La Nouvelle France

New France: c1750


New France was the area in North America discovered and settled by France from Jacques Cartier's first voyage in 1534 to 1763, when France formally ceded Canada, her remaining North American colony, to Britain. The French motivation to migrate to New France was more based on younger aristocratic sons seeking adventure, than on settled farming. Unlike the British, the French were not escaping persecution and seeking new settlements. In 1712, New France had extended from Newfoundland west to the Rocky Mountains, and from Hudson Bay south to the Gulf of Mexico. New France had been divided into five colonies, each with its own administration: Canada, Acadia, Hudson Bay, Newfoundland, and Louisiana. I have addressed each below: Canada, later called Québec, was the most successful. The French also colonised several Caribbean islands (some of which continue as French possessions), as well as French Guiana (Guyane Français), on the coast of South America, which continues to be a French Overseas Region.[1]

Historically the French failed in North America because they were vastly outnumbered by the British. French colonial aims were also quite different than the English and British. Louis XIV did not want an empire, he wanted settled towns providing wealth for France. Although the original settling of New France was intended to produce furs and trade for Europe, the French people refused to emigrate to the cold and hostile colonies. Many of the Frenchmen who did migrate to New France were rugged individuals who learned Indian languages and ways, took Indian wives, and met the challenges of exploration. They were called coureurs de bois, voyageurs, and later their children were called Métis. Such men as these opened the continent to European immigration.

Although he was also looking for a route to China, Jacques Cartier landed in the Gaspé on the southern shore of the St Lawrence Bay in 1534. He named and claimed Canada on 24 July 1534 as the land along the St Lawrence River. Cartier took the word Canada from the Huron-Iroquois Indian word for village (kanata). He called the native Iroquois Indians Canadiennes and visited their large Indian villages at the future cities of both Québec and Montréal. During his third voyage to Canada in 1541, Cartier founded the first French colony, which he called Charlesbourg-Royal near Québec City at the junction of the Cap Rouge and St Lawrence Rivers. After survivng two Canadian winters and the increasingly hostile Iroquois the settlement was abandoned by Jean-François de la Rocque de Roberval in 1543.

The first French colony was designated in 1541 at Charlesbourg Royale, just west of Québec City.[2] However, the intended 200 colonists did not arrive until 1542 and after only one Canadian winter, the Indians, and scurvy they left in 1543.[3] The French were more successful with Tadoussac, which after an earlier failure was finally established as a trading post in 1599..[4] In 1605, Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Monts and Champlain built Port Royale, which was sadly destroyed by Samuel Argall from Virginia in 1613. The Sieur de Champlain established a colony at Québec City.[5] Champlain founded the future city of Québec with six families for a total of 28 people: colonization was evidently slow and difficult. Many settlers died early, because of harsh weather and diseases and Canada's French population was c2,500 by 1630.

By the early 1600s French traders were shipping 100,000 beaver pelts annually to Europe for men's felt hats. Despite earlier failures, war against the Indians began in earnest with Champlain's 1608 French involvement in the Indian wars and his attempt to commit his Indian allies against the English. The Indians would prove a cruel problem, especially the Iroquois. Numbers of colonists were always a problem for the French and in 1627 Cardinal Richelieu tried to find a solution. Richelieu founded a commercial company, whose 100 Associates invested in New France and promised land to potential settlers. However, Louis XIII couldn't resist limiting the colonies to Catholics and many Protestant French Huguenots worsened the imbalance by settling in New England. Richelieu also instituted a seigneurial system, which allocated long, narrow strips of land along the St Lawrence to seigneurs who divided the strips further. The seigneur was the landlord, the habitants worked collectively a few days each year to build roads, etc, and paid taxes to the seigneurs.[6] In 1630, there were only 100 colonists living in Québec, but, by 1640 there were 359: the Cardinal had had some impact.

Captain Samuel Argall established the pattern of colonial conflict early in 1613. Commissioned by the Governor of Virginia Argall destroyed several French settlements in Acadia along the Atlantic coast, including Port Royale. The Sieur de Laviolette founded another trading post at Trois-Rivières in 1634. In 1642, the French Catholic Church sponsored a group of settlers, led by Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve, who founded Ville-Marie, now Montréal, farther up the St. Lawrence. To complete the religious involvement, the Jesuits sent missionaries into the Great Lakes region to convert the Huron Indians. The missionaries inevitably caused trouble with the Iroquois, who rightly suspected the Jesuits of trying to weaken the tribal system, and the Iroquois frequently attacked Montréal.

