Conquest of Quebec, September 13, 1759 – 250th Year Celebration
Comments | Print friendly | Subscribe | Email Us
While telling the truth, the facts, some brutal, some romantic, some courageous and some delightful, we must be respectful of the reality that the descendants of the founders of both New France and New England that led to the establishment of Canada, Quebec and the United States of America are all here with us today, in greater numbers than ever.
We welcome the stories our native Indian people whose lands, trade and alliances were being fought over and who played a significant role in the creation of the countries in which we all live. Their descendents are also a part of all of us. We encourage any descendent of all the participants in this great drama, one of the most significant in the history of the world, to write and tell us your family’s experience, as it may have been transmitted to you down through the generations.
Every family has some memorable highlights relating to this adventure. We will tell your family’s story to the extent we can. The rest of your story will remain on the record because we will put them on file for access by other researchers; with your permission of course. We look forward to hearing from you. So on with our adventure:
Why was Deerfield chosen in 1704 for this attack?
In our last episode we related the story of the raid on the isolated New England village of Deerfield. While there were many raids by the French and their Indian allies during the 1690’s and counter attacks by the New England colonists, the British and their Indian allies, historians have often pondered why this raid was made, being so isolated from the north-eastern frontier. There seemed to be no strategic rationale. For the answer we have to go back in time. We also need to have an understanding of the next question;
Why were some Indian Nations allied to the French and others to the English?
There was a great division among the native people in their loyalties to the French or English right from their earliest serious contact with Europeans. It will be remembered that both France and England were trying to find a route to China and the riches of the Far East by exploring a way west through or around the north of the American continent.
In this process there were many contacts with the native peoples. These explorations were expensive to finance and the investors had to be persuaded there was ultimately to be profitable returns. Both the French and English explorers kidnapped Innu (Eskimos) or young strong Indians in the hope of verifying to their investors or royalty that the natives knew there were routes across the continent, sometimes even coaching them in what to say. They also wanted to teach them French or English for use as future guides and interpreters or even to show their backers they could be a source of valuable slaves.
Many of the captured, if not most, died of European diseases, toiling in the mines of Europe or at the oars of galleys (warships designed to fight pirates in the Mediterranean Sea) and never saw North America again. A few did get back and their tales produced a growing wariness, even anger between the natives and the explorers.
In spite of this, the lure of steel axes, knives, woolen blankets, decorative beads and other trade goods were temptations the natives could not resist. Equally, the benefits the natives provided to the European explorers and settlers in terms of help and even pure survival were enormous. Such advantages kept the investors in England and Europe persuaded they should continue to gamble on these risky voyages.
In addition to the explorers, there were traders and fishermen including many Portuguese, Basque, French, English and others that fished or traded along the coasts of Labrador, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, the Grand Banks and the Gulf of St. Lawrence many years before the era of settlement. The fisherman particularly found association with the natives very useful and employed them aboard ship fishing and on shore for the drying of cod. It was from these fishermen that the natives learned how to make and fish with nets.
In the part of North America that New France and New England were contesting, the north-east Atlantic region, the St, Lawrence River valley and the Gulf, there were many tribes. However, the three main groups we need to talk about at the time of this part of our story are the Huron, Algonquian and Abenaki nations allied to the New France and the Iroquois Confederation allied to New England.
The Iroquois Confederation; the Huron, Algonquian and Abenaki
The Iroquois confederation was a very strong and warlike nation; at the time of our story they were composed of five tribes; the Mohawk, the Oneida, the Onondaga, the Cayuga, and the Seneca. Their bitter enemies were the Huron and the Algonquian and other associated tribes that were also very powerful and outnumbered the Iroquois who had been weakened by warfare and disease.
The Iroquois or “People of the Long House,” as they referred to themselves built their castles (villages) south of the Lake Ontario, along the Mohawk River and nestled close to the Finger Lakes and also from Lake Ontario south along the east bank of the Niagara River. The Mohawks were the most easterly tribe and known as the Keepers of the Eastern Door and the Seneca on the west were known as the Keepers of the Western Door. All lived west of the Hudson River. The Hurons and Algonquians lived north of the Lake Ontario in the Lake Simcoe to southern Georgian Bay area.
The Abenaki lived north east of the expanding New England colonies and in the areas of the Adirondacks and the Maritimes. We will leave a full description of the Abenaki Confederation until later in our story when we venture north into the Maritimes and to the southern shores of the St. Lawrence River. For the present, we will focus on the French, Iroquois, Huron, Algonquian and English scene of conflict.
