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Date > 1800

Subject > Armed Forces > Military Life > Living Conditions

Interior of soldiers' barracks at St. Andrews by-the-Sea, New Brunswick, 1854

Type: Image

Painted by a British officer of the 76th Regiment of Foot, this watercolour of the 1850s confirms that open fireplaces still heated some barracks, despite wood stoves being introduced in the 1840s. The man at centre wears a grey military greatcoat, while others wear the red regimental coat. At right can be seen several soldier's beds, each with storage above for a knapsack, clothing and accoutrements. (Library and Archives Canada, C-008404)

Site: National Defence

Canadian infantry barracks room, circa 1890

Type: Image

A rare glimpse into life as it was in a Canadian infantry barracks room during a winter evening in about 1890. Some men are shown cleaning their kit, the floor or a Snider-Enfield infantry rifle, one is being shaved, another trims his moustache and one is reading. The barracks furniture features the British iron folding bed and barrack table with iron legs. The men’s uniforms and equipment are neatly hung or shelved and a stove, essential in a Canadian winter, is prominent. (Parks Canada)

Site: National Defence

Amusements

Type: Document

Outside their unit's Mess, British officers had other recreations when stationed in Canada during the 18th and 19th centuries. Amateur theatrical productions and musical concerts were put on by officers. Many painted in watercolours, and fishing, hunting and horse racing were also popular.

Site: National Defence

Housing

Type: Document

British army barracks during the 18th and 19th centuries were laid out like crowded dormitories. Each room housed a company (50-100 men) plus any wives. Beds or bunks ran along the sides, with tables and benches down the centre. In Canada, a cast-iron stove heated the room.

Site: National Defence

British Army folding iron barrack bed

Type: Image

This type of bed gradually replaced wooden double bunks from 1824. Every day, the bed was folded and the mattress rolled up for inspection. Army Circular Memorandum of 12 June 1860.

Site: National Defence

Soldiers' Wives

Type: Document

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.

Site: National Defence

Coteau-du-Lac National Historic Site of Canada: The War of 1812

Type: Document

In 1812, the serious economic stakes of this embargo pushed the Americans to declare war against Great Britain. Although most battles took place in Upper Canada, the capture of Montréal remained a prime objective of the Americans, whose strategy rested on a two-pronged invasion via the Richelieu and the St. Lawrence Rivers. Coteau-du-Lac played a major role in defending the St. Lawrence and the border area.

Site: Parks Canada

Officers in the mess, circa 1850

Type: Image

The regimental officers' mess was something of a social centre and a military version of a private gentlemen’s club. By pooling their resources together, the officers could thus indulge in some of life's small luxuries such as good wines and pleasant surroundings.

Site: National Defence

A tent village of Assiniboine Indians in the 1830s

Type: Image

Amerindians in the great plains, being nomads, lodged in these easily movable conical tents made of long rods and animal hides.

Site: National Defence

Conditions of Militia Service

Type: Document

Budget cuts by the governments of the day often directly affected men and officers and their willingness to stay in the militia.

Site: National Defence