The genius and heroism of Champlain, Cartier, Marquette, Joliet, and La Salle, and the zeal and devotion of her missionaries, had given to the French not only Canada, then known as New France, Acadia, Hudson's Bay, and Newfoundland, but had also furnished her with a claim to the whole valley of the Mississippi, and to Texas as far as the Rio Bravo del Norte. A line drawn from Falmouth, now Portland, or Casco Pay, by the towns of Scarborough, Saco, Wells, York, Amesbury, Haverhill, Andover, Dunstable, Chelmsford, Groton, Lancaster, and Worcester constituted the frontier of Massachusetts, which then included Maine. Upon these settlements the stress of those cruel wars fell. The English colonists largely outnumbered the French, but the latter had succeeded in arraying the numerous tribes of the Algonkins against the English, and these savage allies made the warfare terrible to the settlers who were exposed to their incursions all along the extensive frontier. The only allies of the English were the Iroquois.
By the French the war was carried on in a most barbarous manner. They fitted out parties of savages to attack the English settlers, shooting them down while tilling their fields, seizing their wives and children, loading them with heavy packs of plunder from their own houses, and driving them before them into the wilderness. These, when faint with hunger and unable to stagger under their burdens, were murdered, and their scalps torn off and exhibited by the savages to their civilized masters on their arrival at the French head-quarters. Only those who have read the story of these barbarities can realize the perils and sacrifices, the heroism and sufferings of the early English settlers.
The greater part of the early settlers were engaged in agriculture. Those on the sea-coast pursued the fisheries with success. Their every-day dress was plain, strong, and comfortable, and was the product of their own looms and knitting-needles. A cocked-up hat, a short frock of strongest warp, a pair of old leather breeches, and leggings confined above the knee and tied over the shoe with a string round the middle of the foot, was the costume of the man.
The farm work obliged them to be up before daylight. The early breakfast consisted of pea or bean porridge, boiled with salted beef or pork, served in wooden bowls, together with bread and beer. The bread was generally some preparation of Indian-corn mixed with rye. Dinner at noon began with Indian pudding and ended with boiled salt pork, fried eggs, brown bread, cabbage, and cider. Sometimes they had succotash, a native dish of corn and beans boiled together in the milk. Hasty pudding, consisting of the boiled meal of maize or rye, and eaten with molasses or milk, was a common dish. The spoons were pewter, the plates "wooden trenchers." Their sofa was the settle, their carpets clean white sand, their ceilings rough boards and rafters, and their parlor was at once kitchen, bedroom, and hall. Besides other household labor, the women did all the sewing, knitting, mending, spinning, cooking, and washing. Their toil was unremitting. Religious exercises, morning and evening, were never omitted. By eight o'clock the entire family were in bed.
To the Indians every part of the New England border was familiar ground. Many of them, before withdrawing to Canada, had lived in its vicinity, and had frequently visited the settlements to trade, and were thus well qualified to guide the French in their expeditions. Their motive was plunder, but it is doubtless true that some were governed by the remembrance of injuries, and it is proverbial that "an Indian never forgets an injury."
The first blow was struck by the Indians at Cocheco, now Dover, New Hampshire, which, from its exposed situation at the lowest ford of the Piscataqua, had been in constant dread of attack. The inhabitants had become alarmed at the attitude of the Indians, but were quieted by Major Waldron, the officer in command, who laughed at their fears. There were here five garrison-houses strongly built, to which the people retired at night, but the watch had become careless. These were strongly fortified dwellings calculated to repel Indian attacks.
At midnight the doors of four of these houses, including that of Major Waldron, were opened by some squaws, who had been permitted to lodge within them, and a large number of Indians rushed in, slaughtering all who resisted. Thirteen years before, Waldron had, by a stratagem, made prisoners of some four hundred Indians, more than half of whom were sold into slavery or executed at Boston. It was proposed to these Indians to join the English in a training and have a sham fight. The evolutions were so arranged by the English that the Indians were surrounded and secured. This piece of treachery was not forgotten by the Indians.
Waldron, now eighty years old, shouting, "What now? what now?" seized his sword and defended himself with great resolution, but was at length struck down by a blow from a hatchet. He was then dragged into his hall and placed in an arm-chair upon a table. He was a magistrate, and they mockingly cried out to him, "Judge Indians now! judge Indians now!"
He had the reputation of having taken advantage of the natives in trade, and in buying beaver of them, his fist, placed in the opposite scale, was accounted as weighing only a pound. After eating supper they began to torture him. Some who were in debt to him gashed him with their knives, saying, "I cross out my account," while others cut off the joints of his fingers, and said to him, "Now will your fist weigh a pound?" Finally, to end his misery, as he was sinking from loss of blood, they placed his sword so that he fell upon it. After burning the house, with the others near it, and having killed twenty-three persons, the Indians withdrew, taking with them to Canada twenty-nine captives. Some of these prisoners were sold to the French—the first instance, it is believed, of English captives being thus disposed of. Two months later another part of Dover, called Oyster Bay, now Durham, was attacked, and eighteen men killed while at work in the fields.
