A Blupete Biography Page

Hertel (1668-1722): The "Sacker of Deerfield."

To understand the developed character of the son, Jean-Baptiste, it will be necessary to sketch out briefly the life of the father, François Hertel.

François was born at Trois-Rivières in 1642, a time very near that when Quebec was first settled (1608). In 1642 there were a limited number of French settlers1 hanging on in such places as Quebec, Montreal and Trois-Rivières. François' father (Hertel's grandfather) was to die from an accident when François was but a boy of nine. Left behind, in addition, to this nine year old, was his mother and two infant sisters: François, therefore, was to learn responsibility and hard work early in his life. These were the times of the Iroquois raids which just about wiped out the French colonies at Quebec in the early years.2 As but yet a young boy, he felled trees and farmed with a musket always at the ready nearby. Because of these regular Iroquois attacks François Hertel was to be "schooled from his youth to believe that danger was always present, and must be conquered by toughness." In 1661, the nineteen year old was captured by a band of roving Iroquois. François Hertel was brought back to Iroquois country (the Finger Lakes district of New York, as named these days) there to be used as the object of some entertainment until an elderly Iroquois woman claimed the young man as her own. For two years he was to live among the Iroquois and learned their ways and their language. He eventually escaped and returned to his family in Quebec, who, I shouldn't have to say, were amazed to find him alive and well. He settled back into farming his lands at Trois-Rivières; content to get himself married (1664) and to start raising a family of his own (there were to be at least seven sons). The colony was soon to put such a valuable person to work (we might imagine his reluctance as he rubbed his burn scars inflicted on him by the Iroquois). In 1673, François was to accompany Frontenac inland, to Lake Ontario, there to take part in the building of Fort Frontenac (Kingston). In 1690, Frontenac was to send out Indian war parties led by French officers, sent to terrorize the English. The Hertels, learning much from their Indian allies, were to perfect their surprize tactics which were very effective: the blood of innocent English settlers along the western and northern borders of New England was to flow. After traveling weeks on end and traversing hundreds of miles of wilderness which led them over the highlands of the Appalachians in the winter months, over frozen lakes and down frozen rivers, they would arrive at some little New England village, and wait until night fall: then the screams would go up and the hacking would start, catching the wintering settlers completely off guard. Many of these attacks were led by Hertel and his sons. History has come to call them "Hertel's Raids." "The Hertels, father and sons, rapidly became the terror of the English and the enemy Indians. Their feats were beyond number. They turned up everywhere."3

Thus, the frontier-wise François Hertel was to train his sons. François also saw to the academic education of his sons: "he entrusted this task to the teacher Pierre Bertrand, who had already studied at the University of Paris." The Hertel boys, we might imagine, came to know how to deal with all levels of society.

Jean-Baptiste, the principal subject of this sketch, was François Hertel's third son. One might imagine, given the short review of his father's life and his father's intense interest in his sons, just what kind of man Jean-Baptiste Hertel turned out to be.4 By the time he was a young man, Hertel was to be a trained and educated killer. Even to the French, while an "officer of great courage," Hertel was thought to be "pre-eminently cruel and vindictive."5

The Hertels, as we have seen, were to make their reputations by terrorizing the English on the New England frontiers. In 1690, Jean-Baptiste led his Indian charges to the borders of Maine and New Hampshire.6 In 1702, The War of the Spanish Succession (Queen Anne's War) was declared, which, among others, pitted the two ancient enemies of England and France up against one another, yet again. The war theatre was to extent to the frontiers in America. On August 10th, 1703, at Wells, a small settlement on the northwestern border of New England, innocent settlers - women, men and children - met their deaths at the hands of French led Indians. In 1704, Hertel, together with four of his brothers, led the murderous raid on Deerfield, Massachusetts.7 Thereafter, to the English, Jean-Baptiste Hertel was to be known as the "Sacker of Deerfield."

During April of 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht was signed bringing the war, started in 1702, to an end. Through the brilliant military work of Marlborough, France had been brought to her knees and she was obliged to give up much, including its claims to Acadia and Newfoundland. France, however, by the terms of the treaty, was left outlying sentinels to its principal settlements in America at Quebec: the islands in the River and Gulf of St. Lawrence. Prior to the war the French had two "strongholds" on the eastern coast, Port Royal and Placentia. These places were now to be English. A new place had to be located on the eastern coast on one of the islands in the gulf which were left to the French. Cape Breton, now to be called Ile Royale was chosen. Louisbourg was to be built and strengthened like no other place in America. Good men would be needed to go and to drive in the first stakes. The authorities at Quebec made no mistake when they determined that this founding group should include one of the Hertel brothers: Jean-Baptiste was chosen.

