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VII. THE STORY OF LA TOUR AND D'AULNEY.
RAZILLA, the governor of Acadia, died in 1635, and two of his subordinate officers were determined to succeed him in command. One of these ambitious officers was Charles de la Tour, son of Claude de la Tour, the former commandant of Port Royal. He stationed himself at the mouth of the St. John River. D'Aulney de Charmay, the other, took up his residence at 'Biguyduce, the peninsula now called Castine. This was on the eastern side of the Penobscot, and a hundred and fifty miles west from La Tour. The valleys of both the St. John and the Penobscot were inhabited by two powerful tribes of Indians.
D'Aulney was a Roman Catholic, as were most of the first French settlers, and had behind him the influence of the Jesuits, already a power in the land. La Tour was a Protestant, and had allied himself with the New England Puritans. It is to be feared that there was, in both men, less of religious faith and zeal than of a desire to inflame the religious prejudices of others to serve their own ends.
The King of France was fighting Spain, and troubled himself very little about his American colonies, separated from him by three thousand miles of water. If the quarrel should come to his ears the Protestant La Tour had no chance of the royal favor in a conflict with his Roman Catholic rival.
So, instead of appealing to the crown, La Tour sent, from his colony on the St. John, an agent, M. Rochet, to propose to Massachusetts a cooperation in the effort to drive D'Aulney from his 'Biguyduce settlement, and, if possible, altogether off the Penobscot. He proposed free trade between the colonies as a pleasing addition to his plan.
The free-trade idea was at once carried into effect, but Massachusetts declined to form an immediate alliance with La Tour for the dispossession of his rival.
Meanwhile the Jesuits set to work and obtained a royal edict denouncing La Tour as a rebel and an out- law; and immediately D'Aulney fitted out an expedition of four vessels, with five hundred men, and sailed for his rival's settlement on the St. John. He completely blockaded the harbor, and cut off all supplies and communications from La Tour. The besieged garrison was reduced to distress and despair. La Tour and his wife escaped in the night. They ran the blockade in a small vessel, and succeeded in getting safely to Boston, where La Tour tried all his powers of persuasion to induce the governor of the colony to give him the aid of a military force.
The Massachusetts colony was greatly disturbed by this demand, and divided in sentiment. La Tour had an unquestionably genuine commission from the French cabinet appointing him the king's lieutenant general in Acadia, and there were those who urged that he was the lawful ruler, and that their interests and their principles, especially their religious principles, demanded that they should sustain him.
On the other hand, it was argued that the French cabinet had apparently revoked its decision; that the exact state of the case was not clear to them; that La Tour's Protestantism was not of the Puritan sort, and was apparently no religion at all, except in the matter of expediency; and, finally, that it was not seemly that a French adventurer should lead staid and Puritan Massachusetts into a war.
The province of Maine was even more deeply agitated by the quarrel between the rival officers. Thomas Gorges, son or nephew of Sir Ferdinando, and deputy governor of the province, wrote the following letter, from his residence at Kittery Point, to Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts:
"RIGHT WORTHY SIR: I understand by Mr. Parker you have written me by Mr. Shurt, which as yet I have not received. It cannot be unknown to you what fears we are in, since La Tour's promise of aid from you. For my part, I thought fit to certify so much unto you; for I suppose that not only these parts, which are naked, but all northeast, will find D'Aulney a scourge. He hath long waited, with the expense of near £800 per month, for an opportunity of taking supplies from his foe; and should all his hopes be frustrated through your aid, you may conceive where he will seek for satisfaction.
