The Organization of New France

French Naval Troops

Galley Troops

The galleys, based at Marseille, were actually floating prisons. The rowers were all sorts of prisoners who had been "sentenced to the royal galleys." These vessels served above all to protect France's coastline and its trade on the Mediterranean against Arab pirates based in northern Africa. The number of galleys soared from six in 1661 to a high of 40 in 1690, before falling back to 15 and remaining at this level after the death of Louis XIV, who had been particularly fond of the galleys. By 1748, the galley fleet had become ineffective and was abolished.

A company of soldiers was assigned to each galley to serve as its "garrison." The number of men in these "Compagnies franches des Galères" varied enormously depending on the number of galleys in service. Their weapons were similar to those of the Compagnies franches for warships. Under Louis XV, their uniforms were grey-white with red cuffs, linings, waistcoats, breeches and stockings, and brass buttons.

The "Pertuisaniers des Galères" were men assigned to guarding the prisoners, both on land and at sea. This occupation was rather despised, but it was essential to ensure security on the galleys and to free up the soldiers during battles. An ordinance of 1695 set their numbers at eight per ship. They wore blue uniforms faced with red "with deerskin sword-belts and a sabre." 1

1 AM, Al, vol. 32, No. 14. Versailles, 16 February 1695. King's regulation regarding the "pertuisaniers des galères."