Agnes Christina Laut.

The conquest of the great Northwest: being the story of the ..., Volumes 1-2 online

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Smithsend and Grimmington — with £too each for
capturing York. The captured furs replenished the
exhausted finances and preparation was made to
dispatch a mighty fleet that would forever settle
mastery of the bay.

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Le Moyne (Tlberville Sweeps the Bay

Two hundred extra mariners were to be engaged.
On The Dering,, Grimmington, now a veteran cam-
paigner, was to take sixty fighting men. Captain
Moon was to have eighteen on the little frigate,
Perry. Edgecombe's Hudson^ s Bay, frigate, was to
have fifty-five; Captain Fletcher's Hampshire j sixty;
the fire ship Prosperous another thirty under a new
man, Captain Batty. These mariners were in addi-
tion to the usual seamen and company servants.
On TJie Hudson^s Bay also went Smithsend as
adviser in the campaign. Every penny that could
be raised on sales of beaver, all that the directors
were able to pledge of their private fortunes, and
all the money that could be borrowed by the Adven-
turers as a corporate company, went to outfit the
vessels for what was to be the deciding campaign.
With Bailey in control at Nelson and old Governor
Knight down at Albany — surely the French could be
driven completely from the bay.

Those captives that Allen's ship had brought to
England, lay in prison five months at Portsmouth
before they were set free. Released at last, they
hastened to France where their emaciated, ragged
condition spoke louder than their indignant words.
Frenchmen languishing in English prison! Like
wildfire ran the rumor of the outrage! Once before

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The Conquest of the Great Northwest

when P6r6, the Frenchman, had been imprisoned on
Hudson Bay, Iberville had thrust the sword of
vengeance into the very heart of the English fastness.
France turned again to the same Robin Hood of
Canada's rude chivalry. Iberville was at this time
carrying havoc from hamlet to hamlet of Newfound-
land, where two hundred English had already fallen
before his sword and seven hundred been captured.

On the 7th of April, 1697, Serigny, his brother,
just home from Nelson, was dispatched from France
with five men-of-war — The Peluan, The Palmier,
The Profound, The Violent, The Wasp— to be placed
under Iberville's conraiand at Palcentia, New-
foundland, whence he was to proceed to Hudson
Bay with orders, "to leave not a vestige remaining"
of the English fur trade in the North.

The squadron left Newfoundland on July 8.
By the 25th, the ships had entered the straits amid
berg and floe, with the long, transparent daylight,
when sunset merges with sunrise. Iberville was
on The Pelican with Bienville, his brother, two
hundred and fifty men and fifty guns. The other
brother, Serigny, commanded The Palmier, and Ed-
ward Fitzmaurice of Kerry, a Jacobite, had come
as chaplain. A gun gone loose in the hold of The
Wasp, created a panic during the heavy seas of the
Upper Narrows in the straits — the huge implement

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Le Moyne (TlbervUle Sweeps the Bay

of terror rolling from side to side of the dark hold
with each wash of the billows in a way that threat-
ened to capsize the vessel — not a man daring to risk
his life to stop the cannon's roll; and several gunners
were crushed to death before The Wasp could come
to anchor in a quiet harbor to mend the damage.
On The Pelican^ Iberville's ship, forty men lay
in their berths ill of scurvy. The fleet was stopped
by ice at Digges' Island at the west end of the straits
—a place already famous in. the raiders' history.
Here, the icepans, contracted by the straits, locked
• around the vessels in iron grip. Fog fell concealing
the ships from one another, except for the ensigns
at the mastheads, which showed all the. fleet anchored
southward except Iberville's Pelican. For eighteen
days the impatient raider found himself forcibly
gripped to the ice floes in fog, his ship crushed and
banged and bodily lifted until a powder blast re-
lieved pressure, or holes drilled and filled with bombs
broke the ice crush, or unshipping the rudder, his
own men disembarked and up to the waist in ice
slush towed The Pelican forward.

On the 25th of August at four in the morning, the
fog suddenly lifted. Iberville saw that The
Palmier had been carried back in the straits. The
Wasp and Violent had disappeared, but straight to
the fore, ice-januned, were The Profound , and —

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Iberville could scarcely believe the evidence of
his eyes — three English men-of-war, The Hamp-
shire, and Dering, and Hudson^s Bay dosing in a
circle round the ill-fated and imprisoned French
ship. Just at that moment, the ice loosened. Iber-
ville was off like a bird in The Pelican, not waiting to
see what became of The Profound, which escaped
from the ice that night after a day's bombardment
when the English were in the act of running across
the ice for a hand-to-hand fight.

