THE FRENCH INVADE














French Invaded Its Shores, Indians Whooped War Cries

In the spring of 1687 at his headquarters in Montreal, the Marquis Denonville and his staff poured over maps, even as Dwight Eiesenhower and his staff did in 1944. The Marquis jabbed a forefinger at a place on the map. "there," he said, "is O-nyui-da-on-da-gwat, the bay of the Senecas, the gateway to their empire. There shall we invade." Other Frenchmen had explored that beach, La Salle the explorer, and Galinee, Dallion, Chaumont and other brave priests who carried the Cross to the filthy wilderness villages of the Senecas. The rulers of New France had heard of the empire of furs, of the short water route to the Western trading posts that the Indians guarded so jealously. Denonville sought to crush the Seneca power for all time and extend France's "sphere of influence." So he mapped the grand strategy of D-Day in 1687. From Montreal an armada of 1,500 Frenchmen and 500 Indian allies was set out in 200 bateaux and canoes. Another band of 1,000 Indians under Tonti was to leave from the Western lakes. On a certain hour of a certain day, the two forces were to join at Irondequiot Bay, establish a beachhead, then push into the interior and lay waste the Indian country. In 1687 there was no radio, no way by which the two converging armies could communicate with each other. Yet on a July afternoon, one fleet swept by Nine Mile Point just as the other flotilla neared the mouth of the Genesee River. The two armies met at Irondequoit Bay at precisely the appointed hour. It was a masterpiece of timing, worthy of an Eisenhower. The expedition landed without opposition, although Seneca scouts watched from the woods and spread the alarm. Denonville encamped at the bay, built a palisaded fort, then marched into the Genesee Country - and into bloody ambush near Victor. The French won the day and went on to devastate the Seneca villages and crops. The Marquis returned to Irondequoit Bay flushed with victory, and sailed west to build a fort at Niagra. The next year the bay was alive with Indian war canoes. The Senecas had rebuilt their villages, planted new crops and mobilized a mighty army, fired with revenge. They repaid the Marquis' visit with interest, burned and ravaged the French settlements in Canada. Denonville's invasion proved an inglorious failure.
At Sea Breeze, where Culver Road ends, is a historical marker. It tells the site of Fort Des Sables, "fort of the sands," that the French built in 1718. In Ellison Park, just off Landing Road and on a hill over-looking Irondequiot Creek is a log "trading post" erected by the Boy Scouts. It is on the site of Fort Schuyler, built by the English in 1721 to offset the menace of the French fortress. It commanded all the trails and the waterway. Ten soldiers under Capt. Peter Schuyler Jr. of Albany manned it for a year. Then it was abandoned. What a lovely year it must have been for that little garriosn. These forts were significant. They indicate the importance the warring empires attached to the position of Irondequoit Bay in this wild land that each sought to win. In 1759, another army encamped at the bay for the night. This time the flag of England waved over the sands. The expedition, made up of British regulars, provincial troops and Indian allies, under Prideaux and Sir William Johnson, was on it's way by lake to storm fort Niagra. Within a month it had conquered that last French bastion on the frontier. Nine years later, another British army, 1,200 strong, stopped at the bay bound for Detroit and battle with the French. In it's ranks was a young Connecticut officer named Isreal Putnam. Soon the Redcoats were to regret the military training they gave that patriot. After Sullivan's Yankee army had devastated the Seneca country in 1779, a score of Troy renegades hid in a thicket near present Coast Guard headquarters at Summerville until a British boat picked them up and took them to Niagra.