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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 Karrer Regiment, founded in 1719 by Franz Adam Karrer, a Swiss officer in the service of the King of France, was commonly referred to as Swiss although it was composed of nationals of several countries in addition to Switzerland. When the term is used in connection with the officers and men of the Karrer Regiment, therefore, it should be clearly understood that this was a general. designation applied to the entire regiment, and not a reference to the nationalities of its individual members. Indeed, it is possible that only a minority of the men who served with the Karrer Regiment in Louisbourg between 1722 and 1745 were actually Swiss nationals. [1]


The rank structure of the Karrer Regiment differed from that of the Compagnies Franches. The detachment of 100 Swiss at Louisbourg in 1726 was, according to an ordinance issued that year, to include a capitaine-lieutenant, a lieutenant, and a sous-lieutenant. [2] (The original detachment of 50 men sent to Louisbourg in 1722 was enlarged to 100 two years later. The regiment remained at that strength in the colony until 1741 when a third detachment of 50 men was ordered to Louisbourg). The provisions of the 1726 ordinance were met only between 1726 and 1728 when Capitaine-Lieutenant Merveilleux, Lieutenant L'Esperance and Sous-Lieutenant Thevenot were stationed in the colony. From 1728 until 1745 the commanding officers were assisted by sous-lieutenants, ensigns or enseignes surnuméraires.

Karrer officers held their commissions from the colonel of their regiment, Karrer himself, not from the king as did those of the Compagnies Franches. The Swiss were, however, given ranks to correspond with those used in the French service. On dispatching the first Swiss detachment to Louisbourg in 1722, the minister wrote that the king wished no trouble in this regard from the officers in the colony, and indeed there does not seem to have been any friction over this issue. [3] The ordinances stated that the capitaines-lieutenants of foreign regiments in the king's service were to rank after the French company captains, but were to rotate with them in such things as guard duty or rounds. The rank structure of the combined Ccmpagnies Franches and Karrer officer corps at Louisbourg would, therefore, have been as follows:

Compagnies Franches         captain
Karrer                                    capitaine-lieutenant
Compagies Franches            lieutenant
Karrer                                    lieutenant
Karrer                                    lieutenant en second
Karrer                                    sous-lieutenant
Compagnies Franches         enseigne en pied
Karrer                                   enseigne en pied
Compagnies Franches          enseigne en second
Karrer                                    enseigne surnuméraire [4]

The proportion of officers to men in the Karrer detachment at Louisbourg was always less than in the Compagnies Franches. The original Swiss detachment sent to Louisbourg was commanded by only one officer, Enseigne Berthelot. He remained in the colony for one year, after which he was promoted to sous-lieutenant and transferred to St. Dominique. Berthelot was replaced in Ile Royale by another sous-lieutenant, Duparc.[5] In 1724 the decision was made both to augment the Compagnies Franches by adding ten men to each company, and to double the size of the Swiss contingent. The additional 50 soldiers of the Karrer Regiment were accompanied to the colony by Lieutenant en Second L'Esperance, who became, on his arrival, the senior Karrer officer in Louisbourg. [6]

In the fall of 1725 Duparc requested and received Governor St. Ovide's permission to go to France for six months "to look after his estate". This left the 100-man detachment with only one officer. Though he had permitted the situation to occur, St. Ovide proceeded to complain, declaring that a single officer was not sufficient to maintain discipline and justice within the detachment. [7] Having previously complained of the lack of discipline among the Swiss troops and of their refusal to obey French officers, the governor must have been aware of the difficult position in which he was placing L'Esperance as the only remaining Karrer officer when he gave leave to Duparc.[8] While there is no way to determine his motives, it is possible that the governor was hoping to bring the minister around to his way of thinking concerning the Swiss by making them look bad.

The minister rebuked St. Ovide for his action, stating that only Colonel Karrer had the authority to grant leave to one of his officers, unless illness made it impossible to await his permission. [9] But he also informed him that henceforth there would be three Swiss officers stationed at Louisbourg. [10] St. Ovide declared himself mortified that Colonel Karrer had not approved the con he had granted Duparc, and promised never to repeat his error. Duparc apparently suffered a rebuke as well, since he was permitted to return to Ile Royale only to clear up some personal matters before returning to the colonel's company at Rochefort.[11]

The two additional officers sent to join L'Esperance in the colony were Sous-Lieutenant Thevenat and Capitaine-Lieutenant Charles Frederick Merveilleux. Thevenot remained in Louisbourg only a short while. He received a con of eight months which was to begin on 1 January 1729, but he never returned to Ile Royale. His replacement was Jean Gregoire Vollant, an enseigne surnuméraire.[12]

During his stay in Ile Royale, Merveilleux enjoyed a relatively good relationship with the governor. He won St. Ovide's sympathy almost immediately by confiding to him his disappointment with the promotion of Karrer's son to the majority of their regiment. The colonel, with whom he had helped found the regiment, had promised Merveilleux that he would always be second in command and that if the post of major was ever created, he would fill the position. However, as soon as Merveilleux had sailed for Ile Royale, Karrer had named his son to be major, leaving the capitaine-lieutenant greatly pained. [13]

