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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



By John Humphreys 

October 15, 1964

(Fortress of Louisbourg Report Number H F 5)



A number of initial toisés and estimates exist for the construction of a battery on the site finally chosen for the Royal Battery. These bear dates ranging between 1716 and 1718, but do not appear to have any direct relationship to the battery as finally constructed. However, they should be mentioned here as representing the first projects for the construction of a defensive battery on the northern shore of Loüisbourg harbour.

No further mention is made of a projected battery until 1721. On 20 June of that ear the King's memoirs concerning fortifications ordered that cabins should be built to prepare for the founding of a battery to cover the two branches of the port, [6] and on the same date the Treasurer General of the Marine was ordered to make payment of 4000 £ for work on the "grande Batterie" during 1721.[7] Although a further allotment of funds was made in 1722, [8] lack of labour prevented the work from being undertaken. [9] In 1723, however, the King ordered that work on the Royal Battery be begun at once, specifying 25000£, for the early construction, and stipulating that the project be carried out by contract awarded through adjudication "au rabais". [10]

This decision resulted in the completion by Verville of a "dévis" for the Royal Battery, according to which the initial construction was apparently undertaken. [11] This document forms the first concrete evidence of the battery's actual dimensions, although it must be stressed that these were projected dimensions only. It is too long to be referred to in detail in this chronology, and is to be found in its entirety in typescript copy form in the Research Notes Appendix. However, the following synopsis of important details is included to indicate the basic configuration of the battery as originally planned:.

Excavations for the seaward faces ................................................... 62 toise long
  7 pied broad
Excavations for the flanks ..................................................   6 toise long
  5 pied broad
Excavations for towers ...................................................   2 toise interior
diameter, prolonged
by 8 pied to form
the exterior diameter
Ditches behind the battery ...................................................   2 toise 3 pied broad
     1 toise 1 pied deep
Ditches around towers and at flanks ...................................................   3 toise broad
  1 toise 1 pied deep

[A] (i.e., the slope into which piled soil would naturally relapse without external supports. This slope, also known as the "slope of repose", varies from soil to soil. The "dévis" indicates that the earth to be used at the Royal Battery had a natural slope forming an angle of 45 degrees to the horizontal - "en autant de largeur que de hauteur".)

[A] Cartographic evidence and the exigencies of architecture indicate that in this context the word "crenellated" describes not a wall crenellated in the usual sense, but rather one furnished with loopholes.

Although preparations were made in November 1723 to construct wooden cabins at the Royal Battery site for the housing of Boucher, the engineer charged with the conduct of its construction, [12] the commencement of work on the battery itself was held up for some time by the process of adjudication. On 26 November 1723 St. Ovide and De Mezy sent to the Minister a proposition for the adjudication of the Royal Battery works with the entrepreneur Isabeau, [13] and the following spring Isabeau's propositions were received by the Minister and forwarded to St. Ovide and De Mezy as the basis for a new adjudication. Simultaneously the Minister approved of the propositions sent to him by St. Ovide and De Mezy the previous November, with the exception of an article prescribing the procedure for the settling of difficulties over the reception of the works. [14] The conditions of the adjudication were thus left unsettled, with the result that only the excavations for the faces and towers of the batteries could be accomplished during the summer of 1724. In November Perrier wrote to the Minister begging that the adjudication might be ordered so that an entrepreneur might be procured and the more detailed work proceeded with in the following year. [15]

In the same month De Mezy reported that the excavations for the-battery were almost all made, and that the "chaux éteinte", flatstone, and rubblestone had been amassed so that work on the battery would be well advanced by the end of the following summer. [16]

