France and England in North America, a Series of Historical Narratives, Part Third
by Francis Parkman
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The French were lodged in huts, near the Indian camp; and, fearing treachery, La Salle placed a guard at night. On the morning after the feast, he came out into the frosty air, and looked about him for the sentinels. Not one of them was to be seen. Vexed and alarmed, he entered hut after hut, and roused his drowsy followers. Six of the number, including two of the best carpenters, were nowhere to be found. Discontented and mutinous from the first, and now terrified by the fictions of Nicanope, they had deserted, preferring the hardships of the midwinter forest to the mysterious terrors of the Mississippi. La Salle mustered the rest before him, and inveighed sternly against the cowardice and baseness of those who had thus abandoned him, regardless of his many favors. If any here, he added, are afraid, let them but wait till the spring, and they shall have free leave to return to Canada, safely and without dishonor. [Footnote: Hennepin (1683), 162.—Declaration faite par Moyse Hillaret, charpentier de barque, cy devant au service du Sr. de la Salle, MS.]

This desertion cut him to the heart. It showed him that he was leaning on a broken reed; and he felt that, on an enterprise full of doubt and peril, there were scarcely four men in his party whom he could trust. Nor was desertion the worst he had to fear; for here, as at Fort Frontenac, an attempt was made to kill him. Tonty tells us that poison was placed in the pot in which their food was cooked, and that La Salle was saved by an antidote which some of his friends had given him before he left France. This, it will be remembered, was an epoch of poisoners. It was in the following month that the notorious La Voisin was burned alive, at Paris, for practices to which many of the highest nobility were charged with being privy, not excepting some in whose veins ran the blood of the gorgeous spendthrift who ruled the destinies of France. [Footnote: The equally famous Brinvilliers was burned four years before. An account of both will be found in the Letters of Madame de Sevigne. The memoirs of the time abound in evidence of the frightful prevalence of these practices, and the commotion which they excited in all ranks of society.]

In these early French enterprises in the West, it was to the last degree difficult to hold men to their duty. Once fairly in the wilderness, completely freed from the sharp restraints of authority in which they had passed their lives, a spirit of lawlessness broke out among them with a violence proportioned to the pressure which had hitherto controlled it. Discipline had no resources and no guarantee; while those outlaws of the forest, the coureurs de bois, were always before their eyes, a standing example of unbridled license. La Salle, eminently skilful in his dealings with Indians, was rarely so happy with his own countrymen; and yet the desertions from which he was continually suffering were due far more to the inevitable difficulty of his position than to any want of conduct.



La Salle now resolved to leave the Indian camp, and fortify himself for the winter in a strong position, where his men would be less exposed to dangerous influence, and where he could hold his ground against an outbreak of the Illinois or an Iroquois invasion. At the middle of January, a thaw broke up the ice which had closed the river; and he set out in a canoe, with Hennepin, to visit the site he had chosen for his projected fort. It was half a league below the camp, on a little hill, or knoll, two hundred yards from the southern bank. On either side was a deep ravine, and, in front, a low ground, overflowed at high water. Thither, then, the party was removed. They dug a ditch behind the hill, connecting the two ravines, and thus completely isolating it. The hill was nearly square in form. An embankment of earth was thrown up on every side: its declivities were sloped steeply down to the bottom of the ravines and the ditch, and further guarded by chevaux-de-frise; while a palisade, twenty-five feet high, was planted around the whole. The men were lodged in huts, at the angles: in the middle there was a cabin of planks for La Salle and Tonty, and another for the three friars; while the blacksmith had his shed and forge in the rear.

Hennepin laments the failure of wine, which prevented him from saying mass; but every morning and evening he summoned the men to his cabin, to listen to prayers and preaching, and on Sundays and fete days they chanted vespers. Father Zenobe usually spent the day in the Indian camp, striving, with very indifferent success, to win them to the faith, and to overcome the disgust with which their manners and habits inspired him.

Such was the first civilized occupation of the region which now forms the State of Illinois. The spot may still be seen, a little below Peoria. La Salle christened his new fort Fort Crevecoeur. The name tells of disaster and suffering, but does no justice to the iron-hearted constancy of the sufferer. Up to this time he had clung to the hope that his vessel (the "Griffin") might still be safe. Her safety was vital to his enterprise. She had on board articles of the last necessity to him, including the rigging and anchors of another vessel, which he was to build at Fort Crevecoeur, in order to descend the Mississippi, and sail thence to the West Indies. But now his last hope had well-nigh vanished. Past all reasonable doubt, the "Griffin" was lost; and in her loss he and all his plans seemed ruined alike.

Nothing, indeed, was ever heard of her. Indians, fur-traders, and even Jesuits, have been charged with contriving her destruction. Some say that the Ottawas boarded and burned her, after murdering those on board; others accuse the Pottawattamies; others affirm that her own crew scuttled and sunk her; others, again, that she foundered in a storm. [Footnote: Charlevoix, i. 459; La Potherie, ii. 140; La Hontan, Memoir on the Fur- Trade of Canada, MS. I am indebted for a copy of this paper to Winthrop Sargent, Esq., who purchased the original at the sale of the library of the poet Southey. Like Hennepin, La Hontan went over to the English; and this memoir is written in their interest.] As for La Salle, the belief grew in him to a settled conviction, that she had been treacherously sunk by the pilot and the sailors to whom he had intrusted her; and he thought he had found evidence that the authors of the crime, laden with the merchandise they had taken from her, had reached the Mississippi and ascended it, hoping to join Du Lhut, a famous chief of coureurs de bois, and enrich themselves by traffic with the northern tribes. [Footnote: Lettre de la Salle a La Barre, Chicagou, 4 Juin, 1683, MS. This is a long letter, addressed to the successor of Frontenac, in the government of Canada. La Salle says that a young Indian belonging to him told him that, three years before, he saw a white man, answering the description of the pilot, a prisoner among a tribe beyond the Mississippi. He had been captured with four others on that river, while making his way with canoes laden with goods, towards the Sioux. His companions had been killed. Other circumstances, which La Salle details at great length, convinced him that the white prisoner was no other than the pilot of the "Griffin." The evidence, however, is not conclusive.]

But whether her lading was swallowed in the depths of the lake, or lost in the clutches of traitors, the evil was alike past remedy. She was gone, it mattered little how. The main-stay of the enterprise was broken; yet its inflexible chief lost neither heart nor hope. One path, beset with hardships and terrors, still lay open to him. He might return on foot to Fort Frontenac, and bring thence the needful succors.

La Salle felt deeply the dangers of such a step. His men were uneasy, discontented, and terrified by the stories, with which the jealous Illinois still constantly filled their ears, of the whirlpools and the monsters of the Mississippi. He dreaded, lest, in his absence, they should follow the example of their comrades, and desert. In the midst of his anxieties, a lucky accident gave him the means of disabusing them. He was hunting, one day, near the fort, when he met a young Illinois, on his way home, half-starved, from a distant war excursion. He had been absent so long that he knew nothing of what had passed between his countrymen and the French. La Salle gave him a turkey he had shot, invited him to the fort, fed him, and made him presents. Having thus warmed his heart, he questioned him, with apparent carelessness, as to the countries he had visited, and especially as to the Mississippi, on which the young warrior, seeing no reason to disguise the truth, gave him all the information he required. La Salle now made him the present of a hatchet, to engage him to say nothing of what had passed, and, leaving him in excellent humor, repaired, with some of his followers, to the Illinois camp. Here he found the chiefs seated at a feast of bear's meat, and he took his place among them on a mat of rushes. After a pause, he charged them with having deceived him in regard to the Mississippi, adding that he knew the river perfectly, having been instructed concerning it by the Master of Life. He then described it to them with so much accuracy that his astonished hearers, conceiving that he owed his knowledge to "medicine," or sorcery, clapped their hands to their mouths, in sign of wonder, and confessed that all they had said was but an artifice, inspired by their earnest desire that he should remain among them. [Footnote: Relation des Decouvertes et des Voyages du Sr. de la Salle, Seigneur et Gouverneur du Fort de Frontenac, au dela des grands Lacs de la Nouvelle France, faits par ordre de Monseigneur Colbert; 1679, 80 et 81, MS. Hennepin gives a story which is not essentially different, except that he makes himself a conspicuous actor in it.]

Here was one source of danger stopped; one motive to desert removed. La Salle again might feel a reasonable security that idleness would not breed mischief among his men. The chief purpose of his intended journey was to procure the equipment of a vessel, to be built at Fort Crevecoeur; and he resolved that before he set out he would see her on the stocks. The pit- sawyers and some of the carpenters had deserted; but energy supplied the place of skill, and he and Tonty urged on the work with such vigor that within six weeks the hull was nearly finished. She was of forty tons burden, [Footnote: Lettre de Duchesneau, a—, 10 Nov. 1680, MS.] and built with high bulwarks to protect those within from the arrows of hostile Indians.