Count Frontenac, then in his seventieth year, had been recalled to the government of Canada. One of his first acts was to fit out and send three expeditions against the English settlements. One, from Montreal, was to strike Albany; another, from Three Rivers, was to assail the New Hampshire border; and the third, from Quebec, was directed to the frontier of Maine.
The expedition designed for Albany consisted of two hundred French and Indians, under De Mantet and De St. Hélène. They began their march in midwinter upon snow-shoes, carrying their packs upon their shoulders, and dragging their blankets and provisions over the snow on Indian sledges. Fearing that Albany was too strong for them, the Indians could not be persuaded to attack it, and Schenectady, a fortified town twenty miles from Albany, was selected instead. The weather was severe and the snow was deep, and the invaders suffered severely during the march, which took twenty-two days. So exhausted were they with cold, fatigue, and hunger before reaching the place, that some of them afterwards declared that they would have surrendered had they encountered serious opposition.
A scout having ascertained that the town was in a profound slumber and without a guard, the spirits of the party were greatly raised. The town was left thus unguarded because the severity of the weather was supposed to be a sufficient security. As if in derision of possible danger, two snow images, it is said, stood as mock sentinels at the gate.
At midnight the assailants entered the open and undefended gate, divided into parties of six or seven, waylaid the doors of each house, and then raised the terrible warwhoop. Massacre and pillage now held high carnival. Barbarities too shocking to relate were perpetrated. In two hours upward of eighty well-built and well-furnished houses were burned, two only escaping the flames, and sixty persons were put to death. Forty of the inhabitants were carried into captivity. About sixty women, children, and old men were spared, out of regard for Glen, the chief magistrate, whose former kindness to French prisoners was now reciprocated. On their return to Montreal the party was pursued, and a number killed or captured.
Intelligence of this shocking event was borne to Albany by some of the poor fugitives who, with no other covering than their night-clothes, and during a fall of snow, made their way to that place, some of them badly frost-bitten.
The second party, under Hertel de Rouville, an experienced officer, attacked at daylight the village of Salmon Falls, on the Piscataqua. Here was a fortified house, with two stockade forts, for the protection of the inhabitants. The three parties into which Hertel had divided his command made a sudden and simultaneous attack. No watch had been kept, and the surprise was complete and the resistance brief. Soon the scattered dwellings and barns were in ashes. Thirty persons, of all ages and sexes, were tomahawked or shot, and fifty-four, mostly women and children, were carried into captivity. Hertel was pursued and overtaken by a large party of English at Wooster River, but succeeded in holding the narrow bridge that crossed it until dark, when he continued his retreat.
On the way, Hertel met the third party under Portneuf, who had also been joined by the Baron de St. Castin and some Kennebec Indians, swelling his forces to the number of four or five hundred. Together they attacked the fort and settlement at Casco Bay. Fort Loyal, a palisade work having eight cannon, stood at what is now the foot of India Street, Portland. The fort having been undermined, it was surrendered on the fourth day upon the promise of protection. No sooner, however, had the garrison laid down their arms, than the women and children and wounded were all murdered in cold blood. The commander and four others only were spared. Scarcely had they surrendered when four vessels, sent to their relief from Boston, appeared in the offing just too late. This successful raid greatly elated the French, who had not yet recovered from the effects of the blow struck at Montreal by the Iroquois in the previous year.
When Davis, the commander at Fort Loyal, reached Quebec, he told Frontenac of the pledge given by his captor, and of the violation of it. "We were promised good quarter," said he, "and a guard to conduct us to our English. I thought I had to do with Christians who would have been careful of their engagements, and not to violate and break their oaths. Whereupon," continues Davis, "the Governor shaked his head, and, as I was told, was very angry with Burniffe" (Portneuf).
After these exploits a grand council was held at Quebec by the Western Indians who came to trade. Frontenac himself took part in this, and brandishing a hatchet, sung the war-song and led the dance, whooping and yelling with the rest. The other Frenchmen present followed his example. This excited the enthusiasm of the Indians, who snatched the proffered hatchet and promised to make war on the English and Iroquois to the death.
Major Peter Schuyler, with a force of two hundred and sixty-seven men, of whom the larger part were Iroquois, marching from Albany, had surprised a French camp at La Prairie, opposite Montreal, driving them into their fort with considerable loss. Informed of Schuyler's approach, Valrenne, a Canadian officer, was sent to intercept him on his retreat. Placing himself upon the path by which Schuyler was retreating, the advanced parties of each met, and their warwhoops sounded the alarm.
Valrenne had posted his men to great advantage behind some fallen trees and thickets, on a ridge, barring the way of the English. The English made repeated charges, and the combatants on either side became intermingled. The fight was long and stubborn, but the English at length broke through their foes, and forming again, attacked and finally drove them back. After the French had retreated, Schuyler and his men continued their march, carrying away their wounded, but losing their knapsacks.
