DOLLARD DES ORMEAUX (called Daulat in his death certificate and Daulac by some historians), ADAM, soldier, “garrison commander of the fort of Ville-Marie [Montreal]”; b. 1635, killed by the Iroquois at the Long Sault in May 1660.
Nothing is known of Dollard’s activities prior to his arrival in Canada except that “he had held some commands in the armies of France.” Having come to Montreal as a volunteer, very probably in 1658, he continued his military career there. In 1659 and 1660 he was described as an “officer” or “garrison commander of the fort of Ville-Marie,” a title that he shared with Pierre Picoté de Belestre. We do not, however, know what his particular responsibility was. Dollard was perhaps contemplating becoming a settler. At the end of 1659 Chomedey de Maisonneuve gave him a piece of land comprising 30 arpents. In 1661 the sum that Dollard had devoted “to having work done on the aforementioned grant” was calculated at 79 livres, 10 sols, “for 53 days’ labour.”
Dollard had an excellent reputation at Montreal. First-hand evidence, it is true, is rare: the Relation calls him “a man of accomplishments and generalship,” and Dollier* de Casson calls him “a youth of courage and of good family.” But Dollard had earned the governor’s confidence and the esteem of his fellow-townsmen. For anyone who is acquainted with the social and religious climate of Ville-Marie in 1660, is any better recommendation needed? It would have been unthinkable, for example, for Maisonneuve to promote to garrison commander an officer whose conduct had not been irreproachable. Would Lambert Closse have chosen him to be godfather to his daughter Élisabeth (3 Oct. 1658)? Would his presence have been sought, a score of times, to witness the signature before Bénigne Basset of contracts of all sorts, if Dollard had not been a thoroughly honourable man? Finally, would Maisonneuve have let him leave for the Long Sault in April 1660 if he had not had complete confidence in him?
To be sure, much ill has been spoken of Dollard, who was accused of stealing furs and of being headstrong. These accusations, however, are not based upon any documentary proof and in addition are contradicted by the facts. But the temptation to criticize was great. Dollier de Casson states that Dollard “may have been very glad of an opportunity to distinguish himself, to be of use to him on account of something which was said to have happened to him in France.” What was this “something,” and how serious had it been? We know nothing of it. It would be unreasonable to construct hypotheses upon a piece of information so fragile and which seems to be pure hearsay. Let it suffice to record that Dollard led an orderly life at Montreal and that he was well thought of by his superiors and his fellow-townsmen.
This then was the man who, in the spring of 1660, assumed the leadership of an expedition to the Ottawa. Like him, his 16 companions all came from Montreal and all were unmarried. Eight of them had landed at Ville-Marie in 1653: Jacques Brassier, aged 25; François Crusson, dit Pilote, 24; René Doussin, 30, a miller and soldier; Nicolas Josselin, 25, originally from Solesmes in Normandy; Jean Lecompte, 26, a digger and woodcutter from the parish of Chamiré-en-Charnie in Le Maine; Étienne Robin, dit Des Forges, 27; Sieur Jean Tavernier de La Forest, dit La Lochetière, 28, an armourer, originally from Roëzé in Le Maine; and Jean Valets, 27, a ploughman from the parish of Thorie (or Teillé) in Le Maine. The remaining eight had arrived in 1658 or shortly before: Christophe Augier, dit Desjardins, 26; Jacques Boisseau, dit Cognac, 23; Alonié Delestre, the oldest of the Seventeen, 31, a lime-burner; Simon Grenet, 25; Roland Hébert, dit Larivière, 27; Robert Jurie, 24; Louis Martin, the youngest of the group, 21, a cowherd; and Nicolas Tiblemont, 25, a locksmith.
Of the military exploit of 1660 there is a traditional, though relatively recent, version. In the 17th century Dollard and the defence of the Long Sault had quickly been forgotten. Except for the Jesuit Charlevoix* and François-Xavier Garneau*, who both devoted a short paragraph to it, historians and chroniclers for nearly two centuries made no mention of this episode in the Iroquois wars. It was only in the 19th century, after the discovery of Dollier de Casson’s manuscript of the Histoire du Montréal, that Abbé Jean-Baptiste Ferland and Abbé Étienne-Michel Faillon gave detailed accounts of the combat of 1660 which were not lacking in emotion and grandiloquence, particularly Faillon’s. Dollard and his companions, “whom one was tempted to venerate as martyrs of the faith” (Ferland), went knowingly to their deaths to save their religion and their country. Forthwith the Seventeen acquired the stature of national heroes. “These brave men carried out . . . the finest feat of arms recorded in modern history”; more than that, “in the history of the Greeks and Romans, nothing is comparable to the action of these heroes” who “sacrificed their lives for the pure motives of the Faith” (Faillon).
