French Colonial Marines of Canada

Since the founding of the English and French colonies in North America, the colonists who arrived from Europe fought fierce wars among themselves, fighting among themselves and the Indians in desert and deserted territories. Most of these wars were provoked by conflicts between England and France in Europe.

However, in the middle of the 18 century, border conflicts in America between French and English colonists led to a large-scale armed conflict for the first time, in which England and France were forced to send regular troops to their overseas colonies. The expansion of the conflict soon led to war between England and France. For the first time, the war between these countries began not because of disputes in Europe, but because of border conflicts in North America. The outbreak of war received the name "Seven Years", took part in the war, including Russia. In the course of the Seven Years' War, Russian troops took Berlin for the first time.

All overseas colonies of France belonged to the naval department, the so-called ministry of the sea (ministre de la Marine). The governors in the colonies appointed former and active admirals, as well as senior officers of the French fleet.

In 1622, Cardinal Richelieu created the first 100 "ordinary sea companies" (compagnies ordinaires de la mer) for service on ships, guarding the naval arsenals, protecting the French coast and overseas colonies, and later these companies were consolidated into a regiment. Similarly, in the period from 1626 to 1669, a year in France with several similar objectives created several regiments. However, because of the conflict between Fleet Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert and Defense Minister (War Minister) François Michel Le Tellier, Marquis de Louvois, François Michel Le Tellier marquis de Louvois, all were transferred to the Ministère de la Guerre "and transferred to the infantry with the preservation of its gray-white uniform. The regiments reassigned to the Ministry of Defense had the following names: the regiment la Marin (La Marine), the Royal Marin (Royal-Marine), the Royal-Vesso (Royal-Vaisseaux) and the so-called Admiral regiment (le régiment de l'Amiral), later renamed the regiment of Vermandois (Vermandois). After 1791, the aforementioned shelves received the following numbering: 11, 60, 43 and 61.

In the 1671 year, Minister Colbert again created the 100 company as a soldier-guard (soldats-gardiens), but they were also replaced by the Marquis de Louvois in 1673. In 1682, at the request of Jean-Baptiste Colbert de Seignlet (Jean-Baptiste Colbert de Seignelay), who replaced his father as minister of the fleet, new paramilitary units, the so-called “port guards” (gardiens de port), are created in French ports. Because of the fear that the new units would be reassigned to the Marquis de Louvois, the “port guards” were a paramilitary unit, served half the pay, had a 4 vacation for the month of the year, spent the night at home, etc.

In 1683, the first three Port Guard companies from La Rochelle arrived in Canada to protect the colony from hostile Iroquois. After several reorganizations, the 16 of the Port Guard company 1690 was reorganized into the colonial marines with a full salary in сompagnies franches de la Marine, literal translation means "independent or free companies of the Navy". Between 1683 and 1688, the 35 company was delivered to Canada in the year, but the high mortality of the personnel led to the reorganization of companies in Canada to 27.

In 1722, due to the high load on officers participating in endless campaigns in the wilderness, and the desire of many young Canadian nobles to link their lives with the army, the king introduced an additional officer position 2-th ensign by reducing the number of companies by one soldier. Thus, in the French colonial company of the Marine Corps there was an 4 officer — the captain, lieutenant, 1-th ensign and 2-th ensign (ensign — junior officer rank in the colonial period, literal translation means “standard-bearer”) and 29 soldiers. In 1731, the number of privates was again reduced by one person, when the king decided to add an additional position - a cadet with an aglet (cadet a vaiguillette). In the 18 century, there were no officer schools in which future officers could learn martial art. Therefore, there was a special cadet position in the regiments for young people who wanted to link their fate with military service as an officer. Canadian officers, as a rule, recruited their sons as cadets, who lived with them in remote forts and accompanied them on campaigns against the Indians or the British. Thus, strong family ties were imposed between officers in the Canadian Marine Corps.

