J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Two Unconquered Canadiens

This title on the short list for the Wilson Institute for Canadian History’s book prize caught my eye:
Joseph Gagné’s Inconquis: Deux retraites françaises vers la Louisiane après 1760 tells the captivating story of two French military officers – Pierre Passerat de La Chapelle and Louis Liénard de Beaujeu – that chose to march to Louisiana after the abdication of the French in Montreal in 1760 rather than suffer the embarrassment of surrendering to the British.

These men, one leaving Fort Detroit, the other Fort Michillimakinac, eventually met, by chance, in Illinois country. . . .

Both men came from very different backgrounds: Pierre Passerat de La Chapelle was a young French professional solider and a provincial nobleman, while Louis Liénard de Beaujeu was a Canadian military officer that benefitted from the fur trade. Upon meeting, Beaujeu, the more senior of the two, tried to submit La Chapelle to his leadership. La Chapelle, the noble born, refused, citing that Beaujeu – the Canadian that gained a title solely through the fur trade – was not his superior. This was the beginning of a quarrel that eventually led to La Chapelle’s imprisonment after Beaujeu accused him of deserting.
The prize committee said, “Gagné offers a glimpse into the social and class politics of 18th century French military society during a time of extreme crisis [as] the chain of command disintegrated.” They also praised the book’s production with “numerous (colored!) images and maps” and said it’s “written in a very engaging style, making it very accessible to non-academic audiences.”

Non-academic audiences who can read French, of course.

Gagné, a graduate student at Université Laval, has spoken about these men at Fort Ticonderoga and other venues. He created the Electronic New France and Curious New France websites. So we can hope Inconquis is picked up and translated for American readers; after all, it’s a story about Illinois and Louisiana as well as Québec.

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