The Battle of the Long Sault, Chapter 36: No Rules in This Game

the_battle-Mohammed-Hasnat-399x600Annahotaha saw his nephew, La Mouche, run at the wall. The chief moved to him and grabbed at his legs, but La Mouche was at the top and with a kick to Annahotaha’s chest he simultaneously pushed the chief over backwards and fell to the ground outside the barricade. Once he hit the ground, La Mouche began running fast for the Iroquois compound, urged on by the hoots and exhortations of the Iroquois. Furious, Annahotaha regained his feet and sprang to a loophole. He moved his musket into place and fired.

La Mouche’s body arched like a bow. His hands coiled to the pain in his spine and his head and feet almost met at the small of his back. The pain was everywhere, in his back, neck, arms, legs, brain. The shot had hit his spinal column and when he fell he did not move. He had spun around so that he could see the Iroquois palisade gate thirty feet away. But he couldn’t reach it and no one left the palisade to help him. La Mouche had time to reflect on his choice before he died.

Annahotaha, breathing heavily, watched La Mouche fall, and he cursed his nephew’s cowardice.

The French were firing at the escaping Hurons. Some Iroquois, as they saw the defectors climb over the walls of the barricade, ran out of their palisade and rushed towards the escaping Hurons.

The Iroquois, thinking this might be a complete capitulation, were yelling and waving and running and firing their muskets. The French, trying to shoot the defecting Hurons, saw the onrushing Iroquois and began shooting at them as well.

Annahotaha tried to prevent it.

“Let them go — do not shoot!”

It was too late. In the confusion, the French killed many Iroquois as well as eight fleeing Hurons.

“Ah, comrades, you have spoiled everything,” said Annahotaha. “Now that you have embittered them they will charge upon us in such a rage that we are without doubt lost.”

Annahotaha was right about the Iroquois. In breaking the peace before the Iroquois had answered the French had made a grave error.

Pilote turned on Annahotaha:

“What do you mean we’ve ruined everything? Your Hurons defect, and we’re supposed to stand here and take it? They’re cowards!

“The Iroquois tried to parley with us a few days ago and when some were coming to talk others were attacking us from the side. We haven’t done anything they didn’t do, and we had provocation!” shouted Pilote.

Annahotaha looked at Pilote sadly.

“Do you think that matters to the Iroquois? Do you think this is a game with rules?”

In the Iroquois palisade, when the French began shooting first at the escaping Hurons and then at the Iroquois, the two Hurons, and the adopted Oneida emissaries were giving the gifts to the Iroquois chiefs. Annenraes slapped the presents aside.

“Do you give us gifts with your hands while you kill us with your guns? There will be no more talk. Kill them!”

Suddenly, tomahawks and knives closed off the light in the eyes of the messengers.

Other Iroquois were cheering the defecting Hurons on and welcoming them into their palisade. Twenty-four Hurons had gone over the walls. Eight, including La Mouche, lay dead on the ground between the two primitive forts. The other sixteen were told to sit down, and guards hovered over them in a corner of the Iroquois camp. Then the Iroquois turned their attention to the enemy fort. Stung by the breaking of the truce, the Iroquois raced out of their compound and ran screaming at the barricade.

“Stations!” Dollard yelled.

The thirty-four remaining allies raced to the loopholes. They fired as quickly as possible at the advancing Iroquois.’The wave of lead cut the front line down, then the second line, and then Agariata called the retreat. Howling and screeching, the Mohawks and Onondagas ran back to the safety of their palisade.

Inside, Agariata spoke:

“‘We will not leave here without killing the French.”

He took his hatchet and buried it in one of the rough palisade’s poles. The Iroquois braves knocked each other over in an attempt to pull it out and thus have the honor of leading the next attack.

“Prepare yourselves. Protect yourselves. Get the shields,” Agariata ordered.

Many braves wore a kind of forest armor. Mantlets of three pieces of wood were lashed side to side which covered them from the head to the middle of the thigh. This shield would not be effective against steel-tipped arrows although it would stop stone-tipped ones. As a protection against bullets it was of no value, but the psychological effect could help the braves, Agariata knew, and it might frighten and confuse the French shooters.

As the Mohawks dressed in their protective equipment, Agariata looked toward the barricade. He saw nothing.

“They cannot last now,” said Annenraes, who had just come from the squatting defectors.

“The Hurons say there were sixty-one men: seventeen French, four Algonquins and forty Hurons.”

“How many are left?” asked Agariata.

“Thirty-four or thirty-five. Twenty-tour defected to us; we had the three emissaries here, and there are at least a half-dozen Hurons dead out there.”

“You are right. They cannot last. The Hurons have no stomach for us.”

“You will be surprised at the people there,” said Annenraes. “The defectors say Annahotaha captains the Hurons and Mituvemeg is the Algonquin leader.”

“Annahotaha and Mituvemeg? Together? said Agariata. “I will enjoy seeing them die. Annahotaha in particular. He has lived too long. He has killed many of our brothers. I want to torture him myself.”

“You will have to be swift, Agariata,” said Annenraes. “I want him too.”

Agariata looked at his men; they were nearly ready.

In the barricade after the rush, there was little time to sort things out. Thirteen Hurons remained, including Annahotaha. The Algonquins had not even considered defecting; they were of a different life-root than the Iroquois, and they could neither expect nor did they wish for the adoption promised the Hurons. The seventeen Frenchmen and their Indian allies totaled thirty-four. The odds were now over twelve to one.

Dollard’s quick calculation put two men at each of eleven loopholes and a man between each loophole. That was thirty-two men.

