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HISTORY

LHC
356.
100971
Hun
V

OF THE

12th REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS
WITH

SOME ACCOUNT OF THE DIFFERENT
RAISINGS OF MILITIA
IN THE

COUNTY OF YORK, ONTARIO

BY

CAPT. A. T. HUNTER
G COMPANY, 12th REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

TORONTO: (
MURRAY PRINTING COMPANY, LIMITED, 9 JORDAN STREET

CONTENTS
CHAPTER I

PAGE

1812—Apparent
nd their Impotency—Lukewarm
incapacity for Defence—Efforts of General Simcoi—Militia Acts and
House of Assembly—Lack of Military Preparation—Small Regular Force—Flank Companies of
Militia—Difficulties in Defending Province—Despondency of Sir George Prevost—Confidence of
Americans—Unexpected Result—Opinion of Wellington—Defeat of four American Armies .

9

CHAPTER II
YoRKs—Larger Boundaries of the Original County—Varied Population within Present
County Limits—Village of York—United Empire Loyalists—French Emigres—German SettlementQuakers—American Settlers—Joseph Willcocks—The Flank Companies of York Militia-2nd Regiment Recruited at Burlington—First and Third Regiments—Colonel Cruikshank's Opinion as to Origin
of the 12th Regiment—Officers in York Regiments—Graham—Chewitt—Allan The "Fighting
Judges"—McLean—Robinson.
.

13

CONCERNING A DECEPTION PRACTISED BY THE PEOPLE OF UPPER CANADA a

TO JULY,

THE RAISING OF THE



CHAPTER III
HOW THE YORK MILITIA WENT WITH BROCK TO DETROIT AND HOW PETER ROBINSON'S RIFLE COMPANY
KEPT TRYST—Parade of Militia on Garrison Common—General Hull's Proclamation—Brock's Pro-

clamation—The Mackinac Expedition—Hull's Invasion—How Brock Crossed to Niagara and Back—
Brock Calls for Volunteers at York—Officers Selected—Route from Burlington—Visit to Six Nations
—Reasons for Water Route—Diary of Voyage—Arrival at Fort Malden—Orders Issued by Brock en
route—Brock's Boat runs Aground—Character of Brock and his Volunteers—Results of the Expedition—Arrival of Peter Robinson—Acts as Escort to Brock—Narrow Escape at Buffalo—Arrival at
Fort Erie

17

CHAPTER IV
Frontier Defended by Brock—Critical State of Affairs—Brock's
Disposition of Troops—Van Rensselaer's Plan—Attack on Queenston—Cameron Starts for QueenstonBrock Gallops to the Scene of Action—Attempt of Brock to Recover the Heights—"Push on the
York Volunteers"—Death of Macdonell—Pickets join Sheaffe's Column—Sheaffe's Dispatch—Effect
of Brock's Death .

23

PUSH ON THE YORK VOLUNTEERS—The

CHAPTER V
How

Condition of York—Description
of the Village and its "Fortifications"—Chauncey Sails—Sheaffe's Duty—Conduct of Defence—
Explosion of Magazine and Death of General Pike—Militia Ordered to Treat for Terms—American
Sharpness—Names Added after Capitulation Signed—Plucky Interference of Dr. Strachan—Futility
of Resistance.

27

CHAPTER VI
of Patrician Class—Land Grabbing—Clergy Reserves—Agitations—Gourlay, Collins and William Lyon Mackenzie—Political Methods of the Day—Family Compact—Attitude of Militia—Higher Officers of the Militia—Mackenzie's Black List—Weakness of the
System. .

31

CHAPTER VII
Distinct Periods in Mackenzie Rebellion—What
Mackenzie's Revolt Depended on—The Four Thousand Stand of Arms—Character of Sir Francis
Head—The Mackenzie Movement takes a Military Direction—Head sends the Regulars to QuebecMackenzie's first plan to get the Muskets—The Restlessness of Colonel Fitzgibbon—His Snubs and
his Precautions—Mackenzie's Second Plan—Date fixed for December 7th, 1837—Rolph Changes the
Date—Outbreak of Rebellion—Jarvis' Picket—Head Dresses Himself—Arrival of McNab from
Hamilton—Defeat of Rebels—Where were the Colonels?—Description of the Militia in 1837. .

33

GENERAL SHEAFFE PUT THE QUIETUS ON THE YORKS—Indefensible

THE INGREDIENTS OF SEDITION



Formation

THE FOUR THOUSAND MUSKETS AT THE CITY HALL—TWO

CONTENTS
CHAPTER VIII
Mackenzie takes Post on Navy Island—Borrows from
United States Arsenals—Van Rensselaer—Steamer Caroline—Cut out by Captain Drew—International
Episode—Secret Society Generals—Effect on Upper Canada—Immense Growth of Militia—Scarcity
of Arms—Queen's Rangers—Samuel Peters Jarvis.

THE WAR OF THE PATRIOTS ALIAS FILIBUSTERS

PAGE



39

CHAPTER IX
RusT—Decay of Militia Organization—Description of a Muster in 1845—
And of a Later MustZT at Toronto—Effect of Crimean War—New Militia Law of 1855—Slow Growth
of Active Militia—Effect of Trent Affair—Gazetting the York Companies—Their Strength. .

41

CHAPTER X
of Fenian Raids—Causes why Canada was Invaded—Sporadic
Preparation for Defence—Alarm of 31st May, 1866—Response of the Militia—Departure of Companies to Niagara District—Strategy of the Authorities—Ridgeway and the Abuse of Booker—
Outpost Duties of the Companies—Deficiencies of Militia System—Standing Camp at ThoroldWelding the 12th York Battalion—Impression Created by the Battalion.

45

CHAPTER XI
THE CONTINUITY OF YORK BATTALIONS—Originally a Nine Company Battalion—Jarvis the First Commanding Officer—His Services—The Word "Rangers"—The Regimental Motto, Geier et AudaxAncestry of Armstrong of the Lloydtown Company—Pearson of the Aurora Company—The Selbys
of the Sharon Company—Crosby of the Unionville Company—Cawthra the Paymaster.

50

CHAPTER XII
BRIGHT—Twenty Years of Routine—The Red River Expedition—The 12th Actually Gets an Officer Selected—The Value of an Organized Militia—Character of the Drill—Commanding Officers of the 12th. .

54

CHAPTER XIII
1885—Suddenness of the Riel Outbreak—Four Companies of the 12th Called Out—The
Regimental Order Calling out the Companies—The Summons by Bugle—York-Simcoe Battalion
Hurried to the Front—The Gaps—Tales• of Hardships—The Actual Hardships—Treading on the
Heels of the 65th—The Last Gap—Appearance of the York-Simcoes at Winnipeg—En route to Fort
Qu'Appelle—Enforced Stay at Fort Qu'Appelle—Occupations There—Night Attacks—By Forced
March to Humboldt—The Astringent Qualities of Colonel O'Brien—Appearance of the Battalion at
Humboldt—The Meanderings of Sergeant Brown—His Portrait of Riel—The York-Simcoes Become
"Foot Cavalry"—The Return and Receptions. .

57

CHAPTER XIV
12TH SINCE 1885—Periodical Trainings—Great Changes in Militia Organization—No Effect
on the Infantry—The South African War—Lloyd's Tender of Service—The Delicious Answer of the
Authorities—Imperialism—Representatives of the 12th at the War—His Majesty's First Visit—A
"Skeleton" Camp—His Majesty's Second Visit—Migrations of the Companies—Our Splendid Armouries?—The 12th as it Now is. .

69

ANOTHER QUARTER CENTURY OF

THE WELDING OF THE BATTALIONS—Origin

KEEPING THEIR ARMOUR

STEPPING OUT IN

ANNALS OF THE

APPENDICES
A—Officers of the 12th, Militia List, July, 1912.
B—Record of Officers' Services
APPENDIX C—Letter of Colonel Cruikshank
APPENDIX D—Memo by Dr. Doughty
APPENDIX E—Rifle Shooting Record of the 12th
APPENDIX F—Roll of York-Simcoe Battalion
APPENDIX
APPENDIX

6

75
77
83
84
85
89

PREFACE
E have tried in this volume to link up some of the honorable achievements of militia men of York County for a century back and show
what the response has been when the bugle sounded or the alarm
bell rang. We think we can discern in the men of this county a
continuity of character; of deceptive equanimity in time of peace,
of alacrity in time of war, of unchangeable faith in the Empire at all times.
.

We need not pretend that the officers and men of 1912 in the 12th Regiment
are the precise lineal descendants of the officers and men of the York Regiments
of 1812, any more than the Welsh Fusiliers need show they answer to the same
names at roll-call as when they advanced with drums beating at. the Battle of
Minden. The continuity of a regiment is not at any time very tangible or definite.
It is not a genealogy written by a lawyer to secure an estate. It is rather the spirit
to undertake similar toils and endure similar dangers in consideration of being
allowCd to keep the old glory and the old heroes in dutiful remembrance and to
emulate them if occasion arise.
It is time the histories of all our county regiments were written. Despite
a number of charming books in which fragments of our Upper Ci
a lian history
have been transcribed by men of scholarly style and antiquarian attainments,
the real history of nearly every county is being irremediably lost. This is particularly true, of the military history of our counties, which when studied repays
the student by glimpses of heroic action and then baffles him with records broken
and defaced by callous neglect.
Most of our old county histories and atlases were written on a subscription
plan which was unavoidable in a country where the arts of literature and publishing were struggling and precarious vocations. Under such a plan the man who
could pay for his biography became a personage, while the man who could not was
allowed to seek an ignoble grave. This bore hard upon the military veteran who
is seldom the most prosperous or provident of men.
We are therefore much indebted to the subscribers and advertisers whose liberality has enabled this sketch to be produced.
A. T. HUNTER.



Photo by Kennedy
Lieut.-Col. J. A. W. ALLAN,
Commanding 12th Regt. York Rangers

HISTORY OF THE RTH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

CHAPTER

I

CONCERNING A DECEPTION PRACTISED BY THE PEOPLE OF
UPPER CANADA. PRIOR. TO JULY,

1812

ROBABLY no nation ever showed fewer external signs of either the
desire or the capacity for martial activity than did the people of
Upper Canada prior to the war-storm of 1812. It is true that the
first Lieutenan t-Governor, General Simcoe, never ceased to brood
over the difficulties and dangers that threatened (and still threaten)
the defence of this Province in case war should actually break out. Indeed
amidst his colonizing activities as ruler of Western Canada he was still what
he was in the war of the American Revolution, the ardent but sagaciously
observant leader of the Queen's Rangers; thinking rather of where his magazines might be safe than of where the greatest commerce could be developed; and tracing his great roads, Dundas and Yonge Streets, with an eye less to
the laborious procession of market wagons than of a rapid concentration of troops
on interior lines. From mere military necessity the first provincial capital,
Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake), had to be abandoned as the political and
commercial metropolis. The selection of Toronto (then York) was not by design
of Simcoe, who meant London to be his fortifiable camp or by design of Simcoe's
superior, the Governor of Canada, who for equally good military reasons favoured
Kingston as his arsenal. But this deadlock of strategic intelligence between these
worthy soldiers secured by a sort of compromise the selection of the then by no
means salubrious, easily defensible or commercially promising harbour on the
north shore of Ontario, where in our time is reared a city which like Babylon of
old says, "I sit a queen and am no widow and shall see no sorrow." The wisdom
of both the Lieutenant-Governor and the Governor was justified of its children,
when in 1813, York, indefensible, once the command of the Lake is lost, fell after
enveloping defenders and assailants in the ruins of its fortifications. Then as now
Toronto was a good nurse of men and an improvident custodian of material. But
the temper of the English speaking race, especially on this continent is rather to
endure than to avert disasters that elementary military sagacity can readily foresee.
Nor were Provincial Parliaments negligent in their provision,—by word of
statute,—for making the able-bodied colonist contribute for at least one day in
the year his person equipped as the words ran, "with a good and sufficient musket,
fusil, rifle or gun." These Militia Acts of the Legislature beginning with the
session of 1793 were sufficiently numerous and contradictory to require to be
consolidated in 1808 according to a process of annual emendation and periodical
codification, which has gone on continuously until our own day. For the outcome
of attempts to create a national army on paper, when the bulk of our citizens mean
9

HISTORY OF THE NTH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

to sacrifice neither their own time nor their own money in organizing a force in
reality, is that we adopt the eternal subterfuge of varying the phraseology of our
militia acts and regulations, making new subdivisions of what does not exist and
by multiplying officers of high rank persuade ourselves that we have soldiers to
command.
However, the Parliaments of Upper Canada and in their turn those of the
Province and the Dominion of Canada have fortunately never surrendered their
original power of enrolling the entire able bodied population in the defence of their
country. But the original system of mustering the enrolled on one day in the
year has now for many years perished under the assaults of that enemy before
whom the most mail-clad chivalry is powerless,—namely, the ridicule that grows
out of absurdity.
In the early years of the last century, however, and for that matter down to
the time of men now living the captain still solemnly mustered his enrolled neighbours and they as regularly failed to turn up for that period of one absurd day,
which had no instructional value to the forces and no pay value to the recruits.
Year by year the Legislature with verbal relentlessness amended the statute to
make more effective the fines of the absentees. But Capt. Armstrong, the
village butcher, forebore to press the case of non-attendance against the son of
Farmer Brown of the side line. And if he did press it nevertheless for some
unaccountable reason the harness-maker and the flour-and-feed merchant, who as
Justices of the Peace had been forced to inflict the fine took no steps to collect it.
Nor could the House of Assembly in 1812 composed as it was of men extremely
sensitive to those popular feelings of self-government which had been unpleasantly ruffled by that intermittent Governor, Sir Francis Gore,' he considered
symptomatic of any great desire to lift the drawbridges of peace and stengthen
the hands of military authority. While making a reluctant war grant of £5,000
they refused to suspend Habeas Corpus or pass an alien law; and until the end of
their session when they passed a sufficiently high and patriotic resolution they acted
with a meticulous caution that could not have offended the least belligerent or
most pro-American voter in Upper Canada.
Seeking reasons for this delicacy of the politicians we find that the original
loyalist settlers of the province were now apparently outnumbered by American
and other foreign accretions to the population. It is, therefore, not surprising
that even astute thinkers should believe the people of Upper Canada a race of men
possessed equally by a rage for making money and a contempt for old-fashioned
loyalty and the use of arms. It did not occur to observers in Old Upper Canada
in 1812, as perhaps it does not occur to observers in Saskatchewan in 1912, that
the placid sentiment of the settler, who has left his own country to improve his
lot, is as potmetal to steel to that in tense but undemonstrative loyalty which with
some men has all the force of a religion.
Nor had. the professional soldiers done or been allowed to do anything to make
defensible this great territory. Fort George at Niagara and Fort Malden at
Amherstburg were dismantled and in a state of ruin. Despite the continuous
1. He slipped out just before the war and slipped back just after.
10

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS
threat of war a mere peace establishment of troops less than sixteen hundred in all
—barely sufficient for parade purposes and to act as caretakers of stores—were
grudgingly maintained throughout the province.' To supplement this pigmy
force the more enthusiastic of, the militia in each of the paper regiments were
encouraged to drill six times a month, forming what were then known as "Flank
Companies." These Flank Companies, with their captain, two subalterns, two
sergeants, one drummer and thirty-five rank and file bear a fine ancestral resemblance to the average militia company that in our own time can be seen on a June
day training at Niagara-on-the-Lake. They were provided with arms and
accoutrements and promised clothes and rations. Prior to the war some seven
hundred of them were embodied.
. With such an ostensible force to make good a territory difficult in its internal
communications and so large that its southerly frontier alone from Amherstburg
to the Lower Province presents a line double the length of the frontier between
France and Germany with Belgium thrown in, it is not surprising that military
experts should have considered a successful defence impossible. Accordingly
historians may well deal with all leniency with that somewhat inadequate hero,
Sir George Prevost, the Governor-General, whose most sanguine hope of any good
to come out of Upper Canada was that by making a flank movement in his favour
the forces in the Upper Province might enable him to save Quebec.
The American. Government apparently was as much convinced as the Governor of Canada of the ease with which this province could be added to the domains
of the United States. The Secretary of War declared, "We can take the Canadas
without soldiers, we have only to send officers into the province and the people
disaffected towards their own government will rally round our own standard."
Henry Clay, then a rising orator and fast becoming a political pet of the
American nation said: "We have the Canadas as much under our command as
Great Britain has the ocean."
Such then in the beginning of 181 was the apparently hopeless position of
this as a British province: large in territory, any part of which could easily be
invaded and small in populations and that population seemingly lukewarm and
undecided.
In the event, the people of Upper Canada sprang to their weapons with a
furious alacrity that staggered the calculations of both politicians and generals, and
extorted the admiration of the most hardened professional soldiers. The Iron
Duke himself speaking of their achievements as late as 1840 said that it had been
"demonstrated that these provinces (with but little assistance from the mother
2

3

4

1. 200 Royal Veterans, 36 Royal Artillery, 900 41st Regiment, 400 Newfoundland Regiment, 50 Provincial
Seamen; according to a letter by John Galt, to the Treasury, published in Canadian Archives, 1897, p. 49.
2. "General Brock," by Lady Edgar, p. 181.
3. Among the prophets, without honour in their own country, was Mr. Sheffey, of Virginia, who frankly told
his fellow countrymen: "Upper Canada is inhabited by emigrants from the United States. They will not
come back to you; they will not without reason desert the government to whom they have gone for protection.
No sir, you must conquer it by force, not by sowing the seeds of sedition and treason among the people." These
words may be heartily commended to students of the "American Invasion" of our North West provinces.
4. We trust the ocean will never be as unruly in our day to Great Britain as the Canadas proved in 1812 to the
United States.
5. Calculated at 77,000: See Castell Hopkins' Canada an En,cyclopcedia, Vol. 1, p. 175.
11

HISTORY OF THE NTH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

country in regular troops) are capable of defending themselves against all the
efforts of their powerful neighbours.'"
What martial force was latent in the militia of Upper Canada can best be
estimated by their having in conjunction with the sturdy little bands of regulars,
either destroyed or defeated during the first campaign four well appointed and
supremely confident American armies,—Hull's at Detroit, Van Rensselaer's at
Queenston, Smyth's at Fort Erie and Winchester's at Frenchtown. Whence we
may infer that while strategists may with some show of certainty weigh the chances
of a clash between the trained forces of two countries, it is another matter when a
whole people stand up and number themselves and commit the issue to the God of
Battles.
1. This was one of the last great efforts of Wellington in the House of Lords. He was always extremely solicitous for the defence of Upper Canada: "If you lose that, you lose all your colonies in that country; and if you lose
them, you may as well lose London."

12

HISTORY OF THE NTH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

CHAPTER II
THE RAISING OF THE YORKS
HE modern County of York does not by any means comprise the
territory which in 1812 and for many years later was designated
"York." Stretching westward from the eastern boundaries of what
is now Ontario County as far as the Reserve on the Grand River
was a thinly settled district, bearing the name of York, and since
divided into a number of prosperous counties any one of which has now far
more of population than the York of 1812.
Dealing alone with the modern county limits, its population comprised such
a variety of diverse settlements that it would have been a. wise prophet who could
have foretold what action would be theirs in the event of a war with the United
States. The Village of York' (formerly and later again Toronto) with its few hundred inhabitants was of course staunch for the Empire.
And there was a good sprinkling throughout the settled parts of the County
of the descendants of those United Empire Loyalists, who had received grants of
lands in Upper Canada as a recompense for their sacrifices in the war of the American Revolution . 2 Of what these would do on a call to arms there could be no
doubt.
But there were other settlers whose interest in maintaining the British Empire
was not quite so obvious. The Oak Ridges had been settled by French Emigres
—nobles, "whose roots were in France,"—and who like the famous Count de
Puisaye preferred to hover over the wars of the French Revolution like stormy
petrels rather than plow their future as plain colonists in York County.
The neighbourhood of Markham, formerly known as the " German Mills,"
was settled by matter-of-fact. Germans, whose location there was a feat of pure
business reason and not a matter of sentiment. There were Quakers too, of
undoubted loyalty, but for conscience sake averse to taking up the sword. 3
Moreover, there were a considerable number of Americans who had been
allured to this region by the fertile beauty of its rich rolling lands. These and their
descendants and sundry othep„ who imbibed from them republican sentiments,
were a source of anxiety and in'SOMeinstances of danger to the defenders of Canada.
The most notable instance of thiS1'was Ex-sheriff Joseph Willcocks, who having
lost his shrievalty on political grounds, started a newspaper in 1807; was elected,
1. Described a couple of years later by Dr. Dunlop as "a dirty straggling village with about sixty houses."
2. Among these grantees was no less a personage than General Benedict Arnold, known in American popular
histories as "The Traitor"; but recognized now by philosophic historians as something of a military genius. He
had a farm on Yonge Street in the vicinity of Richmond Hill
3. A descendant of one of these, sitting in the County Council, has assisted to discontinue the annual grant of
the Council to the York Rangers Rifle Match.
13

Photos by Kennedy

Capt. F. H. DUNHAM

Major A. G. NICOL

Adjutant
Major A. CURRAN

14

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

expelled and re-elected as a member of parliament with advanced republican
views; and led His Majesty's more or less loyal opposition to the thenpowers-that-be.
On the outbreak of the war, he at first loyally bore arms on the Canadian side.
But later he deserted with some few other militia whom he could influence and
became a terror to the harassed farmers of the Niagara District until his fitful light
was extinguished in honourable battle at the leaguer of Fort Erie.'
Notwithstanding the difficulties that must be supposed to have attended
the raising of active militia in this vicinity or perhaps on account of those difficulties no sooner was the call made than the flank companies were ready to take the
field.
There were in 1812 three regiments of York Militia,' of which the Second
regiment was recruited in the vicinity of Burlington. So that when we read of
the achievements of Capt. Chishohn's or Capt. Applegarth's flank company
at Queenston or Lundy's Lane, we know we are reading that which might and
should be a. source of pride to the citizens of Hamilton City or Wentworth County.
The Third Regiment was recruited in the vicinity of York and its flank
companies are known to history as Cameron and Heward's Companies. The First
Regiment was recruited from further up the county and was composed of North
and South Divisions. More interesting to the historian is that it included a
rifle company under Capt. Peter Robinson, a troop of cavalry under Capt.
John Button, and a flank company under Capt. Thomas Selby. It is more
particularly this regiment which included Selby's and _Robinson's Companies
that in the opinion of that most painstaking and accurate of Canadian historians,
Col. Cruikshank, is now represented by the present 12th Regiment of York
Rangers.
It may not be amiss to say a few words anent the personality of those officers
of these two regiments, the 1st and 3rd Yorks, whom the war brought out from the
ordinary dull unthanked routine of militia work into the danger zone of active
service. We find that the regiments were apt to interchange officers and were as
closely connected as the different battalions of one regiment.
William Graham, Commandant of the First Regiment, had been a captain in
the Duke of Cumberland's Provincial Regiment and a captain of York Militia
as far back as 1798.
William Chewitt, lieutenant-colonel of the 3rd, had served in the British
Militia during the siege of Quebec in 1775 76. He was fated in 1813 through no
fault of his own to put his signature to a document evidencing a less successful
defence of York. He was afterwards colonel of the 1st York, resigning in 1818.
In his civil capacity he was Deputy Surveyor General and prominent in all social
and charitable movements in Toronto.
William Allan, whose descendant, Senator Allan, has presented to Toronto
the beautiful horticultural park that bears his name, was a military enthusiast;
3

4

-

1. "Toronto of Old": Scadding, p. 272.
2. The earliest militia regiment established at York bears date 1798. See the list of officers printed in "Landmarks of Toronto," Vol. 2, p. 686, and comprising such well known Toronto names as Small, Jarvis, Chewitt, Allan,
Denison and Cameron.
3. See officers of British Forces in Canada during War 1812-15: L. Homfray Irving.
4. See Letter printed in Appendix.
15

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS
Lieutenant in the militia regiment that was started in York in 1798, he joined the
3rd York Regiment on its organization and started a flank company in the village.
At the date when Brock called the flank companies t.o service he was major and
appears t.o have had the duty of collecting the Yorks at the Head of the Lake.
After the battle of Queens ton Heights he had the responsible duty of commanding
the escort to the prisoners on their way to Quebec. In April, 1813, he shared with
Col. Chewitt, the unpleasant task of arranging terms for the surrender of
York.
THE FIGHTING JUDGES
Historians of the War of 1812 have said that practically the whole male
population of the province was drawn into the vortex of the war. This is true of
the lawyers of that day, who showed themselves as able to make bold charges in
the field as ever they were reputed to do in their offices. So that in the post
bellum days there sat seven war judges on the bench of Upper Canada and of these
seven, two had been officers in the Yorks.
Archibald McLean, afterwards Chief Justice, fought with the Yorks at Detroit and Queenston, and with the Incorporated Militia at Lundy's Lane. Being
wounded at Queenston and taken prisoner at Lundy's Lane he had more war
experience to cogitate than usually falls to the lot of a chief justice.
John Beverley Robinson, afterwards Chief Justice of Upper Canada, served
with distinction at Detroit, left Toronto a law student to take part at Queenston
and returned to find himself acting Attorney General. He left his impress on the
public life and laws of this province. Among his sons, John Beverley was Lieutenant Governor, Christopher was a lawyer of international celebrity and MajorGeneral. C. W. Robinson is a soldier and an historian, who if he has succeeded in
making his readers understand the value of the command of Lake Ontario will
have surpassed in service to this country his distinguished father.

