Barthélémy Bergeron d’Amboise

Barthélémy Bergeron d’Amboise is a 7th great grandfather of Catherine Renschler.  He was an ancestor of Josephine Bergeron, mother of Leona Bassett Kline.  The last post was about a Renschler ancestor who fought with the English during the early French and Indian Wars.  This ancestor was on the other side in that conflict.

Barthelemy Bergeron d’Amboise was born about 1663 in Amboise, Indre & Loire, France.  There is disagreement about his parentage.  However it appears that he may have been a descendant of the medieval d’Amboise family for these reasons:

  • In Canada, most of Barthélemy’s best friends were young noblemen.
  • Barthélemy seems to have flaunted the king’s law that all young men newly arrived in the colonies had to marry within a year. He did not get married for ten years.
  • When he did get married, he married Geneviève Serreau de Saint-Aubin, the daughter of a legitimately landed noble whose lineage that can be traced back for centuries.
  • When he was captured by the English in 1692, Barthélemy was ransomed by Villebon, the governor of Acadia.

Barthélémy in the Troupes de la Marine 

At this time in France inheritance was determined by the laws of primogeniture, the estate was inherited by the first-born son.  Later-born sons could become tradesmen, join the military or join a religious order.  Many chose the military.

The Compagnies Franches de la Marine was established in 1622 to serve on board war ships.  The Département de la Marine was also given responsibility for French overseas colonies.  In the late 1600s and early 1700s, these soldiers were the only permanent infantry troops in Canada. They began arriving in New France in 1683 to protect the fur trade and the colonists. The only other troops in the colony were the militia made up of men between the ages of 16 and 60.

Reinactors wearing winter uniforms of French Canadian soldiers.
Reinactors wearing winter uniforms of French Canadian soldiers.

We do not know at what age Barthelemy joined the Compagnies Franches de la Marine, but he arrived in New France with a company of them in1684 when he was 21 years old.  Recruits signed up for six years after which they could re-enlist, return to France, or settle down in New France.  Barthelemy and his comrades arrived too late in the year to do any fighting. Very few military maneuvers ever took place during the winter. Thus, from October until May, the troops were put up in the homes of local people.  The locals were permitted to have their soldier cut wood, uproot stumps, clear land, or beat wheat in the barns. This was hard labor! In return, the soldier received ten sous per day, in addition to his food.

Barthélémy was by title, a common soldier, but he would have a much better life than the vast majority of soldiers. He did not live with any of the locals, but at the home of Pierre Lezeau, a “boat-master.”

The Hudson Bay Expedition of 1686 

When the troops arrived in 1684 they brought a letter from the King of France to the Governor of New France which included this line. “I recommend you prevent as much as it will be possible that the English are not established in the Hudson Bay which was taken possession in my name several years ago….”  There was a French fur-trading company in Canada at that time called the Company of the North. Their profits helped the French King pay for his European war against England.

The French fur trade was based in Montreal and the later British trade at York Factory.
The French fur trade was based in Montreal and the later British trade at York Factory.

A Company of men was assigned to protect the Company of the North.  Among them was Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville, an important figure in French Canadian history.

D’Iberville is of special interest to us. He started as the second lieutenant of the Hudson Bay expedition under the chevalier de Troyes, later became a frigate captain, a knight of Saint-Louis, the discoverer of the mouths of the Mississippi, the founder of Louisiana, and the commander of a naval squadron. He lead ten military campaigns and two voyages of discovery.   For at least ten years Barthélémy was attached to D’Iberville as one of his special troops, and participated in the adventures of this illustrious Canadian leader.  Throughout this period Barthélémy remained unmarried.

The Hudson Bay expedition of 1686 began at Montréal and went from there to James Bay (on Hudson Bay) by canoe, by following the courses of lakes and rivers. It was a rough trip for men in good physical condition. The expedition lasted four months, through the snow and the mud. After 85 days of exhaustion and extreme hardship, they arrived at Moose Fort (today Moose Factory) and completely surprised the English. They took all three major trading posts and several small houses, claiming them for the French fur trade.  This left the English with only Fort Nelson, considerably farther north on Hudson Bay. Barthélémy stayed in the north with d’Iberville from 1686 to 1689, part of the crew left behind to guard the posts.

In September, 1688, a couple of English ships blockaded one of the posts and got frozen in the ice through the winter. Both sides were ruthless in their treatment of the other, but d’Iberville made a name for himself by refusing to let the English go out hunting for food without harassment, evidently knowing that the resulting scurvy would decimate the English crews. Then, when the disease was epidemic, d’Iberville invited the English surgeon to go hunting; and when the man had left the protection of his ship, the French commander took him prisoner. The English lost 28 men over the winter–25 of them to scurvy–and had to surrender. D’Iberville returned to Quebec on October 28, 1689, loaded down with English prisoners, booty and prize furs. He was credited with keeping the English out of James Bay.

After the return from Hudson Bay, Barthélémy again lived with Pierre Lezeau, and learned to be a sailor-merchant, a trade he would use for most of his life.

