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Captains of the
Canadian Fencibles in 1812
Brigadier General Isaac Brock, in his confidential inspection report to the war office on the state of the Canadian Fencible Regiment in June 1810, remarked on "the incapacity of the greater part of the captains,...[which has] presented difficulties not easily surmounted". He went on to add: "From the advanced age of several of the captains..., no great assistance can reasonably be expected from them in the field." This situation was created by the presence of a high number of captains with temporary rank in the Canadian Fencibles. As a cost cutting measure, when the regiment was originally formed in 1803, the war office stipulated that five of the captains would come from other British regular regiments and have permanent rank, while the other five captains would have temporary rank and be filled by officers from other sources.
When Brock made his comments on the Canadian Fencibles there were six captains with temporary rank and only four captains of permanent rank. The average age of the temporary captains was 50 years whereas the permanent captains had an average age of 37 years. Many of the temporary captains had no experience training or ordering a company of soldiers to the standards of regulars. Much of their experience came from colonial corps where garrison duty, and the construction of roads and defences were the norm and not the standard linear tactics of the time.
Five of the six temporary captains were former officers of North American corps, which had been disbanded in 1802. It was thought that these officers would draw recruits from among the disbanded colonial corps of the 1794-1802 period. Since many of these officers had also served in the American Revolution, it was also hoped they would gain support from leading loyalist families in attracting recruits from the various settlements.
James Eccles was one of these officers. As mentioned previously, Eccles was an ensign in the Prince of Wales Regiment in the American Revolution and then captain in the New Brunswick Regiment until it was disbanded in 1802. During his conflict with De Haren for the Canadian Fencibles second majority, Eccles claimed that he alone recruited 180 men for the regiment.
George R. Ferguson was another officer who had shown an aptitude for recruiting. In the American Revolution, Ferguson served as a volunteer in the King's Rangers, rising to the rank of ensign prior to the corps' disbandment in December 1783, enabling him to collect half-pay. In 1794 Ferguson was appointed a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Volunteers. As senior lieutenant of the 2nd Battalion, Ferguson secured a captaincy in 1798 by paying a captain £100 to resign. This infraction was ignored because of Ferguson's success in raising recruits for the Royal Canadian Volunteers. This was probably a determining factor when Ferguson was made a captain with temporary rank in the Canadian Fencibles in 1805. Because of his ranger experience during the American Revolution and his expanded knowledge of skirmish tactics derived from fellow officers in the Royal Canadian Volunteers, Ferguson proved to be the best candidate to command the Canadian Fencibles' light infantry company.
The only temporary captain who was not a former officer of a colonial corps was Edward Cartwright. In 1779, at the age of eighteen, Cartwright was commissioned as an ensign in the 4th Battalion of the 60th Regiment (Royal Americans) and saw action at Savannah, St. Augustine and the seige of Charleston during the American Revolution. After peace was restored in 1783, Cartwright remained in North America by transferring between the various battalions of the 60th Regiment that were serving in Canada. By 1798 Cartwright had risen to the rank of Captain in the 2nd Battalion of the 60th. When the 60th Regiment was ordered out of Canada in 1799, Cartwright elected to sell his commission and stay behind.
After resigning from the army, Cartwright solicited, unsuccessfully, for a captaincy in the Royal Canadian Volunteers. Following this setback, Cartwright purchased a group of islands from Joseph Frobisher near the ferry crossing from Montreal to the north shore road to Quebec. Using his military connections, Cartwright was able to get unused bateaux, old carts and condemned bedding for his servant from the garrison of Isle aux Noix. Despite his retirement Cartwright was permitted to retain a soldier servant from the 41st Regiment. In addition, he served for a brief time as a magistrate. Cartwright's private business ventures must have borne little fruit because by 1803 he had returned to England to canvass a commission in the Canadian Fencible Regiment, then being raised in Scotland. Leery that Cartwright would sell his commission again, military officials appointed him to the regiment as a captain with temporary rank. Cartwright proved to be more capable than most of his fellow captains with temporary rank and was assigned the command of the regiment's grenadier company.
