Thursday, June 16, 2011

New York Regiment

There's been a (fairly) good level of conversation about this particular regiment, and who they are meant to represent....

Ray started off the discussion by suggesting that given the base number on the figures (FSW16 - "French Fusilier (Campaign Dress)") they were probably supposed to represent a unit of the Compagnie Franche de La Marine.

Now I'll admit that at this point in time I had no idea who the Compagnie Franche de la Marine even were - but I know a whole lot more now... smileys.

In summary, they were a body of troops sent to the French overseas territory of 'New France' ("The possessions of France in North America from the 16th century until the Treaty of Paris in 1763...... At its greatest extent it included much of southeast Canada, the Great Lakes region, and the Mississippi Valley. British and French rivalry for control of the territory led to the four conflicts known as the French and Indian Wars (1689-1763)". From the Free Dictionary)

The first three Compagnies Franches de la Marine were sent to America (or rather New France) in 1683. The force was expanded, and by 1757 had 40 companies of 65 men each, scattered across the various settlements in New France. Originally the units were fully recruited from France, but over time they were eventually manned by recruits from New France itself.

"Marine" comes from the fact that although these troops were infantry first and foremost, because they were based overseas they came under the control of the Navy Department - and that made them Marines..

A close look at these figures will show that the coat is not a uniform coat as such - there are no lapels, or turn backs - it represents the fact that the summer campaign dress of these units would have been just the long sleeved waistcoat (normally worn under the coat) along with gaiters or leggings... typically these leggings would have been American Indian style buckskin, but black was known - the picture to the left is a modern day re-enactor, but he's close to what my unit represents - the white gaiters he's wearing would have been unusual...

Most of these units would also have worn a soft cap rather than the tricorn - but it's not beyond the realms of reason to assume some units would have done (and the re-enactor is!)

History advises us that the Compagnies disappeared after the fall of New France (1760 after Wolfe took Quebec).

So what of my little regiment?? The Wiki article makes mention that some compagnies were joined together into battalions to serve alongside regular troops in defence of Montreal and Quebec - what could be more natural then, than one such regiment fleeing south with their families after the defeat at Quebec, seeking to live in America rather than be subject to their victors in their own land?

Who cannot then blame them, if they then take up arms against their old persecutors upon the start of the War of Independence? I suspect a new flag is in order for this little regiment though, to remind them of their illustrious history...smileys

Further reading:

For a re-enactors site (I have a deep, and probably unfair, mis-trust of re-enactors..) this is very good -

Wiki article:

Uniform and history:


  1. When I was a young kid in the early '60's, one of the great treats was getting to picnic on Ile Ste Helene near Montreal because it meant a chance to see the re-enacted Cie Franches doing their drill sessions complete with fake battle. ( a group sponsered by the Museum there and a predecessor to the curret one).

    From my time, long past, at the Museum at Fort St. Jean the evidence indicated 2 things that may be of interest. One is that "proper" uniforms such as tricorne and white gaitors would have been worn in major garrisons such as Quebec and Louisbourg while on the frontier posts down the Missippi and on the Great lakes, more relaxed dress codes were usual. In winter all sorts of regional adapatations would be seen esp fur caps and touques. The troupes de la terre copied the fashion of waistcoat only in summer time.

    While the rank and file were almost exclusively French. A large portion of the officers In Quebec and on the Frontier were Canadiens from the wealthier signeurial or land owning classes. After the conquest, most of the soldiers returned to France as did a few of the Canadien officers who had hopes of a career. The Canadiens living in what is now Quebec largely stayed neutral during the American Revolution, the militia defenders of Quebec being largely raised from British immigrants but it was touch and go. One could always raise the "Evageline" battlion of ex-pat Acadians as well, Cie Franches served in the Maritimes as well as in Canada.

  2. So what are you going to use the figures for? I'd suggest an American Milita unit in undress. For a little more info on the Companies Franches de la Marine follow the link. I recently painted up some figures in 15mm fro the new Blue Moon range.

  3. The 'franche' part, plural franches, means 'free,' so we would call it 'independent.' Independent companies.

    It is used in English like a 'franked' letter has postage already paid, and also in words like 'franchise.'

    The Marine part is because in the French government administration they fell under the bailiwick of the Department of Marine, meaning of the Navy.

    There is a good memoir from one of them, but I can't think of the name right now--maybe someone else will--the Jolicouer one. It was reprinted about fifteen years ago, and many of the reeanactors will know the one.

  4. Used to have a unit of the marines in 28mm myself, good work.

  5. Mekelnborg - fascinating, I hadn't realised that - I thought it was a flavour of "France" or "French"..

    Ross Mac/Ray - thanks for that - I still quite fancy using them as an expat regiment - a little bit of fiction never went astray, and don't let history get in the way of a good story.. if those Marines had been based in Canada for any length of time, there would surely have been ties.... :o))

  6. Excellent series of posts Steve nice bit of history figure and unit, good read.


  7. I agree with the histiory lesson!
    They wore white plumes because of their Bourbon origin!

  8. If you're looking for an ex-pat unit you want the 2nd Canadians (aka Hazen's or Congress' Own). They wore brown coats faced white. The light company wore a helmet (which is what is usually illustrated in uniform books) but the line companies wore cocked hats

    When Montgomery and Arnold captured Montreal in 1775 they raised two regiments, the 1st and 2nd Canadians. There were no uniforms at the time. Most of the recruits were British American merchants who had moved to Quebec Province after the F&I war. There were, however, a fair number of Canadiens who enlisted based on their enthusiasm for the Patriot cause.

    After the defeat at Quebec City later that year and the subsequent campaign by Carleton to drive out the invaders the 1st & 2nd Canadians found themselves based in New York without any recruiting grounds. Neither had been recruited up to strength. Before long they were merged under Hazen, colonel of the 2nd Canadians and adopted as "Congress' Own". They tended to be assigned recruits who didn't fit into any of the state-based regiments, not unlike the German regiment.