COUAGNE, JEAN-BAPTISTE DE, surveyor and military engineer in Canada and Île Royale (Cape Breton Island); b. 1687 probably at Montreal, the son of Charles de Couagne and Marie Gaudé; m. 28 Sept. 1720, at Louisbourg, Marguerite-Madeleine de Gannes de Falaise (d. 1733); m. secondly Marie-Josephe Mius d’Entremont; father of Michel* and Jean-François (the former an engineer at Louisbourg and in Canada); d. 23 Jan. 1740 at Louisbourg.
In 1708 Gédéon de Catalogne, a business associate of Charles de Couagne, engaged Jean-Baptiste as his surveyor-assistant in mapping the jurisdictions (gouvernements) of Quebec, Trois-Rivères, and Montreal. The young Couagne was the draftsman of the maps for at least the first two. He continued to serve as a surveyor and map-maker in Canada until, in 1713, he was commissioned ensign and posted to Île Royale to take part in the reconnaissance of the new colony there.
From 1713 to 1716 he assisted Jacques L’Hermitte, in surveying the island and earned commendation for his talent in design and for his stamina and diligence. In 1714 with Louis Denys* de La Ronde and Jean-Baptiste Hertel de Rouville he conducted a small party of Acadians (who were considering an invitation to settle on Île Royale instead of becoming British subjects) into the region of the La Brador (Bras d’Or) lakes. Although his report of January 1715 mentions some arable land and timber resources north of the Grand Lac de La Brador (Great Bras d’Or), it emphasizes that south of it neither the timber nor the soil was of good quality, the only profitable resource being the cod fishery, which could be exploited through the use of the good natural harbours. Most of the Acadians had returned home, there to remain. In August 1715 Couagne helped to build a fort for those who had settled at Port Toulouse (St Peters).
In 1717 he began a long career as a resident assistant-engineer on Île Royale, serving first under Jean-François de Verville, director of fortifications, and subsequently under Étienne Verrier*; engineer-in-chief; he held this post until his death. Although not a member of the corps of engineers, Couagne was accepted as a competent engineer: Verville, for example, was prepared to put him in charge of work at Port-Dauphin (Englishtown, N.S.) in 1717; he usually shared supervision of the work at Louisbourg between 1718 and 1724 when Verville wintered in France; and on those occasions when Verrier returned to France on leave, the same arrangement obtained. Not brilliant – he was never more than a good second to Verville or Verrier – he combined diligence with integrity, retaining a sense of objectivity in the midst of those personal and procedural wrangles which marked the tenure of Verville. The usefulness and devotion to service of Couagne were matters on which even bitter enemies could agree, so that while his colleague Pierre-Jérôme Boucher*, for example, could be called “a creature of Verville” after the latter’s departure from Louisbourg, Couagne was nobody’s “creature.” Once established at Louisbourg, Couagne rarely left, and then only to go to Canada on family business. After his wife’s death in 1733, his health began to decline.
He moved slowly up the promotion scale of the colonial regular troops, becoming a lieutenant in 1719 and a half-pay captain in 1732, the rank he held at his death. With Fontenay during the first three years, and Boucher thereafter, Couagne drafted many of the plans for fortifications and buildings on Île Royale which are credited to Verville and Verrier, as well as many of the estimates and construction accounts. Some specific tasks which were assigned to him were the surveying in 1716 of shore-lines for fishermen at Louisbourg; the designing of accommodation for new troops in 1719 and the repairing of a bakery and a house for officers; the drafting of plans for a house for the financial commissary (1721); and the preparation in 1723, during the absence of Verville, of emergency defences against possible raids by pirates.
AN, Col., B, 35, ff.57, 249; 36, ff.423, 433v; 38, f.253; 39, f.266; 41, f.592; 42, f.481; 44, ff.560, 574v; 48, f.953; 49, f.701; 50, ff.595–97; 52, ff.588–93; 53, ff.602v–6; 57, ff.743, 757; C11A, 48, f.202; C11B 1, ff.11, 87–89, 247, 291–315v; 2, ff.131, 259; 3, ff.153–53v; 4, ff.107, 145, 147, 216, 237–41; 5, ff.25–34, 58, 218–19, 238–40v, 349, 403, 405, 414–16; 6, ff.69–70, 114, 145, 152, 182, 313; 7, ff.132, 261, 331; 9, f.60; 11, ff.14–15, 74–79v; 12, f.22; 13, ff.200–4v; 14, ff.298–302; 22, ff.139, 143; D2C, 60, f.18; 222, p.168 (copy in PAC); E, 94, f.1; F3, 51, ff.39–40, 128, 132. PAC, Map div., A/300 (1709); R/300 (1709); VI/900, sect.i and ii (). A. Roy, Inv. greffes not., V, 126, 181, 201. Le Blant, Hist. de la N.-F. McLennan, Louisbourg. [AN, Outre-mer, G2, 197, dossiers 128, 129.]