BLAISE DES BERGÈRES DE RIGAUVILLE, RAYMOND (he sometimes signed des Bergères), captain, commandant of Forts Niagara, Frontenac, and Chambly, town major of Trois-Rivières; b. 1655 in the diocese of Saint-Pierre at Orléans (department of Loiret), son of Jean Blaise Des Bergères and Marie Boucher; d. 21 July 1711 at Montreal.
Des Bergères is believed to have served for seven years in the second company of the king’s musketeers. On 5 March 1685, some months before his departure for America, he was promoted captain in the colonial regular troops. He then joined the officers and soldiers accompanying the new governor, Brisay de Denonville, whose mission in Canada was to check the Indian menace and to oppose English designs on the territory belonging to France. About three years before, the Iroquois, encouraged this time by Governor Dongan of New York and the merchants of Albany, had started waging guerilla warfare again.
Des Bergères’ wife, Anne Richard de Goigni, was probably already dead when he arrived in Quebec, on 29 July 1685, with his son Nicolas, who was six years of age.
Upon Denonville’s arrival New France immediately took the offensive. In 1686, while the Chevalier de Troyes* and the Le Moyne brothers were seizing the English forts on Hudson Bay, the governor was preparing a great punitive expedition against the Senecas south of Lake Ontario. The expedition, in which Des Bergères took part, reached the lake in July 1687. As the Indians had fled before the army’s advance, the French formally took possession of the territory after burning the villages and destroying the crops. Denonville then built a stockade fort at Niagara to close the route by which beaver might be taken to the English and to assure future communications with the west. Command of the fort was entrusted to the Chevalier de Troyes and that of the garrison to Raymond Blaise Des Bergères.
The winter of 1687–88 was a tragic one at Niagara. Scurvy broke out among the garrison and nearly all the men succumbed to it, including the Chevalier de Troyes, who died on 8 May 1688. Only 12 soldiers and their officer, Des Bergères, survived.
The captain was not to remain long in command of the fort. Its destruction was, in fact, one of the conditions for peace imposed upon Denonville by Dongan, who was arming the Iroquois against the French. Faced in the summer of 1688 with the bloody guerilla warfare waged by the Mohawks along the Richelieu River, the French governor ordered the evacuation of Niagara, as he was to order that of Fort Frontenac the following year under the same circumstances. Des Bergères thus left the fort in mid-September 1688 and immediately returned to Montreal with his garrison.
Some months after his return from Niagara Des Bergères succeeded Captain François Lefebvre Duplessis Faber as commandant of Fort Saint-Louis at Chambly. Duplessis Faber’s reluctance to give up command of this important post was perhaps the cause of hostility between the two men. In any case on 15 July 1689, after an altercation, the two captains fought a duel in which Des Bergères was slightly wounded. The duelists were immediately arrested and imprisoned, and their case was examined the next day at Montreal. After a long inquiry the matter finally came before the Conseil Souverain on the following 16 November. Both were “acquitted of the accusation brought against them because of the duel.” Duplessis Faber was, however, sentenced to pay 600 livres to Des Bergères as well as court costs.
Despite this incident Des Bergères kept his post at Chambly. He was to remain there until 1696. Because of its geographical situation Chambly was of the utmost strategic importance, especially in those difficult years when the colony had to bear up against the combined attacks of the Indians and English and to launch its own offensives.
On 12 Oct. 1691 the intendant, Bochart de Champigny, complained to the minister about Des Bergères who, according to him, was using up “a considerable quantity of provisions, munitions, and warehouse equipment.” When the minister told him of this accusation, Buade* de Frontenac replied on 15 Sept. 1692 that these expenditures “were real” and were well employed. At the same time he expressed his satisfaction with Des Bergères in the following terms: “But what I can tell you without being untruthful is that there is no one here in command of a fort who keeps things in as good state as he does, who is more vigilant, and in whom one must put greater trust . . . his post is the most sought after and the most exposed of all. It is one of the keys to the country, and our enemies are before its stockades almost every day, so that it is necessary to be as alert as I know he is to alleviate the anxiety that I would have for it, if someone less attentive were in his place.” Des Bergères may even have contributed out of his own pocket to the rebuilding of the fort in 1693. In recognition of his excellent services the governor granted him that year a gratuity of 500 livres.
