Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Middlesex County, Ontario, Militia Units

Well - Here’s where confusion reigns supreme. Try and sort through the Middlesex County pre-1900 militia units. We will give it a go in several postings.

First, something about the state of the militia in Southwestern Ontario prior to The Boer War. The Militia system was organized after the creation of Upper Canada in 1792 by the first provincial legislature in 1793. The militia system was based on the British regimental example. Was it an effective military system ? Hard to say as it was rarely tested. Units were quickly recruited during the Fenian Raids; however, units from this area did little more than guard Sarnia, and Windsor, and as such saw no action. By the 1870’s fear of invasion from the United States had abated, and the locals saw little reason to get excited over the militia. Ultimately the militia became an officer’s social club, and a way for an ambitious man to rise on the social ladder within his community. All that changes under the pressures of the First World War.

I will look at the 4th. Middlesex Militia Regiment first. Prior to the 1820’s little was done in organizing a militia regiment in Middlesex County (which includes London). In 1822 command of the regiment was given to James Hamilton ( a sheriff from Sterling). Companies were recruited on a township basis. At this time London was a village so when the individual is identified as from London usually that is a reference to London Township. In a muster of 1824 I found the following names:

Ira Schofield (Major)

J.S. Harrison (Captain)

Rosewell Mount (Captain)

Simeon Bullen

Duncan McKenzie

Richard Talbot

Daniel Hine

Hiram Schofield (Adjutant)

James Fisher (Lieutenant)

John Siddall (Lieutenant)

John T. Jones (Lieutenant)

William Geary (Lieutenant)

Thomas Lawrason (Ensign)

Archibald McFarlane (Ensign)

Daniel Campbell (Ensign)

William Putman (Ensign)

Thomas H. Summers (Ensign)

George Robson (Ensign)

In 1829 the 4th. Middlesex Regiment mustered 415 all ranks. Finding the names of anyone other than the officers is a daunting task. One would need the pay records of the regiment which may or may not be in Library and Archives Canada. Many of the records of this period have not survived.

Interesting that one of the burning questions for the regiment was - what colour should the uniforms be ? The Lieutenant Governor wanted a grey jacket with collar and cuffs of black velvet, and trousers of grey cloth. The officers wanted a green jacket, and sent one of their number off to Scotland to buy green cloth.

Secondly, as will happen when there are big fish in a little pond - the officers fought with each other. In 1829 Ira Schofield pressed court martial proceeding against Edward Allen Talbot. Apparently Talbot “in a seditious manner” resisted attending a muster of the regiment. Wouldn’t you know that the written proceedings of the court are nowhere to be found. Maybe he got the firing squad ?

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