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Not Cowboys & Indians, Part 3

So for the 3rd post in the Not Cowboys & Indians series, I will focus on the 18th century. I cannot, of course, cover all the battles, but I hope to offer you a view of what it was like in Canada at the time.

Queen Anne's War

A map depicting the state of European occupation of North America at the start of Queen Anne’s War, as the North American theatre of the War of the Spanish Succession is known.

The first war in the 18th century was Queen Anne’s War, also known as the Third Indian War, and it took place between 1702 and 1713. The main issue was the rivalry between France and England in America, which had been left unresolved by the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697.

The War was primarily fought in Europe, in France and England, and later Great Britain. The war also involved many Native tribes allied with each nation.

The war was fought on three fronts:

1. Spanish Florida and the English Province of Carolina were each attacked from the other, and the English engaged the French at Mobile (Alabama), involving allied Indians on both sides. This war had the effect of nearly wiping out the Indian population of Spanish Florida, including parts of present-day southern Georgia, and destroying Spain’s network of missions in the area.

2. The English colonies of New England fought with French and Indian forces based in Acadia and Canada. Quebec City was repeatedly targeted by British expeditions, and the Acadian capital (Port Royal) was taken in 1710. The French and Wabanaki Confederacy fought the New Englanders’ expansion into Acadia.

3. In Newfoundland, English colonists based at St. John’s, disputed control of the island with the French based at Plaisance. Most of the conflict consisted of economically destructive raids against the other side’s settlements. The French successfully captured St. John’s in 1709, but the British quickly reoccupied it after the French abandoned it.

Broad conclusion of this war was: the British received Acadia (now Nova Scotia), Newfoundland and fur trading posts in the Hudson Bay area. France managed to keep several islands in the Saint Lawrence River and Cape Breton Island at the north-eastern end of Nova Scotia.

There were casualties on both sides:
* Spain (50-60); French Indian allies (50); Spanish Indian allies (many).
* Great Britain (900); New England (200); Carolina (150); Indian allies (light).

The 18th century had many other wars in North America. A few are:

1722 – 1725: Father Rale’s War (a series of battles between New England and the Wabanaki Confederacy (specifically the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, and Abenaki), who were allied with New France.

1744 – 1748: King George’s War (It took place primarily in the British provinces of New York, Massachusetts Bay, New Hampshire, and Nova Scotia. Its most significant action was an expedition organized by Massachusetts Governor William Shirley that besieged and ultimately captured the French fortress of Louisbourg, on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, in 1745.)

1749 – 1755: Father Le Loutre’s War. The war began with the British unilaterally establishing Halifax, which was a violation of an earlier treaty with the Mi’kmaq, signed after Father Rale’s War. With the fall of Beausejour, Le Loutre was imprisoned and the Acadian expulsion began. The British forces rounded up French settlers and deported the Acadians and burned their villages at Chignecto to prevent their return. The Acadian Exodus from Nova Scotia during the war spared most of the Acadians who joined it – particularly those who went to Ile St. Jean and Ile Royal – from the British deportation of the Acadians in 1755.

1754 – 1763: Seven Years’ War. The war was fought mostly between the colonies of British America and New France, with both sides supported by military units from their parent countries of Great Britain and France, who declared war on each other in 1756.

1763 – 1766: Pontiac’s War. This war was launched by a loose confederation of Native American tribes, from the Great Lakes region, the Illinois Country, and Ohio Country. More warriors from many tribes joined the uprising. They wished to drive British soldiers and settlers out of the region. The war is named after the Ottawa leader Pontiac, the most prominent of many native leaders in the conflict.

1775 – 1776: the American Revolutionary War. The war initially began in the resistance of many Americans to taxes imposed by the British parliament, which they held to be unlawful. In the end, the Americans received their independence, and British recognition of the United States of America. The territorial changes at the end of the war were that Britain lost the area east of Mississippi River and south of Great Lakes & St. Lawrence River to independent United States & to Spain; Spain gained East Florida, West Florida and Minorca; Britain ceded Tobago and Senegal to France. And the Dutch Republic ceded Negapatnam to Britain.

1789, the Nootka Crisis. The Pacific Northwest was little explored by European ships before the mid-18th century. But by the end of the century, several nations were vying for control of the region, including Britain, Spain, Russia, and the United States.

