The Iroquois and the European North American ‘empires’ I

The character of the French and British North American “empires” differed greatly. Although the French did war against the Iroquois, Natchez, Fox, and other tribes, they did not “conquer” New France; they merely paid very high tolls to the Indians for the privilege of exploiting it. Beyond their narrow ribbon of settlement between Quebec and Montreal, or ports like New Orleans and Mobile, the New France “empire” largely consisted of several scores of ramshackle trading posts, often isolated from one another by hundreds of wilderness miles and resentful Indian tribes. None of those tribes thought themselves French subjects and would have been incensed had it been suggested that they were. Nor did they think of the annual goods dispensed by the French traders as “gifts.” Of the goods received from the French, some were exchanged for “rent” and others for furs. The several hundred voyageurs, marines, and missionaries scattered across that wilderness understood clearly that their survival depended on nurturing Indian hospitality and greed, and they became quite adept at doing so by immersing themselves in Indian tongues, customs, marriage, and ambitions.

In contrast, the British had brutally conquered their empire between the Atlantic and the Appalachians with endless streams of settlers armed with muskets, diseases, and ploughs. By 1750, Britain’s 1.25 million American subjects had elbowed aside or eliminated the local tribes and towered over New France’s 80,000 white inhabitants. The British advantage went beyond raw numbers of settlers. British goods were better made, more abundant, and cheaper than those dispensed by the French. With such overwhelming power, the British could afford to be more assertive and less sensitive toward Indians. In doing so, they fired the hatred of most tribes against them, and even the smoldering emnity of erstwhile allies like the Iroquois and Cherokee.

Throughout the 17th century, the conflict between the French and English was waged primarily through competition for the alliances and trade of various Indian tribes. But as New France and the various English colonies expanded in territory and population, their merchants, soldiers, and privateers increasingly skirmished with each other on forest trails and the high seas. The French and English fought five wars for North America-Huguenot (1627-1629), League of Augsburg or King William’s (1689-1697), Spanish Succession or Queen Anne’s (1702-1713), Austrian Succession or King George’s (1745-1748), and Seven Years’ or French and Indian (1754-1763). It was the final war, of course, that proved to be decisive. The last French and Indian War cannot be understood apart from the century and a half of imperialism that preceded it.

Dutch Imperialism

Dutch imperialism split the English colonies. Perhaps no nation has risen from obscurity into a great power more rapidly or struggled for independence longer than the Netherlands, which achieved both simultaneously. From 1569 to 1648, seven provinces of the Spanish Netherlands fought a bloody, seemingly endless war for independence. During those same decades, Dutch merchant and war ships grew ever more powerful along the world’s ocean trade routes. The Dutch established colonies on East and West Indian islands, and on enclaves dotting Africa’s coast. Perhaps the greatest coup occurred in 1628 when a Dutch fleet captured that year’s Spanish treasure fleet and 200,000 pounds of silver. Amsterdam emerged to rival London as Europe’s most vigorous commercial center, and Paris and Rome as a cultural capital.

Like the other great powers, the Dutch increasingly eyed North America as a potential source of wealth and power. In 1609, Henry Hudson sailed up the river that now bears his name, in search of the Northwest Passage to Asia. What he found instead was direct access to the rich fur country of central New York States. Dutch ships annually visited the Hudson River country between then and 1614 when the New Netherlands Company received a three-year monopoly to exploit the region. The Company promptly established Fort Nassau at present-day Albany. When the monopoly expired, the free-for-all among ambitious merchants resumed until the Dutch West Indian Company received a monopoly to the region in 1624. The Company established Fort Orange near Fort Nassau’s ruins. Two years later, in 1626, it founded New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island at the mouth of the Hudson River. Over the next four decades, Dutch settlements spread not only up the Hudson River valley but were also planted in the lower Delaware and Connecticut river valleys where they competed with Swedish and Puritan settlements, respectively. Although the Puritans succeeded in squeezing the Dutch from their Connecticut settlements, their 1643 attempt to found a settlement in the Delaware valley failed. The Dutch finally absorbed New Sweden in 1655.

The Iroquois

In 1608, Samuel de Champlain sailed up the St. Lawrence with three ships and established a trading post at Quebec. Only eight of his 28 men survived that first winter. Reinforcements the following spring saved Quebec from extinction. As important to the French outpost’s survival was the mysterious vanishing of the Iroquois who had inhabited the St. Lawrence valley from Stadacona (Quebec) to Hochelaga (Montreal), and had so stymied Cartier. Their fate remains unknown. Most likely disease devastated them, and the remnants fled Algonquian and Huron attacks to take refuge among the Iroquois of New York. Despite their retreat, the Iroquois continued to contest the region, sending war parties against the confederation among the Montagnais at Tadoussac and the Huron and Algonquian tribes north of the upper St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario.

To promote his tiny colony’s trade and safety, Champlain joined the anti- Iroquois alliance. Confident of Quebec’s security, in the summer of 1609 Champlain traveled by canoe with three French and 60 Huron and Montagnais warriors up the St. Lawrence and Richelieu rivers and into Lake Champlain. On July 30, they met a war party of 200 Mohawk from the Iroquois tribe near the later site of Fort Frederic. The French remained behind a line of their allies. With arrows notched in their bows, the Mohawk advanced. Neither side fired its arrows. When the Mohawk got within 30 yards, the Huron and Montagnais parted to reveal Champlain and the other French pointing their arquebus. The Mohawk must have stood astonished and fearful-they had never before seen a firearm or a European. The French fired, killing three Mohawk chiefs and scattering the rest. Champlain’s small victory solidified French friendship with the St. Lawrence valley tribes. But those and subsequent killings fired an animosity that would rage through a series of bloody wars between the French and the Iroquois for the rest of that century.

In 1615, the Huron invited Champlain to journey to their homeland in western Ontario. There Champlain, Recollect Father Joseph Le Caron, and several other French visited palisaded villages of the Huron confederation’s four tribes, as well as nearby Ottawa and Neutral tribes, and learned of distant tribes scattered around the Great Lakes basin. The Huron convinced Champlain to join another war party against the Iroquois. This one was a disaster. The Iroquois repelled a Huron assault on one of their palisades and wounded Champlain, thus shattering the spell of French superiority set seven years earlier.

Fort Orange’s establishment in the heart of New York would shift the regional tribal power balance. Until then neither the Five Nation Iroquois nor Four Nation Huron confederacies could prevail in their perennial struggle to defeat the other. The Iroquois recognized that if they could get Dutch guns the balance would tip in their favor. But before the Iroquois could defeat the Huron, they had to dominate the Dutch trade. In 1624, the Iroquois agreed to a truce with the French and Huron in order to defeat the Mahican, who controlled the lands surrounding the upper Hudson valley and Fort Orange. In 1628, the Mahican fled into the Lake Champlain region, abandoning their land to the eastern-most Iroquois tribe, the Mohawk. To Fort Orange, the Iroquois carried an ever greater amount of furs; between 1628 and 1633 alone, the number of skins brought to Fort Orange rose from 10,000 to 30,000.

The tranquility of those colonies lasted until 1675 when Indian wars again tore apart both New England and Virginia. In 1675, the Narragansett had recovered enough from their defeat three decades earlier to re-challenge English rule. That year they withdrew to an island in the Great Swamp, began raiding English settlements, and called on other tribes to join them. Unable to penetrate that flooded, jungle-like maze, the English had to delay retaliation until those waters froze over. In December, Governor Josias Winslow led a 1,150-man expedition against the Narragansett, including 517 militia from Massachusetts, 315 from Connecticut, 158 from Plymouth, and 150 Pequot and Mohegan. Those men finally overran the camp, slaughtering 97 warriors and between 300 and 1,000 women and children, while suffering 70 dead and 150 wounded. The survivors fled to join King Philip (Metacom) and the Mahican. Philip retaliated with raids that devastated the English colonies, killing hundreds of settlers. Later that year, New York Governor Edmund Andros forged an alliance with the Mohawk and got them to attack Metacom’s village that winter and raid the Algonquians throughout the following year. The war sputtered to a close as Philip’s Indians ran out of gunpowder and Philip himself was hunted down and killed in August 1676. No Indian war in American history was more destructive than King Philip’s war-over 3,000 Indians and 1,000 colonists died in the fighting.

