Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The French Move South


Shadow Walker watched as the party of soldiers made their way down the trail. They were not dressed as their friends the English did, these men wore coats the color of clouds on an overcast day. He turned to look at the man with him, He Laughs.

"French soldiers." Shadow Walker hissed.

He Laughs nodded.

As the two Mohicans slipped away from the enemy column, both noted that the French had scouts ahead and to either side of their column. Not Abenaki, but Irri-ronon¹. A matter of some concern, these men were a long way from their home along the Kaniatarowanenneh². They must get back to the fort and let Blue Eyes know this!

Captain Samuel Jenkins was sitting in his quarters with Lieutenant Will Jefferson and the Mohican war chief, Standing Wolf. The three men were pondering the meaning of a dispatch which had been brought to the fort by a rider from Portsmouth. Britain and France were at war and had been since March. The Governor of Massachusetts was expected to follow suit any day now.

The Governor of New Hampshire had already placed the colony on a war footing, it was expected that whatever the governor of Massachusetts did, New Hampshire would do as well. Jenkins had also been informed that another company of his regiment was on its way to them under a Captain Horace Manderson. A separate letter for him personally had notified him that he was gazetted to major upon receipt of the letter with all the rights and privileges pertaining to that rank.

"Congratulations Major Jenkins." Jefferson offered. He was torn between staying with his Mohicans or returning to his own regiment, the 29th Foot. War was coming as was the chance of promotion. He liked the idea of being promoted, he had the funds to make the purchase, but he enjoyed life on the frontier and he had come to care deeply about his Mohicans.

After the massacre in the forest, only six Mohicans remained out of a war party of nearly forty men. Standing Wolf, the war chief who led the war party, still burned at the loss of his warriors. He hated to admit that the Abenaki had outwitted him, but they had. His remaining men - Slow Fox, Small Elk, He Laughs, Shadow Walker, and Tall Crow - were still loyal and were more than ready to stay on the war path with their English brothers.

Two days ago a messenger had come into the fort from the Mohican council of sachems at Esquatak, more warriors were coming to join Standing Wolf. Great Bear of the Wolf clan, Standing Wolf's sachem, was sending his three sons with that party.

"It seems that we all have much to celebrate, Blue Eyes. You will have at least fifty warriors to help you. My sachem has confidence in you and your English soldiers. Long Knife, you are a war chief in your own right now. How many warriors will this give you?"

Jenkins had been honored with the Mohican sobriquet "Long Knife" for the sword he sometimes carried when on duty in the fort. Though they would call him Cap-i-tan on occasion, the warriors liked the name "Long Knife." He did as well.

"If they all make it," Jenkins paused as he remembered his own trip to the fort last summer, "that would give us over a hundred and fifty soldiers. With your warriors, we would be a formidable fighting force along the Cannitticutt."

Standing Wolf had a sudden vision of leading a war party to destroy the Abenaki villages all along the river. Perhaps they might even have a chance to kill French soldiers. He would enjoy that.

Alain and Jacques Gaudry were beginning to wonder if their officers had any idea of what they were doing and where they were going. Their friend Little Wolf, who spent most of the day with the flanking parties, had expressed his concerns to the French brothers.

"This trail leads us to the Great River. I have seen signs of the Iroquois along the way. They are most likely Mohawk, who are allied with les anglais. I fear we might blunder into a trap." Little Wolf shook his head as he slipped off to the Indian camp. They camped separately from les français because, as Little Wolf explained, "Most of the soldiers smell very bad."

The Gaudry brothers had noticed this as well, none of their comrades in the regiment ever seemed to bathe. They themselves were mocked because they did frequently. Something they had learned from the Abenaki.

What most concerned the brothers was the lack of training among the newer soldiers. They could march and they could fire their muskets, but that was about it. Very few had ever been in the wilderness before, in fact most of them were terrified of the deep forests and the native peoples. The Abenaki and the Wyandot loved to scare the younger troops. As they considered themselves on the warpath, they had painted themselves for war. To the young Europeans they presented a hideous aspect and the Indians liked to make warlike faces at the young troops just to unnerve them.

