“The Severity of This Service…” Canadien Inland Mariners in the Early Post-Conquest Era, 1760 to 1817

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More, David
Canadian Colonial HIstory , Quebec , Lower Canada , Maritime history , Labour History , French-English relations in Canada , Kingston history , Naval history , Logistics , Corvee , St. Lawrence River , New France , The Conquest , Great Lakes History
Abstract Beginning just a long decade after New France became part of the British Empire in 1763, a half-century of major crises engulfed British North America; the American Revolutionary War (1775-83), the postwar forced migration and resettlement of thousands of destitute and hungry British-American Loyalist refugees (1784-86), and the War of 1812 (1812-1814). In order to surmount, indeed, just to survive these crises, the British colonial regime in Quebec found it necessary to seek and retain the services of thousands of skilled, native-born, French-Canadian (Canadien) inland mariners in the newly acquired colony. For more than half a century, the Canadiens were needed to fulfill a variety of essential roles. Small boat (batteau) crews hauled virtually all the necessary supplies, including food, to sustain war and resettlement efforts west of Montreal for British soldiers and sailors, Loyalist settlers, militiamen, Indigenous allies and refugees. Canadien mariners also constructed, commanded, and crewed British warships on the Great Lakes. Some men were disabled in combat or became prisoners-of-war. Others died in shipwrecks or drowned on the river. The mariners left few personal records, but their actions were critically important for the successful defense and retention in the British Empire of the colonies that would eventually form central Canada. The contributions of Canadien inland mariners deserve serious consideration when examining the relationships between the people of the former New France and their new British rulers during the challenging, early transitional years of the British colonial regime.
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