Momentarily the attack faltered. The Iroquois were astonished at the damage the kegs inflicted. They hesitated; some broke for their fort. Others, seeing the blood of their brothers, the broken bodies, the severed hands and limbs — gathered their courage, pushed fear down into their guts and responded with a cry of rage and frustration. They threw themselves in desperate determination at the barricade.
Dollard and Jurie were preparing another keg their fourth.
“These are using up powder fast,” said Jurie, “but they’re working.”
“A few more of these and it might be over,” agreed Dollard. “They can’t take many more dead.
“One, two, three…now!” they shouted together.
The keg swung up and over the barricade but at the top of the arc, just as it began to fall, an Iroquois catapulted himself up over the dead, up above the spikes of the palisade. The Iroquois brave and the keg met in mid-air. The Indian fell backwards, and the force of the impact knocked the keg back into the barricade.
Dollard saw the keg come back at him. He thought that if he could catch it he might hurl it back over the prongs of the barricade but even as he wished for this he knew it couldn’t happen. The other men were out of position, and the keg hit the earth with a thump and exploded. Robert Jurie shouted to them, but it was too late.
Dollard des Ormeaux, Simon Grenet and two Hurons died instantly. None of them had a chance to say a prayer. Death came to them as it did to so many during this week: suddenly and without warning.
Rene Doussin and Jean Lecompte were wounded, the upper part of their bodies badly burned. Robert Jurie lay writhing on the ground, his stomach blown open by the exploding keg.
The explosion staggered the barricade defenders. They turned to see what had happened, but the smoke was so thick they could not see each other. When the smoke abated a little some of them ran to their comrades’ assistance but as they did the Iroquois gained many of the loopholes and began firing into the center of the allies. Others hacked at the slender wooden posts with their hatchets, screaming insults and curses trying to break in.
Mituvemeg ignored all this. Calmly, he looked to his left. As he did an Onondaga leapt from the top of the barricade straight down at him. Mituvemeg had time only to whip his musket up above his head. It caught the brave in the groin, and he screamed as Mituveneg side-stepped and simultaneously slammed his musket butt into the temple of his enemy.
The Algonquin beside Mituvemeg was caught by two Onondagas who had also jumped from the top of the barricade. The Algonquin wrestled with one brave, swung his arm, and his hatchet hit his attacker’s shoulder, opening a bloody gash. But the second Onondaga threw his weight behind his knife-hand and plunged it into the back of the Algonquin who choked and slipped to the ground.
More Onondagas had jumped over the barricade at the ninth and tenth loopholes, and still more were firing into the barricade from the loopholes themselves.
Muskets were useless now as the roaring Iroquois spilled into the barricade.
The allies were shouting encouragement and warnings to each other, but gradually each became drawn into hand-to-hand combat.
Forges was in the middle of the enemy attack at the seventh loophole. He had been alternately firing and reloading, but now it was impossible to take precious time to reload.
The Iroquois were trying to come over the top of the barricade. Forges used a Huron hatchet to fend them off, swinging at any enemy whose head appeared over the top. He and others near him were doing the same and trying to fire through the loopholes to prevent the Iroquois from climbing. They were helped by the difficulty the enemy had in clambering over their own dead and wounded. The screams of the wounded as they were stepped, on mixed with the war cries of the healthy contributed to the noise of the firing and the shouting of orders and warnings and requests for assistance. Forges fought on.
Etienne Robin, seeing the rush of Iroquois, seized a hatchet and raced over to Robert Jurie who lay gasping and holding his stomach.
“They won’t get you, Robert.”
His right arm came down like a falling oak, and his hatchet sliced into his friend’ s skull killing him instantly.
With little time left, Robin, dodging attackers and defenders, ran to Rene Doussin, who had been wounded when one keg exploded within the fort.
“Thank God, Etienne!” gasped Doussin. “Do it, do it!”
Robin’s powerful arm came down and split his friend’s head. Robin was crying now and screaming.
“God damn you to hell, you bastards! You won’t take us alive.”
He found Lecompte, his close friend, still unconscious from the explosion.
“Forgive me, Jean– forgive me, my friend,” he sobbed as he fired his pistol’s remaining charge and killed his friend.
