The Carignan-Salières Regiment
Most persons of French Canadian descent can claim one or more of these brave soldiers as ancestors. In addition to the list of soldiers and officers on the official "roll" of the Regiment, there were many others who participated in the successful campaign against the Iroquois, including many militiamen who resided in the colony but whose names were not recorded for posterity. We honor all these 17th century men who paved the way for growth and prosperity of New France.

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Officer with the regimental colour of the régiment de Carignan-Salières
Officer with the regimental colour of the Régiment de Carignan-Salières, 1665. The colours were in the livery colours of the Prince of Carignan which were red lined with blue. The regimental uniform was brown with grey facings. Print issued on the 300th anniversary of the foundation of Trois-Rivières in 1934.

Regimental History

1630: The Salières Regiment was raised
1644: Created and named Regiment de Carignan
1665: Renamed Regiment de Carignan-Salières
1677: Renamed Regiment de Soissons
1690: Renamed Regiment de Perche
1744: Renamed Gardes de Lorraine
1766: Renamed Regiment de Lorraine
1791: 47e Regiment de Infanterie
1793: 47e demi-brigade de bataille

The Salières Regiment had first been raised in 1630.

The Carignan-Salières regiment derived its name from Colonel Thomas-François de Savoie, Prince of Carignan, who raised it in 1644 in Piedmont in northern Italy.  During the following decade, the recruiting for the regiment was done in France, and the Piedmontese character of the corps gradually ebbed away.  The Treaty of the Pyrenees, signed by France and Spain in 1659, resulted in a reduction in the number of regiments in the army.  Instead of being disbanded, Carignan's unit was merged with another, and on May 31 of that year, the Prince of Carignan was politely advised that, in his absence, the command had been turned over "to a person of great capacity and experience ... Sieur de Salières ... colonel of an infantry regiment that is now incorporated into yours." 

A few years after this merger, the Carignan-Salières Regiment had dwindled to eight companies, or 400 men, which was its strength when selected to serve in Canada. Since the king wished to send 1,000 men, 12 companies drawn from other regiments were incorporated into it: four from the Lallier Regiment, four from Chambellé, three from Poitou and one from Broglio. The arrival of these 600 men probably gave rise to the eighteenth-century tale according to which the Carignan-Salières Regiment had participated in 1664 in the campaign in Hungary against the Turks, together with Austrian and German troops.  According to the tale, it performed "prodigies of valour in the war against the Turks." Since the Carignan-Salières Regiment was not actually numbered among the five infantry regiments sent to Hungary in the French contingent, it seems likely that some of the soldiers that were transferred to it came from these regiments and were consequently veterans of this tough campaign.

The Carignan Regiment was one of the first in the French army to wear uniforms. Its soldiers were outfitted in brown and grey, with those who came to Canada carrying matchlock and flintlock muskets with bayonets, another novelty of the era. They left their pikes in France, since they were of little use against the Iroquois, but they all carried swords.

In April and May 1665, the 20 companies were reviewed in La Rochelle and declared complete, with "some even having more men than they needed." They then boarded the ships bound for Canada.  The regimental staff included Colonel de Salières, Lieutenant-Colonel Du Port, Major La Freydière, Assistant Major Féraud, Adjutant La Combe-Pocatière, Chaplain d'Egriseilles and Surgeon Major Du Tartre.  Each of the 20 companies had a captain, a lieutenant and an ensign as commissioned officers, and, as enlisted men, two sergeants, three corporals, five lance-corporals and forty soldiers, of whom at least one served as drummer.  The first four companies arrived in Quebec beginning on June 19, 1665, followed by the colonel and eight other companies in August.  The last eight companies came in September.  In the meantime, the Marquis de Tracy had left Martinique with his soldiers.  His fleet arrived in Quebec on June 30.  Canada already had an acting governor, Monsieur de Courcelles, but the Marquis de Tracy was superior to him with power over all the colonies in North America.

