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XI. THE STORY OF BARON CASTINE.
IN 1667, at about the time when the treaty of Breda was ratified, and the region of the Penobscot passed again into the hands of the French, the old fortified peninsula, 'Biguyduce, where D'Aulney had reigned, had another well-born Frenchman as its lord. Jean Vincent, Baron de St. Castin, Casteins, or Castine, as the name is variously written, but soon known to the province of Maine as Baron Castine, appeared among the Tarratines, or Penobscot Indians, soon obtained great influence over them, and settled at 'Biguyduce, which is now known by his name.
Born at Béam, at the foot of the Pyrenees, and possessed of both wealth and rank, he showed an early taste for a soldier's life, and entered the French army. When very young he served with distinction against the Turks, and this obtained for him an appointment as colonel in the king's bodyguards. From this office he was transferred to the command of a noted regiment, known as the Carrignau Salières. He came to the New World through the influence of the governor general of New France, and, with his troops, was ordered to Quebec.
At the close of the war the regiment was disbanded, and, for some reason now unknown, the brave and ambitious soldier was discharged from the king's service. Whether this so greatly imbittered him as to have been, alone, the cause of his subsequent singular course of life, or whether there were other mysterious and more secret reasons, will probably never be known.
He remained in the wilderness, and, as La Hontan, the French traveler and historian says, "threw himself upon the savages." For the first years of his abode among the savages, he lived in such a manner as to secure their esteem "to a higher degree than words can describe."
He did not live altogether as a savage among the savages. He built himself a comfortable and commodious house on the peninsula, suitable for a dwelling and for trading purposes also, and he entertained constantly the Jesuit missionaries, as D'Aulney had done; for while he was a more liberal h man Catholic than his predecessor, he was devout and very punctilious in his religious observances. Few men in the history of our country have had a more romantic career.
He learned to speak with ease the Indian tongue of the tribe he had joined, the Abenaques, who were said to have come from broken tribes that had migrated from Maine to Canada. He kept himself supplied with firearms and ammunition, with steel traps and blankets, and plenty of the tinsel and beads always especially desired by the savages; and, besides making them presents, he opened a valuable trade with them in these articles, receiving furs and skins in return, always at his own prices. "By degrees," says La Hontan, "he accumulated a fortune, which any other person would have appropriated to his own benefit by retiring with two or three hundred thousand dollars in solid gold coin "
But Castine made no other use of his wealth than to buy merchandise, which he presented as gifts to his brother savages, who, returning from their hunting expeditions, presented him with beaver skins of triple their value. He taught the Indians the use of firearms and some of the arts of war, which afterwards gave them a great advantage over other tribes; and this, together with his Roman Catholic religious ceremonies, always deeply impressive and attractive to the Indian temperament, made them regard him almost as a god.
His first wife was the daughter of Madockawando, sagamore of the Tarratines, or Penobscot Indians. He had many daughters; they were all advantageously married to Frenchmen, and each received an ample dowry. He had one son, known as Castine the Younger, whom we shall hear of later. The baron seemed always thoroughly contented with his lot. His wild life apparently suited his tastes, and he enjoyed, while he never abused, his supremacy over the Indians.
He conformed himself in all respects to the manners and customs of the savages. He dressed himself and his family after the Indian fashion, and they all spoke the Indian tongue. But he was never able, even with the help of the Jesuit missionaries, to convert any of them to Christianity. The Indians' apparent devotion to the church was nothing deeper than a childish and superstitious fondness for its ceremonials. And yet the devoted Jesuit priests bore all the hardships of exile, and were never discouraged; for they "considered the baptism of a single dying child worth many times more than the pain and the suffering of dwelling with this people."
Baron Castine, having so great power over the Indian tribes, and having accumulated so much wealth, was highly regarded by the governors both of New England and of Canada, and his favor was sought by all the colonists. But he was not always left in peaceful possession of his beautiful peninsula of 'Biguyduce.
The Dutch, at war with the English, were making desperate efforts to secure settlements in the New World. Having just recovered the fort at New York, they were seized with an ambition to possess themselves of some of the strongholds in the province of Maine, and they dispatched an expedition against Baron Castine's 'Biguyduce.
