The First Battle

In July 1609, Samuel de Champlain, accompanied by a group of Montagnais, Huron and Algonquin, leaves Quebec heading upstream of St. Lawrence to the Caniaderiguaronte Lake, known today as Champlain Lake. After a few days of travel without incident, the group of Amerindians and French saw the great lake. In the evening of July 29, the expedition encounters a group of Iroquois warriors.

The Iroquois began constructing barricades with their canoes and trees cut down with their stone axes. Champlain dispatches two canoes to the enemy. The messengers inquire if the Iroquois are willing to fight. According to Champlain, the answer was ‘we want nothing else”. It was agreed between the two parties that.

It being to dark to fight at once, the battle would take place at sunrise the following day. The two sides spent the night within earshot of one another, singing, bragging and trading insults – the Iroquois on the shore, the French and their allies on their vessels. The following morning, Champlain led his men towards the shore. According to his account, about 200 Iroquois left the barricade as they saw the enemy approach, and advanced at a slow pace. At their front were the three chefs, distinguished by their headdresses. Champlain was advised by his allies that these men should be killed as soon as possible. As the Iroquois approached, the Allies opened fire.

The Iroquois stood firmly. Champlain advanced at about 30 paces of the enemy. He loaded his musket with four balls, and rested it against his cheek. He aimed directly at one of the three chiefs. With the same shot, two fell on the ground. As the Allies saw the effect of the shot, they attacked fiercely. The arrows flew on both sides.

The Iroquois were astonished that two men had been so quickly killed, although they were equipped with armour woven from cotton thread, and with wood which was a proof against the arrows. At the same time, one of the French fired a shot from the woods, where a small party was hidden. The Iroquois lost courage and fled. About 30 Iroquois were killed in the battle. As to the Allies, fifteen or sixteen were wounded with arrow-shots, but all of them were soon healed. According to the description of the site, this first battle between the French and the Iroquois took place at Ticonderoga. This battle would have very serious consequences for New France.

This defeat for the Iroquois Confederacy served to anger and solidify their alliance with the British, France’s rival on the continent. The colony suffered for nearly a century   from raids, sieges and battles.

In 1701, peace was finally struck with the signing of the Great Peace of Montreal. Yet, the treaty didn’t cleanse the bitterness.

During the Seven Years’ Was, the Iroquois fought on the side of the British and helped them to bring an end to France’s great expectation in North America.

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