Military Situations at the Start of the War
The French Garrison
Caption: Fort Saint-Jean during the 1750s
At the beginning of 1755, two great European powers were about to clash in North America: France and Great Britain. The British colonies occupied a limited area along the Atlantic coast; there were more than a million colonists, essentially farmers and seamen. For its part, with just over 70,000 inhabitants, New France was in control of an immense land area from the St. Lawrence to the Mississippi, in addition to vast territories in the continental interior.
Following the War of Austrian Succession, the French saw the need to place a major garrison in New France to protect its strategic geographical position. In 1750, they therefore considerably added to the military personnel in their colony. In Louisiana the increase was from 850 to 2,000 soldiers, in Île Royale from 700 to 1,200, and in Canada from 812 to 1,500. These 4,700 soldiers were led by more than 300 officers. The total number of regular colonial troops in New France thus totalled approximately 5,000 servicemen of all ranks. These were primarily infantrymen, most of whom belonged to the Compagnies franches de la Marine, in addition to which were about 100 artillerymen. 1
These troops were allocated as follows: the 1,200 soldiers defending the 7,000 inhabitants of Île Royale and he Saint-Jean were nearly all posted at the fortress of Louisbourg. In Louisiana, with 2,000 soldiers to defend a population of approximately 6,000 colonists 2, there were more than 1,000 soldiers in the city of New Orleans alone, about one third of its population; another 500 soldiers were stationed in Mobile, and 500 more were spread out in small forts along the Mississippi all the way to Illinois. In Canada, where virtually all of the 60,000 civilians lived in the St. Lawrence Valley, two thirds of the troops, 1,500 to 1,800 men, were stationed in Montreal, Quebec City and Trois-Rivières; the small garrisons in the Western forts required only 500 to 600 officers and men.
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