Before the Dutch fleet reached the Penobscot, a treaty of peace was signed between England and Holland, and it was forced to turn back. But this attempt turned the attention of Andros, governor of New England, to the value of the French possessions in Maine, and he was moved to make an attempt to seize the fortress of 'Biguyduce. He sailed in a well-equipped frigate under command of Captain George, and landed in the harbor, directly beneath the old fort and the dwelling of the baron. As soon as he arrived he sent to Baron Castine, by a lieutenant, due notice that the governor of New England was on board the warship, and ready for an interview if the baron desired one.
But the baron was far too wary to risk being taken prisoner in that way. He had already gathered together his family and taken shelter with them in the deep woods behind the fort, leaving his possessions at the mercy of the unexpected visitors.
The Englishmen seized the household furniture, firearms, ammunition, and coarse cloths, and put them on board the frigate; but they in no wise injured the baron's Roman Catholic altar, chapel service, pictures, ornaments, or buildings.
Governor Andros had brought with him carpenters and materials to repair the fortification and make it a strong garrison. But it had been originally constructed in greater part of stone and turf, and was so far crumbling to decay that he finally decided to abandon the undertaking and the place. Stopping at Pemaquid on his return, Governor Andros had a parley with the Indians, in which he told them never to follow nor yet fear the French.
To a Tarratine sachem he said: "Tell your friend Castine that if he will render loyal obedience to the King of England every article taken from him shall be restored at this place." But the baron had no liking for either English or French, and was determined to be his own master. He wished, also, to be master of the Indians, and they were always willing to be his loyal subjects.
In the beginning of King William's War the great chief Madockawando, whose daughter was Castine's wife, was an advocate of peace, and engaged to negotiate a treaty, in which Egremet of Machias, another great chief, and the three Etechemin 'tribes would probably have joined had not the movement been prevented by Baron Castine. He also encouraged and fortified the Indian fighters by furnishing every one of them with a roll of tobacco, a pound of powder, and two pounds of lead. When the fatal assault was made upon Falmouth and Fort Loyal (at Casco Neck), the attacking party, consisting of Frenchmen from Quebec and Algonquin and Sokokis Indians, was reënforced by an unknown number of Indians from the eastward, under Castine and Madockawando.
The whole were seen to pass over Casco Bay in a great flotilla of canoes. These eastern (Penobscot) Indians had been trained by Castine in the arts of war, and under his command were a formidable body of soldiers.
The French and Indians were successful at the first onslaught. They rushed into the town of Falmouth, and fell furiously upon all the fortifications except Fort Loyal. All the people who could not escape into the fort were killed.
After making a courageous defense through the day, the volunteer soldiers and the townsmen found that their ammunition was nearly exhausted, and having no hope of recruits or supplies, they sought shelter, under the cover of darkness, in the public garrison. The next morning the attacking party, finding the village abandoned, plundered the houses and set them on fire, and then stormed the garrison.
A gallant defense was made by the garrison; the attempt upon it failed, and much havoc was made in the ranks of the enemy by the fort guns. Repulsed in open warfare, the French and Indians made their way into a deep ditch, or gully, where they were secure from shots, and began to work toward the fort, for the purpose of undermining its walls.
For four days and nights they worked incessantly; they were then within a few feet of the fort, and they demanded its surrender.
The brave defenders of the garrison were exhausted by fatigue and anxiety. Their captain had received a mortal wound. More than half their number were killed or wounded. They were utterly despairing of relief or reënforcement from without, and they began a parley which resulted in terms of surrender.
By these terms it was agreed that all within the garrison should receive kind treatment, and be permitted to go into the nearest provincial town under the protection of a guard.
It was Baron Castine who raised his right hand and swore by the everlasting God that these conditions should be faithfully observed; but it was Burneffe, the French commander, who was severely blamed by Frontenac, the governor of Canada, for the breaking of the oaths.
In a most shocking manner were the solemn promises disregarded. When the gates were opened, the seventy prisoners, including women and children, were received with taunt and insult. The French allowed the savages' cruelly to murder the women and children and the wounded men. The four or five men who were unwounded the enemy took with them, on a march of twenty-four days, to Quebec.
In all the battles in which he engaged Castine seems to have fully shared the fierceness and brutality of the savages. But his son, Castine the Younger, was a man of noble character as well as of unusual ability. In Queen Anne's War he served among the French, and was sent with dispatches to Governor Vaudreuil in Canada.
