Les Soldats du Detroit consisted of the French Colonial Troops known as "The Marines". The Marines were found throughtout the Colony of Canada, including the post of Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit. These Marines were the perminate garrison troops of Detroit from its founding by Antoine de la Cadillac in 1701, until the capitulation of Montreal to the British in 1760.
Les Soldats de la Troupes de la Marine de la Compagnie du Detroit will portray the garrison of Fort Pontchartrain du Detriot during the period that the garrison was under the Command of Francois-Marie Picote, Sieur de Belestre. (1758-1760)
Marie Picote, Sieur de Belestre, was the last French Commdant to govern the post at Detroit during the French regime. Belestre was born at Montreal in 1719, and was the son of the man of the same name who also governed the Detroit post in the early 1700's. In 1739 we find de Belestre as an ensign engaged in fighting the Iroquois Nation. In 1747 we find de Belestre assiting Pierre-Joseph Celoron, Sieur de Blainville, in escorting convoys from Montreal to Detroit. In 1755 de Belestre, commanded a troop of colonial marines, militia, and Indians which proved to be decisive in Braddocks defeat. For his contribution to the defeat of Braddocks forces, de Belestre was awarded with the Royal Military Order of Saint Louis.
Prior to his appointment as Commandant of Detroit, de Belestre was commandant of Fort de Miamis, where he is recorded of holding the the rank of lieutenant. After the death of the Detroit commandant, Nicholas D'aneau, le Sieur de Muy in 1758, Belestre was placed in command of the Detroit garrison and promoted to the rank of captain.
Belestre was considered a very capeable officer by his superiors, and bravery was his trademark. In a report that can be found at the Quebec Historical Society, the following record of Belestre can be found: After the capture of Fort du Quesne in 1758, General Forbes planned an attack on Detroit. Sieur de Belestre, having heard that the enemy was marching, put himdelf at the head of the Hurons and other Indians to give an attack to the advance guard, which he defeated.
On July 28, 1738, Francois-Marie Picote, Sieur de Belestre, married Marie Anne Nivard at Montreal. Following her death, de Belestre married Marie Ann Magnan also at Montreal.
The Detroit garrison from 1758-1760 was very much different from the earlier versions of the post. Because of the great numbers of Indian Allies camped around the fort in previous years, it was not considered necessary to garrison the post with many troops. Detroit was more of a fur center than a military post, and being so far in the "Heart" of New France it was considered a safe place from the British army. The greatest concerns to the Detroit commandants prior to 1756 were to lure settlers to the post, and to keep the Hurons, Ottawas, and Pottowatomies loyal to the French.
By 1758, under Belestre, things changed quickly at Detroit. Because of the War with the English, the post at Detroit turned away from it "trade center" beginings, and soon became a major military post. Detroit was now a major storehouse of supplies for the troops of the North West. Many of the Colonial Marines and Militia who were leaving their settlements in the west to fight for France in the east stopped at Detroit for supplies and equipment. Detroit was also used as a "staging" area for raids against the British. In 1759 we find that in addition to the Detroit garrison and their milita troops from Fort du Quesne were stationed at Detroit. As the French settlments in the east fell to the British, many of the citizens of New France fell back to Detroit where they found safety at the Detroit post.
In 1760, more Colonial Marines were sent to fortify the Detroit Garrison. By 1760, Detroit had clearly become the French stronghold of the west. Detroit's improtance of being a major military installation was short lived, however, as Goveror Vaudreuil surrendered Montreal and all of Canada tot eh British in the late summer of 1760.
Major Robert Rogers was sent by the British to formally take possession of Fort Ponchartrain du Detroit for the King of England. Along with Rogers, were troops from the famed 60th Royal Americans. At the mouth of the Detroit River, near the present day city of Trenton, Michigan, legend has it that the Ottawa Cheif Pontiac confronted the British party. "By whose permission do you dare to enter my country", Pontiac stated. The British explained that they did not wish to enter without permission, and did not wish to insult the Great Cheif of the Ottawas. After explaining to Pontiac about the surrender of the French to the British, and that Detroit was now a British post, Pontiac told the British force that he would allow the British to proceed in the morning. Pontiac never liked the British, but understood that he would have to deal with them in the near future. Pontiac kept to his word and allowed the British party to continue in the morning. Pontiac did however send a runner to Detroit to convey the message of the British to Belestre.
When Belestre heard of the news, he ordered all of the garrison, militia, and remainder of Indian Allies on full alert. The Pottowatomiws, and the Hurons, manned their canoes and streched them across the Detroit River. Belestre could not believe that all of Canada could have been surrendered, and felt very confidant that the Detroit garrison could fight off any attack that the British force could muster. To add courage to his Indian Allies, Belestre drew a picture of a crow sitting on a man's head, and picking at his brains. Belestre told the Indians that he would be the crow, and the British would be the man's head of England ever attempted to attack Detroit. During that night, some sources state that Belestre ordered some of the garrison troops out of the fort to other French posts just incase the talk of the capitulation was true.
The following morning, near the present day city of Ecorse, Michigan, and only a few miles from the Fort, the British sent a small party to show Belestre the orders of surrender signed by Governor Vaudreuil. Vaudreuil pointed out to Belestre in the order that the capitulation was very fair to the French, and that he was to turn the post over to the British immediately. The Knight of the Military Order of Saint Louis had no choice but to obey his orders from his commander. The French lowered their standard from the flagstaff at Detroit, and Detroit became a British fortress. The French soldiers were allowed to leave with full military honors (minus their muskets), and were sent to Philadelphia where they boarded ships for France. The local Militia was disarmed, and were made to swear their allegiance to Great Britain.
At the time of the surrender of Detroit to the British, the Detroit post contained three officers; Captain Francois-Marie Picote de Belestre, Lieutenant Beranger, and Ensign D'aneau. The post was said to alson contain 35 soldats, and Surgeon Major Christopher Gabriel Le Grande.
Les Soldats de la Troupes de la Marine de la Compagnie du Detroit will portray Colonial Troupes of France, the civilians of Detroit, and the Indian Allies of Detroit during the period Detroit was under the command of Francois-Marie Picote, la Sieur de Belestre.