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France and England in North America, a Series of Historical Narratives, Part Third by Francis Parkman

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him.--_Lettre de Duchesneau an Ministre_, 10 _Nov_. 1680, MS] She fired a
parting shot, and, on the eighteenth of September, spread her sails for
Niagara, in charge of the pilot, who had orders to return with her to the
Illinois as soon as he had discharged his cargo. La Salle, with the
fourteen men who remained, in four canoes, deeply laden with a forge,
tools, merchandise, and arms, put out from the island and resumed his

The parting was not auspicious. The lake, glassy and calm in the
afternoon, was convulsed at night with a sudden storm, when the canoes
were midway between the island and the main shore. It was with much ado
that they could keep together, the men shouting to each other through the
darkness. Hennepin, who was in the smallest canoe, with a heavy load, and
a carpenter for a companion, who was awkward at the paddle, found himself
in jeopardy which demanded all his nerve. The voyagers thought themselves
happy when they gained at last the shelter of a little sandy cove, where
they dragged up their canoes, and made their cheerless bivouac in the
drenched and dripping forest. Here they spent five days, living on
pumpkins and Indian corn, the gift of their Pottawattamie friends, and on
a Canada porcupine, brought in by La Salle's Mohegan hunter. The gale
raged meanwhile with a relentless fury. They trembled when they thought of
the "Griffin." When at length the tempest lulled, they re-embarked, and
steered southward, along the shore of Wisconsin; but again the storm fell
upon them, and drove them, for safety, to a bare, rocky islet. Here they
made a fire of driftwood, crouched around it, drew their blankets over
their heads, and in this miserable plight, pelted with sleet and rain,
remained for two days.

At length they were afloat again; but their prosperity was brief. On the
twenty-eighth, a fierce squall drove them to a point of rocks, covered
with bushes, where they consumed the little that remained of their
provisions. On the first of October, they paddled about thirty miles,
without food, when they came to a village of Pottawattamies, who ran down
to the shore to help them to land; but La Salle, fearing that some of his
men would steal the merchandise and desert to the Indians, insisted on
going three leagues farther, to the great indignation of his followers.
The lake, swept by an easterly gale, was rolling its waves against the
beach, like the ocean in a storm. In the attempt to land, La Salle's canoe
was nearly swamped. He and his three canoe-men leaped into the water, and,
in spite of the surf, which nearly drowned them, dragged their vessel
ashore, with all its load. He then went to the rescue of Hennepin, who,
with his awkward companion, was in woful need of succor. Father Gabriel,
with his sixty-four years, was no match for the surf and the violent
undertow. Hennepin, finding himself safe, waded to his relief, and carried
him ashore on his sturdy shoulders; while the old friar, though drenched
to the skin, laughed gayly under his cowl, as his brother missionary
staggered with him up the beach. [Footnote: Hennepin (1683), 79.]

When all were safe ashore, La Salle, who distrusted the Indians they had
passed, took post on a hill, and ordered his followers to prepare their
guns for action. Nevertheless, as they were starving, an effort must be
risked to gain a supply of food; and he sent three men hack to the village
to purchase it. Well armed, but faint with toil and famine, they made
their way through the stormy forest, bearing a pipe of peace; but on
arriving saw that the scared inhabitants had fled. They found, however, a
stock of corn, of which they took a portion, leaving goods in exchange,
and then set out on their return.

Meanwhile, about twenty of the warriors, armed with bows and arrows,
approached the camp of the French, to reconnoitre. La Salle went to meet
them, with some of his men, opened a parley with them, and kept them
seated at the foot of the hill till his three messengers returned, when,
on seeing the peace-pipe, the warriors set up a cry of joy. In the
morning, they brought more corn to the camp, with a supply of fresh
venison, not a little cheering to the exhausted Frenchmen, who, in dread
of treachery, had stood under arms all night.

This was no journey of pleasure. The lake was ruffled with almost
ceaseless storms; clouds big with rain above; a turmoil of gray and gloomy
waves beneath. Every night the canoes must be shouldered through the
breakers and dragged up the steep banks, which, as they neared the site of
Milwaukee, became almost insurmountable. The men paddled all day, with no
other food than a handful of Indian corn. They were spent with toil, sick
with the haws and wild berries which they ravenously devoured, and
dejected at the prospect before them. Father Gabriel's good spirits began
to fail. He fainted several times, from famine and fatigue, but was
revived by a certain "confection of Hyacinth," administered by Hennepin,
who had a small box of this precious specific.

At length they descried, at a distance, on the stormy shore, two or three
eagles among a busy congregation of crows or turkey-buzzards. They paddled
in all haste to the spot. The feasters took flight; and the starved
travellers found the mangled body of a deer, lately killed by the wolves.
This good luck proved the inauguration of plenty. As they approached the
head of the lake, game grew abundant; and, with the aid of the Mohegan,
there was no lack of bear's meat and venison. They found wild grapes, too,
in the woods, and gathered them by cutting down the trees to which the
vines clung.

While thus employed, they were startled by a sight often so fearful in the
waste and the wilderness, the print of a human foot. It was clear that
Indians were not far off. A strict watch was kept, not, as it proved,
without cause; for that night, while the sentry thought of little but
screening himself and his gun from the floods of rain, a party of
Outagamies crept under the bank, where they lurked for some time before he
discovered them. Being challenged, they came forward, professing great
friendship, and pretending to have mistaken the French for Iroquois. In
the morning, however, there was an outcry from La Salle's servant, who
declared that the visitors had stolen his coat from under the inverted
canoe where he had placed it; while some of the carpenters also complained
of being robbed. La Salle well knew that if the theft were left
unpunished, worse would come of it. First, he posted his men at the woody
point of a peninsula, whose sandy neck was interposed between them and the
main forest. Then he went forth, pistol in hand, met a young Outagami,
seized him, and led him prisoner to his camp. This done, he again set out,
and soon found an Outagami chief,--for the wigwams were not far distant,--
to whom he told what he had done, adding that unless the stolen goods were
restored, the prisoner should be killed. The Indians were in perplexity,
for they had cut the coat to pieces and divided it. In this dilemma, they
resolved, being strong in numbers, to rescue their comrade by force.
Accordingly, they came down to the edge of the forest, or posted
themselves behind fallen trees on the banks, while La Salle's men in their
stronghold braced their nerves for the fight. Here three Flemish friars,
with their rosaries, and eleven Frenchmen, with their guns, confronted a
hundred and twenty screeching Outagamies. Hennepin, who had seen service,
and who had always an exhortation at his tongue's end, busied himself to
inspire the rest with a courage equal to his own. Neither party, however,
had an appetite for the fray. A parley ensued: full compensation was made
for the stolen goods, and the aggrieved Frenchmen were farther propitiated
with a gift of beaver-skins.

Their late enemies, now become friends, spent the next day in dances,
feasts, and speeches. They entreated La Salle not to advance further,
since the Illinois, through whose country he must pass, would be sure to
kill him; for, added these friendly counsellors, they hated the French
because they had been instigating the Iroquois to invade their country.
Here was a new subject of anxiety. La Salle thought that he saw in it
another device of his busy and unscrupulous enemies, intriguing among the
Illinois for his destruction.

He pushed on, however, circling around the southern shore of Lake
Michigan, till he reached the mouth of the St. Joseph, called by him the
Miamis. Here Tonty was to have rejoined him, with twenty men, making his
way from Michillimackinac, along the eastern shore of the lake: but the
rendezvous was a solitude; Tonty was nowhere to be seen. It was the first
of November. Winter was at hand, and the streams would soon be frozen. The
men clamored to go forward, urging that they should starve if they could
not reach the villages of the Illinois before the tribe scattered for the
winter hunt. La Salle was inexorable. If they should all desert, he said,
he, with his Mohegan hunter and the three friars, would still remain and
wait for Tonty. The men grumbled, but obeyed; and, to divert their
thoughts, he set them at building a fort of timber, on a rising ground at
the mouth of the river.

They had spent twenty days at this task, and their work was well advanced,
when at length Tonty appeared. He brought with him only half of his men.
Provisions had failed; and the rest of his party had been left thirty
leagues behind, to sustain themselves by hunting. La Salle told him to
return and hasten them forward. He set out with two men. A violent north
wind arose. He tried to run his canoe ashore through the breakers. The two
men could not manage their vessel, and he with his one hand could not help
them. She swamped, rolling over in the surf. Guns, baggage, and provisions
were lost; and the three voyagers returned to the Miamis, subsisting on
acorns by the way. Happily, the men left behind, excepting two deserters,
succeeded, a few days after, in rejoining the party. [Footnote: Hennepin
(1683), 112; Tonty, _Mémoire_, MS.]

Thus was one heavy load lifted from the heart of La Salle. But where was
the "Griffin"? Time enough, and more than enough, had passed for her
voyage to Niagara and back again. He scanned the dreary horizon with an
anxious eye. No returning sail gladdened the watery solitude, and a dark
foreboding gathered on his heart. Yet farther delay was impossible. He
sent back two men to Michillimackinac to meet her, if she still existed,
and pilot her to his new fort of the Miamis, and then prepared to ascend
the river, whose weedy edges were already glassed with thin flakes of ice.



On the third of December, the party re-embarked, thirty-three in all, in
eight canoes, [Footnote: _Lettre de Duchesneau à_--, 10 _Nov_. 1680, MS.]
and ascended the chill current of the St. Joseph, bordered with dreary
meadows and bare gray forests. When they approached the site of the
present village of South Bend, they looked anxiously along the shore on
their right to find the portage or path leading to the headquarters of the
Illinois. The Mohegan was absent, hunting; and, unaided by his practised
eye, they passed the path without seeing it. La Salle landed to search the
woods. Hours passed, and he did not return. Hennepin and Tonty grew
uneasy, disembarked, bivouacked, ordered guns to be fired, and sent out
men to scour the country. Night came, but not their lost leader. Muffled
in their blankets and powdered by the thick-falling snowflakes, they sat
ruefully speculating as to what had befallen him; nor was it till four
o'clock of the next afternoon that they saw him approaching along the
margin of the river. His face and hands were besmirched with charcoal; and
he was farther decorated with two opossums which hung from his belt and
which he had killed with a stick as they were swinging head downwards from
the bough of a tree, after the fashion of that singular beast. He had
missed his way in the forest, and had been forced to make a wide circuit
around the edge of a swamp; while the snow, of which the air was full,
added to his perplexities. Thus he pushed on through the rest of the day
and the greater part of the night, till, about two o'clock in the morning,
he reached the river again and fired his gun as a signal to his party.
Hearing no answering shot, he pursued his way along the bank, when he
presently saw the gleam of a fire among the dense thickets close at hand.
Not doubting that he had found the bivouac of his party, he hastened to
the spot. To his surprise, no human being was to be seen. Under a tree
beside the fire was a heap of dry grass impressed with the form of a man
who must have fled but a moment before, for his couch was still warm. It
was no doubt an Indian, ambushed on the bank, watching to kill some
passing enemy. La Salle called out in several Indian languages; but there
was dead silence all around. He then, with admirable coolness, took
possession of the quarters he had found, shouting to their invisible
proprietor that he was about to sleep in his bed; piled a barricade of
bushes around the spot, rekindled the dying fire, warmed his benumbed
hands, stretched himself on the dried grass, and slept undisturbed till

The Mohegan had rejoined the party before La Salle's return, and with his
aid the portage was soon found. Here the party encamped. La Salle, who was
excessively fatigued, occupied, together with Hennepin, a wigwam covered
in the Indian manner with mats of reeds. The cold forced them to kindle a
fire, which before daybreak set the mats in a blaze; and the two sleepers
narrowly escaped being burned along with their hut.

In the morning, the party shouldered their canoes and baggage, and began
their march for the sources of the River Illinois, some five miles
distant. Around them stretched a desolate plain, half-covered with snow,
and strewn with the skulls and bones of buffalo; while, on its farthest
verge, they could see the lodges of the Miami Indians, who had made this
place their abode. They soon reached a spot where the oozy saturated soil
quaked beneath their tread. All around were clumps of alderbushes, tufts
of rank grass, and pools of glistening water. In the midst, a dark and
lazy current, which a tall man might bestride, crept twisting like a snake
among the weeds and rushes. Here were the sources of the Kankakee, one of
the heads of the Illinois. [Footnote: The Kankakee was called at this time
the Theakiki, or Haukiki (Marest); a name, which, as Charlevoix says, was
afterwards corrupted by the French to Kiakiki, whence, probably, its
present form. In La Salle's time, the name Theakiki was given to the River
Illinois, through all its course. It was also called the Rivière
Seignelay, the Rivière des Macopins, and the Rivière Divine, or Rivière de
la Divine. The latter name, when Charlevoix visited the country in 1721,
was confined to the northern branch. He gives an interesting and somewhat
graphic account of the portage and the sources of the Kankakee, in his
letter dated _De la Source du Theakiki, ce dix-sept Septembre_, 1721.

