Massasoit: A Story of the Indians of New England - Alma H. Burton

French and Indian War

The United Colonies of New England were kept very busy with Indians and charters, witches and pirates.

They found little time to watch the growth of their neighbors.

Meantime, many thousands from Europe had sought new homes to the south of them, until New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia became large colonies, with governors of their own.

Now, the colonies of the North knew very little about the colonies of the South.

Vast forests and marshes and deep rivers lay between them, and hostile Indians dwelt there, so that no white man dared travel between the two sections by land.

By sea, it took longer to go from Boston to Jamestown than it takes now to go to London.

Sometimes news was brought into the seaport towns of Indian wars in Virginia or Spanish wars in Georgia; but these events always seemed to have happened far away in some foreign land. It was the talk of the taverns at night, and forgotten the very next day.

But the time came when the scattered English colonies knew one another very well.

Common dangers drew them closer and closer together, until they united so firmly that nothing could ever separate them again.

First, they came to know each other better, because of the lands beyond the Alleghany mountains. Their charters gave them these lands. To be sure, they knew nothing about them, but they became restless, penned up within the narrow strip of land on the sea-coast, and began to look over the lofty mountain peaks, behind which the sun went down every night. They saw tangled forests and great rivers, and many tribes of red men and herds of wild game, of which they had never even heard the names.

They were astonished to see what a foothold the French had secured, in these lands which they themselves claimed.

The French had planted missions and trading-posts along the St. Lawrence, the great lakes and the Mississippi, and were already planning a vast empire to stretch from the mouth of the St. Lawrence to the mouth of the Mississippi. The whole country was a paradise for traders. It was said there were enough furs to furnish every pauper in England a beaver jacket, and that gold and silver were to be had for the digging.

When King George heard how his old enemies, the French, were taking away the territory claimed by the English, he, resolved to occupy the lands with his own subjects.

So, in 1749, he promised a large tract of land, on the Ohio river, to any company which would plant a colony of one hundred persons there. The Ohio Company began to send out settlers immediately; but before they could establish themselves, three hundred French soldiers took possession of the valley. Both nations now proceeded to build forts in the disputed territory. Deep in the forests they stood, and the Indians gazed up at their frowning walls with dread, as they glided past in their birch canoes. At their council fires, the warriors exclaimed in rage:

"Why do not the Palefaces settle their quarrels on their own land, or upon the sea, instead of here in our forests!" Yet they were powerless 'to keep out the intruders.

Meanwhile, delegates from New England met at Albany, with other delegates from New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland, and made a treaty with the Iroquois Indiana.

Now the French had all the Indians as their friends, except these Iroquois, and the reason of their hostility happened in this way. When Samuel Champlain discovered the St. Lawrence, the Hurons dwelt north of the river, and were at war with the Iroquois, who dwelt south of them. When they saw the wonderful white man with his wonderful gun, they asked him to help them in their war with the Iroquois. Champlain did not know how powerful this enemy was, and consented to go with the Hurons.

So, on the shores of. Lake Champlain, he fired into the Iroquois. They were in a great panic immediately. They heard the noise, saw their men fall about them, looked once at the Paleface in shining armor, and fled like a flock of sheep before a wolf. Champlain returned to France. But the Iroquois never forgot the French for this shame they had brought upon them.

They bought guns of the Dutch, and for many years guarded all the passes to the rich beaver lands of the Ohio.

They captured the transports of furs which the French traders had bought, and kept the western Indians in such a fright, that trade was greatly impaired.

And so it happened that, when the delegates from the English colonies met the Iroquois at Albany, they found these Indians ready to enter into an alliance to fight their old enemies, the French.

In the spring of 1766, General Edward Braddock came over from England with British troops, and the English and French were again at war with each other. French officers in gold lace, trappers in doeskin, priests in their black robes, soldiers in the white uniform of the French king, gathered on the banks of the St. Lawrence. English grenadiers in red coats, Scotch Highlanders in plaids, and colonial troops in homespun, rallied from all the frontiers. Rub-a-dub-dub, rub-a-dub-dub, beat the drums, and the fife resounded among all the hills of New England. Garrets were ransacked for great-grandfathers' swords, rusted with the blood of King Philip's wars. The rattle of arms, the tread of soldiers, and the hurrahing of street boys, were heard in the towns from morning till night. Indians joined each side in war-paint and feathers, burning with the hate of over a hundred years.

There were many exploits worthy of recital here. Frowning forts were scaled, swollen rivers crossed and forests cut down. In the far west the names of Washington, Stark, Putnam and Rogers were spoken in praise, for their daring deeds. Meanwhile, on the coast of New England, a tragedy was taking place.

Nova Scotia, which the English colonies had captured forty years before, had been nearly forgotten.

The simple French peasants dwelt in their old houses, as they had done before the fort in the harbor was taken. They reclaimed the wild lands from the forest and ocean. Meadows were covered with flocks, and fields of waving grain furnished an abundance of food. Matrons and maids were busy at the spinning-wheel, and the few luxuries were bought in exchange for furs or grain.

And so they lived, in a simple, honest fashion, busy with the common toils of the day.

They loved the language and the religion of their forefathers. They had their parish priests, and settled their own disputes among themselves.

No wars came to weaken them, and, at the time of this French and Indian war, there were sixteen thousand Acadians in Nova Scotia.

"What should be done with these Frenchmen?" asked the people of New England. There they were at the mouth of the St. Lawrence. They might join their countrymen and make war on the colonies.

They would, at least, furnish food to the French garrisons across the bay. So they were forced to surrender their boats and firearms.

But still the Acadians were a thorn in the side of New England. What should be done with them?

To fortify the island would require money and men. At last it was decided to drive them from their homes, and scatter them through the colonies. Governor Lawrence, with his New England troops, sailed to the North, and captured the two French forts on the narrow neck, which separated Nova Scotia from Canada.

Then he ordered all the Acadians to come together in the different towns. They went without arms: for they had none.

At Grand-Pre, four thousand and eighteen Frenchmen were marched into church.

Then, they were told by an officer, that they were the prisoners of the English king, who commanded them to leave Acadia forever.

A cry of horror arose from the wretched men, which was answered by the waiting women and children outside the church, who feared, they knew not what. Ships lay waiting in the harbor.

The young men were ordered to embark first. There was no use to rebel. The soldiers were beside them with pointed bayonets. They marched from the church to the vessels, between lines of weeping women. Then the old men went next. The vessels were filled and sailed away. No one knew to what ports they went.

The women and children remained behind in the bitter cold weather, suffering for food and shelter, until the ships came back to bear them away to exile.

Seven thousand French people were thus scattered throughout the American colonies.

One thousand were landed in Massachusetts. There they stood in a strange land. They could not speak a word of the English language. They needed food, clothing, and a place to rest, after the long sea voyage. But crowds of thoughtless boys teased them, as you see them do to-day, when foreign immigrants land at Castle Garden. It was a heart-rending scene as these thrifty French people, who had owned homes of their own, were scattered among the alms-houses, or made servants in the kitchens of their masters. Many families were never reunited. Mothers mourned their children; wives mourned their husbands.

Some escaped from the colonies in boats, and coasted northward toward their old homes; but they were soon seized, and forced to go ashore again.

Their cattle, sheep and horses were taken by the English officers. Their lands in Acadia went back to the first wilderness. Dikes were broken in by the ocean. Orchards were choked by thickets; the thatched roofs of cottages fell in from decay.

And as the Indian trappers wandered over the deserted lands, they sadly said, "All must perish, even Paleface brothers, who stand in the path of the English."