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The Story of Manitoba
Chapter V Thirty Years of Conflict


Beaver fur was far more abundant in the region about Hudson Bay than it was in the neighborhood of the Great Lakes, and it was of much better quality; and naturally the Quebec companies became more and more Anxious to secure the trade of that remote district. So commercial interests as well as patriotic motives impelled the government of France to look with favor on steps which tended to extend French sovereignty over the vast region which borders on the bay. De la Barre, the governor of Canada, had been instructed to take such measures as would divert some of the fur trade of that region towards the Great Lakes; and with that object in view he sent Greysolon Duluth into the country north of Lake Superior. Duluth proceeded to the mouth of the Pepigon River, and in 1684 he built a fort there near the site of the old trading post occupied by Groseilliers and Radisson a quarter of a century earlier. He had orders to cooperate with young Chouart, who had been left in charge of Fort Bourbon in 1683, and dispatched a man named Pere to him with letters from the governor; but, as we have seen, Chouart had been induced by his uncle to surrender the fort and its store of furs to the English before the messenger arrived. Not being able to secure the expected cooperation from Fort Bourbon and being poorly supplied with goods for trade in his own district, Duluth was not very successful in his mission.

The perlidy of Radisson and the loss which it caused the company of the North roused great resentment in Canada j and when two ships of that company, returning from an unsuccessful voyage to the bay in 1685, met a vessel of the Hudson's Bay Company, called the Merchant of Pcrpctuana, their crews did not hesitate to seize her and take ship and crew to Quebec. The mate managed to escape and carry news of the seizure to England, but the other members of the crew were thrown into a Quebec prison, where the master, Captain Humes, died. After eleven months the survivors were taken to .Martinique and sold as slaves. The story of this affair, which the mate carried to England, roused so much indignation that a memorial upon the matter was presented to the King; but the relation of James II to the king of France was much the same as that of Charles II had been, and he took no notice of the outrage.

The apparent indifference of the English government may have emboldened the French at home and in Canada to go a step further. On Christmas eve, 1685. the Chevalier de Troves, a retired army officer living m Canada, sent a message to the new governor. Denonville, in which he offered to raise and lead a force, which would take possession of all the region about Hudson Bay for France; and the governor, probably acting on instructions from Louis XIY, gave the scheme his sanction. The old chevalier had no difficulty in raising a party of eighty men, all skilled m woodcraft and eager for adventure in the north, and he added thirty soldiers, who had seen service on many a battle field of Europe. For his lieutenants de Troyes chose three sons of Charles le Movne another French nobleman living in Canada. They were known by their title's of Sieur d'Iberville. Sieur de Sainte Helene, and Sieur de Manconrt. Father Silvv went as the chaplain of the force.

L Bovne once remarked that the best thing he had done for France was to give her his eleven sons. The third, Pierre, afterwards known as d Iberville, was born on July 20, 1661. He was energetic and daring, and at an early age showed unusual ability as a leader of men. Before he was twenty-two years old he had made several voyages to France in command of ships and had been recommended to Colbert for! an appointment in the royal navy. He was to become the. lead-in.' figure in the struggle between the French and English for the possession of Hudson Bay; and his achievements in that struggle, which read more like a romance than sober bistort made him the greatest of heroes in the eyes of the people of Canada. He also played an important part in the struggle for the possession of Acadie and Newfoundland; and later in life he had so much to do with the acquisition of the great .Mississippi valley for France that he has been called the father of Louisiana.

Early in the spring of 1686 de Troves' little force left Montreal for its long march through the forest to James Bay. It ascended the Ottawa, crossed the height of land to Lake Abittibi, and followed the Abittibi River to the sea. On a small island near by was Aloose Fort, armed with twelve cannon and garrisoned by sixteen men unaware of the danger which threatened them. Waiting until darkness fell, de Troyes sent a small party under d'Iberville and his brother to scale the palisade on the rear of the fort, while the rest of his men battered down the gate of the in closure and rushed inside, shouting Indian war-cries. The1 defendants were completely surprised and were made prisoners before" they had time to dress. And so on the next day, June 20th, the chevalier proclaimed, with much ceremony, that he took possession of the fort and island for the king of France.