1792, the destruction of Opitsaht. American merchant and maritime fur trader Captain Robert Gray built the establishment on Meares Island in (present day British Columbia). In 1792, a newly constructed ship was launched, making it the first American-built vessel in the Pacific Northwest. Just before launching the ship, the fort was abandoned. However, Gray desired to leave nothing of use to the natives because of a foiled attack against his men conceived by the Tla-o-qui-aht people. So he ordered the destruction of 200 homes in the local village of Opitsaht. This is known in part because of entry in his own ship’s log, admitting he let his passions go too far.

1796, the Newfoundland expedition. This war was a series of fleet manoeuvres and amphibious landings in the coasts of Newfoundland, Labrador and Saint Pierre and Miquelon, carried out by the joint French and Spanish fleets against the British in North America. When they landed at Bay Bulls, they found that there wasn’t much of a force there to protect Newfoundland. And so they took dozens of British prisoners. The combined fleet then sailed toward Saint Pierre and Miquelon, which were held by the British at that time. The combined expedition destroyed over 100 fishing vessels from the Newfoundland fleet and burned fishing stations along the Newfoundland coast, including the base of the English garrison at Placentia Bay.

In my next post in this series, I will focus on the 19th century.


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This Week in Canadian History – November Week 2

Byron Moffatt Britton

Justice Byron Moffatt Britton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most people have never heard of Angelina Napolitano.  But thanks to her, Canadian women now expect more justice in the judicial system.

Angelina is the first person to use the now-commonly known argument battered woman defense on a murder charge in Canada.  It was a case that drew attention quite literally around the globe.  Also, her story is told in a movie, Looking for Angelina.

Angelina Napolitano was born in the vicinity of Naples (Italy) in approximately 1883, and no one seems to know her family name.  In 1898, she married Pietro Napolitano, then they emigrated first to New York City, and, seven years later, moved to Canada.  They lived in Thessalon (Ontario) and then moved to Sault Ste. Marie (Ontario), which has a substantial Italian community.  Together they had four children.

Their marriage, we learned, was a violent one. For instance, in November 1910, Pietro had assaulted her with a knife nine times, in the face, neck, shoulder, chest and arms.  He was charged with assault, but received a suspended sentence.

When he could find work, Pietro was a labourer.  His solution to poor income, he forced Angelina to earn money through prostitution.  Easter Sunday on April 16, 1911, Pietro told the six month pregnant Angelina to do just that.  He was going to take a nap, and expected the money by the time he woke up.  If she didn’t have the money, he threatened to beat her, kill her, or kill the unborn child.  So while he slept, she took an axe and hit him in the neck and head.  Then she went to her neighbour’s house, and said, “I just killed a pig.”  Then she waited for the police.  She was arrested.

Trial was set for Monday, May 8, 1911, but when the court realized she had no lawyer to represent her, Judge Byron Moffatt Britton assigned Uriah McFadden as defense attorney.  The trial then took place the next day, May 9.  Crown attorney Edmund Meredith questioned nine witnesses, while McFadden only called one witness, Angelina herself, who did not speak English very well. Citing the November 1910 incident, McFadden argued that the abuse pushed her into committing murder.  However, Justice Britton ruled the argument inadmissible, saying, “If anybody injured six months ago could give that as justification or excuse for slaying a person, it would be anarchy complete.”

The trial lasted only three hours.  The jury came back with a guilty verdict.  Though they recommended clemency, Justice Britton sentence her to hang on August 9 – one month after Angelina’s due date.

The story broke in newspapers and soon took on a frenzy not seen before in Canada.  It was published and debated in Canada, the United States, and even Europe.  Some of the discussion were negative, citing such arguments as racist stereotypes of Italians being “hot-blooded,” hence deserved to pay the penalty.  Others, though, were sympathetic, because of the abuse and demanded a stay of execution and serve jail term, or even a pardon.

Sir Allen Bristol Aylesworth, the federal minister of justice at the time, received many letters from people, group organizations from Sault Ste. Marie, Toronto, New York, Chicago, England, Austria, and Poland.  An example of the support for Angelina, a doctor in Ohio, Dr. Alexander Aalto, offered to be hanged in her stead, saying, “It would only be fair to Mrs. Napolitano for a man to give his life for her.”  The earlier feminists responded to the judge’s decision to throw out evidence of abuse, by claiming it was self-defense.  Some of the arguments were double-edged, such as the Sault Ste. Marie MP, Arthur Cyril Boyce, claimed that “her pregnancy made her temporarily insane.”   Of course, though it would be ridiculous to use these arguments today, these do reflect the views of those days.

