The day was cold and bleak.
The ‘Casee Kouee!’ scream from a hundred and eighty throats came at dawn. The allies raced to the loopholes. Dollard’s men were ready. In seconds, there were three men at each firing position.
The ear-piercing screeches of the attackers were met with roars of defiance from the French and their allies. The noise surpassed the roar of the rapids.
The Iroquois were advancing, leaping in the air, moving from side to side and firing. But their firing was erratic, and more shots went over the barricade or beside it than hit it. The French were taking their time picking off their targets. Dollard had ordered the men to stick to specific target areas of the beach clearing and in this way the whole advancing force was covered. This attack, poorly executed, was repulsed easily by the allies with a loss of eight Iroquois and many wounded. They began to retreat.
“Keep firing as long as they’re in range,” said Dollard. “But don’t waste ammunition.”
The last of the Iroquois scrambled into the forest and the palisade. Dollard still had lost none, and no one was injured.
“We can last like this forever!” exulted Cognac.
“Until we run out of water and food,” said Annahotaha.
“They’ll give up long before we do,” replied Cognac, who had shot one of the Onondagas.
“Reload,” ordered Dollard. “They’ll come again.”
A minute later the Iroquois ran out of the palisade with torches. They raced for the shore.
“The canoes!” cried Robert Jurie. “They’re going to burn the canoes!”
“Fire!” yelled Dollard.
Three Iroquois dropped on the first volley but already they had thrown their torches into the canoes and the bark curled in flames. Then they picked up the canoes and rushed with them straight at the barricade. These Onondagas carried only hatchets at their belts.
Behind them, the main force poured shot after shot into the barricade as a cover for the runners with the canoes. It was suicide. Dollard’s men, protected by the earth, wood, and stone, manned the loopholes and methodically cut down the attackers. Seven more Onondaga died before they dropped the burning canoes and retreated.
One Onondaga brave I, shot as he ran, fell and the canoe fell on top of him. In a moment, he was burning too. He didn’t scream.
“My shot killed him before the fire got to him,” said Jean Valets.
Bodies lay everywhere, and the smoke from the canoes choked the air. When the wind shifted, the allies could smell the burnt flesh of the Onondaga.
Fifty-one Iroquois were dead. Annenraes was furious. He raged behind the palisade.
“No more. No more deaths will we suffer. But we will not leave here. ‘We will harass them, and we will wait. We shall be avenged brothers, do not fear.”
The Iroquois braves accepted his word with the determination of those who know they will win if they are patient. But Annenraes could do nothing about the twenty-three Iroquois who had run away from the last battle. After gaining their lives, they kept going and headed for home. Some, at least, had had enough, and they were reacting as all these nations did when they figured they had encountered a superior force. Annenraes had begun with two hundred and twenty-five men; fifty-one were dead, twenty-three had quit, and fifty-one more were wounded. One hundred and twenty-five men. He had lost the use of more than half his company, yet he still outnumbered the French two-to-one. Nevertheless, he knew that had the allies attacked after the abortive canoe burning incident, his braves might have bolted and suffered a massacre.
Dollard did not know what Annenraes was thinking, did not realize he could have ended the battle with an early victory had his troops charged the Iroquois after their last repulse. He did not see that he could have recovered from the errors of leaving the canoes out and failing to reinforce the barricade early. All he knew was that they had repulsed the Onondaga for the third time, and once again had suffered no losses.
“It’s a miracle!” said Forges. “A miracle! There isn’t even anybody wounded! And they must have a hundred dead.”
“No,” said Mituvemeg, “not so many dead. But I think they have many out of action.”
“That lowers the odds,” said Jurie.
“It is good,” said Annahotaha. “We have done well. But I do not understand. If we are doing so well why do they not quit, or at least ask for a council? Something is going on…”
“Maybe they are waiting for someone,” said Mituvemeg. “Two hundred is a large force, but it is not large enough to take Montreal. Forty men can defend that place.”
Dollard was amazed that Mituvemeg knew exactly the number of men even the French felt could defend Montreal. He almost said something, but no matter what he said it might have insulted the Algonquin chief, so he kept quiet.
“To take Montreal, you would have to use many more men,” said Mituvemeg. “You would have to harass the fort for days, maybe weeks, and cut it off from supplies and tire all the soldiers. Even then I do not think Montreal would fall because the soldiers could rest and change shifts, and there is food stored. No, I do not think even a large force could take Montreal for a long time. But the Iroquois do not know this. They might think that a large force could defeat Montreal in a short time and then go on to the other communities. What is your opinion, Annahotaha?”
“This could be the great assault we have been hearing about for years. If so, the Onondaga have surely sent for reinforcements, Their pride would not permit them to leave here in defeat if they had a larger mission. I am afraid you are correct, Mituvemeg.”
“Then we’ve had it,” said Dollard.
“No,” said Annahotaha. “They could have a council. They might ask us to assure them that we would not come to the forest again for a while. Then they could let us live. The Iroquois are skillful, but they also want to save their warriors’ lives. This thing is not a common circumstance. They might do anything. We must wait to see and bargain when the time comes.”
“I’ll take your advice,” said. Dollard. “In the meantime, we wait.”
The wait was long. The Iroquois did not fire often, and they did not prepare another mass attack. The French wondered about their behavior. It was simple. The Iroquois were tending to their wounded and kept enough men on the line so that the allies would not try to get away.
Annenraes glared over the palisade at the French.
“I want none to escape.”