"If a thorough work could be made, and he be utterly extirpated, I should like it well; otherwise it cannot be thought but that a soldier and a gentleman will seek to revenge himself, having five hundred men, two ships, a galley, and pinnaces well provided. But you may please conceive in what manner he now besieges La Tour. His ships lie on the southwest part of the island, at the entrance of the St. John River, within which is only an entrance for ships. On the northeast lie his pinnaces. It cannot be conceived but he will fortify the island, which will debar the entrance of any of your ships and force them back, showing the will, not having the power, to hurt him. I suppose I shall sail for England in this ship; I am not yet certain, which makes me forbear to enlarge at this time or to desire your commands thither. Thus, in haste, I rest,
"Your honoring friend and servant,
The Massachusetts authorities did not yet see their duty clear to help to extirpate D'Aulney, and they finally declared that, although they could not be counted upon as active allies, yet La Tour might buy or charter vessels, and enlist as many Massachusetts volunteers as he could find, of course at his own expense. La Tour at once mortgaged his fort at St. John, with all its stores and ammunition, and also all his real and personal estate in Acadia, to raise the necessary money for his warfare against D'Aulney.
He chartered four vessels for two months, paying for them twenty-six hundred dollars. He secured one hundred and forty-two volunteers and thirty-eight pieces of ordnance. Plenty of ammunition and provisions were also stored upon the vessels, and they were in charge of well-trained seamen. Nothing seemed lacking for a vigorous onslaught upon the foe.,
The four vessels which he had chartered were named the Philip and Mary, the Greyhound, the Seabridge, and the Increase. His own vessel, the Clement, in which he had escaped from the enemy, increased his fleet to five vessels. La Tour knew his enemy, and had provided himself with an adequate force against him, and his furious onslaught was entirely successful. He chased D'Aulney's vessels into the Penobscot, and two of them were driven aground. A lively conflict ensued, and several Frenchmen on both sides were either killed or wounded; but the Massachusetts volunteers all escaped unharmed. Within the time for which they were chartered the vessels returned to Boston, La Tour triumphant with a ship of D'Aulney's which he had captured with a freight of valuable furs.
But the end of this trouble for the province of Maine, and in fact for Massachusetts, was not yet. D'Aulney, enraged against Massachusetts on account of the aid it had rendered to La Tour, applied to the court of France for vengeance upon the colony, which he reported was fitting out an expedition to destroy all the French colonies in Acadia. His application was unsuccessful, but he openly declared his resolve to stop all intercourse or alliance between Massachusetts and La Tour. From the vantage ground of his 'Biguyduce peninsula, between Massachusetts and La Tour's St. John settlement, he could easily discover and attack any passing vessels belonging to either.
His animosity extended to all Englishmen; for when three colonists, men of importance in their several colonies, set out to visit La Tour's settlement, he caused their arrest and imprisonment as soon as they reached the Penobscot. The three men were Shurt of Pemaquid, Vines of Saco, and Wannerton of New Hampshire, neither of them having any connection whatever with Massachusetts. They were imprisoned for several days, and had great difficulty in obtaining their release. They had business with La Tour, and being at length released, they continued on their way to the St. John. They learned from La Tour that the 'Biguyduce garrison was but feeble, and Wannerton, a passionate, impulsive man, who had been thrown into a fierce rage by his seizure and imprisonment, secured a company of twenty well-armed men to go with him to 'Biguyduce for vengeance upon D'Aulney.
Five miles away from his fort, D'Aulney had a flourishing, well-stocked farm. The party landed near the farm, and marched to the buildings, which were near the shore. The farm laborers sought shelter in the house when they saw the armed men, and when Wannerton, leading his men, knocked at the door, it was opened, and they were greeted with a storm of bullets from within.
Wannerton received a wound which proved mortal; one man was shot dead, and still another was severely wounded. Having made this brave but desperate resistance, the laborers gave up their arms and surrendered to superior force.
The avengers scorned to take any booty, but they ruthlessly burned and destroyed everything that was of value. All the buildings, farming tools, and stores were reduced to ashes; the animals were killed. A scene of utter desolation was left behind them.
D'Aulney, utterly incensed, vowed vengeance upon all Englishmen. Although Wannerton had paid with his life for the revenge which he had undertaken, in his private capacity, for the affront which had been offered to himself, yet D'Aulney announced that every Englishman who ventured east of the Penobscot should be held accountable for the outrage committed upon his property; every English colonial vessel he would seize.