16

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

CHAPTER III
How THE YORK MILITIA WENT WITH BROCK TO DETROIT, AND HOW PETER
ROBINSON S RIFLE COMPANY KEPT TRYST
'

NE day in the later part of July, 181, General Brock called out the
York Militia on Garrison Common. The days previous to this parade
had been filled with anxious preparation by the flank companies, who
were anticipating the event and by extraordinary exertions on the
part of the General himself.. The American General Hull had proceeded to take possession of Western Canada in a Proclamation to the Inhabitants, in which he threatened to emancipate them from tyranny and oppression
and restore them to the dignified station of freemen. This had been answered
by a counter Proclamation from Brock (prepared by the facile pen of Mr. Justice
Powell), and by a small expedition sent under Capt. Roberts to capture
Mackinac.
The proclamations on either side were barren of result, but the Mackinac
expedition proving a complete success the weight of argument remained with the
British.
On July 12th, simultaneously with his proclamation, Hull commanding a
formidable army described by himself as "a force which will look down all opposition," crossed over to Sandwich, where he planted the American standard.
His subsequent performance was characterized by feebleness in action and even
against the scanty forces that could be collected to delay him, his looking down of
opposition did not take him beyond the little river Canard, where a handful of
troops, militia and Indians damped his military aggressiveness.
News of this invasion having reached Toronto, General Brock with a party
of soldiers rowed across the Lake to Niagara' to put the frontier there in such a
state of defence as means permitted; and immediately rowed back in the same
boat and called out the militia.
The proposal that the General had to make must have seemed not much more
seductive than the privilege of the three hundred Lacedemonians to occupy
Thermopylae. He declared his intention to take an expedition from what is now
Port Dover and proceed thence by boats to Amherstburg. But owing to the
limited transportation at his command he could only take one hundred volunteers
from York, the same number from the head of the Lake (now Hamilton) and an
equal number from Port Dover. He called for volunteers; many more men
volunteered than could be taken and all the officers. From that hour Brock was
2

1. A matter of thirty-three miles to the river mouth.
2. Long Point was the rendezvous where they finally got together.
17

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS
not and Britain never need be in doubt as to what response will be given by the
Canadian militia.
Capt. Heward, of the 3rd Yorks, was selected to command the one hundred
men of York, and under him were detailed for duty Lieut. John Beverley
Robinson, of his own flank company; Lieut. Jarvie, of Cameron's Company,
and Lieut. Richardson, of Selby's flank company of the 1st Yorks.'
Captain Peter Robinson, also of the 1st Yorks, was by a special act of grace
permitted to take his company of riflemen overland to the scene of action,—it
being hardly suspected that he could ever succeed in arriving before the matter
would be decided.
The little force left York on August 6th for Burlington Bay and picking up
the other Yorks from that region marched overland to the rendezvous. On the
way thither Brock dropped a word in the ear of the Six Nation Chiefs. And this
by the way is one answer to the critics of Brock's aggressive strategy. For
both Americans and British were much solicitous about those formidable skirmishers, the Indians; each side trying to persuade the astute chiefs that it possessed an overwhelming superiority. The chiefs on the other hand, mindful of
the teachings of recent history, before committing their warriors to an unqualified
support of England, required to be shown that the British officers were in earnest
and meant to defend Upper Canada tooth and nail. The march past of Brock with
his scarlet coated militias was to the practical Indian several hundred eloquent
and convincing orations to stand by his ally the King.
To us familiar with the ease in which now a trip can be made in a few hours
from Toronto to Detroit it seems strange that so energetic a general should commit
his force to a water trip of two hundred miles on a huge and treacherous lake rather
than continue his march westward until he reached the River. Nor does the
wonder diminish when we find that the lake boats collected for his expedition were
not such luxurious craft as we entrust ourselves to at this day when tempting the
waters of the Great Lakes, but the open boats or batteaux of that day propelled
by the steady sweep of the long two-handed oar.
But when we read of what toils befell overland passengers, in the many days
it took them to win from the Detroit to the Grand through a forest land, where
the streams had no bridges and the roads no existence, we can well understand
why Brock took the dangerous water route and with what sardonic kindness he
permitted Peter Robinson's company to go by land.
1

3

4

6

1. Not to be confused with Jarvis. The irrepressible Samuel Peters Jarvis then an ensign in Reward's Company
had succeeded in being attached to the 41st Regiment, and duly appeared at Detroit and several other battlefields.
2. See order quoted in Scadding at p. 79.
3. The distinction between Infantry and Rifles in those days was an actual one—the infantry being armed
with muskets, and not rifles. Nowadays this distinction is a quaint survival of military etiquette of great importance
and interest to solemn and punctilious asses.
4. Showing the confidence Brock had in his one hundred York volunteers he allowed them three days to visit
their relatives and make preparations for campaign: Auchinleck, p. 36.
5. Seemingly the flank companies got their caps and blankets at York and their regimental coats at Burlington.
Of muskets Brock himself said he had not one more than sufficient to arm the active militia. Boots for the militia
and tents Brock could not provide by prayer or purchase until at any rate he took over the stores at Detroit.
6. It was an ingenious device the early pioneer had for an amphibious wagon; a water tight body into which,
when he came to an unfordable stream, he lifted the wheels and poled across with the horses swimming behind.
18

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

The toils of this argonautic expedition,—consisting of some forty men of the
41st Regiment and two hundred and sixty militia,—cannot be better expressed
than in the diary of William McCay,i who was a volunteer in Captain Hatt's
company, which had proceeded from the camp of Queenston to join Brock's little
army. Hatt's contingent had a merry wagon ride from Queenston to Fort Erie,
and from there had rowed to the mouth of the Grand River. We take up McCay's
narrative from this point until he reached Fort Malden.
"August 7th, 1812.—We slept
under the trees on the bank of the
river, arose early and set off. We
did not land until we came to Patterson's Creek, about forty miles
from the Grand River. Here we
were informed that the volunteers
from York, some of the 41st Regiment and some militia lay that
were to go with us.
"August 8th, 1812. Slept on
shore in the best manner we could.
Two of our company deserted this
morning, James Bycraft and Harvey
Thorne. We did not leave this place
until 12 o'clock, when we set off and
came to Long Point in the evening,
drew our boats across and put up
for the night.
"August 9th, 1812.—Arose early
this morning and about sunrise were
joined by General Brock and six boat
loads with troops from Patterson's
Creek. We all set off together,
having a fair wind till about 1
o'clock, and then rowed till night,
Kennedy
when we landed at Kettle Creek,
The Remains of Old Fort Malden
about six miles below Port Talbot.
The Tree to the left is said to be the finest Linden
"August 10th, 1812. Wet and
in America
cold last night; some of us lay in boats
and some on the sand. We set off early, but the wind blew so hard we were obliged
to put into Port Talbot. We covered our baggage from the rain, which still
continued, and most of us set out to get something to eat, being tired of bread
and pork. Five of us found our way to a place, where we got a very good breakfast,
bought some butter and sugar and returned. Lay here all day, the wind being
high.
"August-11th, 1812.—Set off early with a fair wind, but it soon blew so hard
we had to land on the beach and draw up our boats, having come twelve or fifteen




1. Published in The Toronto Globe, April 15th, 1911.
19

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

m les. Some of us built camps and covered them with bark to shelter us from the
rain, which poured down incessantly, but I was obliged to go on guard, wet as
I was. Some of our men discovered horse tracks a few miles above us, which we
supposed were American horsemen, for we were informed they came within a few
miles of Port Talbot.
"August 12th, 1812. We set off before daylight and came on until breakfast
time, when we stopped at Points—where we found plenty of sand cherries. They
are just getting ripe and very good. We continued our journey all night, which
was very fatiguing, being so crowded in the boats we could not lie down.
"August 13th, 1812. We came to a settlement this morning, the first since
we left Port Talbot. The inhabitants informed us the Americans had all retired
to their own side of the river, also that there was a skirmish between our troops and
them on their own side, that is,. the American side of the river. We made no stop,
only to boil our pork, but kept on until 2 o'clock, when we lay on the beach until
morning. Some of the boats with the General went on.
"August 14th, 1812.—We landed at Fort Maiden about 8 o'clock, very
tired with rowing, and our faces burned with the sun until the skin came off.
Malden is about two miles from the lake, up the river, in which there are several
small islands. The banks are low and well cultivated near the river, but a wilderness back from it. Our company was marched to the storehouse, where we
took out our baggage and dried it and cleaned our guns; were paraded at 11
o'clock and all our arms and ammunition that were damaged were replaced.
We then rambled about the town until evening, when all the troops that were
in Amherstburg were paraded on the commons. They were calculated at eight
or nine hundred men."
Two orders of General Brock are of interest to students of what is now
appropriately called amphibious warfare and show that the General meant to be
in the forefront of the flotilla and that he had his anxieties.




2

3

Headquarters, Banks of Lake Erie,
15 Miles S.W. of Port Talbot,
August 11th, 1812, 6 o'clock, p.m.
-

General Orders :
The troops will hold themselves in readiness, and will embark in the
boats at twelve o'clock this night precisely.
It is Major General Brock's positive order that none of the boats go
ahead of that in which is the Head Quarters, where a light will be carried
during the night.
The officers commanding the different boats will immediately inspect
the arms and ammunition of the men, and see that they are constantly kept
in a state for immediate service, as the troops are now to pass through a part
of the country, which is known to have been visited by the enemy's patroles.
1. Probably Point Pelóe.
2. Published in Richardson, p. 48.
3. He had learned his ideas of military prudence by serving under Nelson at Copenhagen.
20

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

A captain, with a subaltern and thirty men, will mount as picquet
upon the landing of the boats and a sentry will be furnished from each boat,
who must be regularly relieved to take charge of the boats and baggage, etc.
A patrole from the picquet will be sent out on landing to the distance
of a mile from the encampment.
By order of the Major General.
J. B.

Capt. A.D.C.
J. MACDONELL, P.A.D.C.
GLEGG,



Point Aux Pins,
Lake Erie, August 12th, 1812.
General Orders:
It is Major General Brock's intention should the wind continue fair,
to proceed during the night. Officers commanding boats will therefore pay
attention to the order of sailing as directed yesterday. The greatest care
and attention will be requested to prevent the boats from scattering or falling
behind.
A great part of the bank of the lake, which the boats will this day pass,
is much more dangerous and difficult of access than any we have passed.
The boats therefore will not land, excepting in the most extreme necessity,
and then great care must be taken to choose the best places for landing.
The troops being now in the neighbourhood of the enemy, every precaution must be taken to guard against surprise.
By order of the Major General,
J. B.

GLEGG,

A.D.C.

That Brock knew what to do when a marine emergency arose is proved by
the fact that when his own boat ran hard aground, like the standard bearer of
Caesar's Tenth Legion, he set the example by leaping into the water.' From
which we can understand the meaning of Lieut. Robinson (afterwards exalted
to the rank of Chief Justice), when as late as 1840 he expressed a vivid remembrance
of his general in the words: "It would have required much more courage to refuse
to follow General Brock than to go with him wherever he would lead."
Referring to his comrades in this campaign the same brilliant soldier-judge
has written:—" This body of men consisted of farmers, mechanics and gentlemen,
who before that time had not been accustomed to any exposure unusual with
persons of the same description in other countries. They marched on foot and
travelled in boats and vessels, nearly six hundred miles in going and returning,
in the hottest part of the year, sleeping occasionally on the ground and frequently
drenched with rain, but not a man was left behind in consequence." Perhaps
1. Lady Edgar, p. 231.

•21

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS
their best eulogy is in Brock's own words: "Their conduct throughout excited
my admiration.
The other events of this wonderful campaign, the going up to Sandwich,
the crossing of the Detroit with Brock standing in the bow of the foremost boat,
and the stupendous surrender of Hull's army to a little force of whom the Americans complained "four hundred were Canadian militia disguised in red coats,'
—are not these related in the chronicles.
What much searching of history will further reveal is that the indefatigable
Peter Robinson and his Rifle Company of the 1st Yorks, having reached Sandwich
in time to share in all these glorious operations, was given the honour of going
aboard as body-guard to Brock himself on a very small trading schooner; which
after nearly running aground at Buffalo was eventually towed into harbour at
Fort Erie.
"

1. No bad guess: the red coats were actually the cast-off clothing of the 41st Regiment: Lady Edgar, p. 256.

22

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

CHAPTER IV
PUSH ON THE YORK VOLUNTEERS

HIS is not the attempt to re-tell the battle of Queenston Heights, which
has often been written with enthusiasm, yea and even with eloquence
and occasionally with accuracy. It is merely to tell why as his last
order Brock saw fit to push on the York Volunteers.
Well on the morning of October 13th, 1812, a miniature British
army was defending a frontier of some thirty-six miles from Fort Erie to Niagaraon-the-Lake, its commander, General Isaac Brock, being obliged by his instructions
from Sir George Prevost to adopt purely defensive measures. In a letter of September 18th, Brock had written his brother Savery : "You will hear of some decided
action in the course of a fortnight or in all probability we shall return to a state
of tranquility. I say decisive because if I should be beaten the province is inevitably
gone; and should I be victorious, I do not imagine the gentry from the other side
will care to return to the charge."
He lay in some force at Fort George, which he had equipped to silence the
American Fort Niagara, expecting that the movement of invasion would be around
his left flank, while Fort Niagara would effect a diversion with its guns.
The seven miles of river from Fort George to Queenston he had picketed with
what history has dignified as batteries. Thus at the Heights about half-way
down the hill was the Redan Battery (armed with an eighteen pounder) with
Capt. Williams' flank company of the Green Tigers (the 49th Regiment). In
the village of Queenston was the other flank company under Major Dennis, along
with Chisholm and Hatt's Militia Companies and a brass six pounder and two
three pounders handled by a small detachment of artillery. Of the Yorks, Reward's
Company, under Lieut. Robinson and Cameron's Company were stationed
at Brown's Point two miles below Queenston. At night Robinson acted as an
extra guard to the Battery at Vrooman's Point nearer Queenston and returned
in the morning to the command of his senior, Capt. Cameron, at Brown's
Point.
General Van Rensselaer did not attack Fort George, probably for the reason
that he felt he was expected there. But, merely demonstrating in that quarter,
he secretly concentrated at Fort Gray opposite Queenston and proceeded to drive
a wedge through the centre of the thinly held line of British. His boats were
received on the Canadian shore with a vigour that surprised them; some being sunk
and those who landed getting it hot and dry from musket and bayonet; the
survivors being sent under escort to Fort George. The guns in Fort Gray and
the Redan on Queenston kept up a furious cannonade that sent the news down
the River to Cameron and Brock.
23

Min DV TR BATTU OF VIJEEMTA.

// Spot where.Brock fell
5 Sited' first monament
ad hy whir the reinkrrements from, 6" Old JOH7. Vivmonts _Battery
,2 Fort Georgegained the Ifezghts it the/
afternoon'
el" Brocks monument
3.,,Imericarthne as drawn up in afternoon.
do.
4. _British/ line
do

Reproduced from an old account of the Battle

24

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

Capt. Cameron was not a professional soldier and was not instructed for
this emergency. But with a correct instinct he decided to march to the sound
of the guns and put his two companies of York Volunteers upon the road towards
Queenston. On their way a single horseman overtook and passed them at a
gallop, waving his hand to them and urging them as Robinson writes : " to follow
with expedition." This was Isaac Brock on his way to his last battle. Soon
after, that darling of Canadian soldiery, Col. Macdonell galloped by, also to
meet his fate; and with him rode Capt. Glegg, Brock's other aide-de-camp
It is a matter of history, fittingly commemorated by the tall monument that
towers above the heights he strove to regain,' that Brock met his end as he had
won his victories by attempting the desperate to ward off the seemingly inevitable.
Nor was the attempt in vain; for the fury of the contest and the boat loads of
wounded returning to the American shore had that moral effect on the adversary,
which decided the victory of the afternoon.
Twice Brock strove to gain the heights with every soldier he could spare from
Queenston and twice he failed. But the words, "Push on the York Volunteers,"
whether spoken by him just before or after he was struck were not heroics nor
melodrama but a plain military order to throw into the issue his one available
reserve, namely, the two companies under Capt. Cameron which following the
trail of their general were panting up the road to Queenston.
Col. Macdonell rode to his death on the left flank of the York- Volunteers
and when he fell mortally wounded Capt. Cameron.carried him off amid a shower
of musketry. The shattered remains of these much tried pickets were rallied
about a mile below the heights and marching through the fields back of Queenston
joined themselves to the centre of Sheaffe's advancing column. Nor did the
gruelling punishment of the morning prevent their earning their place in that
famous dispatch of General Sheaffe, in which he says:
"Lieut-Cols. Butler and Clark of the militia; and Capts. Hatt, Durand,
Rowe, Applegarth, James Crooks, Cooper, Robert Hamilton, McEwen, Duncan
Cameron, and Lieuts. Richardsons and ThomasButler, commanding flank companies of the Lincoln and York militia led their men into action with great spirit. " 5
The great spirit with which that day they led on their men and General
Sheaffe led his, was that of Isaac Brock. We shall see that this spirit evaporated
from some of the generals if not from their juniors, and that soldiers who under
Brock's influence were intrepid, like Sheaffe and Proctor, became soon afterwards
vacillating, disheartened and timorous.
2

3

.

4

1. The Redan had been depleted of all but eight gunners in order to reinforce Queenston. Captain Wool, of
the United States Army having taken his boats farther up the River, found a narrow unguarded path to the
heights; which had the ultimate victory rested with the Americans would now be as famous as the celebrated
path from Wolfe's Cove. This latter path must have been an achievement for Wolfe to find as no two citizens of
Quebec ever show it to visitors in the same place.
2. The reinforcements that Van Rensselaer was ready to throw over to secure his partial victory developed
"constitutional" doubts about leaving American soil and remained there.
3. Some authorities insert the words, "brave." Not necessary to any that rowed in the same boat with Brock.
4. This was of course Selby's Company. Both Capts. Heward and Selby came over to the Niagara frontier
with Cameron, but appear to have been absent on leave the day when the blow was struck. This is not surprising as
there had been a long tedious wait previous to the attack. Peter Robinson's company was in garrison at Mackinac.
5. Printed in "Documentary History of the Campaign upon the Niagara Frontier," Part IV, p. 72.
25

REF B,R E NCH S..
A Humber.
B Place where Americans landed.
C Old French Fort.
D Western Battery.
E Half Moon Battery.
P Garrison Garden.
G G Government House, Garrison and Magazine.
H H Ships and Stores burnt by British.
- Lake Road.
......... Garrison Road.
H-1-1-1 The shaded part shows the business part
of York in 1812.
The Plate represents, in addition, the City of Toronto as it now is. The woods have been, however,
left as they were then, to mark the difficulty which
Mended militarymovements generally.

topelzwarmam
aci

t latlial

l

MIN 1111
1111® 1N

' ViIni N
MAW
II

,k, en416.
w IMF'
timm ilINIKTEINSPI
`_ 11.2511115"1 ri
41 I 111

.

11.111110L
,
via
_ 1111 Ili

ouram

11m

rari=

„.......

411,
INE '
.....

