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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 18

The Construction and Occupation of the Barracks of the King's Bastion at Louisbourg

by Blaine Adams

Chronology of Construction


The engineer appointed to begin work at Louisbourg was Jean François de Verville, whose service with the corps of engineers in France had begun in 1704. Ten years later he was appointed chief engineer at Douai in Flanders, and in 1717 came to Ile Royale as chief engineer and director of fortifications, having turned down a post in Spain,1 a decision he probably regretted later. From the beginning he alienated many of the officials in Louisbourg. In that first year de Verville complained that officers were losing their time and fortunes in commerce, and the following year recommended that officers be prohibited from engaging in fishing,2 a recommendation that was soon implemented.3 The officials resented that de Verville was responsible for gathering all the material concerning the choice of the site for the fortifications,4 and had their own complaints against the engineer. Both the governor, Joseph de Monbeton de Broullian, dit Saint-Ovide and the ordonnateur, Pierre-Auguste de Soubras, criticised de Verville's preliminary plans as impractical for that part of the world.5

In this heated atmosphere preparations for construction were undertaken. De Verville put forward a number of recommendations to streamline work and, at the same time, to improve his position. He wanted full control over the workers and even the officers, including the power to imprison soldiers. He wanted better quarters for himself and his draftsmen and a guard for his papers. When he was away for the winter in France, he proposed that the governor not interfere with work in progress and that the sub-engineers not be taken from supervisory work to write memoranda or do drafting.6 All these conditions were agreed to by the ministry in France,7 but agreement probably did little to improve de Verville's relationships with other officials.

The contractor, Michel-Philippe Isabeau, a veteran builder from France who had favourably impressed the governor and ordonnateur on his first visit in 1717, was awarded the contract for work at Louisbourg in 1719,8 but he, too, had complaints. In wage disputes he claimed the officers sided with the soldiers and allowed them to go and work for townspeople so he could not get on with construction. He also voiced the familiar complaint that the soldiers' wages were being squandered on drink and smoke to the profit of the officers and their taverns, and the detriment of the work.9

During the summer of 1719, de Verville went to France to discuss construction plans and returned that autumn with the new ordonnateur, Jacques-Ange Le Normant de Mézy, who immediately created an unfavourable impression prompting strong reaction from both the engineer and the governor. Saint-Ovide accused de Mézy of wanting to rule the colony absolutely — it was, he said, impossible to live in peace — to which de Mézy retorted that he was not a clerk.10 Perhaps as a concession to the engineer to gain his alliance against this new threat, Saint-Ovide reported that henceforth only de Verville would decide on the allocation of construction funds.11

The engineer was also troubled by de Mézy and wrote to France asking if this ordonnateur had any other rights in the construction except to approve the bills and work orders.12 De Verville, in another letter to France, suggested that de Mézy might have felt that he was usurping some of the ordonnateur's functions; he assured the ministry of his loyalty and service, and added in a rather condescending tone,

il est excusable a des personnes de parler d'un metier qu'ils ne scavent point, la specutation et la pratique pour estre bien mariees doivent se trouver dans une seule personne pour porter le fruit de l'execution.13

The engineer was surprised to discover that contrary to instructions from France, Saint-Ovide had ordered certain works during his absence and without his approval. The ministry, when informed of this, indicated its surprise at the expense involved. Since the works had been done "without [the king's] orders and perhaps without necessity" de Verville was ordered to check into the accounts and pay only those workers who had done necessary work. Presumably, the governor would have to pay for those accounts not deemed necessary.14

The first indication of what was intended as a barracks for Louisbourg came from a report by de Verville in 1717. The main fortified place in Louisbourg was to be:

une forte Redoute Bastionnée Executée en Maçonnerie . . . A La gorge de L'ouvrage, on fera un corps de Casernes Capable de Contenir au moins quatre Compagnies d'Infanterie avec les officiers, autour de Ce Corps de Casernes, on fera un petit fossé ou un chemin Couvert ou bien les deux Ensembles.15

It was estimated that the building would cost 36,441 livres. All of this seemed to be quite modest in intent and the first barracks plan (Fig. 2) was in keeping with this intent, showing a rather simple structure with a mansard roof. There was little elaboration, and no indication that it was to be used for anything beyond housing troops and their officers. Sometime between 1717 and the beginning of construction three years later, the concept was changed, probably during de Verville's visit to France in the winter of 1718-19. No reasons have been found for the changes reflected in an undated plan (Fig. 3) from the pre-construction period. The new concept showed the same general foundations as the first plan, but featured a continuous ridged roof rather than a mansard roof, and fireplaces had all been moved from the long centre wall to the short partition walls.

2 First barracks plan, 1718. Note the dotted line along the foundation (top elevation) showing the level of bedrock. (Archives Nationales, Paris.)

3 Barracks plan, probably from 1718. (Archives Nationales, Paris.)

By the time construction began in 1720 another more basic change had been effected, probably the result of de Verville's first winter spent in the colony.16 The building itself had a new foundation plan (Fig. 4), the long narrow wings of the first two plans becoming almost square, and another storey added. The elaborations in the cellar, shown in 1718, were elimated except for the bake-ovens. No excavations were to be made beneath the chapel, which was larger in the new plan, and the altar was moved to the opposite end (Figs. 6 and 8). The small bell tower of the original plan was replaced with a large impressive clock tower centred over the entrance, and large windows were added in the chapel. In the earlier plan the masonry partitions had created 42 small and 22 large rooms, but by 1724 there were only large rooms, 52 in all, plus a long narrow room over the central passageway (Fig. 8). The counterforts shown in 1720 (small buttresses along the courtyard north wall seen in Fig. 4) did not appear in the later plans, but four were uncovered in excavations.17 A provisional work account referred to seven of these counterforts and gave the measurements as 2 pieds by 2 pieds by 8 pieds, including the foundation.18 Apparently this area, which had deeper bedrock than the southern half (see dotted line in elevation on Fig. 2), needed these counterforts for support.

4 Floor plan, 1720, generally adopted for the barracks. (Archives du Comité Technique du Génie, Paris.)

5 Plan showing the beginning of excavations for the foundations of the barracks in 1720. The governor lived in building G during this period. (Original source unknown.)

6 Plan showing completed excavations and the foundations of six rooms in the north wing, 1720. Note that the chapel was not excavated. (Archives du Comité Technique du Génie, Paris.)

7 Louisbourg commemorative medals (1720) and cedar-lined lead case. They were found in 1963 near the northeast corner of the barracks.


The first stone of the barracks was laid with the "usual ceremony" on 29 May 1720 by Governor Saint-Ovide and the commissaire ordonnateur, de Mézy. Work had begun in the latter part of April despite heavy frost,19 but soon the progress of construction was marred by wage disputes.20 De Verville had recommended a wage of 20 sols (1 livre) per day for excavation work, but because of protests and disturbances, as well as interference from Saint-Ovide (so de Verville said), the price had to be raised, thus increasing the cost of excavation. A marginal note on this letter, written by an official in France, indicates that the governor was to be asked not to meddle in wage disputes.21 Giving his side of the story, Saint-Ovide felt that the price of excavations (which he quoted as 4 sols per cubic toise) was too little, especially since the contractor received free the rubble stone which was uncovered and could use it, at a saving to himself, in the masonry walls. The final agreement seems to have been a scale of prices per cubic toise of excavation, which increased as the work became more difficult.22

The governor and the contractor disagreed again when the latter wanted 10 soldiers to unload a ship for 18 sols per day. The governor replied that the contractor would have to use townspeople, provided there were any who would work for such a small sum.23

By the beginning of the summer 64 toises (approximately 420 feet) of excavation had been completed and de Verville enclosed a map (Fig. 5) to show the progress.24 He planned to schedule the work so that by the following year a good part of the barracks would be at full height along with a portion of the fortifications. De Verville was limited because he had 117 men instead of the 240 he wanted; however, a marginal note written in France indicates that Saint-Ovide was to be asked to give him as many men as possible.25

There were more difficulties. In a scarcely veiled reference to the governor, he reported that more work would have been done if there had been less interference.26 There certainly was no possibility of occupying the barracks that year, and de Verville urged that officers and their families who were anxious to move to Louisbourg from one of the outposts, should remain where they were until the following year.27

De Mézy reported that the work was going well enough but that there were too few workers and the soldiers were not accustomed to the work.28 The relationships with the governor showed no signs of improvement. Saint-Ovide complained of the frustration he felt because of de Mézy's independence and determination to control everything, even the military.29

A second ceremony took place that summer to commemorate the beginning of construction. In July, six silver and twelve bronze medals were minted and shipped to Louisbourg. The profile of King Louis XV was on one side, with a conjectural view of the new fortified town and the date 1720 on the other. There were also Latin inscriptions which, translated, read "Louis XV by the Grace of God King of France and Navarre," and "Louisbourg Founded and Fortified MDCCXX."30 In November, under de Verville's direction, Saint-Ovide placed six of the medals in various foundations.31 These medals had been prepared by the Académie des Belles-Lettres in Paris and carried the signature of T. Le Blancan.32 Recent archaeological excavations in the barracks and King's Bastion area uncovered one silver and two bronze medals in a lead box with a wooden lining (Fig. 7).

