Canadian Military History Gateway
Date > 1500
Subject > Wars, Battles and Conflicts > Early History to 1603
This picture of a ship is engraved on a plank of the galleon San Juan, which sank in Red Bay, Labrador, in 1565. (Parks Canada)
Martin Frobisher led unsuccessful English expeditions to find the Northwest Passage. There were conflicts with the Inuit. Other English mariners also voyaged to the region around Labrador.
The weather shown hitting these Spanish ships was encountered by the Basque whalers based in Labrador during the second half of the 16th century. Occasionally, ships were lost. One such was the San Juan, sunk in Red Bay, Labrador in 1565.
Archers and crossbowmen were commonly found on ships and in the early overseas settlements of the first half of the 16th century. Such soldiers were most likely part of the early Portuguese forays to Newfoundland and Cape Breton Island. (Museu de Arte Antiguo, Lisbon)
Unlike the Spanish Central America, Europeans were unable to successfully colonize North America in the 16th Century. Amerindian guerrilla tactics combined with a cold and hostile land to frustrate the newcomers. Nevertheless, North America became a theatre of war for European conflicts.
The Iroquois were surprised and fearful at first of Cartier's cannon, but their awe did not last very long.
Sir Humphrey Gilbert's British colony on Newfoundland failed partially because the colonists were more anxious to find silver mines than to plant crops. On 5 August 1583, Sir Humphrey claimed the island in a ceremony that involved his holding a twig of a hazel tree and a sod of earth. That winter, the explorer sailed back to England and was lost at sea when his ship sank in a storm.
A list of the most important military engagements, both inside and outside Canada, that had an effect on the country.
Professional soldiers were a recent development in the Europe of 1500. They fought for pay, not for loot or feudal obligation, and could have firearms as weapons.
Many European expeditions were sent to explore North America during the sixteenth century. The explorers were armed, and their ocean-going ships were a revolutionary technology.