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COLONIAL VOICES


Trailing The Historic Past Through First Hand Thoughts And Observations

New World Map

Our sense of history is drawn from the telling and retelling of events by others. The opinions we form and sentiments we express are shaped by those who relate those historic events. Often we are left with mere shadows of human lives, convoluted into one single mass of historic significance. The individual faces become lost; the personal struggles forgotten.

In the hope of recapturing the spirit of the colonial era, we are adding these excerpts. Spoken by those who lived what we look back to as history, their words express the truths of their day; as they were, uninterpreted and unhindered. The following quotes illuminate how 18th century colonials, Indians, soldiers, and sundry others saw their world, the events, and each other; sometimes comical, other times disturbing, often prophetic. In their own words, beyond history ... perspectives from colonial voices.

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"These miserable English are in the extremity of distress, and repent too late the unjust war they began against us."

- Capitaine Duchat au Regiment de Languedoc Camp de Carillon; 15 Juillet, 1756

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"...our fear of snakes and especially of the Indians made the night's rest very uncertain and insecure."

- Pehr Kalm, Swedish botanist; Near ruins of Fort Anne, July 1749

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"They lived in perfect harmony, holding most of their property in common,...not remarkable for neatness,...they were extremely modest, and apparently averse to airs of courtship."

- Susannah Johnson; Commenting on her Abenaki captors, Narrative of 1757

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"No good squaw"

- Susannah's adopted Abenaki sister; Commenting on Susannah

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"The English colonies have ten times more people than ours; but these wretches have not the least knowledge of war,...Not a week passes but the French send them a band of hairdressers, whom they would be very glad to dispense with."

- Capitaine Duchat; Camp de Carillon, 15 Juillet, 1756

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"...a good natured man but he had no experience....(he) would by no means take advice from the Indians...he lay at one place from one full moon to the other and made no fortifications at all, but that little thing upon the Meadow, where he thought the French would come up to him in open field;...had he taken the Half King's advice and made such fortifications as the Half King advised him to make he would certainly have beat the French off;...the French had acted as great cowards, and the English as fools in that engagement."

- Tanaghrisson (Half King), Mingo chief; On George Washington's defeat at Fort Necessity, July 4, 1754

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"The river where we are belongs to us warriors. The chiefs who look after affairs {the Onondaga} are not its masters,...we detain you and ask you to have them cease setting up the establishments you want to make. All the tribes have always called upon us not to allow it,...I shall strike at whoever does not listen to us..."

- Tanaghrisson to Capt. Marin; Warning against English encroachment into the Ohio Valley, Fort Presque Isle, September 1753

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"I despise all the stupid things you said,...I shall continue on my way, and if there are any persons bold enough to set up barriers to hinder my march, I shall knock them over so vigorously that they may crush those who made them."

- Capt. Marin to Tanaghrisson; Response to Tanaghrisson's threat, September 1753

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"A wicked faction only would purchase an ignoble and inglorious peace, by giving up to the perfidious French,...our most valuable and important conquests."

- John Wilkes, Parliament Member; 1763

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"I am sure I can save this country, and nobody else can."

- William Pitt, Prime Minister; December 1756

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"...frivolous, expensive and disgraceful to our Nation beyond Conception."

- Benjamin Franklin; On planned expedition to take Louisbourg, 1757

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"...a noble enemy and an excellent soldier."

-Thomas Mante, British Army Engineer; Speaking of Montcalm, 1772

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"...but the English were seized with such an unaccountable stupor, that they submitted to the tomahawk without resistance."

- Thomas Mante, British Army Engineer; Speaking of the English troops at the siege of Fort William Henry, 1772

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"The small number of Indians that we have here, realizing the need we have of them, are extremely insolent. This evening they wished to kill all the General's hens. They forcefully take away barrels of wine, kill the cattle, and we must put up with it. What a country! What a war!"

- Capitaine Louis Antoine de Bougainville, aide-de-camp to Montcalm; June 30, 1758

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"Do you want to die, my father, and sacrifice us besides?"

- Canadian Indian to Capitaine Beaujeu; following his proposal to ambush English troops on the Monongahela, 1755

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"My father, I, who have counted more moons than any here, thank you for the good words you have spoken. I approve them. Nobody ever spoke better. It is the Manitou of War that inspires you."

- Pennahouel, Ottawa chief; In response to Montcalm's planned assault against Fort William Henry, Grand Council at Fort Carillon, 28 Juillet, 1757

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"Brothers, we thank you for coming to help us defend our lands against the English. Our cause is good. The Master of Life is on our side."

