Canadian Military History Gateway
Subject > Wars, Battles and Conflicts > British Colonial Period, 1760-1867
Date > 1600
This report discusses the growth and development of the Canadian Militia from its beginnings in early New France until Confederation in 1867.
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Introduction by W.A.B. Douglas, Director Directorate of History, Program Chairman. Articles in a variety of languages including: English, German, French, Italian, Portugese, Spanish, Russian, Greek.
A soldier's pay was never high, and very seldom adjusted as the cost of living increased. From 1797 to 1867, the rate was a shilling (12 pence) a day, from which deductions were made for food, clothing and other expenses. Little money would be left to spend as a man wished.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, marriage for the common British soldier was governed mostly by custom. Marriage involved 'leaping over the sword', where bride and groom did just that in the presence of the man's companions. Official permission was needed in theory, but seldom given.
The ‘cat of nine tails’ was a whip used to flog soldiers. This one was used in the British 83rd Regiment of Foot. The length of the wooden stick was 43cm (1' 5"), its tails 53cm (1' 9"), and it weighed 141,75 g. (5 ounces). (Library of the Canadian Department of National Defence)
As units moved from posting to posting within the British empire during the 18th and 19th centuries, some soldier's wives (up to 6 per company) were transported with their husbands at government expense. Before each move, a lottery was held. Losers were abandoned without support.
Founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, Quebec City was the capital of the French colony until 1759, when British troops conquered it. The city and the colony were brought into the British empire in 1763 by the treatise of Paris. Canada and the city of Quebec remained an English colony until the confederation of Canada in 1867
Most of the British army was recruited in Great Britain. By the mid-19th century, half of the men were English or Welsh, one third Irish and the remainder Scottish. Recruits were (in theory) volunteers signed up by a regimental recruiting party, and service was for life (until 1847).
Britain did not have a large army during the 18th century. Instead, it depended on the Royal Navy. Regiments in the small British army served in both Britain and its colonies, moving every few years to a new station. There was no special colonial army, such as France had kept in Canada.
New recruits to the British army during the 18th and 19th centuries were sent to a regimental depot. There, they were issued clothing and equipment and started to learn how to drill and to handle a weapon. They were given a (cursory) medical and formally enlisted before a magistrate.