An Abridged History of Canada
Chapter VIII.-"The Agony of Canada"—To 1689


Frontenac recalled—De la Barre, Viceroy—1682. Iroquois War renewed —Disaster of Famine Cove—1684. Denonville, Viceroy -Seizes Iroquois Chiefs—1685. Defeats Senecas —Plants Western Forts —1687. Iroquois Ravage Frontier—Treachery of Le Rat—1688. Massacre of Lachine, the "brain-blow" of Canada—1689.

During the ten years of Frontenac's first colonial administration, his haughty and overbearing manners involved him in perpetual disputes with the Bishop, the Intendant, the Council, the Jesuits—in fact, with all who opposed his often arbitrary will. At length, wearied with complaints, the King recalled Frontenac in 1682, and appointed M. de la Barre his successor. On his arrival in Canada, he found the country threatened with the outbreak of another Iroquois war. Mustering a thousand militiamen and Indians, and a handful of regulars, at Fort Frontenac, he proceeded to invade the Seneca country; but was compelled to make an ignominious peace. He was soon recalled in disgrace, and was succeeded by the Marquis de Denonville.

Denonville, who was shortly followed by six hundred regulars, after a few hours' rest at Quebec, pushed on to Fort Frontenac; and in June, 1687, defeated the Senecas with great loss. He spent ten days ravaging the country, burning the villages, and destroying an immense stock of maize—over a million bushels, says one account. He planted palisaded posts at Niagara, Toronto, Detroit, Sault Ste. Marie, Mackinaw, and on the Illinois River, as a barrier against the encroachments of the English or their Iroquois allies.

The whole Five Nations now united to avenge the 1688 the Senecas. They prowled like famished wolves all along the frontier. They lay in wait near every settlement, thirsting for Christian blood. During this fatal year, over a thousand of the colonists fell by the scalping knife or tomahawk of their relentless foe.

In this extremity, negotiations for peace were opened under the menace of a thousand Iroquois warriors at Lake St. Francis, who demanded the restoration of their betrayed chiefs, now toiling in the royal galleys in France. While the negotiations were pending, a crafty Huron chief, Kondiarak or the Rat, a forest Machiavelli, offended at the prospect of a treaty with his hereditary foe, by a deed of double treachery fell on an Iroquois embassy, and declared that he acted by the command of the French. He had effectually, as he boasted, "killed the peace." The incipient treaty was broken off, and the war was waged with intenser violence.

The culminating act in this bloody drama was the massacre of Lachine in 1689. On the night of August 5th, twelve hundred painted warriors landed amid a shower of hail on the Island of Montreal. Before daybreak they lay in wait around every dwelling in the doomed village. At a given signal, the dreadful war-whoop awoke the sleepers to a death-wrestle with a pitiless foe. Men, women, and children were dragged from their beds and indiscriminately butchered with atrocious cruelty. The houses were fired, and two hundred persons perished in the flames. As many more were carried off for the nameless horrors of deliberate torture. For two months the victors ravaged the island, the besieged inhabitants of Ville Marie cowering in mortal fear behind their palisades.

This "brain-blow" seems to have staggered the colony. Fort Frontenac was blown up and abandoned. The dominion of France in the New World was practically reduced to the forts of Quebec, Three Rivers, and Montreal. At this hour of its deepest depression, Denonville was recalled, and the fiery Frontenac was re-appointed Governor.


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