The British Army Stationed in British North America 1812-1815
By Ron McGuigan
The War of 1812 caught the British Army mostly unprepared to defend British North America [Canada today] against the potential might of the United States of America. Much of Great Britain’s disposable forces were engaged in fighting in Spain or in the Mediterranean and providing garrisons for its far flung empire. Until Napoleon’s abdication on April 1814, there were few battle hardened regiments available to be sent to the Canadas. Until then most of the reinforcements came from the garrisons in the West Indies or in Great Britain and Ireland. Few of the regiments had seen any fighting in years. It had been almost thirty years since Canada had last participated in a war of any kind. The war in British North America was looked upon as a secondary theatre only for the defence of the colonies and so never had first consideration for reinforcements. In fact, the British government may have faced severe censure if the fighting in the year 1812 had been disastrous for the British arms as they had sent urgent reinforcements to the Duke of Wellington’s army in Spain instead of to British North America even when it seemed that war might be a possibility. A point well-made by Lord Bathurst in a letter to the Duke. [Note: 1]
This is an examination of the British Regular Army Units stationed and serving in Canada during the War of 1812, which lasted from 18 June 1812 to 18 February 1815. British North America at the time was divided into the colonies of Upper Canada, Lower Canada, and the Maritimes [New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland with Bermuda included with the Maritimes]. For the following lists, the location where stationed is given after the unit’s name. The dates are either arrival or raising in British North America and the last location indicates area of service before arriving in North America. Not included are the companies of the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners which were stationed in British North America or which served against the United States.
Regulars in British North America at War’s Declaration 1812.
The total of British Regulars stationed in the Canadas in June was 6,034 men and in the Maritimes (including Bermuda) for June, there were 3,743 British Regulars. In June 1812, Upper Canada had the 41st Foot; detachment 10th Royal Veteran Battalion; detachment Royal Newfoundland Fencibles [mostly serving as Marines with the Provincial Marine on the Lakes]; artillery gunners of Holcroft's Company for a total of about 1,500 men. From this, they had to find garrisons for seven forts and protect a border that stretched from Sault Ste. Marie on Lake Huron to Lower Canada. In June 1812, in Lower Canada, there were the 1/8th Foot; 49th Foot; 100th Foot; detachments of the 10th Royal Veteran Battalion and the Royal Newfoundland Fencibles; the Canadian Fencibles and three companies of Royal Artillery. In June 1812 in the Maritimes, there were the 2/8th Foot; 98th Foot [part in Bermuda]; 99th Foot; 104th Foot with companies in Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton Island; Nova Scotia Fencibles in Newfoundland; and five companies of Royal Artillery.
Regulars Arrived or Raised in British North America 1812
By December, the total of regulars in the Canadas was 8,136 men and in the Maritimes it was 4,519 men.
Regulars Arrived or Raised in British North America 1813 [Note: 2]
By December, the total of regulars in the Canadas was 14,623 men and in the Maritimes it was 4,854 men.
Regulars Arrived in British North America 1814
A return for 8 November 1814 shows that there were approximately 38,000 all ranks, in the Canadas, in the Maritimes and in the District of Maine. This includes all British Regulars and the embodied volunteer militia units.
1. Earl Bathurst to General the Marquess of Wellington, Downing Street 6th Oct., 1812. Wellington’s Supplementary Despatches Volume 7 page 442.
2. Also arrived for defence were:
Placed on the Napoleon Series: December 2004; updated April 2013
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