1759-10-04 - Raid on Saint-François
Prelude to the raid
In 1759, lord Jeffrey Amherst sent captains Kennedy and Hamilton with a flag of truce and a message of peace to the Abenakis of Saint-François who frequently raided the New England borders. However, the Abenakis seized them and carried them prisoners to Montréal.
In September, Amherst ordered Rogers' Rangers to destroy the Abenakis settlement of Saint-François, the village was located on the river Saint-François a few km above its junction with the Saint-Laurent. Amherst explicitly instructed major Robert Rogers not to kill or hurt any women or children.
Rogers and his rangers set out in whaleboats and, eluding the French armed vessels, then in full activity on Lake Champlain, came, on the 10th day, to Missisquoi Bay, at the north end of the lake. Here he hid his boats, leaving 2 friendly Indians to watch them from a distance, and inform him should the enemy discover them. He then began his march for Saint-François, when, on the evening of the second day, the 2 Indians overtook him with the startling news that a party of about 400 French had found the boats, and that half of them were on his tracks in hot pursuit. It was certain that the alarm would soon be given, and other parties sent to cut him off. Rogers took the bold resolution of outmarching his pursuers, pushing straight for Saint-François, striking it before succours could arrive, and then returning by Lake Memphremagog and the Connecticut.
Accordingly, Rogers despatched lieutenant McMullen by a circuitous route back to Crown Point (former Fort Saint-Frédéric), with a request to Amherst that provisions should be sent up the Connecticut to meet him on the way down. Then he set his course for the Indian town, and for 9 days more toiled through the forest with desperate energy. Much of the way was through dense spruce swamps, with no dry resting-place at night. At length the party reached the River Saint-François, 24 km above the town, and, hooking their arms together for mutual support, forded it with extreme difficulty. Towards evening, Rogers climbed a tree, and descried the town 5 km distant. Accidents, fatigue, and illness had reduced his followers to 142 officers and men.
Description of Events
Rogers left his rangers to rest for a time, and, taking with him lieutenant Turner and ensign Avery, went to reconnoitre the place.
On October 4 at 2:00 AM, Rogers rejoined his party, and at 3:00 AM led them to the attack, formed them in a semicircle, and burst in upon the town half an hour before sunrise. Many of the warriors were absent and the rest were asleep. Some were killed in their beds, and some shot down in trying to escape. About 7:00 AM, the affair was completely over. The Abenakis lost about 200 men while 20 of their women and children taken prisoners. Soon, 15 of the prisoners were freed. Rogers retook 5 British captives.
In the town, British scalps in hundreds were dangling from poles over the doors of the houses. The town was pillaged and burned, not excepting the church. On the side of the rangers, captain Ogden and 6 men were wounded and a Mohegan Indian from Stockbridge was killed. Rogers was told by his prisoners that a party of 300 French and Indians was encamped on the river below, and that another party of 250 men was not far distant. They had been sent to cut off the retreat of the invaders, but were doubtful as to their designs till after the blow was struck. There was no time to lose...
The rangers made all haste southward, up the Saint-François, subsisting on corn from the Indian town till, near the eastern borders of Lake Memphremagog, the supply failed, and they separated into small parties, the better to sustain life by hunting. The enemy followed close, attacked ensign Avery's party and captured 5 of them, then fell upon a band of about 20, under lieutenants Dunbar and Turner, and killed or captured nearly all. The other bands eluded their pursuers, turned southeastward, reached the Connecticut, some here, some there, and, giddy with fatigue and hunger, toiled wearily down the wild and lonely stream to the appointed rendezvous at the mouth of the Upper Ammonoosuc where Rogers had requested that provisions might be sent. However, no provisions were found there. Indeed, lieutenant Stephen had moved up the river from Charlestown with an abundant supply of food but, finding nobody at the Ammonoosuc, he had waited there 2 days and then returned, carrying the provisions back with him. For this outrageous conduct Stephen was expelled from the service.
Leaving his party behind and promising to send then relief within 10 days, Rogers made a raft of dry pine logs, and drifted on it down the stream, with captain Ogden, a ranger, and one of the captive Indian boys. They were stopped on the second day by rapids, and gained the shore with difficulty. At the foot of the rapids, while Ogden and the ranger went in search of squirrels, Rogers set himself to making another raft; and having no strength to use the axe, he burned down the trees, which he then divided into logs by the same process. Five days after leaving his party he reached the first British settlement, Charlestown, or "Number Four," and immediately sent a canoe with provisions to the relief of the sufferers, following himself with other canoes 2 days later. Most of the men were saved, though some died miserably of famine and exhaustion. The few rangers who had been captured were killed by the Indians.
Order of Battle
British Order of Battle
Commander: major Robert Rogers
- Rogers' Rangers (142 men)
French Order of Battle
Commander: no formal commander known
- Abenakis Indians (more than 200 men)
This article is essentially an abridged and adapted version of texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Parkman, Francis, Montcalm and Wolfe, Collier Books, New York, 1884, pp. 453-454