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Samuel de Champlain's Voyages
Volume II, Part XV

The Journals of the intrepid French explorer who was the first European to discover Lake Champlain

This is the fifteenth in a continuing series of entries from the Voyages of Samuel de Champlain, first published in 1613. To view Part I, click here. For Champlain's account of the discovery of the lake that bears his name, click here...

Original translation from the French by Charles Pomeroy Otis, Ph.D. Republished by the Prince Society, Boston: 1878.

Volume II



After having gone some six or seven leagues, we sighted an island, which we named La Soupçonneuse, [227] because in the distance we had several times thought it was not an island. Then the wind became contrary, which caused us to put back to the place whence we had set out, where we stayed two or three days, no savage during this time presenting himself to us.

On the 20th, we set out anew and coasted along to the south-west nearly twelve leagues, [228] where we passed near a river which is small and difficult of access in consequence of the shoals and rocks at its mouth, and which I called after my own name. [229] This coast is, so far as we saw, low and sandy. The wind again grew contrary and very strong, which caused us to put out to sea, as we were unable to advance on one tack or the other; it, however, finally abated a little and grew favorable. But all we could do was to return again to Port Fortuné, where the coast, though low, is fine and good, yet difficult of access, there being no harbors, many reefs, and shallow water for the distance of nearly two leagues from land. The most that we found was seven or eight fathoms in some channels, which, however, continued only a cable's length, when there were suddenly only two or three fathoms; but one should not trust the water who has not well examined the depth with the lead in hand.

Some hours after we had returned to port, a son of Pont Gravé, named Robert, lost a hand in firing a musket, which burst in several pieces, but without injuring any one near him.

Seeing now the wind continuing contrary, and being unable to put to sea, we resolved meanwhile to get possession of some savages of this place, and, taking them to our settlement, put them to grinding corn at the hand-mill, as punishment for the deadly assault which they had committed on five or six of our company. But it was very difficult to do this when we were armed, since, if we went to them prepared to fight, they would turn and flee into the woods, where they were not to be caught. It was necessary, accordingly, to have recourse to artifice, and this is what we planned: when they should come to seek friendship with us, to coax them by showing them beads and other gewgaws, and assure them repeatedly of our good faith; then to take the shallop well armed, and conduct on shore the most robust and strong men we had, each one having a chain of beads and a fathom of match on his arm; [230] and there, while pretending to smoke with them (each one having an end of his match lighted so as not to excite suspicion, it being customary to have fire at the end of a cord in order to light the tobacco), coax them with pleasing words so as to draw them into the shallop; and, if they should be unwilling to enter, each one approaching should choose his man, and, putting the beads about his neck, should at the same time put the rope on him to draw him by force. But, if they should be too boisterous, and it should not be possible to succeed, they should be stabbed, the rope being firmly held; and, if by chance any of them should get away, there should be men on land to charge upon them with swords. Meanwhile, the little cannon on our barque were to be kept ready to fire upon their companions in case they should come to assist them, under cover of which firearms the shallop could withdraw in security. The plan above-mentioned was well carried out as it had been arranged.  Some days after these events had transpired, there came savages by threes and fours to the shore, making signs to us to go to them. But we saw their main body in ambuscade under a hillock behind some bushes, and I suppose that they were only desirous of beguiling us into the shallop in order to discharge a shower of arrows upon us, and then take to flight. Nevertheless, Sieur de Poutrincourt did not hesitate to go to them with ten of us, well equipped and determined to fight them, if occasion offered. We landed at a place beyond their ambuscade, as we thought, and where they could not surprise us. There three or four of us went ashore together with Sieur de Poutrincourt: the others did not leave the shallop, in order to protect it and be ready for an emergency. We ascended a knoll and went about the woods to see if we could not discover more plainly the ambuscade. When they saw us going so unconcernedly to them, they left and went to other places, which we could not see, and of the four savages we saw only two, who went away very slowly. As they withdrew, they made signs to us to take our shallop to another place, thinking that it was not favorable for the carrying out of their plan. And, when we also saw that they had no desire to come to us, we re-embarked and went to the place they indicated, which was the second ambuscade they had made, in their endeavor to draw us unarmed to themselves by signs of friendship. But this we were not permitted to do at that time, yet we approached very near them without seeing this ambuscade, which we supposed was not far off. As our shallop approached the shore, they took to flight, as also those in ambush, after whom we fired some musket-shots, since we saw that their intention was only to deceive us by flattery, in which they were disappointed; for we recognized clearly what their purpose was, which had only mischief in view. We retired to our barque after having done all we could.

