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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 15

Fortress of Louisbourg




The garrison established at Ile Royale in 1713-14 came from Plaisance, Acadie and Quebec. The Minister of the Marine wrote to Vaudreuil, the governor of Canada, in March 1714 charging that the contingent sent from Quebec left much to be desired. The captains in Quebec had, it seemed, removed the best men from the two companies and substituted soldiers they wished to be rid of there. [1] If this charge were true, it was one of several circumstances which combined to make the soldiers of Ile Royale during the colony's formative years as poor a collection as one might find.

Commissaire-ordonnateur Soubras reported in December 1714 that there was no discipline among the troops. There was, he said, a spirit of libertinage and revolt among the men which only severity would correct. He did not believe that the men had good reason for their behaviour. They were, in his opinion, well nourished and well paid. Rather, their conduct was the result of negligence on the part of their captains who sold things to their men in an effort to reap a large profit. [2] Soubras' assessment of the soldiers' conduct was endorsed by the military men in the colony, but his unsympathetic view of their plight was not. Jacques L'Hermitte was an officer, but he had no responsibility for the troops either directly or indirectly. There was no reason, therefore, to suspect that he was making excuses for the captains' failings. The soldiers, he declared, were in revolt because they had been promised a "gratification" and "vivres" and had received neither. Lodged in tents or crude cabanes, they required clothing and supplies. [3] The revolt of the troops which both Soubras and L'Hermitte reported was not pursued by the authorities. No one seems to have been punished, instead, solutions to the garrison's problems were sought.

From a military standpoint, the situation in the colony appears to have been very poor. Several officers, dispirited by the turn of events which had brought them there, refused to do their duty in regard to their troops or to obey the new major. Sergeants of the calibre needed to control the men could not be found. Living conditions were poor and needed supplies were slow in arriving. [4] There was much work to be done, but the large construction projects which would be generated by the final decision to build fortifications at Louisbourg were yet to come. The labour the soldiers were obliged to do during these early years brought no extra money to their pockets.

Early in 1715 the Minister of the Marine ordered an infusion of new blood into the garrison. Sixty of the best men to be found at Oleron were to be sent to Ile Royale to replace those too old or ill to be of use. At the same time he issued the first of many orders that men sent to the colony should possess "métiers". [5] As 1715 drew to a close, however, matters had not improved. Governor Costebelle reported in November that, as of the 28th, the supply ship had not arrived, leaving the colony in dire circumstances. Moreover, the troops were spread throughout the island and were occupied with building projects. Both these factors prevented them from coming together for purely military exercises. [6] Echoing the governor's remarks, Captain La Ronde Denys allowed that the soldiers in Ile Royale were virtually naked as a result of the failure of the ships to arrive. [7]

As he had done two years before, Soubras wrote in November 1716 that the bad discipline among the troops was the result of the sale of alcoholic beverages by their captains. He urged that all drink be distributed from the storehouse as other rations were. [8] Later that month St. Ovide reported that once again supplies were late in arriving, causing hardship among the troops. [9] While Major De Ligonde did not touch on either problem specifically, he did say in January 1717 that things had improved considerably, and the troops were well disciplined. [10]

In a memoir the following June, the minister instructed the colony's officials to see that the troops were exercised every Sunday, and that canteens, as well as the sale of drink by captains, were prohibited. In addition, he authorized the settlement of discharged soldiers in the colony. Only invalids were to be returned to France. In line with this the Council of the Marine had already granted permission for those soldiers who did settle to receive food and tools to get them started. [11]

Conditions had improved, St. Ovide wrote late in 1718, but there were still problems. The men no longer refused to obey orders. On the contrary they did their duty well and did what was commanded of them. Discipline, however, was lax as a result of the troops being widely scattered instead of being housed in a barracks. Supplies too were still insufficient. The men, he said, never received all the pay or rations they were entitled to. [12]

The decision to build at Louisbourg came in 1717, and two years later work there was begun. The garrison, except for three detachments, was concentrated at Louisbourg. Routines were established; opportunities for soldiers to supplement income opened up; officers began to improve their lot; and the general life of the community began to take shape. The Louisbourg garrison never evolved into our modern idea of a military base, but things were never again as bad as they were during those early years.


Ordinarily French troops, including the soldiers of the Compagnies Franches de la Marine, were given the option of performing the usual military duties or working, if they possessed a skill. If they chose the latter option, they made arrangements with comrades to take their tours of guard duty, in return for which they would be paid by the working soldiers. [13] Those who were sent to Ile Royale, however, were not given a choice. Their superiors divided them into two distinct categories - those who worked on the fortifications and those who performed the military functions associated with a Place de Guerre. They did not usually do both. It is misleading then, especially during the early years of construction, to say that the soldiers "were able" to work on the fortifications. If they were healthy and strong enough, particularly if they possessed a useful skill, they were put to work on the fortifications or other construction projects.

In 1720 the minister wrote that he deplored the fact that Governor St. Ovide had provided only 117 soldiers out of the 350 man garrison to work on the fortifications when at least 200 should have been made available to the entrepreneur. The following June he directed that upon receipt of the accompanying memoire du Roi, St. Ovide should put the troops en bataille, select those needed for the guard and give the rest to the engineer. Only cadets and those physically unable to perform hard work were to be retained for guard duty. [14] The governor defend himself by saying that while it was true that only 117 soldiers had been engaged in construction, another 69 were employed gathering materials at Port Dauphin, Port Toulouse and L'Indienne.[15]

Only somewhat mollifed, the minister declared that while St. Ovide might be supplying a sufficient number of men they were not necessarily the best ones. So the governor was again to put the men en bataille, but this time the chief engineer, Verville, was to have first pick. Following the engineer's selection a roll was to be made, and no one was to be removed from the works except for injury or illness. [16] The enlargement of the French companies and the addition of the Karrer Regiment were undertaken primarily to maintain a sufficient work force while providing guards to man the expanding fortifications. [17] As far as possible recruitment was to be made with the needs of the construction effort in mind, and military considerations were relegated to second place. [18]

That the work on the fortifications still held priority in 1740 is evident from the minister's reply to De Forant's often quoted judgment on his arrival in the colony that he had never seen such bad troops and would not have kept 100 if he discharged all who were "beneath the requirements of the ordinance". The Comte de Maurepas answered that while he was surprised that De Forant had found the troops so bad, he did not want the governor to bring the "good looks of the soldiers to the same level as that of some troops of the kingdom". Instead of being concerned with their form and figure, De Forant should consider only whether or not they were fit to work. [19]

The soldiers/workers stationed at Louisbourg were free to bargain for their wages with the entrepreneur who held the contract with the king for construction of the fortifications. [20] This, according to Guignard in L'Ecole De Mars, was usually only the case when the workers were employed on the fortifications "by mutual agreement", that is, when they were not forced. At such times the workers were able to negotiate their pay with the entrepreneur by the toise or by the day, and they did not have to work under the supervision of officers. However, when the work was mandatory, the wage was set by their superiors. For each 50 workers there was to be the same number of officers "as for going to war", who ought not to leave the detachment and who should oblige their men to work well. [21]

The freedom to negotiate at Louisbourg may have been used as an inducement to get willing workers, especially those with needed skills, to go to Ile Royale in the first place, as well as to encourage them in the difficult task to be done. The men realized that they were in a favorable bargaining position due to the unavailability of alternative labor, and held out for above average wages. As one of the entrepreneurs, Ganet, complained in 1725, the workers were expensive because "they cannot be changed; their word is law". [22] Five years earlier "contestations tumultuous" had resulted in the workers' pay being increased to over 30 sols per day from 20, a sum considerably above the usual rate for "forced" labor in France. According to D'Hericourt, in 1748 the rate for such work was 9 sols a day from 1 November to 31 May, and 10 sols during the other five months. [23] While Louisbourg's soldiers could not be certain of regular employment during the winter months they could usually find some work gathering materials for the next construction season, performing odd jobs for inhabitants or officers, or hunting.