-Aiewling
From an Old Plan of Toronto
The References are as of 1846. Note the Island was at that date a Peninsula

26

HISTORY OF THE RTH REGIMENS,, "YORK RANGERS

CHAPTER V
How

GENERAL SHEAFFE PUT THE QUIETUS ON THE YORKS

HE trouble was that under the circumstances York was indefensible and
that General Sheaffe allowed the militia and some regulars to be involved in a defense, which was meaningless. For it is meaningless
to defend a place that, after taking, the enemy could not hold if it
would and would not if it could.
A good description of what York was and how it was fortified is to be found
in Coffin's " Chronicle of the War."'
"In April 1813, the town was a scattered collection of low-roofed villas,
embowered in apple orchards. An old French Fort or earthwork constructed to
resist the Indians, stood on the shore of the lake about a mile from the inhabited
part of the Bay. Two embrasured field works, dignified by the name of batteries,
covered the entry to the harbour. These works were armed with three old French
twenty-four pound guns, captured in 1760; the trunions had been knocked off
at the time, but, for the nonce, they had been exhumed from the sand and clamped
down upon pine logs, extemporised as carriages. The town was entirely open in
the rear and on the flanks."
Well on the 25th of April, 1813, Commodore Chauncey, having for the time
the command of the lake, sailed from Sackett's Harbour for York with a fleet of
some fifteen sail, having on board Generals Dearborn and Pike and a force variously
estimated by historians at from sixteen hundred to five thousand troops.'
Videttes had been long before posted in constant watch on Scarborough
Heights with orders to fire alarm guns and on sight of a hostile fleet to ride into
town. The alarm came late on the evening of April 26th.
Now according to Coffin, who was a relative of Sir Roger Sheaffe, "Sheaffe's
first duty as a soldier and as a general looking to the defence of his military command was to abandon a place never intended to have been defended and to preserve
his force for the protection of the country. The capture of this detachment at
this time would have been an irretrievable loss and in its effects, fatal to the
province."
It was this duty of abandonment, which Sir Roger Sheaffe performed in a
fashion that endangered his regulars, disqualified the militia for the rest of the
campaign, caused the burning of the parliament buildings and ruined Sheaffe's
own reputation as a soldier. Unless he purposed to match brown-bess muskets
against the guns of a fleet'—he must have known he could not prevent a landing
1. p. 98.
2. Historians vary like real estate experts on an arbitration. Perhaps a fair estimate would be two thousand
five hundred, including the crews. See Auchinleck, p. 151.
3. Capt. McNeil and two companies of the 8th were practically wiped out by the broadsides from the fleet.
27

HISTORY OF THE NTH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS
and the capture of the ridiculous fortifications. But as it was he frittered away
what fighting chance there was by allowing his force to be engaged and beaten in
detail. First, Major Givens with about forty Indians and a few inhabitants of
the town not enrolled for military duty, then about sixty Glengarry Fencibles,
then some two hundred and twenty militia, and fifty of the Newfoundland Regiment, then two companies of the 8th Regiment (about two hundred strong)—
these in succession were dribbled in to withstand a landing force upwards of one
thousand strong. Meanwhile General Shaw,' with forty men and a six pounder
held the line of Dundas Street and never got into action.
The blowing up of a magazine' killed General Pike and some two hundred
Americans along with some of the defenders. Having set fire to a ship that
was on the stocks, General Sheaffe retreated with the remains of his force to
Kingston.
The bitter part of it was that having been permitted by Sheaffe to throw
themselves into the contest with enthusiasm, the militia were allowed to save
their homes by surrendering the town to an enemy exasperated by their stiff
resistance and by the death of Pike and the destruction of stores. As Sheaffe puts
it, "Lieut.-Col. Chewett and Major Allan of the militia were instructed
to treat with the American commanders for terms." The negotiations were
conducted largely by John Strachan (sometime Bishop of Toronto) assisted by
Lieut. John Beverley Robinson, acting Attorney-General.
A curious statement appears in Auchinleck's "History of the War," as follows:
"The defence of the town being no longer practicable, a surrender necessarily
followed by which it was stipulated that the militia and others attached to the
British military and naval service who had been captured should be paroled; that
private property of every kind should be respected and that all public stores should
be given up to the captors. We have italicised the words, 'who had been captured,'
as the Americans got possession of the militia rolls and included amongst the list
of prisoners on parole many who had never laid down their arms and whom it was
never contemplated to include in the list."
This statement is borne out by the fact that the list printed in the histories
includes at least one name that does not appear in the original orderly room copy
of the terms of capitulation . And this name is that of our famous fighting
lieutenant of Selby's Company, Reuben Richardson lately hero of Detroit and
Queenston Heights, and now in cold blood surrendered by insertion.
Of the cavalier way in which General Dearborn treated his conquest and his
prisoners, and how Dr. Strachan bullied the Americans into observing the terms
of capitulation (after they had burned the public buildings) we need say no more
than that the reverend doctor and future prelate for clear headed intrepidity carries
off the chief honours on the British side.
3

4

5

6

1. Ancestor of Lt.-Col. Geo. A. Shaw, sometime O.C. 10th Royals.
2. The explosion just at this moment is now generally believed to have been accidental; but was a matter of
bitter controversy at the time.
3. Among the killed was Maclean, Clerk of the House of Assembly.
4. p. 153.
5. e.g. in Auchinleck himself at p. 154.
6. Printed in fac simile in Robertson's " Landmarks of Toronto," Vol. 2, p. 808.
28

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT , YORK RANGERS
-

Decidedly it would have been better if General Sheaffe had on sight of the
American fleet burned his stores, carried off all his troops, including the York
Volunteers, and left Dr. Strachan to surrender the town without a futile contest.
But being a personally brave and mentally inconclusive man, Sheaffe could on
this occasion neither fight nor refrain from fighting but salved his conscience with
a resistance the utility of which does not appear. For the enemy having won a
complete victory and captured York on April 27th, 1813, evacuated York on May
2nd, 1813, which in legal parlance constitutes—Four clear days.

29

Photos by Kennedy

Surgeon Lieut.-Col. R. M. HILLARY

Major A. ELLIOTT,
Musketry Instructor.

30

Hon. Major A. GILLIES
Quartermaster
Hon. Major J. E. KNOX
Paymaster

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

CHAPTER VI
THE INGREDIENTS OF SEDITION
OLLOWING the War of 1812-14 a political process was resumed and
accelerated, which had started under the regime of Hon. Peter
Russell, President and Administrator of the Province after the withdrawal of Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe. This consisted in the formation of a patrician class, composed of officials, a number of
whom together with their relatives, became large land-holders and proceeded
to engross the government places and emoluments of the province. This was
not unaccompanied by some corruption and peculation in office and by abuses
inherent to an aristocratic system, such as the reservation of one seventh of all
public lands to form the foundation for a state church. One very irritating
grievance that bore heavily on the actual settler, was that a large percentage of
the land being thus held by the church or by land-grabbers and unoccupied
by bona fide residents and no work being done on the contiguous allowances
for roads, the public highways were in a deplorable condition.
The natural result of these actual grievances and of this exclusiveness of
political patronage was a series of agitations bitterly conducted and ferociously
resisted. A succession of agitators, Gourlay, Collins and finally William Lyon
Mackenzie kept the public mind in a turmoil by writings and public meetings.
What in the journalism of those days was apparently regarded by its authors as
calm and legitimate criticism would now be reckoned as gross personal insult.
One response of the office-holding class to these attacks was by the sweeping use
of the machinery of the courts in prosecutions for seditious libel. And whether
it was an attorney-general or chief justice thundering in the court or merely a
Scotch reformer and ,a North of Ireland upholder of the administration arguing
with stakes that ought to have been left in place to keep the wood from falling
off the sleigh—the proceedings were wholehearted and free from any pretence
of toleration and self-restraint. The Tories-in-office had a number of hard names,
which they freely applied to their enemies the Radical agitators. But the agitators
cleverly responded with one fixed term of opprobrium and summed up all their
charges of nepotism and tyranny in the words, "Family Compact."
Now the militia of Canada, embracing all the able-bodied male population,
was of course neither all for nor all against the Family Compact. But it happened
that certain able and courageous men, whom we have had occasion to mention
in previous chapters were recognized members of the ruling caste. Thus Dr.
Strachan and John Beverley Robinson were felt by both parties to be the dominant
brains of the compact; while there were many ardent spirits among those who
had seen service in 1812, who were heartily in accord with upholding aristocratic
31

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

traditions, and who powerfully detested any democratic innovations. Thus when
on June 8th, 1826, a mob of young gentlemen of official extraction threw William
Lyon Mackenzie's type into the Bay,—and thereby unintentionally prolonged
his political career,—it was deposed to that two citizens mentioned in previous
chapters as Major and Captain, but now became Colonel Allan and Colonel Reward stood complacently watching that unconventional method of answering an
editor.
In fact it appears to have been the policy of the Family Compact both to
secure the veteran officers of 1812 by public offices and to keep the higher ranks
in the militia for members of its circle. Thus in a pleasantly personal black list
published by Mackenzie in June, 1828, just on the eve of a general election, with
the title :"No. 6. Places of Profit, Honour and Emolument held by some of the
members of the present or last House of Assembly or by candidates for the Legislature," we find items like these:—
"John B. Robinson, Attorney-General; Colonel of Militia; King's College
Counsellor; Welland Canal Director; Hospital Trustee; Allegiance Commissioner, School Trustee."
"D. Cameron, J.P.; Major of Militia."
"Arch. McLean, Clerk of the Peace; Registrar of Stormont and Dundas;
Member Board of Education; J.P.; Colonel of Militia."
The total list comprises Colonels and Lieutenant-Colonels, 19; Majors, 9;
Captains, 8; and one Lieutenant. Whence we may infer that up to 1828, at any
rate, the Family Compact had with premeditated design set its strong fingers on
the whole militia organization.
One thing, however, had not been foreseen, namely, that a paper organization
without weapons or training, is not suited for emergency work. Veterans who
still felt within their veins the hot blood of Queenston or Lundy's Lane, did not
.perhaps realize that during a quarter of a century of peace there had rusted out
both the muskets of 1812 and the skill to use them. And so fell out that curious
episode of 1837.

32

HISTORY OF THE ieTH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS



CHAPTER VII
THE FOUR THOUSAND MUSKETS AT THE CITY HALL

HE troubles known to history as the Mackenzie Rebellion are really
divisible into two distinct periods. First, the rebellion itself before
it became an international affair; and secondly, the War of Filibusters
that began with the burning of the Caroline on December 29th, 1837.
The success or failure of Mackenzie's attempt to overthrow the
government of Sir Francis Head did snot depend on any preponderance of loyalty
or disaffection, but on something very material and confined in a very small
space—namely on the four thousand stand of arms lying in their unbroken packages at the City Hall in Toronto. Let us see why.
Of all the governors who by the blunder of a statesman (or the mistake of a
messenger)' have vexed Britain's over-seas dominions, Sir Francis Bond Head
was by the quality and exercise of his undoubted talents the best fitted to lose a
British Colony.
While exasperating the Reformers to the verge of rebellion, he was scarcely
less irritating to the upholders of the Family Compact, who found him resentful
of their advice and determined to pull the roof down over his own and their heads.
The reform agitation had up till August 15th, 1837, been a spirited, but not overtly
unlawful propaganda by public meetings and white-hot publications. About
this date some fifty Orangemen with clubs adjourned one of Mackenzie's meetings.
The answer to this line of argument took the form of an escort of one hundred
horsemen, who accompanied the agitator to his Vaughan meeting.
The project launched by Mackenzie in July "for uniting, organizing and registering the Reformers of Upper Canada as a political union," began as he foresaw
to take a military direction. The various branches or societies, which he had
instituted, began to take an unwonted interest in rifle matches and turkey shoots
and to collect pike-heads, doubtless for their symbolic value.
These matters were duly reported to Sir Francis Head, who secure in his
sense of popularity, not only refused to take any precautions to meet an outbreak,
but in spite of the most alarming information sent every regular soldier out of the
province to help against Papineau in Quebec. The garrison having disappeared,
the insurgents had two chances to get the four thousand muskets upon whose
possession depended the fate of an appeal to arms. Mackenzie, while disclaiming
2

1. It was more than suspected that the appointment of Sir Francis Head was due to a mistake in addressing
or delivering the papers to the wrong Head.
2. He had beaten the Reformers in 1836 on one of those "Old Flag" campaigns, which are one of the outstanding
phenomena of Upper Canadian politics, occurring as they do every eighteen or twenty years. If there is any credit
in inventing such a political device, then credit must be given to Sir Francis Head.
33

11,

6.62,68140101•01

1

EVIIMAIROMMISMPINIESVIIIMI.76068.

Photos by Kennedy
Capt. W. H. TAYLOR,
Commanding B Company

34

Capt. W. G. FOWLER,
Commanding C Company

HISTORY OF THE NTH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS
any military capacity knew the general scarcity of fire arms,' and proceeded in
his characteristic way to improve his first chance of getting that superiority of
fire which determines battles. His plan was "that we should instantly send for
Dutcher's foundry-men and Armstrong's axe-makers, all of whom could have been
depended on, and with them go promptly to the Government House, seize Sir
Francis, carry him to the City Hall, a fortress in itself, seize the arms and ammunition there and the artillery, etc., in the old garrison; rouse our innumerable friends
in town and country, proclaim a provisional government," etc., etc.
Viewing the matter in the light of what actually did happen, one is struck by
the entire feasibility of the plan and by the utter imbecility displayed by Mackenzie
in his method of execution. For instead of going himself with a few tried friends,
and collecting Dutcher's and Armstrong's men, he propounded his manoeuvre
to a meeting of fourteen or fifteen of the most fluent and sub-heroic orators in his
party; with the result that they talked it out until it joined the innumerable list
of great deeds that might have been done.
Inevitably some one told Sir Francis Head and consistently with his character
he would neither do anything himself, nor permit anyone else to do anything for
the defence of his person, capital or province.
About this time thert was in Toronto a certain veteran soldier of 1812, Col.
Fitzgibbon, who was making an unqualified nuisance of himself to the powersthat-be. He made repeated alarmist representations to Head and his Council of
an impending rebellion and was loftily snubbed by the Governor, the Judges and
the Attorney-General. Indeed the only man of official standing in Toronto that
gave heed to his utterances appears to have been Hon. Wm. Allan, whom we
have mentioned in his militia capacity in previous chapters. Despite his chilling
lack of encouragement, Fitzgibbon got up a list of one hundred and twenty-six
men (out of the twelve thousand inhabitants of the city) upon whose loyalty he
could depend. Taking this list to Sir Francis he informed him that with or without
his permission he intended to keep these men on duty so that on the ringing of the
college bell they should assemble at the City Hall. When the matter was presented to him in this manner Sir Francis gave a grumbling assent. As a matter
of history this little contingent was all that stood between Head and the successful
issue of Mackenzie's second plan for the capture of the four thousand muskets.
This plan was one of those intricate combinations which can only succeed
in the entire absence of any military precaution or capacity on the part of those
who are to be overthrown. Mackenzie schemed to concentrate his followers from
Dan to Beersheba at a point in York County, and march thence upon the city
before the Government could collect its friends. The date fixed was Thursday,
7th December, 1837, and Montgomery's Tavern on Yonge Street was the rendez2

vous.
1. "Of the fifteen hundred men whose names had been returned on the insurrection rolls, only a very small
proportion—perhaps not over one in five—had firearms of any description.—Lindsay's "Life of Mackenzie," Vol.
II, p. 52.
2. In the Emigrant (published in 1846) Sir Francis gave as his reason for not doing anything, that he did not
want to harass the militia by calling them out; sending them back, calling them out again, sending them back again
and so on: "The militia of Canada are men, whose time cannot with impunity be trifled with." The sentiment
is worth preserving, even if it cost Sir Francis nine years to think it out.
35

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

Two unforeseen circumstances broke up the combination. The first was
that Dr. Rolph, a brilliant orator and bad conspirator, got alarmed at the state
of unrest in Toronto, and thinking the plan had been discovered changed the date
to the 4th December. This had the result that only a portion of the would-berebels got notice in time to join Mackenzie. The others either went out later
with Dr. Duncombe in the west, and being practically unarmed, dispersed without
battle; or hastening to the scene of trouble and hearing of the fiasco at Montgomery's Tavern became forthwith Her Majesty's most loyal militia.
The other circumstance was that the irrepressible Fitzgibbon despite the most
explicit order of Sir Francis Head posted a forbidden and unthanked picket on
Yonge Street.'
On Monday, the 4th December, 1837, the Rebellion actually broke out and
on Tuesday night the rebels, having been amused for several hours by flags of
truce, moved down Yonge Street to take the city. Their advance guard struck
the picket commanded by Sheriff W. B. Jarvis. The picket fired and ran
in. The rebels also ran,—some eight hundred of them,—and retired to Montgomery's Tavern. To put it mildly the city was alarmed; even Sir Francis Head
dressed himself and added to the confusion at the City Hall by issuing absurd
orders. The arrival of Allan McNab from Hamilton with sixty men of Gore saved
the situation by distracting the attention of Sir Francis from the confusion he was
maintaining. The subsequent events—the advance of the now numerous volunteers with their muskets and cannon against the rebels of whom but two hundred
had fire arms; the foregone conclusion at Montgomery's Tavern,—these are now
ancient history.
Now where among all this confusion was the militia of whom as we have seen
there were among the notables of the province such numerous colonels, lieutenantcolonels, majors and captains (not to mention one lieutenant). It seems,
indeed, that these great men were not without the spirits of soldiers even if the
bodies were invisible. For an eye-witness of the scene at the Market Place in
Toronto on the morning of the 5th December, after the college bell had rung during
the night, writes :—" I found a large number of persons serving out arms to others
as fast as they possibly could. Among others, we saw the Lieutenant-Governor
in his every-day suit with one double barrelled gun in his hand, another leaning
against his breast and a brace of pistols in his leathern belt. Also Chief Justice
Robinson, Judges Macaulay, Jones and McLean, the Attorney-General and Solicitor-General with their muskets, cartridges, boxes and bayonets, all standing in
ranks as private soldiers under the command of Col. Fitzgibbon."
A spirited description of the militia man of 1837 is to be found in Lindsay's
" Life of Mackenzie":
"The militia who went to the succor of the Government was not generally
a more warlike body of men than the insurgents under Lount. These were drawn
2

1. Looking at the events of those days through the mellowing atmosphere of history we can easily forgive the
Family Compact and the Governor for their last-ditch opposition to "Responsible Government." But when we
consider the pig-headed obtuseness of the man and his subsequent insincerity towards Fitzgibbon, not even the
lapse of centuries will sooth the desire to personally kick Sir Francis Bond Head, Bart.
2. Lount was Mackenzie's best lieutenant. He, being a blacksmith, made the pike heads. He was hanged
for his share in the rebellion.
36

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

from the same class—the agriculturists—and were similarly armed and equipped.
A description of a party—as given to me by an eye-witness—who came down from
the North, would answer, with a very slight variation, for the militia of any other
part of the province. A number of persons collected at Bradford, on the Monday
or Tuesday, not one-third of whom had arms of any kind; and many of those who
were armed had nothing better than pitchforks, rusty swords, dilapidated guns,
and newly manufactured pikes, with an occasional bayonet on the end of a pole.
These persons, without the least authority of law, set about a disarming process;
depriving every one who refused to join them, or whom they chose to suspect of
disloyalty, of his arms. Powder was taken from stores, wherever found, without
the least ceremony, and without payment. On Thursday, a final march from
Bradford for Toronto was commenced; the number of men being nearly five
hundred, including one hundred and fifty Indians, with painted faces and savage
looks. At Holland Landing some pikes; which probably belonged to Lount,
were secured. In their triumphant march, these grotesque-looking militiamen
made a prisoner of every man who did not give such an account of himself as they
deemed satisfactory. Each prisoner, as he was taken, was tied to a rope; and
when Toronto was reached a string of fifty prisoners all fastened together were
marched in. Fearing an ambush, these recruits did not venture to march through
the Oak Ridges in the night; and a smoke being seen led to the conclusion that
Toronto was in flames. McLeod's tavern, beyond the Ridges, was taken possession of, as well as several other houses in the vicinity. In a neighbouring store,
all kinds of provisions and clothing that could be obtained were unceremoniously
seized. At the tavern there was a regular scramble for food; and cake-baking
and bacon-frying were going on upon a wholesale scale. Next morning, several
who had no arms, and others who were frightened, returned to their homes. Each
man wore a pink ribbon on his arm to distinguish him from the rebels. Many
joined from compulsion; and a larger number, including some who had been at
Montgomery's, suddenly turned loyalists when they found the fortunes of the
insurrection .had become desperate. When they marched into Toronto, they
were about as motley a collection as it would be possible to conceive.
"Such was the Canadian militia in 1837, at a time when Sir Francis Bond
Head had sent all the regular troops out of the province."

37

Capt. A. T. HUNTER,
Commanding G Company
Capt. S. E. CURRAN,
Commanding H Company

Capt. B. H. BROWN,
Commanding F Company

38

HISTORY OF THE NTH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

CHAPTER VIII
THE WAR OF THE PATRIOTS ALIAS FILIBUSTERS

HE bickering on Yonge Street having turned against him, and himself
having escaped after a series of adventures worthy of a Stuart prince,
and Dr. Duncombe's insurrection having faded out, William Lyon
Mackenzie took post on Navy Island in the Niagara River to prepare
an invasion of Upper Canada by patriotic Canadians. This movement he confidently expected would be seconded by the mass of the population;
and judging by the lists in his hands his confidence was based on good reason.
Arms both small and large they had no difficulty in procuring by robbing the
arsenals of the United States, which were being guarded with studious connivance.
Up to the end of December, 1837, Mackenzie had rallied to him about two
hundred restless spirits most of whom were British subjects, but with an American
" General "—one Van Rensselaer—who like many gallant soldiers of all ages exchanged intellect for intoxication and brains for brandy. This army was demonstrating feebly against the Canadian shore, where a loyalist camp under Col.
Cameron and then under Allan Macnab was with gradually increasing forces
eagerly awaiting a landing. On December 29th, provisions and military stores
were being sent over from the American side to Navy Island by the steamer
Caroline, which thus steamed into troubled waters to her own magnificent destruction.
Col. Macnab being a choleric man, not much versed in the niceties of
international relations, permitted Capt. Drew of the Royal Navy to cut out the
Caroline. Which, calling for volunteers or rather saying that "he wanted a few
fellows with cutlasses who would follow him to the devil," Capt. Drew, R.N.,
proceeded to do. The, to him, trifling details that he took the steamer not at
Navy Island, but at Schlosser on the American side and that he left behind the
body of Amos Durfee with the head blown off, produced an international episode
of volcanic proportions.
Mackenzie and his insurrection of British subjects were both immediately
superseded by a filibuster movement, commanded by new and unheard-of generals,
whose conflicting commissions proceeded out of the lodges of secret societies.'
Invasions were planned to make descent upon various vulnerable places in Upper
Canada. Some of the " generals " like Generals Sutherland and Theller, having
conquered the country by proclamations, actually came and were duly sentenced
when captured. Others like Handy, of Illinois, merely organized pompous conf u2

1. Hunters' Lodges they were called.

2. Also they broke jail and escaped.
39

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

sion. Still others like General Bierce, and Admiral Bill Johnson, stood back in
safety after sending brave men to their death.
The Americanizing of the war produced a sudden and decisive effect on the
people of Upper Canada. So long as it was merely a case of William Lyon Mackenzie there was a good deal of something less loyal to the administration than
indifference. Many a veteran of 181 and his sons would gladly have struck
a pike through the Family Compact if they could have avoided tearing the old
flag. But the events that began when the Caroline, splendidly blazing, went over
the Horse Shoe Fall, closed up the ranks of Canadians and the people seemed to
rise as one man.
From .a return of commissions issued from March, 1838, to March, 1839, we
find the officers of two East York and two West York Regiments, and no less
than nine North York Regiments. Among these officers we are struck by a persistence of names that occur in the rolls of 1812. Duncan Cameron was colonel
of the 1st North York; and Heward, Cawthra, Richardson, Playter, Denison,
Shaw, Selby, Jarvis, are among the commissioned in these suddenly organized
invasion-expectant legions.
A return of .the 4th North Yorks, commanded by Col. C. C. Small, of Toronto,
and mustering at Richmond Hill, on June 4th, 1838, shows how plentiful and
willing men were and how woefully lacking were arms. Of a total of 725 men,
701 were present, and only 5 absent without leave. Of arms and accoutrements,
the regiment possessed thirty-one English muskets and five hundred rounds of
ammunition.
The same return of commissions in March, 1839, gives also the lists of officers
of the forces called out on the first outbreak of the Rebellion of 1837. Among these
were the Queen's Own, whose name still sounds familiar in Toronto, and the
Queen's Rangers, a portion of whose designation has been continued in the present
regiment of York Rangers. The Lieut.-Col. and organizer of the Queen's
Rangers was Samuel Peters Jarvis, who named it after Simcoe's famous corps in
which his father, "the Secretary," had held a commission. No native Canadian
ever saw more of fighting in his own land than did Col. Jarvis; and when we
consider that he was at Detroit, Queenston Heights, Stoney Creek and Lundy's
Lane; that he fought a duel according to the code in Toronto, that he
commanded the right wing at Montgomery's Tavern and was present to admire
the pyre-like glory of the Caroline as she took the plunge, we feel that he had an
unerring instinct for war, and while by profession a lawyer was by preference a
soldier and a good one.
1

2

3

4

5

1. They induced Van Shultz to attempt to take Prescott. He was forced to surrender at the "Windmill"
and executed.
2. Matthews, one of the executed rebels, fought valiantly against the invaders in 1812.
3. One of these old time names of 1812-37 has gone astray and therefore appropriately joined the Corps of
Guides in the person of Lieut.-Col. Van Nostrand.
4. "Landmarks of Toronto," 5th Series, p. 11.
5. In the vicinity of what is now Grosvenor Street.

