Fortune and La Tour:
The Civil War in Acadia
by M. A. MacDonald
This great book was the seed that inspired me to write
The Conquest of Canada.
Fortune and La Tour is the story of the momentous and fateful
adventures of Charles La Tour, his young wife, Marie Jacquelin,
and his father, Claude. Far from being just history, it’s an exciting
documentary that holds the reader in suspense as well as any novel.
Charles La Tour was a major player in Acadie in the 1600s. His father
was somewhat of a rogue whose family had fallen on hard times. But
Claude had dropped the family name “Turgis” in favour of “La Tour”, which
he thought more noble sounding, and indeed, he managed to marry into the
Charles was just a boy when his father took him to Port Royal, where Jean
de Biencourt had built a habitation. Biencourt was a man of vision and had
plans to dyke the Port Royal marshlands, which he knew would be superb
farming country. He planned to bring over poor peasants from France. Biencourt
had excellent relations with the Mik’maq. A few years earlier, also at
Port Royal, Samuel de Champlain, another great visionary, had organized the
Order of Good Cheer.
Baron Biencourt sold everything he had in France to build Port Royal. It had
to work or he was finishe. There was no more money. To bring out needed supplies
and trade goods, Biencourt needed help. He allied himself to the beautiful
courtesan, Antoinette de Pons, Marquise of Guerchville, a fervent supporter of
the Jesuits. Antoinette advanced the monies he needed. It was the Jesuits’
understanding that, in exchange, they would be able to establish missions in
Acadie, and perhaps have some say in what went on at Port Royal.
BInstead, hostilities developed between Biencourt and the Jesuits. The Biencourts
wanted the natives to be converted to Christianity quickly, so that they would
have lists of converts to show to the zealots back home, hoping that more money
would be forthcoming. The Jesuits saw this for what it was and refused to
cooperate. Relations deteriorated to such a point that the Jesuits were
ultimately confined to the habitation's attic. When they tried to escape they
In 1613 Port Royal was destroyed by the Jamestown pirate Samuel Argall,
later Governor Argall of Virginia. Argall sent some of the Jesuits back to
France in a rowboat (they made it back). But one of them,
Father Pierre Biard, Argall took with him; first to Jamestown, where
Father Biard was threatened with hanging; and then to the Bay of Fundi,
where Father Biard was supposed to show the pirates the way to Port Royal.
Argall did find the way, whether with or without Father Biard’s help.
At Port Royal, Argall took the cattle and the furniture and then set fire to
the buildings. From the surrounding hills, Charles La Tour and his men, just
returning from hunting, saw the habitation ablaze. And they saw Father Biard
among the Jamestown pirates. To the end of his life Father Biard
would swear that he had not helped Argall find his way into the Bay of Fundi
and through the Gut to Port Royal. But Charles and the other Port Royal men
would forever be convinced of his guilt. He did it, they said, to save
himself from hanging.
The Jesuits would not return to Acadie for many years. In the meantime,
Charles La Tour learned the Mik’maq language, adopted native ways,
married a Mik'maq, and was elected Grand Saqmaw by their council. For
years, as the successor to the Biencourts, Charles governed Acadie without
recognition and without adequate support from France. In the meantime, he and
his father were engaged in the beaver trade, living in the woods with Mik’maq.
Eventually, they built a stronghouse at Cape Sable, which they kept well hidden
The problem that would dog the French in the 1600- and 1700-hundreds, and
ultimately doom their efforts to gain control of the continent, was that
Frenchmen, as a rule, would not emigrate. There were only about twenty
men at Cape Sable. With their native allies they were trying to hold
vast Acadie for France against poachers, fishermen, and pirates of
many nations, some of whom were beginning to settle in the new land.
Charles built a fort on the St.John river and sent to France for a
wife—his native wife, with whom he had three little girls, had died.
His new wife, Marie Jacquelin, joined him at the St. John fort. She was thirty
Then began some of the most incredible events of this story. An
aristocrat named d’Aulnay was sent out from France to govern part of the
territory. Charles was initially given the St.John area. But d’Aulnay intended
to have the whole of Acadie for himself, and soon there was war between the two
men. Charles was imprisoned for a while at Port Royal, now rebuilt by d’Aulnay.
Once free, Charles sailed to Boston. Founded in 1630, Boston was a metropolis
compared to anything in Acadie or Canada. La Tour persuaded the governing council
there that he was the rightful governor of Acadie and that d’Aulnay was a usurper.
He may also have persuaded the Boston council that he had Protestant sympathies.
La Tour returned home leading a fleet of warships from Boston and he gave
d’Aulnay a sound drubbing. D’Aulnay responded by attacking the fort at the mouth
of the St. John River. Unfortunately, Charles was in France at the time and
Marie Jacquelin herself had to marshal the workmen and soldiers to defend the fort.
By all accounts her efforts were heroic. But tragedy ensued, and also some surprising
turns of fate ...
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