In view of the fact that there were only 3,200 people of French ancestry in Canada, of whom about 500 lived in or near the town of Quebec, it is easy to guess the emotions raised in that little colony by the announcement that such a large force was arriving.  There was enough commotion just trying to find lodgings for all 1,200 soldiers and 80 officers!  It was not long before the troops were deployed.  By the end of August, eight companies had been sent to build strongholds all along the Richelieu.  These became the forts of Sorel, Chambly, Saint-Jean, Sainte-Thérèse and Sainte-Anne.  The four companies from the West Indies were attached to the Carignan-Salières Regiment but not incorporated into it, retaining their identification with their respective regiments.

An Attack on the Iroquois

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Map of the 1665-1666 campaigns of the régiment de Carignan-Salières
The map shows the region in which the régiment de Carignan-Salières campaigned against the Iroquois during 1665-1666. After landing in Quebec, the regiment went to Montreal, built several forts on the Richelieu River, made a failed winter foray against the Iroquois to the south and followed with a successful one in September.

This plan was not lacking in audacity.  The newly arrived soldiers were unfamiliar with the country, its distances, Amerindian tactics and the climate.  All these factors made such an expedition extremely perilous, but the commanders did not wish to lose the initiative.  In January 1666, therefore, some 300 soldiers under the command of Governor de Courcelles, accompanied by 200 Canadian volunteers, left Quebec on foot and set off doggedly through the snow, headed for Iroquois country.  This was an astonishing undertaking, since at the time neither Europeans nor Amerindians usually fought in the winter.  At Fort Sainte-Thérèse, a group of volunteers from Montreal swelled the ranks of the expedition, which continued on its way, though the men did not know exactly where they were.  On February 17, the Dutch in the village of Schenectady were amazed to see large numbers of French soldiers pouring out of the woods, some shod in snowshoes and many pulling toboggans carrying their meager provisions.  Since they were not at war, the Dutch were prepared to play host while the French recovered their strength.  However, events overtook them.  The French had barely arrived when a skirmish broke out with Mohawks, whom they had not seen until then.  Then a British delegation arrived to call Courcelles to account for this incursion so close to the positions of the King of England!  Courcelles was being faced with one surprise after another.  He had found the Dutch when he thought he was among the Iroquois.  New Holland was now the colony of New York, he learned, and Orange had been renamed Albany.  Although the news had failed to reach Quebec before his departure, the English had in fact taken over the Dutch colony the year before.  Even though the Mohawk villages were only a three-day march from Schenectady, the French were too exhausted and close to starvation to continue.  They obtained some bread and peas from the Dutch, and, containing their anger, headed home.

The losses in this campaign are difficult to evaluate on both sides.  The Mohawks claimed to have killed a dozen French soldiers, captured two, and found five others dead of hunger and cold.  They themselves had only three warriors killed and five wounded.  They added, though, that they had been unable to inflict serious damage on the French expedition, which was very mobile.  All this was consistent with French reports.  The colonists thought at first that they had lost about 60 men, but this was later revised because "most of the soldiers whom [they] believed lost [were] returning day by day." 

This first expedition of the Carignan-Salières Regiment turned out to be a total fiasco in relation to its objective of destroying the Iroquois villages.  However, it had accomplished something almost unthinkable.  A military campaign had been conducted in the middle of a Canadian winter, and more than 500 men had travelled over hundreds of kilometers of rough, wild country, in one of the world's most hostile environments.

The French drew many lessons from this large-scale winter expedition, the first ever to be undertaken in New France.  First, they learned the crucial importance of reliable guides, because, in addition to all their other difficulties, the 30 Algonquin's who were supposed to lead the way to the Iroquois country were of no use for nearly three weeks because they were drunk.  Furthermore, they learned that solid logistics were needed, as well as suitable equipment and clothing for survival under such hostile conditions.  This experience would serve them well later on.