40

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

CHAPTER IX
ANOTHER QUARTER CENTURY OF RUST
HE "Patriot" demonstrations of 1838 having subsided, interest in the
militia rapidly evaporated and what little skill as men-at-arms the
citizens had acquired was soon forgotten. The annual musters of
the forces more and more took that burlesque character which is fatal
to discipline. For a good soldier has even more need to subdue his
sense of humor in time of peace than he has in time of war to control his sense
of fear.
The rigorous drill and fine old military decorum of these annual musters
(when attended at all) may be gathered from the description by an astonished
participant in one, which was held in 1845.
"At that date, and for some years before, there had been an annual muster
on old King George's birthday, of the young men of our rural parts not yet enrolled
for military purposes. I was then resident in the county of Haldimand, Niagara
district, and received a notification that I must proceed to the village of Dunnville
and attend the annual muster on the 4th of June. I proceeded there in due course,
reported at a named tavern, and `fell in' with some thirty other young fellows
in front of it. The specified hour having arrived, we lined up in fair order, and our
names were called with military vigor. Then came a veteran carrying a tin pail
with something in it, and its bearer stopped in front of every man in turn. A
tin dipper descended into the pail and ascended to the welcoming hand of each
visitor as he was reached. A gurgle and a smack of the lips, and another nail had
been driven into the system of the soldier. Capt. Farr, commanding, then appeared in front of the contingent specially under his orders, and called us back to
the ' Attention ' which we had bestowed elsewhere. We were ` two deep,' if not
a little more, and received the order to ' wheel' to the `left.' Explanation was
necessary before we could take up the unexpected movement, but after its repetition we were almost equal to the performance of the double shuffle dignified by
the name of a `quick march.' Then we reached a turn to our left. Dispirited
by the response to the previous command to ' wheel,' the gallant captain—called
' Cap,' for short, by his corps.—politely informed his command that it was useless to tell them what the drill book said, but they must ' haw ' or `gee' as they
were directed, so first we 'geed,' and then we 'hawed,' and got there just the same.
"There were several squads on the vacant lot to which we had been marched,
mostly big lads and young men, who were lying on the ground good-naturedly
awaiting orders. One special squad, in uniforms, and really looking soldier-like,
1

1. See "Sixty Years in Upper Canada," by Charles Clarke, late Clerk of the Legislature. Col. Clarke was C.O.
of the 30th for more than twenty years. Being accustomed to strict drill and discipline in an academy in England,
the shock of this first militia experience in Canada nearly shattered his reason.
41

Photos by Kennedy

Lieut. H. BRANN,
D Company

Lieut. J. L. WILLIAMSON,
A Company

Lieut. WM. BAILLIE

42

Lieut. J. H. PROCTOR,
B Company

HISTORY OF THE NTH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

were drilling with a combination of snap and vigor. Their backs were turned towards us, but on their countermarching we discovered- that our models were all
negroes, a company raised during the recent Rebellion and said to have been very
efficient in making corduroy roads. They received special notice from the colonel,
who wore regimentals, too, and sat his steed—a mare as if not afraid of it. In
passing up and down the line now formed he gave us ample opportunity, not only
to admire his horsemanship, but to form an opinion of the good points of a lively
colt running at the heels of its mother. After his little speech of commendation
and recommendation, reports were made by the company officers, and we involuntarily broke into groups. Then the fun commenced. Wrestling, jumping,
`stumping for a horse race,' and so forth, soon broke up all semblance of order,
and one irreverent and evidently licensed good fellow tiptoed to the rear of the
' Cap,' and suddenly snatched and drew from its scabbard the slightly rusted
sword which had been carried through a rebellion now apparently forgotten.
A loud haw-haw from the boys, and the advice from one of them to our commanding officer to put up his `old cheese-knife,' and we marched back to the tavern to
receive another drink, after which the military heroes were dismissed, and more
fun and frolic followed."
It is not to be supposed, however, as the years went by that all annual musters
of the militia were as successful even in the picnic sense, as the one just described.
Lieut.-Col. Geo. A. Shaw, ex-commanding officer of the 10th has a curious recollection of one attended by him as a newly gazetted ensign. It was in Toronto itself,
where surely, if anywhere, the flame is never allowed to die on•the altar of Mars.
Arriving with the zeal that becomes a young officer at the appointed hour and the
appointed place he could not find any militia. He found, however, a negro asleep
under a tree. Summoning his best military crispness of manner he tapped the
Sambo with his boot and said, "My man, where are the militia?"
"Fse de militia, sah."
"You're the militia! What do you mean?"
"Sure, I'se de militia and de oder militia is up de tree."
Looking up the tree Shaw discovered the other militia in the form of a youth
picking nuts. Presently the captain came in his full uniform of a captain of the
Sedentary Militia of Canada, and the parade was complete.
Things drifted along, nevertheless, becoming of course worse rather than
better as the weapons became older and rustier and the memory of any active
service became dimmer. The Crimean War, however, awakened the attention of
England to many things in connection with her army, the blaze of whose valor
only served to light up the hideous weakness of its organization. Among other
things the British authorities, while rummaging in 1854 for effective troops, recollected that some thirty-three hundred regulars were defending Canada, and that
the Canadians, outside of a few voluntary companies (who drilled without pay and
bought their own uniforms), were not interfering with the duties of these regulars.
Accordingly England, with the same sad-eyed persistence with which of late years
she has reminded Canada of her naval obligations, kept bringing the matter of
defence to the attention of the Canadian authorities.
43

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

The result was a new militia law in 1855, which made provision for active
militia corps which were to provide their own uniforms and clothing and up to the
number of 5,000 to receive a very limited number of days pay per annum. Additional corps were also authorized who were to drill without pay. These two
classes kept up the active militia spirit under difficulties; and owing to the indifference of the public appeared rather to be on the decrease than on the increase.
For while in 1856 they numbered 4,999 and rose in 1857 to 5,288, yet in 1858 they
sank to 4,895.'
However, on November 8th, 1861, the U.S. Steamship San Jacinto fired a
shot across, the bow of the British mail steamer Trent, and took from her two
Southern gentlemen, Mason and Slidell. It required some diplomacy to set
this matter right, and in the meantime so sensitive is the Canadian pulse in Imperial
matters that our active militia had risen to 12,000 by the end of 1861, and by
1863 to 25,000.
During this period of growth we find certain companies gazetted which form
a link between the present regiment of York Rangers and its predecessors in the
York Militia of older days.
Thus on September 4th, 1862, was gazetted, the Scarborough Rifle Company,
Capt. W. H. Norris, Lieut. J. R. Taber, Ensign Geo. Rush.
On December 11th, in the same year, the Aurora Infantry Company,
Capt. Seth Ashton, Lieut. W. B. Hutchison, Ensign C. Good.
On December 19th, The Lloydtown Infantry Company,
Capt. Ed. Bull, Lieut. Geo. Ramsay, Ensign Robert Hunter.
And on January 23rd, 1863, The King Infantry Company,
Capt. Geo. Lee Garden, Lieut. Isaac Dennis, Ensign Chas. Norman.
These companies, quite independent of one another, were part of the 5th
Military District (comprising Ontario, York, Peel and Simcoe), and appear from
a publication called "The Active or Volunteer Militia Force List of Canada,"
to have owed some sort of disciplinary obedience to one J. Stoughton Dennis, the
Brigade-Major.
With some changes in personnel, for four years they continued their vigil,
turning (as the sentries used to turn) always outwards in one direction; and that
direction the South. For from the South the enemy was to come.

2

1. "The Militia System of Canada," by Colonel Walker Powell in Castell Hopkin's Encyclopaedia.
2. From an account, "Landmarks of Toronto," 5th series, p. 506 of a military review held by Gen. Lindsay in
Toronto, on 8th October, 1863, and attended by the rural volunteer companies we get an accurate idea of the mustering strength of these companies. Note these items:
From King, one company of infantry, Capt. Garden, one officer and forty men.
From Aurora, one company of infantry, Capt. Peel, three officers and thirty men.
From Lloydtown, one company of infantry, Capt. Armstrong and twenty-five men.
From Scarboro, one company of rifles, Capt. Norris, four officers and forty-five men. From which it will be
seen that the Flank Company of 1812, the Volunteer Company of the Sixties, and the " Rural " Militia Company
of our own day are about the same thing.

44

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

CHAPTER X
THE WELDING OF THE BATTALIONS
HE troubles known as the Fenian Raids, divested of their feeble pretense of freeing Ireland, originated in the disbanding of the enormous
armies of the Civil War. For just as the unlucky contestants in
any series of sports will clamor for a " Consolation Race," so after
any period of warfare there are ambitious and unsatisfied soldiers to
whom peace appears in the garb of a robber of their opportunities for achieving
fortune and fame. Louis Napoleon, having withdrawn from Mexico, there was
only Canada to turn to. Accordingly, Canada was in for it.
Two causes contributed towards the prosperous organization of a series of
raids into Canada. One was the immemorial dishonesty of American governments
in the matter of filibustering movements; which before the authorities suppressed
them must have been attempted, have failed and palpably be incapable of future
success. The other cause was that treacherous torpidity in military matters
which with the Canadian precedes a sudden and venomous activity, a torpidity
which induced the incursions of 1812, 1838 and 1866.
However obliviously dense the American Government could be towards the
organizing, enrolling and drilling of masses of armed Fenians in their cities the
Canadian authorities were not able to achieve such heights of philosophy. Repeated alarms were met with sporadic preparations to receive with the appropriate
salute of ball cartridge an enemy who might land at any time or place. Thus
for four weary months from December 30th, 1864, two service companies of the
Queen's Own patrolled the Niagara Frontier.'
Again in November, 1865, the city regiments picketted the drill shed in
Toronto, and companies were sent to Sarnia where ultimately a provisional battalion was formed.
In March, 1866, the militia were called out and among those who left for the
fiont to be stationed at Port Colborne, were six companies from the 5th Military
District, of which two companies were the Aurora Infantry Company and the
Scarboro Rifles.
Finally it became evident a few days previously to May 31st, that some
movement was in progress in the American towns and cities along the Niagara
frontier, and by the night of the 31st it was manifest that a mobilization was in
progress for an immediate descent on the Canadian shore. The actual landing
took place at 3.30 the following day, but late in the night of the 31st the call to
1. Other units of militia were also kept drilling about the same time, e.g. we find a note in the Militia List of
1865 that our Scarboro company drilled at Niagara with the Second or Central Administrative Battalion. The
ostensible reason for keeping up this "Watch on the Rhine" was to prevent raids into the United States. If that
was the real reason, it was a case of wasted courtesy.
45

Photos by Kennedy

Lieut. F. M. BROWN,
Lieut. A. G. A. FLETCHER,
Lieut. F. G. L. DARLINGTON,
F Company
E Company
H Company
Lieut.
W.
G.
PINK,
Lieut. B. J. DAYTON,
F Company
Sig. Officer

46

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

arms was telegraphed from Ottawa, and within an hour the sound of bugles and
alarm bells was heard echoing and ringing in nearly every town and village in the
country.'
The response of the militia to the bugles and the orders calling them out was,
as always is the case with the Canadian militia, instantaneous. The impression
one gets from reading of how few hours were required to get the men together is
that they were already straining at the leash. The news of their required mobilization arriving in the evening, the Queen's Own were at their armoury at 4.30
in the morning and embarked at 7 a.m.
for Port Dalhousie. As fast as transportation was provided the other forces were
carried to the scene of hostilities. The
Northern Railway arrived at Toronto at
10.40 a.m. on June 2nd, bearing among
others the Aurora Infantry Company,
the King Infantry Company, under Capt.
Garden and the Scarboro Rifles, and by
the afternoon train came the Lloydtown
Company along with the Collingwood
Rifles.'
When we, at this distance of time, contemplate the strategy of General Napier,
who commanded in Canada West and of
Col. Peacocke, who was entrusted with
the command of the troops in the Niagara Peninsula, we feel that it is a tribute
to the inherent loyalty of the Canadians
that they did not for all time lose faith in
the soundness of British generalship.
With the vaguest possible information as
to the movements of the Fenians after
their landing at Fort Erie, it did not occur
to General Napier to mobilize any mountBugle and Flag
ed troops until June end, after the desPresented by their Fellow Townsmen to the Aurora
patch of the Queen's Own and other foot
Infantry Company, on their return from the
Niagara Frontier, June 1866
soldiers to Port Colborne and St. Catherines. It is safe to say that if either Col.
Peacocke or Lieut.-Col. Booker had with him on June 1st even a troop of
cavalry and it had displayed some of the energy shown two days later by
Geo. T. Denison, with his troop of Governor-General's Body Guard, the column
under Booker would not have received the snubbing it got at Ridgeway and
the Fenians would not have escaped from pursuit. To add to the difficulties
of Peacocke the authorities had posted the Queen's Own, the 13th and the
3

1. "Troublous Times in Canada," by Capt. John A. Macdonald, p. 33.
2. Leader, June 2nd, 1866.
3. Now Col. Denison, the well known police magistrate of Toronto and an author of international celebrity.
47

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS
York and Caledonia Companies under Booker at Port Colborne, which is a
villainous distance from St. Catherines, whence Peacocke set out and also
from Chippewa to which he pushed on. If it was the strategical intention to
unite these columns, the utility of so widely separating them the day before is
one of those mysteries that make the art of war so profound a study. At any rate
Peacocke attempted to effect a junction with Booker at Stevensville. Whatever
chance this most delicate of all operations,—the junction of widely separated
columns within striking distance of the enemy,—might have had was destroyed by
the slowness of Peacocke's own march and the erratic conduct of Capt. Akers
(Peacocke's officer sent to advise Booker), and Lieut.-Col. Stoughton Dennis, who
carried off some of the troops from Port Colborne to conduct an attack on the
Fenians at Fort Erie. This attack on Fort Erie which was to cover these officers
with glory earned them a smart beating and is just another illustration of that
greatest of all nuisances among military officers, the half-baked tactician who,
regardless of his superior's plans, attempts to carry off the "kudos" for himself.
The combat at Ridgeway has often been described. The man most vociferously abused at the time, Lieut.-Col. Booker, appears in reality both before and
after the one mistake he made to have acted with good military sense and courageous coolness. In this mistake of forming a hollow square on the alarm of "cavalry"
he was simply the victim of a formation in the drill book. And be it noted that
the formation was until a year ago still there, lying ambushed in the sections
relating to Savage Warfare; waiting for the day when some too literal minded
British officer should form a hollow square in close formation against the wrong
savages.
Ridgeway over and the Fenians having escaped, the various companies and
battalions performed outpost duties at different places' for a period of about three
weeks when they were relieved of duty and thanked in a general order of June 23rd,
by the Commander-in-chief, who took occasion also to advise them to continue
their drill and discipline as the danger of invasion was not past.
Among the numerous deficiencies of our militia system the authorities proceeded to remedy two pressing defects. One was that the liability to be called
out repeatedly on alarms was beginning to harass the militia. For the postprandial patriot who waves the old flag in an ecstasy of Britannic zeal and then
permanently fills his employee's position when he has gone to the front was more
in evidence in 1866 than he would venture to be in these days.
The other defect was the lack of cohesion among the numerous independent
companies whose officers and men had no conception of carrying out anything like
a combined movement.
Both these defects could be met by forming a standing camp where the companies could be welded into battalions and at which by taking a week's tour of
2

I. The Aurora Company, for instance, was part of a provisional battalion stationed at Clifton and Suspension
Bridge under Col. R. B. Denison.
2. For instance Booker's column lacked cavalry, artillery, cooking appliances, transport wagons, medical necessaries, and was scantily furnished with food and ammunition. Of late years the Militia Department has given
great attention to the formation and equipment of all the auxiliary corps necessary to move and care for an army
in the field. Sometimes we think it has forgotten that there is such a thing as infantry.
48

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK

RANGERS

duty in rotation each group of militia would get some military experience without
being unsettled in their civil employments.
The ground selected for this camp was on the high level overlooking St.
Catherines, the Great Western Railway and the Welland Canal to the westward
of Thorold village. The first volunteer troops posted were the 10th from Toronto
and the 7th from London. With them were a portion of the 16th Regulars and of
the Royal Artillery, also Major Denison and his troop of cavalry. They assembled
on the 18th of August, and on the 26th the 10th and 7th were relieved by the Q.O.R.
the 13th and the Vnd Oxford Rifles.
The turn of the companies in which we are more particularly interested came
in the middle of September. That they made a good impression on their way to
the mill we learn by the following extract from a Toronto daily:
" Military : Five companies of infantry arrived in town by special train on
the Northern Railway on Saturday, as follows: Bradford, Lieut. Wilson commanding; Aurora, Major Peel; Newmarket, Capt. Boultbee ; King, Capt. Garden and
Lloydtown, Capt. Armstrong. The Scarboro Rifles under Capt. Taylor, got on
the Grand Trunk train at Scarboro Station, and arrived about an hour earlier.
They departed together with Brigade Major Dennis on the steamer City of Toronto, at noon for the camp at Thorold to relieve the volunteers now serving there.
A more soldierly looking set of men could not well be got together. Col.
Durie, Brigade Major Denison, Col. R. S. "Denison and several other principal
officers together with a large number of citizens were on the wharf to witness their
departure.'''
In the same issue of the paper appears this item:
"12th York Battalion Infantry: Headquarters at Aurora. To be Lieut.Colonel—Capt. W. D. Jarvis from the 2nd Battalion Queen's Own Rifles, Toronto."
The tour of duty being completed the battalion was relieved by the Brant and
Haldimand Battalions and returned to Toronto under its first commanding officer
whose pride was no doubt greatly enhanced by subsequently receiving the following
letter:
" Sir. I have the honour to request you will make known to the officers and
men of the Nth (York) Battalion my extreme gratification at the fine and soldier
like appearance and demeanour of the Battalion on Monday Vnd instant, of
which I shall have the pleasure of making a special report to H. E. the Commanderin-Chief.
"The proficiency of this young Battalion in Drill and the steadiness of the
men is very creditable to you as commanding officer."
I have the honor to be, Sir,
Your very obedient servant,
J. S. MACDONALD, Col. A.A.G.
LT.-CoL. JARVIS, Commanding 12th York, Newmarket.
-

1

3

1. Geo. A. Shaw, afterwards Lieut.-Col. of the 10th, was attached to the Lloydtown Company during this camp
to give instruction.
2. The Daily Leader, September 17th, 1866.
3. The regiment appears in the list of 1867, with its headquarters at Newmarket, and in 1873, again at Aurora.
The date of gazetting the battalion and its Lieut.-Col. is 14th September, 1866.
49

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

CHAPTER XI
THE CONTINUITY OF YORK BATTALIONS
HIS new-old York Battalion as it settled down in the Militia List of
1867, was a nine company aggregation with the following officers:—
12th York Battalion of Infantry, Headquarters, Newmarket;
Lieut.-Col. W. D. Jarvis.
No. 1 Company Scarboro:
Capt. Taber, Lieut. Stobo, Ensign John Huxtable.
No. 2 Company Aurora:
Capt. Nathl. Pearson.
No. 3 Company Lloydtown:'
Capt. Armstrong, Lieut. W. T. Armstrong, Ensign John Thompson.
No. 4 Company, King:
Capt. Garden, Lieut. Norman, Ensign L. N. Crosby.
No. 5 Company, Newmarket:
Capt. A. Boultbee, Lieut. Chas. McFayden.
No. 6 Company, Keswick:
Capt. Alfred Wyndham, Lieut. Wm. Boucher, Ensign J. R. Stevenson.
No. 7 Company, Markham:
Capt. Thos. A. Milne, Lieut. Jas. Robinson, Ensign Saml. Carney.
No. 8 Company, Sharon:
Capt. Wm. Selby, Lieut. John W. Selby, Ensign Jas.Wayling.
No. 9 Company, Unionville:
Capt. Hugh P. Crosby, Lieut. Salem Eckhart, Ensign Wm. Esken,
Paymaster Joseph Cawthra.
Adjutant A. J. L. Peebles.
Quarter Master Wm. Trent.
Surgeon Jas. Bovell, M.D.
The persistence of certain names in the above list gives one the impression
that our military authorities sought to weave into the newly assembled battalion
all the old traditional threads of military service that led back to the days of '37
and 1812.
1. The Lloydtown Company as such disappeared by a roundabout process of amalgamation with the Aurora
Company, the headquarters being moved to Aurora and Nathaniel Pearson being made captain, vice Armstrong,
who retired with honorary rank of major. The Bradford Company which was with the 12th at Thorold is now E
Company of the 36th Peel Regiment.
50

HISTORY OF T E NTH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

Thus the name of Jarvis,' was reminiscent of every ancient fight in which
any soldiers from York had ever participated. Accordingly it was appropriate
that in selecting a first commanding officer the authorities should pitch upon the
son of the Sheriff William Botsford Jarvis, against whose picket on Yonge Street,
as we have seen, the flood tide of the Mackenzie Rebellion broke and receded.
Independently of his paternity and of his cousinship to Col. Samuel Peters
Jarvis, William D. Jarvis, first lieutenant-colonel of the 12th, had earned his appointment by previous service. In December of 1864, he volunteered and was
given a commission to complete the establishment of Capt. Gilmor's Company
which was one of the two service companies of the Queen's Own, that were sent
during that month to patrol the Niagara Frontier, ostensibly to prevent raids

Photo by Kennedy

Practice in Measuring and Judging Distance
On Niagara Common

into the United States by Southern sympathizers. These service companies put
in four dreary months at Niagara and in April, 1865, returned home.
Jarvis' next service was in November, 1865, when an alarm of intended Fenian
attacks caused the authorities to place a picket of thirty men under his command
to protect the Drill Shed in Toronto.
1. The prevalence of the Jarvis family when any form of strife was being conducted is one of the bewildering
features of Upper Canadian History. The following genealogical tree may assist the student:
CAPT. SAML. JARVIS, 1698-1779

SAML., 1720-1793

STEPHEN, 1729-1820

.

