DU PONT DUCHAMBON, LOUIS, officer in the colonial regular troops, king’s lieutenant, and merchant; baptized 1 Jan. 1680 at Sérignac (dept of Charente), France, sixth son of Hugues Du Pont Duvivier and Marie Hérauld de Gourville; m. 11 Feb. 1709 at Port-Royal (Annapolis Royal, N.S.) to Jeanne Mius d’Entremont de Pobomcoup, granddaughter of Philippe Mius* d’Entremont, Baron de Pobomcoup; d. 22 Aug. 1775 in the parish of Curat (dept of Charente).
Louis Du Pont Duchambon arrived in Acadia in 1702 as an ensign in a new company in which his brothers, François Du Pont* Duvivier and Michel Du Pont* de Renon, served as captain and lieutenant. He was promoted lieutenant in 1704. The two older brothers and Duchambon moved to Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), after its establishment in 1713. Even with the early death of the eldest brother, Duvivier, in 1714, the Du Pont family remained entrenched in the officer corps of the garrison. That year Renon became adjutant and by 1717 Duvivier’s sons had become officers. With Renon’s death in 1719 family leadership devolved upon Duchambon, and under his tutelage the foundations were laid by which the Du Punts became the most important military family in the colony.
Duchambon spent much of his early career on Île Royale at the outpost of Port-Dauphin (Englishtown, N.S.). Posted as a lieutenant therein Renon’s company, he was promoted captain in 1720 and made commandant in 1723. His wife was employed as Indian interpreter until French authorities recognized in the early 1720s that “the Indians do not like to inform women about their treaties and concerns.” The command was small and Duchambon asked to be recalled to Louisbourg in 1731, yet Port-Dauphin remained almost the personal fief of the Du Pouts until the 1740s. His sons François Du Pont Duchambon (known as Duchambon l’aîné) and Louis Du Pont Duchambon de Vergor and his nephews François Du Pont Duvivier and Philippe-Michel Du Pont de Renon either served or commanded there at various times in these years. Outposts of Louisbourg such as Port-Dauphin and those on Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island) allowed officers to pursue commercial interests away from the eye of the Louisbourg administration, and it is not surprising that Vergor and Duvivier were among the colony’s military officers most active in trade.
After taking leave in France in 1728, Duchambon returned to Île Royale and became major of Louisbourg in 1733, the year after his nephew Duvivier had been promoted adjutant. As the third and fourth ranking officers of the general staff, both men were responsible for routine military discipline, garrison life, and constabulary functions in the town, but not for military provisioning, which was handled by the civil administration. Duchambon and his nephew were also in a position to start their relatives on the ladder of the military hierarchy. Duchambon himself had at least seven sons by his marriage and most were launched on military careers early in their lives at Île Royale. In 1734 four of the first 16 boys chosen as cadets belonged to the Du Pont family.
Although an unexceptional officer, Duchambon gained promotions through seniority and his friendship with Governor Saint-Ovide [Monbeton*]. In 1730 he became a knight of Saint-Louis and in 1737 he was appointed to replace Jacques d’Espiet* de Pensens as king’s lieutenant of Île Saint-Jean. During his uneventful command on that island Duchambon was joined by Vergor, several other sons, and later by Joseph Du Pont Duvivier, a nephew. Here and at Louisbourg Duchambon’s own commercial activities appear to have been circumscribed. With François Du Pont Duvivier and André Carrerot*, he sold the schooner Union in 1732 to the French merchants Girard de La Saudrais of Saint-Malo and Charles Maccarty of La Rochelle. On Île Saint-Jean he maintained a farm where he raised livestock and in 1741 he purchased a bateau for 3,000 livres. It was probably this vessel that Duchambon dispatched with François Du Pont Duvivier’s expedition against Canso in 1744.
