Military presence at the Coteau-du-Lac Point

Coteau-du-Lac National Historic Site

Garrison and transit site

The largest building in Coteau-du-Lac is the barracks built during the Anglo-American War of 1812-1814.

The use of military barracks became widespread at the end of the 18th century, both in France and in England. Despite their belated establishment, barracks offered many benefits for military authorities.

On a tactical level, it became easier to gather troops since they were concentrated in barracks instead of scattered amongst the public. Staying in barracks also ensured better control of the soldiers’ discipline: it allowed them to restrict drunkenness and debauchery. It was more difficult for soldiers in barracks to desert. In addition, barracks were an effective way to create homogeneity and an increased sense of belonging among troops.

At Coteau-du-Lac, each of the 6 rooms had 12 double bunk beds. This made overcrowding and lack of privacy primary characteristics of barracks life. As for heating and lighting, soldiers could only count on a fixed weekly ration of fuel: this ration, limited by strict regulations, was often insufficient, considering the unusual climate. Furthermore, hygiene conditions were inadequate and the premises were often unsanitary as the continual replacement of straw mattresses and the frequent whitewashing of buildings indicated.

Did you know that the Coteau-du-Lac barracks did not have rooms to accommodate couples and families? Women and children had to share the space!

By the 1830s, a very few of its rooms were occupied. The fort’s Sergeant, who lived in one of them in 1835, complained bitterly of the cold and asked a larger fuel allowance. “I beg leave most respectfully to submit to your consideration the great inconvenience I am subjected from  the very small allowance of fuel (half a room) which I am entitled to as fort’s Sergeant at this post and which is quite insufficient to warm the large barrack room 30 feet by 24 feet that I am obliged to occupy, the same having 17 open loop holes for musquetry.” (Ingram 1981, 187)

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