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Date > 1800 > 1820-1829

Subject > Armed Forces > Military Life

Trooper, Royal Montreal Cavalry, 1824

Type: Image

This 1824 silhouette of a trooper of the Royal Montreal Cavalry unit is one of the earliest known images of a Canadian unit. These militia light cavalry were dressed in the same style as British light dragoons. The uniform was blue faced with scarlet and trimmed with gold buttons and lace. The original silhouette is in the collection of the Musée d'Argenteuil, Carillon, Quebec. The Royal Montreal cavalry was recruited from the Anglophone middle class of Montreal, and was something of a military wing of the Montreal Hunt Club.

Site: National Defence

Coat of Captain William Wells, Grenville Regiment, Upper Canada Militia, circa 1820

Type: Image

From 1814 until the 1830s, militia infantry officers in Upper Canada were supposed to wear, apart from a few exceptions, a scarlet uniform faced with dark blue, trimmed with gilt buttons and gold lace edging the collar and cuffs. This surviving coat of circa 1820 belonged to Captain William Wells (1809-1881) of the Grenville Regiment. It is preserved at Fort Wellington National Historic Site. Wells himself was a prominent Reform politician.

Site: National Defence

Captain George Denison, York Dragoons, 1820s

Type: Image

George Taylor Denison (1783-1853) founded both a Canadian military dynasty and a militia regiment that survives into the 21st century. Also known as the York Light Dragoons or York Cavalry, the York Dragoons were raised in 1822 and attached to the 1st West York (later Toronto) Militia Regiment. After many changes of name, the unit is now the The Governor General's Horse Guards, a Toronto-based reserve regiment. The uniform in the 1820s was a dark blue jacket with buff facings and silver buttons, lace and wings. (Library of the Canadian Department of National Defence)

Site: National Defence

Military Costumes

Type: Document

This section is a collection of surviving artifacts and period artists' illustrations. Illustrated are uniform coats of officers or enlisted men from a variety of Canadian and British units that served in present-day Canada during the period 1780-1870.

Site: National Defence

Lieutenant-Colonel Gustavus Nicolls, Corps of Royal Engineers

Type: Image

Gustavus Nicolls was the designer of the Halifax Citadel, as well as Fort Lennox (Île-aux-Noix, Quebec). He commanded the Corps of Royal Engineers in Canada from 1815 to 1837. This portrait of circa 1813-1824 is attributed to his wife. (Parks Canada)

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

Demobilization and Retirement

Type: Document

Before reforms in the mid-19th century, most British soldiers left the army only when their regiment was disbanded in the aftermath of a war. When this occurred in Canada, men were offered land to encourage them to settle in the colony. Pensions were rare, and worth little.

Site: National Defence

Duties and Honours

Type: Document

British army officers were primarily responsible for supervising the activities of their men. The British took up the practice of awarding military medals only in the nineteenth century. First for officers only, then for all ranks, campaign medals became a source of great pride.

Site: National Defence

Large Garrison Still Needed

Type: Document

Defending British North America after the end of the war of 1812 required a large number of British soldiers. Thousands of men were stationed in Upper and Lower Canada, and thousands more in the Maritime colonies.

Site: National Defence

Still a Viable Institution

Type: Document

In Lower Canada during the 1820s, the militia was still respected as an institution by the Francophone majority. Training consisted mostly of shooting contests, but these were taken seriously. Importantly, the institution was not split along social lines as happened in Upper Canada.

Site: National Defence