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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


H F 21


Linda M. Hoad

September, 1972

Fortress of Louisbourg


Louis Bertin


Louis Bertin, son of a merchant of the same name and Suzanne Dusseau, was born about 1703 in Pont, near Saintes, in the diocese of Nantes. [275] His first appearance in Louisbourg was in 1735 as ship's surgeon of the king's ship, the Rubis. Bertin had worked at the hospital in Rochefort for seven years and may have received his training there. He then made five voyages on king's ships, the last two, including the voyage which brought him to Louisbourg, in the capacity of surgeon major. [276] Thus Bertin was an experienced surgeon by the time of his arrival in Ile Royale.

While in Louisbourg in 1735 Bertin made the acquaintance of the Lagrange family; before sailing for France on the Rubis he had decided to return to Ile Royale and to marry Lagrange's daughter. [277] It may be a coincidence that in 1735 Lagrange was forced to go to France because of Illness from which both the minister and LeNormant felt he would not recover. Bertin had told LeNormant that he planned to return in the following year and that he would replace Lagrange in the event that the latter could not return to his duties. [278] It appears that everyone expected Lagrange to resign in favour of his son-in-law, but he refused to do so.

Nevertheless, Bertin sailed for Louisbourg early in 1736 on a merchant vessel and married Anne Henriette Lagrange in May of that year. [279] He assumed the duties of the surgeon major during Lagrange's absence and was appointed to the position immediately after his father-in-law's death; his brevet was registered in Louisbourg on July 18, 1737. [280]

Bertin functioned as surgeon major at Louisbourg until 1758, to the satisfaction of all concerned. He apparently performed his functions conscientiously, and numerous documents attest to his activities in all the fields assigned to the surgeon major. He made regular visits to the hospital, provided certificats d'invalidité, gave first aid to the soldiers, examined wounds and performed autopsies. The only break in these services was a period of illness in 1754, when the Brothers of Charity and Bertin's apprentices took over his duties. [281]

Bertin may have assumed the title of lieutenant du premier chirurgien du roi as his father-in-law had done. He was described in one document as "chirurgien Jure" [282] an anachronism since this position had been replaced by the lieutenant du premier chirurgien in 1723. However, Bertin always described himself as "chirurgien major des trouppes et maitre chirurgien", or simply "chirurgien major des troupes". [283]

In addition to the duties normally assigned to the surgeon major, Bertin received payment for a number of other services. He received 102 livres in 1744 for treating a prisoner who had had "la question"; 28 livres for 28 compresses for the legs of a prisoner; 33 livres 10 sols for treatment of a female prisoner in 1756; 90 livres for tending criminal prisoners, and 125 livres for treatment given to English prisoners in 1757. [284] In 1749 he was paid 246 livres for treating the numerous inhabitants who were ill when they arrived from France; and in 1753, 51 livres for medicines given to the "poor Irish established in this colony". In 1753 Prevost requested a gratiffication of 300 livres for Bertin in consideration for the free treatment he had given and continued to give the newly arrived inhabitants, the Acadians and the poor. [285] He received a gratiffication of 400 livres in 1757 for the "particular cares" given to Prévost during an illness. [286]

Bertin had another source of income in his private practice which may have been fairly large, especially after 1749. Bigot, recommending that the surgeon major's salary be raised in 1740, stated that what he earned "in the town" was not as much as one might think because of the competition of the Brothers of Charity. [287] Nevertheless, Bertin returned to the colony in 1749 with four apprentices, [288] and at least three other surgeons or apprentices are known to have worked for him: Pierre Calay, François Baratelle, and Sr. Siman. [289] Bertin had a cabinet à remèdes on the second floor of his apartments in the widow Lagrange's house; the exact function of this roan is not explained, although an inventory taken at his death revealed that it contained "utensils" valued at 500 livres a large quantity of sheets and serviettes, and some dishes. Some, if not all, of the linen and dishes must have been for the use of the family because there are none mentioned elsewhere in the inventory. [290] There is little doubt that Bertin had a boutique somewhere because one document clearly indicates that his apprentices were working there in 1758: an inhabitant who wished a surgeon to treat his foot sent a message to the boutique asking the surgeon to call on him; the surgeon, Siman, treated him, but it was Bertin who had to take legal action in order to collect the fee. [291]