- Kikensick, Christian Nipissing chief; to the western tribes who had come as allies of the French, Grand Council at Fort Carillon, 28 Juillet, 1757

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"I am going on the ninth to sing the war-song at the Lake of Two Mountains, and on the next day at Saut St. Louis,- a long, tiresome ceremony."

-Marquis de Montcalm; A letter to his wife written in Montreal, Juillet 1757

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"We wanted to see this famous man who tramples the English under his feet. We thought we should find him so tall that his head would be lost in the clouds. But you are a little man, my Father. It is when we look into your eyes that we see the greatness of the pine-tree and the fire of the eagle."

- A Michillimackinac to Montcalm; Encampment outside Montreal, Juillet 1757

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"The Indians go to pray in the church three times a day, each in his own tongue, and they attend with exemplary devotion. They serve as choir boys and chanters. The men sit on one side and the women on the other, and the choir formed by the latter is very melodious."

- Capitaine Louis Antoine de Bougainville, aide-de-camp to Montcalm; On the Indians in a village north of Lac Des Deux Montagnes (Lake of the Two Mountains), 9 Juillet, 1757

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"He ended by saying that he would give them three oxen for a feast and that he planned to sing the war song with them in the great council house."

- Capitaine Bougainville; On Montcalm's speech to Indian allies Montreal, 9 Juillet, 1757

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"Father, we are famished; give us fresh meat; we wish to eat the English."

-Ottawa and Potawatomi war song to Gov. Vaudreuil; Chanted at Montreal Conference, December 1756

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"Extraordinary Indulgence and privileges are granted to papists...(The Quakers) conduct political Intrigues, under the Mask of Religion...(have taken) into their pay a German printer named Sauer who was once one of the French prophets in Germany, and is shrewdly suspected to be a Popish emissary,...worst consequence of their insidious practices (with Germans),...(they) are grown insolent, sullen, and turbulent,...that they are a Majority, and strong enough to make the Country their own,...(would be able) by Joining with the French, to eject all the English inhabitants,...(the French) know our Germans are extremely ignorant,...Therefore, by sending their Jesuitical Emissaries among them, to persuade them over to the popish Religion, they will draw them from the English,...This is plainly a Scheme laid by the French many Years ago...(The Moravians became) a dangerous People...(who held) some Tenets and Customs...very much a-kin to those of the Roman Catholics...What can be more absurd and impolitic, than to see a Body of ignorant, proud, stubborn Clowns (who are acquainted with our Language, our Manners, our Laws, and our Interests) indulged with the Privilege of Returning almost every Member of Assembly?"

- Reverend William Smith, Professor at the Academy of Philadelphia; In A Brief State of the Province of Pennsylvania, 1755

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"(Catholics) had very bad designs...(The priest at St. Joseph's and thirty Indians) gone to consult with our enemies at Du Quesne...(Catholics were armed) against which the Protestants are not prepared, who, therefore, are subject to a Massacre whenever the Papists are ready."

- Governor Morris of Pennsylvania; To the Pennsylvania Assembly, Philadelphia, 1755

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"They are meer Franklinists and will go which way he pleases to direct."

- Richard Peters; In a letter to Thomas Penn regarding the moderate Quakers in the Pennsylvania Assembly, April 28, 1756

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"I have had disputes to Settle, all over this Continent, in settling the Winter Quarters for the Troops,...for here, there are few Publick Houses,...where Men cannot be quartered...(He recommended) a new Regulation,... (authorizing quartering troops) on private Houses."

- Lord Loudon; A letter to William Pitt, March 10, 1757

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"...a sensible, discreet man."

- The Duke of Cumberland; On Daniel Webb, 1756

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"...without them the match would be too much against us."

- Capitaine Louis Antoine de Bougainville, aide-de-camp to Montcalm; On the necessity of Indian allies, 1756

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"...we have too much already- more than we know what to do with...the neighborhood of the French to our North American colonies was ...the greatest security for their dependence on the mother-country, which I feel will be slighted by them when their apprehension of the French is removed."

-Duke of Bedford; On the acquisition of Canada, 1763

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"The colonies are nearly exhausted, and their funds already anticipated by expensive unexecuted projects. Jealous are they of each other;...Our assemblies are diffident of their governors, governors despise their assemblies; and both mutually misrepresent each other to the Court of Great Britain...Canada must be demolished,-Delenda est Carthago, - or we are undone."

