
of the French. He knew little of forest warfare with its use of
Indian scouts, its ambushes, its fighting from the cover of
trees. On the 9th of July, on the Monongahela River, near Fort
Duquesne, in a struggle in the forest against French and Indians
he was defeated and killed. George Washington was in the fight
and had to report to Dinwiddie the dismal record of what had
happened. The frontier was aflame; and nearly all the Indians of
the West, seeing the rising star, went over to the French. The
power of France was, for the time, supreme in the heart of the
continent. At that moment even far away in the lone land about
the Saskatchewan, the English trader, Hendry, had to admit that
the French knew better than the English how to attract the
support of the savage tribes.

Meanwhile Dieskau had arrived at Quebec. In the colony of New
York Sir William Johnson, the rough and cheery Irishman, much
loved of the Iroquois, was gathering forces to attack Canada.
Early in July, 1755, Johnson had more than three thousand
provincial troops at Albany, a motley horde of embattled farmers,
most of them with no uniforms, dressed in their own homespun,
carrying their own muskets, electing their own officers, and
altogether, from the strict soldier's point of view, a rabble
rather than an army. To meet this force and destroy it if he
could, Dieskau took to the French fort at Crown Point, on Lake
Champlain, and southward from there to Ticonderoga at the head of
this lake, some three thousand five hundred men, including his
French regulars, some Canadians and Indians. Johnson's force lay
at Fort George, later Fort William Henry, the most southerly
point on Lake George. The names, given by Johnson himself, show
how the dull Hanoverian kings and their offspring were held in
honor by the Irish diplomat who was looking for favors at court.
The two armies met on the shores of Lake George early in
September and there was an all-day fight. Each side lost some two
hundred men. Among those who perished on the French side was
Legardeur de Saint-Pierre, who had escaped all the perils of the
western wilderness to meet his fate in this border struggle. The
honors of the day seem to have been with Johnson, for the French
were driven off and Dieskau himself, badly wounded, was taken
prisoner. That Johnson had great difficulty in keeping his
savages from burning alive and then boiling and eating Dieskau
and smoking his flesh in their pipes, in revenge for some of
their chiefs killed in the fight, shows what an alliance with
Indians meant.

There was small gain to the English from Johnson's success. He
was too cautious to advance towards Canada; and, as winter came
on, he broke up his camp and sent his men to their homes. The
colonies had no permanent military equipment. Each autumn their
forces were dissolved to be reorganized again in the following
spring, a lame method of waging war.

For three years longer in the valley of the Ohio, as elsewhere,
the star of France remained in the ascendant. It began to decline
only when, farther east, on the Atlantic, superior forces sent
out from England were able to check the French. During the summer
of 1758, while Wolfe and Boscawen were pounding the walls of
Louisbourg, seven thousand troops led by General Forbes, Colonel
George Washington, and Colonel Henry Bouquet, pushed their way
through the wilds beyond the Alleghanies and took possession of
the Ohio. The French destroyed Fort Duquesne and fled. On the
25th of November the English occupied the place and named it
"Pitts-Bourgh" in honor of their great war minister.

CHAPTER VII. The Expulsion Of The Acadians

We have now to turn back over a number of years to see what has
been happening in Acadia, that oldest and most easterly part of
New France which in 1710 fell into British hands. Since the
Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 the Acadians had been nominally British
subjects. But the Frenchman, hardly less than the Jew, is
difficult of absorption by other racial types. We have already
noted the natural aim of France to recover what she had lost and
her use of the priests to hold the Acadians to her interests. The
Acadians were secure in the free exercise of their religion. They
had no secular leaders and few, if any, clergy of their own. They
were led chiefly by priests, subjects of France, who, though
working in British territory, owned no allegiance to Great
Britain, and were directed by the Bishop of Quebec.