It was in this patriotic and religious light that Ferland and Faillon presented the event of 1660. The Iroquois “having sent forth a great army and being resolved to destroy every last French person in Canada,” Dollard “conceived . . . the noble project of going . . . to meet this army” in order to “spread terror among the Iroquois by such a daring resolution and so heroic a death.” “In order not to be deterred by any consideration from going to face death nobly, [Dollard and his companions] all made their wills, came forward devoutly to receive the sacraments of Penitence and Holy Communion, and before the holy altars pledged themselves by a solemn oath neither to ask for nor to accept any quarter, and to fight until their last breath.” Dollard and his men went up the Ottawa as far as the foot of the Long Sault, where a party of 40 Hurons and 4 Algonkins joined them. Scarcely had they time to put an old, abandoned fort into shape when 300 Iroquois burst forth along the river. They were the advance-guard of an army corps which was on its way to the Richelieu islands, where 500 warriors were awaiting them in order to attack the colony in force. Driven back several times with severe losses, the enemy decided to call to their aid the army of the Richelieu, which arrived on the fifth day. Despite the treachery of the Hurons who, with the exception of their chief Annaotaha, all went over to the side of the Iroquois, Dollard and his men defended themselves valiantly for three days more against 800 besiegers. Having exhausted their ammunition and their strength, they finally gave in under the weight of numbers. On the French side the only survivors were a few Hurons who had deserted to the enemy. A third of the Iroquois army is said to have perished in the battle: “It is at least certain that the number of dead was very great, and even so excessive that, appalled by the fact that the defence put up by 17 Frenchmen had been so murderous for them, the Iroquois abandoned their undertaking. . . . Their reasoning, in which they all concurred, was as follows: ‘If 17 Frenchmen, whose only defence was a wretched reduit that they happened upon, have killed so many of our warriors, what reception should we then have at their hands if we went to attack them in stone houses laid out for defence and in which would be gathered men of like courage?’ They withdrew therefore to their own territory. “Thus the heroic self-sacrifice of gallant Dollard . . . and his companions saved all of Canada in this emergency.” Such is, in brief, Faillon’s account, scarcely different from Ferland’s, which is a little more restrained.
For a long time the historians – Abbé Rousseau, Parkman, Sulte, Mgr Tanguay – supported the thesis advanced by Ferland and Faillon. Only one discordant voice arose, which people pretended not to hear: that of the historian William Kingsford, who endeavoured to reduce the “exploit” to more realistic proportions.
In 1912 and 1913 in the Canadian Antiquarian and Numismatic Journal É.-Z. Massicotte made available numerous unpublished documents concerning Dollard and his companions: notarial papers, wills, death certificates for the Seventeen, inventories of their possessions, etc. It was the most important contribution to the historiography of the Dollard affair in 50 years. Unfortunately Massicotte did not himself make use of this wealth of material; although he corrected certain of Ferland’s and Faillon’s affirmations, he did not depart from their interpretation of the facts. In 1920 the Comité pour le Monument de Dollard des Ormeaux republished Massicotte’s articles in the form of a brochure with a preface by Aegidius Fauteaux. The same year, and for the first time since Kingsford, a historian dared to attack the traditional thesis on Dollard. In his review of Massicotte’s brochure Gustave Lanctot based his argument on the documents presented there – which had not been available to Kingsford to prove his point – and showed that Dollard and his companions did not believe that they were going to certain death, that they did not know of the imminence of an Iroquois invasion, and consequently that they were not volunteers who had sacrificed themselves, as people had wanted to believe. Despite the novelty and the boldness of these affirmations, Lanctot’s article did not have any immediate repercussions. But in certain circles Dollard, whom publicity campaigns had made fashionable, was already a subject of discussion.
Suddenly in 1932 a historian set off the explosion. Professor E. R. Adair of McGill University maintained in a lecture that Dollard had not saved New France, that he was an ambitious young man who was eager to “regain a lost reputation” and who succeeded only in aggravating the warlike ardour of the Iroquois; not to mention, added the historian, that Dollard was unaware of the plan for invading the colony and that he was very badly prepared to encounter the enemy; in short, Dollard did more harm than good. The newspapers of 21 March 1932 gave a summary of this lecture. A lively controversy ensued. The historian William H. Atherton (26 March) and Émile Vaillancourt (29 March) came to the defence of the traditional thesis; on 2 April Adair refuted the arguments put forward by Vaillancourt, who replied five days later; on 8 April Adair answered Vaillancourt briefly and refused to continue the debate, announcing that the text of his lecture was shortly to appear in the Canadian Historical Review. On 7 and 11 May Abbé Lionel Groulx put his signature to a long study in Le Devoir, “Le Dossier de Dollard,” which became in a way the Bible of the partisans of the traditional interpretation. In June the Canadian Historical Review published, in addition to Adair’s article, a reply by Gustave Lanctot. Started in the newspapers, continued in the specialized magazines and later on radio and television, the controversy was still raging 30 years later. Few historians did not at one time or another add fuel to the flames; but, a noteworthy phenomenon, during that era the public, and especially the younger generation, entered the debate, which was no longer the preserve of historians.
The debate having become a public issue and Dollard having been delivered into the hands of an impassioned public, the historians, in addition to having to refute their colleagues’ opinions, are called upon to lend an ear to rumours and to reply to accusations which are often fanciful; ideological considerations having intruded into the controversy, a further result is that some people embark upon the slippery path of “committed” history. These factors create around the Dollard affair a climate of tension and distrust which is unfavourable to an attentive examination of the sources, to which we must return in order to see the battle of the Long Sault in its correct dimensions.
