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Employees of the Marine in theColony of Louisiana, 1759
1by Donald E. Pusch
Among the administrative records related to the French colony of Louisiana arenumerous muster rolls, pay lists, and items of correspondence related to military personnelserving under the Ministry of the Marine.
To augment the military, especially for tasksinvolving maintenance, provisioning, and transport, the Marine also took under its employvarious technical personnel, tradesmen, and mariners—some holding military rank—andapplied them to specific, non-combat, support functions in the colony. The documentpresented here, an annual pay summary for the year 1759,
lists fifty-three employees whowere supporting port operations at New Orleans, the Balize,
and Mobile. One additionalemployee, the ship’s carpenter-calker Roy, is listed as being at the Illinois garrison.
The port of New Orleans is located some 100 miles upriver from the passes at the farsouthern tip of the Mississippi River delta. Unlike today, however, the lower river wascompletely unimproved, and its outflow into the Gulf followed multiple, naturaldistributaries, only a few of which were navigable. To transit the area below Head of Passes,
ships required the assistance of experienced river pilots who were familiar withthe area and knowledgeable in regard to the conditions and water depths within thesevarious passes. When an incoming ship arrived in the vicinity of the Balize, a pilot wouldcome aboard, advise the captain as to the condition of the passes, and assist with thevessel’s upriver navigation.
Found on the 1759 pay list are the names of two such pilots:Roquigny and Colette. Also, the port captain, Jacques Livaudais, whose name appearsfirst on the pay list, was known to have been an experienced river pilot.
Other specialties mentioned in the pay list include those of sail maker, pulley maker,calker, and ship carpenter, ranging in skill levels from apprentice to master craftsman.These were essential for the maintenance of vessels used in local port operations but werealso available, when needed, for the repair and maintenance of vessels transiting thecolony.
To support general nautical operations, a number of boat masters,
andsailors were also employed. On the current pay list, mention is also made of one cabin boy.Dated 31 December 1759, the pay list itemizes a total outlay of 26,810
for theemployees named therein. The scrivener is Alexis-Philippe Carlier, a Marine
and,according to his marriage record,
the son of a financial officer of the
A note below the tally states that he was acting in the absence of a controller, there beingnone in New Orleans at the time. Approving the list is Denis-Nicolas Foucault,
performing the function of
, the senior financial administrator in the colony.The final page of the document contains a formal certification to the Crown that thedisbursements were actually made. According to that certification, receipts were obtainedwhenever an employee received an incremental payment of 50
First published in
The Louisiana Genealogical Register
, vol. 47, no. 3 (September 2000).