Wednesday, 4 April 2012


In the 1750's, the children of Antoine Lafreniere III and Angelique Piette would have been approximately 20-30 years old. According to The Peoples of Canada: Pre-Confederation, every male resident between 16 and 60 years old had to serve in their local militia. Since their children were born in the Sorel area, it is safe to conclude that the family resided near this region and thus, the male children served in the militia at nearby Fort Richelieu (unfortunately, their participation in the pending war in New France would be purely conjecture).

The war in New France from 1756-63 is often referred to as the  French-Indian War, but in my opinion, this title is misleading since both the French and British had First Nations allies.  According to  First Peoples: A Documentary Survey of American Indian History, the Algonquian groups, like the Abenakis, Ottawas, Shawnees and Potawatamies, supported the French while the Iroquois groups, such as the Senecas and Mohicans, fought alongside the British. 

The French-Indian War was part of a much larger battle being waged in Europe called the Seven Years War. It is complicated to explain why this war began and every event which ensued.  Instead, I will focus on how the French-Indian War impacted the St. Lawrence Valley region.

Louis XV of France appointed a Governor General to oversee the military and external relations of New France, including building relationships with First Nations.  The governor had to ensure the safe arrival of food and trading supply shipments to the estimated 50,000 French settlers in the St. Lawrence Valley, and expand French boundaries.

Since 1607, settlers from many countries, including Ireland, Scotland, Germany and Holland, began building new lives in the south eastern portions of North America governed by the British government.  By 1733, Britain had established 13 colonies with over a million residents.  It was only a matter of time before France and Britain would clash on North American soil mainly due to increased demand for natural resources, fur trading, and territorial expansion.

In 1744, the British began attacking the French colony on its periphery at Fort Louisbourg (in present day Nova Scotia). After the British defeated the French fort, Louis XV soon realized the significant role of this vital Atlantic fort: for a short period of time, his French ships were not permitted to deliver trade goods to and from France, through the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and into the heart of New France.  More specifically, he was not able to deliver more soldiers and ammunition into his colony nor was he able to withdraw significant natural resources and profit from the thriving fur trade in the region. Fortunately, France was able to regain its fort in 1748 through the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle signed with the British, and this treaty brought temporary peace to the region.

In 1754, Britain again returned to its tactic of ten years earlier: attack New France on its periphery.  This time it attacked in the deep southern region of New France near today's Pittsburg, Pennsylvania and once again, it attacked the northern port of Fort Louisborg as the British had also recognized its significance. With help from its First Nations allies, the French were able to keep the British at bay for over 3 years from the Atlantic port. However when the British sent 15,000 soldiers and 150 ships from Great Britain in 1758, Fort Louisbourg fell for the final time.

Swiftly, Britain infiltrated the St. Lawrence Valley. In September 1758, 4,500 British troops invaded the Plains of Abraham near the city of Quebec (approximately 2.5 hours north of Fort Richelieu). They quietly scaled the cliff walls on the river's edge at 4 a.m., organized themselves in two lines the length of the plains at 8 a.m., and charged the 4,400 French troops at a steady run.  The force of the British overwhelmed the French and they retreated to Montreal.  

Instead of reinforcing his troops in Montreal, King Louis XV decided to invade England. As a result, the French force of 17,000 soldiers were strongly outnumbered by the large British army and surrendered in Montreal in 1760.  Britain quickly established a military government in the region until the formal signing of the peace treaty, the Royal Proclamation of 1763,and New France became a British colony.

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