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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



The governor of a Place de Guerre, according to a French military dictionary published in 1743, was an "officier considerable" who represented the person of the king. [1] Operating under the authority of the governor, lieutenant governor or commandant of the province in which the fortified place was located, a governor's command extended beyond the military to all civilian matters which concerned the service of the king. [2] This was reflected in the patent the governor received, which stated that he was to:

1. Order and command the inhabitants of the Place and the soldiers of the garrison in all that concerns His Majesty's service.

2. Insure that the inhabitants live together in "bonne union et concorde," and the soldiers in discipline and order as set down in the military regulations and ordinances.

3. Punish severely those who violate the ordinances.

4. Guarantee the defense and security of the Place and generally do all that is required and proper for its protection. [3]

To comply with this last directive a newly appointed governor was to personally ascertain the numerical strength and quality of the garrison by assembling the troops, along with their officers, and having the soldiers pass before him one by one. Shortly thereafter he was to visit each corps de garde to learn the composition of the guard, where the sentries were posted, where the rounds were made, the procedure for opening and closing the gates, and all other matters relating to each post. Finally he would visit "tout le contour" of the place, inside and out, noting the state of the fortifications, their weaknesses and strengths, and observing the number and placement of the cannon on the walls. Only after these matters were attended to could he settle into the actual discharge of his duties. [4]

As far as the military was concerned the governor's authority was supreme. He was to be obeyed "without difficulty in all that he commands and orders them to do" for the discipline of the garrison. In the course of his duties he:

1. Received daily reports from the major on the state of the garrison

2. Presided at Conseils de Guerre

3. Authorized leave for any officer wishing to absent himself from the Place, and approved or denied such leave granted to soldiers by their superiors

4. Instructed the major on the placement of sentries and the routes of the rounds

5. Issued the password and orders each night

6. Made routine inspections of guardposts and fortifications

7. Attended the yearly review of the troops

8. Observed the daily mounting of the guard

9. Nominated officers to fill vacancies within the ranks, toward which end he was to know the character, talents and zeal of each officer

10. Maintained discipline among the troops by seeing that the officers who commanded them kept them "en bon etat" and treated them without vexation, conforming to the ordinances and regulations. [5]

The governor shared civil, fiscal and judicial authority with the intendant, or in the case of Ile Royale, with his representative, the commissaire-ordonnateur. The many disputes which arose over the years between Louisbourg's governor and commissaire-ordonnateur resulted in a number of directives from the minister detailing the division of responsibilities as they were to be executed in the colony. [6] The commissaire-ordonnateur was charged with the administration of funds, supplies and munitions, as well as the general regulation of the king's storehouses. In the event the governor deemed it proper to make an expense for the good of the service, the commissaire-ordonnateur was required to give the necessary authorization, while the governor was expected to explain the reasons for his action to his superiors. Although the governor was not to interfere with the conmissaire-ordonnateur or his subordinates in the discharge of their duties, he was to be kept informed, and no payment of funds was to be made without his knowledge. [7]

Administration of the hospital and of civil justice also fell to the commissaire-ordonnateur. Within the Conseil Supérieur the governor had primacy, but he could not collect the votes nor pronounce or sign the orders resulting from the council's deliberations. These functions belonged to the commissaire-ordonnateur in his role as first councillor. Control of the police was in the hands of the commissaire-ordonnateur as well, however he and the governor were to report jointly on the officers of justice and rend replacements when vacancies occurred. Together also they were to grant land concessions and mediate any disputes arising from them. And, while jointly responsible for the allocation of the funds for fortifications and for seeing that His Majesty's wishes regarding the defenses were carried out, neither was to countermand any orders of the chief engineer during his absence. If any situation arose upon which the governor and commissaire-ordonnateur could not agree, they were to render a joint account outlining their differences and await the decision of the minister. If, however, an immediate decision was required, the wishes of the governor were to be followed. [8]

Louisbourg's first two governors, Philippe Pastour De Costebelle and Joseph Monbeton De Brouillon dit St. Ovide, came to command the colony by rising through the ranks of its officer corps. Numerous allegations of wrongdoing against St. Ovide helped to bring about his replacement in 1739 by Isaac-Louis De Forant. It is interesting that this decision to remove the governor and replace him with an experienced naval officer coincided with an increase in international tensions. It was with the appointment of De Forant and his successor, Jean Baptiste Louis Le Prévost Duquesnel, both captaines des vaisseaux (the equivalent of colonel when serving on land), that the trend of naval officers governing Ile Royale was begun. The rank of capitaine de vaisseau was described as being of considerable importance due to the number of crew and the quantity of cannon, armor and provisions which rendered their ships "Citadelles flottants."[9] It is likely that the minister saw the experience of these men on ships of war as an asset in bringing the Fortress of Louisbourg and its garrison to some degree of readiness in the event of an attack by the English.

In ordering De Forant and Duquesnel to Louisbourg, the minister passed over a man who had spent almost his entire career in Ile Royale, serving as major and lieutenant de roi. Although his advanced age, along with doubts concerning his ability, were undoubtedly the most important factors in François De Coutre De Bourville's failure to become governor, the situation was repeated in 1744 when Louis Du Pont Duchambon was rejected in favor of Le Moyne De Chateaugué, another outsider. In the latter case, the newly appointed governor was prevented from immediately assuming his post and yet another capitaire de vaisseau, Périer De Salvert, was ordered to command at Louisbourg until Chateaugué's arrival. Adding insult to injury, Chateaugué, who never did see the colony of which he was governor, received both the pay and gratuities connected with the post, while Duchambon, who had longed for advancement but was passed over even as interim commander, was to see the fortress through mutiny and defeat,.

