Canada’s 19th Century Militia Was a Grave Disappointment

Topics: World War I, Canada, Conscription Pages: 4 (1316 words) Published: March 11, 2013
Section 1
Upon examination, it is clear that Canada’s 19th century militia was a grave disappointment. Although the militia continued to better itself throughout the 19th century, it was still unable to provide the best form of defence for the country. The simple fact that Canada was forced to rely on Britain to protect its borders is proof of how ineffectual the militia truly was. Despite the fact that between Upper and Lower Canada, the strength of the Sedentary Militia was roughly 235,000 strong in 1840, in reality, it was merely a paper force. Aside from the incredible disadvantage of untrained officers, none of the units possessed the necessary equipment required to become a fighting force, should the need arise. The annual musters turned out men that were in no way uniform, and they quickly descended into drunken and disorderly gatherings unsuitable for a military.

In 1846, a new Militia Act was passed that did not provide any substantial changes to the previous militia organization. Although it aided in the recruitment of volunteers, it was still inadequate, as it provided no equipment and little training for the troops. When Britain began withdrawing its forces stationed in Canada in 1845 in order to support the Crimean Expeditionary Force, the Canadian government appointed a commission with the purpose of investigating and reorganizing the ineffectual militia. The commission introduced a bill into Canadian legislature that, for the most part, did not improve on the traditional militia organization, aside from the newly-authorized Active Militia. This body of active militia consisted of 5,000 volunteers that were provided equipment and training for a mere ten days per year. Although this was a slight progression from the 19th century militia, it was still not the greatest option at the time.

When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, the weakness and ineptitude of the Canadian militia was flagrantly noticeable. With only 5,000 armed volunteers...
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