In 1628 the English Kirke brothers temporarily evicted Champlain from Québec.[7] Louis de Buade Compt de Frontenac, Governor General of New France, built up Québec and established Fort Frontenac (at present-day Kingston) in 1673. Frontenac established the New France militia, which consisted of all able-bodied men ages 15-60 - including the friendly Indian tribes. The colonial governors actually commanded the militias, but were in turn subordinate to the governor general. Frontenac installed his friend René-Robert Cavelier Sieur de la Salle at Fort Frontenac and la Salle rebuilt it with stone in 1678. La Salle also built Fort Niagara and explored his way down the Mississippi River seeking China. La Salle's property was called Lachine, being as close as he got to China. La Salle established Louisiana in 1682.

By the 1680s, c800 Frenchmen were spread out across the Great Lakes region, and several hundred Englishmen had entered the area pursuing trade with the same Indians. Violence broke out whenever French and English frontiersmen met.. In 1697, the French Captain Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville defeated an English squadron at the naval Battle of Hudson Bay. As a result of d'Iberville's victory the French captured York Factory, which was a major trading post for the English Hudson's Bay Company (HBC). D'Iberville's ship the Pelican had become separated from a French squadron, but alone suprised a three-ship English squadron en-route to the HBC trading post of York Factory. When the remainder of the French squadron arrived York Factory and two smaller trading posts surrendered and York Factory was renmaed Fort Bourbon. The French only kept control of York Factory until 1713, when it was returned to the British by the Treaty of Utrecht. The French did not return the captured 50,000 furs!

Le Canada (Le Québec)

Named Canada by Jacques Cartier in 1534, this colony was initially thought to comprise the shores of the Saint Lawrence River. In the 1650s, Montréal still had only a few dozen settlers and a severely underpopulated New France almost fell victim to hostile Iroquois forces. In 1660, settler Adam Dollard des Ormeaux led a Canadian and Huron militia against a much larger Iroquois force; none of the Canadians survived, but they succeeded in turning back the Iroquois invasion. In 1663, New France finally became more secure when Louis XIV made Canada a royal province. In 1665, he sent a French garrison, the Carignan-Salières Regiment, to guard Québec. The colonial government was re-structured to parallel that of France, with the Governor General and Intendant subordinate to the Minister of the Marine in France.

In 1665, Jean Talon was sent by Minister of the Marine Jean-Baptiste Colbert to New France as the first Intendant. These reforms limited the power of the Bishop of Québec, who had held the greatest amount of power after the death of Champlain. The 1666 census showed a population of 3,215 in all of New France with 2,034 men but only 1,181 women. To strengthen the colony, Louis XIV sent 700 single women, aged between 15 and 30 (known as les filles du roi) to New France. Sadly for Louis, his plan to populate le Canada with single men and women was not very effective. By 1697 there were only c25,000 French people and by 1756 only 80,000 in all of New France and just 55,000 in Canada; however, at the same time in the 13 colonies, there were 1,250,000 people. [8]

Many young French men left the settlements for adventure in the woods amongst the Indians. These renegades became known as 'Runners of the Woods', or Coureurs de Bois, The coureurs de bois were critical to the expansion of French influence in North America. By the end of the seventeenth century, these adventurers had explored from the Rockey Mountains and down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. The coureurs de bois were usually courageous young men who sought adventure, spoke some Indian dialects, were accomplished woodsmen, and were largely single. They were motivated by the hope of finding gold or of building a fur trade with the Indians. Since they travelled so widely, they often traded without official permission and thereby developed egalitarian views and increasingly non-European behaviour. The coureurs de bois' attitudes contributed to the background of the later American Revolution and the later Métis confrontations in Canada.

Frontenac had earlier organised a militia in Canada and he used them to defeat Sir William Phipps in his failed attack on Québec in October 1690. Ten years later, Frontenac returned as Governor to destroy Iroquois power and stop the Indian raids which had terrorised the French colonists. The French had a great asset: the fabulous Le Moyne family of Montréal. The Le Moynes were explorers, leaders, soldiers, and sailors and spread over North America. The fearless Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville, captured Hudson Bay from the English and led French and Indians in retaliation for attacks on Lachine and Montréal to devastate the town of Schenectady, New York, near the aptly named Burnt Hills. Frontenac had authorised a surprise attack on 8 February 1690 against New York City, but the Indian scouts advised in favour of Schenectady. Colonel Peter Schuyler, then Mayor of Albany, recorded the events: "At about 11 pm the mixed force killed 60 people and carried 27 into captivity. Many of the remainder fled to Albany and suffered terribly from frostbite."[9] North America was clearly set as a major locale for a hegemonic world struggle between the English and French.

