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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 Eric Krause 
(Krause House Info-Research Solutions)
June 10, 2003


By 1744-1745, the softwood palisades of the outerworks were just c. 6-7 years of age and, probably, had reached a moderate level of deterioration, where only some had been replaced. Near-by, the far-more severe disintegration that was quickly destroying other military features served merely as a harbinger of a similar fate for these same palisades after 1745.


In 1974, Margaret Fortier wrote:

In 1733, before the enceinte, that is, the series of walls enclosing the fortress, had even reached the Princess Demi-Bastion, parts of the Dauphin Demi-Bastion were tumbling into the ditch. Conditions in 1745 were so bad that the Dauphin's walls were said to be suffering more from the concussion of the cannon fired on its ramparts than from the shots fired by the enemy.

All this made necessary an unceasing round of repairs ... By 1745 several of the walls had been revetted [with planking nailed to beams], but others, due to lack of time and funds, remained exposed and in a ruinous condition ... [Margaret Fortier, "The Development of the Fortifications at Louisbourg," Canada, An Historical Magazine, Volume 1, Number 1 (June, 1974), pp. 20-21]

These unceasing round of repairs not only included these walls, but also affected other landward fortification features as well: for example, by 1745, the iron cramping and capping with sod of most embrasures and merlons respectively had been completed. But had these subsequent repairs also included the palisades at the banquette of the landward covered way? To answer this question requires answers to four other questions: were the palisades actually installed and if so, when; what was their state of deterioration by 1744/1745; and were they replaced prior to the 1745 siege?

During this period of landward front deterioration, the engineering effort at Louisbourg had significantly shifted its efforts - with some burps here and there (the raising of the ornamental Frederick Gate for example) - its efforts to the new seaward enceinte

By 1743, more than 20 years after work had first begun, the defences of the town and harbour were substantially complete. [Bruce Fry, ""An appearance of strength" The Fortifications of Louisbourg," Aspects of Louisbourg, Eric Krause, Carol Corbin, William O'Shea, editors, (Sydney: University of College Cape Breton Press, 1995), p. 22.]

On October 29, 1729, Engineer Verrier submitted an "estimation a quoy pourra monter la depense des ouvrages projettés pour l'Enceinte de la Ville de Louisbourg, relative au plan et profile cy joint" [C11B, Volume 11, October 29, 1729, ff. 84-84v]. In this account, Verrier provided for 800 running toises (@18 livres per toise) totalling 11,400 livres. In 1726, Ganet, the Fortification contractor (entrepreneur: 1725-1737) had requested a supplementary marché [a listing of the charges he could apply] to cover work not mentioned in his earlier marché (He was completing the work of  Isabeau, the former entrepreneur - for the period 1725 to 1727). He wanted 22 livres per running toise of palisade work under the following circumstances: 

a 22:" la toise Courante de palisades de bois de sapins, de 9: pieds de long, et 15: à 18: pouces de circonference y Comprist la lambourde et une Chevillette de fert, pour clouer chaque palisade, toise tant plain que viuide, quand les dittes palisades Seront planté, le bois pour les poteaux des barrieres et autres, bois, fert, et deblay de terre seront payé a part suivant les prix du marché de chaque chose ... cette article et difficille á faire, par raport a ce quil faut tout bois choisy et uny forme, et que l'on est point a coutumé y cy à cela, cette reguliarité et causse que le bois et cher, estant difficille a en rasembler une quantité ... [C11B, Volume 8, November 12, 1726, ff. 165v - 166]

As of March 26, 1730, the glacis of the "Bastion Dauphin et sa batterie" had not yet been constructed and Verrier  was submitting his estimates that included this portion of the landward front [C11B, Volume 11, ff. 80v-81]. In this accounting, Verrier did not include palisades for any portion of the the front, including that of the King's Bastion. Shortly later, however, on April 18, 1730, Ganet received a new marché which he was to use to cost ["en Consequence du marché du 18.e avril 1730"]  the "Lenceinte de la ville de Louisbourg pendant les annees 1731, 1732, 1733, 1734, 1735, 1736, en 1737 ..." [C11B, Volume 20, October 1, 1738/November 3, 1738, f. 210v]. 