On the 3rd of September, Iberville anchored
before Port Nelson. Anxiously, for two da)^, he
scanned the sea for the rest of his fleet. On the
morning of the fifth, the peaked sails of three vessels
rose above the offing. Raising anchor, Iberville
hastened out to meet them, and signaled a welcome.
No response signaled back. The horrified watch
at the masthead called down some warning. Then
the full extent of the terrible mistake dawned on
Iberville. These were not his consort ships at
all. They were the English men-of-war, The Hamp-
shire, Captain Fletcher, fifty-two guns and sixty
soldiers; The Bering, Captain Grimmington, thirty
guns and sixty men ; The Hudson^ s Bay, Edgecombe
and Smithsend, thirty-two guns aind fifty-five men —
hemming him in a fatal circle between the English
fort on the land and their own cannon to sea.

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One can guess the wild whoop of jubilation that
went up from the Englislimen to see then: enemy of
ten years' merciless raids, now hopelessly trapped
between their fleet and the fort. The English ves-
sels had the wind in their favor and raced over the
waves all sails set like a war troop keen for prey.
Iberville didn't wait. He had weighed anchor to
sail out when he thought the vessels were his own,
and now he kept unswervingly on his course. Of
his original crew, forty were invalided. Some
twenty-five had been sent ashore to reconnoiter the
fort. Counting the Canadians and Indians taken on
at Newfoundland, he could muster only one'hundred
and fifty fighting men. Quickly, ropes were stretched
to give the mariners hand-hold over the frost-slippery
decks. Stoppers were ripped from the fifty cannon,
and the batterymen below, under La Salle and
Grandville, had stripped naked in* preparation for
the hell of flame and heat that was to be their portion
in the impending battle. Bienville, Iberville's
brother, swung the infantrymen in line above decks,
swords and pistols prepared for the hand-to-hand
grapple. De la Potherie got the Canadians to the
forecastle, knives and war hatchets out, bodies
stripped, all ready to board when the ships knocked
keels. Iberville knew it was to be like those old-
time raids — sl Spartan conflict — a, fight to the death;

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death or victory; and he swept right up to The
Hampshire^ Fletcher's frigate, the strongest of the
foe, where every shot would tell. The Hampshire
shifted broadsides to the French; and at nine in the
morning, the battle began.

The Hampshire let fly two roaring cannonades
that ploughed up the decks of The Pelican and
stripped the French bare of masts to the hull. At the
same instant, Grimmington's Bering and Smith-
send's Hudson's Bay circled to the left of the French
and poured a stream of musketry fire across The
Pelican's stem. At one fell blast, forty French were
mowed down; but the batterymen below never ceased
their crash of bombs straight into The Hampshire's
hull.

Iberville shouted for the infantrymen to fire into
The Derin^s forecastle, to pick off Grimmington
if they could; and for the Canadian sharpshooters to
rake the decks of The Hudson^s Bay.

For four hours, the three-cornered battle raged.
The ships were so close, shout and counter-shout
could be heard across decks. Faces were singed
with the closeness of the musketry fire. Ninety
French had been wounded. The Pelican^s decks
swam in blood that froze to ice, slippery as glass, and
trickled down the clinker • boards in reddening
splashes. Grape shot and grenade had set the fallen

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Le Moyne (TlberviMe Sweeps the Bay

sails on fire. Sails and mastpoles and splintered
davits were a mass of roaring flame that would
presently extend to the powder magazines and blow
all to eternity. Railings had gone over decks; and
when the ship rolled, only the tangle of burning
debris kept those on deck from washing into the sea.
The bridge was crumbling. A shot had torn the
high prow away; and still the batterymen below
poured their storm of fire and bomb into the English
hull. The fighters were so close, one old record
says, and the holes torn by the bombs so large in the
hull of each ship that the gunners on The Pelican
were looking into the eyes of the smoke-grimed
men below the decks of The Hampshire.

For three hours, the English had tacked to board
The Pelicatty and for three hours the mastless,
splintered Pelican had fought like a demon to cripple
her enemy's approach. The blood-grimed, half-
naked men of both decks had rushed en masse for the
last leap, the hand-to-hand fight, when a frantic
shout went up!