Why the Illinois should ever have been called the Divine, it is not easy
to see. The Memoirs of St. Simon suggest an explanation. Madame de
Frontenac and her friend, Mademoiselle d'Outrelaise, he tells us, lived
together in apartments at the Arsenal, where they held their _salon_ and
exercised a great power in society. They were called at court _les
Divines_.--St. Simon, v. 835 (Cheruel). In compliment to Frontenac, the
river may have been named after his wife or her friend. The suggestion is
due to M. Margry. I have seen a map by Raudin, Frontenac's engineer, on
which the river is called "Rivière de la Divine ou l'Outrelaise."] They
set their canoes on this thread of water, embarked their baggage and
themselves, and pushed down the sluggish streamlet, looking, at a little
distance, like men who sailed on land. Fed by an unceasing tribute of the
spongy soil, it quickly widened to a river; and they floated on their way
through a voiceless, lifeless solitude of dreary oak barrens, or boundless
marshes overgrown with reeds. At night, they built their fire on ground
made firm by frost, and bivouacked among the rushes. A few days brought
them to a more favored region. On the right hand and on the left stretched
the boundless prairie, dotted with leafless groves and bordered by gray
wintry forests; scorched by the fires kindled in the dried grass by Indian
hunters, and strewn with the carcasses and the bleached skulls of
innumerable buffalo. The plains were scored with their pathways, and the
muddy edges of the river were full of their hoof-prints. Yet not one was
to be seen. At night, the horizon glowed with distant fires; and by day
the savage hunters could be descried at times roaming on the verge of the
prairie. The men, discontented and half-starved, would have deserted to
them had they dared. La Salle's Mohegan could kill no game except two lean
deer, with a few wild geese and swans. At length, in their straits, they
made a happy discovery. It was a buffalo bull, fast mired in a slough.
They killed him, lashed a cable about him, and then twelve men dragged out
the shaggy monster whose ponderous carcass demanded their utmost efforts.
[Footnote: I remember to have seen an incident precisely similar, many
years ago, on the Upper Arkansas. In this case, however, it was impossible
to drag the bull from the mire. Though hopelessly entangled, he made
furious plunges at his assailants before being shot.

Hennepin's account of the buffalo, which he afterwards had every
opportunity of seeing, is interesting and true.]

The scene changed again as they descended. On either hand ran ranges of
woody hills, following the course of the river; and when they mounted to
their tops, they saw beyond them a rolling sea of dull green prairie, a
boundless pasture of the buffalo and the deer, in our own day strangely
transformed,--yellow in harvest time with ripened wheat, and dotted with
the roofs of a hardy and valiant yeomanry. [Footnote: The change is very
recent. Within the memory of men still young, wolves and deer, besides
wild swans, wild turkeys, cranes, and pelicans, abounded in this region.
In 1840, a friend of mine shot a deer from the window of a farm-house near
the present town of La Salle. Running wolves on horseback was his favorite
amusement in this part of the country. The buffalo long ago disappeared,
but the early settlers found frequent remains of them. Mr. James Clark, of
Utica, Ill., told me that he once found a large quantity of their bones
and skulls in one place, as if a herd had perished in the snow-drifts.]

They passed the site of the future town of Ottawa, and saw on their right
the high plateau of Buffalo Rock, long a favorite dwelling-place of
Indians. A league below, the river glided among islands bordered with
stately woods. Close on their left towered a lofty cliff, [Footnote:
"Starved Rock." It will hold, hereafter, a conspicuous place in the
narrative.] crested with trees that overhung the rippling current; while
before them spread the valley of the Illinois, in broad low meadows,
bordered on the right by the graceful hills at whose foot now lies the
village of Utica. A population far more numerous then tenanted the valley.
Along the right bank of the river were clustered the lodges of a great
Indian town. Hennepin counted four hundred and sixty of them. [Footnote:
_La Louisiane_, 137. Allouez (_Relation_, 1673-9) found three hundred and
fifty-one lodges. This was in 1677. The population of this town, which
embraced five or six distinct tribes of the Illinois, was continually
changing. In 1675, Marquette addressed here an auditory composed of five
hundred chiefs and old men, and fifteen hundred young men, besides women
and children. He estimates the number of fires at five or six hundred.--
_Voyages de Père Marquette_, 98 (Lenox). Membré, who was here in 1680,
says that it then contained seven or eight thousand souls.--Membré, in Le
Clercq, _Premier Etablissement de la Foy_, ii. 173. On the remarkable
manuscript map of Franquelin, 1684, it is set down at twelve hundred
warriors, or about six thousand souls. This was after the destructive
inroad of the Iroquois. Some years later, Rasle reported upwards of
twenty-four hundred families.--_Lettre à son Frère in Lettres Edifiantes_.

At times, nearly the whole Illinois population was gathered here. At other
times, the several tribes that composed it separated, some dwelling apart
from the rest; so that at one period the Illinois formed eleven villages,
while at others they were gathered into two, of which this was much the
largest. The meadows around it were extensively cultivated, yielding large
crops, chiefly of Indian corn. The lodges were built along the river bank,
for a distance of a mile and sometimes far more. In their shape, though
not in their material, they resembled those of the Hurons. There were no
palisades or embankments.

This neighborhood abounds in Indian relics. The village graveyard appears
to have been on a rising ground, near the river, immediately in front of
the town of Utica. This is the only part of the river bottom, from this
point to the Mississippi, not liable to inundation in the spring floods.
It now forms part of a farm occupied by a tenant of Mr. James Clark. Both
Mr. Clark and his tenant informed me that every year great quantities of
human bones and teeth were turned up here by the plough. Many implements
of stone are also found, together with beads and other ornaments of Indian
and European fabric.] In shape, they were somewhat like the arched top of
a baggage wagon. They were built of a framework of poles, covered with
mats of rushes, closely interwoven; and each contained three or four
fires, of which the greater part served for two families.

Here, then, was the town; but where were the inhabitants? All was silent
as the desert. The lodges were empty, the fires dead, and the ashes cold.
La Salle had expected this; for he knew that in the autumn the Illinois
always left their towns for their winter hunting, and that the time of
their return had not yet come. Yet he was not the less embarrassed, for he
would fain have bought a supply of food to relieve his famished followers.
Some of them, searching the deserted town, presently found the _caches_,
or covered pits, in which the Indians hid their stock of corn. This was
precious beyond measure in their eyes, and to touch it would be a deep
offence. La Salle shrank from provoking their anger, which might prove the
ruin of his plans; but his necessity overcame his prudence, and he took
twenty _minots_ of corn, hoping to appease the owners by presents. Thus
provided, the party embarked again, and resumed their downward voyage.

On New-Year's day, 1680, they landed and heard mass. Then Hennepin wished
a happy new year to La Salle first, and afterwards to all the men, making
them a speech, which, as he tells us, was "most touching." [Footnote: "Les
paroles les plus touchantes." Hennepin (1683), 139. The later editions add
the modest qualification, "que je pus."] He and his two brethren next
embraced the whole company in turn, "in a manner," writes the father,
"most tender and affectionate," exhorting them, at the same time, to
patience, faith, and constancy. Two days after these solemnities, they
reached the long expansion of the river, then called Pimitoui, and now
known as Peoria Lake, and leisurely made their way downward to the site of
the city of Peoria. [Footnote: Peoria was the name of one of the tribes of
the Illinois. Hennepin says that they crossed the lake four days after
leaving the village, which last, as appears by a comparison of his
narrative with that of Tonty, must have been on the thirtieth of
December.] Here, as evening drew near, they saw a faint spire of smoke
curling above the gray, wintry forest, betokening that Indians were at
hand. La Salle, as we have seen, had been warned that these tribes had
been taught to regard him as their enemy; and when, in the morning, he
resumed his course, he was prepared alike for peace or war.

The shores now approached each other; and the Illinois was once more a
river, bordered on either hand with overhanging woods. [Footnote: At least
it is so now at this place. Perhaps in La Salle's time it was not wholly
so, for there is evidence in various parts of the West that the forest has
made considerable encroachments on the open country.]

At nine o'clock, doubling a point, he saw about eighty Illinois wigwams,
on both sides of the river. He instantly ordered the eight canoes to be
ranged in line, abreast, across the stream; Tonty on the right, and he
himself on the left. The men laid down their paddles and seized their
weapons; while, in this warlike guise, the current bore them swiftly into
the midst of the surprised and astounded savages. The camps were in a
panic. Warriors whooped and howled; squaws and children screeched in
chorus. Some snatched their bows and war-clubs; some ran in terror; and,
in the midst of the hubbub, La Salle leaped ashore, followed by his men.
None knew better how to deal with Indians; and he made no sign of
friendship, knowing that it might be construed as a token of fear. His
little knot of Frenchmen stood, gun in hand, passive, yet prepared for
battle. The Indians, on their part, rallying a little from their fright,
made all haste to proffer peace. Two of their chiefs came forward, holding
forth the calumet; while another began a loud harangue, to check the young
warriors who were aiming their arrows from the farther bank. La Salle,
responding to these friendly overtures, displayed another calumet; while
Hennepin caught several scared children and soothed them with winning
blandishments. [Footnote: Hennepin (1683), 142.] The uproar was quelled,
and the strangers were presently seated in the midst of the camp, beset by
a throng of wild and swarthy figures.

Food was placed before them; and, as the Illinois code of courtesy
enjoined, their entertainers conveyed the morsels with their own hands to
the lips of these unenviable victims of their hospitality, while others
rubbed their feet with bear's grease. La Salle, on his part, made them a
gift of tobacco and hatchets; and, when he had escaped from their
caresses, rose and harangued them. He told them that he had been forced to
take corn from their granaries, lest his men should die of hunger; but he
prayed them not to be offended, promising full restitution or ample
payment. He had come, he said, to protect them against their enemies, and
teach them to pray to the true God. As for the Iroquois, they were
subjects of the Great King, and, therefore, brethren of the French; yet,
nevertheless, should they begin a war and invade their country, he would
stand by the Illinois, give them guns, and fight in their defence, if they
would permit him to build a fort among them for the security of his men.
It was, also, he added, his purpose to build a great wooden canoe, in
which to descend the Mississippi to the sea, and then return, bringing
them the goods of which they stood in need; but if they would not consent
to his plans, and sell provisions to his men, he would pass on to the
Osages, who would then reap all the benefits of intercourse with the
French, while they were left destitute, at the mercy of the Iroquois.
[Footnote: Hennepin (1683), 144-149. The later editions omit a part of the

This threat had its effect, for it touched their deep-rooted jealousy of
the Osages. They were lavish of promises, and feasts and dances consumed
the day. Yet La Salle soon learned that the intrigues of his enemies were
still pursuing him. That evening, unknown to him, a stranger appeared in
the Illinois camp. He was a Mascoutin chief, named Monso, attended by five
or six Miamis, and bringing a gift of knives, hatchets, and kettles to the
Illinois. The chiefs assembled in a secret nocturnal session, where,
smoking their pipes, they listened with open ears to the harangue of the
envoys. Monso told them that he had come in behalf of certain Frenchmen,
whom he named, to warn his hearers against the designs of La Salle, whom
he denounced as a partisan and spy of the Iroquois, affirming that he was
now on his way to stir up the tribes beyond the Mississippi to join in a
war against the Illinois, who, thus assailed from the east and from the
west, would be utterly destroyed. There was no hope for them, he added,
but in checking the farther progress of La Salle, or, at least, retarding
it, thus causing his men to desert him. Having thrown his firebrand, Monso
and his party left the camp in haste, dreading to be confronted with the
object of their aspersions. [Footnote: Hennepin (1683), 151, (1704), 205.
Le Clercq, ii. 157. _Mémoire du Voyage de M. de la Salle_, MS. This is a
paper appended to Frontenac's Letter to the Minister, 9 Nov. 1680.
Hennepin prints a translation of it in the English edition of his later
work. It charges the Jesuit Allouez with being at the bottom of the
intrigue. La Salle had a special distrust of this missionary, who, on his
part, always shunned a meeting with him.

In another memoir, addressed to Frontenac in 1680, La Salle states fully
his conviction that Allouez, who was then, he says, among the Miamis, had
induced them to send Monso on his sinister errand. See the memoir in
Thomassy, _Géologie, Pratique de la Louisiane_, 203.

The account of the affair of Monso in the spurious work bearing Tonty's
name is mere romance.]

In the morning, La Salle saw a change in the behavior of his hosts. They
looked on him askance, cold, sullen, and suspicious. There was one Omawha,
a chief, whose favor he had won the day before by the politic gift of two
hatchets and three knives, and who now came to him in secret to tell him
what had taken place at the nocturnal council. La Salle at once saw in it
a device of his enemies; and this belief was confirmed, when, in the
afternoon, Nicanopé, brother of the head chief, sent to invite the
Frenchmen to a feast. They repaired to his lodge; but before dinner was
served,--that is to say, while the guests, white and red, were seated on
mats, each with his hunting-knife in his hand, and the wooden bowl before
him, which was to receive his share of the bear's or buffalo's meat, or
the corn boiled in fat, with which he was to be regaled; while such was
the posture of the company, their host arose and began a long speech. He
told the Frenchmen that he had invited them to his lodge less to refresh
their bodies with good cheer than to cure their minds of the dangerous
purpose which possessed them, of descending the Mississippi. Its shores,
he said, were beset by savage tribes, against whose numbers and ferocity
their valor would avail nothing: its waters were infested by serpents,
alligators, and unnatural monsters; while the river itself, after raging
among rocks and whirlpools, plunged headlong at last into a fathomless
gulf, which would swallow them and their vessel for ever.

