Discovery Of Lake George

It was thirty-three years since Champlain had first attacked the

Iroquois. They had nursed their wrath for more than a generation, and at

length their hour was come. The Dutch traders at Fort Orange, now

Albany, had supplied them with firearms. The Mohawks, the most easterly

of the Iroquois nations, had, among their seven or eight hundred

warriors, no less than three hundred armed with the arquebuse. They were

masters of the thunderbolts which, in the hands of Champlain, had struck

terror into their hearts.

In the early morning of the second of August, 1642, twelve Huron canoes

were moving slowly along the northern shore of the expansion of the St.

Lawrence known as the Lake of St. Peter. There were on board about forty

persons, including four Frenchmen, one of them being the Jesuit, Isaac

Jogues. During the last autumn he, with Father Charles Raymbault, had

passed along the shore of Lake Huron northward, entered the strait

through which Lake Superior discharges itself, pushed on as far as the

Sault Sainte Marie, and preached the Faith to two thousand Ojibwas, and

other Algonquins there assembled. He was now on his return from a far

more perilous errand. The Huron mission was in a state of destitution.

There was need of clothing for the priests, of vessels for the altars,

of bread and wine for the eucharist, of writing materials,--in short, of

everything; and, early in the summer of the present year, Jogues had

descended to Three Rivers and Quebec with the Huron traders, to procure

the necessary supplies. He had accomplished his task, and was on his way

back to the mission. With him were a few Huron converts, and among them

a noted Christian chief, Eustache Ahatsistari. Others of the party were

in course of instruction for baptism; but the greater part were heathen,

whose canoes were deeply laden with the proceeds of their bargains with

the French fur-traders.

Jogues sat in one of the leading canoes. He was born at Orleans in 1607,

and was thirty-five years of age. His oval face and the delicate mould

of his features indicated a modest, thoughtful, and refined nature. He

was constitutionally timid, with a sensitive conscience and great

religious susceptibilities. He was a finished scholar, and might have

gained a literary reputation; but he had chosen another career, and one

for which he seemed but ill fitted. Physically, however, he was well

matched with his work; for, though his frame was slight, he was so

active, that none of the Indians could surpass him in running.

With him were two young men, Rene Goupil and Guillaume Couture, donnes

of the mission,--that is to say, laymen who, from a religious motive and

without pay, had attached themselves to the service of the Jesuits.

Goupil had formerly entered upon the Jesuit novitiate at Paris, but

failing health had obliged him to leave it. As soon as he was able, he

came to Canada, offered his services to the Superior of the mission, was

employed for a time in the humblest offices, and afterwards became an

attendant at the hospital. At length, to his delight, he received

permission to go up to the Hurons, where the surgical skill which he had

acquired was greatly needed; and he was now on his way thither. His

companion, Couture, was a man of intelligence and vigor, and of a

character equally disinterested. Both were, like Jogues, in the foremost

canoes; while the fourth Frenchman was with the unconverted Hurons, in

the rear.

The twelve canoes had reached the western end of the Lake of St. Peter,

where it is filled with innumerable islands. The forest was close on

their right, they kept near the shore to avoid the current, and the

shallow water before them was covered with a dense growth of tall

bulrushes. Suddenly the silence was frightfully broken. The war-whoop

rose from among the rushes, mingled with the reports of guns and the

whistling of bullets; and several Iroquois canoes, filled with warriors,

pushed out from their concealment, and bore down upon Jogues and his

companions. The Hurons in the rear were seized with a shameful panic.

They leaped ashore; left canoes, baggage, and weapons; and fled into the

woods. The French and the Christian Hurons made fight for a time; but

when they saw another fleet of canoes approaching from the opposite

shores or islands, they lost heart, and those escaped who could. Goupil

was seized amid triumphant yells, as were also several of the Huron

converts. Jogues sprang into the bulrushes, and might have escaped; but

when he saw Goupil and the neophytes in the clutches of the Iroquois, he

had no heart to abandon them, but came out from his hiding-place, and

gave himself up to the astonished victors. A few of them had remained to

guard the prisoners; the rest were chasing the fugitives. Jogues

mastered his agony, and began to baptize those of the captive converts

who needed baptism.

Couture had eluded pursuit; but when he thought of Jogues and of what

perhaps awaited him, he resolved to share his fate, and, turning,

retraced his steps. As he approached, five Iroquois ran forward to meet

him; and one of them snapped his gun at his breast, but it missed fire.

In his confusion and excitement, Couture fired his own piece, and laid

the savage dead. The remaining four sprang upon him, stripped off all

his clothing, tore away his finger-nails with their teeth, gnawed his

fingers with the fury of famished dogs, and thrust a sword through one

of his hands. Jogues broke from his guards, and, rushing to his friend,

threw his arms about his neck. The Iroquois dragged him away, beat him

with their fists and war-clubs till he was senseless, and, when he

revived, lacerated his fingers with their teeth, as they had done those

of Couture. Then they turned upon Goupil, and treated him with the same

ferocity. The Huron prisoners were left for the present unharmed. More

of them were brought in every moment, till at length the number of

captives amounted in all to twenty-two, while three Hurons had been

killed in the fight and pursuit. The Iroquois, about seventy in number,

now embarked with their prey; but not until they had knocked on the head

an old Huron, whom Jogues, with his mangled hands, had just baptized,

and who refused to leave the place. Then, under a burning sun, they

crossed to the spot on which the town of Sorel now stands, at the mouth

of the River Richelieu, where they encamped.

