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Subject > Armed Forces > Naval Forces and Merchant Navy

Date > 1800 > 1860-1869

Sir Wilfrid Laurier National Historic Site of Canada: End of a Long Reign

Type: Document

Wilfrid Laurier's penchant for compromise allowed him to remain in power for 15 years, earning him the nickname of the "Great Conciliator". But in 1911, this talent proved inadequate to the task of winning elections.

Site: Parks Canada

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

The fight of the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia, Hampton Roads, Virginia, 9 March 1862

Type: Image

The naval battle between the Confederate States' heavily armed ironclad steamship CSS Virginia (the much altered former USS Merrimack) against the Union navy’s iron ship USS Monitor on 9 March 1862 caused a revolution in naval battle tactics. With its low profile and a rotating turret with only two guns, the Monitor prevailed over her opponent thus establishing the superiority of ships mounted with turrets. Military and political authorities in Canada and Britain followed these developments closely. Contemporary engraving.

Site: National Defence

Justice at the Muzzle of a Cannon

Type: Document

During the mid 19th century, outbreaks of piracy by Amerindians were met with strong responses by the Royal Navy. In one such incident in 1864, pirates murdered the crew of a merchant vessel. When the Navy arrived and met with armed resistance, 8 villages were burned.

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

Royal Navy Polices the Coast

Type: Document

The Royal Navy acted as a kind of police force along the British Columbia coast in the mid-19th century. The local Amerindian nations were not keen about European settlement, and incidents resulted. In addition, British law against murder, piracy and slavery was firmly imposed.

Site: National Defence

HMS Warrior, broadside ironclad, Royal Navy, 1861

Type: Image

HMS Warrior was the first steam-powered ironclad ship in the Royal Navy. She was launched in 1860 in response to the French navy building the world's first ironclad, La Gloire of 1859. As can be seen in this reconstruction by Norman Wilkinson, HMS Warrior retained a full set of sails and rigging. These were a useful way of reducing coal consumption and providing a backup in the case of engine failure. (Library of the Canadian Department of National Defence)

Site: National Defence

A Unified Militia

Type: Document

When the colonies of Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia united to become the Dominion of Canada in 1867, their militia forces were united as well. A uniform Militia Act of 1868 superseded the previous individual laws of the old colonies.

Site: National Defence

Canadians Forced to Defend Canada

Type: Document

In 1868, Canadian politicians sent to London to negotiate defence matters had a rude shock. Britain was no longer prepared to pay for troops to defend Canada. The British garrison would be brought home, except for those defending the naval base at Halifax.

Site: National Defence

Gun deck of HMS Warrior, 1860s

Type: Image

These were also the living quarters of the crew as can be seen by the removable mess table. The men’s hammocks are rolled and hung from the ceiling, sometimes over the guns.

Site: National Defence