The Extraordinary Le Moynes of Nouvelle France

Name Life Title Historical Actions, Administraions, & Conflicts
Charles le Moyne 1626, Dieppe, France - 1685, Montréal, Canada Seigneur de Longueuil et de Châteauguay Explorer, Iroquois wars, Coloniser, Helped Build Fort Frontenac, Fur trader
Charles le Moyne 1656, Montréal, Canada - 1729, Saratoga, America I Baron de Longueuil Explorer, Fur trader, Defence of Québec, Iroquois Wars, Governor Trois-Rivières & Montréal, Lt Governor New France
Jacques le Moyne 1659, Montréal, Canada - 1690, Québec, Canada Sieur de Ste Hélène Explorer, Defence of Québec, Fought in New York & New England, Fought at Schenectady,
Pierre le Moyne 1661, Montréal, Canada - 1706, Havana, Cuba Sieur d'Iberville et d'Ardillièrs, Capt Explorer, Defence of Québec, Captured several James Bay forts, Captured York Factory, Battle of Fort Albany, Captured fort & three HMS ships, Fought in New York & New England, Recovered Acadia, Destroyed Fort William Henry at Pemaquid, Captured St John's forts, Pacified Newfoundland, Battle of Hudson Bay, Defeated HMS Hampshire & HMS Hudson's Bay, Captured Fort Nelson, Founded Louisiana, Founded Mobile, Hudson Bay, Battle of Fundy Bay, Captured HMS Newport, Maine, Captured Nevis West Indies
Paul le Moyne 1663, Montréal, Canada - 1704, Montréal, Canada Sieur de Maricourt, Capt Explorer, Fought at Hudson Bay, Iroquois Wars, Iroquois Peace
François le Moyne 1666, Montréal, Canada - 1691, Repentigny, Canada Sieur de Bienville Explorer, Iroquois Wars, Fought at Schenectady
Joseph le Moyne 1668, Montréal, Canada - 1734, Rochefort, France Sieur de Serigny et de St Louis, Capt Explorer, Fought at Hudson Bay, Colonised Louisiana, Fought at Nevis West Indies, Captured Pensacola Florida
François Le Moine 1670, Montréal, Canada - 1700, Biloxi, Louisiana   Explorer, Louisiana
Louis le Moyne 1676, Montréal, Canada - 1694, Hudson Bay, Canada Sieur de Châteauguay Explorer, Fought at Hudson Bay
Jean-Baptiste le Moyne 1680, Montréal, Canada - 1767, Paris, France Sieur de Bienville Explorer, Maine, Founded New Orléans, Colonised Louisiana
Gabriel le Moyne 1681, Montréal, Canada - 1701, San Domingo Sieur d'Assigny West Indies
Antoine le Moyne 1683, Montréal, Canada - 1747, Rochefort, France Sieur de Châteauguay Explorer, Colonised Louisiana, Governor French Guiana, Governor Cape Breton

Coureurs de Bois

New France wasn't Europe


Many of the early French successes were based on the coureurs de bois: these adventurous young men had rejected life on the farm and left to live with the Indians as explorers, fur traders, and interpreters. This abandonment of the simple farm life was in direct confrontation with the king's settlement policy. French governors tried in vain to lure these men back to the farms.

By 1680 there were about six hundred of them out of a population of about 13,000 in New France. The most famous coureurs de bois were du Lhuy, and Perrot. However, there were two brothers-in-law Médard Chouart Sieur de Groseillers and Pierre-Esprit Radisson. Groseillers became frustrated with fur taxes imposed by Paris and he joined the English. They opened Hudson's Bay to fur trading and thus avoided New France and the taxes. In 1668 the Nonsuch sailed into James Bay and the next year successfully brought back a cargo of furs. This prompted the formation of the 'Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay'. Prince Rupert was the first Governor and gave his name to an empire: the Prairies, much of the Northwest Territories and northern Ontario and Québec. By 1760, New France had greatly expanded and had over 70,000 inhabitants, but was still badly outnumbered by the British colonials who had over 1,000,000 people.

When the French were fighting Spain in the mid-1500s, privately owned French ships – pirates in the eyes of the Spanish – attacked Spanish ships and ports in the Americas. When the war between France and Spain ended in 1559 the royal French government stopped backing its "privateers," leaving them with a hold on a few shorelines on unsettled Caribbean Islands. There they lived off the land and off the progeny of escaped cattle from Europe.

