Curse of the Ottawa, a free story for you!
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Curse of the Ottawa
A short story.
A Frenchman killed an Algonquin Indian about two hundred years ago by drowning him in the Ottawa River.
A tribal sorceress put a curse on the killer saying one member of his family would die in the river for each of the next ten generations.
Do you believe it?
It was an argument over who owned some land. The white man said it belonged to him and he had a piece of paper that ‘proved’ it.
That was nonsense, of course, a lie, but that’s the way we treated the native people in Canada and the U.S for centuries.
The Algonquin had no written language so they could not read the piece of paper but it didn’t matter; it was a fraud. This kind of thing, in a different way, is still going on.
The chief said the land did not belong to anyone. He said the rocks, trees, rivers, lakes, grass, sky, moon, and stars belonged to no one.
He said the tribe had been there first but that they would share these things.
But he did not accept that the land, or this river, was owned by anyone.
It was an ancestor of mine who killed the chief’s son.
The sorceress’s curse has been carried out.
A curse in the 21st century?
Call it by another name, then? A hex, jinx, bane, scourge, nemesis?
No? Still too weird an idea to buy?
How about a torment, an affliction, an evil charm, a magic spell?
You don’t believe it.
I don’t blame you.
That’s what I thought too.
I was wrong.
The curse of the Ottawa could happen to you.
It doesn’t have to be the Ottawa River.
It does not even have to be a river.
Family members could still die.
I know the curse is true.
My family did die.
It could happen to your family too.
That story will come to you immediately.
More to come after that!
A Storm Coming In: A story about two men in crisis who meet on a wintry evening.
A Short Story About Love
Murder in Moscow: The Oblast Court Trial
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Curse of the Ottawa immediately!
BATTLE OF THE LONG SAULT.
Awaiting the decision at attack at Prud’homme’s Tavern, Montreal. Later that night. .
Dollard left the interrogation meeting quickly and let out a yelp that was heard inside the governor’s house. He began to run, but slipped on the ice, slammed into the side of a building, fell to the ground and began laughing.
He was about to get up immediately but he stopped, deciding to savor the moment before seeing his friends at the tavern. He rose, and leaned against the building, his feet in the snow, his head back against a large log house. He thought at last he would have a chance to prove himself. He would return an accomplished commander and, he hoped, with enough furs to start him on his fortune. He could think of nothing better than to be a wealthy soldier, to be like Closse and le Moyne.
He put off heading for the tavern. Instead, he thought of his friends, recruited last autumn, and others approached later, such as Roland Hebert and some of them were on duty.
He walked to the watchtower. He had been there last November and first beheld the rigid back of Roland Hebert. Hebert took life too seriously. His tone was black and his comic remarks often failed to make others laugh because they were snide. He spent a great deal of time mumbling to himself about things. Cognac said he was deranged.
“Roland,” Dollard had said, “how are you?”
“I’m on duty.” The remark was a reproof.
“You can stay on your watch,” said Dollard, who outranked Hebert.
“What else would you have me do?”
He looked down from his height of six feet at Dollard some four inches shorter. Sometimes his attitude affronted people; after a time they decided that was his way and let it go. But they didn’t seek out his company.
When Dollard told him his idea, Hebert changed completely and said,
“Where do I put my mark?”
All traces of condescension had disappeared from his voice. He was like a boy, enthusiastic, willing and eager to begin. He was always this way at the prospect of an adventure, especially a military one. It was as if he consciously contained himself, was barely civil, while doing the routine chores of a settler and only became himself when asked to fight. Dollard understood the feeling but he still wondered at the abrupt change in attitude.
He had climbed down the ladder then from the parapet and walked over to the forge where Jean Tavernier was making the bellows shoot the flames toward an iron grate. Tavernier had been banging a piece of metal without enthusiasm.
“How is it going, Dollard?”
“Good. Got a minute?”
“I’m not going anywhere.” He said it as if he meant his life.
Jean Tavernier, “Forges,” because of his occupation, usually looked sure and self-confident as he hammered. He always looked so at the forge or at games, but when he just stood and talked, his posture sagged, almost as if he were embarrassed at his great height.
“Like to kill some Iroquois and get some beaver?” said Dollard.
“You say it like it was a choice of desserts.”
“Almost. If I get the right people, I think I can get the authority.”
Forges stopped hammering, wiped his wrist on his forehead and his hands on his leather apron.
“Are you sure?”
He always asked this question. He wasn’t sure of himself so he had to be sure of other people. Forges, who was so strong, had eyes that rarely remained still and this gave a constant appearance of nervousness that was out of joint with his heroically cast physique. His eyes darted from Dollard’s right eye to his left as if to detect uncertainty in his friend. He saw none.
“Nothing’s sure, here, but I’m confident.”
“That’s the difference between you and me.” said Forges, getting up and retrieving his metal piece, “You’ve got confidence.”
“I have confidence in you.”
Forges snorted. His face had an appearance of uncertainty despite a strong jaw, a high, flat forehead and narrow cheekbones. By themselves, motionless, his face and physique would hardly fail to give off an aura of strength and determination. However, determination was what Forges lacked, and that was nothing more than a lack of confidence. Now his brow furrowed. No one could understand the dichotomy between the face and figure of Forges.
“When do you want to go?”
“In April. It’s only November. We have all winter to got ready.”
“I can do a lot with this over the winter,” he said, hitting the forge with the newly soldered piece of metal.”
During an evening of relaxation at Prud’homme’s Tavern in December, five months ago, Dollard had found other willing young men: Alonie Delestre, at thirty-one, the eldest; Christophe Augier, an indolent, practically slothful individual, whose reedy body was often seen persuading a shovel to hold him semi-erect; Robert Jurie, a business-like, courteous youth who would later administer the expedition; Francois Crusson, volatile, known as ‘Pilote,’ who had a tracking nose like an Algonquin hunter; and Nicholas Josselin, a hypochondriac, and a fanatic about insignificant data and detail. He could be boring in a tavern, but he might know something that could save your life in the forest. He had signed them all.
After Mass at Christmas, Dollard had also spoken to Simon Grenet, a cautious but likeable surgeon’s assistant of twenty-two.
“Ahh, Dollard. I’d like to go but….” Grenet’s voice dropped.
“It’s just that my duties in the hospital…”
“Don’t worry about it. You’re not the surgeon, you’re the assistant. The surgeon will make sure nobody dies while you’re away.”
“But he probably won’t let me go,” said Grenet.
“He won’t have anything to say about it, I promise you. If we don’t go, it won’t be because the surgeon vetoed the plan. All right?”
“Good. I’ll see you later,” said Dollard and he had walked away thinking of Grenet’s habit of trying to consider all sides of a question.
Normally that was a virtue in a man but somehow Grenet used it as a method of putting obstacles in the way of actually doing something he thought he should do.
The same day. the sound of musket fire had drawn Dollard to an area behind the munitions store-house. There was a hill of earth near a wall that the men used for target practice. When he rounded the corner he saw Jacques Brassier looking down the barrel of a musket.
“Boom.” said Dollard quietly. “You are working Christmas Day.”
“Everybody else is too, replied Brassier.“Hello, Dollard. This one has a warped barrel” said Brassier holding a musket. “It shoots up to the left.”
“Aim for the trees.” Suggested Dollard laughing.
“Good idea. I’ll just ask the Iroquois to climb up and pose. ‘A little to the left, please. Thank you.’ Bang!”
“I hope you’ll have it fixed by the spring,” laughed Dollard.
“I’ll have it fixed today or I’ll take it to Forges,” he said, ramming the rod down the barrel.”Why, what’s happening in the spring?”
Dollard told him.
“God, I can’t wait to shoot some of those brutes. It gives me satisfaction.”
“What a way for a man to talk who almost became a priest,” said Dollard in mock astonishment.
“I think I would’ve been a priest, you know, except that I like shooting these savages more than saving their souls. It’s a flaw in my character… Say Dollard… Have you spoken to Rejean Tiblement? He’d be angry if he thought you were planning something like this without including him.”
“I have no intention of forgetting him,” laughed Dollard. “See you.”
The fifteenth youth, Rejean Tiblement, a locksmith, gunsmith and engineer who could fix anything from a ruptured canoe to a hole in a moccasin, from a leaky copper pot to the imported, gilded armoire in Maisonneuve’s large house. He was skeptical, resourceful, tireless. Dollard enlisted him when they were patrolling near a farm where an Iroquois had been sighted.
The sixteenth approached Dollard one day in January.
“I have heard you are to fight the Iroquois,” said Louis Martin.
“Perhaps,” said Dollard.
When the youth saw that Dollard was waiting, he continued.
“I overheard some plans when I was cleaning a barn last night.”
Dollard thought about that carelessness and wondered who was overheard.
“Who was talking?”
“Simon Grenet and another, I don’t know who.”
Dollard resolved to speak to Grenet.
“Can I go too? I can fight.”
Dollard laughed. “How old are you?”
“Twenty-one … you are only twenty-five and when you were twenty-one you were a soldier in France.”