La Salle now bethought him that in his absence he might get from Hennepin service of more value than his sermons; and he requested him to descend the Illinois, and explore it to its mouth. The friar, though hardy and daring, would fain have excused himself, alleging a troublesome bodily infirmity; but his venerable colleague, Ribourde,—himself too old for the journey,—urged him to go, telling him that if he died by the way, his apostolic labors would redound to the glory of God. Membre had been living for some time in the Indian camp, and was thoroughly out of humor with the objects of his missionary efforts, of whose obduracy and filth he bitterly complained. Hennepin proposed to take his place, while he should assume the Mississippi adventure; but this Membre declined, preferring to remain where he was. Hennepin now reluctantly accepted the proposed task. "Anybody but me," he says, with his usual modesty, "would have been very much frightened at the dangers of such a journey; and, in fact, if I had not placed all my trust in God, I should not have been the dupe of the Sieur de la Salle, who exposed my life rashly." [Footnote: "Tout autre que moi en auroit ete fort ebranle. Et en effet, je n'eusse pas ete la duppe du Sieur de la Salle, qui m'exposait temerairement, si je n'eusse mis toute ma confiance en Dieu" (1704), 241.]

On the last day of February, Hennepin's canoe lay at the water's edge; and the party gathered on the bank to bid him farewell. He had two companions, Michel Accau, and a man known as the Picard Du Gay, [Footnote: An eminent writer has mistaken "Picard" for a personal name. Du Gay was called "Le Picard," because he came from the province of Picardy. Accau, and not Hennepin, was the real chief of the party.] though his real name was Antoine Auguel. The canoe was well laden with gifts for the Indians,— tobacco, knives, beads, awls, and other goods, to a very considerable value, supplied at La Salle's cost; "and, in fact," observes Hennepin, "he is liberal enough towards his friends." [Footnote: (1683), 188. This commendation is suppressed in the later editions.]

The friar bade farewell to La Salle, and embraced all the rest in turn. Father Ribourde gave him his benediction. "Be of good courage and let your heart be comforted," said the excellent old missionary, as he spread his hands in benediction over the shaven crown of the reverend traveller. Du Gay and Accau plied their paddles; the canoe receded, and vanished at length behind the forest. We will follow Hennepin hereafter on his adventures, imaginary and real. Meanwhile, we will trace the footsteps of his chief, urging his way, in the storms of winter, through those vast and gloomy wilds,—those realms of famine, treachery, and death, that lay betwixt him and his far-distant goal of Fort Frontenac.

On the second of March, [Footnote: Tonty erroneously places their departure on the twenty-second.] before the frost was yet out of the ground, when the forest was still leafless and gray, and the oozy prairie still patched with snow, a band of discontented men were again gathered on the shore for another leave-taking. Hard by, the unfinished ship lay on the stocks, white and fresh from the saw and axe, ceaselessly reminding them of the hardship and peril that was in store. Here you would have seen the calm impenetrable face of La Salle, and with him the Mohegan hunter, who seems to have felt towards him that admiring attachment which he could always inspire in his Indian retainers. Besides the Mohegan, four Frenchmen were to accompany him: Hunaud, La Violette, Collin, and Dautray. [Footnote: Declaration faite par Moyse Hillaret, charpentier de barque, MS.] His parting with Tonty was an anxious one, for each well knew the risks that environed both. Embarking with his followers in two canoes, he made his way upward amid the drifting ice; while the faithful Italian, with two or three honest men and twelve or thirteen knaves, remained to hold Fort Crevecoeur in his absence.



The winter had been a severe one. When La Salle and his five companions reached Peoria Lake, they found it sheeted from shore to shore with ice that stopped the progress of their canoes, but was too thin to bear the weight of a man.

They dragged their light vessels up the bank and into the forest, where the city of Peoria now stands; made two rude sledges, placed the canoes and baggage upon them, and, toiling knee-deep in saturated snow, dragged them four leagues through the woods, till they reached a point where the motion of the current kept the water partially open. They were now on the river above the lake. Masses of drift ice, wedged together, but full of crevices and holes, soon barred the way again; and, carrying their canoes ashore, they dragged them two leagues over a frozen marsh. Rain fell in floods; and, when night came, they crouched for shelter in a deserted Indian hut.

In the morning, the third of March, they dragged their canoes half a league farther; then launched them, and, breaking the ice with clubs and hatchets, forced their way slowly up the stream. Again their progress was barred, and again they took to the woods, toiling onward till a tempest of moist, half-liquid snow forced them to bivouac for the night. A sharp frost followed, and in the morning the white waste around them was glazed with a dazzling crust. Now, for the first time, they could use their snow- shoes. Bending to their work, dragging their canoes which glided smoothly over the polished surface, they journeyed on hour after hour and league after league, till they reached at length the great town of the Illinois, still void of its inhabitants. [Footnote: Membre says that he was in the town at the time, but this could hardly have been the case. He was, in all probability, among the Illinois in their camp near Fort Crevecoeur.]

It was a desolate and lonely scene,—the river gliding dark and cold between its banks of rushes; the empty lodges, covered with crusted snow; the vast white meadows; the distant cliffs, bearded with shining icicles; and the hills wrapped in forests, which glittered from afar with the icy incrustations that cased each frozen twig. Yet there was life in the savage landscape. The men saw buffalo wading in the snow, and they killed one of them. More than this: they discovered the tracks of moccasons. They cut rushes by the edge of the river, piled them on the bank, and set them on fire, that the smoke might attract the eyes of savages roaming near.

On the following day, while the hunters were smoking the meat of the buffalo, La Salle went out to reconnoitre, and presently met three Indians, one of whom proved to be Chassagoac, the principal chief of the Illinois. [Footnote: The same whom Hennepin calls Chassagouasse. He was brother of the chief, Nicanope, who, in his absence, had feasted the French on the day after the nocturnal council with Monso. Chassagoac was afterwards baptized by Membre or Ribourde, but soon relapsed into the superstitions of his people, and died, as the former tells us, "doubly a child of perdition." See Le Clercq, ii. 181.] La Salle brought them to his bivouac, feasted them, gave them a red blanket, a kettle, and some knives and hatchets, made friends with them, promised to restrain the Iroquois from attacking them, told them that he was on his way to the settlements to bring arms and ammunition to defend them against their enemies, and, as the result of these advances, gained from the chief a promise that he would send provisions to Tonty's party at Fort Crevecoeur.

After several days spent at the deserted town, La Salle prepared to resume his journey. Before his departure, his attention was attracted to the remarkable cliff of yellow sandstone, now called Starved Rock, a mile or more above the village,—a natural fortress, which a score of resolute white men might make good against a host of savages; and he soon afterwards sent Tonty an order to examine it, and make it his stronghold in case of need. [Footnote: Tonty, Memoire, MS. The order was sent by two Frenchmen whom La Salle met on Lake Michigan.]

On the fifteenth, the party set out again, carried their canoes along the bank of the river as far as the rapids above Ottawa; then launched them and pushed their way upward, battling with the floating ice, which, loosened by a warm rain, drove down the swollen current in sheets. On the eighteenth, they reached a point some miles below the site of Joliet, and here found the river once more completely closed. Despairing of farther progress by water, they hid their canoes on an island, and struck across the country for Lake Michigan. Each, besides his gun, carried a knife and a hatchet at his belt, a blanket strapped at his back, and a piece of dressed hide to make or mend his moccasons. A store of powder and lead, and a kettle, completed the outfit of the party. [Footnote: Hennepin (1683), 173.]

It was the worst of all seasons for such a journey. The nights were cold, but the sun was warm at noon, and the half-thawed prairie was one vast tract of mud, water, and discolored, half-liquid snow. On the twenty- second, they crossed marshes and inundated meadows, wading to the knee, till at noon they were stopped by a river, perhaps the Calumet. They made a raft of hard wood timber, for there was no other, and shoved themselves across. On the next day, they could see Lake Michigan, dimly glimmering beyond the waste of woods; and, after crossing three swollen streams, they reached it at evening. On the twenty-fourth, they followed its shore, till, at nightfall, they arrived at the fort, which they had built in the autumn at the mouth of the St. Joseph. Here La Salle found Chapelle and Leblanc, the two men whom he had sent from hence to Michillimackinac, in search of the "Griffin." [Footnote: Declaration de Moyse Hillaret, MS. Relation des Decouvertes, MS.] They reported that they had made the circuit of the lake, and had neither seen her nor heard tidings of her. Assured of her fate, he ordered them to rejoin Tonty at Fort Crevecoeur; while he pushed onward with his party through the unknown wild of Southern Michigan.