Meanwhile, in Virginia a dispute over a hog between a farmer and the Doeg tribe led to former’s murder. Fearing retaliation, the Doeg fled. The Virginia militia pursued them into Maryland where they attacked a friendly Susquehannock village in July 1675. The unprovoked attack sparked a war in which over 300 colonists and hundreds of Indians would eventually die. A civil war then broke out within the Susquehannock war. Virginia’s leaders split over whether to seek peace or continue war with the Indians, with Governor Berkeley heading the peace faction and Francis Bacon the war faction. When Berkeley had Bacon removed from the council for warring against the Indians, Bacon led a rebellion against the governor. Berkeley’s troops crushed Bacon’s Rebellion by January 1676 and the Indians later that year. Under the Treaty of Middle Plantation, the Indian survivors ceded most of Virginia to the English and agreed to settle on reservations.

These two wars dramatically shifted the power balance among Indian tribes, particularly in New England. The Algonqians’ defeat allowed the Mohawk’s resurgence, thus posing yet another threat to the English colonies. In 1680, Governor Andros tried to create a counterweight to the Mo- hawk by inviting the remnants of the defeated Algonquians of New England along with the Mahican and western Abenaki to settle at Schaghticoke 20 miles northeast of Albany. Andros also encouraged the Susquehannock survivors to journey north to settle in the Susquehanna River where they be- came known as Conestogas; others outright joined the Iroquois.

While various civil and international wars engulfed England and its col- onies, New France struggled to survive decades of war with the Iroquois. After regaining New France in 1632, Versailles redoubled its efforts to strengthen it. Trois-Rivieres was founded in 1634 and Montreal in 1642. In 1632, Cardinal Richelieu expelled the Recollets from New France, thus allowing the Jesuits to dominate. New religious orders arrived, including the Ursulines and Soeurs Hospitalieres in 1639 and Company of the Holy Sacrament in 1642. More seigneuries were granted to encourage more settlers. The fur trade was opened to all in 1645.

The European demand for furs rapidly depleted the supply and provoked wars among the tribes. Having wiped out their own fur-bearing animals, the Iroquois stole pelts from others. In 1635, the Iroquois once again began raiding the French and their Indian allies along the St. Lawrence valley. At first, the Iroquois merely attacked convoys of fur-laden Huron canoes paddling down the Great Lakes toward New France. In the 1640s, these raids gave way to a series of “Beaver Wars” against first surrounding and then ever more distant tribes. The Iroquois objective in these wars was to destroy their rivals and capture their fur-rich lands. Hundreds of Dutch muskets gave them the means to do so. Year by year, village by village, Iroquois war parties burned enemy fields and homes, killed hundreds, and herded the survivors back to their own longhouses. The Iroquois virtually exterminated the Huron by 1649, the Petun by 1650, the Neutrals by 1651, the Erie by 1657, and the Susquehannock by 1660. The remnants of those tribes fled either to French missions along the St. Lawrence or to tribes further west; the Susquehannock headed south to Maryland and Virginia. Many of the Iroquian-speaking Huron and other tribes eventually formed a new tribe called the Wyandot, whose villages dotted Lake Erie’s southwestern shore. Not every war ended in an Iroquois victory; a war against the Abenaki in the 1660s ended in stalemate. During these decades, the Iroquois also raided French settlements and killed French missionaries such as fathers Joques in 1642, Bressani in 1644, and Brebeuf and Lalemant in 1649. In all, 153 French died and 144 were captured between 1608 and 1666. Small- pox meanwhile accomplished what their enemies had failed to do-plagues in 1634 and 1661 ravaged the Five Nations. The furs looted from these wars swelled Fort Orange’s warehouses, to New France’s loss; in 1656 the number of furs reaching Fort Orange peaked at 46,000.

The war drastically changed both the Iroquois and New France. The adoption of hundreds of captives transformed Iroquois society. Mission Indians brought with them Christianity and pro-French sentiments. However well they were treated by the Iroquois, adoptees were not inclined to raid their former nations. Captives brought with them their tribal stories, beliefs, crafts, languages, and rituals that at once enriched and diluted traditional Iroquois culture. New France would soon exploit these Iroquois weaknesses.

In Paris, Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert determined to transform New France into a self-sufficient, diversified colony that filled rather than drained Versailles’ treasury. In 1663, Colbert revoked the private company’s charter and imposed direct royal rule over New France. The first objective was to stabilize the colony’s security by sending it French troops. In 1664, a company from each of four regiments, the Poitou, Orleans, Lalliter, and Cham- belle regiments, arrived in Quebec. Those troops were reinforced the following year with 20 companies from the Carignan-Salieres regiment, creating a combined force of 1,200 regulars commanded by Lieutenant General Alexandre de Prouville. Curiously, those troops were the first French units ever to wear uniforms-brown coats lined with grey or white. 30 In 1665, Colbert sent two energetic leaders to New France, Governor Daniel de Remy de Courcelle and Intendant Jean Talon. In 1668, Colbert ordered Talon to have each parish organize its able-bodied men into militia companies. The intendant would appoint each company’s captain, who was often a retired regular officer or soldier. New France’s population now totaled 3,035, of which one-third were regular soldiers while nearly all other men were in the militia. The much more reliable flintlock musket replaced the slow-firing arquebus. In addition, the French built three forts to guard the north end of Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River valley to wall off the St. Lawrence valley from Iroquois raiders. Colbert also invested royal funds into lumberyards, shipyards, and tarworks, and offered more seigneuries to encourage settlement. New France’s population rose to 10,977 by 1685. Wheat production not only kept pace with the new mouths to feed, but most years actually rose to a surplus that could be exported to France.

With these measures, the military power balance shifted from the Iroquois to the French. The mere threat of a French invasion was enough to induce peace from most of the Iroquois. Exhausted from their own endless wars and a series of smallpox epidemics, by 1665 four of the Iroquois tribes accepted peace-only the Mohawk kept to the warpath. Courcelle was determined to crush the recalcitrant Mohawk. In January 1666, he led 600 French troops down the Lake Champlain and Hudson rivers in a hellish struggle to reach and attack Mohawk villages. En route, 300 died of exposure and the survivors sought shelter in Schenectady. Another 100 died as they trudged home. In October 1666, eager to overcome the previous winter’s disaster, Courcelle mustered 1,300 men, including 600 regulars, 600 civilian volunteers, and 100 Huron and Algonquians, and led them toward the Mohawk villages. Although the Mohawk slipped away before Courcelle’s men, the French burned four villages and destroyed their food stores. Those Mohawk who survived the winter sued for peace the following year. In 1667, the French and Five Nations signed a treaty ending war between them and opening the latter to missionaries and traders.


The Iroquois and the European North American ‘empires’ II

Land of the Iroquois By Robert Griffing

New France sealed the peace by dispatching priests to the Five Nations. There they found a ready audience among the hundreds of former mission Indians who had been dragged as captives to Iroquoia, as well as scores of converts among the native born. Each tribe split among neutral, pro-English, and pro-French factions whose differences over time grew ever wider and more bitter. Increasing numbers of converts migrated to one of three missions near Montreal-La Prairie, La Montagne, or Caughnawaga (Kahnawake), Cataraqui up the St. Lawrence near Lake Ontario, or the predominantly Huron mission of La Lorette near Quebec. Among the Mohawk migrants to Caughnawaga was Kateri Tekawitha, whom Rome later beatified for miracles attributed to her. Iroquois also occupied the lands north of Lake Ontario from which they had earlier driven the Huron and others during the Beaver Wars.

The French also used this peace with the Iroquois to push far up the Great Lakes and buy furs directly from those distant tribes. In 1670, Jacque Marquette founded Fort Michilimackinac at the strait between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. In 1672, Intendant Talon dispatched Louis Jolliet to find and explore the Mississippi River. Jolliet joined with Marquette and together they paddled down the Mississippi as far as the Arkansas River before heading back. By 1674, Jolliet was in Quebec urging the government to establish trading posts down the Mississippi valley. While intrigued, Talon replied that the St. Lawrence valley’s population had to grow in numbers and prosperity before they could consider colonizing more distant lands. The French also began asserting power over nearby Lake Ontario, a region previously dominated by the Iroquois. In 1671, Courcelle led 50 men up the St. Lawrence to broker a peace between the Iroquois and western tribes. Two years later, in 1673, Governor Frontenac built upon Courcelle’s limited success by leading 400 troops up the St. Lawrence and into Lake Ontario to found Fort Cataraqui (Fort Frontenac) on the northeastern shore. In 1676, the French established a trading post at the Niagara River on Lake Ontario’s southwestern shore. With these two posts, the French captured much of the furs leading down from Lake Erie. Weakened by decades of war, the Iroquois could merely howl in protest.