On the same day, Sieur de Poutrincourt resolved to return to our settlement on account of four or five sick and wounded men, whose wounds were growing worse through lack of salves, of which our surgeon, by a great mistake on his part, had brought but a small provision, to the detriment of the sick and our own discomfort, as the stench from their wounds was so great, in a little vessel like our own, that one could scarcely endure it. Moreover, we were afraid that they would generate disease. Also we had provisions only for going eight or ten days farther, however much economy might be practised; and we knew not whether the return would last as long as the advance, which was nearly two months.

At any rate, our resolution being formed, we withdrew, but with the satisfaction that God had not left unpunished the misdeeds of these barbarians. [231] We advanced no farther than to latitude 41° 30', which was only half a degree farther than Sieur de Monts had gone on his voyage of discovery. We set out accordingly from this harbor. [232]

On the next day, we anchored near Mallebarre, where we remained until the 28th of the month, when we set sail. On that day the air was very cold, and there was a little snow. We took a direct course for Norumbegue or Isle Haute. Heading east-north-east, we were two days at sea without seeing land, being kept back by bad weather. On the following night, we sighted the islands, which are between Quinibequy and Norumbegue. [233] The wind was so strong that we were obliged, to put to sea until daybreak; but we went so far from land, although we used very little sail, that we could not see it again until the next day, when we saw Isle Haute, of which we were abreast.

On the last day of October, between the Island of Monts Déserts and Cap Corneille, [234] our rudder broke in several pieces, without our knowing the reason. Each one expressed his opinion about it. On the following night, with a fresh breeze, we came among a large number of islands and rocks, whither the wind drove us; and we resolved to take refuge, if possible, on the first land we should find.

We were for some time at the mercy of the wind and sea, with only the foresail set. But the worst of it was that the night was dark, and we did not know where we were going; for our barque could not be steered at all, although we did all that was possible, holding in our hands the sheets of the foresail, which sometimes enabled us to steer it a little. We kept continually sounding, to see if it were possible to find a bottom for anchoring, and to prepare ourselves for what might happen. But we found none. Finally, as we were going faster than we wished, it was recommended to put an oar astern together with some men, so as to steer to an island which we saw, in order to shelter ourselves from the wind. Two other oars also were put over the sides in the after part of the barque, to assist those who were steering, in order to make the vessel bear up on one tack and the other. This device served us so well, that we headed where we wished, and ran in behind the point of the island we had seen, anchoring in twenty-one fathoms of water until daybreak, when we proposed to reconnoitre our position and seek for a place to make another rudder. The wind abated. At daybreak, we found ourselves near the Isles Rangées, [235] entirely surrounded by breakers, and we praised God for having preserved us so wonderfully amid so many perils.

On the 1st of November, we went to a place which we deemed favorable for beaching our vessel and repairing our helm. On this day, I landed, and saw some ice two inches thick, it having frozen perhaps eight or ten days before. I observed also that the temperature of the place differed very much from that of Mallebarre and Port Fortuné; for the leaves of the trees were not yet dead, and had not begun to fall when we set out, while here they had all fallen, and it was much colder than at Port Fortuné.

On the next day, as we were beaching our barque, a canoe came containing Etechemin savages, who told the savage Secondon in our barque that Iouaniscou, with his companions, had killed some other savages, and carried off some women as prisoners, whom they had executed near the Island of Monts Déserts.

On the 9th of the month, we set out from near Cap Corneille, and anchored the same day in the little passage [236] of Sainte Croix River.

