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Organization > National Defence

Subject > Politics and Society

Date > 1800 > 1860-1869

British iron guns mounted on iron carriages, circa 1815

Type: Image

Iron carriages were introduced in the British artillery in 1810. They were to be placed ‘in such parts of fortifications as are least exposed to the enemy’s fire’ as it was feared they would shatter if hit by enemy artillery. The examples seen in this photograph are found at the Fortifications of Quebec National Historic Site.

Site: National Defence

British iron mortar, circa 1810

Type: Image

Mortars were designed to shoot an exploding shell at a very high angle, 45 degrees or more. They were used in the siege and defence of fortifications. An explosive shell was fired up into the air and arced downwards to drop within the enemy defences. When the shell's fuse burned down, it exploded. These projectiles are the 'bombs bursting in air' mentioned in the American national anthem, where they were being fired from a British fleet attacking Baltimore.

Site: National Defence

Map of Halifax, 1865

Type: Image

Starting in the late 1820s, the fortifications of Halifax were developed into a formidable defence complex. The new Citadel on the hill dominated the city’s landscape with batteries dotting the coast to provide crossfire against enemy ships. George’s Island was also heavily fortified to block the passage leading into Bedford basin. This 1865 map of Halifax shows these defences were woven into the layout of the city. (Library and Archives Canada, NMC 48125-6/6)

Site: National Defence

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

Militia Deficiencies

Type: Document

Deficiencies in the militia included a lack of weapons, the tendency of militia members to lose uniforms and equipment, political interference, and rising economic sacrifices by individual members. These problems were compounded by the lack of a real enemy to focus political interest in solving the problems.

Site: National Defence

32 pounder guns mounted on traversing wooden garrison platforms

Type: Image

These early 19th century British artillery pieces are mounted on platforms that allow guns to swing in a wide arc and thus follow a moving target such as a ship. These reconstucted carriages are found at the Coteau-du-Lac National Historic Site near Montreal, Quebec. The fortifications were built to defend the canal lock - the first built in North America.

Site: National Defence

Military Bands

Type: Document

The British likely introduced the military band to Canada. These regimental musicians were paid for by individual units. Instrumentation favoured flutes, clarinets and percussion. The bands played a strong role in the social life of garrison towns throughout Canada.

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

Private, Canadian Volunteer Militia, 1863-1870

Type: Image

This volunteer wears the full dress uniform authorized for the Canadian Volunteer Militia in 1863. Few units would have worn the shako shown in this image, substituting the inexpensive (and far more comfortable) forage cap. The style is generally similar to that worn by British regular infantry, with the white-metal buttons and badges commonly used by militia units within the British empire. Reconstruction by Ron Volstad. (Canadian Department of National Defence)

Site: National Defence

Canadians Presume Continued British Garrison

Type: Document

Canada became an independent state within the British Empire in 1867, but Canadian politicians assumed that Britain would continue to keep military forces in Canada, and pay for them as well. Britain, on the other hand, wanted the Canadians to pay for any troops.

Site: National Defence