Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

Border Wars

by Elizabeth Eggleston Seelye
Assisted by Edward Eggleston
New York
Dodd, Mead and Company, Publishers, 1879.



To the events we have related ensued a series of French expeditions into the heart of the Five Nations, usually resulting in a burned village or two and the destruction of what grain was found there. They always seem rather ridiculous, those severe blows at an Indian nation by which white men, both French and English, have proposed to subjugate entirely the savages attacked. The mustering of a great army at a great expense ; the laborious march of the brave soldiers into the heart of the wilderness, to fight cornstalks and butcher palisades and bark cabins. The slippery Indians, have disappeared with all their movable treasures, such as furs, trinkets, tools, and weapons. The lumbering army, with its slow-moving artillery and baggage, can but return ; and we do not blame the brave general for making the most of the destructive work he has done, and its salutary effect on the Indians. They on their part may suffer famine for some months, but in a few months palisades the one person of resolution and coolness. The soldier did as Madeleine bid. She then flung aside her bonnet, put on a hat, and took a gun. Madeleine's whole force consisted of the above-mentioned soldiers, her two brothers, of ten and twelve years of age, and an old man of eighty, with some women and children.

" Let us fight to the death," said Madeleine to her brothers. " We are fighting for our country and our religion. Remember that our father has taught you that gentlemen are born to shed their blood for the service of God and the king."

Madeleine now placed her brothers and the soldiers at the loopholes, where they fired at the Indians, who were cautious about attacking the fort, especially as they did not know how large the garrison was. Besides, they were yet occupied in chasing and killing the men whom they had surprised at their work. Madeleine commanded that a cannon should be fired to impress the Indians the more, and with the hope also thus to warn some of the soldiers who were out hunting. Meantime the women and children had kept up a continual screaming. The girl now ordered them to -keep still for fear the Indians should be encouraged by their fright to make an attack. A canoe was soon seen in the river approaching the landing. It contained a settler and his family who were trying to make their escape to the fort. Madeleine tried to get the soldiers to go to their assistance, but their new-found courage could not be brought up to this point. The girl conceived the idea that it she went to the landing to meet the settler and his family, the Indians would believe it to be a ruse to draw them near the fort that a sally might be made upon them. She stationed the man-servant at the gate to watch it, and, walking down to the landing alone, escorted the settlers back. The Indians did not touch them. " We put so bold a face on it," she afterwards said, " that they thought they had more to fear than we."

She now ordered the Iroquois to be fired upon whenever they came in sight. Toward evening a violent wind began to blow, snow and hail fell, and a stormy night set in. The little commander thought to herself that this would be just the time when the Indians would try to enter the fort under cover of the darkness. " I assembled all my troops," said Madeleine, grandly ; " that is to say, six persons."

" God has saved us to-day from the hands of our enemies," the young girl said to them, " but we must take care not to fall into their snares tonight. As for me, I want you to see that I am not afraid. I will take charge of the fort with an old man of eighty and another who never fired a gun, and you, Pierre Fontaine [the settler], with La Bonte and Gachet [the soldiers], will go to the block-house with the women and children, because that is the strongest place; and if I am taken don't surrender, even if I am cut to pieces and burned before your eyes. The enemy cannot hurt you in the block-house if you make the least show of fight."

Madeleine now stationed her brothers on two of the bastions, while she and the servant took charge of the other two. Thus one girl, a man who did not know how to fire a gun, and two little boys kept guard over the fort as sentinels, while " All wells " could be heard from time to time, answered back and forth from the fort to the blook-house. The night was very stormy. About one o'clock the servant, whose station was near the gate, called out :

" Mademoiselle, I hear something."

Madeleine went to the gate, where she could see dimly defined upon the snow-covered ground the outlines of what few cattle the Iroquois had not butchered. The other sentinels were in favor of letting them into the fort.

" God forbid!" exclaimed Madeleine. " You don't know all the tricks of the savages. They are no doubt following the cattle, covered with skins of beasts, so as to get into the fort, if we are simple enough to open the gate for them."

