Daily Life in New France



Awarding braids, badges and medals has a well-known positive effect on pride and morale. However, such honours were not widely distributed until recently. Prior to the 1760s, soldiers wore nothing on their uniforms to show how long they had served or their valour in combat. The awarding of medals basically dates from the nineteenth century, when it became the custom to commemorate the campaigns in which soldiers had served or the service they had rendered in this way. In the eighteenth century, only officers could hope to eventually receive the Cross of Saint Louis.

Before these innovations, virtually the only reward for soldiers who had distinguished themselves in battle was promotion to the next rank and the additional responsibility this brought. Promotion was a kind of recognition of soldiers' merit and long years of service. Their wages would also be increased. Soldiers promoted to lance-corporal received an additional 36 livres a year, while those promoted to sergeant earned 162 livres a year more than the rank and file. Although these are gross amounts and deductions certainly increased as soldiers advanced through the ranks, a net gain was still achieved.

The problem for sergeants was that they were so occupied by all the details of their military jobs that it was difficult to find time to work elsewhere. Since most were married and fathers of large families, they resorted to the same tactic as their counterparts in France: their wives operated taverns, "selling wine and other beverages" 84 to soldiers.