On 8 Nov. 1694, at Montreal, Des Bergères married Jeanne-Cécile Closse, widow of Jacques Bizard*, town major of Montreal and seigneur of Île Bizard, and daughter of Lambert Closse*. Eminent personages, such as M. de Callière, were present at the marriage.
Two years after his marriage Des Bergères gave up command of Fort Chambly. This took place at the moment when Frontenac was preparing to lead a strong expedition against the Onondagas. Naturally the governor retained the services of the man whose qualities he had praised so highly some years before. The expedition left Montreal at the beginning of July 1696 and some days later reached Fort Frontenac; it had been restored the preceding summer by the Chevalier Thomas Crisafy* who had died in Montreal in February 1696. The governor pursued his campaign in August, having entrusted the defence of the fort to the Marquis Antoine de Crisafy, brother of the Chevalier, and to Raymond Blaise Des Bergères. The expedition was completely successful and was back at Montreal in September.
Des Bergères too probably returned to Montreal, where he must have lived with his family until 1700. During these few years his wife bore him three children, of whom only one, Marie-Joseph, born 3 May 1698, lived. Madame Des Bergères died on 4 Feb. 1700 at Montreal.
Left alone with a two-year-old baby and Nicolas, who was 21 by then, Des Bergères took up his career again. The command of Fort Frontenac was vacant as a result of the removal and arrest of La Porte de Louvigny, who had been engaged in the fur trade illegally. Des Bergères was in command at this post until 1704; his son Nicolas was a member of the garrison. In this position Des Bergères again showed himself deserving of the confidence of the authorities of the colony, as is attested by the reaction on the part of Rigaud de Vaudreuil and François de Beauharnois* de La Chaussaye to the possibility of Des Bergères’ nomination to the newly created post of king’s lieutenant at Trois-Rivières. “The latter is required for the king’s service at Fort Frontenac, where he is in command,” they wrote to the minister on 15 Nov. 1703.
In 1707 Des Bergères was called to command Fort Chambly for the second time. The gravity of the military situation made necessary the presence of an experienced officer in this post, for the rumour persisted of an invasion by the English via the Richelieu River.
From that time forth it appears that Des Bergères aspired to the quiet life which a permanent and well-paid appointment would procure for him. The post of town major of Trois-Rivières had been vacant since the death of Michel Godefroy de Linctot on 18 May 1709. Des Bergères asked for the office and was granted it in May 1710. Previously he may have left his son Nicolas in command of Fort Chambly; on 13 Nov. 1709, at Île Dupas, he had married Marguerite Vauvril de Blason, the widow of Lambert Boucher*, Sieur de Grandpré. He died on 21 July 1711 at the Hôtel-Dieu of Montreal.
Raymond Blaise Des Bergères lived in Canada at the period of the first open struggles between New France and New England. In his capacity as commandant of forts which were situated at strategic places, Des Bergères was one of the artisans of French supremacy in America, a supremacy which was seriously compromised by the treaty of Utrecht.
AJM, Greffe d’Antoine Adhémar, 8 nov. 1694; Registres d’état civil de Notre-Dame de Montréal, novembre 1694, janvier 1697, octobre 1699, février 1700, juillet 1711. “Correspondance de Frontenac (1689–99),” APQ Rapport, 1927–28, 114–22, 123–28. Jug. et délib., III, 364–67. Lahontan, Nouveaux voyages, I, 123f., 168f., 276f. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), IX, 651f., 664f., 714. Royal Fort Frontenac (Preston and Lamontagne), 391f., 397–401, 402. P.-G. Roy, Les officiers d’état-major. Lanctot, Histoire du Canada, II. G. F. G. Stanley, Canada’s soldiers; the military history of an unmilitary people (Toronto, 1960). Sulte, Mélanges historiques (Malchelosse), IX. Raymond Douville, “Deux officiers ‘indésirables’ des troupes de la Marine,” Cahiers des Dix, XIX (1954). Aegidius Fauteux, “Raymond Blaise,” BRH, XXXIII (1927), 283–84. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Duel et coups d’épée à Montréal sous le régime français,” BRH, XXI (1915), 356. P.-G. Roy, “Les commandants du fort Niagara,” BRH, LIV (1948), 133; “Le duel sous le régime français,” BRH, XIII (1907), 132; “Raymond-Blaise des Bergères,” BRH, XXII (1916), 227–35. Benjamin Sulte, “Nicolas des Bergères,” BRH, VIII (1902), 249–51; “Raymond des Bergères de Rigauville,” BRH, VIII, 212–15.