-William Livingston of New Jersey; On the colonial government following the defeat at Oswego, 1757

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"The sons of Belial are too strong for me,..."

-Lieutenant Colonel John Winslow; In a letter to the Earl of Loudon on General Montcalm, at Lake George, September 29, 1756

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"On leaving the Camp Yesterday Morning they {the English} were stript by the Indians of everything they had both Officers and Men the Women and Children drag'd from among them and most inhumanely butchered before their faces,...we are too well convinced these barbarities must have been connived at by the French,...a great many men and we are afraid several Officers were massacred."

-General Daniel Webb; A letter to Loudon detailing the massacre at Fort William Henry, Fort Edward, August 11, 1757

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"I was strip'd myself of my Arms & Cloathing that I had nothing left but Briches Stockings Shoes & Shirt, the Indians round me with their tomehawks Spears & threatening Death I flew to the Officers of the French Gaurds for Protection but they would afford me none,..."

-Colonel Frye; In his testimony before the House of Representatives of Massachusetts on the massacre at Fort William Henry, Albany, August 16, 1757

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"A grievous sickness among the troops, we bury five or six a day. Not more than two thirds of our army fit for duty. Long encampments are the bane of men."

- Dr. Thomas Williams, Massachusetts surgeon at Fort Edward; A letter to Colonel Israel Williams, August 28, 1756

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"I have oft heard cursing and swearing in his presence by some provincial field-officers, but never heard a reproof nor so much as a check to them come from his mouth, though he never uses such language himself. Lord, what is man! Truly, the May-game of Fortune! Lord, make me know my duty, and what I ought to do!"

- John Graham, Connecticut minister employed as chaplain of General Lyman's regiment at Fort Edward; Diary entry on General Lyman, Fort Edward, July 28, 1756

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"I had several disputes about our capitulation; but I satisfied every person that mentioned the subject as to the articles in question, that they were owing to a bad interpreter, and contrary to the translation made to us when we signed them."

- Captain MacKay; A letter to General George Washington on the defeat at Fort Necessity, Philadelphia, 1754

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"I know they deserve all and more than they feel; yet it hurts me to hear their weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. I am in hopes our affairs will soon put on another face, and we get transports, and I rid of the worst piece of service that ever I was in."

- Lieutenant Colonel John Winslow, Commander of His Majesty's Troops; A letter to a friend regarding the forced removal of the French Acadians, Grand Pre' , Nova Scotia September 1755

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"They are dying by wholesale. Their past and present misery, joined to the rapicity of the Canadians, who seek only to squeeze out of them all the money they can,...are the cause of this mortality...They (partners of the Great Company) gave him (a Quebec citizen) a great number of Acadians to board and lodge. He starved them with hunger and cold, got out of them what money they had, and paid the extortioner. Quel pays! Quel moeurs!"

- Capitaine Louis Antoine de Bougainville; An entry in his journal concerning the French Acadians, 1756

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"I shall be glad if they fight as eagerly as they ate their ox and drank their wine."

- New England regiment surgeon; On William Johnson and his Mohawks, Encampment near Albany, NY July, 1755

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"We are a wicked, profane army, especially the New York and Rhode Island troops. Nothing to be heard among a great part of them but the language of Hell. If Crown Point is taken, it will not be for our sakes, but for those good people left behind."

- Colonel Ephraim Williams; A letter to Colonel Israel Williams, Encampment near Albany, NY July, 1755

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"Not a chicken has been stolen."

- Private William Smith of New York; On behavior of the troops, Encampment near Albany, NY July, 1755

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"Prayers among us night and morning. Here we lie, knowing not when we shall march for Crown Point; but I hope not long to tarry."

- Private Jonathan Caswell of Massachusetts; A letter to his father, Encampment near Albany, NY July, 6 1755

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"As you have at heart the Protestant cause, so I ask an interest in your prayers that the Lord of Hosts would go forth with us and give us victory over our unreasonable, encroaching, barbarous, murdering enemies."

-Lieutenant Colonel Seth Pomeroy; A letter to Israel Williams, Encampment near Albany, NY July, 1755

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"The expedition goes on very much as a snail runs, it seems we may possibly see Crown Point this time twelve months...As to rum, it won't hold out nine weeks. Things appear most melancholy to me."

- Colonel Ephraim Williams; A letter to his wife, Encampment near Albany, NY July, 1755

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"The Lord have mercy on poor New England!"