They were detained till noon of the twenty-fifth, in making a raft to cross the St. Joseph. Then they resumed their march; and as they forced their way through the brambly thickets, their clothes were torn, and their faces so covered with blood, that, says the journal, they could hardly know each other. Game was very scarce, and they grew faint with hunger. In two or three days they reached a happier region. They shot deer, bears, and turkeys in the forest, and fared sumptuously. But the reports of their guns fell on hostile ears. This was a debatable ground, infested with war- parties of several adverse tribes, and none could venture here without risk of life. On the evening of the twenty-eighth, as they lay around their fire under the shelter of a forest by the border of a prairie, the man on guard shouted an alarm. They sprang to their feet; and each, gun in hand, took his stand behind a tree, while yells and howlings filled the surrounding darkness. A band of Indians were upon them; but, seeing them prepared, the cowardly assailants did not wait to exchange a shot.

They crossed great meadows, overgrown with rank grass, and set it on fire to hide the traces of their passage. La Salle bethought him of a device to keep their skulking foes at a distance. On the trunks of trees from which he had stripped the bark, he drew with charcoal the marks of an Iroquois war-party, with the usual signs for prisoners, and for scalps, hoping to delude his pursuers with the belief that he and his men were a band of these dreaded warriors.

Thus, over snowy prairies and half-frozen marshes; wading sometimes to their waists in mud, water, and bulrushes, they urged their way through the spongy, saturated wilderness. During three successive days they were aware that a party of savages was dogging their tracks. They dared, not make a fire at night, lest the light should betray them; but, hanging their wet clothes on the trees, they rolled themselves in their blankets, and slept together among piles of spruce and pine boughs. But the night of the second of April was excessively cold. Their clothes were hard frozen, and they were forced to kindle a fire to thaw and dry them. Scarcely had the light begun to glimmer through the gloom of evening, than it was greeted from the distance by mingled yells; and a troop of Mascoutin warriors rushed towards them. They were stopped by a deep stream, a hundred paces from the bivouac of the French, and La Salle went forward to meet them. No sooner did they see him, and learn that he was a Frenchman, than they cried that they were friends and brothers, who had mistaken him and his men for Iroquois; and, abandoning their hostile purpose, they peacefully withdrew. Thus his device to avert danger had well-nigh proved the destruction of the whole party.

Two days after this adventure, two of the men fell ill from fatigue, and exposure, and sustained themselves with difficulty till they reached the banks of a river, probably the Huron. Here, while the sick men rested, their companions made a canoe. There were no birch-trees; and they were forced to use elm bark, which at that early season would not slip freely from the wood until they loosened it with hot water. Their canoe being made, they embarked in it, and for a time floated prosperously down the stream, when, at length the way was barred by a matted barricade of trees fallen across the water. The sick men could now walk again; and, pushing eastward through the forest, the party soon reached the banks of the Detroit.

La Salle directed two of the men to make a canoe, and go to Michillimackinac, the nearest harborage. With the remaining two, he crossed the Detroit on a raft, and, striking a direct line across the country, reached Lake Erie, not far from Point Pelee. Snow, sleet, and rain pelted them with little intermission; and when, after a walk of about thirty miles, they gained the lake, the Mohegan and one of the Frenchmen were attacked with fever and spitting of blood. Only one man now remained in health. With his aid, La Salle made another canoe, and, embarking the invalids, pushed for Niagara. It was Easter Monday, when they landed at a cabin of logs above the cataract, probably on the spot where the "Griffin" was built. Here several of La Salle's men had been left the year before, and here they still remained. They told him woful news. Not only had he lost the "Griffin," and her lading of ten thousand crowns in value, but a ship from France, freighted with his goods, valued at more than twenty-two thousand livres, had been totally wrecked at the mouth of the St. Lawrence; and of twenty hired men on their way from Europe to join him, some had been detained by his enemy, the Intendant Duchesneau, while all but four of the remainder, being told that he was dead, had found means to return home.

His three followers were all unfit for travel: he alone retained his strength and spirit. Taking with him three fresh men at Niagara, he resumed his journey, and on the sixth of May descried, looming through floods of rain, the familiar shores of his seigniory and the bastioned walls of Fort Frontenac. During sixty-five days he had toiled almost incessantly, travelling, by the course he took, about a thousand miles through a country beset with every form of peril and obstruction; "the most arduous journey," says the chronicler, "ever made by Frenchmen in America." Such was Cavelier de la Salle. In him, an unconquerable mind held at its service a frame of iron, and tasked it to the utmost of its endurance. The pioneer of western pioneers was no rude son of toil, but a man of thought, trained amid arts and letters. [Footnote: A Rocky Mountain trapper, being complimented on the hardihood of himself and his companions, once said to the writer, "That's so; but a gentleman of the right sort will stand hardship better than anybody else." The history of Arctic and African travel, and the military records of all time, are a standing evidence that a trained and developed mind is not the enemy, but the active and powerful ally, of constitutional hardihood. The culture that enervates instead of strengthening is always a false or a partial one.]

He had reached his goal; but for him there was neither rest nor peace. Man and nature seemed in arms against him. His agents had plundered him; his creditors had seized his property; and several of his canoes, richly laden, had been lost in the rapids of the St. Lawrence. [Footnote: Zenobe Membre in Le Clercq, ii. 202.] He hastened to Montreal, where his sudden advent caused great astonishment; and where, despite his crippled resources and damaged credit, he succeeded, within a week, in gaining the supplies which he required, and the needful succors for the forlorn band on the Illinois. He had returned to Fort Frontenac, and was on the point of embarking for their relief, when a blow fell upon him more disheartening than any that had preceded. On the twenty-second of July, two voyageurs, Messier and Laurent, came to him with a letter from Tonty; who wrote that soon after La Salle's departure, nearly all the men had deserted, after destroying Fort Crevecoeur, plundering the magazine, and throwing into the river all the arms, goods, and stores which they could not carry off. The messengers who brought this letter were speedily followed by two of the habitans of Fort Frontenac, who had been trading on the lakes, and who, with a fidelity which the unhappy La Salle rarely knew how to inspire, had travelled day and night to bring him their tidings. They reported that they had met the deserters, and that having been reinforced by recruits gained at Michillimackinac and Niagara, they now numbered twenty men. [Footnote: When La Salle was at Niagara, in April, he had ordered Dautray, the best of the men who had accompanied him from the Illinois, to return thither as soon as he was able. Four men from Niagara were to go with him, and he was to rejoin Tonty with such supplies as that post could furnish. Dautray set out accordingly, but was met on the lakes by the deserters, who told him that Tonty was dead, and seduced his men.—Relation des Decouvertes, MS. Dautray himself seems to have remained true; at least he was in La Salle's service immediately after, and was one of his most trusted followers. He was of good birth, being the son of Jean Bourdon, a conspicuous personage in the early period of the colony, and his name appears on official records as Jean Bourdon, Sieur d'Autray.] They had destroyed the fort on the St. Joseph, seized a quantity of furs belonging to La Salle at Michillimackinac, and plundered the magazine at Niagara. Here they had separated, eight of them coasting the south side of Lake Ontario to find harborage at Albany, a common refuge at that time of this class of scoundrels; while the remaining twelve, in three canoes, made for Fort Frontenac along the north shore, intending to kill La Salle as the surest means of escaping punishment.

He lost no time in lamentation. Of the few men at his command, he chose nine of the trustiest, embarked with them in canoes, and went to meet the marauders. After passing the Bay of Quinte, he took his station with five of his party at a point of land suited to his purpose, and detached the remaining four to keep watch. In the morning two canoes were discovered, approaching without suspicion, one of them far in advance of the other. As the foremost drew near, La Salle's canoe darted out from under the leafy shore; two of the men handling the paddles, while he with the remaining two levelled their guns at the deserters, and called on them to surrender. Astonished and dismayed, they yielded at once; while two more who were in the second canoe hastened to follow their example. La Salle now returned to the fort with his prisoners, placed them in custody, and again set forth. He met the third canoe upon the lake at about six o'clock in the evening. His men vainly plied their paddles in pursuit. The mutineers reached the shore, took post among rocks and trees, levelled their guns, and showed fight. Four of La Salle's men made a circuit to gain their rear and dislodge them; on which they stole back to their canoe, and tried to escape in the darkness. They were pursued, and summoned to yield; but they replied by aiming their guns at their pursuers, who instantly gave them a volley, killed two of them, and captured the remaining three. Like their companions, they were placed in custody at the fort to await the arrival of Count Frontenac. [Footnote: The story of La Salle's journey from Fort Crevecoeur to Fort Frontenac, with his subsequent encounter with the mutineers, is given in great detail in the unpublished Relation des Decouvertes. This and other portions of it are compiled, with little abridgment, from the letters of La Salle himself, some of which are still in existence. They give the particulars of each day with a cool and business-like simplicity, recounting facts without comment or the slightest attempt at rhetorical embellishment. This is the authority for the details of the journey: the general statement is confirmed by Membre, Hennepin, and Tonty. The Memoire of Tonty, though too concise, is excellent authority, and must by no means be confounded with the Relation de la Louisiane, to which his name is falsely affixed.]