We must, then, re-examine, point by point, the traditional account and, through a patient and objective analysis of the sources, try to cast light upon this episode of the Iroquois wars, without entering into the virulent polemics and bitter debates which it provoked and which lasted until at least the mid 1960s.
The purpose of the Long Sault expedition constitutes the most troublesome and most discussed aspect of the Dollard affair. Did the Seventeen know that an Iroquois army was preparing to invade the colony? Did they set off to meet the enemy with the intention of voluntarily sacrificing themselves? And if, perchance, they were unaware of the Iroquois’ plans, what was their objective?
Not one of the sources of the Dollard affair says, even implicitly, that the Seventeen knew of the imminent arrival of the enemy army. The preceding year, it is true, there had been disquieting rumours, which Marie de l’Incarnation [see Guyart] echoed: “It has been learned from a Huron who has left them [that the Iroquois] are preparing a powerful army to come to carry off our new Christians and, so I believe, as many of the French as they can.” Father Jérôme Lalemant specified that the enemies were making ready “to burst upon [New France] with an army – next Spring, at the latest.” These invasion rumours were not new in the colony. They were to be heard every year. Consequently people attached more or less credence to them: “People are indeed saying,” wrote Marie de l’Incarnation in 1659, “that an army of our enemies is preparing to come here; . . . if the situation were risky, I should be the first to advise you of it . . . , but thanks be to God, we do not see nor believe that that will happen.” When the first moments of fright had passed, these troubling prospects were quickly forgotten; in the spring of 1660, the Ursuline testifies again, “no one was on his guard, nor even suspected that the enemy was to come.” This is proven by the commotion at Quebec which followed the announcement, shortly after 15 May, of the impending arrival of the Iroquois army. “You can imagine how this news surprised us,” Marie de l’Incarnation was to write on 25 June. On 15 May, then, no one yet suspected the danger that threatened the colony; by this date Dollard and his companions, who had left Montreal a month earlier, were probably already dead.
According to Dollier de Casson, the Seventeen, before leaving, “all made their wills,” made their confession, received Holy Communion, and “agreed under no circumstances to ask for mercy, taking oath to that effect.” Quite wrongly, many people have seen in these preliminary arrangements an additional proof that Dollard and his companions were going knowingly to certain death. First, not all of them made their wills. Only Tavernier and Valets showed this foresight. Moreover, the fact that one dictates his last wishes does not necessarily imply that one knows that his death is imminent. Furthermore, Tavernier specified that his will would be valid if he died during the 1660 expedition but that it would “be annulled and of no value” if he came back; likewise Valets made his will “in case an accident should happen to him in the aforementioned voyage or in others that he might make afterwards.” Both were setting out upon a dangerous adventure. They were right – and it was a custom that numerous coureurs de bois were later to adopt – to set their affairs in order before leaping into their canoes. Let us not forget that it was a time when scarcely anyone in France undertook a trip outside his own province without first signing his will. Similarly it was normal, in the religious climate of the colony, to fulfil one’s religious obligations before going off for several weeks far from the centres of population. In recounting another feat of arms the annalist of the Hôtel-Dieu of Quebec wrote: “They went off after making a thorough confession, for at that time one did not go off to battle without taking this precaution. . . .”
The act of “taking an oath of fidelity” would seem however to have been less common. But it must be noted that several historians, beginning with Faillon, have exaggerated the importance of this pact: “Before the holy altars they pledged themselves by a solemn oath neither to ask for nor to accept any quarter, and to fight until their last breath” (Faillon). However, Dollier de Casson had confined himself to writing: “They agreed under no circumstances to ask for mercy, taking an oath to that effect.” Considered by itself, without amplification, this gesture is not as extraordinary as it has at times been thought to be. Nothing would seem more natural than that a group of young men who were on the verge of launching out into a long and dangerous undertaking should exchange their word of honour to respect the aims of the undertaking and to aid one another. It was in a way a verbal contract of partnership among the Seventeen, examples of which moreover are preserved, in written form and notarized, in the archives of the French régime.
Up to this point there is no basis for believing that Dollard and his men were aware of the threat presented by an invasion army which they had resolved to stop. If there remain any doubts, there is one argument that should remove them at once. The documents – all of which were written after Dollard’s departure – establish that the Iroquois were grouping their warriors near the Richelieu. The enemy, wrote Marie de l’Incarnation, “had their rendezvous at Roche-Percée near Montreal, where 400 others were to come to join them so that . . . they would then all sweep down together on Quebec. . . . It has been learned since that they were at the Richelieu, waiting for the right moment and the opportunity to destroy us all. . . .” Chaumonot, the Relation, and Casson confirm this piece of information: the Iroquois were at “the Richelieu islands,” where they were, according to d’Argenson [Voyer*], “accustomed to do their hunting and to assemble their army.” In the spring of 1660 the Iroquois were therefore concentrating their forces on the Richelieu islands; why, if he knew of the enemy’s presence and if he were burning to go to encounter them, did Dollard go off towards the Ottawa River – in exactly the opposite direction?
