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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html


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Chapter IX. — State of Indian Affairs in the Interior, during the Period Between the Defeat of Deiskau, and the Capture of Fort du Quesne.

AFTER the defeat of Braddock, the British interest with the Indians rapidly declined. As Indians judge alone from appearances, it was not an easy task to convince them that the English power had not permanently failed. Johnson, who had, in the spring of 1755, been appointed by Braddock the Superintendent-General of British Indian affairs, began his new duties as soon as he reached New York, and labored earnestly to restore confidence among the Iroquois and Algonquin tribes. No one can carefully examine the records of his proceedings without being convinced that he labored zealously. He was thoroughly acquainted with the geography of the country, as also with the Indian power and resources in America, from north to south, and as intimately conversant with the true character of the aborigines. In his speeches, he stripped them of their guises, laid bare their secret impulses, and pointed out to them their interests in clear and bold terms. 275 During sixty years, commencing with the foundation of New Orleans, in 1699, the French influence among the Indians had been on the increase. The noble enterprise of La Salle, and his followers, who passed through the great lakes, and down the Mississippi, singing as they went; the gay and sprightly manners of the French; their ready adaptiveness to a nomadic course of life, replete with novelty and breathing the spirit of personal independence; together with their entire political and religious policy, impressed the Indians with almost indelible emotions of pleasure and approbation. The French required no cessions of land, built no factories, traded with them in a free and easy way, and did not fill the Indian mind with the idea of the coming of a people who, by the progressive inroads of labor and letters, would eventually sweep them from the earth. Whatever was the cause, certainly no other European nation ever acquired such an ample and wide-spread influence over them. 276

Immediately after returning from Alexandria, Sir William Johnson assembled a very

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large number of Indians, some accounts say 1200, at his place on the Mohawk, to whom he communicated the fact of his new appointment. He made them offers in this assembly, for the purpose of restoring their lost confidence in the English, and detach them from the French interests, to inspire them with a just estimation of the power of Britain, and to interest them in the British cause — objects in which he, by perseverance, succeeded. He eloquently plead for their assent to his proposal to send a body of warriors with General Braddock, but in this he was unsuccessful. Good diplomatists at all times, they met him by a declaration that the governor of Virginia, who was not a favorite, had, as in the case of the Ohio company, intruded on their lands in the Ohio valley, where their sachem, Tanacharisson, resided; and that it was a suddenly originated proposal, which required deliberation. They also, for reasons stated, declined accompanying General Shirley, to Oswego; but agreed to assist him in the contemplated attack on Crown Point, to the command of the forces detailed for which purpose he had been appointed. The latter promise was promptly fulfilled, and, at the defeat of Deiskau, on the banks of Lake George, the Mohawks, under Hendrick, acquitted themselves in such a manner as to gain a high reputation. 277

The victory at Lake George was the turning point in the ascendency of the British influence with the Iroquois and their allies, which had been at a very low ebb at the commencement of the French war, in 1744. The fame which followed this victory aided greatly in raising Johnson in the estimation of the Indians, and from this date the Indian political horizon began to brighten. In a letter to the Lords of Trade, dated September 28, 1757, Johnson points out their true policy, while he warns them of the deep-rooted dislike which the Indians entertained against the reckless conduct of the colonial patentees, who had made the encroachments on their lands, of which the Indians complain. "By presents and management, we may be able to keep some little interest yet alive, and induce some nations to a course of neutrality; but I am apprehensive that more expense, speeches and promises (so often repeated and so little regarded), will never be able to effect a favorable revolution in our Indian interests, and deprive the French of the advantages they have over us by their Indian alliances. I would be understood, my Lords, that there is no alternative, by which we may possibly avail ourselves, so as to keep an even hand with the Indians, — BUT REDUCING THE FRENCH TO OUR TERMS, WOULD ENABLE US TO GIVE LAW TO THE INDIANS." 278

This became the British policy; belts and speeches were inadequate to the result. It was a contest between England and France, which must be settled, and the nation that gained it would control the Indians. The triumph at Lake George, in which action
Soiengarahta lost his life, seemed to presage events which were soon to transpire. The

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taking of Fort William Henry, and the conduct of Montcalm, only gave a new impulse to the vigor with which England prepared to contest the supremacy.

No one understood better than Johnson the position of the two parties contending for the Indian sway, and, in a very general council, convened at his Hall on the Mohawk, April 19, 1767, at which the Shawnees, and other Algonquin tribes, as well as the Iroquois, were present, he handled the French without gloves.