“And you are twenty-one and a cow-herd in Montreal,” said Dollard.
“And I mean to change my station,” said the youth bitterly. “If not with you, then on my own. You must be thirty before they trust you here.”
Dollard snorted. “Can you shoot?”
“’Very well. I have been practicing with ammunition I …ahh…found.”
“From the munitions?”
The youth shrugged.
“Show me,” said Dollard.
“Over on that fence I have three stones. I’ll shoot them off,” Martin said.
Dollard looked and saw the three stones about thirty yards away. The largest would not be difficult to hit — in fact, if Martin missed it on the first shot Dollard instantly decided he would not let him come –but the middle stone was harder and the smallest one was a difficult shot.
Martin raised his musket and fired. The largest stone sprang from the fence. Dollard said nothing while Martin reloaded. He shot again and the middle stone jumped off the fence.
Dollard said out loud,
“This is the test.”
Martin fired and missed.
“Wait, that was a mistake. Let me shoot again”
“Miss again and you’re out.”
Martin reloaded, raised the musket to his shoulder, aimed, fired, and the small stone zipped off into the snow.
“A mistake like that could mean your death instead of a Mohawk’s. He looked at Martin evenly. You can join us.”
The youth had let out a yelp of joy and, calling back his gratitude, raced off.
Most of these men who had pledged to go on the venture now waited anxiously at Prud’homme’s Tavern to hear from him.
At the tavern, the men had begun drinking beer provided by the ample-bellied and amply-stored brewer and tavern keeper, Louis Prud’homme.
“Hey Louis, more beer, here!” said Pilote.
“I don’t know if you can make it…you’re fat and fifty at least!”
Pilote was only half-kidding. He was exuberant but he could be mean. His remark might have passed, given that the drinkers were under thirty, but Prud’homme didn’t let it.
“Listen,” said Prud’homme, putting the drinks on the table. He grabbed Pilote’s shoulder and squeezed hard.
“I may be older than you but I’m stronger and smarter. I’ve killed more savages too. I’ve been here since the beginning and I still outrank you.”
“All right, Louis, you’re right,” said Pilote, rubbing his shoulder.
The older man was strong.
“If we go, you can come with us!”
Hebert, sitting with Pilote said,
“What are our chances?”
“Not good, I guess,” said Pilote turning around to see if anyone saw Prud’homme grab his shoulder.
He was still massaging it.
“But Dollard can be persuasive. What do you think?”
“I don’t know him well. They say he came here because he killed somebody in France. Maybe he’s running away from the authorities,” said Hebert.
“That’s ridiculous. Maisonneuve would not tolerate that.”
“It’s just what I heard.” said Hebert.
“Not possible. Lambert Closse made him godfather of his child and he’s always asked to witness oaths!” Said Pilote.
“I don’t know him, as I say, but he’s a soldier right? So why isn’t he at the Court in France? You know, Pilote, most people come here to better themselves but some come for darker reasons.”
“Darker reasons! Jeez, Hebert, you’re full of it! There are soldiers in France and soldiers here.” said Pilote scornfully downing his drink.
Eleven were at the tavern drinking, the others having taken the late shift on the palisade. At ten in the evening, when they had gathered, they had been voluble, but now, at midnight, they were subdued. Some were getting morose, worried that the plan would be rejected. Others argued it was only the details of the plan that was delaying their friend and not some discovered weakness that would scuttle the trip. But privately they feared things were going badly.
Dollard appeared in the doorway. He composed himself then he pushed open the tavern door with a heavy hand and a heavier expression of regretful resignation. Eleven heads turned together and just as uniformly stopped when they saw him.
But he could contain his enthusiasm no longer than an instant, and seeing the disappointment that flew over their faces reflected from his, his cheeks cracked, a smile began and before he could stand back and laugh eleven pairs of hands were on him, sending him crashing to the floor where he was immediately doused with beer and called the worst actor in New France.
Louis Prud’homme’s tavern sold more beer and cognac in the next four hours to twelve men than had been consumed by the whole town for the previous week. That night was also the first time in Montreal the ‘no drinking on duty’ ban was broken as Dollard himself slipped out and took a cup of brandy to his friends on the wall.
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BATTLE OF THE LONG SAULT
CHAPTER 4. Montreal: Plan evaluation
The group of Montrealers that confronted Dollard des Ormeaux on the evening of March 20, 1660 for the investigation of his military plan comprised Governor de Maisonneuve, Lambert Closse, Charles le Moyne, and Dollard’s friends Claude de Brigeac, and Pierre de Belestre, Dollard’s co-commander of the garrison of Montreal.
Dollard arrived at the appointed hour of 9:30 p.m. and was admitted by Claude de Brigeac.
“Claude — how does it look?”
“I don’t know –Maisonneuve wouldn’t permit Pierre or me in there with them… they’ve been here over two hours.” Unless it was an emergency, most of the town’s meetings, whether about supplies or military matters, took place at night. The daylight hours were too valuable, especially in spring and summer, to hold them during the day.
Dollard breathed a sigh of irritation.
“Two hours. They must be taking the plan apart.”
“Are you prepared Dollard?”
“I think so,” said Dollard.
“Where are the others?”
“Most are at Prud’homme’s drinking and eating, some are on the wall. How long have they been in there?”
“I just told you… two hours!”
“God! And you haven’t even been inside?”
“No. Just before we were to go in le Moyne whispered in his ear and Maisonneuve told us to stay out here. He said we could go in when you go in.”
“What the hell’s going on?”
“I think he wants to judge us as well as you.”
“What do you mean?”
“He doesn’t want us pushing for your plan because we’re friends, find out they were against it, and then watch us reverse our opinion and back off because we thought it prudent in front of our superiors.”
“Well, that’s not…” his voice rising.
“Dollard, you’d better relax. Maisonneuve wants a military decision from Pierre and me and not an emotional one. Whatever personal feelings we have must be put aside. You’ll have to convince us of the value of the plan on its own merits.”
“I want just want to kill a few Mohawks. Everybody’s making it the siege of Troy.”
“If you continue in the attitude you’re displaying now you won’t only not go on this expedition, you’ll be relieved of your command. I’m warning you.”
Dollard listened to his friend’s reproof and sighed.
“I haven’t spent fourteen hours a day with him for a year for nothing,” said de Brigeac.
“Fine. I’m ready. Where’s Pierre?”
“He just went to get some wood…thank God spring is coming.”
The side door opened and Pierre de Belestre entered with an armful of wood. Without turning, he kicked the door shut.
“Will you get the latch somebody? Hey, Dollard…ready for the sausage grinder?”
“I hear you’re to be objective” laughed Dollard.
“Oh, hell yes,” he said, and, dropping his voice and mimicking Maisonneuve,
“Commander de Belestre, what do you think of des Ormeaux’s plan?” Belestre switched back to is own voice.
“Well, Governor, considering the benefits that will accrue to me I think it’s a perfectly marvelous plan. Send him off with my blessings. I hope he gets adopted by the Mohawks. I hope they eat him.”
He dropped the wood on the floor with a thumping clatter.
“What an indigestible meal that would be,” said de Brigeac.
They laughed nervously as Dollard and Claude helped Pierre stack the wood near the hearth. Suddenly, there was a noise at the door and all three men turned to face Lambert Closse.
“Gentlemen…”‘ said Closse.
It was an order but softly couched and it was to set the tone of the discussion. Closse returned through the door. de Belestre moved close to Dollard.
“For God’s sake, don’t tell him about all the money we’ll make from the furs.”
“He might think it’s your main objective!”
“What’s the matter with making some money?”
“Nothing. Just don’t make a big thing of it, will you?”
“All right,” growled Dol1ard , and he moved into the governor’s room.
There were two kinds of meetings: the first was the usual late night tactical discussions of the day-to-day operation and defense of the fort: how often should the guard be changed in the cold of winter; who could be entrusted with greater responsibility; who would accompany the Jesuits to the missions; should the foundry prepare more shot.
The other kind of meeting, the kind Dollard was to face now, dealt with critical questions, strategy rather than tactics. This was not the first time Dollard had been in one of these ‘sausage grinders’ but before he had been on the examining side of the meetings, asking questions of other officers who had ideas for the defense of the town. This was to be the first time one of his own ideas was scrutinized. In the past, being one of the junior officers, he had not even had much opportunity to interrogate people since the older soldiers, such as Closse and le Moyne, had such wide experience that their questions anticipated and obviated his. But Dollard had not spent his time in these meetings idly. He had observed, listened and learned.
As Dollard entered the room, he looked around quickly. Maisonneuve was behind his desk the eight-foot fireplace on the wall to his right. Flanking the fireplace, hidden behind sliding doors, as on some ships, were two-tiers of beds, to save space and ensure warmth. Also to his right was Charles le Moyne. The empty chair on the governor’s left was obviously for Closse, and two other chairs drawn alongside were for Claude de Brigeac and Pierre de Belestre. In front of Maisonneuve’s desk was a table with maps and paper, and in front of that a chair facing the committee, for Dollard.
