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History and Uniform of Le Regiment
de Berry, 1757-1760
The following is an extract from the book Military Uniforms in Canada, 1665-1970 by Jack L. Summers and Rene Chartrand (Ottawa: Canadian War Museum, 1981) and is reproduced here by the kind permission of the Canadian War Museum. Reprinting or duplication of the text or illustration without permission from the Canadian War Museum is prohibited.
By the end of the 1756 campaign season, it was apparent that the British had increased the number of their regular battalions in North America. It was equally obvious that only a larger force of French regular infantry could contain the British strength. The Governor appealed to France for more regular soldiers and, in 1757, two more understrength battalions of French regulars and some colonial regulars were ordered to sail for Canada.
The regular French infantry sent to Canada that year was the 2nd and 3rd battalions of the regiment de Berry. Originally, they were to be sent to Louisbourg; however, plans were altered and both battalions landed at Quebec at the end of July. Each battalion "'as composed of only nine companies of three officers and sixty other ranks.
The arrival of the regiment de Berry brought to eight the number of Montcalm's regular battalions. Around these regular soldiers Montcalm built his formidable strike forces, in which the French regulars were supported by Canadien militia, colonial regulars, and Indians. The militia, citizens called out for service for the duration of a campaign1 made excellent light troops for scouting, skirmishing, and harassing the enemy. The colonial regulars of the Compagnies franches de la marine combined experience in fast-moving forest warfare with some of the discipline of regulars.
The Indian allies of the French were demanding, trouble-some, and totally unpredictable; but their service in providing information about the enemy was vital to Montcalm. Their skill in scouting the Canadian forest country was equaled only by the French coureurs des bois. They were also a means of spreading terror, for the fear of falling into their clutches caused the enemy to withdraw from strong positions on more than one occasion.
Montcalm was able to combine the regulars, militia, and Indians to utilize their respective strengths; but it was the regulars who had the capability of eradicating the forts of the enemy almost at will. The speed with which Oswego and Fort William Henry were reduced by the French was possible only because of the regulars' skill in siege warfare.
The first major test of battle in America for the Berry battalions was the defence of Ticonderoga in 1758. While the British were preparing to embark on Lake George, Montcalm manoeuvred his force around the Ticonderoga area, uncertain of where to face the British advance. The regiment de Berry, positioned on the Ticonderoga feature, was ordered on 5 July to begin construction of a breastwork and abatis on the ridge of high ground in front of Fort Carillon.
Two days later, Montcalm's entire force withdrew to Ticonderoga and completed the work that the Berry battalions had begun. When the French took up their battle positions, the 2nd Berry was posted with the Royal-Roussillon in the centre, under the direct command of Montcalm. The 3rd Berry, under Lieutenant-Colonel de Travis, formed the garrison of Fort Carillon.
In the spring of 1759, the French were faced with a British advance from the south by way of Lake Champlain as well as Wolfe's direct approach on Quebec. Bourlamaque and a force of three battalions, which included both battalions of the regiment de Berry, were ordered to Fort Carillon with instructions to defend the position as long as possible. If forced out, they were to withdraw to Isle-aux-Noix, at the outlet of Lake Champlain.
On 23 July Amherst moved in on the Ticonderoga position and discovered that Bourlamaque had withdrawn, leaving a garrison of only 400 men in Fort Carillon. After a brisk exchange of artillery fire, the French withdrew during the night of 26 July, after setting the fort on fire.
Bourlamaque blew up Fort St-Frederic and withdrew directly to a strong defensive position on Isle-aux-Noix., where the two battalions of the rigiment de Berry were stationed when Montcalm faced Wolfe's army on the Plains of Abraham.
Levis gathered all the regular battalions, including those of Berry, to form the nucleus of a strike force for a return to Quebec early in the spring of 1760. Both Berry battalions fought in the ensuing successful action at Sainte-Foy.
With the arrival of the British fleet, the siege of Quebec was abandoned, and the French withdrew gradually to the Montreal area. The British closed in from the east, south, and west; and by 7 September the combined British force of 17,000 men stood before Montreal.