And now La Salle's work must be begun afresh. He had staked all, and all had seemingly been lost. In stern relentless effort he had touched the limits of human endurance; and the harvest of his toils was disappointment, disaster, and impending ruin. The shattered fabric of his enterprise was prostrate in the dust. His friends desponded; his foes were blatant and exultant. Did he bend before the storm? No human eye could pierce the veiled depths of his reserved and haughty nature; but the surface was calm, and no sign betrayed a shaken resolve or an altered purpose. Where weaker men would have abandoned all in despairing apathy, he turned anew to his work with the same vigor and the same apparent confidence as if borne on the full tide of success.

His best hope was in Tonty. Could that brave and true-hearted officer, and the three or four faithful men who had remained with him, make good their foothold on the Illinois, and save from destruction the vessel on the stocks, and the forge and tools so laboriously carried thither,—then, indeed, a basis was left on which the ruined enterprise might be built up once more. There was no time to lose. Tonty must be succored soon, or succor would come too late. La Salle had already provided the necessary material, and a few days sufficed to complete his preparations. On the tenth of August, he embarked again for the Illinois. With him went his lieutenant, La Forest, who held of him in fief an island, then called Belle Isle, opposite Fort Frontenac. [Footnote: Robert Cavelier, Sr. de la Salle, a Francois Daupin, Sr. de la Forest, 10 Juin, 1679, MS.] A surgeon, ship-carpenters, joiners, masons, soldiers, voyageurs, and laborers completed his company, twenty-five men in all, with every thing needful for the outfit of the vessel.

His route, though difficult, was not so long as that which he had followed the year before. He ascended the River Humber; crossed to Lake Simcoe, and thence descended the Severn to the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron; followed its eastern shore, coasted the Manitoulin Islands, and at length reached Michillimackinac. Here, as usual, all was hostile; and he had great difficulty in inducing the Indians, who had been excited against him, to sell him provisions. Anxious to reach his destination, he pushed forward with twelve men, leaving La Forest to bring on the rest. On the fourth of November, [Footnote: This date is from the Relation. Membre says the twenty-eighth; but he is wrong, by his own showing, as he says that the party reached the Illinois village on the first of December,—an impossibility.] he reached the ruined fort at the mouth of the St. Joseph, and left five of his party, with the heavy stores, to wait till La Forest should come up, while he himself hastened forward with six Frenchmen and an Indian. A deep anxiety possessed him. For some time past, rumors had been abroad that the Iroquois were preparing to invade the country of the Illinois, bent on expelling or destroying them. Here was a new disaster, which, if realized, might involve him and his enterprise in irretrievable wreck.

He ascended the St. Joseph, crossed the portage to the Kankakee, and followed its course downward till it joined the northern branch of the Illinois. He had heard nothing of Tonty on the way, and neither here nor elsewhere could he discover the smallest sign of the passage of white men. His friend, therefore, if alive, was probably still at his post; and he pursued his course with a mind lightened, in some small measure, of its load of anxiety.

When last he had passed here, all was solitude; but how the scene was changed. The boundless waste was thronged with life. He beheld that wondrous spectacle, still to be seen at times on the plains of the remotest West, and the memory of which can quicken the pulse and stir the blood after the lapse of years. Far and near, the prairie was alive with buffalo; now like black specks dotting the distant swells; now trampling by in ponderous columns, or filing in long lines, morning, noon, and night, to drink at the river,—wading, plunging, and snorting in the water; climbing the muddy shores, and staring with wild eyes at the passing canoes. It was an opportunity not to be lost. The party landed, and encamped for a hunt. Sometimes they hid under the shelving bank, and shot them as they came to drink; sometimes, flat on their faces, they dragged themselves through the long dead grass, till the savage bulls, guardians of the herd, ceased their grazing, raised their huge heads, and glared through tangled hair at the dangerous intruders; their horns splintered and their grim front scarred with battles, while their shaggy mane, like a gigantic lion, well-nigh swept the ground. [Footnote: I have a very vivid recollection of the appearance of an old buffalo bull under such circumstances. When I was within a hundred yards of him, he came towards me at a sharp trot as if to make a charge; but, as I remained motionless, he stopped thirty paces off and stared fixedly for a long time. At length, he slowly turned, and, in doing so, received a shot behind the shoulder, which killed him. It is useless to fire at the forehead of a buffalo bull, at least with an ordinary rifle, as the bullet flattens against his skull. A shot at close quarters, just above the nose, would probably turn him in a charge. The usual modes of hunting buffalo on foot are those mentioned above. They are commonly successful; but at times the animals are excessively shy and wary, while at other times they are stupid beyond measure, and can be easily approached and killed. The hunter must remain perfectly motionless after firing, as the wounded animal is apt to make a rush at him if he moves. The most agreeable mode of hunting buffalo is, however, on horseback, running alongside of them, and shooting them behind the shoulder with a pistol or a short gun. A bow and arrow are better for those who know how to use them; but white men very rarely have the skill. I have seen, on different occasions, several hundred buffalo killed with arrows, by Indians on horseback. This noble game, with the tribes who live on it, will soon disappear from the earth.] The hunt was successful. In three days, the hunters killed twelve buffalo, besides deer, geese, and swans. They cut the meat into thin flakes, and dried it in the sun, or in the smoke of their fires. The men were in high spirits; delighting in the sport, and rejoicing in the prospect of relieving Tonty and his hungry followers with a bounteous supply.

They embarked again, and soon approached the great town of the Illinois. The buffalo were far behind; and once more the canoes glided on their way through a voiceless solitude. No hunters were seen; no saluting whoop greeted their ears. They passed the cliff afterwards called the Rock of St. Louis, where La Salle had ordered Tonty to build his stronghold; but as he scanned its lofty top, he saw no palisades, no cabins, no sign of human hand, and still its primeval crest of forests overhung the gliding river. Now the meadow opened before them where the great town had stood. They gazed, astonished and confounded: all was desolation. The town had vanished, and the meadow was black with fire. They plied their paddles, hastened to the spot, landed; and, as they looked around, their cheeks grew white, and the blood was frozen in their veins.

Before them lay a plain once swarming with wild human life, and covered with Indian dwellings; now a waste of devastation and death, strewn with heaps of ashes, and bristling with the charred poles and stakes which had formed the framework of the lodges. At the points of most of them were stuck human skulls, half picked by birds of prey. [Footnote: "Il ne restoit que quelques bouts de perches brulees qui montroient quelle avoit ete l'etendue du village, et sur la plupart desquelles il y avait des tetes de morts plantees et mangoes des corbeaux."—Relation des Decouvertes du Sr. de la Salle, MS.] Near at hand was the burial ground of the village. The travellers sickened with horror as they entered its revolting precincts. Wolves in multitudes fled at their approach; while clouds of crows or buzzards, rising from the hideous repast, wheeled above their heads, or settled on the naked branches of the neighboring forest. Every grave had been rifled, and the bodies flung down from the scaffolds where, after the Illinois custom, many of them had been placed. The field was strewn with broken bones and torn and mangled corpses. A hyena warfare had been waged against the dead. La Salle knew the handiwork of the Iroquois. The threatened blow had fallen, and the wolfish hordes of the five cantons had fleshed their rabid fangs in a new victim. [Footnote: "Beaucoup de carcasses a demi rongees par les loups, les sepulchres demolis, les os tires de leurs fosses et epars par la campagne; ... enfin les loups et les corbeaux augmentoient par leurs hurlemens et par leurs cris l'horreur de ce spectacle."—Ibid.

The above may seem exaggerated, but it accords perfectly with what is well established concerning the ferocious character of the Iroquois, and the nature of their warfare. Many other tribes have frequently made war upon the dead. I have myself known an instance in which five corpses of Sioux Indians, placed in trees, after the practice of the western bands of that people, were thrown down and kicked into fragments by a war party of the Crows, who then held the muzzles of their guns against the skulls and blew them to pieces. This happened near the head of the Platte, in the summer of 1846. Yet the Crows are much less ferocious than were the Iroquois in La Salle's time.]

Not far distant, the conquerors had made a rude fort of trunks, boughs, and roots of trees laid together to form a circular enclosure; and this, too, was garnished with, skulls, stuck on the broken branches, and protruding sticks. The caches, or subterranean storehouses of the villagers had been broken open, and the contents scattered. The cornfields were laid waste, and much of the corn thrown into heaps and half burned. As La Salle surveyed this scene of havoc, one thought engrossed him: where were Tonty and his men? He searched the Iroquois fort; there were abundant traces of its savage occupants, but none whatever of the presence of white men. He examined the skulls; but the hair, portions of which clung to nearly all of them, was in every case that of an Indian. Evening came on before he had finished the search. The sun set, and the wilderness sank to its savage rest. Night and silence brooded over the waste, where, far as the raven could wing his flight, stretched the dark domain of solitude and horror.