Learning that a supply of provisions had been sent to Fort Charles a few days before, the French leaders determined to attack it next, and a small craft was built to carry two of the captured cannon thither, a distance of 120 miles. It was the 25th of June when the party left the mouth of the Moose Rive? for Fort Charlos, but no word of its coming had reached that post. The fort was being repaired, the gates were open, the cannon dismounted, and the place utterly unprepared for an attack. De Troyes repeated the tactics which had proved so succaesful at Moose Fort and made a night assault. Fifteen men, sleeping peacefully in the blockhouse, knew nothing of the presence of enemies until a hand grenade, which one of the Frenchmen had dropped down the chimney, exploded among them and a brisk fusillade followed. Five of the inmates were killed or wounded, and the others surrendered at once. In the meantime a few men. led by l'Iberville, had paddled out to one of the Hudson's Bay Company 's vessels which lay near the fort. They found the watch asleep and killed him before he could give any alarm. Two more of the crew were sabred as soon as they put their heads through the hatchway, and the rest were easily captured. The unfortunate Governor Bridgar, who was on board the vessel, found himself a prisoner of the French for the second time.

FORT PRINCE OF WALES', CHURCHILL HARBOR, HUDSON BAY
MISSION BUILDINGS, RED RIVER COLONY, 1823

FORT GARRY ABOUT 1860  FORT GARRY IN 1850

ST. CROSS GIRLS' SCHOOL, ST. JOHN'S OLD CHURCH, OUTBUILDINGS, BOY'S? SCHOOL, AT RED RIVER IV.1856

OLD ROMAN CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL, ST. BONIFACE.

 

The intrepid old chevalier determined to strike a swift blow at Fort Albany next. lie now had two vessels at his command, and placing his men and ten of the captured camion upon them, he set sail for the western shore of the bay early in July. None of his men knew exactly where Fort Albany was situated, but by keeping close to the coast they finally reached it. They could not take it by surprise, for friendly Indians had notified Governor Sargeant of the fate of Fort Charles and Moose Fort, and he had prepared for a siege. His men were a cowardly lot and wished him to surrender as soon as the cannonade began: but by promises and threats he kept them at their places for a time. After three days'" bombardment the governor found that bad breaches had been made in his defences, that two or three of his men had been killed, and that the rest had no stomach for further fighting; and so he thought it best to capitulate. Some of the prisoners were sent to Charlton Island to await the arrival of one of the company's ships; others were obliged to help de Troves' men carry their booty to Quebec. It is said that the French secured 50,000 beaver skins in this raid. The victors were anxious to capture Fort Nelson, the only post left in the hands of the British; but it was 750 miles away, none of their men could steer the vessels to it, and none of their prisoners would. So they had to abandon the scheme. Maricourt was left in charge of the captured forts, and de Troyes returned to Quebec.

The troubles in their colonies led England and France to appoint a joint commission in 1686 which concluded a treaty of neutrality, providing for "a firm peace, union, concord, and good understanding" between the kings of the two countries. The document declares, "It has been agreed that each of the said kings shall hold the domains, rights, pre-eminences in the seas, straits and other waters of America which, and in the same manner which, they enjoy at present." This left things exactly as they were. Great Britain holding Fort Nelson and Franee holding the other forts on Hudson Bay, while the question of sovereignty over the sea was left open. Commissioners were appointed to carry out the details of the treaty, and they were instructed to give both nations equal trading rights at Port Nelson. Denonville. however, wished to give up the forts at Rupert's, Moose, and Albany rivers to secure exclusive ownership of Port Nelson, but the Hudson's Bay Company would not listen to the proposal, and so nothing was done.

This treaty of neutrality, which was signed in November, 1686, scarcely checked the hostility of the Company of the North and the Hudson's Bay Company, Both were making great efforts to monopolize the fur trade of Hudson Bay, and neither was over-particular about the means employed. The English company had established a new fort at the mouth of the Severn river in 1665, and the French government had sent d'Iberville back to Fort Albany to look after its interests along the coast. Fort Albany had been renamed Ste. Anne by the French. In the summer of 1689 Captain Moon sailed from Port Nelson with a force of twenty-four men to retake Albany. He landed and began to throw up defences about eight miles away from the fort, preparatory to making an attack upon it; but d'Iberville inarched down, drove Moon's men out of the works, and then set off in boats and canoes to capture his vessel. Those on board only frustrated the attempt by burning her. They escaped to the woods: and when Captain Moon got his men together again, he led them overland to Fort Severn But d'Iberville followed quickly, forced Fort Severn to surrender m October and took the governor prisoner. Among the papers seized there he found! an order to the governor to proclaim William III and Mary as sovereigns of the British empire. . .