Although negotiations with the soldiers /workers were the concern of the entrepreneur and chief engineer, the governor and comnissaire-ordonnateur were directed to mediate if an impasse developed. Even in such instances, their intercession was not always appreciated. The chief engineer, believing that they sided too often with the soldiers, complained that St. Ovide and De Mézy knew nothing of building fortifications in France and Europe. They attached themselves, Verville said, to the "ancient maxims of the colonies," losing sight for ten months of the year of orders received from France. As a result, the validity of the minister's orders was recognized for only the two months that the king's ship was in port in Louisbourg. [24]

In the spring of 1733 the minister reiterated that the workers should be free to negotiate and informed the governor and conmissaire-ordonnateur that they should not favor the entrepreneur at the expense of the men. [25] That fall Le Normant reported that the soldiers had agreed to work on the road to the Mira River at the rate of 10 sols per running toise. However, so many soldiers fell ill or died, conceivably in an attempt to finish as many toises as possible, that it had been necessary to alter the agreement and pay them by the day. [26]

The question of hoax much money the soldier/worker actually saw is impossible to answer. Almost certainly he saw little or none of his basic military pay. The amount was small - 30 sols per month - after deductions for uniforms and supplies. This meagre sum would usually go to the captains to pay for any other goods provided for the soldiers' upkeep. This was not a scheme invented by the officers of Ile Royale to bilk the men under their command. Rather, it was required that captains provide their men with whatever they needed to be well maintained; that the captains keep a record of all the expenditures made on the soldiers' behalf so that the sum could be deducted from each man's pay; and that before the remaining pay was distributed, the company sergeant inspect the men to see if they required anything and, if so, make the appropriate deductions.[27]

All this applied to the soldier's military pay, and from the beginning of Louisbourg's construction the officers complained that this was not sufficient to reimburse them for the amounts spent to maintain the soldiers/workers in Ile Royale's harsh climate. They further charged that the men were spending all their pay earned as workers in the local cabarets instead of reimbursing their captains. [28] At the behest of these officers the colony's officials sought to have an officer present when the men were paid by the entrepreneur in order to obtain what was owed before the men had a chance to squander it. [29] Isabeau, entrepreneur until 1725, successfully blocked all attempts to have a representative of the captains present on pay day. [30]

Following Isabeau's death there were no further complaints from the captains which seems to indicate that his replacement, Ganet, and the new chief engineer, Verrier, were easier to deal with and allowed the captains to have access to their men's pay. If this was the case, there is no indication what procedure was adopted. The minister wrote to De Forant upon his appointment as governor in 1739, that the captains were indeed receiving the soldiers' pay and were forcing them to buy goods, including drink, from them.[31] The latter was available through the canteens, which the captains had been given permission in 1727 to operate in order to keep the soldiers away from the many cabarets in Louisbourg.[32]

De Forant offered the soldiers a chance to complain against the officers, but found few takers. Of the complaints which were lodged, he considered none to be well-founded. [33] Unfortunately, the governor did not elaborate on the nature of the charges which were brought against the officers, nor did he offer any opinions of his own on the relationship of the captains to their men. Both De Forant and his successor, Duquesnel, came to Louisbourg from men-of-war and were shocked by the lack of military discipline they found among the soldiers/workers. There were, Duquesnel reported, certain practices "which are only tolerated for the detail of the companies" and which were not only totally contrary to the good of the service, but also to "the justice owed to those entrusted to us". Without directly mentioning the captains, Duquesnel stated that it was necessary to investigate both the provisions given the soldiers and the operation of the canteens. There was some work which the soldiers did, he said, for which they never saw a sol since the captains made them buy everything through the canteens, with "drunkenness and distaste for work" being the result. [34]

While this can be taken as a condemnation of the captains who forced their men to spend all their money on provisions or in the canteens, it can also be interpreted as a criticism by an officer unfamiliar with the type of command in which he found himself, of a system which forced the men to do such unsoldierlike tasks as construction of the fortifications required, and which resulted in the men drowning their sorrows in drink. In the fall of 1741 Duquesnel reported that he had assembled the officers, read the minister's instructions, and obtained their promise to close the canteens immediately. He also stated that while he would keep an eye on the prices charged by the captains for provisions given the soldiers, it was impossible to prevent them from making some profit because their own salaries were not sufficient to allow them to live and raise a family. [35]

There is no question that the officers did make a profit at the expense of the soldiers/workers. Commissaire-ordonnateur Bigot, in fact, declared that most of the officers could not live without this "perquisite". However, he added, if this profit had not gone to them, it would have gone to the entrepreneur, who wished to renew the practice of reimbursing the soldiers/workers by means of drink and hordes instead of money. It was better, in Bigot's view, that any profit to be made should go to the captains "who have to remain in the country all their lives, than to let it go to a single person who at the end of his undertaking will return to France". [36]

The question is, therefore, whether the profit the captains received was excessive and whether the soldiers were being forced to buy drink from the canteens. Regarding the first point, we have only the assurance of Duquesnel and Bigot in 1743 that both the entrepreneur and the captains were treating the soldiers well; if it were not so, they informed the minister, the commandant would make things right. [37] However much was charged it seems that not all the soldiers were as impecunious as has been sometimes alleged. Some undoubtedly did consume all they earned in drink. Some excesses were common throughout the military at the time, and conditions such as those found at Ile Royale could only aggravate the problem. But the evidence suggests that the soldiers often had money to spend, and they certainly did not do all their imbibing on credit at their captains' canteens:

1. There are numerous references in court cases to soldiers drinking at cabarets in town. One married soldier, in fact, operated a cabaret himself, in which he also rented rooms. [38] In only two instances were the captains mentioned. A soldier accused of theft in 1733 declared that he had been drunk when the crime was committed because he had been drinking in his room with his comrades. The wine had been given them by their captain, De Games, to celebrate the Feast of the Kings. At another hearing a soldier stated that he did not frequent his captain's canteen because he did not wish to run the risk of becoming indebted to him. [39]

2. Soldiers were frequently mentioned as having bought or traded a wide variety of articles, some of which had been stolen. They also owned many things such as a pirogue (canoe), snuff box, writing paper and tools, which would not have been furnished by their captains. [40]

3. There are several references to the soldiers receiving their prêt. While the word can be used to indicate payment in money it may, in the context of Louisbourg, have applied to the goods, including bread, which the soldiers received, with only solde being used to indicate their military pay. [41]

4. In 1742 Duquesnel wrote that all canteens had been closed, but since the men were paid only at the end of the construction season and since they "are very glad to amuse themselves at the end of the week" he had permitted the captains to give them a little eau de vie on feast days and Sundays.

5. Duquesnel and Bigot asked the minister in 1741 if the soldiers were able to buy their own release from the service for 150 livres paid to the treasurer at Louisbourg. Though the minister replied that they could not since such discharges were given only in certain cases, the fact that the question was asked suggests that there were some soldiers who could have paid the fee. [43]

6. The king's ordinances called for retention in the service of any soldier indebted to his captain. [44] Yet, despite all the charges levied against the captains and their canteens, there is only one recorded instance prior to 1745 of a soldier in Louisbourg failing to receive a discharge for this reason. [45]

7. In 1740 a soldier died in hospital leaving 40 livres at the Bureau des Troupes. Bigot wrote to the minister asking what the policy was in regard to soldiers' effects and was told that, unless the family were known, their effects should go [for the] benefit of the disabled". [46]

So, while the officers undoubtedly profitted from their dealings with the soldiers/workers, the latter were not entirely penniless. And what may appear unjust from today's point of view, probably seemed fair to the men of the officers' class and inevitable to the soldiers.


Soldiers not employed on the fortifications, either directly or indirectly by gathering material, were used primarily on the fortress' guard detail. While not the best physical specimens, this group would have been expected to meet the basic responsibilities of an 18th century soldier. According to La Chesnaye Des Bois, author of a military dictionary published in 1743, soldiers were to know and be respectful of officers, know the manual of arms, keep themselves clean and proper, care for their uniforms and their persons, do their duty well, and never sleep outside their quarters without a proper pass (congé). [47]

As part of Louisbourg's guard, the soldiers would have stood sentry duty, guarded prisoners and escorted them to and from their trials, assisted at the opening and closing of the gates, guarded building materials and goods left on the quay, aided people in distress, and broken up disputes. [48] Since he had to know how to use his weapon, the soldier detailed for guard duty probably would have been expected to attend musket drill.

