JACAU (Jacault, Jacob) DE FIEDMONT, LOUIS-THOMAS, artillery officer; b. c. 1723, probably on Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), son of Thomas Jacau, a master gunner, and Anne Melanson, dit La Verdure; d. unmarried, 25 Aug. 1788 at Belleville (Paris), France.
Louis-Thomas Jacau de Fiedmont rose from the ranks to become an officer. He entered the army as a non-commissioned officer and in 1743 was admitted to the gunners of Île Royale as a cadet under his brother-in-law Philippe-Joseph d’Allard de Sainte-Marie. He was subsequently in France, but in May 1747 as part of Governor Taffanel* de La Jonquière’s squadron he sailed on the Sérieux from the Île d’Aix, off Rochefort, for New France. On 14 May he was taken prisoner in a battle fought with a British squadron under Vice-Admiral George Anson off Cape Ortegal, Spain. The following year he was promoted ensign in the artillery company of Île Royale, a rank he retained when he went to Canada in 1750. Commended as “very reliable,” on 1 April 1753 he was named lieutenant and given command of the artillery in Acadia. He apparently was serving as an engineer at Fort Beauséjour (near Sackville, N.B.) when it was captured by the British under Robert Monckton in 1755. The next year he served with distinction in Montcalm*’s attack on Oswego (Chouaguen), no doubt the reason for his promotion to captain in March 1757.
The year 1757 brought Jacau other satisfactions. In May he was instructed to take a detachment of workmen organized in Quebec by the artillery commander, François-Marc-Antoine Le Mercier, to Fort Carillon (Ticonderoga, N.Y.). Upon reaching Lake Champlain he suggested to the officer commanding the sector, Bourlamaque*, that boats armed with one cannon each be constructed to serve as redoubts cruising lakes Champlain and Saint-Sacrement (Lake George) as veritable floating batteries. This project, which Montcalm had already approved, greatly interested Bourlamaque. On 1 August a boat built according to Jacau’s plans headed the French fleet which sailed under Montcalm’s orders towards the southern end of Lac Saint-Sacrement to lay siege to Fort William Henry (also called Fort George; now Lake George, N.Y.). Similar boats, called “jacobites” probably after their inventor, Jacau or Jacob, were used on many occasions throughout the Seven Years’ War.
Jacau returned to Fort Carillon with workmen in May 1758 and was in the battle there on 8 July. In May 1759 he was employed building a bridge over the Rivière Saint-Charles near Quebec. During the siege of Quebec he served with the artillery under Le Mercier and later Fiacre-François Potot de Montbeillard. In the council of war that Jean-Baptiste-Nicolas-Roch de Ramezay assembled on 15 Sept. 1759 to decide what policy should be adopted after the defeat on the Plains of Abraham, Jacau de Fiedmont alone declared himself in favour of a last-ditch stand, suggesting that “rations be reduced and the fortress be defended to the very end.” Some days later Governor Vaudreuil [Rigaud] noted that “he behaved admirably and deserves the highest praise and His Majesty’s favours.” On 8 Feb. 1760 Jacau was made a knight of the order of Saint-Louis.
Jacau sailed for France on the Félicité which was wrecked some 130 leagues from the Azores; he reached the islands in a small open boat in May 1760. Promoted lieutenant-colonel on 15 April 1762, he was sent to French Guiana that year to command the artillery. In September 1763 he was appointed second in command of the colony, and two years later became its governor. He remained in Guiana until 1783, reaching the rank of infantry brigadier in 1769 and major-general in 1780. He had found the colony in great disorder and governed it wisely, trying among other things to increase settlement, in particular by assisting Canadians who had taken refuge in France to establish themselves in Guiana. In 1771 the king had granted him a pension of 2,000 livres and praised his administration, “his good services and his impartiality.”
By nature gentle and quick to make friends, Jacau de Fiedmont was known for his integrity and was always well respected. During his years of service in Canada he earned a great deal of praise from his superiors. In 1761 Bourlamaque testified that “nothing can be added to the esteem that the Sieur de Fiedmont has acquired through his courage and the particular talents he has demonstrated on a host of occasions when he was extremely useful. The success of most of his ideas was ensured by his zeal and was a complete fulfilment of objectives.” Nevertheless he was reproached as governor of Guiana for being too stubborn and headstrong and showing “too much leniency to the officers who are almost all Canadians like himself.”
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