Despite their generally good rapport, St. Ovide and Merveilleux disagreed on a few issues. The Fête Dieu, the feast of Corpus Christi celebrated in June each year, was an occasion of solemn celebration within the Catholic Church. According to Guignard in L'Ecole De Mars all the garrison in a Place De Guerre was, on this day, to take arms and range themselves "in the Places [d'Armes] or spacious locations" past which the Blessed Sacrament would be carried. As the procession passed the soldiers were to put their knees to the ground and present arms, the officers were to offer a salute, and the drummers were to beat Aux Champs. The artillery would fire three volleys - one as the procession left the church, one as it was moving on its route, and the last as it reentered the church. The governor and officers of the état major were to follow, according to their rank, behind the canopy which shielded the Blessed Sacrament. [14]

Protestants, Guignard added, were to remain in their houses during the ceremony. And, in places where there were Swiss or other foreign troops who had "liberté de conscience," the men were to be dispensed from appearing under arms unless their presence was necessary for the security of the place. If the latter were the case, they were to be posted in some out of the way place where the procession would not pass.. In 1727 St. Ovide wrote that the officers of the Karrer detachment had refused to place themselves at the head of their troops or their guard during the procession in Louisbourg that year. [16] L'Esperance had not yet converted to the Catholic religion, and it is quite possible that the other two officers were Protestants as well. If so, they were within their rights to refuse to participate in the ceremony.

That same year the Karrer officers complained to their colonel about work required of the soldiers who stood guard and of the distance the men had to go to find firewood. [17] The colony's officials had a complaint of their own when a Swiss sergeant was accused of beating a civilian. Merveilleux insisted that the accused be tried by the officers of their regiment, while the governor and commissaire-ordonnateur wished to see him handed over for trial by the Conseil Supérieur, as a French soldier charged with a crime against a civilian would have been. [18]

One of the privileges accorded by the king to the foreign troops was the right to be tried by their own officers. This was primarily to ensure a non-French speaking soldier a trial in his own language. The question was whether or not this privilege extended beyond conseils de guerre to crimes against civilians. French soldiers accused of such offences were tried by civil law in order to prevent leniency by military authorities in areas where their own interests were not at stake. However, in 1728, the minister replied that the accused Karrer soldier should have been handed over to his officers for trial, since the rule in France was that when a Swiss soldier committed a crime he must be tried by Swiss officers. If Swiss and French were involved, the Swiss was to be handed over to his own, while the Frenchman was to be tried by ordinary justice. [19]

Merveilleux's tour of duty in the colony also coincided with the establishment of canteens, operated by officers for the soldiers under their command. Soon after his arrival in the colony, Duparc had asked permission to open a canteen for the Karrer troops. His request was denied by the governor on the grounds that he feared it would have a disruptive influence on the rest of the garrison, especially since the barracks were not yet enclosed, and it was therefore impossible to contain the soldiers in one place. St. Ovide may also have been attempting to avoid the protests by the Compagnies Franches officers which would have greeted the granting of such a request. The privilege of operating a canteen in the French service belonged only to captains. Duparc, though then in command of the Swiss troops, was only a sous-lieutenant. It would have been unthinkable for him to have received a privilege which had not yet been granted even to the captains of the Compagnies Fnenches. [20]

The large number of cabarets in the town and surrounding area eventually convinced the governor that company canteens were preferable to private establishments. In 1726 he sought and received the minister's approval for allowing the captains to set up canteens for their companies. He had already agreed to allow the Karrer detachment to appoint a vivandier for their troops. [21] Like the French canteens, the tradition of a vivandier particulier to serve the Swiss was an established me, confirmed by ordinance. The vivandiers were permitted to bring into each place only what is necessary for the subsistence of the Swiss therein". " [22] It is interesting that this permission was given in the same letter which announced the departure of Merveilleux, a capitaine-lieutenant, to command the Swiss in Louisbourg. Thus the dispensing of goods to the men would be, as it was to be with the Compagnies Franches, in the hands of a captain. Exactly how the two systems differed is not clear, but there were obviously some similarities. In 1741, for instance, Governor Duquesnel charged that Capitaine-Lieutenant Cailly had taken advantage of his canteen to make enormous profits at the expense of his men. [23]

Merveilleux and Vollant were transferred from Ile Royale to Louisiana in 1731. St. Ovide declared himself deeply sorry to see Merveilleux leave, all the more so because his successor, François Joseph Cailly, had been responsible for the death of the governor's cousin in St. Dominique. The minister assured St. Ovide that Cailly had acted in self defense, the victim of an unprovoked attack, and that none of their family blamed Cailly for the death of Chevalier de Noé. [24]