During the summer a change in priorities, decided upon by de Verville, resulted in men being removed from the barracks to work on the right flank and casemates of the King's Bastion (Fig. 6). The joint report of the governor and the ordonnateur found them in agreement and vigorously protesting this action: "Nous demandons Instament que l'Entrepreneur commence L'année prochaine par le Corps de Cazernes par prefference a Tous pour pouvoir Contenir le Troupes of Les mettre a Couvert."33 Saint-Ovide was convinced that most of the barracks would have been ready to house the soldiers that winter if work had continued, and he thought that de Verville appreciated the need for these quarters, after having spent a winter in Louisbourg, seeing first-hand what the conditions were. Saint-Ovide protested: "jen'ay Jamais peu penetrer les raisons que cet ingenieur a pour avoir Suspanda entierrerment ces ouvrages alafin dumois deJuin pourfaire travailler aux fondations du flanc dubastion."34

De Verville, frustrated by the opposition he was encountering, wrote the king that he would not have believed that such precise instruction as he had received from the court could be so often contradicted. He expressed the hope that he would be well regarded for his hard work and would not regret having come to Louisbourg instead of staying in Spain.35

Two disputes reflected the difficult division of powers between the governor and the engineer. The first concerned a soldier who had been issued with shoes and stockings and had sold them for a drink. On the governor's order, the soldier was arrested and punished on the wooden horse in order to discover who had purchased the goods. De Verville pretested the punishment of one of his workers without his order.36 The governor was further annoyed when, at the end of the construction season, the engineer left for France without giving over the plans and work orders so Saint-Ovide could have some inkling of what was supposed to be done during the winter.37

Letters from the ministry were quite specific about procedures for that winter. While in France, de Verville was to give a general report on work at Louisbourg. He doubtless had an explanation for his change in the work plans but there is no record of it. On the ship he was given a good room with a window so he would be able to prepare the necessary plans and memos.38 De Mézy and Saint-Ovide were specifically forbidden to change anything while de Verville was away, and the sub-engineers and the contractor were to follow whatever instructions he had left behind. De Verville in turn was urged to prepare for his absence so that work at Louisbourg would not fall behind.39

In their annual reports, all of the officials restated their versions of the year's events, justifying their positions and assuring the king of their loyalty and hard work. De Verville reported that the contractor and some of the engineers were bedridden, victims of the inhospitable Louisbourg climate, and that a tent had been put up at the construction site to allow some shelter from the elements.40 The governor and ordonnateur decried the lack of co-operation from the engineer and contractor. Specifically, they were annoyed at the opposition to their proposals to withold the workers' pay, to be returned to them in the winter, and to pay them only every 15 days to reduce drunkenness;41 de Verville's responses to this are not recorded. Finally, the contractor Isabeau wrote to de Verville in France that, since he had left, officers had made him work on their own dwellings and the ordonnateur had instructed him to supply lime to the townspeople.42 With these complaints the first troubled year of construction on the barracks came to an end.


Seven masons and two stonecutters arrived the next summer to add to the skilled work force. The two stonecutters were from Paris, six of the masons were from central France and one was from northern France. Two of the men brought their wives.43

In Paris de Verville must have mentioned Isabeau's complaint about interference from officers because instructions from France again forbade work on buildings other than those authorized, and prohibited any change in plans. Numerous thefts from the contractor were reported and a mémoire du roy urged stricter stores control for the contractor's as well as the king's supplies. The latter were to be distributed only by a bill from the engineer and an order from the ordonnateur. Lodging was also a concern, and a house in which the king's lieutenant was living was ordered vacated in favour of the contractor, who had been housed uncomfortably in the stores building.44

This last suggestion was undoubtedly one of de Verville's, a fact which would not have escaped notice in Louisbourg. Saint-Ovide was quick to claim he had been misrepresented by de Verville in France, and even claimed to be surprised that there were reports of any difficulties between them, believing that their relationship was honest and amicable.45 However, he did acknowledge the "severe reprimands" and said he would conform to orders, namely that de Verville have complete control over the fortifications and troops and de Mézy control of the money and justice. Saint-Ovide further reported that he was ordering the soldiers not to work for anyone other than the contractor, and that he was trying to eliminate the taverns and the resulting drunkenness on paydays.46 He issued an ordinance prohibiting the sale or distribution of liquor to soldiers or workmen on working days, and forbade the soldiers to remain in taverns after the retreat had sounded.47

The original specifications for construction at Louisbourg called for shingle roofs,48 but de Verville recommended slate, pointing out that the 14 separation walls would have to be raised above roof level to prevent any fire from spreading if shingles were used. The proposal was approved and 60,000 slates were sent from St. Malo in the summer of 1721.49 The shipment was not up to the highest standards and the engineer reported:

On n'a nullement executé les Just[es] precautions que Monsie[urj Raudot avoit pris, de fair[e] transporter des ardoises [dans] des caises of les choisir com celles que l'on a envoyé a Quebec, au contraire Les ardo[ises] Sont des Rebus de carriere remplies de basses, et d'Inega[les] grandeurs avec la moitié de brisées faute de Caisse.50

Slating proved to be a wise precaution for when the roof was hit during the 1745 siege it did not catch fire. In the repairs which followed the slate was replaced with shingles except for the governor's wing. During the 1758 siege when the building caught fire, the flames stepped only at the slated wing.

During that summer the governor's wing was readied to receive its roof, and about 43 feet of the barracks proper was up to first floor level.51 This was a long way from the previous year's predictions, which foresaw a major part of the barracks completed by this time. Saint-Ovide was certainly not satisfied with progress and noted that most of the barracks had no roof and, lacking floors and ceilings, was a sea of mud when it rained.52


For the first time, dispatches from France displayed impatience with the rate of construction in Louisbourg. De Verville was sent a carefully worded letter:

Le Conseil vous recemmande de presser autant que vous le pourrés le nouveau corps de Cazernes, de maniere que les Soldats les Suisses et les mineurs puissent y être logés à la fin de l'automne, Il Seroit mâme à Soûhaiter qu'on y pût loger une partie des officiers, en même tems.53

Separate letters were sent to de Mézy and Saint-Ovide. The former was told it was the king's intention that the works at Louisbourg proceed without a single change. The latter, who had complained about the miserable conditions in which the soldiers were lodged, was assured that de Verville would complete enough of the barracks to house them.54

On the first of August, de Verville, feeling the sting of this rebuke, informed the ministry that the sub-engineers had vigourously carried on the construction, that the barracks all had their foundation, and that the governor's wing was partly slated.55 However, in September he was again complaining of the lack of workmen and claimed that if extra men were sent on the first ships leaving France for the next two years, he would be able to do three years' work in two.56 The king's lieutenant, acting in the absence of the governor, who with de Verville had left for France, reported at the end of the year that only ten rooms for the troops had been finished. He assured the minister: "j ay pressé autant qu'il n'a Esté possible L'Entrepreneur de faire mettre en Estat des chambres pour Loger Le peu de troupes quil reste dans ce port pour monter La garde"57


When requesting his leave for the winter of 1723, Saint-Ovide had said that certain family affairs were in jeopardy,58 but it is obvious that he would take full advantage of the sojourn to advance his cause both at the ministry and in his personal affairs. In Paris he met a former ensign of his company at Placentia, Gratien d'Arrigrand. Saint-Ovide encouraged him to try for the contract for work beyond the barracks and the King's Bastion, obviously in hopes of winning it away from Isabeau. D'Arrigrand began to make inquiries and was seen to be given an opportunity of taking over work at Louisbourg.

