Friday, January 11, 2019

Blast from the Past...

In this artist's version of the incident at Jumonville Glen, the English under the command of George Washington are depicted as murdering the defenseless French commander Jumonville in cold blood. Contemporary accounts of the incident are contradictory; it is more likely that Jumonville was in fact tomahawked by the Indian leader Tanaghrisson while Washington watched without intervening. (Source)
A blast from the past with a dual meaning: what follows is from the Chant du Départ archives (ahem, ya mean rerun, dontcha Sarge, um, yeah, sure) and it's based on historical fact, a topic which you might know is near and dear to me. It's also a two-fer, two posts for the price of one...

Had a visit to my retinal surgeon on Thursday. my left eye is healing very nicely I was told. On the other hand, that eye is developing a cataract (immediately my thoughts went to the river Nile, in Egypt) which, he told me, is fairly common after a vitrectomy. Eminently treatable, just not yet. Oh joy, thinks I, more surgery. Friends who have had that particular procedure assure me that it's "no big deal." One hopes.

All that aside, due to the eye doc visit, my left pupil is dilated to the size of a basketball (okay, yes, I'm exaggerating), making it hard to write a post. For those who have commented that I should write a book, what I give you is the genesis of one book (perhaps a series) that I have in mind as my second attempt at an historical novel. (The tale of Panzer 413 is the first, need to finish that one first as it's the farthest along.)

So rather than continuing to blather on, I give you two of my old posts which will deal with the Gaudry family, a real family name, but these folks are fictional. They are of French origin, but have immigrated to Quebec. The series will follow them from the French and Indian War to the Napoleonic Wars. I am not presenting these posts in the order in which I originally published them, they are swapped intentionally as the second should have preceded the first. If only I had thought of that...

Jacob paused briefly to wipe the sweat away from his forehead, looking over his small field of corn he felt good. This land was bountiful and beautiful. It had been hard work clearing the field for his cabin and his crops. Hard but worth it.

But something was wrong, the cicadas had stopped their noise, there was a heaviness in the air, almost as if a storm was brewing. Then he saw the glint of, something, there in the brush on the far side of his squash plants. Something, someone was there.

"Caleb, go get your Ma and get everyone into the cabin. Now son. Move!"

As he watched his young son run to to the cabin, Jacob reached for his fowling piece. Quickly he picked up the weapon which had been passed down to him from his father and checked that the flint was seated, then he checked the priming.

Damnation, the boy had been playing with the frizzen again, all the powder had fallen out of the pan, no doubt when the young lad snapped it opened and closed. Fumbling with his powder horn, for a brief moment Jacob had to chuckle at the boy's curiosity.

Out of the forest, with a whirring noise, an arrow flew from the bow of a hidden Huron warrior. With a meaty sounding thump , the arrow smacked into the young farmer's chest, puncturing his left lung.

For a moment Jacob was puzzled, it felt as if he had been punched hard. His wind was gone, he could scarcely breathe. Then the sharp agony came, overwhelming his senses. As he sank to the ground, his weapon falling from his nerveless hands, his last thought was of his wife and children.

He never saw the Huron raiding party which had killed him.

Long ago, the great forest stretched from the shores of the Atlantic to the Mississippi River, from the Gulf of Mexico north to the Canadian tundra. Within those forests lived a variety of native cultures many of whom were hostile to the Europeans. After all, they drove away the game and took the land for themselves.

So the original people fought back as best they could. But stone knives and flint arrowheads were no match for lead ball, driven by the explosion of black powder. The Europeans could, and did, kill from a distance. So, many of the original peoples went west, displacing other populations, a story which has played out for as long as humans have lived on the planet.

Those who were strong enough, and numerous enough, were courted by the Europeans. In the northeast the French and the English made allies of the various tribes. The Iroquois Nation was aligned (more or less) with the English. The Huron, driven from their homeland and north to Quebec by the Iroquois, allied themselves with the French.

In the 1700s a struggle began for dominance of the northeastern portion of North America. New France, which stretched from the Atlantic coast of Canada to what is now Louisiana encircled the possessions of His Majesty George II, the King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Hanover) and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire.

France and England were ancient enemies so it is not a surprise that they would eventually come to blows over their possessions in North America.