Vollant's replacement, Sous-Lieutenant Enecker, arrived in Louisbourg some time in 1731 and was able to assist L'Esperance who was suffering from poor health. When Cailly arrived the next year, L'Esperance requested leave to go to France to regain his health. Granted a congé in 1733, he did not return to Louisbourg until 1735. [25] Enseigne Surnuméraire Jean-Francois Rasser was sent to Ile Royale in 1734, and from L'Esperance's return until his death in 1738, the Swiss had four officers in the colony. [26] Enecker and Rasser were granted six months leave in 1739 and 1740 respectively, and during Rasser's absence Cailly had the services of Enseigne Surnuméraire Felbert. Cailly was scheduled to take leave in 1741 and left Louisbourg in the fall, never to return. Felbert left that same year. [27]

Cailly's stay in Louisbourg began and ended on a discordant note. Soon after his arrival Cailly became embroiled with St. Ovide over the style of drumming to be used when a Karrer officer mounted guard. The governor refused to allow the beating of a Swiss march, charging it was contrary to the king's ordinance which required the drums to beat "à la françoise" whenever the guard was mounted in a Place De Guerre. Since Cailly declared that Colonel Karrer forbade him to mount the guard any other way, St. Ovide relieved him of this duty until the issue could be resolved. [28]

The ordinance cited by St. Ovide did provide that the drums beat in the French manner "for all guards mounted in places where there are French corps and companies in garrison with foreign corps and companies, even if the guards are commanded by officers of foreign corps". [29] Despite this, the minister assured Karrer that St. Ovide had no basis for pretending that Swiss drummers ought to beat a French march when they mounted the guard with an officer of their own nation. He ordered the governor to allow Karrer drummers to beat a Swiss march when they mounted guard with a Swiss officer, and St. Ovide promised to comply. The minister further stated that he was displeased with St. Ovide's attitude toward Cailly, intimating that the governor had been looking for trouble when he locked horns with Cailly over this issue.[30]

During the remaining years of St. Ovide's governorship, relations between him and the commander of the Karrer Regiment were good. Cailly, in fact, was given a certificate of good conduct by St. Ovide in 1737 which declared that he always behaved with "wise and highly regulated conduct" performed all his duties with exactitude, and maintained his troops in good discipline. Neither officers nor soldiers, it stated, complained against him. [31]

The only issue to arise during De Forant's brief term as governor was whether or not the Swiss troops should take a turn at the Batterie Royale. Though they had never been posted away from the fortress as a body, Cailly requested that his men be allowed to garrison the Batterie Royale. The French officers opposed this on the grounds that the Swiss should first be made to serve, as the French did, on detachments to the less desirable posts. [32] There is no record of the minister's reply, but the Swiss never did receive a turn at the battery. Without mentioning the Batterie Royale itself, Duquesnel complained in 1741 that although the officers and soldiers of the Karrer Regiment would not accept duty at Port Toulouse, Port Dauphin or Ile St. Jean, Cailly wanted his troops used on the same basis as the French wherever there was money to be made. [33]

The year 1741 proved to be a tumultuous one as far as relations between the French and Swiss at Louisbourg were concerned as Governor Ihxquesnel sparred with two Swiss commanders for the upper hand. Problems developed early in the year when some Karrer soldiers complained to Bigot that Cailly was keeping them in the colony after their engagements had expired. Prevost, écrivain principal, attempted to discuss the subject with Cailly but was told that the commissaire-ordonnateur had no right to receive complaints from the Swiss troops on any subject. Bigot declared this unacceptable since the commissaire-ordonnateur was there to police the troops of the Karrer Regiment as well as those of the Compagnies Franches. If Cailly were upheld, Bigot concluded, his rule over his men would be absolute since their only recourse would be to Colonel Karrer himself, who was too far away to be of immediate help. [34] On this issue the minister assured the governor and commissaire-ordonnateur that their authority extended to all the troops in the garrison equally and that Cailly was exceeding his authority. [35]

In September 1741 the conflict between Duquesnel and Cailly came to a head when one Swiss and two French soldiers were found guilty of desertion and sentenced to be executed. At the conclusion of the French Conseil De Guerre, Duquesnel ordered that all the drummers of the garrison should beat La Générale to assemble the troops to witness the executions. When the major gave the order for the drummers to beat, those of the Karrer detachment refused, saying that they had been forbidden by their commander to do so. On hearing this, Duquesnel sent Jean Chrisostome Loppinot, garçon major, to ask Cailly his reasons for disrupting the scheduled executions. He responded that at the time selected by Duquesnel the Karrer officers were engaged in their own Conseil de Guerre, which had been called to try the Swiss deserters. Cailly maintained that since he had not sought to command the French troops while their commander was engaged in similar proceedings, Duquesnel should not have attempted to command the Swiss while Cailly was so occupied. [36]

