Warren County, New York
Genealogy and History

History of Warren County, H. P. Smith
Chapter V: French and Indian War

This transcription was produced through the use of Readiris Pro 11 OCR software. Contributed by Tim Varney.


Antagonism between the Northern Indians and the Iroquois - Lakes George and Champlain the Highways of Hostile Elements - End of the Dutch Regime - Expedition against the Mohawks under De Courcelles - The Peace of Breda - Continued Hostilities of the French and Iroquois - Invasion of the Country of the Senecas - Revenge of the Indians - Montreal Sacked- Return of Frontenac - Three English Expeditions - Schuyler's Expedition against La Prairie - Extracts from His Journal - Deplorable Condition of the French - Frontenac Marches against the Mohawks - Peace Treaty of Ryswick - Neutrality between the French and Iroquois - The English at last Rendered Desperate - Failure of their Plans - Treaty of Utrecht - Its Provisions Broken by the French - Fort St. Frederic Built.

From Page 57 the date of the death of Champlain until the end of French domination in New France, the friendship established by that great explorer between the Northern Indians and the French was unbroken, while at the same time it led to the unyielding hostility of the Iroquois, and especially of the

Page 58 Mohawks. If truces and informal peace treaties were formed between these antagonistic elements, they were both brief in tenure and of little general effect. As a consequence of this and the fact that Lakes Champlain and George were the natural highway between the hostile nations, they became the scene of prolonged conflict and deeds of savage atrocity which retarded settlement and devastated their borders. The feuds of the peoples of Europe and the malignant passions of European sovereigns, armed the colonies of England and the provinces of France in conflicts where the ordinary ferocity of border warfare was aggravated by the relentless atrocities of savage barbarism. Each power emulated the other in the consummation of its schemes of blood and rapine. Hostile Indian tribes, panting for slaughter, were let loose along the whole frontier, upon feeble settlements, struggling amid the dense forest with a rigorous climate and reluctant soil for a precarious existence. Unprotected mothers, helpless infancy and decrepit age, were equally the victims of the torch, the tomahawk and scalping-knife. The two lakes formed portions of the great pathway (equally accessible and useful to both parties) of these bloody and devastating forays. In the season of navigation they glided over the placid waters of the lake, with ease and celerity, in the bark canoes of the Indians. The ice of winter afforded them a broad, crystal highway, with no obstruction of forest or mountain, of ravine or river. If deep and impassable snows rested upon its bosom, snow-shoes were readily constructed, and secured and facilitated their march.

The settlement made on Manhattan Island, the occupation of which followed Hudson's discovery and the granting of the charter of 1614 to the Dutch East India Company, progressed rapidly. A fort was built on the island, and also one on the site of Albany. In 1621 the Dutch West India Company was formed and, under their charter, took possession of New Amsterdam, as the fort with its surroundings was called. For fifteen years the most amicable relations existed between the Dutch and the Indians; but the harsh and unwise administration of William Kieft, who was appointed director-general in September, 1637, provoked the beginning of hostilities with the natives, which were kept up with more or less vindictiveness during the period of his administration. In May, 1647, Peter Stuyvesant succeeded Kieft as director-general or governor. He was the last of the Dutch officials in that capacity, and the firm and just course followed by him harmonized the difficulties with the Indians and also with the Swedes who had colonized in the region of the Delaware.

On the 12th of March, 1664, Charles II, of England, conveyed by royal patent to his brother James, Duke of York, all the country from the river St. Croix to the Kennebec, in Maine; also Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard and Long Island, together with all the land from the west side of the Connecticut River to the east side of Delaware Bay. The duke sent an English squadron, Page 59 under Admiral Richard Nicolls, to secure the gift, and on the 8th of September following Governor Stuyvesant capitulated, being constrained to that course by the Dutch colonists, who preferred peace with the same privileges and liberties accorded to the English colonists, to a prolonged and perhaps fruitless contest. Thus ended the Dutch regime. The English changed the name of New Amsterdam to New York.

