The King's Soldiers

Attacks On The Iroquois

An Attack on the Iroquois

Map of the 1665-1666 campaigns of the régiment de Carignan-Salières

Caption: Map of the 1665-1666 campaigns of the régiment de Carignan-Salières

This plan was not lacking in audacity. The newly arrived soldiers were unfamiliar with the country, its distances, Amerindian tactics and the climate. All these factors made such an expedition extremely perilous, but the commanders did not wish to lose the initiative. In January 1666, therefore, some 300 soldiers under the command of Governor de Courcelles, accompanied by 200 Canadian volunteers, left Quebec on foot and set off doggedly through the snow, headed for Iroquois country. This was an astonishing undertaking, since at the time neither Europeans nor Amerindians usually fought in the winter. At Fort Sainte-Thérèse, a group of volunteers from Montreal swelled the ranks of the expedition, which continued on its way, though the men did not know exactly where they were. On February 17, the Dutch in the village of Schenectady were amazed to see large numbers of French soldiers pouring out of the woods, some shod in snowshoes and many pulling toboggans carrying their meagre provisions. Since they were not at war, the Dutch were prepared to play host while the French recovered their strength. However, events overtook them. The French had barely arrived when a skirmish broke out with Mohawks, whom they had not seen until then. Then a British delegation arrived to call Courcelles to account for this incursion so close to the positions of the King of England! Courcelles was being faced with one surprise after another. He had found the Dutch when he thought he was among the Iroquois. New Holland was now the colony of New York, he learned, and Orange had been renamed Albany. Although the news had failed to reach Quebec before his departure, the English had in fact taken over the Dutch colony the year before. Even though the Mohawk villages were only a three-day march from Schenectady, the French were too exhausted and close to starvation to continue. They obtained some bread and peas from the Dutch, and, containing their anger, headed home.