A Decade of Turbulence

The St. Albans Raid

War Scares Prompt New British Policy

Officers of the 23rd Regiment of Foot (Royal Welsh Fuziliers), 1866-1867

Caption: Officers of the 23rd Regiment of Foot (Royal Welsh Fuziliers), 1866-1867

On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army surrendered at the Appomattox Court House, putting an end to the American Civil War. Now fears of an invasion of Canada reached a fever pitch. Work on the three large forts recommended for Pointe de Lévy (Lauzon) began that very month, after heated debate in the House of Commons and the House of Lords in London. The British Opposition believed Canada to be indefensible. It contended that maintaining a garrison provoked the Americans to inflict a military defeat on Great Britain and that building forts amounted to waste, pure and simple.

Fortunately, though, the Americans were exhausted by their terrible Civil War, with its million and a half dead, 700,000 of them killed on the battlefield, and more than 500,000 wounded, out of a population of five and a half million men between the ages of 18 and 45. The Union Army, which stood at a million men in April, was reduced to 350,000 by August. Two years later there were 57,000, with only 1,300 stationed along the Canadian border. General Sir John Michel, commander of the British army in North America, concluded that the era of military confrontation with the United States had come to an end.