Yet there was no silence at the spot, where, crouched around their camp- fire, La Salle and his companions kept their vigil. The howlings of the wolves filled the frosty air with a fierce and dreary dissonance. More deadly foes were not far off, for before nightfall they had seen fresh Indian tracks. The cold, however, forced them to make a fire; and while some tried to rest around it, the others stood on the watch. La Salle could not sleep. Anxiety, anguish, fears for his friend, doubts as to what course he should pursue, racked his firm mind with a painful indecision, and lent redoubled gloom to the terrors that encompassed him. [Footnote: Relation des Decouvertes, MS.]

During the afternoon, he had made a discovery which offered, as he thought, a possible clew to the fate of Tonty, and those with him. In one of the Illinois cornfields, near the river, were planted six posts painted red, on each of which was drawn in black a figure of a man with eyes bandaged. La Salle supposed them to represent six Frenchmen, prisoners in the hands of the Iroquois; and he resolved to push forward at all hazards, in the hope of learning more. When daylight at length returned, he told his followers that it was his purpose to descend the river, and directed three of them to await his return near the ruined village. They were to hide themselves on an island, conceal their fire at night, make no smoke by day, fire no guns, and keep a close watch. Should the rest of the party arrive, they, too, were to wait with similar precautions. The baggage was placed in a hollow of the rocks, at a place difficult of access; and, these arrangements made, La Salle set out on his perilous journey with the four remaining men, Dautray, Hunaut, You, and the Indian. Each was armed with two guns, a pistol, and a sword; and a number of hatchets and other goods were placed in the canoe, as presents for Indians whom they might meet.

Several leagues below the village they found, on their right hand close to the river, a sort of island made inaccessible by the marshes and water which surrounded it. Here the flying Illinois had sought refuge with their women and children, and the place was full of their deserted huts. On the left bank, exactly opposite, was an abandoned camp of the Iroquois. On the level meadow stood a hundred and thirteen huts, and on the forest trees which covered the hills behind were carved the totems, or insignia, of the chiefs, together with marks to show the number of followers which each had led to the war. La Salle counted five hundred and eighty-two warriors. He found marks, too, for the Illinois killed or captured, but none to indicate that any of the Frenchmen had shared their fate.

As they descended the river, they passed, on the same day, six abandoned camps of the Illinois, and opposite to each was a camp of the invaders. The former, it was clear, had retreated in a body; while the Iroquois had followed their march, day by day, along the other bank. La Salle and his men pushed rapidly onward, passed Peoria Lake, and soon reached Fort Crevecoeur, which they found, as they expected, demolished by the deserters. The vessel on the stocks was still left entire, though the Iroquois had found means to draw out the iron nails and spikes. On one of the planks were written the words: "Nous sommes tous sauvages: ce 19— 1680;" the work, no doubt, of the knaves who had pillaged and destroyed the fort.

La Salle and his companions hastened on, and during the following day passed four opposing camps of the savage armies. The silence of death now reigned along the deserted river, whose lonely borders, wrapped deep in forests, seemed lifeless as the grave. As they drew near the mouth of the stream, they saw a meadow on their right, and, on its farthest verge, several human figures, erect yet motionless. They landed, and cautiously examined the place. The long grass was trampled down, and all around were strewn the relics of the hideous orgies which formed the ordinary sequel of an Iroquois victory. The figures they had seen were the half-consumed bodies of women, still bound to the stakes where they had been tortured. Other sights there were, too revolting for record. [Footnote: "On ne scauroit exprimer la rage de ces furieux ni les tourmens qu'ils avoient fait souffrir aux miserables Tamaroa (a tribe of the Illinois). Il y en avoit encore dans des chaudieres qu'ils avoient laissees pleines sur les feux, qui depuis s'etoient eteints," etc., etc.—Relation des Decouvertes, MS.] All the remains were those of women and children. The men, it seemed, had fled, and left them to their fate.

Here, again, La Salle sought long and anxiously, without finding the smallest sign that could indicate the presence of Frenchmen. Once more descending the river, they soon reached its mouth. Before them, a broad eddying current rolled swiftly on its way; and La Salle beheld the Mississippi, the object of his day-dreams, the destined avenue of his ambition and his hopes. It was no time for reflections. The moment was too engrossing, too heavily charged with anxieties and cares. From a rock on the shore, he saw a tree stretched forward above the stream; and stripping off its bark to make it more conspicuous, he hung upon it a board, on which he had drawn the figures of himself and his men, seated in their canoe, and bearing a pipe of peace. To this he tied a letter for Tonty, informing him that he had returned up the river to the ruined village.

His four men had behaved admirably throughout, and they now offered to continue the journey, if he saw fit, and follow him to the sea; but he thought it useless to go farther, and was unwilling to abandon the three men whom he had ordered to await his return. Accordingly they retraced their course, and, paddling at times both day and night, urged their canoe so swiftly, that they reached the village in the incredibly short space of four days. [Footnote: The distance is about two hundred and fifty miles. The Relation des Decouvertes says that they left the village on the second of December, and returned to it on the eleventh, having left the mouth of the river on the seventh. Very probably, there is an error of date. In other particulars, this narrative is sustained by those of Tonty.]

The sky was clear; and, as night came on, the travellers saw a prodigious comet blazing above this scene of desolation. On that night, it was chilling, with a superstitious awe, the hamlets of New England and the gilded chambers of Versailles; but it is characteristic of La Salle, that, beset as he was with perils, and surrounded with ghastly images of death, he coolly notes down the phenomenon,—not as a portentous messenger of war and woe, but rather as an object of scientific curiosity. [Footnote: This was the "Great Comet of 1680.". Dr. B. A. Gould writes me: "It appeared in December, 1680, and was visible until the latter part of February, 1681, being especially brilliant in January." It was said to be the largest ever seen. By observations upon it, Newton demonstrated the regular revolutions of comets around the sun. "No comet," it is said, "has threatened the earth with a nearer approach than that of 1680."—Winthrop on Comets, Lecture II. p. 44. Increase Mather, in his Discourse concerning Comets, printed at Boston in 1683, says of this one: "Its appearance was very terrible, the Blaze ascended above 60 Degrees almost to its Zenith." Mather thought it fraught with terrific portent to the nations of the earth.]

He found his three men safely ensconced upon their island, where they were anxiously looking for his return. After collecting a store of half-burnt corn from the ravaged granaries of the Illinois, the whole party began to ascend the river, and, on the sixth of January, reached the junction of the Kankakee with the northern branch. On their way downward, they had descended the former stream. They now chose the latter, and soon discovered, by the margin of the water, a rude cabin of bark. La Salle landed, and examined the spot, when an object met his eye which cheered him with a bright gleam of hope. It was but a piece of wood, but the wood had been cut with a saw. Tonty and his party, then, had passed this way, escaping from the carnage behind them. Unhappily, they had left no token of their passage at the fork of the two streams; and thus La Salle, on his voyage downward, had believed them to be still on the river below.

With rekindled hope, the travellers pursued their journey, leaving their canoes, and making their way overland towards the fort on the St. Joseph. Snow fell in profusion, till the earth was deeply buried. So light and dry was it, that to walk on snow-shoes was impossible; and La Salle, after his custom, took the lead, to break the path and cheer on his followers. Despite his tall stature, he often waded through drifts to the waist, while the men toiled on behind; the snow, shaken from the burdened twigs, showering them as they passed. After excessive fatigue, they reached their goal, and found shelter and safety within the walls of Fort Miami. Here was the party left in charge of La Forest; but, to his surprise and grief, La Salle heard no tidings of Tonty. He found some amends for the disappointment in the fidelity and zeal of La Forest's men, who had restored the fort, cleared ground for planting, and even sawed the planks and timber for a new vessel on the lake.

And now, while La Salle rests at Fort Miami, let us trace the adventures which befell Tonty and his followers, after their chief's departure from Fort Crevecoeur.



When La Salle set out on his rugged journey to Fort Frontenac, he left, as we have seen, fifteen men at Fort Crevecoeur,—smiths, ship-carpenters, housewrights, and soldiers, besides his servant l'Esperance and the two friars Membre and Ribourde. Most of the men were ripe for mutiny. They had no interest in the enterprise, and no love for its chief. They were disgusted at the present, and terrified at the future. La Salle, too, was for the most part a stern commander, impenetrable and cold; and when he tried to soothe, conciliate, and encourage, his success rarely answered to the excellence of his rhetoric. He could always, however, inspire respect, if not love; but now the restraint of his presence was removed. He had not been long absent, when a firebrand was thrown into the midst of the discontented and restless crew.

