The History of New York State
Editor, Dr. James Sullivan
Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam
|Frontenac was indeed only able
to wage what is called guerrilla (irregular) warfare. His operations
were in the nature of sharp quick raids into the enemy country. He was
an army in himself., Despite, "poverty
of men and armaments" Frontenac's energy daring, resource, and
ability enabled him to carry the war to the English in American with a
high hand and for almost a decade. He inspired confidence in his Indian
allies, and, with their aid, was able to keep the frontier in continual
unrest. He might have very considerably changed the history of North
America had his efforts been better supported by the home government.
Frontenac arrived in New France in October, 1689, and at once began to marshal his resources. He did not wait for what might be called "the open season." He planned to carry war to the English at once, despite the rigors of the North American winter. Imagine the daring of the man who, with not many hundreds of garrison soldiers in his command, would optimistically plan three separate concurrent expeditions which would take them hundreds of miles in the dead of winter through the heart of an enemy country--and that enemy a powerful ferocious native group of nations which had only recently brought terror even to the gates of Montreal--and at the end attack fortressed white groups able to call to arms twenty times as much man power as he had at command. But in those days the element of daring was nine-tenth of the battle strength. The invading army with which Frontenac hoped to capture Albany numbered 120 men, nearly half of them Indians, whom the Iroquois nations would be inclined to shoot at sight. Yet they set out. When they were at Ticonderago, the fatal spot where the daring Champlain had, with his "white man's lighting" almost eighty years before, stirred unquenchable hatred in the paramount native group, generating a revengeful element which ad zigzagged bloody through the French zone ever since, the small band of Indians who had come with Frontenac's soldiers lost courage. They dreaded to go farther into the land of their hereditary enemy. They insisted upon knowing whither they were being led. When told that they were to attack Albany, the showed such reluctance that the French leader though it prudent to detour at Schuyerville, and take the trail that led to Schenectady, leaving the Albany attack to a more favorable future opportunity.
Schenectady was only thirty-seven miles distant, yet it took the invading force nine days to cover the distance. They had had to wallow through the slush of a January thaw of deep snow. They were still some days distant from their objective when winter came into its own again. Bitter cold prevailed and the marauders had to advance in the teeth of a blizzard which obliterated all landmarks. AS they neared Schenectady the thought uppermost in the minds of the invaders was surrender. The settlement now seemed to them to be a haven--a port in which they might find shelter from the icy blast and rest after so many days of battle with the elements. They found that fortune favored them and France. Victory was theirs almost without further effort. The element of daring had been ridiculed by the settlers at Schenectady. Who could be so foolish as to expose themselves unnecessarily to the rigors of winter? Who would elect to o far from home fires are such a season? They in Schenectady had nought to fear from the Mohawks, and the French at their nearest, were hundred of miles away. So, for two hours, from about 11 o'clock on the night of February 8, 1690, blood ran on many hearths in Schenectady. Sixty men, women and children were killed, and eighty or ninety carried away into captivity. Some of the settlers managed to elude the Indians and escape, scantily clad, over the snow to Albany. One wound man, Simon Schermerhorn, brought the news of the massacre to Albany at daybreak, having ridden the distance, but some of those who followed afoot suffered severely from cold.
A party of horsemen set out from Albany to the relief, but the raiding French and Indians had already departed. The sights that met the eyes of the rescuers held them horror-stricken in the devastated village for some time. Seventy-eight of eighty houses had been razed. Wherever they looked were the evidences of savagery. Schuyler, commandant at Albany, in his report of the massacre, said: "No pen can write, and no words can express the cruelties that were committed."
Similar tactics marked the other expeditions of that winter. One group of French and Indians, under Hertel, took the Three Rivers route, and burned Salmon Falls in Maine in March, 1690. Then having united with a force from Quebec they went on to Casco Bay, (Falmouth), attacking the fortress at that place in April. Frontenac's forces were consistently successful. The French Governor of Canada was therefore keen to organize more ambitious campaigns. He appealed to King Louis for more troops, so that he might properly attack and occupy New York; but his sovereign lord was compelled to confess that the situation at home would not permit him to strengthened the Quebec garrison.
