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Tracing back the Lineage of the Black Watch (RHC) To 1831
Article by Joseph Mad

This is from the book written by Captain Ernest Chambers on the 5th Regiment, Royal Scots of Canada Highlanders in 1904. Confirmed by the “Stewart Military Museum” in Montreal which have all the old history and records of the old Militias of Montreal.

The Militia Act of 1855 was further amended in 1859 by 22 Victoria, Chapter 18, which made provisions that where possible the independent companies of volunteer infantry and rifles, should be grouped into battalions. It also provided that, the volunteer militia force should drill for six consecutive days each year, with pay at the rate of one dollar per diem per man. This act, and the increased interest in militia matters in Canada. And this is why Lineage of all Regiments are trace back to those times, since they had Payroll records of all the Militias and the names of the men who served in them.

In 1835, the Montreal Constitutional Association, alarmed at the development of the revolutionary sentiment, resolved to organize district committees in each quarter of the city in case union and force became necessary. The organization raised spontaneously a body of volunteer riflemen, the members asking for the recognition of their corps, which it was proposed to be call "The British Rifle Legion," by the governor. That official, however, withheld his sanction, and the corps was afterwards dissolved at his request. As the political agitation developed many of the leaders of the movement were deprived of their commissions in the militia, and the authorities armed trustworthy citizens to enable order to be maintained.

When the rebellion actually broke out in the autumn of 1837, Montreal, and in fact the whole of Canada, had very little in the way of military protection. The position was very critical indeed. In Montreal district the sedentary militia battalions were in hopeless state of disorganisation and the only volunteer corps were a troop of Calvary in Lachine commanded by Captain Penner a troop in Montréal under the command of Colonel Davis and a rifle company commanded by Major de Bleury after whom Bleury street in Montréal is named after. {Which these corps existed already for 6 years}. At this same time Montreal had a miserable set of useless watchmen, and it was found a necessity for the rifle company to patrol the streets to prevent loyal citizens from being abused. Whenever an attack was made by the Radicals upon the Constitutionalists the watchmen were never to be found.

When the authorities realized that they had a rebellion on hand they at once authorized the enrolment of volunteer corps. The cavalry was increased to two troops, Captain Charles Ermatinger having command of one, and Captain Sweeney of the other. Colonel David was given command of the whole. The old garrison artillery corps, which had been allowed to collapse, was reorganized under command of Major John Boston. The Montreal Rifles were increased to three companies. Major Griffin having the supreme command. The companies were commanded by Captains de Bleury, Leclerc and Blackwood.

Volunteering for these corps proceeded with such enthusiasm, that it was decided to effect the organization of three brigades of volunteers in Montreal. The first brigade consisted of the Montreal Cavalry (Major David), which had two troops in the city and one at Lachine, a company of artillery, (Major Boston commanding), and the Montreal Rifles, Major Griffin, three companies. The second brigade consisted of the Montreal Light Infantry (Lt.-Col. Benjamin Holmes), six companies, and the Queen's Light Dragoons (Capt. W. Jones), one troop. “The third brigade consisted of three battalions of wards, which drilled less and took less interest in volunteering than the other corps, but who would have been useful and willing if called upon.

These corps where soon up to full strength, and the whole British population, and many loyal French, went in for soldiering with enthusiasm. All the available halls and warehouses were pressed into service as drill halls, and the volunteers drilled night and day. Several whose names have since become familiar in the militia, including the late Lt.-Col. Fletcher, C.IM.G., joined the Light Infantry. That corps used to drill every afternoon on the Champ de Mars, and every evening in the old St. Ann's market, on McGill street. Each corps had a sergeant from one of the regular regiments attached as drill instructor, and a few weeks of such hard work as they put in, speedily got the various units into very good shape indeed.

After the rebellion, there ensued another period of depression in military affairs in Canada. It was, so far as military matters were the citizens refused to seriously consider the question of maintaining an efficient national defensive force, and even treated the forts of those who wished to see some sort of a militia maintained, as a practical joke. “The former members of the Montreal volunteer corps of the Rebellion maintained some little organization for a time, but it was more of a social than a military character. Meantime, the formalities of passing and amending militia acts, and of publishing the lists of officers of a sedentary militia not expected to be called upon for service, were solemnly complied with, so that the Canadian Militia continued to have a paper existence, if nothing else”.

