The Compagnies Franches de la Marine of Canada

Specialized Militia Companies

In addition to the numerous militia companies operating at the parish level, various special units were also created in the cities and countryside. For instance, a corps of 120 volunteers was formed in the fall of 1687. This company of Canadian cadets, commanded by Vaudreuil, assisted by four "good lieutenants who were sons of the country," served "at the head of Montreal island" 65 to ensure the city's safety in case of enemy movements. The members of this militia received a modest wage. However, the Minister of the Navy did not approve of this practice, and the company was accordingly disbanded the following year.

As the colony developed, the town militias took pride in being "bourgeois militias" - a name that had nothing in common with the kind of social clubs of this name often found in France. In Canada, their military obligations did not change, except that certain aspects of urban service could require more specialized troops. In 1723, a small militia artillery corps was formed in the town of Quebec, the first of its kind in Canada. It consisted of two "brigades" of about 20 young people, both bourgeois and habitants, who were trained at the artillery school of the regular troops. Finally, in 1752, Governor General Duquesne had two full-fledged companies of militia artillery formed and trained, one in Montreal and one in Quebec.

Another type of specialized militias were the so-called "reserve companies" established in Montreal and Quebec in 1752. They consisted of "merchants and good bourgeois" and were commanded by "gentlemen who [did] not serve." 66 This type of corps was assigned to sedentary duties such as guarding the main municipal buildings or headquarters, watch duty, and ceremonial escorts. Wherever they existed, these "good bourgeois" militias generally wore colourful dress. Our Canadian elites were no exception, dressed in scarlet uniforms with white cuffs and white waistcoats.