Meanwhile, the colonial governments of the English zone took steps to meet the danger from Canada. They were not alarmed, but knew that they must stir themselves in defense. Soon after the Schenectady massacre, Schuyler appealed to the governments of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, and even Virginia to aid the Albany government. Connecticut offered sound advise, suggesting to Schuyler that the present "was no time to quarrel with New York." Schuyler was of the same mind, and did not hesitate to ask Leisler for support. Leisler showed that he could put personal affronts behind him. His first thought was the safety of the province; so he at once made arrangements to meet the common danger; moreover he supported the Albany government in their appeal to new England.
Leisler did not enter halfheartedly into any action upon which he had set his mind. He saw that concerted plan of operations against the French was vital to the existence of New England as well as New York; and he lost no time in acting upon the conviction. He invited the othercolonies to send delegates to New York City to consider united action. In this way he comes distinctly into American history as the promoter of the first English Colonel Congress. #3 Seven delegates made up this historic convention. They were Messrs. Stoughton, Sewell, Gold, Pitkin, Walley, Leisler, and De la Noye. They went into session at New York City in May, 1690, and agreed that New York should provide 400 men, Massachusetts 160, Connecticut, 135, Plymouth 60, Maryland 100. The delegates unanimously agreed that Leisler should appoint the commander.
This force was to cooperate with a naval force in attacking Quebec. On the 30th of July, 1690, therefore, 515 men gathers at Albany and departed northward with General Fitz-John Winthrop, of Connecticut, in command. It seems that 50 of these soldiers were supplied by Maryland, 135 by Connecticut and the remainder by New York. Massachusetts and the other New England States made up the greater force which was to proceed by sea under the command of Sir William Phips. Phips had already succeeded in one naval expedition in that year, having destroyed Port Royal, seized the governor of Acadia, and reduced that colony to English rule. Now he has to command the larger New England expedition against Quebec, his fleet of 32 ships sailing from Boston in August, 1690. With him went a landing force of New England soldiers, his force numbering in all 2,200 men.
Misfortune dogged the steps of the expedition from New York. Bickerings as to the right to command destroyed morale and reduced efficiency. When the force reach lake George it was found that no means of getting over it were available. Sickness also reduced the force, and the less determined militia resolved to abandon the plan of invasion, but one determined New Yorker, Captain John Schuyler, was not of that mind. He could not forget the massacre at Schenectady. The French and Indians must not be permitted to go unpunished. He begged to be permitted to lead a smaller force into the enemy country. He asked for volunteers, and many responded, and at the head of 40 whites and 100 Indians he went on, rapidly nearing Montreal. They surprised La Prairie, treating the inhabitants of that place with some degree as the French had treated the careless people of Schenectady. "This expedition is noteworthy chiefly because it was the first armed force of white men to enter Canada from the colonies by the way of the Lakes." Phips' naval expedition was not so successful. His seemed a great armada, and possibly he was over-confident. At all events, while "the wheel of prayer in New England"was "continually going round," as Cotton Mather puts it, the naval expedition was sailing northward, "so leisurely that Frontenac had time to hear of its coming and to move down from Montreal to Quebec, and to prepare for defense When at length the fleet reached the fortress, the attack was so clumsily conducted--owing partly to Phips' inexperience in military affairs, and partly to Walley's cowardice and inefficiency--that repulse was inevitable. Men were landed at the wrong time and in the wrong places; ammunition was wasted in useless bombardments of work on which no impression could be made; useless exposure brought on fatal sickness; cold weather set in and caused a good deal of suffering. A second attempt, in which it was hoped some of these blinders might be corrected, was prevented by a storm which dispersed the fleet." Some of the ships never returned to Boston. Altogether it was a disastrous and expensive expedition, making necessary an emission of paper money --the first in American history--by Massachusetts. However, the popularity of Sit William Phips was not much impaired by this disaster; indeed he later became governor of Massachusetts and several other colonies.
