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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



As the name suggests the aide-major was to assist the major in carrying out his various duties or to replace him in his absence. He was authorized to perform all the major's tasks, with the exception of commanding in the absence of the governor and lieutenant de roi. [1] At least twice in Louisbourg prior to 1745 the aide-major was instructed to act as major, both times during the majority of Jacques De Pensens. [2] While there are few specific references to the duties of the aide-major in Louisbourg, it does appear that he performed most of the major's chores, including the ronde major. [3] Though by rank a lieutenant or captain, the aide major, like the major, was exempted from guard duty. [4]

Ordinarily in France the aide-major carried the rank of lieutenant, with his seniority dating either from his appointment as aide-major or from his commission as lieutenant, if he had already reached that rank prior to his appointment. [5] Until 1732 Louisbourg's aide-majors were senior lieutenants, but in that year Du Vivier was named capitaine aide-major. [6] Though this would seem to be an acknowledgement of the degree of responsibility which went with the job in the colony, proposals put forth by St. Ovide between 1732 and 1734 for a second aide-major were rejected. The governor, declaring that "the detail is infinitely greater than Monseigneur would know", stressed the need for the creation of this post which necessitated only "a very small increase in expenditure". He offered the name of François Chassin De Thierry to fill the spot, but the minister replied that this would be "useless employment".[7]

The salary received by an aide-major depended on his rank - 1,080 livres for a captain and 720 livres for a lieutenant: He also shared some of the perquisites which belonged to the major, being entitled to one-third of the grass from the glacis, a portion of the quarter share of the canteen profits received by the major, and one-thirtieth of the proceeds from the spoils of war. [8]

A delicate situation arose in Ile Royale in 1741 when the advancement of Villejouin to company captain left vacant the post of aide-major. The lieutenant next in line for promotion was Palude De Tonty, a man whose character was considered questionable and who had even been accused of theft in France. Although he was reluctant to make such a controversial figure an aide major, Maurepas did not want to be too hasty in rejecting him. The principle of promotion by seniority had become firmly established and officers were given every benefit of the doubt, especially if they were from well connected families.[9]

Duquesnel was asked to examine De Tonty's record carefully and give his personal observations to the minister. Both the governor and commissaire-ordonnateur agreed that while De Tonty merited the position by seniority, he was not a good candidate for the job. They recommended that De Tonty's offer to retire at half pay be accepted. Obviously relieved by this solution, the minister granted De Tonty his retraite with the commission of captain, thus providing him with more prestige and money than he would have had by retiring as a lieutenant. He was thereafter carried on the colony's financial accounts as capitaine reformé with a yearly pension of 540 livres, and Georges François Boisberthelot was appointed to the post which had remained vacant for over a year while this problem was sorted out. [10]