Builders of our Country Vol. I - G. Southworth
By the middle of the eighteenth century the colonies of England and France were firmly planted in North America. Along the courses of two great rivers the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi the French had crept in and made settlements, strengthening themselves by mighty forts along the St. Lawrence, and by a straggling chain of weaker ones along the Mississippi. And what a great country the claim of these two rivers gave the French; all the wilderness region watered by the Mississippi and its branches; all the valley of the St. Lawrence, the Great Lakes, and Lake Champlain.
To offset this mighty empire, England had a narrow strip of. Atlantic seacoast, settled by thirteen colonies. Doesn't it seem that England's claim was small beside that of France? But remember that although it was only the coast region that was settled, England claimed that her colonies extended straight across North America to the Pacific Ocean.
If you will look at your map, you will see that a great deal of the land claimed by France and England was the very same land. The French claimed the entire Mississippi valley; the English claimed the greater part of it. The French claimed all the region of the Great Lakes, including a good part of the present State of New York, while the English claimed a great deal of the lake region for themselves, including all of New York.
THE PRESENT TERRITORY OF THE UNITED STATES AS CLAIMED BY THE FRENCH, ENGLISH, AND SPANISH IN 1749.
As France and England were usually fighting with each other at home, one could hardly expect that their colonies could live at peace in America, especially when both claimed the same territory. War had, to come, and war came.
There were four wars between the French and the English in America, lasting off and on from 1689 to 1763. The last one was the most important; it settled matters for all time.
There were about fourteen times as many English in America as there were French. But the French balanced this disadvantage by the help of many tribes of bloodthirsty Indians. The English, on the other hand, had only the Iroquois to help them.
It was in the year 1749 that the very beginnings of the last war between the French and the English in America were made. The French Governor of Canada saw that the daring English settlers were pushing their way westward into the Ohio valley. If once a colony of English should get firmly planted in the valley of the Ohio, it would be an easy thing for them to get between the French of Canada and the French of Louisiana. Thus the English could creep north and south and attack the French from the very heart of the country they called their own.
This invading of the French claims along the Ohio continued and was greatly troubling the French when the Marquis Duquesne was sent as the new governor of Canada.
"We will go straight down to the Ohio country," said Governor Duquesne, "and build strong forts."
So a French expedition set out. First, they stopped on the shore of Lake Erie, where the city of Erie now stands, and built a fort of chestnut logs. Then they made a road through the woods to French Creek, where they built another fort, which they called Fort Le Boeuf.
Here they were much surprised to see a tall young man on horseback coming out of the woods with a dozen white men and Indians. The young man's name was George Washington, and he brought a letter from Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia. "Will you please tell me," said the letter, "what right you have on land which belongs to the King of England? I must ask you to leave at once."
The French treated young Major Washington very well during his three days' stay at the fort. But they refused to leave.
WASHINGTON IN HIS COLONEL'S UNIFORM.
When Washington returned to Governor Dinwiddie he told him that he had found a splendid place for a fort. This was at the forks of the Ohio, where Pittsburg now stands.
Governor Dinwiddie had a hard time to get the English colonies interested in the encroachments of the French. "The French are not troubling us," they said. "Let them have the Ohio country. We have our own affairs to look after." The colonies had not yet learned to hang together.
While he was trying to stir up the half-hearted colonies to see their danger, Governor Dinwiddie sent young Washington to occupy the Ohio country. A group of backwoodsmen were to go ahead and build the fort at the forks of the Ohio.
THE ENGLISH ROUTE TO FORT DUQUESNE
Working on their fort, these men saw a great swarm of boats floating down the Monongahela. The boats were full of Frenchmen. "We will save you the trouble of building your fort," said the Frenchmen. The backwoodsmen fled over the mountains to meet Washington, while the` French tore down their fort and built a bigger and better one. This they named Fort Duquesne, after the Governor of Canada.
When Washington heard that the French were building Fort Duquesne, he knew that a battle must soon be expected. So he selected a level piece of land covered with grass and bushes, with a ravine on one side. He called the place "Great Meadows "and set his men to prepare it for a battlefield. For several days Indians and backwoodsmen came in, reporting that Frenchmen were skulking about. Finally Washington found a small body of the enemy hiding in a rocky hollow. Washington attacked these, and all but one of them were killed or taken prisoners. This was the beginning of the last and greatest war between the French and the English.
Realizing that as soon as the news reached Fort Duquesne a large body of French would be sent against him, Washington built a rude fort, which he named Fort Necessity, and there waited for the enemy.
The French had several times as many men as Washington had. And besides, Washington's men were half starved, and their powder was wet. They fought bravely, but finally Washington saw that it would be useless to keep on. He surrendered, sick at heart. The French permitted him and his men to leave the fort with the honors of war, taking all their property with them. So many of the men were sick or wounded that every man who was able had to carry a comrade on his back.
