Friday, February 11, 2011

The Oxford Rifles to 1902

A company of Oxford Militia was active during the War of 1812. At that time Oxford County was part of York County. As such, the Oxford companies served with the York Militia. To find names it is to the York militia nominal rolls you must go.

I found an interesting reference to a skirmish involving an Oxford company that occured after the Battle of Moraviantown in 1813. (1) From the description, I suspect, but can not prove that the skirmish occured at what we call today “Snake Hill”. Snake Hill is located within modern London. It appears that the American troops looked at the steepness of the hill, the trees, the rocks, the muskets pointed at them, and said: “Nuts to this”, and left. They must have been veterans.

The Oxford Rifles proper were organized by a general order issued August 1, 1863. Their first Commanding Officer was Lt. Colonel W.S. Light with headquarters in Woodstock, Ontario.

No.1 Company officered by Captain Hugh Richardson based in Woodstock organized May 8, 1855.

Hugh Richarson from "A Story of the Oxford Rifles 1798-1954".

No.2. Company officered by Captain Isaac Wallace based in Embro organized 22 Jan. 1862. Apparently this was a highland company. Which is not surprising considering the Embro area was largely settled by Scots. No mention of a kilt though.

No..3 Company officered by Captain George Grey based in Beachville organized Dec. 28, 1862.

No.4 Company officered by Captain Louis Cole based in Wolverton organized Jan. 16, 1863.

No. 5 Company officered by Captain John Henderson based in North Oxford organized Jan. 23, 1863.

No. 6 Company officered by Captain Thomas Coulter based in Princeton organized Jan. 23, 1863.
Sample of Nominal Roll for Oxford Rifles, Library and Archives Canada.
When Lt. Colonel Light died in 1864 the regiment was taken over by Hugh Richardson (more in the next post about Lt. Colonel Richardson as he become quite well known in the 1880’s). The Oxford Rifles were called to serve during the Fenian Raids. They were sent to the Niagara region in June, 1866 - but arrived late. So they were not a part of the engagement at Ridgeway.

The uniform was a big concern for all militia regiments. After all one must look the part. It seems that the decision was to mimic the uniform worn by British rifle regiments. The photo of Hugh Richardson gives you an idea of what it looked like. In a letter from Prentice, Moat & Co., military outfitters from Montreal, to Lt. Colonel Richardson:

“We have forwarded to Toronto suit of the Uniform just imported by the Montreal Rifle Regiment and have requested them to be forwarded to you for inspection. Please be careful as they belong to the Regiment and are only loaned.”(2)

There remained two independent companies in Ingersoll and Thamesford. The reason, it appears, is that when  they saw the dark green uniforms they decided that they would rather keep their smart red jerseys. Thank you very much ! 
The Oxford Rifles sent the following volunteers to the South African War. I have added what I could to each name: however, the database “Soldiers of the South African War” will only give you an index to the service files and medal rolls. Where there is more I have added it.

James Murray Ross
His service files are at Library and Archives Canada.
J. Smith
There is a J. Smith in the Library and Archives database; but no way to tell if it is indeed our man without requesting a copy of the files. I looked at the First World War database. Do you know how many J. Smith’s there are? Yikes !
A. Edwards
Same problem except here. There is only a medals register.
George William Leonard #7208
Died at Sand River, South Africa, while with the Royal Canadian Regiment.

Memorial to Canada's war dead in South Africa. Canadian Virtual War Memorial.
Service files in Library and Archives Canada. Also included in the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.
H. Lane
He might be Harry Goldney Lane from the service files.
A. Marshall
More research needed here.
Victor Wentworth Oldlum
Fought with the Royal Canadian Regiment in South Africa. During the First World War he rose to the rank of Brigadier General. Known to his troops as “Old Lime Juice”. I mentioned him in an earlier post.
H.R. Wilson
No information.
M. Davidson
There is a nominal roll for a M. Davidson who served with the South African Constabulary. Apparently he died of enteric fever in 1902. (3)
G. Campbell
Apparently served with the First Contingent (4), and there is a medal roll for a G. Campbell but little else. For me Campbell rates right up there with Smith - lots of luck !

(1)History of the County of Middlesex, Canada, 1889. Reprinted in 1972. Daniel Brock (ed.)
(2) Hubert Moore, “A Story of the Oxford Rifles 1798-1954:, Oxford Museum Bulletin No.5, 1974.
(3) Ibid.
(4) Ibid.

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