The March on the Beach

Champlain says: ” Les sauvages cachèrent tous leurs canaux dans les bois, proche du rivage. Nous fimes par terre quelques quatre lieuës sur une plage de sable, ou je remarquai un pays fort agreable et beau, traversé de plusieurs petits ruisseaux, et deux petites rivières, qui se dechargent au susdit lac, et force etangs et prairies.” ” The Indians concealed all their canoes in the woods near the shore. We proceeded by land about four leagues over a sandy beach, where I observed a very agreeable and beautiful country, intersected by many small brooks and two small rivers which empty into the said lake, and many lakelets and meadows.”

On referring to the map, we find it furnishes nothing in addition to the above, except it represents three small bodies of water as lying along the route parallel with the shore, which are undoubtedly those referred to by Champlain under the name of ” Etangs.” There are still existing three such collections of water between Stony Point and Salmon River, two of which are known by the name of North and South ponds, and the largest by the name of Little Sandy Lake. The latter is about 3,000 acres in extent. Dr. Shea says: ” General Clark identifies the three small lakes noted on the map, as North and South Ponds, in Jefferson County, and Little Sandy Lake.” But if Champlain landed at Little Sandy Lake as claimed by General Clark, he would not have passed by North and South Ponds, as they lie north of that landing. The probabilities exist, therefore, that the landing took place farther north, and either in Henderson Bay, or at the mouth of Stony Creek, as before stated.

Dr. Shea says: ” Mr. Marshall holds that the expedition passed Salmon River. The next stream is Salmon Creek, which Mr. Marshall holds is the Oswego.” Dr. Shea has entirely misunderstood me in this particular. I claimed that the expedition left the lake at Salmon River. I did not even name Salmon Creek, nor did I state that the expedition ascended or even saw the Oswego River. I said that it crossed from the mouth of Salmon River to the outlet of Oneida Lake, and from thence passed to the fort, distant four leagues from the fishery.

One reason I gave for discrediting the map was that the dotted line seemed to enter the ” Oswego River,” that being the only stream having numerous lakes at its sources; but I distinctly averred that such a route was ” highly improbable, unnecessarily circuitous, and could not possibly be reconciled with the text of Champlain.” Vol. I, p. 6 of this magazine.

The Inland Route. My reasons in favor of the mouth of the Salmon River as the point of departure for the interior are as follows:

First. It is the southernmost and last point on the lake in the direct line of travel between Stony Point and the foot of Oneida Lake. The mouth of Salmon Creek lies west of that line, requiring a detour that would increase the travel without affording any corresponding advantage.

Second. The mouth of Salmon River-the Otihatangué of the early French maps -has always been a noted place in Indian history. It is mentioned on the oldest Ms. maps of the Jesuit missionaries found in the French Archives at Paris. A trail is laid down on several of said maps, running direct from that point to the great fishery, called ” Techiroguen.” Franquelin, the celebrated geographer to Louis XIV., in his ” Carte du pays des Iroquois” of 1679, calls the trail ” Chemin de Techiroguen a la Famine.” La Famine was a name applied by the Jesuits to the mouth of the Salmon River, in allusion to the sufferings experienced there by Monsieur Du Puys and his companions, in July, 1656, from want of provisions. It has generally been called by later writers, “Cahihonoüaghé,” which may be a dialectical variation from Otihatangué. A Ms. map of 1679, says: “it is the place where the most of the Iroquois and Loup land to go on the Beaver trade at New York.” It is evidently an Onondaga word, and is given by Morgan as “Gä-hen-wä’-ga.” It bears a strong resemblance to the name applied to the place by Pouchot and other writers. There is, therefore, little doubt but what the expedition left the lake for the interior from this well known point of debarkation.

Third. Champlain says: “Tous les canaux etans ainsi cachez, nous laissames le rivage du lac,” etc. “All the canoes being thus concealed we left the border of the lake,” etc. Dr. Shea thinks that the text implies that the canoes were twice concealed. I do not so understand it. If all were concealed on landing, there would be none left to conceal at the end of the march on the beach. The second statement, “All our canoes being thus concealed,” is, therefore, but a repetition of the first expression, “The Indians concealed all their canoes in the woods near the shore.”

Fourth. Champlain’s description of his route after leaving the lake is quite brief and unsatisfactory. ” Nous continuames notre chemin par terre, environ 25 ou 30 lieuës : Durant quatre journées nous traversames quantité de ruisseaux, et une rivière, procedante d’un lac qui se decharge dans celui des Entouhonorons. Ce lac est de l’etendue de 25 ou 30 lieuës de circuit, où it y a de belles iles, et est le lieu où. les Iroquois ennemis font leur peche de poisson, qui est en abondance.”

“We continued our way by land about 25 or 30 leagues. During four days we crossed numerous brooks and a river flowing from a lake, which empties into Lake Ontario. This lake is 25 or 30 leagues in circumference, contains beautiful islands, and is the place where the hostile Iroquois catch their fish, which are in abundance.” It will be noticed that no mention is made of any of the lakes, which are so conspicuously laid down on the map, contiguous to the dotted line, except Oneida Lake. On the 9th of October, the Indians met and captured eleven of the enemy, who were going to the fishery, distant 4 leagues from the enemy’s fort.

The expedition reached the fort at 3 o’clock in the afternoon of the 10th. There is nothing in the text of Champlain to indicate the site of the fort, except its situation near an unfailing body of water, which Champlain calls ” un etang.” Dr. Shea translates it ” pond,” that being its primitive signification. But as used by Champlain and other French writers of the 17th century, it has a more enlarged signification, having reference, in numerous instances, to a small lake. Those which are laid down on the Champlain map opposite the route along the sandy beach above referred to, are called “etangs” by Champlain. One of them is admitted by General Clark to be ” Little Sandy Lake.” Bouillet says in his Dictionaire des Sciences, etc., ” Etangs naturels” are small lakes of fresh water, produced by rains or springs.” Lake Pontchitrain, near New Orleans, 40 miles long by 24 broad, is called un etang” by La Salle in 1685.

There is therefore no such limitation to the meaning of the word etang, as to render it inapplicable to a lake as large as Onondaga. Champlain, having recently passed through Lakes Huron and Ontario, would very naturally apply a diminutive term to so small a body of water.

Champlain's Expedition of 1615 Against the Onondaga Magazine Of American History Vol. I January 1877.

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