La Salle's men were, for the most part, raw hands, knowing nothing of the
wilderness, and easily alarmed at its dangers; but there were two among
them, old _coureurs de bois_, who, unfortunately, knew too much; for they
understood the Indian orator, and explained his speech to the rest. As La
Salle looked around on the circle of his followers, he read an augury of
fresh trouble in their disturbed and rueful visages. He waited patiently,
however, till the speaker had ended, and then answered him, through his
interpreter, with great composure. First, he thanked him for the friendly
warning which his affection had impelled him to utter; but, he continued,
the greater the danger, the greater the honor; and even if the danger were
real, Frenchmen would never flinch from it. But were not the Illinois
jealous? Had they not been deluded by lies? "We were not asleep, my
brother, when Monso came to tell you, under cover of night, that we were
spies of the Iroquois. The presents he gave you, that you might believe
his falsehoods, are at this moment buried in the earth under this lodge.
If he told the truth, why did he skulk away in the dark? Why did he not
show himself by day? Do you not see that when we first came among you, and
your camp was all in confusion, we could have killed you without needing
help from the Iroquois? And now, while I am speaking, could we not put
your old men to death, while your young warriors are all gone away to
hunt? If we meant to make war on you, we should need no help from the
Iroquois, who have so often felt the force of our arms. Look at what we
have brought you. It is not weapons to destroy you, but merchandise and
tools, for your good. If you still harbor evil thoughts of us, be frank as
we are, and speak them boldly. Go after this impostor, Monso, and bring
him back, that we may answer him, face to face; for he never saw either us
or the Iroquois, and what can he know of the plots that he pretends to
reveal?" [Footnote: The above is a paraphrase, with some condensation,
from Hennepin, whose account is sustained by the other writers.] Nicanopé
had nothing to reply, and, grunting assent in the depths of his throat,
made a sign that the feast should proceed.

The French were lodged in huts, near the Indian camp; and, fearing
treachery, La Salle placed a guard at night. On the morning after the
feast, he came out into the frosty air, and looked about him for the
sentinels. Not one of them was to be seen. Vexed and alarmed, he entered
hut after hut, and roused his drowsy followers. Six of the number,
including two of the best carpenters, were nowhere to be found.
Discontented and mutinous from the first, and now terrified by the
fictions of Nicanopé, they had deserted, preferring the hardships of the
midwinter forest to the mysterious terrors of the Mississippi. La Salle
mustered the rest before him, and inveighed sternly against the cowardice
and baseness of those who had thus abandoned him, regardless of his many
favors. If any here, he added, are afraid, let them but wait till the
spring, and they shall have free leave to return to Canada, safely and
without dishonor. [Footnote: Hennepin (1683), 162.--_Déclaration faite par
Moyse Hillaret, charpentier de barque, cy devant au service du Sr. de la
Salle_, MS.]

This desertion cut him to the heart. It showed him that he was leaning on
a broken reed; and he felt that, on an enterprise full of doubt and peril,
there were scarcely four men in his party whom he could trust. Nor was
desertion the worst he had to fear; for here, as at Fort Frontenac, an
attempt was made to kill him. Tonty tells us that poison was placed in the
pot in which their food was cooked, and that La Salle was saved by an
antidote which some of his friends had given him before he left France.
This, it will be remembered, was an epoch of poisoners. It was in the
following month that the notorious La Voisin was burned alive, at Paris,
for practices to which many of the highest nobility were charged with
being privy, not excepting some in whose veins ran the blood of the
gorgeous spendthrift who ruled the destinies of France. [Footnote: The
equally famous Brinvilliers was burned four years before. An account of
both will be found in the Letters of Madame de Sevigné. The memoirs of the
time abound in evidence of the frightful prevalence of these practices,
and the commotion which they excited in all ranks of society.]

In these early French enterprises in the West, it was to the last degree
difficult to hold men to their duty. Once fairly in the wilderness,
completely freed from the sharp restraints of authority in which they had
passed their lives, a spirit of lawlessness broke out among them with a
violence proportioned to the pressure which had hitherto controlled it.
Discipline had no resources and no guarantee; while those outlaws of the
forest, the _coureurs de bois_, were always before their eyes, a standing
example of unbridled license. La Salle, eminently skilful in his dealings
with Indians, was rarely so happy with his own countrymen; and yet the
desertions from which he was continually suffering were due far more to
the inevitable difficulty of his position than to any want of conduct.



La Salle now resolved to leave the Indian camp, and fortify himself for
the winter in a strong position, where his men would be less exposed to
dangerous influence, and where he could hold his ground against an
outbreak of the Illinois or an Iroquois invasion. At the middle of
January, a thaw broke up the ice which had closed the river; and he set
out in a canoe, with Hennepin, to visit the site he had chosen for his
projected fort. It was half a league below the camp, on a little hill, or
knoll, two hundred yards from the southern bank. On either side was a deep
ravine, and, in front, a low ground, overflowed at high water. Thither,
then, the party was removed. They dug a ditch behind the hill, connecting
the two ravines, and thus completely isolating it. The hill was nearly
square in form. An embankment of earth was thrown up on every side: its
declivities were sloped steeply down to the bottom of the ravines and the
ditch, and further guarded by _chevaux-de-frise;_ while a palisade,
twenty-five feet high, was planted around the whole. The men were lodged
in huts, at the angles: in the middle there was a cabin of planks for La
Salle and Tonty, and another for the three friars; while the blacksmith
had his shed and forge in the rear.

Hennepin laments the failure of wine, which prevented him from saying
mass; but every morning and evening he summoned the men to his cabin, to
listen to prayers and preaching, and on Sundays and fête days they chanted
vespers. Father Zenobe usually spent the day in the Indian camp, striving,
with very indifferent success, to win them to the faith, and to overcome
the disgust with which their manners and habits inspired him.

Such was the first civilized occupation of the region which now forms the
State of Illinois. The spot may still be seen, a little below Peoria. La
Salle christened his new fort Fort Crèvecoeur. The name tells of disaster
and suffering, but does no justice to the iron-hearted constancy of the
sufferer. Up to this time he had clung to the hope that his vessel (the
"Griffin") might still be safe. Her safety was vital to his enterprise.
She had on board articles of the last necessity to him, including the
rigging and anchors of another vessel, which he was to build at Fort
Crèvecoeur, in order to descend the Mississippi, and sail thence to the
West Indies. But now his last hope had well-nigh vanished. Past all
reasonable doubt, the "Griffin" was lost; and in her loss he and all his
plans seemed ruined alike.

Nothing, indeed, was ever heard of her. Indians, fur-traders, and even
Jesuits, have been charged with contriving her destruction. Some say that
the Ottawas boarded and burned her, after murdering those on board; others
accuse the Pottawattamies; others affirm that her own crew scuttled and
sunk her; others, again, that she foundered in a storm. [Footnote:
Charlevoix, i. 459; La Potherie, ii. 140; La Hontan, _Memoir on the Fur-
Trade of Canada_, MS. I am indebted for a copy of this paper to Winthrop
Sargent, Esq., who purchased the original at the sale of the library of
the poet Southey. Like Hennepin, La Hontan went over to the English; and
this memoir is written in their interest.] As for La Salle, the belief
grew in him to a settled conviction, that she had been treacherously sunk
by the pilot and the sailors to whom he had intrusted her; and he thought
he had found evidence that the authors of the crime, laden with the
merchandise they had taken from her, had reached the Mississippi and
ascended it, hoping to join Du Lhut, a famous chief of _coureurs de bois_,
and enrich themselves by traffic with the northern tribes. [Footnote:
_Lettre de la Salle à La Barre, Chicagou,_ 4 _Juin_, 1683, MS. This is a
long letter, addressed to the successor of Frontenac, in the government of
Canada. La Salle says that a young Indian belonging to him told him that,
three years before, he saw a white man, answering the description of the
pilot, a prisoner among a tribe beyond the Mississippi. He had been
captured with four others on that river, while making his way with canoes
laden with goods, towards the Sioux. His companions had been killed. Other
circumstances, which La Salle details at great length, convinced him that
the white prisoner was no other than the pilot of the "Griffin." The
evidence, however, is not conclusive.]

But whether her lading was swallowed in the depths of the lake, or lost in
the clutches of traitors, the evil was alike past remedy. She was gone, it
mattered little how. The main-stay of the enterprise was broken; yet its
inflexible chief lost neither heart nor hope. One path, beset with
hardships and terrors, still lay open to him. He might return on foot to
Fort Frontenac, and bring thence the needful succors.

La Salle felt deeply the dangers of such a step. His men were uneasy,
discontented, and terrified by the stories, with which the jealous
Illinois still constantly filled their ears, of the whirlpools and the
monsters of the Mississippi. He dreaded, lest, in his absence, they should
follow the example of their comrades, and desert. In the midst of his
anxieties, a lucky accident gave him the means of disabusing them. He was
hunting, one day, near the fort, when he met a young Illinois, on his way
home, half-starved, from a distant war excursion. He had been absent so
long that he knew nothing of what had passed between his countrymen and
the French. La Salle gave him a turkey he had shot, invited him to the
fort, fed him, and made him presents. Having thus warmed his heart, he
questioned him, with apparent carelessness, as to the countries he had
visited, and especially as to the Mississippi, on which the young warrior,
seeing no reason to disguise the truth, gave him all the information he
required. La Salle now made him the present of a hatchet, to engage him to
say nothing of what had passed, and, leaving him in excellent humor,
repaired, with some of his followers, to the Illinois camp. Here he found
the chiefs seated at a feast of bear's meat, and he took his place among
them on a mat of rushes. After a pause, he charged them with having
deceived him in regard to the Mississippi, adding that he knew the river
perfectly, having been instructed concerning it by the Master of Life. He
then described it to them with so much accuracy that his astonished
hearers, conceiving that he owed his knowledge to "medicine," or sorcery,
clapped their hands to their mouths, in sign of wonder, and confessed that
all they had said was but an artifice, inspired by their earnest desire
that he should remain among them. [Footnote: _Relation des Découvertes et
des Voyages du Sr. de la Salle, Seigneur et Gouverneur du Fort de
Frontenac, au delà des grands Lacs de la Nouvelle France, faits par ordre
de Monseigneur Colbert;_ 1679, 80 et 81, MS. Hennepin gives a story which
is not essentially different, except that he makes himself a conspicuous
actor in it.]

Here was one source of danger stopped; one motive to desert removed. La
Salle again might feel a reasonable security that idleness would not breed
mischief among his men. The chief purpose of his intended journey was to
procure the equipment of a vessel, to be built at Fort Crèvecoeur; and he
resolved that before he set out he would see her on the stocks. The pit-
sawyers and some of the carpenters had deserted; but energy supplied the
place of skill, and he and Tonty urged on the work with such vigor that
within six weeks the hull was nearly finished. She was of forty tons
burden, [Footnote: _Lettre de Duchesneau, à_--, 10 _Nov_. 1680, MS.] and
built with high bulwarks to protect those within from the arrows of
hostile Indians.

La Salle now bethought him that in his absence he might get from Hennepin
service of more value than his sermons; and he requested him to descend
the Illinois, and explore it to its mouth. The friar, though hardy and
daring, would fain have excused himself, alleging a troublesome bodily
infirmity; but his venerable colleague, Ribourde,--himself too old for the
journey,--urged him to go, telling him that if he died by the way, his
apostolic labors would redound to the glory of God. Membré had been living
for some time in the Indian camp, and was thoroughly out of humor with the
objects of his missionary efforts, of whose obduracy and filth he bitterly
complained. Hennepin proposed to take his place, while he should assume
the Mississippi adventure; but this Membré declined, preferring to remain
where he was. Hennepin now reluctantly accepted the proposed task.
"Anybody but me," he says, with his usual modesty, "would have been very
much frightened at the dangers of such a journey; and, in fact, if I had
not placed all my trust in God, I should not have been the dupe of the
Sieur de la Salle, who exposed my life rashly." [Footnote: "Tout autre que
moi en auroit été fort ébranlé. Et en effet, je n'eusse pas été la duppe
du Sieur de la Salle, qui m'exposait témérairement, si je n'eusse mis
toute ma confiance en Dieu" (1704), 241.]

On the last day of February, Hennepin's canoe lay at the water's edge; and
the party gathered on the bank to bid him farewell. He had two companions,
Michel Accau, and a man known as the Picard Du Gay, [Footnote: An eminent
writer has mistaken "Picard" for a personal name. Du Gay was called "Le
Picard," because he came from the province of Picardy. Accau, and not
Hennepin, was the real chief of the party.] though his real name was
Antoine Auguel. The canoe was well laden with gifts for the Indians,--
tobacco, knives, beads, awls, and other goods, to a very considerable
value, supplied at La Salle's cost; "and, in fact," observes Hennepin, "he
is liberal enough towards his friends." [Footnote: (1683), 188. This
commendation is suppressed in the later editions.]

The friar bade farewell to La Salle, and embraced all the rest in turn.
Father Ribourde gave him his benediction. "Be of good courage and let your
heart be comforted," said the excellent old missionary, as he spread his
hands in benediction over the shaven crown of the reverend traveller. Du
Gay and Accau plied their paddles; the canoe receded, and vanished at
length behind the forest. We will follow Hennepin hereafter on his
adventures, imaginary and real. Meanwhile, we will trace the footsteps of
his chief, urging his way, in the storms of winter, through those vast and
gloomy wilds,--those realms of famine, treachery, and death, that lay
betwixt him and his far-distant goal of Fort Frontenac.

On the second of March, [Footnote: Tonty erroneously places their
departure on the twenty-second.] before the frost was yet out of the
ground, when the forest was still leafless and gray, and the oozy prairie
still patched with snow, a band of discontented men were again gathered on
the shore for another leave-taking. Hard by, the unfinished ship lay on
the stocks, white and fresh from the saw and axe, ceaselessly reminding
them of the hardship and peril that was in store. Here you would have seen
the calm impenetrable face of La Salle, and with him the Mohegan hunter,
who seems to have felt towards him that admiring attachment which he could
always inspire in his Indian retainers. Besides the Mohegan, four
Frenchmen were to accompany him: Hunaud, La Violette, Collin, and Dautray.
[Footnote: _Déclaration faite par Moyse Hillaret, charpentier de barque,
MS._] His parting with Tonty was an anxious one, for each well knew the
risks that environed both. Embarking with his followers in two canoes, he
made his way upward amid the drifting ice; while the faithful Italian,
with two or three honest men and twelve or thirteen knaves, remained to
hold Fort Crèvecoeur in his absence.



