(Reprinted by Permission of Voyageur, Historical Review of Brown County and Northeast Wisconsin, Winter/Spring, 1999)
The battleground was familiar territory for Langlade. Edward Willard Deming's well-known oil painting, "Braddock's Defeat" (left) shows Langlade (far left) commanding Wisconsin and Michigan tribes in July 1755.
In an unmarked grave, somewhere in Allouez Cemetery, lies the body of Charles de Langlade. This is not his first resting place. He was originally buried in the La Baye Cemetery. Langlade's life, too, has not rested easily in history. He has been either decried as a mercenary who was a myth of his own making or hailed as the "Father of Wisconsin." Neither is accurate. The man behind the myth, his motives, his ambition, and his unique world view and culture have, like his bones, been uprooted and obliterated. 1
Langlade, who died in 1802, was never a resident of the state, which in 1848, would be known as Wisconsin.2 And it is doubtful he would have been pleased to be called the "Father of Wisconsin." Instead, he would have deplored the advent of the Yankees, the end of a way of life, and a new world, devoid of the manners, political system, and unique culture of the old pays d'en haut (Up Country).
Writings about Langlade portray him as a man of ambition, bravery, and charm. He could be cruel, self-seeking, and politic. He was probably-for the most part-an honest man.Indians would not have followed him in military campaigns for as long as they did had he cheated them in trade or annuities. Langlade's home, the Up Country of New France, which encompassed today's Wisconsin, was a unique place where French and Indian cultures met and gave birth to a new culture, a middle ground. According to historian Richard White, this middle ground depended on the inability of both sides to gain their end through force. To succeed, those who operated on the middle ground had, of necessity, to attempt to understand the world and the reasoning of others and to assimilate enough of that reasoning to put it to their own purposes. Particularly, in diplomatic councils, the middle ground was a realm of constant invention, which was just as constantly presented as convention. Under the new conventions, new purposes arose, and so the cycle continued.3 But in this world, the older worlds of the Algonquians and of various Europeans overlapped and their mixture created new systems of meanings and exchange.4
But in this new culture world views often clashed. The French fur traders advanced a paternalistic relationship between client and patron. It was autocratic with a strong sense of noblesse oblige. This world view of deference and social class had to be integrated into the independent and democratic world view of the Indian peoples, where chiefs derived power from persuasion, not absolute authority. However, mutual need as well as lack of a dominant force helped bridge this cultural gap.
According to Kerry Trask, both sides recognized their dependence on the other.
According to Olive Patricia Dickason, this policy originated with Samuel Champlain, who reportedly said, "Our young men will marry your daughters, and we shall be one people . . ." France, aspiring to continental pre-eminence in Europe, needed its people at home. Thus, the French were suspicious of sending out citizens to colonize distant lands, for fear of depopulating the homeland. The alternative would be to send out a small corps of people who would intermarry with indigenous populations, producing, as it were on-the-spot French nations overseas.6 But while this did happen in the St. Lawrence River Valley, the pays d'en haut produced this new culture, not wholly French or Indian, but a combination of the two.
At the age of ten, Langlade gained a military reputation when he was summoned by his uncle, La Fourche, to take part in a war party against the Chickasaw. La Fourche dreamt that the enemy could only be put to rout by having Langlade accompany him on the expedition. A dream in Ottawa culture was a powerful sign not to be disobeyed. If his father was apprehensive about having his young son travel to Tennessee with a French-and- Indian war party, he had tittle choice about the matter. He reportedly questioned his son about the Ottawa's request and then said, "You must go with your uncles; but never let me hear of your showing any marks of cowardice."8
Langlade, himself the son of an Ottawa, was to win praise for this effort but with a qualification. On October 25, 1753, Governor Duquesne wrote a letter to the French Foreign Minister commending Langlade's raid. But he added,
But Langlade was already a cadet in the king's service, a position his father had purchased for him on March 28, 1750.20 After his victory at Pickawillany, Langlade was also appointed as Indian agent for the pays d'en haut, distributing annuities to the Western tribes.
"Though the French won a spectacular
success, that success must also be credited
to Braddock's arrogance and inflexibility."