For forty years the question of the Acadians remained unsettled.
Under the Treaty of 1713 the Acadians might leave the country. If
they remained a year they must become British subjects. When,
however, in 1715, two years after the conclusion of the treaty,
they were required to take the oath of allegiance to the new
King, George I, they declared that they could not do so, since
they were about to move to Cape Breton. When George II came to
the throne in 1727, the oath was again demanded. Still, however,
the Acadians were between two fires. Their Indian neighbors,
influenced by the French, threatened them with massacre if they
took the oath, while the British declared that they would forfeit
their farms if they refused. The truth is that the British did
not wish to press the alternative. To drive out the Acadians
would be to strengthen the neighboring French colony of Cape
Breton. To force on them the oath might even cause a rising which
would overwhelm the few English in Nova Scotia. So the tradition,
never formally accepted by the British, grew up that, while the
Acadians owed obedience to George II, they would be neutral in
case of war with France. A common name for them used by the
British themselves was that of the Neutral French. In time of
peace the Acadians could be left to themselves. When, however,
war broke out between Britain and France the question of loyalty
became acute. Such war there was in 1744. Without doubt, some
Acadians then helped the French--but it was, as they protested,
only under compulsion and, as far as they could, they seem to
have refused to aid either side. The British muttered threats
that subjects of their King who would not fight for him had no
right to protection under British law. Even then feeling was so
high that there was talk of driving the Acadians from their farms
and setting them adrift; and these poor people trembled for their
own fate when the British victors at Louisbourg in 1745 removed
the French population to France. Assurances came from the British
government, however, that there was no thought of molesting the

With the order "As you were" the dominant thought of the Treaty
of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, the highly organized and efficient
champions of French policy took every step to ensure that in the
next struggle the interests of France should prevail. Peace had
no sooner been signed than Versailles was working in Nova Scotia
on the old policy. The French priests taught that eternal
perdition awaited the Catholic Acadians who should accept the
demands of the heretic English. The Indians continued their
savage threats. Blood is thicker than water and no doubt the
natural sympathies of the Acadians were with the French. But the
British were now formidable. For them the founding of Halifax in
1749 had made all the difference. They, too, had a menacing
fortress at the door of the Acadians, and their tone grew
sterner. As a result the Acadians were told that if, by October
15, 1749, they had not taken an unconditional oath of allegiance
to George II, they should forfeit their rights and their
property, the treasured farms on which they and their ancestors
had toiled. The Acadians were in acute distress. If they yielded
to the English, not only would their bodies be destroyed by the
savage Micmac Indians, but their immortal souls, they feared,
would be in danger.

The Abbe Le Loutre was the parish priest of the Acadian village
of Beaubassin on Chignecto Bay and also missionary to the Micmac
Indians, whose chief village lay in British territory not many
miles from Halifax. British officials of the time denounced him
as a determined fanatic who did not stop short of murder. As in
most men, there was in Le Loutre a mingling of qualities. He was
arrogant, domineering, and intent on his own plans. He hated the
English and their heresy, and he preached to his people against
them with frantic invective. He incited his Indians to bloodshed.
But he also knew pity. The custom of the Indians was to consider
prisoners taken by them as their property, and on one occasion Le
Loutre himself paid ransom to the Indians for thirty-seven
English captives and returned them to Halifax. It is certain that
the French government counted upon the influence of French
priests to aid its political designs. "My masters, God and the
King" was a phrase of the Sulpician father Piquet working at this
time on the St. Lawrence. Le Loutre could have echoed the words.
He was an ardent politician and France supplied him with both
money and arms to induce the Indians to attack the English. The
savages haunted the outskirts of Halifax, waylaid and scalped
unhappy settlers, and, in due course, were paid from Louisbourg
according to the number of scalps which they produced. The
deliberate intention was to make new English settlements
impossible in Nova Scotia and so to discourage the English that
they should abandon Halifax. All this intrigue occurred in 1749
and the years following the treaty of peace. If the English
suffered, so did the Acadians. Le Loutre told them that if once
they became British subjects they would lose their priests and
find their religion suppressed. Acadians who took the oath would,
he said, be denied the sacraments of the Church. He would also
turn loose on the offenders the murderous savages whom he
controlled. If pressed by the English, the Acadians, rather than
yield, must abandon their lands and remove into French territory.

At this point arises the question as to what were the limits of
this French territory. In yielding Acadia in 1713, France had not
defined its boundaries. The English claimed that it included the
whole region stretching northeastward to the Gulf of St. Lawrence
from the frontier of New England. The French, however, said that
Acadia meant only the peninsula of Nova Scotia ending at the
isthmus between Baie Verte and the Bay of Chignecto; and for
years a Canadian force stood there on guard, daring the British
to put a foot on the north side of the little river Missaguash,
which the French said was the international boundary.

