Trophy Hunters

“Trophy Hunters” announces a new chapter by acclaimed Master of Realism Dave McGary in depicting American Indians and the First Nations people of Canada. In this series McGary turns for a second time to the Woodland Tribes of the American Northeast and Southern Quebec, tribes whose rich histories include the critical roles they played in those regions during the mid-18th century. Only McGary’s important piece “Emergence of the Chief” has portrayed the tribes of this region, who differ greatly – from their customs to their manner of dress — from American’s Southwestern tribes and those of the Upper Plains, the Upper Midwest and the Mountain regions.

“Emergence of the Chief” focused on the Mohawk Nation, while also paying homage to the other four Nations that made up the original Iroquois Confederation: the Cayuga, the Onadaga, the Oneida and the Seneca. “Trophy Hunters” again portrays members of the Mohawk Nation, but not in grand ceremony as in “Emergence of the Chief.” Rather, the sculpture captures a moment in time as two Mohawk braves look into the early morning light, not knowing what the day would bring. Normally woodland hunters, today they are warriors and will seek trophies of war.

“Trophy Hunters” announces a new chapter by acclaimed Master of Realism Dave McGary in depicting American Indians and the First Nations people of Canada. In this series McGary turns for a second time to the Woodland Tribes of the American Northeast and Southern Quebec, tribes whose rich histories include the critical roles they played in those regions during the mid-18th century. Only McGary’s important piece “Emergence of the Chief” has portrayed the tribes of this region, who differ greatly – from their customs to their manner of dress — from American’s Southwestern tribes and those of the Upper Plains, the Upper Midwest and the Mountain regions.

“Emergence of the Chief” focused on the Mohawk Nation, while also paying homage to the other four Nations that made up the original Iroquois Confederation: the Cayuga, the Onadaga, the Oneida and the Seneca. “Trophy Hunters” again portrays members of the Mohawk Nation, but not in grand ceremony as in “Emergence of the Chief.” Rather, the sculpture captures a moment in time as two Mohawk braves look into the early morning light, not knowing what the day would bring. Normally woodland hunters, today they are warriors and will seek trophies of war.

“Trophy Hunters” depicts September 8, 1755, the day the British mounted the Battle of Lake George as part of an overall campaign to keep the French from advancing farther into New York Province and ultimately expel them from North America in the early stages of the French and Indian War. Indians of various tribes were brought into the war as scouts and warriors, some aligned with the British and some with the French. The British forces were under the command of Major-General William Johnson, and consisted of British regulars, colonial militiamen and British-allied Mohawks. On the French side, Jean Erdman Baron de Dieskau commanded a force of French regular grenadiers, Canadian militiamen and French-allied Indians – both Caughnawaga members of the Abenaki tribe in that region. The day unfolded into a series of brutal and bloody engagements. It began with a French ambush in which British forces, including their allied Mohawks, were engulfed in a blaze of enemy musket fire and killed in such numbers that historians refer to it as “The Bloody Morning Scout.” As Dieskau then planned his attack on William Johnson’s encampment, he was confronted by the shaken and demoralized Caughnawaga Mohawks who, after killing their own brethren in the earlier ambush, refused to fight further; the Abenakis and eventually the Canadians also refused. Advancing with only his French grenadiers, Dieskau was caught in the open where he and his forces were felled row-by-row by British canons filled with grapeshot. The day ended with one more ambush when the British attacked what some presume were retreating French, but who others believe were in fact the Caughnawaga Mohawk, Abenaki and Canadians who had refused to continue fighting with Dieskau. The many dead were thrown into a pool, which to this day is known as “Bloody Pond.” Of the Indians who withdrew from battle that day to avoid any further bloodshed between tribesmen, some never fought again during the ensuing years of the war.

The only way to tell if these Mohawks were aligned with the French or with the British is their weaponry. The British forces carried a legendary and superior Land Pattern Musket colloquially known as the “Brown Bess,” a flintlock barrel-loaded long gun ultimately used by land forces of the British Empire for over 100 years. The Brown Bess, with an overall length of some 60 inches, weighed over 10 pounds and used a 69 caliber musket ball. A practiced user could fire at a rate of 3 to 4 rounds per minute, inflicting the greatest damage when fired at 50 years but with accuracy up to 100 yards. The French weapon was far inferior and had neither the actual nor symbolic power of the Brown Bess. From this it is evident that the two Mohawks depicted in “Trophy Hunters” are fighting for the British. The standing warrior holds his Brown Bess at his side, at a height close to his own; the other crouches, leaning on his Brown Bess as the two await the day’s events.

Ultimately, the Battle of Lake George was seen as inconclusive given the loss of life on both sides. Its strategic importance, however, was clear: had they not been stopped at Lake George, the French would have continued their campaign further into New York, putting all of British-controlled New England in jeopardy. To the Mohawks the significance of the battle was of a much different nature. They had lost a substantial part of their population, and in the end they lost their land as well. The Battle of Lake George was a day of futility and sadness that pitted tribesman against tribesman with effects felt by the Mohawk Nation to this day.

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