But Madeleine at last concluded that she would let the animals in. She made her brothers stand ready with their guns cocked in case anything went wrong, and so she and the man admitted the cattle in safety. The night passed without any farther incident. The Indians afterwards confessed that they had held a council and decided upon a plan for taking the fort, but had not carried it out because the garrison were so much on their guard.

The anxious watchers were much cheered when day dawned. Everybody now felt courageous. except Fontaine's wife, who was very timid, " as all Parisian woman are," remarks Madeleine. She begged her husband to carry her to a place of safety.

" I will never abandon this fort while Mademoiselle Madeleine is here," said her husband.

" I will never abandon it," said the girl. " I would rather die than give it up to the Iroquois. I think it very important that they should never get possession of any French fort, because if they do they will think they can get others, and will be more bold and impudent than ever."

Madeleine commanded her little garrison for a week. During this time they had frequent alarms, for the Iroquois still hovered all about them. " I may say with truth," said the little heroine, "that I did not eat or sleep for twice twenty-four hours. I did not go into my father's house, but kept always on the bastion, or went to the block-house to see how the people there were behaving. I always kept a cheerful and smiling face, and encouraged my small company with the hope that help would come quickly." At last a detachment of forty men, under a lieutenant named La Mounerie, were sent from Montreal to the relief of the fort. They came up stealthily in the night, not knowing whether the Iroquois had taken the fort or not. But one of the alert sentinels thought he heard a sound, and called out, " Qui vive ?" The girl commander had just dropped into a doze, with her head upon a table and her gun lying across her arms, when the sentinel spoke to her, telling her that he had heard something from the river. Madeleine immediately mounted the bastion.

" Who are you ?" cried she.

" We are Frenchmen: it is La Mounerie, who comes to bring you help," was the answer.

Placing a sentinel at the gate, Madeleine went down to the river to meet the reinforcements.

" Monsieur, I surrender my arms to you," said the girl, with a military salute to La Mounerie.

"Mademoiselle, they are in good hands," gallantly answered the lieutenant.

" Better than you think," said Madeleine. La Mounerie accompanied her to the fort, inspected it, and found all in satisfactory order, with the sentinels at their posts.

" It is time to relieve them, monsieur," said Madeleine. " We have not been off our bastions for a week."

In some of their excursions into the Iroquois country, the French succeeded in doing the Indians some serious damage. Peace was at last made between the colony and its enemies. The French governor figuratively buried the hatchet in a very deep hole, which he covered over with a very big stone, over which he ran a river, that it might never be dug up again. The hatchet did not always remain quiet in its grave after this, but the days were gone when the Five Nations could seriously injure the colony.

With the new century, fresh troubles came uppermost. The Five Nations were a great object of jealousy between the French and English colonies. Both coveted their trade, and both claimed sovereignty over them in the name of their sovereigns. The Five Nations, delighted to find themselves of so much importance, were fickle in conferring favors, and refused to acknowledge the dominion of either English or French king over them.

The relations of the Five Nations with the Dutch, and subsequently with the English, were in the main friendly. Through good luck the colony of New York had been thrown into no early broil with these people. Her own policy with regard to them was far from judicious. The French in their dealings with Indians always studied to please them, made them gaudy presents, flattered their pride, and accorded with their customs, many of them intermarrying with the savages. The English, on the contrary, were often cold, haughty, and indifferent. The present for the Iroquois sent yearly from England was too often stolen by corrupt public officers. The traders through whom the English carried on their negotiations were despised by the Iroquois, who styled them " rum-carriers." Meanwhile the Jesuits, who always proved themselves very useful for political purposes, insisted on pushing themselves into the heart of the Five Nations, where they exercised more or less influence in favor of France, and doubtless, too, against the interests of the English colonies. The effects of the unwise policy of the English would probably have been seriously felt when war broke out between the two rival powers, had it not been for a young Irishman who came to America in the year 1638. (This is not correct. The year should read 1738. ajb)

Copyright 1998, -- 2003. Berry Enterprises. All rights reserved. All items on the site are copyrighted. While we welcome you to use the information provided on this web site by copying it, or downloading it; this information is copyrighted and not to be reproduced for distribution, sale, or profit.

Contents Introduction Links Home