Arrival of the Carignan-Salières Regiment
Arrival of the Carignan-Salières Regiment
Carignan-Salières Regiment:

Arrival in New France

See also Carignan-Salières Regiment Encarta®

The Carignan-Salières Regiment was created in 1659 by amalgamating the regiments of the Prince de Carignan and the Marquis de Salières. The regiment arrived in Quebec City in the summer of 1665, the first contingent arriving on June 18. This was the first expedition of royal troops to Canada. The regiment counted twenty companies and each company was made up of three officers - a captain, a lieutenant and an ensign - two sergeants, three corporals, five anspessades and forty soldiers, including at least one drummer. Four other companies drawn from the regiments of Lignières, Chambellé, Poitou and Orléans coming from the West Indies also came to Quebec City with Marquis de Tracy, the new governor general. Considering that the colony had about 3200 inhabitants, the arrival of some 1200 soldiers and 80 officers had an extraordinary impact on its development.

For the Jesuit Superior, François Le Mercier, who had lived in the colony for thirty years, it was the best summer of his life:
"On the 17th and 19th of June, there arrived at Quebec two ships with four Companies of the Carignan-Salieres Regiment... On the 30th, there appeared in the distance two sails, which filled us with joy. It is impossible to express the satisfaction of all people."

With the soldiers came the first representatives of the Crown: the Governor of Courcelle, the Commander of the troops, the Marquis of Tracy, and the Intendant Jean Talon. Talon was the former intendant of the province of Hainault, in France, and had just been named to an identical post in North America, due to the joining of New France to its royal domain. His responsibility was to ensure the civil administration and economic development of the colony.

A body of troops of this magnitude in Canada completely transformed what had until then been a precarious military situation for the colony. Finally, towns could be fitted out with suitable garrisons and new forts could be built to block the Richelieu River, the Iroquois' traditional route. In just a few weeks, the French went from the defensive stance that had been necessary for almost a quarter of a century to a new tactic: attacking the Iroquois on their own territory.

Soldier of the Carignan-Salières Regiment
Soldier of the Carignan-Salières Regiment, circa 1665-1668

Marie de l'Incarnation believed the colony, and her convent, had been saved.
"The ships have all arrived, bringing us the rest of the army, along with the most eminent persons whom the king has sent to the aid of the country," she wrote." They feared they would all perish in the storms they braved on their 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."

The soldiers of the Carignan-Salières regiment thought more about money, no doubt, than the victory of the Catholic faith. They were volunteers, enlisted for a period of three years. They had just returned from a successful campaign against the Ottamans. Having contributed to the defeat of infidels in the Orient, the Carignan regiment would now crush the pagans of the West.

The enthusiastic welcome they received convinced them that they were better off in New France than dying of hunger back in Europe or fighting it out with the Turks. Some of the more seasoned officers refused to come to North America, frightened they might harm their career out of sight of the Court. Novices, such as Captain François Tapie de Monteil, departed in the hope of advancing their military career with glory.

Soon, a third of their force were used to build defence works along the Richelieu River, which was the main Iroquois invasion route. The Colonel of the regiment, the Marquis of Salières, and 350 of his men penetrated deep into the forest.
"I was ordered to set out with seven companies to build a fort at the mouth of Lake Champlain ," wrote the Marquis of Salières in his Memoirs, "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."

In spite of it all, in early winter 1665, the soldiers had built three rudimentary forts and were ready to spend the winter there. But the new governor, Daniel de Remy de Courcelle, a 39 year old aristocrat whose first winter it was in Canada, decided to launch a campaign against the Iroquois in the month of January. The Marquis de Salières tried to convince the Governor otherwise.
"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 did as he pleased and took advice from no one."

The expedition was a disaster. Having left the Saint-Louis Fort, the men of the Carignan-Salières regiment wandered in the woods for four weeks. They did not give battle once nor did they kill a single Iroquois. Captain Tapie de Monteil recounted:
"During the expedition, that we undertook in the month of January, we lost 400 men, all victims of the intense cold. We had sought to surprise an enemy village but the guides froze to death on the way and we could not attain our objective."

They finally arrived at the little outpost of Schenectady where the English had just replaced the Dutch. A sort of irony, it was His Britannic Majesty's troops that saved their lives. And the Iroquois had no idea of their presence.

See part II Victory over the Iroquois
Return to Bélair Family Page
Return to Isnard Family Page

- from CBC - Canada: a People's History - Arrival of the Carignan-Salières regiment
- And from The Virtual Museum of New France - The Carignan-Salières Regiment of Canada, 1665-1671


(Quebec) Museum of Civilization - Officers of the Carigan-Salières regiment (in French only)

(Quebec) Museum of Civilization - Le sieur de Jean-Talon, the Intendant (1625-1694) (in French only)

The Virtual Museum of New France

New Advent - Alexandre De Prouville, Marquis de Tracy