When Saint-Ovide and de Verville returned from France that summer, both were chagrined to see that so little had been accomplished during their absence. The governor was particularly unhappy since he had no place to put the 60 new recruits he had brought back: "J'ay eté fort Surpris d'avoir reveu ce Batiment, . . . dans l'etat ou je l'avois laissé l'automne dernier." In the end he lodged them in the attics of the finished rooms, which were hardly suitable since they were not intended for this purpose and had no fireplaces. The only work done in the barracks was on the walls which had been started the previous year and raised to door height. In four rooms the construction of fireplaces had begun.59 De Verville felt he had to justify the lack of progress and reported that the contractor and engineers had been ill. He added that Isabeau was the only one able to carry on construction and that even his detractors admitted not being able to produce a replacement. He followed this with the familiar request for mere men and money.60

Nor did work progress smoothly that season. Pierre-Jérôme Boucher, a sub-engineer, reported to the minister that though money from France had arrived three weeks previously, the workers had not been paid and there was unrest which might lead to a work stoppage.61 Saint-Ovide had his own complaints. De Verville, he said, had ignored instructions from France about communicating a work account at the end of each year, and had even hidden the plans for winter work from de Couagne the senior engineer who was, he felt, the governor's ally. Saint-Ovide also charged that de Verville was spending much time and money on houses for Boucher and de Verville's son, who was also an engineer, adding:

Et le pru douvrage qu[i] a esté fait Cetté année au Corps de Cazernes a esté Dans Une Saison Sy Retardée ou les Coups de Vens Et les pluyes Sons Continuelles Ce qui fait Craindre avec Raison pour l[a] Solidité de Cest Ouvrage, il est meme tombé Une Chemiéee peu de jours apres quelle a esté falte.62

DeMézy also faced a charge of non-cooperation for not making himself available to write their joint report.63 The report, finally written on 29 December, contained a manoeuvre aimed at removing de Verville from effective control of day-to-day construction in Louisbourg. It was suggested that Boisberthelot de Beaucours, the king's lieutenant, be made chief engineer resident in Louisbourg and that de Verville become full-time director of all fortifications on the island. In addition it was requested that an inspector-general be sent to examine the works at Louisbourg with regard to cost and quality,64 implying that the performance of the engineer and contractor left much to be desired.

This suggestion was supplemented by a damning document from another ally, the surveyor Charles Vallée, on the state of the building. Vallée reported that the walls were beginning to crack and develop holes due to the badly positioned rubble stone and the use of a considerable amount of pebbling. These holes were filled with iron bars in an attempt to strengthen the walls. The brick window surrounds disintegrated to a powder when touched because of the corrosive action of the salt air. Wood in the roof and flooring was rotting, being only half-dried pine, and poorly cut. Good ash or other hard wood was available and should have been used, as well as a cornice on which to rest the beams rather than having a few beams sealed into the walls and the rest tied to them. As a result, the floors were so weak they could not support any heavy burden, and Vallée predicted that both walls and floors would have to be rebuilt in seven or eight years. The roof was also poorly constructed and, aside from showing light in a thousand places, would topple over in a strong wind.65 The report was overly pessimistic — the roof did not fall nor the floors collapse — but it did point out the basic weakness of the building, and the problems of weak walls, rotten floors and a leaky roof persisted throughout the life of the building.


The reports of 1723 were not without effect in France. Though the ministry did not remove de Verville from active control of work at Louisbourg, a new engineer was sent from France with him in the spring, It was not said that de Verville was leaving, but obviously a change was pending. Probably the constant criticism by the governor and ordonnateur had finally convinced the ministry that, if de Verville was not incompetent, harmonious relationships between these officials were not possible and his removal was the best solution.

Another change in France at this time very possibly had ramifications in Louisbourg. The old head of the Marine, the Comte de Toulouse, retired, and in his place came the young and vigorous Comte de Maurepas. Only 22 when he took office in 1723, Maurepas soon assumed active control of the ministry and remained in the post for 26 years. De Verville fell out of favour quickly after this change while de Mézy, his foe, seems to have been highly regarded. In one letter Maurepas quoted de Mézy as saying that de Verville's estimates were not to be trusted.66 In another, to de Verville, Maurepas reported bluntly that he had heard a rumour that de Verville intended to leave without finishing a certain plan; Maurepas ordered him not to leave without completing it.67

The new engineer, Etiènne Verrier, had already served 17 years in the royal corps of engineers before his appointment to Louisbourg, and four years previously had been awarded the Cross of St. Louis.68 The two engineers travelled together to Louisbourg so they could consult during the crossing.69 Arriving on 30 July 1724, Verrier was impressed: "La fortification de cette Ville ma paru si Entendüe dans toutes ses parties que Le Roy peut Comter avoir La plus forte place de toute L'amerique." From de Verville he received the plans and drawings as well as the original memoranda from the king concerning construction.70 De Verville thought that the barracks were well advanced, and also had a favourable opinion of Verrier, whom he found talented and zealous.

By mid-November, Verrier was able to report that the masonry was at full height with the exception of the separation wall of the main entrance and the guardhouse to the right. The chimney stacks in the officers' and governor's quarters were not completed, but slating was in progress. With good weather that winter, Verrier hoped to be able to complete the roof so the building would be liveable. Fifty Swiss soldiers arrived that summer and were housed temporarily in the barracks, but the lack of finished fireplaces forced them to find other quarters for the winter. Verrier made a point of saying that he got along well with the governor and ordonnateur. As de Verville had done before him, he requested and was granted a place for his son on the engineering staff at Louisbourg.71

The year-end reports were much more encouraging than in 1723. De Mézy, especially, reported that a considerable amount of work had been done on the barracks, but he could not resist a comment on what he called de Verville's wasteful work.72 The engineer, on his part, wrote a long final memorandum of accusations, defences and recommendations. His view of the reasons for the constant delays was revealing:

Le retardement des affaires par le gouverneur apres l'avoir êté encore plus par l'ordonnateur Les frequentes entreveues des Ingenieurs chez le premier qui n'ont rien determiné, les fatigantes courses eloignées du second en lassant les ingéniers et l'Entrepreneur sans produire aucun bien ont enfin fait perdre la moitié de la Campagne.

He was graphic in describing the plight of the contractor, whose money was often withheld: "des officiers du Vaisseau du Roy on veu comme moi avec beaucoup de douleur cet entrepreneur en gemissement et sa soeur en larmes ne Sachant ou trouver pour eux mêmes de la farine pour vivre pendant l'hiver." According to de Verville, the contractor had given all the money and provisions that he had to the workers. In addition Isabeau was often stricken with symptons of paralysis, and the surgeon had recommended a trip to France. The governor and ordonnateur opposed it, but de Verville urged otherwise, saying Isabeau would be "en danger deperir faute d'un prompt Secours."

The memorandum included the usual recommendations to have the chief engineer assume full control of funds, wages, justice on the site, and even the date of departure of the ships. He criticised the other officials for having other and often conflicting interests outside of their governmental functions, and reported proudly: "cest une satisfaction pour moy de pouvoir dire avec seureté que les ingenieurs sous mes ordres ne font aucun trafic n'y commerce." (The governor's personal ship was given as an example of this conflict of interest.) De Verville had no doubt about what he could have accomplished without outside interference: "j'aurois fait faire en Cinq annees en paix, ce qui m'en a couté huit avec beaucoup de desagrement."73

Both de Verville and Isabeau returned to France that fall. The former was appointed director of fortifications at Valenciennes near the Belgian border. The premonitions about Isabeau were fulfilled when the ailing contractor died on board ship a few days after leaving Louisbourg.74

It is difficult to assess de Verville's performance in Louisbourg. Certainly the complaints against him resulted in part from his opposition to the misuse of materials by the officers and other officials. De Verville himself was not immune from this charge, for in 1723 Saint-Ovide had carried the rumour to the ministry that the engineer had a stake in the contractor's work,75 and, after both had left Louisbourg, he claimed that Isabeau had made a profit of 200,000 livres with de Verville's help.76 These charges were never substantiated and, considering the bias of their source, were probably not true.

De Verville's effectiveness was certainly curbed by the opposition he encountered, and it was some time before even routine work procedures were established. He was not as rigourous with the contractor as he should have been, but it was obviously wise to have Isabeau as an ally, seeing that they had to work together. Nor were conditions at Louisbourg ideal with regard to materials, climate or workmen. It is doubtful that any engineer with a background of construction only in France could have dealt effectively with the situation at Louisbourg, but there is no indication that de Verville experimented with new techniques to improve building. He must bear part of the responsibility for the shoddy workmanship which was revealed in later years. Yet his imprint on the barracks is unmistakable; though the building was later modified, the basic design is his. The main criticism of its architecture centred on the impracticability of the layout of the building, though this was never elaborated and, in his defence, the few other barracks constructed during this time employed roughly the same floor plan. Some modifications were made by Verrier and will be discussed later.

