Raids of the French and English

(previous....French in New York 1642 to 1713)


At this critical period, Count Frontenac, once before governor of Canada and now an old man, returned to redeem the colony. Since Champlain, he was the notable figure of New France. He could assume the paint and fury of a savage and yell with them in war dance; he could lead his troops through tangled woods , when from the weakness of years he must be carried in a chair. He now made peace with the Iroqois as best he could, and since war had broken out between England and France , known in the colonies as King William's war, he made ready to strike a blow upon the English.

Burning of Schenectady

In the winter of 1690 he sent an army of two hundred , half of whom were Indians, over Lake Champlain. In the midst of a driving snow they came to the most westerly town of New York, Schenectady. It was eleven o'clock at night, and the Dutch inhabitants slept in the fifty or more houses huddled within the palisades. The gates of the weak fortification were open, and no guards were there except sentinels of snow put up in play by the boys. The black forms moved silently until distributed through the place. Then there was a yell, the crashing of doors and horrid butchery. A few escaped in night clothes and froze their feet in an attempt to reach Albany; some were spared ; some were kept for torture; while sixty, among them twelve children, were fortunate enough to meet a speedy death. By noon the city of Van Curler was in ashes and the victors were hurrying on snow shoes to Montreal.

Raids of the French and English

Three years later a like expedition frightened even the people of New York city, but succeeded simply in burning a few Mohawk towns and then returned. Another three years Frontenac changed his course, entered New York by Lake Ontario and destroyed the castle of the Onondagas and Oneidas. The Indians took to the woods at the invasion of the immense force and but one warrior , a man of eighty or more years, was caught. Him the Indians with Frontenac tied to a tree and tortured with knives. "You had better," he said, "let me die by fire, that these French dogs may learn to die like men." This Indian was the only one killed by an invasion designed to exterminate the Iroqois.

The small armies sent by New York and by some of the near colonies to beat back the French and to enter Canada accomplished little. They either found the difficulties of march too great or quarreled about their leaders and disbanded. The most notable leader of New York forces at the time was the mayor of Albany, Peter Schuyler. He penetrated to the banks opposite Montreal and gave the French a long remembered whipping. These excursions back and forth were stopped by the death of Frontenac and by the treaty of Ryswick between France and England.

Queen Anne's War

The treaty fixed no boundaries between the colonies and as the mother countries were soon at was again, the children in America were quick to take up the quarrel. This time it was resolved to drive the French entirely from Canada. In 1709 and again two years later large parties well equipped gathered at Albany to march into Canada and to meet another party sailing from Boston up the St Lawrence. The expeditions by sea were disgraceful failures and the armies from Albany did not reach the head of Lake Champlain; the result was a burdensome debt upon the colony. As the other colonies were shielded by New York, they were asked to help pay the expenses of the war; but with a few exceptions they neglected to send money or men.

New York's Weakness and Strength in War

The separateness and mutual jealousies of the English colonies were a source of weakness. The French, less in number, won by unity and push. New York was furthermore at a disadvantage in the contest on account of the quarrels with the governors, into whose hands the assembly feared to put a strong force. The farmer colonists too were not easily aroused to war; but in the long run they were more than a match for traders, hunters and professional soldiers. Their families and harvests gave a steady increase to New York; while the Canadian colony, depending largely for recruits and for bread upon the slow-coming ships from France, grew little in population and was a t times on the point of starvation.

New York, moreover, was strong in the help of the Iroqois; in fact the English presumed too much on their red allies and often, promising help and supplies, left the Indians to fight alone. How the struggle would end was not then decided, for the war , known as Queen Anne's war, was closed by the Treaty of Utrecht. By this treaty the French acknowledged that the Iroquois owned the land south of the St Lawrence and of the Great Lakes. And with this comfort New York turned to arrange neglected affairs at home.

(continues ... English Rule 1691 to 1744)