The French trading posts became magnets for tribes throughout their surrounding regions. The Illinois confederation of a dozen affiliated bands numbered roughly 10,500 people. Increasing numbers of Illinois migrated eastward to the trading posts or to rivers that flowed down to them. This migration into lands recently claimed by the Iroquois prompted war. During the late 1670s and throughout the 1680s, Iroquois war parties ranged as far west as the Mississippi River, yet they failed to exterminate the Illinois confederacy as they had so many other tribes. A 1684 Seneca attack on Fort St. Louis was repulsed by Chevalier Henri de Baugy, 24 French, and 22 Indians. The defeat of the once seemingly invincible Iroquois proved to be the war’s psychological and military turning point. In all, distance, unfamiliarity with the terrain, and enemy numbers ultimately defeated the Iroquois. The wars drove the Illinois into greater dependence on the French, not just for guns but also for advisors and troops.

The initiative passed to the French and their Indian allies. After abortive attempts by Governor Joseph Antoine le Febrve de La Barre to invade the Iroquois lands in 1684 and 1685, in 1687 his successor Jacque-Rene de Brisay de Denonville marched into the Seneca country at the head of 832 troops, 1,030 militia, and 300 Indians. Although his troops never succeeded in catching the Seneca, they did destroy several villages. The Iroquois retaliated with attacks on Fort Niagara, Fort Frontenac, and down the St. Lawrence. Weakened by both the Iroquois raids and a smallpox epidemic that killed 10 percent of New France’s 11,000 settlers, Denonville negotiated a peace treaty with the Five Nations.

During the 1680s, the nonaggression pact of the Iroquois “League” became the alliance of the Iroquois “Confederation.” The French and English alike had long treated the Five Nations as if they were one. Annual meetings at the Onondaga Council fire shifted from maintaining peace among the Five Nations to waging war and diplomacy against others. Nonetheless, there would never be a time in the confederation’s history when more than three of the Five and later Six Nations simultaneously took the warpath. In fact, the council did all it could to keep peace within an increasingly divided confederation.

In 1689, King William’s War (War of the Augsburg Succession) broke out between England and France, and soon engulfed much of Europe. William III declared war on France when Louis XIV tried to conquer the English king’s native Holland and supported a Catholic Stuart claimant to the English throne. In North America, the warfare quickly assumed the characteristics that would continue through four successive wars. 33 With their armies bogged down in Europe, neither France nor England could commit significant forces to North America. London dispatched a mere four infantry companies to New York and another to Newfoundland. Versailles sent only warships to convoy its annual supply fleet to Quebec. With each war, France and England would boost the number of troops they committed to the New World. But the colonists were mostly forced to decide North America’s fate on their own.

Colonial troops and their Indian allies waged war through raids and occasional major campaigns. Over the next few years, the French led war parties of Abenaki against New Hampshire and attacks composed of various tribes to the Hudson and Mohawk valleys. These raids burned Fort Casco, Fort Loyal, Salmon Falls, Schenectady, and York. In response, the English helped finance Iroquois raids along the St. Lawrence valley. An Iroquois raid in July 1689 burned the town of Lachine, a mere seven miles from Montreal. In 1690, an English raiding party voyaged up the Lake Champlain corridor to destroy La Prairie before escaping a French and Indian pursuit. That same year, William Phips led 736 men to capture Port Royal in Nova Scotia.

Raids bloodied the frontier for an- other half dozen years. The governors of New France and some New England colonies offered bounties for scalps. The Iroquois suffered a humiliating defeat in 1696 when Governor Frontenac led 2,000 French and Indians to the Onondaga heartland, whose villages and crops he destroyed.

The Treaty of Ryswick abruptly ended King William’s War in 1697. The French agreed to recognize William III as England’s legitimate king, along with English claims to Newfoundland and Hudson Bay. Peace in Europe, however, did not extend to North America. The Abenaki continued to war against New England while the Iroquois ravaged the St. Lawrence valley. Several French expeditions along with separate Ottawa and Objibwa war parties attacked the Five Nations. Half of the Iroquois’ warriors died in these wars. In 1701, the Iroquois could do nothing to prevent the French from building Fort Detroit to solidify their control over the upper Great Lakes’ fur trade. Instead, that same year they meekly accepted a summons by Governor Frontenac to join representatives of 30 tribes at a Montreal council which agreed to a “Great Peace” among them all. That same year, the Iroquois signed a peace treaty with the English at Albany. In both treaties, the Iroquois promised to remain neutral in any war between France and England.

Ironically, while peace finally settled along the northern frontier, war again engulfed Europe, sparked by the death of the childless Spanish king Carlos II. Louis XIV tried to impose his grandson on the Spanish throne and thus extend French control over Spain’s Italian and Flemish territory. Other great powers supported other claimants. In 1702, England officially entered what became known as Queen Anne’s War or the War of the Spanish Succession. Queen Anne and her government hoped not just to contain Louis XIV’s latest aggression but to use the war to seize Spain’s Caribbean sugar islands and annual treasure fleet.

During the war, the periodic raids that had all along terrorized the north- east frontier increased in number and ferocity. Abenaki attacked the cities of Casco, Wells, Winter Harbor, York, and Deerfield, slaughtering hundreds of settlers and dragging hundreds of others into captivity. Caughnawaga Iroquois raided Schenectady. Iroquois raids burned and looted along the St. Lawrence valley. Western Indians attacked the Iroquois. Bounties were once again offered for enemy scalps and prisoners. Privateers captured hundreds of enemy merchant ships.

Under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht ending Queen Anne’s War, Versailles ceded English claims to Newfoundland, Hudson Bay, Acadia except for Isle Royale (Cape Breton), and Isle Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island); recognized English sovereignty over the Iroquois; and permitted the English to trade in French territory. France’s ally, Spain, lost nothing in North America, but did have to grant England the strongholds of Gibraltar and Minorca in the Mediterranean. England reaped huge benefits from the war, along with greater defense commitments.

The Utrecht Treaty is a classic example of a peace accord that sowed the seeds of future conflicts. The failure to delineate these territorial trades and fulfill other tenets unleashed a half century of conflicting claims that only war could resolve. Most controversial of all was Article 15, which seemed to allow for free trade among all the tribes and asserted British sovereignty over the Iroquois. Did free trade permit Englishmen to peddle their goods at the gates of French trading posts? If not, just where were the territories of the Iroquois and other tribes drawn? The English and French proclaimed the Iroquois as British subjects; the Iroquois rejected that distinction.

From 1727 rival trading posts at Oswego [English] and Niagara [French] made “the Six Nations’ economic dependence on European trade . . . complete, and the profits flowed almost entirely in one direction.” This was, of course, the same pattern of dependence and exploitation that had been and would be repeated across North America. That dependence caused the Iroquois to insist that those two forts remain free from attack should another war break out between France and England.

In 1740, the Emperor Charles VI died without a male heir. Over the next few years, most of Europe’s powers joined this War for the Austrian Succession. In October 1743, the Bourbon kings of Spain and France signed the Treaty of Fontainbleau, reviving their old Family Compact. The British and French fought on the continent and oceans for at least a year before Versailles formally issued a war declaration in March 1744.

In North America the struggle was known as King George’s War. In New York, the rivalry between the French and British for an Iroquois alliance bitterly split the Longhouse. Officially, only the Mohawk fought with the British; the other tribes remained neutral. But the pressure tore each tribe into near warring factions. Many Mohawk drifted north to Caughnawaga near Montreal. Other disgruntled Iroquois migrated to the upper Ohio River valley where they became known as Mingo. Onondaga and Cayuga along with Iroquois from the other tribes flocked to the Oswegatchie mission until, by 1751, over 3,000 Iroquois had settled there. During the final French and Indian War, Oswegatchie and Caughnawaga became bases for war parties against New York, New England, and even their former kinsmen.

The English failure to forge a solid alliance with the Ohio tribes followed a similar reverse earlier that summer at a council with the Iroquois. On June 16, 1753, Mohawk Chief Hendrick stood, locked eyes with Governor Clin- ton, and proclaimed: “Brother when we came here to relate our Grievances about our Lands, we expected to have something done for us. . . . Nothing shall be done for us. . . . [A]s soon as we come home we will send up a belt of Wampum to our Brothers the 5 Nations to acquaint them the Covenant is broken between you and us. So brother you are not to expect to hear of me any more, and Brother we desire to hear no more of you.”