All that remained of Montcalm's proud and efficient little army was about 2,000 French and colonial regulars: the militia had deserted and returned to their homes; the Indians had melted into the forests.
The French regulars stood alone. They had fought until the last hope of victory was extinguished. France had lost Canada, but the French regular regiments had done all that might have been expected of them and more. Their only course was capitulation.
But Amherst's terms were harsh: there would be no honours of war for the valiant regulars. Levis protested vehemently, but Amherst was inflexible. Atrocities committed by Indian allies of the French had strengthened his resolve.
A soldier to the end, Levis ordered his regiments to burn their colours to spare them "the hard conditions of handing them over to the enemy." Then the troops of these fine regiments assembled in the Place d'Armes and laid down their weapons after five years of continuous fighting.
The two battalions of the regiment de Berry that arrived in Canada in 1757 were issued standard regular infantry regimental dress. Private soldiers wore the heavy greyish-white single-breasted wool coat so characteristic of the French infantry of the period. The deep cuffs and the small collar, which could be worn turned up or down were red. The cuffs were trimmed with a row of five large brass buttons along the edge. The skirt pockets had double vertical three-pointed flaps with a large brass button at each point. The design of these pockets can be seen in the illustration.
The sleeved, collarless waistcoat worn under the justaucorps was red with a double row of brass buttons. Reaching well down the thigh, it made a serviceable jacket for outer wear in undress or on campaign in warm weather. The black felt cocked hat was edged with false-gold braid.
Breeches were of greyish-white wool and worn with white or grey stockings and buckled shoes. Thigh-length white gaiters were worn on campaign and on formal parades. As clothing wore out during the campaigns, Indian leggings (mitasses) were adopted by the soldiers; these proved most practical in the Canadian woods.
White shirts and black cravats were issued to the soldiers of Berry to complete their dress.
Sergeants wore a uniform similar to that of the men. Fine gold lace on the hat, gilt coat buttons, and a band of fine gold lace around the top of the coat cuffs designated the sergeants rank. A brass-hilted sword was suspended from a buff leather sword-belt.
The men were equipped with buff leather waist-belts holding sword and bayonet scabbards; but the sword was soon found to be useless for Canadian forest warfare, and it was replaced by an axe or hatchet. The cartridge pouch was slung on the right hip from a buff leather cross-belt.
The plate illustrates an officer of the regiment de Berry. His justaucorps is of the same pattern and colour as that of his men1 but is of finer material and better cut. His buttons are gilt and his hat brim is edged with fine gold lace. The gold lace on his sleeved waistcoat can be seen on the corner of the skirt.
The officer wears regulation greyish-white breeches, although on actual service these were sometimes replaced by hard-wearing yet comfortable velvet breeches. The usual white gaiters have been discarded in favour of a pair of officers' black leather campaign leggings, fastened up the outside with straps and brass buckles.
The buff leather sword-belt is worn over the coat to support the straight brass-hilted sword. A pistol is also attached to the sword-belt. Many officers carried light muskets and regulation cartridge pouches on campaign, but the officer in the illustration would have his hands full with the colours. Although his powdered hair seems somewhat out of place for a campaign, some authoritative illustrations of the period show officers on campaign wearing similar hair styles.
The officer carries the regimental colour, which was the same for each battalion within a regiment. The colours of all French line regiments in Canada were of the same basic pattern.- a square field with a white cross dividing the colour into quarters. The four quarters of the Berry colour were identical, each containing one violet, one buff, and a second violet horizontal stripe. In the case of the regiment de Languedoc, the first and third quarters were violet, and the second and fourth brown. The Royal-Roussillon colour used another variation of the basic pattern with a white cross covered with golden fleurs-de-lis, and quarterings of royal blue, scarlet, green, and brown. The colour staff has a gilded brass head, and is decorated with a white silk scarf and cords of either the colour of the quarters or gold.
Copyright: Canadian War Museum