Bertin's activities are unclear between 1745 and 1748. The documents indicate that the other two Ile Royale surgeons and a Rochefort surgeon cared for the troops during these years, [292] but there is no mention of Bertin in this regard. He received three gratiffications - 500 livres in March 1747, 600 livres in October 1747, and 400 livres in 1748. The latter was paid as compensation for the loss of his effects caused by the capture of the ship on which he was "returning to Canada." [293] Since the order for paying the first gratiffication indicated that he was on the point of embarking, it would appear that Bertin was sent to Canada, possibly with the Ile Royale troops, but did not arrive there. [294]

Bertin apparently remained in Rochefort after 1758 and continued to serve there for many years. His salary was reduced to 600 livres in 1759, and by 1763 he was reported to be ill, in debt, and unable to live on this reduced salary. [295] Although he was no longer officially employed, he examined recruits for the Troupes Nationales de Cayenne and treated the sick with "a great deal of zeal and activity". These services were rewarded with a 300 livres gratiffication in 1765. [296] By that time Bertin's health permitted him to work only as a consultant. [297] Nothing further is heard of Bertin until his death in 1776, after a "very long illness." [298]

The undated "Statement of the widow Lagrange's losses" states correctly that the widow's heirs were Louis Bertin and Bertrand Imbert, her sons-in-law, but indicates that Louis Bertin, former surgeon major at Ile Royale, was residing at St. Pierre. [299] The widow died in 1759, at which time Bertin was certainly in Rochefort. His son, Sebastien Louis, probably resided in St. Pierre after 1764, but he was neither the widow Lagrange's son-in-law nor a former surgeon major. Either there is an error in the document, or Bertin did move to St. Pierre between 1759 and 1763, or 1765 and 1776, the dates during which he is known to have been residing at Rochefort. The latter possibility seems unlikely, since none of the documents concerning Bertin mention such a move, while the state of his health would have made the voyage hazardous. 

Bertin's career as surgeon major in Louisbourg, and later at Rochefort, was characterized by what LeNormant called "attachment to his profession". [300] This was LaNormant's first impression of Bertin, and it appears to have been quite accurate. LeNormant used the word "assiduous" several times in praising Bertin, and Bigot noted his knowledge of and attachment to his professional duties. [301] Prévost compared him favourably to Guerin, the surgeon major attached to the Artois battalion, and noted that the inhabitants had confidence in him. [302] The comments on Bertin after 1758 mention his "zeal" and testify that he was a "fort honnette homme". [303]

Perhaps the most accurate indication of the success of Bertin's career was his salary. Although he requested a salary of 450 livres when he first expressed a desire to serve in Ile Royale, he received only 300 livres [304] In 1738, Bertin asked for the same salary as the surgeon in Louisiana and the other colonies, but received no reply. [305] Bigot and Duquesnel wrote in 1740 and 1741, pointing out that Bertin's salary was only half that of an ordinary surgeon at Rochefort and that his services were worth 600 livres a year; in 1742, his salary was raised to 600 livres. [306] In 1749, without any apparent request, Bertin's salary was raised again to 1000 livres. [307] This was considerably higher than surgeons' salaries in other places (600 and 800 livres in Martinque, St. Domingue and Guadeloupe), but not as high as Guerin's salary (2124 livres plus a paid assistant). [308]

Although these facts and the other payments he received may indicate a mercenary attitude to his profession, Bertin's free treatment of the poor Acadians, Irish and other inhabitants, and his services in Rochefort after his retirement, suggest a highly developed sense of duty and an humanitarian concern for his fellow men.


