Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The Campaign of Lieut. Gen. John Burgoyne
and The Expedition of Lieut. Col. Barry St. Leger.
by William L. Stone.
Albany, NY, Joel Munsell. 1877.

No. XII.


When the war of the American Revolution broke out, Charles de Langlade was forty-six years old, but his age sat lightly upon him. At the solicitation of Captain De Peyster of Michilimakinac, he resolved, if his services were required, to take an active part in the war, which, according to the Miscellanies of this officer, " secured in our interest all the western Indians." Indeed, he was very soon authorized to raise an Indian

1 From the Wisconsin Hist, Col., vol. VII.

force, and " attack the rebels every time he met them," to use the language of Captain De Peyster's orders.

Embodying a numerous force of Sioux, Sacs, Foxes, Menominees, Winnebagoes, Ottawas and Chippewas, Langlade marched for Montreal. Upon their arrival in that city, a grand council was held with all the ceremonies so dear to the Indians. Larocque, the interpreter of the Sioux, being unable to fulfill his functions, Langlade translated the speeches of the chiefs of that tribe into the Chippewa dialect, which was familiar to almost all the Indians of the northwest, interpreting afterwards into French all that was said in Chippewa. It is well known that a war feast preceded most Indian expeditions ; and care was taken on this occasion, that this ancient and solemn custom should not be omitted. At the banquet which was given, an ox was roasted whole, and served to these voracious guests, who speedily devoured it. Grignon's Memoir does not designate any of the particular services rendered by Langlade at the head of the warriors. It simply says that he took part in engagements under the orders of Major Campbell, in the English army commanded by General Burgoyne, upon (the borders of Lake Champlain, and that he went with new recruits to Canada several times during the war.

The army of General Burgoyne, about eighty-five hundred soldiers, and five hundred savages strong, was to invade New York and effect its junction with General Howe at Albany. It assembled at Crown point the thirtieth of June, 1777, and began its movement early in July. It had been proposed, says the Canadian historian Garneau, to join with them a large number of Canadians; but in spite of their coldness and uncertainty as to the future, the mass of the people were but little disposed to fight against the Revolution. Thus Burgoyne was able to induce only one hundred and fifty inhabitants to follow him,1 the others were overwhelmed with fatigue duties at home.2

Langlade rejoined Burgoyne's army with his savages at Skenesborough, now Whitehall, at the end of July, 1777. He was accompanied by his brave old friend, Chevalier Luc du la Corne St. Luc,3 who though sixty-six

1 Anburey, in his travels, affirms that three hundred Canadians were enrolled in the army of Burgoyne. " This nation," says he, " sought not to be involved in a war of invasion which would expose them to reprisals on their own territory." But Burgoyne, in his State of the Expedition from Canada, page 10, declares positively that the number of Canadians who served in his army did not exceed one hundred and fifty.

2 Histoire du Canada, vol. III, p. 29.

3 Luc de la Corn St. Luc, Chevalier de St. Louis, is one of the Canadians who exercised the greatest influence over the savages. One of his first exploits was the capture of Fort Clinton, in 1747. He distinguished himself at the battle of Ticonderoga, where he carried off a convoy of one hundred and fifty of Gen. Abercrombie's wagons. He took part in the battle on the plains of Abraham, then at the victory of St. Foy, near Quebec, where he was wounded. He wished to go to France after the conquest of Canada; but the vessel l'Auguste, on which he embarked, was lost upon the coast of Cape Breton, November 15, 1761; and after this shipwreck of melancholy celebrity, in which, out of one hundred and twenty-one passengers, only seven escaped death, he returned to Canada, making a long and painful march through the woods, and remained permanently in the country. After the American war, St. Luc was appointed legislative councillor, and stoutly defended the political rights of the Canadians at an epoch when they were not always respected. He died at an advanced age.

years old, had not hesitated at the request of the governor of Canada, Sir Guy Carleton, to take the direction of the savage bands which had come to reinforce the English army.

