The Compagnies Franches de la Marine of Canada
Militiamen In Combat
Canadian militiamen loved ambushes. While their counterparts in New England practised the complicated manoeuvres of European-style battles, they paid no attention to all this. An American militiaman held prisoner in Quebec commented that he had never seen militiamen "so ignorant of military ways." 62 They did not even know whether one placed his musket on the right or left shoulder. The Canadians, of course, had never received training of this kind. They found European-style battles needlessly dangerous, and fought well "only in entrenchments," 63 according to Governor General Vaudreuil. In an attack, they came out of nowhere, fired a volley at their enemies and charged them, hatchets in hand and uttering war-whoops like the Amerindians, cries that served both to signal the charge and "to frighten the enemy who [was] surprised" and overtaken before having time to recover.
Canadian militiamen suffered setbacks on occasion, but this was so rare that, confident in their bravery, they believed themselves virtually invincible. However, the raid warfare that they practised was so strenuous that few men were able to endure it. Sometimes they were so exhausted and hungry when returning from a war party that some would have lain down at the foot of a tree to die if the others had not forced them to continue. "When they come back, they are unrecognizable and need a lot of time to recover," 64 noted one commentator of the time.
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