Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil de Cavagnial

Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil de Cavagnial, Marquis de Vaudreuil, (sometimes Vaudreuil-Cavagnial), officer, last governor general of New France 1755–60 (born in Québec, New-France on 22 November 1698; died in Paris, France 4 August 1778). He was the governor of New France during the Seven Years’ War and the British Conquest of New France. Following the capture of Quebec by British forces, Vaudreuil signed the capitulation of Montreal and New France in 1760.

Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil de Cavagnial, Marquis de Vaudreuil

Early Career

Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil de Cavagnial was the son of Philippe de Rigaud de Vaudreuil, governor of New France between 1703 and 1725. He followed his father’s footsteps in the colonial service by joining the Troupes de la Marine. After rising through the ranks, he was made governor of Trois-Rivières, a role he held between 1733 and 1742. He then succeeded Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville as governor of Louisiana from 1742 to 1753. During this period, his governorship brought a degree of economic stability to the colony.

Governor of New France

In 1755, Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil was appointed to succeed Ange Duquesne de Menneville as governor general of New France. He became the first and only Canadian-born person to hold that position.

As governor, Vaudreuil was in charge of the colony’s defence during the Seven Years' War. However, his command was complicated by the decision to reinforce the colonial garrison with 6 regular army infantry battalions. These troops were commanded by regular army officers like the Baron Dieskau, the Marquis de Montcalm and the  Chevalier de Lévis. This split command seriously impeded French efforts to pursue the war. Vaudreuil advocated Canadian-style guerrilla warfare on the frontiers while Montcalm preferred defending the colony’s core and fighting European-style battles.

Fall of New France

After the defeat at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, Governor Vaudreuil left instructions with Québec’s garrison commander, This second order did not arrive in time to prevent the town’s surrender.

Despite defeating the British at the Battle of Sainte-Foy, the arrival of the British fleet in the spring forced a French withdrawal to Montreal. Unable to see any alternative that would prevent the population from suffering, Vaudreuil opted to surrender Montreal and New France on 8 September 1760. He did so after negotiating terms that protected Canadians’ property, laws and religion. The British terms, however, denied French troops the honours of war. (See Capitulation of Montreal.)

In France, Vaudreuil was strongly criticized for his action by the French military and the court. He was arrested a few months after Intendant François Bigot and tried in the famous affaire du Canada, but was completely exonerated in December 1763.