The war which eventually drove the French from their North American possessions and broke the power of France in the New World was fought from 1754 to 1763. It was known by the English colonists as The French and Indian War. In Europe the war spread to involve all of the major powers and was known as The Seven Years War. One of the truly great soldiers of the era was a man from a small country called Prussia. Does the name Frederick the Great ring any bells?
The Seven Years' War was fought between 1754 and 1763, the main conflict occurring in the seven-year period from 1756 to 1763. It involved most of the great powers of the time and affected Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines. The two major opponents were Great Britain and France. In the historiography of some countries, the war is named after combatants in its respective theaters: the French and Indian War in the United States. In French-speaking Canada, it is known as the War of the Conquest, while it is called the Seven Years' War in English-speaking Canada (North America, 1754–1763), Pomeranian War (with Sweden and Prussia, 1757–1762), Third Carnatic War (on the Indian subcontinent, 1757–1763), and Third Silesian War (with Prussia and Austria, 1756–1763). W
The war was bloody and violent in the New World. Native raids along the periphery of the English colonies killed many men, women and children. Reprisal raids into the native heartlands killed many men, women and children as well.

The armies were small, the forces committed by France were very limited as Louis XV and his advisers concentrated on the European aspects of the war. Only a small number of regular French regiments came to the New World, for the most part the French tended to rely heavily on their native allies.

Great European style fortresses were built along the lines laid down by the great Vauban.

One which I have visited often was rebuilt to its early splendor, Fort Ticonderoga. Originally built by the French and named Carillon, after the sound made by the nearby river flowing between Lake George and Lake Champlain. To them it sounded like bells.

Fort Ticonderoga (Source)

The French also had the Fortress of Louisbourg on what is now known as Prince Edward Island Cape Breton Island* This protected the entrance to the St Lawrence seaway and the French cities of Quebec City and Montréal. A great siege was conducted by the British in 1757. They seized the fortress and destroyed it. It too was rebuilt and is now a National Historic Site of Canada. The picture below is just a portion of the old fortress


The fortress and its environs in 1751. (Source)

One of the results of the British seizure of Louisbourg and the surrounding territory was the deportation of many of the area's French-speaking, Catholic inhabitants. They were known as Acadians, many were deported to France, many wound up in the southern parts of the Louisiana territory which remained in French hands until Napoléon sold it to the United States. We know them today as Cajuns.

Another of the ramifications of this war was its cost. It was so expensive that the British Parliament decided that the Colonies, for whom the war was fought they claimed, should shoulder some of the cost.

Which led to a tax on tea, and the Stamp Act and a number of other things which led to the American Revolution. Which so bankrupted the French monarchy that the French had their own revolution, which led to Napoléon and all that followed. Funny isn't it how things reverberate down through history? (It's a damn shame that most of our politicians know very little of history.)

So how did this war start?

Well, landowners in Virginia and other parts of the Eastern Seaboard were a bit miffed that New France stood in the way of their hunger for more land. So the British Crown pushed patrols out into the Ohio Valley. Which irked the French no end.

So the French began to beef up their military presence in the Ohio Valley. A patrol was sent out from Fort Duquesne (which was on the site of modern downtown Pittsburgh) under the command of Joseph Coulon de Villiers, Sieur de Jumonville, a French military officer born and raised in North America.

Fort Duquesne (Source)

Some historians say it was a scouting mission to determine British strength in the area. The French maintain that Jumonville was on a diplomatic mission, he was to deliver an ultimatum to the British demanding that they withdraw their forces from the Ohio Valley. Or incur the wrath of Le Roi, Louis XV!

Jumonville's patrol was discovered by a band of Indians allied to the British, they reported back to Fort Necessity where a young colonial officer by the name of George Washington (yes, that George Washington) decided to take action.
Washington took a detachment of about 40 men and marched all night in a driving rain arriving at the encampment at dawn. What happened next, like so much about the incident, is a matter of controversy. The British claimed the French discovered their approach and opened fire on them. The French claimed the British ambushed their encampment. In either event, the battle lasted little more than 15 minutes and was a complete British victory. Ten French soldiers were killed and 21 captured, including the wounded Jumonville.

Washington treated Jumonville as a prisoner of war and extended him the customary courtesies due a captured military officer. Washington attempted to interrogate Jumonville but the language barrier made communication difficult. During their conversation however, the Half King walked up to Jumonville and without warning struck him in the head with a tomahawk, killing him.