The Montreal Light Infantry” did not have the same opportunity to distinguish itself during the rebellion as did the “old Montreal Volunteer Rifles”, a company of which corps, was attached to Sir John Colborne's force The M.L.I, was however, a splendid and efficient corps, its rank and file being largely recruited from the mechanic class of the city. The corps deserves special mention in this history, as it possessed in one of its companies, “the first distinctively Scottish military organization ever raised in Montreal”. And they lived in the “Saint Andrews Ward or Parish”. That severed the “Scottish” Catholic community in Montreal.

Officers and men ( OR’s) of this company, of which the bugler, was a lad who was afterwards, to become well known in the Canadian Militia, as Lieut.-Colonel John Fletcher, C.M.G., were exclusively Scotch, and they wore stripes of tartan plaid on their trousers, as a distinguishing mark.{Just like the Black Watch} Thus, was modestly introduced among Montreal's citizen soldiers, the idea of a distinctively Scottish unit, an idea which has a splendid realization today in the “Fifth Royal Scots of Canada”.

The “Old” Montreal Volunteer Rifles and “The Montreal Light Infantry”.

Their names date back to 1837. The same Regiment names from 1862 that would be the start of the Lineage according to the Militia Act off 1855 amended in 1862 of the Black Watch. Well that’s were the 5Th Battalion, comes into play in the name from 1862 till 1904. According to Queens Regulations to Militias and Regiments Names establishing of a new regiment and the disbandment of its immediate predecessor bearing the “same number”.

According to military ordinary practice Clearly states; {Some regimental represent a series of regiments, with, in certain cases, considerable intervals between the establishment of a new regiment and the disbandment of its immediate predecessor bearing the .same number. (Capt O. 1. Perry's "Rank Badges and Dates in Her Majesty's Army and Navy," page 145. ) }

A permanent record of this interesting incident in the history of the 5th Royals Scots, an event which, according to the ordinary practice of military history establishes on the part of the 5th Royal Scots a right to claim direct descent from the “old” Montreal Light Infantry, exists in the shape of the printed company order issued.

Previous to the event by the Officer commanding the company. This order reads as follows: —

"In obedience to orders from Lieut-Colonel Routh, No. 2 Company will formally join the Battalion of "Royals," on Tuesday evening, the 9th January.

"The men will muster at the City Hall Armoury, at half-past seven o'clock p.m., in full winter uniform, with greatcoat, tunic, waist belt, and pouch belt, being careful to have everything neat, trim, and soldier-like.

"For the honour and fair name of the company, the Captain expects the Captain expects every man will be present.

Captain No. 2 Royals”

This company order was issued under authority of the following' communication.

Militia Brigade Office, Montreal, 9th .Jan, 1866.


I have the honour, by direction of the commandant, to acquaint you that the Adjutant General of Militia has approved of the company under your command being transferred to the Royal Light Infantry under command of Lieut.-Colonel Routh.

"You are therefore requested to return to the Provincial storekeeper, the arms, accoutrements and clothing, with stores issued to you for the service of No. 2 Company, “Montreal light Infantry”.

"As your company is intended to replace one of the vacant companies of the Royal Light Infantry the commanding officer of that corps will be prepared to furnish you with the requisite arms, accoutrements and clothing.

"I have the honour to be "Sir, your most obedient servant,

“ JOHN MACPHERSON, LT-Colonel. Brigade Major. Militia

Captain K. Campbell, “commanding Volunteer Company Montreal”

I still stated the Lineage of the Black Watch can be traced to 1831. Since 1862-1904 will all the name changes, 5th Batt or 5th was always part of the begging of the Name. According to Queens Regulations to Militias and Regiments names establishing of a new regiment and the disbandment of its immediate predecessor bearing the “same number”.