The Dutch had, during their period of peace with the Iroquois, become thrifty and well-to-do through the energetic prosecution of their missionary work of trading guns and rum to the Indians, thus supplying them with a two-edged sword. The peaceful relations existing between the Dutch and the Indians at the time of the English accession were maintained by the latter; but strife and jealousy continued between the English and French, the former steadily gaining ground, both through their success in forming and maintaining an alliance with the Iroquois and the more permanent character of their settlements.

"The right of France to the country of the Iroquois, which embraced in part the valleys of Lakes Champlain and St. Sacrament [George], was based on an established maxim existing among European nations, that the first discoverers who planted the arms of their government upon aboriginal soil acquired thereby the property of that country for their respective nations." (1)

1. Butler's Lake George and Lake Champlain.

About this time the French became possessed of the desire to control the Hudson River and the port of New York. To carry out this purpose meetings of the cabinet council discussed plans, and measures were inaugurated. Also, in the hope of avenging past injuries and to put an end to future incursions, the government of New France resolved, in 1665, to send against the Mohawks a force that would not return until their enemies were wiped from the face of the earth. On the 23d of March of that year Daniel De Runy, knight, Lord de Courcelles, was appointed governor of Canada, and in September of that year arrived with a regiment, several families and necessaries (2) for the establishment of a colony. In June of the same year M. de Tracy was appointed viceroy of the French Possessions in America, and brought with him to Quebec four regiments of infantry. On the 9th of January, 1666, De Courcelles started with less than six hundred men on a long and perilous march of nearly three hundred miles in mid-winter when the snow was four feet deep. "The governor caused slight sledges to be made in good numbers, laying provisions upon them, drew them over the snow with mastiff dogs." (3) The men traveled on snow-shoes, each, carrying twenty-five to thirty pounds of biscuits." On the third day out many had their noses, ears, fingers or knees frozen, and some, wholly overcome by the cold, were carried to the place where they were Page 60 to pass the night. Still they pushed on, until, on the 9th of February, they arrived within two miles of Schenectady." (1) Here they learned that the greater part of the Mohawks and Oneidas had gone to a distance to make war upon the "wampum-makers." Watson says they "were only preserved from destruction by the active, though ill-requited beneficence of a small Dutch settlement, standing on the outer verge of civilization. The potent influence and urgent intercessions of a prominent, although private citizen of Schenectady averted from the suffering and defenseless Frenchmen, the vengeance of the exasperated Mohawks" - (referring to Arent Van Corlear). His unselfish act was gratefully acknowledged by the colonial government, and De Tracy urged him to visit Quebec. Corlear accepted this courtesy in the year 1667, and while making the passage of Lake Champlain was drowned "by a sudden squall of wind, in crossing a great bay." Deeming it "useless to push further forward an expedition which had all the effect intended by the terror it spread among all the tribes," (2) Courcelles retraced his march.

2. It is recorded that the first horses were brought to Canada on this occasion.

3. Relations of the march, Doc. History.

1. Butler.

2. Doc. History.

The magnitude of this expedition, although it resulted in no immediate disaster to the Iroquois, prompted them to sue for peace, and a treaty was concluded in May, June and July, 1666, by the Senecas, Oneidas and Mohawks, respectively. Pending the negotiations, the Mohawks committed an outrage on the Fort St. Anne garrison, and M de Tracy was convinced that the treaty would be rendered more stable if the Mohawks were further chastised. Accordingly in September, at the head of six hundred troops and seven hundred Indians, he made an incursion into the Mohawk country only to find it deserted by the wily savages; after destroying their villages and crops, he returned.

