Sieur De Belestre
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François-Marie Picoté, sieur de Belestre II[1] (17 November 1716[2] – 30 March 1793) was an eighteenth-century soldier for both New France and Great Britain.

Belestre fought the British and American colonial troops for 30 years, from Nova Scotia to the Mississippi River valley. Belestre became famous during the wars between France and Great Britain, serving in the North American theater of the Seven Years' War, also known as the French and Indian War (1754-63). He was one of the last officers of New France to surrender to British troops. In 1758, Belestre became the thirteenth and last official French Commandant of Fort Ponchartrain (Fort Detroit). His term ended in 1760 with the end of French rule in Detroit. He returned to Quebec under British rule, and joined the British troops which defended Fort Saint Jean from the American forces in 1775. He became a colonel in the British Army before his death.

François-Marie Picoté de Belestre was born in Lachine, in the French province of Canada on 17 November 1716. In 1738 he married Marie Anne Nivard Saint-Dizier, the daughter of Pierre Nivard Saint-Dizier, in Montreal. They had six children: François-Louis (1739) (ref: Joachime Coulon de Villiers in 1762 in Fort Chartres), Marie-Joseph (1741), Etienne (1742), François-Xavier (1743), Anne (1746) & Marie-Archangel (1748). In 1739, he followed his father into the military, embarking on a career in the Troupes de la marine, the colonial military of New France. He saw service in the Chickasaw Wars and was active in battles against the Iroquois. He was promoted to second ensign in 1741.


1746: He takes Fort Louisburg back from the English.

1747 (May or August until 1748): He was installed in command of Saint-Joseph Fort (ref: Ibid., 116:160 ). Belestre assisted Pierre-Joseph Celoron, Sieur de Blainville, in escorting convoys from Montreal to Detroit.

1749: he is sent to France to provide account of the situation to the Royal Marine Minister. 1749 to 1759: he is given the responsibility to look after and maintain the trade of fur in Michigan.

Note the following date is obviously wrong as the raid took place on June 21, 1752.

1751: he is asked to carry out a punitive raid on Memeskia village (ref: post, 417, 419, 444).

1751 (Fall) to 1752: he is sent to France to be cured of a wound and report of the situation. (A N Colonies C11A 97:198).

1751 (end) or 1752: Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.

1752: he is back in Canada, in charge of Wabash Post (ref: Ibid., 119:316).

1753: On January 29, following the death of his wife, Belestre married Marie Ann Magnan also in Montreal.

1754: He was recommended for promotion to ensign “en pied”. (ref: Ibid, 99:282v.)

1755: Belestre commanded a troop of colonial marines and Indians, decisive in Braddocks defeat. For his contribution to the defeat of Braddocks forces, Belestre was awarded with the Royal Military Order of Saint Louis (Chevalier de St Louis).

1756 (April): Leading a raiding party to the Carolinas, Belestre takes the command of a troop of 20 French, 150 Miami, Ouiatonon & Shawnee (Fort Vause), in the battle of Fort Duquesne (Pittsburg) during which he is wounded in the arm. He participated in Montclam's victory at Fort George in New York, On the same year, Belestre was placed in command of the “Fort de Miami”, where he is lieutenant.

1757: In the summer, he then receives the order to launch a new raid on the English Fort of Cumberland in Virginia, with the troops of the “Marine du Belestre”, with 12 French soldiers, 40 allied natives and 300 men but they were attacked on their way back.

1757 (May 30): Belestre was captured by Edmund Atkyn, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for St George, with a party of Cherokees and British troops. Belestre’s nephew, Philippe Dagneau of Saussaye, St. Ours and three French soldiers are killed.

He was questioned by Atkyn in the presence of Colonel George Washington and George Croghan, Deputy to Sir William Johnson. The history files did not say if he was released or if it is escaped, but he succeeded in finding his way towards Montreal by start of the fall of 1757. On November 28, he takes what remains of his troops –about 300 Canadians and Indians soldiers from Quebec - towards Fort Frontenac (now Kingston, Ontario). They move East towards the Mohawk Valley. Captain Belestre received the order –probably from Vaudreuil, Governor of New France, to attack the Palatine settlement of “German Flats”, where they destroy the place, kill 50 English settlers and make 150 prisoners (men, women and children). (see Attack on German Flatts (1757)) Most of the houses and buildings were burned. Using this “hit and run” tactic, common during this war, the damage caused was important. This last raid was regarded as a considerable victory for France, by the fact that this relatively small team had succeeded in penetrating in a part of what is now New York, without much opposition. They took what remained of the food, horses and cows, which they carried back to Montreal.

