Invaders Came from the North: French Attack on Upstate NY

» 17 September 2014 » In Commentary, History / DBQ's » 2 Comments

Over 25 years ago I published this piece in Upstate - a regional Sunday news magazine based in Rochester NY. I was a high school American history teacher intrigued with local history.  It was published on the 300th anniversary of the raid and filled with references to local landmarks and towns. My goal was to bring little known “international” incident to a largely local audience. (Looking back, I wonder if the subject matter was a bit grisly for the Sunday brunch table). While I’ve had a pdf copy of the original article on my website, I’m posting a text version here to make it more searchable. Despite my relentless overuse of commas, I have resisted re-writing it.

Invaders Came from the North
Upstate Magazine
July 12, 1987

Map of Denonville raid 1687

Three hundred years ago, on July 10, 1687, Seabreeze was invaded by the largest army North America had ever seen. 

A 350-boat French Armada had left Montréal a month earlier bringing 3000 men and their supplies to the Ontario shore. Their goal: the destruction of the Seneca Indians of the Irondequoit Valley.

Unprepared to meet the invaders, the Senecas sent a small scouting party to the lake bluff at Seabreeze Park. They watched in silence as the French invaders dragged their flat-bottom boats on to the sandbar that today is lined with hotdog stands. On the narrow strip of land that separates Irondequoit Bay from Lake Ontario, the French set about securing their beachhead, and in the next few days built a crude rectangular fort, with a 10 foot high palisade using more than 2000 trees cut from the Webster shore of the bay.

Click Map to enlarge

To protect their boats from the Senecas and the intense heat, the French scuttled them in the shallows of the Bay. Soldiers also build scores of ovens to bake 30,000 loaves of bread to feed the troops.

The expedition leader was Jacques-René de Brisay de Denonville, son-in-law of one of France's richest nobleman, an experience military commander and governor of new France, the large struggling colony the French had planted in the New World. It stretched from Montréal in a great arc all the way to the Mississippi Valley in New Orleans.

New France survived on the fur trade, an enterprise which was dependent on the Indians to help trap the retreating supply of animals has the white men push westward. The Senecas served as middlemen, their warriors terrorizing the other Indian tribes of the Ohio Valley to maintain a steady supply of pelts which they traded either to the French in Montréal or the English in Albany, depending on who paid better.

Wedged between rivals, Seneca country had become the political fulcrum of the eastern Indian America.

Because upstate New York was strategically located at the headwaters of the major river systems of the American Northeast, Seneca warriors and traders were able to use the rivers to reach colonists and other Indian tribes over an area of almost 1,000,000 square miles reaching as far south as the Carolinas and as far west as the Mississippi River. Wedged between rivals, new friends in the British colonies of the Atlantic Coast, Seneca country had become the political fulcrum of the eastern Indian America. 

Denonville had brought 1500 French colonial troops and 1500 of their Indian allies to the Irondequoit Valley, as he put it, "to enter through the Western chimney of the Iroquois longhouse" to end Seneca interference in French plans for colonizing America.

Jacques-Rene_de_Brisay,_Marquis_de_Denonville
Jacques-Rene de Brisay, Marquis de Denonville

In the pale dawn of July 13, French troops knelt for Christian blessing as their Indian allies looked on. After breakfasting on bread and creek water they began the final leg of their march on the Seneca villages, following Indian trails which can be traced today by existing landmarks.

They worked their way down the west shore of the bay along what today is Interstate 590, passed Indian Landing near Ellison Park, then marched along Landing Road towards East Avenue. Guided by a map of Seneca trails prepared during an earlier, unsuccessful raid, Denonville was able to move swiftly through the rough territory.

News of the invasion spread quickly among the Senecas as their scouts reported the steady advance of the French columns. The Senecas had at most only 1200 warriors with which to face Denonville, but how many had fled or were elsewhere on raids and hunting parties was uncertain. They understood immediately that the Denonville's aim was the destruction of their two major villages, Ganagaro, at what is now Boughton Hill, near Victor, and Totiakton, at what is now Rochester Junction, just south of Mendon Ponds Park.

The Senecas weren't sure which village Denonville would strike first, and with their limited forces, defending both would be impossible. The Seneca strategy was to attack the French forces before they could reach the villages but until they were sure which route the French would take, they couldn't prepare an ambush.

