The Carignan-Salières Regiment (1665-1669)

The Carignan-Salières Regiment in New France 

 

Interested in the Carignan-Salières Regiment? Start by consulting our thematic guide on available sources on the regiment * (in French only). The documents on the regiment are catalogued in 15 series spread among nine archival fonds. The Archives de la Guerre fonds, copies of which we have on microfilm, contains the largest number of documents on the Carignan-Salières Regiment. Some of these records, like a good many documents on the French Regime in Canada, can be consulted on our website either by entering keywords in Archives Search or by consulting our list of resources.

In addition to this, some of our microfilm reels with the prefixes C, H and T are being digitized on our partner website Héritage. Digitized reels can be viewed free on that website. Enter the reel number in the search box, e.g., c-9149. If the reel is digitized, click on the reel title to see the images. (Note that some reel titles may be incorrect.) You can browse through the page images; the content (text) is not searchable. Also note that an image/page number is not the same as the archival document page number. Microfilm reels with A, B, F and M prefixes must be viewed on site.

Background

The Carignan-Salières Regiment arrived in New France in 1665, 57 years after Samuel de Champlain founded Québec City in 1608.

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    Since it was founded, in 1608, the colony of New France faced hardship. New France was a trading colony, built on an economic foundation. As a result, from 1608 to 1627, its population in the St. Lawrence Valley dwindled to some 100 inhabitants, including a dozen females, mainly girls. In 1627, Cardinal de Richelieu, chief minister of Louis XIII, set about finding a solution to the colony’s population problem, which had never seemed to interest the fur traders. The Crown decided to grant the monopoly over the fur trade and responsibility for populating the area to a new company, the Compagnie des Cent-Associés, more commonly called the Compagnie de la Nouvelle-France. But the company ran into problems right from the start; English privateers intercepted its first contingent to New France in 1627. Then, in 1629, Tadoussac and Québec City fell to the Kirke Brothers. It took France and the Compagnie des Cent-Associés until 1632 to retake control of the colony, and by that time the company’s initial investment had vanished. The company also realized that its trading interests were incompatible with the task of colonizing, since local merchants began to compete with it as they became established in the colony.

    While the company did not produce very positive results, it did make some progress. For example, the Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement was established in Montréal, although for religious and spiritual reasons, and a few other fur trading companies were established. However, population growth was still very slow. It was further hindered by the Iroquois threat, which was one more problem the company had to face in meeting its responsibility to populate New France. Even from a purely economic perspective, the Compagnie des Cent-Associés was unable to expand the fur trade to any great degree until the 1670s.

    Exploration was a bit more successful. Samuel de Champlain was the first to expand the boundaries of the territory claimed by France, which sent interpreters into what is now Ontario, the most well-known probably being Etienne Brûlé. Afterward, it was missionaries who did more exploring than the colony’s administrators. The Récollets, and particularly the Jesuits, traveled to Huronia to live with the Huron and visited the Iroquois. However, in 1649–1650, Huronia experienced turmoil and upheaval, and was destroyed when the Iroquois attacked the region. Exile was the only option for the survivors. Some were captured by the Iroquois, others fled to Québec and the surrounding area, and still others moved to the Great Lakes region. The Iroquois attacks on the Huron may have been prompted by the epidemics that devastated Aboriginal communities in the 1630s and weakened their societies; for the Iroquois, making war in the 1640s was mainly a way to replace members who had died in the epidemics. At the time, the Iroquois were also better armed and better organized than the Huron.

    Losing Huronia had a significant impact on the French. First, they lost their military allies. While some members of the Huron nation moved to New France, their numbers were insufficient to help defend the colony. Second, the French lost their trading partners as well as the traditional Huron lands that supported the fur trade. Following the loss of Huronia in the 1650s, the colonial administration, the Jesuits, the settlers of New France and even their Aboriginal allies called on France to help restore security in the colony and revive its economy. Their letters and pleas repeatedly emphasized that the Iroquois were the greatest threat to the colony’s survival in America.

    This was the situation facing France’s King Louis XIV when he acceded to the throne in 1661. The population and safety of the colony were a priority for him. In order to increase the population, the first contingent of the Filles du roi (“King’s daughters”) was sent there in 1663. Two years later, in 1665, the Carignan-Salières Regiment disembarked in New France to ensure the safety of the colony and, more specifically, to deal with the Iroquois threat.
    The Carignan-Salières Regiment was the only one to be deployed in full to Canada during the French Regime. To establish a sustainable presence in the colony, the colonial authorities provided a variety of incentives, such as distributing seigneuries to officers in the regiment or marrying soldiers off to the Filles du roi to persuade them to settle in the colony at the end of their service. Of the 1,300 soldiers and officers from the regiment sent to New France, more than 400 settled permanently in the North American territory.