For a century, fishermen from Normandy and Brittany (then loosely included among the French) had been fishing for cod around the waters of Newfoundland, and had been going ashore to sun-dry and salt their fish for the long voyage home. Indians saw the fishermen's steel knives and copper kettles among other things, and the fishermen saw the beaver and bearskin coats of the Indians, which they could sell in Europe. Trading began, and in 1608 the French founded a settlement at Québec, overlooking the great northeast flowing river, the St. Lawrence. Only eight of the 28 settlers survived the first winter. More settlers came in the springtime, and soon the French were in conflict with Iroquois Indians, the French aligning themselves with Indians who had been warring against the Iroquois.


Port Royale, Acadia : c1612


In 1605, Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Monts and Champlain built Port Royale to be the capital of Acadia. However, Port Royale was destroyed by Samuel Argall from Virginia in 1613, although it was then rebuilt. During the seventeenth century, about 100 French families were re-established in Acadia and led by Baron de St Castin. Acadia was badly defined, but was roughly the area of Nova Scotia, the Gaspé of Eastern Québec, New Brunswick, and part of Maine. These French settlers came from several regions of France, and did not see themselves as part of la Nouvelle France and therefore used the separate geographical name of Acadia. The Acadians avoided national disputes between the French and the British and became known as the neutral French. Acadians developed friendly relations with the native Mi'kmaq Indians, learning their hunting and fishing techniques.

In 1689, the English and their Iroquois allies attacked New France, after years of small skirmishes. King William's War, ended in 1697, but Queen Anne's War broke out in 1702. Québec survived, but Port Royale and Acadia fell in 1690 to Sir William Phips. In 1713, peace finally came to New France with the Treaty of Utrecht. Although the treaty gave Newfoundland and part of Acadia (Nova Scotia) over to Great Britain, France kept Île Royale (Cape Breton Island) with its Fortress Louisbourg, as well as Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island) and part of what is New Brunswick. For the Acadians it was the beginning of the end, as most Acadians became British subjects. When the Seven Years' War began in 1754, the British governor, doubted the neutrality of the Acadians and demanded that they take an oath of allegiance to George III. Since the oath required renouncing a key article of the Acadians' Roman Catholic faith, most refused.[10]

An Acadian delegation went to Halifax in 1755 with a petition to present to the Governor, Colonel Charles Lawrence. Lawrence demanded that they take the oath of allegiance, the petitioners refused, and Lawrence then had them imprisoned. Lawrence finally ordered the mass transportation of three-quarters of the Acadian population of Nova Scotia. Called the Great Expulsion (Grand Dérangement) about 10,000 Acadians were expelled from the colony between 1755 and 1764. The British additionally destroyed around 6,000 Acadian houses and dispersed the Acadians among the 13 colonies from Massachusetts to Georgia. Although there was no deliberate policy to separate families, this certainly happened. The British attempted to send members of the same community to different colonies to impose assimilation; a few Acadians escaped into the woods and lived with the Abenaki or Mi'kmaq.[11]

Massachusetts passed a law in 1755 placing the Acadians under custody; Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Connecticut adopted similar laws. The Province of Virginia's Robert Dinwiddie initially agreed to resettle about 1000 Acadians, but later ordered most deported to England, writing that the "French people" were "intestine enemies" that were "mudr'g and scalp'g our frontier settlers." Many Acadians wound up in Louisiana. as Cajuns.[12] In 1764, the Seven Years' War having been won by Britain, Acadians were then allowed to return to Nova Scotia as long as they did not settle in any one area in large numbers. Others were deported to France, many to the slums of Nantes or on Belle-Isle off Brittany. The French islands of St Pierre and Miquelon near Newfoundland also became havens for Acadians: until they were again deported by the British in 1778 and 1793.

Terre Neuve et Labrador

Although Newfoundland was England's oldest colony (based on John Cabot's 1497 voyage and Sir Humphrey Gilbert's claim in 1583), France also claimed Newfoundland. When Jacques Cartier arrived at Newfoundland in 1534, Breton, Norman and Basque fishermen had been fishing there since the late 1400s. The French fishery at Newfoundland reached its peak in the mid-1600s, as the Spanish and Portuguese faded, and by 1680 the French fleet employed 20,000 men and was much larger than the English, approximately 500 to 250. In 1693, the Plaisance French garrison had about 60 men, and about 250 in 1711. Yet by 1760, French settlement in Newfoundland had disappeared, the French fishermen were restricted to certain parts of the Newfoundland coast, and the English were firmly in control of the island. The hostility was due to the winter campaign of Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville in 1696-1697, which destroyed most of the English settlements in Newfoundland. In the spring of 1696, Iberville destroyed the English Fort William Henry, and in November 1696 marched overland to Ferryland, and St John’s was burned after a brief siege. Iberville destroyed the English fisheries and by April 1697, he had destroyed 36 settlements. By the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht the French capital Plaisance was handed over to Britain. In 1761 the British and French governments agreed that the Newfoundland fishery was more valuable than Canada and Louisiana combined "as a means of wealth and power."[13]


