From the time that the land we now know as Canada was first discovered and settled, there have been many major wars and minor conflicts that have occurred throughout the centuries on its soil. Almost all of these were related in some way to the British and French interests in the New World as they vied for supremacy for over 150 years. Even though these wars were fought more than 250 years ago, the effect that these conflicts had on the shaping of the country of Canada are still visible today.
There were three periods of conflict that successively followed each other from around 1610 to 1762. The first period of conflict was the French and Iroquois War, also known as the “Beaver War”, which lasted from the early 1600’s until the beginning of the 18th century. French interests in the New World created factions and alliances among the native tribes. The French sided with the Huron-Algonquin alliance and defeated the Iroquois Confederacy in the beginning. However, the Iroquois soon began to use guerilla style warfare tactics, and with their skill in the use of rifles they soon gained the upper hand. A treaty signed by the French and Iroquois in 1701 put an end to the conflict.
King William’s War, which was fought from 1688 to 1697, followed next, with two expeditions sent by British and the American colonies against Montreal and Quebec in 1690 following the successful capture of Port Royal in Acadia from the Acadians. Both offensives were forced to withdraw, and did not succeed in their objectives; the Montreal venture had to return because of disease and lack of supplies, while the Quebec mission was forced back by French defenders. The French hold upon a large part of North America was strongest at this time. But with the turn of the century, the major French and British hostilities were just beginning.
The French built the Fortress of Louisburg in 1720, and began to build up their military strength in Canada. The British were somewhat concerned with the French army being built up in Canada fearing that it might possibly lead to a controlling French presence in North America. But the French were stretching themselves thin around the world, leaving many small garrisons spread far apart which were vulnerable to attack. Soon the British had captured many positions from the French forcing them to regroup and defend themselves in Quebec. But the French still had control of much of the eastern seaboard. This began what was known as the War of the Austrian Succession.
The 1745 Siege of Louisbourg
In 1744 part of the French forces based at Louisburg launched an attack on the more southerly town of Canso, which was controlled by the British. The French captured the town and took prisoner about 100 British soldiers after a short but fierce fight. The objective in attacking Canso was supposed to guard the supply lines from nearby settlements, and stop the British from using the town as a staging point for an attack on French Canada. The British reacted quickly to this military move and gathered together an army of Colonial militia commanded by British regulars. In the spring of 1745 the combined British and American colonial armies sailed for Louisburg.
Despite setbacks caused by foul weather and partially trained soldiers, the fleet of ships arrived off Louisburg Harbour and landed their troops with few problems. The French defenders of the beach were beaten back with few casualties on the landing forces, and the attacking forces made camp. For a few weeks a stalemate ensued; then, without warning or negotiations, the French marched out of the citadel – and surrendered. Louisburg was now in British hands and the French hold on the New World was greatly relaxed. But through the strange twisting of political intrigue, only a few years later, in 1748, it was returned to the French in exchange for towns in Belgium, ending the War of the Austrian Succession.
The 1758 Siege of Louisbourg
However, in 1758, the British once again saw reason to attack Louisburg and upset the French control over a major portion of the North American continent. Under the leadership of Sir Jeffery Amhurst and General James Wolfe, Louisburg was wrested from French hands forever. The final capture of Louisburg, and subsequent retreat of the French to Quebec, was a major point in the beginning of the Seven Year’s War, sometimes known as the French and Indian War, as it left the French with little support in Canada. Slowly the British won many of the French holdings in Canada, leaving the French with just Quebec. The final showdown between the British and the French occurred in 1759 in Quebec, just outside Montreal.
The Battle of the Plains of Abraham, as it came to be known, was the last major military engagement between opposing French and British forces on Canadian soil. General the Marquis de Montcalm commanded the French troops, while the attacking British regulars were led by General James Wolfe. On September 13, 1759, the fate of French Canada was decided. After cutting off French supplies and threatening connections between Quebec City and Montreal, General Wolfe scaled the cliffs below Quebec City and by 8:00 am had assembled his entire force of over 4500 men on the Plains of Abraham below Quebec City. General Montcalm had no choice but to fight. He quickly arranged his army, which was of similar size, and advanced upon the British lines. The British stood firm until the French were no more than 40 yards away and then poured in a devastating volley.
