The Compagnies Franches de la Marine of Canada

Organization Of Expeditions

A First Test in Hudson Bay

Iberville leads an attack on an English fort

Caption: Iberville leads an attack on an English fort

Le Moyne and Hertel de La Fresnière had a common vision of the art of war as practised in North America. It was given a first positive test in 1686 when the Chevalier de Troyes, assisted by Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville and his brother, Sainte-Hélène, led 30 soldiers of the Compagnies Franches and 70 Canadian militia voyageurs on an extraordinary expedition which first took them to Moose Factory, in what is now Ontario, to dislodge the English from Hudson Bay.

Hudson Bay and its catchment area, constituting an immense territory whose wealth of furs seemed inexhaustible, was conceded in 1670 to the Hudson's Bay Company by the king of England. However, the French Compagnie du Nord claimed the same rights for France. The Le Moyne clan lost little time in wrangling and legal disputes. They attacked the fort, capturing it after scaling the six-metre-high palisade and knocking down the gate with a battering ram. They then went on, capturing Rupert House (now Fort Rupert at the entrance to James Bay) as well as a ship lying at anchor close by. Fort Albany capitulated in July. The forts of Severn and York, to the west, remained in English hands, for the time being. Nevertheless, the French flag now flew over most of the posts on Hudson Bay. The evidence was clear. The tactics of Le Moyne and Hertel de La Fresnière had been proved effective. Only a mixed force of French soldiers and Canadian militiamen could seize so many strongholds with such lightning speed and outstanding success.