Etienne Robin looked quickly for more wounded Frenchmen. He saw none but then realized the Iroquois had Mituvemeg encircled at the eleventh loophole, and he called to him.
Robin had a second only to think of the possibility of being captured and tortured to death. He would kill as many French as he could to avoid it.
Mituvemeg was completely surrounded. None of the Iroquois facing him had muskets, and he had dropped his empty one. Both his hands went to his waist, and he drew two hatchets with deer thongs through the handles. His fingers gripped the handles just below the heads; he flipped them up in front of him. The tomahawks seemed to be leaving his control, but the thongs around his wrists limited them. As the weapons flew up, the thongs caught the outside of his forearms, and his practiced hands seized the handles. This hand-to-hand combat was the usual way battles waged in New France. Mituvemeg was experienced.
He took two steps forward and, extending his arms, he began to scream and spin on his feet. Spinning, his arms fully extended, he dropped quickly to knee height and rose again repeatedly, like a child’s top. As he turned, he caught an Onondaga in the neck with the left hatchet; the right axe cut across the chest of another. A third brave was struck in the ear, a fourth on the kneecap, a fifth in the stomach by the swinging tomahawks.
Mituvemeg’s rotation of death lasted for almost a minute, and he spun so fast no Iroquois could get near him.
Christophe Augier was defending the loophole with Mituvemeg. Now he was backed into a corner with two pistols in his hands but three Iroquois in front of him. They closed in. He fired and killed one, fired again and shot the second. The third, knowing Augier was out of ammunition, dove at the Frenchman. Augier pulled his knife and just had time to hold it out in front of him. The Iroquois, surprised, ran right onto it. His face said he didn’t believe it, that it wasn’t fair. But before Augier could move away an arrow slipped into his chest. It came from the rock above the barricade.
Etienne Robin, distracted By Iroquois, fought them off, but he could not get to Mituvemeg. His face as red as his hair, when he saw Augier in trouble.
He reached his friend too late. Augier slumped to the earth groaning. Robin hit him with his hatchet behind the ear and Augier died. Robin wasn’t thinking about any of this anymore. Desperate to save his friends from torture, he dispatched them with a relentless fury.
Mituvemeg was still spinning and screaming his war cry when Robin got to the outside of the circle. He clubbed an Onondaga with his hatchet and threw himself into the next man shoulder first. The brave fell off balance and as he fell, Mituvemeg, seeing an opening, leapt over him and struck him in the mouth with a hatchet. The Indian’s mouth opened in a giant ‘O’ for an instant then the blood from his mouth and nose covered his face.
Of the six Onondagas once surrounding Mituvemeg, three were down. Robin, after knocking his man over, kept running to his left and came upon the next Indian. Taken by surprise, the Onondaga turned to defend himself but Robin’s momentum was too great. The bloody hatchet glanced off the enemy’s cheek, cutting his ear and then bit deeply into his left shoulder blade. The next Onondaga dove at Robin and tackled him around the waist.
Cursing, Robin tried to get away, but two more braves jumped on him. One raised his tomahawk, but a chief’s voice spoke, stopping him.
“Do not kill him. Take him.”
Struggling proved useless. Five strong Onondagas grappled with Robin and two of then sitting on him, held him fast.
Mituvemeg, who had escaped the circle but was hemmed in at the barricade wall, continued to swing his two hatchets. The lack of room hampered him now and needing more space to maneuver, he ran straight at the nearest Onondaga, knocking him down. Two others, sensing what he was about to do, ran to intercept him with drawn knives from opposite sides. Mituvemeg was too quick, and the braves collided. One, seeing the danger in time, thrust his body away from his comrade’s arm. The second man took the first’s knife in the stomach.
Mituvemeg was surrounded again in an instant, and again he began his spinning. From behind and high up came an arrow that hit the ground next to the spinning Algonquin chief. The next went deep into his side.
Seeing their man hit, the Onondagas in the circle moved in. Two moved too early: one took the axe blade across the forehead and a second under the armpit. But there were too many Iroquois.
