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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





Report H E 15

Fortress of Louisbourg



Until 1736 when St. Ovide detached two men per company to be trained as cannoneers, the artillery in Louisbourg was in the hands of an officer, a maître canonnier, and one or more aide-canonniers. [1] Governor De Forant proposed the formation of a regular artillery company in 1739, although the first such recommendation had come from Captain Ste. Marie as early as 1717. De Forant wrote that such a unit would be useful and a great relief to the colony, which should not be thought of in the same terms as other colonies; its location, heavy armament, and the jealousy it aroused in its neighbours merited Ile Royale special consideration. The presence of such a company, the governor added, would make an impression "on the minds of foreigners, who say openly that though we have many cannon, we have no one to serve them". [2]

Though he declared himself inclined to approve the formation of an artillery company, the Minister of the Marine wished first to receive further details as to what would be required. The delay would give the governor time to get to know the men whose names he had put forward for officers in the company and to make all arrangements necessary to render it most beneficial. [3] By the time the minister's letter reached Louisbourg De Forant was dead. Bourville, as acting commandant, joined with Bigot to suggest that the artillery company be composed of 25 men to be selected from the eight companies, with two maitre canonniers as sergeants. [4]

Again the minister replied, this time to the new commandant, Duquesnel, that he was well disposed to the idea of a company of cannoneers, but that he wanted Duquesnel's opinion before presenting the idea to the king. [5] Like his predecessor, Duquesnel maintained that the establishment of such a company was essential. [6] Convinced at last, the minister advised the officials in the colony in June 1742 that the king had approved the formation of the artillery company for Ile Royal. [7]


In 1720 it was stated that the artillery officer in Louisbourg should be charged with everything relating to the fortress' ordnance. This officer, who reported directly to the governor, was entrusted with the only key to places in which the utensils and equipment essential to the artillery were stored, as well as with one of three keys to the powder magazine (with the governor and garde magasin holding the other two).[8]

The first artillery officer in Louisbourg was Consolin, who had served in Acadia prior to requesting a transfer to Ile Royale in 1714. An aide d'artillerie (equal to an ensign in the infantry), Consolin and two cannoneers were to arrange the garrison's artillery, bombs, bullets and utensils in a convenient place. [9] Citing this officer's zeal and attention to duty, Governor St. Ovide requested Consolin's promotion to sous-lieutenant of artillery (lieutenant of infantry) in November 1721. Noting that Consolin was teaching his son the artillery profession the governor suggested that the son be made an aide-canonnier with an appointement in order to enable Consolin to subsist in the colony. [10]

Consolin was granted a brevet of sous-lieutenant of artillery in 1724 which stated that since he was a capable and experienced officer in both navigation and artillery he was to be sous-lieutenant of a galiote when at sea and of artillery when in port. [11] With this promotion came an increase in pay from 480 livres to 720 livres.[12] Three years later Consolin died, and his son was given passage to France to gain experience by serving in the Compagnie des Bombardiers at Rochefort. [13]

The position vacated by the death of Consolin was filled by Lambert Degranges, a nephew of Commissaire-ordonnateur De Mezy, who held the rank of aide-d'artillerie. As Lambert was a very young man upon his arrival in the colony, St. Ovide worried that he might not have sufficient experience to bring about "the arrangement that is necessary in the arsenals, powder magazines and artillery storehouses, to organize the mortars, the bombs of each caliber, the grenades and endless number of the other things necessary for the artillery ..." The governor felt, however, that Lambert was capable of learning his profession and was likely to become a "bon sujet."[14] The minister expressed his awareness that Lambert was not "a master of his trade", but he believed that the young man would acquire the experience he lacked. Until then he would be sufficient for Louisbourg's needs. [15]

Despite - or perhaps because of - his involvement in a dispute over the prohibited "jeu de Pharon" which prompted the governor to ask for a "plus sage" aide d'artillerie, Lambert sought a promotion in 1733, claiming that he was unable to live in Ile Royale on only 480 livres a year. [16] While his cousin, Commissaire-ordonnateur Le Normant, petitioned on his behalf, Lambert reminded the minister that he had been in the colony in his present rank for six years, and that his father had been a captain of artillery (equivalent to a lieutenant colonel in the infantry) for 27 years and had died from wounds received in the service of the king. In addition, he noted his apprenticeship with his father in Toulon from the age of ten or 12 and the opportunity it had afforded him of gaining favor with the commissaire générale of the artillery, whose memoirs and designs he had copied. The promotion was accorded him the next year. [17]

In 1736 Lambert began training two soldiers detached from each company in what they needed to know to become cannoneers. That same year he requested a transfer to France, but the governor prevailed upon him to remain a while longer in the colony. [18] Still dissatisfied with his position, Lambert asked in 1738 that he be given the same gratuity as officers in the ports of France who were assigned to instruct cannoneers. He returned to France on leave in the fall of 1738 and soon secured himself a transfer to Toulon. Ste. Marie, a lieutenant in Du Vivier's company, was then temporarily placed in charge of the artillery in Louisbourg. [19]