It looks different from this side, thought Dollard.
The men took their places.
“Sit down please, Commander,” said Maisonneuve.
“As in the past, we will proceed as follows:
First, Commander des Ormeaux will outline his plan;
second, he will justify it on military grounds;
third, we will voice our objections, if any, and pose questions;
fourth, he will rebut our objections and answer our questions;
fifth, we shall ask the commander to leave us while we consider the matter; and
finally, we shall deliver our verdict.
A chorus of ‘Sirs’ responded.
“Commander, you may proceed,” said the governor, who settled back in his chair to listen.
“Governor Maisonneuve, gentlemen: you know the history of Montreal far better than I, and the problems attendant to the lack of a good French regiment is well known. From whatever causes, militarily we are in an untenable position.”
“More than 500 people have come to Montreal since governor Maisonneuve first carried the cross up to Mount Royal in 1642. More, of course, have been born here. We are now, eighteen years later, reduced to three hundred and seventy persons, only fifty of whom are heads of families like M. Closse and M. le Moyne, and only one hundred and seventy of whom are able to fight under any circumstances.”
“Should the policy of neglect that is currently followed by those in authority in France continue, it is clear that Montreal will gradually see its citizens fall one by one to the Iroquois.”
Maisonneuve’s eyes held on Dollard but a slight twitch in his lip betrayed concern.
“Add to this the problem of safe passage on the rivers. The Ottawa River is hardly navigable anymore because of the vicious attacks by Iroquois warriors who not only make ordinary transportation difficult but make our fur trade practically impossible. Every time our traders go up the Ottawa it is a good bet they will not return.”
“What remains of our Huron allies? Most were massacred with Father Brebeauf in the Huron villages at Saint Marie about a decade ago. But what of the remaining ones, the ones who still have the courage to trade on the river? They have their canoes ambushed because they are too busy with the heavy craft and the currents in the rapids to reply to the guns of the Iroquois thieves.”
“The Mohawks and Onondagas thrive on our helplessness; they attack our people and steal our furs. We get no revenue, we lose lives and the fear of the next expedition grows. Since we do not attack the Iroquois, they grow bolder. We have lost men who have simply opened their doors only to find a screaming Iroquois with a hatchet right in the center of our colony. The Iroquois no longer fear or even respect us. Militarily they are correct, for our tactics do not vary.”
“I do not question that these tactics were necessary before, but I submit that no change of military plan can only lead to our destruction.”
Maisonneuve sighed imperceptibly. He had heard all this before and he was annoyed at being reminded of his long-time military strategy. He, himself, had long wanted to attack but his supporters in Paris forbade it. Montreal was not supported by the government of France but by interested religious laymen who tried to raise money on their own. The gap between what he wanted to do and what he had been permitted to do produced a constant stress that was always felt by this calm and thoughtful leader. Being reminded of circumstances he couldn’t control was uncomfortable.
“My plan is not dangerous,” Dollard continued.
“The idea is to go up the Ottawa River, select a spot the Iroquois are certain to pass — the Long Sault is perfect– set ourselves up in ambush and wait for the enemy. All of my men are volunteers, unmarried, and practically all are expert marksmen. And even those who aren’t expert will seem so when compared to the savages.”
No one spoke. Dollard took out a piece of paper from his jacket and unfolded it.
“Militarily my purposes are several.”
He looked down at the paper and began to read:
“‘This action is proposed, first, to eliminate the Iroquois blockade of the Ottawa River.”
He raised his head and spoke directly to Maisonneuve:
“We’ll throw the Iroquois off balance by this kind of petit guerre — even if we don’t repeat the tactic for some time, the Iroquois will live in fear that we might.”
His eyes returned to the paper.
“‘Second, to safeguard the return of Pierre Esprit Radisson and Menard Chouart de Groseilliers, our best and most experienced traders, who are expected in the spring following this winter’s expedition to the Nez-Perce Indians.
“Third, to provide some relief for the men from the annoyance of military inactivity — or at least military activity initiated by ourselves.”
Dollard looked up again, found le Moyne’s face and continued:
“It is hard on the men to wonder whether the furs will get through — especially when they have no say in the matter.”
le Moyne’s eyes seemed to indicate to Dollard that he was sympathetic but the man’s face was expressionless. Dollard swallowed and he returned to his paper.
“Fourth, to keep for ourselves the furs and profits from them should the Iroquois we encounter be hunters or stealers of furs.’”
Dollard shot a quick look to de Brigeac who remained impassive. Dollard turned his gaze back to Maisonneuve. He stopped reading and spoke directly–
“We have had only a few canoes of furs in four years… it is intolerable. If the Mohawks do not kill us they will bankrupt us.”
“We know the Iroquois will be returning from the winter hunt…that they travel in small groups…and that they will be short of arms and supplies from the winter.”
“To this we add the difficulty they’ll have trying to maneuver their canoes through the rapids and we can’t fail. It is simply taking their tactic of attacking our canoes which has been so successful for them, and reversing it. This is the plan and the reasons for it.”
Dollard sat down. He looked at each of the men who said nothing; they were waiting for the governor to speak.
“Monsieur le Moyne, will you begin the appraisal ?” said Maisonneuve.
“I have to agree with the Commander’s assessment of our military position. I have bridled under its restrictions much longer than he has,” said le Moyne, smiling.
At thirty-four, le Moyne was not slowing down, nor would he until at sixty, when, worn out from a harsh life of work and battle, he would die, leaving ten sons, one of whom would become the governor of New Orleans, a small fortune, and the seignory of Longueuil, a composite of areas which totaled a fabulous amount of land.
In 1646 he had come to Montreal and immediately began to distinguish himself. He learned the Indian mind, manners and language; he became a clerk, which experience was to aid him in his warehousing later. And he was a soldier even then in his teens; only weeks after his arrival he captured Iroquois prisoners. He was to do the same often, including in1655 when he and Lambert Closse took five braves and a chief.
In 1651, he miraculously escaped death during an Iroquois slaughter in which several others died. The only other survivor was Jean Chicot who had been scalped, who enjoyed disproving the common belief, expressed usually in the tavern, that scalping and killing were necessarily synonymous.
Once he was almost killed when he and others faced an attack by one hundred and sixty Iroquois. By some idiocy none of the other settlers had taken their guns with them. This was a carelessness which occurred too often for the ferocity of life at the time and was reflective of either gross indifference to the situation, a reckless bravery, or stupidity of monumental proportions. le Moyne was completely alone with a musket against this force until a woman named Celles Duclos ran from the fort carrying enough weapons for him to repel the attack and escape capture. Duclos loading and le Moyne firing scattered the astonished Indians.
This then was one of the men to judge the des Ormeaux plan: tough-minded, realistic and, in the true sense, heroic. These were extraordinary men; new Achilles come to life in the wilderness of the New World; soldiers, husbands, fathers, explorers, traders. All in the service of God and France, although it was true that the worse France treated them the higher the honor of God was rated.
So, when le Moyne said, ‘I have to agree with the Commander’s assessment of our position.’ Dollard breathed easier. His heart beat faster, but his breathing, as if relieved of a great pressure, came easier.
“Of course there are problems,” said le Moyne almost immediately.
Dollard’s heart hit the pit of his stomach and he almost groaned from the contact.
“The first one is the question of manpower,” le Moyne continued.
“Assuming for the moment the value of the plan, we are talking about taking seventeen men and removing them from the fort’s defense for perhaps two months.”
“Two months!” Dollard thought.
“No, a few weeks at most.” But he did not speak.
“Major Closse, what is the strength of our force at the moment?” asked le Moyne.
“Roughly one hundred and thirty able bodied men, although not all in the town or all capable of fighting at any one time. I’d say one hundred and ten at the most,” answered Closse.
“Minus seventeen, leaves about ninety for the defense of Montreal,” said le Moyne.
Dollard blanched. He had estimated one hundred or more men left in town. One hundred seemed so many more than ninety that the difference appeared overwhelming.
“What do you say to the objection that the removal of seventeen men might seriously damage our ability to defend the town, Commander des Ormeaux?” asked le Moyne.
The tone in le Moyne’s voice let the young man know he must answer satisfactorily.
“The danger lies, I think”, replied Dollard, “is not in the few men who are here, since we know our fort can be sentried by eight men and defended by forty. The danger lies in our everlasting policy of simply waiting for death to come for us. The Iroquois will keep it up unless we initiate attack. I do not delude myself that this plan is the answer to our problems. It is merely an ambush which will shake the Iroquois from their belief that they may attack us at will.”
“As for the dangerous nature of the mission I think it not very: if the Iroquois we meet are warriors our surprise and good shooting will be sufficient; if they are hunters their weapons will be empty from the hunt and their canoes will be full. With this combination in the rapids they will certainly fall to us.”
Maisonneuve had been leaning his elbow on the arm of his chair and holding his index finger across his lips. He was turning his head slightly to the left and right creating with his finger the effect of a saw on his mouth. Now he drew his hand away and, pointing for emphasis, said:
“Have you considered the incident of 1644?”