“Pay attention. Here is what we will do,” said Dollard.

He scuffed some stones out of the way with his foot, picked up a broken arrow and drew a large semi-circle on the ground to represent the barricade.

“‘We will man eleven loopholes with two men each. The force will be strongest in the center because the loopholes are closer together there. Between each loophole and two steps behind we will place another man so that he can move either left or right to fire while the man he replaces steps back to reload.

“Annahotaha, you and the Hurons take the river side from loophole number one to four. Mituvemeg and the Algonquin band take the forest side loopholes ten and eleven. The French will take the center loopholes five through nine with a man back of loopholes nine and ten and another behind ten and eleven with Mituvemeg’s men.

“The first man at the first loophole and the last man at number eleven loophole will not have replacements; they must fire when ready, step back, reload and return to the firing position.

“Robert Jurie will stand here about twenty paces behind the second line of men so that he can see all the firing points and cover or reinforce where necessary. I will be on this rock where I can see over the barricade. Get your ammunition ready. Move!”

The men peeled out of the circle like birds frightened by gunshot.

Annahotaha and his Hurons moved to the left, the river side, They grabbed boxes of powder and shot and placed them a step and a half behind and a little to the side of the loopholes they were defending. When they had fired and stepped back, they would just have to reach down without looking to grab their ammunition. Annahotaha would defend the river and the area from the river to the beginning of the fifth loophole, which was facing the water and the rapids. To attack these positions, the Iroquois would have to run from their palisade toward the river then cut left and run along the river then swing into the left again to the barricade. It gave Annahotaha’s men the most time to aim and fire and put the Iroquois at the most serious disadvantage, for they had the longest run without cover to attack this position. The river acted as a barrier because the current was too fast to permit an attack from the water.

Annahotaha noted all this as he deployed his men at loopholes one through five. He put a good marksman at the position of the first loophole because that man would get no relief, and he placed another good one at the position of the number five loophole because that man shared the spot with a Frenchman. After the defection, Annahotaha wanted no more reasons for the French to mistrust the Hurons. He alternated strong and weaker marksmen at the other holes, and he took up the first position of the second loophole himself. From there he could see all the others in front of him and still be close enough to assist any strong attack to the first loophole, which was just behind him to the left on the semi-circle.

Mituvemeg’s men picked up ammunition as they ran to the far right-hand side of the barricade. They defended against attack from the forest, only forty yards away and would, therefore, have the shortest time to prepare.

Behind the barricade was a natural rock formation which rose steeply and acted as a back-stop for the defenders. For any Iroquois who cared to climb it from the forest, it also offered a position from which to shoot down on the barricade. Two facts had worked against that so far: the rock formation was so steep it could be climbed only with a great deal of time, and there wasn’t much room at the peak. If an Iroquois did get up there, the barricade’s defenders could see him easily and shoot him.

After a few early attempts at this, the Iroquois got tired of losing men so easily and had ignored that route days earlier. But Mituvemeg wondered, now with so many men so intent on the kill, if the enemy would try the position again.

‘While taking up his place at loophole ten, he resolved to keep an eye on the rock.

“Dollard,” Mituvemeg called.

Dollard looked over.

“Watch the rock above us!”

Dollard nodded and yelled to everyone:

“When re-loading, look behind you to the rock!”

Mituvemeg’s Algonquins now occupied the extreme right of the barricade at the last two loopholes, ten and eleven, near the rock and closest to the forest.

The French fighters moved to the center of the curve of the barricade, pulling ammunition with them. They began with Cognac taking the second position at the fifth loophole next to the Huron.

Cognac looked at the Huron and spoke in French.

“Can you shoot straight?”

The Huron did not answer. He could not speak French and Cognac didn’t know much Huron except swear words.

“Have you got your ammunition ready?” Cognac asked.

No response.

“Have you got a drink?” he asked.

The Huron regarded him blankly.

“Dumb savages,” Cognac said to himself in French, and then he said it in Huron.

“Dumb savages.”

“Dumb savages,” the Huron repeated, thinking Cognac was referring to the Iroquois.

Surprised, Cognac laughed and responded in Huron.

“Right! Dumb savages. Stupid dogs!”

“Stupid dogs,” echoed the Huron, looking grimly out the loophole.

“Hey, you’re all right,” said Cognac, slapping the Indian on the shoulder.

“Rotten Viper bastards,” Cognac said in Huron.

“Rotten Viper bastards,” repeated the Huron. “Sons of dogs,” he added unexpectedly.

Cognac looked at the Huron with glee.

“Right! — sons of dogs! Let’s shoot the sons of dogs!” He laughed.

The other men took their positions at loopholes six to nine and Frenchmen lined up in the secondary line between each of the loopholes from five to eleven, extending behind Mituvemeg’s Algonquins. They were ready. Robert Jurie moved a few more boxes into position, grabbed his musket and stepped back several steps.

“Where the hell are they?” he said.

“Jesus, don’t invite them!” said Pilote from the sixth loophole.

The silence was worse than the sporadic fire had been for days. The men were aware of their own heavy, irregular breathing. It wasn’t hot, but some wiped sweat from their foreheads.

The air was still.

Finally, Forges spoke:

“Captain, captain.”

“What is it?” said Dollard.

“Captain, due to a pressing social engagement I should like to be relieved of duty for the next few days. May I have leave?”

“I, too, have a pressing matter. I have been called to the bar,” said Cognac.

The laughter that broke the tension hadn’t died before Agariata, gave the Iroquois the signal to attack.

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