Sieur d'Iberville

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Sieur d'Iberville

Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville (1661-1706), was a French soldier, naval captain, and adventurer. He harried the British forces in North America and laid the foundations for Louisiana.

Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'iberville, was born in July 1661 at Montreal, Quebec. Son of a wealthy fur trader ennobled for valiant service, Pierre grew up on the frontier and spent much of his youth voyaging across the Atlantic on his father's supply ship.

In 1686 Iberville accompanied the overland expedition, led by Pierre de Troyes, which captured three Hudson's Bay Company posts in James Bay. Given command of the area in 1688, Iberville defeated an English attempt to recapture the posts. With 16 Canadians he captured 85 Hudson's Bay Company men and returned to Quebec with a rich haul of furs. He suffered defeat on another front, however. In 1688 the Sovereign Council at Quebec found him guilty in a paternity suit.

In February 1690 Iberville was second in command of the Canadian war party that destroyed Schenectady. By 1694 the English had driven the French out of Hudson Bay. Iberville returned to capture York Fort in October 1694, but after his departure the English once again seized control.

During these years Iberville also harried the English unmercifully in Newfoundland and along the Atlantic coast. Then, in 1697, he was sent back to Hudson Bay. In his one ship of 44 guns he engaged three English men-of-war, sank one, and captured another. At that the English governor of Hudson Bay was constrained to surrender. Leaving his brother Serigny in command, Iberville went to France, never to return to these ice-clogged waters.

Founding of Louisiana

When Louis XIV decided to establish a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi, Iberville was given command. In 1699 he established Ft. Maurepas in Biloxi Bay, and on his return to France he was awarded the Cross of the Order of St. Louis. The following year he established a fort at Mobile, then he began welding the Indian nations of the region into a commercial and military alliance to contain the English colonies.

In 1705 Iberville was given command of a naval expedition to harass the English in the West Indies. His forces captured Nevis in April 1706 and laid waste to the island. Before he could assault other of the enemy-held islands, he was struck down by fever and died aboard his flagship at Havana on July 9, 1706.

Throughout his career Iberville had unscrupulously availed himself of every opportunity to put money in his purse. He bequeathed a sizable estate to his widow and five children, but the Crown demanded restitution of 112,000 livres acquired during his last campaign. He was, however, one of the outstanding men of his age.

Further Reading

A biography in English of Iberville is Nellis M. Crouse, Lemoyne d'Iberville: Soldier of New France (1954). For historical background see W. J. Eccles, Canada under Louis XIV, 1663-1701 (1964). □