Dollard turned to the governor.
“Yes sir, I have. I grant the validity of the event as a caution, but the two plans are hardly the same. You were under pressure from ill-trained, and apparently loose-thinking men. Unprepared, they fell into a trap. They were not prepared physically, mentally or even sartorially. Most had no snow-shoes for the fight, if I rightly recall the reports. My men will be prepared in every way.”
“Also, you lacked the element of surprise since it was you who were first under attack. We will be doing the attacking this time.”
“And we shall not merely have the tactical surprise that is so necessary in fighting these Indians, but we will have a cumulative surprise which has been building. The Iroquois have observed our strategy and now frankly and factually tell their councils that the French never leave their fort to fight, never change strategy. To follow this policy forever can only lead to our deaths.”
“For all of these reasons, sir, I feel our plan will be successful.”
Claude de Brigeac had been sitting quietly; now he moved as if to speak and with a wave of his hand Maisonneuve gave him leave.
“Commander des Ormeaux,” he said, taking the cue from le Moyne, “Do you see any weakness in the plan?”
“Well,” replied Dollard,”it is true my men do not have the vast experience of Messrs. Closse, le Moyne or Radisson, but many can handle themselves in the woods like any Mohawk. The one area where we might have some difficulty is with the canoes. Not everyone in our group has great skill with these craft but enough of us do so that we can distribute the weaknesses in the center of the canoes and not have that fact harm us.”
Lambert Closse had said nothing since replying to le Moyne. He listened carefully and watched Dollard’s cool attitude. Finally, Maisonneuve called on him.
“Major Closse, have you anything to say?”
Whatever this man said it was going to be influential. Aside from the capture of Iroquois with le Moyne and the occasion when he took sixteen men to a two-hour defense of the Hotel Dieu, Lambert Closse filled the letters of the Jesuits as a brilliant soldier. He was the sergeant-major of the garrison which meant he was Dollard’s immediate superior. Like most he supplemented his income by becoming a fur trader, partly out of his own desire and partly because he received menial wages like others in New France.
He was born in the Ardennes in 1618, where he received a liberal education at the hands of the Jesuits. Practically everything the man did carried with it a quality of the extraordinary. He could foresee and forestall most Iroquois ruses in battle. His will power was his most powerful quality: he could never countenance defeat and he was able to keep his soldiers at such a pitch of excitement that they seemed always ready, never surprised by a sudden attack.
Once, to a man who suggested as tactfully as possible that Closse would get himself killed by racing around the country and throwing himself into wars, he replied,
“I came here only in order to die for the sake of God while serving him in the profession of arms. If I did not think to die here I would leave the country and go and serve against the Turks and not be deprived of that glory.”
His dedication to God, although exceptional in its intensity, was common to many in New France; he had once thought of becoming a Jesuit and refrained from doing so only because he felt his qualities better suited to serving God with a musket than with a cross. When he was finally killed in a fight with the Iroquois, the eulogy at his funeral spoke volumes:
“He was a man whose piety was no whit inferior to his valor, and who possessed extraordinary presence of mind in the field
of battle. He justly won the credit of saving Montreal both by his might and his reputation. It was deemed advisable to keep
his death concealed from the enemy for fear they might take advantage of it. This eulogy we owed his memory since Montreal
owed him its life.”
Dollard winced as he waited for Closse’s comments.
“Governor, I think the plan is a good one and I would like to go along.”
This sudden announcement brought a mixed feeling to Dollard: he was happy because if le Moyne agreed, Maisonneuve’s agreement to the plan was certain, but he was shaken by Closse’s expression of desire to join the force. That was complimentary but it meant one thing, surely: the command would go to Closse, not to himself.
“I would only ask that the venture be postponed until after seeding,” continued Closse.
“I agree” said le Moyne.
“The plan is sound, not too ambitious, and seems well organized. I, too, would go if it were to be postponed. The seeding is paramount—the season here is not so long as in France and we need the harvest for sustenance. It is as simple as that.”
Dollard’s mind raced. From leading the expedition he was rapidly falling down the chain of command. He had a sudden incredible thought that the plan would go ahead, everybody in Montreal would go and he would be left to defend the nuns at the Hotel Dieu.
“Ahhh … as much as I would like Major Closse and M. le Moyne to accompany us…”
These two men burst out laughing. Even Dollard smiled.
“…I fear a delay would ruin the plan. If we wait until seeding is completed we have waited too long: the Iroquois hunters will be back in their longhouses, their warriors will have already killed whatever Hurons might attempt the voyages.”
“Perhaps even Radisson and Grosseillers would be killed and their furs taken. They will have had time to return to the Dutch and will be well armed against us. They would then have the best spots on the river! We would not be able to dislodge them and unblock the river, and another summer of poverty would be upon us. Also, my men are ready now and we can be back, in two weeks or three, not two months as was suggested, and in any case probably in time for seeding, or at least the best part of it.”
As soon as he said it he regretted it since if the seeding argument was accepted, what was to prevent Closse and le Moyne from coming?
Maisonneuve faced the question bluntly.
“That is persuasive, but if you wait you can be commanded by a more experienced man.”
Dollard did not flinch.
“I am a capable commander.”
The governor smiled.
“Are there other questions?”
Lambert Closse had one:
“If you see the enemy is much stronger than your company, what will you do?”
“I will not attack,” said Dollard, “unless that strength is simply in numbers which we will reduce or eliminate by our ambush.”
It was the right answer. As these soldiers had learned, New France warfare had its own rules and discretion was a major one. Surprise was absolutely necessary; courage and daring more so than in the field became more individual as every man ‘took up his tree’; patience was of the utmost importance. But if discretion was lacking, though all the other elements be right, this could lose the day and lives. Montreal could not afford to lose 17 men, ten per cent of the whole population.
“Commander des Ormeaux, will you absent yourself for a few moments, please?” asked Maisonneuve.
Dollard stood up, saluted and left the room, not daring to glance at Pierre de Belestre and Claude de Brigeac, who, in any case, avoided looking at their departing friend.
After Dollard des Ormeaux had left the room, Maisonneuve asked each man his opinion.
“Let them go,” said Closse.
” There is truth in his reasoning to leave soon. I would go too but I must do the seeding. It is one thing to attack an enemy for an hour, quite another to miss the seeding for our families and our future. ”
“That’s right,” said le Moyne.
“Also, Lambert, if we go Dollard might as well not.”
He winked at his friend and they laughed.
“I am in agreement,” said de Belestre.
“And I,” said de Brigeac. “In the face of our weakness some doubtless would call it an ‘absurd enterprise’ but I understand that has been said to our governor before.”
They all laughed.
When Maisonneuve told the governor of Quebec, De Montmagny, that he would establish Montreal, the governor had tried to dissuade him, partly because his own authority would then be dissipated but mainly because of the Iroquois wars. He told Maisonneuve that the enterprise would never succeed, and that it should be named the ‘absurd enterprise’ so that all might realize that this pious folly was in the hands of God.
For Maisonneuve that clinched it.
“Agreed,” he said. “They can go.”
The news filled Dollard with joy and he could scarcely conceal his enthusiasm as they all toasted the venture moments later in Maisonneuve’s office. Before they had time to refill his glass he excused himself.
“With your permission, gentlemen, I must get to Prud’homme’s tavern…my men are waiting word.”
They laughed and Maisonneuve said,
“Well then, Adam Dollard Sieur des Ormeaux, to your companions!”
Dollard saluted, turned, walked two steps and then ran to the door, slamming it. The laughter inside covered the wild whoop that the runner emitted en route to the tavern.
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BATTLE OF THE LONG SAULT.
Ch. 3 RECRUITMENT. AUTUMN, 1659.
Dollard clumped slowly through the snow back to the palisade from the meeting with the governor, his mouth drawn, his expression gloomy, swearing to himself. He climbed the wooden steps fifteen feet up to the walkway next to the stone tower and met the eager Pierre de Belestre.
He started fuming, walking rapidly up and down the palisade wall, swearing under his breath. de Belestre waited patiently.
“Walk with me on my circuit,” said de Belestre.
They walked slowly around the walls checking the six gates, passing another guard moving in the other direction. Whenever he came into view on the circuit, they lowered their voices even more than usual.
“I didn’t mean to imply that it was Maisonneuve’s fault we hadn’t attacked the Iroquois!” said Dollard.
“I didn’t think he took it that way,” said his friend.
“Pierre, I can’t stand it here any longer like this! We’re dead men if we do nothing. Either we’ll die of boredom in this ice country or we’ll be killed by the savages! We’re like animals waiting to be killed at the whim of the hunter. Is this why we came to the New World, to die like rats?”
He turned, looked out over the palisade wall and yelled:
“Come and fight you savages!’
He turned back to de Belestre,
“But of course, they won’t; they’re not stupid. They know that if we fight them in the forest they win and if they keep us here, they win! Either way, they win.”
