CHAPTER 5: The Compagnies Franches de la Marine of Canada
The Ministry Of The Navy Takes Control
Change Starts in the West Indies
In 1674, during Louis XIV's war with Holland, a fleet commanded by Admiral Ruyter arrived off Martinique, which lay practically undefended. Although the attack was repulsed, as if by a miracle, a stern warning had been delivered. The court at Versailles realized that France had come extremely close to losing the most important of its islands in the Caribbean as a result of failing to maintain a proper garrison. The Ministry of the Navy, which had been responsible since its inception in 1669 for both the home battle fleet and the naval forces in the Americas, immediately raised 470 men and eight officers for duty overseas. They arrived in Martinique before the end of the year. The weak defences in all the other French islands and in Guyana were strengthened as well during the 1670s. This was the beginning of permanent colonial garrisons maintained by the government, in other words, the foundation of the French colonial army. In spite of their affiliation with the Ministry of the Navy, these Troupes de la Marine - Navy troops - stationed overseas were not shipboard marines, but true colonial troops.