Unfortunately, this marché has gone missing, but by examining Ganet projects - like the King's Bastion (1731-1734, 1736); the Block One Bakery (1732-1734); the Block One Engineer's House (c.1730-1734); the Port Dauphin Eperon (1735); the Block One Artillery Hangard (1736-1737); the Royal Battery/Dauphin Bastion crépissage (1737); Ganet's trip to France and return (1737); slate and other freight charges (1730) - [C11B, Volume 20, October 1, 1738/November 3, 1738, ff. 210, ] - associated with the same marché, it can be mostly re-constituted. For example, in the Engineer's House the palisades  ("palissade") which Ganet used as a wall fill for the hangard cost 16 livres per running toise. [C11B, Volume 16, September 30, 1734, f. 210v].

On October 25, 1736, the master carpenter Jean Durand, was awarded one of four 6-year general marchés for the maintenance of King's roofs, timber, joinery, hardware and related features. Article two of Durand's contact (600 livres yearly) was clear: the care and responsibility of the palisades of the chemin couvert of the Dauphin Demi-Bastion [and of the Royal Battery] was now his (presumably, since Ganet had now completed his 6-year contract on the landward enceinte):

il entretiendra pareillement Et sous les mesmes conditions les pont levis ponts dormants garde corps Bascules solles Et potteaux de Barrieres, alentour de la ville Et des Batteries de Louisbourg, Guerittes tant dans la ville que sur la fortiffications, les palissades du chemin couvert du demy Bastion Dauphin et celles du chemin couvert de la Batterie Royalle [C11B, Volume 18, October 25, 1736, ff. 374-375]

Whether the palisades were new or had already deteriorated to some unstated degree, or whether they were simply viewed as a problem that would arise within the next six years was not mentioned. 

In the same year, 1736, Muiron placed a tender on the construction of the fortification works, in an attempt to undercut Ganet whose contract of April 18, 1730 was about to expire, offering, among a wide-ranging list of items, to carry on the project for the next six years where, for example, his charge for fir palisades was 17 livres the running toise

La toise courante de palissades en bois de sapin pour dix sept livres ... [C11B, Volume 18, October 27, 1736, f. 318.]

In this process, Ganet's contract was compared with Muiron's proposal, while also providing the costs which commissaire-ordonnateur Le Normant de Mézy thought appropriate [C11B, Volume 18, November 14, 1736, ff. 103-104v]. Here it was confirmed that Ganet had been charging 16 livres for pine palisade work since 1730. In contrast, Muiron wanted to charge 17 livres, and Le Normant wanted the King to pay only 15 livres per running toise:

La toise Courant de palissades le bois de la pin ...

In 1737, Muiron (1737-1745), won the new 6-year contract (1737-1743) "pour la Continuation de L'Enceinte de la Ville de Louisbourg, le Chemin Couvert et autres ouvrages à faire Concernant les fortiffications de lad. Enceinte ...,"and Ganet , who was to complete his work that year, departed for France. Muiron's marché (May 10, 1737) for the new seaward front (mostly completed by 1743) included pine palisade work for the chemins couverts and other spots at 14 livres 8 sols per running toise:

Les palissades pour les chemins Couverts ou autres Endroits ou le besoin Exigera d'en planter, seront de bois de pin  ...  [C11B, Volume 19, 10 May, 1737, article 43.]

"The last section of the land-ward enceinte, the curtain wall between the King's Bastion and the Dauphin Half-Bastion, was not undertaken until 1736-37." [Fry, Aspects, p. 22] Following that, on December 20, 1737, Verrier submitted his final definitive toisé [a listing of the approved charges] for Ganet's landward enceinte (439,787 livres , 17 sols, 4 deniers). Unfortunately, this toisé has gone missing.

