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Subject > Armed Forces > Naval Forces and Merchant Navy

Date > 1800 > 1800-1809

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

Sailors, Royal Navy, circa 1800-1815

Type: Image

At the time of the War of 1812, sailors of the Royal Navy — like in most navies of the period — had no prescribed uniform. But in 1623, the Royal Navy adopted a system by which sailors could buy ‘Slop Clothing’ at a fixed price. Generally, the seamen's dress consisted of a blue double-breasted jacket, with brass or horn buttons, a short waistcoat — often red but it could be another colour, blue or white trousers, a round hat, a neckerchief — often black, stockings and shoes. Slop clothing was also avaliable in Canada. An advertisement in Halifax’s 'Nova Scotia Royal Gazette' of 24 November 1813 mentioned a ‘Complete assortment of Slop Cloathing, viz, Men and youth's fine Jackets and Trowsers, Scarlet and blue cloth Waistcoats, Woolen and cotton cord ditto [waistcoats], Striped Cotton and red Flannel Shirts, Great Coats, Pea and Flushing Jackets and Trowsers, men’s flannel drawers’, these later items to face the cold North Atlantic weather.

Site: National Defence

Canadian Timber Now Vital to Britain

Type: Document

In 1806, developments in Europe made access to Canada crucial to Britain's survival. Emperor Napoleon's France blocked access to the Baltic, the traditional source of timber used in building ships for the Royal Navy. Canada was the only alternative source in British control.

Site: National Defence

The battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805

Type: Image

Although the battle of Trafalgar was fought far away off the southern coast of Spain, this battle had a direct impact on Canada. Admiral Nelson’s victory for Britain insured that the sea lanes to Canada would remain secure and that there would be no major threats from the French or Spanish navies on its coast.

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

Sailor, Royal Navy, circa 1807

Type: Image

The dress of British sailors of the early 19th century could have endless variations and embelishments. For instance, some trimmed their blue jackets with white tape at the seams and edges; others had many small brass buttons sewed closely together; the white trousers often had blue stripes; the black tarred hats were sometimes painted with devices or the ship's name painted in white on a black hat ribbon. Shirts could come in blue-striped or checkered versions as well as plain white, red or blue or even white with red or blue spots.

Site: National Defence

A Technological Transformation

Type: Document

The invention of the steam-powered ship in 1807 marked the start of a big change in naval warfare. During the War of 1812, the Canadian-built steamship Swiftsure regularly transported British troops between Quebec City and Montreal, far faster than sailing ships could have done.

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

The Battle of Trafalgar

Type: Document

The struggle for control of the seas culminated at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, when a British fleet under Admiral Nelson defeated a combined Franco-Spanish fleet that was intended to cover an invasion of Britain.

Site: National Defence

The Pacific Coast

Type: Document

Along the Pacific coast, British and American interests clashed throughout the first half of the 19th century. Britain claimed the whole coast, increasing American settlement eventually lead to the Oregon crisis of 1845. This prompted the birth of a British colony on Vancouver Island.

Site: National Defence