The governor of Massachusetts sent him a letter of mild but firm remonstrance. "A merchant's trade is permitted between us and St. John," wrote the governor, "and rest assured it will be protected."
D'Aulney also found himself in disgrace with his own government, which was not disposed to go to war with England on account of small issues in the distant wilderness. He' was rebuked by the French cabinet, and warned to maintain thenceforth friendly relations with all the English. But when it came to a question of D'Aulney's relations with La Tour, the French government immediately sustained the Roman Catholic. The Protestant La Tour and his wife were denounced as traitors, and orders were given for their arrest.
Mme. La Tour was then in Boston, the master of the ship which brought her from France having landed her there, instead of carrying her to St. John. D'Aulney sent an envoy, M. Marie, with a retinue of attendants, to make a treaty with the governor of Massachusetts, who was expected to deliver up Mme. La Tour. But Governor Winthrop tried to reconcile the two French parties, and to secure the safe return of Mme. La Tour to her husband.
M. Marie's angry reply is recorded by the governor: "No! nothing but submission will save La Tour's head, if he be taken; nor will his wife have any passport to St. John. She is known to be the cause of his contempt and rebellion. Any vessel which shall admit her as a passenger will be liable to arrest."
The treaty was made a merely commercial one, the governor feeling it wise to remain neutral, although the sympathy of the Massachusetts colony was with La Tour. By the treaty D'Aulney agreed to abstain from all hostile acts, and the province of Maine was relieved and rejoicing. It had felt itself almost defenseless before this ruthless and reckless pirate of the high seas and of the coasts. Mme. La Tour, in the meantime, showed herself a clever woman by prosecuting for damages the captain who had left her where she could not reach her home except with a sufficient force to enable her to bid defiance to the ever-watchful enemy. After a four days' trial the court granted a verdict in her favor, with damages fixed at ten thousand dollars. She chartered three London ships with this money, and proceeded safely and triumphantly to St. John.
D'Aulney, furious, because he had fully expected to make her his captive, declared that the Massachusetts colony had violated the treaty in allowing Mme. La Tour to charter the ships. He learned that La Tour had gone on a cruise to the Bay of Fundy, that but fifty men were left in the garrison, and the supply of food and ammunition was but scanty.
With a well-equipped war vessel, he set sail, in the spring, to capture the works at the St. John. He overtook a New England vessel on the way, which was carrying supplies to La Tour's garrison. Commercial treaties were evidently held in but slight regard by the desperate D'Aulney. He seized the vessel, landed the crew on an uninhabited island, and abandoned them. There was still snow on the ground, and they had no means of making a fire. They built a rude shanty, but almost perished from cold and hunger in the ten days that elapsed before they were taken off.
Mme. La Tour was not only a clever and resourceful woman: she was a determined heroine as well. The garrison upon which D'Aulney opened a furious fire was a feeble one, but she strengthened it by her unflinching bravery. She directed the firing, and with a skill that caused every shot from the fort to strike the ship. "The deck of D'Aulney's vessel ran red with blood," says the ancient record, "and was strewn with the mangled bodies of the dead and dying." The vessel's strong ribs were broken. The water was rushing in through the shotholes. The deadly rain of bullets still fell upon it, while the intrepid garrison stood behind its ramparts, almost unharmed.
Under the shelter of a convenient bluff D'Aulney protected his vessel from the furious firing, while he buried the dead, dressed the wounds made by the cannon shot, and repaired the damages to his vessel as best he might; and as soon as possible he made his way back to 'Biguyduce, utterly beaten and crestfallen.
Massachusetts demanded an explanation and satisfaction for the breaking of the treaty in the seizing of a New England vessel.
The Frenchman, whose temper was, naturally, not improved by his recent experiences, became utterly reckless and defiant. "You have helped my mortal enemy in aiding La Tour's wife to return to St. John. You have burned my buildings, you have killed my animals. I warn you to beware of the avenging hand of my sovereign," he said.
