GANNES DE FALAISE, MICHEL DE, officer in the colonial regular troops; baptized 2 May 1702 at Port-Royal (Annapolis Royal, N.S.), son of Louis de Gannes* de Falaise and Marguerite Leneuf de La Vallière et de Beaubassin; d. 23 Oct. 1752 at Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island).
In 1719 Michel de Gannes de Falaise was appointed an ensign at Île Royale, but he did not go there until three years later. On 29 May 1725 he was made lieutenant, then on 8 May 1730 captain. His military career involved few heroic acts. In 1726 he was posted to Port-Toulouse (St Peters, N.S.), and returned to Louisbourg shortly afterwards. Garrison routine was broken only by a voyage in 1730 to France, where he was responsible for recruiting soldiers for Île Royale.
On 21 Nov. 1730 de Gannes married Élisabeth, the daughter of Gédéon de Catalogne*. The marriage almost failed to take place. On 21 May 1729 Marie-Anne Carrerot, his mistress, had given birth to a daughter who, de Gannes admitted, might well be “of his doing.” Despite this incident he appeared at the parish church of Louisbourg on 14 Nov. 1730 to marry Élisabeth de Catalogne. But his mistress objected publicly to the marriage, and the ceremony was postponed; the dispute was settled amicably, however, and the marriage took place a week later. Of this union seven children, five daughters and two sons, were born, all at Louisbourg. De Gannes’s wife died on 12 Aug. 1750.
In 1744 the commandant of Île Royale, Jean-Baptiste-Louis Le Prévost Duquesnel, decided to retake Port-Royal, which had been captured by the English in 1710 and renamed Annapolis Royal. To this end he dispatched a detachment of soldiers under the command of François Du Pont* Duvivier; they were to be supported by a small number of ships. At the beginning of the siege Duvivier obtained from the English commandant, Paul Mascarene, a promise of surrender as soon as the French ships arrived. On 2 October de Gannes relieved Duvivier. Two days later, when the ships still had not appeared, de Gannes decided to withdraw the troops, despite Duvivier’s objections. Alleging the lack of supplies, the impatience of the Indians to return to their families, and the numerical superiority of the English, de Gannes withdrew to Minas (Grand Pré region) on 10 October, then to Beaubassin (near Amherst) on 19 October. There he received the reprimands of Louis Du Pont* Duchambon, who had assumed command of Île Royale after Duquesnel’s death. On his way through Port-Toulouse de Gannes learned that Claude-Élisabeth Denys de Bonnaventure had left Louisbourg for Annapolis Royal, where he arrived the night of 25–26 October with 50 soldiers on board a merchant vessel and a privateer brigantine. He set off again for Louisbourg three days later, without getting in touch with de Gannes, whom he believed still to be at Minas. Although de Gannes had not been ordered to continue the siege of Annapolis Royal, he was criticized for not having waited longer for the French vessels and for not having attempted an assault. At two meetings of officers assembled to investigate the attitude of those responsible for the expedition, he was not able to justify his conduct, and on 19 November he admitted his error to the financial commissary François Bigot*, but insisted on his good intentions.
His courage during the siege of Louisbourg in 1745 succeeded, however, in dispelling the unfavourable opinion of his superiors. When the militia from the English colonies landed, he was stationed at the Grave battery inside the fortress; later he relieved Charles-Joseph d’Ailleboust at the Island battery, which commanded the harbour. It was with reluctance that he had to hand over the island to the English colonists on 27 June, not understanding why the fortress had been surrendered. He then attended to the transfer of the inhabitants, under d’Ailleboust’s orders, and sailed on one of the last ships to leave the port.
Created a knight of the order of Saint-Louis in September 1746, de Gannes returned to Île Royale in 1749 as town major of Louisbourg. He was concerned with his personal affairs until his death. During his career his social and economic activities seem to have taken precedence over his military activities. His financial situation appears to have been brighter than that of the majority of the officers at Louisbourg. He profited by three inheritances: from his father-in-law, his brother Louis-François, and his brother-in-law Jean-Baptiste de Couagne*. Some properties at Louisbourg and elsewhere on Île Royale brought him certain revenues, as did his partnership with Antoine Rodrigue, Michel Rodrigue’s brother, with whom he was joint owner of the schooner Salamandre. In 1752 he established for one of his daughters a dowry of 10,000 livres, of which he had time to pay 8,000. The sale of his furnishings brought in the sum of 4,862 livres 2 sols. This relative prosperity was certainly not due to his slender officer’s pay; even a king’s lieutenant received only 1,800 livres a year.
On 1 April 1752 the king appointed de Gannes king’s lieutenant at Trois-Rivières, but he never took up the post. He died on 23 October. At his burial two days later in the chapel of the barracks of the King’s bastion the governor honoured him with a nine-gun salute.
AN, Col., C11B, 26, ff.48–52v, 79–88, 204–7v; 32, ff.191–91v; C11C, 16, 2e sér., ff.26ff.; D2C, 2, f.64v; 3, ff.19, 49v; 4, f.123v; E, 65 (dossier Gédéon de Catalogne); F2C, 3, ff.289–92; F3, 50, ff.301–1v, 344; F5B, 56, ff.2/3; Section Outre-Mer, Dépôt des fortifications des colonies, Am. sept., no.216, ff.14v–15, 21, 25; G1, 406/4, ff.11v, 24v, 30v, 46v, 65; 408/1, ff.113, 143, 155v; 408/2, f.69; 466, pièce 68, f.12 ; pièce 69, f.17; pièce 76 (recensements de l’île Royale, 1724, 1726, 1749); G2, 180, ff.873, 875–76; 184, ff.19–20, 64v–65v; 190/4, ff.64v–83v; 196, dossier 124, ff.42v–43; 197, dossier 129; dossier 153 bis, ff.27v–31, 31–33v, 35–35v, 36–36v, 41–42, 45–46v; dossier 154, ff.1–2; 200, dossier 202; f.4v; 201, dossier 254; G3, 2041/1 (17 juin, 25 nov., 11 déc. 1752); 2046/1 (15 mars 1740); 2047/1 (18 oct. 1749); 2047/2 (26 janv., 6 oct. 1752). Archives Maritimes, Port de Rochefort, 1 E, 99, f.489. BN, Service hydrographique de la Marine, Dépôt des cartes et plans, portefeuille 131, div. 10, nos.4, 5. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire. Ægidius Fauteux, “La famille de Gannes,” BRH, XXXI (1925), 271–85.