Canadian Besner Family of French Origins

Documentation on the departure from the Island of Ré

Mrs. Marie-Renée Colin, née Bézanère, has shared with us her findings from the National Archives of France, in the department of the Rochefort Marines, reference 1 E 149 and 150.

The recruit boarding list from which the ancestor of French Canadian Besner family was part of, was signed by a Mr. Gignoux. He was an infantry lieutenant colonel, whose responsibility was to organize the recruitment of the troops for the colonies. A letter addressed to him, dated June 17th 1751, tells us the details on the responsibilities of his task. This letter designated him for the "operations of which you are charged for the colony recruits...commandment of the king who appoints you to collect them (the recruits) and to take command of them with instructions that I have also sent you on the conduct that you will have to maintain on these two items. I still have to explain to you what you will have to do to put yourself in a good work state in the collection of the recruits...assembled at the Island of Ré...reports to you for the choice of both the subjects and for the two officers that could be helpful to you on the Island of Ré for the discipline and training of the recruits, convinced that you will only take as many as you are assured of their intelligence and their accuracy."

The same letter says: " a wage will be given to the soldiers during the time they will spend on the Island of Ré... As for the number of recruits, it is appropriate that you take three hundred or four hundred since it is important that you have about twenty soldiers under five feet two inches (an ancient French value, smaller than English measurements) and this for a duration of six years... the recruits will be taken to the Island of Ré... spare nothing to develop their discipline and military exercise."

Until 1760, the formation of the recruits for the colonies, including Canada, took place at the Island of Ré, and until 1781 the training for the colonies of Martinique, Saint-Domingue, Louisiana and Senegal. On that date, the supply companies on the Island of Ré were transferred to L'Orient ( today Lorient, in France). The arriving recruit's sanitary conditions were appalling they were phtisic, scorbutic, ulcerous, many died during their formation.

The ancestor of French Canadian Besner family crossed the door of the entrance to the Island of Ré Fortress that existed one hundred years before he did.


We find a document recounting the state of operations, dated November 6th, 1751. Mr. de Gignoux is helped by six officers, with the following titles: a major captain helper, three lieutenants, two foot lieutenant junior grade. Each arriving soldier to the Island of Ré is assigned six exercise sessions per day until embarkment; they leave with their uniforms and weaponry with the exception of swords that were left on the Island of Ré for the new recruits. "It is essential to give recruits the heating required during winter as well as supplying them shoes until embarkment". Arriving in Rochefort, the recruits will be"presented by the officers who will take them either to the troops office, either to the la Marine in LaRochelle to pass inspection, their particulars taken, their engagement verified to be inscribed in the troops registers in Rochefort". Mrs Colin was sadly not able to put her hands on the troops register.

Another internal note form January 21st, 1752 mentions that " The new recruits were stationed at the Tower of Lantern, at La Rochelle, waiting for their passage to the Island of Ré".


Web site of Ré Island

Web site of City of Rochefort

next page

To return to the top of the preceding page, you may click the "back arrow" on your navigator; to go anywhere else on this site, use the herafter toolbar.