Marquis de Vaudreuil-Cavagnal

Pierre François de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil-Cavagnal (1698-1778), was a Canadian-born governor of Louisiana and governor general of New France. He surrendered Canada to the British in 1760.

Born at Quebec on Nov. 22, 1698, Pierre François de Vaudreuil was the son of Philippe de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil, the governor general of New France. At the age of 6 he was commissioned an ensign in the Troupes de la Marine, at 13 a lieutenant, and at 15 a captain. In 1728 he served on an expedition to subdue the Fox tribe and was promoted to aide-major, and in 1730 he was awarded the coveted Croix de St-Louis. In 1733 he was appointed governor of Trois-Rivières and 9 years later governor of Louisiana. Although his accelerated career was due largely to his father's influence with the minister of marine, he had proven himself to be a capable officer and administrator.

In Louisiana, Vaudreuil held the Indian nations in the French alliance, removed the threat of English encroachment, and stimulated the expansion of the colony's economy. When he was recalled to France in 1753 before taking up the appointment that he had long desired—that of governor general of New France—Louisiana was secure and prosperous.

Hostilities had reopened in North America before Vaudreuil sailed from Brest in a convoy bearing 3, 000 regular troops and their commanding general, Baron de Dieskau, but they arrived safely at Quebec on June 23, 1755. In September, Dieskau was captured in a skirmish and was replaced the following year by the Marquis de Montcalm. Vaudreuil's problems now began. He was responsible for the conduct of the war, but Montcalm commanded the troops in the field. They quickly came to detest each other. Meanwhile, the intendant, François Bigot, was systematically looting the colony and defrauding the Crown of millions of livres.

Vaudreuil's strategy was to use his irregular forces and Indian allies to harass the frontiers of the English colonies, forcing the enemy to be on the defensive, but Montcalm wanted to fight set battles in the European manner. Despite Montcalm's opposition and inveterate defeatism, Vaudreuil's strategy resulted in some brilliant victories, but in 1759 the British put powerful new forces in the field, and Quebec was besieged.

Maj. Gen. James Wolfe outmaneuvered the French by landing close above Quebec. Montcalm gave hasty battle and was defeated and mortally wounded. Vaudreuil regrouped the shattered French army and withdrew to Montreal. An attempt to retake Quebec the following year failed. Three British armies now invaded the colony. On September 8 Vaudreuil was forced to capitulate to Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Amherst. He then sailed for France with the other officials and regular troops. Along with Bigot and several others he was accused of malversation but was exonerated. His career in the royal service, however, was ended. He retired to his estates in France, where he resided quietly until his death.

Further Reading on Marquis de Vaudreuil-Cavagnal

Vaudreuil is viewed sympathetically in Guy Fregault, Canada: The War of the Conquest (1955; trans. 1969). George F. G. Stanley, New France: The Last Phase, 1744-1760 (1968), is equivocal.