Canadian Military History Gateway
Date > 1600 > 1680-1689
Subject > Strategy and Tactics
Organization > National Defence
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.
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 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.
Once established, the tactics of Canadian warfare would persist as long as the French regime. Refinements were made as the regular soldiers of the Compagnies franches de la Marine grew more experienced in the new methods.
French strategy in Acadia and Newfoundland centred around controlling access to the St. Lawrence River. Competition with Britain and her American colonies during the 17th and 18th centuries led to the fortification and garrisoning of the region.
Both Hertel de La Fresnière and Le Moyne were ennobled for their contributions. However, the tactics of Canadian warfare brought only scorn from the officers of the metropolitan French army. Only a change in European warfare in the mid-eighteenth century began to change this.
From 1686 to 1697, Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville et d’Ardillières (1661-1706) took and retook English Hudson’s Bay Company forts and ships in four different expeditions. He is shown here leading one such attack.
A garrison of Troupes de la Marine was sent to Acadia in 1685. The colony was repeatedly attacked by forces from New England. As a way of striking back, the French (accompanied by Abenaki allies) raided English settlements in Massachusetts.
From 1685, the post of 'King's Engineer' was a part of the general staff of New France. This official was responsible for building and overseeing the colony's fortifications, but also acted on occasion as architect for other official or ecclesiastic buildings
French officers realized that the battlefield tactics of European warfare, dictated by the limited effectiveness of contemporary firearms, would not be enough to defend Canada against an attach by the British. There were not enough defenders to overcome an attack in this way.