The winter had been a severe one. When La Salle and his five companions
reached Peoria Lake, they found it sheeted from shore to shore with ice
that stopped the progress of their canoes, but was too thin to bear the
weight of a man.

They dragged their light vessels up the bank and into the forest, where
the city of Peoria now stands; made two rude sledges, placed the canoes
and baggage upon them, and, toiling knee-deep in saturated snow, dragged
them four leagues through the woods, till they reached a point where the
motion of the current kept the water partially open. They were now on the
river above the lake. Masses of drift ice, wedged together, but full of
crevices and holes, soon barred the way again; and, carrying their canoes
ashore, they dragged them two leagues over a frozen marsh. Rain fell in
floods; and, when night came, they crouched for shelter in a deserted
Indian hut.

In the morning, the third of March, they dragged their canoes half a
league farther; then launched them, and, breaking the ice with clubs and
hatchets, forced their way slowly up the stream. Again their progress was
barred, and again they took to the woods, toiling onward till a tempest of
moist, half-liquid snow forced them to bivouac for the night. A sharp
frost followed, and in the morning the white waste around them was glazed
with a dazzling crust. Now, for the first time, they could use their snow-
shoes. Bending to their work, dragging their canoes which glided smoothly
over the polished surface, they journeyed on hour after hour and league
after league, till they reached at length the great town of the Illinois,
still void of its inhabitants. [Footnote: Membré says that he was in the
town at the time, but this could hardly have been the case. He was, in all
probability, among the Illinois in their camp near Fort Crèvecoeur.]

It was a desolate and lonely scene,--the river gliding dark and cold
between its banks of rushes; the empty lodges, covered with crusted snow;
the vast white meadows; the distant cliffs, bearded with shining icicles;
and the hills wrapped in forests, which glittered from afar with the icy
incrustations that cased each frozen twig. Yet there was life in the
savage landscape. The men saw buffalo wading in the snow, and they killed
one of them. More than this: they discovered the tracks of moccasons. They
cut rushes by the edge of the river, piled them on the bank, and set them
on fire, that the smoke might attract the eyes of savages roaming near.

On the following day, while the hunters were smoking the meat of the
buffalo, La Salle went out to reconnoitre, and presently met three
Indians, one of whom proved to be Chassagoac, the principal chief of the
Illinois. [Footnote: The same whom Hennepin calls Chassagouasse. He was
brother of the chief, Nicanopé, who, in his absence, had feasted the
French on the day after the nocturnal council with Monso. Chassagoac was
afterwards baptized by Membré or Ribourde, but soon relapsed into the
superstitions of his people, and died, as the former tells us, "doubly a
child of perdition." See Le Clercq, ii. 181.] La Salle brought them to his
bivouac, feasted them, gave them a red blanket, a kettle, and some knives
and hatchets, made friends with them, promised to restrain the Iroquois
from attacking them, told them that he was on his way to the settlements
to bring arms and ammunition to defend them against their enemies, and, as
the result of these advances, gained from the chief a promise that he
would send provisions to Tonty's party at Fort Crèvecoeur.

After several days spent at the deserted town, La Salle prepared to resume
his journey. Before his departure, his attention was attracted to the
remarkable cliff of yellow sandstone, now called Starved Rock, a mile or
more above the village,--a natural fortress, which a score of resolute
white men might make good against a host of savages; and he soon
afterwards sent Tonty an order to examine it, and make it his stronghold
in case of need. [Footnote: Tonty, _Mémoire_, MS. The order was sent by
two Frenchmen whom La Salle met on Lake Michigan.]

On the fifteenth, the party set out again, carried their canoes along the
bank of the river as far as the rapids above Ottawa; then launched them
and pushed their way upward, battling with the floating ice, which,
loosened by a warm rain, drove down the swollen current in sheets. On the
eighteenth, they reached a point some miles below the site of Joliet, and
here found the river once more completely closed. Despairing of farther
progress by water, they hid their canoes on an island, and struck across
the country for Lake Michigan. Each, besides his gun, carried a knife and
a hatchet at his belt, a blanket strapped at his back, and a piece of
dressed hide to make or mend his moccasons. A store of powder and lead,
and a kettle, completed the outfit of the party. [Footnote: Hennepin
(1683), 173.]

It was the worst of all seasons for such a journey. The nights were cold,
but the sun was warm at noon, and the half-thawed prairie was one vast
tract of mud, water, and discolored, half-liquid snow. On the twenty-
second, they crossed marshes and inundated meadows, wading to the knee,
till at noon they were stopped by a river, perhaps the Calumet. They made
a raft of hard wood timber, for there was no other, and shoved themselves
across. On the next day, they could see Lake Michigan, dimly glimmering
beyond the waste of woods; and, after crossing three swollen streams, they
reached it at evening. On the twenty-fourth, they followed its shore,
till, at nightfall, they arrived at the fort, which they had built in the
autumn at the mouth of the St. Joseph. Here La Salle found Chapelle and
Leblanc, the two men whom he had sent from hence to Michillimackinac, in
search of the "Griffin." [Footnote: _Déclaration de Moyse Hillaret_, MS.
_Relation des Découvertes_, MS.] They reported that they had made the
circuit of the lake, and had neither seen her nor heard tidings of her.
Assured of her fate, he ordered them to rejoin Tonty at Fort Crèvecoeur;
while he pushed onward with his party through the unknown wild of Southern

They were detained till noon of the twenty-fifth, in making a raft to
cross the St. Joseph. Then they resumed their march; and as they forced
their way through the brambly thickets, their clothes were torn, and their
faces so covered with blood, that, says the journal, they could hardly
know each other. Game was very scarce, and they grew faint with hunger. In
two or three days they reached a happier region. They shot deer, bears,
and turkeys in the forest, and fared sumptuously. But the reports of their
guns fell on hostile ears. This was a debatable ground, infested with war-
parties of several adverse tribes, and none could venture here without
risk of life. On the evening of the twenty-eighth, as they lay around
their fire under the shelter of a forest by the border of a prairie, the
man on guard shouted an alarm. They sprang to their feet; and each, gun in
hand, took his stand behind a tree, while yells and howlings filled the
surrounding darkness. A band of Indians were upon them; but, seeing them
prepared, the cowardly assailants did not wait to exchange a shot.

They crossed great meadows, overgrown with rank grass, and set it on fire
to hide the traces of their passage. La Salle bethought him of a device to
keep their skulking foes at a distance. On the trunks of trees from which
he had stripped the bark, he drew with charcoal the marks of an Iroquois
war-party, with the usual signs for prisoners, and for scalps, hoping to
delude his pursuers with the belief that he and his men were a band of
these dreaded warriors.

Thus, over snowy prairies and half-frozen marshes; wading sometimes to
their waists in mud, water, and bulrushes, they urged their way through
the spongy, saturated wilderness. During three successive days they were
aware that a party of savages was dogging their tracks. They dared, not
make a fire at night, lest the light should betray them; but, hanging
their wet clothes on the trees, they rolled themselves in their blankets,
and slept together among piles of spruce and pine boughs. But the night of
the second of April was excessively cold. Their clothes were hard frozen,
and they were forced to kindle a fire to thaw and dry them. Scarcely had
the light begun to glimmer through the gloom of evening, than it was
greeted from the distance by mingled yells; and a troop of Mascoutin
warriors rushed towards them. They were stopped by a deep stream, a
hundred paces from the bivouac of the French, and La Salle went forward to
meet them. No sooner did they see him, and learn that he was a Frenchman,
than they cried that they were friends and brothers, who had mistaken him
and his men for Iroquois; and, abandoning their hostile purpose, they
peacefully withdrew. Thus his device to avert danger had well-nigh proved
the destruction of the whole party.

Two days after this adventure, two of the men fell ill from fatigue, and
exposure, and sustained themselves with difficulty till they reached the
banks of a river, probably the Huron. Here, while the sick men rested,
their companions made a canoe. There were no birch-trees; and they were
forced to use elm bark, which at that early season would not slip freely
from the wood until they loosened it with hot water. Their canoe being
made, they embarked in it, and for a time floated prosperously down the
stream, when, at length the way was barred by a matted barricade of trees
fallen across the water. The sick men could now walk again; and, pushing
eastward through the forest, the party soon reached the banks of the

La Salle directed two of the men to make a canoe, and go to
Michillimackinac, the nearest harborage. With the remaining two, he
crossed the Detroit on a raft, and, striking a direct line across the
country, reached Lake Erie, not far from Point Pelée. Snow, sleet, and
rain pelted them with little intermission; and when, after a walk of about
thirty miles, they gained the lake, the Mohegan and one of the Frenchmen
were attacked with fever and spitting of blood. Only one man now remained
in health. With his aid, La Salle made another canoe, and, embarking the
invalids, pushed for Niagara. It was Easter Monday, when they landed at a
cabin of logs above the cataract, probably on the spot where the "Griffin"
was built. Here several of La Salle's men had been left the year before,
and here they still remained. They told him woful news. Not only had he
lost the "Griffin," and her lading of ten thousand crowns in value, but a
ship from France, freighted with his goods, valued at more than twenty-two
thousand livres, had been totally wrecked at the mouth of the St.
Lawrence; and of twenty hired men on their way from Europe to join him,
some had been detained by his enemy, the Intendant Duchesneau, while all
but four of the remainder, being told that he was dead, had found means to
return home.

His three followers were all unfit for travel: he alone retained his
strength and spirit. Taking with him three fresh men at Niagara, he
resumed his journey, and on the sixth of May descried, looming through
floods of rain, the familiar shores of his seigniory and the bastioned
walls of Fort Frontenac. During sixty-five days he had toiled almost
incessantly, travelling, by the course he took, about a thousand miles
through a country beset with every form of peril and obstruction; "the
most arduous journey," says the chronicler, "ever made by Frenchmen in
America." Such was Cavelier de la Salle. In him, an unconquerable mind
held at its service a frame of iron, and tasked it to the utmost of its
endurance. The pioneer of western pioneers was no rude son of toil, but a
man of thought, trained amid arts and letters. [Footnote: A Rocky Mountain
trapper, being complimented on the hardihood of himself and his
companions, once said to the writer, "That's so; but a gentleman of the
right sort will stand hardship better than anybody else." The history of
Arctic and African travel, and the military records of all time, are a
standing evidence that a trained and developed mind is not the enemy, but
the active and powerful ally, of constitutional hardihood. The culture
that enervates instead of strengthening is always a false or a partial

He had reached his goal; but for him there was neither rest nor peace. Man
and nature seemed in arms against him. His agents had plundered him; his
creditors had seized his property; and several of his canoes, richly
laden, had been lost in the rapids of the St. Lawrence. [Footnote: Zenobe
Membré in Le Clercq, ii. 202.] He hastened to Montreal, where his sudden
advent caused great astonishment; and where, despite his crippled
resources and damaged credit, he succeeded, within a week, in gaining the
supplies which he required, and the needful succors for the forlorn band
on the Illinois. He had returned to Fort Frontenac, and was on the point
of embarking for their relief, when a blow fell upon him more
disheartening than any that had preceded. On the twenty-second of July,
two _voyageurs_, Messier and Laurent, came to him with a letter from
Tonty; who wrote that soon after La Salle's departure, nearly all the men
had deserted, after destroying Fort Crèvecoeur, plundering the magazine,
and throwing into the river all the arms, goods, and stores which they
could not carry off. The messengers who brought this letter were speedily
followed by two of the _habitans_ of Fort Frontenac, who had been trading
on the lakes, and who, with a fidelity which the unhappy La Salle rarely
knew how to inspire, had travelled day and night to bring him their
tidings. They reported that they had met the deserters, and that having
been reinforced by recruits gained at Michillimackinac and Niagara, they
now numbered twenty men. [Footnote: When La Salle was at Niagara, in
April, he had ordered Dautray, the best of the men who had accompanied him
from the Illinois, to return thither as soon as he was able. Four men from
Niagara were to go with him, and he was to rejoin Tonty with such supplies
as that post could furnish. Dautray set out accordingly, but was met on
the lakes by the deserters, who told him that Tonty was dead, and seduced
his men.--_Relation des Découvertes_, MS. Dautray himself seems to have
remained true; at least he was in La Salle's service immediately after,
and was one of his most trusted followers. He was of good birth, being the
son of Jean Bourdon, a conspicuous personage in the early period of the
colony, and his name appears on official records as Jean Bourdon, Sieur
d'Autray.] They had destroyed the fort on the St. Joseph, seized a
quantity of furs belonging to La Salle at Michillimackinac, and plundered
the magazine at Niagara. Here they had separated, eight of them coasting
the south side of Lake Ontario to find harborage at Albany, a common
refuge at that time of this class of scoundrels; while the remaining
twelve, in three canoes, made for Fort Frontenac along the north shore,
intending to kill La Salle as the surest means of escaping punishment.