As best as can be determined from various and sketchy accounts, General Edward Braddock was marching from the South with more than twice that many men, British regulars and provincial militia and heavy artillery. If that artillery reached the fort, Contrecouer knew British fire power would pound the fort to pieces. The British must be stopped. When Beaujeu was killed in a head-on assault on the British, Langlade and Pontiac prevailed upon Dumas to change tactics. The British, marching in file and fife formation, had to cross the Monongahela twice in a direct route to the fort. When they had crossed once, Lt. Col. Thomas Gage as point man led some of the British troops in the second crossing while Braddock waited in the rear, reportedly having lunch. When Gage reached the other side, his troops were in a ravine with hills on both sides and flanked by French and Indian auxiliaries. Langlade, who slipped easily into his Ottawa culture and dressed in Ottawa style, began raining bullets down on Braddock's divided troops under cover of trees. When Braddock heard the shots, he rushed more troops to the front. They, too, were cut to pieces. Though the British had one thousand men still in reserve, a rout ensued. Braddock was killed in the fight. Though the French won a spectacular success, that success must also be credited to Braddock's arrogance and inflexibility.31
Some historians have charged that Langlade was a mercenary, leading Indians against the British when it was advantageous to him, then becoming a British subject after the war. This charge is unfair for several reasons. First, the Indians were not led into battle so easily; they had to be convinced the cause would also benefit them. This Langlade did superbly. And Indians of the Great Lakes fought not for the French but with them. This is evidenced by a severe tongue lashing English trader, Alexander Henry, experienced at Mackinac in 1761. Henry, anxious to reap the benefits of the defeat of New
"These takes, these woods and
mountains were left to us by our
ancestors. These are our inheritance.
We will give them to no one ...
France, went to Mackinac to trade disguised as a Frenchmen. It was not safe for Englishmen to be in that country because of the hatred Indians had for the British after the war. But his identity was found out and chief Minavavana, a Chippewa, paid a visit to Henry with fifty warriors. After berating Henry for his arrogance, Minavavana said:
... Englishmen, although you have conquered the French, you have not conquered us! We are not your slaves. These lakes, these woods and mountains were left to us by our ancestors. These are our inheritance. We will give them to no one . . . 36Second, Langlade for his part, accepted the inevitable. He had been a trader and soldier all his life. It did no good to antagonize the people now in power. He had lost brothers and friends in the war, but the war was over. Unlike Pontiac, who felt the French father, the King of France, would come back to help the pays en haut people continue and win the struggle, Langlade knew France had deserted them. There would be no more help from France.
In 1761, Captain George Etherington invited the principal French fur traders in the area to take the oath of allegiance.
It was a genuine act of kindness on Etherington's part. On the other hand, the English were having great difficulty with the Indians and needed Langlade's experience. Also Etherington's gesture, though generous, was a step down for the Langlades. Augustin and his brother, Didace, had congés for the lucrative Mackinac fur trade from the early 1700s. To be delegated to their posts at La Baye would certainly prove less profitable. Still, the French had lost the war, and Langlade later repaid this favor by saving Etherington's life during the 1763 rebellion.
In May 1763, Langlade's comrade in arms, Pontiac, laid siege to Detroit. Although he did not succeed, Western tribes throughout the Up Country followed his example and attacked English forts. On June 4, at Michilimackinac, while Langlade happened to be at the post, the Indians attacked the fort, gaining entry by ruse of playing lacrosse outside the fort in honor of the King's birthday. After the ball had went over the fort walls all morning, Etherington ordered the gates to the fort opened, so the game would not be interrupted. At this time, the Indians rushed the fort killing or capturing the English inhabitants, leaving the French unharmed. Langlade saved the lives of Captain Etherington and Lieutenant Leslie who were about to be burned at the stake. "Without any formalities," Tassé reported, "he cut the cords which bound the captives to the the stake, and in a bold resolute tone said to the savage enemy. 'If you are not content with what I have done, I am ready to meet you."'38 And the two men were freed. Whether the rescue was this dramatic or not, it is certain that Langlade rescued the men as evidenced by Etherington's later communication to Major Henry Gladwyn at Detroit, crediting Langlade with saving their lives .39 Major Gladwyn then authorized "M. Langlade . . . to command at the fort, in accordance with Captain Etherington's directions till further orders.40
Henry, who was also at Mackinac at the time of the massacre, complained bitterly that Langlade was at best lukewarm in protecting him. indeed, his life was saved by an Indian friend, not Langlade. When Henry begged Langlade for refuge in his house, Langlade "responded with a shrug of the shoulders, 'What do you think I can do? ... 41 And while Langlade did not order Henry out of his house, neither did he actively take part in his rescue. Tassé argued that Henry's criticisms of Langlade are unfair, that the situation had deteriorated to the point that to interfere would have cost Langlade his life. Because Langlade's wife and children were also present, Langlade had to consider their safety.42 While this may be true, the difference in Langlade's behavior toward Etherington and Henry is puzzling. Another possibility is that as an English trader at Mackinac, Henry was the competition. Not only that, but he was usurping the trading post Langlade and his father had previously dominated. Perhaps Langlade believed if the English wanted the profits at Michilimackinac, they would also have to inherit the problems.