LAC Asks the Expert

We had the opportunity to sit down with New France expert Jean-François Lozier, Curator of French North American history at the Canadian Museum of History, and ask him some questions about the Carignan-Salières Regiment.

Below are the seven questions that we asked him and the audio recording of his responses.

  • 1. What brought the Carignan-Salières Regiment to Québec in 1665?

Audio response to question 1 (MP3 911 KB, length: 0:58)

  • Transcript for Question 1

    Jean-François Lozier: Sending the Carignan-Salières Regiment in 1665 was part of a package of reforms introduced by Louis XIV and Colbert, his chief minister and comptroller general. The reforms included changes to government, such as establishing a governor, an intendant, and a high court—the sovereign council. But the military issue posed problems as well, and so the king decided once and for all that it was not enough to send a few dozen soldiers as an ad hoc measure, like the Compagnie des Cent-Associés had done. The situation called for 1,200 to 1,300 men, a full regiment that was among the finest in Europe at the time. This was the context in the summer of 1665 when the regiment of 20 companies, some 1,300 men, was sent off. The first companies arrived in June on board Le Vieux Siméon and the others followed in August, the fall.

  • 2. Who served in the regiment and where in France did they come from?

Audio response to question 2 (MP3 772 KB, length: 0:49)

  • Transcript for Question 2

    Jean-François Lozier: The Carignan-Salières Regiment was actually the product of military reforms that took place roughly during the same period. Two regiments were combined; the Carignan Regiment itself was from Savoy, an area northwest of present-day Italy and southeast of France. It was a province that was not part of France. So the Carignan Regiment was a foreign regiment, and the Salières Regiment was German although its colonel, Henri de Chastelard de Salières, was French. So they were two foreign regiments that were merged in 1659. The soldiers, however, were French and came from across the country. In the fall of 1664—in December—the regiment was ordered to advance to La Rochelle and set sail for New France.

  • 3. What was life like for the soldiers when they arrived?

Audio response to question 3 (MP3 1,399 KB, length: 1:27)

  • Transcript for Question 3

    Jean-François Lozier: It’s hard to describe, but soldiers’ living conditions were difficult, particularly once the campaigns against the Iroquois began. The soldiers arrived in Québec in the summer. Québec was a fairly well supplied town, and life for a French soldier in Europe at that time—in the European armies—was fairly difficult. You can imagine that the soldiers did not expect life to be easy and so their morale was raised considerably. The soldiers had been anticipated for a long time and were warmly welcomed.

    They were stationed in the garrison and some were sent immediately to the Richelieu Valley to build forts, so we know that they discovered the mosquitoes and summers that were both hot and humid. Living conditions were not necessarily easy but they were much better than conditions during the first campaign because, as soon as they arrived, the officers of the Carignan-Salières Regiment, including their lieutenant-general, the Marquis de Tracy, said, “We’re not going to wait. Let’s launch our first campaign this winter against the Iroquois and especially the Mohawk.” Those officers and soldiers had never been in North America in the winter and didn’t know what a Canadian winter was all about, and so the first campaign was extremely difficult. They were poorly equipped, had few blankets, not enough snow shoes, and the campaign ended in disaster.

  • 4. How long did the conflict last? How long was the regiment active?

Audio response to question 4 (MP3 1,796 KB, length: 1:55)

  • Transcript for Question 4

    Jean-François Lozier: The regiment was active in 1665 and 1666. Initially, it helped out by building forts, three forts in the Richelieu Valley. There was Fort St. Louis, where the current Fort Chambly stands. Sites still bear the name of Chambly today because of Captain Jacques de Chambly, who commanded a company of troops in the Carignan-Salières Regiment. There was also Fort Richelieu at the mouth of the Richelieu River, where Sorel now stands, and Fort Sainte-Thérèse. So three forts with the objective of blocking the Iroquois. At the time, the river was called the Iroquois River because it was the road… It was basically the only route between Iroquois territory and the St. Lawrence Valley. So fortification was the first phase at the end of the summer, the fall of 1665. Next, preparations were made in the fall, and provisions and equipment assembled for the winter expedition. The winter expedition took place at the start of 1666. As I mentioned earlier, the expedition was a complete and humiliating failure but it gave the French some idea of the challenges involved.