He lost no time in lamentation. Of the few men at his command, he chose
nine of the trustiest, embarked with them in canoes, and went to meet the
marauders. After passing the Bay of Quinté, he took his station with five
of his party at a point of land suited to his purpose, and detached the
remaining four to keep watch. In the morning two canoes were discovered,
approaching without suspicion, one of them far in advance of the other. As
the foremost drew near, La Salle's canoe darted out from under the leafy
shore; two of the men handling the paddles, while he with the remaining
two levelled their guns at the deserters, and called on them to surrender.
Astonished and dismayed, they yielded at once; while two more who were in
the second canoe hastened to follow their example. La Salle now returned
to the fort with his prisoners, placed them in custody, and again set
forth. He met the third canoe upon the lake at about six o'clock in the
evening. His men vainly plied their paddles in pursuit. The mutineers
reached the shore, took post among rocks and trees, levelled their guns,
and showed fight. Four of La Salle's men made a circuit to gain their rear
and dislodge them; on which they stole back to their canoe, and tried to
escape in the darkness. They were pursued, and summoned to yield; but they
replied by aiming their guns at their pursuers, who instantly gave them a
volley, killed two of them, and captured the remaining three. Like their
companions, they were placed in custody at the fort to await the arrival
of Count Frontenac. [Footnote: The story of La Salle's journey from Fort
Crèvecoeur to Fort Frontenac, with his subsequent encounter with the
mutineers, is given in great detail in the unpublished _Relation des
Découvertes_. This and other portions of it are compiled, with little
abridgment, from the letters of La Salle himself, some of which are still
in existence. They give the particulars of each day with a cool and
business-like simplicity, recounting facts without comment or the
slightest attempt at rhetorical embellishment. This is the authority for
the details of the journey: the general statement is confirmed by Membré,
Hennepin, and Tonty. The _Mémoire_ of Tonty, though too concise, is
excellent authority, and must by no means be confounded with the _Relation
de la Louisiane_, to which his name is falsely affixed.]



And now La Salle's work must be begun afresh. He had staked all, and all
had seemingly been lost. In stern relentless effort he had touched the
limits of human endurance; and the harvest of his toils was
disappointment, disaster, and impending ruin. The shattered fabric of his
enterprise was prostrate in the dust. His friends desponded; his foes were
blatant and exultant. Did he bend before the storm? No human eye could
pierce the veiled depths of his reserved and haughty nature; but the
surface was calm, and no sign betrayed a shaken resolve or an altered
purpose. Where weaker men would have abandoned all in despairing apathy,
he turned anew to his work with the same vigor and the same apparent
confidence as if borne on the full tide of success.

His best hope was in Tonty. Could that brave and true-hearted officer, and
the three or four faithful men who had remained with him, make good their
foothold on the Illinois, and save from destruction the vessel on the
stocks, and the forge and tools so laboriously carried thither,--then,
indeed, a basis was left on which the ruined enterprise might be built up
once more. There was no time to lose. Tonty must be succored soon, or
succor would come too late. La Salle had already provided the necessary
material, and a few days sufficed to complete his preparations. On the
tenth of August, he embarked again for the Illinois. With him went his
lieutenant, La Forest, who held of him in fief an island, then called
Belle Isle, opposite Fort Frontenac. [Footnote: _Robert Cavelier, Sr. de
la Salle, à François Daupin, Sr. de la Forest,_ 10 _Juin, 1679,_ MS.] A
surgeon, ship-carpenters, joiners, masons, soldiers, _voyageurs_, and
laborers completed his company, twenty-five men in all, with every thing
needful for the outfit of the vessel.

His route, though difficult, was not so long as that which he had followed
the year before. He ascended the River Humber; crossed to Lake Simcoe, and
thence descended the Severn to the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron; followed
its eastern shore, coasted the Manitoulin Islands, and at length reached
Michillimackinac. Here, as usual, all was hostile; and he had great
difficulty in inducing the Indians, who had been excited against him, to
sell him provisions. Anxious to reach his destination, he pushed forward
with twelve men, leaving La Forest to bring on the rest. On the fourth of
November, [Footnote: This date is from the _Relation_. Membré says the
twenty-eighth; but he is wrong, by his own showing, as he says that the
party reached the Illinois village on the first of December,--an
impossibility.] he reached the ruined fort at the mouth of the St. Joseph,
and left five of his party, with the heavy stores, to wait till La Forest
should come up, while he himself hastened forward with six Frenchmen and
an Indian. A deep anxiety possessed him. For some time past, rumors had
been abroad that the Iroquois were preparing to invade the country of the
Illinois, bent on expelling or destroying them. Here was a new disaster,
which, if realized, might involve him and his enterprise in irretrievable

He ascended the St. Joseph, crossed the portage to the Kankakee, and
followed its course downward till it joined the northern branch of the
Illinois. He had heard nothing of Tonty on the way, and neither here nor
elsewhere could he discover the smallest sign of the passage of white men.
His friend, therefore, if alive, was probably still at his post; and he
pursued his course with a mind lightened, in some small measure, of its
load of anxiety.

When last he had passed here, all was solitude; but how the scene was
changed. The boundless waste was thronged with life. He beheld that
wondrous spectacle, still to be seen at times on the plains of the
remotest West, and the memory of which can quicken the pulse and stir the
blood after the lapse of years. Far and near, the prairie was alive with
buffalo; now like black specks dotting the distant swells; now trampling
by in ponderous columns, or filing in long lines, morning, noon, and
night, to drink at the river,--wading, plunging, and snorting in the
water; climbing the muddy shores, and staring with wild eyes at the
passing canoes. It was an opportunity not to be lost. The party landed,
and encamped for a hunt. Sometimes they hid under the shelving bank, and
shot them as they came to drink; sometimes, flat on their faces, they
dragged themselves through the long dead grass, till the savage bulls,
guardians of the herd, ceased their grazing, raised their huge heads, and
glared through tangled hair at the dangerous intruders; their horns
splintered and their grim front scarred with battles, while their shaggy
mane, like a gigantic lion, well-nigh swept the ground. [Footnote: I have
a very vivid recollection of the appearance of an old buffalo bull under
such circumstances. When I was within a hundred yards of him, he came
towards me at a sharp trot as if to make a charge; but, as I remained
motionless, he stopped thirty paces off and stared fixedly for a long
time. At length, he slowly turned, and, in doing so, received a shot
behind the shoulder, which killed him. It is useless to fire at the
forehead of a buffalo bull, at least with an ordinary rifle, as the bullet
flattens against his skull. A shot at close quarters, just above the nose,
would probably turn him in a charge. The usual modes of hunting buffalo on
foot are those mentioned above. They are commonly successful; but at times
the animals are excessively shy and wary, while at other times they are
stupid beyond measure, and can be easily approached and killed. The hunter
must remain perfectly motionless after firing, as the wounded animal is
apt to make a rush at him if he moves. The most agreeable mode of hunting
buffalo is, however, on horseback, running alongside of them, and shooting
them behind the shoulder with a pistol or a short gun. A bow and arrow are
better for those who know how to use them; but white men very rarely have
the skill. I have seen, on different occasions, several hundred buffalo
killed with arrows, by Indians on horseback. This noble game, with the
tribes who live on it, will soon disappear from the earth.] The hunt was
successful. In three days, the hunters killed twelve buffalo, besides
deer, geese, and swans. They cut the meat into thin flakes, and dried it
in the sun, or in the smoke of their fires. The men were in high spirits;
delighting in the sport, and rejoicing in the prospect of relieving Tonty
and his hungry followers with a bounteous supply.

They embarked again, and soon approached the great town of the Illinois.
The buffalo were far behind; and once more the canoes glided on their way
through a voiceless solitude. No hunters were seen; no saluting whoop
greeted their ears. They passed the cliff afterwards called the Rock of
St. Louis, where La Salle had ordered Tonty to build his stronghold; but
as he scanned its lofty top, he saw no palisades, no cabins, no sign of
human hand, and still its primeval crest of forests overhung the gliding
river. Now the meadow opened before them where the great town had stood.
They gazed, astonished and confounded: all was desolation. The town had
vanished, and the meadow was black with fire. They plied their paddles,
hastened to the spot, landed; and, as they looked around, their cheeks
grew white, and the blood was frozen in their veins.

Before them lay a plain once swarming with wild human life, and covered
with Indian dwellings; now a waste of devastation and death, strewn with
heaps of ashes, and bristling with the charred poles and stakes which had
formed the framework of the lodges. At the points of most of them were
stuck human skulls, half picked by birds of prey. [Footnote: "Il ne
restoit que quelques bouts de perches brulées qui montroient quelle avoit
été l'étendue du village, et sur la plupart desquelles il y avait des
têtes de morts plantées et mangóes des corbeaux."--_Relation des
Découvertes du Sr. de la Salle_, MS.] Near at hand was the burial ground
of the village. The travellers sickened with horror as they entered its
revolting precincts. Wolves in multitudes fled at their approach; while
clouds of crows or buzzards, rising from the hideous repast, wheeled above
their heads, or settled on the naked branches of the neighboring forest.
Every grave had been rifled, and the bodies flung down from the scaffolds
where, after the Illinois custom, many of them had been placed. The field
was strewn with broken bones and torn and mangled corpses. A hyena warfare
had been waged against the dead. La Salle knew the handiwork of the
Iroquois. The threatened blow had fallen, and the wolfish hordes of the
five cantons had fleshed their rabid fangs in a new victim. [Footnote:
"Beaucoup de carcasses à demi rongées par les loups, les sepulchres
démolis, les os tirés de leurs fosses et épars par la campagne; ... enfin
les loups et les corbeaux augmentoient par leurs hurlemens et par leurs
cris l'horreur de ce spectacle."--_Ibid_.

The above may seem exaggerated, but it accords perfectly with what is well
established concerning the ferocious character of the Iroquois, and the
nature of their warfare. Many other tribes have frequently made war upon
the dead. I have myself known an instance in which five corpses of Sioux
Indians, placed in trees, after the practice of the western bands of that
people, were thrown down and kicked into fragments by a war party of the
Crows, who then held the muzzles of their guns against the skulls and blew
them to pieces. This happened near the head of the Platte, in the summer
of 1846. Yet the Crows are much less ferocious than were the Iroquois in
La Salle's time.]

Not far distant, the conquerors had made a rude fort of trunks, boughs,
and roots of trees laid together to form a circular enclosure; and this,
too, was garnished with, skulls, stuck on the broken branches, and
protruding sticks. The _caches_, or subterranean storehouses of the
villagers had been broken open, and the contents scattered. The cornfields
were laid waste, and much of the corn thrown into heaps and half burned.
As La Salle surveyed this scene of havoc, one thought engrossed him: where
were Tonty and his men? He searched the Iroquois fort; there were abundant
traces of its savage occupants, but none whatever of the presence of white
men. He examined the skulls; but the hair, portions of which clung to
nearly all of them, was in every case that of an Indian. Evening came on
before he had finished the search. The sun set, and the wilderness sank to
its savage rest. Night and silence brooded over the waste, where, far as
the raven could wing his flight, stretched the dark domain of solitude and

Yet there was no silence at the spot, where, crouched around their camp-
fire, La Salle and his companions kept their vigil. The howlings of the
wolves filled the frosty air with a fierce and dreary dissonance. More
deadly foes were not far off, for before nightfall they had seen fresh
Indian tracks. The cold, however, forced them to make a fire; and while
some tried to rest around it, the others stood on the watch. La Salle
could not sleep. Anxiety, anguish, fears for his friend, doubts as to what
course he should pursue, racked his firm mind with a painful indecision,
and lent redoubled gloom to the terrors that encompassed him. [Footnote:
_Relation des Découvertes_, MS.]

During the afternoon, he had made a discovery which offered, as he
thought, a possible clew to the fate of Tonty, and those with him. In one
of the Illinois cornfields, near the river, were planted six posts painted
red, on each of which was drawn in black a figure of a man with eyes
bandaged. La Salle supposed them to represent six Frenchmen, prisoners in
the hands of the Iroquois; and he resolved to push forward at all hazards,
in the hope of learning more. When daylight at length returned, he told
his followers that it was his purpose to descend the river, and directed
three of them to await his return near the ruined village. They were to
hide themselves on an island, conceal their fire at night, make no smoke
by day, fire no guns, and keep a close watch. Should the rest of the party
arrive, they, too, were to wait with similar precautions. The baggage was
placed in a hollow of the rocks, at a place difficult of access; and,
these arrangements made, La Salle set out on his perilous journey with the
four remaining men, Dautray, Hunaut, You, and the Indian. Each was armed
with two guns, a pistol, and a sword; and a number of hatchets and other
goods were placed in the canoe, as presents for Indians whom they might

Several leagues below the village they found, on their right hand close to
the river, a sort of island made inaccessible by the marshes and water
which surrounded it. Here the flying Illinois had sought refuge with their
women and children, and the place was full of their deserted huts. On the
left bank, exactly opposite, was an abandoned camp of the Iroquois. On the
level meadow stood a hundred and thirteen huts, and on the forest trees
which covered the hills behind were carved the totems, or insignia, of the
chiefs, together with marks to show the number of followers which each had
led to the war. La Salle counted five hundred and eighty-two warriors. He
found marks, too, for the Illinois killed or captured, but none to
indicate that any of the Frenchmen had shared their fate.

As they descended the river, they passed, on the same day, six abandoned
camps of the Illinois, and opposite to each was a camp of the invaders.
The former, it was clear, had retreated in a body; while the Iroquois had
followed their march, day by day, along the other bank. La Salle and his
men pushed rapidly onward, passed Peoria Lake, and soon reached Fort
Crèvecoeur, which they found, as they expected, demolished by the
deserters. The vessel on the stocks was still left entire, though the
Iroquois had found means to draw out the iron nails and spikes. On one of
the planks were written the words: "_Nous sommes tous sauvages: ce_ 19--
1680;" the work, no doubt, of the knaves who had pillaged and destroyed
the fort.