New York’s defense all but collapsed with the words of King Hendrick. The Mohawk had been the only Iroquois tribe that had consistently sup- ported the British. Their villages were only several score miles from Albany and had consistently acted as a buffer against war parties of French and Indians from other tribes, including those of the Six Nations. Their entreat- ies on behalf of the British at Onondaga had frequently blunted the calls of others for war against the colonies. Now, if war broke out, the Mohawk would not only allow French and Indian war parties through their land, they might well join them. Hendrick’s statement also destroyed the British claim to the Ohio River valley by dint of their suzerainty over the Iroquois. The Iroquois rejection of neutrality on top of the French expedition to the upper Ohio would lead to the Albany Conference of 1754.

On September 18, 1753, the Board sent orders to the governors of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia, New Jersey, Mary- land, and New Hampshire to send delegates to a grand council with the Iroquois. Its orders to the governors declared: “His Majesty having been pleased to order a Sum of Money to be issued for Presents to the Six Nations of Indians, and to direct his Governor of New York to hold an Interview with them for delivering these Presents, for burying the Hatchet, and for renewing the Covenant Chain with them, We think it our duty to acquaint you therewith.” After the necessary exchanges of letters, a date for the Albany assembly was set for June 14, 1754. Governor Clinton was given the duty of inviting and hosting the delegates.

Indian Warfare

The nature of warfare changed dramatically after the Europeans arrived. Until then, warfare was ritualized as lines of warriors wearing reed-armor approached each other and exchanged barrages of insults and arrows. Few died in the exchanges. European diseases devastated tribes, thus creating unprecedented needs to fill the places of vacant loved ones with captives and scalps. Trade competition provoked devastating wars over hunting and trapping grounds and trade routes. European weapons gave the Indians unprecedented power to destroy their enemies. Warfare became ever more savage with the enemy’s annihilation the goal. French and English bounties for scalps made killing enemies as desirable as taking captives. Some practices continued. Scalping was universally practiced long before and after the Europeans arrived, as were, for many tribes including the Iroquois, variations of both ritual and subsistence cannibalism. When a village decided to send warriors to the French or British the chief would give the ally a bundle of red- dyed sticks to show how many warriors had been committed to the war.

To varying degrees, warfare was an integral part of each tribe’s culture. Blood feuds or “mourning wars” provoked most bloodshed. Indians did not endure the deaths of loved ones and neighbors stoically, but immersed themselves in long periods of mourning that could involve self-neglect, laceration, or even mutilation, and attacks on other tribes. When someone died, his or her place and name had to be filled by bringing captives or scalps back from the warpath. Indians sublimated grief and avenged deaths through war, which usually stimulated more grief and the need for vengeance when warriors failed to return or the raid provoked deadly enemy counterattacks. Clans rather than villages initially tended to go to war, but dragged in the entire tribe as enemies retaliated. Thus were tribes trapped in a vicious, never-ending war cycle.

War on the North America’s Northern Frontier, 1689–1713

Revolution and the Iroquois



English Specialist archers originating in Wales in medieval times

An old Scottish saying dictates that, “Every English archer carries on his belt 24 Scots.” From the thirteenth until the sixteenth century, there was no question why the longbow held the Scots’ respect, as it became the national weapon of the English military. It transformed the English army into one of the most powerful military forces in the medieval world, surpassing even the might of its rival the French and their impetuous knights. In a relatively short period of some 300 years, the long bow conquered Wales and Scotland, and reached the pinnacle of efficiency when it was the deadly weapon of choice employed by Edward III and the Black Prince in their victories over the French during the Hundred Years’ War.

The rise of the longbow begins in the Anglo-Norman invasion of Wales in the twelfth century, where Welsh archers using a unique type of bow exacted huge losses on the invaders. After the successful, but costly, campaign was over, the English were quick to realize the potential of such a devastating weapon. By the end of the century, Welsh archers were already being conscripted in large numbers as a supplementary force within the English army. The army, bolstered by the new mercenaries, proceeded to achieve decisive victories over the Scots and the French. A force that could not be ignored, the English stopped using mercenaries and mandated the creation and practice of the longbow among their non-noble regular troops. Royal decrees were issued concerning days of practice, conditions, even ranges: Henry VIII declared that no archer could practice at a distance under 220 yards, in order to increase his effectiveness.

The accessibility of the longbow among even the poor would prove the deciding factor in a number of battles, the two most significant being the Battle of Crécy and later, the Battle of Agincourt during the Hundred Years’ War in the fourteenth century. Even at home, the English nobility was careful not to push the yeomen too far out of fear of the possible destructive results, as witnessed in the Peasants’ Revolt of the late fourteenth century. The longbow single-handedly gave the peasant class of England a check on the gentry’s power not seen on the mainland of Europe. Cheap and simple enough for even a peasant to own and master, the longbow possessed advantages apparent in its construction. A selfbow, that is, a bow made from one single piece of wood, the longbow involved relatively little labor and could be produced rapidly. Welsh yew was the wood of choice because of its high compressive strength, light weight, and resilience. It is said that at the height of production of longbows during the Hundred Years’ War in the fourteenth century, an expert bowyer could shape a longbow out of a piece of yew in only about two hours. The “D” shape of the bow was the maximum threshold to which the elastic nature of the wood could stretch and still return to its natural straightness after an arrow was loosed. As tall as an average yeoman, the longbow stood anywhere from five to six feet upon its completion, and had a supreme draw weight of between 80 and 90 pounds. Arrows were drawn back to the ear, as opposed to the breast with a normal bow, thus increasing range and striking power. Skeletal remains of archers from this period still bear the obvious signs of wear produced by the repetition of the weight of the drawstring, as shoulder muscles became disproportionately stronger, dramatically reshaping the bones and creating bone spurs in the joints of the arm. Such strength allowed English archers to achieve an average effective range of over 200 yards, an astonishing (and condemned by the French as decidedly unchivalrous) distance.

To protect the bows from moisture and the weather, a mixture of wax, resin, and tallow would be applied to them, and they would be stored in cases made of canvas or wool. Bow strings were made of hemp, fine flax, or even silk. Strings were attached to nocks on the end of the bow made of bone or horn. The typical English longbow arrow was known as the clothyard shaft; from 27 to perhaps even 36 inches in length. It was cheap and easy to mass produce, made from either ash or birch. It is estimated that greater numbers of long bow shafts were produced than any other type of arrow in history.

Though longbows were accurate and could shoot the farthest of any bow in the Middle Ages, they could not usually do both effectively at the same time. Reports indicate that diminishing returns on targets kicked in when the target was about 80 yards away. However, when taking into account the fact that an expert archer could shoot up to 10-12 arrows per minute, a group of archers could create a virtual storm of arrows and still hit something (it is difficult to miss an army). With the development of arrows with massive bod kin points (a point with an elongated pyramid shape and a sharpened point), even plate armor could be pierced with a direct impact. No longer was it the rule that infantry could not stand up to a heavily armored cavalry unit. In order to increase the reload speed, archers would stick these bodkin tips point down into the ground in front of them; another more grisly result of this practice was to increase the chance of infection in the victim’s wounds. The only way to remove such an arrow cleanly would be to tie a piece of cloth, soaked in boiling water or another sterilizing substance, to the end of it and push it through the victim’s wound and out the other side. If bone was hit or broken, only specialist tools could extract the points in order to minimize the risk that the marrow would seep into the bloodstream.

Commanders developed their tactics to fully utilize the chaos the longbow could create. Starting in a line in front of the main body of the English army, a group of longbow men would shoot an opening skirmish volley, disrupting the enemy and forcing them to advance before they were ready. The main body of archers usually would take up positions on both flanks of the battle line in enfilade positions, then proceed to loose successive volleys at the closing enemy army. The ability of the English to take a defensive posture and force the enemy to expend their energy and much of their manpower just crossing the field of battle became their favorite and most effective tactic for three centuries. At the battle of Crécy, almost a third of the French nobility (fighting as mounted knights) were destroyed by infantry equipped with longbows before even coming into contact with the main body of the English army. The French force of some 30,000 men was decisively defeated by a relatively immobile army of 12,000 English consisting of little cavalry. During the 400- year period when it was employed widely, the longbow rewrote the rules of engagement, and crippled the utility of once dominant cavalry forces. As a result, English longbow units were sought-after mercenaries in European conflicts, fighting at various times with the Swiss, the Teutonic Knights, the Portuguese, and with the famous mercenary White Company of Sir John Hawkwood in Italy.