In the following year (July, 1667) was concluded the peace of Breda, between Holland, England and France. This gave the New Netherlands to the English, and Acadia (Nova Scotia), with fixed boundaries, to the French. But the period of quiet was of short duration, for in 1669 we find the French again at war with their old antagonists, the Iroquois. Owing to the increasing hostilities the inhabitants found it difficult to harvest their crops in safety; suffering and consternation prevailed and many prepared to return to France. But in April, 1672, Count de Frontenac was appointed governor and lieutenant-general of Canada, and under his efficient administration, confidence was restored and a treaty of peace again established in 1673. (3)

3. Count De Frontenac writes September 14th, 1674: "In spite of the efforts of the Dutch to get the Iroquois to make war on the French, the Iroquois came last year on solemn embassy to Montreal, brought eight children belonging to the principal families of their villages, and ratified the treaty made with them in 1673." - Colonial History of New York.

In 1684 another rupture occurred between the French and Iroquois. M. de la Barre was then governor of New France, and Colonel Dongan governor of New York. The Frenchman led an expedition against the Senecas, but Page 61 hearing that the latter would be reinforced by Dongan with "four hundred horse and four hundred foot," he gave up his purpose. This pretentious expedition, which ended so ignominiously, subjected De la Barre to severe censure and in the following year he was superseded by the Marquis Denonville, who came over instructed to preserve a strict neutrality. This he found to be impossible and so informed his sovereign. Reinforcements were sent him for a determined attack upon the Senecas, and in the summer of 1687 an expedition of two thousand French and Indians was organized and marched against the enemy. This large force impelled the Indians to adopt their customary tactics for self-preservation, and their villages were deserted, or nearly so. After destroying everything of value, the expedition returned. This bold incursion into the country of their strongest nation, alarmed the Iroquois and they applied to Governor Dongan for protection. It was promised them, of course, with the accompanying advice that they should not make peace with the French; but Denonville called a meeting of chiefs of the Five Nations at Montreal to arrange a treaty, and they decided to send representatives. Before this was consummated and on account of alleged treachery on the part of Denonville, the Iroquois became deeply angered against the French and burned for revenge. In July, 1689, twelve hundred Iroquois warriors landed on the upper end of the Island of Montreal, burned houses, sacked plantations, massacred men, women and children and retired with twenty-six prisoners, most of whom were burned alive. In October following they made a similar incursion at the lower end of the island, which was likewise devastated. These successful invasions were of incalculable injury to the French interests, and becoming known to their Indian allies, already disgusted with De la Barre's failure, caused many of them to seek an alliance with the English and open trade with them." They would have murdered the whole French colony to placate the Iroquois, and would certainly have done it," says Colden, "had not the Sieur Perot, with wonderful sagacity and eminent hazard to his own person, diverted them."

The French colony was now in a pitiable condition, but an unexpected and welcome change was at hand. The divided counsels of the English colonies, growing out of the revolution in the mother country resulting in the accession of the Prince of Orange to the throne, gave a new aspect to affairs. The Count de Frontenac, whose previous administration had been wise and efficient, was again appointed governor May z21st, 1689, and arrived in October. He had learned the futility of prosecuting a war against the Iroquois and made earnest efforts to negotiate a peace with them. Failing, he determined to terrify them into neutrality. For this purpose he fitted out three expeditions, one against New York, one against Connecticut and the third against New England. The first was directed against Schenectady, which was sacked and burned on the night of February 9th, 1690. A band of the French and Huron Page 62 Indians, after a march of twenty-two days "along the course of West Canada creek" - a route the course of which is to-day shrouded in doubt, but probably west of the lake, through certain narrow valleys, where evidences of ancient pathways were visible but a few years since - fell upon the defenseless hamlet. But two houses were spared, with fifty or sixty old men, women and children and about twenty Mohawks, "in order to show them that it was the English and not they against whom the grudge was entertained." The French made a rapid but disastrous retreat, suffering from the severe weather and the harassing pursuit of their enemies. This and other assaults at other points so disheartened the people at Albany that they resolved to retire to New York; their course was altered only after a delegation of the brave Mohawks had visited them and reproached them for their supineness, urging them to a courageous defense of their homes. This heroic conduct of the Iroquois challenges our admiration; notwithstanding French intrigues and Jesuitical influence, combined with exasperating English apathy which appeared willing to sacrifice these savage yet noble allies, they adhered to their early allegiance.

