When Champlain died at Quebec, on Christmas Day 1635, the man who was given the unenviable task of taking his place was Charles Huault de Montmagny.
He was appointed Governor of Canada on March 10, 1636, and arrived at Quebec in June.
Montmagny was a soldier and a knight of the Maltese Order, as was his aide, Bréhaut L’Isle. It must have been an inspiring sight when they stepped on shore wearing their black robes with white eight-pointed crosses on their breasts. They were followed by soldiers in scarlet uniforms and flashing breastplates. The party numbered forty-five in all, including six daughters of two of its members. Their arrival nearly doubled the population of Quebec!
Canada needed trained military men. Montmagny and his aide, Bréhaut L’Isle, had fought the Turks on land and sea, and were believed to be the leaders who could handle the Iroquois. The Five Nations had declared war on the French to revenge the defeats inflicted on them by Champlain and had taken strategic positions along the rivers. It was not safe for small parties of white men to go into the woods, and small communities were always in danger.
The Iroquois were armed with guns, most of which had been supplied by the Dutch who had a base at what is now Albany, New York. They were remarkable warriors and planned their campaigns on lines that would be considered modern today> They established positions along the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers, from Trois Rivières to Chaudière Falls. This separated the French from the Hurons and Algonquins who were their allies.
The Iroquois “army” was divided into ten sections with most of the strength around Montreal Island, which was the crossroads of the trade routes. One of the sections was a large mobile force that could be moved quickly to any sector. The Iroquois did not commit large numbers of warriors to single actions, but used small bands to kill the French in what is now called “guerilla” warfare.” If the French could be weakened sufficiently, that would be the time for a united attack.
Montmagny made the first plans for countering the Iroquois but it took another thirty six years to make much headway. Count Frontenac had arrived by that time to take charge.
Want to read more about this? Here are a few suggestions: The Quebec History Encyclopedia; the Catholic Encyclopedia; the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
Would you rather hold a book in your hands? I suggest The Chevalier de Montmagny: First Governor of New France. Or Beginning New France 1524 1663
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