A listing of the assorted projects which Muiron undertook between May 10, 1737 and November 22, 1743, did not suggest that he conducted any work on the landward enceinte during the  maintenance contract period (November 1, 1736-November 1, 1742) [C11B, Volume 25, November 22, 1743, ff. 192-194]. However, this did not mean that work on the landward enceinte - including the planting of the palisades of the Chemin Couvert - had not occurred during this period, for according to Engineer Verrier:

Pour rendre Compte a Monsieur de[s[ ouvrages qui onts estés faits pendant La Campagne, Jay L'honneur de L'informer que les murs de ContreEscarpes du fossé de la place avec Leurs Escaliers pour dessendre dans le fossé; et tous Les autres accompagnements suivant L'art de la fortification Sonts finis Entierementt, Les murs de parapets du Glacis du Chemin couvert ont Estés poussée jusque a La Place D'arme du Roy. La saizon estant trop avanceé on na pas peu Les pouss[er] plus Loin, on finira Cet ouvrage L'annee prochaine tandis que l'on fera les Excavations de la nouvelle [Sea Side] Enceinte, Le Batardeau qui ferme le fossé du Costé de la mer du Large ainsy que le profil du Chemin couvert et du glacis de ce mesure Coste sont finis, il y a aussy une traverse de la place D'arme de la Reyne de finir, Les Glacis sonts perfectionnés jusque, la place D'arme du Roy, Celuy de la dite Place D'arme Est Ebauché, Les fossés de tous les Corps de la Place sont Elargis et approfondir il reste Encore quelques rocs a Deblayer dans les fossés, on continuera  ce travail L'année prochaine a fin de les nettoyer entirement. . . 

Les Ouvrages auquels on travaillera La Campagne prochaine Consisterons (Monseigneur) a la Continuation et perfection des maconneries des murs de parapets du Chemin Couvert de la Place, a commencer depuis Le premier crochet de la Place D'arme du Roy jusques et compris La place D'arme Dauphine dont une face flanquera La Capitale de Long le saillant du Bastion du Roy (qui l'on a coloré en  jaune dans le plan) Continuer et finis les banquettes, et planter les palissades dans le Chemin couverte. Je Supplie Monseigneur de les persuade que ces ouvrages seronts finis de bonne heure. L'année prochaine et quils ne retarderons nullement . . . . [C11B, Volume 20, November 1, 1738, ff. 227-228, 229-229v]

From this account, it would appear the none of the palisades of the outer works of the landward enceinte had yet been placed, and that they would not be until 1739 at the least. However, according to Engineer , as of August 2, 1739, the palisade project remained pending:

Les murs de parapet du chemin couvert qui restoient a faire devant le corps de la place touts finis ainsy que ceux de la place d'arme devant la Courtine entre le Bastion du Roy et le Bastion de la Reine et celle devant l'angle de l'epaule droite du Bastion du Roy, on travaille a perfectionner Les glacis et on plante les palissades ... [C11B, Volume 21, August 2, 1739, ff. 344-345]

However, by September 3, 1739, most of the palisades had been put into place, and the landward enceinte was declared complete on October 25, 1740:

Les maçonneries des murs des parapets du chemin couvert au tour de la place sont finies et les palissades plantées a peu de chose prés .... [C11B, Volume 21, September 3, 1739, f. 172]

Les glacis de l'ancienne enceinte sont perfectionés de sorte qu'il n'y reste plus rien a faire ny en dedans ny en dehors ... [C11B, Volume 22, October 25, 1740, f. 61; See also: C11B, Volume 22, October 29, 1740, f. 259]