8 De Verville's final plan, 1724, of the King's Bastion and barracks. (Archives du Comté Technique du Génie, Paris.)


Official notice that Verrier was to take charge of the works at Louisbourg arrived on 1 May 1725. The same mail also brought news of Isabeau's death to the colony, though the inhabitants had already known by way of a privately owned ship. De Mézy had gone to Isabeau's sister, who was his procurator during his absence, and had her turn over to Verrier all the plans and drawings in her possession. He then asked Verrier to make out a general account of all work done by Isabeau, but the engineer refused to de so without an order from France. The instructions soon arrived but Verrier did not get around to making the account until the next winter, and it was years before the affairs of the estate were settled.77

At this point Gratien d'Arrigrand made his entrance into Louisbourg affairs. His background reveals the motivations of a particular type of person who came to the colonies. When he had served in Placentia he was not without connections; his uncle Daniel d'Auger de Subercase had been governor first of Placentia, then of Acadia. D'Arrigrand served in Saint-Ovide's company until 1705 when he returned to France where he later left the marine for the army. When his father died he was given charge of the estate and hoped to eventually purchase his own company. Meanwhile he became involved in unsuccessful speculations. In a letter written almost 30 years later he described what happened afterward, using the third person form often employed at the time:

Paris étoit brillant les plaisirs de Capoue l'entrainment comme bien d'autres. Il se trouva en 1723. n'en avoit presque plus rien, sans n'avoir du regret; adieu par consequent la compagnie, adieu le Service; d'aller en province apres cette perte cela ne Se pourroit; avec Un peu de talent, La geographie, un peu de mathematiques, et Les campagnes . . . Il cherchoit dans son idée a remplacer Ses fonds. Il avoit toujours vécu de relation avec ses anciens amis de la marine, il y'en avoit beaucoup à Paris cette année la _____ entr'autres, Le Sr. de St Ovide gouverneur de l'ille royale, tous le plaignant, d'avoir perdu une partie de son bien Un jour qu'ils étoient plusieurs à manger ensemble ils luy proposerent de s'en aller avec M. de St Ovide, . . . que dans une nouvelle Colonie, il y avoit toujours querlque bons coup à faire, ils luy proposerent même de faire faire les fortiffications, ce que le suppt. refusa, sur ce qu'il ne luy convenoit pas d'etre entrepreneur, sur quoy ils luy dirent, qu'ils ne l'entendoient pas de meme mais seulement de trouver Un architecte dans Paris qui paroitroit, et que je m'associerois avec luy.

The partnership was secret so that only the new contractor's name, François Ganet, appeared on the legal documents. D'Arrigrand made it seem as though he had been doing the king a favour by taking over construction in Louisbourg and freeing it from the abuses of the past. "Le Roy avoit deja depensé un million en fortiffications et il n'y avoit pas pour cent mille livres d'ouvrage, c'étoit un pillage." In order to ensure his investment, d'Arrigrand also formed a partnership with Jacques d'Espiet de Pensens, then a captain at Louisbourg, who could assure the smooth running of the contract in Louisbourg.78 Saint-Ovide was not mentioned as one of the participants in the venture, but years later he would be accused of and deny complicity in these arrangements.79

Isabeau's death made possible the securing of the contract for work in Louisbourg. Ganet offered his services to the ministry, which was anxious that there be as little disruption in the works as possible, and was given a contract for work not included in Isabeau's agreement. Madame Planton, Isabeau's sister, had been left in charge of her brother's affairs in Louisbourg; both de Verville and Isabeau's father recommended to her that she make an agreement with the new contractor for the completion of Isabeau's contract.80 Ganet then sent word to Charles Vallée, a surveyor in Louisbourg who was acting as his agent, to try and do as much building as possible until he could arrive.81 Vallée's position in this contract is not evident, but it is known that he was a friend of Saint-Ovide, and probably was considered not too involved to have an open connection with the contractor.

Ganet was told that he would have to pay the transportation costs of material necessary for his own contract as well as for works he would do for Isabeau's contract. The officials at Louisbourg were instructed to watch that he did not use Isabeau's materials for his own work.82 The transition to a new contractor was not to be an easy one.

A preliminary agreement was reached between Ganet and Madame Planton, but was rescinded on the advice of de Mézy, who accused the new contractor of trying to ruin the poor woman. So that the season would not be lost and the barracks ruined, Ganet finally agreed to a set of propositions drawn up by de Mézy, but after that he wanted no further dealings with the Isabeau estate.83 Isabeau's father, meanwhile, had second thoughts about his approval of this new contractor, claiming that Ganet had wanted all the estate in return for completing the work. He decided to send one of his sons to finish the contract.84

The settlement of the estate produced the three major toisés or work accounts relating to construction of the barracks, all of which were compiled under the supervision of the engineer Verrier. One of the accounts dealt with work done by Ganet from 1725 to 1727 for Isabeau's heirs, and was chiefly concerned with the south half of the barracks.85 A second was the definitive statement of work done by Isabeau from 1719 to 1724 and by his heirs from 1725 to 1730, covering not just the barracks and bastion but other government structures, most of which were temporary. The third statement recorded work done in the same period as the second, but dealt only with those items, such as slate, not provided for in the original contract. These statements, compiled long after the fact, were not without error, but they do give an excellent picture of the work and materials which went into the barracks. They are divided into headings concerning the type of work done; excavations, masonry, wood, iron, lead, locks and glass. All the phases of construction were included under these titles. In the two accounts which deal with Isabeau's work, the dimensions of the masonry walls were given and such details were mentioned as the door from the governor's basement to the ditch, the ovens in the basement of the soldiers' barracks, the use of two-inch pine planks for floors, the number and size of dormers, the paving stones in the basement of the governor's wing and even the loss of a dugout canoe during construction. The double main doors, bunk-beds for the soldiers, a balustrade for the chapel, a rack for the armoury, a grinding table for flour, and a desk for papers of the superior council are additional details recorded in these documents.86

How did construction proceed during this year of change at Louisbourg with a new engineer and contractor? Letters in the spring from Maurepas indicated he was anticipating the early completion of the building. The storekeeper at Rochefort was ordered to choose an appropriate painting to be mounted over the altar in the chapel, and to have the design cut which de Verville had prepared for the coat of arms over the main doorway, along with a marble plaque commemorating the founding of the town in 1720.87 Unfortunately the barracks was far from finished. Verrier reported he was still at work on the officers' quarters and hoped to complete them before the year was out. The governor, he said, had asked that the officers' quarters be completed before his own.88

The delay was caused by the lengthy procedures involved in plastering. Generally, three types of wall finishing were used at Louisbourg. For exterior walls, mortar was applied only to the jointing so that the stone of the wall protruded. In the interior a rough mortar coat was applied, followed by a finer coat using well-sifted sand. If a very smooth finish was required, a plaster coat using no sand was employed. Ganet indicated that the first type of finish would be used for all the exterior of the barracks, the second for the guardhouse and "some rooms" and the third for an unspecified location. Because of the dampness in Louisbourg, lime mortar required even more time to set than normal.89

Bricks and masonry continued to be a problem, and Ganet reported he had taken the liberty of ordering some good bricks from Boston. He also voiced the old complaint that there were not enough workers and he requested at least 60 more including 15 masons.90 In Ganet's opinion the masonry work had been badly done, and many of the walls were out of plumb.

Ganet also blamed Isabeau for his current losses. The former contractor, he asserted, had done the major work on which there was considerable profit, and had left the smaller, more time-consuming jobs. Ganet now had to do these at a loss.91 Saint-Ovide added his observation that Ganet's masonry work seemed much better than that which had been done in the past.92

Verrier was now in sole charge of construction at Louisbourg, and the changes he effected in the barracks show that he was not altogether satisfied with the interior arrangement of rooms. Though the soldiers' quarters were well on their way to completion, the south half was in a state to allow considerable modifications (Fig. 9). Here Verrier scrapped de Verville's plan which required that entrances to the back rooms be through the rooms which opened on the courtyard. By moving stairs and cutting new doors he was able to provide direct access to all the rooms. In the central passage Verrier changed the guardroom and the tower. The old guardroom to the right of the central passage had an open face of four arches behind which was a gallery, with doors at either end leading to the officers' and soldiers' guardrooms. No reason was given for the renovations, but Verrier probably felt that the walls as they existed would not support the tower which was to be built over this central area. He therefore built a wall behind the arches and carried it all the way up to the roof. (The wall of the chapel also was thickened to increase its bearing capacity, and a door was cut to give access from the passage.) Two doorways were made in the new wall of the guardroom; the arches and interior partitions of the old guardrooms were then removed. This left a long narrow room directly off the central passage. A narrow masonry wall was constructed to divide the room roughly into the ratio of two to one, and a supporting arch was added where the centre wall would normally have been. The window which opened onto the terreplein of the bastion from this new officers' guardroom was blocked in, and a spiral staircase was added to give access to the upper rooms. The other room nearest the main door and drawbridge, without a fireplace, was the soldiers' guardroom.

