A Blupete Biography Page

Verrier (1683-1747)

Étienne Verrier was born not far from Marseille, a French port on the Mediterranean. He learned to work in stone early in his life as his father was a "master-sculptor." In 1707, Verrier moved to La Rochelle, a French port on the Atlantic; there he took up a position with the French military corps. In 1720, at age 37, he was sent on a military cruise to the east (present day Vietnam). Having arrived back at La Rochelle, in 1724, Verrier was ordered to go to New France and there to take up his duties as Resident Chief Engineer at Louisbourg. For the first year Verrier worked under the director of fortifications, Jean-François de Verville. But with the transfer of Verville and the elimination of the position of director, Verrier had a relatively free hand in the development of the fortifications at Louisbourg.

Verrier carried out his duties at Louisbourg between the occasional visits to his family1 back in France and left much of the work detail to his two assistants, Couagne and Boucher.

History recognizes Verville as the builder of Louisbourg; not only the fortifications, but also the chief public buildings, the lighthouse, the whole harbour front; and his talents were not restricted in their exercise just to Louisbourg, the fortifications at Port-Dauphin (Englishtown), Port-Toulouse (St Peters) and Port-La-Joie (P.E.I.) came into existence under his direction.

Verrier was a man possessed of much political skill and made a point of getting along with people, even those with whom he often disagreed, as for example, St. Ovide. He defended those who were under him when criticism came from above. He was honest during a time where dishonesty (bribes from the contractors) was almost an accepted thing. He is a historical figure who stands out. The one serious mistake Verrier made was when he talked Governor Duchambon into not destroying the Grand Battery, a marvel of military engineering; which Verrier, it being principally his handy work, took much pride in. As our narrative will show the Grand Battery was a strategically placed battery of French guns which Verrier had placed on the harbour shore across from the main fort and which was given over early during the American-Anglo attack of 1745.

As might be imagined, Verrier held a powerful position at Louisbourg. He, however, like all of the French leaders behind the walls during the first siege, was lacking in "siegecraft."2 He was instrumental in the decision to surrender the fort to the New Englanders.

Verrier left Louisbourg for France along with the other defeated French officers in 1745.3 On returning to France Verrier did get another military appointment which allowed him to spend his last years at La Rochelle. Verrier died two years later in 1747.


[1] According to the DCB, Verrier's wife and daughter made a stab at staying with Verrier as they came out in 1732, but the family returned to the more friendly climate of France, three years later, in 1735. His sons came and spent more time with him; and this was to be to their advantage, as at least two of them were promoted through the military ranks; it seems they learned much from their father during their time on North American duty.

[2] DCB, vol. III, p. 645.

[3] An interesting foot note is that Verrier took all of the fortification plans with him when he sailed away from Louisbourg which didn't seem to bother the conquering New Englanders at the time, but which bothered the French, when, in 1749, the fort was returned back to the French. By 1749, Verrier was dead and his wife held the plans and refused to give them up until the government settled the accounts which figured it had with the estate. I do not know how all of that turned out, but, to-day, Verrier's original plans, over a hundred of them, are preserved at Parisian depositories such as the Archives Nationales.


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Peter Landry
2012 (2020)