Daily Life in New France

Soldiers

Barracks

Soldier of the Compagnies franches de la Marine in New France, between 1750 and 1755

Caption: Soldier of the Compagnies franches de la Marine in New France, between 1750 and 1755

Soldiers could be lodged with civilians in relatively populous towns, but barracks were essential where the local population was small. The first barracks were constructed at Louisbourg in the early 1720s. They occupied a very large building constructed in the royal bastion. Quarters were also established outside the fortifications in the large batteries for the soldiers keeping guard there. The company detached to Île Saint-Jean had a small barracks, and the troops on Île Royale were almost never billeted in private homes.

In view of the size of the Montreal garrison, the intendant, Michel Bégon, proposed in 1714 that a barracks be constructed to relieve the inhabitants of the city. However, they refused on the grounds that the cost of equipment and heat, which they would have to bear, would be more onerous than having soldiers in their homes. The plan was therefore abandoned. This is why no barracks were built in Montreal during the French Regime.

While Montrealers grew accustomed to having soldiers in their homes, the people of Quebec City tired of this practice and in 1720 offered to pay to equip a barracks. The governors tended to favour barracks as well because they helped to improve discipline. Various plans were discussed, but it was not until 1748 that soldiers finally entered the Caserne Royale. The next year, new recruits were put up in the Caserne Dauphine, and work was begun in the eastern part of the city on the "nouvelles casernes," which were completed in 1752. They formed the longest building in North America (180 m). After 1750, the Compagnie des canonniers-bombardiers was lodged in the guardhouses of the Saint Louis and Saint Jean gates. The Trois-Rivières garrison was so small in the eighteenth century that a single house sufficed to accommodate all the soldiers.