The First Soldiers of New France

Few Soldiers To Fight The Iroquois

Worsening Relations with the Iroquois

French pikeman, circa 1635

Caption: French pikeman, circa 1635

The peace of 1622, inherited from Champlain, gradually dissolved during the course of the 1630s, when the Iroquois obtained firearms in exchange for beaver pelts from the Dutch at Fort Orange (today Albany, New York). The French refused to trade arms, or at least confined the practice strictly to some Hurons converted to Christianity. Eager to avenge the defeats they had previously suffered at the hands of the French, and now equipped to do so, the Iroquois grew increasingly hostile. The smouldering conflict finally erupted in 1641, when Governor Montmagny, accompanied by his entire retinue, went by boat to a meeting with the Iroquois chiefs near Trois-Rivières in order to negotiate with them. In high European style, Montmagny placed in one canoe a guidon (the company standard-bearer) and a herald (the diplomatic courier). The "canoe, guidon and herald" were received with scorn by the Iroquois, who hooted at the emissaries, waved the scalp of an Algonquin allied with the French, and shot arrows at the French boats. Outraged by "all this insolence, " 29 Montmagny responded with swivel gun and musket fire. It was the beginning of a quarter century of hostilities.

Additional Images

French officer, circa 1635