They sprang at him from all directions and covered him with their bodies. The only thing Etienne Robin could see were six arms swinging knives into the space where Mituvemeg was lying. In a second the Algonquin chief stopped breathing. Long after he was dead, the furious Iroquois plunged their knives into his body.
Onondagas had surrounded the two other Algonquins. One died when an Onondaga thrust his knife into the Algonquin’s stomach and jerked his arm upwards, and the second was shot by a bullet from the high rock behind the barricade.
All four Algonquins, seven of the thirteen Hurons and eight Frenchmen were dead.
The middle of the barricade wall, the section that had taken the brunt of the attack, had held the longest. But now it was nearly defenseless. Mohawks and Onondagas rushed in from the sides that had finally fallen. The marksmen on the rock could shoot with impunity and still the Iroquois ran at the center.
Unable to take the time to load their muskets, the French fought desperately with the Iroquois. Nicholas Josselin and Roland Hebert were back to back, firing their last pistol shots at Onondagas. Hebert, his pistol finally useless, threw it at an Indian. A musket ball bit Robert in the heart, and he was dead before he struck the ground. Josselin turned to his friend, and a Mohawk split his head with a hatchet-swing from the top of the barricade wall.
Louis Martin, a few feet away, was trying to reach a knife when two braves jumped on him and overpowered him. They began to tie him up.
“There’s no time,” he cried, struggling. “There’s no time– there are too many of them.”
Forges continued to fight, but his strength was sapped. Nine days of little sleep, constant tension and now hours of fighting against overwhelming odds were taking their toll. His hatchet bloody, he kept swinging. He had tried to use two hatchets but found he could not deal with them–his balance was off. So he reverted to using a hatchet in his right hand and using his left to climb, to push, to pull, to balance and this worked better. Forges didn’t feel tired in his head. He told himself he could keep up the fighting until all the Iroquois were dead, but his arms and legs weren’t reacting as fast as they usually did. Even the adrenalin provided by the sight of men dying around him and which stimulated him to greater effort, seemed to be only half-effective.
He hadn’t made many mistakes, but he knew the Iroquois had hundreds of fresh men, and he could see his friends falling around him. He could do nothing about it. He felt he was in a huge cobweb, thrashing at the lines around him and cutting them, but as fast as he did they grew up again. And all the time he could see his friends in trouble. He was trying to reach them, to help them, but he could only deal with the pressing bodies surrounding him.
He stabbed and lunged and pivoted and swung his axe. Two, three, four Iroquois felt the cutting swing of the weapon in his hand, but finally there was no more room to manoeuver. He tried to swing at an advancing brave, but an Iroquois behind him grabbed his left arm, pulling him to the side. His right arm struck the shoulder blade of the advancing Mohawk, and then yet another pulled him to the ground.
“Do not kill this one,” said a Mohawk. “He will be tortured; he has a great heart.”
Cognac reached for a keg of powder.
“Help me, Pilote!”
Pilote throw off a Mohawk who was wrestling the keg from Cognac.
“If we have to go, let’s make a big noise!”
The two men picked up a keg and stumbled the few steps to the fire. They threw it on the fire and stood beside it firing pistols.
“You’re not going to eat me, you sons of whores,” said Cognac.
“Go to hell you bastards!” cried Pilote to the advancing enemy.
The explosion killed both the Frenchmen, two Hurons and nine Mohawks.
Joan Valets, the big, fearless ploughman, was cursing the Iroquois in their own language near the eighth loophole.
“Snakes. Vipers, you are comical. You have an army, and it’s taken you a week to got to us! Your children could do better. You are cowards and dogs, and you can fight only rabbits. You make me sick! “
Five Mohawks jumped on him when his pistol jammed. They would have killed him, but Agariata was there.
“Do not kill any more of those people. We will take them with us.”
A Mohawk, frustrated, pulled his knife blade across Valet’s cheek. Valets spat blood in the Mohawk’s face.
Old Louis Taondechoren, sixty years old and still fighting, fell down when two Mohawks clubbed him. Then they tied him up.
Two more Hurons had been overpowered; Alonie Delestre was the only man still fighting.
The Iroquois chief, Agariata, saw him without a weapon.
“He is mine.”
Agariata circled Delestre slowly, a tomahawk in hand. The other Mohawks made a small outer circle swiftly.