The federal cabinet finally commuted Angelina’s sentence to life imprisonment on July 14, 1911.  Her children were placed in foster homes, and it is not known if she saw them after that.  She did give birth, but sadly the baby died in just a few weeks.  After serving eleven years at Kingston Penitentiary, she was granted parole on December 30, 1922.  There doesn’t seem to be any detail of her life after that, except for her death on September 4, 1932 at the Hotel Dieu Hospital in Frontenac County, Ontario.

Looking for Angelina, a movie of her story, was made with director Sergio Navarretta, by Platinum Image Film.  It was a two-week production that was shot in Sault Ste. Marie in 2004, on a budget of just $250,000.  It was authored by Alessandra Piccione and Frank Canino.  For authenticity, the film is in period-correct Italian with English subtitles.  The film has won three awards.  Since October 2008, the DVD is packaged with a 114-page companion book, Child Abuse Prevention and Intervention.

I can recommend a few site to visit if you would like to learn more about today’s post.  There is the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, the always comprehensive Women in Canadian History, and to learn more about the film, go to the source at Platinum Image. To order the DVD (Looking for Angelina), you can it at Second Story Press.


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From 72 to 27,000 Employees

Vancouver International Airport (YVR/CYVR), Ri...

Vancouver International Airport (YVR/CYVR), Richmond, British Columbia, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Occasionally a politician emerges who likes to get things done and is ready to bulldoze his measures through the House of Commons, if necessary.  The Right Honourable C. D. Howe, Member of Parliament for Port Arthur, Ontario, was such a man.

One of Howe’s greatest achievements was the creation of Air Canada, originally called Trans-Canada Airlines.  Parliament passed the act establishing it in April 1937.  When the airline was organized it was designed to serve major communities spread across more than 4,000 miles of mountain, forest, and prairie.  The more appropriate name Air Canada was adopted in 1964.

Trans-Canada Airlines inaugurated its first commercial flight on September 1, 1937, between Vancouver and Seattle.  It had only two 10-passenger Lockheed aircraft and a Stearman bi-plane, acquired when it bought out Canadian Airway Company on the Pacific Coast.

Airports and navigational aids were more advanced in Western Canada; so headquarters were established at Winnipeg.  By October 17, 1938, after extensive training of pilots and ground crews, T.C.A. was ready to carry mail and freight between Montreal and Vancouver.  Passenger service was inaugurated on April 1, 1939.  The journey from Montreal to Vancouver took eighteen hours.

The original pilots still with the company include George Lothian, Herbert Seagrim, J. L. Root, W. E. Barnes, J. A. Jones, L. K. Lewis, J. A. Wright and M. B. Barclay.  They used to use a number of tricks to gain enough altitude to fly over the Rockies.  Pilots flying from Lethbridge to Vancouver would turn east rather than west to catch the air current which flowed over the mountains and hit the ground.  The pilots would ride the rising air to gain altitude!  Passengers had to wear oxygen masks when flying over the mountains and occasionally on other routes when it became necessary to fly at an altitude of more than 10,000 feet to escape bad weather.

Since 1937 Air Canada has grown from 72 employees and three aircrafts to an international carrier employing 27,000 men and women, with a fleet of 192 aircrafts (2013).  Air Canada flies to 21 domestic destinations and 81 international destinations in 33 countries.

For more information on Air Canada, I suggest visiting Wikipedia, and the CBC Digital Archives, as well as the Wayback Machine Archives for another good article from CBC.


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“Better Men Than I Have Been Killed!”

QUEBEC CONFERENCE. Seated, left to right: Prim...

QUEBEC CONFERENCE. Seated, left to right: Prime Minister Mackenzie King of Canada, President Roosevelt, and Prime Minister Churchill. Standing: General Arnold, Air Chief Marshal Portal, General Brooke, Admiral King, Field Marshal Dill, General Marshall, Admiral Pound, and Admiral Leahy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During World War II the Allied leaders met as often as possible to plan for the future.  Prime Minister Churchill of Britain and President Roosevelt of the United States met three times in Canada.  The first conference was at Argentia, Newfoundland, where the two drew up the Atlantic Charter (see my August 11 post – “Umm … Can You Slow Down a Bit?”).  They met twice at Quebec; the first conference being in August 1943, and the second, on September 11, 1944.

