The Organization of New France

French Naval Troops

Navy Troops in the West Indies

Apart from the troops it sent to New France (Canada, Île Royale, and Louisiana), the Ministry of the Navy maintained a small colonial army in the West Indies and Guyana. In the West Indies, only a general government existed at first "for the islands of America." However, in 1714 the French West Indies were divided into two administrative zones: the "Windward Islands" (Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Grenada and Guyana) and "Saint-Domingue," today known as Haiti.

The first colonial troops of the Compagnies franches de la Marine were sent to Martinique in 1674 in response to a Dutch attack. The garrison numbered about 500 men until 1750, when the number of companies doubled from 10 to 20. After 1724, the garrison also included 200 men from Karrer's Swiss Regiment. A company of canonniers-bombardiers was sent to the Windward Islands in 1747. The Compagnies franches de la Marine de la Guyane arrived in 1677. Most of these men were stationed at Fort Louis de Cayenne. The Guyana garrison increased gradually from 150 to 500 soldiers between 1677 and the mid-eighteenth century.

The first two Compagnies franches de la Marine de Saint-Domingue were established in Haiti in 1690. In 1732, the garrison of this flourishing colony comprised 16 companies with a total of 800 soldiers, which increased to 34 companies by 1750. This did not include about 400 soldiers of Karrer's Swiss Regiment and a company of canonniers-bombardiers raised in 1745. In all, about 2,300 officers and soldiers were distributed over a very small area compared to Canada. However, Haiti was then "the pearl of the Antilles," the richest of the colonies; and it was provided with a defensive system that remained effective until the French Revolution.

The arms, equipment and uniforms of these troops were practically identical to those in New France. During the 1690s, matchlock muskets were replaced by flintlock muskets. Some alterations were also made to the uniform in deference to the climate. The troops were given linen coats instead of woollen waistcoats, as well as linen knee breeches and cotton stockings. In the 1720s, linen gaiters were adopted.