The guard of a Place de Guerre was changed once every 24 hours with one-third of the garrison - or in the case of Louisbourg, one-third of the non-workers - forming the guard at a time. The mounting of the new guard, prior to 1750, took place at 4 P.M. in summer and 3 P.M. in winter. [49] While there is no direct reference to the time of the guard change in Louisbourg, the testimony of a drummer in 1725 would seem to indicate that in this, as in most procedural matters, Louisbourg followed the patterns of other Places de Guerre. [50]

During the early years of construction the guard at Louisbourg would have been fairly small. In 1721 St. Ovide reported that 54 men were standing guard duty, or 18 for each 24 hour period. Seven years later, the minister, anxious to conserve firewood, stated that the size of the guard during the winter months was to be determined by the number of sentries needed. For five sentries he envisioned a guard of 30 men "per guard, including sergeants, corporals and drummers". In other words, for three days, 90-100 men were all that was required. An additional 50 men to assist in the event of emergencies such as fires would, in the minister's opinion, suffice. All other soldiers were to be detached to one of the outposts or sent to work in the woods until the start of the construction season. As the enceinte was expanded, additional soldiers would have been required for the guardhouses of the Porte Dauphine and the Porte de la Reine. The original guard sent to the Porte Dauphine in 1733 consisted of 12 soldiers, 2 corporals, a sergeant and an officer for a 24 hour period. [51]

In 1741 Duquesnel formulated a proposal for the guard at each of the five corps des gardes which the fortress would have upon completion. This represented the minimum strength the commandant would like to have had at each post and was part of a request for additional manpower, in which Duquesnel was attempting to show that a guard of the proper strength for a place the size of Louisbourg would require at least 443 men. If the garrison was not enlarged, a guard of this size, when combined with the number of troops required at the batteries and outposts, would leave less than 100 men for additional duties. [52] In the fall of 1743 Duquesnel claimed that the garrison was so shorthanded that the officers were not going to be able to mount a guard at the Pièce de la Grave or the Porte Maurepas in the spring unless more soldiers were sent. [53] This was probably an exaggeration. In fact, it, is likely that more men were added to each guard post with the declaration of war in 1744. However, it is unlikely that the strength of the guard described in the 1741 proposal was reached prior to the siege.

According to the ordinances, sentries were to be relieved every two hours but this could be lessened to one hour in extreme cold. No soldier was to perform less than four or more than six hours sentry duty in a 24 hour period. [54] However, if the guard was as small as St. Ovide reported, each man at Louisbourg may have been doing at least eight hours sentry duty. In 1721 the governor wrote that the soldiers who mounted the guard were more fatigued than those who worked on the fortifications. As compensation he suggested deducting 30 sols per month from the pay of each soldier/worker, with the total amount to be divided among those standing guard. [55] The minister approved the basic idea, but set the amount at 20 sols a month per man. [56] Verville complained that this was not a good solution since some workers would rather stand guard then engage in backbreaking construction work, especially if the non-workers were going to earn as much or more money. Because the workers were only assured of full employment during half the year, the retention of 20 sols per month would embarrass the entrepreneur and discourage the soldier. As an alternative Verville proposed deducting 2 sols from each livre a soldier/worker earned. [57] Although the minister agreed to this change, the scheme was apparently not immediately implemented. At Isabeau's death the minister directed his successor to withhold 2 sols per livre from the soldiers' pay as had previously been ordered but never done due to the stubborness of the late entrepreneur. [58]

The Côde Militaire called for several soldiers to be detached from the guard twice each month to clean the powder magazine. Though they received no extra pay for this, the men who completed this detail were excused from the remainder of their guard duty. [59] At Louisbourg a dispute arose in 1727 with the Karrer troops with regard to the detailing of soldiers coming off guard duty to work in the king's storehouses or perform similar tasks. These "petites corvées", St. Ovide claimed, were done by the French soldiers as well. They took only three or four hours to complete, were customary in all Places de Guerre, and were never rewarded with extra pay. The minister accepted the governor's explanation and informed Karrer that his troops had nothing to complain about. [60]

Among the charges laid against Louisbourg's military leaders in 1739 was one levelled by the Admiralty to the effect that the major sent soldiers to stand guard on English ships anchored in the harbour. This is the only known reference to the soldiers standing guard on board ships in Louisbourg's harbour. The masters of the English ships, according to the Admiralty, paid 5 livres per day for the guard. Most of this, it was alleged, went to the état major with the soldiers receiving only a small amount. To gain as much money as possible the major required the soldiers to remain on board ships "as long as they can".[61] Like so many of the allegations made in 1738, there is nothing further to substantiate or repudiate this claim. It may have been true. On the other hand, it may have been part of the intense rivalry which, obviously existed between De Mézy and his supporters, and St. Ovide and his military subordinates since Louis Levasseur, lieutenant-general of the Admiralty at Louisbourg was a protege and associate of commissaires-ordonnateurs Soubras and De Mézy. [62]

On days on which they were not part of the guard, the soldiers were probably able to further supplement their income by working in town. From time to time they may have also been assigned other tasks, such as working in the governor's garden, for which they could expect no additional compensation.


The exact time at which reveille was sounded and the gates were opened in a Place de Guerre was set by the commander, the ordinance stating that it should be at sunrise. The Côde Militaire, however, stated that it was the duty of sergeants to call the roll of their companies at 4 A.M. in summer and 6 A.M. in winter, an assignment which would presumably have been carried out immediately after the drums had sounded. [64] A soldier arrested in July 1734 in Louisbourg for taking a pair of culottes from an inhabitant's property declared that while he did not know the exact time of his offense, he knew it was after 4 A.M. because reveille had been beaten. The culprit shed no further light on the soldiers' usual activities at that hour, explaining only that he had been in search of herbs for his soup at the time he was apprehended. [65]

The documents contain no mention of the soldiers/workers schedule in the period prior to 1745. Some soldiers assigned to cut hay in the summer of 1742 testified at a trial that they had stopped work at 7:30 P.M., but there is nothing to indicate that this was the general quitting time. [66] The schedule mentioned by Franquet in 1751, which called for the men to work from 5 A.M. to 7 P.M., with breaks at 8 A.M., 11:30 A.M. and 4 P.M., was probably not too different from the pre-1745 routine. [67] Whatever the schedule the workers were summoned to work and advised of breaks and quitting time by the sounding of La Fascine on the drums, a service for which the drummers were compensated by the entrepreneur. [68]

If the workers were required to be on the job by 5 A.M. it is likely that they were exempted from the usual housekeeping chores specified by the ordinances. The completion of these tasks might possibly have fallen to the non-working soldiers who were not on guard duty. Beds were to be made by 7 A. M. in summer and 9 A.M. in winter. Also by 9 A.M. stairs were to be swept, rooms tidied, and all dirt removed from behind doors and under beds. Sergeants were to insure that those things were done each day under pain of themselves being fined 10 sols.[69] Louisbourg's barracks were cold and damp, and in 1739 Governor De Forant reported that the soldiers' beds were infested with vermin because the straw mattresses were changed only once a year. This situation was ordered corrected, and it is probable that the sergeants at least went through the motions of requiring the soldiers to maintain some semblance of cleanliness and order in the barracks. [70]

Soldiers who were scheduled to mount the guard on a given day were reminded to keep themselves ready by the beating of La Garde three hours before the actual guard change. Two hours later L'Assemblée would be sounded throughout the town, calling the men to gather for inspection first by the sergeants and officers of their companies and then by the major. At 4 P. M. in summer and 3 P.M. . in winter the new guard, having been reviewed by the governor or commandant and the senior officers, would march off to relieve the guards at the various posts. Those being relieved would then return to their quarters, if there were no other tasks, such as cleaning the streets or storehouses, required of them. [71]

According to an ordinance of 1691, the retraite générale of the garrison was to be sounded at 8 P. M. from All Saints Day (1 November) until Easter, and an hour later during the rest of the year. [72] In 1748 D'Hericourt put the time at 7 P.M. from November through February, 8 P. M. during March, April, September and October, and 9 P. M. from May through August. [73] Soldiers were given one hour to return to their barracks after the beating of La Retraite through town. Any found on the streets after that time were to be held in the corps de garde until morning. In the barracks sergeants were to call the roll of their companies and report immediately, in writing, anyone who was missing. 74 The Côde Militaire also directed that if any soldier were found in a cabaret after the retreat had been sounded he was to be arrested and the cabaretier fired. [75] This was reiterated in Louisbourg by ordinances issued by the Superior Council. 76


One of the "duties" always listed for a soldier of 18th century France was the care of his person and his uniform. No soldier was permitted to leave his quarters without first combing his hair and fixing it "in queues or cadenettes" and washing his face and hands. Regulations also stipulated that each soldier was to:

1. Shave twice a week. Soldiers with mustaches were to keep them "well turned up".

2. See that his uniform was without spots or torn seams, and that all buttons were sewn on.

3. Adjust his cravatte, wear his garters above the calves of his legs, and keep his hat rolled up.

4. Wax or grease his shoes and put "nails in the soles" to make them last longer, thus saving his captain additional expense.