Governor De Forant wrote in 1739 that since there had been no artillery officer in Louisbourg since Lambert's departure, the minister might consider the appointment of Chevalier De Castillon, a sous-lieutenant of artillery in France. However, he would not consider requesting Castillon unless the rank of Ile Royale's artillery officer were elevated. De Forant believed that Castillon would be insulted to find, after 18 years of service and a dozen campaigns, that he was subordinate to all the officers of the garrison. The governor recommended that Castillon be granted the rank of lieutenant of artillery, commanding all the artillery in the colony. [20]

The suggestion was not accepted and Ste. Marie continued in charge of artillery, receiving for his added responsibility a gratuity of 300 livres a year. [21] In the proposal that finally served as the basis for the formation of the artillery company, Duquesnel and Bigot declared that Ste. Marie was capable of assuming its command with a brevet of lieutenant of artillery. For second officer in the company they nominated Louis Vallée, maître canonnier in Louisbourg since 1739. [22] It was also suggested that an ensign or aide d'artillerie be named, but the minister did not deem this appointment necessary. [2] When the company was finally established at Louisbourg in 1743, Ste. Marie and Vallée were given responsibility for selecting men of known talents and for instructing them in their roles as cannoneers. [24]

Upon his return to France in 1745, Ste. Marie was commended by the minister both for the refusal of the men of his artillery company to participate in the mutiny of 1744 and for their performance during the siege. Losses in the company were heavy - a 1747 list shows a sergeant and five soldiers remaining,- but, despite their inexperience, the men had acquitted themselves well. The minister ordered that the vacancies be filled and the training of Ile Royale's artillery company be continued at Rochefort. [25]


The maître canonnier was a specialist whose job was to know everything of a practical nature which related to artillery. He was responsible for maintenance of the cannon and the powder, was to know the proper charge and calibre of projectile for each piece, and was to oversee all work done in the artillery storehouse, including the preparation of cartridges, the care of the utensils, the building of carriages, the movement of the pieces, and the delivery of projectiles. It was his responsibility to see that the powder was kept secure and dry and that all necessary powder and utensils were made available for the artillery school. [26]

While several men held this title at Louisbourg before 1745; they were not all of equal rank. In 1716 the Council of the Marine informed Governor Costebelle and commissaire-ordonnateur Soubras that Jacob would serve as maître canonnier at Port Dauphin, while Le Fevre would fill the same post at Port Toulouse. A third maître canonnier was promised for Louisbourg. What pay these men received and how long they remained in the colony is not known. The post of maître canonnier was held for several years by Thomas Jacault at a salary of 720 livres, equal to the pay of a lieutenant of the infantry and 240 livres more than was being received by Lambert, the artillery officer at the time. In 1727 commissaire-ordonnateur De Mézy wrote that two more maîtres canonniers were required so that Jacault could be stationed at the semi-circular battery and the others at the Batteries Royale and de l'Isle. [28] The minister informed him, however, that no additional maîtres canonniers would be sent to the colony until the batteries were completed and the guns in place. [29] Eight years later the batteries were ready, and the minister stated that the king wished to send three maîtres canonniers to the colony at a salary of 360 livres plus a daily soldier's ration. [30] Although the title maître canonnier was used, it would appear that these men were to function as aides-canonniers assisting Jacault.

Only one man could be found who was willing to accept the offer to go to Ile Royale. St. Ovide and Le Normant requested permission to engage sailors to fill the other two maître canonnier positions if no other willing subjects could be found by the next year. [31] The one maître canonnier who did arrive in the colony, Blaize Baureau, proved to be most unsuitable and was returned to France that same year. He was replaced with a sailor who had attended artillery school at Brest. [32]

Jacault died in 1737 and the following spring François Vallée, arpenteur royal in the colony, asked that the vacant post be granted to his son Louis who had for some years served in the Compagnie des Bombardiers at Rochefort. [33] This was approved, and a second maître canonnier, François Lessenne appointed as well. The minister wrote in 1739 that Vallée and Lessenne would be sent to Louisbourg that year to serve as maîtres canonniers with appointements of 600 livres. The two were recognized in their rank and put "en faction" in the colony in October of that year.