Most of the French officials in America were fine men of honour, but not all. Perhaps greed and treachery were a function of distance and delegation of too much authority. Sadly for Canada unmitigated greed was at least in part responsible for the loss of Canada. Theft had reached a high art form by the advent of the Seven Years' War and millions had been stolen from the king.[14] One of the prime thieves was François Bigot, who filled an appointment of Intendant. The French had established the Intendant in 1665 to be responsible for finance and the administration of justice. However, there was sufficient overlapping of authority between the governors and the intendants to breed more jealousy than cooperation between those two offices.[15] One of the principle expenditures was for the military defence of New France and massive quantities of supplies were required to feed and pay for the army and Indian allies.

Naturally bookkeeping is difficult in war and even more so in remote wars hidden in the 'fog of war'. That fog provided thieves their opportunity and Bigot was a skilled bureaucrat, quite able to invent signatures, names, and documents. Government supplies were not taxed, although common commercial shipments were taxed. Of course shipments from France ran the risk of capture by the British, or loss to maritime disaster. These latter factors created the means for theft. Shipments could be ordered from France, declared lost at sea, actually landed at remote warehouses tax free, and then sold to thhe military at huge profits as Canadian goods. Since goods might pass through a series of hands the final price might treble the original price (which had been separately paid by the Paris government), but all proceeds went to the thieves. Naturally the military defences suffered and Amherst attacked Louisbourg, and attacked Québec City, whose walls and defences had already been weakened.

The thieves did not get away without penalty, although most had already hidden their millions. Those who were tainted by theft included the Marquis de Vaudreuil, the governor, Bigot the Intendant, the Commissary-General Cadet, as well as several lesser men. Their punishments did not begin to touch the fortunes they had made. The greed and theft by these men may have been a major factor in the loss of Québec City and Canada. The sad results to the honest men of France for the loss of Canada increased the charge from mere theft to treason. It was one of Vaudreuil's fellow thieves who had been at Fort Louisbourg (where theft had been rampant), when it was surrendered in 1745. The same Captain Vergor was the commander who surrendered Fort Beauséjour in 1755 to Monckton and who also allowed Wolfe's advance guard to sieze access to the key heights at Québec. By stealing from military budgets the defences had been weakened, military standards had declined, and morale had suffered. Sadly for France, the end was inevitable.

The Seven Years' War (La guerre de Sept Ans)

The Seven Year-long world war between Britain and France formally began in 1756, however it had its roots in the late 1740s when British land speculators encroached into French Ohio country. These encroahments raised a local third party to the war in America, the Indians. Both sides had great difficulty sending their best men to America, given their on-going continental European battles, where they saw their disagreements might be resolved by war. The Seven Years' War was fought in Europe, India, Africa, the Caribbean, and in North America. The defeat of France enabled the creation of Canada and the United States and with that defeat Britain became a global superpower. Britain's gains in the Caribbean and India created enormous new wealth, which offset her later loss of America. With the deliberate killing by the Indian Chief Tanaghrisson of the French envoy Lieutenant Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville, it might even be said that this war was started by the Indians and not by either the colonial George Washington, or the Europeans. It is certain that Iroquois' politics had led Tanaghrisson to kill the French on 28 May 1754. It is certainly clear that the young Major Washington was not in control of events and that Indian politics were an issue that European diplomats ought to have considered.

Both Britain and France had trouble fighting their war in America because of the time it took to communicate from London and Paris, and because of the difficulties encountered in re-supplying their armies in the face of enemy naval actions. Neither nation's soldiers were keen to fight the terrifying Indians in the immense forests. Both Britain and France underestimated the Indians' interests and intentions; and the Indians badly underestimated Britain's covetous interests in Indian lands. By the the mid-1700s, war casualties and European diseases had decimated Indian allies and the Iroquois expanded their Five Nations to include a sixth tribe, the Tuscaroras. New France was then led by le Marquis de Vaudreuil, but he was in complete disagreement with his senior military commander, Major General Marquis de Montcalm, and both were being outrageously robbed by Bigot the colonial treasurer. The Indians struggled for strategic agreement amongst themselves and control over the Ohio tribes, and the British were equally disunited.

