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Champlain's famous fight on 30 July 1609 against the Iroquois Indians as interpreted in a late 19th century print

Type: Image

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.

Site: National Defence

French artillery, 1640s

Type: Image

Artillery installed in the early forts defending the towns of New France was usually mounted on this type of carriage. A gunner is shown clearing the vent with a thin spike. The forked pike carried by one of the gunners was used to hold a slow match to ignite the powder in the gun's vent. This caused the ignition of the powder charge in the barrel and the firing of the cannonball.

Site: National Defence

Quebec batteries firing on Phips' ships during October 1690

Type: Image

Part of Quebec's defences is shown firing upon the invaders’ ships during October 1690. The upper town was protected by a good wall with intermittent batteries. There were more defensive works up towards the Chateau Saint-Louis near Cape Diamond. In the lower town, facing the harbour, there were two strong French shore batteries armed with heavy 18 and 24-pounder naval cannon. Inland, a line of earthworks punctuated with 11 redoubts enclosed the city from the western side. This 19th century print is inaccurate in some details (for instance, the Château Saint-Louis which only had one storey in 1690) but gives a good sense of the general action. (Library and Archives Canada, C-006022)

Site: National Defence

French soldiers of the early 17th century

Type: Image

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.

Site: National Defence

Matchlock musket, circa 1665

Type: Image

This is the sort of weapon that the men of the régiment de Carignan-Salières carried during their service in Canada. Squeezing the trigger lever (seen sticking out below the weapon) made the serpentine (the curved metal arm at right) snap downwards. Attached to the top of the serpentine (but not seen here) would be a slowly-burning piece of string called a 'slow match'. When the serpentine snapped down, the burning match would drop into the priming pan (at centre). In this small depression sat a small amount of gunpowder. This would explode when the match hit it, and the explosion would carry inside the matchlock's barrel, setting off a second charge of gunpowder. This final explosion would fire a bullet down the barrel (part of which is seen at right). This process could go wrong in a number of ways, but was very noisy and impressive when it worked. (Parks Canada)

Site: National Defence

French pikeman, circa 1635

Type: Image

Pikemen’s armour and pikes were sent to Quebec during the 1620s. The armour appears to have been worn by some soldiers until the later 1630s although it seems the pikes were hardly ever used. In Europe, pikemen were still seen in battlefields, albeit in decreasing numbers, right until the end of the 17th century. In America, pikes or halberds might have been used by a few ceremonial guards and sergeants but were not otherwise carried.

Site: National Defence

Officer and soldiers, régiment de Carignan-Salières, 1665-1668

Type: Image

This reconstruction shows an officer and men of the régiment de Carignan-Salières during their service in New France. The common soldiers at left and right carry muskets. Hanging from their shoulder belts are the powder flasks known as 'the Twelve Apostles'. The officer (centre) carries a half-pike and wears the white sash of a French officer around his waist. Reconstruction by Francis Back. (Parks Canada)

Site: National Defence

Sir William Phips before Quebec in October 1690

Type: Image

Sir William Phips (1650-1694) is shown on the deck of one of the ships hired on credit by the New England colonies to carry an army of Massachusetts militia to Quebec. It is probably when they arrived in October 1690 that Phips and his officers realized what a formidable natural fortress Quebec really was.

Site: National Defence

Sixteenth-century galleon

Type: Image

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)

Site: National Defence

Soldier of the Company of the Hundred Associates in Canada, circa 1650

Type: Image

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)

Site: National Defence