It may be remembered that La Salle had met two of his men, La Chapelle and Leblanc, at his fort on the St. Joseph, and ordered them to rejoin Tonty. Unfortunately, they obeyed. On arriving, they told their comrades that the "Griffin" was lost, that Fort Frontenac was seized by the creditors of La Salle, that he was ruined past recovery, and that they, the men, would never receive their pay. Their wages were in arrears for more than two years; and, indeed, it would have been folly to pay them before their return to the settlements, as to do so would have been a temptation to desert. Now, however, the effect on their minds was still worse, believing, as many of them did, that they would never be paid at all.

La Chapelle and his companion had brought a letter from La Salle to Tonty, directing him to examine and fortify the cliff so often mentioned, which overhung the river above the great Illinois village. Tonty, accordingly, set out on his errand with some of the men. In his absence, the malcontents destroyed the fort, stole powder, lead, furs, and provisions, and deserted, after writing on the side of the unfinished vessel the words seen by La Salle, "Nous sommes tous sauvages." [Footnote: For the particulars of this desertion, Membre, in Le Clerc, ii. 171, Relation des Decouvertes, MS.; Tonty, Memoire, MS.; Declaration faite par devant le Sr. Duchesneau, Intendant en Canada, par Moyse Hillaret, charpentier de barque cy-devant au service du Sr. de la Salle, 17 Aoust, 1680, MS.

Moyse Hillaret, the "Maitre Moyse" of Hennepin, was a ringleader of the deserters, and seems to have been one of those captured by La Salle near Fort Frontenac. Twelve days after, Hillaret was examined by La Salle's enemy, the Intendant; and this paper is the formal statement made by him. It gives the names of most of the men, and furnishes incidental confirmation of many statements of Hennepin, Tonty, Membre, and the Relation des Decouvertes. Hillaret, Leblanc, and Le Meilleur, the blacksmith nicknamed La Forge, went off together, and the rest seem to have followed afterwards. Hillaret does not admit that any goods were wantonly destroyed.

There is before me a schedule of the debts of La Salle, made after his death. It includes a claim of this man for wages to the amount of 2,500 livres.] The brave young Sieur de Boisrondet and the servant l'Esperance hastened to carry the news to Tonty, who at once despatched four of those with him, by two different routes, to inform La Salle of the disaster. [Footnote: Two of the messengers, Laurent and Messier, arrived safely. The others seem to have deserted.] Besides the two just named, there now remained with him only three hired men and the Recollet friars. With this feeble band, he was left among a horde of treacherous savages, who had been taught to regard him as a secret enemy. Resolved, apparently, to disarm their jealousy by a show of confidence, he took up his abode in the midst of them, making his quarters in the great village, whither, as spring opened, its inhabitants returned, to the number, according to Membre, of seven or eight thousand. Hither he conveyed the forge and such tools as he could recover, and here he hoped to maintain, himself till La Salle should reappear. The spring and the summer were past, and he looked anxiously for his coming, unconscious that a storm was gathering in the east, soon to burst with devastation over the fertile wilderness of the Illinois.

I have recounted the ferocious triumphs of the Iroquois in another volume. [Footnote: "The Jesuits in America."] Throughout a wide semicircle around their cantons they had made the forest a solitude,—destroyed the Hurons, exterminated the Neutrals and the Eries, reduced the formidable Andastes to a helpless insignificance, swept the borders of the St. Lawrence with fire, spread terror and desolation among the Algonquins of Canada; and now, tired of peace, they were seeking, to borrow their own savage metaphor, new nations to devour. Yet it was not alone their homicidal fury that now impelled them to another war. Strange as it may seem, this war was in no small measure one of commercial advantage. They had long traded with the Dutch and English of New York, who gave them, in exchange for their furs, the guns, ammunition, knives, hatchets, kettles, beads, and brandy which had become indispensable to them. Game was scarce in their country. They must seek their beaver and other skins in the vacant territories of the tribes they had destroyed; but this did not content them. The French of Canada were seeking to secure a monopoly of the furs of the north and west; and, of late, the enterprises of La Salle on the tributaries of the Mississippi had especially roused the jealousy of the Iroquois, fomented, moreover, by Dutch and English traders. [Footnote: Duchesneau, in Paris Docs., ix. 163.] These crafty savages would fain reduce all these regions to subjection, and draw from thence an exhaustless supply of furs to be bartered for English goods with the traders of Albany. They turned their eyes first towards the Illinois, the most important, as well as one of the most accessible, of the western Algonquin tribes; and among La Salle's enemies were some in whom jealousy of a hated rival could so far override all the best interests of the colony that they did not scruple to urge on the Iroquois to an invasion which they hoped would prove his ruin. The chiefs convened, war was decreed, the war-dance was danced, the war-song sung, and five hundred warriors began their march. In their path lay the town of the Miamis, neighbors and kindred of the Illinois. It was always their policy to divide and conquer; and these forest Machiavels had intrigued so well among the Miamis, working craftily on their jealousy, that they induced them to join in the invasion, though there is every reason to believe that they had marked these infatuated allies as their next victims. [Footnote: There had long been a rankling jealousy between the Miamis and the Illinois. According to Membre, La Salle's enemies had intrigued successfully among the former, as well as among the Iroquois, to induce them to take arms against the Illinois.]

Go to the banks of the Illinois where it flows by the village of Utica, and stand on the meadow that borders it on the north. In front glides the river, a musket-shot in width; and from the farther bank rises, with gradual slope, a range of wooded hills that hide from sight the vast prairie behind them. A mile or more on your left these gentle acclivities end abruptly in the lofty front of the great cliff, called by the French the Rock of St. Louis, looking boldly out from the forests that environ it; and, three miles distant on your right, you discern a gap in the steep bluffs that here bound the valley, marking the mouth of the River Vermilion, called Aramoni by the French. [Footnote: The above is from notes made on the spot. The following is La Salle's description of the locality in the Relation des Decouvertes, written in 1681: "La rive gauche de la riviere, du cote du sud, est occupee par un long rocher, fort etroit et escarpe presque partout, a la reserve d'un endroit de plus d'une lieue de longueur, situe vis-a-vis du village, ou le terrain, tout couvert de beaux chenes, s'etend par une pente douce jusqu'au bord de la riviere. Au dela de cette hauteur est une vaste plaine, qui s'etend bien loin du cote du sud, et qui est traversee par la riviere Aramoni, dont les bords sont couverts d'une lisiere de bois peu large."

The Aramoni is laid down on the great manuscript map of Franquelin, 1684, and on the map of Coronelli, 1688. It is, without doubt, the Big Vermilion. Starved Rock, or the Rock of St. Louis, is the highest and steepest escarpment of the long rocher above mentioned.] Now stand in fancy on this same spot in the early autumn of the year 1680. You are in the midst of the great town of the Illinois,—hundreds of mat-covered lodges and thousands of congregated savages. Enter one of their dwellings: they will not think you an intruder. Some friendly squaw will lay a mat for you by the fire; you may seat yourself upon it, smoke your pipe, and study the lodge and its inmates by the light that streams through the holes at the top. Three or four fires smoke and smoulder on the ground down the middle of the long arched structure; and as to each fire there are two families, the place is somewhat crowded when all are present. But now there is space and breathing room, for many are in the fields. A squaw sits weaving a mat of rushes; a warrior, naked, except his moccasons, and tattooed with fantastic devices, binds a stone arrow-head to its shaft with the fresh sinews of a buffalo. Some lie asleep, some sit staring in vacancy, some are eating, some are squatted in lazy chat around a fire. The smoke brings water to your eyes; the fleas annoy you; small unkempt children, naked as young puppies, crawl about your knees and will not be repelled. You have seen enough. You rise and go out again into the sunlight. It is, if not a peaceful, at least a languid scene. A few voices break the stillness, mingled with the joyous chirping of crickets from the grass. Young men lie flat on their faces, basking in the sun. A group of their elders are smoking around a buffalo skin on which they have just been playing a game of chance with cherry-stones. A lover and his mistress, perhaps, sit together under a shed of bark without uttering a word. Not far off is the graveyard, where lie the dead of the village, some buried in the earth, some wrapped in skins and laid aloft on scaffolds, above the reach of wolves. In the cornfields around, you see squaws at their labor, and children driving off intruding birds; and your eye ranges over the meadows beyond, spangled with the yellow blossoms of the resin-weed and the Rudbeckia, or over the bordering hills still green with the foliage of summer. [Footnote: The Illinois were an aggregation of distinct though kindred tribes, the Kaskaskias, the Peorias, the Cahokias, the Tamaroas, the Moingona, and others. Their general character and habits were those of other Indian tribes, but they were reputed somewhat cowardly and slothful. In their manners, they were more licentious than many of their neighbors, and addicted to practices which are sometimes supposed to be the result of a perverted civilization. Young men enacting the part of women were frequently to be seen among them. These were held in great contempt. Some of the early travellers, both among the Illinois and among other tribes, where the same practice prevailed, mistook them for hermaphrodites. According to Charlevoix (Journal Historique, 303), this abuse was due in part to a superstition. The Miamis and Piankishaws were in close affinities of language and habits with the Illinois. All these tribes belonged to the great Algonquin family. The first impressions which the French received of them, as recorded in the Relation of 1671, were singularly favorable; but a closer acquaintance did not confirm them. The Illinois traded with the lake tribes, to whom they carried slaves taken in war, receiving in exchange, guns, hatchets, and other French goods.— Marquette in Relation, 1670, 91.]