With the acceptance of Ganet as entrepreneur for the works during 1725, the construction of the battery began in earnest. By the end of the working season the counterscarp was elevated to six or seven pied above the ground-level in the ditch, and the barracks and the two towers were founded. [17] Verrier commended Boucher for his zeal in forwarding the works at the battery, and estimated that an expense of 85000£ would be needed during 1726 to elevate the faces of the battery up to the "genouillière" of the embrazures, and to continue work on the barracks buildings, the glacis, and the powder magazines of the towers.[18] Figure 1 in the Plan Appendix represents the configuration of the battery as it was conceived at this time. It was hoped that during 1726 a guard would be mounted at the battery and cannon installed, and arrangements were made for the construction of gun-carriages to speed this process. [19]

During 1726 much effort was concentrated on pressing the Royal Battery towards its completion, and by mid-August the embrazures were started, the barracks raised to a height sufficient for the placing of the traverses, and the first vault of the towers completed. [20] By October the masonry work at the battery was well advanced, the barracks and counterscarp finished, and the towers elevated to the beginning of the second vault. [21] At this time Ganet complained that if freestone had not been lacking the embrazures would have been finished. [22] Although the lack of slate, freestone, and labour slowed down the construction, [23] and a storm of November 7 carried away many of the supplies amassed at the battery and knocked down four or five toise of the circular counterscarp, [24] by the end of the month the embrazures were traced, the merlons raised to a height of two and a half pied, the barracks ready to receive their roofing, the towers elevated to the level of the crenellated room, and the counterscarp finished.[25]

It was now hoped that the battery would be completed during 1727, and plans were made to start work early in the spring, the embrazures and platforms having the first priority so that the cannon might be the sooner mounted, while the towers, the covered way, and the rest of the works were also to be continued. Verrier informed the Minister in December 1726 that only lack of brick or freestone could hinder the perfecting of the battery during the course of the coming year, [26] while St. Ovide was confident that the work would be completed early in the summer. [27]

In 17271, however, lack of stone-cutters to supply freestone to the masons seriously retarded the work, [28] with the result that the estimated date for the battery's completion was set forward to the end of July 1728. [29] The covered way and the glacis were by this time completed, the towers elevated, the embrazures almost all raised, and the barracks partly roofed. [30] The platforms of the battery and the towers remained to be made, and three embrazures and breaches used to bring in materials remained open, but work on the entrance gate was started. [31] St. Ovide and De Mezy counted on finishing the embrazures by June 1728, and the platform and remaining roofing by the end of July, [32] but at this time St. Ovide pointed out to the authorities in France that only three of the cannon of the battery fired into the port, and began to mention "essential defects" in the battery's construction.[33]

As a result of St. Ovide's complaints, the Minister wrote to Verrier the following spring asking for a clarification of the battery's design and purpose. He pointed out that only a few of the cannon on the right face defended the mouth of the harbour, while the remaining guns on this face could fire on vessels only when they passed to anchor in front of the town. Similarly, those on the left face could only fire on ships passing to anchor in the northeast harbour. The Minister observed that if the battery had been turned or the saliant angle rendered less open, the town and northeast harbour anchorages would have been covered, and noted that to remedy these faults in part Verrier had been obliged that year to have two flanks made on the covered way, in each of which three cannon might be placed. According to the evidence afforded by plans, Verrier's original scheme was for the establishment of two-embrazure flanks, as represented in Figure 2 in the Plans Appendix. He must almost immediately have changed his mind in favour of three embrazures per flank, since, as has been seen, no flanks were envisaged in the plans drawn up in 1725, and therefore Verrier must have evolved both the two and the three-embrazure schemes during the course of 1726, in order for the latter to have been carried out, as it was, in 1727. The plan for the three-embrazure scheme is shown in Figure 3 of the Plans Appendix. Thus the plans from which figure 2 and 3 were taken may both be dated 1726 with a considerable degree of certainty. The Minister also asserted that the barracks of the battery were reportedly so close to the ramparts that it was thought that the noise of the cannon would shake them and possibly cause them to fall. In addition, the place was supposedly too cramped for the performance of the movements necessary in case of attack, the covered way being only eight pied wide to the banquette. The Minister, understandably impatient, asked Verrier for the truth about these alleged faults. [34]