Most years, the Iroquois or the Hurons sent raiding parties into each other’s territory. The Iroquois being determined to destroy the Hurons and Algonquians, and the reverse. The Iroquois however, were slowly rebuilding their strength. They did this both naturally and by taking captives from their raiding parties and other wars they also waged against tribes to the west of the Seneca and into Ohio and Illinois lands. Such captives, especially the young, were often adopted into the tribe.
Into this simmering stew of ongoing warfare stepped Samuel de Champlain, the founder of Quebec City and New France (1608). The Huron and their allies had seen the firepower of the French harquebus (arquebus), a heavy form of early gun that was fired from the shoulder but with the support of an iron rod stuck in the ground to support its weight. They pleaded with Champlain to join their next war party against the Iroquois who had never seen a firearm; threatening that if he did not do so they would no longer guide him further west or supply him with furs.
In 1609 Champlain agreed and in the battle that followed near Lake Champlain he killed two of the Iroquois chiefs, a number of their warriors and won the battle - terrifying the Iroquois - and incurred their enduring enmity toward the French from that day forward.
Later, after many courageous missions into Iroquois territories by French missionaries and the martyrdom of many of these remarkable Roman Catholic priests, some of the Iroquois were converted. Eventually, a number of the converted followed their priests to New France to live under the protection of the colony (these Indians became known in the English settlements as “the Praying Indians”). The many adventures that took place during these missions constitute some of the most unbelievable stories of human endurance and bravery that have ever been told. However, we must leave this story and follow the trail leading us to answer the question: Why the Deerfield Attack in 1704?
The Beaver Wars
These wars took place from (approximately) the mid 1630s until the end of the century. The Iroquois did not appreciate the Huron, Algonquian monopoly of the fur trade with the French through Montreal. They also resented thoroughly any attempt of other tribes living closer to their lands trading with the Dutch at Fort Orange (Albany), especially as furs in their normal hunting grounds began to run out. In 1628 for example, they defeated the Mohicans, a tribe living near the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, thus acquiring a monopoly of trade with the Dutch. There were many such inter-tribal battles and interim peace treaties but none lasted long.
When the Dutch discovered that a firearm (musket) brought many beaver pelts, the urge to sell to the Indians could not be resisted. In 1639 the Dutch colonial government issued an ordinance that created a death penalty for selling guns, powder or lead to the Indians. However, this was directed at trading with hostile Indians lower down the Hudson River. It was difficult to police the northern trading out of Fort Orange. The spread of firearms increased rapidly. When in 1642 the Mohawks captured a party of Hurons accompanying a Father Isaac Joques, they were reported as carrying guns. In 1643 Father Joques reported the Mohawks had 300 muskets. Soon inter-tribal warfare became deadly.
The shortest route for the fur trade for the Indians from the Great lakes regions to the Atlantic was not to Montreal but via the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers. Therefore, the French had to persuade the Indians to trade with them and offered them guns as an inducement to continue trading with Montreal.
The French also had a policy not selling arms to the Indians but they apparently broke the policy as a way of obtaining the conversion of the Indians to Catholicism. Although there were plenty of converts, the Iroquois wound up better armed because the prices charged by the French were said to be much higher than those charged by the Dutch.
War breaks out again between the Iroquois and the French
Many variations of peace treaties, trade patterns and the spread of firearms went on for some time but in 1645 the situation reached a crisis. That summer a large flotilla of fur canoes arrived at Montreal from the interior, unmolested by the Iroquois. In open breach of a treaty however, the Iroquois were not allowed to participate in the trade. The Iroquois then realized the French would not allow them into the St. Lawrence River trade.
The Iroquois decided that they could not go to war with the French as they needed their supplies, but they calculated they could defeat the Huron middlemen. In 1649 they attacked the Hurons in their own territory in great strength and virtually wiped them out.
The French however, continued to trade with more northerly tribes including the Ottawa.
The Mohawks then tried to negotiate with the French at Trois-Rivières. It didn’t work out and in the end after the Mohawk attacked the French along the Richelieu River, taking prisoners; the French decided to invade the Mohawk lands and punish them.
The raid was commanded and carried out by the Marquis de Tracy in 1666 and the Carignan-Salières Regiment he had brought to New France with orders to “to carry the war even to their firesides in order to fully exterminate them.” The Mohawks, alerted to the attack, retired to the forests and avoided the French army. The French found mostly empty villages, so burned their crops, homes and stored food supplies. Many men, women and children, estimated at some 400, starved to death over the following winter.
