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Subject > Armed Forces > Military Life

Date > 1700

Camp of the 43rd Regiment of Foot during the siege of Fort Beauséjour, June 1755

Type: Image

The men of the British 43rd Regiment of Foot were part of a 2,000 strong army under Lietenant-Colonel Robert Monkton that took Fort Beauséjour after a brief siege in the summer of 1755. At left can be seen men of the grenadier company, distinguished by their pointed mitre headdresses. In the centre are ordinary soldiers who have the tricorne hats worn by most of the regiment. The young men to the right are drummers, wearing coats with reversed colours (white with red facings instead of red with white). This was intended to make drummers easy to spot in a fight, which was important, since drum beats were used to give orders. The presence of women and children seem odd in a military encampment, but each British regiment would have a small number of soldiers' families following them on campaign. Reconstruction by Lewis Parker. (Parks Canada)

Site: National Defence

Attempts to Increase Military Strength

Type: Document

Despite their disunity, the staff of New France agreed on one thing - the need for more fighting men to defend the colony. During the winter of 1756-57, Governor Vaudreuil reorganized existing resources, and two more battalions from the French metropolitan army were dispatched.

Site: National Defence

Grenadier of the régiment de Guyenne (left) and a corporal from the régiment de Béarn (right), circa 1756.

Type: Image

These men wear the special Canadian version of their regimental uniform, made to specifications of the Ministère de la Marine (the Ministry of the Navy - responsible for French colonies). At left is a grenadier of the Régiment de Guyenne. His moustache marks him as a member of the elite grenadier company, since other French soldiers of the period had to be cleanshaven. His uniform looks much like the European pattern, save for the lack of collar to his grey-white. The Canadian uniform of the régiment de Béarn showed more changes. It had blue cuffs and waistcoat, pewter buttons, and silver lace - very distinct from the red collar, cuffs and waistcoat, brass buttons, and gold lace worn in Europe. The corporal of the régiment de Béarn (right) wears loops of silver lace on his cuffs as a mark of his rank. Reconstruction by Eugène Lelièpvre. (Parks Canada)

Site: National Defence

Drummer, Compagnies franches de la Marine, New France, 1755-1760

Type: Image

This drummer of the Compagnies franches wears the livery of the king of France, with its distinctive lace - crimson with an embroidered white chain pattern. Drummers were often distinctively dressed to make them easy to spot in the heat of battle. This was because the only practical way of transmitting orders to a large group of men before the perfection of portable radios was by means of distinctive drum beats. Officers had to be able to find a drummer quickly, even in a confused mass of soldiers, hence the special uniform. Reconstruction by Eugène Lelièpvre. (Parks Canada)

Site: National Defence

Compagnies franches de la Marine (Warships)

Type: Document

The names of troops raised by the French Ministry of Marine often confuse people. There were separate units of Compagnies franches de la Marine to serve aboard warships. These troops had nothing to do with the Compagnies franches found in Canada.

Site: National Defence

Corruption Causes Hardship

Type: Document

In 1756, the graft of Canadian-born François Bigot, Intendant (and chief financial minister of New France) made a bad situation worse. His theft and corruption led to rampant inflation in New France, which impoverished many officers, particularly the French-born ones without local incomes.

Site: National Defence

Drummer, Primera Compañía franca de Voluntarios de Cataluña at Nootka, 1790-1794

Type: Image

There were two drummers on the strength of the Primera Compañía franca de Voluntarios de Cataluña (or '1st independent company of Catalonian volunteers'). This unit of the Spanish colonial army supplied the original garrison at Nootka. After 1760, Spanish army drummers wore the livery of the King of Spain - a blue coat with scarlet collar and cuffs, along with a scarlet waistcoat. Both coat and waistcoat were trimmed with scarlet lace that was embroidered with a white chain pattern. This same pattern of lace had decorated French uniforms before the French Revolution in 1789. The Bourbon kings of Spain were a branch of the French royal family, and adopted a similar livery. Reconstruction by David Rickman. (Parks Canada)

Site: National Defence

Lieutenant Esteban José Martínez Fernández y Martínez de la Sierra, Marina real, circa 1785

Type: Image

Martínez (1742-1798), shown here in the full dress uniform of a lieutenant in the Marina real (the Spanish navy) was a key figure in the Spanish exploration of the northwest coast of America. In 1774, he was second in command of the Spanish frigate Santiago, which made the first recorded contact with the Haida in the Queen Charlotte Archipelago. In 1790, Martínez was the officer who almost sent Spain and Great Britain to war with his conduct during the diplomatic standoff at Nootka. (Museo Naval, Madrid)

Site: National Defence

Soldiers, French régiment de la Reine and régiment de Languedoc, circa 1756

Type: Image

These French soldiers of the régiment de La Reine (left) and régiment de Languedoc (right) wear a special Canadian version of their regimental uniform. When units of the troupes de la Terre (the French metropolitan army) were sent to New France in 1755, they were issued with uniforms more suitable for colonial service, made to specifications from the Ministère de la Marine (the Ministry of the Navy - responsible for French colonies). In this illustration, both men wear their grey-white coats (made without collars for Canada), but it was expected that when in the field, these would be left behind and only the waistcoat would be worn. For La Reine, the use of red waistcoats (as opposed to the blue used in Europe) was one of the obvious distinctions seen in the Canadian uniform. Languedoc's uniforms were identical in colour to their normal European pattern. Reconstruction by Eugène Lelièpvre. (Parks Canada)

Site: National Defence

Military Costumes

Type: Document

This section is a collection of surviving artifacts and period artists' illustrations. Illustrated are uniform coats of officers or enlisted men from a variety of Canadian and British units that served in present-day Canada during the period 1780-1870.

Site: National Defence