Longbows continued in effective use until about the sixteenth century, when the development and weaponization of gun powder became more common, and units such as arquebusers, musketeers, and grenadiers began appearing. Even though the longbow had faded out of military use by the seventeenth century, it left an indelible mark on English society. For four centuries, the peasant class had a weapon of their own, and stories like the legend of Robin Hood grew out of this consciousness and empowerment. The longbow allowed for the blossoming of English military power and the development of its place as a dominant world entity.

References: Hardy, Robert, Longbow (Cambridge: Patrick Stevens, 1976); Kaiser, Robert E., The Medieval English Longbow, Journal of the Society of Archer-Antiquaries, volume 23, 1980; Norman, A. V. B. and Don Pottinger, English Weapons & Warfare (449-1660) (New York: Prentice Hall, 1982).

Agesilaus and the Spartan Army III

If this solution is correct, then Spartans reorganized their army at some point after the battle of Plataea and before 418. A solid if not absolutely conclusive argument can be made that this reform took place before 425 B.C.E. because of certain features in Thucydides’ account of the Spartans’ reaction to the threat posed by Demosthenes’ capture of Pylos. Thucydides tells us that the Spartans sent contingents of 420 hoplites in rotation onto the island of Sphacteria drawn by lot from all the lochoi (4.8.9), by which he is understood to mean that the lots were drawn among each enômotia in the lochoi rather than among individual soldiers. If, as is very probable, the Spartans at this time mobilized 35 out of the 40 available age classes from 20 to 59 years of age, the number 420 is best explained as the result of one enômotia of 35 men being drawn from each of 12 lochoi, implying an army of 6 morai, each made up of 2 lochoi. That perioeci were already brigaded with Spartiates in the same morai can be deduced from Thucydides’ statement that of the 292 survivors from the last detatchment only 120 were full Spartan citizens (4.38.5).

After Thucydides, various references in Xenophon’s Constitution of the Lacedaemonians, Anabasis, and Hellenica give us a relatively detailed idea of the shape of the army. Despite some difficulties, the picture that emerges is sufficiently clear. The largest unit was the mora, of which there were six (Hell. 6.1.1), each commanded by a pole-marchos (Hell. 4.4.7). Each mora contained two lochoi (Hell. 7.4.20), each under a lochagos (Lac. 11.4, see above), which in turn comprised four pentekostyes (Anab. 3.4.22), whose officers were called either pentekostêres (Hell. 3.5.22, 4.5.7) or pentekonterês (Anab. 3.4.21). In each pentakostys were four enômotiai (Hell. 6.4.12) under the direction of four enômotiarchai (Anab. 3.4.21). This last calculation involves preferring Thucydides’ clear statement that there were four enômotiai in each pentekostys (5.68.3) over Xenophon’s equally bald assertion that there were sixteen enômotiai in each mora, implying only two per pentekostys (Lac. 11.4).

The Spartans had acquired military capabilities of other kinds as well. Their first true cavalry force came into being in 425 as a response to the threat posed by Athenian raiding after their capture of Cythera and the promontory near Pylos (Thuc. 4.55.2). Apparently organized in parallel with the hoplites into six morai (Xen. Lac. 11.4) under hip-parmostai (Xen. Hell. 4.5.12), the total number of cavalry troopers is unknown but was probably somewhat more than 600, the approximate number present in five cavalry morai at the Nemea River in 394 (Xen. Hell. 4.2.16). The cavalry was the junior service, as the commander of a cavalry mora was subordinate to his infantry equivalent, the polemarch (Xen. Hell. 6.5.12). Surprisingly, the pro-Spartan Xenophon, though a horseman himself, had little time for the Spartan cavalry (Hell. 6.4.11).

The Spartan navy that is attested as early as the sixth century (Hdt. 3.54.1) and essentially won the long war against Athens was just barely part of the military establishment. The city’s concentration on infantry, with all the social and institutional biases attending that choice, meant that the maritime service was undervalued. Moreover, apart from captains and marines, the crews were all helots or mercenaries and thus unlikely to have gained much credit in the eyes of Spartiates, despite their evident success (Xen. Hell. 7.1.12). We know of only two Spartan naval ranks, and those only because Lysander held them – nauarchos or navarch, the supreme naval commander, and epistoleus or secretary (Xen. Hell. 2.1.7; Plut. Lys. 7.2–3). The annual post of navarch could only be held once in a lifetime, which may have been intended to thwart the overly ambitious but, as we have seen, potentially deprived Sparta of much-needed military expertise. That only a small handful of Spartan royals ever deigned to command the fleet is a sign of the low esteem in which naval operations were held.

Sparta’s reputation depended upon the hoplites, renowned for their discipline in formation combined with the ability to execute flawlessly what seemed to other Greeks to be complicated maneuvers. The orderliness of the Spartan ranks was result of two factors – the inculcation of obedience that began with entry into the system of citizen training and never really ended, and the depth of rank in the army itself. The Spartan army hierarchy was quite remarkable. The Athenian army, for instance, after the reforms following Marathon, had only three officer ranks: the generals, taxiarchs, and the commanders of lochoi within each taxis. An Athenian lochos may have consisted of 100 men, it has been estimated, over double the size of the enômotia at its maximum capacity. And the Spartan enomotarch was not actually the most junior officer, for under him the file leaders themselves were in charge of the men lined up behind them (Xen. Lac. 11.5), numbering from five to fourteen. Thucydides had a point when he wrote that almost all the Spartan army consisted of officers commanding officers (5.66.4). Orders passed swiftly down this chain of command, enabling the army to shift from marching to battle formation with impressive speed – a maneuver Xenophon assures us the professional arms trainers claimed was extremely difficult – and to face attacks from the sides and rear (Lac. 11.8–10).

Marching in step, while perhaps known to other Greeks, was particularly associated with the Spartan army. Famously, their troops at Mantinea advanced towards the Argive army with a slow rhythmic pace to the sound of many flutes, not for a religious reason, as Thucydides explains to his readers, but in order to maintain a steady pace and to prevent the ranks from breaking up, which tended to occur in large armies (5.70). Plutarch also referred to the awe inspired by a Spartan advance (Lyc. 22.4–5). Greeks had long regarded dancing, either solo or in a choral group, as an eminently effective way of learning both evasive movements to escape from harm on the battlefield and coordinated motion as a unit (Pl. Leg. 796c, 803e, 813e; Athen. 14.25 [628F]). Spartan dances, such as the Pyrrhiche – a lively dance with shield and spear – and the choruses of the Gymnopaediae, Hyacinthia, and others were widely known.

Xenophon thought the choruses and gymnastic competitions of the young men at Sparta worth hearing and seeing (Lac. 4.1–7); they were manifestly an important part of the city’s training of its future citizens. The military advantages gained from a practical knowledge of music and dance are apparent in incidents such as at Amphipolis in 422, when Brasidas’ practiced eye noticed, from the uncoordinated movement of their heads and spears, that the Athenians outside the walls could not withstand a direct assault (Thuc. 5.10.5).

During the fifth century, the Spartan army appears to have become more and more standardized in dress and armament. Like all other Greek armies of the time, Spartan weaponry would have included at a minimum a sword and a short thrusting spear. From early on, all Spartan warriors were famous for growing their hair long – the mark of a free man, as Aristotle (Rhet. 1367a) would have it. But evidence for the other elements in the ancient, and modern, image of the Spartan soldier as an almost faceless unit in a massive killing machine comes from later in the century. The large circular shield that gave the hoplite his name was the characteristic armament of the Greek heavy infantry in the Classical period. Like their counterparts in other cities, Spartans in the later sixth and early fifth centuries most likely carried individual emblems on their shields as a means of personal display. The famous lambda insignia is first mentioned only at the time of the Peloponnesian War (Eupolis Fr. 359 Kock). Spartans were not alone in branding their army in this way; they lulled the Argives into complacency before the Long Walls of Corinth in 392 by carrying shields emblazoned with sigmas taken from a Sicyonian unit they had just defeated (Xen. Hell. 4.4.10).

