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CHAPTER 5: The Compagnies Franches de la Marine of Canada

An Original Doctrine Of War (1 page)


Impressed by his experience with indigenous peoples, Governor General de La Barre appointed Hertel de La Fresnière commander of the allied Amerindian nations. It was at this time that his real military exploits began, based above all on his revolutionary concept of the art of war.

Like Charles Le Moyne, Hertel believed that the only way to fight effectively in North America was to adopt the tactics of the natives and unite them with European discipline. Canadian soldiers serving in corps on raids assumed much more independence and individual responsibility than their European colleagues marching mechanically into battle row on row, to the sound of beating drums. In Canada, Hertel believed that it was necessary to move quickly in small groups; to approach the enemy without being seen, like scouts; to surprise him, and then to disappear immediately. This was the classic surprise attack of the Amerindians, reinforced by perfect coordination and thoughtful discipline. Combatants were expected to think quickly rather than reacting "automatically" as in Europe, which is too often thought to be the only kind of military discipline. Commanders, for their part, directed not homogeneous armies but forces with considerable differences in discipline and culture, since they included professional officers, French soldiers, Canadian militiamen and Amerindian allies. The commanders' ability to reconcile the strengths of these people and focus them all on the desired outcome became a factor of prime importance. Finally, retreats had to be rapid and well planned, so that enemy forces could not pursue closely, but at most only follow the footprints. This was a major difference, because if the enemy was in hot pursuit, a race ensued with perpetual harassment. However, if withdrawal was rapid, the enemy had to follow at a distance, providing enough time to lay a murderous trap, which might discourage him from continuing. These, then, were the basic principles that enabled Canadians to gain victory after victory, seizing vast tracts of territory from other European nations who also hoped to establish hegemony in America.