Repeated incursions by the French and Indians at last awakened the English colonists to the conviction that they must harmoniously unite in their efforts against their enemies if they would succeed. A convention was accordingly held in New York in May, 1690, constituted of delegates from Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York, at which it was resolved to combine their strength for the subjugation of Canada. Massachusetts engaged to equip a fleet and attack the French possessions by sea, while the other two States should assault Montreal and the forts upon the Sorel. The land forces mustered at Lake George in formidable numbers, embarked in canoes and sailed to Ticonderoga. Embarking again on Lake Champlain, but little progress was made when the expedition was abandoned through failure in supplies and dissensions in the force. The failure of these efforts and the heavy expenses incurred, left the colonies in a more defenseless situation than before.

In the same year, John Schuyler (grandfather of Philip Schuyler, of Revolutionary fame) organized a band of about one hundred and twenty "Christians and Indians" for an incursion into the French possessions. He cautiously passed down Lake Champlain and landed in the vicinity of Chambly. Leaving his canoes in safety, he penetrated to La Prairie, far within the line of the French fortresses. The unexampled bravery of the little force contributed largely to its remarkable success. They fell upon the French colonists who were unsuspectingly engaged in their harvest, and in the savage spirit that then controlled such movements, committed young and old alike to slaughter. The "scalps of four women folks" were among the trophies.

In the summer following (1691) Major Peter Schuyler collected a body of about two hundred and fifty whites and Indians, and taking the route followed by John Schuyler, made an attack upon the doomed settlement of La Prairie. Page 63 He states in his journal that he left Albany June 21st, and marched twenty-four miles to Stillwater. Halting till the 24th, on that day he proceeded to Saraghtoga, a distance of sixteen miles; on the 26ith he marched to the first carrying-place (Fort Miller), and thence to the second carrying-place (Fort Edward). On the 28th the march was continued to the last carrying-place, and there they began building canoes. July 1st they built eight canoes, capable of carrying from seven to twelve men. July 9th (quoting Schuyler's journal), "came Gerrard Luykosse and Herman Vedder, from a party of eighty Mohawks, at a lake right over Saraghtoga [Saratoga Lake], who went by the way of Lake St. Sacrament, (1) and promised to meet us in six days at 'Chinandroga'" (Ticonderoga). On the 14th "we removed to the Falls [Whitehall], distant sixteen miles, and then encamped." On the 16th "moved from the Falls, and pitched our tents in the narrows of the drowned lands, twelve miles distant." Proceeding on the 17th they "advanced to Chianderoga, and two hours after met the Mohauques, eighty in number; after which we fell to making canoes, the Christians having broken two of theirs coming over the falls."

1. Saint Sacrament, literally the Lake of the Blessed Sacrament, which name it obtained in 1646, from Father Jogues, because he passed through it on the Festival of Corpus Christi. - E. B. O'Callaghan.

The common impression that the name of the lake was suggested by the singular purity of its water, is erroneous. By the aborigines, it was in one dialect called Caniadere-Oit, or the Tail of the Lake, reference to its relation to Lake Champlain. - Spafford's Gazetteer.

By the Iroquois it was named Andiatarocte, "There the lake shuts itself." - Relations.

"Houitou," although redolent with beauty, seems to be a pure poetical fancy. The various names attached, as well to tribes as to places, in the difficult Indian language, often lead to confusion and error - Watson.

This is the first record known of a military expedition passing through Lake George.