Then silence, and fearful confusion, and a mad
panic back from the tilting edges of the two vessels
with cries from the wounded above the shriek of the
sea!

The batteries of The Hampshire had suddenly
silenced. The great ship refused to answer to the

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wheel. That persistent, undeviating fire bursting
from the sides of The Pelican had done its work.
The Hampshire gave a quick, back lurch. Before
the amazed Frenchmen could believe their senses,
amid the roar of flame and crashing billows and hiss
of fires extinguished in an angry sea, The Hampshire y
all sails set, settled and sank like a stone amid the
engulfing billows. Not a soul of her two hundred
and fifty men — one hundred and ninety mariners
and servants, with sixty soldiers — escaped.

The screams of the struggling seamen had not died
on the waves before Iberville had turned the bat-
teries of his shattered ship full force on Smithsend's
Htidson^s Bay. Promptly, The Hudson^ s Bay struck
colors, but while Iberville was engaged boarding
his captive and taking over ninety prisoners, Grim-
mington on The Bering showed swift heel and
gained refuge in Fort Nelson.

In the fury and heat of the fight, the French had
not noticed the gathering storm that now broke with
hurricane gusts of sleet and rain. The whistling in
the cordage became a shrill shriek — ^warning a bliz-
zard. Presently the billows were washing over decks
with nothing visible of the wheel but the drenched
helmsman clinging for life to his place. The pan-
cake ice pounded the ships' sides with a noise of

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Le Moyne (Tlberville Sweeps the Bay

thunder. Mist and darkness and roaring sleet
drowned the death cries of the wounded, washed and
tossed and jammed against the railing by the pound-
ing seas. The Pelican could only drive through the
darkness before the storm-flaw, "the dead" says an
old record, "floating about on the decks among the
living." The hawser, that had towed the captive
ship, snapped like thread. Captor and captive in
vain threw out anchors. The anchors raked bottom.
Cables were cut, and the two ships drove along the
sands. The deck of The Pelican was icy with blood.
Every shock of smashing billows jumbled dead and
dying en masse. The night grew black as pitch.
The little railing that still clung to the shattered decks
of The Pelican was now washed away, and the waves
carried off dead and wounded. Tables were hurled
from the cabin. The rudder was broken, and the
water was already to the bridge of the foundering
ship, when the hull began to split, and The Pelican
buried her prow in the sands, six' miles from the fort.
All small boats had been shot away. The canoes
of the Canadians swamped in the heavy sea as they
were launched. Tying the spars of the shattered
masts in four-sided racks, Iberville had • the sur-
viving wounded bound to these and towed ashore by
the others, half-swimming, half-wading. Many of
the men sprang into the icy sea bare to mid-waist as

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The Conquest of the Great Northwest

they had fought. Guns and powderhoms carried
ashore in the swimmers' teeth were all that were
saved of the wreck. Eighteen more men lost their
lives going ashore in the dark. For twelve hours
they had fought without pause for food, and now
shivering round fires kindled in the bush, the half-
famished men devoured moss and seaweed raw.
Two feet of snow lay on the ground, and when the
men lighted fires and gathered round in groups to
warm themselves, they became targets for sharp-
shooters from the fort, who aimed at the camp fires.
Smithsend, who escaped from the wrecked Hudson's
Bay and Grinmiington, who had succeeded in taking
The Dering into harbor — ^put Governor Bailey on
guard. Their one hope was that Iberville might
be drowned.

It was at this terrible pass that the other ships of
Iberville's fleet came to the rescue. They, too, had
suffered from the storm. The Violent having gone to
bottom; The Palmier having lost her steering gear,
another ship her rudder.

Nelson or York under the English was the usual
four-bastioned fur post, with palisades and houses of
white firlogs a foot thick, the pickets punctured for
small arms, with embrasures for some hundred
cannon. It stood back from Hayes River, four miles
up from the sea. The seamen of the wrecked Hud-

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Le Moyne d'lberville^ Sweej)8 the Bay

son^s Bay carried word to Governor Bailey of Iber-
ville's desperate plight. Nor was Bailey inclined to
surrender even after the other ships came to Iber-
ville's aid. With Bailey in the fort were Kelsey,
and both Grimmington and Smithsend who had once
been captives with the French in Quebec. When
Iberville's messenger was led into the council hall
with flag of truce and bandaged eyes to demand
surrender, Smithsend advised resistance till the Eng-
lish knew whether Iberville had been lost in the
wreck. Fog favored the French. By the nth, they
had been able to haul their cannon ashore unde-
tected by the English and so near the fort that the
j&rst intimation was the blow of hammers erecting
platforms. This drew the fire of the English, and
the cannonading began on both sides. On the 12th,
Serigny entered the council again to demand sur-
render.