"Brethren, listen, and I will tell you the difference between the English and French. The English desire and labor to unite all Indians into one general bond of brotherly love and national interest. The French endeavor to divide the Indians and stir up war and contention amongst them. Those who intend to destroy or enslave any people or nation, will first endeavor to divide them. This you and all the Indians upon this continent know has always been, and continues to be, the endeavors of the French. But though this is a fact which I think all the Indians must certainly see, yet the French have found means, somehow or other, so to bewitch their understandings, as to make many of them believe they love the Indians, and mean well towards them. 'Tis very strange, brethren, that any one man, much more any number of men, who are not either mad or drunk, can believe that stirring up brethren to spill each other's blood, dividing them from one another, and making parties among them, are proofs of love, and marks of friendly design towards them. Not less unaccountable is it, brethren, that the French should be able to persuade the Indians, that building forts in the middle of their country and hunting-grounds, is for their interest and protection. I tell you, brethren, and I warn you, that whatever good words the French may give you, how much soever they may now smile upon you, whatever presents they may now make you, your chains are in their pockets, and when their designs are ripe for execution, they will take the axe out of their bosom and strike it into your heads. But this they know they cannot do until you have broken the Covenant Chain with your brethren, the English, and taken up the axe against them. 'Tis for this reason the French are always endeavoring, by lies, by presents, by promises, to stir up all Indians to fall upon the English settlements, and destroy their best friends and faithful brethren; and many Indians have been so wicked and so foolish, as, in spite of treaties and ancient friendship, to become the dogs of the French, and come and go as they commanded them.

"Brethren, if the Indians do not return to their senses, they will see and feel when it is too late, that they have ruined themselves, enslaved their posterity, and lost their country. They will find their country fortified by the French, not against the English, but against the Indians themselves.

"Brethren, what I have said, and am going to say, I say not to you only, but to all Indians; and I desire you will, with this belt, make it known amongst all the nations you have any acquaintance or connections with.

"Tell them, from me, to look at the French forts, built, and building through the

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middle of their country, and on their best hunting lands. Let them look at the French flags, flying in their forts at all the great lakes, along the great rivers, in order to oblige them to trade with the French only, sell their skins, and take goods for them at what prices the French please to put on them. And it is a thing well known to all Indians, that the French cannot sell them goods near as cheap as the English can, nor in such assortments and plenty."

To renew the attempt of Braddock had been the original plan of General Shirley, but the following year elapsed in merely concerting measures. The plan of the campaign of 1758, contemplated the reduction of Crown Point, on Lake Champlain, and of Fort Du Quesne, on the Ohio. General Abercrombie, who undertook the former, aided by a large army, suffered a repulse. Lord Howe fell while leading an attack, and when, in a few days, it was renewed against an impregnable breastwork of horizontal trees, they were compelled to retreat to Fort Edward. The Mohawks who were present at this assault, looked on with amazement at this exhibition of heroic but injudicious bravery. As an episode to this siege, Colonel Bradstreet proceeded by a sudden march to Oswego, with the Iroquois in his train, and crossing Lake Ontario in batteaux, surprised and took Fort Frontenac, capturing a large amount of supplies, as well as arms, and returned triumphantly.

The reduction of Fort Du Quesne was intrusted to General Forbes. He marched from Philadelphia, with an army of 5800 regulars and provincials, and a commissary and quartermaster's force of 1000 wagoners. Washington joined him at Fort Cumberland, with his regiment of Virginians. At Raystown, Forbes sent Colonel Bouquet forward with 2000 men; but, in a spirit of confidence, Bouquet dispatched 800 of this force, under Colonel Grant, to make observations in advance. The latter commander was surprised on hills overlooking the fort, by M. Aubrey, with 700 or 800 Frenchmen, and an unnumbered force of Indians, his troops defeated and dreadfully slaughtered. Retreating to Bouquet's position, with the baggage, the camp was attacked with great fury and obstinacy, but by a ruse that officer sustained himself, and retreated successfully with his forces, after much severe fighting and many casualties. The loss at Grant's defeat, was numerically greater in proportion to those engaged, than was sustained at Braddock's. Thirty-five officers were killed or wounded. The prisoners taken by the Indians, served, as it were, to surfeit their barbarity and cruelty, and deter them from proceeding further, for, after reaching Du Quesne, they soon dispersed, and deserted the fort. On the arrival of General Forbes, the combined force moved on with regularity, exciting apprehension and alarm. On the 24th of November, the army reached, and encamped at, Turtle Creek, within twelve miles of the fort.

No Indians were descried by the scouts, and the night passed away without alarm. On the 25th, at an early hour, the army was put in motion, and, as the advance-guard approached the location of the fort, they observed large columns of smoke, and, at intervals, heard heavy explosions. The indications could not be mistaken. The fort

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had been abandoned after being set on fire — its artillery being embarked for the Illinois, and its infantry for Lake Erie. The defeat of Grant, and the prisoners captured, had proved an escape valve for Indian barbarity. After practising the most inhuman tortures upon the prisoners, whose bleached skeletons lined the approach to the fort, and after rioting in debauch, they had, with their usual impatience, returned to their forest homes, leaving General Forbes to advance unmolested, and abandoning De Legneris, the French commander. On the 25th, the column advanced in force, and the British flag was triumphantly planted on the fort by General Forbes, who bestowed upon it the name of the celebrated British minister, Pitt. The western line of the colonial frontiers was thus advanced to the river Ohio. 279 From this period, Indian warfare found its principal field of development west of, and beyond that border, truly called the River of the Beautiful, by the Indian tribes.

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html
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