Québec

Improvements to the Fortified Wall

Three More Intercolonial Wars
Led to Improvements
to the Fortified Wall

(1701 to 1758)

The year 1701 marked the beginning of the second Intercolonial War (also known as the second French and Indian War in the United States), which would end in 1713. Opposing New France as a colony of France and the British colonies of North America, it would be followed by two more Intercolonial Wars during the 18th Century: the third Intercolonial War (also known as the third French and Indian War in the United States) from 1744 to 1748 and the fourth Intercolonial War (also known as the fourth French and Indian War in the United States) from 1754 to 1760. Those three Intercolonial Wars would have a profound influence on the evolution of Québec City's Fortified Wall.

1701 — "The Great Peace of 1701", as it was called, marked the end of the Franco-Iroquois Wars. It was a peace treaty signed in Montréal between French Governor Louis-Hector de Callières, five Iroquois Nations weakened by continual wars and epidemics, plus 35 other Amerindian Nations. The Iroquois pledged to live in peace with the other Amerindian Nations as well as to remain neutral in any war between France and Great Britain. The French would have one less potential enemy to worry about in their improvement of Québec City's Fortified Wall.


This portrait of Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry, in the middle of the 18th Century, allows us to become more familiar with the chief engineer of New France who is the true "father" or "creator" of Québec City's Fortified Wall as a whole, as a completely enclosing or surrounding fortification in relation to the Upper Town of Old Québec.
Image Credit: Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec / Access number 1967.101 / Permanent collection / MNBAQ, salle 8 / Painting by an unknown artist dated from around 1745 / Entitled "Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry" / Reproduced with the permission of Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec.
1711 — In July, during the second Intercolonial War, British Admiral Hovenden Walker failed in his attempt to attack Québec City. He was sailing toward the Capital of New France, resolute to seize it with a fleet of 71 ships transporting 12,000 men, a much greater force than Admiral Phips had in 1690, with 34 ships transporting 2,350 men. But the St. Lawrence River proved a formidable adversary and stopped him before he could reach Québec City. In just one stormy night on that river, Admiral Walker lost eight of his 71 ships and more than 800 of his 12,000 men. Staggered, he turned his fleet around. That potential attack on Québec City never happened, thanks to the St. Lawrence River for the French. And Québec City's Fortified Wall did not have to be a decisive factor.

1713 — The signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in Europe marked the end of the second Intercolonial War.

1715 — The greatest King of France, Louis XIV, passed away. Under his reign, from 1643 to 1715, New France and Québec City's Fortified Wall had flourished. He had also made the colony of New France a province of France.

1716 — Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry, the new chief engineer of New France, arrived in Québec City. He would eventually develop a brilliant and lasting overall plan for Québec City's defensive system. He would be the mastermind behind the enhanced Château St. Louis in 1724 as well as the fully enclosed Fortified Wall after 1745. And he would even make the construction of a Citadel part of his ideas for improvement.


This illustration drawn by Chaussegros de Léry himself shows us his plan for the improvements to Château St. Louis, which were realized in 1723 and 1724. From top to bottom of this illustration, we can see: its new east wing (at the top-left), its new west wing (at the top-right), its new south façade which was facing the St. Lawrence River and the Lower Town (in the upper-middle), its north courtyard side (in the lower-middle) and its basement (at the bottom).
Image Credit: Plans of Château St. Louis by Chaussegros de Léry in 1724 / From Archéologiques, numéro 22, Association des archéologues du Québec, Québec, 2009, page 97 / Also from ANOM, FR CAOM 3DFC408B.
Image Source: fr.wikipedia.org/?wiki/?Fichier:Chateau_Saint-Louis_1724.jpg
1720 — As part of Chaussegros de Léry's overall plan, during this year:
  • Du Palais Gate, first built in 1691, was restored. The restored structure of that gate in the Côte du Palais would last until 1790.
  • St. Louis Gate, first built in 1693, was restored. The restored structure of that gate would last until 1791.
  • St. John Gate, first built in 1693, was demolished and rebuilt. The new structure of that gate would last until 1790.

1724 — Also as part of Chaussegros de Léry's overall plan, the second Château St. Louis was transformed in 1723 and 1724 into a true palace worthy of the status of Louis XV, the new King of France. After the Treaty of Utrecht and the peace that followed, Château St. Louis had a more residential function and Chaussegros de Léry was aware of that new function. He added a wing and two pavilions, bringing symmetry to the building. A number of new outbuildings were constructed in its courtyard and its vegetable garden was converted into a pleasure garden. Château St. Louis thus became an even more important symbol of power and prestige.

1744 — The third Intercolonial War (also known as the third French and Indian War in the United States) started and would last until 1748. Border warfare was severe during that war, but not conclusive. Québec City and its Fortified Wall were not attacked.