De Belstre automatically looked out over the walls even as he listened to his friend. An attack could come at any time.
“I don’t know what we can do about it…it’s three more years until our new commission is up…no, we’ve got to do it the way you’ve suggested. This plan will break through Maisonneuve’s caution.”
“God, I hope so. Else I’ll go crazy. I could go crazy. That would be good. Then I wouldn’t know the difference. Or I wouldn’t care.”
“Well, at least they’re going to consider it,” said de Belestre. “Look, Maisonneuve has lots of battle experience against the Dutch. He’ll see the virtue of the plan.”
“I’ve tried Pierre. I’ve tried to do it his way. I worked all last summer on the land Maisonneuve gave me but I want to cut down Iroquois, not trees. Most who came here are settlers; we are soldiers. We fought the Dutch too.”
” Men like Lambert Closse and le Moyne are on their way to wealth and property by getting furs, not by growing vegetables,” said de Belestre.
“As garrison soldiers there’s no way we can get furs short of going out and taking pelts from the Iroquois, thereby making battle serve economy,” said Dollard. “Ever since Pierre Esprit Radisson suggested this idea, “I’ve thought of nothing else.”
“He’s spent years with the savages,” said de Belestre. “… knows their ways.”
“He told me he s sick of running rapids and not knowing if he’s going to get shot,” Dollard said.
“He says my plan will work for us and besides he needs the waterways clear so he can bring back furs. Damn it, Pierre, I still want you to come with me. It’ll be a hell of a fight!”
“Dollard, you know I want to go but I can’t…who will command the garrison?”
“Maisonneuve can get a replacement for a few weeks.”
“No. If we both go, he’ll appoint two replacements. And when we get back, nobody’s going to say, ‘Oh, welcome back, here are your old positions.’ Every man our age wants our commissions…if we give them up we won’t get them back.”
Dollard slumped against the palisade.
“It’s only for two or three weeks, Pierre. How can they replace us like that?”
“Lord, you have a short memory, Dollard. You didn’t get promoted just because you killed those Onondagas attacking you neighbor, you know. We’ve all killed the enemy.”
Dollard made an expression of resignation. Yves Fournier had stayed away on a fur trading mission several days too long once too often and Maisonneuve had replaced him with Dollard.
“Well, if that’s it, how can I even go? Someone will take…. Oh, to hell with it. If I do all right I’ll be able to take charge of the forest attack patrol and I’ll be away from Montreal more than I’ll be here. If I’m not successful I might be dead.”
“Dollard, why cut yourself off? It’s a good idea. You go and I’ll stay here. Even if you lead the forest patrol it’s purely defensive. You’ll just be going out to rescue someone, or reinforce one of the towers. It isn’t this, it isn’t an attack. It’s not much better than what we’ve got now. In fact, on rotation, it’s exactly what we’ve got now. Look, I don’t trust anybody else to handle the garrison anyway.”
“While you’re gone I’ll train a replacement but I’ll take the shift too so he won’t get comfortable in it.”
“You conniver! You want the garrison command all to yourself!”
“Ahh — well, Dollard to be frank, yes. Actually I want Maisonneuve’s job but he won’t turn it over to me just yet.”
“You fox. ‘You go, Dollard, and I’ll stay here.’ Sure! Never mind, Pierre, with me out in the forest and you holding the fort we’ve got a good thing.”
Pierre de Belestre had laughed.
“Soon, Dollard, we’ll take over this place.”
With a rueful laugh Dollard left for Prudhomme’s tavern. His mood had improved a little but he still didn’t relish the thought of telling his men they’d have to wait longer for a decision. It seemed that’s all anyone did in Montreal–wait.
Many young men had come to Montreal to escape the poverty of rural France. The main jobs were to clear the fields, engage in the fur trade, and fight the Iroquois. As for the original premise in the founding of Montreal–the conversion of men and the saving of souls —
they relegated that to fourth position in importance and left it in the hands of the priests and men like Maisonneuve.
Dollard thought of his first approach to men as they worked the previous September in the fields. Because of erratic but pressing Iroquois raids on individual farmers or pairs, Maisonneuve had a team of men work a field, complete it, then move to the next one. Rene Doussin, Jean Valets, and Etienne Robin were plowing, while Jean Lecompte and ‘Cognac’ Boisseau were on guard, their muskets held lightly in their hands as they patrolled. It seemed a waste of valuable labor since the town had so few men, but the alternative would lose more men; they would be picked off from the sides of fields by Iroquois. No, they needed the guards. Now there was a law against working without your musket so the men, while farming, had their weapons, but they needed better eyes on the terrain. The walking guards provided that.
On a break, Dollard called them over under a broad maple. ‘Cognac’ arrived first having headed for the shade of the tree even as he whistled the break. He was followed by Rene Doussin, at thirty, among the oldest of the group.
“Hey, Cognac, How is it that you get to patrol the shady side of the field every time you’re on guard duty?” said Doussin.
“Actually, this side of the field is more dangerous — all those trees the Indians could hide in. I allow Lecompte over there, the lazy lout, to cover the hill. There he can see the Iroquois coming for miles.”
“So he can warn you and you can hide in the trees,” said Lecompte now within earshot.
Cognac just laughed. He had come over on the same ship as Dollard two years earlier. They had become close friends vomiting over the side together. He laughed then too.
Rene Doussin, who now sprawled on the ground, was a miller. Although in Montreal everybody was a builder, farmer and soldier, no matter what trade they might have had. In France, Doussin had been an apprentice miller so he also helped make the bread for the colony.
His baptism to the New World had been elaborate. He had been captured, tortured and released in an exchange of prisoners by the Iroquois. He was taciturn, tough, and a skillful gunsmith, a valued man in New France, where your musket literally went to bed with you.
“I have an idea to get out of here,” Dollard. had said.
“Back to France?” said Doussin.
“No — out of the fort and into action with the Iroquois.”
“Count me in,” said Cognac, his enormous red beard flopping over his face. “As long as we can take some brandy to keep warm.”
“We’re dying of the heat here, you idiot!” said Doussin.”We’re all sweating!”
“Enough now,” said Dollard. “I want to get a group, go up the river, and ambush some
“Just like that?” said Lecompte.
“Sure. You could write a heroic poem about the adventure,” said Cognac.
Jean Lecompte came from Chamiere-en-Charmie in the French province of Le Maine, which he believed was the most beautiful place on earth. He wrote long, romantic and insufferable poetry about the place, which he read under the slightest provocation. At five feet, six inches, he was slightly shorter than the average Frenchman, but his strong physique, blond hair, good features and blue eyes made heads turn at parties. His work was as a woodcutter and if you didn’t know that you could guess because his arms were like small tree trunks.
“My poetry is better than your drinking, Cognac.”
“All right, Jean. Ignore him,” said Etienne Robin.
Robin was the closest friend of Jean Lecompte. His strength was legendary, once having pulled a full grown cow out of a swamp with only a rope. Robin, like the others, was unmarried, although unlike many he had a girl — Claudine Mallotte. It was a mystery to the others how he kept her since he drank as much as Cognac and she was devout.
In seven years Robin had practically become an Indian. He loathed the French penchant for display and ceremony and had immersed himself in the Huron culture. He spoke Huron and was an expert canoeist and woodsman.
“How are you going to convince Maisonneuve to let you go?” said Rene Doussin.
“What’s the plan?”
“Simple,” said Dollard. Our Huron traders come down river loaded with furs. The Iroquois ambush them and steal the furs. This time we’ll hide. When the Iroquois come down the rapids we’ll shoot them.”
“What if they’re warriors and not hunters?” asked Doussin.
“It doesn’t make any difference,” said Dollard. “Well, it makes one difference: if they’re hunters, we take their furs and get the money by selling them, just like they do with ours..”
“And if they’re warriors?”
“They’ll be dead anyway,” interrupted Cognac. “Do you understand? We’ll shoot them first, then ask if they’re hunters or warriors. Jesus!”
“That’s it,” said Dollard.”
“They won’t expect it,” said Robin. “We never go into the wild…then, ‘Blam!’”
“Well,” said Lecompte, “I’m tired of sitting on my ass waiting to got picked off. I’m for it.”
The reaction from the others was equally enthusiastic.
The other man in the field Dollard wanted to talk to, and characteristically, the last man to make his way across the field, was Jean Valets.
Valets was a ploughman. Stockily but muscularly built, he was tall, phlegmatic, and good-natured. More educated than some of the others, he had studied for the priesthood for a time. The others thought of him rather like a huge, friendly dog, since he had never been known to get angry although subjected to every sort of practical joke from snakes in the bed to having his canoe tipped, he was assured, by the giant turtle that the Indians believed held the world on his back.
“Glad you could make it, Valets,” said Cognac. “Sorry we haven’t got the carriage for you but they’re using it for the governor’s ball this afternoon.”
“Can’t you walk any faster?” said Lecompte.
“He’s probably learning a new language,” said Robin.