The French retreated, disordered and broken, but not before both Wolfe and Montcalm were killed. The British laid siege to Quebec City and captured it before winter. Next spring the British advanced upon Montreal and captured it also. With both major cities of Quebec in British hands, the French surrendered Quebec to the British, and with the 1763 Treaty of Paris, Quebec was officially ceded to Britain. Over the next few scores of years there would be more hostility, with the American Revolution and the subsequent migration of the Loyalists to Canada, and also the War of 1812-14 which, had the British and Canadian militia not secured and protected Canada’s borders, would have made Canada the 52nd State. Through all this the British presence remained in Canada, and guarded the country until Confederation.
Battle of the Plains of Abraham
The conflicts between the British and the French have decidedly shaped Canada into the country we know today. From the early rivalries of the fur traders – the North-West Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company – to the great military offensives on the east coast, the French and British conflicts have left their mark. The French colonization of Quebec and settlement of towns such as Montreal and Quebec City have bestowed a rich and lasting heritage upon the population of Canada, specifically Quebec. The British presence and military events which took place over the years in Ottawa, York, Niagara, and Kingston are still recognized and commemorated two hundred years later. Even now, in the 21st century, French sympathy runs quick in the blood of French-Canadians, while strong loyalties remain in the hearts of descendants of the early English pioneers.
There are still conflicting interests between French-Canadians and English-Canadians. But even though the use of politics, not open war, is the way things are fought about nowadays, tensions still flare-up between the mostly French Quebec and the rest of Canada. The Quebec Referendum of 1995 was proposed by those who wanted Quebec to separate from the rest of Canada and become its own independent country. The vote was taken and 49.5% of Quebeckers voted to separate, while 50.5% voted to remain in Canada. Despite many vocally advocating Quebec should be a separate country, it is interesting to note that the majority still want to stay in Canada. The benefits of being a province were considered to outweigh the benefits of separation.
In conclusion, through the British and French interests in Canada, there has arisen a great and long-lasting history of conquest and settlement, war and conflict, peace and justice. From the early First Nations and the French fur traders, to the British colonials and the early English pioneers, to the people who make up the population of Canada today, we can see and appreciate the rich history which has shaped this land.
Bond, Douglas, Guns of Thunder, P&R Publishing Co., 2007
Dickie, Donalda & Krause, Rudiger, My First History of Canada, Red Leaf Press, 1958
Marshall, Tabitha, ‘Battle of the Plains of Abraham’, www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com, Published August 2nd, 2006, accessed December 16, 2015
Morton, Desmond, A Short History of Canada, McClelland & Stewart, 2006
The church was yet young. The day had come of which Jesus had spoken in Matthew 10:
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. (Matthew 10:16-20).
That time had come. The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was on the throne. These were the days when Christians were fed to the lions in the Arena at Rome, the days when the catacombs were full of earnest believers who met together to strengthen and encourage one another for the trials of life. Throughout the Empire, Christianity was spreading at an alarming rate for the Roman emperors. In spite of fire, sword, and beastly fury, Roman officers and even high government officials were being converted from paganism to serve the true and living God of Heaven.
In a somewhat obscure city in Asia Minor, in present day Turkey, far from the seat of Imperial power in Rome, there lived an elderly pastor who had long escaped the fury of the power of Rome. He was well into his eighties, and for many years he had pastored his church. In fact, he was so old, that as a young boy he could have been a contemporary of the Apostle John.
The year was 162 A.D. The place was none other than the city of Smyrna, for that is where this elderly pastor shepherded his congregation. Christ himself had written a letter to this church. The words of our Lord to the church of Smyrna contained not a single rebuke, and they glow with warmth.
And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. (Revelation 2:8-11)
Perhaps our elderly hero, as the pastor of this church, treasured these words in his bosom, and carried them with him wherever he went. For over 80 years, he lived in relative peace. Persecution did rage in the city, and the enemies of the gospel had sought his life, but he himself had always been able to escape martyrdom.
But one day, he was betrayed and the place of his residence was discovered. The soldiers rushed into his chamber and demanded that he follow them. The venerable old man asked the young soldiers to give him a season of prayer before he left. Stunned and bewildered by this strange request, the young soldiers saw no reason to deny the man this simple request. Many of these young soldiers were so touched by the fervency and tenderness of his prayers that they later repented.
The elderly man was brought before the Roman proconsul of the province and was condemned to be burned alive in the market place. Perhaps the words of Christ came back to him, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer . . . be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”
The appointed day arrived. The old man was led to his place in the open agora, the market place where public executions were held. A stake awaited him. It was usual practice in Roman times to nail victims to the stake. But the old man had given his word of honor that he would not require the nails. He would stand immovable.
