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History and Uniform of Le Regiment de La Reine, 1755-1760
by Jack L. Summers and Rene Chartrand

cwm_9.jpg (20936 bytes)
Sergeant of Regiment de la Reine.
(artist: R.J. Marrion - copyright:Canadian War Museum)

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.

HISTORY

A Battalion of the regiment de La Reine formed part of the six battalions of French regular infantry that set out for Canada in 1755. During the voyage from France, four companies of the La Reine and four of the Languedoc were captured when their transport, Ie Lys, was intercepted by the Royal Navy off Newfoundland.

Shortly after their arrival at Quebec, the remaining men of the La Reine battalion were on their way to Lake Champlain to block the British advance. Two companies of the La Reine and two of the Languedoc were engaged in Dieskau's Battle of Lake George. These two regiments shared the distinction of being the first French regulars to be engaged in battle in North America. Although they failed to drive the English provincials from their hastily fortified camp, Dieskau's troops stalled Johnson's advance on Crown Point.

Dieskau's successor, Montcalm, received reports of the British massing troops to attack Fort Ticonderoga, where the battalions of the La Reine and Languedoc regiments had been posted in May 1756. When Montcalm arrived later that summer, he found the construction of a strong fort well advanced and the British in no great haste to move against the position.

Satisfied with the situation at Ticonderoga, Montcalm turned his attention to the Lake Ontario region. He swiftly launched a successful attack on Fort Oswego, thereby securing the western frontier of New France.

The spring of 1758 brought disturbing news to the French: a strong naval force was being assembled in British ports for a strike at Louisbourg or Quebec. The French regulars were. alerted to defend Quebec. In early summer the British fleet anchored at Halifax and was joined by the bulk of the British regulars. Louisbourg was the target. The transfer of local British regulars to Halifax opened the way for a thrust down Lake George, and Montcalm struck quickly.

At Ticonderoga, Montcalm assembled a formidable force of about 7,800 men, including 369 men of the La Reine battalion. By the end of July he was ready to strike. Levis marched overland with a force of 2,500 while Montcalm moved down Lake George by boat with the remaining 5,300 men. On 3 August the opening shots were fired as parties of militia and Indians harried the British outposts.

Johnson's temporary campsite on Lake George had been transformed into the stoutly constructed Fort William Henry. This post blocked the path to Albany and provided the British with a firm base for an attack up Lake Champlain into the heart of New France. Fort William Henry was constructed of embankments of gravel with a superstructure of logs and earth, and was protected by swamps and ditches. It was defended by a garrison of 2,200 men, mere than half of them provincials, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Monro of the 35th of Foot.

Mindful of Dieskau's experience at this very spot, Montcalm decided to undertake a formal siege rather than launch an immediate frontal assault. On the evening of 4 August, the regulars began digging parallels and constructing batteries. Two days later the bombardment began, to the delight of the Indians, who were not needed for their usual scouting and skirmishing assignments and lounged about watching the show.

The soldiers of the La Reine toiled with pick and spade as the trenches grew closer to the fort. They stood their ground, beating off the sorties of the garrison, and firing at the ram-parts to check the fire of the defenders. The siege called for all the craft of regular soldiers, and Montcalm's regulars were trained professionals.

As the intensity of the bombardment increased, so did the toll of garrison casualties, yet they refused all demands for capitulation. Finally, with the walls of the fort breached and their last guns disabled, the British asked for and were granted terms on 9 August. After the fort surrendered, the Indians slipped out of control and killed some 200 unarmed soldiers of the garrison and civilians before Montcalm restored order.

The following year, all the regular battalions, including the La Reine, were posted to the Ticonderoga position to block the British thrust up Lake Champlain. During the British attack on Fort Carillon, the La Reine Battalion was assigned to the right side of the defence perimeter.

The campaign of 1759 saw the French threatened by Wolfe's drive up the St. Lawrence on Quebec, and Amherst's methodical approach to Montreal by way of Lake Champlain. The La Reine battalion formed part of Bourlamaque's force assigned to block the Lake Champlain approaches, and was therefore not present when Montcalm met Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham.

With the fall of Quebec, the La Reine withdrew to the Montreal area, where the French forces regrouped. The battalion accompanied Levis on his march back to Quebec in the spring of 1760, and formed part of the French reserve at the spirited Battle of Sainte-Foy. But the arrival of British reinforcements sealed the fate of New France. On 16 September, eight days after the capitulation of Canada, the La Reine returned to France, after campaigning continuously from 1755 to 1760.

Uniform

The second battalion of the La Reine arrived in Canada in 1755 with the first contingent of French regulars, and was issued uniforms made to Ministry of the Navy specifications. The justaucorps differed from its regulation coat in that it had no collar. No mention is made of pocket details, which normally constituted a regimental distinction. The Canadian-issue waistcoat for the La Reine was red, although their regulation European veste was blue.

The figure in the illustration is a sergeant in Canada after the La Reine returned to full regimentals. The skirts of the greyish-white coat are not hooked up, and the length of this outer garment can be seen clearly. The pocket flaps, set just below the waist, are shield shaped and trimmed with two rows of four buttons set vertically down each side of the flap.

The regiment can be distinguished by the red collar and cuffs, the shape of the pockets, and the pewter buttons. The deep cuffs are trimmed with a row of three large pewter buttons along the edge.

Under the coat, the soldiers of the La Reine worn a long-sleeved blue waistcoat. During the summer, the heavy justaucorps sometimes was set aside, and the neat waistcoat was worn as an outer garment. At other times the waistcoat was removed, and only a shirt was worn under the coat.

Greyish-white knee-length breeches were worn with white or grey stockings and black shoes with metal buckles. White duck gaiters, worn over the stockings and breeches, were buttoned down the outside edge and fastened below the knee with a black leather strap.

The black felt tricorn, decorated with a black cockade and pewter button, was bordered with false-silver tape for the men, and fine silver lace for sergeants and officers.

Officers wore a coat of the same colour and pattern as that of the men, but of superior material and tailoring. Their buttons and metal trimmings were silver instead of pewter. The officer's gorget was gilt, and the waistcoat was trimmed with silver lace according to the taste and pocketbook of the wearer. On active service, dismounted officers exchanged the espontoon for a fusil.

Drummers of the regiment de La Reine normally wore the Queen's livery: red coat with blue cuffs and lining; heavy braid along the front opening edge of the coat, pockets, and cuffs, around the buttonholes, and down the seam lines of the sleeves; and Queen's livery lace a white chain on a blue back-ground down the back of the coat. The long-sleeved blue waistcoat also was trimmed with Queen's livery lace. The body of the drum was red, the counter hoops blue and white.

When the La Reine battalion arrived in Canada in 1755, the drummers were issued blue coats trimmed with the King's livery lace, red waistcoats, and red breeches The drummers black felt tricorns were trimmed with false-gold braid, and their forage caps were white with red flaps.

The plate illustrates a sergeant of the La Reine. His rank is indicated by the silver lace stripe around the top of his coat cuffs. He carries a halberd, with which he can dress the ranks of the company; however, on active service in Canada, the halberd was soon replaced by a musket.

The sergeant's pattern of buff leather sword-belt supporting a brass-hilted sword is clearly shown in the illustration.

Copyright: Canadian War Museum


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