The Puritan envoy who had been sent to him must have enraged him still more with his mild dignity. "Your sovereign is a mighty prince," he answered; "he is also a prince of too much honor to commence an unjustifiable attack; but should he assail us, we trust in God, who is the infinite arbiter of justice."
Nothing was accomplished by the conference, except a truce for a few months. There were occasional efforts, by correspondence, during the ensuing year, to make a diplomatic settlement of the affair; but the colony became convinced that it could not keep peace and carry on free trade with both these French generals, who were such implacable enemies to each other.
D'Aulney sent three commissioners to the governor of Massachusetts; in September of the, next year, to demand damages for losses which he had incurred through the English. The amount was set at four thousand dollars. The government brought countercharges, and accounted its damages to be considerably more than four thousand dollars.
Meanwhile D'Aulney, with the Jesuit priests as spies, was keeping a watchful eye upon La Tour's fortress at St. John. The bitter resentment of his repulse when Mme. La Tour had held the fort had only increased with time, and he had never ceased to plan a revenge. Discovering that La Tour had again gone on a voyage to obtain provisions, he set out, this time with an adequate force of well-equipped vessels and a large company of armed men.
He not only assailed the fort by a terrific cannonade from his ships, but made a fierce onslaught upon it on the land side. He lost twelve men, and had many wounded, for the fort made a gallant defense, as before; but, in the end, its walls were scaled, and it was forced to surrender.
The savage D'Aulney had no mercy upon the helpless inmates. They were all slaughtered, except Mme. La Tour, who was taken prisoner. More than fifty thousand dollars' worth of booty fell into the hands of D'Aulney. Besides implements of war, there were valuable household goods, including plate and jewels and many objects highly prized by their fair owner.
Mme. La Tour, although so brave and high-spirited, was unable to survive this last cruel stroke of fortune. She had lost all her worldly possessions, and her new home, to which she is said to have been driven from France by religious persecution, was in ruins. Her husband was an outlaw, who might never hope to regain position or fortune, and she was helpless in the hands of her bitterest enemy. She died within three weeks from the day when the fort was taken, "glad to be rid of so weary a world."
The Massachusetts colony had always felt, as has been said before, a sympathy with La Tour. When he appeared in Boston with this latest trouble heavy upon him, utterly impoverished, and besieged by creditors, who through his misfortunes had lost heavily, the merchants, even some who had lost by him, took pity on him, and provided him with a vessel and goods to the value of several thousand dollars, that he might set up a coasting trade with the natives. The crew was a mixture of French and English seamen.
It is sad to record the base ingratitude and treachery of La Tour, who seems to have been destitute of any redeeming virtue and to have quite justified the suspicion of the shrewd old Puritans of Massachusetts that his boasted Protestantism was only the absence of all religion.
Off Cape Sable, in Nova Scotia, he formed a conspiracy with the French sailors, his own countrymen, seized the vessel and cargo, and drove the English sailors ashore. One of the Englishmen, who resisted, he shot in the face with his own pistol.
It was midwinter and intensely cold, and the Englishmen, abandoned upon the uninhabited ice-bound coast, endured terrible sufferings for more than two weeks, and would have perished but for a providential meeting with some Micmac Indians, who took them to their wigwams, warmed and fed them, and clothed them, too, as well as they could. An ancient historian says: "If they had not by special providence found more favor at the hands of Cape Sable Indians than of those French Christians, they might all have perished; for, having wandered fifteen days up and down, they at the last found some Indians, who gave them a shallop with victuals, and an Indian pilot; by which means they came safe to Boston three months afterwards."
La Tour had gone with his stolen vessel, no one knew where.