Duquesnel expressed astonishment at Cailly's reply, declaring that there could not be two commanders in one place. Whenever a commandant or governor ordered La Générale to assemble the troops, all the drummers -French and foreign - were obliged to beat together. Though Cailly had agreed to send a detachment of 50 men with two officers to watch the execution, he still exhibited an "esprit de révolte' by ignoring a direct order. The next step would be for the commander of the foreign troops to excuse his men from taking up arms altogether. According to Duquesnel, "foreign troops trust henceforth submit to the commandant of the place". When Duquesnel wrote Cailly on the matter, the officer replied that if the French commanders ordered something contrary to the privileges of the Swiss, Cailly would withhold his troops even at the peril of his own life. Consequently, Duquesnel suggested to the minister that since Cailly was going to France on a congé that year, he be chastised and replaced at Louisbourg.[37]

In a separate letter, Duquesnel complained that the Swiss spoke often of their privileges, but he had been given no clear guidelines to follow which outlined exactly what these privileges included. He asked the minister to send him an account of the service of the Karrer troops at Rochefort, though he recognized that there would be differences between the two since Rochefort had an entire corps in garrison and Louisbourg had only a detachment. As an example of the Swiss commander's claims, Duquesnel cited Cailly's insistence that during reviews he was free to order his troops to make movements without the permission of the commandant. If he did ask permission, Cailly had asserted, it was only out of courtesy and not because he was obliged to do so. Cailly also wanted a separate prison for his men for which he would have the only key. He wished as well to have the privilege of making judgments on cases without having to render account on what had been decided. Duquesnel said that he knew the Swiss had their own prison at Rochefort, but this was not possible at Louisbourg. [38]

The minister agreed with Duquesnel that Cailly had gone too far. He wrote Karrer that he would examine any pleas made on behalf of Cailly but noted that Cailly had himself confirmed the accuracy of Duquesnel's allegations in his own letter. The minister stated that the king did not intend that officers of foreign regiments be exempt from obeying governors and commandants of the colonies in which they served. With his letter the minister attached an order for Cailly to retire. [39]

In Cailly's defense, Karrer wrote that the Swiss commander had not been disobedient when he forbade his drummers to sound La Générale, since that was the signal for all the troops to take arms and Cailly had sent only 50 men and two officers to witness the execution. His action had conformed to accepted practice at Rochefort. When there was an execution there, Karmer stated, La Générale was beaten only by the drummers of the French Marine, not by the Swiss because he furnished only a detachment to "prendre exemple" from the execution. It was this practice that Cailly had observed. If he had refused to allow his drummers to beat when the commandant wished all the troops to take arms for some other reason, the colonel continued, Cailly would have been completely wrong, but this had not been the case. [40]

These arguments failed to sway the minister. He wrote that Cailly's disobedience to Duquesnel was too serious to go unpunished. The commander had to serve as an example to other officers of the Karrer Regiment who, under the pretext of protecting their privileges, believed themselves to be independent of the governors of colonies in respect to several important articles of service. The minister directed Colonel Karrer to "see to it that none of the officers fails to show the required submissiveness to these governors." [41]

Cailly was to have been broken in rank and forced to retire. However, on pleas from his family the minister persuaded the king to grant him a more honorable "ordre de retraite." [42] Madame Cailly appealed to Duquesnel on her husband's behalf, assuring him that Cailly had seen the error of his ways. Duquesnel wrote the minister that it pained him to see Cailly's wife and children suffer as a result of his complaints. He asked, therefore, that Cailly be permitted to remain in the service, but prohibited from returning to Ile Royale. This, he felt, would be sufficient punishment and would serve as an example to others. [43] As a result of the commandant's petitions the king decided to allow Cailly to re-enter the Swiss regiment when the occasion presented itself, but he was never to return to Ile Royale. [44]

The controversy within the colony did not cease when Cailly sailed for France. Arrangements had been made for an additional 50 Karrer troops to be sent to the colony, bringing the detachment to 150 men. As with the increase in size of the Compagnies Franches, this contingent of Swiss was only to be temporary. They were to return to France when the threat of war had passed. Sailing with these men for Ile Royale was Lieutenant Gabriel Schonherr who, due to Cailly's misfortune, soon found himself in permanent charge of the Swiss troops in the colony and promoted to the rank of capitaine-lieutenant. [45]

No sooner had Cailly embarked for France when Schonherr clashed with Duquesnel over the question of whether or not a Swiss sergeant was to go every night, along with the French sergeants, to report to the corps de garde on the state of the troops. Duquesnel argued that not only did this custom, which had been in practice before his arrival, allow the major to keep informed of the state of the whole garrison as he made his ronde major, but it was also routine in all Places De Guerre. What particularly irritated Duquesnel was Schonherr's failure to discuss this matter with him before issuing orders to his sergeants to disobey the major. Even if one of their privileges were involved, Duquesnel argued, the commandant should have been consulted before any action was taken. Schonherr's failure to do so fostered a spirit of revolt among his men by encouraging their disobedience. Furthermore, Duquesnel reported, Schonherr did not want the major to visit the Swiss' barracks rooms, even though such visits were specified in an ordinance of the king of August 1706 as part of a major's duties in all places. Lastly, the Karrer commander claimed that at Rochefort the Swiss soldiers were able to sleep outside their quarters without the permission of the commandant. If this were allowed at Louisbourg, Duquesnel contended, absent troops would not be able to be rounded up when needed. [46]

