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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 17: De Tracy's Raid of 1666.

[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 280-284 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. Some images have been relocated to the area in the text where they are discussed. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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De Tracy's French, Canadian and Indian force burns the south side Mohawk castles of Gandawague, Andagoron, and Tionnontogen — French proclaim sovereignty over the Mohawk River country — The Mohawks are humbled.

The most terrible Indian savages were intimidated by force. After fifty years of warfare against the French, the Mohawks realized that their remote castles were not free from invasion. After De Courcelle came to the Mohawk River on his futile raid, the Iroquois, including the Mohawks, sent peace envoys to New France. De Tracy had sent a Jesuit Father to learn the real situation when news came that the Mohawks had captured or killed seven of a party of French officers hunting at the outlet of Lake Champlain. One of these was Chasy, a nephew of De Tracy, who was killed; and Leroles, a cousin of De Tracy, who was captured. When news of these savage murders reached Quebec, the Jesuit envoy was recalled and the Iroquois peace deputies were imprisoned. A small expedition of 300 men was sent against the Mohawks but, luckily for the French, it marched but two days when it met the famous Flemish Bastard, a Mohawk-Dutch chief, bringing back the officers who had been captured.

The Mohawks and Iroquois pretended to be for peace and De Tracy held a great council in the garden of the Jesuits at Quebec, August 31st, 1666. A few days later, Tracy invited the Flemish Bastard and another Mohawk chief named Agariata to dinner, when allusion was made to the killing of Chasy, the nephew of Tracy. Agariata stretched out his hand and braggingly said, "This is the hand that split the head of that young man." Tracy called soldiers, and the insolent Mohawk was taken out and immediately hanged and all talk of peace was ended.

Tracy organized a force of 1,300 men, to march against the Mohawks, which he led in person. It consisted of 600 Canadians, including 110 "blue coats" (woodsmen) of Montreal, 600 regulars, and 100 Indian scouts. The long march to the Mohawk River tired the troops and exhausted their provisions. The French army came over Lake Champlain and Lake George to the head of the latter lake where trails led southward in several directions — one along the Hudson, one southwestward to the Sacandaga and present Johnstown and Fonda, one past Long Lake, or Ballston Lake to Schenectady, with branches to the Mohawk near Kinquariones and Amsterdam. This latter route was the one taken by De Tracy. "After disembarking at the head of the lake [George], De Tracy led his army, by way of an Indian trail, southeasterly about nine miles to Glen Falls, where he crossed the Hudson, thence passing south of Moreau Pond and east of Mt. McGregor, through Doe's Corners, near Stiles Hill, following substantially the present highway along the base of the ridge of hills south of Mt. McGregor. From Saratoga, the expedition passed near Ballston, and thence, slightly curving, seems to have proceeded in a very direct course to the Mohawk castles which lay off to the westward."

The foregoing quotation is from Ellen H. Walworth's "Life and Times of Kateri Tekakwitha", and the route was deciphered by Gen. John S. Clarke from a map relating to the De Tracy expedition, now in Paris archives.

Parkman tells the story of this remarkable expedition in the inimitable, graphic manner, which makes him one of the greatest historians of all time. Quotations from his descriptions follow:

"A storm of wind set in, but, anxious to surprise the enemy, they pushed on all night amid the moan and roar of the forest, over slippery logs, tangled roots and oozy mosses, under dripping boughs and through saturated bushes. This time there was no want of good guides, and, when in the morning they issued from the forest, they saw, amid the cornfields, the palisades of the Indian stronghold."

The Mohawk scouts had learned of the advancing foe and the women and children of all the castles had been sent into the woods and the warriors had concentrated at the upper castle of Tionnontogen there to make a stand against the invaders. The French charged the lower castle of Osseruenon only to find it deserted. They then marched on to the next castle of Andagoron, only to discover that similarly empty of all life.

"Tracy lost no time but hastened in pursuit. A few Mohawks were seen on the hills, yelling and firing too far for effect. Repentigny, at the risk of his scalp, climbed a neighboring height and looked down on the little army, which seemed so numerous as it passed beneath 'that' writes the superior of the Ursulines, 'he told me that he thought the good angels must have joined with it, whereat he stood amazed'."

