History Browser

Search Results

Canadian Militia Prior to Confederation

Type: Document

This report discusses the growth and development of the Canadian Militia from its beginnings in early New France until Confederation in 1867.

Site: National Defence

Military Encampment of Canadian Volunteer Militia at Fort Wellington, Prescott (Ontario), 1870

Type: Image

The Fenian Raids led to the mobilization of about 13,500 Canadian volunteer militiamen during the summer of 1870. The militia were stationed along Canada’s border with the United States. A group of Fenians at Malone, near Ogdensburg (New York), had planned to attack Prescott but their hopes were shattered. Some 300 Canadian volunteer militiamen accompanied by field artillery arrived to occupy Fort Wellington. Nearby Brockville had 200 men and another 800 with field artillery were stationed at Cornwall. The Fenians cancelled their plans. (Library and Archives Canada, C-040161)

Site: National Defence

Canada within the Empire - The Fenian Raids. 1841-1871

Type: Document

Following the American Civil War, the Fenian Brotherhood, largely composed of Irish-American veterans, sought to achieve Ireland’s independence from Britain by capturing Canada as a hostage. Canada's permanent militia units defeated the Fenians until the movement collapsed after 1871.

Site: Canadian War Museum

Canadian volunteers of the 50th Battalion 'Huntingdon Borderers' engage Fenian raiders

Type: Image

This battle occurred at Eccles Hill near Ormstown, Québec, on 27 May 1870. The Fenians were defeated and fled back into Vermont.

Site: National Defence

British Westley-Richards breech­loading rifle, used by the Montreal Militia in 1867

Type: Image

Westley-Richards is a famous British gunmaking firm based in Birmingham. In 1858 they patented a 'capping breechloader' system that was adopted in 1861 for British cavalry carbines. The breech opened and closed by moving a long arm hinged to the rear of the barrel. In 1867, units of the Montreal Militia ordered .45 calibre capping breech-loading rifles from the firm to equip themselves with something more advanced than the model 1853 Enfield muzzle-loading rifles then on issue to the Canadian militia. This sort of emergency fix was a reaction to the threat of raids by Fenian insurgents armed with American Spencer breechloading rifles. In fact, the Canadian government purchase a quantity of Spencer rifles as well. These temporary expedients were no longer needed once the Snider-Enfield rifle was introduced in 1866. (Parks Canada)

Site: National Defence

The Fenians

Type: Document

The end of the American Civil War in 1865 brought a new military problem. There were 10,000 Irish-American veterans who belonged to the Fenians, a well-armed Irish secret society that wanted revenge against Britain. The Fenians planned to invade Canada.

Site: National Defence

Colt .36 caliber model 1851 Navy Pistol, 1851-1861

Type: Image

American Colt revolvers were purchased by the Canadian government to issue to the newly raised cavalry companies of the Canadian Volunteer Militia in 1856. These six-shot percussion weapons allowed their users to produce a hail close range fire, and replaced the sword as the cavalryman's best weapon at close range. The revolver shown in this photograph is what is known variously as the 'model 1851 Navy'. Colt's 'Navy' pistols were military weapons, larger than the 'Pocket' (or 'Baby Dragoon') pistols favoured by civilians. (Parks Canada)

Site: National Defence

American model 1865 Spencer breech-loading carbine

Type: Image

The Spencer repeating rifle was a development of the model 1860 carbine used by the United States cavalry during the American Civil War. One of the very first magazine rifles, this weapon could fire more than one shot without needing to be reloaded. Spencer rifles were issued to some units of the Canadian Volunteer Militia in 1866-67. This was an panic reaction to the threat of raids by Fenian insurgents, themselves armed with Spencers. (Parks Canada)

Site: National Defence

Private's tunic, Canadian Volunteer Militia, 1863 - 1870

Type: Image

This tunic is the standard pattern adopted in 1863 for the Canadian Volunteer Militia. It is similar to the tunic of a British regular infantryman of the era, but instead of straight cuffs with cuff flaps it has pointed cuffs decorated with an 'Austrian knot' in white piping. Note as well the white loop on the shoulder in place of the more usual shoulder strap. The facings are dark blue, a distinction normally reserved for 'royal' regiments but adopted wholesale by the Canadians. This example dates from 1863-1870, but the general style was worn by the militia for the remainder of the 19th century. (Canadian War Museum)

Site: National Defence

Confederates Strike From Canada

Type: Document

In late 1864, Confederate raiders used Canada as a base to attack the United States. A civilian death during an incident at St. Albans, Vermont, enraged the Americans. Terrified, the Canadian government mobilized units of militia volunteers for the first time since 1838.

Site: National Defence