According to Burgoyne, these children of the wilderness did not render all the assistance that was expected of them. They delighted only in pillage and theft, and were guilty of frightful murders. When there was the most need of their service, they began to disband, and very soon not one remained in camp. On this subject we adduce the testimony of Anburey, an officer of the English army, whose account is based entirely upon that of Burgoyne:

" The general showed great resentment to the Indians upon this occasion,1 and laid restraints upon their dispositions to commit other enormities. He was the more exasperated, as they were Indians of the remoter tribes who had been guilty of this offence, and whom he had been taught to look upon as more warlike. I believe, however, he has found equal depravity of principle reigns throughout the whole of them, and the only preeminence of the remoter tribes consists in their ferocity. From this time, there was an apparent change in their temper; ill-humor and mutinous disposition strongly manifested itself, when they found the plunder of the country was controlled ; their interpreters, who had a douceur in the capacity, being likewise debarred from those emoluments, were profligate enough to promote dissension, desertion and revolt.

1 The supposed murder of Miss Jane McCrea.

" In this instance, however, Monsieur St. Luc is to be acquitted of those factions, though I believe he was but too sensible of their pining after the accustomed horrors, and that they were become as impatient of his control as of all others, however, through the guide and interest of authority, and at the same time, the affectionate love he bore to his old associates, he was induced to cover the real cause under frivolous pretences of complaint.

" At the pressing instance of St. Luc, a council was called, when to the general's great astonishment, those nations he had the direction of, declared their intention of returning home, at the same time demanding the general to concur with and assist them. This event was extremely embarrassing, as it was giving up part of the force which had been obtained at a great expense to government, and from whose assistance so much was looked for , on the other hand, if a cordial reconciliation was made with them, it must be by indulgence in all their excesses of blood and rapine. Nevertheless the general was to give an immediate answer, he firmly refused their proposal, insisted upon their adherence to the restraints that had been established ; and at the same time, in a temperate manner represented to them their ties of faith, of generosity, and honor, adding many other persuasive arguments, to encourage them in continuing their service.

" This answer seemed to have some weight with them, as many of the tribes nearest home only begged, that some part of them might be permitted to return to their harvest, which was granted. Some of the remote tribes seemed to retract from their proposal, professing great zeal for the service. Notwithstanding this, to the astonishment of the general, and every one belonging to the army, the desertion took place the next day, when they went away by forces, loaded with such plunder as they had collected, and have continued to do so daily, till scarce one of those that joined us at Skenesborough is left.1"

If Burgoyne was unable to obtain more efficient aid from the savages, he had only himself to blame; for, if we may believe the testimony of their principal commandant, La Corne St. Luc, Burgoyne had fallen into the fatal errors of more than one of his predecessors, and had not acted in such a manner as to gain the confidence of the Indian tribes, who had come many hundreds of leagues to fight under the English flag.

We know that having won some easy triumphs, Burgoyne afterwards suffered many defeats, and was at length ignominiously beaten at Saratoga, October 7th, 1777, when he with his army was obliged to capitulate. On the 17th this disaster caused an immense sensation in England, and public opinion almost unanimously condemned the unfortunate general for the incapacity and improvidence he had shown. Burgoyne tried to justify his conduct by pamphlets, and by speeches in the House of Commons, where he had powerful friends. Desirous to throw the responsibility of his reverses upon others, he attacked with severity the conduct of the Canadians and Indians, complaining bitterly of their indifference or desertion, and involving their intrepid commander in the same blame.1

We have before us a speech pronounced "by Burgoyne in the House of Commons on the 26th of May, 1778, in which he brings the most injurious accusations against . the character of La Come St. Luc. This latter officer passed a part of the preceding winter in London, and had not hesitated to declare that Burgoyne did not seem to him so superior a commander as had been believed; hence the resentment of the unfortunate general against this Canadian officer :

" Sir, a gentleman has been in London great part of the winter, who I wish had been called to your bar. It is for the sake of truth only I wish it, for he is certainly no friend of mine. His name is St. Luc le Corne, a distinguished partisan of the French in the last war, and now in the British service as a leader of the Indians. He owes us, indeed, some service, having been formerly instrumental in scalping many hundred British soldiers upon the very ground where, though with a different sort of latitude, he was this year employed. He is by nature, education, and practice, artful, ambitious and a courtier. To the grudge he owed me for controlling him in the use

1 This general, says Garneau, wished to throw the blame upon the Canadians ; but in his army of eight thousand men, there were but one hundred and fifty combatants from our province. Burgoyne complained also in unmeasured terms of the conduct of M. de Luc, commandant of the savages ; but this officer easily repelled the attacks of a man who was a better talker than captain.

