BENOIST, ANTOINE-GABRIEL-FRANÇOIS, officer; b. 6 Oct. 1715 in Paris, France, son of Gabriel Benoist and Françoise de Trevet; m. 11 Nov. 1743 in Montreal (Que.) Marie-Louise, daughter of Captain Jacques Le Ber de Senneville; d. 23 Jan. 1776 at Bourges, France.
Antoine-Gabriel-François Benoist entered the army as a cadet in 1734 and left France the following year to serve in Canada. In 1739 he took part in the campaign led by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne* de Bienville, governor of Louisiana, against the Chickasaws. Made a second ensign on 1 April 1741, he was promoted ensign in 1745. He served as adjutant under François-Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil in northern New York during the summer of 1747. Benoist then spent some time at Fort Saint-Frédéric (near Crown Point, N.Y.) and in 1748 was named adjutant in Montreal. Promoted lieutenant on 1 May 1749, he was sent to France in October to raise recruits. On his return he resumed his duties as adjutant. In 1752 he was appointed commandant of Fort du Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes (Oka, Que.), and the following year he was sent to participate in Paul Marin* de La Malgue’s expedition to the Ohio valley. In 1754 he was posted to command Fort de La Présentation (Oswegatchie, now Ogdensburg, N.Y.); he replaced Alexandre Dagneau Douville at Fort de la Presqu’île (Erie, Pa) in 1755. In the spring of 1757 he was recalled to Montreal, promoted captain, and sent to Fort Saint-Jean (Que.). He was, with the army under Montcalm* at the siege of Fort William Henry (also called Fort George, now Lake George, N.Y.) in August.
The fall of Fort Frontenac (Kingston, Ont.) in August 1758 endangered several French posts in the region, particularly Niagara (near Youngstown, N.Y.), and the fort had to be reoccupied as soon as possible. Benoist was appointed its commandant in the autumn of 1758 and tried to make the site more secure. But the fort was too badly damaged for a garrison to be stationed in it for the winter, and Benoist was ordered to fall back to Fort de La Présentation; there he was to replace Claude-Nicolas de Lorimier* de La Rivière as commander. At that moment La Présentation was also strategic in the defence of the colony; his assignment to the post was certainly a mark of confidence, fully warranted by the reputation he had gained during his years of service. Montcalm considered him an “officer of real merit” and an “honest man.” Louis-Antoine de Bougainville* even said that he was “the most upright man in the colony and that to honesty, [he added] knowledge, vision, and zeal.” In November 1758 Benoist assumed his new duties, taking charge at the same time of the post at Pointe-au-Baril (Maitland, Ont.), where construction of ships for transport and defence on Lake Ontario was under way [see Louis-Pierre Poulin* de Courval Cressé]. Because Benoist feared a British attack the following spring, Governor Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil sent out the military engineer Pierre Pouchot*. To speed the ship-building, Pouchot assumed temporary command of the two posts and then sailed for Fort Niagara at the end of April. During the summer of 1759 Benoist took part in the attack led by Louis de La Corne*, known as the Chevalier de La Corne, against Chouaguen (Oswego) and was wounded in the thigh by a gunshot. His wound took more than a year to heal, and it ended his participation in the Seven Years’ War.
Benoist returned to France after the conquest and in March 1761 was made a knight of the order of Saint-Louis and given a pension of 900 livres. He came back to the colony in 1763 to get his family and then returned to France to live in Bourges. The abilities he had displayed in his years of service in Canada, and above all his integrity, had made him deeply appreciated by his superiors. At the time of the affaire du Canada, in the early 1760s, Benoist appeared before the court at the Châtelet and submitted a long report to the commission of enquiry giving his reflections on Canada. The author of his military dossier noted: “His sense of honour obliged him to reveal information that was troublesome and that perhaps formed the basis for judgement in a notorious trial, but in giving evidence he showed, with his customary gentleness and decency, the consideration due to those who are to be pitied as they enter upon misfortune.” At his death the intendant of the province of Berry, Nicolas Dupré de Saint-Maur, reminded the minister of “the exemplary conduct the Sieur de Benoist maintained in the various posts he held.” The intendant and the archbishop of Bourges, Georges-Louis Phélipeaux d’Herbault, recommended Benoist’s widow, who was without means, to the benevolence of the king; she was granted a pension of 600 livres.
AD, Cher (Bourges), État civil, Saint-Outrille-du-Château, 24 janv. 1776. AN, Col., E, 26 (dossier Benoist). PAC, MG 18, K4. Bougainville, “Journal” (A.-E. Gosselin), ANQ Rapport, 1923–24, 254, 373. Coll. des manuscrits de Lévis (Casgrain), I, 167–68, 171; IV, 156; V, 143, 281, 292, 295, 303, 305, 308; VII, 134, 481, 484, 491, 500–1, 509, 548, 568; XI, 218. “Mémoire du Canada,” ANQ Rapport, 1924–25, 143–45. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), X, 302, 953. Papiers Contrecœur (Grenier). Royal Fort Frontenac (Preston and Lamontagne), 80, 468. Æ. Fauteux, Les chevaliers de Saint-Louis, 188. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire. [François Daniel], Histoire des grandes familles françaises du Canada, ou aperçu sur le chevalier Benoist, et quelques familles contemporaines (Montréal, 1867).