HERTEL DE SAINT-FRANÇOIS, ÉTIENNE (after the death of his older brother Joseph in 1748, Étienne was referred to as Hertel the elder), officer in the colonial regular troops; b. 8 Nov. 1734 at Saint-François-du-Lac (Que.), son of Joseph Hertel de Saint-François and Suzanne Blondeau; d. 18 July 1760.
Étienne Hertel de Saint-François’s short life was an active one. True to the Hertel tradition he entered military service early. At the age of 14 he was a cadet with the colonial regular troops at Fort Saint-Frédéric (Crown Point, N.Y.) on Lake Champlain. On 23 Oct. 1749, Governor La Jonquière [Taffanel] transferred him to Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), where he was promoted second ensign in 1751 and full-pay ensign in 1755. After eight years’ service at Louisbourg he was recalled by Governor Pierre de Rigaud* de Vaudreuil to Michilimackinac.
On 1 Jan. 1759, Vaudreuil’s recommendation of Hertel for a full-pay lieutenancy was approved by the king. Hertel played an active part in that year’s Quebec campaign. On 26 July a reconnaissance by Wolfe of the Montmorency fords produced a bloody skirmish. Hertel led 200 Indians and 30 Canadians across the river and drove back part of the British force, only to be driven back himself when the British were reinforced. The affair seems to have led Wolfe to conclude that an attack directed at the Montmorency fords was unlikely to succeed. Three weeks later Hertel was with another party of Canadians and Indians, under Pierre-Jean-Baptiste-François-Xavier Legardeur* de Repentigny, who made a surprise attack across the Montmorency. Without properly scouting the area beforehand, Hertel led the Indians against some light infantrymen; English reinforcements appeared almost immediately and scattered Hertel’s men into the woods.
After the capitulation of Quebec on 18 Sept. 1759, Hertel retired with the remnants of Montcalm’s army to a camp near Cap-Santé at the mouth of the Rivière Jacques-Cartier. In the early months of 1760 Vaudreuil was concerned with the safe convoy of food to French military headquarters. To help to stop the progress of the English and to conserve food, Hertel was sent to the rural parishes leading a detachment of 150 men which he established at Saint-Michel-de-Bellechasse. General James Murray*, believing Hertel had a force of 400 to 500 men, thought it necessary in March to establish a stronghold and a battery of 22 cannon at Pointe-Lévy (Lauzon). But Hertel’s appeal for reinforcements produced only ten men, and he was advised to escape by the woods if attacked by superior numbers. His Indian allies returned to their villages shortly thereafter, but Hertel took the offensive by attacking two enemy strongholds at Pointe-Lévy on 27 April. Unable to maintain their positions, the 80 English defenders fired the strongholds and retired to Quebec.
In June, two French detachments were sent to the south shore to bolster the habitants’ morale and to ensure that they would be able to protect themselves. Hertel led the party responsible for the area above Lotbinière. Less than one month later, Murray left Quebec for Montreal with 2,500 men, disarming civilians and forcing the oath of neutrality en route. On 18 July a detachment of 100 of Murray’s men encountered Hertel’s party of 40 at Lotbinière. After the first volley, Hertel’s men fled to the woods, leaving their commander and several other seriously wounded men to be taken prisoner. Later that night, aboard the British frigate Diana, Hertel de Saint-François died of his wounds at the age of 25. The following day, Murray, aware of Hertel’s contributions in the previous 12 months, sent his body to Deschambault on the north shore to receive proper honours. He was buried at Cap-Santé on 19 July.
Because he was at ease among the Indians and at home in the woods young Hertel was able to serve his country well when detached from the main body of troops and left to his own initiative. The return of his body to Cap-Santé was fitting tribute to his stature among seasoned soldiers.
AN, Col., C11A, 104, f.439; D2C, 3; F3, 16, ff.24–25, 101–3. Chicago Historical Society, Oversize documents, La Jonquière à Hertel, 23 oct. 1749. Coll. de manuscrits relatifs à la N.-F., IV, 285. Journal du marquis de Montcalm (Casgrain), 590–91. “Journal du siège de Québec” (Fauteux), APQ Rapport, 1920–21, 179, 233, 257. Knox, Historical journal (Doughty), I, 412; II, 34. “Les ‘papiers’ La Pause,” APQ Rapport, 1933–34, 105–6. Lettres du chevalier de Lévis (Casgrain), 223. Henri Têtu, “M. Jean-Félix Récher, curé de Québec, et son journal, 1757–1760,” BRH, IX (1903), 143. PAC Rapport, 1905, I,