A View of the Taking of Quebec by the English Forces Commanded by Gen. Wolfe Sep 13th 1759, for the London Mag 1760, 1760. CA ANC C-41082

A View of the Taking of Quebec
CA ANC C-41082

The fur and pelt trade, the rich fishing grounds off Newfoundland and the unequal development of their respective colonies sparked confrontations between France and England on North American soil. Allies of the English, the Iroquois remained enemies of the French. The peace established with Aboriginal nations in 1701 nevertheless ensured the neutrality of the Iroquois in the many armed conflicts of the 18th century. In 1663, a local militia was formed in Montréal to protect the colony, and the system was extended throughout the territory six years later. As for regular troops, King Louis XIV sent the Carignan-Salières Regiment in 1665 to help contain the Iroquois threat. From 1683 and 1688, a number of regiments from the troupes de la Marine were dispatched to Canada. The role of the Compagnies Franches de la Marine was to serve overseas, in contrast to the land army concentrated in Europe. Louis XIV thus established powerful garrisons, supported by the royal treasury and recruited among the local population. The Canadian soldiers and militiamen were known for their surprise-attack tactics, modelled on the extraordinarily effective "Indian fighting techniques." It was not until 1755 that land regiments were sent to defend the colony. During the Seven Years' War, the initially victorious French forces were unable to hold out against the power of the English army and eventually surrendered.


The Iroquois of Lake Champlain

[Defeat of the Iroquois of Lake Champlain], illustration from Les voyages du sieur de Champlain Xaintongeois..., Paris, Jean Berjon, 1613, CA BNC Réserve FC330 C3 1613

Defeat of the Iroquois of Lake Champlain, Paris, 1613
CA BNC Réserve FC330 C3 1613

Although the Algonquin and the Montagnais were allies of Samuel de Champlain, they refused to supply him with furs or to guide his expeditions westward unless he helped them to defeat their Iroquois enemies. In 1609, the founder of Québec joined them in their attack on the Lake Champlain Iroquois. Although familiar with the bow and arrow, the Iroquois were surprised by the arquebuses used against them, weapons which were still unknown to them. Two of their chiefs and a number of their warriors were killed, and the rest fled from the battle. Except for brief periods of peace, Champlain fought the Iroquois continually until his death in 1635, by which time they had become the main enemies of the French, and allies of the Dutch of New Amsterdam (New York) and the English, who had recently arrived in North America.

Alexandre de Prouville de Tracy

Portrait of Alexandre de Prouville de Tracy, 1660. CA ANC C-40695

Portrait of Alexandre de Prouville de Tracy, 1660
CA ANC C-40695

The Lieutenant-General of French forces in North America, Alexandre de Prouville de Tracy, arrived in Québec in 1665 as commander of the Carignan-Salières Regiment. Within two years, with troops made up of career soldiers, militiamen and about 100 Huron and Algonquin, he succeeded in making a truce with the principal Iroquois nations, the Onondaga, the Mohawk and the Oneida. For a period of 20 years, New France experienced a certain respite.


The Carignan-Salières Regiment

[Roll of soldiers of the Carignan-Salières Regiment living in Canada in 1668]. FR CAOM COL D2C 47 fol. 45-49vo

Roll of soldiers of the Carignan-Salières Regiment, 1668
FR CAOM COL D2C 47 fol. 45-49vo

Faced with the colony's continuing weakness and its vulnerability to the Iroquois threat, the King decided to bring in the support of his army. A whole regiment consisting of 1,200 men, the Carignan-Salières, arrived in Québec in 1665. After they had successfully overpowered the enemy, the regiment's members were encouraged to settle in the country, and about one-third of them stayed. As well as adding their numbers to the population, they brought with them a number of different trades and remained at the disposition of the authorities in case of conflict.

  The Carignan-Salières Regiment Document 1PDF Version 1.98 Mb


The Troupes de la Marine

The first contingent of troupes de la Marine, comprised of 150 soldiers who had sailed from La Rochelle, disembarked in Québec in 1683. Their equipment was acquired by naval administrators from civilian suppliers. All essential clothing and objects (jerkins, trousers, hats, undershirts, shoes, ties, socks, caps, combs and hammocks) were purchased before their departure and loaded onto the ships setting sail for New France. With recruits arriving until 1688, the number of troops serving the colony rose to nearly 1,500. In a 1695 decree, the King authorized the local recruitment of soldiers, although the appointment of their supervising officers remained his responsibility. He preferred to retain the services of worthy officers with experience in Canada, some of whom had arrived 30 years earlier with the Carignan-Salières Regiment.