Of interest, when Muiron's contract was about to be renewed in 1743, in 1742 he asked that "La toise courante de palissade" be increased to 15 livres per running toise. [C11B, Volume 24, 1742, ff. 296v-298]. This amount he did not receive as subsequent construction toisés revealed the same payment of 14 livres 8 sols [For example, see DFC, Ordre 200, November 30, 1744]. In October of 1744, Muiron produced an extensive, quite detailed reckoning of  the work that "le Sr Bernard Muiron Entrepreneur a fait pour les fortifications de la ville de Louisbourg ... [DFC, Ordre 201, October 30, 1744]. Once again, the account did not suggest any work on the landward enceinte

Attached to a Knowles letter of July 8, 1746 was a "The Description and State of the Garrison and Fortifications of Louisbourg with the Opinions of Governour Knowles and Capt. Bastide Principal Engineer concerning them" which noted the following:

The terre plane of the covered way [of the West Gate] is in fair condition but the whole needs palissading ... [C.O. 217 (Nova Scotia), A 28, July 8, 1746, f. 191]

On July 14, 1749, Bastide issued the "State and Condition of the Fortifications Publick and private Buildings of Louisbourg and the out Batteries, as they were on the 12th day of July 1749 when the Place was returned to the French with a general Account of Works done while in the Possession of His Brittanick Majesty:" [Nova Scotia A, Volume 34, Transcripts of Colonial Records relating to Nova Scotia, pp. 155-165 ]

... all the Palissades round the Covered way of the Maurepas Gate are Rotten and useless ... [p. 161 - note: this observation was made sometime between 1745 and 1749]

On August 30, 1749, Engineer Boucher issued an "Estimation des Reparations a faire aux fortifications de la ville de louisbourg, aux forts que en dependent et aux Batiments appartenant au Roy, occasionnés par les différentes brèches qui n'ont point Esté Réparées par plusieurs démolitions faittes et faute d'un Entretien annuel que les Anglois ont négligé de faire depuis quatre ans." [C11B, Volume 28, ff. 303-320, August 30, 1749] The needed repairs on the landward enceinte side included the following palisades:

92 Toises courantes de Palissades pour garnir tout le chemin couvert du Bastion Dauphin, cy ..... 92-0-0 ...

126 Toises Courantes de palissades Sur le chemin couvert, depuis l'estacade du petit Etang, jusques à la capitalle du Bastion du Roy, cy ............... 126-0-0

222 Toises courantes de palissades Sur le chemin couvert depuis la capitale du Bastion du Roy, jusqus a celle de la Reyne, les places d'armes compris, cy  ...... 222-0-0

171 Toises courantes de palissades, depuis La capitalle du Bastion de la Reyne jusqus au Batardeau du Bastion princesse, La place d'arme comprise, cy .... 171-0-0 ... 

quinze Livres la toise courante, monte Ensemble a La Somme ....  [C11B, Volume 28, ff. 311-311v, August 30, 1749]

Notwithstanding the possibility that the Durand maintenance contract has raised the possibility that the palisades of the covered way of the landward front were replaced in a timely manner before deterioration rendered them useless as a fortification feature, certain facts may suggest otherwise. For example, in 1744, Verrier reported that the feet of the palisades of the covered way of the Royal Battery were rotten ("pourries par le pied") and required their complete replacement ("rétablir a neuf les palissades"). According to Governor DuChambon and Commissaire Bigot, they would be completely replaced ("refaisant a neuf") in 1745. [DFC, Oder Number 209, November 18, 1744; DFC, Order Number 210, November 22, 1744.] In fact, when the siege began, the palisades were entirely missing (n'etant pas palissades). [F3, Volume 50, May 11, 1745, f. 301.] Verrier noted that he had planned in April, 1745, to re-establish the épaulement and the palisades of the chemin couverte, but was unable to carry out the work that month because both the lime ("la chaux") and the land ("terrain") was frozen ("gelés"). [C11B, Volume 27, August 22, 1745, f. 42.; F3, Volume 50, September 2, 1745, f. 277.]

