For decades, the Indian Nations north of the St. Lawrence River were under constant threat from the war-hungry Iroquois to the south. They had suffered countless Iroquois raids over the years, and Champlain was quick to realize that an alliance would be a major 'selling point' in securing friendly relationships, especially in trade, with the northern Natives. An alliance was quickly set up and Champlain promised help from the French to secure their homes from the Iroquois.
In Spring 1609, Champlain gathered with 9 French soldiers and 300 Natives. Together they paddled the Richelieu River south where Champlain discovered and named Lake Champlain. To this point, there had been no encounters with the enemy and most of the company returned to Canada, leaving Champlain with only 2 Frenchmen and 60 Natives.
Their first encounter with the Iroquois occured at Ticonderoga at the southern tip of Lake Champlain. Battle was inevitable. Champlain set camp near the Iroquois camp and, throughout the night, fires burned and war drums and war chants sounded. Meanwhile, Champlain talked with his Native guides and friends, finalizing his strategies. By morning, he knew what he would do.
Two hundred Iroquois advanced at dawn. As prearranged, a Native guide pointed out the three Iroquois chiefs standing together behind the advancing warriors. Champlain loaded 4 bullets in his arquebus, took careful aim, and felled 2 of the chiefs with a single shot.
The sound frightened the Iroquois, but they were more frightened by the sight of their chiefs lying dead on the ground. They turned and fled.
At least this is the story that Champlain liked to tell. Historically, though, it was more likely to have been impossible to have happened that way. The arquebus was a hopelessly unreliable weapon. They were notorious for never hitting a target, even by an expert shooter. It is more likely that Champlain ambushed the Iroquois who ran away at the noise only to discuss a strategy in council. By the time they returned to attack Champlain, it was likely that Champlain and his group were well on their way back to Quebec.
Nonetheless, it is apparent that Champlain became a great warrior and trusted ally to the northern Natives. But he would drag New France into a war with the Iroquois which would last over 100 years. Many French would die because of his actions of that day.
First Voyage 1603 - The Path to Settlement
First Permanent Settlement in Canada
The Founding of Québec
* The Battle of Ticonderoga *
Champlain in Huronia
Fall of Québec