It was in Trois-Rivières, at the confluence of the Saint-Maurice and Saint-Laurent rivers, that the roots of the Canadian militia were laid. Indeed, from 1651 (during the Amerindian wars), Pierre Boucher, Captain of the town of Trois-Rivières, since 1649, received an order from the Governor of New France ordering him, among other things, to obtain weapons, to exercise the inhabitants in their handling and relay them to the guard service. On April 3, 1669, the Governor of Courcelles received a letter from King Louis XIV ordering him:
“… To divide the inhabitants into companies,…; to assemble them once a month by squads or by companies…; to bring them together once or twice a year; to provide it with lead, powder and wick, to make them pass in review while letting carry out all the movements of the trade of arms … ”
Anyone from 16 to 60 years old was called to the service. Officers and men were to serve free of charge. From then on, each parish had its own company of militiamen. The more populous parishes comprised of two or more companies whose numbers vary from 50 to 80 men. Depending on the size of the population, they may have had one or more captains, lieutenants, ensigns and sergeants. Among the officers, the militia captain is a very important figure in the parish: he falls immediately under the lord. He represents the governor, the stewards as well as the peasants. Some captains even perform civilian functions such as local administrators and government spokespersons. The Militia, as an auxiliary force of the regular army, was thus maintained throughout the eighteenth century.
During the War of 1812 against the Americans, two battalions of volunteers were raised in Trois-Rivières: one from the town in which the Captain Zacharie Macaulay came from and one from the Forges Saint-Maurice, commanded by Captain Jean-Baptiste Landry. On May 24, 1812, Captain Sabrevois de Bleury was appointed major of the 3rd Battalion of the elite and incorporated militia which included Trois-Rivières and Berthier. In 1830, the county of Saint-Maurice had three Militia battalions: the first battalion consisted of Trois-Rivières and its suburbs which were made up of the fief of Sainte-Marguerite, the fief of Saint-Maurice, Pointe-du-Lac, the fief of Gatineau and the township of Caxton. The second battalion was from Maskinongé which included the following : the fief of Saint-Jean and its augmentation, Carufel and part of Lanaudière as well as all of the islands of the Saint-Laurent near the said county. Finally, the third battalion was from Yamachiche and included: the fiefs of Dumontier and Grandpré and the townships of New-Glasgow and Hunterstown.
In 1855, the Government of the Province of Canada passed the new Militia Act that leads to the direct origins of the Canadian militia today. A small force of 5,000 Volunteers was then equipped and organized into independent rifle companies. This law created several classes of militia, to include: the active militia, the sedentary militia and the Reserve. In addition, the province of United Canada was divided into nine military districts. This saw the creation of a rifle company in Trois-Rivières, made up of 63 Volunteers.
In 1865, an Irish-American organization called the Brotherhood of the Fenians, formed in 1858, began raids against Canada. The Militia was called up and a group from Trois-Rivières, returning from Upper Canada, settled on the Lower Canada line, from Valleyfield to Frelighsburg. The unit headquarters was established in Trois-Rivières at the town hall where guard is kept every night.
The most important result of this period of repeated crises was the Confederation of the Colonies of British North America in 1867. This saw the withdrawal of the regular British Troops and led to the creation of a permanent Canadian force. Thus, in 1868, by the “Militia Act”, a Ministry of Militia and Defense was established and the authorized strength was increased to 40,000 men for the Active Militia (which is the ancestor of the current Regular Force).
Two years later, in 1870, the Volunteers of company No. 1 of Trois-Rivières, which was part of the 5th Brigade Division (or battalion) of Military District No. 6, were called upon to deploy to the Red River Territory for the North West Campaign. The other companies in the Division were as follows:
- Company no 2, Rivière-du-Loup or Louiseville;
- Company no 3, Berthier;
- Company no. 4, Sainte-Elizabeth;
- Company no 5, Joliette;
- Company no 6, Saint-Jacques;
- Company no. 7, Saint-Gabriel-de-Brandon;
- Company no. 8, Sainte-Mélanie;
- Company no 9, Rawdon no 1;
- Company no 10, Rawdon no 2.
By the end of June and beginning of July, the volunteers of the 5th Division left Montreal for Canada’s Northwest Territories. Among them were Captain François-Xavier Lambert and the surgeon Frédéric-Augustus Dame. Both would later become commanders of the Trois-Rivières Unit.