The companies of the marines were "registered", that is, they were named for their captain. The company consisted of the 1 captain, the 1 lieutenant, the 2 squadrons, two sergeants, three corporals, two drummers and soldiers. There were also two cadets in the company - a nobleman who studied the art of an officer and who received the salary of an ordinary soldier, that is, 9 livres per month. The companies of the colonial marines were independent combat units, the captain - the company commander subordinated only to the governor, the minister of the sea and the king. In Canada, companies were consolidated into three garrisons — the garrison of Montreal, Trois-Rivières, and Quebec, but the soldiers were rarely in the garrison, constantly serving somewhere on the border.

By the year 1750, the number of companies was increased to 30, and the number of the company itself to 50 soldiers, in addition to officers and cadets. In March, 1756, the number of companies, was again increased to 65 people. The king, increasing the number of companies only soldiers, saved on the maintenance of officers, as a result, the cost of the company did not increase so much if he had to form new companies. In the 1757 year, in response to requests from the Governor of Canada for reinforcements, the king again increased the number of companies in the Canadian Marine Corps to 40, as well as an additional company of naval artillery, bringing the number of Cannons in Canada to two. There were no elite units in the marines, in the form of grenadier companies that existed in every French infantry regiment, so the Canadian artillery sea companies were perceived as grenadiers and there they tried to select the most disciplined and physically strong soldiers.

In 1757, the need for large formations arose, and for the first time the 7 companies of the Marine Corps were consolidated into one battalion. The battalion commanded the senior captain. In 1760, a second battalion appeared, consisting also of the mouth of the marines. In the same 1760 year, when the situation of the French was catastrophic, the governor de Vodrouille introduced grenadiers in each battalion of an additional company, commanded by the most worthy and free officers who were at that time in Canada, in order to raise morale. Both grenadier companies were virtually destroyed in the fierce battle of Sainte-Foy in 1760.

In 1759, a temporary cavalry unit of two squadrons was created from marines and volunteers from young Canadian nobles, which showed itself well in the battles for Quebec in 1759-1760.

Until 1755, the only regular units of the French army in Canada were the so-called “free or independent companies of the sea” (Compagnies Franches de la Marine) or “individual companies of the marines”, if we interpret their name in Russian.

These units were called “separate companies” because each company was a separate combat unit, and the company captain legally directly obeyed the king and wrote officer reports and reports to him. In the infantry regiments, a regiment was considered a separate combat unit, and all correspondence was conducted through the colonel. Officer commissions in the companies of the marines, in contrast to the ground forces, were not sold. The decision to advance the officers was taken personally by the Minister of the Fleet based on the analysis of annual reports on the successes and failures of their officers in the marines. Thus, despite the fact that the captain was the highest officer in certain companies of the marine corps and served as a rule in the overseas colonies under extremely difficult conditions, this unit attracted not only French rich or impoverished nobles, but also wealthy colonists who sought to realize themselves in the military arena. The French colonial marines attracted not only the fearless and impoverished nobles, whom it was customary to say “poor and honest”, but also most of them half-literate officers, many of whom could not read and write, using the services of clerks for this.

In particular, the commandant of the French Fort Bosezhur, located on the border of the modern Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Louis Du Pont Duchambon de Vergor was illiterate. All correspondence for him was led by the chief clerk of the fort, Thomas Pichon (Thomas Pichon), whose duties in no way the work of the clerk was not included. No matter what, however, Thomas Pichon was a British agent recruited by the commandant of a neighboring English fort and given the pseudonym "Thomas Tyrell" (Thomas Tyrell). The actions of Thomas Pichon, hereinafter referred to as "Judas of Acadia" (the French called today's provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the Canadians), led to the surrender of all French forts in the Acadian region of Bosezhur, Gasparo, Menague. In his letters, Thomas Pishon pointed out that he was pushed to betrayal not only by material gains and the lack of career prospects, but also by the hostility that had developed with the officers of the colonial marines, who were, in his opinion, coarse and illiterate people who actively participate in various commercial deals with Indians and Canadians.

