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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


Extracts of Matters of Historical Interest from "The Huissier, News For and About the Fortress of Louisbourg Heritage Presentation Staff" By The Fortress of Louisbourg Heritage Presentation Staff


(July 7, 2004)

Notes on the Karrer Detachement at Louisbourg By B.A. Balcom, August 2001

What was the Karrer Regiment?

The Karrer Regiment was a regiment raised in 1719 by François Adam Karrer for service with the French army (troupes de terre). Two years later it was transferred to the Ministry of the Navy for service in the colonies and seaports of France. In 1736, Louis-Ignace Karrer succeeded his father as colonel of the regiment, until his death in 1752. At that time, Jean-François-Joseph, chevalier de Hallwyl became colonel and the unit was known as the "régiment de Hallwyl" until disbanded in 1763.

Although considered a "Swiss" regiment, Karrer could recruit from an area beyond the confines of Switzerland. In 1723, the approved recruits for the regiment included Swiss, Germans, Danes, subjects of German Lorraine and the principality of Montebelliard. There were occasional complaints that recruits from outside these groups had also been accepted.

Where did the Karrer Regiment serve?

The Colonel's company remained headquartered at Rochefort. In addition to the detachment at Louisbourg, members of the regiment served at Martinique, Saint-Dominique, Louisiane and on board naval vessels as Marines.

Were they "foreign" soldiers or mercenaries?

In the 18th century, "foreign" soldiers, such as those of the Karrer regiment, did not have the same degree of negative connotation that mercenary has today. Old feudal concepts of citizenship based on fealty, rather than language or culture, still held sway. Britain's preference for the German, but Protestant, Hanoverian dynasty rather than the more British, but Catholic, House of Stuart illustrates the complexities of nationalism.

In 1741, 22 of France's 122 infantry regiments were "foreign" (étranger) and included Swiss, Irish, Germans, and Italians. Swiss regiments were the most numerous with nine. While their "foreigness" undoubtedly excited comment among the French population, benefits were seen to such recruits. As Marechal Saxe remarked, a foreign recruit was equal to three, for in addition to filling his own place in the ranks, he freed a subject for the kingdom's economy, and denied a potential recruit to the enemy.

Did Karrer soldiers serve in daily guards?

While the Karrer detachment was not in the rotation for detached service in the colony's outposts, including the Royal Battery, they did serve in the town's daily guards. There is no evidence that the Karrer soldiers were grouped in separate guards. As officers chose their particular guardhouse by lot, Swiss soldiers, officers and drummers might have all served in different guards.