LA PORTE DE LOUVIGNY, LOUIS DE, lieutenant in France and in Canada, captain in the colonial regular troops, commander of western posts, sub-lieutenant in the navy, town major of Trois-Rivières and of Quebec, knight of the order of Saint-Louis, commander-in-chief of the pays d’en haut, governor of Trois-Rivières; b. c. 1662, either in Paris or in Le Mans; lost at sea 27 Aug. 1725.
The son of Jean de La Porte and Françoise Faucrolle or Foucrelle, he is sometimes confused with Lussigny, who was a member of Buade* de Frontenac’s guards in the 1670s. Louvigny, however, arrived in New France only in 1683. Prior to that date he had served as a subordinate officer in the Régiment de Navarre for six years.
War between New France and the Iroquois was breaking out when Louvigny arrived in the colony, and in the years that followed he distinguished himself on several expeditions against these Indians. He soon impressed Governor Denonville [Brisay] who recommended him for a promotion and sent him on a mission to Hudson Bay in 1688. The following year Frontenac returned to Canada and one of his first acts was to send Louvigny to Michilimackinac with 170 men, with orders to reinforce that post and to relieve the commandant, Morel de La Durantaye. The governor claimed that this change of command was necessary to prevent the Ottawa Indians from coming to terms with the Iroquois, but the intendant, Bochart de Champigny, thought otherwise. He claimed that La Durantaye was an excellent officer, who had matters well in hand at Michilimackinac, whereas Frontenac’s appointee was a fur-trader by instinct. The real reason for the latter’s appointment, according to the intendant, had been his willingness to pay Frontenac’s secretary 500 livres annually in return for the command of the post. Whatever truth there may be in this account, Louvigny turned out to be an able commandant. When he asked to be relieved in 1694, in order to go to France to attend to family matters, Champigny as well as Frontenac warmly commended him for his services.
On 7 Nov. 1699, Louvigny, now a captain and considered one of the colony’s best soldiers, was named commanding officer of Fort Frontenac. In the winter that followed, he and his garrison engaged in the fur trade with the Iroquois, thus violating the edict of 1696 that forbad commerce at the western posts. This blunder could have cost him his career. He was immediately placed under arrest by order of Governor Callière and it was only at Champigny’s insistence that the case be heard by the Conseil Souverain that he avoided trial by court martial. Impressed by his defence and by the Iroquois’ plea that he be shown mercy, the Conseil Souverain rendered no verdict but sent Louvigny to France to let the king decide his fate. There he was deprived of the position of town major of Trois-Rivières, which he had recently acquired, but he did not long remain out of favour. On 1 June 1703, he was appointed town major of Quebec.
Louvigny’s ability and his influence over the Indians were clearly recognized soon after his return to the colony. In 1705, a group of Ottawas had attacked a Seneca hunting party near Fort Frontenac, killed several of their number, and carried off others as prisoners to Michilimackinac. Unless the Iroquois were promptly offered reparation, the peace treaty they had concluded with New France and her Indian allies in 1701 could well be jeopardized. The new governor, Philippe de Rigaud de Vaudreuil, chose Louvigny to go to Michilimackinac to free the prisoners and to bring the offending Ottawas back to Montreal for a meeting with the Senecas. The success of this mission helped Louvigny to establish himself as one of the governor’s principal lieutenants. On Vaudreuil’s recommendation, he was granted the coveted cross of the order of Saint-Louis in 1708 and was also chosen to command at Michilimackinac when this important post, abandoned by royal order since 1696, was re-established in 1712.
Circumstances delayed Louvigny’s return to the west until 1716, the year in which he became king’s lieutenant. At that time a military campaign had become necessary to subjugate the Fox Indians, whose war on the French and their allies had badly disrupted the fur trade. A first expedition against them having failed in 1715, a second was organized the following year and placed under Louvigny’s command. It was made up of some 400 coureurs de bois and a like number of Indian volunteers, the very elements whose unruly behaviour had been largely responsible for the failure of the preceding campaign. With Louvigny commanding, however, the army moved swiftly and in good order from Montreal, by way of Michilimackinac and Detroit, to Baie des Puants (Green Bay), where the Fox stronghold was located. With the aid of saps and mortars they weakened the fortifications and forced the enemy to sue for peace. This feat of arms restored tranquillity in the west and so impressed the court that it granted the commander a gratuity of 3,000 livres.
Louvigny had now become a prominent and influential figure in New France. He was no longer simply a subordinate carrying out orders but also participated in policy making. He advised Vaudreuil on the location of the posts that were founded in the west between 1716 and 1721 and also wrote several important memoirs on the policy the French should follow in the interior. In 1720, the position of commander-in-chief of the pays d’en haut was specially created for him. The duties consisted in carrying out biennial inspection tours of the western posts to coordinate the activities of the commanding officers and to prevent the brandy trade. The problem of financing such lengthy voyages, however, prevented him from ever exercising these functions.
In 1724, during a visit to France, Louvigny was named governor of Trois-Rivières. Unfortunately, he did not live to take up his post. The Chameau, aboard which he was returning to the colony, struck a reef and sank off Cape Breton with no survivors. Louvigny left his wife, Marie Nolan, whom he had married in Quebec on 26 Oct. 1684, three daughters and one son. Six other children had died in infancy. Both Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix] and Governor Beauharnois* de La Boische implored the court to come to the assistance of this family which had been left in complete penury by the death of the father.
Louvigny had been an outstanding officer. After his misadventure at Fort Frontenac he became a devoted and high-minded servant of New France. As one of Vaudreuil’s close counsellors he also helped to shape the course of French western policy during the first quarter of the 18th century.
AJQ, Greffe de Pierre Duquet, 26 oct. 1684. AN, Col., B, 13, 16, 22, 23, 25, 29, 32, 33, 34, 37, 38, 39, 42; C11A, 8–48; C11G, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8; D2C, 47; F3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Charlevoix, Histoire. “Correspondance de Frontenac (1689–99),” APQ Rapport, 1927–28, 1928–29. “Correspondance de Vaudreuil,” APQ Rapport, 1938–39, 1939–40, 1942–43, 1946–47, 1947–48. Jug. et délib., IV. Wis. State Hist. Soc. Coll., XVI.
F.-É. Audet, Les premiers établissements français au pays des Illinois; la guerre des Renards (Paris, 1938). Kellogg, French régime. P.-G. Roy, La famille de La Porte de Louvigny (Lévis, 1938). “M. de Louvigny était-il protestant?” BRH, XX (1914), 380–82.
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