William Pitt, the British Secretary of State (1756-1760), planned to cripple France by striking at her colonies, while subsidising Prussia to fight France in Europe.[16] It was Pitt who was the architect of the British Empire. While numbers do not tell the whole story they are revealing. In 1759 to confront France Pitt had 23,000 regular British troops plus 17,000 colonial militia, and 13,500 sailors and marines with 200 ships in America, against 5,000 French regular troops, backed by 6,000 militia. Both the French and British dispersed their troops and Indian allies to cover various strategic points from the Ohio River to Fort Louisbourg and down into New York. Of the 12,000 men allocated to Wolfe, however, only 8,500 regulars could be brought to Québec and only 4,600 actually deployed onto the Plains of Abraham.

Strategic Forts: c1758


Brigadier General Edward Cornwallis tried several times to cut the vital French supply route up the St Lawrence River, and in c1751 offered 10£ for each dead McMac Indian as Governor of Nova Scotia. Sir William Johnson had defeated the French commander Baron Dieskau in 1755. In 1758, the British captured Fort Louisbourg on Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island and Acadia fell, while Fort Frontenac was captured at Kingston. Having been outflanked, the French destroyed their own Fort Duquesne at the end of 1758. Brigadier General Forbes promtly occupied Duquesne, renamed it Fort Pitt, and thus forced the French to abandon a series of local forts. The Marquis de Vaudreuil, Governor of New France, was told there would be no reinforcements until 1760.[17] In 1759, Sir William Johnson captured Fort Niagara and forced the French to burn Fort Toronto and Major General Jeffrey Amherst captured Forts Ticonderoga and Oswego. The St Lawrence was left undefended by the French and Québec lay vulnerable. In 1759, Québec had no ditch outside the walls, no outlying fortifications to protect the walls, badly sited guns that did not cover the open ground, and the town was vulnerable from Point Lévis on the undefended other side of the St Lawrence River. Madame la Marquise du Pompadour was the effective power in France during Louis XV's reign and she evidently decided to leave Vaudreuil and Montcalm on their own.

On 25 June 1759 Admiral Sir Charles Saunders brought 168 British ships, 13,500 sailors and 8,500 soldiers to attack the 16,200 French population of Québec.[18] Major General James Wolfe made several probing attacks and suffered 643 casualties. He desperately wanted to bring Montcalm to battle since delay would protect the French with winter and the British fleet would have to leave. Finally, early in the morning on a foggy 13 September 1759, Wolfe and a small army of 4,600 troops were landed at the bottom of the 500' high cliffs and climbed up following a dried riverbed. In the morning light, the surprised Major General le Marquis de Montcalm made a quick attack to disrupt a complete British deployment and siege. Montcalm attacked without his strong French detachments near Montréal and to the east. Montcalm assembled his 2,900 regulars, 600 local troops, several hundred Indians, and three guns.

At about 0900 in the light rain Montcalm ordered five battalions forward on the Plains of Abraham.[19] French colonials who dropped to fire or stopped by a bush for cover disrupted the advancing French regular troops. At forty yards Wolfe ordered the British to fire and after two volleys with their flintlock muskets (inaccurate over 50 yards) it was over. After ordering the British line forward both Wolfe and Montcalm were mortally wounded and the situation became uncertain.

Wolfe was standing next to the Louisbourg Grenadiers, who, this time, were determined not to begin before they were told. He was to give their colonel the signal to fire the first volley; which then was itself to be the signal for a volley from each of the other five battalions, one after another, all down the line. Every musket was loaded with two bullets, and the moment a battalion had fired it was to advance twenty paces, loading as it went, and then fire a 'general,' that is, each man for himself, as hard as he could, till the bugles sounded the charge.

Wolfe now watched every step the French line made. Nearer and nearer it came. A hundred paces! - seventy-five! - fifty! - forty!! - Fire!!! - Crash! came the volley from the grenadiers. Five volleys more rang out in quick succession, all so perfectly delivered that they sounded more like six great guns than six battalions with hundreds of muskets in each. Under cover of the smoke Wolfe's men advanced their twenty paces and halted to fire the 'general.' The dense, six-deep lines of Frenchmen reeled, staggered, and seemed to melt away under this awful deluge of lead. In five minutes their right was shaken out of all formation. All that remained of it turned and fled, a wild, mad mob of panic-stricken fugitives. The centre followed at once. But the Royal Roussillon stood fast a little longer; and when it also turned it had only three unwounded officers left, and they were trying to rally it.