York, one of the most important towns in the eastern country, was laid in ashes by a party of Abenakis from the Penobscot and the Kennebec. The village was a collection of scattered houses, along the banks of the river Agamenticus and the adjacent sea-shore. Some of them were built for defence. Snow fell as the party moved forward. Coming upon a boy chopping wood, they took him, and after getting what information they could from him tomahawked him. At the edge of the village they divided into two parties. The warwhoop was sounded at a given signal, and the savages burst into the houses and slaughtered or captured all their inmates. Rev. Samuel Dimmer, the minister, was shot as he was mounting his horse at his own door. His wife died in captivity. The few who escaped made for the fortified houses, which were not attacked by the Indians. The women and children were allowed to go free, in return, it is said, for the release some time before of some captive Indian children. One of the Indians arrayed himself in the gown of the slain minister, and preached a mock sermon to his captured parishioners. Two fortified houses of this period are yet standing at York. The Indian leader on this occasion was Madokawando, chief of the Penobscots.
This same chief soon afterwards attacked the garrison at Wells, Maine. With him were some Frenchmen, under Portneuf, St. Castin, and La Brognerie. So confident were the leaders of success, that before the attack they arranged the details of the division of the provisions and property of the garrison. Convers, the English commander, occupying the larger of the five fortified houses in the place, had but fifteen men with whom to defend it. Fortunately, two sloops, with supplies and a few men, arrived on the day before the attack. Forewarned of the enemy's approach, the inhabitants had fled to the forts.
The attack began fiercely, before daylight. The enemy, five hundred strong, fired from behind breastworks of timber filled with hay. Convers, however, had two or three twelve-pound cannon, which were well served, the men loading and pointing them, and the women, who brought ammunition, lighting the fuse. Many stratagems were tried, and the sloops were several times set on fire by burning arrows; but by the coolness and bravery of the crews the flames were easily subdued. A fire-raft was then floated down upon them, and destruction seemed inevitable. Providentially, when close upon them, the wind drove it on shore.
Next the besiegers made a huge shield of planks, which they fastened to the back of a cart. La Brognerie, with twenty-six men, got behind it, and shoved the cart towards the stranded sloops. It was within fifty feet of them when a wheel sunk in the mud and it stuck fast. La Brognerie tried to extricate it and was shot dead. The rest ran, and some of them dropped under the fire of the sailors.
Becoming discouraged, the assailants then tried persuasion upon the English commander. Instead of boldly attacking and overwhelming the small force opposed to them, the Indians leaped, yelled, and fired, and called on the English to yield. Failing to convince Convers of the necessity for surrender, a flag was sent as a last resource, with a summons for him to capitulate. To this Convers replied, "I want nothing but men to come and fight me."
"As you are so stout," said the bearer of the flag, "why don't you come and fight in the open field like a man, and not in a garrison like a squaw?" The taunt was followed by a threat: "We will cut you as small as tobacco before to-morrow morning." "Come on," said Convers, not at all frightened, "I want work."
After a two days' siege, and the expenditure of their ammunition, the enemy withdrew. A handful of determined men had rendered abortive one of the most formidable expeditions that had yet been undertaken.
A war party of Abenakis, headed by Yillieu, a French officer, and the priest Thury, struck the settlement at Oyster River, now Durham, about twelve miles from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The people had been assured that the war was over, and no watch was kept. Approaching by moonlight in numerous small bands, the slaughter was frightful. One hundred and four persons, principally women and children, were victims. Some escaped to the fortified houses or to the woods. The devastation extended six or seven miles. The church, strangely enough, was spared, while the other houses were destroyed. One of the evil results of this shocking affair was that it helped the French by putting an end to the negotiations for peace with their Indian allies, which the English had nearly concluded.
Seven of the twelve fortified houses at Oyster River were successfully defended. One of these was saved by an ingenious stratagem of its owner, Thomas Bickford. Sending his wife and children down the river in a boat, he went back alone to defend his dwelling. When the Indians approached, he fired on them, sometimes from one loop-hole and sometimes from another, shouting the word of command to an imaginary garrison, and showing himself at different places, each time with a different hat, cap, or coat. Thus he saved both his family and home.
The new fort at Pemaquid was attacked by a strong force of French and Indians, under Iberville and the Baron de St. Castin. The fort, though well manned and supplied, had no casemates to protect its defenders from the explosion of bombs. Chubb, its commander, when summoned to surrender, replied that he would not give up the fort if the sea were covered with French ships and the land with Indians" A few bomb-shells, and a notification that if the fort had to be carried by assault the garrison would get no quarter from the Indians, caused Chubb to sound a parley, and he surrendered on condition that he and his men should be protected from the Indians, and sent to Boston to be exchanged. Meanwhile, Iberville sent them to an island in the bay, out of reach of the Indians. Chubb was arrested for cowardice, and kept awhile in Boston jail.
This officer had been guilty of a foul piece of treachery towards the Indians. While holding a conference with some of the Penobscots respecting an exchange of prisoners, he plied them with strong drink, and while they were intoxicated ordered his soldiers to fall upon them. Several were slain, including two chiefs. After his release from prison he returned to his home in Andover, but Indian vengeance followed him, and the next year he was killed by a party of savages.
A personage of considerable importance among the Abenakis at this time was the Baron Jean Vincent de St. Castin, a French nobleman who had resided twenty years among them, and who had married a daughter of the chief Madokawando. He had been an officer of the regiment of Carignan, in Canada, and when disbanded remained in the country. He established a trading-house and residence on the Penobscot, at a place now bearing his name. Living among the Indians, acquiring their language, and adopting their customs, he was highly regarded by them, and was made their great chief. His influence over them made him an object of dread to the people of New England.