The garrison was eventually recovered by Lieutenant James Gorrell, commandant of La Baye, now called Fort Edward Augustus. In Gorrell's memoirs, he wrote that Etherington sent him a communication for help. Most of the other forts had problems of their own with the Indian rebellion. Fort Edward Augustus, however, was abandoned. Gorrell proceeded to Mackinac, backed by the La Baye Indian peoples, and they managed to win the release of Etherington and transport him to Montreal. Gorrell credited the Ottawa of the region for their help, and Langlade was not mentioned.43 But Langlade had influence among the Ottawa, and that Captain Etherington expressed gratitude for his help as did Gladwyn demonstrates that, if he did not win their release, he managed to keep them alive until their release could be won.
Though Pontiac's rebellion did not succeed, neither did it fail. It caused the British to review their Indian policies and make favorable accommodations to them in return for peace in this region. It also had a negative effect on the French inhabitants of the Up Country. British authorities, not believing the Indians could act alone in behalf of their own interests, were convinced the French had inspired this rebellion and would continually cause friction in this area. Both Sir William Johnson and General Thomas Gage were among British officials who actively supported a deportation policy toward the French in the Up Country. According to Trask, as early as the Indian uprising of 1763, Johnson argued that sooner or later the Canadians would have to be removed from the Interior.44 "The Persons and Properties of [the English] Traders would not be safe," Johnson wrote, 11... whilst there are any French [in the west]. We shall be liable to many Broils, till French Inhabitants, and the Jesuits are removed."45
And Gage, concerned in 1769, at the number of French at St. Vincent, was given permission to remove them.46 Johnson responded, "I am very glad to hear that his Majesty had ordered that the French of Post Vincent be removed. . ."48 In 1772, however, Lord Dartmouth, Colonial Secretary, reversed these orders.
Rather than regarding them [French] as a 'lawless vagabond Banditti' to be driven out at gunpoint, he commanded Gage to treat them with Christian kindness and to provide them with 'protection in their civil rights' as British subjects.' As a result, the inland Canadians survived.49Langlade, meanwhile, was in Green Bay, establishing his trade. When the Revolutionary War broke out, he fought with the British, again with his Indian auxiliaries. Though once more on the losing side, Langlade's contributions to the war were recognized by Great Britain. He remained to the end of his life superintendent of Indians "and his service during the War secured him a life annuity of eight hundred dollars, besides a grant of three thousand acres of land ... in the province of Ontario." 50 Langlade "lived with his servants and slaves like a backwoods baron at La Baye . . ."51 It was a "paternalistic social hierarchy ... dominated by a few powerful trading families . . ."52 And the British loss of the Revolutionary War did not disrupt the life of balance and harmony in the Old Up Country until the War of 1812. By this time, Langlade had died and did not witness the hard times that were to eradicate a way of life that had existed there for more than a century. When American troops were sent to La Baye in 1816, John Lawe estimated four hundred troops were stationed there as an occupational force. Lawe accused Americans of "Stealing, Killing of Cattle, and committing every kind of depredation. "53 The inhabitants were barred from the fur trade because they were not American citizens, and when they tried to become citizens, they were denied that recourse. "They were robbed and bullied by soldiers, subject to the insults of American moral arrogance, and finally, out-competed by Yankee traders motivated by a restless spirit of possessive individualism."
... Robert Stuart sounded the same alarm and told John Lawe, "All you old residents must stick together, else you will be overwhelmed by the newcomers, many of whom have neither honor, capital, nor any other wish than to cajole and prey on those who will have the misfortune to put themselves in their power."54The Indians, too, were suspicious of their new landlord, the Yankees, and the Americans were fearful of Indians. Like the British before them, they saw conspiracy all around them.
In 1816, an American, Dr. William Henry Hening, wrote to his father about their reception in Green Bay.
The Winnebagoes, it is manifest, are decidedly opposed to our making any establishment in this country, as are also a part of the Faulsavoins [Menominee]. Nothing, I believe, but the strong force they have to combat, keeps them quiet. The storm is murmuring at a distance, which I am fearful will, sooner or later, burst on us with all the accumulated horrors of savage vengeance.55
1. Although there is an oral history of where Langlade rests at Allouez, no records have been found that can prove this is the site. He was probably moved from La Baye Cemetery after 1876. Joseph Tass6 wrote that at Langlade's death, "The little colony at Green Bay went in a body to weep over his grave, which may still be seen the old cemetery of this town.;' Wendy Barszcz, Brown County Historical Society. Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin (hereafter cited as WHC) 7:184. This volume was originally published in 1876.
