The Route Across the Lake

If I am right in fixing the starting point opposite Point Pleasant, it would follow, both from the text and the map, that the route extended southerly, between that point and Amherst Island, to the False Ducks, and along the Main Duck, Gallo, and Stony Islands, which stretch across the lake in the direction of Stony Point. That this was the course pursued may be inferred from the following considerations:

First. On examining the Champlain map, the line indicating the route starts from the northern shore of the lake, and passes directly south between Point Pleasant and the first island easterly there from, which would correspond with Amherst Island. The next island on the map east of Amherst Island would correspond with Simcoe Island, and the next, lying in the entrance of the river, would correspond with Wolf or Long Island. These three islands constitute all that are represented on the map as lying in the east end of the lake, except those along which I claim that the expedition crossed.

Now if, as claimed by General Clark, the crossing was along Simcoe, Wolf and Grenadier Islands, which closely hug the eastern shore of the lake, then those islands would have been so represented on the map. The chain of islands along which they did pass, as shown by the dotted line, are laid down at some distance from the eastern shore. If it be claimed that the map refers to the inner ones lying close to the eastern shore, then the outer chain, equally conspicuous and in plain sight of the others, are not represented at all. To a party crossing the outer or western chain, the islands lying in-shore would scarcely be distinguishable from the adjacent land, while the outer chain, with nothing behind them but the open lake, could easily be seen from the inner islands. I am aware that the dotted line on the map exhibits a general southerly course, but the expedition, following the islands indicated by me, fulfills the conditions of the text, by crossing from the north to the south side of the lake, and for nearly a third of the way on a due south course. The map is on an exceedingly small scale, rudely drawn and nowhere preserves with any accuracy the points of compass in representing either the crossing of the lake, or the inland route as claimed by General Clark. Where the map and text are irreconcilable, the former must be rejected. It could not be expected that a chart, 33 inches long by 20 inches wide, embracing a territory extending from Newfoundland to Lake Superior, and from the frozen ocean to the Carolinas, could exhibit a route like that traveled by Champlain, on a scale of sixty miles to the inch, without presenting numerous discrepancies. They are so gross, even in those places actually visited by Champlain, that it is difficult to see how he could possibly have been its author. It was not drawn in reference to this special expedition of 1615, but to illustrate all his voyages in America.

Second. Champlain says, on arriving at the northern bank of the lake, ” Nous fimes la traverse “-” we crossed it.” He does not intimate that he coasted along its northern border for 22 miles, and then again around its eastern shore. Effect must be given to the expression, ” We crossed it.”

Third. Champlain gives the distance he consumed in crossing as fourteen leagues, or thirty-five miles. ” Nous fimes environ quatorze lieues pour passer jusques a l’autre cote du lac, tirant au sud, vers les terres des ennemis.” The actual distance by the way of the Ducks, Galloo, Calf and Stony Islands to Stony Point, where they would first reach land, is 38 3/4 miles. To Henderson Bay it is 44 miles to Stony Creek Cove, 42 miles; to Little Sandy Lake, 53 ½ miles. The actual distance from the same starting point, via Kingston and Simcoe, Wolf, Grenadier and Stony Islands, to Little Sandy Lake, is 70 miles, and from Kingston, 48 ½ miles.

From this it appears that the actual distances on all the supposed routes exceed in each instance Champlain’s estimate. It will be noticed, however, that the excess is the greatest on the route claimed by General Clark. The probabilities, therefore, so far as relates to the length of the crossing, as given by Champlain, are in favor of the route I have suggested.

Fourth. The expedition, coming from the west, would naturally use the shortest route to reach its destination. That parties were accustomed to cross by the chain of Ducks, Galloo, Calf and Stony Islands, is substantiated by the traditions of the Canada Indians. Hence, the point on the peninsula from which they embarked, was named by the French voyageurs, Point Traverse, and is so called to this day. The islands lying along the eastern shore of the lake were used by Indians and voyageurs ascending or descending the St. Lawrence.

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

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