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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

The Administration Of Justice At The Fortress Of Louisbourg (1713-1758)

General Introduction 

Military Crimes and their Prescribed Punishments

At the time of Ile Royale's establishment the ordinances which governed the conduct of soldiers in the service of the king dated, for the most part, to the middle of the l6th century. Reaffirmed in 1651, the ordinances were badly in need of updating when Louis XV issued the "Ordonnance Du Roy Concernant Les Crimes & Délits Militaires" on 1 July 1727. [1] A copy of this ordinance was received in Louisbourg in 1728. St. Ovide and De Mézy reported that it was published at the head of the troops and posted in the corps de garde in Louisbourg and its outposts.[2]

As the ordinance of 1727 contains numerous offences which the troops of the Louisbourg garrison would have had no occasion to commit due to the nature of the establishment and its location, the list below includes only those crimes which the soldiers of Ile Royale could conceivably have committed. This list, moreover, includes only crimes which were considered military matters, such as the failure of a soldier to do his duty or a dispute between two soldiers. Crimes committed by soldiers against the civilian community were not controlled by the military law, but were under the jurisdiction of the juges ordinaires. [3] The punishments stipulated for military crimes were, in many cases, the maximum penalties applicable. Mitigating circumstances could be taken into account. However, some infractions, such as desertion while standing watch, were considered so serious that the punishment would be administered "sans remission."[4]




  • Desertion while on guard duty or in enemy territory 
  • Death without remission
  • Desertion
  • Death, galleys or prison depending on circumstances
  • Inciting desertion
  • Death without remission
  • Failing to stand guard duty on appointed day 
  • Death
  • Failing to respond quickly enough to an alarm
  • Death
  • Insulting or offending one who is on ordinary watch 
  • Death
  • Allowing a prisoner in his care to escape
  • Three years on galleys
  • Leaving a sentry post without permission
  • Death without remission
  • Sleeping while on sentry duty
  • Death or galleys, depending on circumstances
  • Firing a gun or otherwise causing an alarm at night without necessity
  • Wooden horse each day for a month at the hour the guard was mounted
  • Getting drunk on the day due to mount guard
  • Wooden horse each day for a month at the hour the guard was mounted
  • Revealing countersign to enemy or any unauthorized person
  • Hanged or strangled
  • Departing or entering a place under guard except by the usual passages
  • Death
  •  Attacking a soldier on sentry duty
  • Shot
  • Failing, while on guard, to have the proper amount of ammunition and gun charged
  • Prison for one month with one sol per day withheld during that time
  • Leaving guardhouse for any reason while part of guard
  • One month in dungeon
  • Damaging fortification or allowing another to do so while on guard
  • Galleys for life
  • Damaging fortification or stealing palisades while not on guard 
  • Galleys for three years
  •  Inciting mutiny 
  • Hanged and strangled
  • Taking up arms in a city or town under guard
  • lose hand
  • Holding unlawful assemblies
  • Hanged and strangled
  • Uttering words of sedition, mutiny or rebellion
  • Death
  • Failing to report others uttering seditious statements
  • Corporal punishment and death
  • Conspiring against the king, the safety of citizens, places and countries of king's dominion, against governors or commandants or against their officers
  • Broken on wheel
  • Having knowledge of such conspiracies and failing to report them
  • Broken on wheel
  • Sale of His Majesty's goods from magasin
  • Lash and branded with fleur de lis
  • Sale of uniforms or equipment
  • "punition exemplaire"
  • Stealing arms of another
  • Hanged and strangled
  • Stealing clothes, pay, equipment, or bread from those lodged with him in barracks
  • Death or galleys, depending on circumstances
  • Selling powder or lead
  • Wooden horse each day for a fornight at the hour the guard mounted
  • Abusing sergeants verbally 
  • Ask pardon before troops
  • Abusing sergeants physically
  • Death
  • Wounding or killing another soldier
  • Death
  • Injuring honour of another soldier without grounds 
  • Declare his shame before troops
  • Contradicting another without just cause 
  • Public request for pardon
  • Failing to pay lawful debt 
  • "peine arbitraire"
  • Hindering prévost in his duty 
  • Death
  • Hiding or aiding a fugitive
  • Same punishment due to the fugitive
  • Striking or threatening an officer 
  • Hand cut off and hanged
  • Striking a sergeant while on guard 
  • Death
  • Striking a sergeant not on guard 
  • Galleys for life
  • Failing to obey officers in all they order for the service of the king
  • Death
  • Striking a corporal with whom he is on guard, on detachment or on actual service 
  • alleys for life
  • Disobeying sergeants in things concerning service
  • Corporal punishment or death, depending on circumstances
  • Calling on comrades for help during a disturbance 
  • Passed by arms
  • Resisting arrest by lawful agents
  • Death
  • Stealing from a church
  • Hanged and strangled
  • Profaning holy things in course of robbing church
  • Burnt at stake
  • Swearing or blaspheming the name of God, the Blessed Virgin or the Saints 
  • Tongue pierced by hot iron
  • Cheating at gambling
  • Corporal punishment
  • Maintaining lewd women
  • Three months in prison
  • Leaving a place under siege without permission
  • Hanged and strangled
  • Leaving garrison on congé with arms other than swords
  • Passed by baguettes and prison for one month
  • Using false name or place of birth at enlistment
  • Galleys for life

[Endnotes: Military Crimes and their Prescribed Punishments, 1 Côde Militaire, Vol. 1, p. 279*; 2 A.N., Colonies, C11B, Vol. 10, fols. 41-57v., 3 novembre 1728; 3 Côde Militaire, Vol. 1, p. 279; 4 Ibid., pp. 264-78; 279*-94*; D'Haricourt, Elemens De L'Art Militaire, Vol. 2, pp. 156-204; Guignard, L'Ecole De Mars, Vol. 1, pp. 534-56] 

[Source: Margaret Fortier, Fortress Security and Military Justice at Louisbourg, 1720-45, Unpublished Report H E 14 (Fortress of Louisbourg, 1980), pp. 50-53]

General Introduction