The party reached the objective point of their march, La Prairie, at dawn on the 1st of August. After "saying their prayers," they moved cautiously towards the fort. But, in passing a wind-mill, the miller fired a shot (killing an Indian), which was returned by one of Schuyler's white men, killing the miller in his own door. Before reaching the fort they were met by a party of militia, whom they repulsed; they next encountered a body of regulars, with whom they had a short but sharp engagement. Falling back a short distance, Schuyler drew up his men in a ditch or disused canal, forming an ambuscade into which the pursuing Frenchmen rushed, meeting with considerable loss, but escaping capture. While these movements were enacting, an officer with a force one-half as large as Schuyler's interposed between the latter and his boats. Forming his men and telling them it was either fight or die, Schuyler ordered an advance. The first volley from the French killed and wounded the greater part of those lost in the expedition. But the case was a desperate one, and a vigorous charge dislodged the French from their position, and the men reached their boats, embarked and arrived at Albany on the 9th of August. The losses were twenty-one killed and twenty-five wounded. The result of Page 64 the expedition was fruitless, except so far as it aided in keeping the French settlers in a state of terror.

The Iroquois continued their incursions against the French and were, perhaps, more dreaded by the latter than the English. The French were prevented from tilling their lands and a famine ensued, "The poor inhabitants," says Colden, "being forced to feed the soldiers gratis, while their own children wanted bread." The French fur trade was also nearly ruined by the Iroquois, who took possession of the passes between them and their western allies, and cut off the traders. These terrible incursions by the Five Nations exasperated Count de Frontenac, governor of New France, to the last extremity and he determined, if possible, to end them. (1) He planned an expedition against the Mohawks to be undertaken in midwinter of the year 1693. He collected a force of between six and seven hundred French and Indians, secretly passed Lake Champlain on the ice, descended into the Mohawk country and captured three of their castles, meeting with resistance only in the last. They retreated with about three hundred prisoners. Major Peter Schuyler, ever the firm friend of the Mohawks, hastily gathered a party of Albany militia and Indians to the number of five hundred, and started in pursuit. So prompt was their action that the fugitives were closely pressed and suffered greatly for food, being compelled "to eat the leather of their shoes." They escaped, however, with a loss of eighty killed and thirty-three wounded.

1. June 6, 1692, the Iroquois entered into a formal treaty of alliance and friendship with Major Richard Ingoldesby, who assumed the gubernatorial office of New York on the death of Col. Henry Sloughter, in July, 1691. Ingoldesby was succeeded by Benjamin Fletcher in August, 1692.

After vain efforts to negotiate peace with the Iroquois Frontenac made preparations for a still more formidable effort to coerce them into submission. In the summer of 1695 he sent a strong force to repair and garrison Fort Cadaraqui, which then took his name. On the 4th of July in the following year he embarked from the south end of the island of Montreal with all the militia of the colony and a large body of Indians, for a destructive incursion against the Onondagas. Although by far the most formidable invasion yet made into the Iroquois country, it was almost fruitless in results, other than the destruction of villages and crops.

The treaty of Ryswick was concluded in September, 1697. While it established peace between the French and English, it practically left unsettled the status of the Iroquois. The French, while insisting on including their own Indian allies in the terms of the treaty, were unwilling to include the Iroquois, and made preparations to attack them with their whole force; but the English as strenuously insisted on extending the terms to their allies, and Earl Bellomont informed Count de Frontenac that he would resist with the entire force of his government, any attack on the Iroquois, if necessary. This put an end to French threats.

