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CHAPTER 5: The Compagnies Franches de la Marine of Canada

The Ministry Of The Navy Takes Control (2 pages)

Militarizing New France

Fort Lachine (also called Fort Rémy)

Fort Lachine (also called Fort Rémy)
(Click image to enlarge)

In New France, the militias that had been established could not alone provide for the defence of the colony, which found itself exposed throughout the 1670s and 1680s to enemy threats and attacks. In order to remedy this situation and encourage French expansion in America, Louis XIV opted for the same military solution that had been adopted in the Caribbean, namely the establishment of permanent, strong garrisons funded by the royal treasury. In Canada, these garrisons were increasingly required to recruit troops from the local gentry. This, then, was the origin of the regular Canadian armed forces.

Society in New France was profoundly affected by this new expression of royal will. Demobilized soldiers became the main source of new colonists, and officers henceforth formed much of the colonial elite. Military officers thereby acquired considerable influence over all aspects of colonial life. However, these officers distinguished themselves mostly by the sword, developing original and highly effective combat tactics.

This important phase of Canadian military and social history began toward the end of 1683. In June of that year, La Barre, finding himself unable to contain resurgent Iroquois hostility, sent a ship to France with an urgent message asking for troops and arms to meet the desperate military situation. The Minister of the Navy, the Marquis de Seignelay, did not learn until August of the governor general's appeal for help. By then, the convoy of ships had already set sail for Canada. Nevertheless, 150 soldiers were immediately recruited in Rochefort and dispatched on board the frigate La Tempête. By early November, the ship arrived in Quebec and three independent companies of the Navy or Compagnies franches de la Marine - as these troops serving overseas were called, as opposed to the land army serving only in Europe - arrived in New France.