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A Very Bloody Game

May 2024
2min read

Alexander Henry, the young American who was one of the few “Englishmen” to escape the massacre at Fort Michilimackinac in 1763, later wrote a memoir called Travels and Adventures in Canada and the Indian Territories in which he vividly described the hair-raising event. The lacrosse game that set it up, he explained, took place just outside the gates of the fort, and “In the ardour of contest… nothing could be less liable to excite premature alarm, than that the ball should be tossed over the pickets of the fort, nor that having fallen there, it should be followed on the instant, by all engaged in the game. …” By this Trojan stratagem the Indians swarmed upon the English garrison before any of them were aware of what was really happening.

Luckily for Henry, he had been delayed at his home writing letters, and so was a spectator rather than a victim when the killing began. “Going instantly to my window, ” he related, “I saw a crowd of Indians, within the fort, furiously cutting down and scalping every Englishman they found.…

“I had, in the room in which I was, a fowling-piece, loaded with swanshot. This I immediately seized, and held it for a few minutes, waiting to hear the drum beat to arms. In this dreadful interval, I saw several of my countrymen fall, and more than one struggling between the knees of an Indian, who, holding him in this manner, scalped him, while yet living.

”… Amid the slaughter which was raging, !observed many of the [French] Canadian inhabitants of the fort, calmly looking on, neither opposing the Indians, nor suffering injury; and, from this circumstance, I conceived a hope of finding security in their houses.

“Between the yard-door of my own house, and that of M. Langlade, my next neighbour, there was only a low fence, over which I easily climbed. At my entrance, I found the whole family at the windows, gazing at the scene of blood before them. I addressed myself immediately to M. Langlade, begging that he would put me into some place of safety, until the heat of the affair should be over;… but, while I uttered my petition, M. Langlade, who had looked for a moment at me, turned again to the window, shrugging his shoulders, and intimating, that he could do nothing for me:—’ Que voudriez-vous que j’en ferais ?’

“This was a moment for despair; but, the next, a Pant fPawnee] woman, a slave of M. Langlade’s, beckoned to me to follow her. She brought me to a door, which she opened, desiring me to enter, and telling me that it led to the garret, where I must go and conceal myself. I joyfully obeyed her directions; and she, having followed me up to the garret-door, locked it after me, and with great presence of mind took away the key.

”… Through an aperture, which afforded me a view of the area of the fort, I beheld, in shapes the foulest and most terrible, the ferocious triumphs of barbarian conquerors. The dead were scalped and mangled; the dying were writhing and shrieking, under the unsatiated knife and 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.… No long time elapsed, before every one being destroyed, who could be found, there was a general cry, of ‘All is finished!’ ”

Although Henry was handed over to the Indians by Langlade, he survived a series of close calls with the aid of his good friend Wawatam, a Chippewa of considerable local standing. With his cooperation Henry shaved his head, dressed entirely in Indian garb, and thus escaped further hostile attention. After a year of hunting and fishing with Wawatam and his family, he managed to get to Montreal by canoe, and for many years thereafter was engaged in the fur trade.

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