Adam Dollard des Ormeaux

Adam Dollard des Ormeaux, soldier, French colonist (born 23 July 1635 in France; died in May 1660 near Carillon, in New France). Adam Dollard des Ormeaux was the garrison commander in Ville-Marie­. He led a group of French fighters and their Algonquin and Huron-Wendat allies against the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) at the battle of Long Sault. Adam Dollard des Ormeaux has long been considered both a hero and a martyr who sacrified himself in the defence of Ville-Marie. Recent studies, however, have cast doubt on how heroic his conduct actually was.

Adam Dollard des Ormeaux, soldier, French colonist (born 23 July 1635 in France; died in May 1660 near Carillon, in New France). Adam Dollard des Ormeaux was the garrison commander in Ville-Marie­. He led a group of French fighters and their Algonquin and Huron-Wendat allies against the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) at the battle of Long Sault. Adam Dollard des Ormeaux has long been considered both a hero and a martyr who sacrified himself in the defence of Ville-Marie. Recent studies, however, have cast doubt on how heroic his conduct actually was.
Dollard des Ormeaux

Emigration to New France

Little is known about Adam Dollard des Ormeaux’s life in France. He probably had military training, as well as a leadership role in the French army prior to emigrating to North America. (See Population Settlement of New France.) He would have arrived in Ville-Marie in 1658 at the age of 22. In 1659, he was the commander of the garrison in Ville-Marie, sharing this post with Pierre Picoté de Belestre. He was given approximately 30 acres of land by Paul de Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve.

Battle of Long Sault

According to the traditional account of the Battle of Long Sault, Adam Dollard des Ormeaux assembled an armed party to intercept the Haudenosaunee warriors who were threatening Ville-Marie. The group consisted of 16 French volunteers, 40 Huron-Wendat and 4 Algonquins. ( See Indigenous-French Relations.)

The Huron-Wendat were led by Chief Annahotaha. Most were loyal to the French and accustomed to combat with the Haudenosaunee. The four Algonquins (also seasoned warriors) were led by Chief Witiwiweg. The French volunteers under the command of Adam Dollard des Ormeaux were, however, much less experienced.


In the spring of 1660, the Huron-Wendat warriors left Quebec City and joined their Algonquin allies in Trois-Rivières. They set off toward Ville-Marie to rendezvous with the French, who were aware that the Haudenosaunee were leaving their winter hunting grounds in the north and proceeding south down the banks of the Ottawa River. The Jesuit Relations describe how the French and their Indigenous allies decided to intercept the Haudenosaunee before they could reach the St. Lawrence Valley. (See St. Lawrence Lowland.)

After ten days of canoeing, they found a location from which to ambush the Haudenosaunee. Having been spotted, the group took refuge in an abandoned Algonquin fort. The Haudenosaunee tried to negotiate with the French and their Indigenous allies. The Huron-Wendat and Algonquins (who were more experienced than the French) encouraged negotiation, but the French did not trust the Haudenosaunee and thought it was a trick.

The abandoned fort was little more than a simple palisade. It was probably located along the Ottawa River, approximately midway between Ottawa and Montreal. The exact location of the battle is unknown, but it is thought to have taken place near Carillon.

The Haudenosaunee laid siege to the French and their allies for ten days. During that time, nearly 500 Oneidas and Kanien’keha:ka (Mohawks) joined the 200 Onondagas in battle. The fighting was fierce, but the French and their Indigenous allies had the advantage of firearms, the fort, and their military experience. The Huron-Wendat even displayed the severed head of an Onondaga chief on the palisade wall to mock their adversaries.

When the situation for the defenders took a turn for the worse, Chief Annahotaha of the Huron-Wendat wanted to negotiate. Two Huron-Wendat and one Oneida had started discussions with the Haudenosaunee when Huron-Wendat warriors adopted by the Haudenosaunee approached the fort and convinced a number of their fellow warriors to desert, pointing out that they would be treated better by the Haudenosaunee than by the French. When the Hurons started deserting the fort, the French opened fire on the Haudenosaunee, thus breaking the truce. The Haudenosaunee resumed the attack and charged toward the palisade with tomahawks raised. They breached the walls and killed Chief Annahotaha. To fend off the Haudenosaunee assault, Adam Dollard des Ormeaux threw a keg of gunpowder at the assailants. The keg bounced off the limb of a tree and fell back into the fort. The explosion killed or gravely wounded the last remaining defenders. It is not known whether Dollard des Ormeaux was killed on the spot, but the battle was lost. Some of the Indigenous allies survived, but none of the French came out alive. (See Iroquois Wars.)

Debate Regarding the Historical Portrayal of Dollard des Ormeaux

According to historical tradition, it was thanks to Adam Dollard des Ormeaux that a Haudenosaunee attack on Ville-Marie was avoided. His sacrifice and martyrdom are thus often depicted as an example of bravery and heroism. More specifically, Histoire du Montréal, a work by Dollier de Casson discovered in the 19th century, provides a patriotic and religious interpretation of Adam Dollard des Ormeaux‘s actions during the battle of Long Sault.

Since the 1930s, historical research has called into question the heroic representation of both the man and the battle. It has been emphasized that neither Adam Dollard des Ormeaux nor his allies were aware that a sizeable group of Haudenosaunee warriors were in the vicinity of Ville-Marie. Rather, they were planning to attack much smaller groups of Haudenosaunee hunters to steal their beaver pelts and trade them with the members of the Odawa nation. The Haudenosaunee victims allegedly numbered 14 dead and 19 wounded. The Haudenosaunee losses were thus not significant enough to justify abandoning an attack on Ville-Marie. While the Huron-Wendat desertion during the battle could be considered an act of cowardice, historian Bruce Trigger has emphasized the repeated failure of the French to support them against their enemies. The Huron-Wendat were therefore not prepared to fight to the death for the French.

Legacy

Considerable emphasis has been placed on the accomplishments of Adam Dollard des Ormeaux during the 17th century Iroquois Wars and many places in Quebec have been named in his honour. A Montreal suburb and lakes, parks and rivers throughout Quebec bear the name of Adam Dollard des Ormeaux or Daulac (a name attributed to him by some historians).

Well-known artist Alfred Laliberté has sculpted an imposing statue of Adam Dollard des Ormeaux, which can be found in Montreal’s Lafontaine Park. The heroic death of Adam Dollard des Ormeaux at Long Sault is also depicted in a bas-relief on the Maisonneuve monument by Louis-Philippe Hébert erected in the Place d'Armes in Old Montreal.