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Original title:  Capitaine Jean-Daniel Dumas

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DUMAS, JEAN-DANIEL, officer in the colonial regular troops; b. 24 Feb. 1721 at Montauban, France, son of Samuel Dumas and Anne Martin; d. unmarried on 2 Aug. 1794 at Albias (dept of Tarn-et-Garonne), France.

Having joined the Régiment d’Agenois as a volunteer, in 1742 Jean-Daniel Dumas was named second lieutenant in the grenadier company and the following year, lieutenant. During the War of the Austrian Succession, he served in Bavaria, Italy, and Provence, and in 1747 he was promoted captain. With that rank, but in the colonial regulars, he arrived in Canada three years later. He was sent to Acadia, where an uneasy situation existed because of the failure of the treaty of Utrecht to define the frontiers conclusively [see Jean-Louis Le Loutre]. He rapidly acquired a reputation as a skilful negotiator with the Indians. This was probably why he was posted to Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh, Pa), in the Ohio valley, in 1754. The battle of the Monongahela on 9 July 1755 gave Dumas an opportunity to distinguish himself. When the French commander, Daniel-Hyacinthe-Marie Liénard* de Beaujeu, was killed early in the combat, it was Dumas who took command of the fewer than 900 men, including about 600 Indians, and routed the much larger British force. For this feat he was made a knight of the order of Saint-Louis on 17 March 1756, at 35 years of age. He would have liked, however, to see the decoration accompanied by a promotion; as he wrote to the minister Machault on 24 July 1756, he believed that his victory had been “the salvation of a whole colony” and had enabled France to make allies of Indians friendly to the British. Dumas had created a strong impression on the Indians; entrusted with the command of Fort Duquesne after the victory, he made use of his new position to negotiate alliances with several Indian groups and to organize numerous expeditions against British settlements.

By his services Dumas attracted the esteem and protection of Governor Rigaud de Vaudreuil. In May 1757 he was named town major of Quebec. That year he served under François-Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil and later Montcalm* in the August campaign which would bring the capitulation of Fort William Henry (also called Fort George, now Lake George, N.Y.). He acted as adjutant, administering the affairs of all the militia units, to the great satisfaction of Vaudreuil who claimed that “because of his diligence, our troops, and even our Canadians, yielded nothing to the troupes de terre [French regulars] in the most precise execution of [their] military duties.” On 1 Jan. 1759 Dumas was appointed adjutant general and inspector of the colonial regular troops in Canada. This important promotion permitted him to play an active role in the 1759 and 1760 campaigns.

During the siege of Quebec in 1759 the Lower Town was threatened with destruction by batteries which the British set up at Pointe-Lévy (Lauzon) in July. Under pressure from a number of citizens, Governor Vaudreuil agreed to the recruitment of volunteers to surprise the British by night. Dumas led this raid, and François-Prosper Douglas was second in command. In all, about 1,500 men – militiamen, regulars, townsmen, and even some students-crossed the St Lawrence on the night of 12–13 July. They had scarcely reached the south shore when, believing themselves surrounded by the enemy, they opened fire upon one another. Despite Dumas’s efforts to regroup them, the whole force was seized with panic, and the raid was a complete failure. Shortly after, on the night of 18–19 July, five or six British ships (including a 50-gun ship of the line) under John Rous* sailed past Quebec to cast anchor at Anse des Mères (between Place Royale and Anse au Foulon). Dumas was ordered to follow their movements with 600 men, but he was unable to prevent them from destroying the last fireship, which was being fitted out at Anse des Mères. Nor could he prevent British grenadiers from landing at Pointe-aux-Trembles (Neuville) on 21 July and carrying off more than 200 women and children, who were, however, released the following day. In the battle of the Plains of Abraham on 13 September, Dumas commanded a brigade; after the capture of Quebec he took up position on the Rivière Jacques-Cartier intending with the aid of field works to bar the British advance to Montreal. He spent the winter in this position.