Their course was southward, up the River Richelieu and Lake Champlain;

thence, by way of Lake George, to the Mohawk towns. The pain and fever

of their wounds, and the clouds of mosquitoes, which they could not

drive off, left the prisoners no peace by day nor sleep by night. On the

eighth day, they learned that a large Iroquois war-party, on their way

to Canada, were near at hand; and they soon approached their camp, on a

small island near the southern end of Lake Champlain. The warriors, two

hundred in number, saluted their victorious countrymen with volleys from

their guns; then, armed with clubs and thorny sticks, ranged themselves

in two lines, between which the captives were compelled to pass up the

side of a rocky hill. On the way, they were beaten with such fury, that

Jogues, who was last in the line, fell powerless, drenched in blood and

half dead. As the chief man among the French captives, he fared the

worst. His hands were again mangled, and fire applied to his body; while

the Huron chief, Eustache, was subjected to tortures even more

atrocious. When, at night, the exhausted sufferers tried to rest, the

young warriors came to lacerate their wounds and pull out their hair and


In the morning they resumed their journey. And now the lake narrowed to

the semblance of a tranquil river. Before them was a woody mountain,

close on their right a rocky promontory, and between these flowed a

stream, the outlet of Lake George. On those rocks, more than a hundred

years after, rose the ramparts of Ticonderoga. They landed, shouldered

their canoes and baggage, took their way through the woods, passed the

spot where the fierce Highlanders and the dauntless regiments of England

breasted in vain the storm of lead and fire, and soon reached the shore

where Abercrombie landed and Lord Howe fell. First of white men, Jogues

and his companions gazed on the romantic lake that bears the name, not

of its gentle discoverer, but of the dull Hanoverian king. Like a fair

Naiad of the wilderness, it slumbered between the guardian mountains

that breathe from crag and forest the stern poetry of war. But all then

was solitude; and the clang of trumpets, the roar of cannon, and the

deadly crack of the rifle had never as yet awakened their angry


Again the canoes were launched, and the wild flotilla glided on its

way,--now in the shadow of the heights, now on the broad expanse, now

among the devious channels of the narrows, beset with woody islets,

where the hot air was redolent of the pine, the spruce, and the

cedar,--till they neared that tragic shore, where, in the following

century, New England rustics baffled the soldiers of Dieskau, where

Montcalm planted his batteries, where the red cross waved so long amid

the smoke, and where at length the summer morning was hideous with

carnage, and an honored name was stained with a memory of blood.

The Iroquois landed at or near the future site of Fort William Henry,

left their canoes, and, with their prisoners, began their march for the

nearest Mohawk town. Each bore his share of the plunder. Even Jogues,

though his lacerated hands were in a frightful condition and his body

covered with bruises, was forced to stagger on with the rest under a

heavy load. He with his fellow-prisoners, and indeed the whole party,

were half starved, subsisting chiefly on wild berries. They crossed the

upper Hudson, and, in thirteen days after leaving the St. Lawrence,

neared the wretched goal of their pilgrimage, a palisaded town, standing

on a hill by the banks of the River Mohawk.

Such was the first recorded visit of white men to Lake George. In the

Iroquois villages Jogues was subjected to the most frightful sufferings.

His friend Goupil was murdered at his side, and he himself was saved as

by miracle. At length, with the help of the Dutch of Albany, he made his

escape and sailed for France; whence, impelled by religious enthusiasm,

he returned to Canada and voluntarily set out again for the Iroquois

towns, bent on saving the souls of those who had been the authors of his

woes. Reaching the head of Lake George on Corpus Christi Day, 1646, he

gave it the name of Lac St. Sacrement, by which it was ever after known

to the French. Soon after his arrival the Iroquois killed him by the

blow of a hatchet.

[Footnote 1: Lake George, according to Jogues, was called by the Mohawks

"Andiatarocte," or Place where the Lake closes. "Andiataraque" is

found on a map of Sanson. Spofford, Gazetteer of New York, article

"Lake George," says that it was called "Canideri-oit," or Tail of the

Lake. Father Martin, in his notes on Bressani, prefixes to this name

that of "Horicon," but gives no original authority.

I have seen an old Latin map on which the name "Horiconi" is set down as

belonging to a neighboring tribe. This seems to be only a misprint for

"Horicoui," that is, "Irocoui," or "Iroquois." In an old English map,

prefixed to the rare tract, A Treatise of New England, the "Lake of

Hierocoyes" is laid down. The name "Horicon," as used by Cooper in his

Last of the Mohicans, has no sufficient historical foundation. In

1646, the lake, as we shall see, was named "Lac St. Sacrement."]

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