Daily Life in New France


Where Did They Come From?

Soldier of the Compagnies franches de la Marine of Canada, between 1701 and 1716

Caption: Soldier of the Compagnies franches de la Marine of Canada, between 1701 and 1716

Professional soldiers were generally not recruited in the colonies. The rare attempts made in Canada were total failures. The habitants were simply not interested in military life. Navy troops were raised in France, and those destined to serve overseas joined the colonial companies. From 1683 until 1755, some 7,800 soldiers and recruits were sent to Canada in this way. This figure may seem surprisingly high, but it covers nearly three-quarters of a century. In any case, it is just an estimate because no precise figures have been preserved. The men arrived in waves: more than 2,000 disembarked between 1683 and 1689, and about 1,300 in 1750 and 1751. Few new recruits arrived between these spurts, however, and in some years there were none at all.

Soldiers were recruited for service overseas in approximately the same way as for service in the other corps of the French army, except that officers and petty officers from the colonies did not participate in the recruitment process in France. This was usually done by professional recruiters, who were officers and sergeants from the home forces. Their main hunting grounds were the city of Paris and the regions surrounding the great naval ports, especially Rochefort, La Rochelle and Brest. Basically they sought young men at least 16 years old and 1.65 m tall, in good health with robust constitutions. 76 The most desirable candidates were those who had learned a craft. The men were enlisted for six years, although little was said of this during the preliminaries. In reality, recruits signed up for unlimited periods.