In their uncertainty and confusion, the Senecas had allowed Denonville's men to pass safely through the terrain where they would have been most vulnerable - Indian Landing, Palmer's and Corbett's Glens. But they knew that when Denonville arrived at the fork where East Avenue meets Allen's Creek his intentions would be plain - if he went left, he was taking the East Avenue trailed to Ganagaro; if he went right, it was the Clover Street trail to Totiakton.

'Invaders Came from the North: French Attack on Upstate NY' continued...

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Students at the Center of the Learning

» 08 September 2014 » In Commentary, Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, How To, Strategies, Students, Teachers » No Comments

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I learned to be an instructional designer – an architect of learning environments. I designed lesson “spaces” where the thinking was being done by my students. By “flipping” a few instructional components and providing a student-driven evaluation, my students will be at the heart of the lesson. I’ll be floating at the periphery. Here’s how.

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The Bots are Coming! Better Re-think My Lesson Plans

» 17 August 2014 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Strategies » 3 Comments

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The video’s thesis is simple – robots are coming for our jobs. That begs the question – what skills should we be teaching to students who will have to compete against the bots for employment?

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Learning to Think Like a Historian

» 03 June 2014 » In Commentary, History / DBQ's, Strategies, Students, Teachers » No Comments

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I’m joined by other educators who comment on “Teaching History By Encouraging Curiosity.” Ideas on how to create a more engaging history classroom that teaches students the foundations of historical thinking. With links to more resources and a podcast.

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5 Rules of Infographic Excellence

» 14 October 2013 » In Commentary, Visualizations » No Comments

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xkcd’s brilliant mockery of the explosion of “info-junk” should remind us that the best infographics should efficiently combine quantitative data, prompt pattern recognition and cogent visual storytelling. Perhaps aspiring infographic designers would do well to revisit the work of the Edward Tufte, the guru of the art form. His five rules of “Graphical Excellence” are detailed and illustrated with an example he considers “best narrative graphic of space and time.”

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PBL: I Come to Understanding by Making

» 11 September 2013 » In Commentary » No Comments

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Watch this short video as Matthew Shlian talks about himself, how he learns and the role that curiosity plays in his work. Then think about the kind of classroom that would foster Matt and learners like him. He states, A lot of my work is about curiosity. I come to understanding by making. If I can see what something’s going to look like when it’s finished, then I don’t want to make it. That would be like filling out a form.

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Get a iPhone 5s Or Switch to Android?

» 06 September 2013 » In Commentary » 7 Comments

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With my iPhone 4s about to go off contract, I’m wondering should I go iPhone 5s / iOS 7 or Android? I pick up a Nexus 7 to test how I’ll move my content from iCloud to Google and stay in sync with my Mac desktop. And I offer some comparisons of programs running on both platforms.

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David Foster Wallace on Water and the Value of Education

» 16 May 2013 » In Commentary, Reflection » 1 Comment

This is water

Sadly, the world lost David Foster Wallace, in 2008. Fortunately, his writings live on. Recently his thoughtful 2005 Kenyon College commencement address was given new life in “This is Water” a video by The Glossary.

Wallace concludes: It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over. This is water.

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Boston Bombings: Close Reading A Media Frenzy

» 26 April 2013 » In Commentary, Literacy, Social Web, Strategies » No Comments

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Here’s a suggestion for high school teachers. Postpone a lesson you had planned for next week and use the time to explore the cacophonous infosphere spawned by the apprehension of the suspects in the Boston bombings. If that media circus tells us anything, it’s that we need a lesson in digital hygiene and responsible use.

It’s also a good chance for students to hone their close reading skills. The events should be fresh in everyone’s mind. Ask students to reflect back on network news and social media coverage of the manhunt using these three critical thinking prompts: What did it say? How did it say it? What’s it mean to me?

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#Watertown #MITShooting: Unfiltered News vs Speculation

» 19 April 2013 » In Commentary, Social Web, Visualizations » No Comments

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This morning, Twitter broke the story of the events in Watertown MA. Following the hashtags #Watertown and #MITShooting, I selected a few of the early tweets for a Storify. Twitter scooped the major news organizations, but are we ready to curate our own news?

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