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A Soldier's World


Watercolour: Artillery Barracks and Gun Placement, Quebec, Lower Canada, [ca. 1830]

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Artillery Barracks and Gun Placement,
Quebec, Lower Canada, [ca. 1830]
James Pattison Cockburn
Watercolour and pen and ink
outline over pencil
31.7 cm x 42.2 cm (12½" x 16¾")
National Archives Canada, C-12536

The Rideau Canal was a military project, conceived in the wake of war between the United States and Britain and built in the belief that war would be renewed. From 1812-15, Britain had fought two exhausting wars – one with Napoleon’s France in Europe and another against the United States in North America. Even with the restoration of peace, the British government remained on the defensive in Canada, and much of its investment in the province was military in character. As for Thomas Burrowes, he first came to Canada as a British soldier (1815 to 1824). Though he returned as a civilian in 1826, his employment on the Rideau brought him once again into the military world. Even his art sprang from the military culture in which he lived and worked.

Thomas Burrowes lived and worked in a military world and scenes like this one, painted by a fellow soldier, would have been familiar to him.