After 1810, the order calling for the regiment's establishment to include officers with temporary rank seems to have been discarded. By the end of 1812, two of the captains with temporary rank, Donald Cameron and Dugald Campbell, had died and were replaced with permanent captains. In June 1812 another captain of temporary rank disappeared from the regiment. As mentioned, James Eccles, in poor health transferred to the 2nd Royal Veteran Battalion. In 1813, Thomas Hay, another captain with temporary rank, was court martialled and dismissed for misappropriation of his company's funds. After Hay's dismissal, only Ferguson and Cartwright were left in the Canadian Fencibles as captains with temporary rank. At the end of 1813 Ferguson was rewarded for his distinguished service in the Battle of the Chateauguay with permanent rank. Cartwright was awarded the same the following year when he led the Canadian Fencible grenadiers against American positions at the Battle of Lacolle Mills: "Captain Cartwright of the Canadian Fencibles with the Grenadiers of this Corps and a company of Voltiguers twice charged the enemy's guns with great spirit and would have procured them but for the very great superiority opposed to him."
During 1812, there were significant changes in the personnel serving as captains in the Canadian Fencibles. De Haren was promoted to Major of the regiment, three vacancies were created when three captains died (one permanent and two temporary), two lieutenants were promoted to the rank of captain, one captain retired on his former half pay, one transferred to another regiment, one captain was attached from another regiment, and three officers were promoted to captain in the Canadian Fencibles from other regular regiments. This continual movement of personnel, along with staff assignments, leaves of absence, and recruiting duties left the Canadian Fencibles continually short of captains.
In 1812 the regiment had on average only six of the ten captains present doing duty with the corps each month(see Table 1). This was further decreased by the fact that, from August on, one of the captains was occupied full time with the duties of the regiment's paymaster while another was an acting paymaster for the Flank Battalion and a detachment of the 41st for most of the year. Between June and October there were only 5 captains present with the regiment. The only month where there was more than six captains with the
Table 1. Allocation of captains by percentage for an average month in 1812 for North American Fencible Regiments and for the army as a whole in the Canadas (in percentage)
* The British North American regiments varied in where they were stationed and therefore had different demands placed on their respective officer corps. For example the Nova Scotia Fencibles were the only regiment in Newfoundland in 1812 and were called upon to fill the various staff positions of the army at that station. The 104th Regiment faced a similar situation being the only infantry regiment in New Brunswick.
regiment was January when eight were present (see Table 2). Compared to other fencible and former fencible regiments this is not unusual. Both the 104th Regiment and the Nova Scotia Fencibles corresponded closely with the Canadian Fencibles with between five and six captains present each month. All three regiments had served in their respective stations for at least seven years, and thus were provided with more staff position opportunities than newly arriving regiments. This would explain why the Royal Newfoundland Fencibles, who had been sent to the Canadas the previous year, had so few captains away from the regiment. The differing rate of captains absent without leave can be explained in a similar fashion. A captain's personal affairs expanded with the length of time a regiment spent at a particular station, especially when one of the subject fencible regiments was in its home colony. Occasionally an officer married one of the local women, or brought his family to the station. As a result, personal or family matters had to be attended to, taking the captain away from the regiment for a couple of weeks or longer. Therefore while the 104th Regiment, Nova Scotia Fencibles and Canadian Fencibles had on average two of their captains each month absent without leave, the uprooted Royal Newfoundland Fencibles' had just one captain absent without leave for only one month. The "AWL" captains of the Canadian Fencibles will be discussed later.
