ROUER DE VILLERAY, BENJAMIN (he signed Villeray), officer in the colonial regular troops; b. 1701, son of Augustin Rouer* de Villeray et de La Cardonnière and Marie-Louise Legardeur de Tilly; d. 30 Nov. 1760 in Rochefort, France.
Little is known of Benjamin Rouer de Villeray’s youth, and his military career is difficult to trace before 1733. In February of that year it was proposed that he be made second ensign; he was already a cadet, and it was remarked that he had served well. Governor Charles de Beauharnois did not, however, support the suggestion, for he hoped that Villeray would receive an appointment in Louisiana. Villeray nonetheless became second ensign in Canada on 1 April 1733. Six years later, with Beauharnois’s recommendation, Villeray was made an ensign on the active list; he was considered a good officer who had a great deal of authority and enthusiasm for the service. In 1743 Beauharnois put his name forward for a vacant lieutenancy. Villeray did garrison duty in Montreal in 1747 and 1748; we know nothing about his activities between 1733 and 1747, except that he was married in Montreal in 1735.
Villeray arrived at Louisbourg, (Cape Breton Island), on 20 Sept. 1749 on the Léopard; at that time he was “acting as lieutenant by an order from Mr La Jonquière [Taffanel] of 16 Sept. 1749.” On 11 Oct. 1749 La Galissonière [Barrin] and Charles Des Herbiers suggested granting him a post as lieutenant in the Louisbourg garrison, and on 15 April 1750 Villeray was promoted lieutenant; he served in Captain Michel Du Pont Duvivier de Gourville’s company in 1750 and 1751. Although he had not yet received his lieutenant’s commission, he became a captain on 1 May 1751.
In 1753 Villeray was given command of Fort Gaspereau, which had been built in 1750 and 1751 on the north coast of Baie Verte (in what is now part of New Brunswick) to serve as a depot. On 17 June 1755 he surrendered to a British force under Robert Monckton* without any shots being fired. Villeray and his men were taken to Louisbourg by sea. The governor of Île Royale, Drucour [Boschenry], criticized Villeray’s conduct severely; he considered it “more a fault of the head than of the heart” and proposed to take his company away from him. Villeray appeared before the court martial at Quebec on 22 and 24 Oct. 1757. He justified his conduct by the fact that Fort Beauséjour (near Sackville, N.B.) had been surrendered by Louis Du Pont* Duchambon de Vergor after only three days’ resistance; he had sent the greater part of his troops there, keeping only a score of men for himself. In addition he had considered that the condition of the fort did not permit him to resist an artillery attack. Finally he alleged that the Acadians had refused to obey him. Not being able to rely on either the garrison at Beauséjour or the Acadians, he had decided to surrender without offering any resistance. Montcalm remarked about Villeray: “He is the less guilty of the two commandants; but they wanted to sacrifice him . . . concerning Gaspereau the only mistake was not to withdraw and burn it.” Villeray was acquitted on 28 October. Immediately afterwards Governor Pierre de Rigaud* de Vaudreuil ordered him to resume command of his company at Louisbourg. He took part in the defence of the fortress in June and July 1758.
The documents do not allow us to retrace exactly Villeray’s activities after the capture of Louisbourg. In July 1760 he was living in Rochefort, but a list of the officers and soldiers who had come back from England on 1 Oct. 1760 mentions that at Drucour’s order he was in Canada. He died on 30 November in Rochefort, after being made a knight of the order of Saint-Louis on 8 Feb. 1760.
Villeray’s financial situation is difficult to determine: he engaged in few transactions, preferring to devote himself to his military career. In 1748 he sold two pieces of land that he had inherited; they were located in Quebec, at the foot of Cap Diamant. The two articles of sale stipulated that if the purchasers were dispossessed of their land by the establishment of a shipbuilding yard, the sale would be annulled. When the yard was built, Villeray lost both the land and the profits from their sale; he then tried to obtain compensation. His marriage in Montreal on 16 Aug. 1735 with Marie-Joseph, the daughter of Pierre Pépin, dit Laforce, king’s storekeeper at Niagara (near Youngstown, N.Y.), and Michelle Lebert, denotes a certain affluence; Marie-Joseph was assured of a dowry of 3,000 livres. Of this marriage nine children were born, most of whom died in infancy.
AN, Col., B, 47, 65, 66, 68, 91, 103, 107, 112, 144; C11A, 67, 75, 79, 91, 93–95, 103; C11B. 28–29, 31–33, 35, 37; D2C, 4, 7, 17, 18, 48, 49, 53, 57–59, 61, 222; Section Outre-Mer, G3, 2051. PAC, MG 8, B3, C3, C4; MG 18, M1, 7. PAC Report, 1904, app.G. Fauteux, Les chevaliers de Saint-Louis. Thomas Chapais, Le marquis de Montcalm (1712–1759) (Québec, 1911). Pierre Margry, Familles de la France coloniale: les Rouer de Villeroy (Paris, 1851). P.-G. Roy, “La famille Rouer de Villeray,” BRH, XXVI (1920).