DANEAU DE MUY, JACQUES-PIERRE, army officer, seigneur; baptized 7 Oct. 1695 at Boucherville (Que.), son of Nicolas Daneau* de Muy and Marguerite Boucher; m. 30 Jan. 1725 to Louise-Geneviève Ruette d’Auteuil at Montreal; d. 18 May 1758 at Detroit.
Although Canadian-born, Jacques-Pierre Daneau de Muy received his first commission – an ensigncy – in the Louisiana troops in 1710. How he arrived in Louisiana at such an early age is not certain, but he may have been accompanying his father, who died en route to the colony from France in 1708. The next record of de Muy’s career is in 1724, when at the unusually advanced age of 29 he was made a second ensign in the colonial regulars stationed in Canada.
During the 1730s de Muy commanded the tiny post of Saint-Joseph (probably Niles, Mich.), where he was responsible for the regulation of trade and the maintenance of good relations with the local Potawatomis and Miamis. He made a close study of the plants of the area, primarily seeking pharmaceutical knowledge, and apparently cured several Indians by means of local herbs. He sent back plant specimens for the intendant to see and the Jesuits to classify, and when he visited France in 1736–37 he took with him a memorandum on his findings.
De Muy had been promoted ensign in 1733. In 1741 he was made lieutenant. His whereabouts from 1737 to 1744 is not known, but in 1745 he undertook a mission characteristic of New France’s Indian diplomacy at the time. English commercial influence on the Ohio valley Indians was growing, and the French were encouraging them to move farther west, away from English traders. De Muy left Detroit in May with a party of 15 Canadians in search of a band of Shawnees, who in response to French urging had deserted their village south of Atigué (Kittanning, Pa.). Their half-breed leader, Peter Chartier, had kept them together, and de Muy met them at the mouth of the Sonioto River (Scioto River, Ohio). He persuaded them to settle, for a while at least, on the lower Ohio River, promising that they would be as well supplied with trade goods as if they had remained in the English orbit.
In September 1745 de Muy travelled down to Montreal. The ensuing year was the most warlike of his career. To guard the southern approach to Montreal in a period of officially declared war with England, Governor Charles de Beauharnois sent a French and Indian squad of irregular troops to scout out of Fort Saint-Frédéric (Crown Point, N.Y.) during the winter of 1745–46. At first de Muy was second in command to Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Pierre; by July 1746 he was in charge and the squad had grown to 60 French and 400–500 Indians, including many Hurons and Ottawas from the pays d’en haut. This force was preparing to raid a suspected British food dump at Saratoga (now Schuylerville, N.Y.) when news arrived that a British attack on Fort Saint-Frédéric was imminent. Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros* de Léry came to take charge of blocking the water approach to the fort from the south, and 300 militia under François-Pierre de Rigaud* de Vaudreuil arrived as reinforcements. A scouting party led by de Muy was sent to the outskirts of Albany “to see if it is true that the Orange River is so covered with bateaux that the water cannot be seen.” The alarm proved false – perhaps a fabrication by the British to prevent French raids while the harvest was being brought in. Rigaud then led the forces against Fort Massachusetts (Williamstown, Mass.), which capitulated late in August after a day’s siege. It was burned, nearby farmsteads were ransacked and destroyed, and the captured garrison was taken back to Canada. De Muy had personal charge of the Reverend John Norton (and first claim upon the ransom); the clergyman’s journal reveals de Muy as a humane, hospitable officer.
Throughout the fall of 1746 de Muy’s detachment kept the American frontier uneasy. The year 1747 found him transferred to the Montreal region, where he commanded first at Prairie-de-la-Madeleine (Laprairie, Que.) then later in the year at Lac des Deux-Montagnes. In the following year he was promoted captain. From 1752 to 1754 he was commandant of Fort Chambly, during which time he was granted a seigneury on the east side of Lake Champlain.
He was eager, however, to return to the west. In 1753 he made several requests to accompany Paul Marin de La Malgue in the occupation of the Ohio valley but was rejected because of poor health. In May 1754 he left Lachine for Niagara with a brigade of canoes and was told to expect further orders at Niagara. His new posting was to Detroit, relieving Céloron de Blainville as commandant. The position was a key one, since part of French strategy was to overawe the Iroquois and English with the strength of the western tribes, and the commandant of Detroit was largely responsible for the delicate diplomacy required to maintain the friendship of the Ottawas, Potawatomis, Ojibwas, and others. Governor Ange Duquesne* was delighted finally to have appointed de Muy to a post of real and sensitive importance; he praised his “integrity” and “ability,” and called him “the best officer in this colony.” De Muy was awarded the cross of the order of Saint-Louis on 1 April 1754.
Jacques-Pierre Daneau de Muy was typical of many Canadian officer-seigneurs. The connections he maintained with Europe – especially the sometimes litigious correspondence with his d’Auteuil in-laws – were beyond the scope of the average habitant, whose Laurentian roots had become exclusive. His experience as a soldier, however, made him part of the Canadian military tradition of frontier war with its Indian alliances and winter campaigns. For him as for many others of his class, the long North American peace of 1713–44 meant a frustratingly slow climb up the ranks of officers. His family’s brief annals reveal a commonplace tragedy: only two of his six children lived to adulthood.
De Muy did not see the end of the empire he had lived and fought to further, for he died at Detroit on 18 May 1758.
AN, Col., C11A, 99, ff.128–36v, 274–75, 282. ASQ, Fonds Verreau, X. “French regime in Wis., 1743–60” (Thwaites), 41. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow). Papiers Contrecœur (Grenier). Tanguay, Dictionnaire. Parkman, Half-century of conflict, II. P.-G. Roy, La famille Juchereau Duchesnay (Lévis, Qué., 1903). N. W. Caldwell, “Shawneetown, a chapter in the Indian history of Illinois,” Illinois State Hist. Soc. Journal (Springfield, Ill.), XXXII (1939), 193–205. W. J. Eccles, “The social, economic, and political significance of the military establishment in New France,” CHR, LII (1971), 1–22. P.-G. Roy, “Nicolas Daneau de Muy et ses enfants,” Cahiers des Dix, XVIII (1953), 157–70.