There was much excitement among the Acadians in 1750, when an
English force landed on the isthmus and proceeded to throw up
defenses on the south side of the river. This outpost, which in
due time became Fort Lawrence, was placed on what even the French
admitted to be British territory. Forthwith on a hill two or
three miles away, on the other side of the supposed boundary, the
French built Fort Beausejour. Le Loutre was on the spot,
blustering and menacing. He told his Acadian parishioners of the
little village of Beaubassin, near Fort Lawrence and within the
British area, that rather than accept English rule they must now
abandon their lands and seek the protection of the French at Fort
Beausejour. With his own hands he set fire to the village church.
The houses of the Acadians were also burned. A whole district was
laid waste by fire. Women and children suffered fearful
privations--but what did such things matter in view of the high
politics of the priest and of France?

During four or five years the hostile forts confronted each
other. In time of peace there was war. The French made Beausejour
a solid fort, for it still stands, little altered, though it has
been abandoned for a century and a half. It was chiefly the
Acadians, nominal British subjects, who built these thick walls.

The arrogant Micmacs demanded that the British should hand over
to them the best half of Nova Scotia, and they emphasized their
demand by treachery and massacre. One day a man, in the uniform
of a French officer, followed by a small party, approached Fort
Lawrence, waving a white flag. Captain Howe with a small force
went out to meet him. As this party advanced, Indians concealed
behind a dike fired and killed Howe and eight or ten others. Such
ruses were well fitted to cause among the English a resolve to
enforce severe measures. The fire burned slowly but in the end it
flamed up in a cruel and relentless temper. French policy, too,
showed no pity. The Governor of Canada and the colonial minister
in France were alike insistent that the English should be given
no peace and cared nothing for the sufferings of the unhappy
Acadians between the upper and the nether millstone.

At last, in 1755, the English accomplished something decisive.
They sent an army to Fort Lawrence, attacked Fort Beausejour,
forced its timid commander Vergor to surrender, mastered the
whole surrounding country, and obliged Le Loutre himself to fly
to Quebec. There he embarked for France. The English captured him
on the sea, however, and the relentless and cruel priest spent
many years in an English prison. His later years, when he reached
France, do him some credit. By that time the Acadians had been
driven from their homes. There were nearly a thousand exiles in
England. Le Loutre tried to befriend these helpless people and
obtained homes for some of them in the parish of Belle-Isle-en-
Mer in France.

In the meantime the price of Le Loutre's intrigues and of the
outrages of the French and their Indian allies was now to be paid
by the unhappy Acadians. During the spring and summer of 1755,
the British decided that the question of allegiance should be
settled at once, and that the Acadians must take the oath. There
was need of urgency. The army at Fort Lawrence which had captured
Fort Beausejour was largely composed of men from New England, and
these would wish to return to their homes for the winter. If the
Acadians remained and were hostile, the country thus occupied at
laborious cost might quickly revert to the French. Already many
Acadians had fought on the side of the French and some of them,
disguised as Indians, had joined in savage outrage. A French
fleet and a French army were reported as likely to arrive before
the winter. In fact, France's naval power with its base at
Louisbourg was still stronger than that of Britain with its base
at Halifax. When the Acadians were told in plain terms that they
must take the oath of allegiance, they firmly declined to do so
without certain limitations involving guarantees that they should
not be arrayed against France. The Governor at Halifax, Major
Charles Lawrence, was a stern, relentless man, without pity, and
his mind was made up. Shirley, Governor of Massachusetts, was in
touch with Lawrence. The Acadians should be deported if they
would not take the oath. This step, however, the government at
London never ordered. On the contrary, as late as on August 13,
1755, Lawrence was counseled to act with caution, prudence, and
tact in dealing with the "Neutrals," as the Acadians are called
even in this official letter. Meanwhile, without direct warrant
from London, Lawrence and his council at Halifax had taken
action. His reasoning was that of a direct soldier. The Acadians
would not take the full oath of British citizenship. Very well.
Quite obviously they could not be trusted. Already they had acted
in a traitorous way. Prolonged war with France was imminent.
Since Acadians who might be allied with the savages could attack
British posts, they must be removed. To replace them, British
settlers could in time be brought into the country.

The thing was done in the summer and autumn of 1755. Colonel
Robert Monckton, a regular officer, son of an Irish peer, who
always showed an ineffable superiority to provincial officers
serving under him, was placed in charge of the work. He ordered
the male inhabitants of the neighborhood of Beausejour to meet
him there on the 10th of August. Only about one-third of them
came--some four hundred. He told them that the government at
Halifax now declared them rebels. Their lands and all other goods
were forfeited; they themselves were to be kept in prison. Not
yet, however, was made known to them the decision that they were
to be treated as traitors of whom the province must be rid. No
attempt was made anywhere to distinguish loyal from disloyal
Acadians. Lawrence gave orders to the military officers to clear
the country of all Acadians, to get them by any necessary means
on board the transports which would carry them away, and to burn
their houses and crops so that those not caught might perish or
be forced to surrender during the coming winter. At the moment,
the harvest had just been reaped or was ripening.