On average for the Canadian Fencibles there was one captain continually on staff employ or absent with leave; which closely mirrored the rate for the army as a whole in the Canadas. In the Canadian Fencibles this was due primarily to the transfer of Captain Harris William Hailes from the 104th to the Canadian Fencibles. Since the 1790s, Hailes had performed as a staff officer and, at one point, an elected official at Fredericton, New Brunswick. In 1804 Hailes became a captain in the New Brunswick Fencibles and a year later Brigade Major of Fredericton. In 1810 he was made a captain with the brevet rank of lieutenant colonel, while still serving as Fredericton's Brigade Major. In that same year, the New Brunswick Fencibles was made a line regiment, changing it's name to the 104th, or New Brunswick Regiment. This meant the regiment could be ordered out of British North America for service in any part of the world. In the spring of 1812 orders arrived stipulating that the 104th was to join Wellington's army on the Peninsula. In order to continue his duties in Fredericton, Hailes requested and received permission to transfer to a regiment permanently stationed in British North America. A vacancy in the Canadian Fencibles had been created by the death of a Captain Ewen McMillian to which Hailes was appointed. Consequently, from August 1812 to it's disbandment in 1816, the Canadian Fencibles were without one of its captains.
Table 2. Monthly allocation of the regiment's 10 captaincies* in 1812
*does not include Captain Lowen of the Nova Scotia Fencibles serving with the Canadian Fencibles from January to June 1812
Captain George Ferguson was also performing staffing duties in 1812. In September 1810 Ferguson was appointed to act as the Paymaster for the 10th Royal Veteran Battalion at Quebec, a role he fulfilled until October 1811. After only a month back with the regiment, Ferguson was again called upon to act as a paymaster, this time for a detachment of the 41st Regiment at Quebec, until May 1812. An officer's return to his regiment from staff employ did not necessarily mean he was finished with those particular duties. In August, Ferguson was criticised for his delay in transmitting the accounts of the 10th Royal Veterans, and was told to settle the public accounts he had been responsible for while he was with that regiment. From August until the end of the year Ferguson served as the paymaster of the Flank Battalion, of which his company was a member.
As a direct consequence of the number of Canadian Fencible captains on detached duties in 1812 their role in the regiment's recruitment declined. Only between February and April was there a captain detached for this service (see Table 2). This captain, Dugald Campbell, was forced to abandon his search because of poor health. Later that year Campbell passed away at his residence in Quebec. After this, recruiting was left to the young, single, Canadian officers joining the regiment as ensigns.
Relinquishing this responsibility to junior officers was underastandable given the expenses incurred by an officer performing these duties. Charles Jadis, a former lieutanent in the Canadian Fencibles, remarked on being ordered on recruiting service for the Royal Newfoundland Fencibles:
As many of the captains were married and had spent considerable time recruiting over the past seven years, transferring this responsibility to the junior officers was appropriate, especially since many of these young officers came from well-off families.
Recruiting service, in some instances, presented unusual dangers. In New Carlisle on the Gaspé Peninsula, where Captain James Pentz of the Canadian Fencibles was recruiting in 1810, parties looking for recruits met open hostility. A Royal Newfoundland Fencible recruiting party under Lieutenant Alexander Bulger operating in New Carlisle was on the receiving end of the community's displeasure. On the way to have one recruit attested by the local magistrate, the party's sergeant was stopped by a group of the recruit's friends and forced to release the recruit. When Bulger went to the captain of the local militia for assistance in retrieving the recruit, the captain declared, in the presence of a crowd which included members of the Canadian Fencible recruiting party, that Bulger's party "ought to get a good flogging and be kicked out of Carlisle." The militia captain further threatened to call out the militia if Bulger attempted to remove any recruit from the town. In Trois-Rivières, inhabitants showed their displeasure with Canadian Fencible recruiting activities by sending a memorial to the Commander of the Forces complaining about the misconduct of the recruiting parties. These accusations proved false. Ill will between inhabitants and recruiting parties in Lower Canada seemingly subsided when the junior officers, many of them from socially well-placed Lower Canadian families, took over the duty.
