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:
In his History of the Services of the 41st Regiment D.A.N. Lomax claims that 85 all ranks died from the fever (20 on board Asia and the remainder in Canada). Lomax describes a note that was found in the Regimental Record Book (since destroyed like many of the 41st Regiment’s records in fires at the Pembroke Dockyards in 1895) which tells a story of how in Montreal the doctors and attendants had also contracted the fever and died so the care of the sick soldiers fell to a local doctor. His solution was to leave the doors and windows open in the temporary hospital even though it was in the middle of winter. The next morning there was no longer any fever but there were a considerable number of frozen bodies. Soldiers of the 41st Regiment on learning of the fate of their comrades, went searching for the doctor to exact their vengeance but he had fled from Montreal.
The now understrength 41st Regiment drafted 224 men from the 2nd Battalion, 60th Regiment who were scheduled to return to England.
The 41st Regiment remained in Canada all the way through the years of the War of 1812, earning more Battle Honours associated with the War of 1812 than any other regiment. They finally sailed from Canada on the 24th of June, 1815. They sailed not for home but rather Europe. Too late for the Battle of Waterloo, they did go onto become part of the army of occupation of Paris.
These articles are written and compiled by members of the 41st Regiment Living History Group.