Delestre looked around for a weapon, spied a musket, picked it up by the barrel and slowly backed away from the Iroquois chief.
Agariata charged, a tomahawk over his head. Without thinking, Delestre ducked and swung his musket in a wide, upward arc. It caught Agariata between the legs and he screamed in pain and fell.
Delestre was on him, his hands choking the chief. He thought as he squeezed that the Indian had made a stupid move.
Several rough hands pulled Alonie Delestre off the chief, who was trying to hold his throat and his genitals at the some time.
“You will suffer before you die, Frenchman,” said Agariata from the ground.
Annenraes took over. He had a wicked thought: he was glad Delestre had won that round. Somehow it lessened his embarrassment at having had to call for help in this enterprise; it validated his effort. First he had the Iroquois check all the fallen men of the barricade. All the Algonquins were dead; only four of the Hurons were alive, including Louis Taondechoren; five of the French remained alive — Jean Valets, Louis Martin, Forge, Etienne Robin and Delestre.
“Who of you can speak to me?” asked Annenraes.
“I can,” said Jean Valets, in Iroquois.
“Where is Annahotaha? I do not see him.”
Valets walked a few steps and pointed to the charred head of the valiant and feared Huron chief.
“It is unfortunate,” said Annenraes. “I wanted his scalp.”
“Fortune had nothing to do with it,” said Delestre
Annenraes gave Valets a black look.
“Where is Mituvemeg?”
Valets pointed to Mituvemeg’s bloody corpse. Annenraes emitted a rush of air in exasperation.
“Show me your Captain.”
Valets pointed to Dollard’s body, pitifully torn by the explosion.
Annenraes looked grim.
“We will have to be satisfied with you people.”
Annenraes stood in the middle of the barricade, now covered with the blood of his men and their enemies. The dark ground was charged with crimson and purple like a choleric maple turning a sour red in fall.
“We did not expect this to happen,” he said. “We have won the battle here and have shown the French that they cannot come into our forest to attack us and expect to return to their houses.
“But we have suffered the loss of many Oneida, Onondaga and Mohawk braves and the capture of these people and the Huron defectors cannot make up for the agony we have suffered in the loss of our brothers.
“We must return to our homes. It is bad to plan to do a thing and then have so many obstacles in our way. It is better if we do not do the thing now.
“We will return to the longhouse to mourn our dead. We will display our prisoners and tell of this battle. We will torment our prisoners in front of our councils and, if they show great courage, consume their hearts. And we will prepare for the time when we will wipe out the French from our land.”
The Iroquois gave a great cry of victory and appreciation for the words of their chief, Annenraes. Then Agariata spoke.
“Chief Annenraes is right. To attack Montreal in defiance of this omen would not be good. The prisoners will be divided. Of the Frenchmen, one will go to the Oneidas, and two each will go to the Onondagas and the Mohawks as they have larger representation here and have earned them. I will take the old one too.”
Agariata took Alonie Delestre, whom he wanted to torture himself, and Etienne Robin. The Onondagas led by Annenraes took Louis Martin and Forges, and the Oneida warriors received Jean Valets. Louis Taondechoren too became Agariata’s prisoner.
The next day, after the dead had been buried, the wounded treated as well as possible in the field, the Iroquois slept. They took their prisoners watchful for a chance to escape, but with little hope, and made the difficult portage up the rapids of the Long Sault.
At the top of the hill, Annenraes turned to look down at the battlefield. The rapids crashed below him and then the water folded out like a billowing blanket and, quiet now, raced past the Iroquois palisade, past the open earth stained by so much blood, past the broken French barricade and on down through the forest.
Annenraes knew that battle was not the last he would have with the French intruders. He would not rest until they had all been killed or banished from his land. Then he would have to deal with the Dutch at Fort Orange. And the English were further south, he knew. The Great Spirit was trying his people with new things and more strife and turbulence than he had seen before. No matter. He and the Confederacy would learn how to deal with these people. The “Onweh Oweh,” the Original Men, must prevail.
He looked at the barricade impassively for a long time. Then he turned and walked quickly over to the waiting canoe that was being held for him by his braves.