Lachine Massacre in 1689

Engraving of Governor General of New France th...
Engraving of Governor General of New France the Marquis de Denonville (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Warning: today’s post is graphic and is not for kids or if your stomach is just weak today!

Some stories of Indian massacres have been related, but the worst one of all happened at Lachine, a suburb of Montreal, on August 5, 1689.

There are two sides to every story, and sometimes more.  It was the Iroquois who had been provocation two years before.  Governor Denonville had been asked by Louis XIV to capture some Iroquois and send them to France as gallery slaves.  The Récollet priests had a mission for the Iroquois at the Bay of Quinte, west of Fort Frontenac on Lake Ontario.  The Iroquois at the mission were invited to visit Fort Frontenac with their wives and children, but when they arrived they were seized by Denonville’s Intendant, horrified to see fifty members of his mission tied to posts, but could do nothing about it.

They were flogged, and insects were put on their skins, while Hurons forced their fingers into hot pipes of tobacco.  They were then sent to be galley slaves in France, where most of them died.

On the night of August 4, 1689, a violent summer hailstorm swept across Lake St. Louis.  As the householders got up to make sure windows were closed, they heard the screeching war cry of the Iroquois rising over the noise of thunder and hail.  Within minutes, swarms of naked Iroquois, armed to the teeth, came running down the lane, their faces smeared with war-paint.  There were 1,500 of them, taking advantage of the storm to cross the lake unseen.

It is said that those who died in the first few minutes of the onslaught were fortunate.  Men and women were cut down by tomahawks, and the brains of little children were dashed out against door frames and bedposts.  One hundred prisoners were taken to the Iroquois villages in the Finger Lakes area, tied to stakes and burned or tortured.

The prisoners might have been saved if soldiers 3 miles away had been allowed to take action.  Unfortunately, their commanding officer, Subercase, was in Montreal attending a reception for Denonville.   Returning to the camp, Subercase cursed his men for not having  gone to Lachine without him.  When they arrived the horror of the scene was beyond description, but the surgeon, who had managed to hide, told Subercase that the Indians to hide, told Subercase that the Indians had taken a large quantity of brandy.  Subercase knew this was the time to attack, but just as he was about to follow the Iroquois, word came from Governor Denonville that he must hold his troops to guard Montreal.  The Indians stayed on the rampage, capturing new communities and taking more prisoners, none of whom could be rescued by the French.

To learn more about the Lachine Massacre, you can go to CBC Learning, and Rideau Canal and All That, and then Faith in Action. Lastly, I suggest Wikipedia.


  1. You are definitely right, there are always two sides or more to a story. I always read or hear about massacre of different Indian group but many folks fail to talk about the destruction that some of the warlike Indian groups carried out. Now I am in no way saying that some Indian groups were not violated but I just appreciate hearing/learning about what the Indians did and what was done to them.


    • Be sure to “tune in” to my post on August 10. I think you’ll like it. And I agree with you. Sometimes I feel like we treat it as the “elephant in the room” … Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment – that’s always appreciated! 🙂


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