Troupes de la marine
See also Troupes de Marine for later history of same Corps.
The Troupes de la Marine (Troops of the Navy), also known as independent companies of the navy and colonial regulars, were under the authority of the French Minister of Marine, who was also responsible for the French navy, overseas trade, and French colonies. They were the only regular soldiers in New France from 1682 to 1755, when several army battalions were dispatched to North America.
In the early seventeenth century, Cardinal Richelieu ordered the creation of the Troupes de la Marine to serve aboard French naval vessels. About eighty companies of one hundred men each were formed. The Troupes de la Marine were dispatched by Louis XIV in 1682 to replace French regulars in New France, and were used to garrison other French colonies. Initially, the troops that were recruited in France and arrived in Quebec by 1683 were composed of three companies. The number of companies in Canada steadily increased over the years and reached as many as 40 companies by the year 1757. The roughly 30 companies stationed in the territory of Canada gradually developed into the first permanent ‘Canadian’ military force. A company of marines was usually composed of 45 to 65 soldiers, two sergeants, two corporals and one drummer, overseen by a capitaine. The majority of the rank and file soldiers were lower class men recruited in France, although the officers were increasingly Canadian-born and noble. Promotions from soldiers to the officer corps were non-existent and the individual ranks were separated by large pay gaps. Young Canadian-born men were usually admitted into the officer ranks by commissions as cadets or ensigns through the governor. The sons of noblemen or existing officers were usually preferentially selected for positions in the officer corps as well. Cadets constituted a boy or young man who served in a company and was being trained to become an officer in the future. Officers would often exploit the selective nature of admittance to the corps by enrolling their boys sometimes as early as age 5 in order to receive more rations and an extra salary. In 1717, the admission of officers under the age of 14 was prohibited, but the exploitation of the system continued.
Service in the officer corps of the Troupes de la Marine was an important source of economic opportunity and prestige for New France's elite and there was usually a waiting list for commissions in Marine companies. However, colonial enlistment of rank-and-file soldiers was discouraged because it reduced agricultural settlement. During periods of peace, soldiers received additional pay for their services in the construction of forts and roads. Due to a chronic labor shortage, the colonial regulars were also permitted to increase their pay by rendering their services on local farms. Although the strength of the force varied widely over time, by the French and Indian War, there were some forty companies serving in the St. Lawrence Valley and the Pays d'en Haut, about twenty at Louisbourg, and more in Louisiana and Acadia. Large garrisons were maintained at Quebec, Montreal, and New Orleans, with smaller forces guarding posts to secure the frontiers and supply routes throughout France's vast territories in North America by the eighteenth century. Small detachments of troops were sent to protect the advance trading posts, which were integral to the success of the profitable fur trade in New France.
The companies were considered colonial regulars and were well trained in conventional warfare and became proficient as bush fighters (what today would be called guerrillas or irregulars). In Louisbourg, the canoniers-bombardiers company (artillery company) was established in 1743. Two soldiers were chosen from each company stationed at the Louisbourg Garrison, to be trained by the master gunner at firing and aiming cannons. As a result of their extra training and duties, the canoniers were paid an additional six livres per month in compensation for their inability to earn money in the construction of forts or elsewhere, and were offered cash prizes for good marksmanship. The Louisbourg artillery company was composed of 13 canoniers, 12 bombardiers, one drummer, two corporals and two sergeants, led by a lieutenant and a captain. Along with the Canadian militia and France's Amerindian allies, the Troupes de la Marine were essential to the defence of New France in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. With the arrival of large numbers of British regulars after 1755, the nature of warfare in North America shifted from irregular to conventional European warfare, with particular importance attached to sieges and fortifications. French army battalions were also dispatched to fight in North America after 1755.
During the Seven Years War, the Louisbourg Garrison's residents became prisoners to the British when the fortress fell, and after the conquest of 1760, many settled permanently in the new territory, while others were repatriated to France.
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- Sutherland, Stuart. "Troupes de la Marine", in The Canadian Encyclopedia (Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1988), Volume 4, p.2196.
- Sutherland, Stuart. "Troupes de la Marine", in The Canadian Encyclopedia (Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1988), Volume 4, p.2196, says they were created in December 1690.
- Greer, Allan. "The Soldiers of Isle Royale, 1720–45" (Environment Canada: 1979), p. 7.
- Greer, Allan. "The People of New France" (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), p. 50–51.
- Greer, Allan. "The People of New France" (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), p. 51.
- Greer, Allan. "The Soldiers of Isle Royale, 1720–45" (Environment Canada: 1979), p. 8.
- Greer, Allan. "The Soldiers of Isle Royale, 1720–45" (Environment Canada: 1979), p. 9.
- Greer, Allan. "The People of New France" (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), pp. 50–51.
- Greer, Allan. "The Soldiers of Isle Royale, 1720–45" (Environment Canada, 1979), pp. 7–9.
- Sutherland, Stuart R. J. "Troupes de la Marine", in The Canadian Encyclopedia, Volume 4, p. 2196. Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1988.