The sloop being detained by contrary winds, the captain caused an exact survey to be made of the entrance of the river, as well as of the navigable channel between Baker’s bay and Fort George. The officers visited the fort, turn about, and seemed to me in general very much dissatisfied with their fool’s errand, as they called it: they had expected to find a number of American vessels loaded with rich furs, and had calculated in advance their share in the booty of Astoria. They had not met a vessel, and their astonishment was at its height when they saw that our establishment had been transferred to the Northwest Company, and was under the British flag. It will suffice to quote a single expression of Captain Black’s, in order to show how much they were deceived in their expectations. The Captain landed after dark; when we showed him the next morning the palisades and log bastions of the factory, he inquired if there was not another fort; on being assured that there was no other, he cried out, with an air of the greatest astonishment:—“What! is this the fort which was represented to me as so formidable! Good God! I could batter it down in two hours with a four-pounder!”
There were on board the Raccoon two young men from Canada, who had been impressed at Quebec, when that vessel was there some years before her voyage to the Columbia: one of them was named Parent, a blacksmith, and was of Quebec: the other was from Upper Canada, and was named M’Donald. These young persons signified to us that they would be glad to remain at Fort George: and as there was among our men some who would gladly have shipped, we proposed to the captain an exchange, but he would not consent to it. John Little, a boat-builder from New York, who had been on the sick list a long time, was sent on board and placed under the care of the sloop’s surgeon, Mr. O’Brien; the captain engaging to land him at the Sandwich Islands. P.D. Jeremie also shipped himself as under clerk. The vessel hoisted sail, and got out of the river, on the 31st of December.
From the account given in this chapter the reader will see with what facility the establishment of the Pacific Fur Company could have escaped capture by the British force. It was only necessary to get rid of the land party of the Northwest Company—who were completely in our power—then remove our effects up the river upon some small stream, and await the result. The sloop-of-war arrived, it is true; but as, in the case I suppose, she would have found nothing, she would have left, after setting fire to our deserted houses. None of their boats would have dared follow us, even if the Indians had betrayed to them our lurking-place. Those at the head of affairs had their own fortunes to seek, and thought it more for their interest, doubtless, to act as they did, but that will not clear them in the eyes of the world, and the charge of treason to Mr. Astor’s interests will always be attached to their characters.