BOSCHENRY DE DRUCOUR (Drucourt), AUGUSTIN DE (he signed Chevalier de Drucour), naval officer, governor of Île Royale; baptized 27 March 1703 in Drucourt (dept. of Eure), France, son of Jean-Louis de Boschenry, Baron de Drucourt, and Marie-Louise Godard (Godart); d. 28 Aug. 1762 at Le Havre, France.
Augustin de Boschenry de Drucour was born without wealth of a Norman family, and entered the naval service at Toulon as a midshipman in 1719. His first sea duty was on a ship bound for Constantinople in 1723. During his career he made 16 major voyages to such places as Copenhagen, Stockholm, Martinique, and Saint-Domingue (Hispaniola). His promotions were steady: sub-lieutenant in 1731, lieutenant-commander in 1741, lieutenant of the “gardes du pavillon amiral” in 1743, and naval captain in 1751. In 1730–31, on one of the two voyages he made to Louisiana, Drucour participated in the campaign against the Natchez Indians. He also visited Acadia at least once, and in October 1746 was on the Mars, bound for Acadia, when that ship was captured by the British. Drucour was taken to England, and was exchanged the following year. In 1749 he was created a knight of the order of Saint-Louis.
Drucour’s appointment sometime in the late 1740s as commandant of the “gardes du pavillon amiral” at Brest was an honour he was said to have received without seeking. He seems to have been a capable administrator and a kindly figure to the guards. After several years in this post he was summoned to an interview with Machault, the minister of Marine, and offered the governorship of Île Royale. Drucour declined the office because of his lack of wealth, but he was persuaded to change his mind. His appointment was dated 1 Feb. 1754. After being delayed by an attack of sciatica, he sailed from Brest in June with his wife, Marie-Anne Aubert de Courserac, and eight domestics. They arrived in Louisbourg on 15 August.
Despite problems resulting from insufficient funds, troops, and supplies, Drucour did his best to promote the welfare of Île Royale. His honesty and moderation were evident, and Mme Drucour became known as a woman of intelligence and grace. The only criticism of Drucour as an administrator was that his judgement of men was not discriminating and that he allowed himself to be influenced by the financial commissary, Jacques Prévost* de La Croix.
Drucour’s instructions had established three main goals: to maintain relations with the Indians, to encourage the settlement of Acadians in Île Royale, and to act in liaison with Governor Duquesne* of New France. Drucour and Prévost together were directed to increase the population of the island, develop agriculture and a measure of self-sufficiency within the colony, maintain the fisheries, and promote commerce with France and its dependencies by restricting trade with the English. The governor’s efforts to carry out these instructions were hindered, then nullified, by the outbreak of war with England. In June 1755 Fort Beauséjour (near Sackville, N.B.) was captured after an ineffectual resistance by its commander, Louis Du Pont* Duchambon de Vergor. Two immediate results were the deportation of the Acadians by the British and an increase in military pressure against Île Royale.
Its dependence upon assistance from the French fleet made the garrison at Louisbourg unusually vulnerable to British sea power. An English squadron commanded by Edward Boscawen appeared off the coast in June 1755, blockading Louisbourg harbour and disrupting commerce. In the following year the British began to raid outlying settlements; their captures of ships included the Arc-en-Ciel, transporting recruits for the Louisbourg garrison and 6,000 livres of goods belonging to Drucour. The presence of Comte Dubois de La Motte [Cahideuc] and his fleet at Louisbourg in 1757 discouraged the expedition planned against Île Royale by Lord Loudoun [John Campbell], but British ships under Francis Holburne blockaded the harbour until dispersed by a violent storm in September. The blockade and the embargoes on commerce reduced the colony to the verge of starvation, but with great effort Drucour and Prévost managed to fill the stores by 1758.
Early in 1758 a joint naval and military expedition against Louisbourg assembled in Halifax. The total British force under Jeffery Amherst* numbered 27,000 men in 157 warships, transports, and smaller vessels. Drucour had available some 3,500 soldiers, augmented by the militia, and approximately 3,800 crewmen on 11 vessels. On 8 June the British landed at Anse de la Cormorandière (Kennington Cove), a few miles west of Louisbourg. After a brief resistance the French defenders, led by Jean Mascle de Saint-Julhien, withdrew into the fortress, leaving the besiegers free to establish camp and open batteries. No attempt was made to attack the British while they were landing their guns and supplies through a heavy surf, a critical operation which required a week. On 19 June Wolfe’s cannoneers opened fire on the Island battery, and after that time the progress of the siege was inexorable until the surrender on 26 July. By then the French ships had been either sunk or burned, the walls had been breached in a dozen places, and the French cannon had been silenced so effectively that to Drucour they seemed “more like the minute guns at a funeral than a defence.”