5. Darn his socks

If a soldier were found at inspections or on the streets with any of these things undone his sergeant was to be fined 10 sols.[77]

Evidence concerning the personal appearance of the soldiers of Louisbourg before 1745 is slight. While there is nothing to suggest that they were particularly well kept, neither is there any evidence, that they were dirtier or sloppier than the average soldier in France. The disparaging remarks made by De Forant and Duquesnel about the garrison as a whole were aimed primarily at their physical condition and lack of military bearing, not their individual neatness. Soldiers/workers were not supposed to wear their uniforms when working, and thus would generally have presented an unmilitary appearance most of the time. If they did wear their uniforms while working, the cloth would not have fared well, causing them to appear especially ragged. Those standing guard; however, subject as they were to regular, if not daily inspections, probably would have been expected to observe at least the minimum standards that circumstances in the colony would allow.

The documents do contain references to some aspects of the soldiers' appearance. These, however, are not sufficient to draw many conclusions.

Hair - Descriptions of soldiers appearing as witnesses at trials often refer to the color of the man's hair and occasionally its length, but do not mention whether or not it was tied back as the ordinances dictated. This may indicate that the soldiers were following the accepted practice of putting their hair in a queue. Only one, a Karrer sergeant, was said to have been wearing a wig, but generally the descriptions are too brief and erratic to attempt any conclusions. [78]

Beards - An assistant to the surgeon was maintained in the barracks to shave the soldiers and help in the event of accidents. [79] Several soldiers appearing at trials were said to be "portant barbe", but this may have simply been the result of several days growth and not an actual beard. One soldier became involved in a crime while on his way to the surgeon's house to be shaved on the Feast of the Kings. [80]

Cleanliness - Soldiers were provided with a supply of soap each year, but how often they used it is anybody's guess. They were required to keep their linen clean and usually paid someone else to launder it for them. The Karrer soldiers were supplied with the services of a washerwoman to do their laundry. [81] A French soldier arrested for theft in 1740 claimed to have used some of the stolen money to pay his "blanchesseur", a Karrer drummer. [82] Possibly the drummer was putting the soldier's laundry with his own, enabling him to make a profit with no exertion on his part. On the other hand, at least one Karrer drummer, Michel Chritanne, was married and the payment might have really been for his wife's services. [83] A trench drummer testified at a different trial that he took his linen to the wife of one of the sergeants in D'Ailleboust's company to be washed. [84]

Uniforms - Soldiers were supposed to keep their uniforms clean and mended. De Forant reported that the uniforms did not last long in the colony because the soldiers were forced to sleep in them for warmth. [85] Several years before, the minister had expressed surprise that there were complaints about the uniforms sent to Ile Royale that year. He had, he said, inspected the shipment himself before it left France and had found the quality superior to what was being sent to troops in other colonies. The complaints, the minister decided, were the result of the ease with which the soldiers in Ile Royale earned money; it had made them finicky and hard to please. [86] Each year Louisbourg's soldiers were given needles and thread with which to mend their uniforms. [87]

Shoes - The practice of putting nails on the bottom of shoes to prolong their life was followed in Louisbourg. A soldier was accused in 1722 of having stolen 800 nails from the storehouse of M. Daccarrette. Asked what he had done with the nails, the soldier replied that he had put some of them under his shoes and had given the rest to other soldiers to do likewise in return for some firewood. [88] There is no known reference to soldiers waxing or greasing their shoes, but in a wet climate such as Ile Royale, it was probably necessary as waterproofing.

Hats - In 1733 two soldiers were accused of stealing from the empty home of the late Madame Berrichon. Among the items taken was a quantity of ribbon which had been intended by the deceased's daughter as a border for bed hangings. The strips of ribbon - one large piece of yellow and several smaller pieces of red, white, blue and violet -were sold or traded for eau de vie by the thief to a number of soldiers he met at the "ordinaire" of L'Aumonier and his wife. The latter was asked by the soldiers to make cockades for their hats which she did by combining the yellow with the other colours. [89]

D'Hericourt stated in Elemens de L'Art Militaire that when on guard duty a soldier would, before going to sleep, "take off his hat and put on his cap, which he is to stick in his cartridge belt ..."90 An inhabitant of Louisbourg testified that the same soldier who had stolen the nails had tried to sell him 15-20 livres of lead which he was carrying in his "bonnet". [91]


The heavy work the soldiers were called upon to do, especially in building the fortifications, resulted in many being incapacitated from injury, while others were killed outright. For the most part, the only injuries recorded were those sufficiently disabling to warrant a soldier's discharge; these included men crippled in a fall or from the collapse of earth in the ditch, blinded by a premature blast while setting an explosive charge, and maimed by an explosion. In addition, there must have been many broken bones, hernias, wrenched backs and the like, which were severe enough to require hospital care, but which could be mended and the man returned to work. [92] Governor St. Ovide reported the case in 1726 of a man who broke his arm while unloading barriques. He was taken by a sergeant to the hospital at 6 P. M. During the night his cries of pain could be heard throughout the town. When an officer went to the hospital the next morning he found the soldier's arm swollen "larger than his thigh". No one had yet attended him. The officer informed the governor, who sent the aide-major to look for the surgeon and have the man's arm treated. In general, St. Ovide charged, the surgeons treated the civilians first, leaving the soldiers and sailors without proper care. [93]

The hazards of working on the fortress' construction and other strenuous tasks were not the only ones faced by the soldiers. The exposure to cold and damp weather experienced by those standing guard presented a serious threat to the health of that group of soldiers. And the close living quarters gave rise to the possibility of contagion among the men. This problem arose at least three times prior to 1745 in Louisbourg or among those bound for Louisbourg. In 1732 a ship destined for Ile Royale carrying the garrison's recruits was hit by an epidemic which claimed the lives of 25 people including a sergeant who was probably escorting the men. The captain of the ship blamed the outbreak on the condition of the men when they were put aboard his ship. [94] During the last two months of the same year, ten or 12 soldiers died from the smallpox epidemic which swept through the entire population of Louisbourg.[95] And in 1739, an illness caused by "fluxions de poitrine" (pneumonia) was "spread among the troops", killing at least six. [96]

Because of the ease with which diseases could be spread, officers were expected to be vigilant in seeing that no sick soldiers remained in the barracks with the other men. Guignard stated that "contagion often causes greater ravages among the troops than several combats would". To prevent such outbreaks, subaltern officers were to visit the barracks daily and oblige the men of their companies to keep everything clean. They were also to make certain that no "loose women" had been introduced into the barracks, "there being no worse ordure, better capable of making a troop unfit for service". [97]

Any soldiers who did become "afflicted by the pox and all the other venereal diseases" were to be received in all the hospitals of the king without exception and treated with retribution. [98] Initially, however, soldiers in Louisbourg who contracted the disease had to be sent to France. In 1734 St. Ovide and Le Normant requested that four soldiers who were good, young subjects be treated in France for venereal disease and returned to Louisbourg. They wrote that it would be advisable to make some arrangements with the Brothers of Charity to care for the disease in the colony. The Brothers refused to treat soldiers with "these maladies because the expense is much greater than with other illnesses". [99] It was not until 1743 that Bigot was able to report that soldiers with venereal disease were being received into Louisbourg's hospital. [100]

A register of all those who entered hospital was to be kept, in which the soldiers' names, noms de guerre, place of birth, nature of enlistment and companies were to be listed. No soldier was permitted to enter the hospital for treatment without a billet specifying the illness. The billet was to be signed by the company commander and witnessed by the commissaire des guerres or the major de place. On admission, the soldier turned over his money and other valuables for which two memoires were made out. One described the items surrendered, while the other was given to the soldier as a receipt so that he might retrieve his belongings on his release. [101] In 1740 Bigot requested a ruling on what to do with the effects of deceased soldiers; was it necessary to locate heirs to whom the valuables might be sent? This was sometimes a lengthy process, he said, taking from two to three years. The minister replied that the effects of any soldier whose family were not known could be given to the profit of the "invalides".[102]