Castin led two hundred Indians at the capture of Pemaquid, and was wounded at Port Royal in 1707. Having acquired a fortune by trade with the natives, he finally returned to France, and there ended his days.
An incident of this war, exhibiting the wonderful heroism of a woman, is too remarkable to be passed over in silence.
Early in the morning of March 15, 1697, when the war which had lasted ten years was nearly over, a party of Indians swooped suddenly down upon Haverhill, a little village on the Merrimac, about thirty-two miles from Boston. As the number of the band was small, its attack was swift, and its disappearance was equally rapid.
Upon the outskirts of the town stood the house of Thomas Duston, one of eight that were singled out for attack. Mr. Duston was at work at the time at some distance from his house, but on discovering the approach of the Indians at once regained it, having only time to direct the flight of his children, seven in number, the youngest being two years old, when the Indians were upon them.
"Run for your lives!" shouted the father; and the little flock hastily left their home and ran towards the nearest fortified house.
Mrs. Duston was ill in bed, and the husband was compelled to leave her to her fate. Mounting his horse, he soon overtook the children about forty rods from the house, and urged them forward.
His first thought had been to take up one of them and escape with it. Feeling it impossible to choose one from among them, he put himself between them and the pursuing Indians, faced about, and aiming his gun at the savages, succeeded in keeping them at bay until the fugitives reached a place of safety, when the Indians gave up the chase.
Meantime, some of the band had entered the house and driven the sick woman from her bed. They then pillaged the dwelling and set it on fire. Ill as she was, Mrs. Duston was compelled to march. Mrs. Neff, her nurse, attempted to escape with the infant child of Mrs. Duston, but was taken, and the infant's brains dashed out against an apple-tree. In this raid twenty-seven persons were killed and thirteen carried into captivity.
After travelling one hundred and fifty miles the band separated, dividing the captives. Mrs. Duston, Mrs. Neff, and Samuel Leonardson, a boy, fell to the lot of an Indian family consisting of twelve persons. The prisoners were kindly treated, but were told that on arriving at their village they would, according to Indian custom, be stripped and compelled to run the gauntlet. This news inspired Mrs. Duston with a desperate resolution. She determined, if possible, to escape, and consulted with her companions as to how it could be done.
They were now on an island at the mouth of the Contoocook River, about six miles above Concord, New Hampshire.
"Show me how you scalp an enemy," said the boy, who in a former captivity had gained some knowledge of their language, to one of his captors. Without mistrusting the motive of the inquiry, the Indian explained to him the manner in which it was done.
That night, when the Indians were sound asleep, the three captives noiselessly arose, grasped the tomahawks of the warriors, assigned to one another the work each was to do, and so effectively did they deal their blows that but one of those they designed to kill escaped, and that one was a woman. A boy whom they did not wish to harm was also allowed his liberty. Mrs. Duston killed her captor, and the boy slew the Indian who had taught him how to scalp and where to deal the deadly blow.
Filling a boat with provisions and arms, they proceeded down the Merrimac to their home, where the ten scalps and the arms they had secured afforded ample evidence of the truth of their wonderful story. The country was filled with amazement at the exploit of these women. The General Court gave them a reward of £50, and other gratuities were showered upon them. A monument at the mouth of the Contoocook River perpetuates the fame of this achievement, one of the most remarkable in Indian history.
Exeter, New Hampshire, owed its preservation from destruction to an accident. A party of concealed Indians were intending to fall upon it at daybreak on the following morning. Some women and children, in the afternoon, went into the adjacent fields to gather strawberries. They had been warned of the danger from Indians, but could not be prevented. Some one in the town fired alarm-guns to scare them back. This caused a muster of the men, and the Indians, supposing themselves discovered, hastily decamped.
Although a treaty of peace had been made at Ryswick between France and England, there was no cessation of murder and devastation in New England. At Lancaster twenty or thirty of the inhabitants, with their minister, were massacred. Several houses were burned, and a number of persons were put to death in Andover. A treaty was at length concluded with the Indians at Pejepscot, on the Kennebec, and the war of ten years was closed for a brief period. During its continuance the north-eastern tribes had taken and destroyed all the settlements in Maine, with three exceptions, killed more than seven hundred persons, and carried off two hundred and fifty captives, many of whom never returned.
Very soon another war broke out between England and France—Queen Anne's War, as it was commonly called. In America it involved South Carolina., bordering on Spanish Florida, and New England, which had Canada on its northern frontier. It was closed by the peace of Utrecht in 1713. At the south it resulted in the extension of the English boundary; at the north its history is a chapter of horrors, with no other result than to add largely to the sum of human misery.
Governor Dudley, of Massachusetts, held a conference at Casco with the Abenakis, who made strong professions of friendliness. One of the chiefs said: "The clouds fly and darken, but we still sing with love the songs of peace. Believe my words: so far as the sun is above the earth are our thoughts from war or the least rupture between us."