Little Wolf had told them, "If we are attacked, throw away your cloud-coats and head into the forest, I will find you. If you stay with the column, you will die."

Jacques turned to Alain shortly afterwards, while they were on the march again, and asked, "Why did we leave Louisbourg? We could have sat behind those walls and fought forever."

Alain wasn't so sure, "You don't know of cannon, do you brother? The enemy has many. Les anglais also control the sea, we would have been starved out had we stayed in the fortress. But Little Wolf is right, we are walking into the wilderness like a blind man walking into a room full of wildcats. Angry wildcats."

An inauspicious start to a campaign, Alain thought. Only the war chief of the Wyandot gave him any confidence, a large man named Grey Bear. He had fought in many wars. Little Wolf said that the man was known throughout all the lands by the Great River, even the Iroquois feared him, it was said.

It was also a comfort to see just how many Indians accompanied the column, many of them the fierce warriors of the Wyandot, who, for some reason, the French called "Huron." Alain had no idea why. His brother suggested that it was because the Europeans were ignorant.

"But we're Europeans Jacques." Alain protested.

"Yes, but we have seen the wilderness, we have lived with the Wyandot and the Abenaki, we have adopted many of their ways. We understand, at least I think we do."

"Don't be too sure brother. All you say is true, but you've seen them in battle, they can be barbarous."

"And we French cannot?" Jacques asked.

"You have a point brother... Why is the damned column stopping again? We will never get to the river." Alain grumbled.

Little Wolf appeared out of the woods to their right and murmured in Abenaki as he passed the brothers. "The Mohawk are in the area, there is a burned village ahead. An Abenaki village." The last was said with an angry hiss.

Death was near.

¹ An Iroquois name for the Wyandot, or Huron.
² The Mohawk name for the St. Lawrence River, I'm making the assumption that the Mohican used the same word or something similar for that body of water. I also note that the Mohawk and the Mohican were traditional enemies.

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.


  1. What a lovely little sidebar about how the English and French looked to outsiders.

    The French seem rather...unprepared at this point.

    1. Hurried preparations for war often lead to disaster.

    2. Though the French soldiers may have been unprepared, they had a lot, an awful lot, of frontiersmen to pull from.

      They also had a lot of incompetence in the English to deal with (as, well, shown in "Last of the Mohicans.")

    3. In reality no, they didn't have much of a population to draw upon. The population of New France was roughly 80,000 in 1760 (roughly fifteen years after this story takes place), of which only about 55,000 lived in Canada. The population of the 13 Colonies was roughly 1,160,000 white inhabitants and 300,000 black inhabitants, both free and enslaved. Manpower was a very real problem for the French.

    4. Ah, did not know that. The way the F&I War was portrayed it was like France had huge numbers. Once again, things I learned in school prove to be very wrong. When will I learn...

    5. That's so the English would look more heroic.

  2. Sarge/

    Have you ever read the 1938 Book about the New Jersey Indians by Professor Mark Harrington entitled Dickon Among the Lenapes? It describes their culture, crafts & language as no other has done. Seen through the eyes of a shipwrecked English boy who became a captive & eventually was adopted by the tribe. Based on historical evidence it's a GREAT & INFORMATIVE read. I first read it in JR HS. Check it out on Amazon! Wil provide you w. great & accurate grist for your story-line!

    1. Wow! Thanks VX, I ordered a copy just now.

    2. Only sorry I didn't think to recommend it sooner, OAFS, mea culpa..

    3. Not a problem, better late than never!

  3. Ah, our two frontier boys are going to try to implement the famous "Escape when everyone else is busy dying" maneuver. Shouldn't be too hard if it's done in the woods. Hopefully.

    Now let's see what the English and Colonists do.

    Almost need a score card to track all the Indian tribe names and which side they are on.

    1. I'm working on a "who's who" in 1744 and some maps to get everyone on the same page. Growing up in New England I just assumed everyone knew these things.

      Mea culpa.

    2. Growing up in Wisconsin, I just assumed everybody knew how to play Euchre. Got in the Corps, and fond out nobody that wasn't from Wisconsin had a clue.

    3. Looks like an interesting game. Popular during the Napoleonic era my sources tell me.


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