When the second Quebec Conference took place in 1944, Germany was on the way to defeat.  Prime Minister Churchill crossed the Atlantic in the Queen Mary, accompanied by Mrs. Churchill and his chiefs of staff.  They landed at Halifax and travelled by train to Quebec, where President and Mrs. Roosevelt were already waiting, with their famous little dog “Falla.”  Governor-General the Earl of Athlone, his wife Princess Alice, and Prime Minister Mackenzie King were there to extend Canada’s greetings, but Canada’s part in the conference was only that of any other allied nation.


This conference, the eighth attended by Churchill, was completely different from the others, which had been held in the critical days of the war.  Now, as Churchill said, everything the Allies touched was turning to gold.

Churchill missed Harry Hopkins, one of Roosevelt’s chief aides, who had done a great deal to overcome difficulties between the British and Americans.  He was ill in London and cabled that he did not feel able to tackle another Battle of the Plains of Abraham “where better men than I have been killed.”

Hopkin’s jest contained a great deal of irony.  Although the Allies were winning in Europe, the problem now was to defeat Japan.  The British had needed and welcomed American help to defeat Germany, and now they wanted to help the Americans defeat Japan.  The American military leaders tried to keep the British out of the Pacific sector as much as possible.  Churchill offered to send a British fleet to the Pacific to serve under American command, but American Admiral King turned down the offer!  He was overruled by Roosevelt.


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Never Was So Much Owed By So Many To So Few

Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. (L-R...

Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference. (L-R): Rt. Hon. W.L. Mackenzie King (Canada), General Jan Smuts (South Africa), Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill (United Kingdom), Rt. Hons. Peter Fraser (New Zealand), John Curtin (Australia). Location:London, U.K. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sir Winston Churchill became such a great hero to Canadians in World War II that it was forgotten or forgiven that his name had been anathema to many people before and after World War I.

In the great naval controversy between Liberals and Conservatives from 1911 to the outbreak of war in 1914, Churchill, who was then First Lord of the Admiralty, had openly supported the Conservatives’ position: that Canada should not try to create a navy, but should spend the money strengthening the Royal Navy.

In 1922 Churchill burst upon the Canadian political scene again.  This time W. L. Mackenzie King and a Liberal government were in power.  Turkey, as an ally of Germany, had been defeated in the war.  Under the Treaty of Versailles, the Allies had kept control of the Dardenelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosporus, dividing Europe and Asia.  An international commission, on which Sir Robert Borden represented British interests, gave Gallipoli and Smyrna to Greece.  A young Turkish officer, Mustapha Kemal, organized a government of his own to free Turkey.  On August 27, 1922, Canadians read that Kemal had launched an all-out attack on the Greeks in Smyrna.  Within two weeks, Smyrna had been captured and the British garrison at Chanak, headquarters of the army of occupation was trapped.  Would Kemal go on and attack the British?

Winston Churchill, who had become Colonial Secretary, and Lord Chancellor Birkenhead, issued a press statement, without Cabinet approval, that Britain had invited the British Dominions to send troops to help defend the British position at Chanak.  Prime Minister Mackenzie King read of the cabled request in Toronto newspapers, while absent from Ottawa.

During the war, Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden and Prime Minister Smuts of South Africa had established the position that as the Dominions had made such a big contribution, they must be consulted in decisions about foreign affairs in which they would be involved.  So Prime Minister Mackenzie King replied that he could not commit Canada without the approval of Parliament.

Fortunately it all blew over without Britain’s or Canada’s going to war.  A peace conference settled the situation in the Middle East.  The importance of the “Chanak Crisis” was that Prime Minister King established Canadian relations with Britain on an orderly basis.


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The Evil Genius of Crooks

Français : Portrait de Sébastien-François Bigo...

Français : Portrait de Sébastien-François Bigot de Morogues (1706-1781). Artiste inconnu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the biggest “crooks” who ever operated in Canada, in its early days, was François Bigot, who was the Intendant or business manager at Louisburg before it fell to Pepperell in 1745, and at Quebec before it was taken by Wolfe.

Louisburg fell easily to Pepperill’s amateurs from New England, partly because it was not as strong as it was supposed to be.  Inferior materials had been used in the walls.  The soldiers who did the work were supposed to be paid, but they received no money.  Provisions sent to the soldiers were sold to officers and there was dissension among the ranks while Bigot lined his pockets.

