Étienne Bâtard

(fl. 1750s)

Bâtard, Étienne, (Anthony), Micmac from Miramichi (New Brunswick); died probably in Nova Scotia sometime between 1754 and 1760.

          Étienne Bâtard was a Micmac warrior who was involved in many adventures during the Anglo-Micmac war of 1749-53.  Abbé Pierre Maillard's “Lettre ... sur les missions micmaques” suggests that Bâtard had taken part around 1740 in a “theological” discussion at Port-Toulouse (St. Peters, Nova Scotia) between the merchant Edward How and a group of Micmacs.  The Micmacs were said to have been shocked at that time by How's remarks, and the latter is supposed to have escaped rough treatment thanks only to the presence of mind of the interpreter Barthélemy Petitpas.

          In September 1750, when the French were trying to prevent the establishment of Fort Lawrence (near Amherst, Nova Scotia) and were building Fort Beauséjour not far away, the Micmacs from the various regions of Acadia gathered in the neighbourhood of Beauséjour and carried out raids against the English.  On 15 October (n.s. Gregorian calendar) a group of Micmacs disguised as French officers called Edward How to a conference.  This trap, organized by Étienne Bâtard, gave him the opportunity to wound How seriously, and How died five or six days later, according to Captain La Vallière (probably Louis Leneuf de La Vallière), the only eye-witness.

          On 15 July 1751, after a series of skirmishes, Saint-Ours (perhaps François-Xavier), the officer commanding the Indians' movements, sent them away from Beauséjour.  But Bâtard and a few confederates remained near the fort, where they were surprised in discussions with some English officers who “received them very well, gave them gifts, and tried by all means to make peace with them.” La Vallière then vainly suggested to his superiors that the traitors be arrested; Bâtard left Beauséjour in complete liberty on 27 July.

          He reappears in 1753, as a participant in the punitive expedition led by Jean-Baptiste Cope, another Micmac, against some soldiers from Halifax.  Bâtard succeeded in saving Anthony Casteel, the only survivor of the group, from the other Micmacs, who, having become drunk, were preparing to murder him. Bâtard is then lost from sight; his name is not on any of the peace treaties concluded after 1760 between the various Micmac tribes and the English authorities in Halifax.  Presumably he died sometime between 1754 and 1760.

          The accounts of How's death are far from agreeing: Albert David has called attention to no fewer than nine, which contain considerable contradiction.  Numerous English-language historians, particularly Beamish Murdoch and Francis Parkman, maintain the possibility of Abbé Jean-Louis Le Loutre's involvement in the incident, but this interpretation has been vigorously criticized by Henri-Raymond Casgrain and Édouard Richard.  The historian David had two obvious aims in attempting to reconstruct Edward How's murder: to prove Le Loutre's innocence, and to minimize How's importance.  Although it is strongly slanted, the analysis he makes of the nine accounts leads to the firm conclusion that Bâtard was indeed How's murderer.  Since no document coming directly from the Micmacs exists, no valid suggestion of Bâtard's motives can be made.  Nor can Abbé Le Loutre's participation, direct or indirect, in this affair be affirmed or denied.

—  Micheline D. Johnson, Professeur d'histoire
Université de Sherbrooke, Québec

Source: Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
Étienne Bâtard (the original article)

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