The Battle of the Long Sault, Chapter 33: Fake Peace and Mohawk Chief Agariata arrives with reinforcements

the_battle-Mohammed-Hasnat-399x600May 7th

On the morning of the sixth day of the battle, a white flag was raised over the Iroquois Palisade.

“They want a council,” said Annahotaha.”

“Can we trust them?” said Dollard.

Annahotaha sniffed contemptuously. “Trust? No. If they come unarmed to talk, how can we not talk to them? But they are devious. Do not trust them.”

“All right, ” said Dollard. He turned to the men. “The Onondagas want to talk,” Dollard yelled. “We’ll let them approach, but be on guard.” He turned back to Annahotaha. “They can come ahead.”

Annahotaha motioned to Louis Taondechoren, the sixty-year-old war veteran, and he called to the Onondagas in the Iroquois language.

Three enemy braves strode out of the palisade, unarmed. Dollard watched them closely. They came within hearing distance, and one began to speak.

“It is not necessary that we prolong this feud longer. People have died needlessly. We should stop this and have friendly words.”

Suddenly a gang of Iroquois raced out of the woods close to the far side of the barricade. Pilote was there.

“They’re attacking!”

He fired and so did the Hurons at his loophole. Two Iroquois dropped, and fire from the other loopholes drove the attackers back to the woods.

“Son of a bitch!” said Pilote. “They attacked during a parley!” He reloaded. “Son of a bitch,” he muttered, amazed. Dollard looked at Annahotaha who watched the Iroquois run into the forest then he turned and watched the three braves run back to their palisade. He said nothing.

“Do they think we’re stupid?” said Pilote.

“No,” said Annahotaha. “Sometimes they do talk properly. When it suits them. It does not suit them at the moment.” “How can they expect us to respond if they request a parley again?”

It is the viper way. People can say whatever they want about meeting them, and they will all be different in their opinions, and they will all be correct. It depends on the situation. Some will say they can be trusted, others say no. They will have had different experiences. That is exactly why they cannot be trusted.

The Onondagas tried the ploy once more. The second time the French and Hurons waited for Dollard’s signal to fire. He did this before the Iroquois could speak. The attackers were twenty feet from the barricade before he gave the order.

They met a furious fire and fell in a heap where they had been running a second before. The survivors retreated in disarray.

Some Hurons leapt over the barricade and chopped off two Iroquois heads, then ran back to safety. They planted these heads on the palisade with the first chief’s head. Then, smelling the chief’s head which had been there for days, they laughed, picked it up, and threw it on the ground outside the barricade.

Chief Annenraes of the Onondagas stood grimly watching. He threw his hatchet in anger at the ground. He had hoped to make a break-through today. He wanted to have the whole thing over before Chief Agariata and his Mohawks arrived from the Iroquois Islands. He would not be in disfavor either for asking for assistance or failing to break the barricade, but he thought of the glory if he could do it alone. Now he knew he couldn’t.

Eleven more men had died. He had now lost fifty-seven, a large number by Indian warfare standards. But times were changing, and he must accept it. When they destroyed Montreal, there would be more losses, but Montreal would fall, and that meant three or four hundred fewer Frenchmen. He didn’t want to suffer the losses, but he liked what he envisioned at the end of the fighting.

During the last Iroquois retreat, Dollard sent Louis Martin and Pilote out to get water. For an instant, it looked like they were chasing the Iroquois. Suddenly they veered off to the left and broke for the river. The Iroquois, having looked back to see that they were being chased, did not stop but sprinted for the palisade. Their cohorts, when they saw what was happening, yelled to the retreating Iroquois, but there was so much yelling from all sides that they either didn’t hear or didn’t care to hear. The Iroquois had not stopped the water detail before but they considered it now as insult to injury after the repulsion of their latest attacks and vowed to be more aggressive.

Annenraes swallowed hard and let it go. He promised himself to take his revenge later.
***

May 8th

The morning was cold. The sun was partially out, but its light was flat and cheerless, pushing through blankets of cloud. The early morning wind gnashed through the bleak, bare winter stocks that would be trees in three weeks. There was a heavy, grey haze hanging over the water.

Almost imperceptibly a snout shoved itself through the grey on the river. It was south of the rapid, below the battlefield. It was darker than the haze. It looked like a black puppy’s nose in dirty snow. It grew. In a second the men recognized the curve of the elm canoe, then saw the bowman: a Mohawk. But coming from the north, closer to the French, not over the rapids to the south.

As soon as the lead brave in the Iroquois canoe could see the clearing he let out the Iroquois war cry, ‘Kasee Couee! At the same time, the haze was pushed aside like a curtain by the first of a hundred curved elm canoes.

The Mohawk’s scream repeated by four hundred voices behind him obliterated the sound of the rapid. The mass on the river grew darker, bigger, as the canoes pulled for shore in short, sharp strokes.

Now the Mohawks could be seen, filled with energy and a sense of the coming battle. The Onondagas in the palisade echoed the noise and made a great show of rushing out onto no man’s land before the canoes had reached shore. A volley from the Canadians sent them scurrying back to the palisade, but their joy remained. They screamed, jumped and leaped and raised their arms in anticipation of the coming victory.

The Canadians watched in dread, The odds had once been three and a half to one. At one point they were roughly two to one. For one shining moment there were effectively even with less than a hundred in favor of the Iroquois. Now, suddenly, the odds had soared to seven to one.

Dollard’s heart seemed to stop. He couldn’t feel it, couldn’t hear it. He tasted the bile that stopped at his throat.

Hebert and Pilote watched the army arrive.

“Jesus Christ,” they said together.

