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the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada
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More Soldier Questions
How Clean or dirty were the soldiers?
Personal cleanliness was very different in the 18th century but we should not assume that it did not matter. All agreed that full immersion bathing was generally not done because it was impractical, and unnecessary, rather than because of a fear of it. It was reiterated that clean hands and faces were important, although not possible for all, and that clean linens were also important for those who could afford changes of linens and laundering. Soldiers did have a ration of soap; a single simple soap was used for every cleaning purpose. We have no references at this point of bathing in streams, but the British called the nearby stream the “wash brook” implying they may have used it for washing their clothing or possibly themselves.
Emmanuel mentioned a reference at Fort Ticonderoga to bathing in the river. There is no reason to say that Louisbourg soldiers would not have bathed in the summer. In the King’s Bastion Barracks junior officer’s room there is a small round cooper tub that can be sat in for washing. In the French officer’s room there is an oval wooden tub, also for bathing. Emmanuel added that the soap was made in Marseilles and was marbled red and blue.
Becki Duggan observed that as well as personal hygiene, public sanitation was different: open sewers were everywhere, creating an “atmosphere” that we would find quite different.