Meanwhile work on the battery continued. By the end of June 1728 all the masonry eras finished with the exception of the platforms of the towers upon which work was then being done. A little of the slate roofing remained unfinished, but the covered way and the glacis were perfected, and the palisade planted. Work was also being done on the platform of the battery, which Verrier estimated would be finished and ready to receive cannon during July. [35] In fact guns were installed in the battery during the latter part of the summer, and were fired for the first time in late August or early September. [36] By mid-November thirty-three 36-pounder cannons were mounted at the battery, which was in a condition to receive troops, some rough-casting, joinery, and slate roofing only remained to be completed, the latter being held up by lack of slate. [37]

The controversy concerning the defects of the battery remained open while the work itself was pushed to its conclusion. St. Ovide wrote to the Minister in November 1728, placing on Verville the responsibility for the faults in the battery's design, and remarking that Verrier should not have been ordered to conform so strictly to his predecessor's plans. The Governor mentioned the flanks that Verrier had had to make as evidence of the truth of this assertion, and noted that the left flank would probably have to be further extended. [38] Verrier for his part undertook to reply in length to the Minister's inquiries concerning the battery. On 13 November 1728 he wrote a full report on the alleged defects of the battery, [39] of which a synopsis follows:

[A] It should be noted that Verrier gives the width of the terraplain of the covered way as nine pied or less, as opposed to the fourteen pied-wide terra-plain and four pied-wide banquette projected in the dévis of 1723. [1] As has been mentioned, Verrier gives one reason for this drastic reduction in width - namely that an enemy attacking the battery could use a wide covered-way as a position for the establishment of a lodgement to cover his troops from the fire from the crenellated rear wall of the barracks. Another possible reason for the narrowness of the terra-plain, though not mentioned by Verrier in his report to the Minister, was the fact that the battery was dominated by considerable heights in its rear. In November 1751 Franquet was to report that one hill 248 toise from the battery was over 102 pied higher than the covered way. [2] Under such conditions the rear portions of a covered way over nine pied broad might have been exposed to musket fire from the hill.

1. See this Report, p. 3. 
2. See this Report, p. 61.

While this account was transmitted to France, the battery neared completion. Interior arrangements such as beds were being made at the close of November 1728, and gun-carriages constructed during the previous winter were installed and found to be good, although the lips of the battery's embrazures were higher than ordinary naval gun-ports. [41] Sabatier, meanwhile, was assigned to buy slate in France to finish the roofing of the battery. [42]

In May 1729 the King approved Verrier's project for the prolongation of the left flank by thirty or forty pied to make three additional embrazures and an emplacement for two mortar platforms, and the Minister ordered Verrier to proceed with this undertaking at his own discretion. Verrier's plans for this extension of the flank are shown in Figures 4 and 5 in the Plan Appendix. Both show substantially similar projects envisaging a six-embrazure flank with platforms for cannon and mortars and a crenellated or loop-holed wall enclosing it on the landward side. The plan from which Figure 5 was taken is classified as "1727-5", and it is indeed possible that Verrier had drawn up plans for the extension as early as 1727. Figure 4 was drawn from a plan classed as "Not Dated", but which may now be assigned with some confidence to 1727 or 1728.

In addition to ordering Verrier to proceed with the extension of the left flank, the Minister noted that if Verrier began the work during 1729, he expected that it would be finished before the return of the King's vessel from Louisbourg. He also thanked Verrier for his satisfactory replies to the objections raised against certain points of the battery's design.[43]

Throughout the summer of 1729 lack of slate held up the completion of the Royal Battery, [44] but by mid-December the buildings of the battery were almost entirely covered with slate, and the workers were busy with joinery that had been delayed by the slow roofing process. Some slates were still needed, however, to finish the roofing of the entire battery.[45]

