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Samuel de Champlain's Voyages
Volume II, Part XXVII, Chapter X
The Voyages to the great river St. Lawrence...

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

This is the twenty-seventh 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.

The voyages to the great river St. Lawrence, 
made by Sieur de Champlain,
Captain in ordinary to the King in the Marine, 
from the year 1608 to that of 1612



After going some eight leagues, towards evening they took one of the prisoners, to whom they made a harangue, enumerating the cruelties which he and his men had already practised towards them without any mercy, and that, in like manner, he ought to make up his mind to receive as much. They commanded him to sing, if he had courage, which he did; but it was a very sad song.

Meanwhile, our men kindled a fire; and, when it was well burning, they each took a brand, and burned this poor creature gradually, so as to make him suffer greater torment. Sometimes they stopped, and threw water on his back. Then they tore out his nails, and applied fire to the extremities of his fingers and private member. Afterwards, they flayed the top of his head, and had a kind of gum poured all hot upon it; then they pierced his arms near the wrists, and, drawing up the sinews with sticks, they tore them out by force; but, seeing that they could not get them, they cut them. This poor wretch uttered terrible cries, and it excited my pity to see him treated in this manner, and yet showing such firmness that one would have said, at times, that he suffered hardly any pain at all. They urged me strongly to take some fire, and do as they did. I remonstrated with them, saying that we practised no such cruelties, but killed them at once; and that, if they wished me to fire a musket-shot at him, I should be willing to do so. They refused, saying that he would not in that case suffer any pain. I went away from them, pained to see such cruelties as they practised upon his body. When they saw that I was displeased, they called me, and told me to fire a musket-shot at him. This I did without his feeing it, and thus put an end, by a single shot, to all the torments he would have suffered, rather than see him tyrannized over. After his death, they were not yet satisfied, but opened him, and threw his entrails into the lake. Then they cut off his head, arms, and legs, which they scattered in different directions; keeping the scalp which they had flayed off, as they had done in the case of all the rest whom they had killed in the contest. They were guilty also of another monstrosity in taking his heart, cutting it into several pieces, and giving it to a brother of his to eat, as also to others of his companions, who were prisoners: they took it into their mouths, but would not swallow it. Some Algonquin savages, who were guarding them, made some of them spit it out, when they threw it into the water. This is the manner in which these people behave towards those whom they capture in war, for whom it would be better to die fighting, or to kill themselves on the spur of the moment, as many do, rather than fall into the hands of their enemies. After this execution, we set out on our return with the rest of the prisoners, who kept singing as they went along, with no better hopes for the future than he had had who was so wretchedly treated.

Having arrived at the falls of the Iroquois, the Algonquins returned to their own country; so also the Ochateguins, [350] with a part of the prisoners: well satisfied with the results of the war, and that I had accompanied them so readily. We separated accordingly with loud protestations of mutual friendship; and they asked me whether I would not like to go into their country, to assist them with continued fraternal relations; and I promised that I would do so.

I returned with the Montagnais. After informing myself from the prisoners in regard to their country, and of its probable extent, we packed up the baggage for the return, which was accomplished with such despatch that we went every day in their canoes twenty-five or thirty leagues, which was their usual rate of travelling. When we arrived at the mouth of the river Iroquois, some of the savages dreamed that their enemies were pursuing them. This dream led them to move their camp forthwith, although the night was very inclement on account of the wind and rain; and they went and passed the remainder of the night, from fear of their enemies, amid high reeds on Lake St. Peter. Two days after, we arrived at our settlement, where I gave them some bread and peas; also some beads, which they asked me for, in order to ornament the heads of their enemies, for the purpose of merry-making upon their return. The next day, I went with them in their canoes as far as Tadoussac, in order to witness their ceremonies. On approaching the shore, they each took a stick, to the end of which they hung the heads of their enemies, who had been killed, together with some beads, all of them singing. When they were through with this, the women undressed themselves, so as to be in a state of entire nudity, when they jumped into the water, and swam to the prows, of the canoes to take the heads of their enemies, which were on the ends of long poles before their boats: then they hung them about their necks, as if it had been some costly chain, singing and dancing meanwhile. Some days after, they presented me with one of these heads, as if it were something very precious; and also with a pair of arms taken from their enemies, to keep and show to the king. This, for the sake of gratifying them, I promised to do.

After some days, I went to Quebec, whither some Algonquin savages came, expressing their regret at not being present at the defeat of their enemies, and presenting me with some furs, in consideration of my having gone there and assisted their friends.

Some days after they had set out for their country, distant about a hundred and twenty leagues from our settlement, I went to Tadoussac to see whether Pont Gravé had returned from Gaspé, whither he had gone. He did not arrive until the next day, when he told me that he had decided to return to France. We concluded to leave an upright man, Captain Pierre Chavin of Dieppe, to command at Quebec, until Sieur de Monts should arrange matters there.


350. The Indian allies on this expedition were the Algonquins (_Algoumequins_), the Hurons (_Ochatequins_), and the Montagnais (_Montagnets_). The two former, on their way to Quebec, had met Champlain near the river St. Anne, and joined him and the Montagnais, who belonged in the neighborhood of Tadoussac, or farther east.--_Vide antea_, p. 202. They now, at the falls near the Basin of Chambly, departed to their homes, perhaps on the Ottawa River and the shores of Lake Huron.

This is the conclusion of Volume II, Part XXVII, Chapter 10 of Voyages
Click here for Volume II, Part XXVII, Chapter 11

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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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