La Salle and his companions hastened on, and during the following day
passed four opposing camps of the savage armies. The silence of death now
reigned along the deserted river, whose lonely borders, wrapped deep in
forests, seemed lifeless as the grave. As they drew near the mouth of the
stream, they saw a meadow on their right, and, on its farthest verge,
several human figures, erect yet motionless. They landed, and cautiously
examined the place. The long grass was trampled down, and all around were
strewn the relics of the hideous orgies which formed the ordinary sequel
of an Iroquois victory. The figures they had seen were the half-consumed
bodies of women, still bound to the stakes where they had been tortured.
Other sights there were, too revolting for record. [Footnote: "On ne
sçàuroit exprimer la rage de ces furieux ni les tourmens qu'ils avoient
fait souffrir aux misérables Tamaroa (_a tribe of the Illinois_). Il y en
avoit encore dans des chaudières qu'ils avoient laissées pleines sur les
feux, qui depuis s'étoient éteints," etc., etc.--_Relation des
Découvertes_, MS.] All the remains were those of women and children. The
men, it seemed, had fled, and left them to their fate.

Here, again, La Salle sought long and anxiously, without finding the
smallest sign that could indicate the presence of Frenchmen. Once more
descending the river, they soon reached its mouth. Before them, a broad
eddying current rolled swiftly on its way; and La Salle beheld the
Mississippi, the object of his day-dreams, the destined avenue of his
ambition and his hopes. It was no time for reflections. The moment was too
engrossing, too heavily charged with anxieties and cares. From a rock on
the shore, he saw a tree stretched forward above the stream; and stripping
off its bark to make it more conspicuous, he hung upon it a board, on
which he had drawn the figures of himself and his men, seated in their
canoe, and bearing a pipe of peace. To this he tied a letter for Tonty,
informing him that he had returned up the river to the ruined village.

His four men had behaved admirably throughout, and they now offered to
continue the journey, if he saw fit, and follow him to the sea; but he
thought it useless to go farther, and was unwilling to abandon the three
men whom he had ordered to await his return. Accordingly they retraced
their course, and, paddling at times both day and night, urged their canoe
so swiftly, that they reached the village in the incredibly short space of
four days. [Footnote: The distance is about two hundred and fifty miles.
The _Relation des Découvertes_ says that they left the village on the
second of December, and returned to it on the eleventh, having left the
mouth of the river on the seventh. Very probably, there is an error of
date. In other particulars, this narrative is sustained by those of

The sky was clear; and, as night came on, the travellers saw a prodigious
comet blazing above this scene of desolation. On that night, it was
chilling, with a superstitious awe, the hamlets of New England and the
gilded chambers of Versailles; but it is characteristic of La Salle, that,
beset as he was with perils, and surrounded with ghastly images of death,
he coolly notes down the phenomenon,--not as a portentous messenger of war
and woe, but rather as an object of scientific curiosity. [Footnote: This
was the "Great Comet of 1680.". Dr. B. A. Gould writes me: "It appeared in
December, 1680, and was visible until the latter part of February, 1681,
being especially brilliant in January." It was said to be the largest ever
seen. By observations upon it, Newton demonstrated the regular revolutions
of comets around the sun. "No comet," it is said, "has threatened the
earth with a nearer approach than that of 1680."--_Winthrop on Comets,
Lecture II_. p. 44. Increase Mather, in his _Discourse concerning Comets_,
printed at Boston in 1683, says of this one: "Its appearance was very
terrible, the Blaze ascended above 60 Degrees almost to its Zenith."
Mather thought it fraught with terrific portent to the nations of the

He found his three men safely ensconced upon their island, where they were
anxiously looking for his return. After collecting a store of half-burnt
corn from the ravaged granaries of the Illinois, the whole party began to
ascend the river, and, on the sixth of January, reached the junction of
the Kankakee with the northern branch. On their way downward, they had
descended the former stream. They now chose the latter, and soon
discovered, by the margin of the water, a rude cabin of bark. La Salle
landed, and examined the spot, when an object met his eye which cheered
him with a bright gleam of hope. It was but a piece of wood, but the wood
had been cut with a saw. Tonty and his party, then, had passed this way,
escaping from the carnage behind them. Unhappily, they had left no token
of their passage at the fork of the two streams; and thus La Salle, on his
voyage downward, had believed them to be still on the river below.

With rekindled hope, the travellers pursued their journey, leaving their
canoes, and making their way overland towards the fort on the St. Joseph.
Snow fell in profusion, till the earth was deeply buried. So light and dry
was it, that to walk on snow-shoes was impossible; and La Salle, after his
custom, took the lead, to break the path and cheer on his followers.
Despite his tall stature, he often waded through drifts to the waist,
while the men toiled on behind; the snow, shaken from the burdened twigs,
showering them as they passed. After excessive fatigue, they reached their
goal, and found shelter and safety within the walls of Fort Miami. Here
was the party left in charge of La Forest; but, to his surprise and grief,
La Salle heard no tidings of Tonty. He found some amends for the
disappointment in the fidelity and zeal of La Forest's men, who had
restored the fort, cleared ground for planting, and even sawed the planks
and timber for a new vessel on the lake.

And now, while La Salle rests at Fort Miami, let us trace the adventures
which befell Tonty and his followers, after their chief's departure from
Fort Crèvecoeur.



When La Salle set out on his rugged journey to Fort Frontenac, he left, as
we have seen, fifteen men at Fort Crèvecoeur,--smiths, ship-carpenters,
housewrights, and soldiers, besides his servant l'Esperance and the two
friars Membré and Ribourde. Most of the men were ripe for mutiny. They had
no interest in the enterprise, and no love for its chief. They were
disgusted at the present, and terrified at the future. La Salle, too, was
for the most part a stern commander, impenetrable and cold; and when he
tried to soothe, conciliate, and encourage, his success rarely answered to
the excellence of his rhetoric. He could always, however, inspire respect,
if not love; but now the restraint of his presence was removed. He had not
been long absent, when a firebrand was thrown into the midst of the
discontented and restless crew.

It may be remembered that La Salle had met two of his men, La Chapelle and
Leblanc, at his fort on the St. Joseph, and ordered them to rejoin Tonty.
Unfortunately, they obeyed. On arriving, they told their comrades that the
"Griffin" was lost, that Fort Frontenac was seized by the creditors of La
Salle, that he was ruined past recovery, and that they, the men, would
never receive their pay. Their wages were in arrears for more than two
years; and, indeed, it would have been folly to pay them before their
return to the settlements, as to do so would have been a temptation to
desert. Now, however, the effect on their minds was still worse,
believing, as many of them did, that they would never be paid at all.

La Chapelle and his companion had brought a letter from La Salle to Tonty,
directing him to examine and fortify the cliff so often mentioned, which
overhung the river above the great Illinois village. Tonty, accordingly,
set out on his errand with some of the men. In his absence, the
malcontents destroyed the fort, stole powder, lead, furs, and provisions,
and deserted, after writing on the side of the unfinished vessel the words
seen by La Salle, "_Nous sommes tous sauvages_." [Footnote: For the
particulars of this desertion, Membré, in Le Clerc, ii. 171, _Relation des
Découvertes_, MS.; Tonty, _Mémoire_, MS.; _Déclaration faite par devant le
Sr. Duchesneau, Intendant en Canada, par Moyse Hillaret, charpentier de
barque cy-devant au service du Sr. de la Salle_, 17 _Aoust_, 1680, MS.

Moyse Hillaret, the "Maitre Moyse" of Hennepin, was a ringleader of the
deserters, and seems to have been one of those captured by La Salle near
Fort Frontenac. Twelve days after, Hillaret was examined by La Salle's
enemy, the Intendant; and this paper is the formal statement made by him.
It gives the names of most of the men, and furnishes incidental
confirmation of many statements of Hennepin, Tonty, Membré, and the
_Relation des Découvertes_. Hillaret, Leblanc, and Le Meilleur, the
blacksmith nicknamed La Forge, went off together, and the rest seem to
have followed afterwards. Hillaret does not admit that any goods were
wantonly destroyed.

There is before me a schedule of the debts of La Salle, made after his
death. It includes a claim of this man for wages to the amount of 2,500
livres.] The brave young Sieur de Boisrondet and the servant l'Esperance
hastened to carry the news to Tonty, who at once despatched four of those
with him, by two different routes, to inform La Salle of the disaster.
[Footnote: Two of the messengers, Laurent and Messier, arrived safely. The
others seem to have deserted.] Besides the two just named, there now
remained with him only three hired men and the Récollet friars. With this
feeble band, he was left among a horde of treacherous savages, who had
been taught to regard him as a secret enemy. Resolved, apparently, to
disarm their jealousy by a show of confidence, he took up his abode in the
midst of them, making his quarters in the great village, whither, as
spring opened, its inhabitants returned, to the number, according to
Membré, of seven or eight thousand. Hither he conveyed the forge and such
tools as he could recover, and here he hoped to maintain, himself till La
Salle should reappear. The spring and the summer were past, and he looked
anxiously for his coming, unconscious that a storm was gathering in the
east, soon to burst with devastation over the fertile wilderness of the

I have recounted the ferocious triumphs of the Iroquois in another volume.
[Footnote: "The Jesuits in America."] Throughout a wide semicircle around
their cantons they had made the forest a solitude,--destroyed the Hurons,
exterminated the Neutrals and the Eries, reduced the formidable Andastes
to a helpless insignificance, swept the borders of the St. Lawrence with
fire, spread terror and desolation among the Algonquins of Canada; and
now, tired of peace, they were seeking, to borrow their own savage
metaphor, new nations to devour. Yet it was not alone their homicidal fury
that now impelled them to another war. Strange as it may seem, this war
was in no small measure one of commercial advantage. They had long traded
with the Dutch and English of New York, who gave them, in exchange for
their furs, the guns, ammunition, knives, hatchets, kettles, beads, and
brandy which had become indispensable to them. Game was scarce in their
country. They must seek their beaver and other skins in the vacant
territories of the tribes they had destroyed; but this did not content
them. The French of Canada were seeking to secure a monopoly of the furs
of the north and west; and, of late, the enterprises of La Salle on the
tributaries of the Mississippi had especially roused the jealousy of the
Iroquois, fomented, moreover, by Dutch and English traders. [Footnote:
Duchesneau, in _Paris Docs_., ix. 163.] These crafty savages would fain
reduce all these regions to subjection, and draw from thence an
exhaustless supply of furs to be bartered for English goods with the
traders of Albany. They turned their eyes first towards the Illinois, the
most important, as well as one of the most accessible, of the western
Algonquin tribes; and among La Salle's enemies were some in whom jealousy
of a hated rival could so far override all the best interests of the
colony that they did not scruple to urge on the Iroquois to an invasion
which they hoped would prove his ruin. The chiefs convened, war was
decreed, the war-dance was danced, the war-song sung, and five hundred
warriors began their march. In their path lay the town of the Miamis,
neighbors and kindred of the Illinois. It was always their policy to
divide and conquer; and these forest Machiavels had intrigued so well
among the Miamis, working craftily on their jealousy, that they induced
them to join in the invasion, though there is every reason to believe that
they had marked these infatuated allies as their next victims. [Footnote:
There had long been a rankling jealousy between the Miamis and the
Illinois. According to Membré, La Salle's enemies had intrigued
successfully among the former, as well as among the Iroquois, to induce
them to take arms against the Illinois.]

Go to the banks of the Illinois where it flows by the village of Utica,
and stand on the meadow that borders it on the north. In front glides the
river, a musket-shot in width; and from the farther bank rises, with
gradual slope, a range of wooded hills that hide from sight the vast
prairie behind them. A mile or more on your left these gentle acclivities
end abruptly in the lofty front of the great cliff, called by the French
the Rock of St. Louis, looking boldly out from the forests that environ
it; and, three miles distant on your right, you discern a gap in the steep
bluffs that here bound the valley, marking the mouth of the River
Vermilion, called Aramoni by the French. [Footnote: The above is from
notes made on the spot. The following is La Salle's description of the
locality in the _Relation des Découvertes_, written in 1681: "La rive
gauche de la rivière, du coté du sud, est occupée par un long rocher, fort
étroit et escarpé presque partout, à la réserve d'un endroit de plus d'une
lieue de longueur, situé vis-à-vis du village, ou le terrain, tout couvert
de beaux chênes, s'étend par une pente douce jusqu'au bord de la rivière.
Au delà de cette hauteur est une vaste plaine, qui s'étend bien loin du
coté du sud, et qui est traversée par la rivière Aramoni, dont les bords
sont couverts d'une lisière de bois peu large."