In the period from 1755-1758, several battalions of regular infantry regiments arrived in Canada, transferred to the naval ministry during hostilities in Canada. These infantry battalions switched to supplies and wages issued by the Ministry of the Fleet. Almost immediately between the officers who arrived from Europe and the colonial officers of the marines there were conflicts and misunderstandings. Officers from Europe considered it unworthy of a royal officer to engage in commerce with local Indians, in which almost all colonial officers were involved. For their passion for robbing enemy fortifications, some colonial officers were called pirates, because while serving the king, they took all the captured trophies for personal use, passing only what was impossible to divert to the king’s warehouses. For example, after the capitulation of Osvego's English fortress in 1756, the entire 730 trophy muskets were transferred to the king’s warehouse, and the remaining 1070 were taken apart by Canadian militia, allied Indians and royal marines. One of the participants in the siege of Oswego, an officer of the infantry battalion of the regiment Bearn, Captain Poucheau, wrote that the colonial officers had taken away the entire "breakfast" found in the fortress. Breakfast meant snacks consumed by the officers of the British and French armies — sweets, tea, sugar, wine, biscuits, etc., provided by the king for the officers of his regiments. Pusho wrote the same way in his memoirs: "in short, for the king there was nothing left but the fact that it was difficult to take away."

As one example of theft, Captain Pierre Poucho de Moupa states the following: “Entering one of the first to the enemy fort, Pouche noticed a beautiful seine for fishing, stretched along the bottom of the bay of this fort (Ontario lake), which he wanted to take for himself for Fort Niagara, of which he was commandant at the time. In Fort Niagara, this seine could be very useful, since the soldiers of this garrison often starved in winter. The seine was promised to the captain, but soon he disappeared without a trace, as well as many other things that could have been easily taken away. In 1758, Pusho, to his surprise, saw this very net in Fort Carillon, the commissioner of which purchased for the fort for 1200 or 1500 livres this earlier stolen net from the king in Oswego. ” (1)

In Canada, the practice of transferring royal posts to rent to colonial officers who converted royal forts into trading posts with Indians, as well as various commercial partnerships involving royal officers, flourished. By the middle of the 18 of the 20th century, the most profitable posts of the “far west” became in fact a family affair of colonial officers and, one can say, passed from father to son. Virtually all colonial officers were involved in a particular commercial activity. Royal warehouses, boats and other types of transport were used to transport private goods to officers or merchants who attached royal convoys for remuneration, sometimes this led to sinking of overloaded boats and catastrophic delays in transit, which fell heavily on the royal treasury. Colonial officers, seeking to make a profit and being engaged only in obtaining money, neglected their duties. Lack of experience and education prevented the writing and delivery of any reports. To carry out their duties, Canadian officers were forced to rely on the help of private merchants. Regular battalion officers who arrived from Europe were rejected by such an activity, which was considered unworthy of a royal officer. In addition, in 1759-60's, significant theft occurred at distant posts, in which, in addition to officers, quartermaster services and private suppliers were involved, were revealed. After the capitulation of Canada and the return to Europe, several officers of the colonial marines found themselves in the Bastille. The essence of the charges was that the food supplies, allegedly acquired by the clerk of the fort from private individuals, and then consumed by the Indian allies of the French, were significantly lower than they were on paper, and the purchase of these goods took place at clearly inflated prices; assured commandant of the fort. Colonial officers did not deny their signatures, but claimed that, participating in hostilities, traveling through forests and negotiating with wild Indians, they had not been in their forts for months, so they left blank forms with their signatures to the clerks and were themselves victims of fraud, but as for free trade in military posts in which officers were involved, it was not prohibited and in fact was the only incentive to serve in the provincial garrisons.

