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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



On days when exercises were to be held, La Diane was replaced as the reveille call by La Générale or Aux Champs depending on whether all or part of the garrison was to participate. The time for the beating of the second call, L'Assemblée, was set by the commander, and while it would not have been scheduled too long after the first call, it could have been as much as an hour or an hour and a half after the sounding of the reveille at sunrise. [1]

At the sound of L'Assemblée the officers would gather their companies before their quarters to call the roll and conduct an inspection, ensuring that each soldier was fully equipped. L'Assemblée was also the signal for the commanders and other senior officers to take their positions for the exercise. Once all the troops who were to exercise had been brought together, the flags were retrieved. Their arrival before the assembled troops was signaled by Le Drapeau. If there were no colors to be brought, it is likely that the call was used to notify the soldiers to prepare for the exercise. The interval between the beating of L'Assemblée and Le Drapeau would depend on the amount of time needed for the troops to assemble, pass inspection and form themselves for the exercise. It would have been determined by the commanding officer and could have been as much as a half hour. [2]

When the troops had been drawn up to march, the drummers were located to the right and left of the column between the second and third ranks, the tambour major at the head of the drummers on the right. The exercise of a single company would find the drummer to the right of the men. When the drums were ordered to beat Aux Champs, those who were to be exercised would proceed to the place where the maneuvers were to be conducted, the ranks marching at a distance of one pace from each other.

Sufficient space would be maintained between the different units so that they might put themselves in four ranks en bataille on the exercise field. The troops having arrived and formed en bataille, the drums would sound Le Drapeau, and the units would make a quart de conversion to the left or right depending on the direction from which they had entered the area. As this was being executed, the drummers would place themselves in two ranks to the right and left of the first rank of soldiers. [3]

All made ready, the major would announce: "Prenez garde à vous, Bataillon ..., on va faire l'exercise." The drummer would give a single stroke on the drum at which all the officers and sergeants would remove their hats with their left hand and, all, except the sergeants of the front, would execute a demi-tour à droite. The drums would then sound L'Appel and the officers and sergeants would proceed to new positions; the sergeants of the front advancing 50 paces before the battalion to ensure that no one was able to embarrass the front, and the officers and "sergens de la queue" forming three lines in the rear - the lieutenants and ensigns four paces, the captains eight paces, and the sergeants 12 paces behind the last rank of soldiers. All the drummers would then go, still beating, to the center of the line where they would be reunited, facing each other. They would form one rank by making a quart de conversion to the right or left as required and would march to the major. On reaching his position, the drummers would break to the right and left by a demi-conversion and range themselves behind the major in one rank. Once they were in position, the major would order the drummers to cease L'Appel, and the officers and sergeants would make a demi-tour à gauche so as to face the troops. They would replace their hats and remain resting on their spontoons and halberds in silence until the exercise was completed. [4]

At the conclusion of the exercise the major would order a roll of the drums to advise the officers and sergeants to take the places they had occupied at the beginning. This was followed by L'Appel at which all officers and sergeants would march to their original positions, again holding their hats in their hands until the cessation of the drumming. The drummers would return to their earlier positions by going first to the center of the battalion, and there dividing to the right and left in order to take up their places on the flanks. They would continue to beat until ordered to stop by the major. [5]

Although the ordinance declared that the commands for a firing exercise might be given by voice or drum, the strokes which would have been used to command such an exercise by drum beats were not given. According to Bland, the British service employed a combination of ruffles, rolls and flams, but how this compared with French practice is not known.