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Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada
THE CONSTRUCTION AND OCCUPATION OF THE BARRACKS OF THE KING'S BASTION
(Fortress of Louisbourg
Report H A 13)
CHRONOLOGY OF CONSTRUCTION
In requesting his leave for that winter Saint Ovide had said that certain family affairs were in jeopardy,(1)but it is obvious that he was not going to avoid taking full advantage of the sojourn to advance his cause both at the ministry and in his personal affairs. Thus it was that he met a former ensign in his company at Placentia, Gratien d'Arrigrand, and encouraged him to consider trying for the contract for work beyond the barracks and the King's Bastion obviously in hopes of winning it away from Isabeau. D'Arrigrand began to make enquiries and was soon to be given an opportunity of taking over work at Louisbourg.
When Saint Ovide and De Verville returned from France that summer, both were chagrined to see that so little had been accomplished during their absence. The governor was particularly unhappy since he had no place to put the 60 new recruits he had brought back:
I was much surprised to have seen this building... in the state I had left it last fall. In the end he lodged them in the attics of the finished rooms, which were hardly suitable since there were no fireplaces. The only work done in the barracks was on the walls which had been started the previous year and raised to door height. In four rooms the construction of fireplaces had begun.(2)
De Verville felt he had to justify the lack of progress, and reported that the contractor and engineers had been ill. He asserted, defensively, that Isabeau was the only one able to carry on construction and that even his detractors admitted not being able to produce a replacement. He followed this with the familiar request for more men and money.(3)
Nor did work progress smoothly that season. Pierre Jérôme Boucher, a sub-engineer, reported that though money from France had arrived three weeks previously, the workers had not been paid and there was unrest which might lead to a work stoppage.(4) Saint Ovide had his own complaints. De Verville, he said, had ignored instructions from France about communicating a work account an the end of each year and had even hidden the plans for winter work from the senior engineer who was obviously the governor's ally. Saint Ovide also charged that De Verville was spending much time and money on houses for Boucher and De Verville's son who was also an engineer, adding:
The little work done this year on the barracks was done during such a late season in which the wind and rain never stopped, that there is reason to fear for the soundness of constructions a fireplace even collapsed a few days after it was built.(5)
De Mesy also faced a charge of non-co-operation for not making himself available to write their joint report (6)The report, finally written on December 29th contained a manoeuvre aimed at removing De Verville from effective control of day-to-day construction in Louisbourg. It was suggested that De Beaucours, the king's lieutenant, be made chief engineer resident in Louisbourg and that De Verville become full-time director of all fortifications on the island. In addition it was requested that an Inspector-General be sent to examine the works at Louisbourg with regard to cost and quality,(7) implying that the performance of the engineer and contractor left much to be desired.
This was supplemented by a very damming document from another ally, the surveyor Charles Vallée, on the state of the building. He reported that the walls were beginning to crack and develop holes due to the badly positioned rubble stone and the use of a considerable amount of pebbling. These holes were filled with iron bars in an attempt to strengthen the walls. The brick surrounds of windows disintegrated to a powder when touched because of the corrosive action of the salt air. Wood in the roof and flooring was rotting being only of pine, half-dried (causing fermentation when in contact with masonry), and poorly cut. Good ash or other such wood was available and should have been used, as well as a cornice on which to rest the beams rather than having a few beams sealed into the walls and the rest tied to these. The result was, he said, that the floors were so weak they could not support any heavy burden and he predicted that both walls and floors would have to be redone in seven or eight years. The roof was also poorly constructed and, aside from showing light in a thousand places, would topple over in a strong wind.(8)The report was overly pessimistic. After all the roof did not fall nor the floors collapse, but it did point out the basic weakness of the building, and the problems with weak walls, rotten floors and leaky roof persisted throughout the life of the building.
1. Saint Ovide to Council, 28 November 1721, AN. Col., C11B, vol. 5, ff. 374-77.
2. Saint Ovide to Council, 10 December 1723, AN. Col., C11B, vol. 6, ff. 174-75v.
3. De Verville to Minister, 14 August 1723, AN. Col., C11B, vol. 6, ff. 293-94v.
4. Boucher to Minister, 1 November 1723, AN. Col., C11B, vol. 6, f. 322.
5. Saint Ovide to Minister, 22 November 1723, AN. Col., C11B, vol. 6, ff. 182-86.
6. Saint Ovide to Minister, 26 November 1723, AN. Col., C11B, vol. 6, ff. 199-204v.
7. Saint Ovide and De Mesy, 29 December 1723, AN. Col., C11B, vol. 6, ff. 152-62v.
8. Remarques sur les travaux de Louisbourq [Vallée], [18 November 1723], AN. Col., C11B, vol. 6, ff. 310-10v & 327-28v.