Even before the siege the fortifications at Louisbourg had been in ruinous condition, exposed on the land side and enfiladed throughout much of their length. The damage sustained in the siege of 1745 had not been fully repaired. Although Drucour personally despaired of the results, his garrison’s defence was both more skilful, and more vigorous than the resistance mounted in the earlier siege. There was an organized attempt to defend the coast and considerable activity outside the fortress during the siege, including one major sortie and several skirmishes by French pickets and volunteer companies. In 1758 the Royal battery was demolished to prevent its use by the besiegers; the failure to do this in 1745 had given a major advantage to the enemy. In 1745 there had been no French fleet in the harbour; the fleet in 1758, although it performed feebly under Jean-Antoine Charry Desgouttes, hindered the advance of the British batteries and discouraged any attempt to force British ships into the harbour after the Island battery had been silenced. The singular aggressiveness of Jean Vauquelin*, captain of the Aréthuse, demonstrated the effect a ship could have against enemy positions, for it forced the British to direct much of their fire against the fleet rather than the fortress. In the end, the length of the siege and the long exposure of the British fleet to the open sea, with the consequent need to refit, were significant factors in delaying the expedition against Quebec until 1759. As Drucour stated, “our main purpose was to resist and postpone our end as long as possible,” and to that extent he was successful.
As governor during the siege Drucour had two main decisions to make. The first concerned the fleet. Although the naval officers were reluctant to risk their ships by staying in the harbour, and asked permission to leave in order to fight at sea or run for France, Drucour ordered them to stay. He worried that he had committed the ships mistakenly, but his action was supported by the council of war called to consider the matter on 9 June and also by the minister of Marine, Claude-Louis de Massiac, who observed that the request by the captains had been “premature” and “dangerous.” Drucour was unable to force the captains to follow Vauquelin’s example and turn the enormous firepower of their ships against the English batteries, although such action might have made the difference between winning or losing the siege.
Drucour’s second major decision was when, and under what terms, to surrender. At a council of war held on 26 July some officers initially favoured surrender; others urged a continued defence, even to sustaining an assault against the town. Drucour asked the British for terms but when the harshness of these became known, the officers agreed to fight on. At this point Prévost spoke on behalf of the civilian population and urged capitulation. Persuaded by this plea, Drucour accepted the British terms; the garrison surrendered as prisoners and without the honours of war.
Despite the recent massacre of the British garrison of Fort William Henry (Fort George, now Lake George, N.Y.), which surrendered, according to Thomas Pichon*, “upon a more advantageous capitulation than that which we had but just concluded” [see Montcalm], the British seem to have acted honourably towards the Louisbourg garrison. It was embarked, Pichon claimed, “with as much tranquillity, as if it had been going upon a voyage of pleasure” and Drucour received “all the honours which a person of his rank deserved.” Each day throughout the siege Mme Drucour had fired three guns to encourage the French troops, and after the surrender she assisted “all the unfortunate people that had recourse to her mediation.” Amherst paid her compliments at parleys during the siege, and after the capitulation Boscawen granted every favour she asked. The Drucours sailed from Louisbourg on 15 Aug. 1758, exactly four years after their arrival.
Drucour’s health had suffered at Louisbourg, and he had been obliged to borrow heavily to maintain himself in office. Having lost nearly all his possessions in the siege, he was destitute when he returned to France. Repatriated at Dunkerque, Drucour and 53 other officers from Île Royale were in such a wretched condition that they had to be given money to continue their journey home. Mme Drucour had already arrived from England, defending her husband’s reputation to the ministry of Marine as she forwarded his journal of the siege. It is a restrained account which reveals the temperament of its author, “a man strong enough to be patient under the depression of fighting without hope, and yet not of the uncommon force which can impose his purpose on the unwilling and the backward.” Such was the judgement of the historian J. S. McLennan*.
Drucour returned to the naval service briefly in 1759, then retired to Le Havre, where he existed on the charity of his brother. He died on 28 Aug. 1762, too soon to receive the pension that was granted to him. Mme Drucour died two months later.
Drucour’s journal of the siege is to be found in AN, Col., C11B, 38, ff.57–103v; C11C, 10, ff.85–178.
AD, Eure (Évreux), État civil, Drucourt, 27 mars 1703; Seine-Maritime (Rouen), État civil, Saint-François du Havre, 29 août 1762. AN, Col., B, 99–113; C11B, 34–38; C11C, 10; D2C, 2, ff. 27–29, 40–41, 142; 3; 4, f.107; F3, 50–51; Marine, C7, 89 (dossier Drucour); Section Outre-Mer, Dépôt des fortifications des colonies, Am. sept., no. 236, CTG, Archives, art. 15, pièces 4, 5, 7, 8. PAC, MG 30, D62, 11 (F. J. Audet’s biographical notes on Drucour). SHA, A1, 3540, no.74; 3544, no.33; Mémoires et reconnaissances, art.1105, pièce 21. Jeffery Amherst, “Journal of the Siege of Louisbourg,” Gentleman’s Magazine, XXVIII (1758), 384–89. Knox, Historical journal (Doughty), I, III. Le Courtois de Surlaville, Derniers jours de l’Acadie (Du Boscq de Beaumont). Pichon, Lettres et mémoires. Fauteux, Les chevaliers de Saint-Louis, 147–48. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire, I, 533–34.
Frégault, Canada: the war of the conquest. McLennan, Louisbourg. Stanley, New France. J. M. Hitsman and C. C. J. Bond, “Louisbourg: a foredoomed fortress,” Canadian Army Journal (Ottawa), X (1956), 78–87. J. M. Hitsman with C. C. J. Bond, “The assault landing at Louisbourg, 1758,” CHR, XXXV (1954), 314–30. Régis Roy, “Drucourt,” BRH, XLIV (1938), 187–88.