Despite his record, Bigot was sent to Quebec on August 20, 1748, and organized a ring of “crooks” to help him.  One of them was Joseph Cadet, son of a local butcher, who was made Commissar-General and looked after supplies.  he made enough money to become the Baron de la Touche D’Arrigny, with an estate in France.

Under Bigot’s evil genius, the group plundered Canada and the treasury of France.  People were overcharged for goods from France.  Canadian farm products were bought at low prices, stored and then released to the troops when the highest prices could be charged.  King Louis would buy presents for the Indians which they seldom received as Bigot and his gang would sell them.  On one occasion, when Louis needed supplies for his armies in Europe, Bigot made a profit of 12 million francs!

The fall of Quebec, like Louisburg, was due in part to inferior or scarce supplies resulting from Bigot’s activities.  When they returned to France, there was an investigation of all the officials who had served at Quebec.

Governor Vaudreuil was acquitted and received a pension.  Twenty-seven judges heard the charges against Bigot and his accomplices.  The trials lasted for more than a year and Bigot’s testimony covered 1,200 pages.  He pictured himself as the victim of evil associates!  Somehow he escaped the guillotine and was banished from France with a heavy fine.  Other members of the gang were sent to the Bastille, but some of them had enough money to buy an easement of their sentences.  Cadet’s daughters married into the nobility of France!

Quite an interesting character! To learn more about François Bigot, I suggest the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, and then the Canadian Encyclopedia, as well as Encyclopedia Britannica.


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It Was A Combined Operation!

Canadian prisoners being led away through Diep...

One of the most controversial battles in which Canadian troops ever fought was the Dieppe raid on August August 19, 1942.  Books and articles have been written about it; television and radio programs produced, but many missed the purpose and significance of Dieppe.

During the summer of 1942, the Russians were fighting the Germans practically alone, suffering terrible losses with their backs to the wall.  They insisted that the Allies take action in Europe to relive the pressure on them.  The United States had barely entered the war and had few forces in Britain.  It was called “the second front.”  Yet something had to be done.  After lengthy consultations the Allies decided to mount a heavy offensive on Dieppe, as a morale-builder and test of German defences.  It was a rehearsal for the “second front” which actually opened on June 5, 1944, almost two years later.

Nearly all the writers and producers who have dealt with the Dieppe raid have failed to bring out that it was a joint operation, not just an attack by the 2nd Canadian Division.  Dieppe, for the first time, coordinated army, navy, and air force.  The navy did an incredible job, escorting more than 100 troop-carrying ships to harbours along the coast of the south of England and then sweeping them safely through the German minefields in the darkness.  Before and during the assault, the air force tangled overhead with German bombers and fighters, inflicting severe losses on the Luftwaffe at a time when it was trying to conserve its strength.

English: Forces of the Royal Hamilton Light In...

Forces of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, part of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, move towards South Beveland during the Battle of the Scheldt Nederlands:  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The bravery and fighting ability of the six battalions of the 2nd Division and the Calgary Tanks that formed the ground attack cannot be described here.  Two of their members won the Victoria Cross: Lt.-Col. C. C. I. Merritt of the South Saskatchewans, and Reverend J. W. Foote, chaplain of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, who worked as a stretcher-bearer on the centre beach.  Captain P. A. Porteous, a British Commando, also received the Victoria Cross.  There were many other deserved decorations in all ranks.

The cost was heavy.  Of the 5,000 Canadians who took part in the raid, 3,367 were killed, wounded or taken prisoner.  This was more than the entire Canadian Army lost in the first year of fighting in France after D-Day, 1944.  The heavy casualties were due in some measure to bad luck.  ?The element of surprise was lost when a commando unit leading the attack ran into a German convoy moving along the coast in the dark.  The shooting alerted the shore defences.

Valuable lessons were learned from Dieppe which prepared the way for the successful assault on June 5, 1944, which led to the end of the war.  Dieppe, with its strong historic link with Canada, deserves a proud place on Canada’s battle flag.

As I said, the battle is a popular one. I can get you started on your journey to learn more this post. To start, I would send you to About .com‘s article by Susan Munroe; after that I would steer you to Juno for its site about Canada in World War II. If you still want to read more, I would say that you really can’t lose by visiting the War – a great site! Lastly, I would recommend reading an article at Sun News, about “Memories of Dieppe difficult for Canadian veteran” by Simon Kent.


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