The First Soldiers of New France

Insufficient Reinforcements

Training begins for the Massachusetts militia, 1637

Caption: Training begins for the Massachusetts militia, 1637

After the winter lull, the raids resumed in 1661 with even greater intensity, with about 100 Frenchmen falling victim to them. Some notice was taken in Paris of the appeals for assistance, and the Company of the Hundred Associates agreed to send 100 soldiers to Canada. They arrived at the same time as the new governor, Pierre Du Bois D'Avaugour, an experienced soldier and former cavalry colonel and brigadier who had served under the Maréchal de Turenne. However, in view of the hundreds of Iroquois lurking in the woods, the arrival of these few soldiers brought little sense of relief. In 1662, unchecked raids continued to take victims, including Lambert Closse, the major of Montreal.

It was therefore decided in high circles in France during 1662 to raise another hundred soldiers for Canada. They were divided into two companies, which arrived in October on board the Aigle d'or and the Flûte royale. These ships were also loaded "with goods and ammunition." 38 This was still highly insufficient for the needs of the colony, but at least a new factor was now at work: these soldiers had been raised and equipped under the supervision of a new privy counsellor and intendant of finance, Jean-Baptiste Colbert. A man of considerable stature, he was also in charge of the Royal Navy, from which these two ships were detached. The dispatch of these soldiers did not yet amount to the sending of a genuine royal regiment but was more a kind of subsidy granted by the king to the Company of the Hundred Associates. Most importantly, this assistance was the first indication of a new-found royal interest in the colonies generally and Canada in particular.

While the inhabitants waited for the promised substantial reinforcements, which never seemed to arrive, the first corps of volunteers was formed in Montreal on January 27, 1663: the Militia of the Holy Family of Jesus-Mary-Joseph. 39 Its purpose was to assist the town's garrison (which amounted at that time to only 12 men), especially in mounting guard. Some 139 men enrolled, forming 20 squads of seven men each, including a corporal elected by his comrades. Of the corporals, only four had military experience. This corps was dissolved when reinforcements arrived in 1665 and replaced by a permanent militia.