of the hatchet and scalping-knife, it was natural to his character to recommend himself to ministerial favor, by any censure in his power to cast upon an unfashionable general. He was often closeted by a noble lord in my eye (Lord George Germain) ; and with all these disadvantages, as he has not been examined here, I wish the noble lord to inform the House, what this man has presumed to say of my conduct with the Indians. I know, in private companies, his language has been, that the Indians might have done great services, but they were discharged. Sir, if to restrain them from murder was to discharge them, I take with pride the blame-they were discharged. That circumstance apart, I should say that the Indians and Mr. St. Luc at the head of them deserted.1"

To this summons Lord Germain responded, that he had indeed had interviews with M. St. Luc, in which the latter had declared that General Burgoyne was a good officer with regular troops ; but that he did not seem to like Indians, nor to have taken the measures necessary to retain their good will. In short, St. Luc had said to him,2 " General Burgoyne is a brave man; but he is as heavy as a German."

When intelligence of the speech of Gen. Burgoyne reached de la Corne St. Luc, he replied to it by-a very vigorous letter, dated at Quebec, October 23, 1778, which appeared in French, in the London papers. It

1 Parliamentary History of England, vol. xix, p. 1181.

2 Ibid., p. 1195.

produced an impression far from favorable to the cause of his accuser. In this letter, St. Luc says to General Burgoyne, that he has no right to treat him so indecorously ; that his origin is as good as his own-his adversary was a natural son-that his fifty years of service were ample demonstration that he had never shrank from the dangers of war, and that he had achieved a reputation long before he, Burgoyne, had had an opportunity to destroy one of the finest armies that had ever come into the country. He added, that if the Indians had little by little deserted the English army, it was because Burgoyne had not given them enough attention, nor taken sufficient care of them. In the affair at Bennington, August 16, 1777, when several hundred of the English were killed or taken prisoners, among whom were a good number of savages, the Indians were astonished to see, for instance, that Burgoyne sent no detachment to rally the stragglers of the vanquished body, or to succor the wounded, of whom many died.

" This conduct," says St. Luc, " did not give them a very high idea of the care that you would take of those who fought under your orders. The indifference which you manifested as to the fate of the Indians who took part in this (Bennington) expedition, to the number of a hundred and fifty, disgusted them to the last degree with the service ; for a large number of savages had perished

1 An error. General Burgoyne was born in lawful wedlock - and the gossip at the time was as cruel as it was unjust. For proof of this in full see Fonblanque's Life of Buryoyne.- W. L. S.

on the battle-field with their redoubtable chief, and of sixty-one Canadians, forty-five only escaped death.1" In the council which was held after this unfortunate affair, St. Luc informed Burgoyne of the discontent of the savages, which very soon broke out in so open a manner, that they left the English camp altogether, because Burgoyne refused them provisions, shoes, and the services of an interpreter.

" Respecting the reason for having deserted the army," says St. Luc to Burgoyne, "you should recollect that it | is you who were the cause of my departure ; for, two days after the savages had left, you saw your error, and Brigadier General Fraser had already foreseen the Consequences of your conduct in regard to the savages. You then sent for me to come to the brigadier's tent, and you asked me to return to Canada, bearing despatches to General Carleton praying his excellency to treat the Indians with kindness, and to send them back to you. This I did, and I should have joined the army, had not the communications been interrupted. * * * *

" Be that as it may, notwithstanding my advanced age, sixty-seven years, I am ready to cross the ocean to justify myself before the king, my master, and before my country, from the ill-founded accusation that you have brought

1 Captain F. Montague, who took part in Burgoyne's campaign, declared, when questioned by a committee of the House of Commons, on the 1st of June, 1779, that many savages quitted the army at different times after the defeat at Bennington, which corroborates the assertion of St. Luc on this point. See State of the Expedition from Canada, p. 75.

against me, although I do not at all care what you personally think of me."

This letter, full of noble pride, received no reply that we know of, and Burgoyne contented himself with making a soothing allusion in a speech which he made before the House of Commons, the fourteenth of the following December.1

While justifying himself thus completely, St. Luc at the same time revealed in its true light Langlade's conduct in this campaign ; for, bound together by a close friendship, holding similar positions, they acted under the same inspiration, and had in view only the true interests of the cause for which they fought. If neither was well understood by General Burgoyne, his want of tact and justice towards them, were only too fully avenged at a later period.

1 For this valuable letter from the Saratoga Sentinel of November 10th, 1835, I am indebted to the courtesy of my friend Mr. Lyman C. Draper of Madison, Wis., who first directed my attention to it.
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