WILLIAM (The "Secretary"), 1756-1817

STEPHEN, 1756-1840

COL. SAMUEL PETERS JARVIS, 1792-1857

WM. BOTSFORD (the first Sheriff)

WM. D. P. JARVIS, 1821-1860

WILLIAM D. JARVIS, 1834—Lieut.-Col of
12th York Rangers

AEMILIUS JARVIS (the Commodore)
51

HISTORY

LHC
356.
100971
Hun
V

OF THE

12th REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS
WITH

SOME ACCOUNT OF THE DIFFERENT
RAISINGS OF MILITIA
IN THE

COUNTY OF YORK, ONTARIO

BY

CAPT. A. T. HUNTER
G COMPANY, 12th REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

TORONTO: (
MURRAY PRINTING COMPANY, LIMITED, 9 JORDAN STREET

CONTENTS
CHAPTER I

PAGE

1812—Apparent
nd their Impotency—Lukewarm
incapacity for Defence—Efforts of General Simcoi—Militia Acts and
House of Assembly—Lack of Military Preparation—Small Regular Force—Flank Companies of
Militia—Difficulties in Defending Province—Despondency of Sir George Prevost—Confidence of
Americans—Unexpected Result—Opinion of Wellington—Defeat of four American Armies .

9

CHAPTER II
YoRKs—Larger Boundaries of the Original County—Varied Population within Present
County Limits—Village of York—United Empire Loyalists—French Emigres—German SettlementQuakers—American Settlers—Joseph Willcocks—The Flank Companies of York Militia-2nd Regiment Recruited at Burlington—First and Third Regiments—Colonel Cruikshank's Opinion as to Origin
of the 12th Regiment—Officers in York Regiments—Graham—Chewitt—Allan The "Fighting
Judges"—McLean—Robinson.
.

13

CONCERNING A DECEPTION PRACTISED BY THE PEOPLE OF UPPER CANADA a

TO JULY,

THE RAISING OF THE



CHAPTER III
HOW THE YORK MILITIA WENT WITH BROCK TO DETROIT AND HOW PETER ROBINSON'S RIFLE COMPANY
KEPT TRYST—Parade of Militia on Garrison Common—General Hull's Proclamation—Brock's Pro-

clamation—The Mackinac Expedition—Hull's Invasion—How Brock Crossed to Niagara and Back—
Brock Calls for Volunteers at York—Officers Selected—Route from Burlington—Visit to Six Nations
—Reasons for Water Route—Diary of Voyage—Arrival at Fort Malden—Orders Issued by Brock en
route—Brock's Boat runs Aground—Character of Brock and his Volunteers—Results of the Expedition—Arrival of Peter Robinson—Acts as Escort to Brock—Narrow Escape at Buffalo—Arrival at
Fort Erie

17

CHAPTER IV
Frontier Defended by Brock—Critical State of Affairs—Brock's
Disposition of Troops—Van Rensselaer's Plan—Attack on Queenston—Cameron Starts for QueenstonBrock Gallops to the Scene of Action—Attempt of Brock to Recover the Heights—"Push on the
York Volunteers"—Death of Macdonell—Pickets join Sheaffe's Column—Sheaffe's Dispatch—Effect
of Brock's Death .

23

PUSH ON THE YORK VOLUNTEERS—The

CHAPTER V
How

Condition of York—Description
of the Village and its "Fortifications"—Chauncey Sails—Sheaffe's Duty—Conduct of Defence—
Explosion of Magazine and Death of General Pike—Militia Ordered to Treat for Terms—American
Sharpness—Names Added after Capitulation Signed—Plucky Interference of Dr. Strachan—Futility
of Resistance.

27

CHAPTER VI
of Patrician Class—Land Grabbing—Clergy Reserves—Agitations—Gourlay, Collins and William Lyon Mackenzie—Political Methods of the Day—Family Compact—Attitude of Militia—Higher Officers of the Militia—Mackenzie's Black List—Weakness of the
System. .

31

CHAPTER VII
Distinct Periods in Mackenzie Rebellion—What
Mackenzie's Revolt Depended on—The Four Thousand Stand of Arms—Character of Sir Francis
Head—The Mackenzie Movement takes a Military Direction—Head sends the Regulars to QuebecMackenzie's first plan to get the Muskets—The Restlessness of Colonel Fitzgibbon—His Snubs and
his Precautions—Mackenzie's Second Plan—Date fixed for December 7th, 1837—Rolph Changes the
Date—Outbreak of Rebellion—Jarvis' Picket—Head Dresses Himself—Arrival of McNab from
Hamilton—Defeat of Rebels—Where were the Colonels?—Description of the Militia in 1837. .

33

GENERAL SHEAFFE PUT THE QUIETUS ON THE YORKS—Indefensible

THE INGREDIENTS OF SEDITION



Formation

THE FOUR THOUSAND MUSKETS AT THE CITY HALL—TWO

CONTENTS
CHAPTER VIII
Mackenzie takes Post on Navy Island—Borrows from
United States Arsenals—Van Rensselaer—Steamer Caroline—Cut out by Captain Drew—International
Episode—Secret Society Generals—Effect on Upper Canada—Immense Growth of Militia—Scarcity
of Arms—Queen's Rangers—Samuel Peters Jarvis.

THE WAR OF THE PATRIOTS ALIAS FILIBUSTERS

PAGE



39

CHAPTER IX
RusT—Decay of Militia Organization—Description of a Muster in 1845—
And of a Later MustZT at Toronto—Effect of Crimean War—New Militia Law of 1855—Slow Growth
of Active Militia—Effect of Trent Affair—Gazetting the York Companies—Their Strength. .

41

CHAPTER X
of Fenian Raids—Causes why Canada was Invaded—Sporadic
Preparation for Defence—Alarm of 31st May, 1866—Response of the Militia—Departure of Companies to Niagara District—Strategy of the Authorities—Ridgeway and the Abuse of Booker—
Outpost Duties of the Companies—Deficiencies of Militia System—Standing Camp at ThoroldWelding the 12th York Battalion—Impression Created by the Battalion.

45

CHAPTER XI
THE CONTINUITY OF YORK BATTALIONS—Originally a Nine Company Battalion—Jarvis the First Commanding Officer—His Services—The Word "Rangers"—The Regimental Motto, Geier et AudaxAncestry of Armstrong of the Lloydtown Company—Pearson of the Aurora Company—The Selbys
of the Sharon Company—Crosby of the Unionville Company—Cawthra the Paymaster.

50

CHAPTER XII
BRIGHT—Twenty Years of Routine—The Red River Expedition—The 12th Actually Gets an Officer Selected—The Value of an Organized Militia—Character of the Drill—Commanding Officers of the 12th. .

54

CHAPTER XIII
1885—Suddenness of the Riel Outbreak—Four Companies of the 12th Called Out—The
Regimental Order Calling out the Companies—The Summons by Bugle—York-Simcoe Battalion
Hurried to the Front—The Gaps—Tales• of Hardships—The Actual Hardships—Treading on the
Heels of the 65th—The Last Gap—Appearance of the York-Simcoes at Winnipeg—En route to Fort
Qu'Appelle—Enforced Stay at Fort Qu'Appelle—Occupations There—Night Attacks—By Forced
March to Humboldt—The Astringent Qualities of Colonel O'Brien—Appearance of the Battalion at
Humboldt—The Meanderings of Sergeant Brown—His Portrait of Riel—The York-Simcoes Become
"Foot Cavalry"—The Return and Receptions. .

57

CHAPTER XIV
12TH SINCE 1885—Periodical Trainings—Great Changes in Militia Organization—No Effect
on the Infantry—The South African War—Lloyd's Tender of Service—The Delicious Answer of the
Authorities—Imperialism—Representatives of the 12th at the War—His Majesty's First Visit—A
"Skeleton" Camp—His Majesty's Second Visit—Migrations of the Companies—Our Splendid Armouries?—The 12th as it Now is. .

69

ANOTHER QUARTER CENTURY OF

THE WELDING OF THE BATTALIONS—Origin

KEEPING THEIR ARMOUR

STEPPING OUT IN

ANNALS OF THE

APPENDICES
A—Officers of the 12th, Militia List, July, 1912.
B—Record of Officers' Services
APPENDIX C—Letter of Colonel Cruikshank
APPENDIX D—Memo by Dr. Doughty
APPENDIX E—Rifle Shooting Record of the 12th
APPENDIX F—Roll of York-Simcoe Battalion
APPENDIX
APPENDIX

6

75
77
83
84
85
89

PREFACE
E have tried in this volume to link up some of the honorable achievements of militia men of York County for a century back and show
what the response has been when the bugle sounded or the alarm
bell rang. We think we can discern in the men of this county a
continuity of character; of deceptive equanimity in time of peace,
of alacrity in time of war, of unchangeable faith in the Empire at all times.
.

We need not pretend that the officers and men of 1912 in the 12th Regiment
are the precise lineal descendants of the officers and men of the York Regiments
of 1812, any more than the Welsh Fusiliers need show they answer to the same
names at roll-call as when they advanced with drums beating at. the Battle of
Minden. The continuity of a regiment is not at any time very tangible or definite.
It is not a genealogy written by a lawyer to secure an estate. It is rather the spirit
to undertake similar toils and endure similar dangers in consideration of being
allowCd to keep the old glory and the old heroes in dutiful remembrance and to
emulate them if occasion arise.
It is time the histories of all our county regiments were written. Despite
a number of charming books in which fragments of our Upper Ci
a lian history
have been transcribed by men of scholarly style and antiquarian attainments,
the real history of nearly every county is being irremediably lost. This is particularly true, of the military history of our counties, which when studied repays
the student by glimpses of heroic action and then baffles him with records broken
and defaced by callous neglect.
Most of our old county histories and atlases were written on a subscription
plan which was unavoidable in a country where the arts of literature and publishing were struggling and precarious vocations. Under such a plan the man who
could pay for his biography became a personage, while the man who could not was
allowed to seek an ignoble grave. This bore hard upon the military veteran who
is seldom the most prosperous or provident of men.
We are therefore much indebted to the subscribers and advertisers whose liberality has enabled this sketch to be produced.
A. T. HUNTER.



Photo by Kennedy
Lieut.-Col. J. A. W. ALLAN,
Commanding 12th Regt. York Rangers

HISTORY OF THE RTH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

CHAPTER

I

CONCERNING A DECEPTION PRACTISED BY THE PEOPLE OF
UPPER CANADA. PRIOR. TO JULY,

1812

ROBABLY no nation ever showed fewer external signs of either the
desire or the capacity for martial activity than did the people of
Upper Canada prior to the war-storm of 1812. It is true that the
first Lieutenan t-Governor, General Simcoe, never ceased to brood
over the difficulties and dangers that threatened (and still threaten)
the defence of this Province in case war should actually break out. Indeed
amidst his colonizing activities as ruler of Western Canada he was still what
he was in the war of the American Revolution, the ardent but sagaciously
observant leader of the Queen's Rangers; thinking rather of where his magazines might be safe than of where the greatest commerce could be developed; and tracing his great roads, Dundas and Yonge Streets, with an eye less to
the laborious procession of market wagons than of a rapid concentration of troops
on interior lines. From mere military necessity the first provincial capital,
Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake), had to be abandoned as the political and
commercial metropolis. The selection of Toronto (then York) was not by design
of Simcoe, who meant London to be his fortifiable camp or by design of Simcoe's
superior, the Governor of Canada, who for equally good military reasons favoured
Kingston as his arsenal. But this deadlock of strategic intelligence between these
worthy soldiers secured by a sort of compromise the selection of the then by no
means salubrious, easily defensible or commercially promising harbour on the
north shore of Ontario, where in our time is reared a city which like Babylon of
old says, "I sit a queen and am no widow and shall see no sorrow." The wisdom
of both the Lieutenant-Governor and the Governor was justified of its children,
when in 1813, York, indefensible, once the command of the Lake is lost, fell after
enveloping defenders and assailants in the ruins of its fortifications. Then as now
Toronto was a good nurse of men and an improvident custodian of material. But
the temper of the English speaking race, especially on this continent is rather to
endure than to avert disasters that elementary military sagacity can readily foresee.
Nor were Provincial Parliaments negligent in their provision,—by word of
statute,—for making the able-bodied colonist contribute for at least one day in
the year his person equipped as the words ran, "with a good and sufficient musket,
fusil, rifle or gun." These Militia Acts of the Legislature beginning with the
session of 1793 were sufficiently numerous and contradictory to require to be
consolidated in 1808 according to a process of annual emendation and periodical
codification, which has gone on continuously until our own day. For the outcome
of attempts to create a national army on paper, when the bulk of our citizens mean
9

HISTORY OF THE NTH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

to sacrifice neither their own time nor their own money in organizing a force in
reality, is that we adopt the eternal subterfuge of varying the phraseology of our
militia acts and regulations, making new subdivisions of what does not exist and
by multiplying officers of high rank persuade ourselves that we have soldiers to
command.
However, the Parliaments of Upper Canada and in their turn those of the
Province and the Dominion of Canada have fortunately never surrendered their
original power of enrolling the entire able bodied population in the defence of their
country. But the original system of mustering the enrolled on one day in the
year has now for many years perished under the assaults of that enemy before
whom the most mail-clad chivalry is powerless,—namely, the ridicule that grows
out of absurdity.
In the early years of the last century, however, and for that matter down to
the time of men now living the captain still solemnly mustered his enrolled neighbours and they as regularly failed to turn up for that period of one absurd day,
which had no instructional value to the forces and no pay value to the recruits.
Year by year the Legislature with verbal relentlessness amended the statute to
make more effective the fines of the absentees. But Capt. Armstrong, the
village butcher, forebore to press the case of non-attendance against the son of
Farmer Brown of the side line. And if he did press it nevertheless for some
unaccountable reason the harness-maker and the flour-and-feed merchant, who as
Justices of the Peace had been forced to inflict the fine took no steps to collect it.
Nor could the House of Assembly in 1812 composed as it was of men extremely
sensitive to those popular feelings of self-government which had been unpleasantly ruffled by that intermittent Governor, Sir Francis Gore,' he considered
symptomatic of any great desire to lift the drawbridges of peace and stengthen
the hands of military authority. While making a reluctant war grant of £5,000
they refused to suspend Habeas Corpus or pass an alien law; and until the end of
their session when they passed a sufficiently high and patriotic resolution they acted
with a meticulous caution that could not have offended the least belligerent or
most pro-American voter in Upper Canada.
Seeking reasons for this delicacy of the politicians we find that the original
loyalist settlers of the province were now apparently outnumbered by American
and other foreign accretions to the population. It is, therefore, not surprising
that even astute thinkers should believe the people of Upper Canada a race of men
possessed equally by a rage for making money and a contempt for old-fashioned
loyalty and the use of arms. It did not occur to observers in Old Upper Canada
in 1812, as perhaps it does not occur to observers in Saskatchewan in 1912, that
the placid sentiment of the settler, who has left his own country to improve his
lot, is as potmetal to steel to that in tense but undemonstrative loyalty which with
some men has all the force of a religion.
Nor had. the professional soldiers done or been allowed to do anything to make
defensible this great territory. Fort George at Niagara and Fort Malden at
Amherstburg were dismantled and in a state of ruin. Despite the continuous
1. He slipped out just before the war and slipped back just after.
10

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS
threat of war a mere peace establishment of troops less than sixteen hundred in all
—barely sufficient for parade purposes and to act as caretakers of stores—were
grudgingly maintained throughout the province.' To supplement this pigmy
force the more enthusiastic of, the militia in each of the paper regiments were
encouraged to drill six times a month, forming what were then known as "Flank
Companies." These Flank Companies, with their captain, two subalterns, two
sergeants, one drummer and thirty-five rank and file bear a fine ancestral resemblance to the average militia company that in our own time can be seen on a June
day training at Niagara-on-the-Lake. They were provided with arms and
accoutrements and promised clothes and rations. Prior to the war some seven
hundred of them were embodied.
. With such an ostensible force to make good a territory difficult in its internal
communications and so large that its southerly frontier alone from Amherstburg
to the Lower Province presents a line double the length of the frontier between
France and Germany with Belgium thrown in, it is not surprising that military
experts should have considered a successful defence impossible. Accordingly
historians may well deal with all leniency with that somewhat inadequate hero,
Sir George Prevost, the Governor-General, whose most sanguine hope of any good
to come out of Upper Canada was that by making a flank movement in his favour
the forces in the Upper Province might enable him to save Quebec.
The American. Government apparently was as much convinced as the Governor of Canada of the ease with which this province could be added to the domains
of the United States. The Secretary of War declared, "We can take the Canadas
without soldiers, we have only to send officers into the province and the people
disaffected towards their own government will rally round our own standard."
Henry Clay, then a rising orator and fast becoming a political pet of the
American nation said: "We have the Canadas as much under our command as
Great Britain has the ocean."
Such then in the beginning of 181 was the apparently hopeless position of
this as a British province: large in territory, any part of which could easily be
invaded and small in populations and that population seemingly lukewarm and
undecided.
In the event, the people of Upper Canada sprang to their weapons with a
furious alacrity that staggered the calculations of both politicians and generals, and
extorted the admiration of the most hardened professional soldiers. The Iron
Duke himself speaking of their achievements as late as 1840 said that it had been
"demonstrated that these provinces (with but little assistance from the mother
2

3

4

1. 200 Royal Veterans, 36 Royal Artillery, 900 41st Regiment, 400 Newfoundland Regiment, 50 Provincial
Seamen; according to a letter by John Galt, to the Treasury, published in Canadian Archives, 1897, p. 49.
2. "General Brock," by Lady Edgar, p. 181.
3. Among the prophets, without honour in their own country, was Mr. Sheffey, of Virginia, who frankly told
his fellow countrymen: "Upper Canada is inhabited by emigrants from the United States. They will not
come back to you; they will not without reason desert the government to whom they have gone for protection.
No sir, you must conquer it by force, not by sowing the seeds of sedition and treason among the people." These
words may be heartily commended to students of the "American Invasion" of our North West provinces.
4. We trust the ocean will never be as unruly in our day to Great Britain as the Canadas proved in 1812 to the
United States.
5. Calculated at 77,000: See Castell Hopkins' Canada an En,cyclopcedia, Vol. 1, p. 175.
11

HISTORY OF THE NTH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

country in regular troops) are capable of defending themselves against all the
efforts of their powerful neighbours.'"
What martial force was latent in the militia of Upper Canada can best be
estimated by their having in conjunction with the sturdy little bands of regulars,
either destroyed or defeated during the first campaign four well appointed and
supremely confident American armies,—Hull's at Detroit, Van Rensselaer's at
Queenston, Smyth's at Fort Erie and Winchester's at Frenchtown. Whence we
may infer that while strategists may with some show of certainty weigh the chances
of a clash between the trained forces of two countries, it is another matter when a
whole people stand up and number themselves and commit the issue to the God of
Battles.
1. This was one of the last great efforts of Wellington in the House of Lords. He was always extremely solicitous for the defence of Upper Canada: "If you lose that, you lose all your colonies in that country; and if you lose
them, you may as well lose London."

12

HISTORY OF THE NTH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

CHAPTER II
THE RAISING OF THE YORKS
HE modern County of York does not by any means comprise the
territory which in 1812 and for many years later was designated
"York." Stretching westward from the eastern boundaries of what
is now Ontario County as far as the Reserve on the Grand River
was a thinly settled district, bearing the name of York, and since
divided into a number of prosperous counties any one of which has now far
more of population than the York of 1812.
Dealing alone with the modern county limits, its population comprised such
a variety of diverse settlements that it would have been a. wise prophet who could
have foretold what action would be theirs in the event of a war with the United
States. The Village of York' (formerly and later again Toronto) with its few hundred inhabitants was of course staunch for the Empire.
And there was a good sprinkling throughout the settled parts of the County
of the descendants of those United Empire Loyalists, who had received grants of
lands in Upper Canada as a recompense for their sacrifices in the war of the American Revolution . 2 Of what these would do on a call to arms there could be no
doubt.
But there were other settlers whose interest in maintaining the British Empire
was not quite so obvious. The Oak Ridges had been settled by French Emigres
—nobles, "whose roots were in France,"—and who like the famous Count de
Puisaye preferred to hover over the wars of the French Revolution like stormy
petrels rather than plow their future as plain colonists in York County.
The neighbourhood of Markham, formerly known as the " German Mills,"
was settled by matter-of-fact. Germans, whose location there was a feat of pure
business reason and not a matter of sentiment. There were Quakers too, of
undoubted loyalty, but for conscience sake averse to taking up the sword. 3
Moreover, there were a considerable number of Americans who had been
allured to this region by the fertile beauty of its rich rolling lands. These and their
descendants and sundry othep„ who imbibed from them republican sentiments,
were a source of anxiety and in'SOMeinstances of danger to the defenders of Canada.
The most notable instance of thiS1'was Ex-sheriff Joseph Willcocks, who having
lost his shrievalty on political grounds, started a newspaper in 1807; was elected,
1. Described a couple of years later by Dr. Dunlop as "a dirty straggling village with about sixty houses."
2. Among these grantees was no less a personage than General Benedict Arnold, known in American popular
histories as "The Traitor"; but recognized now by philosophic historians as something of a military genius. He
had a farm on Yonge Street in the vicinity of Richmond Hill
3. A descendant of one of these, sitting in the County Council, has assisted to discontinue the annual grant of
the Council to the York Rangers Rifle Match.
13

Photos by Kennedy

Capt. F. H. DUNHAM

Major A. G. NICOL

Adjutant
Major A. CURRAN

14

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

expelled and re-elected as a member of parliament with advanced republican
views; and led His Majesty's more or less loyal opposition to the thenpowers-that-be.
On the outbreak of the war, he at first loyally bore arms on the Canadian side.
But later he deserted with some few other militia whom he could influence and
became a terror to the harassed farmers of the Niagara District until his fitful light
was extinguished in honourable battle at the leaguer of Fort Erie.'
Notwithstanding the difficulties that must be supposed to have attended
the raising of active militia in this vicinity or perhaps on account of those difficulties no sooner was the call made than the flank companies were ready to take the
field.
There were in 1812 three regiments of York Militia,' of which the Second
regiment was recruited in the vicinity of Burlington. So that when we read of
the achievements of Capt. Chishohn's or Capt. Applegarth's flank company
at Queenston or Lundy's Lane, we know we are reading that which might and
should be a. source of pride to the citizens of Hamilton City or Wentworth County.
The Third Regiment was recruited in the vicinity of York and its flank
companies are known to history as Cameron and Heward's Companies. The First
Regiment was recruited from further up the county and was composed of North
and South Divisions. More interesting to the historian is that it included a
rifle company under Capt. Peter Robinson, a troop of cavalry under Capt.
John Button, and a flank company under Capt. Thomas Selby. It is more
particularly this regiment which included Selby's and _Robinson's Companies
that in the opinion of that most painstaking and accurate of Canadian historians,
Col. Cruikshank, is now represented by the present 12th Regiment of York
Rangers.
It may not be amiss to say a few words anent the personality of those officers
of these two regiments, the 1st and 3rd Yorks, whom the war brought out from the
ordinary dull unthanked routine of militia work into the danger zone of active
service. We find that the regiments were apt to interchange officers and were as
closely connected as the different battalions of one regiment.
William Graham, Commandant of the First Regiment, had been a captain in
the Duke of Cumberland's Provincial Regiment and a captain of York Militia
as far back as 1798.
William Chewitt, lieutenant-colonel of the 3rd, had served in the British
Militia during the siege of Quebec in 1775 76. He was fated in 1813 through no
fault of his own to put his signature to a document evidencing a less successful
defence of York. He was afterwards colonel of the 1st York, resigning in 1818.
In his civil capacity he was Deputy Surveyor General and prominent in all social
and charitable movements in Toronto.
William Allan, whose descendant, Senator Allan, has presented to Toronto
the beautiful horticultural park that bears his name, was a military enthusiast;
3

4

-

1. "Toronto of Old": Scadding, p. 272.
2. The earliest militia regiment established at York bears date 1798. See the list of officers printed in "Landmarks of Toronto," Vol. 2, p. 686, and comprising such well known Toronto names as Small, Jarvis, Chewitt, Allan,
Denison and Cameron.
3. See officers of British Forces in Canada during War 1812-15: L. Homfray Irving.
4. See Letter printed in Appendix.
15

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS
Lieutenant in the militia regiment that was started in York in 1798, he joined the
3rd York Regiment on its organization and started a flank company in the village.
At the date when Brock called the flank companies t.o service he was major and
appears t.o have had the duty of collecting the Yorks at the Head of the Lake.
After the battle of Queens ton Heights he had the responsible duty of commanding
the escort to the prisoners on their way to Quebec. In April, 1813, he shared with
Col. Chewitt, the unpleasant task of arranging terms for the surrender of
York.
THE FIGHTING JUDGES
Historians of the War of 1812 have said that practically the whole male
population of the province was drawn into the vortex of the war. This is true of
the lawyers of that day, who showed themselves as able to make bold charges in
the field as ever they were reputed to do in their offices. So that in the post
bellum days there sat seven war judges on the bench of Upper Canada and of these
seven, two had been officers in the Yorks.
Archibald McLean, afterwards Chief Justice, fought with the Yorks at Detroit and Queenston, and with the Incorporated Militia at Lundy's Lane. Being
wounded at Queenston and taken prisoner at Lundy's Lane he had more war
experience to cogitate than usually falls to the lot of a chief justice.
John Beverley Robinson, afterwards Chief Justice of Upper Canada, served
with distinction at Detroit, left Toronto a law student to take part at Queenston
and returned to find himself acting Attorney General. He left his impress on the
public life and laws of this province. Among his sons, John Beverley was Lieutenant Governor, Christopher was a lawyer of international celebrity and MajorGeneral. C. W. Robinson is a soldier and an historian, who if he has succeeded in
making his readers understand the value of the command of Lake Ontario will
have surpassed in service to this country his distinguished father.