Phips went to England for aid, but found William of Orange as absorbed as Louis in the home situation. The colonies must fight the Canadian French as best they could until a more favorable opportunity presented itself of sending English troops across the sea. At that time France controlled the sea, but needed all her man-power for her many battle-fronts at home. The situation in New York was made more serious buy the wavering attitude of the Iroquois. At Schenectady they had not raised a hand; neither had they been in any way molested by the raiding Indians, their inveterate enemies. Had it not been for the prestige recovered by Captain John Schuyler, in the La Prairie raid, the Iroquois Confederacy might have remained neutral--as a political body. However, at a council held in Albany in June, 1691, the chiefs of the confederated nations renewed treaties with the English, and on the 21st of that month Peter Schuyler, bother of Captain John, and then mayor of Albany, headed another raiding part along the route that his brother had taken in 1690.
Schuyler's force consisted of 266 men--120 whites, 80 Mohawks,, and 66 River Indians. They were challenged when within ten miles of Fort Chambly, but went on hastily to La Prairie, opposite Montreal/ there they encountered a force of about 420 French and Indians. After the first skirmish the Canadians fell back upon their defenses. These Schuyler attacked late in the same day. he accomplished his purpose, and was returning to his boats when he found that his retreat had been cut off. Then began a most desperate struggle, a fight which, in Frontenac's opinion, was "one of the most hotly contest engagement ever fought in Canada." Schuyler's report reads; "We broke through themiddle of their body until we got into their rear, trampling on their dead, then faced upon them, and fought them until we made them give way; then drove them by strength of arm four hundred paces before us." Thus, they literally hacked their way to their boats; and if, in their retreat, Schuyler's force may be said to have met defeat, the engagement became, in effect, a moral victory for the English. It strengthened the wavering Iroquois in their allegiance to the English, and alarmed the French of Canada. An Englishman, John Nelson, who was at that time a prisoner in Quebec, shows how uncomfortably near Schuyler came to capturing Montreal. He writes that Schuyler's foray was accounted in Quebec as "one of the most vigorous and glorious attempts that hath been known in these parts," the Canadians admitting that "if he had not been discovered by an accident, it is very probably he had become master of Montreal." So Peter Schuyler came into general esteem especially among the Iroquois. Bancroft calls him "the Washington of his times."
In 1692 the Iroquois warriors went far afield, adding to the perplexities of the French. Frontenac, nevertheless, was actively campaigning. He recovered Port royal, N. S., in 1691. One of his columns descended upon York, Maine, in 1692, and treated it as they had Schenectady, and other places. He could never rid himself of the Iroquois, who were as active and ferocious as a pack of hungry wolves. Torture could not intimidate them, and force could not crush them. Frontenac, in desperation, resolved upon winter campaign into the Iroquois country. Therefore, in January, 1693, a party of 100 whites and 500 Indians emerged from Fort Chambly and passed along the Great Warpath. In sixteen days the reached the first Mohawk town, but no Indians were in sight. They destroyed it, and in the same way laid waste the second town. they surprised the third, getting more satisfaction out of the capture of some Indians than by laying waste their flimsy towns. But the French could not venture farther, for they were coming too near to the region of Peter Schuyler. Indeed, two days after they had begun to retreat, they were overtaken by the redoubtable Albanian. Major Schuyler commanded a mixed force of five or six hundred men, including some Oneida Indians. The French erected defenses hastily, and beat off the attack. They had an advantage, for Schuyler had so hastily mobilized his force that they were provisionless. However, the French were glad to seek escape under cover of a heavy snowstorm. Hampered by commissariat difficulties, Schuyler was not able to make effective pursuit, and eventually the French force reached the frontier safely. They suffered terribly on the way, for they too found provision scarce. They had cached a supply at Lake Champlain, but these stores had rotted.