Peace, Trade, War, Peace and War
The Mohawks sued for peace the following spring in 1667. The peace held for a while because the Iroquois were engaged in other tribal wars in Virginia and in the West as far as the Illinois territory. Both parties tried to keep the peace, even to the extent that in 1669 three French men were executed by the French for killing a Seneca chief.
Trouble was brewing however, because the Seneca continued to trade with the English and the Intendant; Jean-Baptiste Talon (the French Administrator in Quebec City) became upset at the loss of trade. He estimated that the Iroquois had diverted 1.2 million livres’ worth of furs to Schenectady. He was determined to stop the trade and complained to France.
After a number of other incidents, there came a time when Versailles, the French government in France, decided they had no choice but to send another expedition against the Seneca. Jacques-René de Brisay de Denonville, Marquis of Denonville was appointed Governor-General of New France (1685-89) to recoup what was seen as final insult to the honour of France; this was a refusal by the Seneca to cease the invasion of Illinois territory (claimed by the French) and protect French fur traders found in that area.
Flag of Truce and Betrayal
On arrival in New France, Denonville’s first step was to send Sieur de Troyes and 100 soldiers on an attack north from Montreal to capture the English fur trading posts on Hudson Bay. It was a profitable adventure, although France and England were not at war at the time. Word of the attacks did not reach the English for months.
Next, Governor Denonville sent an innocent Jesuit priest, Jean de Lamberville, who was respected by the Onondagas to urge them to come to Fort Frontenac to treat with the new governor (the Onondagas were often the negotiators for the Iroquois confederation). Father Lamberville had no idea that he was the emissary of an unfortunate conspiracy to trick the Iroquois. The King in France had agreed with the war against the Seneca and had been intrigued with the idea that strong Iroquois captives might possibly make good galley slaves to man the oars of his galleys.
Denonville then set out with a large well organized force to Fort Frontenac (now Kingston) where they met with the 50 or so hereditary sachems (chiefs) that eventually arrived from the Onondaga Council Fire; lulled under a flag of truce to the meeting. Denonville seized and chained the chiefs and shipped 51 of them to France of whom 35 would eventually toil as galley slaves. Sixteen were eventually returned.
The Governor-General then led his troops into the Seneca lands. The expedition was not particularly successful but he apparently made one successful Indian-style ambush, lost a few killed but lost many more of his men due to disease. Like Tracy’s campaign in 1666 against the Mohawk, he settled for burning down the main Seneca village of Gannagaro and several other villages, destroyed their crops, stores of food and butchered their hogs.
These actions infuriated the Iroquois and were to have disastrous consequences for New France and reach far beyond, even to Deerfield. As was commented upon at the time, “they had not wiped out the Iroquois but had disturbed the wasp’s nest.”
The Lachine Massacre
It was early, before daylight on a stormy rainy morning in August 5th, 1689 when some 1500 Iroquois warriors attacked the small town of Lachine at the upper end of the island of Montreal. They had traveled up the St. Lawrence River, crossed Lake Saint-Louis and landed quietly near the sleeping village. The village’s sentries were apparently absent, having sought shelter from the storm. They surrounded the houses and at the signal yell of their leader, commenced the attack.
They broke down doors and windows, dragged the dazed and terrified colonists out of their houses and began their usual form of horrific slaughter. They set fire to the houses and buildings where some had sought refuge and barricaded themselves inside and drove them out to their deaths or took them prisoner.
Of the 77 structures in the village, 56 were destroyed by fire. Twenty-four of the 375 inhabitants were killed and some 70 taken prisoner. Of those taken prisoner, many were tortured to death while being tied to stakes and burned alive. Some dozen children were killed, and six of those were thrown on the fires, cooked and eaten.
Later a few prisoners managed to escape, and some were released in prisoner exchanges. It was also reported that a few of the children were adopted into the tribe, among them Marguerite Barbary, born that year and her sister Francoise. In all, 42 inhabitants of Lachine were never heard of again.
In his history of Canada, Francois Vachon de Belmont, the Superior of the Suplicians of Montreal described the situation thus:
“After this total victory, the unhappy band of prisoners was subjected to all the rage which the cruelest vengeance could inspire in these savages. They were taken to the far side of Lake Louis by the victorious army, which shouted ninety times while crossing to indicate the number of scalps and prisoners they had taken, saying, we have been tricked, Ononthio, we will trick you as well. Once they landed, they lit fires, and planted stakes in the ground, burned five Frenchmen, roasted six children, and grilled some others on the coals and ate them.”
