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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



Initially Louisbourg's garrison contained only one drummer per company within the Compagnies Franches. In 1741, however, the increase in company size to 70 men and the prospect of additional guard posts to be manned prompted Duquesnel to add another drummer to each company. The position of fifer was also created to serve all eight French companies. However, aside from the fact that his uniform was the same as that worn by the drummers - trimmed with the livery of the king - nothing is known of this soldier or his duties. Besides the drummers in the Compagnies Franches, there were also four drummers and a fifer in the Karrer detachment, as well as a drummer in the artillery company which was formed in 1743.[1]

Drummers usually mounted the guard with the captains of their companies. If, however, their captains were not part of that day's guard, the drummers drew lots for their positions in the same manner as the noncommissioned officers . By 1744 there were five guard posts within the walls for which drummers would have been required at all times, and a drummer would also have been detached with his company to the Batterie Royale. Company by company breakdowns of where the garrison's troops were serving in 1738 and 1740 show all drummers to have been at Louisbourg. [3] Though the detachments at Ile St. Jean and Port Toulouse were large enough at that point to have required the services of a drummer, it may have been impossible to send any to those posts because there were so few in the garrison prior to 1741.

As early as 1718 the drummers of the Louisbourg garrison asked for pay equal to that received by corporals (6 livres per month after deductions). [4] While it was customary for a drummer to receive more than an ordinary soldier, this does not seem to have been the case at Louisbourg prior to 1745. In 1746 the minister stated that Louisbourg's drummers received only the pay of ordinary soldiers 30 sols per month), a wage which was thought to provide no incentive for soldiers to become drummers. They did not wish to change their "condition without hope of some advantage". To correct this situation the king ordered that the drummers be treated as those of the "Compagnies du Département par raport a la paye ..."[5] Exactly what was meant by this is not known, but in 1749 a statement of the funds necessary for the next year listed the pay of the drummers in Louisbourg as 6 livres per month. [6] Thirty-one years after making the request, they were finally paid the same wage as corporals. It is likely, however, that prior to 1745 Louisbourg's drummers shared in the funds distributed among those who stood guard.

Besides what the drummers received for beating La Fascine to call the soldiers/workers to their jobs, there were also payments for beating Le Ban to summon the public to hear special announcements, such as the publication of ordinances or sales. After the creation of the position in 1743, these payments seem to have gone to the tambour major. How much went to the drummer who performed the call and how much was retained by the tambour major is not known. [7] Certainly their routine duties prevented the drummers from earning much money at other types of odd jobs. All drummers not on guard had to appear for daily inspection by the tambour major a half hour before they sounded La Garde, which notified those who were to form the new guard to hold themselves ready. Two hours after beating La Garde, the same drummers, led by the tambour major, had to make a circuit through town sounding L'assemblée in order to call the soldiers of the new guard to the place of assembly for inspection. A second circuit in the evening after the password had been given - the Retraite Générale of the garrison - would inform the soldiers that it was time to return to their quarters. In addition, all the drummers would be called upon to sound La Générale any time it was necessary to summon the entire garrison. [8]

The records contain reference to most of the drum beats usually employed in a Place de Guerre having been performed at Louisbourg. Since the routine of the fortress seems to have followed that set down for such establishments, there is every reason to believe that those beats not specificially mentioned were also used at the appropriate times. The calls referred to include:

La Diane - A soldier did not know what time it was, but knew it was after 4 A.M. because reveille had been sounded. [9]

La Fascine - The entrepreneur paid drummers to sound this call to signal the soldiers/workers when it was time to start or stop work or break for meals. [10]

La Garde - Mentioned by a karrer drummer on trial for theft. [11]

La Générale - Mentioned by soldiers who heard this call and returned to the barracks to pass in review; figured in a controversy between the French and Swiss commanders when the governor ordered it played to bring the garrison together to witness an execution; informed the town of the mutiny which occurred in December 1744. [12]

Le Ban - Sounded to herald the announcement of ordinances and proclamations. [13]

La Retraite - Several ordonnances de police stipulated that no one was to admit a soldier into his house after this call had been sounded; a woman on trial for theft stated that several soldiers had stopped at her house near the Batterie Royale to light their pipes before La Retraite had been beaten. [14]

Le Drapeau - One soldier declared that he heard this call and went to pass in review. If he were not mistaken, he was late since this was the beat sounded after La Générale and L'Assemblée had already brought the troops together. [15]

Responsibility for the care of the drums and other equipment lay with the drummer. In the French infantry it was the custom for the captains to give their drummers 2 sols per day or one ration of bread in return for maintaining his drum, sling and sticks. [16] It is not known if this applied to the Marine as well, or if it was done in Louisbourg. Nor is there any mention of the drummers of Louisbourg practicing the drum beats. New drummers, however, would have to have been taught to execute the calls accurately. An ordinance regulating the infantry in encampments stipulated that practicing should take place when the drummers came together for meals. No practice session was to start with La Générale because it could cause unnecessary alarm. [17] Another ordinance, published in 1766, provided that the tambour major was to instruct the drummers one by one, then two by two, before exercising them all together. Once the drummers had attained the "necessary degree of perfection" they were to be exercised twice a week during winter, but only when the whole garrison exercised during summer. [18]

Guignard noted in L'Ecole De Mars that when a drummer was the most senior soldier he was entitled to assume the place of "Anspecade Vacant." No one was able to prevent his moving into the vacant position on the grounds that his first duty was to drum. While this caused numerous arguments, Guignard added, the drummer always won his case. [19]

There are only four drummers who served in Ile Royale prior to 1745 about which anything is known:

1. Jérome Letellier dit La Volanté - served as witness at a trial in 1743. He was illiterate and was among the many soldiers from the garrison who deserted from Rochefort in 1746. It is probable he was one of the drummers who went through the streets of Louisbourg beating La Générale during the mutiny and feared punishment for his participation. [20]

2. René Antoine Lenmine dit St. Arrant - was 23 years old in 1740 when he was tried for theft of tobacco from Delort's storehouse. He was the son of a footman end had come to Ile Royale as a soldier in 1736. A member of De Gannes' conpany, he was part of the guard at the Place D'Armes on the night of the robbery. He had received permission to go to supper at the home of a soldier of his company, provided he was back in time to do his duty - presumably to beat L'Ordre which assembled the non-commissioned officers for the orders ceremony. The documentation for his trial is incomplete, but in view of other proceedings dealing with the same theft, it is likely he was acquitted or, at most, reprimanded. [21]

3. Michel Chritanne - was a married Karrer drummer with at least two children. These were born and baptised at Louisbourg in 1736 and 1738. [22]

4. Elie Herguer - was a member of the Swiss detachment who was tried for theft and acquitted in 1726. He was 27 years old at the time, stood 5 pieds 5 pouçes, and had short chestnut hair. He was Catholic, illiterate, and claimed to have no knowledge of his mother or father. [23]

During the siege, according to the journal of Gilles Lacroix-Girard, a soldier on guard at the prison made an agreement with an English prisoner to carry a letter to the English commander. He was promised that he would be well compensated and would have bread for the rest of his days. The information contained in the letter outlined "how to go about making an assault and the number of men there were in the city". The plot was discovered by a drummer of the garrison who turned the soldier in. The traitor was hanged for his crime on the feast of Corpus Christi, 22 June 1745. [24]