By Cyril Bambrick.          

        One of the most colourful and interesting individuals to visit Plaisance in the 17th century was a soldier and author, who, through his actions, assisted in the defence of the settlement and in so doing prevented the English from capturing the town and, with it, control of the south coast fisheries.  The eldest son of Isaac de Lom d’Arce, Louis-Armand de Lom d’Arce de Lahontan was born in France in June 1666.  Lahontan allegedly arrived in Canada in 1683 as part of a contingent of colonial troops sent from La Rochelle.  For the next 10 years he travelled throughout New France (in what is now Quebec, Ontario and Michigan) on various military campaigns and hunting expeditions. In 1690, he left for France as an emissary of Governor Frontenac to report on the defeat of the Phips expedition against New France. Having been promoted to captain of a company in Canada, he returned to Quebec in September 1691.

             In 1692, Lahontan resubmitted to Governor Frontenac a proposal for the defence of the western frontier of New France.  Frontenac liked the proposal and ordered Lahontan to France to present the plan at court. To that end, he sailed from Quebec on the Sainte-Anne on 27 July 1692. The Sainte-Anne put into Plaisance on 18 August, where it had to await the end of the fishing season in order to convoy the Basque fishing fleet back to France. On 14 September, only days before Lahontan’s intended departure, news arrived that five English ships had been sighted off Cape St. Mary’s. The very next day, the English arrived off Plaisance.  As a precaution, Governor Brouillan sent Lahontan and 60 Basque fishermen to La Fontaine cove in order to prevent a landing there.  On the 17th, several hundred English attempted a landing, but were forced back.  The following day, Philippe Pastour de Costebelle and Lahontan were received aboard the English flagship to arrange an exchange of prisoners and to discuss terms of surrender.  The French refused to surrender; the next day, the English ships arranged themselves in a line formation and began to bombard the fort.  The French put up a strong resistance and, after five or six hours, the English vessels withdrew.  Their vessels were damaged and they suffered six fatalities.  French casualties consisted of an officer having his arm shot off.

             Lahontan finally reached France on 23 October. The French court rejected Lahontan’s idea for fortifying the frontier, but his conduct during the defence of Plaisance earned him a promotion to King’s Lieutenant. This entitled him to a command of a company of 100 men.  Upon his return to Plaisance, Lahontan was badly received by Brouillan, who was jealous of his new appointment.  Disagreements arose between the two men: Brouillan charged Lahontan with dereliction of duty, while Lahontan accused Brouillan of profiteering and inhumane treatment of his men.  Lahontan composed songs that mocked the governor, and things finally came to a head when Brouillan’s men entered Lahontan’s residence and destroyed his belongings.  Fearing for his life, Lahontan paid a ship’s captain 1000 écus to carry him to Europe.

             Fearing arrest and imprisonment if he returned to France, Lahontan took refuge in Portugal, from which he began years of travel throughout Europe in search of employment.  In 1697, he asked for reinstatement to his former command in the “pays des Outaouais” (land of the Ottawas) but was turned down.  His published accounts of his life in North America proved to be extremely popular throughout Europe. Subsequent generations would use them as a valuable resource for the history of New France and Plaisance.  Lahontan is believed to have died in 1715.

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