As for the objective of the expedition, the sources agree in the evidence they offer. Father Chaumonot, whose account was reproduced verbatim by Marie de l’Incarnation in a letter to her son dated 25 June 1660, writes: “In the month of April 1660, 17 gallant French volunteers from Montreal formed the project of risking their lives to go to prepare an ambush for the Iroquois. . . .” The 1659–60 Relation bears out this statement: “Forty of our Hurons . . . toward the close of last winter set out from Quebec to wage petty warfare (petite guerre), and lay ambuscades for the Iroquois when returning from the chase. . . . Then arriving at Montreal, they found that seventeen Frenchmen . . . had already formed a league for the same purpose as their own. . . .” Radisson* also gives a quite similar version: “You must know that 17 ffrench made a plot wth foure Algonquins to make a league wth three score hurrons for to goe and wait for the Iroquoits in the passage att their retourne wth their castors on their ground, hoping to beat and destroy them wth ease, being destitut of necessary things. If one hath his gun he wants his powder, and so the rest.” Finally, Dollier de Casson does not say anything else: “Towards the end of April M. Dollard . . . was anxious to perform here some bold stroke befitting his bravery. He therefore tried to entice away fifteen or sixteen Frenchmen in order to take them as a detachment above this island, which had not yet been attempted.” Even if the persons who related the battle of the Long Sault had omitted to inform us of Dollard’s project, we should have the testimony of one of the Seventeen; in his will Jean Valets declared that he was eager “to accompany the Sieur Dollard, to attack the small bands of Iroquois and our enemies. . . .” Can one wish for more complete unanimity?
The documents establish without any possibility of doubt the military nature of the Long Sault expedition; but it was a military undertaking in the style of the Indians. The “petite guerre” consisted of a “detachment” – a few dozen men at the most – “attacking the small bands” of the enemy and “laying ambuscades” for them, with the aim of “destroying” them or taking them prisoner. Essentially this was a war of surprise, in which patience and endurance must go with courage and ruse; a war that has its own requirements and its own laws. Once the enemy has been detected, you lie in wait until the moment arrives to attack him by surprise, if you are the stronger party; if the adversary is superior in numbers, it is customary to avoid the combat. A real hunt for human game, perfectly adapted to the forests of New France. Dollard was going off to a “petite guerre”; but he had not left the choice of his itinerary to chance. He directed his canoes towards the Long Sault, by which the Iroquois would inevitably pass “on their return from hunting.”
The Iroquois wars, of which the battle of the Long Sault was only one painful episode, were above all economic in nature. The Iroquois needed furs and could no longer find any in their own territories. Consequently they were forced to hunt in the northern regions of the Ottawa and in the area around the Great Lakes. Generally they spent the winters there, returning via the Ottawa in the spring. In 1671 the Sulpician Salignac de La Mothe-Fénelon described these annual migrations: “The Iroquois hunt in small, widely separated bands, dispersed over a distance of nearly 150 leagues. They return from the hunt in small groups, heavily laden with their booty of furs and meat. This would make it very easy for the French to wait for them on their route with canoes from which everything has been removed and which carry only men and arms.” Does not this cast light, 11 years afterwards, upon Dollard’s project? By 1660 the Iroquois had already been carrying on in this way for 20 years, and no one in New France was unaware of it. “In the spring,” wrote d’Argenson, “the [Iroquois] hunters have not yet all come together and are probably not well supplied with ammunition to wage war, since they have used it all in their winter hunting. . . .” One would think that one was reading Radisson: “If one hath his gun he wants his powder, and so the rest.” It was partly to take advantage of this dispersion of the Iroquois hunters and of their low state of ammunition that Dollard fixed his choice upon the Ottawa River and stopped at the foot of the Long Sault, where the great difficulty in handling their canoes because of the currents would put the enemy at his mercy.
Without denying completely the military objective of the expedition, certain historians subordinate it to another purpose; the “capture” from the Iroquois by force of arms of the “valuable stocks of furs.” In proof of this they advance as an argument the promissory note that Dollard signed at Montreal 15 April 1660: “I the undersigned recognize that I owe Mr. Jean Haubichon the sum of 45 livres plus 3 livres that I promise to pay him on my return. . . .” Dollard promised to pay off this debt upon his return, it is argued, because he was sure that he would bring back furs. The note does indeed permit such a supposition; strictly speaking, it does not furnish proof of it. Certainly it was not possible for Dollard to be ignorant of the fact that the Iroquois canoes would be heavily laden with pelts; it was normal and quite fair that he should dream of rich spoils. Nevertheless, the virtual certainty that this was so does not authorize a historian to claim that capturing the Iroquois furs was the chief aim of the expedition. That would be contrary to all the testimonies of the time.
Besides, Dollard was not expecting to encounter hunters only. The presence of warriors on the Ottawa at this period of the year was too well known for him to have any illusions. In their search for furs the Iroquois had long before conceived the idea of intercepting the convoys on their way to the trading factories on the St. Lawrence. Hidden along the “passages,” they would lie in wait for the canoes, massacre their crews, and carry off their cargoes. More than once the blockade of the Ottawa brought New France to the brink of ruin. Is it possible that, for the first time in the history of the colony, Dollard took upon himself the mission of assuring freedom of navigation for the allied flotillas by clearing the shores of the Ottawa? Radisson, who was particularly interested in this operation, asserted it explicitly: “Att ye other side [the Iroquois] wthout doubt had notice that ye travelers (we who had gone up to the Great Lakes) weare abroad, and would not faile to come downe wth a company, and to make a valiant deede and heroick action was to destroy them all, and consequently make the ffrench tremble as well as the wildmen, ffor the one could not live wthout the other; the one for his commodities, the other ffor his castors; so that ye Iroquoits pretending to wait for us at ye passage came thither fflocking. The ffrench [the Seventeen] and wild company [the 40 Hurons and 4 Algonkins], to putt the Iroquoits in some feare, and hinder his coming there so often wth such confidence, weare resolved to lay a snare agst him.”
