Friday, 12 October 2012
What Was the Upper Canada Militia?
Apart from Brock's trained British soldiers and Tecumseh's native warriors, Upper Canada was also defended by local militia units. These volunteer units were composed of men from 16 to 60 who were local farmers, tradespeople and merchants.
. . . [T]hese citizen soldiers were drilled about three days in a month. They were called up when needed, placed away from the centre of the line, on the flanks (when the line existed at all), and, after an engagement, sent back to their homes and farms until needed once more. *
Although the militia was certainly not intended to be, nor was used as, the first line of defence, a kind of "militia myth" soon developed that the militia was the real saviour of Upper Canada. The British actively encouraged this myth because it was good propaganda, promoted British values over American ones and fostered enthusiasm and loyalty among the citizenry of Upper Canada. After all, the vast majority of the populace were United Empire Loyalists born south of the border, now being expected to fight against former American countrymen. **
The most famous militia units were the York Volunteers who fought with Brock and Tecumseh at the Siege of Detroit and at the Battle of Queenston Heights. York (now Toronto) was the capital of Upper Canada.
Tomorrow: The Battle of Queenston Heights
* Pierre Berton, The Invasion of Canada 1812-1813, p. 22.
** Steven D. Bennett, "The Militia Myth in the War of 1812" found here.
--the photo of contemporary Upper Canada Militia re-enactors comes from the internet.