Why the Half King did this has never been clear. He had been kidnapped by the French and sold into slavery as a child. He claimed that the French had boiled and eaten his father. He was also a representative of the Iroquois Confederacy, which stood to lose its authority over other Indian peoples in the Ohio River Valley if the French were able to assert their control. W
The site of the battle, Jumonville Glen, near present day Uniontown, Pennsylvania (Source)

Another account of that battle gives you an idea of the confused nature of what happened and the many points of view, depending on who you talked to I guess. (Too bad there were no cell phones back then, neh?)

George Washington is often called the Father of Our Country and with good reason. Most folks don't know that he was involved from the beginning of those great events which drove the French from Canada and the British from what would become the United States. You could argue that Washington's actions that day planted the seed for all that was to come.

But in the years which followed, many soldiers and Indians would die and many settlers would be killed in sight of their homes. Until that fateful day on the Plains of Abraham, a battle which sealed France's doom in the New World. A battle in which the commanders on either side (Wolfe and Montcalm) were both killed in action.

History is oft written in blood.

"Hold up Ensign Macready, do you smell that?"

The young British officer paused and sniffed the air. His sergeant nudged him and said, "It's smoke young sir, look over yonder."

Macready did, he could see the faint wisps of smoke just above the next ridge line. The wind had shifted and now the young ensign could also smell the smoke.

"Yes sir, I smell it sir, it's smoke!"

"Yes, yes, Ensign, now get your flankers out, let's go see what's burning."

Though the common British foot soldier is a hard man, used to a rough existence and harsh treatment at the hands of his betters, even the most brutish of the men were taken aback at the scene as they crested the low ridge, deep inside Pennsylvania.

The farmhouse and all the outbuildings had been put to the torch. Even the farmer's mule and cow had been slaughtered. The farmer himself was nearly unrecognizable his remains had been so badly abused.

From what the Seneca scout could discern, the farmer's wife and children, maybe one, maybe two, had been dragged off. Captives, bound for Canada. There was no sign of their bodies anywhere.

The captain of His Majesty's 44th Foot sighed and gestured at his sergeant. "Get the men together Sergeant, we'll camp here tonight.


"Ensign, let's bury that man. Hop to it lads. Nightfall is not far off. I wish to be away from this place first thing in the morning."

Shivering, the captain dreamt of tomahawks and war whoops in the night. He heartily wished he was back in London.

The original post is here.

Little Miami River through Clifton Gorge (Source)
The Beginning...

Just audible over the burbling of the small brook there was a cry. Not the sort of noise made by a four legged animal. It was a human sound. A cry of terror.

And of pain.

Weeish looked at me for a moment, eyebrow cocked.

A quick nod from me and we headed towards the sound.


A musket shot, another scream, we were close.

Staying under cover we drew near, in time to see the last of the whites fall to the ground, his musket still in his hand, the long arrow protruding from his chest signifying that his hair would be decorating a lodge pole before nightfall.

Weeish and I stayed under cover, there was nothing we could do for the small party of men who even now were being plundered of whatever useful items their conquerors might make use of.

The Onandowagas moved off, exultant as they headed back for their village. They now had muskets and powder. Fine knives of steel and heavy wool clothing to cover themselves in winter. It was a good kill.

"Weeish..." I murmured as I stepped out of the brush, signaling him to keep his eyes open.

I heard a small moan, there under a small bush was one of the church fathers. His face was bloody, his cassock torn, but he was alive. Barely.

Kneeling beside him, he moaned again as he beheld my visage, no doubt thinking me one of the people of this land. For I had lived many years with the People, I dressed like them, I ate the same foods. All that was left of my native France was my name, Alain.

I put my finger to the man's lips, motioning that he should remain silent and that I was no threat. I checked his wounds, they were mortal. There was no doubt in my mind that he would soon be standing before the Great Spirit.

I was ready to leave him to his fate and began to stand when he grabbed my sleeve.

"My child, do not leave me like this..." he managed to gasp.

I leaned close to his ear, there was no telling who was about in these woods, Weeish and I were a long way from our home.

"Father, you must be quiet, soon you will see Jesus."

He shifted slightly, causing blood to flow anew. He was killing himself faster by trying to speak.

