By Tom Fournier
When I think of John Richardson, it is because of his time with the 41st Regiment of Foot during the War of 1812. He turned those experiences into a widely read and often cited book on the War of 1812. The most common form is Richardson’s War of 1812 edited by Alexander Casselman.
Richardson was born in Upper Canada on 4 October 1796 in the Niagara region. His father Robert had come to Canada from Scotland as a surgeon with the Queen’s Rangers. His mother was Madelaine Askin daughter of Joseph Askin (the famous fur trader and merchant) and Manette an indigenous woman.
Richardson spent his adolescent years in Amherstburg on the Detroit River.
In July 1812, Richardson, at the age of 15, joined the 41st Regiment as a Gentleman Volunteer. A Gentleman Volunteer was an individual who wished to join the Officers of a regiment but for whom there was no place. The Gentleman Volunteer would serve in the ranks but mess with the Officers. They would hope to distinguish themselves in battle and earn a promotion to the rank of Officer.
Richardson took part in a number of military engagements in the Lake Erie area (the Right Division for the British) including the Battle of the River Raisin.
You can read more about Richardson in this previous blog post.
For the Battle of the River Raisin, Richardson was a participant in the action, and he wrote about it as a historian but interestingly, he also wrote about it as a novelist in his book “The Canadian Brothers”. My thought is that it would be interesting to look at the novel for a far more descriptive and atmospheric account of the lead up to the battle without Richardson’s need to act as a historian or journalist (as he spent much of his life).
These articles are written and compiled by members of the 41st Regiment Living History Group.