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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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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Worksheets and Kodachrome: Lessons in Kodak’s Bankruptcy

» 20 January 2012 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, History / DBQ's, Students » 2 Comments

Kodak Simplicity featured

This week Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy. Is there a lesson for educators about what happens when you lose touch with your customer?

At the core of Kodak’s eventual demise was the failure of the leadership to remain connected to their customers. They convinced themselves that the public would continue to want to buy film, load it into the camera, take a picture, drop the film off at the processor, and return later to pick up their photos. Easy to believe when you’re making money at every stage of that process.

Has our educational leadership lost touch with their customers – the students? Given the growing array of cheap digital tools available to our students, will they passively wait to be told what, how, when and with whom to learn? Is the information flow of the traditional classroom (lecture, note-taking, test) as outmoded as taking your film to the drugstore for processing?

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The Battered Woman Defense: A Classroom Mock Trial

» 08 October 2011 » In How To, Strategies, Students » 2 Comments

a-little-justice-featured

This case brings to mind a mock trial that I developed and used for many years with my high seniors at Pittsford Sutherland High School (Pittsford NY). I found that participation in mock trials enabled students to hone their critical thinking skills, collaboration, and explore significant legal and social issues in an real-world setting. Here is a copy of the fact pattern for this mock trial in pdf format – “The Donna Osborn Case.”

Mock trials are not “scripted” events. Well-written, they should offer a reasonable chance for either side to prevail. While I provided students with the witness statements, it was up to their legal teams to develop prosecution / defense theories and prepare to serve as witness or attorney in a trial held before an actual judge (or attorney) and a jury of adults from the community. I found that participation in mock trials enabled students to hone their critical thinking skills, collaboration, and explore significant legal and social issues in a real-world setting.

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Visualize the Twitter Feed at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Fest

» 13 June 2011 » In Events, Social Web » No Comments

jazz fest featured

This is our 10th year at the Jazz Fest. Amazing lineup – with the “club pass” you can see it all. Here’s a visualizer of the Twitter feed following the hashtags #xrijf and #rocjazz.

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Historypin – Make DBQs with a Digital Time Machine That Layers Image, Story and Location

» 02 January 2011 » In Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, Strategies, Web 2.0 » 5 Comments

history-pin

Historypin – Here’s a short video about a great mashup of digital photos (with stories) layered over Google maps. Users can search images by geography / time and post historic photos (with stories) to maps. It’s fascinating to view historic photographs set against the backdrop of current Google map street view.

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Rochester Contemporary Art Center 6x6x2010: 5,000 Artworks by 2,000 Artists – $20 Each!

» 15 June 2010 » In Presentations » No Comments

6x6x2010 is the third exhibition of thousands of original artworks, made and donated by celebrities, international and local artists, designers, college students, youths and YOU. Each artwork will be 6×6 inches square and signed only on the back, to be exhibited anonymously. All artworks will be for sale to the public for $20 each to benefit Rochester Contemporary Art Center.

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Seeing American History Through the Artist’s Eye: A Teaching and Learning Resource

» 27 April 2010 » In History / DBQ's, Literacy, Projects, Strategies » 2 Comments

The new teaching /learning site examines 82 works and their connections to American history, culture, literature and politics. The accompanying Classroom Guide integrates background information on the art, the artist and America with visual literacy classroom activities. Lesson plans and resources are readable online and available as downloadable pdfs.

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Fiction is a Lie that Tells the Truth: Reflections on Life and Literature

» 16 January 2010 » In Commentary, Literacy, Publishing » No Comments

Serious fiction is a lie that tells the truth. It can introduce you into the lies and truths of other people’s minds and hearts, to your own country and time, or strange, foreign places and other eras, into the most public forums and the most private scenes of human intimacy; it can make you see, hear, feel, love, hate, forgive, judge, understand, and yet not be bound by the consequences of all those activities, though you are there as a participant-observer in the most personal and informed ways.

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Picturing the Story – An Interdisciplinary Approach to Culture, Environment, Language, and Learning

» 16 October 2009 » In History / DBQ's, Literacy, Projects, Strategies, Web 2.0 » 2 Comments

Picturing the Story uses works of art as a springboard for an interdisciplinary approach to culture, environment, language, and learning. Interactive site includes includes layered information on the work of art, the story that inspired it, the culture where it originated, the techniques used to produce it, as well as extensive lesson plans, activity suggestions, and recommendations for further reading.

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