"If you refuse, there will be no quarter," he
warned.

''Quarter be cursed," thundered the old governor.
Then turning to his men, "Forty pounds sterling to
every man who fights."

But the Canadians with all the savagery of Indian
warfare, had begun hacking down palisades to the
rear.

Serigny came once more from the French. ''They

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• The Conquest of the Great Northwest

axe desperate/' he urged, "they must take the fort,
or pass the winter like beasts in the wilds." Bombs
had been shattering the houses. Bailey was induced
to capitulate, but game to the end, haggled for the
best bargain he could get. Neither the furs nor the
armaments of the fort were granted him, but he was
permitted to march out with people unharmed, drums
beating, flags unfurled, ball in mouth, matches
lighted, bag and baggage, fife screaming its shrillest
defiance — to march out with all this brave pomp to
a desolate winter in the wilds, while the bush-lopers,
led by Boisbriant, ransacked the fort. In the sur-
render, Grimmington had bargained for his ship,
and he now sailed for England with the refugees,
reaching the Thames on October 26. Bailey and
Smithsend with other refugees, resolutely marched
overland in the teeth of wintry blasts to Governor
Knight at Albany. How Bailey reached England, I
do not know. He must have gone overland with
French coureurs to Quebec; for he could not have
sailed through the straits after October, and he ar-
rived in England by December.

That the blow of the last loss paralyzed the
Company — need not be told. Of all their forts on the
bay, they now had only Albany, and were in debt for
the last year's ships. They had not money to pay
the captains' wages. Nevertheless, they borrowed

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money enough to pay the wages of all the seamen
and £20 apiece extra, for those who had taken part
in the fight. Just at this time, the Treaty of Ryswick
put an end to war between England and France, but,
as far as the Company was concerned, it left them
worse than before, for it provided that the con-
testants on the bay should remain as they were at
the time, which meant that France held all the bay
except Albany, Before this campaign, the loss of
the English Adventurers from the French raiders had
been £100,000. Now the loss totaled more than
£200,000.

Chouart Groseillers had long since been created a
nobleman for returning to France. In spite of the
peace, this enigmatical declaration is found in the
private papers of the King of France:

"Owing to the peace, the King of England has given
positive orders that goods taken at Hudson Bay, must
be paid for; but the French King relies on getting out
of this affair."

Iberville sailed away to fresh glories. A seign-
iory had been granted him along the Bay of Chal-
eurs. In 1699, he was created Chevalier of St. Louis.
The rest of his years were passed founding the colony
of Louisiana, and he visited Boston and New York
harbors with plans of conquest in his mind, though
as the Earl of Belomont reported "he pretended it

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was for wood and water." In the war of the Bar-
badoes, Iberville had hoped to capture slaves for
I^uisiana, and he had transported hundreds, but
yellow fever raged in the South and Iberville fell
a victim to it on July 9, 1706, at Havana. He was,
perhaps, the most picturesque type of Canada's
wildwood chivalry, with all its savage faults and
romantic heroism.

And His Majesty, the King of France, well pleased
with the success of his brave raiders sends out a dis-
patch that reads: "His Majesty declines to accept
the white bear sent to him from Hudson Bay, but
he will permit the fur trader^ to exhibit the animal."

Notes on Chapter XIII.— The English side of the story related
in this chapter is taken from the records of Hudson's Bay House,
London, and of the Public Records Office. The French side
of the story, from the State Papers of the Marine Archives.
BacqueviUe de la Potherie, who was present in the fight of '97,
gives excellent details in his Historte de VAmeriaue SepterU rio^
note (1792). Jeremiey who was interpreter at York, wrote an
account, to be found among other voyages in the Bernard Col-
lection of Amsterdam. For side-lights from early writers, the
reader is referred to Doc. Relatifs NouveUe France; Oldmixon;
Doc. Hist. N. v.; Qtiebec Hist. So. Collection in which will be
found Abb^ Belmont's Relation and Dottier de Casson's,