Throughout the war there was continually one captain absent without leave from the regiment. The high number of "AWL" captains between May and December 1812 was largely due to the appointment of two captains to the Canadian Fencibles from regiments stationed in Europe. Though appointed at the beginning of the year, the two new captains, due to the distance and the time necessary to arrange the move, did not report until the end of 1812. The problem with existing captains absent without leave continued throughout the war. The effects of this absence is best displayed in an incident in January 1813. During that month Cartwright was absent from the Canadian Fencible Grenadier Company, leaving only one lieutenant, William Radenhurst, to administer it. Deficient of officers, Radenhurst was forced to rely on his senior non-commissioned officer, Sergeant Maxwell, to transport the company's pay from the regiment's paymaster to the company. After receiving £65 from the paymaster, Maxwell promptly deserted to the United States.
In 1812 there were six vacant captaincies in the Canadian Fencibles. These vacancies had been created by the death of three captains; Donald Cameron in December 1811, Ewen McMillian in February 1812, and Dugald Campbell in October 1812; De Haren's promotion to major, Eccles' transfer to 2nd Royal Veteran Battalion, and one captain's retirement on half-pay.
The first vacancy was filled from outside of the regiment by John Hall, a lieutenant from the 3rd Garrison Battalion. In April, another lieutenant from a different regiment, John Sidney Peach of the 81st Regiment, was appointed captain in the Canadian Fencibles. Hailes' transfer from the 104th Regiment to the Canadian Fencibles filled the third vacancy. The senior lieutenant of the Canadian Fencibles, John Reid, was promoted to captain in August. Reid first "joined the British standard early in the year 1776 and continued on an arduous and perilous service...[receiving] several wounds during the American Revolution". After the war he was placed on half pay as an ensign of the New Jersey Volunteers. Subsequently he became a lieutenant of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the 1790s. When the 53-year-old Reid was given his captaincy in the Canadian Fencibles it was with temporary rank. Suffering from having "been twice severly wounded... and being affected with a Rheumatic affection" he was "incapable of active service". Reid asked and received permission in late 1812 to retire back on half-pay provided to him earlier with the New Jersey Volunteers.
Also in August, the next senior lieutenant in the regiment, William Marshall, was promoted to another open captaincy; this promotion however was not communicated to him until the spring of 1813. Marshall joined the Canadian Fencibles in January 1805 at the age of 26 as an ensign and quickly moved up the seniority list becoming a lieutenant in the regiment in 1807. When Marshall was promoted to captain with permanent rank in 1812, he became only the second officer in the Canadian Fencibles to rise within the regiment from ensign to captain. The first had been James Pentz.
Pentz joined the British army in 1783 as an ensign in the 4th Battalion of the 60th Regiment, and was placed on half pay after the American Revolution. From 1794 to 1802 he served as a lieutenant in the North Lowland Fencibles during the rebellion in Ireland. After that regiment's reduction in Scotland in 1802, the German born Pentz became an ensign in the Canadian Fencibles. Because of his extensive service, Pentz was promoted to lieutenant after only seven months as an ensign. The 41-year-old Pentz was promoted to captain in the regiment in 1810. Though he reported in late 1811 that his "health having much suffered from the different climates in consequence of which he is not capable of acquitting himself with that activity as in his earlier periods of life", Pentz remained a captain in the Canadian Fencibles until its demise in 1816.
Rising through the ranks without purchasing a commission, was a long, and tedious process especially when half of the captains had temporary rank and were unable to exchange out of the regiment. Before the war, it took an average 2 years 5 months for seven officers in the regiment to advance from ensign to lieutenant by seniority. During the war this time was reduced to only 1 year and 7 months with eleven officers rising in rank. In striking contrast to this, it took the three officers who made it from ensign to captain in the regiment, an average of 5 years 4 months to make the second leap from lieutenant to captain. Though a long process, advancement in the Canadian Fencibles was considerably faster than in other North American fencible regiments where it took an average of 6 years 5 months for officers, who had been ensigns in their regiment, to make captain (see Table 3).
