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La Milice

The militia was established in Canada in 1669 when Louis XIV instructed Governor-General Courcells to divide the subjects of Canada into companies with regard for their proximity, and after having divided them to select captains, lieutenants and ensigns to command them. To issue orders that they assemble once a month to practice the manual of arms. Care should be taken that they always are well armed and always have powder, lead and match necessary to use their arms when needed. All able-bodied men between 16 and 60 were required to participate. They had no specific uniform.

The parishes were used as the organization structure for the militia companies. Each parish had a militia company and the more populated had several. This system endured until the end of the French regime. Their duties were not only military, but also included posting and reading of decrees and assisting civil powers such as in the pursuit of criminals. In wartime, officers of the regular colonial marine troops had overall command.

When the militia was called up, the Governor decided how many men were required. An appeal was made for volunteers from the various companies to join the expedition. Those who remained behind cultivated the farms of those who served.

The Canadian militia preferred using ambush was good marksmen and fought well in entrenchment. They had little use for European style tactics, but still preformed satisfactory when presented with this type of engagement. In an attack, they would come out of nowhere, fire a volley at their enemy and charge with tomahawks in hand. They used the Indian war whoop to signal the charge and frighten the enemy, who was regularly surprised and overtaken before having time to recover. The militia rarely lost, confidently brave and virtually invincible. Their raiding style of war was so strenuous that it was difficult to endure. When they returned they were unrecognizable and needed a lot of time to recover.

In 1752 Governor-General Duquesne ordered that the militia be drilled every Sunday, which was done. The Governor would not tolerate militia officers appearing before him without gorgets and swords. Militiamen were to be well armed, with their powder horns filled and at least 20 musket balls.

The reinstated, La compagnie de Milice de Gamelin of Les Compagnies du Détroit is named for Laurence Eustache Gamelin. He was born 1704, buried March 1771 at Detroit, married 1740 to Mary Joseph Dudevoir dit Lachine, born June 1721 at Montreal, buried Jan 10, 1803 at Detroit, daughter of Claude Dudevoir dit Lachine and Barbara Cardinal. They had 12 children of which at least 5 died in infancy. Laurence was a trader in 1755, he was captain of the local militia at Detroit and in 1757 he resided at the coast of the Potowatomies. Was captured by the British at the battle of La Belle Famille in 1759 near Ft. Niagara. His grandfather Michael Gamelin dit Lafontaine had come from France as a surgeon. Détroit had several militia companies.

While we are organized to have a lot of fun, Les Compagnies are serious about quality, presentation and safety. New recruits must have minimum clothing, including foot and headwear, arms and equipment to our reference guidelines in order to participate and are expected to complete their kit within a year.