Colonial militia in Canada
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The Colonial militias in Canada were made up of various militias prior to Confederation in 1867. During the period of New France and Acadia, and Nova Scotia (1605-1763), these militias were made up of Canadiens, aboriginals, British and Acadians. The Canadian Militia was the traditional title for the land forces of Canada from Confederation in 1867 to 1940 when it was renamed the Canadian Army. Today, many citizen soldiers serve in the Primary Reserve of the Canadian Forces.
Military service has been part of Canadian life since the 17th century in New France, where colonists were required to serve in local militia to support regular units of the French army and navy. In 1651, Pierre Boucher received a commission of captain from the Governor of New France and asked to raise militia corps in Trois-Rivières. Until the arrival of the Carignan-Salières regiment in 1665, militia corps were the only defence of New France. In the long struggle between the French and British colonies, British and colonial American troops found the Indian-style tactics (i.e., Guerrilla warfare/ frontier warfare) of the Canadien militia to be a formidable adversary. Perhaps the two most famous Canadien attacks against New England were the Siege of Pemaquid (1696) and the Raid on Deerfield (1704).
Until the establishment of Halifax (1749), the militia units in Nova Scotia and Acadia were primarily Mi'kmaq, Maliseet and Acadian militia. Before the British Conquest of Acadia in 1710, these militias fought the New Englanders in King William's War and Queen Anne's War. After the conquest, the Mi'kmaq, Acadian and Maliseet militias continued to fight the British through Father Rale's War, King George's War, and Father Le Loutre's War. The two latter wars saw the arrival Gorham's Rangers, the first British militias established in the colony (the British regulars of the 40th Regiment of Foot was raised in the colony 1720). The Mi'kmaq and Acadian militias continued to fight in Nova Scotia throughout the French and Indian War.
The success of the Canadiens was underscored during the French and Indian War by George Washington's defeat at Great Meadows and Edward Braddock's embarrassment at the Monongahela River. The British response was to create new "ranger" and "light infantry" units adept at woodland warfare. When France conceded Canada to Great Britain in 1763, defence of the territory remained a duty shared by Canadien and British colonists, Indian nations, and the regular forces of Britain. As the colonies advanced to nationhood, its people would be called to their own defence three times in the next 100 years.
- District of Québec: 1759 - 5,640 militiamen
- District of Montréal: 1759 - 5,455 militiamen 4,200 sent to Quebec City
- District of Trois-Rivière: 1759 - 1,300 militiamen 1,100 to Quebec City
- Canadien Cavalry: 200 cavalrymen
- Acadian Militia 1759 - 150 militiamen
- Native Indians 1759 - 1,800
The American Revolution
In 1775, during the American Revolutionary War, plans to invade Canada were drawn up as the first major military initiative by the newly formed Continental Army. The objective of the campaign was to gain military control of the British Province of Quebec (modern day Canada), and convince the French-speaking Canadiens to join the revolution on the side of the Thirteen Colonies. There were only two British regiments in the colony of Quebec. Companies of Canadian volunteers had to be raised to support the regular troops. Pro-American sympathies were a problem among the anglophone company raised by the Montreal merchants. In November 1775, Governor Carleton organized the defenders of Quebec City to face a siege by the American rebels. British regular troops were few in number. Canadian militia, from both the anglophone and francophone communities, made up the majority of the defenders. The militia of Quebec City was divided into two sections in 1775 - 'Canadian Militia' drawn from the francophone population, and 'British Militia' made up of anglophones. During the siege of Quebec, both were issued with the same uniform: green coat without lapels, with green facings; buff waistcoats and breeches; tricorne hat. The uniforms were drawn from stocks sent from Britain in the summer of 1775 for a proposed but never raised corps of Canadian light infantry.
In the aftermath of the American Revolutionary came an exodus of 40,000 Loyalists into the Canadas, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, joined by many of the Six Nations Iroquois who had remained loyal to Great Britain. Since many of the new Canadians were also veterans of Loyalist regiments, they brought both the British sympathies and the military training to establish competent professional forces to oppose the perceived American threat. Called "fencibles", the new units were organized within the British army, but charged wholly with the defence of their home colonies. Their professional presence also enhanced training for the citizen militia and established many traditions that continue to modern times.
The War of 1812
In 1812, with the United Kingdom engaged in Europe, the United States took the opportunity to declare war and launch another attempt to capture Canada and expand westward into Indian territories. While British redcoats did most of the fighting in the War of 1812, Canadian militia and allied Indian warriors proved to be a vital part of Canada's defence.
The merit of British professional commanders was illustrated by Major-General Sir Isaac Brock in Upper Canada (Ontario) and Lieutenant-Colonel Charles de Salaberry, a French Canadian, in Lower Canada (Quebec). As soon as war was declared, Brock hastened to capture the American post on Lake Huron at Michilimackinac. Besides closing a key crossing on the Great Lakes, his success earned the admiration and loyalty of the Indian leader, Tecumseh. Brock then led a force of his troops along with colonial militia, fencibles and Tecumseh's Indians to capture Fort Detroit, securing the upper Great Lakes.
