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CALVIN, DILENO DEXTER – Volume XI (1881-1890)

d. 18 May 1884 at Garden Island, Ont.


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AUGER DE SUBERCASE, DANIEL D’, company captain and garrison adjutant in Canada, governor of Placentia (Plaisance) and then of Acadia; b. 12 Feb. 1661 at Orthez, France, son of Jourdain and Marie (or Madeleine) de Boyrie, baptized there eight days later in the Temple, the Protestant place of worship; buried 20 Nov. 1732 at Cannes (Cannes-Écluse), department of Seine-et-Marne.

The family’s original name was Dauger, later changed to d’Auger. Jean Dauger, a rich merchant and bourgeois of Nay, in Béarn, purchased several noble estates, including the lay abbey of Subercase, near Asson. By virtue of these holdings he was ennobled on 6 July 1616, and sat in the States of Béarn. His two sons, Jean and Jourdain, inherited his domains.

Daniel first served for some ten years in the land forces, and in 1684 was a captain in the Régiment de Bretagne. He entered the Marine shortly afterwards, recruited a company of 50 men for Canada, and was made its commander. No sooner had he landed at Quebec in 1687 than he set off with his contingent on a campaign against the Seneca [see Brisay de Denonville]. In the summer of 1689, at Verdun, he was in command of a flying column of 200 men. After the Lachine attack in August, Subercase wanted to pursue the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee), but Rigaud de Vaudreuil forbade it. The following year he was at Île d’Orléans to prevent a landing by major-general Sir William Phips*. Three years later he was appointed lieutenant-commander, and then promoted garrison adjutant in place of Joseph de Monic, with a gratuity of 500 livres. He showed himself very energetic in this post, but his difficult character gave rise to protracted differences with Louis Tantouin de La Touche, the commissary of the Marine. In 1696, he took part as adjutant general in the expedition led by Governor Buade* de Frontenac against the Onondaga. The governor and the intendant recommended him to the minister, asked that his salary be increased, and sent him to France with their dispatches and a report on the state of the troops. He was back in Canada later that year. On 15 Oct 1700 his name appeared with those of the colony’s principal officers on the list of shareholders of the Compagnie de La Ferme du Roi. On 1 April 1702 he succeeded Monic as governor of Placentia, Nfld, with a salary and gratuity of 1,700 livres. He immediately went to France to settle some personal affairs, and did not take up his post until the following year. Philippe Pastour de Costebelle carried on in his absence.

When he arrived at Placentia Subercase found the settlement in a sorry state. Monic, who had been acting governor for five years, had done nothing but quarrel with his officers. The stockade and platforms of the fort were rotten, and the earthworks were collapsing as a result of the action of the sea. The garrison of 150 men had been haphazardly recruited, they were poorly armed and poorly housed, and many were deserting to the enemy. The civilian population was continually short of food and other supplies, and was exploited by the merchants. Subercase’s first concern was to put the colony’s defences in order. In August 1703, a few weeks after his arrival, Placentia narrowly managed to escape a siege. First two English ships appeared, cruising off the coast. Subercase was able to call in the French fishermen in time, and only a few of their vessels were captured, along with the post at Saint-Pierre. During a raid on Ferryland (Forillon) he took some prisoners, learning from them that a fleet of 33 sail, assembled at St John’s under the command of Admiral John Graydon, was assigned to attack the French post. On 24 August three ships did in fact come and anchor off Petit Plaisance. But the crew of a Saint-Malo boat captured by the English warned them that the post was prepared to resist. Not venturing to attack, the ships were content to lie in wait for the fishing boats. Finally the arrival of two French warships, the Juste and the Hazardous, persuaded them to sail off. With relief, Subercase immediately busied himself with consolidating his positions.

By energetic measures he improved the soldiers’ lives and morale. During the winter, with the help of the settlers, and by using local materials, he had the fortifications rebuilt, and protected them with a dike. He also concerned himself with increasing the food supply by growing cereals to be able to raise and feed poultry, ewes, and other livestock. He had a marsh drained and there set up kitchen-gardens from which he harvested vegetables to feed the settlers. These resources, added to the hauls of fish, partly made up for the inadequate supplies coming from France.