On top of that, there is no doubt that Dollard’s expedition was seeking, among other purposes, to protect the descent of the Ottawas – or Nez-Percés – led by Radisson and Chouart Des Groseilliers. The Jesuit Chaumonot was the only one to mention it, but his declaration is straightforward: “An Onondaga chieftain advanced without arms to within speaking distance to ask who were in the fort and why they had come there. He received the reply that they were Frenchmen, Hurons and Algonkins . . . who were coming to meet the Nez-Percés.” Viewed in the context of what has preceded, this declaration casts a glaring light upon what may well have been the ultimate objective of the Seventeen.
When his project had received “the approbation and agreement of those in command,” Dollard presumably spent part of the winter making his preparations, recruiting volunteers and laying in supplies “for ye whole summer.” Lambert Closse, Charles Le Moyne, and Pierre Picoté de Belestre would have liked to join him if Dollard had agreed to “defer the enterprise until after the seeding”; but Dollard refused, since he would have had to give up “the honour of being in command.” The departure was set for 19 April.
Hardly had the canoes left shore on the appointed day when cries were heard coming from the Île Saint-Paul, opposite Montreal. Hastening there, Dollard’s troop forced a party of Iroquois to scatter into the woods, but they were too late to save the three Frenchmen who were the victims of this attack: Nicolas Duval had been killed and his companions, Blaise Juillet and Mathurin Soulard, had been drowned while trying to escape from the enemy. Dollard seized the Iroquois canoe, took Duval’s body back to Ville-Marie, and probably attended his funeral the next day. On setting out the second time the expedition included a seventeenth volunteer who, after failing to keep his word the previous day, had now changed his mind.
Was Dollard accompanied from the beginning of his voyage by the 40 Hurons and 4 Algonkins who were to fight at his side? Chaumonot’s and Radisson’s accounts give this impression, and the Relation expressly states it. Dollier de Casson, however, relates that the Indians did not join the Frenchmen until the Long Sault. All things considered, this latter hypothesis seems the more probable. It would explain on the one hand the fact that neither Chaumonot nor the author of the Relation, whose informants were some Huron survivors, mentioned the incident at Île Saint-Paul, in which the Indians would not have taken part; and on the other hand it would explain why the Seventeen, who were “unskilled in managing canoes,” were “held up for eight days by a little rapid at the end of this island [Montreal].” Although he left Montreal on 20 April, Dollard did not reach the Long Sault until 1 May (Chaumonot). Despite the presence of drift-ice on the river and the fact that “they journeyed by night to avoid discovery,” it is certain that with the help of skilful Indian canoeists the French would have reached their destination much sooner. But all this is only a hypothesis, as the documents give contradictory versions concerning the moment at which the Indians joined Dollard’s party.
On reaching the foot of the Long Sault (1 May), Dollard installed his troop in a makeshift way in an abandoned fort that the Algonkins had built the preceding autumn on a little rise. The next day, a Sunday, scouts spotted some Iroquois who were reconnoitring and who immediately fled. News of this encounter caused some anxiety among the Hurons, one of whom even insisted that they return to Montreal at once; it was finally agreed that “next day they would make a counter-palisade to protect the one that they had found there.” But the enemy, who had been alerted by their scouts, did not give them time to do so; with “a hatchet in the belt” and “a musket at the Canoe’s prow and a paddle in the hand,” 200 (or 300) Onondagas soon came into sight on the river. “Surprised by so prompt and orderly an advance,” Dollard and his men abandoned the meal that they were preparing and hastily shut themselves up in the fort. Firing broke out on both sides before they even had time to recognize each other.
After a few salvoes an Onondaga chieftain advanced unarmed to enquire “who were in the fort, and what they had come there for.” “Frenchmen, Hurons and Algonkins, a hundred in all, who are here to meet the Nez-Percés,” was the reply. The Iroquois then proposed a truce, to enable them to take counsel; anxious to reinforce their shelter, the French accepted, on condition that the enemy retire to the other side of the river. But far from going to the other side, the Iroquois began to raise stockades, while the allies were busy fortifying themselves as strongly as possible.
Dollard and his men had certainly not foreseen such an encounter. They had hoped to find the usual small, scattered bands of hunters. Now, in an unusual move, in 1660 the Iroquois had assembled on the Ottawa on their way back from the hunt because they had a rendezvous in the Richelieu islands with 500 warriors who were awaiting them in order to attack the French colony. Dollard had thus come up against a corps of the invasion army. This was not to be the last of his surprises.
