Louis Marie (Marie being his original surname) was a French soldier in La Varennes Company of the Carignan Regiment. He was born in 1634 in St. Symphorien, Indre-Loire, France to Louis Marie, Sr., (1616 – 1689) and his wife Marguerite Marie Peigne (b. 1618), both of St. Symphorien, which today is virtually a neighborhood in Tours, 130 miles southwest of Paris. Young Louis was baptized at St. Symphorien de Tours, a church begun in the twelfth century and still standing.
Louis’s parents had married in 1633 with their first child, a daughter, soon following and Louis one year after that. Though the date of Marguerite’s death is not recorded, it is possible she died in childbirth or as a result of complications of childbirth, since no more children were born after Louis.
It is uncertain when young Louis Marie joined the military. The Salières Regiment (named for Henri de Chastelard, the Marquis of Salières) was so named in 1658, but before that it had been known as the Balthasar Regiment, which had been raised before 1636 during the Thirty Years’ War. The Carignan Regiment was established in 1644. These two regiments—Carignan and Salières—merged in 1665.
Louis Marie would have turned eighteen three years earlier in 1652, but whether he became a soldier in the Balthasar, Salières, or Carignan Regiments before or after 1652 is not certain. Some sources indicate that the Carignan-Salières Regiment had fought the Ottoman Turks in 1664, though this would be true only for various individuals who had fought in Hungary in before the creation of the Carignan-Salières Regiment. Again, it is not certain if Louis was one of them or not. However, Louis is definitely listed as a soldier of the Carignan-Salières Regiment in 1665, which is, of course, the date of his arrival in Canada at which time he was thirty-two.
Now what exactly was it that motivated King Louis XIV to send uniformed French soldiers to New France for the first time in 1665? Since 1648, the French in Canada had been involved in a series of conflicts with the Iroquois known as the Beaver Wars, so called because the conflict stemmed from the desire of the Iroquois to establish themselves as a kind of middleman in the fur trade between the French on the Atlantic coast and the more western Huron tribes. One writer has said, “The wars were ones of extreme brutality on both sides and considered one of the bloodiest series of conflicts in the history of North America” (PatriotFiles).
The Dutch had been arming the Iroquois with European weaponry, and after an attempted peace treaty failed in the early 1650s, the Iroquois, moving north along Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River, attacked and blockaded Ville-Marie (old Montreal). During this time period, the French settlers suffered from the torching of their homes, the slaughter of their families, and the kidnapping of women, children, and young men. Though the Iroquois attempted to integrate the women and children into their communities, the young men were often tortured mercilessly. These events came to a head in 1660 when Adam Dollard des Ormeaux, 25-year-old commander of the garrison at Ville-Marie, led a party of forty-four Huron warriors and seventeen French militia against the Iroquois at Long-Sault (now Carillon), resulting in the massacre of the French and their allies. Jesuit missionaries had also suffered at the hands of the Iroquois. Two of them, John de Brebeuf and Gabriel Lalemant, were captured in 1649, taken to the Georgian Bay area in Ontario, and brutally tortured. Though de Brebeuf survived only a few hours of torture, Lalemont continued to suffer throughout the night. One account reports, “There was no part of his body that was not burnt, even his eyes, for the villains had forced burning embers into the sockets” (justus.anglican.org).
In addition to the human suffering caused by the Beaver Wars, there were serious economic ramifications for the French colony as well. With trade disruption, the burning of crops, and the decimation of the population, the French experience in the New World seemed doomed to destruction. Therefore, in 1661, the governor of New France, Pierre du Bois, Baron d'Avaugour, sent an emissary to France to apprise the king and Jean-Baptiste Colbert, then the Minister of Marine, of the threats to New France, specifically requesting at least 3,000 regular troops to assist the colony against the Iroquois. The king sent his own man to make a study of the situation in 1662 and, upon hearing his report, sent 100 soldiers to assist Governor d’Avaugour. But apparently d’Avaugour’s initial request for 3,000 troops was a more on the mark, for in 1665, Colbert (now the French finance minister) sent the Carignan-Salières Regiment as reinforcements.
When the men debarked upon arrival in Montreal, Mother Marie de l’Incarnation, head of the Ursuline Sisters in New France, was among those who greeted them. She later wrote:
“The ships have all arrived, bringing us the rest of the army, along with the most eminent persons the king has sent to the aid of the country. They feared they would all perish in the storms they braved on the voyage . . . we are helping them to understand that this is a holy war, where the only things that matter are the glory of God and the salvation of souls” (cbc.ca/history).