On the morning of the next day, we landed our savage with some supplies which we gave him. He was well pleased and satisfied at having made this voyage with us, and took away with him some heads of the savages that had been killed at Port Fortuné. [237] The same day we anchored in a very pretty cove [238] on the south of the Island of Manan.

On the 12th of the month, we made sail; and, when under way, the shallop, which we were towing astern, struck against our barque so violently and roughly that it made an opening and stove in her upper works, and again in the recoil broke the iron fastenings of our rudder. At first, we thought that the first blow had stove in some planks in the lower part, which would have sunk us; for the wind was so high that all we could do was to carry our foresail. But finding that the damage was slight, and that there was no danger, we managed with ropes to repair the rudder as well as we could, so as to serve us to the end of our voyage. This was not until the 14th of November, when, at the entrance to Port Royal, we came near being lost on a point; but God delivered us from this danger as well as from many others to which we had been exposed. [239]


227. _La Soupçonneuse_, the doubtful, Martha's Vineyard. Champlain and Poutrincourt, in the little French barque, lying low on the water, creeping along the shore from Chatham to Point Gammon, could hardly fail to be doubtful whether Martha's Vineyard were an island or a part of the main land. Lescarbot, speaking of it, says, _et fut appelée l'Ile Douteuse_.

228. Nearly twelve leagues in a southwesterly direction from their anchorage at Stage Harbor in Chatham would bring them to Nobska Point, at the entrance of the Vineyard Sound. This was the limit of Champlain's explorations towards the south.

229. "Called after my own name." viz. _Rivière de Champlain_.--_Vide_ map, 1612. This river appears to be a tidal passage connecting the Vineyard Sound and Buzzard's Bay, having Nouamesset and Uncatena Islands on the south-west, and Nobska Point, Wood's Boll, and Long Neck on the north-east. On our Coast Survey Charts, it is called Hadley River. Its length is nearly two miles, in a winding course. The mouth of this passage is full of boulders, and in a receding tide the current is rough and boisterous, and would answer well to the description in the text, as no other river does on the coast from Chatham to Wood's Holl. On the small French barque, elevated but a little above the surface of the water, its source in Buzzard's Bay could not be discovered, especially if they passed round Nobska Point, under the lee of which they probably obtained a view of the "shoals, and rocks" which they saw at the mouth of the river.

230. _A fathom of match on his arm_. This was a rope, made of the tow of hemp or flax, loosely twisted, and prepared to retain the fire, so that, when once lighted, it would burn till the whole was consumed. It was employed in connection with the match-lock, the arm then in common use. The wheel-lock followed in order of time, which was discharged by means of a notched wheel of steel, so arranged that its friction, when in motion, threw sparks of fire into the pan that contained the powder. The snaphance was a slight improvement upon the wheel-lock. The flint-lock followed, now half a century since superseded by the percussion lock and cap.

