Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan – Coming Of The English

In the poem ” Le Drapeau Fantome,” by Frechette, the Canadian, is given a romantic but wholly misleading story of the coming of the English.

However one may be disposed to overlook the vagaries of poetic natures, it can hardly be admitted that such writings are pardonable, for misrepresentation in popular form is the most successful way of stirring up and keeping alive bitternesses which would otherwise die away.

On the arrival of Lieutenant Jemette with his company in the early Fall of 1762, the fort was immediately handed over to the British and occupied by them, and Mons. Cadotte who had proved so faithful to Repentigny set himself to serve the new possessors.

The hostility of the natives was not easily overcome, nor indeed during the four following years did they cease to harrass the new people whenever the opportunity presented itself.

And in many cases the opportunity was made, as when in one short day, June 4th, 1763, the Indians seized nine of the twelve posts or forts held by the British between Detroit and the West.

It is claimed, however, that the Lake Superior Indians were not in this great undertaking, although their hostility was known by the French Canadians to exist, and if their conduct was less belligerent than that of their brethren it was principally through the influence and mollifying words of Cadotte.

The chief work now before the garrison was that of gathering provisions against the coming Winter, but although urged by Henry and Cadotte to lay in great stores of the white fish, so easily caught, Jemette considered that venison, bear and small game would be in plenty when such should be needed.

In this belief, he sent several canoe loads of fish to Michilimacinac, which had better have been kept at the Sault, and watched with rather idle curiosity the preparations of those others who were to winter at the Rapids.

Thus was provision made :

Long poles were placed horizontally on two upright supports driven in the ground and on these were hung, to dry and freeze the fish secured two and two by the tail. All along the shore by the rapids were these frames placed, each family keeping its own separate from the rest.

A calamity, however, relieved the officer of the anxiety of securing provisions in the depth of a western Winter for, three days before Christmas, December 22th, the fort took fire and the buildings were destroyed.

The alarm was given at one o’clock and Henry with a rescuing party made his way to Jemette’s quarters and only rescued him through his bedroom window.

On the morning dawning the question arose as to the disposition of the soldiers, and finding himself without a store of food as also without shelter, the officer decided to send his men back to Michilimacinac and himself to winter with the inhabitants at the Sault.

This course was followed out with great anxiety, for if the ice were to form during the soldiers’ progress to the main post, all hope of escape would be gone, while to remain at Sault Sainte Marie provisionless and unhoused would have proved equally fatal

The detail, however, reached Michilimacinac in safety and was of the number of the troops in the doomed fort at the time of the massacre.

For a month after their departure did Jemette remain then thinking the ice bridge formed, proposed to Henry and Cadotte that they also visit the larger station. Together with a small retinue on the 20th of January they set out across the snow and ice, travelling on snowshoes, with which Jemette proved himself most unfamiliar.

The expedition was slow and toilsome, a whole week being consumed in only half the journey, when arriving at Pointe de Tour, the men found to their dismay that the lake was still open and the ice drifting. Their provisions were nearly expended and nothing remained but to send back the Canadians and Indians to the Sault and themselves to live, until the return, on the remains of the store which consisted of two pounds of pork and three pounds of bread. On the fourth day all the edibles had disappeared, when to the joy of the watchers, the returning servants arrived with a renewed supply.

Immediately the camp broke up and the expedition pushed on, but had only travelled two leagues when Jemette gave out, his feet being so blistered with the strings of the snowshoes that he could walk no farther. For three days the party struggled on, until again famine threatened themselves. But they were now too far from the Sault to return, and Henry, detaching himself and one guide from the rest, pushed forward and within fifteen hours found himself at the fort.

A relief party was at once sent out with provisions. and on the third day returned bringing Jemette and the rest to the settlement.

Thus ended for a time the British military occupation of Sault Sainte Marie.

But although they had escaped death by starvation a dreadful fate awaited them.

The Winter months fled by and Spring developed into Summer and in this monotenous country all the garrison looked forward to the coming fourth of June.

It was the King’s birthday and they intended celebrating it in right royal fashion.

The Indians, too, were pouring in from every quarter, each day adding greatly to their number, nor did they longer wear the looks of dejection and hatred with which on former occasions they were wont to greet their new masters.

Permission had been asked and granted by the Commandant for the natives on that day to indulge in their national game ” baggatiway,” and all the garrison flocked out on to the commons to see it.

Henry, who had been to the Sault and back again meanwhile, did not go out with the rest to see the sport because on the morrow a canoe was to leave for Montreal and he had many letters to forward rn it.

The game grew fast and furious. From where he sat writing Henry could hear the shouts of the teams and of their backers, when suddenly he realized that a change had taken place, the shouts became in an instant the war yelp of the tribes which grew alarmingly as the Indians rushed pell mell into the stockades.

Crossing hurriedly to the window he saw the Redmen hacking and hewing at the soldiery who were unarmed and completely taken by surprise, and scalping the convulsive, struggling wretches as they held them between their knees.

In particular he witnessed the fate of his travelling companion who had so lately fled from starvation, Lieutenant Jemette, and he himself only escaped through the kind offices of an old and influential Indian, Wawatum by name, who had adopted him and now claimed him as one of his own family.

The particulars of that terrible day with the night of suspense that followed do not properly belong to this work which only purports to relate that which concerns the town at St. Mary’s Rapids and those who were an influence in its life and growth.

The events are however setforth at length in Henry’s accounts of his travels.

Cadotte and Henry soon afterward returned to the Sault, the latter to indulge in his trading operations, while the former became the custodian of what few things remained about the fort and proved himself to be an honourable man and worthy of the confidence which was reposed in him.