Notwithstanding all their assurances, within six weeks the whole country from Casco to Wells was in a flame, and another terrible ten years' war begun. Parties of French and Indians spread havoc through the feeble settlements, sparing neither old nor young. Wells, Winter Harbor, and Spurwink were among the towns destroyed. The whole of the exposed northern border of Massachusetts, from Casco Bay to the Connecticut River, was watched from hiding-places offering every facility for sudden invasion and safe retreat. For this reason little impression could be made upon the Indians, as they could rarely be found. De Vaudreuil, Governor of Canada, succeeded in keeping the Iroquois neutral. Between the Abenakis and the French a close friendship already existed.
Deerfield, a palisaded village on the Connecticut, enclosing twenty acres, had a garrison of twenty soldiers quartered in different houses. The town was still suffering from the ravages of the previous war. A party of two hundred French and one hundred and forty-two Indians, on snow-shoes, under the lead of Hertel de Ronville, made their way from Canada, reaching its vicinity on the last night of February, 1704. The drifted snow enabled them to enter the town over the pickets early next morning, and the sentinels having deserted their posts, the terrible warwhoop was the first notice the doomed villagers received of their approach. The torch was applied, and only the church and one dwelling-house escaped. Death or captivity was the lot of the inhabitants, one hundred and twelve of whom, including Rev. John Williams, the minister, and his family, were carried to Canada.
Mr. Williams, who, after his return home, published a narrative of this tragedy, tells us that he was roused from sleep by the sound of axes and hatchets plied against his doors and windows. Leaping from his bed, he seized his arms, and put a pistol to the breast of the first Indian who came up; but it missed fire, and he was seized and bound. He and his family were allowed to put on some clothing, and, "the sun about an hour high," they began their march, the snow being knee-deep. His wife, having recently become a mother, was feeble, and on the second day she fell from weariness, and was tomahawked.
During the march his life was often threatened. Nineteen of his fellow-prisoners were murdered and two starved to death by the way. "And yet," says the narrator, "God made the Indians so to pity our children that, though they had several of their own wounded to carry upon their shoulders for thirty miles before they came to the river, yet they carried our children, incapable of travelling, in their arms and upon their shoulders."
Williams's feet were "so full of pain" he could scarce stand upon them, but was forced to travel in snow-shoes twenty-five miles a day and sometimes more. The party were eight weeks reaching Montreal, where the governor took him from the Indians and treated him kindly. After a captivity of two years and a half he was exchanged, and with fifty-seven other prisoners, two of whom were his children, he returned home.
Eunice, his youngest daughter, was adopted by the Indians, who refused to ransom her, and she became the wife of a Caughnawaga chief. Long afterwards she visited her friends in Deerfield in her Indian dress, and, notwithstanding a day of fasting and prayer by the whole village for her deliverance, she returned to her Indian home and her Mohawk children.
On Lake St. Louis, near Montreal, the Indian village of Caughnawaga (St. Regis), with its wretched log-houses, clusters round a fine stone church with a glittering tin roof. The early Jesuits induced the Indians to collect furs, which they sent to France in exchange for a church-bell. The return ship was captured by the English, and the bell was sent to Deerfield, Massachusetts.
When the Caughnawagas heard where their bell had gone, they determined to obtain possession of it. They took part in Hertel's expedition on condition that Deerfield should be the first place attacked. When in the midst of the massacre the tones of the bell sounded, they knelt in superstitious awe. Then, with shouts of victory, they bore it on poles through the forests, while it tolled with doleful sound. Exhausted with the terrible march in midwinter, they buried it at Burlington, Vermont. Next summer they dug it up, and it was borne into their village in triumph between two white oxen.
One house in Deerfield escaped destruction and stood until within a few years, the marks of the Indian bullets being still visible. It was courageously defended by seven men, who fired from the windows upon the enemy, the women with them running bullets and loading their guns. Several times the enemy tried to set fire to the house, but failed. Captain Stoddard, watching his opportunity, sprang from a window and made his way to Hatfield, giving the alarm. Soon the settlers were in pursuit, and gave De Rouville battle, but were forced to retreat.
Massachusetts and New Hampshire now offered a reward of £20 for every Indian captured, and £40 for each scalp. Evidently they thought one dead Indian worth two living ones. The old Indian fighter Church, prominent thirty years before in Philip's war, at the head of five hundred and fifty men, carried destruction through all the French settlements east of the Penobscot, but effected nothing of consequence.
An attack on a garrison-house at Oyster River was repelled in a singular manner. It happened at the moment to be occupied only by women. "They put on hats, letting their hair hang down, and fired so briskly that they struck a terror into the enemy, and they withdrew."
A formidable inroad upon the English settlements was planned by the French at Montreal in 1708, who fixed upon Lake Winnipiseogee as the place of rendezvous for their Indian allies. A few only came at the appointed time. The expedition was led by Des Chaillons, who attacked Haverhill, Massachusetts, in the night, burned the fort and many dwellings, and killed or captured about one hundred persons, including Rev. Benjamin Rolfe, the minister, his wife and child. A few brave men, led by Samuel Ayer, rallied a short distance from the town, formed an ambush, and by a vigorous attack succeeded in reselling a number of the prisoners and inflicted some loss on the enemy. Ayer lost his life in this daring attempt.
Haverhill was at this time a cluster of thirty cottages and log cabins near the Merrimac. In its centre stood the new meeting-house. On the north the unbroken wilderness stretched far away to the White Mountains.