The commissaire des guerres or the major de place was to make periodic inspections of the hospital to see that the food, wine and medication were of good quality. Anything that was not was to be replaced. The garrison's lieutenants were to take turns making daily inspections and render an account to the commander on "the condition of everything, and on the complaints, if the patients make any". Karrer soldiers were to receive the same care as the French and were ministered to by their own surgeon major. [103]

The soldiers contributed toward their maintenance in hospital through a deduction of 6 deniers from their pay for every day they were in the institution. If any of their solde remained following this deduction, it would be remitted to the soldiers on their release. If, however, they remained in hospital for a longer period of time than their pay could cover, the total cost would be paid by the treasurer. [104]

The hospital chaplain was to hear the confession of each soldier when he was admitted, or at least within 24 hours. Daily mass was to be said at a fixed time, with additional prayers each night. The chaplain was also responsible for keeping a register of soldiers who died in hospital, preparing as well two certificates for each soldier - one to be sent to his family and one for his regiment or company. In the case of foreign soldiers, one certificate for his regiment was sufficient. [105]


Soldiers invalided while in the service of the king, including working on the fortifications, could, upon certification of his injury by the surgeon and the officials in the colony, receive a pension of a demi-solde, or half pay, which amounted to 6 livres per month.. Invalids from the Compagnies Franches returning to France were paid their demi-solde either at Rochefort or at the admiralty office nearest their place of residence at which there was a trésorier des invalides. [106] Applications for pensions stated that the soldier in question was no longer able to earn a living due to his injury and required assistance to sustain himself. [107]

Those who were not totally disabled had to remain in the service either until the end of their engagement, if it was for a specified period, or until they qualified for the seniority discharges granted in each company yearly. Governor St. Ovide suggested in 1736 that the seniority discharge, originally set at one per company, be raised to two per company because there were so many old soldiers who had served 30 to 40 years and had no hope of being discharged until they were entirely unable to put one foot in front of the other. [108] There is nothing to show that this idea was officially adopted at the time. Three years later, Governor De Forant informed the minister that he had begun to reform the garrison by getting rid of those who were "a burden in the troops, whether because of infirmity or because of essential shortcomings". Following the custom in the colony, De Forant had given one congé d'ancienneté per company. [109] However, in 1740 Bourville, as acting commandant, reported that he had discharged only the usual two men per company according to seniority and those unable to serve. In 1743, at the establishment of the artillery company, the minister wrote that it would be impossible to grant the two seniority discharges in this company immediately since it would cause them to lose their most experienced men. Duquesnel and Bigot replied that one would be sufficient and that the automatic discharge would not begin until the artillery unit had existed for three years. [110]

There is no evidence to support Allen Greer's contention that "there were many years when deaths, desertions and discharges of other sorts reduced the garrison strength to the point where the governor did not feel he could allow any congé d'ancienneté. Thus, each desertion, each 150 livres discharge, reduced the chances that an aged veteran would be sent home". [111] Seniority and old age are not the same thing. St. Ovide wrote regularly that there were many soldiers whose age prevented them from being of much use, but the fact that they were not immediately discharged did not mean that seniority discharges were not being given. A 65-year old man who had enlisted at the age of 30 would still, even after 35 years of service, find himself behind others several years younger who had been engaged while in their teens. In the letter cited by Greer to support the above contention, the governor urged that five or six old soldiers be retired in addition to those already discharged due to marriage, invalidity of seniority. [112]

Nor is there reason to believe that discharges were ever denied to those holding limited six year engagements. Officials in the colony disapproved of the short enlistments because soldiers who enlisted in their youth were just reaching an age at which they could best serve the king when it was time to grant their release. [113] During most years this type of engagement was the exception. However, in the early 1730s - a time when an unusually high number of recruits were necessary for the colony due to the creation of two new companies - a large number of limited engagements were offered by recruiters, causing 30 or more to come due on at least two occasions. [114]

In 1737 St. Ovide was told that he could not detain any whose enlistment had expired, but that he should try to persuade some to re-enlist. [115] Three years later the Comte de Maurepas wrote that while he had recommended that no more limited engagements than necessary be given out, the intention of the king was that the men should receive their discharge on schedule if they did not wish to re-enlist. The minister added that if too many engagements terminated at one time, it might be necessary to return only half to France that year. [116] However, between then and 1743, when all discharges were temporarily halted due to the threat of war, the number of completed engagements at Louisbourg did not present a problem. [117]

Little was said concerning re-enlistment by soldiers whose terms had expired. The only detailed reference appeared in 1739, when it was reported that Bigot had given 10 livres to each of seven soldiers to re-enlist and 30 livres to a sergeant for a similar six year re-engagement. Soon after that report was made, two more soldiers agreed to stay. One, a corporal in Bonnaventure's company, was discharged while away with a detachment. When he returned to find himself no longer in the service, he asked to be taken back as a soldier until he was eligible to obtain a demi-solde. He then became a soldier in the company of Captain De Gannes. There were, therefore, ten re-enlistments among the 36 men whose engagements ended that year. [118]

Since in most years all but a few of the discharges were given for disability, old age or seniority, it is not surprising that there were few re-enlistments. If the system was unfair it was not to those who had earned their discharge, but to those who, despite their age and probably failing health, were forced to wait another year or more because they were not totally disabled. From time to time the minister would advise the governor that enough recruits were being sent so that "soldats uses" might be discharged, but how many were let go depended on how many invalids there were that year. [119] Chances are that the men preferred to remain in the service until they qualified for a pension, since if they were considered fit to work, all they received upon discharge was 2 sols per league to get them to their homes from Rochefort. [120]

There were other ways of obtaining a discharge as well. Families with sufficient means could secure a relative's release from service by paying 150 livres to the treasurer general of the Marine to cover the expense of recruiting and transporting a replacement. This was done at least 17 times at Louisbourg in the period prior to 1745. [121] One recipient of this type of discharge, François Petit dit Lacroix, almost ruined his chances to return home by becoming involved with several comrades in an attempted desertion. Although he was absolved by a Conseil de Guerre for his part in the affair, St. Ovide postponed his release until word was received from the minister, who granted the discharge in 1737. [122] The family of one Louisbourg soldier sought permission in 1733 to provide a man in his place, a proposal which was approved on condition that the replacement was not an "engage, servant or fisherman". [123]

Some of the other instances of discharge or retirement mentioned in the correspondence included a sergeant who was a "mauvais sujet", a soldier who became a clerk for Sieur de la Boularderie at his concession, five soldiers who were brickmakers, three soldiers whose discharges were requested by their fathers, three soldiers given permission by the king to retire, one soldier who was allowed to retire because his presence was necessary for the distribution of his mother's and father's estate, and a soldier who had been ordered to serve in Ile Royale in 1729, presumably for some offence, and who was given his freedom by the king four years later. [124]

Two men sent from Quebec to dive for the cargo of the Chameau which sank off Louisbourg in 1725 were promised their discharge and a gratuity if they performed well. [125] Nicolas Pigeot, a soldier in D'Ailleboust's company, wrote the minister in 1732 that his education and his complexion did not allow him to work on the fortifications. Deprived of the income construction work might otherwise have brought him, he asked to be sent to Canada where his talents could be put to use. Permission was granted, but Pigeot found suitable employment in Louisbourg, in the greffe of the Superior Council. In return for his discharge Pigeot was to pay 150 livres to the treasurer over a three-year period. The commissaire-ordonnateur, Le Normant, suggested to the minister that the obligation be forgiven in view of the services he had performed for the council. A year later Pigeot was made huissier of the Admiralty in Louisbourg. His rise was halted in 1736 when it was discovered that Pigeot could not account for 1,637 livres missing from his caisse, and that he had neglected to record in the registers the sentences rendered by the Admiralty from 1 April to 7 May 1735. [126]