As the elderly hero took his position at the stake, the proconsul, knowing the frailty of the old man’s frame, took pity upon his victim and gave him an opportunity to recant. “Swear, and I will release thee – reproach Christ.”
The answer of the venerable man has gone down in history as among the most famous “last words” of a dying martyr. A hushed silence from the assembled throng awaited his reply. Fixing his aged eyes upon the proconsul, the old man gave his answer, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, Who has saved me?”
The order was given. The torch was applied to the fagots, and the flames leaped upward. But to the astonishment of the crowd, the flames curled upward and around the elderly martyr, leaving him in the middle of the flames, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, untouched by the flames. It was as if the flames themselves were protesting the execution and refusing to touch this elderly servant of God.
A dramatization of the death of Polycarp
The entire assembly had the opportunity to observe this singular miracle. Finally, the executioner was ordered to run the old man through with a sword, which he did. But upon this act, such a quantity of blood flowed out, that the fire was extinguished. The old man soon died, and his dead body was burned to ashes, but his spirit had long risen to the God who gave it, and we can be sure that the Lord Jesus Christ advanced to the portals of heaven to welcome His faithful servant into His presence, and to give him the promised reward, “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”
The man’s name was Polycarp of Smyrna. Many have at least heard the name, but few know the details of his martyrdom. His life and testimony set the pattern for the long train of men, boys, matrons, and maids that would follow his example and lay down their lives for the sake of the Gospel throughout Christian history.
This article was drawn from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.
It was a disgusting scene. What had begun as a sober and important council of war to discuss the affairs of a besieged American city had become a drunken party. Officers were behaving like drunken privates. Lucid statements of military defense had become boisterous shouts of confidence, confidence inspired by the illusions of liquor rather than by concrete plans of sound strategy.
The successful defense of Charleston, South Carolina, was vital to the Patriot cause. This proud seacoast city, having already resisted several attacks by the British navy, was now assaulted by a combined land and naval force that was quickly cutting off all hope of escape or of help from friendly armies.
The American officers charged with Charleston’s defense had met to discuss affairs even as the British tightened their hold on the harbor. The tavern keeper, in whose tavern the meeting was held, was a selfish man who desired to profit from his customers’ fondness for drink. He kept the liquid flowing, and the conversation became more and more boisterous as the night crept into the wee hours of the morning.
In the middle of this wild hubbub of drunken officers sat a slim, athletic figure of medium height. He was a good officer of French Huguenot descent who had played a leading role in the defense of the city in the past. He was resolved again to do his best or perish in the attempt. But he was becoming disgusted with the conduct of his drunken comrades.
Knowing that meaningful statements were now rare and that any clear remarks he could make would be lost upon the drunken ears of his comrades, he decided to leave the meeting and return to his post of duty. But when he tried to leave the upper room of the tavern, he found it locked. The tavern keeper had locked the officers in the room so they could have their fill of rum and give him a good profit.
Now the only sober man in the place, the Christian officer looked for a way out of his dilemma. He was a very abstemious man who, in the hard days of active field campaigns, often subsisted on sweet potatoes and water. He would not become drunk, and he sought a way out of the room.
There was only one way of escape, a window. He opened the window and looked out. The ground was a long way off, but he was an athletic man, and he thought he could make the jump and get out of the drunken company he was in. Deciding to try, he made the leap. But in falling, his ankle turned the wrong way, and his ankle was broken badly.
To his deep chagrin, he had to be taken out of the city on a litter. He had longed to play his part in the defense of Charleston, but now he would be able to play no role in her defense. He was disappointed, frustrated, and dismayed by the lack of military preparedness among his comrades. But he was advised that he should leave the city and head into the interior of South Carolina to recover from his broken ankle. There was but one safe way out of the city, and on this route he was removed to a place of safety.
In only a few days, the city was environed by the enemy, and General Benjamin Lincoln surrendered the city of Charleston to the British forces. The vast majority of commissioned officers in the Southern Department had all become prisoners of war. But our hero’s noble resolution not to become drunk had, in the providence of God, preserved him at a crucial period of South Carolina history.
Now one of only a handful of officers in the State of South Carolina who held a commission from the Continental Congress, our hero began to plot how to field a viable force that would oppose the advances of the enemy. After his recovery, he gathered a small band of men that would become famous in the history of South Carolina’s struggle for liberty.