It seemed to Duquesnel that the Swiss officers wished totally to "avoid the obedience" that they owed the commandant, who alone was "to perform the duties [of his position], execute the King's orders by following the ordinances to the letter, and maintain order and the police" so as to be able at all times to render a good account to the king on the command entrusted to him. The Swiss frequently cited what was done at Rochefort, Duquesnel continued, but Louisbourg was not Rochefort which had within it the main body of troops and a complete état major. There was no full état major at Louisbourg, only one commander to whom the whole garrison was subordinate. As commandant, Duquesnel said, he knew his "rôle et ses devoirs" as well as all that was necessary for the security and good order of the place. If governors and commandants were not able to exercise their authority it would be useless for the king to appoint them. [47]

Finally, in an effort to provide some guidelines, Maurepas wrote that the commandant of a Place De Guerre had the right to order all "that is related to the King's service, to the discipline of the garrison, to the security of the place", and he ought to be informed of all that happens relative to these things. It was not proper, therefore, for Karrer's officers to claim that their men could sleep outside the barracks without the commandant's permission, or that the major should be prevented from visiting the men's quarters. Nor could Schonherr refuse to send a sergeant to report nightly to the major, so that he in turn might report to the commandant. The authority of governors and commandants ought to extend to all troops who composed the garrison, while leaving foreign regiments the right to exercise their "justice particulier". [48] Two other Swiss complaints - that the major imprisoned Swiss soldiers found out after retreat and that he "prescribe the battle order for the Swiss when the whole garrison takes up arms" - were also decided in favor of the colony's officers. In his only concession to the Swiss, the minister told Duquesnel to confer with Bigot on possible locations for a Swiss prism. [49] Colonel Karrer was told that the pretensions of his officers were directly contrary to established rules and customs, and he was to see to it that no further problems developed along these lines. [50]

Whatever reason the Swiss officers had for attempting to assert their independence of the commandant, Duquesnel was within his rights to protest their claims. An ordinance of 1721 declared that the officers and soldiers of the Karrer Regiment were subordinate to the governors, commandants and "autres officiers majors" where they were in garrison and where there were also French troops stationed. [51] There were few staff officers at Louisbourg and consequently military authority was concentrated in the hands of the governor or commandant whose position was further strengthened by the fact that distance allowed no immediate recourse to higher authority. Despite its simplified organizational. set-up, the Fortress of Louisbourg was still to be governed by the rules and customs established for Places De Guerre. What Cailly and Schonherr attempted not only threatened the personal authority of the commandant, but also disregarded principles by which a place such as Louisbourg was to be run.

It is not known how strictly the practices challenged by Cailly and Schonherr had been carried out prior to Duquesnelts arrival, but he did have the right to enforce the various regulations. It is possible that his motives were, at least in part, personal. The size of the Karrer detachment and its unique status gave the Swiss commanders considerably more authority than was enjoyed by the Compagnies Franches captains. However, as capitaines-lieutenants, Cailly and Schonherr ranked after all the French capitaines en pied. It would have been natural for Duquesnel to resent any effort by Cailly or Schonherr to place themselves on a par with him.

The precise nature of the privileges of the Karrer Regiment is hard to determine, but generally they involved the internal administration of the regiment and the administration of justice. They did not affect the functioning of the unit within the garrison as a whole. For the minister to have supported the Swiss officers would have put a substantial percentage one fifth to one quarter - of the total garrison outside the effective control of the commandant. Military discipline may not have been strong at Louisbourg, but some sense of order had to be maintained.

Perhaps influenced by the disputes of the previous years, the minister ruled in 1742 against the Karrer detachment even on the question of their right to trial by their own officers. Reversing his 1728 decision, Maurepas declared that it was proper for Karrer soldiers accused of crimes against inhabitants to be tried by the "juges Ordinaires" since they do not "submit the King's subjects to their particular form of justice." [52] However, when three Swiss soldiers were charged with stealing cod from an inhabitant, Commissaire-Ordonnateur Bigot reported that he had turned the men over to their officers for trial. Acknowledging that the latter did tend to treat their troops with leniency when civil matters were at stake, Bigot nonetheless had succumbed to their commander's pleas that Colonel Karrer would hold him responsible "if he turned them over to the ordinary court". Bigot asked the minister to re-state his orders that in the future civil cases involving Karrer soldiers might be tried according to the ordinances by the "juges ordinaires ." In reply Maurepas instructed the commissaire-ordonnateur to decide with the commandant which cases should be handed over to the Conseil Supérieur for trial. All others were to be tried by the officers of the Karrer Regiment, provided they observed "borne justice" at all times . [53]

By November 1743 Duquesnel's differences with Schonherr appear to have been resolved, as he wrote the minister that he was very pleased with the Karrer commander. [54] The following spring Maurepas asked Colonel Karrer to extend the stay of the additional 50 men at Louisbourg. Conditions which necessitated their being sent in 1741 were even more pressing, the minister stated. He promised that the men would be returned to France as soon as circumstances permitted. [55] Unaware of the mutiny which had occurred at Louisbourg in December 1744, the minister wrote Karrer in April 1745 agreeing to Schonherr's rival from Ile Royale for reasons of health and reiterating his opposition to the reappointment of Cailly to the colony. [56]