16

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

CHAPTER III
How THE YORK MILITIA WENT WITH BROCK TO DETROIT, AND HOW PETER
ROBINSON S RIFLE COMPANY KEPT TRYST
'

NE day in the later part of July, 181, General Brock called out the
York Militia on Garrison Common. The days previous to this parade
had been filled with anxious preparation by the flank companies, who
were anticipating the event and by extraordinary exertions on the
part of the General himself.. The American General Hull had proceeded to take possession of Western Canada in a Proclamation to the Inhabitants, in which he threatened to emancipate them from tyranny and oppression
and restore them to the dignified station of freemen. This had been answered
by a counter Proclamation from Brock (prepared by the facile pen of Mr. Justice
Powell), and by a small expedition sent under Capt. Roberts to capture
Mackinac.
The proclamations on either side were barren of result, but the Mackinac
expedition proving a complete success the weight of argument remained with the
British.
On July 12th, simultaneously with his proclamation, Hull commanding a
formidable army described by himself as "a force which will look down all opposition," crossed over to Sandwich, where he planted the American standard.
His subsequent performance was characterized by feebleness in action and even
against the scanty forces that could be collected to delay him, his looking down of
opposition did not take him beyond the little river Canard, where a handful of
troops, militia and Indians damped his military aggressiveness.
News of this invasion having reached Toronto, General Brock with a party
of soldiers rowed across the Lake to Niagara' to put the frontier there in such a
state of defence as means permitted; and immediately rowed back in the same
boat and called out the militia.
The proposal that the General had to make must have seemed not much more
seductive than the privilege of the three hundred Lacedemonians to occupy
Thermopylae. He declared his intention to take an expedition from what is now
Port Dover and proceed thence by boats to Amherstburg. But owing to the
limited transportation at his command he could only take one hundred volunteers
from York, the same number from the head of the Lake (now Hamilton) and an
equal number from Port Dover. He called for volunteers; many more men
volunteered than could be taken and all the officers. From that hour Brock was
2

1. A matter of thirty-three miles to the river mouth.
2. Long Point was the rendezvous where they finally got together.
17

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS
not and Britain never need be in doubt as to what response will be given by the
Canadian militia.
Capt. Heward, of the 3rd Yorks, was selected to command the one hundred
men of York, and under him were detailed for duty Lieut. John Beverley
Robinson, of his own flank company; Lieut. Jarvie, of Cameron's Company,
and Lieut. Richardson, of Selby's flank company of the 1st Yorks.'
Captain Peter Robinson, also of the 1st Yorks, was by a special act of grace
permitted to take his company of riflemen overland to the scene of action,—it
being hardly suspected that he could ever succeed in arriving before the matter
would be decided.
The little force left York on August 6th for Burlington Bay and picking up
the other Yorks from that region marched overland to the rendezvous. On the
way thither Brock dropped a word in the ear of the Six Nation Chiefs. And this
by the way is one answer to the critics of Brock's aggressive strategy. For
both Americans and British were much solicitous about those formidable skirmishers, the Indians; each side trying to persuade the astute chiefs that it possessed an overwhelming superiority. The chiefs on the other hand, mindful of
the teachings of recent history, before committing their warriors to an unqualified
support of England, required to be shown that the British officers were in earnest
and meant to defend Upper Canada tooth and nail. The march past of Brock with
his scarlet coated militias was to the practical Indian several hundred eloquent
and convincing orations to stand by his ally the King.
To us familiar with the ease in which now a trip can be made in a few hours
from Toronto to Detroit it seems strange that so energetic a general should commit
his force to a water trip of two hundred miles on a huge and treacherous lake rather
than continue his march westward until he reached the River. Nor does the
wonder diminish when we find that the lake boats collected for his expedition were
not such luxurious craft as we entrust ourselves to at this day when tempting the
waters of the Great Lakes, but the open boats or batteaux of that day propelled
by the steady sweep of the long two-handed oar.
But when we read of what toils befell overland passengers, in the many days
it took them to win from the Detroit to the Grand through a forest land, where
the streams had no bridges and the roads no existence, we can well understand
why Brock took the dangerous water route and with what sardonic kindness he
permitted Peter Robinson's company to go by land.
1

3

4

6

1. Not to be confused with Jarvis. The irrepressible Samuel Peters Jarvis then an ensign in Reward's Company
had succeeded in being attached to the 41st Regiment, and duly appeared at Detroit and several other battlefields.
2. See order quoted in Scadding at p. 79.
3. The distinction between Infantry and Rifles in those days was an actual one—the infantry being armed
with muskets, and not rifles. Nowadays this distinction is a quaint survival of military etiquette of great importance
and interest to solemn and punctilious asses.
4. Showing the confidence Brock had in his one hundred York volunteers he allowed them three days to visit
their relatives and make preparations for campaign: Auchinleck, p. 36.
5. Seemingly the flank companies got their caps and blankets at York and their regimental coats at Burlington.
Of muskets Brock himself said he had not one more than sufficient to arm the active militia. Boots for the militia
and tents Brock could not provide by prayer or purchase until at any rate he took over the stores at Detroit.
6. It was an ingenious device the early pioneer had for an amphibious wagon; a water tight body into which,
when he came to an unfordable stream, he lifted the wheels and poled across with the horses swimming behind.
18

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

The toils of this argonautic expedition,—consisting of some forty men of the
41st Regiment and two hundred and sixty militia,—cannot be better expressed
than in the diary of William McCay,i who was a volunteer in Captain Hatt's
company, which had proceeded from the camp of Queenston to join Brock's little
army. Hatt's contingent had a merry wagon ride from Queenston to Fort Erie,
and from there had rowed to the mouth of the Grand River. We take up McCay's
narrative from this point until he reached Fort Malden.
"August 7th, 1812.—We slept
under the trees on the bank of the
river, arose early and set off. We
did not land until we came to Patterson's Creek, about forty miles
from the Grand River. Here we
were informed that the volunteers
from York, some of the 41st Regiment and some militia lay that
were to go with us.
"August 8th, 1812. Slept on
shore in the best manner we could.
Two of our company deserted this
morning, James Bycraft and Harvey
Thorne. We did not leave this place
until 12 o'clock, when we set off and
came to Long Point in the evening,
drew our boats across and put up
for the night.
"August 9th, 1812.—Arose early
this morning and about sunrise were
joined by General Brock and six boat
loads with troops from Patterson's
Creek. We all set off together,
having a fair wind till about 1
o'clock, and then rowed till night,
Kennedy
when we landed at Kettle Creek,
The Remains of Old Fort Malden
about six miles below Port Talbot.
The Tree to the left is said to be the finest Linden
"August 10th, 1812. Wet and
in America
cold last night; some of us lay in boats
and some on the sand. We set off early, but the wind blew so hard we were obliged
to put into Port Talbot. We covered our baggage from the rain, which still
continued, and most of us set out to get something to eat, being tired of bread
and pork. Five of us found our way to a place, where we got a very good breakfast,
bought some butter and sugar and returned. Lay here all day, the wind being
high.
"August-11th, 1812.—Set off early with a fair wind, but it soon blew so hard
we had to land on the beach and draw up our boats, having come twelve or fifteen




1. Published in The Toronto Globe, April 15th, 1911.
19

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

m les. Some of us built camps and covered them with bark to shelter us from the
rain, which poured down incessantly, but I was obliged to go on guard, wet as
I was. Some of our men discovered horse tracks a few miles above us, which we
supposed were American horsemen, for we were informed they came within a few
miles of Port Talbot.
"August 12th, 1812. We set off before daylight and came on until breakfast
time, when we stopped at Points—where we found plenty of sand cherries. They
are just getting ripe and very good. We continued our journey all night, which
was very fatiguing, being so crowded in the boats we could not lie down.
"August 13th, 1812. We came to a settlement this morning, the first since
we left Port Talbot. The inhabitants informed us the Americans had all retired
to their own side of the river, also that there was a skirmish between our troops and
them on their own side, that is,. the American side of the river. We made no stop,
only to boil our pork, but kept on until 2 o'clock, when we lay on the beach until
morning. Some of the boats with the General went on.
"August 14th, 1812.—We landed at Fort Maiden about 8 o'clock, very
tired with rowing, and our faces burned with the sun until the skin came off.
Malden is about two miles from the lake, up the river, in which there are several
small islands. The banks are low and well cultivated near the river, but a wilderness back from it. Our company was marched to the storehouse, where we
took out our baggage and dried it and cleaned our guns; were paraded at 11
o'clock and all our arms and ammunition that were damaged were replaced.
We then rambled about the town until evening, when all the troops that were
in Amherstburg were paraded on the commons. They were calculated at eight
or nine hundred men."
Two orders of General Brock are of interest to students of what is now
appropriately called amphibious warfare and show that the General meant to be
in the forefront of the flotilla and that he had his anxieties.




2

3

Headquarters, Banks of Lake Erie,
15 Miles S.W. of Port Talbot,
August 11th, 1812, 6 o'clock, p.m.
-

General Orders :
The troops will hold themselves in readiness, and will embark in the
boats at twelve o'clock this night precisely.
It is Major General Brock's positive order that none of the boats go
ahead of that in which is the Head Quarters, where a light will be carried
during the night.
The officers commanding the different boats will immediately inspect
the arms and ammunition of the men, and see that they are constantly kept
in a state for immediate service, as the troops are now to pass through a part
of the country, which is known to have been visited by the enemy's patroles.
1. Probably Point Pelóe.
2. Published in Richardson, p. 48.
3. He had learned his ideas of military prudence by serving under Nelson at Copenhagen.
20

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

A captain, with a subaltern and thirty men, will mount as picquet
upon the landing of the boats and a sentry will be furnished from each boat,
who must be regularly relieved to take charge of the boats and baggage, etc.
A patrole from the picquet will be sent out on landing to the distance
of a mile from the encampment.
By order of the Major General.
J. B.

Capt. A.D.C.
J. MACDONELL, P.A.D.C.
GLEGG,



Point Aux Pins,
Lake Erie, August 12th, 1812.
General Orders:
It is Major General Brock's intention should the wind continue fair,
to proceed during the night. Officers commanding boats will therefore pay
attention to the order of sailing as directed yesterday. The greatest care
and attention will be requested to prevent the boats from scattering or falling
behind.
A great part of the bank of the lake, which the boats will this day pass,
is much more dangerous and difficult of access than any we have passed.
The boats therefore will not land, excepting in the most extreme necessity,
and then great care must be taken to choose the best places for landing.
The troops being now in the neighbourhood of the enemy, every precaution must be taken to guard against surprise.
By order of the Major General,
J. B.

GLEGG,

A.D.C.

That Brock knew what to do when a marine emergency arose is proved by
the fact that when his own boat ran hard aground, like the standard bearer of
Caesar's Tenth Legion, he set the example by leaping into the water.' From
which we can understand the meaning of Lieut. Robinson (afterwards exalted
to the rank of Chief Justice), when as late as 1840 he expressed a vivid remembrance
of his general in the words: "It would have required much more courage to refuse
to follow General Brock than to go with him wherever he would lead."
Referring to his comrades in this campaign the same brilliant soldier-judge
has written:—" This body of men consisted of farmers, mechanics and gentlemen,
who before that time had not been accustomed to any exposure unusual with
persons of the same description in other countries. They marched on foot and
travelled in boats and vessels, nearly six hundred miles in going and returning,
in the hottest part of the year, sleeping occasionally on the ground and frequently
drenched with rain, but not a man was left behind in consequence." Perhaps
1. Lady Edgar, p. 231.

•21

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS
their best eulogy is in Brock's own words: "Their conduct throughout excited
my admiration.
The other events of this wonderful campaign, the going up to Sandwich,
the crossing of the Detroit with Brock standing in the bow of the foremost boat,
and the stupendous surrender of Hull's army to a little force of whom the Americans complained "four hundred were Canadian militia disguised in red coats,'
—are not these related in the chronicles.
What much searching of history will further reveal is that the indefatigable
Peter Robinson and his Rifle Company of the 1st Yorks, having reached Sandwich
in time to share in all these glorious operations, was given the honour of going
aboard as body-guard to Brock himself on a very small trading schooner; which
after nearly running aground at Buffalo was eventually towed into harbour at
Fort Erie.
"

1. No bad guess: the red coats were actually the cast-off clothing of the 41st Regiment: Lady Edgar, p. 256.

22

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

CHAPTER IV
PUSH ON THE YORK VOLUNTEERS

HIS is not the attempt to re-tell the battle of Queenston Heights, which
has often been written with enthusiasm, yea and even with eloquence
and occasionally with accuracy. It is merely to tell why as his last
order Brock saw fit to push on the York Volunteers.
Well on the morning of October 13th, 1812, a miniature British
army was defending a frontier of some thirty-six miles from Fort Erie to Niagaraon-the-Lake, its commander, General Isaac Brock, being obliged by his instructions
from Sir George Prevost to adopt purely defensive measures. In a letter of September 18th, Brock had written his brother Savery : "You will hear of some decided
action in the course of a fortnight or in all probability we shall return to a state
of tranquility. I say decisive because if I should be beaten the province is inevitably
gone; and should I be victorious, I do not imagine the gentry from the other side
will care to return to the charge."
He lay in some force at Fort George, which he had equipped to silence the
American Fort Niagara, expecting that the movement of invasion would be around
his left flank, while Fort Niagara would effect a diversion with its guns.
The seven miles of river from Fort George to Queenston he had picketed with
what history has dignified as batteries. Thus at the Heights about half-way
down the hill was the Redan Battery (armed with an eighteen pounder) with
Capt. Williams' flank company of the Green Tigers (the 49th Regiment). In
the village of Queenston was the other flank company under Major Dennis, along
with Chisholm and Hatt's Militia Companies and a brass six pounder and two
three pounders handled by a small detachment of artillery. Of the Yorks, Reward's
Company, under Lieut. Robinson and Cameron's Company were stationed
at Brown's Point two miles below Queenston. At night Robinson acted as an
extra guard to the Battery at Vrooman's Point nearer Queenston and returned
in the morning to the command of his senior, Capt. Cameron, at Brown's
Point.
General Van Rensselaer did not attack Fort George, probably for the reason
that he felt he was expected there. But, merely demonstrating in that quarter,
he secretly concentrated at Fort Gray opposite Queenston and proceeded to drive
a wedge through the centre of the thinly held line of British. His boats were
received on the Canadian shore with a vigour that surprised them; some being sunk
and those who landed getting it hot and dry from musket and bayonet; the
survivors being sent under escort to Fort George. The guns in Fort Gray and
the Redan on Queenston kept up a furious cannonade that sent the news down
the River to Cameron and Brock.
23

Min DV TR BATTU OF VIJEEMTA.

// Spot where.Brock fell
5 Sited' first monament
ad hy whir the reinkrrements from, 6" Old JOH7. Vivmonts _Battery
,2 Fort Georgegained the Ifezghts it the/
afternoon'
el" Brocks monument
3.,,Imericarthne as drawn up in afternoon.
do.
4. _British/ line
do

Reproduced from an old account of the Battle

24

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

Capt. Cameron was not a professional soldier and was not instructed for
this emergency. But with a correct instinct he decided to march to the sound
of the guns and put his two companies of York Volunteers upon the road towards
Queenston. On their way a single horseman overtook and passed them at a
gallop, waving his hand to them and urging them as Robinson writes : " to follow
with expedition." This was Isaac Brock on his way to his last battle. Soon
after, that darling of Canadian soldiery, Col. Macdonell galloped by, also to
meet his fate; and with him rode Capt. Glegg, Brock's other aide-de-camp
It is a matter of history, fittingly commemorated by the tall monument that
towers above the heights he strove to regain,' that Brock met his end as he had
won his victories by attempting the desperate to ward off the seemingly inevitable.
Nor was the attempt in vain; for the fury of the contest and the boat loads of
wounded returning to the American shore had that moral effect on the adversary,
which decided the victory of the afternoon.
Twice Brock strove to gain the heights with every soldier he could spare from
Queenston and twice he failed. But the words, "Push on the York Volunteers,"
whether spoken by him just before or after he was struck were not heroics nor
melodrama but a plain military order to throw into the issue his one available
reserve, namely, the two companies under Capt. Cameron which following the
trail of their general were panting up the road to Queenston.
Col. Macdonell rode to his death on the left flank of the York- Volunteers
and when he fell mortally wounded Capt. Cameron.carried him off amid a shower
of musketry. The shattered remains of these much tried pickets were rallied
about a mile below the heights and marching through the fields back of Queenston
joined themselves to the centre of Sheaffe's advancing column. Nor did the
gruelling punishment of the morning prevent their earning their place in that
famous dispatch of General Sheaffe, in which he says:
"Lieut-Cols. Butler and Clark of the militia; and Capts. Hatt, Durand,
Rowe, Applegarth, James Crooks, Cooper, Robert Hamilton, McEwen, Duncan
Cameron, and Lieuts. Richardsons and ThomasButler, commanding flank companies of the Lincoln and York militia led their men into action with great spirit. " 5
The great spirit with which that day they led on their men and General
Sheaffe led his, was that of Isaac Brock. We shall see that this spirit evaporated
from some of the generals if not from their juniors, and that soldiers who under
Brock's influence were intrepid, like Sheaffe and Proctor, became soon afterwards
vacillating, disheartened and timorous.
2

3

.

4

1. The Redan had been depleted of all but eight gunners in order to reinforce Queenston. Captain Wool, of
the United States Army having taken his boats farther up the River, found a narrow unguarded path to the
heights; which had the ultimate victory rested with the Americans would now be as famous as the celebrated
path from Wolfe's Cove. This latter path must have been an achievement for Wolfe to find as no two citizens of
Quebec ever show it to visitors in the same place.
2. The reinforcements that Van Rensselaer was ready to throw over to secure his partial victory developed
"constitutional" doubts about leaving American soil and remained there.
3. Some authorities insert the words, "brave." Not necessary to any that rowed in the same boat with Brock.
4. This was of course Selby's Company. Both Capts. Heward and Selby came over to the Niagara frontier
with Cameron, but appear to have been absent on leave the day when the blow was struck. This is not surprising as
there had been a long tedious wait previous to the attack. Peter Robinson's company was in garrison at Mackinac.
5. Printed in "Documentary History of the Campaign upon the Niagara Frontier," Part IV, p. 72.
25

REF B,R E NCH S..
A Humber.
B Place where Americans landed.
C Old French Fort.
D Western Battery.
E Half Moon Battery.
P Garrison Garden.
G G Government House, Garrison and Magazine.
H H Ships and Stores burnt by British.
- Lake Road.
......... Garrison Road.
H-1-1-1 The shaded part shows the business part
of York in 1812.
The Plate represents, in addition, the City of Toronto as it now is. The woods have been, however,
left as they were then, to mark the difficulty which
Mended militarymovements generally.

topelzwarmam
aci

t latlial

l

MIN 1111
1111® 1N

' ViIni N
MAW
II

,k, en416.
w IMF'
timm ilINIKTEINSPI
`_ 11.2511115"1 ri
41 I 111

.

11.111110L
,
via
_ 1111 Ili

ouram

11m

rari=

„.......

411,
INE '
.....