As soon as he had arrived, Subercase had proposed to the court to attack St John’s. The expedition was authorized and prepared in 1704. A party of 100 Canadian and Indigenous men came from Canada under Josué Dubois* Berthelot de Beaucours. With the garrison’s soldiers, their Indigenous allies, the settlers, and fishermen, Subercase had 450 men. Among the officers were Jacques Testard de Montigny and Jacques L’Hermitte, who had been members of the 1696 expedition led by Monbeton de Brouillan and Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville. Delayed by continual rain and supply difficulties, the men did not set out until 8 January 1705. At the same time a brigantine carrying a mortar and bombs sailed to Bay Bulls (Baie des Taureaux). Their progress, in bitterly cold weather, through snow-covered forests traversed by rivers that had to be forded, was extremely laborious. The troops captured Bay Bulls and Petty Harbour (Petit Havre), and on 31 January were a league from St John’s. It had been decided to attempt a surprise attack at dawn on 1 February. But the guides were not familiar with the region, the approaches had not been sufficiently reconnoitred, the distance was greater than had been anticipated, and the difficulty of marching in the snow disorganized the troops. The advance guard arrived alone in sight of the fort, and was received with heavy fire. Subercase fell back upon the port and the houses of the little town, which he occupied, together with two batteries, but he did not dare to attack the fort. He waited 33 days in vain for the arrival of the brigantine. At last he decided to try an escalade, but had to give it up in face of the opposition from militiamen and their Indigenous allies commanded by John Moody and Robert Latham. As the fishing season was approaching, he had to abandon the siege. However, the governor sent Montigny and a party of 70 men to the north of the island to destroy the settlements on Conception and Trinity Bays. With the exception of Carbonear, all the posts as far as Bonavista were destroyed. In all, 1,200 prisoners were taken; they had to be released for want of provisions with which to feed them, and only 80 were brought back to Placentia. The French had spiked or cast overboard 40 cannon, burned one ship, and taken or destroyed 2,000 shallops and 200 wagons. Pillaging yielded only 2,600 livres in cash, but Subercase estimated the losses inflicted on the enemy at 4 millions. This havoc could not, however, disguise the fact that St John’s, at the heart of the enemys resistance, remained intact: the campaign had missed its principal objective. The relative want of success nonetheless earned for Subercase the minister’s congratulations, tempered with a note of regret.

Subercase’s expedition brought a little relief to the colony. The English prisoners were welcome reinforcements for the fishermen, and the morale of the troops was restored in consequence. Subercase, with the help of masons from France, had part of the fort rebuilt in stone. He also encouraged the organizing of privateering crews, made up of Canadians, young adventurers from Placentia, and Micmac from Cape Breton Island. These parties harassed the English settlements by sea and by land. A census of 1705 mentions 450 settlers, distributed throughout the various French posts in Newfoundland. Several settlers, including the governor himself, maintained large fisheries; a few merchants were trading with Canada, and the first steps were being taken to organize agriculture. The governor planned to establish a hospital to look after the sick from the town and from the fishing vessels; he proposed to put the Religious Hospitallers of Quebec in charge, and to provide for its maintenance by imposing a levy of a hundredweight of cod per vessel. Thus, despite the war, the colony gradually grew stronger, although its existence was still precarious. Morale and the quality of life had improved. Finally, a new phenomenon, relations between the governor and the officers were harmonious. Order and peace prevailed in this strangely mixed population composed of soldiers, fishermen, privateers, and Indigenous people. These results were due in large measure to the governor’s energy, courage, and devotion to the king’s service. It was no doubt this meritorious conduct that the court wished to reward in making him a knight of the order of Saint-Louis in 1705, and in granting him, on 10 April 1706, the governorship of Acadia, which had been vacant since Brouillan’s death.

