Government of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

CHAPTER 7: The Military Empire

The Ohio Valley (5 pages)

French Supremacy Established

Governor Jonquière, an indecisive man, vacillated. While he dithered, the anti-French feelings of the Amerindians mingled with those of the Americans who wanted to settle the Ohio Valley. During the summer, the Onondagas gave their approval to colonists from Virginia who wished to settle and build a fort in the valley. Furthermore, the Miamis, who had previously befriended the French, now turned against them under the leadership of Chief Memeskia. They even welcomed some American traders in their village of Pickawillany (today Piqua, Ohio), over which the British flag flew. Without awaiting instructions from Versailles or from the governor, French soldiers in the western forts took action. The cadet Charles-Michel Mouet de Langlade, son of a leading fur merchant and the daughter of an Ottawa chief, led a punitive expedition of around 250 Amerindians and a few Canadian militiamen in a surprise attack on Pickawillany while the warriors were away hunting. Memeskia was killed and eaten by his Amerindian enemies, while the traders were taken prisoner and carried off to Canada. Before leaving, the troops raised not one, but two French flags over the ruins of Pickawillany. This incident had a considerable impact on future developments. British influence declined among the Amerindians in the region, who now understood the fate that awaited them if they courted American traders. The Miamis themselves were divided, with most choosing to renew their friendship with the French.

When Governor Jonquière died in March 1752, still without having made a decision, the Marquis de Duquesne was sent out from France as his replacement with specific instructions to secure the Ohio Valley for France. He made considerable resources available to build a number of forts in the valley, conferring this task upon Captain Paul Marin de la Malgue, an experienced officer from the western campaigns who had distinguished himself during the war with the Foxes. Malgue left Montreal accompanied by 300 soldiers of the Compagnies franches de la Marine, 18 from the Compagnie des canonniers-bombardiers, about 1,200 militiamen and 200 Amerindians. Fort Presqu'île (today the city of Erie, Pennsylvania on the southern shore of Lake Erie) was completed in May 1753, and Fort Le Boeuf in July. Then, a detachment proceeded to the junction of the Allegheny and French rivers and began construction of Fort Machault at the Amerindian village of Venango (today Franklin, Pennsylvania). All this work was accomplished under difficult climatic conditions, with a scorching summer yielding to cold September rains. Furthermore, their provisions often spoiled, causing illness. Marin died, and was replaced by another veteran of the western campaigns, Jacques Le Gardeur de Saint-Pierre.