5 August

Iroquois Retaliate with Massacre at Lachine

Some stories of Indian massacres have already been related, but. the worst one of all happened at Lachine, a suburb of Montreal, on August 5, 1689.

There are two sides to every story, and sometimes more. It was the Iroquois who massacred the residents of Lachine, but there had been provocation two years before. Governor Denonville had been asked by Louis XIV to capture some Iroquois and send them to France as galley slaves. The Récollet priests had a mission for the Iroquois at the Bay of Quinte, west of Fort Frontenac on Lake Ontario. The Iroquois at the mission were invited to visit Fort Frontenac with their wives and children, but when they arrived they were seized by Denonville's Intendant, Champigny. Récollet Father La Hontan was horrified to see fifty members of his mission tied to posts, but could do nothing about it. They were flogged, and insects were put on their skins, while Hurons forced their fingers into hot pipes of tobacco. They were then sent to be galley slaves in France, where most of them died. Governor Denonville returned to Montreal as a great hero.

On the night of August 4, 1689, a violent summer hailstorm swept across Lake St. Louis. As the householders got up to make sure windows were closed, they heard the screeching war cry of the Iroquois rising over the noise of thunder and hail. Within minutes, swarms of naked Iroquois, armed to the teeth, came running clown the lane, their faces smeared with war paint. There were 1,500 of them, taking advantage of the storm to cross the lake unseen.

It is said that those who died in the first few minutes of the onslaught were fortunate. Men and women were cut down by tomahawks, and the brains of little children were dashed out against doorframes and bedposts. One hundred prisoners were taken to the Iroquois villages in the Finger Lakes area, tied to stakes and burned or tortured.

The prisoners might have been saved if soldiers 3 miles away had been allowed to take action. Unfortunately, their commanding officer, Subercase, was in Montreal attending a reception for Denonville. Returning to the camp, Subercase cursed his men for not having gone to Lachine without him. When they arrived, the horror of the scene was beyond description, but the surgeon, who had managed to hide, told Subercase that the Indians had taken a large quantity of brandy. Subercase knew this was the time to attack, but just as he was about to follow the Iroquois, word came from Governor Denonville that he must hold his troops to guard Montreal. The Indians stayed on the rampage, capturing new communities and taking more prisoners, none of whom could be rescued by the French.


5 August

-1583    Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed Newfoundland for Britain (see August 3).

-1756    Montcalm transported his army to Sackets Harbour, New York.

-1774    Perez and Martinez of Spain cruised off Vancouver Island.

-1789    The first conference of the Protestant Episcopal Church was held at Quebec.

-1812    General Brock left Niagara to capture Detroit.

-1899    The Imperial Trade Act regulated trade between Upper and Lower Canada.

-1833    The Royal William left Quebec on one of the first voyages across the Atlantic using steam.

-1963    The premiers of Canada met at Halifax.

-1965    The Canadian Wheat Board announced a sale of 27 million bushels of wheat to Russia.