Canadian Military History Gateway
Organization > National Defence
Subject > Politics and Society
Date > 1600 > 1650-1659
Both Britain and France needed strong navies to protect their coasts, fishing fleets and colonies. The peak of French naval power was during the 1690s, when it dominated the coasts of England. Defeated in 1692, the French navy declined in quality and strength from that point on.
The Iroquois pressed their advantage, raiding and spreading fear among the colonists. A French attempt to force a pitched battle was unsuccessful.
Until the 1660s, especially in the Montreal area, no one in the French settlements really felt quite safe from surprise attacks by hostile Iroquois warriors. Many Canadian settlers, including women, learned to handle firearms during the 1650s.
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.
A series of journeys by French explorers into the interior of North America was followed by the growth of a strong French presence in Louisiana and Illinois. A strong military presence administered and oversaw the new regions.
With Huronia destroyed and Fort Richelieu burnt, the centre of the French colony started to suffer badly from Iroquois raids. Attempts to strengthen the garrison, and also to found a mission among the Iroquois were failures.
This employee of the Hundred Associates carries a flintlock musket (or 'fusil'), a type of weapon that first appeared in the colony during the late 1640s. The fusil was lighter than the older matchlock musket and its firing system was more trustworthy. This made it an ideal weapon for Canada. The Iroquois' acquisition of firearms changed the military tactics in New France. Helmets and breastplates became useless, and French soldiers simply wore their usual clothing. This man's clothing follows contemporary civilian fashions in France. Hanging from a belt around his chest, our soldier carries individual charges of gunpowder in flasks jokingly known as 'the Twelve Apostles'. Reconstruction by Michel Pétard. (Canadian Department of National Defence)
The population of Acadia was not militarized in the way French colonists in Canada were. Relations with the local Amerindians were good, while internal social conflict and long periods of English occupation discouraged the development of a strong militia.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the European wars that had touched the eastern coasts of North and South America left the Pacific untroubled. From the European point of view, the region was largely unexplored, despite being bordered by Spanish colonies.
Both Great Britain (in 1651 at St. John's) and France (in 1660 at Placentia) established naval bases in Newfoundland to support their fishing fleets on the Grand Banks. The French garrison mutinied, and the base was virtually ungarrisoned until 1687.