This, or something like it, one may safely affirm, was the aspect of the Illinois village at noon of the tenth of September. [Footnote: This is Membre's date. The narratives differ as to the day, though all agree as to the month.] In a hut, apart from the rest, you would probably have found the Frenchmen. Among them was a man, not strong in person, and disabled, moreover, by the loss of a hand; yet, in this den of barbarism, betraying the language and bearing of one formed in the most polished civilization of Europe. This was Henri de Tonty. The others were young Boisrondet, and the two faithful men who had stood by their commander. The friars, Membre and Ribourde, were not in the village, but at a hut a league distant, whither they had gone to make a "retreat," for prayer and meditation. Their missionary labors had not been fruitful. They had made no converts, and were in despair at the intractable character of the objects of their zeal. As for the other Frenchmen, time, doubtless, hung heavy on their hands; for nothing can surpass the vacant monotony of an Indian town when there is neither hunting, nor war, nor feasts, nor dances, nor gambling, to beguile the lagging hours.

Suddenly the village was wakened from its lethargy as by the crash of a thunderbolt. A Shawanoe, lately here on a visit, had left his Illinois friends to return home. He now reappeared, crossing the river in hot haste with the announcement that he had met, on his way, an army of Iroquois approaching to attack them. All was panic and confusion. The lodges disgorged their frightened inmates; women and children screamed, startled warriors snatched their weapons. There were less than five hundred of them, for the greater part of the young men had gone to war. A crowd of excited savages thronged about Tonty and his Frenchmen, already objects of their suspicion, charging them, with furious gesticulation, with having stirred up their enemies to invade them. Tonty defended himself in broken Illinois, but the naked mob were but half convinced. They seized the forge and tools and flung them into the river, with all the goods that had been saved from the deserters; then, distrusting their power to defend themselves, they manned the wooden canoes which lay in multitudes by the bank, embarked their women and children, and paddled down the stream to that island of dry land in the midst of marshes which La Salle afterwards found filled with their deserted huts. Sixty warriors remained here to guard them, and the rest returned to the village. All night long fires blazed along the shore. The excited warriors greased their bodies, painted their faces, befeathered their heads, sang their war-songs, danced, stamped, yelled, and brandished their hatchets, to work up their courage to face the crisis. The morning came, and with it came the Iroquois.

Young warriors had gone out as scouts, and now they returned. They had seen the enemy in the line of forest that bordered the River Aramoni, or Vermilion, and had stealthily reconnoitred them. They were very numerous, [Footnote: The Relation des Decouvertes says, five hundred Iroquois and one hundred Shawanoes. Membre says that the allies were Miamis. He is no doubt right, as the Miamis had promised their aid, and the Shawanoes were at peace with the Illinois. Tonty is silent on the point.] and armed for the most part with guns, pistols, and swords. Some had bucklers of wood or raw hide, and some wore those corselets of tough twigs interwoven with cordage which their fathers had used when firearms were unknown. The scouts added more, for they declared that they had seen a Jesuit among the Iroquois; nay, that La Salle himself was there, whence it must follow that Tonty and his men were enemies and traitors. The supposed Jesuit was but an Iroquois chief arrayed in a black hat, doublet, and stockings; while another, equipped after a somewhat similar fashion, passed in the distance for La Salle. But the Illinois were furious. Tonty's life hung by a hair. A crowd of savages surrounded him, mad with rage and terror. He had come lately from Europe, and knew little of Indians; but, as the friar Membre says of him, "he was full of intelligence and courage," and when they heard him declare that he and his Frenchmen would go with them to fight the Iroquois, their threats grew less clamorous and their eyes glittered with a less deadly lustre.

Whooping and screeching, they ran to their canoes, crossed the river, climbed the woody hill, and swarmed down upon the plain beyond. About a hundred of them had guns; the rest were armed with bows and arrows. They were now face to face with the enemy, who had emerged from the woods of the Vermilion, and was advancing on the open prairie. With unwonted spirit, for their repute as warriors was by no means high, the Illinois began, after their fashion, to charge; that is, they leaped, yelled, and shot off bullets and arrows, advancing as they did so; while the Iroquois replied with gymnastics no less agile, and howlings no less terrific, mingled with the rapid clatter of their guns. Tonty saw that it would go hard with his allies. It was of the last moment to stop the fight if possible. The Iroquois were, or professed to be, at peace with the French; and taking counsel of his courage, he resolved on an attempt to mediate, which may well be called a desperate one. He laid aside his gun, took in his hand a wampum belt as a flag of truce, and walked forward to meet the savage multitude, attended by Boisrondet, another Frenchman, and a young Illinois who had the hardihood to accompany him. The guns of the Iroquois still flashed thick and fast. Some of them were aimed at him, on which he sent back the two Frenchmen and the Illinois, and advanced alone, holding out the wampum belt. [Footnote: Membre says that he went with Tonty, "J'etois aussi a cote du Sieur de Tonty." This is an invention of the friar's vanity. "Les deux peres Recollets etoient alors dans une cabane a une lieue du village, ou ils s'etoient retires pour faire une espece de retraite, et ils ne furent avertis de l'arrivee des Iroquois que dans le temps du combat."—Relation des Decouvertes,, MS. "Je rencontrai en chemin les peres Gabriel et Zenobe Membre, qui cherchoient de mes nonvelles."—Tonty Memoire, MS. This was on his return from the Iroquois. The Relation confirms the statement, as far as concerns Membre: "Il rencontra le Pere Zenobe (Membre), qui venoit pour le secourir, aiant ete averti du combat et de sa blessure."

The perverted Dernieres Decouvertes, published without authority, under Tonty's name, says that he was attended by a slave whom the Illinois sent with him as interpreter. Though this is not mentioned in the three authentic narratives, it is more than probable, as Tonty could not have known Iroquois enough to make himself understood.] A moment more, and he was among the infuriated warriors. It was a frightful spectacle: the contorted forms, bounding, crouching, twisting, to deal or dodge the shot; the small keen eyes that shone like an angry snake's; the parted lips pealing their fiendish yells; the painted features writhing with fear and fury, and every passion of an Indian fight; man, wolf, and devil, all in one. [Footnote: Being once in an encampment of Sioux, when a quarrel broke out, and the adverse factions raised the war-whoop, and began to fire at each other, I had a good, though for the moment, a rather dangerous opportunity of seeing the demeanor of Indians at the beginning of a fight. The fray was quelled before much mischief was done, by the vigorous intervention of the elder warriors, who ran between the combatants.] With his swarthy complexion, and his half-savage dress, they thought he was an Indian, and thronged about him, glaring murder. A young warrior stabbed at his heart with a knife, but the point glanced aside against a rib, inflicting only a deep gash. A chief called out that, as his ears were not pierced, he must be a Frenchman. On this, some of them tried to stop the bleeding, and led him to the rear, where an angry parley ensued, while the yells and firing still resounded in the front. Tonty, breathless, and bleeding at the mouth with the force of the blow he had received, found words to declare that the Illinois were under the protection of the king, and the Governor of Canada, and to demand that they should be left in peace. [Footnote: "Je leur fis connoistre que les Islinois etoient sous la protection du roy de France et du gouverneur du pays, que j'estois surpris qu'ils voulussent rompre avec les Francois et qu'ils voulussent attendre (sic) a une paix."—Tonty, Menoire, MS.]