Bertin's first wifes Anne Henriette Lagrange, was born in Louisbourg in 1717 and died in Louisbourg in 1752. [309] She had four childrein: Sebastien Louis, born in 1737; Jean Chrisostome, born in 1738; Anne Henriette, born in 1749 during the voyage from France to Ile Royale; and Jeanne, born in 1750. [310] Jean Chrisostame died before 1749, [311] and Jeanne died before 1753. [312] It is not known what happened to Anne Henriette; she attended several baptisms before 1758, but she was no longer residing with the family in 1763. [313]

Sebastien Louis was employed as a clerk at Louisbourg with a salary of 600 livres a year at the time of the second siege. [314] He seems to have found employment at Rochefort before 1763. [315] In 1764 he and his uncle, Bertrand Imbert, were granted a concession at St. Pierre. [316] Later, the concession was listed in Bertin's name and was rented to a Bayonne merchant. [317] By 1776, Sebastien seems to have taken up permanent residence in St. Pierre; he was écrivain de la marine et des classes, property consisted of "half of a fishing establishment consisting of a house, 2 storehouses, 3 cabannes, a beach and a flake". [318] In 1784 he appeared in the Miquelon census with the note "in France"; his possessions there consisted of one beach, and he was not mentioned in the St. Pierre census. [319] Nothing further has been found concerning Sebastien Louis Bertin.

Louis Bertin re-married in 1753. His second wife, Marie, Anne Bertrand, daughter of Jean Bertrand and Marie Le Borgne, was born in Baleine, a fishing village near Louisbourg, in 1720, and had previously been married to Sr Topie. [320] On her mother's side, Marie Anne was related to Jean Baptiste Rodrigue, husband of Anne Le Borgne de Belleisle, a prominent merchant, Jacques Philippe Rondeau, Tresorier de la marine, and Joseph Dupont Duvivier, officer, first and second husbands of Marie Joseph Le Borgne de Belleisle; on her father's side she was related to Gabriel Rousseau de Villejoin and Charles Joseph Daillebout, first and second husbands of Marie Joseph Bertrand. She belonged to one of "the best families at Ile Royale". [321]

Marie Anne Bertrand's first husband cannot be identified, and though they seem to have remained childless, they did own property. [322] She and Louis Bertin had at least three children: Charles Henry, born in 1754; Charles Joseph, born in 1758; and Mme. Bertin was pregnant with another child in 1763. [323]

Of these children, only Charles Henry seems to have survived. He received a pension until he was eighteen, but cannot be traced beyond this point. [324]

Marie Anne Bertrand received a pension before and after her husband's death. It was recommended that her pension be raised from 200 livres to 350 livres in 1778, but she received only 250 livres in spite of her husband's long service and her own poor health. [325] The date and place of her death are not known; she resided in Rochefort until 1789. [326]


Unlike his father-in-law, Louis Bertin apparently concentrated his energies on his profession. There is no evidence to indicate that he was involved in any of the commercial enterprises managed by the widow Lagrange, or that he attempted to emulate his father-in-law in the economic sphere.

Since he lived in the Lagrange house in Block 3 even after his second marriage, Bertin did not possess a house of his own. However, in 1739 he acquired a lot in Block 5 for 200 livres. [327] The property, listed in the inventory made after Anne Henriette Lagrange's death in 1752 as without buildings and enclosed with a plank fence, was valued at 750 livres. [328] The following year he sold the lot to two Louisbourg merchants for 1200 livres. [329] No buildings or other improvements were mentioned in the bill of sale, so it is difficult to know why the property sold for such a high price.

One other property was mentioned in the inventory: a lot with no buildings or enclosures, valued at 500 livres, near the Queen's Gate. No further record of this property has been found.

The only other commercial transactions in which Bertin was involved were quite minor. Acting for Joseph Cailly. a Swiss captain, he sold a property in Block 34 in 1753. [331] He also supplied 6 livres worth of medicines for his brother-in-law's privateer in 1757. [332] In 1743 a Sr Bertin bid on a boat that had sunk in the Barachois de Lasson. [333] This may have been Louis Bertin, but the total absence of any similiar commercial interests weakens this supposition.