Page 65

For five or six years after the signing of the treaty at Ryswick quiet prevailed in the territory between Albany and Lake Champlain. The breaking out of the war of the Spanish Succession, or, as it was called in America, Queen Anne's War, again plunged the colonies of the two countries into the caldron of contention. Queen Anne ascended the English throne in 1702, and soon afterward found cause to declare war against France. The Five Nations, by a treaty of neutrality with the French in Canada, made August 4th, 1701, became a barrier against the savages from the north. But in the east the French induced the Indians to violate a treaty made with the colonists of New England, thus opening a new series of hostilities in that region that soon spread along the whole frontier. For several years ferocious forays occurred in New England and elsewhere. "Remote settlements were abandoned, and fields were cultivated only by armed parties united for common defense." (1) Finally this state of affairs became insupportable, and after several fruitless expeditions; fitted out chiefly by Massachusetts to chastise the French and their Indian allies for three or four successive seasons, in 1710 an armament of ships and troops sailed for Port Royal (Nova Scotia), which was captured. Acadia was seized and annexed to the English colony. The following year (1711) an English fleet and army arrived at Boston. On the 15th of August fifteen men-of-war and forty transports, bearing an army of 7,000 men, partly composed of New England forces, sailed for the St. Lawrence, under the command of Sir Hovenden Walker. In the mean time Governor Nicholson had proceeded to Albany, where a force of about 4,000, partly composed of Iroquois Indians, had been concentrated. Walker, inexperienced and "strong in his own conceit," declined to be advised by subordinates better versed, shipwrecked eight of the vessels of his fleet and lost 1,000 of his men on the rocks at the entrance of the St. Lawrence. Discouraged by this he ignobly turned his prow towards England, having first sent the New England men back to Boston. Nicholson, who had begun his march towards Montreal, was overtaken with the news of Walker's disheartening failure, and immediately retraced his route to Albany. Thus ended another enterprise, planned upon a magnificent scale for those days, and mainly owing its disastrous failure to the policy of England of placing officials in command who were every way unfitted for the positions they held.

1. Lossing.

Hostilities were now suspended, and the treaty of peace at Utrecht (2) between England and France (April 11, 1713) secured peace until 1744.

2. This treaty "secured the Protestant succession to the throne of England, the separation of the French and Spanish crowns, the destruction of Dunkirk, the enlargement of the British colonies in America, and full satisfaction from France of the claims of the allies, England, Holland and Germany." This treaty terminated Queen Anne's War, and secured peace for thirty years.

The Iroquois were now debarred from continuing their incursions upon the northern and western Indians, and their natural inclinations led them southward Page 66 where they chastised their old enemies living in Carolina. While upon this expedition they adopted into their confederacy the Tuscaroras, of North Carolina, who became known as the sixth nation of the Iroquois. They were assigned territory west of and near to the Oneidas.

But in 1731, during this period of peace, M. de Beauharnois, the French governor of the Canadian colony, by the authority of Louis XV, and in violation of the treaties of Ryswick and Utrecht, proceeded up Lake Champlain and began fortifying Crown Point. As the work was first erected, it was a small wooden fort, scarcely strong enough to resist the weakest artillery; but it was added to and strengthened during the successive years, until, in 1755, it contained space and quarters for five or six hundred men. It was called by the French Fort St. Frederic. Thirty men only formed the first French garrison at this point.

This movement startled New York and New England. The assembly of the former resolved that "this encroachment, if not prevented, would prove of the most pernicious consequence to this and other colonies." They sent notice of the encroachment to Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and applied to the board of trade and plantations for aid. While that body would have granted the request, Robert Walpole counseled peace.

The French, upon their occupation of Crown Point, seemed to have anticipated the apathy of the English that actually followed. Three years later Beauharnois informed his government that he was "preparing to complete" his incipient fortifications. As late as 1747 it had not attained such strength or proportions as to induce the belief that it could not have been recaptured and the garrison with it, at any time since its occupation, by the efforts of any one of tile English colonies, had England seen fit to sanction the movement.

To protect Canada from incursions by the Iroquois was the ostensible reason advanced by France for erecting the fortress at Crown Point. That there was a deeper purpose is too palpable to need demonstration. So ignorant, or indifferent, or both together, was the English government, to the real situation and its importance, that the lords of trade as early as December, 1738, confessed to Governor Clinton their ignorance of the location even of French fortifications on Lake Champlain. When, soon after, the attention of the French government was called to the violation of the treaty of Utrecht, the response was a denial of "all knowledge of the projected establishment," and the unavailing assurance that an inquiry on the subject would be made. Meanwhile France, in pursuit of its early policy, was consummating the establishment of trading posts from Canada to the gulf of Mexico.

Contact Us | ©1998-2007 Warren County: Genealogy and History