2. The actual year is not known. Tass6 believes it was January 1800, but Paul Trap and others believe it was 1802 because of documents found first signed by "Widow Langlade" in this year. See Paul M. Trap, Charles Langlade In the French and Indian War, an unpublished Project Report Submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate College in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Specialist in Arts Department of History. Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan. August 1980.
3. Richard White. The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
4. White, Middle Ground, x.
5. Kerry Trask. "Settlement in a Half-Savage Land: Life and Loss in the Metis Community of La Baye." Michigan Historical Review (Spring 1989): 11-12.
6. Olive Patricia Dickason. The New People. "From 'One Nation' in the Northeast to 'New Nation' in the Northwest: A look at the emergence of the métiers The University of Manitoba Press, 1985, 21-22.
7. WHC, 124.
8. For the above paragraph, see WHC 3, 199; WHC, 126, and WHC, 18 130; Les and Jeanne Rentmeester. Wisconsin Fur Trade People. Self-published, 1991, 18. Used primarily as a supplementary source.
9. Trap. Charles Langlade in the French and Indian War, 3-4; WHC 8, 229-230.
10. Less and Jeanne Rentmeester. The Wisconsin Creoles. Self-published, 1987.
11. WHC 7, 182.
12. "Settlement in a Half-Savage Land," 14.
13. Middle Ground, 231.
14. Basil Johnston. Ojibway Heritage. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990, 143. Though Langladc was not Ojibway, he was in close contact with them. Johnston wrote, "Many, if not most of the stories, related in this book will be found to be similar to ... other Algonkian Speaking people. The similarities that
exist simply Suggest a common view of life" (8). Again, customs changed with the
encounter to two cultures.
15. For insults Langlade incurred, see The Wisconsin Creoles, 33-39. For battle of
Pickawillany, see Middle Ground, 229-2 30.
16. The Wisconsin Creoles, 33-39; Middle Ground, 230.
17. The Middle Ground, 2 3 1.
18. The Middle Ground, 23 1.
19. The Wisconsin Creoles, 39-40; WHC 18 129-13 1.
20. The Wisconsin Creoles, 32.
21. WHC 7, 180 lists Charlotte's mother as either Agnes Gagne or Catharine Lieger
22. WHC 7, 179; Creoles. 19, 44.
23. WHC 7, 1 81.
24. WHC 7, 180.
25. WHC 7,181.
26. WHC 7, 18 1.
27. WHC 7, 181.
28. WHC 7, 181.
29. WHC 7, 181-2.
30. Francis Jennings. Empire of Fortune. Crowns, colonies and tribes in the Seven years
War in America. New York: W.W. Norton, 1988,157.
31. WHC 7, 130-1; Creoles, 49-51; Empire of Fortune, 158.
32. WHC 7, 133. General Burgoyne, writing to Lord George Germain, July 11, 1777,
"They [Indians] are tinder the orders of M. Saint Luc . . . and of a M. de Langlade,
the very man who with these tribes projected and executed Braddock's defeat."
(quoted from State of the Expedition from Canada, 10).
3. WHC 7, 138.
34. WHC 7,145.
35. WHC 7, 148.
36. WHC 7, 155; William Joseph Seno, ed. Up Country. Voices from the Great Lakes Wilderness. Minocqua: Heartland, 1989, 165.
37 WHC 7, 152.
38. WHC 7, 157; Up Country, 173.
39. WHC 7, 162-3.
40. WHC 7, 164 quoted from the Diary of the Siege of Detroit Vol. IV of Munsell's Historical Series, 32-3.
41. WHC 7, 158; Up Country, 175.
42. WHC 7, 59.
43. WHC 1, 39-45.
44. Kerry Trask. "To Cast Out The Devils: British Ideology and the French Canadians of the Northwest Interior, 1760-1774." American Review of Canadian Studies 15 (August 1985): 256.
45. Trask, "To Cast Out The Devils," 257. 46. Trask, "To Cast Out The Devils," 257. 47. Trask, "To Cast Out The Devils," 257. 48. Trask, "To Cast Out The Devils," 258. 49. Trask, 'To Cast Out The Devils," 258. 50. WHC 7,182.
51. Trask, "Settlement in a Half-Savage Land," 21.
52 , Trask, "Settlement in a Half-Savage Land," 21.
53. Trask, "Settlement in a Half-Savage Land," 21.
54. Trask, "Settlement in a Half-Savage Land," 23.
55. WHC 8,443.