1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cormontaingne, Louis de

CORMONTAINGNE, LOUIS DE (c. 1697–1752), French military engineer, was born at Strassburg. He was present as a volunteer at the sieges of Freiburg and Landau in the later years of the War of the Spanish Succession, and in 1715 he entered the engineers. After being stationed for some years at Strassburg he became captain, and was put in charge (at first in a subordinate capacity, and subsequently as chief engineer) of the new works, Forts Moselle and Bellecroix, at Metz, which he built according to his own system of fortification. He was present at the siege of Philipsburg in 1733, and as a lieutenant-colonel took part in most of the sieges in the Low Countries during the War of the Austrian Succession. He attained the rank of brigadier and finally that of maréchal de camp, and was employed in fortification work until his death. His Architecture militaire, written in 1714, was long kept secret by order of the authorities, but, an unauthorized edition having appeared at the Hague in 1741, he himself prepared another version called Premier mémoire sur la fortification, which from 1741 onwards was followed by others. His ideas are closely modelled on those of Vauban (q.v.), and in his lifetime he was not considered the equal of such engineers as d’Asfeld and Filley. It was not until twenty years after his death that his system became widely known. Fourcroy de Rainecourt, then chief of engineers, searching the archives for valuable matter, chose the numerous memoirs of Cormontaingne for publication amongst engineer officers in 1776. Even then they only circulated privately, and it was not until the engineer Bousmard published Cormontaingne’s Mémorial de l’attaque des places (Berlin, 1803) that Fourcroy, and after him General La Fitte de Clavé, actually gave to the general public the Œuvres posthumes de Cormontaingne (Paris, 1806–1809).

His system of fortification was not marked by any great originality of thought, which indeed could not be expected of a member of the corps du génie, the characteristics of which were a close caste spirit and an unquestioning reverence for the authority of Vauban. Forts Moselle and Bellecroix are still in existence.

See Von Brese-Winiari, Über Entstehen etc. der neueren Befestigungsmethode (Berlin, 1844); Prévost du Vernois, De la fortification depuis Vauban (Paris, 1861); Cosseron de Villenoisy, Essai historique sur la fortification (Paris, 1869).