The French marched triumphantly back to Fort Duquesne, burning all the buildings they found on their way. Not an English flag was left to wave west of the Alleghanies.
Then the English colonies began to wake up, and now it was that they sent men to Albany to talk things over and to make a treaty with the Iroquois. Here Hendrick, the chief of the Iroquois, made a stirring speech to the colonists: "Look about your country and see," he said. "You have no fortifications, no, not even in this city. It is but a step from here to Canada, and the French may come and turn you out of doors. Look at the French; they are men; they are fortifying everywhere. But you are all like women."
THE FRENCH FORTS ON THE NORTHERN FRONTIER
The Indians spoke only too truly. A line of strong French forts extended from the mouth of the St. Lawrence to the Ohio; and there were two, Ticonderoga and Crown Point, near the southern extremity of Lake Champlain, very close to Albany itself.
In the meantime England herself saw that something must be done. It was decided that all of the strongest forts of the French must be attacked. This was the plan: General Braddock was to take soldiers from England and capture Fort Duquesne; Governor Shirley of Massachusetts was to take a body of colonists and attack Fort Niagara; Colonel William Johnson, who lived on the Mohawk, and had great influence with the Indians, was to attack Crown Point; and another army of colonists was to attack Acadia, or Nova Scotia, as it is now called.
In February, 1755, General Braddock with his well-drilled redcoats, reached Virginia. Horses and wagons were very scarce in Virginia, and it seemed for some time as if it would be impossible to find any way to carry the supplies that would be needed by the large army on the march.
But Benjamin Franklin, who always knew how to do the right thing at the right time, went to the farmers of Pennsylvania and persuaded them to furnish wagons and horses, and the army finally started for Fort Duquesne.
When Braddock reached Wills Creek he found that the army of Virginia soldiers had been doing good work. A solid log fort stood here, armed with ten small cannon. When Braddock drew up his army in the clearing in front of the fort, it was an impressive sight. There were fourteen hundred English soldiers in their bright red uniforms, and about five hundred awkward Virginians, among whom was that bravest Virginian of all, George Washington.
Braddock was a brave man, but he did not like to listen to other people's advice. When Washington told him of the Indian ways of fighting, he laughed and said that trained British soldiers could not learn warfare from ignorant savages. When some of the Indians came and offered to join Braddock's army he treated them coldly. "He looked upon us as dogs," said one of their chiefs, "and would never hear anything that we said to him."
Once more the army was started on the march. Three hundred axmen went ahead to clear the way. Suddenly the English army came upon the French near Fort Duquesne. The battle was on in an instant, and when it was ended Braddock had been terribly defeated. His red-coated soldiers had proved an easy mark for the French and Indians. When the firing had commenced, Braddock had drawn up his men in fine battle array, as he had been accustomed to do upon the battlefields of Europe. But from behind every tree and bush the fire of an invisible enemy fell upon his helpless soldiers. They huddled together like sheep, not knowing which way to fire. "We would fight," they cried, "if we could see anyone to fight with."
Braddock showed himself a brave general, if not a wise one. Four horses were shot under him, and he fell from the fifth with a deadly wound through his lungs. "Leave me where I am," he cried; but the officers bore him away to safety. He died several days later. "We shall know better the next time," were his last words.
There was another courageous fighter on that battlefield, and that was young George Washington. He was everywhere, cheering the men, making the best of a bad matter. Two horses were killed under him, and four bullets passed through his coat, but he was unharmed.
Braddock's defeat at Fort Duquesne was a crushing blow to England and her colonies. The attack upon Niagara was scarcely more successful, and that upon Crown Point amounted to little.
Although the English did not seem to be making much headway, the French decided that the best of soldiers should be sent to America. The French king looked about for a good general to command the French forces in America, and he chose Louis de Montcalm, one of the best soldiers and truest gentlemen in all France. .
When Montcalm was a boy at school he wrote to his father and told him what his ambitions were. "First," he said, "I want to be an honorable man, of good morals, brave, and a Christian." This ambition Louis de Montcalm realized, unlike most of the Frenchmen of his day. He was a dutiful and obedient son, and a loving husband and father.
Besides the French soldiers who came with Montcalm, all the men of Canada, between the ages of fifteen and sixty, were enrolled in the militia, to be ready to fight whenever they were wanted, and to these were added many Indians.
The only important victory of 1756 was won by Montcalm. This was the capture of the English fort at Oswego. Oswego was one of the strongest and most important of the English forts, as it was located on Lake Ontario; and its loss was a great blow to the English.