1745 — The most significant event of the third Intercolonial War came on June 27. A British colonial expedition under Sir William Pepperrell and fleet under Sir Peter Warren took the vast Fortress of Louisbourg, built by the French on Acadia's Cape Breton Island (part of today's Nova Scotia) between 1720 and 1740.


The vast Fortress of Louisbourg was strategically very important, due in large part to its location, near the entrance of the St. Lawrence River coming from the Atlantic Ocean.
© 1998 Parks Canada / Brochure entitled "Les fortifications de Québec", page 10 / Graphic reproduced with the permission of Parks Canada.

1745 — The capture of Louisbourg by the British had a profound and decisive impact on Québec City's Fortified Wall. The population of Québec City was panic-stricken. They felt that, without the Fortress of Louisbourg, there was nothing left to stop the enemy from sailing up the St. Lawrence River. They also felt that the Fortified Wall of 1693 was in very bad condition and needed to be improved.

1745 — The principal authorities of New France met at Château St. Louis and decided to undertake the construction of the ramparts and fortifications proposed by the chief engineer of New France, Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry, in his overall plan. The improvements made at that time were so well done that many of them are still part of Québec City's Fortified Wall today. The ramparts built by Chaussegros de Léry during this year respected the basic principles of a bastioned Fortified Wall reinforced by classical fortifications. The most active builders in Québec City at that time were recruited and a large part of the work was done by the population during "corvées" (labor exacted by public authorities for special community projects such as this one). After those improvements, Québec City's Fortified Wall was completely enclosed and, for the very first time in its legendary history, entirely surrounded what today is the Upper Town of Old Québec.


This illustration gives us a good idea of the complexity of building a bastioned Fortified Wall reinforced by classic fortifications. The depth of Québec City's Fortified Wall on its bastioned west side was more than 246 feet (75 meters) and we can see here why: the presence of a ditch, outworks, a covered path and above all the glacis (a gentle slope that concealed the west side of the Fortified Wall from an enemy's sight) altogether required that kind of depth. The quantity of earth and stones necessary for such a complex construction was phenomenal.
© 1998 Parks Canada / Brochure entitled "The Fortifications of Québec", page 11 / Graphic reproduced with the permission of Parks Canada.

1748 — The signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in Europe marked the end of the third Intercolonial War. The vast fortress of Louisbourg was returned to the French because of this peace treaty. And the British colonies in North America were not happy about that.

1750 — As part of Chaussegros de Léry's overall plan, the construction of the Citadel was started by the French, on top of the high cliffs of Cap Diamant. Of course, it was still far from the temporary Citadel of 1783 and the permanent Citadel of 1831. But it was the true beginning of the Citadel. Parts of its fortifications of 1750 were later integrated to its two new and expanded structures, in 1783 and 1831.

1754 — The fourth and last Intercolonial War (also known as the fourth French and Indian War in the United States) began, and would last until 1760. This war later became part of the "Seven Years' War" (from 1756 to 1763) in Europe, which was said to be the first war waged on a worldwide scale. The British Empire would emerge stronger than ever from this global war and Canada would become one of the biggest gains for Great Britain afterward. However, Québec City and its Fortified Wall were not attacked until 1759.

1756 — Chaussegros de Léry passed away on March 23. He was still the chief engineer of New France at the time of his death (40 years after 1716). He left behind him remarkable accomplishments as the true "father" or "creator" of Old Québec's Fortified Wall as a whole, considered as a fortification enclosing or surrounding completely the Upper Town of Old Québec.

1758 — The vast Fortress of Louisbourg was seized and destroyed by the British. This time, they wanted to make absolutely sure that it would not be returned again to France, because of a peace treaty signed in Europe. So, they were determined to destroy it.

1758 — Chaussegros de Léry's overall plan for Québec City's defensive system and for its Fortified Wall (including the early construction of the Citadel) was nearly completed. His "enceinte" (or "enclosed Fortified Wall") was not totally finished yet, at the end of this year, but it was advanced enough to be a major factor in the protection of Québec City as well as its French soldiers while awaiting reinforcements (additional troops, assistance, material or support), in case of a major British attack on the capital of New France. The essential purpose of a fortification and even more of a Fortified Wall (being able to wait for reinforcements while being protected) was available to the French army at that point in time, but confidence in this surrounding Fortified Wall also was needed from the French general and his French officers for that Fortified Wall to work in the manner that it had been designed to work by Chaussegros de Léry.


This map of Québec City in approximately 1757 illustrates the amazing accomplishments of Chaussegros de Léry, as the chief engineer of New France, in the field of military urban planning. It also shows the profound influence he had on the realization of an "enclosing" or a "surrounding" Fortified Wall for Québec City.
Image Credit: Paulus Swaen Old Maps / Plan de la Ville de Québec / Published by PREVOST in Paris, circa 1757 / Kershaw 1054 / Item ID number 17851.
Image Source: swaen.com/antique-map-of.php?id=3576