In 1755, Engineer Franquet reported that the covered way was having its piquets replaced with bois de Prusse et hericot. However, if time were not available next spring to effect proper repairs, he proposed simply inserting new large palisades at the feet of those standing in ruin ("on enfoncera au pied de Leurs ruines, une pallissade en gros piquets"). [C11A, Volume 126, November 4, 1755, p. 67, ff. 116v-117]

Finally, this report:

[c. 1750] All the walls of masonry, the embrasures, the counterescarp, and the parapets, were tumbled down into the fosses [ditches], which were filled up with rubbish; the palisades were all of them rotten - in many parts of the covert way they were crumbled away on a level with the ground, and there was scarce any vestige of glacis which had not been destroyed by grazing there ...  Nevertheless, [post 1755] the palisades, platform, and all the canon carriages were immediately renewed ... [Le Chevalier Johnstone, "A Short Account of What Passed at Cape Breton, From the Beginning of the Last Year (1750) Until the Taking of Louisbourg, by the English in the Year of Our Lord 1758," The Campaign of Louisbourg, 1750-1758 (Literary and Historical Society of Quebec), pp 6, 8. ]


Pierre Bureau's memo of April 3, 1968 concluded the following:

There probably was a palissade [sic] in the King's Bastion couvert way in 1745 but it must have been in a bad state since the palissade [sic] was reported to be badly rotted away in 1744.

Unfortunately, the said rotten palisades were those of the Royal Battery. Bureau also notes that Engineer "Verrier's toisé of October 29, 1729, states that 800 toisé of palissades [sic] were erected that year." However, this work (worth 14,400 livres) was actually contained not in a toisé of work done but rather in an "Estimation a quoy pourru monter la depense des ouvrages projettés pour l'Enceinte de la Ville et Louisbourg, relative au plan et profil cy joints ". [C11B, Volume 10, October 29, 1729, ff. 84-84v].

Earlier, in 1963, Bickerton had concluded the following:

Except for its palisade and parapet, the couvert way as it was at the time of the first siege was substantially completed by 1738. (A.C.B. 1738, Nov. 1; MAC 44, 1738.) The parapet was finished in May 1740 ... the revetment of the parapet was being finished in stone in 1739 and 1740 ... 

Little or no information about the pickets or palisades of the couvert way has survived. Palisade pickets were probably not a permanent feature of the couvert way. The Minister advised the governor and the Intendant against planting except when trouble was imminant (A.C.B 1755, Nov. 1). ... [Couvert Way, pp. 1-2]

In 1966, Fortier wrote:

In 1738 one of the projects listed for the next year [1739] was the continuation and perfection of the walls of the parapets of the covert way ... And, in August of 1739 it was reported that the walls of the parapet which had yet to be done were finished ... [p. 42]

The Landward Defences: Outerworks

When work was undertaken, it was carried out on long sections ...Separated by the pond from the rest of the outerworks, the outworks in front of the Dauphin Bastion were treated perforce as a distinct unit, but the work was nevertheless spread over a decade; the couterscarp and and parapet of the covered way were the first features to be built, beginning in 1730, and work continued sporadically on the glacis until 1739 ... Elsewhere work continued throughout the period 1738-39, principally on the glacis, and a year later Verrier sanguinely noted that "the glacis of the old [landward] defences are completed, with the result that nothing is left to be done either inside or out ... (author's translation) ...

The outerworks could nevertheless be considered in a defensible position in the early 1740s. A palisade had been erected in the banquette along the covered way during 1738 and 1739 ...

As a means of hindering a direct assault, a line of palisades was placed in the banquette close to the retaining wall, the posts being sufficiently far apart to allow troops to fire between them ... [p. 125]

A row of palisades was planted in the banquette as an obstacle to troops storming the glacis. A favourite defensive device in one form or another, the palisade was, at its simplest, a row of sharpened poles projecting above the crest of the glacis, attached to ribbands in short sections ... It was regarded as a permanent component of the outer perimeter , not just a last-minute addition in time of impending attack, as the frequent references to completing its installation in the late 1730s and early 1740s attest. However, this was not without its drawbacks, as equally frequent references to decaying posts and the need to replace them demonstrate ... [p. 133]

