The Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812

Canada's Defence Strategy

A Plan of Delay

From the outset, it appeared obvious that the Americans were very poorly prepared, both politically and militarily, to carry out the grand designs of the War Hawks. In Canada, on the other hand, they were awaited with considerable resolve. In Quebec the staff formed a centre of strategic and tactical planning for specialist officers supervised by the Governor General, himself a senior officer in the regular army. The soldiers may have been few in number, but, unlike the Americans, they were very well trained and disciplined in the severe manner typical of the British army.

The British strategy was simple. In Upper Canada, the troops commanded by General Isaac Brock were to slow down the Americans for as long as possible. In Lower Canada, most of the troops were to be posted south of Montreal. As Montreal was pivotal to the interior of the whole country, the British staff expected it to be the first target. If, through misfortune, both Upper Canada and Montreal were to fall into the hands of the enemy, the remaining troops would take refuge in the fortress city of Quebec, warding off a siege until English reinforcements arrived.