By Tom Fournier
Some years ago, I had the good fortune to do some work at the National Archives (Public Records Office) in Kew (London) during a visit to the U.K.
As I was going through the casualty returns for the 41st Regiment during their time in Canada, I noticed for some of the early years there were also included statements of debts for some of the individuals that died along with the corresponding credits (outstanding pay and the results of the sale of their personal necessaries).
I thought it an interesting perspective to see what some of these individuals had as personal items.
Fascinating insights, certainly.
And unexpectedly, sad. Their life, all their worldly possessions summed up in a little chit, haphazardly stuck between the pages of a casualty return.
Here are several of them:
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”.
By Tom Fournier
It is in June and July of 1804. The 41st Regiment of Foot have already been in Canada since the autumn of 1799. On behalf of the Board of Ordnance, Lieutenant Colonel George Glasgow of the Royal Artillery has supervised an inspection of the muskets of the 41st Regiment.
He finds they are in a remarkably deplorable state. For those who love the minutia of detail associated with the British Army of the Napoleonic Age, his reports and summaries offer incredible and fascinating details! He wraps it all up with what I think is a shocking recommendation.
Report – 20 June 1804
In the examination of arms belonging to the 41st Regt. Of Foot the following points have been attended to – Viz
By Tom Fournier
In this blog post we look at new content posted in the history section of the 41st Regiment of Foot MLHG’s webpage.
This is the remarkable (to me) Court Martial of Lieutenant Benoit Bender of the 41st Regiment of Foot, held in Montreal in July of 1815.
The Court Martial occurred at the request of Lieutenant Bender after he was barred from further association with the mess of the Officers of the 41st Regiment in May of 1815 after Captain Peter Latouche Chambers made an accusation of cowardice against Bender. Chambers made this claim one evening, just after Bender excused himself from the mess. Bender asked for exoneration through a Court Martial but was told that he could not be accommodated right away. Finally, with a wide gathering of the Officers of the 41st Regiment and many others in Montreal for the Court Martial of Major General Henry Proctor (also the former commanding Officer of the 41st Regiment), an opportunity arose for the Court Martial of Benoit Bender. At the Court Martial he was arraigned on the charges but had to wait until November 27th, 1815 for this to be approved by the Prince Regent and posted by Horse-Guards.
Bt Tom Fournier
The nephew of Major General Sir Isaac Brock published a book in 1845 titled, “The Life and Correspondence of Major General Sir Isaac Brock”. In the letters shared in the book, can be found some references to the 41st Regiment as it was found in Canada during the prelude to the War of 1812.
The one quote seems to often permeate writings on the War of 1812; it reads “The 41st is an uncommonly fine regiment, but wretchedly officered.”
In 1846, a passionate rebuttal and defence of the Officers of the 41st Regiment appeared under a pseudonym in the United Service Magazine. It is believed that the author is in fact John Richardson who served with the 41st Regiment as a gentleman volunteer (serving as a private soldier but hoping to gain acclaim and glory and thus be promoted to an Officer’s role). He did ultimately gain an Ensigncy but in the 8th Regiment. Richardson went on to write his own history of the War of 1812, commonly called “Richardson’s War of 1812”. Born in Canada, he is also at times considered Canada’s first novelist writing works such as “The Canadian Brothers” and “Wacousta”.
The 41st Regiment of Foot MLHG is very fortunate to have gained the permission of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, Whitehall, London to transcribe this letter and share its details on our website.
The letter can be found in our history section or by following this link:
On the 17th of August, 1799 the 41st Regiment set sail from Cork, Ireland to Quebec.
They sailed on the H.M.S. Asia, a transport ship. Typically, transports were old battle ships no longer fit for service in that capacity.
The 41st Regiment had just finished a period of extensive recruiting and rebuilding. It had previously served in the West Indies and saw its strength greatly reduced by the illnesses associated with that geography. The regiment had transferred the remaining private soldiers to the 17th Regiment and returned to England with its Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Regimental Staff.
As part of its final preparations for deployment, still understrength, the 41st Regiment accepted a draft of prisoners from the prison hulks (old ships used for confinement) and with these prisoners came a fever.
From the letters and correspondence of the 41st Regiment comes a remarkable series of letters and notes that does much to illustrate the conditions on board the Asia, the efforts to deal with the fever and the ongoing fight to bring it under control upon arrival in Canada. They can be found here:
I'm posting this message in as many places as I can because it would appear that word isn't getting out very well. I'm still seeing on Facebook and other groups that rumours are flying, so I would like to clear the record.
These articles are written and compiled by members of the 41st Regiment Living History Group.