ROQUEMONT DE BRISON, CLAUDE, admiral of the fleet of the Compagnie des Cent-Associés in 1628.
Roquemont, who lived in Paris, was one of the six people to whom Richelieu confided the task of setting up the Compagnie des Cent-Associés, and he signed the act creating it immediately after the cardinal, 29 April 1627. Shortly afterwards war broke out between France and England, but the king nevertheless forced the company to dispatch a group of settlers in 1628. The Cent-Associés fitted out four ships (Estourneau, Magdeleine, Suzanne and one other), and the over-all command was entrusted to Roquemont. About 400 persons embarked, including a large number of settlers, “the flower of the youth of Normandy.” One of the ships, which was carrying supplies for Acadia, was commanded by Claude de Saint-Étienne de La Tour.
The fleet sailed from Dieppe 28 April 1628, followed by a supply ship that the Jesuit Philibert Noyrot had chartered, and by fishing-boats which sailed under its protection. Escaping at the moment of departure from two ships from La Rochelle (this city was at the time at war against the king), the fleet reached the Grand Banks after five or six weeks, then Anticosti Island where a cross was set up. At Gaspé Roquemont learned of the presence of English ships in the St. Lawrence: he unloaded “a number of sacks of flour” in order to lighten his ships in the event of a battle, sent Thierry Desdames to inform Champlain of his arrival and, instead of remaining in safety in some port, he tried to go up the river under cover of mist.
The English fleet, commanded by the Kirke brothers, moved in to attack 18 July, somewhere near Tadoussac. The fight lasted about 15 hours, during which, it appears, “1200 gun salvoes” were fired; then, as he was running short of ammunition, Roquemont had to capitulate. The French had lost only two men and Roquemont had been wounded in the leg. The English seized the ships and their cargoes; the Kirkes kept as prisoners Roquemont, Raymond de La Ralde, the captains, the Jesuit and Recollet missionaries and “the most important Frenchmen” in order to furnish proof in England of the capture of the fleet and also in the hope of obtaining ransom for them. The Recollets and some of the French who before being captured had been going to settle in Canada were released a short time afterwards. The rest of the passengers received permission to return to France on a ship which the Kirkes left them.
The Jesuit Noyrot’s ship had managed to escape before the battle and return to France. The first expedition of the Compagnie des Cent-Associés was annihilated. Not only was Roquemont himself lost, wrote Champlain, “but he left the whole country in ruins, and nearly a hundred persons, men, women and children, to die of hunger, and who would be obliged to abandon the fort and the habitation to the first enemy, as experience has shown.” According to Champlain, Roquemont should have resorted more to ruse in order first of all to assure the safety of the colony, and should have shown prudence rather than bravery; but “too much courage led him to risk battle.” Roquemont was entrusted with no other command by the Compagnie des Cent-Associés, whose documents from that time on make no further mention of him.
AN, Col., C11A, 1, ff.107–14; E, 95, doc. 5, f.95. BN, ms Fr. 16738, f.147r. Champlain, Works (Biggar), V, 287–96. Du Creux, History (Conacher), I, 34, 39, 41–43, 47. Édits ord., I, 6, 11, 18–20. Sagard, Histoire du Canada (Tross), IV, 852. Dionne, Champlain, II, 187–93, 336.