When the stern work was done at Grand Pre, at Pisiquid, now
Windsor, at Annapolis, there were harrowing scenes. In command of
the work at Grand Pre was Colonel Winslow, an officer from
Massachusetts--some of whose relatives twenty-five years later
were to be driven, because of their loyalty to the British King,
from their own homes in Boston to this very land of Acadia.
Winslow issued a summons in French to all the male inhabitants,
down to lads of ten, to come to the church at Grand Pre on
Friday, the 5th of September, to learn the orders he had to
communicate. Those who did not appear were to forfeit their
goods. No doubt many Acadians did not understand the summons. Few
of them could read and it hardly mattered to them that on one
occasion a notice on the church door was posted upside down. Some
four hundred anxious peasants appeared. Winslow read to them a
proclamation to the effect that their houses and lands were
forfeited and that they themselves and their families were to be
deported. Five vessels from Boston lay at Grand Pre. In time more
ships arrived, but chill October had come before Winslow was
finally ready.

By this time the Acadians realized what was to happen. The men
were joined by their families. As far as possible the people of
the same village were kept together. They were forced to march to
the transports, a sorrow-laden company, women carrying babes in
their arms, old and decrepit people borne in carts, young and
strong men dragging what belongings they could gather. Winslow's
task, as he says, lay heavy on his heart and hands: "It hurts me
to hear their weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth." By the
1st of November he had embarked fifteen hundred unhappy people.
His last ship-load he sent off on the 13th of December. The
suffering from cold must have been terrible.

In all, from Grand Pre and other places, more than six thousand
Acadians were deported. They were scattered in the English
colonies from Maine to Georgia and in both France and England.
Many died; many, helpless in new surroundings, sank into decrepit
pauperism. Some reached people of their own blood in the French
colony of Louisiana and in Canada. A good many returned from
their exile in the colonies to their former home after the Seven
Years' War had ended. Today their descendants form an appreciable
part of the population of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince
Edward Island. The cruel act did one thing effectively: it made
Nova Scotia safe for the British cause in the attack that was
about to be directed against Canada.

CHAPTER VIII. The Victories Of Montcalm

In France's last, most determined, and most tragic struggle for
North America, the noblest aspect is typified in the figure of

The circle of the King and his mistress at Versailles does not
tell the whole story of France at this time. No doubt Madame de
Pompadour made and unmade ministers, but behind the ministers was
the great administrative system of France, with servants alert
and efficient, and now chiefly occupied with military plans to
defeat the great Frederick of Prussia. At the same time the
intellect of France was busy with problems of science and was
soon to express itself in the massive volumes of Diderot's
Encyclopaedia. The soldiers of France were preparing to fight on
many battlefields. The best of them took little part in the
debilitating pleasures of Versailles.

Louis Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm, was a member of the ancient
nobility of Languedoc, in the south of France. He was a scholar,
a soldier, and a landowner. He could write a Latin inscription,
fight a battle, and manage a farm--all with excellence. His was a
fruitful race. His wife had borne him ten children, of whom six
had survived. He was sincerely religious, a family man, enjoying
quiet evenings at home. In his career, as no doubt in that of
many other French leaders of the time, we find no lurid lights,
no gay scenes at court--nothing but simple and laborious devotion
to duty. Though a grand seigneur, Montcalm was poor. His letters
show that his mind was always much occupied with family affairs,
the need of economy, the careers of his sons, his mill, his
plantations. He showed the minute care in management which the
French practise better than the English. In 1756 he was
forty-four years of age, a soldier who had campaigned in Germany,
Bohemia, and Italy, had known victory and defeat, had been a
prisoner in the hands of the Austrians, and had made a reputation
as a man fit to lead. He lived far from court and went to Paris
only rarely. It was this quiet man who, on January 31, 1756, was
summoned to Paris to head the military force about to be sent to
Canada. Dieskau was a captive in English hands, and Montcalm was
to replace Dieskau.