Before the allies had finished fortifying their shelter, the Iroquois were already attacking. Heavy fire speedily compelled them to retire in disorder, leaving behind them dead and wounded. Some Hurons sprang beyond the palisade, cut off the head of an Onondaga chieftain, and “stuck it on a pike above the palisade as a trophy.” Furious, the Iroquois made a second attempt, attacking the allies from the rear, it seems, in order to achieve greater surprise. This time too they were repulsed so vigorously that by the Onondagas’ own admission, if the allies “had chased them, they would have destroyed them all.” In not ordering a sortie, Dollard perhaps committed the error that cost him the victory.
After this second failure the Onondagas dispatched a canoe to the Richelieu islands to seek the aid of the 500 Mohawks and Oneidas who were waiting for them there. These reinforcements did not arrive until the fifth or seventh day following. In the meantime, well hidden behind their stockades, the Iroquois kept constant watch on the allies’ fort, firing each time anyone tried to leave it. Trapped in their confined reduit, almost without water because they were on a hill, the French and their allies soon found themselves in an extremely difficult situation: “The cold, the stench, the lack of sleep, hunger and thirst, wearied them more than the enemy. The scarcity of water was so great that they could no longer swallow the thick flour that soldiers are accustomed to live on in these extremities. They found a little water in a hole in the palisade, but when it was divided they scarcely had enough to moisten their mouths. The younger members made sorties from time to time over the stakes, for there were no gates, to fetch water from the river under cover of a heavy fusillade which drove back the enemy; but as they had lost their large receptacles [which had been left behind at the river’s edge upon the enemy’s arrival], they carried only small ones, which could not meet the needs of 60 persons both for drinking-water and for sagamité.” In addition, as the Hurons and Algonkins prided themselves on replying to every shot fired by the enemy, ammunition began to run low.
Such was the precarious situation of Dollard’s party when the 500 warriors arrived from the Richelieu. From then on it was no longer possible to cherish any illusions about the outcome of the battle. Therefore Annaotaha, the chief of the Hurons, proposed that they try to obtain “some satisfactory settlement” through the intermediary of a member of his group, an Oneida who had been adopted by the Hurons. When this suggestion was accepted, the Oneida and two “of the more important” Hurons were laden with presents and told what they were to say. While these bearers of a flag of truce were on their way to the enemy camp, their comrades in arms were offering prayers “to commend to God the outcome of this embassy.” On the other hand, some Hurons who had been adopted by the Iroquois and who belonged to the Iroquois army took advantage of the truce to beg their compatriots in the French party to give up an unequal combat while there was still time, giving them assurances as to the welcome that the Iroquois had in store for them. Several Hurons – 24 or 30 – crossed the barricade and went over to the other side. Hoping that the whole troop would lay down their arms, some Iroquois came up to the small fort “with the intention of getting hold of those who wanted to flee.” Disturbed by this move and having little confidence in the outcome of the embassy, the French opened fire, shooting down those who had ventured closest. Annaotaha upbraided his companions sharply for their haste: “Ah! comrades, you have spoiled everything. . . . Now that you have embittered them, they will charge upon us in such a rage, that we are without doubt lost.” The Huron chief was right; in breaking the truce before the parley had failed, the French had just committed their second error.
As Annaotaha had foreseen, the Iroquois were incensed and rushed to attack the little fort. They were met with a hail of lead, but were not long in coming back, carrying for protection “mantlets of three pieces of wood lashed side to side, which covered them from the crown of the head to the middle of the thigh.” Sheltering behind these makeshift shields, several of them were able to come up to the palisade and to slip “under the loop-holes,” where they set to work to breach the walls. Aware of this new danger, the French “[took apart] two pistols and packed the barrels with powder,” and setting fire to a fuse, they used them as grenades, but without much result. Then they had the idea of using in the same manner a keg of powder which hit something (the top of the palisade or a branch of a tree) and exploded on falling back inside the fort. Taking advantage of this mishap, the Iroquois took control of the loop-holes and fired from the outside on everything that moved inside the French reduit. One of the Frenchmen, “seeing that all was lost, and that several of his companions who had been mortally wounded were still alive, . . . despatched them with sturdy blows of his hatchet, to deliver them, by this inhuman act of mercy, from the fires of the Iroquois.” When the enemy penetrated into the fort, they found only five Frenchmen and four Hurons alive.
According to Chaumonot, the battle of the Long Sault was begun on 2 May; according to Radisson and Chaumonot it probably lasted seven days, eight according to Dollier de Casson and ten according to the Relation. If we except the five survivors who fell into the enemy’s hands, Dollard and his companions must have perished between 9 and 12 May 1660. One of the French prisoners was tortured to death on the scene of the combat; the remaining four were distributed among the Mohawks, Oneidas, and Onondagas and suffered the same fate a little later. In Montreal Bénigne Basset compiled the inventory of the belongings of Jacques Boisseau on 25 May, of René Doussin and Jean Valets the following day. On 3 June Abbé Souart drew up the death certificates of the Seventeen. The news of the disaster reached Quebec on 8 June, “towards midnight.”