An 1669 edict of the noble class was allowed to engage in trade if it was to the benefit of the state, and especially maritime commerce. By Decree of the Fleet of the Province of Brittany of November 1684, 8, liv.2. Article 1 ruled that noble persons could “build or buy ships, equip them, provide others, trade the sea by themselves or through an intermediary, without these nobles having the reputation of“ Dérogeance ”(2). In 1701, the king of France, in order to spur the development of overseas colonies, allowed nobles to wholesale trade of any kind, both by sea and not. In Canada itself, by two declarations of the High Council of Quebec, all officers of Canada were allowed to carry out wholesale trade. The king took into account the merits of the colonial officers and pardoned veterans of the colonial marines of Canada, which cannot be said about clerks and commissaries who received multimillion-dollar fines and terms in the Bastille.

In fact, trade with the Indians and Canadians did not resemble wholesale trade, the permission of which was referred to by former Canadian officers and quartermaster. Despite the fact that the officers hired workers to help them, the King’s order from 1560 firmly forbade noble persons under the threat of depriving the noble title of the trade itself, to keep in their hands goods intended for trade, and even clerk. However, the harsh and specific conditions of Canada forced the governors of Canada not only to turn a blind eye to the occupation of colonial officers "not a noble cause" but also to encourage this type of commerce in every possible way.

The small size of the French colony in Canada did not attract merchants from France who were looking for reliable sales markets for goods from Europe, weak communication with the metropolis and islands of the West Indies, and the lack of necessary goods led to inflation and high prices. In fact, in Canada, any goods and labor were extremely high, according to the colonial officers of Canada, their salaries were barely enough for food and clothing. For example, Captain Raymond, an officer in the colonial marines, asked the following questions in 1754:

“Is the wage of an unmarried French and Canadian captain, a component of 1062 livres, sufficient to pay 1200 livres for a boarding-house (rented room with meals) without a servant and 1600 livres with a servant? It is well known that the cost of [boarding] is exactly that. Where can they get money to pay for boarding or maintenance, when they have no other resource than a small salary in a country where the cost of everything and even life itself is extremely high? What should we do to stay alive and have clothes? But this is the smallest of what people should have. However, even senior, excellent and good officers do not have the essentials to have all this, what should they do? Steal? Not. What should be done with such a terrible need? ”

The main reason for the long survival of French Canada, which lasted from 1755 to 1760 against the many times greater than the Anglo-American forces, was the help rendered to the French by local Indian tribes. In principle, in the United States, the Seven Years' War is called the “war with the French and Indians.” The shortage and high cost of goods made French goods for trade with the Indians not competitive, many Indian tribes involved in an alliance with the French, simultaneously traded with the British, even during hostilities. However, in spite of the high prices of goods, the French managed to impose their goods on the Indians and accordingly to involve them in the sphere of influence of France. This was largely due to the successful location of Canada, through which powerful water flows pass: the St. Lawrence River, the Great Lakes system, the Mississippi River, Illinois, Missouri, Saskatchewan, which allow penetrating deep into the North American continent and delivering European goods directly to Indian villages, In addition, the excellent knowledge of the “Indian policy” made it possible to neutralize the actions of British merchants, forcing them not to leave their posts. Employees of the English Fur Company of the Hudson Bay complained that every spring the region was filled by French traders led by colonial officers who buy the most valuable furs directly in Indian villages, and the Indians in the British forts bring furs that the French refused to acquire, often of very poor quality. Employees of the company believed that higher quality of French products was to blame for everything, and partly this was true. The French also skillfully adjusted to the requirements of the Indians, manually embroidering blankets intended for the Indians, the same applied to weapons, and things of any kind required by the Indians.