In command of a brigade at the battle of Sainte-Foy on 28 April 1760, Dumas took an active part in the combat, which could have resulted in the recapture of Quebec if help had arrived from France and if the French artillery under Fiacre-François Potot de Montbeillard had not proven much inferior in number and quality to the British. Dumas directed the retreat and with 1,500 men endeavoured to delay Brigadier-General James Murray’s advance on Montreal. In September 1760, after the capitulation, he went to France. His services in Canada had been thought so valuable that Jean de Rigaud de Vaudreuil, Vicomte de Vaudreuil and brother of the governor, observed on 13 Jan. 1761: “If my brother had been aided by everyone as he was by [Dumas], I can assure you that that country would still belong to the king.”

In March 1761 Dumas was promoted to the rank of colonel. In 1765 he was named second in command at Saint-Domingue (Hispaniola), but he did not take up his post, and the following year he received command of he de France (Mauritius) and Île Bourbon (Réunion). In 1768 he was made a brigadier-general of the armies, and that same year he was recalled to France. His stay on he de France had been marked by a sharp conflict with the intendant, Pierre Poivre, and the Conseil Supérieur of the colony, but he vindicated himself fully of the accusations against him and in 1772 received an annual gratuity of 3,000 livres. Two years later he obtained a pension of 7,200 livres for his services, and on 1 March 1780 he was promoted major-general. On several occasions he asked to be allowed to go on active service, but without success.

Possessed of a sense of humour, Dumas was a brave, talented, and experienced officer and was also scrupulously honest. Antoine de Sartine, who at the time of the affaire du Canada headed the commission on the malpractices committed in the colony, acknowledged that “everywhere the Sieur Dumas was in command, expenses diminished by half on the day of his arrival, and upon his departure rose again to their normal level.”

Étienne Taillemite

AMA, SHA, Y3d, 2672. AN, Col., C11A, 102, f.153; 104, ff.177, 180, 275f., 440; 105, ff.16, 20; D2c, 4, f.126; 48, f.309; 59, ff.7, 10; 94, f.10; 181, f.3; E, 153 (dossier Dumas); Marine, B4, 98, f.11v. Bougainville, “Journal” (A.-E. Gosselin), ANQ Rapport, 1923–24, 219, 234, 251, 271, 275. Coll. des manuscrits de Lévis (Casgrain). “Journal du siège de Québec” (Æ. Fauteux), ANQ Rapport, 1920–21, 151, 218. Knox, Hist. journal (Doughty), I, 418–19. “Mémoire du Canada,” ANQ Rapport, 1924–25, 113, 121, 130, 133, 176–77, 189. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), X. Papiers Contrecœur (Grenier), 221. Siège de Québec en 1759 . . . (Québec, 1836; republished in Le siège de Québec en 1759 par trois témoins, J.-C. Hébert, édit. (Québec, 1972), 79, 82–84, 88). Dictionary of Maurician biography, ed. Auguste Toussaint (2v. to date, [Port Louis, Mauritius], 1941- ). Æ. Fauteux, Les chevaliers de Saint-Louis, 161. J.-E. Roy, Rapport sur les archives de France, 1025–27. P.-G. Roy, Les officiers détat-major des gouvernements de Québec, Montréal et Trois-Rivières sous le Régime français (Lévis, Qué., 1919), 88–94. F.-J. Audet, Jean-Daniel Dumas, le héros de la Monongahéla; esquisse biographique (Montréal, 1920). Henri Bourde de La Rogerie, Les Bretons aux îles de France et de Bourbon (Maurice et la Réunion) au XVIIe et au XVIIIe siècle (Rennes, France, 1934), 212, 236, 277. J.-É. Martin-Allanic, Bougainville navigateur et les découvertes de son temps (2v., Paris, 1964).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Étienne Taillemite, “DUMAS, JEAN-DANIEL,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 25, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/dumas_jean_daniel_4E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/dumas_jean_daniel_4E.html
Author of Article: Étienne Taillemite
Title of Article: DUMAS, JEAN-DANIEL
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1979
Year of revision: 1979
Access Date: October 25, 2014