Note: Ononthio in the Huron and Iroquois languages means “Great Mountain.” All the tribes adopted the word to designate the Governor-General. When they wished to speak of the King, they call him “Great Ononthio.” In this case, the reference was to Governor-General Denonville.
The Aftermath and the inaction of Governor-General Denonville
When word of the attack spread, some 200 soldiers under the command of Daniel D’Auger de Subercase, along with 100 armed civilians from nearby forts, marched against the Iroquois. They rescued some colonists fleeing the massacre but before reaching Lachine were suddenly recalled back to Fort Rolland by order of the Governor.
Governor Denonville was intent on pacifying the local Iroquois through negotiation and did not wish to confront the invading Iroquois with weapons. He had adequate forces available, some 700 troops but declined to use them.
Note: The duplicity of Denonville went far beyond the affairs described above, in that his agents on their travels to Fort Frontenac had rounded up nearby friendly Indian Chiefs and had captured them and their families. It is a story we leave to the reader to follow should it be of further interest. That is the reference in the preceding paragraph concerning his “pacifying the local Iroquois.” For the story of one of them see (copy and paste to your search engine):
A few days later with the smoke and fires of the surrounding countryside still rising from the burning farms and villages and the torture fires of the Iroquois, a small group of soldiers left Fort Remy to reach Fort Rolland but they were caught by the Iroquois and killed. The Iroquois roamed Montreal Island for weeks before departing. The inaction of the Governor cost the Montreal settlements dearly and as they left, the village of La Chesnaye, some 18 miles from Montreal, was attacked and 42 more colonists were killed.
After the raid was over and the survivors and officials returned to the ruins of Lachine and the surrounding area, many abandoned weapons of English manufacture were found left behind by the marauders. The English were blamed for the massacre, even though no English soldier or official was present. It was strongly felt, although never proven, that the English had incited their Indians to mount the attack.
Note: In all the many sources looked at by a multitude of historians, your hosts could find no statement made, letter written or order given that could be attributed to any New England official, trader, Indian (French or English allied), or any other person that the Iroquois had been incited by the English to attack Lachine. The answer has to lie elsewhere than a French revenge attack on Deerfield. Deerfield was not known for trading or manufacturing weapons.
Governor-General Denonville was soon recalled to France and the more aggressive Louis de Buade de Frontenac took over the governorship later the same year. He mounted a number of raids of vengeance against the New England colonies and the Iroquois until he died and the Treaty of Ryswick ended the war in 1697. He was replaced by Governor-General Philippe de Rigaud Vaudreuil, the governor we described in Chapter 2.
The Great Peace with the Iroquois 1701
The French finally realized that they could not defeat the Iroquois. The settlers of New France were fed up with living in constant fear. These ongoing wars were interfering with the fur trade and the Iroquois were encroaching on French sources of furs to the far north-west into Illinois. It was decided that it would be better to make peace and encourage the Indians to trade through Montreal by inducement and better deals than by force and aggression.
A great conference was held between Chevalier de Callières, Governor and Lieutenant-General of the King in Montreal, beginning July 18th, 1700 and although there was much suspicion, tribes from all over the French and English trading areas arrived. A general peace was agreed to and held fairly well between the tribes and French for the next 13 years. The same could not be said between the English, the French and their native allies.
For an excellent document of the time and treaty see:
The Fur Trade Rebounds
With peace among the Indians and the Iroquois remaining neutral, the fur trade to Montreal and the St. Lawrence area resumed without interference. French fortunes that had been at low ebb improved remarkably.
The fly in the ointment however, was that over time the supply of furs began to diminish because of over-trapping and this necessitated the tribes and traders going further north and west. Inevitably conflicts of supply and demand increased between both the New England traders down the Hudson and the French traders through the St. Lawrence.
The Iroquois then began to realize that they held the balance of power between the colonial powers and they used the time to benefit their people. They improved their farm technology and began to educate their people. The peace generally held until the 1720’s.
Queen Anne’s War
In 1701, the same year the Great Peace Treaty with the Iroquois was signed, war again broke out between France and England in Europe. It wasn’t long before the Abenaki under the influence of Governor Vaudreuil’s policies broke their own peace treaty with New England and began to once again raid the towns and villages nearest to their territory in the north east. Many raids took place, as we related in Chapter 2.