The earliest mention of the phoinikis, the crimson garment that served as the Spartan military uniform, is in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata (1136–40), produced in 411, though referring to the aftermath of the earthquake of 465/4 B.C.E. That it was actually a cloak, as some ancient and most modern authors have thought is confirmed by archaeological evidence, namely the remains of prominent Spartiates buried in the Kerameikos after the clash between King Pausanias and the democratic insurgents in 403 B.C.E. (Xen. Hell. 2.4.33).

The skeletons show signs of having been wrapped tightly from head to toe in a long garment which was fastened by pins at the shoulders. This, combined with the near-total absence of grave goods (one body was buried with a single alabastron), fits so nicely with Plutarch’s statement (Lyc. 27.2) that Spartan war dead were customarily buried without any grave goods, crowned with olive, and wrapped in the phoinikis that it seems almost certain that a cloak formed at least part of the military dress known as “the crimson.”

Head coverings were also standardized. Artifacts from the early fifth century, small lead figurines found in the sanctuary of Artemis Orthia, and the so-called “Bust of Leonidas” depict hoplites wearing helmets of different shapes and designs. By the end of the century, these had been replaced by conical felt hats (piloi) that were indistinguishably uniform. In addition, Spartan hoplites wore light chest protection of quilted linen or leather instead of bronze cuirasses. The evidence for standardization raises the question of procurement. How did individual Spartans acquire their weapons and armor? Historians incline towards a central distribution agency, especially since we know that the state replaced and repaired the equipment of soldiers on campaign (Xen. Lac. 11.2). In such a system, the perioeci would logically have provided the craftsmen to manufacture the articles to Spartan specifications.

Spartan military efficiency was also evident in the swift mobiliztion of troops. The overnight call-up of 5,000 Spartiates along with 35,000 helots before Plataea may strain credulity (Hdt. 9.10.1), but the Spartans clearly had a streamlined system of conscription that made the Athenian practice of the general and taxiarchs selecting troops individually for each campaign look very clumsy indeed. Rather, the Spartans called up hoplites by age in eight blocks of five years each from twenty to fifty-nine. When the ephors “showed the guard,” they designated which units were to be sent out and which age groups would man them (Xen. Lac. 11.2; Hell. 6.4.17). Each Spartiate would have been permanently assigned to a lochos, making mustering simple. Theoretically, each Spartan hoplite would have been the only representative of his year class in every enômotia, so that the number of men in each would have corresponded exactly to the number of year classes mobilized. Such a system would have been unworkably rigid, however, so historians have concluded that each group of five men did not necessarily contain one man from each of the block’s five year classes. Only in the first two blocks, representing the year classes from twenty to twenty-nine, can there have been a realistic chance of filling the one-man, one-year-class requirement, because of the high mortality rate among Spartiate warriors. And, as the first ten year classes (ta deka aph’ hêbês) were commonly sent out as shock troops at the beginning of a battle (Xen. Hell. 2.4.32, 3.4.23, 4.5.14, 5.4.40; Ages. 1.31.6), they were not immune from heavy losses themselves.

These young men were also eligible for distinction as members of the 300-strong crack unit called the hippeis or “knights,” who actually fought as hoplites, not on horseback. Their most prestigious duty was to act as bodyguards for each king while he was on campaign, with the task usually assigned to one-third of their number (Hdt. 6.56). While the rest of the hêbontes were brigaded throughout the lochoi, the hippeis had the extraordinary privilege of forming a separate corps outside the military chain of command. At Mantinea, Leuctra, and other occasions when the Spartan state ordered full mobilization, the entire corps would have been present, with catastrophic results at Leuctra (Xen. Hell. 6.4.15). The hippeis also acted as the domestic security service, as in the Cinadon crisis (Xen. Hell. 3.3.9). The hippeis’ loyalty and discretion in carrying out such sensitive assignments was due to their special status in the Spartan military hierarchy. On campaign the hippeis and hippagretai answered directly to the kings, at home to the ephors. The ephors chose their three commanders, called hippagretai, directly every year from among men over thirty. Each hippagretes then chose one hundred of the best hêbontes to form a contingent of hippeis, publicly announcing his reasons for accepting some and rejecting most (Xen. Lac. 4.3–4). Sparta’s culture of praise and blame would have been on full display on these occasions. The story of Pedaritus (Plut. Lyc. 25.4), who went away smiling after being rejected for the hippeis because, as he said, it meant that the city had three hundred men better than he, is the exception proving the rule. The rejected were encouraged to keep a close watch over the behavior of the chosen in hopes of catching them acting improperly, and the two sets of hêbontes frequently came to blows whenever they happened to meet (Xen. Lac. 4.6).

The army was the Spartans’ pride and joy. Unsurprisingly, they credited Lycurgus with its foundation. Herodotus (1.65.5) reports that Lycurgus was responsible for the military institutions of his own time, in particular, the enômotiai, the sussitia (the common messes, which had some as yet unclear connection with the army), and the mysterious triakades (“thirds”). Curiously, over a hundred years later and after at least one major structural reform, Xenophon also considers Lycurgus the founder of the military institutions of his day (Lac. 11.1–4), including the morai, which most historians regard as the cornerstone of the later fifth century new-style army.

Unlike the Athenians, Spartans buried their warrior dead in the lands where they fell. It was a matter of pride, for Spartiate graves served as tangible signs of their city’s ability to project its power. At Sparta, families commemorated their dead relatives with simple memorials bearing their names followed by the famous, suitably laconic, inscription “in war.” As a consequence, one of the most familiar apophthegms, that attributed to a Spartan mother saying, as she bids her warrior son farewell, “(Come back) with it or on it,” meaning his hoplite shield, cannot have been from a Spartan source, since dead warriors were not brought home (Plut. Mor. 241f).

Throwing away one’s shield was an offense commonly punished throughout Greece, but Sparta has always been notorious for severely penalizing soldiers considered to be cowards, or “tremblers” (tresantes). Writers ancient and modern have catalogued the punishments inflicted upon any Spartiate falling short of the city’s demanding code of honor. However, many of the penalties listed in our earliest source, Xenophon’s Constitution of the Lacedaemonians (Lac. 9.4–6), were socially, not legally rooted. For example, people were ashamed to eat or exercise in the company of a coward; cowards were left out of the ball teams and assigned the most demeaning positions in dances; young men did not give way to them in the streets nor accord them seats at public events. Moreover, the term “trembler” itself was applied only to one man, Aristodemus, the sole survivor of Thermopylae (Hdt. 7.231–2), who redeemed himself by dying bravely at Plataea (Hdt. 9.71.2). The legal penalty imposed was evidently a form of atimia (loss of citizen rights) that varied according to circumstances and was of a specific duration, as in the case of the 120 ex-POWs from Sphacteria, who were stripped of the right to hold office and carry out financial transactions for a period of time until being restored to full Spartiate status (Thuc. 5.34.2). In the other notable instance of Spartan atimia, Plutarch reports that king Agesilaus called for the laws to sleep for a day during the crisis over how to treat the survivors of the Leuctra disaster (Plut. Ages. 30.5–6). Taking all the evidence together, the harsh treatment of “tremblers” could well have been more notorious to outsiders as a concept than to Spartans as a commonly inflicted punishment.


Some 1,200 women-at-arms accompanied the duke of Alva in Flanders in the late 1500s. They are described by Varillas in Histoire de Henry III, volume III, as “fair and gallant as princesses and very well appointed,” eight hundred afoot and four hundred “mounted courtesans.” There also survives a portrait by an anonymous Italian artist of a courtesan of somewhat Chinese countenance and exceedingly serious demeanor, clad in full armor and girt with swords. An edict published in 1516 attempted to outlaw the warrior-courtesan by prohibiting women in men’s clothing to follow after men-at-arms; the edict did not otherwise prohibit camp following.

The warrior-courtesan grew partly out of the tradition of camp followers, but grew as well from the aggressive choices made by independently wealthy city courtesans, singers, and actresses who may already have gained fame in such stage roles as Dido and Minerva before setting off to the Crusades or defending their own cities. Théroigne de Mericourt, La Maillard, Margheritona, and Malatesta are typical of a type of actress/courtesan whose fame, wealth, and personal aggression led them, in time of war, to rise as leaders in the forefront of peasant revolution.

camp followers

Behind every army the world has sent marching over land, and with a good many of the naval forces as well, there were always camp followers, who might be the wives of soldiers following from the start, or women who joined the “baggage” along the way. They cooked, carried the baggage, served as nurses and as sanitation officers who buried the dead, served as scouts and spies, and suffered the same rigors as the soldiers. In antiquity, such women were apt to worship Venus Victrix. Camp followers followed in the wake of the Roman armies everywhere in the empire.

