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Natives going to meet the Spanish navy schooners Sutil and Mexicana in 1792

Type: Image

This painting shows an encounter on 11 June 1792 between native canoes and the Spanish navy schooners Sutil and Mexicana. Mount Baker can be seen in the background. On this date in Guemes Channel (near present day Anacortes, Washington), a Spanish expedition paused to make astronomical observations that would correctly fix their longitude. Their mission was to chart the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and search for the Northwest Passage. The painting is the work of José Cardero, the expedition's official artist. (Museo Naval, Madrid)

Site: National Defence

Drummer, Primera Compañía franca de Voluntarios de Cataluña at Nootka, 1790-1794

Type: Image

There were two drummers on the strength of the Primera Compañía franca de Voluntarios de Cataluña (or '1st independent company of Catalonian volunteers'). This unit of the Spanish colonial army supplied the original garrison at Nootka. After 1760, Spanish army drummers wore the livery of the King of Spain - a blue coat with scarlet collar and cuffs, along with a scarlet waistcoat. Both coat and waistcoat were trimmed with scarlet lace that was embroidered with a white chain pattern. This same pattern of lace had decorated French uniforms before the French Revolution in 1789. The Bourbon kings of Spain were a branch of the French royal family, and adopted a similar livery. Reconstruction by David Rickman. (Parks Canada)

Site: National Defence

Lieutenant Esteban José Martínez Fernández y Martínez de la Sierra, Marina real, circa 1785

Type: Image

Martínez (1742-1798), shown here in the full dress uniform of a lieutenant in the Marina real (the Spanish navy) was a key figure in the Spanish exploration of the northwest coast of America. In 1774, he was second in command of the Spanish frigate Santiago, which made the first recorded contact with the Haida in the Queen Charlotte Archipelago. In 1790, Martínez was the officer who almost sent Spain and Great Britain to war with his conduct during the diplomatic standoff at Nootka. (Museo Naval, Madrid)

Site: National Defence

Spanish fort at Nootka in 1793

Type: Image

This watercolour by artist Sigismund Bacstrum is based on a sketch made 20 February 1793. It shows the presido at Nootka with the red and yellow Spanish flag flying over the battery at left, and the soldiers' barracks at right. (Parks Canada)

Site: National Defence

Soldier, Primera Compañía franca de Voluntarios de Cataluña at Nootka, 1790-1794

Type: Image

The Primera Compañía franca de Voluntarios de Cataluña (or '1st independent company of Catalonian volunteers') was a Spanish colonial unit raised in 1767 for service in the Americas. In 1790, it provided men to garrison the Spanish outpost at Nootka. This was the first European military unit posted to present-day British Columbia. Its uniform was broadly that its parent regiment in Spain, the Segundo Regimiento de los Voluntarios de Cataluña (or '2nd Regiment of Catalonian volunteers'), with the same blue coat with yellow collar and cuffs, yellow waistcoat, blue breeches and black tricorne hat with the red cockade of the Bourbon Kings of Spain. Reconstruction by David Rickman. (Parks Canada)

Site: National Defence

Spanish galleons in a North Atlantic storm, circa 1560s-1580s

Type: Image

The weather shown hitting these Spanish ships was encountered by the Basque whalers based in Labrador during the second half of the 16th century. Occasionally, ships were lost. One such was the San Juan, sunk in Red Bay, Labrador in 1565.

Site: National Defence

The battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805

Type: Image

Although the battle of Trafalgar was fought far away off the southern coast of Spain, this battle had a direct impact on Canada. Admiral Nelson’s victory for Britain insured that the sea lanes to Canada would remain secure and that there would be no major threats from the French or Spanish navies on its coast.

Site: National Defence

Trouble, and a First European Settlement

Type: Document

In 1789, a Nootka chief was killed while arguing with the Spanish about being allowed to trade with British ships in the region. Despite this and previous troubles, a decision was made to create a permanent base at Nootka, and a presidio, or Spanish frontier fort, was built and garrisoned.

Site: National Defence

Commander Dionisio Alcalá-Galiano, Marina real, circa 1792.

Type: Image

Dionisio Alcalá-Galiano (1762-1805) was the Spanish officer commanding the schooner Sutil when that vessel took part in a mapping expedition to the Strait of Juan de Fuca in 1792. This contemporary portrait shows him wearing the uniform of a commander (literally, a 'frigate captain') of the Marina real (the Spanish navy). Alcalá-Galiano died in the famous battle of Trafalger in 1805, commanding the 74-gun ship-of-the-line Bahama. (Museo Naval, Madrid)

Site: National Defence

A Chance For French Revenge

Type: Document

Isolated diplomatically, Britain began to suffer greatly when other European powers entered American Revolutionary War after 1778. France, followed by Spain and the Netherlands, threw the British on the defensive. British colonies and fleets world-wide suffered capture or defeat.

Site: National Defence