The Compagnies Franches de la Marine of Canada

The Exhaustion Of The Iroquois

A Strategic Problem

Amerindian warriors, first half of the 18th century

Caption: Amerindian warriors, first half of the 18th century

The Iroquois subsequently mounted a few small offensives of their own, including the one that gave rise to Madeleine de Verchères' celebrated defensive action in 1692. In response, the French counterattacked the Iroquois in their own territory. In January 1693, an expedition razed several Mohawk villages north of Albany, at a critical time for their nation. The Iroquois began to feel that their allies did not provide much support in difficult times. The Iroquois were willing to mount raids for the English, but the latter in turn would have to attack the French by sea, for it was "impossible to conquer Canada just by land." 70 This demonstrates a perfect understanding of the strategic and tactical problems of invading Canada. The Iroquois also noted that the Amerindian allies of the French had powder and large quantities of arms, while they lacked the former and had little of the latter.

The largest French attack on the Iroquois was mounted in 1696. Under the leadership of Governor Frontenac, who at the age of 74 was carried through the woods in a canoe by bearers, the army of more than 2,000 men went to the heart of Onondaga country, setting fire to their villages and destroying their crops. The success of this attack, on the heels of the other French victories, led to some rather sad conclusions for the Iroquois: the French had completely mastered the art of attacking sites far from their bases, and the English colonies had done nothing at all to help the Amerindians, even though they were allies. Furthermore, the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697 put an end to the war between England and France. Discouraged and exhausted, the Iroquois negotiated a final peace, which they signed in 1701 as part of a broader agreement with the French concluded with many Amerindian nations around the Great Lakes.

The Treaty of Ryswick lasted only a few years. Several European countries were opposed to the grandson of Louis XIV acceding to the Spanish throne, and when Philippe d'Anjou nevertheless became Felipe V, Great Britain, Austria, Holland and numerous German states declared war on France and Spain. The conflict naturally spread to the colonies.

Additional Images

Governor General Frontenac brandishing a war hatchet
Statue of Madeleine de Verchères