« AnteriorContinuar »
and had a self-appointed ministry. The latter was closed against every ray of theological light, and dominated by a foreign priesthood, from whose teachings there was not a single dissenter. The one were self-reliant, self-sustaining, and energetic; ever pressing their way against the receding forests; always advancing, but never retreating The other were accustomed to follow a leader, and depend upon the parent country for supplies, which they might have produced themselves. The inhabitants of British America had the press, local legislatures, municipal discipline, the benefit of free schools, and were accustomed to think and act for themselves. As the result, from the waters of the southern gulf to where civilization is stayed by barriers of perpetual frost, the continent is their heritage.
In response to the advice of the British government, Virginia raised a force for the protection of her frontier, and sent Major Washington with a letter to the French commandant on the Ohio, requesting him to withdraw his troops from the dominion of Great Britain. The officer courteously replied that it was not his province to determine whether the land situated on the Ohio belonged to his sovereign, but he would transmit the letter to his superior officer, and act in accordance with his instructions. In the meantime, he did not think it incumbent upon him to obey the summons of the British government, and would defend his position with all the skill and force at his command.” Washington, after encountering much hardship, returned safely, and reported the reply of the French officer. The following year he received orders from the governor of Virginia to proceed with 200 men and complete the erection of a fort at the junction of the Monongahela and the Alleghany, previously commenced by the Ohio company. The attempt to execute the order was defeated by the French officer, M. Contrecour, who, anticipating the arrival of the Virginia forces, moved down to the mouth of the Monongahela in advance, with 18 pieces of cannon and a force of 1,000 French and Indians. He drove away the small detachment of Virginia milltia and some employes in the Ohio company, and completing the fort they had commenced, they called it DuQuesne, in honor of the governor of New France. In the meavtime, a small detachment under Jummonville, was sent to notify Washington to withdraw from French territory. The American officer, learning beforehand the approach of Jummonville, made arrangements to fall on him by surprise. At a place called the Little Meadows, the forces met, and Washington, ordering his men to fire, set the example by discharging his own musket. Its flash kindled the forests of America to a flame, and scattered its fires over the kingdom of Europe. It was the signal gun whose reverbrations followed the flight of years, announced the revolution which banished from the New World the institutions of the Middle Ages, and erected upon their ruins the fabric of free government. The tidings of the rencouter carried the fame of Washington across the Atlantic, and while his name was execrated by the advocates of feudal monarchy, they chanted in heroic verse the martyrdom of Jummonville, who had been slain in battle. 66 And at the very time Washington became known to France, the child was born who was one day to stretch out his hand for the relief of America. How many defeated interests bent
over the grave of Juminonville, and how many hopes clustered about the cradle of the infant Louis. "*
Fort Chartres was at this time the depot of supplies and the place of rendezvous for the united forces of Illinois and other posts of Louisiana. Shortly after the affray at the Little Meadows, M. de Villiers, a brother of Jummonville, and at the time an officer at Fort Chartres, solicited Macarty, the cominandant of the for. tress, to go and avenge the death of his relative. Permission was granted, and with a force from the garrison and a large number of Indians, he passed down the Mississippi and up the Ohio to Fort DuQuesne, of which he subsequently became the commander. From the fort he proceeded to the ground of the recent battle. Washington, finding himself confronted with greatly superior forces, fell back to Fort Necessity, a rude stockade previously erected at the Great Meadows. Thither they were followed by De Villiers with a force of 600 French and a smaller number of Indians, who took possession of an adjacent eminence and commenced firing from behind trees on the men in the fort beneath them. Animated by the cool determination of their commander, the raw provincials, so unequal in numbers and position to their assailants, for nine hours maintained their position. At length the French commander, fearing the exhaustion of his ammunition, proposed terms of capitulation, which Washington in his critical situation was compelled to accept. The terms were magnanimous, the besieged being permitted to retire with the honors of war and all their munitions, except the artillery. Upon the defeat of the Virginia forces, England and France took up the gauntlet, and the contest between the colonists became further intensified. In 1755, General Braddock arrived in Virginia with two regiments of British regulars. Washington was made one of his aids-de-camp, and afterward his force was augmented by the addition of 1,000 provincials. Thus strengthened he started for Fort DuQuesne, and at the Little Meadows received intelligence of the expected arrival of 500 troops to strengthen the garrison of the fort. Leaving Col. Dunbar with 800 men to bring up his stores, he hastened forward with the remainder to reach the fort in advance of the reinforcements. Crossing the Monongahela he pushed forward with so much rapidity that he seldom took time to reconpoitre the woods and tangled thickets through which he was passing. In the meantime the commandant at Fort DuQuesne, apprised by the French and Indian scouts of the approach of the British force, sent M. Beaujeu with a force of 250 French and 600 Indians to check their advance. Seven miles from the fort they concealed themselves on the borders of a ravine through which Braddock must pass, and awaited his arrival. As soon as his inen entered the hollow, the concealed enemy opened upon those in front, and the rear forces pushed rapidly forward to support them. Before this could be effected, the advanced columns fell back in a heap on the artillery, and the army became greatly confused. At this juncture the Virginia forces, contrary to orders, took positions behind trees and fought till all were killed except thirty men. The regulars, remaining in a compact body, were terribly cut to pieces. Braddock received a mortal wound and
died in the camp of Col. Dunbar, whither with the shattered remnants of his army he retreated. Never before had the Indians received such a harvest of scalps as that gathered from the fatal field. Dressed in the laced hats and scarlet coats of the dead, they celebrated the victory by exhibiting their personal decorations and firing guns, which were answered by the artillery of the fort.