Thus began that connection of Montcalm with Canada which was
destined three or four years later to bring to him first victory
and then defeat, death, and undying fame. On receiving his
appointment he went to Paris, thanked the King in person for the
honor done him, and was delighted that his son, a mere boy, was
given the rank and pay of a colonel, one of the few abuses of
court favor which we find in his career. On March 26, 1756,
Montcalm embarked at Brest with his staff. War had not yet been
declared, but already Britain had captured some three hundred
French merchant ships, had taken prisoner nearly ten thousand
French sailors, and was sweeping from the sea the fleets of

Owing to the fear of British cruisers, the voyage of Montcalm had
its excitements. As usual, however, France was earlier in the
field than Britain, who had in April no force ready for America
which could intercept Montcalm. The storms were heavy, and on
Easter Day, when Mass was celebrated, a sailor firm on his feet
had to hold the chalice for the officiating priest. On board
there were daily prayers, and always the service ended with cries
of "God save the King!" Some of the officers on board were
destined to survive to a new era in France when there should be
no more a king.

Montcalm had with him a capable staff and a goodly number of
young officers, gay, debonair, thinking not of great political
designs about America but chiefly of their own future careers in
France, and facing death lightheartedly enough. Next to Montcalm
in command was the Chevalier de Uvis, a member of a great French
family and himself destined to attain the high rank of Marshal of
France, and a capable though not a brilliant soldier, whose chief
gift was tact and the art of managing men. Third in command was
the Chevalier de Bourlamaque, a quiet, reserved man, with no
striking social gifts and in consequence not likely at first to
make a good impression, though Montcalm, who was at the beginning
a little doubtful of his quality, came in the end to rely upon
him fully. The most brilliant man in that company was the young
Colonel de Bougainville, Montcalm's chief aide-de-camp. Though
only twenty-seven years old he was already famous in the world of
science and was destined to be still more famous as a great
navigator, to live through the whole period of the French
Revolution, and to die only on the eve of the fall of Napoleon.
In 1756 he was too young and clever to be always prudent in
speech. It is from his quick eye and eager pen that we learn much
of the inner story of these last days of New France. Montcalm
discusses frankly in his letters these and other officers, with
whom he was on the whole well pleased. In his heart he could echo
the words of Bougainville as he watched the brilliant spectacle
of the embarkation at Brest: "What a nation is ours! Happy is he
who leads and is worthy of it."

It was in this spirit of confidence that Montcalm faced the
struggle in America. For him sad days were to come and his sunny,
vivacious, southern temperament caused him to suffer keenly. At
first, however, all was full of brilliant promise. So eager was
he that, when his ships lay becalmed in the St. Lawrence some
thirty miles below Quebec, he landed and drove to the city. It is
the most beautiful country in the world, he writes, highly
cultivated, with many houses, the peasants living more like the
lesser gentry of France than like peasants, and speaking
excellent French. He found the hospitality in Quebec such that a
Parisian would be surprised at the profusion of good things of
every kind. The city was, he thought, like the best type of the
cities of France. The Canadian climate was health-giving, the sky
clear, the summer not unlike that of Languedoc, but the winter
trying, since the severe weather caused the inhabitants to remain
too much indoors. He described the Canadian ladies as witty,
lively, devout, those of Quebec amusing themselves at play,
sometimes for high stakes; those of Montreal, with conversation
and dancing. He confessed that one of them proved a little too
fascinating for his own peace of mind. The intolerable thing was
the need to meet and pay court to the Indians whom the Governor,
the Marquis de Vaudreuil, regarded as valuable allies. These
savages, brutal, changeable, exacting, Montcalm from the first
despised. It filled him with disgust to see them swarming in the
streets of Montreal, sometimes carrying bows and arrows, their
coarse features worse disfigured by war-paint and a gaudy
headdress of feathers, their heads shaven, with the exception of
one long scalp-lock, their gleaming bodies nearly naked or draped
with dirty buffalo or beaver skins. What allies for a refined
grand seigneur of France! It was a costly burden to feed them.
Sometimes they made howling demands for brandy and for bouillon,
by which they meant human blood. Many of them were cannibals.
Once Montcalm had to give some of them, at his own cost, a feast
of three oxen roasted whole. To his disgust, they gorged
themselves and danced round the room shouting their savage