It will be noticed that one of the conditions of surrender was
that the English should be permitted to march out ''match-
lighted; ball m mouth." The latter term needs no explanation.
The ball was held ready to be rammed down the barrel. With
reference to the term "match-lighted," in the novel, "Heralds
of Empire," I had referred to "matches" when the' argus-eyed
critic came down with the criticism that "matches" were not
invented until after 1800. I stood corrected till I happened
to be in the Tower of London in the room given over to the
collection of old armor. I asked one of the doughty old "beef

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Le Moyned' Iberville Sweeps the Bay



eaters" to take down a musket of that period, and show me
exactly what ** match-lighted" must have meant. The old
soldier's explanation was this: In time of war, not flint but a
little bit oi inflammable punk did duty as "match-lighter."
This was fastened below the trigger like the percussion cap of a
later day. The privilege of surrendering "match-lighted"
meant with the punk below the trigger. I offer this explana-
tion for what it is worth, and as he is the keeper of the finest
collection of old armor in the world, the chances are he is right
and that matches preceded 1800.

At first sight, there may seem to be discrepancies in the
numbers on the English ships, but the 200 mariners were extra
men, in addition to the 50 or 60 seamen on each frigate, and the
50 or 60 servants on each boat sent out to strengthen the forts.



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CHAPTER XIV

1688-1710

WHAT BECAME OF RADISSON? NEW FACTS ON THE
LAST DAYS OF THE FAMOUS PATHFINDER

WHAT became of Radisson? It seems im-
possible that the man, who set France
and England by the ears for a century,
and led the way to the pathfinding of half America,
should have dropped so completely into oblivion
that not a scrap is recorded concerning the last
twenty-five years of his life. Was he run to earth
by the bailiflfs of London, like Thackeray's "Vir-
ginian?" Or did he become the lion tamed, the
eagle with its wings clipped, to be patronized by
supercilious nonentities? Or did he die like Ledyard
of a heart broken by hope deferred?

Radisson, the boy, slim and swarth as an Indian,
running a mad race for life through mountain tor-
rents that would throw his savage pursuers off the
trail — ^we can imagine; but not Radisson running
from a London bailiff. Leading flotillas of fur
brigades up the Ottawa across Lake Superior to the

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What Became of Radisson?



Great Northwest — he is a familiar figure, but not
stroked and petted and patronized by the frowzy
duchesses of Charles the Second's slovenly court.
Yet from the time Radisson ceased to come to
Hudson Bay during Iberville's raids, he drops as
completely out of history as if he had been lost in
Milton's Serbonian Bog. One historian describes
him as assassinated in Quebec, another as dying
destitute. Both statements are guesses, but from the
dusty records of the Hudson's Bay Company — many
of them undisturbed since Radisson's time — can be
gleaned a complete account of the game pathfinder's
life to the time of his death.

The very front page of the first minute book kept
by the Company, contains account of Radisson — ^an
order for Alderman Portman to pay Radisson and
Groseillers ;^5 a year for expenses — chiefly wine and
fresh fruit, as later entries show. There were
present at this meeting of the Company, adventurers
of as romantic a glamor as Robert Louis Stevenson's
heroes or a Captain Kidd. There was the Earl of
Craven, married to the Queen of Bohemia. There
was Ashley, ambitious for the earldom that came
later, and with the reputation that "he would rob
the devil, himself, and the church altars." It was
Ashley, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, who
charged a bribe of ;£ioo to every man appointed in

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the goveniment services, though he concealed his
peculations under stately manners and gold lace.
Notoriety was the stock in trade of the court beauties
at that time, and Ashley's wife earned public notice
by ostentatiously driving in a glass coach that was
forever splintering in collision with some other car-
riage or going to bits over the clumsy cobblestones.
Old Sir George Carterett of New Jersey was now
treasurer of the Navy. Sir John Robinson was com-
mander of the Tower. Griffith was known as the
handsome dandy of court balls. Sir John Kirke,
the Huguenot, was a royal pensioner of fighting
blood, whose ancestors had captured Quebec. The
meeting of the Hudson's Bay Adventurers was held
at the house of Sir Robert Viner, Lord Mayor of
London, renowned for the richest wife, the finest art
galleries, the handsomest conservatories in England.
It was to Viner's that Charles the Second came with
his drunken crew to fiddle and muddle and run the



Online LibraryAgnes Christina LautThe conquest of the great Northwest: being the story of the ..., Volumes 1-2 → online text (page 15 of 50)