Duchambon’s appointment in April 1744 to replace François Le Coutre* de Bourville as king’s lieutenant of Île Royale – the highest rank an officer could attain at Louisbourg and one which carried with it a seat on the Conseil Supérieur – came as a symbolic tribute to a family with extended roots in Acadia. In October fate thrust Duchambon to the helm of the colony when Commandant Jean-Baptiste-Louis Le Prévost* Duquesnel died suddenly. Although he wished to be governor, Duchambon was ill suited by age and temperament to assume even interim command at a time when France and Britain were at war. He remained in command, however, because Duquesnel’s replacement, Antoine-Alexis Perier de Salvert, was unable to reach Louisbourg.
As soon as he assumed command Duchambon made preparations to defend the fortress from the Anglo-American attack that Joannis-Galand d’Olabaratz had led him to expect would come the following spring. Believing New England to be stronger than in the last war, Duchambon was even more pessimistic than his predecessors in warning French authorities that Louisbourg could not be held with so few men, guns, and munitions. With François Bigot, the financial commissary, he also dispatched a plan to capture Annapolis Royal and Placentia (Nfld) in 1745 with the aid of a French squadron and reinforcements from France.
In December 1744, however, nearly the entire Louisbourg garrison, sparked by the soldiers of the Régiment de Karrer, mutinied and held its officers for ransom. The colonial regulars harboured genuine grievances: exploitation by officers, rotten vegetables and poor rations, and Duquesnel’s failure to distribute the booty from the capture of Canso earlier in the year. Clearly shaken and fearing further upheaval, Duchambon could do little but accede to the soldiers’ demands and release the supplies they had requested. Once the soldiers had been pacified, Louisbourg returned to its winter hibernation.
Despite his alarmist warnings intended to shock the French authorities, Duchambon appears to have been little disturbed by the prospect of an attack. Accepting the traditional wisdom that the defences of the fortress were adequate in the face of a naval assault, he ignored the possibility of an enemy landing west of Louisbourg and laying siege to the fortress from its vulnerable landward side. This sequence of events is what in fact was to occur. During April 1745 British warships under Commodore Peter Warren* arrived to blockade Louisbourg, while transport vessels assembled in Gabarus Bay. On the morning of 11 May American provincial troops commanded by William Pepperrell* began landing unopposed at Pointe Platte (Simon Point), one mile west of Louisbourg.
Inside the fortress, a shaken Duchambon undertook his first military command seconded by a thoroughly demoralized officer corps. Indecisive in the extreme, he watched from the ramparts as the American landing proceeded and finally dispatched a small detachment led by the famed privateer Pierre Morpain* to oppose the New Englanders. Duchambon’s tactical indecisiveness was crucial: having forfeited the initiative by not providing enough troops to oppose successfully the New Englanders’ landing at an early stage, he was now forced to contend with the constricting circumstances of along, formal siege. Louisbourg’s weakness, particularly on its landward side, became painfully apparent. The ground, though swampy, proved to be no serious obstacle to the progress of the enemy, who moved onto the high ground dominating the fortress on three sides. As the New Englanders began their siege works, Duchambon ordered the abandonment of the highly rated but vulnerable Royal battery [see François-Nicolas de Chassin* de Thierry], the destruction of buildings outside the fortress walls, and the scuttling of vessels to block the harbour entrance. On 14 May the besiegers opened fire against the French fortress, and, after rendering the abandoned French artillery serviceable, they turned even the guns of the Royal battery against the town.
Despite Duchambon’s weakness and the early advantages of the attackers, the siege lasted nearly seven weeks. The American irregulars’ lack of discipline and their distaste for the harsher realities of warfare prevented commitment to a frontal assault on the fortress. In the end it was the damage wrought by the enemy artillery which forced the French to surrender. Though the French guns had replied vigorously until their ammunition ran out, the town had suffered much damage. Ultimately, the combination of military necessity – formalized by the reports of both Philippe-Joseph d’Allard de Sainte-Marie, the commander of the artillery, and Étienne Verrier*, the chief engineer – and the substantial pressure of the Louisbourg merchants moved Duchambon to capitulate on 28 June. He was thus exempted from surrendering the fortress on military grounds alone, and from sole responsibility for the French defeat. Although Duchambon contributed to the French defeat through his irresolution, the outcome of the siege was critically influenced by forces outside his control. Faults in fortification design, poor garrison morale, limited artillery and munitions, the ministry of Marine’s failure to realize the full danger of an Anglo-American attack until April 1745, the limited resources of the French navy, misfortunes that prevented more adequate naval support for the French defence, and the failure of Paul Marin* de La Malgue with his Canadians and Indians to relieve Louisbourg in time: all these factors contributed to the Anglo-American victory.