Fort Lachine about 1689.
The Lachine, New France and Schenectady, New York Massacres

In much of the late 1600s the colonists of New France and the Iroquois Indians (acting on behalf of the English) engaged in a protracted struggle for control of the economically important fur trade. In August 1689, the Iroquois launched a devastating raid against the French frontier community of Lachine.  The Iroquois, sent by the British, fell upon the small settlement of Lachine, near Montréal, awakening the settlers with war cries. Many were hacked down in their homes, others were killed as they tried to escape; some were captured. Of the 77 houses in the town, 56 were burned.  The Iroquois warriors departed early enough to get away, but late enough so their campfires that night could be seen across the lake.  They slowly burned a few captives to death that night to celebrate their victory. Men, women, and children (including babies) had all been killed.

This was the beginning of an eleven-year-long war. The French governor general quickly devised plans for revenge. There would be a three-pronged attack on the English colonies, two into Massachusetts and Maine, and a third into New York. They planned the attacks to show the English what the results of such Iroquois raids would be.

D’Iberville went on the expedition into New York.  We know that Barthélémy was also on this expedition because he drew up a will before he left which said that he was getting ready to make a “very risky journey to go to the English and not being certain of being able to return con­sidering that nothing is more certain than death and nothing more uncertain than the hour of it not wanting that to be reached before having provided for the salvation of his soul and for his temporal affairs not wanting to live intestate….”

D’Iberville and Barthélémy became part of a party of 210 men assigned to attack New York. They left Montréal in the middle of winter on snowshoes. Protected by their blanket-coats and mittens, each armed with a musket, a knife, a hatchet and a pouch of bullets. Each had also been issued a pouch of tobacco for his pipe. Frontenac, the governor of Canada, had left the choice of target to the expedition leaders and on the way, they decided to take Albany.  Instead, they wound up on the path for Corlaer (Schenectady).

By this time the temperatures were warm enough that the men waded through knee-deep half-melted snow. It was slow and painful. Then it turned cold again, the wind picked up and the snow returned. After a long and arduous journey, the French forces reached Corlaer at 4 p.m. on February 8, pelted by a cold, windy snowstorm. They began to move into place, resolved to attack as soon as they reached the town. The men were so cold and hungry that some of them later mentioned that if any of the English had appeared and asked them to do so, they would have surrendered immediately.

The town had two gates, one facing east, used to get to Orange (Albany) to the southeast. The other gate faced west toward Mohawk country. This is where the French force came upon the town. Everyone was asleep and the Mohawk gate stood wide open.

The French split into two groups. They entered the town and made their way around the inside of the stockade wall. When the leaders met, they gave the signal and the attack began. They vented all their anger on the citizens of the town, and as the Iroquois had done at Lachine, they and their Indian allies did not discriminate in who they killed. Most of the victims were in night clothing and had no time to arm themselves.  They killed sixty people, including 11 African slaves: 38 men or boys, 10 women, and 12 children. They captured another 80 or 90 persons. The killing and pillage continued for two hours. The French noted that about 50-60 residents survived and that they had spared 20 Mohawk, so they would know the fight was with the English, not the Indians.  Of those who escaped from the burning stockade to seek shelter with families some miles distant, many died of exposure in the bitter cold before they reached safety. The raiders departed with 27 prisoners, including five Africans; and 50 horses..  When it was all over, the French had not gotten revenge on their enemy, for Corlaer was a Dutch town, not an English one.

We have no way of knowing to what degree Barthélémy participated in this massacre.  I would like to think that our ancestor was sickened by the slaughter. It is very interesting to note that, so far as we know, he never fought on land again.

Barthélémy went to Acadia with Iberville in 1696, while the war was still on, and, with his bride, Geneviève Serreau de Saint-Aubin, whom he had married the year before, settled at Port-Royal.

Col. Benjamin Church, who had pillaged and burned French settlements in 1696, led an expedition at the end of May 1704 to attack the French at Grand Pre and Port Royale.  They pillaged, burned homes and churches, broke dykes to let water flood the fields, killed cattle, murdered some families and took hostages, including Barthelemy and Genevieve Bergeron and four children.  They were held prisoners at Boston in Fort William on Castle Island, in Boston Harbor, for over two years, were exchanged for English prisoners in September 1706 and allowed to return to Port-Royal.  A historian noted: “51 prisoners were received from Boston, at Port Royal, among whom were d’Amboise (Barthelemy Bergeron) and his family. They were in a condition of absolute destitution.”  After his liberation Barthelemy lived in the section of town near the fort and owned a schooner.  He made trading trips between Port Royal and other Canadian towns.

In 1707, Barthélémy lived on the south bank of Rivière-au-Dauphin, now the Annapolis River, next to Abraham Dugas, just below the village at Port-Royal.  Barthélémy’s son Michael, our ancestor, was born at Port Royal about 1702 and married Marie Dugas, daughter of Abraham.

In the 1730s, the extended family moved to the Rivière St.-Jean valley, where they pioneered the settlement of Ste.-Anne-du-Pays-Bas, now Fredericton, the capital of New Brunswick.  Barthélémy and Geneviève had six children

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