The Battle of the Long Sault, Chapter 40: Louis Taondechoren

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En route to Onondaga Iroquois territory, just at the top of the Long Sault rapid, the sixty-year-old Huron warrior, Louis Taondechoren, was hustled along during the portage. He spied a plant on the path that he knew to be poisonous. He pulled a leaf from it and, knowing he would not die with a bite, he swallowed it.

Almost immediately he became violently ill. He vomited on the Onondaga brave was pulling him along. The brave yelled and pushed him away, close to the precipice. He fell to the ground, his head over the falls pulling the brave with him. He vomited wretchedly, and the brave took his knife and cut the gut strap between them so that none of the sickness would possibly infect him.

Taondechoren crawled to the edge of the promontory overlooking the steep drop to the river rocks water below. The disgusted brave complained to the others who laughed and mocked him. While the Iroquois were thus engaged, Louis rose from his prone position to his knees, still retching.

Annenraes looked at him and said, “We cannot wait here long. The wounded must be removed to the longhouses.”

When the brave who had had Louis tied to him turned to get his prisoner, Louis stood up and suddenly pushed off the rock and plunged into the water fifty feet below.

The Iroquois yelled, but Annenraes said. “Leave him. He is old and of no use to us. He will die in that water surely.”

And without another thought the Iroquois war party turned and moved on.

Taondechoren hit the water hard, but he dove where the water was still, not roiling over rocks, so he was unhurt. His dive took him deep and, long practiced at water escapes, he held his breath and swam under water carried easily downstream by the current. When his head popped up, he was a long way downstream, out of sight of the Iroquois, who, by then, had turned away from him in any case.

He built a fire, drank some water, caught a fish, built a birch canoe, slept in the forest and then paddled back to Montreal where he related the story of the battle to Governor Maisonneuve.

Maisonneuve, saddened although not surprised at the outcome, now had confirmation of the rumors of war. He was able to alert Quebec and Three Rivers and fortify all three French forts.

He knew the Iroquois would not soon attack again, so for a time there was peace in the forests, on the rivers and in the houses of New France. And in the Iroquois longhouses.

But in all these places sorrow prevailed.

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