The Aroostook War

A New Threat From the United States

All of this fighting, however, undermined the defence of British North America against the United States. On the surface, the country was more powerful than ever militarily. On January 1, 1839, there were 31,848 armed men in Upper and Lower Canada, excluding the Maritime colonies, 10,686 of whom were British soldiers. But in reality the two Canadas came out of this difficult period weakened. Most of the loyal volunteers were in Upper Canada; in Lower Canada, any thought of mobilizing the population was now eliminated, even though it included half the potential able-bodied men in British North America. And it was precisely in this colony that a new American threat arose.

The border between the American state of Maine and the colonies of Lower Canada and New Brunswick had always been imprecise. In February 1839 the Governor of Maine heatedly claimed the Aroostook area, which was rich in timber resources, and mobilized 8,000 militiamen to occupy the area in question. It was virtually a declaration of war, and the incident is indeed called the Aroostook War. The American claims came up against resistance in New Brunswick, which itself mobilized 1,200 militiamen. No longer able to depend on the Lower Canada militia, four companies of the 11th Regiment were sent from Quebec to Lake Témiscouata to defend the road used in the winter by soldiers moving back and forth between Quebec and New Brunswick.