-Aiewling
From an Old Plan of Toronto
The References are as of 1846. Note the Island was at that date a Peninsula

26

HISTORY OF THE RTH REGIMENS,, "YORK RANGERS

CHAPTER V
How

GENERAL SHEAFFE PUT THE QUIETUS ON THE YORKS

HE trouble was that under the circumstances York was indefensible and
that General Sheaffe allowed the militia and some regulars to be involved in a defense, which was meaningless. For it is meaningless
to defend a place that, after taking, the enemy could not hold if it
would and would not if it could.
A good description of what York was and how it was fortified is to be found
in Coffin's " Chronicle of the War."'
"In April 1813, the town was a scattered collection of low-roofed villas,
embowered in apple orchards. An old French Fort or earthwork constructed to
resist the Indians, stood on the shore of the lake about a mile from the inhabited
part of the Bay. Two embrasured field works, dignified by the name of batteries,
covered the entry to the harbour. These works were armed with three old French
twenty-four pound guns, captured in 1760; the trunions had been knocked off
at the time, but, for the nonce, they had been exhumed from the sand and clamped
down upon pine logs, extemporised as carriages. The town was entirely open in
the rear and on the flanks."
Well on the 25th of April, 1813, Commodore Chauncey, having for the time
the command of the lake, sailed from Sackett's Harbour for York with a fleet of
some fifteen sail, having on board Generals Dearborn and Pike and a force variously
estimated by historians at from sixteen hundred to five thousand troops.'
Videttes had been long before posted in constant watch on Scarborough
Heights with orders to fire alarm guns and on sight of a hostile fleet to ride into
town. The alarm came late on the evening of April 26th.
Now according to Coffin, who was a relative of Sir Roger Sheaffe, "Sheaffe's
first duty as a soldier and as a general looking to the defence of his military command was to abandon a place never intended to have been defended and to preserve
his force for the protection of the country. The capture of this detachment at
this time would have been an irretrievable loss and in its effects, fatal to the
province."
It was this duty of abandonment, which Sir Roger Sheaffe performed in a
fashion that endangered his regulars, disqualified the militia for the rest of the
campaign, caused the burning of the parliament buildings and ruined Sheaffe's
own reputation as a soldier. Unless he purposed to match brown-bess muskets
against the guns of a fleet'—he must have known he could not prevent a landing
1. p. 98.
2. Historians vary like real estate experts on an arbitration. Perhaps a fair estimate would be two thousand
five hundred, including the crews. See Auchinleck, p. 151.
3. Capt. McNeil and two companies of the 8th were practically wiped out by the broadsides from the fleet.
27

HISTORY OF THE NTH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS
and the capture of the ridiculous fortifications. But as it was he frittered away
what fighting chance there was by allowing his force to be engaged and beaten in
detail. First, Major Givens with about forty Indians and a few inhabitants of
the town not enrolled for military duty, then about sixty Glengarry Fencibles,
then some two hundred and twenty militia, and fifty of the Newfoundland Regiment, then two companies of the 8th Regiment (about two hundred strong)—
these in succession were dribbled in to withstand a landing force upwards of one
thousand strong. Meanwhile General Shaw,' with forty men and a six pounder
held the line of Dundas Street and never got into action.
The blowing up of a magazine' killed General Pike and some two hundred
Americans along with some of the defenders. Having set fire to a ship that
was on the stocks, General Sheaffe retreated with the remains of his force to
Kingston.
The bitter part of it was that having been permitted by Sheaffe to throw
themselves into the contest with enthusiasm, the militia were allowed to save
their homes by surrendering the town to an enemy exasperated by their stiff
resistance and by the death of Pike and the destruction of stores. As Sheaffe puts
it, "Lieut.-Col. Chewett and Major Allan of the militia were instructed
to treat with the American commanders for terms." The negotiations were
conducted largely by John Strachan (sometime Bishop of Toronto) assisted by
Lieut. John Beverley Robinson, acting Attorney-General.
A curious statement appears in Auchinleck's "History of the War," as follows:
"The defence of the town being no longer practicable, a surrender necessarily
followed by which it was stipulated that the militia and others attached to the
British military and naval service who had been captured should be paroled; that
private property of every kind should be respected and that all public stores should
be given up to the captors. We have italicised the words, 'who had been captured,'
as the Americans got possession of the militia rolls and included amongst the list
of prisoners on parole many who had never laid down their arms and whom it was
never contemplated to include in the list."
This statement is borne out by the fact that the list printed in the histories
includes at least one name that does not appear in the original orderly room copy
of the terms of capitulation . And this name is that of our famous fighting
lieutenant of Selby's Company, Reuben Richardson lately hero of Detroit and
Queenston Heights, and now in cold blood surrendered by insertion.
Of the cavalier way in which General Dearborn treated his conquest and his
prisoners, and how Dr. Strachan bullied the Americans into observing the terms
of capitulation (after they had burned the public buildings) we need say no more
than that the reverend doctor and future prelate for clear headed intrepidity carries
off the chief honours on the British side.
3

4

5

6

1. Ancestor of Lt.-Col. Geo. A. Shaw, sometime O.C. 10th Royals.
2. The explosion just at this moment is now generally believed to have been accidental; but was a matter of
bitter controversy at the time.
3. Among the killed was Maclean, Clerk of the House of Assembly.
4. p. 153.
5. e.g. in Auchinleck himself at p. 154.
6. Printed in fac simile in Robertson's " Landmarks of Toronto," Vol. 2, p. 808.
28

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT , YORK RANGERS
-

Decidedly it would have been better if General Sheaffe had on sight of the
American fleet burned his stores, carried off all his troops, including the York
Volunteers, and left Dr. Strachan to surrender the town without a futile contest.
But being a personally brave and mentally inconclusive man, Sheaffe could on
this occasion neither fight nor refrain from fighting but salved his conscience with
a resistance the utility of which does not appear. For the enemy having won a
complete victory and captured York on April 27th, 1813, evacuated York on May
2nd, 1813, which in legal parlance constitutes—Four clear days.

29

Photos by Kennedy

Surgeon Lieut.-Col. R. M. HILLARY

Major A. ELLIOTT,
Musketry Instructor.

30

Hon. Major A. GILLIES
Quartermaster
Hon. Major J. E. KNOX
Paymaster

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

CHAPTER VI
THE INGREDIENTS OF SEDITION
OLLOWING the War of 1812-14 a political process was resumed and
accelerated, which had started under the regime of Hon. Peter
Russell, President and Administrator of the Province after the withdrawal of Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe. This consisted in the formation of a patrician class, composed of officials, a number of
whom together with their relatives, became large land-holders and proceeded
to engross the government places and emoluments of the province. This was
not unaccompanied by some corruption and peculation in office and by abuses
inherent to an aristocratic system, such as the reservation of one seventh of all
public lands to form the foundation for a state church. One very irritating
grievance that bore heavily on the actual settler, was that a large percentage of
the land being thus held by the church or by land-grabbers and unoccupied
by bona fide residents and no work being done on the contiguous allowances
for roads, the public highways were in a deplorable condition.
The natural result of these actual grievances and of this exclusiveness of
political patronage was a series of agitations bitterly conducted and ferociously
resisted. A succession of agitators, Gourlay, Collins and finally William Lyon
Mackenzie kept the public mind in a turmoil by writings and public meetings.
What in the journalism of those days was apparently regarded by its authors as
calm and legitimate criticism would now be reckoned as gross personal insult.
One response of the office-holding class to these attacks was by the sweeping use
of the machinery of the courts in prosecutions for seditious libel. And whether
it was an attorney-general or chief justice thundering in the court or merely a
Scotch reformer and ,a North of Ireland upholder of the administration arguing
with stakes that ought to have been left in place to keep the wood from falling
off the sleigh—the proceedings were wholehearted and free from any pretence
of toleration and self-restraint. The Tories-in-office had a number of hard names,
which they freely applied to their enemies the Radical agitators. But the agitators
cleverly responded with one fixed term of opprobrium and summed up all their
charges of nepotism and tyranny in the words, "Family Compact."
Now the militia of Canada, embracing all the able-bodied male population,
was of course neither all for nor all against the Family Compact. But it happened
that certain able and courageous men, whom we have had occasion to mention
in previous chapters were recognized members of the ruling caste. Thus Dr.
Strachan and John Beverley Robinson were felt by both parties to be the dominant
brains of the compact; while there were many ardent spirits among those who
had seen service in 1812, who were heartily in accord with upholding aristocratic
31

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

traditions, and who powerfully detested any democratic innovations. Thus when
on June 8th, 1826, a mob of young gentlemen of official extraction threw William
Lyon Mackenzie's type into the Bay,—and thereby unintentionally prolonged
his political career,—it was deposed to that two citizens mentioned in previous
chapters as Major and Captain, but now became Colonel Allan and Colonel Reward stood complacently watching that unconventional method of answering an
editor.
In fact it appears to have been the policy of the Family Compact both to
secure the veteran officers of 1812 by public offices and to keep the higher ranks
in the militia for members of its circle. Thus in a pleasantly personal black list
published by Mackenzie in June, 1828, just on the eve of a general election, with
the title :"No. 6. Places of Profit, Honour and Emolument held by some of the
members of the present or last House of Assembly or by candidates for the Legislature," we find items like these:—
"John B. Robinson, Attorney-General; Colonel of Militia; King's College
Counsellor; Welland Canal Director; Hospital Trustee; Allegiance Commissioner, School Trustee."
"D. Cameron, J.P.; Major of Militia."
"Arch. McLean, Clerk of the Peace; Registrar of Stormont and Dundas;
Member Board of Education; J.P.; Colonel of Militia."
The total list comprises Colonels and Lieutenant-Colonels, 19; Majors, 9;
Captains, 8; and one Lieutenant. Whence we may infer that up to 1828, at any
rate, the Family Compact had with premeditated design set its strong fingers on
the whole militia organization.
One thing, however, had not been foreseen, namely, that a paper organization
without weapons or training, is not suited for emergency work. Veterans who
still felt within their veins the hot blood of Queenston or Lundy's Lane, did not
.perhaps realize that during a quarter of a century of peace there had rusted out
both the muskets of 1812 and the skill to use them. And so fell out that curious
episode of 1837.

32

HISTORY OF THE ieTH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS



CHAPTER VII
THE FOUR THOUSAND MUSKETS AT THE CITY HALL

HE troubles known to history as the Mackenzie Rebellion are really
divisible into two distinct periods. First, the rebellion itself before
it became an international affair; and secondly, the War of Filibusters
that began with the burning of the Caroline on December 29th, 1837.
The success or failure of Mackenzie's attempt to overthrow the
government of Sir Francis Head did snot depend on any preponderance of loyalty
or disaffection, but on something very material and confined in a very small
space—namely on the four thousand stand of arms lying in their unbroken packages at the City Hall in Toronto. Let us see why.
Of all the governors who by the blunder of a statesman (or the mistake of a
messenger)' have vexed Britain's over-seas dominions, Sir Francis Bond Head
was by the quality and exercise of his undoubted talents the best fitted to lose a
British Colony.
While exasperating the Reformers to the verge of rebellion, he was scarcely
less irritating to the upholders of the Family Compact, who found him resentful
of their advice and determined to pull the roof down over his own and their heads.
The reform agitation had up till August 15th, 1837, been a spirited, but not overtly
unlawful propaganda by public meetings and white-hot publications. About
this date some fifty Orangemen with clubs adjourned one of Mackenzie's meetings.
The answer to this line of argument took the form of an escort of one hundred
horsemen, who accompanied the agitator to his Vaughan meeting.
The project launched by Mackenzie in July "for uniting, organizing and registering the Reformers of Upper Canada as a political union," began as he foresaw
to take a military direction. The various branches or societies, which he had
instituted, began to take an unwonted interest in rifle matches and turkey shoots
and to collect pike-heads, doubtless for their symbolic value.
These matters were duly reported to Sir Francis Head, who secure in his
sense of popularity, not only refused to take any precautions to meet an outbreak,
but in spite of the most alarming information sent every regular soldier out of the
province to help against Papineau in Quebec. The garrison having disappeared,
the insurgents had two chances to get the four thousand muskets upon whose
possession depended the fate of an appeal to arms. Mackenzie, while disclaiming
2

1. It was more than suspected that the appointment of Sir Francis Head was due to a mistake in addressing
or delivering the papers to the wrong Head.
2. He had beaten the Reformers in 1836 on one of those "Old Flag" campaigns, which are one of the outstanding
phenomena of Upper Canadian politics, occurring as they do every eighteen or twenty years. If there is any credit
in inventing such a political device, then credit must be given to Sir Francis Head.
33

11,

6.62,68140101•01

1

EVIIMAIROMMISMPINIESVIIIMI.76068.

Photos by Kennedy
Capt. W. H. TAYLOR,
Commanding B Company

34

Capt. W. G. FOWLER,
Commanding C Company

HISTORY OF THE NTH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS
any military capacity knew the general scarcity of fire arms,' and proceeded in
his characteristic way to improve his first chance of getting that superiority of
fire which determines battles. His plan was "that we should instantly send for
Dutcher's foundry-men and Armstrong's axe-makers, all of whom could have been
depended on, and with them go promptly to the Government House, seize Sir
Francis, carry him to the City Hall, a fortress in itself, seize the arms and ammunition there and the artillery, etc., in the old garrison; rouse our innumerable friends
in town and country, proclaim a provisional government," etc., etc.
Viewing the matter in the light of what actually did happen, one is struck by
the entire feasibility of the plan and by the utter imbecility displayed by Mackenzie
in his method of execution. For instead of going himself with a few tried friends,
and collecting Dutcher's and Armstrong's men, he propounded his manoeuvre
to a meeting of fourteen or fifteen of the most fluent and sub-heroic orators in his
party; with the result that they talked it out until it joined the innumerable list
of great deeds that might have been done.
Inevitably some one told Sir Francis Head and consistently with his character
he would neither do anything himself, nor permit anyone else to do anything for
the defence of his person, capital or province.
About this time thert was in Toronto a certain veteran soldier of 1812, Col.
Fitzgibbon, who was making an unqualified nuisance of himself to the powersthat-be. He made repeated alarmist representations to Head and his Council of
an impending rebellion and was loftily snubbed by the Governor, the Judges and
the Attorney-General. Indeed the only man of official standing in Toronto that
gave heed to his utterances appears to have been Hon. Wm. Allan, whom we
have mentioned in his militia capacity in previous chapters. Despite his chilling
lack of encouragement, Fitzgibbon got up a list of one hundred and twenty-six
men (out of the twelve thousand inhabitants of the city) upon whose loyalty he
could depend. Taking this list to Sir Francis he informed him that with or without
his permission he intended to keep these men on duty so that on the ringing of the
college bell they should assemble at the City Hall. When the matter was presented to him in this manner Sir Francis gave a grumbling assent. As a matter
of history this little contingent was all that stood between Head and the successful
issue of Mackenzie's second plan for the capture of the four thousand muskets.
This plan was one of those intricate combinations which can only succeed
in the entire absence of any military precaution or capacity on the part of those
who are to be overthrown. Mackenzie schemed to concentrate his followers from
Dan to Beersheba at a point in York County, and march thence upon the city
before the Government could collect its friends. The date fixed was Thursday,
7th December, 1837, and Montgomery's Tavern on Yonge Street was the rendez2

vous.
1. "Of the fifteen hundred men whose names had been returned on the insurrection rolls, only a very small
proportion—perhaps not over one in five—had firearms of any description.—Lindsay's "Life of Mackenzie," Vol.
II, p. 52.
2. In the Emigrant (published in 1846) Sir Francis gave as his reason for not doing anything, that he did not
want to harass the militia by calling them out; sending them back, calling them out again, sending them back again
and so on: "The militia of Canada are men, whose time cannot with impunity be trifled with." The sentiment
is worth preserving, even if it cost Sir Francis nine years to think it out.
35

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

Two unforeseen circumstances broke up the combination. The first was
that Dr. Rolph, a brilliant orator and bad conspirator, got alarmed at the state
of unrest in Toronto, and thinking the plan had been discovered changed the date
to the 4th December. This had the result that only a portion of the would-berebels got notice in time to join Mackenzie. The others either went out later
with Dr. Duncombe in the west, and being practically unarmed, dispersed without
battle; or hastening to the scene of trouble and hearing of the fiasco at Montgomery's Tavern became forthwith Her Majesty's most loyal militia.
The other circumstance was that the irrepressible Fitzgibbon despite the most
explicit order of Sir Francis Head posted a forbidden and unthanked picket on
Yonge Street.'
On Monday, the 4th December, 1837, the Rebellion actually broke out and
on Tuesday night the rebels, having been amused for several hours by flags of
truce, moved down Yonge Street to take the city. Their advance guard struck
the picket commanded by Sheriff W. B. Jarvis. The picket fired and ran
in. The rebels also ran,—some eight hundred of them,—and retired to Montgomery's Tavern. To put it mildly the city was alarmed; even Sir Francis Head
dressed himself and added to the confusion at the City Hall by issuing absurd
orders. The arrival of Allan McNab from Hamilton with sixty men of Gore saved
the situation by distracting the attention of Sir Francis from the confusion he was
maintaining. The subsequent events—the advance of the now numerous volunteers with their muskets and cannon against the rebels of whom but two hundred
had fire arms; the foregone conclusion at Montgomery's Tavern,—these are now
ancient history.
Now where among all this confusion was the militia of whom as we have seen
there were among the notables of the province such numerous colonels, lieutenantcolonels, majors and captains (not to mention one lieutenant). It seems,
indeed, that these great men were not without the spirits of soldiers even if the
bodies were invisible. For an eye-witness of the scene at the Market Place in
Toronto on the morning of the 5th December, after the college bell had rung during
the night, writes :—" I found a large number of persons serving out arms to others
as fast as they possibly could. Among others, we saw the Lieutenant-Governor
in his every-day suit with one double barrelled gun in his hand, another leaning
against his breast and a brace of pistols in his leathern belt. Also Chief Justice
Robinson, Judges Macaulay, Jones and McLean, the Attorney-General and Solicitor-General with their muskets, cartridges, boxes and bayonets, all standing in
ranks as private soldiers under the command of Col. Fitzgibbon."
A spirited description of the militia man of 1837 is to be found in Lindsay's
" Life of Mackenzie":
"The militia who went to the succor of the Government was not generally
a more warlike body of men than the insurgents under Lount. These were drawn
2

1. Looking at the events of those days through the mellowing atmosphere of history we can easily forgive the
Family Compact and the Governor for their last-ditch opposition to "Responsible Government." But when we
consider the pig-headed obtuseness of the man and his subsequent insincerity towards Fitzgibbon, not even the
lapse of centuries will sooth the desire to personally kick Sir Francis Bond Head, Bart.
2. Lount was Mackenzie's best lieutenant. He, being a blacksmith, made the pike heads. He was hanged
for his share in the rebellion.
36

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

from the same class—the agriculturists—and were similarly armed and equipped.
A description of a party—as given to me by an eye-witness—who came down from
the North, would answer, with a very slight variation, for the militia of any other
part of the province. A number of persons collected at Bradford, on the Monday
or Tuesday, not one-third of whom had arms of any kind; and many of those who
were armed had nothing better than pitchforks, rusty swords, dilapidated guns,
and newly manufactured pikes, with an occasional bayonet on the end of a pole.
These persons, without the least authority of law, set about a disarming process;
depriving every one who refused to join them, or whom they chose to suspect of
disloyalty, of his arms. Powder was taken from stores, wherever found, without
the least ceremony, and without payment. On Thursday, a final march from
Bradford for Toronto was commenced; the number of men being nearly five
hundred, including one hundred and fifty Indians, with painted faces and savage
looks. At Holland Landing some pikes; which probably belonged to Lount,
were secured. In their triumphant march, these grotesque-looking militiamen
made a prisoner of every man who did not give such an account of himself as they
deemed satisfactory. Each prisoner, as he was taken, was tied to a rope; and
when Toronto was reached a string of fifty prisoners all fastened together were
marched in. Fearing an ambush, these recruits did not venture to march through
the Oak Ridges in the night; and a smoke being seen led to the conclusion that
Toronto was in flames. McLeod's tavern, beyond the Ridges, was taken possession of, as well as several other houses in the vicinity. In a neighbouring store,
all kinds of provisions and clothing that could be obtained were unceremoniously
seized. At the tavern there was a regular scramble for food; and cake-baking
and bacon-frying were going on upon a wholesale scale. Next morning, several
who had no arms, and others who were frightened, returned to their homes. Each
man wore a pink ribbon on his arm to distinguish him from the rebels. Many
joined from compulsion; and a larger number, including some who had been at
Montgomery's, suddenly turned loyalists when they found the fortunes of the
insurrection .had become desperate. When they marched into Toronto, they
were about as motley a collection as it would be possible to conceive.
"Such was the Canadian militia in 1837, at a time when Sir Francis Bond
Head had sent all the regular troops out of the province."

37

Capt. A. T. HUNTER,
Commanding G Company
Capt. S. E. CURRAN,
Commanding H Company

Capt. B. H. BROWN,
Commanding F Company

38

HISTORY OF THE NTH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

CHAPTER VIII
THE WAR OF THE PATRIOTS ALIAS FILIBUSTERS

HE bickering on Yonge Street having turned against him, and himself
having escaped after a series of adventures worthy of a Stuart prince,
and Dr. Duncombe's insurrection having faded out, William Lyon
Mackenzie took post on Navy Island in the Niagara River to prepare
an invasion of Upper Canada by patriotic Canadians. This movement he confidently expected would be seconded by the mass of the population;
and judging by the lists in his hands his confidence was based on good reason.
Arms both small and large they had no difficulty in procuring by robbing the
arsenals of the United States, which were being guarded with studious connivance.
Up to the end of December, 1837, Mackenzie had rallied to him about two
hundred restless spirits most of whom were British subjects, but with an American
" General "—one Van Rensselaer—who like many gallant soldiers of all ages exchanged intellect for intoxication and brains for brandy. This army was demonstrating feebly against the Canadian shore, where a loyalist camp under Col.
Cameron and then under Allan Macnab was with gradually increasing forces
eagerly awaiting a landing. On December 29th, provisions and military stores
were being sent over from the American side to Navy Island by the steamer
Caroline, which thus steamed into troubled waters to her own magnificent destruction.
Col. Macnab being a choleric man, not much versed in the niceties of
international relations, permitted Capt. Drew of the Royal Navy to cut out the
Caroline. Which, calling for volunteers or rather saying that "he wanted a few
fellows with cutlasses who would follow him to the devil," Capt. Drew, R.N.,
proceeded to do. The, to him, trifling details that he took the steamer not at
Navy Island, but at Schlosser on the American side and that he left behind the
body of Amos Durfee with the head blown off, produced an international episode
of volcanic proportions.
Mackenzie and his insurrection of British subjects were both immediately
superseded by a filibuster movement, commanded by new and unheard-of generals,
whose conflicting commissions proceeded out of the lodges of secret societies.'
Invasions were planned to make descent upon various vulnerable places in Upper
Canada. Some of the " generals " like Generals Sutherland and Theller, having
conquered the country by proclamations, actually came and were duly sentenced
when captured. Others like Handy, of Illinois, merely organized pompous conf u2

1. Hunters' Lodges they were called.

2. Also they broke jail and escaped.
39

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

sion. Still others like General Bierce, and Admiral Bill Johnson, stood back in
safety after sending brave men to their death.
The Americanizing of the war produced a sudden and decisive effect on the
people of Upper Canada. So long as it was merely a case of William Lyon Mackenzie there was a good deal of something less loyal to the administration than
indifference. Many a veteran of 181 and his sons would gladly have struck
a pike through the Family Compact if they could have avoided tearing the old
flag. But the events that began when the Caroline, splendidly blazing, went over
the Horse Shoe Fall, closed up the ranks of Canadians and the people seemed to
rise as one man.
From .a return of commissions issued from March, 1838, to March, 1839, we
find the officers of two East York and two West York Regiments, and no less
than nine North York Regiments. Among these officers we are struck by a persistence of names that occur in the rolls of 1812. Duncan Cameron was colonel
of the 1st North York; and Heward, Cawthra, Richardson, Playter, Denison,
Shaw, Selby, Jarvis, are among the commissioned in these suddenly organized
invasion-expectant legions.
A return of .the 4th North Yorks, commanded by Col. C. C. Small, of Toronto,
and mustering at Richmond Hill, on June 4th, 1838, shows how plentiful and
willing men were and how woefully lacking were arms. Of a total of 725 men,
701 were present, and only 5 absent without leave. Of arms and accoutrements,
the regiment possessed thirty-one English muskets and five hundred rounds of
ammunition.
The same return of commissions in March, 1839, gives also the lists of officers
of the forces called out on the first outbreak of the Rebellion of 1837. Among these
were the Queen's Own, whose name still sounds familiar in Toronto, and the
Queen's Rangers, a portion of whose designation has been continued in the present
regiment of York Rangers. The Lieut.-Col. and organizer of the Queen's
Rangers was Samuel Peters Jarvis, who named it after Simcoe's famous corps in
which his father, "the Secretary," had held a commission. No native Canadian
ever saw more of fighting in his own land than did Col. Jarvis; and when we
consider that he was at Detroit, Queenston Heights, Stoney Creek and Lundy's
Lane; that he fought a duel according to the code in Toronto, that he
commanded the right wing at Montgomery's Tavern and was present to admire
the pyre-like glory of the Caroline as she took the plunge, we feel that he had an
unerring instinct for war, and while by profession a lawyer was by preference a
soldier and a good one.
1

2

3

4

5

1. They induced Van Shultz to attempt to take Prescott. He was forced to surrender at the "Windmill"
and executed.
2. Matthews, one of the executed rebels, fought valiantly against the invaders in 1812.
3. One of these old time names of 1812-37 has gone astray and therefore appropriately joined the Corps of
Guides in the person of Lieut.-Col. Van Nostrand.
4. "Landmarks of Toronto," 5th Series, p. 11.
5. In the vicinity of what is now Grosvenor Street.

