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Typical British field artillery of the War of 1812 - brass six-pounder field gun

Type: Image

The six-pounder gun was the most common piece of artillery found in the field during the War of 1812. The description 'six-pounder' refers the weight of a solid shot (popularly known as a cannon ball) fired by this type of gun. Both the United States and Great Britain used guns of this size. In fact, some of the American guns were captured British pieces dating back to the American Revolution of 1775-1783. Only the British used the more modern block-trail carriage shown here, however. The wood of British artillery carriages was painted grey and the iron parts black.

Site: National Defence

British field artillery limber at the time of the War of 1812

Type: Image

Limbers were small two-wheeled wagons that provided the ‘front wheels’ for cannon whose trail was hooked up to the limber for travelling. The limber boxes, also used as seats for gunners, contained ammunition and various tools for serving the gun. Four (or more) horses pulled both gun and limber. This reproduction limber is found at Fort George National Historic Site. Note the way the spoked wheels are 'dished' for extra strength, and slightly angled outwards at the top.

Site: National Defence

Fort Prince of Wales

Type: Image

This aerial view shows Fort Prince of Wales, just across the Churchill river from present-day Churchill, Manitoba. Its construction began in 1717. The fort was taken without a fight by a French expedition to Hudson Bay in 1782. It was said to be the only sizeable bastioned stone fort on the Arctic Ocean. Its walls were restored in the 1950s. (Parks Canada)

Site: National Defence

British brass six-pounder field gun on block-trail carriage, 1793-1860

Type: Image

Shown from the rear, the brass smooth bore muzzle-loading six-pounder gun was the standard British field gun at the time of the War of 1812. The British artillery introduced carriages of the type shown, with single-block trails and small ammunition boxes at each side of the gun, during the Napoleonic wars. These innovations were later by all armies. The result was a weapon that was lighter and easier to manoeuvre in the field. The Royal Regiment of Artillery used such carriages alongside the older Congreve pattern twin-plate carriages during the War of 1812. This photo graph shows a modern reconstructed carriage found at Fort George National Historic Site, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

Site: National Defence

Fort George, Upper Canada

Type: Image

In 1794, Jay’s Treaty led to withdrawal of British forces from Fort Niagara. In 1796, work began on Fort George at Newark (present-day Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario), directly across the Niagara River from the older fort. Fort George was the scene of several battles during the War of 1812. It is now a major National Historic Site. The wooden palisade at the centre of this photograph sits on top of the earth-built curtain wall linking two of the fort's six stone bastions, one of which can be seen at the end of the palisade. To the left is a part of the ditch (or 'covered way') surrounding the fort, along with an further earthwork known as a ravelin. The ravelin, with its own wooden palisade and small blockhouse inside, made it more difficult for any attacker to assault the curtain wall.

Site: National Defence

Elevating screw, brass six-pounder gun, 1793-1860

Type: Image

The use of an elevating screw was an innovation of the French Gribeauval artillery system. The screw was a much more precise and rapid way to raise or lower the gun's breech when aiming than the mechanism it replaced - a triangular wooden block. Elevating screws were introduced in the last third of the 18th century and adopted by all armies for their light field guns. Shown here is a British brass six-pounder gun on a reproduction block-trail field carriage, found at Fort George National Historic Site, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

Site: National Defence

Fort Chambly

Type: Image

The third fort on this site, construction began on Fort Chambly in 1709. It was made of stone and looked rather like a castle. This made it different from the low-lying, bastioned fortresses of Europe. The fort was built to be impressive and all but impregnable to Indian enemies and raiding American colonials. The fort wall facing the Richelieu River was pierced for artillery. During the War of 1812, Fort Chambly was the HQ for British and Canadian troops guarding the area south of Montreal against an advance by American armies. The complex fell into ruins during the 19th century. Its walls were stabilized in 1885 when it was made a Canadian government historic park. Recognized as a unique surviving example of military architecture, Fort Chambly was given a major restoration in the 1980s by Parks Canada. This returned the fort to its appearance of the mid-18th century.

Site: National Defence

British 'Short Land Pattern' musket, 1768-1797

Type: Image

The 'Short Land Pattern' smoothbore flintlock musket was a modified version of the earlier 'Long Land' weapon. As the name suggests, the new musket was shorter than its predecessor, having a 42" (106.7 cm) barrel instead of 46" (116.8 cm). Both muskets had a calibre (the interior diameter of the barrel) of .75 inches (19.1 mm). The British soldiers' nickname of 'Brown Bess' was also used for both weapons. 'Land Pattern' weapons were made for use by the army, as opposed to Sea Service weapons made for the Royal Navy. The Short Land musket was the main British infantry weapon during both the American and French Revolutions. In 1797, production was shifted to the less expensive 'India Pattern' musket, but the older muskets continued to serve. In Canada, many militia during the War of 1812 would have been issued with old Short Land muskets. (Parks Canada)

Site: National Defence

British swords: 1796 pattern infantry officer's sword (hilt to left); 18th-century infantryman's sword (hilt in centre); 1822 pattern officer's sword (hilt to right)

Type: Image

This photograph shows three different British infantry swords. In the 17th and 18th centuries, soldiers normally had a sword as well as a pike or musket. Gradually, the swords became more for show than use, and were abandoned. Grenadiers were still officially carrying swords during the American Revolution, although they were rarely seen in the field. The short sword here is of this type. By the end of the 18th century, only officers in the infantry still had swords. The 1796 pattern officer's sword was the most common type carried during the War of 1812. Notice the bluing and gold engraving on the blade. This decoration depended on the taste and wallet of each officer. The 1822 pattern lasted a very long time. The hilt is what is sometimes known as the 'gothic' pattern, after the architectural style then in fashion. Canadian militia officers carried this type of sword until swords were no longer taken into the field. (Parks Canada)

Site: National Defence

'Cat of nine tails' whip

Type: Image

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)

Site: National Defence