The Governor of Canada, Pierre de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil,
belonged to one of the most ancient families of France, related
to that of Levis. He had been born in Canada where his father was
Governor for the long period of twenty-two years, from 1703 to
1725, and in his outlook and prejudices he was wholly of New
France, with a passionate devotion to its people, and a deep
resentment at any airs of superiority assumed by those who came
from old France. A certain admiration is due to Vaudreuil for his
championship of the Canadians and even of the savages of the land
of his birth against officers of his own rank and caste who came
from France. There was in Canada the eternal cleavage in outlook
and manners between the Old World and the New, which is found in
equal strength in New England, and which was one of the chief
factors in causing the American Revolution. Vaudreuil, born at
Quebec in 1698, had climbed the official ladder step by step
until, in 1742, he had been made Governor of Louisiana, a post he
held for three years. He succeeded the Marquis Duquesne as
Governor of Canada in the year before Montcalm arrived. He meant
well but he was a vain man, always a leading figure in the small
society about him, and obsessed by a fussy self-importance. He
was not clever enough to see through flattery. The Intendant
Bigot, next to the Governor the most important man in Canada, an
able and corrupt rascal, knew how to manage the Governor and to
impose his own will upon the weaker man. Vaudreuil and his wife
between them had a swarm of needy relatives in Canada, and these
and other Canadians who sought favors from the Governor helped to
sharpen his antagonism to the officers from France. Vaudreuil
believed himself a military genius. It was he and not Montcalm
who had the supreme military command, and he regarded as an
unnecessary intruder this general officer sent out from France.

Now that Montcalm was come, Vaudreuil showed a malignant
alertness, born of jealousy, to snub and check him. Outward
courtesies were, of course, maintained. Vaudreuil could be bland
and Montcalm restrained, in spite of his southern temperament,
but their dispatches show the bitterness in their relations. The
court of France encouraged not merely the leaders but even
officers in subordinate posts to communicate to it their views. A
voluble correspondence about affairs in Canada has been
preserved. Vaudreuil himself must have tried the patience of the
French ministers for he wrote at prodigious length, exalting his
own achievements to the point of being ludicrous. At the same
time he belittled everything done by Montcalm, complained that he
was ruining the French cause in America, hinted that he was in
league with corrupt elements in Canada, and in the end even went
so far as to request his recall in order that the more pliant
Levis might be put in his place. The letters of Montcalm are more
reserved. Unlike Vaudreuil, he never stooped to falsehood. He
knew that he was under the orders of the Governor and he accepted
the situation. When operations were on hand, Vaudreuil would give
Montcalm instructions so ambiguous that if he failed he would be
sure to get the discredit, while, if he succeeded, to Vaudreuil
would belong the glory.

War is, at best, a cruel business. In Europe its predatory
barbarity was passing away and there the lives of prisoners and
of women and children were now being respected. Montcalm had been
reared under this more civilized code, and he and his officers
were shocked by what Vaudreuil regarded as normal and proper
warfare. In 1756 the French had a horde of about two thousand
savages, who had flocked to Montreal from points as far distant
as the great plains of the West. They numbered more than thirty
separate tribes or nations, as in their pride they called
themselves, and each nation had to be humored and treated as an
equal, for they were not in the service of France but were her
allies. They expected to be consulted before plans of campaign
were completed. The defeat of Braddock in 1755 had made them turn
to the prosperous cause of France. Vaudreuil gave them what they
hardly required--encouragement to wage war in their own way. The
more brutal and ruthless the war on the English, he said, the
more quickly would their enemies desire the kind of peace that
France must have. The result was that the western frontiers of
the English colonies became a hell of ruthless massacre. The
savages attacked English settlements whenever they found them
undefended. A pioneer might go forth in the morning to his labor
and return in the evening to find his house in ashes and his wife
and children lying dead with the scalps torn from their heads as
trophies of savage prowess.

For years, until the English gained the upper hand over the
French, this awful massacre went on. Hundreds of women and
children perished. Vaudreuil reported with pride to the French
court the number of scalps taken, and in his annals such
incidents were written down as victories, He warned Montcalm that
he must not be too strict with the savages or some day they would
take themselves off and possibly go over to the English and leave
the French without indispensable allies. He complained of the
lofty tone of the French regular officers towards both Indians
and Canadians, and assured the French court that it was only his
own tact which prevented an open breach.

Canada lay exposed to attack by three routes by Lake Ontario, by
Lake Champlain, and by the St. Lawrence and the sea. It was vital
to control the route to the West by Lake Ontario, vital to keep
the English from invading Canada by way of Lake Champlain, vital
to guard the St. Lawrence and keep open communications with
France. Montcalm first directed his attention to Lake Ontario.
Oswego, lying on the south shore, was a fort much prized by the
English as a base from which they could attack the French Fort
Frontenac on the north side of the lake and cut off Canada from
the West. If the English could do this, they would redeem the
failure of Braddock and possibly turn the Indians from a French
to an English alliance.