For many Canadian Fencible lieutenants advancing to captain, who were appointed from the top or middle of the lieutenants list, the step was marginally faster. For the 12 officers advancing who were appointed lieutenants in 1803, the average time to advance was 5 years 8 months, with the shortest time being 1 year 10 months and the longest being 7 years 10 months. In the Canadian Fencibles, it took John McGill, appointed senior lieutenant in 1803, only 3 years and 4 months to advance to captain. On the other hand, it took John Reid, appointed 5th lieutenant when the
Table 3. Average time for advancement from lieutenant to captain in North American Fencible Regiments raised in 1803 (years/months)
1many of these officers started at the top or in the middle of the seniority lists when their regiment was formed in 1803
2 the numbers in the brackets represent the number of officers advancing from lieutenant to captain by seniority
3 this represents the time it took for lieutenants at the bottom of the seniority list to advance to captain
regiment was reformed in 1805, 7 years to make the same step. Unlike the other fencible regiments, there was no difference in the average time the lieutenants took, 5 years and 4 months, regardless of seniority, to advance in rank. This was due to the vacancies created by the death, retirement and transfer of so many captains in the regiment at the beginning of the War of 1812, a situation unique to the Canadian Fencibles and not experienced to the same degree in the other North American fencible regiments.
In the case of the two lieutenants from other regiments promoted to captain in the Canadian Fencibles, Hall and Peach, these appointments resulted from the War Office's use of patronage. The army's Commander in Chief, the Duke of York, reserved the right to appoint officers into any vacancy in the army, but was hesitant to use this patronage because of its demoralizing effect on officers seeking promotion in their own regiments through seniority. Normally, only when a regiment was deemed in need of fresh blood did the Duke of York appoint an officer from outside. In most instances these officers were of above-average seniority. When Hall and Peach were promoted, Hall had been a lieutenant for 6 years 10 months and Peach for 7 years.
Patronage appointments were also given to officers as a reward for merit or gallantry. Thus, one of the vacancies in the Canadian Fencibles was filled in February 1813 by Matthew Latham of the 3rd Regiment. At the battle of Albuera, Latham carried one of the colours of his regiment.
Surprisingly Latham survived his wounds and after two years of absence from the army, returned to be promoted captain in the Canadian Fencibles. At the same time Latham was promoted, the senior lieutenant of the 3rd Regiment, Josias Taylor, was promoted to captain. Desiring to return to his former regiment, Latham convinced Taylor, a husband and father of two, to exchange out of the 3rd Regiment for the Canadian Fencibles, which was in a less dangerous theatre of war. Taylor agreed to this arrangement in May 1813, and was the last officer to be appointed captain in the Canadian Fencibles from another regiment.
By the end of 1812, the type of captain in the Canadian Fencibles ranks had changed considerably from that depicted in Brock's 1810 report.Younger and more militarily-minded officers had replaced the aging provincial captains with temporary rank. But while there had been improvements in the composition of the captain ranks, there was a concomitant increase in the demands placed on the Canadian Fencible captains by the army. The regiment was fortunate to have 6 captains present with their companies at any one time. After August 1812 two of these captains, Marshall and Ferguson, were continually employed as paymasters. Companies were often left solely in the hands of the company subalterns (lieutenants or ensigns). On 4 July 1812 those present with the regiment at William Henry were as follows:
1 lieutenant colonel
By 12 November 1812 this small cadre of officers had decreased still further, especially with regards to the regiment's battalion companies at Beloeil, south of Montreal. For the eight battalion companies of 497 men, there were only 4 captains, 1 lieutenant, and 7 ensigns serving with them. This situation meant some ensigns were in charge of 60-man companies. The 80-man strong grenadier and light companies fared better with 1 captain and 1 lieutenant present each, however, Ferguson was acting as the Flank Battalion's paymaster. The shortage of captains in the field, not their ability, had become the principal issue by late 1812.