When the news of the battle became known the two belligerents increased their forces, and in 1754 Fort Duquesne again became the objective point of an English army. Gen. Forbes, with a force of 7,000, approached it, and the garrison of Illinois and other troops being unable to cope with such a formidable army, dis. mantled the fort and retired to different parts of the West. A portion of the fugitives under M. Massac descended the Ohio river and built a fort on the Illinois side of the stream, forty miles from its mouth. The fort bore the name of its founder, and was fur. nished with a small garrison till the close of the war. Such was the origin of the last French fort built on the Ohio, divested of the romance which fable has thrown around its name.* In the course of the struggle Ticonderoga, Crown Point and Niagara, fell before the victorious arms of England, and finally it terminated in 1759 by the capture of Quebec. As the result of the contest on the Plains, of Abraham, Illinois and its vast resources becaine the heritage of a different race. Auglo-Saxon energy and progress were now to gather from its prolitic soil treasures far exceeding in value the exhaustless mines of gold, which had haunted the imagination of its Gallic inhabitants, even if their dreams had been realized. In this closing battle the colossal power of France in North America received a fatal blow. From her first permanent settlement on the St. Lawrence she held dominion over its waters for a period of 150 years. The Teutonic race, with its partiality for individual rights, for self-government and freedom, now obtained the dominion of a continent from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pole, and the English tonguge, whose utterance 150 years before was confined to two small islands on the western verge of Europe, was now to become the language of a continent, and ultimately, perhaps, a universal vehicle for the expression of human thought.
*INOTE:--Jas. Hall, in his Sketches of the West, says: "The French had also a fort on the Ohio, about 36 miles above the junction of that river with the Mississippi, of which the Indians obtained possession by a singular stratagem. A number of them appeared in the day time on the opposite side of the river, each covered with a bearskin, walking on all-fours, and imitating the motions of that animal. The French supposed them to be bears, and a party crossed the river in pursuit of them. The remainder of the troops left their quarters and resorted to the bank of the river, in front of the garrison, to observe the sport. In the meantime, a large body of warriors, who were concealed in the woods gear by, came silently up behind the fort, entered it without opposition, and very few of the French escaped the carnage. They afterward built another fort on the same ground, which they called Massacre, la memory of this disastrous event, and which retained the name of Fort Massac after it passed into the hands of the American government." The Rev. J. M. Peck, in bis * Annals of the West," thinks "the foregoing statement is a truthful one, according to all the traditional evidence we can collect." Dr. Lewis Beck's Gazeteer of Illinois and Missouri contains the same story, as also Reynold's Pioneer History of Illinois ; and in his Life and Times, the latter says : "Fort Massacre was established by the French about the year 1711, and was also a missionary station It was only a small fortress until the war of 1755 between the English and French. In 1756 th fort was enlarged and made a respectable fortres , considering the wilderness it was in. It was at this pla e where the Christian missionaries instructed the Southern Indians in the gospel precepts, and it was here also that the French soldiers made a resolute stand against the enemy. The place is also referred to some times as the "old Cherokee Fort." The Letters Edifantes indicate it to have been a mission and trading post about 1711 In 1800 two companies of U. S. troops were stationed at Fort Massac and a few families resided in the vicinity. In 1855, says Reynolds, he visted the site. The walls of the ruins were 135 feet square, pallisaded with earth between, and with strong bastions at each angle Three or four acres were beautifully gravelled with pebbles from the river, on the north of the fort, as a parade ground. The site is a beautiful one.)
