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18   MILITARY HISTORY OF CANADA

hardship. From that point 'their difficulties increased. There had been an exceptionally heavy fall of light, soft snow, making progress painfully difficult. As the Mohawk country was approached, the Indian guides through fear became unreliable, and some even deserted to the. enemy. The French seem to have had but one brush with their foes. In this they lost an officer and several men. Courcelles was in despair, his men were half-starved and half-frozen, and, being unable to maintain himself in the country, withdrew to the forts along the Richelieu, his column being followed by parties of Mohawks, who des-patched and scalped, or made prisoner, all stragglers. In his retreat Courcelles lost sixty men from hunger and cold.

Impressed with the need of inflicting a really crushing blow on the Iroquois, Tracy set out in September of the same year from Quebec with the most formidable expedition yet seen in Canada. The gallant veteran had reluctantly assented to the representations that, at his advanced age, it would be impossible for him to endure the mid-winter campaign; but he insisted upon commanding the autumn one in person, being carried at the front in a chair. Courcelles was in charge of an advance guard of 400 men, which preceded the main body by four days. Upwards of 300 boats and canoes had been constructed and placed at various stages of the water route. The force included 600 picked men of the Carignan-Salieres Regiment, the same number of French Canadians, two small field-pieces, and 100 Huron and Algonquian Indians.

Of the five nations forming the Iroquois confederacy, the Mohawks, who at this time had from 300 to 400 warriors, occupied the territory which had been invaded by Courcelles. Westward lay the cantons of the Oneidas, who had 140 warriors; next to them the country of the Onondagas, with 300; next the hunting grounds of the Cayugas, with some 300; and farthest to the west, and south of Lake Ontario, the powerful Senecas, who boasted no fewer than 1,200.


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