The next year Montcalm struck another important blow. News came that the best of the English troops had gone to attack Louisburg. Louisburg Was the strongest of the French forts, and, besides Quebec, the most important, for it stood at the entrance of the St. Lawrence. This expedition left the two English forts, Fort William Henry, on Lake George, and Fort Edward, on the Hudson, without strong protection
This was just what Montcalm wanted. He sett messengers to the north and west to gather the Indians into Montreal. More than a thousand came and encamped around the city. Many of them had never before seen a French settlement. All were eager to see Montcalm, for they had heard of his capture of Oswego. One of the chiefs said to him, "We wanted to see the famous man who tramples the English under his feet. We thought we would find him so tall that his head would be lost in the clouds. But you are a little man, my father. It is when we look into your eyes that we see the greatness of the pine tree and the fire of the eagle.",
With a body of eight thousand men Montcalm marched to Ticonderoga. Among his troops were some of the finest gentlemen of Europe, as well as some of the cruelest savages of America. All were bound upon the same errand. "Let us trample the English under our feet," was the war song which the Indians made the Frenchmen sing with them before they would agree to start upon the expedition.
From Ticonderoga Montcalm proceeded south and placed his army between Fort William Henry and Fort Edward, in order to prevent the soldiers of Fort Edward from coming to help defend fort William Henry.
The Indians gave the French much trouble. They always complained that not enough notice was taken of them, and that, instead of being consulted about the siege, they were expected to obey orders, like slaves. "We know more about fighting in the woods than you," they said. Finally, the siege began. The Indians forgot their discontent in the sound of cannon roaring through the forest. Sometimes the Indians would be allowed to point the cannon, much to their delight.
After a siege of three days, the men defending Fort William Henry saw that there was no hope of receiving aid from any direction. A white flag was raised, a drum was beaten, and one of the English officers left the fort and approached Montcalm's tent. Montcalm agreed that the English should march out with the honors of war, and that they should be taken to Fort Edward the next day under the protection of French soldiers.
Montcalm called a council of the Indian chiefs and made them promise not to allow the English to be hurt. The chiefs promised, but the promise was kept in a savage fashion. The next morning, before the French were stirring, they fell upon the English, and commenced a terrible massacre. Montcalm rushed out at the first news of disturbance and threw himself among the Indians, crying, "Kill me, but spare the English who are under my protection." But even their general's bravery was useless among these savages. Montcalm found that it was easier to lead Indians to battle than to lead them away from it. He was glad indeed when his army once more turned toward Montreal.
In the meantime, the English expedition against Louisburg had failed. At the end of the year 1757 the fortunes of the English looked very dark indeed.
That year a new prime minister was put at the head of affairs in England. This was William Pitt, a very wise man, who understood America better than most English people did. "Something has to be done," said he.
In 1758 he planned three campaigns. "First," he said, "we must take Louisburg, as the first step toward taking Quebec. Then we must capture Ticonderoga, which is right in the heart of the northern colonies. Next we must take Fort Duquesne, the key to the great West."
General Amherst was sent to attack Louisburg, and with him came a young brigadier, named James Wolfe. James Wolfe was the son of an officer in the English army. Although very delicate in health, he had longed from earliest childhood to be a soldier. At fifteen he had entered the army, and at sixteen had served as adjutant of his regiment in Flanders. He passed through several military campaigns in Scotland, and at twenty-three was made a lieutenant colonel. All this time he had kept up a constant battle with ill health. He was a great student, and spent all his spare time in study.
Like Montcalm, Wolfe loved his mother very dearly and confided to her all his hopes and ambitions. "The greatest happiness that I wish for is to see you happy," he wrote in one of his letters to her. And again, "If you stay much at home I will come and shut myself up with you for three weeks or a month, and you shall laugh at my short red hair as much as you please." Once he said to her, "All I wish for myself is that I may at all times be ready to die, and may die properly when the hour comes." How that wish came true you may judge for yourself.'
Louisburg was indeed the strongest fort in America, but this time the men who had come to attack it were very determined. They meant to win. Of these the bravest and most eager for danger was young Brigadier Wolfe, and there were none who won greater honors there. After a long and stubborn siege, the fort was taken by the English, with almost six thousand French prisoners.
The English capture of Louisburg meant a great loss to the French. It gave the English the key to the St. Lawrence. They could now sail straight up to Quebec. This, Wolfe wanted to do at once. He had no patience with the slow movements of the older English generals.
WILLIAM PITT ADVISES YOUNG JAMES WOLFE BEFORE HE SAILS FOR CANADA.
The English attack upon Ticonderoga did not succeed. The English leader, Lord Howe, was killed before the siege fairly began. Montcalm defended the fort and fought fearlessly; wherever danger was greatest he was always to be seen, directing everything, and encouraging his men. The French won the day.