1759–1763—THE CONSPIRACY OF PONTIAC—ATTACK UPON DETROIT—DESTRUCTION OF BRITISH POSTS AND SETTLEMENTS.
It has already been stated that the downfall of Quebec was the overthrow of French power in North America. It was not, however, until 1760, when the feeble and disheartened garrison of Montreal capitulated without resistance, that Canada and its dependencies were surrendered to the British. The overthrow of French supremacy was now assured, but the recoil of the blow which had smitten it down was the cause of another great struggle more desolating and widely extended than the first, but ended without accomplishing any political results. In the second contest the red man became the principal actor and exhibited a degree of sagacity and constancy of purpose never before witnessed in the history of his warfare. The English, to reap the fruits of their victory at Quebec, sent Major Robert Rogers to take possession of the outposts on the frontier. He was a native of New Hampshire, and his startling adventures in the recent colonial struggle had made him the model hero of New England firesides. As he coasted along the southern shore of Lake Erie in the early part of November, 1760, on his way to Detroit, it suddenly became cold and stormy, and he determined to put ashore and wait the return of pleasant weather. A camp was soon formed in the adjacent forest, then clothed in the fading hues of Autumn, when a number of chiefs made their appearance and announced themselves as an embassy from Pontiac. The day did not pass away before the daring chief himself came to the camp and demanded of Rogers his business in the country. The latter replied that he was on his way to Detroit to make peace with the white men and Indians. Pontiac listened with attention and said he would stand in his path till morning, and after inquiring if they needed anything which his country afforded withdrew. This was Rogers' first interview with this Napoleon of his race, whose great conspiracy forms the subject of this chapter.
According to tradition, he was of medium height, commanding appearance, and possessed a muscular frame of great symmetry and vigor. His complexion was darker than usual with individuals of his race; his features stern, bold, and irregular, and his bearing that of a person accustomed to surmount all opposition by the force of an imperious will. He was generally clad in a scanty cincture girt about his loins, with his long black hair flowing loosely behind, but on public occasions he plumed and painted after the manner of his tribe. On the following morning, in company with his chiefs, he again visited the camp and told Rogers he was willing to be at peace with the English and suffer them to remain in his country as long as they treated him and his countrymen with due deference and justice. Hitherto he had been the devoted friend of the French, and the motive which now actuated him was apparent. Shrewd, politic, and ambitious, he sagaciously concluded that the power of France was declining, and it might be best to secure the good will of the English. He hoped by the aid of such powerful allies to extend his influence over the tribes of his own race, and flattered himself that they also would treat him with the deference which had previously been accorded him by the French. Rogers had several interviews with him, and was struck with the native vigor of his understanding and the wonderful power he exercised over those about him.
The storm abating, Rogers and his men resumed their voyage up the lake. A messenger had been sent in advance to notify Captain Beletre, the French Commandant at Detroit, that Canada had surrendered, and that an English force was on its way to relieve him. This officer was greatly incensed at the reception of the rews;
treated it as an informal communication, and stirred up the Indians to resist the advance of Rogers. When, therefore, the latter arrived at the mouth of the Detroit, and was about to ascend it, he found four hundred Indian warriors ready to dispute his further progress. Pontiac however, whose vigilance was ever on the alert, interposed in behalf of his new friends, and they were permitted to reach Detroit without further opposition. Rogers immediately took possession of the fort, and the French garrison defiled out on the plain and laid down their arms. As the French colors were lowered from the flagstaff, and those of England hoisted aloft, the spectacle was greeted by the yells of 700 Indian warriors. The Canadian militia were next disarmed, and the Indians, unable to comprehend why so many should submit to so few, regarded with astonishment what they considered as obsequibus conduct on the part of their recent allies. Nothing is so effective in winning the respect of savages as an exhibition of power, and hence the Indians formed the most exalted conceptions of English prowess, but were greatly surprised at their sparing the lives of the vanquished.
Thus, on the 29th of November, 1760, Detroit passed into the hands of the English. The French garrison was sent prisoners down the lake, while the Canadian residents were suffered to retain their houses and lands on the condition of their swearing allegiance to the government. Officers were sent to the southwest to take possession of Forts Miami and Watannon, the first situated on the head waters of the Maumee, and the latter on the Wabash not far from the site of the present town of Lafayette. Rogers next started to relieve the forts on the upper lakes, but was prevented by the gathering ice and storms of Lake Huron. The following season, however, the forts at the head of Green Bay and the mouth of the St. Joseph, and those on the straits of St. Mary and Mackinaw, were garrisoned by small detachments of English troops. The flag of France still waved over the plains of Ilinois,