LE GOUÈS DE SOURDEVAL, SÉBASTIEN, commandant on Île Saint-Pierre; b. 1657 at Bayeux in the lower part of the province of Normandy; d. 1710 at Saint-Malo.
According to the census of the French settlers on the south coast of Newfoundland in 1698, there was living at Petit Plaisance a certain Sébastien Le Gouès, Sieur de Sourdeval, aged 41. He owned six muskets, a cow, a house, and a fishing room (section of beach) capable of taking the catch of six shallops. Being a nobleman, he asked to be exempted from the corvées required of the fishermen. In a report dated April 1700 Pontchartrain, who was secretary of state for the Marine, decided to maintain him in his fishing establishment.
Two years later, on 1 March 1702, the Sieur de Sourdeval was appointed “commandant for the king on the Îles Saint-Pierre,” with the pay of a company ensign, namely 480 livres. In a long letter dated 11 Oct. 1702, Sourdeval recounts the events which followed his taking over of the islands. Having arrived at Saint-Pierre on 25 July, he organized “an enclosure measuring 100 paces” built by a settler, and fortified it as best he could. On 7 October two English ships of 60 guns landed a detachment which burned the church and two houses. With a small cannon he forced them to re-embark, but the next day the English returned with 400 men, who laid siege to the tiny fort. Sourdeval was subjected to their fire for several hours. The English called upon him to surrender, threatening to put all the settlers to the sword. As his gun-carriages were broken and he had only 25 muskets, 2 swords, and 2 pistols, Sourdeval capitulated. The English left him 5 muskets and some bread, and set off again after burning everything. They handed over to him 52 prisoners whom they had taken at Trepassey Bay and whom they did not know what to do with (see Leake). At the end of his letter, Sourdeval implored the king to give him the means to build a strong fort to protect the settlers from their enemies. Finally he asked for an increase in his salary.
In his official correspondence Pastour de Costebelle, the governor of Placentia (Plaisance), often praised Sourdeval, declaring him to be punctilious and vigilant in everything concerning His Majesty’s service. He considered that the salary given to Sourdeval should be raised to 600 livres.
On 1 Dec. 1707 Sourdeval reported that Île Saint-Pierre had again been attacked by the English, who had landed a number of men to hunt for him in the woods, where he had taken refuge with a few settlers. He added “that he inflicted losses on one of their parties that he surprised as it was moving forward unwarily.” The commander of the English vessel summoned him to surrender, threatening otherwise to burn everything, but when Sourdeval refused to give in, the commander did not carry out his threat and sailed away, leaving all his prisoners on land and having burned nothing.
In 1709 Sourdeval again asked for an increase in his salary, which was still that of a company ensign. He also wished to be granted the cross of the order of Saint-Louis, pointing out that his family was related to several noble families of France, among others the La Rochefoucaulds, La Vieuvilles, Vitrys, and Matignons. (Furthermore, according to Costebelle, Sourdeval had come to Newfoundland following family setbacks.) These requests do not seem to have been listened to.
Sourdeval must have been in poor health at that period. He returned to France and died at Saint-Malo, where he was buried on 9 March 1710.
[In 1694 Sébastien Le Gouès de Sourdeval had married Catherine Le Baudy, the widow of Germain de Tour. One of the daughters by the first marriage Anne de Tour, in her turn married Pastour de Costebelle, who later on occasionally referred to Sourdeval as his father-in-law; in reality the latter was his father-in-law only indirectly. c.m.]
Archives d’Ille-et-Vilaine (Rennes), E, État civil de Saint-Malo. AN, Col., B, 22, 23, 25, 27, 29, 30; C11C, 3, 5; C11D, 7. BN, MS, NAF 9283 (Margry). Le Blant, Philippe de Pastour de Costebelle.