This, however, was the last triumph which the French were to have. Before the end of 1758, Fort Duquesne and Fort Frontenac had both fallen into the hands of the English.
There remained yet the one great stronghold of the French, the rock-walled city of Quebec. If Quebec were to be taken, the St. Lawrence would belong to the English. In 1759 Pitt appointed for this purpose the very man who most longed to attack Quebec, young James Wolfe, now only thirty-two years old.
By May, Wolfe had his fleet collected in the harbor of Louisburg. In June they sailed out, the troops cheering and crying, "British colors on every French fort, post, and garrison in America!"
In Quebec, Montcalm was making great preparations to receive his unwelcome guests. Sixteen thousand men, including French soldiers, Canadians, and Indians, poured into the city. All along the borders of the St. Lawrence, Montcalm had men throwing up defenses. Every gate of the city, except the river gate, was closed and barricaded. More than one hundred cannon were mounted on the walls, while gunboats and fire ships lay along the river. Fortified upon that high rock, Quebec seemed like a great eagle's nest "far beyond the reach of men.
Wolfe entered the St. Lawrence and landed, leaving his fleet anchored in the river. Montcalm saw this, and had the fire ships, filled with tar, pitch, old iron, and gunpowder, lighted and set afloat down the river. For a time the English on the ships were frightened. But the fire ships did the English no harm; some drifted ashore before they reached the English fleet, and the rest were pushed away by the grappling hooks of the bold English sailors.
Wolfe had landed, but could find no way to get at the enemy. From lofty Quebec, Montcalm could watch the movements of the British; and he decided that it was safer to watch them than offer battle. Wolfe finally took up his position on a height opposite Quebec. Here he waited and watched for an opportunity to attack Montcalm. Besides, he hoped for re-enforcements.
But the re-enforcements did not come, and, on the other hand, there seemed to be no way to provoke Montcalm to battle. Wolfe's old sickness came upon him, and his officers feared that he would never live to see more fighting. But he got better again, and even tried to be cheerful.
THE CITADEL OF QUEBEC AND THE PLAINS OF ABRAHAM.
One day in September Wolfe set out with his spy-glass and sailed up and down the river, studying the steep side of the rock of Quebec. He spied a narrow and rugged ravine, leading up the side of the rock. At once he formed a daring plan.
That night the boats of the English floated silently down the river. Landing, Wolfe, at the head of the English troops, scrambled up the narrow ravine which he had seen during the day. Drawing themselves up by the roots and branches of trees, they reached the top. In the gray of the morning the young commander lined up his red-coated soldiers on the Plains of Abraham; with the city directly in front of him.
"They come! They come!" cried a swift runner to Montcalm. "Who come?" asked Montcalm, in surprise.
"The English!" was the excited reply, and "The English!" was echoed in terror throughout the city.
ONE OF THE GATES OF THE OLD CITADEL OF QUEBEC.
It seemed impossible, but it was true. The French general drew up his troops to meet the English, in front of the walls of Quebec. "I remember well how he looked," said one of the Canadians many years after. "He rode a black horse along t1ie front of our lines, brandishing his sword, as if to excite us to do our duty."
Wolfe too was everywhere, encouraging the men, kind and thoughtful to the wounded, praising the brave. As he was leading a charge at the head of his grenadiers, a shot shattered his wrist. He wrapped his handkerchief about it and went on. Another shot struck him, but he still kept on. A third lodged in his breast. He staggered and, as he fell, was caught in the arms of his soldiers. They carried him to the rear.
"Will you have a surgeon?" they asked.
"There's no need," he said. "It's all over with me." A moment later one of the men cried, "They run? See how they run!"
Wolfe raised himself for the last time. "Who run?" he asked.
"The enemy, sir; they give way everywhere." "Now, God be praised, I die in peace," said the dying man.
A few moments later Montcalm, on his gallant black horse, was shot through the body. A soldier caught him on each side and led his horse through the city gates.
"It is nothing, nothing," said Montcalm. "Don't be troubled for me, my good friends."
"How long have I to live?" he asked tile surgeon a little later.
"Twelve hours," was the answer. "So much the better," he said. "I am happy that I shall not live to see the surrender of Quebec."
The capture of Quebec by the English was the last blow to French power in America. One nation was wild with joy, and one bitter with grief. In far-away England and France two homes mourned apart. Two mothers were weeping for their cherished sons, whose lives had been given for their countries.
The final settlement of the war between France and England came with the Treaty of Paris, made in 1763. By its terms France ceded to England all her American possessions east of the Mississippi River, with the exception of two small islands near the Newfoundland coast. Thus ended French rule on the American continent.