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Subject > Armed Forces > Naval Forces and Merchant Navy

Date > 1700 > 1790-1799 > 1790

The Military Art of the American Northwest

Type: Document

War in the Pacific Northwest centred around the canoe, which could be up to 20 metres long. Flotillas of canoes would attack enemy villages, hoping to capture prisoners to keep as slaves. Coastal forts of cedar logs were to be found, used to help control and tax maritime trade.

Site: National Defence

A Series of Amerindian Nations

Type: Document

During the eighteenth century, the northwest Pacific coast was home to a series of Amerindian nations, including the Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, Nootka and Salish. These were maritime cultures - excellent sailors and fishermen who depended on the sea's resources

Site: National Defence

Trouble, and a First European Settlement

Type: Document

In 1789, a Nootka chief was killed while arguing with the Spanish about being allowed to trade with British ships in the region. Despite this and previous troubles, a decision was made to create a permanent base at Nootka, and a presidio, or Spanish frontier fort, was built and garrisoned.

Site: National Defence

Britain and Spain on the Brink of War

Type: Document

Spain mobilized its fleet in 1790, responding to the diplomatic crisis with Britain over events at Nootka on the northwest coast of America. Soon British and Spanish squadrons were at sea, sailing to intimidate the enemy. Fortunately, the opposing forces did not meet on the high seas.

Site: National Defence

A Relatively Peaceful Decade

Type: Document

The decade 1783-1793 was almost peaceful in North America, compared to the previous American Revolutionary War. Both Britain and the United States disbanded the majority of their armies. Only a small British garrison stayed in North America, backed by the Royal Navy at Halifax.

Site: National Defence

The Royal Navy

Type: Document

As an island state, Britain gave priority to its navy. The Admiralty (the appointed committee of admirals which made all strategic decisions) governed hundreds of ships worldwide. The Royal Navy used its bases in Canada to help control the Northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Site: National Defence

A Diplomatic Storm

Type: Document

News of the arrest of the British merchant ships at Nootka created a storm of outrage in Britain in 1790. A planned scientific expedition to the Pacific was cancelled, and the Royal Navy ordered to prepare for war with Spain.

Site: National Defence

The Crossing

Type: Document

British troops crossing the Atlantic during the 18th and 19th centuries were never comfortable. Transports were very crowded, with men sleeping 4 to a bunk. If bad weather prevented exercise on deck, epidemics were a real possibility. By sail, the trip took 2 or 3 months.

Site: National Defence

British Sea Service smoothbore flintlock pistol, circa 1790

Type: Image

This pattern of pistol was made under Board of Ordnance contract for use by the Royal Navy at sea. The pistol's stock is of walnut and extends to the muzzle of the 30 cm. steel barrel. The weapon has a brass trigger guard and brass butt cap. A single brass ramrod pipe holds a wooden ramrood under the stock. This pattern of pistol were used by the Provincial Marine and Royal Navy during the War of 1812. (Parks Canada)

Site: National Defence

Governed by the Military

Type: Document

Also in 1697, the British colony in Newfoundland began a long period where its governor would be the commander of the British Royal Navy squadron in local waters. This pattern of military government was not unusual - a similar military government was in place in Nova Scotia.

Site: National Defence