Montcalm, who had led the centre and had been wounded in the advance, galloped over to the Royal Roussillon as it was making this last stand. But even he could not stem the rush that followed and that carried him along with it. Over the crest and down to the valley of the St Charles his army fled, the Canadians and Indians scurrying away through the bushes as hard as they could run. While making one more effort to rally enough men to cover the retreat he was struck again, this time by a dozen grape-shot from York's gun. He reeled in the saddle. But two of his grenadiers caught him and held him up while he rode into Québec. As he passed through St Louis Gate a terrified woman called out, 'Oh! look at the marquis, he's killed, he's killed!' But Montcalm, by a supreme effort, sat up straight for a moment and said: 'It is nothing at all, my kind friend; you must not be so much alarmed!' and, saying this, passed on to die, a hero to the very last.

In the thick of the short, fierce fire-fight the bagpipes began to skirl, the Highlanders dashed down their muskets, drew their claymores, and gave a yell that might have been heard across the river. In a moment every British bugle was sounding the 'Charge' and the whole red, living wall was rushing forward with a roaring cheer.[20]

The British occupied the Citadel and town of Québec, and the garrison fort on 18 September 1759.[21] Bougainville caused some minor trouble and a French success under de Lévis in the Battle of St Foy (Québec City's outskirts) on 28 April 1760, were minor irritations. The French conducted a desultory siege until the arrival of fresh British reinforcements in May 1760 when the French siege of Québec was broken. The British Major General Jeffery Amherst coordinated the arrival of 17,000 men effectively defeated Brigadier Generals François Gaston Lévis and Bougainville and on 6 September 1760 forced the Governor le Marquis de Vaudreuil de Cavagnal to surrender both Montréal and Canada.

In 1763, the British decided they didn't really want Canada and tried unsuccessfully to swap Canada for the French sugar island of Guadeloupe; however, the Treaty of Paris formalised Britain's annexation of all of New France. Brigadier James Murray was appointed Governor of Canada. Murray was a realist and aware of the latent threat from the local French population. Murray favoured a tolerant approach to dealing with the new, French-Canadian colonials. Murray's pragmatic attitude was formalised in the unfortunate Québec Act in 1774. The Québec Act defended the former French but offended the New Englanders. New Englanders anticipated the re-creation of a French threat in the Québec Act.

The Québec Act 'threat' added to economic irritants (meant to favour British profits), and British arrogance towards the American colonials. The British parliament became too much of a problem for men like John Adams, who had enjoyed much freedom from taxes and had inherited many of their libertarian attitudes from the earlier English civil war.[22] The American Revolution increasingly became inevitable.

La Louisiane

In 1677, Henri de Tonti got permission to explore the Mississippi River, and in 1681, René-Robert Cavalier, Sieur de la Salle and his men left Québec, paddled through the Great Lakes and were guided to the Mississippi River, which they followed finally reaching the delta. In 1682, La Salle claimed the Mississippi Basin, which he called Louisiane, for Louis XIV. In 1698, Louis agreed to finance a colony in Louisiana near the mouth of the Mississippi River and Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville was selected to command the project. Iberville took about 200 Canadians, and picked his step-brother Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville as the deputy commander. In 1699, the expedition reached the Mississippi River delta, and the city of New Orleans was established in 1718. Sadly for the French, the colony proved to be both unpopular and uneconomic and by 1762 the French were ready to abandon their Louisiane.[23]

In 1760, Britain badly defeated the French at Montréal, and in 1763, France was forced out of North America, and France ceded Louisiana to Bourbon Spain. However, the Spanish were not keen on Louisiana either, as it provided little strategic benefit to Span, although it did create a buffer between the British and Spanish Mexico. In 1765, the first Spanish Governor of Louisiana was Don Antonio de Ulloa y de la Torre Guiral. In 1800, with the Treaty of San Ildefonso, Spain returned Louisiana to France and the dictator Napoleon Bonaparte. Three years later, France sold Louisiana to the Americans, who officially took control in 1803.

La Louisiane Acadienne

In early 1765, 20 Acadians landed on the river front at New Orleans (the first of an estimated 4,000). The influx began in earnest on February 8, 1765 with the arrival of 230 more destitute people who were helped by many local groups and societies.[24] From New Orleans, Acadians moved up-river to settle amongst the German villages of Chapitoulas and Cannes Brulees (at Kenner), and further up in St Charles, St John the Baptist, and St James Parishes, referred to as Cotes des Allemands. It appears that the best route for ships during that period was through what was called the Balize, a station on what is now the Southeast pass at the mouth of the Mississippi River located below a sand bar that had to be manipulated at high tide. A British Captain Pittman, an engineer who was in Louisiana 1763-1768 recorded this warning about the Balize and local water-levels:

“The Balize, a small fort, erected by the French on a little island, was, in the year 1734, at the mouth of the river; it is now two miles up. In the year 1767, Don Antonio D’Ulloa erected some barracks on a small island (to which he gave the name of San Carlos) for the convenience of pilots, and other purposes, being near the fourth-east entrance of the river, and a more dry and higher situation than any thereabouts. There was not the least appearance of this island twenty years ago.”

