Massacre at Michilimackinac

Published on February 6, 2013 by Carol

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Fort Michilimackinac, Michigan

The particulars of the taking of Fort Michilimackinac are more fully known. That fort, standing on the south side of the strait connecting Lakes Huron and Michigan, was one of the most important posts on the frontier. It was the great place of deposit and departure between the upper and lower countries, the great assembling point of the Indian traders, on their voyages to and from Montreal, Canada There were about 30 houses and families within the enclosure of the stockade and the garrison, under the command of Major George Etherington, numbered between 90 and 100 men.

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The capture of this important station was entrusted to the Chippewa, assisted by the Sac. The King’s birthday, the 3rd of June, having arrived, a game of baggatiway was proposed by the Indians.

This is played with a bat and ball; the former being about four feet long, curved, and terminating in a sort of racket. Two posts are placed in the ground, half a mile or a mile apart. Each party has its post, and the game consists in throwing up to the adversary’s post, the ball which at the beginning is placed in the middle of the course.

The policy of this expedient for surprising the garrison will appear clearly, when it is understood that the game is necessarily attended with much violence and noise, and in the ardor and heat of the contest would be diverted in any direction that the successful party should choose. The design of the Indians, in this case, was to throw the ball over the pickets, and in the excitement of the game, it was but natural that all the Indians should rush after it. The Indians had persuaded as many as possible of the garrison and settlers to come voluntarily without the pickets for the purpose of witnessing the game which was said to be played for a high wager. Among these was Major Etherington, the commandant, who laid a wager on the side of the Chippewa. Not fewer than 400 Indians were engaged on both sides, and consequently, when possession of the fort was gained, the situation of the English must be desperate indeed. The match commenced without the fort with great animation. Henry, an Indian trader, who gives the account, had been occupied within the fort about half an hour writing, when he suddenly heard a loud Indian war cry, and a noise of general confusion. Going instantly to his window, he saw a crowd of Indians within the fort, furiously cutting down and scalping every Englishman they found: and he could plainly witness the last struggles of some of his particular acquaintances.

He had, in the room, a fowling-piece loaded with swan shot. This he immediately seized and held it for a few minutes, expecting to hear the fort drum beat to arms. In this dreadful interval, he saw several of his countrymen fall; and more than one struggling between the knees of the Indians, who, holding them in this manner, scalped them while yet alive. At length, disappointed in the hope of seeing any resistance made on the part of the garrison, and sensible that no effort of his single arm could avail against 400 Indians, he turned his attention to his own safety. Seeing several of the Canadian villagers looking out composedly upon the scene of blood — neither opposing the Indians, nor molested by them — he conceived the hope of finding security in one of their houses. He immediately climbed over a low fence, separating his door yard and that of his next neighbor, Monsieur Langlade. Entering his house precipitately, he found the whole family gazing upon the horrible spectacle before them. He begged Langlade to put him in some place of safety until the heat of the affair should be over, an act of charity which might preserve him from the general massacre. Langlade looked at him for a moment while he spoke, and then turned again to the window, shrugging his shoulders, and intimating that he could do nothing for him.

Henry was now ready to despair; but at this moment, a Pani woman, a slave of Monsieur Langlade, beckoned him to follow her. She guided him to a door which she opened, desiring him to enter, and telling him that it led to the garret, where he must go and conceal himself. Scarcely yet lodged in this shelter, such as it was, Henry felt an eager desire to know what was passing without. His desire was more than satisfied by his finding an aperture in the loose board walls of the house, which afforded him a full view of the area of the fort. Here, he beheld with horror, in shapes the foulest and most terrible, the ferocious triumphs of the Indians. The dead were scalped and mangled; the dying were writhing and shrieking under the unsatiated knife and the reeking tomahawk; and from the bodies of some ripped open, their butchers were drinking the blood, scooped up in the hollow of joined hands, and quaffed amid shouts of rage and victory. In a few minutes, which seemed to Henry scarcely one, every victim, who could be found, being destroyed, there was a general cry of “all is finished;” and at this moment, Henry heard some of the Indians enter Langlade’s house. He trembled and grew faint with fear.

As the floor consisted only of a single layer of boards, he overheard everything that passed. The Indians inquired, on entering, if there were any Englishmen about. Langlade replied, that he could not say — he did not know of any — as in fact he did not — “they could search for themselves, and be satisfied.” The state of Henry’s mind may be imagined, when immediately upon this reply, the Indians were brought to the garret door. Luckily some delay was occasioned — through the management of the Pani woman — she had locked the door, and perhaps it was by the absence of the key. Henry had sufficient presence of mind to improve these few moments in looking for a hiding- place. This, he found in the corner of the garret, among a heap of such birch bark vessels as are used in making maple sugar; and he had not completely concealed himself when the door opened, and four Indians entered, all armed with tomahawks, and all besmeared with blood from head to foot.

The die appeared to be cast. Henry could scarcely breathe, and he thought that the throbbing of his heart occasioned a noise loud enough to betray him. The Indians walked about the garret in every direction; and one of them approached him so closely, that at one moment, had he put forth his hand, he must have touched him. Favored, however, by the dark color of his clothes, and the want of light in the room, which had no window, he still remained unseen. The Indians took several turns about the room — entertaining Monsier Langlade all the while with a minute account of the proceedings of the day; and at last, returned down stairs. There was, at the time a mat in the room, and Henry fell asleep; and he was finally awakened by the wife of Langlade, who had gone up to stop a hole in the roof. She was surprised to see him there — remarked that the Indians had killed most of the English, but, that he might hope to escape. He lay there during the night.

At length, the wife of Langlade informed the Indians of Henry’s concealment, fearing, as she subsequently alleged, that if they should find him secreted in her house, they would destroy her and her children. Unlocking the door, she was followed by half a dozen Indians, naked down to their waist, and intoxicated. On entering, their chief, Wenniway, a ferocious man, of gigantic stature, advanced with lips compressed, seized Henry by one hand, and with the other held a large carving-knife, as if to plunge it into his heart, while his eyes were steadfastly fixed on his. Gaaing for a moment, he dropped his arm and said, “I won’t kill you.” He then at once adopted him in the place of a brother whom he had lost in the wars with the English, and Henry was eventually ransomed.

Seventy of the troops were massacred, and of these, the bodies of several were boiled and eaten. The remainder, together with those taken at the fall of forts, St. Joseph, and Green Bay, were restored after the war.

Source: Legendsofamerica Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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