Many French officers underwent the “adoption” procedure among the Indians, the procedure gave the officer “relatives” among the adoptive tribe, the Indians sought to “adopt” the French and English officers with the aim of receiving material benefits from the new relative, promising in exchange their protection and protection. The officer who agreed to the “adoption” was tattooed on the exposed parts of the body (usually the thigh or chest) and from that moment he could rely on protection and assistance from those who wear a similar totem mark, while the Indians considered it a relative of any person in one clan with him, for example, a tortoise or a wolf, despite the fact that he could be a member of a completely different tribe, they were still considered relatives, and any intertribal marriages were prohibited. Thus, a French officer could get protection from the Indians, even in the depths of the North American continent. Any Indian could completely free to leave the tribe or the clan in which he grew up, in which case his former tribesmen informed him that they would not avenge his death if something happened to him. From this point on, man’s life was only in his own hands, and, in fact, until he found new defenders, he was worth nothing. French colonial officers, unlike their British opponents, actively enjoyed the advantage of "kinship." For example, in 1720, the British planned to establish a fort in a strategic location near Niagara Falls, thereby cutting off the French from the “top posts” in the west. The governor of Canada ordered the French officer Louis-Thombert Chabert de Jonquiere (LOUIS-THOMAS CHABERT DE JONCAIRE), previously captured by a hostile Seneca tribe and adopted by them, to diplomatically resolve the problem and achieve the establishment of a French fort in this place, given that the local Indians it was more advantageous to the English fort. Jonquieres gathered the tribal chiefs and asked them to allow him to build a house, the council of chiefs informed him that since he was their son, he could build a house where he wished on the tribe’s land, Jonquieres immediately went to Fort Frontenac, from where he returned with the workers and soldiers, and built a large fortified house, later grew into a powerful French fortress of Niagara. In 1711, during the war with the British, Jonquiere and other officers managed to engage the Indians in a war with the British. At a critical moment, before the decision of the council of leaders, they broke into the center of the circle, waving axes, dancing and singing war songs, gradually involving the other Indians, and thus forcing them to start a war with the British (4). In 1755, two famous French officers adopted by Indians died in a battle on Lake George. The governor of Canada immediately used this fact in negotiations with the Indians, forcing them to take revenge for their death. Thus, using personal contacts obtained from trade with the Indians, psychology, as well as excellent knowledge of the languages ​​and dialects of the Indian tribes of North America, the officers of the French colonial marines managed to turn the war of the Seven Years War into a “war with the French and Indians” (French and Indian War). ) how it is now known in the USA.

The muskets, which are in service with the colonial marines, were significantly different from the muskets of the French and British regular army. They were much easier and shorter, which allowed them to be better used in military operations in the forest. Similar weapons French supplied their allies Indians. Light French muskets of Tulle production were so highly valued by the British that they armed with trophy muskets specially created units of "light infantry", whose task was to conduct combat operations in the forest, "deep intelligence", sabotage behind enemy lines, actions in the vanguard of the main forces. The British also armed their allied Indians, who prefer French weapons, with trophy French muskets.

Uniforms in the Canadian colonial marines were significantly different from similar marines in Europe, guarding the coast of France. The fact is that frequent supply disruptions, and during the war constant blockades of the colony, created the conditions for a wide variety of uniforms and a departure from the official standard. For example, Canada’s marines often wore Native American moccasins, leggings (leather stockings), leather jackets, or even loincloths in Native American style. An additional incentive for the transition of clothes to the Indian style was that the clothes made of cloth in the forest very quickly turned into tatters, so the French marines preferred to wear clothes made of leather to the Indian way or even go naked. During the French invasion of the Ohio River valley in the 1753-1754 years, local Indians, who had not previously encountered French troops, saw such a motley gathering, called them "ragged". The Slasher (shortened saber) was replaced with an ax more convenient for the forest, another feature that emerged during the siege of the French Oswego fortress in 1756 year was the complete absence of tents in this unit. It turned out that the tents had never been ordered in France and the marines on the march were sleeping under tents made of fir branches. The arrangement of the camp was also very peculiar. The standard military camp of that time, and to this day, is a compact arrangement, often square or rectangular, where all the soldiers are in full view of their officers. The camp of the soldiers of the marines, was in the Indian style, that is, the chaotically located huts at a considerable distance from each other, in which the management of the camp was minimal, and the officers were forced to rely on the initiative of their subordinates. Such an arrangement of the camp did not allow it to be provided with normal guards, to quickly gather soldiers in the event of an attack on the camp, and made it extremely vulnerable to enemy attack. The indirect reason for the fall of the Oswego fortress was the Canadians' camp, consisting of Indians, local militia and colonial marines. The huts scattered throughout the forest created the appearance of a much larger camp than it really was. The reappraisal of the forces of the besiegers led to a decline in the morale of the British and accelerated the fall of the fortress.