Proposals for the formation of the artillery company included the appointment of Vallée as one of its officers. Initially, it was suggested that he be replaced as maître canonnier by Fraval, a canonnier or aide-canonnier in the garrison, but the governor reconsidered and nominated Dutraque in his place. When the company was established, Vallée was promoted to sous-lieutenant and Dutraque to maître canonnier. [35]

The suggestion had been made that the two maîtres canonniers be made the sergeants of the artillery company until "individuals have been trained for those two positions. The bordereaux, however, show that Lessenne and Dutraque continued to receive 600 livres as maîtres canonniers (the pay suggested by Duquesnel for first sergeant), while the sergeants were being paid 480 and 360 livres respectively, less deductions. [36] In June 1743 the minister informed Duquesnel and Bigot that it was not possible to send the bombardier they had asked for to be first sergeant since most of the bombardiers were serving in Flanders. In reply the two officials requested that a bombardier be sent the following year, as there was no one in the colony capable of becoming first sergeant. [37] Dutraque soon became one of the two sergeants of the artillery company but the identity of the other is not known. Lessenne continued to be listed on the bordereaux as a maître canonnier, separate from the company, at 600 livres, even after the return of the French to Louisbourg in 1749. [38]


St. Ovide notified the minister in the fall of 1735 that the following spring he intended to detach men from the Compagnies Franches to learn the profession of cannoneering. He suggested that those selected be granted a gratuity in addition to their solde. [39] In 1736 two men were detached from each of the eight companies and placed under the tutelege of the sous-lieutenant of artillery, Lambert. A problem arose over whether they should be completely detached from their companies or continue on the company rolls for the purposes of their soldes and vivres. If the latter were decided upon, St. Ovide advised the minister, the men should receive a supplement to their pay of from 10 to 20 livres per month, according to their abilities, to compensate them for their not being able to work on the fortifications. [40]

Although the minister approved detaching the 16 men to be instructed as cannoneers, he agreed to supplement their pay only by from 3 to 6 livres a month. [41] Guignard states that when ordinary troops were detached for duty with the artillery they were exempted from all other duties and were paid a supplement of 6 livres per month. [42] However, officials in Ile Royale realized that the amount set by the minister, though customary in the French service, would not be sufficient to offset what the men would lose by not being able to work elsewhere. The men, St. Ovide and Le Normant declared in 1738, used up "many clothes in the work they are obliged to do, and as their pay as soldiers amounts only to 30 sols per month, they cannot maintain themselves on such slender pay". [43] De Forant and Bigot were instructed to look into the matter, with the result that the supplement was set in October 1739 at 10 livres per month for ordinary soldiers and 13 livres for a corporal. [44] Even this did not prevent the desertion of "des canonniers" in 1741. [45]

In 1737 the governor and commissaire-ordonnateur reported that Lambert was giving all his attention to teaching the new cannoneers. There was not yet an "école fixé" for them, but a room would be made ready during the coming winter. For the sake of convenience, the artillery school was placed in the barracks - in the old corps de garde. Its purpose was to instruct the officers of the garrison and the soldiers destined for the artillery. Practice was held every Sunday at the Bastion Princesse with a special cannon fabricated in France for use at Louisbourg, and prizes were awarded for good markmanship. Subaltern officers from the other companies and cadets were to attend these practice firings to learn how to aim. [47]

In 1740, with war thought to be imminent, the minister ordered that 12 to 15 cannoneers should be sent to Louisbourg for two or three years, until the garrison's cannoneers were sufficiently trained. Finding men willing to go, even for this limited period, proved to be a problem, but eventually 11 were sent. Arriving in Louisbourg late in 1740 they were placed in the charge of Ste. Marie along with the apprentice cannoneers. Attempts to convince these specialists to remain in Louisbourg and become part of the new artillery company proved futile. [48]

When the company of cannoneers was formed, the minister declared that the king did not intend it to be on the same footing as the Compagnie des Bombardiers at Rochefort "with regard to pay and uniform". However, there were to be two levels of pay and it was up to Duquesnel and Bigot, upon the advice of Ste. Marie, to award the larger amount to those most deserving. While they had not established bombardiers as such, the minister wrote, this area of the science of artillery was not to be neglected. In fact, he said, it would be good if all the cannoneers were familiar with the firing of mortars. [49] There was, therefore, no real distinction between cannoneers and bombardiers in Louisbourg's artillery company. The bordereaux show the higher pay of 18 livres per month less deductions going to "Canonniers," while the lesser amount of 15 livres went to "autres canonniers."[50]

Chosen from the eight companies on the basis of their ability, the members of the artillery company were instructed in everything of a theoretical and practical nature associated with the use of artillery. They also performed all work connected with the artillery, such as movement and placement of cannon, cleaning and arranging of artillery storehouses, and gathering wood for cannon carriages. Discipline was in the hands of the company officers, and all who misbehaved were to be returned to their original companies. Two cone's by seniority were to be granted each year after 1 January 1746. Whenever the troops of the garrison were under arms, the artillery company would be at the head; when they were en bataille the artillery would form on the right. The cannoneers' uniforms were due to be shipped to Louisbourg on the first merchant vessel to leave France in 1744. If it did indeed arrive as scheduled, it would have been easily distinguishable from the uniform of the Compagnies Franches. The latter was made from blue and gray cloth, while the artillery uniform was blue and red. The men of the artillery company were housed apart from the other troops in the barracks and because of their other duties were excused from standing guard. [51]