The new governor landed at Port-Royal (Annapolis Royal, N.S.) on 28 October. With his conciliatory attitude he made an excellent impression on Simon-Pierre Denys de Bonaventure, the colony’s administrator, and on Mathieu de Goutin, but he found the colony in a woeful state. Everything was in short supply, and he had to have stockings and shoes for the officers bought secretly in Boston. To meet his needs and those of the administration, he borrowed 1,000 livres and made 6,000 livres worth of card money. The fort, eroded by the rains, caved in in three places. A quarrelsome spirit pervaded the population and the garrison, and the English constantly threatened the colony with their privateers and warships, which cruised unchallenged near the coasts. Reviving the ideas of Brouillan and Bonaventure, Subercase proposed to populate the east coast, build a strong fort there, and even transport the capital there. He requested gifts for the region’s Indigenous people and the appointment of a French officer, Bernard-Anselme d’Abbadie de Saint-Castin, to command them. During the autumn he had the fortifications repaired and the frigate Biche completed, and asked Quebec for a crew and more troops. The following spring Vaudreuil did indeed send him 60 Canadians, both sailors and soldiers. These reinforcements came at the right moment, for on 6 June (26 May, o.s ), the day after their arrival, Colonel John March, coming from Boston with some 20 ships and 1,600 men, appeared at the entry to the Port-Royal basin.

Their numerical superiority gave the assailants cause to hope for an easy victory. But the governor organized the defence energetically: he summoned all the settlers to the fort, sent several parties to harry the enemy, and led several sallies himself. During one assault his horse was killed from under him. These skirmishes caused fairly severe losses to the enemy. However, they had prepared entrenchments, and on 16 June they attempted an assault that was checked by the fort’s artillery. At the same time Saint-Castin, at the head of a band of 35 settlers and Abenaki, succeeded in ambushing a party that was busy setting fire to some houses, and he himself killed 10 or 12 men. This foray, added to the rumour of a big gathering of 300 to 400 settlers and some 100 Abenaki, robbed the besiegers of any courage they had left. They returned to their ships and weighed anchor. The beleaguered fort’s only casualties were one man killed and a few wounded. The assailants had lost 40 to 50 men, but they had wrought considerable havoc by burning down many houses, killing livestock, and uprooting grain and crops.

The respite that followed was of short duration. The governor of Boston, Joseph Dudley, was not prepared to accept the humiliation of this set-back. He persuaded his council to send 600 men to reinforce Colonel March, and ordered him to resume the attack. The fleet, with some additional units, re-appeared before Port-Royal on 20 August and effected a landing on the opposite shore. Colonel Wainwright, a commander under March’s orders, then had encampments set up opposite and above the fort, with the intention of forcing a way through. Subercase immediately sent a party of Indigenous men and settlers who surprised the advance guard, killed six of its men, and took two prisoners. For its part the garrison cannonaded the positions of the enemy so vigorously they were forced to withdraw into the woods. They went down towards their ships, and a large detachment crossed the river. Saint-Castin, posted in that spot with some 60 Abenaki fighters, greeted them with several volleys of musket shot, and slowly retreated, firing as they went, before superior numbers. To prevent an assault on the fort, Subercase went out with 250 men and had solid retrenchments built at the Ruisseau du Moulin (Allain River). Confronting this obstacle the enemy hesitated, and began to fall back. Le Poupet de La Boularderie and Saint-Castin rushed forward with 60 men to cut off their retreat, and accidentally found themselves in the midst of a much larger band which was resting in a field of grain. A sharp hand-to-hand tussle followed, with axes and musket butts, during which La Boularderie and Saint-Castin were wounded, together with some 15 of their companions. The ensign Antoine de Saillans, seriously wounded, died a few days later. On that day alone the enemy had lost 120 men. They remained a few more days without attempting anything, and, as the French were constantly receiving fresh reinforcements from among the settlers and Indigneous people, the English feared they might be taken in the rear, and re-embarked on 1 September. In appreciation of his conduct during these two sieges, Subercase received from the court a gratuity of 2,000 livres, which was later changed into a pension of 600 livres.

