Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Settlers in Canada
Chapter VIII The Ascent of the River

Captain Sinclair having stated that they would have a longer journey on the following day, and that it would be advisable to start as soon as possible, they rose at daylight, and in half an hour had breakfasted and were again in the boats. Soon after they had pushed into the stream and hoisted the sails, for the wind was fair, Mr Campbell inquired how far they had to go on that day?

“About fifty miles if we possibly can,” replied Captain Sinclair. “We have made seventy-two miles in the first two days; but from here to Montreal, it is about ninety, and we are anxious to get the best part over to-day, so that we may land on a cleared spot which we know of, and that I feel quite sure in; for, I regret to say, you must trust to your tents and your own bedding for this night, as there is no habitation large enough to receive us on the river’s side, anywhere near where we wish to arrive.”

“Never mind, Captain Sinclair, we shall sleep very well, I dare say,” replied Mrs Campbell; “but where do all the rest of the party sleep?—there is only one tent.”

“Oh! never mind the rest of the party; we are used to it, and your gentlemen won’t mind it; some will sleep in thebateaux, some at the fire, some will watch and not sleep at all.”

After some further conversation, Mary Percival observed to Captain Sinclair: “You had not, I believe, Captain Sinclair, quite finished your account of Pontiac where you left off yesterday, at the time when he was blockading the Fort of Detroit. Will you oblige us by stating what afterwards took place?”

“With great pleasure, Miss Percival. There was great difficulty in relieving the fort, as all communication had been cut off; at last the governor sent his aide-de-camp, Captain Dalyell, who contrived to throw himself in the fort with about two hundred and fifty men. He shortly afterwards sallied out to attack the intrenchments of the Indians, but Pontiac having received intelligence of his intention, laid an ambuscade for him, beat back the troops with great loss, and poor Dalyell fell in the combat that took place near a bridge which still goes by the name of Bloody Bridge. Pontiac cut off the head of Captain Dalyell, and set it upon a post.”

“So much for Major Gladwin’s extreme sense of honour,” exclaimed Alfred; “had he detained Pontiac as a prisoner, nothing of this would have happened.”

“I agree with you, Mr Alfred,” replied Captain Sinclair? “it was letting loose a wolf; but Major Gladwin thought he was doing what was right, and therefore cannot be well blamed. After this defeat, the investment was more strict than ever, and the garrison suffered dreadfully. Several vessels which were sent out to supply the garrison fell into the hands of Pontiac, who treated the men very cruelly. What with the loss of men and constant watching, as well as the want of provisions, the garrison was reduced to the greatest privations. At last a schooner came off with supplies, which Pontiac, as usual, attacked with his warriors in their canoes. The schooner was obliged to stand out again; but the Indians followed, and by their incessant fire, killed or wounded almost every man on board of her, and at length boarded and took possession. As they were climbing up the shrouds and over the gunnel of the vessel, the captain of the vessel, who was a most determined man, and resolved not to fall into the hands of the Indians, called out to the gunner to set fire to the magazine, and blow them all up together. This order was heard by one of Pontiac’s chiefs acquainted with English; he cried out to the other Indians, and sprang away from the vessel; the other Indians followed him, and hurried away in their canoes, or by swimming as fast as they could from the vessel. The captain took advantage of the wind and arrived safe at the fort; and thus was the garrison relieved and those in the fort saved from destruction by the courage of this one man.”

“You say that Pontiac is now dead, at least Martin Super told us so. How did he die, Captain Sinclair?” inquired Mrs Campbell.

“He was killed by an Indian, but it is difficult to say why. For many years he had made friends with us and had received a liberal pension from the government; but it appears that his hatred against the English had again broken out, and in a council held by the Indians, he proposed assailing us anew. After he had spoken, an Indian buried his knife in his heart, but whether to gratify a private animosity or to avoid a further warfare with those who had always thinned their tribes, it is difficult to ascertain. One thing is certain, that most of the Indian animosity against the English is buried with him.”

“Thank you, Captain Sinclair,” said Mary Percival, “for taking so much trouble. I think Pontiac’s history is a very interesting one.”

“There was much to admire and much to deplore in his character, and we must not judge the Indian too harshly. He was formed for command, and possessed great courage and skill in all his arrangements, independent of his having the tact to keep all the Lake tribes of Indians combined,—no very easy task. That he should have endeavoured to drive us away from those lands of which he considered himself (and very correctly, too) as the sovereign, is not to be wondered at, especially as our encroachments daily increased. The great fault of his character, in our eyes, was his treachery; but we must remember that the whole art of Indian warfare is based upon stratagem.”

“But his attacking the fort after he had been so generously dismissed when his intentions were known, was surely very base,” remarked Mrs Campbell.

“What we consider a generous dismissal, he probably mistook for folly and weakness. The Indians have no idea of generosity in warfare. Had Pontiac been shot, he would have died bravely, and he had no idea that, because Major Gladwin did not think proper to take his life, he was therefore bound to let us remain in possession of his lands. But whatever treachery the Indians consider allowable and proper in warfare, it is not a portion of the Indian’s character; for at any other time his hospitality and good faith are not to be doubted, if he pledges himself for your safety. It is a pity that they are not Christians. Surely it would make a great improvement in a character which, even in its unenlightened state, has in it much to be admired.

