Introduction

While the Rideau Canal is widely regarded as a peaceful Canadian symbol of leisure and recreation, it was originally a British military defence project, initiated in the spring of 1827. A British colony until 1867, Canada was once considered vulnerable to foreign attack – particularly by the United States, which had already made efforts to occupy Upper and Lower Canada during the War of 1812. In order to defend their last remaining North American stronghold, the British military decided a canal was needed to ensure the safe and efficient transport of soldiers and supplies in the event of war. Undertaking such an immense project soon proved a battle in its own right. Constant disagreement between the British Army’s Great Britain and Canadian commands, as well as practical communication challenges – overseas correspondence could take as long as nine weeks – resulted in costly delays that threatened the canal’s progress, even as the first stones were laid. Despite these ongoing difficulties, the canal was eventually opened in the spring of 1832 – on time, if not exactly on budget.

Defending the Canadas»