- Colonel Ephraim Williams; A letter to his wife on the news of Braddock's defeat, Encampment near Albany, NY, July, 1755

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"We went on about four or five miles then stopped, ate pieces of broken bread and cheese, and drank some fresh lemon-punch and the best of wine with General Johnson and some of the field-officers...(Next day) Stopped about noon and dined with General Johnson by a small brook under a tree; ate a good dinner of cold boiled and roast venison; drank good fresh lemon-punch and wine."

- Lieutenant Colonel Seth Pomeroy; An entry in his journal on the march to Lake George, En route to Crown Point, August, 1755

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"I have given it the name of Lake George, not only in honor of His Majesty, but to ascertain his undoubted dominion here."

-Major-general William Johnson; A letter to the Lords of Trade regarding Lake George, August, 1755

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"The Englishman will die, and the Mahican, whose flesh is not appetizing, will be burned."

-Chevalier de Bourlamaque; In a letter to Marquis de Montcalm on the fate of two of Putnam's rangers taken prisoner, July, 1757

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"Coll. Monroe the Commanding Officer was a very worthy old Gentlewoman- but terribly afflicted with a paraletic disorder of which She is since dead."

-General Charles Lee; On Colonel George Monro, commanding officer of Fort William Henry

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"...not fit to command a sergeant's guard."

- General Charles Lee; On General George Washington

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"William a bastard son of Sir William Johnsons..."

- General Philip Schuyler; Listing the death of William Johnson, Jr. at Fort St. John's, In his report on casualties, September 8, 1775

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"I am a King's man, who dare say anything against it; I have killed so many Yankies at Fort St. John's with this sword of my Father, they are no soldiers at all. I kill'd and scalp'd, and kick-d their arses, and the d-d Committee here have gone too far already, I will shew them better, and will cut some of their heads off by and by."

- William Johnson, Jr., Half Mohawk son of Sir William Johnson; To the family of Colonel Jacob Klock on the premature reports of his death, following his delayed return from St. John's, September, 1775

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"Our Ill Success hitherto hath intimidated them...In short, without some striking Success on our Side, I believe they will not join us."

- Sir William Johnson; In a letter to Edmund Atkins on the Senecas, June 21, 1757

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"The Stamp Dutys may in some respects be distressing to ye present Generation,...Independent Gentry (had) resolved to make themselves conspicuous under the feigned name of Patriots, at the expense of their Country...(they had) always been remarkable for opposing Government in every Article, & its Officers in every Character, & have propagated their Republican principles amongst an Ignorant People, whose Religious & Civil tenets incline them to embrace that Doctrine."

- Sir William Johnson; In a letter to General Thomas Gage, September, 1765

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"This was the most discouraging week I had; for the Dutch traders, I was told, had been very industrious to discourage the Indians from being Christians, thinking it would lessen their trade with them, or at least they would not be under so good advantages to cheat and impose upon them."

- John Sergeant, Puritan missionary among the Mohicans; November, 1730

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"Vices abound, visible and manifest evils among us- decay of ye power and godliness,...intemperance, much drunkenesse, tavern haunting and cheating one another; breaches of the 7th commandt and not to insist on the abounding of adultery,..."

-Stephen Williams, Puritan missionary of Springfield, Massachusetts; Commenting on the moral state of the Springfield residents, 1728

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"Indians, simply consider'd, are not of such great consequence to us. We can subsist without them...But if we consider them with relation to peace or war, as attach'd to us or to our enemies,...they certainly have the balance of power in their hand, and are able to turn it for or against us."

- Reverend Samuel Hopkins, of Springfield; Commenting on the Housatonic Mohicans, 1730

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"...(the Mohicans and Mohawks) fought our battles for us, and (have) been a constant barrier of defence. But the late long war, and the great loss which they sustained in their youth hath almost dispirited them."

-Robert Livingston of New York; Early 18th century letter to the Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts

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"...(the Mohicans were) no longer formidable to us, they having been almost consumed in former wars."

-An English spokesman for the Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts; A Reply to Robert Livingston's request for missionaries among the Iroquois and Mohicans, Early 18th century

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"...very pretty, the government pretend to give the Indians a township if they will come and settle together, and pay the claimers with the Indians' own land."

-Mohican 'King Ben'; To Israel Williams in reply to Williams explanation as to why he was surveying Mohican land, while the Mohican fighting men were at Fort Edward, May 31, 1759

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Pen and Ink

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