“Talking to the grass: ‘Hello little piece of grass, how are you? And there’s a piece of cow-plop. What do you say, cow-plop?”
Valets’ facility with languages was remarkable and to his friends inexplicable; he never seemed to work at it but he could speak Huron and Iroquois, which were similar, and Algonquin, which was entirely different.
“I was just taking my time so I wouldn’t have to spend so much of it in the company of you poor illiterates who can’t even speak French properly,” responded Valets with mock scorn. Cognac, for example, can hardly speak without swearing…”
“That’s a goddamn lie,” said Cognac.
“Witness. And the rest of you can barely sign your names for your salaries. If you didn’t have me the Indians would kill you. But I tell them to leave you alone because you are simpleminded and they think the simpleminded are favorites of God.”
“Sit down,” laughed Lecompte.
“Dollard has a plan.”They told him.
“First among you, me,” said Valets, “else you won’t be able to talk to the Indians.”
“We’re not gonna talk to them, we’re gonna shoot them!” said Cognac. “Christ, he’ll talk to them and Lecompte will recite poetry to them. You might as well send the Jesuits.”
Dollard smiled as he recalled the day. All these men and more who had pledged to go on the venture now waited anxiously to hear from Dollard at Prud’homme’s tavern. He regretted he had to tell them to be patient a few more days.
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Chapter 1. Iroquois attack on Quebec.
Quebec, April 19th, 1660
Father Gustave Lamont wrote on the plain wooden table that served as his desk in his room at the Jesuit House in Quebec.
Quebec, April 19th, 1660
‘Dear Father Superior:
We are near despair. Everywhere we see infants to be saved for heaven, sick and dying to be baptized, adults to be instructed, but everywhere we see the Iroquois. They haunt us like persecuting goblins. They kill our new-made Christians in our arms. If they meet us on the river, they kill us. If they find us in the huts of our Indian allies, our Hurons, they burn us and them too. Please, revered father, send us troops to destroy these Iroquois lest all our holy work be undone by their bloody hatchets. The Iroquois must be destroyed; it is a holy work to be inspired by God. We are needful of God’s grace and needful of soldiers to act in his service. If we do not have troops, we are lost.
As Father Lamont wrote, Martine Messier walked quickly to the stone fort of Quebec. Dusk was falling, but there was still enough light to make it back to the walls. She hurried along and smiled to herself when she thought of her husband Antoine Primot’s admonition to wait for him to escort her home. She had been visiting her friend Denise at her farm three-quarters of a mile from the fort. It was a well-traveled road, and she passed a farmer she recognized walking the other way.
“Hello there, Fernand Rameau!”
“Hello, Martine! What are you doing here by yourself? It is too dangerous.” He unslung his musket from his shoulder and approached her.
“I’ll take you back. Antoine would kill you if he knew you were out here alone.”
“Oh!” she laughed, “He said the Iroquois would kill me!”
“One or the other.”
“Well, I can’t wait for him tonight. He was to come for me later, but I have soup to prepare. Besides, it is still daylight, and there are people walking… look, I have met you.”
“Even so, it is not wise. Come, I’ll take you back.”
“Nonsense, I’ve come all this way. The walls are only around that bend. Go off and see to your business and I’ll to my own. Go along now.”
Rameau grunted tolerantly as she went past him along the road towards the fort. He turned and started in the opposite directing pausing to look back periodically. The woman was young, maybe 24, and beautiful, known as ‘la bonne femme.’ M. Rameau might have looked back at her anyway, just for the pleasure of it, but it was the situation that made him uneasy.
Martine laughed to herself. If I can come to Quebec and live in this wild place these past four years, surely I can walk a mile on my own.
The broad section of the road narrowed somewhat as it went through a small growth of underbrush and trees. Too late, she saw the figure drop from the tree, but she felt him land on her shoulders. Immediately, two more figures leapt from the bush. She screamed before the first Mohawk could silence her with his club and Rameau heard it even as his conscience was prodding him to turn around and take her, willingly or not, to the fort.
The force of the jump knocked Messier to the ground, but she fell clear of the Mohawk. The others, swiftly moved in on her but still screaming, she fought furiously, her hands and feet lashing out.
The first blow to her back knocked her down again and the second grazed her shoulder. The Iroquois was clearly not trying to kill her but to seize her as a captive. Rameau was racing towards her and her screams had alerted several Algonquins and Raymond Cleroux, who were approaching the fort by a nearby path. The brave who had leapt on her swung his arm and this third blow to the skull knocked her senseless. The Algonquins, hearing silence and fearing the worst, began firing their muskets in the hope of frightening off the Iroquois.
As one attacker began tying her feet, she regained consciousness and reached out, grabbing his testicles, clenching hard. The Iroquois screamed in pain, dropped his weapon, and tried to back away, but she did not let go. The Algonquins was rounding the bend. The two other Iroquois ran for the woods as Messier lunged and grasped the Mohawk’s hatchet from the ground. Screaming like crazy, and still clutching his testicles, she swung the hatchet, slicing a deep gash in his shoulder. She released him as he fell and then, as he rose, she regained her own feet, and as he fled she threw the hatchet at him. It whipped through the air rotating and stuck deep in his back. He dropped to his knees, his hands reaching back for the hatchet.
Rameau reached her as the Algonquins, now on the scene, attacked the wounded Iroquois, killing him. Rameau lifted Messier up and hugged her when he saw she was unhurt.
She slapped his face.
Raymond Cleroux, with the Algonquins, approached her said,
“Martine, why did you slap Fernand? He just rescued you!”
“Oh my god, I’m sorry. I thought he wanted to kiss me!”
Everyone laughed at the absurdity, but then she began to shake.
The Algonquins chased the escaping Iroquois. One hid, or was too fleet and escaped, but the other tripped on a root, twisted his ankle and was caught. He was a member of the Wolf clan by his markings and of the Onondaga nation. The Algonquins dragged him back to the fort to torture him, but first the French wanted information.
Father Lamont had enough influence to prevent the Algonquins from torturing the captive, but he did not think it wise politically or theologically to do so. Too much interference in the ways if the Indian allies meant they would not bother bringing in their prisoners, they would just kill them in the forest. That would be a loss of valuable information.
It was also expedient and satisfying to exact some punishment on the savages. Were these Indian allies not simply duplicating what the Iroquois did to the French priests and settlers? Perhaps similar treatment of their own captives would make the Iroquois think twice about such horrifying actions and amend their behavior in the future. But principally, the Jesuits thought torture was good for the soul. Some of their brothers were using the practice in Spain in the Inquisition. No, they would permit the customary torture, but first they would prepare him for heaven.
Later that night Fr. Lamont continued his letter to his superior in France:
We have rarely indeed seen the burning of an Iroquois without feeling he was on the way back to paradise: and we never knew one of them to be surely on the path to paradise without seeing him pass through this fiery punishment. We baptized the Wolf Indian with water and told him he would see God in this day. Is it not a marvel to see a wolf changed in one stroke into a lamb, and enter into the fold of Christ, which he came to ravage?
The Algonquins tied the Iroquois to a stake and tormented him for several hours before burning him.
During the repeated flagellations and taunts and cuts and blows the Mohawk was remarkably steadfast, hurling insults at his tormentors. The Wolf also frightened them by telling of 800 of his brother warriors who were gathering below Montréal on the Ottawa River. He said 400 hundred more Iroquois, who had wintered on what the French referred to as the Richelieu River, after their cardinal benefactor, and the Iroquois called their own name, the Iroquois River, were to join them on a massive attack on Quebec. They were planning to kill the governor, burn the town, and move on to Trois-Rivieres and Montréal, ridding themselves, once and for all, of the French people in New France.
THE BATTLE OF THE LONG SAULT
CHAPTER 2. Pitch the plan: March 16, 1660.
One month before the attack on Martine, Adam Dollard had marched from the watchtower on the frigid night of March 16th, 1660, to convince the governor of Montreal to start a war.
He moved quickly down the narrow roadway, one of only three in the town. He squinted to see in narrow alleys, his gaze led by slim shafts of light from the barred windows. He stayed in the center of the path, keeping space on either side for reaction time.
The houses were huddled together like children just out of the water. Long icicles were firming up for the night on their wooden overhangs. Dollard’s eyes scanned the massive, Breton-style buildings as he walked along the late-winter, snow-packed path, aware that the Iroquois could hide in woodpiles or doorways, waiting for inattentive Frenchmen.
“Damn cold,” he thought.
“In France, it’s politics. Here you can freeze to death on the palisade. But it amounts to the same thing as Paris–I still can’t get into action. I’m supposed to be a soldier, but I’m a glorified caretaker here. Damn!”
He kicked a piece of ice out of his path.
Governor Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve owned a spacious house, but he had loaned it to the Black Robes. He didn’t mind. He actually preferred it with his ascetic frame of mind. Now, he lived and worked in a typical two-storey, a massive, squared, stone building, more like a small fort than a house.
Dollard knocked on the large wooden door and was admitted by his friend Claude de Brigeac, a garrison commander, like himself and Maisonneuve’s secretary. Snow swirled through the door, and the wind slammed it.