On hearing of the mutiny the minister ordered the Karrer Regiment to be removed from Ile Royale immediately. The resulting shortage in numbers were to be temporarily filled by the crews of the Castor and the Vigilant which were being sent to Louisbourg. [57] The fall of the fortress to the New Englanders in the spring of 1745 was seen by Maurepas as being the fault of the Swiss. He believed that they were responsible for the mutiny, an event which had convinced the enemy to attack. Though they fought well once the place was besieged, military discipline dictated that they be punished. [58]


The first detachment of 50 Karrer soldiers to arrive in Louisbourg in 1722 were to be used solely for work on the fortifications. Accordingly, Karrer was instructed by the Minister of the Marine to send only the strongest, most robust men. [59] When Karrer wrote that most of his men, having suffered through an unpleasant year in Louisiana, did not want to remain in garrison in the colonies, the minister reminded him that it was largely for this kind of duty that his regiment was intended, and that he should select his recruits with this in mind. [60] The term of enlistment for this first contingent, however, was only three years, so they were not due to remain in the Ile Royale garrison for long in any event. [61]

Unlike the soldiers sent to the colony in the early 1720s who worked at Louisbourg during the summer months but returned to France in the fall, the Karrer troops were to serve on the same basis as the permanent Compagnies Franches soldiers. [62] Consequently, their lodging, rations, hospital care, lead and powder for hunting, as well as their general responsibilities were to be the same as those of the Compagnies Franches. The Swiss, like the French soldiers, were free to bargain with the entrepreneur for their wages, but the terms of their military pay differed from their French counterparts. Colonel Karrer was permitted to make whatever contract he deemed suitable with his men. He received the total sum - 16 livres per month per man - for their upkeep at Rochefort, and forwarded the soldiers' portion to his senior officer in the colony for distribution to the men. Exactly has much money per soldier was sent to the colony is not known. The governor and commissaire-ordonnateur were expressly forbidden to interfere with this process. [63]

Besides having access to the soldiers' military pay, the Karrer officers were apparently also receiving their construction wages from the entrepreneur. In 1727, after attempting for several years to convince the minister to allow Compagnies Franches officers to be present when the entrepreneur paid their men, Governor St. Ovide declared that this was the practice of the Swiss, and as a result their men were always well equipped. The French, on the other hand, received only part of what they required from their captains. The remainder was acquired from the entrepreneur, who did not provide them with quality goods. [64]

Aside from officers, non-commissioned officers and drummers, the Karrer detachment probably contributed few soldiers to the guard of the place. Whenever possible Karrer sent men with needed trades to the colony, and the Swiss generally were there as workers. [65] A September 1724 list of workers employed at Louisbourg includes only 62 Swiss out of 100. However, the rest of the detachment may have been employed outside the town gathering materials. [66]

Three years later there were some Swiss soldiers doing guard duty at Louisbourg because Colonel Karrer received complaints from his men that they were made to perform jobs following their tour of duty without pay, for which the Compagnies Franches soldiers were paid. St. Ovide assured the minister that at issue were only the "works which are useful in all fortified places where there is a garrison". Soldiers coming off guard duty would spend three or four hours on work details "whenever there is something to do in the King's storehouses, or cleaning the places or doing other small tasks for the good of the service". No soldier - French or Swiss - received payment for these works, the governor stated. [67] Apparently satisfied with St. Ovide's explanation, the minister wrote to Karrer that if this were all that was involved his soldiers had no basis for complaint since they were not asked to do anything not also required of the French. [68] In 1730 it was noted that there were 100 Swiss in the Louisbourg garrison, all of whom were employed on the fortifications. [69] As there are no other references to Karrer soldiers mounting guard it is impossible to determine what proportion did so.

An ordinance of the king issued in June 1725 gave the French troops in Ile Royale the right to a full discharge, provided they would settle in the colony. Land and three years rations were to be furnished to enable them to establish themselves. [70] This offer was extended to include, annually, two Catholic soldiers from the Karrer Regiment. However, while the French could use this proposition as a means of shortening their term of service, the Swiss dial not become eligible until their engagement in the colony had expired. Since the Karrer soldiers were all in Ile Royale on limited engagements, this was not unreasonable. Land not properly cleared during the first three years was to return to the king. The Swiss who accepted this settlement offer were to be counted as present at reviews during these three years so that they might continue to receive the solde and provisions of active soldiers from their colonel. They were forced, however, to surrender their right to one of the articles of agreement governing the Karrer Regiment's service with the king. Those who took advantage of the 1725 ordinance were no longer eligible to claim the 100 livres offered in the agreement to those who wished to marry and establish themselves in the colony following the expiration of their engagements. [71]

The ordinance also provided that any Karrer soldier who accepted this offer but failed, during the first three years, to live up to its provisions, would be "obliged to continue serving in the detachment for the rest of their days, and could only be released on grounds of invalidity ..." They had to agree to this condition at the time the concession was accorded them. [72] There is no indication that a similar provision was attached to the acceptance by Compagnies Franches soldiers. Officials in Ile Royale declared that most of the latter group who accepted the free land had done so only for the discharge and free rations, doing little or nothing to establish themselves in the colony. They made no mention of any of these men having been taken back into the ccmpanies.

