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History and Uniform of the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot
by Jack L. Summers and Rene Chartrand

cwm_4.jpg (37909 bytes)
Pioneer of the 104th Regiment of Foot
(artist: R.J. Marrion   copyright:Canadian War Museum)

The following is an extract from the book Military Uniforms in Canada, 1665-1970 by Jack L. Summers and Rene Chartrand (Ottawa: Canadian War Museum, 1981) and is reproduced here by the kind permission of the Canadian War Museum.  Reprinting or duplication of the text or illustration without permission from the Canadian War Museum is prohibited. 


The French Revolution burst upon Europe in 1789. By 1793, Britain was at war with France, and had to defend her North American colonies against raids from bases in the United States.

     Three of the four regiments of British regulars stationed in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were posted to the West Indies; to fill the gap created by their departure authority was granted to raise four provincial regiments of infantry, one in Nova Scotia, one in Newfoundland, one in Canada, and one in New Brunswick. These regiments were to serve only in their respective provinces, and were not part of the regular British establishment.

     In 1799, the status of the provincial regiments was cbanged to that of fencibles, so they could be committed to serve anywhere in North America. However, they were not called upon to do so, and with the Peace of Amiens in 1802 the regiments were disbanded.

     Peace was short-lived, and hostilities recommenced early in 1803. Once again, the shortage of regular British regiments left British North America in a difficult situation, and authority was granted to raise four fencible units, one each in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Canada.

     On 6 July 1803, Brigadier-General Martin Hunter was granted a letter of service authorizing him to raise a corps to be known as His Majesty's New Brunswick Regiment of Fencible Infantry. Unlike the previous unit, the new regiment of fencibles was to be part of the regular establishment of the British Army, although its service was restricted to North America.

     In 1808, the regiment volunteered for general service. The offer was rejected; but when it was renewed in 1810, the British authorities accepted, and the fencibles were elevated to an infantry regiment of the line. As the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot, the unit could be moved to any British garrison or theatre of operations.

     When war with the United States broke out in June 1812, detachments of the 104th were posted throughout New Brunswick. The buildup of American troops in the Sackets Harbor area during the winter of 1812-13 implied that an invasion of Upper Canada would rake place in the spring. To strengthen the defences of Upper Canada, Sir George Prevost instructed Sir John Sherbrooke, commanding in Nova Scotia, to send six companies of the 104th overland to Quebec, and then on to Kingston.

   The headquarters and grenadier companies set out on snowshoes from Fredericton on 16 February 1813; one battalion company followed each succeeding day, with the light company bringing up the rear. In spite of temperatures of -310C (-250F) the detachments arrived in Quebec in mid-March, travelling 550km (350 mi.) in twenty-four days. After two weeks in garrison at Quebec, the 104th set out for Kingston; they arrived on 12 April having covered a total distance of 1125km (700 mi.).

     In the spring of 1813, the remaining companies sailed to Upper Canada, where the regiment remained for the duration of the war, participating in the battles of Sackets Harbor, Beaver Dam, and Lundy's Lane, the blockade of Fort George, and the assault on Fort Erie.

     When the war ended, in December 1814, the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment was named part of the force of regulars and fencibles assigned to garrison duty in Canada. The regiment was stationed first in Quebec, and later in Montreal. With Napoleon imprisoned on St. Helena and peace established in Europe, Britain wished to reduce the strength of her army, and the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot was ordered to disband on 24 May 1817.


     The letter of service authorizing the raising of the New Brunswick Regiment of Fencible Infantry specified that its pay, clothing, arms, and accoutrements were to be the same as those of the regular British infantry regiments of the line.

     By 1803, the dramatic change in the British soldier's dress had almost been completed. At the beginning of the regiments service, the men would have worn the stove-pipe shako introduced by the General Order of 24 February 1800. Made of black lacquered leather, the shako was 7 in. high with a black leather peak. In a Horse Guards Circular of 1806, the leather cap was replaced by one of a similar design in felt.

      It is said that the "Wellington" or "Belgic" shako was introduced on 24 December 1811, at the request of the Duke of Wellington. This new black felt shako was 6 in. high with a false front of 8 1/2 in. and a peak of black leather. The plume, white over red for battalion companies, was set on the left side behind a black rosette. Cap lines fit under the rosette, fell across the front, and fastened high on the right side. Those of the private soldiers were white and ended in white tassels. The cap plate was surmounted by the Crown, and bore the Royal Cypher and the number or badge of the regiment. On service, the cap was provided with an oilskin cover to protect it from the elements.

     It is doubtful if the new caps reached regiments serving in Canada, often in company-sized detachments, before the last year of the war. However, the 104th certainly would have received the "Belgic" shako when assigned to peace-time garrison duties in 1814.

     The standard infantry outer garment was the single-breasted red coatee with short tails and white turn-backs. The collar and round cuffs were of regimental facing colour. The shoulder-straps were also of facing colour; those of battalion companies ended in white woollen tufts, while those of grenadier and light companies ended in wings. The wings, collar, coatee front, and cuffs were trimmed with regimental lace. The pewter buttons were inscribed with the number and title of the regiment.

     The facings of the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment were light buff; regimental lace was white with red, buff, and blue lines. The loops across the front of the coatee were square ended and set in pairs. Officers' lace was silver.

     The plate illustrates a pioneer of the 104th in 1814. Each infantry battalion had a pioneer section of about ten men who were skilled in the use of tools. Their duties included road making, bridge building, and the repair and construction of simple fortifications Apparently, all the pioneers of the 104th New Brunswick Regiment were black.

     The pioneer wears a tan leather apron to protect his clothing during the performance of heavy tasks. His equipment consists of a set of cross-belts supporting a cartridge-box on the right hip and a bayonet on the left. The belts are joined by an oval brass belt-plate inscribed with the number and title of the unit. The canvas haversack and blue water-bottle hang on the left side.

   A bill hook, a short heavy-bladed cutting implement, hangs [n its black scabbard from a black leather waist-belt. Assorted tools such as saws, hammers, mattocks, and spades were carried by various pioneers. The head of the pioneer's axe was carried in a holster attached to the waist-belt, and the helve was carried across the back.


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