Verrier was unable to carry out the prolongation of the left flank during 1729 because the orders for its construction had arrived too late in the season. Instead he had materials gathered at the battery so that work on the flank could be begun early in the summer of 1730.[46] The projected prolongation was now modified to incorporate four additional embrazures instead of three, together with the two mortar platforms originally projected, and in March 1730 Verrier drew up an estimate of the expense involved in constructing an extension of this pattern. [47] Figure 6 on the Plan Appendix probably represents Verrier's definitive plan for the four-embrazure prolongation, since it is obvious from its title that it was not drawn up until 1730. Furthermore, its configuration agrees in essentials with later less-detailed plans of the battery showing the completed flank, such as Figures 9 and 10(A). Figure 7, which shows a seven embrazure left flank of slightly different type, cannot be accurately dated, but is probably contemporary with, or slightly earlier than Figure 6.

For some unknown reason - perhaps the decision to add a further embrazure caused delay - the prolongation was not made during 1730, but postponed until the following year, [48] as was the removal of the arch-supports from the vaults of the towers. [49] The roofing and joinery were finished, however, and dimensions were sent to M. Beauharnois, Intendant of Rochefort, for the construction of an altar-piece for the battery's chape1.[50]

By 23 May 1731, the excavation of earth for the establishment of the four additional embrazures was complete, and the materials for their construction were at hand. Plans were made to establish workshops for masons at the Royal Battery by 8 June, so that the embrazures could be finished. [51] Work went on all summer, and by November the extension, now described as being of four embrazures with an apaulement for the placing of three mortars, was complete.[52] On 10 July Beauharnois had been ordered to send a picture representing the Baptism of St. John for use as an altar-piece in the chape1,[53] and with its installation in the spring of 1732, the battery was for all practical purposes complete, [54] and was garrisoned by a portion of the Compagnie de Dangeac during the same year.[55]



1. AC C11B V.1. ff.496-499v / AN Moreau de St. Méry pp. 34-36 / AC F3 V.51 ff.66-72 / Bibl. du Génie. Insp. Générl. du Génie MS. 125 ff. 65-70.

2. AC B V.39-5 ff.266-269, Council to Verville, 3 June 1717.

3. AC C11B V.2 ff.163-184v, St. Ovide and Soubras, 13 November 1717.

4. Bibl. du Génie, Insp. Générl. du Génie, Isle Royale MS. 125 ff. 111-114, Unsigned, Undated 1717.

5. AC F3 V.51 ff.193-244 / Bibl. du Génie, Insp. Générl. du Génie, Isle Royale MS.125, ff.185-204, 217-220.

6. AC C11B V.4 ff.344-56, Mémoire du Roi, 20 June 1721.

7. AN Colonies F1A V.22 ff.84-85, 20 June 1721. This was the first of a series of regular payments made for the work on the battery during its initial construction. A list of these payments follows the footnote section.

8. AN Colonies F1A V.22 ff.242-243, 20 May 1722.

9. AC C11B V.6 ff.116-116v. Verville to Minister, 20 September 1722.

10. AC C11C V.16 f. 15, Memoirs du Roi, 27 May 1723 / AC C11B V.6 ff.170-173 / Min. Guerre Com. Tech du Génie, Art. 14 Carton 1 Pièce 18 / AN Marine Ser. G V.51 ff.221-225 AN Marine Ser. G V.62 ff. 108-109.

11. AC C11B V.6 ff.298-308v, Verville, 8 August 1723.

12. AC C11B V.6 ff.182-186, St. Ovide to Minister, 22 November 1723.

13. AC C11B V.6 ff.205-208v, ff.164-167v, 25 November 1723.

14. AC C11C V.16 ft.20, Louis and Phelypeaux to St. Ovide and De Mezy, 9 May 1724.

15. AC C11B V.7 ff.136-137v, Verrier to Minister, 17 November 1724.

16. AC C11B V.7 ff.59-65v, De Mezy to Minister, 22 November 1724 / AC C11B V.7 f.167, Unsigned, Undated 1724.

17. AC C11B V.7 ff.194-197v, St. Ovide to Minister, 17 December 1725.

18. AC C11B P.7 ff.328-332, Verrier to Minister, 16 December 1725 / AC C11B V.7 f.334, Verrier, 16 December 1725.

19. AC C11B V.7 ff.261-266v. De Mezy to Minister, 3 December 1725 / AC C11B V.7 ff.171-175, De Mezy and  St. Ovide to Minister, 17 December 1725.