The French, in turn, were resolved to capture and destroy Oswego.
In the summer of 1756, they were busy drawing up papers and
instructions for the attack. Montcalm wrote to his wife that he
had never before worked so hard. He kept every one busy, his
aide-de-camp, his staff, and his secretaries. No detail was too
minute for his observation. He regulated the changes of clothes
which the officers might carry with them. He inspected hospitals,
stores, and food, and he even ordered an alteration in the method
of making bread. He reorganized the Canadian battalions and in
every quarter stirred up new activity. He was strict about
granting leave of absence. Sometimes his working day endured for
twenty hours--to bed at midnight and up again at four o'clock in
the morning. He went with Levis to Lake Champlain to see with his
own eyes what was going on there. Then he turned back to
Montreal. The discipline among the Canadian troops was poor and
he stiffened it, thereby naturally causing great offense to those
who liked slack ways and hated to take trouble about sanitation
and equipment. He held interminable conferences with his Indian
allies. They were astonished to find that the great soldier of
whom they had heard so much was so small in stature, but they
noted the fire in his eye. He despised their methods of warfare
and notes with a touch of irony that, while every other barbarity
continues, the burning of prisoners at the stake has rather gone
out of fashion, though the savages recently burned an English
woman and her son merely to keep in practice.

Montcalm made his plans secretly and struck suddenly. In the
middle of August, 1756, he surprised and captured Oswego and took
more than sixteen hundred prisoners. Of these, in spite of all
that he could do, his Indians murdered some. The blow was deadly.
The English lost vast stores; and now the French controlled the
whole region of the Great Lakes. The Indians were on the side of
the rising power more heartily than ever, and the unhappy
frontier of the English colonies was so harried that murderous
savages ventured almost to the outskirts of Philadelphia.
Montcalm caused a Te Deum to be sung on the scene of his victory
at Oswego. In August he was back in Montreal where again was sung
another joyous Te Deum. He wrote letters in high praise of some
of his officers, especially of Bourlamaque, Malartic, and La
Pause, the last "un homme divin." Some of the Canadian officers,
praised by Vaudreuil, he had tried and found wanting. "Don't
forget," he wrote to Levis, "that Mercier is a feeble ignoramus,
Saint Luc a prattling boaster, Montigny excellent but a drunkard.
The others are not worth speaking of, including my first
lieutenant-general Rigaud." This Rigaud was the brother of
Vaudreuil. When the Governor wrote to the minister, he, for his
part, said that the success of the expedition was wholly due to
his own vigilance and firmness, aided chiefly by this brother,
"mon frere," and Le Mercier, both of whom Montcalm describes as
inept. Vaudreuil adds that only his own tact kept the Indian
allies from going home because Montcalm would not let them have
the plunder which they desired.

Montcalm struck his next blow at the English on Lake Champlain.
In July, 1757, he had eight thousand men at Ticonderoga, at the
northern end of Lake George. Two thousand of these were savages
drawn from more than forty different tribes--a lawless horde whom
the French could not control. A Jesuit priest saw a party of them
squatting round a fire in the French camp roasting meat on the
end of sticks and found that the meat was the flesh of an
Englishman. English prisoners, sick with horror, were forced to
watch this feast. The priest's protest was dismissed with anger:
the savages would follow their own customs; let the French follow
theirs. The truth is that the French had been only too successful
in drawing the savages to them as allies. They formed now one-
quarter of the whole French army. They were of little use as
fighters and probably, in the long run, the French would have
been better off without them. If, however, Montcalm had caused
them to go, Vaudreuil would have made frantic protests, so that
Montcalm accepted the necessity of such allies.

Each success, however, brought some new horrors at the hands of
the Indians. Montcalm captured Fort William Henry, at the
southern end of Lake George, in August, a year after the taking
of Oswego. Fort William Henry was the most advanced English post
in the direction of Canada. The place had been left weak, for the
Earl of Loudoun, Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in
America, was using his resources for an expedition against
Louisbourg, which wholly failed. Colonel Monro, the brave officer
in command at Fort William Henry, made a strong defense, but was
forced to surrender. The terms were that he should march out with
his soldiers and the civilians of the place, and should be
escorted in safety to Fort Edward, about eighteen miles to the
south. This time the savages surpassed themselves in treachery
and savagery. They had formally approved of the terms of
surrender, but they attacked the long line of defeated English as
they set out on the march, butchered some of their wounded, and
seized hundreds of others as prisoners. Montcalm did what he
could and even risked his life to check the savages. But some
fifty English lay dead and the whole savage horde decamped for
Montreal carrying with them two hundred prisoners.