The potential problem of the lack of captains present with the regiment must have been on the mind of the commanding officer as early as November 1811. To alleviate this, George Lowen, a captain in the Nova Scotia Fencibles, was attached that month to the Canadian Fencibles, and remained with the regiment until June 1812. The 32-year-old Lowen was certainly a capable officer and not unfamiliar to the Canadian Fencibles. He began his military career as a volunteer attached to the light infantry of the 23rd Regiment on the expedition against Ostend in May 1798 on which occasion he was severely wounded, and taken prisoner. Lowen was released soon after and in September, after having the honour of being mentioned in the General's dispatches after the expedition, he was made an ensign in the 89th Regiment, serving at the time on the Cape of Good Hope. In 1801, Lowen was promoted to lieutenant in the Cape Regiment. When this regiment was disbanded after the peace of 1802, Lowen returned to England. In 1803 Lowen was first appointed to the Royal Newfoundland Fencibles, then a few months later to the 10th Battalion of Reserve as its adjutant with the rank of lieutenant. In early 1805, with Lowen as its senior lieutenant, the 10th along with the other Battalions of Reserve was disbanded. For the rest of that year he served as the adjutant of the Exeter Recruiting District.
In 1806, Lowen joined His Majesty's forces in British North America as a lieutenant in the Canadian Fencibles, a position he held until 1811. After serving a good part of 1811 as judge advocate for several court martials, Lowen finally received his long awaited promotion to captain in the Nova Scotia Fencibles in October 1811. Before he could report to his new regiment, stationed at the time in Newfoundland, Lowen was ordered to remain with the Canadian Regiment until June 1812. Lowen would return to the Canadas in 1815 as the captain commanding the Nova Scotia Fencibles.
Of the fifteen individuals serving at one point as captains with the Canadian Fencibles in the year 1812 (including Lowen), the ethnic background of twelve is known. The regiment's roots in Scotland were reflected in the ethnic make up of the Canadian Fencibles officer corps, with those of Scottish birth composing the largest group with five (Campbell, Hay, Marshall, McMillian, and McQueen). This number decreased by the end of 1812 with the death of Campbell and McMillian. The next largest group was from England (Cartwright, Ferguson, and Lowen). The Germans, DeHaren and Pentz, made up the third group. Eccles was the lone Irishman in the captain ranks of the regiment, and Reid, a former New Jersey farmer and loyalist officer, was the only captain who was born an American. Simultaneous with the weeding out of the older, less experienced temporary captains through attrition, was a transformation in the ethnic composition of the captain's ranks. By December 1811 the regiment's captains consisted of five Scots, two Englishmen, two Germans, and one Irishman. At the end of 1812 there were only three Scots, two Englishmen, and one German. Unfortunately this comparison is weakened because the ethnic background of three captains is unknown and there was one vacancy at the time. This vacancy was eventually filled by the Englishman, Taylor.
As regards to the marital status of the captains in 1812, information is available on only ten of the sixteen. Of this number there were eight who were married, one who was single and one who had separated from his wife. Among the married captains some possessed sizable families. When Donald Cameron died at the age of 59 in December 1811, he left behind his wife Elizabeth, and ten children, ranging from eight to twenty-one years old. Living on their land grant in the township of Chatham, Cameron's family was forced out of financial necessity to apply for assistance in addition to the Captain's widow pension.
Another captain with a large family was Edward Cartwright. Cartwright had to support a wife and six children at home, in addition to a son, Edward Cartwright Jr., who was a lieutenant in the 41st Regiment. Initially an ensign in the Canadian Fencibles, Edward Jr. transferred to the Nova Scotia Fencibles in 1807, then to the 41st Regiment as a lieutenant in 1810. Active in his son's career, Edward Sr. petitioned Governor General Sir George Prevost in February 1812 to get his son, who "speaks the French language" a captaincy in the Canadian Voltiguers. Hearing that Montreal's Town Major was ill, Cartwright went further to suggest that, if the office became vacant, he himself should be considered for the position. Both requests were rejected.
