LORIMIER DE LA RIVIÈRE, CLAUDE-NICOLAS DE, officer in the colonial regular troops; baptized 22 May 1705 at Lachine, near Montreal, son of Guillaume de Lorimier* de La Rivière and of Marie-Marguerite Chorel de Saint-Romain, dit d’Orvilliers; buried 15 Dec. 1770 at Lachine.
Claude-Nicolas de Lorimier de La Rivière had a military career similar to that of his father, who died when he was four years old: second ensign in 1726; ensign, 1733; lieutenant, 1741; and captain, 1749. On 7 Jan. 1730 he married Marie-Louise, daughter of Michel Lepailleur* de Laferté and Catherine Jérémie, dit Lamontagne – over the next 21 years they had ten children of whom eight survived into adulthood, the boys in their turn following their father into the army.
Lorimier probably spent a good part of his first 30 years’ service in the west. In 1757, as liaison officer with Indian auxiliaries accompanying Montcalm’s army, he had particular responsibility for the Ojibwa warriors. Such a role seems to indicate a familiarity with that nation gained through being stationed at Michilimackinac or one of its dependencies. In 1749 he had been touted for a command in that lucrative country, but his posting on promotion to captain apparently put him in charge of the garrison at Lac des-Deux-Montagnes (Oka, Que.) instead. When large-scale hostilities against the Anglo-Americans began in 1755, he was made commandant of Fort La Présentation (Oswegatchie, now Ogdensburg, N.Y.).
La Présentation was a Six Nations mission village and recruiting office; it provided a listening post among the Iroquois; it was a way-station, storehouse, and defensive position halfway between Montreal and Fort Frontenac (Kingston, Ont.); and it was a base for incursions against targets in the Albany-Oswego area. The establishment – its Indian population was about 500 in 1756 – had been inaugurated only six years previously by Father François Picquet*, an energetic Sulpician who brooked assistance with no greater grace than he did interference.
Although his command was small – between 20 and 30 men – Lorimier was involved in sensitive operations. For example, in 1756 he expedited the passage of the force under Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros* de Léry that blew up Fort Bull (Oneida Lake, N.Y.) with its supplies; in the reconnaissance force that kept up pressure on Oswego during the spring and summer of 1756, he seems to have commanded the left column’s rearguard. Information affecting the security of Canada’s western empire often arrived first at La Présentation, where Lorimier would make initial evaluation and response, and transmit it to higher authority.
The commandant’s sharing of authority with Abbé Picquet was uncomfortable. According to Bougainville*, it was Picquet who drilled the Indians in military exercises: “There is in the fort a captain of colonial troops as commander, but both inside and out all real authority is ecclesiastical.” In 1757, serious jurisdictional disputes having estranged the two men, Picquet was withdrawn. However, the Indians at La Présentation petitioned for the priest’s return in February 1758, and complained about having Lorimier as their official contact with the French. Bougainville put the question: “Is it necessary to put French garrisons in the Indian missions, or leave their conduct solely to the missionaries?” “Altercations between the missionary and the commandant,” wrote Montcalm, had been “detrimental to the King’s service . . . the best thing to do would be to have neither commandant nor garrison. Should the English come there in force, the little garrison will be no defence, and the Indians will be sure to keep out of the way. If the English should come with only a small raiding party, the Indians are enough. This would be the advice of Abbé Picquet and he is right; but the Marquis de Vaudreuil [Pierre de Rigaud*] thinks differently.”
Fort Frontenac’s destruction in August 1758 brought for the first time a strong possibility that the enemy would move down the St Lawrence River towards Montreal. Picquet was sent back to La Présentation. “It is certain that he himself formed this establishment, [and] that since his departure affairs have gone badly there,” wrote Bougainville. Lorimier was recalled and replaced as military commander by Antoine-Gabriel-François Benoist*.
Recall terminated the most independent and important appointment Lorimier ever held. The blow was softened when he received the cross of the order of Saint-Louis in January 1759. His participation in the last of New France’s great battles was honourable too, his name appearing among the wounded at Sainte-Foy.
Lorimier was part of a genteel yet active military tradition that reached back from his sons to their grandfather. The fact that his main business was soldiering did not prevent him from dabbling in other business as well. Accused of complicity in Intendant Bigot*’s ring of swindlers, he was acquitted; his certified claim of 1,716 livres against the French government was put forward in 1763, and ignored like all the others. The ill wind of conquest, which demolished traditions, hurt creditors, and destroyed careers, had affected his fortunes also. He may have survived to concentrate on trading activities and seems to have been in the Ohio country about 1769.
PAC, MG 24, L3, 3. PRO, WO 34 (copies at PAC). Bougainville, Journals (Hamilton); “Journal” (Gosselin), APQ Rapport, 1923–24, 202–393. “Correspondance de Vaudreuil,” APQ Rapport, 1939–40, 436. Journal du marquis de Montcalm (Casgrain). Lettres du marquis de Vaudreuil (Casgrain). “Mémoire sur les postes du Canada adressé à M. de Surlaville, en 1754, par le chevalier de Raymond,” APQ Rapport, 1927–28, 324, 339, 347–48. Papiers Contrecœur (Grenier). É.-Z. Massicotte, “La famille de Lorimier,” BRH, XXI (1915), 10–16. Louvigny [Testard] de Montigny, “Le Lorimier et le Montigny des Cèdres,” BRH, XLVII (1941), 33–47.