Another soldier, who was the son of Christophe Chiquelier, "keeper of the musical instruments of the King's chapel", had, for some unknown reason, served in the garrison in Louisbourg in De Laperelle's company for three years as a volunteer and "without having received an engagement ..." At his father's request in 1732 he was ordered returned home. [127] Muiron, entrepreneur in the colony at the time, sought the discharge in 1740 of a soldier who was a tanner and who had worked in Muiron's tannery for two years. [128] There were a few other instances in which discharges were granted without any explanation as to the reason why. [129]

Discharged soldiers were given free passage back to France. Often a number of days or even weeks elapsed between the date of their release from service and their departure for home. During this period they continued to receive the soldiers' ration, though all obligation to the service seems to have ceased. In 1739 Robert Duhaget, aide-major at the time, complained that he had been insulted by a soldier who had been stricken from the rolls and was quartered in the barracks of the Demi-Bastion Dauphin while awaiting transport to France. When he attempted to have the man punished, Duhaget was overruled by the écrivain principal, Prevost, who declared that since the man's term of service had expired, the military no longer had control over him. [130]


Leave granted to soldiers for a certain period of time, congés limités, is a difficult topic to pin down. Officers' leave, except in cases of emergencies, had to be approved by the minister as well as the commander of the place. The ordinary soldier, however, required only the permission of his captain, the major and the commandant, given on a special form or cartouche sent from France for this purpose. [131] In 1738 Bourville complained that Le Normant, whom he suspected of looking for ways to cause trouble in St. Ovide's absence, wished to require soldiers who spent the winter working in the woods to have a "congé en forme" signed by the governor and conforming to the ordinances of the king. This, Bourville pointed out, was practised in France to protect soldiers from the maréchaussé (police) who might take them for deserters. It was not the custom, however, to require it "in the colonies in this part of America". Nonetheless, the minister replied the next year that he had been informed by Le Normant that soldiers from the Louisbourg garrison absented themselves with merely the verbal permission of their officers and that many were gone for months or years at a time while the officers collected their pay.

Nothing specific was offered to substantiate these charges, and the only comment from authorities in the colony was a statement by De Forant and Bigot that both officers and soldiers had been informed that no soldier was to be absent without "congé en cartouche".[133] It is unlikely that many soldiers were totally lost track of for periods of from 12 to 15 years as the minister charged. Soldiers/workers could easily have been in Ile Royale for that period without having mounted guard, and a complaint by the engineer in 1724 that the soldiers absented themselves from the construction works to pass in review resulted in the workers being excused from this obligation as well. [134] It is quite likely that officials in the colony were willing to take an officer's word as to the whereabouts of his men. But if a man were engaged in some work for the entrepreneur or engineer, he was - even if he never lifted a gun - performing the service for which he had been sent to the colony. Moreover, while the captains may have made a slight profit by accepting an absent soldier's pay, they were probably keeping these men supplied with the basics.

Leave to go to France from Louisbourg was granted to soldiers occasionally, though how often is not known. Some were sent to seek treatment in hospital for illnesses or injuries. One such soldier landed in difficulty because the official who was to authorize his entrance into hospital at Rochefort refused on the grounds that sick soldiers were more a charge to the king than they were worth. The soldier, who had no official discharge, enlisted in the French infantry and was eventually charged with desertion. [135] Four or five old soldiers were given leave in 1734 to go to France to see to the "small amount of family estate left to them". A year later two more were permitted to go to look after their "petits affaires". Two of those sent in 1734 were given additional leave when they wrote their captains that they could not return until 1736. Ration lists for 1738 and 1739 include reference to several soldiers having been given a congé par semestre for six months leave, to go to France. [136]


The instructions sent from the king to the governor and commissaire-ordonnateur in 1716 declared that the best thing for a new colony was for all men who could marry to do so. Accordingly, Costebelle and Soubras were ordered to pay close attention to obtaining for "all soldiers and other inhabitants" the means to marry. If more girls were needed in the colony they would be sent. [137] The two officials concurred with this sentiment and wrote asking permission to discharge married soldiers so they might settle in Ile Royale. Costebelle thought those who did should be granted a "mediocre gratification" from the government. [138] In addition, old soldiers were to be given tools and rations so that they might settle in the colony whether married or single. [139]

Nothing further was said of these attempts at settlement until a 1725 ordinance provided that each year one soldier from each French company and two Catholic soldiers from the Karrer Regiment could be discharged to establish themselves in Ile Royale. They would receive a piece of land and, for a period of three years, the same pay, provisions and clothing given them as soldiers. During the first three years they were to clear and improve the land, and for the first ten years they were exempt from the usual tax attached to land concessions. Soldiers who accepted the terms of this ordinance were not to be replaced within the companies until the first three years were completed. [140] St. Ovide and De Mézy believed that it would be better to send some good peasants to the colony to encourage settlement because soldiers did not have an aptitude for farming. Some had married, they declared in 1727, in the hope of getting a discharge by promising to become habitants, but it had come to nothing. [141]

Both the minister and the officials in the colony believed that the primary obstacle deterring soldiers from accepting the offer of land was the money that they were able to make working on the fortifications. Most of those who did settle, it was charged, did so only to get out of the service and obtain three years free rations. [142] There were at least two soldiers who received discharges to go back to France, who later asked for and were granted permission to return to Ile Royale and settle. [143] By 1742 Duquesnel and Bigot reported that most soldiers who had taken up land had abandoned it when the three year's rations had run out. Accordingly, they decided only to discharge those who wished to settle and practice a trade rather than farm. Ration lists include provisions for soldiers who settled in Louisbourg itself, on the Mira River, along the road  leading to the Batterie Royale, on Ile St. Jean and at Port Toulouse. [144]

The status of soldiers who married and remained in the service is unclear. Guignard states in L'Ecole De Mars that any soldier who married, even with permission, lost his seniority within his company; from then on, his seniority would be calculated from the date of his marriage rather than from the date he was received into the service. [145] D'Hericourt, whose work appeared two decades later, repeats the ordinance as it was published in 1686; that is:

Cavaliers, dragoons and soldiers who marry will forfeit their seniority and may only take precedence, for retirement purposes, of those of their comrades who have entered since their marriage; and those who are engaged only for a limited time and marry during the said time may thenceforth reckon their engagement only from the day of their marriage; and no regard may be had to the time of any service they rendered before their marriage.

No mention was made in the ordinance of whether this ruling applied to all soldiers or only those who married without permission. However, the compilation of ordinances known as the Côde Militaire, published in 1728 contains an editor's note to the effect that this ordinance applied to soldiers "who marry without permission ..." This note was added, it is explained, because this is the "sense of the ordinance in military jurisprudence". So, in this instance at least, both Guignard and D'Hericourt, two usually reliable sources, appear to have been mistaken. [146]

Early in Ile Royale's history there were complaints that permission to marry was given too easily. However, during the rest of the period to 1745 little was said on the subject. [147] In 1720 De Mézy suggested that it would be good for the colony if 30 "filles de pieté" were sent there under the charge of some sisters. Upon their arrival the girls would be placed in the homes of married habitants to live and work. After a few years their masters would give them a small sum of money and they could marry soldiers who had trades. [148] Nothing was done to implement this approach, and marriage was not a condition attached to the offer of land to soldiers who would settle in the colony.

The proportion of women to men in Louisbourg made it difficult for the soldiers to find wives in the colony. Not only were there relatively few women, but the soldiers would have had to compete with fishermen and labourers for those who were not already married or of a superior social standing. Moreover, France did not grant allowances to wives of French soldiers until the end of the 18th century, so that the soldier would have to provide for his family out of his pay. The wives of soldiers of foreign regiments in the service of France were, however, given a solde which explains the 45 livres granted to spouses of Karrer soldiers serving in Ile Royale when they accompanied their husbands. [149] There is no record of French soldiers being given permission to take their wives to Louisbourg, but the widow and son of a deceased soldier were granted passage to Ile Royale with the munitionnaires ration in 1735.[150] Other soldiers may have left families in France when they departed for the colony. .

