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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada





Report H E 9

Fortress of Louisbourg



Prior to 1750 the guard, which was changed once every 24 hours, was mounted at 3 P.M. in the winter and at 4 P.M. in the summer. Three hours before the new guard was to assume their posts, the drummers would beat La Garde to notify those scheduled for this tour of duty to keep themselves available. All the drummers would assemble two hours later on the Place D'Armes, and from there they would make a circuit of the town beating L'Assemblée as a signal to those who would compose the new guard to gather for inspection. Having completed the circuit, the drummers would separate and go, still beating, to the place where members of their own company who were forming part of the new guard would assemble. [1]

At the sound of the drums all officers and soldiers who were to mount the guard were to proceed immediately to their assembly point. Following the preliminary inspection, they would march, to the sound of Aux Champs, to "la petite Place, ou la Place d'Assemblée" - in the case of Louisbourg it was most likely the terreplein of the Bastion du Roi - where they would rendez-vous with those from other companies who would be part of the guard. According to Ecole De Mars, signboards (écriteaux) imprinted with the names of the various guardposts, whether inside or outside the walls, would be in place around the area, and all soldiers would place their weapons near the signboard for the post to which they were assigned. Upon the arrival of the major, each individual guard was inspected to see that it contained a sufficient number of men and that they were well armed. The major would also make sure that each soldier had at least six cartridges in his cartridge box. [2] The ordinance issued in 1750 altered this procedure slightly by stipulating that the "I1 sera mis des inscriptions sur le mur, dans le lieu désigné pour l'assemblée des escouades, afin d'indiquer l'endroit ou chacune devra se tenir." On their arrival the men were to "y seront mis en bataille, le dos tourné au côté oû seront mises les inscriptions." An inspection was to ensue after which each detachment, having made a demi-tour à droite and presented arms, would go "poser son fusil au-dessous du nom du poste dont elle devra-être."[3]

The major's inspection completed, he would form the guard together and march it to the Place D'Armes, all the drums beating Aux Champs. He would march at their head to the right of the officer of the first guard, usually the one destined for the Place D'Armes guardhouse. The drummers would march half between the second and third rank of the head; the other half between the second and third rank of the tail. Once at the Place D'Armes the drums would be ordered to sound Le Drapeau, and the guard would form en bataille with the drummers to their right. To prevent anyone from approaching the guard, half the sergeants would march ten paces forward, while the other half marched ten paces to the rear. They would form "en haye à égale distance," facing the soldiers. The guard thus formed, the major would dispatch a sergeant to inform the governor that the guard was ready for his inspection. [4] In the French service the governor and all senior officers were obliged to attend this ceremony each day that the guard was mounted. [5] Upon the arrival of the governor, the major would ask his permission to order the guard to file off. This granted, the troops would form in a column either by guard detachments one after another or all together by a quart de conversion. According to the 1750 ordinance the major would then order the drums to roll in order to warn the guard that they were about to leave for their posts. The drummer would next give a single stroke on the drum at which the guard would "faire serrer les rangs à la pointe de l'épée ..."[6] At the command Marche, all the drums would again beat Aux Champs, and the guard would march off, separate and go toward their assigned posts. The drummer designated to go to a particular post would march to the right of the other members of his guard and continue to beat until their arrival at the Corps de Garde. Those drummers who were not part of that day's guard would continue to beat on the Place D'Armes until the last of the detachments had left. They would then be led back to their quarters by the tambour major or the most senior among them. [7]

As the new guard drew near the post it was to assume, the officer commanding the old guard would order his drummer to beat Aux Champs and would draw up his men en haie, with their arms before the Corps de Garde and with their backs to the building. The officer would place himself a few paces in front of the men centered in line with the door of the guardhouse. The drummer would stand near the officer, while the sergeant would be to the left of the guard. When the new guard arrived, the one being relieved would march forward four paces and make a demi-tour à droite. The new guard, when its first rank was three or four paces from the line formed by the old guard, would file "homme par homme" to occupy the space that the others had vacated. The two guards being drawn up facing each other - the new guard now having its back to the Corps de Garde - the formalities of the changing of the guard would take place. Following the handing over of instructions (consignes) by the retiring officers, sergeants and corporals to those relieving them, the caporals de consignee of the old and new guards would inspect the guardhouse while the caporals de pose would see to the sentry change. The sergeants, corporals and sentries who were being relieved would rejoin the rest of the old guard and prepare to leave. The drummers of both guards would sound Aux Champs as the old guard marched off toward the Place D'Armes to be dismissed; the drummer from the new guard stopping when the old guard was no longer in view. On their arrival at the Place D'Armes, the major would make certain that no one was missing, and then the officers would order the corporals to conduct each member of his detachment to his quarters. [8]

When the old guard had left, the officer of the new guard would order his men to march, commanding them to halt when they had reached the place the old guard had occupied before their departure. They would then make a demi-tour à droite, present arms and march forward. The first soldier would place "son Fusil comme au premier tems d'enjoue, & le porte au ratelier des Armes ..." The others would follow suit. [9]