"Traces of the trench in the banquette into which the palisade was set were located in all excavated sectors of the covered way and fragments of palisade posts were occasionally recovered. Significantly, the only samples capable of analysis proved to be of spruce or balsam; none of the better but rarer species was found ... [p. 134]

In 1967, Hankey wrote:

By the end of the year 1738, the counterscarp, the covert way, and most of the parapet of the covert way were finished. With the perfection of the glacis in 1740, the King's - Queen's curtain wall and outer works were completed. Once constructed, this area of the fortress underwent no major change. In neither of the English sieges was it a focal point of attack ... Its greatest enemies had been poor French construction and the climate of Louisbourg ..." [p. 2]

"By the end of that year [1738], the counterscarp and stairs to descend into the ditch were finished. The parapet of the covert way and the glacis were finished as far as the King's place d'arme. During the next year [1739], the banquettes were to be finished and palissades [sic] planted on the covert way ... By 1740, Verrier could write that "Les glacis de l'enceinte sont perfectionés de sorte qu'il n'y reste plusieurs a faire en dedans ny en dehors ..." [p. 27]

Boucher in 1749 estimated the need for 222 toises of palissades for the covert way between the capital of the King's Bastion and that of the Queen's ...  [p. 36]

Sometime prior to 1966, Pothier wrote:

Like the batardeau the covert way of the Dauphin bastion was also begun inb 1730, with the building of the counterscarp. It was finished early in 1731 at the Dauphin bastion, and in 1737 for the counterscarp in front of the curtain ...

Early in 1739 there remained the banquette of the covert way to finish, and the palissade ["planted in 1742 in an attempt to close the gap through the étang ..."]  to set up ..." [pp. 28, 27]

From Bastide, in 1746, we learn that the covert way was "in pretty good order" generally. The masonry walls of the counterscarp and the parapet of the couvert way however were badly deteriorated, and the whole covert way needed a new palissade [sic], none of which items were seen to during the British occupation to 1749 ... [p. 41]

The palissades [sic] [post 1749] at the crest of the glacis all along the front generally and in front of the gate in particular had long ceased to be adequate, and the barrier posts at the sally port through the glacis had fallen. In November of 1755 Franquet mentions that all palissades [sic] are of "prusse" and "héricot", but these were only set up along the front during 1756.

The revêtement of the profile supporting the covert way and glacis along the harbour side needed rebuilding [post 1749]. In 1751 neglect was beginning to make it difficult, at the tenaille area at any rate, to distinguish between the terreplein of the covert way, the banquette and its slope ... [p. 54]

5. Palisades of the Covered Way ....

These palisades were located on the banquette of the covered way at the foot of the interior slope of the glacis to present an obstacle to the enemy ... [p. 17]

Despite this assured statement, Way did not provide a source.  

1739  Un dernier perfectionnement [of the Queen's Bastion] est fait en 1739 ou 1740: on plante les palissades du chemin couvert .... [p. 10] 

However, as the actual 18th-century quotes reproduced below clearly indicate, the chemin couvert in question was not necessarily that of the Queen's Bastion alone:

Les murs de parapet du chemin couvert qui restoient à faire devant le corps de la place Sonts finis que ceux de la place D'arme devant la Courtine entre le Bastion du Roy et le Bastion de la Reine et celle devant L'angle de L'épaule droite du Bastion du Roy, on travaille a perfectionner Les Glacis et on plante les palissades ... [C11B, Volume 20, August 2, 1739, f. 266v]

Les maçonneries des murs des parapets du chemin couvert autour de la place Sont Finies et les palissades plantées a peu de chose prés ... [C11B, Volume 21, September 3, 1739, f. 172]

Comme vous me marqués par raport aux ouvrages de terre que l'on a fait ... que d'ailleurs Les palissades Sont plantées dans tout le chemin couvert et a la place d'armes ... [B, May 13, 1740, Volume 70, f. 408.]