Statue of Marie Madeleine #2 MARIE-MADELEINE OF VERCHÈRES
by Marie-Madeleine Jarret (translated version)

The following is an account of the heroic deeds of Miss Marie-Madeleine Jarret de Verchères in the conflict with the Iroquois on Wednesday, October 22, 1692, 8:00 AM.

I was five arpents (editor's note: an old French measurement) from the Fort of Verchères belonging to my father, Mr. de Verchères, who was then in Quebec City under order of Mr. le Chevalier de Callieres, Governor of Montreal; my mother was in Montreal at the time. I heard several gun shots. I soon realized that the Iroquois were firing at our habitants who were some distance from the Fort. One of our servants yelled at me, "Save yourselves, the Iroquois are attacking us!" Instantly, I turned around and noticed 45 Iroquois running towards me; they were within rifle range. Determined to die now rather than to fall in their hands, I decided to flee. As I ran towards the Fort, I prayed to the Holy Virgin with all my heart, "Holy Virgin, Mother of God, you know that I have always honored and loved you like my own dear mother, do not abandon me in this time of danger: I would rather perish 1,000 times than to fall in the hands of people who do not know you." Meanwhile, the Iroquois who were chasing me found that they were too far from me to take me alive before I reached the Fort, so they tried shooting me. Several gun shots whizzed by me, making the distance to the Fort seem quite long even when I got closer. As I came within shouting distance of the Fort, I yelled in vain to the guards to get their arms, hoping that someone would come out and save me. There were only two soldiers in the Fort. Ceased with fright, they had hidden in the redoubt. When I arrived at the gate, I found two women crying as their husbands had just been killed. I had them enter the Fort and then I shut the gates.

(Father Charlevoix said, "The savages followed her, and one of the Iroquois caught up to her just as she entered the gates; he grabbed her by the neckerchief; she untied it and closed the door.")

(La Potherie said, "There was another who chased her up to the entrance of the Fort where it appears he stopped her by her neckerchief which remained in his hands. She had enough presence of mind to close the gates of the Fort on the Iroquois who didn't dare enter because of the noise he could hear.")

Placque on monument Then I thought I would find cover for myself and the few who were with me from the insults of these barbarians. I inspected the Fort and found several fallen posts which created gaps, providing easy access to the enemy. I ordered that they be picked up, and without considering my sex or age, I picked up a post by one end, encouraging the others to pick up the other end. I proved that when God provides strength, nothing is impossible. Once the gaps in the fort were repaired, I went to the redoubts (which served as guard posts) where the war ammunition was kept. I found two soldiers, one hidden, the other holding a lighted fuse. I asked him, "What do you want to do with this fuse?" He answered, " It is to put fire to the power, to blow us up." I retorted, "You are a miserable person; go away." I was speaking in such a firm and assured tone of voice that he obeyed. I removed my head-dress, put a hat on and took a rifle. I said to my two younger brothers (Pierre de Verchères was 12 years-old and Alexandre de Vercherès was 10 1/2. Marie-Madeleine was 14 years-old.) "Let us fight to the death. We are fighting for our country and our religion. Remember what our father taught us--that gentlemen are born to shed their blood for the service of God and the King!" My brothers, as well as the soldiers, listened to my words. They fired continually at the enemy. (La Potherie said, "Marie-Madeleine loaded the cannon, using 8-pound balls, and fired at the enemy. This frightened the Iroquois terribly, and at the same time it warned all the forts north and south of the river.") I fired the canon to warn any of the soldiers who had gone hunting to go to another fort to save themselves. Despite the sounds of our artillery, I heard the lamenting cries of the women and children who had just lost their husbands, brothers and fathers. I belived it was wise to explain to them the dangers of being heard by the Iroquois. As they could be heard above the sounds of the cannon and rifles, I ordered them to be quiet so that the enemy would believe that we were not without hope and resources. (Charlevoix reports that she locked up all the women.)

As I spoke to them I noticed a canoe on the river across the Fort. It was Mr. Fontaine (OUR ANCESTOR!). Pierre Fontaine dit Bienvenu of Varennes had married Marguerite Anthiaumes, widow of Andre Jarret de Beauregard, uncle of our heroine, and his family who had just disembarked at the same location where I had been attacked by the Iroquois. The family would be ravaged if I didn't warn them. I asked the two soldiers if they would help them, but it was evident by their silence that they lacked determination. I ordered Violette, our servant, to hold the gates open while I went to the edge of the river, rifle in hand, and a hat on my head. As I left, I ordered that if we were killed, the gates of the Fort were to be shut and they were to continue to defend themselves. I left with the thought that God had inspired me, that the enemy would believe that I was making a fake move to encourage them to come to the Fort where we would attack them. It was effective, and I had the opportunity to save Pierre Fontaine and his family. Once they all disembarked, they walked in front of me up to the Fort with the enemy in sight. This disposition of confidence and pride made the Iroquois believe that we were no longer afraid of them. They did not know who was all in the Fort of Verchères--my two younger brothers, age 10 and 12, our servant, two soldiers, an 80 year-old man, and a few women and children.

Reinforced with Pierre Fontaine and his family, I ordered that we continue to fire at the enemy. The sun was setting; a northeast wind with snow and hail was coming. We predicted that it would be the worst night ever imaginable. It was evident by their movements that the enemy was far from being discouraged and that they wished to escalate their attack during darkness. I gathered all of my troops, that is only six, and said, "God has saved us today from the hands of our enemy, but we must be careful not to fall in their nets. As for myself, I have no fear; I share this Fort with an 80 year-old man, a soldier who never fired a rifle and you, Pierre Fontaine, La Bonte and Gachet (names of the two soldiers). You will go to the stronghold with the women and children since this is the best place for protection; if I am caught, do not come, for you will see me burnt and hacked to pieces; you should not be afraid in the stronghold."