French Revenge

The French are well known as allies of the American revolutionary efforts to topple the British. The French were brought into the war by Benjamin Franklin in 1777, after the American victory at Saratoga. The French general Count Rochambeau, landed with five French infantry regiments and additional French artillery in 1780 at Rhode Island. French troops and gunners were critical to the 1781 victory at Yorktown, as was Admiral de Grasse's naval battle and blockade of the Chesapeake. Moreover, Rochambeau was credited by George Washington as the architect of Cornwallis' defeat - with more French (both military and naval) than Americans involved at Yorktown.


1             For an overview see Thomas B Costain's The White and the Gold; and New France, at Although there were five official colonies in 1712 that comprised New France, both Trois-Rivièrs and Montréal were provided governors and were also considered colonies in their own right until 1760. For a full list of the 182 French colonies world-wide claimed by France after the Middle Ages see World Statesmen Colonies (France), at

2             Jacques Cartier, at

2             Much of this has been adapted from Robert Leckie, "A Few Acres of Snow", The Saga of the French and Indian Wars; SE Morrison, The Oxford History of the American People;; and Fred Anderson, Crucible of War, The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766.

3             It is asserted by Dieppese writers that a chart of the Gulf of St. Lawrence was made in 1506 by Jean Denys of Honfleur, and that two years later Thomas Aubert ascended the great river for eighty leagues, and brought back to Europe seven tawny natives who were exhibited at Rouen and perhaps elsewhere in 1509.

4             See Tadoussac, Québec, at

5             Then an Indian village of several thousand called Stadacona, at the place where the river narrows, called kébec in Algonquin,. Reader’s Digest, Heritage of Canada, p. 33. Champlain also established Place Royale in 1611, but Jacques Cartier’s earlier (1535) name of Mont-Royale stuck. Montreal was named for the Bishop of Monreal in Sicily and was built on the site of the Iroquois village of Hochelaga.

6             For details see Seigneurial system of New France, at

7             George Stanley, Canada’s Soldiers, p. 4, recounts both the Argall and Kirke brothers vignettes.

8             Leckie, op. cit. p.258.

9             William Smith, Jr, The History of the Province of New York, volume II pp 79-80.

10          Acadians, at, and Acadia, at

11          Ibid.

12          Ibid.

13          French Presence in Newfoundland, at; The French Newfoundland Fishery in the 17th Century, at; History of Plaisance, at

14         A serious allegation this is well documented. See for example Robert Leckie, "A Few Acres of Snow";pps. 319-331.

15         See THE HISTORY OF CANADA, Governor, Intendant, and Bishop, at

16         Fred Anderson, Crucible of War, The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766, pps. 212-213. For details of the Seven Year's War see for example: Frank McLynn, 1759, the Year Britain Became Master of the World; and Seven Years' War,'_War.

17         Ibid., p. 239.

18         George Stanley, Canada's Soldiers, pp. 84-92. Stanley notes that of Montcalm's troops, only about 11,000 could be considered effective due to desertions and farming leave. A small platoon was stationed at the top of the beach at l'Anse au Foulon, but incompetence led to a surprised defence.

19         Abraham Martin had a farm there c1650. Reader’s Digest, Heritage of Canada, p. 105-109.

20         William Charles Henry Wood, The Winning of Canada: a Chronicle of Wolfe, at; andébechistory/encyclopedia/SevenYearsWar-FrenchandIndianWar-BattleofthePlainsofAbraham.htm.

21         With the capture of Québec, Pitt's goal of eliminating colonial trade was still incomplete as General Bougainville had led the surviving French units to Montréal. To complete the conquest of Canada, Pitt directed General Jeffrey Amherst to coordinate three separate expeditions to converge against Montréal in 1760. Amherst led 11,000 men from Lake Ontario down the St. Lawrence River in 800 boats. Fort Levis, near modern Ogdensburgh in New York was built by the French in 1759 to guard the St. Lawrence, was garrisoned by 300 men, and was captured on August 25 1760.

22          Catherine Drinker Bowen, John Adams and the American Revolution, p. 43.

23          Louisiana (New France), at; and Louisiana, at See also Joseph Lister Rutledge, Century of Conflict pp. 156, 159, 221-225.

24          Acadians, at; and Cajun,

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