The Aramoni is laid down on the great manuscript map of Franquelin, 1684,
and on the map of Coronelli, 1688. It is, without doubt, the Big
Vermilion. Starved Rock, or the Rock of St. Louis, is the highest and
steepest escarpment of the _long rocher_ above mentioned.] Now stand in
fancy on this same spot in the early autumn of the year 1680. You are in
the midst of the great town of the Illinois,--hundreds of mat-covered
lodges and thousands of congregated savages. Enter one of their dwellings:
they will not think you an intruder. Some friendly squaw will lay a mat
for you by the fire; you may seat yourself upon it, smoke your pipe, and
study the lodge and its inmates by the light that streams through the
holes at the top. Three or four fires smoke and smoulder on the ground
down the middle of the long arched structure; and as to each fire there
are two families, the place is somewhat crowded when all are present. But
now there is space and breathing room, for many are in the fields. A squaw
sits weaving a mat of rushes; a warrior, naked, except his moccasons, and
tattooed with fantastic devices, binds a stone arrow-head to its shaft
with the fresh sinews of a buffalo. Some lie asleep, some sit staring in
vacancy, some are eating, some are squatted in lazy chat around a fire.
The smoke brings water to your eyes; the fleas annoy you; small unkempt
children, naked as young puppies, crawl about your knees and will not be
repelled. You have seen enough. You rise and go out again into the
sunlight. It is, if not a peaceful, at least a languid scene. A few voices
break the stillness, mingled with the joyous chirping of crickets from the
grass. Young men lie flat on their faces, basking in the sun. A group of
their elders are smoking around a buffalo skin on which they have just
been playing a game of chance with cherry-stones. A lover and his
mistress, perhaps, sit together under a shed of bark without uttering a
word. Not far off is the graveyard, where lie the dead of the village,
some buried in the earth, some wrapped in skins and laid aloft on
scaffolds, above the reach of wolves. In the cornfields around, you see
squaws at their labor, and children driving off intruding birds; and your
eye ranges over the meadows beyond, spangled with the yellow blossoms of
the resin-weed and the Rudbeckia, or over the bordering hills still green
with the foliage of summer. [Footnote: The Illinois were an aggregation of
distinct though kindred tribes, the Kaskaskias, the Peorias, the Cahokias,
the Tamaroas, the Moingona, and others. Their general character and habits
were those of other Indian tribes, but they were reputed somewhat cowardly
and slothful. In their manners, they were more licentious than many of
their neighbors, and addicted to practices which are sometimes supposed to
be the result of a perverted civilization. Young men enacting the part of
women were frequently to be seen among them. These were held in great
contempt. Some of the early travellers, both among the Illinois and among
other tribes, where the same practice prevailed, mistook them for
hermaphrodites. According to Charlevoix (_Journal Historique_, 303), this
abuse was due in part to a superstition. The Miamis and Piankishaws were
in close affinities of language and habits with the Illinois. All these
tribes belonged to the great Algonquin family. The first impressions which
the French received of them, as recorded in the _Relation_ of 1671, were
singularly favorable; but a closer acquaintance did not confirm them. The
Illinois traded with the lake tribes, to whom they carried slaves taken in
war, receiving in exchange, guns, hatchets, and other French goods.--
Marquette in _Relation_, 1670, 91.]

This, or something like it, one may safely affirm, was the aspect of the
Illinois village at noon of the tenth of September. [Footnote: This is
Membré's date. The narratives differ as to the day, though all agree as to
the month.] In a hut, apart from the rest, you would probably have found
the Frenchmen. Among them was a man, not strong in person, and disabled,
moreover, by the loss of a hand; yet, in this den of barbarism, betraying
the language and bearing of one formed in the most polished civilization
of Europe. This was Henri de Tonty. The others were young Boisrondet, and
the two faithful men who had stood by their commander. The friars, Membré
and Ribourde, were not in the village, but at a hut a league distant,
whither they had gone to make a "retreat," for prayer and meditation.
Their missionary labors had not been fruitful. They had made no converts,
and were in despair at the intractable character of the objects of their
zeal. As for the other Frenchmen, time, doubtless, hung heavy on their
hands; for nothing can surpass the vacant monotony of an Indian town when
there is neither hunting, nor war, nor feasts, nor dances, nor gambling,
to beguile the lagging hours.

Suddenly the village was wakened from its lethargy as by the crash of a
thunderbolt. A Shawanoe, lately here on a visit, had left his Illinois
friends to return home. He now reappeared, crossing the river in hot haste
with the announcement that he had met, on his way, an army of Iroquois
approaching to attack them. All was panic and confusion. The lodges
disgorged their frightened inmates; women and children screamed, startled
warriors snatched their weapons. There were less than five hundred of
them, for the greater part of the young men had gone to war. A crowd of
excited savages thronged about Tonty and his Frenchmen, already objects of
their suspicion, charging them, with furious gesticulation, with having
stirred up their enemies to invade them. Tonty defended himself in broken
Illinois, but the naked mob were but half convinced. They seized the forge
and tools and flung them into the river, with all the goods that had been
saved from the deserters; then, distrusting their power to defend
themselves, they manned the wooden canoes which lay in multitudes by the
bank, embarked their women and children, and paddled down the stream to
that island of dry land in the midst of marshes which La Salle afterwards
found filled with their deserted huts. Sixty warriors remained here to
guard them, and the rest returned to the village. All night long fires
blazed along the shore. The excited warriors greased their bodies, painted
their faces, befeathered their heads, sang their war-songs, danced,
stamped, yelled, and brandished their hatchets, to work up their courage
to face the crisis. The morning came, and with it came the Iroquois.

Young warriors had gone out as scouts, and now they returned. They had
seen the enemy in the line of forest that bordered the River Aramoni, or
Vermilion, and had stealthily reconnoitred them. They were very numerous,
[Footnote: The _Relation des Découvertes_ says, five hundred Iroquois and
one hundred Shawanoes. Membré says that the allies were Miamis. He is no
doubt right, as the Miamis had promised their aid, and the Shawanoes were
at peace with the Illinois. Tonty is silent on the point.] and armed for
the most part with guns, pistols, and swords. Some had bucklers of wood or
raw hide, and some wore those corselets of tough twigs interwoven with
cordage which their fathers had used when firearms were unknown. The
scouts added more, for they declared that they had seen a Jesuit among the
Iroquois; nay, that La Salle himself was there, whence it must follow that
Tonty and his men were enemies and traitors. The supposed Jesuit was but
an Iroquois chief arrayed in a black hat, doublet, and stockings; while
another, equipped after a somewhat similar fashion, passed in the distance
for La Salle. But the Illinois were furious. Tonty's life hung by a hair.
A crowd of savages surrounded him, mad with rage and terror. He had come
lately from Europe, and knew little of Indians; but, as the friar Membré
says of him, "he was full of intelligence and courage," and when they
heard him declare that he and his Frenchmen would go with them to fight
the Iroquois, their threats grew less clamorous and their eyes glittered
with a less deadly lustre.

Whooping and screeching, they ran to their canoes, crossed the river,
climbed the woody hill, and swarmed down upon the plain beyond. About a
hundred of them had guns; the rest were armed with bows and arrows. They
were now face to face with the enemy, who had emerged from the woods of
the Vermilion, and was advancing on the open prairie. With unwonted
spirit, for their repute as warriors was by no means high, the Illinois
began, after their fashion, to charge; that is, they leaped, yelled, and
shot off bullets and arrows, advancing as they did so; while the Iroquois
replied with gymnastics no less agile, and howlings no less terrific,
mingled with the rapid clatter of their guns. Tonty saw that it would go
hard with his allies. It was of the last moment to stop the fight if
possible. The Iroquois were, or professed to be, at peace with the French;
and taking counsel of his courage, he resolved on an attempt to mediate,
which may well be called a desperate one. He laid aside his gun, took in
his hand a wampum belt as a flag of truce, and walked forward to meet the
savage multitude, attended by Boisrondet, another Frenchman, and a young
Illinois who had the hardihood to accompany him. The guns of the Iroquois
still flashed thick and fast. Some of them were aimed at him, on which he
sent back the two Frenchmen and the Illinois, and advanced alone, holding
out the wampum belt. [Footnote: Membré says that he went with Tonty,
"J'étois aussi à côté du Sieur de Tonty." This is an invention of the
friar's vanity. "Les deux pères Récollets étoient alors dans une cabane à
une lieue du village, où ils s'étoient retirés pour faire une espèce de
retraite, et ils ne furent avertis de l'arrivée des Iroquois que dans le
temps du combat."--_Relation des Decouvertes,_, MS. "Je rencontrai en
chemin les pères Gabriel et Zenobe Membré, qui cherchoient de mes
nonvelles."--Tonty _Mémoire_, MS. This was on his return from the
Iroquois. The _Relation_ confirms the statement, as far as concerns
Membré: "Il rencontra le Père Zenobe (Membré), qui venoit pour le
secourir, aiant été averti du combat et de sa blessure."

The perverted _Dernières Découvertes_, published without authority, under
Tonty's name, says that he was attended by a slave whom the Illinois sent
with him as interpreter. Though this is not mentioned in the three
authentic narratives, it is more than probable, as Tonty could not have
known Iroquois enough to make himself understood.] A moment more, and he
was among the infuriated warriors. It was a frightful spectacle: the
contorted forms, bounding, crouching, twisting, to deal or dodge the shot;
the small keen eyes that shone like an angry snake's; the parted lips
pealing their fiendish yells; the painted features writhing with fear and
fury, and every passion of an Indian fight; man, wolf, and devil, all in
one. [Footnote: Being once in an encampment of Sioux, when a quarrel broke
out, and the adverse factions raised the war-whoop, and began to fire at
each other, I had a good, though for the moment, a rather dangerous
opportunity of seeing the demeanor of Indians at the beginning of a fight.
The fray was quelled before much mischief was done, by the vigorous
intervention of the elder warriors, who ran between the combatants.] With
his swarthy complexion, and his half-savage dress, they thought he was an
Indian, and thronged about him, glaring murder. A young warrior stabbed at
his heart with a knife, but the point glanced aside against a rib,
inflicting only a deep gash. A chief called out that, as his ears were not
pierced, he must be a Frenchman. On this, some of them tried to stop the
bleeding, and led him to the rear, where an angry parley ensued, while the
yells and firing still resounded in the front. Tonty, breathless, and
bleeding at the mouth with the force of the blow he had received, found
words to declare that the Illinois were under the protection of the king,
and the Governor of Canada, and to demand that they should be left in
peace. [Footnote: "Je leur fis connoistre que les Islinois étoient sous la
protection du roy de France et du gouverneur du pays, que j'estois surpris
qu'ils voulussent rompre avec les François et qu'ils voulussent _attendre_
(sic) à une paix."--Tonty, _Ménoire_, MS.]

A young Iroquois snatched Tonty's hat, placed it on the end of his gun,
and displayed it to the Illinois, who, thereupon, thinking he was killed,
renewed the fight; and the firing in front breezed up more angrily than
before. A warrior ran in, crying out that the Iroquois were giving ground,
and that there were Frenchmen among the Illinois who fired at them. On
this, the clamor around Tonty was redoubled. Some wished to kill him at
once; others resisted. Several times, he felt a hand at the back of his
head, lifting up his hair, and, turning, saw a savage with a knife,
standing as if ready to scalp him. [Footnote: "Il en avoit un derrière moi
qui tenoit un couteau dans sa main, et qui de temps en temps me levoit les
cheveux."--Tonty, _Mémoire_, MS. The _Dernières Découvertes_ adds, "Je me
retournai vers lui et je vis bien à sa contenance et à sa mine que son
dessein étoit de m'enlever la chevelure ... je le priai de vouloir du
moins se donner un peu de patience, et d'attendre que ses Maitres eussent
décidé de mon sort."] A Seneca chief demanded that he should be burned. An
Onondaga chief, a friend of La Salle, was for setting him free. The
dispute grew fierce and hot. Tonty told them that the Illinois were twelve
hundred strong, and that sixty Frenchmen were at the village, ready to
back them. This invention, though not fully believed, had no little
effect. The friendly Onondaga carried his point; and the Iroquois, having
failed to surprise their enemies as they had hoped, now saw an opportunity
to delude them by a truce. They sent back Tonty with a belt of peace; he
held it aloft in sight of the Illinois; chiefs and old warriors ran to
stop the fight; the yells and the firing ceased, and Tonty, like one waked
from a hideous nightmare, dizzy, almost fainting with loss of blood,
staggered across the intervening prairie to rejoin his friends. He was met
by the two friars, Ribourde and Membré, who, in their secluded hut a
league from the village, had but lately heard of what was passing, and who
now, with benedictions and thanksgiving, ran to embrace him as a man
escaped from the jaws of death.

The Illinois now withdrew, re-embarking in their canoes, and crossing
again to their lodges; but scarcely had they reached them, when their
enemies appeared at the edge of the forest on the opposite bank. Many
found means to cross, and, under the pretext of seeking for provisions,
began to hover in bands about the skirts of the town, constantly
increasing in numbers. Had the Illinois dared to remain, a massacre would
doubtless have ensued; but they knew their foe too well, set fire to their
lodges, embarked in haste, and paddled down the stream to rejoin their
women and children at the sanctuary among the morasses. The whole body of
the Iroquois now crossed the river, took possession of the abandoned town,
building for themselves a rude redoubt, or fort, of the trunks of trees
and of the posts and poles, forming the framework of the lodges which
escaped the fire. Here they ensconced themselves, and finished the work of
havoc at their leisure.

Tonty and his companions still occupied their hut; but the Iroquois,
becoming suspicious of them, forced them to remove to the fort, crowded as
it was with the savage crew. On the second day, there was an alarm. The
Illinois appeared in numbers on the low hills, half a mile behind the
town; and the Iroquois, who had felt their courage, and who had been told
by Tonty that they were twice as numerous as themselves, showed symptoms
of no little uneasiness. They proposed that he should act as mediator, to
which he gladly assented, and crossed the meadow towards the Illinois,
accompanied by Membré, and by an Iroquois who was sent as a hostage. The
Illinois hailed the overtures with delight, gave the ambassadors some
refreshment, which they sorely needed, and sent back with them a young man
of their nation as a hostage on their part. This indiscreet youth nearly
proved the ruin of the negotiation; for he was no sooner among the
Iroquois than he showed such an eagerness to close the treaty, made such
promises, professed such gratitude, and betrayed so rashly the numerical
weakness of the Illinois, that he revived all the insolence of the
invaders. They turned furiously upon Tonty and charged him with having
robbed them of the glory and the spoils of victory. "Where are all your
Illinois warriors, and where are the sixty Frenchmen that you said were
among them?" It needed all Tonty's tact and coolness to extricate himself
from this new danger.

