Soldiers of the Atlantic Seaboard

Conflicting Strategic Interests

Soldier of the Compagnies franches de la Marine

Caption: Soldier of the Compagnies franches de la Marine

Possession of the territory along what is now Canada's Atlantic coast was a major concern in Louis XIV's military planning. However, Great Britain and its colonies to the south, especially Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island, also coveted these lands. While both parties were interested in the fishery and in establishing posts to provide a safe haven for their fishermen, these activities were of secondary importance to France in determining its military strategy. The French king's main goal was to control access to the interior of the continent via the St. Lawrence River.

These strategic aims, combined with the proximity of English and French positions in Newfoundland and Acadia, gave rise to incessant hostilities, largely in the form of preventive attacks on enemy posts to force them to give way. The ensuing temporary seizure of posts persuaded the French governors that their strongholds on the Atlantic were in danger of being swept away. They were even more vulnerable than the forts and settlements within Canada because their tiny populations of farmers and fishermen could not adequately protect themselves. As a result, permanent garrisons of the Compagnies franches de la Marine were dispatched to these two territories. During the 1690s, these garrisons became strong enough to impose their power. When the British authorities opted for a similar approach, the coast of Newfoundland and part of Acadia were transformed into a veritable fortress.