40

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

CHAPTER IX
ANOTHER QUARTER CENTURY OF RUST
HE "Patriot" demonstrations of 1838 having subsided, interest in the
militia rapidly evaporated and what little skill as men-at-arms the
citizens had acquired was soon forgotten. The annual musters of
the forces more and more took that burlesque character which is fatal
to discipline. For a good soldier has even more need to subdue his
sense of humor in time of peace than he has in time of war to control his sense
of fear.
The rigorous drill and fine old military decorum of these annual musters
(when attended at all) may be gathered from the description by an astonished
participant in one, which was held in 1845.
"At that date, and for some years before, there had been an annual muster
on old King George's birthday, of the young men of our rural parts not yet enrolled
for military purposes. I was then resident in the county of Haldimand, Niagara
district, and received a notification that I must proceed to the village of Dunnville
and attend the annual muster on the 4th of June. I proceeded there in due course,
reported at a named tavern, and `fell in' with some thirty other young fellows
in front of it. The specified hour having arrived, we lined up in fair order, and our
names were called with military vigor. Then came a veteran carrying a tin pail
with something in it, and its bearer stopped in front of every man in turn. A
tin dipper descended into the pail and ascended to the welcoming hand of each
visitor as he was reached. A gurgle and a smack of the lips, and another nail had
been driven into the system of the soldier. Capt. Farr, commanding, then appeared in front of the contingent specially under his orders, and called us back to
the ' Attention ' which we had bestowed elsewhere. We were ` two deep,' if not
a little more, and received the order to ' wheel' to the `left.' Explanation was
necessary before we could take up the unexpected movement, but after its repetition we were almost equal to the performance of the double shuffle dignified by
the name of a `quick march.' Then we reached a turn to our left. Dispirited
by the response to the previous command to ' wheel,' the gallant captain—called
' Cap,' for short, by his corps.—politely informed his command that it was useless to tell them what the drill book said, but they must ' haw ' or `gee' as they
were directed, so first we 'geed,' and then we 'hawed,' and got there just the same.
"There were several squads on the vacant lot to which we had been marched,
mostly big lads and young men, who were lying on the ground good-naturedly
awaiting orders. One special squad, in uniforms, and really looking soldier-like,
1

1. See "Sixty Years in Upper Canada," by Charles Clarke, late Clerk of the Legislature. Col. Clarke was C.O.
of the 30th for more than twenty years. Being accustomed to strict drill and discipline in an academy in England,
the shock of this first militia experience in Canada nearly shattered his reason.
41

Photos by Kennedy

Lieut. H. BRANN,
D Company

Lieut. J. L. WILLIAMSON,
A Company

Lieut. WM. BAILLIE

42

Lieut. J. H. PROCTOR,
B Company

HISTORY OF THE NTH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

were drilling with a combination of snap and vigor. Their backs were turned towards us, but on their countermarching we discovered- that our models were all
negroes, a company raised during the recent Rebellion and said to have been very
efficient in making corduroy roads. They received special notice from the colonel,
who wore regimentals, too, and sat his steed—a mare as if not afraid of it. In
passing up and down the line now formed he gave us ample opportunity, not only
to admire his horsemanship, but to form an opinion of the good points of a lively
colt running at the heels of its mother. After his little speech of commendation
and recommendation, reports were made by the company officers, and we involuntarily broke into groups. Then the fun commenced. Wrestling, jumping,
`stumping for a horse race,' and so forth, soon broke up all semblance of order,
and one irreverent and evidently licensed good fellow tiptoed to the rear of the
' Cap,' and suddenly snatched and drew from its scabbard the slightly rusted
sword which had been carried through a rebellion now apparently forgotten.
A loud haw-haw from the boys, and the advice from one of them to our commanding officer to put up his `old cheese-knife,' and we marched back to the tavern to
receive another drink, after which the military heroes were dismissed, and more
fun and frolic followed."
It is not to be supposed, however, as the years went by that all annual musters
of the militia were as successful even in the picnic sense, as the one just described.
Lieut.-Col. Geo. A. Shaw, ex-commanding officer of the 10th has a curious recollection of one attended by him as a newly gazetted ensign. It was in Toronto itself,
where surely, if anywhere, the flame is never allowed to die on•the altar of Mars.
Arriving with the zeal that becomes a young officer at the appointed hour and the
appointed place he could not find any militia. He found, however, a negro asleep
under a tree. Summoning his best military crispness of manner he tapped the
Sambo with his boot and said, "My man, where are the militia?"
"Fse de militia, sah."
"You're the militia! What do you mean?"
"Sure, I'se de militia and de oder militia is up de tree."
Looking up the tree Shaw discovered the other militia in the form of a youth
picking nuts. Presently the captain came in his full uniform of a captain of the
Sedentary Militia of Canada, and the parade was complete.
Things drifted along, nevertheless, becoming of course worse rather than
better as the weapons became older and rustier and the memory of any active
service became dimmer. The Crimean War, however, awakened the attention of
England to many things in connection with her army, the blaze of whose valor
only served to light up the hideous weakness of its organization. Among other
things the British authorities, while rummaging in 1854 for effective troops, recollected that some thirty-three hundred regulars were defending Canada, and that
the Canadians, outside of a few voluntary companies (who drilled without pay and
bought their own uniforms), were not interfering with the duties of these regulars.
Accordingly England, with the same sad-eyed persistence with which of late years
she has reminded Canada of her naval obligations, kept bringing the matter of
defence to the attention of the Canadian authorities.
43

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

The result was a new militia law in 1855, which made provision for active
militia corps which were to provide their own uniforms and clothing and up to the
number of 5,000 to receive a very limited number of days pay per annum. Additional corps were also authorized who were to drill without pay. These two
classes kept up the active militia spirit under difficulties; and owing to the indifference of the public appeared rather to be on the decrease than on the increase.
For while in 1856 they numbered 4,999 and rose in 1857 to 5,288, yet in 1858 they
sank to 4,895.'
However, on November 8th, 1861, the U.S. Steamship San Jacinto fired a
shot across, the bow of the British mail steamer Trent, and took from her two
Southern gentlemen, Mason and Slidell. It required some diplomacy to set
this matter right, and in the meantime so sensitive is the Canadian pulse in Imperial
matters that our active militia had risen to 12,000 by the end of 1861, and by
1863 to 25,000.
During this period of growth we find certain companies gazetted which form
a link between the present regiment of York Rangers and its predecessors in the
York Militia of older days.
Thus on September 4th, 1862, was gazetted, the Scarborough Rifle Company,
Capt. W. H. Norris, Lieut. J. R. Taber, Ensign Geo. Rush.
On December 11th, in the same year, the Aurora Infantry Company,
Capt. Seth Ashton, Lieut. W. B. Hutchison, Ensign C. Good.
On December 19th, The Lloydtown Infantry Company,
Capt. Ed. Bull, Lieut. Geo. Ramsay, Ensign Robert Hunter.
And on January 23rd, 1863, The King Infantry Company,
Capt. Geo. Lee Garden, Lieut. Isaac Dennis, Ensign Chas. Norman.
These companies, quite independent of one another, were part of the 5th
Military District (comprising Ontario, York, Peel and Simcoe), and appear from
a publication called "The Active or Volunteer Militia Force List of Canada,"
to have owed some sort of disciplinary obedience to one J. Stoughton Dennis, the
Brigade-Major.
With some changes in personnel, for four years they continued their vigil,
turning (as the sentries used to turn) always outwards in one direction; and that
direction the South. For from the South the enemy was to come.

2

1. "The Militia System of Canada," by Colonel Walker Powell in Castell Hopkin's Encyclopaedia.
2. From an account, "Landmarks of Toronto," 5th series, p. 506 of a military review held by Gen. Lindsay in
Toronto, on 8th October, 1863, and attended by the rural volunteer companies we get an accurate idea of the mustering strength of these companies. Note these items:
From King, one company of infantry, Capt. Garden, one officer and forty men.
From Aurora, one company of infantry, Capt. Peel, three officers and thirty men.
From Lloydtown, one company of infantry, Capt. Armstrong and twenty-five men.
From Scarboro, one company of rifles, Capt. Norris, four officers and forty-five men. From which it will be
seen that the Flank Company of 1812, the Volunteer Company of the Sixties, and the " Rural " Militia Company
of our own day are about the same thing.

44

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

CHAPTER X
THE WELDING OF THE BATTALIONS
HE troubles known as the Fenian Raids, divested of their feeble pretense of freeing Ireland, originated in the disbanding of the enormous
armies of the Civil War. For just as the unlucky contestants in
any series of sports will clamor for a " Consolation Race," so after
any period of warfare there are ambitious and unsatisfied soldiers to
whom peace appears in the garb of a robber of their opportunities for achieving
fortune and fame. Louis Napoleon, having withdrawn from Mexico, there was
only Canada to turn to. Accordingly, Canada was in for it.
Two causes contributed towards the prosperous organization of a series of
raids into Canada. One was the immemorial dishonesty of American governments
in the matter of filibustering movements; which before the authorities suppressed
them must have been attempted, have failed and palpably be incapable of future
success. The other cause was that treacherous torpidity in military matters
which with the Canadian precedes a sudden and venomous activity, a torpidity
which induced the incursions of 1812, 1838 and 1866.
However obliviously dense the American Government could be towards the
organizing, enrolling and drilling of masses of armed Fenians in their cities the
Canadian authorities were not able to achieve such heights of philosophy. Repeated alarms were met with sporadic preparations to receive with the appropriate
salute of ball cartridge an enemy who might land at any time or place. Thus
for four weary months from December 30th, 1864, two service companies of the
Queen's Own patrolled the Niagara Frontier.'
Again in November, 1865, the city regiments picketted the drill shed in
Toronto, and companies were sent to Sarnia where ultimately a provisional battalion was formed.
In March, 1866, the militia were called out and among those who left for the
fiont to be stationed at Port Colborne, were six companies from the 5th Military
District, of which two companies were the Aurora Infantry Company and the
Scarboro Rifles.
Finally it became evident a few days previously to May 31st, that some
movement was in progress in the American towns and cities along the Niagara
frontier, and by the night of the 31st it was manifest that a mobilization was in
progress for an immediate descent on the Canadian shore. The actual landing
took place at 3.30 the following day, but late in the night of the 31st the call to
1. Other units of militia were also kept drilling about the same time, e.g. we find a note in the Militia List of
1865 that our Scarboro company drilled at Niagara with the Second or Central Administrative Battalion. The
ostensible reason for keeping up this "Watch on the Rhine" was to prevent raids into the United States. If that
was the real reason, it was a case of wasted courtesy.
45

Photos by Kennedy

Lieut. F. M. BROWN,
Lieut. A. G. A. FLETCHER,
Lieut. F. G. L. DARLINGTON,
F Company
E Company
H Company
Lieut.
W.
G.
PINK,
Lieut. B. J. DAYTON,
F Company
Sig. Officer

46

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

arms was telegraphed from Ottawa, and within an hour the sound of bugles and
alarm bells was heard echoing and ringing in nearly every town and village in the
country.'
The response of the militia to the bugles and the orders calling them out was,
as always is the case with the Canadian militia, instantaneous. The impression
one gets from reading of how few hours were required to get the men together is
that they were already straining at the leash. The news of their required mobilization arriving in the evening, the Queen's Own were at their armoury at 4.30
in the morning and embarked at 7 a.m.
for Port Dalhousie. As fast as transportation was provided the other forces were
carried to the scene of hostilities. The
Northern Railway arrived at Toronto at
10.40 a.m. on June 2nd, bearing among
others the Aurora Infantry Company,
the King Infantry Company, under Capt.
Garden and the Scarboro Rifles, and by
the afternoon train came the Lloydtown
Company along with the Collingwood
Rifles.'
When we, at this distance of time, contemplate the strategy of General Napier,
who commanded in Canada West and of
Col. Peacocke, who was entrusted with
the command of the troops in the Niagara Peninsula, we feel that it is a tribute
to the inherent loyalty of the Canadians
that they did not for all time lose faith in
the soundness of British generalship.
With the vaguest possible information as
to the movements of the Fenians after
their landing at Fort Erie, it did not occur
to General Napier to mobilize any mountBugle and Flag
ed troops until June end, after the desPresented by their Fellow Townsmen to the Aurora
patch of the Queen's Own and other foot
Infantry Company, on their return from the
Niagara Frontier, June 1866
soldiers to Port Colborne and St. Catherines. It is safe to say that if either Col.
Peacocke or Lieut.-Col. Booker had with him on June 1st even a troop of
cavalry and it had displayed some of the energy shown two days later by
Geo. T. Denison, with his troop of Governor-General's Body Guard, the column
under Booker would not have received the snubbing it got at Ridgeway and
the Fenians would not have escaped from pursuit. To add to the difficulties
of Peacocke the authorities had posted the Queen's Own, the 13th and the
3

1. "Troublous Times in Canada," by Capt. John A. Macdonald, p. 33.
2. Leader, June 2nd, 1866.
3. Now Col. Denison, the well known police magistrate of Toronto and an author of international celebrity.
47

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS
York and Caledonia Companies under Booker at Port Colborne, which is a
villainous distance from St. Catherines, whence Peacocke set out and also
from Chippewa to which he pushed on. If it was the strategical intention to
unite these columns, the utility of so widely separating them the day before is
one of those mysteries that make the art of war so profound a study. At any rate
Peacocke attempted to effect a junction with Booker at Stevensville. Whatever
chance this most delicate of all operations,—the junction of widely separated
columns within striking distance of the enemy,—might have had was destroyed by
the slowness of Peacocke's own march and the erratic conduct of Capt. Akers
(Peacocke's officer sent to advise Booker), and Lieut.-Col. Stoughton Dennis, who
carried off some of the troops from Port Colborne to conduct an attack on the
Fenians at Fort Erie. This attack on Fort Erie which was to cover these officers
with glory earned them a smart beating and is just another illustration of that
greatest of all nuisances among military officers, the half-baked tactician who,
regardless of his superior's plans, attempts to carry off the "kudos" for himself.
The combat at Ridgeway has often been described. The man most vociferously abused at the time, Lieut.-Col. Booker, appears in reality both before and
after the one mistake he made to have acted with good military sense and courageous coolness. In this mistake of forming a hollow square on the alarm of "cavalry"
he was simply the victim of a formation in the drill book. And be it noted that
the formation was until a year ago still there, lying ambushed in the sections
relating to Savage Warfare; waiting for the day when some too literal minded
British officer should form a hollow square in close formation against the wrong
savages.
Ridgeway over and the Fenians having escaped, the various companies and
battalions performed outpost duties at different places' for a period of about three
weeks when they were relieved of duty and thanked in a general order of June 23rd,
by the Commander-in-chief, who took occasion also to advise them to continue
their drill and discipline as the danger of invasion was not past.
Among the numerous deficiencies of our militia system the authorities proceeded to remedy two pressing defects. One was that the liability to be called
out repeatedly on alarms was beginning to harass the militia. For the postprandial patriot who waves the old flag in an ecstasy of Britannic zeal and then
permanently fills his employee's position when he has gone to the front was more
in evidence in 1866 than he would venture to be in these days.
The other defect was the lack of cohesion among the numerous independent
companies whose officers and men had no conception of carrying out anything like
a combined movement.
Both these defects could be met by forming a standing camp where the companies could be welded into battalions and at which by taking a week's tour of
2

I. The Aurora Company, for instance, was part of a provisional battalion stationed at Clifton and Suspension
Bridge under Col. R. B. Denison.
2. For instance Booker's column lacked cavalry, artillery, cooking appliances, transport wagons, medical necessaries, and was scantily furnished with food and ammunition. Of late years the Militia Department has given
great attention to the formation and equipment of all the auxiliary corps necessary to move and care for an army
in the field. Sometimes we think it has forgotten that there is such a thing as infantry.
48

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK

RANGERS

duty in rotation each group of militia would get some military experience without
being unsettled in their civil employments.
The ground selected for this camp was on the high level overlooking St.
Catherines, the Great Western Railway and the Welland Canal to the westward
of Thorold village. The first volunteer troops posted were the 10th from Toronto
and the 7th from London. With them were a portion of the 16th Regulars and of
the Royal Artillery, also Major Denison and his troop of cavalry. They assembled
on the 18th of August, and on the 26th the 10th and 7th were relieved by the Q.O.R.
the 13th and the Vnd Oxford Rifles.
The turn of the companies in which we are more particularly interested came
in the middle of September. That they made a good impression on their way to
the mill we learn by the following extract from a Toronto daily:
" Military : Five companies of infantry arrived in town by special train on
the Northern Railway on Saturday, as follows: Bradford, Lieut. Wilson commanding; Aurora, Major Peel; Newmarket, Capt. Boultbee ; King, Capt. Garden and
Lloydtown, Capt. Armstrong. The Scarboro Rifles under Capt. Taylor, got on
the Grand Trunk train at Scarboro Station, and arrived about an hour earlier.
They departed together with Brigade Major Dennis on the steamer City of Toronto, at noon for the camp at Thorold to relieve the volunteers now serving there.
A more soldierly looking set of men could not well be got together. Col.
Durie, Brigade Major Denison, Col. R. S. "Denison and several other principal
officers together with a large number of citizens were on the wharf to witness their
departure.'''
In the same issue of the paper appears this item:
"12th York Battalion Infantry: Headquarters at Aurora. To be Lieut.Colonel—Capt. W. D. Jarvis from the 2nd Battalion Queen's Own Rifles, Toronto."
The tour of duty being completed the battalion was relieved by the Brant and
Haldimand Battalions and returned to Toronto under its first commanding officer
whose pride was no doubt greatly enhanced by subsequently receiving the following
letter:
" Sir. I have the honour to request you will make known to the officers and
men of the Nth (York) Battalion my extreme gratification at the fine and soldier
like appearance and demeanour of the Battalion on Monday Vnd instant, of
which I shall have the pleasure of making a special report to H. E. the Commanderin-Chief.
"The proficiency of this young Battalion in Drill and the steadiness of the
men is very creditable to you as commanding officer."
I have the honor to be, Sir,
Your very obedient servant,
J. S. MACDONALD, Col. A.A.G.
LT.-CoL. JARVIS, Commanding 12th York, Newmarket.
-

1

3

1. Geo. A. Shaw, afterwards Lieut.-Col. of the 10th, was attached to the Lloydtown Company during this camp
to give instruction.
2. The Daily Leader, September 17th, 1866.
3. The regiment appears in the list of 1867, with its headquarters at Newmarket, and in 1873, again at Aurora.
The date of gazetting the battalion and its Lieut.-Col. is 14th September, 1866.
49

HISTORY OF THE 12TH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

CHAPTER XI
THE CONTINUITY OF YORK BATTALIONS
HIS new-old York Battalion as it settled down in the Militia List of
1867, was a nine company aggregation with the following officers:—
12th York Battalion of Infantry, Headquarters, Newmarket;
Lieut.-Col. W. D. Jarvis.
No. 1 Company Scarboro:
Capt. Taber, Lieut. Stobo, Ensign John Huxtable.
No. 2 Company Aurora:
Capt. Nathl. Pearson.
No. 3 Company Lloydtown:'
Capt. Armstrong, Lieut. W. T. Armstrong, Ensign John Thompson.
No. 4 Company, King:
Capt. Garden, Lieut. Norman, Ensign L. N. Crosby.
No. 5 Company, Newmarket:
Capt. A. Boultbee, Lieut. Chas. McFayden.
No. 6 Company, Keswick:
Capt. Alfred Wyndham, Lieut. Wm. Boucher, Ensign J. R. Stevenson.
No. 7 Company, Markham:
Capt. Thos. A. Milne, Lieut. Jas. Robinson, Ensign Saml. Carney.
No. 8 Company, Sharon:
Capt. Wm. Selby, Lieut. John W. Selby, Ensign Jas.Wayling.
No. 9 Company, Unionville:
Capt. Hugh P. Crosby, Lieut. Salem Eckhart, Ensign Wm. Esken,
Paymaster Joseph Cawthra.
Adjutant A. J. L. Peebles.
Quarter Master Wm. Trent.
Surgeon Jas. Bovell, M.D.
The persistence of certain names in the above list gives one the impression
that our military authorities sought to weave into the newly assembled battalion
all the old traditional threads of military service that led back to the days of '37
and 1812.
1. The Lloydtown Company as such disappeared by a roundabout process of amalgamation with the Aurora
Company, the headquarters being moved to Aurora and Nathaniel Pearson being made captain, vice Armstrong,
who retired with honorary rank of major. The Bradford Company which was with the 12th at Thorold is now E
Company of the 36th Peel Regiment.
50

HISTORY OF T E NTH REGIMENT, YORK RANGERS

Thus the name of Jarvis,' was reminiscent of every ancient fight in which
any soldiers from York had ever participated. Accordingly it was appropriate
that in selecting a first commanding officer the authorities should pitch upon the
son of the Sheriff William Botsford Jarvis, against whose picket on Yonge Street,
as we have seen, the flood tide of the Mackenzie Rebellion broke and receded.
Independently of his paternity and of his cousinship to Col. Samuel Peters
Jarvis, William D. Jarvis, first lieutenant-colonel of the 12th, had earned his appointment by previous service. In December of 1864, he volunteered and was
given a commission to complete the establishment of Capt. Gilmor's Company
which was one of the two service companies of the Queen's Own, that were sent
during that month to patrol the Niagara Frontier, ostensibly to prevent raids

Photo by Kennedy

Practice in Measuring and Judging Distance
On Niagara Common

into the United States by Southern sympathizers. These service companies put
in four dreary months at Niagara and in April, 1865, returned home.
Jarvis' next service was in November, 1865, when an alarm of intended Fenian
attacks caused the authorities to place a picket of thirty men under his command
to protect the Drill Shed in Toronto.
1. The prevalence of the Jarvis family when any form of strife was being conducted is one of the bewildering
features of Upper Canadian History. The following genealogical tree may assist the student:
CAPT. SAML. JARVIS, 1698-1779

SAML., 1720-1793

STEPHEN, 1729-1820

.

WILLIAM (The "Secretary"), 1756-1817

STEPHEN, 1756-1840

COL. SAMUEL PETERS JARVIS, 1792-1857

WM. BOTSFORD (the first Sheriff)

WM. D. P. JARVIS, 1821-1860

WILLIAM D. JARVIS, 1834—Lieut.-Col of
12th York Rangers

AEMILIUS JARVIS (the Commodore)
51