Still, the forces of Frontenac did not have the monopoly of misfortune. An English fleet sailed as promised, in 1693, under command of Sir Francis Wheeler, with a force strong enough to sweep the French outof Canada, but Wheeler's expedition was destined to end without a blow being struck. His vessels were overcrowded, and disease became epidemic. More then 3,000 of his soldiers and sailors died. So the fortunes of Frontenac grew considerably brighter. He planned a regular campaign, though the operations were so far away from New York that no tense local situation came for some years.
The English ministers, during 1694 and 1695, tried to get the colonies to combine for an attack upon Canada, or to defend New York, upon which in particular it was suspected that Frontenac had designs. The English Council of Trade and Plantations, in fact, order all colonies north of Carolina to furnish quotas for the purpose. Some of the provinces openly disregarded the ordinance and it was never enforced.
Frontenac, was not getting old. Perhaps he realized that another younger hand must soon take from him the staff of authority, but he not like to leave a job undone. Forever worried by the Iroquois, Frontenac resolved to make one last effort to clear them from the path of France. The Five Nations had been negotiating with him, but he had been adamant. He would accept nought but absolute unconditional submission. This, the proud Iroquois would not consider. So Frontenac resolved to enforce the authority of the King of France with his own sword. He rebuilt Fort Frontenac, and in July, 1696, marshaled an impressive force in that vicinity. Frontenac decided to lead the expedition himself. So. Carried in a basket, the physically infirm but mentally resolute Governor led the invading army into the Iroquois county. The force proceeded by way of Oswego River. they reached Onondaga Lake on August 1st. One is not surprised to read that the Onondagas melted before them, for Frontenac's army consisted of 2,200 men--regulars, militia and Indians, with adequate artillery. From the Onondaga country, the French went into that of the Oneidas. Here they came nearer to the Indians, taking a castle and a few prisoners. Frontenac made known to the Oneidas that they night have peace if they would emigrate to Canada. But Frontenac's great army, which was to forever subdue the Iroquois Confederacy, did little more than destroy crops and raze Indian towns. The Indians followed their usual tactics by disappearing into the woods upon the approach of the French vanguard. Thus they lived to fight another day, and the great expedition from Canada came to nought.
The peace of Ryswick came in 1697 t end Frontenac's military exploits in New York. In any case the "Grim Reaper" would have ended them in the next year for death came to the distinguished Canadian governor in November, 1698. He was then almost an octogenarian. With his passing also ended the period in which the Iroquois nations took almost the major part for the English in the struggle fro supremacy. As a matter of fact, the incursion of 1693 into the Mohawk country "was the last party made up chiefly of Indians that passed over," the Great Warpath. The Iroquois had played their important part in the destiny of the English in America. Henceforth, the struggle was to be mainly between the European peoples, with the Iroquois Confederacy favoring the English in general, but not so positively as informer days.
"New York: The Planting and Growth of the Empire State," by
Ellis H. Roberts.
The following of Francis Parkman's works:
Publications of the Buffalo Historical Society:
Massachusetts Historical Society's Collections, 1801.
"Life and Times of Philip Schuyler," by Lossing
"The Colden Papers," New York Historical Society
"Memoirs of General John Stark," by Caleb Stark.
Journal of Colonel Nathaniel Woodhull, 1760.
"The Holland Land Purchase," by Turner
"History of Lake Champlain," by W. H. Crockett
"History of Herkimer," by N. S. Benton
"The Iroquois," by S. C. Kimm
"Pioneer History of Champlain Valley," by William Guilliland
Also many local histories of Northern, Western and Central New York.
The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927
This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library
Transcribed by Holice B. Young
HTML by Debbie Axtman
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