A newly commissioned army captain, Jean-Baptiste Hertel,8 dropped down from Quebec in the spring of 1713. He was aboard a vessel owned and likely operated by Boularderie. At Placentia the arrivals from Quebec ("40 or 50 of the best workers" under the command of Hertel) were to meet a group which had come out from France that spring in the Semslack. The Semslack was to have aboard a number of those French administrators and military people, who, in 1710, had been shipped back to France just after the English forces had taken Port Royal. The Semslack together with Boularderie's vessel set sail from Placentia on July 23rd, 1713. Aboard the vessels were to be found 116 men, 10 women and 23 children who came to start in on the building of Louisbourg."9

While Louisbourg was eventually to be built with very impressive masonry walls and fortifications (common in Europe, but most unusual for America), in 1713, it was but a fishing station and years were to pass before Louisbourg was to be what it was to become: an 18th century fortress, unequaled in America. At first, the French were not at all sure that Louisbourg was the place where their main fort should be built: St. Peters (Port Toulouse) and St Ann's (Port Dauphin) were in the running (see map). It would not appear that Hertel was to spend much time at Louisbourg. He was sent to Port Toulouse (St Peters) to build that place up. He was to bring his family10 to Port Toulouse and they were all to stay at that place until 1719 when he was then sent to command the establishment at the throat of St Ann's Bay (present day Englishtown), Port-Dauphin. Hertel was to live out the balance of his years at Port-Dauphin. His efforts, much praised, resulted, in short order, in the erection of a fort with "a warehouse, a forge, a bakery, barracks, and a hospital."11

Unlike his long lived father, who died at the age of eighty in the same year at Trois-Rivières, Jean-Baptiste Hertel died at a comparatively young age of 54. He was to see only but the early beginnings of the impressive French built-up of Ile Royale which continued to the time it was taken by General Amherst in the huge amphibious English attack of English regulars in 1758. Hertel's contributions, however, were made at the critical early stages, and, undoubtedly, considering his hard experiences as an Indian fighter and raider, extended to more than the building of the physical structures at Port Toulouse and Port Dauphin, but extended to the influence he had to have over the younger Frenchmen who had worked with him and who were to carry on at Ile Royale through the tumultuous years to come.

On the 30th of June, 1722 Jean-Baptiste Hertel was to die; his father from whom he learned so much died but a few weeks before that, on the 22nd of May, 1722.


[1] At the time of Champlain's death, in 1635, Quebec was to consist of only 150 settlers.

[2] For a full accounting of the Iroquois raids of the struggling communities in Quebec, one should read the wonderful and multi-volumed history of Francis Parkman.

[3] DCB.

[4] One is reminded, when thinking of Hertel, of the Machiavellian character: "His passions, like well-trained troops, are impetuous by rule, and in their most headstrong fury never forget the discipline to which they have been accustomed. His whole soul is occupied with vast and complicated schemes of ambition, yet his aspect and language exhibit nothing but philosophical moderation. Hatred and revenge eat into his heart; yet every look is a cordial smile, every gesture a familiar caress. He never excites the suspicion of his adversaries by petty provocations. His purpose is disclosed, only when it is accomplished. His face is unruffled, his speech is courteous, till vigilance is laid asleep, till a vital point is exposed, till a sure aim is taken; and then he strikes for the first and last time." (From Macaulay's essay on "Machiavelli.")

[5] DCB.

[6] They "burned houses, barns, and cattle, and laid the entire settlement in ashes." They tomahawked and shot innocent English settlers and took (commanding a ransom at Quebec, as they did) women and children as prisoners. (See Parkman, Count Frontenac and New France under Louis XIV, p. 238 & p. 397.)

[7] Parkman, A Half Century of Conflict (vol. 1), p. 56. Parkman spends a chapter on Deerfield, see Ch. IV.

[8] Hertel was made a lieutenant in 1696 and a captain in 1712. (McLennan, Louisbourg, Appendix I, p. 334.)

[9] See McLennan at p. 12.

[10] Jean-Baptiste Hertel was first married in 1698; but his young wife died within two years. He married a second time on the 6th of February, 1708 to Marie-Anne Baudouin, a daughter of a high ranking Quebec family and the ceremony was carried out with considerable pomp in front of the administrative and military elite, - I think, though the couple was from Trois-Rivières, at Quebec city. The DCB makes reference to "several children" being born to the couple, including Jean-Baptiste, jr. and Rene-Ovide (b. 6th Sept., 1720; at Port Toulouse [St Peters]) Now, as a side note I should make reference to Michel Hertel (b.1692) (there had to be many Hertels) I'm not sure of his relationship to the subject of this page, Jean-Baptiste (1668-1722). Michel Hertal was of Trois-Rivières. Michel was to marry a girl from Port Royal in 1725. Michel Hertal was to take up an important position at Louisbourg, "conseiller royal et subd' de l'intendant." Michel's children are listed in Arsenault including three boys (1727, 1735 & 1737) who were to become officer cadets at Louisbourg and presumably were there at the defense of Louisbourg in 1758. It is interesting to note that the youngest, Charles-François Hertal (b.1737), after having been sent to France was, eventually caught up in the French Revolution and was to guillotined at Paris on the 25th of July, 1794.

[11] In 1721, Hertal was made a "chevalier de Saint-Louis."


Found this material Helpful?

[The Lion & The Lily -- Book 1 (1500-1763)]
[Settlement, Revolution & War -- Book 2 (1760-1815)]
[The Road To Being Canada -- Book 3 (1815-1867)]
[History Jump Page]

Peter Landry
2012 (2020)