20. AC C11B V.8 ff. 87-91, De Mezy to Minister; 15 August 1726.

21. AC C11B V.8 ff.111-113, Verrier to Minister, 10 October 1726.

22. AC C11B V.8 ff.168-169, Ganet to Minister, 10 October 1726.

23. AC C11B V.8 ff.161-163v, Ganet to Minister, 29 November 1726.

24. AC C11B V.8 ff.115-121v, Verrier to Minister, 1 December 1726.

25. AC C11B V.8 ff.08-20v, St. Ovide and De Mezy to Minister, 28 November 1726.

26. AC C11B V.8 ff.115-121v, Verrier to Minister, 1 December 1726.

27. AC C11B V.9 ff.71-75, St. Ovide to Minister, 1 December 1726.

28. AC C11B V.9 ff.50-51, St. Ovide to Minister.13 September 1727.

29. AC C11B V. 9 ff.141-147v, Verrier to Minister, 17 November 1727. / AC C11B V.9 ff.60-63v, St. Ovide to Minister, 17 November 1727.

30. Ibid.

31. AC C11B V.9 ff.93-991 De Mezy to Minister, 24 November 1727 / AC C11B V.9 ff.31-35, St. Ovide and De Mezy to Minister, 26 November 1727 / AC C11B V. 9 ff.150-151, Verrier to Minister, 9 December 1727.

32. AC C11B V.9 ff.31-35, St. Ovide and De Mezy to Minister, 26 November 1727.

33. AC C11B V.9 ff.60-63v, St. Ovide to Minister, 17 November 1727.

34. AC B V.52-2 ff.588-592v, Minister to Verrier, 20 June 1728 / AC B V.52-2 ff.598v-600, Minister to St. Ovide, 25 June 1728.

35. AC C11B V.10 ff.126-128, Verrier to Minister, 27 June 1728.

36. AC C11B V.10 ff.100-100v, De Mezy to Minister, October 1728.

37. AC C11B V.10 ff.41-54v, St. Ovide and De Mezy to Minister, 3 November 1728 / AC C11B V.10 ff.131-140, Verrier to Minister, 13 November 1728 / AC C11B V.10 ff.81-84, St. Ovide to Minister, 3 November 1728.

38. AC C11B V.10 ff.81-84, St. Ovide to Minister, 3 November 1728.

39. AC C11B V.10 ff.131-140, Verrier to Minister, 13 November 1728.

40. Ibid.

41. AC C11B V.10 ff.109-111v, De Mezy to Minister, 22 November 1728.

42. AC C11B V.10 ff.150-152v, Sabatier to Minister, 21 December 1728.

43. AC B V.53 ff.602v-606, Minister to Verrier, 22 May 1729.

44. AC C11B V.10 ff.240-241, Verrier to Minister, 31 August 1729.

45. AC C11B V.10 ff.242-245, Verrier to Minister, 18 December 1729.

46. Ibid.

47. AC C11B V.11 ff.80-83, Verrier, 26 March 1730.

48. AC C11B V.11 ff.74-79v, Verrier, 2 December 1730.

49. AC C11B V.11 ff.16-22, Bourville and De Mezy to Minister, 3 December 1730.

50. AC C11B V.11 ff.74-79v, Verrier, 2 December 1730.

51. AC C11B V.12 ff.102-103v, Verrier to Minister, 23 May 1731.

52. AC C11B V.12 ff.104-109v, Verrier to Minister, 29 November 1731.

53. AC B V.55-3 ff:558-562, Minister to St. Ovide and De Mezy, 10 July 1731.

54. AC C11B V.12 ff.104-109v, Verrier to Minister, 29 November 1731.

55. See Section III of this Report.