"My name is..."

"Shhh, be quiet Father, your name is not..."

"My name is Father Etienne Gaudry, I am of France and I carry dispatches for the commander at Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit, they must..."

Gasping again, the priest pushed a wad of bloody papers into my hands.

"Take these, please..."

And then he breathed his last.

Weeish was now at my side.

"Brother, we must go. The Onandowagas are coming back."

Swiftly we melted back into the woods from whence we had come. Not knowing what to do with them, and not wanting to leave any sign for the Onandowagas to follow, I shoved the bloody papers under my shirt. I would think on them when we were safely back at our hearth.

The End...

Colonel Louis Alain Gaudry shifted in his saddle as he looked out over the fields, littered with the dead, the dying and the detritus of war. His aide coughed to get his attention.

"Be patient Michel, les Anglais are in no hurry to move and the Prussian dogs are already howling down the road to France. We are in no danger at the moment."

Knowing that those words were false as soon as he uttered them, the old dragoon turned his horse. Leaving his regiment behind, most of them still on the field. Dead or soon to be.

All was lost.

His father had been right after all, he should never have left America.

So I have decided to try my hand at writing a novel. All the cool kids are doing it.

I have been toying with this idea for years. I've written a chapter here and there, some of them were good, some, not so much. Not a single one was related to any of the other things I had written. I was playing at being a writer.

Then along came the blog. This blog. I was writing more or less every day. I say more or less because some of my posts have been very pictorial in nature with just a few words tossed in to glue together the pictures. Not really writing but creative nevertheless.

Write what you know they say. So this won't be about flying, or tanks, or science fiction. Nope, it will be about people. The people who make things work, not the movers and the shakers but the "little" guy, the guy who goes to work every day, pays his taxes and just wants to be left alone.

Until the movers and shakers go too far.

Then the "little" guy shoulders his musket and makes a stand.

Whether this turns into a book or a series of books remains to be seen. I have lots of stuff in my head and the rough beginnings of a plot stretching over a bit less than a century.

From the dark primordial forests of North America in the years just prior to the Seven Years War to the rolling plains of Belgium as the last cannon sound out on the field of Waterloo.  That's the stage upon which my characters will walk, that is the setting for my story.

I mean I have the beginning and the ending. All I need to do now is fill in all the bits between.

Should be simple.

The original post is here.

Tell me what you think in the comments. An idea I've been tossing around is having characters in my books named for people I actually know (both face to face and in this virtual land we call the Internet). If you have an interest, let me know, the blog email address is over on the right under the Pages category, or you can jump there from here. I read every bit of mail which comes over the transom, so don't worry about being ignored. I would never, ever do that. Well, unless you're a spambot. But you're not one of those, are you?

And contrary to what I said in that second post, apparently I do know something about tanks. So disregard that bit. ;)


* Corrected with guidance from Al_in_Ottawa


  1. Well, Sarge, here's a comment if you want it...............MOAR!! A period of time that could use a bit more light on it and you have the talent to do it. Thumbs up old chap.

    1. When I was a kid we learned about the French and Indian War, probably because it involved New England. Not sure if they even bother these days.

      But it's a subject I want to explore. Thanks Nylon12!

  2. Go for it. As I have written before, if I can be of help, let me know. I would be greatly honored to be among your ' first readers '. I believe that you have the talent to be a published writer, so get on with it.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

    1. Remember, self publishing is always an option. Also, please have dead tree books as well as any other format you choose.


    2. I am keeping all options open.

  3. I guess I had best build a mailing box for my Kindle, so I can mail it to you, so you can sign the case, after I buy your book on Amazon.

  4. What the above folks all said!!
    Now I have to go check under the couch to see what pennies I can find to send to RI.

    And, yes, agree about New England and the war of 1812. That is a very nice pic of Fort Ti by the way...

    1. I do like that photo of Fort Ti. Visited that place a few times, the place reeks of history.

  5. Chris, you have the talent and I think you could easily equal Kenneth Roberts in covering the era. So look at it as not something to do in retirement, but as a change in careers. I've always felt that it is a fascinating era of our history that is, unfortunately, almost unknown to the vast majority of Americans.

    1. I like the idea of this being a career change.

      Kenneth Roberts, the guy who wrote "Northwest Passage," I haven't heard that name in a very long time.

