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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada


Extracts of Matters of Historical Interest from "The Huissier, News For and About the Fortress of Louisbourg Heritage Presentation Staff" By The Fortress of Louisbourg Heritage Presentation Staff


(July 14, 2004)

The 1744 campaign of  Captain Michel de Gannes de Falaise

by Anne Marie Lane Jonah, historian

On October 8, 1744, François Du Pont Duvivier, a Captain in the Compagnie Franches de la Marine and leader of an expedition against Annapolis Royal, recorded in his journal of the campaign, "jour malheureux, monsieur de Gannes vint me joindre à mon camp… " (unhappy day, monsieur de Gannes has come to join me at my camp) Captain Michel de Gannes de Falaise's arrival was unfortunate because he brought news that the naval support Duvivier awaited was not coming. Duvivier's superior officer, De Gannes brought orders for Duvivier to abandon his campaign and relinquish command to de Gannes. Duvivier was to return to Louisbourg and leave de Gannes and a smaller detachment to winter in Acadia and protect the Acadians from possible British action. Beyond the disappointing intelligence that de Gannes brought, the tone of Duvivier's report suggests that his arrival would have been unwelcome, even without the bad news.

These officers had both been born in Port Royal, de Gannes in 1702 and Duviver in 1705. De Gannes' father, Louis had been in the colonial service since 1687 in Canada and in Acadia since 1696. De Gannes' mother, Marguerite le Neuf de la Vallière, was the daughter of Michel, a governor of Acadia and the son of a governor of Trois Rivières, and Marie Denys, daughter of Nicolas. Marguerite was the sister of Michel le Neuf de la Vallière who lived on rue Toulouse in Louisbourg. François du Pont Dunvivier's father, François, was a lieutenant at Port Royal when he married Marie Mius d'Entremont. Her father, Jacques, and her mother, Anne de Saint Étienne de la Tour, were from seigneurial families who were among the earliest settlers of Acadia. Even so Duvivier's commandant criticized his marriage to a woman of such low birth and tried to prevent it.

Each officer had ties to Acadia even though they both left Port Royal as young boys after its fall in 1710. In Duvivier's account of the campaign he referred to his birth and to his relatives on his mother's side. He presented himself as an Acadian and expected support from the inhabitants. De Gannes did not mention such attachment or expectation in his brief letters to the Minister of the Marine describing his activities and defending his decisions. Duvivier chose to make much of his heritage and de Gannes did not. We know that de Gannes valued his European heritage as he went through the formalities required to have his Letter of Nobility transferred to New France. Perhaps the men valued their birthplace equally, but expressed their values differently. Perhaps the stronger attachment of Duvivier's mother to Acadia influenced that Captain's feelings. It is clear from the account that the two men analyzed the same military problem and chose completely different courses of action.

There was some difference in status between the captain's families; Duvivier's mother had humbler origins than de Gannes'. This difference was mitigated by the new world complication of military members' commercial activities. Even though de Gannes had advanced more quickly to the rank of Captain than Duvivier, Duvivier was more successful in business, and had much more money than de Gannes by 1744, as well as the favour of the commissaire-ordonnateur of Île Royale, François Bigot. On two occasions Duvivier's business dealings brought him into direct conflict with Blaise Cassaignolles, a family friend of de Gannes'. There were family conflicts between the Du Ponts and de Gannes as well; that is a separate story.
It is clear that the two officers did not agree upon how the campaign should be waged. The campaign into Acadia in 1744 was undermanned and inadequately supported, but its slim chances of success were reduced to nil by the lack of cooperation between these officers. De Gannes' report to Duvivier about the lack of naval support brought the proposal from Duvivier to hire two ships at Louisbourg, one being Duvivier's, to continue the attack. In fact, Duvivier dispatched an "abitant" to Louisbourg to take the proposal to the governor without de Gannes' permission. By the time the Acadian had arrived Duquesnel was dead and Duvivier's uncle, Louis Du Pont Duchambon, was acting commandant. The ships were sent, at royal expense and Duvivier's profit, but arrived after de Gannes had led a retreat from Annapolis and had left Nova Scotia. De Gannes had denied Duvivier's request to send for ships, arguing that there were royal ships at Louisbourg that were not being sent, so it would make no sense to hire ships. De Gannes did not expect ships and so did not wait for them. By late fall 1744 he had taken his orders from Duquesnel further than intended, and withdrawn entirely from British territory. This retreat invoked, according to Duvivier, the charge from the Acadians that the French were abandoning them to slavery. De Gannes evaluated the French force, three or four hundred men, mostly natives, against a similar number of English soldiers in a fort he believed to be well built and well provisioned, and chose to retreat. Duvivier complained that the French lost the confidence of their Acadian and native allies by retreating. De Gannes could only speculate what they might have lost in an attack.