1758: and until 1760, Belestre is recorded of holding the rank of Captain and became the 13th official commander of Fort Ponchartrain du Detroit (ref: P R O CO 5, 219-222.), originally founded by Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac in 1701. This happened after the death of the Detroit commandant, Nicholas D'aneau, Sieur de Muy in 1758. Assisted by Pierre Passerat de La Chapelle, he commands a small army in a Fort which was more of a fur center than a military Fort. Because of the great numbers of Indian Allies camped around the fort, it was not considered necessary by the French Army to garrison the post with many troops like it was in the past. But it soon became a warehouse of supplies and equipment for the troops of the North West. 1759: Belestre is made Knight of the Military Order of Saint-Louis in January. As the French settlements in the east started falling to the British Crown, few of the citizens of New France went to Detroit to seek protection. He participated in the French effort to relieve Fort Niagara that same year.

1760: More Colonial Troupes of France are sent to fortify the Fort Detroit Garrison (founded in 1701 and also named Pontchartrain, in honor of Comte de Pontchartrain, Marine Minister of Louis XIV). But in the late summer of 1760, French Governor Vaudreuil surrendered Montreal and the rest of French Canada to the British At that time, all communications with France and the rest of the French troops are broken, and Detroit is totally isolated. Belestre had heard nothing of the French capitulation.

General Amherst ordered Major Robert Rogers to ascend the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes, to take command of Fort Detroit, Michilimackinac and other French forts in the area. Rogers was also given instructions to avoid battle unless necessary. On September 13, 1760, with “two hundred Rangers in fifteen whale-boats” (some archives mention the 60th Royal Americans troops and Rogers' Rangers), Rogers left Montreal.

Approaching Fort Detroit in late November, Rogers sent a runner with a letter for Belestre, notifying him that the western posts now belonged to King George. His messenger explained to Belestre that Rogers had a letter from the Marquis de Vaudreuil and a copy of the capitulation. Belestre got very upset, irritated by the news, and the idea that he could lose his post. Could he trust Rogers, an enemy? No real proofs were given. Four hundred soldiers were stationed at the entrance of the Detroit River to obstruct any further advance from Rogers' troops. Belestre intended to fight and arrested the officer who delivered Rogers' message. Belestre's doubts were reinforced by the fact that no French officers had confirmed the situation in Montreal and he sent messengers to try and find out the truth. The next morning, near to what is now Ecorse city (Michigan), the British troops approached Fort Detroit and Rogers sent Captain Donald Campbell with a small party to Belestre, carrying an official copy of Montreal’s capitulation together with Vaudreuil's letter instructing Belestre to surrender the fort to him. These documents were convincing enough, and Belestre capitulated. On November 29, Rogers took possession of Fort Detroit.

Captain Campbell took over command of the fort, while Belestre and his soldiers were made prisoners of war and sent to Philadelphia in chains, escorted by two officers under the command of Lieutenant Holmes and twenty men. This ended Belestre’s career as a French military officer. He was sent to England, still a prisoner.

Although Belestre was in bitter spirit about the defeat, he was also very disappointed about the French Crown, letting New France and his Acadians down. He then found out that the French government was closed to bankruptcy after the Seven Years War, and had no choice but to stop all fights. He also realised that the party was definitely lost and he became reconciled to British rule. Born American more than French, his aim was to stay in Montreal where he was born, with his family. In 1764, he was released in England and returned to Canada via France, where he then became a highly respected citizen of Quebec.

1767: Belestre was a part of the jury during Thomas Walker’s affair.

24 June 1771: Belestre took part in St. Peter's Lodge (Provincial Grand Lodge of Quebec) as "Premier Surveillant" with Pierre Gamelin. (ref: Historique de la Grande Loge du Québec, Francs-Maçons)

1775: during the American invasion, he was voluntary took up arms again to the defence of his friends of fort Saint-Jean (St John’s fort), on the Richelieu river and was made prisoner of war in Philadelphia.

1776: on May 1, he was named “Grand Voyer” of the Province of Quebec and as recognition for his services in the Revolutionary War, has was made provincial lieutenant-colonel in the Québec Militia on July 12, 1790.

1775: Member of the legislative Council on August 17.

1784: appointed as member of the executive Council.

1789: Some files report that he was in Paris the very same day of the execution of Louis XVI (to verify).

1792: He was decorated with the medal of Saint Helene.

1792 : from January - to March 30 1792 when he became too weak, he was appointed a member to the first Legislative Council of Lower Canada for 3 months.

1793 (March 30): he dies in Montreal, at the age of 76 years and 4 months. He was buried in the parish of Notre-Dame, April 2 193.

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