Chapter 28: Iroquois Shooting the Rapid!

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Chapter 28: Iroquois Shooting the Rapid!

Monday, May 2nd, 1660.

Scouts had gone up to the head of the Long Sault rapid in darkness. At dawn, the Canadians, new and old, rolled out of their make-shift beds. The Hurons and Algonquins slept, as usual, under their birchbark canoes; the French used the canoe sails as tents now.

The sun was filtering through the last clouds of the rainstorm. The air was cool but pleasant, fires were burning, kettles slung on crooked sticks for the morning meal. The men talked animatedly among themselves about last night's stories.

Suddenly the scout canoe shot over the rim of the rapids and came hurtling down the rocky waterway. Pilote, in the bow, waved frantically.

No one could hear him. The canoe was lost for a moment in the white foam. He was yelling, but the roar of the rapids snuffed his words.

It didn't matter; Dollard knew.

"Positions!" Dollard yelled.

"Move!" said Robert Jurie.

"Go!" Annahotaha and Mituvemeg spoke simultaneously.

Fifty men grabbed their weapons and ran for cover. Some wedged themselves in the rocks alongside the foot of the rapids, some went behind the rudimentary fort, some took cover in the forest. It wasn't until they were all in position, that Dollard saw their canoes still beached in plain sight.

"The damn canoes, Robert," he said to Robert Jurie.

"I know, Dollard, but it doesn't matter. By the time those Iroquois see them, it'll be too late for them to do anything about them."

"Don't fire until I give the word!" yelled Dollard. "God, it's happening so fast," he said.

Pilote and the others had beached their canoe and were running for the Algonquin enclosure. Dollard's eyes followed them in. He waved; they returned the wave and held up two hands indicating two canoes. Then Pilote held up his right hand, index and baby fingers spread out wide; three times. Dollard read the message and yelled to those near him."Two canoes! Indians take the first canoe, Frenchmen the second. Ready! Wait for the word!" The allied chiefs repeated the instruction to their men.

Suddenly, the water catapulted two large elm bark canoes out of the roar. Iroquois warriors in war paint filled the canoes. The canoes carried eight men each. The canoeists were expert, but all their efforts were concentrated on controlling the canoes. None yet saw the enemy. The bowman in the lead canoe looked ahead to judge the water route. He saw the French canoes beached in the clearing on the left. His head jerked up; his lips moved, he had to have yelled to counter the rushing water, and some eyes shot from the water to the beach. The sternman kept his eyes on the water. It was but an instant, but they knew.

A middle warrior in the first canoe lifted his paddle and pointed to the shore so the second canoe could see it. He didn't know whether they had or not. He never knew. The order to fire came as he lifted the paddle and Annahotaha put a bullet through his head. He fell sideways, tipping the canoe.

The second canoe was still battling the rapids fifteen yards back.

The Algonquins and Hurons began shooting at the first canoe in the spume, shooting the Iroquois in the water.

The second canoe ejected from the rapid: the middle paddlers were trying to get stabilized to shoot, but the French volley hit chest high, and the canoe flipped sideways from the impact. As heads appeared in the water, they were shot. The white foam turned crimson.