“Infernal winter!… Thanks, Claude.”
The secretary laughed with mock malice. Dollard’s first name was Adam, but nobody ever used it.
“How would you know? You spend your life indoors.” Dollard growled, smacking his leather-gloved hands together and stomping his feet as he walked over the to the fireplace. “I had a fire going in the bastion, but de Belestre relieved me, so he gets the benefit of it.”
He nodded his head towards the door.
“How does it look?”
“Maisonneuve wouldn’t permit Pierre or me in with them. They’ve been talking for two hours,” said de Brigeac.
“God, and you haven’t even been inside?”
“No, he said we could go in when you went in.”
“What the hell’s going on?”
“I think he wants to judge us as well as you.”
“What do you mean?”
“He doesn’t want us pushing your plan because we’re friends, find out they’re against it and then watch us reverse our opinion and back off because we thought it prudent in front of our superiors.”
“Well, that’s bullsh…” his voice rising.
“Hey, you’d better calm down!” He looked anxiously at the governor’s door. “Maisonneuve wants a military decision from Pierre and me, not an emotional one.”
“Yes, but the plan is good on its face…” said Dollard
“Right!” said Claude. ” But you are missing the point. Whatever personal feelings we have we have to put aside. We buy it, but you’ll have to convince them as well as us of the value of your plan on its own merits.”
“I just want to kill a few Mohawks. Everybody’s making it the siege of Troy. How long have they been in there?”
“I told you. Two hours. If you continue with the attitude you’re displaying now, not only will you not get this commission, you’ll be relieved of your command. I’m warning you.”
Dollard listened to his friend’s reproof and sighed.
“I haven’t spent fourteen hours a day with him for a year for nothing,” said Pierre.
Dollard’s shoulders slumped.
“Fine. I’m ready.
“I think it will be only a few minutes more. They started late. He was writing Paris for more troops.”
“Shoot!” said Dollard. “They’ve been asking since Champlain got here fifty years ago. Those prancing aristocrats don’t give a damn about us. Either they’re fighting Spain or Holland or having dress balls.”
“He doesn’t get money from the king, he gets it from those pious Catholic laymen who want to convert the savages,” said de Brigeac.
“Anyway, he got us to come here during the last couple of years, didn’t he?”
He walked to the fire with a tin cup of brandy for Dollard, who took off his lynx coat, threw it on a three-cornered wooden stool, and accepted the drink, raising it to his mouth with a nod of thanks.
“Yes, but there aren’t enough of us.”
In his eagerness to speak, he spilled a little and slapped his chest in exasperation to remove it.
“Hell, Martin and Couture got killed just last month. We need replacements just to stay even…”
The front door opened, and Pierre de Belestre entered with an armful of firewood. He kicked the door shut without turning.
“Get the latch, somebody,” he said. “Hey Dollard, ready for the sausage grinder?”
“I hear you are to be objective,” laughed Dollard.
“Oh, hell, yes,” replied de Belestre. Dropping his voice, he imitated Maisonneuve.
“Commander Belestre, what do you think of M. des Ormeaux’s plan?” Switching back to his own voice he said:
“Well, governor, considering that when he goes, I’ll be the senior garrison commander, I think it’s a perfectly marvelous plan! Send him off with my blessing. I hope he gets adopted by the Iroquois. I hope they eat him.”
He dropped the wood on the floor with a rolling thump.
“He’d give them indigestion,” said Brigeac. They laughed as Dollard and Claude helped Pierre stack the wood near the hearth.
The noise of the office door opening caused all three men turned to face Lambert Closse.
“Gentlemen.” Said Closse.
It was an order but softly couched and it was to set the tone for the discussion. He turned back into the office. Pierre Belestre moved toward Dollard.
“For God’s sake, don’t mention all the money we’ll make from the furs!”
“What? Why not?”
“He might think it’s the main objective!
“It’s not remotely the main objective,” said Dollard.
“I know, but still…”
“And what the hell’s the matter with making some money? This place is going bankrupt!”
“Nothing… just don’t make a big thing of it,” said Belestre.
“All right,” said Dollard irritably. And he moved into the governor’s room.
Maisonneuve stood some feet into the room. He was 48 years old, just under six feet, robust, with a beard that covered a pockmarked face from a childhood illness. He was an impressive man, and he commanded respect: he had created Montreal, and his wealth helped sustain the settlement.
Dollard calmed himself.
“Come in, Dollard. Anything on the watch?”
“No, sir. Everything’s quiet.”
“Good. Perhaps the Iroquois will stay in their longhouses until summer, eh? Come in, come in.”
Dollard excused himself as he passed Maisonneuve in the doorway and into the room arranged as an office. The appointments were utilitarian, and with a few exceptions made of the surrounding woods of the forest. The fireplace had a large iron swivel with a hook that held a huge kettle. On the mantelpiece sat candles, an urn, a flat iron, some books.
Dollard stood stiffly until the governor closed the door.
“Be easy, Dollard. Sit. You are not on guard.”
“In Montreal, I am always so.”
His voice betrayed a slight belligerence.
Maisonneuve glanced over. He had seen this tendency in Dollard before. It didn’t worry him; most of his senior officers were no longer able to disguise their frustration.
“I meant be easy — sit.”
All the men sat down in front of the enormous fireplace with flanking built-in beds so that the heat of the fire would warm the sleeping occupants. The group that faced Dollard comprised Maisonneuve, Lambert Closse, Charles le Moyne, and Dollard’s friends Claude Brigeac and Pierre Belestre.
There were two kinds of meetings. The first was the usual late night tactical discussions of the day-to-day operation and defense of the fort: how often should the guard be changed in the cold of winter; who could be trusted with more responsibility; who would accompany the Jesuits to the missions; should the foundry prepare more shot.
“Sorry to keep you waiting. What’s on your mind, Commander?”
“I have a plan for attacking the Iroquois.” He hadn’t meant to be so blunt.
Maisonneuve blinked once. He put his elbow on his knee, which was lifted to the edge of the desk, and rolled the flat of his hand on his chin. He said nothing. The governor was accustomed to hearing plans concocted by his officers. Some, like those offered by Lambert Closse and Charles Le Moyne he almost always accepted, so militarily astute had they proven to be. Dollard was less experienced, but he was a tough soldier and an inventive tactician. Maisonneuve listened.
Dollard had come in prepared to be calm and orderly in his outline of the plan, but his eagerness, repressed by months of secrecy, and lifted by his natural enthusiasm had made him explosive. He tried to speak deliberately, but his voice rose with his argument.
“Remaining in our fort permits the Iroquois to strangle us slowly. Their blockade of the Ottawa River is working to perfection!”
The governor rolled his hand and looked straight at the soldier but said nothing.
“If we don’t get furs this spring we might as well go back to France. It’s been four years since we had any deliveries. Also…” Dollard rushed on caught up in the enthusiasm of his plan.
“…Radisson says that the Iroquois hunters are low on ammunition in the spring from the hunt — and they have jammed guns and full canoes and …”
Maisonneuve, who had been smiling, motioned him to stop. By this time Dollard was standing up, waving his arms and gesturing emphatically. He hadn’t realized that his excitement had carried him to his feet.
“Oh — excuse me, Governor.”
“Not at all, Dollard.”
Maisonneuve waited a moment while Dollard composed himself.
Dollard got up again.
“Sir, my plan is to wage a petite guerre against the Iroquois in exactly the same manner as they attack us.”
“I’ll go up the Ottawa until I find a suitable place for an ambush. We’ll surprise the Iroquois, give them some of their own treatment.”
Maisonneuve breathed heavily.
“Who are the men?”
“I have a list. Sixteen volunteers.”
The governor took the list, leaned back in his chair and scanned it. He held it lightly between the thumb and forefinger of both hands and rattled it by pulling it taut, then releasing, pulling taut and releasing. The act itself seemed to Dollard like an evaluation.
“This is an extremely dangerous enterprise, Dollard. We have not taken the initiative often before…”
“Exactly. They won’t be expecting it.”
Maisonneuve ignored Dollard’s interruption. He relied on the enthusiasm of his soldiers. He was also aware of their growing impatience at the lack of flexibility of the general military plan.
“You are familiar, Dollard, with what happened in 1644?”
That infamous incident was a topic of great discussion because it was central to the issue of the defense of Montreal. It was always used as the final word against the argument of an aggressive war against the Iroquois. Dollard knew this was coming.
In 1644, only two years after Ville Marie, as Montreal was then called, was founded, Maisonneuve had complaints about his leadership. Many urged him to go into the forest to meet the Iroquois on their own ground. They grumbled that the Iroquois were killing off the French with impunity.
Maisonneuve knew the folly of this approach. His people were settlers, not soldiers. The Indians did not conform to the formal European manner of warfare. They did not put their men in colorful uniforms and line them up in a row to meet other men in colorful uniforms lined up on the other side of an open field. The Indians moved among the trees like cougars, concealing themselves until a small group or an individual had committed himself to a clearing in the forest. Then they struck.