Montcalm burned Fort William Henry and withdrew to Ticonderoga at
the north end of the lake. Why, asked Vaudreuil, had he not
advanced further south into English territory, taken Fort
Edward--weak, because the English were in a panic--menaced Albany
itself, and advanced even to New York? Montcalm's answer was that
Fort Edward was still strong, that he had no transport except the
backs of his men to take cannon eighteen miles by land in order
to batter its walls, and that his Indians had left him. Moreover,
he had been instructed to hasten his operations and allow his
Canadians to go home to gather the ripening harvest so that
Canada might not starve during the coming winter. Vaudreuil
pressed at the French court his charges against Montcalm and
without doubt produced some effect. French tact was never
exhibited with more grace than in the letters which Montcalm
received from his superiors in France, urging upon him with suave
courtesy the need of considering the sensitive pride of the
colonial forces and of guiding with a light rein the barbaric
might of the Indian allies. It is hard to imagine an English
Secretary of State administering a rebuke so gently and yet so
unmistakably. Montcalm well understood what was meant. He knew
that some intrigue had been working at court but he did not
suspect that the Governor himself, all blandness and compliments
to his face, was writing to Paris voluminous attacks on his
character and conduct.

In the next summer (1758) Montcalm won another great success. He
lay with his forces at Ticonderoga. The English were determined
to press into the heart of Canada by way of Lake Champlain. All
through the winter, after the fall of Fort William Henry, they
had been making preparations on a great scale at Albany. By this
time Amherst and Wolfe were on the scene in America, and they
spent this summer in an attack on Louisbourg which resulted in
the fall of the fortress. On the old fighting ground of Lake
Champlain and Lake George, the English were this year making
military efforts such as the Canadian frontier had never before
seen. William Pitt, who now directed the war from London, had
demanded that the colonies should raise twenty thousand men, a
number well fitted to dismay the timid legislators of New York
and Pennsylvania. At Albany fifteen thousand men came marching in
by detachments--a few of them regulars, but most of them colonial
militia who, as soon as winter came on, would scatter to their
homes. The leader was General Abercromby--a leader, needless to
say, with good connections in England, but with no other
qualification for high command.

On July 5, 1758, there was a sight on Lake George likely to cause
a flutter of anxiety in the heart of Montcalm at Ticonderoga. In
a line of boats, six miles long, the great English host came down
the lake and, early on the morning of the sixth, landed before
the fort which Montcalm was to defend. The soul of the army had
been a brilliant young officer, Lord Howe, who shared the
hardships of the men, washed his own linen at the brook, and was
the real leader trusted by the inept Abercromby. It was a tragic
disaster for the British that at the outset of the fight Howe was
killed in a chance skirmish. Montcalm's chief defense of
Ticonderoga consisted in a felled forest. He had cut down
hundreds of trees and, on high ground in front of the fort, made
a formidable abbatis across which the English must advance.
Abercromby had four men to one of Montcalm. Artillery would have
knocked a passage through the trunks of the trees which formed
the abbatis. Abercromby, however, did not wait to bring up
artillery. He was confident that his huge force could beat down
opposition by a rapid attack, and he made the attack with all
courage and persistence. But the troops could not work through
the thicket of fallen trunks and, as night came on, they had to
withdraw baffled. Next day Lake George saw another strange
spectacle--a British army of thirteen thousand men, the finest
ever seen hitherto in America, retreating in a panic, with no
enemy in pursuit. Nearly two thousand English had fallen, while
Montcalm's loss was less than four hundred. He planted a great
cross on the scene of the fight with an inscription in Latin that
it was God who had wrought the victory. All Canada had a brief
period of rejoicing before the gloom of final defeat settled down
upon the country.

CHAPTER IX. Montcalm At Quebec

The rejoicing in Canada was brief. Before the end of the year the
British were victorious at both the eastern and western ends of
the long battle-line. Louisbourg had fallen in July; Fort
Duquesne, in November. Fort Frontenac--giving command of Lake
Ontario and, with it, the West--had surrendered to Bradstreet in
August just after Montcalm's victory at Ticonderoga. The Ohio was


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