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.

Chapter Five


THE Hurons and their tribes of allies felt themselves powerless against the ever-encroaching Iroquois. There is a story in the early annals of the Six Nations which shows with what a death-gripe the Hurons and Algonquins fought their great enemy. Some of the war-chiefs of the latter Indians, who felt themselves helpless in more open warfare, had resolved to effect what they could by stratagem. Among them was Piskaret, the immediate cause of whose revengeful hate was the burning of one of his brother-chiefs at the hands of the Iroquois. Provided with guns purchased from the French, Piskaret and four other chiefs set out in search of the enemy. They paddled up the St. Lawrence and into the Richelieu River, where they saw five Iroquois canoes. Believing the chiefs to be the forerunner of a large force, the Iroquois at first attempted to escape, but when they saw no more follow, they gave their war-whoop and ordered the chiefs to surrender.

" I am already your prisoner," answered Piskaret, " and I can no longer survive the death of my companion whom you have burned; but that I may not be accused of cowardice, come out into the middle of the river."

Piskaret's guns had been previously loaded with two bullets joined together with a wire, and designed to tear in pieces the birch-bark canoes of the Iroquois. These Indians paddled swiftly into the centre of the stream.

" Each man choose his canoe," said Piskaret to his companions.

As the Iroquois approached, Piskaret made a feint of trying to escape. The Iroquois' canoes separated in order to surround the enemy, who now sung their death-song in feigned despair. Suddenly the dreaded matchlocks were raised, each man levelled at a canoe, and the report echoed in the distant woods. The Indians of the Five Nations had not yet overcome their dread of firearms. Terror-stricken, they tumbled out of their sinking canoes. Piskaret and his companions quickly despatched them in the water, with the exception of several chiefs, who were doomed to undergo a similar death to that of Piskaret's friend.

But Piskaret's revenge was far from being satiated. No one was found bold enough to follow him in his next expedition. He started out in the early spring, when the snow had begun to melt. He put his snow-shoes on backwards-a favorite trick with the Indians to deceive people as to the direction they have taken. Piskaret also walked; for some distance along a bare ridge. When he came within sight of one of the villages of the Five Nations, he hid in a hollow tree until night, when he slipped out and selected a place where four piles of wood, placed close together, left a small opening in the centre. When every one was fast asleep, Piskaret entered the village, walked into the first cabin, and killing four persons, retired to his hole with their scalps. The Iroquois were in a great commotion on the following morning. They soon discovered the footsteps of Piskaret, which, seeming to lead away from the villages, were, supposed to be the track of the murderer who had escaped. The young men of the village followed this track in hot pursuit until they came to the bare ridge, where they lost it. On the following night Piskaret again entered a cabin, and, killing the inhabitants, returned to his wood - pile. Again there was a. great outcry in the morning. All ran in quest of a track, but none was to be seen except that of the previous day. They sought in the forests and swamps and clefts in the rocks, but no sign of a human being could be found. Then the Indians began to suspect the hand of Piskaret, whom they knew already too well, in so bold and wily an attack. The next night, when Piskaret slipped into the town, he saw that there were guards in every cabin. But in one he discovered a sentinel nodding I over his pipe. He resolved to strike his last blow. With his bundle of scalps under his arm, he entered I and struck the Indian dead with his hatchet. But a guard in the other end of the cabin raised the I alarm. Piskaret fled, pursued by the Iroquois. But according to the story, Piskaret was so swift on his feet as to run down deer and buffalo. Now, when his pursuers approached him, he would give them an encouraging whoop, and then spring from them and be out of their sight in a moment.

The five or six young men who had persisted in the chase, being worn out with hunger and fatigue, stopped, when night came on, to rest, and were soon asleep. Meantime Piskaret was hidden in a hollow tree, watching their movements, and when everything was quiet he slipped upon the sleeping warriors and killed them all. Nevertheless the Iroquois afterwards secured the head of this indomitable warrior in one of their raids into his country, in which they massacred and captured hundreds of his people.

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