D'Iberville returned to Fort Ste. Anne to find it invested by two British ships carrying a force of eighty-three men. They had been instructed to land upon an island in the mouth of the Chechouan (.Albany; River and build a fortification from which an attack on Ste. Anne could be made. Their fortification was partly completed, and some of their cannon had been brought ashore. Stores were being landed from the ships, and a party of twenty-one men engaged in this work was ambushed by some of d'Iberville's force and all were made prisoners. Several days of desultory cannonading, interrupted by parleys, followed; and then the English surrendered. Alaricourt was left in charge of the fort: and d'Iberville, with his prisoners, sailed for Quebec on the Hampshire, one of the vessels surrendered at the fort. In Hudson Strait he met another of the company's ships, bound for Port Nelson and having young Chouart on board. He nailed her as if the Hampshire were still in the company's service and proposed that the two ships sail in company; and he might have captured her, if storms had not parted the vessels before his design could be carried out.

Nelson, the best post on Hudson Bay, still remained in the hands of the English. Denonville and the Company of the North were anxious to put this fort in the possession of France, and it was d'Iberville's greatest ambition to carry out their wishes. The governor thought it might be accomplished by the ships which dTberville had captured in the bay, if the king would send a ship of war to aid them; and he recommended that d'Iberville be given a commission as a lieutenant in the navy. The king was pleased to give this commission to the colonial leader who had so distinguished himself; and this royal recognition of merit fired the ambition of other young men of new France, including that Pierre Gautthier de Yarennes who had much to do with Manitoba's history a few years later. In 1691 Admiral Tast was sent to Canada with a fleet of fourteen vessels; but he arrived too late to attempt any operations in Hudson Bay that season, and dTberville refused to serve in an expedition in which he would do most of the work and the admiral receive most of the credit. So the admiral took his fleet elsewhere.

In this same year, 1691, a French frigate appeared before Fort Nelson. Alost of Governor Pliipps' men were absent on a hunting expedition, and he could not hope to hold the place for any length of time; but rather than give it up he burned the fort and its contents and retired up the river. The French landed, but found nothing to carry off; having no merchandise, they could not obtain furs from the Indians; and so they sailed away. In the spring of 1692 Fort Nelson was rebuilt and made stronger than ever.

In 1692 the Hudson's Bay Company made a determined effort to recover Fort Albany. During the autumn three well-armed ships were dispatched to Fort Nelson under the command of Captain Grimington and wintered there. As soon as the harbor was free of ice in 1693 they sailed to the mouth of the Albany river The men on board saw no signs of life in the fort as the ship neared it, and no opposition was offered when they landed. In some surprise they entered the fort and found but four inhabitants in the place. Three of them were running away as fast as they could, and the fourth would probably have followed, if he had been free; hut he had been manacled and confined in the prison of the fort for the murder of the surgeon and Father Dalmas, the priest who had been attached to the garrison. Grim tragedies had been enacted in Fort Albany during the previous winter. Captain Grimington seems to have gone on to Moose Fort and Fort Charles and retaken them for the company.

These successes of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1693 gave the Company of the North special reasons to renew its request to the king of France for ships to capture Fort Nelson. D'lberville, being in Paris about that time, seconded the petition, and two ships were promised for the following year. Early in August, 1694, the Poll and the Salamandre sailed from Quebec with d'lberville in command. His brother, de Serigny, captained one of the vessels, Jeremie was one of the subordinate officers, and Father Marest went as chaplain. The ships reached the mouth of the Nelson on September 24, and d'lberville immediately landed his men, cannon, ammunition, and stores. Batteries were erected within 500 yards of the fort, and the bombardment began.