In December there were varied reports on progress in construction for 1725. Verrier stated: "Il y a vingt chambres d'officiers dans les Casernes tant occuppés qu'a occuper." In an aside he requested that he be made director of fortifications and not just chief engineer, and he sought a commission for his 12-year-old son who would then apprentice with him.93 De Mézy gave a different picture: only five officers were housed in the barracks and the rest would have to wait until spring when the plaster had dried, although the drawbridge, door, guardroom, clock tower and chapel were completed.94 Ganet complained about the dozens of small details such as jambs, sills, and lintels which he had to finish before work was complete,95 and he sought to consolidate his position by giving up all claim to Isabeau's work and requesting a direct contract with the king for any further work.96 Saint-Ovide wrote a detailed report on the state of things; the soldiers' quarters were in a poor condition, many of the rooms being merely a shell lacking any finish, there was no plaster, many rooms had no fireplaces, and there were no proper stairs for the upstairs rooms, only narrow ladders. In many places the floor was open, and he could not resist a parting comment on the former engineer: "cependant monsieur Deverville pronoit a la Cour que Cest ouvrage estois finier a querlque chose prés."97

9 Verrier's first plan, 1725, of the King's Bastion and barracks. (Archives Nationales, Paris.)

10 De Mézy's plan, 1725, for a terrace around the barracks roof. Note the considerable number of dormers with the terrace projecting beyond them. Twenty-five of the dormers were later removed. (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.)


The first letters from Maurepas in the spring of 1726 attempted to sort out the contract situation. Ganet was told that good reports had been received concerning his work, and it was hoped that an agreement could be reached with Madame Planton,98 Maurepas, fearing that the work would collapse if the widow Planton continued alone, instructed the governor and ordonnateur to seek a suitable accord or at least obtain a guarantee from her, adding that he himself could do little since this was a matter to be settled on the spot. Both officials were urged not to show any favouritism in the matter, undoubtedly a reference to the fact that de Mézy had acted as the widow's agent previously.99 To Verrier, Maurepas indicated that he understood Ganet's point about the losses incurred in finishing the work. He felt that the engineer was in the best position to work out a solution fair to both parties,100 but Verrier had to report that no agreement was possible between Ganet and Madame Planton. The contractor returned all the effects he had been given from Isabeau's stocks, and he was paid for the work he had done on the barracks. If this amount was more than the estimates, the balance was to come from the royal treasury, which in turn would be reimbursed from Isabeau's estate. On the question of guarantees, Verrier reported that the sister had no security, and neither did Ganet and Isabeau. The best security was the fact that if the work was not completed, the money owing the estate would not be paid.101 Both Verrier and Saint-Ovide agreed that if Ganet had continued to work by his previous agreement, he certainly would have suffered.102

Regarding the work done the previous year, Maurepas told Verrier that he was pleased the officers were now housed and that he was sending funds for completion of the governor's wing and other works so that "par ce moyen ce Batiment Sera dans La perfection."103

During the summer of 1726, most of the time was spent completing the south half, and by October Verrier wrote an enthusiastic report. The good weather all summer had permitted continuous work. All the officers' rooms were in use and the governor was in his quarters which, however, did require more work. In the chapel only the reredos and the balcony remained unfinished, but services were being held there in spite of this.104

Saint-Ovide and de Mézy in their joint report provided further details. Eighteen officers' rooms were done, the chapel and sanctuary floors were in place, the plastering and windows completed and the governor's wing finished. The engineer, they said, had done all he could for this half of the barracks, but the roof was too flat to be repaired adequately. "Il pleut dans Les Cazernes comme dehors."105 There were several other complaints: the soldiers' rooms were damp, smoky, and badly laid out. The bake-ovens in the basement were flooded by a foot and a half of water for half the year. The armoury, over the central passage, was plastered but still lacked its door and window as well as ceiling panelling and racks for guns. Three rooms in the north half of the barracks were without fireplaces and all but two were without plaster. The stairs which had been added cut down the floor space in the rooms.106 Saint-Ovide elaborated on his own accommodation:

Quoique cet ingenieur ay fait tout de qu'il a pû pour tascher de le rendre un peu commode, il ne S'y trouve aucune commodité par la mauvaise distribution quy a esté faitte dans Sa fondation je ne Scaurois mesme trouver dans tout ce Logement un Endroit a pouvoir mettre mon Lit a couvert de la pluye. Les officiers, et Soldats quy sont Logés dans ce Corps de Cazerners Sont encore beaucoup plus mal que moy, puisque ces derniers n'y peuvent conserver Leurs armes ny Leurs habillements.107

In all of this complaint there was criticism of de Verville's plans and competence. At one point Saint-Ovide said he had resigned himself to the fact that he would have to speak again of the former engineer's poor work.108 Verrier, meanwhile, modified his earlier assessment of the governor's wing, saying that "il a esté necessaire de faire quelques ouvrages de plus dans ce pavillon pour le rendre un peu plus logeable." The central passage tower remained unfinished, and Verrier proposed that it should incorporate a light to serve as a beacon for the harbour, thus saving the expense of constructing a separate lighthouse.109


All these problems were given prompt attention by Maurepas. With regard to the Ganet-Planton affair, he approved the cancellation of the agreement and the decision that Isabeau's sister would continue the contract herself. Sieur Boevin, Isabeau's brother-in-law, was on his way to carry on the work, and officials in Louisbourg were instructed to watch that work was well done. Verrier was to prepare a statement of the work which Ganet had done for Isabeau since 1725, and a new and larger contract was made with Ganet,110 whose prices were the same as Isabeau's for the majority of items.111 This statement, one of the three important construction documents mentioned above, was concerned mostly with the south half of the barracks and gave important information concerning the governor's wing and the officers' quarters. In its 150 pages, specifications were given for the balcony which opened from the governor's bedroom onto the left flank rampart, for the widening of fireplaces, a buffet in the dining room, paving in the central passage, a buffet, sink, drain, and warming oven in the kitchen, a library in the governor's wing, locks and bolts, and even fire ladders on the roof.112

Maurepas approved that Verrier had only worked on the south half of the building the previous year, but he urged him to give attention to the other half, especially to the roof and water problem. Verrier was also to make any necessary repairs and, where they were the result of Isabeau's negligence or poor workmanship, was to charge the cost to the estate. The engineer was urged to be fair in his assessment, and compensation was to be given Ganet for damage caused to his warehouse by a storm the year before.113

Little new work was undertaken in 1727 and Verrier recorded only a number of repairs. The level of the ditch was lowered in an attempt to prevent water from seeping into the various basement rooms, and stone floors were added to make them more usable. Fireplaces and a stairway were added to the three rooms of the north half of the barracks, providing quarters for a whole company of troops. The panelling in the armoury over the central passage was extended to cover the walls as well as the ceiling in an attempt to prevent dampness, but the clock tower still only had a temporary roof and would not be safe until a permanent tower was erected. Because of their smokiness, the bays of the fireplace were widened "pour que la plus grande partie des Soldats d'une Chambrée puisse Se chaufer." Broken shutters, damaged windows and door frames Verrier blamed on the carelessness of the soldiers. He also did not accept Saint-Ovide's criticism of the poor distribution of the barracks.114 It was, he said, a good solid building laid out the same as those in France, though much later, in 1739, he thought the fireplaces should have been built in the middle wall to support the ridge. (The first of de Verville's plans included this feature.)

Verrier had a number of proposals for the building. To alleviate the water problem, he suggested raising the ridge of the roof three pieds, thus steepening the slope so rain and snow would not blow back under the slates so easily. He also felt that some of the problem was caused by leaky dormers, and 25 were eliminated while he tried to seal the others with plaster and lead. By enclosing a plan for a lighthouse to be built on the point opposite the channel into the harbour, he apparently abandoned the idea of a light in the clock tower of the barracks.115

Saint-Ovide and de Mézy also commented on the water problem: "les eaux Inonde le Corps de Casernes et lerendent presque Inhabitable," but they added that they could not determine who was responsible for the poor work which caused the wetness.116 This last statement was a compromise between the two officials, and in their own letters to Maurepas they were mere definite.