The terms of Bertin's two marriage contracts, the first in 1736, [334] and the second in 1753, [335] are almost identical. He endowed both his wives with an equal sum (3000 livres) and the préciput réciproque was in both cases 1000 livres. Anne Henriette Lagrange was given a chambre garnie valued at 1000 livres, but Marie Anne Bertrand did not receive this additional favour.

The following inventory of the Bertin-Lagrange community is more revealing.[336]




Julien Fizel  1800  30752
Antoine Paris  2266  27250
Julien Auger dit Grandehamp  1131  11531
Pierre Chouteau  112  8000
Louis Bertin  3424  7674 
Jean Baptiste de Couagne  948  7000
Pierre Benoit  3899  4883
Michel de Gannes  4682  ---
Thomas Milly La Grois  1350 ---
Jean Seigneur 1605 ---

The furnishings were valued at 3424 livres, the two properties at 1250 livres, and Bertin "by the examination which he has made of his affairs concerning the credits and debits of the community has found that taking everything into consideration, the community has assets totalling 3000 livres." Thus the total value of the community was 7674 livres. It is difficult to estimate accurately at this point the significance of these figures, since not enough detailed studies of Louisbourg individuals have been made.

These figures do indicate that Bertin's economic position was by no means  insignificant. His furnishings were more valuable than those owned by most of the others, and his total fortune compares favourably with that of the officers, if not so well with that of the merchants. It is possible that some this money came into the community as a result of Lagrange's death, since Mme. Lagrange stated in the marriage contract that Anne Henriette would receive her share of the Lagrange community after their death. However, since there are no records of Lagrange's succession, it is impossible to determine if any division was made at the time of his death. At any rate, the widow Lagrange retained possession of all the property and continued to manage it after her husband's death.

Bertin had two servants (a married couple, or brother and sister), and four apprentices, when he returned to Louisbourg in 1749. A legal dispute over an engagé in 1756 indicates that Bertin had added another servant to his household, although no details of the engage's duties are given. [338] Bertin fared better than Lagrange in having his salary raised from 300 livres to 600 livres, and then to 1,000 livres. What is most significant is that there was no corresponding raise in salary for other surgeons (450 livres in Port Toulouze, 600 in Ile St. Jean), or for the officers and "other employees". Thus, after 1749, Bertin received almost as much as a company captain (1080 livres) and more than a company lieutenant (720  livres) the écrivain principal (900 livres), or the garde des magasins (800 livres). [339] In the light of secondary source statements that surgeons were among the lowest paid entretenus, equal in status only to the lower clerks, [340] this raise in salary may be important. It has not been possible to ascertain the salaries of surgeons major in Canada in the 1750's and without this information, it is impossible to draw any firm conclusions. However, it does not seem likely that Bertin considered himself, or was considered the social equal of a mere clerk.

An attempt has been made to determine Bertin's social position from an analysis of the parish records. [341] The results are interesting but inconclusive. Those who were godparents of Bertin's children by his first marriage, other than the immediate family, were: Sebastien François Ange LeNomarit (commissaire ordonnateur), Jean Chrisostome Loppinot (officer) Jeanne Dupont Duchambon (daughter of an officer), and Jeanne Loppinot. Witnesses at the baptisms included Marie Mius d'Entrement (married to an officer), Anne Duchambon, Mme. Duchambon de Vergor, Madeleine Boitier Loppinot, veuve Lelarge (wife of a ship's captain), several members of the Dupont Duvivier de Gourville family, and Louise Loppinot.

