The Battle of the Long Sault, Chapter 31: One Shot. Silence.

the_battle-Mohammed-Hasnat-399x600May 4th, 1660

As soon as it was quiet, the Iroquois fired one musket shot.

Silence.

One shot.

Silence.

One shot.

All night.

It was impossible to sleep in the barricade because the Canadians never knew when the one shot would be the signal for a massive charge. The next morning the French were haggard. Annahotaha spoke.

“It will be better if we have shifts. I do not think the Iroquois will attack for a time. The men who sleep must be allowed to sleep, and they must disregard the firing, else we will succumb to fatigue and nerves, and that is the Iroquois plan exactly.”

Dollard listened to the war chief of the Hurons. Annahotaha’s face, painted black from ear to ear across his eyes, glistened in the sun. The three short red lines on his cheeks looked like blood. Dollard told his men what the chief had said. They understood, but thought it would be difficult for the Hurons to ignore the firing.

“‘You must remember that we have sixty men, and none are even wounded. We must trust each other,” Dollard said.

All during that day the Iroquois fired sporadically at the fort. It was wearisome, and the allies suffered from it. They tried to anticipate the shots, but there was no rhythm, no orderly sequence. After one long silence Josselin said:

“I wish they’d shoot. It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”

“Just a few minutes,” said Rejean Tiblement.

“You wait and wait, and there’s no sound, and then you’re glad when the shot comes because it’s over.”

“But it starts again right away,” said Tiblement.

“The bastards. I’ve got to get some sleep,” said Josselin.

“Go ahead. If anything happens, I’ll wake you,” said Tiblement.

“I’ll hear it,” said Josselin, slumping down.

“Try to sleep. They’re just trying to unnerve us with this one-shot business. We can’t let it get to us.”

***
The day was long and tense. Louis Martin and Pilote managed to get water because they got covering fire and because, for most of the Iroquois, the runners were just out of effective firing range. The Iroquois in their palisade couldn’t hit the runners, so they relied on their friends firing from the forest. But if the Iroquois in the forest emerged to fire at the water-bearers, the French peppered them.

“Let me go to the river again, Dollard. We’ve got to get some more water,” said Pilote.

“No. We can’t risk it.”

“But we only get enough for that damn gruel. There isn’t any water to drink.”

“It’s too dangerous, Pilote,”

“Damn it, Dollard, we haven’t been hit yet.”

“Because we vary the times we go, because we cover you well, and because the Onondagas haven’t tried to kill you.”

“If only we had some big kettles,” said Pilote.

“If you had to carry big kettles full of water, you couldn’t run as fast or dodge the way you do now, and you might be dead. Maybe tonight.

“Merde,” ” said Pilote in disgust.

Finally, a cold, bitter rain began to fall at noon, and although it made conditions in the barricade miserable, the men were delighted with the fresh, pure water. The French used their small kettles. The Indians used their wooden bowls, or they cupped their hands and drank, gulping down the water, partly because they were parched and partly because they feared it would stop. They filled all the containers they had, even filling a keg that had been used for shot.

Their thirst quenched, they felt better; the water seemed to renew their strength and they now talked of being able to outlast the Iroquois, even with all their afflictions.

“You can live nine or ten days without water,” said Nicholas Josselin. “We could go longer without food, but we’d need water to stay here.”

“God, does he want to stay here?” said Doussin, laughing.
***
A strange kind of high-pitched tension hovered over the barricade. They might have to repulse a charge at any moment, yet nothing had happened for several days and now they had little to do but watch and wait.

The sixty men living in cramped, close quarters caused a problem with the disposition of waste. They dug a hole in a corner but after three days the stench was alive. They couldn’t throw it behind them because the rock that protected them there was too high.
***
Forges and Roland Hebert took up the river side of the barricade that night. Normally, the loopholes had one Frenchman and two Indians so the French could try to control their allies’ shooting habits. Now, because of the lack of steady action, Forges felt secure in asking a Huron to exchange places at the next loophole for an hour. He crept over to Hebert.

“Are we going to get out of here?” said Hebert as Forges arrived.

“We aren’t in much danger…just a pile of mud and excrement.”

“We will be,” said Hebert, “if the Onondagas get help.”