Finally, the murmuring became too constant and widespread: some even called the governor’s personal valor into question. Maisonneuve knew his value as a commander was useless unless respected so one day in March when the guard dogs flushed several Mohawks, and the citizens scrambled around his office hollering for a chance to pursue them, Maisonneuve agreed.
He led thirty Frenchmen to the woods. Almost immediately Maisonneuve saw the trap.
When the group was twenty feet in the forest 200 Mohawks rose up from behind the rocks and moved out from behind the trees. Screaming and yelling, they began shooting arrows and firing their muskets.
Some Frenchmen, overwhelmed by the ferocity and surprise of the attack and totally inexperienced in the woods, were paralyzed with fear. The Mohawks came on. Maisonneuve ordered firing. The men responded and for a few moments the firing volley sent the Mohawks back. But as their ammunition ran low, the French began to retreat.
Firing and shouting, the governor herded the men back. In their excitement most had not worn the animal gut webs– snowshoes– and they stumbled and fell in the deep snow.
Sensing a slaughter, the Mohawks closed in. The Frenchmen moved, their feet reached out, felt secure, then suddenly the thin-crusted snow gave way, and they were imbedded to their knees.
Terrified, they were helpless against the advancing Indians whose feet were clad in snowshoes.
A trail used for drawing logs from the woods to the town provided a margin. The men scrambled down this snow-sluice to the gates of the fort, their governor held the rear, firing at the Mohawks, and the men on the palisade provided fire cover. Maisonneuve was the last inside and narrowly missed death at the hands of a Mohawk whose hatchet split his gun stock.
He saved himself by shooting the brave in the stomach with his pistol as he was pulled into the fort.
Three French died, six more were wounded. Chastened, and grateful for Maisonneuve’s life, the men apologized, and they dropped the subject of attacking the Iroquois in the forest. It stayed dropped.
“I respectfully point out that the circumstances are different now,” said Dollard, “that was sixteen years ago, and we have failed to take the offensive since. For an army to do that is unthinkable … I’m sorry, sir. I did not mean that as a reflection on your leadership… I know the people in France dictate…” “
“The plan must meet the usual military standards,” said Maisonneuve abruptly.
“Return in four days–on the twentieth –and be prepared to defend your proposal.”
“Yes, sir,” said Dollard. “Thank you, sir.” He saluted and left the room.
Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve stood looking at the fire. The sparks cracked, hundreds of tiny flares of light rose up, danced in space over the flames, then swiftly died. They were hurled up against the stone or were lifted for a brief angry life in the air the chimney.
Maisonneuve, hypnotized by the flames, thought of Montreal eighteen years earlier. The night they arrived the pioneers decorated a makeshift altar with glass flasks full of fireflies; they sat and watched the fluttering light source and were lulled into a deep contentment. There was a beguiling aroma of spruce and fir mixed with wild cherry blossoms. They heard the river bump the shore, and they saw the giant elms and oaks silently rocking in the night air. Somewhere in the camp someone was playing a provincial air on a flute. All of this was on the periphery of their consciousness as it came back to the governor now.
Suddenly the fire cracked like a musket shot. Maisonneuve, startled, was brought back to the present. He had often told Paris that, without proper support, the venture might fail. At the time, Virginia had around 30,000 British citizens, the Dutch colony at New Amsterdam and Albany almost as many. New France had only 3,000 and would soon be eclipsed in trade and influence by the other countries if they weren’t annihilated by the Iroquois. And the Iroquois was getting guns from the Dutch and British.
Montreal had a religious mandate and Trois-Rivieres and Quebec concentrated on settlement, exploration and trade. But Maisonneuve needed a military success, now obviously to be made with his meager resources, without the assistance of France. Timing was critical, and so was the question of whether or not he could spare seventeen men for weeks or possibly — and he had to consider the possibility — forever.
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The Battle of Long Sault occurred over a five-day period in early May, 1660 during the French-Indian wars. It was fought between French colonial militia, with their Huron and Algonquin allies, against the Iroquois Confederacy. The battle took place along the Ottawa River in Canada at a series of rapids known as Long Sault. (Sault is an ancient French word for rapid(s).)
A force of 17 Frenchmen and about 40 Indian allies under the command of Adam Dollard des Ormeaux went up the Ottawa river to ambush marauding Iroquois on the river as the Iroquois had been doing to the French for years.
He was joined by 40 Indian allies, Huron and Alqonquin, but as they prepared to camp at the bade of the rapid, two Iroquois war canoes came slicing over the rocks.
The fight began and they did well for time because they had more guns than the Iroquois and were better shots. But the odds and the battle’s outcome came into doubt as 200 Iroquois reinforcements arrived down the sluicing waters.
The French could not reach their canoes, which the enemy burned.
They were running out of water, food and ammunition. Then, things got worse.
Think the Canadian Alamo. This is not a love story.
BATTLE OF THE LONG SAULT
I’m beginning a new series of posts today based on my historical novel, The Battle of the Long Sault.
It is the story of Dollard des Ormeaux and his attack on the Iroquois on the Ottawa River in 1660, in an attempt to defend Montreal.
It’s summertime and we all need a break so here’s a break from what I usually write about here.
This doesn’t have much to do with self except insofar as I expect you’d learn lot about yourself in battle!
And the four diffent “peoples” involved in this Canadian, factually-based, adventure story, all have their identities tied up in the outcome of what are called the French-Indian Wars.
So from that point of view, they are all about selfhood. The French newcomers, their allies, the Huron and Algonquin and their enemy, the Iroquois, all have their lives invested in the outcome of the wars.
More about that later.
Today I’d like to introduce you to The Battle of the Long Sault. I’ll be sending chapters as they are completed along with my usual posts.
If you are a fiction reader, especially of historical fiction I think you’ll like it. Especially if you are a fan of 17th century material and even more if it’s Canadian! (OK, there ain’t much of that around! But that’s maybe a good reason to check it out, yes?)
Here’s the synopsis.
BATTLE OF THE LONG SAULT
In 1660, the Iroquois incessantly threaten New France by ambushing Huron and Algonquin hunting parties on the Ottawa River, killing the defenseless hunters as they negotiate the rapids, and stealing furs destined for Montreal.
In four years, only nine canoes of furs has reached the fort. The town, almost abandoned by France, is in danger of destruction.
Dollard des Ormeaux
In THE BATTLE OF THE LONG SAULT, a young, ambitious Montreal garrison commander, Dollard des Ormeaux, deplores the French strategy of never combating the Iroquois in the forest because of earlier disastrous encounters.
He wants to ambush the Iroquois, simultaneously ensuring safe conduct on the river, gaining Montreal income, and announcing a new war policy to the enemy.
A beleaguered Governor Maisonneuve, anxious to preserve his imperiled mission, reluctantly agrees.
Dollard and sixty French, Huron and Algonquin allies go up the Ottawa River, station themselves at the Long Sault rapids, and prepare to lie in wait. However, before they can do anything, two Iroquois war canoes come cresting over the rapids.
Their initial ambush of the war canoes at the Long Sault (rapiuds) s crushingly successful but one Iroquois brave escapes and minutes later 200 Iroquois charge over the rapids in big war canoes.
The opponents reinforce meager forts on the riverbank. A stand-off has the Iroquois taking the brunt of the losses but they send for help. Six hundred tribesmen have been mustering to join this group for a massive attack designed to wipe out Montreal and Quebec.
The French know nothing of it. The reinforcements arrive. The French and their allies are now in a battle maelstrom.
Hunger, thirst and fatigue take their toll; desperate Hurons defect. The Iroquois reinforcements overwhelm. The odds increase to 20-1.
Dollard is out of food, nearly out of ammunition, and can’t get to the river water. The Huron chief advises Dollard to negotiate a settlement,– a traditional move in these circumstances–but some Frenchmen, fearful and suspicious, shoot Iroquois emissaries during the peace talks.
The battle gets worse.
THE BATTLE OF THE LONG SAULT is a frontier adventure story, an “Eastern” western if you like. It is a picture of the clash of economies, cultures, and peoples in the New World.
The French want to extend their territory, convert the natives and grow economically; the Iroquois fight desperately to regain a life that it being stripped from them; the Huron, remembering from the disaster of Huronia, where most of their people were killed, fight for their very existence.
As in Rashomon, all points of view—those of the Iroquois, the French, and the Huron and Algonquin — are presented.
Think of the recent film blockbuster, 300, The Battle of Thermopylae, or The Alamo as a descriptor of the basic storyline: a small band of men engaged in battle with an overwhelmingly powerful opponent. The Battle of the Long Sault is similar but an event in Canadian history that c ertainly changed the of the development of Montreal and might have changed history itself.
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YOU CAN READ IT FREE on my author site, NOVEL IDEAS.
NOVEL IDEAS-Battle of the Long Sault
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I hope you read it–and if you like it, please comment on either site.
If you do enjoy it, I’d love to see your comments!