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Long Sault RapidsIn 1963, the water behind the new Carillon Dam was raised over 60 feet, quieting the upstream tumult of the Long Sault Rapids. It also covered the canals and any remaining vestiges of old portage trails used to bypass the rapids. A lake over 20 km long was created, stretching all the way up the Ottawa River, beyond my home in Grenville.

I had personally invested sweat equity in this project. Three years before the Carillon Dam completion, in the winter of 1960-61, at age 18, I was employed by a local contractor in clear-cutting the forest near Stonefield. In the bitter cold, we felled trees and skidded logs with horses, cut the logs into 4 ft pulp-wood lengths with chain saws and loaded them on trucks for delivery to the nearby CIP Pulp Mill in Hawkesbury, Ontario. At lunch break we wrapped the horses in blankets and thawed our frozen sandwiches and fingers over an open fire. I remember well that tough experience.

The power dam.The reservoir I was clearing forest for would later be named Lac Dollard des Ormeaux, in honour of the hero in a conflict 300 years before; the 1660 Battle of the Long Sault.
His actual name is generally accepted as Adam Dollard (although he has also been variously identified as Adam Daulat and Adam Daulac). He acquired the title “Sieur des Ormeaux” when he was granted land on Montreal Island by Governor Paul Chomedy de Maisonneuve, on the occasion of his promotion, in 1659, to commander of the garrison at Ville Marie. This was quite an accomplishment for a 24-year old, even though he did have prior military training and field experience in France.
Statue of Dollard by artist Louis-Philippe HébertMystery still surrounds Dollard des Ormeaux and his exploits. Reports of the Battle of the Long Sault were based on one Huron survivor’s account. Embellishments filled in the gaps and a myth was generated. Questions were later raised. Unsolved mysteries fuelled speculation, debate and research, which continue even today.

What is generally accepted, however, is that in May 1660, Adam Dollard and a band of 16 young, unmarried Frenchmen, together with 4 Algonquin and 40 Huron allies, paddled up the Ottawa River against the strong springtime current. Dollard had been duly authorized by Governor de Maisonneuve to undertake the mission. At the foot of the Long Sault Rapids they confronted and fought several hundred Iroquois. After a week-long siege and battle, they were finally overwhelmed and annihilated.

The large number of Onondaga and Seneca that had marshalled along the Ottawa River and the equal number of Mohawk and Oneida along the Richelieu River confirmed the rumours that the Iroquois intended an all-out attack, aimed at eliminating once and for all the French colony. Subsequent verbal accounts from the Iroquois themselves, support the premise that Dollard’s actions thwarted Iroquois plans for coordinated attacks, successively upon Ville Marie, Trois-Rivières and Quebec, in that summer of 1660. Instead, the Iroquois returned to their villages.

A major point of debate is whether Dollard knowingly planned certain doom for himself and his companions by stalking and confronting a vastly superior Iroquois force. Early religious historians contend that he did, exemplifying selfless personal sacrifice in martyring himself and his companions to save the French colony.

Even English Canadian poets later picked up on this “super-hero” theme, including Archibald Lampman in “The Long Sault - May 1660”.

Others insist that there is no evidence that his intensions we so noble and that Dollard was not aware that the Iroquois were gathering in such large numbers for a concerted attack on the colony. They contend that Dollard simply planned to waylay and harass small hostile bands and relieve them of the furs from their winter hunt, as booty.

The battle.Another historian took the view that Dollard had not saved New France but characterized him as an ambitious young man eager to “regain a lost reputation.” Furthermore, he contended that Dollard succeeded only in aggravating the warlike ardor of the Iroquois and was unaware of Iroquois plan for invading the colony and that he was very badly prepared to encounter the enemy -- in short, that Dollard did more harm than good.

And, of course, there are the “conspiracy theorists” who suggest the Battle of the Long Sault was a fabrication and that the 17 “heroes” simply had decided to leave the colony, merge with friendly natives and disappeared into the wilderness.
But weight of evidence suggests that the battle did occur. However, the Iroquois were not dissuaded for long. In 1661 their sporadic guerrilla raids claimed 100 more victims in the French colony and the threat continued. In 1665, at the behest of fearful colonists, France deployed the crack Carignan-Sallières Regiment, a body of 1200 soldiers, to protect the colony and pro-actively carry the fight right into the Iroquois villages.

Suggested location of the Algonquin fort.Another mystery surrounding the Battle of the Long Sault is the location of the derelict Algonquin fort that Dollard’s band sought refuge in. A majority of opinions situate the “battlefield” on high ground a few hundred meters away from the river, near the foot of the portage used to circumvent what later became known as the Carillon Rapids.

But that is not the only possibility. One problem is that the term “Long Sault Rapids” originally referred to a discontinuous stretch of rapids between Grenville and Carillon, which originally required three portages. The longest portage was for what was most commonly known as the Long Sault Rapids, the stretch from Grenville to Stonefield. The second portage was shorter, around what subsequently became known as Chute à Blondeau. On the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, that portage was near Cushing. The third portage was around the lower Carillon Rapids.

Apart from the Carillon site for the Battle of the Long Sault, some suggest it is at Greece’s Point, near the foot of the longer upper section of the rapids, most commonly known as the Long Sault Rapids. Others suggest that an archaeological dig near Chute à Blondeau, on the Ontario side of the Ottawa River, produced some evidence that it might have been there.
Commemorative stamp by Canada Post.In spite of some uncertainty and controversy, Dollard des Ormeaux has not been bereft of recognition for his audacious, salutary actions. A satellite city on the West Island of Montreal bears his name. So does the reservoir above the Carillon Dam, plus numerous streets in cities from Quebec City to St Boniface, Manitoba. In addition,Dollard is evident (if not prominent) in history books and museums and was commemorated in 1960 by the issue by Canada Post of a tercentenary commemorative stamp. There are also several monuments is his honour, including the largest in Parc Lafontaine in Montreal (into which is also chiselled the names of his 16 compatriots) and a smaller one at Carillon.Some say these measures are not sufficient for a hero of such stature. Perhaps when the actual site of the Battle of the Long Sault can be more definitively determined, a larger monument befitting the “Saviour of Canada” could be commissioned.(All illustrations are courtesy of the author)