By Tom Fournier
Scrolling through microforms you are never quite sure what might catch your eye. I came across a table detailing a return of regimental court martials for the time period of 22nd April to 1st October, 1812 for the 103rd Regiment of Foot.
The 103rd Regiment was formed from the 9th Garrison Regiment in 1809 and arrived in Canada in 1812. Its character was that of being predominantly young recruits. The 103rd Regiment, largely due to its youthful and inexperienced character did not have an active war. By 1814 they were moved to Upper Canada. They are noted for having marched a lengthy distance to the sound of the guns (much of it at the double) to help shore up the British line at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane. They were next in action at the night assault on Fort Erie and were in the column that attacked along the water to the Douglas Battery. American guns loaded with canister decimated the column with the 103rd Regiment’s commanding officer, Hercules Scott[i] amongst the dead.
For their service in these two actions, the 103rd Regiment earned the Battle Honour “Niagara”.
The table of court martials gives us an opportunity to learn more about discipline in the British Army during the War of 1812.
The system of Court Martials within the British Army was set out in the Articles of War.
There were four degrees of Court Martials (as laid out in the Standing Orders and Regulations for the 85th Light Infantry, London, 1813. Pages 135 – 139)
By Tom Fournier
A visit to Fort George National Historic Site in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario, Canada is sure to include the Officers’ quarters.
Displayed on the wall in the dining room is a plaque detailing the Mess Rules for the 41st Regiment. They can also be found in the history section of our website here.
The reading of the rules is fascinating. There certainly seems to be a preoccupation with a proper accounting of the wine consumed and the management of fines (to be paid in bottles of wine). I find it strange that there are no strictures about discussions surrounding politics and religion. It is also disappointing that there no limitations on feats of daring or animals brought into the mess (although maybe for the amusement of those in the mess perhaps it is not disappointing?) It is nice to see that the management of Betts (sic) are covered.
What I find more interesting is the background as to why these rules were available to researchers so that they could be posted in the recreated dining room at Fort George.
These mess rules are in fact found in the archives of the United States of America in a Department of State file for Miscellaneous Intercepted Correspondence 1789 – 1814, British Military Correspondence, “War of 1812 Papers”.