Today, every South Carolinian knows the name, or at least should know the name, of General Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox” as he was called by the British. But few know the story of how his resolution not to get drunk preserved him from becoming a prisoner of war in the fall of Charleston.
For three long and grueling years, Francis Marion harassed the British forces in South Carolina. With a fluctuating force of mounted men and boys, General Marion succeeded in baffling the most determined efforts of the British to destroy his command. Emerging from the dismal swamps, he would strike the British column, disperse pickets, raid supplies, cut communications, and capture isolated posts.
Marion Shares a Meal with a British Officer
“Light Horse Harry” Lee, the father of Robert E. Lee and comrade in arms of General Marion, said of his friend,
Fertile in stratagem, he struck unperceived, and retiring to those hidden retreats selected by himself in the morasses of the Pee Dee and Black rivers, he placed his corps, not only out of reach of his foe, but often out of the discovery of his friends—never elated by prosperity, nor depressed by adversity, he preserved an equanimity which won the admiration of his friends and exalted the respect of his enemies.
Finally, a real army was sent south to his assistance, and the British were slowly and gradually drawn out of the state by such able generals as Nathanael Greene and Daniel Morgan. Francis Marion continued to render assistance, raiding British posts in concert with the efforts of Greene and Morgan.
The supreme American commander in the South, General Nathanael Green, gave this glowing tribute to the labors of Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox,” in a personal letter,
Certain it is, no man has a better claim to the public thanks than you. History affords no instance wherein an officer has kept possession of a country under so many disadvantages as you have. Surrounded on every side with a superior force, hunted from every quarter with veteran troops, you have found means to elude their attempts, and to keep alive the expiring hopes of an oppressed militia, when all succor seemed to be cut off. To fight the enemy bravely with the prospect of victory is nothing, but to fight with intrepidity under the constant impression of defeat, and to inspire irregular troops to do it, is a talent peculiar to yourself.
After the war, Francis Marion went on to a useful life of agriculture and service in the South Carolina Senate. He married a Godly lady of Huguenot ancestry like himself, but they never had children. Marion had a bright Christian testimony and once gave this testimony of the power of the Gospel, “The religion of Jesus Christ is the only sure and controlling power over sin.” Marion died peacefully in February of 1795 beloved by the grateful people whom he had served so well. His tombstone reads:
History will record his worth,
and rising generations embalm his memory,
as one of the most distinguished patriots and heroes
of the American Revolution;
which elevated his native country
to honor and Independence,
and secured to her the blessings of liberty and peace.
This tribute of veneration and gratitude
is erected in commemoration
of the noble and disinterested virtues of the citizen,
and the gallant exploits of the soldier,
who lived without fear, and died without reproach.
The bold deeds of the “Swamp Fox” have stirred the hearts of each generation. Young Thomas Jackson held Marion as his foremost boyhood hero, and the subsequent campaigns of Jackson, Stuart, and Mosby reflect Marion’s exploits in South Carolina.
But were it not for his resolute decision to jump from a window to avoid drunkenness, Marion would have been captured along with the rest of the officers defending Charleston and would never have been able to liberate his native state from the clutches of the enemy. A man’s resolution to do right may seem insignificant, but the God of providence can do great things with such resolute and obedient men.
Editor’s Note: We are pleased to announce a new series brought to us by John Huffman recounting the stories of the great mighty men of the past. You can expect new posts several times a month over the coming year.
The Bible presents us with the historical records of the “mighty men” of Scripture. The lives of Abraham, Joshua, Gideon, David, Benaiah, Jehoiada, Josiah, Isaiah, Daniel, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, and Tychicus are described and held up to us as noble examples. Following these Biblical narratives, the “Tales of Mighty Men” seeks to preserve the record of the “mighty men” of Christian history. Each issue in this series gives a brief biographical sketch of the life and character of a specific “mighty man.” Some of these men were warriors. Some were pastors. Some were civil magistrates. Some were merchants or farmers. Some were famous. Others were unknown in their generation. These stories range in time from the earliest days of the Roman persecutions all the way up to our modern era. Reformation martyrs, Waldense soldiers, Scottish Covenanters, Hawaiian princes, English Puritans, American patriots, French Huguenots, and bold missionaries traversing the interior regions of Africa are presented here. It is my prayer that these sketches will encourage, inspire, and edify a new generation of “mighty men” and “virtuous women.” Each biographical sketch ends with book recommendations so that the interested reader can learn more about the heroes presented.