“When the form of worship and creed is simple, it is difficult to make converts, and the Indian is a clear reasoner. I once had a conversation with one of the chiefs on the subject. After we had conversed some time, he said, ‘You believe in one God—so do we; you call him one name—we call him another; we don’t speak the same language, that is the reason. You say, suppose you do good, you go to land of Good Spirits—we say so too. Then Indians and Yangees (that is, English) both try to gain same object, only try in not the some way. Now I think that it much better that, as we all go along together, that every man paddle his own canoe. That my thought.’”

“It is, as you say, Captain Sinclair, difficult to argue with men who look so straightforward and are so practical in their ideas. Nevertheless,” said Mrs Campbell, “a false creed must often lead to false conduct; and whatever is estimable in the Indian character would be strengthened and improved by the infusion of Christian principles and Christian hopes—so that I must still consider it very desirable that the Indians should become Christians,—and I trust that by judicious and discreet measures such a result may gradually be brought about.”

It was two hours before sunset when they arrived at the spot at which they intended to pass the night: they landed, and some of the soldiers were employed in setting up the tent on a dry hillock, while others collected logs of wood for the fire. Martin Super brought on shore the bedding, and assisted by Alfred and Henry, placed it in the tent. Captain Sinclair’s canteen provided sufficient articles to enable them to make tea, and in less than half an hour the kettle was on the fire. As soon as they had partaken of these refreshments and the contents of a basket of provisions procured at Trois Rivières, the ladies retired for the night. Captain Sinclair stationed sentinels at different posts as a security from any intruders, and then the remainder of the troops with the other males composing the party lay down with their feet towards a large fire, composed of two or three trunks of trees, which blazed for many yards in height. In a short time all was quiet, and all were in repose except the sentinels, the sergeant and corporal, and Captain Sinclair, who relieved each other.

The night passed without any disturbance, and the next morning they re-embarked and pursued their course. Before sunset, they arrived at the town of Montreal, where it had been arranged that they should wait a day. Mr Campbell had a few purchases to make here, which he completed. It had been his intention, also, to procure two of the small Canadian horses, but by the advice of Captain Sinclair he abandoned the idea. Captain Sinclair pointed out to him, that having no forage or means of subsistence for the animals, they would be a great expense to him during the first year without being of much use; and further, that in all probability, when the garrison was relieved at Fort Frontignac in the following year, the officers would be too glad to part with their horses at a lower price than what they could be purchased for at Montreal. Having a letter of introduction to the Governor, they received every attention. The society was almost wholly French; and many of the inhabitants called out of politeness, or to satisfy their curiosity. The French ladies shrugged up their shoulders, and exclaimed, “Est-il possible?” when they heard that the Campbells were about to proceed to such a distant spot and settle upon it. The French gentlemen told the Miss Campbells that it was a great sacrifice to bury so much beauty in the wilderness; but what they said had little effect upon any of the party. Captain Sinclair offered to remain another day if Mr Campbell wished it; but, on the contrary, he was anxious to arrive as soon as possible at his destination; and the following morning they again embarked, having now about three hundred and sixty miles to ascend against the current and occasional rapids. It would take too much space if I were to narrate all that took place during their difficult ascent; how they were sometimes obliged to land and carry the cargoes of the boats; how one or two bateaux were upset and some of their stores lost; and how their privations increased on each following day of the journey. I have too much to relate to enter into this portion of the narrative, although there might be much interest in the detail; it will be sufficient to say that, after sixteen days of some peril and much fatigue, and of considerable suffering, from the clouds of mosquitoes which assailed them during the night, they were landed safely at Fort Frontignac, and treated with every attention by the commandant, who had received letters from the Governor of Quebec, desiring him to do all that he possibly could to serve them. The commandant, Colonel Forster, had shewn Mr Campbell and his party the rooms which had been provided for them, and now, for the first time after many days, they found themselves all together and alone.

After a short conversation, in which they canvassed and commented upon the kindness which they had received, and the difficulties which they had, in consequence, surmounted, during their long and tedious journey from Quebec, Mr Campbell observed:—

“My dear wife and children, we have thus far proceeded without serious casualty: it has pleased the Almighty to conduct us safely over a boisterous sea, to keep our spirits up by providing us with unexpected friends and support, and we have now arrived within a few miles of our destination. But let us not suppose that our perils and difficulties are terminated; on the contrary, without wishing to dishearten you, I feel that they are about to commence. We have much privation, much fatigue, and, perhaps, much danger to encounter, before we can expect to be in comfort or in security; but we must put our trust in that gracious Providence which has hitherto so mercifully preserved us, and at the same time not relax in our own energy and industry, which must ever accompany our faith in the Divine aid. It is long since we have had an opportunity of being gathered together and alone. Let us seize this opportunity of pouring out our thanks to God for His mercies already vouchsafed, and praying for a continuance of His protection. Even in the wilderness, let us walk with Him, trust in Him, and ever keep Him in our thoughts. We must bear in mind that this entire life is but a pilgrimage; that if, during its course, we should meet with affliction or distress, it is His appointment, and designed undoubtedly for our good. It is our wisdom, as well as our duty, to submit patiently to whatever may befall us, never losing our courage or becoming disheartened by suffering, but trusting to the mercy and power of Him who can and will, at his own good time, deliver us from evil.”

Mr Campbell knelt down, surrounded by his family, and, in a fervent and feeling address, poured forth his thanksgiving for past mercies, and humble solicitation for further assistance. So powerful and so eloquent were his words, that the tears coursed down the cheeks of his wife and nieces; and when he had finished, all their hearts were so full, that they retired to their beds without further exchange of words than receiving his blessing, and wishing each other good night.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus