Despite such petty triumphs, the Hurons felt themselves on the verge of ruin.
Previously in The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century.
Our special project presenting the definitive account of France in Canada by Francis Parkman, one of America’s greatest historians.
The large frontier town of St. Joseph was well fortified with palisades, on which, at intervals, were wooden watch-towers. On an evening of this same summer of 1645, the Iroquois approached the place in force; and the young Huron warriors, mounting their palisades, sang their war-songs all night, with the utmost power of their lungs, in order that the enemy, knowing them to be on their guard, might be deterred from an attack. The night was dark, and the hideous dissonance resounded far and wide; yet, regardless of the din, two Iroquois crept close to the palisade, where they lay motionless till near dawn. By this time the last song had died away, and the tired singers had left their posts or fallen asleep. One of the Iroquois, with the silence and agility of a wild-cat, climbed to the top of a watch-tower, where he found two slumbering Hurons, brained one of them with his hatchet, and threw the other down to his comrade, who quickly despoiled him of his life and his scalp. Then, with the reeking trophies of their exploit, the adventurers rejoined their countrymen in the forest.
The Hurons planned a counter-stroke; and three of them, after a journey of twenty days, reached the great town of the Senecas. They entered it at midnight, and found, as usual, no guard; but the doors of the houses were made fast. They cut a hole in the bark side of one of them, crept in, stirred the fading embers to give them light, chose each his man, tomahawked him, scalped him, and escaped in the confusion.
[Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1646, 55, 56.]
Despite such petty triumphs, the Hurons felt themselves on the verge of ruin. Pestilence and war had wasted them away, and left but a skeleton of their former strength. In their distress, they cast about them for succor, and, remembering an ancient friendship with a kindred nation, the Andastes, they sent an embassy to ask of them aid in war or intervention to obtain peace. This powerful people dwelt, as has been shown, on the River Susquehanna.  The way was long, even in a direct line; but the Iroquois lay between, and a wide circuit was necessary to avoid them. A Christian chief, whom the Jesuits had named Charles, together with four Christian and four heathen Hurons, bearing wampum-belts and gifts from the council, departed on this embassy on the thirteenth of April, 1647, and reached the great town of the Andastes early in June. It contained, as the Jesuits were told, no less than thirteen hundred warriors. The council assembled, and the chief ambassador addressed them: —
“We come from the Land of Souls, where all is gloom, dismay, and desolation. Our fields are covered with blood; our houses are filled only with the dead; and we ourselves have but life enough to beg our friends to take pity on a people who are drawing near their end.”  Then he presented the wampum-belts and other gifts, saying that they were the voice of a dying country.
[1: See Introduction. The Susquehannocks of Smith, clearly the same people, are placed, in his map, on the east side of the Susquehanna, some twenty miles from its mouth. He speaks of them as great enemies of the Massawomekes (Mohawks). No other savage people so boldly resisted the Iroquois; but the story in Hazard’s Annals of Pennsylvania, that a hundred of them beat off sixteen hundred Senecas, is disproved by the fact, that the Senecas, in their best estate, never had so many warriors. The miserable remnant of the Andastes, called Conestogas, were massacred by the Paxton Boys, in 1763. See “Conspiracy of Pontiac,” 414. Compare Historical Magazine, II. 294.]
[2: “Il leur dit qu’il venoit du pays des Ames, oů la guerre et la terreur des ennemis auoit tout desolé, oů les campagnes n’estoient couuertes que de sang, oů les cabanes n’estoient remplies que de cadaures, et qu’il ne leur restoit ŕ eux-mesmes de vie, sinon autant qu’ils en auoient eu besoin pour venir dire ŕ leurs amis, qu’ils eussent pitié d’vn pays qui tiroit ŕ sa fin.” — Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1648, 58.]
The Andastes, who had a mortal quarrel with the Mohawks, and who had before promised to aid the Hurons in case of need, returned a favorable answer, but were disposed to try the virtue of diplomacy rather than the tomahawk. After a series of councils, they determined to send ambassadors, not to their old enemies, the Mohawks, but to the Onondagas, Oneidas, and Cayugas,  who were geographically the central nations of the Iroquois league, while the Mohawks and the Senecas were respectively at its eastern and western extremities. By inducing the three central nations, and, if possible, the Senecas also, to conclude a treaty with the Hurons, these last would be enabled to concentrate their force against the Mohawks, whom the Andastes would attack at the same time, unless they humbled themselves and made peace. This scheme, it will be seen, was based on the assumption, that the dreaded league of the Iroquois was far from being a unit in action or counsel.
[3: Examination leaves no doubt that the Ouiouenronnons of Ragueneau (Relation des Hurons, 1648, 46, 59) were the Oiogouins or Goyogouins, that is to say, the Cayugas. They must not be confounded with the Ouenrohronnons, a small tribe hostile to the Iroquois, who took refuge among the Hurons in 1638.]
Charles, with some of his colleagues, now set out for home, to report the result of their mission; but the Senecas were lying in wait for them, and they were forced to make a wide sweep through the Alleghanies, Western Pennsylvania, and apparently Ohio, to avoid these vigilant foes. It was October before they reached the Huron towns, and meanwhile hopes of peace had arisen from another quarter.
[On this mission of the Hurons to the Andastes, see Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1648, 58-60.]
Early in the spring, a band of Onondagas had made an inroad, but were roughly handled by the Hurons, who killed several of them, captured others, and put the rest to flight. The prisoners were burned, with the exception of one who committed suicide to escape the torture, and one other, the chief man of the party, whose name was Annenrais. Some of the Hurons were dissatisfied at the mercy shown him, and gave out that they would kill him; on which the chiefs, who never placed themselves in open opposition to the popular will, secretly fitted him out, made him presents, and aided him to escape at night, with an understanding that he should use his influence at Onondaga in favor of peace. After crossing Lake Ontario, he met nearly all the Onondaga warriors on the march to avenge his supposed death; for he was a man of high account. They greeted him as one risen from the grave; and, on his part, he persuaded them to renounce their warlike purpose and return home. On their arrival, the chiefs and old men were called to council, and the matter was debated with the usual deliberation.
About this time the ambassador of the Andastes appeared with his wampum-belts. Both this nation and the Onondagas had secret motives which were perfectly in accordance. The Andastes hated the Mohawks as enemies, and the Onondagas were jealous of them as confederates; for, since they had armed themselves with Dutch guns, their arrogance and boastings had given umbrage to their brethren of the league; and a peace with the Hurons would leave the latter free to turn their undivided strength against the Mohawks, and curb their insolence. The Oneidas and the Cayugas were of one mind with the Onondagas. Three nations of the league, to satisfy their spite against a fourth, would strike hands with the common enemy of all. It was resolved to send an embassy to the Hurons. Yet it may be, that, after all, the Onondagas had but half a mind for peace. At least, they were unfortunate in their choice of an ambassador. He was by birth a Huron, who, having been captured when a boy, adopted and naturalized, had become more an Iroquois than the Iroquois themselves; and scarcely one of the fierce confederates had shed so much Huron blood. When he reached the town of St. Ignace, which he did about midsummer, and delivered his messages and wampum-belts, there was a great division of opinion among the Hurons. The Bear Nation — the member of their confederacy which was farthest from the Iroquois, and least exposed to danger — was for rejecting overtures made by so offensive an agency; but those of the Hurons who had suffered most were eager for peace at any price, and, after solemn deliberation, it was resolved to send an embassy in return. At its head was placed a Christian chief named Jean Baptiste Atironta; and on the first of August he and four others departed for Onondaga, carrying a profusion of presents, and accompanied by the apostate envoy of the Iroquois. As the ambassadors had to hunt on the way for subsistence, besides making canoes to cross Lake Ontario, it was twenty days before they reached their destination. When they arrived, there was great jubilation, and, for a full month, nothing but councils. Having thus sifted the matter to the bottom, the Onondagas determined at last to send another embassy with Jean Baptiste on his return, and with them fifteen Huron prisoners, as an earnest of their good intentions, retaining, on their part, one of Baptiste’s colleagues as a hostage. This time they chose for their envoy a chief of their own nation, named Scandawati, a man of renown, sixty years of age, joining with him two colleagues. The old Onondaga entered on his mission with a troubled mind. His anxiety was not so much for his life as for his honor and dignity; for, while the Oneidas and the Cayugas were acting in concurrence with the Onondagas, the Senecas had refused any part in the embassy, and still breathed nothing but war. Would they, or still more the Mohawks, so far forget the consideration due to one whose name had been great in the councils of the League as to assault the Hurons while he was among them in the character of an ambassador of his nation, whereby his honor would be compromised and his life endangered. His mind brooded on this idea, and he told one of his colleagues, that, if such a slight were put upon him, he should die of mortification. “I am not a dead dog,” he said, “to be despised and forgotten. I am worthy that all men should turn their eyes on me while I am among enemies, and do nothing that may involve me in danger.”
What with hunting, fishing, canoe-making, and bad weather, the progress of the august travelers was so slow, that they did not reach the Huron towns till the twenty-third of October. Scandawati presented seven large belts of wampum, each composed of three or four thousand beads, which the Jesuits call the pearls and diamonds of the country. He delivered, too, the fifteen captives, and promised a hundred more on the final conclusion of peace. The three Onondagas remained, as surety for the good faith of those who sent them, until the beginning of January, when the Hurons on their part sent six ambassadors to conclude the treaty, one of the Onondagas accompanying them. Soon there came dire tidings. The prophetic heart of the old chief had not deceived him. The Senecas and Mohawks, disregarding negotiations in which they had no part, and resolved to bring them to an end, were invading the country in force. It might be thought that the Hurons would take their revenge on the Onondaga envoys, now hostages among them; but they did not do so, for the character of an ambassador was, for the most part, held in respect. One morning, however, Scandawati had disappeared. They were full of excitement; for they thought that he had escaped to the enemy. They ranged the woods in search of him, and at length found him in a thicket near the town. He lay dead, on a bed of spruce-boughs which he had made, his throat deeply gashed with a knife. He had died by his own hand, a victim of mortified pride. “See,” writes Father Ragueneau, “how much our Indians stand on the point of honor!”
[This remarkable story is told by Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1648, 56-58. He was present at the time, and knew all the circumstances.]
– The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century, Chapter 23 by Francis Parkman
The below is from Francis Parkman’s Introduction.
If, at times, it may seem that range has been allowed to fancy, it is so in appearance only; since the minutest details of narrative or description rest on authentic documents or on personal observation.
Faithfulness to the truth of history involves far more than a research, however patient and scrupulous, into special facts. Such facts may be detailed with the most minute exactness, and yet the narrative, taken as a whole, may be unmeaning or untrue. The narrator must seek to imbue himself with the life and spirit of the time. He must study events in their bearings near and remote; in the character, habits, and manners of those who took part in them, he must himself be, as it were, a sharer or a spectator of the action he describes.
With respect to that special research which, if inadequate, is still in the most emphatic sense indispensable, it has been the writer’s aim to exhaust the existing material of every subject treated. While it would be folly to claim success in such an attempt, he has reason to hope that, so far at least as relates to the present volume, nothing of much importance has escaped him. With respect to the general preparation just alluded to, he has long been too fond of his theme to neglect any means within his reach of making his conception of it distinct and true.