It was not until 6 Nov. 1660 that Basset proceeded to compile Dollard’s post-obit inventory. His belongings, which were not numerous, were valued at 38 livres, 10 sols; his debts came to 32 livres, 10 sols; however, various notes signed by Dollard and not mentioned in the inventory bring the liabilities up to 119 livres, 10 sols. To the deceased’s assets should be added the sum of 79 livres, 10 sols that he had devoted to developing his grant of land. On 2 May 1661 this property was assigned by Maisonneuve to Pierre Picoté de Belestre on condition that he pay back to Dollard’s estate the 79 livres, 10 sols previously mentioned. Dollard’s belongings were put up for auction on 13 Nov. 1661. The sale of 9 of the 14 articles offered brought in 40 livres, 12 sols.
Did Dollard and his companions save New France by their resistance and death at the Long Sault? Opinions are divided, because agreement has not been reached upon the meaning of the expression “to save New France.” If it is used in its absolute sense, and if it is affirmed that Dollard saved the colony from certain destruction and that he subdued the Iroquois for good, then it is obvious that the Seventeen did not save New France. But if a relative meaning is given to this expression, and if it is affirmed that in these particular circumstances Dollard momentarily averted from the colony a grave menace, then there is no doubt that the Seventeen saved New France. It should nevertheless be added that they did it involuntarily and by chance, since they had not foreseen meeting on the Ottawa a corps of the invasion army, of whose existence they were unaware.
But in addition, if Dollard saved New France, even involuntarily, the real reason must be given. Dollier de Casson reports that the French “had killed so many of the enemy that these used their bodies to climb over the palisades of the fort.” Therefore, seized with fright, the Iroquois are supposed to have said: “If seventeen Frenchmen dealt with us in that fashion when they were in such a wretched hole, how shall we be treated when we have to attack a strong building in which are collected numbers of such people? We must not be so mad as to go any farther, to do so would mean death to us all. Let us go home.” Thus, according to the Sulpician, the Iroquois probably gave up their invasion plan because of the terror which the vigorous defence by the Seventeen and the very considerable number of their own dead are believed to have caused them.
Were the Iroquois losses as great as was claimed by Dollier de Casson and Vachon* de Belmont, who wrote that “the enemy lost a third of their force”? Certainly not. On one hand, Indians did not expose their warriors to useless slaughter, fleeing unhesitantly and unashamedly from too costly a fight, even trying to obtain “some satisfactory settlement.” The Iroquois probably did not act otherwise at the Long Sault. Moreover, they made only three or four assaults against the little fort. The rest of the time, well protected behind their stockades, they waited for the warriors from the Richelieu to arrive, being content to keep watch on the allies’ fort to prevent them from coming out of it. For these reasons it seems impossible that the number of their dead was very high.
It is true that Radisson said that he believed “for certain that ye Iroquoits lost many men”; but that is merely an opinion, which we must interpret, asking ourselves what was meant at that time by losing “many men.” Two documents connected with the Dollard affair allow us to establish a scale of reference: the 1660 Relation and a Dutch report written at Fort Orange and dated 15 June 1660. After the combat, recounts the Relation, the Iroquois “divided their captives. Two Frenchmen were apportioned to the Agnieronnons, two to the Onnontagueronnons, and the fifth to the Onneioutheronnons, to give them all a taste of French flesh, and . . . to invite them to a bloody war for avenging the deaths of a score of their men killed on this occasion.” The author of the Relation had obtained this piece of information from some Hurons who had survived the Long Sault. In the Dutch document can be read the version by the Iroquois themselves: “Nothing new concerning the savages has happened here, except that the Maquas and Sinnekus, six hundred strong, have attacked a fort, defended by seventeen Frenchmen and one hundred savages; . . . they have lost fourteen killed; nineteen were wounded.” A score of deaths is a much more probable figure than the great slaughter of which Dollier de Casson and Vachon de Belmont speak.
A poor judge of the Indians, Dollier de Casson was wrong when he ascribed the abandonment of the invasion project to the fact that the Iroquois were afraid. The latter were acting normally in returning immediately to their cantons, just as Marie de l’Incarnation wrote: “It is the characteristic of these Indians, even if they have taken or killed only a score of men, to go back to display them in their country.” The Relation does not offer a different explanation of the Iroquois’ decision: “After this distribution [of the prisoners] they departed, abandoning their intention to come and overwhelm our settlements, in order the sooner to conduct to their several countries those wretched victims, destined to appease the rage and cruelty of the most barbarous of all Nations.”
Like all the original inhabitants of North America, the Iroquois were blindly obeying time-honoured laws. In the autumn of 1660, for example, having raised an army of 600 men, they advanced on New France. On the way some warriors raced off in pursuit of a stag. A shot meant for the animal killed the leader of the expedition. Taking this accident as a bad omen, the army broke off its project and dispersed. This new failure did not discourage the stubborn Iroquois; in 1661 they sowed terror in the colony, where they killed more than 100 of the French.
Thanks to a conjunction of circumstances, then, Dollard and his companions diverted the Iroquois army temporarily from its objective in 1660, thereby allowing the settlers to harvest their crop and escape famine and allowing Radisson to reach Montreal safe and sound with a load of furs valued at 200,000 livres. The Seventeen did not die in vain. And their merit was great. They were the first to take the offensive against the Iroquois when they left populated regions to destroy the enemy bands before they could strike at the colony. This tactic was ahead of its time since, except for the expedition by the Carignan-Salières regiment, it was not taken up until much later.