In the east, the French Canadians fought a crucial battle at Châteauguay, south of Montreal. With a force of just 320 Canadiens and 50 allied Indians, de Salaberry turned back a column of 4000 Americans moving on Montreal.
Brock died a Canadian hero as he repelled the American landing at the Battle of Queenston Heights and Tecumseh was later killed at the Battle of the Thames. Many engagements proved to be bloody but indecisive, including the Battle of Lundy's Lane near Niagara Falls, Ontario, the burning of both York (Toronto) and Washington, and in numerous naval engagements on the Great Lakes. When the war concluded in 1815, nothing material had changed for the European powers. The Treaty of Ghent restored all pre-war boundaries. Canadians, meanwhile, discovered the seeds of nationhood in their victories and their sacrifices, while their allies, the Indian nations, saw their hopes for secure boundaries of their own vanish.
The Fenian Raids
In the late 1860s, the Fenian Brotherhood was an association of Irish-American veterans of the American Civil War who plotted to free Ireland from British rule by striking at the United Kingdom's colonies that lay within easy striking distance. In response, 20,000 Canadians volunteered for militia service, many from the Orange Order. Several hundred soldiers were quickly deployed from nearby Toronto, many of them coming from The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada. In Hamilton, the 13th Battalion (today's Royal Hamilton Light Infantry) mobilized over two hundred soldiers for frontier service.
The first serious raid came in June 1866 with 850 Fenians attacking at Ridgeway in the Niagara region, then withdrawing quickly back across the border. This was the largest and best-organized raid, and militia units, again primarily the Queen's Own Rifles and Hamilton's 13th Battalion, were called out. The engagement ended with a defeat at Ridgeway, but the Fenians withdrew back to the USA through Fort Erie, where another skirmish was fought before the Fenians withdrew across the Niagara River. Militia units skirmished with the Fenians sporadically until 1871. The raids ended after unsuccessful attacks during the Battle of Eccles Hill in Quebec and in the northwest frontier, near the Manitoba border. The Fenians accomplished little, but the Canadian colonies came to recognize a shared need for a vigilant and coordinated defence: a key factor leading to confederation of the provinces into one country in 1867.
|Model/Type||Period or Years in Use||Manufacturer/Origins|
|Fusil de Grenadier Tulle||France|
|Fusil de Chasse Tulle||France|
|Queen Ann Musket||1702–1714||United Kingdom|
|William III Carbine||United Kingdom|
|Nock Carbine||1780-1790s||United Kingdom|
|Elliot Carbine||1770s||United Kingdom|
|Brown Bess Long Land, Short Land, India Patterns||United Kingdom|
|Lovells Pattern 1838 musket and Double Barrel Carbine||United Kingdom|
|Pattern 1842 Musket||United Kingdom|
|Pattern 1851 Rifle||United Kingdom|
|Pattern 1853 Enfield||United Kingdom|
|Lancaster Rifle||United Kingdom|
|Baker rifle||United Kingdom|
|Brunswick rifle||United Kingdom|
|Starr Carbine||US Civil War 1860s||United States|
|Spencer rifle and carbine||US Civil War 1860s||United States|
|Westley Richards Rifle||United Kingdom|
|Peabody Rifle||United Kingdom|
|Snider Enfield||1860s-1901||United Kingdom|
- Fort Chambly, Quebec
- Champ de Mars, Montreal, Quebec
- The Citadel, Montreal, Quebec
- Citadelle of Quebec, Quebec
- Lévis Forts, Quebec
- Fort Richelieu, Quebec
- Fort Senneville, Quebec
- Fort de l'Île Sainte-Hélène
- Fortress of Louisbourg, Ile Royale
- Fort Beauséjour, Acadia
- Fort Gaspareaux, Acadia
- Fort Menagoueche, Acadia
- Fort Anne - Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia
- Fort York and New Fort York - York, Upper Canada and Toronto
- Citadel Hill, Halifax, Nova Scotia
- Citadelle of Quebec, Quebec
- Fort Frederick (Kingston), Ontario
- Fort Henry, Kingston, Ontario
- Fort Howe, Saint John, New Brunswick
- Fort Lawrence, Amherst, Nova Scotia
- Fort Point, Newfoundland and Labrador
- Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site
- Signal Hill, Newfoundland and Labrador
- York Redoubt, Ferguson's Grove, Nova Scotia
- Canadian Forces
- List of conflicts in Canada
- Provincial Marine
- Canadian militia
- Military of New France
- Military history of the Mi’kmaq People
- Military history of the Maliseet people
- Military history of the Acadians
- John Grenier. Far Reaches of Empire: War in Nova Scotia. 1710-1760. Oklahoma University Press. 2008.