The courage and high initiative of soldiers and officers of the Marine Corps was repeatedly emphasized to contemporaries of that era, the same siege of the Oswego fortress by the French was without any normal preliminary reconnaissance, the number of defenders of the fortress was installed incorrectly and significantly underestimated, and if not for the chain of random circumstances, the French could be defeated. The battle of the consolidated French detachment of about 500 people consisting of Indians, militiamen and marines, who attempted to attack an English convoy returning from Oswego, from 1500 to 2000 people, is quite typical. The French, as always, attacked the enemy, not knowing its numbers, and quickly dispersed the British advance guard, slowly rising in boats up the river. The commander of the French detachment, Captain Louis Coulon de Villiers, ordered to return to the camp, but arriving there with prisoners and captured loot, he found that part of his soldiers and Indians, carried away by the prospect of plundering the boats abandoned by the British, ignored his order and got involved in the exchange of fire with the British, by the way, the Indians had an additional interest to stay at the battlefield; this was the collection of scalps from a dead enemy. Captain de Villiers had to return to the battlefield, which lasted more than 6 hours before dark. With darkness, having built false fires, de Villiers retreated, with difficulty gathering his people, dispersed and lost during the battle in the forest. In battle, Canadians and Indians proved to be proactive, but undisciplined soldiers. Having shot the first boats, de Villiers retreated, with some of his soldiers and Indians, and even the officers, breaking up into small groups, continued the battle with the British and looting left boats. As a result, de Villiers had to return to help them, the battle stretched for several miles along the river, which led to the fact that some of his soldiers simply lost their way in the forest. In his report, de Villiers indicated that he had lost his dead lieutenant Jean-Baptiste de Gunn de Mondidier (Jean-Baptiste de Gannes de Mondidier) and four soldiers by prisoners because of their looting, which was not flattering to the French officer. Canadian explorer Henri-Raymond Casgrain (Henri-Raymond Casgrain) in his book The Canadian War 1756-1760. Moncalm and Levy "(Guerre du Canada, 1756-1760. Montcalm et Lévis) believed that de Gunn could have been shot by mistake from the opposite shore by his own people, who had taken him for the enemy when he moved to the west bank of the river in order to rob the abandoned enemy boats. The French attack on such a large convoy was the reason for canceling any of the convoys at Oswego, as a result, the fortress did not receive 24 guns, detained in one of the forts on the way to the fortress, and the fortress defenders salary, which also caused its surrender a month later.

According to British and American researchers, it was the results of the “war with the French and the Indians” that caused the great American revolution. To some extent, the reckless prowess shown by Canadians, Indians, and soldiers of the “separate companies of the marines” (Compagnies Franches de la Marine) under the command of the colonial defense officers of Canada caused the appearance of the United States of America.

1) Mémoires sur la dernière guerre de l'Amérique Septentrionale: entre la France et l'Angleterre; suivis d'observations, dont plusers of the actress de la guerre, de nouveaux détails sur les murs & les usages des sauvages, avec des cartes topographiques. Page 70.

2) Dérogeance - “retreat from the nobility” of the actions of persons who committed acts deemed unworthy of their noble status, such as serving as a footman, surgeon, pharmacist, notary, banker and the most serious act was considered a commercial activity, in particular retail trade, which with the ordinance of the king of 1560, could serve the loss of the privileges of the nobility. As Europe's economy developed at the end of 17 and 18, the “retreat from nobility” was increasingly criticized as not only an obstacle to the well-being of the nobility, but also contrary to the general interests of the state.



The article is based on the book A.A. Stepkina "English and French naval confrontation on Lake Ontario (siege of Oswego 1756 d)"

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