Jacques Legardeur De Saint-Pierre
The rich life of a French military officer at Michilimackinac is documented in this biography co-published by Mackinac State Historic Parks and Michigan State University Press. Over eighty previously untranslated documents contribute to the understanding of Saint-Pierre’s full military career and business life.
The documentary biography of Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Pierre, an officer in the Troupes de la Marine, who served throughout New France, sheds new light on the business activity of French colonial officers stationed in the West. Many of the more than one hundred previously untranslated documents in Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Pierre demonstrate the extent and profitability of Saint-Pierre’s pursuit of business activities while he was performing official duties in 18th century French North America. The quest for profit permeated Saint-Pierre’s career, particularly his command of the Western Sea Post after he succeeded the fabled Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de la Verendrye in 1750. Saint-Pierre and his secret partners Governor-General Jacques-Pierre de Taffanel de La Jonquiere, Intendant Francois Bigot, and Meret, secretary to La Jonquiere, used their positions to engage in extensive trade, especially in brandy, with the Cree and Assiniboine northwest of Lake Superior. Saint-Pierre’s activities provide fresh insights into the North American fur trade.
Saint-Pierre’s military career began in the 1720s and ended with his death at the Battle of Lake George in 1755. English readers can observe Saint-Pierre as he commanded at Chagouamigon on Lake Superior, the Miami Post near the Wabash River, Fort Beauharnois on the Mississippi River and at Michilimackinac located on the Straits of Mackinac. Saint-Pierre was successful in enlisting the support of Native North Americans for the French cause in France’s struggle with England for dominance in North America. By the end of his career he had risen through the ranks to become commander in chief of all French forces in the Ohio Valley and at the time of his death, commander of all the allied Indians and colonial French troops under Jean-Armand, Baron de Dieskau.
The humanity of this battle-hardened warrior for Louis XV’s cause emerges through a number of documents that reveal the personal side of Saint-Pierre and Marie-Joseph Guillimin, his wife. One of these, the inventory of their possessions after his death and the description of their house in Montreal, provides valuable information on the material culture of a well-to-do officer’s home and lifestyle. Montreal emerges as Saint-Pierre’s permanent home even through he spent most of his life in the West, a situation typical of French colonial officers in North America.
If you like this book, see also On the Eve of the Conquest, The Chevalier De Raymond’s Critique of New France in 1754