Jeremie has given a description of the fort. Along the river front was a crescent-shaped earthwork, connecting two bastions; one of these housed the officers, while the other contained a kitchen, smithy, etc. Eight cannon were mounted on the earthwork, and at its foot there was a platform on which six more cannon were placed. There were four other bastions, apparently' placed at the angles of the palisade. These bastions were constructed of timber, and were armed with cannon and swivel-guns. One of them was used as a warehouse for furs and merchandise, a second contained provisions, and a third sheltered the men of the garrison. The total number of cannon and swivel-guns on the defences was ninety-nine

The bombardment began on September 25, but the fort was not to be taken so readily as the others which had fallen into the hands of d 'Iberville. The English made a stubborn defence; and Henry Kelsey, a young clerk in the service of the company, distinguished himself by so many acts of bravery lhat, when they were reported to the company, he received a grant of £40 in recognition of his services. The French lost several men, de Chateauguav, one of d'Iberville's young brothers, being killed. The cannonade continued for three weeks; and then the governor, finding his defences greatly weakened and his wooden bastions in danger from fire and the explosions which would follow, thought it unwise to prolong the struggle. The fort was surrendered on October 15th, and the French hoisted their country's flag over the coveted northern post. It was renamed Fort Bourbon, and the river was called the Ste. Therese. Some of the English were allowed to go to Severn or Albany; others were kept as prisoners. As the fort was well stocked with provisions, the French decided to remain there for the winter. On July 20, 1695, d'lberville sailed away, leaving a garrison of sixty-seven men under de la Forest to hold the fort. Martigny was his lieutenant, and Jeremie remained as interpreter and director of trade with the rank of ensign.

We are told that a force sent overland from Canada took Fort Charles and Moose b'ort during the summer of 1694; but Albany seems to have remained in the hands of the English after its capture by Captain Grimington and never to have been recovered by the French. We are also told that in 1695 the Bona-venture and the Seaforth captured Moose Fort and Fort Charles for the Hudson's Bay Company, leaving the French no fort on the bay except that at Port Nelson. .

As soon as d'lberville's capture of Fort Nelson was reported in London the Hudson's Bay Company petitioned the government for ships to retake the place. It was too late to do anything that season; but in June, 1696, four ships commanded by William Allen sailed for the bay. The French government had been kept posted in regard to the intentions of the English, and three days before the little fleet sailed from England, two French men-of war were sent to assist de la Forest in the defence of Fort Bourbon. When they reached their destination, they found that the English vessels had entered the mouth of the river a few hours earlier. The French captains, knowing that their ships were no match for the four British vessels and having no place in which to anchor, could do nothing but sail away for France, leaving the garrison to its fate. One of their ships never reached port, and it is supposed that she was wrecked in the ice of Hudson Strait.

The English began to bombard the fort on August 29, and on the next day they landed a force, preparatory to storming the place; but the French commandant, seeing that the attacking force was far stronger than his own, decided that further defence would lead to useless loss of life and offered to surrender. The articles of capitulation, dated August 31, 1696, provided that de la Forest and his men should march out with drums beating and flags flying, that they should take with them their personal effects and the furs which they had obtained in the preceding year, that they should be taken to the French port of Placentia in Newfoundland, and that their priest should be at liberty to conduct the exercises of religion among them. But in those times and in those far northern waters neither English nor French were careful to observe the terms of a surrender or the rights of property. The prisoners captured at Fort Nelson were not taken to Newfoundland, nor were they transferred to a French ship to be taken to France; but they were carried to Portsmouth and confined in a prison there for several months before being allowed to cross to Havre. The English kept the furs found in the fort, and in this they may have been justified.

The influence of the French on Hudson Bay was at its lowest ebb. All the efforts they had made for ten years to establish themselves there seemed wasted. The brilliant achievements of d'Iberville—his reckless daring and strategy, his swift attacks, his surprising captures—which had dazzled the Canadian people for a decade, seemed utterly futile. The Company of the North had expended money and effort to secure trading posts on the northern sea, but had received small returns in furs or otherwise; and France had lent her aid, with no permanent result except loss of ships and men. At the close of 1696 the Company of the North does not seem to have had a single trading post on the shore of Hudson Bay, nor did the flag of France wave over a single fort there.


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