Friday, June 11, 2021

Peace Returns, for a Time

Model of Montréal in 1745

It was a cold, overcast day in mid-September as the brothers Gaudry, with their Abenaki companion Little Wolf arrived at the small settlement of Sainte-Catherine, just across the Saint-Laurent¹ from Montréal. Alain noticed that that there were snowflakes occasionally drifting down. It was good to be nearly home. He smiled as he listened to his brother Jacques and Little Wolf chattering away in their odd mix of French and Abenaki. The two had become fast friends over the last few months.

Which had been helpful to say the least as the brothers left the valley of the Cannitticutt to follow a tributary² of that river deep into Verd Mont. While the peoples they met along the way were not naturally ill-disposed towards Europeans, though they were learning quickly not to trust them, the presence of Little Wolf and the brotherly affection he and Jacques shared helped keep the peace along the way.

Eventually they had emerged from the forests onto the plain which stretched to the lake which Little Wolf knew as Pitawbagok, but to the French was known as Lac Champlain for the man who "discovered" it. (No doubt the Indians would have found that concept amusing, they knew where it was. When they had told Little Wolf this, the man had indeed laughed and then told the brothers that they were beginning to think like Abenaki.)

That lake was the boundary between the Abenaki and the Iroquois League, friends of the English, to the west. Though technically the Abenaki and the French were not at war with the tribes which constituted that league, relations were growing uneasy as France and Britain were again drifting towards war. The Iroquois were no friends of either the French or the Abenaki in the best of times, so the small party decided to stay to the east of the lake and travel on foot.

Once they reached the river known to the Abenaki as the Masoliantekw, which the French knew as the Richelieu, it was a comparatively easy hike north to Fort Saint-Jean, then northwest to Sainte-Catherine. Easy compared to the earlier portions of their trip. During the last 33,000 toise³ of the trip, no one had tried to kill them, they saw no burned villages or corpses, nor did they have to hide from any marauding war parties.

Autumn had arrived and the Gaudry brothers were home.

Guards Lieutenant Will Jefferson was thrilled to see his friend Standing Wolf able to get around without much of a limp. It had been nearly two months since his Mohicans had been ambushed by the Abenaki and most of them slain. Only Standing Wolf and five others had survived out of the original band which had numbered thirty to forty at any given time.

Standing Wolf had been seriously injured by an Abenaki arrow and the resulting infection had nearly killed him. The English were amazed at his eventual recovery and were very interested in the herbs and poultices the Mohican had used to heal the wound.

Losses serious enough had been inflicted on the Abenaki by the New Hampshire Provincials commanded by Captain Samuel Jenkins to have dissuaded them from further attacks on the fort or on the settlements along the Cannitticutt near the fort. Which would have given the garrison in the fort some comfort had they not been so far from home.

Captain Jenkins had tried to convince Molly Henderson to return to Rumford when he felt it was safe enough to do so with only a small escort. Lieutenant Jefferson had offered himself and his Mohicans as scouts for the twenty man party Jenkins felt would be sufficient to protect her on the journey. She had refused.

"My dear Captain, I am not some child who needs to be protected and coddled. Surely you should know that by now?" She had protested when Jenkins had broached the subject of her return to civilization.

"No Ma'am, that's not what I meant, surely you realize how dangerous it is out here on the frontier, you've experienced that first hand. It would be much safer for you to..." Jenkins had tried to convince her but she had interrupted him before he could continue.

"Captain, I am not returning to what you call 'civilization.' There are far too many rules, far too many people, and frankly, life back there is intensely dull. If you wish to be rid of me, I can move to one of the small settlements nearby but I will not return to Rumford or Portsmouth. My family is all dead, what is there for me to go back to?"

After a bit more back and forth, Jenkins resigned himself to the fact that Molly Henderson was not going anywhere. He found it somewhat irksome to have a woman in the fort, though she had made herself most useful in many ways. If she left he knew for a fact that the men would miss her cooking skills. He also suspected that Lieutenant Jefferson had a certain affection for the young lady. Not that that was all that surprising. She was quite attractive.

Bull Elk sighed as he looked around his home. His eldest son Sleeping Panther was in the spirit world, slain by the red soldiers near the Great River that summer. Many other Abenaki families had lost sons, which was why Bull Elk had convinced his sachem that the path of war was not the way his people should follow for the moment. At least not until they heard from their allies, les français, in the Canadas.

