A Decade of Turbulence

Vulnerability of the Province of Canada

Need For Costly Fortifications

Gunner. Canadian Volunteer Artillery, 1863-1870

Caption: Gunner. Canadian Volunteer Artillery, 1863-1870

People were increasingly afraid that once the War of Secession was over the United States would invade the Province of Canada. The British government therefore asked Lieutenant-Colonel William Francis Drummond Jervois of the Engineers to once again assess the Canadian defence system. He concluded that the 12,000 British soldiers and 35,000 volunteers along the border would not be able to stop the American armies, which were 20 times more numerous, experienced and better armed, and which would quickly be able to deploy for an invasion because of the railways linking the major Canadian and American cities. Most of the fortification plans proposed in 1862 were now obsolete; the American armies were so numerous that some could lay siege to cities while others crossed the country. To resist such a force effectively it was necessary to consolidate the available forces in a few virtually impregnable fortresses. Jervois considered Canada West virtually indefensible. In one of his scenarios, Kingston, Montreal and Quebec City could be made impregnable, but at an impossible political cost of some £1.7 million ($8.75 million)! A less expensive plan would require that at least Quebec City be defended, which would require defending the south shore with large modern forts to prevent the Americans from setting up batteries there and shelling the Citadel and the city at point-blank range.

The other stronghold that obviously needed defending was Halifax, whose fortifications also had to be renovated. Lastly, as the British government had already advocated, it was necessary to harmonize the defence of the various colonies in North America. Jervois explained to the Fathers of Confederation, who met in Quebec City in November 1864, that it was of the utmost importance to have a single national administration for the defence of British North America. To the benefits of political union would thus be added the advantages of military union, for the British would not remain in Canada indefinitely.