The Indian leader on this occasion was Assacambuit. He had visited France in 1706, and having been knighted by Louis XIV., on his return wore the insignia of his rank upon his breast. He was also presented with a sword for his services. A famous club which he always carried had on it at this time ninety-eight notches, denoting the number of English he had slain.
It was estimated that one-third of the English population of Maine had fallen in this disastrous war. Some families had become extinct, others mourned the loss or captivity of parents, children, or husbands. The country was reduced to poverty, trade was ruined, houses burned, and fields devastated. A hundred miles of sea-coast, lately the scene of prosperity, was now a complete desert. There was one year of this war when one-fifth part of all capable of bearing arms were in active service. No wonder if the cruelties of the savage enemy inspired our fathers with a deep hatred of the French missionaries who instigated them, and even made them desire the extermination of the natives.
The treaty of Utrecht surrendered to England Acadia (New Brunswick and Nova Scotia). New England fishermen and traders at once pushed their enterprises over the ceded territory, revived the villages that had been desolated by the war, and laid on the east bank of the Kennebec the foundations of new settlements, and protected them by forts.
But the tribe of Abenakis inhabiting this region had prior claims of ownership, which they resolved not to abandon. "I have my land," said their chief, "where the Great Spirit placed me, and while one of my tribe remains I shall fight to preserve it." Several chiefs had been treacherously seized by the New England government and kept as hostages. Though their ransom had been paid, they had not been set free. The Abenakis demanded that their territory should be evacuated and their chiefs liberated, or war would follow. This tribe formed the barrier of Canada against New England, as did the Iroquois that of New York against Canada.
The answer to this demand was the seizure of the young Baron St. Castin, who, besides holding a French commission, was an Indian chief, and an expedition against Norridgewock, a village of the Abenakis, on the banks of the Kennebec, and the headquarters of hostile Indians. Here dwelt Sebastian Rasle, a French priest, who was thought by the English to be the instigator of the depredations of these Indians whose war parties prowled ceaselessly along the frontier, murdering and capturing the defenceless settlers and destroying their homes.
Rasle had erected a church in Norridgewock, and had adorned its walls with paintings from his own hand. Forty young savages had been trained by him, who, in cassock and surplice, assisted in the service and chanted the hymns of the church, and their public processions attracted great numbers of the red men. He was kind to them, and they revered him.
A reward was offered for the head of Rasle by the Massachusetts government, and two unsuccessful expeditions were sent to capture him. No peace could be had until "this incendiary of mischief," for so he was regarded by the New England people, was "wiped out."
This was at length accomplished by a party led by Colonel Moulton, who succeeded in reaching Norridgewock without being discovered. Dividing his force, one party proceeded directly to the village, while the other intercepted such as attempted flight. His men were already among the wigwams, when an Indian carne out of one of them and gave the alarm. The old men, women, and children fled. The warriors, sixty in number, tried to make a stand. The English held their fire until the Indians had discharged their guns in a hurried and ineffective volley, and then fired with fatal effect. After their second discharge the Indians fled to the river, which was about sixty feet wide. Some were shot while endeavoring to swim across.
Rasle tried to shield his flock, and succeeded in drawing the fury of the assailants upon himself. Pierced with bullets, he fell dead near the cross in the centre of the village where he had labored thirty-seven years. His church was plundered and burned to the ground, and a violent end was thus put to Jesuit missions and French influence in New England. Among the dead were Mogg and Bomazeen, two prominent chiefs of the Abenakis.
At this time the bounty for Indian scalps was £100. One of the most successful scalp-hunters of the day was John Lovewell, of Dunstable. His father, who was one of Cromwell's soldiers, emigrated to that place, and died there, it is said, at the great age of one hundred and twenty years. In March, 1725, Lovewell brought in ten scalps to the treasurer in Boston, received his money, and was highly applauded for his success.
The business was profitable, and Lovewell easily enlisted a party for an expedition against the tribe of Pequawkets. Their village lay at the southern base of the White Mountains, on the Saco River, near what is now Fryeburg, Maine. Their chief, Paugus, was well known in the white settlements, but the tribe had joined with the hostile Abenakis, and was supplied with powder and ball by the French at Montreal.
It was a lovely morning in spring when Lovewell found himself in close proximity to the Indian village. Leaving their packs, his men moved cautiously forward. Suddenly they came upon an Indian, who fired, mortally wounding Lovewell, and was himself shot by Ensign Wyman. Had the English been prudent, they would now have made a hasty retreat, since their attempted surprise had failed, and they themselves had been discovered by a much more numerous enemy, but they were brave men, and no doubt hoped to win the large reward promised them, so they kept on.
On seeking for their packs, they found that the Indians had secured them. This was an important advantage to the red men, as it told them just how many, or rather how few, white men there were, and inspired them with confidence. Lovewell had passed their village, and they had followed, intercepting his retreat; and had placed themselves in ambush. When discovered, they had nearly surrounded his small party. All at once eighty Indians, yelling and whooping like demons, confronted them.
The Indians advanced without firing, as if unwilling to begin the fight, and hoping, by their great superiority of numbers, that the English would yield without a battle. They thus threw away their chance for the first fire. They then held up ropes, which they had provided for securing captives.
