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FRENCH CANADIEN WARRIORS
OF THE COLONIAL ERA

My French-Canadien ancestors (through my father, Duane Chicoine) were early settlers of Quebec City and Montreal. They traveled the interior of the continent, established posts and traded for furs. They fought the Iroquois, the English settlers and British regular troops for one hundred years to retain their foothold in the New World.

All of those named on this page are ancestors

Gilbert Barbier Le Minime was a carpenter, who went ashore on Montreal Island in 1642. He built the first structure for the new settlement and later constructed the stockade.

The Canadiens lived under constant threat of attack. The loss of comrades and loved ones to death or captivity was a common occurrence, even as disease alone claimed many lives. In 1651, New France had only 1,051 residents. Between 1650 and 1653, the Iroquois killed thirty-two French settlers and captured another twenty-two.

In the spring of 1651, Jacques Archambault and two others were the only survivors of an Iroquois ambush. In June 1651, Archambault and others rushed to the defense of five comrades holding off a large Iroquois raiding party and drove them off.

Nicolas Pinel died September 1655 at Quebec from wounds suffered in an engagement with the Iroquois. His twenty-year-old son Gilles, also involved in the fight, survived to carry on the family legacy.

The violence increased in 1661. In February, an estimated one hundred and fifty Iroquois warriors attacked Montreal and captured thirteen settlers. On March 24, 1661, more than two hundred Iroquois surrounded fifteen Montrealers working in the fields. The Iroquois killed three and led the other twelve into captivity, including Michel Messier. Pierre Martin was among the three killed. He was newly wed and left behind a pregnant wife. They found his decapitated body in late June and buried his remains on June 28. His daughter was born later that year in November and lived to carry on the family legacy.

The odds were nearly always one-sided. The Jesuit Relations, which chronicled events, reported on April 8, forty men heading out to confront several hundred Iroquois who had taken fourteen Frenchmen captive.

The Iroquois made at least ten major assaults on Montreal and the immediate surrounding settlements that summer of 1661. By year- end, French losses at Montreal were thirty-nine killed and sixty-one captured. Quebec City lost another twenty-seven, including the son of the governor of New France.

In 1663, the authorities at Montreal organized a militia, La Milice de La Sainte-Famille, from the one hundred and thirty-nine able-bodied men in the settlement. Gilbert Barbier was a corporal. Among the soldiers under Barbier’s command was his son-in-law Toussaint Beaudry. Pierre Chicoine also led a squad. Michel Messier, who had been last seen two years earlier, returned from captivity and joined the militia.

The so-called flying columns of militia helped, but still there were losses. Michel Theodore dit Gilles encountered an Iroquois raiding party near Longue Pointe on May 4, 1664 while returning to Montreal from a hunting trip.

In 1665, the French Crown finally sent a regiment of twelve hundred soldiers to Canada to address the Iroquois conflict. The few inhabitants of the outpost of Montreal had lived under constant threat of attack for twenty-four years.

The Carignan-Salieres Regiment included many veteran soldiers from the recent war in Hungary with the Ottoman Turks. Some two hundred of the soldiers carried flintlock muskets with the remainder still using matchlocks. They still wore swords, but also the bayonet, which had first appeared only fifteen years earlier.

The regiment constructed four forts in the Richelieu Valley, the principal route by which the Iroquois moved north to Montreal. The French invaded the Iroquois homeland in upstate New York in late January 1666. Several hundred men perished in the journey for lack of proper supplies. A second campaign in September 1666 destroyed the main villages of the Mohawks and their food supplies for the coming winter. The Iroquois sued for peace – a peace that lasted twenty years, by which time Montreal was firmly established.

The French Crown offered land as an incentive to soldiers who agreed to remain in Canada when the regiment departed. Four hundred and fifty remained behind. These included the following Chicoine ancestors:

Francois Bacquet dit LaMontagne
Adrien Bétourné dit LaViolette
Michel Brouillet dit LaViolette
Francois Chevrefils dit LaLime
Jean-Jacques Gerlaise dit Saint-Amand
Pierre Handegrave dit Champagne
Lt. André Jarret dit Beauregard
Honoré Martel dit LaMontagne
Etienne Paquet dit LaVallée
Francois Séguin dit LaDéroute
The Brouillets, among others, settled in the Richelieu Valley as permanent defenders of the invasion corridor.

With the peace established, Toussaint Beaudry established a partnership with the well-known explorer and trader, Nicolas Perrot. They traveled west and established a trading post at Chequamegon Bay in present-day Wisconsin. They traversed the region for three years, bartering European trade goods for furs.

The peace between the French and Iroquois was shattered in 1687. Nearly one thousand Canadien militiamen accompanied Denonville and French regular soldiers in his expedition into New York against the Senecas. Numerous ancestors, including Michel Messier, participated. They destroyed all the major villages in what would later become the Rochester area.

Numerous ancestors served as captain of their local militia in their settlements along the St. Lawrence River. Jean-Baptiste Brouillet, grandson of the Carignan regiment veteran, was a veteran of many actions as captain of militia at Pointe-aux Trembles on the exposed northeastern tip of Montreal Island.

Most of the ancestors participated in the French and Indian War and in repulsing the invasion during the American Revolutionary War. French Canadiens also fought alongside British regular troops in the War of 1812. Their participation in units such as the Voltigeurs Canadiens played an important role in repulsing yet another American invasion. The voltigeurs were renowned for their guerilla tactics, which made them excellent skirmishers and bush fighters. French fought in numerous battles and engagements, but the Battle of Chateauguay on October 26, 1813 was the most important victory as far as French Canadien involvement. The Americans were forty miles southwest of Montreal and threatening to drive up the St. Lawrence River. The British and Canadiens, greatly outnumbered, won a resounding victory and drove the American back across the border, ending the invasion threat.

French Canadiens in the Richelieu Valley rose up against the British in the failed Rebellion of 1837. In the aftermath, many French Canadiens migrated into the United States. They found work in the textile mills of New England. Some, like my ancestors, subsequently moved on to work in the mining district of Wisconsin and to homestead new land in Dakota Territory.