In the spring and summer of 1666, the French and Iroquois seesawed between armed skirmishes and attempts to arrange peace talks.  In July, Captain de Sorel succeeded in approaching an Iroquois village with of a party of 200 soldiers and volunteers and about 80 Amerindian allies.  The Iroquois sent out a peace envoy and liberated a few French captives, with whom Sorel returned to Quebec.  This expedition convinced his superiors that Iroquois territory could easily be penetrated.  Weary of the incessant peace talks punctuated with bloody incidents, the Marquis de Tracy decided upon a major expedition.  In September 1666, at the head of a small army of 700 soldiers and 400 Canadian volunteers (including one battalion of Montrealers, the most experienced in Amerindian warfare) as well as 100 Huron and Algonquin allies, Tracy, Courcelles and Salières marched, drums beating, to the very heart of Iroquois territory.  The Iroquois hid in the forest and offered no resistance as the invaders burned four of their villages as well as their corn crops.  These proud warriors, invincible in guerilla warfare but impotent when attacked at home, discovered that their friends and neighbours, the English and Dutch, were not prepared to provide military support.

The future prospects of the Iroquois looked dim for other reasons as well.  Their forests were being stripped of game, while the Ottawa's, whose territory to the north still abounded with fur-bearing animals, were taking over the market.  Finally, hundreds of Mohawks died of starvation in the famine caused by the destruction of their crops.  For all these reasons, the Iroquois decided to rebuild their strength while waiting for better times.  Their chiefs resolved to conclude a peace agreement and began talks with the French.  Few incidents occurred thereafter, and the peace treaty was eventually signed in July 1667, after long and tortuous negotiations.

The success of the Carignan-Salières Regiment ensured an era of peace and prosperity in New France.  The colonists could finally settle down to their tasks without having to fear constantly for their lives.  The forts along the Richelieu not only inhibited all movement from the south but also provided bases from which to carry war into the heart of Iroquois country.  In other words, the initiative had passed into the hands of the French.  The routes to the West and its territory rich in fur lay open to their explorers and traders.  Finally, the nations annihilated by the Iroquois were replaced by Ottawa's, Ojibwas and Algonquin's as trading partners and military allies.  The military campaigns had indeed bestowed enormous benefits on New France.

The king had another assignment for his troops in Canada - one that had been conceived before their departure but kept secret until the end of hostilities.  New France was only thinly populated.  In order to rectify this situation, the king hoped to encourage the soldiers of the 24 companies "to remain in the country" by providing them with the means "to establish themselves there."  Accordingly, the officers were offered seigneuries.  This was most attractive, because to own a tract of land, that is, to become a seigneur, was almost impossible in France.  Some 30 officers therefore took up this offer in 1667 and 1668.  The titles to most of the new seigneuries were officially turned over to the new proprietors five years later.  Some bore the names of their new title holders.  Thus the present towns of Berthier, Chambly, Contrecoeur, Boisbriand, Saint-Ours and Sorel commemorate the first seigneurs of those localities, former captains in the Carignan-Salières Regiment.  Lavaltrie, Soulanges and Varennes bear the names of former lieutenants, while Brucy and Verchères were ensigns who also left their mark on place names in Quebec.

Ordinary soldiers were also given numerous inducements to stay.  Instead of returning to France, possibly to live as serfs, they could own land and establish themselves on it with substantial state assistance in the form of livestock and food.  What could be more appealing?  Four hundred and four soldiers and 12 sergeants allowed themselves to be persuaded.  In France itself, the feeling of confidence engendered by the vigorous action of the king's soldiers certainly seems to have encouraged emigration, for, at about this time, more than 2,000 people decided to leave for Canada.  With this considerable influx, the population of New France doubled between 1665 and 1672, rising to 7,000.

These steps did not result in the complete dissolution of the Carignan-Salières Regiment.  The two colonels' companies returned to France with Colonel de Salières in June 1668, and the regiment again began recruitment there.


Credits: Much of this information was gathered from various sources. The primary source was the Canadian Military Heritage website.