D'Aulney was the ruler of Acadia. His supremacy was unquestioned, and his fortress at 'Biguyduce was the resort of all the Roman Catholic priests sent over by France to convert the natives and help in taking and retaining, possession of the country. His religious zeal gave him great influence with the French cabinet, and strengthened his position as a colonist. But in 165o he died, and a year after his death the wandering La Tour returned.
How he was received by the Massachusetts merchants, whose generosity he had abused, there are no records to show. But what we are told did occur when the bold adventurer returned reads more like a wildly improbable romance than the sober facts of history. He married the widow of D'Aulney, his bitter foe; he succeeded to all D'Aulney's possessions; he renounced his Protestantism, and secured the favor and influence of court and church; he gave up his wanderings, and rebuilding the fortress at St. John, he lived there in luxury and conviviality.
Here several children were born to him, but only one, Stephen de la Tour, survived him, and inherited his large but debt-burdened estates. From his St. John fortress La Tour ruled the Penobscot region with military despotism, permitting no civil tribunals to be established.
It was suspected, however, that his ambition was not satisfied. With the aid of the Roman Catholic missionaries, who were always able to influence the Indians to a wonderful degree, he had acquired a great ascendency over the native tribes of the region. He was believed to have formed a plan to combine the Indians of Maine, Nova Scotia, and Canada, and make a seizure of all the English settlements, constituting the French possessors of the whole country, and himself the lord of all the land.
Massachusetts, taking alarm, issued an order, through its General Court, prohibiting commercial intercourse with the French on the east, and also with the Dutch on the west. The penalty of disregarding this prohibition was to be the loss of both vessel and cargo. La Tour's devotion to self-interest, and utter indifference as to which European country was his master, so long as his possessions were left to him, are curiously shown in what followed.
The order of the Massachusetts court threw him and his colonies into great privation and want. They were not a thrifty people, nor given to husbandry. Instead of cultivating the land, as they might have done, the Indians lived on fish, especially shellfish, and such edible roots as they could find. Some of the more industrious sowed a scanty crop of corn.
With the furs of the Indians, for which the French paid with beads and baubles, plenty of food had been obtained from the better-cultivated parts of New England. With commercial relations forbidden, they seemed doomed to starvation.
This was thought to be a harsh measure, since there was no proof of La Tour's ambitious schemes, and it was feared that it would arouse the always dreaded ferocity of the Indians. Either with or without the consent of the authorities, a vessel loaded with provisions was sent to the St. John settlement. But an expedition of a different character was by this time getting under way for the St. John.
Oliver Cromwell had sent a fleet to Boston, with orders to raise there a volunteer force and take possession of the Dutch colony on the Hudson; for the Dutch were then taking America in a way that England did not like. The plan was to conquer Nova Scotia, after the Dutch had been subdued. But the news came that peace had been declared between England and Holland, and the fleet proceeded to the fortress at 'Biguyduce, and afterwards to the stronger one at the St. John.
Perhaps resistance would not have availed, the force being very strong. At all events, none was offered at either place, and La Tour quite cheerfully accepted an English sovereign instead of a French one.
The English took possession of the whole province, and held it for thirteen years, or until the treaty of Breda restored it to the French. La Tour lived but a short time after the English came into power. He died at his settlement on the St. John, and Cromwell confirmed the rights of his son Stephen in his father's possessions there.
La Tour's was a singular character, with its lack of moral sense and of any convictions that interfered with his success in life. He was of fine personal appearance, and had a frank and attractive manner that won him many friends. Fortune had played him many tricks, making him rich one day and poor the next, now high in the king's favor and again a hunted outlaw; but he is said to have carried, through all his mischances, a "goodly outside" and as careless an air as if he had been the king's jester.
The old times of colonial struggle and savage warfare have vanished like a dream, and their records read like a romance; but the summer visitor to Castine is shown relics and landmarks that easily transform to his imagination the pleasant, drowsy town to the old, much-fought-for 'Biguyduce; and at the mouth of the St. John the site is still pointed out of the fortress which brave Mme. La Tour, alone and heartsick with exile, so nobly held, and lost at last.