231. They did not capture any of the Indians, to be reduced to a species of slavery, as they intended; but, as will appear further on, inhumanly butchered several of them, which would seem to have been an act of revenge rather than of punishment. The intercourse of the French with the natives of Cape Cod was, on the whole, less satisfactory than that with the northern tribes along the shores of Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. With the latter they had no hostile conflicts whatever, although the Indians were sufficiently implacable and revengeful towards their enemies. Those inhabiting the peninsula of Cape Cod, and as far north as Cape Anne, were more suspicious, and had apparently less clear conceptions of personal rights, especially the rights of property. Might and right were to them identical. Whatever they desired, they thought they had a right to have, if they had the power or wit to obtain it. The French came in contact with only two of the many subordinate tribes that were in possession of the peninsula; viz., the Monomoyicks at Chatham, and the Nausets at Eastham. The conflict in both instances grew out of an attempt on the part of the natives to commit a petty theft. But it is quite possible that the invasion of their territory by strangers, an unpardonable offence among civilized people, may have created a feeling of hostility that found a partial gratification in stealing their property; and, had not this occasion offered, the stifled feeling of hostility may have broken out in some other form. In general, they were not subsequently unfriendly in their intercourse with the English. The Nausets were, however, the same that sent a shower of arrows upon the Pilgrims in 1620, at the place called by them the "First Encounter," and not more than three miles from the spot where the same tribe, in 1605, had attacked the French, and Slain one of De Monts's men. It must, however, be said that, beside the invasion of their country, the Pilgrims had, some days before, rifled the granaries of the natives dwelling a few miles north of the Nausets, and taken away without leave a generous quantity of their winter's supply of corn; and this may have inspired them with a desire to be rid of visitors who helped themselves to their provisions, the fruit of their summer's toil, their dependence for the winter already upon them, with so little ceremony and such unscrupulous selfishness; for such it must have appeared to the Nausets in their savage and unenlightened state. It is to be regretted that these excellent men, the Pilgrims, did not more fully comprehend the moral character of their conduct in this instance. They lost at the outset a golden opportunity for impressing upon the minds of the natives the great practical principle enunciated by our Lord, the foundation of all good neighborhood, [Greek: Panta oun osa an thelaete ina poiosin hymin hoi anthropoi, houto kai hymeis poieite autois. Matth]. vii 12.--_Vide Bradford's Hist. Plym. Plantation_, pp. 82, 83; _Mourt's Relation_, London, 1622, Dexter's ed., pp. 21, 22, 30, 31, 55.

232. The latitude of Nobska Point, the most southern limit of their voyage, is 41° 31', while the latitude of Nauset Harbor, the southern limit of that of De Monts on the previous year, 1605, is 41° 49'. They consequently advanced but 18', or eighteen nautical miles, further south than they did the year before. Had they commenced this year's explorations where those of the preceding terminated, as Champlain had advised, they might have explored the whole coast as far as Long Island Sound. _Vide antea_, pp. 109, 110.

233. Between the Kennebec and Penobscot.

234. _Vide antea_, note 177.

235. _Isles Rangées_, the small islands along the coast south-west of Machias. _Vide_ map of 1612.

236. _Petit passage de la Rivière Saincte Croix_, the southern strait leading into Eastport Harbor. This anchorage appears to have been in Quoddy Roads between Quoddy Head and Lubeck.

237. In reporting the stratagem resorted to for decoying the Indians into the hands of the French at Port Fortuné, Champlain passes over the details of the bloody encounter, doubtless to spare himself and the reader the painful record; but its results are here distinctly stated. Compare _antea_, pp. 132, 133.

238. Sailing from Quoddy Head to Annapolis Bay, they would in their course pass round the northern point of the Grand Manan; and they probably anchored in Whale Cove, or perhaps in Long Island Bay, a little further south. Champlain's map is so oriented that both of these bays would appear to be on the south of the Grand Manan. _Vide_ map of 1612.

239. Champlain had now completed his survey south of the Bay of Fundy. He had traced the shore-line with its sinuosities and its numberless islands far beyond the two distinguished headlands, Cape sable and Cape Cod, which respectively mark the entrance to the Gulf of Maine. The priority of these observations, particularly with reference to the habits, mode of life, and character of the aborigines, invests them with an unusual interest and value. Anterior to the visits of Champlain, the natives on this coast had come in contact with Europeans but rarely and incidentally, altogether too little certainly, if we except those residing on the southern coast of Nova Scotia, to have any modifying effect upon their manners, customs, or mode of life. What Champlain reports, therefore, of the Indians, is true of them in their purely savage state, untouched by any influences of European civilization. This distinguishes the record, and gives to it a special importance.

This is the conclusion of Chapter 15 of Voyages
Click here for Chapter 16

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Samuel de Champlain. 1567-1635. "Voyages of Samuel de Champlain" Edited by Edmund F. Slafter, (Boston: Prince Society 1878)

Samuel de Champlain image: Warwick Stevens Carpenter. The Summer Paradise in History. Albany: General Passenger Department, The Delaware and Hudson Company. 1914. Courtesy of John and Barbara Gallagher.

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