The Plaisance Garrison
There was not a single governor of Plaisance who did not complain about the lack of soldiers and
the mediocrity of those he did have. There were many desertions, particularly among recruits sent to
Plaisance forcibly or under false pretenses. The recruits often included dwarfs and disabled persons,
and some could not handle their arms. Most of the men did not want to work on the fortifications.
At the end of 1693 the garrison was made up of about 60 soldiers, rising to 250 by 1711. Governor
Brouillan estimated that the colony needed at least 300 soldiers to ensure an effective defence.
|Sketch of a French Soldier, ca. 1705.
From D.W. Prowse, A History of Newfoundland from the English, Colonial, and
Foreign Records, 2nd edition (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1896) 219.
The civilian inhabitants were little help. They either refused to participate in building
fortifications, or insisted on being compensated. For a number of years, the officers and soldiers
of the garrison had to make do with lodgings constructed from stakes caulked with moss and covered
with tree bark.
| Remains of the Plaisance Garrison.
The image on the left is of the restored powder magazine at the garrison.
That on the right is of the fireplace in the soldiers' guardroom.
Both photos by Edward Power. Reproduced by permission of Department of Education,
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador ©1982.
The arrival of Governor Daniel Auger de Subercase in 1702 was beneficial. By giving seniority leave,
he got rid of the undisciplined soldiers, and a grievance was removed when soldiers were supplied
with free uniforms. The garrison was reinforced with Mi'kmaq, and privateers provided some defence
Military Complement at Plaisance (soldiers only), 1663-1711
|1663 ||20|| ||1698 ||129
|1667 ||150|| ||1700 ||78
|1687 ||25|| ||1701 ||79
|1692 ||40|| ||1702 ||150
|1693 ||60|| ||1704 ||150
|1694 ||100|| ||1709 ||200
|1695 ||120|| ||1711 ||250
|1696 ||150|| || ||
[Figures derived from Jean-Pierre Proulx, Histoire militaire de Plaisance (1979)]
Privateers, sometimes known as freebooters, pursued enemy shipping from 1692 onwards. They were
active only during time of war, and were subject to royal authority. Privateer captains had to
declare their prizes and share their spoils with the shipowners, their crews and the government.
Together with the merchant marine officers, the shipowners, the administrators and the royal
officers, the privateers were part of a small socio-political elite. Despite its small size, the
Plaisance elite produced outstanding privateers, the brothers Joannis, Jacques and Michel
Daccarette, as well as Jean-Baptiste Rodrigue, being excellent examples. Plaisance privateers
captured 63 vessels during the wars with England.
||Gravestone of a Basque Privateer:
Photo courtesy of John de Visser. Taken from Harold Horwood and John de Visser,
Historic Newfoundland (Toronto: Oxford University Press, ©1986).
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© 2000, Nicolas Landry