The number of soldiers, married or single, living outside the barracks may have been relatively high. The impression derived from testimony given in court cases is that a good many soldiers, almost all workers, lived in the town. [151] Le Normant complained of the loss of utensils and furnishings from the barracks when soldiers went to live elsewhere. He requested that the minister issue an order forbidding the removal of utensils from the barracks, or even from room to room, except to take them to the magasin to exchange them. [152]

One soldier in the company of Captain De La Tour, Pierre Jouin dit La Joye, fathered two illegitimate children of Magdelaine Boucher in 1729 and 1730. Boucher's husband, Simon Rondel, had been away from Louisbourg since 1727 but returned, and in 1733 Magdelaine bore his child. Rondel died soon after, and Magdelaine and La Joye were married in 1738. Shortly after his marriage La Joye became a sergeant in Duhaget's company. He died in Louisbourg in 1751.[153]

In 1734 Jean Margueritte dit Vadenboncoeur, a soldier in D'Ailleboust's company, served as godfather for a child born to a slave owned by his captain which had been fathered by Michel Leneuf  [De La Vallièr], a cadet in Dangeac's company. Three years later Margueritte himself fathered twins by the same girl. Both babies died within a few months.  In February 1740 Margueritte married Jeanne Toussaint. They had at least three children, one of whom was born during the siege in 1745.[154]


It was required that regular reviews of the entire garrison be held in order to certify that no soldes were being paid for soldiers who were, due to death or desertion, no longer part of the garrison. The reviews were the joint responsibility of the commissaire des guerres (quartermaster) and major. They were to be attended by every officer and man in the garrison, as well as by the governor and staff officers. [155]

On the day selected for the review the drummers would sound La Générale, at which signal the troops gathered, putting themselves en bataille on the Place D'Armes or at some other designated assembly point. At the arrival of the commissaire they would form a line in order to facilitate the counting and examination. The list which resulted was to be signed by the governor and the commissaire.[156]

Prior to the actual review, the assembled troops would render honours to the governor if he were of sufficient rank. [157] The commissaire would then order the drums to beat Le Ban and warn, in the name of the king, all passe-volantes to leave the ranks. (A passe-volante was one who was in the garrison under false pretences, for example someone hired by a captain to take the place of a soldier who had died or deserted but for whom the captain continued to receive the solde). Rewards were to be given to any soldiers who denounced those falsely included in the ranks. If the governor had received any new orders from His Majesty he would have them read at this time. Next, the troops would be counted, and the names of all those in hospital or away on detachment would be added to the list. If any recruits had been incorporated since the last review the date of their arrival would be noted so that they would receive their solde from that day. When the review was over, the troops would defile, rendering the governor honours as they passed, and retire in good order. No civilians were to be present during the review to prevent their divulging the exact strength of the garrison to the enemy. [158]

While an ordnance in Canada called for reviews to be held frequently during the year, the troops at Louisbourg were reviewed only once each year, in October or November. [159] In 1720 soldiers testifying at a trial declared that while walking on the shore they heard the drums sounding La Générale and returned to the barracks in order to pass in review. [160] Soldiers/workers were excused from reviews, at least in the 1720s, following complaints from the engineer concerning their absences from construction. It is not known if this dispensation continued. [161]

The minister ruled in 1728 that officers who were absent from the reviews of their companies without the permission of the king or the governor were not to be marked present. The commissaire-ordonnateur, he said, would be held responsible if such officers were included in the reviews or paid. [162] Louisbourg does not seem to have had a commissaire des guerres during the period to 1745, rather the major and commissaire-ordonnateur combined to perform his functions. The last review of the troops in Louisbourg prior to the siege by the New Englanders was on 1 October 1744. [163]


Besides the annual review, the entire garrison was assembled whenever an ordonnance de police was to be published or whenever a fellow soldier was to be punished for a military offence, notably desertion. Individual companies would be assembled to recognize newly arrived or promoted officers, an important occasion since the seniority of officers dated from the day on which they were recognized in their rank. [164]

Most of the ordinances published "à la tête des troupes" in Louisbourg dealt with the regulation of the cabarets and attempts to control the soldiers' patronage of these establishments. [165] However, there were also prohibitions against shooting animals belonging to inhabitants, against shooting partridges during the work season from 1 April to 15 September, against soldiers being admitted into houses of inhabitants after retreat had been sounded, against the sale by soldiers of their arms, vivres, uniforms or equipment, and against soldiers absenting themselves without proper congés en cartouche. An ordinance proclaiming the chain of command to be followed in the absence of the governor was also to be announced to the garrison as a whole. [166]

Soldiers were to be kept apprised of the penalties connected with the various military, offences under the law. In November 1728 the governor and commissaire-ordonnateur reported that they had received the ordinance dealing with military crimes and offences issued the previous year. The ordinance had been read to the troops, posted in the corps des gardes, and sent to wherever there were detachments of troops. [167] On a couple of occasions soldiers on trial for desertion in Louisbourg claimed that they had not heard the banns beaten to warn of the penalties for this crime. One declared that he had been sick much of the time and had not been able to attend. Others may have been on guard duty or away with a detachment, or lying. [168]

In 1744 several officers were received in their ranks before the troops, and a general amnesty was proclaimed to all officers and soldiers who had deserted from French ships and passed "chez l'étranger". Whether this was read to the troops or not is uncertain, but the governor and commissaire-ordonnateur did report that it had been published and some men had come forward to accept the terms of the amnesty. [169]


The duties of the soldiers of the Ile Royale garrison included service away from the fortified town of Louisbourg. Three outposts and two detached batteries had to be manned, and troops were required to work on roads, gather building materials, quell disturbances in various parts of the colony, and search for deserters. The Minister of the Marine reasoned in 1728 that firewood expenditures could be cut because each winter nearly two-thirds of the garrison were detached to work for the entrepreneur or perform some other task in the woods. During the summer, when construction work kept the majority of the garrison at Louisbourg, small detachments often had to be sent to the different outports to settle disputes between the habitants and merchants. [170]

A majority of the soldiers detached from Louisbourg were stationed at outposts or batteries. It is not certain on what basis selection was made for the garrisons of Port Dauphin, Port Toulouse or Ile St. Jean, but it is probable that as far as possible soldiers/workers were sent to those places. Not only was the number available for guard duty within the fortress already minimal, but also the soldiers at the outposts were often employed in gathering materials required for the construction of the fortifications back in Louisbourg. Also, there were many references to the drain on the Louisbourg work force which these posts represented. [171]

The initial detachment sent to Ile St. Jean consisted of about 25 to 30 men, all from the same company. With the appointment of De Pensens as lieutenant de roi on the island in 1733, the minister urged maintaining a 30-man detachment there, to be selected from all eight companies rather than just one, in order to allow soldiers from all companies to profit from the "benefits of the construction work" at Louisbourg. The final decision was left to Governor St. Ovide. He chose to accede to De Pensens' request for an entire company. During the next three years dismal living conditions, limited opportunities to earn extra money, easy access to Acadia from the island, and the indefinite nature of the tour of duty, resulted in almost wholesale desertion from the post. The governor was forced to revert to the minister's original plan of selecting representatives from each of the companies to make up the detachment. He went one step further and permitted all those who wished to remain there to do so, while relieving each year those who wanted to return to Louisbourg. [172]

Until the completion of the barracks at Louisbourg, whole companies were sent to winter at Port Toulouse and Port Dauphin, returning to the capital for the work season. The minister urged that the practice of recalling troops from Port Toulouse each spring to work at Louisbourg was not only expensive to the treasury and tiring to the men, but it endangered the outpost by leaving it vulnerable at the very time of year an attack might be undertaken. The proximity of Port Toulouse to the English settlement of Canso made a substantial force necessary there. By contrast only a small detachment was thought to be needed at Port Dauphin. In 1727 the minister ordered that a permanent detachment of 30 men be maintained at Port Toulouse throughout the year. [173] As with Ile St. Jean, the lure of easy escape into English territory proved great. Desertions were numerous until the policies of choosing the men from all eight companies and of relieving those who wished to return to Louisbourg were initiated in 1736.[174]

Duquesnel brought men from each of the three outposts in 1741 to work on the fortifications; three years later Duchambon recalled all but a few to add to Louisbourg's security. [175] Of all the tours of duty the officers and men of the Ile Royale garrison could draw, the one most sought after was the Batterie Royale. During the battery's construction a small detachment with an officer was stationed there to guard the place. As it neared completion Captain Ste. Marie requested the command on the basis of his seniority and his meritorious service record in combat in France. He had been wounded three times between 1688 and 1701. He also felt the appointment would help to compensate him for a trip he made to Boston in 1718 for which he never received payment. The Council of the Marine granted Ste. Marie the post - the minister noting he was a good officer and it would be hard to deny him - but ruled that only a detachment could be maintained there and no additional rank or pay could be given its commander. [176] Although the battery was ready for occupation by 1727, nothing was said to indicate then or in the next few years that Ste. Marie ever took command. On the other hand, there is no reason why he might not have assumed the post with a small detachment until his death in 1730.