"You shall have quarter," said the Indians.
"At the muzzles of our guns," was the reply of the English, as they rushed upon the enemy, firing as they advanced, and, killing several, drove them some rods. But the warriors soon rallied, and obliged the English in their turn to give ground, leaving nine dead and three wounded when the fight began—twelve men out of the thirty-four with which they started.
"Retreat to the pond!" shouted Wyman, who had succeeded Lovewell in command, to his men. They did so, and thus were protected on that side. Sheltering themselves as well as they could behind trees, the little band resolved to fight to the last. The contest was long and obstinate. The Indians kept up all kinds of hideous noises, sometimes howling like wolves, at others barking like dogs—the English frequently shouting and huzzaing.
The medicine-man of the tribe held a powwow, calling on the spirits for aid, but Wyman put an end to his mummery somewhat abruptly by sending a ballet through him. Finally, Paugus, their chief, fell; they lost heart, and when night came they stole away. The English had lost their captain, Lieutenant Robbins, and Chaplain Frye, and four were so badly wounded that they could not be removed. The survivors, sixteen in number, only nine of whom were unwounded, faint and weary, marched twenty miles that night to Ossipee, only to find the place abandoned by the men left there in charge of the supplies they so greatly needed. They were three days reaching home, which they at length succeeded in doing after severe toil and privation.
Tradition says that one of the rangers, while at the pond, cleaning his gun, which had become foul, discovered Paugus at a little distance similarly engaged. Both loaded their pieces, and dropped their ramrods upon the ground at the same moment, Paugus exclaiming,
"Me kill you quick!"
"Maybe not," was the ranger's cool reply. Those were the days of flintlocks, and while the Indian was priming his gun from his powder-horn, a precious moment was gained by the ranger, who primed his by a smart blow of the butt on the ground. Just as the chief raised his gun to take aim, he received his adversary's bullet, and fell dead.
One of the old ballads on "Lovewell's Fight," familiar to the past generation, refers to Wyman as the slayer of Paugus. Another, from which I quote, awards the honor to a different man. Here is a stanza—
"'Twas Paugus led the Pequawket tribe;
As runs the fox, would Paugus run;
As howls the wild wolf would he howl
A huge bear-skin had Paugus on,
But Chamberlain of Dunstable,
One whom a savage ne'er shall slay,
Met Paugus by the water-side
And shot him dead upon that day."
Of the slain chaplain, Jonathan Frye of Andover, the old song says—
"A man was he of comely form,
Polished and brave, well learned and kind;
Old Harvard's classic halls he left,
Far in the wild a grave to find."
The escape of one of the men wounded in this fight was almost miraculous. Solomon Keyes, having been three times wounded, hid himself so that he might die where the Indians could not find him. As he crawled along the shore of the pond, some distance from the scene of action, he found a canoe into which he rolled himself, and was drifted away by the wind. To his great astonishment he was cast ashore at no great distance from the fort at Ossipee, which he succeeded in reaching. There he found several of his companions, and, gaining strength, returned home with them. The little lake which was the scene of the action is now called Lovewell's Pond.
We turn once more to the old ballad—
"With footsteps slow shall travellers go
Where Lovewell's Pond shines clear and bright,
And mark the place where those were laid
Who fell in Lovewell's bloody fight."
In November following this occurrence four Abenaki chiefs made a treaty at Boston, promising to maintain peace and to deliver up their prisoners. The treaty was faithfully kept, and the eastern colonies had a season of rest from the horrors of Indian warfare. The remainder of the Pequawkets, together with the Androscoggins, soon afterwards withdrew to the sources of the Connecticut River, and finally settled in Canada.
The war of the Austrian Succession not only set all Europe aflame, but it also again put in motion the Indian tomahawk and scalping-knife to do their terrible work upon the outlying settlements of New England. The news reached Canada much sooner than New England, where the arrival at Boston of prisoners captured by the French at Casco was the first intimation that war had begun. Hostilities in the East, the commencement of a long catalogue of horrors, began in the summer near Fort George, now Thomaston, Maine. In America the principal event of the war was the capture by New England troops of the strong fortress of Louisburg.
Number Four, now Charlestown, New Hampshire, was the most prominent and the most exposed of the posts in northern New England, as it stood directly in the way of Indian inroads to the settlements below. It had been several times attacked, but always without success. On one occasion Captain Stevens, its commander, with fifty men armed as usual, was in the field at work. He sent his dogs into the woods as scouts. They soon came back growling, and with their hair on end. The woods were full of Indians. One of his men catching sight of one fired on him, and the battle begun. Stevens's men took to the trees. They drove the Indians into a swamp, after killing twelve of them, and put the others to flight. Hatchets and blankets were left behind in their haste. Stevens had seven men wounded.
Another and more determined effort was made for its capture in the following year by a force of more than four hundred French and Indians.
Every effort that Indian subtlety and French skill could devise proved fruitless against its brave defenders, and after a three days' siege they withdrew discomfited. In the following letter to Governor Shirley, Stevens in his own way describes the affair. He says:
"Our dogs being very much disturbed, which gave us reason to think the enemy was about, we did not open the gate at the usual time; but one of our men ventured out privately to set on the dogs about nine o'clock in the morning, and when about twenty rods from the fort fired off his gull, whereupon the enemy, being within a few rods, rose from their cover and fired; but through the goodness of God the man got into the fort with only a slight wound.