Saint-Ovide felt that Verrier and a sub-engineer, Boucher, were concealing Isabeau's poor work and making the royal treasury pay for it. He would prefer, he said, to have Boucher dismissed from the colony.117 Interestingly enough, Verrier had specifically praised Boucher to Maurepas118 De Mézy sided against Saint Ovide; Isabeau, he pointed out, had only followed the plans which had been given to him. Nor were de Verville's plans to blame, but rather the high winds at Louisbourg. De Mézy had his own solution for the water problem; keeping the roof at the same height but shortening the chevrons 4 to 5 pieds the roof would be steepened and a small terrace formed around the perimeter of the barracks. By means of plaster, lead and gargoyles the water would flow away, and the roof would have the required slope at less than it would cost to raise the roof (Fig. 10). Going back to the idea of a light over the clock in the barracks, de Mézy claimed that it would easily be serviced from this terrace.119

By this time the situation in Louisbourg had resulted in new alliances. De Mézy obviously had some sort of association with Madame Planton. Though he had signed joint reports which criticized her brother's work he had not complained of it in his private letters to the king and had lately taken to blaming the weather for the faults in Isabeau's construction. Verrier supported this position and also backed de Mézy in some other projects. As he had from the beginning, Saint-Ovide usually opposed de Mézy, and of course supported the present contractor. D'Arrigrand returned to France in this year leaving Ganet alone in Louisbourg. The partnership was not functioning smoothly, and was not renewed when it expired in 1730. D'Arrigrand later accused Ganet of playing politics while he was away. What actually took place is not known, but the result was that Ganet got a new contract by himself in 1730 and d'Arrigrand, inevitably, sued. This, however, was not the end of d'Arrigrand's involvement in Louisbourg; he was to return in the 1730s.120

In December, an unsigned memorandum, probably written by Saint-Ovide, complained that most of the floors of the soldiers' barracks were rotten, that plastering was still not done, and that stairs, beds, windows and shutters still were needed. For the first time, a criticism of Verrier was recorded: "Il est absolument necessaire que Monseigneur donn[e] Ses ordres a m Verrier pour commancér par mettre le Corps deCazernes en estat de pouvoir y Logér les offers et les troupes, a Couvert de l'Injure dutem."121

Verrier reported some problems of his own. He requested a shipment of cut-stone from Rochefort to replace the brick door and window surrounds which were deteriorating quickly and could not hold their pintles.122 The major work remaining undone was the tower for the clock, but it was several years before this feature dominated the horizon of Louisbourg.123


Maurepas opening correspondence in 1728 rejected the plan of a separate lighthouse and returned to the original idea of a light in the tower over the barracks.124 He also ordered that a final accounting be made with the Isabeau heirs. Verrier, whom Maurepas believed, had a reputation for honesty and who was experienced in these matters, was instructed to reach an agreement with them.125

In Louisbourg, Verrier was determined to have his separate lighthouse, and he informed Saint-Ovide and de Mézy that the clock tower, having only two arches, could not support a light. He admitted that de Mézy's terrace proposal would indeed save on wood, but this saving would be cancelled out by the amount of lead needed to seal the new roof.126

De Mézy, meanwhile, had another project which would affect the barracks. He wanted to build a new bakery in the town near the stores building, but he was told that this could be postponed because the 1727 repairs had alleviated the water problem in the barracks bakery. The ordonnateur did not appreciate the cancellation of his plans and presented new objections to the present location. The room was so low that the bakers had to work bent over, in poor light, with great difficulties in transporting wood and flour. Its location was also a temptation for the soldiers who habitually congregated there.127 Sabatier, a treasury official in Louisbourg, supported de Mézy, adding that the bakery was a fire hazard and that it should only be used during a siege.128

There was another difficulty in the barracks. Both de Mézy and Verrier reported that the armoury was leaking in spite of the temporary roof, and that the tower should be completed as soon as possible.129 The following year Sabatier carried the idea one step further and recommended that the armoury, which was under the control of the ordonnateur, be moved to the upper floor of the storehouse so as to be closer to the official in charge.130

Finally, for this year, Verrier reported that four soldiers' rooms still had no beds, but that these were in the process of construction — a far cry from the optimistic hopes of 1723 which had anticipated an early completion of the soldiers' lodgings. The rotten windows were being replaced, Verrier added, and he again defended de Verville's work.131 There were serious money difficulties in 1728, the current cash having run out, and Saint-Ovide had to postpone his trip to France, at Verrier's request, because the soldiers would have refused to work in his absence.132


1729-30 was a relatively quiet time during the construction of the barracks. Madame Planton died in July 1729,133 which meant that her estate also had to be settled, but this could not be done until her brother's estate had been properly inventoried. As was the custom after a death, seals had been placed on all the goods belonging to the deceased, but the manager of the estate received permission from de Mézy to have them lifted so he could continue the work which was still under way.134 A complete inventory of all the effects including papers was not undertaken until January 1731. More than 2,000 bills and accounts were found dating back to the earliest days of Isabeau's work in Louisbourg. There were numerous registers as well — in all a formidable amount of documentation and a sizeable headache for Verrier who had to supervise the final accounting of this part of the estate.135

Maurepas finally agreed that the light in the barracks tower and terrace on the roof were impractical.136 Estimates for work necessary in 1730 mentioned the replacement of brick with flat stone in the chimney flues which projected above the roof. The same material was to be used for the raising of gables which formed the kingposts of the roof. The cost of replacing the shingles with slate as a protection against fire and snow (one of de Verville's most persistent recommendations) was calculated at 26,800 livres137 only 10,000 livres short of the original estimate for the whole building in 1718. Fifty thousand slates had been shipped in 1726 and 1729, and three times as many in 1730,138 along with 54 rolls of lead for sealing joints, a barrel of nails and two cases of bolts.139

Verrier supported de Mézy's idea for a new bakery, but perhaps as a concession to Maurepas, who wanted to cut expenses, said that it could be deferred for a year or two, and other works including the barracks should take precedence.140

In 1730 Ganet returned to France and obtained a new contract for continuing construction at Louisbourg with the same prices he had used in the 1725 bid. D'Arrigrand, this time backing another architect, claimed to have presented a bid which was 20 per cent less than Ganet's but which was refused. Moreover, the minister asked d'Arrigrand not to proceed with his suit until Ganet was free from his Louisbourg commitments so as not to interfere with work in progress.141

11 Plan and elevation of the barracks, ca. 1729. (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.)


Though the barracks was not yet completed, 1731 marked the beginning of a number of changes which further altered the original plan of the building. The major undertaking was the raising of the roof of the governor's wing in an attempt to prevent the leakage as well as provide room for servants in the attics. This involved rebuilding the walls of the second floor of the wing, thus allowing the replacement of the brick window surrounds with more durable cut-stone. On these higher walls a new roof structure was built which had a much steeper slope than the original. Fireplaces were added to the attics so living quarters for servants could be fashioned there.142 These changes are reflected in Figure 11 which dates from about 1729, and Figure 12 which dates from 1731. The new slope is best seen in the profile in Figure 12. Also evident are the altered windows and added fireplaces. All the chimneys of the building are taller in the latter plan, and this change was probably effected during the reconstruction of the flues in flat stone. Part of the materials used in these changes, especially planks and timber, was obtained from English ships which were frequenting Louisbourg in increasing numbers.143

At the end of the year Saint-Ovide reported that he was at last pleased with his lodging: "le Pavillon Des Cazernes q[ue] J'habite a esté mis dans sa perfection ce Logement est presentement beau & Commode."144 Verrier elaborated on the work which had been done. Aside from the roof being raised, the wing had been slated and the fireplaces widened. Verrier hoped to slate the rest of the building the following year, widen the fireplaces and replace the jambs as well. Sensing Maurepas impatience with the prolongation of work on this building, he added that these works would be done "afin que votre Grandeur n'entendre plus parler al'avenir des Casernes."145

In the final accounting of Isabeau's estate, completed at this time, the heirs received 17,641 livres, 7 sols.146 From this they had to pay other creditors the sum of 10,239 livres, 6 sols,147 leaving just over 7,300 livres. It had taken seven years after Isabeau's death for the estate to be settled, but this was not uncommon given the communications and ponderous legal procedures of the time.