Indeed, Louis’s company had arrived in Canada on September 12, 1665, on Le Saint-Sebastien, a new Royal navy fluyt of 350 tons which had departed La Rochelle on May 24 under Captain Sieur du Pas de Jeu. On the same ship were some of colonial Canada’s VIPs: Jean Talon, Comte d'Orsainville, the new intendant (administrative official), and Daniel de Rémy de Courcelle, the new governor of New France. The Saint Sebastien had been accompanied across the Atlantic by another fluyt called Justice. The voyage had been a rough one, and more than twenty men from the two ships had died en route, with another 130 so weak they needed assistance in deboarding upon arrival. Fortunately, Montreal did have a hospital, the Hôtel-Dieu (Hostel of God), which had been established by nuns and missionaries in 1645, and many soldiers of the Carnigan-Salieres Regiment were treated there upon their arrival.
Among the first orders of business for the Regiment was the construction of a fort, which they undertook about 16 miles southeast of Montreal at the foot of the Chambly Rapids on the River Richelieu. The fort was called Fort St. Louis but was later renamed—and still stands today—as Fort Chambly. Still, the gloss of history should not hide the agony which went into its construction. The Marquis Salières, remembering the event, wrote:
“I was ordered to set out with seven companies to build a fort at the mouth of Lake Champlain without a carpenter, nor any other skilled workmen and with very few tools . . . . I arrived there with 350 men . . . many of whom were sick with stomach flu caused by the heavy rains and cold and who were also ill clothed, barefoot and had no pots to cook their salt pork or to make porridge” (cbc.ca/history).
Once the fort was built, the Marquis received word that the Regiment would soon advance upon the Iroquois. With the Canadian winter coming on, De Salières was worried about the situation of his men, who lacked the basic necessities, and the wisdom of Governor Rémy de Courcelle, who seemed set on a winter campaign. The Marquis later recounted his thoughts, saying, “When I understood and saw the state our soldiers were in for this enterprise, I saw all things ill-disposed, the soldiers having no snowshoes, very few axes, a single blanket, no equipment for the ice and having only one pair of moccasins and stockings. When I saw all this, I said to the captains that it would require one of God's miracles for any good to come of this. Some of them replied that M. le gouverneur [Courcelle] did as he pleased and took advice from no one” (cbc.ca/history).
In January 1666, Courcelle himself, with a party of about 500 men, set out to attack the Mohawks, the leading tribe among the Iroquois coalition, on what turned out to be a failed mission. Hundreds succumbed to the northern cold, including the guides, and the rest became lost, eventually stumbling into the Anglo-Dutch settlement at Corlaer (now Schenectday, NY), where their sometime European enemies gave them help.
The following September, Jean Talon got up another expedition into Mohawk Territory. Morale was high as the 1,300 soldiers could now shake off the aches and pains of their cramped ship quarters and set about the task they were sent for. Mother Marie de l’Incarnation, head of the Ursuline Sisters in New France, described their morale, thus: “It seems to all this army that it is going to besiege paradise and that it aspires to take it and enter into it, because it is for the good of the faith and religion that it is going to fight” (biographi.ca).
However, ruin was again on the horizon. First, the troops had to cover more than 180 miles to reach their goal. The cold rains of mid-September and a lack of food weakened the men. What is more, when they finally reached the Mohawk villages, it was only to find them deserted. Taking possession of the Mohawk territory “in the name of Louis XIV,” they began their return trip, which, of course, was even worse now that the later autumn months were upon them. Swollen rivers, fierce winds off of Lake Champlain, generally rugged territory, and the loss of men and canoes kept the troops quiet and solemn on their return to Quebec, which they reached on 5 November 1666. Though dismal for the men involved, the expedition—which saw no engagement but did include the burning of the abandoned Mohawk villages—was deemed a tactical success, and the tide of events began to turn in the favor of the French. In the summer of 1667, a treaty was signed, which brought peace for the next twenty years.
Now that their mission was accomplished, the Carignan-Salières Regiment was ready to return to France. However, the King, still anxious to build up the French population in North America, offered incentives to the men of the Regiment to take wives from among the Filles du Roi and settle in New France.
For this segment of the story, please continue to Part 3.