Dauphin Demi-Bastion and Gate
Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site
Dauphin Demi-Bastion (1)
When you leave the fishing property, stop for a moment to look at those walls ahead of you. There is no better place from which to sense the challenge Louisbourg poses to an attacker. From here to the walls you are under the muzzles of heavy artillery and in the sights of musketmen. See how the guns of the King’s Bastion on your right flank support the close range fire of the Dauphin demi-bastion ahead. There is no scrap of cover. Men have died on the ground you tread.
Approaching the walls, you pass through a narrow cut in the earthen glacis that forms the outer defences. Protection for the walls, these earthworks can also shelter advanced parties of soldiers.
There were only three land gates and a couple of wharves to give entry to Louisbourg. This one, the principal land entrance, was manned around the clock by an officer and thirty soldiers. Fishermen, wagoneers and children could pass in and out all day long, but each night the sentries ceremoniously locked the gate and raised the bridge. Do you begin to sense the authority of a fortress town? And, in the coat of arms and trophies around the gate, its majesty too?
The gate is carefully designed, from the sluice gate controlling water levels to the musket loopholes staring at you from the walls, to the graceful sentry box called a guerite observing you from high above the ditch. But brute force is a fortress’s stock-in-trade-most of these details were pounded to rubble in two sieges of Louisbourg. Archaeologists recovered fragments of the original sculptured trophies here, and their duplicates were cut in limestone from the same French quarry.
Through the massive doors the path is flanked by guardrooms, soldiers’ on your right, officers’ on your left. Beyond the soldiers’ guardroom is a sea-drained latrine, neatly built into the wall but silted in by the 1740s. On the left a six gun battery called the épéron juts into the harbour. The wooden structure at the end is another latrine.
Dauphin Demi-Bastion (2)
As you explore this compact fortification, try adopting the defender’s point of view in fortress warfare. The Dauphin was designed for two tough jobs. Climbing the ramp to the left as you enter, you can see how the demi-bastion itself anchors one end of Louisbourg’s landward defences. But the Dauphin has its feet in water. Louisbourg is also a coastal fortress, and the curving “semi-circular” battery shares the task of defending the port against naval attack.
The cannon here are reproductions of French 24 livres guns—they fired a round iron ball weighing 24 livres (almost 12 kilograms, 26 pounds). Each cannon and carriage weighs several tons, and each was served by a crew of hardworking artillerymen. See how the slope of the gun platform helps roll the guns into place after each recoil.
Nestled inside the bastion are soldiers’ barracks, not much used in the 1740s, and a powder magazine. The magazine, though carefully constructed to minimize the risk of explosion, eventually proved both too vulnerable and too small, yet it has survived well: almost up to the eaves are the original eighteenth century walls.
Each time besiegers came to Louisbourg, the Dauphin attracted their attention. Because it forms a corner in the town’s defences, it came under fire from two directions, and in each siege the damage and the casualties here were grave. Imagine the experience of the men who served the heavy roaring guns in this enclosed space, as enemy fire pounded their shelter down around them.
A secret passage? Not quite. The troops manning the outer defences—sometimes a third of the garrison—needed swift access to the town, and this winding passage, one of three in the fortress, was easy to use and to defend. Still, there are secrets to uncover inside a postern tunnel.
Here, deep inside the walls, the slow working of water can make a fortress seem a living thing. Every part of a fortress must respect the power of dripping water—if not drained away it will slowly tear a wall apart. To unlock one secret of fortress design, look for runnels and drains and downspouts throughout the fortifications, and examine water’s traces in the reconstructed roof above you.
The Dauphin demi-bastion is particularly vulnerable, for water surrounds it. Dampness and frost plagued the engineers’ attempts to make mortar set here. One corrective measure they tried was the planking that sheathes the Dauphin walls near the tunnel’s outer door.
- Desroches House
- Embrasures at Lartigue
- Lartigue House
- Artillery Storehouse and Forge
- The King's Bakery
- Duhaget Property
- De la Perelle Property
- Engineer's Property
- Rodrigue Property
- De Gannes Property
- The King's Bastion
- McLennan Centre
- Through the town to the quay / De la Plagne Property
- De la Vallière Property
- Carrerot Property
- Benoist Property
- L’Epée Royale
- Magasin du Roi (King's Storehouse)
- Hôtel de la Marine
- Grandchamp Property
- Frédéric Gate
- Commissaire-Ordonnateur’s Property
- Marie Marguerite Rose plaque
- Eastward along the Quay
|On the map
|Desroches House (Wheelchair accessible)
|Embrasures at Lartigue
|Lartigue House (Wheelchair accessible)
|King's Bakery Food service
|Duhaget House (Wheelchair accessible)
Garrison and Fortifications Exhibit
|De la Perelle House (Wheelchair accessible)
Congrégation de Notre-Dame Exhibit
|De la Perelle Storehouse
|Laundry and Stables
|De Gannes House (Wheelchair accessible)
|On the map
|King's Bastion Barracks
Reconstruction, Tools of War, and Archeological Typography Exhibits
|McLennan Centre (Wheelchair accessible) (Wifi available)
Virtual Reality Experience
|De la Plagne (Wheelchair accessible) (Information)
|De la Vallière House
Mi'kmaw Interpretive Centre
|De la Vallière Storehouse
|De la Vallière Storehouse II
|Fizel and Loppinot Properties
Building Techniques Exhibit
|Benoist House (Wheelchair accessible) (Gift shop)
|L'Épée Royale Café (Wheelchair accessible) Food service
|Hôtel de la Marine (Wheelchair accessible) Food service
|Grandchamp House (Wheelchair accessible) Food service
|Grandchamp Inn (Wheelchair accessible) Food service
|Ordonnateur's Residence (Wheelchair accessible)
Recollecting Lives Exhibit & Harbour Gallery
|Marie Marguerite Rose plaque
|Eastward along the Quay
- Date modified :