Word had come to the Abenaki that les anglais and les français were fighting each other once more in their homelands across the Great Sea. He knew all too well that war would soon come here as well. The whites seemed unable to separate their affairs at home from their affairs here in what they called the New World.

He had sent messengers to other bands in the Abenaki Confederation, if there was to be war, the tribes should unite as a whole and not fight in small separate bands. The summer had shown that to be a mistake. Until he heard otherwise, his band would keep the peace. Winter was coming, already the forests blazed with color, the harvest was gathered in, the cold and the snow would be upon them soon.

Spring would come again, then he would see whether the warpath was the way his people should take. For now they would keep the peace as best they could.

¹ The Saint Lawrence River
² White River which one can follow west to just south of Bread Loaf Mountain. From there to the Champlain Valley and Fort Carillon (Ticonderoga) is 25 miles as the crow flies.
³ Roughly 40 miles

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.


  1. Winter is where have I heard that before?!? Time to regroup.

    1. War is coming as well, and Hell rides with it. (I think I've heard that somewhere before as well, but ya know, the North remembers...)

    2. Ah, King George's War, and it's gonna be nasty!

    3. Probably wouldn't have been able to pin it down if you hadn't placed our current events in the summer of 1743. Lotta stuff already going on in the old country that'll lead to more intense conflict here, on the frontier.

      I was idly wondering (briefly) how things would've developed differently over here if the events surrounding the Austrian Succession hadn't sent ripples all the way across the big pond. Not so much, I think. They were really just looking for a good excuse to fight it out over the boundaries of "their turf" over here anyhow. Trade in furs, especially beaver, was just too lucrative to share and share alike. Greedy SOBs always making trouble for the rest of us!

    4. It does seem that whenever trouble flared up in Europe, the participants would carry that over to their colonies. You're right though, just too much money to be made to just let it go.

  2. And the warp and weft of the story continues to develop the pattern. This feels like a short intermission before things begin to get exciting (and not necessarily in a good way). Good stuff!

  3. Miss Henderson has the right of it. The old life is dead and she has little to return to - why not strike out in the new?

    Were the Abenaki wise, they would be hitting up Les Francais for all the firearms and training they can get (history being a 20/20 hindsight sort of endeavor...).

    1. Have to bear in mind, the Indian way of war was very different from that of the Europeans. But they did like those firesticks!

  4. So who is going to be Magua in your story?

    1. I understood Magua, les anglais screwed him. Of course, I also like him because the actor who played him in the film adaptation of Last of the Mohicans is so awesome (Wes Studi).

    2. Wes played his role too well. Made me want to put his scalp on my lodge pole. Yeah, I get that they killed his children, and made him a slave, and his wife thought him dead, and became the wife of another, so it just seemed fitting to me that someone should end all his suffering. I was gratified to see Chingachgook bust him up, and put him down for good. Just a damn shame Uncas got ahead of the others and got himself killed first.
      I had read the book many years ago, and thought the movie not too bad, in generally following the original theme, except for Lewis' character. Too suave and easy going. Not at all the socially awkward Natty Bumppo of the original story.
      Thanks again for the tales, Sarge!

    3. Mr. Studi is one Hell of an actor.

    4. That movie had some of the best actual Indian actors in it ever. Even better than "Dances with Wolves." Right up there with the Indian actors in "The Outlaw Josie Wales."

      Glad that Chngachgook whacked Magua. Yes, I understand the backstories, but, well, it's like sinking a U-Boat or blowing up a Tiger Tank in the movies. I understand the people inside both of those, but them getting the axe is a good thing.

  5. Ah, winter arrives so early up North. A supposedly peaceful time, but we'll see. Between the trappers (stirring up trouble by being in others' territories) and the raiders (from both sides, people with too much axes to grind and looking for grindstones) and the traditional winter sicknesses and food shortages, not a fun time (unless one is really prepared and really safe, and even then...)

    Glad to see our two brothers made it home safe.

    And Molly is choosing a life for herself. A lot of frontier women in her position found out that 'civilization' was worse to them than the uncivilized wilds. And the Fort does need a women's touch.

    One of the few things that the US Army got right during the Indian Wars was allowing some soldiers and the officers to have family on post. Gives something to fight for, gives comfort in so many ways (first aid, various services like laundry and helping cook and such, and, well, that other thing...) They may have bungled a lot of other things, but bringing civilization with them was a good thing.

  6. Regroup, rearm, spring is coming


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