The following month in March 1812, Cartwright's ambitions for the advancement of his son's career were dealt a shattering blow. On the evening of 30 March 1812 at the officer's mess at Fort George in Niagara-on-the-lake, Edward Jr. got into an altercation with fellow officer Lieutenant John Winslow, the son of Edward Winslow, who was a justice of the Supreme Court in New Brunswick. Both Cartwright and Winslow had both served as lieutenants in the Nova Scotia Fencibles prior to being transferred to the 41st Regiment. After much drinking, the 17-year-old Winslow exchanged words and struck Edward, who was the senior officer present. This initiated a brawl among the other junior officers in the mess.
Major General Isaac Brock, upon hearing of the incident, suspended both Winslow and Cartwright and demanded and received their resignations. Notified of his son's resignation, Edward Cartwright Sr. was able to get friends in Quebec City to delay Edward's resignation from being sent for England. Following this, Edward Cartwright Jr. petitioned Sir George Prevost, asking him to ignore his resignation and permit him to return to duty. His father also wrote to Prevost pleading that his son be reinstated. Their efforts were successful, and on 23 July 1812 Edward was permitted to return to the 41st. Coincidentally, another Canadian Fencible captain was involved in the incident but on Winslow's side. Harry William Hailes, serving as Fredericton's Brigade Major, was a long-time friend of John Winslow's father. As well Hailes' son, Harry Jr. was also a lieutenant in the 41st Regiment and was likely present at the time of the fight. Three months after this, in September, one of Edward Sr's daughters, Mary, wed a fellow officer by the name of Henry Francis Hughes. A former lieutenant in the Canadian Fencibles and the 35th Regiment, Hughes was recruiting at the time for the Glengarry Light Infantry Fencibles.
Like Cartwright and Hailes, Captain Thomas Hay was also successful in securing a commission for his son in the army but after he himself had been court martialled and dismissed from the army for the misappropriation of his company's funds. His son, James Douglas Hay was commissioned as an ensign in the Canadian Fencibles in September 1814, and remained in it until the regiment's disbandment in 1816.
The only single captain known of in the Canadian Fencibles in 1812 was the 31-year-old paymaster William Marshall, the youngest captain of the regiment. The most unusual domestic situation was that of George Richard Ferguson. After the American Revolution, under the name Richard Ferguson, he married Frederica Grant at St. Jean, Quebec in 1784. Their marriage took a turn for the worst, and in 1799, while serving as a captain in the Royal Canadian Volunteers in Niagara, they separated. In the deed of separation they "agreed henceforth for and during their respective natural lives to live separate and apart." Ferguson promised "not to ever frequent her company or converse at any time with her and shall not sue or disturb any person or persons that shall receive her into their habitations." The deed stipulated that while Ferguson remained in His Majesty's service he would pay Frederica 50£ annually for the first two years of their separation and 66£ annually thereafter. Ferguson was also required to "pay any debt she incurs."
Possibly in an attempt to escape the expensive terms of this statement, Ferguson changed his name to George R. Ferguson when he joined the Canadian Fencibles in 1805. In a dispute that arose later, his brother Furrington remarked: "How he came by the name of George R. is best known to himself." After the war, Ferguson eventually settled in Elizabethtown, Upper Canada and in 1823 married the 23-year-old Clarissa Sherwood, daughter of Reuben Sherwood, loyalist, militia officer and community leader. At the time of their wedding in Ogdensburg, N.Y., Ferguson was 61 years old. When Ferguson died in 1842, a battle began over who was his lawful wife and thus entitled to widow pension benefits offered by the British Government. Frederica gained the support of former officers of the Royal Canadian Volunteers, while Clarissa convinced two Canadian Fencible officers residing in Elizabethtown to support her case. While it is unclear who won the contest, when Frederica died in 1847, she was noted as Ferguson's widow.
[conclusion to follow]
Copyright Access Heritage Inc (formerly The Discriminating General) 1997