Therefore the answer lies in, finding out who was 5th Battalion and where were they situated in the Scottish Ward Montreal in? And I have that information I have to go to the “Saint Andrews Parish” which it’s history dates back to 1803, as all the Old Regimental colours of the Black Watch are kept, As “Stewart Military Museum” which is closed for renovations, to confirm the information I have discovered. Yes "5th Battalion” was a Montreal Regiment in the Saint Andrews Ward or Parish in 1831.

Montreal early years being populated by height society or families that controlled the city of distinguish upbringing which cosseted of a militia back ground. In 1760 the old population of the colony rather favoured a continuation of the military rule. Being a brave and military people, immured to war and military discipline, they had taken kindly to military rule, but the gradually growing British civilian population did not like it, and one of the objects of the proclamation of 1763 was to encourage a larger British immigration into the province. The proclamation established the English criminal law, but recognized the ancient customs and civil laws of New France. For the interpretation of these the administration continued to avail themselves of the of some of the tribunals composed of militia officers, High Society Gentlemen.

The Reverend J. Douglas Borthwich” in his interesting "History of the Montreal Prison" published in 1886, gives some facts about the militia of the "City and County of Montreal. The sedentary militia of Montreal was rearranged by districts. "In 1831. The Montreal districts or wards being separated, the Scottish population located in the Saint Andrews Ward or Parish, the Irish had their own ward with French population mixed in as having their own ward. Gentlemen of old militias have been disbanded or other ranks since Montreal society had two classes of population, while keeping the Military traditions alive, still socialising and gathering in Halls keeping appearances in rank as the Militia spirit, while waiting to establishment of a new militia, having this trend continued past 1862. Formed one division, each battalion providing population form their own ward, consisting of eight battalions of infantry, two troops of volunteer cavalry, two companies of artillery and two companies of rifles. The population of the city was then considerably under 40,000, and the population of the surrounding parishes of course small in proportion. So in proportion to population the strength of the local militia force was very considerable, but as a matter of fact the various units existed rather in imagination than in tact. The volunteer militia, which was given a distinct status from the ordinary sedentary militia, and was commanded by Lieut, -Colonel the Hon. John Forsyth; Major George Gregory, commanding the cavalry, Major Peter McGill the artillery and Major John S. McCord, the rifles.

The ordinary sedentary militia battalions were assigned carefully defined territorial limits, and were as follows: —

1st Battalion, Montreal Militia, Colonel Commandant, Louis Guy, Lieut.-Col. the Hon. Charles Grant, Majors Benjamin Beaubien and Michael O'SuUivan; limits, St. Mary's suburbs, St, Mary's and St. Martin divisions.

Second Battalion, Lieut.-Colonel the Hon. Louis Gugy, Majors Samuel Gerrard and Janvier, D. Lacroix; limits the present centre and east wards and the then suburbs of the district now cut by St. Denis street.

Third Battalion, Lieut.-Col. J. Bouthillier, Majors Zierre De Rocheblave and L. J. Papineau, (i) limits, the present West Ward.

Fourth Battalion, Lieut. .-Col. the Hon. Toussaint Pothier, Majors Fred. Aug. Quesnel and Joseph Shuter; limits, the present St. Louis and St. Jean Baptiste wards and rural district beyond.

Fifth Battalion”, Lieut.-Col. R. Hervieux, Majors F. A. Larocque and Austin Cuvillier; Consisted of all within the “West part of present St. Lawrence Street” and suburbs, St. George and “St. Andrew's ward”, the Suburbs of Saint Antoine, and the division of Saint Antoine and Saint Luc in the county District, and rural districts beyond.

6th Battalion, Lieut.-Col John Jones, Majors John Molson and L. M. Viger; limits, the present St. Anns, St. Joseph and St. Gabriel wards and Verdun.

7th Battalion, Lieut.-Col. J. M. Mondelet, Majors Dominique Mondelet and Alexis Berthelot; limits, the parishes of Lachine, Pointe Claire, Ste. Anne and Ste. Genevieve.

8th Battalion, Lieut.-Col. Jacques Viger, Majors John Delisle and Hypolite St. George Dupre; limits the parishes of Longue Pointe, Pointe aux Trembles, la Ri-viere des Prairies, Sault au RecoUet and St.Laurent.

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