Duchambon secured favourable terms for the capitulation of Louisbourg, including the honours of war, and stoutly protested subsequent breaches of the terms by the victors. He wanted to be the last to leave but was forced to depart on 15 July 1745. He arrived in France four weeks later. The trial of the mutineers began shortly after at Rochefort with revelations of officers’ misconduct and a claim by the soldiers that Duchambon had promised them a general amnesty on 1 Jan. 1745. Ordered by the minister to remain with Bigot at Rochefort and to write a detailed account of the siege, apparently never done, he was granted leave late in September to go to Versailles. As events surrounding the mutiny were exposed, Bigot shielded Duchambon by accusing others, and in March 1746 Duchambon retired with a pension of 1,000 livres and a gratuity of 1,200.
Duchambon spent his later years at Chalais in his native Saintonge, where he lived off his pension and a small income from property. His family, however, continued to advance in the colonies. By 1758 one-tenth of the Louisbourg regular officer corps present during the siege, including five company captains, were Du Ponts. Duchambon’s sixth son, Mathieu Du Pont Duchambon Dumaine, became adjutant in 1758. Although launched early on military careers, his sons gained social and economic prominence through commercial activity and advantageous marriages. Vergor found instant wealth through his association with François Bigot; Duchambon l’aîné owned a bateau and schooner enlisted for royal service in 1745 and also contracted in 1750 to supply wood for the Louisbourg guardhouses; about 1750 Dumaine outfitted two fishing shallops in concert with another military officer and Jean-Pierre-Michel Roma. Duchambon’s daughters married military officers, but his sons married into the bourgeoisie: Anne Du Pont Duchambon de Mézillac, for instance, was married to Louis de Coux, a lieutenant and later captain; Vergor to Marie-Joseph, daughter of Joseph Riverin*; Jean-Baptiste-Ange Du Pont Duchambon to Marie-Anne, daughter of Jean-Pierre Roma*; Dumaine to Barbe-Blanche, daughter of André Carrerot; and Charles-François-Ferdinand Du Pont Duchambon to Marguerite-Josephte, daughter of Michel Rodrigue. Although an uninspired officer, Duchambon was the patriarch of an enterprising family which had carved a distinguished position in colonial society.
AD, Charente (Angoulême), État civil, Curat, 23 août 1775. AN, Col., B, 23, f.106v; 36, f.433; 54, f.503v; 65, f.482 1/2; 81, f.338; 82, ff.11, 145; 189, f.142; C11A, 88, ff.150–52; C11B, 5, f.398; 11, f.220; 26, f.77; 27, ff.34, 55–58v, 177v; D2C, 47, 48; E, 143 (dossier Du Pont Duchambon); Section Outre-mer, Dépôt des fortifications des colonies, Am. sept., nos. 137, 216–18; G2, 188, f.367; 194, f.79; G3, 2038/2, 9 déc. 1733; 2046/1, 22 août 1737; 2046/2, 5 oct. 1741; 2047/1, 15 juin 1751. ANQ-Q, AP-P-659. PANS, RG 1, 26 (mfm. at PAC). Louisbourg in 1745: the anonymous “Lettre d’un habitant de Louisbourg” (Cape Breton), containing a narrative by an eye-witness of the siege in 1745, ed. and trans. G. M. Wrong (Toronto, 1897; repr. 1901). Frégault, François Bigot. McLennan, Louisbourg. Rawlyk, Yankees at Louisbourg. Ægidius Fauteux, “Les Du Pont de l’Acadie,” BRH, XLVI (1940), 225–37, 257–71.