Bertin was godfather to children of René Tréguy (merchant-fisherman), George Rosse (merchant-fisherman), Jean Baptiste Guyon (merchant), Pierre Martin, Jean Chrisostome Loppinot, Claude Simoneau (habitant bourgeois), Pierre Labrouche (merchant), and Louis Vallée (artillery lieutenant). Anne Henriette Lagrange was godmother of one of Jacques Philippe Rondeau's children (trésorier de la marine) They were witnesses for Gabriel Berbudeau (surgeon), the marriageof Michel Neel and the daughter of the widow Droit (mid-wife), Laurent de Domingue Meyrac (baillif) and Jeanne Lartigue, and the marriage of Guy Beaudoin Lecluseau's daughter (surgeon).

The godparents of Bertin's children of his second marriage were Charles d'Estimauville (son of an officer), Charles Carrerot (son of a merchant), and Josephe Prévost (daughter of the commissaire ordonnateur). Witnesses at these baptisms were Jean Baptiste Philipe d'Estimauville (company captain), François Poinsu (merchant), Margueritte Le Neuf de Lavalibère, Mme Prévost (wife of the commissaire ordonnateur), and the Chevalier du Souliey (probably an officer).

Marie Anne Bertrand was godmother to a negress belonging to Jean Baptiste Philipe d'Estimauville, but Bertin did not act as godfather after his second marriage. He was a witness for Jean Roche (surgeon), Jean Cholet (fisherman), and for the marriages between Bertrand Detchevery and Jeanne Magdelaine Treguy (relation by marriage), and Michel de Couagne (company captain) and Jeanne Loppinot. His daughter; Anne Henriette, was godmother for a child of Leonard L'Hermitte, and his wife was a witness at this ceremony.

This analysis suggests that Bertin's friends were mainly in the merchant, official, and officer classes. Although a number of the more important officers were witnesses or godparents for Bertin, he was godfather only for Jean Chrisostome Loppinot's daughter, and witness only at the de Couagne-Loppinot wedding. In fact, Bertin seems to have had fairly close relations with the Loppinot family. It may also be significant that Bertin was a witness for several of the other medical personnel, although he did riot ask them to reciprocate.

It is possible that Bertin's marriages were made for economic or social reasons, since this practice was not uncommon in the 18th century. [342] His first marriage probably guaranteed him the position of surgeon major, but it is difficult to determine the financial benefits, if any of his second marriage. The social significance of this marriage is suggested by a comparison of the witnesses of his first marriage contract, [343] presumably friends of the Lagrange family. The friends assembled to elect guardians for the children of this marriage, [344] together with Bertin's friends as listed in his second marriage contract, [345] and the friends of his prospective wife as listed in the same document.

The first group included Judith Maisonnat and René Treguy (aunt and uncle of the bride), Pierre Benoit (officer), Joseph Lartigue (merchant), Verrier, and Boucher (engineers).

The second group includes Bertrand Imbert and Anne Louise Lagrange, Blaise Lagoanere (merchant), Jean Morin (notary, garde-magasin), Jean Hiriart (habitant bourgeois), Jean Baptiste Silvain (merchant), Coeuret (entrepreneur), Jean Laborde (notary, greffier), Magdelaine Treguy, Jeanne Cahouet, Sebastien Louis Bertin, Laurent de Domingue Meyrac and Jeanne Lartigue.

The third group consists of Charles d'Aillebout (Lieutenant de Roy), Jean Baptiste Philippe d'Estimauville (captain) and Marie Charlotte Daillebout, Robert Taride Duhaget (captain) and Marguerite Rousseau, Michel Rousseau d'Orfontaine (captain), Louis Le Neuf de Lavalière, Angélique Le Neuf de Beaubassin, Barbe Le Neuf de Lavalière, Philippe Le Neuf de Beaubassin (merchant) and Charlotte Daccarrette, Jean Baptiste Silvain and Geneviève Benoit, Renée Daccarrette veuve St. Vilmé, Louise, Marguerite and Jean Baptiste Daillebout de St. Vilmé, Joseph Dupont Duvivier (captain) and Marie Josephe Le Borgne de Belleisle.

The Lagrange-Bertin family friends are clearly in a lower class than those of Marie Anne Bertrand; the latter are nearly all of high military rank or their relations.

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