After taking two Mohawk castles and several smaller towns, Tracy thought he had completely conquered the Mohawk country, but, says Parkman,

"an Algonquin squaw, who had followed her husband to war and who had once been a prisoner among the Mohawks, told them that there was still another above. The sun was near its setting and the men were tired with their pitiless marching, but again the order was given to advance. The eager squaw showed the way, holding a pistol in one hand and leading Courcelle with the other.

"The Caniengas (Flint People), as the Mohawks called themselves, were ready for the invaders. The women and children of the lower castles and towns had been sent to refuges in the woods previously selected. The Canienga warriors were armed for the fight and the attack was hourly expected. At this time, several captives held by the Mohawks were brought out to be tortured and burned in the public square of Tionnontogen. By these cruelties, the Caniengas hoped to propitiate their war-god, Aireskoi, and gain his favor for the approaching battle. This horrible performance ended, the women, children, old men, and male noncombatants were ordered into the woods on the heights above."

Hardly had this procession of Mohawk women, children, old men and a few incapable younger ones toiled up the hill and disappeared into the forest, when the French army rounded the base of the rock cliff of the Little Nose and was seen approaching along the south shore of the river. File after file, with drums beating, banners flying, arms and armor glittering in the sunlight, the advancing hosts, of the greatest army yet seen in the Mohawk Valley, approached the formidable stronghold of the Caniengas.

The Mohawk warriors, crouched behind their wooden ramparts on the hill, took a long look at the French hosts as they deployed for the attack and then, led by their chief, they opened their hill gate and fled up the steeps into the woods.

The French troops moved into attacking formation, the drums furiously beat the charge, and, with a cheer, the army rushed forward to assault the great Mohawk stronghold — only to find the Canienga castle deserted by its warriors. It was a bloodless victory but one with mighty results. The hill gate, through which the Mohawks had fled, was open and De Tracy and part of his tired warriors entered the wooden fortress.

The French were astonished as they looked about them. These Iroquois forts were very different from those that Jogues had seen here twenty years before, or from that from which, in earlier times, the Mohawks set Champlain and his Hurons at defiance. The captured upper castle of Tionnontogen "was a quadrangle formed of a triple palisade, twenty feet high, and flanked with four bastions. Large vessels of bark filled with water were placed on the platforms of the palisade for defense against fire. The dwellings which these fortifications enclosed were, in many cases, built of wood, though the form and arrangement of the primitive bark lodge of the Iroquois seems to have been preserved. Some of the wooden houses were one hundred and twenty feet long with fires for eight or nine families. Here, and in subterranean caches, was stored a prodigious quantity of Indian corn and other provisions, and all the dwellings were supplied with carpenter's tools and many other appliances of comfort."

When the French entered the fort, they found, besides the blackened remains of the burned victims, only a small boy, two old squaws and a feeble old man, "who, being frightened by the noise of the drums, had hidden himself under a canoe." From them the victors learned that the Mohawks, retreating from the other castles, had gathered here resolved to fight to the last, but, at the sight of the French troops, their courage failed, and the chief was first to run, crying out, "Let us save ourselves, brothers, the whole world is coming against us." Parkman says:

"A cross was planted and, at its side, the royal arms. The troops were drawn up in battle array, when Jean Baptiste du Bois, an officer deputed by Tracy, advancing sword in hand to the front, proclaimed in a loud voice that he took possession in the name of the king, of all the country of the Mohawks and the troops shouted three times, 'Vive le Roi.'

"That night a mighty bonfire illuminated the Mohawk forests, and the scared savages, from their hiding places among the rocks, saw their palisades, their stores of food and all their possessions turned to cinders and ashes. The two old squaws, captured in the town, threw themselves in despair into the flames of their blazing homes."

Tionnontogen became a blackened heap of "smouldering embers rolling their pale smoke against the painted background of the October woods."

De Tracy, at the head of the destroying army, took up his backward march and, as he moved down the valley, he took supplies from the Mohawk castles and towns and then burned them. Governor Nicolls tried to arouse the New England colonies to join New York in striking Tracy's army but, like nearly all Colonial efforts along this line, it failed through the lack of unity, characteristic of the English colonies. De Tracy's army returned to Canada unmolested. The French were united and thus always were formidable against the independent and jealous English provinces. The French thought that the chief Mohawk castle which they had destroyed was Andagoron. In this they were mistaken as the Canienga capital which they had burned was Tionnontogen, at present Sprakers Village.

[Photo: Statue of Tekakwitha]

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