Our Analysis of the reason for the tragic raid on Deerfield in 1704
In this situation, with attention of the New England government in New York focused on the fighting in the north east, it would make strategic sense to the French to mount a divergent attack on the extreme opposite side of the New England colony. The following is our considered analysis:
(1) Given the attack was planned and mounted from Montreal rather than further east from Quebec or other location; and
(2) given that the Lachine massacre had occurred some fifteen years before, (1689) surely the thirst for vengeance must have been satiated by the many attacks already carried out over those years; and (3) given that the Indians accompanying the attack could have had no such vengeance motive (they were not attacked at Lachine) and finally
(4) given that nobody has ever found any hard evidence that the British incited the attack on Lachine, then the question of, “why the Deerfield massacre took place,” seems to have only one rational answer:
The Deerfield massacre quite probably was a “Strategic” French diversionary attack to distract the British officials in New York from their focus on the Abenaki raids to the north east, thus forcing them divert forces to guard their flanks and rear.
Bar any factual or contrary evidence we feel our diversionary attack thesis is probably as close to the truth as anyone will ever get.
Comments by your Hosts Ken Tellis and Dick Field
In telling our story of the Conquest, we have had to ignore many other scenes that fit into the adventures we have related. We have by-passed the effects of the many local and European wars between the French and English in the Maritimes, Newfoundland, the Hudson Bay and the first British colony of Virginia. Please understand that our objective is to send the arrow of this adventure straight to the heart of the fall of New France and the amazing resultant rise of the United States of America, Quebec, and Canada itself.
Our next adventure will be the beginning of the flight of the final arrow that above all was the “beginning of the end” of this grand opus of the Western World. It begins as one might expect with a terrible British-colonial defeat at the hands of the French and their Indian allies. We will focus on Acadia in due course, as well as other tales we know you will want to experience.
A wonderful feature of modern technology is the ability to not only research much of this story on the internet but correct it as we go should major errors occur. Please let us know if we have erred.
More important, is the fact that many of our readers come from families that were direct participants in these very human events. They are living people that touch the past and can directly touch us here in the present to testify to the reality of these events.
We received this family story from Shawn Carroll who has written to us from Maniwaki, Quebec:
“Hi Ken and Dick, thanks for writing about Canada’s history, I can’t wait for your next installment. I don’t know if I can contribute much to your chapter on the Deerfield raid, however, this much I can tell you (gleaned from the internet and the Lalonde family) about my great grandmother Sarah Allen (8 generations past):
One of the captives of the Deerfield raid was a nine-year old girl by the name of Sarah Allen, who was one of nine children of Mary Painter and Edward Allen of Deerfield Massachusetts.
The records in Quebec show her as Marie-Madeleine Hélène (nee Sarah Allen), born May 1, 1692 – Deerfield, Massachusetts; Sarah finally arrived in Chambly, New France April 1, 1704. By 1705 she was living at the home of Jean Quenet at Baie D’Urfé after she was purchased by him from the natives to act as a domestic servant in his home there. Jean Quenet was a successful merchant and fur trader with properties in Lachine and Montreal. He imported fashions from Paris. Jean Quenet’s farm was located two farms away from the Lalondes.
From 1705 to 1707, there were three missions from Deerfield to New France led by Ensign John Sheldon. On the third mission Sarah’s father, Edward Allen and Deacon Edmund Rice were in Montreal from late June until August 11. It is unknown about any of the details of the negotiations that occurred or whether Edward Allen saw his daughter and her reaction, But Sarah’s future being a child of puritan New England was not that encouraging. At that time a number of the young captives converted to Roman Catholicism and adopted French society and chose to stay in Canada and raise their families there.
Sarah was baptized into the Roman Catholic faith as Marie Madeleine Hélène on May 30, 1705 in St. Anne de bout de L’ille. In 1710 she married Guillaume Lalonde, the youngest son of Jean de Lalonde. They had 10 children (note the similar sound between Allen and Hélène – English name franconized?). The Lalonde family should have more information.” Cheers, Shawn
Thanks so much Shawn, you have indeed touched the past for us in a very human and heart warming way.
To our readers, please contribute if you can.
Our sources for this Chapter 3 are primarily the internet. Probably 30 to 50 sites, some excellent and some limited in scope and not too useful. Several have been recommended in the story. In addition we have relied on printed histories; including Century of Conflict by Joseph Lister Rutledge as a primary source (see chapter 2). Should you wish specific items sourced, please let us know.
Keep watch for Chapter 4 in approximately two weeks. About April 17th, 2009 and be sure to let your friends know and we will place them on our mailing list at their request.
Ken Tellis is an ex sailor who has traveled the world lived in Quebec and raised a family in the French milieu. Ken can be reached at