Canadian Military History Gateway
Date > 1600
Subject > Strategy and Tactics
Organization > National Defence
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.
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.
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.
A small garrison of Troupes de la Marine arrived in Newfoundland in 1687, where fortifications were gradually established. The garrison suffered from desertion, and was attacked by pirates, English privateers and the English Royal Navy.
The addition of 1,200 new Frenchmen to a colony of only 3,200 made a big impact on the community. The Régiment Carignan-Salières was quickly deployed to fortifications along the Richelieu River.
Combat for the Canadian militia during raids was a matter of surprise attack from ambush - a volley of musket fire and then a charge with hatchets. The manoeuvres and drill of a European-style battlefield were foreign to them, and there they were best behind fortifications.
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.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, armies did not necessarily travel in ranks and even marching in step was uncommon until the middle of the 18th century. French soldiers of the régiment de Carignan-Salières posted in Canada from 1665 would have a similar appearance when on the move.
The administrative centres of New France - Quebec, Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Louisbourg and New Orleans - each had a governor with a small staff of his own. This 'garrison staff' was responsible for the military administration of the town.