Not only were there camp followers in the American Revolution, but the wives of soldiers, such as the famous Molly Pitcher, were semiofficial conscripts who stayed close to their husbands and were habitually on the field of battle, rather than traveling with the baggage. Some were afterward granted soldiers’ pensions. Camp followers of the Napoleonic era often entered the campaigns already seasoned veterans, having gained warring experience in the streets of Paris during the early days of the revolution, despite that the Napoleonic Code attempted to suppress women’s soldierliness. Consuelo Dubois was a sutler who accompanied her husband for twenty years in the Napoleonic wars, “sharing victory and defeat,” and was finally murdered in a famous sea disaster. The women in the armies of Attila the Hun were notoriously warlike and were integrated into the main ranks rather than relegated to the rear guard, as was true in the armies of Genghis Khan.

Virtually all of history’s conquerors, whether Napoleon, the Khans, the Romans, or the Spanish conquistadors, sustained a large population of camp followers, many of whom were as a matter of course provided with uniforms (or who presumptuously designed their own) and held imitative officer ranks. Exceptions are noteworthy: Alexander the Great was said to despise camp followers, mainly because he encouraged homosexuality in his armies’ ranks. By and large, without camp followers, the day-to-day needs and business of camp life simply would not have functioned. Often, one or another camp follower of especially warlike temperament would edge her way by degrees into the main ranks, slowly accepted as a regular combatant.

Samurai and Ethics

As the country entered an enduring phase of stability and peace, without even any real foreign threat, warriors became superfluous. There were a number of peasant uprisings to put down, their lords’ honour to uphold, and a bit of policing, but little work for real warriors. Instead, they became bureaucrats and administrators. Their battles became mere paper wars.

These men who occupied the top class in the social order were acutely embarrassed by their almost parasitic life. They seized the least chance for real action to prove their valour, and they went to almost absurd lengths to justify their existence. As a rather ironic result, it was during this age of the redundant samurai that some of the clearest expressions of the samurai ideal, bushid (‘way of the warrior’), were to emerge.

Every Japanese knows the story of the Forty-Seven Rnin. A rnin (wanderer) was a samurai made masterless either by dismissal or by the execution or demotion of his lord. There were quite a few of them in Tokugawa Japan who roamed the countryside causing trouble for villagers and disquiet for the authorities. The forty-seven in question, however, are seen as the embodiment of samurai virtue.

In 1701 their lord, Asano Naganori (1665–1701) of Ak in Harima (Hygo Prefecture) had been insulted by Kira Yoshinaka (1641–1703), the shgun’s chief of protocol. Asano had drawn his sword in the shgun’s castle – a capital offence. He was made to commit seppuku, and his domain was confiscated from his family. Forty-seven of his now masterless samurai retainers vowed to avenge his death by killing Kira. They hid their intent for two years, pretending to lead a life of dissipation, then attacked and killed Kira in an unguarded moment, placing his severed head on their lord’s grave.

Though their behaviour was considered exemplary bushid they were nonetheless ordered to kill themselves for having taken the law into their own hands. Amidst scholarly discussion and public controversy they killed themselves in a mass seppuku. Their graves at Sengakuji Temple in Tky are now a major tourist attraction.

Descriptions of bushid from this period that are still popular today include Hagakure (In the Shadow of Leaves) of 1716 and Gorin no Sho (The Five Rings) of around 1643. However, one of the most interesting was written by Yamaga Sok (1622–85), who was himself a rnin. He had also been a teacher of one of the Forty-Seven Rnin.

Yamaga was perhaps the first to see bushid as a comprehensive philosophy.26 In his various writings he stressed aspects of it such as loyalty and self-discipline, as well as the importance of learning and cultivation of the arts and the rounded development of the whole man. Knowing one’s role in life, and knowing how to properly conduct relations with others, are particularly stressed. But he also struck a defensive note in his justification of the samurai’s apparent lack of functional usefulness to the society of the day. Yamaga argued that the samurai’s freedom from occupation proper allowed him to concentrate on perfecting his moral virtue and thus to serve as a model for the rest of society, disciplining the imperfect if necessary:27

The samurai dispenses with the business of the farmer, artisan, and merchant, and confines himself to practising this Way; should there be someone in the three classes of the common people who transgresses against these moral principles, the samurai summarily punishes him and thus upholds proper moral principles in the land.

There is here a reference to morality, but it is a different morality from the western concept. It is still not a question of good and evil, but of doing the expected thing in the context of social relations and orderliness. Step out of line, and one is summarily punished.

Yamaga’s account also has a heavy Confucian tone. Confucianists were very much concerned with knowing one’s place, honouring relationships, respecting order, and doing one’s duty. Because of these values, Confucianism was revived and promoted by the Tokugawa shgunate. In some aspects, however, it was modified to suit Japan. For example, Chinese Confucianism allowed for showing loyalty to conscience, but in Japan this became narrowed to loyalty to one’s superior. A Confucian adviser to the shgun was appointed, and a Confucian college was founded in Edo with shgunal support. The period produced many noted Confucian scholars, such as Hayashi Razan (1583–1657), Yamazaki Ansai (1618–82), Arai Hakuseki (1657–1725), and Ogy Sorai (1666–1728).

One major influence of Confucianism was on gender perceptions and by extension sexual relations. Texts such as Onna Daigaku (Great Learning for Women) of 1716 preached the ‘five infirmities’ of women – indocility, discontent, slander, jealousy, and silliness – and placed them in a greatly inferior position to men. Onna Daigaku observed that:28 ‘Without any doubt, these five infirmities are found in seven or eight out of every ten women, and it is from these that arises the inferiority of women to men.’ This lowly view of women was one reason why so many – if not most – samurai preferred homosexual relationships.29 Moreover, according to the sometimes-followed Chinese philosophy of yin and yang, too much association with the female yin could seriously weaken the male yang.

Confucianists and the shgunate did not really approve of homosexuality, but turned a blind eye to it. The shgunate was particularly prepared to be tolerant because in Japan’s case physical male homosexuality invariably reflected social rank, with the active partner always the senior.30

Confucianism was not always good for the shgunate. One of its ironies was that it encouraged ideas of merit and learning. This was allowed for in concepts of hierarchy and rank in China, which permitted some mobility on the basis of learning and meritorious achievement, and in later centuries this was also to some extent to be allowed for in Japan. However, encouragement of merit and learning did not necessarily work in the best interests of the Tokugawa shgunate and its policy of unquestioning orthodoxy and stability. Over time rather more critical and questioning attitudes emerged in some quarters than the shgunate wanted – though this should not be overstated, for obedience was still the norm.

The children of samurai and nobles were educated at home or at special domain schools, and wealthy merchants also set up private schools. Increasingly the children of other classes had the opportunity to study at small schools known as terakoya (literally ‘temple-child building’). These were originally set up under the auspices of village temples but soon spread to the towns. Tuition was usually very cheap or free, since the teacher was often a priest who taught as an act of benevolence or a samurai who taught for a sense of self-worth. As a result of this widespread education the literacy rate in the later part of the period is estimated to have been 45 per cent for males and 15 per cent for females, giving an overall rate of 30 per cent. This was arguably the highest in the world at the time. It set an enduring trend, for Japan still has the highest literacy rate in the world at 99 per cent.

Another point of Confucianist irony was that its encouragement of obedience to the ruler inevitably raised the question of who exactly the ruler was. It did not escape the notice of an increasingly educated population that in China the ruler was the emperor. This effectively meant the shgun could be seen as a usurper.

Doubts about the shgunate intensified from the 1700s with the revival of Shint, and early texts associated with it such as the Kojiki. Shintand the Kojiki were seen as something purely Japanese, and became part of kokugaku (‘national learning’). In some ways this was a continuation of the emergence of national consciousness, prodded by the occasional reminder of the outside world in the form of castaways, or foreign ships seeking reprovisioning rights or similar. It was also an expression of a feeling that Japan was a little too Chinese. Kokugaku scholars included such figures as Motoori Norinaga (1730–1801) and Hirata Atsutane (1776–1843). Motoori produced an annotated version of the Kojiki and was openly critical of things Chinese. Hirata argued the superiority of Shintand Japan and was to be part-inspiration for later Japanese nationalism and imperialism.

