Fort Chambly National Historic Site
The Compagnies Franches de la Marine in Chambly
Sergeant and soldier from the Compagnies franches de la Marine © Parks Canada
More than 300 years ago, the soldiers of the Compagnies franches de la Marine arrived in New France. These newly recruited men formed troops trained especially to defend the young French colony in North America. They were from diverse origins: Britanny, Île de France, Guyenne and Normandy.
The arrival of these troops in Canada dates back to the 1680s. Their mission: put an end to the hostilities that were flaring up again between the French and the Iroquois. The latter, forced into peace several years earlier by the Carignan-Salières regiment, resumed attacks on the colony’s inhabitants. The recently created Canadian militia did not succeed in ensuring their safety. To deal with this situation, Governor Lefebvre de La Barre put pressure on the king for troops to be sent to New France.
Louis XIV responded to this request and ordered soldiers to be sent. The first contingent arrived in Quebec in 1683 and consisted of 150 men. Toward the end of the decade, more than 1,500 men were spread around the colony, particularly at Fort Chambly. They took part in a number of military campaigns. This resulted in the Iroquois being forced to sign what would be called La Grande Paix de Montréal, in 1701.
However, New France was nowhere near the end of its troubles, for it still had an enemy at its gates. England coveted the French positions on the American continent, and the colonial authorities were well aware of this. It was in response to this threat that the soldiers of the Compagnies franches de la Marine built a fort capable of resisting a British invasion: the stone fort that even today looks out over the Chambly rapids.