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Date > 1600

Compagnies franches de la Marine (Warships)

Type: Document

The names of troops raised by the French Ministry of Marine often confuse people. There were separate units of Compagnies franches de la Marine to serve aboard warships. These troops had nothing to do with the Compagnies franches found in Canada.

Site: National Defence

Soldiers' Daily Lives

Type: Document

It is difficult to reconstruct soldiers' day to day lives, because they would vary depending on where the soldier was stationed and also the time of year. Nevertheless, it can be said that days started early, would often be spent on guard duty, and less frequently doing drill.

Site: National Defence

The Navy's Troops Outside North America

Type: Document

The French Ministry of the Navy was responsible for warships, coastal defence and management of the colonies. As a result, it maintained troops in France and the West Indies as well as in North America.

Site: National Defence

A New Balance of Power?

Type: Document

With more troops available, new tactics could be used to defend Canada. Strong garrisons for the towns and new forts to block Iroquois attacks along the Richelieu River were created.

Site: National Defence

Champlain's famous fight on 30 July 1609 against the Iroquois Indians as interpreted in a late 19th century print

Type: Image

When Champlain took part in a 1609 Huron expedition against the Iroquois, he began a contest between two ways of warfare that lasted centuries. The combination of armour and firearms was rapidly understood and used to advantage by early French soldiers in Canada. By contrast, the Amerindians evolved furtive tactics and rapid movements which eventually proved to be the best in a wilderness environment.

Site: National Defence

French artillery, 1640s

Type: Image

Artillery installed in the early forts defending the towns of New France was usually mounted on this type of carriage. A gunner is shown clearing the vent with a thin spike. The forked pike carried by one of the gunners was used to hold a slow match to ignite the powder in the gun's vent. This caused the ignition of the powder charge in the barrel and the firing of the cannonball.

Site: National Defence

The battle of Long-Sault, in May 1660

Type: Image

This early-20th century engraving shows the climax of the legendary 1660 defence of Long-Sault against the Iroquois by Adam Dollard des Ormeaux and his men. One of the French defenders is shown holding a keg of gunpowder above his head. This makeshift bomb would fall back inside the fort and kill much of the garrison.

Site: National Defence

The Staff of the Navy Troops

Type: Document

Although the Compagnies franches de la Marine were independent from each other, there was a small group of men responsible for them as a body within New France.

Site: National Defence

Quebec batteries firing on Phips' ships during October 1690

Type: Image

Part of Quebec's defences is shown firing upon the invaders’ ships during October 1690. The upper town was protected by a good wall with intermittent batteries. There were more defensive works up towards the Chateau Saint-Louis near Cape Diamond. In the lower town, facing the harbour, there were two strong French shore batteries armed with heavy 18 and 24-pounder naval cannon. Inland, a line of earthworks punctuated with 11 redoubts enclosed the city from the western side. This 19th century print is inaccurate in some details (for instance, the Château Saint-Louis which only had one storey in 1690) but gives a good sense of the general action. (Library and Archives Canada, C-006022)

Site: National Defence

A New Monetary System

Type: Document

Official currency in France and its colonies consisted of 'livres' (pounds), 'sous' (shillings) and 'deniers' (pence), but the shortage of coins led to common use of Spanish silver pieces in New France. The first recorded use of paper money in the modern sense was also in New France.

Site: National Defence