Canadian Military History Gateway
Organization > National Defence
Subject > Politics and Society
Date > 1600 > 1600-1609
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.
These French soldiers wear a style of clothing common through much of Western Europe in the early seventeenth century. Note the musket rest carried by the man at left, and the pike carried by the man in the background. Mid-19th century engraving after a drawing by Alfred de Marbot.
Unlike the Spanish Central America, Europeans were unable to successfully colonize North America in the 16th Century. Amerindian guerrilla tactics combined with a cold and hostile land to frustrate the newcomers. Nevertheless, North America became a theatre of war for European conflicts.
Introduction by W.A.B. Douglas, Director Directorate of History, Program Chairman. Articles in a variety of languages including: English, German, French, Italian, Portugese, Spanish, Russian, Greek.
Many European expeditions were sent to explore North America during the sixteenth century. The explorers were armed, and their ocean-going ships were a revolutionary technology.
The crewmen of this 16th century galleon are using several devices to discover their position. Tools like the arbalete and nocturlabe were used at night to measure the position of the stars in the sky. Based on these measurements, navigators could determine where they were on the globe. (National Library of Canada 18025)
The soldiers accompanying early expeditions worked for private businesses, not for the state. Many were veterans of European wars, or gentlemen seeking land or gold.
A second colony at Quebec, led by Champlain, saw much struggle. It changed hands, first to the English, then to a new French trading company. Attempts were made to fortify and strengthen the settlement.
St. Croix Island, site of Samuel de Champlain and Pierre de Mont’s first settlement in the summer of 1604.
In June 1604, the French expedition under the Sieur de Monts and Samuel de Champlain started building a trade post and settlement on an island they named Sainte-Croix, the choice being dictated by security concerns. It turned out to be an unfortunate choice, some 35 out the 79 men there perishing from scurvy in the winter of 1604-1605. There were also tense relations with Indians further south so that, in the late summer, Sainte-Croix was abandoned and the French went to built a fortified ‘Habitation’ at Port-Royal (now Annapolis-Royal, Nova Scotia).