Immediately I placed my two younger brothers on two bastions, the 80 year-old man on the third and I took the fourth bastion. Each one suited our personality. Despite the strong northeast wind, which is the worst in Canada during this season, and despite the snow and hail, we kept in constant contact saying, "Guarding from the stronghold to the Fort is going well. Guarding from the Fort to the stronghold is going well!" Anyone hearing this would believe that the Fort was filled with soldiers. The Iroquois, who were usually so aggressive and sly, were now wondering whether they had been wrong when they told Mr. Caillieres that they would take the Fort during the night. Our unrelenting guard prevented them from executing their plans, especially after we had shot some of their people the preceding day.

At approximately 1:00 AM, the guard at the bastion of the gates yelled, "Miss, I heard something." I approached to find out what it was. I saw a few horned animals through the darkness and the snow--the hopeless enemy no doubt. The guard said, "We must open the gates to let them enter." I answered, "You do not yet know all the mischievous plans of the savages; without doubt, they are amongst the livestock, covered with animal hide, in an effort to enter the Fort, hoping that we open the gates to let them in." I am afraid of any enemy as smart and aggressive as the Iroquois. After assessing this situation carefully I judged that there we no risks in opening the gates. I called my two younger brothers with their loaded rifles in case of surprises and we then let the livestock enter with no problems.

Another view of momument Finally, the sun broke through the darkness of the night. It seemed to dissolve our discouragement and worries. I went to my soldiers with a happy face and said, "With heaven's help, we made it through the night, as horrible as it was; we can do it again by continuing our guarding techniques; we should also fire the cannon every hour on the hour in an effort to signal Montreal for their help." I noticed that my words encouraged them. There was only Mrs. Marguerite Anthiaumes, Mr. Pierre Fontaine's wife, who was extremely frightened which is natural for all Parisian women. She asked her husband to take her to another Fort, telling him that she was fortunate enough to have escaped the fury of the savages the first night, and that the Fort of Verchères was too weak, that it had no men to guard it, and to stay was to be exposed to evident danger, or to fall in constant slavery or to die by being fired at. The poor husband, seeing his wife's persistence in going to the Contrecoeur Fort said, "I will equip the canoe with arms and you may go with your two children who know how to canoe. As for myself, I will never abandon the Fort of Verchères as long as Miss Magdelon is here." (This is what they called me during my childhood.) I told him that I would never abandon the Fort, that I would prefer to die than to let the enemy take me. It is infinitely important that the Iroquois never overtake a French Fort. They would judge the other Forts by this one. If they overtake this Fort, it will only increase their pride and courage. (Charlevoix said, "I do not believe that the Iroquois ever took over any of these forts. It is too dangerous for these savages who have no arms and who do not like a victory of bloodshed. The white man's way of war makes it too difficult for the Iroquois to fight. Two attacks on the Fort of Verchères were nevertheless first-rate according to Canadian standards, and it seemed that the Iroquois were not exhausted by these two attacks. This is unusual for the Iroquois, as the white man's forces could shatter the boldness of two regions of Indian tribes.")

I could truthfully say that I did not sleep or eat for 48 hours. I did not once go to my father's home. I remained on the bastion where I supervised our people in the stronghold. I always had a cheerful smile. I encouraged my small troop, hoping that it would help.

On the eighth day (eight days of being constantly alert and on guard and being exposed to the enemy's violence and barbarism), M. de la Monnerie and Lieutenant de Callieres arrived with 40 men during the night, not knowing whether or not the Fort had been overtaken. As they approached silently, one of our guards heard something and yelled, "Who goes there?" I had been sleeping with my head on the table and a rifle in my arms. The guard told me that she heard someone near the water but since she did not take the time to climb into the bastion, she could not distinguish whether the voice was Savage or French. I asked them, "Who are you?" They answered, "French. It is la Monnerie who is coming to help you." I opened the gates of the Fort; I positioned the guards and I went to the edge of the water to welcome them. As soon as I noticed them I greeted them with these words, "Sir, you are most welcome. I will render my arms." He gallantly answered, "Miss, the arms are in good hands." He examined the Fort and found it to be in good shape, one guard on each bastion. I told him, "Sir, relieve my guards so they can rest. We have not left the bastions for eight days."

I forgot of one incident that tested my self-confidence and peace-of-mind. The day of the great battle, the Iroquois, who had surrounded the Fort, burnt the homes of our habitants, turned everything upside down and killed all the livestock in our sight. I remembered that I had left three bags of clothes and a few blankets outside the Fort. With a rifle in my hand, I asked my soldiers if someone would come with me to get my clothes. Their silence and their gloomy and dismal disposition made me realize that they had little courage. (Note that the morning of October 22, 1692, the Iroquois came out of the bushes and surprised and killed about 20 habitants who were in the fields.) I looked at my younger brothers saying, "Take your rifles and come with me." I told the others to continue to fire at the enemy while I went to get the clothes. I made two trips in full view of the enemy in the same location as where they had missed me a couple of hours before. This made them suspicious, and they did not dare take me or fire at me.

The story of the accomplishments of Marie-Madeleine de Verchères' army is worth a life annuity.