A young Iroquois snatched Tonty's hat, placed it on the end of his gun, and displayed it to the Illinois, who, thereupon, thinking he was killed, renewed the fight; and the firing in front breezed up more angrily than before. A warrior ran in, crying out that the Iroquois were giving ground, and that there were Frenchmen among the Illinois who fired at them. On this, the clamor around Tonty was redoubled. Some wished to kill him at once; others resisted. Several times, he felt a hand at the back of his head, lifting up his hair, and, turning, saw a savage with a knife, standing as if ready to scalp him. [Footnote: "Il en avoit un derriere moi qui tenoit un couteau dans sa main, et qui de temps en temps me levoit les cheveux."—Tonty, Memoire, MS. The Dernieres Decouvertes adds, "Je me retournai vers lui et je vis bien a sa contenance et a sa mine que son dessein etoit de m'enlever la chevelure ... je le priai de vouloir du moins se donner un peu de patience, et d'attendre que ses Maitres eussent decide de mon sort."] A Seneca chief demanded that he should be burned. An Onondaga chief, a friend of La Salle, was for setting him free. The dispute grew fierce and hot. Tonty told them that the Illinois were twelve hundred strong, and that sixty Frenchmen were at the village, ready to back them. This invention, though not fully believed, had no little effect. The friendly Onondaga carried his point; and the Iroquois, having failed to surprise their enemies as they had hoped, now saw an opportunity to delude them by a truce. They sent back Tonty with a belt of peace; he held it aloft in sight of the Illinois; chiefs and old warriors ran to stop the fight; the yells and the firing ceased, and Tonty, like one waked from a hideous nightmare, dizzy, almost fainting with loss of blood, staggered across the intervening prairie to rejoin his friends. He was met by the two friars, Ribourde and Membre, who, in their secluded hut a league from the village, had but lately heard of what was passing, and who now, with benedictions and thanksgiving, ran to embrace him as a man escaped from the jaws of death.

The Illinois now withdrew, re-embarking in their canoes, and crossing again to their lodges; but scarcely had they reached them, when their enemies appeared at the edge of the forest on the opposite bank. Many found means to cross, and, under the pretext of seeking for provisions, began to hover in bands about the skirts of the town, constantly increasing in numbers. Had the Illinois dared to remain, a massacre would doubtless have ensued; but they knew their foe too well, set fire to their lodges, embarked in haste, and paddled down the stream to rejoin their women and children at the sanctuary among the morasses. The whole body of the Iroquois now crossed the river, took possession of the abandoned town, building for themselves a rude redoubt, or fort, of the trunks of trees and of the posts and poles, forming the framework of the lodges which escaped the fire. Here they ensconced themselves, and finished the work of havoc at their leisure.

Tonty and his companions still occupied their hut; but the Iroquois, becoming suspicious of them, forced them to remove to the fort, crowded as it was with the savage crew. On the second day, there was an alarm. The Illinois appeared in numbers on the low hills, half a mile behind the town; and the Iroquois, who had felt their courage, and who had been told by Tonty that they were twice as numerous as themselves, showed symptoms of no little uneasiness. They proposed that he should act as mediator, to which he gladly assented, and crossed the meadow towards the Illinois, accompanied by Membre, and by an Iroquois who was sent as a hostage. The Illinois hailed the overtures with delight, gave the ambassadors some refreshment, which they sorely needed, and sent back with them a young man of their nation as a hostage on their part. This indiscreet youth nearly proved the ruin of the negotiation; for he was no sooner among the Iroquois than he showed such an eagerness to close the treaty, made such promises, professed such gratitude, and betrayed so rashly the numerical weakness of the Illinois, that he revived all the insolence of the invaders. They turned furiously upon Tonty and charged him with having robbed them of the glory and the spoils of victory. "Where are all your Illinois warriors, and where are the sixty Frenchmen that you said were among them?" It needed all Tonty's tact and coolness to extricate himself from this new danger.

The treaty was at length concluded; but scarcely was it made, when the Iroquois prepared to break it, and set about constructing canoes of elm- bark in which to attack the Illinois women and children in their island sanctuary. Tonty warned his allies that the pretended peace was but a snare for their destruction. The Iroquois, on their part, grew hourly more jealous of him, and would certainly have killed him, had it not been their policy to keep the peace with Frontenac and the French.

Several days after, they summoned him and Membre to a council. Six packs of beaver skin were brought in, and the savage orator presented them to Tonty in turn, explaining their meaning as he did so. The first two were to declare that the children of Count Frontenac, that is, the Illinois, should not be eaten; the next was a plaster to heal Tonty's wound; the next was oil wherewith to anoint him and Membre, that they might not be fatigued in travelling; the next proclaimed that the sun was bright; and the sixth and last required them to decamp and go home. [Footnote: An Indian speech, it will be remembered, is without validity, if not confirmed by presents, each of which has its special interpretation. The meaning of the fifth pack of beaver, informing Tonty that the sun was bright,—"que le soleil etoit beau," that is, that the weather was favorable for travelling,—is curiously misconceived by the editor of the Dernieres Decouvertes, who improves upon his original by substituting the words "par le cinquieme paquet ils nous exhortoient a adorer le Soleil."] Tonty thanked them for their gifts, but demanded when they themselves meant to go and leave the Illinois in peace. At this the conclave grew angry, and, despite their late pledge, some of them said that before they went, they would eat Illinois flesh. Tonty instantly kicked away the packs of beaver skin, the Indian symbol of the scornful rejection of a proposal; telling them that since they meant to eat the Governor's children, he would have none of their presents. The chiefs, in a rage, rose and drove him from the lodge. The French withdrew to their hut, where they stood all night on the watch, expecting an attack, and resolved to sell their lives dearly. At daybreak, the chiefs ordered them to begone.

Tonty, with an admirable fidelity and courage, had done all in the power of man to protect the allies of Canada against their ferocious assailants; and he thought it unwise to persist farther in a course which could lead to no good, and which would probably end in the destruction of the whole party. He embarked in a leaky canoe with Membre, Ribourde, Boisrondet, and the remaining two men, and began to ascend the river. After paddling about five leagues, they landed to dry their baggage and repair their crazy vessel, when Father Ribourde, breviary in hand, strolled across the sunny meadows for an hour of meditation among the neighboring groves. Evening approached, and he did not return. Tonty with one of the men went to look for him, and, following his tracks, presently discovered those of a band of Indians, who had apparently seized or murdered him. Still, they did not despair. They fired their guns to guide him, should he still be alive; built a huge fire by the bank, and, then crossing the river, lay watching it from the other side. At midnight, they saw the figure of a man hovering around the blaze; then many more appeared, but Ribourde was not among them. In truth, a band of Kickapoos, enemies of the Iroquois, about whose camp they had been prowling in quest of scalps, had met and wantonly murdered the inoffensive old man. They carried his scalp to their village, and danced around it in triumph, pretending to have taken it from an enemy. Thus, in his sixty-fifth year, the only heir of a wealthy Burgundian house perished under the war-clubs of the savages, for whose salvation he had renounced station, ease, and affluence. [Footnote: Tonty, Memoire, MS. Membre in Le Clercq, ii. 191. Hennepin, who hated Tonty, unjustly charges him with having abandoned the search too soon, admitting, however, that it would have been useless to continue it. This part of his narrative is a perversion of Membre's account.]

Meanwhile, a hideous scene was enacted at the ruined village of the Illinois. Their savage foes, balked of a living prey, wreaked their fury on the dead. They dug up the graves; they threw down the scaffolds. Some of the bodies they burned; some they threw to the dogs; some, it is affirmed, they ate. [Footnote: "Cependant les Iroquois, aussitot apres le depart du Sr. de Tonty, exercerent leur rage sur les corps morts des Ilinois, qu'ils deterrerent ou abbatterent de dessus les echafauds ou les Ilinois les laissent longtemps exposes avant que de les mettre en terre. Ils en brulerent la plus grande partie, ils en mangerent meme quelques uns, et jetterent le reste aux chiens. Ils planterent les tetes de ces cadavres a demi decharnes sur des pieux," etc.—Relation des Decouvertes, MS.] Placing the skulls on stakes as trophies, they turned to pursue the Illinois, who, when the French withdrew, had abandoned their asylum and retreated down the river. The Iroquois, still, it seems, in awe of them, followed them along the opposite bank, each night encamping face to face with them; and thus the adverse bands moved slowly southward, till they were near the mouth of the river. Hitherto, the compact array of the Illinois had held their enemies in check; but now, suffering from hunger, and lulled into security by the assurances of the Iroquois that their object was not to destroy them, but only to drive them from the country, they rashly separated into their several tribes. Some descended the Mississippi; some, more prudent, crossed to the western side. One of their principal tribes, the Tamaroas, more credulous than the rest, had the fatuity to remain near the mouth of the Illinois, where they were speedily assailed by all the force of the Iroquois. The men fled, and very few of them were killed; but the women and children were captured to the number, it is said, of seven hundred. [Footnote: Relation des Decouvertes, MS. Frontenac to the King, N.Y. Col. Docs., ix. 147. A memoir of Duchesneau makes the number twelve hundred.] Then followed that scene of torture, of which, some two weeks later, La Salle saw the revolting traces. [Footnote: "Ils [les Illinois] trouverent dans leur campement des carcasses de leurs enfans que ces anthropophages avoient mangez, ne voulant meme d'autre nourriture que la chair de ces infortunez."—La Potherie, ii. 145, 146. Compare note, ante, p. 196.] Sated, at length, with horrors, the conquerors withdrew, leading with them a host of captives, and exulting in their triumphs over women, children, and the dead.

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