    A second expedition took place in the summer of 1666. A French force of soldiers from the Carignan-Salières Regiment and militiamen advanced toward the enemy this second expedition was aborted. The captain in charge decided to accompany the Mohawk ambassadors to Québec to see if peace could be negotiated. The Mohawk had good intentions, but the French colonial government was worried and wanted to put an end to things. It decided to conduct a third campaign at the end of the summer and this was the last campaign in Iroquois territory. This time, since the French troops from the Carignan-Salières Regiment, the volunteers, whom we could call militiamen but the militia wasn’t yet organized.

  • 5. Learn about the Peace Treaty of 1667 and what it meant for the expansion of New France.

Audio response to question 5 (MP3 1,282 KB, length: 1:22)

  • Transcript for Question 5

    Jean-François Lozier: In 1667, a peace treaty was signed that is a landmark in the history of New France. Little is known about the treaty because a record was not kept. You may have heard of the Great Peace of 1701, which was another important agreement that ended the wars with the Iroquois that had resumed after 1667. We don’t refer to the 1667 agreement as a great peace treaty but it truly is because it introduced almost two decades of peace between the French and the Iroquois. During that period, New France was really able to expand and its population to grow.

    People decided to settle, including many demobilized soldiers from the Carignan-Salières Regiment, and to spread out. Following the peace treaty, French explorers—both missionaries and adventurers like Cavelier de La Salle, for example—headed west looking for a route to Asia or a major river, the legendary Mississippi, and so it was also a period when the network of French alliances extended into the interior. Regaining control of the French colony in 1663, the arrival of the Carignan-Salières Regiment in 1665, and these victories—relative victories but victories nonetheless—ushered in an era of significant growth for the colony.

  • 6. What were the incentives, and could you talk a bit about how many stayed, where they settled?

Audio response to question 6 (MP3 2,863 KB, length: 3:03)

  • Transcript for Question 6

    Jean-François Lozier: Yes, certainly, the regiment was recalled to France in 1668 by the King because its mission was to destroy the Iroquois. The League of Five Nations was not wiped out but the campaigns of the Carignan-Salières Regiment led to a peace treaty and therefore its mission was fulfilled. That said, by sending the Carignan-Salières Regiment, Louis XIV and Colbert already had it in mind that this could help increase the area’s population and defend the colony in the long term. So it’s an original idea but an idea based on very old models. The Roman Empire, for example, populated its borders with demobilized soldiers. The benefit then is to colonize but also to colonize with men who are comfortable with weapons and can use them if necessary. And so, in 1668, the regiment was recalled to France but the King had given very clear instructions to ensure that the maximum number of officers and soldiers remained. So, for the officers, the Crown promised them a seigneurie, a year’s worth of rations, a sum of money based on rank to encourage them to settle. The soldiers were also promised land, a concession on a seigneurie. Very often the soldiers would settle on their captain’s seigneurie. The soldiers were promised food, provisions for a year, whatever they needed to settle, because the land we’re talking about is land that needed to be cleared. They must be able to plant a first crop, take the time to first build a shelter because these settlers, whether soldiers or not, in the 17th century, they had to build a shelter before even thinking about building a proper home. And then the soldiers were also offered 100 French livres, a fairly respectable sum. With a salary of a year or so and the means to settle, about 400 soldiers and officers decided to stay in the colony rather than return to France. It has to be understood though of the whole lot, only 250 stayed for good and contributed to pioneer settlement, and found women to settle down with. Many of these 400 soldiers decided to return to France a few years later. This should not come as a surprise because many of those who came over to New France either as enlisted men or later as soldiers and who spent a few years here went back to France after making a bit of money; after having done their stint, they decided to go back home because life in the colony wasn’t easy. The Carignan-Salières Regiment revolutionized the deal because the soldiers were settled in a peaceful colony and need not fear that at one time or another an Iroquois warrior would come out of the woods and attack their household. But the winters were still harsh and the challenge to settle on uncleared land was substantial. So as I said, about 250 contributed to pioneer settlement and the Québécois, the French Canadians and Franco-Americans can count them among their ancestors.

  • 7. Where did they settle?

Audio response to question 7 (MP3 725 KB, length: 0:45)

  • Transcript for Question 7

    Jean-François Lozier: They settled primarily in the Richelieu Valley, many in the Montréal area, a bit throughout the colony but they were concentrated along the Richelieu and in the Montréal area. Why? Well, because it was these settlements that had not been developed until then as they were the most vulnerable to the Iroquois threat. So in a period of peace, men could aspire to increase the population of these areas and would be required to defend themselves when the Iroquois threat resumed because the Crown was aware—everyone in the colony was aware—that they had peace with the five Iroquois nations now but that this peace would not necessarily last forever. So he who desires peace prepares for war.

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