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Anza, Juan Bautista de (07 July 1736–19 December 1788), military commander, explorer, and governor, was born in the presidio of Fronteras, Sonora, Mexico, the son of Juan Bautista de Anza, commandant of the post since 1719, and María Rafaela Becerra Nieto; his grandfather was commandant of Janos presidio, Chihuahua. Anza’s father was killed in combat in 1739, but Anza continued in the family tradition, and on 1 December 1752 entered the militia at Fronteras. On 1 July 1755 he was promoted to lieutenant at Fronteras, and, after participating in Indian campaigns in Sonora, he rose in 1760 to the rank of captain and commander of the presidio at Tubac (in present-day Arizona). On 24 June 1761 he married Ana María Pérez Serrano of Arizpe, Sonora, but no children were born of the union....

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Denys de la Ronde, Louis (02 August 1675–25 March 1741), French military officer, explorer, and spy, was born in Quebec City, Canada, the son of Pierre Denys de la Ronde, a landowner and merchant (the Crown had given the aristocracy in Canada permission to engage in trade), and Catherine Leneuf de la Potherie. He entered naval service in 1687 as a midshipman in France. During the war of 1689–1697 he served in exiled British king James II’s expedition to Ireland, then off the coast of England, and finally on several voyages to New France and along the coast of New England. Captured at sea in 1695, he was soon released in an exchange of prisoners of war. He served in ...

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Fabry De La Bruyère, André (fl. 1733–1750), explorer and French colonial officer, , first appears as a commission clerk in French Louisiana in 1733. Nothing is known about Fabry’s birth and parentage. In 1735 he became secretary to Governor Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville...

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La Vérendrye, Pierre Gaultier de (17 November 1685–05 December 1749), explorer, military officer, and post commander, was born in Trois-Rivières, Canada, the son of René Gaultier de Varennes, a governor of Trois-Rivières, and Marie-Ursule Boucher, the daughter of Pierre Boucher, a former governor of Trois-Rivières....

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Bienville. Engraving by John Chester Buttre. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-100821).

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Le Moyne, Jean-Baptiste (baptized 23 Feb. 1680–07 March 1767), French soldier, explorer, and governor of colonial Louisiana, was born in Montréal, New France, the son of Charles Le Moyne, sieur de Longueuil et de Châteauguay, a provincial nobleman, and Catherine Thierry Primot. Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne inherited the title ...

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Le Moyne, Pierre (baptized 20 July 1661–09 July 1706), French soldier, explorer, and governor of colonial Louisiana, was born at Ville-Marie de Montréal, New France, the son of Charles Le Moyne, sieur de Longueuil et de Châteauguay, a provincial nobleman, and Catherine Thierry Primot. The early life of Pierre Le Moyne, known as the sieur d’Iberville, is veiled in obscurity. It is known that he was groomed for naval duty by his influential father through service aboard his father’s ship. In 1683 he was entrusted with Governor Le Febvre de La Barre’s dispatches for the French Crown. It was also in that year that Jeanne-Geneviève Picoté de Belestre’s guardians brought a paternity suit against Iberville, claiming that the young Canadian officer was responsible for her pregnancy. The Conseil Souverain, Canada’s court of last resort, concurred with the plaintiffs and ordered Iberville to support the child until its fifteenth birthday....

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Mouet de Langlade, Charles-Michel ( May 1729–1801), trader, military officer, and Indian agent, was baptized on 9 May 1729 at Michilimackinac (now Mackinaw City, Michigan), the son of Augustin Mouet de Langlade, a French trader, and Domitilde, the sister of Nissowaquet, a prominent Ottawa chief. Though the only son of this marriage, Charles had numerous and important relations among the Ottawa by virtue of his mother’s previous marriage to a trader named Villenueve. He was educated in part by Jesuit priests at Michilimackinac. At the age of ten he accompanied his uncle Nissowaquet on a successful war party down the Mississippi against the Chickasaw. Here he gained great prestige among the Ottawa, who had been defeated twice previously by the Chickasaw. By 1750 he enrolled in the French colonial regulars as a cadet....

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Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Alvar (1490–1559), soldier, explorer, and writer, was born in Jérez de la Frontera, Spain, the son of Francisco de Vera, a member of the municipal council, and Teresa Cabeza de Vaca, a noblewoman. Little is known about Núñez’s early life. He chose to use his matrilineal surname to emphasize his relationship to Martín Alhaja, who was ennobled in 1212 with the name Cabeza de Vaca (Head of Cow) after directing the king’s armies by marking their route with a cow’s skull. Núñez’s paternal grandfather, Pedro de Vera, was a conquistador and early Spanish governor in the Canary Islands. Núñez trained for a military career and by the time he left for the New World already had experience in battle....

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Saint-Castin, Baron de (1652–1707), French officer and Abenaki Indian leader, was born Jean-Vincent D’abbadie at Saint-Castin in southwestern France near the Pyrenees Mountains, the son of Jean-Jacques D’abbadie de Saint-Castin and Isabeau de Béarn-Bonasse. The D’abbadies were a minor noble family that has been traced back to the early 1300s, while Jean-Vincent’s mother was a direct descendant of Louis VIII of France. Louis XIV conferred the title of baron de Saint-Castin on Jean-Jacques in 1654. Little is known about Jean-Vincent’s childhood except that his mother died of the plague in 1652, and his father died ten years later. The first record of Jean-Vincent is his enrollment at age thirteen as an ensign in the Carignan-Salières regiment being transported to Canada in 1665. This youthful endeavor was not unique for the second son of a lesser noble who probably chafed under the control of the second baron de Saint-Castin, his brother only two years older....