These years witnessed a change in administration. De Mézy had gone to France in 1731 and his son, Le Normant, carried on in his stead.148 The father retired in 1733 and Le Normant was confirmed in the position of commissaire (but not ordonnateur) by Maurepas, who observed that the son seemed willing to get along with Saint-Ovide, a condition which was absolutely necessary for the good of the service.149

Maurepas also had another reason to be pleased with the situation at Louisbourg. To Saint-Ovide he wrote "Je Suis bien aise que vous y Soyés a present convenablement of commodement [housed]." Changes similar to those made on the governor's wing were contemplated for the wing which had originally been designated as the residence of the commissaire-ordonnateur, but Verrier was ordered to suspend them pending an examination of cost.150 These quarters were to come under considerable scrutiny during the next few years as Le Normant sought to avoid living there. In the end only a few partitions were changed as well as a stair and a fireplace, and four subalterns lived there along with the soldiers.151

The small quarrels which accompany any large undertaking were certainly still present at Louisbourg, but it was a relief that the rancour and bitterness of the Isabeau-de Verville days were gone. Le Normant and Saint-Ovide had their differences concerning administrative procedures, and both complained that Verrier did not turn over all his work accounts and that he was taking the contractor's part in wage disputes.152 Le Normant, however, assured Maurepas of his intention to live in harmony with Saint-Ovide,153 and Maurepas, for his part, took a firm hand with Verrier telling him not to interfere in wage disputes but to let the workers and contractor come to their own agreement.154

English goods continued to come into the colony, and in 1732 a list was made of all the ships arriving that year. A considerable number of planks, bricks and shingles as well as finished goods were unloaded from the 39 ships that came,155 and some of this material undoubtedly found its way into the barracks.

Also at this time many of the small details in the building were nearing completion. The armoury was finally dry and could contain 1,000 guns,156 but it was moved to a new location above the new bakery in 1733. This second armoury held 3,000 guns and Verrier said that the old one had been much too narrow and could not be used.157 Slating of the officers' barracks and the north wing was set for 1733.158 In 1732 Verrier submitted a drawing for a bell tower (Fig. 13) which was built in 1733,159 but it was not until the following year that a three-foot bell along with a clock and ringer arrived from France.160 More deterioration was reported by Sabatier: the barracks floors were almost all rotten because of the humidity from the basements, which required vents; the stairs in the soldiers' barracks were also in a poor state.161

12 The barracks in 1731. Compare height of wings, plan of stairway in governor's wing, and guardrooms to the right of the drawbridge with Figure 9. (Archives du Comté Technique du Génie, Paris.)

13 The clock tower, 1733. (Archives Nationales, Paris.)


On 31 March 1735, 15 years after construction had begun, a small ceremony was held to bless the bells for Louisbourg, one of which, called Saint-Louis, was destined for the bell tower of the barracks chapel and marked the completion of the building.162

There was still work to be done, however, and it was not until the fall of 1736 that the north wing was reported ready, the delay being blamed on the shortage of roofers.163 The rotting floors were still a worry, and Sabatier maintained that even some of the floors in the upper rooms would have to be redone.164 Maurepas believed that filling in the basements was the best solution since they were not used and proved injurious to health,165 but this was not practical since the basement walls were not strong enough to withstand the pressure without counterwalls.

Brick and plaster needed attention during this period. The outside walls of the barracks were replastered,166 and it was reported that this repair would have to be done every three years.167 Verrier reported that the brick from Port Toulouse (an outpost of the colony near Canso) which had been used by de Verville in the cordons and angles of buildings as well as in window jambs, was rapidly deteriorating. In the past, he recalled, chimney stacks and several doers and windows had been redone in flat stone. He recommended repairing the angles with well-baked bricks from New England because using stone would necessitate the many alterations. Only the outer facing of bricks to a thickness of four pouces had to be replaced.168 It was also recommended that all wood exposed to the air be painted to help preserve it; as with other recommendations, it was several years before this was done.169 Finally Verrier, who had expended so much energy in getting the governor's wing ready, expressed the opinion that: "Mons de Broullian [Saint-Ovide] doit avoir lieu d'estre Contant en ce qui regarde les lieux quil occupe, il ne devoit pas appreander que Son logement fut negligé."170 Presumably this referred to unspecified repairs which were made to the wing at that time.

Two changes in 1736 affected construction in Louisbourg. D'Arrigrand had not been idle since his departure from Louisbourg; in 1734 he secured a concession on Ile Royale for which he hired, as manager, an architect from Dijon, Bernard Muiron. When Ganet's contract came up for renewal in 1736, d'Arrigrand allowed Muiron to submit bids for it. In the first presentation of prices Muiron's bids were consistently higher than Ganet's171 but, as d'Arrigrand later wrote, he authorised Muiron "de faire une grosse diminution, uniquement pour lors, dans la vuë d'ôter le Sr. Ganet desd. fortiffications, et par la l'obliger de revenir à Paris, à portée de luy faire rendre compte."172 This time d'Arrigrand was successful in removing Ganet.173 However, the new contract did not include regular maintenance work, and a series of contracts was passed with various Louisbourg tradesmen for repairs in their various skills. Thus Jean Bernard was given the contract to maintain the roofs and chimneys, Jean Durand was responsible for timber work, Louis Logier was to maintain carpentry and windows, and Jean Claparede the locks and iron work.174 The repairs carried out under these contracts were extensive and showed just how much care the building required. Locks were repaired or replaced in 30 rooms, carpentry work was done in 13 rooms, and 355 window panes were replaced.175


In 1739 there was a major change of personnel in Louisbourg. Saint-Ovide, who had been summoned to France in 1738, had an unpleasant interview with Maurepas who accused him of having a share in Ganet's contract.176 Despite his denial, Saint-Ovide was retired with a pension, and Isaac-Louis de Forant, a ship's captain, was sent to govern Louisbourg. He arrived with a new ordonnateur, François Bigot, Le Normant having been promoted to the intendency of Santo Domingo.177

The new governor was not impressed with his lodgings and one of his first acts was an offer to turn over the wing as soldiers' quarters and move into Verrier's house. Verrier himself was returning to France for the winter; in that way de Forant said, he would also be nearer what concerned the town and port — hardly a credible reason.178 He found many inconveniences in the building and, while waiting to see if his suggestion would be adopted, ordered doors changed, panelling put in, partitions added, and the kitchen supplemented.179 He thought he had found a solution to the constant wetness in the governor's wing by demolishing the two chimney stacks from the attic fireplace. The fireplaces which Saint-Ovide had put in at considerable expense were thus rendered impracticable. De Forant felt that these stacks created a trough where water gathered only to be blown back under the slates; "jay p[ensé] quil valoit mieux Sen passer que detre inondé a la moindre pluye."180

De Forant did not live to enjoy the changes he effected. In May 1740 he died and was replaced in November by another ship's captain, Jean-Baptiste Louis Le Prévost Duquesnel. This new official, as well, was not satisfied with his quarters and ordered more changes, including panelling in a cabinet and another room, an oven, an enlargement of a fireplace with a stone base beneath, and a stable and a pigeon roost in the courtyard.181 Only a total cost of these items was given so the quality of the various works cannot be assessed, but Maurepas was not pleased with this expense or the fact that work was done without permission; he wrote to both Duquesnel and Bigot, who had also made considerable changes in his lodgings, that it was forbidden to make alterations without express permission except for simple maintenance repairs.182

Internal changes were made in other parts of the barracks. Work orders were submitted for changing the soldiers' guardhouse to a prison, and six leg and hand irons were ordered for this new prison.183 A new masonry guardhouse was built across the ditch on the townward side a few feet from the drawbridge.

General painting, which had been recommended in 1738 to preserve all exposed wood, was not accomplished until 1744. One of the reasons for the delay was that in 1743, the shipment of linseed oil, once a necessary ingredient in paint, was improperly leaded and the oil leaked out during the journey. Paint was added to the new contracts beginning in 1742, and it became the responsibility of the contractor to preserve all the wood by this means. The colour used was dark red made from red ochre.184

More than the usual number of repairs were recorded in 1744. The floor of the governor's kitchen required a new beam and the fireplace and oven were redone in cut-stone. One of the walls of this wing was in danger of collapsing so one of the angles was rebuilt and three windows above in the council chamber were replaced with cut-stone. In the barracks only a general list of repairs using masonry, plaster, cut-stone and wood was given, but these appeared to be extensive.185 in October, 1744, Duquesnel died suddenly. The governor's wing was vacant, allowing time for repairs to the collapsing wall so the quarters would be in a state to receive the new governor. Bigot expressed the hope, which must have been shared by officials in France, that the new governor would be happy with his quarters, otherwise there would be new expenditures.186 However, the new governor never saw his quarters. In the spring of 1745, Louisbourg was placed under siege and capitulated to a volunteer force from New England on 26 June.