“I know what I’d do if I were those Iroquois,” said Forges, shifting position so he could look through the a slit between the tied poles of the palisade. “I’d get in my canoes. Go down-river. I’d know we French would have to make new canoes so I’d just wait at the bottom of the Chute a Blondeau and ‘Boom!’ Shoot us coming over a rapid. This way nobody gets anything.”

“Unless they’re getting help.”

“Even then. We’re going to take an awful pile of them with us,” said Forges.

“Never mind. ‘We’ll beat these bastards,” said Hebert. “There are bastards all over; some are French, like the ones back home who won’t help us; some are Iroquois, who want to kill us. To hell with them all.”
***
There was the continuing problem with ammunition. The Hurons considered it a matter of pride to answer every shot with one of their own. It helped nothing since no one on either side hit anybody. Iroquois’ fire simply got embedded in the earth and stone protecting the French, and the enemy’s temporary palisade was just as effective at that range. The French tried telling their allies that if they replied every time a musket was fired they would soon be out of shot, but it wasn’t until the Hurons and A1gonquins had nearly exhausted their ammunition that the French could do anything about the situation. They were happy to share their powder and shot on condition that the Indians fired only when ordered to do. Reluctantly, the Indians accepted the condition but there were many times when they replied to a shot and then thought about their promise. At least Dollard thought, they were saving some ammunition.
***
A day later.

The major problem remained the scarcity of water. The previous day’s rain store was gone. Digging had finally met with some success: a small trickle of muddy water came into the fort, but it was difficult to put it in the small kettles. The food, the crushed corn for sagamite was practically useless without water to wash it down, although the Indians could tolerate it after years of practice.

They did the best they could with the muddy ooze. Finally, they could stand it no longer, and Louis Martin and Pilote, being the youngest, were delegated again to run the two hundred feet to the river to get water. Those in the barricade fired furious cover but still bullets sprayed around the runners, and iron-tipped arrows flew around their heads.

“Louis Martin wanted to be a soldier,” said Dollard to Robert Jurie. “Well, he is one now.”

Martin was dodging musket balls and arrows and still trying to maintain his balance. When he reached the barricade, a space three poles wide opened for him and snapped shut as soon as he squeezed through. The poles were lashed together, and two men moved them in and out of place like stagehands.

“I made it,” he gasped.

“And the water?” said Dollard without emotion.

Louis looked down at the kettle. It was nearly empty. Jostling against his leg as he ran, it had sloshed the water out. He paled. His eyes went from the kettle to Dollard.

“Again,” said Martin. It was a statement.

Dollard nodded.

“Get your breath.”

The second time Louis Martin did not spill much.

From then on at different times of the day he and Pilote would rush out under a heavy cover fire to get water. There were anxious moments. Once, Martin fell and spilled the water. Resolutely he regained his feet and his kettle, returned to the river, filled it, and raced for the barricade. An arrow glanced off the knife handle on his belt when he bent to the river. All he heard was the knock of the arrowhead against the bone handle. Rising quickly, he turned his head away from the Iroquois fire and ran to the barricade as fast as he could. Inside he breathlessly fell on his hands and knees.

“They’re coming closer.”

“I know,” said Robert Jurie. “I’m trying to think of another way to get water, but so far…”

“I get tired, too,” said Martin. “I can run faster than that normally, but I couldn’t make my legs go faster on that last run.”

“It’s all right, Louis. You’re losing strength, and we all are because of the lack of food and water and sleep. Rest for a while. I’ll send Pilote on the next run,” said Robert Jurie.

“No, I’m all right. I’m just telling you they’re getting closer, that’s all.”
***
A musket cracked. On the wall, a Huron replied with a shot of his own. Robin, who was next to the Indian, turned on him and knocked the musket from the startled Indian’s hands.

“God damn it,” said Robin, and in Huron continued, “You’re wasting shot. Stop firing every time they fire. That’s what the Iroquois want you to do, so you’ll waste your ammunition!”

‘The Huron looked at Robin grimly and then picked up his musket as Robin turned away. “Stupid bastard,” said Robin.

As Annahotaha watched the incident, an expression of exasperation with his braves mixed with exhaustion darkened his face.

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