We must nevertheless take care not to exaggerate the importance of this episode in the Iroquois wars. During the heroic years of New France confrontations were frequent and the defenders of the colony valorous. Although little known, many feats of arms were no less splendid than that of the Seventeen. It is only the aura in which the battle of the Long Sault has been enveloped and the polemics to which it has given rise that explain the important place it occupies in Canadian historiography, as well as the nature and length of this present study, without however justifying them. In the picture of the first war between the French and Iroquois we must not relegate to the background, in favour of Dollard, people like Claude de Brigeac, Jacques Godefroy de Vieux-Pont, Jean de Lauson (the younger), and especially someone like Lambert Closse, who were not inferior to him in courage and determination. It is fitting to recognize the merit of each, without trying to add to his glory.
APQ, Manuscrits concernant la Nouvelle-France, I, 321–26, 353–55. Dollier de Casson, History of Montreal (Flenley), 252–64. Marie Guyart de l’Incarnation, Lettres (Richaudeau), II, 148–75 (see the letters of 25 June, 17 and 23 September, and 2 November 1660 which, at least in part, bear on the affair of the Long-Sault), 154–62, Mémoire de Joseph-Marie Chaumonot. JR (Thwaites), XLV, 244–60; XLVII, 48–50. JJ (Laverdière et Casgrain), année 1660. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), XIII, 175. [Pierre-Esprit Radisson], Voyages of Pierre Esprit Radisson, being an account of his travels and experiences among the North American Indians, from 1652 to 1684, transcribed from original manuscripts in the Bodleian Library and the British Museum, ed. G. D. Scull (Prince Soc., XVI, Boston, 1885; New York, 1943), 234–36. Vachon de Belmont, Histoire du Canada, 10–11.
To enable the reader to follow the historiography of Dollard, the studies listed below are given in chronological order. Charlevoix, Histoire, I, 347. Garneau, Histoire du Canada, I, 278–79. Ferland, Cours d’histoire du Canada, I, 455–62. Faillon, Histoire de la colonie français, II, 395–420. Parkman, The old régime (1st ed.). P. Rousseau, Histoire de la vie de M. Paul de Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve, fondateur et premier gouverneur de Ville-Marie (Montréal, ), 149–59. William Kingsford, The history of Canada (10v., Toronto and London, 1887–98), I, 261–62. Benjamin Sulte, “Le siège du Long-Sault,” Pages d’histoire du Canada (Montréal, 1891), 273–82. Cyprien Tanguay, “Dollard et ses compagnons,” BHR, VI (1900), 26–27. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Dollard Des Ormeaux,” Can. Antiquarian and Numismatic J., 3d ser., IX (1912), 45–73; “Les compagnons de Dollard Des Ormeaux,” Can. Antiquarian and Numismatic J., 4th ser., X (1913), 1–44. W. H. Atherton, Montreal, 1535–1914 (3v., Montreal, Vancouver, Chicago, 1914), I, 163–72. É.-Z. Massicotte, Dollard Des Ormeaux et ses compagnons: notes et documents (Montréal, 1920); review by Gustave Lanctot in CHR, I (1920), 394–95. E. R. Adair, “Dollard Des Ormeaux and the fight at the Long Sault: a re-interpretation of Dollard’s exploit,” CHR, XIII (1932), 121–38. Gustave Lanctot, “Dollard Des Ormeaux and the fight at the Long Sault: Was Dollard the saviour of New France?” CHR, XIII (1932), 138–46.
Lionel Groulx, “Le dossier de Dollard: la valeur des sources, la grandeur du dessein, la grandeur du résultat,” Le Devoir (Montréal), 7, 11 mai 1932; publié en plaquette (Montréal, 1932); “Le dossier de Dollard,” in Notre maître le passé (3v., Montréal, 1924–43), II, 25–53. L.-P. Desrosiers, “Dollard Des Ormeaux dans les textes,” Cahiers des Dix, X (1945), 41–85. Lanctot, Histoire du Canada, I, 303–9. Lionel Groulx, Dollard est-il un mythe? (Montréal et Paris, 1960). Adrien Pouliot et Silvio Dumas, L’exploit du Long-Sault: les témoignages des contemporains (SHQ Cahiers d’Histoire, XII, 1960). Gustave Lanctot, “Gloire et respect à Dollard,” RUL, XV (1960–61), 315–20. Adrien Pouliot, Series of articles on Dollard in RUL, XV (1960–61), 321–27, 430–40, 619–31, 814–31, 879–93; “L’exploit du Long-Sault: ses motifs, ses résultats,” RHAF, XIV (1960–61), 3–15, 157–70. Silvio Dumas, “Le billet de Dollard,” RUL, XV (1960–61), 709–15. Jacques Rousseau, “‘L’affaire Dollard,’ de Fort Orange au Long-Sault,” RHAF, XIV (1960–61), 370–77. André Vachon, “L’affaire du Long-Sault: valeur de la source huronne,” RUL, XVIII (1963–64), 495–515.
Revisions based on:
Bibliothèque et Arch. Nationales du Québec, Centre d’arch. de Montréal, CE601-S51, 3 juin 1660.