The Saint Louis Bastion
A bastion is a pentagon-shaped fortification with two sides facing the enemy and two flanks providing flanking fire so that all parts of the defensive structure are visible to one another and can cover each another.
The Saint Louis Bastion is part of Quebec City’s fortification system. Because it was feared that the English would attack Quebec City, the city’s major, François Provost, had the capital’s first walled enclosure built in spring 1690. The work took six weeks. The wall consisted of eleven small masonry redoubts in the shape of a bastion. In 1693, after the failed siege of Quebec
City by William Phips, Governor Frontenac authorized the construction of a new bastioned rampart on the western side of the city.
Captain Josue Boisberthelot de Beaucours was in charge of the work. The wall had four bastions, including the Saint Louis Bastion. Two gates opened onto Saint-Louis and Saint-Jean Streets.
The Saint Louis Bastion was rebuilt in 1706 by the architect Jean Mailloux based on the plans of engineer Levasseur de Néré. The new bastion became a permanent fortification. It consisted of an earthen rampart covered in masonry, to which a covered way was added as a ditch.
In 1745, the fall of Louisbourg caused panic in Quebec City. Governor Beauharnois authorized the construction of a rampart to definitively close off the Upper Town from the countryside. Engineer Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry integrated the bastions that were erected by Levasseur de Néré in 1702 and 1706 as well as his own structures from 1720. The result was a defensive complex consisting of a succession of bastions of curtain walls and three gates: Saint-Louis, Saint-Jean and Du Palais.
The new fortification was intended to be permanent. As labour was hard to find, militia members from Quebec City were used as labourers to carry out the work from 1745 to 1757.
A powder magazine was built into the gorge of the Saint-Louis Bastion, as was a casemate on the left flank. The casemate was a bomb-proof, vaulted area where troops could seek refuge. It also provided a second-level firing location below and on the flanks, in addition to serving as barracks that could accommodate around 20 soldiers ranging in rank from private to non-commissioned officer.
The powder magazine was used to store the powder belonging to the king and the local inhabitants. For obvious safety reasons, the powder magazine of the Saint-Louis Bastion, like all powder magazines in Quebec City, was guarded by an armed detachment from the Compagnies franches de la Marine.
The cannons of the Saint Louis Bastion and the fortifications of Quebec City were under the responsibility of two bombardier gunner companies who were lodges in the guard houses located above the Saint Louis and Saint Jean gates.
This 1757 map of Quebec City shows that New France’s lead engineer, Chaussergros de Léry, had put a fortification in place in accordance with all military best practices of the time that finaly surround Quebec City. Image credit: Antique map from Paulus Swaen – Map of Quebec City – engraving published by Prevost in Paris, circa 1757. Photo : ProvinceQuebec.com
View from the St. Louis Bastion. Photo: ProvinceQuebec.com
Ramparts of the bastion. Photo : ProvinceQuebec.com