Chapter 29: First Fight

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Chapter 29: First Fight 


That warning word shouted at exactly the same pitch and volume was a constant seared into every man's brain, some since childhood, some for only a few years. The effect was precisely the same: terror, followed immediately by resolution, then action. The only other possible reaction, paralysis, meant death

Everyone turned, astonished. It was the Canadians' turn to be surprised. The main Iroquois band had been waiting just above the Long Sault rapid. They did not have to wait for the report of the men who got away. When their scouts at the top of the rapid saw what happened to the advance canoes, the chiefs decided to attack.

Several errors flashed through Dollard's mind.

"Guards," he thought. "After the attack, we posted no more scouts up the rapid, sent no one to follow the escaped Iroquois."

But that wasn't the worst of it. They were caught open-mouthed, gaping at the Iroquois. Their canoes still sat beached; their kettles hung on forked sticks over fires for the morning meal; they had done little to repair the Algonquin fort. Dollard felt ashamed. There was no time to consider all this now.

"Get what you can -- ammunition and guns first!" he yelled. "Get the food and kettles and get into that stockade! Run! Move!"

They ran -- French, Huron, and Algonquin -- picking up what they could. Within ninety seconds, everybody was inside the meager fort. They watched, disbelieving eyes being forced to accept.

"Fire at will!" commanded Dollard.

"How many canoes?" yelled Dollard.

"Forty or fifty," answered Annahotaha.

"God, that means around two hundred."

Annahotaha nodded grimly, "And they are not hunters. They are all Onondaga warriors."

The Canadians had opened fire and were peppering the Iroquois with shot. Some of the Iroquois had landed and were returning fire. They were well armed. Each had a hatchet at his side or in his hand, and many carried muskets. The noise was unbearable; both sides were yelling and firing.

The Iroquois themselves were astonished. Never had they seen what they were seeing. Never had the French left their forts to fight in Indian territory. Never had they seen so many troops in their forest. They didn't know how many enemies there were, but they knew by the firing that there were plenty.

Both sides faced severe changes in tactics. The Iroquois had to try to adjust to this new threat and Montreal would have to wait. As for the allies, their dreams of a second ambush had vanished completely. They were sitting in a poorly reinforced wreck of a fort and most of their large kettles, some of their provisions, and all of their canoes were in Iroquois hands. They had all their ammunition, for which they thanked God, but the situation had changed drastically.

The fighting went on. The Iroquois were trying to take advantage of the surprise they had opened with and pressed the attack. They leaped out of their canoes before they were beached; they began firing when their feet hit the ground. They had started yelling as soon as they crested the rapids and they didn't stop.

Dollard had lost several advantages. Had he been ready for this Iroquois attack as he had been for the first two canoes, his party could have killed dozens by firing on them while the Iroquois were still trying to get down the rapids. The Iroquois knew that could happen, so instead of trying to sneak down the rapids, they stormed down and hoped the effect would disorganize their enemy. Dollard's men didn't react to that in a disorganized fashion: they acted out a hasty but effective retreat. But they had been disorganized beforehand. They had considered all the possibilities except one -- that the Iroquois would be massing to attack above the rapids. Their mistakes were proving costly. Not in men -- no French or Indian ally had been hit while a score of Iroquois was dead -- but in terms of position.