The Conquest

General Mobilization in Canada

The Corps de cavalerie, 1759-1760

Caption: The Corps de cavalerie, 1759-1760

Louisbourg defeated, Fort Frontenac destroyed, Fort Duquesne replaced by Fort Pittsburgh... At the beginning of 1759 Vaudreuil and Montcalm were convinced of an imminent massive attack on all fronts that would converge simultaneously on Quebec and Montreal. And all that remained to them were 4,600 professional soldiers, in both French regiments and colonial troops, and they could not count on any reinforcements. In 1755, the Compagnies franches de la Marine had been increased to 40 companies with an official total of 2,600 soldiers; at the beginning of 1759 this number had decreased by more than half. The only source of recruits was Canadian militiamen. In May 1759 approximately 600 of these were conscripted and placed in the battalions. Hundreds of others were assigned to Lake Champlain and the West. However, the authorities did not dare to include significant numbers of militiamen among the troops. For two years in a row Canada had suffered a serious shortage of wheat and meat, and to prevent famine the Canadians had to devote themselves to sowing and harvesting. These men were nevertheless ready to join the army at any time in the event of an emergency.

In May 1759, with a view to a campaign to be conducted "in the European manner," a new type of corps was established in Quebec: the Corps de cavalerie, which consisted of 200 Canadian volunteers and five French officers. These cavalrymen wore a blue uniform with a red collar and cuffs. They performed excellent work, pursuing enemy patrols or acting as scouts or dispatch riders. It was the first mounted corps established in Canada and is therefore considered the ancestor of the many cavalry units of the Canadian Armed Forces.