The following autumn was rather difficult at Port-Royal. The two sieges had ruined a good number of settlers, for whom the governor vainly sought an indemnity. The supply ship Loire brought no goods. The governor was forced to give his sheets and shirts to the sick and to sell his silver table-service to pay for repairs to the fort. France, sorely tried by reverses in Europe, could not send any substantial reinforcements in 1708–9: the new recruits were mere boys, two-thirds of the muskets exploded in their hands, and the soldiers and officers no longer received their pay. Subercase was fortunately able to obtain the help of privateers from Saint-Domingue, particularly that of Pierre Morpain*, who brought provisions, cloth, and ammunition to Port-Royal. Saint-Castin and the governor himself fitted out ships for privateering and took prizes. But this privateering brought reprisals, and a heavy raid from the direction of Canada, headed by Jean-Baptiste Hertel de Rouville, further alarmed the English colonies. Samuel Vetch and Francis Nicholson went to England to ask for help, and were well received. Subercase, foreseeing fresh attacks, also asked France for assistance. The minister replied that the treasury was empty, and that “the king would abandon the colony if it continues to be such a burden.” Settlers and soldiers had the impression of being forsaken by their king, who no longer even paid his debts. Discontent and discord once again spread like a disease. Clergymen and officers denounced the governor to the court, accusing him of imposing his arbitration in the settlement of lawsuits, misusing his authority, and tolerating libertinage and over-indulgence in intoxicating liquors. On his side Subercase complained of his officers: one of the captains was weak in the head, another was clearly out of his mind; others were dishonest or negligent, the engineer was an eccentric, and the governor declared that he would have “as much need of a madhouse as of barracks.” An epidemic of purpura decimated Port-Royal and was the final blow to the population’s morale.

It was in these circumstances that on 5 Oct 1710 General Francis Nicholson’s fleet appeared before Port-Royal. It comprised a landing force of 2,000 men (3,400 according to Subercase), made up of one regiment of English regulars and four regiments of militiamen raised by Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, who were carried in 36 vessels, 7 of which were warships. Subercase had fewer than 300 men to set against them: about 150 soldiers of the garrison, some 100 militiamen, a few Canadians, and some privateers. France’s Indigenous allies, ill rewarded for their help in the earlier sieges and dissatisfied with the low price offered for their beaver furs, kept their distance. The English disembarked on both sides of the river, and Subercase, unsure of his soldiers, did not dare attempt a sortie for fear that none of the men would return. The English immediately marched on the fort, but brisk artillery fire checked their advance. They had to take cover, dig trenches, and mount batteries – in short, undertake a regular siege. After a few days they succeeded in setting up a battery, sheltered from the French fire, on ground of a different level; from there they cannonaded the fort, and a galliot hurled bombs into it for several nights. This bombardment had a disastrous effect on the morale of the besieged. Charles de Saint-Étienne de La Tour was seriously wounded, and a bomb blew off a corner of the powder magazine. The panic-stricken settlers asked the governor to surrender, and that very evening five soldiers and 50 militiamen deserted. The next day Subercase convened a council of officers, and all were of the opinion that they should ask for a capitulation. On his side, Nicholson sent a summons to surrender. Subercase, while refusing to acknowledge the alleged rights contained in this summons, accepted the principle of a surrender. There was an exchange of hostages and envoys, and the capitulation was discussed and signed on 13 October. This capitulation, a fairly liberal one, granted the honours of war; the governor could retain, at his choice, six cannon and two mortars; the settlers within a radius of three miles, by taking an oath of allegiance, could keep their possessions and remain; otherwise they had two years in which to withdraw. The garrison, made up of 156 soldiers, came out with drums beating and flags flying, dragging a small mortar. Honour was saved, but the sight of these starving soldiers in rags and tatters, many of whom were no more than adolescents, saddened even the victors. As he handed over the keys of the fort to Nicholson, Subercase expressed the hope of returning to pay him a visit the following spring. Colonel Vetch assumed command of the fort, with a garrison of 450 men. The French garrison, the civilian officials, and a few families, amounting to just over 250 persons, sailed for France on three ships; they reached Nantes on 1 December. Subercase, accused of negligence by some officers, and reprimanded by Vaudreuil and the minister, was summoned before a court martial at Rochefort, but rapidly acquitted.

