January 22, 2000
Just as today's Mackinac Bridge straddles the two peninsulas of the state
of Michigan, so did Charles Michel de Langlade straddle two cultures. Almost,
if not completely, unknown to most of us, he was another of the personalities
that fused the European and the Native American traditions and influenced
the history of the Great Lakes.
Langlade was a Métis, a half-breed, child of French trader Sieur
Augustin Mouet de Langlade; his mother Domitille Villeneuve, sister of Ottawa
chief La Fourche, and daughter of chief Kewanoquat. Charles would become
a trader like his father and an Indian agent, but it was his military accomplishments
that most distinguished him. In 1739, when he was only ten, his uncle La
Fourche had a dream, telling him that a planned expedition against the Chickasaw
in Tennessee would only succeed if the boy accompanied them. Ottawa dreams
are taken seriously, so with his father's permission, the boy went along
with the war party. Even though the outcome of the trip was a negotiated
treaty, Charles was given a native title meaning 'defender of his country.'
In 1752, when the French attempted to drive English traders out of the Ohio
Valley, Charles lead 250 Ottawa and Chippewa warriors, attacking the trading
post at Pickawillany, torching the village, killing a Miami Indian chief
and a British trader (both of whom ended up on the menu that night).
Three years later Langlade would help defeat General Braddock near Fort
Duquesne and later change allegiance and fight alongside the British during
the American Revolution. But those are stories for some other time. Pressing
on with our Great Lakes tour, what about his connection with the Straits
Just prior to Braddock's defeat the French awarded Langlade a commission
as ensign, and in 1757 he was placed as second in command at Michilimackinac.
The next year, with the French defeat at Louisburg in Nova Scotia and at
the Forks of the Ohio River, French influence over the Indian nations of
the western Great Lakes began to weaken. French attitudes toward the Indians
had always been paternalistic, but the natives considered themselves as
allies, not children or servants. Allegiances began shifting. Promoted to
second lieutenant in 1760 Langlade was now in command at Mackinac. Present
at Montreal when it fell to the English on September 9th, he received a
message from defeated French governor Pierre Vaudreuil. Mackinac could no
longer be supported or defended. The letter concluded, "I count upon
the pleasure of seeing you in France with all your officers." But for
a man raised in the savage but unspoiled forests of upper Michigan, Paris
held no charms. Langlade slipped away, and headed home.
For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor.
Langlade's story can be found in greater detail in:
Eckert, Allan W. ­p;Wilderness Empire (New York, Little,Brown, 1969 /
URL OF THE WEEK
Michilimackinac is only one of many forts scattered across the U. S. and
Canada. For a comprehensive guide to historical fortresses, outposts, and
seacoast batteries, as well as some ships and shipyards, have a look at
the webpage of the Council on America's Military Past (CAMP).
You can search by state or by nationality (American, Native, English, French,
Spanish, etc.) then link to the web pages for the various installations,
many of which will include maps, photographs and tourist information.
EAGLES BYTE WEB PAGES UPDATE - NYNY
The years 1893-1896
have been updated.
© 2000 David Minor / Eagles Byte
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