"They then attacked us on all sides. The wind being high, and everything exceedingly dry, they set fire to the fences, and also to a log-house about forty rods distant, so that within a few minutes we were entirely surrounded with fire—all which was performed with the most hideous shouting and firing from all quarters, which they continued in a very terrible manner until the next day, at ten o'clock at night, without intermission, during which time we had no opportunity either to eat or sleep. I had trenches dug from under the fort, about a yard outward in several places, at so near a distance to each other as by throwing water we might put out the fire.
"But notwithstanding all their shoutings and threatenings our men seemed not in the least daunted, but fought with great resolution, which doubtless gave the enemy reason to think we had determined to stand it out to the last. The enemy had provided themselves with a sort of fortification which they had determined to push before them, and bring fuel to the side of the fort in order to burn it; but instead of performing what they had threatened, they called to us, and asked a cessation of arms until sunrise next morning, at which time they would come to a parley. Accordingly, the French general, Debeline, came, with about sixty of his men, with a flag of truce, and stuck it down within about twenty rods of the fort.
"Upon our men going to meet the monsieur, he proposed that in case we would immediately resign up the fort we should have all our lives, and liberty to put on all the clothes we had; and also a sufficient quantity of provisions to carry us to Montreal; and we might bind up our provisions and blankets, lay down our arms, and march out of the fort. He desired that the captain of the fort would meet him half-way, and give an answer to the above proposal, which I did; but without waiting to hear it, he went on to say that what had been promised he was ready to perform, but upon refusal he would immediately set the fort on fire, and run over the top, for he had seven hundred men with hint; and if we made any further resistance, or should happen to kill one Indian, we might all expect to be put to the sword.
"'The fort,' said Debeline, 'I am resolved to have or die; now do what you please, for I am as ready to have you fight as give it up.'
"I told the general that in case of extremity his proposal would do, but, inasmuch as I was sent here by the captain-general to defend this fort, it would not be consistent with my orders to give it up unless I was better satisfied that he was able to perform what he had threatened; and, furthermore, I told him that it was poor encouragement to resign into the hands of an enemy, that upon one of their number being killed they would put all to the sword, when it was probable that we had killed some of them already.
"'Well,' said he, 'go into the fort and see whether your men dare fight any more or not, and give me an answer quick, for my men want to be fighting.'
"Whereupon I came into the fort and called the men together, and informed them what the French officer said, and then put it to vote which they chose, either to fight or resign, and they voted to a man to stand it out as long as they had life. I returned this answer, upon which the enemy gave a shout, and then fired, and so continued firing and shouting until daylight next morning.
"About noon they called to us and said, 'Good-morning,' and desired another parley. Two Indians came within about two rods of the fort and stuck down their flag, proposing that if I would send them provisions they would leave and not fight any more. I answered that if they would send in a captive for every five bushels of corn I would supply them. After this they withdrew, and we heard no more of them. In all this time we had scarce opportunity to eat or sleep. There were but thirty men in the fort, but two of whom were wounded, and those slightly."
This letter exhibits the modesty of Stevens, which is in striking contrast with the braggadocio of the French commander.
Phineas Stevens, the hero of Number Four, was a native of Sudbury, Massachusetts. At the age of sixteen he, with three younger brothers, was taken by the Indians, who slew two of them, and were about to kill the youngest, then but four years of age. Phineas succeeded, however, in making the savages understand that if they would spare the life of his little brother he would carry him on his back. He conveyed him in this manner all the way to Canada, whence they were eventually returned. In 1746, when Number Four was abandoned by its inhabitants, he was ordered to occupy the fort, a small structure of timber with a garrison of thirty men. For his gallant defence of the fort he was presented with an elegant silver-hilted sword by Admiral Sir Charles Knowles, for whom Number Four was afterwards named Charlestown.
In January, 1747, Colonel Arthur Noble, with seven hundred men, undertook to drive the French and Indians out of Nova Scotia. While on the way he was surprised in his camp by a superior force, and himself, four of his principal officers, and seventy men were killed, and the remainder made prisoners.
A severe conflict occurred in the following year, near Number Four, between a party of forty men, under Captain Hobbs, and a much larger body of Indians who had waylaid them. Notwithstanding the smallness of his force, Hobbs stood his ground, giving the enemy a warm reception. For four hours the conflict continued, when, fortunately, the English captain got a shot at their leader, whom he either killed or badly wounded, as the Indians immediately afterwards drew off. In this well-fought contest the Indian loss exceeded that of the whites.
Although the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was signed in October 1748, it was not formally proclaimed in Boston until six months after, so slow was the means of communication between distant points at that time. War parties from Canada continued to hover on the border as before, committing depredations, but early in 1749 the Indians met in council and agreed to make peaceful overtures, and a treaty was finally concluded at Falmouth.
The story of the French and Indian Wars
This story of the French and Indian Wars is featured in the book entitled the Indian History for Young Folks by FrancIs F. Drake and was published by Harper Brothers in New York and London in 1919.