In the first months of 1711, Pontchartrain, belatedly convinced of Acadia’s importance, outlined vague plans for retaking Port-Royal. To this end he wanted to send Subercase to serve at Quebec under Vaudreuil’s orders, while continuing to pay his salary as governor. But Subercase refused in disgust. Two years later the treaty of Utrecht ceded Acadia to England for good. We know little about the years that followed Subercase’s return to France. He retired from the service and lived on his estates in Béarn. In 1716 the minister wrote to François de Beauharnois* de La Chaussaye, asking him to consult Subercase in order to prepare new plans for recapturing Acadia. In 1719 Subercase was living at Jurançon, near Pau. He continued to draw a captain’s pension of 600 livres a year. He was buried on 20 Nov 1732 at Cannes, in the department of Seine-et-Marne. A ledger-stone marks his grave in the village’s church. He had married Marie-Anne Du Bourget and had had one son, for whom, in a letter of 1707, he requested an ensign’s commission. He also had several nephews, one of whom, called the “Chevalier de Subercase,” served for some time under his orders at Placentia before returning to Béarn. Subercase was the last and probably the most remarkable governor of French Acadia.

René Baudry

AN, Col., B, 11–32; C11C, 4–5; C11D, 5–7; Marine, B2, 167, f.122; 223, f.595; Section Outre-Mer, Dépôt des fortifications des colonies, carton 2, nos.67–68; G3, 2053, pièce 14. BN, MS, Clairambault 1307, f.48; Fr. 10207, f.205.

Charlevoix, History (Shea), IV, V. Coll. de manuscrits relatifs à la N.-F., I, II. “Correspondance de Frontenac (1689–99),” APQ Rapport, 1927–28, 1928–29. “Journal of Colonel Nicholson at the capture of Annapolis, 1710,” N.S. Hist. Soc. Coll., I (1878), 59ff. Mémoires des commissaires, II, 340; IV, 444–45; Memorials of the English and French commissaries, I, 627. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), IX, 853, 927. Penhallow, Hist of wars with Eastern Indians (1824), 55, 62ff. PAC Report, 1899, Supp., 26. PRO, B.T. Journal, 1704–1708/9, 1708/9–1714/15. See also the account of the August 1707 attack from the Gazette de France (Paris), 25 Feb. 1708, reproduced at the end of Dièreville’s Relation of voyage to Port Royal (Webster), 318–20.

Brebner, New England’s outpost. La Morandière, Hist. de la pêche française de la morue, I, 491–501, 502–3. Lanctot, Histoire du Canada, II, 144. Lauvrière, La tragédie dun peuple. Parkman, A half-century of conflict, ch.6. Rameau de Saint-Père, Une colonie féodale, I, 329–55. Robert Rumilly, Histoire des Acadiens (2v., Montréal, [1955]), I, 174–91. Waller, Samuel Vetch. “Daniel Auger, sieur de Subercase,” BRH, XVI (1910), 176–81. Robert Le Blant, “Daniel d’Auger de Subercase, Gouverneur de Plaisance, 1703–5,” NF, VII (1932), 1–80; “Dauger de Subercaze,” in DBF; “Nobilière du Béarn,” Revue hist. et archéol. du Béarn, 1940. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Les familles de Sabrevois, Sabrevois de Sermonville et Sabrevois de Bleury,” BRH, XXX (1924), 107. P.-G. Roy, “Daniel Auger de Subercase,” BRH, XXIII (1917), 55.

Bibliography for the revised version:
Arch. Départementales, Pyrénées-Atlantiques (Pau et Bayonne, France), État civil,Orthez, 12 févr. 1661:    (consulted 8 April 2021).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

René Baudry, “AUGER DE SUBERCASE, DANIEL D’,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 18, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/auger_de_subercase_daniel_d_2E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/auger_de_subercase_daniel_d_2E.html
Author of Article:   René Baudry
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1969
Year of revision:   2022
Access Date:   May 18, 2024