List of the officers serving in Canada in the month of October 1696
Transaction between Marie Bourselot, merchant of La Rochelle

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The Garrison at Plaisance

[Roll of the recruited soldiers on the vessel the François for the garrison at Placentia], 1697. FR CAOM D2C 47 fol. 208-209

Roll of the recruited soldiers on the vessel the François, 1697
FR CAOM D2C 47 fol. 208-209

In 1685, about 2,000 English people were living on the east coast of Newfoundland, whereas the French population, which consisted of only 640 individuals, was concentrated in the north and on the south coast near Plaisance (Placentia), the island's only fortified settlement. Throughout the 17th century, the French and the English fought for control of the lucrative cod fisheries, and the French fishing installations were forever coveted by the English. The recruitment of 23 soldiers who left La Rochelle in 1697 to serve in Plaisance helped to maintain the colony until the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

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The Siege of Québec

[Plan of Québec besieged from October 16 until the 22nd of said month by the English, who were obliged to retreat to their own territory after having been defeated by Monsieur Le Comte de Frontenac, Governor General of the country …, by Sieur de Villeneuve, Engineer to the King], 1690. FR CAOM 3DFC 354C

Plan of Québec besieged from October 16 by Sieur de Villeneuve, 1690.

The War of the League of Augsburg, which broke out between France and England in 1689, heightened tensions in New France. The two nations had already been at war for some years through the intermediaries of their Aboriginal allies, fighting for control of the country's fur trade and fishing grounds. In the fall of 1690, the English plan of attack had two targets: Montréal, by land, with troops commanded by Fitz John Winthrop; and Québec, by river. Unaware that Winthrop had turned back before reaching Montréal, Major General William Phips arrived by river opposite Québec with 32 ships. Facing off against him was the Governor General of New France, Louis de Buade de Frontenac, soon to be joined by the Governor of Montréal, Louis-Hector de Callières. Cannon fire was exchanged, and Phips' attack was eventually repelled.


The Order of Saint-Louis

[Letter confirming the appointment of Sieur de Chailloux as a Knight in the Military Order of Saint-Louis], March 25, 1730. CA ANC MG6-F80 14 p. 9235

Letter confirming the appointment of Sieur de Chailloux, March 25, 1730
CA ANC MG6-F80 14 p. 9235

The royal Military Order of Saint-Louis, founded in 1693, was designed to honour military officers who gave outstanding service to France. Being named a Knight of Saint-Louis was the highest honour that could be bestowed on regular army officers stationed in New France. Up to 1760, approximately 145 Canadians were awarded the Cross of Saint-Louis. The decoration consists of an eight-pointed gold cross, covered with white enamel and adorned with a gold fleur-de-lys. It was worn hanging from a small, flame-red ribbon. The official letter confirming bestowal of the award, presented to the recipient, was signed by the King and bore his seal.


The Sinking of the Pélican

The 1697 sinking of the ship the Pélican in Hudson Bay, from Claude-Charles Bacqueville de La Potherie, Histoire de l'Amérique septentrionale, Paris, Jean-Luc Nion and François Didot, 1722. CA BNC FC305 B326

The 1697 sinking of the ship the Pélican in Hudson Bay, 1722
CA BNC FC305 B326

Since the 16th century, the English and the French struggled for control of the territory surrounding Hudson Bay in their quest for the Northwest Passage, but also mainly because it was an area rich in fur. In 1697, the naval officer Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville, who held the fur trade monopoly for Hudson Bay, received a fifth and final commission from the minister responsible for the colonies, to expel the English from the region. After only five days of battle, and with a single 44-cannon ship, the Pélican, the privateer sank two English warships, beat another into retreat and forced the Governor of Hudson Bay, Henry Baley, to surrender. Although Iberville won the battle, the Pélican sank.



After the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), which stripped New France of the territories of Newfoundland, Acadia and Hudson Bay, the French sought access to the furs in the North and the West. A portage area and a trading centre existed in the Niagara region, between the extension of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, and Lake Erie toward the Detroit post. The Iroquois, who controlled it, continued to respect the neutrality agreement signed in Montréal in 1701. Having already given the English permission to build Fort Oswego in 1725, they allowed the French to establish a settlement nearby. To consolidate their good relationship with the Iroquois, the Governor General and the Intendant decided to offer them high-quality goods in exchange for their pelts. A trading post was established at Niagara in 1726-1727. The goal was to eliminate the need of the Aboriginal peoples to have to travel to Montréal and to remove the temptation to sell their furs in Albany. This post also had to protect the colony from enemy attack.

Entrance of the Niagara River in the basin of Lake Ontario
Propositions to be made to the Court to convey to it the consequence of taking immediate possession of Niagara
Plans and Elevations of the House with machicouli

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The Abenaki and the English

[Report concerning the Abenaki and the war against the English], 1727. FR CAOM COL F3 2 fol. 457-459vo

Report concerning the Abenaki, 1727
FR CAOM COL F3 2 fol. 457-459vo

After the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, the colonies of New England spread north, along the banks of the Kennebec River. The Abenaki, who remained loyal to their French friends, settled in the St. Lawrence Valley, in the villages of Saint-François and Bécancour, near Trois-Rivières. They were willing to fight against the English in exchange for financial support from France.