      And yes, too many folks are ignorant of that time in our history.

  6. Thanks for this history lesson. Please keep them coming. And remember that there are TONS of ways to get your finished work out (don't forget the Apple).

  7. I haven’t heard Kenneth Roberts name in a long time.
    Yeah, I read Northwest Passage somewhere around 1958 and by the time I finished high school the rest of his stuff had interfered with regular studies.
    I even read the non-fiction about dowsing.
    I, too, wonder about what history is taught in schools today.

    1. And which version, the real one or the one the politicos want to believe?

  8. The Perry County series by the late Roy Chandler deal with life on the frontier in this period. He self published them, and they have become pretty collectible, at least the first editions. They are a good read and some are available on Amazon as Kindle versions. (Amazon also lists the books he wrote with his brother, Norman, on sniper related subjects, including a good biography of Carlos Hathcock, with whom they were good friends, and nice historical books on USMC sniping, the Death From Afar series.)

    1. That right there is some excellent reference material. Good stuff Tom, thanks!

  9. Hey Old AFSarge;

    As funny as it sounds, the 1990's movie "The last mohican " did a good job explaining the backstory of the frontier, granted it didn't follow the book, the story was a good story and it mentioned why the settlers did what they did and the differences of combat styles of the european armies and the north American indians and the colonial militia.

    1. Not funny at all, it's an excellent film, one I have watched numerous times. It gives the feel of the period.

  10. Gee, thanks. I followed your "Nile" link, then, like a fool, I clicked on the Lat. & Long. which took me to which lists all sorts of map/satellite sites.

    Well, who needs sleep, anyway?

    1. Sorry to send you on a wild goose chase Joe.

      Hee hee hee. (Fun though wasn't it?)

    2. "Hee hee hee. (Fun though wasn't it?)"

      Hell yes!

      Kinda like watching something on Youtube. Then you see another something there on the right and pretty soon you have gone from Building Steam Locomotives in 1936 England , through making rail junctions, to steam powered saw mills, through 5 other subjects and find yourself at Hungarian Cookie Decorating

    3. I do that all the time!

      Liked the Hungarian cookie thing, pretty neat.

    4. "I do that all the time!"
      And then wonder how it got to be 5 bells of the Mid Watch when you know that you started watching a five minute video at 3 bells of First Watch.

    5. So Joe Lovell, you keep time by the ship bell system, do you have a ship's bell clock or do you just do it mentally?

      Paul L. Quandt

  11. Long time New England family here- one member was a lone survivor of Indian attack- 2 years old- found by the rescuers.
    The story goes they found her hiding under her mothers skirts.

    1. Lots of stories like that in New England for the families who have been here a while.

  12. Fort Louisbourg is on the Atlantic side of Cape Breton Island on the south west shore. Prince Edward Island is to the west of Cape Breton in the Gulf of St Lawrence.


    1. Yes indeed, I got that wrong! Will correct, thanks Al!

    2. I screwed up my directions, that should be the south east shore not the south west.


  13. I might have met you.

    Good on you! Us retired guys are like the character in the Caine Mutiny who was going to write the next Great American Navel. oh, perhaps i mispelled that..... :) Have fun!

  14. Looking at the picture for the fifth time. Nothing sadder than a battle won, except a battle lost. In my branch we mostly would go down with the ship. You know guys went out and cleared the Somme, and the Marne and the Meuse-Argonne and Normandy and I don't care to wonder about the tank battles west of Kiev. When I was in the 5th grade there was a book in the library at my school in Fort Riley and it

    Shermans were gasoline propelled. Gasoline is a rotten propellant for a tank. They got used up in the war in Africa.

    1. Yup, naval combat seems "cleaner," the sea eventually swallows all traces of the sailors and their ships. All that remains are the memories, as long as we remember.

      The Brits called the Shermans "Ronsons," after the cigarette lighter, with good reason.

  15. Hard to believe how lucky we were back then to get Colonel Washington back after his defeat and surrender of Fort Necessity. I might have trusted Ethan Allen or Horatio Gates but Benedict Arnold and some of the drunken old bassards of the Continental Army may well have been the ones in command of the Continental Army if Washington had not been available. They have a wonderful set of dioramas at Mount Vernon of the Fort and less than good aftermath.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)