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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Get the Word Out: A Social Media Case Study

» 10 September 2014 » In Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, Social Web, Strategies » No Comments

Police-Dog-Tess-featured

Here’s a brief case study in how use social media to showcase your work and create a professional learning network.

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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

hub-and-spokes-featured

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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How to Read Documentary Films

» 26 August 2014 » In History / DBQ's, How To, Strategies » 2 Comments

Child-waiting-featured

Lesson on using films as documents to develop historical thinking skills in sourcing, contextualizing, corroborating and close reading. The lesson compares two documentary films detailing the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII. The first film was made in 1943 by the US government to justify the action. The second film was made in 2014 and features interviews with Japanese American incarcerees.

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How to Read Documentary Photographs

» 12 August 2014 » In History / DBQ's, How To, Strategies » No Comments

Russell-Lee-Los-Angeles-featured

Lesson on using photographs as documents to develop historical thinking skills in sourcing, contextualizing, corroborating and close reading. Features material from “Uprooted” a museum exhibit and website that showcases the photography of Russell Lee, staff photographer for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and his work at the Japanese American farm labor camps of WWII.

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Free iBook: History of Portland’s Japantown

» 10 June 2014 » In History / DBQ's, Publishing » 4 Comments

Japantown-Revealed-cover

I’m pleased to introduce my latest multitouch iBook “Portland’s Japantown Revealed.” Free at iTunes. It’s filled with over a hundred archival photographs and dozens of video interviews with former Japantown residents that detail life from the 1890s through the incarcerations of WWII. It features two dozen interactive “Portland Revealed” widgets that allow the reader to blend historic and contemporary photographs.

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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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Free iBook Explores Ancient Egypt

» 06 May 2014 » In History / DBQ's, Publishing » No Comments

mummy-featured

Ancient Egypt is interactive resource for teachers and students in grades 6-12. Chapters include: Government and Wealth, Power and Protection, Gods and Goddesses, Journey to the Afterlife and a very interactive guide to reading hieroglyphics. Free at iTunes.

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Incarceration of Portland’s Japanese Americans in WWII

» 14 February 2014 » In History / DBQ's, Projects, Students » No Comments

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Using video interviews of camp internees, archived photographs, and historic documents; the lesson guides students through the experience of Japanese-Americans incarcerated during WWII. This multi-media lesson was designed by students working with the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center.

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iPhone Walking Tour of Historic Japantown Portland

» 01 February 2014 » In Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, Projects, Students » No Comments

japantownpdx

I’m pleased to introduce you to Japantown PDX, a free iOS app that I designed with the assistance of the Nikkei Legacy Center, GammaPoint LLC, and my students at the University of Portland. Explore Portland Oregon’s historic Japantown with this user-friendly walking tour. The city’s vibrant pre WWII Japanese American community is archived in over 125 photographs and audio clips. This GPS-enabled app guides you through Portland’s eight block Japantown, a bustling community in the early decades of the twentieth century – better known today as the colorful Old Town / Chinatown neighborhood.

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