The treaty was at length concluded; but scarcely was it made, when the
Iroquois prepared to break it, and set about constructing canoes of elm-
bark in which to attack the Illinois women and children in their island
sanctuary. Tonty warned his allies that the pretended peace was but a
snare for their destruction. The Iroquois, on their part, grew hourly more
jealous of him, and would certainly have killed him, had it not been their
policy to keep the peace with Frontenac and the French.

Several days after, they summoned him and Membré to a council. Six packs
of beaver skin were brought in, and the savage orator presented them to
Tonty in turn, explaining their meaning as he did so. The first two were
to declare that the children of Count Frontenac, that is, the Illinois,
should not be eaten; the next was a plaster to heal Tonty's wound; the
next was oil wherewith to anoint him and Membré, that they might not be
fatigued in travelling; the next proclaimed that the sun was bright; and
the sixth and last required them to decamp and go home. [Footnote: An
Indian speech, it will be remembered, is without validity, if not
confirmed by presents, each of which has its special interpretation. The
meaning of the fifth pack of beaver, informing Tonty that the sun was
bright,--"que le soleil étoit beau," that is, that the weather was
favorable for travelling,--is curiously misconceived by the editor of the
_Dernières Découvertes_, who improves upon his original by substituting
the words "par le cinquième paquet _ils nous exhortoient à adorer le
Soleil_."] Tonty thanked them for their gifts, but demanded when they
themselves meant to go and leave the Illinois in peace. At this the
conclave grew angry, and, despite their late pledge, some of them said
that before they went, they would eat Illinois flesh. Tonty instantly
kicked away the packs of beaver skin, the Indian symbol of the scornful
rejection of a proposal; telling them that since they meant to eat the
Governor's children, he would have none of their presents. The chiefs, in
a rage, rose and drove him from the lodge. The French withdrew to their
hut, where they stood all night on the watch, expecting an attack, and
resolved to sell their lives dearly. At daybreak, the chiefs ordered them
to begone.

Tonty, with an admirable fidelity and courage, had done all in the power
of man to protect the allies of Canada against their ferocious assailants;
and he thought it unwise to persist farther in a course which could lead
to no good, and which would probably end in the destruction of the whole
party. He embarked in a leaky canoe with Membré, Ribourde, Boisrondet, and
the remaining two men, and began to ascend the river. After paddling about
five leagues, they landed to dry their baggage and repair their crazy
vessel, when Father Ribourde, breviary in hand, strolled across the sunny
meadows for an hour of meditation among the neighboring groves. Evening
approached, and he did not return. Tonty with one of the men went to look
for him, and, following his tracks, presently discovered those of a band
of Indians, who had apparently seized or murdered him. Still, they did not
despair. They fired their guns to guide him, should he still be alive;
built a huge fire by the bank, and, then crossing the river, lay watching
it from the other side. At midnight, they saw the figure of a man hovering
around the blaze; then many more appeared, but Ribourde was not among
them. In truth, a band of Kickapoos, enemies of the Iroquois, about whose
camp they had been prowling in quest of scalps, had met and wantonly
murdered the inoffensive old man. They carried his scalp to their village,
and danced around it in triumph, pretending to have taken it from an
enemy. Thus, in his sixty-fifth year, the only heir of a wealthy
Burgundian house perished under the war-clubs of the savages, for whose
salvation he had renounced station, ease, and affluence. [Footnote: Tonty,
_Mémoire_, MS. Membré in Le Clercq, ii. 191. Hennepin, who hated Tonty,
unjustly charges him with having abandoned the search too soon, admitting,
however, that it would have been useless to continue it. This part of his
narrative is a perversion of Membré's account.]

Meanwhile, a hideous scene was enacted at the ruined village of the
Illinois. Their savage foes, balked of a living prey, wreaked their fury
on the dead. They dug up the graves; they threw down the scaffolds. Some
of the bodies they burned; some they threw to the dogs; some, it is
affirmed, they ate. [Footnote: "Cependant les Iroquois, aussitôt après le
départ du Sr. de Tonty, exercèrent leur rage sur les corps morts des
Ilinois, qu'ils déterrèrent ou abbattèrent de dessus les échafauds où les
Ilinois les laissent longtemps exposés avant que de les mettre en terre.
Ils en brûlèrent la plus grande partie, ils en mangèrent même quelques
uns, et jettèrent le reste aux chiens. Ils plantérent les têtes de ces
cadavres à demi décharnés sur des pieux," etc.--_Relation des
Découvertes_, MS.] Placing the skulls on stakes as trophies, they turned
to pursue the Illinois, who, when the French withdrew, had abandoned their
asylum and retreated down the river. The Iroquois, still, it seems, in awe
of them, followed them along the opposite bank, each night encamping face
to face with them; and thus the adverse bands moved slowly southward, till
they were near the mouth of the river. Hitherto, the compact array of the
Illinois had held their enemies in check; but now, suffering from hunger,
and lulled into security by the assurances of the Iroquois that their
object was not to destroy them, but only to drive them from the country,
they rashly separated into their several tribes. Some descended the
Mississippi; some, more prudent, crossed to the western side. One of their
principal tribes, the Tamaroas, more credulous than the rest, had the
fatuity to remain near the mouth of the Illinois, where they were speedily
assailed by all the force of the Iroquois. The men fled, and very few of
them were killed; but the women and children were captured to the number,
it is said, of seven hundred. [Footnote: _Relation des Découvertes_, MS.
Frontenac to the King, N.Y. _Col. Docs_., ix. 147. A memoir of Duchesneau
makes the number twelve hundred.] Then followed that scene of torture, of
which, some two weeks later, La Salle saw the revolting traces. [Footnote:
"Ils [les Illinois] trouvèrent dans leur campement des carcasses de leurs
enfans que ces anthropophages avoient mangez, ne voulant même d'autre
nourriture que la chair de ces infortunez."--La Potherie, ii. 145, 146.
Compare _note_, _ante_, p. 196.] Sated, at length, with horrors, the
conquerors withdrew, leading with them a host of captives, and exulting in
their triumphs over women, children, and the dead.

After the death of Father Ribourde, Tonty and his companions remained
searching for him till noon of the next day, and then, in despair of again
seeing him, resumed their journey. They ascended the river, leaving no
token of their passage at the junction of its northern and southern
branches. For food, they gathered acorns and dug roots in the meadows.
Their canoe proved utterly worthless; and, feeble as they were, they set
out on foot for Lake Michigan. Boisrondet wandered off, and was lost. He
had dropped the flint of his gun, and he had no bullets; but he cut a
pewter porringer into slugs with which he shot wild turkeys, by
discharging his piece with a firebrand; and after several days he had the
good fortune to rejoin the party. Their object was to reach the
Pottawattamies of Green Bay. Had they aimed at Michillimackinac, they
would have found an asylum with La Forest at the fort on the St. Joseph;
but unhappily they passed westward of that post, and, by way of Chicago,
followed the borders of Lake Michigan northward. The cold was intense, and
they had much ado to grub up wild onions from the frozen ground to save
themselves from starving. Tonty fell ill of a fever and a swelling of the
limbs, which disabled him from travelling, and hence ensued a long delay.
At length they neared Green Bay, where they would have starved had they
not gleaned a few ears of corn and frozen squashes in the fields of an
empty Indian town. It was the end of November before they found the
Pottawattamies, and were warmly greeted by their chief, who had befriended
La Salle the year before, and who, in his enthusiasm for the French, was
wont to say that he knew but three great captains in the world, Frontenac,
La Salle, and himself. [Footnote: Membré, in Le Clercq, ii. 199. Of the
three, or rather four narratives, on which this chapter mainly rests, the
best is that contained in the manuscript of 1681, entitled the _Relation
des Découvertes_. This portion of it, which bears every evidence of
accuracy, was certainly supplied by Tonty himself or one of his
companions. The _Mémoire_ of Tonty is wholly distinct. It is a modest and
simple statement, of which the chief fault is its brevity. He undoubtedly
wrote another and more detailed narrative, which has been used by the
editor of the _Dernières Découvertes_, printed with Tonty's name. The
editor seems to have taken less liberties with his original in this part
of the book than in many others. The narrative of Membré sustains that of
Tonty, except in one or two unimportant points, where the writer's vanity
seems to have gained the better of his veracity.]

While Tonty rests at Green Bay, and La Salle at the fort on the St.
Joseph, we will leave them for a time to trace the strange adventures of
the errant friar, Father Louis Hennepin.


The site of the great Illinois town.--This has not till now been
determined, though there have been various conjectures concerning it. From
a study of the contemporary documents and maps, I became satisfied, first,
that the branch of the River Illinois, called the "Big Vermilion," was the
_Aramoni_ of the French explorers; and, secondly, that the cliff called
"Starved Rock" was that known to the French as _Le Rocher_, or the Rock of
St. Louis. If I was right in this conclusion, then the position of the
Great Village was established; for there is abundant proof that it was on
the north side of the river, above the Aramoni, and below Le Rocher. I
accordingly went to the village of Utica, which, as I judged by the map,
was very near the point in question, and mounted to the top of one of the
hills immediately behind it, whence I could see the valley of the Illinois
for miles, bounded on the farther side by a range of hills, in some parts
rocky and precipitous, and in others covered with forests. Far on the
right, was a gap in these hills, through which the Big Vermilion flowed to
join the Illinois; and somewhat towards the left, at the distance of a
mile and a half, was a huge cliff, rising perpendicularly from the
opposite margin of the river. This I assumed to be _Le Rocher_ of the
French, though from where I stood I was unable to discern the distinctive
features which I was prepared to find in it. In every other respect, the
scene before me was precisely what I had expected to see. There was a
meadow on the hither side of the river, on which stood a farm-house; and
this, as it seemed to me, by its relations with surrounding objects, might
be supposed to stand in the midst of the space once occupied by the
Illinois town.

On the way down from the hill, I met Mr. James Clark, the principal
inhabitant of Utica, and one of the earliest settlers of this region. I
accosted him, told him my objects, and requested a half hour's
conversation with him, at his leisure. He seemed interested in the
inquiry, and said he would visit me early in the evening at the inn,
where, accordingly, he soon appeared. The conversation took place in the
porch, where a number of farmers and others were gathered. I asked Mr.
Clark if any Indian remains were found in the neighborhood. "Yes," he
replied, "plenty of them." I then inquired if there was any one spot where
they were more numerous than elsewhere. "Yes," he answered again, pointing
towards the farm-house on the meadow: "on my farm down yonder by the
river, my tenant ploughs up teeth and bones by the peck every spring,
besides arrow-heads, beads, stone hatchets, and other things of that
sort." I replied that this was precisely what I had expected, as I had
been led to believe that the principal town of the Illinois Indians once
covered that very spot. "If," I added, "I am right in this belief, the
great rock beyond the river is the one which the first explorers occupied
as a fort, and I can describe it to you from their accounts of it, though
I have never seen it except from the top of the hill where the trees on
and around it prevented me from seeing any part but the front." The men
present now gathered around to listen. "The rock," I continued, "is nearly
a hundred and fifty feet high, and rises directly from the water. The
front and two sides are perpendicular and inaccessible, but there is one
place where it is possible for a man to climb up; though with difficulty.
The top is large enough and level enough for houses and fortifications."
Here several of the men exclaimed, "That's just it." "You've hit it
exactly." I then asked if there was any other rock on that side of the
river which could answer to the description. They all agreed that there
was no such rock on either side, along the whole length of the river. I
then said, "If the Indian town was in the place where I suppose it to have
been, I can tell you the nature of the country which lies behind the hills
on the farther side of the river, though I know nothing about it except
what I have learned from writings nearly two centuries old. From the top
of the hills you look out upon a great prairie reaching as far as you can
see, except that it is crossed by a belt of woods following the course of
a stream which enters the main river a few miles below." (See _ante_, p.
205, _note_.) "You are exactly right again," replied Mr. Clark, "we call
that belt of timber the 'Vermilion Woods,' and the stream is the Big
Vermilion." "Then," I said, "the Big Vermilion is the river which the
French called the Aramoni: 'Starved Rock' is the same on which they built
a fort called St. Louis, in the year 1682; and your farm is on the site of
the great town of the Illinois."

I spent the next day in examining these localities, and was fully
confirmed in my conclusions. Mr. Clark's tenant showed me the spot where
the human bones were ploughed up. It was no doubt the graveyard violated
by the Iroquois. The Illinois returned to the village after their defeat,
and long continued to occupy it. The scattered bones were probably
collected and restored to their place of burial.



It was on the last day of the winter that preceded the invasion of the
Iroquois, that Father Hennepin, with his two companions, Accau and Du Gay,
had set out from Fort Crèvecoeur to explore the Illinois to its mouth. It
appears from his own later statements, as well as from those of Tonty,
that more than this was expected of him, and that La Salle had instructed
him to explore, not alone the Illinois, but also the Upper Mississippi.
That he actually did so, there is no reasonable doubt; and, could he have
contented himself with telling the truth, his name would have stood high
as a bold and vigorous discoverer. But his vicious attempts to malign his
commander, and plunder him of his laurels, have wrapped his genuine merit
in a cloud.

Hennepin's first book was published soon after his return from his
travels, and while La Salle was still alive. In it, he relates the
accomplishment of the instructions given him, without the smallest
intimation that he did more, [Footnote: _Description de la Louisiane,
nouvellement découverte, Paris_, 1683.] Fourteen years after, when La
Salle was dead, he published another edition of his travels, [Footnote:
_Nouvelle Découverte d'un très grand Pays situé dans l'Amérique, Utrecht_,
1697] in which he advanced a new and surprising pretension. Reasons

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