During the siege in 1745, the roof of the barracks suffered considerable damage and the chapel was eventually abandoned. The bell in the tower suffered a direct hit, but the clock was undamaged. William Pepperell, the New England commander, reported in 1747 that the barracks in general was "much out of repair, tho' that at the Citadel is otherwise a very good and strong Building of Brick and Stone."187

Reports by Hepsen in 1749 indicated that a new roof had been built and shingled, with the exception of the governor's wing which retained its slate, and that a whole new set of windows including arches, jambs and sills had been put in as well as quoins and pilasters. The inside roof of the chapel was repaired and two galleries were added, presumably on either side of the altar. The whole of this room was filled "with proper Seats and Pews."188 The governor's wing was repaired and some chimneys added.189 These chimneys may have been those which had been blocked out by de Forant in the attic and were now being restored to use.

There is no evidence that any major alterations were made in the barracks, however, and none is mentioned in the French documents during the reoccupation.


On 24 July 1749, the French officials, having settled the terms of transfer of the colony back to its former possessors, went on a tour of the fortifications. Boucher, now the acting engineer-in-chief, recorded that the barracks

a ete retably dans toutes les parties ou il avait éte mal traité de l'artillerie pendant Le Siege, il a toujours ete occupé jusques a present mais tous les planchers en general Sont pourris par mal proprete et hors d'Etat de Servir La Campagne prochaine: la couverture est apresent en bardeau. Le Pavillon servant cy devant de Logement a Messieurs les Gouverneurs est Etaye dans un de Ses angles Exterieurs et demande une reparation Considerable, la Couverture est en ardoise comme elle estoit.190

In August, Boucher made a detailed estimate of repairs needed in all of Louisbourg and revealed that the most serious problem in the barracks concerned the wall of the governor's wing facing the town, which had to be reconstructed from the foundations to the first floor. The two angles were to be redone in cut-stone as were the four ground-floor windows. Ten other windows and eight in the chapel were also to be replaced in cut-stone, and the ditch which the English had used as a refuse dump was to be excavated and cleaned. All the ground-level floors were to be rebuilt with timbers and planks. The shingle roof required repair, but the clock tower which had been hit and left in a useless state would be, he felt, costly to repair. The usual staircase and lock and bolt repairs were also specified.191

By December, Boucher was able to report a number of works completed by Claude Coeruret, a contractor working under the authority of the ordonnateur. The seats of the chapel which the English had installed were dismantled and the wood was used to make a temporary altar and for many of the floor repairs. A partition was added to one of the rooms of the north wing, allowing it to be used for two prisons. Beds, tables and buffets were constructed. Locks and bolts and keys, including a spring belt for the main door, were installed. Seventy-seven windows were replaced and 407 panes cleaned and puttied. The roofs of the outbuildings in the bastion, which had blown off during a storm, were replaced. Two coats of whitewash were applied to the sanctuary of the chapel, and holes in the walls were filled in.192


In August 1750, Coeuret was awarded a formal contract for work on the buildings and fortifications of Louisbourg.193 In December Boucher submitted a 13-page account of work done on the barracks and bastion during that year.

Many of the works, which Boucher had estimated months before, were included. Twenty-two days had been spent cleaning up the rubbish on the terreplein and along the barracks, and two basement rooms in the soldiers' quarters were filled in. Many of the temporary beds in the casemates were dismantled and the wood used to repair floors or to shore up the basement and council chamber of the governor's wing. There were the usual repairs of doors, partitions, fireplaces, staircases, locks and bolts, hinges and pintles. Some old cut-stones were recut, or replaced where necessary. Two iron stoves were made for the governor's wing. Amazingly, only 21 window panes were required to be replaced in the entire building. Eight 20-foot ladders were placed on the roof and three other ladders 21 feet long were also built. The door of the vestibule of the governor's wing had a lock with five keys and a spring bell had been installed, probably at the main door of the residence. Some alterations were made to the chapel, and the door to the gallery was fitted with a lock with 40 keys for the officers.194 A new bell was set up on a frame on the ground across from the guardhouse and the soldiers rang the hours; some were over-zealous in their assignment and cracked the bell, which had to be sent to France to be recast.195

In 1751 Boucher reported the old complaint of lack of workmen, saying he was not able to complete repairs to the barracks. There remained 10 attic floors to remake, but the present ones, he felt, could serve until they were replaced. The governor's wing required considerable attention:

Le pavillon du gouvernement étoit en Si Mauvais etat, que Jay commencé par prendre Sous oeuvre toute la partie Exterieure du Costé du fossé, depuis Sa fondation jusq. a la premiere plinte, qui fait le rez de chaussée et la hauteur des caves; la partie au dessus jusques a l'Entablement, etoit aussi fort endommagée.

Five wooden floors of the wing, four on the ground floor and that of the big hail upstairs, were replaced. In the chapel the sanctuary floor was also laid and the eight large windows were totally repaired.196

However, when the new governor Jean-Louis, le comte de Raymond arrived he was not impressed with his lodging, claiming that "il me seroit impossible d'y demeurer. Cest une vraye glaciere et il n'y a aucune commodité qui puisse convenir à l'état de ma maison."197 As his predecessor had done, he went to live in the engineer's house in Block 1 and during all this period the engineer was forced to live elsewhere at a cost to the treasury of 400 livres. In 1753 Franquet, the new engineer, recommended that the governor move back into his wing in the barracks, ostensibly to save money, though doubtless Franquet was looking forward to occupying the engineer's quarters himself.198 It was not until June of 1755 that Franquet was able to say that the barracks was ready, and that the new governor, Augustin de Drucour, had taken up residence in the governor's wing when he arrived in 1754.199 Little else is reported about the barracks before the second siege.

In 1758 the fortress was again besieged by the British army. On July 22, at the height of the cannonade, Drucour reported:

lincendie arrivée au Corps de Cazernes du Bastion du Roy, nous a tellement occupés depuis neuf heures le matin Jusqu'à la nuit, que nous n'avons pûServir le reste des canons qu'inparfaitement. Ce feu a été occasionné par une Bombe des ennemis qui a tombé dans la Chambrée des soldats proche de la Voute du Clocher de la Chapelle, les soldats Se Sont occupés a l'evacuer et le feu n'y a paru que lors qu'il a été assez embrazé, pour que la droitte et la gauche en ayent été attaquées Jusqu'à la Batterie du flanc droit que nous avons preservée a force de Soin of du monde, et Jusqu au pavillon du Gouvernement.200


A view of the town after the English took over (Fig. 14) shows what remained of the barracks. The governor's wing and part of the officers' quarters were intact, but of the rest only the triangular masonry partitions remained. A report on the building in August 1758, stated: "The roofs and floors of this building are burnt there remains only the Pavillon . . . and even this has been much battered during the siege."201

However, repairs were made to the building and it was exempted from the 1760 demolition which saw the razing of all the fortifications. In 1766 a drawing recorded what had become of the barracks (Fig. 15); over the ruins of the old north half, a one storey wooden barracks, about half as wide as the original barracks, was constructed. The clock tower, chapel, and most of the officers' quarters were still in ruins, but the governor's wing was listed as reparable for use as an officers' barracks.

There was no recorded end to the occupation of the barracks. Like most of the other buildings in Louisbourg it gradually disintergrated and was pillaged for building materials after the British abandoned the site in 1768. In 1897 a visitor was told by an occupant whose house reputedly sat on the site of the governor's wing that in his father's time there remained vaulted cellars, a well and a spiral staircase, all of which had been knocked down by the father.202 Bishop Plessis from Quebec who visited the remains in 1815, exclaimed, "What a heap of stones! . . . nothing was entire, nothing that could be recognized with certainty."203 Stories and legends grew concerning the fortifications, and in some of the accounts the barracks was referred to as a cathedral.204 But until recent times most saw Louisbourg as a visitor did in 1859: "no signs of life visable within these once warlike parapets except the peaceful sheep grazing upon the very brow of the citadel."205

14 The barracks (H) is in ruins after the 1758 siege except for the governor's wing to the right. Note the breaches in the bastion walls. (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.)

15 The governor's wing (1) is still intact in 1766; the chapel and officers' quarters are still in ruins but new barracks (2) have been constructed. The walls of the fortifications were demolished in 1760. (British Museum, London.)

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