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In its attack on Fort Chouaguen (Oswego), the French army deployed a large number of troops, including several regiments that arrived in Québec during the spring of 1756. More than 3,000 men, under the command of the Lieutenant-General of the armed forces in New France, Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, his second-in-command, François-Gaston de Lévis, and the Governor General, Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil, were involved in the assault against this English fort, on the southern shore of Lake Ontario. The French tried for 30 years to destroy this trading post, which interfered with their exchanges with the Aboriginal peoples. Two months of preparation and two days of siege resulted in the fall of Fort Chouaguen and the capture of its munitions and food supplies. The English commander James Mercer and 150 of his men were killed; 1,700 were taken prisoner.

Mouth of the Choueguen River situated at 43 degrees 47 minutes 24 seconds latitude
Elevation of the house belonging to the English situated at the mouth of the Chouaguen Rive
Journal of the siege of Chouagen, which began on August 13, 175
Plan to help in understanding the journal of the siege of Chouaguen
Medal of Louis XV (Front)
Medal of Louis XV (Back)

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The Journal of Louis Coulon de Villiers

[Journal of Louis Coulon de Villiers to Governor General Ange Duquesne de Menneville], September 6, 1754. FR CAOM COL F3 14 fol. 52-60

Journal of de Villiers, September 6, 1754
FR CAOM COL F3 14 fol. 52-60

On June 28, 1754, while navy ensign Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville was leading a mission aimed at ascertaining the American position in the Ohio Valley, he and 10 of his men were assassinated by soldiers under the command of George Washington (Jumonville, Pennsylvania). In retaliation, an expedition was organized consisting of 500 Frenchmen and about 100 Aboriginal warriors. The attack took place "Indian-fashion," according to the rules of forest warfare. The commander addressed his troops, issued them with necklaces and a tomahawk, consulted with them on which route to take, how fast they should march and how to behave towards the enemy, and sent out "scouts"; finally, the assembled troops uttered a loud war cry and attacked, presenting their flank. This tactic was successful, and in only a single day's fighting, the Canadian forces obtained the surrender of the fort and that of Washington's American troops.

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The Siege of Louisbourg

After the loss of Acadia and Newfoundland in 1713, France consolidated and protected its territories in the St. Lawrence Valley. Louisbourg, on Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), a purportedly impregnable fortress, was designed to serve as a blockade at the entrance to Canada. Commerce developed, and it soon became an important and much coveted trading centre. In 1745, during the War of the Austrian Succession, Louisbourg was placed under siege by troops from New England, backed by the English naval forces. The fortified town suffered heavy damage and was forced to surrender, but the French population remained in place. The 1748 Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle gave the whole of Île Royale, including the settlement of Louisbourg, back to France. This led to a marked revival in trading activity. But in 1758, a new siege, which lasted 60 days, was imposed by the English army and naval forces. The outcome was an English victory and the destruction of the town and its fortifications. The approximately 4,000 inhabitants were obliged to return to France.

A View of Louisbourg in 1758
Plan of Louisbourg, 1720
Plan of the Port and Town of Louisbourg on Île Royale
Roll of the vessel the Formidable
Journal of the siege of Louisbourg

  The Siege of Louisbourg Document 1PDF Version 9.87 Mb

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The Battle of the Plains of Abraham

In the late summer of 1759, the French posts in the western and southern regions of the St. Lawrence Valley fell into the hands of the English army, although Montréal and Québec continued to hold. Anchored downriver from Québec since June 23, the English General James Wolfe, in command of a fleet of 13,000 men and 8,500 soldiers, brought the city under siege. He bombarded Québec, but failed to provoke a full-fledged battle. The French General, Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, had roughly the same number of troops under his command, but they were less experienced in European-style combat, and he wished to avoid a direct assault. He hoped to hold his position until the arrival of winter forced the English fleet to leave Québec. In September, well informed about the main routes into Québec and aware of the French army's strategy, Wolfe launched a surprise attack. On the night of September 12-13, he landed 5,000 men, who used a cliff pathway to the west of the city, and managed to reach the huge open area known as the Plains of Abraham. At daybreak, Montcalm mobilized his 4,500 men without waiting for reinforcement from the detachment led by Louis-Antoine de Bougainville. The regular French troops, assisted by inexperienced militiamen who were deployed hastily to the battlefield, found themselves on the offensive. The English bore fire from the French troops, allowed them to advance, and then responded with heavy fire of their own, which created large gaps in the French ranks. In half an hour, the battle was over and the French army was in retreat. Both Wolfe and Montcalm died of wounds sustained in battle.

A correct plan of the environs of Quebec
Portrait of General James Wolfe
Burial certificate of Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, 1759
Portrait of Louis-Joseph de Montcalm

North America by Bellin

Map of North America by Jacques-Nicolas Bellin, 1755. CA ANC NMC- 21057

Map of North America by Jacques-Nicolas Bellin, 1755
CA ANC NMC- 21057

On the eve of the Seven Years' War, France's claims in North America extended across the heart of the continent, from Labrador to the Gulf of Mexico. It encompassed the cod fishing grounds of Newfoundland and the islands in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence, together with a vast area southwest of the Great Lakes. The English colonies were confined to the Atlantic border, east of the Appalachians, the southwest part of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Hudson Bay. These regions, which had access to the sea, served as a base for the English conquest of Canada.

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