The existence of such a condition for the Swiss makes it easy to, see why they did not flock to accept. Once their engagements expired they had little to gain by settling unless they were certain they wished to remain in the colony. For should they fail or become disenchanted during the required three years, they exposed themselves to perpetual servitude. A French soldier, on the other hand, serving an unlimited engagement had nothing to lose, even if this provision had applied to him. If he failed during his first three years he would be no worse off than he had been before.

In spite of this provision the minister felt that the ordinance would serve as an inducement for men to enlist in the Karrer Regiment. When, by November 1726, no Swiss and few French had accepted the offer, he became concerned that the Karrer officers were discouraging their men from settling. It was his opinion that the money to be earned on the fortifications was the reason more soldiers had not chosen to establish themselves in the colony. [73] St. Ovide and De Mézy claimed that Swiss soldiers were hindered from settling by fear of not receiving all that was due them from Colonel Karrer at Rochefort. Consequently, the minister promised that he would see that the men received all that was coning to them. A few Swiss did elect to establish themselves, but all appear to have settled in Louisbourg to pursue a trade rather than to become farnmers. [74]

In 1726 Colonel Karrer informed the minister that henceforth only those with six year engagements would be sent to Ile Royale. Since this involved a considerable saving in transportation costs, the decision was well received. [75] With all engagements being for limited periods, the Swiss did not gain discharge through seniority or old age. Yet the hard work they were called upon to do did result in some being retired due to disability. [76] When a Swiss sergeant, Bastien, received a congé as a result of his infirmities in 1733, he was granted a demi-solde of 12 livres 10 sols per month to begin the day of his arrival at La Rochelle, where he was to reside. [77]

How members of the Karrer Regiment received their pensions depended on their nationality. The Swiss were paid a demi-solde upon presentation of a "certificat de vie," signed by the baillifs of the cantons in which they resided, with the money being distributed by order of the French Ambassador to Switzerland. Natives of Alsace also were given half-pay after presenting "certificates of judges or officers of the town" where they lived. The funds were paid by the trésorier de l'extraordinaire des guerres by order of the intendant of the province. Germans, on the other hand, did not receive a demi-solde, but were granted instead a gratuity of from 150 to 200 livres according to the location of their homes. [78]

Because the Karrer Regiment controlled its own judicial proceedings, there are few trials involving Swiss soldiers in the French court records. Since these records are such an important source of information on the daily life of Louisbourg residents, their almost total absence for the Karrer soldiers is unfortunate, making it difficult to assess the full extent of their contact with French soldiers and civilians. Most of them probably remained in the colony for too short a period to develop many ties. However, while they likely maintained their own identity and associated primarily with those of their own nationality (particularly those who did not speak French), the Karrer soldiers were certainly not isolated from the French troops or inhabitants of the town. There seems to have been a tendency for workers - Karrer, Compagnies Franches and civilian - to socialize with each other. Swiss guards would have spent much time in the company of French soldiers. Catholic Swiss and French troops worshipped together, and the two groups undoubtedly drank together. In one of the few trials to contain references to the Swiss, a French soldier accused of theft declared that he had used some of the stolen money to drink  "chez un Suisse" and some to pay a Swiss drummer for his laundry. [79]

One Swiss sergeant, Judocus Koller, remained in Ile Royale for at least 21 years. In 1729 he married Marie Auger, daughter of Julien Auger dit Grandchamp, after having fathered another woman's child the previous year. The list of godparents for Koller's children reflects his movement into the French community, and also presents an interesting mixture of social classes. The godfathers for his six children included a Swiss sergeant, three French merchants, a French officer and a French cadet, while among the godmothers were the wives of a master carpenter, a geographer, a Swiss sergeant, a conseil of the Conseil Supérieur, as well as the daughter of Major De La Vallière.[80]

While it is not known exactly how many of the Karrer soldiers serving in Louisbourg were married, the parish records indicate that those who were had lowered, however slightly, some of the barriers between nationalities and classes. A few Swiss married in Ile Royale, while some brought their wives with them from France. The ordinance, issued in 1720, which outlined "le traittement du Regiment de Karrer" provided that wives and children of its soldiers be permitted to follow their husbands to their place of garrison and that 5 sols be paid per day for each wife and child. Those wives who accompanied their husbands to Ile Royale were accorded a "gratification ordinaire" of 45 livres in addition to their passage. [81]