This was after Port Royal had fallen into the hands of the English; and Castine's companion was Major Levengston, an officer of the English army. Their mission was to inform Governor Vaudreuil that Acadia " had been taken by the English; that all its inhabitants, except those within the pale of Port Royal, were prisoners at discretion; and that if the barbarities practiced by the savages under his control were not discontinued, reprisals would be made or retaliation inflicted upon the French of Nova Scotia."
The messengers, young Castine and Major Levengston, set out with three Indian guides. They went first to 'Biguyduce, where Castine spent a few days with his family, and where Levengston was most hospitably received. They then paddled up the Penobscot River in their canoes to the island of Lett (now Oldtown), where they found fifty canoes and twice as many Indians, besides women and children.
They remained there several days, and during their stay a prisoner, taken shortly before by the Indians at Winter Harbor, had, in hunting with the Indian who had him in charge, made his escape, carrying off both the Indian's canoe and gun. The exasperated Indian had vowed to kill the first white man whom he saw, and as soon as he met Levengston he seized him by the throat, and would have dispatched him with a single stroke of his hatchet, had not Castine nobly thrust himself between them.
Castine's admixture of Indian blood not only increased his influence over the savages, but gave him the physical hardihood and endurance necessary for the prolonged exposures and perils of warfare in the wilderness. The messengers were for forty-two days in the woods before they reached Quebec. The day after they set out Levengston's canoe was upset, his gun and his supplies were sunk, and one of the guides was drowned.
It was now December, and when the ice began to form, the other canoe became leaky and unsafe. So they were forced to leave it and make the remainder of the journey by land.
They traveled by the compass, and the weather was much of the time stormy or foggy. For nineteen consecutive days they did not see the sun. Their track lay over mountains, through dreary swamps thick with spruce and cedars, and for many days they waded knee-deep in snow.
Six days before they could by any possibility reach a human habitation, they had consumed all their provisions, and were forced to subsist upon the leaves of wild vegetables, the inner bark of trees, and the few dried berries which they occasionally found. When at last they reached Quebec, Castine was the only one not wholly overcome by the hardships of the journey.
The mission was, after all, unsuccessful. They brought back only a letter from Governor Vaudreuil, in which he said:
"Never have the French, and seldom have the Indians, treated their English captives with inhumanity. Nor are the French, in any event, accountable for the behavior of the Indians. But a truce, and even a neutrality, if the English had desired it, might, long since, have terminated the miseries of war. And should any retaliatory measures be adopted by the English, they will be amply revenged by the French."
Castine had performed his mission faithfully, although his sympathies were, of course, entirely with the French. But not for many years after that was there to be any peace between the French and the English claimants of American territory.
The younger Castine, who was a chief sagamore of the Tarratine (Penobscot) Indians, held also a commission from the French king. He was the grandson of Madockawando, the mighty Tarratine chief, and he himself married an Indian wife, and had a son to whom he gave the French name of Robardee or Robardeau. He had also a daughter, whose son, Captain Sokes, was a noted chief of the Penobscots. The younger Castine himself preferred to wear always the Indian dress, although he sometimes appeared in the elegant uniform of an officer of the French army.
He was a man of great magnanimity and of a high sense of honor; and the confidence reposed in him by the English in making him the companion of Levengston through the wilderness was well placed. A man of foresight and good sense, he perceived how these wars wasted away the Indians, and he bade earliest welcome to the songs of peace. "He thought his tribe happy only when they enjoyed the dews and shades of tranquillity."
In 1721 he was "improperly seized" at 'Biguyduce and carried to Boston, where he was detained for several months. No reason whatever is given or suggested for this strange proceeding, but it seems probable that Castine, who, like his father, strongly objected to interference, may have been moved by it to desert the colonies; for he went the next year to Béam, his father's old home in the Pyrenees, claimed as his inheritance his father's honors, fortune, and seignioral rights, and returned no more.
Whether the role of a French nobleman suited him better than that of an Indian chieftain, whether, in the splendor and gayety of the French court, he ever longed for the untrammeled life of the wilderness, for the wigwam fires and the dusky faces of his kindred, there are no records left to tell us.