Both Bourville and Duchambon had given long and faithful service in Ile Royale and were familiar with every facet of the colony's administration. However, with the outbreak of hostilities and the increasing likelihood of an attack on the fortress, the French authorities seem to have given increased thought to the military preparedness of the place. They would not agree to an augmentation of the garrison, but they apparently wished to see this long-neglected side of Louisbourg improved and hoped that men with the experience of these naval officers would be able to accomplish this difficult task.

The Côde Militaire provided that when the king appointed a commandant instead of a governor, the appointee would receive a commission similar to that given a lieutenant de roi, with the difference that the latter was able to command only in the absence of the governor of the place while a commandant, like the governor, commanded under the authority of the governor-general of the province. While all financial remuneration and other benefits attached to the governorship belonged to the commandant as well, the latter, like a lieutenant de roi, served with a commission which ran for only three years. At the end of each three year term, therefore, the commission had to be renewed. [11] For reasons that were not explained, Duquesnel was named commandant of Ile Royale in 1740 instead of governor. The minister wrote to Commissaire-Ordonnateur Bigot that Duquesnel, though a commandant, should enjoy "all the authority and rights of a governor. [12]

The appointement or salary of a governor was 9,000 livres, 3,000 of which was for his secretary. In addition, the governor of Ile Royale received 1,200 livres for maintaining a goelette (schooner) for the service of the king. [13] Other perquisites belonging to a governor included all the grass cut on the ramparts, all the fish in the ditch, one-half of the canteen profits, and one-tenth of the booty acquired during war. [14] A sentry was stationed at the door, of the governor's residence. When he approached a guardhouse, the governor was heralded by a sentry who cried "Alerte, voilà Le Gouverneur. " On hearing this the soldiers in the corps de garde would put themselves en haie before the guardhouse without arms (unless he was of sufficient rank to be rendered honors). [15]

In the parish church at Louisbourg the governor and commissaire-ordonnateur were each to have a pew, the governor's to the right and the commissaire-ordonnateur's to the left of the chancel on the same line. At communion the governor would receive the Blessed Sacrement immediately after the priest and his assistants. In marches and public processions the governor would walk at the head with the comnissaire-ordonnateur on his left. The three torches used in a feu de joie would be presented first to the priest officiating, then to the governor and lastly to the conmissaire-ordonnateur.[16]

The honors and privileges connected with the office were jealously guarded. In 1722 St. Ovide was enraged when two ships' captains failed to call at his residence while in port. To add to the affront, the offending parties passed right by the governor's quarters when they went to walk on the works but did not do him the courtesy of stopping to pay their respects. [17] At De Forant's death in 1740, Bigot, amid protests that a governor should not be buried in a chapel of the king, ordered his interment there, arguing that a governor had, by right, "des egards particuliers." Not only was there sufficient precedent for this in France, he said, but the alternative was burial in the cemetery which was slated to be moved outside the town, an unfit end for the king's personal representative. [18] The precedent thus set, there appears to have been no protest regarding Duquesnel's interment in the chapel four years later, although he was not a full governor.

Prior to his death, Duquesnel sought to make his stay in Ile Royale more pleasant by importing a cuisinier from France. [19] He also sought and received financial assistance when he was unable to meet the payments on land he had purchased. In writing to the minister, Duquesnel pointed out that the governor of Martinique received an annual gratuity while he did not. The colony of Ile Royale, he wrote, was an honorable one and demanded a man who, if not actually a governor-general, was at least above other "gouverneurs particuliers." He was granted 3,300 livres in view of his financial situation. [20]

St. Ovide, De Forant and Duquesnel each sought to better his position while on Ile Royale. St. Ovide was willing to remain in the colony, but wished to see his post upgraded to that of a general government, noting St. Dominique was not as important as Ile Royale when it had been separated from Martinique. [21] The minister replied that the colony was not yet (1727) well enough established to be separated frown Canada. [22]

When appraised of the minister's intention to give him command of Ile Royale, De Forant at first declined, believing that someone of his rank should be nothing less than a governor-general. Claiming that all the Marine would be surprised to see him accept such a post, he pointed to two other ships' captains who had been given general governments and stated that if he could not have a similar command he would prefer to remain where he was until one was available. [23] The minister answered that Ile Royale 's government should be distinguished from others due to its location and importance. Moreover, the king had resolved that before assuming the role of a gouverneur général experience should first be gained as a gouverneur particulier. And lastly, he noted, that the outgoing governor, St. Ovide, was also a capitaine de vaisseau and with more seniority than De Forant. [24]

Duquesnel, initially pleased with his appointment, was perhaps disillusioned by what he found on his arrival in Louisbourg. He requested the following year that he be given the first general government to become available. He needed the increased salary, he stated, because he had a family to support, including two daughters. [25] Two years later, on learning of the death of the governor of Martinique, he specifically requested that post which, besides giving him the station he desired, would have brought him together with his son who was serving there.[26] His request was not granted, and he died in Louisbourg on 9 October 1744.