With Ste. Marie's death and the promotion of De Pensens to the post of major de place, Gabriel Dangeac became the most senior captain. The first reference to his being sent to command the Batterie Royale was made in November 1732, but it is possible that he had been there before that. The final arrangement for manning the battery, including the practice of annual fall rotation, had not yet been decided upon by the minister. The tone of Dangeac's request for relief in 1733 suggests it could well have came from someone who had spent more than one year at the post. [177]

In June 1732 the minister informed St. Ovide that it was up to him to decide whether to send a whole company or just a detachment to man the battery. If it were to be a company, then the king wished that it be relieved each year in a rotation involving all eight companies. The governor was to see that whoever was stationed at the battery, including the officers, remained there, with no one absent "unless absolutely necessary". [178] In their reply the governor and commissaire-ordonnateur stated that St. Ovide had sent Dangeac to the battery. He was to have been accompanied by his entire company, but when the chief engineer, Verville, declared that he did not have a sufficient work force, only 20 were dispatched. It was the officials' opinion that the best plan for the battery would be a detachment of 40 men, five from each company. Those selected were to be those "least suited for the construction works". This would be sufficient, they said, for the time being. [179]

The minister approved this scheme, but in October 1733 he was informed that it had been found inconvenient, and so Dangeac's entire company had been sent to the battery. St. Ovide and Le Normant assured the minister that this did not hinder the construction since part of Dangeac's company had not been employed on the works and the rest had been occupied by the road building, which could still be done from the battery. [180]

In a separate letter St. Ovide declared that since Dangeac's company was fatigued it would be appropriate to have the officers take turns at the post. Dangeac himself wanted to be relieved because he could not meet the "infinité" of small expenses which had to be met there and, due to his advanced age, he could not perform the multitude of tasks required of its commander, especially in winter. While his demands seemed reasonable to St. Ovide, the governor did not wish to make any changes without the minister's approval. Dangeac, therefore, was obliged to spend another winter at the battery. [181]

The king's intention, the minister wrote the next spring, was that each captain serve at the Batterie Royale "à tour de rô1e." Thus the principle of annual rotation of companies by seniority of the captain was finally established, and De Laperelle's company relieved Dangeac's in the fall of 1734. [182] Because this annual rotation threw the officers and men of the garrison into "un très grand derangement," D'Ailleboust offered to remain at the battery for a longer period. In return for this extended duty he wanted the same "grâces " given captains in Québec who were detached to small forts. The minister was apparently not agreeable to this proposal since D'Ailleboust was relieved on schedule by Despiet.[183]

The question of how many soldiers from a given company actually saw duty at the Batterie Royale is difficult to answer. All officers not detached to the outposts or on leave probably moved to the battery with their companies. Not only were they expected to, but the Batterie Royale had become a "coveted post" among the officers. Hence, despite the inconvenience occasioned by the move, opportunities to serve there would not have been surrendered without good reason. [184] This does not mean that they could not be sent out with temporary detachments or assigned other duties.

The men too must have been reluctant to miss this one chance to enjoy a little prestige. Men from each French company were sent to the three outposts, but it is likely that as many as possible of those remaining went to the battery with their companies. Working on the fortifications and roads or gathering materials did not preclude their being garrisoned at the battery. There was usually sane work to be done there or on the roads in the vicinity, and it was not a long walk to the fortress itself. Detachments sent out on specific details could return to the battery on completion of their duty as easily as they could to the barracks of the King's Bastion. A trial held in 1735 contains the testimony of several soldiers who unwittingly became involved in the theft of building materials while on their way back to the battery in the evenings. And, in 1736, a soldier found not guilty of desertion was allowed to return to his company D'Aillebouts's - which was "en garnison" at the Batterie Royale. [185]

In 1736 Le Normant, commissaire-ordonnateur, advised the minister of a problem which had arisen at the battery. It was the custom in the colony, he said, for everyone to raise and keep his own animals and poultry since there was no "market at any time of the year and no butchery during the winter of spring". Consequently, when the captains and officers of the companies detached to the Batterie Royale moved there with their families, they were obliged to take the livestock with them. Lacking any other place to put them the animals were kept in several rooms in the barracks. To remedy the obvious disadvantages of this situation, Le Normant suggested two possibilities: either a stable and chicken coop could be built near the battery, or, instead of an entire company, a small detachment which would be relieved every eight days and be under the command of a subaltern officer could be sent to the battery. [186[ The commissaire-ordonnateur favored the latter option during peace time, adding that only 15 to 20 men generally saw duty at the battery anyway. The rest worked at construction in summer and gathered wood in winter. This does not necessarily mean that the majority of the company was not quartered there, though how much they saw of the place probably depended on the work at which they were employed. Le Noxmant could have been noting that with the distinctly different duties of the guards and the workers who came and went, the latter could be billeted somewhere else temporarily without the battery losing its guard. [187]

Rejecting the suggestion that the guard be diminished, the minister declared that it was important to remedy the "disgust" suffered by the barracks due to the presence of the animals. However, it was His Majesty's intention that there should always be a company in garrison. [188] Much more work was accomplished in 1742 than had been anticipated, undoubtedly resulting in the transportation of large quantities of building materials to the construction site. The company which was "en garnison" at the Batterie Royale was engaged in this work, yet could still have been attached to the battery. Forty-five men of Thierry's company were provided with rations at the battery during the winter of 1744-45. [189] While it is likely, therefore, that after 1733 whole companies moved to the battery each fall, as the authorities said they did, it is impossible to say how much time the soldiers /workers of the company actually spent there.

Duty on the Batterie De L'Isle was not so highly prized as at the Batterie Royale. The first detachment was to go there in 1732, but because of the need for corkers and the incomplete state of the barracks, no one was sent. Again the next year the need for workers forced St. Ovide to postpone manning the island. Finally in June 1734, the guard of the island was established, remaining there until early in December. [190] The minister approved sending a detachment for as long as the season permitted, and added that the battery should be guard with all possible care. If St. Ovide felt that a company was needed in wartime, the king desired that one be sent. [191] The island was not uninhabitated in winter; in 1736 Le Normant wrote that three soldiers and the gardien would spend the winter there. He had provided them with sufficient wood, food and other necessities to last until April. Four years later Bourville reported that if war were not declared, eight soldiers and a sergeant would winter on the island. [192]

The three outposts and two batteries represented a considerable drain on Louisbourg's relatively small garrison. So much so that the officials would not consider creating any new outposts. In 1729 the inhabitants of Niganiche proposed that an officer with 15 to 20 men be stationed there in a corps de garde and small redoubt. The residents offered to build the defences themselves in order to protect their fishing establishment from harassment, [193] but their request was rejected due to the shortage of soldiers to man the post.

The road building the soldiers were assigned to do involved considerable difficulty. Soldiers working on the road to the Mira constructed five barracks on the way at a distance of a half league from each other. One such structure burned down in November 1734, claiming all the supplies of its 15 residents. These were replaced from the magasin du roi so that the men could continue working on the road during the winter months. [194] A forest fire swept between Louisbourg and Mira in 1736 requiring the detachment of ten soldiers to repair the road and rebuild two bridges in its path. [195] There was also considerable discomfort attached to some of the detachments which took the soldiers into the woods whether to build roads, gather wood or hunt for deserters. In summer, the "venomous flies ... place the men in the most wretched state", and the continual rain often meant that they had to cut wood in water and "mud up to the knees ... "[196]

Besides work crews and search parties, soldiers were also sent to work in mines, to protect inhabitants, and to salvage and guard goods washed ashore from shipwrecks. After the loss of the Chameau in 1725 a considerable salvage operation was set up on the coast. Since there were not enough soldiers to guard the area, De Mézy sought to insure their diligence by granting them "a part of the debris ... which they gather up". [197] A Karrer soldier accused of theft claimed to have found the items at Lorembec. Asked why he had not turned them in, he replied that he had not known that soldiers received a third of all they found. [198]