The idealisation of the way of the samurai, the revival of Confucianism, the spread of education, and the emergence of nationalism were all to play a part in the formation of modern Japan. So too, of course, did the conformism and orthodoxy that formed their setting.

Samurai: The warrior class of feudal Japan

The Samurai, the warrior class of ancient Japan, dominated that country’s political and social structure for centuries. The Samurai came into existence in the early thirteenth century with the establishment of a feudal society in Japan. As in medieval Europe, the large landowners dominated the economy in an agricultural society and therefore had sufficient monetary resources to pay for the best in military supplies. Thus, as in Europe, the ability to own armor, horses, and superior weaponry brought one an exalted social status to be carefully maintained. Thus, the Samurai were dedicated to perfecting their martial skills and living by a strict code of honor that supported the feudal system. At the height of the Samurai’s pre-eminence, loyalty to one’s overlord and the ability to defend his property and status, even to the detriment of one’s own property and status, became the pinnacle of honor.

The original soldiers of Japan were called bushi (“warrior”), from the Japanese pronunciation of a Chinese character signifying a man of letters and/or arms. The rise of these warriors to the status of a special class began with an interclan struggle in the late 1100s. The Genji and Heike clans were maneuvering for influence in the imperial court, and the Heike managed to obtain the upper hand. In the fighting that ensued, the Genji clan was almost completely destroyed, but two sons managed to escape northward from the area of the capital city, Kyoto. When the elder son, Yoritomo, reached his majority, he rallied his remaining supporters and allied with the clans of northern Honshu that looked down on the imperial clans, which they considered weak and effete. Yoritomo’s return renewed the fighting, and in the second struggle it was the Heike that were defeated.

In 1192 Yoritomo was named shogun (roughly “barbarian-defeating generalissimo”), the supreme military position as personal protector of the emperor. How- ever, as the emperor had more figurative than literal power, the position of shogun came to wield real authority in Japan. What national unity Japan had ever attained, though, came through the population’s belief in the emperor as the descendent of the gods that created the world. Therefore, the shogun could not seize the throne without alienating the people. The emperor could not rule, however, without the military power of the shogun to protect him and enforce the government’s will. Thus, the shogun became the power behind the throne in a mutually dependent relationship.

Yoritomo and his descendants enjoyed a relatively brief ascendancy, but by the middle 1300s factional struggles broke out. For a time there were two rival emperors, each with his warrior supporters. In the latter half of the 1400s, the Ashikaga clan went through an internal power struggle before it took control of the country, though that control was often merely nominal during the century that they ruled. As the emperor and the central government exercised less control over time, the local landed gentry, or daimyo, came to prominence and wielded power in the country- side. By alliances and conquests, these feudal lords enhanced their economic, political, and military positions, until by the late 1500s, there was serious fighting among these leaders, and the emperor had no shogun to protect him or display his authority. It was in the 1500s that the Samurai came to be a true warrior class of professional, full-time soldiers, sworn to their daimyo overlords.

The Samurai tended to dominate the command positions as heavy cavalry, while the mass of soldiers became pikemen. All soldiers, no matter their status or function, carried a sword. For the Samurai warrior, the sword became a symbol of his position, and the Samurai were the only soldiers allowed by law to carry two swords. Anyone not of the Samurai class who carried two swords was liable to be executed. The two swords were the katana, or long sword (averaging about a three-foot blade), and the wakizashi, or short sword (with the blade normally 16–20 inches long). The finest swords became the property of the richest warriors, and being a swordsmith was the most highly respected craft. Both swords were slightly curved with one sharpened edge and a point; they were mainly slashing weapons, although they could be used for stabbing. The short sword in particular was a close-quarters stabbing weapon and also used in seppuku, the Samurai’s ritual suicide. The blades were both strong and flexible, being crafted by hammering the steel thin, folding it over, and rehammering it, sometimes thousands of times. The sword and its expert use attained spiritual importance in the Samurai’s life. The other main weapon in Japanese armies of the time was the naginata, a long-handled halberd used by the infantrymen. It consisted of a wide, curved blade sharpened on one edge and mounted on a long pole. By 1600 this had been largely replaced by the yari, more of a spear. Occasionally, unusual weapons were developed, such as folding fans with razor- sharp edges.

The Samurai wore elaborate suits of armor, made of strips of metal laced with leather. The finished product was lacquered and decorated to such an extent that it not only was weatherproof and resistant to cutting weapons, but it became almost as much a work of art as was a fine sword. Armor proved unable to stop musket balls, however, and became mainly ceremonial after 1600.

Japanese armies also had bowmen, although most archery was practiced from horseback and therefore in the province of the Samurai. By the end of the sixteenth century, however,  Oda  Nobunaga (1534–1582) became the first of the daimyo to effectively adopt firearms. European harquebuses had been introduced to Japan in the 1540s by shipwrecked Portuguese, and Japanese artisans began to copy the design. Nobunaga fielded 3,000 musketeers in a battle in 1575 with such positive effect that the other daimyo rushed to acquire as many of the weapons as possible. The technology advanced little in the following generations, however, owing to Japan’s self-imposed exile from the rest of the world.

Nobunaga, starting with a relatively small landholding in central Japan, schemed and fought his way to become the strongest of the lords. In this time, the daimyo built huge castle/fortresses, equal to or better than anything built in Europe at the time. Nobunaga defeated many of the military religious sects on his way to dominance, but not surprisingly created a number of enemies, which allied and at- tacked his palace in 1582, burning it to the ground with him inside. Nobunaga was succeeded by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536–1598), one of his commanders, who almost succeeded in accomplishing Nobunaga’s dream of unifying Japan under his rule. At his death in 1598 one of his vassals, Tokugawa Ieyasu, took control of half of Hideyoshi’s forces and won the battle of Sekigahara. He was named shogun in 1603—the first to hold that position in years—and finished consolidating his power in 1615 with the capture of Osaka castle, where the last remnants of the defeated Hideyoshi faction held out.

The Tokugawa shogunate lasted until the middle 1800s, when it was dismantled during the Meiji Restoration. This movement returned real power to the emperor and abandoned the traditional feudal state that had kept Japan isolated and technologically backward for more than two and a half centuries. During the Tokugawa period, however, the Samurai both experienced their golden age and sowed the seeds of their own downfall. The Samurai came to hold the ruling administrative positions as well as exercising military functions. The Samurai warrior, who had over time blended the hardiness of the country warrior with the polish of the court, was the pinnacle of culture, learning, and power. The problem was that Tokugawa had succeeded too well, establishing a peace that lasted 250 years. Without the almost constant warfare that had preceded the Tokugawa era, the Samurai warrior had fewer and fewer chances to exercise his profession of arms. He became more of a bureaucrat, and therefore he could not be rewarded in combat or expand his holdings through warfare. The Samurai class in- creased in numbers, but not through “natural selection” in combat, and their larger numbers in a more and more bloated bureaucracy brought about their economic slide. The merchant class grew increasingly wealthy, while the Samurai upper class became impoverished. The tax burden required to operate the government fell on the peasants, who turned to shop keeping rather than follow an unprofitable agricultural life. By the time the American Matthew Perry sailed into Tokyo Bay in 1854 and “opened” Japan to the outside world, the artisans and merchants were the only ones in a position to deal with the new reality, and the Samurai’s status in society quickly dropped.

In spite of this setback, the martial attitude engendered by centuries of military rule never completely left the Japanese national psyche. The military became modernized with European weaponry, but the dedication to a martial spirit and professionalism remained strong in the new warrior class. In the 1920s and 1930s, the military came back into power and dominated the government, laying the ground- work for national expansionism to obtain the raw materials necessary to maintain and enlarge their military and industrial base. The cult of the Samurai, bushido (the “Way of the Warrior”), enjoyed a resurgence in the Japanese military. It showed itself in the brutal actions of the Japanese in their dealings with defeated enemies in China, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific, and in their dedication to death before dishonor in serving their emperor. The world saw first-hand the twentieth-century version of the Samurai in the extremely difficult fighting against Japanese soldiers during World War II and in the Japanese use of suicide tactics late in the war in an attempt to save their country from invasion and defeat. Japanese texts on Samurai philosophy and lifestyle, such as Hagakure and The Five Rings, still influence the views of the modern Japanese in their business practices.

References: King, Winston, Zen and the Way of the Sword (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); Turnbull, Stephen, Samurai Warriors (New York: Sterling Publishing, 1991); Turnbull, Stephen, The Samurai: A Military History (New York: Macmillan, 1977).