“I don’t see Him,” said Cognac, “but everybody else is here.”

“Annahotaha was right. They are going to try to wipe out Montreal,” said Hebert.

“Yeah … well, they have to get past us first,” said Pilote.

“That should take them all of an hour,” said Cognac, priming his weapon.

The Mohawks were landing. Jumping out of their canoes, they immediately went on the attack. Even those, like Dollard, Annahotaha and Mituvemeg, who had been expecting the arrival of more men were shaken by the size of the Mohawk army. Mituvemeg estimated the men at between three hundred and three hundred and fifty.

“More than four hundred,” said Annahotaha. “That’s a quarter of the whole Iroquois force.”

“Here they come,” said Mituvemeg.

“Fire at will,” ordered Dollard. “Stay to your spot! Fire!”

The Iroquois advance was a torrent. They seemed to think they could scare the French to death by running at them, firing and yelling. The Canadians, after collective heart failure, calmed themselves down and began doing what they had been doing for a week: methodically picking their targets and shooting. The Mohawk onslaught met with volley after volley of shots. The Hurons, Algonquins and French were accurate and fast. Two fired at each loophole and one reloaded.

The ammunition and organization of loading had long since been put into perfect efficiency by Robert Jurie. The shot and powder were immediately at hand. There was no groping, no indecision. During the last week the system had become so ingrained that it was automatic. Each man knew what he had to do. If you loaded for one charge, you fired for the next. The Frenchman at each loophole was in charge of the shot so that the Hurons and Algonquins wouldn’t waste it in replying needlessly. There was no danger of that at the moment.

The muskets were being well used, but they were troublesome. They often misfired or jammed. They were flintlocks, lighter than the old matchlocks. Sparks were caused by the impact of flint on the steel above the priming powder pan. Sometimes there was no spark; sometimes the priming powder had shifted. Loading was laborious and although these men had practiced all winter and had plenty of experience before that, the process of putting priming powder and shot in the muzzle and then ramming them down with the rod still took time.

It was ironic. The Indians’ bow and arrows were much quicker and at least as accurate as the muskets, but they were almost useless now because the barricade gave very little room for a clear shot. Hatchets and knives were of no use except for close-in or hand-to-hand fighting, so the muskets had to be used by the Iroquois until they breached the wall.

Many Iroquois had muskets, but they weren’t accurate with the capricious guns under the circumstances. The muskets weren’t much good while the brave was running toward an enemy. He had to stop to load and stopping made you a sitting duck. It wasn’t possible.

The Hurons and Algonquins had the same trouble with the erratic muskets as the Iroquois except that they were stationary and had their supply of powder and shot right beside them, which gave them an advantage.

The Iroquois, firing into the bulky barricade, met with no success and soon fell back. The ‘clearing’ could not be called that now; it was littered with dead Iroquois. After the first futile charge, the Mohawks crowded inside the palisade.

Agariata, the Mohawk chief, was looking¬ forward to meeting Annenraes. The Onondagas were considered the most feared nation, as the most blood-thirsty, but the Mohawks disputed that. It was good to have to come to the aid of an Onondaga chief, Agariata thought, as he walked to meet his ally. His reputation would grow.

“Greetings,” said Agariata.

“Greetings,” said Annenraes. “We are happy to see you, cousin. The French are in a strong position, and we have need of more men to take that barricade.”

Agariata listened in silence while Annenraes outlined the account of the last week from the loss of the scouts to the most recent attack. When Annenraes was finished the Mohawk climbed up on the rock look-out and tried to find a flaw in the French defense. He looked for ten minutes silently.

Agariata and Annenraes then ordered that the wounded be moved back from the palisade to a smaller clearing behind and above the battle line as the ground ‘climbed’ the river. It was surrounded by guards. The injured would be safe there and not take precious space in the Iroquois fort which now had more than four hundred men crammed inside. The other Iroquois stayed in the woods close to the battlefield. They couldn’t surround the French because their fort was up against a huge rock formation. You might be able to get a couple of men to the top of the rock formation and fire down, but that had been tried during the week. The braves who did it had to expose themselves and were easily shot from below. It should have worked, theoretically but practically it failed each time it was it attempted because of the landscape.

Agariata had to think. He left the palisade and, following the safety of the trees, he investigated the barricade from every possible position. He had seen it from the river but he dismissed that: it would be foolish to attack from the water and, anyway, the French could not escape from there– they had no canoes.

He was gone an hour, “When he returned he went to Chief Annenraes,
“You are right, Annenraes. It is well fortified. We must be careful, An attack from the water is useless. But water is important to our success. They must be permitted no more water.

“How many men do they have?” asked Agariata.

“Between fifty and one hundred. They said one hundred, but that is a lie,” answered Annenraes.

“So we know approximately their force and we outnumber them greatly. We know their fort. We do not know the ammunition situation, but it seems that it is strong. We also know they are tired and they have no water. Water is part of the way to victory.”

That day when Louis Martin and others attempted to go for water they were beaten back by the sheer size of the Iroquois barrage. The French and their Indian allies gave powerful support as usual but instead of trying to keep one hundred men’s heads down, it was four hundred and fifty. The Canadians couldn’t do it. Martin and Pilote ran thirty feet and found the air filled with arrows and musket balls hitting the ground at their feet. They would have gone on but Dollard called them, back and the pair hurried back to the barricade under a torrent of enemy fire.

The French, Hurons and Algonquins did without water that day. The men looked longingly at the fresh cold water only a short distance away. They thought they’d try it after dark. The Iroquois tried no more frontal attacks.

Everybody watched everybody else.

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