In 1732 André Koch dit Bellaire, a Swiss sergeant, married Marie Charlotte Feret, a native of Quebec. The godparents for two of their children were a French sergeant and a governess, and Baron De L'Esperance and Jeanne Duchambon, the major's daughter. Following her husband's death Marie had a child by a French soldier of Rousseau De Souvigny's many. Godparents for this child were a Swiss corporal and the wife of a Swiss sergeant. [82] This crossing of national and class lines did not just occur in cases where the marriage took place in Louisbourg. For example, a German-born Karrer soldier whose wife had come with him to the colony, had as godparents for one of their children, Enseigne Surnuméraire Vollant and Anne Benoist, wife of a French lieutenant. [83]

Members of the Karrer Regiment also seem to have had contact with their Ccmpagnies Franches counterparts through real estate transactions. In November 1726 a Karrer soldier, Francois De Montant dit L'Allemand, sold a property he had owned for four years to Sergeant Jean Le Lièvre dit Villeneuve of the Compagnies Franches. A mason by profession, De Montant had received the property in 1722 as a concession from the governor and commissaire-ordonnateur. Le Lièvre was to pay 300 livres of the 500 livres purchase price to De Montant immediately, while the remaining 200 livres were to be paid to Capitaine-Lieutenant Merveilleux the next year in payment for some outstanding debts. In all probability De Montant had completed his tour of duty in the colony and was going home. An inventory of the contents of the house which were included in the sale lists numerous pieces of furniture, several tools, and various household articles, as well as a set of ninepins with its ball. [84]

Le Lièvre did not live in the house which he purchased from De Montant. It was leased to the Veuve Cantois for a yearly rent of 150 livres. When Le Lièvre sold the property to another Swiss soldier, Lucas Linte, in 1727 for 800 livres, it was agreed that the widow should be permitted to continue living in the house. [85] Linte kept the property only a month before selling it to two fellow Karrer soldiers, André Anger and Jacob Christ. While Linte appears to have lost money in this transaction, since he received only 600 livres from Anger and Christ, he may have more than made up the difference by selling off some of the contents of the house. [86]

Jacob Christ became the sole owner of the property in 1731 when Anger bequeathed it to him on his death. In addition Anger left an estate of over 800 livres. His will provided that:

100 livres be given to the Religious of Charity to pray for his soul;
100 livres be given also the Religious of Charity for the care they had given him in the hospital;
300 livres be given to the Récollet fathers to sing a mass for the repose of his soul and pray for him, his family and his comrades for 10 years;
50 livres be given to Soeur La Conception to pray for the repose of his soul;
50 livres be given to the Sisters for the education of four poor girls for one year;
50 livres be given to Gabriel L'Esperance, son of the Karrer officer;
50 livres be given to Michel Beauguillaume, the Karrer surgeon.

How successful Sergeant Koller, who was asked to execute the provisions of the will, was in carrying out Anger's wishes depended on his success in collecting 700 livres owed to the deceased. [87] Twelve years later, Christ was still in Louisbourg and apparently still owned the property he and Anger had acquired in 1727. [88]

For each 50 men in the Karrer detachment there were supposed to be two sergeants. Essential as a sergeant was in the running of any company, those of the Swiss troops at Louisbourg must have taken on even more importance, especially prior to 1729. During most of their service in Louisbourg the ratio of Swiss soldiers to officers was much higher than in the Compagnies Franches; in the 1720s there were from 33 to 49 men for each Swiss officer as opposed to 20 men for each French officer. Moreover, there does not seem to have been any corporals serving with the Karrer detachment during this period. Only four non-commissioned officers - "sergents et bas officiers" - were listed on the reviews, and these were probably all sergeants. With few officers and no corporals, the Swiss sergeants' duties would have been extensive and his authority considerably greater than was usually the case. This could explain why the two Karrer sergeants who abused a civilian who had disarmed a Swiss soldier in 1727 acted as if they felt they were a law unto themselves. [89]

Although the new capitulation signed by Colonel Karrer and the Minister of the Marine in 1731 called for two sergeants and three corporals for every 50 men, the reviews and a list of the garrison prepared in 1738 indicate that ordinarily there were only two corporals for every 50 Swiss soldiers. [90] The detachment was very much understrength from 1731 to 1741 with an average of 73 men, including officers and noncommissioned officers, instead of the requisite 100. The two extra corporals were most likely thought to be unnecessary. During the 1740s the Swiss detachment was at or near full strength in every respect. [91]

The 1738 garrison list also includes two trabans with the Swiss troops. [92] According to James' Military Dictionary, a traban was "a trusty, brave soldier in the Swiss infantry, whose particular duty was to guard the colours and the captain who led them. He was armed with a sword and halberd, the blade of which was shaped like a pertuisan. He generally wore the colonel's livery and was excused all the duties of a sentry. [93] The 1741 "Renouvellement de Capitulation pour le Regiment Suisse de Karrer" provided for several trebans, four in the colonel's company and two in the detachments maintained in the colonies. [94] None of the reviews, however, show any trabans in the Ile Royale garrison. If they were in the colony they do not appear to have remained long.